The Premises of Universal Salvation

Posted By on March 22, 2011

Creating this post was a bit of a challenge. I want to faithfully represent the position of Robin Parry (“Gregory MacDonald”) in his book The Evangelical Universalist, but I obviously can’t reproduce it here. Parry clearly lays out his thinking (and so presents his opponents with his challenge) in the Introduction and Chapter 1. I’m going to present excerpts of those portions of the book below in an attempt to represent him accurately.  Perhaps he will reply (we have chatted in the past). Then I’ll add some thoughts of my own in response.

Parry’s Perspective

1. Parry tells us his journey was propelled by coming to the conviction that “God could save everyone if he wanted to.” But in conflict with that idea was the belief that he had been taught that God would not save everyone (p.3)

2. Parry’s universal salvation view is focused on the work of Christ; it is not blindly pluralistic so that all religions lead to salvation. Salvation is only through Christ (pp. 5-6).

3. Parry does not reject the idea of a hell or afterlife punishment. He rejects the notion that such punishment is everlasting and that it precludes the ultimate salvation of those enduring this punishment. That is, one’s destiny is not fixed at death; those in hell can still throw themselves on the mercy of God and trust in Christ (pp. 6-7). He writes, “I argue that it is legitimate to understand the biblical teaching about hell as compatible with an awful but temporary fate from which all can, and ultimately will, be saved” (p. 7).

NOTE: By definition, universal salvation and an everlasting hell are mutually exclusive ideas. Hence the importance of eliminating an everlasting hell. However, one could still deny an everlasting hell (e.g., annihilationism) and yet not embrace universal salvation. I actually think it is easier to defend annihilationism than universal salvation, but that’s going off in another direction (albeit related).

4. Parry spends much of Chapter 1 (“A Hell of a Problem”) sketching out the reasons why an everlasting hell is problematic. He summarizes one section this way:

“In conclusion, all views of hell as eternal conscious torment suffer from two generic problems. First, the punishment seems out of proportion to any crimes humans can commit. Classical attempts to avoid this conclusion seem to lead to the problem of making all sins as bad as each other–a morally problematic position. Second, it is hard to see how God could give the redeemed perfect happiness if some of their loved ones are in hell forever” (p. 18).

5. Parry then sketches how it is that familiar theological positions are compatible with universal salvation. Examples:


On page 18 Parry first touches on the two positions of free will: the compatibilist and the libertarian. “The libertarian maintains that for a person to act freely the following two conditions must be met:

1. The action is one the person wants to perform;
2. The person could choose to perform or not preform the action (i.e., the agent is not causally determined to perform the action).

The compatibilist will accept 1 and deny 2. To the compatibilist human freedom and moral responsibility are compatible with causal determinism.”

Parry assumes both views are plausible and then sketches his Calvinistic line of universal salvation thinking:

1. God, being omnipotent, could cause all people to freely accept Christ.
2. God, being omniscient, would know how to cause all people to freely accept Christ.
3. God, being omnibenevolent, would want to cause all people to freely accept Christ.

Now 1-3 entail:

4. God will cause all people to freely accept Christ.

From which it follows that:

5. All people will freely accept Christ.

Parry notes that Calvinists will maintain #5 is false, rendered so because #3 is denied. He then notes several passages that to him suggest God is omnibenevolent (1 John 4:8; 1 John 4:16b; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 Tim 2:4; Ezek 33:11).

It should be noted that omnibenevolence is important to Parry: “I have hinted that I believe that if God did not love and try to save everyone, he would be less than perfect” (p. 21).

Open Theism

Without going into the details, Parry believe open theism “[is] riddled with problems when it comes to justifying hell” (p. 25) since the Chess Master of open theism would be shown to be a poor chess player (losing souls) and instead plays like a reckless novice: “If God’s knowledge of the future is diminished by human free will, then God cannot be sure that anyone will freely respond to the call to salvation” (p. 22).

Molinism (“Middle Knowledge”)

NOTE: Molinists believe that, “in addition to knowing everything that does or will happen, God also knows what His creature would freely choose if placed in any circumstance” (Wikipedia).

Parry’s logic chain for Molinism works like this (pp. 26-27):

1. God, being omniscient, knows, via his middle knowledge, how to bring all people to accept salvation freely in Christ.
2. God, being omnipotent, is able to actualize a possible world in which all persons freely accept salvation.
3. God, being omnibenevolent, wants to bring all people to salvation through Christ.

Points 1-3 entail that if God creates creatures with free will, then all people will be brought to salvation through Christ. Thus 1-3 are inconsistent with:

4. Some persons do not receive Christ and are eternally damned.

If, however, one were to reject proposition 2 because one thought that God could not actualize a possible world in which all persons freely choose to accept salvation in Christ, then we could add proposition 5:

5. God prefers a world in which there are no persons at all to a world in which there are some persons who fail to receive Christ (and are damned).

Proposition 5 is also inconsistent with proposition 4. And if 5 does not seem compelling, we could substitute 6:

6. God prefers a world (W) in which any people who do not accept salvation in Christ freely (in a libertarian sense) will nevertheless accept it freely (in a compatibilist sense) to a world (W*) in which those who do not accept salvation in Christ freely (in a libertarian sense) are condemned to hell for eternity.

Now for some thoughts of my own. As you’ll be able to tell, I have a problem with omnibenevolence. It’s a major sticking point for me.

1. Generally, I’m comfortable with the author’s assertion that his position is within the bounds of orthodox Christianity (i.e., it does not violate doctrines core the Christian faith – person of God, Christology, salvation – by grace through faith, that sort of stuff).

2. I can say I have no specific predilection against the universalist position *as the author has defined it*. I think his description really could be held and defended *sincerely* from the Bible — though I need certain items to be more coherent to find it persuasive.

So what is it that I need to be convinced of?

I view these issues through a semitist’s eyes, not from the perspective of someone who cares to side with this or that theologian. My view of theologians and philosophical theology is akin to my view of creeds. I’m not opposed to them since they can be useful; I’m more or less apathetic to them. As Naked Bible readers know, I have different takes on certain theological ideas that are germane to the universalism question. The grid through which I sift the author’s questions, assertions, and conclusions has been constructed by means of my understanding of the Bible (particularly the OT) contextualized in its ancient near eastern context.

Here’s a short list, without much explanation, of where I am at on certain issues that relate to this topic, and my thoughts on the topic in particular.

1. I believe in free will. To be imagers of God, freedom is necessary since it is a communicable attribute. One cannot image God and not have true free will. Therefore, to remove it as the author discusses at certain points is, to me, impossible in that it would mean a reversal of God’s own decreed choice to make humans as his imagers.

2. I don’t by the free will vs. predestination thing as mutually exclusive, though my solution isn’t the calvinist approach. I think God knows all things, real and possible. Since God knows things that will not happen, that *severs* a necessary link between foreknowing and predestinating. I do not believe one needs predestination of every event that ever happens (or even most – e.g., which shoe I put on first, which shampoo I pick off the shelf, etc.) to have a sovereign God. Rather, as readers know, I back-load sovereignty (the ends are what are predestinated, and God steers all things to those ends). I believe God can and does predestinate things; I just don’t believe he predestinates everything nor that he needs to. And so I am at odds with the calvinist and the open theist.

3. I would also quibble with the notion, assumed by the author, that God minds imperfection (better, uncertainty) in his created world. Gen 1 (and broader OT theology) seems clear to me (as seen through a semitist’s eyes) that chaos is present at creation from the beginning, and not eliminated. It is part of what God calls “very good.” Unpredictability is *built in* to the world.

4. I question whether God needs to be omnibenevolent for him to be perfect. I think God’s attributes are self-defined by him. If he chooses to not save everyone, I can’t call him imperfect. Parry’s view seems to suggest that God cannot be perfect and allow anyone to be lost. That seems to be a human-centered view But we’re humans, so that’s kind of understandable — and so his view is appealing–but I’m not convinced it’s correct.

