Episode 76: Burning Love (and Consuming Fire), a Response to Robin Parry (Part 1)

Rethinking Hell contributors Nick and Allison Quient join Chris Date to respond to some clips from Dr. Robin Parry’s plenary speech at the 2015 Rethinking Hell Conference, in which he presented a theological case for universalism. This episode contains the first half of their two-and-a-half-hour discussion; the second half will be made available in episode 77.

Links

RH Conference DVDs, Including Dr. Parry’s Presentation
http://rethinkinghell.com/about/order-dvds
“Justification and Life for All?” Allison’s Breakout Presentation
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMDZ1Za8IzQ
RH Conference 2015: Breakout Audio!
http://rethinkinghell.com/2015/07/rh-conference-2015-breakout-audio/
Allison Quient Nicholas Quient Podcast Universalism
Bookmark the permalink.
  • jeremiah

    I’m glad to see Rethinking Hell finally begin to engage Universalism. Frankly though, I’m not sure an Evangelical Universalist would find this critique very substantive. Many of the answers so far sounded a lot like, ” well, I believe Paul was a Conditionalist, so that won’t do,” or “I think a human’s will is stronger than God’s, so only Annihilation make sense.”

    In particular, the response to Robin Parry’s, “handful of verses” comment seemed unnecessary. I don’t know though, without hearing the entire context. Did he explicitly connect this to Conditionalists? I ask because this is repeated often by both Conditionalists and Universalists, most commonly aimed at Traditionalists, since it is them who indeed present these handful of New Testament passages to ‘prove’ the validity of their position much of the time.

    I did enjoy it still and thank you all for what you’re doing.

    • wtanksleyjr

      Thank you, Jeremiah, and you’re very welcome! I agree that the three sides have ignored each other for far too long. It’s long past time for us to spend time carefully examining one another’s objections with the goal of finding the truth. We were honored to have many universalists join us in the Rethinking Hell 2015 conference — please download some of the videos from youtube (unfortunately, the professional videographer has to be paid, so his videos are only available on the DVD set we’re selling).

      I’m not sure which of our discussions are best characterized by your paraphrases. I’m going to guess they’re both from part 2 of this discussion.

      The “I believe Paul was a conditionalist” is probably your summary of a much deeper discussion of Parry’s statement admitting that at least some Biblical authors don’t appear to be universalists while others do appear so (we’re not sure which ones he meant). The topic of Biblical theology is a major question on which traditionalists see progressive revelation, conditionalists see the same message on every page, and universalists see a trajectory and systematic. This is not a trivial difference; it’s something to be explored.

      On the “free will” argument, Chris was deferring to Nick and Allison specifically because Robin was arguing under the assumption of free will and Chris didn’t want to argue beside Robin’s point (he’s a Calvinist [EDIT: I mean _Chris_ is a Calvinist]). It’s not at all like you’re hearing it; this was Robin’s choice of grounds, not ours.

      I’m cuing up my time for Dr. Parry’s speech again (just got the DVDs, and that was going to be the first), so I’ll check the context of that out; I’d like to better understand what you found objectionable, though. Could you explain that a little more, please? What did we say that you think we shouldn’t have?

      • jeremiah

        Hey man, thanks for the response. My caricatures(in good fun of course) were from part 1, part 2 hadn’t yet been published. My free will paraphrase was from Allison often repeating, “…if you disconnect yourself from the source of life, you just cease to exist.” To my mind such an idea simply under estimates not only God’s power to save, but also his resolve to do so. How does one disconnect himself from the one who first thought him into existence? And in whom does he live and move and have his being? Perhaps God did make a rock he could not move.

        RE your last paragraph, I don’t think I meant they “shouldn’t have” said anything by calling it unnecessary. Maybe to say it another way—I think they made a mountain out of a mole hill—would make it clearer. Grace and peace to you…by the way, what’s your name?

        • wtanksleyjr

          I’m William — and I probably should change that nick, shouldn’t I.

          And there’s no question that humans are disconnected from the One who created them; the opening chapters of Genesis alone are adequate to show that, without the need to bring in the elaborate commentary of Ecclesiates or Romans. The question I read your post as raising is whether God is simply resolved to bring everyone back into connection.

          It’s certainly possible in the abstract that He is, of course. I don’t merely dismiss that.

          What I ask is that we make that decision on the basis of evidence. We see Sherman below appealing to two independent lines of evidence, while I respond by investigating the evidence and find that it doesn’t appear to be positively teaching that God “is pleased to reconcile all” _people_, but rather is teaching positively that God reconciles the cosmos, and holds it as an inheritance and kingdom for the Church — and such will be our inheritance as well, if we hold fast.

          I contrast that to the necessary meaning of the universalist claim, which implies that such will simply be everyone’s inheritance. In this context, Paul’s “if” has no force; and his use of the word “warning” has no referent. (But see below for the full argument.)

