Christian Church / Christianity / Ethics / Faith / Hypocrisy

The Gray Areas of Salvation: Universal Salvation

This is a series. Previous post cane be found here.

This post was very difficult for me to write, as I have no experience with a universal reconciliation in Christianity to draw from. So, I ask you to contribute and critique in the hopes that I can get a place to jump from.

Universal reconciliation is a response to the philosophical problem of Hell. There are four things that can indicate a tension between a just, benevolent God and the idea of eternal punishment in the form of a place where one must go and from which there is no escape, for actions or lack thereof on earth. The idea of the tension is that God, being the Creator of humanity, cannot hold the created in permanent punishment especially when the created are born into it and have no chance of sinlessness. There have been many theodicies and theories as to how to resolve this discussion on God’s justice. Universal salvation, also known as apocatastasis, is not a particularly popular response to this idea. The most popularly believed resolution is special salvation which is that those who believe on Jesus will be spared the eternal punishment. Another is annihilationism, which is that a soul is not eternal unless given eternal life. This is also referred to as conditional immortality.Christian_Universalist

Universal reconciliation was first recorded sometime around 185 AD by an ecumenical council. Though it was not supported by many major theologians such as Augustine, it was recognized as a legitimate belief in many. Since it’s inception it has been seen as an ecumenical belief. Later on branches of Christianity such as; Anabaptists, Methodists, and Quakers among others, kept it’s ideas current.

It’s my understanding that universal salvation is more derived from the understanding of the nature of God, than from Biblical sources; though if you simply google universal salvation one of the first websites is 600 Verses Confirming Universal Salvation, it is also the opinion if some who hold this belief that there is more scriptural evidence for universal reconciliation than for eternal punishment. I found most of the 600 verses to be off topic or to simply include the word ‘all’ and assume that they were talking about salvation. I did however, find some intriguing verses on the topic that I can see people would get universal salvation from.

The first verse I found interesting was Colossians 1:19-24 “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.” To me, this verse shows that all were reconciled to God, but only as long as they kept the faith. I can however understand how reading the first few verses can be understood in the context of this discussion. All were reconciled unto God and have either chosen to continue in their faith or reject it. This does not account for those who have never been covered by the blood, because all have been in this passage.

Another passage that is quite interesting is Psalms 22:27 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.” Charles Spurgeon insists that when the Bible says ‘all’ it doesn’t really mean ‘all’ it means ‘some of all kinds.’ In this passage, it’s quite important whether you make this distinction or not. Does this mean that, like other verses that say every knee shall bow, every person will eventually profess God as their ruler? Does this mean that all will eventually come to a saving knowledge of God?

Luke 3:4-6 Is paraphrasing from Isaiah 52:10 “The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” in saying in verse 6, “all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” Is this one of those places where Spurgeon’s argument comes into play? Does the Bible mean “all flesh” or does it mean “some of all flesh”? Here’s the thing. In verses like these, the passage is usually addressing God’s people (ie. Jerusalem, Zion). However, the verse says “the eyes of all nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see salvation,” so do you take Spurgeon’s line of logic and say that the nations will each have some that see salvation or take it the route of the universalists and determine that all will see salvation even if eventually?

Then there are verses where Jesus himself says these all inclusive ideas.  John 12:32,47-48 “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” “If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He that rejects me, and receives not my words, hath one that judges him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” In this passage, Jesus says that will not judge those who reject him, but that God the Father will. However, in John 5:21 “For as the Father raises up the dead, and quickens them; even so the Son quickens whom he will.For the Father judges no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son:That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honours not the Son honours not the Father which hath sent him.” It’s confusing isn’t it? I mean, one says that Jesus isn’t going to judge anybody, but God the Father will; the other says God the Father says it’s Jesus’ responsibility to judge now. It’s like everybody is a fan of bureaucracy and passing the buck, even from Heaven on down.

Thank you to Clare Flourish for inspiring and helping me with this post. Her faith is pure and makes me curious. To me, that’s pretty special.