5. Although I’d like to, I do not see universal salvation in the OT worldview. Yes, we can say all nations are to be blessed through Abram, but nations that curse Abram and his seed are cursed. I think one can make a case for the “universalistic” language of Isaiah as the reclamation of all the nations cast away at Babel (Deut 32:8-9) without requiring that means every last person who ever lived in those nations is saved. But this is in part due to my skepticism on omnibenevolence (See below). In other words, why can’t the language of Isaiah refer to the nations rather than everyone who has ever lived? Must “nations” be equated with every human being? Is there no place for hyperbole?

On a side note, I think Parry takes Ezek 33:11 way out of context. Read the verse. It refers to ISRAEL– not everyone who has ever lived.

6. The OT view of Sheol was certainly not one that had everyone eventually getting out. Any hope of escape was for the righteous; otherwise, no one escaped Sheol. I believe the thought that everyone would escape Sheol would be completely foreign to the Israelite, and I can’t think of any hint where sacrificial typology or messianic atonement would result in all going to Sheol. It seems to me the Day of the Lord passages don’t come with the sense that everyone will be saved.

Now, I could argue against myself by saying that the OT writers were not told of this idea, that God left them ignorant.  I think that’s true in other areas, so I’m willing to think it possible here. But I have other difficulties . . .

7. I need it demonstrated to me that God actually loved the people put under kherem (“delivered to destruction”) in the Old Testament. Yes, we can say that even though God ordered their destruction he really loved them, but that seems quite incoherent. It seems to make God bipolar. If he really loved the Amalekites, the Repahim, the Hivites, etc., and intended them to be saved in the end, why the destruction at the hands of Israel? How was their destruction necessary to *this* plan of salvation? Why wouldn’t God want all Israel to know right away that he loved the Amalekites? Why hide it? They couldn’t possibly think ill of Yahweh, and if they did, who’s in charge? They would be in no place to question God’s love. I really need some sense made of this before I’ll accept omnibenevolence. The very idea of kherem (“devote to destruction”) of the above- noted people groups is something *pleasing* to God. They are treated as a whole burnt offering to him. How is it that he would be truly displeased with this (which he’d have to be if he really loved them)? And if he is not, then how is he omni-benevolent?

It seems to me the only way out of the kherem issue is to argue that the entire conquest account is mytho-poetic. I offer that to opponents as a consideration. I’d have to be convinced that is the case and (perhaps harder) even if a fraction of the people of Canaan were actually killed (i.e., the conquest stories are mythologized fiction for theological polemic, but based on actual conquest events), you still have people put under kherem — and I need to ask why was this not only allowed, but commanded, if they were loved?

8. Of what importance is remnant theology when all people will be saved? (And how is that Old Testament language honest?)  In short, why would God elect a remnant when he could have elected all humans to begin with (and said so, avoiding the “remnant” language)?  The OT is very clear that there is a remnant who believe and that remnant is distinguished from the non-remnant (the nations under wrath), and that the remnant was a sovereign creation.  In short, God *could have* said “all humans are my remnant now that Israel has failed; all will be saved,” but he doesn’t. Why not? Why not make that clear?

This should get us started. For me, I’d like some input from universal salvationists with respect to my misgivings. I’m not here to beat on Parry’s view. His is the best articulation to date and deserves attention. For me to remain interested in this one, I don’t need to see anyone being overly critical of Parry (I’d say get his book). I’m just telling readers why I’m not persuaded of the view.

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70 Responses to “The Premises of Universal Salvation”

  1. Nobunaga says:

    I’m not a univeralist however i hope i can still comment ? I have issues with your points 2 & 3.

    2. I was under the impression the ANE view of God was that everything was done by the will of God/gods, i have heard John Walton say that there were no atheist back then and everything that happened from the smallest to the great was decreed by the gods/God, even stubbing your toe. ? (paraphrase). Proverbs 16:33. I understand everything is not predestined but it is under the permissive will of God, there are no nomadic atoms in the universe.

    3. This i have a bigger problem with, to my reading chaos is the description of the existing material which will be brought into order by God in Genesis therefore once God has finished bringing order out of chaos and attributing functions to the material chaos is no more and all is declared good. I really don’t see how chaos especially in ANE terms could ever be described as good ? it’s the very opposite.

    • MSH says:

      on #2 – I’m not going to repeat what I’ve already said on the blog about my take on sovereignty and predestination; that is what the archive link was for.

      on #3 – the point is not “praise of chaos”; the point is that God let chaos be part of the creation, and that decision (his own) is deemed as good. I don’t plan to argue with God or the text on that. Chaos is present but restrained; there will eventually be “no more sea” and chaos will be eliminated. We tend the think (wrongly) that the Edenic dwelling place of God = the whole world. It didn’t. It was the only place without “creation chaos” as the place where God was / dwelled. A small piece of the globe according to the biblical narrative. All the earth was not Eden.

  2. Mike Gantt says:

    MSH, re: your short list:

    1. We have free will within the destination God has decreed. That is, we are all on this earth in this life exercising free will. Therefore, that God defines the boundary of our habitation gives the environment in which free will is exercised: earth in this life , heaven in the next.

    2. Well stated.

    3. No quarrel here.

    4. Perhaps God does not need to save everyone in order to be perfect, but He certainly has to save everyone in order to be love.

    The rest to come when I find time.

    • MSH says:

      yes; I have a bit of trouble defining perfection in light of my own notion of what I’d want to see as perfection. It smacks of the creature questioning the creator.

  3. Mike Gantt says:

    MSH, re: the continuation of your short list:

    The OT, of course, prophesied in a mystery which the NT largely revealed. Therefore, it stands to reason that each side of this debate can find “supporting” verses. Sticking with fundamental teachings, however, you have to ask yourself, “If the OT teaches that everyone goes to Sheol (Hades) at death, and the NT reveals that Sheol (Hades) has lost its sting and will be removed (i.e. there is new heavens and new earth but no new “sea”), then what does this mean for departed humanity? The NT is clear that Jesus came to solve the problem of death. If in so doing, He created an even biggger problem than death, where’s the good news in that? If hellish afterlife is true then the the dead were better off left dead.

    6. We’re all “devoted to destruction.” None of us will get out alive. Even Jesus did not get out alive. If God can’t love those whom He devotes to destruction, then we’re all unloved.

    7. Just as there is an elect on earth, there will be an elect in heaven. To the degree that the elect suffered and were mistreated on earth, to that degree they will be exalted in heaven (as was the case with Jesus, which is why He got to the top). Heaven is not an egalitarian society where Hitler walks arm in arm with Mother Theresa; there is order and justice. Life is not a pass-fail course (i.e. heaven for the winners and hell for the losers). God grades far more finely than that. One of the great glories we’ll see on display in heaven is the majesty and wisdom of God’s justice toward each and every one of us. Therefore, it behooves us to fear Him and keep His commandments. This is why, even though I believe everyone is going to heaven, my overall message is “Repent and follow Jesus Christ our Lord!”

    • MSH says:

      In the OT Sheol was not a good place; the OT view *may* include evil spirits (see the Sheol archive) and is viewed as a vile prison. It is not linked to being a sinner, other than that is invariably tied to not being God / being mortal. However, there is a sense in that sinners must stay there in the OT (it was the hope of the righteous to be removed from Sheol – again, see the archive on Sheol). I say all that because it is a myth to view the NT concept as utterly foreign from the OT concept. So Jesus doesn’t “invent” the negative afterlife.

      On #6 – kherem is simply not only death, so this isn’t an appropriate analogy.

      on #7 – I also believe there will be hierarchy in heaven (which for me means the new earth), but I wouldn’t use the word elect for that.

