Perhaps this is a rather gnostic sentiment, I don’t know. But I wanted to get some perspective on what you guys thought about universalism as sort of a “secret gospel” of sorts-- why does God show it to some and not to all? Is it that we need to know it and others don’t? Or maybe others *shouldn’t *know it? I have been told by many others that universalism is dangerous, that it could take people away from God… I don’t think that’s necessarily true, because obviously it brought me closer to him even when I was as far away as I could possibly get. But not everyone feels that way. Maybe that’s why it was removed from its glory as prevailing doctrine so long ago?
What do you think?
I always think I’m probably being atrociously blasphemous when I say things like this, but if I always worried about being thought of as blasphemous and heretical, I wouldn’t believe the things I do today.
Heck, I thought you were going to ask about the Secret Gospel of Mark!
(Which, incidentally, despite Morton Smith’s forgery, I suspect actually exists. But we already have it: canonical GosJohn. That’s a whole other topic, though, and rather speculative.)
To your actual topic: oy, I’m not sure I’m up to discoursing on it tonight. I do want to bump it, though, to keep it in attention for discussion. I think there’s a lot to be said about it, in various ways.
It’s a very good topic; thanks for bringing it up!
Well, I suppose I’ll start by naming the answers I’ve already received:
First, I proposed my “second gospel” theory to a ECT-er and he basically said… “What? Are you crazy?” Except in a nicer way, haha. Very cool guy, and the reason for the question: he told me that before he became a Christian, if someone had told him that all were saved, he would have just gone on sinning and disbelieving, etc. I said that maybe he needed to believe in hell at that time, but that now that he was older, more mature, grown in his faith… he could release it. He certainly expressed a desire to believe what I said was true… but he was very stuck in the traditions of men.
The next person I proposed this theory to was my awesome friend Michael who is not Christian per se, but a universalist theist nonetheless. (I have another theory that he’s a Christian in disguise. ) Here’s what he had to say, which I think made a lot of sense:
This is the best answer I have so far.
But then there’s this other one. A collection of responses, actually… that seem to suggest (from my understanding) that those who believe in ECT are not even true Christians. That if they were true Christians then they would know the true gospel, etc. I’ll refrain from quoting these responses, because I don’t want to expose the people who said them. But this suggestion seemed very disgusting to me.
Anyway, that’s what I’ve found in my survey so far.
Many who believe in ECT are true Christians - they are just blind to the great secret at this time. Interesting to note that most who say the believe in ECT live as though they don’t (proving they don’t - in their heart of hearts - really believe it).
UR is a secret, no doubt. No doubt that it never turned any away from God as it is the truth of God (how could the truth of God turn any away from God?).
No doubt UR would turn those away from ‘following God’ WHO WERE ONLY OUT TO SAVE THEIR OWN SKINS IN THE FIRST PLACE
Atlantis, the rejection of Early Church Universalism was a big mistake made by many Christians. This is one of many things that God allowed to happen in the Church while God didn’t desire that it would happen. And eventually, everybody will understand that the Bible teaches universalistic eschatology. Likewise, God’s desires will ultimately be fulfilled.
Also, I think we have to distinguish between types of UR. There may be children who will only start growing to be responsible adults if they think their parents will eventually get to a point of only hopeless punishment and never any reconciliation. But would it be the best thing for them to go on and look toward not only hopelessly writing off their own children but hopelessly punishing them forever (if things got to that point? Which, btw, obscures the fact that most though not all ECT/anni proponents teach that we start off now in the hopeless punishment category, to be saved from that by God. Is that how we treat our own children, even if they do start off with a crippled psycho-physical nature?!)
I think it’s more usual for children to be worried about punishment and the anger of their parents per se, even when the kids understand (or at least never consciously believe otherwise) that the parents aren’t going to be angry at them hopelessly forever. Sooner or later, though, one hopes that the kids would begin to be worried primarily about their own sinning, and not primarily about being caught and punished. (It’s sobering to watch a baby who is learning how to think and act and make choices in relation to her environment. My little niece barely, if at all, cares about the ethicality of what she is doing; she is simply either competing against her parents or she isn’t, at any given time. But when she’s competing against her parents, her only real concern is whether she will be foiled or, worse, punished when caught.)
So, for example: is your friend Julian saying that he believes he would have never gotten his act together unless he thought there was a point beyond which God would hopelessly punish him forever? Or is he saying that he believes he would never have gotten his act together unless he thought God would punish him eventually for refusing to let go of his sinning?
However, we speak wisdom among those who are perfect, yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, who are coming to nought.
But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world for our glory–
wisdom which none of the princes of this world knew; for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory.
It makes me happy when other people speculate about stuff like this with me because then I don’t feel as blasphemous or silly. And I’ve been feeling awfully silly a lot lately.
If UR is a secret, do you think we should be talking to people about it? Should we scream it from the mountaintops as I am so prone to do? Or should we keep it quiet and let people work out their own salvation with fear and trembling?
