Sunday, February 3, 2013

Things they'll never teach you in church 2- Universalism

Universalism..sounds like some hippy new age thing. In a way it is... since Christian universalists believe that all people will go to heaven and then be at one and at peace with God and the universe in an everlasting stream of joy. Okay, so I lied...basically universalism is variations on the belief that everyone will be saved. Some don't believe in hell at all, some believe that those who go to hell will be saved if they repent and some believe that you will only be in hell for a period of time based on your sins.

As you all are part of the 21st ADHD century I've attached a short video for you so you don't get bored by all the text:


Now if you're familiar with the debate over Rob Bell, you will realise that while his accusers claim he is a universalist, he himself rejects that. I haven't read his book-as that would be merely enforcing the idea that just because some guy has nice clothes and is charismatic enough to get many people to meet with him on Sundays every week makes that person an expert in the Bible - so I can't comment. His statements however, are generally favoured towards the universalist.

I'm not here to be an apologist for them but here is a few points for you to think about (oh wait I'm lying again):

(1) There is no mention of the word hell in the old testament, and in fact many Jews up to this day don't have a concept of Hell. Hell did appear in some Jewish texts however, once they came into contact with the Babylonians (I believe? I'm a bit rusty) who surprise surprise do have a concept of an eternal lake of fire.

(2) While Jesus does talk a lot about hell, it's always towards the Jews and rarely described as everlasting. That's like Jesus coming back today and telling all the Christians they're going to hell.

(3) Interestingly the famous parable of Lazarus which Hell defenders like to use, actually uses the word Hades which is supposed to be a neutral place which all people go to. Which I think raises some deep theological point I can't comprehend.

(4) The apostles don't talk about hell, which you would think was a pretty big thing to miss out (and also a key evangelistic tool they would have wasted)? It's like telling you how great McDonalds is without telling you they have great burgers- okay, now maybe that's an  exaggeration.

(5) Some of the early church fathers were universalists- Origin and Clement of Alexandria (there must have been some weird stuff going on in Alexandria) and also Gregory of Nyssa. In fact, when Tertullian- the guy who wasn't smart enough to argue with philosophers and told his followers they were just wrong- decided to write a seminal article on heresies...universalism was not one of them.

(6) hell doesn't appear on any of the Church's creeds until the Athanasian creed in the 500s.

For those of you who have the attention span longer than that of a two year old, here is a brief article:


P.S. for those of you who argue that Hell must exist eternally, if not people like Hitler would be forgiven, don't you think that it's even more unjust that if Hitler had repented at the end of his life (even if honest repentance) he would then be eternally saved...rather than God having the ability to set the periods of punishment according to his crimes? It's like having a court system which can only either give the death penalty or release the accused. Actually I think the republicans would rather like that idea.


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