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Wednesday, July 04, 2007


Point 1. - absolutely agree. Point 2. totally dude. Point 3. Agree - with the proviso that we don't get SO eschatological that the church feels a lack of confidence to risk penultimate, concerete, forms of the Kingdom in particular places and times.

Well, Sean, it's taken Rob B a while to take the hint - am looking forward to seeing what he has to say - whilst ducking the invective that's flying around the blogosphere!
Love Wins? I hope so (but what kind of love?)

Hi Sean, I'm about to leave NBLC after 4 years (it's gone so fast!) and about to take up full time pastorate at Boulton Lane. For me at every opportunity I tell people to steer their own boat in all matters of faith. A key role of mine is to offer the various ways Christianity understands the Bible, atonement, salvation and say it's up to you what route you take. I'm leading a really successful Alpha course at the minute and in each session I don't say 'this is how it is' I say 'this is how Nicky Gumbell sees it, and here's a number of alternative and equally valid points of opinion'. We're doing human sexuality as a church next.

I have to wholeheartedly agree with you that "3. If there were to be a move towards a greater faith and hope that 'all will be saved' it would be a tremendously liberating development. Mission could again become what it ought to be: our participation in God's saving purpose in the world, rather than our attempt to populate heaven on God's behalf by 'saving the lost'. The church would be released to be authentically the church: the redeemed, peace-loving new humanity whose existence is in service of the reign of God, rather than its own self-perpetuation. Complex ethical issues could be placed into their appropriate perspective: that of God's loving, inclusive purposes for the world rather than God's exclusive rule-making and enforcing." And I really do hope that this is the next big "wave" or whatever because the finest Bible teachers in the U.S. happen to be Christian Universalists and they deserve an honest hearing by a much larger segment of the Body of Christ than they've been getting. How many times did Carlton Pearson get to preach the Everlasting Gospel on TBN before he was booted off? Twice? Thrice?? I'm thinking it was twice. Lots of Universalists that because of the repression against their beliefs, then all of our info on their beliefs and teachings is second and third and fourth hand info and media sound bites. How can the Body move further in the direction of Oneness in actual manifestation if we stuff a sock in the mouth of those brothers who might challenge our inherited presuppositions from the "Authorized Version" of the Bible? Love and blessings...

I spent 59 years in the SBC, as a member, deacon (21 years), and closet heretic, when it come the UR (Universal Reconciliation). I have been on a journey the last 2 1/2 years letting the spirit lead me to truth. I have come a long way. Let me recommend tentmaker.org as the best overall source for UR. Thanks for letting me comment.

I spent 59 years in the SBC, as a member, deacon (21 years), and closet heretic, when it come the UR (Universal Reconciliation). I have been on a journey the last 2 1/2 years letting the spirit lead me to truth. I have come a long way. Let me recommend tentmaker.org as the best overall source for UR. Thanks for letting me comment.

Graham, Dan - thanks for your comments. You may both be right. For me the issue is whether or not Baptists (and here I am thinking UK in particular) have the theological resources to be able to handle explicit, named diversity on this issue. In the past Universalism meant Unitarianism - is there a way that covenant relationships can be maintained even when different soteriological understandings can be found?


In practice, many Baptists here in the US are coming awfully close to being at least semi-universalist, closet universalists, or whatever. As a member of a dually affiliated SBC/CBF church, I can't recall hearing a good old fashioned hell fire and brimstone sermon in the last decade or so.

I've read a good bit of theology and exegis over the years, but I'm still a layman. I try to back up and see the big picture after struggling through the many good recent works of both types. Where I am now is pretty simple, and I would say it is largely shared by a large number of my fellow church members, at least implicitly:

(1) I can't read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in one sitting (which I try to do every year or so) without coming to the conclusion that Jesus made it very clear that the decision to follow Him or not was the most important decision any of His hearers would ever make;

(2) That this decision would have eternal consequences;

(3) That some will, and some won't, decide to follow Him;

(4) That the same Jesus who lived on earth will ultimately judge everyone;

(5) His judgment will be rendered with justice and mercy, so that no one will be able to stand before Jesus and claim that their experience of the Kingdom of God is unfair. (But is eternal punishment too much for a Hitler or Stalin? Or would witnessing their redemption be more in tune with the Kingdom message? Beats me.) ;

(6) That there will be sheep fully enjoying the Kingdom of God who are not from any sheep pen I would recognize as Christian;

(7) That somehow God has already figured out how this is going to work, which is good, since I sure can't;

(8) Therefore, all I have to worry about is how to live as His servant, and lift Him up so that He can draw all to Him, as He promises to do in the Gospel of John;

(9) That I, and almost all of my Baptist friends, having experienced the inerrancy wars that caused a lot of good churches to split, don't really want a next "big thing" over doctrine. Maybe I'm just too old:)

Sean, I doubt that universalism will be the next big thing in Baptist life. I think that there are a number of issues in between.

I also think that we need to find some way of working with the disconnect between our official bodies/associations, the academy and the local church. For Baptists, such gaps should be inherently contradictory.

Nevertheless, I think this topic will arise at some point and it is better if it does so from the grass-roots, so to speak. I notice that Nigel Wright tentatively discussed the topic in his 'Radical Evangelical' about 10 years and barely anyone batted an eye-lid. So, you are right that it will take a Steve Chalke, or perhaps someone slightly more academic.


The answer to your question is YES! Universalism is almost certainly going to be the next big thing in Christianity -- even among a large number of Evangelicals.

Some of the fastest growing churches now are the ones with pastors who teach Christian Universalism. Three independent Baptist churches that come to mind are:

Rock Fellowship - Waco, Georgia (near Atlanta) - Robert Rutherford, Pastor. Website: http://www.rockfellowship.com .

Bushland Community Church - Amarillo, Texas - Dr. G. A. Roach, Pastor. Website: http://www.urincluded2.com

Indian Hills Church - North Little Rock, Arkansas - Rev. Dick King, Pastor. Website: http://www.indianhillschurch.org

I know that at least two (and possibly all three) of the pastors who lead these churches used to be in the Southern Baptist denomination and had to leave because of their belief in Universalism. Their churches are now independent Evangelical.

It's not just Baptists that are increasingly flocking to Universalism, it's LOTS of different types of Christians. To see evidence of this, check out a new group called the Christian Universalist Association. This new ecumenical organization has recently been started to promote Christian Universalism, uniting people and churches from a wide diversity of denominations in the belief that God loves and will save everyone. The Christian Universalist Association includes Evangelicals, Pentecostals/Charismatics, Mainline Protestants, Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Unitarian Universalist Christians, non-denominational Christians and more! Check out our website: http://www.christianuniversalist.org

Divine blessings,

Eric Stetson
Executive Director,
The Christian Universalist Association
"All God's children, no one left behind."

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