For Vanilla; a universalist's perspective

From this thread

My apologies for my tardiness. I also thought it best to start a new thread. Before I continue, I would like to provide some background that allowed me to arrive at the most comforting revelation that despite the foibles and ignorance of myself and my loved ones and the rest of humanity, that I do not have to fear that I’ll have to watch my children be tormented forever or be burdened by their eternal oblivion as a result of my laxity in their Christian education.

I was raised in an extremely devout Dutch-Canadian Calvinist reformed church. All extended family get togethers inevitably resulted in hours of discussion regarding religious matters. I wasn’t allowed to go to dances, movies, purchase anything on Sunday let alone do anything on Sunday that couldn’t be done on Saturday. Employment opportunities were limited to non-union companies. There was no outreach, but a clear sense that the one and only truth resided at this particular church and that somehow the Dutch were extrordinarily blessed because all I ever saw at church were Dutch Canadians , a distinct minority from my point of view. Truly, I believed that we were special and I believed all other churches and their members were insincere in their Christianity. We separated ourselves from the world best as we could.

At the age of 14 my mother died, and six months later my father broke away from this church and led all eight of his children into a Baptist style church which did not believe in pastors or instrumental music. At this point, my faith in churches was broken although my belief in God was not, yet I pushed Him into the far recesses of my mind as I pursued all the pleasures of the flesh with abandon. Although I still had empathy, I hurt many people, and it is safe to say that I became a disgustingly selfish human being.

When the knowledge came that I was about to become a father, I was involved in a DUI accident and the two events inspired me to seek out the Lord once again. I tried various churches, but the inconsistencies of each of their messages prevented me from feeling comfortable in their presence. Meantime my father who also had tried various churches that quite likely did not appreciate his outspokeness gave up on them and devoted his retirement to studying the scriptures on his own. Then one day he came to me with pamphlets from J. Preston Eby and declared his relief with the newly acquired belief in universal salvation. This doctrine captured me immediately, allowing me to read scripture in a totally new light.

I present the case for universalism because I feel so good and relieved with this knowledge that I wish to share with those who are burdened with the charges that their God is hateful and spiteful.

I present the above passages which suggest that the entire universe was created by God for Christ and it is the will of God (which we pray for in the Lord’s Prayer) that Christ should lose none of it.

Now I am clearly aware that the standard response to the claim that it is the will of God that all men be saved can be stymied by a man’s rejection. In other words there is only an offer of salvation to everyone, that it isn’t a done deal. God would like us all to be saved but alas, But let’s read further:

That speaks powerfully to me. It reminds me also of

But I am well aware that seemingly direct contradictions do occur in the bible. for example

Truly disturbing images. The greek word from which we get “torment” in the above passage is basanizo. Interestingly this word is used in a completely inanimate sense and translated as “tossed” without suggesting torture as follows

One can also translate “eternal punishment” from the original Greek words * aionion* and * kolasin* to “permanent corrective punishment”, which of course suggests a successful correction that will stand permanently. Such an interpretation is in keeping with the previous verses cited.

*most translation read incorruptible
This passage supports the interpretation I advanced for the previous verse

To me, this is one of the most powerfully clear and reassuring passage in the bible. I could paraphrase as follows:
“If only people who are like me have hope in Christ, then that hope is useless. But as we were all condemned with the death penalty by Adam, we are all reprieved by Christ, but in a particular order, first Christ himself, then those who have “accepted Him” at the second coming, and finally, when Christ has subdued everything in the universe, exacting voluntary obedience to His will, then he will present us all to God that God may be all in all.”
Not sure exactly what “all in all” means, other than a sense of universality is evident here.
I have the sense that I could go on and on, but if you or anyone else is interested, the main source that I’ve drawn on to present this post comes from the Christianworld Church site. A far more comprehensive presentation can be found here.

Finally I wish to present the words of one of the most famous and prolific theologins of the early Christian church, Origen as he represents the Christian belief during the 3rd century CE to a Greek Stoic philosopher named Celsus.

How different is the public Christian message today! How did Christianity evolve from this view to the pessimistic message of Fred Phelps and Jack Chick?

