Why I am No Longer A Universalist (Part 1)


#1

It’s been a long journey over the course of 3 years since I first heard about UR. When I first learned about it I was ecstatic over the possibility. I mean who doesn’t wish to see everyone saved? If as Paul tells Timothy that this is God’s will, then it should be ours also. So I want those here to know that I understand most of your arguments, better than those who usually tear them down (ignorantly I might add). Most of you, not all, believe that God will reconcile all people to Himself, whether in this life or the next. Those who do not repent here will repent there, and they will be saved through faith in Jesus Christ. Much of your interpretation comes out of Scripture and not just proof texts, but actual formidable exegetical passages.

So why then do I not subscribe to UR? My personal reasons are many, but I will only explore two here. First, because I see it leads to a degrading of Scripture for some of those who adopt it. They try to invalidate the OT picture of God (who shows His wrath against sinners, not just sin). I have seen those who were the most adamant defenders of UR end up no longer as Christians, but denying the deity of Jesus, and believing in strange ideas of spirituality. Once the Scriptures go and their authoritative teaching, mostly everything else goes.

You would say of course that many of you have not gone that route, granted. But for me personally, when I see some quite normal believers become nearly new agers adopting all kinds of false teaching because ‘Love is my god’, and I can trace it all back to them adopting UR, that troubles me. Jesus said wisdom is justified by her children. If what is being taught leads to more and more denial of Christ, then no matter how good it sounds, then it is antiChrist. Why is it that the most widespread group of universalists today are the pluralistic Unitarians? Why would a group that originally claimed to be Christian allow themselves to degenerate into a feel-good psuedo-religion? Add to that my personal experience with individual believers going that exact same way and I have solid reasons to be concerned. A good tree does not produce bad fruit. The Holy Spirit does not produce heresy, that’s the work of the flesh.

Next, my own uneasiness led me away from universalism. I saw in myself an anger against God for even the thought that He would condemn a portion of His creation. But who am I to do that? Is it not God who kills and makes alive? If His creatures are guilty enough to warrant eternal punishment (even if I do not comprehend all the reason why) then how can I get angry at Him and question His justice? The judge of all the earth will do what is right.

( I’ve thought about annihilationism, but I’m stuck on whether it is better to exist, even in agony, rather than to not exist at all. I’m still undecided.)

But back to my personal unrest. I had no peace under universalism, I felt the arguments were solid and the idea was grand, but I could find no peace within me. And to be honest I read in most comments on these boards the very same thing. Many of those who believe in UR are discouraged and despairing, they have a hard time reading the Scriptures (because as I have read from some, they still ‘hurt’). Don’t think I am belittling you my friends, I too actually began to experience this. I was so scared and worried every time I opened my Bible that I would find things that told me God is not going to save everyone, that really the God I was angry at (who I thought was a false god) was actually the God of the Bible, and that He was actually going to destroy people. If what you believe causes you fear and confusion, then it is not God! If it does not drive to search His word eagerly, then it is not the gospel.

Of course the complete focusing on hell is also able to cause such anxiety, but to me that is also a wrong approach. We are to have fear (reverence, awe) of the Lord. It is to Him we are to look. Again, He is judge of all the earth, He will do what is right. My trust is in Him and His justice. I am not afraid of what my Bible says, because I’m willing for it to tell me of a God who I have not tried to force into saving everyone. He is who He is. And He is wonderful and good. And the only reason man is condemned is because goodness will not tolerate evil.

Those are some of the reasons I am not a universalist. To me universalism does not represent the peace of the Spirit, but the anxiety of the flesh. It does produce the fruit of righteousness, but the gall of bitterness. It is not a doctrine of faith, but something that causes its adherents to be perpetually on a roller coaster of unbelief and doubt. And I haven’t even gotten to the Scriptural arguments, but I had to make it plain that these are the underlying reasons why I interpret Scripture differently.

(I will post another article in a week or so, God-willing, outlining how I interpret the Scriptures that seem in favor of UR)


Interpreting the Bible as a Whole, Part I
#2

Hi Awakeningaletheia. :smiley:

I really relate to your post. I had pretty much come to similar conclusions myself a couple of years ago. Like you, after initially rejoicing in UR, I became more and more wary and disturbed by how ‘far’ UR folk veer from the Bible and what I perceived to be ‘orthodox’ doctrines. The one that nailed the lid in the coffin (well it held the lid down for a good year or so :wink: ) was a big discussion on here regarding God never hurting, or causing violence etc. You have to throw away pretty much most of the Bible, if you believe that. :open_mouth: So I felt my whole faith was under attack and I lumped ‘UR’ in with this attack. I stormed off and didn’t come back for over a year. :wink:

During the year or so I didn’t give UR much thought. It occurred to me that there was much dodgy stuff going on in the non UR churches, and so even if you claim to believe all the ‘orthodox’ stuff, this doesn’t mean you are following Jesus. I even tried being an atheist for a while, as I was fed up with everything. My heart wasn’t in it. My heart was certainly hoping that God can and will save everyone, and so I started thinking about UR again, praying about it, and came back to share and discuss stuff with the great guys on here.

I had a breakthrough with UR a few months ago, when someone on here told me about a church in America that preaches God will save everyone. Their sermons are all freely available and as I started to watch them, it was like my spirit was being fed the most nourishing food, food it had never had, but had badly needed. Check them out: tsdowntown.com/component/pre … t?Itemid=0

What is amazing about Peter’s sermons is that I have found no dodgy theology (in my opinion). It’s all Bible based.

