The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Was Jesus an universalist?


I agree with you that if Jesus (was) is a universalist; it is odd why there are some verses that favor annihilationism. I am not sure this means that annihilationism is T, or that universalism is F, it does mean, IMO, that unless we have particularly good evidence or arguments, that we should be somewhat humble as opposed to dogmatic in our theology no matter what side of the aisle we’re on.

Another assumption I think both universalists and annihilationists make is that the “elect” or saved will receive endless life (a life of infinite duration) from God. It might be argued that God annihilates the “elect” after a certain time, maybe after thousands or millions of years. While this is more a philosophical than exegetical consideration (although, take for instance, Adam and Eve in the garden b4 the Fall, is there unambiguous indication that they would have lived forever had they not disobeyed God?) While I think universalists are right that eternal Hell is monstrous, sometimes they/we can be presumptuous in thinking, just b/c eternal Hell can’t exist; therefore, everybody must live an infinite amount of time. Not to mention that infinite life for finite beings is sort of contradictory (or at least hard to conceive). I have also heard some argue that apokatastasis could simply mean that (though I know, however, that Paidion has furnished good reasons to doubt this construal of apokatastasis), while we aren’t annihilated per se, we will all return to God in such a way that our current individual existence/consciousness will be fundamentally changed - reintegrated to God (but, hey, maybe this is better than universalism as we typically tend to construe it, if we’ve forgotten that we are God :smiley: - excuse me if that is blasphemous but you could look it at that way I think).


I agree that emotions can cloud our theological judgment (but sometimes emotions are a guide to T than reason); however, since this cuts all ways, I think it is tendentious to cite that men are more likely to believe in punishment than women. I realize you didn’t perform the survey or whatever, but I don’t see its relevance - anybody can hold to their beliefs for reasons other than those beliefs being objectively T. Why second guess people due to ad hominem or “psychological” reasons? Take this, probably the greatest number of Christian universalists currently are Western, bourgeois individuals. If we compared this to all the other Christians, in all other socio-economic groups and countries, then people might go away thinking from that universalism must be F as it largely a “rich, privileged” religion. Of course, that would be grossly unfair reasoning, perhaps universalism isn’t popular among the lower classes b/c they don’t have time to study Gk; perhaps universalism isn’t popular in Asia and Africa b/c the missionaries to those countries were Catholic or non-universalist Protestants. This is to say that these studies all describe a set of phenomenon - they don’t explain it. Maybe men are more likely to believe in punishment not because they are more inclined to be merciless but b/c they happen to be more cognizant that there is somewhat of a Biblical case that can be made for Hell or maybe they think that punishment is the only tool that God has to persuade some people to accept him. Of course, maybe I am being defensive b/c I am a man and I don’t like the generalization :smiley: , but I think it is wrong to psychologize.

I also think universalists should be very careful when we are tempted to psychologize b/c we are so often psychologized. I’m guessing that “psychological” argument is the biggest (most common) “proof” against universalism , “Well, of course, you are a universalist b/c you want to be. Who wouldn’t want to believe that they are definitely going to Heaven no matter what they do?” Yet, obviously, a Cal, an Arm, an annihil - anybody can hold their beliefs for “psychological” reasons, and really nobody is in a position (except God) to know…

I agree with you, the original post was referring to a blog who described a belief in universalism as being based solely a human emotional need. The blogger referred to a mother who lost her son, who died as a atheist. The blogger accused the mother of changing her view to universalism based on her inability to cope with her sons death. However, this post has changed since leaving my reply, so to clarify. My point is that the same can be said of having an emotional need for annihilation and Eternal Hell. I brought also up the survey to point out how generalizations in human emotions can be said about any view. Man or women, it is a human experience to desire judgement and justice for crimes. But, we all fall short, we all commit ’ crimes’ against loving our neighbor.

Those who refute the universal restoration error in misunderstanding that UR is not releasing wrong doing as being irrelevant, however the cure for such is educative and rehabilitative. A drastic difference than being exterminated like a bug, or tormented forever ( which is lacking in love, compassion and mercy). The restorative model in my opinion is the only one that is consistent with the nature and character of God.

One could presume many things about the comment about Judas. But it doesn’t refute the restoration of Judas, Christ is only making the observation that the actions of Judas would continue for generations ( in a negative context, it is tragic for the legacy of Judas name) , but it in no way is making the final destiny of Judas as being grim. For Christ made many comments to the 12 disciples that one could assume a negative outcome. Such as the comment to Peter as
’ Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Mt 16:23*

The same can be said of any human being, both Judas and Peter are limited in their thinking, but that is what Grace is for, no human being is full of unlimited knowledge. Judas, Peter, John, James, or Paul.

Judas, in my point of view felt great regret , and he was unable to cope, thus his suicide. But, in God’s great compassion, He had Mercy. This is why Christ gets glory.

