Should we form universalist congregations?

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}

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Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby Gregory MacDonald » Thu Sep 04, 2008 7:44 pm

Saturday, May 10, 2008

NO! To be honest the whole idea makes me shudder with horror. In the list of things that are essential for a good church, teaching universalism is WAY down on the list. Indeed, a church that formed itself to be a 'universalist' congregation makes me imagine that it would spend a lot of its time preaching about universalism and so on (forgive me if I am wrong). God spare us from that!

I want to be part of a church that is trinitarian, Christ-centred, Spirit-filled, missional and loves people. If they also happen to teach universalism (in appropriate contexts - see my post on Origen) then great. Indeed, I would like it that they did. But if they taught eternal conscious torment then I'd rather be with them than a church that was all about universalism.

Don't get me wrong. I really do think that universalism is true (and I rejoice in it!) and I'd be very happy to be part of a chuch that was evangelical universalist so long as the universalism was simmering away in its background. It is simply that I think we need to put universalism in its place. It is good news. It is important but it is not fundamental to healthy and obedient Christian living. Indeed some of the best churches I know believe in eternal conscious torment. Bless them Lord!
Posted by Gregory MacDonald at 7:22 AM
4 comments:
Jason Pratt said...
...I dunno. I've had people ask me before if I would form a new denomination, with the impression that they'd be glad to join. I'm against it mainly because I think there are enough denominations in the world already, and I'd rather see the ones in existence reclaiming this early doctrine for themselves.

That being said, while a church can accomplish good without universalism, that's true about lots of organizations, too. A commitment to love and truth together is essential for a good church (or any good organization really); but I firmly believe (both in principle and on biblical evidence, one piece of which I discussed in another comment down there today in an earlier thread of yours {s}) that true hope for salvation from sin is essential for a better church than one that insists on God's hopelessness.

That being said: the first retort I can think of is, why not unitarian universalism then? Because I don't believe unitarianism is true (and neither do they, strictly speaking, nowadays. {s}) The question of God's character and characteristics has to come first, before we get into doctrines about God's salvation.

JRP

May 10, 2008 1:57 PM

Jason Pratt said...
Perhaps not-incidentally: early last December, there was a combined statistical report released during the quarterly meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, that was promoted as being evidence of a coming increase in Calvinist preachers (based on seminary graduate poll data compared to a basis poll of the same questions given to all current SBC preachers.)

I noticed a far more intriguing confluence of the statistical data which, so far as I know, went completely unremarked upon (except by me in this press release. {g}) I was amazed, to say the least.

JRP

May 12, 2008 7:59 AM
The Christian Heretic said...
I attended a Christian Universalist house church for a couple years, and it was nice to be able to fellowship with others who believed in UR (Universal Reconciliation), but if one's church is primarily focused on one doctrine it's not going to last very long (ours didn't).

My suggestion would be to include UR in the Statement of Faith or something, so that it's a part of your congregation's beliefs (since I'm not a big fan of the doctrine of reserve), but definitely not the primary focus.

That said, the idea of UR meet-ups or conferences or something aren't necessarily a bad idea.

I'm enjoying your blog, by the way.

May 12, 2008 12:24 PM

James Goetz said...
Gregory, I agree. Exclusive Universalism is eschatology and what I classify as a secondary doctrine. I think that secondary doctrines are important while I don't believe that churches should major in secondary doctrines. I'm both evangelical and neopentecostal while I plan to stay evangelical and neopentecostal.

August 13, 2008 5:13 PM
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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby auggybendoggy » Mon Sep 08, 2008 6:22 pm

I'll go ahead and post a question to GM here,

GM. It seems that Talbotts approach, like most universalists, is to attack the exclusivism of the Evangelical Church of today.

It seems this is a major theme of Universalism, namely Inclusivism. Do you see Christianity (Evangelical) being swept away with exclusivism? If so, do you think universalism is possibly more important in that respect?

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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby ThatDarnCat » Wed Sep 10, 2008 5:18 am

Yes, especially when the universalists are pastors and are hiding their universalism
due to the financial impact "coming out" might entail, yet promoting their universalism
on the side. They should have the courage of their convictions.
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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby Dr Neck » Wed Sep 10, 2008 7:11 am

After being asked to leave a large Baptist church because I refused to stop leading a Bible study in my home, I sort of turned the Bible study into a house church with meetings twice a week. It's been going for about two years and has no real organized structure...we just use Libronix to study the Bible together and find that to be very satisfying.

I'm almost finished reading Eric Stetson's new book, Christian Universalism (God's Good News for All People) and can recommend it with enthusiasm. It's much less complicated and more conversational than TEU...probably better for those who are just starting with the idea. Don't misunderstand me, I love TEU and think it's the best for those who are "hard core".
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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

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

Gene

a quick comment on exclusivism.

I understand exclusivism in the following way: a person is saved through Christ only and must have explicit faith in Christ to be saved.
I understand [inclusivism] in the following way: a person is saved through Christ only but it is possible to be saved through Christ without explicit faith in Christ.

On these understandings (which are the way that the words are typically used in theology) a universalist could be either an exclusivist or an inclusivist. I am open to inclusivism but my inclination is towards exclusivism.

So I do not criticize exclusivism at all. In fact, I am positive about exclusivism but open minded about inclusivism.

Does that help?

GM
Last edited by james.goetz on Wed Sep 17, 2008 2:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: replaced "exclusivism" with "[inclusivism]"
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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby Gregory MacDonald » Sat Sep 13, 2008 10:19 am

That Darn Cat!

Interesting. I don't know whether or not the situation that you describe is the case. There may be universalist pastors who are keeping quiet for all sorts of reasons. I would agree with you that the financial motive if not a gospel motive but there might be good reasons. I am not a pastor but I have non-financial reasons which, for now, I think are good reasons (nay, perhaps even gospel reasons) for not revealing my identity. So I can imagine pastors with similar motives and I would not condemn them.

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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby Gregory MacDonald » Sat Sep 13, 2008 10:25 am

Dr Neck

I do not know Eric or his book but I am familiar with the CUA website and I heard him on the radio show that I was on. He seems like a good guy.

