The Evangelical Universalist Forum

UR in Romans?

I have been exploring evangelical/Christian universalism, in the hope that UR is true, and have been learning a lot from reading helpful discussions on this forum. :smiley: (For more background see my intro thread at Hello from a potential EU

Recently I have re-read the book of Romans several times, to try and see how well it hangs together on the supposition that Paul was teaching UR in Romans, as I expect most EUs would believe from its ‘UR texts’ (see below). On that basis the following couple of points, in particular, seem like difficulties to me - not necessarily ‘show-stoppers’ - but I would like to feel better about them! I feel sure others must have grappled with them and similar points.

(1) If Paul was teaching UR in Romans, wouldn’t he have mentioned post-mortem salvation?

On the one hand, Paul wrote these often-referenced ‘UR texts’ in Romans, which (perhaps along with some other texts in Romans) seem supportive of UR - let’s call them the ‘all’ texts in this discussion:

**Rom 5:17-19 (NIV): **
17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
18 Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

**Rom 11:32 (NIV): **
32 For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.
As is well-known on this forum, an EU interpretation of these texts is that they describe the salvation of all people without exception: all people will be justified (being the same ‘all men’ that were condemned as a result of one trespass - ie everyone), all people will be made righteous (being the same ‘the many’ that were made sinners - ie everyone), similarly God will have mercy on all people.

On the other hand, Paul also wrote other texts, such as the following, in Romans - let’s call these the ‘some’ texts in this discussion:

**Rom 1:5-7 (NIV): **
5 Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. 6 And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.
7 To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:

**Rom 5:17-19 (NIV) (included in UR text above): **
17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

**Rom 8:28-33 (NIV): **
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
31 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all— how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.

**Rom 10:9-13 (NIV): **
9 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11 As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile — the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
These ‘some’ texts all seem to describe, in various terms, the salvation of believers - those who are called … receive … are predestined by God … justified … glorified … chosen … who call on God … are saved. To me, the natural sense of these texts is that - whether we like it or not - they only include some people, and refer to coming to belief (receiving … confessing … trusting … calling on God) in this life rather than after death (as it doesn’t immediately seem natural to think of the dead as doing so). As such, at face value and in the absence of further explanation, to me these ‘some’ texts seem inconsistent with EU interpretation of the ‘all’ texts.

Again as is well-known on this forum, the normal EU explanation to bridge this apparent gap is a doctrine of post-mortem salvation. Such a doctrine, however, does not seem to be explicitly described or mentioned by Paul. I am aware that arguably there is little direct scriptural support for post-mortem salvation - rather it is deduced by inference from UR (‘everyone will ultimately be reconciled with God, but as only some seem to be during this life, the rest will be after death’). I am also aware that arguably there is little explicit scriptural evidence against post-mortem salvation!

My particular point here is that, if Paul was teaching UR in Romans, to me it seems surprising and incomplete that he did not also describe post-mortem salvation, to bring together the ‘some’ and the ‘all’. It seems a rather obviously missing part of the picture. To view the UR texts as teaching universalism, one therefore has to assume post-mortem salvation as an unwritten truth, in order for the ‘some’ texts to be consistent with UR.

It’s not that I find post-mortem salvation, in itself, hard to believe - indeed I don’t find that hard. I am very hopeful that hell is temporary and has an exit. But I find it harder to believe in post-mortem salvation, and therefore UR, given that Paul did not mention post-mortem salvation when it seems necessary to believe it for Romans to be teaching UR consistently - raising doubts in me such that perhaps the ‘all’ texts are not teaching UR after all. I think I would be less bothered about this if the ‘some’ and the ‘all’ texts were in separate books which covered different contexts, although it would still be reassuring to have post-mortem salvation described explicitly somewhere in the Bible.

I am aware of the suggestion that Paul did not want to say too much about UR, for fear of diluting or undermining the force of his other teaching, which seems possible to me. But on the other hand, if UR is true then Paul has already provided a big indication of that in the ‘all’ texts, so why stop there?

Also I am conscious of approaching this with a mindset which is probably quite different to that of Paul’s readers in the Roman church at that time and in their culture, where perhaps notions such as post-mortem salvation might have been more naturally understood. Is anything known about that? And/or could translation issues be at play here?

