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1 All God s Children No one left behind December 2011 The Christian Universalist Published monthly by the Christian Universalist Association Russian Orthodox Church (Patriarchate of Moscow) Special Feature: Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism and the science of salvation 2 CUA / Board 2 Word of Mouth 3 From the Board Chairman 4 From the Coordinator 5 Eastern Orthodoxy praised 6, 7 Orthodox Christian understanding of man s destiny At left, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow, the world s tallest Orthodox church. The Russian Orthodox Church (ROC; Russian: Русская Православная Церковь, Russkaya Pravoslavnaya Tserkov ) or, alternatively, the Moscow Patriarchate (Russian: Московский Патриархат, Moskovskiy Patriarkhat, also known as the Orthodox Christian Church of Russia, is a body of Christians who constitute an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Church under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Moscow, in communion with the other Eastern Orthodox Churches. The ROC is often said to be the largest of the Eastern Orthodox churches in the world; including all the autocephalous churches under its umbrella, its adherents number over 150 million worldwide about half of the 300 million estimated adherents of the Eastern Orthodox Church. - Wikipedia Inside this issue 8-10 Heaven and hell experiential conditions, not real places Universalism salvation: tenent for early church s first 500 years 11 Rob Bell resigns from Mars Hill 12 CUA umbrella questioned

2 2 The Christian Universalist - December The Christian Universalist - December 2011 The Christian Universalist The Christian Universalist is a digital newsletter published monthly by The Christian Universalist Association (CUA), with news, information and commentary for anyone interested in Christian Universalism. Editorial reports, letters to the editor and photos are welcome. Deadline is the 28th of the month preceding the month of publication. Reports and photos may be ed to the editor at Please send all photos and illustrations as separate JPEGs at high resolution of at least 300 dpi. Opinions expressed are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect those of The Christian Universalist Association. Contact Us Rich Koster, CUA Coordinator com Telephone: Postal mailing address: Christian Universalist Association 117 Barkentine Court St Simons Island, GA Pat Moauro, Editor Board of Directors Kalen Fristad, Chair; Mary Keller. Vice-Chair; Marquis Hunt, Todd Huston, Sharon McCauley, Steven Rowe, Mikal Rasheed, Judy Sheriff, Susan Smith, David Spatz, Eric Stetson, Doug Torkelson Word of mouth... with Pat Moauro, Editor We can learn much from others Let it not be said that the Christian Universalist Association (CUA) and this newsletter don t acknowledge and provide other religious/spiritual groups equal time to share their vews. Fundamentalist and evangelical groups were featured in our September issue.groups and individuals wrote about their support of universalism, better known in conservative circles as the Larger Hope, the Blessed Hope, Universal Reconciliation, and the Victorious Gospel, among other descriptions. This month s issue features Eastern Orthodoxy and its views on Universal Salvation, or more accurately, the Orthodox Christian s view of man s destiny, and heaven and hell - all of which are remarkably similar to many of the views held by liberal universalists. Personally, I have benefitted from the information in articles in this issue by Dr. George Zgourides on The destiny of the race of man - an Orthodox Christian understanding (pages 6 and 7); and by Peter Chopelas (pages 8-10) on Heaven and Hell experiential conditions, not physical places. Peter Chopelas article, in particular, uses excellent reasoning and the scriptures to explain how the belief in Hell as a place of permanent torment originated. His exposition of the history of this much misunderstood hellfire dogma is so clear and compelling that I believe any honest-hearted, reasonable person can understand and be convinced of its truthfulness. Because of space limitations, both articles had to be edited and abbreviated considerably. Readers who want to read more Pat Moauro from these two excellent articles are encouraged to Google the authors names. Another well researched and reasoned article in this issue is, Universal Salvation: prevailing teaching during early church s first 500 years (pages 10-12) by Mary Keller, a Christian Universalist minister and Vice-Chair of the CUA. Ideally, all religious/spiritual groups should be given equal opportunity to present their views and beliefs. Perhaps some of us at one time felt differently, especially if we were part of a group that believed only it had a monopoly on eternal truth. We don t have to agree with everything others believe and teach, but good manners, respect, discernment and wisdom dictate that we need to be open to other views. Who knows, we could all learn something new, or be reminded of something we learned years ago. It could just be the last few pieces of the puzzle that we need to complete a fuller understanding on our own spiritual journey. CU Pat Moauro, Editor of The Christian Universalist, can be reached at From the Board Chair... with Kalen Fristad God and GPS: both will recalculate and redirect us home Have you ever thought that God can appropriately be compared to a GPS system in your car? I realize that may sound a bit impersonal, but I think the idea has great merit. I recently got the idea from an that I received, and I ve come to the conclusion that comparing God to a GPS (Global Positioning System) is a wonderful and profound analogy. Just think about how a GPS system works. After programming it to guide you to a particular destination, it will instruct you on every turn you need to make to get where you wish to go. As you proceed, you will be given directions, such as; Turn right at the next corner. If you fail to turn as instructed, rather than exclaiming something like; Hey stupid! I told you to turn right! the machine says, Recalculating, and continues to give new directions. Isn t that remarkable? The machine never loses its temper and never becomes impatient. Also, the machine doesn t take hold of the steering wheel and