Thursday, November 10, 2005

Universalism: Hopeful or otherwise?

Dusty will probably roll his eyes when he reads this, as I've assumed the role of a "hopeful universalist" for well over a year now. Some of you know, my current situation is one of very little inherent academic stimulation, as I've been working an extremely blue-collar job as a maintenance technician at an apartment complex. This job, temporary as it may be, has brought me into contact with some really raw people, and has caused me to reevaluate my theology of salvation. Here's where I waveringly stand. (And I'm the type of guy who loves feedback which challenge/oppose my views... so go ahead).

Let's just simplify my universalist views into a neat, 3-pronger. First, how can I choose salvation, when I didn't choose my sinful nature. Romans 5:12 talks about how sin entered the world through one man, and thus through one man, salvation entered the world. It seems incongruent to say, "Adam sinned, therefore I have a sinful nature," but also "salvation comes only to those who say 'Yes' to Jesus's gift of life." If Christ really is the second Adam (that is, the reversal of the curse), everyone must be covered in this grace.

Second, lets think eschatologically. Can two separate realms exist eternally? Do not even Calvinist and Arminianist theology hold to the understanding that God will obliterate Satan and evil in the end of all things? Under this belief, one must either believe God will redeem all people (eventually), or that He annihilates all evil, including the condemned. mmmm... anihilationism.... so dark.

Third, lets play the emotional card. There's nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Jesus... I believe this applies for all of God's children, whether walking in hope or hopelessness. If God truly did love the world (nevermind Robert H. Gundry's poor exegesis on the Gospel of John), He wouldn't allow us to terminate ourselves out of ignorance. My mom told me the other day that she lets her kids decide their own path (which I believe is a very loving gesture). She added, that she would only intervene if the child were drowning in their own bad choices. I believe this is also a loving gesture. God allows us to walk either with or without him on earth. He allows us to choose to walk in His ways, which are higher, or to walk in darkness. Hell, I believe, is a state of hopelessness found here on earth, where Satan has control (though limited). Would a loving parent intervene when his child is wandering into traffic? I think so, and I believe God, who wants none to perish, will have that final word.

Thoughts?

6 Comments:

At 11/10/2005 8:59 PM, Blogger Dusty said...

Rolling my eyes? I am still wondering when I will get my Damn book back!

Good thoughts, glad you are on here now!

This place is only getting better...But I think hopeful Universalism is all I will ascribe to..which, let's face it...Isn't really ascribing to much...

Peace

 
At 11/11/2005 10:18 AM, Blogger Dan Baker said...

GReatThoughts, and great to know where you are at in life.

I would like to encourage/challenge you. And if anything sounds really good, like I know what I am talking about its only because I am taking a RElgious pluralism class at Trinity and there a bunch of PhD student in teh class that do tha same thing to me.

I think it is always good to lean towards hopeful optimism. I like the direction of looking at God through the relationship of parents to Children. What I would challenge you to clarify is the way in which one would ultimately come to salvation. There are many hoops that can be added or removed inorder to get to Salvation, but is it ultimately through Christ? In other words, If one does not have some sort of conscious reaction or response to Christ, whether they know that name or not, can your view still be consistent with what scripture says about salvation?

If that doesn't make snese ignore me. If it does , I hope it helps...

It helps me to think through your thoughts...

 
At 11/11/2005 2:27 PM, Blogger Jake Sikora said...

hey guys. a couple of thoughts on salvation.

-The example of your mother can only be stretched so far because God is perfect love. This is what you're arguing afterall. If God is perfect love God would never let people destroy themselves. Your analogy suggests that you are helplessly stuck, can't do anything about. Of course a loving parent will provide a way out, this is what happens in the divine action toward salvation, God lovingly offers aid for those who cannot help themselves. However, the perfect love of God is manifest insofar as this opportunity is included for all (your exegesis of Romans is correct here), the salvific work of Christ applies to all creation (more on this in a moment). At the same time, assuming a view of freedom wherein God allowed us to get into the mess in the first place, the perfect love of God is faithful to that freedom to its conclusion, specfically allowing us to reject the love of God. A better analogy is a parent who's child is addicted to something. The parent can provide all the possible ways out for the child but the very nature of the situation requires the child to accept these options. Or is it more loving for the parent to kidnap the child and force them into rehab?