(2) If Paul was teaching UR in Romans, wouldn’t he have said “… *all *will be saved …” and not just that “… *all Israel *will be saved …”?:

**Rom 11:26-27 (NIV): **
26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:
“The deliverer will come from Zion;
he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
27 And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.”
However others might interpret ‘all Israel will be saved’, presumably EUs believe not only that all those in ‘Israel’ (however one interprets ‘Israel’ here) will be saved, but also that all people more generally will be saved - where ‘all’ means all without exception (or - some might say - nearly all). So if Paul was teaching UR in Romans, as suggested by the ‘all’ texts, why did he not say here that all people will be saved, and not just ‘Israel’?

I appreciate that chapters 9 - 11 are largely about Jews and Gentiles, which perhaps explains the specific focus on ‘Israel’. But wouldn’t it have seemed natural for Paul to state here that all will be saved - echoing the ‘all’ texts - in addition to the statement about ‘Israel’ or perhaps instead of it?

Help please!

I would much appreciate hearing thoughts on these two points, particularly from any EUs who have grappled with similar points and feel they have resolved them enough to their satisfaction - or decided that, in the big picture, they are OK to live with. :smiley:

Please understand that I am not meaning here to undermine or oppose UR beliefs, but rather am hoping that some EUs will have insights to offer on these points that will help me become more convinced of UR. I expect some people will disagree with the thoughts I have expressed, and I apologise if I have misunderstood or misrepresented anything.

As always, the texts should be read in context, which probably means reading much of Romans. I appreciate that is not something which can be done in a couple of minutes, or necessarily very soon! But for anyone who has the time to respond and would like to offer some thoughts, I would be very grateful and interested to hear them. Thanks in anticipation! :smiley:



some great questions there!
i will have to think a bit to see what i feel about it, but also to give those with better knowledge to a chance to answer.
i suppose one thing i’d say is that those “some” texts don’t seem to exclude people permanently…ie the “elect”, i feel, is the first fruits of the church, that group there…personally i don’t buy the doctrine that says that there are the “elect” and the “reprobate” (quite obviously, as i am UR lol), and i think that it’s a mistake by the reformed theology crowd to read these verses in that way…unless “elect” is stretched to mean everyone, which i concede doesn’t seem right for those verses. i feel Paul was expressing something about the current state of the Christians to whom he was writing, not the permanent state of believers vs unbelievers.

as for Israel, i feel that’s a fairly strong case for partial UR…that being the universal reconciliation of Israel… it appears to me, though some disagree and feel Paul’s talking about a remnant, that Paul is referring to the Old Testament prophecies, to date unfulfilled, which promise redemption and resurrection for Israel. some of those OT references are about remnants, but Paul seems to extend this to all Israel, without exception.
given that the same OT prophecies to which i believe he is referring are also aimed at the rebel nations surrounding Israel, and that similar redemption, resurrection (necessary as most of those nations are now dead), and salvation is promised to those nations…and at times making a rather general reference to ALL nations…and then Paul goes on to infer the same unlimited ultimate outpouring of Christ’s grace… and ESPECIALLY since those OT prophecies are (as i’ve said) yet unfulfilled…

well i think we can infer the temporary nature of the Some vs All, and that the ultimate goal is this All. he does say that after “the full measure” of gentiles comes in, which i think means everyone, Israel will be saved.

i don’t know if i’ve helped at all with that rambling, but that’s how i see it. i think we have to interpret what Paul (as a student of the OT) said in light of the OT. and for me the strongest evidence for UR comes from the OT.

God, we’re told, does not get angry forever…and God, we’re told, does not cast aside forever. we’re also shown time after time that God renews after He disciplines. there is a strange inconsistency if suddenly in the NT, He changes His personality and starts to judge and punish permanently, hopelessly. and God does not change…the same yesterday, today and forever.

Paul would’ve known all this…and yes, i agree…UR seems an odd thing to cloak in mystery. i can’t help but feel that if i were Paul, i’d have not been able to stop talking about it! but maybe our perspective is a bit clouded. we have probably 1500+ years of ECT drilled into our skulls. if we look at the old fathers, immediately coming after the disciples, we see that most of their schools of thought were UR. that’s pretty telling! so maybe UR was so predominantly a part of their thought that Paul concentrated on warning against temporary but extreme judgement for those that too liberties with the grace they were given…and warning us to continue to make disciples of the world. and given that their world was extremely hostile, and soon to become even worse, his warnings may’ve been in light of that…

also, i feel the church is being raised like a child. a young child often needs black and white answers, yes and no…and often a strong view of consequences is useful in training them up. sadly, our church let us down and was an abusive parent, but God has done His best, and we have grown. these days, most of us think nothing of salvation by faith…but i expect once Luther found that infamous passage in Romans, there were people surrounding him who asked why it wasn’t MORE obvious…why just a few little asides about salvation by grace through faith…and why the warnings to act in certain ways?

maybe this is similar?

i will stop now, as i fear i have written you a rambling novel…and honestly, i need to go back to Romans myself, in the same spirit as you have, and see what it says to me again.

