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William

Is Universalism Biblical?

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And, no place in the Bible are we told of any after-life suffering except in Jesus's parables and in the vision in Revelation, both contexts do not compel us to take the suffering literally.

 

"And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched." (Mk 9:47-48).

 

That seems very direct to me.

 

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"And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched." (Mk 9:47-48).

 

That seems very direct to me.

 

Hell here is γέεννα, literally the location used as Jarusalem's garbage dump. No one there is suffering, at least not any more there than anywhere else.

 

The worm does not die and the fire is not quenched. Worm is not code for a person's soul. It's literally a maggot. Maggots actually do die, but the point is that there always are maggots. And, there alway is fire there, at least there was 2000 years ago. Fire and maggots consumed the remains of dead animals that were disposed of at this dump outside of Jerusalem.

 

So, literally, this "hell" is not part of the afterlife. The verse doesn't mention suffering. And, the only thing that's alive there are maggots and flames.

 

Literally and truthfully, it's better to lose just an eye than to have your whole body destroyed. But, Jesus is only using this as an illustration.

 

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I'd stick with hell as the proper English translation of Gehenna because the obvious intention is an unending fiery corruption and not a local garbage dump.

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I'd stick with hell as the proper English translation of Gehenna because the obvious intention is an unending fiery corruption and not a local garbage dump.

 

 

Gehenna is the name of the local garbage dump. So, you don't want to take that literally, but figuratively (what you believe to be the "intent" of the Jesus' statement, not the letter of his statement). Where is the figurative language of human consciousness (for suffering)? You're trying to get a lot of mileage out of magots and flames, especially after you claimed the verse was "very direct."

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Gehenna is the name of the local garbage dump. So, you don't want to take that literally, but figuratively (what you believe to be the "intent" of the Jesus' statement, not the letter of his statement). Where is the figurative language of human consciousness (for suffering)? You're trying to get a lot of mileage out of magots and flames, especially after you claimed the verse was "very direct."

I think I want to take the passage at face value and I happen to agree with the translators who translate gehenna as hell. Of course this passage is not the only one treating of eternal punishment. You could also check these passages:

And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. (Matthew 25:46 KJV)

But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: (Mark 3:29 KJV)

Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. (Matthew 18:8 KJV)

Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: (Matthew 25:41 KJV)

And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. (Jude 1:6 KJV)

There are a number of passages that link condemnation at the last judgement with everlasting punishment.

Edited by peppermint

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I think I want to take the passage at face value and I happen to agree with the translators who translate gehenna as hell. Of course this passage is not the only one treating of eternal punishment. You could also check these passages:

And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. (Matthew 25:46 KJV)

But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: (Mark 3:29 KJV)

Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. (Matthew 18:8 KJV)

Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: (Matthew 25:41 KJV)

And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. (Jude 1:6 KJV)

There are a number of passages that link condemnation at the last judgement with everlasting punishment.

 

 

Not one of those quotes mentions anything about suffering nor any kind of afterlife for the lost. I totally accept that the lost face eternal punishment, but as destruction, not suffering. The punishment is everlasting (won't be reversed), the everlasting fire is figurative, but your verses make no mention of the lost human soul being everlasting, literally or figuratively. Just the opposite, only the righteous get eternal life.

 

Jude 1:6 is not about people and is not about eternal fate.

 

 

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I realize hell isn't off topic, but I took the liberty to post an article that a friend of mine wrote for Gotquestions.org

 

Perhaps, this conversation could continue there on this trending subject?

 

See Conditional Immortality

 

God Bless,

William

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As you might have guessed, I'm a Christian Universalist (as opposed for instance to UU). I've read through the articles on Universalism here, they contain the same essential arguments found everywhere else. These have been debated and discussed ad infinitum like all other topics of theological interest to Christians who post to theology boards.

 

Rather than jump into what will almost certainly be more unresolvable dialog by discussing the proof texts provided, I think it would make more sense to discuss why discussion of universalism from my perspective is irresolvable in theological discussion with non-Universalists if anyone is interested.

