Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Question #1: Universalism

Hey all, I promised that I would post here some of the questions that were suggested by up/rooted folks last month that we didn't have time to discuss that night. Let's discuss them here!

Here's the first question (actually there were two that were very similar so I'll lump them together):


How wide is salvation? (I.e. exclusivism/inclusivism/universalism)

and

What would it mean to be an evangelical universalist? What is the theological foundation for such a coupling?


Dive in! Post your thoughts here.

16 comments:

Michelle Van Loon said...

It's my perception that many (but not all) who are a part of up/rooted or identify themselves with the emerging church are actually fighting to emerge from the evangelical/fundamentalist/charismatic religious tradition, and some of the repressive man-made shackles that separated "us" from "them". I get it. Totally.

And I hear a longing to embrace everyone with friendship and kind, earnest shared spirituality...but.

But.

But Jesus didn't speak of Himself in the way that old school or neo-universalists do. He just didn't. And we tell others a lie (not something a friend would do) when we present Him framed in universalist terms.

Many of you reading this may have felt set free by McLaren's "Secret" and Burke's "Heretics" - but I felt sad.

We can all slice and dice Scripture to support our views on this issue, but I think that's what most of you are trying NOT to do. Theological mud wrestling will not convince anyone of anything.

So I guess I'll say - read Scripture. Listen to the words of Jesus. Not what you wish they said, but what He said and did.

Mike Clawson said...

Michelle,

Thanks for your comments. How would you say that Jesus talked about these questions (if at all)? It's clear that you don't think universalism is the right answer (and for the record, I don't think Brian or Spencer would say so either - in fact I just talked to Spencer on the phone today and he flat out told me that he's not really a universalist). So if not universalism, then what? How do you read scripture on this issue?

Peace,

-Mike

Jeff said...
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Jeff said...
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Jeff said...

It's hard to address the question "How wide is salvation?" without defining what salvation means in the first place. I've come to see salvation as an ongoing healing and growing process (and I believe the word comes from the same root word as "salve").

So, instead of evangelizing people towards a onetime conversion process, we must evangelize them towards beginning a journey of healing. Right? There's still a need to communicate an urgent message of invitation and hope, but it's less about atonement theology or getting people to switch from "their group" to "our group," and more about being included on a journey and showing people that there's a way to be "more saved" (soothed/healed) than they already are.

Mike Clawson said...

Excellent point Jeff.

So what if we narrowed the question down to just forgiveness for sins. How wide is the forgiveness offered by God? Does it extend to everyone regardless, or do you have to believe in forgiveness and accept forgiveness in order to "get it"? Do you have to "believe in Jesus" (i.e. accept the basic doctrines of Christianity) in order to be forgiven?

Of course, this might beg the question: is forgiveness the same thing as "salvation"? (or perhaps it's only one part)

Jeremy said...

Well, to put a thought down before I delve into anything else, I don't think salvation = forgiveness at all.... Salvation is never used in Scripture in a "turn or burn" context... it's only used in the context of being saved from a temporary thing, i.e. the Phillistines, Babylonians, those who oppress us, etc. It's never the long-term solution.

Forgiveness has both personal and impersonal (maybe not the best word choice) connotations, i.e being forgiven as far as the east is from the west for our sins committed against God when we ask for that forgiveness (impersonal, being done for us), and us forgiving those who trespass against us (personal). One we can only ask for and can do nothing to obtain, the other we provide for even when we aren't asked for it.

I may be muddying the water.... but according to Scripture "all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved" - and so there is a wideness to God's mercy that we can't, without taking on immortality, define. Anyone can receive forgiveness for their sins...

But, the "sheep and the goats" implies that there will be those who didn't know they were doing things for God who will enter heaven, and there will be those who thought they were doing things for God who won't.

Here's a question I shall posit, and then step back and prepare for the onslaught.... =)

What if by doing what Jesus told us to (love God = love people; love people = love God), whether consciously or unconsciously, we are walking the "way of Jesus" (no man comes to the father except by Him) - and by doing that we gain favor with God (being holy essentially means being in right standing or favor) - and thus we are the sheep and not the goat? Does coming to the Father by Jesus require a conscious knowledge of Jesus? Or could we be on the path without even knowing it? "the sheep and the goats" seems to imply we could....

