Universalism versus the belief in an eternal hell

(GJDS) #21

Grace is offered to all; the discussion gets complicated when we as individuals decide on how other (many) individuals would respond. It is difficult (or impossible) for me to be completely certain of my own motives and intentions, let alone someone else. And what if another went to heaven because he heard that his favourite meal, warm hot dogs, were freely available?

I am reminded of the error that goes like this, ‘let us sin that grace may abound’. Paul did not like this view :sob:.

(Dillon) #22

But is universalism really refuted by these verses?

John 14:6 says: Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

It seems to me, Christ said nothing about a doctrine in those two verses. Christians believe that Christ is a real force in the world, right? They may have even experienced this force themselves. Many Christians have had “an experience of God” or “an experience of Christ.” Such an experience can change a life’s trajectory, give a life purpose, create moral resolve, or transcend a worldly predicament.

But what if an atheist or a Hindu has such an experience, and is similarly affected by it? Are they not “coming to the father through Christ”… even though they might not use the name “Jesus” to describe the selfsame force that transformed them?

As I understand universalism, it does not necessarily say that there are ways to salvation other than Christ… merely that Christ is bigger than a single doctrine or belief system. Perhaps many people are saved through Christ… not just Christians. Perhaps Christ is a force that can work in the world without institutional Christianity propping him up with a doctrine.

But maybe the universalists are wrong about that. Maybe Christ needs to be called by a certain name to be a genuine presence in a person’s life. Maybe Christ is only realized through specific doctrinal practices. But from where I’m standing, what doctrinal Christians say seems as informed as what anyone else says. So it seems unwise to dismiss universalism out of hand.

(George Brooks) #23


You oppose this little appreciated Biblical scenario because you reject the idea that the soul could be destroyed ‘from without’ … even at the devisement of God?!

(Quinn) #24

But what else could Jesus mean by “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”? Jesus isn’t offering one path among many but is stating that He is the only path to the Father and there is no other. The Apostles confirm this when confronted with the Jewish religious authorities in Acts 4:12 when Peter said “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved”

if they truly have a force of feeling the power and love of Jesus Christ then they will renounce their sin and confess Christ as Lord and Savior of their life and forsake the past life they use to live.

Romans 10:9 “that is you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved”

(Mitchell W McKain) #25

I get behind that one and I am not a universalist. I consider John 14:6 to be a tautology because of the doctrine of the Trinity. Jesus is God, so how can you imagine getting to God without going through God. That would suggest that you can be in control of that relationship, which is totally wrong. It is a matter of God reaching down to us (and that is exactly what Jesus represents), not of us climbing up to Him. God condescends to us without being condescending, for remember that His idea of greatness is that of being a servant of servants.

And this reduction of Jesus into a password is why I think so much of Christianity has descended into Gnosticism with a gospel of salvation by knowledge. You don’t have to be universalist to reject this sort of thinking.

Agreed. But it is not one path to God either. There is NO PATH to God. Matthew 10:25 When the disciples heard this they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Salvation is the work of God not men.

As for Romans 10, lets go back to just before this point. Romans 10:5 Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on the law shall live by it. 6 But the righteousness based on faith says, Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 or “Who will descend into the abyss?” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). If you think you have some kind of formula by which you can say who goes to heaven and who goes to hell then you are practicing a righteousness based on law (legalism) not faith.

(Quinn) #26

There is a formula by which we must be saved and that is FAITH! Without it no one is saved. This faith of course is not natural but is given by the grace of God (prevenient grace) and man cannot create faith unless gifted by the Father but of course humans can reject this offer of salvation and thus not be saved by the saving faith which is a grace of the Father which is done by the Father alone. We humans are to only accept or reject the offer of salvation which is only made effective by true living faith in the finished work of what Jesus Christ did on the cross for us. We are saved by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ and what he did for us on the cross.

(Mitchell W McKain) #27

No. Faith is not a power given by God so we can save ourselves. Salvation is the work of God alone. Faith is what God asks of us. And yes God gives a measure of faith to all of us (Romans 12, 1 Cor 12), but it is up us where we put that faith. And the point Paul was making was that faith is NOT a means by which to compare and measure each other as if by this you can say who is going to heaven and who is going to hell. That is completely wrong! There is no formula. There is no path. There is only God.

