Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Wonderful Universalism Explanation

I just wanted to link to an extremely wonderful post called Universalism and the Open Wound of Life by Richard Beck at Experimental Theology. It is one of the best explanations for a belief in universalism that I have ever seen.
"The doctrine isn't attractive because it solves the problem of hell. The doctrine is attractive because it solves (or at least addresses) the problem of pain.

The issue isn't about salvation (traditionally understood). It's about suffering. Universalism, as best I can tell, is the only Christian doctrine that takes the problem of suffering seriously. As evidence for this, just note that when a theologian starts taking suffering seriously he or she starts moving toward universalism."
Anyone who is interested in universalism, whether you believe in it or not, I highly recommend you read Richard's post. It is not long, but it is remarkably illuminating. Experimental Theology is a wonderful blog and I have consistently enjoyed reading it.


  1. Sammy, I love your blog and look forward to every post. I did follow the link and read Beck's thoughts. Most powerful, I think, is his quote from Moltmann: "The theism of the almighty and kindly God comes to an end on the rock of suffering...."

    And that is exactly where I stand.

    Honestly, I don't feel Universalism addresses (much less solves) the problem of evil at all.

    If there can be a perfect state - Heaven or paradise - free of evil and suffering, it just makes no sense to start with this "vale of suffering." The so-called "free-will defense" is usually employed in this connection. But what, is there no free-will in Heaven? Perhaps it will be replied that our human natures will be perfected then. If that be so, why was evil allowed into the picture in the first place? Why didn't God just begin with perfect human natures?

    The problem seems to be: How is the horrific suffering that has been in existence for millennia consistent with Moltmann's "almighty and kindly God"? Universalism doesn't seem to address that except maybe to say that the end justifies the means.

    Our minds continue to hold that true goodness will eliminate evil every time it is possible to do so. Anything less is evil also, or at best indifference.

  2. I greatly wish I had quick and easy answers for your questions. But I don't.

    Yes, I do believe in free-will. And yes, I do believe there is free-will in heaven. As for why God didn't begin with perfect human natures, I believe that it is important for an individual to learn the difference between good and evil for themselves. Yes, God could have just created us knowing the difference, but there would be no choice involved. I think it is something we must experience for ourselves.

    I'm not sure I'm describing what I mean very well here. It's too complicated a subject to really fit in a blog comment. I wrote a post back in November about the problem of evil where I explain my theory about why there is suffering in much more depth. If you read it, I think you will understand my position much better.

    However, I do not claim to know that my theory is right or perfect. It might not be. Honestly, I don't know. All I know is the certainty I have in God's love. But, as I've said before, I don't expect anyone to take that as evidence for my beliefs or God's existence. I am well aware it is not rational. Yet, I so wish I could share that unshakable certainty with others. It is the most powerful feeling I have ever experienced. Trying to explain it to someone who has not experienced it is like trying to explain what the color blue looks like to someone who is completely colorblind. There are just no words.

  3. It is an interesting topic. I suspect that Evil and suffering come from limited knowledge. People who reach more enlightened states often refer to previous, more nefarious times, as a sort of blindness. Paul brings this thought line up a number of times... knowing dimly, knowing in part. Jesus describes those killing him as "not knowing what they are doing".

    I also suspect that, in the end, the need for all of this unknowing and suffering was born from a need for contrast. Can one know love without recognizing hate? Can one feel bliss having never known fear?

  4. I discovered Dr. Beck's blog early in my journey. Although, we don't always agree, I appreciate his thoughtfully written posts.