Reaons why people think evangelicals cannot be universalists

Author of The Evangelical Universalist, editor of "All Shall Be Well" and coeditor of Universal Salvation?: The Current Debate Yes, use his real name for The Purpose That Shall Not Be Named. Yes, you can call him by his pseudonym, too (in posts, not for The Purpose). He's very easygoing. {g}

Moderator: Gregory MacDonald

Forum rules
This forum is reserved for Robin Parry (Gregory MacDonald). Registered users are not permitted to start topics. Please be patient as Robin is very busy, but will get to your posts.

Reaons why people think evangelicals cannot be universalists

Postby Gregory MacDonald » Thu Sep 04, 2008 7:24 pm

Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Reaons why people think evangelicals cannot be universalists
“Can an evangelical be a universalist?” In other words, could someone be an evangelical and also believe that one day all people will be saved? If I asked that question of almost any evangelical I know the answer would be a clear and unequivocal, “No!” It would be akin to asking whether a vegetarian could eat pork. Indeed, even those evangelicals who seem to fly close to the wind at times on this issue always seem very keen to make clear that they are “not endorsing universalism”. To admit to being a universalist is the theological equivalent of signing one’s death warrant. It is like putting one’s hand up and saying, “Hi. Guess what - I am a misguided person who has abandoned the faith and embraced heresy. Would you like to be my friend?” So it is with some fear and trepidation that I choose to turn my little fishy nose against the stream and head off in the opposite direction from the majority of my fellow evangeli-fish. I will suggest that the answer to my opening question is actually, “Yes! It is possible to be an evangelical universalist.” Oh, “and would you like to be my friend?”
I must start by emphasising that it is not just a coincidence that few evangelicals have historically embraced universalism. The fact of the matter is that traditionally evangelicals have had strong and sensible reasons for rejecting the belief. If I am going to persuade you that one can be an evangelical and a universalist we will need to consider those reasons and see if they do the trick of blasting universal salvation out of the water. So why have evangelicals found universalism so objectionable? There are several reasons amongst which we find the following:

Objection 1: it is sometimes felt that universalism undermines the seriousness of sin. Universalism suggests, so many evangelicals think, that we do not deserve hell. It suggests that sin is not serious and that God’s “job” is to forgive everyone. Perhaps it even suggests that we all deserve to be saved. The evangelical knows that this liberal anthropology is self-deceptive garbage.

Objection 2: Universalism, it is often said, rests on a woolly and unbiblical understanding of God’s love (God is too kind to hurt a fly) at the expense of God’s justice and wrath.

Objection 3: it is often thought to undermine the necessity of Christ and the cross for salvation. The universalist, it is said, thinks that God will save us through whatever route of salvation we choose, whether it be Christ or some other track. It is believed that for the universalist all ways lead to God as surely as all roads lead to Rome. But the evangelical knows that this pluralist view undermines the glorious uniqueness of Christ and the truth of the gospel.

Objection 4: universal salvation is often thought to undermine the necessity of faith in Christ for salvation. Even if the Christian universalist insists that all those who are saved are saved through Christ and his cross presumably the universalists are the ultimate inclusivists.[1] They believe that God will save everyone through Christ whether they have heard of Christ or not and, if they have heard of Christ, whether they accepted him or rejected him. Yet, the evangelical knows that the gift of salvation comes to all who trust in Christ but not to those who spurn him.

Objection 5: a belief in universal salvation is usually felt to undermine evangelism and mission. If we believe that everyone will be saved whatever they do, then what motivation do we have to proclaim the gospel to them? Who is going to risk their health, their safety, their families or their lives to reach the lost if the lost will be saved whether we preach to them or not? Evangelism is at the heart of evangelicalism and to undermine it is to rip the heart from our faith.

Objection 6: the claim that all will be saved undermines Scripture. The Bible clearly teaches that there is a hell and that it will not be empty. To accept universalism is therefore to fly in the face of the clear teaching of God’s word – something the evangelical knows is folly.

Objection 7: Universal salvation is sometimes said not to be fair. Why do we put all this effort into living the Christian life when God will save us all, including all those evil people who enjoy a life of sin? It is not fair! We may as well have fun sinning now and then let God save us.

Objection 8: universalism is sometimes thought to undermine the Trinity. After all, are not most universalists Unitarians? The historic link between “modern” forms of universalism and this heresy does not bode well.

So - should this lead us to conclude that evangelicals cannot be universalists? In my next I will respond to these objections and argue that, contrary to popular belief, an evangelical can indeed be a universalist.


[1] Inclusivists think that it is possible to be saved through Christ without having explicit faith in Christ. Inclusivists are not usually universalists.
Posted by Gregory MacDonald at 12:42 PM
1 comments:
James Goetz said...
Hi Gregory,

I appreciate reading your views on the web. I'm sorry that I have little time to read entire books while I'm sure that some day I'll get to read your book.:) I wrote a blog article that I believe at least indirectly answers all of the objections that you list. Would you care to look at Orthodoxy and Gregory of Nyssa's Universalism?

I'll check out the rest of your posts.

Blessings:)


August 13, 2008 3:25 PM
User avatar
Gregory MacDonald
Moderator
 
Posts: 102
Joined: Sun Aug 31, 2008 7:29 am

Re: Reaons why people think evangelicals cannot be universalists

Postby roofus » Tue Sep 09, 2008 8:08 am

Gregory,
I enjoyed reading your book. I wasn't able to totally embrace it as there are far too many exegetical questions involved that are unsolved for me. Many scriptures that seem difficult to explain from a EU perspective. My mind and heart are open, however. I appreciated how open you seem to be. So often folks just get mad at you for challenging their beliefs and the dialogue shuts down (all too conveniently, so it seems 8-) ).
Perhaps we can go over the interpretation of verses that seem point away from universalism. Perhaps a starter verse would be this one, which sounds pretty hopeless:

1John 5:16
"If any one sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this."

Peace to you, and may we all follow where He is leading!

