The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Should we form universalist congregations?


#41

I hear what you’re saying. I think one of the reasons that people talk so much about UR when they realize the truth of it, is that it does affect how we view things. Nearly every passage we read suddenly has new meaning, and we start making connections we never saw before. It can “take over” for awhile. But eventually, when the dust settles, we start getting back to somewhat more “practical” matters, so to speak.

And you’re absolutely right, we DON’T need any more division in the church than we’ve already got. Unity does not mean we all think alike…


#42

*There is the mystical body of Christ and there is the apostate church side by side, one a bride, the other a harlot, one real the other counterfeit. It takes the Spirit of God to unveil truth in this area that one might discern between bride and harlot, real and counterfeit. I was awakened to the truth a quarter century. *

SPEAKING OF THE APOSTATE CHURCH

"With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him. All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its entrails; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life.

And now, O sons, listen to me, and be attentive to the words of my mouth. Let not your heart turn aside to her ways, do not stray into her paths; for many a victim has she laid low; yea, all her slain are a mighty host. Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death." (from Prov 7:1-27)

And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a habitation of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird. For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury.” And I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.” Rev 18:2-4

The “apostate church” is of Babylonian origins and counterfeit. It is different from the “mystical bride/church.” Many churches under the banner of Christ worship a different God. Their God is but a soulish invention made for self preservation and comfort. If the Father God of these churches is known to burn and torture the great majority of His offspring, the soulish love practiced there is made up of dead works which is rewarded with self righteousness. And if there are young children in the congregation the ministers of these institutions should be made to register immediately at the local court house.

When will we learn that the paganistic, terroristic hell fire beast of a God is another animal and afar from the benevolent Father who is known as Love. Let us not mince words when it comes to the apostate church system. Let us paint the Narrow Way with straight lines in black and white.

It’s the poor children that are dragged into these dens of spiritual iniquity that break my heart. Many will be made to ever live a life that can never appease their angry God. In their quest to find acceptance they will do much work and by varied means keep clean the outside of the cup. For these poor deluded souls, dead works and self righteousness are as the opiate feeding the fearful spirit and dampening the love craved soul.

A dozen years of serving this horrible Deity in such a hell hole, laid waste to all that was once precious in my life. Twas in the end, all purposed and for good that I might warn others. Praise God, my two children are today free from the beast and his whore.

Dear reader, what does it mean to you when Paul commands, “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them”? What does it mean to you when Paul says, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty”?

Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. Hbr 13:12,13

In His Sweet Lord Jesus,

John


#43

I’m not so sure that I could class universalism as a ‘secondary doctrine’.
Most of my friends and work colleagues are not christian and it seems that the main stumbling block is the idea of joining a group of people who are made happy in the knowledge that they are saved and still happy with the understanding that the majority of humanity will (for whatever reason) wind up in ECT.

For me, the doctrine of UR cuts actually to the very nature of the God we worship.Do we worship a god who predestines most of his creation to ECT (or at the very least is content creating creatures in the knowledge that many will wind up in ECT)?
Or do we worship a God who suffers with the lost soul and continues to suffer until each and every soul is redeemed?

I now believe that many more people would be able to identify themselves as ‘christian’ and begin a relationship with christ, but for this horrendous stumbling block of ECT.

In addition, how many EUs are prohibited from speaking and playing a full part in their fellowships because they hold to the hope of UR?

Meeting in an EU church means that the ‘Good news’ becomes an entirely different level of ‘Good news’. It is no longer ‘good news for me, you, just us two’ but it is genuinely Good News for humankind.

If we consider how the Pentecostal Church was born, it was born out of great reluctance because pentecostals were prevented from playing a full role within their fellowships. The end result (as we now can see) is that many of the ‘traditional denominations’ have embraced the pentecostal experience.

Just my thoughts.


#44

Pilgrim, I’m growing to share your conclusions, that we do need universalist congregations. I doubt there would have ever been the Charismatic movement, if not for the birth of the Pentecostal churches. I’ve come to realize the truth of the principle stated by Jesus that one cannot pour new wine into an old wineskin without the old wineskin bursting, loosing it and the new-wine.

