Thursday, March 6, 2008

Universalism

After reading some of the discussions around ‘The Shack’ and ‘Divine Nobodies’ over in Joel’s blog, it appears to me that the issue brought up by many is the issue of Universalism.
Though I am not an expert on Universalism, I can kind of figure out it as a belief that everybody is saved (some how). It wouldn’t take a whole lot of time to figure out from Bible that the idea of universal salvation is simply not true.

I am not going to do a detailed bible study on this other than quoting couple of key verses.

Argument 1:

Does God love all? Absolutely!
Didn’t Christ die for all? Absolutely!
Isn’t it the death of Christ what provides forgiveness? Yes!
So, if Christ died for all and He loves all, didn’t He provide forgiveness for all? Yes!
So, aren’t we all saved? NO!

Why?

Because salvation is not getting our sins forgiven.

So, what is salvation?

For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! -Romans 5:10

We are saved through His life, not through His death. But the death (shedding of blood) was needed for providing forgiveness; which is a prerequisite for salvation. Unless we are cleansed of all the sins, He is not going to impart His life to us. Jesus died to take away our sins and rose from dead on the third day to give us salvation (life); and that happens when we put our faith in Him and in what He did for us. (John 1:12)

Argument 2:

Aren’t all people created in the image of God? No!

Why?

Because Bible says so.

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”
“you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature”

According to the Bible, we are born into this world spiritually dead. As a dead person, what we need is life. In the entire history of humankind, there is only one person who claimed that He can give us life, that is Jesus (John 10:10). When we receive His life (by putting faith) , we are re-created (born again) by God to be indwelled by Him, there by restoring our true humanity (which Adam originally had before his fall).

The books:

I have greatly enjoyed both the books in discussion (I am half way through Divine Nobodies as of now). Do I agree with everything in those books? Probably not. But I think it is okay because those books are not meant to be doctrinal books anyways. The only reason I didn't include some of my negative comments when I did a review on 'The Shack', that I didn't want to discourage anyone from picking that book. Both books have more positives than negatives. I would very well agree with Wayne about any book: "I never view a book as all good or all bad. It’s like eating chicken. Enjoy what you think is the meat and toss what you think are the bones."

10 comments:

Walking Church said...

Again Bino, good and relative post. Do you ever put up a bad one?

I am preaching to the choir on this one: I like to keep things simple. I really hate long verbal engagements. For me, I am found hidden in Christ and that is the only position I have before God. (Gal 2.20, Col. 3.3-4)

As I mentioned in the other post (Joel's)...Why would anyone want to spend eternity with someone (in this Case The Father,Son and His Holy Spirit) they don't know?

My heart's desire is to be where He is - apart from Him it is Hell.

Nicole's Godblog said...

Good Post!

I think about this as a non-issue. To me, it’s all based apon opinions about whether you like the books or you don't, or whether you believe since Father died for all, therefore, all are saved. Now I don't believe that, and I think the bible clearly states otherwise, but to me, it’s all based on ones opinion. In certain issues or debates as I would call them, this ‘issue’ isn’t worth arguing about, only for the reason of disrupting the peace in Father's Family. Relatively speaking, God will use the good in things and He will throw out the rest, if we allow Him too. It all depends on what we allow ourselves to believe, what Father is really saying, or what we 'want' to hear Him say.

Hope that makes sense. I think this is a really good post, and if I am reading correctly, there isn’t a debate going on as of now.

Bino B. Manjasseril said...

WC,

You brings up an interesting question. Yea, it makes sense! I think almost all religions in one way or other believes/teaches 'universalism' to a certain extent. Almost all Christian denominations proclaim that all are created in the image of God, so we ought to love them all. Thats not the reason to love people because it is wrong. Only Adam was originally created in the image of God, we are all born in the image of spiritually dead Adam. But Jesus loves everybody including those who are born in the image of Adam, though they are dead in their transgressions, and to me that is good reason to love all. But that doesn't mean all are going to be ultimately saved.