-Perhaps the universalism discussion can only arise out of the same broken understanding of salvation that makes the hyper calvin exclusive view possible. In both, salvation is about heaven and hell, is about people, and is about mechanics. Let me shortly explain: We're asking "who is going to heaven and who is going to hell and how is God going to decide?" As far as I can tell, this has nothing/very little to do with biblical salvation. Paul talks more about the salvation of the cosmos than of individuals, the election of Israel over the election of individual souls, and the new earth more than the escape of the soul. Paul's comments throughout Romans cannot be read the way we have read them lately. Instead, we have to understand a God who is truely universal, and in that concerned with the salvation of the universe, not "all people." Surely God wishes for all of creation to be redeemed. No doubt there is a dimension of this that deals with humanity.

-To this end I will offer simply a couple of words toward thinking about this issue differently. What we know from scripture is that God is at work reconciling the cosmos to Godself. This happens in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Dan, trinity is right to teach you that salvation comes only through Christ. But it has nothing to do with conscious utterings by people. Instead, God has set the world right, Jesus is Lord of all. Some people are in line with this, most are not. What will happen in the end? How many will be where and how? These are questions like "who will sit at the right hand" because they are asking wrongly. The housing arrangements of eternity are irrelevant. Soteriology should be more about our relating to the cosmic renewal at work through Jesus Christ. In such, each life is sacred, demanding a radical reordering of our way of seeing others away from "saved or not." This is our call to discipleship following Jesus which is all the "how" of salvation we need to know. If you want to know about "the end" here's what you get: Jesus Christ will be Lord over all. That's it.

 
At 11/11/2005 2:47 PM, Blogger Dan Baker said...

If I am understanding you correctly Jake Ithink that I agree, I normally do agree with you. I do think that we interpret this question and the scripture pertaining to this question way too individualistically. But, We do live in a very, very, individualistic culture. Not that we should cater our theology to our culture. But our theology should be able to interact with our culture, I'm sure you would agree. And hopefully provide, or point in the right direction to answers for theological questions. So what does JonAmos' more universal/hopeful view of salvation meen for teh individual's understanding. My only point is to be sure to emphasize that, no matter how universal or hopeful you would like to be with salvation, if you do not include Christ(whether known by this name or some other non-western mode of revelation or evangelism) as a neccesary point of interaction, then you cannot have a distinctly Christian salvation. This opens the door for a Hick-like pluralism (John Hick).

 
At 11/11/2005 3:03 PM, Blogger Jake Sikora said...

Dan, your concern about avoiding Hick is right on, however let's look at the game we start playing. First you have to give an account of those who have never heard. Maybe you propose some sort of soul evangelism or faithfully following whatever degree of God they know. But then you have to deal with those who were evangelized by military forces. I.E. willfully rejected the gospel because the missionary was evil. Then you have to make an account for the person who rejected the gospel because their parents were christian and abusive. what about the person who "accepts Christ" but has an entirely false understanding of God. The list goes on and on and on wherein the salvation through "christ alone" is really an account of how each individual is saved. the content of this soteriology is not Christ but rather human appropriation.

I don't agree with your first point, at least in principle. Yes, our society is extremely individualistic, no we don't have to craft soteriology based on this. This is where I'm still evangelical; I'm more than willing to just tell people their wrong here. When someone is asking about the eternal salvation of their soul our job is not to accomadate the gospel to this heresy but rather to say "you are asking the wrong question." If someone asked "how is God three and one" we should not accomidate the divine reality to the mathmatical assumptions in the question, but rather inform them that math has nothing to do with it. My point is this, if someone asks me "how can I be saved" i would tell them to read the gospels and do whatever Jesus says and to join a church. beyond that i'm counting on the rest of you to not screw them up at that point.

 
At 11/11/2005 4:22 PM, Blogger Dan Baker said...

I think that we are talking past each other here. I agree with what your most recent post says. Let me clarify the point that you are objecting to. 1 Cor. 9:22 and Acts 17, Pall talks about how is accomadating the people that he is attempting to reach. This is more what I am talking about. I am not saying that we should change teh gospel so that differetn people can accept it, but simply that we change our approach so that we might remove as many obstacles to teh true gospel being heard. I am not saying we should preach an individualized gospel, but rather that some of us need to know how to preach the gospelin a way that can best be heard by a person that is used to taking all new information adn applying it individually.

 

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