Don't worry about offending me. I am very pleased that you found his book helpful. If you thought my book was utter trash I would not be offended (though I am glad that you like it)

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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby faithhopelove » Sat Sep 13, 2008 10:28 am

To me evangelical universalism is the icing on a very large cake. Life is much sweeter now and not as dry. It speaks of the character of God and allows me to know the depth of his love. It is more than just another eschatological view (did I get that right?) of end times. I do not believe that it is a secondary doctrine and unimportant enough not to share and even form churches. I do not even feel qualified to be saying this, but in my heart I feel it's true. My aim, though, is not to be devicive about it. There is no universalist congregation out there that I know of and I continue to fellowship with believers in Jesus. I do share my views at select times and they are highly resisted, of course. What are we as a church missing out on by not understanding the fuller picture? The knowledge of the goodness of God to be faithful to me when I am faithless gives me hope beyond measure. It has removed a stumbling block for me to know God better and as a result has increased my faith. Most of the people on this forum share my passion to some extent or they would not be here and would not have thought it important enough to write a book about it.
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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby auggybendoggy » Sat Sep 13, 2008 5:18 pm

Gregory,
I'm glad you specified your definitions of Inclusive and exclusive. I believe this is a good example of why we really wanted a forum of our own where we could discuss this without 50,000 people hijacking the original post (op).

you said:
I understand exclusivism in the following way: a person is saved through Christ only and must have explicit faith in Christ to be saved.
I understand exclusivism in the following way: a person is saved through Christ only but it is possible to be saved through Christ without explicit faith in Christ.


Perhaps you meant inclusivism on the latter? I'll assume you meant IN- on the latter and reply.

If all end up saved then one could call it inclusivism since God includes all in his loving salvation. Exclusivism seems to hold to eternal torment and that brings us to the dillema of how we are to define such terms.

It seems that it the question truly is inclusive/exclusive to what?
God's love or Salvation in this age?

I'd like to hear from others on this as well...

Aug
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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby Gregory MacDonald » Tue Sep 23, 2008 11:20 am

Gene

I did mean 'inclusivism' on the second definition. Sorry.

Yes - you could use the terms in the way that you did. So, in your sense, universalism is inclusive not exclusive. Quite so.

But one must beware of being misunderstood using the terms in this way given that in theological discourse they are often used as shorthand terms for the views that I sketched. But so long as they are explained I think that your use is perfectly acceptable.

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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby auggybendoggy » Tue Sep 23, 2008 7:22 pm

Gregory,
I agree with you that the terms can be defined in different ways. I suppose you might say Arminian churches are similar, Inc.- because they believe God loves and extends salvation to all
Exc.- because they believe salvation only comes by faith in Jesus Christ and Christ alone.

So in those terms I think you probably are more correct.

I still have a yearning and deep desire to congregate with people (like those of this forum) who are opened to hearing different ideas w/o being excommunicated upon an idea or possible interpretation.

Going to a church where you must keep silent is VERY hard. Please do not underestimate the God given need of expression. Being an artist of a sort I do believe we all HAVE to express ourselves or we self implode and become the monster we hate. So I do wish there were such a denomination which allowed such minds to question what they read and to reason with one another.

Sometimes my heart goes out to you because being a professor of scripture and believing that scripture teaches EU'ism must be a bit difficult and at times stressful. Perhaps I'm wrong.

Anyhow, I would love to see a denomination form :)

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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby firstborn888 » Wed Sep 24, 2008 1:38 am

I believe that God's character is greatly and grossly and blasphemously slandered by the doctrine of unending eternal punishment. The torment and anguish this teaching has inflicted upon the human race is incalculable. It is a dreadful lie and I will have no part of it no matter how anyone dresses it up as 'love' or 'good news'.

Notice how in the entire book of Acts there were no threats of torment used to get converts. The good news thrived on it's own because God was doing the work of redemption. The truth (of our own sinfulness) is sharp and convicting.

Obviously if anyone can be convinced that terrible eternal tortures will result if they do something or if they fail to do something then they will try to do anything possible to avoid it. That's called self-preservation and saving one's own skin - NOT LOVE. IMO this is the way of religion which blocks the entrance to the kingdom.

The goodness of God leads men to change. That's why true world altering revival is not happening - God is not being presented as He is.
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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby jamiedavies » Wed Sep 24, 2008 3:39 pm

I'd have to say that I don't think "Universalist Congregations" are a good way to go, although I do feel some affinity with those who advocate them here.

Like the previous poster, I hate the doctrine of eternal conscious torment, but I would resist breaking fellowship with those who believe it.

No, I would much rather see us work towards churches that allow a variety of opinions and practise a generous orthodoxy (to reuse that now familiar phrase) - an ecclesiology based on affirming the core truths of Christian belief (and practice!), what Stan Grenz called "Renewing the Centre", while allowing room at the edges. Universal Reconciliation is a wonderful doctrine, but if I am making it the litmus test of fellowship then maybe I've lost sight of the centre.

I don't intend to minimalise the importance of eschatology for the church (I'm a Moltmann fan, so I couldn't possibly do that!) but merely to point out that all our theology is 'hope' - may I even say 'tentative' - and we shouldn't be in the business of drawing lines and making more boxes to put people in, something I think a "new denomination" or universalist congregation would do.

My 2p worth. (2 cents if you want, but mine's worth more!)

Jamie

P.S. I just hope my church community lives up to our words if/when they find out about me! Maybe it's a question of "the courage of my convictions" as a previous poster suggested, but the reality is I have a family to support, new christians and young people to mentor, a great kingdom community to lead and I have to act in love and an awareness of how my "convictions" (which I've had time to arrive at) might affect others pastorally - Paul's advice on the 'weaker brother' springs to mind. Universalism is wonderful news and a wonderful freedom, yes, but (a) I might be wrong, (b) they might get hurt and (c) love should always win. I don't think it's an issue of courage.
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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby firstborn888 » Wed Sep 24, 2008 4:35 pm

jamiedavies wrote:and we shouldn't be in the business of drawing lines and making more boxes to put people in, something I think a "new denomination" or universalist congregation would do.

Yes, let's not be guilty of that.

jamiedavies wrote:P.S. I just hope my church community lives up to our words if/when they find out about me! Maybe it's a question of "the courage of my convictions" as a previous poster suggested, but the reality is I have a family to support, new christians and young people to mentor, a great kingdom community to lead and I have to act in love and an awareness of how my "convictions" (which I've had time to arrive at) might affect others pastorally -


Since I worked within the mainstream ECT system (so to speak) for thirty years I can't fault anyone for staying as there is definitely a time to just be effective where you're planted. Frankly I was surprised how it all came down for me. I simultaneously stumbled upon several people in great anguish over why God would create billions of people foreknowing the outcome of ECT and some in great anguish about parents, siblings etc. who had passed on while apparently unconverted.

When my daughter (16 at the time) began to fall into depression (and finally confided in me the reasons why) I shared with her what I'd always known about the final outcome and God's 'big picture' plan for the ages. She dropped her head wept and said "I knew it... I knew it wasn't true (ECT) but I thought I HAD to believe it." Over the past year her life has been totally transformed.

