Archive for the ‘Universalism’ Category

All or Some?

Saturday, October 20th, 2018

Is God in earnest in telling us that he reconciles the world? Does he mean what he says, or does he only mean that he will try to reconcile it, but will be baffled? This question often rises unbidden, as we read these statements of the Bible, and compare them with the popular creed, which turns “all” into “some,” when salvation is promised to “all,” and turns the “world,” when that is said to be saved, into a larger or smaller fraction of men.

— Thomas Allin, Christ Triumphant, p. 260

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, October 15, 2015

Divine Possibility

Friday, October 12th, 2018

At the end of the day, I believe that God’s love for us will be more relentless than our rejection of him, and that is why I am a universalist. I do not at all underestimate how deeply rooted self-centered and sinful patterns of living can be, but at the same time I do not think we should underestimate the power of God’s just and holy love to pull the roots of sin out of our hearts.

If I am proven to be wrong about this, if some will forever hold out against God, then I think God will not be offended if I put too much confidence in the power of divine love. Even if one doesn’t go all the way in affirming that God will ultimately heal every human heart and transform every evil will through destroying all sin with the fire of his holy love, it seems to me that every Christian should at least have hope in the possibility of this happening. Jesus, after all, told us that, “with God, all things are possible” (Matt 19:26). We should take careful note of the fact that when Jesus said this he was explicitly referring to the power of God to save even those who seem impossible to save from a merely human perspective (Matt 19:23-26). When it comes to who can be saved, our hope is in divine possibility, not in human probabilities.

— Heath Bradley, Flames of Love, p. 101-102

Photo: Sunset from Waterside Inn, Chincoteague, October 22, 2016

All Means All

Saturday, October 6th, 2018

One thing only I ask, which common fairness and honesty require, that our Lord and his evangelists and apostles may be understood to mean what they say.

Thus, we shall look at a few instances out of many. When they speak of all men, I assume them to mean all men, and not some men. When they speak of all things, I assume them to mean all things. When they speak of life and salvation as given to the world, I assume them to mean given, and not merely offered. When they speak of the destruction of death, of the devil, and of the works of the devil, I assume them to mean that these shall be destroyed and not preserved for ever in hell. When they tell us that the whole of creation suffers, but that it shall be delivered, I assume that they mean an actual deliverance of all created things. When they tell us that redemption is wider, broader, and stronger than the fall, I assume that they mean to tell us at least this, that all the evil caused by the fall shall be swept away. When they describe Christ’s empire as extending over all things and all creatures, and tell us that every tongue must join in homage to him, I assume them to mean what these words convey in their ordinary sense. If I did not, should I not be making God a liar?

–Thomas Allin, Christ Triumphant, p. 241-242

Photo: From Ferry to the Isle of Mull, Scotland, July 12, 2003

Changed Hearts

Monday, September 24th, 2018

When we think about how God could bring it about that all would ultimately choose to repent and be reconciled to God, we are not limited to thinking that God will have to twist people’s arms behind their backs or beat them into submission. A foundational Christian belief is that God has the power to break into people’s hearts and lives and change them from the inside out and make them new people. God has the power to dispel our illusions and set us free from the bubbles of self-deception in which we often live. In the age to come, when we are immersed in the divine presence, surrounded by the unmediated and pure holiness and love of God, the light will shine on the ugliness of our sin and on the beauty of God’s love for us. God will not externally force anyone to do something they do not want to do. Rather, we can trust that God has the power to internally compel all people to see the truth about themselves and the truth about God in such a way that will leave them without any motivation to cling to their sin, and every motivation to throw themselves onto the mercy of God.

— Heath Bradley, Flames of Love, p. 99-100

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, October 25, 2013

Anger of Limited Duration

Sunday, September 9th, 2018

Let us pause here for a moment to dwell on the significance of this fact of the limited duration of the divine anger, so clearly taught in the Old Testament. Take a few instances, “I am merciful, says the Lord, I will not keep anger for ever” (Jer 3:12). “His anger endures but a moment” (Ps 30:5), “while his mercy endures for ever” (Ps 136) — a statement repeated no less than twenty-six times in this one psalm. “He will not always chide, neither keeps he his anger for ever” (Ps 103:9). “He retains not his anger for ever, because he delights in mercy” (Mic 7:18).

But if this be true, what becomes of the popular creed? If God’s anger is temporary, how can it be endless? If it endure but a moment, how can it last for ever in even a solitary instance? I would invite our opponents fairly to face these plain and reiterated assertions: and to explain why they feel justified in teaching that God’s anger will in many cases last for ever, and that his mercy will not endure for ever.

— Thomas Allin, Christ Triumphant, p. 238

Photo: Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness, Scotland, July 11, 2003

Punishing in Order to Save

Monday, September 3rd, 2018

God’s active involvement in drawing people to repentance is not to be thought of as an activity that is separate from God’s activity of punishing people for their involvement in wrongdoing, as is often assumed by many traditionalist Christians. God does not punish people instead of saving them from their sins, but, if the foregoing picture of divine punishment is true, God punishes people (by showing them the essential ugliness of their sins) so that God can save them.