          So is Col 1 really an argument for universalism? No. Does that mean universalism is impossible? Also no; all I did was refute one specific argument. But we should believe things about God carefully and reverently, for good reasons and not bad ones. As more arguments for universal redemption being the revealed will of God tend to fall when you examine them in context, the probability of universalism being true should also fall.

          • jeremiah

            Hey William, you said: “But we should believe things about God
            carefully and reverently, for good reasons and not bad ones.”

            I agree.

            To your first paragraph: No brother, you are illegitimately equivocating between our death in sins (what many of us call spiritual death) and the disconnection Allison was speaking about with regard to final judgement. This last “disconnection” is what I was rejecting as a simplistic assertion. The idea thrives quite well within an Arminian paradigm, I understand, and is no different than the ECT advocate claiming God sends no one to hell, but rather we choose hell and God simply honors our choice—equally absurd and equally false.

            With regard to Col 1, I don’t think you succeeded in refuting anything.
            You merely emphasized the church’s place in what Paul says there to the point of obscuring bits within the passage that don’t fit how you
            read Paul.

            Above you say: “… it doesn’t appear to be positively teaching that
            God “is pleased to reconcile all” _people_, but rather is
            teaching positively that God reconciles the cosmos, and holds it as
            an inheritance and kingdom for the Church…”

            To my mind this is nonsensical, to exclude people from “all things”
            in the cosmos is no different than excluding pollen when speaking of
            a whole flower. The fact that “it doesn’t appear” to you to
            include people isn’t surprising and I totally understand. We perceive
            our father differently. Undoubtedly both us trust this perception to
            be grounded in God’s testimony of himself in his son, our place in
            Jesus, and indeed God himself, Please (!) don’t hear a patronizing
            tone in this, I only wish to demonstrate that it will never do to
            simply examine the evidence and decide the case. I do not dismiss
            this out of hand, but beleive if two sides look at evidence without
            first understanding each other, then they will never understand why
            the other reaches his conclusions. If we were so objective, humanity
            would likely not be where it is today, dead in sins, having no hope,
            and without God in the world. This will only result in us riding a
            merry go-round on our interpretations of the scriptures. I suspect
            this is the reason Robin Parry chose the approach he did with his
            speech at the conference. He probably understands that it is not for
            lack of knowledge of the scriptures from which we all disagree, but
            how we understand and think about God, and no matter how much we assert our views are purely informed by just reading the bible and
            believing what it says, we can’t escape the reality that our reading
            of the scriptures is always colored by an understanding of God which
            is anything but static.

            Conditionalism asserts God’s method of ridding the cosmos of sin by Jesus is to annihilate on the last day those who were in their life said to be slaves to sin. Universalism asserts that mortal death in no way
            quenches Jesus’ resolve to not break a bruised reed, nor extinguish a smoking flax, till he send forth judgement unto victory. “If hell
            be needful to save him, hell will blaze, and the worm will writhe and
            bite, until he takes refuge in the will of the Father.” Neither
            is this a trivial difference, and likewise deserves careful exploration. :)

          • William Tanksley Jr

            I don’t accept your charge of “illegitimately equivocating.” I hope you understand that although I’m attempting to interact with you, I’m not actually morally culpable for my meanings not matching the meanings you personally think are in another person’s head. No offense taken — but I’m not going to just ignore such a strongly worded accusation.

            More when I have time. But it won’t be about that, which I consider a distraction from the actual argument.

          • jeremiah

            Woah, back the truck up man. “Strongly worded accusation”? I didn’t accuse you of anything. equivocation is what i think you did, this is not strong language, it’s conversation.

          • William Tanksley Jr

            “Illegitimately equivocating” was the phrase I have a problem with. Now, I’m going to go back to the actual discussion — I’ll settle for knowing you’re not accusing anyone of anything.

          • William Tanksley Jr

            I’m going to skip your first paragraph, since it seems irrelevant to the discussion; I don’t understand why you think we think any of that.

            I except, of course, your point about the connection between “spiritual death” and “disconnection.” There my only point is to reemphasize my firm belief that actually being disconnected from God is actually being disconnected from the source of all life. I don’t know why that’s a problem for you; your answer should be that God is resolved to never disconnect anyone from Him, so it’ll never happen.

            I’m probably missing something, though.

            //With regard to Col 1, I don’t think you succeeded in refuting anything.
            You merely emphasized the church’s place in what Paul says there to the point of obscuring bits within the passage that don’t fit how you
            read Paul.//

            Absolutely nothing in my argument depends on the church. I’m mentioning it because NOT mentioning it would be leaving a huge gap in the passage. My argument depends on what you _admit_ I said:

            //Above you say: “… it doesn’t appear to be positively teaching that
            God “is pleased to reconcile all” _people_, but rather is
            teaching positively that God reconciles the cosmos, and holds it as
            an inheritance and kingdom for the Church…”//

            //To my mind this is nonsensical, to exclude people from “all things”
            in the cosmos//

            I understand your concern, and find it respectable. That’s why I gave three concrete textual reasons for my claim.

