Bishop Carlton Pearson
SAVIOR OF THE WORLD
1 Timothy 4:9-10 says, “This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance 10. (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our trust in the Living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially those who believe.” If, in fact, Jesus is the
Savior of (not just for) all men, and especially those who believe, is it not quite who don’t believe, have never heard or perhaps didn’t hear accurately?
The way I understand it, “Grace works without requiring anything on our part. It’s not expensive. It’s not even cheap. It is free.” Ephesians 2:11 says, “It is by grace you have been saved by faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works so that no man can boast.
”Let’s pause a moment and notice Charles Spurgeon’s commentary of the a forementioned passage from his book,
“By Grace Through Faith.” “I think it well to turn a little to one side that I may ask my reader to observe adoringly the fountainhead of our salvation, which is the grace of God. “By grace are ye saved”….Remember this; or you may fall into error by fixing your minds so much upon the faith which is the channel of salvation as to forget the grace which is the fountain and source even of faith itself. Faith is the work of God’s grace in us. No man can say that Jesus is the Christ but by the Holy Ghost. “No man cometh unto me,” saith the Jesus, “except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” So that faith, which is coming to Christ, is the result of divine drawing. Grace is the first and last moving cause of salvation; and faith, essential as it is, is only an important part of the machinery which grace employs. We are saved “through faith,”
but salvation is “by grace,” Sound forth those words as with the archangel’s trumpet: “By grace are ye saved.” What glad tidings for the undeserving!”
WHAT'S FAITH GOT TO DO WITH IT?
In some ways, faith may be more of a privilege than a requirement for salvation. As a born-again Christian myself, it goes without saying that believing and receiving what
Jesus did and who He is, absolutely has a powerful affect on and influence over the heart and in the life of a believer; however, it does not necessarily change or effect the eternal destiny of the person. The ultimate destiny of the earth and God’s creation of the human race is all in the sovereign hands and control of the Sovereign and loving God.
We must ask ourselves, does believing make a person born again or does being born again make you a believer? Does the Gospel make a person righteous or does it simply reveal a condition that is already there-a condition wrought and bought by the blood of Jesus Christ? I am not challenging redemption, I am challenging what act or fact produces the other.
In a practical sense, would God send His son to buy our salvation and then make it contingent on whether or not the missionary could hear and obey the call, raise enough support to get a ticket to the foreign land in time to reach the lost heathen dying of some dread disease? Why would Jesus pay the awful and awesome price to save the world and then trust its reality or its realization exclusively to a group of western Evangelicals, who for the most part can’t even agree on the simple subject of water baptism or how and when to take communion, let alone with whom to take it? Romans 3:1-3, deals specifically with the question of faith and the imminence or pre-imminence of the role it plays on the part of the redeemed in relation to the ultimate work or act of redemption. It becomes a matter of the “works of faith” in comparison or perhaps in contrast, to the “faith that works”. James 2:14-26 asks the question, “Can faith (random) save anybody? The author’s answer suggests, “Not necessarily.” There is also the comment that even demons believe and shudder with fear. Later on, in verse 25, James calls Rahab, a non-Jewish, Canaanite prostitute, “righteous,” because of her faith and/or confidence in God to give them the city of Jericho.
Verse 3 of Romans 3 ask another question regarding the role of faith in the salvation and identification process. He asks, “What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness, (trustworthiness or credibleness)? Paul answers in
the 4th verse, “Not at all! Let God be true and every man a liar.”
His point is that God’s faithfulness to Himself, His Word and His ultimate Will regarding the redemption of the race, is not affected by man’s faith or lack of it.
Ephesians 1:11 says, “In him, (Jesus) we were chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will." Verse 7 of that same chapter says, “In him we have redemption through
his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace, that he lavished us will all wisdom and understanding.”
