Universal Salvation..

I have been doing some studying on the concept of universal salvation or reconciliation. Here is what Wikipedia says about it:

Origen was a 3rd century proponent of Universal Reconciliation.  The belief in the eventual salvation of all humankind has been a topic of debate throughout the history of the Christian faith. In the early Church, universalism was a flourishing theological doctrine. Reconciliation is the main belief that distinguishes Christian Universalism from other forms of Christianity.

Various theologians, including Clement of Alexandria and Origen in the 3rd century, St. Gregory of Nyssa in the 4th century, and St. Isaac the Syrian in the 7th century, expressed universalist positions in early Christianity. Though Gregory of Nyssa was a known universalist, he was never condemned. He was additionally declared “the father of fathers” by the seventh ecumenical council.

Modern universalists claim that universalism was the primary doctrine of the church until it was forcibly stamped out by the Catholic Church in the sixth century. Four of the six theological schools of thought in ancient Christendom supported universalism, and only one supported eternal damnation. Additionally, theological thought appears more varied before the strong influence of Augustine, who forcefully denied universal salvation. Some claim that Augustine’s rejection of the doctrine was an unwarranted side-effect of Platonist pagan philosophy, rather than a conclusion based on his study of the Scriptures.

It is interesting to note that two thirds of the early Christian theological schools and many of the most predominate theologians supported the concept of universal reconciliation prior to Augustine.

In the past I have mocked the idea of universal salvation but I don’t do that anymore. I have come to believe that most theologians are just men trying to form a human view of God that fits their personal beliefs. In studying this concept it looks to me that a minority fringe of Christian beliefs that took over the church about the time of Constantine forced the issue of universal damnation. I view this as much the same thing that is currently happening in the Republican party here in the U.S. where a radical fringes has hijacked the otherwise moderation party of history.

I am personally not a believer in the concept of God hating his creations and condemning them all to eternal agony. I just don’t see God that way. I see God as a loving God who wants the best for all of us. He came to us himself in the form of Jesus to teach us how we are to live and how to love him and our neighbors.

So, if push came to shove I would probably fall off the fence into the universal reconciliation camp. In a nutshell I believe that God truly loves each and every one of us and doesn’t think that we are just poor miserable sinners who he will eventually doom to utter and eternal agony. Instead he loves us all and just may eventually reconcile ALL of us to him. I will leave the spiteful and vengeful god to others and continue to believe in a loving God.

The Institutional Church

Here is a quote by Philip Gulley who is a Quaker minister and author.  I couldn’t have said it any better

At the end of the day, it is important to remember that while the institutional church is important to us, Jesus appeared to give it little thought. Though the church eventually became the means by which the story and witness of Jesus spread, neither its genesis nor continuance seemed a priority to him. Time after time, meeting human needs took center stage in his life and ministry. Indeed, when Jesus did speak of institutional religion, he was often scathing, saying at one point that those who were religiously pure on the outside were inwardly deceitful and rapacious.This serves as a caution to those of us who’ve convinced ourselves that the goal of the church is institutional purity. To be a follower of Jesus is to choose, at every ethical crossroads, to serve people above structures.

I have come to thoroughly agree that the institutional church is indeed secondary to the teachings and practices of Jesus Christ.  Given that there are now over 35,000 versions of institutional church today I have little doubt that Jesus’ scathing words of the religious bureaucracy in his time  would likely be repeated today.  This is one of the major reasons why my feelings for today’s religious institutions have significantly diminished in recent years.  If only the church were Christian.

Affirming our Potential

I believe that affirming our potential is more important than condemning our brokenness.

Many churches I have attended put a very strong I would even say an overwhelming emphasis on our brokenness. Their creeds which are chanted every Sunday point out that we are nothing but poor miserable sinners and are capable of absolutely nothing good. Besides causing inferiority complexes in those to buy into that thought it is also does very little to attract those not familiar with the true words of Jesus and the positive things he wants us to accomplish while on this earth.

Most of the “poor miserable sinner” thoughts come from Saint Paul in his many epistles. It seems that Paul, like Martin Luther that came many years later, had pitifully low self esteem that would lead naturally to this syndrome. Jesus on the other hand had different words to tell us. He constantly was affirming our potential with such words as “through the Father you can do anything”.

So, I will say again we should spend much more time knowing the positive things we can do with Christ on our side rather than fixating on the sins that we commit. Yes, we all do commit sins every day and that makes God sad but failing to recognize our potential to love God and to love our neighbors as Jesus commanded makes God even sadder.