I am still only a hopeful URist but I’m fully convinced Jesus will do what is right as Judge of all the earth. If he can rehabilitate someone He most certainly will do. So I no longer fret about whether UR is true or not. Love will win. :wink:


#3

Awakening.

Thanks for graciously sharing your informed perceptions! I’m struck that neither of your first two reasons are the substance of exegesis and a coherent Biblical theology. I find your “bad fruit” argument significant, but your two perceptions are less clear to me. For I find the core spiritual fruit (love) increased in many U.R. friends, while seeing the traditional paradigm reinforcing an unChrist-like judgmental tendency. I wonder if your focus that U.R. leaves you more “scared” fully represents outcomes. As an evangelical pastor, I saw our most devoted believers often terrified that they would not prove to be saved, and I see many U.R.s with a deeper trust in God, albeit more open to hard questions (but without any ‘peace’ under ECT). Your focus seems to be on your own personal peace and security, but I find ‘fruit’ most revealed in how we relate to others.

Your other ‘fruit’ appears to be bad doctrine, the “heresy” of “denial of Christ,” embracing “Anti-Christ.” Of course this rests on making a case for who Jesus is and what He stood for. My perception will confirm your fear, insofar as despite how important doctrine is, I see Jesus less concerned with orthodox theological formulations than with following Him in our life. Yet I see many most devoted evangelicals go to the mat arguing their tradition’s historical formulas, while often treating Jesus’ message and core values as not very important, or dispensationally irrelevant. So I fear ‘fruit’ may be in the eye of we beholders.

Thus, I look forward to your interpretation of the Bible’s narrative (and perhaps your evaluation of Parry and The Evangelical Universalist’s argument that the whole Biblical storyline points toward U.R).

Grace be with you,
Bob Wilson


#4

Hi Awakening,
I think some of us on here are not actually universalists. For example, I am not a universalist but a evangelical reconciliationist. I do not understand the lack of peace that you see amongst people in the forum but I can assure you that there of some of who are quite evangelically-focused and have no intention ever of leaning on anything other than Christ. Many of us are not backsliding but growing in Him everyday. Part of the problem is the people that you observed that have fallen from worship of God retained their easy-beliefism of their earlier faith before universalism and did not acquire a sense of awe for the divinity and sovereignty of God. I do not mean to degrade the faith of others but point out that immaturity of believers can be a stumbling block for others.

My plea to you: Don’t let the immaturity of other ex-believers who happen to be universalists be a turn-off to the ideology itself. To be honest, when I first came to this website, I was shocked. I was expecting people to have a more sanctified, holier approach to God and themselves. What I saw, no offense to anyone here, was a spectrum of believers from bunch of tolerant hippies all the way to humble theologians. It takes discernment to see the pure in all things and all people.


#5

I have to agree there. For which of the many variations of Protestant doctrine, along with Eastern Orthodox and Roman catholic teaching, do we subscribe to? And how do we respond to those that have different Christian doctrine and beliefs then we subscribe or adhere to? I’m not so concerned with whether folks embrace universalism, Annihilationism, Inclusivism, etc. I’m more concerned as to how well we can get along. And how well we practice the gospel, helping others in need.


#6

Hi Awakening,

For me, it was studying scripture that led me to really believe that Jesus is savior of all, that Jesus did come to reconcile all of creation, that there truly is Joy to the World, not just to some but to all of creation, that every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord, that, well, you get my point. As I studied several of the scriptures that state that Jesus shall save all, I came to believe that these scriptures were not just poetic, or hyperbole (overstatement), or broad generalizations, but that they, in their literary context, really did affirm that love does not fail.

Not wanting to accept UR as being true, I decided to study the scriptures that affirm Hell. I thought they were rock solid and thus UR could not be true. As I studied these “Hell” passages though, I found that they did not affirm ECT; rather, all my life I had read ECT into them. This was most evident when I realized that none, zero, nada, of the 3 words/nouns translated as Hell in the KJV, actually mean Hell (Sheol, Hades, and Gehenna). So as I studied scriptures on “Hell” to disprove UR, I came to increasingly believe in UR, and the doctrine of Hell that I thought was rock-solid crumbled between my fingers like sand and blew away in the wind.

I’ve always had, and continue to have a high view and high value of scripture, and try to base my faith upon scripture primarily. Coming to believe in UR did cost me much relationally and seriously messed up my plans on pastoring in most any denomination. But it has given me a great peace inside and a greater love for people. I no longer worry about people “getting into heaven some day” but seek every opportunity to be a part of “getting heaven into people today”. I no long preach “Repent so that you can go to heaven some day”; rather, I preach “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand, repent because you can participate in the kingdom of God today!”

Along with UR I’ve also come to understand the reality that we are truly all children of God. “Created in the image of God” is a familial term. My children bear my image. In like manner, every person is a child of God; and does God our father fail to reconcile any of His children? I think not!

And the more I study scripture, the more UR seems to shine forth. Of course, for many years I’ve understood the Hebrew scriptures differently than what most Gentiles understand them. I see God as loving even those whom He judged. It was love for the Egyptians as much as love for the Isrealites that led to the plagues, ultimately delivering the Egyptians and the Israelites from the bondage of slavery; for the bondage of slavery was actually worse for the Egyptians than for the Israelites; it set the Egyptians up for generations of turmoil and destruction.