I too recite a formula, by saying I believe in a gospel of salvation by grace alone, asking for faith which is made alive in works of love for our fellow man. But it is not a formula for salvation. Rather it is a formula for Christian belief about salvation as taught by Jesus and Paul. Big difference! This formula is not telling you how you can get into heaven. It is pointing you to that same answer which Jesus gave in Matthew 19:26, “with men this is impossible.” There is no formula for salvation and no path to God. God has to come to us.

(Quinn) #28

while you are right in this I should have stated what I meant earlier. Salvation is a work of God and God alone and faith is also a work of God (prevenient grace) but with faith mas has the choice whether they want to take God by the hand and accept his saving grace or not. May I reference you to the Five Articles of Remonstrance as they better define in what i’m trying to say about salvation and God’s sovereignty. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_Articles_of_Remonstrance

(Dillon) #29

He could mean that when his actual self is present in a person’s life they are saved… even if this person does not subscribe to doctrinal Christianity.

You have to admit, it’s pretty perplexing that the scribes and pharisees tried to refute Jesus by throwing scripture in his face. But it’s even more more perplexing that many Christians emulate the scribes and pharisees by doing similar.

I mean, you’d think Christians might take a different approach. Despite their glorification of the law and ability to guilt people with scripture, Jesus saw that the scribes and pharisees were lacking in love and righteousness. One of the main things I get from the Gospels when I read them is: Christ emphasized love and righteousness over rigid adherence to the law.

That’s just what I hear. I’m not saying that doctrinal Christians are wrong. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe doctrinal Christians are the only ones who really understand the path to salvation. I just think it’s odd that many of them so faithfully emulate the scribes and pharisees by throwing scripture in people’s faces and (even when you listen to them closely) you don’t get the slightest hint that they are concerned with righteousness or love.

Doesn’t that seem weird to you? It seems weird to me.

(Quinn) #30

Knowing or quoting scripture doesn’t save but a personal relationship in having faith in Jesus Christ our Lord is what saves. I know what you mean by Christians Bible thumping words onto people and yet they don’t preach in love or righteousness, I truly understand, I preach from a point of love and desire to see proper biblical orthodoxy taught and universalism isn’t proper biblical orthodoxy. No where from my studies in church history asides from a few shady pages that the early church never taught universalism as in the sense that all are saved regardless whether they have faith in Christ not. Now the debate about whether the atonement is available for all or a few has been debated like the beating of a dead horse which is nothing but mush at this point. Yes I get and understand from where you are coming from when you say that some Christian emulate the scribes and Pharisees.

(Mitchell W McKain) #31

I can certainly give you my evaluation of these. But they look to be some combination of acceptance and rejection of the five points of TULIP Calvinism, while I reject all of them. The result is that beside various disagreement with terminology, I agree when it rejects unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints (though my rejection of the last is considerably stronger), but I disagree with the acceptance of total depravity.

  • Article I — That God, by an eternal, unchangeable purpose in Jesus Christ, his Son, before the foundation of the world, hath determined, out of the fallen, sinful race of men, to save in Christ, for Christ’s sake, and through Christ, those who, through the grace, shall believe on this his Son Jesus, and shall persevere in this faith and obedience of faith, through this grace, even to the end; and, on the other hand, to leave the incorrigible and unbelieving in sin and under wrath, and to condemn them as alienate from Christ, according to the word of the Gospel in John iii. 36: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him,” and according to other passages of Scripture also.

No I do not agree that everything was written before the foundation of the world. The world is a story that man and God writes together. And no I do not agree that we are saved by our beliefs. We are saved by the grace of God alone. What God asks of us is faith and faith is dead without works of love for our fellow man. But what this means is that we do these things for their own sake and not because we are trying to win God’s favor or to merit salvation.

  • Article II — That, agreeably thereto, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, died for all men and for every man, so that he has obtained for them all, by his death on the cross, redemption, and the forgiveness of sins; yet that no one actually enjoys this forgiveness of sins, except the believer, according to the word of the Gospel of John iii. 16: “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”; and in the First Epistle of John ii. 2: “And he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

No I do not agree that we are saved by our beliefs. A gospel of salvation by mental works such as belief and knowledge of doctrines is still a gospel of salvation by works and not a gospel of salvation by grace.

  • Article III — That man has not saving grace of himself, nor of the energy of his free will, inasmuch as he, in the state of apostasy and sin, can of and by himself neither think, will, nor do anything that is truly good (such as having faith eminently is); but that it is needful that he be born again of God in Christ, through his Holy Spirit, and renewed in understanding, inclination, or will, and all his powers, in order that he may rightly understand, think, will, and effect what is truly good, according to the word of Christ, John xv. 5: “Without me ye can do nothing.”