Leaving the ministry was like dying. I cried profusely in my pastors office and could not even communicate my intentions till the second meeting because I couldn't control the initial flood of emotions. I had worked w/him almost everyday for 20 years straight. I had lead worship at least 2 times a week for 30 years non-stop (sometimes up to 10 times a week with school/conferences/crusades). Also, I am in poor health with no health insurance (they added health coverage this year :( )
so now I'm unemployed and fighting hard to support my family doing whatever. Regrets? No - none. it's something I had to do for conscience sake, a personal thing. Yes, I am hoping many follow suite, but that is God's job to direct others.

Now: the fallout. Do not underestimate what happens to people who speak up about this. My leaders and church family were the best ever (and I've seen it all) but the backlash ranged from "I want to hear more" and "Wow, I don't agree - but that's OK" to "You are denying the faith" and "You are calling God a liar" and "You're saying we don't need Jesus".

I have family members (close family members) dis-fellowship me. There is even conflict in my own household.

Some boycotted my staff going away party. The leadership got flack for not publicly denouncing me. I received phone calls saying "What are you talking about??? Why are we preaching? Why are we sending missionaries?" and the whole thing started really blowing up - so to keep the peace I stopped attending altogether. Some called with interest and a couple even called and confessed their agreement.

So, I'm not really so brave - I'm scared, I'm hauling scrap metal, I'm producing music in my studio and I'm literally hanging out with drunks, druggies and broken people in my small town. I see Christ in them. Many of them think God is unapproachable because no one has ever explained what He's really like. I walked away from a secure job (everyone got raises this year too - sheeesh!!!) but I'm satisfied and my conscience is clean. I think my effectiveness with people is up 1000% because I'm finally being true to what I know about God. There are daily conversations and prayer. I do get still get ridiculed for my faith by some (some things never change!) but am more 'in the ministry' than ever.

Sorry for the long post - but I figured it would be helpful and interesting for some. :)
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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby auggybendoggy » Wed Sep 24, 2008 4:43 pm

Jamie,
I understand your point and I'd like to be able to say boy that would be neat. But perhaps you might under estimate the fact that it was the religous right who was behind the movement to hang the most beautiful person upon the cross. It's nice to say, lets get out there and convert the sanhedrin (I say this as a metaphor of narrow minded thinkers) but the truth is, at least for me, if I said anything of the sort ITS EXCOMMUNICATION.

Try going to a calvary chapel and saying Pre-Trib is bunk. If you think they have a hard time with convenant theology then wait till they get a load of Talbott and Macdonald. They already are all over Mclaren and his generous orthodoxy as if it's from the pit of hell.

I'm not trying to say "forget them" but I am saying the artist in each or us SCREAMS to be heard and wants to ask questions about God's masterpiece all around us (creation). But if people are subjected to "THINK LIKE US OR DIE!" then the artist in us will not survive and will rebel.

So I'm saying I think saying stay the course and hang in there is like telling an alcoholic, DONT DO IT. In time they will break and if they have no where to go to express themselves and BE HEARD, then they will slowly lose the passion which drives them.

So I still see a great need for a non emergant Evangelical Universalist church.

I don't say this with 100% sureity but with my instinct at this point. My church does bear with me and I love my church so I hope to never leave it. However if there was an EU church in my town, I'm afraid I'd have to support it that I might learn to teach.

Sincerely,

Aug
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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby jamiedavies » Thu Sep 25, 2008 1:29 am

Guys, thanks for the honesty. Firstborn888, I'm praying for you. It hurts me that people have been so damaged in the name of 'orthodoxy' (the more so when the issue at stake has never been given creedal status). I get the feeling things in the UK are generally not quite so black-and-white so perhaps that's why I resist the idea of a new denomination more easily than others. Eschatology doesn't seem to have the same divisive influence over here, at least from what I've heard about the US.

Certainly I am hopeful for my church, which is on the whole pretty generous, and I'm quite confident that, when the time comes to talk about it, the leadership and some key thinkers in the church will hear me out. Should I ever preach about it (i've let a few clues slip from time to time, and seen my wife give me knowing looks!) I'm sure there will be many in the congregation who will not understand. I get concerned emails about my non-belief in heaven (i.e. I preach against the 'heaven when we die' version of Christianity) and some have even said I don't believe in the Trinity (no idea how they got that!) so a lot of people won't understand how I got here.

I'm just really saddened by the effects holding to such a beautiful truth can have on people's lives. Suffering for defending the faith is one thing, and to be expected, but suffering at the hands of family and fellow believers for defending one version of a murky part of the faith? Not so sure that should happen in the Kingdom.

Anyway - God's richest blessings on you Firstborn888, and on any who have similar stories. You are all welcome here any time you're passing by!

Jamie
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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby auggybendoggy » Thu Sep 25, 2008 9:02 pm

First,
Wow, my prayers are with you bro. I had in my mind from out last year or so that everything was perfect for you never thinking about what life is really like for you.

I'd love to hear your music. I used to write but have not touched it for years. I've got a small music studio Cubase, Gigastudio, Atmosphere and stylus RMX bla bla bla : )

I mainly use it for wedding videos now.

if you haven't been to my site check out the vids and give me your thoughts
www.gigdv.com

Anyhow bro, I'm sorry to hear it's been so hard.

with love,

Auggy (Gene)
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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby firstborn888 » Thu Sep 25, 2008 11:14 pm

Very Nice site AUG! Mine is here:
http://spearssoundstudio.com/Welcome.html
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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby james.goetz » Sat Sep 27, 2008 12:41 pm

Byron (firstborn888),

I'm glad to read more about you while I grieve with you. My prayers and heart go out to you.

I had to resign my US Assemblies of God (A/G) ministry credentials for me to teach my newly modified eschatology per A/G bylaws, but unlike you, I wasn't a paid minister. I cannot fully comprehend what you're going through. All I know is that I felt glad that I didn't have a paid pastorate when I needed to resign. I see that your story epitomizes the need for The Evangelical Universalist forum board.

I offer you my spirit and mind in any way possible in the Lord. Since I'm a charismatic universalist (a subset of evangelical universalists), I might have something to offer you.: )

I want to share some of my vision. The Lord led me to seek out ministerial fellowships who would tolerate my universalist eschatology. And I found some. Praise the Lord! (My wife and I also consider other church factors while we consider our family's church home in Central NY.)

I have the liberty to share one possibility for me. My friend John Elmer is a Vineyard USA regional leader and pastor. Here is an email quote from John:

"As far as your eschatology theology, it is not a litmus test for partnership here. We have a variety here because we don't make it a core of our doctrine. Much higher on the scale is character and spiritual passion. I think if anyone got too militant (disruptive) and dogmatic on eschatology theology we would have a talk. I will be praying that your family finds a good spiritual home where they can grow in all that Jesus has for them."

