Dr. Robin Parry joins Rethinking Hell contributor Chris Date to discuss universalism and his book (written under the pseudonym Gregory MacDonald), The Evangelical Universalist.
Wow, thanks William Lane Craig & NT Wright for contributing to Robin’s deconversion from conditionalism!! He truly is such a kind and thoughtful person (which is actually kind of a bummer, being that I’m sure this draws many people to his view less critically than if he was a bit of a jerk); I really enjoyed hearing his stories before things got into his eschatology…I even ordered his book Worshipping Trinity–I think he’s really onto something there! Great job on the interview Chris…
Excellent interview. You did a great job, Chris. So graceful. You got one of the best voices for the universalist position. This is what Christianity is all about.
Dr. Parry stated his case correctly when he started a sentence with”I can imagine a God…” This view is more akin to John Lennonism than biblical hermeneutics.
Perhaps not. A theological imagination carries quite a different meaning to a secular one. The God-given faculty of imagination is invoked by a great deal of our theology, actually, and it works (as intended) by allowing us to mentally ascertain truths which are not yet experienced by our senses, or to extend revealed truths in the direction they are pointing. When a Christian imagines things about God it isn’t done in a vacuum, as though we are starting there: it is a way of extending what has already been revealed and accepted. It is also a characteristically British way of doing theology, for which others don’t necessary have the same categories for knowing what it means. Theology begins with biblical hermeneutics, but it can and perhaps must legitimately go further.
Interesting discussion. For the record, my view falls closer to that of Peter Enns (“The Evolution of Adam”), who argues that the Pentateuch is essentially a document of national self-identification for the Jews. Furthermore, it is written in response to the dominant mythology around them, again, to help differentiate the Jewish story from that of Babylon and other Near Eastern powers. So, yes, when I read about the Flood account, for example, in no way do I treat that as history–just as I don’t treat similar accounts in the Enuma Elish as history. Rather, these are mythological ways of articulating a particular understanding of God. This does not imply a low view of Scripture (at least not in my opinion). Rather, it reflects my desire to read the Bible within its historical context–at least as much as I am able.
So basically you are saying that you think that the scriptures are mythological and that you more or less think of them the same way as you think of Babylonian mythology but that this isn’t a low view of scripture? Moreover, you seem to know the hidden intention of the author of the scriptures. It seems that you think that his primary intention wasn’t to communicate truth about God and the world but was simply writing in “response to the dominant mythology around them, again, to help differentiate the Jewish story from that of Babylon and other Near Eastern powers”. Wow, what a high view you have of scripture. Please, don’t lift it up any more, we don’t want people to get confused and start worshiping it!
It’s too bad you weren’t alive back when Jesus was walking the earth. I bet you could have really taught him a thing or two.
I hardly see the point of responding to someone who hides their snark behind a pseudonym. I’m sorry, but you don’t come across as someone who is willing to discuss and debate, merely to snipe. However, in the hope that my response might still edify you, here is a brief note:
If seeking to read the Old Testament (and the Bible in general) in light of its historical, cultural and literary context is to adopt a low view of Scripture, then you’ll have to lump every Bible scholar alive today into the same category. As Peter Enns notes in “The Evolution of Adam”: “The most faithful, Christian reading of sacred Scripture is one that recognizes Scripture as a product of the times in which it was written an/or the events took place–not merely so, but unalterably so… Placing Genesis in its Ancient Near Eastern setting strongly suggests that it was written as a self-defining document, as a means of declaring the distinctiveness of Israel’s own beliefs from those of the surrounding nations. In other Words, Genesis is an argument, a polemic, declaring how Israel’s God is different from all the other nations.” Furthermore: “A healthy theology is one that shows a willingness–even an expectation–to revisit ways of thinking and changing them when need be.”
In my view, the ultimate expression of a “low view of Scripture” is refusing to examine the relevant data and instead imposing an ill-informed, relatively recent literalist paradigm onto the Bible and then defending it as if God, himself, has revealed it to you on golden tablets hidden in a field somewhere.