So my experience with UR has been very different from yours apparently. It has filled me with greater peace, given me more love for everyone, and freed me to just love the hell out of people! It has filled me with faith in God and revolutionized my perspective in many other positive ways. And my children have grown to love God and people even more than they did when I/we believed in ECT.

Well, anyhow, thanks for sharing and my God continue to bless you wonderfully as you follow after Him in integrity of heart.
Blessings,
Sherman


#7

So why then do I not subscribe to UR? My personal reasons are many, but I will only explore two here. First, because I see it leads to a degrading of Scripture for some of those who adopt it. They try to invalidate the OT picture of God (who shows His wrath against sinners, not just sin). I have seen those who were the most adamant defenders of UR end up no longer as Christians, but denying the deity of Jesus, and believing in strange ideas of spirituality. Once the Scriptures go and their authoritative teaching, mostly everything else goes.

Hi Awakening,
Great post and very thoughtful and i can relate. Although i love this forum it does appear to me that there is often a propensity toward humanistic answers over biblical answers more often then i would like. I think that UR does have the potential to lose that reverence of God to often for folks , but the essential question s/b is it the shortcoming of UR or is it the shortcoming of humans. It seems to me in any “system” of belief folks tend to replace exegesis with their “system” of belief. It may be Calvinism, Preterism, Futurism, UR or Annhilationism, Eternal Torment or many other systems. We tend to want certainty and often lean on our “system” at the expense of exegisis.
For myself i wouldn’t preach UR because i don’t think it’s helpful but i do feel certain that salvation can occur after physical death and it may or may not lead to UR. To me the bible definitively says this and how folks handle this none of us know, but the fruit is something that a bible believer produces, not the folks who fall away. IMHO these folks would have fallen away simply because they don’t really desire God. Folks fall away in UR, Annihilation or Eternal Torment. Sadly many just fall away no matter what.


#8

Hi again, Aleth. :slight_smile:

But you acknowledge some of us don’t?

But you acknowledge some of us don’t? My impression is that a majority of us still believe God directly punishes sinners; but even if that was a minority of us here, the question is whether you think it’s correct to hold that the scriptures teach UR – or at the least are legitimately flexible of interpretation enough on this point to allow agreement with a metaphysical argument in favor of it, if that argument seems to follow decisively from more primary theological doctrines you accept as true, most importantly trinitarian theism.

If so, then frankly it doesn’t matter one iota for the truth of the matter or not how other people process it off into “strange ideas of spirituality”.

I’m not trying to talk you out of the switchback thereby. But speaking as a hyper-orthodox trinitarian theist who spends a lot of his spare time also doing scriptural exegesis out of a legitimate personal concern to correctly understand what the scriptures mean, if I think other people are haring off into false doctrines in parallel with UR, that may annoy me but at most it reminds me to watch my own steps.

(And I should hope people I annoy with my insistence on connecting UR with, and deriving it from, ortho-trin and an otherwise pretty typical set of scriptural interpretations and hermeneutic methods, will use me as an excuse to watch their own steps so that they don’t slip into doing what they think i’m doing wrong. {g} )

I’m just going to say that in such cases, my experience is that such people didn’t develop deep theological roots before going to UR, or never were able to understand why those roots were important. Sometimes it’s a question of a lack of natural aptitude for the work (which is nothing against such people, we all have lacks of natural aptitude for many areas of work). Other times, emotionally the people felt terrorized by non-UR doctrines and simply can not now emotionally bring themselves to get past the association of those feelings with other things those people were teaching.

And I’m going to acknowledge that when people successfully, in their evaluation, discover what they think were poor arguments for believing X after all and so switch to Y or Z (if those seem better grounded in truth now) or to agnosticism on that topic, they do often tend to re-evaluate other connected beliefs to see if by the same new evaluations the evidence and reasoning hold up for them. That’s a perfectly responsible and legitimate way to act, and a person may decide they’ve been sold just as poorly or falsely in regard to some other beliefs. I might even agree, in that person’s situation, they were sold pretty poorly or even falsely, even though I’m a strong proponent for the belief (for what I believe are better reasons) which they’re now rejecting!

To that can also be added cases where one rejection isn’t a trigger for the other, but people just happen to be developing both independently of each other.

(It’s also possible for the dependence chain to go the other way around: someone could reject UR because they’re rejecting trinitarian Christianity and so moving into a belief where UR is thereby, as a consequence of the new belief, less likely compared to the alternatives or even certainly false if the new belief is true. I myself have often said that if I came to think ortho-trin was false, I’d have proportionately less reason to believe UR is true, and maybe would conclude it must consequently be false! I don’t know any atheists who believe God will save all sinners from sin, for example. :wink: )

Anyway, the salient question is whether you believe UR must lead to some kind of non-trin. If so, and if (as obviously I think you should :wink: ) you continue to believe ortho-trin has the best grounds for truth and dealing with the data, then certainly you should stop believing UR.

I think I can say with some assurance based on how you’re going, that you never came to believe UR follows from ortho-trin and/or from methods of interpretation which you think correctly lead to the truth of the ortho-trin doctrinal set. Otherwise you’d be a lot less worried about what other people do who (for whatever reasons) aren’t as deeply rooted in ortho-trin as you are! But my assurances on that, thus cannot be your assurances on that.

