Thursday, October 17, 2013

Do All People Go to Heaven? (Reasoning the Truth of Historic Christianity)

In February 2013, I composed my preliminary thoughts on ‘Universalism’ under the title “Do All People Go to Heaven?” The title remains the same, since I intend to dwell further on Universalism. For the sake of continuity, please observe the synopsis of my previous blog:

1. Universalism is a belief that all people will go to heaven (inherit God’s salvation), irrespective of who, what, why and how they are.

2. All religions are fundamentally different; they contradict each other (E.g. Atheism negates God, and the God of Christianity, Islam and Hinduism are fundamentally different). If religions are poles apart, how can all people go to heaven?

3. Hell is not a literal presence for a Universalist. The Universalist will allegorize passages from the Bible that describes hell.

4. Universalism does not explain evil & justice on earth. Universalism advocates an immoral world. Man can do what he desires (even horrendous evil) and still be saved.

5. The god of the Universalist is evil (not offended by sins and cannot stop evil) and unjust (cannot provide justice to people). So we infer that the god Universalist’s posit is imperfect; in the likeness of an imperfect man. This god need not be worshipped or glorified.

In order to expose the errors innate in Universalism, we ought to establish the foundations of Historic Christianity to reveal its intricate composition and to state the basic contradiction between Universalism and the Historic Christianity. Then we need to understand the nature of truth, and subsequently be convinced to reason out our belief.

Historic Christianity
It is important to know the details of Historic Christianity in order to identify the errors of contradictory truth claims. Please observe the intricate interdependence of the essentials of Historic Christianity:

1. Truth: There is absolute and objective truth.

2. The reliability of the Bible: The Bible is inspired (by God), inerrant (no errors), and infallible (trustworthy). It is the only and the final authority for faith and life. The Bible is absolutely truthful.1

3. Existence of God: The Bible reveals a holy God.2

4. God’s Trinity: There is one God, in the persons of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.

5. Miracles of God: God is supernatural and active, so HE will act. HIS supernatural acts are miracles.3

6. Incarnation: The Savior of the world, the Lord Jesus was fully God and fully man.4

7. Total Depravity of Mankind: The Bible reveals the total depravity (sinfulness) of mankind.

8. Condemnation of God upon Sinful Man: The holiness of God entails God’s condemnation (wrath) upon sinners.

9. Virgin Birth: Christ was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. Thus, Christ is 100% God, and does not inherit mankind’s sin.

10. Sinlessness of Christ: Christ lived a sinless life on earth. Only a sinless God can save mankind of all their sins – past, present and future.

11. Grace: The gracious God saves mankind from their sins. Salvation is a free gift, since salvation is not gained by man’s work.  

12. Faith in Christ: Man should necessarily believe in Christ for the appropriation of Christ’s one-time, perfect sacrifice for his salvation.

13. Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ: Christ died and rose again. Resurrection was mandatory for overcoming evil and death.

14. Christ’s Bodily Ascension: Christ’s resurrection was a bodily resurrection and HE bodily ascended to heaven. Our resurrection will also be a bodily resurrection (glorious body).

15. Christ’s Intercession: Christ lives to intercede for all those who believe in HIM.

16. Second coming of Christ: Christ will come again in glory to judge mankind, to eliminate evil forever, and to usher a life of eternal coexistence with God in the new heaven and earth.  

These are the essentials of Historic Christianity. Unbelief /denial of any one essential will nullify the others through a chain reaction (E.g. If one denies absolute truth, then Bible is not absolutely true, so miracles are denied and along with it Christ’s virgin birth, resurrection, and salvation will also be denied.)  Denial of any one of the essentials of Historic Christianity is to deny Historic Christianity. Thus it is a reasonable implication that those who deny one (or more) essential doctrine(s) of Historic Christianity are cults or liberals or postmodern Christians.

We observe that salvation according to Historic Christianity is by grace through faith. Only those who believe in Christ will be saved (Christian Particularism). Those who do not believe in Christ will not be saved. Since Universalism declares salvation of all mankind, it totally contradicts Historic Christianity. The question that demands verdict is whether Universalism and Historic Christianity, proclaiming contradictory truth claims, are true within the same context of salvation.  