Hi, Al

I will (hopefully) come back to this later because you’ve asked some excellent questions that I’d like to think more about. But I did want to point out quickly that it’s entirely possible Paul didn’t feel a need to point out post-mortem salvation. He talks a great deal about the resurrection, and Jesus Himself says that the unjust will be raised to judgment. My suspicion is that He didn’t feel any need to mention it at all. We never find the “physical death as the cut-off time” in scripture; it doesn’t make sense that it should be the cut-off. Paul most likely doesn’t even think about the possibility that mentioning this might be important to someone someday.

The other thing is the idea of a chosen people as up against all being saved. I believe both are correct. Rather than go into this at length, I’ll point you to a recent series of blog posts that I used to sort of think this through “out loud.” Maybe they’ll stimulate some ideas for you, too. This will take you to the first one.

Blessings, Cindy


Wow, your questions are thoughtful and articulate!! Here’s some brief reactions.

On Rom. 11:26, against Paul’s anquish for lost kinsmen, “all (ethnic) Israel saved” still seems to somehow shatter traditional paradigms, and if not extended beyond them, leaves God displaying abysmal “partiality,” which Paul explicitly denies about God. Plus 11:32 could be thought to apply the principle (that God’s pursuit of covenant type love will ultimately become complete) to indeed ‘all people’ (thus fulfilling the original O.T. intent of first saving Israel).

I sense that the “some” texts (and clauses conditioning salvation on our response) can (logically) be congruent with U.R. if they are seen as describing the writers’ present reality that many remain without that reconciling response. The “natural sense” that therefore “only some” will be “included” is understandable unless one is convinced as I am (based on other Biblical/theological reasons) of U.R., and yes, to assume post-mortem opportunity.

Most important, despite the arguable hints of hopeful post-mortem developments that you’ve probably seen on other threads, I strongly agree that it’s reasonable to wonder why a U.R. Paul wouldn’t spell out such post-mortem salvation! How much this troubles me depends on what kind of book I see the Bible to be. If it’s a systematic presentation that regularly spells out the vital pieces, it would be very troubling. But my sense is that it is a progressive revelation wherein many things that we would like spelled out more directly never are. I’m especially struck that the first 3/4 hardly articulates that God’s plans will accomplish ANY blessed developments beyond this life (all people end in the bleak grave). Of course, we’re now able to recognize as a pivotal development that the accomplishment of God’s program extends far beyond death.

But can we then expect that the first century apostles must spell out the whole program, when their focus of concern is on those alive and the importance of how they live and respond in the now of this world. Maybe comparable to the O.T., we’d only get hints of a whole different arena that would leave us to trust that the foundational revelation of God’s character, as pursuing love and repentant reconciliation, would surely not be cancelled at death (such that the burden is on those who insist that the love which desires that all be saved does not “endure forever,” or does effectively “fail”).

This bears better exposition. But my sense is that we could easily be tempted to wonder why the Bible doesn’t more explicitly spell out many questions. For poor examples, if God is Trinitarian, why not early on just say that God is to be thought of as “three” persons? If 'Jesus IS God," why not say those words? If there is a future or endless torment for the disobedient, why doesn’t the whole Hebrew Bible give a clear heads up? I.e. I think most traditionalists also assume to some degree that we have been left to flesh out the trajectory of what the Bible does tell us, and try to make sense of things that are not stated near as plainly as skeptics would like. Of course, whether the hope of post-mortem salvation is analagous or logical based on what we can and do come to affirm, depends on how we see a host of wider Biblical questions about God’s character and plans. I guess that for me, the traditional alternative interpretation has actually become the harder one for me to believe.

Grace be with you,


Great questions Al and some excellent replies already. Tom Talbott and Jan Bonda are both very good on Paul’s universalism. One passage I think opens the possibility of post mortem conversion is 1 Corinthians 13 - now we can only see through a glass darkly, but then etc… Perhaps we can discuss this at the George tonight!

Thanks so much Corpselight, Bob, Cindy and Drew for your thoughtful responses on this, which I much appreciated. I have had a rather full weekend (including the pleasure of meeting Corpselight (James) and Drew at the London get-together yesterday) and would like a little more time to reflect on your comments, but will post back more fully soon.



