A Woman's Perspective On The Times We Live In


April 20, 2013

Universalism and Ecumenicalism

     This is a tough topic to write about, and will most certainly be viewed by some as typical of "close-minded Christians" and the exclusivity of Christianity.  However, I make no apologies for my Biblical view.  Everyone is free to believe as they wish, and I choose to stand on the Word of God.  And because of that, I am deeply concerned about the growth of Universalism, or Ecumenicalism.
     I think the simplest way to understand this concept is to realize that there are those people who believe in universal salvation; they believe that all people eventually end up in heaven.  If you're a Christian that can mean that you believe that all humans either may or will be saved through Jesus Christ and eventually come to harmony in God's kingdom.  I don't think I am wrong in saying that everyone has the opportunity to be saved through Jesus, but when Christians delete the requirement that one must come through Jesus to obtain salvation, then they are treading on dangerous ground.
     Here are just a few examples where I see the threatening rise of Universalism:    
     1)  Dallas Willard, is a graduate of Tennessee Temple University, and a professor at the University of Southern California (and a Southern Baptist) said, “I am happy for God to save anyone he wants in any way he can. It is possible for someone who does not know Jesus to be saved.” (Dallas Willard, Cutting Edge, Winter, 2001.)  That is Universalism; the belief that everyone will be saved.  Hmmm, that's pretty contradictory to what God tells us in Acts 4:12: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
     2)  I know I will be excoriated for even thinking this, but I am disturbed by comments made by the much-respected Billy Graham during a television interview on Robert Schuller's Hour of Power.  You can watch this portion of the interview on Youtube, or read it here:  “He’s calling people out of the world for His name, whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world, or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ, because they’ve been called by God.  (So far so good; I believe that God can reveal His Son to anyone of any faith.  But here comes what set my spider senses on edge.) They may not even know the name of Jesus, but they know in their hearts that they need something that they don’t have, and they turn to the only light that they have, and I think they are saved, and that they’re going to be with us in heaven.” That is universalism!  Because, you see, this allows anyone to obtain salvation from any god .... "the only light they have" may be Buddha, Allah, or Mother Earth ... they don't even have to know who Jesus is!  
     I can in no way deny that Billy Graham has brought millions to faith in Jesus Christ.  But I'm worried that these kinds of statements are flirting with false doctrine and may lead many Christians astray.  
     3)  Then there's Joel Osteen, who stops short of saying that Jesus is the only way.  On Larry King Live, he had this to say:  “You know, I’m very careful about saying who would and wouldn’t go to heaven. I don’t know ….I spent a lot of time in India with my father. I don’t know all about their religion. But I know they love God. And I don’t know. I’ve seen their sincerity. So I don’t know. I know for me, and what the Bible teaches, I want to have a relationship with Jesus.”  Talk about a lukewarm Christian!  And I will agree with him on one point .... he doesn't know!  So here's where I stand: if you are going to call yourself a Christian, then you must profess that the way to eternal life is through Christ.  Not Buddha or Allah or Nature!  Everyone is free to believe in anything or anyone they wish, and if you want to be a Universalist, then fine; just don't pollute my faith with distorted Scripture.     
     4)  And lest you think that I am just picking on Southern Baptists, here is a bombshell that will surely offend some of you --- although this is sincerely not my intent.  I just want us to be awake and aware of some threats looming over our faith.  So here goes:  Zenit.org, a website from Rome, recently published a speech Pope Francis delivered to an Ecumenical meeting of representatives from the world religions.  In the speech, the Pope greets "the Muslims, who worship the one God, living and merciful, and call upon Him in prayer."  But are Allah and Jehovah the same?  My Bible refutes this!  He goes on to say, "We feel close even to all those men and women who, whilst not recognising themselves belonging to any religious tradition, feel themselves nevertheless to be in search of truth, goodness and beauty, this truth, goodness and beauty of God, and who are our precious allies in efforts to defend the dignity of man, in building a peaceful coexistence among peoples and in guarding Creation carefully."
     Don't get me wrong, I am not advocating enmity between Christianity and other religions; indeed, Christ calls us to exhibit His love towards all others, and thereby reveal the truth of His existence.  But when you come close to equating Christians, Muslims and Agnostics or Atheists as worshipping the same Truth, then are you not negating the Supremacy of Christ?
     In the end, Universalists would say, “Look, Christ died for everyone and any sincere person, of whatever religion—even no religion, will go to Heaven even if they have never heard the name of Christ and will discover that they got to Heaven because of His death.”  If that is so, then the Bible is a farce; hell is a fraud; preachers are fakers; tithers are fools and martyrs are fanatics.
     It appears as if there is a HUGE emphasis on the love and compassion of God—and a desire to negate the righteousness and justice of God; that God is so full of love and mercy that He will allow all people into heaven. God is certainly full of love and mercy; it was these qualities that led Him to send His Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to die on the cross for us.  But it is important to look at the whole picture.  John 3:16 says, Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
     One verse that Universalists point to in order to support their all-inclusive, or ecumenical, position is 1 Corinthians 15:22 .... For as in Adam ALL die, so in Christ ALL will be made alive. (Emphasis added).  I would argue that the correct emphasis is .... For as in Adam ALL die, so IN CHRIST all will be made alive.

