Earlier this week, I had an informal debate/discussion with a radio host named Frank Holzhauser on the topic of universal reconciliation. My opponent took the position that it is unbiblical and, in his words, “dangerous.” I took the position that it is among other biblical positions and that it is the most philosophically sound. At the end of the debate, we still disagreed.
And that’s okay. It’s okay to disagree. It’s okay to not see eye to eye. My problem with the discussion, then, among other things, isn’t that we disagreed, it’s that I felt as if my position was maligned before we even got going.
At the beginning of the discussion, Frank and I chatted about Calvinism. We both agreed that it creates a monster God. We both agreed that the theology is horrific and that it doesn’t do much more than create atheists (nothing against atheists here; I’m just stating what seems to be a pretty well-known fact). But then, Frank decided that he would erroneously attach my view (that all shall be saved) to the “other side of the Calvinism coin.”
To my mind, this tactic is nothing more than a subtle form of ad hominem (as well as a variety of other logical fallacies):
- Introduce a monstrous doctrine
- Find common ground on this premise
- Attach your opponent’s view to the already agreed upon premise.
But this ISN’T what universal reconciliation is. Sure, some Universalists are more deterministic when it comes to who is elected and how they are saved. But whereas the Calvinist argues that election is limited in scope, the Universalist argues that it is, well, universal (duh, right?). The Calvinist creates an “us vs. them” binary – just as my opponent does with his “some are saved while some are annihilated” doctrine – while the Universalist cannot. In a Universalist’s eschatology, the end, or telos, is nothing short of ultimate redemption. There is no “them.” There is only “us.”
And look, I take no issue with Frank as a person. I’ve never met the guy; he seems like a sincere individual. I’m sure he meant no harm by this tactic.
The point in this blog post is simply to point out that when we debate such matters, we have to represent our opponents fairly. There was no reason to attach my view to the view of Calvinists. We weren’t debating Calvinism. In fact, it was agreed upon that Calvinism is pretty much bunk. The debate was over Universalism, so it would have been nice to stick to the topic.
Because when we did stick to the topic, the conversation was pretty fun and lively. We got to discuss a variety of issues, one of which was free will, which Frank admittedly said that if everyone saw things for how they truly are, then they would always choose God (point, Distefano). We discussed original sin and how Adam’s sin led to death for all, which naturally led me to point out how Paul uses that same formula to argue how Christ then undoes sin and death for the very same “all” in the Adamic clause (point, Distefano). And we talked about how everyone will one day bow their knees and declare Jesus as Lord, which I reminded Frank how in the Greek, the word for “confess” means to “give praise” (point, Distefano).
Of course, Frank made his points and at the end of the day, we disagreed. And again, that’s okay. The point of a debate is never to change the mind of your opponent; it’s to convince the audience that whatever you’re arguing for is the correct way of viewing things. And I hope I did that. I would have liked to discuss many more issues, but time didn’t allow for it. Maybe someday Frank will want to continue this conversation, but maybe not. Either way, it’s all good. He seemed like a decent dude even if I found his points to be less than compelling.
If you want to watch the discussion, here it is in full:
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