The popular assumption is that Paul was speaking exclusively of Christians, with regard to redemption and forgiveness, but ask yourself the question, “Why would a loving God reserve forgiveness and redemption for only a few or a limited number of those he created in the world if, in fact, God so loved the entire world and is in fact the savior of all men?
Is God a respecter of persons? Is he discriminatory or prejudiced toward or against some and not others? Is he trustworthy? Or better yet, ask yourself, “Who did Jesus
fail to redeem in the finished work of the Cross?” “What segment of humanity was his blood too weak to reach and wash?”
Who did he leave out of his Will and Purpose in “working all things out”?
Another scripture that emphasizes God’s sovereign commitment to Himself in redemption is, 2 Timothy 2:13 which says, “If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.”
Some have asked the very legitimate question, “What is the purpose or advantage of being a Christian or what value is there in being born again?” As alluded to earlier, The Apostle Paul assumed a similar question in Romans 3:1, when he addressed what he thought his Jewish brethren were thinking. “What advantage then is there in being a Jew or what is the value of circumcision?” Paul answered, “Much in every
way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God. “If the world is already saved, then what is the value of being a Christian and what is the purpose of being “born again”? The KJV uses the term “oracles” for the NIV’s “word”. It is in Greek, “Logion” and it means an utterance or oration, to be fluent, with the message. The Apostle calls it the “word’ or ‘message’ of reconciliation,” in 2 Corinthians 5:18-19. These terms are derivatives of the Greek word “logos” or in English, “logic”. There is a both a practical and spiritual logic to the idea of God’s plan of redemption for mankind. It is a workable and working plan that is in process and is God’s ultimate scheme or schematic for the planet-the earth project.
My contention is that the plan works and is working. It is not a failed plan. When Jesus said, “It is finished!” He didn’t mean “half or partially finished.” If His reference was, in fact, to the redemption or reconciliation of the world to God, as indicated in II Corinthians 5:18-19, then my declaration of universal reconciliation and ultimate salvation of all is both entirely Scriptural and entirely logical.
We all sing the words of the song, “Lift Him Up.” Notice the lyrics: “How to reach the masses, men of every birth, for the answer Jesus gave the Key. He said if I, If I be lifted up from the earth, I’ll draw all men unto me.” If, in fact, “all” means “all”, then there should be no real question here. Mind you, we
are not just quoting a song; we are literally singing Scripture from the Gospel of John chapter 12 verse 32. Unless you interpret the word “all” as, some, a few, or, only those who accept or believe it, then it, (all) is a very inclusive term that excludes none.
Isaiah 53:6 says, “All we like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all”. Again, if we believe that reference to be in particular to Jews, but in general to “us all,” then the penalty or
punishment for sin has been paid by Jesus. The debt is paid and, thus, cancelled, and we are free to live the life of the redeemed and to, as the Scripture says, “say so!” (Psalm 107:2)
Another point regarding the John 12:32 reference, to Jesus stating when lifted up, He would “draw” all men (mankind) into Himself. The word draw as here used in the original Greek is the word helkuo, and it means literally, to drag. The word occurs in
this particular tense only four times in the NT.
According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, it is probably akin to the word, “aihreomai”, which means “to take for oneself”, to “choose or prefer”. It can be compared to the word helisso, which means, “to coil, wrap, fold up or roll together”, (like a package). This particular use of the word only appears four times in the NT and in each case, the object being drawn is either unwilling, (James 2:6), inanimate, (John
21:6) or perhaps unaware, ( John 6:44 and John 12:32).
Again, the onus is put and kept upon the Sovereignty of God, rather than the fickle and/or inconsistent will of man.
Romans 3:23-24 says, “...all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came (past tense) by Christ Jesus.” ”...The law of God condemns us all until, while we are still sinners, grace comes and liberates us from it’s curse without a single condition attached; no improvements demanded, no promises extorted, just the extravagant, outrageous, hilarious absurdity of free grace and dying love.” (Capon) Robert Farrar Capon is an Episcopal priest from New York.
