What Has Always Been Believed

Recently, a traditionalist Christian was trying to promote his views by saying something along the lines of how we should ignore interpretations of Scripture other than those that have always been believed by the Church.

In response, I would suggest that there’s no such thing as “what has always been believed by the Church,” because there have always been Christians (members of the Church, in other words) who disagreed with the doctrines that came to be considered “orthodox.” Calling these people heretics because they believed something other than the theology that won the doctrinal wars doesn’t make them wrong, and the fact that a belief came to be considered orthodox doesn’t make it right. In fact, my theory is that the more “orthodox” a doctrine is considered to be, the more likely it is to be wrong. But would you expect anything less from a heretic like me?

Do Universalists Need Jesus?

Someone I know recently said that if Universalism is true then we don’t need Jesus and, since I’ve heard this statement too many times from too many traditionalists, I felt a need to give a short response to it here.

As a Christian Universalist, I like to respond to assertions like this one with a parable in the form of a news article:

At 6:00pm, Friday evening, firefighter Joshua Christos died in order to rescue all 300 children trapped in Kosmos Public School as it was burning to the ground. However, because he saved all 300 students, rather than just 2 or 3 of them, we are forced to declare that Joshua’s death didn’t actually serve any purpose even though none of the children would have been saved had he not died.

I realize that Universal Reconciliation isn’t an easy doctrine to swallow, but statements like “If Universalism is true then Jesus died in vain” make me wonder whether most traditionalists are even trying when they argue against the idea.

TULIP

Believe it or not, I find that there is quite a bit in Calvinism to agree with, particularly their take on free will. There are a couple points where we disagree though, what with me being a Christian Universalist and all, so I thought I’d give my Universalist take on TULIP:

1. Total Death/Total Grace: Death has passed on to all of us, thanks to sin, but where sin abounds, grace super-abounds; so every sin has already been taken care of and all of humanity has already been ontologically saved in Christ.

2. Unconditional Election: God elects to noologically save some people based upon no merit of their own.

3. Limited (noological) Salvation in this Age: Only those to whom God has revealed the truth of their ontological salvation will be noologically saved during their lifetime.

4. Irresistible Grace: Those whom God elects cannot resist (noological) salvation.

5. Perseverance of God: God will sacramentally save everyone in the end.

This post explains the references to the three different stages of salvation (ontological, noological and sacramental), just in case you’re not familiar with them.

Let’s See What You’ve Got

In my experience, really thinking over the implications and ramifications of their own doctrines doesn’t seem to be something most Christians do. Likewise, theological consistency doesn’t appear to be a virtue among most Christians either. These observations are probably made the clearest when it comes to the topic of hell. The fact that interpreting the 10 passages generally used to defend Everlasting Torment in hell as an actual defense of the doctrine means that, in order to be exegetically consistent, one also seems to have to believe in salvation by works appears to completely fly over the heads of those trying to use those passages.

Interestingly, traditionalist Christians will try to exegete passage after passage in order to prove that homosexuality or premarital sex or abortion is a sin, not to mention in order to prove a multitude of completely trivial doctrines, and yet you’ll have an easier time trying to kill a grizzly bear with a toothpick than you will getting a believer in Everlasting Torment to explain how those passages actually back up this particular belief. My theory is that they realize none of those passages actually even seem to imply salvation by grace through faith and not of works but are in denial about the whole thing. They can (and sometimes will) argue that it’s just so obvious that there’s no point in explaining their interpretations of these passages, but, as I said, they’re happy to exegete passages to defend much lesser doctrines at the drop of a hat so that makes such arguments suspect in my opinion.

So, to those who insist that people will spend eternity suffering in hell if they don’t put their faith in Christ before they die, and that good works won’t help them, remember that extreme assertions require extreme proof, and we’ve yet to see even minor proof from your side. I’ve given my defense of Universal Reconciliation on this site and on various message boards, but we’re all still waiting to see what you guys have to Scripturally and consistently back up your soteriology. The ball’s in your court now, let’s see what you’ve got.

You Are already a Heretic

It doesn’t matter what your theological views are, nor does it matter what denomination your church is, no matter who you are, you are considered a heretic by some other group of Christians out there. But, of course, your views and denomination are right and everybody else’s is wrong so it doesn’t matter what they think, does it?