And John gave me the okay to post his quote in The Evangelical Universalist forum board.: )

I have a vision that many charismatic churches will take this attitude toward evangelical universalism (EU). And sound biblical studies combined with *gentle* prophetic voices will help to establish EU as the prevailing eschatology in the charismatic movement.
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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby firstborn888 » Mon Sep 29, 2008 2:28 am

Thanks for your responses all. Sometimes while in worship services the awesome presence of God's goodness would envelope us I would ask the "Lord, why can't they see what I see" and I always sensed the response "They will" but I always interpreted it to mean when "we see Him as He is" way off in the future. Maybe I won't have to wait that long after all. :)
Blessings,
- Byron
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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby JasonPratt » Mon Sep 29, 2008 4:24 am

firstborn888 wrote:Thanks for your responses all. Sometimes while in worship services the awesome presence of God's goodness would envelope us I would ask the "Lord, why can't they see what I see" and I always sensed the response "They will" but I always interpreted it to mean when "we see Him as He is" way off in the future. Maybe I won't have to wait that long after all. :)


Sometimes I'll be in a service listening to hymns or professions of hope, and part of me is happy to hear them, but part of me is sad because I can't help thinking: "you don't really believe that... you don't know what it is you're saying." :(

Maybe we should have a thread devoted to reporting universalistic hope still embedded in hymns.
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.
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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby Gregory MacDonald » Mon Sep 29, 2008 8:49 am

Guys

I just wanted to say 'Thanks' to you all for an honest and wondeful conversation! Just what the forum is for
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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby james.goetz » Mon Sep 29, 2008 10:49 am

JasonPratt wrote:Sometimes I'll be in a service listening to hymns or professions of hope, and part of me is happy to hear them, but part of me is sad because I can't help thinking: "you don't really believe that... you don't know what it is you're saying." :(

Maybe we should have a thread devoted to reporting universalistic hope still embedded in hymns.


Jason, please post all that you can think of about universalistic hope still embedded in hymns in "General Theology" or "Church".: )
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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby auggybendoggy » Mon Sep 29, 2008 4:01 pm

Gregory,
Thank you for helping us and motivating us. Indeed if there was a denomination that began, it would certainly have been benefited by you sharing your vision. Your helping others is important.

I'm very much like Mr. Pratt who sings a song and finds myself a bit taken back by the words. Sometimes I sing it louder becuase the hymn is so telling like...

Proned to wander oh Lord I feel it,
Proned to leave the God I love,
Here's my heart Lord, take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.

though it's not really a U. statement, it still moves me and I find myself at tears with such truth.

But then I get some other song and just think ohhhh BLA! :)

What ever the case I have a deep yearning for this viewpoint to break out of it's box.
I long for the day when people can truly be inclusive in their view of the world and exclusive in the source of such love (Faith alone in Christ).
Aug
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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby Bob Wilson » Mon Oct 13, 2008 4:00 pm

Gregory, a belated thank you for so coherently arguing that the Bible's story and theology point us toward a universal hope! I too want us to stay in evangelical churches rather than form separate bodies who would put the premium on universalism and encourage other vital truths of our faith to be diminished. And I would never want to break fellowship with other believers.

But on a practical level do you perceive that such churches will allow us to participate? Or are you assuming that this generally can only happen if we remain silent? My perception is that the assumption that God will discard most of his beloved creation to an unredemptive and endless retribution (ECT) poses great obstacles concerning God's character especially among many of the lost. You indeed are eloquent about this. So do you see this as not significant enough to take opportunity in our congregations to graciously share the possibility of a wider hope. Most believers cannot share such a hope pseudononymously. What have you observed in your own church experience about addressing this dilemma?
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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby JasonPratt » Mon Oct 13, 2008 5:58 pm

I know "Gregory" has to work with a pseudonym in order to protect his teaching job; and I myself can say with some certainty that there is no way the church I currently attend would allow me to be a small-group teacher, much less one of the pastors (even though they desperately need both and even though I certainly qualify as capable enough). And in a way I wouldn't want to be, because that would introduce too much schism into the leadership corps. We have Arminians and Calvinists both, and that can sometimes lead to serious problems; but at least they all agree that God will not be saving some (many/most) people from sin!

I can be an apologist without necessarily talking about my universalism at any given time; as I do over at the Cadre (which also features a mix of Calv and Arm soteriologists. Though notably I reserve the right to affirm and profess and preach universalism in the comments! :D ) And I could teach various Biblical and theological things without necessarily being a universalist (maybe--though the scriptures are so saturated in it, that to some degree I would have to truncate my teaching to avoid it! :D ) But I don't believe I can be an evangelist without referencing it; how am I supposed to preach the gospel and train and encourage other people to do the same--a gospel of repentence unto the sending away of sin--without mentioning the scope of the hope of the gospel!? It would be like trying to teach Christology without mentioning the honor, attributes, nature, deeds and seat of Christ. Anything less, just isn't enough. :)

(Not incidentally, when I occasionally contribute a sermon to the main Cadre posts, you can just about bet that sooner or later I'll refer to the ultimate hope of the gospel. You can also bet with a high degree of certainty, that whatever form the cosmology may look like at any given time in my series of novels, sooner or later, to this or that degree, I'll be talking about what I am always thinking of in the background: the hope of the gospel, that God will go the farthest distance to seek and save the lost and never give up on them, even when, in various ways, they've given up on Him.)
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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby auggybendoggy » Sun Oct 26, 2008 7:58 pm

Bob Wilson wrote:But on a practical level do you perceive that such churches will allow us to participate? Or are you assuming that this generally can only happen if we remain silent? My perception is that the assumption that God will discard most of his beloved creation to an unredemptive and endless retribution (ECT) poses great obstacles concerning God's character especially among many of the lost. You indeed are eloquent about this. So do you see this as not significant enough to take opportunity in our congregations to graciously share the possibility of a wider hope. Most believers cannot share such a hope pseudononymously. What have you observed in your own church experience about addressing this dilemma?
Grace be with you, Bob Wilson


Gregory, can you fill us in on this? I think we'd all like to hear a bit about your experience.