I’ve experienced this already. The church I was a part of here in Nashville seeks to be a transdenominational church, accepting for membership both Calvinists and Arminianists because of their shared faith in Christ for personal salvation. But they could not handle the concept that Jesus is actually the savior of all humanity and were not open to even considering the evidence that has led me to believe that. And even though the pastor did not believe that UR was a doctrine that need divide us, the elders and others did. So I was excluded from membership. And in order to faithfully use the teaching/preaching talent that God has given me, it looks like I’ll be forced to start my own fellowship though I’ve always only wanted to work within existing denominations.

On the other hand, though I’ve tried to downplay the importance of UR to fit in and avoid persecution, the truth is, I’m increasingly seeing how much of a foundational doctrine it is. It influences how we view everything and everyone! And it especially influences how we see, understand God! God is not some tyrrant threatening us with ECT. It changes one’s understanding of salvation, of judgment, of punishment for sin, etc.

One simply cannot expect to pour this new-wine into any of the old wine skins and have any positive results. Even Jesus and the apostles could not pour new wine into the existing old wine skin called Judaism. A new wine skin was needed!


#45

If it isn’t very important for a church to be universalist, why is it important that it be trinitarian? Trinitarianism as such wasn’t developed until the 4th century (though there was a prototype earlier, but not widely known).

Teachers in the church of the third century taught universalism but not trinitarianism. Even the original Nicene creed contained a statement about Christ having been begotten “before all ages” (as a single event). But the revamped creed under the influence of trinitarianism changed this to “eternally begotten”.


#46

Mr. MacDonald’s concerns are understandable. if we were to form EU congregations, there would need to be ballance. it is not hard to imagine an EU church becoming more about the theology of UR than about Biblical, Christ-centered, holy worship of God.

and if our theology becomes a potential stumbling block of pride (e.g. “i’m an EU and you believe in ECT, i know Christ and God’s nature better than you do!”), that could be problematic. i’m not saying i’ve seen this on the forum, just that it could become a possible problem in our hearts, and our church.

imo belief in the Trinity is important. we see Trinitarian language used throughout the NT (2 Corinthians 13:14, 1 Peter 1:2), indicating that while an exact theology of the Trinity had not yet been set down, that the earliest Christians were thinking in terms of “Father, Son, Holy Spirit” in some way.

i’m kind of a subordinationist Trinitarian, myself. kind of a reconciliation between the classic, Western “one God in Three Persons” model, and a Unitarian model “One God, the Father” which would leave room to deny the deity of Christ. imo this is why a good deal of the theological conclusions passed down by Eccumenical councils is useful.


#47

I too, Sherman, am increasingly seeing how UR has influenced how I view everything and everyone, especially God. Isn’t it the truth that our understanding of salvation, jugdgement, punishment of sin is significantly different and we are guilty as charged?

If the core doctrine should be increasing our faith in Christ, promoting love, increasing our love/worship of God then what advantage is there to stifling God’s love as evidenced in his faithfulness to pursue us until we are found? Am I missing something to feel like UR has tremendous benefits to the believer? Perhaps I have overestimated the role UR has played in my life, that I feel significantly freed up to love God and others in a way I never could before?

It’s been my personal experience that believing in the God of UR makes me less prideful. I see myself more in others, that they too are a person God is destined to save and will be faithful to. The heart is sinful and anything is possible, but it’s hard for me to imagine how a UR perspective could lend itself to pride. The view that God only loves some in a saving way or that God is only able to save the better hearted ones seem most susceptible. Maybe I should not be saying this? Does this make me too prideful of UR, that I see it’s benefits? :confused: (Uh oh, I fear it’s late and I need to go to bed.)

If the benefit to the UR view is not significant I could see squelching it for the greater good of unity, but if indeed it has the power to change our hearts, in ways that a more limited understanding can’t, then perhaps it is worth pressing? With patience,of course!

