Seriously, it Does Make a Difference?
In my writings a few days ago, I questioned, “if it made any difference what church we attend?” My answer was a resounding YES. it certainly does. So many of the choices we make have potentially eternal consequences.
My question today is “Does it matter what we believe and teach regarding universal salvation?”
Right here and now, nearing the end of the second decade of the 21st century there are a plethora of competing ideologies within churches that claim to be Christian. For the most part, I call this phenomenon “Christian Denialism.”
In the psychology of human behavior, denialism is a person’s choice to deny reality as a way to avoid a psychologically uncomfortable truth. Denialism is an essentially irrational action that withholds the validation of a historical experience or event when a person refuses to accept an empirically verifiable reality. In the sciences, denialism is the rejection of basic facts and concepts that are undisputed, well-supported parts of the scientific consensus on a subject, in favor of radical and controversial ideas. The terms Holocaust denialism and AIDS denialism describe the denial of the facts and the reality of the subject matters. The various forms of denialism in the modern Church present the common feature of the individual person or church, rejecting the overwhelming historical and scriptural evidence in favor of feelings-based moral or spiritual relativism.
Christian Denialism in this example is a tool of the evil one who is desperately trying to destroy our reliance on Christ’s self-sacrifice. The easy example of denialism in our day is that of the resurgence of Universalist Theology. In theological usage, universalism is the doctrine that all human beings—and perhaps all intelligent or volitional beings—will come to final salvation and spend eternity with heaven in God. This theology is growing in popularity especially among liberal churches. It is also being championed by many in the Roman Catholic hierarchy.
Universalism is actually an ancient Heresy that was condemned by the early church. Modernist theologians attempt to temper the heretical implications by using the term “reasonable hope.”
In the grand scheme of things, what difference does it really make if we tell others about salvation through Christ alone or not; I mean, despite Jesus’s command to take the gospel message to ALL NATIONS of course? Well, if you’re actively embracing the heresy of Universalism, like pope Francis, then not much. Contradicting Christ’s “Great Commission” the pope has criticized Christian evangelism efforts on more than one occasion, calling it a “venom” and “sin against ecumenism.” The modernist, church of nice gospel seems to be that we mustn’t ruffle the feathers of Muslims, adulterers and other sinners. Through the rose-colored lenses of universalism, the pontiff sort of makes sense. His language of accompaniment and learning from sinners, in this light actually becomes quite quaint. Jesus’ message was about teaching the truth, encouraging contrition, repentance, and conversion. This aspect is sadly missing from the satanically inspired teachings of universalism.
From the time of Origen onward there have been individual Christian theologians who’ve held to some version of the Origenist Heresy. In Christian orthodoxy, however, universalism was never affirmed as an official or public teaching of the church.
The panacea of Universalism is fundamentally out of sync with the New Testament narrative of God’s loving initiative in Christ provoking some to faith and others to offense and even hatred. Because of its incongruence with the gospel narrative, universalism has become an opiate of liberal evangelicals and catholic alike.
Why was it that when Jesus spoke to his disciples on the Mount of Olives (Matt. 24), that he combined the discussion of the End Times with a call to “keep watch” and a warning regarding the unfaithful servant who is caught off guard by the master’s return (Matt. 24:42–51). This line of reasoning links Jesus’ return not only to the theme of moral and spiritual preparation but also to the theme of evangelism: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached to the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (v. 14). Likewise, the parable of the wise and foolish virgins (Matt. 25:1–13) likewise stresses the need to be prepared for Jesus’ return. When the apostles ask Jesus after the Resurrection whether he will “restore the kingdom,” he directs them to evangelize, once again linking his return to the present mission of the church (Acts 1:6–8).
Similarly, in the book of Revelation, the writer represents God’s people as the “bride” to be joined to Christ as the “bridegroom.” It states that “his bride has made herself ready” with “fine linen, bright and clean,” which is “the righteous acts of God’s holy people” (Rev. 19:7–8). The Book of 1 John connects eschatological hope with moral and spiritual purification: “But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure” (1 John 3:2–3). In light of the world’s coming dissolution, 2 Peter exclaims, “You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming” (3:11–12). And Paul’s letter to Titus connects our “blessed hope” (2:13) with a summons “to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” (2:12).
