The topic of universalism has popped up now and then and I decided it should have its own thread. For a good introduction,
Yes, it’s long, but it covers all the bases as far as I can tell.
I think for starters I’ll give his list of things that Christian universalism isn’t:
The belief that all roads lead to God.
The belief there is no postmortem punishment.
The belief that the Bible is wrong.
The belief that sin isn’t a big deal.
The belief that it doesn’t matter how we live.
The belief that God is loving but not just.
The belief that we don’t need to evangelize.
I’ll tack on the observation that if universalism meant skipping punishment the result would be that Hell would turn out to be a part of Heaven because being there would be sheer torment for those who haven’t repented!
Final bit: universalism has popped up repeatedly in church history, often independently.
Just wanted to add just like many other beliefs in the church universalism is widespread. Many universalist don’t believe in any form of afterlife punishment and interpret all verses as such symbolic. That’s part of how they got to universalism, or conditional immortality and even within Christian Universalism there is also omnistic interpretations of how accommodation worked within the Bible.
There are even debates on how free will is connected. Such as do we have free will in restoration and if we have free will how is it that no one chooses sin and if we can all choose not to sin, why does God not create that perfect place now.
Thanks for this - and the video link. That made for a good listen - and he’s fun to listen to! He raises good points and good reminders of church history along the way. I’d heard him speak before (can’t remember if it was this particular video or not.) But listening to it here now, I’m wanting to hear his ‘part 2’ … which I’m going on to do now. I’m glad youtube automatically brought that up for next viewing.
I thought it was well presented and made a good listen as well. The clarifications on what it is not was helpful as well. Robin Perry contrasted universalism as not requiring explicit belief in Christ. I don’t think explicit belief is required, only acceptance that Christ paid the penalty of my sin. The example we are given is the so called “Good Thief” who simply accepted Christ and repented of his sin. I don’t think there is a requirement to meet a certain gradation of faith.
It is God’s will that none should perish (Matt 18:14).
My argument against universalist salvation is the Old Testament analogy that John used in his chapter 3, he stated as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that whoever believes may have eternal life in Him. In the Book of Numbers, the brazen snake (now a symbol of the medical profession) was lifted up so that all you had to do was look to the serpent, as an act of faith in the Word of God, and be healed from the poison of the snake bite. God had offered a means to be saved from the judgment of the poisonous snakes. You still had to look to the serpent, and those that did not perished. So you still need to look to Christ to accept that He paid the penalty for your sins.
I would like to take this opportunity to promote another kind of Christian Universalism, where we emphasize Christ and minimize denominational differences. I feel that many of these differences are matters of style. There are people of faith in all denominations, and I feel emphasizing the differences turns away others from beleiving.
Would your flavor be something akin to how Barbara Brown Taylor writes of pluralism in her book “Holy Envy”? Several of us here really enjoyed that book a while back. Come to think of it, I can’t remember if she would or did self-identify as a ‘universalist’ or not in that book, since it wasn’t directly about that. But her approach certainly was in those directions.
I was one of those. Recently I started looking at Unitarian Universalism as likely best encompassing my own outlook. Still undecided about that but it does seem that pluralism is the essence of universalism. From their wiki:
The Unitarian belief that reason, and not creed, defines the search for truth, and the Universalist belief that God embraces all people equally has led to the current Unitarian Universalist belief that truth and spiritual meaning can be found in all faiths.
Being Unitarian they emphasize just God which for a beginner like me is pretty appealing. For me, the Holy Spirit is simply the presence of God present in each one of us. I haven’t looked into it very deeply yet but I would suppose they would think Jesus, Muhammed and various eastern revered persons would be seen as those who have most instantiated God in their lives. Potentially everyone to some degree may in this way be a son or daughter of God.
Not that any would likely be interested but, while UU isn’t Christianity, there is surely room in UU for Christians. Every belief system is human mediated and we all believe there is something more for which we would hope to be vessels.
The problem, again according to my nephew, who notices such things, is that the UU gatherings he and his wife attended, also made room for militant anti-Christians stuck in the belief that Christians in particular are a toxic virus, and for more broadminded militant anti-theists which, IMO, sounds about as interesting as hanging out in a “wannabe Vampire” meetup or a sadist-masochist dungeon gymnasium.
Thanks, but no thanks.
A quick and casual review reveals that Meetups exist for all manner of interests, except–I imagine–for solipsists.
Though I still lean towards Conditional Immortality as the interpretation of the Bible that makes the most sense to me I have also started to lean towards universalism from the omnist perception. But it begins to step out of direct book chapter verse theology to general religious philosophy.
By that I mean the Bible never seems to directly say that the Torah accommodated ancient Jewish beliefs and general Mesopotamian worldviews. But most of us here accepts that as a legitimate position. The Bible reflected the understanding of those people in that place during that time.
I think that the argument goes a step further. All faiths potentially could being god accommodating all kinds of people frm all kinds of places from all time.
I think it’s a far less toxic belief and I think it’s just what makes sense.
