The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Universalism and Doubt: Being Both Hopeful and Dogmatic

People often make a distinction between being a hopeful versus a dogmatic universalist.

You’re a hopeful universalist if you desire, wish or hope that UR be true but just can’t bring yourself to believe it to be true, likely because of how you read the bible. You’re a dogmatic universalist if you are convinced that UR is true, likely because you have come to believe that the bible does, in fact, support universalism.

People often ask me if I’m a hopeful or a dogmatic universalist. And my answer is that I’m both. I’m both hopeful and dogmatic.

Let me explain.

Truth be told, I’m really not a dogmatic universalist. Why? Because I’m not dogmatic about anything. I struggle with too many doubts. There are days when I’m not sure that God exists. So how can I, if I’m wavering on that big question, feel dogmatic about a very particular vision of the afterlife? You have to get the cart before the horse.

So why do I argue so vociferously for universalism? Because I think UR is the only view of the afterlife that gives the Christian faith moral, biblical and theological coherence. I’m dogmatic about that, about how UR is the only view that makes sense when you really investigate the other options. In light of that, I’d say I’m more of a polemical universalist than a dogmatic universalist. I’m polemical in that I argue, strongly, that UR is the only view that makes Christianity morally, biblically and theologically coherent and that all the other options–e.g., ECT, conditionalism, and annihilationism–make Christianity morally, biblically and theologically incoherent (if not monstrous). I’ll argue that deep into the night and into the next day. That’s the polemical part. But being polemical–arguing the merits of your view against the weaknesses of alternative views–isn’t the same as being dogmatic. Because at the end of the day, do I know if any of this is really true? I don’t.

And that is what makes me a hopeful universalist. Because of my doubts, I’m not dogmatic that UR is true.

But I sure hope it is.

Excellent post! I am with you whole-heartedly. Universalism is the only view point which makes Christianity as a whole coherent.

Amen to that do Richard. I describe myself, with tongue ever so slightly tongue in cheek (I dislike labels) as a hopeful dogmatic Arminian Universalist - hopeful because I hope that what I believe is true, and that God exists, dogmatic because I am utterly convinced that if He does, then UR must be true, for the reasons you cite, and Arminian because I believe God saves us with our will, not against it.

All the best


Yup, pretty much agreed though given my natural skepticism I’m a prone-to-doubt hopeful dogmatic! :slight_smile:

I’m pretty much with Johnny with the simple modification of adding in brackets behind Armenian (open).

Yeah, I really resonated with what you said here, Richard. :slight_smile:

Maybe I’ll share it around in some of the EU groups on FB, to get people talking. :slight_smile:

Blessings to you :slight_smile:


i’m a dogmatic calvinist.

:laughing: just kidding!

i resonate with this, too. at the moment i’m struggling with the whole Christian thing, though being raised in it makes it my default position, there are times when i don’t really feel it, or even pursue it as much as i’m meant to believe it deserves. so i’m hopefully not dogmatic (see what i did there?) about that…

and i agree about the polemical universalist thing. i really do believe it’s the only way to make sense of everything, and the view that brings most glory to God, ties the Bible together, and all that other stuff that is important to most Christians. i may have doubts about all sorts of existential things, but to me it makes the most sense, if a bunch of stuff i hope is true IS true. the other views are dangerous and hurtful and keep many thoughtful people at bay. do i have doubts about the view itself? sure…but i can’t escape the reasoning, it always leads me back.

I did go through the whole “I’m not sure there is a god” thing for various reasons I won’t bore you all with just now (maybe later! :laughing: ) I guess I understand the way you guys must feel, from memory. But where I am now, I don’t identify. To me, it only makes sense that there MUST be a god of one sort or another, and that He has to be what He is and the best description of Him is found in the Judeo-Christian scriptures.

But if you’re unsure, then you’re unsure and that’s just the way it is. I don’t want to be unsure any more though, and I’m not unsure, so I’m not going to try to go there for the sake of being “fair” to all viewpoints or humble. I know how fallible I am – very, extremely, embarrassingly fallible. Nevertheless, I am fully convinced that there is a god, that He is the trinitarian God of love (insofar as we understand Him correctly) and that He absolutely will NOT toss out most of the people He created – or any of them for that matter – or the angels either, and I think He’ll most likely preserve your little dog, too! :wink:

Cindy – I agree with what you are saying here. I go through dark nights, and I’m sure that last is not behind me. Also I think that faith and doubt are not opposites but do co-exist fruitfully – and are necessary for a realistic humility. However, the way Richard has described the relationships between faith and doubt is not one that chimes completely with my experience. You speak more to my condition here.