            //The fact that “it doesn’t appear” to you//

            You’ve paid attention to _zero_ of my concrete arguments, instead inventing two nonsense reasons that play no role in my argument: something about a church, and something about “appearing to me”.

            //Please (!) don’t hear a patronizing tone in this,//

            I appreciate you saying that — I see what you’re saying.

            //we can’t escape the reality that our reading of the scriptures is always colored by an understanding of God which is anything but static.//

            The idea here is that we know about God without knowing things about God. I don’t think that’s possible. We know about things because we know details, and we assemble them into a big picture. The simple fact that we can interpret facts wrongly doesn’t mean we shouldn’t interpret facts; it means we should interpret them cautiously.

            One thing I appreciate about your approach here is that although you’re asking me to look at the big picture, you’re NOT asking me to ignore the details. You’re actually interacting with me on those details. I’ve literally had universalists tell me that even if my arguments were all true they would still hold to universalism, because there might be some other way it might be true.

            //Conditionalism asserts God’s method of ridding the cosmos of sin by Jesus is to annihilate on the last day those who were in their life said to be slaves to sin.//

            No, God wouldn’t need to do anything to rid the cosmos of sin.

            The closest thing conditionalism asserts is that creation does not endure forever apart from union with the eternal creator. The amazing thing is not Jesus annihilating anyone; it’s that God built creation in order to preserve any of it.

            The reason for a day of judgment isn’t that God needs to to something extraordinary to get rid of all the people who otherwise would have lived forever! The reason is that God will exert His power to show _everyone_ His justice — and amazingly, will produce the New Heavens and New Earth, on that day completely fulfilling the one hope of those who trusted in Him.

            That’s a little abstract, though. I don’t ask you to believe it.

            //Universalism asserts that mortal death in no way quenches Jesus’ resolve to not break a bruised reed, nor extinguish a smoking flax, till he send forth judgement unto victory.//

            I get what you’re saying. (You do see the problem with that “until”, right?)

            I just assert none of that is true — death is actually God-instituted, Jesus did not say He has such a “resolve” (the verse right before should put any “resolve” in perspective), and if He did it would be “until” judgment.

          • jeremiah

            Hello William,

            you said: “I’m going to skip your first paragraph, since it seems irrelevant to the discussion; I don’t understand why you think we think any of that.”

            Only because I think I now see where the rub on this is :) , what do you mean “_we_ think”? My original paraphrase was directed at something Allison says in part 1, which results in humans ceasing to exist at the Judgement. You then in your response to me speak about it being clear that humans are disconnected already and cite the first couple chapters of Genesis to substantiate it. I called your response equivocation because you cited a sort of disconnection that is current and results in humans continuing to exist. They are not the same thing. I recognize the fall and do nothing to diminish it. My claim was the utter incapabability of a human to simply choose to disconnect himself from God, the very source of his life. I hope this helps to clarify, if not then it’s all good, we can just move on.

            you said: “The reason for a day of judgment isn’t that God needs to to something extraordinary to get rid of all the people who otherwise would have lived forever! The reason is that God will exert His power to show _everyone_ His justice — and amazingly, will produce the New Heavens and New Earth, on that day completely fulfilling the one hope of those who trusted in Him.”

            Amen, and amen.No brother I believe it! I just no longer share the conditionalist notion of what God’s justice will look like on that day.

            You say the amazing thing is not Jesus annihilating anyone but that “God built creation in order to preserve any of it.” Why is this amazing to you?

            I’ll address the rest of your reply later on. Grace and peace to you brother.

          • William Tanksley Jr

            //I called your response equivocation because you cited a sort of disconnection that is current and results in humans continuing to exist.//

            Ah. I see. But I don’t think it “results in humans continuing to exist”; I think it results in us continuously corrupting us and reducing our hold on existence, in spite of God’s design giving us so much initial life.

            //You say the amazing thing is not Jesus annihilating anyone but that “God built creation in order to preserve any of it.” Why is this amazing to you?//

            I expected nothing but agreement from you in that respect. We _thank_ and rejoice to God for His unexpected and unmerited salvation. It’s totally contrary to the natural course of things.

            Do I have that agreement now? :) (I don’t think this is a trap, by the way. I think you think the same about universal salvation that I think about particular salvation — that it’s totally unexpected.)

          • jeremiah

            I think we’re in agreement on that. Though this is intriguing: “…It’s totally contrary to the natural course of things.” I don’t know, but I have a feeling our agreement might get pretty fuzzy down that stream.

            Regarding this: “I get what you’re saying. (You do see the problem with that “until”, right?)

            I just assert none of that is true –…, Jesus did not say He has such a “resolve” (the verse right before should put any “resolve” in perspective), and if He did it would be “until” judgment.”

            No I don’t see any problem. The “until” does not mean, Jesus will act in such and such a way until the result occurs, then he will stomp the smoking flax and pound to splinters the bruised reed. It says he will act in such and such a manner until the result occurs. As in, this will be his approach until he accomplishes what he intends to accomplish. And what about the verse right before puts any “resolve” in perspective for you?