Nicole,

Yes, it's all about opinions. When it comes to knowing God for who He is, the primary source is revelations from His word. Many books have helped in a great deal but in the final analysis I can write both positive and negative comments about pretty much any book. That is just the way it is.

Joel Brueseke said...

Hi all! I'm finally getting around to commenting here, not that anyone's been waiting with bated breath (or clean, minty breath for that matter) for my comments. LOL

Well, first I should say that your post here, Bino, is a very good analysis of biblical truth, when compared with the main gist of universalism.

My history with universalism goes back about a decade ago or so. I was part of a small grace-based church for 3 years, from 1996 to 1999, and we had a "grace evangelist" come around every now and then, who was good friends with our pastor. This man had (and still has) a major national and international ministry). Shortly after our church stopped meeting together in 1999, a few of the people continued to follow this evangelist, who had by then become a universalist teacher.

This man had once preached how he had overcome various issues of the flesh by the grace of God, but now he preaches that the issue isn't the flesh, so even lifestyles (behaviors, actions) that most Christians (not excluding grace-based Christians), would recognize as what the Bible calls "sin" are really God's gift to us.

We are created in God's image, and so no matter what we do, all of it is godly and none of it is fleshly. (There is no such thing as "walking after the flesh"). Perhaps it's kind of a spin on Gnosticism. That's the short of it, although I could go much deeper.

You've really hit the nail on the head, Bino, with your analysis of being created in God's image vs. being created in Adam, and also with the issue of being forgiven vs. being saved. Spot on! I've had these same thoughts for a long time.

Anyway, just as I have seen "grace Pharisees" among the grace crowd, I've seen a lot more of this among the universalist friends that I have and those who they follow. I'm not trying to generalize here about all universalists, I'm just giving my personal account of my interactions with them. And I'm not pointing fingers... I love these people but I'm pointing out what I believe is their error.

Those of us who speak, preach, teach, breathe God's grace... are still heretics and legalists because we don't believe one key thing that they believe: They believe the "requirement of faith" was done away with at the cross. Jesus died for all sins, and unbelief is a sin, so everyone is saved by Christ's sacrifice, whether they believe or not.

There are also a few passages in the KJV Bible that say, "the faith of Jesus Christ," or "the faith of the Son of God," etc, that are used to show that Christ's faith saves all.

Example:
Gal 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

Salvation, according to their interpretation, has nothing to do with our faith but is based solely upon the faith of Christ. While I have no problem with the word "of" being used properly (in my opinion), in the sense that the faith of Christ provides salvation for all who believe, and also, according to various other passages, once we're saved, we live by the faith of Christ, I simply cannot see that the faith of Christ saves everyone. As you said, Bino, all is forgiven, but not all have faith so not all are justified or saved.

Rom 3:28
Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.

Eph 2:8-9
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

They even take the phrase "faith of Jesus" and apply it to the above verses... but as far as I've seen in my tiny little boxed-in view of God (LOL), I think they've missed so much of what the Bible says about faith, salvation, justification, etc, not to mention your excellent words about being saved through Christ's life, not by His death!

When I posted my thoughts the other day, I really wasn't intending to talk about universalism. I essentially figured that it was a "given" that those who read my blog aren't universalists and are 'against' that faulty doctrine. My concerns weren't brought up for the purpose of discussing it, but rather just to note that I was concerned that people could possibly be led astray by that thinking (since I had really sensed that in my conversations a year ago), and I wanted to know what everybody else thought.

That said, I'm glad that the discussion opened up in the way that it did, both on my blog and here and in other places. I think it's been a very good sharing of our hearts.

Bino B. Manjasseril said...