Even though many of us have sought to be genuine in our faith, have only wanted a bit of freedom to express ourselves in healthy ways, and have consistently been patient with others that don’t share our hope, we’ve still experienced quite a bit of rejection and have wound up feeling stifled. For some of us the option to continue in mainstream evangelical churches is seeming less and less like an option.

Now that all this time has passed since Parry has come out, let more people know his true beliefs, it’d be interesting to know how, if at all, he might have changed his view on the benefit to having a UR church. From what I can pick up it seems like he still values staying in the mainstream, insisting on our evangelical status. Which may, if possible, have great benefits? It’d certainly be nice if more of the church were open to including us. Perhaps the church in England is not as harsh with those that differ on these matters as the ones here in the US?


#48

Good post Amy, I couldn’t agree more however:

My experience tells me there is little difference. On the other hand, I am optimistic that there is a wind of change coming.


#49

It wouldn’t only be one new denomination, of course. It would be four or six or more (even if some were much smaller in membership than the others.)

The theological distinctions between unitarianism (so-called), modalism and trinitarianism, are very serious–and that doesn’t even count some major distinctions about the nature of the Son and his relationship with God and creation among unitarians. We try here at EU to be accomodating to modalists and unitarian Christians, so long as they’re polite in discussion (ditto trinitarians :wink: ), but the original leadership had to take a strong stand on one kind of theology in order to have a base to work from (which is why the founding members are mostly trinitarian and why they invited trinitarian guest authors like myself, Robin and Tom, to help originally give theological shape to the board)–and more to the point, this isn’t a church for worship. We can all agree to worship the Father; the problem comes in whether or not we’re supposed to be worshiping the Son and the Spirit (and/or seeking salvation from them), and if so how and to what degree.

So that’s three or even more distinct denominations right there. And that’s before we get to the question of God’s wrath: does God do no wrath at all?–no wrath anymore? (and is that anymore after Christ, or after the Temple?)–wrath but only in this life, not in the Day of the Lord to come?–wrath in the Day to come, but God will surely succeed in saving all souls from sin? (and does all souls include demons, or do demons not exist to be saved in the first place?)–wrath in the Day to come, but we can’t be sure God will eventually succeed in saving all souls? (which would still be universalism so long as God is persistently acting to do so)–wrath in the Day to come, and we can be sure God never will succeed in saving at least some souls from sin (which would still be universalism so long as God still eternally acts to do so)? All these positions could potentially (and even actually?) be multiplied by the number of Christologies.

And that doesn’t even count theologies like Von Balthasar, or the identical Protestant positions recently discussed here (exemplified by Bro. Punt), which go the next step toward hopelessness by affirming that God may or surely will give up acting to save everyone sooner or later (i.e. Arminianism) but which wants to call itself “biblical universalism” by virtue of God’s original intention and action (to save?–or only to provide a possibility for the soul to save itself??) in universal scope, as well as by virtue of at least a nominal wave of assent in the direction of biblical testimony to God’s universal persistence (though this ends up being denied after all). But those people think they can claim “biblical universalism” distinct from an Arminianism category by acknowledging the persistence a little more than Arms generally do while still denying it really means persistence.

We have to take doctrines other than universalism seriously, because if we don’t then, well, there’s already a denomination that doesn’t take any doctrine seriously other than universalism (in the shallowest broadest sense possible at that): the Unitarian Universalists. Who aren’t even doctrinally unitarian in any way!! They may be very nice people, but I wouldn’t go there to worship (I would sooner go to a real unitarian church to do so–I would sooner go to a Mormon church to do so!); and I have not yet met one vocal member here who thinks the UUs are right to be doing what they do in the way they treat theology and truth.

But taking doctrines seriously means making decisions about what to believe, in one way or at least one set of ways and definitely not in other ways.

Sure, I could start up a new universalist Christian denomination tomorrow. But I would start it up in regard to beliefs other than universalism that I not only consider true but important–beliefs that will conflict with what other Christian universalists consider to be both true and important. And if someone else wanted to start up a new universalist denomination, I would think seriously about what kind of universalism they were preaching (or even if I could honestly consider it universalism), and about what other theological doxologies (right-representations of God) they were preaching, and whether I could agree with that, and if so how far (or not), before I joined that congregation.