C.S. Lewis said (not verbatim) that it's impossible to do anything good for evil, and it's impossible to do anything evil for good. He posited that even if we think we are doing somehting good for Satan we are actually doing it for God, and visa versa....

This is all very foreign to the way I was brought up (conservative, independent Baptist - we thought the Southern Baptists were liberal), but it resonates through the Spirit in my life and the Scriptures......

Ok - may the shots ring out.....

Mike Clawson said...

Hey Jeremy,

Great thoughts. Especially about people who walk the "way of Jesus" without necessarily knowing it. I'm actually preaching a sermon about that very topic this Sunday.

However, re: your comments on forgiveness - I wonder, does it make sense to say that we should forgive people even if they don't ask for our forgiveness, and yet then say that God doesn't do the same thing, that He doesn't forgive until we ask him? Why would we be held to a higher standard than God himself?

Or am I misunderstanding what you meant?

-Mike

Jeremy said...

Actually that was my point.... Forgiveness should be given (on our part) and is given (on God's part) as a gift.

But that does beg the question - "do you have to accept the gift/forgiveness in order to participate in the gift/forgiveness?"

but a thought just hit me - "are we asking the wrong questions?".... but I don't know what the right question is....

jose said...

Mike, Jeff, Jeremy: It's incredible that you call yourselves "Christians", and do not agree with Jesus Himself.

Michelle, unfortunately, the EC fits the perfect description of 2 Peter Chapter 2.
Maranatha!

Dan J. said...

I like the question "Does coming to the Father by Jesus require a conscious knowledge of Jesus?" I have to ask the question of how the old testament people of faith came to the father? There is nothing sacred about the phonetic pronounciation of the name "Jesus" nor in the knowledge of a particular person. I doubt King David knew Jesus as savior. There is something about the character and role Jesus played and I do not want to diminish who he is. I too think there is something else but I am not sure either...

Jeremy said...

Jose - I appreciatae your zeal. Please share with me where I might be disagreeing with Jesus, so that I may examine my statements in light of that.

Dan j. - Interesting that you bring up before the Cross. Many people like to use the Cross as the place where God changed how you "got to heaven" and label that the New Covenant. An honest examination of what it meant to be in right standing with God (holy) before the Cross would definitely lead to a better picture of what "salvation" truly is.

Before the Cross, sacrifices were to be made once a year for the entire people, and then made on an individual basis for "remission" of sins. Jesus was the Lamb of God, and so His sacrifice was done "once for all" instead of a yearly "fire insurance". The individual basis is covered in 1Jn 1 with confession of sins and accepting God's forgiveness. The only thing that changed was WHO not WHAT. We still had to go to the Lamb - just no longer a yearly thing.

This whole idea of "accepting as personal Savior" is truly nowhere to be found in Scripture, and is only an attempt to systemize a process. Why else would Paul state "work out your salvation with fear and trembling" if it wasn't a process?

Dan J. said...

I wonder... did the WHO really change, or was it that the WHO now had a name and a physical body. Even then I believe the Hebrew concept of "name" had more to do with the person's character or our experience of the person rather than a mere method of phonetic identification. How important is our western concept of the name of Jesus as opposed to a more eastern concept of the name of Jesus?

Mike Clawson said...

Interesting stuff Dan! Could you explain a little bit more about the eastern concept of the name of Jesus? I'm not familiar with this distinction, but it sounds really fascinating.

Thanks,

-Mike

Dan J. said...

You are making me think. LOL... Our popular western perspective on names has little focus on character with the exception of name calling (moron, idiot, retard etc.). Yet these "names" are meant to express our projection of their character. As little as 50 years ago, people were very protective of their "name". They wanted to be known as honest, hard working, inteligent, compassionate etc. There was an old saying that went something like, he who steals my wallet steals only cash, but he who steals my name steals ecerything I have. No one wanted to be called a thief or to be known by that name.
God told Moses when Pharoah refused to let the Israelites go that they had not known him as YHWH before that time. It was to be a new experience of God for them, a different side of his character. Isaiah predicted that the messiah would be called Immanuel yet Mary named him Jesus. Could it be that we are saved by "God with us" whatever name we call Him by?

Jeremy said...

Very good train of thought Dan... especially when you think of how our parents were so protective of "our name"... i.e. what you do reflects on our family name, etc.

so much has been lost in our society - Scripture tells us that a good name is rather to be chosen than great riches... would be nice to get back there....