This is a problem I encounter with many Protestant Evangelicals. If I disagree with their interpretation of the Bible, they tend to make one of two assumptions: 1) I haven’t read the relevant texts or 2) I have a low view of Scripture, as if the only way to have a high view of Scripture is to read the Bible as they do.
You accuse me of claiming to know the “hidden intention of the author of the scriptures.” And yet, I don’t claim anything is hidden, merely concealed by our ignorance of the historical, cultural and literary context of these writings. The more we come to understand that context, the more that is revealed–the same way having a solid understanding of Shakespeare’s times helps us understand his plays. Surely you don’t object to such an approach to studying ancient texts–or modern text, for that matter.
Of course, then the assumption is that making such a move is merely a pretext to dismissing the text under observation. Perhaps I’m simply trying to explain the Bible away. However, the only thing I’m trying to explain away are unhelpful interpretation based on ignorance. Understanding Genesis as “an argument, a polemic, declaring how Israel’s God is different from all the other nations” isn’t to explain away it’s relevance; it’s a means of understanding its relevance.
On a final note, you might be interested to know that Robin Parry is currently writing a book that addresses these same issues.
Wow. For someone who doesn’t see the point of responding to me you sure wrote me a long response. Funny that you would think that I wouldn’t be “willing to discuss and debate”. Let me add that to the list of things that you are wrong about.
You said “If seeking to read the Old Testament (and the Bible in general) in light of its historical, cultural and literary context is to adopt a low view of Scripture, then you’ll have to lump every Bible scholar alive today into the same category.”
1. If you think that “seeking to read to the Old Testament (and the Bible in general) in light of its historical, cultural and literary context) “means that we should have the same view of scripture that we have of Babylonian mythology in that shouldn’t be read as historical in any way and as essentially just a document of self-identification for the Jews, than yes, I think that that is a low view of scripture.
2. No one is arguing against reading the bible in light of its historical, cultural and literary context. Put that straw-man down! Do you think that “every Bible scholar alive” would say that we should view the bible with the same regard that we hold Bablyonian mythology? I don’t think so. There is a big difference between the using the historical-grammatical method in our interpretation of the text of scripture and the idea that we should hold the text of scripture on the same level as the Enuma Elish, devoid of any historical significance. Besides, I bet that there are plenty of bible scholars who believe in some sort of ancient flood be it regional or global that inspired genesis 6.
You quoted Peter Enns saying that the text of Genesis “strongly suggests that it was written as a self-defining document, as a means of declaring he distinctiveness of Israel’s own beliefs from those of the
surrounding nations. In other Words, Genesis is an argument, a polemic, declaring how Israel’s God is different from all the other nations.”
All that I have of Enns is a quote take out of context but from what I understand of his point from this quote I think that this is a view that is lacking in balance. To boil all of Genesis down to an argument for the God of Israel being different from the other nation’s gods is laughable. You only add to the unbalance by turning the entire Torah into “essentially a document of national self-identification for the Jews”.
In fact, I have my own quote from a bible scholar who lived much closer to its ancient near-east context talking about the purpose of the scriptures. I take the bible scholar Paul of Tarsus over you or Peter Enns any day.
2 Timothy 3:13 while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
He also doesn’t seem to mention anything here about the Torah being “essentially a document of national self-identification for the Jews.” When Saul talks about the purpose of scripture his focus is on its function in teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work and I don’t see any reason to think that he would call us to view scriptures as “essentially a document of national self-identification for the Jews”.
You wrote: “In my view, the ultimate expression of a “low view of Scripture” is refusing to examine the relevant data and instead imposing an ill-informed, relatively recent literalist paradigm onto the Bible and
then defending it as if God, himself, has revealed it to you on golden
tablets hidden in a field somewhere.”
You must be joking. You think that reading the giving of the law as a historical event is a “relatively recent literalist paradigm”? The Jewish people have traditionally viewed this as having a historical validity.