          • William Tanksley Jr

            Did you read the entire quote?

            15Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all 16and ordered them not to make him known. 17This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah:

            18“Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
            my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.
            I will put my Spirit upon him,
            and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
            19He will not quarrel or cry aloud,
            nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets;
            20a bruised reed he will not break,
            and a smoldering wick he will not quench,
            until he brings justice to victory;
            21 and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”

            It’s not saying Jesus has a resolve to do X, Y, and Z that he’ll always do; it’s telling us how the Jews should have recognized their Messiah while He was among them, and that Jesus actually fulfilled that prophecy while He was there.

            Really, the more I’m looking at this the less I’m seeing any reasonable argument for universalism. Not only are you dismissing the “until”, and the fact that the prophecy is about how He would appear before His kinsmen, you’re also stretching the “bruised reed and smoldering wick” to the breaking point, just assuming that means he wouldn’t hurt _anything at all_, as though it were about Him being super-nice. But it’s hardly obvious it means that; it looks to me (and this shows up in commentaries) like it means He won’t discourage anyone who’s honestly seeking Him, or turn anyone away who’s repentant.

            But He was not super-nice to the Pharisees, nor to the crowds in John 6.

          • jeremiah

            Good morning William, you said: “Really, the more I’m looking at this the less I’m seeing any reasonable argument for universalism.”

            Right, I wasn’t presenting the passage as an “argument for universalism,” by itself. Nor did I ever imagine that this passage explicitly states that Jesus has this “resolve”. I employed the quote to demonstrate an important aspect of Jesus’ general disposition towards sinners, and after implying that mortal death in no way diminishes this attitude. This was to show a big difference of a way Conditionalism views Jesus as executioner of those he “loved” while they were among the land of the living. So no, I was “stretching” nothing for I said nothing like, see here, this bruised reed stuff means universalism is true.

            Your right and I agree that the passage is not saying that Jesus is just some super nice guy. My comparison above was not to show Conditionalism presenting only an executioner, and Universalism only a sweetly gentle Godman who will sit sinners on his lap on the last day and calmly explain why he’s letting them off the hook this time. I do not deny judgement day and indeed, like Paul, I count it a most fearful thing for the child who while in this body rejects Jesus’ call to life. The difference is, what we believe happens after Judgement day. And I agree that it means he won’t discourage anyone seeking him and how he would appear to his kinsmen, but to leave it there as if this is just some nice poetic language about the lord of life, “nothing else to see here,” and move along is to gloss over an otherwise more richly dense affirmation of the son of God and his character than you are apparently willing to grant.

            Finally, about my “dismissing” the “until”, to my mind this is just silly. It’s not as if I’m making up grammatical rules as I go and then reinventing some otherwise obvious meaning. The “until” simply does not necessitate what you think it does. I’m dismissing nothing, I only reject a very common reading of it.

            Grace and peace to you brother.

          • William Tanksley Jr

            It sounds like I’ve made my point, then; we agree, except that I reserve the right to disagree that it’s not “silly” to think a passage with an “until” reasonably speaks up to a limit and then doesn’t opine past that.

  • Sherman Nobles

    Concerning the discussion of Col.1.23 “if indeed”. The passage is a clear warning, agreed, but not a warning of being ultimately lost, not saved, but a warning of not being presented holy, faultless, and blameless before God. Thus, 1.23 does not nullify or mitigate the universality of 1.15-20. A person being “lost” if he/she does not “remain grounded and steadfast in the faith…” is read into the passage and does not come from the passage. The goal Paul is presenting is being presented holy, faultless, and blameless before God; this is the motivation for remaining grounded and steadfast in the faith. So it is love for God that motivates us live holy, not a fear of ultimately being lost; at least that’s what Col. 1 is presenting.

    • wtanksleyjr

      The claim shouldn’t be that Col 1:23 nullifies universality present in another text; rather, it’s that the passage in its context is qualified in its universality.

      The primary actor in Col 1:23, as in the verses following the “thanks” passage of Col 1:12, is God; even the “all things” verses in between are praising the actions of God. These passages are a single unit praising the qualifying work of God to draw us into an inheritance at the center of which is the church, with Christ as its head (and as the many-times-rightful owner of the entire inheritance). Christ is the owner by the right of creation, of maintenance, of

      So we see that God’s action is to rescue and transfer us, not simply to present us holy. This transfer brings us in as new members into the Kingdom of the beloved son, and without that transfer we would remain outside.

      This single action by the single being of God (in three Persons) is what Paul is here warning about. The danger is indeed that we won’t be presented holy, which also means we miss out on the inheritance of the saints in light, and the entire Kingdom of the beloved Son. This is a warning of a concrete outcome to be dreaded, not an abstract warning of not being presented holy (without any specific outcome).

