Regarding Universalism

I have difficulty with the concept of common grace being different from a godly grace. I think that some take the thought that uncommon grace, or Christian grace, is giving oneself for others, and to an enemy, for God’s sake… However, I find that most people have a grand concept of that, and it’s not intrinsically Christian alone. Making a divide between the two misses out on God’s immanence and salvific ability, it seems to me.
I remember Tim Keller discussing C S Lewis and George MacDonald with John Piper, and how he described Macdonald as being full of common grace, but not necessarily a Christian. It seems the opposite to me.

If interested, the statement is about 4 minute mark. Ron Dart has a response in favor of MacDonald in another video, however, responding to Keller and Piper.

Would We Have Been Friends? Tim Keller and John Piper on C.S. Lewis - YouTube


Thanks for sharing that link, Randy … I think. I still have a lot of respect for Keller despite what I just heard - certainly not because of it. I was astounded at Keller’s (what I would call) a lapse of Christian wisdom here as he makes such a “sweeping claim” about Macdonald. I have read much of both Lewis and Macdonald, and now fancy that I can see what Lewis saw and admired. If Keller (and Piper) have had so little curiosity and engagement with what Macdonald wrote that they can dismiss his Christology without a further glance, then so much the worse for Keller and Piper.

I wish I were half the Christian that Macdonald was - I’m not sure I know of Christians today that have as high a Christology as what Macdonald’s writings point us toward.

[And I guess I shouldn’t (in my own turn) be too hard on Keller and Piper here. If all they know of Macdonald is a brief exposure to a passionate expression of his from nothing less than his Justice sermon, (and maybe that only as quoted in a horrified way by one of Macdonald’s detractors) then they probably can’t help but display traditional reactionism in their own turn. I probably would have too before I had read much of Macdonald. I would set Macdonald’s Christology (and therefore his view of and knowledge of scriptures) against any of these modern practitioners any day and have no doubt that it’s the latter that would be found wanting. There is a reason Lewis was able to connect so profoundly as he was with so many - and it is no accident, much less detriment, that he was nourished by the authors he admired. I hope many Christians today rediscover the rich legacy they have, which can become buried underneath today’s doctrinal, political, and culture war tropes so dangerously attracting the idolatrous allegiances of evangelical leaders here in the U.S.]

[One further added edit. Yes - Keller does acknowledge at least familiarity with some of Macdonald’s stories; so there is that. I remain in doubt, though, that either of these men have absorbed his actual sermons - from which their ‘damning’ quote was extracted. Even Macdonald’s children stories, though, are nearly explicit sermons in their own right, so I shouldn’t short Keller if he’s at least read some of those.]

[And of course the very first thing I should have noted was that this conversation took place almost 10 years ago. I probably wouldn’t like how I sounded about a lot of stuff that long ago either. Would love to hear them speak of these things today.]

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If Keller agrees with Piper distinctly on anything, that’s a perfect reason not to bother with it.

I appreciate your thoughts, and I reflect that I may, indeed, be taking things out of context. I found this clip from Veritas where Keller alludes to the Lewis and MacDonald image of how we might know someone is actually, at heart, a God follower, based on their fruits–as though they are always going up the hill, rather than down. And it’s not always concordant with their “believer” or “non believer” label.

Overall, I get from Keller that he is a compassionate man, similar to Lewis, even though I don’t resonate with some of the theology that (I think) he has. And maybe that’s a sign that he is way ahead of me on the path up the hill.
Are People Who Aren’t Christians Going to Hell? Is that Fair? Tim Keller at Veritas [9 of 11] - YouTube


Thanks for that, Randy! And that is much more the Keller I can admire along with you. One one little snag remaining … that this particular conversation actually took place even two years earlier than the last one! Leaving the impression that Keller was heading downhill rather than up. That, or perhaps it makes a difference who his conversation partner is. It seems probable to me that some people bring more grace to the surface of their conversation partners than others will.

But there I go again wanting to judge a man just from hearing a couple minutes of his conversation.


I really don’t understand the constant confusion between two issues I am seeing.

  1. Salvation by believing in the right things.
  2. The reality of torment in hell for eternity.

Universalism is constantly being put up as the only alternative to a belief that non-Christians are all going to hell. Why???

The first really is a Gnostic gospel of salvation by knowledge and the Christian gospel of salvation by the grace of God has never been equal to universalism. Sure Christians have tried to make themselves out to be the brokers of salvation. This is no different than the Pharisees. Like most problems with religion described in the Bible, it is tiresomely repetitive.

Fairness really isn’t the problem. That is a RED HERRING. Life is NOT FAIR. Never was and never will be – in no way whatsoever. God is not handing out equal numbers of candy at the door for Halloween. Never has! Never will! Get over it!!! This kind of BS is simply over the top of my BS meter!

The REAL problem is the God Forsaken attitude of entitlement which is the biggest poison in religion and always will be!!! God does not belong to Christianity – never has, no more than God belonged to the Pharisees! Christians do not speak for God – never have, no more than did the Pharisees speak for God!

Frankly. It just doesn’t go far enough. Would have been friends??? Seems just a tad condescending to me. How about, would have met God and learned about God from them!!!

I am not sure I get your whole drift. Maybe you can explain more to me? Thanks.

I think that’s a good observation, though I don’t know the whole context. I agree that we should not base our friendships on whether we agree theologically or not.