turn it for you. Instead, it merely gives new directions. No matter how many wrong turns you make, there will never be an end to the possibilities for getting you to the desired destination. I m convinced that we all want to arrive at fullness of life, to experience eternal life, and that God is like a GPS system who will help us all to ultimately make it to that desired destination. God never becomes angry or impatient with us when we don t Kalen Fristad A GPS unit with a map pointing to a driver s Home destination. listen or fail to follow directions. God never gives up on us when we make a wrong turn, but calmly tells us (not verbally but in subtle ways) the next turn we can make in order to continue toward our goal. Also, God never takes over the wheel of our lives, taking away all aspects of our free will, but recalibrates and gives new directions as often as is necessary to help us get where we wish to go. God s intentional will God s circumstantial will God s ultimate will There is a parallel here to what Leslie Weatherhead states in his book, The Will of God, where he speaks of God s intentional will, God s circumstantial will, and God s ultimate will. It is God s intentional will that we always follow God s directions in making all the correct turns and thus, quickly, easily and painlessly arrive at the experience of eternal life. But, in reality, nobody always follows God s guidance flawlessly. Being aware of that, God has come up with an alternate plan, a plan that involves many recalibrations and repeatedly giving new directions. Doing things according to this new plan is God s circumstantial will. Then there is God s ultimate will, that in spite of many detours, everyone will eventually arrive at the desired destination. Not everything that happens is in accordance with God s intentional will, but God cannot finally be defeated. God will ultimately succeed in guiding us all to the experience of eternal life. It is God s will that everyone be saved. I believe that God will recalibrate and redirect us as often as is necessary to lead us all home. Thanks be to God! Kalen Fristad, a minister and Chairperson of The Christian Universalist Association Board of Directors, can be reached at We are God, pouring out Her tears for Her children. And we are the Children of God, pouring out our tears for Her - Stephen Davidson

3 4 The Christian Universalist - December The Christian Ecclesial Express Universalist - December - December From the Coordinator... with Rich Koster, Coordinator Who truly determines our final destiny - we or God? Did we mention before that we have two new Board members, Judy Sheriff and Mikal Rasheed? If we did mention it, the event is worth mentioning again, since they are bringing some wonderful skills and knowledge and experience. Both Judy and Mikal were recently ordained at our gathering on St. Simons Island in September. Their coming on board is offset by the lamentable resignation of Logan Geen, who has served us well chairing the Ordination Committee as well as being the Board Secretary. But Logan promises to write some more and we look forward to that, and we wish him well as he digs in with his first year of law school. The Board has made a lot of changes in the past year, including the crafting of a new Statement of Faith. So what do you think of it? An improvement? Would we be better off not trying to say so much and maybe just stay with a very simple statement that we believe by the grace of God everyone will be saved in the end? me what you think! CUA Christian Universalist Association 117 Barkentine Court St Simons Island, GA Treasurer s Report for November 2011 Beginning October Balance $5, Income $ Expenses $ Ending Balance $5, as of November 30 Sharon McCauley Treasurer Rich Koster In the last issue there were allusions to different ideas on the Board about how that salvation happens, and that is true there are. And I bet if we polled all our readers that there would be all kinds of big and little differences. Think maybe? What if next year we shone the light on this topic a bit and see what we can learn about, and from, each other? In most of the articles in this issue, from Kalen s salvation by Divine GPS to Logan s science of soteriology, and to the various Orthodox ideas about theosis and divinization, there is an emphasis on how we human beings have a role to play in achieving full salvation. Freedom to choose our destiny This way of looking at salvation by grace seems to speak to a lot of people and they do not have a problem with the thought of people continuing to suffer and struggle after they die as they move toward full union and fellowship with God. But if we give you the impression that this is the only way we in the CUA think about how salvation happens, then you need to know that this is not the case. Some of us believe that while in this life, and on this earth we have a great deal of freedom to choose our destiny and how we are going to act, it is entirely the irresistible grace of God that is the determining factor when it comes to being redeemed and saved and having a new being and new life after death. Which way of thinking do you find yourself leaning toward? Rich Koster, a minister and Coordinator of The Christian Universalist Association, can be reached at gmail.com Rob Bell resigns from Mars Hill Church Hell-questioning pastor Rob Bell, has resigned as the minister of Mars Hill Bible Church. Bell is the author of the controversial book Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, which ignited a firestorm, especially among evangelicals. Reports since September said he was stepping down to focus on broader opportunities, which apparently includes a Canadian and U.S. Tour called Fit to Smash. The pastor formed the popular Grandville, Michigan church more than 12 years ago. The pastor and author of Love Wins ignited a discussion about heaven and hell, as well as the concept of salvation. Rob Bell formally denied he was a Universalist; however, his book Love Wins questions the traditional Christian belief that a select number of believers will spend eternity in heaven while everyone else is tormented in hell. He has said he wrote the book because the Christian message that God is love seems to have been lost. Bell argued that hell was not eternal. He wrote that people could