One of the accusations attributed to my “Gospel of Inclusion” is that it is a new heresy espoused by those influenced by the end-time or last days’ doctrines of demons mentioned by Paul in his 1st letter to Timothy, in Chapter 4 verses 1-5. However, it has been my happy experience to learn that the idea of the ultimate salvation of all was the prevailing theological posture of the first 400 to 500 years of Christian Church history. It was the prevailing doctrine in Christendom as long as Greek, the language of the New Testament, was the language of Christendom. According to Dr. J. W. Hanson in his book, “Universalism the Prevailing Doctrine,” the first comparatively complete systematic statement of Christian doctrine ever given to the world was by Clement of Alexandria, A.D. 180, and universal salvation was one of the tenets.
Clement declared that all punishment, however severe, is purificatory; that even the “torments of the damned” are curative. Origen, another of the early church fathers explains even Gehenna as signifying limited and curative punishment, and both, as all other ancient Universalists,declarethe‘everlasting’ (aionion) punishment, is
consonant with universal salvation. To quote Clements of Alexandria, “He saves ALL universally, but some are converted
by punishment, others by voluntary submission.”
Universalism was generally believed in the best centuries, (the first three, when Christians were most remarkable) for simplicity, goodness and missionary zeal. With the exception of the arguments of Augustine, (A.D. 420), there is not an argument
known to have been framed against Universalism for at least 400 years after Christ, by any of the ancient fathers. All ecclesiastical historians and the best Biblical critics and scholars agree to the prevalence of Universalism in the earlier centuries. From the days of Clement of Alexandria, to those of Gregory of Nyssa and Theodoret of Mopsuestia (A.D. 180-428), the great theologians and teachers, almost without
exception, were Universalists. The first theological school in Christendom, that being in Alexandria, taught Universalism for more than 200 years.
To quote Clement again, We can set no limits to the agency of the Redeemer: to redeem, to rescue, to discipline, in his work, and so will he continue to operate after this life” “All men are his....for either the Lord does not care for all men...or he does
care for all. For he is savior; not of some and for others not...and how is He savior and Lord, if not the savior and Lord of all? For all things are arranged with a view to the salvation of the universe by the Lord of the universe both generally and
It appears to me that the early church fathers were not only advocates of the doctrine of universal reconciliation but, also of “Ultimate reconciliation” as well. Gregory of Nyssa said, “All punishments are means of purification, ordained by Divine Love to purge rational beings from moral evil and to restore them back to communion with God”
“....God would not have permitted the experience of hell unless He had foreseen through redemption, that all rational beings would, in the end, attain to the same blessed fellowship with Himself.” Let’s ponder for a moment, the way Mr. Capon closes the above quotation, He says, that all rational beings would “in the end,” attain to the same blessed fellowship with Himself.”
The issue of “Final Things” or the eschatology of the fear-based theologies of the world’s religions, including Christianity, seems to be the overriding struggle paralyzing their adherents in horror and debilitating insecurity concerning how this entire scenario will ultimately turn out. If you doubt the outcome, you inevitably doubt the out-from. If you cannot and do not trust the Author, then you will not trust the Finisher of our Faith.
Revelations 22:13 says, “I am the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Most people don’t have difficulty beginning or starting a thing, whether marriage,
business or ministry-it is the completion of the thing that seems to be the great paradox of choice.
The great question seems to remain, “How will this all end? What will be the final outcome of this intriguing ordeal we call Life?” God, who is omniscient, knew from the day He created man in His image and likeness, what man was capable of doing and what he would, in actuality, do. The scripture says Jesus is the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world. (Revelations 13:8)
In Luke 10:17-20, Jesus tells His disciples to rejoice, not because demons are subject to them in His name, but because their names were written in heaven. Since this took place before the Cross or resurrection, how were their names already written? And who could have written them but God himself perhaps in creation or before it. The suggestion must be that this entire issue of the redemption of humankind to God was discussed and decided before the foundation of the world.
