How Universalism Allows Us To Freely Love As Christ Intended

How Universalism Allows Us To Freely Love As Christ Intended December 14, 2018

I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon. Those who embrace the Universalist View of Salvation tend to be more loving and accepting of those who are unlike them.

Here’s why I think this happens: Because when you realize that everyone is equally loved by God, and that God is really intending to bring everyone to repentance, and that, one day, every knee will bow and every tongue will gladly confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, well, you kind of relax and enjoy being alive.

See, instead of seeing people as “Saved” or “Lost”, or grouping everyone you meet into the “Christian” or “Non-Christian” category, you start to see people as…people.

 

Not only do you see people as human beings who are just like you, you also start to see them as God sees them. You start to recognize that everyone you meet – regardless of their beliefs or spiritual condition – is someone God loves dearly. You also start to realize that everyone you meet is indeed your brother or sister, and you recognize that we all have the same Heavenly Father. [See Paul’s statements to this effect when he preached to the idol-worshipping pagans in Athens].

That really changes the way you view the world and other people. Trust me.

Now, I get it, most Christians [at least in the West] do not embrace – or even understand – the doctrine of Patristic Universalism. Which is kinda odd since the majority of Christians who followed after Jesus and the Apostles fully embraced the notion that every human being on earth would eventually find their home in Christ.

Most Christians don’t realize that, from the very beginning, there have always been 3 different views of the afterlife: Universalism, Annihilation, and Eternal Suffering.

What most Christians also do not realize is that Eternal Suffering was the minority view, along with Annihilation. Eternal Suffering only gained prominence after later theologians like Augustine championed the view and because the doctrine itself originated in Rome. (And we all know how Rome influenced Christianity post-Constantine).

Here’s a little history lesson to bring you up to speed:

“The earliest system of Universalistic theology was by Clement of Alexandria who was the head of the theological school in that city until 202 A.D. His successor in the school was the great Origen, the most distinguished advocate of this doctrine in all time.” (From the New Schaff-Herzog Christian Encyclopedia, page 96, paragraph 2)

“In the first five or six centuries of Christianity there were six known theological schools, of which four (Alexandria, Antioch, Caesarea, and Edessa, or Nisibis) were Universalist; one (Ephesus) accepted conditional immortality; one (Carthage or Rome) taught endless punishment of the wicked.” (From the New Schaff-Herzog Christian Encyclopedia, page 96, paragraph 3)

Download the PDF here:  [The info quoted is at the bottom, left corner of the text.]

 

So, out of the 6 known theological schools, four of them were Universalist and only one taught Annihilationism (or Conditional Immortality) while another school taught Eternal Suffering.

Additionally, Augustine admitted in his own day that the majority of Christians believed Universalism:

“It is quite in vain, then, that some–indeed very many–yield to merely human feelings and deplore the notion of the eternal punishment of the damned and their interminable and perpetual misery. They do not believe that such things will be. Not that they would go counter to divine Scripture—but, yielding to their own human feelings, they soften what seems harsh and give a milder emphasis to statements they believe are meant more to terrify than to express literal truth.” (Augustine, Enchiridion, sec. 112.)

And by “very many”, Augustine meant, “the vast majority.”

Notice, also, that Augustine graciously conceded in his statement that those who believed Universalism did so without going “counter to the divine Scriptures” (even if they came to different conclusions than he did).

Another fascinating tidbit is that, of those early Christian teachers who did teach Eternal Suffering, there stated reasons for WHY they embraced this minority view was quite simply, “fear.”

In other words, those early Church Fathers who taught Eternal Suffering did so because they found it very effective in evangelism, and because the fear of eternal torment helped to keep people in line.

Two of those, pre-Augustine, were Basil and John Chrysostrom.

Here’s a bit about why they valued the doctrine of Eternal Suffering:

“Brian Edward Daley, in The Hope of the Early Church, remarks that Basil was “an admirer of Origen in his younger days” (81) and was closely familiar with his work. However, in his later years he became “more severe in his own expectations of the future” and found the teaching of judgment valuable for the spiritual development of Christians.”

