Archive for the ‘universalism’ Category

December 20th was the night of the first lunar eclipse visible in the United States since the Salem Witch trials. That night I stayed up with my teens till 12:30AM waiting for the event. We cuddled in the den with only the lights from the Christmas tree illuminating the house and talked for hours. I love nights like that. We discussed everything from girlfriends to politics and everything in between. I especially appreciate their discussions about faith. It confirms for me that they are not blindly accepting everything they hear. They are analyzing beliefs for truth value.

Sometimes I am surprised by their questions, or some of their beliefs. Their mother is an apologist so explaining and defending the faith is part of our daily conversation. My twelve year old made a statement eluding that all religions basically worship the same God. While I remained calm, cool and collected on the outside, inside I was shocked! Haven’t we covered this before?

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. One conversation cannot outweigh the daily assault on the biblical worldview their parents are establishing for them. Everything they watch on television, many of their conversations with friends, most information they receive from news media or the internet screams relativism. And if a child is not a naturally critical thinker, they will not recognize the inconsistencies within this view and will blindly embrace all that goes along with it. So I am grateful for the opportunity to revisit this topic with my kids. If I don’t give them answers to their pressing questions about faith, I become one more reason for them not to believe.

Over the last 150 years or so relativism has gained most of the philosophical ground in our culture. Dogmatism or fundamentalism is viewed as intolerant. (Isn’t the relativist claiming relativism is true being dogmatic?) People are open to the idea that there is no such thing as absolute truth. What’s true for me is true for me; what’s true for you is true for you. (Isn’t that an absolute truth claim?) And since there is no such thing as absolute truth, then there cannot be one way to God; that is, if He even exists in the first place. So America embraces Universalism with open arms.

Universalism embodies the belief that everyone will be saved and go to heaven. There are two claims that must be true in order for Universalism to work. One, truth depends on choice. I can choose what is true. And since in this great country we are free to choose what to believe, the best choice would be the one that allows for all choices to be true. Anything less would be intolerant and intolerance is bad, very bad. Second, it must deny universal damnation. After all, a good God would not condemn people He loves to hell, right?

As with all relativistic beliefs, this one too is wrought with self-contradiction and self-defeat. Let’s deal with the claim that I can choose what is true. Another way to phrase this is “I can determine what is true.” If I believe it is true, then it is. If you believe the opposite is true, then it is. This subjective view of truth is fully dependent upon self rather than any objective standard. But does this belief correspond with reality? Can I live consistently with this belief? Let’s test it.

Jack and I are standing on top of the Eiffel Tower. I turn to Jack and claim, “I believe gravity does not exist.”

Jack looks at me and claims, “Well, I believe gravity does exist.” According to relativism, both claims are equally valid and equally true. We smile and nod accepting the validity of the other’s belief, proud of our liberal tolerance of opposing claims.

I decide to put my belief to the test and jump off the Eiffel Tower. Since Jack is a tolerant relativist as well, he quietly allows me to take the plunge. At some point during my descent I discover that both claims are not in fact true. Gravity does exist, there are consequences to our ideas as we live and die by our beliefs. I can neither create nor sustain my own existence. How arrogant of me to think that I can determine truth. At best as a fallible being with incomplete understanding I can discover truth. Wouldn’t it be in our best interest and the interest of others to discover what is absolutely true and live by that? Are you willing to die for a lie? Is it tolerant and loving to quietly stand by like Jack as the people around you live and die by a lie?

If all belief systems make contradictory truth claims about God, they cannot all lead to the same true God: one or none, but not all. So if we are seeking a true “religion” we can rule out anything that embraces contradictory claims as all true. This eliminates Universalism among others. But what about universal damnation, that doesn’t seem very loving . . . or is it?

How can a good God condemn people to hell? Let’s look at this from another perspective. If God saves everyone and allows them into heaven as Universalism claims, what exactly is God saving us from? A universal salvation requires universal damnation. If heaven is to be in the presence of God, then hell would be a state of eternal separation. The Bible is very clear that all of humanity is perishing in sin, condemned already (Rom. 3:23). Salvation comes by grace through faith alone in Christ (Rom. 3:24). The work of salvation is wholly God’s, we the condemned are the unworthy receivers of this grace. However, if I am offered a gift and reject it, I do not receive the gift. Regardless of the universal offering, the Bible is clear that the gift of grace is not universally received. God does not force anyone into His arms; it is only in agreement with our will that we are sanctified (Rom. 2:4). As with any gift, grace is freely given, freely received or freely rejected. So is God just in allowing us to live and die by the consequences of our beliefs?

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16

God is love, all Christians believe this including Universalist. But what is love? Love persuades, it does not coerce. Forced love is by definition, not love at all. To yield to the presence of the Almighty is not to embrace a loving and holy God, but to allow Him to embrace us; for we are the mere creation and by what power can we approach the Creator, but by His power alone. Unlike Jack, God does not stand silently on the sidelines allowing us to destroy ourselves. He pursues, He persuades and at times He wrestles us to the ground. (Gen. 32:28) God desires that no one perish, but it does not follow that no one will perish.

“For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Cor. 1:18

Mom and Dad, encourage your kids to evaluate their beliefs for truth value. Be prepared to give an answer for what you believe and why. Don’t become another reason for your child not to believe.
If you have questions, this site is a safe place to ask them. Together we can seek the truth in all things.

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