Aug
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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby RanRan » Sat Nov 01, 2008 4:08 pm

I'm with Gregory on this one. I see no need for creating 'universalist congregations'. Things are fragmented enough - would a universalist church be superior to the Orthodox? I don't think so. The fact is - it has been tried and was marginalized by the rest of church. As a Lutheran, I can find universalistic truths in Luther and the fathers, the Orthodox have the fathers, the Catholics have the fathers. All our roots are the same.
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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby nimblewill » Thu Jan 01, 2009 8:24 pm

So if not UR congregations, should ECT congregations allow UR members? IOW should I be able to speak freely about my UR views?
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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby JasonPratt » Thu Jan 01, 2009 9:03 pm

nimblewill wrote:So if not UR congregations, should ECT congregations allow UR members? IOW should I be able to speak freely about my UR views?


That's an excellent question. And one with some very tough answers, I think. There are lots of angles to consider--and they don't all come out in our favor.

(I'm working on another project this weekend, that I hope to finish, but I think this question is worth at least an initial essay. Until then, would anyone care to volunteer some non-obvious angles to the question...?)
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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby firstborn888 » Fri Jan 02, 2009 12:28 am

nimblewill wrote:So if not UR congregations, should ECT congregations allow UR members? IOW should I be able to speak freely about my UR views?


Well, down here in the bible belt (Texas) UR doesn't go over too good. For many evangelicals avoiding eternal hell is the name of the game. If you take that out of the equation then it's 'game over'. ;)
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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby nimblewill » Fri Jan 02, 2009 9:04 am

Thanks folks, Jason I'll be waiting on your reply. My wife won't even discuss it with me. She asked me to keep my views to myself. It embarasses here when I ask questions to other folks. I'm not 100% sold on UR although I 100% want it to be true. I spent 40+ years believing in ECT or at least thinking I had to. I had a very vivid dream that started my search. Basically I woke from the dream with the thoughts I'd never do that to anyone. I thought it was the Lord but how can I be sure. Anyway that was about four years ago and I've gone between doubt and elation. It gets tiring. Maybe you folks could share how you transfered from traditional beliefs to UR. I haven't read GM's book yet. I can't really spend what it costs without explaining it to my wife. Its just not worth the friction that it causes.

Again Thanks for Posting

Still in One Peace

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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby JasonPratt » Fri Jan 02, 2009 9:33 am

nimblewill wrote:Still in One Peace


That's a great sign-off by the way. :) (And glad you were able to register in; I saw your message at Gregory's blog, but by then you had already posted once, so I didn't bother answering.)

I hope to put up an essay on the various difficulties later, somewhere else. (This is Gregory's particular category, and I feel like I'm intruding as a co-host when I post much here.)

I also think it would be a good idea to create a whole discussion category for 'conversion' stories, so to speak, either to UR or away from it. (We want to be fair, and that might be useful, too. The category would be more for giving a witness story, than for technical discussion, which ought to happen elsewhere.)

As for me, I have always been a universalist at heart, but for many years I couldn't in good conscience teach it or argue for it because I simply couldn't see enough scriptural data in favor of it (not having studied enough) and didn't know of any rationale for legitimately interpreting one apparent type of verses in light of another apparent type. (Though that cut both ways, of course.) After I studied trinitarian theism more closely, in terms of logical coherency, I came to understand that hope for God to always be acting toward saving all sinners from sin, follows as a logical corollary from trinitarian theism. With that, I had an overarching rationale for interpreting one set in light of another; but I didn't want to simply force interpretations into disparate data so I held back promoting it scripturally for several years until I could study the scriptural issues much further on their own testimony.

One thing that impresses me now, is that the witness for it is scattered so widely and pervasively throughout the scriptures (just like ortho-trin), and yet there is (even for me) a tendency to block out the meaning of what's being said. In personal scrutiny, I'm sure that this is caused by my intrinsic uncharity; though it may be different for other people. (In many cases, I think it happens from reading scriptures atomistically instead of looking for narrative and thematic contexts. I'm still routinely discovering new data that I had missed before precisely for that reason, too.)


Anyway, I would be glad to send you a copy of Gregory's EU, through an Amazon wish list, gratis. 8-) You can also page through his book online for free at Amazon, a few pages at a time, with some persistence and Amazon's "Search Inside The Book" feature.

Back to work...
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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby nimblewill » Fri Jan 02, 2009 10:15 am

Thanks again Jason. With your permission I may start a topic on conversions. I will go online and read as much of TEU as I can. I appreciate the info.

but for many years I couldn't in good conscience teach it or argue for it because I simply couldn't see enough scriptural data in favor of it (not having studied enough) and didn't know of any rationale for legitimately interpreting one apparent type of verses in light of another apparent type.


This is where I am right now. It helps to see that this may be a natural progression. Its encouraging.


I am unfamiliar with trinitarian theism so I guess I have some research to do.

Again you have been very helpful.

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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby JasonPratt » Fri Jan 02, 2009 10:34 am

nimblewill wrote:Thanks again Jason. With your permission I may start a topic on conversions.


Not entirely sure which category to send you to for that... which is why I hope one of the admins will create a special topical category for it, somewhere.

Until then, I recommend posting your conversion story (so far) as a new thread in the "Introductions" category. The topic of the thread shouldn't be UR conversions generally, but that's certainly a very valid topic in an introduction thread about yourself.

Back to-work-from-lunch... :mrgreen:
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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby nimblewill » Sun Jan 04, 2009 1:55 pm

firstborn888 wrote:Thanks for your responses all. Sometimes while in worship services the awesome presence of God's goodness would envelope us I would ask the "Lord, why can't they see what I see" and I always sensed the response "They will" but I always interpreted it to mean when "we see Him as He is" way off in the future. Maybe I won't have to wait that long after all. :)
Blessings,
- Byron


Byron, I have been sensing the Lord tell me that the only thing that I was unwilling to give Him was my reputation. I know that there is a price to be paid for truth. I also know that if I don't surrender my reputation He can take it.

I've felt the same thing when worshipping myself. If UR is His truth He will reveal it. I am comforted by Paul's words in Galatians about the revelation of Grace not coming to him by men but that He was taught by Christ directly. I believe that He alone can teach this to people.

God Bless you and stay in One Peace.

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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby SavageSoto » Fri Sep 18, 2009 5:39 pm

Im kindof torn about the whole issue really. I remember first coming into universalism how, most people I knew(which were all online save one person in my church that "came out" to me about it in private) it was all they would talk about, while every other issue in christianity seemed to be swept to the wayside. I must say that in some sense I to have put it at the forefront of things perhaps more than I should...but its been more of studying it because it interests me and testing it to be true or not.

God has been reminding me recently(not that I tottally doubted) that alot of good can be done in ET believing churches, and that he has a place/reason for those who believe it. I have to remind myself alot that the only reason I see this as true(universalism, if it is indeed true) is because God allowed me to by his grace, for a purpose. what purpose that is exactly Im not sure yet.