Super-busy at ‘work’ work today; but since we (started to) cover Rom 8:28 in Sunday School this weekend (the teacher is working verse-by-verse through Romans… but conveniently skipped right over that special block of verses back in chapter 5, by the way :wink: ), I thought I could contribute something here quickly (as I don’t have time to do a full post on it. Maybe later.)

The Greek of Romans 8:28 doesn’t actually read as translated in the NIV. Or rather there’s more leeway in what the Greek says than people are aware of which is why there are various translations with scholars and translators having to basically make guesses as to what Paul meant to say.

The sentence’s structure runs more like this:

Part 1: Now/yet/and/but we are aware (or have seen, or know) that

Part 2: to those who love the God [note: definitely not genitive case “of those who love” God, but dative case instead]

Part 3: all works together [note: or grammatically it might be “he works all together”, where ‘he’ would be ‘He’, i.e. God–as a few early manuscripts specifically include {ho theos}]

Part 4: into (or for) good

Part 5: to those [note: dative case again] down-from [note: accusative case] (or according-to) before-placing (or prior purpose) being called. [note: actually “called” comes before “being”, but the verb and the adjective both match to the dative noun “to those” earlier]

Migraine yet? :wink: It gets worse. While word order sometimes counts in Greek, the order of the phrases when translated into English might be plausibly flipped around any of several ways.

It’s a pretty screwy sentence by English standards. That’s why there are numerous translations.

My rule of thumb is that unless the context indicates the word order should be kept as close as possible for translation (although sometimes words and/or phrases are fronted in a sentence for emphasis which cannot always be identified by context, unfortunately.)

So the guess I regard as the most plausible translation would be something close to this:

“Now/and/yet/but we see that to those who love God, all works together (or He works all together) into good to those being called beforehand.”

In other words, those who love God will see that God works everything together for the good of those He has intended beforehand to call for salvation.

My Arminian teacher strongly believes (and I agree of course) that God seriously intends and calls all sinners to be saved. (Although ironically he would probably not agree that God intends and calls rebel angels to be saved–meaning he’s actually Calv with a broader scope than most Calvs! But he doesn’t know it yet. :wink: That’s true about most Arminians of course, which Calvinst apologists are well aware of and press in disputes. But leaving aside the important question of rebel angels…)

But if God originally from the first (not waiting for us to repent and earn our salvation) intends and calls all sinners to be saved, then that makes a big difference in the interpretation of verses 29-30.

For all sinners called by God to be saved, He foreknew and also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son; those He calls (all sinners), He also justifies (all sinners); those He justifies (all sinners), He also glorifies (all sinners).

So who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen (i.e. all sinners for salvation)?!–it is God Who justifies them!

Going to be an interesting lesson next week. :mrgreen: (We didn’t quite get to those verses after 28, or talked much about 28 yet.)

Hi Al

A really excellent, well thought out post, one which articulates with pinpoint accuracy one of the scriptural lynchpins on which UR turns - or does not turn, as the case may be. I say ‘scriptural’, for it is my personal belief that UR cannot be ‘proven’ from scripture.

But this should not be a problem for the universalist. Very little that we believe can be unequivocally ‘proven’ using scripture alone, for a number of reasons – eg the myriad problems of translation and interpretation; cultural differences; and perhaps most importantly the fact that we all apply our own personal theological paradigm to our reading of scripture.

If you want my two-pence worth, I would say that the Bible *read as a whole *– ie in its meta-narrative – clearly supports UR, and the moral and philosophical arguments in favour of UR are so strong as to be almost - 99% - cast-iron. (For an infinitely merciful, infinitely loving God who either consigns some of his creatures to everlasting torment/separation or annihilates them is a logical impossibility.) But however strong one’s commitment to UR, one must face squarely up to the apparent challenges and contra-indications in scripture.

The questions you pose have exercised me greatly over the past few years. And I cannot pretend to have all of the answers. Indeed, for the reasons cited above, even if I had answers, those answers must always remain moot. For theology, alas, is not like mathematics. Two plus two always and everywhere equals four. That is an incontrovertible, bottom-line ‘fact’ about the universe. But the trinity, the atonement, salvation – these must by definition be matters of opinion, of faith if you will.

Rather a lengthy preamble, I know, but I’m afraid such answers as I do have for you are rather short.

The first of them concerns the issue of post mortem salvation. I would say only this: if Paul is silent on the issue of post mortem salvation, which he surely is (as, indeed, is the Bible as a whole), why should this be an impediment to belief in UR? For one could argue that if ECT is true, then surely Paul, the apostle who explicitly declared that he had given us the “whole counsel of God”, should have made it crystal clear that we have to believe/repent/be saved before we die.