Thanks Joel for taking time to elaborate on this. If I understand you correctly about misusing of those verses (faith of Jesus Christ) to establish universalism, it is a very dangerous thing. It is a total perversion of Scriptures and it is a heresy. I personally have never encountered a universalist but most likely such people do not always wear a 'uuniversalist' title on their forehead anyways.

Knowing the truth enables us to spot errors (remember that FBI, counterfeit currency example). And thats exactly what did here. Though people often say they don't want to be 'dogmatic' and they don't like theology etc, I think it is important to establish a good understanding of Jesus and His salvation from a biblical perspective. I don't know if we can call it being dogmatic or anything. But it is the truth what gives us the foundation. If we come to a point that we don't waver in every wind of doctrine, thats a good place to be in, especially in this day and age.

Mike T said...

For some in depth commentary on Universalism, and many other topics...might I suggest www.christinyou.net, with my friend Jim Fowler...

Bino Manjasseril said...

Thanks Mike for the recommendation! I will check that out.

Joel Brueseke said...

I checked it out and it appears to be a great resource! Very informative. I even learned a new word. "Vituperative." When I looked it up I had to agree with the sentence I found the word in. The word means, "Using, containing, or marked by harshly abusive censure. The sentence it was used in was this:

"The reaction of popular universalistic teaching to the traditional Christian teaching on sin is intensely vituperative."

Not that I really wanted to focus on that, but in my personal experience I've found that to be true. They will happily state that God is love, and that His love is in everyone, and that His love has saved Hitler, Bin Laden and everyone else in the world, whether they have 'faith' or not. But they are very angry, and don't seem to have any love (again, in my experience) for anyone who has the audacity to "add" faith as the requirement for salvation.

Anyway, I think it's an important topic to discuss, or at least to be aware of, because of the subtle deceit found it the various forms of the doctrine. Some might say, "who cares?" But I care because it has the potential to steer people away from the Life that they can find in Jesus.

Bino Manjasseril said...

Great Joel! I have it open on another window but haven't yet read it through. I too think this is a deception a Christian can easily stoop into because of its appearance of love, sweetness and global acceptance of everyone regardless of their beliefs etc. The people who have tasted the grace of God are more prone to this deception because they might misunderstand the love of Christ for a universal love without the basis of exercising faith.

Let me also tell you this, after I read your post about 'Divine Nobodies' I subscribed to Jim's blog and what I have seen there wasn't different. I even tried to sent some comments to one particular post but the response wasn't convincing. You can see that post and the comments here if you are interested. That was the first time I thought I was in a different page with Jim. But it did not dramatically change my views on the book itself. It was a book I greatly enjoyed and I believe I have learned something from it in terms of being vulnerable and honest etc. But that doesn't mean that the danger is not there. There is a very thin (but clear) line between the grace and acceptance of God through Jesus and the 'universal' acceptance. I believe in 'common grace' such as all people get the benefits of God's creation such as rain, sunlight etc. But it doesn't mean that there is 'common faith'. Faith is our 'response' and it is REQUIRED to appropriate the grace, which by the way is available to all. It is not enough to know that the chair can hold us, there requires an individual response to go and sit (applying faith) in the chair.
I think I have a greater appreciation for what you did on your post now. Thank you!

For those who could not find the article mentioned by Mike, can be found here.

Joel Brueseke said...

Hi Bino... Interesting how this subject has come back up today. :) I was just posting a comment over on Nicole's blog about that same Divine Nobodies and Shack post! I felt kind of bad during the whole ordeal, because I thought I was coming across to others as altogether judgmental against Jim. I honestly had a deep problem with the conversations I had with him last year on his myspace blog, and with seeming hints of universalism in some things he says. I went to the link you provided and you are right on target with your comments about being dead in Adam and the need to be born again through faith. In my own personal interactions with Jim, it just seems as if he won't address this.

But all that said, like you I do see that overall he is on to many very great and wonderful things that are very beneficial to the body of Christ. The body of Christ being one with God seems to be a key thing with Jim, and I can't argue at all with that!