  4. Ilia Panayotov says:

    I’m not persuaded by Parry’s view either. There are many, many pre-suppositions in his arguments which seem to me entirely unjustified. For example, “God could save everyone if he wanted to” is not at all obviously true once you introduce human free will into the equation. (Moreover, to cause someone freely choose something is as logical as God creating a round triangle.) If God endows His imagers with genuine free will (as opposed to the compatibilist free will) then it is not at all certain if all of the imagers will choose to accept salvation (such a world may not be feasible for God to create; again, you can’t make someone freely do something).

    Furthermore, there are good explanations for Parry’s difficulties of people going to hell forever for (supposedly) finite sins: e.g the magnitude of the sin of rejecting God and His offer of salvation and/or the fact that people continue to hate and reject God when they’re punished (which is exactly what people in the Book of Revelation do when all the bad things start to happen). Either way, I don’t exclude annihilationism as an option.

    But I also disagree with some of your ideas, too, Mike.
    I except ideas 1, 2, 3(to an extent), 5, 5 and 7 but I have problems with 4 and 6.

    I think the property of being all-loving is essential to God. I think we can all agree on the following propositions:
    1. God is the greatest conceivable being (He is the most perfect being there is, was, will be and ever could be).
    2. If God is the greatest conceivable being, then He is morally perfect.
    3. Love is moral perfection.

    Since God is morally perfect and love is moral perfection than He is as loving as possible. Moreover, I agree with Parry that the Bible does teach that God is all-loving. Beside the verses he quotes, I would also bring up Jesus’ Sermon on the mount. Matthew 5:43-47 makes it clear that we should love even our enemies because that’s what God does; He is perfect and we need to be like Him.
    Now, I can imagine a person who really loves his enemies despite their wickedness. Should I really think that God’s moral level is lower than this person’s?!
    (Regarding Ezekiel 33:11, I fully agree that God is talking to Israel. But how can this not be applied to Gentiles too?! I mean, a HUGE part of the NT is about God being the God of the Gentiles too and that ethnic differences are irrelevant when it comes to the true Israel. Moreover, He’s obviously not talking to the saved remnant only since He is exhorting people to turn back and live).

    Regarding the kherem issue, I think it needn’t be divorced from the context of the whole Bible which does teach that God loves the sinners and the righteous. Again, I can imagine a police officer who really loves his enemies but who will not hesitate to use force on them in order to save lives and/or execute justice.
    The Pentateuch clearly teaches that the peoples under the kherem were to be destroyed because of their iniquities (sexual perversions, human sacrifice, magic, etc). If the police officer can execute justice without failing to love his enemies, why can’t God? Why should this make Him bipolar; the police officer doesn’t have a problem. Even if this does make God bipolar (and I don’t think it does) so what? He knows what he’s doing. Besides, if one believes that justice IS part of love (as I do) then the problem evaporates.
    And the last issue of Why didn’t God tell the Israelites that He loves the peoples under the kherem? – well, I think progressive revelation (and perhaps divine accommodation) explains this nicely.

    Sorry this got so long, but I really wanted to say all of this. Peace!

    • MSH says:

      you would need to read Parry’s book. If you accept omni-benevolence, he has you.

      There isn’t a 1:1 equation of kherem with certain practices. That would suggest that such practices were not present in non-kherem pagan populations. Just isn’t the case.

      • Ilia Panayotov says:

        I don’t think he has me. As I said, the arguments he presents are based on pre-suppositions with no basis and some of them actually contradict the Biblical material. He already said that his whole journey was propelled by the conviction that “God can save everyone if He wanted to” and, as I’ve already stated, this claim is an arbitrary pre-supposition which may not be at all true once you introduce human free will.

        Regarding the kherem issue, no analogy is perfect but I still think mine works. I don’t see why God’s reason for exterminating the peoples under the kherem could not have been to execute justice. Indeed, that’s what Deuteronomy says – that they’re being driven out because of their sins. And if God is executing justice on them, why can’t He love them will doing it? Again, if a police officer can love criminals and still use force on them, why can’t God? God’s moral standard is obviously much higher than that of a finite, fallible policeman. Jesus tells us to love our enemies because “your Father makes His sun rise on the evil too… Therefore, be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect” The implication is clear – God loves everybody, despite their wickedness (which He will punish) – “therefore, if you’re gonna be His children, be like Him” (paraphrased).

        And by the way, Judges 20 describes how the tribes of Israel destroyed every person (and animal) from the tribe of Benjamin except for 600 men who managed to escape. So we have here an extermination similar to the one executed on the people under the kherem. The reason was justice – the tribe of Benjamin had become extremely sinful (sodomy, rape, etc). And here we can introduce Ezekiel 33:11. So God doesn’t desire Benjamin’s death but justice was still executed on them. Again, I see no problem with God being all-loving and just.

        PS: If we introduce the literal Divine Offspring Theory about the Nephilim and these Nephilim giants are somehow inherently evil then that further helps eliminate the alleged difficulty.


      • Ed Roberts says:

        I am reminded of Hazlett’s book “Economics in One Lesson” here… in that what seems to be equitable is not necessarily equitable when one examines it further.. what seems equitable: that all men are eventually saved…but what if God could not MAKE all men to be saved according to his standards (i.e. that their heart would want it and not just for their get out of hell card)… then God would have to make some choices of not having some in his family (this is his family after all)… this too would be love… but perhaps the “best” choice and perhaps not necessarily the desirable one would be to exclude some… I don’t think God is necessarily happy with the outcome… would like all men to respond to him and be saved… but not all are… so in order to make sure the “bad apples” don’t mess things up… he excludes them… I am not one that sees God as ominpotient here… in the realm of men due to His choice… nor do I see love as causing “perfection” somehow in the outcome… love deals with difficult choices…

  5. Robbie says:

    Your post provides an excellent outline and launch pad for future discussion, Mike. I too want to view this teaching from a semitic perspective. It is also necessary to exam matters like Jacob and Esau, specifically their pre-destination and divine election; and the notion of kherem from the vantage point of the ANE worldview.

  6. Matthew says:


    Just a few questions for you:

    (1) I thought being an imager of God was about taking dominion of the Earth, not free will? And if free will is necessary in order to be a dominion-taker, any justifying Scriptural citations?

    (2) How does your view on predestination/free-will deal with those with significant disabilities or those that died before they could properly exercise any will?

    (3) Do you plan to formally address the common Universalist argument that “forever and ever” should be interpreted as “eon of eons.” That seems to be how they translated it in the Concordant Literal New Testament.

    Best Regards,


    • MSH says:

      taking dominion and free will are not incompatible or mutually exclusive; God expects humanity to image him with a “steward-kingship” goal (“dominion”). We cannot do that if we do not share the ability to make free decisions.

      On #2, you’d need to read my take on Romans 5:12 in some respect; I also do not define the image as only free will; I am saying free will is essential to it; I’m not equating that with the whole concept of imaging.

      On #3, I guess so; it’s such a red herring. It is simply untrue that Greek aion and Hebrew olam *cannot* mean “without end” or even “without being”; often it does not, but it is simply specious to say it cannot. Why? Because those words are used of God himself in several passage (and the afterlife for believers as well).

  7. haibane13 says:

    If all humans were saved through Christ and their belief in Him would this be a sort of Universalism WITH choice in the picture or do all forms of universalism indicate that all humans MUST be saved ? Is it possible that the world can be restored without sin for all living things without choice being tossed out ?

    • MSH says:

      I’m not really following this; maybe it’s because I don’t see how faith in Christ is a “sort of universalism” – ?

      • haibane13 says:

        Well what I was asking is if it’s possible for all humans to be saved and if that were an actuality would that be considered a form of universalism without choice being tossed out ?

        • MSH says:

          the part that I don’t follow is the “choice” part of the question. Someone who believes in universal salvation would say that POSSIBLE universal salvation is *not* universal salvation.

          • haibane13 says:

            I see . I guess I was taking a too basic view on universalism . I thought the only premise to it was something that COULD be applied to everyone .

  8. Richard says:

    I’m not a Universal Salvationist, but regarding your point-of-concern #6. If, as some postulate, the people groups referenced were carriers of corrupt DNA (Nephilim), would this change your ideas concerning omnibenevolence? At least insofar as it applies to humans.

    While I’m at it, there is another point brought up by Parry that has nagged me for years; specifically, how are we to be happy in heaven knowing people, some we may love intensely, are suffering everlasting torment? I would love to hear a satisfying answer to this question.

    • MSH says:

      no, but that would depend on whether one accepts the *biological* literalness of an idea like “nephilim DNA”.

      Parry spends a good deal of time on your second question. I’m not persuaded that it’s needed. It is for him since he has a need for us to have “perfect” happiness, which I’m not sure we need or that it is the point of heaven — where do we see such a description in Scripture? Just not ringing any bells. Sure, it will be beyond our comprehension and experience, but does that mean that IT means “perfect happiness”? I think the angle here is “no more tears,” but I’m just not sure that means “perfect happiness” or was meant to apply to the hell question. (Maybe, for example, it applies to the believer’s own suffering). Here’s what I mean — think about Parry’s view here — what if he was in heaven WHILE his loved ones are in TEMPORARY punishment — would he not be sad THEN, while they were being temporarily punished? Would that not be a violation of “no more tears”? It would seem “perfect happiness” would have to mean no hell AT ALL. Sure, he could say (and I’m making this up – he hasn’t said it), “well, I wasn’t saved while my unsaved brother was in temporary torment, since I knew he’d get out eventually.” Really? I mean REALLY? If he’d actually say that, then Parry has no argument along those lines against annihilationism (recall that he uses this same argument against annihilationism – because you’d still be sad if your loved one was annihilated and not in heaven). I’m not sure there is any completely satisfying answer to your question, but I can say that I don’t find Parry’s argument compelling.

      • Matthew says:


        I suppose a few things to chew over:

        (1) Will your desires, motivations, sources of joy, etc. be the same as they are now after we are perfected and glorified?

        (2) Is it not the grace of our Lord found even among those we love?

        (3) Those that we love – from where did they come? Were they not creatures made by our Lord?

        Seems to me that everything we can imagine now can not fully picture what it will be like before the face of our Lord.



        • Richard says:


          Thanks for the response. Sorry I’m so late. As for your questions, my answers are all in the affirmative. I have to say though, I just don’t get the relevance of the last two questions to our grief over the eternal torment of others. Admittedly, I’m not the sharpest knife in the Naked Bible drawer – or any other drawer as far as that goes. Perhaps you would elaborate?



          • Matthew says:


            No problem at all on the delay. Perhaps you might move for the affirmative on the first question, but I move against that conclusion, at least in part. Some of the things that make it hard to imagine everlasting life are based on the nature of our flesh. Hopefully my glorified body will be more suited for that sort of existence. That said, I’d assume that not everything I care about now will be the same at that point. My cares in this world are governed (in part) by the body I use. Is it too much to ask that I grant my heavenly Father the opportunity to deliver on His promises without needing to worry about being cast into agony over my unsaved friends and family members? Our Father makes beautiful claims for His sheep, so I think best for me to give Him the benefit of the doubt. After all, so much of this is just speculation. The story of my life -> I think I know and then later I find out that I missed something or got something wrong.

            The other two points were highlighting the fact that our loved ones are the derivative product of the good works of our LORD. We love those people because of the LORD, and his merit, not the merit of those mere creatures. The LORD gave us, even the opportunity to know these people, and through grace he helped to settle our relationships with those people. I suppose that’s all I meant by that.



            P.S. Thanks for reading my comments

            • Richard says:


              Your right about #1 of course. I think I was suffering from tunnel vision, thinking only in terms of my attitude about my loved ones. I can’t see my love toward them diminishing after “putting on the incorruptible body”. If anything, my love and empathy for others should become infinitely greater (more like Christ).



      • Richard says:

        Dr Heiser,

        Sorry this response is so late in coming. I appreciate your response and your thoughts. I do believe though, that there is a significant difference in the sadness one would experience in the case of annihilation of a loved one vs. the eternal torment of a loved one. Personally, I think sadness due to annihilation would be similar to the sadness we feel at the passing of loved ones from this life; we are sad and grieve, but with time the grief diminishes. Knowledge of never-ending torment of a singe loved one, torment that arguably (due to the eternal nature of the suffering),would exceed the combined temporal pain and suffering of all who ever lived, would be another thing indeed! How could such grief ever abate as long as we are conscious of it?

        Concerning “no more tears”: God wipes these tears, but when exactly? Perhaps after we have been there a while?



  9. Kurt says:

    Mike, I’m not a universalist nor can I stand in for Perry, but I’m fairly familiar with what they think and I’ve most of the universalist book including TEU, so I’ll try to comment…

    MH: “By definition, universal salvation and an everlasting hell are mutually exclusive ideas. Hence the importance of eliminating an everlasting hell.”

    Kurt: Technically, they aren’t mutually exclusive as long as hell (if it’s a place) is eventually emptied. You could be a universalist and believe in an everlasting hell, but if you are a universalist, you believe that no one will endure forever in an everlasting hell.

    MH: “I actually think it is easier to defend annihilationism than universal salvation…”

    Kurt: I agree. It’s also easier to defend annihilationism than eternal torment!

    Parry: In conclusion, all views of hell as eternal conscious torment suffer from two generic problems. First, the punishment seems out of proportion to any crimes humans can commit.”

    Kurt: Right. Augustine claimed something like, “sin against an infinite god deserves an infinite demerit” and many have bought that kind of thinking. Bleh… I’m not buying that.

    Parry: “Classical attempts to avoid this conclusion seem to lead to the problem of making all sins as bad as each othera morally problematic position.”

    Kurt: Right! How many different kinds of FOREVER are there?

    Parry: “Second, it is hard to see how God could give the redeemed perfect happiness if some of their loved ones are in hell forever

    Kurt: Typically, this has been handled by claiming that God gives the redeemed with divine amnesia (a la CS Lewis) or… hell makes the redeemed that much happier (a la Jonathan Edwards). Neither one of these options are very appealing. The former makes God out to be deceiver and has ZERO scriptural support and the latter has maybe more scriptural support but is… well… pretty horrible as well.

    I’m going to skip the Calvinism/Open Theism/Molinism thing for now… I’m an open theist and I’m tempted to, but I don’t want to blog on your blog. :)

    MH: “I believe in free will. To be imagers of God, freedom is necessary since it is a communicable attribute. One cannot image God and not have true free will. Therefore, to remove it as the author discusses at certain points is, to me, impossible in that it would mean a reversal of Gods own decreed choice to make humans as his imagers.”

    Kurt: I agree! …and so do some Christian universalists. Some Christian universalists are free will theist and some are also open theists. If they insist that libertarian freewill continues into the age to come, they have some unique challenges, but they can at least arrive at a “hopeful universalism” and probably even an eventual universalism that is confident that God’s love will win. (Rob Bell joke)

    OK, I can’t help myself…

    MH: “I dont by the free will vs. predestination thing as mutually exclusive, though my solution isnt the calvinist approach.”

    Kurt: Open Theist believe that exhaustive definite foreknowledge is mutually exclusive with libertarian free will not because knowledge of future events inhibits the operation of that kind of free will, but because, the truth about what we do cannot precede us doing it.

    MH: “I think God knows all things, real and possible.”

    Kurt: So do open theists. We believe that God knows some of the future as “might and might not”

    MH: “Since God knows things that will not happen, that *severs* a necessary link between foreknowing and predestinating.”

    Kurt: I don’t think I’m quite following you here? ok, back to universalism…

    MH: “I question whether God needs to be omnibenevolent for him to be perfect. I think Gods attributes are self-defined by him. If he chooses to not save everyone, I cant call him imperfect. Parrys view seems to suggest that God cannot be perfect and allow anyone to be lost.”