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19 thoughts on “The Gray Areas of Salvation: Universal Salvation

  1. Love your thoughts! Can see how it was hard to write, but your scriptures are wonderful and you are certainly a sacred struggler! Blessings on your continued journey, and keep writing!

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  2. I’m not sure what it says about “Universal Salvation” but you do know that the Jews have no concept of Hell and never have, right?

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  3. I’m not usually real fond of doctrinal discussions online, but I figure I’ll give it a go as long as it doesn’t get too messy. I believe you are responsibly trying to compare scripture with scripture. Not doing that is usually what causes problems. The Bible will harmonize once all the passages pertaining to a question are lined up side by side. Obviously, the Bible clearly indicates that there is a road that leads to life and few will find it and a road that leads to death on which many are traveling. In regard to the question of hell as it pertains to God’s character… You’ve raised a very good question: Would a God of love torture souls eternally? Why? Well, as I’ve compared scripture with scripture I’ve found that over 100 verses speak of hell as a complete destruction of the wicked (not eternal) and only about 12 or so that speak of it as eternal. The 12 verses in question seem to be somewhat vague as they could also be understood to be eternally binding rather than eternal torture. I prefer to take the bulk of the evidence to formulate my understanding and then figure out how the minority of vague texts can fit within that framework. The conclusion I’ve accepted seems to back up God’s character of justice (as He was in the flood, etc.) without the idea that He is actually a God who takes pleasure in the endless torment of the wicked.

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  4. “only about 12 or so that speak of it as eternal”

    It is worth noting that the Greek word generally translated “eternal” doesn’t mean everlasting, but rather in or of the age to come. The Jews believed there was the present age in which things are not so good, and the age to come when the Messiah would put things right. Punishment in the age to come could be compatible with any of the views of hell mentioned here. So the argument against everlasting punishment is stronger than you think.

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  5. Pingback: The Gray Areas of Salvation: Alternate Ways to Achieve or Forfeit Salvation | Sacred Struggler

  6. I like the bureauacracy joke at the end (MAN I cannot spell that word). I think in that part in John, Jesus doesn’t necessarily (trinity logic confuses even the best) say that God will judge, but the Word. John 1 says that in the beginning was the Word…the Word was with God/was God…and became incarnate. IE, Jesus was the incarnate word, so it could still mean Jesus will judge, just not while he was on Earth because the judgment of souls comes later.
    If that doesn’t work, I go back to the whole trinity thing that God/Jesus/Holy Spirit are one, so po-tay-toh, po-tah-toh.
    Just stirrin’ the pot 🙂

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    • Haha. I used the spell checker for that one too. Further outsourcing.

      Anyways, what about the reverse use of the Trinity application. If Jesus says that He won’t judge, doesn’t that then mean (because of the oneness) none of them will judge? I do like the idea that perhaps Jesus simply meant, not this time. I’ll have to look back at the passages and see if that’s what it means. Thanks and you’re always welcome to stir the pot.

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  7. I really like your thoughts. This is a tricky issue. Some other things to throw out there: Catholic Vatican 2 talks about Catholics having the “full truth” but everyone else having “lesser truth”. So, FULL salvation comes from the Catholic church, BUT you’ll probably be ok if you’re not.

    Greek Orthodox are cool. They think that we’ll all still have a chance to believe in Jesus AFTER we die. How cool is that? Makes sense to me. Where in the Bible does it say, “You only have 1-100 years to figure this out, and if you don’t, too bad!”

    Personally, I hope everyone get’s salvation somehow (Jesus). But I don’t see universal salvation as a pass to be a crappy human being, we need to seek to take care of each other no matter what–and that’s what the the big religions teach, and if we actually all followed them, the world might finally be “saved”.

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  8. Pingback: Alternative Theology: Condititional Immortality | Sacred Struggler

  9. Pingback: What I’m for: Religiosity as experience, not an idol. | Sacred Struggler

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