Capon explains it like this: “In God the end is fully present in the beginning; the beginning is fully realized in the end. He didn’t have to change his mind, drop a stitch, pull out a row, reverse engines or slam on his brakes.” The sins of Adam and Eve in the garden didn’t shock heaven and throw it into chaos. The Master plan was already in place and there was a natural flow of response by God’s power and Grace.
The book of Revelation ends with the masses of humanity “cast into the lake which burns with fire and brimstone: which is the SECOND death” (Revelation 21:8) Even before John received his revelation, Paul writes the ultimate response to the question of death, the first or second. He says in 1 Corinthians 15:26 that the last enemy to be destroyed, (rendered inoperative) is death. Could that statement by the Apostle include the ultimate victory of Christ’s blood even over the Lake of fire, the second death?
The Greek word for brimstone is “Theion” and it means flashing/sulphur. It is a derivative of the word “Theios” which means “godlike or in the neuter, divinity.” Both these words are derivatives of the Greek word, “Theos” which means “deity or God.” If the lake of fire is burning with divinity or god-likeness, or perhaps God Himself as a purifying agency, then the ultimate triumph of Christ over the last enemy is that much more logical.
The purging power of God in the flames of the Lake of fire, into which all remaining impurities are purged, means we can rejoice in the ultimate declaration of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:55, which was a repeat of the words of the Prophet Hosea (Hosea 13:14), “Where O death is your victory? Where O death is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
“Where O death is your victory? Where O death is your sting?” The power of death is sin (washed away by the blood, John 1:29) and the power of sin is the law (abolished now by Jesus, Ephesians 2:15). But, thanks be to God! He gives us the victory though our Lord Jesus Christ! The question posed to death (grave) infers it has lost its victory or its triumph. And death has lost its sting, which means in effect, its poison or toxicity its lethality. Through the cross, death has been defanged and defrocked. It literally has no power whatsoever! Hebrews 2:14-15 suggests that death has been neutralized, literally put out of a job, or lost its original functionality. The question Paul poses to death and the grave in the Corinthian passage is, in effect, a mockery of death. It literally pokes fun at death like children do to each other when one loses a game on a school playground. “Ha, ha, ha, death has lost its victory.” It kind of reminds me of the song the munchkins sing in the movie “The Wizard of Oz” after the menacing wicked witch of the West dies: “Ding Dong the witch is dead, the wicked witch is dead.”
The utility that gave death its sting (sin) has been cancelled, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away (expiates) the sin of the world” John 1:29 and 2 Corinthians 5:19. And the utility that gave sin its power (law) has been both fulfilled in Jesus (Matthew 5:17-20, Colossians 2:13-15) and abolished in His flesh (Ephesians 2:15).
If, in fact, Jesus nailed the law (with us) to the cross as recorded in the Colossian passage, then the punishment for sin has been assumed by Jesus; thus making hell or any further punitive action irrelevant, except perhaps for its curative value. Except for some form of corrective significance of purgation (purging) as inferred by some of the early church fathers, the way I see it, hell will have no significance in the ultimate finality of God’s plan for a peace prevailing eternity where every knee bows
and every tongue confesses the Lordship of Christ.
Many scholars interpret the word “punishment” used in Matthew 25:46 (kolasin in Greek) to mean purgative or curative.
In Revelations 20:12-14, an emptied death and an emptied hell is cast into the lake of fire, which proves it’s (hell’s) limitation. As pointed out earlier, the lake of fire will, more than likely, have an awesome as well as, if you insist, awful purifying effect. It will, in effect, burn off any remaining dross of unbelief, rebellion or disobedience. Remember, even those “under the earth” will proclaim the Lordship of Christ and bow their knees to his Excellency. (Philippians 2:9-11)
In closing, many may find it difficult to see a totally triumphant Christ, but I don’t. I believe with all my heart that the Last Adam far exceeds in efficacy the first one. I believe as well, Jesus is in fact superior to Adam and that the better covenant with better promises are exactly that. (Hebrews 8:6).