If You Were a Universalist

I was recently reminded of a great old (possibly apocryphal) story about the 19th-century Universalist, Hosea Ballou:

Ballou was riding the circuit in the New Hampshire hills with a Baptist minister one day, arguing theology as they traveled. At one point, the Baptist looked over and said, “Brother Ballou, if I were a Universalist and feared not the fires of hell, I could hit you over the head, steal your horse and saddle, and ride away, and I’d still go to heaven.”

 Hosea Ballou looked over at him and said, “If you were a Universalist, the idea would never occur to you.”

In addition to making a point about Christian Universalism this story also points out a common misunderstanding of salvation itself by many Christians. The Baptist in the story forgot that any Christian who believed in Eternal Security (the idea of “Once Saved, Always Saved”) could hit you over the head, steal your horse and saddle, and ride away, and still go to heaven. This concept isn’t limited to Christian Universalists, it’s relevant to any Christian who believes in salvation by grace alone.

Interestingly enough I’ve had almost the exact same statement about Universalism made to me by more than one traditionalist Christian in the past, Christians who I know for a fact do believe in Eternal Security. Sadly, it seems that theological consistency is not considered a virtue among most Christians.

How to be Free From Sin…

Martin Zender, a friend of mine from the US, has put out his latest book, How to be Free From Sin While Smoking a Cigarette, and I just can’t recommend it enough. This is the book for people with weaknesses on what God thinks about our sin.

Here are a few excerpts from the book:

“The Pharisees of Jesus’ day tried hard to stamp sin from their lives. The result? They sinned like crazy people. What a paradox. But you’ve proven it in your own life: the more you try not to do the thing you hate, the more you think about the thing you hate, and the more you do it. God is quite aware of this principle and—if you can believe it—He invented it.”

* * *

“Your church assumes that the kind of freedom we’re uncovering here—even if they did believe it—will inspire more sin. Christian leaders don’t trust grace, and they certainly don’t trust you with it. So they prop up grace with law, make themselves the administrators of it, and send you on a guilt trip every time you miss church or break one of their rules.”

* * *

“Are we warring with our flesh? Then we are miserable, for this is captivity. To be constantly worrying about, wrestling against, and warring with the flesh is the worst kind of bondage. So many people assume that a vast moral struggle must accompany a Christian walk. Christianity itself has taught this. But no. This is horrible bondage. Struggling against flesh is the essence of religion and it’s why religion frustrates people and makes them crazy. It’s why religious people become incensed that the rest of the world isn’t as concerned with sin as they are. The truth is that the rest of the world trusts God more with its sin than Christians do with theirs.”

Defending Everlasting Torment

The fact that nobody has succeeded in completing my Everlasting Hell Challenge doesn’t necessarily prove that it can’t be done, but I’m not holding my breath that someone will be able to. In the meantime, however, we may as well take a look at the passages in Scripture that are used to back up the idea of Everlasting Torment (ET).

Let’s start with the Old Testament as it must be chock-full of warnings about ET:

“At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.” – Daniel 12:1-3

What’s that? This is the only passage in the entire Old Testament that hints at the idea of ET? That can’t be right. There were about 2,000 more years between Creation and the Incarnation than between the Incarnation and today, that’s double the amount of time. If ET is true then it seems that God didn’t bother to warn even His chosen people, much less the rest of the world, about it until many thousands of years after the fall. If we’re to take the concept of ET seriously, it seems that God decided the only people worth saving are those who came after the Incarnation since He didn’t even bother to tell anyone how to avoid this horrible fate in this passage beyond “being wise” and having your name written in some book. Still, nothing about “non-believers in Christ (apart from any works)” in this passage, so I’m going to have to write it off as a good defence of ET for non-believers until someone can demonstrate a good exegesis of this passage that does defend the idea of non-believers in Christ going to hell forever.

