Is Christian Universalism Compatible With Free Will? Justice? Hell?

Is Christian Universalism Compatible With Free Will? Justice? Hell? June 22, 2016

paradise in sky

As many know, I have long been a proponent of the view of Annihilationism, which is the view that instead of hell, those who refuse to accept God cease to exist. The other day I was honest about the fact that I am rethinking my position in favor of Universal Redemption, which is essentially Christian Universalism.

While I have not completely crossed over yet, and thus would make a less than stellar apologist for the position, I do want to continue this discussion by addressing some of the questions commenters on the internet have raised. One of those issues is the matter of free will: Does Christian Universalism mean that God forces everyone to accept God? Does a Universalist position force God to accept everyone?

The main question this gets to is whether or not Universal Redemption can account for the matter of free will– and I believe it can.

I think one of the big pieces people misunderstand about Christian Universalism is that it still affirms the judgement of God, and can even affirm a belief in hell. The difference is that hell (whatever that is) would be ultimately temporary, and the judgement/justice of God would be a type of justice designed to restore, instead of being strictly punitive in nature. Thus, Christian Universalism honors free will by acknowledging that many will not choose reconciliation with God, that not all will immediately repent, and as a result many will be separated from God for part of eternity.

For those who hold to Eternal Conscious Torment, it is generally believed that those who have not been reconciled to God at the moment of their death will burn in hell forever. For those who believe in Annihilationism, it is believed that in God’s mercy and justice he will cause these individuals to cease to exist, and it will be as if they never were. While I still think the strongest biblical language is with Annihilation, Universal Redemption would seem to be the most obvious choice when taking a high view of God’s character and nature.

So how does it account for things like free will, justice, or hell?

Instead of saying that everyone immediately goes to heaven to spend eternity with God (an act that would violate free will), the position of Universal Redemption believes that God continues pursuing individuals with his love, even in eternity. The souls that have been separated from God by their own choice are free to continue rejecting God’s love, and will never be forced to change. They will also experience the justice of God, which would not be pleasant– but would have a goal of rehabilitation, refinement, reform, and ultimately reconciliation.

The position of Annihilation places a higher view on the individual power to reject God’s love, and thus says that at some point in this process, God causes them to exist no more. With Universalism however, the higher view is placed on the power of God’s love: that God will love as long as it takes for each person to finally embrace the ultimate reality. Thus, individuals will continue repenting and being reconciled to God throughout eternity, until hell itself is completely empty.

It seems that too many people have a knee-jerk reaction against Universalism, without realizing that it can still account for things like hell, free will, God’s justice, etc. One does not have to sacrifice or ignore these issues in order to arrive at a Universalist position.

The difference is that this position believes everyone will ultimately make the choice on his or her own to be reconciled to God’s love, and that God will keep loving and pursuing as long as it takes to achieve that goal.

Certainly, the more I see God as revealed in Jesus, the more this position seems to be the one most consistent with the doctrine of God as exampled by Christ.


unafraid 300Dr. Benjamin L. Corey is a public theologian and cultural anthropologist who is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with graduate degrees in the fields of Theology and International Culture, and holds a doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is also the author of the new book, Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, which is available wherever good books are sold. www.Unafraid-book.com.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Mark Edward

    Whenever I interact with people who don’t know much about universalism, they invariably ask the same two questions: either, Doesn’t that mean God forces people to be saved against their will? (it’s always ironic when it’s Calvinists asking this), or, What’s the point in being a good person?

    The first one is a simple no.

    The second one, though, people find harder to accept any answer for. Of course it matters if we become good people. Jesus doesn’t save us so we can sin, he saves us from sin. Even in exclusivist soteriology, salvation isn’t a license to sin; why would it be for universalism? There’s different forms of Christian universalism, but my view is that if a person thinks they can sin however much they want, it’s going to take them that much longer to endure the painful purging of their sins before they can truly understand and receive God’s love.

  • I am attracted to Universalism. I AM a hopeful Universalist. But I cannot dismiss the factor of free will. I suspect that after death everyone will be offered the gift of eternal life with a clear mind unhampered by misinformation, misunderstanding, or damaged psyches.

    However, there may be those who are unsatisfied with the practical terms–they would no longer be able to dominate others. If someone is such an egoist that they must use people, they would be unhappy in God’s new society. God might allow them a place elsewhere, and it is true that they might have further opportunity to accept. Or they might cease to exist (they chose against eternal life). But I cannot see that any would be forced against their will.

    On the subject of hell, I see no reason to suggest that there would be any punishment for such persons.

    I appreciate your direction, but after decades of thought I cannot say that everyone will become part of God’s new world.

  • Brian Davis

    I was surprised to find that you weren’t already a Universalist, Benjamin – I just assumed you were from the tenor of your posts! Annihiliationism does have certain attractions – if someone was ultimately unwilling to be reconciled to God, a humane extinction would make more sense than the monstrosity of eternal torment. But if Jesus really is the ‘savior of all people’, and if God’s purpose (as often stated in the Bible) is to restore and redeem the whole of creation, universalism seems a better fit. So it makes sense that you’re moving gradually in that direction.

  • Ron McPherson

    I lean way towards annihilationism because of how I interpret Jesus’ words, but I’m hoping in universal redemption

  • Ron McPherson

    “But if Jesus really is the ‘savior of all people’…universalism seems a better fit.”

    Bingo! I’ve made this very point to my Arminian friends (admittedly I would grade out as somewhat Calvinist, hold to substitutionary atonement but do not hold to ECT).

    If Jesus died for everyone, then everyone must have eternal life. Otherwise, to suggest that only some enter into his presence, by necessity, would mean that the cross, in and of itself at least, was powerless to save.

  • That’s still where I am technically… But I’m realizing I haven’t really given universal redemption a full and fair hearing, which Is what I’m doing now.

  • thomas jay Oord

    I like what you’re doing in this post, Ben. Your position is very similar to my own. Two things came to my mind as I read:

    1. Does it make sense to call this position “universalism,” if at least theoretically some individuals could freely choose to spend eternity saying no to God? Isn’t this at least rightly called “conditional universalism?”

    2. I have for some time been uncomfortable with the annihilation position. Of course, it’s better than the alternative that says God sends people to hell for eternity! But it seems to presuppose that God has the controlling power capable of ending the existence of those who do not believe. I don’t believe God has that kind of power. And it also gives the impression that God “gives up” on unbelievers. God’s love is not everlastingly steadfast for them.

    But what about the possibility that unbelievers Self-annihilate? This could be done without God’s control, and it would not mean God had given up on them. They had given up on themselves, not wanting to cooperate with God’s love, and God could not prevent their self-annihilation. This is a position I am exploring in my current writing project. I’m not entirely sold on it, but I think it’s a viable option.

    Tom

  • I’m an optimistic annihilationist.

    I wouldn’t describe it as God making people cease to exist because I don’t hold to an immortal soul. People die, good and evil alike, and the grave is the end for them sans resurrection.

    In resurrection, God renews creation. Whether that means everyone or some based on certain criteria, that’s up to God. I’m hopeful that, at the very least, there will be way more people participating in that new creation than narrower theologies might think, especially if the parable of the sheep and the goats carries over at all past the radar of Rome.

  • As a part of this discussion, I would love to hear how you address the reality that the word “hell” is not a part of scripture, that fire is mostly a purifying force in scripture and that some of the early church fathers (eg. Origin) believed that the fire talked about was going to be used to purify sinners from their sin.

  • Ron McPherson

    Well I haven’t either so I’m open to it. I used to think anything other than ECT was heresy but I moved to annihilationism so this one may yet have a chance ha

  • Iain Lovejoy

    “They will also experience the justice of God, which would not be pleasant– but would have a goal of rehabilitation, refinement, reform, and ultimately reconciliation.”
    “fire is mostly a purifying force in scripture and that some of the early church fathers (eg. Origin) believed that the fire talked about was going to be used to purify sinners from their sin.”
    That’s pretty much what Ben is saying.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    I would say that the universalist position takes into account the effect of time. Everyone has free will to reject God as long as they like, but God has eternity to persuade them and seduce them back to him. Eternity is for ever, so eventually he will inevitably succeed, even if takes a billion, or a billion billion years.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    If people die and they cease to exist, it is God that makes them cease to exist, so I don’t see how your position is any different from the standard annihiliationist position just because he also temporarily annihilates the saved too.

  • I guess “God made them cease to exist” in the same way God makes me catch a cold.

  • Yes after we die it’s a whole new roll of the dice! ☆~<]°●》

  • Cindy Swanson

    I, too, have been struggling with whether or not to embrace Christian Universalism. I was raised with guest speakers who would come to the missionary school I attended for chapel week and preach on fire and brimstone for those who did not accept Christ. I remember some of my classmates becoming Christians that week, but it never lasted. Fear is a very ineffective means of motivation.

    Hell, I believe, is not a place of literal fire and brimstone. New Testament scholar N.T. Wright points out that Second Temple Jews understood such speech as eschatological metaphorical language.

    Hell, I believe, is the absence of God. God is love, beauty, good, and all things necessary for human life. The absence of God then, is the absence of love, beauty, good, and all things necessary for human life. That is Hell enough.

  • Have you ever read the great Divorce by CS Lewis?
    I highly recommend!

  • Iain Lovejoy

    Not really: that living creatures are mortal and inevitably subject to death is part of the very nature of how the universe works in a way that you getting the common cold virus is not (as much as it might seem so in the middle of flu season).

  • How would you say organism death is more naturally fundamental than the existence of viruses?

  • Phil, I agree with your comment: “I wouldn’t describe it as God making people cease to exist because I don’t hold to an immortal soul. People die, good and evil alike, and the grave is the end for them sans resurrection.”

    Many people assume the immortality of the ‘soul’. I don’t. We don’t have souls; we are integrated individuals. So death is death. I think immortality comes to us by accepting the gift of eternal life, either now or after death.

    I also agree that it might not include everyone because, even after death, some might decline the offer of eternal life and voluntarily cease to exist–perhaps because they do not want to be part of God’s new world.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    Sorry I thought you meant you indiviudally catching a particular cold. Actually I would say death is more fundamental is it appears to be an inherent property of all life whilst viruses are a contingent outcome of evolution (which itself would be impossible – I would have thought – without death, which is required for natural selection).
    My point is that God created the universe with its own natural laws, one of which is the existence of death. I am not at all sure myself what beings have souls, or pseudo-souls or what-have-you, but if as you say God made souls mortal so that they were extinguished on death, that was a deliberate decision on his part, and, in so far as God himself (as I would have thought) is the origin of physical laws and causes them to operate, if it is a physical law that souls are extinguished on death, God does that, and I do not see any particular distinction between extinguishing them all and then reversing the process fo some and simply extinguishing only some in the first place.

  • Don Lowery

    “he will cause these individuals to cease to exist, and it will be as if they never were.”

    One thing which I always ask about this theory…will those of us who remain still remember these persons or will our memories be “wiped” to make sure there was never anything to be remembered about them? Something like “It’s a Wonderful Life” when George Bailey wishes he had never been born and gets his wish?

  • Well, I don’t know that there is such a thing as a soul, or at least some entity that is distinct from my body. This view is subject to change. Living organisms arise and living organisms die out in the way that they all do.

    I agree that, in a sense, saying that God set the universe up this way makes Him in some sense a “cause” of death, but I’m not sure I see that as any different from Him being the “cause” of rainfall or the “cause” of my not liking onions on my pizza. All these things can be traced to “how God set up the universe” if we’re willing to follow the chain long enough.

    I mean, I could accede that God has the power to supernaturally heal my colds, yet as far as I can tell, this has never happened. I do believe some accounts of healing that seem miraculous, so I guess in a sense, God is responsible for my cold in the sense that He could do something about it as a supernatural intervention but instead just let nature take its course, as it were.

    Maybe it’s a hair-splitting distinction. I guess I see God deciding to supervene on a situation as being different than Him being the cause of that situation if He chooses not to. In other words, not raising someone from the dead is not the same thing as killing someone. YMMV, and that’s fine – I’m still working through this, myself, and probably not where I’ll end up.

  • Jon-Michael Ivey

    I would be a Universalist if I were convinced of the existence of immortal immaterial souls, but I don’t see a good enough reason to believe in those. They just unnecessarily complicate the issue of Bodily Resurrection.

  • This reminds me of something Julian of Norwich said, along the lines of “Hell exists because God leaves room for those who choose not to be with God.” That God loves us enough to allow us to be somewhere else. (Which, the only real evidence needed of that is to look around our own cities.)

  • Jeanne Fox

    That makes hell more like purgatory.

  • Thanks for chiming in, Tom. Funny thing– it was your recent book that caused me to begin rethinking my position on annihilation.

    I agree– if even one person is “lost” than it is impossible to call any position universalism, which is why if I had to die on a hill I’d go for annihilationism, because only one person has to be lost for annihilation to be true, whereas it takes only one person to make universalism untrue.

    I like the idea of self-annihilation. Some of us (see philosopher Jeff Cook) have actually been discussing if annihilation and conditionalism should be considered two separate positions (though they are often used synonymously now). The former being where God is the agent who causes them to cease to exist, or conditionalism. where they cause themselves to cease to exist.

    So, I’m definitely with you– I think that could be a framework that would affirm a non-coercive love along with free will.

    Peace my friend!

  • PinkyAndNoBrain

    I don’t see where free will is being abandoned, though. It just seems like the door to heaven is always open, even after death. And it seems probable to me that eventually everyone will choose to walk through that door — if for no other reason than the curiosity that gave us Pandora and Adam/Eve. I guess I’ve always seen it (and read it, in this article) as less of a certainty but more as a possibility. Which are one and the same to main Christians, hence the accusations of heresy.

    “The Great Divorce” has a wonderful view of the afterlife. I know it’s fictionalized, but part of me sincerely hopes it’s closer to reality than most of what we’re shown.

  • Ron McPherson

    It’s on my list to do, but haven’t read it yet.

  • Mark

    If God is omnipresent and the source of all life but you are not with God then where are you and what sustains you? As for God pursuing people through eternity. Luke 16:19-31 Lazarus and the rich man, clearly teaches that once dead there is no possibility of returning. “between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so
    that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no
    one can cross from there to us.”~ “No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.”
    31He said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses
    and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises
    from the dead.” ’

  • Just the way she rolls yeah? ☆~<}°●》

  • Iain Lovejoy

    I would say quite right. The concept of purgatory seems to me to have emerged as fulfilling what judgment ought to look like if there is a truly just God, when the (at least the western) church took a wrong turning with its notion of hell.

  • Matthew

    Thanks for this Benjamin.

    Sorry if this was already stated (I haven´t read all the comments yet), and excuse me if I´m sounding like a fundamentalist here, but shouldn´t we also be discussing the biblical exegesis surrounding this important topic? Maybe I overlooked something, but I don´t think I saw one biblical reference in the entire article (although I admit biblical themes and truths were most likely implied in the post).

    I think a discussion about how progressives read and understand verses about hell and judgement in the NT as opposed to fundamentalist interpretations on the same subject would be extremely fruitful. Your hermeneutical thoughts and insights would also of course be very valuable Benjamin.

  • Agni Ashwin

    “If God is omnipresent and the source of all life but you are not with God then where are you and what sustains you?”

    If God is omnipresent, then you are never not with God.

  • Tracy

    I loved that book. C S Lewis’ mentor was a universalist, but Lewis himself did not embrace that thinking. N T Wright also has some interesting thoughts on how we ‘dehumanize’ ourselves as we move away from God – which is sort of what C S Lewis thinks. Following these posts with interest, as I took will try and be open to looking at Universalism with open eyes.

  • Tracy

    I agree. heaven would be hell for the racist. So not all might want to embrace ‘heaven’ or God, becuase of their own prejudices.

  • Thomas, your final paragraph is the position I suspect to be the case: God offers sternal life to all, perhaps after death, when they have clear minds unhampered by misinformation, misunderstanding, and psychological scars.

    There might be those who do not want eternal life with God, so they refuse and cease to exist–their choice.

  • Pinky, I accept the possibility of the door of heaven always being open. But I agree with you that the idea of everyone eventually entering that door is less a certainty than a possibility.

    As I said, I am a HOPEFUL Universalist. I think our positions are not far apart.

  • Artistree

    But if you hate God, then you are absolutely miserable in His presence.

  • Matthew

    Benjamin said:

    “They will also experience the justice of God, which would not be
    pleasant– but would have a goal of rehabilitation, refinement, reform,
    and ultimately reconciliation.”

    How would we define “not pleasant”? Also … would the degree of suffering (or refinement) become worse if a soul continues not to repent? Would there ever be an end to the cycle?

  • Ron McPherson

    I suspect that will come in time, and he will share accordingly, as he explores this.

  • Artistree

    Years ago, I read a lot of Charles Finney. His thoughts although brief here are worth pondering.
    http://www.ovrlnd.com/Universalism/finneyonunies.html

    http://www.gospeltruth.net/1858OE/580929_refuges_of_lies.htm

  • Ron McPherson

    Well if God didn’t make you catch that cold then clearly you have no concept of God’s sovereignty. Danged Arminian

  • Tim

    There are a lot of excellent books out there on this. There is also a discussion board which is a wealth of information, at : http://evangelicaluniversalist.com/forum

  • Colin Smith

    I think this starts with a massive misconception, namely this: “Does Christian Universalism mean that God forces everyone to accept God? Does a Universalist position force God to accept everyone?”

    Why must force be involved at all?

    Assuming, for the sake of argument, there is a God of some kind and that everyone receives him and acknowledges God in some way and to some degree, whether through religious worship or just respecting the world God ‘made’, then there is no force required. Alternatively, assume God wishes to accept us, in whatever form we are, because it’s in his nature to be accepting.

    Everyone on this planet needs to follow the God that answers their needs and finding that God isn’t helped by the ring-fencing that goes on among religions.

  • Tim

    My view on this is centers partly around Paul making a very pointed case that all are included in Christ’s death and resurrection, and so now all is/ are in Christ. He was the last Adam/ new Adam that started a new creation and he made or is making all new. There are many places in what we call the bible that indicate that all will be included in the salvation of God, or at least lead one to that logical conclusion based on what is said. We will become like him when we see him face to face, because we will see him as he truly is. I don’t believe anyone actually truly rejects God; what they reject is whatever skewed image of God they have received.

  • Matthew

    Thanks Ron.

  • Tim, I am also encouraged by the various ‘all’ references in the NT, and I hope this is the case. But I cannot say with certainty that no one will refuse God in the end.

  • Tim

    No, nor can I. But God can. And has (may he open all our eyes so that we can just see what’s already there). That’s the point I’m ultimately driving at.

