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Universalism: Shall All Be Saved?

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For the fun of it, I'm starting a debate on universalism/apocatastasis. This idea, in of course its many various forms, boils down to saying that somehow, some way, at some point, everyone will experience salvation. It has historically been a strong but small minority position within the Church.

 
DISCLAIMER: I do not actually hold to the views which I will be presenting throughout this debate. I'm experimentally playing devil's advocate because of some research I've been up to.
 
Initial (and rather stereotypical) argument. The following three statements are in conflict:

  • God loves all.
  • God has all power to do what He wills.
  • Ultimately, many people will suffer eternal destruction.

Each of these is affirmed by most Christians on the basis of Biblical evidence. But they cannot all be true. A implies that God wills the highest good of all, which would presumably include salvation. B implies that God has the ability to grant salvation to all. So if God is willing and able to save all, it seems very difficult that He would not.

 

Most Christians have historically addressed this problem by denying or qualifying A or B. Hyper-Calvinists argue that God only loves the elect (deny A), and less hyper Calvinists usually argue that while God does love the non-elect, this only takes the form of a basic benevolence insufficient to warrant including them in salvation (qualifying A). Arminians, Molinists, Open Theists, and others tend to qualify or deny B, saying that God could save all only by violating their free will, which would ultimately be counterproductive, apparently answering "no" to "Could God save all without violating their free will?"

 

The problem here is twofold: there is a problem of dogmatics and one of exegesis. At the dogmatic level, the love of God and the power of God are higher on the totem pole than any doctrine of eternal hell, simply because who God is remains a more first order matter than exactly how He will handle certain people. Therefore if there is a conflict, C should be the first belief to be reexamined. At the exegetical level, there is more evidence for A and for B than for C.

 

I want to go on to show why C is not necessary in light of what the Bible actually says, but I don't want to overload my initial post, so I'll hold on that for now.

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Mmmm. I do not think all will be saved. However, I think God will save certain non-believers.

 

Number one, is the main point, which someone is moreless Baptized by their ignorance. They have never been able to seek the faith, or have been raised in an entirely different faith without ever knowing Christianity. God will save them because they did not have the chance to know him.

 

However, a personal view not many agree with, is I feel if you are living your life morally, as a good person, you may still be able to find God in your life. Jesus did not condemn Doubting Thomas, He simply said those who see without believing are more blessed. Plus, God does love all, and sometimes people have a hard time. However, I do not think an atheist can live his life being a major drug addict, hating God, and even murdering and find his way to 'heaven'.

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Mmmm. I do not think all will be saved...However, I do not think an atheist can live his life being a major drug addict, hating God, and even murdering and find his way to 'heaven'.

While I'm still hoping someone will respond to my main argument, I should ask here, "Why?" Did Jesus not bear the sins of the whole world, including the sins of the God-hating, atheist, drug addicted murderer? Was God not in Christ reconciling all things to Himself?

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You're not taking into account God's Holiness. Holiness is as much His nature as love is.  "Holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord."—Hebrews 12:14. And there are things that God can't do anyway. He can't lie, or sin, or be tempted with evil. He offers people a covenantal relationship. And God requires some things from us, one of which is repentance. Without it, we're not saved.  

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I don't think God will save everyone. God won't save those who don't want to be saved (satanists and the like), nor will He save people don't love Him. God doesn't force us to love Him, and He doesn't force us into salvation. Jesus Himself said that those who don't love God will be thrown into the "everlasting fire" on Judgement Day. This alone is proof that not everyone will be saved.

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All points A, B, and C, are correct. A: God loves all = True

B: God has all power for his will = True

C: Not all will be saved = True

 

The problem is with the disconnect between A and B. God loves all, and God wants all to be saved. However, he has set in place a system, a system that must be followed. He is a just God -- one who cannot have sin, therefore, no matter how much he loves us, He will not save us all, based upon the principles that he created. tl;dr Just because God loves us, doesn't mean he can compromise his rules to save us.

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You're not taking into account God's Holiness. Holiness is as much His nature as love is.  "Holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord."—Hebrews 12:14. And there are things that God can't do anyway. He can't lie, or sin, or be tempted with evil. He offers people a covenantal relationship. And God requires some things from us, one of which is repentance. Without it, we're not saved.

Jesus has already dealt with the problem of holiness. He took away the sin of the world and purified/sanctified human nature in His atoning life and death. See Hebrews chapter 2.

 

I don't think God will save everyone. God won't save those who don't want to be saved (satanists and the like), nor will He save people don't love Him. God doesn't force us to love Him, and He doesn't force us into salvation. Jesus Himself said that those who don't love God will be thrown into the "everlasting fire" on Judgement Day. This alone is proof that not everyone will be saved.

