Problems with Universalism, Part 1

The doctrine of universal salvation is plagued by theological difficulties. Even more important, it offers untenable interpretations of a large number of biblical texts. In part 1 of this series I will address the theological problems of universalism. In part 2 I will look at its exegetical problems.

Universalism’s major theological problem is that it denies the freedom of God’s grace and makes human salvation a moral obligation for God. If the way universalists argue their case is correct, then God could have done nothing other than save all morally corrupt sentient beings (fallen angels and humanity). Had he done otherwise, he would have compromised his justice severely.

This is what Friend (a universalist who commented on the previous post) wrote:

“Since Scripture reveals God to be all-powerful, all-wise and all-loving, how can any of us really accept that this powerful, wise and loving God will fail to save all, but instead, will punish the great majority of mankind in a terrible hell, and that without any remedial purpose?”

This is exactly the kind of presupposition that we must not bring to Scripture, because it is a presupposition that places an obligation on God. Historically, the church has long taught that grace is, by definition, a free gift of God, not an obligation. Arguments about the love of God that universalists employ hoist a philosophical perspective on what kind of love God must have, and to what extent he must show it. But this is to stack the deck before ever looking at the text of Scripture. Talbott does this in his chapter in the book Perspectives on Election. Actually, Talbott would disagree with me, arguing that he takes the statement “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16) as his theological paradigm to understand the nature of God’s love. However, the statement in and of itself must be interpreted in its Johannine context, and this is something Talbott does not address with any kind of adequacy. Instead, he immediately proceeds to erect a philosophical definition of the love of God that goes something like this:

If God is love, then he must love all people and angels in exactly the same way to the highest degree.
God is love.
Therefore, God loves all people and angels in exactly the same way to the highest degree.

The funny thing about this is how Talbott stumbles so ridiculously over the clear teaching of Scripture. Somehow, he argues that God’s statement, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” (Malachi 1; quoted in Romans 9) actually means, “Jacob I loved, and Esau I loved the same.” He is working with an a priori definition of the love of God, one that obligates God to save humanity. This presupposition leads him to the most fanciful kinds of exegetical gymnastics. Given his theological methodology, however, this is not surprising. Talbott says that, up front, he will reject any teaching that strikes him as “darkness.” It is no wonder we see exegetical gymnastics when we come to difficult passages that would strike just about any Western, democratically inclined mind as “darkness.”

I don’t have the book handy right now, but I also remember a number of statements made by Talbott to this effect: if even one person remains unreconciled to God for eternity, that will call everything else (God’s love, God’s justice) into question. Again, this is telling God the way it has to be instead of bowing before him as an undeserving sinner and thanking him that, though he could have justly left the entire human race in sin and sent us all to hell, he freely chose to make his glory known through the redemption of some. The first lesson in salvation is this: God didn’t have to do it. Universalists don’t seem to understand this.

I think Karl Barth’s driving concern to protect the freedom of God is what kept him from becoming a clear, open advocate of universalism. Many of Barth’s statements lead us to believe that he advocated universal redemption, but in the end he would not come out unambiguously on the issue because for him, to do so would be to limit God with an obligation above himself. Now, I believe God does have obligations (Barth would probably disagree). God is obligated to be true to his holy character. He is obligated to keep his Word. But he is not obligated to save anyone. What I mean by this is that he is not obligated to save us unless he obligates himself. I believe he has obligated himself to the elect through his own freely spoken, sovereign word of promise. But he could have refrained from making these promises and still have been completely just, holy, righteous, and yes, even loving (Love has been expressed eternally to an infinite degree within the Trinity; even if all humanity spent eternity in hell, love within the Trinity would not change.). I doubt that Talbott would agree with that statement, and that is why his version of universalism leads to a massive theological problem.

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15 Responses to “Problems with Universalism, Part 1”

  1. Friend Says:

    Dear Aaron

    You wrote: < << The doctrine of universal salvation is plagued by theological difficulties. >>>

    No, the doctrine of universal salvation is not plagued by theological difficulties, as long as 2Tim.2:13 and 2Tim.2:15 are properly obeyed.