Think about it for a moment. If we have a “reasonable hope that hell will be empty” as Bishop Robert Barron is teaching, why should we even bother with teaching salvation through Christ at all? For that matter, without a clear mandate regarding the need for conversion to faith in Christ, then what difference does it make how we live, what religion, or church we belong too. In that mindset, there is nothing prodding us to live good, loving, and moral lives. In fact, without the specter of Hell Fire and damnation, nothing matters in an eternal sense. Empathizing this point, one may be tempted to ask “where are all the universalist evangelists, going to the ends of the earth, suffering opposition, up to and including the prospect of martyrdom, so that they can deliver their message of final salvation for all? By the way, Barron, himself based his Universalist views on the teachings of the Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, specifically his book, “Dare We Hope?”.
From another angle, why is this a “reasonable” hope? Doesn’t this concept deny God’s call to repentance, and ignore His demands for “justice?” Hasn’t His mercy always been predicated on our own, individual acceptance of him? Doesn’t Universalism take away our free will to deny god’s divine prerogative? Please ask yourself; considering the collective witness of the apostles and early church, what would actually support this idea of universal triumphalism? The only honest answer is “False Hope.”
From this lie of the Universalist Perspective, which has been percolating under the radar since the earliest age of Christendom, the growth of modernism in our own day begins to make sense. Embracing this ideology removes personal guilt and accountability. At a minimum, the moral norms that have guided western civilization for the past two thousand years can be simply brushed aside without a moment of regret.
In the modernist’s mind’s eye, this approach to Christianity makes perfect sense. After all, they theologize, scripture is simply out of touch with our modern times. Paul and the other writers were simply unenlightened and didn’t understand the human condition as we do. Another tactic of the modernist use is to simply attribute biblical teachings to modern notions of hate, bigotry and even misogyny.
Universalism tells the adulterer and the homosexual that chastity is not really important. It also tells the spousal abuser, murderer, and terrorist that it doesn’t matter how we treat our fellow men.
Something I rarely hear from proponents of universal salvation is “why did Jesus have to suffer and die” if it wasn’t to redeem a world from sin — especially if you are denying the impact of sin on humanity?
From an orthodox Christian perspective, Jesus never said “Accept me as Savior, but keep on sinning,” The consistent message of Christ and his Church has been to “go, and sin no more.” Not only are we to avoid sin, but we are to “flee” from sin and even sinful thoughts.
Those in liberal churches are all aflutter with excitement when prominent (heretical) church leaders such as Pope Francis say such absurdities as “who am I to judge,” or that even unrepentant “atheists will be in heaven.”
What difference does it make? With a core belief in universalism, why would you even bother studying for Christian ministry, going to church, or even building a church at all, if it literally is of no spiritual significance? Pardon my crudeness, but this sounds more like anti-climactic spiritual masturbation than anything else. It’s sort of like the question from that 1990s Wendy’s commercial, “Where’s the beef?” The question then becomes, if you are a proponent of Universalism why bother. It literally makes no difference.
The only point I can see with universalist theology is to spread the message that nothing in life matters or has eternal consequences. Is this thought process really enough to build your faith around? If nothing really matters, wouldn’t you simply be more suited to atheism or agnosticism?
The basic tenets of Universalism deny the core values of Christianity. They are basically calling the gospel of Jesus Christ and the writings of the New Testament a “LIE.”
The GOOD NEWS is that God so loved the world that he sent us his Son. This was not merely some spiritual exercise so that we could feel good about ourselves, but that we would realize our individual and corporate need to seek his grace and forgiveness. Yes, all have sinned. This continues to be an offense to our God who expects righteousness. And, YES, we have more than a REASONABLE HOPE! We have the blessed assurance that if we are faithful in following authentic Christian teachings, doing the will of the Father, that we WILL be saved.
The bottom line is that “Christian Denialism” and Universalist ideology are as far removed from authentic Christianity as any other false teaching and heresy.
Does it matter? You bet your life it does.