 

Maybe the best way to start is by posing a brief background, followed by a question. My universalism is unlike that of virtually all other Christian universalists in that I start by positing a certain metaphysical approach which is then developed into a specifically allegorical interpretation of the Bible. According to this structured allegorical interpretation I show that universal salvation is logically superior to either the Annihilationist or eternal separation/torment positions.

 

The question I think prudent to pose is: how would my Annihilationist or Eternal hell brethren propose to judge an interpretation like this?

 

I judge your post as trolling. Your post is mostly gobbledygook, a red flag of trolling. About the only meaningful sentence that can be extracted from you post is your statement that your interpretation is different from most universalists. I'm certain the mysteries of the Bible are not so deep that only a special person like you can uncover them. Another proof of your trolling is that you offered no details or support of your interpretation, beyond being a universalist. It's my observation that people who offer nothing have nothing.

 

You have nothing. But, thank you for playing.

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Not one of those quotes mentions anything about suffering nor any kind of afterlife for the lost. I totally accept that the lost face eternal punishment, but as destruction, not suffering. The punishment is everlasting (won't be reversed), the everlasting fire is figurative, but your verses make no mention of the lost human soul being everlasting, literally or figuratively. Just the opposite, only the righteous get eternal life.

 

Jude 1:6 is not about people and is not about eternal fate.

 

 

Suffering isn't the issue, punishment is, and universalism posits that everybody (absolutely everybody) receives heavenly bliss in the end and nobody (absolutely nobody) is punished forever. Clearly the passages I posted do speak of everlasting punishment, eternal damnation, and everlasting fire therefore it seems that unless everlasting punishment means something completely incomprehensible that involves punishment without anybody being punished it follows that those who endure everlasting punishment are likely the ones who experience everlasting fire and eternal damnation. If that is suffering (and it probably is) then it is what the holy scriptures hold out as the consequence of being condemned in the last judgement.

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Universalism states that sooner or later all people will be saved.

 

Universalists point to verses that say things like, "For as in Adam ALL die, so also in Christ shall ALL be made alive." But, these verses don't require that everyone be saved. All made a live could just mean all those who are made alive are made alive through Christ. And, a fact ignored by many people is that the Greek word for "all" is often used in a less than absolute sense. By itself, a verse like this would make me a universalist. But, we have so many verses that tell us that some people aren't saved. We have verses that even hint at most people not being saved. Jesus tells us wide is the gate that leads to destruction and many will take it, not all roads lead to Heaven. In the quoted verse "shall" is added by translators.

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All means all sorts of things in English too, in fact it has pretty much exactly the same range of meanings that the Koine Greek word for 'all' does.

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Starting over.....

 

How is "Biblical" defined​ in regard to a determination whether universalism is Biblical?

 

Biblical: of, relating to, or contained in the Bible.

 

Another words, a biblical conclusion is drawn from an understanding of what the bible has to say in context of a unified whole.

 

God bless,

William

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Starting over.....

 

How is "Biblical" defined​ in regard to a determination whether universalism is Biblical?

I'm sorry but I have to ask. Is that really a legitimate question? Is not the word "biblical" self explanatory?

 

 

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I'm sorry but I have to ask. Is that really a legitimate question? Is not the word "biblical" self explanatory?

Yes, it's a legitimate question. Because various people can understand the same term differently it's a good idea to carefully identify terms that may prove problematic due to their complexity. This way everyone involved in a discussion can be on the same page as much as possible. While the term "Biblical" will find common ground in any Christian conversation, it can mean different things to different people, so beyond a simple (of or pertaining to the concepts of the Bible) definition, it's not necessarily self-explanatory.

 

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Yes, it's a legitimate question. Because various people can understand the same term differently it's a good idea to carefully identify terms that may prove problematic due to their complexity. This way everyone involved in a discussion can be on the same page as much as possible. While the term "Biblical" will find common ground in any Christian conversation, it can mean different things to different people, so beyond a simple (of or pertaining to the concepts of the Bible) definition, it's not necessarily self-explanatory.

