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September 1, 2013 / Dale Melchin

Universalism is a Sham

This link showed up on my Facebook feed this morning thanks to my darling wife, Erica.  I normally avoid discussions like this because this blog is intended for a wider audience, not just the Christian audience.  In full disclosure, I am an Orthodox Christian and so is my wife.  It is also known that I give wide berth to other Ancient Traditions, but I digress.
Regardless, I still believe in and fear the consequence called hell.  My view is that it is not something that God does to us.  God is all love, all the time.  Yes I said it.  God’s primary attribute is love.  It is our experience of God that creates the experience of hell in the afterlife.  If we reject faith, refuse to work out our salvation, and cultivate vice in our lives, when we get into the next life, God will be loathsome to us.  If we embrace faith, workout our salvation, even if we fail at it, God’s grace comes in paves the rest of the way for us, and we will love Him.  Most of us are a mix of these two rather than being either extreme.  Those who are on the good end of the extreme in this life sometimes end up becoming vessels of the living God.  Those who are evil in the extreme end up looking like this guy.  If not externally, then they look like him on the inside.
 And even if it doesn’t happen in this life, this is the result of someone like this entering the afterlife.

Except after falling into the pit, you don’t get to come back.  Here is my point.

 Every tradition, teaches the law of reaping and sowing. What you sow in this life you reap here and it follows you into the next life. Regardless of how it is reckoned, there is a reckoning. That’s where universalism goes off the tracks. 

 Erica pointed out that Osteen’s approach is that he is trying to blunt the sword of legalism. For too long in Western Christianity, sin has been viewed primarily from a judicial or juridical point of view, rather than an existential one. That is where the concept of missing the mark comes in. Sin is a misuse of one of the 3 powers of the human soul. Those three powers are reasoning, temper, and desire. Within each of those is a subset of functions that we use in day to day life.

A misuse of temper would be lashing out at your spouse, or holding a grudge. A proper use of temper would be anger at sin, or injustice and taking steps to combat that.

Notice, though that if you take the law away, there are still consequences. On the one hand in holding a grudge or lashing out at your spouse on the other the consequences are damage to the relationship if nothing is done to repair the damage afterwards. Sin still exists even if we don’t have the marker of the Law.

The purpose of the Law is a measuring stick, nothing more. Osteen sees sin in an either or fashion. As a result, he takes the rules away in his own philosophy.  We have for too long lived in legalism, so his reaction, evidently is license.  I agree that we’ve lived with legalism for too long in the West, and it is something that we need to get over.  It’s not a matter of scrapping the rules.  It’s a matter of putting them and what they point to into context.  That context is the misuse of our powers, not breaking the rules per se that cause separate us from God.

The third option has always existed. It is missing the mark. Missing the mark is existential. The law simply gives a name to that sin, and raises our awareness of it. We are ALWAYS going to struggle with legalism in Western Christianity until we realize that sin is primarily an existential issue rather than a legal one.

 That is why universalism is a sham.  The first is even if you take away the warning signs of the law, people are going to run afoul of consequences.  All of the other traditions say it is a sham.  Universal Law teaches that there is always a reckoning.  The best thing to do, is to embrace it and align our lives with it, rather than fighting it.  That way we can get past simply feeling good and into doing good, then we’ll really feel good!


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