What I’m saying, is that it isn’t as simple as “forming universalist congregations”. I’m loath to bring even one more denomination into the world (even though I think about doing so sometimes). Would bringing another six or dozen or twenty denominations into the world really be the best way to be salt and light and leaven in the dough?

I have doubts about that.


#50

I’ve written a terrific sermon on the subject of humility but it remains undelivered because I haven’t yet found a large enough congregation worthy of its reception.


#51

I was an anti UU universalist at one time but now prefer them over just about any ET believing church.

I do understand however that not being concerned with doctrine is counter intuitive for most Christians.


#52

Who said anything about denominations? You are getting a little ahead of yourself aren’t you? I feel the need strongly to express myself for the first time in many years. I have been one of the many unchurched for over 7 years. and I left because I had enough of looking for love in the church. No one was doing anything like social justice, missional work, everything was love on each other and when you aren’t looking I’ll stab you in the back. When they accused the pastor of something bad enough to kick him out of church and refused to tell the church what he had done, my husband and I said we can do better at home. I was recently thinking about God and about hell and how they were incompatible and I said to myself God is love so something is wrong here. That is my story.
Now I wanna go to church real bad, but where am I gonna go? Surely not back to the fundamentalists where I come from! I might just go to the UU. At least in a pluralistic church they’d allow me to be who I am. What choices do I have? Seriously, I am asking you, what church can I go to where I can be free to believe what I want to and express myself.
I would start my own church, but my husband has already forbidden it! :laughing:


#53

Actually, only Trinitarians find “Trinitarian language used” in any part of the New Testament. If “Trinitarian language” means nothing more than a mention of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the same passage, then non-Trinitarians use such language also. For virtually no non-Trinitarians deny the existence of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. What they deny is the Trinitarian view of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The early Christians may have been thinking of “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in some way” but they didn’t have in mind a compound God consisting of three Persons. I also think of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in some way, but like second-century Justin Martyr and Trypho, a Jewish person with whom he dialogued, I do not see the Holy Spirit as a third divine Person at all. Justin and Trypho both spoke of the Holy Spirit frequently in the dialogue. But neither had in mind a third divine Person. I see the Spirit as the extended personalities of the Father and the Son dwelling within the people of God. Jesus said to His disciples, “The Father and I will come and dwell with you.” If the Father and the Son dwell in us, is that not the Spirit? We read of “the spirit of God” and “the spirit of Jesus”. The Father and the Son share the same spirit. That’s the Holy Spirit. Why conceive of the Spirit as a third divine Individual?

Trinitarians speak of God as consisting of “God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit”. If this is the way the first Christians thought of God, we should find this somewhere in the Bible. We do find the phrase “God the Father”, but not once do we find “God the Son” or “God the Holy Spirit”. Furthermore, each time the word “God” is used in the New Testament where it is preceded by the article with no other qualifying word, it refers to God the Father. Not once in the entire Bible does the word “God” even remotely refer to “the Trinity”. Indeed, not even a Trinitarian would interpret the Biblical use of the word “God” as ever referring to “the Trinity”.

I suppose it’s clear that I am not a Trinitarian. But what might be surprising to some is the fact that I am not a Modalist or a Unitarian either.


#54

I think we’re on the same page on this one, Paidion.
I also think it’s interesting (though not necessarily suggestive) that there are a number of pagan gods that are “trinitarian” in some fashion. I suspect, but can’t prove, that trinitarianism is yet another pagan import into Christianity.


