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6 years ago  ::  Oct 29, 2007 - 11:27PM #1
Brownowl33
Posts: 443
I am curious as to how many of us believe in universalism; that is, the idea that nobody is permanently "lost" or condemned, and that all will, one day, be brought to God.  It's really the only way of thinking that makes sense to me, for reasons I'll explain shortly.

One of the biggest problems I've had with my (tumultuous) return to spiritual living is the almost maniacal glee some Christians get from the idea of anyone different from them burning in Hell for eternity.  Granted, this doesn't seem to be a big issue with the Episcopal Church, but I shudder whenever I see Evangelical pastors, or similar, merrily ticking off lists of people they expect (and hope) to see punished forever.  Obviously, xenophobia/homophobia/misogyny/racism tends to play a large part in this, because the crimes most of these people are supposed to have committed aren't moral ones (evil actions, murder) but rather the crime of being different.  Gays, Jews, etc......anyone who thinks or acts differently.

The problem is, no just or loving deity could EVER condemn someone to Hell for all time for any reason, much less because they had the "wrong" background, family, or upbringing.  I was horrified by a conversation I had with someone at work.  She's in seminary learning to be a "Christian" counselor, but when grilled about the Holocaust she affirmed that she believed all the Jews that died were now burning in Hell forever, which is apparently what is taught in her Evangelical grad school.  Not only is that idea beyond horrible, but it seems a slap in the face of God.  Such an entity would be beyond evil, and in fact (as I pointed out to her) would be very much like Hitler, but much worse...........a tyrant who brutally condemns anyone who dares step outside a narrow range of thinking or experience, who demands total subservience from his followers, who plans to eradicate much of the populace in pursuit of a pure race.  If this were the true God, though, he's be even worse.  Even Hitler was limited to torturing people to death; such a God as this is supposed to torture them for eternity.

Not only does this say something scary about the kind of people who'd not only believe this, but see nothing wrong with it.....it also doesn't make sense. I've had people try to rationalize the idea of eternal punishment away by saying people "deliberately chose it" or "turned their back on God" but that can't be right.  Nobody in their right mind, if convinced of the facts, could ever deliberately choose such a fate. Nor would people turn their backs on God, if they were convinced of God's reality.  To do so would be an act of diminished mental competence, and therefore not subject to the same punishment as a deliberate crime.  For example, someone who commits murder because they have schizophrenia and, in their delusion, imagine their neighbor is spying on them and wishing them ill, wouldn't be entirely responsible for their actions and should be committed to a mental ward and given treatment....not sentenced to die by lethal injection.  Likewise, if some of us, in our human condition and frailties, have deluded thoughts or mistaken beliefs......do we deserve help, or hell?  Is God really so petty as to condemn us forever for the crime of being human? 

Notice, though, that I emphasized that the hypothetical mentally ill person above would still be treated in some way; I don't deny that there are consequences to our actions.  I don't think anyone normal deserves to be punished after death, but I can see there being a kind of purgatory or holding place for those who truly act out of evil (sadists, murderers, etc) where they are re-educated and reformed.  That being said, I (obviously) think we need to stop thinking of God as a kind of cosmic school teacher, busy enforcing rules, and rather as a call to be better people and lead better lives........not because we're afraid of Hell, or desire Heaven, but because it's the right thing to do.

Anybody else care to chime in?  At one time, Universalism was a religious denomination, but merged in 1962 with the Unitarians (although the present Unitarian Universalists aren't really either of those things, in practice.)  But the concept still lives on.  Do you find that the Episcopal Church now emphasizes an infinitely loving and forgiving God, or does the old "do this or else!" thinking still predominate in some areas?
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6 years ago  ::  Oct 30, 2007 - 12:42AM #2
DietoWorms
Posts: 351
Hello ChrisSuperstar,

I used to be very committed to the Universalist idea, until I studied the Bible and found that Universalism is contrary to much of the Bible - and Christ's own words.

Reading:

Matthew 25:31-46

Luke 16:19-31

Matthew 5:22

Matthew 18:8-9 or Mark 9:43

For instance, it is pretty clear that Jesus Christ taught that there was a place of eternal punishment for the wicked.

Of course, it is a difficult topic, and any Christian who has glee at someone being eternally separated from God is committing a serious sin.

I know that in much of the Episcopal church Universalism is quite popular, but I personally believe it is a very dangerous philosophy and contrary to Christ's own words.  But of course, only if you don't believe that the Bible is an accurate reflection of Christ's words and actions does Universalism make sense.

It is very appealing to teach that God saves everyone and that there is no such thing as damnation.  It is a teaching that is easy and comforting, a kind of "Christianity and water" as C.S. Lewis may have called it.

But univeralism makes Christ's sacrifice on the cross kind of silly, and frankly - makes Jesus into a sucker.  He should have just run to the hills and all would have been the same.  But that is not what happened, and God loved us so much that he gave his only son so that those who believe in him will have eternal life.

I know my comments will not win a popularity contest on this board, but I don't mind,    I will probably be shot down as uneducated, ignorant, cruel, fundamentalist, and so on.  But I believe Universalism is a false, un-biblical and dangerous doctrine.  In that sense, universalism is a cruel teaching.