  • Richard Green

    I’m still meditating on this matter, so I’m only offering a thought not a conclusion. I’m thinking that the aspects of ourselves that are not worthy are refined from that which is redeemed. I don’t think that our hurtful sinful aspects will remain throughout eternity. Can any of “the seven deadly sins” (or the like) exist in the unfiltered light of God’s direct presence?

    This could be wrong, but perhaps we are all judged and that which needs to be destroyed is done away with, “saved” and “sinner” alike. If so perhaps some blessed saints will be relatively lightly transformed by this final judgement; I would expect I would be purged of much, but the best of me might remain – hopefully recognizably still “me”; maybe some will be barely recognizable, perhaps even like unto a newborn; the worst of mankind perhaps might be essentially be annihilated.

    I really don’t know and only am at the point of exploring some of the questions. Thanks for the post. :)

  • Julie

    One of the best formulations of this philosophy can be found in George MacDonald’s Lilith…a long and weird fairy tale that somehow manages to get to the heart of this matter in a way that more rational explanations cannot. His sermons also address the everlasting love of God while still accepting that there will be a hell for those creatures who have not yet accepted his love.

  • RonnyTX

    Benjamin:
    As many know, I have long been a proponent of the view of Annihilationism, which is the view that instead of hell, those who refuse to accept God cease to exist. The other day I was honest about the fact that I am rethinking my position in favor of Universal Redemption, which is essentially Christian Universalism.

    Ronny to Benjamin:
    That’s good to hear. :-)

    Benjamin:
    While I have not completely crossed over yet, and thus would make a less than stellar apologist for the position, I do want to continue this discussion by addressing some of the questions commenters on the internet have raised. One of those issues is the matter of free will: Does Christian Universalism mean that God forces everyone to accept God? Does a Universalist position force God to accept everyone?

    Ronny to Benjamin:
    I would put it, that God is love and love embraces and accepts everyone. :-)

    Does God force us to accept God? Sure. In what way and by what power? Simply, by the power of love and God/Jesus Christ, is pure love. :-) For it was by the power of pure love, that Jesus Christ went to the cross for all of us and there, took all of our sins upon himself. So, we are all forgiven, we have all been reconciled back to God the Father. God has shown/proven that already, to some people. Now, it’s only a matter of time, till God does the same and that for every person, from Adam on down! :-)

    OK, I just gotta sing here! :-) When we all, get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be. When we all see Jesus, will sing and shout the victory! :-)

  • Iain Lovejoy

    Is eternal persuasion force? To be in sin is to be in error, to be working against your own best interests and contrary to your own nature.
    Given the persuasive and unrelenting love and forgiveness of God and a literally infinite amount of time to work with, the universalist’s position is that there could be no-one, no matter how lost, who would not eventually surrender to his own best interests.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    All descriptions of the afterlife are necessarily speculative but on this view the suffering would be self inflicted: pain is perception of hurt and damage and a signal to take action to stop it or fix it. Someone in sin would feel the need to take action to deal with it as pain without the world and the flesh to distract them from it. Someone in sin refusing to let go of it would feel its rendering away as hurt, not healing. In either case however the pain would disappear with the sin.
    In the tradition of the eastern church the fires of hell are how a sinner experiences the light of the presence of God because their sin makes them fear and reject it: in this view heaven and hell are the same place.

  • Mark

    Except if by your own choosing you don’t exist.

  • Mark

    Benjamin, Richard, Cindy, and Others Considering Universal Redemption,

    I can certainly understand the attraction of universal redemption. It seems consistent with God’s great love and patience. And there are some Bible passages which would seem to allow for it if these passages were read in isolation.

    The only way we can know about the hope of any kind of life after death at all is God’s revelation. And I’m convinced that the Biblical case for Conditional Immortality is very strong. (Conditional Immortality, as most of you probably know, is a doctrine which includes annihilationism.) Just this week I wrote a short blog
    post on the topic of Conditional Immortality which some have found helpful:

    http://parresiazomai.blogspot.com/2016/06/what-is-conditional-immortality.html

    God does not answer all our questions in the Bible. He reveals a lot, but not everything. At some point, we have to trust that the God who created the laws of physics and taught eagles to fly and dolphins to swim is wise enough to make the best decisions. We also have to trust that the God who sent His own Son to die for us loves us so much that He will not fail to do anything good for us.

    When I say that we have to trust God, I do not mean it is wrong to ask questions like, “Why doesn’t God save everyone?” I just mean that not all questions are
    clearly answered yet. I think it is alright to speculate about such unanswered questions as long as we do so humbly and do not allow our guesses to trump what God does reveal.

    Here’s some of my own “humble speculation”: Perhaps there are some people (and other beings) who will not willfully and joyfully submit to God and freely return His love no matter what God does. It seems that the Devil and his fallen angels began in a perfect setting in God’s presence and yet chose to fight against Him.
    Adam and Eve began in the garden with temptation, but in a setting with no suffering and with God’s close presence. They chose to rebel. The Israelites in Egypt saw a whole series of amazing signs and wonders and yet most chose to worship false gods in the desert.

    Many religious leaders in Jesus’ day saw His love in action, heard His wisdom, and witnessed great miracles, yet plotted to kill him. So, maybe, some people just can’t be saved without violating their free will. If God “forced” them, would it still be love?
    This is a possible explanation for why annihilationism is a necessary part of God’s good plan. Whether this explanation is correct or not, annihilationism does have a LOT of Biblical support, and I encourage you to consider this.

    Grace and Peace, Mark (with Hope and Joy!)

  • Mark

    Exactly and thus God would not force a soul to exist in his presence if it did not want too. I personally wouldn’t want someone who hated me to be forced to be in my presence for eternity. It would be kind of the same deal as the literal version of hell where God tortures people for eternity who don’t return his love. Many atheists are happy with the idea of eternal nothingness.

  • RonnyTX

    Mark:
    “Here’s some of my own “humble speculation”: Perhaps there are some people (and other beings) who will not willfully and joyfully submit to God and freely return His love no matter what God does. It seems that the Devil and his fallen angels began in a perfect setting in God’s presence and yet chose to fight against Him.”

    Ronny to Mark:
    Mark, that isn’t what Jesus Christ tells us, about the devil. Instead, he tells us that Satan was a murderer and liar from the beginning.

    “44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” John 8:44

    As to those who will willfully and joyfully submit to God and return His love? Why all will. Why? Because their is no greater force than love and God is love. :-) And when such love is poured out upon us, we just naturally love in return.

  • RonnyTX

    Iain to Ronny:
    Is eternal persuasion force? To be in sin is to be in error, to be working against your own best interests and contrary to your own nature.
    Given the persuasive and unrelenting love and forgiveness of God and a literally infinite amount of time to work with, the universalist’s position is that there could be no-one, no matter how lost, who would not eventually surrender to his own best interests.

    Ronny to Iain:
    That’s true. :-) And from personal experience, I can truthfully say, that when the love of God/Jesus Christ begins to pour out on you, then you just naturally love God/Jesus Christ in return. :-) And I know the love of God is much greater; but sometimes I compare that, to how my parents loved me. From a small child, I knew they loved me and they proved that to me, by both word and deed. Then I just naturally, loved my parents in return. Did my parents force me to love them? No, they didn’t. But the thing is, as I see it, when you are ,loved, by either God or your parents, then just naturally in return, you love them back. :-) It’s just a natural thing, with one following the other.

    And I think too, of the lake of fire, as mentioned in Revelations. Some people, will go through that. The great thing is, the scripture tells us, that the Lamb will be there, with those people. :-) Why, will Jesus Christ be there? Why, he will be there to convict them, bring then to repentance and to show and prove to them, how greatly he loves them.
    For everyone, in the lake of fire, will be someone Jesus Christ loved so much, that he went to the cross for them. :-) And there is no greater love than that! :-)

  • RonnyTX

    Matthew:
    Benjamin said:
    “They will also experience the justice of God, which would not be
    pleasant– but would have a goal of rehabilitation, refinement, reform,
    and ultimately reconciliation.”

    How would we define “not pleasant”? Also … would the degree of suffering (or refinement) become worse if a soul continues not to repent? Would there ever be an end to the cycle?

    Ronny to Matthew:
    Well Matthew, I know it wasn’t pleasant for me, for God to show me my sin, as I was being born of God. But then, that was the love of God, doing that for me and for my best. :-) And it was God, the love of God, bringing me to repentance. :-)

    Too and in my case, I had wrongly thought I was a Christian, for 4 years, before God saved me. And I was taught in my church, that I was better than a lot of other people, because I belonged to the one true church. So, I looked down on some people, who belonged to other denominational churches. But then as God was saving me, in the presence of holy God, God let me see the sinfullness of my selfrighteousness. And that was the goodness of God, that brought me to repentance. :-) And in the year after that, I was back at my home church and to a degree, I fell back into that sin, of thinking I was better than some other people. Then the next year, an older brother and I, we were back at that bible camp, where God had saved me, the year before. And what did the young peoples teacher teach on, for the whole week? Why, the sin of selfrighteousness! :-( LoL So God again showed my that sin in myself and led me to repentance. :-) Now that is how great the love of God is and that, for every last one of us. :-)

  • RonnyTX

    Matthew, here’s a real good article on hell, from a Christian universalist point of view. And by Christian universalism, I don’t mean that all roads/religions lead to God; but by that, I mean that all will be born of God, by way of Jesus Christ and the cross.

    http://www.tentmaker.org/articles/ifhellisreal.htm

  • Mark

    Ronny said:

    Mark,
    that isn’t what Jesus Christ tells us, about the devil. Instead, he tells us that Satan was a murderer and liar from the beginning.

    “44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” John 8:44

    Mark to Ronny:

    In John 8:44 it is possible, and I think it is likely, that “from the beginning” does not mean “from the very beginning”, but rather something like “from the beginning of human history” or “from the beginning of the part of the story of the world told at the beginning of the Bible”.

    Do you believe that God created the Devil initially to be evil? The Bible tells us very little about the Devil’s origin, but it does not seem to be consistent with God’s nature to believe that the Devil was created initially evil.

    And while I admit this passage cannot be proven beyond doubt to refer to Satan, I think it is likely that it does (even if it also refers to earthly rulers):

    Ezekiel 28: 13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: carnelian, chrysolite and emerald, topaz, onyx and jasper, lapis lazuli, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared.
    14 You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones.
    15 You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you.
    16 Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones.
    17 Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings.

    Likewise, Isaiah 14:12 may be a dual reference, at one level speaking about a human ruler, and at another level referring to Satan. Also, the following passage seems to imply that Satan started out in Heaven and was cast out after rebelling:

    Revelation 12:7 Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his
    angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back.
    8 But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven.
    9 The great dragon was hurled down– that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

    Ronnie said,

    As to those who will willfully and joyfully submit to God and return His love? Why all will. Why? Because their is no greater force than love and God is love. :-)
    And when such love is poured out upon us, we just naturally love in return.

    Mark to Ronnie,

    God’s love is indeed wonderful and amazing.
    But you may have noticed that despite His great love, in this world,
    throughout history and today all around us, people do not always “naturally love in return”. How do you know it would be different in eternity? The Bible clearly and repeatedly teaches that the unrighteous will be burned to ashes, perish, and be destroyed. How do you make sense of that?

    Grace and Peace,
    Mark (with Hope and Joy!)

  • Ron McPherson

    I tend to agree. Was taught ECT my whole life but I believe the biblical support is overwhelming towards conditional immortality. But I remain open to universal redemption. Just haven’t been convinced of it yet.

  • Realist1234

    Ronny – that would imply that God created Satan as evil from the start. I would argue that is inconsistent with His character. In making the physical Universe and life, everything was ‘good’. There is no reason to think otherwise about the spiritual realm. ‘From the beginning’ may mean from the garden of Eden Genesis scenario when satan first appears, or from the beginning of satan’s fall. You can’t assume it means from the start of the existence of a being who was eventually given the title ‘satan’ (a title rather than a name, meaning accuser/opposer/adversary/slanderer).

    But the discussion is about humans. I am not convinced that God’s love for all humanity will automatically be reciprocated. That ignores the sinfulness of mankind, and the often rebellious nature of men and women. The fact is Jesus never said or even implied that all will be saved from sin and its consequences – in fact he said or implied the opposite. Mark gives some good examples of how people reciprocated God’s love when Jesus was physically present with them – they didnt even recognise Him, never mind love Him. Christians should not offer false hope when they have no authority to do so.

  • Realist1234

    Though NT Wright still believes in some sort of existence beyond death, where the ‘unsaved’ actually become ‘inhuman’. He certainly does not accept universalism, and from what he says he also rejects annihilationism.

    In this discussion, we also have to remember that heaven is not the eternal place for God’s people, but rather a renewed physical earth (with a renewed heaven becoming ‘one’ with it). There will be no place for those who have not been made righteous through Jesus. And sadly, it seems from Jesus and the apostles that not everyone will be there.

  • jeffcook

    Quick question for soteriological universalists: “Where is Hell?”

    It seems that both the traditional view and universalist view have difficulty here.

    Are you imagining some kind of future concentration camp? How does hell work?
    Grace and Peace.

  • Mark

    Thank you for reminding us that we will live in the “new Heaven and new Earth”. I agree that the Biblical evidence points to this being a very physical “earthy” place, but without any of the evil or suffering or death that is in our present earth.

    I also agree that there will be no place for those not made righteous through Christ and that sadly not everyone will be there.

    While God often uses wise teachers to help us understand God’s Word, we must remember that they are not infallible. I haven’t read NT Wright’s explanation of the “unsaved” becoming “inhuman”. But, I don’t see any evidence of this in the Bible, unless by inhuman you mean “destroyed”, “dead”, “no more”. I think you might like thinking about my recent two part sermon on this topic. You can find links to it here:
    http://parresiazomai.blogspot.com/2016/04/burned-up-annihilationism-versus.html

    May God Bless You in Many Ways,
    Mark (with Hope and Joy!)

  • Realist1234

    Thanks. Someone on this blog who actually agrees with me. Wow! I quoted NT Wright as the poster referred to him, implying that he did not believe in ‘hell’, which is not the case. Having said that, I do not agree with everything Wright has said, eg his view of justification. Still, noone’s perfect lol. Ill have a look at your link, thanks. Peter

  • Realist1234

    No, people do not have billions and billions of years. If Jesus came back next year, He would instigate the renewed earth, and His people will live there with resurrected physical/spiritual bodies. There will be no place for those who have not received the righteousness of Christ (ie God’s righteousness). It will be too late for them, sadly.

  • Realist1234

    But the imagery of fire is also used when talking about the fate of satan and the demonic, with no indication that they are being ‘purified’ for salvation. Fire can be used in different contexts. Paul uses it when talking about the fate of a seemingly Christian believer who had been up to no good with his mother-in-law. Note that Paul believes the believer will be saved, but by the skin of his teeth, as it were. But he will be saved because he is already saved. The same cannot be said of non-believers.

  • Realist1234

    You seem to be equating humans with ‘living organisms’. And only that. But humans are the only living being that are made in the image of God. I appreciate that phrase can have many meanings, but it certainly sets humans apart from all other creatures. It does not mean therefore humans have ‘souls’ (I prefer the word ‘spirit’), but there are certainly indications from both Old and New Testaments that we do – eg the appearance of Moses and Elijah during the transfiguration of Jesus.

  • Realist1234

    Jesus suffered the wrath of God because ‘He was made sin’. But the exchange of His righteousness for our unrighteousness is not automatic. Therefore not everyone will be saved, as many do not even believe they are ‘unrighteous’ but good in themselves (in denial of Jesus’ own words).

  • The image of God is what makes us unique, yes, but not our… um… life force. Even in Genesis, man gets the same breath as the animals. It’s in how we look like God in the world that our uniqueness is asserted, not necessarily something about our actual physical makeup.

    We die physically and are raised physically.

    The appearance of Moses and Elijah at the transfiguration is certainly to give a certain meaning to the transfiguration. But even if we take the appearance account very literally, Jesus is also transformed, but not into an immaterial being – a new creation body, for lack of a better term. There’s no reason this can’t describe Enoch, Elijah, Moses, Jesus, the resurrected martyrs, etc.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    That’s your view; I would say the Bible says otherwise: Jesus came to save all, and all will eventually be saved.

  • Realist1234

    It may be that the destruction of those who die unrepentant and without Jesus is an inevitable ‘law’ of the universe, rather than God ‘actively’ destroying them. But that is not the impression given by the NT, where it is God who very much acts in judgement, not waiting for an individual for all eternity to change their mind. To me that belittles God, as if he is the victim desperate for the perpetrator to reconcile. I also believe scripture teaches that God, in due course, will renew this earth (and the heavens) and it is on earth that His people will live. That will not happen ‘in eternity’, but in history. There is therefore limited time to repent and accept God’s gift.

  • Realist1234

    Genesis doesnt say the same about animals for example. God only ‘breathed’ into mankind. I think we are being told something there. The NT also refers to the human spirit in a number of places, so I dont think we can simply dismiss such references. But anyway….

  • Genesis 1:30, cf. Gen. 7:21. Animals have the “ruah,” which is what God breathes into man in Genesis 2 and also hovers over the waters in Genesis 1:2.

  • gimpi1

    I’ve always been bothered by the idea that what I believe is more important than what I do. The idea that I can do my very best to be a good person, to make the best possible choices with the hand I’ve drawn – and that that is all just “filthy rags” unless I believe something that (at least right now) I don’t have enough evidence to get behind – really bothers me.

    It also ignores the massive numbers of people who – due to simple geography and timing – never heard the Christian message. (I know that now that’s rare, but the ability to spread your message all over the world is quite new. Many, many people were born, lived and died long before today’s mass communication and ease of movement made any sort of outreach possible. In many areas today, missionary work is actively illegal. Are people born in Saudi Arabia worth less to God?

    The idea that (assuming the survival of some sort of soul) it’s possible to still learn, that you don’t have to understand everything in one, short human lifetime that you’ll need for the rest of eternity makes much more sense to me. To me, it also makes Divinity appear much kinder and more reasonable. Demanding blind faith on little evidence is neither kind or reasonable. Does that mean Christian universalism is true? I have no idea. However, universalism makes Christianity kinder and gentler. That’s seems like a good thing, to me.

  • axelbeingcivil

    That is a special kind of horrifying.

  • Arlene Adamo

    Then, as a Christian, you have to explain what Jesus meant by “eternal punishment”, ‘killing the soul’, “eternal fire” and “hell, where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched”.

  • Ron McPherson

    No I understand all the arguments. What I’m suggesting is if Jesus’ sacrifice was for each and every human being, then to say each and every individual will NOT receive forgiveness of sins by default means his sacrifice alone was insufficient for some.