      Nor does this “nullify” the universalism of the text; rather, it explains the context of the passage. The “all things” Paul is discussing is not “panta” (“all things” individually), but rather “ta panta” (“the all” collectively, see any technical Greek commentary on Col 1:16), and it refers to creation as a whole rather than an enumeration of parts. Christ designed, upholds, and purchased all of the cosmos, and holds a place in it for His people as His Church (which is at the center of this passage) of which He is the head. All of the structures of power Christ designed –thrones, dominions, powers, archons — are held by Him for the Church, which they will occupy when they judge angels.

      • Sherman Nobles

        So “all things” means all things collectively as in a generality, but not all things individually or particularly. But if “all things” does not include all things individually, then “all things” does not mean all things collectively, rather it would imply that Paul is speaking in hyperbole, overstatement and did not intend to imply that “all things” really means “all things”.

        To me though, the context of the passage affirms that “all things” means “all things” collectively and individually. If “all things” were created through Jesus and for Jesus, then this is the same “all things” that are ultimately reconciled to him through his making peace on the cross. And it is significant to note that the word “reconciled” recognizes that there is currently enmity, strife in some, many of the noted relationships, but that this enmity is ultimately overcome through “the blood of the cross.”

        And 1:23 is a warning of concrete outcome, that being that one is not presented before God holy and blameless. Elsewhere Paul warns of judgment burning up the worthless things of our lives. It’s a similar warning, a warning that means something to those who love God, but is not meant to imply that some are ultimately lost, not reconciled to God.

        • William Tanksley Jr

          Thank you!

          I see that I made a technical claim about “all things” without citing evidence, thank you for tolerating that. Check http://biblehub.com/commentaries/colossians/1-16.htm, the “technical commentaries” side. You’ll see that almost every one makes the same observation about how the phrase /ta panta/ refers to the whole and not the parts, at least in passing (“Vincent” states it briefly and clearly). (Also note that the passage does use the anarthous /panta/ in some places, for comparison.) Check also the same website for Col 1:20.

          And your own argument above actually supports my case, when seen in the actual context of the passage. The /all things/ that were all created and sustained and are now present do not include any human beings, because we were not present at the act of creation and do not endure through cosmic ages.

          The use of language which could either be angelic or purely impersonal through the entire passage is an additional clue toward this point, although of course it doesn’t prove anything. (Some passages use the word ‘ruler’ for /archon/, but the Greek means an office, not the being who occupies it.)

          The meaning of reconciliation differs according to the thing being reconciled. A throne can be reconciled to God by casting down its former holder and putting a new one in it. People are reconciled by removing their hostility and making them holy so that they can exist in the presence of God — and such beings are appropriate to place in such thrones (which is how I think the passage is to be read).

          By your own argument, not being presented holy before God is not the outcome (because you think everyone will be refined until they _are_ holy, and _that_ is the outcome). By my argument it _is_ the outcome. To be in the presence of the Holy One is to be holy, or to be destroyed. Therefore, your reading cannot interpret a coherent warning from this passage — your model requires that this passage simply not mention in any way the outcome for the unrepentant, while in my model this passage, while not explicitly saying what will happen to them, shows that their outcome is to _remain_ excluded from the kingdom of the beloved Son — and that is all the warning that need be given, because as such they cannot BE in the “all in all”.

  • Sherman Nobles

    Concerning their discussion of Phil. 3:19, “Their end (telos) is destruction” necessarily meaning that not all are ultimately reconciled, what “end” is Paul referencing? Is it their “end of existence” or could it be the “end of their life”, how their life ended up. I suppose if I did not understand, or misunderstand, the universalistic passages to affirm universal reconciliation, I’d also lean towards “end of existence”; but because the universalistic passages seem so clearly “to me” to affirm universal reconciliation, I think that in 3:19 Paul is referencing in general the destruction of life, death that comes through sin.

    • wtanksleyjr

      It strikes me, then, that you accurately see the strength of our argument here; you turn to other verses that you think are less ambiguous, but you admit that this does seem to have the force we claim on its own.

      One of the problems with the specific interpretation you’re offering here, that it’s merely the end of their earthly life, is that the Bible admits that sometimes the wicked outlive the righteous, and sometimes they’re even given beautiful funerals with weeping but fulfilled families left behind (see Job 21, Ps 73). There no clear sense that their end is destruction unless, somehow, there’s some kind of final judgment. And this is precisely the meaning conditionalists assign to “their end is destruction.”

      Whether this “end” is a final termination, or an ultimate purpose, either way, it’s the last thing they will experience. So your proposed alternate meaning seems to lead to the same conclusion as our arguments require, because a mere early death certainly isn’t what the passage is talking about.

      • Sherman Nobles

        So you also are interpreting this passage, Phil.3:19, based on what you see in other passages, Job 21 and Ps 73, not just what you see in this passage. And 3:19 does not affirm in and of itself that the end implies that such is the last thing they’ll experience.