1 Timothy 2:5     "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus."





10 comments:

  1. I agree with your comments. I would add that it is about the resurrection of Christ that is the most important because He overcame death. The other religions cannot say that.
    As always, your article is right on target.

    God Bless!!!

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  2. Yes!!! None of these other "believers", or in the case of atheists, "nonbelievers", can claim the resurrection. And that is the most important tenet of our faith. Therefore no other Belief system is the same as ours!

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  3. YES!, YES!, you are so right! I've also seen the Popes statements, I said WHAT? Is this the beginning of the false religion in the end times? Christianity is the belief of Christ dying for our sins, being resurrected, defeating death and only through Christ Jesus can we be saved. From my personal research, Muslims do believe Jesus Christ walked the earth, but they believe he was merely a prophet. It defies logic to think they will go to heaven when not believing Jesus Christ is our savior. But then again there are two sides in heaven, divided by a gulf. I'm not judging where they will go, as an ole Ky country boy, I'm sticking with my belief in Jesus, I know where I'm going. God bless you.

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    1. And you know the sad thing? I am increasingly coming in contact with so-called "Christians" who do not know their Bible and are falling prey to the false teachings of tolerance and "social justice" that pervade our churches. Jesus predicted this in Matthew 7 and it is happening before our very eyes. He can't be far off!

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  4. Dallas Willard's article does not espouse universalism. The article reminds us, explicitly, that people do go to Hell. Believing that someone can go to Heaven and not know the historical Jesus is not universalist.

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    1. Again, I would point you to the Scripture mentioned in relation to his comment. Acts 4:12 says, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” That is pretty explicit. And I prefer to base my views of Heaven and Hell upon the Bible. As I stated in my post, Mr. Willard is free to develop his own theories. I will stick with what the Bible tells me. Thanks for your comment.

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  5. You have conveniently left off the last part of the quote from Dallas Willard. I would hope it's because you have gotten the quote from another source rather than deliberately misquoting him out of context. Here is part of the quote with the bit you did not include...

    I am not going to say "he can't save them." I am happy for God to save anyone he wants in any way he can. It is possible for someone who does not know Jesus to be saved. But anyone who is going to be saved is going to be saved by Jesus: "There is no other name given under heaven by which men can be saved."

    Willard clearly states that salvation comes through Jesus alone.

    Here is a link to the interview...
    http://www.dwillard.org/articles/artview.asp?artID=14

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    1. Can you see the confusion that this statement causes? How can it be possible for "someone who does not know Jesus to be saved, yet there is no other name under heaven by which men can be saved?" You can't have it both ways! But here is the real crux for me... the Bible clearly states that to believe in Jesus as your Savior is to believe that 1) He is the Son of God 2) He died on the Cross as payment for my sins against the God of the Universe, and 3) He conquered Death and arose to sit at the right hand of His Father in Heaven. I don't see any of those three tests being met in Willard's statements.

      I will admit that I have not done a deep dive study on Willard's theology, but it would go a long with me to hear him say that Jesus is not like all the other ways men try to get to Heaven. The following statement just seems too shallow a prerequisite for me ... "If you're attracted to Jesus, what do you believe about him that you can act on? Experience shows again and again that when you allow people to act on the little that they do believe, the rest will follow." Where is the statement that you must believe that Jesus is the Son of God? If men are allowed to simply believe in the man called Jesus and try to act like Him in the world, it is not enough.

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  6. I agree that there is no other way to eternal life with God but through the death and resurrection of Jesus. He made the road/ way to salvation but do I have to "know" the road maker in order to travel that road? Maybe while on earth I will never hear his name not understand his person but I do seek God. Salvation, God, Kingdom life are so much bigger than we understand

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    1. Sandra, thank you for your intelligent question. Here is how I look at our ability to receive eternal life .... In the Bible, God says He will grant eternal life to those people who have FAITH in Jesus Christ. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” So it is not just about acknowledging the death and resurrection of Jesus, but having faith in Him -- believing in Him, trusting and having confidence in Him; all of which leads to "knowing" Him and having a real relationship with Him. Yes, there are people who may never hear His name, nor understand that God sent His Son, yet believe in God, their Creator. Will they receive eternal life? That is like you said, bigger than we can understand and up to God to determine. BUT, if you have had the opportunity to hear about Jesus and know what the Bible says about Him, it is paramount that you "know" Him. Jesus says in John 10:9, " I am the Door; anyone who enters through Me will be saved [and will live forever], and will go in and out [freely], and find pasture (spiritual security)." For me, that makes it very plain. If He is the Door, and the way to eternal life (and NOT just the road to salvation), then there is no other way to enter he realm of eternal life; there is no other way in, except through the Door.

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