Misfit Disciples in an Orthodox World

Misfit Disciples in an Orthodox World
"You had better be a round peg in a square hole than a round peg in a round hole. The latter is in for life, while the first is only an indeterminate sentence." – Elbert Hubbard

Hell, Universalism, and Free Will

Monday, March 21, 2011

Much of the recent controversy over hell and the afterlife has rotated around the idea of Universalism (ultimate reconciliation is probably closer to the thoughts being expressed, but we will not deal with these nuances since what they ultimately point too is very close in meaning). Universalism (Christian) is the idea that in the end, regardless of one's choices or religious affinity, all will be saved. And, in an effort to debunk this idea, much has been said of the part free will plays into the equation. The notion is that God will never violate a man's free will and force them to accept anything. Apply this to the concept of heaven or hell, and you can say that God will never make someone choose heaven, and certainly would not stand in their way to prevent them from going to hell, if they so chose to do so (of course, I would argue that the cross itself is a road block to such a decision).

Now, to me, this is a non-issue. And, I will tell you why. Paul, in the closing verses of the 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter of the bible, describes the human condition, at present. I like the J.B. Phillips translation: 

 At present we are men looking at puzzling reflections in a mirror. The time will come when we shall see reality whole and face to face! At present all I know is a little fraction of the truth, but the time will come when I shall know it as fully as God now knows me! [v. 12]

He says that we are all looking at puzzling reflections, images not entirely easy to make out. You may see one thing, I may see another. In this sense, truth is a gradual and personal experience, some understanding more than others. This dimness of vision is indicative of human experience, period. Whether we are currently a Christian, Buddhist, or even an atheist, we can not easily see past the veil of life and make clear distinctions about what is on the other side, about eternity. At present, the best we can do is hang on to faith, hope, and love, enduring qualities available to all.

But, this verse also makes it clear that there will come a time when you and I will see reality whole and face to face. That is, we will see and perceive truth with clarity. Just as the first condition is indicative of human experience on this side of the veil, the second condition is equally as true. I believe that there will come a time when all men will see reality as God intended us to see it. No more confusion, dimness of sight; God will allow us all to see as he intended us to see: with clarity and distinction. While today, we all see with varying degrees of clarity, then, we will all see reality as it truly is. No more chasms, intellectually or otherwise, between us and God. Our darkened understanding will have the light of God shining brightly, through and through.

When this happens, God will reveal himself to man in no uncertain terms. All men will clearly see God's love, purpose, and kindness toward us. To assume that there will be people who will continue to reject life at this time, is mere speculation to me, misinformed speculation as well. Fact is, when faced with the truth in terms that can not be denied, I think man, all men, will choose life. And, as such, the free will argument is moot and should not be a part of the conversation. 

Universalism represents, to me, the kind of love that never gives up. The kind of love that sees to it that we see truth, no matter how  hard we fight against it. The kind of love that breaks through ignorance and hard hearts, ensuring that every man, woman, girl or boy, see Jesus for who he really is and accept the free gift of life that has been given to all. In this, I do believe that all will be saved. I believe that all will eventually choose life.

Sure, in the darkened reality of this life's existence, there are many who choose not to see. There are many who simply can not see, no matter how much they try; corridors of this world where the light of the gospel has not reached. But, before all is said and done, God will ensure that all see life as it really is. To me, this is the reality of God's success. He willed that all be saved and that none should perish (2 Pet 3:9), and I believe that God is more than capable of pulling this off.


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