The Instigator
ChristusExemplar
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
popculturepooka
Con (against)
Winning
37 Points

Christian Universalism is Biblically False

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 7 votes the winner is...
popculturepooka
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/24/2013 Category: Religion
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,433 times Debate No: 31605
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (17)
Votes (7)

 

ChristusExemplar

Pro

(A) Clarifying My Position

I am writing this argument to a particular audience of Christian adherents who resort to the theological (mostly soteriological) position of Christian Universalism, and will be defending my own view of what’s known as “Christian Exclusivism”. In contrast to what I hold, Universalism can be defined as the “chief claim that God is revealed to all and related to all in some way” (R. Plantinga, “Christianity and Plurality”; cp. 1999, p. 6). To make this matter most exemplified, Plantinga goes on to write:

"Whether or not a person is conscious of a saving relationship with the divine or wills such a relationship, salvation will come to all without question" (Ibid. 6).

As such, most universalists will pay special attention to certain attributes of God or just doctrines of God to be more general. For instance, unconditional love or divine justice mixed with expansive divine mercy, the doctrine of Christ and the all-encompassing nature of the atonement, and so on.

To introduce my argument then, I hope to write this respectfully to those who hold this theological position and turn them to a more biblical, and ecclesiocentric (“Church-centered”) position. Not only from this presupposition here, but also provide a defense of the traditional view of hell and its eternality. In doing so, I hope to show the adherent of Christian Universalism and their denial to some degree of the traditional view of hell to not match most of what we find in the historical realms of Christian orthodoxy.


(B) What is Exclusivism?

When trying to answer questions in regards to the doctrine of salvation a few things from the beginning have to be asked: Who is saved? Who is not saved? How are people saved? and so on. Positions regarding those questions have been developed to show the relationship between Christ and redemption. A few them run as the following:

  1. Exclusivism or ‘Particularism’
  2. Inclusivism
  3. Pluralism
  4. Universalism

In regards to the first position, the definition is almost self-evident in the term used. Namely, that in its full scope divine revelation has been uniquely, or “exclusively” given to Christianity. To be a bit more blatant from Plantinga, “It thus concludes that ultimate truth is an exclusive Christian domain” (Ibid. 5). Therefore, the exclusivistic Christian puts a wide and heavy emphasis on Jesus’s statement in John 14:6 where he says: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (NIV).

Such a position is Christocentric and ecclesiocentric (from the Greek term for church: ekklesia), since the atoning merit of Christ is made exclusively available from the Christian Church (biblical support will be offered further down). The other view in contrast, is known as “Inclusivism”, with a slight variation on Exclusivism. John Sanders writes:

“Inclusivism holds that although Christianity is the true religion and Jesus the only way to salvation, more people are saved through Christ than the church traditionally has thought. Accordingly, God forgives followers of the world’s religions on the basis of their response to the revelation they have” (J. Sanders, “No Other Name”; cp. 1992, p. 215)

To finish even with the words of Plantinga again (to clarify, Plantinga’s book is a great resource for this subject which I recommend. It includes other theological writings on the subject from Church fathers and theologians from varying traditions of Protestantism and Catholicism; I will refer to this work throughout this debate): “Other traditions are included in God’s plan of salvation for the world, although salvation must somehow finally be accomplished through the atoning work of Christ” (R. Plantinga, p. 5)

This position of inclusivism then, is Christocentric but not ecclesiocentric. The demerit of this view is found nicely in Bruce Ware’s book, “The One Way” (2008):

“…even though Christ is the only Savior, people do not have to know about or believe in Christ to be saved” (B. Ware, Tabletalk, June 2008, p. 19)

Since I designated this section of the post to be more inclined to define Exclusivism, I will skip the definition of pluralism and focus on my position more particularly in the biblical and historical sense as it has been used throughout the writings of early church fathers and Patricistic (100-500 AD) as well as predominately Medieval era (500-1350 AD).

With this, I now move on to biblical support.


(C) A Brief Biblical Defense of Exclusivism

Christianity by its very nature as it seems to me has always been a very exclusivistic religion, especially even more so with its religious sister, Judaism (cf. John 4:22). As Paul writes in Ephesians 3:

Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly.

In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 3:2-6, NIV)

In light of the New Testament, Paul is addressing here most famously in Ephesians 3 that salvation is no longer exclusive to the Jews only, but now is available to Gentiles; even more broadly, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Also in Romans 1:14 we see, “I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome” (Romans 1:14-15, NIV). And lastly, in chapter 9 we see also:

What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory – even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? (Romans (9:23-24)

As Luke records with his famous words in the book of Acts, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31, NIV). More over, as I had mentioned before, Jesus also says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, NIV).

However, Paul recognized in Romans 9 and other passages that not all will or even could be saved. What evidence is there of this? In verse 22 we see Paul write: “What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath – prepared for destruction” (Romans 9:22)?


(D) Concluding Thoughts

As such, the existence of hell and the biblical support I have offered serve as a counter-factual to the doctrine of Universalism. Biblically, the position is not supported anywhere in virtue of New Testament soteriology.

I urge a vote in the affirmation and consider the Orthodox position of Exclusivism to be more substantiable.

popculturepooka

Con

Thanks to Pro for initiating this interesting debate. I aim to show that Pro has not established his case for the proposition that Christian universalism (CU) is biblically false. (I will also be using "CU" as abbreviation for Christian universalist.) I will try to follow Pro's format for purposes of clarity.

Clarifications

Interestingly enough, Pro isn't arguing against CU per se. This He's arguing against a particular generic version of universalism that doesn't even seem to be essentially connected to Christianity. For example, there are many universalists from many different religious traditions and they all have their own way of working out how exactly all people are saved. The closest version of universalism Pro seems to be arguing against is pluralist universalism (PU). PU of this type was most famously advocated by the recently departed John Hick, and while Hick did identify with the Christian religion he also maintained that other religious traditions are all on different paths to the same destination so to speak. There's not necessarily one path that's better than the other. Christ's death and atonement are one way to salvation but not the only way. And even on Hick's account of PU, he vigorously emphasized the importance that libertarian free will has in his theological system. He argues that, in the end, all will freely choose to be with God. So, the quote by Plantinga doesn't even correctly characterize PU as advocated by one it's most famous defenders. That's neither here nor there, however. I don't seek to defend PU.

I will defend CU. CU, meaning: "Although this a wide family of views they share in common (a) the commitment to working within a Christian theological framework and (b) the claim that all individuals will be saved through the work of Christ." [1] This is an immensely important point because many objectors to "CU" confuse it with PU as Pro seems to implicitly do some of the parts of his opening round.

It should be noted that there is is a wide variety of views encompassed by CU (just like with other Christian groups). For example, one could be a CU compatibalist or incompatibalist with respect to free will. Which brings me nicely to my next point.

CU Exclusivism

One could be a CU and an exclusivist (as defined by Pro). In fact, most adherents of CU throughout the centuries (something a lot of people don't know is that CU has a long history dating back as far as other Christians traditional positions on hell like annihilationism and eternality) have probably been exclusivists. This goes from Origen on down to the present day CU like Thomas Talbott. But one could also be a CU advocate and an inclusivist. Of course, there are also non CU advocates who are both exclusivists and inclusivists.

CU exclusivism puts just as much emphasis on John 14:6 as a non CU exclusivist does. A CU exclusivist fully agrees with the non-CU exclusivist that no one will come to the Father except through Christ. The CU exclusivist just thinks that all will come to the Father through Christ. So the CU exclusivist will also agree that the atoning merit of Christ is made exclusively through the universal Christian Church.

As we can see, Pro's case for exclusivism largely rests on a misunderstanding of what CU actually is - because a CU exclusivist will actually agree with most of biblical defense of exclusivism. They just think that the scope of God's salvation encompasses all - not anything less than all.

To give a very brief example of how this might work note a common text taken by CU to provide evidence of CU -

Philippians 2:9-11: Therefore God also highly exalted him, and gave to him the name which is above every name; (10) that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven,those on earth, and those under the earth, (11) and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

What will a non-CU say about this? Well, the only reasonable thing they can say in response is that some will do confess voluntarily and others will not - so it can't be the case that this confession is salvific for everyone. This won't do at all.

This text draws on Isaiah 45 (please read these texts so you know I'm not making this up) wherein every tongue shall confess and every knee shall bow to Yahweh. This is in a salvific context. We have even stronger reasons besides Isaiah to suppose that this in a salvific context:

A) Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor 12:3)

B)The very same text that Pro uses - Romans 10:9.

C) The word translated as "confess" (exomologeomai) is one that Jesus is word almost always translated as "praise". [3]

A Brief Biblical Defense of CU

As much as I hate prooftexting, it's almost unavoidable in this format. Here's a quick snappy argument with biblical warrants for each premise:

1. God sincerely wills or desires the salvation of each and every sinful human being.
2. God will eventually achieve a complete victory over sin and death and will therefore accomplish the salvation of everyone whose salvation he sincerely wills or desires
3. God will eventually accomplish the salvation of each and every sinful human being. [4]

For 1: 2 Peter 3:9: "The Lord...is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance"; 1 Timothy 2:4: "God desires everyone to be saved to come to the knowledge of the truth"; Ezekiel 33:11: "As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn away from the ways and live."