No I completely disagree that we can do nothing that is truly good, that is a lie that is derived from a preoccupation with merit. But merit really has nothing to do with salvation. Our problem is not a state we are in or lack of merit or a lack of doing good, but that we have these self-destructive habits (called sin) eating away at everything of good and value within us, including our free will.

  • Article IV — That this grace of God is the beginning, continuance, and accomplishment of a good, even to this extent, that the regenerate man himself, without that prevenient or assisting, awakening, following, and co-operative grace, can neither think, will, nor do good, nor withstand any temptations to evil; so that all good deeds or movements, that can be conceived, must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ. But, as respects the mode of the operation of this grace, it is not irresistible, in as much as it is written concerning many that they have resisted the Holy Ghost,—Acts, and elsewhere in many places.

We cannot save ourselves not because we are incapable of any good, but because sin is degenerative – it is destroying our spirit and there is nothing we can do to stop it no matter how good we may be. Only God can do that. But I quite agree with the rejection of irresistible grace. This is because giving us a measure of faith doesn’t mean that God is making us have faith in Him so that we are saved by this. It means that God is giving us varying capacity for faith, but it remains our choice of where to put that faith. So this is not about meriting salvation by having a sufficient amount of faith. That idea of being able to measure our salvation by how faithful we are is completely refuted by Paul. And if you think to use the idea of where you put your faith as a measure of salvation then you have that wrong to. It’s not about whether you believe in the right things. It is about whether you do good helping people for its own sake – that choice for goodness over evil is what shows your faith.

  • Article VThat those who are incorporated into Christ by a true faith, and have thereby become partakers of his life-giving Spirit, have thereby full power to strive against Satan, sin, the world, and their own flesh), and to win the victory, it being well understood that it is ever through the assisting grace of the Holy Ghost; and that Jesus Christ assists them through his Spirit in all temptations, extends to them his hand, and if only they are ready for the conflict, and desire his help, and are not inactive, keeps them from falling, so that they, by no craft or power of Satan, can be misled, nor plucked out of Christ’s hands, according to the word of Christ, John x. 28: “Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” But whether they are capable, through negligence, of forsaking again the first beginnings of their life in Christ, of again returning to this present evil world, of turning away from the holy doctrine which was delivered them, of losing a good conscience, of becoming devoid of grace, that must be more particularly determined out of the Holy Scriptures before they can teach it with the full persuasion of their minds.

For the first part in italics: sure, but the measure of this is by God alone and if any think they can measure this then they are indulging in legalism. The second part, not in italics, seems to be about the perseverance of the saints which is an utterly faithless teaching. Do I need to repeat Romans 10:6-7, faith does not ask such questions. It doesn’t ask what you are getting out of this. And it certainly doesn’t ask whether you can lose salvation as if that was anything to which you are EVER entitled even for a single second. Faith just does what is right for its own sake and leaves salvation in the hands of God.

(Shawn T Murphy) #32

Dear Quinn,
For me, @vulcanlogician reflects the child-like wonder that Jesus expects: “the children will inherit the Kingdom of God.” Christians should not act as the scribes and Pharisees buy using scripture to condemn others, raising themselves up. Christians quote John 3:16 but forget what 3:17 says. Jesus did not come to condemn, and for me, nor should anyone who calls themselves Christ-like.

The early Christians taught how all can be restored through Jesus in the theory of the apocatastasis. I know that few believe the mechanics of this theory, but the spirit of this theory demonstrates the Grace of God and promise of Jesus not to condemn us. It also fulfills the requirement that all must make this path through Jesus - just as Jesus told the old pharisee Nicodemus.

(Quinn) #33

While I do agree again with you that salvation is a work done solely by God alone the issue of works got me thinking and brought be back to a passage from the 1689 London Baptist Confession which talks about it and I use a lot when talking about good works and how works are one of the three fruits of salvation that show true faith (the other two are repentance of sins and a desire for holiness) Of course these evidences of salvation are not needed for salvation but are like the page marker of what a true Christian should show and be. James was right when he was saying that their faith was dead if they had no works, cause of Christians do have true faith then they will do good works and help the poor, lost sinner and pray for a lost world. Here is the paragraph of 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith on good works.
aragraph 1. Good works are only such as God has commanded in his Holy Word, 1 and not such as without the warrant thereof are devised by men out of blind zeal, or upon any pretense of good intentions. 2
1 Mic. 6:8; Heb. 13:21
2 Matt. 15:9; Isa. 29:13

