Christian Universalism: An Argument Against Fear

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It’s All About “Eternal Hell” vs. “Restorative Love”

In my discussions with fine Christian folks of all stripes from across the world, I have gratefully discovered that most Christians are much more likely to embrace the concepts of Christian Universalism than any of us assumed they’d ever be.

When it comes right down to it, the vast majority of people simply don’t believe in an “eternal” hell. They do still believe in some form of divine judgment, but it is a finite judgement for nearly everyone I’ve asked.

So the question is: if we don’t believe in an “eternal hell”, what do we believe in?

In this article I intend to present some of the basic tenets of Christian Universalism for your consideration.

What is “Christian Universalism”?

Christian Universalism is the set of tenets which holds the following to be true:

  • All humans are created in God’s image. Therefore we have a common parent in the family of God. (Gen 1:27)
  • God is in ALL things, and ALL things are from God and belong to God. (Rom 11:36, Eph 4:5-6)
  • God’s will is to save (heal/restore) all the world. (Jn 3:17)
  • God is love, and there is no punishment in love. (1 John 4:18)
  • The actions of God through Yeshua the Anointed absolved “our condition of sin”. (Rom 5:18-19)
  • God taught us to love our enemies, therefore God must do the same. (Lk 6:27)
  • Salvation is an unmerited gift from God: it cannot be earned so that no one can claim preference before God. (Eph 2.8)
  • All is made equal before God, for God (Christ) is in all. (Col 3:11)
  • All people are now baptized into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor 12:13)

In short, Christian Universalists believe that God is one, and there are no other gods but God. (Deut 32:39) God is all powerful, and when God acted through God’s beloved Son, the Word made flesh, Yeshua the Anointed (Christ), he acted once and for all in the name of love and grace for the sake of salvation for all. (Heb 10:8-10, 1 Pt 3:18)

We believe that God is all-powerful and God’s love is irresistible, and that God’s will is for all things to be restored, refined, and reconciled unto God, even evil.

2 Corinthians 5
18. All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19. that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

Universal Salvation

Universal Salvation is the belief that all people, from all religions or spiritual beliefs (or lack thereof) are still loved by God and are saved. Be they Muslim, Hindu, Sufi, Buddhist or pagan, all of God’s Children are saved from the power of everlasting death.

However, for Christian Universalists, we do not believe that this means every religion is created equal, much less are beneficial. Some religions promote individualistic selfish interest, violence, and judgment of the “others” of society. Some branches of Christianity and Islam are guilty of this very perversion.

But we also believe that there are Great Universal Truths inculcated within all of the world’s compassionate religions which promote mercy, forgiveness, community, and humility. We hold these truths to be as inspired as our own traditions and just as relevant in the spiritual journey of humanity.

Of course, as Christian Universalists, we believe that the Word of God was made flesh in the identity of the man, Yeshua of Nazareth. We believe that the nature, will and compassion of God was most fully incarnate and expressed through this man’s life and teachings. Fully human and fully God, The Word and Wisdom of God showed us how to live and love as Children of God. And through the selfless nature of his exemplary death upon the cross, and though his subsequent resurrection, we find proof of God’s immeasurable love for his Children and God’s absolute victory over death.

What About Judgment?

The first instinctive reaction for many people when they hear that “all people are saved” is to assume this means we receive permission to do anything we want cart-blanche and without consequence.

They imagine the Hitlers, and Dahmers, murderers, molesters and abusers of this world getting “into Heaven” without any consequence. They just waltz in and “get” Heaven.

This couldn’t be farther from the truth and it would be a terrible mistake to think and act as such.

There will be consequences for all of our choices in this life. All of us, even for “believers”. We all will face God’s judgement someday, either in this life or the next.

For you see, God wants to reconcile the whole world to God, and for this to be accomplished all of our souls must learn to abandon thoughts of evil. Yes, we are all saved from death into life, and God must save/heal/rescue all of us from our sinful ways.

We must not confuse the forgiveness of sin with the restoration/reformation of the human soul. The former enables the latter to occur.