Dick :slight_smile:

I think I’m maybe a step behind you, Cindy and Dick… I have had experiences that make it abundantly clear that something more is going on than can be explained in any natural way, as far as I can tell…

But my anxious mind always jumps at the shadows… sometimes I’ve wondered if I’m in something like the Matrix, or maybe the Twilight Zone, or if I’m being messed around with by aliens or something crazy like that… of course my mind never lingers on such wild doubts, but if one struggles with a tendency to doubt, then confident faith even in the most basic things can easily slip out of one’s fingers… I know something more is going on, that I can’t argue, but that this something more is really God, and a God who created me and loves me, is not always so clear to me…

My biggest struggle has been with trusting the Source of the experiences, and messages, trusting God…

I mean, most of the time I feel like my faith is pretty vague sometimes… I can say that I believe that we all have one Creator, one Father who is a Great Spirit who is revealed most powerfully and clearly through the person of Jesus the Christ and through those who follow in his footsteps, through acts of kindness and love, whether that be in the context of Christianity or not…
That’s about as clear as I can put it out there… things like the Trinity confuse me, but then so does every other view on that front… and I wonder how how things like the Bible and the tradition of the church and science and psychology and various religions and philosophies and even the paranormal, fit in with my experiences, and with the longing of my heart…

As I’ve said before in various places, I believe that at rock bottom, when you strip off all the masks I feel that I wear, whether knowingly or unknowingly, all of the seeming intellect and eloquence that I sometimes feel that I am hiding behind, you would find a confused and scared kid who feels messed up and wrong, but wants to be loved, to be healed, to be brought out of the darkness and into the light, and to find his true home, whatever and wherever that may be…
It’s funny when you find yourself longing for something, and you don’t even know exactly what it is, and why you are longing for it… you just know that you are… and that’s how I feel about God sometimes… I just want to be able to give my heart and soul to Something, to Someone, and know that I won’t be disappointed…

I think one of the greatest promises in the Bible is this: ‘Trust in the Lord, and you will not be disappointed.’

It’s also one of the hardest to really take to heart. So many times in our lives we are let down, our hopes or dreams come to nothing or are even shattered, we are wounded or our hearts are broken, and sometimes we get so battered by the winds of change that we don’t even have the time or the know-how to process everything…

So it’s hard to find the courage to believe, to trust, when it’s so easy to think that we will be let down again somehow, like we so often are in our lives… but I keep trying, and there is always that other promise, that even when we are faithless yet He remains faithful…

One of the most frequent things I say in prayer is ‘You know, I’m not very good at all of this…’ And I mean that. I don’t feel like I am good at this, this whole life thing, this whole love thing, this whole God thing… I’m better at surfing the web, or talking on the phone, or reading books, or listening to music, or playing video games, or cleaning toilets… but maybe I sell myself short, and maybe I’m doing better than I think I’m doing, and maybe it’s not so much about where my head is at, or even where my heart is at, but where God is at, which is always with us, including with me… and maybe sometimes all that this mysterious God, this One whom we talk about constantly and talk to and try to listen to, try to relate to and cast all of our cares on, at whose feet we lay all our struggles and shortcomings and failures and hurts, and bring all our deepest hopes and deepest dreams and longings to, maybe all this God, this Father, this Savior, this Spirit, asks of us is that we are reached out to that we reach back, in whatever may we are able…
And even if we can’t, because we are too jaded or stubborn or proud or unbelieving or deluded or crazy or whatever, as you said elsewhere Cindy, He can grab up by the wrist and pull us into the safety of His arms if He needs too… it may be that God helps those who help themselves, but I think even more so He helps the helpless…
My life is proof of that, or at least to me it is, and at least in those times of confidence when I can recognize that…

Anyways, recently I got on a bit of a Superman kick (and am still on it, also on a Star Wars kick… will discuss that more in my Movies thread :wink:) and I just finished a little book by Elliot S Maggin called Last Son Of Krypton… the last paragraph was beautiful, and spoke to me… Superman realizes why it is that he loves Earth, and humanity…

Granted, the number of people has increased by a couple billion or so, but I think this quote still applies, and I think those dreams of God are what keep me alive, and may even be the best thing about me, and all of us.

Well, I think I’ve rambled long enough.

Blessings to you all :slight_smile:


"I struggle with too many doubts. There are days when I’m not sure that God exists. "-Richard

Hi Richard! Nice to meet with you for a lil chat.

…and I’m going to start with a question, to your heart & mind.

Do you believe God sent His Son to this earth in the person of Jesus, who lived, died, and rose again?

I only ask that because if you do, & that truth rests in your soul, & abides, then even doubt-days are a mere blip on
the heavenly screen due to circumstances presenting.

That cart- before- the- horse saying was one which the man of God along with his family who took me in @ 16 used a lot. :slight_smile:

Bottom line, Richard…what’s in there? Your heart? & Your mind about the Lord Jesus?

and by the way, you needn’t answer this post…it’s just presenting something to really contemplate…a selah…a pause.