The word "biblical" is an adjective. For example:

 

biblical archaeology (archaeology pertaining/related/applicable to the Bible)

biblical theology (theology pertaining/related/applicable to the Bible)

biblical anthropology (anthropology pertaining/related/applicable to the Bible)

 

Merriam-Webster - "relating to, taken from, or found in the Bible"

 

Thus any topic which is "biblical" must by definition pertain/relate/be applicable to what is found in the Bible. If a person does not use the information found in the Bible (or texts thereof) to make a case for whatever topic is being addressed, then is it cannot be understood to be biblical.

 

It is like trying to discuses the socratic method without first knowing that the adjective "socratic" is meant to limit and exclude any other method.

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Biblical: of, relating to, or contained in the Bible.

 

Another words, a biblical conclusion is drawn from an understanding of what the bible has to say in context of a unified whole.

Thanks for responding William. Of the two sentences you posted, let's discuss "what the bible has to say in context of a unified whole".

 

​As I stated in an earlier post, I find the strength of universalism to be in its allegorical sense. I believe the allegorical case for the salvation of all is superior to modern literalism and traditional soteriological positions in virtually all respects when compared according to basic, accepted truth criteria. There's little sense discussing this if those on the other side of the discussion align the concept of "what the bible has to say in context of a unified whole" with popular grammatical historical interpretive rules. Unfortunately, most who post on theology boards do. Doing so replaces truth with manmade interpretive methodology.

 

This site won't let me paste into the thread so I can't provide quoted support, but the tenets of historical-grammatical literalism makes claims that there exists only one meaning for each word or passage in the Bible, that all metaphors beyond the obvious ones in the Bible are the product of eisegesis, that allegorical interpretations can't be proven and thus hold no interpretive power, etc. I maintain that these are manmade rules and while they bear reasonable consideration as part of scholarly study, in the end they have no authority to supersede accepted truth criteria (congruity, coherence, unity, non-contradiction, etc.) as the means of identifying warranted belief.

 

If one's interpretive commitments deem all allegorical interpretation invalid as part of the concept of being "Biblical", there's no sense attempting a discussion. Do you see my point?

 

 

 

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Merriam-Webster - "relating to, taken from, or found in the Bible"

 

Thus any topic which is "biblical" must by definition pertain/relate/be applicable to what is found in the Bible. If a person does not use the information found in the Bible (or texts thereof) to make a case for whatever topic is being addressed, then is it cannot be understood to be biblical.

 

It is like trying to discuses the socratic method without first knowing that the adjective "socratic" is meant to limit and exclude any other method.

These points are a given, but trivial. It's been VERY common in my experience that people on theology boards base their arguments that my view is 'unbiblical' on their own doctrine as the absolute truth against which my universalism was found wanting. While they didn't frame their arguments explicitly thus, their arguments always fell back on their doctrinal position as being "biblical", therefore I was in error, case closed, shut out the lights and go home. Western Christian (evangelical or conservative) doctrine is almost always based on grammatical-historical literalism. My pointing out that this kind of reasoning is entirely circular was usually ignored.

 

G-M literalism is not identical to truth and should not be the yardstick for judging the truth content of an alternative interpretive scheme. That's all I'm saying.

 

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I reject allegorical interpretation because it ultimately strips the text of all meaning. An allegorical interpretation often means something different than what context allows. There's no way to interpret different interpretive possibilities and each interpretation becomes no closer to the truth but as plausible as others. Passages can mean anything, and if it can mean anything, it means nothing and can be misused however one sees fit.

 

Paul describes his interpretive work in Galatians 4:21–31 with the same Greek word from which we get the English term allegory (v. 4:24), but he does not embrace fanciful allegories. Instead, he uses typological interpretation, which, John Calvin writes, is consistent with “the true and literal meaning” of the original text.

 

I always wondered why allegory appeals to some? Why does the reader refuse to allow the author to control his/her mind, conveying through the context what the author intended? Is Universalism biblical? No, but I think what we have here is the result of wanting something to be true more than what's literally true.