Yeshua’s exemplary sacrifice upon the cross demonstrated to the world three things:

  1. God loves us all more dearly than we can ever know.
  2. There is life in God after death.
  3. The Law of Moses has been fulfilled. The price of The Law has been paid, not to satisfy God’s need for retributive justice, but our own.

God does not desire “an eye for an eye”. That is retributive justice. God desires restorative justice, in which our broken soul is reformed and restored into the likeness of Perfect Love with God.

But what is the process of this restoration to God?

The Refining Fire of God’s Love

The following (seemingly terrifying) promise from Yeshua’s own lips describes the nature of God’s purification of our hearts and souls by divine fire:

Matthew 13:42
“And (they) shall cast them into a furnace of purifying, refining fire there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”

From the HELPS™ Word Studies:
In Scripture, fire is often used figuratively – like with the “fire of God” which transforms all it touches into light and likeness with itself.

God’s Spirit, like a holy fire, enlightens and purifies so that believers can share more and more in His likeness. Indeed the fire of God brings the uninterrupted privilege of being transformed which happens by experiencing faith from Him. Our lives can become true offerings to Him as we obey this imparted faith from God by His power.

Ebeneezer Scrooge and God’s Restorative Love
The key to understanding the nature of God’s judgement is to know who Ebeneezer Scrooge is. That’s right: Scrooge.

In Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol“, Scrooge, a faithless, heartless and brutal man, experiences this very kind of refining fire. He is tormented. He wails. He gnashes his teeth. But this is not a retributive torment, but a restorative torment. Through his being exposed to the devastating, uncensored reality of his life, Scrooge began to realize the true toll his choices had exacted upon his fellow man.

God exposes us to all of the horrible reality of our choices in our lives: past, present and future. The devastating fire of God’s love is a light so relentless that no darkness can hope to flee from it, even within the deepest recesses of our hearts.

In the face of the sheer uncensored consequence of our actions, our souls and hearts cannot help but to relent the stubborn struggle against the truth of God’s love and God’s will for us to love and forgive each other in kind.

This is the nature of God’s judgment for us all. Out of love, we will be made whole once more.

The best news of all is the revelation that, like Scrooge’s experience, this “refining fire” can be experienced in your life today. It doesn’t need to wait for some later “Judgement Day” revelation.

Is “Right Belief” a Factor In Our Receiving Grace?

No. Grace is God’s unmerited favor. There is nothing we can “do” to earn it; it is a gift from God. (Eph 2.8)

Therefore, Christian Universalists believe that even a declaration of faith, such as “I believe in _______”, is a work to earn righteousness and negates Grace. Statements of belief are not a factor in one’s eligibility to receive Grace. For example, to declare that “I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God and my Lord and Savior” is not a prerequisite for Grace and salvation.

Then Why Be a Christian at All?

We, as Christian Universalists, believe that this unmerited Grace for all people is a direct result of Yeshua the Anointed and his exemplary love for us and his selfless sacrifice upon the cross. We are grateful to God for his amazing love and this unmerited Gift, and we worship God’s son Yeshua as our Lord and Savior, the Word made flesh, as a way of showing our gratitude.

But our worship does not justify us to receive salvation, only Grace can do that. In fact, the act of worship is only for our own sake: to recharge in the spirit, to find support and solace in communion with our brothers and sisters. Worship is NOT for the sake of God, nor what he desires.

What Does the Lord Require? (Micah 6)

6. “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?
7. Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
8. He has told you, mankind, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

If “Belief” Is Not a Factor, What Is Our Christian Identity?

John 13

34. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

What we declare we believe, how we worship, who we worship, the color of our skin, the language we speak, our wealth, our poverty, our age, our history, even the gender of our lover… none of these things will define us as Christians or not.

Our Christian identity is found in whether of not we love one another as Christ loved us.

Is the Muslim who loves as Christ loved us my brother or sister in Christ? Yes, amen! Is the Buddhist? The Hindu? The Sikh? The Pagan? Yes, yes, and yes, amen!

What Is The Point of All This?

There is nothing you need to “do” to be saved! God loves you, and will restore us to God’s perfect love, every last one of us.

The point of all this, my dear brothers and sisters is freedom. Freedom from fear: the fear of death, the fear of damnation, the fear of failure.

