Deliberations and Resources on Radical Christianity

Trinitarian Universalism and Christian Hope

trinityI am aware that the title of this article is very similar to another post I made on the matter of “afterlife,” which, while having been made well over a year ago, only appears as the second post down from this one due to my long blogging hiatus! In that particular post, I gave something of a review of Dr. Tom Wright’s Surprised by Hope, in which he expounds upon the resurrection from the dead as being the eventual transformation and restoration of everything in existence, as opposed to the more familiar view of there being some spiritual heavenly realm to which we ascend as disembodied beings upon death.

If you look back on that post you will see how Wright rejects, as do I, the latter view and instead sees the Kingdom of God as something which anunciates itself firmly into this world, in the here and now, and that such a view serves to energise Christians into mission in every level of public life, from serving the poor, to campaigning for justice, to being involved in medical service, to preserving the environment, etc. The reason being, that a heart understanding the Kingdom as being transformative of the present world rather than being separate from it, will lead us to engage with the struggles faced in the world and willingly join in God’s work to restore it.

I feel inclined to return to this subject for a few reasons, one being that, in the last couple of years, I have found myself thinking a great deal about the subject of resurrection and “salvation.” Also, last week, I had these thoughts somewhat rekindled through attending an informal discussion evening at the home of a couple of friends. They were hosting activist theologian Noel Moules, founder of the UK initative Workshop, which offers training in “applied Christian studies.” This curious evening gathering saw just over ten people huddled in a medium-sized living room for some light dinner as Noel, a gentle but obviously very mature and well-educated Christian, introduced the topic of Christian Universalism.

I have touched on this subject a few times here before, but I’m not sure I’ve ever explored it in great detail. For those who are unaware, Christian Universalism is the theological belief that, because of Jesus’ redemptive sacrifice upon the cross, all people will eventually be restored into eternity by the love of God. It is distinct from pluralism, which is the concept that all paths lead to God, and that the belief of each tradition is able to save regardless of how well it reflects objective truth. In its most orthodox sense, Christian (or Trinitarian) Universalism holds that all people find salvation only because of the active work of the Trinity in creation, and not because people’s individual beliefs, observances, or “inherent goodness” are enough to save them.

Without wanting to (or even being able) to get into all the details of Noel’s thoroughly interesting discourse, as well as the emerging discussion which followed, I was particularly intrigued at his point on the interpretation of God’s “judgement” in many areas of the Bible. He argues that the Hebrew word mishpat, translated to judgement, infers moreso an “ordering together of things” rather than the direct form of complete punishment it is often inferred to be. God’s mishpat in the Biblical narrative is then corrective and restorative, rather than being something which completely obliterates, and instead leads wrongdoers and their victims to be actively reconciled to one another. A process which, as he admitted, is often far from being easy and straightforward.

At the core of this argument is another central Biblical concept, that of shalom, translated very inadequately as “peace.” Shalom is far different from our modern understanding of peace as the mere absence (or even stalemate) of conflict, and is in fact moreso to do with wholeness, interconnectedness, and all things coming into harmony with one another. Shalom, even if the concept is more familiar than the word, is at the heart of why many Christians, myself included, have come to see nonviolence as a necessary and inextricable component of our commitment to the Gospel. It was intriguing, then, to hear that from this great Biblical vision of shalom could emerge the hope for all things (not just all people) to eventually be restored by the love of God in Christ.

And yes, not just all people either, but actually all things. Just as we explored in my aforementioned post, a holistic and accurate view of the eventual resurrection from the dead does not just involve people, but all dimensions of reality itself, both seen and unseen, immediate and outside perception; the redemption of creation is something of which we as human beings are a part, but not of which we are the centrepiece. This is abundantly clear in passages such as Colossians 1:15-20 and Romans 11:33-36, signifying that what awaits us at the end of time is not just the resurrection of a few faithful people, but the cataclysmic resurrection and restoration of all that possibly is.