 

My question to you Spiffy is whether you desire to defend your position at all costs while maintaining a consistent pattern? Do you acknowledge the possible dangers in your interpretation and resulting doctrine? Universalism can contribute to people procrastinating regarding salvation in the here and now in order to wait until the after-life where they have a second chance, an opportunity to be purified in a hell-like state after which they will then be able to go to Heaven and be with God forever. Of course, if Universalism is wrong, then those who had erringly put their hope in Universalism's second-chance-in-the-afterlife-belief would be lost forever.

 

Universalism deals with Christians and unbelievers. The Christian is regenerated and changed and will not abide in sin. He cannot because he is not a slave to it anymore and will not use his security in Christ as a license to sin. The unbeliever is not saved and can still hope in eternal life after death, so they can sin now. The Bible says that "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life," 1 John 5:13. Only Christians have the mind of Christ and know that Jesus is God in flesh, risen from the dead, and ascended into Heaven, which the Bible says that an unbeliever cannot accept 1 Cor. 2:14. Universalism demonstrates a lack of understanding of Biblical theology.

 

God bless,

William

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Approaching your points one at a time....

 

I reject allegorical interpretation because it ultimately strips the text of all meaning.

In what way does it strip the text of “all meaning”. Until you’ve heard my or some other specific allegoric interpretation, how could you possibly know it strips the text of meaning unless you are fully committed to the meaning your interpretation says the Bible has? If so, you appear to judge other views in the same circular way most evangelical literalists do, exchanging your doctrine for truth.

 

An allegorical interpretation often means something different than what context allows.

Often? How often? How are you able to know “what context allows”? Is the Bible’s context limited to your understanding of what it should be? If so, how can you properly determine whether an opposing view imparts an appropriate context if it offers one different than your own?

 

Passages can mean anything, and if it can mean anything, it means nothing and can be misused however one sees fit.

You're only parroting the arguments of other men. There is a structure to meaning. You are only superficially correct: when limited to a passage or a few passages, allegorical interpretations can be said to mean anything. But the notion that the Bible itself can be made to say anything one wants is patently false. The invention of meaning offered as allegorical interpretation soon becomes apparent. The human mind is incapable of mounting any sort of systematic, semantically consistent interpretation of such a complex book unless that interpretation is grounded in truth.

 

Paul describes his interpretive work in Galatians 4:21–31 with the same Greek word from which we get the English term allegory (v. 4:24), but he does not embrace fanciful allegories. Instead, he uses typological interpretation, which, John Calvin writes, is consistent with “the true and literal meaning” of the original text.

Are you suggesting the allegorical system I use is “fanciful”? If so, state what part or parts of my allegorical system you find fanciful and I’ll attempt a defense.

 

I always wondered why allegory appeals to some? Why does the reader refuse to allow the author to control his/her mind, conveying through the context what the author intended?

I interpret this as you don’t understand why every Christian doesn’t abide by the manmade rules of the interpretation of Scripture the way we are taught by men who, either consciously or subconsciously, wish to control what God is allowed to say in Scripture. I reject the literal as sufficient to obtain all God’s truth because I believe God to be the real author of Scripture, not men. I don’t dismiss author intent. I place it squarely where I believe God has inspired it, as the springboard to a higher (allegorical) understanding of the Bible. God uses author intent, not to supply all the meaning in the Bible as literalists suppose, but to lay out His blueprint for all His doctrine.

 

Is Universalism biblical? No

Ah, truth rears its head. So, the pertinent question arises: why have you started a section with the title “Is Universalism Biblical?” with no intention of honest examination into whether it might it might be answered in the affirmative? Your mind was already closed and made up. Given this, what possible reason would a universalist have for participating in it? It seems your purpose is to lure unsuspecting universalists into your ‘lion’s den’ for some gnashing and gnawing by the good old boy club. This being so, what sense could there possibly be in attempting honest discussion when it’s shown from the beginning that those here have no intention of granting reasonable consideration into the possible merits of a competing view they really only wish to dismantle?