Consider this admittedly rather trite analogy. You get a letter in the post telling you that you will receive a free gift worth fifty pounds if you fill in a form and post it back to the address on the letter. There is no time limit stated on the letter, no ‘offer ends’ date. I suggest you would feel aggrieved if you did fill in and return the form, and were subsequently told that you had missed out on the free gift, because you had responded too late.

Now one might object that this analogy doesn’t hold water, because death is such an obvious ‘offer ends’ point in the life of a human being – so obvious that it doesn’t need to be spelled out at all. We should all just ‘know’ intrinsically that we must make the life or death decision for or against God in our earthly lives. But why should this be the case? For the Bible is quite explicit that God is the God of both the living and the dead, He kills and makes alive again. Death is clearly no barrier to Him. Indeed, in all sorts of places in the Bible, including in Paul, it is explicitly stated that we shall all face judgement after death. But nowhere – and I repeat nowhere – does it state that this post mortem judgement precludes any possibility of repentance and renewal.

I would humbly submit that this whole issue of post mortem repentance, or rather the lack of opportunity for it, is simply part of the theological paradigm with which we as Christians have been saddled over many centuries of ECT thought. When one examines the scriptures with a critical, and completely unbiased eye, one must conclude that the Bible is silent about the issue. Thus if we believe that all will one day be saved, we will conclude that post mortem salvation must be possible; if we believe that some will be lost, we will conclude that it is not (or perhaps that it is, but there is still some built-in time limit after death).

Now some have argued that Paul deliberately didn’t mention the possibility of post mortem salvation because he didn’t want people to think, ‘Oh, if I’m going to get the chance to repent in the next life, why do I need to worry about repenting at all? I can just carry on living the life of Riley, screwing around, eating, drinking and being merry, being the ultimate hedonist, but it’ll all turn out okay in the end because God will let me off’. And as a convinced UR, I believe He will - sort of!

Because everywhere the Bible, including Paul, warns of the consequences of living a sinful life. Sin brings punishment. There will be a universal judgement. The sheep will be separated from the goats. That is an unequivocal Biblical teaching in my view, and it makes sense morally. God will deal with every man and woman according to their deeds. We will all get our just deserts. But that will not mean ‘eternal’ or everlasting punishment or separation from God. This is where orthodox Christianity gets it all wrong. Repent and believe, it says, and you will escape the punishment justly due to you for your sins, because God has already punished Jesus in your place – punished him instead of you.

Nothing could be further from the truth! In the same way that a good and loving father punishes his children in order to discipline them, justly and humanely, so that they will grow up to be good people, so God punishes, and will continue to punish, us. Spare the rod and spoil the child! Penal substitutionary atonement is one of the greatest con tricks the church has pulled on her people over the ages (and there have been many), but we must be brave and have no truck with it whatsoever. A God who punishes an innocent man for crimes committed by others is neither just nor loving; that’s the plain truth of it.

As for Paul talking about all Israel, as opposed to all people, I hope that reading Bonda will help you with that perplexing question. But just in case it does not, I urge you to read Thomas Talbott’s debate with Calvinist John Piper, as published in the *Reformed Journal *a few years ago. You can find it on Talbott’s website, link below. … nation.pdf

It’s quite a long article – 20 pages – but it is utterly compelling. In it Talbott demolishes the so-called Biblical argument in favour of predestination to damnation, and runs rings around Piper – so much so that Piper simply throws in the towel and withdraws from the debate, bloodied and completely bowed! The article also gives a fairly detailed exegesis of Romans 9-13, which might help you in your ruminations.

In conclusion, I would say just this, Al. If the spirit leads you towards a belief in UR – as I am utterly convinced He will, in time - you will eventually discover that it really never could be any other way. All your objections and worries about UR will simply melt away. And while, like our besetting sins, they will occasionally rise up from time to time and threaten to derail your UR belief for a spell, you will know in your heart of hearts that you have found the rock bottom truth about God. And that truth is that God is love, and in Him is no darkness at all.



Excellent post Johnny! :slight_smile:

Johnny, I resonate with all that you say, including the nature of Bible ‘proofs,’ and the need to read the Bible as a whole. Excellent reading suggestions also!

Many thanks everyone for all those posts :smiley: and I am sorry for not having managed to respond more fully until now.

I thought the posts contained much helpful ‘food for thought’, and I respond briefly to a selection of comments below. (Where I have not responded to a comment, it does not meant that I did not find it helpful!) If I come across as rather non-committal, it is probably because this is all still very much ‘work in progress’ for me.

