Article on The Gospel Coalition website discussing EU

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Article on The Gospel Coalition website discussing EU

Postby Alex Smith » Tue Aug 13, 2013 2:38 am

I haven't read this yet (I'm about to go to bed) but it discusses both Parry & Talbott & feels significant, so I thought I'd post it:
In the Themelios Journal article, Gerald R. McDermott wrote:Will everyone one day be saved? Is hell only temporary, if it exists at all? If the answer is yes to either of these questions, the historic Christian commitment to the conversion of the world to Christ would appear to be somewhat silly. Why go to such effort and expense trying to persuade people that Jesus is the only way if they all will see that eventually anyway? Why risk offending people—especially those who follow other religious traditions—with the presumption that their way is insufficient without knowledge of Jesus Christ if we will all one day enjoy the full truth in peace and joy?

For most of the twentieth century, belief in universal salvation was found primarily among liberal Protestants or otherwise-orthodox Protestant and Catholic thinkers influenced by Karl Barth and Hans Urs von Balthasar. Recently, however, evangelicals have started to make their own proposals to advance this view. This article outlines the arguments of the major proponents of universalism in the last century and then critically analyzes them. It closes by briefly commenting on the danger of universalism.
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Re: Article on The Gospel Coalition website discussing EU

Postby revdrew61 » Tue Aug 13, 2013 3:30 am

The author does at least appear to have done some homework but his engagement with the universalist arguments of Parry, Talbott and others is shallow. The objections he raises have all been dealt with more than adequately by Robin in the second edition of The EU and by many others on this forum. Gerald McDermott is simply reassuring his friends inside the conservative bubble that they are right and those horrid backsliding universalists are wrong.
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Re: Article on The Gospel Coalition website discussing EU

Postby Paidion » Tue Aug 13, 2013 7:27 am

Why go to such effort and expense trying to persuade people that Jesus is the only way if they all will see that eventually anyway?


Why make such an effort to save a drowning man? He's eventually going to die anyway.

I think the main reason for leading people to Christ is that they might glorify God and experience the wonderful presence of Christ in their lives, just as we enjoy it.

However, if someone insists that we must save them from something unpleasant in order that our efforts be worthwhile, consider this:
The severe mercy of God—his loving correction—may be very uncomfortable. Is it not worth saving people from this discomfort?
However, if they will not submit to Christ in this life, such correction will be necessary. Yet, our God of Love will give them only the discomfort that will be necessary to bring them into relationship with Himself, and not a whit more.
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Re: Article on The Gospel Coalition website discussing EU

Postby JasonPratt » Tue Aug 13, 2013 12:19 pm

And lo, I accomplished many comments, and the number of the comments were as the sand in the sky or the stars of the sea or words to that effect. :ugeek:
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Re: Article on The Gospel Coalition website discussing EU

Postby Caleb Fogg » Tue Aug 13, 2013 12:45 pm

Rock on, Jason er, I mean, Sabreman. Can't wait to read your comments.

McDermott actually works within walking distance of my office. I bumped into him once in the pew behind me at my old church, with his Greek New Testament in hand. He's also apparently an occasional running partner of a friend of mine. I've a had a lot of respect for him as he has brought some great speakers to Roanoke College including NT Wright, Church Historian Mark Noll, and Regent College professor John Stackhouse. One of his books was influential in my spiritual development: "Can Evangelicals Learn from Other Religions" (He says yes). That was where I first encountered the explicit division of Evangelicals into the exclusivist/restrictivist and inclusivist camps: http://books.google.com/books?id=RmqvkXixM9YC&pg=PA12&lpg=PA12&dq=can+evangelicals+learn+from+world+religions&source=bl&ots=ayAUWw3qhz&sig=8ngRE4Y0gD_76hBq-LK2aC7HWRY&hl=en&sa=X&ei=MZgKUpCrBJev4AP85oGgAQ&ved=0CG8Q6AEwCA#v=onepage&q=inclusivist&f=false(Click on page 40), and realized that I was an inclusivist. (Hadn't ever heard of EU at that point).

McDermott is also an expert in Jonathan Edwards, as well as an Anglican Priest who assistant pastors at a Lutheran church.

I had wondered until recently where he stood on the issue of EU, when I saw his comment on this article in First Things:
http://www.evangelicaluniversalist.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=3997&p=55841&hilit=+first+things+#p55841

Eagerly looking forward to reading your comments more in depth, Jason.
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Re: Article on The Gospel Coalition website discussing EU

Postby JasonPratt » Tue Aug 13, 2013 1:07 pm

So he really is an Arminian?