I’m not convinced that’s true, but certainly they’re the most public. (And also not especially unitarian, to be fair to the dogmatic unitarian Christians. :wink: )

Even if I thought that was true, so what? Majorities aren’t always right, and they aren’t always wrong. The majority of religious believers in non-Asian or non-Middle Eastern countries are Christian; the majority of Christians are non-UR (of some variation, usually some kind of ECT); the majority of Christians are Roman Catholic. You and I as Protestants (I’m assuming you’re still Protesting?) are minorities who are part of some large majorities, and yet are on different sides now of one or two of those majorities and minorities.

At any rate, what a bunch of doctrineless feebs do with their time and belief (such as it is), has pretty much no bearing on what I the hyper-doctrinaire who cares a ton about truth, and so about personally corresponding with the truth, decide I ought to believe is true or false. (Though I ought to be careful about not denigrating them personally, as doctrineless feebs for example. That’s my pride in being a hyper-doctrinaire talking. Which my particular hyper-doctrinaire training warns me is a bad application of doctrine! :mrgreen: :ugeek: )

That’s an excellent question to which I don’t have many clear answers, other than that their UR never came from their solidly grounded doctrinal beliefs (whether they originally had such or not).

A more troubling question to me is, whatever happened to the doctrinally strong URs who arrived at UR because of their doctrinal strengths? My best though still tentative guess is that roughly 100 years of brutal wars around the world happened to them – not that war in itself would rationally lead someone to reject UR, but it does naturally tend to make people less receptive to believing UR by increasing the emotional difficulties of continuing to hold it or to convince other people it’s true. Add to that a lack of institutional coherence, even by trinitarian UR churches, and poof: those who believe UR keep their mouths shut more, and tend to stick (sometimes for very good reasons) with better-established institutions in times of crisis.

Which many of us regard as being true in regard to non-UR beliefs, of course. When I see people trying to justify attitudes and actions toward other people which run against the fruits of the Spirit by appeal to some kind of non-UR; when I see people implicitly or explicitly denying ortho-trin doctrines (even ones they themselves otherwise insistently accept!) in order to hold to some kind of non-UR… then yep, I think the same thing. That’s why I’m here and not there anymore.

And A LOT of other people here are like that, maybe all of them, even the ones who don’t believe ortho-trin is true (anymore or ever) and/or who aren’t much concerned with correct doctrine per se. As an apologist I run into non-trinitarians all the time, whether they’re some other Christian or avowedly non-Christian or avowedly non-religious at all (anymore or ever) who see bad fruit of the Spirit from people who hold ortho-trin and infer at least partly from that, yep trinitarian Christianity is not only false but maybe even worse than false. And believers in UR, whether ortho-trin or not, often have horror stories about rank misbehavior with some associative strength to holding some kind of rejection of UR.

By the same token that means we ought to respect any problems you are having (or think you are having, or are worried you are having) with bad fruit coming from people who hold UR. :slight_smile: I’m just saying, you ought to already be pretty dang well experienced in holding to a set of beliefs which other people associate with idolatry and horribly unjust behavior, even though you (and we) know better that those behaviors don’t actually synch up with the set of beliefs.

Well, yes, you shouldn’t believe something is true or false based on your emotional reactions to the idea. Similarly, you should know better than to accept some kind of non-UR based on emotional anger against evildoers, even though I assume you’re as aware as I am that this anger-justification is popular (and even in some circles endemic) among people who reject UR.

You ought to reject or accept UR based on your best evaluation of the best reasoning of the evidence, or at least because you trust someone else whom you recognize to have better skill than you on that: we can’t all be experts about everything. If you found your main motivation was anger against God on considering any non-UR to be true, then yep I agree you should self-critically adjust for the anger. And if you subsequently find the relative reasons and evidence to be, in your estimation, weaker or outright wrong for UR compared to non-UR, then I fully agree you should dump UR for some kind of non-UR: you were letting anger cloud your judgment in going to UR. I have no criticism of that at all.

Now. Having granted that as fully as I know how, I’m going to get to my first main disagreement, which in one way is only a minor disagreement. But in another way it might be the biggest disagreement two trinitarians could have.

Okay, in regard to the latter part of your paragraph there. Your whole narrative about how you came to universalism, and why you’re leaving it again, looks to me to be a rejection of the emotional version of that concept. Not an affirmation of it. Non-UR doctrines and interpretations of scripture were causing you fear and confusion; you inferred thereby those doctrines were not of God and were not the gospel – they certainly did not drive you to search His word eagerly – but then you found you were still emotionally afraid and not at peace about searching the word because, as far as you could honestly tell, the scriptures were after all teaching what caused your fear and confusion. Leaving you just as afraid and confused to search the scriptures as before. So putting truth above your own search for feelings of peace, you have decided to do your best to make peace with what you believe to be true, even though it was causing you fear and confusion; and so consequentially you’re going to try to have the right feelings of peace about whatever version of non-UR belief you end up with. But even if you don’t in this life, you aren’t going to reject anymore what you honestly judge to be true even if it causes you fear and confusion to believe it. You aren’t going to force the Bible to tell you things that cause you peace instead of fear and confusion, we are to have fear of the Lord (but the right kind of fear) etc.

You ought to be able to tell from what I said previously that I’m not at all against that practice in principle; I’m in favor of it. I’m not complaining about that, I’m only lodging a minor complaint about you then asserting anyway (with an exclamation point for emphasis even), “If what you believe causes you fear and confusion, then it is not God! If it does not drive to search His word eagerly, then it is not the gospel.”