I should perhaps clarify a particular point of my initial question 1 (“If Paul was teaching UR in Romans, wouldn’t he have mentioned post-mortem salvation?”), which is that Paul did not mention post-mortem salvation specifically ***in Romans *** (besides elsewhere). One might have expected such an explanation in the same letter, to describe how both ‘all’ and ‘some’ texts in the letter are true (by an EU interpretation). On re-reading my opening post, I think I should have made that point clearer - perhaps it will have been taken as implied anyway but I can’t be sure.

Also, thanks for the kind comments about my opening post. And, following recommendations, I have now bought and started reading The One Purpose of God by Jan Bonda.

(Johnny - sorry but I need more time to respond to your post so will do so separately, probably after I have digested the Talbott vs Piper article.)


I think this is subject to interpreting some judgement-type texts (such as, in Romans itself, 2:12, 6:23, 9:22 and 11:21-22) in ways consistent with UR.

I don’t think I have come across that understanding of the ‘elect’ (as the early Christians of Paul’s time) before. I would be interested to hear of any books/publications that you - or anyone else - could recommend that expand on such an understanding?

I agree that the passage around Romans 11:25-26 can be interpreted plausibly in UR terms.

Yes that does seem telling, although I have recall reading a variety of understandings about early church beliefs - ranging from comments like yours that UR was prevalent at the start, to others saying that UR has only ever been a minority view. It would be useful to know more about this.

Yes, that seems so fundamental now!


Yes, if not that much in Romans itself (see my ‘clarification’ paragraph above). Good point though.

Yes, I feel sure the context is very relevant.

Thanks Cindy. I read through your ‘Why Paul Ran’ series of blog posts and found the 5th/final instalment, regarding the purpose of the elect, particularly interesting. (I also enjoyed reading many of your other blog posts and have subscribed to your blog.)


Yes, I agree that probably verse 11:26 is only part of an explanation which finishes at verse 11:32 and that explanation can be interpreted plausibly in UR terms.

Yes, I feel sure that what kind of book we see the Bible to be is a key point. If taking the Bible as a progressive revelation though, I suggest one can nevertheless still wonder why, if the revelation extended to UR, it did not also include (more explicitly) how that would entail post-mortem salvation?

Yes, again I feel sure the context is very significant.

Yes, I expect we tend to assume more ‘not explicitly spelled out’ beliefs than we realise!

Yes. It seems to me that what we believe about God’s character is absolutely fundamental to what we believe (or feel we could believe) about salvation. And there is the problem that, while we can attempt to learn and derive belief about God’s character from the Bible, it can be hard to do so without tending to read back into the text our own preconceptions about His character, or what we wish (or what we fear) to be true about it.


Yes, I find that verse (v12) quite reassuring more generally!


Many thanks Jason for taking the trouble to set out that alternative translation of Rom 8:28, which is very interesting. Presumably you are suggesting that ‘those He has intended beforehand to call for salvation’ could be taken to refer to all sinners, ie all people? If Paul meant that here though, it seems to me a rather indirect way of putting it - could he not have simply expressed it in ‘all’ terms (as he did in the ‘all’ texts) rather than those ‘some’ terms (‘those He has intended …’)?

Thanks, also very interesting. Jason, if you get any time out from your imminent HUPER project, feel so inclined and think there is mileage in this, it might be worth investigating more of the same - ie potential alternative translations of other ‘some’ texts?

Many thanks again everyone for taking the time to post your thoughts - much appreciated - and I look forward to hearing any further ones. :smiley:

Blessings :smiley:


Johnny - A few comments in response to some of the points in your long and thoughtful post above (at UR in Romans?):

I certainly believe it is very important to read the Bible as a whole, and agree there is a good case for UR in terms of overarching themes of the Bible. Similarly I would suggest - at least for those still to be convinced of UR like myself - it is also valuable to read individual books of the Bible in their entirety, to see how well or otherwise each seems to hang together as a whole from a UR viewpoint. Thus, whilst it is helpful to have UR explanations of references to ‘hell’, ‘eternal’, punishment as remedial and so on - at the level of words, phrases and verses - I think it is also desirable to consider whether the general sense of a whole book or passage ‘works’ in UR terms. Part of the reason I looked at Romans in this way was that I had some doubts as to whether that was so for Romans (and am still thinking about this), mainly because of its ‘some’ texts. I plan to look at some other books of the Bible similarly.

Yes, those all seem reasonable points and useful food for thought.