But all this to say, I have to admit I like the idea of churches that do teach/believe in ultimate reconcilliation...though I agree with GM it should be off in the background somewhere behind other foundational teachings. I ask myself constantly how some Christians can sleep at night not knowing this little golden thread of truth, but then I have to remember I did for several years! and for the most part I think my spiritual life was good, I certainly loved God and wasnt rejoycing (or even thinking) about the eternal torment I believed awaited most people. Now there was a point where some irreconcilable questions started coming to mind that left me at a fork in the road in my faith (in which case, I found out about the UR perspective) and I believed God brought me to that crossroads for a reason, as I said. But I think ive concluded, that perhaps the best thing as universalists is just to subtlety impact the churches we are in now, and bring up the subject where applicable. we should not divide ourselves from other Christians(though in my life im finding they want to divide themselves from me over this).

I dont know, its a hard thing to say for sure. but more denominations would be bad...we need unity, a unity that can appreciate each others different perspectives.
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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby John » Sat Sep 19, 2009 1:21 pm

Church, congregations, assemblies ?

The age of Pentecost and the "Church in the wilderness" is over. Jesus is our pattern, as we enter into the dawning new age. Organize a group now and you are recreating the same self-centered, need-oriented, program-driven, growth-addicted, destiny-snatching, dream-killing beast that many of us fled from.

The word church does not come from the Greek work ecclesia. The word ‘church' is a direct decedent etymologically of the Greek word ‘kirke'. In Anglo Saxon it's the word ‘Circe'; she was a character of Greek mythology who was the daughter of the sun god Sol and Perseis. She was supposed to possess great knowledge of magic and venomous herbs, by which she was able to charm and fascinate. With her magic and potions Circe had the power to turn men into animals.

Stranger than fiction ........... and we wonder the powers of the spirit world as "church" is the common term today. She still charms and fascinates and those under her spell will defend her come hell or high water.

"Come out of her" (Rev 18:4) sounds good to me!

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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby Melchizedek » Mon Sep 28, 2009 3:39 pm

It would seem that there were universalist congregations at some point in the U.S., but they all got absorbed into the U.U. movement. I have heard that there are a larger proportion of new universalist congregations starting in Oklahoma of all places. Apparently, that's the place to be if you're a universalist looking for a congregation to join.
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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby JasonPratt » Mon Oct 12, 2009 11:25 am

Actually, John, the etymology of 'Church' goes back to Greek {kuriako_n}, an adjective meaning "of the lord's". Originally the term was {kuriako_n do_ma}, or 'house of the Lord'; eventually the phrase was abbreviated down to "kyriak".

The cross-spelling as "circe" happened in Old English, after writers got into the habit of dropping out an 'i' in the middle. (It started out in Old English as "cirice" from "cyrice", from old German "kirche", having already dropped the 'a' vowel in the transition to German.)

At some point, either in OE or maybe OG (or both), there may have been a pun involving resemblance to the word "circle" (by metaphor meaning a group of people, as we sometimes still speak of a 'social circle' of people); which does go back in Greek past the character Circe to the meaning of, well... circle. 8-) Which itself may be derived from an even-more-ancient description of certain female body parts. (Thus "Circe's" name would be a pun in Greek going back to the reason for why circles were originally called circles.) But that isn't how the term for "church" started off.

For goodness' sake, it ought to have been obvious that they wouldn't have named their meeting places after a notoriously disreputable minor Greek goddess. :roll: That would be like saying that RevJohn in Greek was named after the character of Calypso undressing herself! ({kalypso_} means 'veil' in Greek; it's a great name for a sexy female character, rather like {kirke_}, so it's understandable why Homer uses it in the Odyssey. But really.)


You can still use it as a cute historical accident for a rhetorical slur against "the church" as a seductive whore-enchantress, if you like. Jewish OT authors are even more blunt about describing God's own best-beloved Israel that way! Just be aware that when you do, you're starting to slide over into name-calling. That's fine for some forums, but not here.
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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby Melchizedek » Tue Oct 13, 2009 2:42 pm

SavageSoto wrote:Im kindof torn about the whole issue really. I remember first coming into universalism how, most people I knew(which were all online save one person in my church that "came out" to me about it in private) it was all they would talk about, while every other issue in christianity seemed to be swept to the wayside. I must say that in some sense I to have put it at the forefront of things perhaps more than I should...but its been more of studying it because it interests me and testing it to be true or not.

God has been reminding me recently(not that I tottally doubted) that alot of good can be done in ET believing churches, and that he has a place/reason for those who believe it. I have to remind myself alot that the only reason I see this as true(universalism, if it is indeed true) is because God allowed me to by his grace, for a purpose. what purpose that is exactly Im not sure yet.

But all this to say, I have to admit I like the idea of churches that do teach/believe in ultimate reconcilliation...though I agree with GM it should be off in the background somewhere behind other foundational teachings. I ask myself constantly how some Christians can sleep at night not knowing this little golden thread of truth, but then I have to remember I did for several years! and for the most part I think my spiritual life was good, I certainly loved God and wasnt rejoycing (or even thinking) about the eternal torment I believed awaited most people. Now there was a point where some irreconcilable questions started coming to mind that left me at a fork in the road in my faith (in which case, I found out about the UR perspective) and I believed God brought me to that crossroads for a reason, as I said. But I think ive concluded, that perhaps the best thing as universalists is just to subtlety impact the churches we are in now, and bring up the subject where applicable. we should not divide ourselves from other Christians(though in my life im finding they want to divide themselves from me over this).

I dont know, its a hard thing to say for sure. but more denominations would be bad...we need unity, a unity that can appreciate each others different perspectives.


I hear what you're saying. I think one of the reasons that people talk so much about UR when they realize the truth of it, is that it does affect how we view things. Nearly every passage we read suddenly has new meaning, and we start making connections we never saw before. It can "take over" for awhile. But eventually, when the dust settles, we start getting back to somewhat more "practical" matters, so to speak.

And you're absolutely right, we DON'T need any more division in the church than we've already got. Unity does not mean we all think alike...
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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby John » Tue Oct 13, 2009 5:17 pm

There is the mystical body of Christ and there is the apostate church side by side, one a bride, the other a harlot, one real the other counterfeit. It takes the Spirit of God to unveil truth in this area that one might discern between bride and harlot, real and counterfeit. I was awakened to the truth a quarter century.

SPEAKING OF THE APOSTATE CHURCH

"With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him. All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its entrails; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life.