To anchor this somewhat in a “real-life” context, I would often, within my time as an advice worker serving destitute refugees and asylum seekers, capture profound glimpses of God’s salvation at work in the present. What was (and still is) challenging to me was the almost overwhelming sense of God at work in and through the lives of those who weren’t necessarily Christians, and even those who didn’t have any expressible faith. Through seeing both the smiles and tears, the laughter and despair of those who are suffering, even I as a Christian seemed to learn more about the person of Jesus than I could ever hope to convey myself. As a follower of Christ in the midst of many different people from multiple cultures, backgrounds, and religious traditions, my own experience of faith there was not of a God who condemns, but of a God who willingly suffers alongside people in their despair, and resurrects them even as He Himself is resurrected. In such a context, for me to be obedient in “preaching the Gospel” seemed to involve no more than serving a person’s immediate needs and recognising the Image of God within them. My role at the drop-in centre last year gave me much more of a sense of God at work within all people than I could ever hope to gain from a textbook or even from the pulpit.

However, through all of this, it would be neglectful to omit any mention of Hell, or the “difficult” verses that would seem to fly completely in the face of Christian Universalism. I explored the topic of Hell somewhat at length elsewhere in The Progressive Prophet, most notably in my post from a few years back, Salvation and Damnation, in which I wrestled with the Biblical concepts of Hell and judgement from an “Annihilationist” point of view. My thinking has, naturally, developed since then, but one thing which has not changed is my belief that Hell as outlined in the New Testament is far different from the images of eternal pain and torment we have carried over from the legacy of Medieval times. Wanting neither to “cop-out” of this important component of any Christian discourse on eternal fate nor to become too detailed on aspects which have already received near-exhaustive deliberation elsewhere, I shall say that Jesus’ warnings of Hell in the Gospels had far more to do with judgement in this life than they had to do with judgement in the next (similar to the Kingdom of God). While this might be an overtly simplistic take on the matter, when Jesus alluded to Gehenna, the garbage dump outside Jeruslalem (such as in Matthew 5:22 or Mark 9:42-49), or to the fate of certain people “perishing” (such as in Luke 13:1-5), He is referring moreso to the very serious danger we invite upon ourselves if we insist upon trying to force the Kingdom of God through our own terms. Many of Jesus’ audience were violent revolutionaries who were, understandably, desperate to see Roman rule abolished by any means necessary in order for the emancipation of Hebrew people to be realised. Jesus Himself, however, understood much better than we do the futility of using violence as a redemptive tool, and knew full well that the Kingdom would not be ushered in by such sinful means. The call to “repent” (Greek: metanoia), then, was a calling to be changed in thinking, to undergo a revolution of the mind. It is a calling which means much more than sorrow shown for personal sins, and encourages us to move beyond the awareness of our broken selves to become a part of God’s transformation also for our broken world.

Of course, what these verses do highlight is that, in some way, judgement will be a far from smooth and easy process. Even if all people and all things are eventually restored, the warnings of those who face “wailing and gnashing of teeth” must be acknowledged and recognised. By no means should Christians downplay the reality and severity of God’s judgement, or the call to repentance as complete transformation. What is important to understand, however, is that this is not the full story or even the end result. We have every reason to fear God’s judgement, but it is nonetheless a loving judgement which seeks to burn away sins through fire while leaving the sinner intact. If judgement really is mishpat, then we should be welcoming it, as the necessarily if extremely painful re-ordering of things into harmony with one another.

One very interesting theme which came out of our discussion with Noel was that, in the Jewish tradition, our Christian concept of “confession” is thought to be very strange, since we tend to see all sins as having been ultimately committed against God (which they are), whereas people of the Jewish faith see confession and repentance as being done in relationship with both the offender and the victim. What a huge thing it is, then, to hope that one day all offenders and all victims will be brought together to face one another and be reconciled, however hard that will prove to be. This, I would say, gives context to our thirst to see justice for the oppressed, as well as due justice for their oppressors. One could easily argue that, in a Christian Universalist framework, those who have committed atrocious crimes, both against humanity and against God, “get off scot-free.” In actuality, I firmly believe that all oppressors as well as those who have willfully rejected God in some way will eventually have to answer for their sins, not just to the Lord Himself, but also to all of those whom they have wronged. This is justice in its real, Biblical sense, and a justice I would argue will necessarily involve exclusion before it ends in embrace. In fact, I daresay there are some people in this world who have turned so far away from the Image of God within themselves that whatever of them is restored in the last day will be almost unrecognisable. In that respect, “eternal destruction” seems to be every bit as real as “eternal life.” Just as I hope and pray for those people who are suffering, such as those I mentioned earlier, to have their oppression vindicated in some way, so do I hope that all of the people, systems, and structures responsible for their suffering will be brought to justice for their actions. It will, however, be a far different justice to the kind we know in law courts: firmer, perfect, more binding, and, above all, loving.