Robert
roofus
 
Posts: 770
Joined: Tue Sep 09, 2008 8:01 am

Re: Reaons why people think evangelicals cannot be universalists

Postby Gregory MacDonald » Sat Sep 13, 2008 10:37 am

"If any one sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this."

Roofus - thanks. I am so pleased that you are hesitant about accepting EU. Very wise. I am afraid that I do not have time to look properly at the text in question so here is a comment off the top of my head.

1. This text is tricky for any Christian and not simply for a universalist. What is the sin unto death and what is the sin not unto death? It is not immediately obvious.

2. Suppose that the 'death' in question refers to the 'second death'/Hell (and it is not obvious that it does). I would have no problem with that. I never claim that nobody goes to Hell. Indeed, I think that it is possible for a Christian to reject Christ and face the second death (is this what John is talking about?). All that I claim is that this is not the end of the story.

Allow me to draw an OT analogy to what John is saying if we accept 2. Consider Jeremiah. Judah sinned and sinned and sinned. They went beyond a point of no return and God told Jeremiah not to pray for them - their destruction was now certain! It was a sin that leads to death. But the fact that judgement was now inevitable did not mean that there was not redemption for them beyond judgement.

Is that any help?

Pax
User avatar
Gregory MacDonald
Moderator
 
Posts: 102
Joined: Sun Aug 31, 2008 7:29 am

Re: Reaons why people think evangelicals cannot be universalists

Postby roofus » Thu Sep 18, 2008 6:22 am

Gregory MacDonald wrote:"If any one sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this."

Roofus - thanks. I am so pleased that you are hesitant about accepting EU. Very wise. I am afraid that I do not have time to look properly at the text in question so here is a comment off the top of my head.

1. This text is tricky for any Christian and not simply for a universalist. What is the sin unto death and what is the sin not unto death? It is not immediately obvious.

2. Suppose that the 'death' in question refers to the 'second death'/Hell (and it is not obvious that it does). I would have no problem with that. I never claim that nobody goes to Hell. Indeed, I think that it is possible for a Christian to reject Christ and face the second death (is this what John is talking about?). All that I claim is that this is not the end of the story.

I don't think that it could be the second death, for how could one know that his brother (as in Christian brother? I am not sure here) was committing a unforgivable sin? It doesn't seem to work pragmatically.



Allow me to draw an OT analogy to what John is saying if we accept 2. Consider Jeremiah. Judah sinned and sinned and sinned. They went beyond a point of no return and God told Jeremiah not to pray for them - their destruction was now certain! It was a sin that leads to death. But the fact that judgement was now inevitable did not mean that there was not redemption for them beyond judgement.

Is that any help?

I don't see how we could know such a thing, therefore if that is true it would be impossible to follow!



Pax
roofus
 
Posts: 770
Joined: Tue Sep 09, 2008 8:01 am

Re: Reaons why people think evangelicals cannot be universalists

Postby james.goetz » Sat Sep 27, 2008 2:54 pm

Roofus, I'm not sure why you suggest that 1 John 5:16 is incompatible with EU. Could you explain your interpretation of 1 John 5:16?
User avatar
james.goetz
Administrator
 
Posts: 1094
Joined: Sat Aug 30, 2008 2:11 pm
Location: Central NY USA

Re: Reaons why people think evangelicals cannot be universalists

Postby roofus » Fri Oct 03, 2008 10:00 am

james.goetz wrote:Roofus, I'm not sure why you suggest that 1 John 5:16 is incompatible with EU. Could you explain your interpretation of 1 John 5:16?



Here is the scripture:
"If any one sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this."

This seems to imply that there are some sins that are not influenced by others' intercession. It seems to imply that God will not "give life" to those that commit it. Universalism says that He will do so (give life).
That's the thought I had. I don't know what the truth is though about what it actually means, but it seems like it might mean that!
roofus
 
Posts: 770
Joined: Tue Sep 09, 2008 8:01 am

Re: Reaons why people think evangelicals cannot be universalists

Postby james.goetz » Fri Oct 03, 2008 12:51 pm

Roofus,

Can you identify the sin leading to death?
User avatar
james.goetz
Administrator
 
Posts: 1094
Joined: Sat Aug 30, 2008 2:11 pm
Location: Central NY USA

Re: Reaons why people think evangelicals cannot be universalists

Postby JasonPratt » Fri Oct 03, 2008 1:34 pm

[Note to admins: might this portion of the thread be well-ported over to the discussion forum against universalism? We don't really have a thread there yet...]

Oy... that verse is freakishly difficult to translate anyway:

"If any should be seeing the brother of him sinning sin not toward death [{pros} typically means 'toward', which is why in KJV English it's translated 'unto'], he shall be asking, and He [God] will be giving him life. These are sinning not toward death. There-is [or Is...? or Is there...?] sin toward death; [emphatically] not concerning this-there [{ekeine_s}, 'there' as a noun] I say that he should be asking. All unfairness [or injustice] is sin; yet is sin not toward death."

Notice that there isn't actually a preposition concerning {tois}, 'these'; though translators often add one in (trying to make a contextual guess). Also, I'm not entirely sure the phrase I've marked with a bracketed [Is there...?] shouldn't be a question: it's hard sometimes in NT Greek to tell when something is being asked instead of stated. I can however tell that the subsequent phrase is clearly about a 'there', as a noun, and not about a 'this', or a 'that' either. (Even though all my English translations including the various literal ones render it as either 'this' or 'that'.)

I'm inclined to think that switching terms like that, indicates the writer doesn't want the reader to be asking whether there is a sin toward death: "don't go there!" as we would say colloquially in English to someone asking us a question we'd rather they not be asking. This impression is heightened by the final phrase of the set, which could be translated "there-is sin" (with the subject tacit), or "is sin" or "sin [emphatically] is", or even rhetorically, "yet/and is sin not toward death?"


Another reason I'm inclined to think this paragraph isn't talking about a distinction between praying for brothers who aren't sinning toward death and not praying for brothers (or whoever) who are sinning toward death, is because we're clearly taught elsewhere all over the scriptures that any sin is a sin toward death! It is only because of God's grace that any sin does not result in death, whether in the short run or in the long run.

