Two Kinds of Faith
The last section ended by stating that it may “take a bit of faith” to believe the message of universal salvation. However, I’ll argue now that is also takes faith–more faith, in fact–to believe that God will not eventually save all people. To see what I mean by this, begin by looking at the following quote from a different article I wrote:
“If God is Love, then surely he wants the best for every person. Many scriptures support this. 1 Timothy 2:4 says ‘God … wants all people to be saved’. He “does not want anyone to perish, but for everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). I also believe God is powerful enough to accomplish whatever He wants. Isaiah 46:10 says ‘I (God) will accomplish all that I please’. When Christ’s disciples once asked him ‘Who can be saved?’, part of his response was, ‘With God, all things are possible’, by which we can infer: God can save anyone! If God desires that every person be saved, and he is able to bring about all that he desires, how can anyone not be saved? The doctrine of eternal damnation suggests that either God’s love or God’s power is deficient.”From An Argument for Christian Universalism: Why I Don’t Believe in an Eternal Hell
In fact, there are many passages from the Christian Bible that indicate that God will save all people. Here are more examples.
Now, if you believe that the Christian scriptures were, in fact, inspired by God, all these scriptures should present you with a major problem if you also believe in an eternal hell. Setting aside, for the moment (I will return to the topic), the idea of free will, consider the faith now required to believe in eternal torment. You must now take it on faith that the statements from these scriptures, although inspired by God, are in some way not quite true.
Consider that the passage from Isaiah, quoted above, is not merely stating that God can accomplish anything He desires, but that He will accomplish everything He desires. Then the other scriptures, quoted and linked to above, unequivocally state that He desires that no person “perish”, but that all people be saved. Therefore, from a scriptural standpoint, all people will be saved. To believe otherwise now requires a great deal of faith.
I’ll have more to say about “free will” later, but if one believes the passages quoted and linked to above, then one must conclude that no person will eternally and freely choose to not be saved, for God earnestly desires that all people be saved, and God will accomplish all He desires.
Again, the Christian scriptures say, “God is Agape (Love)” and “Agape never fails” (1 John 4:8, 1 Cor. 13:8). So, the “free will” of humans will not thwart God’s plans or wishes. Universalism is the only position that is in full harmony with the nature of God, as described by Christians and the Christian scriptures. There is an important distinction to be made between harmonizing your beliefs with the Bible and harmonizing your beliefs with the nature of God, in accordance with the scriptures. This is why “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life”. What is the Spirit, if not the essence of God? As already discussed, the Spirit of God is the Word of God. The mere letter of the law/book, without that Spirit, is death, written in decaying human symbols (language). Therefore, we must always interpret the letter in accordance with the Spirit, rather than attempt to define the Spirit in accordance with the letter. The Spirit of God is the essence, or Nature, of God, and that Nature is unfailing and unconditional Agape, as described in 1 Corinthians 13.
So, if one believes that these scriptures were inspired by God, it should now take less faith to believe that God will save all people than it takes to believe that He will not. To believe that He will not save all people requires one to somehow believe that God’s nature is not what scripture says it is. One must believe that either He will not, in fact, accomplish all that He wishes to accomplish, or that He will accomplish all He wants, but He simply does not want to save everyone. If you believe the scriptures, you’ll realize that only Universalism causes no contradictions about the nature of God. So, to believe otherwise, I imagine, would take a lot of faith.
So, you must now choose between two beliefs. They both require faith. One of these beliefs, however, requires faith that contradicts both scripture and the Divine Nature. The other belief requires faith that agrees with scripture, and thus ascribes only the best attributes to the nature of God.
One of these beliefs is the belief that Being/Reality is beautiful. The other belief amounts to a perception of a Reality that is ultimately not beautiful at all.
If you must, by faith, choose between one idea that life is beautiful, and another idea that life is not beautiful, wouldn’t you rather believe in that which is beautiful?
Beauty is a Big Deal
As I began doing my research for this series, I became acutely aware that, until now, I had not given the concept of “Beauty” nearly the amount of thought that it merits. I further realized that I was not alone in this.