— Heath Bradley, Flames of Love, p. 77

Photo: Carlyle Lake, Illinois, October 1992

Vast Mercy

Sunday, August 26th, 2018

Remember how full are the Prophets, and the Psalms no less, of pictures of the vastness of the divine mercy, of his tenderness that never fails. Even from amid the sadness of the Lamentations, we hear a voice assuring us that “the Lord will not cast off for ever, but though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies” (Lam 3:31).

Or take these words, “I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always angry, for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made” (Isa 57:16). This idea is a favourite one; the contrast between the short duration of God’s anger, and the enduring endless character of his love. “So in a little wrath I hid my face from you for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on you, says the Lord your Redeemer” (Isa 54:8).

— Thomas Allin, Christ Triumphant, p. 238

[Photo: Sky Meadows State Park, Virginia, July 3, 2017]

Drawing Sinners Close

Tuesday, August 14th, 2018

I confess that I am often baffled when defenders of the traditional view of an everlasting hell say things like, “God will not tolerate sinners.” I know this doesn’t sound very nice to say, but it really makes me wonder if they have ever paid close attention to Jesus’s life. If one thing is abundantly clear about Jesus’s life, it is that he not only tolerated sinners, he loved them, ate with them, and accepted them into fellowship with himself, to the chagrin of the top religious leaders of his day (Luke 15:1-2). If we believe that Jesus reveals God more than anything or anyone else, as Christians have always believed, then how can we ever come to the conclusion that God cannot tolerate sinners? The Pharisees were the ones who thought that God could not tolerate sinners, not Jesus and his followers.

God loves sinners and wants to be with sinners (people like you and me). What God cannot tolerate is sin, because sin harms and destroys the good purposes that God has for people. Because God loves sinners, God hates sin. God’s goal is not to damn sinners, but to destroy sin, and the way that God destroys sin is by drawing sinners close to his heart of holy love which burns like a refiner’s fire.

— Heath Bradley, Flames of Love, p. 51

Photo: Shenandoah National Park, September 16, 2007

God Isn’t Conflicted.

Monday, August 6th, 2018

God’s essential unity is destroyed when we assign to him conflicting actions, as though his love demanded one course of action, and his justice another, as though God the Saviour were one person, and God the Judge a wholly different one. Or, again, when we blindly teach that, if his judgments now mean salvation, they at the great day mean endless damnation. God, I repeat, in his “judgments,” in his “fires,” in “death,” in “election,” God in time and in eternity is one and the same God (Heb 13:8), and has, and must have to all eternity, but one unchanging purpose — is and must be for ever God our Saviour.

— Thomas Allin, Christ Triumphant, p. 231

[Photo: Schloss Dhaun, Germany, July 2002]

Jesus and Outsiders

Wednesday, July 18th, 2018

If we are going to take Jesus seriously, then we need to see how he talked about hell and we need to pay close attention. Although evangelists most often preach about hell to try to convert people to Christianity, we need to reflect on the significance of the fact that Jesus never tried to scare people into the kingdom of God by threatening them with hell. The only people to which Jesus talked about hell were his own followers and especially to the self-righteous religious leaders of his day. We often assume that heaven is for good people and that hell is for bad people. But according to Jesus’ message and ministry, it is the reverse: heaven is for bad people and hell is for “good” people. Heaven is for people who know they are in need of large doses of grace, while hell is for people who alienate themselves from God and others through the self-sufficiency and self-centeredness of their own pride (Luke 18:9-14). Jesus didn’t see those who were outside the bounds of proper religion as the ones in danger of hell. He saw the ones on the inside as being in the most spiritual danger, because when we are on the inside, it is easy to become complacent and presumptuous and turn our focus on making judgments about others. This is precisely what many of the Pharisees, the self-appointed spiritual and moral guardians of society, did in their day. They were so sure of their insider status with God that they turned their energies towards using threats of hell to those who didn’t measure up the way they did. In most contexts, then, Jesus’s teachings on hell took the Pharisees to task by turning their judgments back on themselves. The threat of hell was primarily used by Jesus, not to encourage speculation about others in the world to come, but to encourage examination of our own lives here and now concerning all the ways in which our pride, greed, lust, anger, judgmentalism, and apathy may be leading us down a wide road to self-destruction (Matt 7:13-14).

When it came to “outsiders,” Jesus tried to love them into the kingdom of God. Jesus did not try to convert sinners by threatening them or heaping guilt or shame on them, as did many of the Pharisees (Matt 23:4). He tried to transform them by eating with them, by scandalously welcoming them into an unconditional embrace of love. This shockingly inclusive compassion that Jesus showed to notorious and egregious sinners like tax collectors and prostitutes was what magnetically drew the crowds of ordinary people to him, and at the same time enraged the religious leaders to conspire against him.

I am convinced that we Christians have for too long preached about hell as the Pharisees did, not as Jesus did. We have made it only about “them,” not us. You see, when we make hell just about what happens to outsiders in the next life, we miss the fact that Jesus made his warning about hell primarily in relation to what insiders do in this life.

— Heath Bradley, The Flames of Love, p. 39-40

[Photo: Los Angeles Rose Garden, July 8, 2015]