I realize that much of what I say is a real stretch for most believers, even the nontraditional ones. However, if you want or choose to believe in a more “excellent way” and a completely victorious church, headed by a completely victorious Christ,
then what you’ve just read will resonate with your spirit, even it if initially troubles your mind.
My prayer is that you will give it serious and prayerful consideration as something sent of God, revealed in this particular season and prepared for a 21st century harvest of souls and Kingdom advancements unprecedented since Pentecost and the days of the 1st century Pauline Epistles.
[BACK TO PART 1]
“In the universe, there are things known, and things that are unknown, and in between there are doors.”The presentation I am about to submit to you is a work in progress. I have been working on and through the development of these thoughts and reflections now, for over 25 years, and more openly and perhaps aggressively the last four or five. It is a work of faith and conviction-a mindset I have unsuccessfully tried to either avoid or delay fully accepting.
This presentation is part of my witness and testimony, as one who desires to both minister and worship as a citizen of the modern world and be able to think as I do so. I
write it as a person to whom the Christian Church, particularly the Pentecostal/Charismatic Community has accorded honor, rank, and the privilege of leadership in the Episcopal office. It comes, thus, from the life of a Bishop, Pastor, Evangelist and Christian Diplomat, whose vows at the time of ordination and
consecration included both a promise to defend the faith and to guard the unity and sanctity of the Church.
I should like to say before you read any further, that you will read nothing in this theology that should be considered “anti-Christian” or that undermines the powerful work of the cross, the deity of Christ and His substitutionary death, or the shedding
of His precious blood for the remission of sins.
You will read nothing that challenges the fact of Jesus’ Virgin birth, that He suffered and died on the cross for the sins of the world, that He was buried and rose again and is presently seated at the right hand of the throne of God, where He ever
intercedes for the saints and will ultimately return to receive into eternal life with Him, the fruit of His “Finished Work” at Calvary, demonstrated by His unconditional love, grace and reconciliation of all things.
As a 4th generation Classical Pentecostal preacher, brought up in the tradition of “holiness or hell” convictions and consciousness, I will admit that over the last nearly 30 years since coming into the larger Charismatic world, and after graduating from High School in 1971 and moving to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to attend Oral Roberts University, I have finally come to the end of a road or perhaps just a turn in it, with
regard to my presupposed thinking about God, the universe and how I relate to Him in it, especially with regard to heaven, hell, the purpose of the Church and my role as a minister in it and “doing the work of an evangelist.”
I have preached to thousands-leading them to accept and confess Christ. I have fasted from as little as half a day, when I was as young as 7 or 8 years old, to as many as 40 days as an adult, seeking the anointing to reach lost souls and bring people to deliverance and a saving-knowledge of Christ. I have preached to hundreds of thousands, both in person, as well as to millions by way of television and radio. I’ve ordained Deacons and Elders, installed Pastors, consecrated Bishops, recorded successful albums and CDs, written books, hosted some of the largest conferences and gatherings of the people of God.
However, in the midst of all my work and my unmitigated commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ and my life’s dedication to the ministry of His great Gospel, I have come to a most liberating and encouraging realization, both through Scripture and personal revelation. This revelation was put best in words, while I was hosting a live national Christian television program and my guest was the great Missionary Evangelist, T.L. Osborn. In the course of this interview with one of the greatest soul winners of the 20th century, he blurts out a statement that burned into my spirit in a way no other single statement has, in my over 45 years as a born-again Christian. The statement
was: “The world is already saved, they just don’t know it!”