One could adduce the subsequent paragraph, where John is talking about how those who are begotten of God are not sinning or being touched by the evil (one?) despite living in a whole kosmos lying in the evil; to mean something along Calvinist lines: that there is no point praying for the salvation of those who are not already being begotten of God, in the sense of those whom God has not chosen to act toward saving.

The concept, then, of the previous paragraph (vv 16-17) would be that if we see a person doing sin, whom God has chosen to act toward saving from sin, then even though we know he won't arrive at death (thanks to God) from doing that sin, we still ought to pray for God to help us cooperate with God in leading our fellow-chosen-one away from sin. (The grammar might work out that way well enough, especially if a 'for' was helpfully interpolated into the translation in one of a couple of strategic places.)

My problems with this are a minor exegetical and a majorly practical one. The (only?) minor exegetical problem is that this would render verse 17 inexplicable as an addition: John already told us there is a sin not to the death (that's presumed already in his injunction, isn't it?) Why is he reiterating it?--and why bother adding that all injustice is sin? (This is probably why a few late Greek texts omit the negative {mu} in verse 17.) This is aside from the question of whether the smoothest reading of the extant Greek wording allows this meaning, since technically one could interpolate a few words here and there (as pretty much all translations have to do anyway) in order to get the sentences to synch with this meaning.

My major practical problem is that, strictly speaking, the advice is useless--not because there's no point praying for brethren-who-will-be-saved (since the grammar can be read to indicate, probably correctly in any case, that the point to praying is to ask God how we can help God lead our brother out of sin, in loving cooperation with Him); but because under this kind of theology WE HAVE NO WAY OF TELLING WHO IS AND WHO ISN'T CHOSEN BY GOD FOR SALVATION FROM SIN! Even people who by all outward appearances seem to be professing Christians, and even doing works of miraculous power in His name, may be headed for a condemnation that can only be hopelessly final under Calv (and Arm) soteriology. (cf RevJohn 2:1-7; Matt 7:21-23) Whereas, any of those pagan idolators over there may be led at the last moment to accept Christ. None of us have any way of knowing; we might even be (self?)-deceived about thinking we are of the 'elect'!

It might be replied that since we cannot know for sure who is and who isn't of the 'elect', then we could pray for everyone and (as the saying goes) let God sort out the bodies. True; but then the Calv translation of the injunction is still useless, insofar as it is read to be saying that we should distinguish between praying for those who are already slated not to arrive at death from their sins and those who will be so arriving.


Given that the larger local context is about idolatry, one might suppose that the topic of whom to pray for and whom not to pray for is actually limited to those who are not pagans and those who (currently?) are, respectively. This would mean that we are not to pray for pagans to be converted to Christianity; which if anything would seem worse than a more general application of the principle! (Since in the more general application at least we have no idea really who we are and are not supposed to pray for; but here the application would practically exclude everyone who isn't already officially a professing Christian except maybe those, like Jews, who are strict monotheists right now. Even Muslims give pagans a chance to convert before killing them!)


My last observation is that St. Paul, in a couple of epistles (most famously 1 Cor 5 but also 1 Tim 1), hands over to Satan certain rebel teachers who (as 1 Tim puts it) have shipwrecked in regard the faith. (In 1 Tim these are Hymenaeus and Alexander "among others"; in 1 Cor 5 it's the unnamed teacher and Epicurian factionalizer I like to call Stepmom-Sleeping Guy. :razz: Possibly he's one of the named guys in 1 Tim, of course.) In 1 Cor 5's case, this looks pretty certainly like it's to the death; and the phrasing is extreme in either case. It also reminds me of the phrasing in 1 John 5 which might be rendered "the evil one" (a nickname for Satan).

But is their cause hopeless?! Not at all! Paul in each case specifically says he's doing it so that they'll learn better: in 1 Tim 1:20, "so that they may be taught not to blaspheme", and in 1 Cor 5:5, "so that [the SSG's] spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus". Insofar as what they're doing counts as idolatry, Paul can be said to be praying not for them to live but for them to die: he's going further in that sense than the Evangelist in 1 John 5! (Even on Calv interpretation, John is simply saying don't ask for those who are sinning toward death to be given life by God. He isn't saying his readers should pray for them to die!) But Paul's active condemnation, though into death, isn't into hopelessness. On the contrary, he has hope for them through the condemnation of God.


Taken altogether, then, I have to lean toward rejecting a Calv interpretation/translation of 1 John 5: 16-17; and I certainly don't see how Arminians could do any better with it, even when the translational options are factored in. Whereas, when translational options are factored in, I arrive at a result that synchs up with things I think are being taught elsewhere in Scripture (even on basically the same topic); provides the smoothest use of the Greek as it stands; has some exegetical superiority to other options... and, perhaps incidentally, fits well enough into universalism. :smile:
Cry of Justice -- 2008 Novel of the Year (CSPA retailer poll).
Sword To The Heart -- metaphysical argument to orthodox trinitarianism (and thence to universalism)
Trinitarian universalist exegetics, on internet radio, or here in forum posts.
User avatar
JasonPratt
Administrator
 
Posts: 9741
Joined: Thu Sep 25, 2008 5:08 pm
Location: Dyer, TN

Re: Reaons why people think evangelicals cannot be universalists

Postby JasonPratt » Fri Oct 03, 2008 1:56 pm

JasonPratt wrote:Oy... that verse is freakishly difficult to translate anyway:

"If any should be seeing the brother of him sinning sin not toward death [{pros} typically means 'toward', which is why in KJV English it's translated 'unto'], he shall be asking, and He [God] will be giving him life. These are sinning not toward death. There-is [or Is...? or Is there...?] sin toward death; [emphatically] not concerning this-there [{ekeine_s}, 'there' as a noun] I say that he should be asking. All unfairness [or injustice] is sin; yet is sin not toward death."


