Archive for the ‘Universalism’ Category

As Though…

Friday, June 8th, 2018

In all this subject of death, there is an extraordinary narrowness in the views held generally, as though the fact of dying could change God’s unchanging purpose; as though his never-failing love were extinguished because we pass into a new state of existence; as though the power of Christ’s cross were exhausted in the brief span of our earthly life.

— Thomas Allin, Christ Triumphant, p. 213-214

God Does Not Give Up

Saturday, May 26th, 2018

It is impossible for me to believe that the God revealed in Jesus will at some point simply throw up his hands in defeat or harden his heart in retaliation.

To anticipate an issue we will discuss later on, why is death often seen as the deadline for receiving salvation? If God loves all people and desires for all to be saved, as scripture seems to clearly assert (I Peter 3:9) and as most Christians (besides Calvinists) would agree, then why would God’s attitude towards people change upon physical death? Why would God go from actively desiring and working for a person’s salvation in this life, and yet be content to give that person over to the rebellion forever in the life to come? Why wouldn’t God keep doing all that he could do to try to get through to that person?

— Heath Bradley, Flames of Love, p. 27-28

[Photo: Leithöfe, Germany, May 2, 1997]

The Larger Hope from Scripture

Thursday, May 10th, 2018

A crowd of witnesses, from almost every quarter to which the gospel had reached, assure us of their belief that Christ liberated from Hades every soul, without exception. And we have heard teachings that openly assert, or, by fair inference, involve the larger hope, from both East and West, from Gaul as well as from Alexandria; from Rome; from Milan; from Arabia; from Palestine; from Antioch; from Cappadocia; from Cilicia; from Constantinople; from the distant Euphrates. And this teaching, be it noted, is strongest where the language of the New Testament was a living tongue, i.e., in the great Greek Fathers: it is strongest in the church’s greatest era, and declines as knowledge and purity decline. On the other hand, endless penalty is most strongly taught precisely in those quarters where the New Testament was less read in the original, and also in the most corrupt ages of the church.

Note carefully — the point is significant — that this universalism was essentially and first of all based on Scripture; on those promises of a “restitution of all things,” taught by “all God’s holy prophets,” repeated so often by the psalmists; and echoed clearly and distinctly in the New Testament.

— Thomas Allin, Christ Triumphant, p. 165-166

[Photo: Skerries beach, Ireland, July 2001]

Higher Mercy

Monday, April 30th, 2018

When Isaiah throws out the higher-ways-of-God argument [in Isaiah 55:6-9], it isn’t to defend the vengeful punishment of God, it is to defend the abundant mercy of God! To take this text and use it to defend a conception of divine justice and goodness that certainly seems much worse than any human understanding of justice and goodness is to use this text for the opposite purpose than it was originally intended. If we take the context seriously, and we should, the higher-ways-of-God argument can be more appropriately used to defend the universalist position than the traditionalist one. God’s ability and desire to pardon is beyond our understanding!

— Heath Bradley, Flames of Love, p. 22

[Photo: Riverbend Park, Virginia, April 20, 2018]

Changeless Love

Saturday, April 14th, 2018

“God so loved the world” — dwell on these words. The world, then, must have been in some real sense worthy of love. He cannot love — he may pity — the unlovely. Has he ceased to love it? If so, when? I challenge a reply. “Love is not love that alters, where it alteration finds”; even human love, if true, never changes. Yet this love is but a faint, far-off, reflection of our Father’s love. God is not love and justice, or love and anger. He is love, i.e., love essential [I John 4:8]. Therefore his wrath and vengeance, while very real, are the ministers of his love. To say that God cannot change is to say that his love cannot change. Hence his love, being changeless, pursues the sinner to the outer darkness, and, being almighty, draws him hence. An earthly parent, who, being able to help, should sit unmoved, month after month, year after year, watching, but never helping, the agonies of his own offspring is a picture more hideous than any the records of crime can furnish. What shall we say to those who heighten enormously, infinitely, all that is shocking in such a picture, until its blackest details become light itself; and then tell us that the parent in this ghastly scene is one who is love, love infinite, almighty, and our Father?