You may reply, ‘Okay, but I still feel I MEAN THINK :stuck_out_tongue: that the true doctrine of God ought to lead to peace instead of to fear and confusion, it ought to lead people to search His word eagerly and accept the truth as the gospel, etc. Any emotions ought to be properly consequential to that, but at bottom I’m not talking about emotions when I’m talking about this peace.’

If so, GREAT! I am not even exaggerating when I say I’m one thousand percent on board with that.

But then, to exactly the same proportion, I cannot possibly be on board any version of non-UR. Because every possible version of non-UR involves final non-peace between persons: between some creatures and God, and between those creatures and other creatures.

This also means you’re trying to come to emotional peace with one or another form of doctrine that denies final spiritual peace; which ends in final fear and confusion for some creatures; which ends with some creatures not being led to search His word eagerly (in any sense of searching the Logos of God) and not accepting the truth as the gospel; which ends with God’s justice producing for some creatures the gall of bitterness not finally the fruit of righteousness.

I don’t interpret the Scriptures much differently than I did before: I still use the same methods, and I still reach most of the same conclusions. But if I had to colorfully summarize the underlying reasons why I decided I ought to interpret the Scriptures a little differently than I did – that would be why. Because I came to see that any non-UR belief does not represent the peace of the Spirit, and does not end with the proper fear (reverence, awe) of the Lord, with creatures properly looking to Him and accepting Him as judge of all the earth Who does what is right, with trusting in Him and His justice (much less doing so because He is Who He is and He is wonderful and good).

Now, like I said, I totally agree you ought to go with what you honestly judge to be true, and if you honestly judge any kind of UR to be false, even if you haven’t yet decided what kind of non-UR must be true instead, then you should reject Christian universalism as false (even trinitarian Christian universalism), precisely because you personally are trying to be true to the truth.

But I think there is less than no good point, consequentially, in you trying to come to peace, peace, when as far as you can honestly see to be true there won’t be a final peace.

Or if I may put it another way: you’re still waaaaaay too Christian universalistic, which is why you still (rightly!) value such things and expect and hope for their fulfillment. :slight_smile:

But there’s only one ending logically possible if those results which you still value are going to be fully fulfilled. You’ll have to learn to devalue them, in order to be consistent with any kind of non-UR.

(But I hope you never learn to devalue them. :sunglasses: )


#9

One more observation: Several cite the ugliness universalism produces (attitudes & views) based on observing this site. But my view that fruit and love grow under a more universalist outlook is based on those whose lives I personally watch. I doubt those who engage debates on forums are an accurate representation of any outlook. Whether it’s theology, politics, or philosophy, many of those who most engage it on social media appear to me to be especially extreme, troubled, and pugilistic. Again, while I find ‘fruit’ to be a significant concern, it’s a sword that can be problematic in assessing the correctness of most views. After all, I suspect the most common reason for concluding that traditional Christianity must be incorrect, is that the experience of many is that many they know who strongly proclaim it exhibit especially troubling and unloving fruit.


#10

Wow, thank you all for your thoughtful and sometimes long replies :wink: I will try to reply to each as well as I can.

You are right in saying that this post does not deal with exegesis and a coherent Biblical theology. In fact it mainly was to get out my own personal reasons and thoughts for why I stopped believing in UR. Those may not be persuasive for all, but that was not the goal of what I wrote, it may be the intention of future posts, but this one was me putting into words why “I” no longer subscribe to Christian universalism. Are they valid reasons? From the responses it appears to some that they aren’t, but that’s okay with me, I don’t expect people to be convinced by anything else but Scripture and what the Holy Spirit works in them.

Now concerning the fruit argument, looking back on it I actually think it could have great weight if presented right against universalism. You single out the one attribute love, saying that you see it more clearly in those who adopt UR. That may appear so between people, but does it produce the fruit of love towards God? That was my main beef in the original post, that I see many who follow UR all about “love” for their neighbor (but how can be love if it doesn’t rejoice in the truth?), but slowly their love for Christ is swallowed up and eventually becomes nonexistent. They end up only with a humanistic view of love, and the Lord is kicked to the curb. The first commandment is overlooked, while the second is raised high above everything else, because if the purpose of God is to save everyone then for many (not all I again add) that makes the focus on humanity and our happiness. This “love” in universalism is not love if it undermines the God who is love, it instead is a false tolerance and peace. Love is not niceness, though it is indeed kind, it has its home founded deeply and firmly in truth.

My focus is far from my own personal peace and security. Far from it, I have never doubted my salvation. The agony came over the salvation of others, when I first began to focus on hell, it created in me a despair over those around me, a sadness at the loss of so many of God’s creations. My view was on hell and mankind, and now I confess that it was severely misplaced. But when I started to believe in UR it did not change that. Now my view was on UR and mankind. My greatest problem was that I put love for my neighbor over my love for the Lord God. It is by loving Him with everything we have that our focus is corrected and healthy. The fear and confusion comes out of focusing on humanity and their end, rather than God and His glory (whether it has to do with ECT or UR). Only when our eyes are set on Christ do we relate to other human beings correctly.

