Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I Am a Universalist

I am a universalist, and became so some years ago after trying to figure it all out, and I finally decided that no one can know fully the mind of God, but we can all know fully the love of God for creation, and that includes all creatures, great and small, and the not-so-bright (which I think encompasses the whole of the human race).

Having said, “I’m a universalist,” and having confessed my ignorance about ultimate things, but not ultimate means (Israel’s Messiah), I will also affirm that any firm speculation about “eternity” can only lead to deep flaws of thought and ethics.

Traditions that speak with ultimate assurance about ultimate destinies have all, to a one, crashed on the rocks of pride and judgment. And some within the universalist tradition have likewise lost their fervor for any kind of faith, and have played carelessly with what folks believe and live.

We do have a blessed assurance, and it’s Jesus, who is ours, by grace, and his destiny, wrought in the contours of his life, is ours. I agree with Barth, that in Christ, God resolved all the issues, and in Christ, we see the final Yes to all God’s creation, because whatever No any of us might say is never greater than God’s Yes.

Having become a universalist,  everything remains the same for me: Jesus and his cross, Jesus and his life, Jesus and his resurrection and ascension, but rather than focused on “getting folks to heaven and not hell,” everything becomes focused on the LORD's Prayer, and it’s central theme, “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” For this we need Christ. For this, we need the Holy Spirit. For this, we need the Bible, the church, prayer and evangelism.

One still has to be saved – from ignorance and fear and pride and selfishness, to take this one singular life that God created with such passion and kindness and make it worthwhile, if not simply for the self (which it can never be) but for others, too. The children who suffer and die all around the world for want of political commitment to work for peace, for all the suffering occasioned by the greed and malice of the powerful, for all of this, we need to be saved from fear and cowardice that we might live with the boldness of Christ, and, with him, enter the temple when necessary to cleanse it, calm the crowd that is so eager to stone the woman, and challenge the blindness of the religious cognoscenti.

Give to everyone (letting God clear up all the details) the gift of eternal life with the one who made them, the one who came here to show them the way, the truth and the life, and the Spirit who opens minds and hearts and doors!

Then, we’re free to love, and free to join together in caring for God’s world. We’re free to share Jesus Christ with all, not at the point of a threat, but at the point of a celebration, that, yes, we’re all in this together, both now and forever.

For me, becoming a universalist has removed some of the worst aspects of Christian history and theology and opened up doors of joy and hope for here and now, and most surely, for eternity.

I still share Christ with anyone and everyone I can. Why not?

But heaven is no longer a goal in question. Christ took care of that.

Earth is the goal, as it should be, and that remains the biggest question of all.

And as it is for God – from the beginning, and as Paul the Apostle celebrates in his letter to the Romans – that one day, all will be made new, with a new heaven and a new earth, and every knee will bow to the wisdom and glory of God. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Tom, thanks for sharing this. While I don't share your view, I can appreciate it. Written with a sensitive and pastoral heart!

    God bless.