The Evangelical Universalist Forum

The Essential Role of Free Will in Universal Reconciliation


Yes yes – I agree, and Sherman made the same point as well.

My point is that Paul seems to assert that contentment (and I freely admit that I have conflated happiness with contentment) is something we can chose. See for ex Phil 4 and Hebrews 13
Further, I’m simply thinking of the average person at work who seems to have “chosen” to be “happy” in how they go about things. We all agree I’d guess that one naturally gravitates towards those sorts of folks…

Yes, the negative abounds all about us; yet there are those who seem not to notice. That’s a choice as far as I can tell…
That’s what I’m talking about…



I hope you don’t mind be butting in, but I thought I might comment on a couple of things you said.

I believe that “Truth” is often held in tension between two seemingly opposing “truths.” And the reason that we cannot fully understand the “Truth” is because it exits in a dimension that transcends the “truths” that seem to be opposing. What looks like a point in 1-Dimension (width) is a line in 2D (length & width), a triangle in 3D (heighth, length, width), and a cone in 4d (depth, heighth, length, width), is a spinning top in 5 (movement/time, depth, heighth, length, width), etc.

On topic, if we limit our perspective to only seeing God as being in complete control, then it’s easy to slide into a sense of fatalism, a sense of complete lack of power as to our lives. On the other hand, if we fail to recognize that God controls or directs much, if not most, of who we are and what things we face in life, then we can fall into the illusion of thinking we are in control of our lives. How do these two opposing concepts, Sovereignty of God and Autonomy of Man, work together, I don’t understand. It’s kinda like Alternating Current (AC), electricity that moves both directions at the same time; I don’t know how it works but I know when I turn the light switch on I get light. In like manner, when I received Christ in faith, responding with love to the love of God revealed to me, the lights came on.

I happen to be a charismatic and have seen miracles happen in people’s lives. As to your hearing problem, I encourage you to study what scriptures says concerning healing. And I encourage you to listen to what God has to say to you personally, listen to the voice of the Spirit. Many times in scripture, it is a person’s faith that is the catalyst of a person being healed by God - for example the woman with an issue of blood. Other times it seems to be something God just chose to do - for example the man with a shriveled hand who Jesus healed in the synagogue. And of course, there were those whom even Jesus did not, or could not heal because of their lack of faith in Him because He was from that area. And there was the man born blind, suffered blindness for many years until God’s apparent time for his healing came. The key is hearing God for yourself. If you’re inspired to accept your hearing loss as it is, then accept it in faith; there are some Christians who have powerful ministries to people because of their struggles and disabilities.

I have actually just started wearing glasses. I haven’t given much, any time, to seeking God for healing of my eyes primarily because I’m facing some much bigger challenges. Coming to accept in faith that Jesus does not fail to save anyone has caused many people in my family, friends, and church to get very upset with me. And so most of my time in prayer is seeking God for a right heart so that I don’t get bitter, seeking wisdom how to keep my marriage and family from breaking apart, and asking God for direction as to what He’d have me do with this message of grace, forgiveness, and love. Maybe some time I’ll seek the Lord for healing of my eyes, or maybe some day just His presence will heal me, or maybe I’ll just continue to need glasses. I like what the three Hebrews said who were cast into the fire, in essense: “We believe God can deliver us. We believe God will deliver us. But even if He doesn’t deliver us, we’ll not bow.”

I chose Jesus because He chose me. I love because I was loved. I have faith because God revealed His word to me.



Happiness is very much a choice that comes from what we choose to think on. If we think on what is pure, lovely, good, etc. then happiness is a natural emotional outflow of that pattern of thinking. Joy, an abiding sense of happiness, is the fruit of learning to controll our thoughts, feeling love, and being filled with faith and hope. Depression comes from feeling unloved, unvalued, hopeless, bitterness, thinking on evil, etc. Joy is an aspect of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.


Very nice. I love this quote from George MacDonald:


It would be an interesting exercise to “translate” this into current American English.


The more I ponder “Free Will” that more ludicrous of a proposition it seems. The choices we make are very influenced by our very limited knowledge, our selfish tendencies, our distorted world view, the influence of other people, and even the influence of God, angels, and/or demonic spirits. So just how “free” are we if we are born with a sinful selfish nature? Born with specific tendencies, even addictions - good and evil? Born with specific talents or lack thereof? If we have no “choice” over these foundation aspects of our lives, then how much free will do we really have?


Sherman ~

i think you hit the nail right on the head. anything we do or decide will inevitably be colored by limited knowledge, skewed perspective, sinfulness, bias, etc. while we are free to choose, it seems clear that our nature is so easily lead astray that it takes God’s power and grace to lead us to the point where we, salvifically, want to chose Christ, and understand our need for Him. that said, i think you’ve hit upon a whole new argument for Universal Reconciliation. regardless, it takes God’s guidance and grace to over-ride our tendency to refuse His Son. as it’s in His hands and as He wills that all should repent, shouldn’t we see our dependence of God’s help and directives as further case for UR?