Sorry, I meant to add that I would end up going with the following interpretive option:

"If anyone sees his brother sinning, a sin not unto death, he should ask and He will be giving him life. These are sinning, not unto death. Is there sin unto death?--I say that he should not be asking about that! All unfairness is sin; yet sin is not unto death."

One of the ecumenical advantages of putting it this way, is that even Calvinists and Arminians (and their non-Protestant equivalents) could, in various ways, accept and apply the translation; typically by topically synching it with the following verses which talk about how those who are begotten in God are not sinning and are not being touched by the evil one despite living in such a fallen world. The third sentence could even be interpreted now to be a Calv prooftext about the sufficiency of God to save Christian brethren, with St. John disavowing even the question of whether a brother could be sinning so that God would give up on him eventually. (An Arminian might have more problems with it, I guess. {shrug} Not really my problem, though; it still fits well-enough into universalism.)
Cry of Justice -- 2008 Novel of the Year (CSPA retailer poll).
Sword To The Heart -- metaphysical argument to orthodox trinitarianism (and thence to universalism)
Trinitarian universalist exegetics, on internet radio, or here in forum posts.
User avatar
JasonPratt
Administrator
 
Posts: 9741
Joined: Thu Sep 25, 2008 5:08 pm
Location: Dyer, TN

Re: Reaons why people think evangelicals cannot be universalists

Postby auggybendoggy » Sat Oct 04, 2008 10:56 am

JasonPratt wrote:My major practical problem is that, strictly speaking, the advice is useless--not because there's no point praying for brethren-who-will-be-saved (since the grammar can be read to indicate, probably correctly in any case, that the point to praying is to ask God how we can help God lead our brother out of sin, in loving cooperation with Him); but because under this kind of theology WE HAVE NO WAY OF TELLING WHO IS AND WHO ISN'T CHOSEN BY GOD FOR SALVATION FROM SIN! Even people who by all outward appearances seem to be professing Christians, and even doing works of miraculous power in His name, may be headed for a condemnation that can only be hopelessly final under Calv (and Arm) soteriology. (cf RevJohn 2:1-7; Matt 7:21-23) Whereas, any of those pagan idolators over there may be led at the last moment to accept Christ. None of us have any way of knowing; we might even be (self?)-deceived about thinking we are of the 'elect'!

It might be replied that since we cannot know for sure who is and who isn't of the 'elect', then we could pray for everyone and (as the saying goes) let God sort out the bodies. True; but then the Calv translation of the injunction is still useless, insofar as it is read to be saying that we should distinguish between praying for those who are already slated not to arrive at death from their sins and those who will be so arriving.


Jason, well said. I certainly cannot keep stride with you on breaking down the greek and the various possibilies of interpreting but you break it down in such a way that I understand.

I feel this tackles Roofus' question quite well. I think Gregory mentioned earlier, who doesn't have a problem with this verse. It is a difficult one to simply extract out and translate.

Perhaps Roofus can give us his thoughts on the passage, being he feels it possibly looks hopeless for the universalist.

Aug
"If you're not cheating....then you're not trying!" - Jim Rome
User avatar
auggybendoggy
Administrator
 
Posts: 1286
Joined: Thu Aug 28, 2008 3:57 pm
Location: Southern California

Re: Reaons why people think evangelicals cannot be universalists

Postby roofus » Sun Oct 05, 2008 8:30 am

auggybendoggy wrote:
JasonPratt wrote:My major practical problem is that, strictly speaking, the advice is useless--not because there's no point praying for brethren-who-will-be-saved (since the grammar can be read to indicate, probably correctly in any case, that the point to praying is to ask God how we can help God lead our brother out of sin, in loving cooperation with Him); but because under this kind of theology WE HAVE NO WAY OF TELLING WHO IS AND WHO ISN'T CHOSEN BY GOD FOR SALVATION FROM SIN! Even people who by all outward appearances seem to be professing Christians, and even doing works of miraculous power in His name, may be headed for a condemnation that can only be hopelessly final under Calv (and Arm) soteriology. (cf RevJohn 2:1-7; Matt 7:21-23) Whereas, any of those pagan idolators over there may be led at the last moment to accept Christ. None of us have any way of knowing; we might even be (self?)-deceived about thinking we are of the 'elect'!

It might be replied that since we cannot know for sure who is and who isn't of the 'elect', then we could pray for everyone and (as the saying goes) let God sort out the bodies. True; but then the Calv translation of the injunction is still useless, insofar as it is read to be saying that we should distinguish between praying for those who are already slated not to arrive at death from their sins and those who will be so arriving.


Jason, well said. I certainly cannot keep stride with you on breaking down the greek and the various possibilies of interpreting but you break it down in such a way that I understand.

I feel this tackles Roofus' question quite well. I think Gregory mentioned earlier, who doesn't have a problem with this verse. It is a difficult one to simply extract out and translate.

Perhaps Roofus can give us his thoughts on the passage, being he feels it possibly looks hopeless for the universalist.

Aug



Jason pretty much said what I said (that the verse indicates that the "sin unto death" is observable, whereas we cannot observe final impenitence.). Go back and check it!
roofus
 
Posts: 770
Joined: Tue Sep 09, 2008 8:01 am

Re: Reaons why people think evangelicals cannot be universalists

Postby JasonPratt » Sun Oct 05, 2008 1:10 pm

roofus wrote:Jason pretty much said what I said (that the verse indicates that the "sin unto death" is observable, whereas we cannot observe final impenitence.). Go back and check it!


Well, the verse says that under one translation option, true. But this hardly seems a problem for universalism (unlike, say, practical or even doctrinal Calvinism); and I think that's what James was looking for more comment on.

Put another way, the verse as commonly rendered would be some kind of serious theological problem, but it wouldn't be specially a problem for universalism any more than for Calvinism. Maybe less so, since my answer also paralleled Gregory's reply (though in more particular detail) inasmuch as a "sin unto death" isn't treated as being finally hopeless elsewhere in scripture despite arriving at the death.