I think that many Christians hope that God will make things fair in the afterlife; and that’s in opposition to what happens in life.

I think I hear this, and agree that there can be a gnostic characteristic to fideism. I don’t think God’s condemning anyone for a theological or intellectual error on any side here. It seems to be grace to learn.

I think that MacDonald and Lewis’ tentative proposal, while labeled universalism by some, is not even that. Have you read about it? It’s in “Mere Christianity,” though MacDonald writes more about it in his “Unspoken Sermons,” like “Justice.” His book, “David Elginbrod,” also describes it pretty well, I think.

It’s surprisingly quite orthodox, and incorporates ultimate repentance and character purification at the hands of God. As I understand it, the basic premise is that, since we have no time in this life to learn even a tiny portion of what God wants us to be, we all can continue to learn and repent for eternity. In retrospect, those who do repent, though did not die repentant initially, can consider themselves to have been in “purgatory.”

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If He can’t, no one can. And what’s the point of Him?! ; )

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Fathers are useless.

And I don’t think we should be confining God to our theology.

I guess it depends on what definition of fairness you are using.

Google gives - “in accordance with the rules or standards.” According to that definition, fairness is exactly what happens in life. But the definition I see being used (like the Halloween candy example above) is that everyone get the same. And I don’t think that happens in the afterlife any more than it happens in life. That is more childish than just or sane – which is why the word gets me so riled.

Now I do believe in God’s perfect justice where we reap what we sow – fairness, I suppose, in the google sense of being in accord with the rules. But no I do not believe it is some big game where everyone has identical circumstances, identical challenges, and identical abilities – quite the contrary. And I also believe this perfect justice very much transcends our superficial measure of things which are far too weighted towards our circumstances than our responses. But that is frankly more likely to outrage people’s sense of so-called “fairness” than otherwise.

And I think that is the very meaning of “eternal life.” Seems to me getting a grasp of all we need to repent for is a big part of what we all have to learn. All those in heaven are just opening up a crack for God to get a foot in door. But I am not so sure that describes everyone.

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And then there’s lèse-majesté, “to do wrong to majesty”. We dare not presume what justice for it might entail.

God is just to everyone’s hearts, proud or humble, regardless of the circumstances, privilege or pit, that they’re born into, but what the individual does with whatever much or little they have been given is factored in too. There is grace, too, but it is not forced to negate the previous.

That sounds like an invention of the religious guarding their own dignity.

I think you will find the real dignity of God in Matthew 25:31-46.

No, it means spitting on a patient and loving Father and King and not recognizing him among the poor.

Spitting on a patient and loving Father and King seems more foolish than a treasonable offense. If an ant stomps defiantly on your foot, it is more comedy than criminal. That the why lèse-majesté seems to me far more about the outrage and offense of the religious rather than God Himself. Only if it really is one of the poor and this disregard does them harm will it seem likely to me that God would truly take offense.

I like this image :slight_smile:

I’m hoping to do that for eternity. :slight_smile:

…was hyperbole, a figure of speech to make a point. Any disrespect, including behaviors of the mind, fits the category. I’m not sure why you insist on making it about ‘the religious’ instead of the true Majesty.

You could depreciate all sin that way and Jesus’ death was pointless.

That sounds pretty dreary and smacks of false humility, I’m afraid, if I’m reading correctly. All will have been long been forgiven and what remains is joy in and among God’s children, including my Elder Brother, and I imagine being creative and learning and practicing new things with lots of smiles and laughter all around, and cheering as well.

A reread of The Great Divorce sounds in order.

Maybe I wasn’t clear. I love the “Great Divorce!” I think that the image of the ghosts getting their feet hardened to walk on the “real” grass --which is a bending to God’s will and learning what reality and orientation toward Him is, as opposed to oneself–is what I mean. Repentance, in this case, was giving up what I have been, and becoming more like Him.
Maybe we can go to a thread on the GD a bit. It would be fun. I don’t know how it will be, of course (neither did Lewis or MacDonald), but I think it would be fun. You would like Macdonald, I think, if you like Lewis (which I do). Thanks.


Understanding the difference between the God that is real and the made-up “god” that serves the interests of the religious is important to me.

Nope… that only applies to the sin made up by the religious. The real sin is self destructive and has nothing to do with this ludicrous idea that we are somehow hurting God.

That sounds like the theology of entitlement, I’m afraid. The focus is all on forgiveness because what they want is indulgences for their sin.

Like all those people in “The Great Divorce” with their endless lame excuses which it seems to me can be summarized as an unwillingness to let go of their sins. But I also don’t believe in the magical god who can just poof our sins away.

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The God who is real has no majesty and is not a king whose honor can be disrespected?

Are you associating me with this “made-up ‘god’” and implying that my interests are not God-honoring?

Are you saying that we cannot sin against God? That is novel! You appear not to understand that God can be offended and the Holy Spirit grieved.

Whatever that is, what does it have to do with joy in Heaven and the fact that there will be no further need for repentance? You have not read that our sin is removed from us as far as the east is from the west?
And this?

I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.

If God is forgetting them, why do you think we need and that he wants us to be repenting of sin that he has already graciously forgiven? Repenting and subtracting from joy for eternity for sin that Jesus already died for. That sounds like an insult to him and lèse-majesté right there!

What father would treat his children that way when he had forgiven and embraced them after they disobeyed him and already been sorry?

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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