    From now on, I will place your comments, to which I am replying, within the following markers: “< << >>>”.

    < << Even more important, it offers untenable interpretations of a large number of biblical texts. >>>

    Again, I respectfully disagree.

    < << Universalism's major theological problem is that it denies the freedom of God's grace and makes human salvation a moral obligation for God. >>>

    I do not speak for other Scriptural Universalists — just myself. It would be the very height of presumptuousness for me to even suggest WHAT God is allowed to do or not do. However, I am convinced that it is my duty to believe His every word.

    From a previous post, you correctly quoted me, as follows: “Since Scripture reveals God to be all-powerful, all-wise and all-loving, how can any of us really accept that this powerful, wise and loving God will fail to save all, but instead, will punish the great majority of mankind in a terrible hell, and that without any remedial purpose?”

    Then you commented: < << This is exactly the kind of presupposition that we must not bring to Scripture, because it is a presuposition that places an obligation on God. >>>

    Again, call it a presupposition or whatever, but I do not at all wish to do anything so repugnant as to place an obligation on God. All I am doing is taking Him at His own words.

    < << Arguments about the love of God that universalists employ hoist a philosophical perspective on what kind of love God must have, and to what extent he must show it. >>>

    Words are easy to come by. In reality, love is as love does. I whole heartedly accept that God, essentially and intrinsically IS LOVE! It strikes me that Calvinists and Arminianists indulge in philosophical reasoning that God’s love can manifest itself as utter fiendishness, as well as great benevolence, simultaneously, for all eternity.

    If that is sensible, why, pray tell, did the Lord Jesus reason with his hearers, in Matthew 7:11, and say, “If you, then, being wicked, have perceived how to be giving good gifts to your children, how much rather shall your Father Who is in the heavens be giving good things to those requesting Him?”

    It is not to be ignored that God has endowed us with a heart mind and soul for the purpose that we might get to know Him and for Him to become our ALL, intelligently, eagerly and voluntarily.

    For that reason, I believe that God has revealed it to be His will that all mankind is to be saved and is to come to a thorough knowledge of the truth, concerning His Greatness and our own nothingness (1Tim.2:4).

    The other “universal” texts, which I will show again, reveal the heart and mind of God, very clearly and straightforwardly: John 1:29, John 12:32, Rom.3:21-23, Rom.5:18,19, Rom.11:32-36, 1Cor.15:20-28, Eph.1:9-11, Eph.1:22-23; Phil.2:5-11, Col.1:20, 1Tim.4:9-11, 1John 2:2.

    I will let Mr. Talbott speak for himself. There are a number of things that I would not state as he has expressed them, although, I very much agree with Him that God will save all mankind, eventually. As I already have said, I believe the writers associated with the Concordant Publishing Concern to be more Scriptural than Mr. Talbott. For instance, Mr. Talbott believes man to have a free will. None of the people connected with the CPC, nor myself, believe such, at all.

    Let me repeat, God is not first and foremost saving us for our sakes, but for His Name and Fame sake (cp Eze.36:22ff).

    Friend

  2. Aaron Says:

    Friend,

    I believe your actual words betray you. On the one hand, you deny that you place any obligations on God to save anyone, and then you say things like this:

    “Words are easy to come by. In reality, love is as love does. I whole heartedly accept that God, essentially and intrinsically IS LOVE! It strikes me that Calvinists and Arminianists indulge in philosophical reasoning that God’s love can manifest itself as utter fiendishness, as well as great benevolence, simultaneously, for all eternity.”

    First, I would argue that philosophical reasoning does not lead us to this conclusion. Scripture does. It is philosophical reasoning that leads one to say, a priori, what God’s love can and cannot be. But that is beside the point.

    What you are saying in the above quote is that if any person is eternally lost (as in the Calvinist and Arminian systems), then God’s love has become “utter fiendishness.” I take that to mean that, should God allow anyone to be lost eternally, God would be an unloving fiend. This clearly implies that he is morally obligated to save all; if he does not save all, he is an unloving fiend whose character has been tainted.

