I left the evangelical movement for good in 2008, though a great number of loved ones still reside in their churches. I grant to each person the freedom to determine what they believe is the truth. Since the time of my departure I have been on a mission. I want to get back to ground zero. I want to find the original teachings of Christ and His apostles. I am no longer interested in debates over eternal security, substitutionary atonement, and the rapture. These are all doctrines invented in the centuries since the Reformation and, as far as I’m concerned, are non-issues. I am interested to know what the early church, especially those just after the apostles passed away, thought about the cross, the divinity of Christ, the nature of the gospel, the purpose of the sacraments, and its understanding of life in the age to come. My research of the past three years has netted what is to me overwhelming evidence of the pervasive belief in universalism among the early Christians, attested to from the mouths of even Augustine and Jerome. I am starting to see my faith in a whole new way. I feel like I’m connecting with what the Spirit of Jesus was doing among the early disciples in what was called “The Way.” It’s been so refreshing over the past months to dig in and find the true essence of the gospel being about loving one’s neighbor and the nature of salvation not being about getting out of literal hellfire for eternity, but about being transformed into a person of love like God the Father. Those who live lives full of love for neighbor enter the kingdom in the golden age to come after this one while those who live selfishly and destructively will enter an age of chastisement meant to purge them of self and transform them into Godly men and women. I’ve purchased a large volume set of the writings of the early church fathers and I intend to start reading a little bit every few days to get a feel for what was going on in the early second to mid fourth centuries. As I have searched, I have found Eastern Orthodox Christianity to be a great resource of early Christian thinking and, except for a few hang ups I have with that church’s way of doing things, I am seriously considering what it would look like to be an Orthodox Christian. If you are frustrated with the seeming powerlessness of today’s shallow consumer Christianity and are looking for something to refresh your faith, I invite you to join the search with me for original Christianity.
“Have you been saved?” The evangelist thunders from the pulpit. “Jesus Christ desires your salvation and if you will repent of your sin and confess Him as Lord and Savior tonight then you will be guaranteed a place in heaven when you die!” The lights in the sanctuary begin to lower and the organist plays a slow-moving hymn. The evangelist calls forward those who “feel the Spirit tugging at their hearts” and people begin making their way down the aisle, kneel in front, and pray a prayer to receive Christ and salvation from eternal misery. Continue reading
Rob Bell, author of Velvet Elvis, has produced a masterful treatment of the subject of hell and heaven from the perspective of God’s unfathomable and limitless love. I read this book in one day! Bell hits on all the main issues that Christians struggle with in the debate over heaven and hell. How could God create billions of people only to save a relatively small handful of them? Bell’s thesis is that God’s love wins in the end. While he stopped short of endorsing universalism, keeping the door open for one to reject God’s love forever, the book was the best down-to-earth explanation of the universalist arguments that I have seen in print so far. Most books on the subject tend to treat the subject from a scholarly theological perspective, but Rob Bell is a master of explaining things almost in a story-like manner. Continue reading