This kind of dips into a problem I used to have when I would think about purpose. My philosophy used to be ‘no interference’-- I believed in a Plan, and that if I interfered, I might mess up the plan. This is naturally a silly thing to fear because God is sovereign and a third of the world praying for his will to be done every night is a lot more powerful than little ol’ me. But that’s what I used to think. *Now *I think we are given this life for a reason; yes, there is a plan, but we are a part of the plan. It is therefore our responsibility, our greatest honor, to fling ourselves into the masses wielding our double-edged sword of individuality.
Undoubtedly. But why do you think God allowed such a big mistake? Is it a mistake, or a catalyst? Or a mistake that God has miraculously turned into a catalyst?
Well, I asked him: *As a personal study, do you think that if Hell wasn’t real you would have become a Christian? If you had heard that Christ came to save the whole world would you have become a Christian? A real, true Christian? *
And he said: *No, I would be living like I was, because I would have nothing to fear. If I thought that Hell wasnt eternal, that one day I would go to heaven anyway, I would still beliving how I thought I would want to…(now, I would hate to live like that, but back then I thought it was awesome). *
As I said, and as he points out… he doesn’t think he would have followed Christ if he thought he would ever be allowed in heaven, if he could continue sinning the way he was and still make it to heaven some day… But if ECT wasn’t sticky as syrup, I certainly think he could break free of that belief now.
What you describe at the end is a healthy perspective IMO. When we are too afraid of messing things up it’s like a misguided Hindu who will not pull his brother from a ditch because they may interfere with karma and hurt him in the long run. Of course we ALL make those choices to some degree, when to bail someone out and when to let them learn from the experience. Not an easy thing. If we always act in love then God will help us to understand when we are really helping and when we need to step back.
I have an extremist personality too so I tend to polarize toward radicalism which leads to the rooftop shouting scenario you mentioned.
I think you know we need to use wisdom. I’ve seen some go from fundamentalism to UR then to atheism (!). Those who go that route CLEARLY had a huge reality gap to begin with and if everything someone believes is based upon eternal hell and bible inerrancy then it is a predictable pattern. I surely believe that atheism is a healthier state than a religious fundamentalist who doesn’t know God personally at all. A blank slate is much easier to write on than a slate clouded with false presumptions about the nature of God and the universe.
Well, yes I read that originally, and again when you quoted it. But I have difficulty believing that he means that he would have gone right on happily sinning even though he believed he was going to be strictly punished for doing so and would continue being punished until he let go of his sinning–so long as he was assured that God would bring him out of his sins in the end.
That attitude is totally opposite as to intentions. It wouldn’t be much less opposite if the final clause was replaced with ‘so long as he was assured that sooner or later God would stop punishing him.’
But the kind of attitude you’re reporting him as describing does fit a belief of either hopeless punishment or no wrath of God against sin at all.
I guess I’m just confused. (I wish you’d convince him to comment here on the topic.)
Meanwhile, I think something else worth considering, in line with your original topic, is: to what extent does the Bible feature beliefs that are kind of hidden or obscured originally but become revealed over time? Is there a pattern of that kind of thing in the history of revelation? (I’d say YES!!–very much so.) The next question would be, if so, do any of those progressively revealed things have a bearing on universal reconciliation? (Again I’d say yes, though perhaps not as emphatically so. )
Yes I think that God does keep some things hidden. Ive had the very same thought as you. The bible is the foundation upon which our faith is based but there is a lot of stuff about God and the universe that we dont know. People who have visions are told to keep some things quiet. I think the reason why God doesnt seem to like palm reading is because it will tell you everything about your future-some of which would not be beneficial for you to know. (Think about it, who designed our hands anyway.) Jesus kept things hidden from the masses and only revealed some of the secrets of the kingdom to those who could be trusted. The jews used to have secret books (the apocrypha) and secret societies where they would keep powerful secrets of heaven safe from misuse i.e. the Name of God. (There is way more to misusing Gods name than just using it as a swearword. Modern christians are for the most part very ignorant of the Jewish background of christianity and it leads to misunderstanding.)
The book of Enoch shows what havoc was wreaked when heavenly secrets were revealed and misused-in fact, things got so bad it led to the flood. (And I beleive that there is certanly some truth in the legend of Atlantis and that it links into this story.)
I think that for christians who are not very linked up with the Holy Spirit it could cause problems of complacency and if no one preache dthe gospel the world would still be left in darkness. So it may be neccesary for God to be selective in what he reveals. And if you think this is tantamount to lying, remember Rahab who purposefully deecieved but was counted righteous because she did it to protect Gods people.
And as for being a ‘blasphemous heretic,’ welcome to my world-its lovely!
I know from personal experience that I am a christian because I am in love with God. period. I am not a christian because Im scared of hell. That just doesnt work. It doesnt make you live a better life, it just makes you do things out of fear which is the wrong motive. Fear is not from God. True remorse for wrongdoings is from God but it is constructive, not destructive llike fear and guilt. remember that perfect love drives out all fear so fear is from the enemy. I dont beleive it is Gods way to threaten people into behaving well. rather I beleive he says that you need him otherwise you will just build up all this negative debt which you will have to pay for. God isnt the bad guy when it comes to punishment, its as if we punish ourselves.
Beleiving in universalism dosnt make me want to do bad stuff as if Im ‘off the hook.’ My beleifs dont determine how I behave, the Spirit inside me does.