“Like Basil, Chrysostom saw eschatological themes as a crucial part of his preaching ministry…Chrysostom explains the need for such eternal punishment elsewhere. For example, in his 15th homily on 1 Timothyhe emphasizes the value of fear in constraining sin:

 

“Since the greater part are virtuous from constraint rather than from choice, the principle of fear is of great advantage to them in eradicating their desires. Let us therefore listen to the threatenings of hell fire, that we may be benefited by the wholesome fear of it.”

 

Fear and control are poor reasons for embracing a doctrine. Especially when we have the advantage of seeing what a few hundred year’s worth of this teaching can do to people’s faith.

Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of people have abandoned the Christian faith over this doctrine which portrays God as a vengeful, wrathful Deity who cannot love or forgive unless there is blood spilled and a sacrifice made. Many others have avoided the Christian faith completely for the very same reason.

What’s worse is when you realize that such an offensive doctrine has very little scriptural support. In fact, most of the verses that are referenced to bolster this view of the tormenting God are either using Apocalyptic language from the Old Covenant prophets – which were never about actual eternal worms, or fire, or smoke, but always about literal armies that would come to invade a city or a nation – or are verses that speak of “death” or “destruction”, not about being eternally alive to experience the fires of hell.

Of the three views, only Annihilation and Universalism have any real legs to stand on, and neither of those two views paints God as a monster who requires blood and sacrifice, or who tortures his enemies without mercy.

So, as I said in the opening paragraphs, I’ve realized that abandoning this primitive, and frankly false doctrine of eternal suffering, leads to a changed perspective about your fellow man, and about the God that is revealed to us in Christ.

I highly recommend a study of this topic. It has been very encouraging for me, and I know that being set free from the fear of endless torment can really do wonders for your view of God, and your love for your fellow man.

I think it’s time to forsake the false doctrine of eternal suffering and embrace the God who has “reconciled the world to Himself, not counting our sins against us.”

Don’t you?

-kg

WANT TO STUDY MORE ON THIS TOPIC?

I recommend part two of Steve Gregg’s excellent series: “Three Views of Hell” on MP3 here>

**

Keith Giles was formerly a licensed and ordained minister who walked away from organized church 11 years ago, to start a home fellowship that gave away 100% of the offering to the poor in the community. 

Today, He and his wife live in Meridian, Idaho, awaiting their next adventure.

His new book “Jesus Unbound: Liberating the Word of God from the Bible”, is available now on Amazon and features a Foreword by author Brian Zahnd.

He is also the author of the Amazon best-seller, “Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb” with a Foreword by Greg Boyd.

Keith also co-hosts the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast on iTunes and Podbean. 

BONUS: Want to unlock exclusive content including blog articles, short stories, music, podcasts, videos and more? Visit my Patreon page.

"Uh, yeah. Atheists can't stand the harsh light of Christian truth, so any Christians who ..."

Half of US Christians Have No ..."
"Hey, mighty mouse, are you still banning those who expose your nonsense?The Bible was written ..."

Half of US Christians Have No ..."
"Do you have anything to offer that makes more sense?"

Half of US Christians Have No ..."
"Why is it that you continue to spew the same old crap, irrational?I doubt your ..."

Half of US Christians Have No ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Nimblewill

    I’m an undercover evangelical hopeful universalist and this describes my jouney so far. I have come to the conclusion that I can only love God to the degree I believe he loves me. If He loves me unconditionally then He must love you unconditionally. If he loves you unconditionally then I should too. My hopeful universalism is completely due to what the bible says.

  • One book I recommend on Universalism is Gospel of Inclusion by Carlton Pearson. (Pearson, an African-American Pentecostal preacher, was a big shot in the Pentecostal community, and even considered a potential successor to white prosperity gospel preacher Oral Roberts, and Pearson was on the board of directors for Oral Roberts University. However, one day, Pearson concluded God told him hell doesn’t exist and that universalism is correct. Pearson got kicked out and declared a heretic by both black and white Pentecostal leaders. He lost most of the congregation at his megachurch, ex-parishioners tried to preach at Mrs. Pearson.)