And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it. For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. (2 John 1:6-9)

I think that the person of Christ is equally important to His teachings. If you invalidate the deity of Jesus, then He is just another nice moral teacher that can be ignored. Jesus constantly was telling people to trust in Him, to the point of saying that this is God’s work, bringing people to faith in Himself. When I see people denying Jesus is the Christ, denying His incarnation and deity, then I can only conclude along with John that this is antichrist. I have seen people who went to the mat over Scripture, over Christ being the Savior of the world, only to eventually renounce Jesus as anything but another nice human teacher, one that can safely be ignored (as a possible legend or a historical ordinary teacher). You undermine Jesus and you undermine the authority of His teaching. If He is God in the flesh, then every word that fell from His lips carries weight. If He is just a man claiming to be a prophet (and a failed crucified one at that), then His words are of no consequence. Of course Biblical unitarians would disagree with me, but I again ask the question, why is it that the biblically founded movements of unitarianism and universalism ended up as a feel-good false religion? I

I know some more logically minded people here might see this as simplistic, but I think the answer to my question is that the spirits behind the doctrine of unitarianism and universalism are not of God, but are slowly working to bring about delusion in the hearts of those who accept either one. I possibly may have missed other factors that led to the liberalization of those 18th century denominations, but again I am supplementing what happened historically with those whom I have personally seen false into outright denial of Jesus and His deity. I ashamed admit that I was beginning to head down the path of denying the Trinity. It was only by my own relationship with the Holy Spirit that I escaped that. Which brings me to my overall measurement, the teaching of the Holy Spirit is much more trustworthy than the countless logical arguments of theologians (liberal or conservative). of course the Holy Spirit is logical, only on a higher level, and my trust in Him is that He will lead me to the truth as I continue to search and seek Him.

Haha and this only my reply to Bob, I can only wonder what will come out of my other replies :slight_smile:
Blessings in Christ,

Daniel


#11

“Awakening,” I have spent some time today going through your old posts here at The Evangelical Universalist, and have really enjoyed them. You write so well, and are so thoughtful!

Like you, I want to know Jesus better, and to fully enjoy, and rest in, his finished work (sometimes referred to as “The Divine Exchange,” as spelled out in, e.g., Isaiah 53). And certainly I want to come to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 12:1.

And if the twelve disciples (including Judas Iscariot), were told to “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons,” how much more should we be doing those things, post-resurrection, and post-Pentecost? After all, Jesus promised us, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” John 14:12.

But how do we get from here to there?

You mention universalism as “something that causes its adherents to be perpetually on a roller coaster,” but for me, the roller coaster was caused by my bipolar image of God: “He loves me, He loves me not.” We all have our baggage, but thanks to the purging process in my view of God, the ups and downs on my own roller coaster are becoming less pronounced!

Here are the major stages in this process so far:

  1. Abandoning Arminianism. This happened based on a revelation about Colossians 3:3- “You died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Whereas I had worried I could lose my salvation and go to an never-ending hell, I now saw from this verse that I was in a very safe and secure place, forever. I saw that I was not going to come out of being hidden in God, of being hidden in Christ, and then come back to life again, in order to lose my soul.

  2. My acceptance of universalism, based especially on Greek scholar William Barclay’s explanation of Matthew 25:46–where it says that the rejected go away to eternal punishment, and the righteous to eternal life-- that the word for “punishment” in Greek, kolasis "is never used of anything but 'remedial punishment.’ " And the word for “eternal” in Greek is aionios, and “It means more than everlasting, for Plato - who may have invented the word - plainly says that a thing may be everlasting and still not be aionios. The simplest way to put it is that aionios cannot be used properly of anyone but God; it is the word uniquely, as Plato saw it, of God. Eternal punishment is then literally that kind of remedial punishment which it befits God to give and which only God can give.” This really drove a stake in the heart of all my fears about hell!

  3. A growing understanding of the grace of God, versus my own performance-based legalism, thanks to grace teachers like Joseph Prince and Steve McVey.

  4. A recognition that God is not violent. You say that some universalists “try to invalidate the OT picture of God (who shows His wrath against sinners, not just sin).” Here, I am guilty as charged. You also say (on another post) that “obviously a good God sent a world-wide flood according to Scripture.”

I can no longer agree. I assert there is no violence rooted in the nature of God. None. And God is unchanging. Please consider my short, but jam-packed comment "Did God kill everyone in the Genesis Flood? Or did Satan?

  1. A recognition that the Scriptures are only part of a never-ending, progressive revelation of God’s goodness. Please see my quote of C.S. Cowles regarding inerrancy. (I certainly wouldn’t consider this a “degrading of Scripture.” We are to “serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” Romans 7:6.)

And that’s where I am as of today. May God’s loving fire continue to purge me a.s.a.p.

Blessings.


#12

Hello Nick, I understand what you mean by being an evangelical reconciliationist. I only ever could be that (if I adopted UR), my faith in Jesus is too much a part of me, it is my very identity. I am not talking just about peace among those here (though there has indeed been a great lack of that over the years, some of which you have probably not seen), but all over the internet, on other forums and Facebook. I do not think you are backsliding Nick, I just question the end that Christian universalism leads to. My personal experience with it has been very little good, in myself and in others.

I wish what you said was true about those who fell from faith, but some of these people were believers who had a solid understanding of Scripture, even had whole websites dedicated to defending biblical universalism. Now they are as new age as anything out there. To me it is sad. My main reason is not just others, in every religious group you will find those who give the rest a bad name (however universalism is such a small group that its hard not to feel that the majority of them are disgruntled and angry, believing it because of their fear of hell, not their faith in Scripture). The reason why I have abandoned the ideology of Christian universalism is what it worked in me personally. It did not create the peaceful fruit of righteousness, it instead made me question God more and more. I began to see in myself what I see in so many other universalists, fear and uncertainty, but an anger against the God of the ordinary Christian. We start by saying 'how could a good God send people to hell? That’s not loving!" then we go to the extreme of disbelieving in a God who ever sends violent judgement, we effective tell God what He can and can’t do. In the end people end up bound by the God they have conceived, claiming to be happy and at peace, then suddenly out of the blue they declare they are atheists (or worse that they are themselves god, in a sort of pantheistic way). Why? Because the truth is that God is not defined by the whims of human beings, and when human beings begin to do so, leaning to their own understanding (such as, “I don’t think that’s loving, therefore a God of love wouldn’t do that”) they eventually will end up destroying their need for God altogether because they have become their own god.