  • Edwin Woodruff Tait

    “Saving faith” in the major Christian traditions I’m familiar with is not just about “belief” in the intellectual sense. In Catholicism, it’s faith formed by love. In Protestantism, it’s a complete trust in God’s mercy.

    It’s true that in the more conservative versions of Christianity, it’s generally assumed that you can’t have that kind of faith unless you believe certain truths in the intellectual sense. But many Christians–including the Catholic Church in Vatican II–now recognize that a person who follows what they believe to be true in good faith is likely to be, at least, on the path toward genuine faith.

    So I would say–and I’m not alone in this by any means–that what you do (i.e., whether you choose to love others and to pursue the truth or not) matters far more than what your intellectual beliefs are. But at the same time, it’s true that our works are not, in themselves, adequate to “earn” eternal life with God. That’s a gift. We can open ourselves to that gift or close ourselves off from it, and many people who do lots of “good” things (this applies more, not less, to devoutly religious people than to non-believers) may be doing them out of self-righteousness and a desire to be better than others. When we do that, then our deeds aren’t genuinely good. That’s what Christians (particularly evangelical Protestants) are trying to get at when we talk about good works being “filthy rags.” Karl Barth has put this position best–many evangelicals have corrupted it into just another way to see themselves as superior to others.

  • Matthew

    Not just “filthy rags” gimpi1. You are made in the image of God thus you are more than capable of doing good deeds that count.

    Many evangelicals have missed this truth entirely.

  • Mark

    Gimpy1,

    I’m a pastor of a small church. As a pastor, and even before I became a
    pastor, I talk to a lot of people about spiritual things and beliefs. I honestly wish more people were as open as you are about your questions and able to express them as well as you do.

    I feel like you have identified a lot of deep issues. While a comment on a blog admittedly seems like a very inadequate way to discuss such things, I nevertheless pray that I can find some words to share that might encourage and help you on your journey.

    You mention the importance of what we do compared to what we believe. James, who was the brother of Jesus wrote:

    James 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

    and also

    James 2:18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.

    I believe that true faith in God will always result in a changed life which is full of love for others expressed in good deeds.

    Is faith in Christ necessary to receive eternal life? The Bible certainly teaches this, and I believe it is true. While people who do not believe in Christ do good deeds, none of us are good enough to deserve living forever in a perfect world with God. This is a gift given to us by God’s
    grace. We receive the gift by faith.

    But this leads to another deep issue you raised. Why should you believe? Is “blind faith” really a good thing?

    I don’t believe God expects us to turn off our minds and
    just believe without evidence. I’ve thought a lot about the types of reasons I believe. I’m in the process of writing a series of blog posts on this topic (so far, I’m up to 7 posts and have several more planned). The type of evidence which is important is different for different people.
    I can only offer my own story. If you would like to read it you may start here:

    http://parresiazomai.blogspot.com/2016/02/why-i-believe-enough-to-keep-following.html

    Finally, as far as those who have not heard the gospel, I have five brief thoughts to share, which I hope will help some with this very difficult topic:

    1. It is right to be concerned about this. The authors of the Bible were deeply concerned about it.

    2. The gospel actually spread rapidly and widely in the early centuries of Christianity, so that the number of people with no opportunity at all to hear the gospel may be smaller than you’d guess. And today, there are Christians living in every nation on the planet.

    3. God turns the tables on us with this issue. His response in the Bible seems to be along the lines of, “You’re right to worry about them, so do something about it, either go yourself or help send someone.”

    4. Even in the most difficult countries, there are people there intentionally sharing the truth and love of Christ, often at the risk of their lives.

    5. Still, this does not explain how it is fair for those who really have had no opportunity to hear. The Bible does not explicitly answer this, but it does reveal a God who is incredibly loving, good, and wise. One possibility is that God has arranged the world in such a way that everyone who would believe given the opportunity is given an opportunity. I don’t know if this is how it works, but it seems possible. I know that I trust the Savior who was
    willing to suffer and die for me to be gracious and good to all people. Practically speaking, please remember that anyone reading this post is not in the group who have no opportunity to hear.

    I know that my words here barely scratch the surface of your good questions, but I hope and pray that it will be a helpful scratch.

    Grace and Peace,
    Mark (with Hope and Joy!)

  • gimpi1

    If I may, a follow-up question, then. If this “gift” is based on understanding certain things, why aren’t these things obvious with good evidence easily seen? Look, I can learn about science. The evidence trail can be followed, and if I can do the math and master the chemistry, I can get there. I can study the rocks and earth-structures to learn about how our current land-masses formed (I married a geologist, can you tell?)

    However, with God, there’s no strong evidence trail. The Bible has history, fables and poetry, but much if it is simply factually wrong. Genesis is a poem, not a description of the way the earth and live came into being. The earth is around 4.5 billion years old, and its current structure and life evolved slowly. We are a product of that evolution. It appears never was an Exodus, since there never was a large population of Hebrew slaves in Egypt, and the monuments of Egypt were built by paid off-season agricultural workers who’s payroll records we can now read, not slaves.There was no global flood. We know this through the geologic record. (Geologist’s wife again!)

    Many Biblical stories are parables. Many are an ancient form of propaganda. Some have been verified as either early myths or based on actual fact. However, there’s no way that the Bible is a totally reliable source, in and of itself.

    With that said, where’s the evidence? Why wouldn’t a God that truly wanted a relationship with us make the evidence of that simple and clear? Why the “challenge” of faith? Why is this made so darn hard?

    I can’t choose what to “believe.” In fact, I don’t regard myself as “believing” anything. Instead, I am convinced by the evidence that something is factual. However, in light of new evidence, I could be convinced I am wrong. What I can’t do is simply “decide to believe,” as some Christians have encouraged me to do. Do you have any idea why any Divine force would want belief, yet make the evidence that would support that belief so obscure?

    I winged on a bit for this, sorry. I just really find myself sort of stuck here, with interest in Christian (and some other) beliefs, but unable to find anything that clearly points in any direction. Suggestions are appreciated.

  • gimpi1

    Thanks for your response. I’ll follow up on your blogspot. I’m interested in what you have to say, I have to challenge you on a couple of points, however.

    I understand what the Bible says. However, as I expressed in an response to someone else, I can’t regard the Bible is definitive. Many Biblical stories are just that, stories. So, if Genesis is a poem and not geology or biology, if Exodus is an origin-story with a bit of propaganda and not history, why is the Biblical description of salvation accurate? (I hope this isn’t offensive. but this is where I’m coming from.)

    Also, the idea that the Biblical information was wide-spread is simply not accurate. Remember, there were hundreds of millions of people living in the Americas, and no Christian reached “The New World” for almost 1,500 years after Christ. Most parts of China (the most heavily populated nation in the ancient world) weren’t reached by Christians until around the same time. Japan, Australia, New Zealand, the various Atlantic and Pacific islands, the list goes on and on. Christianity spread quite rapidly in the middle-east and into Europe, yes, but it took well over 1,000 years to get anywhere else.

    Those minor quibbles aside, thanks for your response. I respect your beliefs, and admire your openness and willingness to share. I’ll follow up on your blog, and may have some more questions.

  • Not only where, but how big? Only a fraction of people it seems make it to heaven. So many hoops to get through. You have to be one of the few chosen. Have to have the theology nailed down, can’t be anything but evangelical Christian, should probably be Republican if American (I think Americans get first choice in seats on the bus ride there anyway). Heaven it seems is a lot smaller than hell would have to be. We’re talking billions of lost people going to hell, while only some millions make it into heaven. I think part of the reason heaven is so cramped is the mansions, which take up a lot of space. And of course, we wouldn’t want Jews, Hindus, Atheists, Muslims or Democrats in heaven anyway, because it would be like…”there goes the neighborhood!

  • Jeanne Fox

    In the book, “3:16 the Numbers of Hope,” page 80, Max Lucado stated, “Death freezes the moral compass. People will remain in the fashion they enter. Revelation 22:11 seems to emphasize hell’s unrepentant evil: ‘Let the evildoers still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy’ (RSV). The God – less remain ungodly. Hell is not a correctional facility or reform school.”

  • Jeanne Fox

    And Jesus is a Republican and wouldn’t want other political parties there. ;)

  • Edwin Woodruff Tait

    My point is that I don’t think it is based on understanding certain things. I think Barth is right about this–it really is a free gift and we don’t earn it by right belief or by “accepting Jesus.” We can reject it, to be sure. Turning away from impulses toward religious belief could be a way of rejecting God. It might also be a form of intellectual integrity, which as Morgan Guyton says is an expression of the “fear of God” praised in Scripture!

    Insofar as atheists and other unbelievers are acting out of a love of truth, they are, from my perspective, expressing what Scripture means by the “fear of God”–perhaps better than many of us “believers.”

  • Iain Lovejoy

    That seems to be a classic example of dodgy theology, taking a single verse, isolating it from its context and then building a whole theory on it contradicting the rest of the Bible.
    Simply reading the following verse destroys the argument, in that it starts “See, I am coming quickly…” and goes on to say that the speaker is coming with judgement. The verse expressly relates to the here and now, not post-judgement hell, and Max Lucado is guilty of seriously distorting the text.

  • Realist1234

    Jesus’ death gives every single person the opportunity to be saved, but that offer has to be accepted. Many reject it. The New Testament does not say Jesus’ death saves you, but rather it and His resurrection are the only basis for salvation, but if you as an individual still reject Him and His offer of life, condemnation is inevitable because you will die still in your sins. The problem with many is that they do not even see that they need to be saved and therefore reject Jesus.

  • Realist1234

    Thanks, Phil, I stand corrected.

  • Ron McPherson

    I understand the points. What I’m saying is that anyone who says that Jesus died for all, but yet believes that not all will receive eternal life, ultimately must admit that Jesus’ death does not become efficacious until one accepts it. As such, this would mean that His death, in and of itself, was not sufficient to save purely on its own merits. In other words, it didn’t work until man did his part. Otherwise, we are left with either Calvinism or Universalism. I don’t see any other way around it.

  • Wesley Cruse

    I loved this article! You demonstrate a sincere willingness to grow in your beliefs as you grow in your faith, something I wish we’d all display more often. Surely you’ve read George MacDonald? He’s perhaps the strongest advocate for Universal Reconciliation that I’ve read. His sermon “Justice” deals with this precise issue that this article deals with. I actually wrote a term paper my first year of undergrad on how that sermon, indeed the whole idea of Christian universalism, adequately balances the justice, mercy, and love of God. In fact, MacDonald’s argument is that it’s precisely God’s justice which requires an understanding of the Gospel informed by Universal Reconciliation. Cheers and best wishes on your journey of faith.

  • Realist1234

    Jesus came to offer salvation to all, but that offer has to be accepted, as Jesus said Himself. There is no indication that all human beings will receive salvation. It is wishful thinking and unbiblical to think otherwise.

  • Realist1234

    I understand what you are saying. That is the problem when people try to reduce the gospel and salvation to a single phrase such as ‘Jesus died for all’.

  • C.s. Lewis wrote a book ‘the great Divorce’ about the size of hell. I highly recommend! ☆~<}°●》

  • Iain Lovejoy

    On the contrary, the Bible repeatedly states all will accept Christ and all shall be saved:
    Isaiah 25:8: “He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD has spoken it.”
    Isaiah 45:23 “I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.” (You would make God an oath-breaker?)
    1 Corinthians 15:22 “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive”.
    Phillipians 2:9-11:
    “Therefore, too, God has lifted him high, and given him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

  • I need to reread it. It’s been 35 years or so. As I remember hell was an ever expanding suburb where the denizens continually move further apart from each other.

  • Ron McPherson

    Good point

  • If Heaven and Hell exist, then I cannot see how Heaven could be enjoyable as long as free will exists. Usually, the answer I get is that it won’t; God causes everyone to immediately stop caring about the people in Hell.

    That rather dispels any concerns I would have about universalism being incompatible with free will.

  • Realist1234

    In coming to a conclusion about any particular issue, you have to look at the whole teaching of the Bible, and particularly the immediate context of any particular verses. In the Isaiah 45 passage you quote for example, if you read on after those verses, the author states, “All who have raged against him will come to him and be put to shame.
    But all the descendants of Israel will find deliverance in the Lord and will make their boast in him.” It would seem therefore that the ‘all’ in the ‘bend the knee’ verse either means all of God’s people or all people who are ultimately forced to recognise the true God, and are therefore “ashamed”.

    In the Isaiah 25 passage, again if you read on “The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
    from all faces;
    he will remove his people’s disgrace
    from all the earth.
    The Lord has spoken.
    In that day they will say,

    “Surely this is our God;
    we trusted in him, and he saved us.
    This is the Lord, we trusted in him;
    let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”

    The author is emphasizing God’s people. The wiping away of tears is clearly connected with His people’s disgrace being removed, which hardly refers to all human beings. The next verse shows who God’s people are – those who trusted in Him and were saved.

    You, Ben and others have made me think again about this issue, and I thought I’d read through one of the synoptics to see if Jesus’ own words shed light on it (John’s gospel probably gives an even stronger case against universalism, but some people dismiss John as being too ‘unique’). I chose Mark.

    I havent quoted every relevant thing that Jesus said, but the following brought some thoughts to me-

    ‘Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”

    He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.”

    Firstly, note He says people ‘can’ be forgiven all their sins, not ‘will’. Secondly, whilst there is still debate as to what this ‘eternal sin’ actually constitutes, though it seems to relate to ascribing satanic and evil to Jesus (has Richard Dawkins committed this sin by saying Christianity is ‘evil’?), He is clearly saying that a human being can commit this sin which ‘will never be forgiven’. To the Universalists, I would ask How can someone who has commiitted the unforgiveable sin, be forgiven and be reconciled to God?

    Sending out of the 12 – Jesus said “If any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them”

    Note the last 5 words – that brought an image of a courtroom to my mind, with a witness standing and their testimony condemning the person in the dock. Not exactly boding well for that person’s destiny.

    Jesus said “For whoever wants to save their life (or soul) will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”

    It seems obvious to me that the life to which Jesus refers is this present life. Indeed you cannot ‘gain the whole world’ in the next life. So this life really is your only opportunity to ‘save your soul’ rather than ‘forfeiting’ it.

    Judas – about His betrayer Jesus said “It would be better for him if he had not been born”.

    I do not see how Jesus could utter these words about Judas, if ultimately he was going to be saved and enjoy God’s favour. ‘better if he had not been born’ – ie better for him if he had never come into existence! Sorry those awful words do not make sense if universalism is true.

    Finally, during the Last Supper, Jesus said “This is my blood of the (new) covenant, which is poured out for many”. Note, not ‘all’ but ‘many’. Either He is implying limited atonement ie He died only for some, or He died so that all could be saved but for only some it will be ‘effective’. Either way, it contradicts any idea of ‘all humans’ but rather He will have a new covenant only with some, though many in number (currently billions).

  • Realist1234

    This is a reply to ‘Iain lovejoy’ but I wanted Ben and others to comment pl-

    In coming to a conclusion about any particular issue, you have to look at the whole teaching of the Bible, and particularly the immediate context of any particular verses. In the Isaiah 45 passage you quote for example, if you read on after those verses, the author states, “All who have raged against him will come to him and be put to shame.
    But all the descendants of Israel will find deliverance in the Lord and will make their boast in him.” It would seem therefore that the ‘all’ in the ‘bend the knee’ verse either means all of God’s people or all people who are ultimately forced to recognise the true God, and are therefore “ashamed”.

    In the Isaiah 25 passage, again if you read on “The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
    from all faces;
    he will remove his people’s disgrace
    from all the earth.
    The Lord has spoken.
    In that day they will say,

    “Surely this is our God;
    we trusted in him, and he saved us.
    This is the Lord, we trusted in him;
    let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”

    The author is emphasizing God’s people. The wiping away of tears is clearly connected with His people’s disgrace being removed, which hardly refers to all human beings. The next verse shows who God’s people are – those who trusted in Him and were saved.

    You, Ben and others have made me think again about this issue, and I thought I’d read through one of the synoptics to see if Jesus’ own words shed light on it (John’s gospel probably gives an even stronger case against universalism, but some people dismiss John as being too ‘unique’). I chose Mark.

    I havent quoted every relevant thing that Jesus said, but the following brought some thoughts to me-

    ‘Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”

    He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.”

    Firstly, note He says people ‘can’ be forgiven all their sins, not ‘will’. Secondly, whilst there is still debate as to what this ‘eternal sin’ actually constitutes, though it seems to relate to ascribing satanic and evil to Jesus (has Richard Dawkins committed this sin by saying Christianity is ‘evil’?), He is clearly saying that a human being can commit this sin which ‘will never be forgiven’. To the Universalists, I would ask How can someone who has commiitted the unforgiveable sin, be forgiven and be reconciled to God?

    Sending out of the 12 – Jesus said “If any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them”

    Note the last 5 words – that brought an image of a courtroom to my mind, with a witness standing and their testimony condemning the person in the dock. Not exactly boding well for that person’s destiny.

    Jesus said “For whoever wants to save their life (or soul) will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”

    It seems obvious to me that the life to which Jesus refers is this present life. Indeed you cannot ‘gain the whole world’ in the next life. So this life really is your only opportunity to ‘save your soul’ rather than ‘forfeiting’ it.

    Judas – about His betrayer Jesus said “It would be better for him if he had not been born”.

    I do not see how Jesus could utter these words about Judas, if ultimately he was going to be saved and enjoy God’s favour. ‘better if he had not been born’ – ie better for him if he had never come into existence! Sorry those awful words do not make sense if universalism is true.

    Finally, during the Last Supper, Jesus said “This is my blood of the (new) covenant, which is poured out for many”. Note, not ‘all’ but ‘many’. Either He is implying limited atonement ie He died only for some, or He died so that all could be saved but for only some it will be ‘effective’. Either way, it contradicts any idea of ‘all humans’ but rather He will have a new covenant only with some, though many in number (currently billions).

  • Well, if you were going for one verse, it’d be more like

    Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.

    And then we’d say, “Quiet, Paul, what would you know?”

  • Or makes people blind or mute?

  • Realist1234

    You’ve just repeated that error – if you read the whole of Romans 5, you’ll be left in little doubt that Paul believes only those who have ‘faith’ in Jesus will be justified and will have peace with God. Remember that he is writing to a group of believers.

  • Evidently my sarcasm didn’t carry through. I think as a whole, the New Testament flip-flops a bit between several concepts, which is only natural for a group of books written by several people.

    I do wonder at calling it the Good News when it was actually horrible horrible news, though. There is no Hell in Judaism, so salvation is a cure in need of an illness — “Congratulations! Virtually everyone you will ever know and nearly every single person you won’t is going to be tormented for eternity! ISN’T THAT GREAT?”

  • Bones

    Free will doesn’t exist.

    It only exists for apologists to make God seem less like a monster.