But when the supposed threat ("sin unto death" is possible) comes packaged with a huge practical problem (it looks like the "sin unto death" is supposed to be observable, and yet both practically and doctrinally speaking it cannot really be observable by us, even if Calvinism or Arminianism is true), then I'm not worried about the claim as a problem against universalism. I start to suspect mistranslation instead.
Cry of Justice -- 2008 Novel of the Year (CSPA retailer poll).
Sword To The Heart -- metaphysical argument to orthodox trinitarianism (and thence to universalism)
Trinitarian universalist exegetics, on internet radio, or here in forum posts.
User avatar
JasonPratt
Administrator
 
Posts: 9741
Joined: Thu Sep 25, 2008 5:08 pm
Location: Dyer, TN

Re: Reaons why people think evangelicals cannot be universalists

Postby roofus » Sun Oct 05, 2008 7:38 pm

JasonPratt wrote:
roofus wrote:Jason pretty much said what I said (that the verse indicates that the "sin unto death" is observable, whereas we cannot observe final impenitence.). Go back and check it!


Well, the verse says that under one translation option, true. But this hardly seems a problem for universalism (unlike, say, practical or even doctrinal Calvinism); and I think that's what James was looking for more comment on.

Put another way, the verse as commonly rendered would be some kind of serious theological problem, but it wouldn't be specially a problem for universalism any more than for Calvinism. Maybe less so, since my answer also paralleled Gregory's reply (though in more particular detail) inasmuch as a "sin unto death" isn't treated as being finally hopeless elsewhere in scripture despite arriving at the death.

But when the supposed threat ("sin unto death" is possible) comes packaged with a huge practical problem (it looks like the "sin unto death" is supposed to be observable, and yet both practically and doctrinally speaking it cannot really be observable by us, even if Calvinism or Arminianism is true), then I'm not worried about the claim as a problem against universalism. I start to suspect mistranslation instead.



I have a bit of difficulty accepting your above translation, as 1) I have no other authorities to compare your interp against & 2) I don't know what level of an authority you are (I mean no insult, just claim of ignorance).
I rarely accept someone's authority unless there are accompanying reason why I should do so.
Sorry, it's just the way I am, nothing against you!
Ro
roofus
 
Posts: 770
Joined: Tue Sep 09, 2008 8:01 am

Re: Reaons why people think evangelicals cannot be universalists

Postby JasonPratt » Mon Oct 06, 2008 4:12 am

roofus wrote:I have a bit of difficulty accepting your above translation


Well, if it comes to that, I'm not entirely happy with my translation, either. :D As I noted, it's notoriously difficult to parse out.

Most of my previous comment, though, was about how even if a sin unto death is supposed to be doable in some fashion distinct from a sin not unto death (and remember that part of my original analysis hinged on the fact that all sin is unto death), and not counting the huge practical problem involved in supposedly being able to distinguish one from another sin externally (which looks to me like a hint the translation has gone wrong)--even then universalism isn't threatened by the statement. Because St. Paul goes even further than St. John (on the typical interpretation) and actually prays for two-or-three of his enemies to be handed over to Satan, at least one of them to the death. (Whereas on the typical interpretation of 1 John 5, John is only saying don't pray for such people to be saved from death.) But neither of those two Pauline instances are done hopelessly; but rather in hope that the enemies will repent and learn to do better.
Cry of Justice -- 2008 Novel of the Year (CSPA retailer poll).
Sword To The Heart -- metaphysical argument to orthodox trinitarianism (and thence to universalism)
Trinitarian universalist exegetics, on internet radio, or here in forum posts.
User avatar
JasonPratt
Administrator
 
Posts: 9741
Joined: Thu Sep 25, 2008 5:08 pm
Location: Dyer, TN

Re: Reaons why people think evangelicals cannot be universalists

Postby james.goetz » Mon Oct 06, 2008 4:37 am

Roofus,

Please answer my questions.

Can you define the observable sin leading to death?

How can observe this sin in my neighbors?
User avatar
james.goetz
Administrator
 
Posts: 1094
Joined: Sat Aug 30, 2008 2:11 pm
Location: Central NY USA

Re: Reaons why people think evangelicals cannot be universalists

Postby roofus » Mon Oct 06, 2008 7:01 am

james.goetz wrote:Roofus,

Please answer my questions.

Can you define the observable sin leading to death?

How can observe this sin in my neighbors?



James,
Please read my posts. See #4, above- my response to Gregory (it is in color). I already answered that.

Peace,
Roo
roofus
 
Posts: 770
Joined: Tue Sep 09, 2008 8:01 am

Re: Reaons why people think evangelicals cannot be universalists

Postby james.goetz » Mon Oct 06, 2008 9:08 am

Roofus,

Are you talking about "by roofus on Thu Sep 18, 2008 9:22 am"?

If it's another post, please copy and paste the date and time for me.: )
User avatar
james.goetz
Administrator
 
Posts: 1094
Joined: Sat Aug 30, 2008 2:11 pm
Location: Central NY USA

Re: Reaons why people think evangelicals cannot be universalists

Postby JasonPratt » Mon Oct 06, 2008 9:40 am

James,

I'm sure Roofus is talking about his red-colored reply in message #4, included within a total follow-up repost of Gregory's reply. Roofus wrote, "I don't see how we could know such a thing, therefore if that is true it would be impossible to follow!" Roofus seems to be agreeing with you, Gregory and me, that there isn't any way for us to know whether someone is sinning unto death or not; therefore if the verse is translated the way it typically is, the injunction to pray for one kind of sinner but not to pray for another kind would be impossible to follow. Roofus' comments since then have been consonant with this: he has basically denied that anyone could feasibly distinguish one kind of sin from another; therefore the injunction is at best impractical, or even impossible to keep.


Roofus,

I think James has gotten the impression that you believe this impossibility to be a problem when applied to universalism. Whereas, I think we all understood you at the beginning to be talking about "a sin unto death" being the problem when applied to universalism, but in this fashion: that if we are expected not to pray for God to give life to those who are sinning unto death, in contrast to praying for those who are not sinning unto death, then how can (or why should) we expect God to give life to the sinners-unto-death anyway?

