Dean Johnson Ministries

Greg, a Friend,
Responds to the Universalist Web Site.


It is a candid response many Christians would find interesting.





 Hi, it's Greg.  I received your web page.  Though I haven't read your commentary on Ephesians in its'
entirety I find your scholarship impressive.  It has been a long time since I've read anything like that.
    

Long ago I considered whether the Bible (specifically the New Testament) indicates in any way
that the whole of humanity shall some day be saved.  I quickly came to the conclusion that it does not.  I refer you to the following texts: Rev. xxi, 8., John iii, 36.,  Mark xvi. 16., Matt. xix. 24., Matt. vii.
14., Matt. xxii. 13,14, & so on.  There are many many examples from the Scripture of how a select few shall inherit the Kingdom of God, and the vast majority of Mankind shall be obliterated.  Indeed, the eschatology of Revelations (if taken seriously as a blueprint for things to come) envisages the virtual eradication of humanity.  For my part I think the author of Revelations was writing from the point of view of a persecuted Christian in a certain time and place, and that the methods of many modern Evangelical Bible-believing Christians to take much of what is written there completely out of context, and try to introduce it as a virtual plan of things to come is ludicrous.  Or for that matter, if one takes seriously the tale of Noah's Ark, it would seem that the Almighty isn't too terribly fond of his creation and destroys it rather easily and willfully.
    

 For my part, I believe the story of the flood is a myth, so I am writing from the point of view that
the story can at best be understood as parable. I don't say it is a "lie" in the sense in which the word
is understood in the modern world.  I rather see it as a myth that likely began as an oral story, and was at some point written down by learned men.  I think that for someone to consider it a "literal" story goes in the face of common sense at the beginning of the 21st century.  These stories were written down by scribes of an earlier age in which myth was part of everyday discourse, and miracles were not something that you could prove or disprove in a court of law or a test tube.  In pre-scientific societies how else to explain much of what could be observed in the World?  It is only really since the 17th century that this Worldview has changed.  In Medieval Europe there was no division between "myth" and "logos".  For modern people to try to impose a 21st century scientific method on the text of the Bible, and try to say that Revelations predicts nuclear war, or clashes of civilizations, or that any of it relates directly to geo-political situations of the modern day is unfortunate.  Indeed, prophecies given in Revelation have been de-contextualized and "made to fit the times" so many times throughout history that I can't help but see the entire text as utterly strange if interpreted as such.  In any case, I think it odd even for a work of the 1st century or whenever it was written.
    

The Bible, in its portrayal of Christ, shows him to be the leader of a small band of followers.  I
think that he likely believed the end was nigh & that it would come sooner rather than later.  Thus was the thinking of the time.  Jews of that time were persecuted severely in their small Roman province, and I think were likely in a mindset where they were thinking in terms of retribution.  The God of Israel,
the God who destroys "heathens", should come and destroy the Roman occupier (Pagan idolaters).  It is a natural human compunction.  If you feel persecuted you take pleasure in lashing out at non-group members.  In the case of many a modern Christian the non-group member may consist of most anyone else that is not a "Christian".  Some groups undoubtedly consider most everyone around them hell bound (that is to say the 'worldly').  Others may try to play about with the meaning of the text (the New Testament) & try to make out that there is much suggestion of universal salvation in it (the Classical liberal/ devotee of the Higher Criticism point of view), unfortunately there isn't.
    

I think trying to make the case that the New Testament/Christianity preaches universal salvation
for all is a good gesture, but ultimately disingenuous.  Sure, some parts of the Bible can be
read to mean that so long as you are a good person Luke x. 29-37, you are saved.  Just as often Jesus is portrayed as telling people they are doomed Matt vii 22-23.  Christianity may have some universalist tendencies, but for all the universalism which can be found, there are in equal parts exclusivity; a belief that there can only possibly be one way to salvation. What this means for the majority of humanity who do not profess Christianity I can only guess.  Many Christians it seems to me are smug in their conviction that they have an understanding of the "truth".  It is great comfort to them that all the skeptics, and so-called secular humanists, and members of other faiths are doomed to Hell for all eternity (Ps. ix. 17.)  It is a great balm to many a believer that those who supposedly mock his/her faith shall burn for all eternity.  The kinds of individuals that take solace in most everyone that disagrees with them going into the Lake of fire is beyond me.  There is nobody whom I'd want to see burn in eternal Hellfire.  Well . . . Hitler? No, not even Hitler really.   Anyway, Jesus pulls few punches Dean.  As a boy I always had the image of him as this nice hippy-lookin' guy holding babies and smiling.  I wonder if I met him if I'd even like him.  Perhaps, he'd be as likely to condemn me as save me.  It was he who called the Pharisees a brood of vipers was it not?  And whose point of view does one choose to portray the great man anyway?; Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John?  Which gospel portrays the man best?  I'll leave that one to you to ponder . . .

Cheers, Greg

 

   Dean,
              As for my letter to you about theological speculations; I don't spend that much time thinking about Christian doctrine. I have felt for the longest time that the Christian dogma of eternal damnation and punishment is somehow pointless to discuss anyway, because who really knows about these things?  Only the dead know, and they aren't able to tell us one way or the other are they?  I know of no population surveys of the inhabitants of Hell. I have heard it said that the Jews have no distinctive theology of the afterworld.  I suppose therefore that Jesus (as a Jew) perhaps didn't embrace such concepts.  That, when he referred to Hell, he was referring to Gehenna (if I recall correctly a refuse heap, or place for abandoned things &/or people (?).  It was commonplace in the Roman imperial times to actually simply abandon unwanted children at the local town dump.  It sounds quite harsh to us in the 21st century, but if a Roman mother had a deformed child, or for that matter if she had a child that she simply didn't want, she would take it to the town refuse heap and expose it. Concepts of heaven, hell, judgment day, and so on seem to have entered Judaism at a rather late stage (if at all), and are as a result of the influence of Zoroastrianism, or so I have heard.  In any case, all of this is simply speculation.  I guess the whole debate just bugs me because of the folk who (in my opinion) are such narrow minded gits that they see heaven as an exclusive preserve of Christians (specifically, Evangelical, born-again folk).  The notion of 95% of all humanity being eradicated by this supposedly "loving" God who gave his only begotten son as a sacrifice is in my mind obscene.  I  recently saw an interview on TV with a prominent member of the Christian right who said that he believes (of course based on the Good Book) that non-Christians are doomed to eternal damnation.  A woman called that program and asked him if he therefore believed that victims of the suicide terrorist act of Sept. 11th who happened to be working in the World Trade Centre, and were not "saved" were Hell-bound.  His response was so typical, "Well, . . . it's not my opinion of course, but according to the Word of God, yes they are."  Thus, I suppose, a woman of Hindu, Jewish or Muslim background whose final moments consisted of being burned alive and throwing herself out of the window of the World Trade Centre would escape from her earthly Hell of torment & pain to be quickly dispatched by God into everlasting torment in the hereafter.  The same kind of "Bible based" Christianity presumably would likewise condemn the 6 million victims of the Holocaust (the majority of whom were of course not Christian) from a terrestrial Hell into an everlasting fire for all eternity.  In any case, recall that all the folks who talk of eternal damnation for non-Christians (those who haven't had their conversion experience a la the Apostle Paul on the road to Damascus) base their judgment on the existence of Hell on the Bible.  They always seem to be able to quote some pertinent scripture to the effect that the fires of hell await all non-believers (i.e. yours truly).  I was once told by a Baptist minister that if I were in the middle of a street and a car was bearing down on me I'd have to quickly make a decision for Christ.  Again, a lovely image NOT; it's like Jesus is some sort of Chicago street cop (i.e. Dirty Harry) with a gun placed against my temples, "Go ahead punk, make your decision!"  What kind of God is this?  And does this even involve free will?  How relevant is free will when you have a gun pointed at your head anyhow?

Anyway, I don't know much.  One day, I guess we'll all know.  I look forward to hearing from you soon Dean.  Take care bro'

Greg

   

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