    You had no choice over your birth, you will grow old whether you like it or not and you will die whether you like it or not. According to Original sin advocates, you have no choice about your ‘sin nature’.

    Ultimately free will is a western ideology.

    Try telling a kid digging in rubbish for food about ‘free will’.

  • Realist1234

    Usually my sarcasm-dar is pretty acute, but hey its 12 midnight and im tired. Bedtime I think. Is the offer of life horrible news?

  • Well, let me put it this way: “Hey, yous folks, I gots a great offer for yas. If ya gives me eighty samoleons, I ain’t breakin’ your legs tonight. Ain’t that the best thing you heard today?”

  • Bones

    Maybe why Christianity was a flop with the Jews……

  • Right, like that.

  • RonnyTX

    Realist1234 to Ronny:
    “Ronny – that would imply that God created Satan as evil from the start. I would argue that is inconsistent with His character. In making the physical Universe and life, everything was ‘good’. There is no reason to think otherwise about the spiritual realm. ‘From the beginning’ may mean from the garden of Eden Genesis scenario when satan first appears, or from the beginning of satan’s fall. You can’t assume it means from the start of the existence of a being who was eventually given the title ‘satan’ (a title rather than a name, meaning accuser/opposer/adversary/slanderer).”

    Ronny to Realist1234:
    I like that word Adversary, for Satan. As best I understand it, that is a very good translation for such. And yes, I believe God created Satan as evil, from the start. Why? Because an Adversary was needed. And God also planted the tree of the knowledge of both good and evil, in the garden of Eden. For us human being needed to know/experience both, so that we could truly appreciate the good. We human beings can only know and truly appreciate good, when we have experienced evil. Another point, without evil, there would have been no need of Jesus Christ and the cross. And without that, how could we experience knowing, just how greatly God/Jesus Christ loves us all? :-) And one last point, no matter what the evil, God will always bring good out of such. Now us human beings, we can’t do that; but then, God can. :-)

    Some scriptures below, about Satan, the serpent,etc.

    “Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” Genesis 3:1

    “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.”
    1 John 3:8

    “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” John 8:44

    “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them. And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.” Job 1: 6,7

    “By his spirit he hath garnished the heavens; his hand hath formed the crooked serpent.” Job 26:13

    “And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,” Revelation 20:2

    “Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy.” Isaiah 54:16

    “I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the Lord, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.” Isaiah 45: 5,7

    Realist to Ronny:
    “But the discussion is about humans. I am not convinced that God’s love for all humanity will automatically be reciprocated. That ignores the sinfulness of mankind, and the often rebellious nature of men and women. The fact is Jesus never said or even implied that all will be saved from sin and its consequences – in fact he said or implied the opposite. Mark gives some good examples of how people reciprocated God’s love when Jesus was physically present with them – they didnt even recognise Him, never mind love Him. Christians should not offer false hope when they have no authority to do so.”

    Ronny to Realist:
    I do not believe it is false hope at all, to say that Jesus Christ is the Saviour of the whole world and that what he set out to do, he finishes. :-) Just like the story Jesus Christ tells us, of the one lost sheep. The shepherd went out, found that one lost sheep, put it on his shoulders and brought it safely home. :-) And that, is exactly what God/Jesus Christ is going to do, for every last one of us. :-)

    Some other scriptures here, that tell us Jesus Christ is the Saviour of the whole world. And there are many more, than this. :-) And just a side note here; but when I came to see this way was true, I was shocked when I read in the bible and started seeing the scriptures, that tell us that everyone of us will be saved, by way of Jesus Christ and the cross. I could not even see those scriptures before, for I had been brought up and taught to believe in a Calvinist church, that God has chosen to save only a few.

    “”The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand.” John 3:35

    “ As thou (God the Father) hast given him (Jesus Christ) power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.” John 17:2

    “All that the Father giveth me (Jesus Christ) shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” John 6:37

    A really good article on this too, on the following webpage.
    http://www.tentmaker.org/books/ScripturalProofs.html

  • Bones

    Anyone using Revelation as a basis for future eschatological belief is on extremely shaky ground.

  • Well, that and Jesus doesn’t fit their interpretation of the prophecies, and the supernatural aspects don’t help — Judaism’s Messiah has nothing to do with forgiving sins, or reigning in Heaven, or returning from the dead, or coming again thousands of years after his ascension. Throwing those at a Jew is going to be largely unconvincing.

  • RonnyTX

    Realist1234:
    “I havent quoted every relevant thing that Jesus said, but the following brought some thoughts to me-

    ‘Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”

    He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.”

    Firstly, note He says people ‘can’ be forgiven all their sins, not ‘will’. Secondly, whilst there is still debate as to what this ‘eternal sin’ actually constitutes, though it seems to relate to ascribing satanic and evil to Jesus (has Richard Dawkins committed this sin by saying Christianity is ‘evil’?), He is clearly saying that a human being can commit this sin which ‘will never be forgiven’. To the Universalists, I would ask How can someone who has commiitted the unforgiveable sin, be forgiven and be reconciled to God?

    Ronny to Realist1234:
    Here’s a real good article, on the so called unforgiveable or unpardonable sin. What this article shows, is that there is no such thing, if the verses and word in question are correctly translated from Greek to English.

    http://www.tentmaker.org/books/PowerOfLifeAndDeathInAGreekFourLetterWord.html

  • Iain Lovejoy

    So the verses I quoted according to you do not mean what they actually say, but something different based in your alleged reading if the “whole teaching of the Bible”: now who’s being “unbiblical”? You started off by saying that there was nothing in the Bible that indicated universalism and are now trying to explain away apparently clear statements in support basef on “the whole teaching” of something that is not in fact present at all.
    The Christian universalist does not deny judgement (so verses pointing to it give you no clue either way) but only asserts that the Bible means what it says when it says that God will nevertheless eventually reconcile everything to himself.
    The passages in Isaiah refer to the restoration of the temple and return of the Jewish exiles by Cyrus, yes, but it is a fundamental of Jesus’ own teaching on the Bible and Christian theology that they are not a purely historical curio but also prefigure Christ.
    Your reliance on Mark is fatal to your case for two reasons.
    Firstly, thee last line of your Mark quote is a misreading of the text, based on misunderstanding of the greek. We are again back to “aioni” in that what Jesus says is that the sin will not be forgiven “until the aioni”, not “never”. That “aioni” does not mean “eternity” but “age” is neatly illustrated by the parallel passage in Matthew at 12:32 where Jesus says that the sin will not be forgiven “in this aioni or the next” which would clearly be gibberish if “aioni” meant “eternity” since you can’t by definition have a “next eternity”. “Eternal” sin likewise uses the adjective “aioniou” which again can either mean “long-lasting / enduring” or “eternal” depending on context. Verse 29 therefore doesn’t help you in denying the express promises and statements I quoted.
    Verse 28 is even more of a problem in that I checked the greek and according to the concordances the verse actually does say “will be forgiven” not “can be forgiven”, apparently using the future indicative rather than subjunctive tense. The text as quoted by you is also distorted because it translates the same word as “slander” in the first half and “blaspheme” in the second when in fact it means “slander” both times. The verses correctly understood in fact support the universalist position: all sins will be forgiven but some will take longer to forgive than others.

  • Bones

    You can also bet that ‘ age’ nearly always means the age of the Temple. That actually fits in with Mark’s discourse against the Pharisees.

  • Realist1234

    Actually Matthew backs up that this sin is eternal by saying it will not be forgiven in this age, or the age to come. Most commentators agree that that means all eternity. The fact is Jesus clearly says there is an unforgiveable sin, which by definition means God will not forgive it if committed, which means those who commit it are impossible to be reconciled to God. Indeed it would be reasonable to conclude that the Jewish scribes who were ascribing demonic power to Jesus had already committed the sin. So I still stand by what I have said.

  • Bones

    You need to understand that the context of the ‘unforgivable sin’ is in Jesus’s conflict with the Pharisees (Mark 3:20-35) which included his family btw and ‘the age’ as we see throughout the Gospel of Mark parallels that of the fig tree (‘learn from the parable of the fig tree….’) and the destruction of the Temple in Mark 13.

    Myers writes in Binding the Strongman: A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus

    He now deals the final blow to the debtcode: blanket pardon. But there is one exception: mistaking the work of the Holy Spirit for that of Satan. As Juan Luis Segundo puts it:
    The blasphemy resulting from bad apologetics will always be pardonable. . . . What is not pardonable is using theology to turn real human liberation into something odious. The real sin against the Holy Spirit is
    refusing to recognize, with “theological” joy, some concrete liberation that is taking place before one’s very eyes [ 1 979:254] .
    This is what the scribal class cannot “see.” Thus by the close of his defense, Jesus has turned the tables completely upon his opponents : it is they who are
    aligned against God’s purposes. To be captive to the way things are, to resist criticism and change, to brutally suppress efforts at humanization-is to be bypassed by the grace of God.

  • That last paragraph amuses me for personal reasons — it’s a lot like how I’ve struggled to explain my own faith. “Never be beholden to anything simply because it’s the way you have (at least allegedly) ‘always done it that way.’ Never be held captive by tradition. Always be willing to learn and seek enlightenment. In doing so, you will learn of, and become more tightly aligned with the divine.”

  • RonnyTX

    Gimpi1 to Mark:
    Also, the idea that the Biblical information was wide-spread is simply not accurate. Remember, there were hundreds of millions of people living in the Americas, and no Christian reached “The New World” for almost 1,500 years after Christ. Most parts of China (the most heavily populated nation in the ancient world) weren’t reached by Christians until around the same time. Japan, Australia, New Zealand, the various Atlantic and Pacific islands, the list goes on and on. Christianity spread quite rapidly in the middle-east and into Europe, yes, but it took well over 1,000 years to get anywhere else.

    Ronny to Gimpi1:
    I wish I could remember the full story I read; but I do remember reading something, about the first Christian missionary to reach Japan. This was a long,long time, after Jesus Christ was here on earth. And the first Japanese people who were saved, they asked the missionary what happened to their kinfolk, who were already dead? The ones who had never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ? And the way he was taught to believe, he had to tell them, there was no hope for such people and they were in hell. What got to that man, was how saddened such people were, when they heard such. Well, a lot of people have been taught to believe, that wrong way. I know I was, in the local church, that I grew up in. But an interesting point, that I found out about, not that long back. I think most everyone knows the story of Sodom and how God wiped them all out. So most are taught that those people went to hell and will be there forever. Yet in Ezekiel chapter 16, God tells us that one day, he is going to restore and bless Sodom. :-) Plus, in that same chapter, God tells us that the sins of Jerusalem, were much worse, than the sins of Sodom. And in the New Testament, Jesus Christ tells us, that if the mighty works he had done in Capernaum, had of been done in Sodom, then those people would of repented. Yet most every preacher and Christian I know, teaches and believes that the people of Sodom are in hell and will be tormented their, for eternity, forever. But then, that’s the teaching we get from some people and not from God/Jesus Christ. For Jesus Christ, as he described himself in story, he is the good Shepherd. He is the one who goes out after that one lost sheep, finds it, puts it on his shoulder and brings it safely home! :-) And before all is said and done, that is exactly what Jesus Christ is going to do, for every last human being! :-) Ah, what a day that will be, when our Jesus we shall see and we look upon his face, the one who saved us by his grace! Ah, what a day, glorious day, that will be! :-)

  • RonnyTX

    Gimpi1 to Edwin:
    With that said, where’s the evidence? Why wouldn’t a God that truly wanted a relationship with us make the evidence of that simple and clear? Why the “challenge” of faith? Why is this made so darn hard?

    I can’t choose what to “believe.” In fact, I don’t regard myself as “believing” anything. Instead, I am convinced by the evidence that something is factual. However, in light of new evidence, I could be convinced I am wrong. What I can’t do is simply “decide to believe,” as some Christians have encouraged me to do. Do you have any idea why any Divine force would want belief, yet make the evidence that would support that belief so obscure?

    I winged on a bit for this, sorry. I just really find myself sort of stuck here, with interest in Christian (and some other) beliefs, but unable to find anything that clearly points in any direction. Suggestions are appreciated.

    Ronny to Gimpi1:
    Gimpi1, at the time God has chosen for each person, they will have faith. For faith, that is a gift of God/Jesus Christ, to each person,as we are being born of God.

    “8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. 11 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; 12 that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: 13 but now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15 having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 16 and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17 and came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. 18 for through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” Ephesians 2:8,18

    So the thing is, on the cross, Jesus Christ reconciled us all back to God the Father. And that includes every last one of us. :-) He is our Saviour,He loves us just that much. And every last person will come to know that on a personal level, as they are born of God. And that, with not even one person, left out! :-)

  • Iain Lovejoy

    Since you posted your post twice, I am posting my answer twice:
    So the verses I quoted according to you do not mean what they actually say, but something different based in your alleged reading if the “whole teaching of the Bible”: now who’s being “unbiblical”? You started off by saying that there was nothing in the Bible that indicated universalism and are now trying to explain away apparently clear statements in support based on “the whole teaching” of something that is not in fact present at all.
    The Christian universalist does not deny judgement (so verses pointing to it give you no clue either way) but only asserts that the Bible means what it says when it says that God will nevertheless eventually reconcile everything to himself.
    The passages in Isaiah refer to the restoration of the temple and return of the Jewish exiles by Cyrus, yes, but it is a fundamental of Jesus’ own teaching on the Bible and Christian theology that they are not a purely historical curio but also prefigure Christ.
    Your reliance on Mark is fatal to your case for two reasons.
    Firstly, thee last line of your Mark quote is a misreading of the text, based on misunderstanding of the greek. We are again back to “aioni” in that what Jesus says is that the sin will not be forgiven “until the aioni”, not “never”. That “aioni” does not mean “eternity” but “age” is neatly illustrated by the parallel passage in Matthew at 12:32 where Jesus says that the sin will not be forgiven “in this aioni or the next” which would clearly be gibberish if “aioni” meant “eternity” since you can’t by definition have a “next eternity”. “Eternal” sin likewise uses the adjective “aioniou” which again can either mean “long-lasting / enduring” or “eternal” depending on context. Verse 29 therefore doesn’t help you in denying the express promises and statements I quoted.
    Secondly, verse 28 is even more of a problem in that I checked the greek and according to the concordances the verse actually does say “will be forgiven” not “can be forgiven”, apparently using the future indicative rather than subjunctive tense. The text as quoted by you is also distorted because it translates the same word as “slander” in the first half and “blaspheme” in the second when in fact it means “slander” both times. The verses correctly understood in fact support the universalist position: all sins will be forgiven but some will take longer to forgive than others.
    You have added bits to your response to me, so I will deal with them too.
    The points about forfeiting the soul amd Judas massively over-read hyperbole to make a point they have nothing to do with.
    Pollon, the word translated “many” according to the concordances means “lots” or “multitudes” and is plural, not singular, so can’t specifically mean ” only some” as you try and make it do. The words used give no clue as to whether the multitudes for which it is poured out are everybody or just lots of people.
    For an express statement that Jesus died for all not some we have to turn to Paul, who says exactly that at 2 Corinthians 5:15 and 1 Timothy 2:5.
    Perhaps I should repeat what you yourself say: “In coming to a conclusion about any particular issue, you have to look at the whole teaching of the Bible” bit also say that you will always find yourself in difficulties if you forget that the Bible was not written in English but in greek and you can’t rely on read in (frequently unintended) nuances of a particular English translation of an isolated verse to support conclusions about something that has nothing to do with what is actually being said in the context of the verse.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    Except he doesn’t say it is an “unforgivable sin”, does he, he says it will not be forgiven “in this age or the one that is coming”: this really doesn’t allow you to say anything about eternal punishment.
    In any event, as I hadn’t previously realised, the verb translated “forgiven” itself simply means to release, let go or ignore. All Jesus is therefore saying is that a slander against the holy spirit will not go unpunished: nothing in this passage suggests tjat such punishment will be for an infinite period in hell.

  • RonnyTX

    Bones:
    Free will doesn’t exist.

    It only exists for apologists to make God seem less like a monster.

    You had no choice over your birth, you will grow old whether you like it or not and you will die whether you like it or not. According to Original sin advocates, you have no choice about your ‘sin nature’.

    Ultimately free will is a western ideology.

    Try telling a kid digging in rubbish for food about ‘free will’.

    Ronny to Bones:
    Good points Bones. :-) And thinking about in Ephesians chapter 2, we’re told that before we’re born of God, we’re spiritually dead and it is God, who has to bring us to life. And in both the Old and the New Testament, we’re told that God is the Potter and we are the clay. Ah, so many don’t like that. They like to think that a mere human being, can overrule God/Jesus Christ. Well, a great thing for all of us, that we can’t! :-)

  • RonnyTX

    Realist1234:
    You, Ben and others have made me think again about this issue, and I thought I’d read through one of the synoptics to see if Jesus’ own words shed light on it (John’s gospel probably gives an even stronger case against universalism, but some people dismiss John as being too ‘unique’). I chose Mark.

    Ronny to Realist1234:
    Personally, after seeing the truth of universal salvation, I was shocked to see how much of that, was in the book of John. Such as the following scriptures which tell us, we are born not of our will; but by the will of God. And down below that, John tells us that Jesus Christ, is the one who takes away the sin of the world. So what we couldn’t and can’t do for ourself, God/Jesus Christ does for all of us. :-)

    “6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
    9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
    10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. 11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not. 12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
    John 1:6,14

    “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” John 1:29

  • RonnyTX

    ASam:
    If Heaven and Hell exist, then I cannot see how Heaven could be enjoyable as long as free will exists. Usually, the answer I get is that it won’t; God causes everyone to immediately stop caring about the people in Hell.

    That rather dispels any concerns I would have about universalism being incompatible with free will.

    Ronny to ASam:
    That is a strange one, that I’ve heard as well. Some people saying, that once we’re in heaven, we will no longer care about those in hell. I wonder how these people reconcile their belief, with the fact that Jesus Christ loved us all so much, that he went to the cross for us all and there, took all of our sins upon himself?

    And this was shocking to me; but I’ve even read quotes of various Christians, down through the ages, where they said one of the joys of heaven, will be our being able to see other people, being tormented in hell! That did shock me and I wondered twisted and hard heart, that someone must have, to think like that!

  • Realist1234

    I wasnt ‘relying’ on Mark, I simply decided to read through one of the synoptic gospels to see if Jesus’ own words gave some light on this issue.

    The Greek ‘aiona’ does mean age, but not automatically a limited time. In context Jesus is clearly referring to this life and the life to come, this age and the age to come. The age to come is eternity, after death. Few commentators understand it differently, only those who do not like what it says.

    You also take issue with the translation of ‘forgiveness’. Yes the Greek word means ‘let go of’ or ‘sent off’ but again the vast majority of scholars view this as clearly referring to forgiveness as it is in the context of sins.