choose to leave hell if they wanted to. Much to learn from Eastern Orthodoxy about science of salvation By Logan Geen During our retreat on St. Simons Island, Georgia, this past September, members of the CUA board had a long discussion about the words we use to describe our faith and our mission. Language matters - each word we use to describe our faith carries the risk of trivializing the important or elevating the insignificant. Christianity as a whole has wrestled in recent years with the words it uses to describe the problem of evil. In these times Christianity has, in a sense, lost the middle way; too often we speak of man as being either totally depraved, a la John Edwards, or that we are basically good and just need to remember our true self, a la Neale Donald Walsch. Neither gets it right - the idea that humanity is wretched to its very core is utterly untrue, unfair and unhelpful. Conversely, liberal Christianity has been inept at addressing the problem of evil; sometimes even at acknowledging it. Watch language that trivializes evil I advise Christian Universalists to be extremely cautious using language that trivializes evil - the metaphor of children growing up and mistakes may be true in the cosmic context but used to describe the Holocaust makes us appear callous and naive. This language will send many running full speed away from Universalism, especially when they have seen firsthand the results of the hardened human heart, as I have also. The serious Christian Universalist does not ignore the topic of sin - quite the contrary; it takes seriously humanity s propensity to do great evil - even when we Logan Geen ourselves desire to do good (see St. Paul s helpful words in Romans 7:19). Religious science of salvation We also take seriously the matter of soteriology, the religious science of salvation. And on this topic we have much to learn from Eastern Orthodoxy, the major branch of Christendom that most Americans know the least about. I would posit that the soteriology of the East is closest to the early church, and on the whole is healthier and more balanced than the mainstream understanding of the West (Roman Catholic and Protestant alike). The East speaks of salvation not only from the hellish consequences of sin but deliverance from the scourging disease of sin itself; seeing the Atonement not as a bloody sacrifice to ameliorate God s justice, but the supreme act of Divine Love in attaining solidarity with humanity and submitting to death. I should add that I am not issuing a blanket endorsement of Eastern Christianity, which can at times be just as intolerant as its Catholic and Protestant brethren (more than a few of its apologists assert that they alone are the True Church and that the rest of Christendom lies We also take seriously the matter of soteriology, the religious science of salvation. And on this topic we have much to learn from Eastern Orthodoxy, the major branch of Christendom that most Americans know the least about. under the oppressive weight of theological error). Neither is Eastern Orthodoxy necessarily more receptive to universalism than the West (for instance see Frederica Mathews-Green on the subject: ). Though I think the East gets it right on salvation, personally, I am a Protestant. It is in that spirit that we dedicate this month s issue of The Christian Universalist, the CUA s newsletter, to the insights of Eastern Orthodoxy, both modern writers and the early church fathers whose insights are as important today as they were to our spiritual ancestors. Each of these voices is part of the Great Cloud of Witnesses, past and present that together form the collective testimony for universal reconciliation that comes forth, in varying degrees, in all forms of Christianity. May we learn from that testimony, especially as we seek to find the right words to speak the Gospel to a world that has never been more in need. Logan Geen is a former member of the CUA Board of Directors, formerly Board Secretary, and chair of the Ordination Committee.

4 6 The Christian Universalist - December The Christian Universalist - December 2011 The destiny of the race of man - an Orthodox Christian understanding The destiny of the race of man - an Orthodox Christian understanding... from page 6 This article, The Destiny of the Race of Man - An Orthodox Christian Understanding - was originally published at WesternOrthodox.com. Dr. George Zgourides is an Eastern Orthodox Christian author, clinical psychologist, family physician, volunteer hospital chaplain, and former priest. He is also a founding member of the Board of Directors of the Christian Universalist Association. By Dr. George Zgourides According to Meyendorff s Byzantine Theology, at the heart of the Byzantine understanding of humanity s destiny is the doctrine of participation in God, termed deification, or theosis. Along these lines, Meyendorff quotes Maximus the Confessor as follows: In the same way in which the soul and the body are united, God should become accessible for participation by the soul and, through the soul s intermediary, by the body, in order that the soul might receive an unchangeable character, and the body, immortality; and finally that the whole man should become God, deified by the grace of God become man, becoming whole man, soul and body, by nature, and becoming whole God, soul and body, by grace. In other words, man is called to participate and share in the deified humanity of Christ, not merely in imitation of Jesus moral and virtuous acts, but to actual life in Christ, particularly through the sacraments. The whole person, then, participates fully in the divine nature of the whole God. Ware, in his The Orthodox Church, adds that humans, created in the image of God, fully acquire God s likeness and in the process become deified. Because God became human that we might be made god (quoting St. Athanasius), humans become a created god, a god by grace or by status (John 10: 34-35). And as the three members of the Trinity dwell one in another, so are humans called to dwell in the God-head. Hence, theosis enables Christians to become by grace what God is by nature. For the Orthodox faithful, then, to be saved and redeemed is to be deified. The doctrinal foundation of deification rests in the hypostatic union between the human and divine natures of Christ (Meyendorff). This human-divine hypostasis belongs to Christ alone, while the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are said to be three persons [hypostasis] in one essence [ousia] (Ware). There is, however, communication between the energies of Christ s hypostatic natures, and those who are in Christ also share in this communication (Meyendorff). Union with God is union with His divine energy (actions, operations, power) but not His divine essence (nature, inner being). In The Orthodox Way, Ware quotes St. Basil as affirming, No one has ever seen the essence of God, but we believe in the essence because we experience the energy. The human finite mind cannot comprehend the infinite mind of God, which remains a mystery to man. To experience such comprehension would be to know God as He knows Himself, which is impossible for created beings. However, man is able to experience directly God s energies in the form of grace, love, and life, to mention only a few. And, of course, man is never deified through his own works or efforts; the human energy must become obedient to the divine energy. Nor are human and divine natures ever confused or fused: The created can never be the same as the Creator. In The Orthodox Way, Ware notes that through theosis humans do not lose their personal identity, integrity, or sense of self. Instead, they remain distinct (but not separated) from God, and they always maintain an I-Thou relationship with God. In the end, humans become more fully who they were meant to be. By freely conforming to God s will, they achieve the supreme goal for which they were created (Meyendorff). The notion of man s eventual deification leads to certain conclusions regarding humanity and creation. The Christian concepts of fall (sin and separation) and restoration (salvation and deification) are based on the idea that man is created in both the image of God (iconos, with the ability to exercise reason and free will) and the likeness of God (the ability to choose and live morally). The first humans were created as perfect beings in a potential sense, and they were called to use their image to acquire the likeness of God -- with God s help (Ware, The Orthodox Church ). Through rebellion, however, man did fall, and his sinfulness placed a wall between God and humanity that man could never tear down on his own. In turn, God came to man because man could no longer come to Him. The constant theme in the deification of man is that of redemption through the Incarnation of the Word -- the Logos (Meyendorff). Indeed, the redemptive death of Christ restores humanity s fallen and broken state to one of participation in the divine nature (c.f., 2 Peter 1:4). Humankind is destined for union with God. So when men freely choose to respond to God s love and call, they are deified by being assimilated to God through virtue (quoting John Damascene). And not only will the human body be deified. At the appointed hour, the entirety of creation will be saved, glorified, and transformed from corruption into a new heaven and a new earth; Revelation 21:1). On the topic of freely choosing God s will, the term synergia refers to humanity s cooperation with God in attaining full fellowship with Him. According to Meyendorff s Byzantine Theology, at the heart of the Byzantine understanding of humanity s destiny is the doctrine of participation in God, termed deification, or theosis. Along these lines, Meyendorff quotes Maximus the Confessor as follows: In the same way in which the soul and the body are united, God should become accessible for participation by the soul and, through the soul s intermediary, by the body, in order that the soul might receive an unchangeable character, and Continued on page 7 the body, immortality; and finally that the whole man should become God, deified by the grace of God become man, becoming whole man, soul and body, by nature, and becoming whole God, soul and body, by grace. In other words, man is called to participate and share in the deified humanity of Christ, not merely in imitation of Jesus moral and virtuous acts, but to actual life in Christ, particularly through the sacraments. The whole person, then, participates fully in the divine nature of the whole God. Ware, in his The Orthodox Church, adds that humans, created in the image of God, fully acquire God s likeness and in the process become deified (219). Because God became human that we might be made god (21, quoting St. Athanasius), humans become a created god, a god by grace or by status (232; c.f. John 10: 34-35). And as the three members of the Trinity dwell one in another, so are humans called to dwell in the God-head (231). Hence, theosis enables Christians to become by grace what God is by nature (21). For the Orthodox faithful, then, to be saved and redeemed is to be deified (231). The doctrinal foundation of deification rests in the hypostatic union between the human and divine natures of Christ (Meyendorff 164). This human-divine hypostasis belongs to Christ alone (164), while the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are said to be three persons [hypostasis] in one essence [ousia] (Ware 23). There is, however, communication between the energies of Christ s hypostatic natures, and those who are in Christ also share in this communication (Meyendorff 164). Union with God is union with His divine energy (actions, operations, power) but not His divine essence (nature, inner being). In The Orthodox Way, Ware quotes St. Basil as affirming, No one has ever seen the essence of God, but we believe in the essence because we experience the energy (22). The human finite mind cannot comprehend the infinite mind of God, which remains a mystery to man. To experience such comprehension would Mid-17th-century iconostasis aat Ipatiev Monastery. To either side of the Holy Doors are Christ Pantokrator and the Theotokos; above them, the Great Feasts; above them, the Deesis; above that Prophets to either side of Our Lady of the Sign; above them the Apostles to either side of the Holy Trinity. - Photo courtesy of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia be to know God as He knows Himself, which is impossible for created beings (22). However, man is able to experience directly God s energies in the form of grace, love, and life, to mention only a few (22). And, of course, man is never deified through his own works or efforts; the hu- Continued on page 8