    It is one thing to say that Scripture teaches universalism (I will deal with that in an upcoming post). It is quite another thing to say that anything other than universalism makes God a monster. That is, in fact, to place a moral obligation upon God to save everyone. It is take grace away from his free decision and make it a criterion for his moral equity.

  3. Friend Says:

    Dear Aaron,

    Please know that imposing any kind of obligation on the only true God (John 17:3) is the furthest thing from my mind. Anyone having even a smidgen of a realization who we are in comparison to Him, shudders at the thought of doing such a thing!

    My conviction is based on what God, Himself, has revealed in His word concerning the salvation of all mankind (1Tim.2:4). The following Scriptures confirm this: Rom.3:21-23; Rom.5:18,19; Rom.11:32-36; 1Cor.15:20-28; Phil.2:5-11; Col.1:15-20; 1Tim.4:9-11.

    In Jeremiah 7:31 and in Jeremiah 19:5-6, we have God’s own thoughts and feelings expressed about “Hell” (Gehenna), with respect to what was done by Israel in the Valley of Hinnom. He declared that such He had not commanded, neither had it come into His heart and into His mind. Yet, Christendom ascribes to Him something ever so much worse than what Israel did, because, according to its theology, He will see to it that His victims will never cease to feel the pain and agony of Gehenna.

    Jer 7:31 And they have built the high places of Tophet, which [is] in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire; WHICH I COMMANDED [THEM] NOT, NEITHER CAME IT INTO MY HEART. (Capitals added for the sake of emphasis)

    Jer 19:5-6 They have built also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire [for] burnt offerings unto Baal, WHICH I COMMANDED NOT, NOR SPAKE [IT]. NEITHER CAME [IT] INTO MY MIND: (:6) Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that this place shall no more be called Tophet, nor The valley of the son of Hinnom, but The valley of slaughter.

    Actually, Calvinism and Arminianism (not necessarily every Calvinists and Arminianists) is saying that God is capable of doing two diametrically opposite things to His creatures for all eternity, while maintaining that He, essentially and intrinsically, IS LOVE.

    In retrospect, in my earlier post, I should have made it clear that when anyone asserts that hell is the destiny of many of mankind, that then, in my opinion, we are not anymore speaking about the plan and purpose of the God of Scripture.

    Yet, in spite of the limitations of this kind of communication, I realize that, in a certain sense, both of us are speaking about the God, Who is revealing Himself in Scripture. However, the moment hell is associated with Him, I wish to make it clear that, for me, we have switched to talking about a different God. I would not deem the “god of hell” worthy of the capital “G”. As far as I am concerned, then, we are speaking about a very different god than the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the “god of Hell,” whom I consider to be a fiend worse than any that has been conjured up by paganism.

    You wrote: < << It is take grace away from his free decision and make it a criterion for his moral equity >>>

    I’m sorry, but I’m not sure what you were aiming to express in the above quoted sentence.

    Please know that during this Administration of Grace (Eph.3:2,9), one’s salvation is not based on the purity and correctness of one’s theology, but solely on the grace (unmerited favor) of God. In other words, I am accepting every Calvinist and Arminianist as a fellow believer and as a fellow member of the Body of Christ, in the awareness that “The Lord knows those who are his” (2Tim.2:19)

    Friend

  4. Aaron Says:

    “However, the moment hell is associated with Him, I wish to make it clear that, for me, we have switched to talking about a different God. I would not deem the “god of hell” worthy of the capital “G”. As far as I am concerned, then, we are speaking about a very different god than the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the “god of Hell,” whom I consider to be a fiend worse than any that has been conjured up by paganism.”

    Again, you are merely proving my point, though I don’t think you quite understand my point. (Maybe that’s why you are so readily proving it). Let me try one more time: you are saying that, if God sends anyone to Hell, his character is tainted. THEREFORE, GOD HAS A MORAL OBLIGATION TO SAVE EVERYBODY BECAUSE NOT TO DO SO WOULD TAINT HIS CHARACTER. This, as I have argued, violates the first lesson of our salvation: GOD DID NOT HAVE TO SAVE ANYONE AT ALL!

    (Sorry to yell like that, but I feel kind of like Chris Tucker in “Rush Hour” where he says, “DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE WORDS THAT ARE COMING OUT OF MY MOUTH?”)