Many on here have adopted UR for other reasons than a sense of “unfairness”, but there are also countless other believers in UR that do take the route I have outlines above. When you take the Lord God of Scripture and make Him subservient to your feelings and emotions (or even your “reason”), you then end up with the invalidation of God. This is what every Christian must guard against (not just Christian universalists). I know that there are those on here who would say their faith is founded in the Scriptures, and I am glad that this is the case. But I have heard that before from others, and they ended up in the same place. I myself would have said my reasons for believe UR were Scriptural, and still I was heading down the path of denying the deity of Jesus, of losing the most important truths of God. I know me better than all of you (as you know yourself better than I do), I know what UR did in me, and it is for this reason that I don’t still believe in it.


#13

Dear Randy,

I think as I hinted at, but did not go into detail on, Christ does indeed care about how we live our lives. I believe being a disciple of Jesus is one of the most important things a human being can be. But it is important that we know which Jesus it is that we are following. What counts in faith working through love, and if our faith is wrong then we are going to do the wrong kind of works. When do we turn over the money-changers tables, or comfort the afflicted? If we are following the example of Christ we need to be willing to do everything He did, not just the nice things. Jesus said He came to bring division, what do we do with verses like that? If He divides people into those who are for Him and those who are against Him, then I would say the most important thing is not how we get along, but how we relate to Jesus. Paul told the Galatians, “For there is no Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female, for you are all one in Christ.” The most important part of that verse is “in Christ”. By faith we are placed into Christ, and if we are not in Christ then we can never hope to be one. The gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ, His reign coming on earth as it is in heaven. This includes feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, visiting the afflicted, and doing other good and loving things. Yet it also has the radical message of Christ and Christ alone is Lord, and that God now commands people everywhere to repent. We must see it all, and not choose the pieces we like.


#14

Hello Sherman :slight_smile: I have heard your story many times (reading it on here in various threads). It takes courage to stand on what you have found and believe, and I at one time thought I would too have to go through rejection because of my belief in UR (I have been rejected, but for much different reasons, yet I am not bitter about it, I just pray for God to have His way in the situation).

I too have studied the differing meanings of hell (in Greek and Hebrew), I have not yet posted what I see in Scripture, but the truth is I see more annihilationism than ECT. However, there are many many texts that talk about the destruction of the wicked, not just the hell texts. If one single person is not reconciled then UR is false. I see the case of UR mainly resting, not on the negative texts, but the ones claimed to affirm UR. It is these I will write about next time.

I too had an initial peace inside at its thought, but that gave way to constantly trying to prove it against the mountain of texts that kept saying it would never happen (or at least on the surface appeared to say so). Not only that, but my peace would not stay, every time I began to draw near to God I felt He was telling me that I was wrong. I couldn’t stand the thought and what ensued was a time of dryness, trying to hold on to UR and keep my fellowship with God going. I still to this day feel UR hinders my communion with the Spirit.

Of course I also agree that Christ wants the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. His purpose is for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Already in the resurrection, Christ, and through us this new creation is breaking out into the old. This message of the kingdom is much greater than the barebones gospel that is proclaimed today, and it is this that gets me excited.

I share your view of judgement as well Sherman, as Isaiah wrote,

“When your judgements are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.”

Through judgement God can break us in a way that just soft words and loving deeds are unable. He takes the most wicked thing in History, the crucifixion of Jesus and turns it into a judgement of the ruler of this world (for on the cross Jesus disarmed the rulers and principalities). Yes our experiences seem to have been different, but I am still unable to see its lasting fruit (historically and personally). Again those are subjective arguments, they are not going to be compelling for everyone. May God bless you,

Daniel


#15

Dr. Timothy Dalrymple has writen A Framework for Understanding the Rob Bell Controversy. This is very interesting and has gotten me to reflect. It’s really short and easy to read. So my question to you today is, where do you think you fit on the:

EXTENSION axis
FATE OF THE REJECTORS axis

I won’t try to either persuade or dissuade you. I’ll let others do that.


#16

I’m going to reply to Bob’s latest post before getting to Jason’s essay :wink:

I think it is important that all Christians, no matter persuasion they are (Lutheran, Calvinist, Arminian, Orthodox, Catholic etc.) look to the Holy Spirit to produce His fruit in their lives. You are right to say that many leave traditional Christianity because of the unloving actions of those who profess loudest to be followers of Jesus. However, in one sense, people’s faith should be solidly in Christ, not in His followers. People are people, they will fail you no matter how hard they try not to. The life of God within is found in result to how yielded someone is to Christ, if they are not denying themselves and taking up their crosses daily, then they are certainly not following Jesus. I have found that certain teachings lead people to be more trusting of God, and while it seems universalism would lead in this directions, I have seen it produce great fruit of doubt and unbelief. I am not certain why this is, but maybe it is because people’s faith is not in Christ, but in Him saving everyone. You cannot have a living faith based off of a single doctrine, it must be faith in Christ, trusting in His character and goodness. Only this faith will created a holy and loving disciple. This applies not to just universalists, but to all Christians who put another doctrine in front of Christ. Jesus is the doctrine we are to believe in, the Person our life should be found in. By abiding in Him, we bear fruit and this fruit is really just Himself.