    Also, here is a YouTube video in which a Hindu critiques exclusivist claims in Christianity and Islam, addressing and critiquing specifically the doctrine of eternal torture:
    https://youtu.be/L5_xDaXAbXY

  • Ocelot Aardvark

    I label my own life-philosophy as an: ‘Existential-Zen’ Christian … which, to me, is exactly what my Lord Jesus taught and lived.

    Of course, I’m still aspiring to the finer and deeper points of each of these philosophies … they do not contradict each other;
    but all fit perfectly together, like pieces in the Universal Puzzle.

  • John Purssey
  • Jon-Michael Ivey

    Is it really fair to say that “there have always been 3 different views of the afterlife: Universalism, Annihilation, and Eternal Suffering?”

    From what I have read (and discussed with some Theology PhDs) it seems that Annihilationism/Conditional Immortality was the original doctrine, that Universalism was soon introduced by the first Christians who clung to the Greek notion of a naturally immortal soul, and that Eternal Damnation does not enter the historical record until nearly a century after Universalism was widely accepted.

    Also, the way it was explained to me was that Conditional Immortality was only dogma at Ephesus, Eternal Damnation was only dogma at Rome/Carthage, and the other four centers of the Church had no dogma on this matter. Universalism was accepted in Alexandria, Antioch, Caesarea, and Edessa or Nisibis, and may have often been the plurality view, but was rarely the majority opinion. Universalism, Conditional Immortality, and Eternal Damnation were all considered valid interpretations that individuals could hold while remaining in full communion with each other. It was common for siblings, priests working in the same diocese, and monks in the same monastery to agree to disagree on this subject.

  • “…you kind of relax and enjoy being alive… you start to see people as…people.”

    This is exactly what I discovered. Having finally admitted that I could no longer believe in the idea of eternal torture, I realised how much more free I felt. I didn’t need to ‘save’ those around me. I could actually enjoy their company – wherever they were at – and rest in the assurance that God is big enough to work out all the details.

  • Explain this to the Southern Baptists and Independent Fundamentalist Baptists that raised me. Every time I mention I left their brand of Christianity they threaten me with everlasting torment in hell.

  • Alonzo

    “Those who embrace the Universalist View of Salvation tend to be more loving and accepting of those who are unlike them.”

    Actually, those who embrace the Universalist view tend to be less loving. They reject the love of God and make it into something that it is not. Jesus said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep my word” (John 14:23-24). Universalists reject the Bible as the Word of God. Universalists cannot keep what they reject and do not believe. Therefore, Universalists actually hate God and Jesus His Son. Consequently, they cannot love others as God wants them to do.

  • livingliminal (:

  • Angel Shining

    Unity is like that too….full of people who just love people, Was so refreshing to see after leaving the mainstream protestant churches , I first landed at Episcopal who were very loving too and non judging. So i would say Jesus would be most proud of Universalists, Unitarians, Episcopalians and some others I don’t want to leave out like the Quakers etc, there are many peaceful ones that do not get into all the hatred the mainstream protestant churches do and avoid any political talk. I challenge any Christians to go study with a Rabbi and not a Messianic one , an actual Orthodox Jewish one , your mind will be blown and eyes opened.

  • Angel Shining

    You are so right and the only way people can learn the true God and how Loving He is is to set themselves free from the ball and chain of fear Christianity wraps you in to keep you bound. Free yourself and fly like a bird to your Lord who is all LOVE. I love Universalism and all the love it puts out.

  • Angel Shining

    Just tell them in the words of their beloved President: WRONG—–WRONG—–AND WRONG

  • Angel Shining

    I have studied interfaith and i would say most religions are more open minded then Christianity and more loving, yes Both Christianity and Islam recruit for you to join the religion but even the Muslims seems somewhat more friendly then the Christians in general.

  • angelshining ):