Ive said something similar in my previous post, that I am not a christian because I beleive in God, I am a Christian because I love God. Even when my faith is shaken and Im not sure if he really exists, I dont reject him or give it all up. I keep on pursuing him because I love all the stories I have heard from others about what he is like and what I read in the bible and the experiences I have had. I will never give up my pursuit of this beautiful person!
What I am saying is (and its in the bible too) that it doesnt matter what you beleive, its your love for God that matters. I know christians who are miserable and reluctant to be christians but they are anyway because they know that God exists. They know they are sinners etc but they are not taught how to get close to God. And if someone is only a christian because someone managed to convince them of the existance of God then this is rather shaky ground because it may only take a cleverly crafted book to convince them otherwise.Then they may leave God and walk away from what could have been a wonderful relationship.
Thats why I say I love God even when Im not sure if he is even real.
The other question about the church being allowed to make a mistake-its funny but I was thnking the very same thing on my way to work this morning! The church has been allowed to make mistakes-think of how the catholic church before the reformation got away with keeping everything in latin and telling people that they could buy their way into heaven. Im not sure how long it went on for but it did happen in the mainstream, established church. The church today is far from perfect. It isnt as great and powerful (in terms of the Holy spirits power) as it could be. Often it is nothing more than a social club with a few philosophical musings on how to deal with todays broken society. I love them all and they do good work but it is sad that the church doesnt seem to be filled with the Spirit and often cant help people. I have hears far too many stories of people turning their back on christianity because it was nothing but empty religion.
I am very priviledged not to be stuck with a church like that!!!
This is an interesting topic for sure; thanks Atlantis.
A few observations…
In Hustons Smith’s book WHY RELIGION MATTERS (must have loaned it to someone, as it’s no longer on my shelf…) he feels rather certain that the thing which Jesus WANTED to tell His disciples, but couldn’t because they could not bear it at that time, was in fact the truth of Universal Restoration! However, if we are correct in thinking (as many here are confident we are) that UR was very common – maybe the norm?? – in the early church, perhaps the disciples discerned UR sooner rather than later.
One wonders then, why the falling away from this seemingly core doctrine? Perhaps it goes with the territory as ideas become bureaucratized in human institutions. And a huge force influencing Christianity and it’s institutions in those days was the so called Constantinian synthesis wherein the church morphed with the state with the resulting loss in identity happening more to church than to state. (Which is the best argument against church and state conflation/mixing today I as I see it) Same dynamic happened big time as the church adopted the states notions of force and violence in her own service.
But when it dawns upon an individual mind/soul/person just how complete and stunning and inclusive and Victorious the love of God actually is, of course it “seems” like a “secret gospel” to them! And this is precisely as God wants it IMO. To my mind God wills for each and every one of us this kind of secret gospel! We really are to feel as if God loves us more than any other in the Universe. Of course good parents do the very same thing. To make each person feel a unique bond with God is not to produce guilt, but wonder and amazement and thanksgiving. Of course with growing maturity, one comes to realize that God will and does come to each person with a uniquely special awareness also; it’s what God does for His family. He comes not to condemn but to save. And if, in being saved, you somehow feel “special” (like you have your own little “secret” with God) it’s hard to think of anything more wonderful. God made us unique, so it’s little surprise that we see Him through our uniqueness. That is a blessing in no way to be ignored or diminished.
What is so cool about UR is the stunning variety of those who “get” this reality. To my amazement, my atheist/agnostic friends (our own JeffA being just the newest) seem to see this more clearly than most; for they are far less inhibited by church dogma from grasping it. Further, UR simply underlines the reality that God is hounding each and every one of His creation – and will not abandon the effort till ALL are home safely. If this awareness seems like a “secret” between you and almighty God – Praise God for it!
Arguably the most striking example of universal restoration as a “secret Gospel” in the Bible, I would say, is the book of Job. (Also arguably the oldest story!)
Job and his family go through the ordeal without being told once why it’s happening. He and his friends spend most of the poem debating (very much like good five-point Calvinists, in fact! ) why these things have happened. When God shows up at the end, He doesn’t explain directly why it’s happening. (Although He effectively insists upon full responsibility for it.) But He does mention that part of His goal is to tame and recovenant Behemoth (i.e. the cosmic dragon Bahamat) and Leviathan.
Now, Leviathan is a symbol for Satan in the scriptures. And Job and his friends are all quite agreed (earlier in the poem) that Leviathan, the great rebel, will (eventually) be hopelessly zorched by God, the end, period. But not only does God show up stating His intention of rehabilitating the cosmic monsters, but the prologue starts with Satan (i.e. Leviathan) entering the court of God as one of the sons of God and having Job called to his attention by God in such a fashion that God expects Satan to learn something from Job. (Satan thinks he’ll teach God something instead, and so receives permission to kill Job’s family and then to torture him to within an inch of his life. For which God essentially takes responsibility afterward rather than fobbing it off on Satan.)
Contemplating the dramatic structure of the story, in this fashion, might suggest some reasons for why God would keep the doctrine a secret to be revealed later, too.