A Test of the Authenticity of Your Christianity
Recently here I reviewed David Bentley Hart’s book That All Shall Be Saved. The book very strongly promotes belief in universal salvation with hell being temporary and eventually emptied. God guarantees it. He has to because of his goodness. So Hart argues. I disagreed.
(Sidebar: In my review I forgot to mention that Hart is far from the first modern theologian to argue for eventual universal reconciliation-salvation. The same position using many of the same arguments was laid out by Swedish-American theologian Nels Ferré in his book The Christian Understanding of God . I suppose one difference is that Ferré was widely considered a liberal Christian theologian while Hart is not. My point is—again—to say that there is really nothing new under the sun in theology. I’ve lived and studied and taught theology too long to think otherwise.)
Someone, like many others, responded to universal salvation by asking why anyone who believed in it would stop sinning. In other words, so the typical evangelical (and other) response goes, everyone needs the threat of hell to give up the pleasures of sin and live a clean, godly life.
Granted that some need that, should all need that? Should anyone need that?
Here is a test of the authenticity of your Christianity. Imagine that you somehow became convinced that eventually all will be saved (universalism). Would that affect how you live? If so, how?
*Sidebar: The opinions expressed here are my own (or those of the guest writer); I do not speak for any other person, group or organization; nor do I imply that the opinions expressed here reflect those of any other person, group or organization unless I say so specifically. Before commenting read the entire post and the “Note to commenters” at its end.*
If you say that you would not then attempt to live a holy, god-pleasing life, I judge your Christianity seriously defective If you say that you would then not witness to people, telling them about Jesus the Savior, then I judge your Christianity seriously defective.
My point is that authentic Christianity is not about giving up sinful pleasures to avoid hell. And it is not about witnessing to others about Jesus the Savior to keep them out of hell. What, then, is it about?
Authentic Christianity is about being in communion with God through Jesus Christ the Savior and receiving the Holy Spirit to give life-fulfilling love, joy and peace.
When I was growing up in church I often heard about “the joy of serving Jesus.” That’s old-school language now, unfortunately, but I still believe in it. There is true joy in serving Jesus, in knowing Jesus as Savior, lord, friend and companion. If you do not have that joy in any measure, then your Christianity is inauthentic. You need to seek a deeper experience of Jesus Christ in life.
Then, when you discover the joy of serving Jesus, you will not care if God eventually saves everyone and you will want to invite others to know Jesus Christ as Savior even if you believe that all will eventually be saved.
This is what I believe and know experientially. Unfortunately, I know far too many “Christians” who think the Christian life is one of duty and drudgery and avoiding pleasure in order to escape hell. That is not true, authentic Christianity.
I won’t apologize for offending you; it is my job to do so if you are far off track about true, authentic Christianity.
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