That would explain why his main theological problem seemed to be the same as Jerry Walls. In that case I guess the TGC posted his article because, even though he thoroughly rejects the idea that we can be assured of God's salvation of sinners from sin, hey at least he doesn't believe in assurance of God's salvation from sin like those heathen unbiblical universalists. ;)
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Re: Article on The Gospel Coalition website discussing EU

Postby SLJ » Tue Aug 13, 2013 1:11 pm

JasonPratt wrote:And lo, I accomplished many comments, and the number of the comments were as the sand in the sky or the stars of the sea or words to that effect. :ugeek:


:lol: You certainly did! I wonder if anyone will respond ...

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Re: Article on The Gospel Coalition website discussing EU

Postby Caleb Fogg » Tue Aug 13, 2013 2:08 pm

JasonPratt wrote:So he really is an Arminian?


And you get that he is an Arminian because he is Anglican? I don't know where he stands in that regard.
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Re: Article on The Gospel Coalition website discussing EU

Postby Caleb Fogg » Tue Aug 13, 2013 2:21 pm

Jason, in point 4.4.5 you refer to Ezekiel 25, but I think you mean Ezekiel 34. Also, where in the text of Ezekiel 34 do you get this: " making a new covenant of peace with all His rebel flock thereby."
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Re: Article on The Gospel Coalition website discussing EU

Postby Cindy Skillman » Tue Aug 13, 2013 6:18 pm

And lo, I accomplished many comments, and the number of the comments were as the sand in the sky or the stars of the sea or words to that effect. :ugeek:


And I actually read them all! ;) Well done.
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Re: Article on The Gospel Coalition website discussing EU

Postby Alex Smith » Tue Aug 13, 2013 7:05 pm

revdrew61 wrote:The author does at least appear to have done some homework
Which is a welcome improvement from TGC last engagement :)

revdrew61 wrote:The objections he raises have all been dealt with more than adequately by Robin in the second edition of The EU
Good point. I've posted a comment saying that.

Thanks Jason for posting a comprehensive reply! I just finished reading them. @Cindy Skillman & @Caleb Fogg anyone else who reads the his comments, please make sure you "like" them (press the up arrow under the comment), as this will show the author that the comments are appreciated & when people sort the comments by "Best", it will push them to the top.

SLJ wrote:I wonder if anyone will respond
I hope so!

Caleb Fogg wrote:McDermott actually works within walking distance of my office.
I think it's time you bumped into him again, & discuss EU over a coffee :D

Paidion wrote:I think the main reason for leading people to Christ is that they might glorify God and experience the wonderful presence of Christ in their lives, just as we enjoy it.
Great point Paidion.
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Re: Article on The Gospel Coalition website discussing EU

Postby corpselight » Wed Aug 14, 2013 1:09 am

poor guy :lol:
being pounced on by a stoning of heretics (i looked up the collective noun :lol: )
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Re: Article on The Gospel Coalition website discussing EU

Postby JasonPratt » Wed Aug 14, 2013 8:08 am

Caleb Fogg wrote:
JasonPratt wrote:So he really is an Arminian?


And you get that he is an Arminian because he is Anglican? I don't know where he stands in that regard.


Uh, no, I thought you said he was helping pastor a Lutheran church.

That plus his repeated criticisms about how we just can't be sure God will save those he intends to save: that's a typical Arminian complaint, and really only a complaint from one kind of Arminian, not something a Calvinist would normally complain about (since it would completely undermine Calv assurance by the same token).

Relatedly, he never once complained about the scope of God's intention being too wide. His reply to scope verses like from 1 Tim (where God apparently loves everyone with saving love) wasn't that the scope was wrong but that God's saving love doesn't mean people will certainly accept it. Again, a typical Arminian reply. Calvs would deny 1 Tim is referring to God's saving love for everyone or that it's talking about God's saving love at all (appealing to secret vs decretive will or perhaps some other distinction.)


It would be strange for a typically Calvinistic group to post an article from an Arminian heavily criticising one of their own doctrines (shared with us); but it would be even stranger for a Calv theologian to undermine his own doctrinal focuses in such a way.