        We all interpret individual passages through the filter of our overall understanding, or misunderstanding, of scripture. I understand, or misunderstand, this passage to be a generalization, as in saying, “the drug addict’s end is destruction.” because I believe Jesus really is savior of all in deed not just in title. You see in this passage that “end is destruction” affirms annihilation because that’s what you understand, or misunderstand, scripture to affirm overall. And if I did not find scripture to so compellingly affirm universal reconciliation, I’d believe in annihilation also.

        Calvinist’s focus on scriptures that affirm that God is sovereign over all. Arminianists focus on scriptures that affirm that God is love in all. Both Calvinists and Arminianists limit the atonement and interpret the UR passages as generalizations because they believe that some are certainly lost, and also minimize either the love or sovereignty of God. Universalists believe that God is both sovereign over all and love in all, and thus can believe that God is also savior, reconciles of all. And we can believe this because we understand the passages concerning judgment and punishment of sin to ultimately be for our God, to reconcile us to God. This is the picture I see painted in scripture and fits the character of God as I understand (misunderstand) Him to be – both love and sovereign. But of course, I could be wrong and maybe God doesn’t really love all (Calvinism) or love fails (Arminianism).

        • William Tanksley Jr

          No, I’m not turning to other passages to interpret this passage; I’m turning to other passages to show that your doubts about this passage are Biblically contradicted. It’s true that the OT says the wicked should die in ignominy; it’s not true that the OT simply naively assumes this always happens in this life, and the NT tends to make that even more clear. Let me put it another way: wouldn’t you be surprised to discover that every one of those persecutors died in dishonor of the sort the passage is discussing? I mean, I’m sure _some_ of them did, but way more of the Christians they were chasing did. The /telos/ within this passage is not about an end to earthly life; that would lead to its teachings being simply naive.

          The idea, on the other hand, that this is talking about a /telos/ meaning a general proper inclination that will be reversed is Biblically worthy, but it’s counterindicated by the fact that we _all_ have that same telos in that sense, while this passage is making a distinction between two groups of people that would be alien to that sense of /telos/.

          //And 3:19 does not affirm in and of itself that the end implies that such is the last thing they’ll experience.//

          This passage is not about what they experience at all. Asking it to clarify an order of experiences is inherently eisegetical. The question you need to ask is what it means on its own terms: what /telos/ means.

  • disquswithme

    I enjoyed the episodes (parts 1 and 2). I also enjoyed Allison Quient’s talk (via Youtube) at the RH conferences. I was one of the most interesting to me. Thank you!

  • Chris

    I know not all will agree with me. I believe there are passages that can be interpreted in many different ways, but the verses below seem to just make sense to me. I try to interpret using the totality of the Bible. If one area doesn’t fit quite right, maybe I’m wrong in my interpretation.

    Genesis 2
    16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:
    17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

    That word “die” is really what is in question here. From a Conditionalist perspective, it means one will no long remain among the living. The Traditionalist would say it means eternal separation from God. I’m just asking, what does “die” mean to a Universalist?

    I believe the right belief can be found in the proper interpretation of the word “die” or “death”.

    Romans 5
    12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

    Sin was passed to all in the world. That’s why Jesus came, right? We had no hope, right? But Jesus was exclusive or inclusive, however one wants to term it. He invites, but doesn’t force.

    John 14
    6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

    John 11
    25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:

    Clearly there are consequences for not turning to Christ. How does one receive life without receiving Christ? Also, if “die” does not really mean “dead”, why the resurrection of life?

    It is not the will of Christ that any should perish, though John makes it clear in (John 3:16) that “whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life”. The contrast otherwise makes absolutely no sense.

    God has offered us a choice. This choice is blurred to many people, including Christians. The choice is clear. Choose Life! Choose Jesus Christ.

  • Nicolas Thomas

    Unfortunately you didn’t finish the quote from 1 Cor 5 about the man with his mother-in-law:
    Paul “delivers this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh —- so that (hina) his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”

    “Destruction” is not incompatible with a process leading eventually to salvation.

    After describing two processes of regeneration, one of which includes a painful hell, Jesus says this:

    “For (gar) everyone will be salted by fire” (Mk 9:49). In other words, everyone will suffer (fire) in order to be healed and preserved (salted) —- but the far better way by far is by cutting off our sin in this world, rather than the destruction of the flesh in hell. This is not talking about “final destinies” but is describing an ongoing process, midway.

    I think the biggest mistake made in our reading of the Bible is this: we read a “final result” into a text that is really taking about an “on-going process”.

    1 Cor 1:18 is talking about an on-going process: “those who are perishing” and “those who are being saved”.

    But so is John 3:36: “he who is believing has eternal life … he who is not obeying (as long as he does so) shall not see life, but the wrath of God is resting (present tense continuous) on him.”

    All of our NT Greek textbooks tell us that the Gk present tense is closer to our Eng. “present continuous”, but we often fail to use it. We often muddy the translation with the so-called “present simple” — which isn’t really a present tense at all, but a kind of infinitive tense.

    Sorry, now I’m rambling. But thank you very much for the most interesting discussion!