Additionally, we should never forget that, after all the terrifying warnings and visions of judgement Jesus put forth in the ministry of His life, His final pronouncement over all oppression, evil, and sin, were the words He spoke upon the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Nonetheless, we inevitably arrive back at the question of what use or difference this is to those of us who are already committed Christians in the here and now, and how it affects our mission in the world. Well, as with the understanding of the Kingdom as something which impacts and transforms the world in its present state, so too an understanding of Universalism should call upon us to effect and realise God’s justice and reconciliation, and to view ourselves not only as agents but also as witnesses of His action. We find ourselves in a cosmic tension, residing in the present and caught between the cross of Christ in the past and the eventual restoration of all things in the future; and it is to that future that we are all – human, animal, mineral, vegetable, atom and molcule, space and dimension – inescapably connected. With the vision of God’s shalom in our midst, as well as the hope of complete cosmic transformation, let us be put to work to contribute to that great vision by our hands and feet, as vessels of the Holy Spirit, and as humble people who work hidden in the background to reconcile our faith in the past and our hope in the future, into the reality of the present time.


8 responses

  1. Steve

    Nice post. Glad your back bloging. Think the prob i have with universalistic theology is that its still theology, ๐Ÿ™‚ and still tries to take a systematic approach. Think i’m happy to say that my experience of god in this life is that god is love and i therefore hope/expect that whatever lies beyond death for us all reflects that experience. Think i’m agreeing in the main with you that all our talk of redempion, the kingdom etc is for the here and now. The kingdom isn’t pie in the sky its within.

    December 13, 2009 at 7:07 pm

  2. Steve

    Oh and in keeping with my attitude to theology can i just say i met noel once.
    Seemed nice chap but think all we discussed was the lengh of the queue we were in, possibily we went on to discus the menu at nuts cafe where we were queueing. Certainly we never mentioned universalist theology. ๐Ÿ™‚

    December 13, 2009 at 7:19 pm

  3. Thanks for commenting, Steve. Yes, I sympathise greatly with your attitude toward systematic theology, and in fact, that was probably part of the reason I went into hiatus in the first place. I was so sick of always “thinking,” and wanted to get onto “doing” instead. I’m with you all the way in that theology ought to be grounded in our experience of God, not on textbooks (solely anyway). That’s why I felt it necessary to talk a bit about my own experiences at the drop-in for asylum seekers and refugees, I would say my sense there must be the same as the sense you have, that God is love and that anything outside this time and place must reflect that. You probably engage with that understanding in your particular vocation a lot more than I do ๐Ÿ˜‰

    And yes, Noel’s a nice chap… given that you were both queuing up for vegan cuisine, I imagine any universalist theology probably came up moreso practically than it did verbally!

    December 13, 2009 at 7:35 pm

  4. Steve

    Think you done your fair share of ‘doing’ this last couple of years. No harm in a bit of ‘thinking’ . I’d imagine bloging helps pull thoughts together. I might give it a try. Though busy watching x factor at the mo ( whilst at work) ๐Ÿ™‚

    December 13, 2009 at 7:58 pm

  5. Thanks for the inspiring and thoughtful post. I have been interested in and leaning toward believing in Christian Universalism for quite some time now (after all, if it was good enough for a large portion of Early Christians, the Desert Fathers and many other Jesus followers contemporaneous with Christianity’s arguably most fruitful period, then it should probably be good enough for me).