Well, that was it for the Old Testament, but surely the New Testament must be full of passages that tell us that non-believers in Christ (apart from any works) go to hell forever. After all, it’s such an important part of our Protestant theology. Let’s take a look:

“And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” – Matthew 12:31-32

“I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.” – Mark 3:28-29

“And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.” – Luke 12:10

That’s the first statement, repeated in the three Synoptic Gospels, that a traditionalist could use from the New Testament to try to back up their belief in ET. Taken at face value it seems to say that every sin will be forgiven except the “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit” (which is, literally, to say that a work of the Holy Spirit was actually done by the devil, something that very few people have ever done or will do). Matthew also seems to tell us that after the age to come ends this sin will be forgiven, so those few people who have committed this sin might just be in luck once the next age ends, presumably after the 1,000 year Millennial Reign concludes. Since that warning only applies to those who say that the work of the Holy Spirit was actually done by the devil most of us don’t need to worry too much about it, so time to move on.

If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.” – Matthew 18:8-9

“If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’” – Mark 9:43-48

This is the second statement that Jesus made that might be interpreted as a warning about ET. However, if someone can interpret “non-believer in Christ (apart from any works)” out of not mutilating one’s body they’re a better exegete (or should I say eisegete?) than I am. This passage seems to tell us that those who go to hell are those who let parts of their body cause them to sin without amputating those parts, but it sure doesn’t seem to tell us that non-believers go to hell forever. So I guess we’ll have to move on to the many more warnings Jesus gave about ET:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”” – Matthew 25:31-46

I’ve read and re-read this passage and the only thing I can get out of it, at least if taken at face value, is that those who help the helpless go to heaven forever and those who don’t get punished forever. Just like the passages about bodily mutilation, I just don’t get how one reads “non-believer in Christ (apart from any works)” into “those who don’t feed the hungry or look after the sick,” particularly since I know of many believers who don’t and many non-believers who do. In fact, this passage seems to imply that more non-Christians might go to heaven than Christians and more Christians might end up in hell than Atheists. But I’m sure some good theologian out there will fill me in on why I’m reading that wrong. In the meantime let’s check out all the other warnings about ET that Jesus gave us:

Wait, that was Jesus’ last warning about ET in the Gospels? But I thought He spoke more about everlasting punishment in hell than He did about heaven? That was only three warnings, and none of them mention non-believers in Christ (apart from any works) at all. In fact two thirds of them seem to imply that certain works must be done to avoid everlasting damnation. Okay, well, maybe we confused Jesus with the Apostle Paul, it must have been him who gave all those warnings. Let’s check them out:

“He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed.” – 2 Thessalonians 1:8-10

Finally, a passage that seems to tell us that non-believers will go to hell forever. What? The passage doesn’t even mention hell? It says destruction? Well, surely I could be forgiven for reading into that word based on all the other passages that talk about non-believers going to hell forever; a little eisegesis never hurt anyone, right? Oh, that’s right, none of the other passages so far actually mentioned non-believers in Christ, they all seemed to refer to those who didn’t do certain works. It seems that if we want to take this passage literally we’ll have to become believers in Annihilation rather than ET. But I’m sure Paul must have given us lots of other warnings that we can use to defend the position. He didn’t? That can’t be right. The great evangelist to the Gentiles never once spoke of everlasting torment in hell? Not even in his sermons to the Jews or the Pagans recorded in Acts? Well there must be something else in the Bible that we can use to defend the idea.

Ah, here we go:

“A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: “If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he, too, will drink of the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name. – Revelation 14:9-11

Wait, that only tells us that those who worship a certain beast (could this be a metaphor for a particular person?) will be punished forever, not that non-believers in Christ (apart from any works) will be. Of course, one would also have to justify taking the effect (the punishment) literally when we’re not taking the cause (the worshipping of a beast) literally. But since this doesn’t speak of non-believers outside what’s generally referred to as the Tribulation period we’ll have to move on.

‘When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. – Revelation 20:7-10’

Well, this passages seems to say that Satan, the beast and the false prophet (and maybe the nations who marched with them against the city God loves depending on how you read the passage) will apparently be thrown into the lake of fire and will be tormented forever, but still nothing about non-believers in Christ (apart from any works) so let’s move on to the next passage:

This can’t be right, I can’t find any more. But that was only 10 passages (7 if you take the fact that three of them were repeats of passages in Matthew into consideration). That was the whole foundation upon which the concept of Everlasting Torment rests? But what about all the passages that are supposed to tell us that non-believers in Christ (apart from any works) will go to hell forever, where are they? Isn’t this is one of the most important teachings of the evangelical church? Well, after comparing those passages to the multitude of passages backing up the idea of Universal Reconciliation (UR) that I’ve referred to previously on this blog I’m going to have to go with the idea that seems to actually be backed by Scripture. If anybody wants to try to defend their beloved doctrine of ET I’d be happy to listen, but until then I’m going to have to stick with UR.