Yeah, I think the closest it comes is in Job, where God is obviously using human understanding, found in such propositions as that God used a measuring rod to lay out the Earth.
But then it’s not Christian universalism any more. And from the video, Christian universalism arises not from “general religious philosophy” but from strict reliance on the text of scripture. It thus isn’t promoting – as noted in the opening post – any notion of other paths to God, it’s insisting that the only path to God is through Christ, either out of respect for God’s justice or ultimate victory.
The last is where I first encountered Christian universalism. One of the Fathers wrote that if any soul at all is lost, then Christ’s victory is incomplete, and therefor somehow all souls will eventually come to Christ. That caught me pretty firmly and it’s been an idea I can’t dismiss.
I am just trying to follow what Paul said in 1Cor3, that we should emphasize the truth about Christ to others and not emphasize that which man has developed (denominations). I feel emphasizing the differences tends to drive non-believers away, when there is so much good to be had, we are all servants of God.
"For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings?
“5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.”
What I was doing was showing different forms of universalism. Because there are very different forms of Christianity. Then I brought in another concept, that of omnism that can be connected to through religious philosophy.
So that is one form of Christian Universalism and it’s not a small one either. It’s quite popular.
I got to preach at a university chapel once and took the related passage in chapter 1 as my text, in large part because I’d kept hearing Christians fighting over such things. Hardy anyone thought my message was dull; I got praised for it by some and chastised by many – they thought that preaching about the obvious divisions made Christians look bad. I just shook my head and said that airing the matter openly most likely made us look better because that way we were being honest about the problem.
Here’s the full text I used:
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
I started off from “Beyond that I do not know whether I baptized anyone else” and went from the point of view of someone that Paul had baptized but he failed to mention here. Along the way I “accidentally slipped” and spoke the name of some group on campus instead of the names Paul wrote – quickly “correcting” myself, of course.
I would contend that strong omnism is not Christian at all. Weak omnism is interesting because it has always seemed to me that given that all of Creation reflects Christ in some way or another then it is extremely unlikely that any serious religion could possibly be utterly wrong.
I would argue that there are Christian omnist like myself.
This is my belief.
There is one god. This god has revealed himself to many nations in many ways over time. This does not mean all faiths are inspired by God but that god has used all people and nations and times to reveal himself to them. I think Christ is the physical incarnation of God. I think if intelligent life exists in other galaxies and on other planets, that God has also revealed himself there to them as well.
I think Christ seeks the heart of people and saves those who are seeking truth and righteousness regardless of their faith. But I still think those who seek evil are destroys and ceases to exist.
The first time Skov described himself as an ominist recently, I thought he had made a spelling error. Then @marta assured me that there were others who called themselves ominists, and that’s when I googled the word "ominism"and found that the word has made it into Wikipedia: Omnism
There is a god out there and they are the only god and they desire to guide humanity towards love and truth. To help humanity make it beyond the first death and not guide them into the second death. So this god reaches out to humanity in ways that humanity can understand.
When the Bible tells us things like the world is flat, or covered with dome, we don’t say the Bible is wrong and lying. Instead we tend to say that God was accommodating the ancient Jewish belief system. So we know God will reveal truth to people in a way that can’t be taken as literal or factual. It’s metaphorical, symbolic or mythological truths. But we still accept it as the word of God, despite all editing and so on. We just have faith this is God’s work.
When reading the Bible we see things like the scriptures are God breathed and many believe that word means inspired by. We also see where the Bible contains borrowed non Jewish beliefs. Parts of the Genesis flood narrative seems to have come from the “epic of Gilgamesh “ and psalms 29 seems to have been about a storm god, presumably of Canaanite or Phoenician origins reworked to be about El/Yahweh.
So if a pagan poem about a storm god is part of the texts breathed out by god then I can conclude that before the Jews used it, it was still breathed out by god.
Many argue what about contradictions between these other faiths and Christianity. Well it’s no different than the contradictions between Christianity and Judaism.
Tanakh says “ eye for an eye” and Jesus says turn the other cheek. Tanakh says , “ don’t collect grains on the sabbath and Jesus says actually remember when David did this? Jesus seem to say that the arc of the teachings are more important than the specific commands of do and don’t do. “ don’t touch or don’t eat is not as important as what comes out of the heart.
We also see spots like this. God at times said things like this. In Leviticus 23:18 it says that the aroma of the sacrifice was pleasing to God. But then we also see in Hosea 6:6 that God rather have mercy than sacrifices. Or God permits divorce even though he hates it because of the hardness of human hearts.
So when I see a faith like Hinduism what I presume is that the same god reached out to them and accommodated them. He gave them truth through their belief system to guide them towards a better world. So in the same way Jesus used John the Baptist hyperbolically as a stand in for Elijah I also think reincarnation is used hyperbolically as well in Hinduism. So it does not mean I think Hinduism is correct, it just means I think it’s just as correct as Judaism. I see Christ being reflected in all their writings.