According to my subsequent studies of Scriptures to verify this statement as a true and a most powerful and inspiring revelation, I had to face the fact that, not only does the world not know it, but, most of the Evangelical church doesn’t believe it, and therein lies the greatest deception the enemy has ever convinced the world of, second only to his success at deceiving Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
In the Biblical and Classical Christian theology, Salvation is sometimes pictured in a restrictive sense, belonging only to those who respond in faith-(Matthew 25:31-46 ‘sheep and goats’, ‘the least of my brothers’, (v. 41) and John 3:16, 17, and several more. A more careful study of Scriptures will reveal that Salvation is also and perhaps more often or more comprehensively pictured in a universally inclusive way, in which God is Redeemer of the whole world or creation, including all human beings.
(Philippians 2:5-11, Colossians 1:15-20, Revelation 5:13, I Timothy 4:9-10, I John 2:1-2, John 1:29, Romans 5:12-14-21, II Corinthians 5:12-21, Romans 11:32).
Christianity centers on the Person and work of the God-man, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He is the touchstone and power of all Truth. Any seeming truth that does not glorify Him as such is counterfeit, or only partly true. I earnestly stand for
the right of private interpretation, judgment and guidance of God in an illuminated conscience; yet, at the same time, I desire to apprehend with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and the depth and height, and to know the love of Christ which passes all knowledge, the truest and most accurate perception.
THE CENTRALITY OF THE CROSS
There are fewer matters more urgent in a pluralistic culture than the centrality and centricity of the Cross. The meaning of the cross and resurrection is not only that God loves, but also that He has the power and the will to overcome evil, not just
personally as Jesus did, but to do so universally or cosmically, and bring victory out of what could only be described as eternal defeat. To believe that such a God could or would permit a single soul He created, to be destroyed, or even eternally separated from Him is a contradiction in terms. It would also be an inadmissible defeat for God.
Just a common-sense acknowledgment of the Sovereignty of God would make it almost impossible to be reconciled to the thought that God could have created a world and man or mankind if, in fact, He foresaw hell as an eternal destination for any He created in His image and likeness. It would mean that creation is essentially a failure and the earth project a farce. Moreover, a God, who deliberately allows the uninterrupted existence of endless or eternal torments, is not God at all, but more like what we describe as the devil. If the atonement means the reconciliation of God and man or man to God, (and that is the only thing it can mean), then it must end in
universal salvation or redemption of humankind.
What’s Wrong with This Picture?
The is the most religiously diverse nation in the world. Christianity is by far the greatest single element in that diversity. According to recent statistics, 70% of Americans belong to some brand of Christian religion. What may be even more distinctive is that it is certainly the most religiously diverse country that has ever
existed, in terms of voluntary participation in the expressions of faith and the freedom to do so. In light of this, it seems interesting that has by far the largest prison population in the civilized world. And Tulsa, the city I live in, known to some as
the “buckle of the Bible belt” has the 2nd largest divorce rate in the country-second only to Las Vegas. In addition, I regret to mention that we have, as well, one of the nation’s largest recorded “out-of-wedlock” teenage pregnancies and a higher than normal per-capita homosexual population to boot. Such statistics should cause any critically thinking person to ask, “What’s wrong with this picture?”
After 30 years of preaching holiness, with the accompanying hellfire and brimstone warnings to final judgments and eternal damnation, I have been arrested by the Holy Spirit and convinced that I have not been preaching an accurate Gospel message and that overall, the Christian Evangelical church has become more indicting than inviting and should be less attacking and do more attracting of those spiritually
unresolved. In addition, I have been emphatically reminded of the writer of Hebrews admonition in chapter 6 verses 1-3, that we leave the elementary teachings of (fundamental Christianity) and go on to perfection (maturity).I’m sure you will admit
that there is hardly an Evangelical church anywhere in America that, should you visit them on Sunday morning, the message would be along the lines of one of the doctrines the Hebrew author lists as things we should leave, to go on to maturity, [i.e.