It also seems clear that unless our freedom to choose is part of the plan, it would be meaningless to say that God leads “us to the point where we, salvivically, want to choose Christ, and understand our need for Him.”

Prof. Talbott’s point (in “The Essential Role of Freewil in Universal Salvation”) was that in order to create individuals distinct from Himself, God had to give us the freedom to choose (with our limited knowledge), and repent of sin (with the knowledge we’ve learned from our mistakes.)

Without that kind of freewill, universal reconciliation, personal accountability, and remedial punishment make no sense.

(It could also be argued that no one who denies their freedom to choose can really repent of their sins, because as long as they do this they view everything they did wrong as “God’s will.”)


Michael ~

i agree fully that our free will needs to be part of the plan, and that the choice needs to be our own. personal, and with understanding. otherwise it’s not really reconciliation so much as a general tide of salvation. but i do read in passages like John 6:44 that God’s hand has a saving role in our coming to Christ, and believing in Him. personally, i see God’s sovereignty interacting with our free will, to soften our hearts, humble us, and bring us to the point where we want to and will say “yes” to Christ. of our own chosing, with God’s ultimate guidance, and through His grace.


Thank you Grace,

That was the point of Prof. Talbott’s paper (and believe it or not, there are board members who dislike it for some reason.)


We do have Free Will but my point is that it is far more limited than we might otherwise assume, especially in connection with salvation. Like with Paul, how much did “free will” play in his conversion? Little, if any! I suppose it’s like saving someone who is drowning. If the person is treading water and you throw them a life-line, they choose to take hold of it. But if someone is dead, lifeless, on the bottom of the pool and the life-guard jumps in, pulls them out, and breaths into them the breath of life, then the person had no “choice” involved in the salvation. I believe that the later illustration better reflects salvation. We’re dead in our trespasses and sins, dead, not just treading water. And it takes the Lord to save us by grace. In this regard I’m much more Calvinistic. I believe in Jesus not because I “choose” to believe, but because He’s revealed Himself to me and I can’t help but believe. I chose Him because He first chose me. Now that I’m alive to God, I do exercise choice in our relationship. But until God raised me from spiritual deadness, I could not choose anything. We can only be stewards, wise or foolish, over what we’ve recieved. Stewardship implies choices, being raised from the dead is not a choice. “What must we do” is the cry of someone who is alive, not dead.

Just pondering and enjoying the discussion. Thanks


Free Will is not a matter of limitation nor is it a definition of unrestricted freedom.


Recently I’ve been thinking about my own testimony and the role of free will (or actually the lack thereof). Since childhood I’ve had an unusual love for Jesus and love for scripture. I remember attending my first worship service when I was 6 years old. My aunt took me and I loved it. I loved singing and even enjoyed listening to the preaching and studying the Bible. From my first worship service I received a belief that has been a motivation for all of my life. I remember thinking, “Jesus is the answer to all of the worlds problems; I just don’t know how.” This thought set me on course of passionate study of scripture and attendance of worship services.

I’ve come to realize that this thought was from God; it’s something He planted in me, something I heard from the Spirit. I certainly do not remember this ever being something that was taught in my church. In fact, the church of my youth was ultra-exclusive. Shoot, our Soteriology could be summed up in the statement, “I’m not sure I’m saved, but I’m pretty sure you’re not!” We thought we had a corner-market on the truth and everyone else not part of our little group was deceived because they just did not want to accept the truth! Of course, I didn’t “learn” this until much later, years after my initial visit. Even though I grew to be very prideful and self-righteous, deep down inside I always believed that Jesus was the answer to the world’s problems, to our problems - I just didn’t know how.

Anyhow, my point is that from childhood I’ve had an unusual hunger for God and driving desire to find out “how” Jesus is the answer to all the world’s problems. I was also blessed with an above average intelligence (though a below average physical strength and dexterity). Can anyone say “Nerd”! But I was a “religious-nerd”. This was just the way God made me. And the word I heard at a young age drove me to seek Him. Neither of these can I take credit for; it was just something God did in me. And though my gift was buried for several years by religious pride and self-righteousness, ultimately this gift is and shall bring glory to God (I trust). It is certainly not something I worked up on my own, something I “chose”. In short, looking back on it now, “free-will” has little to do with my love for God. Rather, my love for God is something He’s worked in me through the revelation of His love for me and for everyone.

Free will and responsibility only comes into play with what we’ve been given; but we have no control over what God gives us. And most of humanity has not been given the revelation of the Lamb. So for me, salvation is completely a work of grace, not based on our free-will. We are physically born spiritually dead, cut off from relationship with God in bondage to sin and Satan to a greater or lesser degree, slaves to unrighteousness. We are born into the “present evil age” as Paul calls it. We do not choose to be born into this mess, and “choice” has little to do with salvation; salvation is by grace. It’s like we’re all drowning in a sea of evil and some of us grab the life-ring and are pulled to safety. Others though drown, die, are pulled to safety and revived. Those of us who are fortunate enough to be thrown the life-ring should count ourselves fortunate. Free will and responsibility only comes into play with what we’ve received; but we have no control over what God will bring into our lives. Nor do we have control over what gifts, talents, opportunities we have and challenges we face.