Aside from "unto death" not necessarily being a hopeless situation in several ways (as Gregory and I both mentioned), the question is: do you still think this situation is a problem even when you seem to be clearly agreeing that the injunction is impossible for us to keep?
Cry of Justice -- 2008 Novel of the Year (CSPA retailer poll).
Sword To The Heart -- metaphysical argument to orthodox trinitarianism (and thence to universalism)
Trinitarian universalist exegetics, on internet radio, or here in forum posts.
User avatar
JasonPratt
Administrator
 
Posts: 9741
Joined: Thu Sep 25, 2008 5:08 pm
Location: Dyer, TN

Re: Reaons why people think evangelicals cannot be universalists

Postby roofus » Mon Oct 06, 2008 10:36 am

james.goetz wrote:Roofus,

Are you talking about "by roofus on Thu Sep 18, 2008 9:22 am"?

If it's another post, please copy and paste the date and time for me.: )



James- roofus on Thu Sep 18, 2008 9:22 am
roofus
 
Posts: 770
Joined: Tue Sep 09, 2008 8:01 am

Re: Reaons why people think evangelicals cannot be universalists

Postby roofus » Mon Oct 06, 2008 10:43 am

JasonPratt wrote:James,

I'm sure Roofus is talking about his red-colored reply in message #4, included within a total follow-up repost of Gregory's reply. Roofus wrote, "I don't see how we could know such a thing, therefore if that is true it would be impossible to follow!" Roofus seems to be agreeing with you, Gregory and me, that there isn't any way for us to know whether someone is sinning unto death or not; therefore if the verse is translated the way it typically is, the injunction to pray for one kind of sinner but not to pray for another kind would be impossible to follow. Roofus' comments since then have been consonant with this: he has basically denied that anyone could feasibly distinguish one kind of sin from another; therefore the injunction is at best impractical, or even impossible to keep.


Roofus,

I think James has gotten the impression that you believe this impossibility to be a problem when applied to universalism. Whereas, I think we all understood you at the beginning to be talking about "a sin unto death" being the problem when applied to universalism, but in this fashion: that if we are expected not to pray for God to give life to those who are sinning unto death, in contrast to praying for those who are not sinning unto death, then how can (or why should) we expect God to give life to the sinners-unto-death anyway?

Aside from "unto death" not necessarily being a hopeless situation in several ways (as Gregory and I both mentioned), the question is: do you still think this situation is a problem even when you seem to be clearly agreeing that the injunction is impossible for us to keep?



Good question, Jason. I have learned new things since post #1. At this point, it remains a mysterious verse. Paul says to pray for all men, no? And Jesus says to pray for enemies (enemies are those denying Christ, for sure.). Is it a problem for universalism? Doesn't seem to be (at this point in time). This might be a stretch, but maybe it means that we shouldn't ask God to give life to the unrepentant. It is impossible to please God without faith, for instance.
roofus
 
Posts: 770
Joined: Tue Sep 09, 2008 8:01 am

Re: Reaons why people think evangelicals cannot be universalists

Postby JasonPratt » Mon Oct 06, 2008 2:14 pm

roofus wrote:This might be a stretch, but maybe it means that we shouldn't ask God to give life to the unrepentant. It is impossible to please God without faith, for instance.


I could agree with that easily enough. After all, a basic tenet of orthodox/evangelical universalism is that the only unforgivable sin is the one that is not repented of.

In this case, a sin not unto death would be one that the other person is repentant of but still tends to habitually do, or he tends to fold under temptation, or whatever; but he does know it's wrong and (this is the key point) is seeking to be free of it. (Several of my own persistent sins fall under this category.) A sin unto death would be one the other person is unrepentant of. Not only would such sins be somewhat feasibly identifiable by us as external second-party observers, but it might actually be a sin to ask God to give life (in the sense of the zoe eonian) to someone who persists in being unrepentant! (This should be distinguished from those who are sinning but don't realize yet that they are sinning.)

Not that this would solve the translational difficulties. ;) But the typical translation is far from being completely fallacious, either.


From the standpoint of universalistic soteriology (as developed elsewhere), what should be prayed for is that God would lead the sinner-unto-death to repentance. The final chapter of RevJohn is (one way or another) an excellent poetic-puzzle example of this process; and indeed shows that God expects us to help Him with this goal, encouraging those who still love their sins to repent and drink of the water flowing from under the throne of life, freely and without cost (major OT imageries there, as well as NT Jesus links), so that they may obtain permission to enter the never-closed gates of the city and eat of the tree of life, the leaves of which are for the healing of the nations. Washing of garments in the river is included in the imagery, too.

Arminians could easily go with that interpretation as well, so long as they read the final chapter of RevJohn as being a sort of flashback to what we're supposed to be doing now before the final judgment after which it's too late (and the never-closed gates are closed, or something. :shock: :? )

Calvs would have the hardest time with that interpretation, but would obviously have other interpretative options to choose from. (No hope at all for the one sinning unto death, etc. They'd either have to read RevJohn 22 as being a flashback picture of God persistently saving the sinning elect before the final judgment, which is why the gates are never closed for them; or they'd have to ignore/wildly-redefine the salvific elements of the portrait altogether if they understand it to happen after the lake-of-fire judgment. I've seen Calvinists go each way. RCCs with Calv or Arm soteriological leanings either one, might easily consider this a portrait of the RCC version of purgatory.)