Though this post wasn’t directed to me, I’d like to tell you that it was an excellent read. I feel much the same way. Thanks.

Thanks. I must leave the library now, but I’ve printed this out and will reply tomorrow.

Before we get started, I just want to point out that scripture casn be used to call into question traditional beliefs, but not to prove them.

Just to commend grienspace on: keeping a promise; expressing a view I strongly sympathize with; and writing a well-thought-out and clearly expressed OP.

Thanks, my friend! It was a nice witness to where your life has been and how you’ve come to understand God’s will.

It’s all St. Augustine’s fault. (Yeah, vast oversimplification, but still somewhat true.) Too bad his view won out and Origen’s view became heresy…

It is my fault, of course.

The decision to choose not to love my brother is always mine. With true love for my brother, and love for my Lord, I could never abandon my brother. How much less could the Lord abandon him?

Blaming St. Augustine, or Fred Phelps, or Jack Chick, is just a convenient way to avoid looking into my own heart, and seeing there that I have taken my turn at hating my brothers. I saw the infinite love that God has made real, and spat upon a child of His, because I thought that man denied that I saw the truth. And I took my turn at reviling them in the name of my Lord, as well. It shows how poor a servant of the Lord I am. I am not loved because I am worthy. How can I choose to despise in my turn, because I judge someone else to be unworthy?

This Christianity thing is harder than you think. Fortunately, it doesn’t depend on us.


I am happy you have foudn your own way of believing.
However, I am sure there is a Hell.
Jesus spoke of it, and God is just, were there no hell, there would be no justice.

Uh, Vanilla, grienspace did not say that there is no Hell, in so many words – He said that God is not willing that anyone go there, a somewhat different concept.

And there is an old, and very wise, proverb – “Don’t long for justice; you might get it!” :slight_smile:

Oh, I agree totally, God doesn’t want anyone to go to Hell.
But hell will be full of people, I am sure.
Justice? No, I want and need mercy, however, justice will out.

Apparently vanilla, God’s desire for people not to go to hell is not as strong as his desire to enforce the rules he made up - knowing full well of course, the suffering those rules would cause.

Slainte, I’m glad to hear of your approval.

sqweels, If the reality of God and his purpose for the world could actually be proven logically by man, then I would think that there would be no disagreement here at all.

Polycarp, my brother, it gives me such great pleasure to hear from you.

FriendRob, I suspect it goes way back to Emperor Theodosius IX who declared Christianity the state religion and abolished pagan sacrifice. At this point the popular Christianity becomes a tool of the state which has an interest in the conformity of Christian beliefs to support state objectives.

Triskadecamus, well said.

I agree with you, hades, sheol, gehenna,tartarus have all been translated as “hell”. The Apostle’s Creed it appears also describes the gospel of Luke’s “paradise” as “hell”. So we have many references to hell and many different interpretations of what hell is. But one thing is clear to me from the scriptures I quoted. Hell (Hades) and death (the last enemy) will be destroyed .

But now I must ask you Vanilla, is God’s mercy and justice incompatible?

Mars Horizon, Good point. Could God in his divine plan upon the creation of the universe permitted a situation that would put Him in conflict with Himself?

It sounds to me as if you really want the Bible to preach universalism. I would say this reflects well on your own morality, but I don’t think it makes you a very objective interpreter of Scripture.

I really think it’s more likely that the view of Hell as eternal torment was the original one, rather than that universalism (or annihilationism) was the original view, and was later suppressed for political reasons. That is, I think the men who wrote the texts now included in the New Testament believed in eternal punishment. The arguments against it seem awfully strained; for example, in Matthew 25:46, “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (KJV), the same word in Greek is used to describe both the “everlasting punishment” of the wicked and the “life eternal” of the righteous.

There is also the question of what message Jesus (or the author of the Gospel of Luke) was trying to get across in the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). It seems rather terroristic to teach a lesson by means of a parable which speaks in terms of the wicked being sent to a place of fiery torment with no apparent means of alleviating their condition, if one is not trying to instill a belief in the doctrine of eternal punishment.