And this brings us face to face with a blunder of our traditional creed, which is radical. It talks of God’s love as though that stood merely on a par with his justice, [as] though it were something belonging to him which he puts on or off. It is hardly possible to open a religious book in which this fatal error is not found; fatal, because it virtually strikes out of the gospel its fundamental truth — that GOD IS LOVE. The terms are equivalent. They can be interchanged. God is not anger, though he can be angry; God is not vengeauce, though he does avenge. These are attributes; love is essence. Therefore, God is unchangeably love. Therefore, in judgment he is love, in wrath he is love, in vengeance he is love — “love first, and last, and midst, and without end.”

— Thomas Allin, Christ Triumphant, p. 76-77

[Photo: Giant’s Causeway, Ireland, July 2001]

God’s Holy, Perfect Compassion

Saturday, April 7th, 2018

Luke makes it even clearer that Jesus defines God’s holy “perfection,” not as vindictive anger towards sinners, but as compassionate love toward all people: “But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate” (Luke 6:35-36). God’s perfection is not in tension with God’s compassion. According to Jesus, God’s perfection is defined precisely by God’s compassion. We must be careful to not import our own ideas of what divine perfection must be into the biblical text, as has so often it has been done. It is hard to take Jesus seriously and still come away with the assumption that God’s holy perfection requires the infinite punishment of sinners, especially when Jesus defines this perfection in the completely opposite direction. Those from the traditional view have quite a task before them in explaining how God can be said to be “kind to the wicked,” as Jesus affirms, and yet still inflict maximal suffering and torment on them.

— Heath Bradley, Flames of Love, p. 19

[Photo: South Riding, Virginia, April 6, 2018]

At-one-ment

Monday, April 2nd, 2018

With all my heart, and soul, and strength, and mind, I believe in the atonement (all it the a-tone-ment, or the at-one-ment, as you please). I believe that Jesus Christ is our atonement, that through him we are reconciled to, made one with God. There is not one word in the New Testament about reconciling God to us; it is we that have to be reconciled to God.

— George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons, Third Series, “Justice,” quoted in Discovering the Character of God, compiled by Michael R. Phillips

[Photo: Keukenhof, Holland, April 17, 2004]

Transcending Revenge

Friday, March 30th, 2018

While many Christians from the traditional view would say that the holiness of God consists primarily in moral purity and revulsion against sinners, the prophet Hosea defines God’s holiness in terms of God’s unrelenting mercy towards sinners. The Lord says through the prophet, “My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my fierce anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath” (Hos 11:8-9). It is highly significant that the reason God gives for his compassion and refusal to come in wrath is precisely because he is “the Holy One” who is far different from mere mortals. Far from God’s holiness requiring that God punish people eternally, Hosea affirms that God’s holiness is actually what compels God to refrain from wrath and to have mercy. What makes God holy, or different from human beings, is that God has the capacity to transcend revenge and offer mercy.

Similarly, Jesus defined God’s holy perfection, not in terms of vengeful and retributive justice against sinners, but in terms of all-inclusive compassion and love. It is often overlooked that when Jesus tells his followers to be “perfect” as God is perfect, this statement comes right on the heels of Jesus’s command for his followers to love enemies because this is what God does.

— Heath Bradley, Flames of Love, p. 18

[Photo: Oregon Coast, November 10, 2015]

Saving the Lost

Wednesday, March 21st, 2018

But there is a further difficulty in the way of the popular creed. Who are those whom it represents as finally unsaved? — the finally impenitent, the most obstinate sinners. And what is that but to say, in so many words, that those precisely whose case furnished the strongest reason for the Saviour’s mission are unsaved? Admit their guilt, recognize as we do to the very utmost the need and the certainty of retribution; still, when all this has been said, it remains true that Christ came to save the “lost,” and if so, the more “lost” any are, the more Christ came to seek and to save them, and if he fails, the more marked his failure.

— Thomas Allin, Christ Triumphant, p. 39

[Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 21, 2018]

Calvinism, Arminianism, and Universalism

Monday, March 12th, 2018

I simply want to point out that there is no reason why Christian universalism should be treated any differently within the Christian community than Calvinism or Arminianism. At least on the surface, there are biblical passages that seem to support all three theological viewpoints about the fate of non-Christians. This is not to say that all interpretations are equal, but it is to say that universalism is in very much the same boat as the other two options: all three positions have some passages that seem to support them, and they all must find ways to interpret difficult passages that seem to support other views….

Christian universalism simply affirms with Calvinists that God can and will do whatever God desires to do, and with the Arminians that God desires to save all people. Put those premises together, and you get the conclusion that God will save all people.

— Heath Bradley, Flames of Love, p. 15