reconciliation

Over at Eric Herron’s place the topic of universalism has come up. This is a tricky one not least because there are so many different motives on all sides it’s almost not worth bringing up. Some can be right in the theology, but wrong about the attitude of God, and thus talk about God without knowing God. Others might be wrong on the theology but truly be seeking God’s light, and thus they know God but are still immature.

Clearly it’s not a matter of what anyone thinks is okay. We wouldn’t need a Bible if this was the case. God wants us to learn. To know. To grow in action and understanding, understanding into action, action into understanding. So we wrestle with who will be, or won’t be save, as it directly impacts how we teach, and preach, and lead.

I happen to be finishing up a grand little book by Moltmann this evening in which he finishes with some direct questions about his thoughts on key Christian topics.

Such as this one, that relates to what Eric discussed:

Does the new creation of all things mean ‘universal reconciliation’ and the ‘restoration of all things’?

This is a difficult question, because only God will answer it.

If we think humanistically and universally–God could perhaps be a particularist. But if we think pietistically and particularistically–God might be a universalist. If I examine myself seriously, I find that I have to say: I myself am not a universalist, but God may be one.

One can also find a subtle way out of the question, as Karl Barth did when he said: ‘I don’t teach universal reconciliation but I don’t not-teach it.’

I will neither evade the question in the one way or the other, but will reply to it with a confession of hope which I learnt from Christoph Blumhardt: ‘The confession of hope has completely slipped through the church’s fingers…There can be no question of God’s giving up anything or anyone in the whole world, either today or in eternity… The end has to be: Behold, everything is God’s! Jesus comes as the one who has borne the sins of the world. Jesus can judge but not condemn. My desire is to have preached this to the lowest circles of hell, and I will never be confounded.’

Let me take this up and say: I am not preaching universal reconciliation. I am preaching the reconciliation of all men and women in the cross of Christ. I am not proclaiming that everyone will be redeemed, but it is my trust that the proclamation will go forward until everyone has been redeemed. Universalism is not the substance of the Christian proclamation; it is its presupposition and its goal. ‘Behold, I make all things new’: if that really is God’s future, then everyone is invited and no one is shut out. Even for the people who reject it, the invitation stands, for it is God’s invitation.

And as God’s invitation it seems premature to say anything other than the invitation. To offer those who listen the Way and to be open to those who might not listen yet. We are the ones sent to tell, not the ones sent to judge, or command.

I, for one, want to be on God’s side, whether he saves all or a few. And until that day comes I remain open to God’s salvation for few and for all.

Doing my part. Not deciding on God’s.

That seems the appropriate attitude to have at this point in the Kingdom.

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