[see part one]
- God’s redemptive love extends to all. It is His will that all come into a redemptive relationship.
- Because of who he is God will accomplish his will. All that He desires to be redeemed will be.
- Some will never be redeemed. They will be separated from God, they will perish, or they will suffer conscious eternal torment.
Recall that Ultimate Reconciliation chooses to believe 1 & 2 in our list. And just as Calvinism and Arminianism views weigh the verses that support their position and use those verses to interpret those verses that oppose their view, why couldn’t the univeralist verses be used to interpret the others? And which view would you say has the better image of God? The Calvinist, which states that God chooses some for salvation and some for damnation? The Arminian in which God is either powerless to save all or lets finite/ fallible people make an infinitely important choice of their eternal destination? Or the univeralist, who believes that God desires reconciliation of ALL and will see to it that ALL are reconciled?
As part of this idea of Ultimate Reconciliation, lets look at just how radical the gospel may be. For most of our modern Christianity, we have come to adhere to a theory of justification that is laid out in the so called “Roman Road to Salvation”. In a nutshell, this is summed up in the idea that we all fall short of God’s requirements (both gentile and Jew). We all have sinned and deserve judgment and death. God’s grace provides us a way through faith in Jesus. This faith in Jesus brings us into a state where we are no longer under condemnation. AMEN.
The modern reading of Paul’s letter to the Roman’s has Paul laying out the Gospel in Rom 1-4. Could this be a wrong reading? Could this reading be the result of Luther’s self condemnation? Through Augustine’s idea of original sin? Could it be possible that we are missing something in translation?
There has been much debate in recent times in Pauline scholarship. Out of this controversy comes a book that lays out a possible alternative understanding of the early chapters of Romans: The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul.
In this book, Douglas A. Campbell puts forth a theory that the early chapters of Romans should be read in a rhetorical manner. Where we read the outline of the gospel in Romans 1-4, Douglas suggests that Paul is actually arguing against the false gospel that has plagued his ministry. It is the gospel he wrote against in Galatians and that is written about in Acts 15. This false gospel says that though salvation comes through Christ, we still need to obey God’s laws; therefore circumcision is a requirement. So Paul is countering the arguments of a hypothetical teacher of the false gospel in the opening pages of this letter.
Apparently, the original Greek has distinct language changes that reveal when the false teacher is speaking and when Paul is responding. The teacher condemns the gentiles, Paul comes back with “for that with which you judge another, you condemn yourself.” This rhetorical style goes back and forth to where the false teacher calls upon father Abraham and God’s covenant of circumcision and Paul counters that Abraham was credited with righteousness before circumcision.
For a good review of Douglas’ extensive book, see Richard Beck’s blog: (Notes on The Deliverance of God:Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII, Part IX, Part X, Part XI, Part XII) Note: part xii provide the alternative rhetorical reading of Romans 1-4 with comments. See my copy without the comments.
So, where we read Romans 1-4 as the presentation of Paul’s gospel, Douglas puts forth that Paul is really arguing against the false gospel. If this is true, then maybe, just maybe, the gospel that we put forth today is a bastardize gospel that has much more in common with the Judaizer gospel Paul fought so hard against. Though this reading does not necessitate a Universalistic understanding, and the Universalistic understanding does not depend on this reading, the two do fit nicely together.
As one who is sympathetic to Christian Universalism, this theory is very intriguing. I look forward to hearing a rebuttal from the NT scholars that reject it.