    • William Tanksley Jr

      //Unfortunately you didn’t finish the quote from 1 Cor 5 about the man with his mother-in-law: Paul “delivers this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh —- so that (hina) his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”//

      I’m not sure who you’re talking to, but I’ll cut in.

      //”Destruction” is not incompatible with a process leading eventually to salvation.//

      Every text has ambiguities. Your reading of this passage simply exploits an ambiguity to create an imagined teaching that’s nowhere present (not even in this text).

      The alternate reading (and the correct one) is that the _delivery_ has the purpose of saving the man; not that the _destruction_ would save the man. This is Paul’s consistent teaching about excommunication everywhere; that we are to confront sinners and offenders with a spirit of hoping to restore them. Even the final step, this shows us, is taken with the purpose (hina) that the man will be saved because of the church’s action of excommunicating him — and because the church warns him of the danger he’s being placed in, the hope is that the man will repent. And this hope is fulfilled in 2 Cor.

      Your proposed meaning actually reverses the intention of the text; it would make us _eager_ to excommunicate people, because such would make their salvation certain.

      • Nicolas Thomas

        Thank you William.
        I’m impressed by the sophistry of your reply, but I’m not
        convinced. I loved the words “Your reading of this passage simply exploits an ambiguity to create an imagined teaching…” I hope the traditionalists
        don’t get hold of that, because they will start using it against both me and
        thee!

        I’m surprised that your reading of 1 Cor 5:5 completely separates the word “deliver” and the word “destruction” as if they had nothing to do with each other. The delivery is a delivery to Satan, involving destruction of the flesh, and in this round-about-way it can lead to salvation.
        Not that the destruction effects the salvation, but that it brings the sinner to his senses.
        My point was simply this: in 1 Cor 5:5, the NT word “destruction” is being used as part of a process that can lead to salvation.

        Nor is this based solely on an ambiguous text, as you suggest. A very similar process is described in I Cor 3:15. In the OT we have God “smiting and healing” Egypt (Is 19:22).

        Your explanation of Paul’s consistent teaching about excommunication is excellent, and I completely agree.

        • William Tanksley Jr

          //I’m impressed by the sophistry of your reply//

          Sophistry means “the use of fallacious arguments, especially with the intention of deceiving.” Did you know and intend that meaning?

          //Not that the destruction effects the salvation, but that it brings the sinner to his senses.//

          That’s _exactly_ your reading, and my entire point is that it’s a reading that creates an entirely new doctrine that turns all of Pauline doctrine about excommunication on its head.

          I pointed out that Paul hopes (as he does everywhere else) that the _excommunication_ will bring the man to his senses, because (in this verse) the excommunication includes an obvious and plausible threat of destruction. It’s hard to miss (although Paul doesn’t point this out here) that the same threat of destruction is present to all who aren’t in the church.

          The real problem for your doctrine is the implication of your reading — that Paul is teaching that unlike people in the world (who are doomed but whose souls will be saved on the day of the Lord, per your reading) people in the church who sin need special action in order to be saved — Paul had to _beg_ the Corinthians to kick the guy out into comparative safety.

          The verses you quote don’t actually pertain to this discussion; your reading of this verse still gives the novel result that at least some people in the church are in _more_ danger than any people outside.

          My reading is to have this verse teach the same as all the other verses do — that excommunication reveals and preaches the actual danger an unrepentant sinner is always in. Your reading is that excommunication exposes the sinner to a means of grace through which the sinner is saved.

          • Nicolas Thomas

            Dear William, I was using the mildest definition of “sophistry”
            and you are using the strongest. In any case, I’m sorry that my attempt at a bit of light hearted banter failed.

            As to the rest, you write:
            “I pointed out that Paul hopes (as he does everywhere else) that the
            _excommunication_ will bring the man to his senses.”

            That’s exactly what I said.

            You write: “excommunication includes an obvious and
            plausible threat of destruction.”

            I would say that the destruction is more than threat — it’s
            actual and real. After all, the text does say: “to deliver this man for the destruction of the flesh”.

            Nor am I separating what happens to people inside and
            outside the Church. Both are subject to the effect of the “wrath of God” (Rom 1:18). This is the process in which all humanity finds itself on-going just now.

            Actually, it’s very relevant to include, here, a verse like 1 Cor
            3:15
            — “If any man’s work is burned, the he will suffer loss; though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

            That’s for Christians, in that context, but as Jesus himself said: “Everyone will be salted by fire” (Mk 9:49).

          • William Tanksley Jr

            //I was using the mildest definition of “sophistry” and you are using the strongest.//

            I’m glad to hear that was only meant as a joke. You have my curiosity, though. What’s the mildest definition? All of the dictionaries I have give deliberate deceit as the only definition. (You don’t have to cite an authority — I trust you to explain your own thoughts.)

            I was attempting to discuss how your reading of 1 Cor 5 fails to cohere internally or externally.