It turns out that Beauty is a central concept in sacred literature from all religious traditions. Moreover, it is a pervasive concept in science, mathematics, metaphysics, and mysticism. Indeed, for how central the concept is to the grander domains of human thought, it is given shockingly little popular attention. Or rather, the popular attention is directed mostly towards cheap social ideas of beauty, such as those that the magazine covers urge us to strive for. However, beauty, as a concept, is far more than skin-deep.
Here are just a few examples:
- In the Genesis account of the creation, when God proclaims everything “good” over and over again, the word translated as “good” is the Hebrew word טוֹב, which also means “beautiful”.
- In Jewish, Christian, and mystical traditions, the idea of “completion” is central. In Genesis, for example, God declares His work “finished”, and then rests on the seventh day due to that fact. Thus, the number seven is associated with completion. Also, just before Jesus died on the cross, He is said to have proclaimed, “It is finished”. This theme of completion is closely connected in religious and linguistic ways to both the concept of “perfection” and the concept of “beauty”.
- Beauty has long been, and continues to be, a guiding principle in mathematics and science. This is related to the mathematical/scientific concept of “symmetry”, which has long been thought indicative of a theory’s likelihood to express something true. This emphasis on symmetry has come under attack in the last few years, but the likely result will not be that we jettison the idea of symmetry entirely, but rather, that we balance it more appropriately with other principles. This, I believe, will not amount to a rejection of beauty as a guiding principle. As explained below, it will more likely result in a more subtle definition of mathematical/scientific beauty.
- While mathematics and science have long sought beauty in symmetry, Heraclitus proclaimed millenia ago that “the most beautiful arrangement is a pile of things poured out at random”. The word he used for “arrangement”, naturally, was the Greek word “κόσμος”, that is, “Kosmos”, from which we get the English word “Cosmos”.
- If Heraclitus was correct, and if the contemporary scientific consensus about the general randomness of the universe is correct, then perhaps Leibniz, though ridiculed for supposing that we inhabit “the best of all possible worlds”, was also correct. I digress. However, my point is also that there are infinite such digressions, and so it turns out that “Beauty” will lead us on a very deep and wide journey.
- Consider the common fact that the human perception of beauty in another human face is directly related to the symmetry of that face. However, upon second thought, this is only partly true, as the symmetry in question is entirely that of symmetry across the vertical axis. Were a human face to be also symmetrical across the horizontal axis, it would not look beautiful. It would look grotesque.
- Perhaps then, beauty is actually a balanced juxtaposition of symmetry and non-symmetry. That is, perhaps it is equal parts Heraclitus and contemporary mathematics/science. After all, isn’t the beauty of life, in all its diversity, on planet earth, in some way the beauty of the juxtaposition of all that order against the background of apparent cosmic randomness and chaos?
I’ll conclude this line of thought for now, as I think I’ve sufficiently illustrated just how far the contemplation of Beauty can take us. This illustration doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface, as we will later see.
Shame is Also a Big Deal
What is shame?
May I propose that shame is nothing other than our perception of ourselves as being ugly in a deeper-than-cosmetic sense. We often feel shame when we commit deeds that we perceive as ugly deeds.
Note: this chapter on shame will not end here. It is presently unfinished, but will be completed shortly.
Much more to come very soon…
Here is a very rough, very early outline of future sections in The Argument from Beauty. These are personal notes made into a mindmap.
The author lovingly dedicates this article to the memory of two dear friends: Gary Amirault, who passed from this world on November 3rd, 2018, and his wife, Michelle Amirault, who preceded him in death on July 31st, 2018. Gary and Michelle lived their lives passionately in love with Love, and on behalf of Love. Indeed, this article would likely have never come to be, were it not for Gary and Michelle’s love. Gary and Michelle tirelessly promoted what they called the “Victorious Gospel”, otherwise known as Christian Universalism or Universal Reconciliation. In short, they proclaimed to the world that “Love Wins”. Tentmaker Ministries (https://tentmaker.org/) is just one of their enduring legacies.
Far more importantly, however, Gary and Michelle were both the embodiment of the kind of relentless love that they preached. They were the warmest, kindest, most hospitable people I have ever known. I believe that anyone who was graced with knowing them personally would say exactly the same thing.