    Kurt: Could you agree that there is unity in God’s attributes? In other words, God’s love is just and His justice is loving, so that God does not suspend one attribute to exercise another. Whatever hell is, it’s God’s hell and it has to align with God’s purpose, which is wrapped up in God’s loving justice.

    Good points about the OT. I think the OT is too ambiguous on this to make any determinations for or against universalism.

    I don’t think it’s valid to make that sort of jump from OT Sheol to postmortem judgment.

    MH: “I need it demonstrated to me that God actually loved the people put under kherem (delivered to destruction) in the Old Testament.”

    Kurt: I actually think that OT divinely commissioned violence (if you believe that’s what it was) helps the universalist position. If postmortem judgment is remedial and the “punishment fits the crime” then God cutting the wicked off from the land of the living is actually a benevolent move because God can then deal with them postmortem instead of having them continue down the road of sin and hardening, which (hypothetically) would increase their stay in hell (or something like that). Make sense?

    MH: God *could have* said all humans are my remnant now that Israel has failed; all will be saved, but he doesnt. Why not?

    Kurt: I’m not sure why remnant theology should restrict any characterization of hell?


    • MSH says:

      pardon, but a lot of this is really quibbling and doesn’t affect my representation of Parry’s position. If you can isolate one or two where you’d disagree with that estimation, point them out and we will go from there.

    • Matthew says:


      Ilia said:

      “Furthermore, there are good explanations for Parrys difficulties of people going to hell forever for (supposedly) finite sins: e.g the magnitude of the sin of rejecting God and His offer of salvation and/or the fact that people continue to hate and reject God when theyre punished ”

      Some might say that a crime against an infinite God deserves a proportionate punishment -> unending. But, Ilia has an additional conclusion -> who’s to say that the number of sins are finite? Who’s to say that those in hell ever stop breaking the first commandment?



      • Ilia Panayotov says:

        Thanks but I didn’t figure out these explanations myself. I heard them in a speech by William Lane Craig.

        Best Regards,

  10. Ashley says:

    Very interesting and a lot to think about – I’ve never seriously considered universalism since (I think like many others) I’ve always believed that some people will not be saved, for some of the reasons you’ve mentioned (discussion of remnant, OT Sheol) and also because of the account in Revelation 20:11-15 and other passages about judgment. I’m very interested to learn more about the arguments around this issue.

    One thing that struck me is your discussion of God’s love vs. the kherem. I’m wondering what it means to say that God didn’t love some specific people or groups given verses like John 3:16 (the first one I ever memorized!). Should my understanding be that God loves the world, as in the totality of creation, but not necessarily every individual part of it? Did God ever love the people who ended up under kherem, or were they always excluded? Again, this is an issue I’ve never really though about it, but I’m just wondering what the implications are of saying that God does not love each and every individual and how that fits with a verse like, “For God so loved the world . . . ”

    As an aside, this is why I so enjoy your blog (and read it regularly though I don’t always post comments) – you’ve forced me to think about some issues that I’d never before considered in a critical way, and I think that’s really important to my Christian growth.

    • MSH says:

      thanks – on John 3:16, I’d ask if it is contradicted by John 3:36.

      • Cognus says:

        playing the adversary, if so .. [3:36] on what legal basis? I think there are “pre-cross” realities for the Jew, and “post-resurrection” realities for the new man. By one man came death, so also by one man [the last Adam] came life. If Jesus “killed” the sin issue, then on what basis is anyone judged as “guilty”? Romans 5:15-18
        But I’m not in the hyper-universalism camp due to the issue of “God-likeness”

        • MSH says:

          I do think the pre- / post-cross thing is worth thinking about in regard to this subject. The question is whether such a distinction is merited (and “merited” doesn’t mean “to get around to Mike’s problems with universalism”).

  11. Cognus says:

    Just a quick comment, more later. Mike I so VERY MUCH appreciate this particular post/thread. You put some complex thought into this one and it touches not just the buzzy but the eternally important.

    To Mike’s summary, and Point 1 of his/your “Short List”, the issue that is constantly in view for me is something like:
    “the extent to which God/YHWH created Man ‘IN HIS OWN’ Image?”

    The Father is nothing if not a CREATOR of that which does not yet exist.
    In fact, Mike, is that not the chief aspect of YHWH that establishes His superiority over the other lesser deities? He made/makes all that is?? And in that He is distinguished from, and superior to, the other gods?

    Our God is He “who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist”.
    DOES MAN have that same capacity? I would argue not only that he [man] does, but that this is what separates the race of Adam from the other hominids of the age of his creation [merely 7 to 10 thousand years ago]. If so, Adam was vested with creativity of a Godlike quality as regards his [Adam’s] domain. That which has never yet been created is not knowable. Adam[s] had the power to conceive/create that which is not. This was the choice of YHWH, a calculated risk. In this I support some type of Open theism. [and area that is as vague as it gets at this point].
    Free Will as God would bestow, to me implies utter creativity [from nothing, something]. Whether Adam’s race retained this level of creativity is a good debate to have. I say yes. And that is part of what makes the great tragedy all the more tragic.

    Secondly, the proverbial goat’s head on the table is the 7 to 10 thousand years of history we have to examine! What does the evidence tell us of God/YHWH’s alleged [misplaced I think] “sovereignty”. I say He put it at risk. I say we have no evidence whatsoever that the creation of Earth and its Solar System and the subsequent development of sentient life was/is His only gig. The speed with which His “Adam” and family blew the entire plan of GOD, and the subsequent ratifications of that disaster loudly shout that such events were neither foreknown [they were created] nor sanctioned [HE is HOLY].

    • MSH says:


      creatorship is indeed a distinguishing mark; I don’t know if I’d call it the primary one, but I might. I don’t spend much time thinking about ranking attributes.

      on the “hominids and creating” thing, are you speaking of procreation? using tools? Too vague for me. It would seem if a Neanderthal could create a tool that didn’t exist at the time, that defeats your distinction. They certainly could do that (but for those following the human genome / neanderthal thing, I realize that Neanderthal may be a sub-species of human — I don’t want to get into all the science talk on this blog — let’s keep it simplistic). It would seem Neanderthal also exercised a free choice in doing so. — so I don’t know where this is going or what it’s main point is.

  12. Rich B. says:

    I havent been on any of Heisers sites in a long time (sorry Mike, been busy). I noticed this blog and thought I would jump in. I have moved over to a Christian Universalist position about 8 years ago. I have not read all the posts and discussions about this subject yet. I hope to over the next few weeks. In regard to the discussion of Free Will and Predestination, I approach this as a Both-And as long as someone understands the difference between the Creator and His creation. And the difference between Gods Will and Gods Plan.

    I believe that mankind was placed in a habitation that God created for them. Inside this habitation he is Free. Free to make decisions and reap the benefits and/or consequences of this Free Will. There is also other elements in play inside this habitation: Gods Will and Gods Plan. Mans freedom is always interacting with either Gods Will and Gods Plan.

    Gods will is for us to obey Him and His commandments. If we do not…we reap the consequences. If we do follow His ways…we reap the benefits. But when it comes to Gods Plan. We can not alter it or influence it in any way. It is set. The plan has been created and we cant stop it. God knows the end from the beginning. (This is one of the reasons I see Ultimate Restoration/Salvation of All – Gods Plan is for All to be saved).

    God can and does direct our paths as it relates to His Plan. He does Conquer our freedom and constrains us to His purpose…His Master Plan. Kinda like he did to Pharaoh in hardening his heart – He conquered his freedom. This does not negate our ability to freely make decisions. It just says that God can over-rule our freedom – If He wants to. Let me explain.