    As for the Valley of Hinnom, you are committing another fallacy with that argument, precisely the fallacy that I identified in my previous post: saying that, if a human being can’t do something, therefore God can’t do it either. But there are many things God does that we are forbidden to do.

    In any case, what God abhorred about the Israelites burning their children in the Valley of Hinnom was that it was a pagan worship practice devoted to false gods, and it involved murder. The doctrine of Hell does not involve any of these elements; therefore, there is no moral equivalence between the Israelites burning their children and God condemning someone to Hell.

  5. Ali Says:

    Hang on, hang on, you two! I think you are talking past each other a little.

    Aaron, Friend’s contention is that his understanding of God has come from reading Scripture, i.e., as he reads it, Scripture says God will not send anyone to an eternity in hell. Once Friend established that for himself, he then denies any other understanding as unscriptural and no longer the God of the Bible, but a cruel characiture (how do you spell that?) and adopts emotional presuppositions to support that conclusion.

    Friend, Aaron is picking up your emotional rejection of what you consider unscriptural. Because you are not sticking to sentences like, “the Calvinist and Arminian conceptions of God are not Scriptural” but are instead adding sentences like, “I would not deem the ‘god of hell’ worthy of the capital ‘G'”, Aaron is saying you are determining what God can be like.

    The truth is that everyone has presuppositions. I don’t think, Friend, that you came to your conclusions without any, and neither, Aaron, have you. But unless you both allow the other to have formed their views at least to some degree by the Scriptural evidence, this is going to be a very short conversation.

    BTW, I agree with Aaron’s interpretation of Scripture, but I am curious how Friend came to his conclusions through Scripture.

  6. Aaron Says:

    Ali,

    I agree that we all have presuppositions, but again let me reiterate my point: the universalist lays a moral obligation upon God to save all of mankind. That is a faulty theological presupposition that denies the freedom of God’s grace.

    Let me try to illustrate how this is not just a case of one presupposition versus another but a real theological problem. I will use my own position as an example.

    I am a Calvinist. I believe God has elected some to eternal salvation unconditionally and has passed over others. But I am NOT going to say that it could NOT have been otherwise. God very well could have elected everybody, or he could have elected nobody. Whatever he chose to do, he would have been completely just in doing it.

    Universalists don’t argue this way. They pretty much say, “Either God saves everyone, or he is not worthy of my worship at all!” Friend has already pretty much said this, though not in so many words. By the way, Friend, I would be careful about making strong claims like that. What if you are wrong? What if God really will send people to Hell? Then you have just blasphemed him.

    I realize that Friend is basing his argument on Scripture, and I respect that. Like I said, I will deal with that later. But for now I am just looking at the fact that universalists, as they typically argue their case, have a major theological problem in that they not only say, “This is what Scripture teaches,” but also, “This is the way it absolutely has to be; it could not have been otherwise. If it had been otherwise, God would be a monster.” Calvinists and Arminians don’t say that.

  7. Friend Says:

    Dear Aaron,

    With all due respect, your tactic is to totally discredit me by saying that I am telling God what He is and what He is not allowed to do. That is below par, as well as preposterous, beyond measure.

    I know there is a great, strategic advantage, if you can successfully portray me as a rebel and as one who has not a grain of sense as to how to respect God, before we come to discuss Scripture, itself.

    Be it known, that my deep respect and awe, as well as my wholehearted faith and love for God is squarely and solidly based on HIS WORD, not on my thoughts, my feelings, my likes and my dislikes. At the same time, it is for a very important purpose that He has given us a basic measure of sensibility.

    Although God is infinitely greater and higher than His creation, it is His expressed purpose to reveal Himself to us, who are made in His image to become in His likeness. For that purpose, He has equipped us with faculties of heart, mind and soul.

    If we are to accept that His love is of that nature that it can send billions into hell without any remedial purpose, then, why not simply swallow everything, whether it makes any sense or not? However, His word reveals that “God gives us, not a spirit of timidity, but of power and of love and of sanity.” (CLNT)

    I’m sorry, but the concept of hell, is utterly insane and is not Scriptural.