For 2: Ephesians 1:11: God "accomplishes all things according to his will and counsel"; Job 42:2: "I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours is thwarted"; Isaiah 46:10b & 11b: "My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose...I have spoken and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.

For 3: 3 follows as a consequence of 1 and 2. But there seems to many such texts that explicitly say all will be saved.
Romans 5:18: "Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people."; 1 Corinthians 15:22: "For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive."; Colossians 1:20: "and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross."; the Philippians verse mentioned above, etc.


Conclusion

Pro has not come close to establishing his resolution - mainly because most of his claims here are entirely compatible with CU and there is biblical warrant to suppose that all will be saved. To reiterate: 1) Exclusivism (as defined by Pro) is compatible with CU, 2) the existence of hell (postmortem punishment) is compatible with CU - as long as it's construed as reconcilliatory, restorative, and not eternal - and, most importantly, 3) there is good justification both from the "big picture" of the bible and specific texts that support the doctrine of CU.

Sources

[1] Robin Parry and Christopher H. Partridge, "Universal Salvation?: The Current Debate", pg. xvii
[2] http://www.biblegateway.com...
[3] http://www.blueletterbible.org...
[4] http://www.willamette.edu...
Debate Round No. 1
ChristusExemplar

Pro

ChristusExemplar forfeited this round.
popculturepooka

Con

Unfortunately, my opponent has forfeit. Extend my arguments.

Here's a quote from one my favorite Christian universalists:

"I believe that justice and mercy are simply one and the same thing. [I believe] such is the mercy of God that he will hold his children in the consuming fire of his distance until they pay the uttermost farthing, until they drop the purse of selfishness with all the dross that is in it, and rush home to the Father and the Son, and the many brethren, rush inside the center of the life-giving fire whose outer circles burn."

-- George Macdonald
Debate Round No. 2
ChristusExemplar

Pro

ChristusExemplar forfeited this round.
popculturepooka

Con

Again, unfortunately, Pro has forfeit. Extend my arguments.

I'll close the debate with a nice quote from another personal favorite Christian universalist :

"As long as there is any hate in us we are not ready for heaven, not as long as we're shutting the golden doors on anyone else...the heavenly banquet cannot begin until we are all there, and I can greet with love...everybody who has caused me pain, and call out a welcome to them all. The heavenly banquet cannot begin until all those whom I have hurt are ready to welcome me, in all my flawed and contradictory humanness... Belief in [eternal] hell is lack of faith because it attributes more power to Satan than to God...but it is God who has the last word! God is not going to abandon creation, nor the people up for trial in criminal court, nor the Shiites, nor the communists, or the warmongers, nor the greedy and corrupt people in high places, nor the dope pushers, nor you, nor me. Bitter tears of repentance may be shed before we can join the celebration, but it won't be complete until we are all there.""

-- Madeleine L'Engle
Debate Round No. 3
17 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by popculturepooka 4 years ago
popculturepooka
Unfortunate. :(
Posted by popculturepooka 4 years ago
popculturepooka
Karma, I guess. (-_-)
Posted by popculturepooka 4 years ago
popculturepooka
Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!
Posted by philochristos 4 years ago
philochristos
Oh look! It's happening!
Posted by popculturepooka 4 years ago
popculturepooka
Whoops, source [2] is supposed to be after Isaiah 45.
Posted by ChristusExemplar 4 years ago
ChristusExemplar
Alright, voting period has been extended to 1 week.
Posted by Nimbus328 4 years ago
Nimbus328
I would concede that the bible states that Jesus is the only way to heaven, everyone else is going to hell. If I were to debate the issue, I would have it revised to "Christian Exclusivism is Culturally Unsound" from the Pro position.
Posted by unitedandy 4 years ago
unitedandy
*Rubs hands* This is going to be good.
Posted by popculturepooka 4 years ago
popculturepooka
I will if he extends the voting period.
Posted by philochristos 4 years ago
philochristos
I wish popculturepooka would take it.
7 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Vote Placed by RyuuKyuzo 4 years ago
RyuuKyuzo
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Reasons for voting decision: ff
Vote Placed by 1Devilsadvocate 4 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: F.F.
Vote Placed by Misterscruffles 4 years ago
Misterscruffles
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Reasons for voting decision: FF
Vote Placed by philochristos 4 years ago
philochristos
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Reasons for voting decision: Forfeit. Disappointed. :-(
Vote Placed by Pennington 4 years ago
Pennington
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Reasons for voting decision: FF.
Vote Placed by OberHerr 4 years ago
OberHerr
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro FF.
Vote Placed by Xerge 4 years ago
Xerge
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro forfeited the last two rounds. Con's case was therefore left standing and affirm the resolution. Conduct to Con for the forfeits.