 

Universalism demonstrates a lack of understanding of Biblical theology.

What you mean is, the concept of universalism seems to demonstrate to you a lack of understanding of Biblical theology. I feel confident in supposing that this is so only because you've made that aforementioned commitment to a system that teaches you to believe this. You mention in the closing parts of your post the regenerated Christian has the mind of Christ, yet Jesus describes Himself as Truth. If Jesus is Truth, shouldn't the Christian who has the same mind be committed wholly to the pursuit of truth instead of his doctrine?

 

 

 

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Spiffy,

 

You're free to make your case and points here at Heresy Hill category under the Universalism forum section.

 

Enjoy,

William

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Often? How often? How are you able to know “what context allows”? Is the Bible’s context limited to your understanding of what it should be? If so, how can you properly determine whether an opposing view imparts an appropriate context if it offers one different than your own?

 

It's actually very simple, we understand things in a plain, grammatical way, the same as we do when speaking. You understand what we're all saying here, thus why you disagree because you know we disagree with you. Scripture is easily understood that same way, it's as basic as it gets. That still allows for allegory, but allegory is determined in the same way as with typical speech. If it seems like a figure of speech or otherwise presents a contradictory message, it probably is a figure of speech, that or similar. But only then is it considered a figure of speech. We don't allegorize everything in real life, neither should we with biblical texts.

 

How do I know that's correct? Test it, go allegorize everything and see how many contradictions you end up with. If you think there are no contradictions in that view, I'll gladly do the work and show some.

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It's actually very simple, we understand things in a plain, grammatical way, the same as we do when speaking. You understand what we're all saying here, thus why you disagree because you know we disagree with you. Scripture is easily understood that same way, it's as basic as it get

Yes, this is as basic as it gets for human authorship. We don't disagree that all humans speak and authors (including the Bible authors) write literal things. The point of contention--the rotten thing hidden in the exegetical walls so to speak--is in the champions of grammatical-historical literalism forcing the "plain, grammatical way" on what God is allowed to say in the Bible. Isn't Scripture supposed to be allowed to interpret Scripture? Forcing human methodology on a spiritual book is a corruption. It is unbiblical. There not only is no direction/command from God to adhere to literalism, but Jesus taught almost entirely in figurative language, the Old Testament prophets prophesied almost exclusively in metaphors and several books of the Bible--Job, Psalms, Revelation, etc.--are immediately recognized to be highly symbolic. Given these facts, how in the world Christianity has allowed itself to be duped into a harshly literal understanding of this symbolic book is imo unimaginable.

 

How do I know that's correct? Test it, go allegorize everything and see how many contradictions you end up with. If you think there are no contradictions in that view, I'll gladly do the work and show some.

By urging me to 'go allegorize everything' you're asking me to make up some allegorical story about the entire Bible? This would be nonsense. If I did this anyone could find contradictions. I wouldn't get past Genesis. I stated as much about made-up allegorizing in my last post. On the other hand, I paint what I see, and I see a systematic, congruous, coherent, non-contradictory plan of the salvation of every human by Christ Jesus' atonement in an allegorical structure that uses passages from multiple books in both Testaments of the Bible. Not only this, once assembled, this interpretation is able to resolve tensions the literal is incapable of resolving itself.

 

Other universalists only know how to participate in the same literalism traditional literalists do. The whole 'forever [aionios] means ages' argument so depended on by other Christian universalists is proof of this. Literalists pore over word usage for years on end to find nuances in literal meaning like this. As interesting as the aionios/ages argument is, God's plan for the salvation of all persons, which He hid in plain sight in His allegorical structure, creates its own contexts, rendering many literal contexts insignificant. (i.e., in my universalism forever and ever does mean forever with no contradiction.)