    A number of years ago, I wrote the following short article:

    Why Did God Create the Universe?

    For believers in God and in His holy word, it should be inconceivable that there is not a sensible, definite purpose for God having created the cosmos. What Scripture passages may we resort to for receiving clarity on this topic? A closely associated challenge is to find an answer to the question, “Did sin and evil come into God’s universe against His intention?” It would seem that an intelligent consensus on these all important issues would greatly help us to become more nobly focused in our study and fellowship.

    At the outset, the Bible does not tell us, in so many words, why God created the universe. However, in 1Cor.15:24-28, we receive purposeful information concerning our topic. Here we are told that at the end (consummation), when Christ will have completed His task of bringing all into subjection, that then, God, the Father, will become ALL in all (:28). From this, we know WHY God created the universe, don’t we?

    It is noteworthy to see what it says in Job.38:7. When we check the context of this verse, it is clear that when God created the earth, the sons of God shouted for joy. Creation was an impressive manifestation of God’s wisdom (His “Head”) and His power (His “Hand”). But the Scriptures tell us that God is LOVE (1John 4:8 & 16). By creating a vast, immeasurable universe, filled with all kinds of great and beautiful things, God was able to clearly reveal His wisdom (His “Head”) and His power (His “Hand”), but not His LOVE (His “HEART”). Love is an abstract commodity which can not be created or revealed, instantly, but must be demonstrated, or acted out.

    It is axiomatic, that love longs for a love response. Therefore, it is easy to see that it would not be enough for God to reveal his wisdom and power, only. An admiration for His wisdom and power would not satisfy the love (the “heart”) of God. This necessitated a plan by which God would be able to show that He, indeed, is love. This made a temporary estrangement between God and His creatures, a must. To make a long story short, God arranged it for His creatures to be in dire need of His grace (GRACE is LOVE in ACTION).

    In order for God to convince even the most sceptic of His creatures, it was necessary that the demonstration of His love would be beyond question. Well, we know what happened! God gave His dearest, the Son of His Love (Col.1:13; Rom.5:8).

    In brief, this is the basic purpose for the travail of the ages. At the end (the consummation) of the ages, all in heaven and on earth will be reconciled to God through the blood of the cross (Col.1:20). On Golgotha, God revealed the depth of His “Heart,” His LOVE. At the consummation of the ages, all intelligent creatures, in heaven and on earth, will voluntarily, from the depth of their heart, worship God and acclaim Him as their ALL.

    God won’t force anyone to worship and acclaim Him. Such would not satisfy the hunger of His heart! But He will arrange it through circumstances, judgments and the giving of His Spirit, that everyone will respond to His love with a wholehearted love response.

    That is the GOOD NEWS we may share and rejoice in!!

    In response to the question, whether sin came into this universe contrary to God’s intentions, let us consider the following:

    If God is omnipotent (almighty), omniscient (knowing all) and omnipresent (everywhere); and has as His objective to become All in all (1Cor.15:28), then it is impossible to accept that evil and sin came into this universe without God’s intention that it, temporarily, should be present.

    It must be stressed that if evil and sin (that is, the consequences of it in the form of eternal torment, or everlasting annihilation) are to remain a permanent feature of God’s work of creation, then it is impossible for 1Cor.15:28c to become a glorious reality.

    God has endowed us with intelligence. Common sense will tell us if God set out to become ALL in all, and succeeds to do so in only a small percentage (the great majority to end up in hell, according to popular theology), then it may be asked if He can become ALL in ANY of His intelligent creatures? Then, God can be likened unto the man who set out to build a tower, but failed to finish it, as we can read in Luke 14:28-30. Here is the passage:

    Luke 14:28-30 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? (:29) For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, (:30) saying, `This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ “

    I cannot accept that God did not “sit down” and do what Scripture, in Luke 14, recommends we do. No, God will not fail in His objective and will not expose Himself to the ridicule of everybody saying, “This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.” I think it to be obvious that God will succeed most magnificently, to His glory and to the well being of all His creatures.

    This we also know from the statements in 1Pet.1:19-20 and Rev.13:8, where it speaks of the Lamb of God, foreordained and slain before sin entered this world. This tells us that God had SOLVED the problem of sin, in advance!