Paragraph 2. These good works, done in obedience to God’s commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith; 3 and by them believers manifest their thankfulness, 4 strengthen their assurance, 5 edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the gospel, 6 stop the mouths of the adversaries, and glory God, 7 whose workmanship they are, created in Christ Jesus thereunto, 8 that having their fruit unto holiness they may have the end eternal life. 9
3 James 2:18,22
4 Ps. 116:12,13
5 1 John 2:3,5; 2 Pet. 1:5-11
6 Matt. 5:16
7 1 Tim. 6:1; 1 Pet. 2:15; Phil. 1:11
8 Eph. 2:10
9 Rom 6:22

Paragraph 3. Their ability to do good works is not all of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of Christ; 10 and that they may be enabled thereunto, besides the graces they have already received, there is necessary an actual influence of the same Holy Spirit, to work in them and to will and to do of his good pleasure; 11 yet they are not bound to perform any duty, unless upon a special motion of the Spirit, but they ought to be diligent in stirring up the grace of God that is in them. 12
10 John 15:4,5
11 2 Cor. 3:5; Phil. 2:13
12 Phil. 2:12; Heb. 6:11,12; Isa. 64:7

Paragraph 4. They who in their obedience attain to the greatest height which is possible in this life, are so far from being able to supererogate, and to do more than God requires, as that they fall short of much which in duty they are bound to do. 13
13 Job 9:2, 3; Gal. 5:17; Luke 17:10

Paragraph 5. We cannot by our best works merit pardon of sin or eternal life at the hand of God, by reason of the great disproportion that is between them and the glory to come, and the infinite distance that is between us and God, whom by them we can neither profit nor satisfy for the debt of our former sins; 14 but when we have done all we can, we have done but our duty, and are unprofitable servants; and because they are good they proceed from his Spirit, 15 and as they are wrought by us they are defiled and mixed with so much weekness and imperfection, that they cannot endure the severity of God’s punishment. 16
14 Rom. 3:20; Eph. 2:8,9; Rom. 4:6
15 Gal. 5:22,23
16 Isa. 64:6; Ps. 43:2

Paragraph 6. Yet notwithstanding the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in him; 17 not as thought they were in this life wholly unblamable and unreprovable in God’s sight, but that he, looking upon them in his Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfection. 18
17 Eph. 1:5; 1 Pet. 1:5
18 Matt. 25:21,23; Heb. 6:10

Paragraph 7. Works done by unregenerate men, although for the matter of them they may things which God commands, and of good use both to themselves and to others; 19 yet because they proceed not from a heart purified by faith, 20 nor are done in a right manner according to the Word, 21 nor to a right end, the glory of God, 22 they are therfore sinful, and cannot please God, nor make a man meet to receive the grace from God, 23 and yet their neglect fo them is more sinful and displeasing to God. 24
19 2 Kings 10:30; 1 Kings 21:27,29
20 Gen. 4:5; Heb. 11:4,6
21 1 Cor. 13:1
22 Matt. 6:2,5
23 Amos 5:21,22; Rom. 9:16; Titus 3:5
24 Job 21:14,15; Matt. 25:41-43

(Mitchell W McKain) #34

I know very well that none of the Bible passage say what you list them in support of. And I will never agree with what amounts to no more than a justification for entitlement based on belief. It is a gospel of salvation by works of belief and knowledge fundamentally contrary to the gospel of salvation by grace. I reject the rhetoric that uses this twist about good works as a product of salvation to get around this. Furthermore, I believe Paul shows in Romans 2:13-15 that He is fundamentally opposed to this idea of salvation by knowledge, saying it is not those who know the law but those who do it showing that it is written on their hearts even if they know none of it. So I cannot support this idea of only the good works of those who believe have any value, trying to reserve an entitlement of salvation to the members of their own religion alone (The point of faith rather than works, is that you do what is right for it own sake rather than trying merit salvation). It frankly amounts to an attempt to make God their personal property and tool of power much in the same way they try to enslave God to their theology with a list of things God cannot do. The net result is to turn back the clock and transform the religion of Jesus and Paul with a righteousness based on faith back into a religion like that of the Pharisees and a righteousness based on works of the mind. Only it is really worse because instead what what you do and how you treat your fellow man being the most important it is only that you agree with their dictates of what to believe as an ideological power tool. In this I think a lot of Christianity has gone very wrong.

(Quinn) #35

You suppose I think that salvation is by works? How wrong you are. Ephesians 2:8 says that we are saved by grace through faith and not by works. I am a full blooded Protestant and know that we are save by faith alone by God’s grace. The issue i’m trying to say is that the gospel doesn’t preach ultimate reconciliation, but instead one needs to have faith in order to be saved. A righteous man is saved by faith, not by works or good deeds. Look at Ephesians 2:8 closely, faith and grace are intertwined and both cannot exist without each other. Ultimate reconciliation says one is saved by grace alone whether they don’t know the Lord or not. Biblical salvation states that one is saved by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ.

(Mitchell W McKain) #36

Ah yes the last attempt to justify entitlement by the old mantra of salvation by faith rather than works despite the fact that I have repeated over and over again that I believe in a gospel of salvation by the grace of God. No I do not believe in salvation by works not even salvation by works of the mind like you do. I repeat the whole point of faith rather than works as taught by Jesus and Paul is that you do what is good and right for its own sake because of a good heart and not because you are seeking merit and entitlement to salvation.

I don’t think it is any accident that these five articles of remonstrance come from a time when Christians felt entitled to slaughter the American Indians and enslave Africans. It is all about justifying entitlement and disconnecting their Xianity from any decency in their treatment of fellow human beings. It is about turning salvation by grace and the teachings of faith by Jesus and Paul on its head to craft a theology that is all about salvation by religion so that they could do whatever they wanted to other people and still be self-righteous. It is a religion far worse than that of the Pharisees, which Jesus described as Satanic.

(Quinn) #37

So me stating a biblical truth which has been known since the start of the church is wrong? Are we saved by work or faith? The grace of God makes us come to faith.

Making a mental assessment of is not the same has having to pray toward Mecca for your salvation. When we make a mental assessment of what faith is then we decide that we know Jesus as our Lord and Savior (and the Lord wants all people to know Him) You claim to not be a Calvinist but your way of thinking on solely grace along makes you sound like a hyper-Calvinist (which are worse then Calvinist in general) which say that faith isn’t even needed at all in the bout of salvation. Of course may I ask if you are a universalist?

(Shawn T Murphy) #38

Hi @mitchellmckain and @Sealkin,
You are getting into a debate that I see very often in Christianity Grace OR Works. I do not think it is Christ-like to argue about this point, but rather read the entire words of Jesus and see that we are saved by God’s Grace AND we are expected to do good works. I point to Matthew 5:48 as the definitive call for our actions.
Best Wishes, Shawn

(Albert Leo) #39

I realize that this is a widely held belief (TULIP Calvanism?) but I cannot understand how it can be taken for granted, as you imply. Is it really Christian to be so positive about what God is (or is not) concerned with? Perhaps it is due to my Catholic upbringing, but I cannot grasp how a loving God could create a sentient being that He knows beforehand will NOT be saved. Pick one: He is either loving or all-knowing; He cannot be both in this context.
Al Leo

(Mitchell W McKain) #40

No, accusing me of something contrary to what I have said repeatedly is wrong.

Neither. We are saved by the grace of God alone.

No, faith is about our free will and choice not about God making us do something.

Right and I reject the claim that such agreements with doctrine can entitle you to salvation.

Incorrect. I never said anything of the sort. What I said is that I reject all 5 points of TULIP Calvinism. But it has been pointed out that these didn’t actually come from Calvin. But perhaps the fact that I am not extremely familiar with what Calvin did say would answer your question for some people. But I would say this comes from your oversimplified view of the world which makes people either Calivinist or whatever you call yourself. But I certainly don’t think there are only two options and fyi when I am usually presented with the question of whether I am Calvinist or Arminian, my answer is neither – I am an open theist.

Calvinism does not follow from the gospel of salvation by the grace of God alone. That is actually closer to your position with this idea that faith is something which God does. But this is clearly disagrees with everything said by Jesus and Paul. Faith is what we do. It is what God ask of us. But no it is not a means by which we can save ourselves. It is simply the rejection of irresistible grace to say that we have a choice. But what Paul make crystal clear is that faith is NOT a measure by which we can decide who goes to heaven and who goes to hell – he says that faith is the opposite of that. Faith means leaving salvation in the hands of God alone! And it most certainly rejects any sort of entitlement to salvation that one might delude oneself into.

Have you read any of the thread at all… like you know the OP where I make my position on universalism crystal clear?

Then again… people seem to be defining universalism in odd ways I have never heard of. So perhaps it depends on your definition of the word… in which I can only suggest that you read the OP and decide for yourself how you want to throw me in one of the bins you insist everyone must belong to.