Just Because it’s “Orthodox” Doesn’t Mean it’s True

Always remember, just because something is labelled “orthodox” doesn’t mean it’s true. Heresy is often just the rejection of commonly accepted error.

This is the essence of my life philosophy, along with “question everything… even this.” As most people do, I began life accepting that most of the standard “orthodox” beliefs were true, be they theological, economic, social, or political beliefs. Thankfully, if there’s one thing that my parents taught me well (even if they didn’t always like it when I practised what they preached), it was to question authority and not just assume something is “good” or true just because a person who (or writing that) might be highly respected by certain people tells me it is. So, everything else aside, I am thankful to my parents for teaching me the value of investigating and examining truth claims for myself rather than just blindly following the crowd.

The Universal Reconciliation Challenge

Exactly two months ago today, I presented The Everlasting Hell Challenge which, as of yet, nobody has been able to win. A poster on the message board where I first presented the challenge asked me to, using the exact same criteria as my original challenge, try to prove Universal Reconciliation. The challenge presented to me was:

Demonstrate convincingly that the idea that “everybody has been (or eventually will be) reconciled or saved by Christ” is a much clearer teaching in Scripture than the idea that “the punishment for those who die without putting their faith in Jesus Christ alone to save them (apart from any works) is everlasting.” You must not contradict any other parts of Scripture or any other of your own theological positions in order to demonstrate this.

I decided to take the challenge, and the following is what I came up with:

The easy part of this challenge is, of course, to refer to my own Everlasting Hell Challenge and note that there’s nothing in Scripture that teaches that anybody who dies without putting their faith in Jesus Christ alone to save them (apart from any works) will spend eternity in torment, at least nothing that anyone has pointed out in Scripture yet anyway, so unless someone comes up with something on that front this seems to leave ET (Everlasting Torment) out of the running as an option. This leaves Annihilation and UR (Universal Reconciliation) as the only other options that I can think of.

So is there anything in Scripture that might suggest Annihilation, and if so does it seem to be a stronger argument than for UR? The only passage that I’m aware of that might suggest annihilation for those who die without putting their faith in Jesus Christ alone to save them (apart from any works) is 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9, “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” (King James Version). Of course when we look at that passage in a more literal translation we see it translated as, “in flaming fire, giving vengeance to those not knowing God, and to those not obeying the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall suffer justice — destruction age-during — from the face of the Lord, and from the glory of his strength” (Young’s Literal Translation), so even that passage might not support Annihilation if we go by the YLT since it seems like the destruction might only last until the end of the age (or ages) rather than forever according to that translation.

So while that seems to eliminate ET as an option, and leaves Annihilation as a possible option, we still need to consider whether Scripture suggests the idea of UR at all, and if so does it seem to point more strongly towards UR than it does towards Annihilation? To be honest I’m not even sure where to begin here, there are so many passages in Scripture that seem to indicate UR. I’ll just post a few of these passages, along with my thoughts on some of them, but if you want to see a extended list (and not even necessarily an exhaustive list at that) of passages that seem to point us towards UR you can read them here: The Ultimate Redemptive Purposes of God: Scriptures Concerning the Reconciliation of All Things.

I’m going to start with a few passages from the Old Testament to show how it reveals God’s attitude towards judgement:

“O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His mercy endureth forever.” – I Chron 16:34

“For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.” – Ps 30:5

[This actually seems to be a theme repeated throughout Scripture. God’s judgements can be severe but His mercy and grace will always be the end result.]

“And the Lord of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain [Mount Zion]…and on this mountain He will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples, even the veil which is stretched over all nations. He will swallow up death for all time, and the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces.” – Is 25:6-8

[If God is going to swallow up death for all time, I would think this would include everybody who has ever died.]

“All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.” – Is 53:6

[Most Christians believe that this prophetically refers to Christ. If the iniquity of us all have fallen on Him then all of us have been forgiven.]