    God is not like us, human beings, who fail, again and again, in spite of their best efforts. No, God is GOD! and He controls and provides all that is needed for every one to come to a fullness of LIFE which will never end. 1Cor.15:26 tells us that the last enemy that will be destroyed is death. That leaves nothing, but LIFE without end, in full harmony with God, for GOD IS LOVE!

    Friend

  8. Friend Says:

    Dear Ali,

    Thank you for your positive contribution and for your understanding that I base my belief on Scripture.

    Yes, it is an emotional topic, but as I wrote in an earlier post, if God unequivocally had revealed that not all of mankind would be saved, but that the great majority of humanity was created for the sole purpose that it should be suffering endlessly and excruciatingly in a place called “hell,” one would have no choice but to accept that as being the truth.

    However, such would make it absolutely impossible for me to love such a god, in spite of his word not leaving any room for doubt concerning the veracity of his purpose to treat untold numbers, most insanely.

    You wrote: < << The truth is that everyone has presuppositions. >>>

    This is too vague and ambiguous. Apart from the gracious gift of God’s Spirit (1Cor.2:10-16; 1Cor.12:3; 2Tim.1:7) and apart from the gracious gift of faith (Rom.12:3; Eph.2:8-9; Phil.1:29), no one has a positive disposition toward God (Rom.3:9-18). The only touchstone for truth is God’s word! It is very important that we are most willing to be instructed and corrected by it (2Tim.3:16).

    You wrote: < << BTW, I agree with Aaron's interpretation of Scripture, but I am curious how Friend came to his conclusions through Scripture. >>>

    Please know that it is my conviction that what an individual believes is strictly speaking a personal and sacred matter between the individual and God. We believe before Him and unto Him. At the same time, it is self-evident that discussing what we each believes can be very beneficial to everyone, as long as it is done respectfully and amicably.

    I commend you for being curious how I came to believe as I do. In a nutshell, I was born and raised as a Calvinist. At age thirty-eight, I became an Arminianist for eleven years. The past twenty-eight years I have been an active and happy Scriptural Universalist. At all times, I have believed Scripture to be the very Word of God. I am deeply grateful for a long life of having been given, as my main interest, the truth of God and what it is that He will achieve, through Christ Jesus. It has been a somewhat difficult process, but also a very enriching journey.

    As you can imagine, it is inherently not easy to make the various, profound changes in one’s belief. It is a very humbling experience. In addition, it was not made easy by fellow believers, who did not always take kindly towards my changing from being a Calvinist to becoming an Arminianist, and in turn, embracing Scriptural Universalism.

    To any Scriptural questions I will gladly write a reply.

    Friend

  9. Aaron Says:

    Friend wrote:

    “Yes, it is an emotional topic, but as I wrote in an earlier post, if God unequivocally had revealed that not all of mankind would be saved, but that the great majority of humanity was created for the sole purpose that it should be suffering endlessly and excruciatingly in a place called “hell,” one would have no choice but to accept that as being the truth.

    However, such would make it absolutely impossible for me to love such a god, in spite of his word not leaving any room for doubt concerning the veracity of his purpose to treat untold numbers, most insanely.”

    Again, Friend, let me urge you to rethink this attitude. What if you are wrong? Let’s leave open that possibility. For 2,000 years the church has believed and proclaimed the doctrine of Hell. I am not saying that tradition is equal to God’s Word, only that we ought to reckon seriously with the doctrines of our faith that have come with such a strong consensus and not brush them aside easily.

    If you are wrong about this, then you are saying that it is impossible for you to love God. I think that makes my point precisely: God HAS to be this way or he is not worthy of your love and adoration. You have an obligation that God must fulfill before he measures up to your standard.

    Simply denying that you are placing an obligation on God does not refute my argument. You need to counter my argument with a coherent one of your own, not a flat out denial that contains within itself evidence that confirms what I have already argued. So, here’s what you can do to refute me. I invite you do it and hope that you will.

