Saturday, January 30, 2016

Which is worse?

Every now and then universalism raises its head again -- those who step into the place of God and decide everything in Scripture is really irrelevant and faith superfluous.  All will be and are saved.  God could not, would not, and shall not offend against the egalitarian presumption of largess in which all are saved or none.

I will admit that I am a universalist -- not the kind above but the kind who hopes and prays that when all is revealed on the last day there are no goats, there is no weeping and gnashing of teeth, and there is no one who hears the voice of judgment condemning them to hell.  I truly want all to be saved but I am content to leave it all to the wisdom and mercy of God in Christ to sort out.  I do not presume to judge in His stead but it is my pious hope and prayer that when the curtain is drawn back there is no one in the outer darkness. 

Like others (notably Richard John Neuhaus), I do not doubt that hell is real and wretched beyond imagination.  I do not doubt that there are those who deserve to be there and I count myself as one so deserving.  I do not doubt that the only hope of redemption for the lost and condemned is the blood of Jesus Christ and it is my plea and hope to be saved without any merit or worthiness or effort on my part.  We know that some will be saved.  Scripture does not leave us in the dark.  Revelation already points to those who have gone through the great tribulation, whose robes have been washed clean in the blood of the Lamb.  The bosom of Abraham is not empty.  We know that the elect shall be saved and Christ is adamant that He has lost not one of those given (elect) to Him.  I trust His Word.  But I do hope against hope that in the hour of death repentance reclaims the proud, the haughty, the rebel, the Pharisee, and the sinner -- those of all stripes and nationalities.  I hope against hope that the blood of Christ that cleanses us from all sins will in the end reclaim and cleanse all from the stain of sin and its cohort of death. 

Surely it is this that motivates us to spread the Gospel.  We hope against hope that, not given the privilege of knowing who are the elect, the work of evangelization will awaken in everyone faith by the Holy Spirit, bring forth the fruit of repentance, and bear the good fruit that lasts of good works.  This is not a doctrine of universal salvation but its pray and hope that at the same time defers to Christ for judgement, the wisdom of God to reveal it all, and the mercy of God to save any and all who will be saved.

I am not troubled by those who share this kind and blessed hope but it does trouble me that there are those who are not so bothered by the idea that people will suffer eternity in pain of hell and in suffering beyond comprehension.  It surely does trouble me that there are those who think the Christian Gospel so fragile and weak that they care not if it is told to others or kept to self.  It surely does trouble me that there are those who equate all claims and truths so equal that the cross is but one of many options and the Word of God but many voices claiming what none can fully offer.  It surely does trouble me that there are bitter so-called Christians who are happy people they know will be judged unworthy of eternal life and people they do not know will share the same fate.

There is surely something wrong with having just celebrated Christmas and then feeling so comfortable, safe, and secure in the idea that the incarnate Lord came for a few and the rest can be dismissed with the shrug of the shoulder.  I pray and hope that hell will be empty and even Satan Himself will have repented.  I have nothing to tell me that such will be the outcome and I am perfectly willing to trust to all the condemned the same mercy of God that has redeemed me, a lost and condemned sinner.  But it is my hope and prayer that all will be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.  And it should be the pious hope and prayer of us all.  It is my consternation and confusion that there are Christians either too lightly concerned for the Gospel and pure doctrine that they have no mission zeal or so certain of those whom God will condemn that they feel no urgency or responsibility to speak and live the Gospel except within the realm of private belief.

It is damnably wrong to insert ourselves into the judgment seat of Christ and presume to know or have the hubris to decide who will and will not be saved.  But it is surely just as wrong to live perfectly comfortably with the idea that the folks next door either do not need the Gospel or were not include in the promise of Christ's blood.  Surely we all ought to hope and pray that hell will be empty. . . at least until we are given to know otherwise by the only One who does know.


Janis Williams said...

That feeling/belief that it matters not whether one shares the Gospel or not was much the last straw that sent two Calvinists (one running toward, one reluctantly) to the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. I also pray in hope that several of my relatives spoke Christ's name in Faith and hope of rescue before their end. I see no conflict between the fact that Scripture tells of sheep and goats, and the hope that I will be very much surprised to find both myself and others at the table at the Marriage Feast.

David Gray said...

Any Calvinist who feels they have no need to share the Gospel would be deplored by John Calvin. But yes, there are such.