#17

Cutting through all the definitions, I am someone who believes that only those who repent and have faith in Christ Jesus will be saved. Whether there is hope of that beyond death I leave up to God, but I will be one to pray and work for God’s will to be done here on earth. I am sorry that may not help you with understanding my beliefs, but I find it hard to label myself by someone else’s grid.


#18

Daniel,

Thanks for amplifying! We both want to see “trusting in Christ’s character and goodness.” Indeed I exposited 1John many times on this. Most see it challenging those who assumed Christ’s deity, but denied his humanity, that in the flesh, God was in him reconciling the world. John appears concerned precisely that despite a high Christology, they separated faith in Christ from his teaching that horizontal love is its’ crucial mark.

You say I “single” out this “one attribute”! But Paul’s fruit of the Spirit is singular, agreeing with every apostolic writer that love is that upon which everything hangs, and which fulfills everything. You respond that U.R. plays off love of others against love for God. Of course, the Bible says they can’t be separated like that. And you must know many EU’s would see that faith that God’s love doesn’t discard but endures all things as foundational to moving ahead in loving and trusting God. Yet you say it caused you to love God less than you did your neighbor. Can you elaborate on how it made you less “love God with everything you had”? I’m curious why we differently experience what fosters genuine love.

You appear to see right doctrine as the key to seeing this reflected in your life. Indeed, we agree that historic doctrine should lead us to see Jesus as not “just a nice moral teacher that can be ignored.” And you imply many in E.U. take “Jesus and his teaching” less seriously than you. If so, I’d agree it’s disastrous. But my whole argument was my pastoral experience that many with classic Christology’s tend precisely to ignore Jesus and his teaching. So while we each want both doctrine and discipleship, this leaves me wondering if you put the true premium on orthodox doctrine that objective observation of the fruit doesn’t actually warrant. I’m intrigued with telling Randy, your view helps you better “challenge the money-changers.” Can you share what you see Jesus doing there, and what that improvement looks like in your actions?

Blessings to you,
Bob


#19

Daniel, A thought on your concern about the eventual merger of Universalists and Unitarians that I’d so far dodged. I think historically, treating those who denied ECT as heretics may have aggravated extremes of departing the wider fold. But your concern that such a denial can lead to other changes in traditional interpretations makes sense. For becoming convinced that one had quite mistakenly accepted such a pivotal plank in their religious paradigm naturally opens us up to considering the possibiity that other formulations of our tradition were also misconstrued.

But every religion and cult uses this fear argument to counter evaluation of any of its’ dogmas. E.g. a Mormon questioning if polygamy was ever a great idea may (correctly) be warned that thinking that could lead to questioning if Joseph Smith even got golden plates. For such fears argue for sticking with ANY given set of a tradition’s interpretations. Thus, this fear of the camel’s nose in the tent wars against evaluating any given question on its’ own merits, and so seems to me a mistaken way to pursue the truth. You’ve begun with subjective arguments about what fruit and feelings you perceive a view produces, while rightly recognizing that an appeal to Scripture should alone be what convinces us. Sorry, our wordiness to your great preface may delay getting the main entre :wink:


#20

Yes, if one single person is not reconciled to God then UR is false. And if not for the pro-UR texts I too would believe in annihilation. Studying the UR passages though has filled me with faith in Jesus to not only save all, but even save me, that he truly is the savior of all, and fulfills his purpose in reconciling all creation to God.

Well, if God is telling you that you are wrong in believing in UR, then that’s what you’ve got to go with. Of course, that is completely personal and subjective, and not something others can either debate or base their faith in.

Just a couple of weeks ago I met a man who insisted that the church needed to preach the whole gospel and preach about Hell. I didn’t want to get into the discussion with the man so I tried to change subjects but he just wouldn’t leave it alone. So I finally told him I didn’t believe in Hell. He proceeded to tell me about many visions of hell that he has had. He was shocked to find that I believed he did have the visions, but understood them differently them to reveal “this present evil age”, the “hell” of today not the ECT Hell of someday. And I pointed out to him that in one of his visions he shared about, a lady who was in “hell” cried out to God in repentance and Jesus saved her. So if his visions were of “Hell”, Jesus would not have saved the lady. Well, he didn’t know what do with that so stopped discussing it with me and I too let the discussion drop.
Before that I also pointed out that Gospel means “good news” and that “Hell” is not good news, so to equate preaching about Hell and the Gospel is an oxymoron.

It’s unusual, for me, though I’ve come to believe in UR, for me Judgment has increased significantly in weight. No longer do I dismiss the judgment passages as not speaking to me because I’m saved; rather, the judgment passages are much more fearsome to me because “to whom much is given much is expected.” Before UR I’d glaze over the judgment passages becuase I interpreted them from a perspective of saved vs. unsaved; thus they did NOT apply to me because I am saved. Now though, they scare the hell outta me because I am saved. I recognize that most judgment passages are aimed at the children of God; the intended audience are those who claim to have a relationship with God. And these judgment passages are meant to call “us” to repentance, to call us to humility and love. So UR’s perspective on judgment scares the hell outta me, fills me with faith in God and love for all because all are my family.

Sherman