    Say something to this effect:

    “I believe that Scripture teaches that God will save all people and angels in the end. While this is the way it is, this is not the way it necessarily had to be. God could have sent us all to Hell for our sin, and he would have been completely just to do so. That he chose to save anyone at all is a marvel of his grace, for he was under no compulsion to do so.”

    Agree to that statement or make one of your own that contains the same basic content, and I will gladly withdraw my argument against you and against any other universalist who would do the same.

    I also realize that I need to address particular passages of Scripture soon. Please grant me your continued patience. I anticipate that such a post would require an investment of time that I have not yet been able to give. I am a full-time doctoral student, part-time pastor, and full-time husband and father of a one-year-old. Spare time for blogging is not something I have a lot of.

    Also, Friend, let me thank you again for your cordiality. I hope that none of my arguments have been received as personal attacks against you. I am not attempting to discredit you personally but only to show theological holes in your thinking. I think all people have them (including myself). Realizing where and what they are is what leads us to adjust our thinking and come closer to the truth.

  10. Ali Says:

    Aaron and Friend,

    I wrote a comment this morning but decided it’s was too long and scrapped it. I’m glad I did. I think Aaron has simplified things a little.

    Aaron, unless I’ve read Friend incorrectly, he has already said in various places what you have asked him to affirm. Perhaps he might clarify that his reading of Scripture also reveals God’s nature to be one that could not condemn people to hell, but that if Scripture revealed otherwise, he’d accept it. What I think you’ll find is that he will not admit to being able to love a God that does not save everyone.

    (In reality, if you were able to convince Friend that God will send some to hell, I believe it’s possible he would be able to love God still, but it would be a shock he’d need to work through, like finding out your best friend is not as “nice” as you thought).

  11. Friend Says:

    Dear Aaron,

    You wrote: < << Again, Friend, let me urge you to rethink this attitude. What if you are wrong? >>>

    Please believe me that by this time in my life, I have untold number of times reconsidered my belief and my attitude before God. I believe that the Spirit of God, as it is characterized in 2Tim.1:7, is indeed providing me with a sound mind and with sanity to boldly believe God’s word. As a consequence, I cannot believe that Calvinism and Arminianism present God to the world as He really is.

    < << I am not saying that tradition is equal to God's Word, only that we ought to reckon seriously with the doctrines of our faith that have come with such a strong consensus and not brush them aside easily. >>>

    I accept that you do not mean anything negative against my person, but let me assure you that I have not brushed anything aside, easily. Words fail me to fully convey to you my profound gratitude to God for having first given me many years to be deeply involved in Calvinism, and secondly, in Arminianism. Nothing has been easy or superficial along the way.

    < << If you are wrong about this, then you are saying that it is impossible for you to love God. I think that makes my point precisely: God HAS to be this way or he is not worthy of your love and adoration. You have an obligation that God must fulfill before he measures up to your standard. >>>

    I am not telling God that He HAS to be a certain way before I am able to love Him. I am simply emphasizing my own, God-given inability and limitations, when it comes to being able to relate (respond) in love to a god who is capable of loving many, while, at the same time, is able to torture and torment billions in hell.

    Even now, this very moment, Calvinism and Arminianism teach that God has already countless millions of sentient human beings in hell. If that is true, and I have to believe it, then I could only do so in a state of utter insanity.

    I am not saying that you or any one else, who is capable of believing this, while insisting that God, essentially and intrinsically, IS LOVE, is insane. I do not presume to have the privilege to be judging anyone. See John 5:22 (CLNT) –> “For neither is the Father judging anyone, but has given all judging to the Son,”

    < << Simply denying that you are placing an obligation on God does not refute my argument. You need to counter my argument with a coherent one of your own, >>>

    My belief is based on God’s word and my faculties (heart and mind) involved in my perception of God are formed and conditioned by God’s word. When you say that I should say something coherent of my own, then you are asking me to think outside and apart from Scripture. That is not my privilege nor my desire to do. My God-given faith has made me believe and think as I do. Isn’t that what is typified by the Scriptural analogy of God being the Potter and man as being the clay?

