A Theological Fork in the Road

I am a layman. I have no theological credentials. I am not a Bible scholar. God did bless me with His Spirit. He has shown me His overwhelming love. He reveals the doctrine of universal reconciliation in His Word. He saw to it that I was exposed to the doctrine that is “The Blessed Hope.” I have come to believe universal reconciliation is God’s gift to humanity.

For the majority of my Christian life I believed the doctrine of eternal conscious torment. I preached it. Many years ago the doctrine was exposed to me as a doctrine opposing God. The doctrine was exposed to me as unbelievably cruel. The doctrine was exposed to me as being a doctrine denying God’s will that all be saved. Universal reconciliation is a better doctrine that does not oppose God or His will that all be saved.. The doctrine of eternal conscious torment prevails in denominations and congregations today.

I was exposed to the doctrine of eternal conscious torment early in my Christian life. Someone said, “Believe in Jesus or burn in hell.” That was a common theme and I heard it often. I learned the traditions of my teachers. I embraced their doctrines. I still believe as my teachers do aside from the doctrine of eternal conscious torment.

I once believed eternal conscious torment was true. I preached it, but I no longer do. I am liberated somehow. I preach freedom that comes in knowing Christ’s purpose for all His creation. He leads me to understand the infinite magnitude of His love. He helps me see His love is for all mankind. I preach God’s love for all. I preach His mercies are limitless and the Gospel of Christ does not condemn to eternal conscious torment. I preach He will reconcile all of us to Himself. I preach to expose light on the doctrine of universal reconciliation.

I am grateful for His instruction and His intervention. The Father is showing me a better way. He leads me to love all. He is helping me see my life from His perspective. He commands us to love. I am learning to love. I wait patiently to speak to others about my conversion from eternal conscious torment.

Theologies and doctrines are important. They become traditions. Men become administrators of their doctrine. They become judges of those who do not comply with their rules. Traditions become idols. Traditions of men are divisive and problematic.

I have learned much. I have learned the advocates of the doctrine of eternal conscious torment are passionate. Their doctrine is protected and unassailable. Persons challenging it are often rejected. The proponents of the doctrine are good, well-meaning people. Sadly, these same people label others as heretics, blasphemers or worse for opposing their doctrine. It cannot be ignored, “God will reconcile all men to Himself” (Colossians 1:18-20).

I have converted from the doctrine of eternal conscious torment I still agree with the basic tenets of my former denominations and congregation. The theological fork in the road has come. One fork’s path embraces God’s love: universal reconciliation. The other fork embraces His wrath: traditional hell. One fork advocates a doctrine in which “The Father is ‘All in All’” (1 Corinthians 15:28) The traditionalist fork insists only a few will be reconciled to Him. Universal reconciliation is “the Blessed Hope.” Traditional hell is cruel.

Traditionalists describe the punishments of hell in numerous ways. Every description is horrendous. The traditional view of hell is that it is a place of fire. The fire there has qualities that torment and that heal. The flame has a power that cuts flesh and nearly simultaneously sears the wound closed. The fire is eternal. Traditional hell is eternal. The doctrine teaches hell is God’s justice. The advocates are convinced their doctrine is true.

Universal reconciliation proves itself to be true by way of scripture. The doctrine that God reconciles all to Himself is inspired. The doctrine of universal reconciliation is proven by God’s character and nature. God is love. God has blessed me with a desire to know Him better. He leads me to want to be near to Him. He draws me to Himself. I am changed. I am confident that God is love.

He who doesn’t love doesn’t know God, for God is love.

(1 John 4:8, emphasis added)

God’s essence is love. His love changes me. His Spirit led me to challenge many of my long held Christian beliefs. I was trained by Sunday School teachers, preachers, pastors, church elders and my parents. Each of them impacted my early beliefs in God. I was taught God would subject His enemies to eternal conscious torment. Teachers called it hell. It is the traditional orthodox view. I was taught what the traditionalist was teaching. I was taught only a few would be reconciled to God. I taught what I was taught.

God leads me to believe His essence is love. What authority do I have to preach judgment over other men made in the image of God? His essence is love of all, over all, after all. The traditional judgment is eternal conscious torment for unrepentant rebels. Traditional hell is Christ’s sentence for the unbelieving. Christ’s sentence is eternal conscious torment and traditionalists believe it is a righteous judgment. The “judgment” is a sentence to eternal tortures. The doctrine teaches “judgment” for unbelief is executed at the command and the will of an all-loving God. An all-loving God and an ever wrathful Father are not congruent thoughts about Him.

I am convinced the traditional doctrine of hell is not true. I am convinced a better understanding of His Holy Word leads to universal reconciliation. Humankind’s collective end is absolute reconciliation. It is His will that all be saved. I believe God will reconcile all men to Himself and it will glorify Him. I believe it is His purpose and His will to save all men. I believe He through Christ Jesus will reconcile all men to Himself.

Traditions cause divisions in the ways believers relate to God. Men separate into like minded groups and transform into denominations. Each denomination is convicted their brand of the truth is superior to all others. The denominations and congregations find faults in others. Denominations split along the faults within themselves creating more denominations. The divisions among denominations and congregations are numerous. It is ironic that denominations and congregations share the doctrine of eternal conscious torment and stand together defending it.

Theologians across the spectrum of denominations and congregations rise up to their pulpits to preach. They preach there are people just like them who will suffer unending torment in a place called hell. They preach people just like them will suffer because they did not know Jesus was their Savior. They preach about real people knitted together in their mother’s wombs by an eternal Father. These are flesh and blood, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers. Denominations and congregations insist the doctrine of eternal conscious torment is concretely understood to be absolutely true. Denominations and congregations uniformly teach that those who do not confess the name of Jesus do not know Him. They teach persons who do not know God when they die will never know Him. They teach the unknowing dead are judged guilty and sentenced to suffer an unimaginable eternal punishing fate.

The doctrine of eternal conscious torment is troubling. Think this through with me. Many of our children choose to believe science over scripture. There are children who find pleasure in the world over peace in The Word. Many children know of the Truth, but choose to ignore it. The doctrine of eternal conscious torment demands these children be condemned by their loving Father Who fashioned them in the wombs of their mothers. The doctrine of eternal conscious torment demands these are children sentenced to suffer eternal punishment. Imagine the broken hearts of moms and dads knowing beloved children are never perishing, but always tortured. Their child suffers because as parents they were unable to change their child’s heart. Prayers go out to our Lord, “Please, Father, change my child’s heart. Make her see that You are her Savior. Make him see that Yours is the path to true freedom. Show my children Your will for them.”

Many denominations and congregations establish their doctrines and precepts based upon the studies of John Calvin and Jacob Arminius. Calvinism is a set of doctrinal beliefs based in the studies of John Calvin. Calvinism authoritatively asserts God created some to be chosen for salvation and most are not. Arminianism is a set of doctrinal beliefs based in the studies of Jacob Arminius. Arminianism authoritatively asserts God created all with free will. An Arminian is a Christian whose theology teaches each man exercises free will to choose God or not. Few choose and many are tortured in hell forever.

It is never our will as our child’s father or mother that our child or any child would ever suffer agony in this temporal world much less in an endless hereafter. In both cases, Calvinism or Arminianism, we fail our children! We didn’t teach sons to make the right choice. We didn’t love our daughters enough so our Lord would choose them. God may hear our prayers, but His mind is already determined. Both theologies teach most of our children are condemned to eternal punishment.

Scripture teaches that the Spirit of God helps us in our weakness.

In the same way, the Spirit also helps our weaknesses, for we don’t know how to pray as we ought. But the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which can’t be uttered. He who searches the hearts knows what is on the Spirit’s mind, because he makes intercession for the saints according to God.

(Romans 8:26-27, emphasis added)

I did not teach my children enough about God. Did my carelessness have a part in their spiritual choices? Could my recklessness cause them a judgment of everlasting torment and anguish? Heaven forbid my children suffer for the sins of their father. I pray my Father will reach from heaven and save my children. I pray that He will save all children. My words are often mutterings. My speech is drowned out for the sake of tears. I blubber and cry out to the Creator of all, “Please, Father, save them. Teach me what I need to say to them to persuade them to look for You. Please change their heart toward You. Love them Lord as I love them. Please.”

