Archive for the ‘Universalism’ Category

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

Freewill Defense of the Doctrine of Hell

Monday, February 26th, 2018

Why all this stress laid on man’s will to ruin himself, rather than on God’s will to save? Is man the pivot on which all hinges? To me it seems bad philosophy, and worse theology, not to recognize God as center, and his will and purpose as supreme.

— Thomas Allin, Christ Triumphant, p. 28

No Limit

Friday, February 9th, 2018

I find it quite interesting that many of those who are most vocal about endless punishment have no difficulty believing that God can forgive the worst sins right up to the point of someone’s physical death. They simply don’t believe that God’s love and forgiveness continue into the ages to come. Instead, they believe God places a limit on His grace. But God’s grace is far greater than mankind’s sin. In fact, the Apostle Paul tells us, ” . . . where sin increased, grace increased all the more.”

— George W. Sarris, Heaven’s Doors, p. 152-153

A Historical Belief

Tuesday, February 6th, 2018

It is a historical fact that there have been orthodox Christian leaders and thinkers from the beginning of the church who have embraced, if not an outright belief in universal salvation through Christ, at least a strong hope in this grand and beautiful story that God is writing.

— Heath Bradley, Flames of Love, p. 12

It’s Not There

Thursday, January 25th, 2018

The religious conservatives in Jesus’ day clearly believed in endless punishment. However, the words and phrases that both Josephus and Philo used to describe what the Pharisees and other groups at the time believed with regard to the fate of the wicked, are never found in the New Testament in connection with punishment.

Neither Jesus nor any of the other New Testament writers used the Greek terms translated as everlasting prison, eternal punishment, never-ceasing punishments, immortal punishment after death, and undying and never ending death.

Later, we’ll look specifically at what Jesus actually said about after-death punishment to show that the adjective He used really meant limited duration. And the noun denoted suffering resulting in correction.

— George W. Sarris, Heaven’s Doors: Wider Than You Ever Believed!, p. 33-34