In my view, the ultimate expression of a “low view of scripture” is when you completely turn it into a metaphor so that you can throw out all the theological teachings that you don’t like.
You said: ” This is a problem I encounter with many Protestant Evangelicals. If I disagree with their interpretation of the Bible, they tend to make one of two assumptions: 1) I haven’t read the relevant texts or 2) I have a low view of Scripture, as if the only way to have a high view of Scripture is to read the Bible as they do. ”
1.I never said anything about what texts you’ve read.
2. No. There are plenty of people on here who read the text of scripture differently than I do and I don’t think that they have a low view of scripture.
I think that you have a low view of scripture because you imply that we should read scripture as if it had no historical truth and say that it is “essentially a document of national self-identification for the Jews”.
If you had said that you personally believe that genesis 1 through 6 weren’t literally true I would not have criticized you on those points but to basically say that none of the Pentateuch should be read as having any historical validity is unbalanced and saying that it is “essentially a document of national self-identification for the Jews” misses the point.
“Of course, then the assumption is that making such a move is merely a
pretext to dismissing the text under observation. Perhaps I’m simply
trying to explain the Bible away. ”
Yes, that is what I’ve seen from you concerning Universalism.
You also wrote: “However, the only thing I’m trying to
explain away are unhelpful interpretation based on ignorance.
Understanding Genesis as “an argument, a polemic, declaring how Israel’s God is different from all the other nations” isn’t to explain away it’s relevance; it’s a means of understanding its relevance.”
Or at least that would be partially true if you were right that Genesis is “an argument, a polemic, declaring how Israel’s God is different from all the other nations”. Yet that isn’t what it is. It contains text that does indeed show how the God of Israel is different from the other nations but this doesn’t make Genesis simply a polemic for this point. Genesis is much more than just some point about God being different from other gods. It is about God’s hatred of sin, His mercy, His role as creator, His dominion over the world. It’s also about man’s guilt before God in understanding the difference between good and evil and our moral responsibility to choose good. It is about God’s relationship with mankind and much more. To boil it down to a polemic about the God of Israel being different from other gods is an unbalanced oversimplification.
I’m curious, do you read all of the Old Testament in the same way that you read the Pentateuch? Do you believe that the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem or do you not “treat that as history”? Was the diaspora of Northern Israel or Judah “history”? How about the New Testament? Should we in no way “treat that as history?” Was Jesus not a historical figure? Did he not rise from the dead?
Look, I think that you should be very careful with how you express these things because these are important issues. Maybe I misunderstand you. If I did, then I apologize because it is not my intention to misrepresent you. However, if other people read what you wrote the same way that I understood them then they need to be corrected, even if that isn’t what you meant because these things are far too important.
These are important issues, to be sure, but I see no need to be “careful,” b/c I don’t think we have anything to fear if we are wrong about these things. All that matters is that we seek the truth as well as we are able. We are all wrong to one degree or another. All we can offer are approximations of the truth, perspectives. God is far bigger than our mistakes.
As to how I approach the rest of Scripture, I don’t have a blanket approach. Seeing as the Bible is a mishmash of various literary forms produced by different people in different times and places, I try to approach all of them in a way that is befitting them.
It is interesting to note, however, that neither Paul nor Jesus seemed to care too much about the OT authors’ original intent. They freely adapted OT passages to their needs. Of course, you would know this had you had examined the relevant data (i.e. Peter Enns, Michael Hardin, Sharon Baker, Derek Flood, among many others).
On a broader note though, judging from the tone of your comments (i.e. “we’ll just add that to the list of things you’re wrong about”) and the content of your arguments, you clearly seem more bent on “being right” and proclaiming the preposterous nature of my view than engaging in constructive discussion. A note for future engagements: Rather than, “That can’t possibly be right! And here’s why…Furthermore, I just know you’re up to no good…” A far more appealing approach to your interlocutor is something along the lines of, “Interesting point of view. What evidence and arguments led you to that position?” Who knows, you might even learn something from such an encounter.
