Randal Rauser Says Universalism Is Not a Four-Letter Word

Randal Rauser is Associate Professor of Historical Theology at Taylor Seminary in Edmonton. He’s an evangelical Christian who holds to the traditional heaven-or-hell scenario. However, I think his views are quite interesting, and you might feel similarly. His blog is called The Tentative Apologist. A recent post of his was titled Universalism isn’t a four-letter word.  [Ed. note April 4, 2014:  I had originally had this title hyper-linked the the Christian Post page where this post was located.  However, they seem to be no longer maintaining this page so I removed the link.  Alas, the comments that were there seem to be gone with the page.  Sorry.]

Because his blog is published by The Christian Post, you can also find this post here (the comments will be different, of course – which is why I’m providing this link in addition to the other one).  In a response to a comment, Randal points out that church father Gregory of Nyssa (335-394), among other famous theologians, taught universalism.

Here are some follow-up posts he wrote on universalism (all the links are to his own blog, The Tentative Apologist):

Does universalism have a chance in hell of being true?

Hopeful Universalism and the Lottery Illustration

How exclusive should Christianity be?

Revelation 5:9 and Inclusive Salvation

Crystal Lewis Says Universalism Is Not a Bad Word

Crystal S. Lewis writes the blog Diary of a Christian Universagnosticostal.  In my most recent post here, I made reference to her series of posts on “Hell.”

Crystal has also written a post titled Should Universalism Be a Dirty Word? to which I commend you.  [Ed. note April 4, 2014: I can no longer find this page on her site, which is why the link is lined through as broken.]  She later posted Websites & Blogs About Christian Unitarian Universalism which obviously offers resources on the subject.

I hasten to add that I am not affiliated with Crystal or any of the organizations she lists on her posts.  Nor are you likely to find me supporting everything she or any of them teach – or vice versa.  Nevertheless, I thought you might find some of these resources helpful, particularly as they show universalism to be not nearly as uncommon a view among Christians as you might suppose.

Crystal Lewis Writes Insightful Series on Hell

Crystal S. Lewis, who writes the blog Diary of a Christian Universagnosticostal, recently wrote a series of eight posts on the subject of hell.  The first of these posts, and therefore the proper starting point, is God Didn’t Invent Hell.  We Did.  While her views differ from mine* in some important ways, they are beneficial in many respects.

*My views are laid out in various places on my blogs including The Biblical Case for Everyone Going to Heaven and Essays on the Implications of Everyone Going to Heaven.

Response to Gorn

R.D. Coste writes a blog called Teologye.  Recently, I interacted with him [Ed. note April 6, 2014: This link is no longer working; apparently that site is no longer maintained or, if it is, I can no longer find it.] a bit on a post he wrote as part of a series called Religion and Science.

In the exchange, a person named Gorn spoke up and asked me some questions.  I’ve decided to answer his questions here, where there’s a little more elbow room.

Gorn:  Do you believe that Jesus is the son of God, and that he performed miracles, or are you just a follower of his philosophy/teachings?

Mike Gantt:  I believe the New Testament account of His life.  That is, I believe His philosophy and teaching, and also that He did the miracles described.  I don’t pick and choose which parts of the accounts of His life to accept as reliable and which to reject.  This is primarily because I don’t see a rational basis for making such distinctions.  That is, the writers write of His life seamlessly – there’s no easy way to separate the supernatural from the natural aspects.

Gorn:  If the latter is the case, I would agree then that is not necessarily a religion. If the former is true, then that of course is a form of Christian religion.

Mike Gantt:  I suppose that depends on how you define “religion.”  But, as I’ve said, religion has never been an interest of mine.  I’m interested in truth.  If truth has supernatural dimensions as well as natural dimensions, it’s still truth – no matter what else it might be.

Gorn:  But we do agree that if one is going to follow a religion, one is predisposed to follow one that was introduced when young, or at least a deviation of it.