Thanks for pointing me at the Talbott vs Piper debate, which I had seen references to but not read before, and I have now read it before Bonda’s book. As you might expect I certainly found Talbott’s argument stronger than Piper’s. And, as you suggested, I found the exegesis of Romans 9-11 [rather than 9-13] helpful, overlapping with the coverage in Talbott’s The Inescapable Love of God. (A minor point is that I think Talbott’s debate material would have been more complete for some readers like me if, as well as arguing against the Reformed understanding of predestination, Talbott had described his own understanding of predestination - via references such as Rom 8:28-30 and not just in the specific context of Romans 9-11. But I appreciate that might have been precluded by limitations of the debate.)

On now with Bonda …

Blessings :smiley:


Hi Al

Thanks for your post. If I may say so, sir, at the risk of embarrassing you, you are a true gentleman. Your posts are always so calm, considered and gracious. You’re *so *not a hothead like yours truly, blundering in like a bull in a china shop :smiley: .

You make a very good and fair point about the need to read a particular book (eg Romans) in its entirety before making a judgement as to whether or not it ‘supports’ UR. But if you’ll forgive me, I would like to push back on that a little. And I do so because I think one cannot arbitrate on the truth or otherwise of UR on the strength of any one book. As I say, UR only shines through the Bible when we read the *whole *Bible - and when we read it with an open mind, using the reason God gave us.

You’re spot on about Talbott. I too wish he had described his own understanding of predestination. I hope and pray that he will find the time to do so one day (although I have heard, worryingly, that his wife is very ill - one reason, perhaps, why he doesn’t frequent the forum much these days).

Good luck with Bonda.

Love and blessings


Hi Johnny

Thank you for those very kind words! :blush:

As for your point:

That seems very reasonable and I expect time will show me to be in agreement with you, in the sense that I doubt I will come to believe that any one particular book settles the matter definitively one way or the other, distinctly from the rest of the Bible.

Yes, I was sorry to hear Thomas Talbott’s wife is very ill and it’s very understandable that he is not in the forum much for now.

Love and blessings :smiley:


Further to the above posts of a few months ago, I have now finally finished reading The One Purpose of God by Jan Bonda, which I found well worthwhile. (In that time I also had the pleasure, with my son Chris, of meeting up with James (corpselight) again and Johnny (jonnyparker) for the first time, in London in June. :smiley: )

In Chapter III, section 6 of the book, Bonda focuses on the question of post-mortem salvation. In particular, in the subsection *The Dead Will Believe *(which is on pages 107-8 in the version I have), he cites Romans 5:15 and 18 as direct support for post-mortem salvation.

For context, here is the passage Romans 5:12-21 (NIV) containing those two verses:

12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned — 13 for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come. 
15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16 Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man's sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. 
18 Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. 
20 The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Bonda cites the two verses as indicating that (quoting directly from Bonda) ‘God intends to bring the dead to an encounter with him, so that they may be saved’. Bonda reasons as follows, if I have understood him correctly:

Rom 5:15 – This verse indicates that the salvation which God offers in Jesus covers all who died since the beginning of the world (and, I think we would then infer, presumably all who will die before Jesus returns). This is because it states that that salvation is available to ‘the many who have died by the trespass of the one man [Adam]’, ie all people without exception who have died - taking ‘died’ here to refer to physical death.

Rom 5:18 – This verse is, of course, an often-referenced ‘UR text’, as included in my opening post on this thread. The particular view Bonda states here, though, is that the reference to ‘life’ also indicates that this verse deals with the (physically) dead. They were dead as a result of condemnation (as a result of Adam’s ‘trespass’). But for all who have been subject to condemnation, ie all people without exception, there is justification and life (as a result of Jesus’ ‘act of righteousness’).
I don’t recall seeing these particular verses being cited as direct support for post-mortem salvation, as such, before. This seems perhaps surprising given how widely Romans 5:18 and surrounding verses are quoted as support for UR (as an end, as distinct from covering the means by which it will be achieved), and also given that Bonda’s book seems quite widely mentioned on this forum. It made me wonder whether perhaps Bonda’s reasoning above is not considered strong.

In any case, I would be very interested to hear the views of forum members as to what extent you agree or disagree with Bonda’s reasoning above, and how strong or otherwise you consider it to be as support for post-mortem salvation?

Thanks in anticipation! :smiley:

Blessings :smiley:


Coming in late here, but just now read the thread and one question I’ve struggled with as well caught my eye…

This is admittedly speculation, but I’ve come to the conclusion that Paul was only given light by God to understand THAT all will be saved, not HOW (which would at least arguably include answers to ‘when’ salvation takes place). Of course definitions are necessary (e.g., *what is *salvation? would head the list), but generally I think Paul had all the elements of the salvation of all, but was not granted to understand how to put the pcs. of the puzzle together. Again this is just my opinion, but I suspect the how and when was not meant for his time, but for ours.

