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Christian Universalism: God's Good News for All People Paperback – February 15, 2008
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I have to admit that, as I got further into the book, Stetson's ideas sounded a bit New Age, but regardless, I wasn't dissuaded from looking deeply into Christian Universalism, which I studied nearly full time for a year. Each question led further down the path of Church history until it became absolutely clear that hell was indeed a myth, and that God indeed intends and plans to reconcile and restore every single person to His love in a process and plan of ages. All of my indepth studies led me to writing my own book on the topic, "Raising Hell: Christianity's Most Controversial Doctrine Put Under Fire."
As I studied even more, many other Church doctrines came into question, many of which had roots in distortions, Scriptural mistranslations, and traditions of men--men who wanted to control. As I grew, so did Stetson's book, Christian Universalism; For when I came back to read his book once again, after studying out many of the doctrines that I had been brainwashed to believe throughout my life, I found that I understood and agreed with even the parts that had seemed New Age previously.
All this is to say...even if you are new to the idea of Christian Universalism and you don't understand or agree with everything you read in this book, give it a fair chance and read it with an open mind. Stetson offers, with beautiful clarity and reason, an enlightening viewpoint into the heart and purposes of God's plan, as more clearly revealed in the Greek and Hebrew Scriptures. Understand that modern popular versions of the Bible are merely misguided commentary based in the traditions of men, a reality that any un-seminaried lay person can find evidence for online. I'm so glad I read this book and I would recommend it heartily.
Although the argument is much deeper than a single issue, the crux of the argument boils down to the true meaning of the Greek word "aionos," which in our English Bibles is translated as "eternal." The word, as near as historians can tell, originated with Aristotle and was never used in Greek literature to mean everlasting, but always referred to a finite period of time. There's no sound reason to assume the apostles (as well as the Hellenistic writers of the Septuagint) meant it any other way. There are about 18 New Testament verses that speak of "eternal" damnation and spiritual death (all using some version of "aionos") but literally hundreds through both the Old and New Testaments that speak of God reconciling ALL to Himself. The Greek Orthodox church, which refuses to this day to join with the Catholic Church of Rome, supports Christian Universalism on the grounds that the original Greek word never implied eternal damnation, but "age-enduring" with ultimate reconciliation for all. It's also interesting to note that for most of the first 400 years of Christianity, before becoming the "state religion" of the Roman Empire, the traditional teaching on salvation was the apostolic tradition of ultimate reconciliation, as taught throughout the New Testament.
Regardless of your views on the subject, consider this point: Why would a God who instructs us to forgive someone not once, but over and over and over again (Matthew 18:21-22), be Himself inconsistent with His own commandments? Why would God instruct us to love our fellow men and women unconditionally, no matter what they do to us, and then do something quite the opposite Himself? And why would Christ (in John 6:39) say: "And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that He has given me, but raise them up at the last day." Simple reason (not human reason, but reason driven by a sound reading of Scripture) tells us that eternal damnation makes no Biblical sense, and in fact is inconsistent with the teaching of unconditional love. All it requires is to put aside a traditional doctrinal interpretation, and instead take the Bible at exactly what it says.
Stetson has laid out a sound argument for Christian Universalism with this book and it's easy to grasp. If you're looking for a "starter" book to read more about the subject, this is the one to buy. I think every Christian, as well as any interested and religiously-curious skeptic, should read this book as it allows you to view Christianity in an amazing new perspective.
Lastly, here's just one of the many verses supporting Christian Universalism. In the passage below, how can one claim that "all" has two different meanings? We know from previous Scripture that ALL mankind suffered the effects of the Fall, not some, but all, which creates a contextual precedent that makes it impossible for the second "all" to mean anything else. It's a hermeneutical slam-dunk, so to speak. Additionally, the "conditional" phrase "but each in his own turn" is completely consistent with the Universalist notion that salvation won't come to all right away, but over time, as God's plan unfolds.
"For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive, but each in his own turn."
1 Corinthians 15:22
Just something to think about for all the skeptics (Christian or otherwise) before closing the door on the idea. Read this book before writing it off. If you're curious enough, it'll drive you to read more, as it did me.