Monday, October 28, 2013

Dangers and Consequences of Christian Universalism (Part 1)

Some Christians vociferously state that all people (irrespective of spirituality and/or morality) are heaven-bound. A few of the many reasons as propositions for their beliefs are:

(1) Christ’s atoning death is for the salvation of all mankind.

(2) The historical-grammatical interpretation of the Bible is incorrect (E.g. ‘Hell’ lacks context). There is no literal (physical) hell.

 (3) One cannot comprehend truth (resorting to uncertainty). God can do anything.

(4) God will annihilate the unbelievers after their death (Annihilationism).

Christian Universalists need not believe in all the reasons presented above. They could believe in one or a few.

Necessity of Christ but Unnecessity of Belief in Christ:
Some Christians state that Christ and HIS finished work on the cross is necessary but belief in Christ is NOT necessary for salvation. This could be considered a scandal on God’s nature for at least a couple of reasons:

(A) Why should God sacrifice HIMSELF on the cross when people will be saved irrespective of their belief in God (Jesus Christ)? God could have merely uttered one salvific word to achieve universal salvation. Thus all people would be saved without the miraculous and gory drama of Christ’s saga.

(B) Is God so callous that HE sent HIS Son to ruthlessly die on the cross for something that’s virtually insignificant?

One could present more such thoughts. Positing Universalism should not scandalize God’s nature. God’s attributes cannot oppose each other - a perfect being cannot be good and evil at the same time.

If Christ is necessary for salvation, then belief in Christ is absolutely necessary. The statement, “Christ is necessary but belief in Christ is unnecessary,” is not a plausible statement. Please observe the following sequence of thoughts as an analogy:

(1)   Food is necessary for existence.

(2) Although food is necessary, belief in food is also necessary for a person to eat the food.

(3) If there is food and if the person believes in the food, he will eat.

(4) If there is food, but the person refuses to believe in it, he will not eat.

(5) Therefore, a person ought to have the food, and also believe in it to eat.

Factors that motivate unbelief in food could be the lack of: desire, taste, hygiene, contamination (poison) etc. If I do not believe in the food presented to me, I will not eat it, for it may not be tasty or it could be poisoned.

Although Christ and HIS atoning sacrifice is factual, one should place his faith in Christ so to have Christ live in him (cf. Galatians 2: 20; Colossians 1: 23, 27). If Christ is necessary, then belief in Christ is also necessary to appropriate Christ’s finished work of salvation into our lives.  

Necessity of faith in Christ can be presented through the coalescence of God’s attributes. Because God is holy, HE cannot tolerate sin, but punishes it with hell. This agrees with HIS attribute of holiness and justice. But God is also loving, merciful and compassionate, so HE gave HIS Son, our Lord Jesus, to die for mankind’s sins. Therefore, man should believe in Christ for Christ to live in him. A man, who does not believe in Christ, rejects Christ and HIS atoning sacrifice. An unbelieving man implies that Christ’s atoning sacrifice isn’t necessary for his salvation (cf. Luke 24: 26).

So we can reasonably conclude that belief in Christ is a virtual necessity for salvation, for unless Christ lives in a man through man’s belief in HIM, he cannot be saved.

Interpretive Conundrums:
When Christian Universalists affirm the relevance of the Bible, yet reject the historical-grammatical interpretation of the Bible, they create numerous conundrums in the Bible. Many biblical doctrines will be questioned for their validity and significance, of which some are:

Sin: Certain flavors of Christian Universalism dilute the doctrine of sin to a mere flaw. They do not categorize sin as an assault on God. The wages of sin being death is also appropriately diluted. Sins are characterized as mere character flaws i.e. hatred, filthy language, sickness, lust, pride. Flawed hermeneutics of the Bible contribute to this problem. If this were to be true, man does not have any overarching reason to detest sin. This then would promote rampant immorality.

Faith in Christ: How would the various verses proclaiming faith in Christ, as a means to salvation, interpreted by the Christian Universalist (E.g. John 3: 16 et al.)?

Some Christian Universalists interpret that ‘faith’ will be imputed (ascribed). But imputation of faith negates man’s freewill. If God imputes faith, can it also be argued that God imputes sin into man? In other words, when man sins, does he sin because God imputes sin into him? A God who imputes sin into man, is not a good God, and so ceases to be God. If there is no God, salvation is meaningless and so is universal salvation.

If belief in Christ is imputed upon man, then Christ’s death and resurrection was unnecessary. God could have simply imputed belief in people without the incarnate Christ in the picture.

Fruit of Spirit: If God wills all be saved, there is no need for the believer to produce fruit of the Spirit. So a believer who does not produce the fruit of the Spirit will be saved. This implies that a believer need not remain in Christ (John 15). Consequently, a believer can remain outside of Christ (disbelieve in Christ or remain disobedient to Christ) and still be saved. So not only is the fruit of the Spirit rendered meaningless, but also faith and abiding in Christ.

God’s Sovereignty: Christian Universalists proclaim that God is sovereign, so HE will save all.

This implies that God can do anything. If God can do anything, would the Christian Universalist subscribe to the notion that God can create another God or God can commit adultery or God can lie? If not, how would he negate these abnormal possibilities of God’s sovereignty that contradict HIS attributes?

Repentance: Man need not repent, but God will gift repentance to man. This is preached by some Christian Universalists. Imputation of repentance eliminates freewill of man. If man is not free, he is God’s puppet. How then would the Christian Universalist interpret the verses that teach freewill of the believer (Joshua 24: 15; Proverbs 16: 9; John 7: 17; Revelation 3: 20 et al.)? Additionally there are verses that term the believer as a child of God, friend of God, and disciple of God. These verses imply man to be anything but a puppet of God, so how would the Christian Universalist interpret these verses?

Negation of Hell: Some posit the reality of heaven and negate the reality of hell. They negate the reality of hell citing a lack of context. A cursory glance at a couple of passages describing everlasting punishment (hell), reveals judgment as context (Matthew 25: 46, context is in verses 31-33, and 2 Thessalonians 1: 9, context is in verse 5). Since everlasting punishment is stated within a context, hell is a reality.

Holiness: Christian Universalists also claim overtly or covertly that a believer need not be holy, for he will be saved even if he is not holy. If a believer need not be holy, he can be immoral, so is the Bible advocating immorality in a believer? Negating holiness in a believer also negates the holiness of God, within the context of Christlikeness. Is Christian Universalism positing a God who is not holy? A God who is not holy is not God.

Loving and Worshiping God: A believer need not worship or love God for he will be saved even if he remains obstinate in not loving and worshipping God. The Christian Universalist then needs to explain the many verses in the Bible that demand love and worship of the living God.

Obedience to God: God’s commands need not be obeyed, since the believer would be saved nevertheless. How then would the Christian Universalist interpret all the verses that mandate obedience to God’s commands?

Given the factors presented above, affirmation of the Bible is virtually immaterial when essential doctrines of the Bible are diluted and the attributes of God negated.

Translation of the Bible: Some Christian Universalists assert the corruption of the biblical translation. If the Christian Universalist claims that the translation of the Bible is corrupt, then he should discard the entire Bible. If some parts of the Bible are corrupt, wouldn’t it entail that the entire Bible may be corrupt? If the transmission of Bible is deficient in certain parts, doesn’t this also imply that God is intentionally misleading HIS people by not being sovereign over the transmission of HIS Word? 

I will stop at this juncture to maintain a self imposed 1500 (approx) word limitation of a single blog post. I will conclude my thoughts on Universalism in my next blog, where I will touch upon other relevant themes. Amen. 

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