At the end of the day, 1 John 5 isn't a decisive chapter for any of the three basic soteriology groups. The sin-unto-death verses are tough to translate, and positions already developed elsewhere can be fitted into the various translation options (sometimes into more than one option per soteriology.)
Cry of Justice -- 2008 Novel of the Year (CSPA retailer poll).
Sword To The Heart -- metaphysical argument to orthodox trinitarianism (and thence to universalism)
Trinitarian universalist exegetics, on internet radio, or here in forum posts.
User avatar
JasonPratt
Administrator
 
Posts: 9741
Joined: Thu Sep 25, 2008 5:08 pm
Location: Dyer, TN

Re: Reaons why people think evangelicals cannot be universalists

Postby roofus » Mon Oct 06, 2008 3:45 pm

I suppose that it could mean that unrepentance, if continued unto death has no way of being repented of. That would harmonize with the traditional "no second chance" theology.
The translation of aionios, it seems to me, is the biggest issue of all. And it isn't so easy to translate this word......
roofus
 
Posts: 770
Joined: Tue Sep 09, 2008 8:01 am

Re: Reaons why people think evangelicals cannot be universalists

Postby james.goetz » Mon Oct 06, 2008 4:03 pm

Roofus,

I like how Jesus defined "eternal life" (aionios zoe) per John 17:3 (NIV), "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent."
User avatar
james.goetz
Administrator
 
Posts: 1094
Joined: Sat Aug 30, 2008 2:11 pm
Location: Central NY USA

Re: Reaons why people think evangelicals cannot be universalists

Postby roofus » Mon Oct 06, 2008 4:07 pm

james.goetz wrote:Roofus,

I like how Jesus defined "eternal life" (aionios zoe) per John 17:3 (NIV), "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent."



I like it too, but it's not really a verse that "slams the door shut".
Blessings,
R
roofus
 
Posts: 770
Joined: Tue Sep 09, 2008 8:01 am

Re: Reaons why people think evangelicals cannot be universalists

Postby james.goetz » Mon Oct 06, 2008 4:20 pm

I know that a contextual study of "aionios" and related tenses in the New Testament would include that aionios sometimes refers to indefinite periods of time. I'm sorry that it might be a while before I do a complete word study on it. But I'm not sure what you mean "slams the door shut". Are you suggesting that my one-liner didn't slam the door shut on your concerns?: )
User avatar
james.goetz
Administrator
 
Posts: 1094
Joined: Sat Aug 30, 2008 2:11 pm
Location: Central NY USA

Re: Reaons why people think evangelicals cannot be universalists

Postby roofus » Mon Oct 06, 2008 5:44 pm

james.goetz wrote:I know that a contextual study of "aionios" and related tenses in the New Testament would include that aionios sometimes refers to indefinite periods of time. I'm sorry that it might be a while before I do a complete word study on it. But I'm not sure what you mean "slams the door shut". Are you suggesting that my one-liner didn't slam the door shut on your concerns?: )



I meant that it didn't prove that aionios doesn't mean "forever".
roofus
 
Posts: 770
Joined: Tue Sep 09, 2008 8:01 am

Re: Reaons why people think evangelicals cannot be universalists

Postby james.goetz » Mon Oct 06, 2008 6:14 pm

We'll, it's the noun "aion" that sometimes gets translated to "forever" or "the ages" while "aionios" is a cognate adjective. We do see at least in the context of John 17:3 that the meaning of "aionios" isn't limited to a period of time while it focuses on relationship to God. I will develop this more in the future. And I have to go home for tonight.: )
User avatar
james.goetz
Administrator
 
Posts: 1094
Joined: Sat Aug 30, 2008 2:11 pm
Location: Central NY USA

Re: Reaons why people think evangelicals cannot be universalists

Postby roofus » Tue Oct 07, 2008 5:35 am

james.goetz wrote:We'll, it's the noun "aion" that sometimes gets translated to "forever" or "the ages" while "aionios" is a cognate adjective. We do see at least in the context of John 17:3 that the meaning of "aionios" isn't limited to a period of time while it focuses on relationship to God. I will develop this more in the future. And I have to go home for tonight.: )



Well....aionios is translated "eternal" in most of the translations that I have seen!
roofus
 
Posts: 770
Joined: Tue Sep 09, 2008 8:01 am

Re: Reaons why people think evangelicals cannot be universalists

Postby JasonPratt » Tue Oct 07, 2008 8:07 am

roofus wrote:Well....aionios is translated "eternal" in most of the translations that I have seen!


In Hebrew/Aramaic, though, when someone is talking about the Everlasting, they're talking about God. The adjective would then be rendered Godly, or perhaps from-God. The punishment and the whole ruination and the fire and the life, etc., is from God, rooted in God's intrinsic nature. (In contemporary Greek outside the NT, aionios had a somewhat similar meaning, too.)

So it gells (to some extent) with usage outside the NT; comports with a Hebrew/Aramaic idiom; allows us to avoid certain highly unorthodox translations (God is identified in several places as being and acting as an everlasting fire, toward repentence; so is there one eonian fire or two??--an everlasting fire that wasn't God would be cosmological dualism at best); and could be accepted in principle by any of the three basic soteriologies.
Cry of Justice -- 2008 Novel of the Year (CSPA retailer poll).
Sword To The Heart -- metaphysical argument to orthodox trinitarianism (and thence to universalism)
Trinitarian universalist exegetics, on internet radio, or here in forum posts.
User avatar
JasonPratt
Administrator
 
Posts: 9741
Joined: Thu Sep 25, 2008 5:08 pm
Location: Dyer, TN

Re: Reaons why people think evangelicals cannot be universalists

Postby Geoffrey » Tue Oct 07, 2008 11:21 am

I think this booklet definitively shows that aionios does not mean endless. Quite the opposite.

http://www.tentmaker.org/books/Aion_lim.html

One example from the book will suffice:

'Servants were declared to be bound forever, when all servants were emancipated every fifty years. Thus in Deut. xv:16,17, we read, "And it shall be, if he say unto thee, I will not go away from thee; because he loveth thee and thine house, because he is well with thee, then thou shalt take an awl, and thrust it through his ear unto the door, and he shall be thy servant forever [aionios]." And yet we are told, Lev. xlv:10,39,41, "And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family. And if thy brother that dwelleth with thee be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee; thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bond servant, but as a hired servant, and as a sojourner, he shall be with thee, and shall serve thee unto the year of jubilee: and then shall he depart from thee, both he and his children with him, and shall return unto his own family, and unto the possession of his father shall he return." This forever at the utmost could only be forty-nine years and three hundred and sixty-four days and some odd hours.'
Nicean Universalism
http://niceanuniversalism.freeforums.net/
a new message board discussing Christian universalism
Geoffrey
 
Posts: 925
Joined: Wed Sep 17, 2008 12:15 pm

Re: Reaons why people think evangelicals cannot be universalists

Postby JasonPratt » Tue Oct 07, 2008 12:26 pm

Geoffrey wrote:I think this booklet definitively shows that aionios does not mean endless. Quite the opposite.