“if we are faithless, he remains faithful”…2 Tim 2:13

Doesn’t Jesus thank God that He’ll lose none of those given to Him? And isn’t He given the whole world? Was He speaking only of His disciples there? It’s hard to know.

I don’t believe Jesus was NOT a Universalist, because that is the message of God, and Jesus is the Son of God. I think Jesus was doing what His Father wanted, and Universal Salvation is the end result of all the ground-work He was laying. Jesus didn’t teach us the full story, or there’d be nothing for Paul to say. There are lots of details to fill in based on what Jesus DID say. Jesus didn’t teach the Trinity, or tell us which Eschatological perspective was true, ie Pre/Mid/Post-Trib/Amillenialist/Preterist/etc views…He said be perfect as your Father is perfect, be forgiving as your Father is forgiving, and many many more things that overturned the social order of His time (and would do ours as well). His teaching clearly leads to Universal Reconciliation because As He is lifted up, ALL MEN ARE DRAGGED UNTO HIM. He is the good Shepherd that goes out and finds the lost Sheep. His Father is the Father of the Prodigal Son. His Father knows how to give good gifts to us, His evil children.

Yes, there are final mentions of judgement, but even some of those (such as in Matthew 5) that talk about Gehenna also lead to the portion where He speaks about the prisoner imprisoned until He pays the last farthing.

Super-busy at work (and will be for a while, plus other projects outside work), but as an aside: Judah = Judas. The two names mean the same thing (like Jude and Judah), and if I recall correctly are spelled the same way in the Greek texts. English translations habitually to spell it “Judas” to help distinguish characters. German translations might not.

Somewhere around here I’ve posted detailed notes about the “better for him” verse; grammatically I agree it’s talking about being better for Judas, although that isn’t as easy to establish as it might seem!

More relevantly, though, the saying is habitually used in scripture everywhere else to be a cry for salvific pity on the object of the saying (which also lends weight for this to apply to Judas, as the “better for him” and “not been born” parts both typically apply to the same person elsewhere).

Admittedly, it’s also typically a reflexive saying, where the speaker is talking about himself and begging for pity and salvation; but while that would fit okay with Jesus being the first ‘him’ it wouldn’t with Jesus being the second ‘him’, which may be why I’ve never seen anyone try to claim both ‘hims’ refer to Jesus!

At any rate, I would argue that there is also a strong though implicit theological argument from the subsequent scene in GosJohn’s final discourse where Jesus is trying to get the disciples prepared to forgive and reconcile with Judas. Obviously they had trouble with that later (if Peter’s opening speech in Acts is anything to go by). I’m kind of wasted this morning, though, and I don’t recall if I’ve posted it on site yet anywhere. :slight_smile:

Oh, yay, I did already collect the analyses here!

Better for Judas if Judas had not been born

Jesus’ intentions about Judas part 1 (and first half of Final Discourse generally)

Jesus’ intentions about Judas part 2 (GosJohn 17)

Comments can come back to this thread for convenience, of course; just be aware I’m spottily in and out of the forum right now.

Reading back over the argument, I see that my grammatic conclusion was only decisive about “if that very man had not been born” referring to Judas; grammatically “better regarding him” could refer to either Jesus or Judas. The argument from stylistic unity, i.e. how the saying is typically used, is what lands the first “regarding-him” (third-person singular pronoun in the dative case) on Judas instead of Jesus.

Sturmy: I am a inclusivst who believes that God will still try to reach out to people beyond the grave.
But He will respect their desire NOT to be with Him.

“One could presume many things about the comment about Judas. But it doesn’t refute the restoration of Judas, Christ is only making the observation that the actions of Judas would continue for generations ( in a negative context, it is tragic for the legacy of Judas name) , but it in no way is making the final destiny of Judas as being grim. For Christ made many comments to the 12 disciples that one could assume a negative outcome. Such as the comment to Peter as”

I don’t buy it because an eternity of bliss would LARGELY outshine millions of years spent in shame

This is the theological speculation of John and probably not a true saying of Jesus.
Moreover, it can be interpreted as meaning that all men will be submitted to Him as their Judge and not necessarily as their Savior.

Jason: I’ll take a look!

Sorry, I don’t understand what you mean by bliss largely outshine of shame ? Can you explain what you mean ? I would think that restoring all that God creates would far outshine destroying most of it or some of it because it escaped the creators knowledge in how to transform a wayward disciple.

That isn’t John’s speculation at all, that’s you selectively ignoring a text you think is difficult.

How is God triumphant if He loses anyone at all? It doesn’t work. God is Love, and Love never fails. There’s no arguing this point. Jesus as the Son of God did divest Himself of His divinity to walk among men (if Trinitarianism is true), and that means He may have lost a chunk of knowledge of the over-all plan (so as to show us how to walk trusting in the Father’s knowledge above our own), but i still believe firmly that the judgements He promised for evil-doers was not ever intended to be permanent.


