Thursday, February 13, 2014

Squishy-Wishy Universalism

I often find myself in the unenviable position of having positions, beliefs and opinions that overlap in only a few places with any particular group. I have to compromise when it comes to belonging to a church because there is no one church that encompasses a majority of my beliefs about God, the afterlife, etc. I am a conservative, but many of my opinions put me on the 'outs' with my fellow conservatives and I often hate the WAY in which many of my fellow conservatives argue for, hold, and analyze their own beliefs.

When it comes to Universalism, I find that I have a large number of cohorts when it comes to rejecting the idea of an eternal Hell. Yet many Universalists hold their beliefs about Universalism in a way I find almost as bad as the doctrine of eternal Hell itself. For many Universalists reject beliefs about sin-nature, or even the idea of sin altogether. They often have this "I'm okay, you're okay" attitude and seem so open-minded their brains are falling out. Their beliefs really do come off as little more than wish-fulfillment and often they don't even believe in 'evil' at all.

I cannot understand or abide this attitude. Our experience of evil is as palpable as our experience of good. Any theology that fails to speak to that experience has an internal inconsistency that should be readily apparent. The experiences that lead to God are retained and accounted for, but any that lead in a diabolical direction are just psychologized. But if I can "psychologize" sin and the devil I can do the same to the soul and God. Even in our experience of God itself, we have a sense of discomfort. Over and over again in the Bible we see talk of the 'fear of God' and the idea that before God we are crushed down in a position of utter repentance. And sin? What the heck is the point of belief in Jesus Christ as divine at all if there is no sin? None, as far as I can tell, and that is why Universalists often become Unitarians as well.

Any faith that fails to speak of sin and grace severs its ties with Biblical religion and fails to do justice the Revelation of God that takes place in the heart of Christian believers. Any religion that fails to capture the full range of human experience, both good and evil, and the real nature of the numinous: both inviting and overwhelming, fails to be of any interest to me, at least.

My Universalism is grounded in an awareness of sin: particularly my own. If people are so sinful that they are not even capable of genuine faith or love of God, as I have argued elsewhere, then the conviction that Jesus' sacrifice was salvific has to find some objective dimension, rather than a subjective one. I believe that people are so lost, and were so separated from God by the power of satan, that predestination is true. Making sense of predestination in light of the Biblical message that God doesn't want anyone to be lost, I hold to Universalism.

My Universalism is a struggle against my ego. I don't want my religion to be about "me" and where "I" go after I die. I believe that every person is responsible for the suffering and death of God, and that the reality of sin is the reality of the Cross. This is no squish-wishy message, it does not tell us life will be better with faith, it may be much harder. It makes us face the terrible reality of sin, and says something much more profound than doctrines of Heaven and Hell: it makes us face the real consequence of our sin in and through the love of God. That God is Love makes the reality of the Cross that much more difficult for the person who stares it in the face. Sin is real, it is because sin is real that we need the Cross, the Cross is both the reality of our sin and our freedom from it. When Universalism loses Christ, it loses its vitality, and its connection to the human condition. It loses its place as an Incarnational faith. It can speak boldly and beautifully of God, but not of God's proper relationship to mankind.

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