You also don’t mention Revelation 14:11: “And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name.” My armchair interpretation of the Greek for that verse suggests it might be rendered “for ages and ages” rather than “for eternity” in a strictly literal sense, but even if we accept this interpretation, it still doesn’t sit all that well with a universalist view. God will redeem everyone, but some of them will have to be tormented for ages and ages first? It rather smacks of Orwell: “He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.”

I have no defence for this assertion, other than to ask if anyone is purely objective when it comes matters of interpretaion of the canonized scriptures.

Well that is certainly understandable. But then you must subjectively ignore all references that clearly indicate that Christ is the saviour of all men. Your references to eternal torment could easily have been lent to hyperbole either by the author or more likely by translation. I just can’t see how “Christ is the saviour of those who are born again only and the rest go to hell” can be exagerated into “Christ is the saviour of all men”

With regard to your quotations, lets look at Young’s literal translations

This of course refers to the judgement where goats are separated from the sheep. Could this not read as “And these shall go away to permanent corrective punishment but the righteous to permanent life” ? It is refering to the metaphorical lake of fire, also described as the second death. But death and Hades are also to be cast into the “lake of fire”, which is to be accomplished before Christ delivers up all to the Father in the end. (the end of the age)

How a vision which prompted this verse could flat out ascertain a doctrinal forever is highly unlikely. Once again hyperbole, “on and on” for dramatic effect is suggested here.

It is worth noting that this parable refers to Hades, not the Lake of Fire which eventually will consume Hades. The concept of a burning tormenting hell was not in the old testament but recently introduced in Jewish culture. No doubt the Pharisees (a recent introduction into Jewish culture as well) for which this parable was directed promoted such belief. Jesus held them in contempt. The story clearly was not intended to represent a reality. The pharisees were being histed on there own petard.

The relevence of the Orwellian reference went over my head. I would also like to add that any understanding of “torment” is purely subjective as I dealt with earlier. After all many of us are tossed about "tormented " in this life. You might not be impressed with the mercy/justice dichotomy presented to us but that’s your call. I trust in the Lord.

I think someone who doesn’t and never has believed in the texts of the Bible as “canonized scriptures” is going to have less emotional investment in how they are interpreted than someone who is convinced they are the Word of God.

And the universalist must ignore all references that clearly indicate that not all will be saved. (Matthew 7:13-14, Matthew 22:1-14, Luke 13:22-30) It’s also entirely possible to me that “apparent contradictions” are real contradictions; thus, it’s conceivable that the author of one part of the New Testament might have believed in universal salvation, while the author of another part might have believed in damnation and eternal punishment for some people.

It’s the last line of 1984.

True, but less willing to bother to rationalize apparent discrepencies or in the case of some, motivated to even accentuate them for the pupose of refuting Christianity. Cuts both ways I’d say.

Not this one. call it my hang up but I have a strong need to reconcile the apparent discrepencies of the scripture.

We’ve already addressed references to the Lake of Fire, for which we’ve agreed to disagree, but the above cites you’ve brought up are a different matter entirely as you well know. But consider the following verses as well

Please note the distinction for believers even though the inference is salvation for all men

Who are these sons of God that Paul speaks of ? Revealed to whom? Can’t be everyone yet the "creation itself will be…brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

Now lets take another look at

Is it not clear here that a distinction is being made for believers? “then, when he comes, those who belong to him”. And yet, if we are to understand what everything under Christ’s feet means we can be sure it means everything because the statement requires the subsequent qualification exempting God the Father.
Clearly a very limited number of men will enter the kingdom of God. But when Christ is finished ruling with his saints, He’ll have perfected the rest of us and hauled us in.

Perhaps I’ve been lax in preaching that there is no free ride here. It ain’t going to be easy for wicked people. And though the gift is free it ain’t going to be easy to direct to Heaven. Only a few do. You don’t go direct becuase you believe on him. You pretty well got to be a saint.

Then I would have to believe that the author of the second part wasn’t inspired. That’s possible, after all there’s been much difficulty among early Christendom in canonizing the various scriptures and ascertaining the authenticity of many writings. But I believe I’ve adequately accounted for your proffered “contradictions” and will remain satisfied with the conclusions I’ve settled on.