Peace,

DoW
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6 years ago  ::  Oct 30, 2007 - 3:16AM #3
rmatth
Posts: 1,951
Chris...I am a Christian Universalist. I believe that God's creation was perfect and will again be perfect through Jesus Christ. Every knee shall bow, every tongue confess. I've cut & pasted and explanation.

"Christian Universalism is different from Unitarian Universalism. Unlike Unitarian Universalism, Christian Universalism is the belief in universal salvation through Jesus Christ, the incarnate Lord. Christian Universalists are both Christian and Universalist. And we believe that is how Christianity as a whole should be understood. The Christian Universalist belief is that God manifested Himself in human form as a man named Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, who was the perfect moral and spiritual teacher for all mankind, for all time. Jesus Christ came to earth to teach people about the unconditional love of our Heavenly Father, and to encourage us to forgive one another for our sins, as God forgives us. Jesus taught his followers to be merciful, peaceful, charitable, and full of love and compassion for all human beings.

Though we may recognize goodness and value in some other religions besides Christianity, Christian Universalists believe that following the way of Jesus is the best way -- indeed the only way -- of truly walking in the path of God. But it is not any creed, confession, or religious label that saves us; it is the way of Jesus itself, our trust in the Almighty, and our own attempt to live according to the simple yet profound principles taught by Jesus. Some people who call themselves "Christian" but do not have the love of Christ in their heart may actually be less Christian in Jesus' eyes than some people who do not profess Christianity at all, but who practice the way of Christ in their everyday life.

Universal salvation is the main belief that distinguishes the Christian Universalist faith from traditional, fundamentalist forms of Christianity. Universalist Christian believers accept the authority of the Bible, but we disagree with the way most churches and Christians have interpreted certain Biblical passages about hell and salvation. Yes, there is such a thing as hell for some souls after death, but in the original, untranslated text of the Bible there is not a single verse of scripture that teaches that hell is eternal. In fact, there are many verses in the Bible that strongly suggest that every soul God has ever created will someday escape hell and be reconciled to their Creator.

Christian Universalism, therefore, is Biblical Universalism, the belief that the Bible itself teaches the universal reconciliation of all souls to God at the end of time. The Bible says that this will happen because of the power of Jesus Christ to save souls from hell. There is no "point of no return," such as committing an "unpardonable sin" or dying without accepting Christ, that could ever cause a soul to be lost forever. No one is beyond hope, because Jesus Christ has absolute power and as much time as he needs to bring God's goal of universal salvation to fruition. Hell is a redeeming, cleansing, purifying fire that destroys the satanic ego and reforms the human personality in the image of Christ -- not an eternal vindictive torture by an angry and sadistic god.

Popular Bible translations pervert the meaning of important verses about hell. This has been done because of misguided religious tradition, in an attempt to support a pagan concept of eternal torment that was not part of original Biblical Christianity, but came to be accepted by the Roman Catholic Church and also continues to be taught in most Protestant churches. The Bible uses colorful language to describe the punishment of the wicked, but this is within the context of ancient Jewish apocalyptic parables and visionary literature and was never intended to be taken literally. Furthermore, every verse in common versions of the Bible (such as the King James or NIV) that speaks of "eternal" or "everlasting" damnation is a blatant mistranslation of the original Greek or Hebrew, neither of which uses a word referring to eternity in the Bible, but only a limited or unspecified period of time.

According to the Biblical Gospel, as affirmed by Christian Universalism, Christianity is not supposed to be a harsh and pessimistic religion that condemns billions of people to an eternity of pain, just because they didn't happen to profess the correct religious doctrines while they were alive on earth. No, true Christianity is a hopeful and optimistic faith, a faith that announces the good news for all the world -- the positive and uplifting message that through Jesus Christ, all souls can someday be saved! That is the belief of Christian Universalism, and Christian Universalists hope that eventually, all Christians will understand that the universalist interpretation of Christianity is what Jesus intended. Jesus came to earth to tell people about universal salvation, not eternal damnation."
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6 years ago  ::  Oct 30, 2007 - 5:31AM #4
Brownowl33
Posts: 443
[QUOTE=rmatth;32365]Chris...I am a Christian Universalist. I believe that God's creation was perfect and will again be perfect through Jesus Christ. Every knee shall bow, every tongue confess. I've cut & pasted and explanation.