Did Christ not already deal with the sin of not loving God, and reconcile all things to God through His death? Surely from this state no one will successfully resist the love of God for all of eternity. 

 

All points A, B, and C, are correct. A: God loves all = True

B: God has all power for his will = True

C: Not all will be saved = True

 

The problem is with the disconnect between A and B. God loves all, and God wants all to be saved. However, he has set in place a system, a system that must be followed. He is a just God -- one who cannot have sin, therefore, no matter how much he loves us, He will not save us all, based upon the principles that he created. tl;dr Just because God loves us, doesn't mean he can compromise his rules to save us.

God is absolutely free, I submit, and has no obligation to a system. But even while He must be true to His own justice, He already has been. Jesus propitiated for the sins of the entire world (1 Jn. 2:2). This means God's wrath against all sins of all people has been already been dealt with on the Cross. God's justice is satisfied in His once-for-all sin offering of His own Son for us.

Moreover, you are still essentially denying B. You are still answering "no" to the question: "Can God save all if He wishes even if all would condemned under His system and justice?"

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Eternal Suffering vs Finite Suffering

 

I would like to introduce a revised triad:

 

A. God loves all.

B. God has all power to do what He wills.

C*. Ultimately, many people will suffer.

 

These ideas seem to be in conflict as well. Presumably an all-powerful loving God would be able to rescue His beloved from suffering, yet it is obvious that He does not. Furthermore, C* is not the weakest link either exegetically or dogmatically in this triad for obvious reasons I can expand on if you insist.

 

Why is C more problematic than C*? Presumably the idea is that temporary suffering is more compatible with God's love than eternal suffering. This more or less takes the line that God can't really love Hitler if he damns Hitler to Hell, but He can quite easily love Job while he suffers. After all, Job will eventually get better!

 

But why not save Job without subjecting him to a bad life? By the implicit logic of the Universalist's argument, this seems to be the better course, and it is within God's power to will it. Therefore, if any amount of suffering is bad, then any amount of suffering is enough to throw B and A into question. Therefore, C* and C are interchangeable if any amount of suffering is bad.

 

Justice and other Considerations

 

Luckily, there is good reason to believe that love and suffering are compatible or that at least some suffering can be justified. After all, God willed for Himself to suffer on the cross, and it would be absurd to say that God at any point stopped loving Himself. Now, if some suffering and love are compatible, what makes eternal suffering different?

 

The Universalist might argue that this is because Christ suffered just punishment in propitiation for sin, so there was a reason for Him to suffer, but there is no reason for people to suffer eternally. But then why do humans suffer at all? After all, any sin is worthy of death, so if Christ is to save Job from death, He must save him from all his sins. But if He is going to save him from all his sins anyway, why allow his to suffer even a little bit of His judgment?

 

It seems that there must be some good reason to allow Creation to suffer evil. Furthermore, that reason cannot be justice, because Christ's sacrifice was sufficient to satisfy all justice, and God could have willed to make Christ's sacrifice at any point, and it would be better to save the world sooner rather than later so as to save His beloved from as much suffering as possible. But what will justify suffering and evil if not justice?

 

Now I can think of several ways to justify finite suffering, but they also legitimize Hell. Therefore, it is up to the Universalist to find a way to explain natural evil that does not also justify Hell. Otherwise, my inclination is to side with tradition and orthodoxy over the presumption of a theology that can't even deal with the basic facts of day to day life.

Edited by Chris-M

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While I'm still hoping someone will respond to my main argument, I should ask here, "Why?" Did Jesus not bear the sins of the whole world, including the sins of the God-hating, atheist, drug addicted murderer? Was God not in Christ reconciling all things to Himself?

While Jesus does forgive, God also is a JUST God. Therefore, if he does not fix the errors of his ways and become more just and good himself, then he will have eternal punishment.

 

But in my sceanario, I more refer to this type.

An Atheist who is a heavy activist against immorality within the world, who promotes ideas of peace and love, basically living by the code of the Lord without actualy BELIEVING in Him.

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While Jesus does forgive, God also is a JUST God. Therefore, if he does not fix the errors of his ways and become more just and good himself, then he will have eternal punishment.

But in my sceanario, I more refer to this type.

An Atheist who is a heavy activist against immorality within the world, who promotes ideas of peace and love, basically living by the code of the Lord without actualy BELIEVING in Him.

Is it not the case that God's justice has been fully and finally accomplished in the Cross? Was Jesus' death not enough to handle unrepentance?

Not in character as a universalist, just honestly, your posts for some time have given me concern. It seems you have little place for Jesus in your view of salvation, making it almost all about how good or bad you are.

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Is it not the case that God's justice has been fully and finally accomplished in the Cross? Was Jesus' death not enough to handle unrepentance?

Not in character as a universalist, just honestly, your posts for some time have given me concern. It seems you have little place for Jesus in your view of salvation, making it almost all about how good or bad you are.

