The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Universalism a "suburban" phenomenon?!?!

Hi Everybody
(been awhile since i’ve been on; i actually look younger in my new avatar i got a new haircut and lost about 25 lbs since 2014 :wink: missed you all)

Anyway, I have been disheartened, but also uplifted (because I believe it to be totally false in terms of causality and not even sociologically or demographically true), by the following curious argument, that Christian Universalism would only flourish in places of prosperity (i.e. white, middle or upper class North America), whereas downtrodden Christians would be far less likely to hold it.

I have been given various rationales for this. A big one is that the downtrodden, who experience systemic oppression, demand (and presumably exegete the Bible as demanding? - although this is never made clear) justice. A secondary justification has been that middle-class North Americans are insulated from violence, and therefore cannot fathom a God who is retributive - a corollary of this being, surely, that since white North America and other colonial powers cause (or ancestors caused) the oppression, of course, they would want to believe that God is all-forgiving to maintain the unjust status quo.

Obviously, the argument, to me, at best, is merely a sociological or demographical observation - but is this even true? For instance, poverty and oppression hardens some, but it is also makes some of the most merciful people this Earth has ever seen. And, what if it is?.. perhaps universalists are largely middle-class North Americans - it may be for other reasons, such as that we have more time to study the Bible or have Internet forums than our less fortunate brothers and sisters.

The accusation that “we’d” be universalists to protect our interests is a little disconcerting, but it also assumes that Christian Universalism is sort of a religion or theology of social quietism or inaction - but i don’t think that necessarily follows either…

Anyhow, i’m sure more than a few of you have come across this kind of reasoning… any thoughts?

Well, I am a believer in the universal reconciliation of all to God. And I am definitely not suburban, and my parents were certainly not prosperous (nor am I even now well-to-do, though much better off that my parents were).

I was raised on a 160 A. of land in the backwoods of Ontario. My father was a subsistence farmer. He did all his farm work with horses and horse-drawn equipment. We had no automobile, no motors of any kind, and no electricity. My father made very little money—from cutting about 60 cords of pulpwood in winter with a swede saw, and selling cream from 3 or 4 cows, selling a few chickens which were killed and which my mother prepared for sale, and from occasionally selling one of the few cattle we had (never more than 8). My mother canned hundreds of quarts of garden vegetables, wild blueberries, strawberries and raspberries as well as venison. So we never went hungry, but there was seldom any money.

I still live on the property where I lived as a child.

Prince - good to hear from you again!

Hey, Myshk! :smiley:

I’ve seen this argument made, too, including against me personally, by people who obviously don’t know me very well, since I sure as hell don’t have any problem intellectually or emotionally fathoming a punitive God. :unamused:

I don’t think they’re even very familiar with militant activism from middle-class suburbian types who demand justice (for themselves as much as for others), and who are often inconsistent about how much punishment they really mean by “justice”. But then of course the anti-universalists who are making this argument are simply conflating “punishment” with “justice” (and a specially hopeless final punishment at that). Which is neither Biblically nor philosophically coherent, nor is it even slightly trinitarian in theology (as I have argued extensively to fellow trinitarians who typically answer with a variation of “who cares if it’s coherent with trinitarian theology or not, that isn’t important”.)

But it doesn’t matter because the socio-demographic argument is historically false anyway: the ever-persecuted Coptic and Nestorian churches have long been strongly universalistic, following the leads of Alexandrian and Antiochian church fathers. And a mere socio-cultural explanation can cut both ways: Imperial authority Christians and their military forces had definite tendencies against universal salvation, whereas being over-run by the pagan (and Arian) barbarians seems to have triggered mere emotional responses against their salvation. Rationalizing one’s emotional preferences is, as rationalizing one’s emotional preferences does! – and if it comes to a question of external factors “hardening one’s heart”, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to bring that phrase in on my side of a dispute in defense of my idea! :laughing:

Hi Paidion, Davo, DaveB and Jason - great to hear from you!

Paidion: Wow! YEAH… i think that the assumption that all North Americans are so privileged that they come up with reassuring theologies is bogus; you had a very humble upbringing, i’m sorry if that was difficult for you.

Jason: Wow, didn’t realize the extent to which the early universalists were attacked! I thought universalism was sort of en vogue til the Romanization and then it sort of fall away as imperial prerogatives played out.

I don’t know what you’d call them precisely - ad hominem arguments maybe - but do you think that it is at all legitimate to continuously cite social location and/or “this is why you really believe what you believe” psychology? Maybe because it is an election year… but i get this so much more than more rational dealings/refutations with/of Universalism. Well, i don’t know a debate i seen in the last five years that didn’t include significant psychologizing. For instance, in WLC debates, the atheist typically counters that all his arguments for the existence of God and the historicity of the resurrection are worthless because, in the end, WLC has Christianity due the inner witness of the Holy Spirit.

But I think that matters of psychology and reason are separable?!!? For instance, if you had definite proof that a person held to, say, ECT Calvinism for a psychological reason (let’s say you had some kind of telepathic access to their mind or had peeked in their diary), would you feel justified in using that against them, saying it fueled all the rational reasoning for their belief? Do our beliefs, or wishes, inform our reason, or, more accurately, dominate, what we will accept as reasonable? (If we could only input all the theologies into a computer and let it decide on the least irrational :wink: hahahha)

— all this slightly to moderately disturbs my belief in a good God, that God would let psychology (determinism?) influence our “freedom” this greatly :wink:

Qaz - so well put!! :exclamation: :exclamation:

nicely vocalized! :smiley:

That is a lovely blessing.

I have lived in the U.S.A. all of my 46 years, and I am white and middle class. Where are all these universalists? I have NEVER met one (unless I’ve met universalists without me knowing that they are universalists.) I am a universalist, my wife is a semi-convinced universalist, and I raise my daughter to be universalist. That’s all I got. Everyone else I know or have ever met thinks that there is some sort of never-ending Hell or utter annihilation.

Based on my experience, I’d say that if anything universalism languishes in places of prosperity.

Yeah, there’s that, too, Geoff! :laughing: My rural small town probably counts as a suburb for larger towns where people actually go to work – where are all the trinitarian Christian universalists which ought to be here?!

Mysh: they weren’t attacked for being universalists, but by non-Christians for being Christian. (And still are today. The attacks haven’t stopped. It’s why only a relative handful of them remain.)

Seems that being white is problematic these days.

Seems that being white is problematic these days.

I was introduced to universalism by an ex-United Pentecostal pastor from Pascagula Mississppi. I now live in NYC, Queens and have not found many universalists here- but there must be some in a city this size- but how to meet them?

Guess I will have to just keep making em :slight_smile:

You know how to crush that argument? Just say this: Show me the statistical data.

If there is no statistical data (i.e. polling, surveys, etc.), there’s nothing to back this argument. ** Period**.

Good point.