Live life without fear, and you will empowered to love without fear!

And a world filling with people free of fear and loving and sacrificing for each other as Yeshua loved us and sacrificed himself for us, that is the key to the Kingdom on Earth. A new age where the values of Yeshua are the majority: selfless love, compassion, restorative justice, equality, and forgiveness.

We can do none of these things with fear in our hearts.

Comments

  1. Oh if any of you are interested I have a page

    http://WWW.matt-fox.tumblr.com

    Its a page devoted the universal reconciliation of all humanity.

  2. Sounds like purgatory to me for the ole cleansing bit. You offer no reason for relationship with God. Not good. Bad. Dumb and irreconcilable with scripture. So…. whatever. More endless writings that say nothing.

    • Thomas,

      If one insists on keeping it about the “me”, then no I offer the self-ish “me, myself, and I” nothing of value.

      However, I have volumes for the “we” or the “us” of life.

      If not for the sake of others (as I teach), what reasons do you feel scripture offers for a relationship with God? Other than fear…

  3. Prophecy, Healing, Deliverance from Demons, Worship, Words of Knowledge, Miracles, Wisdom all in the here and now of life. It is not I who Live but Christ who lives in me and since ‘God is Love,’ and ‘perfect love casts out fear because fear has to do with punishment,’ then that means I am free to live in Christ!

    You propose that it is not about ‘fear’ and yet you say this cleansing time is one heck of a fearful place to go. Everyone is saved. After they leave the earth, there will be ‘fire and gnashing of teeth’ during their cleansing. No fire is comfortable. Not even the pleasant sounding refiner’s fire. That is a reference to refining Gold which takes a lot of forceful heat to purify. That concept is purgatorial abusive and not biblical.

    You offer no outcome without a violent exchange that is totally based upon my own outcome in life. At the same time, you say Jesus made a propitiation for the very sin I am going to get all gnashed up over after I die.

    Ludicrous and violently ill-conceived.

  4. I fail to understand how you see so much violence in what is simply the inevitable realization of the consequence of our actions to the human soul.

    Have you never had to admit fault, or been revealed to be something less than the facade you prject to the world. Truth is uncomfortable, truth is painful, but love and truth are not violent.

    You seem bound to a view of retributive punishment. There is such a thing as loving, restorative justice, and just because it is temporarily uncomfortable by no means implies that it is evil or incorrect.

    For example, child-birth could be construed by your assertions to be “violent”, or a “violent exchange”. Do you view it as so? I, as a father, do not. Sometimes the greatest beauty of life is quite hard, difficult and painful while we are in the midst of realizing it.

    Please do not misconstrue the language of restorative love for retribution and violence.

  5. I admitted fault when I accepted Jesus’ full atoning work on the Cross for my full payment of wrong, sin, destructive behavior and whatever else I have done wrong. I was circumcised through the circumcision without hands and saw the law and my subsequent guilt with its written decrees nailed to the Cross once and for all (Colossians 2).

    You forget, whatever is not done in faith is sin. Sin is a state of being and not an action. You should read Romans and particularly look at Romans 7 and 8. Sin is defined as a person operating under the law and not the Spirit.

    Your whole concept of bad behavior gets completely destroyed by Romans. The punishment was placed on Jesus in Romans 8 and the true refining begins with the power of Holy Spirit not after death in some cosmic furnace as you stand on threshing floor overshadowed by a wicked dentist.

    I am free. I have been forgiven. I have personally asked and now I live no other way but through Jesus. Galatians 2:20.

  6. Trig, yours answers to Thomas are spot on and right to the point. Sadly, Thomas represents a point of view which characterizes God, in regard to judgment, as worse than the worst of humanity. Yet, Christians are told that they must love and worship this cosmic tyrant with all of their hearts, souls, minds, and strength! I agree with the late, great Christian author, George MacDonald, the “master” of C.S. Lewis, that the only thing worse than believing the lie of eternal punishment about God is to worship God about whom that lie is believed!

  7. I am arguing about the post-mortem ‘gnashing of teeth’ you prescribed on humanity. Boyd? Since when did I saw God was a “tyrant?’ God is slow to anger and abounding in love. I have seen people healed of diseases, internal strife and all of them have a unique testimony of a relationship with God NOW!