    I particularly like your discourse on the true idea of a final justice. One particularly disturbing recollection that I have of my time being part of the church that Laura and I left nearly a year ago is when I was discussing with Tim, the elder who counseled and married my wife and I, about ideas of nonviolence, being against the use of guns, etc. Tim argued to me that, despite “vengeance being the Lord’s” as outlined in Romans, justice is in our hands as humans. And apparently, justice in his context is synonymous with violent retribution, because capping a guy between the eyes if he’s threatening your family or trying to mug you โ€” at least according to the framework of beliefs which Tim, and many others, espouse โ€” is a totally justifiable, and in fact necessary, act of justice. This is apparently some sort of separate standard for living, because it is completely incongruous with the teachings of Jesus. Yet it seems that the people who argue this have a sort of belief which implies that Jesus’ redeeming qualities and faith in him are in fact the center of Christian faith and life, but there are numerous other ethical codes which advise the actions of a “Christian” in life. This doesn’t make sense to me; or at least, it stopped making sense to me after a while, which is why I had to break ties with a community that taught and encouraged that sort of thinking.

    In the end, the idea of Christian Universalism, both its aspects of no eternal damnation, but rather the reconciliation of all people to God, and of reconciling all of creation, not just humans, to God in the here-and-now and not in some fictional future eschatological bloodbath, seems to flow uninhibitedly from the actual teachings and actions of Jesus. I believe that modern Christian conceptions of eternal damnation and judgment, of salvation only of a select few, and of the overt privileging of humans as the only part of creation that is worth anything, are merely sad but clear reflections of cultural xenophobia and an all-too-human superiority complex, mixed with a hefty dose of pride and self-gratification. Of course, the people that I know who tend to express those beliefs would deny all of this fully, but to me it seems all too clear that the judgmental Christianity which seems to at times revel in the idea of being part of an รฉlite group (and I don’t mean just believers of Calvinist predestination) that experiences the delights of salvation while others are left to burn for eternity, sometimes for nothing more than their blissful ignorance, is just a catalyst by which the most mean and un-Christlike characteristics of othering and blind self-centeredness are expressed without guilt.

    December 14, 2009 at 2:00 am

  6. Thank you for your thoughtful and encouraging commentary, friend. It’s interesting how, as you note, some people’s eschatology seems to reflect their views of judgement and vengeance in the here and now. I’m very saddened by the views your former pastor holds on the necessity of violence, and I don’t blame you at all for feeling that you had to dissociate from churches and Christians holding such views. It nonetheless remains a valid point, of course, that how people view justice in the here and now tends to shape their view of God’s justice, and vice versa. Those who revel in the idea of a vengeful God consigning people to eternal suffering also seem to feel there are such things as justifiable crusades.

    As you have said, Christian Universalism seems to flow quite naturally from Jesus’ teachings of forgiveness, love, compassion, mercy, and hope. Not just by His teachings, but also by His example. After all, it was He Himself who declared that “with God all things are possible.” If we are to be imitators of God, and God calls us to perfect love through nonviolence, then it seems somewhat strange that God Himself should exercise violence through judgement. It seems far more reasonable that, rather, violence comes from the sin already rooted in peoples’ unrepentant hearts with which they will inevitably be faced and have to come to terms with. When the Bible speaks of “fire,” it seems to have much moreso to do with burning away sins than completely destroying sinners.

    December 15, 2009 at 10:43 pm

  7. Body Politics

    As always, a thoughtful and well-written post on something obviously very important to your own formation and theology. It is a subject that has been on my mind off and on for over a year now, and I’m afraid that if I were to come clean on my views, they would be markedly different from your conclusions. I say all that as a precursor, so that I can say this: I want to believe in a specifically Christian universalism, but I also want to believe in the Bible. That sounds overtly triumphalistic, or as if I’ve framed the argument in such a way that anyone who believes in universalism is unbiblical and therefore wrong. That’s not my agenda or project here (and I think our friendship can serve as a character reference for this); but what I am keenly interested in is how to wrestle with the passages in Scripture that seem to point towards a coming judgment, a separation, and a faith-exclusive eschaton.

    I gotta know, man: what do you “do” with Revelation – the book which, in its concluding chapters, discusses a separation of those within the new Jerusalem and those without it. What do you do with Jesus’ own pronouncements of a coming judgment? What about the entire biblical corpus that, at certain times and places, espouses a God who is at once wholly loving and entirely volatile? How is it even helpful to try to eek out a theology of universalism in light of the multitude of divergent Scriptural voices? I’m asking this plainly and not pointedly – because I would very much like to believe the answer.