Mike Gantt:  I’m not sure we agree about that.  As I said, I went from Roman Catholicism to agnosticism (which is obviously neither a form or, nor a derivative of, Roman Catholicism).  Since accepting the truth claims of Jesus in the Bible I have continued to reject Roman Catholicism.  I suppose you could say that Catholicism is more closely related to my faith than, say, Islam, but, as with our interaction about religion above, the semantics can be confusing.  I don’t even call myself a Christian.  I am far more concerned about who and what Jesus is than I am my own identity.

Gorn:  What facts are you referring to which convinced you that Jesus wasn’t a liar or lunatic?

Mike Gantt:  The whole account of His life as described in the New Testament.  He didn’t talk and act like a liar or a lunatic.  I’ve experienced, to varying degrees, liars and lunatics in my life; Jesus’ life is dramatically different from anything I’ve seen in them.  There is literally no comparison.  I could be more specific if you like, but maybe it would help me if you told me where in the New Testament He sounds to you like a liar or lunatic.

Gorn:  If someone walked up to you in the street tomorrow and told you he was the son of God, would you believe this person as well?

Mike Gantt:  If someone walked up to me and said, “I’m the Son of God,” I’d probably run away.  And before I read the New Testament, that would have included Jesus Himself.  But the New Testament reveals that He didn’t just walk up to people and say, “I’m the Son of God.”  He taught about God and performed acts of kindness for people.  As they got to know Him, they came to realize His uniqueness.  He did not want the fact that He was Israel’s Messiah to be broadcast until after He was raised from the dead.

Gorn:  What facts are there for Jesus but not for anyone else claiming to be the son of God, Jesus, or even God himself?

Mike Gantt:  The many Old Testament prophecies of His life, death, and resurrection.  No one else’s life experience could match those prophecies.  Consider this post from Dr. William Varner’s DrIBEX Ideas blog about the probabilities of any other person fulfilling all those prophecies.  Of course, the fact that He was raised from the dead and it was witnessed by so many people makes Him pretty unique, too.

David W. Congdon Explains Why He Is a Universalist

Thanks to Richard Beck of Experimental Theology, I learned of David W. Congdon and his blog The Fire and the Rose (an allusion to T.S. Eliot). 

David has written a series of posts on universalism indexed at Why I Am a Universalist.  He also maintains a resource page of the posts of others titled Universalism in the Blogosphere.

Whereas Richard Beck writes primarily from a pyschological perspective and Keith DeRose writes from a philosophical perspective, David Congdon writes from a theological perspective.

Yale Philosophy Professor Keith DeRose Supports Universalism

Through Richard Beck of Experimental Theology, I learned of Professor Keith DeRose.  Dr. DeRose teaches philosophy at Yale.  While teaching an adult Sunday School class on the subject of universalism, DeRose found more material than he could cram into the one hour he was allotted.  With that material he created the single web page Universalism and the Bible.  Though it’s just one page, you will find in it plenty of logic, significant scriptures, and abundant resources for further study.

Professor Richard Beck Explains Why He Accepts Universalism

A few days ago I wrote about a post by Professor Richard Beck on his Experimental Theology blog in which he wrote that he was atttracted to universalism more because it provided an answer to evil (or pain or suffering) in this life than because it was a better answer to hell in the afterlife.

I have subsequently learned that Professor Beck has written much more extensively on universalism and is thoroughly committed to this point of view.  In fact, he has written a series of posts, summarized in Why I Am a Universalist, in which he gives multiple arguments for the position.  These arguments include biblical, logical, moral, ethical, theological, philosophical, and pragmatic rationales.

Professor Beck wrote this series in 2006.  Then, in 2009, he wrote Universalism: A Summary Defense (which pulls together his arguments into one post).

Texas Professor “Gets” Universalism

Professor Richard Beck of Abilene Christian University is a research psychologist. He writes the blog Experimental Theology.

In his recent post, Universalism and the Open Wound of Life, he offers a logical rational for everyone going to heaven.  I was impressed with it.  I was glad he wrote it and glad to see the many comments he received, as well as his interaction with some of those commenting.

Of course, there is also a biblical rationale for universalism which you can find in my book The Biblical Case for Everyone Going to Heaven.

For this and other reasons, I urge us all:  Repent, and Follow Jesus Christ Our Lord!