Hello! Today I want to think about a concern recently expressed by a friend of mine. As part of the path to address his concern, let me begin by saying this: even though I have described myself as such, strictly speaking, I am not a universalist, or an ultimate redemptionist.
Or maybe I am. I guess I don’t really know. But as I continue to walk down this path, I find myself liking the label less. Labels are helpful in naming that which would take a while to explain or even to summarize, but they can too easily be distorted or misunderstood; they can too easily lump people into a group that may or may not represent them accurately. Labels can imply certainty, which at times can come off as unfounded and arrogant, and I don’t think that is helpful.
So, instead of calling myself an ultimate redemptionist, let me take the while to at least summarize that which it would be easier to name with a label. I readily admit I not certain, and I’m okay with that. I am working to understand God and the Scriptures as best as I can, and I’m trying to apply their meaning to the complexities of life, but I am not certain. None of us are. This is the nature of faith – “the conviction of what we hope for, the assurance of things not yet seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)
However, as I exercise faith the best I am able, I do hold certain beliefs, even as I continue to wrestle through them. So, based on Scripture and church tradition, based on reason and the experiences of life, and based on the character and nature of God, here are a few things I believe related to humanity, God, and salvation:
I believe everyone has sinned.
I believe the penalty for sin is death.
I believe God loves the world, and gave His Son because of His love.
I believe God’s love is everlasting.
I believe God is good.
I believe the grace of God extends to everyone.
I believe Jesus’s death on the cross paid the penalty for sin.
I believe Jesus’s resurrection from the grave defeated death and gave us eternal life.
I believe each person needs to respond to Jesus in faith.
I believe God, through Jesus, has made the way for everyone to have eternal life.
I believe, as God has pursued humanity in Christ, so He will continue to pursue us forever that each person would respond in faith to Jesus.
I believe God’s purpose and plan includes restoring all things, uniting heaven and earth, and making His residence with us.
These are things I think make good sense. Obviously each one of them deserves more discussion; certainly there is more to talk about and more questions to ask. Maybe I’ll leave for someone else to decide whether or not these beliefs make me an ultimate redemptionist, but I think all of the above are reasonable.
My friend wonders whether I should not call myself an ultimate redemptionist and instead talk about the expansiveness of God’s grace and the hope that it reaches everyone. His concern is, in my reaction against what seems to me to be a dogmatic certainty that some people, or maybe most people, won’t be saved, I don’t come across just as dogmatically certain that all people will be saved.
It’s a good observation, a reasonable concern, and I’m grateful for it. I want to approach all of this in humility, throwing myself and the rest of us on the mercy of God and trusting Him to do the right thing, the just thing, the loving thing. And if I’m wrong, if God does not save everyone, if some people, or most people, end up in hell for all eternity, even if I end up there, I will have nothing to say but, “Just and true are all your ways O Lord.”
I hope I’m holding an ultimate redemptionist perspective with an open hand, simply saying it is the belief I think makes the most sense based on Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience, and merely wanting it to be part of the discussion within Christian circles. I think the discussion is good, is not something to fear, and I think we can hold conflicting perspectives graciously, even as we work to follow Jesus together.
For me, from where I am, I believe the message of Jesus is the announcement of the good news that sin has been dealt with, that death has been defeated, that God is reconciling all things to Himself in Jesus, making peace through His blood shed on the cross. And if that makes me an ultimate redemptionist, then maybe the label is helpful.
Label or not, I believe the gospel is good news for you, for me, for everyone.
I believe it is really good news, really.
(There is one statement above that might stop me short of being an ultimate redemptionist. I wrote it, changed it, and changed it back before leaving it as it is now. Let’s talk about it next time . . . maybe I’ll change it back again.)