And now, O sons, listen to me, and be attentive to the words of my mouth. Let not your heart turn aside to her ways, do not stray into her paths; for many a victim has she laid low; yea, all her slain are a mighty host. Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death." (from Prov 7:1-27)

And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, "Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a habitation of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird. For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury." And I heard another voice from heaven saying, "Come out of her, my people lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues." Rev 18:2-4


The "apostate church" is of Babylonian origins and counterfeit. It is different from the "mystical bride/church." Many churches under the banner of Christ worship a different God. Their God is but a soulish invention made for self preservation and comfort. If the Father God of these churches is known to burn and torture the great majority of His offspring, the soulish love practiced there is made up of dead works which is rewarded with self righteousness. And if there are young children in the congregation the ministers of these institutions should be made to register immediately at the local court house.

When will we learn that the paganistic, terroristic hell fire beast of a God is another animal and afar from the benevolent Father who is known as Love. Let us not mince words when it comes to the apostate church system. Let us paint the Narrow Way with straight lines in black and white.

It's the poor children that are dragged into these dens of spiritual iniquity that break my heart. Many will be made to ever live a life that can never appease their angry God. In their quest to find acceptance they will do much work and by varied means keep clean the outside of the cup. For these poor deluded souls, dead works and self righteousness are as the opiate feeding the fearful spirit and dampening the love craved soul.

A dozen years of serving this horrible Deity in such a hell hole, laid waste to all that was once precious in my life. Twas in the end, all purposed and for good that I might warn others. Praise God, my two children are today free from the beast and his whore.

Dear reader, what does it mean to you when Paul commands, "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them"? What does it mean to you when Paul says, "Come out from among them, and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty"?

Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. Hbr 13:12,13

In His Sweet Lord Jesus,

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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby pilgrim » Fri Nov 12, 2010 7:51 am

I'm not so sure that I could class universalism as a 'secondary doctrine'.
Most of my friends and work colleagues are not christian and it seems that the main stumbling block is the idea of joining a group of people who are made happy in the knowledge that they are saved and still happy with the understanding that the majority of humanity will (for whatever reason) wind up in ECT.

For me, the doctrine of UR cuts actually to the very nature of the God we worship.Do we worship a god who predestines most of his creation to ECT (or at the very least is content creating creatures in the knowledge that many will wind up in ECT)?
Or do we worship a God who suffers with the lost soul and continues to suffer until each and every soul is redeemed?

I now believe that many more people would be able to identify themselves as 'christian' and begin a relationship with christ, but for this horrendous stumbling block of ECT.

In addition, how many EUs are prohibited from speaking and playing a full part in their fellowships because they hold to the hope of UR?

Meeting in an EU church means that the 'Good news' becomes an entirely different level of 'Good news'. It is no longer 'good news for me, you, just us two' but it is genuinely Good News for humankind.

If we consider how the Pentecostal Church was born, it was born out of great reluctance because pentecostals were prevented from playing a full role within their fellowships. The end result (as we now can see) is that many of the 'traditional denominations' have embraced the pentecostal experience.

Just my thoughts.
the unexamined life is not worth living - Socrates
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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby Sherman » Fri Nov 12, 2010 9:41 am

Pilgrim, I'm growing to share your conclusions, that we do need universalist congregations. I doubt there would have ever been the Charismatic movement, if not for the birth of the Pentecostal churches. I've come to realize the truth of the principle stated by Jesus that one cannot pour new wine into an old wineskin without the old wineskin bursting, loosing it and the new-wine.

I've experienced this already. The church I was a part of here in Nashville seeks to be a transdenominational church, accepting for membership both Calvinists and Arminianists because of their shared faith in Christ for personal salvation. But they could not handle the concept that Jesus is actually the savior of all humanity and were not open to even considering the evidence that has led me to believe that. And even though the pastor did not believe that UR was a doctrine that need divide us, the elders and others did. So I was excluded from membership. And in order to faithfully use the teaching/preaching talent that God has given me, it looks like I'll be forced to start my own fellowship though I've always only wanted to work within existing denominations.

On the other hand, though I've tried to downplay the importance of UR to fit in and avoid persecution, the truth is, I'm increasingly seeing how much of a foundational doctrine it is. It influences how we view everything and everyone! And it especially influences how we see, understand God! God is not some tyrrant threatening us with ECT. It changes one's understanding of salvation, of judgment, of punishment for sin, etc.

One simply cannot expect to pour this new-wine into any of the old wine skins and have any positive results. Even Jesus and the apostles could not pour new wine into the existing old wine skin called Judaism. A new wine skin was needed!
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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby Paidion » Sat Nov 13, 2010 3:56 pm

Gregory MacDonald wrote:NO! To be honest the whole idea makes me shudder with horror. In the list of things that are essential for a good church, teaching universalism is WAY down on the list. Indeed, a church that formed itself to be a 'universalist' congregation makes me imagine that it would spend a lot of its time preaching about universalism and so on (forgive me if I am wrong). God spare us from that!

I want to be part of a church that is trinitarian, Christ-centred, Spirit-filled, missional and loves people. If they also happen to teach universalism (in appropriate contexts - see my post on Origen) then great. Indeed, I would like it that they did. But if they taught eternal conscious torment then I'd rather be with them than a church that was all about universalism.


If it isn't very important for a church to be universalist, why is it important that it be trinitarian? Trinitarianism as such wasn't developed until the 4th century (though there was a prototype earlier, but not widely known).

Teachers in the church of the third century taught universalism but not trinitarianism. Even the original Nicene creed contained a statement about Christ having been begotten "before all ages" (as a single event). But the revamped creed under the influence of trinitarianism changed this to "eternally begotten".
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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby Grace » Sun Nov 14, 2010 6:06 am

Mr. MacDonald's concerns are understandable. if we were to form EU congregations, there would need to be ballance. it is not hard to imagine an EU church becoming more about the theology of UR than about Biblical, Christ-centered, holy worship of God.

and if our theology becomes a potential stumbling block of pride (e.g. "i'm an EU and you believe in ECT, i know Christ and God's nature better than you do!"), that could be problematic. i'm not saying i've seen this on the forum, just that it could become a possible problem in our hearts, and our church.

imo belief in the Trinity is important. we see Trinitarian language used throughout the NT (2 Corinthians 13:14, 1 Peter 1:2), indicating that while an exact theology of the Trinity had not yet been set down, that the earliest Christians were thinking in terms of "Father, Son, Holy Spirit" in some way.

i'm kind of a subordinationist Trinitarian, myself. kind of a reconciliation between the classic, Western "one God in Three Persons" model, and a Unitarian model "One God, the Father" which would leave room to deny the deity of Christ. imo this is why a good deal of the theological conclusions passed down by Eccumenical councils is useful.
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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby amy » Sat Dec 04, 2010 12:53 am

Sherman says..
I'm increasingly seeing how much of a foundational doctrine it is. It influences how we view everything and everyone! And it especially influences how we see, understand God! God is not some tyrrant threatening us with ECT. It changes one's understanding of salvation, of judgment, of punishment for sin, etc.