    That is not a tyrant. That is an uncontrollable lover of our soul invading when we have run out of options. Do “we have a will in that exchange?” is the question that gets removed in this ‘Christian Universalism.’ The Bible makes no room for predestination on that level. Pre-destiny into the adoption as sons was the plan all along and you can choose it or deny it. I do not believe like the anecdotal polling suggests and therefore there must be some developmental theory about heaven and hell. Nothing is impossible with God. However, it is not my assigned quest to figure out what only He knows and create some concrete theology out of thin methodology.

    Boyd, God can send people into any community. I know of communities of believers in all parts of the world. If you want to limit Jesus and his message of Holy Spirit leading us into all truth, then that would be more tyrannical than anything I have ever heard of to date.

    • Thomas, limiting Jesus is exactly what I am not doing and will not do. That is, howvever, exactly what Christians who believe in eternal punishment in hell fire do. Jesus declared that if He were crucified, “lifted up from the earth,” He would draw all people to Himself (John 12:32). Since Jesus has all power and authority in heaven and on earth, I believe that He will do exactly as He said He will do–draw all mankind to Himself. If I misunderstood your post and you do not believe that God is going to torture sinners in hell fire forever, I am sorry; I ask your forgiveness. The God of eternal torture is The Cosmic Tyrant! regardless of who believes it. This is not a slam against individuals who believe in the demonstrably false doctrine, just a statement of fact about this nonsensical theology.

      • I don’t think Thomas is arguing for eternal hell. What he’s arguing?… I have no idea, but he’s not happy with me. I think he doesn’t like the idea of our actions carrying consequences?

  8. Um… actions carry consequences. And the consequence of Jesus’ action at the Cross is total forgiveness. No amount of refiner’s fire in the afterlife can change an outcome. Believing Jesus is the only way out and the decision must be made today.

    As far as Hell goes, it exists. God does not torment people there eternally. Satan does. Believers overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony. Hell is very real or the Bible would not have said “flee sin.”

  9. Yes, Thomas, actions have consequences and hell is real but neither literal fire nor eternal. No amount of purifying fie will change anyone’s behavior. What part of purifying fire do you not understand? If Biblical fire does not purify, then is is not purifying fire. The process of purifying sinners of their sins will not take forever. Mal. 3:3 and I Cor. 3:15 specifically says that the fire purifies. Jesus, Himself, said that everyone in hell will be “salted with fire” (Mark 9:49). The best translation of this mixed metaphor symbolizing purification is in the Good News Bible: Today’s English Version, “Everyone will be purified by fire.” Regardless of what you or Biblical literalists say, I will take our Lord Jesus Christ’s word for it. “Salted with fire” is His definitive and final answer on the purpose of hell which makes it possible for Him to draw all to Himself (John 12:32), all to live in Christ (I Cor. 15:22), God to become all in all–everything to everyone (I Cor. 15:28), and every created being in the universe to worship God and the Lamb eternally (Rev. 5:13)! Of course, God, who is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29) consumes sin which purifies sinners; with all due respect, the false doctrine of eternal punishment is absolute nonsense. Anyone who believes it has a bad case of spiritual schizophrenia (please do not excuse God, The Cosmic Tyrant, by passing the buck contending that Satan is the one who will be doing the torturing). Infinite mercy and eternal torture is an oxymoron! As to the final outcome of the cosmic conflict between good and evil, God shall win!

  10. If you believe there is more payment for sin than the Blood of Jesus, then his sacrifice was in vain and is voided completely. Sorry. One payment. The Death of Jesus. One inherited promise of Holy Spirit. The Resurrection of Jesus.

    Either you believe it or you do not. This sacrifice is not a partial payment. Any Christian theology that sets it up as so, such as what we have here under the guise of “Christian Universalism,” is hopefully fraudulent.

    Jesus’ life is more costly than an interest payment on a debt. By you saying something along the lines of infinite mercy and eternal torture is an oxymoron excuses a person’s free will choice.

    Is God so co-dependent that he will force you to love Him?

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