Jesus does have a place indeed. But I do not think that God leaves the unjust, cruel type to live without being punished.

Perhaps I am bitter though. I do like to hear many other sides.

 

I openly confess I struggle with the idea of 'forgiveness' when it comes to faith. I have for a long time. I struggle with forgiveness for my own soul as well. When we as people continuously over and over commit wretched sins and often do so impulsively, you grow disgusted with humanity and occasionally yourself. Me and God have long discussions about this. Feel free to comment, possibly make another thread discussing this with me. As, I do take the concern to consideration.

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Jesus does have a place indeed. But I do not think that God leaves the unjust, cruel type to live without being punished.

Perhaps I am bitter though. I do like to hear many other sides.

 

I openly confess I struggle with the idea of 'forgiveness' when it comes to faith. I have for a long time. I struggle with forgiveness for my own soul as well. When we as people continuously over and over commit wretched sins and often do so impulsively, you grow disgusted with humanity and occasionally yourself. Me and God have long discussions about this. Feel free to comment, possibly make another thread discussing this with me. As, I do take the concern to consideration.

This is a big part of the reason why I dislike the penal substitution view of atonement.

Where should the line be drawn between normal sinners and "unjust, cruel" ones? (Can sin not be unjust?) Something about the sick being the ones in need of a doctor. Why is punishment for sins desired, isn't it greater for the sinner to be changed than merely punished?

I also think it is harmful to diminish the role that a person's environment has on their behavior. It's easy to want revenge on those who hurt others, but it is far more beneficial to everyone to create an environment that promotes goodness. (And it is quite possible the a revenge based view of atonement actually fosters environments that perpetuate sin/harm.)

 

Along those lines is why I think some form of calvinism (that rejects/highly qualifies A), annihilationism, universalism (rejecting/qualifying C), or a non-omnipotent view of God (rejecting B  )are the only reasonable options. All attempts to synthesize A, B, and C are either invalid or covertly reject one of them.

Edited by Ananas

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This is a big part of the reason why I dislike the penal substitution view of atonement.

Where should the line be drawn between normal sinners and "unjust, cruel" ones? (Can sin not be unjust?) Something about the sick being the ones in need of a doctor. Why is punishment for sins desired, isn't it greater for the sinner to be changed than merely punished?

I also think it is harmful to diminish the role that a person's environment has on their behavior. It's easy to want revenge on those who hurt others, but it is far more beneficial to everyone to create an environment that promotes goodness. (And it is quite possible the a revenge based view of atonement actually fosters environments that perpetuate sin/harm.)

 

Along those lines is why I think some form of calvinism (that rejects/highly qualifies A), annihilationism, universalism (rejecting/qualifying C), or a non-omnipotent view of God (rejecting B  )are the only reasonable options. All attempts to synthesize A, B, and C are either invalid or covertly reject one of them.

I do not believe God punishes the ill. Even my catechism states that although suicide is a sin, many still perform Christian burials because they do not know whether the person at the time was 'fully in control' of themselves at the time or not.

Perhaps I take the idea of the 'indulgence' too seriously. Persay, you are forgiven yes, but you must do acts to repair the wrongs you did.

I certainly have never denied being the critical type. Some people consider the idea I occasionally 'sound' like I am vengeful and bitter about cruel people being able to be 'happy', yet I have been faithful and strong yet my oldest brother is dead, both my little siblings have autism, and sometimes we struggle financially.

 

So...

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Eternal Suffering vs Finite Suffering

I would like to introduce a revised triad:

 

A. God loves all.

B. God has all power to do what He wills.

C*. Ultimately, many people will suffer.

These ideas seem to be in conflict as well. Presumably an all-powerful loving God would be able to rescue His beloved from suffering, yet it is obvious that He does not. Furthermore, C* is not the weakest link either exegetically or dogmatically in this triad for obvious reasons I can expand on if you insist.

Why is C more problematic than C*? Presumably the idea is that temporary suffering is more compatible with God's love than eternal suffering. This more or less takes the line that God can't really love Hitler if he damns Hitler to Hell, but He can quite easily love Job while he suffers. After all, Job will eventually get better!

But why not save Job without subjecting him to a bad life? By the implicit logic of the Universalist's argument, this seems to be the better course, and it is within God's power to will it. Therefore, if any amount of suffering is bad, then any amount of suffering is enough to throw B and A into question. Therefore, C* and C are interchangeable if any amount of suffering is bad.

 

Justice and other Considerations

 

Luckily, there is good reason to believe that love and suffering are compatible or that at least some suffering can be justified. After all, God willed for Himself to suffer on the cross, and it would be absurd to say that God at any point stopped loving Himself. Now, if some suffering and love are compatible, what makes eternal suffering different?

