Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Is Universalism Really So Appealing?

Universalism is a popular idea, much more popular than the idea of eternal consequences for rejecting God. One man put it like this:

• “I can’t see how a loving and all-powerful God would send any of his creation to hell! The Christian God is just too punitive and exclusive for me and for anyone else who has a mind and a heart!”

According to a recent survey, the attractiveness of universalism is even growing among “born-agains”:

• One-quarter of born again Christians said that all people are eventually saved or accepted by God (25%) and that it doesn’t matter what religious faith you follow because they all teach the same lessons (26%).

It’s therefore important that we take a close look at universalism and its implications:

1. Universalism makes salvation into an “entitlement” program with all of the negative psychological baggage that goes along with it.

2. Universalism makes life pointless. If everyone is saved at the end, there is nothing important to learn here – no reason to go to church or study the Bible.

3. If our lives entail no eternal consequences, then life seems pointless, apart from having a good time. It’s like a teacher giving all her students an “A+” regardless of their performance and even whether or not they came to class. It also deprives us of any motivation to do right, especially when we see evil prospering.

4. All the major religions recognize that there will be eternal consequences for our inhumanity, suggesting that God has written this truth into all our hearts (Romans 1:32).

5. There is no adequate rationale for moral living or for seeking God without eternal consequences. It makes more sense to get whatever we can out of life if we’re all going to the same eternal home (1 Cor. 15:19).

6. If God is so benign and doesn’t want to see any suffer eternally, why doesn’t He model life on earth in accordance with His final heavenly plan? Why the discontinuity? If pain is so disagreeable to Him there, why not also here? If God has rejected the idea of eternal judgment, why has He not also ruled against the occurrence of disease, warfare, and tsunamis? Instead, continuity would suggest that we will also have to endure consequences in the next life.

7. A universalistic God has little interest in justice and victimization if He refuses to do anything about them. Such a God would be an offense to our own sense of justice. This would undermine all of our concerns about justice and order. However, with the provision of justice comes peace and reconciliation.

8. Universalism communicates the wrong message—our behavior doesn’t matter and God doesn’t care. Why then should we? Life would become brutal and unlivable if we tried to model ourselves after such a God.

9. If we are created in the image of God and therefore have a powerful sense of justice and retribution, shouldn’t we also expect that God would have the same mind-set? If God lacked such punitive concerns, then our preoccupation with law and punitive sanctions would be something displeasing to God. Therefore, if we truly believe in a universalistic God, we should try to model our society after Him and rid ourselves of courts, prisons, fines, and even failing grades.

10. We need suffering and consequences to become the compassionate, humble, and understanding people God wants us to be. Evidently, consequences for sin are not alien to God’s plan.

11. Knowing that there are eternal consequences serves as a deterrent against crime and also a motivation to seek God (Acts 17:27).

12. Knowing that God will eventually right the wrongs that are done gives us the emotional freedom to love others by committing our concerns and longings for ultimate justice to God. We therefore can devote ourselves to love, knowing that God will justly punish. Without experiencing radical victimization, we Westerners have become quite comfortable and fail to appreciate the fact that the imposition of justice brings psychological closure, which enables us to move on.

13. A God concerned about eternal consequences proclaims that somehow, justice and mercy must coexist. Take a good look at universalism. It provides the affluent, self-indulgent, myopic West with the ultimate in designer gods, one who would tell us, “Live as you like. Far be it from me to interfere with your fulfillments and pleasures. It’ll all be wonderful in the end, however you live.” This fabrication dumps justice in favor of our immediate comforts. How convenient!

Of course, people will object, “Well, no one deserves eternal hell. That can’t be just!” To this, I simply answer,

“The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power; in his justice and great righteousness, he does not oppress” (Job 37:23).

I haven’t figured it all out, but I am confident that our Lord will prove Himself to be perfectly just and merciful, so much so that every knee will bow and every tongue confess (Phil. 2:10-11) to the glory of God!

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