#55

Hi Sammy, I share all your sentiments. I believe I saw somewhere too where Gem mentioned not wanting to invite people to church because that would be like inviting them into Pharisee land, or something like that. I could relate to that too! I’ve been attending an American Baptist Church all my life. My dad, Bob Wilson, was teaching a sunday school class that I really loved, but they’ve since told him after the summer, which he’s always gone for, he cannot pick it up again. He brings up too many controversial topics and the church leaders are uncomfortable. This is the best we can surmise since there isn’t a better explanation from the pastor about why now. I’m really bummed. My husband doesn’t want to attend church w/o the class. What now? Seriously. To have nothing and not be able to worship with others seems extremely sad. On the other hand to gather in a group of people that won’t let you ask the difficult questions and feel extremely uncomfortable around you seems not much better. There has to be a place for people to worship God where love is central, caring for others, and everyone isn’t hung up on not asking questions, right?! I was telling my husband tonight to start something. If only we had a building, since our home is quite small. I joked that maybe our struggling church might think about renting out the building for a small fee to us evangelical universalists. Yeah right, when monkeys fly!


#56

Well, I’m sorry to hear that Amy. I’m actually surprised they let him get away with it as long as he did! But ultimately it seems that these congregations can only tolerate so much rocking of their theological boats. Paul commended the Bereans, but apparently no one wants them around now that we’ve “got our theology all figured out”. :laughing:

But then again, look what they did to the Son of God, who was an even bigger theological boat-rocker!


#57

Mel,
Amen to that brother, that’s the way I see it as well.


#58

Personally, I don’t really like the idea of having denominations that think badly on one another. It seems to me that, since the whole Church is the one Body of Christ, it should be at peace completely within itself. Sure, we can debate topics, but the debate should be cordial, and the opposing sides should always be prepared to worship together.

As for my own experience, I haven’t really been that open with my inclination to Universal Reconciliation within the church I usually go to (the Church of England), but I would imagine that the other people would accept it and that I wouldn’t be shunned in any major way at all. I don’t necessarily concede with all the Church of England’s ideas and policies, but its acceptance of other denominations seems a very good thing.

Instead of starting new denominations and thus forming yet more divisions within (sadly) an already divided Church, I believe that we should work for unity, and, most of all, love, telling universalism to those whom it will benefit and (although I imagine that this is difficult) remaining quiet if it causes more problems than good. Of course (although I am not very good at this), our primary goal should be to act in love of God and love of neighbour, which is done by evangelism and spreading the Good News with care and compassion, helping the poor, and discussing universal reconciliation where this helps further love.

I have seen (on this site) a few terrible stories about how people have been rejected because of UR - this, in my opinion, certainly needs to be stopped so that others realise, at least, that people believing in UR ought to be treated as well as anyone else. I find it unfortunate that rejection of anyone happens in some of today’s churches.

In summary, it seems to me that we should further the cause of loving one another, and those outside the church altogether, in active compassion, using UR as a tool where useful.


#59

I’ve just finished reading this thread, which being fairly new to the forum I had just discovered. I do wish to thank everyone, if you happen to see this, for what you shared. I have recently come to universalism and I am still working through things and rearranging my past understanding of things. I do wish to say that I appreciate and see value to both sides of the discussion on whether to form or not universalist congregations. From my limited perspective, however i would like to present a third approach. As I see it there are valid reasons not to discontinue engagement with existing congregations, but there are also compelling reason not to hide the universalist good news, and the two don’t always jive. As an alternative for those used to congregational Christianity it could be extremely helpful and faith sustaining to have universalist’s congregations. As a whole, however, I don’t see reasons enough to imitate the congregational model with universalism. For one, are we even that sure that establishing traditional congregations is exactly what’s needed and what universalism lends to. To me Christianity, in it’s basic essence, does not lend itself to forming institutionalized congregations. Only a legalistic, fear based, dogmatic exclusivistic theology can constitute the basis for successful, continuing congregations. There seem to be a somewhat naive dreamy idea of an original united and uniform Christianity, while Christianity was never such a thing and never will be. Concerns for Christian unity are usually based on wrong presupposition and though we have John 17, the Gospel of Luke and the somewhat romantic account of the book of Acts, it is all too obvious from the epistles and other accounts that there was no congregational unity, only the unity of the common experience of the risen Saviour. There was no bible and no common theology, just a common resurrected Saviour and his tangible holy spirit. What do I mean by this? That it does not matter whether there will be further schisms within the church, as it would hardly make any difference. The problem might in fact be in the very idea of congregational unity, a guilt complex related to diversity within Christianity and a wrong rating scale based on numbers and apparent success. Congregations are not the solution but part of the problem, as there is hardly a congregation that isn’t weighted down by a loathsome baggage of historic rubble and traditions, be they ritual or theological. Most have thoroughly lost what brought them to life and are just going through the motion pretending not to notice. If anyone dares to speak up about it he is quickly silenced. Nothing new under the sun.
I personally live in a catholic country where hardly anyone believes in it anymore. The scars of churchianity are deep and it is hard to speak of God to people because immediately they are reminded of the crimes of organized Christianity. On the other side protestant evangelicals have had such an arrogant attitude towards the poor deluded catholics that they make people run the other way. While Catholics aren’t growing but receding, protestants aren’t doing any better and spend most of their energies fighting amongst themselves. All the while I see a new phenomenon, something which a catholic theologian, Karl Rhaner had predicted in the sixties, at the time of Vatican II. He said that unless institutionalized Christianity was able to change it would become irrelevant in a not too distant future. He predicted that future Christianity would be a smaller charismatic Christianity made out of people who would experience God but choose to remain disconnected from organized religion. I see this happening all around me and it reminds me of what I have read so often in various courses on the history of early Christianity. Today we have a somewhat technical understanding of the relation between the theological and experiential aspects of our faith. The experiential is somewhat mistrusted and placed in second place after “sound doctrine”, but it was not so at the start and it will not be so tomorrow, according to Rhaner.
All the books and writers that we are speaking of in this forum, GM, Talbbot and others, are creating this event, whether they realize it or not. This very forum is contributing to it. Other events, like the “why I hate religion but love Jesus” phenomenon of youtube, and other forms of grassroots Christianity that interacts through global communication channels, all these are contributing to a new form of Christianity, diverse and inclusive, that finds spiritual nurisment outside a church building and connects at a different level from the congregational one. I personally feel that this is where universalism fits in and where it need to look - not at old congregational models but at new ones. We have already stepped out of the box so why not think out of it? We probably do, but like myself, it is a slow and laborious process to overcome cultural bounds.
For me preaching universalism is not an option that depends on favorable condition, but it is the very wish of my Lord and Saviour, which he so clearly expressed when he said to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. For me universalism is that good news, that proclamation of liberty and that true image of a truly loving God, which we must not hide it. If it means that we must forgo preaching it in the synagogues, because they will not have it, and that we must therefore go to the gentiles instead, so be it. And where are they? Not in the congregations!


#60

Great to have you here, Daniele :slight_smile:

There are a couple of other out-of-the-box folks here, with regard to traditional church structure (of whom I’m one). We love the legacy church. The great majority of believers today can thank the legacy church for introducing us to the Lord, and it provides a needed service to a great many people. I would be loathe to say anything harsh about these churches as a group, although there are always many individual instances. But Father uses them and thank God for the legacy church.

That said, I’m part of an “organic” church and it’s wonderful for me. It’s always a struggle learning to meet together in this way, especially with all of our members formerly from the legacy church where pretty much everything is done for you. Just show up more or less on time and there will be wonderful music, an inspiring sermon, programs, a beautiful building that you do not have to personally prepare every week . . . you can get away with neglecting your time with Father because someone else has sought God for you and is about to share with you what he heard – usually in a very moving way.

But . . . it’s good for us to learn to hunt for ourselves. I have never ever been this close to God, and it would never have happened if we’d stayed where we were. Yes, it’s better to be a lioness in the zoo with food brought in daily and be alive, than to be a dead lioness in the wild – but if you can learn to hunt . . . if you’re willing to . . . it’s wonderful being out in the savannah with your fellow pride members.

Folks in my group are a little afraid for me (or maybe even OF me) because of EU, but they can’t dump me because I’m their sister. You don’t get to choose your family members after all. We love each other, so we have to put up with one another’s eccentricities – even including EU! Not that I try to push anything or even talk about it if they don’t want to hear. But they do know, and they sometimes even read my blog. :astonished: They very carefully do not comment. :laughing:

Anyway, Welcome!