            You argument above might be explained as “there’s no difference between being in and out of the church per se”, and there’s a certain sense I can respect that statement (being inside a church building or on a membership roll doesn’t save you); but it’s unuseful inasfar as we’re discussing 1 Cor 5 _specifically_. In this specific verse Paul is demanding that the local church excommunicate that man, and he’s giving consequences of that. Your current argument therefore stops precisely where this verse starts — there’s _something_ Paul is doing here.

            Paul is here claiming that this excommunication (“delivery to Satan”) will have consequences: (1) “for destruction” and (2) “in order that … saved”.

            I’d suggest that Paul is asking the elders to show the man the danger of his unrepentant sin — that unless he repents he’ll receive a bad consequence. That “bad consequence” is destruction of the flesh. The goal the elders are instructed to have in making this threat is the salvation of his spirit on the Day. This all fits with every other excommunication passage (and you seem to agree with that).

            Your reading requires that Paul and the elders want to cause the man’s destruction and salvation in the same sense; that they’re going to achieve that by kicking him out of the church; and that Paul is worried that they won’t get that if they don’t kick him out. In other words, your reading of this verse doesn’t lead to universalism — in fact, it kind of looks like excommunication is the only way to be completely sure you’ll be saved, since Paul’s worried.

          • Nicolas Thomas

            Dear William,

            Thank you for interacting with me. I’m sorry you think we’re not seeing eye to eye.

            I agree with your description of your own stance, and don’t follow your criticism of mine. I’ll leave it there.

      • Nicolas Thomas

        Could I invite you, and others, to discuss my other point about the Greek “present continuous”? In addition to the two examples given in my first submission, I’d like to give one more.

        At the end of Rev 20, we have the end of this world order, the great white throne judgment and the wicked thrown into the lake of fire.
        Chapter 21 then begins with the new heaven and new earth being brought
        together, and God himself saying “Behold, I am making all things new”.

        I believe that God, even at this late point in the narrative, is still in the process of making all things new. Even the destruction in the lake of fire is a kind of delivery to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, with the possibility that souls be saved. I would appreciate your feedback.

        • William Tanksley Jr

          If I’m reading you right, you seem to think that we should use the English “present progressive” to translate the Greek present tense. Your justification appears to be a citation of elementary Greek grammars (although I don’t see anything specific to support your claim, just a vague citation).

          My answer is that the Greek present tense is the “normal” tense of discourse, and as such, carries many possible translations. It’s more like the English “simple present” than the marked way English conveys a “present continuous” — so that even though Greek present CAN mean continuous, it can also mean simple present, typical present, and many other things.

          Further, I think you’ve oversimplified translation by assuming that a single verb tense in an ancient language maps directly to a single tense in modern English. That almost never happens, even with a relatively simple tense like Greek and English futures — and it certainly isn’t happening with the very complex Greek and English present.

          The fact that all translations that make an effort to convey accurate idiomatic English meaning don’t follow your advice is an indication that experts think your advice wouldn’t produce an accurate translation.

          • Nicolas Thomas

            I’m very aware that there is no simple correspondence between languages, especially in issues of the tense of verbs!

            In addition, each language has it’s own idioms and conventions which defy grammar, making a simple correspondence even harder
            – eg present tense used for the future: “Tomorrow, I’m going to Japan”!

            That said, I think it’s well accepted that the Greek present tense is closer to our present continuous than it is to our so called present simple. The main reason we use the present simple in conjugation
            tables is because it takes up less room (I walk, you walk, he she it walks etc rather than I am walking etc).

            Grant Osborne is an excellent evangelical scholar.
            His Hermeneutical Spiral, page 69 deals with this issue.

            You write: “The fact that all translations that make an effort to convey accurate idiomatic English meaning don’t follow your advice …”.
            Well, just look at how the NIV and the ESV are now adopting the present continuous at Rev 21:5 and 1 Cor 1:18.

            BUT HERE’S THE POINT I REALLY WANT TO EXPLORE:
            You seem to think of the present simple as the more true present tense. I would argue that our present continuous is the more true present tense.
            The so called present simple is more of an infinitive: to walk, I walk, you walk etc. In the sentence “Whenever I walk, I enjoy the
            scenery” we can seen that it’s more non-tense than anything else. No wonder Osborne has this so called “present simple” as one translation for the aorist (eg I walk ) along with the simple past (I walked).

            I would very much like some feedback on this last paragraph.

          • William Tanksley Jr

            No, I don’t think of the “present simple as the more true present tense.” That’s the fallacy of thinking there’s a simple correspondence between tenses in different languages, which we agree isn’t useful. I don’t know why you want to pick a default tense when you know there’s no such thing.

            I don’t see your point here, sorry.

          • Nicolas Thomas

            Thanks again for interacting. You’re right, if my method is taken to an extreme, it does end in a rigid “default tense” — but equally, your method could end in the chaos of a free for all. Neither of us, I know, mean to take it to that extreme! Again, I’ll leave it there.

Featured audio: Dr. Al Mohler & Chris Date debate
"Should Christians rethink Hell?" on Unbelievable?