“For the Lord will not reject forever, for if He causes grief, then He will have compassion according to His abundant lovingkindness.” – Lam 3:31-32

[Enough said. 😀 ]

That’s enough Old Testament for now, time to move on to the New Testament:

“What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying? Thus it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.” – Mt 18:12,14

[I really don’t think it gets much clearer than the parable of the lost sheep. I don’t see how one can read or hear this parable without coming to the conclusion that the Good Shepherd will find every last one of us.]

“Jesus said, “Father forgive them; they know not what they do.” – Lk 23:34

[Yes, He could have just been speaking of those who crucified Him, but if someone who committed that act gets forgiveness how could any of us not be forgiven (not to mention the fact that many Christians believe that all of us are responsible for His death)?]

“The next day he [John the Baptist] saw Jesus coming to him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”” – Jn 1:29

“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” – Jn 12:32

[Do we believe that Christ will keep His promises?]

“So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One, the many will be made righteous. And the Law came in that the transgression might increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more!” – Rom 5:18-20

[Granted, the Bible isn’t an algebra textbook, but if we were to break this passage down formulaically (assuming that the “all” and “many” in both groups refer to the same people) it would be very difficult to come to any conclusion other than UR.]

“For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it in hope, that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” – Rom 8:19-21

“For God has shut up all in disobedience that He might show mercy to all. Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” – Rom 11:32,33

[These two passages tell us that God is ultimately responsible for the state the world is in, which means that He planned both sin and the fall, but for a reason. They also seem to indicate that His plan for causing us to suffer in this fallen world will ultimately be positive for everybody.]

“For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fulness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach.” – Col 1:19-22

“Christ is all, and is in all.” – Col 3:11

“Even though I [Paul] was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor, yet I was shown mercy, because I acted ignorantly in unbelief.” – I Tim 1:13

[As David Sprenger put it, If the prerequisite for mercy is ignorance and unbelief, then who will fail to qualify?]

“For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony to be borne at the proper time.” – 1 Tim 2:5,6

“For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.” – 1 Tim 4:10

[“Especially” doesn’t mean “exclusively.” Please note that it also doesn’t say that God is the “potential” Saviour of all men but that He simply is the Saviour of all men, and in order to be a Saviour you have to actually do some saving, hence all men are (or will be) saved.]

“In these last days He has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.” – Heb 1:2
“But now once at the consummation He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” – Heb 9:26

[Sin isn’t put away by our faith, it was put away by His sacrifice 2,000 years ago.]

“And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” – 1 John 2:2

[You knew I was going to bring this one up, didn’t you? 😀 ]

While there are many more passages I could go over, I’ve probably taken up enough space here already (but check the page I referred to above for lots more). So while the Annihilation option has 1 potential passage to back it up (and depending on the translation and/or interpretation one uses one could argue quite convincingly that it doesn’t even do that), I quoted 20 passages (out of many others that I didn’t post) that seem to point us towards UR (and not just point towards, some of them seem to state the position quite clearly, at least when taken at face value). If we were simply going by quantity I’d say that UR wins hands down, but even after we’ve taken context and interpretation into consideration I would posit that UR still has much more going for it that Annihilation (and 100% more going for it than ET for non-believers, seeing as we couldn’t find any passages to back that position up).

Now there is one more position we haven’t covered, and that’s the idea of ET for those who don’t do certain works (including the work of not avoiding certain actions/inactions), which pretty much every passage traditionally used to argue for ET could easily be interpreted as saying. I’ve obviously left that position out since neither I, nor most other Protestants I know, believes that salvation is by works, and the challenge included the clause that you must not contradict “any other of your own theological positions in order to demonstrate” your conclusion. Also, depending on one’s translation and/or interpretation, it can easily be argued that these passages are referring to an age of punishment rather than an eternity as well (check out Young’s Literal Translation and see for yourself).

So I leave it to you. Zero passages supporting ET for non-believers, one passage possibly supporting Annihilation for non-believers, and twenty-plus passages supporting UR (ignoring the ten or so passages possibly supporting ET for those who don’t do certain good works, depending on one’s translation and/or interpretation). With all that in mind, I would ask why anybody would continue to believe that the Bible teaches that non-believers in Christ suffer everlasting torment in hell after death (apart from the fact that it’s what you were taught by your church and many would suffer negative consequences from other Christians for changing their mind on this issue)? Equally, I would ask how anybody can not believe that Scripture clearly teaches Universal Reconciliation in Christ?