Every now and then I peek in and see what viruses are spreading in the church by following up on a blog post from one of the bloggers in my "potentially harmful" column. When "All Will Be Saved" popped up, I made a quick guess as to what this particular Episcopal priest was going to say, and I then went to his site to see if he delivered what I expected. He did...
"Paul's teaching, his theology is a doctrine of universal salvation. The wise will start living "in Christ" now, and enjoy the gifts that are ours immediately. The foolish merely postpone what is humanity's universal gift. It's all because of Christ. His obedience and faithfulness frees all. Forever. P.S. The Baptists are wrong. Thanks be to God!"All the more reason to be foolish and stay home on Sunday mornings I guess. I have often heard the "P.S." that this Episcopal priest proclaims, "The Baptists are wrong. Thanks be to God." This sort of arrogant self-righteousness has infected the denomination for decades. I would beg him and any of us who hold such beliefs to confess and repent of our own sins and not to cast stones on the Baptists.
While I can see how one might come to think that Paul believed that ultimately all will be saved from a reading of verses like,
"For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy." 1 Corinthians 6:14 (KJV)(I wonder if that verse would be helpful to those yoked to an unbelieving priest, bishop, or denomination)
I still suspect the rector may have been reading a few too many Universalist blog posts for his own good. These tend to use Paul in similar ways to back up their claims. Here is an opposing view from Bob Faulkner for your perusal (link to EzineArticles post).
"But what of those who have never heard? The Universalist truly wants to upstage the Bible believer here with what he believes is the obvious answer to this centuries-old enigma: 'Why, they will all be saved. This is a non-issue now.'
Believing that all men will be saved from God's judgment eventually, certainly takes the teeth out of the Great Commission, and the entire missions history of the church of Jesus. Something in us wants to believe it, but it doesn't ring true when measured by other Biblical facts.
Without going further into that whole very difficult problem, let me just share Paul's short answer, here in Romans 2:12:
"Damnation will come to those who sinned because they had no law, and it will come equally to those who had the law and sinned against it. Sin is sin. God's law is written in the hearts of even the Gentiles. They know what is right and wrong. God will judge every thought, every motive, of every man by the Man Christ Jesus.'
Who will be able to stand in that day?
Paul says, in essence, no one. Righteousness is not obtainable by human effort. Only those who cling to the righteousness of Christ will be saved.
If there is a universalism in God's world, it is universal damnation. '... all the world may become guilty before God' (3:19).
I would advise our universalist Episcopal priest, who is probably not at all interested in listening to Bob Faulkner, to lend an ear to J. C. Ryle (1816-1900) the first Anglican bishop of Liverpool,
"Disbelieve hell, and you unscrew, unsettle, and unpin everything in Scripture."and
"The saddest road to hell is the one that runs under the pulpit, past the Bible, and through the middle of warnings and invitations."and
"The whole extent of hell, the present suffering, the bitter recollection of the past, the hopeless prospect of the future, will never be thoroughly known except by those who go there."or perhaps he might heed the words of Paul,
"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,and
Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God." 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (KJV)
"If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha."or maybe even the words of Jesus himself,
1 Corinthians 16:22 (KJV)
"There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:and
And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house:
For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead."
Luke 16:19-31 (KJV)
"Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction,
and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that
leads to life, and those who find it are few."
Matthew 7:13-14, (ESV)
I have since moved the Episcopal priest's blog to my "TOO WEIRD FOR WORDS (ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK)" list on the sidebar.
The saddest thing is that 400 souls might hear this confusing teaching on any given Sunday in his church.
I said "confusing teaching" because those same people might, if they are paying attention at all, hear and speak words that are quite contrary to their priest's ramblings, words from their own Prayer Books.
A few years ago, Bryan Owen+ commented on prayers found in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer (BCP) that speak in ways that appear contrary to the claims of Episcouniversalist priests. Here are a couple of the examples Bryan cited,
Suffrage B in Evening Prayer Rite II: “That we may depart this life in your faith and fear, and not be condemned before the great judgment seat of Christ” (BCP, p. 122). This petition not only affirms a final judgment, but also leaves open the possibility of condemnation at that judgment.Spouting universalistic Episcobabble is contrary to the church's doctrine if that doctrine can be inferred from what is found in the current Prayer Book.
The Great Litany
1. “Spare us … from everlasting damnation” (BCP, p. 148). This suggests that everlasting damnation is possible, else why petition God to be spared from it?
2. “That it may please thee to grant that … we may attain to thy heavenly kingdom” (BCP, p. 152). This suggests that it’s possible we may not attain it.
We need to watch and see if in the next Book of Common Prayer those prayers are revised, and we need to pay close attention to exactly who is on that future Prayer Book task force.