Clarity About “Universalism”

Clarity…by Andre Rabe

 

Distractions can cause us to miss some of the most valuable moments. A slight change in perspective can reveal or hide the beauty in a scene.

We so want people to enjoy the value and beauty of what we have seen. From time to time rumors are stirred, that have caused unnecessary distractions. I recognize that Paul addressed situations in which he was misunderstood and so for the sake of clarity I write the following.

A term that seems to often cause confusion is ‘universalism’. Every now and then we get an email asking question such as: “are you a Universalist” or “do you believe in hell” etc. What follows are the responses we give to those such questions. It is not a defense of, or an attack on the doctrine of universalism, but simply a clarification of what it is, and how it differs from the focus of our message.

Universalism is firstly a doctrine that concerns itself with the future, specifically, the end – an eschatological doctrine. Behind this doctrine are many conversations and argumets that have been going on since Christianity began and as such there are many variations to it. Rob Bell’s book, ’Love wins’ is one of the latest events that has brought the topic into popular awareness. The specific part of Universalism that makes it so controversial is the suggestion that everyone, without exception, will ultimately be reconciled with God.

The message that Mary-Anne and I proclaim is focussed first and foremost, not on the future, but on the success of what Jesus Christ has already achieved. There is a very specific reason for this focus, namely: If we do not understand the success of what Jesus accomplished and the implications of that accomplishment for our present life, for this present moment, then our interpretations of what it means for the future will always be skewed. It is the fact that ’love won’, that has captured our hearts. We are not busy predicting the ultimate reconciliation of all things, we are rejoicing in the reality that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” (2 Cor 5:19)

So in conclusion to the question of universalism:
Universalism is a theory about the future, about the final end-state of all things. Our message … our gospel is the good news of what already happened; it is not the good prediction, but the good news!

A second question that often follows is: “Are you saying it does not matter what people believe?”

This question naturally follows because of our unashamed declaration that Jesus succeeded in his purpose, without your permission and whether you believe it or not. But this does not mean that faith is insignificant.

My wife and I would not subject ourselves to a hectic schedule of traveling the world, finding ourselves in a different location every week, speaking to a new group of people, if we thought that what people believe is not important. To proclaim the gospel in such a way that many believe is our passion. To introduce people to the person of Jesus Christ, the person who believes in them and thereby awaken faith, is what we have dedicated our lives to.

So faith is of eternal significance … but our faith or unbelief does not change the truth. “Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? Certainly not!” (Rom 3:3)

In conclusion to the second question:
When man is presented with the reality of what God has done for and with man in Christ Jesus, it does not remove the need for faith, but greatly intensifies it. When we see the reality of God’s opinion of us and how that contrast with the reality of our experience it creates a confrontation: do we want to live in God’s reality or continue in the chaos and deception of our own opinions.

See chapter from the book ‘Imagine’ that explains the relationship between faith and the accomplishment of Jesus:
Confronted by Reality.

The following audios deal with the subject of faith as well:
Faith in the context of the incarnation.
Galations 3

Another question that we often get is: “Do you believe there is no hell?”

We don’t even have to theorize about the future, we can simply involve ourselves in the lives of people around us and know for certain there is a hell, a place of torment and suffering. However, I also know that whatever torment people are suffering is not a torment placed on them by God. He is consistent. He demonstrated in Christ that He would rather go to hell Himself than abandon us to it. So whatever hell people experience is a hell of there own making and it is as real as it is unnecessary.

Again it seems that the concerns were not raised by anything we taught, but rather by our refusal to make hell the content of our proclamation.

I enjoy what Karl Barth had to say about it:
“Should the teaching about hell be a part of the proclamation of the gospel? No, no, no! The proclamation of the gospel means, rather, the proclamation that Christ has defeated hell, that Christ suffered hell in our place, and that it has allowed for us to live with Christ and so to have hell behind us”

- Karl Barth (Gesamtausgabe, 25:111)

Amazing that Paul, who writes almost 2/3 of the new testament, does not devote one chapter to the subject … not even one paragraph! In fact he mentions hell only once: “O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory?” (1 Cor 15:55)

So much of the criticism and warnings against our teaching comes from armchair theologians. It is ironic that while they sit at home and theorize about how dangerous our teaching is, we are going from continent to continent introducing people to Jesus Christ. Whatever your theory about hell, introducing people to Jesus must surely be the best thing you can do to prevent them from experiencing hell.

The following article is relevant: So what is heaven and what is hell.

Hey guys, we have such beautiful news to share with the world. Let us adorn this gospel with our lives, with our words. Let’s drop the labels and see again what Jesus sees.

“We don’t label people like we used to, with our handy pre-printed tags. We even tried doing this with Jesus, but He blew our definitions apart” 2 Cor 5:16 (Word on the Street Translation)

Jesus blew our definitions apart … and still does.

 

- See more at: http://www.alwaysloved.net

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  • Parent page: "Christ In You!"-Andre Rabe

    2 Comments

    1. Andre, I love your spirit and your words. And I hope to meet you when you come to Saint Louis, MO. I don’t live far from there. (Hermann, Missouri). But please allow me to challenge you on this statement:
      So in conclusion to the question of universalism:
      Universalism is a theory about the future, about the final end-state of all things. Our message … our gospel is the good news of what already happened; it is not the good prediction, but the good news!

      Gary: Those I know who are NOT afraid of being called a universalist or believer in universal salvation are not concerned about the future, we are concerned about how our Father is grossly misrepresented as leaving some of us behind either in eternal flames or annihilation. TRUST, absolute TRUST requires a savior who saves all, not some. I am amazed how many ministers of grace leave room for doubt because they are afraid of being labeled a heretic. And a universalist heretic seems to be the worst kind to be. Well, as you know, Paul, the apostle to the nations was such. Hope to hear you at the pure grace conference. Waves of grace to you, Gary Amirault, Tentmaker Ministries http://www.tentmaker.org

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