I believe that people should be careful about the things that people say because the bible teaches that God will judge and calls us to be careful with the things that we say.
You said:I “t is interesting to note, however, that neither Paul nor Jesus seemed
to care too much about the OT authors’ original intent. They freely
adapted OT passages to their needs. Of course, you would know this had
you had examined the relevant data (i.e. Peter Enns, Michael Hardin,
Sharon Baker, Derek Flood, among many others).”
Is this your way of justifying your bible twisting?
You know what’s funny? You made a big deal about people who make assumptions about what you’ve read. You said:
“This is a problem I encounter with many Protestant Evangelicals. If I
disagree with their interpretation of the Bible, they tend to make one
of two assumptions: 1) I haven’t read the relevant texts or 2) I have a
low view of Scripture, as if the only way to have a high view of
Scripture is to read the Bible as they do. ”
Then, you tell me this: “. Of course, you would know this had
you had examined the relevant data (i.e. Peter Enns, Michael Hardin,
Sharon Baker, Derek Flood, among many others).”
Your hypocrisy is stunning.
Seeing as you are obviously angry and unable to refrain from personal attacks, I’m going to end my participation here. As I suspected at the outset, this was highly unproductive. I should have listened to my gut instinct. But I will encourage you to read some of the biblical scholars I’ve mentioned, especially Peter Enns, b/c they are doing some good work. You may find some of their conclusions upsetting, but I think they warrant careful consideration. And that’s only a short list.
Just for the record, the “relevant texts” to which I referred above were the relevant biblical texts. People will quote them to me ad nausea as if I’m not aware of them. What this disagreement and many other comes down to, however, is not whether or not one person has a low view of Scripture and the other doesn’t. Rather, we are all being faithful to a particular interpretive principle that seems right to us. You have yours, I have mine. Both of our interpretive principles make certain things obvious to us and mask other things. The constant temptation is to be so enamored with the former that we forget the latter. I’m the first to admit my own weakness in this area. (To the man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.) I’ve written a series of blog posts on this case you’re interested: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/hellbound/2012/12/why-whats-clear-to-you-isnt-so-clear-to-me-part-1/
I’m sorry if my views offend you. That is not my intent. Neither am I bent on “twisting the Scriptures,” as you say, merely to understand them–and life in general. I have given careful consideration to various versions of the conditionalist POV, and I find them wanting. The same goes for virtually every version of eternal, conscious torment. All are incompatible with whom I believe Jesus to be. Therefore, the only option left to me is some form of universalism, which is what I have embraced–not because I’m trying to hide from the truth but b/c I feel like I’ve finally found it.
You said: “Seeing as you are obviously angry and unable to refrain from personal attacks, I’m going to end my participation here.”
Again. let me just add that to increasingly long list of things that you are wrong about.
You don’t know how I feel. I know how I feel when I comment on rethinkinghell and I don’t feel angry. I love writing these things. You assume that I am unable to speak to you in a different way than how I speak to you but your assumptions are wrong and I am perfectly able to speak to you in any way that I choose to speak to you.
You said: “I will encourage you to read some of the biblical scholars I’ve mentioned, especially Peter Enns, b/c they are doing some good work. You may find some of their conclusions upsetting, but I think they warrant careful consideration. And that’s only a short list.”
You keep assuming that you know my view of Genesis or that I haven’t been exposed to these ideas. You assume that I’m unfamiliar with Enns. I’m not. I heard him on Unbelievable? radio talking about Adam and Eve when that episode first came out. I am also familiar with Sharon Baker. Did you think that I didn’t watch your slanted hell movie?
You said: ” I’m sorry if my views offend you. That is not my intent. Neither am I
bent on “twisting the Scriptures,” as you say, merely to
understand them–and life in general. I have given careful
consideration to various versions of the conditionalist POV, and I find
them wanting. The same goes for virtually every version of eternal,
conscious torment. All are incompatible with whom I believe Jesus to be.
Therefore, the only option left to me is some form of universalism,
which is what I have embraced–not because I’m trying to hide from the
truth but b/c I feel like I’ve finally found it.”
Your views don’t offend me nor do they upset me and contrary to what you may or may not think I don’t dislike you either. You seem like a pretty nice guy which I’m sure is more than can be said of me. Haha. The reason that I said anything is not because you misunderstand scripture or upset me but because you misunderstand it and then you go around teaching other people that they should misunderstand it in the same way.
Kevin, thanks for stopping by to clarify. I appreciate your voice in the conversation and your characteristic patience. I admire and respect you for your concern over some very profound issues, and the obvious depth of study you have invested in forming your own perspectives.
Personal attacks are not welcome at Rethinking Hell. Thanks.
“Let me add that to the list of things that you are wrong about.”
“Love… keeps no record of wrongs.” (1 Cor 13:5).
I am struggling with the tone of your interactions on our forums. Please be advised that it’s not endorsed.
Please tone down the condescension and sarcasm. We are promoting a certain kind of conversation, and it is hard to kick against the goads.
Chris I heard Greg Koukl ask a question for Conditionalists. He said scripture teaches that it’s appointed unto man once to die. How would you answer that since it seems to support their view.
Also have you heard back from W.L.C.
Scripture doesn’t teach that it’s appointed unto man once to die. Even traditionalists are forced to call their view one in which the risen wicked “die” in some sense of the word; after all, John and God call the fate of the risen wicked “the second death.”
What Hebrews 9:27 is that “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” Man will die one time, and will then rise to judgment. This text says nothing about whether a resurrected lost person will die again after that.
Someone from W.L.C. declined our invitation to come on our show
With regard to how peculiar it is for God to create human beings for the purpose of destroying them; it has always seemed to me that Paul answered this question very directly.
“One of you will say to me: ‘Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will’ But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?
What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory.”
My understanding of this passage is that Paul is saying that God prepared the unsaved for destruction to make his glory known to the saved. Is there some other way of interpreting this? I feel like it should have come up.
Mmhmm, I think your way might be a better way of understanding the passage. Now that I read it again, it’s like, “how did I miss that?”
It still makes sense of why God made some pottery for destruction and other for common use; that is, why God isn’t a Universalist.
Given that we know that God is love and that love implies that He desires the highest good for every creature (and within that framework we can therefore determine that He loves everyone), we would be hard pressed to infer from this passage that God created some people to be unsaved – such that they would then be destroyed. Within the context of the passage, it can be shown that Paul is talking about Israel and their failure to display His glory to the Gentiles. I would contend that it is not talking about the salvation of individuals. He is likely referring to the fact that He is discarding Israel as the vessel that will be the light to the world. He has every right to do so, as they deserve to be “destroyed” due to their disobedience. God maintained HIs right to show grace to Israel for hundreds of years – only to set them aside to build the church and therefore bless the families of the world. A fulfillment of His promise in Genesis 12. As “clay” Israel was “prepared” for destruction in that they deserved it or were ready for it. God would have been just in destroying them at any time.
Thanks for doing the interview Chris. I enjoyed it thoroughly. I too am an evangelical universalist, though if not for the passages that affirm the salvation of all, if all I studied were the passages on judgment and the destruction of evil, I’d be a conditionalist. The pro-UR passages and the judgment passages that seem to imply reformation though have convinced me that God is love (foundational truth of Arminianism) and God is sovereign (foundational truth of Calvinism/Augustinianism) are both true resulting in God is savior (foundational truth of UR).
I especially appreciated the respectful and humble tone of the discussion. Thank you.