5 8 The Christian Universalist - December The Christian Universalist - December 2011 The destiny of the race of man - an Orthodox Christian... continued from page 7 Heaven and Hell experiential conditions,... continued from page 8 man energy must become obedient to the divine energy. Nor are human and divine natures ever confused or fused: The created can never be the same as the Creator. In The Orthodox Way, Ware notes that through theosis humans do not lose their personal identity, integrity, or sense of self. Instead, they remain distinct (but not separated) from God, and they always maintain an I-Thou relationship with God. In the end, humans become more fully who they were meant to be. By freely conforming to God s will, they achieve the supreme goal for which they were created (Meyendorff). The notion of man s eventual deification leads to certain conclusions regarding humanity and creation. The Christian concepts of fall (sin and separation) and restoration (salvation and deification) are based on the idea that man is created in both the image of God (iconos, with the ability to exercise reason and free will) and the likeness of God (the ability to choose and live morally). The first humans were created as perfect beings in a potential sense, and they were called to use their image to acquire the likeness of God -- with God s help (Ware, The Orthodox Heaven and Hell experiential conditions, not physical places EDITOR S NOTE: This abbreviated and edited article examines the belief in Heaven and Hell in the afterlife, from the perspective of Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. The author, Peter Chopelas, lives in Arlington, Washington. He can be reached at: com By Peter Chopelas The idea that God is an angry figure who sends those He condemns to a place called Hell, where they spend eternity in torment separated from His presence, is missing from the Bible and unknown Church. Through rebellion, however, man did fall, and his sinfulness placed a wall between God and humanity that man could never tear down on his own. In turn, God came to man because man could no longer come to Him. On the topic of freely choosing God s will, the term synergia refers to humanity s cooperation with God in attaining full fellowship with Him. On the one hand, full communion with the Creator cannot occur without God s grace and assistance. On the other hand, man must do his part, too. The two work together, although God s part in the process is always incalculably greater than man s part. Still, while God may call sinners to repentance, He never interferes with man s free will-his ability to choose between good and evil. God always respects man s decisions, even if the result is disobedience and sin. As God works in man, and humanity s will is conformed to God s Will, union with Him becomes more complete as man develops into His likeness. The Orthodox hold that the Mother of God -- the Theotokos who perfectly cooperated with God-is humanity s best example of synergia in action. Ware, in This is not the way traditional Western Christianity, Roman Catholic or Protestant, has envisioned the afterlife. In Western thought Hell is a location, a place where God punishes the wicked, where they are cut off from God and the Kingdom of Heaven. Yet this concept occurs nowhere in the Bible, and does not exist in the original languages of the Bible. While there is no question that according to the scriptures there is torment and gnashing of teeth for the wicked, and glorification for the righteous, and that this judgment comes from God, these destinies are not separate destinations... This understanding was held by The Orthodox Church, summarizes the key concepts of deification and theosis in the following several points: Theosis is the ultimate goal of all Christians, and the process begins in the present life. Theosis prompts continued repentance. Theosis requires following God s commandments and walking daily with Him by praying, fasting, receiving the sacraments, reading the Scriptures and Church Fathers, and so forth. Theosis is a social process that embraces the commandment to love neighbor as self, for example, by feeding the hungry and visiting the sick. Theosis is a practical process that encourages both prayer and love in action. Theosis presupposes a common life in the Church and sacraments. To conclude, theosis is the process whereby man becomes what God originally meant him to be. Man and God must work synergistically to bring about man s redemption through the Incarnation and subsequent death of our Lord and Savior. And, in the end, deified man will fully commune with God, and participate in His divine energies. nearly all Christians everywhere for the first 1,000 years of the Church s existence, and, except where influence by western theologies, continued to be held by Christians beyond Western Europe and America even up to this day (including the roughly 350 million Orthodox Christians worldwide). When you examine in context the source words which are translated as hell in English language Bibles the original understanding becomes clear. You will find that hell is translated from four different Greek and Hebrew words. These words are not interchangeable in the original language, yet, incredibly, in English-language bibles these words are translated differently in different places to fit the translators theology (rather than allow the words of scripture to determine their theology). Not only did English translators dump these four very different words into one meaning, they were not even consistent with it and chose to translate these same words with different meanings in different places. It is no wonder that English readers of the Bible are confused. If one examines what the early Church Fathers wrote about hell and the afterlife, it will be seen that they too understood that there is no place called hell, and that both paradise and torment came from being in God s presence in the afterlife. When you examine what the Roman Catholic Church teaches and what most Protestants believe about the after life, and compare that with the scriptures and early Church beliefs, you find large disparities. You will also find their innovative doctrines were not drawn from the Bible or historic Church doctrine, but rather from the mythology of the Middle Ages, juridical concepts, and enlightenment rationalizations, all alien to early Christian thought. The after life according to the Hebrew Scriptures It s also useful to consider the ancient Greco-Roman pagan understanding of the heavens and Hades. Though it was not fundamental to Hebrew theology, the Greek view was still sometimes referenced or borrowed, because these ideas were familiar and prevalent in the culture. The ancient pagan Greek view, later adopted by the Romans, was that heaven was a physical place up in the sky. The word for heaven is used interchangeably with the location of the objects of the sky, as in heavenly bodies, and for the dwelling place of the gods. The pre-christian Greek language had thus developed in this kind of world view, both heaven and Hades as a physical and literal existence up in the sky, or down under the ground. Although these later became more metaphorical in more developed pagan writings, from this is where the universal concept of up for heaven or Paradise, and down for the place of the dead came. It is used metaphorically by both the Jews and pagans to describe mankind s relationship with God, and so became a universal cultural concept. This is why there are so many Biblical references to God being up in heaven, and Sheol being down in the under parts of the earth. However, neither the Jews nor the early Christians took these ideas literally as the ancient Greeks and Romans may have, but understood up and down as spiritual rather than physical realities. passing the same way we do in the physical world... So it is very speculative to assume that time passes outside of creation the same way it does here. No sound doctrine can be built based on this assumption. Uncreated Energies The understanding of heaven and punishment [hell] in historic Christianity is inextricably linked to the biblical concept of the Uncreated Light of God. The Uncreated Energies (or Light the purest form of energy) are understood by the Orthodox to be the Energies of God. This Energy is the consuming fire, the Shechinah glory, the fire that burns gold to purify it, as St. Paul writes. It is the fire that burns the weeds left in the field, the fire that burns the pruned branches, it is the lake of divine fire, and the thirst and burning that torments the Rich Man is this same Uncreated Energy. Yet, the same fire that torments the impure gives warmth and comfort to the pure of heart... Yet those who love God and want nothing but to be in constant communion with God, will strive towards purity and will bask in glory in this same Light. The same Energy that causes eternal death in the sinful, purifies and strengthens the faithful. This is at the root of difference between Sheol is one word sometimes translated the Eastern Orthodox and Western as Hell in the Old Testament. In Hebrew, Christianity, whether Protestant or this word is a proper noun, that is a name Roman Catholic, this biblical concept of or title, so properly it should not have Roman Catholic and Protestant the Uncreated Energies of God. In the been translated but simply transliterated, Understanding west, the mystery of the Divine Energies as is done with other names. The literal It is clear from the Scriptures and the was abandoned because it could not be meaning of this Hebrew word is simply Church Fathers there is no room in the understood outside of the metaphysical subterranean retreat. Sheol was not afterlife for Purgatory, limbo, or any place perspective, and therefore juridical understood as a physical place since apart from God, nor for Calvin s idea socialistic rationalism was adopted. it exists in the spirit world, but it is a of predestination and divine justice. spiritual place associated with dead The west continues to flounder in Neither in scripture, nor in the writings of people. It was understood that when a darkness and is unarmed against the Saints do we see any such innovation person dies, their body is buried, and the influence of the enemies of as Purgatory or even of Hell as a place their soul goes to reside in Sheol. That God, and therefore continues of torment apart from God. is the fate for all people who die, both the to innovate false theologies. righteous and the wicked. According to Built into this uniquely Roman Catholic Tragically, in the west a few centuries Hebrew scholars, anything more detailed doctrine is the assumption that in the Continued on page 9 is conjecture and speculation... afterlife we would experience time Continued on page 10

6 10 The Christian Universalist - December The Christian Universalist - December 2011 Heaven and Hell experiential conditions,... continued from page 9 Universal Salvation: teaching of early church... from page 10 after the Great Schism (1054 AD) an innovation (i.e. heresy) developed as a result of an attempt to rationalize God s purifying fires. Latin theologians surmised that God created a place called purgatory with purging fires to purify those that die with imperfect atonement, and they further rationalized that paying indulgences could buy your loved ones out of these painful purging fires faster. This rationalization also helped keep the church prosperous and coffers full. The western ideas had its roots in Augustinian theology (who was influenced by the Greek pagan philosophers). Unfortunately Augustine could not read Greek and had to devise his own theology from imperfect Latin translations. Late in his life he recanted much of his earlier writings, an act which was ignored in the West. Both Luther and Calvin developed their own theologies from Augustine s erroneous writings, and ignoring Augustine s later retraction. This is how the pagan notion of a God that both punishes and rewards made its way into western Christian theologies. Another major influence was the 13th century fantasy novelist Dante, who s political satire known as the Inferno borrowed heavily from pagan mythology and bears little resemblance to Biblical eschatology. In Conclusion There is no place of torment, or even a place apart from God, because there is no place at all; you are outside of time and space. The place is actually a condition of either punishment ( hell ) or paradise ( heaven ) depending on how you experience the presence of God and His Uncreated Engergies. Consider a person who hates God, and anything to do with religion, and has done nothing but pursued his own selfcentered desires all his life. It would be far more terrifying, and painful, to spend eternity in the fiery embrace of God s almighty and divine love with no escape, than to be far from Him. Experiencing God s presence and His in-filling transforming Energies in glory or in torment, as Paradise or as Punishment, is the heaven and hell of the Bible. Not something God did to us, but rather something we did to ourselves. God unconditionally pours out His love on all, WHETHER WE WANT IT OR NOT, whether we are ready for it or not, when we enter the after life. This is why the Gospel or good news of Jesus Christ should be shared with all people, of all nations, in all tongues. For there is nothing to fear from God s perfect love, since love casts out all fear. However, it is not totally wrong to understand the after life as type of Heaven and Hell. Because from each individual s perspective, it will not be perceived as the same place, but rather as either torment Universal Salvation: prevailing teaching during early church s first 500 years By Mary Keller Until six years ago, I had not studied, or even heard of the views of the early Church Fathers. Neither my Bible classes at two Baptist Universities nor my Charismatic background since the Jesus Movement days of the early 1970 s had provided any knowledge of the church in its first 300 years, other than what is written in the Acts of the Apostles. Why, to this day, am I excited about what I learned? Because as I studied, I discovered that Universal Salvation is not a new heresy that is causing me to go astray from the origins of my Christian faith, but in fact is part of Christianity s roots. This gave me the courage to accept the Larger Hope, which is continuing to bring me joy and peace as I contemplate it. and darkness you can not escape, or as the paradise you have always longed for... To misrepresent the nature of a loving God would cause one to conclude that it was God s intention to punish his creation. Indeed, one blasphemes the reputation of the God of the Bible when you make him into an angry vengeful god that punishes His creation. The cause of the torment is the poor choices that we make, not God. If one thinks of these two different places as conditions that we choose to be in, rather than compartments God puts us in, it would be more accurate. And it will certainly be paradise to finally experience His Divine Love up close and in person for those who seek it. It is all in the perception. Such is the nature of a loving God. For God is God. Mary Keller History of early Christian Universalism The first book I studied on this early Christian history was Universalism: The Prevailing Doctrine of the Christian Church During Its First Five Hundred Years written by J. W. Hanson in Continued on page 11 In his extensive book, Hanson explains why he believed Universalism was the rule, rather than the exception, of the Christian living in the second through the fourth centuries. If the early creeds are any indication, the Christian fathers were not dogmatic about man s final destination. (Read the Apostle s and Nicene Creeds and notice that the afterlife was certainly not of major concern to the writers of these documents.) Hanson stressed that early Christianity was a Greek faith, with Greek art and literature, and thus it had little of the morose, gloomy aspects common to Roman art and literature. He describes the engravings on the tombs of the catacombs of the first to the end of the fourth century as being serene and even cheery, and showing Jesus as the shepherd, but never as a judge, and with no crosses found anywhere. Hanson explains that the Greeks did not get the concept of mercy or universal salvation from any of the Greek or Latin literature or mythology or theology. These images of the catacombs are our only message of what the Christians believed in this era, as it was 80 years between Paul s last epistle (around 57 CE) and the writings we have of the early church fathers. The early Christians lived in a time of great depression and pessimism due to famine, sickness and war, and yet they had a hopeful, simple, calm message about God as Father, whose punishment was always remedial. Most of them believed that because man was made in the image of God, all would eventually be led to holiness. The Doctrine of Reserve was common at this time, which may explain why some early church fathers did not often allude to universal salvation. The Doctrine of Reserve belief was for weaker people who needed to think there is eternal punishment to keep them from doing wrong, or because they would not understand the doctrine. Many of the early leaders felt this pious withholding of the truth was an acceptable form of lying. Origen spoke of truths that should not be written. Universal salvation: a tenet of Clement of Alexandria The usual teaching of the early church about what Jesus did after his death was that he went into Hades and released all those there. The early Christians surely believed in repentance beyond the grave, as they prayed regularly for the dead. In 180 CE, Clement of Alexandria wrote the first statement of Christian doctrine that was systematic and complete. He had an eclectic philosophy, which included many ideas from Plato. And yet, one of his tenets was universal salvation. He wrote the oral traditions of Christ in his own Greek language and was thought to have known Papias, who knew the disciples of Jesus. Clement denied the original depravity of man and saw judgment as part of man s education. He considered the justice and love of God to be the same attribute. He, as well as Origen, ranked knowledge above faith, so they were Gnostic in this sense. Clement viewed Christ s atonement, not as a means to pacify God s wrath, but as a revelation of his mercy. Hanson points out that this Greek theology has many similarities to the universalism that was to emerge in the 1800s. None of the following tenets were included in the universalism of either of these eras: original sin, or depravity, election by God, vicarious atonement, or endless punishment. Clement s student, Origen, became the president of the theological school in Alexandria