Well it doesn't necessarily mean 'endlessly ongoing'.

There's a similar use of the word (actually written in Greek, not transliterated from a Heb/Aram original), in one of Paul's epistles, where he talks about the eonian mystery having been revealed.

{checking} Ah, yep, there it is: part of the benediction at the end of Romans 16:25, "...and the heralding of Christ Jesus in accord with the revelation of a secret hushed in times eonian, yet manifested now and through prophetic scriptures, according to the injunction of the eonian God being made known into all the nations into faith-obedience--to the only wise God, through Christ Jesus, be the glory into the eons of the eons. Amen!"

This one is notable in that eonian (the adjective) is used twice in close succession, where one use simply cannot mean 'going on forever' whereas the other one certainly cannot mean anything involving not going on for ever. Yet also, a common phrase often translated into English as "eternal" is used at the end, "into the eons of the eons" (sometimes phrased "the eon of the eon" or even just "into the eon". And again, no orthodox theologian disputes that this can (and in this case does) mean it goes on forever (and indeed has been going-on-forever already.) But both local and wider-scale contexts have to be applied.

Since eonian can be demonstrably used, even in close proximity, in regard to nouns that do or do not keep going forever, I submit that it's better to translate it (for a primary meaning) as an adjective along the line I previously mentioned: Godly, or from God. For example, everyone on all sides of the theological aisle agrees that God can (and in some cases does) stop doing wrath, whereas everyone on all sides also agrees that God's wrath, punishment, whole ruination, brisk agricultural cleaning, crisising, etc., is described as 'eonian'.
Cry of Justice -- 2008 Novel of the Year (CSPA retailer poll).
Sword To The Heart -- metaphysical argument to orthodox trinitarianism (and thence to universalism)
Trinitarian universalist exegetics, on internet radio, or here in forum posts.
User avatar
JasonPratt
Administrator
 
Posts: 9741
Joined: Thu Sep 25, 2008 5:08 pm
Location: Dyer, TN

Re: Reaons why people think evangelicals cannot be universalists

Postby james.goetz » Tue Oct 07, 2008 4:09 pm

I haven't yet analyzed the Hanson (1875) word study to the point where I can defend it, but I find it valuable. I need to set apart a long chunk of time to study it. Anyway, even if the word study has some flaws, it indicates that the New Testament words aion and aionios in regards to death, destruction, or punishment don't necessitate a refutation of EU.
User avatar
james.goetz
Administrator
 
Posts: 1094
Joined: Sat Aug 30, 2008 2:11 pm
Location: Central NY USA

Re: Reaons why people think evangelicals cannot be universalists

Postby firstborn888 » Wed Oct 08, 2008 12:09 am

If you take the whole verse of Titus 1:2 The word aeonian is used twice, once translated as eternal and the other as world.

Tit 1:2 In hope of eternal(166-aeonian) life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world(166-aeonian)began.
The life that is promised is pertaining to the the age to come.

The same as the chastisement and life mentioned in Matt 25:46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

I think the resistance to the idea that the chastisement is limited to an age is because of the perception that the life must end at the end of the age, however 1 Cor 15:25-28 says Christ is reigning (kingdom) until all is subdued (under his feet) then the kingdom is handed over to God and he will be all in all. The fear that the life ends is unfounded as when the chastisement ends and the reigning with Jesus ends, all will be alive in the time (or timelessness?) which follows the current age and the coming age.
firstborn888
 
Posts: 420
Joined: Mon Sep 22, 2008 7:08 pm

Re: Reaons why people think evangelicals cannot be universalists

Postby JasonPratt » Wed Oct 08, 2008 4:53 am

firstborn888 wrote:Tit 1:2 In hope of eternal(166-aeonian) life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world(166-aeonian)began.


Actually, the phrase at the end reads, {pro chrono_n aio_nio_n}. (Underscores after omegas instead of omicrons; no significant variants in the textual apparatus.)

The translation above ("before the world began") is more of a loose paraphrase; literally the phrase means 'before times eonian'. (Also, the verb form of 'promise' is the kind that keeps going or has a timeless quality.)
Cry of Justice -- 2008 Novel of the Year (CSPA retailer poll).
Sword To The Heart -- metaphysical argument to orthodox trinitarianism (and thence to universalism)
Trinitarian universalist exegetics, on internet radio, or here in forum posts.
User avatar
JasonPratt
Administrator
 
Posts: 9741
Joined: Thu Sep 25, 2008 5:08 pm
Location: Dyer, TN

Re: Reaons why people think evangelicals cannot be universalists

Postby james.goetz » Wed Oct 08, 2008 1:56 pm

Titus 1:2 (NIV) "a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time,"

Titus 1:2 (NASB), "in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago,"

Titus 1:2 (ASV), "in hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before times eternal;"

These three versions translate "aionios zoe" as "eternal life".

The last phrase of Titus 1:2 is "pro aionios chronos" per Strong, "before the beginning of time" per NIV, "long ages ago" per NASB, and "before times eternal" per ASV.

http://scripturetext.com/titus/1-2.htm
Last edited by james.goetz on Wed Oct 08, 2008 10:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: revision
User avatar
james.goetz
Administrator
 
Posts: 1094
Joined: Sat Aug 30, 2008 2:11 pm
Location: Central NY USA


Return to Dr. Robin Parry (Gregory MacDonald)

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest