Yet another discussion of universal salvation

I know now. That love wins. [Whoops! A frowned upon one liner, when one should write a paragraph saying the same thing with far less impact. Virtually everyone here, not surprisingly as virtually everyone is an Evangelical, a Protestant, a Lutheran, and even folk Roman Catholics believe the same, doesn’t believe that God is competent, is actually omnipotent. Or worse.]

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Perhaps you’re right. But as I’ve said many times, I’ve seen too much evil in my lifetime. Too many people who inflicted too much pain to comprehend. I long for some sort of justice in the end. If I’m wrong, I’m sure I’ll be satisfied with whatever answer is true in the end. It’s hard to argue with the divine. Though I don’t stop trying!

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The problem of suffering, especially natural human evil, which mundanely, routinely goes beyond belief to the point we can’t even see it in our complicity in our politics, demands an ultimate satisfaction. The ultimate would be equality of outcome for all in the transcendent would it not?

I’m thinking more of equity, which amounts to fairness. To my mind, a fair outcome is for each person to receive what they deserve. Justice ceases to exist if there is no consequence for evil actions. I’m not just thinking of the mundane evil that is part of everyone’s daily existence. “No one does good,” etc. etc. I’ve personally known people who have done unspeakable evils. The kind that give you PTSD just from dealing with them and hearing their stories. If they have equality of outcome with everyone else, even the best of us, I call “foul.” That’s not fairness, let alone “justice.”

All that said, I admit I could be wrong about all of this. Love wins and equality of outcome could be what ultimately prevails. It just doesn’t sit well with me in this life and my own experience of it.


Huh, that’s interesting. We often hear about the advantages of the long view afforded by eternal life and eternal justice but this suggests a shortcoming. If people believe that there will compensation in the next life, will that make it easier to abide inequitable opportunity in this one?

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If I didn’t think God would set things right in the end, I would find it hard to believe.

I’m also support conditional immortality which is also annihilationism. I strongly suggest anyone interested in this to get, “ The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment” 3rd edition by the late Edward W. Fudge. I’m personally fully convinced of it. There is also a fantastic podcast by Chris Date and the others with Rethinking Hell that has a few hundred hours of debates and interviews.

It may work the other way, as well, however. If everyone gets a lollypop ‘in the transcendent’, why worry about those who are shorted now?

I think you just agreed with me?

Certainly not!! :slightly_smiling_face: But maybe I mistook your meaning of compensation. I thought you meant just compensation, i.e., justice. So that might mean retribution.


Easier for whom to abide, the haves or the have nots? My point was it could be either or both.

Maybe an answer is because God wants us to love our neighbor as ourself?



That is definitely the answer, but not to the question we were talking about.

What does it mean to set them right? I generally believe the same but my understanding may or may not be different from your own. There is so much injustice and so many wrongs needs to be righted. But is this bordering on a works based salvation? Most versions of Christianity say that we don’t deserve salvation, it’s a free gift of God’s grace. If God truly set things right and doled out justice in the afterlife would we be screwed? Unless the justice is the beginning part of the process of eternal life after death?

Id love to see some exegesis of scripture for those advocating universal salvation. How do you deal without the passages that do not suggest universal salvation?

Matthew 7:21-23, 25:46, 1 Cor 1:18 etc etc???

They show us that graphic at our PD trainings!

If justice will occur then what was the point of Jesus’s death if each of us will be given what we actually deserve after death? Do you reject penal substitution and subscribe to satisfaction or solidarity models? I don’t even think satisfaction gets around this. Or are Christians immune to that justice because of Jesus’s vicarious atonement?

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Scripturally speaking work righteousness means that a persons works on their own is enough to warrant their salvation. If my works are all I need then I don’t need Christ. The Bible does not teach that. But neither does it teach that my works mean nothing. Throughout the Bible we see belief and works hand in hand. We are told that we must still repent even if we will never be perfect. We are told that we must trust in Jesus even if we still have doubts. We are told that we must bear fruits of the spirit even if we still mess up and sin. A person struggling with sin has a very different heart from someone who calls sin goodness and basks in it.

I don’t think evil being punished is the justice God is really after. The justice he is after is the victims being healed and uplifted. If we had no eternal life through Christ, and we all died and the only difference was the lost was punished before death it would not really feel like justice to the hurting. But when the hurting is healed, and made safe and happy then it’s justice.

So the justice is not the destruction of the wicked. That’s simply the wages of sin.

Jesus did not say “ the wages of sin is eternal life filled with pain” but that the wages of sin is death.

But the Bible speaks of death a lot, even metaphorically.

So what is the death of the body and soul?
Well the Bible says that the body and soul is destroyed in hell and that hell is the second death. If it’s the second death, then that means there is a first death. This death is exactly what it is. When we die, and all of us here eventually will, that’s the first death.

Acts 24:15
New American Standard Bible
15 having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.

So when we die, we are asleep. Dead. Then we are all resurrected and those whose name is in the book of life receives eternal life through Christ. Those whose names are not found will receive the eternal punishment. There is a punishment that the Bible speaks of that lasts forever and ever. It’s not the punishment of eternal life. It’s the punishment of being dead eternally, with no hope or resurrection.

So with all of the verses about destruction versus healing , death versus eternal life, it seems that universalism just is missing something.


I see. But I still think acquiescing in the face of our neighbor’s suffering isn’t doing a good job of loving our neighbor. So I guess we disagree about it cutting both ways. Its fine to take comfort on this basis in the face of oppression we suffer, but I don’t thin we should stint if there is something we can do alleviate our neighbor’s oppression.

No argument there, and I certainly agree! I was speaking hypothetically of those uncaring, whether they be a have or a have not. Christians are to to be content with what they have, and if having much, they are to be sharing it.

The have nots who who believe in compensation in the next life (as do Christians) would more easily “abide inequitable opportunity” here. The hypothetical haves who may believe in compensation (without retribution) in the next life (as I think some universalists might) might be disincentivized to help the have nots in this life. That is not a Christian perspective.

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Universalism as I understand it states that God and His Mercy/Goodness is more powerful than evil. Patristic teachings (e.g., Gregory of Nyssa) advocates a type of purgatory where the wicked are becoming increasingly aware of God’s love and this ‘burns’ their wickedness (and teaches total repentance).

I find it difficult to elaborate on such a doctrine, and instead I think that God’s Mercy is boundless and He would give all of us ample opportunity to repent, change, and earnestly seek God’s Goodness without time constraints (not that far from Gregory). I think we can hope that all would repent, but human freedom and self-elation indicate that there is a possibility that some may reject God (again very difficult to elaborate).


Excellent visible responses @Jay313, @MarkD, @Vinnie. I’ll build up one here.

I have some direct personal experience of such people, an ex-military friend in particular. A lovely man. A good husband, father, neighbour, churchman. Who had done unspeakable evil. He gives the lie to a Wiki page on a particular military campaign. His repentance of it doesn’t change what he did in the slightest, like the Nazi who’d raped Corrie Ten Boom. I too have PTSD starting with horrors from nearly 60 years ago, including domestic violence, relentlessly reinforced by further experience, history, the news and other sources I’ve been party to. Unbelievable evil from the Iraq War that made me scream out loud in one instance. Just reading about it in a private report by a church leader.

In this life I almost completely agree with you. I viscerally do. Part of me would see many hang or banged up in solitary for life. But one must put that all aside as Nelson Mandela did for peace. An intrinsically broken peace because beyond, in, truth there was only minimal reconciliation as appalling economic inequity prevailed. The Northern Ireland Good Friday Agreement was similarly reached. There can be no peace without social justice. Equality of outcome. For all.

Transcendent justice: One of my ‘favourite’ characters in fiction is Ian M. Banks’ Grey Area in his peerless Excession. A ‘pathologically righteous’ AI that inflicts the most perfect punishment on an impenitent genocide instigator. It downloads the full life experience of every victim, in sequence, in to the man’s conscious sleeping mind. It has dreadful… appeal.

So what should fairness and justice look like in the transcendent? For my penitent special forces friend’s unarmed civilian victims? Men. Women. Children. What will Jesus say to them? ‘This man who murdered you all asked me to forgive him and I have of course.’. I don’t think so. We have to fully, intelligently, explore all of this and worse. Because all victims in this life, survivors of whom often become victimizers up to state level - Israel - will be fully compensated for all lack and loss at no expense to anyone else. That covers all of us doesn’t it?

Consider the case of Charles Whitman. Just after midnight on 1 August 1966, Whitman – an outgoing and apparently stable 25-year-old former US Marine – drove to his mother’s apartment in Austin, Texas, where he stabbed her to death. He returned home, where he killed his wife in the same manner. Later that day, he took an assortment of weapons to the top of a high building on the campus of the University of Texas, where he began shooting randomly for about an hour and a half. By the time Whitman was killed by police, 12 more people were dead, and one more died of his injuries years afterwards – a spree that remains the US’s 10th worst mass shooting.

Within hours of the massacre, the authorities discovered a note that Whitman had typed the night before. “I don’t quite understand what compels me to type this letter,” he wrote. “Perhaps it is to leave some vague reason for the actions I have recently performed. I don’t really understand myself these days. I am supposed to be an average reasonable and intelligent young man. However, lately (I can’t recall when it started) I have been a victim of many unusual and irrational thoughts [which] constantly recur, and it requires a tremendous mental effort to concentrate on useful and progressive tasks … After my death I wish that an autopsy would be performed to see if there is any visible physical disorder.” Following the first two murders, he added a coda: “Maybe research can prevent further tragedies of this type.” An autopsy was performed, revealing the presence of a substantial brain tumour, pressing on Whitman’s amygdala, the part of the brain governing “fight or flight” responses to fear. Long read.

And no, I know full well that much humanly unforgivable evil, best dealt with here below with a rope, can’t be extenuated by a brain tumour or genetic psychopathy. But in the beyond, all will be well for all, starting with the most wronged of the most innocent of victims and ending with, for them well in their experience of it ending well for their victimizers. How can that be foul? What could be better?


Whoops! Sorry @GJDS, you too!

@MarkD, excellent point, exactly the argument used by American slaver’s travesty of Christianity, i.e. heresy, blasphemy unchanged but for the emancipation of 1865 but still on the dark heart of American politics. The stage IV harmonic argument, as in Brian McLaren’s perfect Faith After Doubt, is that we live in the Kingdom now. This is the lost message of Jesus. Make it so NOW. Live in the light of omnipotent Love now. To proclaim it as jam tomorrow is evil, lying, self-deceived, self justifying, rich man’s, hypocritical politics.