According to the Biblical Gospel, as affirmed by Christian Universalism, Christianity is not supposed to be a harsh and pessimistic religion that condemns billions of people to an eternity of pain, just because they didn't happen to profess the correct religious doctrines while they were alive on earth. No, true Christianity is a hopeful and optimistic faith, a faith that announces the good news for all the world -- the positive and uplifting message that through Jesus Christ, all souls can someday be saved! That is the belief of Christian Universalism, and Christian Universalists hope that eventually, all Christians will understand that the universalist interpretation of Christianity is what Jesus intended. Jesus came to earth to tell people about universal salvation, not eternal damnation."[/QUOTE]

Exactly!  This is the only way God even makes sense.  God is supposed to be perfect.  Perfect beings don't condemn anyone to eternal pain. Even we, in our flawed and human state, have outlawed torture and capital punishment in more civilized countries.  Even murderers get parole, eventually.  I've known some (many, actually) non-Christian or non-religious people who've been far more loving and caring than many of the so-called Christians I've known.  I can't imagine what sort of God would hurt them for that.
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6 years ago  ::  Oct 30, 2007 - 8:45AM #5
rbchaddy2000
Posts: 1,277
I am agnostic about an afterlife. Sheol, a shadowy undefined concept, was the belief in the Hebrew Bible, before the exile. I reject hell on moral grounds as cruel and unusual punishment. Any god that sends people to hell is unworthy of respect or worship in my opinion.  If there is a heaven, it's universal. Richard
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6 years ago  ::  Oct 30, 2007 - 9:19AM #6
calebevans218
Posts: 454
[QUOTE=ChrisSuperstar;32080]


Not only does this say something scary about the kind of people who'd not only believe this, but see nothing wrong with it.....it also doesn't make sense. I've had people try to rationalize the idea of eternal punishment away by saying people "deliberately chose it" or "turned their back on God" but that can't be right.  Nobody in their right mind, if convinced of the facts, could ever deliberately choose such a fate. Nor would people turn their backs on God, if they were convinced of God's reality.  To do so would be an act of diminished mental competence, and therefore not subject to the same punishment as a deliberate crime. 

[/QUOTE]

I think that you're severely underestimating the depravity of fallen humanity. Most people, even if they were fully convinced of God's reality, would turn their backs on God, because, in their sin, they would never be happy in communion with God. Light and darkness do not mix. John Henry Newman and C.S. Lewis both raised the point that only the holy and pure in heart will see God, because only they want to.

In Christ,
Caleb
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6 years ago  ::  Oct 30, 2007 - 9:28AM #7
ToujoursDan
Posts: 1,065
In order to have true free will, you must have the choice to reject God. My problem with universalism is that it forces God onto people who may choose to reject God and that isn't love.

Personally, I find attractive the Eastern Orthodox concept of both the saved and the damned being in God's presence but experiencing it differently. It's not about damning people or separating well meaning people who made a mistake from God, who is by definition everywhere. Rather, it's about our hearts experience God.

The saved experience God's hug as being like a hug from a long lost loved one you have been yearning to be reunited with. The damned experience God's hug as being like an uncomfortable hug by someone you'd rather be rid of, like a creepy relative or a homeless person. In both cases it's the same God hugging but depending on how we feel about God, we would perceive it differently.

It only takes a change of heart for the latter to become the former. Whose hearts will change and when is something I don't know. But this seems consistent with the prodigal son and other parables of the Gospel. The father in the Prodigal son doesn't go find the son and bring him home to the party in shackles, but waits for the change of heart.
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6 years ago  ::  Oct 30, 2007 - 10:03AM #8
phlipside
Posts: 269
My own thoughts fall closest to Dan's.  Unlike caleb I don't see humanity, while fallen, as so utterly depraved.  I believe that we have an internal calling to the divine and that we want to seek it.  Our fallen nature gets in the way and if we don't fight it it can win.  Nor am I quite as optimistic as rmatth because I do believe that not all souls may end up in Heaven (much to the immeasurable sorrow of the Divine)

In the end I believe we have free will.  Grace (and therefore Heaven) are offered to everyone but not everyone will accept it.  C.S. Lewis' view in "The Great Divorce" is an excellent example of how my thoughts have formed over the years.  Some simply choose to hang onto our humanness against everything or even worse IMO is that we choose to hang onto our egos (perhaps that's really the same thing) against submission to God.  We fall in love with our chains.  My greatest fear as a person of faith is that at the last moment, the moment of decision, I will not be able to set aside my ego and accept the presence of the Divine.

Hell by my definition is the separation of the soul from the Divine.  Removal of the soul from the presence of that which feeds it.  Such a separation I believe can be eternal.  But it is not inflicted by the Divine rather it is chosen by creation.
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6 years ago  ::  Oct 30, 2007 - 10:54AM #9
rbchaddy2000
Posts: 1,277
I reject the theology of the Fall, Original Sin, the Atonement, the need for a Saviour, etc. People are capable of both good and evil. A moral/ethical approach to evel and good seems to me to serve people better. The Jewish concept is nearer to mine than the traditional Christian one. I see truth in humanism and some forms of belief in God. Richard
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6 years ago  ::  Oct 30, 2007 - 11:09AM #10
maplewood
Posts: 4,511
Well, I'd say that the notion  that the Jews of the Holocaust are burning in hell is one example of human depravity. :)

I don't think for a second that the narrow, literalist reading of Scripture is even remotely true about humanity, fallen creation, free will, etc., or that God is ready, willing and able to execute the innocent. 

That is completely out of keeping with the charcter of a loving, compassionate God.

I can't spend alot of time here today, but I look forward to keeping up with the thread later. 

Thx!
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