    Jesus is contrasting the fact that all sins of mankind can be forgiven by God, but not this one. If He was not making a contrast, He would not have said ‘but’.

    It will NEVER be forgiven.

    Re judas, say what you want, but those words of Jesus do not reflect the position of someone who will ultimately experience glory. They say the opposite. And Jesus always chose His words carefully, and said what He meant.

    Re ‘many’ I was trying to make the point it does not mean ‘all’, which is what you insist, but rather some. Some, not all. And you’ll note I said ‘many’ means billions of people, so I wasnt trying to imply it meant a handful of people, which you seem to be implying.

    And yes I do realise the New Testament wasnt originally written in English. But it seems you are the one that refuses to understand context.

  • Bones

    So do you think God made some people arseholes or they just turned out like that through upbringing, environment, belief system….

  • Bones

    Yeah Sam, I wonder if Realist and others realise they are blaspheming against the Holy Spirit when they speak against gay Christians.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    The verse simply doesn’t say “never” it says “not”: you are simply distorting what the Bible says (again). The point is to say “X will not be overlooked” even with “forgiven” understood as the meaning simply does not mean “you will be punished forever for X” but only that X will not go completely unpunished. That the punishment has to be infinite unending torture is something you have added yourself. You are making stuff up.
    Yes, the English word “many” means “some”. The greek word however is plural and means “multitudes”. It does not have the meaning of “some” and Paul directly contradicts your position. Was he wrong?

  • gimpi1

    Interesting thought – questioning as a form of respect… well, in considering, that’s the way I feel about it.

    I can’t imagine a Divinity worth it’s salt that wants people to be unquestioning automatons. I don’t know about a love of truth, but I respect it profoundly. I can’t get my head around not looking for the truth, and going wherever that search takes me.

    If there’s a God, and that God cares about us, I think that God would want us to look for the truth. Doing that let us cure diseases, increase our food-production, harness forms of energy that our ancestors couldn’t have imagined. Turning that thought-process off when we look at spiritual matters goes against the grain.

    But, I like your idea, it is respectful. I respect Divinity enough to expect reason and verifiable evidence. I’m still looking, and I’m hopeful.

  • RonnyTX

    Jeffcook:
    Quick question for soteriological universalists: “Where is Hell?”

    It seems that both the traditional view and universalist view have difficulty here.

    Are you imagining some kind of future concentration camp? How does hell work?
    Grace and Peace.

    Ronny to Jeff:
    First and right off of the bat, I have to admit that I have no idea, about what a soteriological universalist is? :-) But you asked, where is hell? Well, it’s nowhere, for there is no Jesus Christ created hell of eternal torment. Such was not in the bible, as it was written in Hebrew and Greek. And the best I understand it now, hell was first added to the bible by Jerome and that in his Latin Vulgate translation.

    The link below, is a real good article, about hell.
    http://www.tentmaker.org/articles/hell_test.html

  • What?!
    Of course, free will exists! If it didn’t there would be no ethics, but only the hopeless determinism of Calvinism, atheism, Islam, Greek fate, etc.

    If we don’t have a choice to seek what is good, to decide to support human rights, etc., then this world is truly absurd.

  • Bones

    “The Greek ‘aiona’ does mean age, but not automatically a limited time. In context Jesus is clearly referring to this life and the life to come, this age and the age to come. The age to come is eternity, after death. Few commentators understand it differently, only those who do not like what it says.”

    Nope….

    The Age to come is the Age after the destruction of the Temple……

    Learn from the parable of the fig tree – it’s all related.

  • RonnyTX

    Jeanne to Kirk:
    And Jesus is a Republican and wouldn’t want other political parties there. ;)

    Ronny to Jeanne:
    :-) Jeanne, when I was young, I wasn’t taught this by my parents; but I must of got it from some other relatives, who were members of my local church. That is, that the Republican party, was the party of God! :-) In later years, after God taught me better, I had fun telling the above to some Democrats online. As I put it to them, if the Republican party was the party of God, why you can see, where that left the Democrats! :-) LoL

  • RonnyTX

    Mark:
    Many religious leaders in Jesus’ day saw His love in action, heard His wisdom, and witnessed great miracles, yet plotted to kill him. So, maybe, some people just can’t be saved without violating their free will. If God “forced” them, would it still be love?

    Ronny to Mark:
    Yes, it would still be love. And the greatest force of all, is love and God/Jesus Christ is love. :-)

  • Bones

    You have that ‘choice’ because of the society you are brought up in.

    If you were brought up in Saudi Arabia, you would have a totally different set of ‘ethics’.

  • Paul Julian Gould

    There are those whose spirituality dictates a punitive, binary and rather rigid set of dogma…

    My only suggestion to those would be to consider what could be the worst-case scenario if they happen to have that whole tzimmis wrong…

    And for some within my circles of life over the years, even considering to consider seems to engender a serious form of terror.

    Thank you for a thoughtful article, once again, Dr. Ben.

  • Paul Julian Gould

    Some of us walked that path for a while (in my case, at least a decade… and hey, if Bob Dylan could explore it, I don’t feel quite so bad)

    But so many folks, including some on this thread, seem to be incapable of thought-experimenting about a big what-if… The assumption seems to be made that the New Testament is infallible, especially the personal and pastoral letters of Sha’ul of Tarsus…

    What if the whole tzimmis as currently interpreted has it wrong?

    I know there is a God, beyond any argument, and so I tend to not engage in such discussions… But God as God is infinitely bigger than dogmas, doctrines and especially bumper-sticker platitudes.

    Formal logic is defined at the simplest by “If A=B and B=C then A=C”

    By perfectly logical standards, any sort of atrocities are acceptable…

    But what if the starting premise “A” is wrong?

    What is the absolute worst that can happen if one questions the theses and conclusions?

  • Arsehole is a relative term I think. Just like one man’s meat is another man’s poison one man’s a****** is another man’s vagina. Vive La difference! ☆~<}°●)

  • Paul Julian Gould

    Doesn’t prevent many from trying, and a few Jews accepting the thing…

    Non-Jewish Evangelicals seem to have a flirtation with Jewish-esque terms and such… leading to such like Kenneth Copland penning such absurdities in “praise music” as “Jehovah Jairah,” {actually YHWH Y’reh) pronounced by American Evangelical Protestants in the South with more than a bit of a drawl… and pretty talented musicians such as Amy Grant trying a bit of Hebrew in another song… And there’s always the tacit assumption that the current political entity of Israel is exactly what’s prophesied, without any question or pause.

    But the assumption also is that somehow every Jew in the world needs to emigrate to that strip of land so that the final battle at the Valley of Megiddo will necessitate the death of the majority of the same, as a matter of course… Nice Yiddische boy who was a talented carpenter touches down on the Mount of Olives and the vast majority of Jews perish..

    Not quite as joyous as some seem to think, when taken to their logical conclusions, but few seem to be willing to observe their own worldviews and dogmas to their conclusions.

    Small wonder most of us in the “tribe” choose to observe and worship the merciful ha-Shem without the condemnation baggage, thank you so much.

  • Realist1234

    I didnt say the ‘punishment has to be infinite unending torture’. I said the consequences of the sin is that God never forgives it. Whilst I still maintain one cannot dismiss the idea of a conscious ‘hell’, I myself am moving towards annihilation following judgement. But the consequences of this sin are still eternal (death).

    In the context, it is clear ‘will not be forgiven’ (or ‘overlooked’ if you want to translate it that way) means never. Jesus could not be more clear as He is contrasting all other sins which can be forgiven compared to this one which cannot. He is simply not saying ‘God isnt forgiving you now, but eventually He will’ – no, He is saying you will never be forgiven this sin if you commit it. How you do not see that is beyond me! So this negates any idea of universalism – if a single person remains unforgiven, and Jesus is saying that is possible, then universalism falls flat on its face and must be rejected.

    Re ‘many’ you seem to misunderstand me. The point I was trying to make was not that Jesus was talking about a small number of people who will be saved, indeed He is talking about multitudes (billions as I said) but that He didnt say ‘all’.When I said ‘some’ I meant some not all. I hope that is now clear.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    Jesus simply does not say “if you commit this sin you will never be forgiven”. If you want to invent your own Bible, feel free, but don’t attribute your words to Jesus.

  • RonnyTX

    Daniel to Bones:
    Of course, free will exists! If it didn’t there would be no ethics, but only the hopeless determinism of Calvinism, atheism, Islam, Greek fate, etc.

    If we don’t have a choice to seek what is good, to decide to support human rights, etc., then this world is truly absurd.

    Ronny to Daniel:
    Did you, of your own free will, choose to be born? Did you choose where you would be born? Did you choose who your parents and other family members would be and how they would teach you, from an infant and on up?

  • RonnyTX

    Bones to Ronny:
    So do you think God made some people arseholes or they just turned out like that through upbringing, environment, belief system….

    Ronny to Bones:
    I believe God chose the environment and belief system each of us would grow up under. And I don’t doubt at all, that God knows how that will effect each person.

    Thinking of an Old Testament pagan king here and just wish I could remember his name; but can’t. (ha) But he was the one who looked at all he had and began to brag about how big he was. Then God literally put him out to pasture, with the cows and other animals. (ha) Then God brought him back to his senses and when God did, he admitted then, who God was and he praised God. :-)

    And here is one bottom line for me. No matter what evil, God brings into my or anyones life, before all is said and done, God will bring good out of all of that. Of course, I by no means always see the exact hows of how God will do that; but I have no doubt at all, that God can and will do such. :-)

  • Not true.

    While it is true that circumstances of birth, social conditions, do affect us, it isn’t true that being born in Saudi Arabia or the U.S. fates us like “wet robots” or “puppets” to do and think only certain views.

    The amazing fact of the human species is its plasticity, that each individual has a choice to ‘step back’ in his consciousness and to question what he has been taught, and to decide differently.

    No one was fated to do anything.

    Besides if what you are saying were true, then it would be purposeless for you to even be dialoguing on this website since nothing can be changed.

    Of course, I realize that you think you have no choice.

  • RonnyTX

    Realist1234 to Iain:
    The Greek ‘aiona’ does mean age, but not automatically a limited time. In context Jesus is clearly referring to this life and the life to come, this age and the age to come. The age to come is eternity, after death. Few commentators understand it differently, only those who do not like what it says.

    Ronny to Realist1234:
    “7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”
    Ephesians 2:7

    Here, we see in Ephesians 2:7, that the apostle Paul is referring to at least two more ages to come. And thinking here, at least one of those ages, must be the 1,000 year reign of Jesus Christ, on earth. And surely, some preachers must preach some on that; but personally, I can’t even remember the last time I heard such.

  • Realist1234

    Im not the one doing that, but it seems we are not going to agree.

  • Realist1234

    All I can say is that just about every single English translation of the New Testament has translated Jesus’ words regarding this sin to mean what I have said they mean. If individuals want to disbelieve the vast majority of scholars then thats up to them.

  • Bones

    Aren’t we lucky God chose for us to live in the modern West then.

    Sorry Ron but that sounds like bs to me.

  • Your example of “choose to be born” has nothing to do with the dictionary definition and common usage of “free will”–meaning that humans have a choice of whether or not to lie, whether or not to support human rights, whether or not to nurture their children, whether or not to help support impoverished refugees, whether or not to female mutilate their infant daughters, etc.

    See Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
    free will–
    “the ability to choose how to act”
    “the ability to make choices that are not controlled by fate or God”
    example: “all of the workers at the homeless shelter are unpaid and are there of their own free will”

    As we grow we have a choice whether or not to continue to hold to the views of our parents, our culture, etc.

    No one is fated to murder, slaughter, lie, rape, etc.

  • Jeanne Fox

    In his book, Heaven chapter 36, Randy Alcorn stated: We will not love those in hell…what we loved in those who died without Christ was God’s beauty we once saw in them. When God forever withdraws from them, I think they no longer bear His image and no longer reflect His beauty. Although they will be the same people, without God they’ll be stripped of all the qualities we loved. Therefore, paradoxically, in a sense they will not be the people we loved.”

    St. Anthony Mary Claret (1807-1870) put it even more strongly: once a soul is condemned by God, then God’s friends agree in God’s judgment and condemnation. For all eternity, they will not have a kind thought for this wretch. Rather, they will be satisfied to see him in the flames as a victim of God’s justice. ( ” The just shall rejoice when they see the revenge. . ” Psalm 57:10). They will abhor him,. A mother will look from paradise and upon her own condemned son without being moved as though she had never known him. .

  • Bones

    That’s complete nonsense. If you were born in the 1500s you’d have a totally different set of ethics. People also don’t choose to sit through disasters which shape their lives.

    A two year old has no free choice when he is abused by a rapist.

    And no one’s talking about fate.

    Our ethics and morals are dependant upon our culture and our society. What we have in modern secular society is education and the combinations of different cultural thought which has enlightened us.

    But even then there are differences in western culture eg the gun debate in the US v rest of the western world.

  • Bones

    That sounds pretty abhorrent.

    And St Anthony merely perpetuates Dante’s myth

    “Picture in Hell a place where there are three reprobates. The first is plunged in a lake of sulfuric fire, the second is chained to a large rock and is being tormented by two devils, one of whom continually pours molten lead down his throat while the other spills it all over his body, covering him from head to foot. The third reprobate is being tortured by two serpents, one of which wraps around the man’s body and cruelly gnaws on it, while the other enters within the body and attacks the heart. Suppose God is moved to pity and grants a short respite.

    The first man, after the passage of a thousand years is drawn from the lake and receives the relief of a drink of cool water, and at the end of an hour is cast again into the lake. The second, after a thousand years, is released from his place and allowed to rest, but after an hour is again returned to the same torment. The third, after a thousand years, is delivered from the serpents; but after an hour of relief, is again abused and tormented by them. Ah, how little this consolation would be – to suffer a thousand years and to rest only one hour.

    However, Hell does not even have that much relief. One burns always in those dreadful flames and never receives any relief for all eternity. He is forever gnawed and stricken with remorse, and will never have a rest for all eternity. He will suffer always a very ardent thirst and never receive the refreshment of a sip of water for all eternity. He will see himself always abhorred by God and will never enjoy a single tender glance from Him for all eternity. He will find himself forever cursed by heaven and Hell, and will never receive a single gesture of friendship.

    It is an essential misfortune of Hell that everything will be without relief, without remedy, without interruption, without end, eternal.”

    https://www.olrl.org/doctrine/pains.shtml

    Islam says the same thing,

    It’s basically a medieval view of eschatology.

  • RonnyTX

    Bones to Daniel:
    You have that ‘choice’ because of the society you are brought up in.

    If you were brought up in Saudi Arabia, you would have a totally different set of ‘ethics’.

    Ronny to Bones:
    I agree. And giving a personal example, I was brought up from birth, in a Calvinistic Baptist church, so, I believed that way. I did, till God showed/taught me better on somethings. But now, what if my parents had of been Muslin and followed the Islamic religion? Well, no doubt, I would of grown up in that and believed that way. Because of this, I have no room, right or reason to look down on anyone or think of myself as better than, some other people. For those other people, I would be believing just as they do, if God had chose that for me. And I just thank God, that before all is said and done, God/Jesus Christ will teach us all better, wherever we have been taught wrong and believed wrong. :-) Well, God/Jesus Christ loves us all, just that much! :-)

  • RonnyTX

    Daniel to Bones:
    Not true.

    While it is true that circumstances of birth, social conditions, do affect us, it isn’t true that being born in Saudi Arabia or the U.S. fates us like “wet robots” or “puppets” to do and think only certain views.

    The amazing fact of the human species is its plasticity, that each individual has a choice to ‘step back’ in his consciousness and to question what he has been taught, and to decide differently.

    No one was fated to do anything.

    Besides if what you are saying were true, then it would be purposeless for you to even be dialoguing on this website since nothing can be changed.

    Of course, I realize that you think you have no choice.

    Ronny to Daniel:
    “A man’s heart plans his way; but the Lord directs his steps.”
    Proverbs 16:9

  • RonnyTX

    Bones to Ronny
    Aren’t we lucky God chose for us to live in the modern West then.

    Sorry Ron but that sounds like bs to me.

    Ronny to Bones:
    Not sure Bones. which part of my post, you see as BS? And I don’t believe in luck. And as for myself, I was born in 1955, in rural, small town NE Texas. Is that the modern west? If it is, more than a few people back then, were sure wrong and hateful about somethings. And that just as true for the local church I grew up in, as anywhere else. And I am so glad I knew my parents loved me and that from the time I was very young. :-) But there are somethings I went through, when I was young, in my teens and older, somethings that I would not wish, on even my worst enemy. But at 16 years old, I was born of God and in that, God proved to me, how greatly God/Jesus Christ loved me. :-) And from that, God gave me a love for all people. And at that time, plus the next year and in all of that, God knocked out of me the selfrighteousness, that I’d been taught in church. God taught me to love all people; but my local church taught me to believe, that most people were going to hell. But in later, years, God has shown me better. :-)

    Another great thing God has shown/taught me in this life, is that I am never to think of myself as better than, as I go about looking down on other people, who aren’t just as I am, who don’t believe just as I do. The last time I did do that, God reminded me, that Jesus Christ was also on the cross for that person and that he was loved of God/Jesus Christ, just as I was. :-)

    Many wrong things in this life. Many things, we would rather have differently. Or as I’ve said, there are things that have happened in my life, that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. But then, God is God and God will work all things out for good. :-)

  • Proverbs 16:9 isn’t true.

  • You need to read a few accounts of those who were in Auschwitz!

    Even there, they emphasized that humans still had a choice.

    I suggest that you start with Victor Frankl and then read Elie Wiesel.

    Ethics don’t come from “our culture and our society”! Ethics come from what is true.

    Even if everyone and every culture on earth declared that slavery, slaughter, intolerance, injustice, etc. is good,
    it
    would be a lie.

    And, as for, the 1500’s, I am well read on that period of time. There were many humans who rejected the standard ethics of the time.

    Please read some more books on that period. You could start with Out of the Flames, the story of Michael Servetus, by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone. But there are many others who show that some thinkers reflected on the standard ethics, then came to different conclusions. It’s called creativity and enlightenment.

    Then they made different choices based on their thinking. Often, tragically, it cost them their lives.

    Also read about one of the sons of the founders of HAMAS. How he thought through the tragedies in Palestine/Israel and chose differently.

    Also, check out Eric Berne, the famous psychologist and founder of Transactional Analysis, or any of the other branches of psychology which reject behavioral determinism.

  • RonnyTX

    Daniel to Ronny:
    Proverbs 16:9 isn’t true.