Exclusivity of Truth:
Can contradictory statements within the same context be true? This leads us to examine the nature of truth. Please think through with me:

1. Truth is pure. Truth should not contain errors / lies.

2. Opposite of truth is an error / lie.

3. Opposite of an error / lie need not be truth, but it could be another error / lie.

4. An error / lie could contain strands of truth, but strands of truth will not transform the lie to truth.

If you agree to the flow of thoughts mentioned above, then the entailments are:

1. Truth excludes errors / lies.

2. Truth is absolute, singular and exclusive (also consistent). Hence, the opposite of truth is essentially a lie, it cannot be another truth.

3. Simply speaking, 1+1=2, there cannot be another answer to this equation.

If we have two truth claims, one should ascertain if there are contradictions between the two truth claims. Contradictory truth claims will not be true at the same time and in the same context.5

If two people are looking at the sky from the same room and at the same time, and if one says that the sun is brightly shining and the other says that there is no sun in the sky, only one of them can be right. In this context, the truth is that the sun is either visible or invisible; the sun cannot be both visible and invisible at the same time.

Moreover, if someone says, ‘there is no truth,’ then his statement is also not true - it’s nonsensical. Someone else could say that ‘truth’ is only a matter of opinion, and does not possess an absolute meaning. In this case, that very statement is also a matter of opinion and does not possess an absolute meaning, so it’s nonsensical as well.

So we can confidently affirm that truth is absolute, singular, exclusive, and objective.

The nature of truth teaches us that truth excludes contradictions. Since Historic Christianity and Universalism contradict each other, both these contradicting worldviews cannot be true at the same time and within the same context (e.g. Salvation). It’s either Historic Christianity or Universalism, not both.

If we believe that Historic Christianity is true, we ought to give reasons for our faith and hope. But why?

Reasons to Offer Reasons For Our Faith:
Just as Apostle Paul reasoned out with the Jews and the Gentiles in Athens and Corinth (Acts 17: 22 – 18: 4), we are to reason out with those of contradictory views. A few reasons to reason out our faith are:

Perspective of Discipleship: We are mandated to disciple others (Matthew 28: 19). Discipling includes answering / clarifying honest questions. Those who disciple others ought to practice their religion seriously. Serious practitioners of religion should have a basic knowledge of other worldviews. Lack of interest in contrasting worldviews, such as Universalism, is valid if discipleship is an insignificant part of our life. But if we are a disciple of the Lord Jesus and practice our religion seriously (seriously committed to it), we should explain the reason for our serious practice and commitment. Reasoning is innate in discipleship.

Perspective of Biblical Mandate: If we cannot explain the reason for our hope, then we are blind in our faith and practice. If ‘unexamined life is not worth living,’6 then ‘unexamined faith is not worth believing.’7 The unexamined faith cannot distinguish good from evil, and cannot provide reason for the hope we have in the Triune God and the Bible. Every Christian is mandated to demolish arguments and lofty opinions against God, and provide the reason for his belief in Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 10: 4-6; Hebrews 5: 14; 1 Peter 3: 15). This is the biblical mandate. Failure to provide a reason implies shallow faith and an anticipation to disbelieve Christ when confused and confronted with situations or arguments apparently more powerful than our faith. Moreover, failure to offer reason for our hope in Christ is a disobedience to God and HIS commands.

Perspective of Evangelization: We exist to help our family and neighbors. When we know the truth, we should speak of the truth to our neighbor. We live in the digital era; there are many who evangelize their worldview through digital and other mediums. Transmission of our faith mandates us to offer reasons / evidences for our faith. Failure to offer evidences reduces our belief to a lie. Those who believe in lies are liars. If we are not liars, we ought to substantiate the truth of our belief.

These are adequate reasons to reason out our faith. Let us reason together, says the Lord (Isaiah 1: 18, NASB). Thus we ought to reason the truth of Historic Christianity.

Having established the foundations, I will, in my next blog, provide adequate reasons for Historic Christianity from other perspectives, so to debunk Universalism. Amen.

1 Every apparent contradiction in the Bible can be reasonably explained. The Bible is the only ancient historic document that possesses a plethora of objective reasonings and evidences for its reliability.

2 The existence of God can be independently explained by philosophy and science.

3 Philosopher David Hume’s argument against miracles can be reasonably debunked.

4 Thus, Christ’s sacrifice was a perfect sacrifice – both from the divine and human standpoint. The Lord Jesus Christ is God incarnate, the Son of God, and the second person of the blessed Trinity. HE saves mankind from sins.

5 Law of Non-Contradiction

6 Socrates

7 Edwin Navarro

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