I too, Sherman, am increasingly seeing how UR has influenced how I view everything and everyone, especially God. Isn't it the truth that our understanding of salvation, jugdgement, punishment of sin is significantly different and we are guilty as charged?

If the core doctrine should be increasing our faith in Christ, promoting love, increasing our love/worship of God then what advantage is there to stifling God's love as evidenced in his faithfulness to pursue us until we are found? Am I missing something to feel like UR has tremendous benefits to the believer? Perhaps I have overestimated the role UR has played in my life, that I feel significantly freed up to love God and others in a way I never could before?

Grace said...
if our theology becomes a potential stumbling block of pride (e.g. "i'm an EU and you believe in ECT, i know Christ and God's nature better than you do!"), that could be problematic.


It's been my personal experience that believing in the God of UR makes me less prideful. I see myself more in others, that they too are a person God is destined to save and will be faithful to. The heart is sinful and anything is possible, but it's hard for me to imagine how a UR perspective could lend itself to pride. The view that God only loves some in a saving way or that God is only able to save the better hearted ones seem most susceptible. Maybe I should not be saying this? Does this make me too prideful of UR, that I see it's benefits? :? (Uh oh, I fear it's late and I need to go to bed.)

If the benefit to the UR view is not significant I could see squelching it for the greater good of unity, but if indeed it has the power to change our hearts, in ways that a more limited understanding can't, then perhaps it is worth pressing? With patience,of course!

Even though many of us have sought to be genuine in our faith, have only wanted a bit of freedom to express ourselves in healthy ways, and have consistently been patient with others that don't share our hope, we've still experienced quite a bit of rejection and have wound up feeling stifled. For some of us the option to continue in mainstream evangelical churches is seeming less and less like an option.

Now that all this time has passed since Parry has come out, let more people know his true beliefs, it'd be interesting to know how, if at all, he might have changed his view on the benefit to having a UR church. From what I can pick up it seems like he still values staying in the mainstream, insisting on our evangelical status. Which may, if possible, have great benefits? It'd certainly be nice if more of the church were open to including us. Perhaps the church in England is not as harsh with those that differ on these matters as the ones here in the US?
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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby pilgrim » Sat Dec 04, 2010 3:20 am

Good post Amy, I couldn't agree more however:
Perhaps the church in England is not as harsh with those that differ on these matters as the ones here in the US?

My experience tells me there is little difference. On the other hand, I am optimistic that there is a wind of change coming.
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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby JasonPratt » Sat Dec 04, 2010 7:57 am

It wouldn't only be one new denomination, of course. It would be four or six or more (even if some were much smaller in membership than the others.)

The theological distinctions between unitarianism (so-called), modalism and trinitarianism, are very serious--and that doesn't even count some major distinctions about the nature of the Son and his relationship with God and creation among unitarians. We try here at EU to be accomodating to modalists and unitarian Christians, so long as they're polite in discussion (ditto trinitarians ;) ), but the original leadership had to take a strong stand on one kind of theology in order to have a base to work from (which is why the founding members are mostly trinitarian and why they invited trinitarian guest authors like myself, Robin and Tom, to help originally give theological shape to the board)--and more to the point, this isn't a church for worship. We can all agree to worship the Father; the problem comes in whether or not we're supposed to be worshiping the Son and the Spirit (and/or seeking salvation from them), and if so how and to what degree.

So that's three or even more distinct denominations right there. And that's before we get to the question of God's wrath: does God do no wrath at all?--no wrath anymore? (and is that anymore after Christ, or after the Temple?)--wrath but only in this life, not in the Day of the Lord to come?--wrath in the Day to come, but God will surely succeed in saving all souls from sin? (and does all souls include demons, or do demons not exist to be saved in the first place?)--wrath in the Day to come, but we can't be sure God will eventually succeed in saving all souls? (which would still be universalism so long as God is persistently acting to do so)--wrath in the Day to come, and we can be sure God never will succeed in saving at least some souls from sin (which would still be universalism so long as God still eternally acts to do so)? All these positions could potentially (and even actually?) be multiplied by the number of Christologies.

And that doesn't even count theologies like Von Balthasar, or the identical Protestant positions recently discussed here (exemplified by Bro. Punt), which go the next step toward hopelessness by affirming that God may or surely will give up acting to save everyone sooner or later (i.e. Arminianism) but which wants to call itself "biblical universalism" by virtue of God's original intention and action (to save?--or only to provide a possibility for the soul to save itself??) in universal scope, as well as by virtue of at least a nominal wave of assent in the direction of biblical testimony to God's universal persistence (though this ends up being denied after all). But those people think they can claim "biblical universalism" distinct from an Arminianism category by acknowledging the persistence a little more than Arms generally do while still denying it really means persistence.


We have to take doctrines other than universalism seriously, because if we don't then, well, there's already a denomination that doesn't take any doctrine seriously other than universalism (in the shallowest broadest sense possible at that): the Unitarian Universalists. Who aren't even doctrinally unitarian in any way!! They may be very nice people, but I wouldn't go there to worship (I would sooner go to a real unitarian church to do so--I would sooner go to a Mormon church to do so!); and I have not yet met one vocal member here who thinks the UUs are right to be doing what they do in the way they treat theology and truth.

But taking doctrines seriously means making decisions about what to believe, in one way or at least one set of ways and definitely not in other ways.

Sure, I could start up a new universalist Christian denomination tomorrow. But I would start it up in regard to beliefs other than universalism that I not only consider true but important--beliefs that will conflict with what other Christian universalists consider to be both true and important. And if someone else wanted to start up a new universalist denomination, I would think seriously about what kind of universalism they were preaching (or even if I could honestly consider it universalism), and about what other theological doxologies (right-representations of God) they were preaching, and whether I could agree with that, and if so how far (or not), before I joined that congregation.


What I'm saying, is that it isn't as simple as "forming universalist congregations". I'm loath to bring even one more denomination into the world (even though I think about doing so sometimes). Would bringing another six or dozen or twenty denominations into the world really be the best way to be salt and light and leaven in the dough?

I have doubts about that.
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Re: Should we form universalist congregations?

Postby pilgrim » Sat Dec 04, 2010 2:59 pm

Sure, I could start up a new universalist Christian denomination tomorrow.

I've written a terrific sermon on the subject of humility but it remains undelivered because I haven't yet found a large enough congregation worthy of its reception.
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