I do not believe my prayers are falling on deaf ears. I do believe the Spirit knows my heart. I know He hears my prayers. My case is well known by my God. I know that I am right with God and that He has set me apart from the world. I know He intercedes for me.

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose. For whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Whom he predestined, those he also called. Whom he called, those he also justified. Whom he justified, those he also glorified.

(Romans 8:28-30, emphasis added)

I love Him. My children, your children, all children are of consequence to Him. They are “precious in His sight.” He calls us to His purpose. He is our justice. My children will experience His justice as will yours. His purpose is that all are reconciled to Him. That is “The Blessed Hope.” The advocates of the doctrine of eternal conscious torment do not derive the same conclusion. They will argue God loves me. I love Him. I am saved. My child loves me, but does not love Him. Tradition teaches a child like mine is not saved. He will die not knowing God. He will never have another opportunity to repent. He will suffer unimaginable torments because he did not love God. My son in torment while I enjoy paradise?! God loves me, but hates my children?! This is not congruent.

What then shall we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who didn’t spare his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how would he not also with him freely give us all things?

(Romans 8:31-32, emphasis added)

There is nothing in heaven or on earth or under the earth that can remove His love for us from us. His Son’s life given “up for us all.” I am His. By Paul’s reckoning I am a child of Elohim. He is for me not against me. I believe His Son was obedient to the Cross. There is no doubt in me that Christ was crucified, buried and raised again. “Would He not give us all things?”

No child will be abandoned to eternal conscious torment because they do not believe. Christ Jesus was delivered up “for us all.” In what context shall we see “all” Is there any distinction to be made? Are they “all” He chooses? Are they “all” that choose Him? Or is it simply “all” He created? Be careful which “all” you choose.

Choose the first and our Father will have created billions upon billions with intent to punish them eternally. Choose the second and our Father will surrender His Sovereign will to the capriciousness of men. Those choosing against Him will be punished eternally. Choose the last and your Father’s love is abundant and certain, even for those who hate Him.

Who could bring a charge against God’s chosen ones? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, yes rather, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Could oppression, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Even as it is written, “For your sake we are killed all day long. We were accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

(Romans 8:33-39, emphasis added)

The Calvinist and the Arminian will see themselves as “chosen ones.” One will be chosen because our Father ordained him to be a “chosen one.” The other will be chosen because he, himself, chose to be a “chosen one.” Each of these positions is arrogant and self-serving. Both elevate themselves to eternal glory in our Father’s presence. The Calvinist could say, “I was chosen by God, therefore I am greater in the Kingdom than the one not chosen.” The Arminian might say, “I chose God, therefore I am greater in the Kingdom because I chose to be chosen.”

Consider we are all chosen, the third choice above. Will anyone bring a charge against any of us? We are all God’s chosen. God alone declares what is righteous. If it were up to our own devices, strength, and intellect none of us would be chosen. We would all fall short of His righteousness. None of us would come close. It is Christ Jesus Who chooses. He determines our righteousness. Jesus is the Judgment. Judgment is our salvation. Punishment is finished. He chooses to save all.

Theologies do not save. Calvinism does not save. Neither does Arminianism save anyone. Theologies do not reconcile us to the Father. There is nothing that can separate His creation from His love. Nothing can split us away from the love of the Father.

A. E. Knoch explains in his Commentary on the New Testament”1 that God’s love for his creation is never weak or failing. “God’s love never lets us go. The trials and tribulations we endure are not tokens of His displeasure. They are all tempered by His loving heart. A sense of His love hovering over us in the midst of our distresses is the most blessed of all balms and will enable us not only to endure them but to enjoy them.” All the delusions manufactured by Satan cannot separate us from God’s love. All the powers of the universe coming together against us cannot separate us from God’s love. Mr. Knoch declares, “Nothing above or beneath nothing at all has the power to break the bond that binds the humblest and most unworthy saint to the throbbing breast of our great and glorious God. This is more than salvation from sin! This is reconciliation!”

