Comforted by Love

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!

Happily Ever After (Part 04) – The Biblical Argument for Universalism: New Testament

The story of Jared and Tyler Duncan’s conversation about universalism continues.  This time, they will be taking a look at what the New Testament has to say about the doctrine. Continue reading

Conformity to God’s Will: Why Punishment Doesn’t Work

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

Book Review: “Love Wins” by Rob Bell

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

“Happily Ever After” (Part 03) – The Biblical Argument for Universalism: Old Testament

Jared and Tyler Duncan continue their dialogue on the question of universal salvation, following the death of their grandfather who was an avowed unbeliever. In this segment of the story, the boys discuss the evidence from the Old Testament supporting the doctrine of Christian Universalism. Once again, I remind the reader that this is a blog post and is not meant to provide a comprehensive review of all related scripture passages or a discussion of all possible arguments in favor of universalism. In this dialogue you will get an overview of the basic case for this doctrine made from the pages of the Old Testament. Readers seeking a more in-depth treatment are invited to review the references at the end of the story for a list of resources to aid in your study. Continue reading

Book Review: “A Generous Orthodoxy” by Brian McLaren

This is my first book review.  I know that, technically, there is a certain way to write a book review starting with an introduction, general overview of the book, strong points, weak points, and finishing with a summary and conclusion (or something like that).  Instead of all that, I’m just going to tell you why I loved this book.  How’s that?  LOL!  You see, book reviews on the Christian Independent are going to be more like journal entries than technical book reviews, because I’m past the point of reading books simply for theological information.  I’m interested in transformation.  I did the whole “stuff my head with knowledge” thing and that ends in stale orthodoxy.  It’s ironic that those words flowed off of my fingers, because that is the opposite of what Brian McLaren is aiming at in this book.  He’s trying to get at something deeper than theological systems.  He’s trying to get at a way of life (one that includes beliefs) that is generous.  He contends that the dichotomy that exists in our thinking between orthodoxy (right beliefs) and orthopraxy (right practice or living) should not exist.  We should live out our beliefs in a generous way that transforms us, others, the community, and, ultimately, the whole world.  Believe me, I’m doing a grave injustice to Brian by writing this review, because I cannot capture the beauty of what he is proposing and directing us toward in any way that can fully articulate his thoughts.  You’re going to have to read the book yourself. Continue reading

“Happily Ever After” (Part 02) – The Philosophical Argument for Universalism

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