would universal reconciliation make the gospel worthless?


My last post was about Christian universalism. I am not at all a Christian universalist, but sometimes I’m amazed at how some Christians really hate the idea that the cross of Jesus would be able to save all in the end. I don’t share the universalists optimism (and I won’t be dogmatic about any position on the afterlife) but why do we definitely need the wicked to be tortured forever in a conscious state of mind to have a ‘good news’? Wishing other humans to be tortured for eternity goes counter to the great commandment to love our neigbor and our enemies by the way!

One important rebuttal of Christian universalism (to some) is that the idea that everybody will be saved invalidated our need for the gospel, or at least the need for spreading the gospel. If everyone will be saved in the end, why would anyone need to have the gospel? Why do we need to share the gospel if everyone is going to get saved in the end?

The question is what gospel we are talking about. If we narrow the gospel down to some points we have to believe in to not go to hell, then it is important that we give this information to every human being, so that they can accept it. Not doing this gives us the responsibility that everybody who doesn’t know is going to hell.

But I don’t see any biblical reason to narrow the gospel, or good news, of Christ down to a ‘get out of hell free while all others will burn’ card when you believe in a set of doctrines about God and Jesus. Nor can the gospel be equated to accepting the idea penal substitution atonement. The gospel is bigger than only our afterlife.

The gospel is the good news that Christ is Lord, the good news of the Kingdom of God. This good news has (at least) 2 dimensions: The first one is that the coming age of Gods Kingdom is breaking in into our current situation, and that Jesus saves us here and now, and transforms our lives and through us the world. The second dimension is that after this life we will be with God forever. But we shouldn’t forget that eternal life is first and foremost life with an eternal quality, which begins here and now already, and goes on beyond death and beyond the final judgment when all evil will be erased.

Another problem is that the gospel is about saving the whole creation (see Romans 8), not just about the saving of individual souls. The gospel is good news regardless of us. In the end it will fill all of the earth, and there will be no place for anthing that doesn’t align with it… This is good news, and it’s a lot bigger than the idea that we do not go to hell after this life.

So the conclusion would be that universal reconciliation only makes an incomplete gospel worthless. But a gospel that is made worthless if Jesus would save all in the end might not be a real gospel at al, if our good news depends on us being saved and others being lost we’re not at all Christlikel.

But all of this does not mean that we as Christian are not supposed to spread the good news of the Kingdom of God, through our lives as light and salt, and through our words. We are to live out that salvation, and share it with the lost. We hope that the salvation of Christ will save as much as can, and we will align our lives with that!

Vive la revolucion

Shalom

Bram

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10 responses to “would universal reconciliation make the gospel worthless?

  1. Yesterday I bought: Jezus, de enige weg tot God, written by John Piper. He focusses mainly on the nesessity of having heard the gospel, and if that is not possible, on at least being devout in your religieus beliefs and deeds. I should be must be more daring and be open to the thought that God sees the heart of the unbeiever, apart from his theology or non-theology, precisely because Jesus openened the doorway to heaven.

  2. Pingback: evangelical universalism? (and Rob Bell) | Brambonius' blog in english

  3. Beautiful thoughts, Bram. If eternal torment in hell is a reality for just one of God’s creatures, I’d say we only need one page in the Bible and it says “Turn of Burn!”

  4. Many Christians have a problem with CU because they cannot accept that the redeeming work of the cross saves all mankind. Jesus meant what He said “It is finished”.

    Redemption for all does not in any way diminish the work of the cross. Rather it makes it the singular, greatest act of love given to mankind by the God Of Love.

    Twenty five years ago I had a personal encounter with God’s love that changed the course of my life, forever. Many people, sadly, will never experience the love and presence of God in their lifetime. Yet historical Christian doctrine is still not satisfied, God’s creations must suffer an eternal torment.

    The current revolutionary uprisings happening in the Middle East are driven by people’s desire for freedom. There is no greater freedom than knowing the God of Love. CU expresses an understanding of the fullness of that love.

    Mark my words, the day the Spirit of God reveals this truth to the world, His Glory will capture the hearts of humanity with such magnitude that it will realign Christianity and change the world as we know it.

  5. Jesus didn’t say, “I hope some day you’ll know who I am”
    He didn’t say, “It’s too bad some souls will never know me”
    He didn’t say, “If only a few souls knew who I am”
    He did say, “THEY WILL ALL KNOW ME FROM THE LEAST TO THE GREATEST” (Hebrews 8:11).

    • there are verses that sound universalistic in the bible, there are verses that can be used to support annihilation or conditional immortality, and there are verses that can be used to prove eternal torment. I’m not going into that debate now, sorry

  6. The true universalism associated with the life and teaching of Jesus was his great calling to love God absolutely, and then on that basis practice self-transcending love in all relationships and under all conditions.

    All the rest is essentially institutionally created propaganda created to serve the power and privileges of those who wrote.

    Like all history, Christian history, especially the historical origins of the fabrication process that created the “official” Bible, follows the Golden Rule. Namely that those (almost entirely males) who have the gold and thus the worldly power get to write the HIS-story books.

    No correspondence will be allowed, or entered into. ALL dissenters and “heretics” WILL thus get there “divinely” mandated just deserts – persecution and execution.

  7. My (formery John Miller) short raction. I sense two thoughts here. One advocates Divine Inclusive Love, the other some sharp criticism towards the NT-writers. Well, we know about the love of Jesus, just because of the excellent NT writers and reporters. So at least John is causing some non-academic confusion here.
    I like the the title of the scholarly book: Fabricating Jesus, by Craig A. Evans. Somewhere on my blog you will find a short article in the English language about it. This book only adresses the second question though.
    The first question is an issue primarily of human experience. Will the bad guy actually want to go to heaven and will God allow the evil person entrance. From Near Death Experiences, recorded from numerous people, we may confidently conclude that some kind of ‘judging’ basically comes down to the person being willing to repent and forgive or not. This doesn’t exclude professing christians by the way.
    The HIStorical church was not at all times kind to its own heretics, but the heretics often were also part of a nationalistic and political party (France) and likewise was the Church. All very unfortunate and unbiblical indeed. But such events are NOT in the New Testament, they took place much later in history. Please don’t overlook that John . :-)

  8. The reason I believe all men will be saved is simply because I don’t believe in a literal hell or everlasting torment. I believe words are mistranslated. I don’t believe in hell because Jesus said to love our enemies. Why would He turn around and do different to His enemies. Is it the holiness answer,well no because with Jesus would have to follow His own teaching. If you have an answer. I would love to hear it.

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