Granted, I see crazy self-contradictive things happen opposing Christian universalism all the time, so... ;)
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Re: Article on The Gospel Coalition website discussing EU

Postby JasonPratt » Wed Aug 14, 2013 10:13 am

Luke asked in reply to my brief comments about Matt 25: "Aiônios is used to describe the fate of the both the righteous and the unrighteous in Matt 25:46, is the "Eternal Life" of the righteous temporary as well?"

I posted the following as an answer:

The last (and largest) paragraph of that comment was devoted entirely to demonstrating that {aioniôs} can mean two superficially similar but ultimately different things in close topical context. There wouldn't have been any point for me to do that if I wasn't arguing that Matt 25:46 could be a third example of that in the Bible, with one "eonian" (life) really meaning eternal and the other "eonian" (for punishment) only meaning something that lasts a long time but which comes to an end eventually. "While it is reasonable to expect two similar terms in parallel comparisons to mean the same thing, context does sometimes indicate otherwise," etc. (Educated universalists are well aware of the classical critique there going back at least as far as Augustine; we usually learned it before becoming universalists. {wry g})

I assume you read that paragraph, too, before asking. So, did you have a specific problem with it? Why did you think I wasn't setting up the grammatic possibility (to be determined by narrative and thematic contexts, which I already briefly discussed) for the same term to mean everlasting in regard to one noun but not everlasting in regard to the other?

To be more precise, the term typically means "lasting" (literally it would be age-ish if we had an adjective for age in English), and has a wide range of meaning within that basic concept, from the never-beginning and never-ending eternality of God which transcends all time and space, to three days and nights in the belly of the sea dragon for Jonah.

In other Greek texts outside the NT, the term is used by philosophers to refer to God or to that which comes uniquely from God; and while that doesn't always quite fit the OT Greek translation usage (although usually it does), I have yet to find an instance in the NT where the adjective couldn't mean that. (Even Rom 16 can be talking about "God uniquely from God", which would fit a number of Christologies and certainly comports well with ortho-trin. It might even be where the creedal phrase "very God of very God" comes from, but I haven't checked that out yet.)

On that theory, Matt 25 would be talking about the life and the punishment (and the fire reserved for the devil and his angels) coming uniquely from God, which is an important detail I don't think any Christian theologian would deny. But it's neutral to the question of whether the punishment is hopeless.

Some universalists take the term to apply merely to the first of the next ages to come, typically meaning the millennium reign (or not if they don't believe in that); and I've seen some interesting ways to make that still work under orthodox two-natures trinitarian Christology; but I think an ECT or anni proponent could go with that interpretation as well if the ages, and the ages of ages (which are both phrases rather more common in the NT than "eonian"), are regarded as one never-ending Great Age/Day of the Lord (which is certainly a viable scriptural concept).

In any case, unless annihilation is true the eonian life given to those loyal to God cannot simply mean life that continues on forever, because the spiritual life of the impenitent wicked in hades (whether asleep or not) along with the physical life of the resurrected wicked keeps going on forever, too (whether ECT or Univ is true). So obviously the concept must mean more than that.
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Re: Article on The Gospel Coalition website discussing EU

Postby JasonPratt » Wed Aug 14, 2013 10:30 am

Caleb Fogg wrote:Also, where in the text of Ezekiel 34 do you get this: " making a new covenant of peace with all His rebel flock thereby."


From 34:25 and surrounding contexts. "And I will make a covenant of peace with them" referring to the flock whom God will judge one sheep from another, between the rams and the male goats (v.17).

God wouldn't have to be making a covenant of peace with them if they weren't estranged from Him to start with, and the reason God has to break the bars of their slavery (v.27) is because He delivered them into slavery as punishment for their ongoing rebellions.

Of course, the people specifically in view in Ez 34 are rebel Israel, not the Gentiles per se (Edom the land of Esau is the chief pagan nation in view for zorching in chapter 35 right afterward for example); and God is criticizing the poor, false and exploitative shepherds of Israel. But the false shepherds are still themselves rebel Israel, too, part of God's flock.
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Re: Article on The Gospel Coalition website discussing EU

Postby JasonPratt » Wed Aug 14, 2013 11:04 am

Robin has posted a brief reply of his own now over at his blog: http://theologicalscribbles.blogspot.co ... motts.html
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Re: Article on The Gospel Coalition website discussing EU

Postby Bob Wilson » Wed Aug 14, 2013 12:33 pm

Dr. McDermott,

Thank you for providing a classic critique of evangelical universalism. My perception is that you emphasize that the Bible says mankind's division will be "final," but offer no text that calls God's horrific judgments "final." You only assert that 'aionios' seems to "clearly" mean "forever." But I know of no serious study which finds that this definition can consistently apply. You add that 'heaven' can't be endless, unless hell also is, without offering any rationale for why the nature of resurrection life must depend on its' duration being specified in Matthew 25's parable.

