Words of a Fether

I am the way, the truth, and the life;
no one comes to the Father except through me. ~Jesus

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Universal Deja Vu

I had every intention of trying to focus only on the positive aspects of the Christian faith and try to start a new building instead of repairing the old. But to just ignore the false teachings racing through the Christian community would mean that there’d be no one left to occupy that new building. I care too much for my brothers and sisters in Christ to allow that to happen. And this very concept will turn out to be ironically significant in the quotes below.

The topic again is Universalism, one that seems to be making a resurgance (ref. earlier article). Here are statements from the latest article in a series called Blogging Heaven and Hell. I have quoted Sue many times and have much respect for her as a Greek scholar and Christian egalitarian. What she has suffered from professing Christians is horrible and the perpetrators will get what’s coming to them. But this too will turn out to highlight great irony in the teaching she is now promoting as at least equally possible as its opposite view. She is quoting a book by a Robin Parry, so please read her article first.

if we understand that hell does not last for ever.
Parry has forced his desired conclusion into the argument he makes for proving it. This is poor, poor reasoning.

Judgement is corrective and restorative, rather than eternal and destructive
Once again, Parry asserts his desired conclusion as its own definition. He’s only making up what he wants the Bible to say.

hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.
In THIS LIFE we have correction and hope people change their minds. But no such hope is presented in scripture for the NEXT LIFE.

If we saw someone doing something that would lead to their death, we would forcibly prevent them from doing this action.
So we can force our will onto another adult? We can plead, we can reason, we can cry, but in the end the decision is the individual’s, not ours, as if we are God.

We would not stand by and watch our own children commit suicide and simply say that they had chosen it.
Are we talking about all adults or only our own children? Not all adults are God’s children (John 1:12), as I mentioned in a comment on my earlier post Unintended Consequences. Becoming a child of God is contingent NOT upon the reconcilation Jesus made possible but on our acceptance of that reconciliation offer through faith in Jesus alone... in THIS LIFE. So Parry has substituted any given adult for our own dear children as if the two are the same, much the way Islam attempts to assign moral equivalence between dying for one’s faith and killing for one’s faith.

The last point for Parry is that universal salvation best fits the metanarrative of the Bible. He sees the Bible as being composed of three central narratives. The first is the fall of humanity from immortality, the second is the exile of Israel, third is the death of Christ. Christ rises from the dead, Israel is restored o the land and humanity is saved from eternal death.
Parry has ignored large chunks of scripture to form his metanarrative. Humanity’s fall, if Universalism is true, should never have resulted in millennia of suffering, especially when Uni continally cites the suffering of the innocent as justification for calling this life, not the next, the hell scripture talks about. Wasn’t it only Adam and Eve who needed correction? Why did God wait so long to send Jesus, or better yet, why did God stand by and watch His children commit suicide and make Jesus’ sacrifice necessary in the first place? If God will not allow eternal suffering, then why would He allow temporary suffering?

I would add to this that a strong argument for universal salvation is that in the Hebrew Bible there is no direct teaching of eternal conscious torment.
Suzanne is arguing from silence, and as I’ve mentioned before, ignoring God’s timing: Acts 17:30 says that God previously ignored ignorance but now, since Jesus has come, commands that everyone repent (change their mind). There is no excuse for rejection of the gospel of the risen Jesus, and no remedy for those who leave this life in that state of rejection. God can be trusted to account for ability and opportunity, and would never blame someone for that which they cannot control or grasp (all claims of Calvinism to the contrary notwithstanding). He will judge fairly. But that includes the central issue of our faith: the risen Lord Jesus. We cannot call ourselves Christians without it.

So my question is whether Christ came to bring salvation to the few and eternal conscious torment to the many, or if he came in order that all may be saved.
As I’ve said many times, Christ did NOT come to bring salvation only to a few; He came to save ALL (again, claims of Calvinism to the contrary notwithstanding); He came to draw all to Himself (John 12:32). But not to FORCE all, or to change our wills first and then call our repentance free, or any other such thing. Salvation is by faith because of what Jesus did. In my Reconciled book I explain why He had to die and why we must believe He rose again and give only Him our allegience to be saved. How can Christians, of all people, not understand this? What is the point of being a Christian at all when there is more justice to be found in the concept of karma than in Universalism? Why not be an atheist and just enjoy life... or a monster and torture and kill because Jesus will save us anyway?