    You suggested that I should write something like the following: < << "I believe that Scripture teaches that God will save all people and angels in the end. While this is the way it is, this is not the way it necessarily had to be. God could have sent us all to Hell for our sin, and he would have been completely just to do so. That he chose to save anyone at all is a marvel of his grace, for he was under no compulsion to do so." >>>

    The first sentence I can readily accept. However, what is expressed in the last half of second sentence, as well as in the third one, is not meaningful and sensible to me, because of my firm conviction that God will save everyone and that it would be contrary to His very character not to do so. I am not able to philosophy about God anything that is contrary to what He has revealed in Scripture to be His plan and purpose, namely, to become ALL in all, bar none.

    The last sentence, < << That he chose to save anyone at all is a marvel of his grace, for he was under no compulsion to do so.>>> is somewhat of a painful reminder of the years I was a Calvinist. It was this very idea that ministers kept reminding me of, when I struggled with the concept of hell, as a young person. Now, I believe that such a philosophically, “high” sounding statement is very unscriptural and is conjured up to defend Calvinism, not God’s heart and mind.

    < << I also realize that I need to address particular passages of Scripture soon. Please grant me your continued patience. I anticipate that such a post would require an investment of time that I have not yet been able to give. >>>

    No problem, at all. I appreciate you explaining your busy schedule and obligations. I will patiently look forward to your next post.

    < << Also, Friend, let me thank you again for your cordiality. I hope that none of my arguments have been received as personal attacks against you. I am not attempting to discredit you personally but only to show theological holes in your thinking. I think all people have them (including myself). Realizing where and what they are is what leads us to adjust our thinking and come closer to the truth. >>>

    Thank you for your kind and explanatory comments. You strike me as a man who is very upright in character.

    Friend

    P.S. In my comments to your Part Two about the Trinity, I inadvertently signed off as “Jeep”. It is a moniker I used when discussing that topic, elsewhere. Sorry!
    I also wish I knew how to italicize and underline words. I am brand new to responding to blogs. Any suggestions?

  12. Friend Says:

    Dear Ali,

    You commented to Aaron: < << (In reality, if you were able to convince Friend that God will send some to hell, I believe it's possible he would be able to love God still, but it would be a shock he'd need to work through, like finding out your best friend is not as "nice" as you thought).>>>

    I consider it impossible for anyone to convince me that the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ will send anyone to hell.

    But if such could be achieved, I am sure I would become an agnostic, and Scriture would, for me, not anymore be God’s revelation of Himself and of His plan and purpose for mankind, and beyond. Perish the thought!

    I’m sorry you did not post your comments which you scrapped.

    Friend

  13. Ali Says:

    Yes, if Scripture really revealed that there is a hell, one would have no choiuce but believe it.

    I cannot speak for brother Talbott, but as I understand Scripture, nothing can cleanse us from sin, except the shed blood of Christ.

    These two quotes from Friend in the comments of the last post led me to believe he would agree with what Aaron asked him to. I obviously read far too much into those quotes.

    I think I’ll leave the conversation between two instead of adding a confusing (and obviously incorrect) perspective. Don’t worry, I’ll be watching!

    [By the way, Friend. To make words bold, type the letter b between these two symbols <> before the words, and then type /b between <> at the end of the words. For italics, change the b to an i.

  14. Friend Says:

    Dear Ali,

    You wrote: < << I think I'll leave the conversation between two instead of adding a confusing (and obviously incorrect) perspective. Don't worry, I'll be watching! >>>

    Thank you very much for planning to keep an eye on the further developments in this thread.

    Of course, I respect your decision not to comment. Please know that I appreciate and understand that you see things differently than I do.

    I do not hesitate to state that I consider your relationship with God to be as sacred as I do my own. I will not knowingly interfere.

    My diagreements are with isms which I cannot harmonize with Scripture — not with those who have embraced them.

    I believe that each of us is a work of God in progress. Woe to me, if I should be critical of God’s work with each.

    Thank you very much for your help with showing how to make words in italics, etc.

    Here is my first try: italics ; bold

    Friend

  15. Anonymous Says:

    Witnessing humility is truly a privilege in reading all that Friend has endured in his obvious attempt at a “conversation”. Perhaps some will rub off on the poster. One can only hope and pray.

    Just an observation.

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