You claim that Romans 5's "all MEN" "will be made righteous" must be the language of huge exaggeration because it also calls them "the many." But you ignore Paul's parallel grammar that would mean this is the very same "many" who "were made sinners" in Adam. Thus, unless Paul is careless with language, it appears strained to deny that he believes (as in Colossians 1:20,16) that the "all" to be "reconciled to God" by Christ's blood" is indeed in context the "all that were created" by God.

I believe that such questions can't be settled by citing authorities who share the traditional fears that such a hope of God's sure victory would mean that our costly evangelistic efforts won't change the number and experience of those saved. This charge is often used to repudiate Calvinists. But I think evangelical differences here must be grounded in exegetical discussions of the Scripture itself.
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Re: Article on The Gospel Coalition website discussing EU

Postby Caleb Fogg » Wed Aug 14, 2013 1:38 pm

Caleb Fogg wrote:McDermott actually works within walking distance of my office.
I think it's time you bumped into him again, & discuss EU over a coffee :D


First order of business before coffee with Dr. McDermott would be "coming out of the closet" re: my universalism with my pastor. :?
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Re: Article on The Gospel Coalition website discussing EU

Postby Alex Smith » Wed Aug 14, 2013 3:14 pm

Caleb Fogg wrote:
Caleb Fogg wrote:McDermott actually works within walking distance of my office.
I think it's time you bumped into him again, & discuss EU over a coffee :D


First order of business before coffee with Dr. McDermott would be "coming out of the closet" re: my universalism with my pastor. :?
Oh, ah, yes... I see that makes things a little more complicated.
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Re: Article on The Gospel Coalition website discussing EU

Postby Caleb Fogg » Sat Aug 17, 2013 1:08 pm

Tom Talbott has weighed in on the conversation: http://thegospelcoalition.org/themelios/article/will_all_be_saved
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Re: Article on The Gospel Coalition website discussing EU

Postby Melchizedek » Wed Aug 21, 2013 8:36 am

corpselight wrote:poor guy :lol:
being pounced on by a stoning of heretics (i looked up the collective noun :lol: )



A stoning of heretics? That's awesome! :lol:
There are some who call me...Tim?

What if most things you were taught about God were wrong?

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Re: Article on The Gospel Coalition website discussing EU

Postby Caleb Fogg » Thu Aug 22, 2013 8:24 am

Dr. McDermott has responded to Tom Talbott and Robin Parry in the comment section.
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Re: Article on The Gospel Coalition website discussing EU

Postby Alex Smith » Thu Aug 22, 2013 4:59 pm

Just finished reading all the new comments - it's a great shame many reveal a deep misunderstanding of our position :? :(
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Re: Article on The Gospel Coalition website discussing EU

Postby Caleb Fogg » Thu Aug 22, 2013 6:14 pm

Alex Smith wrote:Just finished reading all the new comments - it's a great shame many reveal a deep misunderstanding of our position :? :(


It is, but I think the Universalists have acquitted themselves quite well. I think a reader on the fence, if they were just reading McDermott's article, would be swayed away from Universalism. But a reader who continues on to the comments, see's Robin's response, Tom's comments, the comments of many here, especially compared to quality of the comments of the anti-universalists, will be interested in doing further exploration into the topic, hopefully checking out the forum, or Tom or Robin's books.
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Re: Article on The Gospel Coalition website discussing EU

Postby Alex Smith » Thu Aug 22, 2013 9:51 pm

Caleb Fogg wrote:But a reader who continues on to the comments, see's Robin's response, Tom's comments, the comments of many here, especially compared to quality of the comments of the anti-universalists, will be interested in doing further exploration into the topic, hopefully checking out the forum, or Tom or Robin's books.
I know I'm very biased but I do agree the majority of EU comments were more helpful ;) I certainly hope people look into it more for themselves.
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Re: Article on The Gospel Coalition website discussing EU