My pleasure, Sherman! I love Robin, and I enjoyed interviewing him. I don’t see any passages in Scripture that even sound to me like UR, certainly none which require or even suggest that conditionalism is false and that we need to reinterpret the many judgment texts. Robin’s answers to the objections I raised toward the end of the interview were woefully inadequate, in my estimation. That said, I know Robin is committed to the authority and tfuth of Scripture, and he’s a gentleman and a scholar, even if I think he’s wrong.
Hi Chris, a few of the passages that to me most clearly affirm Reconciliationism are for example:
Rom.5.18-19 “18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.”
The sin of the first Adam resulted in condemnation and death for all – even Jesus. In like manner, the “righteous act” of the second Adam resulted in justification and life for all. I was not born into this world seperated from God and under the dominion of death by my will, and I wasn’t born into eternal life by my will but by the will of God. The more I review this passage, the more convinced I am that “all” really means “all”, and that “many” is meant to contrast “one” and highlight the “all” and not meant to limit the “all”.
Another verse/passage that to me strongly affirms UR is Col. 1:19-20. “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”
Jesus came to “reconcile” “all” to himself. The word reconcile speaks of an adversarial relationship that is being changed/restored to harmony.
I also appreciate how in John’s Revelation how that throughout the book the “nations” suffer the wrath of God, are subjects under the spirit of anti-Christ, but after the lake of the fire and the brimstone are pictured as responding to the call of Jesus and the Bride, come into the new Jerusalem where the leaves of the trees are for their healing and they are finally pictured as worshipping God.
I’ve come to believe that the atonement is neither limited in scope (Calvinism) nor in power (Arminianism) but fully accomplishes the reconciliation of all of creation.
I don’t see any of these passages as coming remotely close to clearly affirming universalism. Romans 5:17 says it is “those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” “All” in Scripture frequently means “all kinds,” and the point Paul is making is that justification has come to Jew and Gentile alike. Colossians 1:19-20 can’t be assumed to mean what you think it means; Isaiah 66:23-24 says “all flesh” will “go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me,” so the “all things” of Colossians can simply refer to all things that remain after all darkness has been eradicated. Revelation doesn’t support universalism, either; “the second death” is both John’s and God’s interpretation of the vivid imagery, and as such is plainer in meaning than the symbolism it interprets, and as such we know that the risen lost will die a second time. Nowhere in Scripture is a second resurrection from the dead hinted at.
To be honest, I think the claim, sometimes made by traditionalists as well, that Jesus is only promising that God could choose to destroy both body and soul in Gehenna, is an act of desperation. Besides, reams and reams of Scripture indicate that it was no empty warning, and that that’s exactly what will happen to the lost. Of course, I agree with you that Jesus’ original meaning is blurred when Gehenna is translated “Hell,” but when left as Gehenna, we recognize that the fate of which Jesus and the Scripture warns about for those who do not accept Jesus Christ is death and the everlasting absence of life–exactly as we conditionalists maintain.
I’ll let you have the last word if you choose to take it. We at Rethinking Hell will be spending more time with universalism this year, Lord willing, and will interact with these sorts of arguments as we’re able. Thanks!
Good Morning Chris and thanks for the reply.
You are correct in that in some passages “all” is used as a generality, hyperbole, or referencing all kinds. But because of the literary context of Rom. 5 I do not think this is the case. Rather, “all” really does mean “all”. And note that vs. 17 is highlighting how those who receive grace and righteousness reign in life. It is not in any way saying that all shall not or only some shall receive this grace and righteousness. By faith we gain access to this grace today, but that does not imply that all shall not ultimately have faith. If the sin of Adam subjects all to death, even Jesus died, then the only way for the sacrifice and ressurection of Jesus to excel beyond this is to bring all to life, where death is swallowed up by life.
Concerning Col. 1:20, the context is talking about the all-suprimacy of Christ, how Jesus is over everything in heaven and earth, seen and unseen. There is nothing in the context that I see to imply that “all” does not mean “all” but only means “all kinds” or “some”.
