Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Universalism

I used to advocate universalism (the belief that eventually all souls will eventually find immunity in the love of God). I even had a formal debate on the subject with Douglas Wilson. Before I became convinced that such a position is Biblically untenable, I began to become concerned about the following practical consequences that were emerging in the lives and communities of my universalist friends (myself included). I noticed that we

(A) began to de-emphasise the seriousness of the choices we make in this life. In some cases this leads to passivity and moral lethargy.

(B) begin to be so anxious to find proof texts to support universal salvation that we abandoned careful, historically-informed, exegesis.

(C) routinely took scriptures which apply to the age to come on the earth and apply them instead to heaven and hell. A case in point is the many verses promising that all the world will be saved. Universalists frequently take such verses to mean that everyone in hell will also be saved, even though most of these verses are only talking about this world.

(D) begin to elevate our own autonomous understanding of what is good and loving to be on a par with the authority of scripture. In some cases, this even leads to the idea that we can have objective standards of good and evil independent of God.

(E) adopt an us-and-them attitude towards those who do not believe in eternal punishment. In some cases, this has led universalists to say that you cannot truly appreciate the gospel unless you are a universalist.

(F) have a tendency to use universalism as a metanarrative structuring all Biblical themes, and distorting those themes in the process. Being locked into a single issue, we failed to appreciate more relevant Biblical themes.

(G) failed to appreciate the importance of evangelism. In some cases I even heard people explicitly defend this on the grounds that God is going to save all men anyway.

(H) failed to understand the Biblical doctrine of grace, assuming (sometimes unconsciously) that grace is something God owes all human beings. This leads to a failure to understand sin and the human condition which, in turn, has enormous practical and theological implications.

(I) treated the love of God as a static reality that is independent of God's interaction with sinners in this life.



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