    To be perfectly honest, Adam, I see people at school trying to universalize God in such ways and the fruit (which is, of course, markedly different from yours) is not good. I’m suspicious of appeals to church history, like the one David made, because it’s too easy and, if church history has taught us anything, it’s that the church has never been one for Scriptural fidelity. “If it was good enough for the early church, it’s good enough for me” just isn’t a valid argument, because Jew/Gentile tension was good enough for the early church, male and female inequality was good enough for the early church, and a slutty sort of bedfellow relationship between church and state was good enough for the (admittedly not-so) early church. You see where I’m going here.

    So, as a friend and a brother and a respectful divergent voice, please help me see what you’re seeing. Because I want to.

    December 16, 2009 at 4:19 am

  8. Danny, thank you for your kind, well-thought out, and highly respectful comment. You need to know that, the way you present things, to say that you “want to believe in a Christian universalism but also believe in the Bible” doesn’t sound in the least bit arrogant or triumphalistic. It demonstrates that you have a heart for truth above all kinds of hopeful thinking and wishfulness. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that (everything right with it, in fact), and I would like to think I am coming at this with the same kind of attitude.

    Actually, we are in far more agreement than it may appear. Like yourself, I don’t believe that early church doctrine should be taken as just cause for emulation in and of itself just because they were closer to Christ in spatio-temporal terms. Of course, I feel that the church fathers (and mothers) said a plethora of absolutely amazing things in regard to war, violence, and state participation, but only because those sayings and writings are in agreement with the ministry of Jesus and the Apostles. Everything must be tested against scripture, specifically against the person of Christ Jesus, and as you have rightfully pointed out, there were sadly still many respects in which the early church didn’t match up to the expression of His ministry. We must therefore always use Christ as the standard, and any other writings, even those of the great church mothers and fathers themselves, as secondary (Note: I am hesitant to say “scripture is the standard,” because, while I do believe this, the mindset has been used to justify some truly abhorrent and useless things in the name of God; what I say is that scripture IS the standard when viewed appropriately through the lens of Christ).

    I am also in agreement that a Universalist theology can, and very often does, lead to some useless thinking. It’s very easy to fall into the fatalistic attitude of supposing that everything shall be made well, and therefore there is no need for action in the here and now. What I was trying to stress is that, if Universalism is is truth, then it should be a huge motivation to take action, since our calling is to be the agents and witnesses of final restoration! Universalism is not, nor should it ever be, grounds to dismiss a fully evangelical faith.

    Anyway, that was a huge preamble, I do apologise. I will now see if I can wrestle with your entirely valuable points. In regard to Revelation, the most important starting point is to remember that, while it is a book of prophecy in the truth sense of the word, it is not a book of foretold events. As apocalyptic literature, the author, John of Patmos, was concerned with conveying the great socio-political struggles of the day in deeply spiritual and allegorical terms. I can’t do a tremendous amount of justice, obviously, to the whole book and its historical context in as brief a write up as this, but to cut it very briefly, one of the main purposes of Revelation was to provide eschatological hope to the covenant community who were suffering under the persecution of the Roman Empire. Thus “the beast” is actually Caesar/Nero, and its infamous number 666 (or 616) was his insignia. “Babylon” is the symbol for the great empire which, with its military and oppressive slave-driven economics, goes forth to conquer the world, and thus becomes the figurehead symbol for every other empire to come. Again, this is a very simplistic analysis and I hope to properly study this behemoth of a subject in detail one day, but for now it suffices to say that Revelation frames the conflict between the Church and the Empire as the earthly manifestation of the great cosmic conflict between God and Satan. Everything spiritual is seen in earthly terms, and vice versa.

    Being a book of eschatological metaphor, Revelation is not meant to be read as a literal representation or even an accurate allegorisation of what will eventually come to be; rather, it was to provide hope and comfort to the church of that time that their oppression, their martyrdom, and their suffering would eventually see perfect justice. HAVING SAID THAT: I do not and will not say that the judgement verses in the final chapters are not reflective of truth. While the book is heavily symbolic, the judgement verses are nonetheless reflective of the community’s spiritual views regarding the world’s final destination, so let’s see if we can struggle with them:

    Revelation 20:12-15
    And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

    Admittedly, it looks bleak. However, reading on, I am captivated by the following passages:

    Revelation 21:2-4
    And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

    It seems interesting that, almost immediately after we are told that the devil and all those whose names are not found in the book of life have their eternal fate in the lake of fire, the anunciation is made that mourning, crying, pain, and death are to be no more. Now, I realise that one could argue this only applies to those who find themselves reconciled to God in the last day, but again:

    Revelation 21:5
    And he who was seated on the throne said, “behold, I am making all things new.”

