Friday, 25 October 2013

Universalism in a nutshell

Everybody wants to go to heaven and they come up with some amazing theology to ensure that they can rest easy

Well it seems that for some there's no 'but' involved because they are 'Universalists'. One of those whom I know (and love) holds the view that Jesus, having died for everyone, guarantees that all are now destined for heaven. They contend that it whether you have a faith or not, regardless of how you have lived, you are 'in' - Faith in Jesus is not a requirement for us to be 'saved'.

When I point to John 3.16: 'For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life,' I am told that I believe this because I have too high a Christology!

The same criticism (too high a Christology) is thrown at me when I come to John 14.5,6: 'Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me'.

I feel that the two passages conspire together to make for a message that says that whilst Jesus did indeed die for everyone, there is an element of recognition and reception required. The ticket to the game is yours but unless you take it and journey towards it, you will never get to see it - the same is true of eternity (as I understand it) for jesus is the turnstile by which we enter.

The second group I encounter tell me that regardless of what we do in this life, we have a second chance - a post-mortem salvation opportunity - once we have left it. It's like Jesus wakes us up, tells us that we've died and asks if we'd like to reconsider our rejection of God and come into heaven. Now, if I was dead and was 'woken' with an offer like that I'd be a bit of a mug to pass it by, wouldn't I?

My struggle here is that the words of Hebrews 9.26-28:
'But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.'

I am of the understanding, thanks to this passage, that we live - die (once)  - and are then judged and to be honest, the wake you up from the dead / second chance bit appears to be a conveniently created accommodation to me. Mind you, like the first option, I can understand it as after all, who wants to think of loved ones not making it? Then again both mean that one of the benchmarks many use when challenging me about faith, grace and forgiveness, namely Hitler, makes it into heaven using them I reckons - so it wouldn't sit well with many inside or outside the Church!

An interesting aside to this is the belief some have that hell is but a temporary condition and that whilst serving our time there the opportunity for parole and release into heaven will be made ours at some time - so all may sin and continue to fall short - but in the end it doesn't matter!


Some tell me that what matters is the moment of death - as long as you call on god with you're last breath then this bringing of god into your life, regardless of how short or even what god is called - the general concept of there being a god is enough or so one of my clergy colleagues tells me! I think that there has to be a little more than this but then again they base their view on the the passage that says (Joel 2.32): 'And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.'

But in doing so are speaking of calling upon god rather than God and when you consider that the word LORD (for the upper case) means 'YAWEH' - it is a specific name not a general name 'elohim' - then we can see that the idea of calling on god as the entry into the afterlife is merely a wistful, fingers crossed, bit of being hopeful!


So at the moment I have to say that that leaves me thinking that that's three strikes and those who pin their hopes on something more for having lived as something less than God calls us to be will now have to sit down.

I think I regard this issue as residing in a place where I have a clue about some people from their professions and attempts to live as the Bible requires but even then I won't be sure until the end - and then I might only know because I'm outside and know who's out there with me and assuming those who aren't have made the cut.

Thankfully we don't have the right, or ability, to say who is in or not and I actually reckon that's the best way - I'm not concerned with judging people but helping them to be the best they can be and to keep God's laws and commandments and live in love and peace with all.

At the end of the day, as I understand it,  it all comes down to being:

i. Reconciled to God by the atoning death of Jesus, the Christ,

ii. Living a life that keeps the commandments and lives in peace with all, and

iii. Recognising that we are all fallen and sinful and not regarding ourselves as better than those around us but as brothers and sisters with them.

There are some who seem to take joy in those whom they consider to be 'out' whilst of course they are (or so they think) 'in' and this is wrong on so many levels. And for those who want to see God as a Father Christmas figure who have presents for everyone, even when they've actively kept away from His presence - good luck with that. As much as I would like to agree I'm afraid that my theology doesn't fit in with that - sorry, I think you're wrong too!

So here we are - a very simplistic explanation of some of the thinking around eternity - hopefully it will provide a basis for some deeper dialogue and thinking.


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