The Universalist might argue that this is because Christ suffered just punishment in propitiation for sin, so there was a reason for Him to suffer, but there is no reason for people to suffer eternally. But then why do humans suffer at all? After all, any sin is worthy of death, so if Christ is to save Job from death, He must save him from all his sins. But if He is going to save him from all his sins anyway, why allow his to suffer even a little bit of His judgment?

It seems that there must be some good reason to allow Creation to suffer evil. Furthermore, that reason cannot be justice, because Christ's sacrifice was sufficient to satisfy all justice, and God could have willed to make Christ's sacrifice at any point, and it would be better to save the world sooner rather than later so as to save His beloved from as much suffering as possible. But what will justify suffering and evil if not justice?

Now I can think of several ways to justify finite suffering, but they also legitimize Hell. Therefore, it is up to the Universalist to find a way to explain natural evil that does not also justify Hell. Otherwise, my inclination is to side with tradition and orthodoxy over the presumption of a theology that can't even deal with the basic facts of day to day life.

I have not forgotten you, I should mention. I'm just taking my time trying to think of a response. Though I am curious about some of these "several ways to justify suffering."

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Now that I'm not on staff here, I can be more open about stuff. The universalism argument is one I have been struggling with for years now. Though I mostly let it stay buried in the back of my brain because I've had neither time nor motivation to work it through. 

 

I believe your initial argument for universalism to be lacking. It's not as simple as "God loves us yet allows us to suffer." Granted the problem of evil is one that is major and has to be reconciled, but the Catholic view of suffering that Chris will be able to espouse covers that.  

 

My major question that has me confused is: "Why is death the cut off point for salvation?"

 

Lemme try to explain...

 

Humans, all of them, are searching for truth. It's an innate part of being human. We try to figure out the rules of the universe and what it all means. I've always believed that this part of humanity is our souls reaching out for God. The reason why we come to alternative conclusions to one unified belief in God is a combination of a lack of information and the fact that God exists in a plane/area that we can not fully comprehend. Just like we can not fully understand a tesseract. 

 

Anyway, my point is that, humans are constantly searching for Truth/God. If they are programmed to do so, when they are actually, genuinely exposed to God at their death and enter into a place where they can experience His form of existence in a more full way (like Christ's Transfiguration), how could a human not believe/accept the Christian God has his/her lord and savior? And if a human was, by nature, forced to accept it, why would because they were dead be a reason why God would not grant them the same salvation they would have gotten moments before their passing? It simply seems arbitrary to me is what I'm saying I guess. 

 

And I know original sin and total depravity work in here, somehow, but I'm just not seeing it because I refuse to believe there is a human on this Earth that wouldn't believe in God if exposed to Him in a full, genuine way. 

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Also, a second thought:

 

Caleb, you should know as well as anyone else that you have to define words like sin, salvation, justification, and sanctification if you're going to have any sort of fruitful discussion about this. A Catholic viewpoint on this issue is going to be different from a Protestant one. You need to be careful that you're not talking past each other when you debate this. 

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Mmmm. I do not think all will be saved. However, I think God will save certain non-believers.

 

Number one, is the main point, which someone is moreless Baptized by their ignorance. They have never been able to seek the faith, or have been raised in an entirely different faith without ever knowing Christianity. God will save them because they did not have the chance to know him.

 

However, a personal view not many agree with, is I feel if you are living your life morally, as a good person, you may still be able to find God in your life. Jesus did not condemn Doubting Thomas, He simply said those who see without believing are more blessed. Plus, God does love all, and sometimes people have a hard time. However, I do not think an atheist can live his life being a major drug addict, hating God, and even murdering and find his way to 'heaven'.

God said even those that never heard of him will still go to hell sadly because no one told them about God. And it would be our fault

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God said even those that never heard of him will still go to hell sadly because no one told them about God. And it would be our fault

If that is so, why should those who do not have the chance to know Him be punished for what we did wrong?

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My major question that has me confused is: "Why is death the cut off point for salvation?"[. . .]

 

I'm not really adding anything here, just wanted to say that this is pretty much where I'm at as well. :P

Which is why it seems necessary for either some form of "election," annihilationism, or universalism. All of which have their own difficulties, universalism being the least difficult for me.

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God said even those that never heard of him will still go to hell sadly because no one told them about God. And it would be our fault

Source?

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God said even those that never heard of him will still go to hell sadly because no one told them about God. And it would be our fault

I've never heard anything from the bible, or from tradition. I would say the only thing mentioned by the early church fathers is the idea there is no salvation outside of the church, if that is what you are referring too? 

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The bible and very good pastors

 

Where in the Bible? I would argue that n​o man has an excuse because God has made Himself known to the world via His creation (Romans 1:20)  ​

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The bible and very good pastors

Yeah, I'm asking you to quote the exact text for me. 

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