Once the ‘how all are saved’ begins to be pieced together, there arise as natural consequence a few ‘when’ options, at least one of which (unfortunately the most logical one) is not a methodology most Christians want to hear.

Hi lightbujzzyear

Many thanks for sharing those thoughts. Your conclusion that Paul understood that all would be saved, but not the ‘how’ and ‘when’ is interesting, and has some similarities, I think, with some of Bob’s points in his post above at UR in Romans?. I’m open to such views, but can’t help feeling I would be happier to see more in the way of direct biblical support for post-mortem salvation – particularly in Romans, as I said earlier. It’ll be interesting to hear any views by forum members on Bonda’s use of Romans 5:15 and 5:18 for this, as described in my previous post. Anyway, thanks again and blessings to you.


Greetings Al Smith,

I assume, since you offered one quote from Bonda, that you’re asking if one would agree with this:

As I understand it, any close encounter with God is of necessity regenerative and restorative. An encounter with Him works in two ways as I see it, equal to the two contradistinctive elements [flesh/spirit or good/evil] within human essence. God’s presence with false elements in us is the destruction/rebirth or restoration of those elements. These are obviously uncomfortable encounters, but performed gradually and fragmentally in life…which we call sanctification. Jesus you’ll recall said, **“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” **(Mat 10:34)

The second type of encounter is a uniting of truth in God’s essence with those cleansed (true) elements of the human soul, and these are the personal communion experiences of God. This is communion in the harmony of oneness in truth, as Jesus taught, **“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” **(Jn 14:27) Obviously this was an inner, spiritual peace; the apostles He spoke to are reported to have not died very peaceful physical deaths.

The former is death and rebirth leading to restoration ando relationship with God. The latter is the fruit produced by the former. The point is, any encounter with God consists in one of these two types, each producing its various effects in the individual thus visited, like experiencing anguish, suffering affliction, feeling loved, knowing peace, etc. Hence, Bonda’s comment, *‘God intends to bring the dead to an encounter with him, so that they may be saved’ *makes perfect sense to me. Not saying he means exactly this–I’ve never read him. But because I see “hell” and “regeneration” as metaphorically identical terms, for the Lake of Fire Himself to embrace a human soul [as restoration to perfection or to a wholly true state, which is the only state in which one can enjoy a face-to-face relationship with God] is an expression of the salvation of that soul.

Universalists would probably all love to have a ‘thus saith the Lord’ on the subject of post morten salvation, but God appears to intend for us to have to dig a bit more to learn the mysteries of His plan. The literal can’t reveal these deeper truths.

Hi lightbuzzyear

Yes, I was referring to that extract from my earlier post which you quoted above.

Many thanks for taking the time to describe your perspectives on the types of close encounter with God, which I had not come across expressed in such terms before. Since reading your post I have also briefly browsed some of your earlier posts regarding allegorical vs literal approaches, etc, so have a better appreciation of where you are coming from. I was particularly interested to see how you refer to Matt 10:34, which is a verse I have never really understood.

Yes, I do identify with that wish, and I suppose I am taking at a relatively literal approach in looking into support for post-mortem salvation, such as in those verses (Rom 5:15 and 18). But what support there is by such an approach would seem valuable, I would say.

Blessings - Al :slight_smile:

Hi Al

Lovely to hear from you :smiley: . Hope you and yours are well. Give my best to Chris, please.

That’s a very fair perspective on a very difficult issue. For what it’s worth, I would say that the Bible offers little in the way of concrete affirmation of post mortem salvation. However, it also offers little or nothing by way of *denial *of post mortem salvation. The usual verse trotted out in support of the anti-post mortem stance is Hebrews 9:27, but, as has been comprehensively demonstrated elsewhere on this forum (perhaps even with some help from me :smiley: ), this verse has no bearing on the ultimate fate of mankind. I think, from memory, Bonda explains this too.

For me, the answer to this conundrum lies in the meta narrative of UR. If UR is true, it is axiomatic that post mortem repentance is true, as so many are patently not converted in this life (at least, so far as we know :smiley: ). Conversely, if UR is false, then post mortem salvation is false also. Hence we need to decide whether the Bible, and our conscience and our reason, tell us that UR is true. I know my answer to that. And I believe it to be true with every fibre of my being.

Peace and love to you Al, hope to see you - and Chris - again soon