Concerning Revelation’s “second death” John does not explain what he means by that. Scripture speaks of a few different deaths, one of the primary ones being our death to self. We all must die to self in order to embrace the life of God. And judgment brings on this death. And we do not want this “self” to be ressurected; rather we want to live the new life that God has given us.
And to me Jesus’ warnings concerning being cast into Hinnom Valley spoke of death and destruction in this life, but did not imply “the everlasting absense of life”. Matthew is the one that primarily uses this metaphor. Mark and Luke only use it once each. John and Paul do not once use it. It must be understood in the context of the Jews then, who were primarily, if not exclusively concerned with what happens to one in this life.
There are several other passages that have filled me with faith in Christ for the salvation of all. I especially appreciate Paul twice quoting Isaiah’s “every knee shall bow”. And to me it is significant that Paul says Jesus is the savior of all, especially (not only) we how believe, in 1 Tim.4.10. Death is swallowed up by life. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, “’I am making everything new!’” Rev.21:4-5. And I really think He means “everything”.
Thanks again for doing the interview. I enjoyed it and look forward to listening to and reading more of your material.
I have a question geared mainly towards the moderators and staff of Rethinking Hell, but I’ll ask it after a brief intro.
I’m enjoying your site and refreshing my mind on conditional immortality/annihilationism. I at one time tenatively held to this position for a few years after holding ECT, but once I was no long scared to study universal reconciliation, I did so. Overtime, I have come to tentatively hold that position as best representing God’s character and essence of Love (and Spirit) as well as having the least amount of tensions and unresolved difficulties. Regardless, my official answer, and the most wise answer in my opinion, is to say “I don’t know.” Because honestly, we don’t know what will happen. God does, and we are not Him. Anyway, I think your position has very strong evidence in many respects and far fewer tensions than ECT; however, I do think it has some strong tensions that are more problematic than holding to universal reconciliation.
Anyways, my questions: do you believe that other Christians who hold to universalism (such as Robin in this interview) are indeed “Christians”. Would you fellowship with them, meet as a church with them, partake of the Lord’s Supper with them, etc? Or do you see them as cults or non-Christians?
The RH team members vary in our opinion of universalism, so I’ll speak only for myself. I think those brands of universalism which deny that salvation is contingent upon faith in Christ are heretical, and I would not consider proponents of them Christians. However, Robin Parry and universalists like him believe that everyone will live in hell as long as it takes to repent and believe, so salvation is still contingent upon faith in Christ in their view. I find it difficult to find a reason to call them not Christians. After all, traditionalists believe the lost will live for a very long time in hell, too
Thanks for the question, Jeff. To echo Chris’ sentiments, and to be plain, we believe that Robin is a fine and genuine example of a follower of Jesus Christ. Of course, we differ with Evangelical Universalists on the matter of the scope (relative number) of those who are reconciled to Christ, and the nature of final punishment as it pertains to that. And we think this is a very, very important matter, or we wouldn’t be advancing our stance with such gusto. It might not be over-stating things to state that we think Universalism in general is a serious error, but this needs to be tempered with the fact that we also think this about the traditional view.
One thing we are not about is innuendo and suspicion, and to the extent that we all need to worry about false teaching itself, it’s not as though the first to point the finger thereby gets a free pass. True, there are false teachers around today as there were in the early church, and the Bible doesn’t have very nice things to say about them. But false or errant teaching exists also independently of that, and it is a problem for all of us who are diligent seekers of God’s truth. If we think eternal torment is false, as we do, are we prepared to say someone like D.A. Carson is a “false teacher” in the stronger, even damnable sense? Of course not. We grieve over fellow Christians who lack enough nuance and grace to see that such distinctions can be made, and who appoint themselves as arbiters of whether a given person is in fact saved, on such a flimsy basis. We caution ourselves and others not to go beyond the written word when it comes to the qualifying criteria for salvation. On the wider concern of who to fellowship with, in that different sense of orthodoxy, people are free to differ.
I think that is not right that this page promotes the heresy of Universalism.