    Ronny to Daniel:
    “A man’s heart plans his way; but the Lord directs his steps.”
    Proverbs 16:9

    “And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he (God) doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” Daniel 4:35

    “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.” Proverbs 21:1

    “32 And I, if I (Jesus Christ) be lifted up from the earth, will draw (drag) all men unto me.” John 12:22

    “The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand.” John 3:35

    “Thou (God the Father) hast given him (Jesus Christ) power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.” John 17:2

    “All that the Father giveth me (Jesus Christ,) shall come to me, and him that cometh to me I will in nowise cast out.” John 6:37

    “21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. 24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. 25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. 27 For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. 28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in al l.”1 Corinthians 15:21,28

    “1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. 7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; 8 Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; 9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: 10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: 11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:”
    Ephesians 1:1,11

  • Bones

    Not quite sure what my sister’s choice was when she was gangraped at 15…..Or her children’s choices were when their father was decapitated when they were infants….

    Free will hey….

    I could go on.

    Shit happens in life which we have no control over and deeply effects us eg PTSI , depression.

    Humans have a choice if they are aware of the alternatives..

    In certain situations though they aren’t aware of any.

    The people in Auschwitz had no choice or ‘free will’ about going to Auschwitz.

    And for many because of their culture and religious indoctrination eg the 1500s they didn’t know any other choice.

    As for slavery well many cultures did deem it ethical and moral – including the Israelites.

    Paul had no problem with it either. And it wasn’t an issue for Jesus either who makes no comment at all on the practice.

    And did the slave have ‘free will’?

    And remember when shooting Injuns was a good thing. Heck the history of my city is founded on the massacres of indigenous people who resisted white settlement. Do I consider it a shameful part of our history? Yep. Did the white settlers? Nope.

    The white settlers believed they were doing the right thing by ‘dispersing the savages’. Even Charles Darwin lamented over the Australian Aborigines and how they were bound for extinction.

    Or consider the gun control debate in the USA which just seems farcical over here in a country which doesn’t have Amendments to live by.

    Heck your Palestine example doesn’t stand up either. Yousef’s views were challenged from without – from what he saw from the Israelis which made him become an agent for them and then his conversion through Christian missionaries.

    The other members of Hamas believe they are doing the right thing – fighting a war of liberation which they have been indoctrinated into.

    And my Palestinian friend didn’t have much free will when he was forced from his house at gunpoint by the IDF which proceeded to bulldoze his house and build settlements.

    And I’m not interested in the Calvinistic bs either but the Reformers like their Catholic counterparts had no qualms with executing heretics. Did they consider it ethical? Yep. Even the good doctor, St Thomas Aquinas argued it was necessary for a moral society.

    Culture and ethics are entwined eg

    “Cultural norms are the shared, sanctioned, and integrated systems of beliefs and practices that are passed down through generations and characterize a cultural group. Norms cultivate reliable guidelines for daily living and contribute to the health and well-being of a culture. They act as prescriptions for correct and moral behavior, lend meaning and coherence to life, and provide a means of achieving a sense of integrity, safety, and belonging. These normative beliefs, together with related cultural values and rituals, impose a sense of order and control on aspects of life that might otherwise appear chaotic or unpredictable.

    This is where culture intersects with ethics. Since interpretations of what is moral are influenced by cultural norms, the possibility exists that what is ethical to one group will not be considered so by someone living in a different culture. According to cultural relativists this means that there is no singular truth on which to base ethical or moral behavior for all time and geographic space, as our interpretations of truths are influenced by our own culture. This approach is in contrast to universalism, which holds the position that moral values are the same for everyone. Cultural relativists consider this to be an ethnocentric view, as the universal set of values proposed by universalists are based on their set of values. Cultural relativism is also considered more tolerant than universalism because, if there is no basis for making moral judgments between cultures, then cultures have to be tolerant of each other.”

    Source: Boundless. “Culture and Ethics.” Boundless Management. Boundless, 26 May. 2016. Retrieved 29 Jun. 2016 from https://www.boundless.com/management/textbooks/boundless-management-textbook/ethics-in-business-13/ethics-an-overview-95/culture-and-ethics-448-8309/

    Also an excellent article on cultural and ethical relativity when this professor spent time with Filipino headhunters.

    “Here, Clifford Geertz’s recent work is instructive. Geertz calls a human being an “unfinished animal,” by which he means that humans are not genetically programmed to do what we do. He assumes that bees are genetically programmed to make honey and birds are genetically programmed to make nests, but humans are genetically programmed only to acquire language and culture. For example, we can look at plans and make a house, but that’s something learned after we are born; it’s not built in.

    In this view, we are not fully human at birth. We haven’t got all the stuff we need to cope in the world, to be social, to be moral, to be thinking, to be creative. The crux of Geertz’s argument is that human nature is realized only in culture. Human nature is the capacity to become Javanese, for example. In Java, Geertz tells us, they have a saying: “The person is not yet human.” But the way they say it is: “The person is not yet Javanese.”

    The virtue of Geertz’s position is its lack of parochialism. Relativism in this sense argues for engagement, for dialogue between cultures. This is not the kind of easy cosmopolitanism that implies enormous privilege—the capacity, for example, to spend three days in the Bali Hilton. It’s a deeper form of knowing that entails some recognition that I am one among others. I’m not the center of the universe.

    This argues against ethnocentrism, against what could be called cultural imperialism, (imposing a set of norms on people who might not want to inhabit those norms), against projection (laying something you see inside yourself on somebody else). The effort in relativism is to determine what that other person is actually thinking.

    We can see the productiveness of relativism when we are trying to expand the discussion of concepts we think are important—love, for example. We can look at other cultures and ask, Do they have a notion of falling in love? When we do, we see that love is not a universal; it’s not even widespread. But other cultures may have something that’s kind of like falling in love—romance, say. That’s probably one of the categories you could find to look at.

    Our own imagination is limited by the culture we have grown up in, but if we actually go elsewhere and look at what other people do, we can expand our world and challenge our own notions.

    The caveat in all this is: To understand is not to forgive. Just because you come to terms with how something works in another culture doesn’t mean you have to agree with it; it means you have to engage it.

    That’s the sense in which I’d separate cultural and ethical relativism. I don’t think that in order for me to hold a position as ethical, it needs to be universal. In this way, the relativist position becomes emancipating. It means I’m free to think what I think because I’m not going to wait for a consensus of the whole world, of every form of life, every language, every culture. But I want to be challenged by what other people are doing, saying, thinking—by their ethical systems.

    To illustrate, in the late 1960s, I lived with a Filipino hill tribe called the Ilongots, who were headhunters. Do I think headhunting is a good idea because I worked for years trying to understand it? No, I don’t. Am I horrified by it? I used to be; it gave me lots of bad dreams, but then something happened.

    One day, I went to Manila to get my mail, and I found I’d been called for the draft. I opposed the war in Vietnam, so of course I was not thrilled by this news. When I went back to the Ilongots’ household where I was living, I told my hosts what had happened, partly because I needed somebody to talk to about it.

    But I also had an ignoble motive. I imagined that maybe this situation would make the Ilongots think better of me; maybe they would think, This guy has an opportunity to kill people, and that’s great. I could not have been further from the truth.

    I mentioned the draft notice, and they said, “This is terrible. Don’t worry. We’ll take care of you. They’ll never find you here.”

    “Wait a minute,” I said, “I thought you guys were in the business of killing.”

    “No, no,” they answered, “we’ve seen soldiers.” In June of 1945, they really saw soldiers when the Americans drove Japanese troops into the hills where the Ilongots lived. The tribe lost a third of its population during that time.

    At first, I jumped to the conclusion that, having seen the carnage, they didn’t approve of war. But when I talked more with them, I came to realize that they were as horrified of modern warfare as most of us would be of cannibalism or headhunting. It was a kind of moral horror.

    Because I picked up this reaction, I kept pursuing the issue. Finally they said, “Well, what we saw was that one soldier had the authority to order his brothers to sell their bodies.” What they meant was that a commanding officer could order his subordinates to move into the line of fire. That was absolutely inconceivable to them. They said, “How can one person tell others to give up their lives, to put themselves so at risk that it’s highly likely they’ll lose their lives?” That was their moral threshold.

    That experience really knocked me off my moral-horror pedestal. So now, although I do not think headhunting is a good idea, I no longer have the same horrified reaction to it I once did. I realize that some things we do and take for granted can inspire other people’s abhorrence.”

    https://www.scu.edu/ethics/ethics-resources/ethical-decision-making/of-headhunters-and-soldiers/

  • Some Christians seem to have no empathy whatsoever, sayeth the sociopath. Did you see the quote I posted on another thread wherein a Calvinist declared that if someone was a Reprobate, they should be satisfied with the explanation that God created them to demonstrate his infinite patience and love by giving them a few years on Earth to show his Elect how great he is, and then commence torturing them for eternity?

  • Bones

    It’s bs that God chose to pick certain gay people to be executed in Iran and not live in the comfortable west.

    I’m thankful that I was born now and in the country I am in. I’m glad i wasn’t born in Syria and having to take my family and run away from ISIS to countries that don’t want us. The idea that God chose people to be butchered by ISIS is complete bs.

  • RonnyTX

    Realist to Ronny:
    All I can say is that just about every single English translation of the New Testament has translated Jesus’ words regarding this sin to mean what I have said they mean. If individuals want to disbelieve the vast majority of scholars then thats up to them.

    Ronny to Realist:
    Realist, here are two good articles, concerning your point, that I hope you will take the time to read.

    http://www.tentmaker.org/articles/unpardonable-sin.htm

    http://www.tentmaker.org/books/PowerOfLifeAndDeathInAGreekFourLetterWord.html

    And 2,000 years ago there was a Greek word, that was the same as our eternal; but that word was Aidios and not aion or aionious.

    As for disbelieving the vast majority of scholars, well, I look at it this way. It’s following some people, without question, that has gotten us in trouble. But following God/Jesus Christ, will never get us in trouble and we will not be led wrong. But simply believing and following some people without question, scholars included, that will always get us in trouble and lead us to some degree, down the wrong path.

  • RonnyTX

    Realist1234:
    “The Greek ‘aiona’ does mean age, but not automatically a limited time. In context Jesus is clearly referring to this life and the life to come, this age and the age to come. The age to come is eternity, after death. Few commentators understand it differently, only those who do not like what it says.”

    Bones to Realist1234:
    Nope….

    The Age to come is the Age after the destruction of the Temple……

    Learn from the parable of the fig tree – it’s all related.

    Ronny to Bones:
    That’s the present age, the church age. And next, as best I understand it, comes the 1,000 year reign of Jesus Christ, here on earth. :-) But Israel is not cast off forever, for as Paul well puts it, all Israel shall be saved! :-)

  • Bones

    “And next, as best I understand it, comes the 1,000 year reign of Jesus Christ, here on earth”

    Nope….this is where Jesus rules with an iron fist, right?

    The Book of Revelation is not futuristic….

  • You wrote, “The people in Auschwitz had no choice or ‘free will’ about going to Auschwitz.”

    You seem to have a misunderstanding about the usual meaning of the word “free will.”

    It has nothing to do with circumstances, especially not the horror of your sister being gang-raped or millions of Jews being gassed by Nazis!

    Free will is the concept that humans have a choice, that we aren’t puppets of God, fate, nature, etc.

    For instance, each German had a choice of whether to support the Nazi Party, etc. They were morally responsible for their choices. They can’t blame God, any devil, fate, the cosmos, etc.

    And each Jewish person had a choice of how he/she would respond to the atrocities being done to Jewish people, Jehovah Witnesses, Gypsies, etc.

    Free will is the ability to make moral choices within the circumstances of life that we are in.

    Then you wrote, “I could go on.”

    No, you can’t if you are correct that we don’t have any choice.
    Then you, also, don’t have the ability to “go on.”

    For instance, here’s Victor Frankl and others on it:

    “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread…They offer
    sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man
    but one thing:
    to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance,
    to choose one’s own way.

    Victor Frankl

    “Any person, regardless of the circumstances, can decide what shall become of them–mentally and spiritually.
    Victor Frankl

    “Between stimulus and respons there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
    Victor Frankl

    “I am not…my circumstances, I am..my decisions.”
    Educator Stephen Covey

    Then you wrote, “And did the slave have ‘free will’?”

    Yes, he/she did! They were caught in circumstances of which they had little control, but
    they DID have the choice, as Frankl explains, of how they would respond to those circumstances.

    At tragic times like the present when destruction, heartbreak,
    debacle, and slaughter ‘reign’ down–
    when the ocean of darkness
    seems endless and abyss’d,

    remember the gravely etched truth
    of the psychologist Victor Frankl who lived at Auschwitz:

    The wonder of being human, of being consciously aware, of experiencing
    and living in the transcendent, of seeking the good,
    of sensing the ‘ought’ of every ethical truth
    is that each of us understands
    (except for determinists of course)
    that every human, everyone of us, all of us–
    no matter how difficult our troubled life path,
    no matter what our difficult circumstances,
    no matter our weeping heartache,
    no matter how chasmic deep our tragedy–

    we are free to choose alternatives in the very midst of the evils,
    to reject the horrific wrongs,
    to song hope and justice,
    to turn toward the Light,
    to reach out to others and empathize,
    to act compassionate,
    and
    to care
    hell
    down
    and
    out.

    “I am not…my circumstances, I am…my decisions.”
    Educator Stephen Covey

    “Any person, regardless of the circumstances, can decide what shall become of them–mentally and spiritually.
    Victor Frankl

    “I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”
    Psychiatrist and psychotherapist Carl G. Jung
    http://infiniteoceanoflightandlove.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2016-06-21T13:08:00-07:00&max-results=7

    But then later, it appears that you contradict yourself.
    You wrote, “It means I’m free to think what I think…”

    Not if there is no choice. If there is no choice, then you aren’t free to “think.”

  • It’s pointless to quote Bible verses to me. I already know all of them, used to teach those passages, and many others. I used to be a Baptist youth pastor, elder, Bible teacher, mission volunteer, etc. After over 50 years of fighting Calvinism, I finally gave up.

    The God that I trusted in when I experienced my conversion is nothing like the god of Calvinism.

    The God we trusted in the Baptist churches and the Quaker meeting I was a part of was Eternal Love, Truth, Justice, and Goodness.

    That God we loved “wasn’t willing for any to perish” (also Bible verse). The God we worshiped would NEVER foreordain billions to eternal damnation like Calvin, Luther, Augustine, etc.

  • Yet you think that the cosmos or fate caused all of this and that we don’t even have a choice of how we respond to the horrors!

    I fail to see the difference.

    If we are all only puppets, then it’s absurd, whether God, fate, the cosmos, or ? causes everything.

  • Bones

    We aren’t puppets….and you seem to have an idea that something has to cause everything.

    You are arguing against strawmen.

    But we are products of our culture and time.

  • Bones

    You are free to think…….your thoughts are the reflections of your desires, beliefs and upbringing.

    That does not imply ‘free will’.

    And why did Viktor Frankl choose differently to say other inmates who chose survival at all cost…..and would you have been different?

    What were the factors that determined his choices?

    His upbringing…..his beliefs…….his hospital work…..

    And who am I to judge either?

    Sam Harris (who I don’t particularly like) notes

    “One of the most refreshing ideas to come out of existentialism (perhaps the only one) is that we are free to interpret and reinterpret the meaning of our lives. You can consider your first marriage, which ended in divorce, to be a “failure,” or you can view it as a circumstance that caused you to grow in ways that were crucial to your future happiness.

    Does this freedom of interpretation require free will? No. It simply suggests that different ways of thinking have different consequences. Some thoughts are depressing and disempowering; others inspire us. We can pursue any line of thought we want — but our choice is the product of prior events that we did not bring into being.

    Take a moment to think about the context in which your next decision will occur: You did not pick your parents or the time and place of your birth. You didn’t choose your gender or most of your life experiences. You had no control whatsoever over your genome or the development of your brain.

    And now your brain is making choices on the basis of preferences and beliefs that have been hammered into it over a lifetime — by your genes, by your physical development since the moment you were conceived, and the interactions you have had with other people, events, and ideas.

    Where is the freedom in this? Yes, you are free to do what you want even now. But where did your desires come from?

    …What I will do next, and why, remains, at bottom, a mystery — one that is fully determined by the prior state of the universe and the laws of nature (including the contributions of chance). To declare my “freedom” is tantamount to saying, “I don’t know why I did it, but it’s the sort of thing I tend to do, and I don’t mind doing it.””

    As for the Nazi Party, it was born out of rabid cultural anti-semitism, deplorable conditions from the Treaty of Versailles, the Great Depression, Communist rebellions and massive political upheaval.

    If you were raised in pre-war Germany there was a significant chance that you would be raised anti-semitic UNLESS your upbringing and environment was challenged by education and different views.

    The same goes for all examples of cultural bigotry eg Apartheid, Arab/Jew discrimination, Christian homophobia, Rwanda….

    Sam Harris again

    The Illusion of Free Will

    The question of free will touches nearly everything we care about. Morality, law, politics, religion, public policy, intimate relationships, feelings of guilt and personal accomplishment—most of what is distinctly human about our lives seems to depend upon our viewing one another as autonomous persons, capable of free choice. If the scientific community were to declare free will an illusion, it would precipitate a culture war far more belligerent than the one that has been waged on the subject of evolution. Without free will, sinners and criminals would be nothing more than poorly calibrated clockwork, and any conception of justice that emphasized punishing them (rather than deterring, rehabilitating, or merely containing them) would appear utterly incongruous. And those of us who work hard and follow the rules would not “deserve” our success in any deep sense. It is not an accident that most people find these conclusions abhorrent. The stakes are high.

    In the early morning of July 23, 2007, Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky, two career criminals, arrived at the home of Dr. William and Jennifer Petit in Cheshire, a quiet town in central Connecticut. They found Dr. Petit asleep on a sofa in the sunroom. According to his taped confession, Komisarjevsky stood over the sleeping man for some minutes, hesitating, before striking him in the head with a baseball bat. He claimed that his victim’s screams then triggered something within him, and he bludgeoned Petit with all his strength until he fell silent.

    The two then bound Petit’s hands and feet and went upstairs to search the rest of the house. They discovered Jennifer Petit and her daughters—Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11—still asleep. They woke all three and immediately tied them to their beds.

    At 7:00 a.m., Hayes went to a gas station and bought four gallons of gasoline. At 9:30, he drove Jennifer Petit to her bank to withdraw $15,000 in cash. The conversation between Jennifer and the bank teller suggests that she was unaware of her husband’s injuries and believed that her captors would release her family unharmed.

    While Hayes and the girls’ mother were away, Komisarjevsky amused himself by taking naked photos of Michaela with his cell phone and masturbating on her. When Hayes returned with Jennifer, the two men divided up the money and briefly considered what they should do. They decided that Hayes should take Jennifer into the living room and rape her—which he did. He then strangled her, to the apparent surprise of his partner.

    At this point, the two men noticed that William Petit had slipped his bonds and escaped. They began to panic. They quickly doused the house with gasoline and set it on fire. When asked by the police why he hadn’t untied the two girls from their beds before lighting the blaze, Komisarjevsky said, “It just didn’t cross my mind.” The girls died of smoke inhalation. William Petit was the only survivor of the attack.

    Upon hearing about crimes of this kind, most of us naturally feel that men like Hayes and Komisarjevsky should be held morally responsible for their actions. Had we been close to the Petit family, many of us would feel entirely justified in killing these monsters with our own hands. Do we care that Hayes has since shown signs of remorse and has attempted suicide? Not really. What about the fact that Komisarjevsky was repeatedly raped as a child? According to his journals, for as long as he can remember, he has known that he was “different” from other people, psychologically damaged, and capable of great coldness. He also claims to have been stunned by his own behavior in the Petit home: He was a career burglar, not a murderer, and he had not consciously intended to kill anyone. Such details might begin to give us pause.

    Whether criminals like Hayes and Komisarjevsky can be trusted to honestly report their feelings and intentions is not the point: Whatever their conscious motives, these men cannot know why they are as they are. Nor can we account for why we are not like them. As sickening as I find their behavior, I have to admit that if I were to trade places with one of these men, atom for atom, I would be him: There is no extra part of me that could decide to see the world differently or to resist the impulse to victimize other people. Even if you believe that every human being harbors an immortal soul, the problem of responsibility remains: I cannot take credit for the fact that I do not have the soul of a psychopath. If I had truly been in Komisarjevsky’s shoes on July 23, 2007—that is, if I had his genes and life experience and an identical brain (or soul) in an identical state—I would have acted exactly as he did. There is simply no intellectually respectable position from which to deny this. The role of luck, therefore, appears decisive.

    Of course, if we learned that both these men had been suffering from brain tumors that explained their violent behavior, our moral intuitions would shift dramatically. But a neurological disorder appears to be just a special case of physical events giving rise to thoughts and actions. Understanding the neurophysiology of the brain, therefore, would seem to be as exculpatory as finding a tumor in it.

    How can we make sense of our lives, and hold people accountable for their choices, given the unconscious origins of our conscious minds?

    https://www.samharris.org/blog/item/the-illusion-of-free-will

    Albert Einstein – My Credo

    “Our situation on this earth seems strange. Every one of us appears here, involuntarily and uninvited, for a short stay, without knowing the why and the wherefore. In our daily lives we feel only that man is here for the sake of others, for those whom we love and for many other beings whose fate is connected with our own.

    I am often troubled by the thought that my life is based to such a large extent on the work of my fellow human beings, and I am aware of my great indebtedness to them.

    I do not believe in free will. Schopenhauer’s words: ‘Man can do what he wants, but he cannot will what he wills,’ accompany me in all situations throughout my life and reconcile me with the actions of others, even if they are rather painful to me. This awareness of the lack of free will keeps me from taking myself and my fellow men too seriously as acting and deciding individuals, and from losing my temper.”

  • RonnyTX

    Daniel to Ronny:
    It’s pointless to quote Bible verses to me. I already know all of them, used to teach those passages, and many others. I used to be a Baptist youth pastor, elder, Bible teacher, mission volunteer, etc. After over 50 years of fighting Calvinism, I finally gave up.

    Ronny to Daniel:
    Daniel, I used to be a young peoples bible teacher. And yes, I was Calvinist in belief; but only because I was brought up in a Calvinist teaching church, from the time I was a baby. But around 7 years ago, God showed and taught me better. :-) So, I am no longer Calvinist in believe; but instead, I believe all people, from Adam on down, will be born of God, by way of Jesus Christ and the cross. And one of the best webpages I know of, on this belief, is tentmaker.org.

    Daniel to Ronny:
    The God that I trusted in when I experienced my conversion is nothing like the god of Calvinism.

    Ronny to Daniel:
    Daniel, I quite agree with you here. For the false teaching of Calvinism, is that God only chose to save some people and chose for the rest, to be tormented in hell, eternally.

    Daniel to Ronny:
    The God we trusted in the Baptist churches and the Quaker meeting I was a part of was Eternal Love, Truth, Justice, and Goodness.

    Ronny to Daniel:
    Amen to that! :-) And that is the same God that met with me, when I was born of God, at 16 years old. God let me know I was lost. God showed me my sinfullnes and the goodness of God, led me to repentance. And as soon as I had repented/agree with God about my sin, the love of God began to pour out on me and God showed me Jesus Christ on the cross and let me see and understand, that he was there for me, there taking all of my sins, upon himself. :-) And my first prayer to God, was simply a prayer of thanksgiving, with my thanking God, for what He has just done for me. And from all of this, God gave me a love for all people and a desire that all people have the same type of relationship with God/Jesus Christ, as I then had. Of course, my Calvinist teaching church, they said such was not to be; but later on in life, God taught and showed me better. :-)

    Daniel to Ronny:
    That God we loved “wasn’t willing for any to perish” (also Bible verse). The God we worshiped would NEVER foreordain billions to eternal damnation like Calvin, Luther, Augustine, etc.

    Ronny to Daniel:
    Daniel, I completely agree with this. :-) And simply say, since God is not willing that any should perish, then no person from Adam on down, will perish; but instead, at the time of God’s choosing, every person will be born of God. :-)

  • You wrote, “…there was a significant chance…”

    Not according to you or Sam Harris.

    According to determinists such as you and Harris, there is no choice, no chance, no creativity, etc.

    I suggest you listen to Harris’ podcast “Tumors All the Way Down” where he claims that
    no one has any more choice than a Texas mass murderer who killed because he was forced to do so by his brain tumor!!

    And, looking at the humor of the situation, you obviously “do not believe in free will” because it was determined that you not;-)

    In contrast, I do think there are human rights, choices, equality, justice, goodness, and so forth.

    Good bye.

  • Bones

    I see it’s become too difficult for you.

    Actually chance has everything to do with it,

    Even down to the sperm which created you and placed you in the modern secular world that gives you ‘choice’ and equality.

  • See Sam Harris’ podcast. See his and Jerry Coyne’s explanation that we are “puppets,” “wet robots,” incapable of moral responsibility.

    You wrote I am “arguing against strawmen.”

    On the contrary, “Puppets,” “wet robots,” etc. aren’t my words, but the words of various determinists.

    The views of Harris, Coyne, Cashmore, etc. are on the Internet.
    Don’t take my word for it. Listen to their own words.
    Cashmore says that we have no more choice than a “bowl of sugar”!

    And according to determinists, “our culture and time” are also determined…..

  • I consider the question of free will to be irrelevant, since we are incapable of determining whether we have free will or are merely “programmed” (substitute biological equivalent) to think we have free will. It’s AI turtles all the way down!

    But what bugs me is the thought that people can hold a person responsible for their thoughts and beliefs when thought and belief is so easily altered by a change in brain structure, hormone and neurotransmitter levels, and non-neurotypical brain development. Does a nonverbal autistic person go to Hell for not believing? Does someone born blind and deaf go to Hell for not believing?

    It’s basically a variant of the “what if you died before there was even a remote chance of hearing the gospel” question, which a number of Christians have turned into a matter as serious as the problem of evil. If one ascribes loving motivations to God and invokes “God wants that none shall perish” in conjunction with the belief that all who fail to convert and repent shall die/go to Hell, then having a person born under circumstances in which the likelihood of their conversion and repentance is necessarily limited is hardly a loving act.

    Usually the response I get to such matters is deeply authoritarian- “You can’t tell God what to do!” — perhaps not, but it gives me little motivation to worship such an entity.

  • RonnyTX

    ASam:
    It’s basically a variant of the “what if you died before there was even a remote chance of hearing the gospel” question, which a number of Christians have turned into a matter as serious as the problem of evil. If one ascribes loving motivations to God and invokes “God wants that none shall perish” in conjunction with the belief that all who fail to convert and repent shall die/go to Hell, then having a person born under circumstances in which the likelihood of their conversion and repentance is necessarily limited is hardly a loving act.

    Usually the response I get to such matters is deeply authoritarian- “You can’t tell God what to do!” — perhaps not, but it gives me little motivation to worship such an entity.

    Ronny to ASam:
    No doubt, there are a lot of people who have died and never heard of Jesus Christ and his gospel; but they will. :-) They will, after God has raised them from the dead. And at that time, they will born of God, by way of Jesus Christ and the cross. :-) For such as that, is not in our human hands; but such, is entirely in God’s hands. And that is a great thing for us all, because God/Jesus Christ is love and loves us all so greatly, so much more, than we can humanly comprehend! :-)

    And I’ve said this before; but it sure is good to repeat. There is no hell of eternal torment, in the bible, as it was written in Hebrew and Greek. Such was added on to the bible, by some people, some bible translators. And as best I understand it now, it was first added on to the bible, in Jeromes Latin Vulgate translation. And it really astounds me now, that anyone could believe in a Jesus Christ created hell of eternal torment, who has personally experienced the love of God/Jesus Christ first hand. But then, God had chosen for some to believe that lie, at least for a time. God chose that for me; but then in time, God showed and taught me better. And I simply say, before all is said and done, God/Jesus Christ, will have shown and taught every person better! :-)

  • RonnyTX

    Ronny to Bones:
    “And next, as best I understand it, comes the 1,000 year reign of Jesus Christ, here on earth”

    Bones to Ronny:
    Nope….this is where Jesus rules with an iron fist, right?

    The Book of Revelation is not futuristic….

    Ronny to Bones:
    No, that is the time, as best I understand it now, where Jesus Christ rules and reigns, with love. :-)

  • Thanks for clarifying your view of Christian determinism.

    There are various versions of universalism in Christianity. I very much admire the Bible scholar William Barclay for his love-centered universalism, Origen, and George MacDonald, etc.. And C.S. Lewis seemed to be a hope-to-be-true universalist.

    I highly doubt that universalism can be true for many reasons.

    Also troubling, however, are some of your statements such as this in another comment post: “God had chosen for some to believe that lie…” :-(

    On the contrary, God never lies and has never “chosen for some to believe” any lie.

  • Chance, ‘choice,’ and equality are impossible in a world of determinism.

  • Bones

    Complete nonsense.

    Now you’re making it up.

  • I’m going by the lectures we received and the books we read at two universities, including the views of our professor of American Intellectual History, who earned his doctorate in determinism.

    M-W D. determinism: “philosophy : the belief that all events are caused by things that happened before them and that people have no real ability to make choices or control what happens”

    M-W D. determinism: “Full Definition of determinism
    “1
    a : a theory or doctrine that acts of the will, occurrences in nature, or social or psychological phenomena are causally determined by preceding events or natural laws
    b : a belief in predestination
    2
    : the quality or state of being determined”

    If someone has been determined, then, of course, there can be no case of “Chance, ‘choice,’ and equality” or creativity or human rights, etc. because the latter are all contrary to the definition.

    Some thinkers avoid this problem by redefining the terms. But that then is a semantic problem.

    I didn’t make up any of it. It was taught to us by brilliant thinkers, professors, and determinists themselves.

    It baffles me why you are bothering to even write since everything is already determined. But all the determinists before you did the same, claiming that they didn’t have a choice but to write and say what they were saying.

    I am thankful I am not a part of that endless fated loop.

  • RonnyTX

    Daniel to Ronny:
    Thanks for clarifying your view of Christian determinism.

    Ronny to Daniel:
    I had to do some reading; but I’m still not 100% sure, what is Christian determinism? But as I’ve said before, I do believe that God has chosen for all of us to be saved/born of God and that by way of Jesus Christ and the cross. And for some, that will not come in this lifetime; but it will surely come after the person dies and God raises them from the dead. :-)

    Daniel to Ronny:
    There are various versions of universalism in Christianity. I very much admire the Bible scholar William Barclay for his love-centered universalism, Origen, and George MacDonald, etc.. And C.S. Lewis seemed to be a hope-to-be-true universalist.

    Ronny to Daniel:
    I’ve said this before; but one of my favorite Christian universalist webpages, is tentmaker.org. And I know in some places, they have articles by Christian universalists, from the 1800’s or even earlier. And in another group, I learned that
    C.S. Lewis, was a hopeful universalist. And the man who wrote about that, I can see, that he too is a hopeful universalist. :-)

    Daniel to Ronny:
    I highly doubt that universalism can be true for many reasons.

    Ronny to Daniel:
    Daniel, I don’t doubt it at all. Why? Because I know how God saved me, when I was 16 years old. Why would God do that for me and not for everyone? And when I first heard of Christian universalism, just 7 years ago, I wished it was true; but I thought it too good to be true! :-) But I did what God taught me to do, 21 years ago. I read what those Christians had to say and the scriptures they cited, to prove their position. By doing that, I came to see, that they were right. :-) That Jesus Christ is indeed, the Savior of the whole world. :-)

    Daniel to Ronny:
    Also troubling, however, are some of your statements such as this in another comment post: “God had chosen for some to believe that lie…” :-(

    On the contrary, God never lies and has never “chosen for some to believe” any lie.

    Ronny to Daniel:
    I have to disagree with you here, Daniel. For God chose for me to grow up in a Calvinistic church and believe completely that way, till I was 54 years old. Then God showed me better. And back when I was 12 years old, I discovered I was attracted to some males and not to any female. Didn’t even know the name for that. Then as a child will at times, I overheard some of my church elders talking scornfully about those homsexuals. Saying such was chosen and the worst of sins. Had to look up the word homosexual, in my Mom’s medical book, to find they were talking about people like me. :-( And that’s why, at 12 years old, I went up at church in tears, believing everything the preacher told me and thought I had become a Christian. But the truth of the matter turned out to be, that I was merely a wet Baptist. (ha) Because 4 years later, God directly entered my life, let me know I was lost, brought me to repentance and took me on to faith, in Jesus Christ and what he did for me, on the cross. :-) Too, I was 40 years old, before I found out from God, that my being gay was not chosen and was no sin at all; but instead, it was one of God’s good gifts to me. :-) So yes, when I didn’t know any better, God did choose for me to believe some lies, for shorter and longer periods of time. But when God/Jesus Christ gets through with us, we will all have been taught and learned better, on all things. :-)

  • Bones

    Well I’ve already shown from Harris’s quote that we have choice and chance in a deterministic universe where our behaviour and beliefs are determined by genetic, biological and environmental factors which influence our thinking.. Our choices are limited however to what we know……A Muslim cannot just choose to one day become a Christian without knowing what Christianity was…..

    It’s interesting in the way that this applies to homosexual people who say they are incapable of changing whereas those who hold to a deterministic view say that is also impossible because you know genetics, biological factors……

    Which are you?

    Also it has ramifications for how children are brought up, universal education and the idea that criminals should be punished because they chose to commit crimes.

    And nothing then about current theories which show that Chance and Determinism are compatible.

    eg

    Chance and Determinism, Roman Frigg, LSE
    Forthcoming in Alan Hájek and Christopher Hitchcock (eds):
    The Oxford Handbook of Probability and Philosophy. Oxford: OUP.

    http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/11219/1/Chance_and_determinism.pdf

    Deterministic Chance, Antony Eagle, University of Oxford,

    http://philpapers.org/archive/EAGDC.pdf

    etc

  • RonnyTX

    Bones to Daniel:
    It’s interesting in the way that this applies to homosexual people who say they are incapable of changing whereas those who hold to a deterministic view say that is also impossible because you know genetics, biological factors……

    Ronny to Bones:
    That is an interesting one to me, since I’m gay. And it’s right, that it’s not possible for me to be heterosexual. Thinking about when was around 14 years old and went down to a neighbors storage building, that they also let my family use. In the open part, I saw a big army duffel bag. Curious, so looked in it. Found a porn girly mag, that my neighbor must of got, when he was in the army. Leafed through it and there was this one pic of a beautiful young Asian girl and she was completely unclothed. I could see for myself, how pretty she was; :-) but, that was as far as it went. To me, their was nothing sexually exciting about her. All I knew, was that she was beautiful and that was it. Well, it makes me grin, just thinking of the hopelessness of such, if some other person, tried to make me heterosexual! :-)

  • You wrote, “Well I’ve already shown from Harris’s quote that we have choice…”

    ?
    But I gave you the information that Harris claims in his podcast “Tumors All the Way Down” that no one has any choice, none at all, that we have no more choice than a mass murderer whose brain tumor is forcing him to slaughter!

    Did you listen to that podcast?

    He and Coyne in another podcast emphasize that a person can’t even choose to make a slight change so as to get a golf ball to slightly change direction!!

    Coyne claims that murderers and rapists have no choice, that they are incapable of moral responsibility.

    He even claims that we can’t choose what to have for lunch, and that he himself is also incapable of any choice, that everyone is incapable of any choice.

    I will check out your urls.

    Thanks.

  • Thanks, Ronny, for sharing of your own spiritual journey.

    It helps me understand one reason for your perspective.

    We disagree about the nature of God.

    In contrast to your determinism, I think that God is more like this:

    God is the good, the true, the just, the right, who is working on amoral matter and energy, survival of the fittest, natural disasters, etc. and
    bringing the cosmos slowly toward more and more light, goodness, and beauty.

    “…. since the cosmos itself is in bondage, depressed under evil forces, the essential content of the word “salvation” is that the world itself will be rescued, or renewed, or set free. Salvation is a cosmic event affecting the whole of creation…Salvation is not simply the overcoming of my rebellion and the forgiveness of my guilt, but salvation is the liberation of the whole world process of which I am only a small part” —The Satanward View: A Study in Pauline Theology by James Kallas, Westminster, 1966, p.74

  • Anna

    Thanks for the article! (I especially liked your analysis of annihilationism’s emphasis vs universalism’s – I think it was spot on.) I’m a universalist, and I remember when I first found out you weren’t I was quite surprised – your writing had a universalist “vibe”, I guess. :) So I’m glad to see you’re considering it! Do you know the forum evangelicaluniversalist.com? They’re a good place to discuss the subject, ask questions, debate, etc, if that’s something you’d have any interest in. Lots of older resources too.

    I look forward to seeing what position you end up settling on!

  • I’m not too far off from you. I see both annihilation and universal reconciliation as being real possibilities, while my hope is biased toward the latter. However, I would disagree that annihilation necessarily means “God causes them to exist no more.” I’d say instead that we all have the capacity to bring about our own self destruction by consistently walking away from our source of life. But I’m hopeful that no one will ultimately do that. I wrote some more on it here, if you’re interested: http://www.hippieheretic.com/2016/02/25-views-on-hell-2-questions-to-reframe.html

  • It’s simple— The bible teaches everyone dies and then— judgement. It also teaches that no one can change after they die— then it is too late. Study and believe the bible!