“repentance from acts that lead to death”, “faith in God”, instructions about “baptisms”, “laying on of hands”,“resurrection from the dead” and “eternal
While all these are important subjects, I’m sure we’d all agree that most of us have mastered them in one form or another and can preach or teach them (so to speak) blindfolded and walking backwards.The mysterious idea of, “going on to maturity,” has many in the larger Evangelical Christian, and even the Charismatic/Pentecostal community intimidated. Why? Because mature Christianity insists on removing the fear tactic used to persuade children or the immature, to eat, drink and obey their parents, or in this case, the Word of God.
Mature Christianity demands “mature (perfect) love, the kind that casts out fear, the fear that torments (really tortures) the believer and cripples his trust in God’s ability to love unconditionally (1 John 3:18). Verse 17 in this same chapter of 1 John suggests that Love is the one thing that gives us confidence on the “day of Judgment,” which in many ways seems to be the greatest fear I am confronted with by
those who oppose the Gospel of Inclusion. The looming question indelibly etched in the mind of many (most) believers is, “What will happen on Judgment Day and will they make it to heaven?” We all say “we love Him because He first loved us,” (1 John 4:19), but while we seem confident enough that He “first loved us,” many are quite unsure whether or not He will “last love us” or love us at the last or at last, love us.
Sometimes I think it’s much easier to speak what we believe to be true, than to “speak the truth in Love.” (Ephesians 4:12)
A Christian can be a Universalist, but not all Universalists are Christians, and I think this distinction may be where I have run into the greatest opposition. What actually is modern Universalism, or in my particular case, the Gospel of Inclusion?
My research has brought me to any number of similar, but varying definitions of Universalism, but for the purpose of this particular discussion, I will use the definition I believe best or most accurately typifies my understanding of the “Finished Work” of Christ and the Cross-the work of redeeming or reconciling humankind, moreover, the entire world, all of creation, back to God. A Christocentric Universalism (as distinguished from a humanistic or Unitarian Universalism) seems to be gaining ground and interest among the more critical thinkers in Christianity. The basis for this trend lies in a deeper realization of the powerful implications of the incarnation of Jesus Christ for the nature of God.
The theory of Universal Reconciliation (the Gospel of Inclusion) maintains that Christ’s death accomplished its purpose of reconciling all mankind to God. The death of Christ made it possible for God to accept man and, in fact, and indeed, He has done so. The substitutional death of Christ not only made it possible for God to accept mankind as totally clean before Him but, more importantly, it demonstrated or proved God’s unconditional love for His own creative handiwork. As a result, whatever separation now exists between man and the benefits of God’s grace is subjective in nature; it is illusionary, existing only in man’s unregenerate mind, his unenlightened
or uniformed way of thinking. The message (Good News or Gospel) people need to hear, is not that they simply have an opportunity for Salvation, but that they, through Christ, in fact, have already been redeemed, reconciled and saved, and that this information, (Good News) frees them to enjoy the blessings that are already theirs in Him. Most Christians believe in the atonement but do not realize that “atonement” is
simply another word or expression for “reconciliation.” The terms are basically identical in both Hebrew and Greek.
Reconciliation is not something which is to be-it is an accomplished fact, a present reality! It was accomplished by Jesus as His commitment to His Father God, for which
He was duly awarded. (Philippians 2:5-11) It appears to me, that salvation is not so much an issue between God and man, as it is more significantly, an agreement between God the Father and His son, Jesus Christ. This agreement or arrangement is based entirely on God’s great love for the world, as indicated in John 3:16-17. The Scriptural basis for putting the onus almost exclusively on God is II Corinthians 5:18, ‘All this is from God who through Christ reconciled us (mankind), to Himself and gave
us, (the Church) the ministry of reconciliation. (19) That God was reconciling the world (not just the Church) to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them...”We Christians, in our innate preoccupation with “judgment and judgmentalism,” continue to hold the sins against both ourselves and others,
erroneously expecting that this is the rule of the house, over which Christ presides as both Head and Cornerstone.
