Archive for the ‘Universalism’ Category

The Way

Monday, December 3rd, 2018

Jesus once told a story about three people who encountered a beaten and battered man on the side of the road (Luke 10:29-37). The first two had all the right religious beliefs, and indeed were official representatives of their biblical religion. The third man was a heretic, from the perspective of the first two men. The first two men passed by without helping. The third man went out of his way to help the stranger, and this is the man Jesus held up as the model for what God asks of us. It’s a haunting and powerful story that challenges the way in which we want to make being right with God about something as easy as believing the right creed or engaging in the right religious ritual, rather than accepting the challenge of letting divine compassion fill our hearts until they overflow with action. Jesus defined real heresy as hard-hearted living, not simply wrong-minded thinking.

Inclusivism strikes me as the theological option that is most open to making room for this central insight of Jesus. On this view, what matters most is actually walking the Way of Jesus; the Way of unlimited forgiveness, unbounded compassion, restorative justice, and nonjudgmental truth-telling. People from a variety of religious perspectives, or no particular religious perspective at all, can walk on this Way of life that Jesus incarnated. We can be assured that when we walk this Way, it will lead us directly into the heart of God (whether that is our goal or not). Perhaps, with this in mind, John 14:6 isn’t a harsh threat at all. What if Jesus meant it as an assuring promise? When we follow “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” that he fully embodied, we can be assured that we are walking the path to God.

— Heath Bradley, Flames of Love, p. 130

Photo: Schloss Dhaun, Germany, July 2002

Restoration Mightier Than the Fall

Sunday, November 25th, 2018

I plead for the acceptance of the larger hope, as taught by so many in primitive days (a fact fully proved); a hope, that it has ever been the purpose of “our Father” to save all his human children. To believe or to hope for less than this would be, not alone to contradict Scripture, as I have tried to show, but to mistake its whole scope and purpose. For the Bible is the story of a restoration, wide; deep; mightier than the fall, and therefore bringing to every child of Adam salvation. It is not, as the popular creed teaches, the self-contradictory story of one almighty to save, and yet not, in fact, saving those for whom he died. It is the story of infinite love seeking “till it find”; a love that never fails, never, though heaven and earth pass away: a love that is, from its very nature, inextinguishable — being the love of a divine Father. It is the story of the unchanging purpose of the unchanging Lord God Omnipotent.

— Thomas Allin, Christ Triumphant, p. 334

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, September 21, 2014

Called to Be a Blessing

Thursday, November 15th, 2018

From the beginning of the biblical story of redemption, God reveals himself to be a God who is not concerned with only a small set of people in the world, but rather with all the people of the world. In fact, God’s particular election of the people of Abraham is for the universal purpose of drawing all people into the blessing of God (Gen 12:1-3). The Christian tradition has mostly missed this point in a huge way, and has instead talked about “election” as pertaining to the salvation of some instead of others. But in the biblical story, election is about a calling for the sake of others. Election is not a matter of God favoring some people over others. Election is a matter of God choosing some people to be instruments of blessings to the rest of the people. It is never about God choosing some individuals for redemptive privilege, but rather it is about God choosing a group of people for missional service. Throughout Israel’s history as it is told in the Old Testament, this point is consistently overlooked, as God’s people had a tendency to think of themselves as special or immune from judgment because of their “chosen” status. The prophets were a group of people that had to continually remind the people of Israel that they were called to be instruments of divine blessing, not recipients only, and that “their” God is really the God of all people.

— Heath Bradley, Flames of Love, p. 123-124

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, January 24, 2016

Inexorable Love

Thursday, November 8th, 2018

A few words of earnest caution must be added here. I trust it has been made plain in these pages that in teaching universal salvation I have not for a moment made light of sin, or advocated the salvation of sinners while they continue such. I earnestly assert the certain punishment of sin (awful it may well be, in its duration and its nature for the hardened offender), but in all cases directed by love and justice to the final extirpation of evil. Nay, I have opposed the popular creed on this very ground, that it in fact teaches men to make light of sin, and that in two ways: first, because it sets forth a scheme of retribution so unjust as to make men secretly believe its penalties will never be inflicted; and second, because it in fact asserts that God either will not, or cannot, overcome and destroy evil and sin, but will bear with them for ever and ever.

I repeat that not one word has been written in these pages tending to represent God as a merely good-natured Being, who regards as a light matter the violation of his holy law. Such shallow theology, God forbid that I should teach. Infinite love is one thing; Infinite Good-nature a totally unlike thing. Love is never feeble, it is (while most tender) most inexorable. In the light of Calvary it is that we are bound to see the guilt of sin. But let us beware, lest, as we stand in thought by the cross, we virtually dishonour the atonement by limiting its power to save — by teaching men that Christ is after all vanquished; lest, while in words professing to honour Christ, we, in fact, make him a liar, for he has never said, “if I be lifted up, I will draw some men,” or even “most men,” but “I will draw all men to me.”

— Thomas Allin, Christ Triumphant, p. 268

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, November 7, 2018

Until He Finds Them

Tuesday, October 30th, 2018

We have already examined, in the previous chapter, the possibility of postmortem conversion, which is usually featured, at least as a hope, in most versions of inclusivism. Although there are a handful of passages that can be interpreted as pointing in the direction of this possibility, the strongest argument in favor of this proposal rests on the character of God’s steadfast love who looks for lost sinners until he finds them (Luke 15). There is simply no compelling reason to assume that God’s posture towards someone changes at their death. There are also no explicit scriptural declarations that a person’s fate is definitively sealed at death. Often those who deny the possibility of postmortem conversion point to passages that affirm that human beings face judgment when they die (Heb 9:6; 1 Cor 5:10), but these passages do not spell out what judgment consists of and what is made possible by the judgment. These passages do not say that judgment leads to an eternally-dualistic outcome, but this assumption is often read into these texts. Supporters of the possibility of postmortem conversion will certainly agree with these scriptural affirmations that all people face divine judgment when they die, but they will also affirm that God’s judgment is designed to illicit repentance and foster reconciliation. Appeals to postmortem judgment, again, do not suffice to close the door on the possibility of postmortem salvation.

— Heath Bradley, Flames of Love, p. 123

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, October 30, 2018

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