    He is the Creator and the owner of His creation. As his creation, I have freedom within the confines of the habitation that He has placed me in. Now, if Gods Plan dictates that something must happen. And, the plan is for me to do it. He can Conquer my freedom and make me a captive to His plan. Now, I know someone will say that we do not have Free Will then if God can overcome us. My point of distinction comes in the position of Creator over His creation. Can the creation overpower the Creator? No. Can the creation do something to derail Gods Plan. No. We have freedom in our position as the creation. Gods position of Creator always has the pre-eminence over the creation. We have free will, but it only functions in this habitation as it applies to Gods Will, not to Gods Plan.

    I believe God wants his children to learn. And, He continually has a hand in our maturing. I can not walk outside of this habitation of my own free will. I have to live within the confines of this habitation. I am not God, I didnt create this world. No matter how much Free Will I have. I can not break away form the habitation of Gods Plan. The gravity of His plan holds me to His plan.

    I believe that the Free Will term needs to be re-framed. I would have to agree that we do not have Free Will because we can not leave our habitation of our own will or might. We are prisoners to this world. But this distinction could very well be the key to the Free Will question. Creator and creation. I am free to be creation. And God is Free to be Creator.

    I have Freedom to live and make decisions within my habitation and within my position. People who say we can over-rule God with our Free Will are placing us outside of our position. They say that the creation is equal to and greater than the Creator. We can not apply our free will and change Gods Master Plan. We are talking Apples and Oranges. Free Will takes place in the realm of Gods Will. Predestination takes place in the realm of Gods Plan. Apples and Oranges.

  13. Robin Parry says:

    Hello Michael,

    Thanks for this. I am honored that you have taken the time to blog on my book. I am a big fan of your work (indeed, I spent most of yesterday afternoon re-reading various essays that you have written on the divine counciljust fantastic!) so I was really pleased to see that you had bloged on my book.

    Crumbs! A lot of points there too. I will need to take some time to work through them (time which I don’t have right now but I’ll try to carve some out). But I wanted to thank you for taking the time to offer some substantive and intelligent criticisms. That makes for a much more constructive discussion that some of the discussion out there.



    • MSH says:

      Robin – if you want to Guest-post, let me know. You are welcome to do so.

      • DT says:

        This is a very old horse, but I hope not a dead one. I just wanted to say that I have read Parry’s book per your recommendation, and find myself hoping he’s right but unable to commit to his point of view due to what I perceive as a lack of exegetical evidence. I even spent some time over at the Evangelical Universalist forum looking for answers (I honestly didn’t find it helpful, but that’s just me).

        The strongest arguments for the EU view are, to me, philosophical and not exegetical. I find the EU idea of afterlife punishment meant to ultimately reconcile every soul to Abraham’s bosom compelling for several very obvious reasons that I probably don’t need to spell out. I like the idea of a God whose forgiveness and grace extends beyond death, to everyone. Unfortunately, I just don’t find textual backup. I also feel that this is a doctrine of such great importance that, if true, would have been stated in explicit terms by many authors.

        I also ran up against a few walls in my study of this issue. One of them is “Hell”. I need a deeper understanding of how Hell is presented in the NT from a reputable, scholarly source. Right now, my understanding is essentially, “It’s different in the OT and NT, and much more complicated than people think.” I don’t even know where to start on Amazon — there’s a lot of hackery and quackery out there regarding Hell.

        Do you have any recommendations, Mike?

        • MSH says:

          I feel the same way about Parry’s book (and the view).

          On the other, I’d start with Sheol (maybe Johnston’s book, Shades of Sheol), then some articles on Hades (I can send you those if you email me). There’s a huge book on the issue by Alan Segal (of two powers in heaven note). Very lengthy. Title: Life After Death: A History of the Afterlife in Western Religion.

  14. DT says:


    This is a great post.

    While I’m not the best-armed to enter this arena, I believe that there are a few quibbles a Molinist would have with Parry’s framework regarding their view.

    Parrys logic chain for Molinism:

    1. God, being omniscient, knows, via his middle knowledge, how to bring all people to accept salvation freely in Christ.

    [My understanding of middle knowledge is that it is essentially grounded in If-Then knowlege. There appear to be two divergent views here that needs to be explored.

    One way of viewing this definition of middle knowledge is: “If A happens, person 1 will choose B.” The second way is, “If Person 1 chooses A, then B will happen.” It is a chicken-egg issue, but it seems important to the debate. The first way seems much closer to compatibilism because the choice is a result of preceding events.

    The second seems more in-tune with what Molinists such as William Lane Craig assert — that the outcome is a result of choice. This also seems more in line with the idea of humans being Imagers.

    The importance here is that Parry seems to be taking the first view due to the next part of his logic chain — that God could actualize a world in which the choice is freely made. Legitimate, yes, but I think most Molinists would object on the grounds that the choice is nothing more than a bi-product of the environment in Parry’s view.]

    2. God, being omnipotent, is able to actualize a possible world in which all persons freely accept salvation.

    [My understanding of how Molinists would object to this assertion is outlined in section 1, but for clarity, I will reiterate: I do not think that Molinists would accept that free will exists in a case where the individual’s outcome/choice cannot/will not possibly be different. Sorry for the /’s — they seemed necessary.]

    3. God, being omnibenevolent, wants to bring all people to salvation through Christ.

    [No issue with the second part of the sentence. The idea of omnibenevolence is somewhat philosophically troubling in addition to the issues you’ve raised. Oddly enough, I find it limiting to God’s own will and omnipotence. “Nuh uh uh…you can’t send me away…you’re omnibenevolent!”

    A God who is “Omnirighteous” seems more scriptural and philosophically sound.]

    • MSH says:

      you need to get Robin’s book – he addresses some of these things in it. I’d highly recommend it – or he may chime in with a post (see my reply to him in the Comments just now).

  15. MPH says:

    Mike, I’d like to hear any comments you have to Rich B. post, when you have time…

    • MSH says:

      he’s just stating what he thinks; I’ve already posted what I think about free will. can you be more specific?

      • MPH says:

        It seems to me that he is agreeing with your position which you detailed in your point #2. However, he is taking that thought to the final conclusion that God’s end game is that all will be saved, which is God’s Master Plan (as he puts it). And, he frames it in a way I have not heard before.

        I see your point that you probably have addressed the scriptural difficulties going from your point 2 to his Master Plan of all being saved. Perhaps I should get with Rich B and have him lay out his Biblical bridge to get from one to the other. (which is for another forum).

        • Rich B. says:

          Yes, I am agreeing with point #2 – In my understanding, Free Will and Predestination co-exist. I do frame this a bit differently. In my thinking Free Will and Predestination are part of a Created Plan.

          My understanding of Christian Universalism is that God has created, for lack of a better illustration, a machine that produces Mature/Sons of God/Imagers. I believe this Machine was created by God, and does what He created it to do. Now the question is, for many. How good is this machine. If it only has a success rate of 5-10%…then it is not very good. If it has a success rate of 99%…it is real good, But not perfect.

          I believe God created a Machine that is perfect…100% success rate. Now if this machine was designed as an experiement. I have to ask the question. Why does God need to experiment? He knows everything already. He knows the outcome of any type of Machine that He makes. There is no need for God to experiement and see what a Machine will do. What He creates will fulfill its created purpose perfectly. The question then is: What is Gods Created Purpose for Me, All mankind, All beings, All of Creation?

          Here is another question that I ask myself. If God created an apple tree. Could he create an apple tree that only produced good fruit. Or, will it create good fruit only some of the time? If God created a plan that all would be Saved. Will it save all or some? The question then is what kind of plan did God create? I know… a lot of questions :)

          Free Will is part of the machine and part of the “Mechanical Processes” of the “Machine”…Predestination is one of the results of the machine. Now, I realize that an illustration is always lacking from the perfect. But, I hope you get my gist.

  16. Patrick says:

    As opposed to universalism, how about an examination of what the resurrection of the unrighteous(Daniel) otherwise might be?

    Might it not be to a permanent existence at a lower form of life such as Augustine imagined?

    Not fiery hell and all that, that appears to be apocalyptic genre indicating judgment(OT fire seems always to mean judgment or refining it appears).

    The idea at the end of the Revelation where the city of God(New Jerusalem) comes down and the heavenly marries the earthly and all of God’s people are inside and outside are the non saved.

    Who knows what else God might have in store for even them? Maybe we can go visit them and be kind to them, the Bible is not clear on some of these issues, that thought fits well with how we are commanded to help folks now, good or bad and forgive all.

    Beats universalism for me, universalism takes so many jumping through hoops to achieve and so much Scripture to ignore, IMO.

    Then again, Paul did tell the Athenians that “God winked at their past unbelief, but now…..” whatever that might mean for the ancients.

    • MSH says:

      Take this in the right way. Statements like this one of Augustine is why I ruled out church history as a scholarly discipline. I just can’t see investing any time in trying to prove or disprove utter speculation like this. And that’s really all it is. There is no suggestion in Daniel or anywhere else that there was another judgment or resurrection coming after the one described in Daniel 12, and so that one must refer to the final resurrection and judgment. When Daniel says “”everlasting contempt,” I presume he means it — as opposed to “an everlasting lesser existence.” The only other place the Hebrew word for “contempt” in Dan 12:2 is used is Isa 66:24 — also a final judgment passage — and there we’re talking about death (along with the NT Gehenna imagery). Not a “lesser existence.”

  17. Patrick says:

    Agreed on the Daniel view.

    “Everlasting contempt” and “final judgment” I believe in. Universalism I can’t conceive of with all the textual evidence otherwise.

    However, how about the apocalyptic comment in the Revelation when God “will cast death and hell into the lake of fire”?

    That could be construed by the “soul annihilation camp” as en ending to the lost soul.

    Everlasting contempt could then be seen as a memory? Just musing.

    I am a traditionalist on hell except the fiery part.

    • MSH says:

      I agree that the statement about death being put to death can be used as a logical argument for annihilationism. But if one is annihilated one isn’t remembering anything. That’s my disconnect.

  18. birdy says:

    Good discussion that didn’t go far enough, sorry to be late, I appreciate many of the very fine comments.

    My main question now is, Mike, in the garden of Gen 1:27 God created His ideal imagers, a human characteristic bestowed you so tenaciously proclaim.

    But would that imaging status carry over into our *fallen state*? And what exactly makes you think so?

    Why would that special characteristic granted by God — (to carry your theme) — to be the 100% imagers of God Himself — still be effective considering the circumatances of the fall — that man truly is in a fallen state repleat with all kinds of nasty consequences as we know — and not have us become degraded at least a little bit or at best otherwise compromised in this high regard? I think not and

    I do not follow you on this.

    • MSH says:

      We are God’s imagers because we are human; we are his representatives on earth, to steward it and “be him as though he were here.” We don’t lose that status or that ability at the fall (humanity continues to image God in this way). The fall (see my discussion of Rom 5:12 – the archive) was about being driven from Eden and humanity’s loss of (contingent) immortality. That humans could sin before the fall is evident from, well, the fall. That all humans inevitably and invariably (and universally) sin derives from the fact that we aren’t God (we are mere mortals), a state confirmed by being driven from God’s presence (Eden). So our “fallen state” as mortals who will invariably sin does not do away with what we are as imagers. It just makes the job harder and increases our propensity to act selfishly and not as God would want.

      In shorter, there are a lot of things said and presumed about the fall that you won’t actually find in the text. If it did what modern theologians say it did, you’d think at lease one OT writer would refer back to the Eden event when talking about sin. That *never* happens in the OT. But you should read the Romans 5:12 archive to get a feel for where I’m coming from before we go any further.

  19. birdy says:

    Ok will find your archive as you suggest and will contemplate.

    Thank you.

  20. birdy says:

    Before I research the above further, Mike, let me ask your opinion about what you think would be the final outcome of a true Christian believer who thinks that God will eventually save every one of His created beings, both human and spirit beings. I realize this would be a guess. Hard to pinpoint the focus of this question.

    Do you think that person would be on the favorable or not-so-favorable side of God? See any bothersome *lightning bolts* thrown down here haha? I don’t.

    If God would find it not-so-favorable for a believer to believer this way, do you think this point of view could be ultimately harmful in some way for the Christian? … One who so happens to spend a good deal of time in sincere study of God’s word, has for a number of years — and feels secure in the knowledge given by many verses that God will eventually save and restore all.

  21. Jean Claude Lagrange says:

    I can’t find any mention of Chinese + derivatives, Indians + Pakistani, Black Africans, Aboriginal Americans and Pacific islanders, Australoids, etc, in the OT and/or NT.

    What is your opinion in the light of the apparent obstinacy of the ASS-u-me-d biblical universalism?


    PS – I like your works very much … however … perhaps … a few “fireworks” later if they will not interfere with your priorities and routine.

    • MSH says:

      I’m not sure what the point is. I wouldn’t be bringing up the above items unless pertinent to a given post. The universalism post was about MacDonald’s (Robin Parry’s) book. At any rate, universalism is universal, so it wouldn’t exclude anyone. But I’m not sure what the point is.

      • Jean Claude Lagrange says:

        Sorry, perhaps I should have read this post entirely. But the lack of time and the title itself push me to jot something seemingly impertinent, but that 99.99% of Christianity never really seems to explain it coherently, specifically and exhaustively.

        You said: “… At any rate, universalism is universal, so it wouldn’t exclude anyone. …”

        If you are referring to:

        1 – UN’s type of globalism/universalism = “the belief that worldwide integration of cultures is both possible and desirable. Globalists call for the consolidation of religions, economies, social mores, governmentsanything and everything that pertains to civilization. By definition, globalists are internationalists, believing that economies, military establishments, and legal systems can and should be transnational in reach, crossing national boundaries. Globalists, by definition, sing the praises of one-world government” ….. then my question is not pertinent.

        2 – Biblical universalism and universal salvation, then my question is very pertinent since the Bible is NOT a universalist book BUT a particularist one.

        That’s why I ask you to show me specifically where in the Bible are all those NON-Israelite and/or NON-Adamic people mentioned, and presumably partakers of the
        assumed universal salvation.

        I love your dissertation “Deuteronomy 32:8 and the Sons of God”. Here are the verses:

        Deuteronomy 32:8 When `Elyn ?????? 5945 divided 5157 z0 to the nations 1471 their inheritance, y5157 z8687 when he separated 6504 z8687 the sons 1121 of m ?????, 120 he set 5324 z8686 the bounds 1367 of the people 5971 according to the number 4557 of the children 1121 of the Sons of God (Isrl ?????????. 3478 is wrong; I agree with you)

        Deuteronomy 32:9 For x3588 Yhwh’s ?????? 3068 portion 2506 [is] his people; 5971 Ya`kv ??????? 3290 [is] the lot 2256 of his inheritance. 5159

        In verse 9 it’s very clear that Yahweh cares only for Israel and none else.

        In verse 8 the phrase “the sons of Adam” is controversial since it does not specify
        the racial make up of these sons of Adam.

        But we could offer a non illogical proposition of what probably could be the race or subspecies the ancient Israelites.

        Thus, Yahweh cares only about one particular race/subspecies and therefore it’s not that illogical to surmise that Yahweh is racist.
        There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a racist, of course, depending on one’s definition of racism ….. “but the thoughts of Yahweh are different than those of man”.

        There is much more to discuss on salvation and universalism.


        • MSH says:

          I am not a universalist; any comments to that effect arise from interacting with Robin Parry’s book, The Evangelical Universalist, which is a defense of the idea (and a good one).

  22. Someone says:

    Honestly, I don’t know how anybody could believe in universalism. There are dozens of verses in the Bible that say the wicked shall perish/be destroyed (Psalms 37:20, Psalms 112:10, Psalms 37:38, Psalms 68:2, Psalms 104:35, Isaiah 47:14, Psalm 145:20, Ezekiel 18:4, Ezekiel 28:18-19, Nahum 1:9-10, Malachi 4:8, Matthew 10:28). Do you wanna know what perish/destroy means?
    1.Suffer death, typically in a violent, sudden, or untimely way.
    2.Suffer complete ruin or destruction
    1.Put an end to the existence of (something) by damaging or attacking it.
    2.Completely ruin or spoil (something).
    The Hebrew abad, and the Greek appolumi are the words used in the original, and they mean perish,destroy, kill, annihilate. Do you wanna know what annihilate means?
    1.Destroy utterly; obliterate.
    2.Defeat utterly.
    As you can see, the wicked are not punished and then go to heaven, or any of that crap. They are obliterated from existence. And no there’s no such thing as “a place of eternal torment;hell”. You can see in EVERY SINGLE VERSE it uses perish, destroy, and NEVER punish.
    What did Jesus say about being saved?
    “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” – Matthew 7:13-14
    If everybody gets saved eventually, then what Jesus said is meaningless, absurd, makes no sense, and is wrong.
    Jesus says that only a few find the road to life. So. Who do you choose to believe?
    You may be confused because you think that man has an immortal soul, and that he lives forever.
    “which God will bring about in his own time God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, WHO ALONE IS IMMORTAL and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.” – 1 Timothy 6:15-16
    Now we can clearly see that these verses are talking about God, and it says that he ALONE is immortal. That is, NOBODY ELSE IS IMMORTAL BUT GOD. What does immortal mean?
    1.Living forever; never dying or decaying.
    2.undying – deathless – never-dying – imperishable
    So we see from those verses that only God is undying, only He cannot die. But in lots of verses it says that God will GIVE immortality to us humans WHO DO NOT HAVE IT. (John 3:16, Romans 2:7, 1 Corinthians 15:53, 2 Timothy 1:10, Matthew 19:16, Mark 10:17, Luke 10:25, Luke 18:18) Now you see, in all these verses, we had to GAIN immortality/eternal life. And you can see that Jesus OFFERED us immortality.Why would Jesus give us immortality if we already had it? And you can see in Luke 18:18 and the other ones that the man asked Jesus HOW HE COULD ATTAIN ETERNAL LIFE. The man knew he did not have an immortal soul and he wanted immortality.
    Most don’t know how the first man/Adam was made, and what he’s made of, but there’s ONE simple verse that will clear everything up.
    “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” – Genesis 2:7.
    Now for God to create a man he needed , A- dirt from the ground, and B- His own breath/spirit of life. And what did God get? A SOUL. That may surprise you. A lot of you think that man “has” a soul, but in fact man IS A SOUL. So what’s the simple equation for Adam/man?
    dirt from ground + breath/spirit of life from God = a soul
    So what about animals, are they souls? Yes they are. In Genesis 1:20,24, and 28, the same Hebrew word, translated living creatures, is used for Adam, and is also used for animals (nephesh).
    In Genesis 2:19, we see that the animals were formed from the ground, just like Adam, and in Genesis 1:30 every animal has the breath of life (NIV1984, ESV, and other translations), (also Genesis 6:17, Genesis 7:22) just like Adam/man. The ONLY DIFFERENCE between humans and animals is that humans are made in God’s image/likeness (Genesis 1:26,27, Genesis 5:1). So what happens to humans/animals when they die? Well their body made from the dirt returns to the ground (Genesis 3:19), and man’s breath of life/spirit returns to God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7). And remember, the breath of life is the thing that gives life to us, its not a conscious thing that goes to heaven or hell.
    “When you hide your face, they are terrified;when you take away their breath,
    they die and return to the dust.” – Psalms 104:29
    From this verse we see that when God takes His breath/spirit back we die. It is not something conscious. What happens to animals breath of life/spirit?
    I also thought, As for men, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. Mans fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth? – Ecclesiastes 3:18-21
    Here we see the author is in doubt about man’s and animal’s spirit. We already know where man’s spirit goes. But what about animal’s spirit? The author is not sure, but suggests that the spirits of animals goes down into the earth.
    Anyways, whenever you’re in doubt about something, look in the Bible, not man’s traditions/doctrines.
    PS. THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS HELL! In the original scriptures it’s Sheol/Hades, Tarturus, Ge-Hinnom, and the Lake of Fire.

  23. Keith R. Starkey says:

    A little late in the game here, but I’d like to clear up some misconceptions about Open Theism (aka Open View) with regard to the subject of universal salvation.

    Open Theism, at heart, is nothing more than the belief that not all of the future has been determined (thus settled and unchangeable). The future, therefore, is partly “open.” And part of the future that is NOT determined is every thought, word and deed people will think, say or do while on earth.

    So if in an open view context someone decides freely against God in this life, that has no bearing on whether that person will suffer eternally or not; the open view neither has nor does it have to have a comment as to whether God has made provision for salvation for those in hell.

    Robyn believes that the wicked will suffer but not eternally. Logically, then, he must afford the same respect to those who suffer as well under an open view context; people are not eternally condemned anymore in an open view theological context than in Robyn’s context.

    The open view simply does not address life-after-death-in-hell issues anymore than the core of Arminianism (that men choose freely but God knows what they will choose) addresses them.

    Thanks very much,
    Keith R. Starkey

  24. […] definitions of omniscience (open theism), omnipotence (process theology), and omnibenevolence (Michael Heiser says that it’s a “major sticking point” for him), but as we continue on in the article it seems as though the panda’s thumb need not be the […]

  25. david zaitzeff says:

    It seems to me that you have some very muddy thinking when it comes to the relationship between God’s foreknowledge and man’s free will. If God foreknows a thing, it must necessarily come to pass . . . If God foreknew that Pharaoh would harden his heart, could Pharaoh have done otherwise than God foretold? If God foreknew and foretold that Judas would betray, could Judas have done otherwise than God foreknew and foretold? If God and Jesus foreknew that there would be a man walking one day carrying a pitcher of water who would respond to a request of the disciples for help, could that man by free will have done otherwise than God foretold?

    Moreover, if and since God says, I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, could Pharaoh have done otherwise than to try to retain the children of Israel? Can any man make God mistaken in his foreknowledge by the use of his “free will”?

    No? Then, what can a man do by “free will,” other than to do exactly what God has foreknown? Nothing?

    These questions compel those who wish to think logically and honestly . . . and esp those who have read martin luther . . . to either deny the existence of free will in the libertarian sense or to advocate open theism. You seem to do neither; therefore, I think you have not been confronted with the problem.

    Even if we are to assume open theism, why then do we not assume either that
    1) people can repent and seek God after death, resulting in all doing so;
    2) God having mercy on those in hell by putting them to sleep?

    • MSH says:

      It seems you need to read 1 Samuel 23. God foreknows things there that do not come to pass.

      If you also presume I’m an open theist or universalist you’d be wrong on both counts.

      • david zaitzeff says:

        I am not presuming you to be an open theist or a universalist, for from what I read, you are neither and I was aware of that.

        If you would, inform me more about I Sam 23, which is the story of David attacking some Philistines and Saul being hunting for David.

        If God foreknows things that do not come to pass, he would be an unreliable God.

        • MSH says:

          Not at all. And the text clearly has him knowing two things that don’t happen. I think you’re stuck in a system. Even simple creedal formulations (ironically used in reformed circles) like “God knows all things real *and possible* agree with what I’m saying. Not all possible things that can happen do happen – and yet God foreknows they can happen. It’s pretty clear that foreknowledge does not necessitate predestination. You only feel that urge because you’ve been taught to think of the ideas as inseparable. Any omniscient God (who knows all possible outcomes) cannot predestinate things that don’t happen – by definition. 1 Sam 23 simply affirms that obvious point. The conclusion is that God can predestinate things he foreknows if he wished to, but doesn’t need to (and omniscience requires that admission).

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