I regret to see evangelicals presented with the notion that only one side of this debate is valid and tenable.
Here again we have the equivalence argument, that somehow salvation by faith is the same as salvation by force. But Universalism is every bit as intolerant of opposing views as any other belief. It vehemently denies the teaching of eternal suffering for those who leave this life having rejected Jesus as Savior. It openly declares the opposing view invalid and untenable. We have seen a parallel in this approach with the famous Scopes Monkey Trial, where the argument in favor of teaching evolution in public schools was that all views should be considered; once that was allowed, evolutionism quickly disallowed all other views and vigorously denounces them to this day.

You may see that as a thinly-veiled slippery slope argument, but the point is that Uni and non-Uni are not two equal possibilities but diametrically opposed to each other. Either people do have to accept Jesus as Savior or they do not; either Christians are to tell the world to trust Jesus in order to be reconciled (2 Cor. 5:18-20) or they are not. (This is not even in the same league as the Calvin/Arminius debate, since that is a purely academic issue over how salvation happens to an individual; both sides agree on what the gospel is and that it must be told to everyone.) This Uni debate is over the very definition of our faith and our actions as believers. Quite simply, if one has adopted the beliefs of Uni, one no longer needs faith, the Bible, or even to care about justice or mercy, since whether we like it or not in this life, we will be spending eternity with God. But consider the very last chapter of the Bible, Rev. 22:11-16--

Let those who do wrong continue to do wrong; let those who are vile continue to be vile; let those who do right continue to do right; and let those who are holy continue to be holy... Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. I, Jesus, have sent my messenger to give you this testimony for the churches.

Suzanne is not my enemy; Parry is not my enemy. And because they are not, and neither are those who follow them, I am compelled to raise the alarm on this teaching that would drain the power from the gospel since no one has to believe it, and that would discourage study of the Bible since it no longer matters. (I am always puzzled by any teaching that uses the Bible to justify dismissing the Bible.) Jude 1:3-4 says,

Dear ones, I had intended to write to you about our common salvation but now must write to urge you to contend for the faith that was once and for all handed over to the holy ones. For some people have slipped in whose judgment was written about long ago. They violate what is holy, they trade our God’s favor for a license to indulge, and they disown our only Owner and Master Jesus the Anointed.

Though Uni does not consciously promote a license to sin, it removes the incentive and divine condemnation of sin in this life, for there is to be no penalty, no justice against perpetrators, no vengeance for the victims (see Rev. 6:10). We all know that there is little justice in this life, but Uni makes sure that it will never be had in the next, because those who do indulge in sin will go to heaven with the most pious believer. What scripture actually teaches however, if we look at all of it and not just parts, is that this reconciliation has a condition attached, and that while there is universal equality of opportunity, there is not universal equality of outcome. God’s blessings are for His children, and His curses are for His enemies. Only then will there be justice; only then will the victim bask in the comfort of heaven and the perpetrator be expelled from the presence of God.

This is Parry’s great error; the apparent disparity between salvation for some and eternal hell for some is not solved by presuming that God is less just than karma, but that while the offer of salvation is available to all without regard for how sinful they’ve been, each person must accept that offer in order to receive it. Salvation is a gift, and a gift has to be both offered by the giver and accepted by the intended recipient. It is offered to all but not given to all. Remember this passage?

Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so also must the Human be lifted up, so that everyone who trusts in him may have eternal life. Likewise, since God loved the world, he also gave his only son so that everyone who would trust in him would not be destroyed but have eternal life. For God did not dispatch his son into the world to pass judgment on it, but to save it through him. The one putting trust in him is not condemned, but the one not trusting is condemned already for rejecting the name of the only God-Man.

Posted 2011-03-30 under behavior, Jesus, faith, salvation, God, Bible, evangelism, universalism