when he was only 18, in 203 CE. Clement had fled because of persecution. Origen was the most learned of all the early fathers before the Nicene Creed. He learned Hebrew so he could translate the scriptures. He combined philosophy and reason with Christian thought and framed the first system of Christian theology in 230 CE. He wrote a masterpiece of apology for the faith in his Replies to Celsus. Origen defended Christianity on universalistic grounds. Among his main points: we were all preexistent spirits; God s wrath is apparent but not real; and we will be rewarded for our actions. He also stressed that we will all return to God of our own free will, that justice and mercy are identical in purpose, and that Christ was divine, but not a deity. A church council declared anathemas (curses, excommunication, denouncements and condemnations) against Origen for various heresies, but never for his universalism. The same council that cast anathemas at him praised Gregory of Nyssa, who was clearly a believer in universalism. There were six theological schools from CE. One taught eternal punishment, one taught annihilation, and four taught universal salvation. Christians were given freedom in their beliefs, especially regarding the afterlife, until the time of the Emperor Constantine, who said in 355 CE, Whatever I will, let it be esteemed canon. This began the era of Churchianity, Continued on page 12

7 12 The Christian Universalist - December 2011 Universal Salvation: teaching of early church... from page 11 in which the church was in union with the state, leading to pagan principles being advanced. In turn, this led to the time of the popes, the inquisition, and into the dark ages. The writers of this fourth century era began to contradict the writings of the second century church fathers. Gregory of Nyssa was a later father of the early church (335- after 394 CE) who affirmed the main features of Origen s concept of apokatastasis, such as the resurrection of man to his pre-fallen state. He did not, however, teach that souls are pre-existent as unembodied contemplations of God, as Origen did. Gregory of Nyssa expanded the idea of apokatastasis to include the restoration of evil beings and Satan himself. His main points include the belief that every free will ultimately rests in God; evil will no longer exist at this point, since it can only exist when free will is exercised, and that this will happen through a process of purifying punishments that leaves no evil remaining. Gregory saw the body of Christ as the entirety of human nature, including all mankind. Most of the great teachers and theologians from Clement of Alexandria to Theodore of Mopsuestia ( CE) were Universalists. I encourage anyone who is unfamiliar with this early Christian history to read Hanson s book, which is easily accessible on the Internet. Writer questions CUA umbrella, views on Universalism By Stacey Westgaard I will always remember my fundamentalist grandfather s reply to my question, Will those who never were presented with the Gospel message and choosing Jesus (such as uneducated and isolated jungle people) still be condemned to everlasting hell? His regretful reply was that only those who were believers in Jesus Christ would be saved. All others would be destined for Hell. That was in 1953 and I was 11 at the time. I loved my paternal grandparents dearly and wanted desperately to please them by following the doctrines they lived by. In large measure I attributed their compassionate, loving, generous and forgiving natures to their daily reading of the Bible and devotion to Jesus. But I had other members of my family on my mother s side whose qualities I also greatly admired who were outspoken humanistic atheists. I asked myself whether their destinies would be a hell-fired roasting. My heart and soul cried against it. So at an early age I rejected the exclusivistic doctrine of my grandfather but I could not reject his Jesus. Thus my adventurous voyage to a Universalistic faith began. That voyage has theologically taken me many places. Dictionary.com defines Universalism as the doctrine that emphasizes the universal fatherhood of God and the final salvation of all souls. I like my old (1966) Random House definition better, the doctrine that all men will finally be saved or be brought back to holiness and God. The latter wording is more universalistic in that be brought back to holiness allows for the Eastern consciousness. I read the articles, How big should the CUA umbrella be and for whom? and CUA Board votes to revise SOF, Ordination policy, in the October/ November issue of The Christian Universalist newsletter. Here are my reactions. Isn t it rather futile to put conditions on Universalism? Probably, for when Universalism is qualified, such as by naming it Christian, that inevitably may open it up for quasiuniversalistic conditions. Is that what the CUA wants? Preferably not. But, maybe there is a way out of this quandary. If Christian is interpreted as meaning in agreement with Christian theological creeds and doctrines that is when it invites disagreement and division. On the other hand, if Christian is understood to mean simply, in agreement with the moral and ethical teachings of Jesus Christ, it can engender collaboration and unity. When I refer to myself as a Christian I intend that it signify I am in accord with Jesus being my avowed Master in both the Western and Eastern sense. Think of all the good works and excellent fruits which have been realized worldwide by His teachings. He said, By their fruits ye shall know them. (Matthew 7:16, ASV) That wide-ranging criterion championed and demonstrated by Jesus should be the chief qualifier for defining a Christian, rather than exclusivistic creeds and doctrines. Hopefully CUA`s umbrella does not get tattered by hairsplitting hurricanes. Instead, keep it calm, pure and simple. Let Universalism mean the promotion of universalistic Divine grace and let Christian mean devotion to the ethos of Christ s exemplary compassion. Stacey Westgaard is a resident of British Columbia, Canada. In honor of former Governor Schwarzenegger, a new commandment has been added to the Bible. Be sure to write this one in underneath the other ten: Thou Shalt Not Share Thy Rod With Thy Staff.

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