Thanks! Though my paper on this site assumes that the life we are in brings a pedegogy that values us learning to freely make righteous ‘choices,’ I must affirm that my perception of my own experience (and I think of many believers) deeply parallels your rich testimony. I think that I am growing a bit in making better and more gracious choices, but it seems like the Grace and insight that is provided me deserves the credit. Didn’t even an inveterate Arminian like C.S. Lewis confess that it was like the Hound of Heaven boxed him in, and when it came to his faith, he had no choice?


Yes, Lewis spoke of his salvation experience like being in a game of Chess with God who ultimately checkmated him. He did all He could to resist putting his faith in God but was ultimately brought to have faith in God by the “hound of heaven”.

I see the love of God like gravity. I am free within the confines/law of gravity. Whenever I break the confines of gravity I experience pain that teaches me to no break it’s law. But by understanding the law of gravity I can fly and live life to its fullest. We were created to love God and cannot escape the love of God. To resist the love of God is to resist what we were created for - and one day we will tire of resisting the love of God and find our rest and joy in embracing the love of God. Does this negate our free will? No, our free will can only exist within the confines of the love of God. How shall we escape the love and presence of God? If I go to the ends of the earth, He’s there. Shoot, if I die and go to hades, He’s there! Oh that we may understand the height, the width, and depth of God’s love for us. Does submitting to gravity negate our free-will? Of course not. In like manner ultimately submitting to the love of God does not negate our free-will. We are the created; He is the Creator!


Does infant mortality disprove the thesis that this life “brings a pedegogy that values us learning to freely make righteous choices”?

If this life is a necessary pedegogy, how would those who live no more than a few moments (like my sister, who never really lived outside the womb) ever learn to make righteous choices?



Wow, what a question to reveal my complete inaequacy when it comes to understanding the ways of God. Tragedies like the loss of your sister are at the heart of the central problem for faith, the problem of evil that I do not understand. Faith is only a way for me to affirm that I want to trust that it will ultimately be resolved.

I’m having a relevant discussion way out in left field with Aaron about whether there can be immortal sinners (whatever that is), just as you also have recently engaged him. I have sought to defend the possibility that there can be parital analogy between life on this earth as we commonly experience it, and life beyond death, for those in whom God still wants to do more in the realm of choicemaking, learning, and growth. Thus, I don’t feel that I could rule out that your sister will yet experience something akin to what I was describing, but obviously I am speculating way beyond my line of sight.


I thank you for speculating Rev. Wilson.

Perhaps the Church wasn’t meant to have a dogmatic answer to everything, and speculation is unavoidable (and natural.)

I would speculate that reincarnation (if that’s even the right word to use for the incarnation of souls who never really had any experience of life in the flesh) is a viable option for my sister (and those like her.)

Here is a quote (from a Roman Catholic web site) that I found interesting.

I think Gregory of Nyssa had some good arguments against reincarnation being the normal operating procedure, and Paul’s whole argument about Jacob being chosen over Esau before either of them had done anything good or bad would seem to presuppose that soul’s don’t necessarily have any pre-existence, but I don’t see anythng to suggest that reincarnation is impossible.


The following is from the reddit topic below.

Thank you for your response. I am familiar with this anti-universalist argument. I would counter that Love Omnipotent has all eternity to wait & keep trying to save people. And given His willingness & ability to draw men to Himself an infinite number of times through eternity, it is mathematically impossible for anyone to reject Him an infinite number of times. Each time the man has a free choice to choose or reject God there is a chance he will choose God. Given an infinite number of such chances, the odds are impossible that he will not eventually choose God. So all will be saved.


“God is the grand master playing chess and we are the 5 year old rookie. Theoretically we are “free” to win the chess game, it is possible. No not really in the libertarian sense - it is unlikely to the point of virtual zero. in other words, God will always get His way, despite our best efforts not to be saved.” - anon

“He does not save men by arbitrary force. He saves by their wills, through moral influence. God has resources in his universe, the all conquering agencies of love, to make the unwilling soul willing! He has light enough to make the blind see, and love enough to melt the hardened heart.” -Quillen Hamilton Shinn

“How ironic that those who believe God will not violate the ‘free ’will of man have no problem believing He will violate His own free will—that all men should be saved!” - David Nuckols


“God did not leave anything to chance, he’s not a gambler he’s an investor and that investment reaps dividends every time, if it takes a fundamentalist eternity to so.”

“Who is stronger? Man with his free will or God who will have all men to be saved?”

According to the Bible mercy will triumph over judgement.

Love will conquer all.

Is libertarian free will even possible?