Postby Alex Smith » Fri Aug 23, 2013 3:31 am

On his blog, Robin wrote:... I'll let readers consider his arguments and see how persuasive they find them. I have no interest in an interminable back-and-forth (nor, I imagine, does Gerald McDermott) so I will leave it to stand as it is (though, of course, there is a fair bit that could be said in reply).
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Re: Article on The Gospel Coalition website discussing EU

Postby truthclaim » Sat Oct 12, 2013 10:41 pm

I apologize for being slow to the dance, but I just ran across this Themelios article by McDermott, and completed reading all the comments there, and all the comments in this thread. I just wanted to share my impressions. I am relatively new to universalism (maybe 2 years, barely seem to be getting my feet wet!) and am very persuaded by much of what I have read, especially from folks here at TEU. I have been reading much regarding the subject of "evangelical universalism." McDermott's short article was nothing different than what I have encountered as I have been studying and am in the middle of doing a very comprehensive book review of Hell Under Fire. The very same "tired" assumptions about biblical texts, the very same "tired" explanations (or lack thereof) of biblical doctrine concerning salvation, hell, the end times, eternity, etc. The near total ignoring of EU's biblical and philosophical arguments is nothing short of stunning. I have yet to read of any "notable" author in the traditional Christian camp that will acknowledge that the likes of Parry, Talbott, Pratt, and the ancients from Jesus day through the last century, even have one rational thought regarding Christianity, especially Christianity looked at from an EU perspective by these and other fine Christians. I guess it is the assumptions that traditional Christianity is right and everyone else is wrong and does not deserve a hearing from the traditionalists that gets under my skin.

I guess what set my teeth on edge were the comments made by someone by the name of Maurice Smith. His arrogance, smugness, lack of true humility (so-called humble words encased in sarcasm, or with the feel of pure sarcasm are not humility, and this is what I perceived), made me want to quit reading the comments. At one point he even comments that that current comment will be his last, and then he goes on and on commenting to so many additional comments. It left me thinking that not only is he arrogant and lacks humility but he is a liar to boot! The comments I read in response to M. Smith by Talbott, Parry (comments to McDermott and I think M. Smith, but I could be wrong), Pratt, Alex Smith, et al., were for the most part pretty darn gracious compared to his own comments. I agree with Talbott that McDermott should not have attempted to summarize such an important and divisive topic as EU. I admit that I am not much for mincing words and have a lower tolerance for people who merely want to win an argument rather than winning a brother. I would much rather deal plainly with people and say what I mean, and mean what I say, rather than trying to find infinite ways to sugar coat what I believe (often I am then misunderstood about what I really mean/feel/believe). I also admit that I have been in the process of understanding and practicing more irenic discussions with those who oppose my uni beliefs. It has been a long time since I engaged in any discussions that turned rancorous. So, I tip my hat to all of you who commented with love and respect for those who were, in my opinion, vociferously seeking to slam your beliefs as heretical and elevate themselves as the seemingly "sole keepers of truth."

I know I have much to learn when dealing with others who disagree with me. I feel such pity for those who are missing out on such a beautiful and biblical belief as evangelical universalism.I am grateful that I have found a group of believers, brothers and sisters alike, that I can interact with that will be a shining example of how to interact with the likes of McDermott, M. Smith, and the others. I hope that as I continue to follow your writings here, that I will learn by your example and exhibit more the deep love that you all show to those who frequent this board. I would appreciate any help you all could offer to aid my journey to understand/deal with this type of opposition that came out concerning the TGC article and its comments. I will finish this excessively long (longer than I expected!) comment by saying, I am not upset, though my words may seem that way. I am concerned and shocked that tradition runs rough shod over truth far to often and I feel impotent to deal with it! The upside is my prayer life is better because of it! Well, thanks for listening and thanks in advance for any help you can /may throw my way! Blessings to you all!
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Re: Article on The Gospel Coalition website discussing EU

Postby Alex Smith » Sun Oct 13, 2013 1:19 am

Thanks for the kind words truthclaim. It's certainly frustrating not being understood, nor taken seriously by many (most?) people. I'm glad you're praying about it - I do think God is slowly opening people's eyes more (hopefully myself included!). I pray God continues to work in you too :)
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Re: Article on The Gospel Coalition website discussing EU

Postby JasonPratt » Sun Oct 13, 2013 6:57 am

Thank you very much for the compliment! I was beginning to feel increasingly sarcastic about Maurice, so I moved along, but I worried I hadn't done so well in my attitude before leaving. :oops:
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