Tonight we had class over the phone because of snow–one big ol’ conference call for approximately three hours. I thought about live-blogging it, since I was sitting on my bed and no one could see me and liveblogging my class would actually require that I pay attention. But . . . although I paid attention, obviously liveblogging didn’t happen.
We’re talking about sin, and I do need to blog about that sometime–about the human capacity for evil, and the evil around us, and how God isn’t evil, even though there is evil and He’s in charge . . . but I still haven’t figure out how I want to blog about it, so instead I’m going to pose a question to the Evangelicals out there. First the set-up:
At the end of class, Prof SysTheo started describing a theory of his, using Romans 5. Particularly Romans 5.18, which says,
After highlighting this verse for us, Prof SysTheo chucklingly pointed out that “the Universalists love to camp out on this verse,” and also that “it makes Evangelicals nervous.” This was not his point, nor really what his theory was about (I won’t go into it at this time), but it kind of struck me, and struck me even more because he reiterated that bit about Evangelicals one or two more times and then said something like, “Now, just so you don’t all think I’m a Universalist . . . “
Let me make a couple of things clear. I believe that every single human being has been affected by the sin of some guy named Adam such that we all commit our own sins–daily. I believe that sin is a turning away from God so that we are separated from Him–not by His choice (at least not exactly) but by ours. I believe that we have come to such a pass that we literally need to be saved from this state of affairs. I also believe that we can be saved, but not by pulling ourselves out of the quicksand, but by trusting in Jesus to get us out. I don’t believe that everybody gets saved, because I don’t believe everybody accepts the help. (There’s stuff about predestination, too, but . . . later, guys. Later.)
What I want to know is: why should interpreting Romans 5.18 “universalistically” make Evangelicals nervous?
Are we so intent on being doctrinally right that we can’t have the compassion to at least wish that everyone was going to be saved? What is being threatened here that makes us so squirmy?
Once, many years ago, one of my Christian friends who married an agnostic came to visit with her husband. While we were having dinner, he semi-facetiously made the comment that Christians are argumentative because we want to be right, and in general seem to find glee in the idea of Unsaved People going to Hell. I had recently been praying and trying very hard to introduce a Starbucks colleague to Jesus and it was breaking my heart that it didn’t seem to be working, so when he said this, to the surprise of my friend and her husband and even myself, I burst into tears in the middle of the restaurant and said, “No we don’t! Sometimes we get kind of pushy but that’s because we so badly don’t want people to go to Hell!”
I know this is true because I’ve spent my whole life feeling this way and, come to think of it, bursting into tears over it quite a bit, and I’ve talked to others of my subcultural compatriots (a.k.a. “brothers and sisters in Christ”) who have similar sentiments, if not such highly functional waterworks. However, when my professor said (apologetically and over and over again) that Evangelicals get nervous over Universalist interpretations of salvation passages, I didn’t feel like he was wrong. That, too, felt very familiar.
So–blow up the comments, friends. Be honest with yourselves–and the rest of us.
If you are a Christian, do you get nervous at Universalist sentiments? If so, why? If not, why not?
If you’re of another faith (including atheist) what’s the vibe you get from conservative Christians? (Be honest with yourselves, too–I used to have a wiccan friend who, until she found out I was a fairly conservative Christian, used to spout off at work–all the time–about the “fundamentalist Christians who are out to get me.” Then we made friends and she realised she was just basing her catch-phrase on assumptions and not on actual encounters or . . . facts.) Do you think I want there to be a Hell? Do you think I want you to go to it?