Friday, February 03, 2006

Christian Universalism Pt. 2

In the previous post I very briefly mentioned a couple of verses that would, at first sight, speak clearly against any sort of Christian Universalism (CU). Here, I will, again briefly and superficially, overview a few passages used by CUs, and the sort of arguments employed.

I suspect the biblical case for universalism is stronger than most suspect. At least in my own evangelical tradition, ‘universalist’ is often seen as synonymous with ‘major league bible-burning heretic’.

So what is there in the bible to support CU?

First, I would refer my readers to my early short post on the logic developed by Talbott. This argument I would slightly expand with admittedly naïve reference to verses like:

2 Peter 3:9 ‘The Lord is … not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance’ or 1 Tim 2:4 ‘[God] desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’. As I said, I’m not exegeting here, just gathering some raw material.

Now, if these, and other verses like them, are taken seriously, then for people to actually finally be lost and perish, would mean God’s will is not accomplished. However, is such an denial ‘biblical’? Apparently, God will do all things as he wants to: Eph 1:11 ‘In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will’.

Not only that, but there are a few verses that claim that God is not only able to do ultimately do his will, but that this will certainly happen (cf. 1 Cor 15:27-28).

Then there are the classic texts: Rom 5:18 ‘Therefore just as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man's act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all’ (one which, in context I admittedly find none too convincing), 1 Cor 15:22 ‘for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ’ (ending ‘so that God may be all in all’ v. 28), or, my favorite, Col 1:20 ‘through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross’.

Particularly notable, much like the word ‘eternal’ in the previous post, is the repetition of the word ‘all’ in these verses.

The next post will ask the most important and complex question of all: How do we deal with these two strands of biblical thought?



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