The key question about appealing to theological speculation from the Evangelist rather than accurate reportage of what Jesus said, is whether you’re willing to respect an ECT proponent or a Kath (universalist), or for that matter a Calvinistic proponent (either ECT or anni), making a similar appeal on a text that’s giving difficulty for their positions. :wink:

Having said that, I’m posting up a little early a cluster of planned Easter entries for the Exegetical Compilation which happen to feature the two “drag all to Me” sayings, plus a related saying on the goal of the Son’s judgment at the resurrection of the evil and the good – now added to the series list here under GosJohn’s tab. (And they should be visible as added to the general EU discussion category.)

The contexts definitely indicate (not even counting other testimony about what submission involves such as at 1 Cor 15, i.e. submitting to Christ as the Son submits to the Father) that all men will be submitted to Christ as their Savior as well as their Judge; that’s God’s goal and He’s going to see it gets done. There is no passive letting go of people (into non-existence or otherwise) who just refuse to accept eonian life: God’s active judgment itself is eonian life, though it’s better to receive eonian life without being punitively judged first of course.

It seems to me the Paul understood Jesus to affirm that through being lifted up, all would be drawn to Him (Jn.12), reconciled to Him as Paul saw it (Col.1.20). Jesus came to save the world, the cosmos, not just some of it, but all of it. He did not come to condemn, but to save.

Jason: I would not accept this from a Conservative Evangelical because **they **view this very text to be inerrant.

That’s not my case at all.

But you would accept or at least respect such an argument from a moderate evangelical or someone with a fairly broad idea of inerrancy, if they used this kind of rebuttal on a text you use as evidence for annihilation (or for a final unrighteousness more generally), right?


But if Jesus Himself taught annihilation, this is rather different…

Not at all, because you have to allow a parallel theory where anything that you think suggests Jesus teaching annihilation isn’t “Jesus Himself” but was rather a theological guess by the Gospel author or a misremembrance or a theological correction or preference or whatever.

The arguments which dissolve GosJohn’s historical accuracy tend to work (with variations where appropriate) on the Synoptics, too, after all. They even have a special weakness unique to them and not to GosJohn: they very demonstrably vary their wording on their reports, and selectively include or ignore material from the same incident, even when working from what is demonstrably one or two or three common sets of programmatic material (the Triple Tradition, Q, and the Passion bloc.) Unlike GosJohn, they also don’t make internal claims to be based on direct eyewitness testimony and recollection. (GosLuke comes closest by claiming to be based on eyewitness testimony at secondhand, in a proper historiographic fashion.)

In other words, source-critical sauce for GosJohn’s goose, tends to be source-critical sauce for the Synoptics’ gander.

By the same token, careful arguments in favor of the Synoptics’ general reliability tend to work for GosJohn, too. I am not appealing to GosJohn or the Synoptic data simply because it says so, but because I am convinced on the evidence (very meticulously and rather boringly detailed evidence :wink: ) that they are reliable enough at reportage to feasibly use for figuring out what Jesus taught.

I am willing to grant that anyone (sceptic or Christian) who hasn’t reached the same conclusions cannot be expected to accept the data to the same degree for applicable usage. But for fairness’ sake in the other direction, you ought to be willing to grant that I am within my rights to appeal to GosJohn for my religious beliefs on the topic, in just the same way I appeal to the Synoptics. (It is a whole other question whether I am doing so in a valid fashion with accuracy and sufficient inclusion to the data I accept, of course: am I leaving out important pieces, am I getting pieces significantly wrong, am I not putting them together validly, etc.?)

Perhaps you’re right.

I consider it extremely unlikely that Christ spoke like in John’s Gospel because it is incredibly dissimilar to His sayings in the synoptics.

This is the mainstream critical view which can be overturned if reasonable arguments are offered.

Huh, I never knew this. I think it’s pretty interesting though, that Jesus was betrayed by a man amongst his own disciples, with the same name as one of the tribes of Israel.

Eh, Judah was one of the top five common male names of the period – probably for Messianic hope reasons. “Judah” shows up several times in the NT, but only in one example does it have anything to do with betrayal. One of the loyal apostles was also named Judah.

Anti-bishop John Shelby Spong tried (maybe still tries) to make some hay out of this, back when he wrote Sins of Scripture – he regarded Judas’ name as his fifth “easily identifiable, documentable fact” for concluding that Judas never existed. As I wrote during my analysis of his overall argument, “at least he gets some credit for having an actual easily identifiable, documentable fact this time as his ‘source of suspicion’.” :laughing:

It’s a pretty irresponsible argument overall, terrible at marshaling facts or even stringing them together validly. He mostly relies on arguments from suspicious innuendo. :unamused: Still, it provided me an excuse to write an epic 13-part discussion of the issues one summer, so, yay?

Still, it is interesting given the nature of Jesus’ interactions with Israel. A final poke at Israel’s complete betrayal, if you will.

To paraphrase Stalin, it isn’t only typology if they’re really out to get you. :mrgreen: