Someone's "tenents of UR"


Hi everyone,

I’m new here, although I’ve talked to Gregory quite a bit over the past year in various places.

I wanted to get your feedback on something. There is a paper out critiquing the book, The Shack. The seminary professor’s arguments really all revolve around UR.

The paper is found here:

In it, he lists what he says are the “Tenets of Universal Reconciliation”. I think he is quite off on these in many ways, and plan on writing a rebuttal of this paper. But I wanted to get your take on where you think he is off or misrepresenting things.

I am quoting from his paper below.



*The best way to allow the reader to discover whether or not Paul advocates
universal reconciliation in The Shack is to list the tenets that those who embrace universal
reconciliation affirm (as in the creeds of 1878 and 1899) and see if these tenets lie
embedded in the book. What does universal reconciliation assert? Here are the points.

  1. God wills all his creatures, people and angels, to be saved and to acknowledge
    Jesus as Lord; and (this is important) God’s will cannot be thwarted.
  2. God’s attribute of love limits his attribute of justice. It is unjust and unloving for
    God to send people who live a short life of perhaps seventy years to an eternal
    (everlasting) hell.
  3. God has already reconciled all creatures—all humanity and all angels—to himself
    by the atonement of Jesus Christ at the cross.
  4. This reconciliation will be applied to all people, either before or after death, and
    to all the fallen angels, including the Devil.
  5. Those who do not repent in this life will repent after they have died.
  6. Faith is necessary to appropriate reconciliation in this life; God’s love delivers
    unbelievers (and fallen angels and the Devil) from hell in the next life.
  7. The sufferings of hell and the lake of fire are not punitive, penal, or eternal but
    corrective, restorative, purifying, cleansing, and limited in duration.
  8. Hell and the lake of fire are not forever, but will cease to exist after all people and
    the fallen angels, including Satan, have been delivered from them and enter
  9. Universalism is the teaching of the Bible.
    10)Universalism was the majority belief of the Christian church for the first five
  10. God has acted as the Judge of all at the cross; there is not a future judgment for
    12)All institutions including the church and the government are diabolical systems of
    hierarchy that use power to control people.

In the next several pages let’s discover if The Shack is just a creative novel from
which a lot of different people may discover a lot of helpful things; or a theological
discourse with universal reconciliation at its base. While not all of the above tenets may
be in the novel, enough are, I believe, to reveal the author’s universal reconciliation. It is
this that cripples the story and its benefits. Moreover, it is a serious doctrinal error that
the community of faith has identified as heresy.1*

Jason Pratt critiques Prof De Young's review of _The Shack_

Thanks Brandon! (Um, can you link to the original paper? Might be interesting, too… :wink: )

I’ll have other comments to follow later (I hope).


So, now to a few more detailed comments…

First, while some people here have read The Shack, I haven’t; and what little I’ve heard is not enough to even comment a little about. I know a compatriot of mine over at the Cadre was planning to report on someone else’s report about the “New Age” philosophy behind it, but his draft didn’t include a link and he stopped the draft before going into details. I’ll post a link to it when-if-ever he gets around to finishing and posting his entry. :wink:

Also, I haven’t yet read this seminary professor’s article, only the intro excerpted by Brandon; so take any following comments with that provision in mind.

In topological order through the introduction, my thoughts (not enumerated in correspondence with the professor’s tenets, btw) are:

1.) I didn’t know there were late 19th century universalistic creeds that emphasized doctrinal theology so strongly. Good job, guys, if so! :smiley: (Other posters are more familiar than I am with those creeds and may want to comment on how closely the points represented by the seminary professor match those creeds.)

2.) Except where noted afterward, I would agree with the points listed by the professor.

3.) I would not EVER doctrinally, theologically, metaphysically, exegetically or in any other way pit God’s love vs. God’s justice. Ever. Period. (I am, however, aware that some universalists do so, agreeing with practically all non-universalists on this dichotomy.)

4.) I would agree that it is both unloving and (very strictly speaking) unjust for God to hopelessly condemn anyone; although very many non-universalists would also agree (maybe all of them, practically speaking, sooner or later) that such a condemnation would be unloving at least. However, I wouldn’t limit this evaluation in the fashion of point 2. (“to send people who live a short life”)

5.) While I agree with point 3, I also recognize a “not yet” component to the statement. (In the very typical “already/not-yet” fashion common to OT and NT eschatology.)

6.) I doubt point 6 is intended to dichotomize between “faith” and “God’s love”, at least in regard to this life; but I would emphasize that faith is crucial to the reconciliation being completed in the age to come, too. (It isn’t like redeemed sinners are supposed to still be faithless!) Point 6 is probably supposed to be talking about “faith” as doctrinal assent or somesuch thing, though. I don’t consider this to be as bluntly associated with criteria for salvation as many non-universalists do, whether in this life or in the next. (Though if anything, I would expect proper doctrinal assent to be more important in the next life than in this one! :laughing: But the more important principle underlying this, is that a person should not rebel against however much of the light they’re able to see, which is a grievous breach of cooperation with God.)

7.) I would actually agree that the experience of Gehenna and hades is supposed to be both punitive and penal for at least some persons (obviously including rebel angels), as well as corrective, restorative, purifying and cleansing (including for the rebel angels). I don’t consider our God the consuming fire to be limited in duration, either. :wink: I do consider the punishment (if any) to be limited of duration, but only in the sense of God accomplishing His goals. In principle I accept that a sinner might never repent, and so the punishment of the sinner might in theory never end. I do think prophets of Judeo-Christian scripture have revealed that God will be ultimately triumphant in reconciling and saving sinners from sin; but I would be hoping in God, not the sinner, in any case. :smiley:

(Note: some, perhaps many, universalists do however accept an exclusive distinction between punitive/penal and the other class of adjectives; largely because non-universalists introduce and insist on the distinction themselves. Though all of them may think only one-or-the-other could be and is found in scripture, and/or that there is some principle that necessarily excludes one set of goals from the other. I disagree with all that, but I may be unusual among universalists in doing so.)

8.) In regard to point 8, I do think that hades will cease to exist (at the general resurrection, if not later); but that the salting fire will not cease to exist (this being the Holy Spirit, the 3rd Person of God, in operation). Again, though, some (maybe many) universalists do believe that both will cease to exist.

9.) I have no opinion about whether universalism was the majority belief of the Christian church for the first five centuries; and my own universalism is not dependent on whether it was ever a majority belief among Christians. I do believe it is the teaching of the New Testament, and that it is at least foreshadowed (and sometimes taught outright) in the OT. There are certainly some universalists (including here on the site) who agree with this point; but I’m doubtful that it’s necessary for them as a belief, either.

10.) I would disagree with point 11: there is clearly a future judgment for everyone. And a present judgment, too. I would agree that in some ways there will not be a crisising for everyone. (Then again, I don’t hold that the crisising will necessarily be as extreme as the Biblical language tends to present it.) Some universalists do, however, believe there is not a future judgment for anyone.

11.) To point 12 I would have to say, “pfft!” Human institutions are as fallen as humans, but are no more automatically “diabolical” for that as any other human endeavor. Some universalists are this hyper-much against religious and governmental institutions in principle, though.

12.) “The community of faith” is an interesting phrase. If the professor means that most Christians (including most Protestants) have historically considered it some kind of heresy, I don’t disagree with that. But, despite centuries of practical teaching against it, the doctrine has only been formally anathematized by a relatively late Byzantine Emperor, whose authority to call such anathematization is certainly not recognized by any branch of Christianity today (especially Western Roman Catholicism and Protestants, but even including orthodox Eastern Christianity, which has more open universalists in its ranks than Western does, at least proportionately.) Neither the RCC nor the EOx agree that it should be dogmatically taught, of course. (Rather, both currently agree that it should not be taught as official doctrine. But both also currently agree that it may be apologized for within proper limits, and believed and hoped for, too.) The RCC and the EOx between them constitute a significantly large community of faith, I think! :laughing: And in practice I think there are more Protestant universalists who consider it non-heretical (at least) than is publicly evident, official positions of denominations, conventions etc. notwithstanding.


Woops! I edited my original post with a link to the article now.



Thanks muchly! Will read later (maybe tomorrow, God willing).


This paper almost deserves it’s own catagory. It’s actually a great piece so I’m gonna try to tackle it section by section.
I’ll post up the thread and then everyone can respond to the critique.



Not if I get to it first, Auggy!! {madly scribbling} :mrgreen:

Seriously, though, I agree. I’m planning a multi-part response myself (and am already several pages into composing it). But if someone else gets there first, I’ll just compare the first reply with my notes and make some addendum comments afterward.

I do think it would be interesting and informative, as a sort of poll, if readers would address to what extent we each agree (or not) with Professor De Young’s criteria list.

(I will note here, in passing, something I didn’t mention in my previous comment about that list: in a couple of places DY seems to acknowledge that the universalists he’s aiming against believe in the wrath and the judgment of God and that these shall indeed be done post-mortem. But later he asserts that the universalists he’s aiming against flatly deny that any such judgment or punishment will happen. Obviously there is inclarity somewhere, though DY might be responding to flip-flopping by the universalists he is aiming at. DY certainly is aiming, in his paper, against those universalists who deny there is any punishment coming to sinners from God.)


Incidentally, maybe Professor De Young would be someone we should try inviting for a dialogue? He shows (maybe thanks to his long-running friendship with the author of The Shack) that he’s at least willing to acknowledge some universalists as both Christian and capable of saying some worthy things about God.


Jason, that same thought crossed my mind. I’d love to get him on. I’ll check it out.



Sorry about the dealy, if anyone wants to comment please do. I stated I was gonna break it down but I’m extremely busy at this time.



Really? I’ve had very mixed thoughts about the book ever since I heard about it.

For one thing, I just wanted to know what all the hype was about and found the unusual plot vaguely interesting. Some people I respect (such as Frank Viola and a friend of mine) seemed to give it a good recommendation to at least some extent, but others I know have said that it’s a very bad read. I read an excerpt of the intro and it didn’t seem exceptionally terrible, just not especially great. I’ve heard it has bad theology, and another guy I like (Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill in Seattle which I went to for a time) was criticizing it, but I didn’t agree with his points, from what I remember.

So needless to say I’ve been pretty mystified. Not entirely intrigued, as the book itself doesn’t seem particularly extraordinary, just unable to come to any real preliminary conclusions about it. I think I’ll still read it just to have some conception of a cultural phenomena in modern Christianity.

Also, does it actually have purely New Age ideas in it?


Prof De Young would have us believe so, but I couldn’t find anything very New Agey in his review. (On the other hand, “purely New Age ideas” is kind of a contradiction in terms. :laughing: New Agers are very eclectic; they like to pick up whatever feels good and use it.)

My more extended comments on his review can be found here on the forum. They refer briefly back to my preliminary comments on this thread, but are more extensive. (My summary notes of DY’s review are posted up, but my full discussion of his review is attached as a doc file for downloading.)