Monday, November 21, 2011

My Final Belief About Christian Universalism

In light of a few recent comments, and in a few other conversations, I'd like to share my final thoughts on Christian Universalism. In my speech, which I gave a week ago, I tackled the one major fault with Christian Universalism: their belief in second chances after death. Now I could tell you, my blog readers, about all the verses that talk about the righteous going to heaven and the wicked to hell (Matt. 25:41,46; Rev. 21:6-8). I could point out that the verses the Christian Universalists base their hope of second chances in are taken out of context and don't match up with the rest of Scripture. I could point out that if everyone will have second chances in hell to go to heaven, Jesus died and came back to life for nothing. But I won't. Instead, I'll ask a question. If there are second chances, why did Jesus never tell us about them?

If there are second chances for us in hell, then why didn’t Jesus tell us that? Jesus certainly had many opportunities to tell us that we would get second chances in hell. So why didn’t He? Why did he constantly warn his audience about the dangers of hell when he should have informed us of those crucial second chances? The answer is simple: because there are no second chances.

For those interested, I got a 97 on my speech.


Tom van Dijk said...

The catch here, of course, is that you are stating that Jesus did not say something. That is a statement that you cannot prove. You can only prove from the bible what Jesus did say, not what Jesus did not say.

His message was clearly that we should repent. Christian universalists will also tell you to repent. Any christian will tell you that you should repent, and not primarily because you are afraid of hell, but because doing good is the good thing to do. You should do good things because of love, not because of fear. You should believe in God, and in Jesus, not because you are afraid of God, but out of love and trust.

Even if hell is not the final state, but a punishment with a goal, why would Jesus soften the message by adding disclaimers to make sure no one understands punishment as "everlasting"?

In fact, Jesus never said that the punishment IS unending. It is very hard to misunderstand Him this way, yet the church managed to molest this message anyway. Why would He add that it is not unending, when He already used words that clearly communicate this?

Ask a random Pharisee from that time, and he would have said that the final state for the wicked is "thanatos athanatos" (undying death), or "eirgmon aidion" (imprisonment forever), or "thanatos ateleutetos" (death without end), or "timorion aidion" (revenge forever). It is really striking that Jesus did not use any of these terms. What Jesus said, is something completely opposite to what a Pharisee, who believed infinite punishment, would have used! Jesus did not say timoria, but kolasis: not punishment for revenge, but punishment for correction. Jesus did not use aidion, but aionios: not forever, but for an age, or: "of the future age". In fact, the way He used it in Matthew 25, you would translate it that whoever does good deeds will get life in the coming age, while whoever does not do good deeds, will get (corrective!) punishment in the coming age.

You are saying Jesus never said there are any second chances. In fact, He did say it: it is the whole goal of the punishment. You probably believe a lot of things that Jesus may never have said, but that are in the bible, and probably even a number of things that are not clearly in the bible. Yet here, this is a topic that Jesus did say something about, very clearly. The punishment in the coming age, that punishment, is corrective.

Now you may suggest that the "unquenchable fire" really proves a burning without end. This, again, is a flawed interpretation. Often, houses or ships burn with a fire that cannot be stopped. Eventually, the fire will stop burning by itself. Consider a smith who purifies silver in the heat of a fire. From the point of view of the silver, the fire cannot be quenched. In fact, this is what the punishment is like. It is a punishment like a fire that cannot be quenched by whoever is burning. This is not something I'm making up on the spot, this is something that you will find in all Greek texts. These words were regularly used that way and it is only our tradition, hundreds of years later, that twisted the message.

So the answer is simple. Eventually all will repent, either in this life, or in the next, but it is best if everyone would repent in this life.

Congratulations with your 97, I assume that is a good grade?

Tom van Dijk said...

Oh, a little Post Scriptum.

"I could point out that if everyone will have second chances in hell to go to heaven, Jesus died and came back to life for nothing."

And you shouldn't, because that's a complete misrepresentation of christian universalism. If Jesus did not die on the cross, NO ONE would be saved. If Jesus did not die on the cross, no one could be saved in hell either. There is salvation for all, but only because Jesus died and was resurrected.

Logan said...

Listen, Tom, your enormous comments are hard to read and follow. If you could, please state what you believe if two sentences. I don't know if you are a Christian Universalist, something else, or playing Devil's Advocate.

Tom van Dijk said...

I think you could call me a Christian Universalist. But you can't really expect a coherent argument in a few lines, unless you're very Twitter-minded, of course.

The first comment, the four-part one, contained some sarcasm. Maybe you missed that?

Just tell me what parts you didn't understand and I'll try to explain it.

Tom van Dijk said...

There's something else I read:

"He also told even his closest followers, just before his arrest, that there were further things they needed to be taught but were not ready to learn yet (see John 16:1-16)." (source: