Friday, July 9, 2010

The four main proof texts of universalism

This article comes from the universalist site, which one of my commenters recommended. In this article 'Universalism and the Bible' the author Keith DeRose cites the four passages below as good examples of the universalist interpretation of Scripture and representative of the doctrine that everyone will (eventually) be saved. As I've noted before the larger theological issues of the nature of God and sin and the uniqueness and urgency of salvation and even the way we *do theology* will influence our interpretation of these passages.  I think that while these passages might make us say; "hang on what's going on here?" They are not enough to overturn the ancient and morally significant doctrine of eternal punishment.

Summary:

  • The verses don't always contain enough information to be interpreted by themselves (1 Cor 15:22)
  • The Apostle Paul doesn't contradict himself (1 Col 1:19-20)
  • Paul wants to assure us of either being in sin or being in Christ, different to Atonement (Rom 5:18)
  • Sometimes the verses need to be read in the light of the preceding argument (Rom 11:32)


1 Corinthians 15:22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
DeRose argues if the first about Adam is true then it should follow equally with Christ. 

Although the parallels between Adam and Christ are inescapable (e.g. the relationship between the collective and the individual) the consequences of the comparison are radically different. Chapter 15 shows that Adam's action brought defeat and death while Christ's action brought victory and life.  This chapter gives us theological framework for understanding what being made alive in Christ looks like, however it's incomplete, we need to go Luke 24:43 to understand that we'll be physical enough in the new creation to eat fish.  Nor does chapter 15 mention judgement surely an important biblical concept, so we have reconstruct how the cosmos will end using chapter 15 as just one of our building blocks. Quite possibly the Lordship of Christ will mean even the wicked will be given resurrected bodies of some sort, but just as we need to bring Luke 24:43 into the equation to make sense of the new-creation we'd also have to bring other passages into the equation to understand how exactly in what sense everyone will be made alive in Christ.

Colossians 1:19-20 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
De Rose emphasizes that if all things including people are reconciled then it must mean everyone will be saved.

In the next chapter Paul describes how God will have "disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him [Christ]." (2:15) Because God isn't schizophrenic, the universalist argument has to build up a complex picture of a second-chance purgatory to make these two passages fit together by making 1:19-20 come after 2:15. An alternative explanation that makes better sense of both passages together is that the Lordship of Jesus (which also makes sense of the fullness of God phrase) brings universal peace/Shalom that subdues all opposition.

Romans 5:18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.
DeRose says that the "all men" in this verse is very persuasive, everyone will be acquitted and have life.

Chapter 5 of Romans is about Salvation, with verses 1-11 focusing on the benefits (peace with God 5:1) and verses 12-21 focussing on why we needed salvation in the first place (sin entered the world 5:12).  In this verse it shows an exact correspondence between the actions of both, although admittedly the quality (condemnation verses justification) of outcomes is very different!  Does this mean everyone will be justified?  No, because of these two reasons: firstly that Paul doesn't mention the Atonement which was clearly on his mind earlier in the chapter (5:6-8), as something that has any parallel with Adam's action. Secondly Paul is forcefully arguing for assurance, assurance that you're a sinner or assurance that if you are justified you will live.  Under what circumstances you're justified isn't specified in this particular verse. Universalism also ignores overall idea of verses 12-21 which compares the 'collective' similarity of Adam and Christ but then distinguishes the 'individual' consequences.

Romans 11:32 For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.
DeRose argues that the all in this verse means "all without exception."

The all refers to all the different groups Paul has referred to in the preceding passages.  Another thing to keep in mind is that the two big concepts of chapters 9 to 11 have been God's sovereignty and Israel's election.  There is a lengthy progression to Paul's argument from the way God decides who he will save and who he won't in chapter 9 to the question of how Israel will be saved, which culminates in this passage.  It disrespectful to the cumulative way Paul builds his argument to assume everything needed for this verse's translation is contained in this verse.  A more respectful reading is that God has imprisoned in disobedience first the gentiles and now the Jews so that he might bestow mercy on each of these groups of humanity, how that will occur is not explicitly spelled out in this particular passage (Moo, Romans, 737).


28 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey Luke,
Thanks for your thorough and thoughtful threads on this thorny issue. It's one of those doctrines (like the old 'free will vs predestination' one) that has had Christians discussing for centuries, and where support for both views can be found in the Scriptures (though in this case, I think the alleged scriptural support for Universalism is not as strong as some adherents would like to believe - still, there are some far better exegetical minds than mine which have come up with positions at least CLOSE to Universalism).

I think you've covered the scriptural and church history angles well. I also think there is an unfortunate logical consequence of following down the Universalist line. Most Universalists suppose their position paints a much more merciful picture of God - who doesn't condemn anyone to everlasting punishment. However, if we push the logic of the Universalist position a little, it ends up making God either a fool or a monster.

If all people will eventually be saved - even those who spurn the atoning death of Jesus - then there must logically be some "other way" to be saved, in addition to the atoning death of Jesus. In 'the garden', Jesus pleaded with the Father that if there WAS some other way, may that bitter cup pass from him. Now, God either wasn't aware of that 'other way' - making him a fool! Or he was aware of it, but still required the crucifxion - making him a monster! I guess there could be a third possibility, which is that all are saved through the atoning death of Christ, even against their will, but doesn't that still leave God a monster?

Everlasting destruction (2 Thess 1:9) is not a doctrine we can find any joy in, but it is most definitely taught in Scripture, and leads to some very unfortunate consequences for our theology if denied.

Keep up the good work, Luke,
John Tongue

Allan Smith said...

1 Corinthians 15:22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

A certain geneticist was perfectly happy and needed nothing. One day, he thought he'd like to become a father. He knew his children would have a 99% chance of developing the most hideous deformities, ending their short lives in torment. Nonetheless, he proceeded to have 10 children. His one surviving daughter, remembering the anguish of her siblings, decided her father was a callous self-centered bastard. She left home.

This man's brother had the same genetic risk, but he was a great doctor. He also fathered 10 children, and though their sufferings were great for a time, all were healed in the end. It cost the doctor all he had. He bled for them. He didn't begrudge them one cent. His children, seeing his great love and his long labors on their behalf, sang his praises. His niece (his brother's one surviving daughter) came to live with them, and was happy ever after.

As Joshua made clear to the people of Israel, we all get to choose the God we serve.

God, needing nothing, knowing that most would end in eternal torment, created the world nonetheless. He made the Garden, but he also made the snake. He allowed it in. Adam fell. All of humanity fell with him, like it or not. Only those few fortunate enough to hear the Gospel and believe are saved from unspeakable ruin, agonies that never never never end. Never. Never. Never.

I'm dismayed that I could ever swallow that story. What was I thinking? Put it down to childhood conditioning under the gentle tutelage of Jack Chuck and the Independent Baptists. I cannot praise such a God, let alone love him. If this truly is Biblical, so much the worse for the Bible. (Or perhaps an enemy has come along in the night and planted weeds amongst the wheat.)

Here's another view. God, needing nothing, created the world, filling it with things to love. Loving us also, knowing that innocence is weak, he allowed sin to enter our hearts, binding us all into disobedience. We go through life with the stink of evil forever in our nostrils.

Adam eats from the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil. His stomach's filled with good and evil. Good and evil pump through his veins, pulse in his brain. He knows both good and evil from the inside, something the innocent Adam could never know. Evil is no longer an abstraction for him. It hurts, and God hurts with him. Innocent blood is shed to clothe the naked Adam. Who will free him from his body of death? What great physician can purge the poison from his guts? One will come, says the Lord Almighty, but first, Adam must endure an age of toil and hardship. He must descend into hell before rising again.

Allan Smith said...

1 Corinthians 15:22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

A certain geneticist was perfectly happy and needed nothing. One day, he thought he'd like to become a father. He knew his children would have a 99% chance of developing the most hideous deformities, ending their short lives in torment. Nonetheless, he proceeded to have 10 children. His one surviving daughter, remembering the anguish of her siblings, decided her father was a callous self-centered bastard. She left home.

This man's brother had the same genetic risk, but he was a great doctor. He also fathered 10 children, and though their sufferings were great for a time, all were healed in the end. It cost the doctor all he had. He bled for them. He didn't begrudge them one cent. His children, seeing his great love and his long labors on their behalf, sang his praises. His niece (his brother's one surviving daughter) came to live with them, and was happy ever after.

As Joshua made clear to the people of Israel, we all get to choose the God we serve.

Allan Smith said...

Araughhhh.

Sorry about the double posts.

I haven't lost my marbles just yet.

Stuff simply disappears into the ether only to reappear much later. Second time this has happened...

Luke said...

@ Allan

It's happened to me as well, it's a problem with blogger the unfortunate solution is to copy your response to an email before posting and then checking later in the day to see if it's posted. Hopefully since it's only been happening in the last few days that'll iron itself out and we'll be back to normal.

Which means you'll have to wait for my response! Sorry.

Alex Smith said...

Whilst I agree with you that Chapter 15 shows the parallels between Adam & Christ, I think it's primarily about the essential need for resurrection. i.e. V12 "how can some of you say that there is no resurrection". Paul goes on to show in v21 that "as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead." He basically repeats himself in v22, just in case we have any doubts about who dies and who will be resurrected. This makes sense, because everyone needs to be resurrected in order to face Judgment, and to be able to be placed under His feet or subjected v25.

Interestingly, Paul takes it even further, saying in v28 that the Son himself will also be subjected to God. So I think that tells us something about what "subjection" means. i.e. It can't be eternal punishment if Jesus is also subjected. Likewise it can't be annilation (plus death has been abolished in v26). We get another clue at the end of v28 "that God may be all in all." Again, it's hard to see how, if people were being eternally turtored, that God was being "all in all" in them?

(An aside using the logic of v32, because people are raised, they shouldn't just "eat and drink" as is now is meaningless.)

Chapter 15 continues in v35 to address what kind of resurrection body it will be e.g. a physical, imperishable one. So the obvious question is how will that come about? Well v51-55 shows that the resurrection will be instanteous, "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye". We are still left with the question of how will the resurrected get to "bear the image of the man of heaven"? Well we know that, from v55 that death is swallowed up in victory, and that it has lost it's sting (sin v56). We also know that the victory is through Christ. In summary, from this chapter, we are shown that ALL will be resurrected imperishable, then we are given the end result ("image of the man of heaven" and Christ's victory), and a hint of what's in between ("through Christ").

True, chapter 15 doesn't mention Judgement, which is a step, but perhaps Paul wants us to take a moment to look at the overall victory of Christ and thank him for it. In v55, we see Death is small in comparison to the victory, so maybe even Judgement and hell are too :)

Luke said...

@ Alex

Notice that 1 Cor 15 doesn't tell us everything about our resurrected bodies and even if we look at the whole chapter we still need to go to other chapters to fill in the picture, eg Luke 24. You said: Chapter 15 continues in v35 to address what kind of resurrection body it will be e.g. a physical, imperishable one. But it doesn't, it almost seems to say we'll have a separate heavenly body.

True, chapter 15 doesn't mention Judgement, which is a step, but perhaps Paul wants us to take a moment to look at the overall victory of Christ and thank him for it. In v55, we see Death is small in comparison to the victory, so maybe even Judgement and hell are too
This doesn't follow, the Trinity isn't mentioned is the resurrection more important the Trinity? For sure the chapter is about the purpose and trajectory of resurrection but the picture painted is incomplete, we still have to go outside the chapter.

@ Allan

But doesn't the first fellow, the geneticist, rescue the daughter, even after her bitter departure?

For you it rings true that eternal punishment is the worst horror for me it rings true human rebellion is the worst horror. We need a common standard to determine horror. Not only is the common standard a problem but selectivity is a problem, (and this is problem Jon's argument runs into as well) when God's talking how do we know if its' good or horrible? We like 1 Cor 13 but not Matt 25.

Allan Smith said...

The first daughter doesn't need rescuing, but the first father certainly does.

"Choose you this day whom you will serve, but for me and my house, we will serve the Lord", says Joshua.

We must choose the God we serve. If the true God treats his enemies as eternal-hellers suggest, then I cannot love him and will not serve him. Rather, I will love and serve a fictitious God who loves his enemies, turns the other cheek, keeps no record of wrongs, and dies to save the very men who torment him.

Alex Smith said...

I agree, it doesn't tell us everything about our resurrected bodies. I will also conceed that it is focusing on how our new bodies will be better than the old, and yes it doesn't actually mention "physical" here (Like you, I was thinking of the Luke 24 passage)!

I thought I'd get in trouble for the last paragraph :) Let my try to explain myself better. In this chapter Paul appears to be focusing on a number of aspects of resurrection:

(1) the importance of it (v16-19). i.e. If Christ wasn't raised then we are stuffed
(2) the scope of it (v21-22). i.e. Everyone
(3) the kind of body will you get. e.g. Imperishable, glorious, powerful, spiritual (v42-50)
(4) how quick will it happen. i.e. In an instant (v52)
(5) what happens afterwards. (v24-28, 49, 54-57)
a) destruction of every rule, authority, power and death.
b) Subjection of everything to God
c) God being all in all
d) we shall bear the image of Christ
e) The swallowing up of death & sin in the Christ's victory

My cheeky comment is that (when it comes to talking about resurrection) maybe these are the key points of this particular topic? I realise there are other passages on this topic that give us more details, and there are also other important doctrines (such as the nature of God, His scarifice for us, His judgement of us, etc.).

Anonymous said...

Hey Alan,
What about choosing to serve God as he reveals himself to be, rather than choosing to serve God as we would like to imagine him to be??
John Tongue

Allan Smith said...

Anon said: What about choosing to serve God as he reveals himself to be, rather than choosing to serve God as we would like to imagine him to be??

Which revelation of which God do you have in mind?

"Who do you think I am?" asks Jesus. "How do you judge me? Am I one who tortures my enemies, even as I destroy them? Or am I one who saves my enemies, even as they torture me?"

The people in Jesus' day had to decide. We must decide. Is Jesus divine, or is he diabolical?

If you think you can avoid making this judgment by leaning on the authority of Scripture, I ask, "Which Scripture?" True, Jesus said, "Scripture cannot be broken", but alas, he didn't then tell us precisely what he meant by scripture (the Book of Enoch?), nor did he underline the infallible bits in red.

If God's holy people can be corrupted by heresy and evil, shaming God in the eyes of the watching world, then the book chosen and preserved and deemed holy by that people will also be corrupted, shaming God once more. If you find weeds planted by the enemy in God's holy church, do you think you will find no weeds in the Bible?

It makes things tricky. We must gird up our loins and take a leap of faith. We choose the God we serve. We must also choose the revelation.

Anonymous said...

Hi Allan,
I might be missing something, but this seems to me like deciding beforehand what God (Jesus) must be like, or how he must act, and then using the portions of Scripture that fit that conception, but claiming that those which don't must be human corruptions of the text??

Cheers and Blessings,
John Tongue

Allan Smith said...

John said:I might be missing something, but this seems to me like deciding beforehand what God (Jesus) must be like, or how he must act, and then using the portions of Scripture that fit that conception, but claiming that those which don't must be human corruptions of the text?

Borrowing from St Gregory of Nyssa, I begin with a leap of faith: God is good. He pities us. God is wise. He knows how to heal us. God is strong. He can heal us. God is faithful. He will heal us.

I don't believe these things because the "Bible tells me so". I believe them because to believe anything less is to despair.

I believe the Bible because it reveals the God in whom I hope, albeit dimly at times. As CSLewis said, "The human qualities of the raw materials show through. Naivety, error, contradiction, even (as in the cursing Psalms) wickedness are not removed. The total result is not “the Word of God” in the sense that every passage in itself, gives impeccable science or history. It carries the Word of God."

And "The value of the Old Testament may be dependent on what seems its imperfection. It may repel one use in order that we may be forced to use it in another way—to find the Word in it…to re-live, while we read, the whole Jewish experience of God’s gradual and graded self-revelation, to feel the very contentions between the Word and the human material through which it works."

Cheers.

Anonymous said...

Hi Allan,
I fear we've moved away somewhat from Luke's original post, but it is an important discussion.

You say:
'I begin with a leap of faith: God is good. He pities us. God is wise. He knows how to heal us. God is strong. He can heal us. God is faithful. He will heal us.

I don't believe these things because the "Bible tells me so". I believe them because to believe anything less is to despair.'

I also believe these characteristics of God to be true. I also believe that to hold anything less leads to despair. However, I do not hold to these things BECAUSE to believe anything less leads to despair. I believe them because that is how God has revealed himself to be.

The Jewish authorities of Jesus' day rejected him as their Messiah because he did not fit in with their preconceptions. What they really needed to do - in the light of revelation - was to change their preconceptions.

You said in an earlier post that Jesus gave the Disciples a choice to make about who they said he was. This is true. He also gave them a choice at another time (John 6:65-69), when his teaching was hard for them to fit with their own ideas of ultimate reality. Some began to leave, and he asked the Disciples whether they wanted to leave as well (stay with their own ideas, rather than adopt Jesus' revelation). Peter summed up their response - "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” Though Jesus did not 'fit' their neatly formulated worldview, still, they needed to let God be God, even if all else turned out to be false.

To come back to Luke's original topic for this thread, of course, the idea of eternal punishment is not appealing - to the rational, compassionate, human mind it may well seem appalling! However, I believe it IS taught in the Scriptures. The doctrine of eternal punishment no doubt needs to be balanced with teaching about God's compassion, and with the thought that the Lord wants all men to be saved (1 Tim 2:4)....and can only ever be proclaimed 'with tears in one's eyes'. However, if I am to BEGIN with the 'raw material' of the Word of God (both incarnate, and en-scripturated), then I cannot simply jettison belief in hell and eternal punishment. As I said in an earlier thread, to do so has a number of 'unfortunate' consequences for our theology, not least that it makes The Father into a monster for insisting on the atoning death of Jesus, if there had been some other way.

In the end, though, I don't believe in hell and eternal punishment BECAUSE to do otherwise has 'unfortunate' consequences. I believe these think because I maintain that this is what the living, and written, Word of God teach.

Cheers Allan,
John Tongue

Jon said...

Hi all, great to see this discussion still going since I last checked in a few days ago. I think it's interesting to look at various proof texts but the summation of Luke's comments as of Allan's and Alex's is that we need to go back to the context and the place of the passages in the overall scheme of the gospel. Which brings us back to where we started.

Having said this a couple of comments.

1. Colossians 2:15 is not necessarily an argument for the eternal condemnation of some. He says "...having cancelled the written code...which was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross". This triumph does not involve the condemnation of a person or persons, but triumph over the written code which has power over us and wants to condemn us.

2. You are right about the flow of argument in Rom 9-11 - we need to see the whole. However, I think you have misinterpreted the whole. In 9:19-24 he proposes a hypothetical - "what if God, choosing to show his wrath..." etc etc. He doesn't say this is what God has done, he simply proposes it as a possibility to remind his readers, as some have reminded us in this set of discussions, that God is sovereign. Then in Ch 10 he expresses his prayer that the Israelites will accept the message of salvation by faith and understand that it is consistent with the Old Testament message. Finally in Ch 11 he expresses his belief that despite the appearance that some Israelites have been rejected, in fact all will be saved. V 26 "And so all Israel will be saved...(v28)As far as the gospel is concerned they are enemies on your account, but as far as election is concerned they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable". This is not an argument for universalism as such because it is only about Israel, but it certainly does not suggest that anyone is ultimately to be condemned, despite their opposition to the Gospel.

Incidentally this responds to John's saying "What about choosing to serve God as he reveals himself to be, rather than choosing to serve God as we would like to imagine him to be?" You should be a little careful about using this language, as this is the question in play - what has God revealed himself to be?

Finally you might enjoy my latest post on Joseph, which has some relevance to the discussion - http://paintingfakes.blogspot.com/2010/07/joseph-just.html

Jon said...

Sorry Luke, something annoying's going on with Blogger so it posted my comment multiple times.

Allan Smith said...

(I hope this doesn't double post.)

Hi John,

Thanks for your measured and friendly reply. These discussions all too often end in bloodshed.

Sometimes, my dog comes home when I call. Sometimes (he's an obstinate pug, and not very bright) I have to go and find him and drive him home with a stick. It's the same with us. God draws us with desire and joy, and drives us with pain. Both are revelations from God. When I think, “God will put all things right”, my heart fills with hope and joy. Losing this vision, I despair. Joy and pain. To me, this is the very word of God.

I agree we need to change our preconceptions about God, beginning with our pagan notion of hell. (I go to the OT to understand Hades and Gehenna, not to to stories of Tantalus, Sisyphus, and Prometheus.) I also think we have pagan ideas of justice and mercy. In the OT, God's justice (punishment) and mercy (healing) were both tools of his reconciling love. “Also to You, O Lord, belongs mercy, for You render to each one according to his work.” The righteous father of the prodigal son was both just and merciful. The elder brother, who demanded what we call justice, was in fact unjust.

You suggest that universalism makes God monstrous by rendering Christ's work unnecessary. But if death could only be destroyed by God himself entering that dark place and filling it with light, how could Christ's work be unnecessary? The true monster is a God who, needing nothing, knowing that most of his creatures would end in eternal torment, creates them nonetheless.

What do we do with those bits of the Bible that seem to contradict my generous view of God? First, universal restoration is well supported in scripture, and most of the opposing passages are easily reconciled once the bias is removed. Of the one or two that pose serious difficulties, I do what we all do, saying, “I don't know what they do mean, but I do know what they don't mean.”

Cheers.

Luke said...

Hi Jon,

Some good exegetical points, I'll mull on them. In other news Blogger is being beastly! I tided it up by deleting the remains of your double post. I think the trick is to assume it's posted if you've clicked post, even if it comes back at you with a error message. And then somewhat annoyingly check back later to see if it has posted (gives it time to refresh) .

Hi Allan,

Re Pagan vs OT notions of Hell: the fiery destruction of Sodom would be a good precedent for retributive fiery justice without having to cross the styx.

Allan Smith said...

Luke 9 James and John said, "Shall we call down fire from heaven to destroy them?" Jesus turned and rebuked them.

Anonymous said...

Hi Luke,
Blogger is FRUSTRATING (Who needs hell? We've got Blogger). I worked my way through composing a post late last night, and posted it, only to be told it was too large and could not be posted. I'd then lost all trace of what I posted, so began again this morning, to try to re-compose it - only to find the original from last night HAD posted after all! Go figure???

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I forgot to "sign" that last 'anonymous' post.

Cheers,
John Tongue

Anonymous said...

Hi Jon,
Sorry, I didn't mean to offend by using this kind of language. Just how God has revealed himself is indeed the question in play. I only chose to use this language because Allan had said in a prior post that if God chose to reveal himself in a certain kind of way, then he could not love him, and would not serve him. This seemed to me to be an a priori decision about what kind of a God he would permit, let alone love and serve.

Cheers and Blessings
John Tongue

Anonymous said...

Hi Allan,
I'm all for avoiding bloodshed! We may disagree, but I don't think a disagreement was ever really solved by being disagreeable! :)

John Tongue

Jon said...

No problem John - offence was very minor and I'm sure unintended.

Luke said...

@ Everyone

Don't be alarmed if comment moderation comes on it automatically kicks in on all posts older than a week. (Maybe it'll make Blogger work better!)

@ Alex,

Re 1 Cor 15

Agreed Paul is describing the purpose and in general terms the nature of the resurrection. But your comments haven't answered my criticism of the universalist reading: "so we have reconstruct how the cosmos will end using chapter 15 as just one of our building blocks." This is also what I meant in my first post about universalism, theology is a construction and these proof-texts by themselves don't make the case for universalism.

@ Allan,

It surprising, says Jesus, but some of them will "go away into eternal punishment." (Matthew 25)

@ John,

Sorry about the trouble with blogger, I'd copy a long post into a draft email and then check back later EVEN if you get an error message. Thanks for preserving with the posting!

@ Jon

Re: Col 1:19-20

Agreed. Although I wasn't seeking to prove the traditional case, simply show the universalist case is viable. I agree there a number of unresolved implications still, even if the universalist reading is incorrect.

However, it's not just the written code it's also the "powers and authorities" and the "shame" seems to be retributive. Universalism has to, by theological construction, make this precede the passage in Col 1.

Re: Romans 9-11

We'll have to agree to disagree, I think that's a sub-conclusion. Paul sets out the conclusion in chapter 9, and then wrestles with Israel's place in that conclusion. The "all Israel" is tricky, I agree, but since Scripture is consistent, we'd have to put with Paul's teaching on judgement and the uniqueness of Salvation.

Luke said...

"isn't viable" You haven't changed my mind, and I'll check out your blog Jon, sounds interesting.

Jon said...

Luke I think the most natural reading of the "powers and authorities" is that the term is a reference to the written code "that was against us and stood opposed to us" - this is what was triumphed over on the cross. I'm not sure why you think this needs to come before "reconciling all things to himself" but I also don't see why this is a problem - he seems to be circling around the same points, emphasising different aspects of them in turn, emphasising first Christ's pre-eminence as our creator and redeemer, then emphasising our freedom from rules and regulations because of this redemption.

Re Romans 9-11 I find this passage confusing every time I read it because he seems to argue different things at different points. I'm not sure why you see the conclusion of this passage as being at the beginning not at the end, though.

JLK from Iowa said...

@Luke

@Allan Smith

The book of Ezekiel speaks of Sodom being restored.

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ezekiel+16:53

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ezekiel+16:55

Would I be correct to cite this chapter in refutation?