Everything is subject to God. Good doctrine, sound doctrine and false doctrine are subject to God. To reiterate, everything is subject to God. The doctrine of eternal conscious torment and the doctrine of universal reconciliation are subject to God. God is sovereign over both, but both cannot be true.

Imagine the most vile man ever to have lived. That vile man was created by God. That same vile man is loved by Him. Scripture teaches nothing can “separate us from the love of God.” The most disgusting acts committed, even crimes in His Name, cannot separate His love from us. Sin does not and cannot “separate us from His love.” Theologies and traditions cannot “separate us from the love of God.”

What might the Calvinist say? The Arminian? Both theological views teach that the doctrine of universal reconciliation is false. They both preach that rejecting the doctrine of eternal conscious torment is heretical or blasphemous. The theologians are rigid in their defense of the doctrine they advocate.

Take a moment to think through the consequences of eternal punishment. Ask yourself how our Father whose love is limitless would deliberately and consciously create any man to be tortured in eternal punishment? Scripture tells us there is nothing that can “separate us from His love.” We are talking about our Father Who creates each of us in our mother’s womb. The Psalmist says this about himself.

For you formed my inmost being. You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful. My soul knows that very well. My frame wasn’t hidden from you, when I was made in secret, woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my body. In your book they were all written, the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there were none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is their sum! If I would count them, they are more in number than the sand. When I wake up, I am still with you.

(Psalm 139:13-18, emphasis added)

We take these verses to heart when we apply them to ourselves. These verses apply to all mankind.. The Psalmist is describing the heart of a man. Our hearts are our core. They were possessed first and always by our Creator. God weaves Himself into the baby He creates in a mother’s womb. God by His will determined to create us. Only He can create. We cannot create ourselves. His creation is awesome and wonderful. The Psalmist recognizes in his core that God is his Creator. God knows all there is to know about the Psalmist. The man’s bones, his form, everything about the man is known by Him.

These scriptures declare God has determined the number of our days. All should take these verses personally and literally. We should apply them to ourselves. He knows our innermost thoughts. He knows everything about us. We declare that His thoughts about us are precious. We make His love for us a personal, magnificent, all-consuming love.

His mercies are infinite. Infinite mercies for all. Creation repents and all creation gives glory to Him. The traditionalist theologies restrict scripture by restricting the magnitude of infinite mercies to themselves. Mercy is only for those who believe Christ Jesus is their Messiah in this age alone. To whom did the Psalmist repent?

Have the infinite number of mercies diminished or ceased because Jesus fulfilled the prophecies about Him? Are these infinite mercies rendered moot because God gave His only begotten Son? The answer is a loud “No!” The life, death and resurrection of Christ Jesus magnify God’s infinite mercies.

What greater mercy could the Father bestow on His creation? His Son’s sacrifice for the sins of all is mercy manifest to a fallen, crippled world. God chose to create us. We did not choose to be created. None of His creation is an accident of evolution. He chose each and everyone of us before the creation of the earth. We are hopeless without His forgiving mercies.

We could never do the thing necessary to gain forgiveness. Israel of the Old Testament (OT) exemplifies this condition. God gave them a means to win momentary reconciliation with Him. The Israelites were given the Law that governed the process of atonement. Reconciliation became a process. Restoration to God became ritual. Traditions diminished God’s infinite mercies. Yet, God never stops loving Israel.

God was able to do what needed to be done to forgive the sins of the world. The leaders of the traditional church rebelled against God’s promised Messiah. The Priests had traditions and traditions had rituals. Every aspect of religious life was covered by rules and processes. These traditional administrators managed the process called atonement. They interpreted the Law and they administered it. God showed them the Law’s fulfillment. The traditions became a burden and diminish the magnitude of God’s infinite mercies.

Christians understand God’s saving grace. Each of us has experienced it. We know what it means to be saved. We do not earn momentary reconciliation because we did anything. But, we know intuitively that He has blessed us with infinite mercies.

The doctrine of eternal conscious torment demands we believe God’s infinite mercies are limited to a few. God’s mercies are personally infinite, but universally finite. The doctrine needs us to believe God’s mercies applied to Israel only. The doctrine needs this to be true to satisfy the mandate that only a few will be saved from hell. Does the Law say anything about eternal conscious torment? The Law was given to Israel only. What does that mean for every other nation? They were not given the Law. Are they guilty already?

God did not give an atoning process to any other nation. Scripture teaches that God chose Israel to be His favored nation not because they were the largest and strongest, but because they were small.

For you are a holy people to Yahweh your God: Yahweh your God has chosen you to be a people for his own possession, above all peoples who are on the face of the earth. Yahweh didn’t set his love on you, nor choose you, because you were more in number than any people; for you were the fewest of all peoples: but because Yahweh loves you, and because he would keep the oath which he swore to your fathers, has Yahweh brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that Yahweh your God, he is God, the faithful God, who keeps covenant and loving kindness with them who love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations, and repays those who hate him to their face, to destroy them: he will not be slack to him who hates him, he will repay him to his face. You shall therefore keep the commandment, and the statutes, and the ordinances, which I command you this day, to do them.

(Deuteronomy 7:6-11, emphasis added)

God chooses Israel to be a nation after His heart. He gives Israel a means to remove the stain of past sins. No other nation is given the means to absolve sins. Does this mean that the multitudes of people which are not Israel are to suffer eternal punishment? God did not give them a way to make things right with Him.

We should not read these verses and conclude only Israel will be saved. Those who love Him and keep His commandments will be saved. We have the advantage of hindsight. We know that Israel did not keep His commandments. We know that Israel did not keep their faith in Him. They did not love Him. Those who do not love Him and do not keep his commandments will not be ignored. “He will repay him to his face.”

Is this Divine repayment eternal torment? If your answer is yes please consider what this means. God created millions if not billions of human beings with the intent to punish them in a fiery hell forever. It seems ludicrous to me that God will deliberately create any man into eternal torment. It is worse, in my mind, to call this Divine Judgment. Calling eternal conscious torment righteous judgment or calling it Holy diminishes God’s love to something sinister.

Verse 10 in the scriptures quoted above speaks of God’s destruction of those who hate Him; of those who will not or cannot keep His commandments. These verses cannot be construed to mean God punishes these people forever. At worst these verses speak to the concept of annihilation. Even complete destruction is more loving than eternal punishment.

Calvinism and Arminianism are schools of theology devised by men for themselves. I do not mean that in a bad light. I learned much about the Bible by way of devoted Calvinists and equally devoted Arminians. They disagree on much, but agree with eternal conscious torment. The differences and disagreements between the theologies and traditions cause divisions among believers. Denominations arise. Denominations and congregations are more dissimilar than similar to the church Christ established. I believe pride is the root of division.

Calvinism and Arminianism are not the only causes of the divisions in denominations and congregations. Roman Catholicism strongly influences Protestant believers. Roman Catholic and Protestant denominations have rebels causing dissension within their own circles of influence. There are others who proudly label themselves non-denominational. Non-denominational congregations are influenced by Calvin and Arminius, yet they are proud to be separate. Pride is the root cause of all divisions.

I am traditionalist, but believe in universal reconciliation. That is my theological fork in the road. I have preached Calvinism and now I regret it. I preached against Arminianism, but did not really understand why. I preached predestination and free will. I stood in pulpits and told good church-going folks that their family members who did not believe in Christ Jesus would never perish, but would be tormented by fire forever.

Let not many of you be teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive heavier judgment.

(James 3:1, emphasis added)

This is an admonition God’s Spirit led me to when He first called me to preach. He made it clear that what I preached would have an impact on people. He loves me even though I was wrong to preach eternal conscious torment. I praise God for correcting me at this stage of my life. In as many places as I am able and that He ordains I will preach the love of God. I will preach that His mercy is so great that even those who hate Him will be reconciled to Him.

I am taking the path to universal reconciliation. It is the right path. My direction is belief in God’s infinite mercies. It is my prayer you will be persuaded to consider eternal conscious torment is untrue. God’s Holy Word proves God’s infinite mercies are real. His mercies are felt in real time in real life.

1 A. E. Knoch. Concordant Commentary on the New Testament. Concordant Publishing Concern. Santa Clarita, CA 1968. http://concordant.org/version/intro-to-the-concordant-new-testament/. Date accessed: 04/02/2018.

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