Bob Thompson is a writer for http://www.churchgrowth.cc and he wrote a short piece in which he attacks Christian Universalism on several counts. Here is the link: http://www.churchgrowth.cc/Universal_Reconcilliation.htm
It is my hope that after reading this article, you will come here and read my point-by-point answer wherein I expose the flaws in Mr. Thompson’s argument.
First point: “IS CHRIST ALMIGHTY GOD, OR A GOD WITH A SMALL G?”
Mr. Thompson quotes many Scriptures in support of his belief that Jesus Christ is the Almighty God. Since I agree with this statement, I have nothing to say in response to this point.
Second Point: “THE PUNISHMENT OF ALL CHRIST REJECTORS”
Here Mr. Thompson quotes:
Isa 33:14, John 3:36, Rev 14:11, and Rev 22:11, which I will address in order.
Isaiah 33:14 is not talking about “Christ Rejectors”, who could not exist until Christ had come. Nor is it talking about eternal punishment, as verse 9 describes the destruction of the land, but the land was not destroyed forever.
Let’s look at what this verse actually says, shall we?
36he who is believing in the Son, hath life age-during; and he who is not believing the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God doth remain upon him.’
Up to the semicolon, there is no problem. After the semicolon, we get into an interesting piece of Greek grammar, although in Young’s Literal, it actually carries over quite well into the English.
First, notice that the wrath of God does not fall upon the unbelieving; it remains upon him. Second, notice that the participle is present, not aorist, meaning that it denotes a continuous action, rather than an punctiliar one.(To be quite accurate, it should be stated that the aorist leaves us with an undefined action, not an instantaneous one. But because they have no tense associated with punctiliar aspect, the Greek authors would use aorist for punctiliar actions.)
This means that while one is not believing, the wrath of God remains upon one. I have touched in previous posts on the true meaning of “life age-during”, but I will for your convenience, repeat it here, as the Lord Himself defined it:
“and this is the life age-during, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and him whom Thou didst send — Jesus Christ;”–John 17:3
This is the life the believer knows, and the unbeliever is excluded from. Nevertheless, all will one day believe(Romans 14:11), and will share in life age-during.
This leaves two verses for me to address, which I will now do.
Revelation 14:11 speaks of a terrible punishment, but the Greek word aion and its derivatives, in this case the phrase eis tous aionas ton aionon, signify an age or a series of ages, not eternity, as has been amply proven elsewhere(see, among others, this page: http://www.what-the-hell-is-hell.com/HellStudy/forever.htm)
Rev 22:11 deals neither with eternity nor with punishment, and as a result is hardly relevant here.
Third Point: NO PAIN IN THE LAKE OF FIRE?
In response to Mr. Thompson: I had never heard of A.E. Knoch prior to reading your article, and I certainly do not rely on him for my beliefs, nor do I think the Lake of Fire will be painless, so I need not address this point.
Fourth Point: CHRIST HAS ALREADY PUT ALL THINGS UNDER HIM!
First, Christ put nothing under anybody’s feet in Ephesians 1:22. It was God who was the referent of He(see verse 17) and put all things under Christ‘s feet.
Second, if this is intended to prove that Eph 1:22 does not support universal salvation because all things are already under Christ’s feet but all are not saved, I point to Mr. Thompson’s own words, where he clearly states that this is a “reality not yet made manifest”, i.e. we can’t see it. So God has already effected his saving work for all mankind, and made everything subject to Christ, but we don’t see the subjection yet, as Mr. Thompson himself states!
Fifth Point: LUCIFER, ONCE CALLED THE MORNING STAR
First, I would like to point out that the doctrine that Satan was always evil and did not fall is not an essential point of Christian Universalism. We do believe that God intended Satan to be evil, as do Calvinists, but it is not impossible to believe in Universal Salvation and still think he fell from a previously perfect state.
That said, I do believe Satan was “a murderer from the beginning(John 8:44), and now I will show why I do not accept Mr. Thompson’s arguments against this view.
Regarding Isa 14: Mr. Thompson, like so many who preach from this passage, has overlooked verse 4. Let’s read it, shall we?
“4That thou hast taken up this simile Concerning the king of Babylon, and said, How hath the exactor ceased,” (italics mine)
The simile is concerning the King of Babylon! A human king! Nothing in the text supports the idea that this is a spirit power.
