Sometimes you meet up with people in unexpected ways as was the case when I found myself engaged in an e-mail dialogue with a man on the website Tangle. Tangle is a site that has a variety of videos, from Christian music to sermons to short messages and people regularly comment on posts. A few minutes of reading his comments on an evangelistic message made it clear, the man was a Universalist. Universalism is the belief that all of mankind will ultimately be saved and enjoy an eternity with God in heaven. This is not a Christian view, but a decidedly un-Christian view. The amazing thing about most heresy is that it’s propagators usually find ways to isolate certain texts from the bible to make their point while at the same time creatively interpreting other passages that would otherwise refute their point. Through several e-mails, I found this to be the case with Tony the Universalist.
His line of thought on a few points, in a nut shell, went something like this: since “forever” is sometimes used to mean a long temporal period of time, “eternal” destruction must be temporal as well. Another error Tony made is to look at the passages where the word “all” is used in connection with God’s redemptive plan and assume that it must mean all of mankind will be saved. So according to Tony a passage like 1 Timothy 2:4 does not mean that God desires (sovereignly wills) in that He has decreed the gospel to go out to every type of person: the rich and the poor, the slave and the free, the Greek and the Jew, etc (a mainline view which the context shows quite clearly), but he holds that God sovereignly wills (not just desires) every single individual to be saved. It’s no surprise that someone like Tony comes up with views that are antithetical to Christian orthodoxy when almost every passage which he attempts to use as a proof text is nothing more than his own opinion re-read into the text. In fact I would be surprised if most heresies would not die if the person would merely look at the context—the context of the subject, the audience and the whole of scripture. What should be a terrifying wake-up call to those who dig in against the truth often isn’t and proves to be of no effect as they continue holding to opinions plainly outside of the bible. How tragic it is to see the truth of 2 Thessalonians 11-12 lived out in those who embrace Satan’s lie?
And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
You might not run into too many people in such a clear error as Universalism, but the same sort of stubborn holding to a position and not letting the biblical text speak for itself can have devastating effects even if they are less obvious. Make no mistake about it, it’s hard to let the bible speak to you—it can demand you change your mind, it can tell you you’ve been wrong, it can prick your conscience in a way no other message can. I just finished reading a book last night in which the author posed the question: “How many people are there who have read their bibles for 50 years and have never had a single view of theirs change?” It’s not that all change is always good, but as the old man dies and the new man is renewed there is bound to be an ever increasing understanding of what God is saying in is word. It would seem incredible that one walking with God wouldn’t look back and see where pride, fear or just being lazy has led to a wrong understanding of a passage and that he must now see it rightly.
I’m thankful for the conversation I had with Tony even though he was not willing to concede on even the plainest points. Why am I thankful? Because my understanding of God’s word grew as I searched scripture to prove points that are at the core of Christianity. History shows us that God often uses heresy as a means of driving his children into the word—think of the Protestant Reformation! So the next you hear something that just doesn’t “sound right”, make the decision to test all things and hold to what is good. 1 Thessalonians 5:21.