  • I think the concept of free will most of us talk about has to do with our freedom to choose right/wrong, good/evil ,faithfulness/disbelief etc.

  • I also abhor that a leader sends other men to almost certain death in war; but it is war itself that is to be abhorred.

  • Look further in the bible. There you can find [if not blinded by unbelief] that God says everyone born into the world has enough “light” to acknowledge God.
    {Later edit- Please reject the false narrative posted here that
    denies the truth plainly set forth in the scriptures. There is no
    salvation but in Christ. If it is rejected in life, it is too late after death.}

  • “No doubt, there are a lot of people who have died and never heard of Jesus Christ and his gospel; but they will. :-) They will, after God has raised them from the dead. And at that time, they will born of God, by way of Jesus Christ and the cross.”
    That is “another gospel” and the Word condemns it.
    Galatians 1:8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

  • Regarding Ron’s false gospel:
    Better that religion not be preached than to be a perversion of God’s truth in His Word, the bible. Sad. Even the saving grace
    of Christ shedding His blood on that cross for us has been
    trodden underfoot by men whom put themselves above the truth for thousands of years. Just as Satan has done, some truth is mixed in with the lies to give an appearance of the truth; but it is a lie.

  • What I read of it in your post is not just a “medieval view” it is the bible view— Everlasting separation from the Lord Jesus Christ. And— no one living now need go there. All they need is to believe the gospel spelled out in I Cor. 15:1-4 .

  • There is “universal reconciliation” in scripture, there is not “universal belief in what God says.”

  • “I’ve always been bothered by the idea that what I believe is more important than what I do.
    The idea that I can do my very best to be a good person, to make the
    best possible choices with the hand I’ve drawn – and that that is all
    just “filthy rags” unless I believe something that (at least right now) I
    don’t have enough evidence to get behind – really bothers me.”

    Maybe the idea you mention is not fully valid anyway. Same for the”filthy rags” part. Leaving that for another discussion—

    God has revealed by His Word that it is the belief in what has been revealed that matters.
    For some, little has been revealed, for others much more has been revealed.

  • The question is: Now- do good works save while rejecting full trust in the saving gospel (I Cor. 15:3)alone to gain salvation? Answer: No.
    Today, the “good works” many think saves them is religious practice/attendance, etc.

  • A lot of “ink is spilled here” but nothing says it better than the Apostle
    in his 13 letters to saints (believers.) I paraphrase:
    The works of the ungodly are filthy because of their state as sinners.
    The works of he that has trusted Christ (believers) are “wood, hay and stubble to be burned” when/if they are not the work of Christ in them. I get from that , that one must trust Christ, study the Word and allow Christ to work in him.

  • Bones

    That has nothing to do with 1 Cor 15.

  • I like how you preface your claim with a hedger that anyone who disagrees with you must be an atheist.

  • Bones

    Meh.

    One could say that about your gospel….

  • How so? Belief in those words is how we receive eternal life with Christ vs. the Hell under discussion.

  • gimpi1

    Not sure what you mean here. Can you clarify?

  • Bones

    You’re assuming that Jesus came to save us from hell which is a massive assumption right there. That is not in the text. But is read into it.

  • Justin Davis

    Please view my post. It’s one of the newest ones. :)

  • Justin Davis

    I understand that each of us has our own relationship with God, thereby we develop our own unique ideas about certain things. But to me, we should all have a big safety net to catch us. What I mean by this is that we need to realize that what we think is right, is not for us to declare as right. God has created this universe, he has declared to us how this universe is HIS creation. God has told us that we are not to add to his word nor demenish from it brothers (Deuteronomy 4:2 SEE BOTTOM FOR LISTED VERSES)

    Do you ever see these labels that you guys keep throwing out mentioned in the bible? No you do not. I’m not here to debate, something the bible teaches against in different environments. I’m simply here to answer the Holy Spirit’s call and influence for me to declare to you God’s word. God has taught us that we are one in Christ (Romans 12:5), that we are saved through believing in Jesus Christ (John 3:16), and that those who do not belief, who willfully, willfully deny Christ, the ones who hold to the inexistence of sin thereby making God to be a liar (1 John 1:10), will forever be burned in fire and brimstone for all eternally, brothers. Revelation 14:11 is a prime example of this as it pertains to those who worship the beast and his image and take the mark of his name. It says “And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.”
    ‭‭Revelation‬ ‭14:11‬ ‭KJV‬‬
    http://bible.com/1/rev.14.11.kjv

    Why would the bible cleathose who are cast into the lake of fire will be tormented and that the smoke of said torment will ascend up forever and ever if this were not true? This in no way hints that the sufferers of hell will be released from their torment.

    But we all have life in Christ, Jesus our savior! We should be glad! We should declare this to all of the world, not argue about concepts that take away and add to the word of God? And one thing that comes to my mind when people argue that the bible has been corrupted by generations of man is this: If God wanted his word to be perfectly written down by the hands of men, then it is so. The bible no where says that this word is only valid in bits and pieces.

    And brothers I pray that all of you will settle in your hearts with the truth and that you will turn from false doctrine that the Devil draws you to. A thought that just came to mind is how the serpent told Eve that God did not want them to eat the fruit because they will become like God himself. Well Satan is trying to convince people who have fallen away from the biblical view of hell that they can eat the fruit of this world and still become like God in eternity. The fruit of this world is sin and what Satan is saying is a lie!

    Off topic- if we can grieve the Holy Spirit by not listening to him (Ephesians 4:30), choosing to not listen to him that is, and if we can willfully sin against God (Hebrews 10:26), I think that implies that we have a will considering the word WILLfully was used. But I am not to declare things other than the truth of God word, for I do not want to add onto his word and have plagues added onto me. (Revelation 22:18)

    Before I submit this I want to make one more point, an off topic point again in regards to Ronny, I know for a fact that people who suffer with homosexuality can come out of the sin of they just seek God’s help. None of us can repent on our own, but God knows it when we willfully seek his help, his motivation, and his repentance instead of twisting scriptures in order to support some sort of theory that God intended for us to never repent from our sins. The fact is, he knows that we are not perfect, hence he gave us the perfect sacrifice, we didn’t give it to him or else we would still be offering blood sacrifices and burnt offerings at the altar. Though we may suffer with the sins that we have repented from, such as homosexuality, drunkeness, bearing false witness, etc…, God will definitely know our hearts and know that we want to repent and that we need his help. Trust in him, brother.

    “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”
    ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭6:9-11‬ ‭KJV‬‬
    http://bible.com/1/1co.6.9-11.kjv

    I pray that God will bless you all with the peace of heart brothers. Please read the cited bible verses. With love, Justin.

    Deuteronomy 4:2 “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.”
    ‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭4:2‬ ‭KJV‬‬
    http://bible.com/1/deu.4.2.kjv

    Romans 12:5 “So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.”
    ‭‭Romans‬ ‭12:5‬ ‭KJV‬‬
    http://bible.com/1/rom.12.5.kjv

    John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
    ‭‭John‬ ‭3:16‬ ‭KJV‬‬
    http://bible.com/1/jhn.3.16.kjv

    1 John 1:10 “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
    ‭‭1 John‬ ‭1:10‬ ‭KJV‬‬
    http://bible.com/1/1jn.1.10.kjv

    Ephesians 4:30 “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.”
    ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭4:30‬ ‭KJV‬‬
    http://bible.com/1/eph.4.30.kjv

    Hebrews 10:26 “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,”
    ‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭10:26‬ ‭KJV‬‬
    http://bible.com/1/heb.10.26.kjv

    Revelations 22:18 “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:”
    ‭‭Revelation‬ ‭22:18‬ ‭KJV‬‬
    http://bible.com/1/rev.22.18.kjv

  • Your meaning is unclear to me. The message of the bible is VERY clear: Mankind was separated from the Creator by Adam’s sin, God in Christ reconciled man by what we know as The Gospel (I Cor. 15:1-4) i.e., that by His death, burial and resurrection, Christ [New/second Adam] redeemed mankind from that separation from God, and all that is required is belief in that gospel.

  • I’ll try. Maybe you shouldn’t be “bothered by

    the idea that what I believe is more important than what I do.”
    Instead, just believe what God has revealed to you when you look around. That’s all He requires and He can be trusted.

  • gimpi1

    OK, I can’t really see anything that reveals God. I see a world that developed according to the principles of physics, in a universe that did the same. I see life forms that evolved. I don’t see any compelling evidence in the natural world – is that what you mean?

    I have had some experiences that I could regard as an attempt by God to reach out to me, but they came in dreams. I just can’t find that fully trustworthy. I mean, I’ve also dreamed that I can fly and that I murdered a neighbor. (Neither is true, obviously.)

    Some of the best evidence I see of God is human kindness and love. Some of the best evidence I see for the non-existence for God is human cruelty and hate. So, I’m still divided, still looking.

    However, the idea of a God who condemns people to eternal torment for not being able to shut off their minds and “simply believe” is pretty darn horrific. Especially since it would be so simple for said deity to simply present real, non-questionable evidence of their existence and desires. That’s a problem for me. Perhaps that’s why I find Ben and some other bloggers interesting. They present a way of looking for and at God that is more open to questions.

  • This is my “last shot”:
    You wrote: “Some of the best evidence I see of God is human kindness and love,,,”
    Consider that the “kindness and love” couldn’t really come from
    their humanity, but came from God; because that same “humanity” is capable of “cruelty and hate.”

  • gimpi1

    I’m not following that at all. If human kindness and love came from God, since humans are capable of cruelty and hate, then cruelty and hate logically would have come from God as well… the idea that we’re capable of generating the bad stuff on our own, but not the good stuff – that I don’t understand at all.

    Oh, well. I’ll keep plugging away. Thanks for your input.

  • Grant

    Good stuff, Mr. Corey. I enjoy your blogs. I’m at basically the same point right now, as you described…”While I still think the strongest biblical language is with Annihilation, Universal Redemption would seem to be the most obvious choice when taking a high view of God’s character and nature.”

  • CLLNS

    Would you be willing to mentor a young person trying to figure out what to believe about God?

  • CW

    I kind of think of Purgatory or Hell (or even Heaven) like this: what if in the afterlife, I found myself among beings who were JUST LIKE me? Would I like that or not? If I were a murderous merciless thug, no I would not like a place filled with people like me. If I were an annoying, selfish loud mouth, I would not like that afterlife either and maybe after a while I’d have an epiphany about being an annoying, selfish loudmouth. If I were a kind, thoughtful person, then I’d enjoy an afterlife filled with people like that (unless they were all soppy and clingy to the point of being annoying!). This is how I reflect on my own behavior these days — what if the world were suddenly filled with people who act just like I do? Would that be a pleasant place or not? What I’m trying to say is if I were God and I wanted to teach people a lesson (I didn’t say “punish”) so they have an epiphany and improve, I’d do something like that, i.e. put all the similar beings together and as soon as they have a realization about their behavior, they find themselves amongst slightly more pleasant people. And so it goes until everybody sincerely “gets the idea” and universal salvation is achieved. Hey, I’ve probably got it a bit wrong. But it helps me with my own introspection as I seek to improve my ways so I roll with it.

  • PaulK

    Except that the large number of Scritpures that you and Greg Boyd point to in support of the annihilationist position no longer seem to work. These are those that point to conditional immortality and souls ceasing to exist (e.g. blotted out of the Book of Life and being remembered no more, etc.) – which I’ve appreciated you learning about /re-reading because of you.

  • Yeah- there’s a lot of tension. I am still technically an annihilationist because I think that’s the strongest case from scripture, but my hope is that the number of people who fall into that category are exceedingly small. The thing with annihilation is it only needs to be 1 person for the concept to be true. I think there’s probably a middle ground between the two camps, but I don’t know where that is yet.

  • PaulK

    I see what you mean, Ben. Thanks for your reply. Best wishes.

  • Mark

    Ben I’ve conversed with atheists who desire the idea of non existence after death. Some even hate God so much that anything else would seem cruel. For me annihilism is the only option that lets God off the hook. He gave us free choice, if people choose non existence, then God cannot be held accountable. If God created a place ‘Hell’ where people are ‘tortured’ for a period of time it would contradict the concept of a loving and kind God. Universalism means you don’t have free choice and are Gods captive forever. In which case why go through the idea of free choice in the first place if we are all captives?
    In Luke 16: 30He said, “No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.”
    31He said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses
    and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises
    from the dead.”
    Someone rising from the dead is a reference to Jesus. This has the ring of finality to it.

  • Mark

    My take: People suffering from dementia lose memory and undergo personality changes. I kind of imagine that at death memories and personality which are stored in the brain are lost. We don’t need those memories any longer as they would serve no purpose. We become pure conscious souls. At the resurrection the body made perfect will be free of those bad personality traits. Both Mind and body are made perfect.

  • Well, that doesn’t sound creepy at all, being completely wiped of all that makes you you. Totally in keeping with free will and choice.

  • Mark

    Does free will and imperfection of personality continue after death? I’m not into debating on this I maybe have got it completely wrong. But what you are describing is kind of the same thing but where people learn to acknowledge and overcome their negative traits themselves. Your version of purgatory maybe or the multilevel heaven? interesting stuff! But I thought we were supposed to do that in this life as much as possible after which it is where Jesus helps us. Healing us and forgiving our sins. I’m open to other peoples thoughts on this BTW.

  • Growth and renewal aren’t always synonymous — I’m leery of the combination of no memories plus a complete rewriting of personality. It would seem to reduce a person to nothing more than a malleable puppet.

  • Mark

    I see what is purely me is my consciousness. Personality and memories change over the years. Scripture only gives us a hint of what the after life is like. ie no marriage, my Father has many mansions, I will prepare a place for you. But generally so it seems is beyond our imagination 1cor2!
    Someone once wrote what if at the Lords table there was someone who had done something really bad to you but had repented and gained heaven. How would you deal with it? I don’t imagine a life like that where we get together to talk about old times, past mistakes and feel resentment to people we meet there who have done us wrong. Who really needs those memories good or bad when we are enjoying paradise?
    It is common belief that our physical bodies are raised up glorified. But if our body was totally destroyed rotted or burnt and then raised up free of disease and imperfection can it really be considered the same body? Extrapolating that to the brain. It is apparent in disease or injury that memory and personal characteristics can be lost. Is there a backup copy kept on the cloud? Is your consciousness being in a new body without useless memories of a past life and having a good nature even though one of a huge number a mere puppet or a new beginning of a grand life? I suppose it could be said as malleable but since it is by Jesus that may not be so bad. However like I stated before I have no idea! I guess it’s just curiosity because of observing people who have lost memories from dementia and undergone changes and wondering will they get them back and would they want them.

  • Whenever I hear something that can be summarized as “if anyone else in creation did X, it would be bad, but because it’s God/Jesus, it’s good,” my brain gives a shudder.

    A big divide between my beliefs and those shared by most of the community here is that I believe growth continues and old wrongs can be learned from even after death, whereas others seem to perceive the afterlife is largely static and unchanging.

  • Mark

    Generally when people want to change you (dominate?) it’s a bad thing because they usually do it for their own advantage or ideology. But of course that’s not always the case. A parent or partner may want you to kick bad habits or to become successful when actually you might be content to float along. However I think I see Jesus in their somewhere especially where a good outcome is achieved. Throughout my life I became aware that Jesus has been molding me into something better than I was, certainly far from perfect but better. Therefore my relationship with him is such that I trust him implicitly, so any changes he may make are ultimately for good.
    Of course you are entitled to your vision of Eternal life. Maybe paradise is getting what you want as long as it is for good and wanting to improve yourself is definitely a good thing! May God grant your desire! :)

  • Guy Prior

    No, you haven’t got it wrong. That’s just how it is!

  • Guy Prior

    Yes, I absolutely agree. If God is love, then he cannot condemn his children to eternal punishment or annihilate them. All, or almost all, must be redeemed eventually. The only exception would be people so debased and evil that they cannot bring themselves to turn back to God even in the fullness of time. And probably not even Hitler was that bad…

  • DuckyShades

    Two things: 1.) Universalimsm involving some temporary puring in “hell” sure gives more context to crazy passages like where Jesus descended into “hell” to preach. Evangelicals sure love to pass up on that one as if it has no meaning. 2.) Do an in depth study on NDE’s. Watch/read a variety of testimonies of people’s encounter with the light. It sounds so fictional but I promise it will affect you if you dig into it. It’s hard to deny the changes people – of all faiths/beliefs – undergo when they’re brought back. Consciousness supercedes the body, love is the ultimate reality in this fake foggy dimension. It’s sure in line with a universalist approach.

  • Martin

    I am a fully convinced Christian universalist (I call it universal reconciliation) To me the whole issue depends on whether or not you interpret the language of fire as literal or figurative. If the ‘fire’ is not literal that pretty much sinks annihilation without trace! Then we have the issue of ‘eternal’ and ‘eternity’ neither of which mean without end or for ever. They literally mean ‘age enduring’ or ‘age to age’ The Bible teaches that the ‘ages’ will some time come to and end at which point everything (including all humanity) will be summed up in Christ, I can’t see this meaning anything other than ultimate reconciliation! So even if you do believe in eternal literal hell fire that STILL doesn’t last for ever! Eternity does come to an end it is time constrained! I believe that the ‘lake of fire’ is a figure of speech for the love of God. It’s purpose is to cleanse and purify all those things that are stopping those who die in unbelief from ‘believing’ The word translated ‘fire’ is ‘pur’ from which we get our English words ‘purify’ and ‘pure’ The word ‘brimstone’ is sulphur which cleanses. The word ‘torment’ is ‘touchstone’ which was used to test the purity of metals and the word ‘punishment’ should be correctly translated as ‘correction’ All these terms relating to the ‘lake of fire’ are terms relating to restoration. The verse about ‘die then the judgement’ does not contradict this as the ‘judgement’ of God is always restorative and healing never punishing and retributive. To me ‘heaven’ and the ‘lake of fire’ are the same place, the love of the Father, who you enter it depends on how you experience it! For believers it will be ‘heaven’ for those rejecting and rebelling it will seem to them like ‘torment’ However the love of God is irresistible and once the cleansing process is completed ‘repentance and believing’ will follow then the experience will become ‘heaven’ I absolutely believe we need to ‘repent and believe’ but I fully believe that all will in the end (including folks like Hitler) There are just to many ‘all’ verses in both Old and New to ignore! Plus there is not a single verse that says Physical death stops the process of salvation! Jesus conquered death so physical death is of no consequence to God as regards salvation. The real us is our Spirit which does last for ever.

  • BuckeyePhysicist

    How can James be a brother of Jesus if the two men named James in Scripture had Alpheus and Zebedee for fathers?