 

The real problem with discussion on this subject is that literalists have bought hook line and sinker into a grammatical-historical literalism that is poison to truth in the same way the Pharisee's literalism poisoned God's word in their own day. Despite the fact that I pointed out the logical flaws in literalism's base arguments, William followed up immediately with the very same arguments which show that literalists hold doctrine unreflectively, doctrine forced into the truth-corrupting literalist mold. I can't fathom why you folks don't see this. Doctrine or interpretive rules are not the same as truth. You use your exegetical beliefs to judge, how can you not see the circularity in a "your interpretation is wrong because my interpretation says it is!" format?

 

Isn't it reasonable, given the highly symbolic nature of the Bible, that God might choose to orchestrate higher truths and principles using the very literal meaning He knew His Bible authors would us in His impressions to them to form the literal base of His word to build metaphors, and metaphors to build a systematic allegorical presentation? You obediently refuse to see past the obvious metaphors of the Bible because your champions forbid you to do so. Might not those demonstrable metaphors have been dangled in front of us as an enticement and instruction to follow the pattern to higher truths? There have been a good many Godly men and women (mystics) through history who have seen just this truth. Maybe literalists should rethink their position lest they find themselves on that wide path that leads to destruction.

 

I can confidently make the claim that in my universalist theology annihilationism, eternal hell, two classes of humans saved and unsaved are compatible with the salvation of all without contradiction. Literalism cannot possibly claim this.

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The Bible is not highly symbolic, except in dreams, visions, and parables. And, the trouble with the visions and dreams (not parables) is that if they're not explained in scripture, we can only guess what they mean, without certainly of being right (unless you're a Dispy, then you can be certain about one failed claim after another). The Bible is very clear, over and over, not in visions and dreams, but in matter-of-direct-fact teaching that salvation is not universal, that there are people headed for destruction. John 3:16 says believe in Christ else perish, not "Believe, don't believe, whatever, no one perishes." Those very few verses than Universalists use as proof texts need to be interpreted in the the context of the whole Bible. Every mention of eternal destruction, judgement, or punishment is a refutation of Universalism.

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The Bible is not highly symbolic, except in dreams, visions, and parables

Parroting the party line to claim the Bible is not symbolic in light of its content is a chilling expression of the state of Christianity today.

 

if they're not explained in scripture, we can only guess what they mean, without certainly of being right

Forgive me for being frank, but this is the most frequent, dumbest parrot quote in the literalist handbook. Even the champions (PhD​​ guys) of literalism throw this saying out with appalling regularity without ever considering how absurd it is. This statement is the ultimate expression of a closed mind. Not once in my 20+ years of gradually coming to understand the salvation of all has a literalist ever asked the one intelligent question that should be associated with this sort of thinking.

 

The question: What method could there possibly be to test the authenticity of an allegorical interpretation? Not once has this question ever been asked in my experience--except in a contemptuous manner to state 'the obvious', that there is no possible way. This is absurd and shows how closed the literalist mind is.

 

The answer: Any allegorical interpretation of the Bible can and should be subjected to the same truth criteria as any other interpretive method. It's really that simple. The important thing is to note the complete lack openness in the literalist position. All here condemn the salvation of all--like all well trained literalists--without once showing the slightest interest in subjecting my theology to careful scrutiny. Is this the mindset of the followers of Christ? You've all been trained in what to hate and what to respect; you have no need of any stinking open-minded consideration. I've purposefully refrained from posting a shred of my theology for the sole purpose of testing the waters here, to find out how sincere you are about inviting universalists to post in this section.

 

Universalists use as proof texts need to be interpreted in the the context of the whole Bible.

Really? Who taught you to parrot this line?

 

Every mention of eternal destruction, judgement, or punishment is a refutation of Universalism.

Of course it is--if you use your doctrine and method of interpretation as the judge of what is true instead of the accepted truth critera you would use if you were genuinely interested in pursuing the truth of a matter.

 

Now that I've laid the groundwork showing the folly of the literalists claim to seek the truth, I'll start a new post showing the allegorical method God has woven into His word by which it was His plan from the beginning to save every human soul. I'll be traveling for several days so won't be able to post till next week. In the meaning, all you wolves in sheep's clothing will have time to sharpen your teeth. God bless you all in your walk.

 

 

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