In today’s post I’d like to put forth the basic support for Full Salvation. Admittedly, this post may seem a bit underwhelming for some readers. I say this for a few reasons. First, I have already presented a lot of support for Full Salvation in the form of arguments against Calvinsism, Arminianism, Annihilationism, Lewisim, and Original Sin (see posts 1-5). Second, I will not deal with hell in today’s post. That will be in post #’s 7 and 8. Third, the reader may be looking for something that does not exist, that is, a flawless argument for Full Salvation. I have noticed that many skeptics of Full Salvation expect its proponents to offer some kind of clear-cut answer to ‘prove’ that it is undeniably true. This is unfortunate and I can tell you that you will not find ‘proof’ in this blog series. The point is not for Full Salvation to “win the day,” but to lose its false caricature as heresy. Whether or not you discover enough material to consider Full Salvation as a hopeful alternative to the traditional views is up to you and God. At the end of the day, I simply wish to put forward some good thoughts on this topic and allow you the reader to explore. So let’s get to it.
I concluded yesterday’s post on ‘Original Ungrace” with this:
If grace is grace, and if there is nothing we can do to make God love us more or less, than how is it that some end up in heaven and others in hell? It would seem that there are only two options. Option 1: Those who end up in hell are not wanted by God (Calvinism). Option 2: Those who end up in hell did not do their part to receive their “free grace” (Arminianism). Or maybe there is an option 3?
Option 3 is, of course, Full Salvation. More specifically, option 3 is the belief that nobody remains in hell forever because the God who desires all to be saved has given pure grace to all through Christ and will therefore save all. Thus, the major point that I want to put forward in today’s post is that Full Salvation hinges upon two biblical/orthodox claims about God: 1) God desires the salvation of all. 2) God is sovereign.
In the book Universal Salvation? The Current Debate, the Calvinist theologian Daniel Strange writes that “Talbott is indeed correct that if Christ died for everyone then everyone will be saved,” (p.160, original italics). Contrary to Calvinism and Arminianism, this is exactly what Full Salvation champions. Christ died for all and therefore all will be saved. Let us therefore begin by examining where Universalists find support for the claim that Christ died for all.
As with any theology rightly to be named Christian, they begin with the Gospels’ witness to the Incarnation of God in Jesus of Nazareth (Heb. 1:3). Firstly, let us ask if there is any indication that the God revealed by Jesus desires the salvation of all. In his life and ministry Jesus actively pursued those who were “lost” and “un-elect” (e.g. Matt. 9:9-13; Mark 5:24-34; Luke 6:27-29, John 4:7ff). One does not have to read very far into the Gospels to see that Jesus reveals a God who desires the inclusion of all and sundry. In a series of parables Jesus compares God to a shepherd who pursues a lost sheep until he finds it; to a woman who pursues a lost coin until she finds it; and to a father who breaks social norms, forgives beyond measure, and embraces his lost son because he has been found(Luke 15)! Jesus himself referred to his ministry as the year of radical debt-forgiveness (Luke 4:19) and his own death as the means to “draw all men” to himself (John 12:32). Because of this Universalists believe that Jesus unequivocally desires the salvation of all.
- Romans 5:18 – Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.
- Romans 11:32 – For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.
- 2 Cor. 5:18-19 – All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
- Col. 1:19-20 – For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
- 1 John 2:2 – He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
- 1 Tim. 2:6 – Christ Jesus “gave himself as a ransom for all men”
- Heb. 2:9 – Jesus tasted “death for everyone”
“There [in Romans 8], Paul outlines and celebrates the hope that one day the entire cosmos will have its own great exodus, its liberation from bondage to decay. The point is this: the covenant between God and Israel was always designed to be God’s means of saving the whole world. It was never supposed to be the means whereby God would have a private little group of people who would be saved while the rest of the world went to hell (whatever you might mean by that). Thus, when God is faithful to the covenant in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and in the work of the Spirit, it makes nonsense of the Pauline gospel to imagine that the be-all and end-all of this operation is so that God can have another, merely different private little group of people who are saved while the world is consigned to the cosmic wastepaper basket.” (from What Saint Paul Really Said,163-164)
I think this is a good place to stop for today. The major points that I wanted to communicate in today’s post are:
- Full Salvation hinges upon two biblical / orthodox claims about God: 1) God desires the salvation of all. 2) God is sovereign.
- At the heart of Full Salvation is the conditional proposal: if Christ died for all then all will be saved.
- Full Salvation begins with the biblical witness, especially the Christ Event, and concludes that God not only desires the salvation of all but has ontologically / eschatologically won the salvation of all in the Christ Event
I want to conclude today’s post with some wisdom from the great 20th century theologian Karl Barth. In his colossal Church Dogmatics he reminded us that even if we cannot argue the certainty of Full Salvation, “We are surely commanded the more definitely to hope and pray for it!” (CD vol. 4:3:1, 478)
If you don’t hope and pray for it, why not?