There is more support for this idea in Ezekiel 28, but there as here, a human king is specifically addressed, in that case the king of Tyre. So to say this is about a spirit power requires a major leap of faith.
Sixth Point: UNIVERSAL RECONCILIATION GLORIFIES SIN
Actually(unless he belongs to the relatively small sect of Open Theists), it is Mr. Thompson’s Arminianism that glorifies sin, by stating that it overcame the will of God and entered the world against His desire, and furthermore that it will continue to exist for eternity in Hell, where most of mankind will also spend eternity, having been enslaved by it. Arminianism makes sin the winner. Universal Reconciliation teaches the sovereignty of God over sin and its ultimate destruction.
Who glorifies sin again?
Seventh Point: THE INVENTION OF DEMONS MAKES GOD RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL SIN
Actually, God is responsible for all sin anyway. The only way to get Him out from under that is to say that He doesn’t know the future(Open Theism). Otherwise, He created the world knowing exactly what would result, and therefore is responsible for all of it.
Eighth Point: PROBING THIS DOCTRINE OF DEMONS WITH A FEW QUESTIONS
All these questions could equally be applied to Calvinism, into which Arminianism resolves when you consider that God, by creating the world, knowing what would result, caused everything that has ever happened and will ever happen as surely as if He had done it Himself. But Universalism allows Him to be ultimately benevolent to all mankind, whereas Arminianism and Calvinism both require Him to create beings with the intention (or the sure knowledge, which makes Him just as malevolent) that they will suffer eternally in hell.
Ninth Point: SLURRING THE PERSON OF CHRIST IS PAR FOR THE COURSE
FOR THIS DEMONIC DOCTRINE
Just as Christ and God are not identical, so their wills may not be identical. Witness Matthew 26:39, which reads:
And having gone forward a little, he fell on his face, praying, and saying, `My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou.’
Clearly, then, God the Father may have a different will than Christ in some sense, though Christ ultimately, of course, submits willingly to His Father.
Furthermore, we do not say man has no will or cannot make choices, but that those choices are consistent with his nature and heart, both given to him by God, who is thus ultimately responsible for what man does.
Tenth Point: UNIVERSAL RECONCILIATIONISTS CHEERFULLY ACCEPT THE DOCTRINE THAT GOD IS RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL SIN!
Yes, we do, but the implications are not such as Mr. Thompson claims. Just because God ultimately causes our actions does not mean that we are not also the causes of our actions in the proximate sense, and thus responsible. This point has been the subject of contention between Calvinism and Arminianism for a long time, and a full discussion of the arguments is beyond the scope of this piece. If anyone asks for it, I will be happy to do a second post on the subject, but a brief treatment should suffice for now.
People make choices based on two things: Their fundamental nature, will, and desires, and their knowledge of the circumstances in which they are placed. People do what they want, and thus act freely and are responsible, but at the same time, God knew what would result when He created them with whatever desires they had when He created them, and thus He too is responsible. The difference is that from God’s angle, sin is part of a plan to accomplish the greatest possible good, whereas from man’s angle, sin is a way to gratify a selfish desire, generally at the expense of others.
To quote Mr. Thompson:
“Question: Where in the Bible, in any translation (outside Knoch’s CONCORDANT VERSION) can Mr. Knoch, or any of his followers, find one single verse that teaches that everyone in the lake of fire will experience a second resurrection, be given a second chance to be saved, and receive eternal life? One verse will do.”
I will take up the challenge. To answer Mr. Thompson, no single verse contains this doctrine in its entirety. However, when we consider that God wills the salvation of all men(1 Tim 2:4), that God’s will cannot be thwarted(Isa 14:27), and that God in fact saves all men(1 Tim 4:10), along with the fact that the gates of the New Jerusalem never close(Rev 21:25), it seems that there is no way to reconcile these verses with the existence of the Lake of Fire except to suppose that people come out of it into the New Jerusalem. If Mr. Thompson has an alternate theory that explains these verses, I would love to hear it.
And I would love to hear comment from anyone who agrees or disagrees with what I’ve said here. Do you have further questions? Do you perceive a flaw in my reasoning? Let me know. I’d love to start a discussion.
Of course, I remain always,
Your Humble Servant,
Samuel C Starrett.