It is almost as if we Christians have been and still are being raised in a home where a mean, intolerant, and abusive father terrorizes the children, threatening them with swift and painful punishment for any and every mistake made during the day, while he is away at work. We run to Jesus in the same manner children living in households with abusive and incorrigible fathers, run to their mothers for protection from him. These abusive and “impossible-to-please” fathers literally terrorize both the children and the mother, producing what psychologists call “dysfunctional homes,” (no fun in the unction).
Our experience as Christians should be an unction that is enjoyable and fun! Christianity is not only something we endure, it should be something we enjoy. Isaiah 12:3 says, “It is with joy that we draw water from the wells of salvation.” That is joy, not dread, drudgery or desperation. We must ask ourselves, “Do we need Jesus to protect us from God?” Or might we be presenting an inaccurate image of God, who is a warm, longing for and loving Father, who would spare no pains, and in fact didn’t, in order to reclaim His cherished family, the inheritance of His son Jesus Christ, from condemnation, loss and ruin?
It has been my experience in talking with people who panic over the very term, “Universalism” that they immediately either connect or construe the term with Unitarianism, a totally different philosophy that prides itself in being a creedless
denomination. Perhaps you can decide whether or not you are opposed to or offended by the results of these findings: In 1899, the general convention of Universalists formulated a brief statement of the five essential principles of the Universalist faith and the “Winchester Profession” was commended as containing these principles.
1. The Universal Fatherhood of God
2. The spiritual authority and leadership of His Son, Jesus Christ
3. The trustworthiness of the Bible as containing a revelation from God
4. The certainty of just retribution for sin
5. The final harmony of all souls with God
“Eyes that look are common, eyes that see are rare” Plato said, “You can forgive a child for being afraid of the dark, it is, however, a tragedy when adults are afraid of light.” Rabbi Kushner in his book, How Good Must We Be? Says, “Religion is first and foremost, a way of seeing or perceiving things. Religion can’t always change the facts about the world we live in but it can change the way we perceive those facts.”
With regard to the controversy surrounding my teachings on the Finished Work of redemption, I would submit that, perception is the ultimate reality, but not necessarily
the ultimate truth. I like Barclay’s commentary on Matthew 6:22, “The light of the body is the eye”. He says, “Light requires an organ designed or adapted for its reception. Unspiritual or unregenerate man by nature is incapable of receiving spiritual light in as much as he lacks capacity for it. Believers, however, are called children of light, (Luke 16:8), not merely because they have received revelation, but because in the new birth, they have received the spiritual capacity for it.” It seems to me, that while unbelievers are blinded by the darkness, many believers today are blinded by the light.
It has been said, “The difference between a prophet and a heretic is often time.” So called false doctrine does not necessarily make a person a heretic, but an evil heart
can make any doctrine heretical. When you make religion your God, you lose the God and often the good of the religion. Many Christians have made the religion itself pre-eminent to Christ. They defend the religion, while ignoring or perhaps never
experiencing the relationship. Between man’s realities and God’s absolutes, there is an obscure place where most people tend to get either trapped or entrapped. Our imprecise realities have betrayed us and, thus, alienated us from the world we are
called to inform, love, and evangelize.
It has taken me nearly 50 years to learn to distinguish the difference between God’s creations and my illusions; to know truth as God created it and not as we in our religious zeal have invented it. My desire is to know God totally rather than
selectively. I’m even willing to suspend what I think I already know about God, in order to know Him in a way I have never imagined.
As residents of the Kingdom of God on earth, we should seek cultural relevance in order to connect with the spiritually unresolved-those who are unsure and/or insecure concerning Faith in God or the God of our faith. A crisis in truth is a crisis in
trust. Our role as Christians is to create environments that are conducive to the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts, heads, and hurts of people. While our style and approach may change or experience adjustments over time or according to the times, the truth we preach is constant, ageless, and timeless-Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world!
[PART 2] TO BE CONTINUED NEXT WEEK