I have written a series of stories on this blog about a discussion between two cousins on the topic of Christian universalism. I am preparing to write the fifth installment of that series now and have been impressed over the last week how much comfort this belief brings me in my life. Briefly, the doctrine of Christian universalism is the belief supported by the majority of the first Christians that, in the end, all are reconciled to God’s love. I struggled for so many years to feel accepted by God. Now, you can get to a point where you feel like God accepts you without believing in universalism. However, there’s something that remains tainted in your mind when you believe that this same God who accepts YOU, is going to reject forever many of those you love and care about. I could never quite get a strong enough love for God until I accepted that He saves all eventually. In short, I’m comforted only to the extent that I believe God’s love extends to all people and that He will never give up on anyone or throw anyone away. I could not love a God who would do that. And, I could not feel loved completely by a God who loves me because I just happened to believe the right thing or live the right kind of life. I am comforted by the love of a God who truly is for all people and loves each one the same, including me. I have written about this before, but I just thought I would post right now how this is impacting me as I continue to study. Have a good weekend!
Church history is replete with examples of power plays and fear tactics to induce people to conform to what some particular authority believes is the will of God. Sadly, these efforts have resulted, at times, in brutal physical, spiritual, and psychological terror. Some people never seem to learn the lesson that one cannot be forced to obey God against his or her will. Perhaps the most famous campaign to terrorize people into correct living and correct believing is the Inquisition, where the church used unspeakable torture or threats of torture to produce conformity. In this blog post, I want to examine the three ways that social psychologists posit that conformity can be stimulated and relate it to the subject of following God’s will in discipleship. I hope to demonstrate that the fear of punishment, still ever so popular in many Christian circles, is not effective in producing life-changing results. Continue reading
“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
If you have come from a spiritually abusive background, you most often suffer with a view of God that is distant, harsh, and arrogant. God was often depicted as this self-obsessed ego maniac who is hell-bent on forcing everybody to acknowledge how great He is. We’ve been examining 1 Corinthians 13 to see what the characteristics of our loving God must be. Already in this series, you’ve probably challenged some of the ways in which you’ve viewed God. Here we do so again, because, contrary to the fundamentalist portrayal of God as arrogant and capricious, the Apostle Paul writes that love is not proud, does not boast, and that it does not insist on its own rights. It’s not about oneself. Yet, for those of us who were exposed to a spiritually vitriolic environment, it may be difficult to look at a verse like Isaiah 48:11, which reads, “How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another,” and conclude anything but that God is a narcissist. How do we understand the concept of God being loving and yet someone who, at the same time, seems to be obsessed with His own glory? You’ll hear many Christians say, “It’s all about God, not you.” Is this really true? Continue reading
What follows is a story of two cousins, Tyler and Jared Duncan, who, after the death of their grandfather, begin what will be a series of dialogues on the subject of Universalism. This post is part of a series of blog posts on the topic. Being a blog series, it is not intended to be a comprehensive treatment of the topic, but an introduction to some of the main arguments for Christian Universalism from a variety of perspectives. Continue reading
True love. It’s what we all long for deep in the recesses of our being. It is why we are stirred by stories of great sacrifice by persons for one another and inspirational forgiveness by those who are wronged. We desire, whether we are consciously aware of it or not, to be loved with a love that knows no limits. Continue reading