    It seems that the restoration of all things is emphasised as much as the destruction of evildoers.

    Revelation 21:22-27
    And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day โ€” and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lambโ€™s book of life.

    It seems interesting that, while again the text adamantly declares that “nothing unclean will ever enter [the city],” simultaneously “its gates will never be shut by day.” Intriguingly, although this is the city with which we end and the people of God dwell, its light is still meant to be an example to the nations. Also:

    Revelation 22:1-2
    Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

    Even after the (seemingly) final fate of the damned, there is still hope. The river of life flows outward from the city, carrying the leaves of the tree of life, and their purpose is for the healing of the nations. Universalism is not explicit or even implicit in the Revelation text, but what does certainly seem implicit is that there is hope for those outside the City even after judgement.

    As to your other question, what do I do with Jesus’ warnings of coming judgement… I believe them with veracity. I don’t think they should be taken lightly by any means, but by themselves I also don’t think they should be the centrepiece either of our preaching or of our beliefs. As I was trying (perhaps inadequately) to expound upon in my article, judgement is a very real warning which I believe indicates the painful and continually unfolding process of people having to come to terms with their own evil, their sin, the ways in which they have wronged and oppressed others. That is why we must “repent and believe,” because the Kingdom of God is an invitation to live into God’s transformative love in the here and now, and that if you live outside of that love, you are in danger of destruction.

    I really hate using Hitler as the one archetypical example of evil, but sometimes it’s admittedly easier. If someone like Hitler, a murderous, sadistic, individual with almost no discernible good in them ever hopes to be united with God, then it will obviously not be as even remotely the same person he was in the flesh. Nothing unclean can come into the presence of God, and I believe that if Hitler ever has hope of being restored in the final day, what we see of him will be so vastly, radically different that it may as well not be Hitler at all. Someone that capable of having turned away so far from the Image of God within themselves, and effectively almost ceasing to be human, will have their being consigned to eternal destruction. For some people, I imagine that God will destroy much of them in weeping and gnashing of teeth before His Image within them is salvaged.

    I’m aware, that as I write all of that, it sounds an awful lot like mental gymnastics, doesn’t it? I don’t mean it to be. My fallible and frail experience of God is that He is in solidarity with us, and is at work in all of us, even within those who are the most despicable monsters to ever walk the earth. I don’t believe that, if the Gospel is true, that there exists or has ever existed anyone or anything completely without hope. I believe that God bears in space and time with each one of us, in the hopes of reconciling us to Himself.

    As with many things in the Bible, it is a mystery, but one I feel has a strong basis. With equal weighting as the judgement passages in the Gospels and the Epistles, there are a whole host of passages which speak of this great mysterious hope:

    John 12:32
    And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.

    1 Corinthians 15:21-22
    For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

    1 Corinthians 15:28
    When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

    Acts 3:21
    He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore all things, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.

    1 Timothy 2:4
    God desires all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.

    1 Timothy 4:10
    We have a hope set on the living God, who is the saviour of all people, and especially those who believe.

    1 John 2:2
    He is the expiation of our sins, and not ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

    2 Peter 3:9
    The Lord is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance…

    And these are just a few, selected to illustrate that there is a fine tension in the Biblical narrative; a tension between the harsh reality of judgement for those who ignore God’s love, and the reality that God will one day restore all things and make them completely new. I didn’t come to the conclusion of Universalism lightly, and indeed I still think it should be wrestled with and discussed. However, as I said earlier in my reply to David, I tend to feel that as Christians, the way we are called to act reflects in some finite way the character of God. And if indeed, we are called to love all people to the bitter end, I can only imagine what the imaginably vaster reflection of that in the Godhead must look like.

    Those are my thoughts… it would be great to hear yours, and thank you so much for allowing this to be an ongoing conversation.

    December 16, 2009 at 12:59 pm

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