26 February 2009

Universalism: All means ALL! (Pt 1)

I AM A UNIVERSALIST! There you go, I said it, go run and spread the news of my heretical views....or, stick around and let me explain.

I had another slight run in with a handful of people who would fall into a universalist understanding of salvation last week, and so it sparked the idea of laying down some of my thoughts here (since they never listen long enough to consider what is being said). Let me first make a brief, and probably too wide of a brush definition of what is the normal understanding of universalism.

Universalism is at the basic root, the belief that since God will not be thwarted by Satan, and Satan will win nothing, that God has a plan to take it all back. God desires that all mankind be saved (1 Tim 2:4). He therefore sent His Son Jesus to lay down his life and provide a blood covering for all, and since Jesus' blood is effective, all will be saved.

So, how am I a universalist? I believe God wishes all to be saved, and sent his Son to die for all. The key difference lies in the understanding of the Greek word lying behind the English translation "all." Sadly, I will not get deeper into this till part two...so don't go spreading rumors about me yet.

Oddly, when you try to bring up what the little word all means in the original language, they close out everything you have to say, it seems. They start throwing out things like, "stop speaking to me of man made understandings," as if I am using tricks of man to distort the word of God; but isn't that backwards thinking? After all, the Scriptures in question come from a Greek and Hebrew language background that has been translated as closely as possible to an English understanding, by man. So the English Bible translation is the only real "man-made" part of the equation, and is only as good as the translators were (and we know how that can be ;-}).

The universalist crowd would, and have said, all means all; implying it means all-inclusive when applied to whatever the topic is. So, when it says God wishes all to be saved, it means He wishes all people, without exclusion of any, every single individual, to be eternally saved. When Jesus died for all, it means He died for all men, without exclusion, every single person to have ever lived. They don't get that from looking at the original language, or from even considering the usage of the word in Scriptures that won't fit this understanding they have, they simply just keep repeating, ALL MEANS ALL.

I agree, all does mean all; but all does not always mean all-inclusive. It doesn't in English, nor does it in the original language, and when you consider the Scriptures within their proper Covenantal context, it makes no sense at all when you try to force that upon it.

Now before I break out the original languages and get all theological and technical, let us just simply consider in this first part, how the English word itself is used, to see some examples of variances in use that even we have for it in our day and time, and how it can mean something different in different scenarios, contradicting their understanding with their own modern language.
"Man, I tossed and turned and was up all night." So, are we saying that we did not sleep a single moment of the entire night? Sure, we could be saying that is literally true, but is that commonly what we mean?

"I wish you'd stop, you're stay on my case about that all the time." So, not a minute goes by when the person is not on the other person's case about the issue?

"I think about you all the time." Not a minute goes by that I am not thinking about you?

"All of America was glued to their TV that night." Every single individual in America was watching TV that night?

"When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him." (Matt. 2:3) Every single person in Jerusalem was troubled?

"Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins." (Matt. 3:5-6) So, we are to understand that every single person of Judea and every single person in every region of Jordan went and got baptized by John?

"Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; (Matt. 4:8) So, from the top of that mountain Jesus saw every single kingdom on the whole globe (or does world always mean whole globe...a topic for another day).

I could go on and on, but you hopefully get the point. Context (in sentence structure as well as cultural/covenantal use) plays a huge part of how a word is to be understood, and we still to this day use simple translational understandings with such words as all.

Let me end by revealing the thrust of my argument, and set it up for part two of this series. While I wish, as I am sure many of you do too, that translators were always consistent in translation, this is not always so, and if taken strictly at English face value, can lead to confusions such as the universalists make. I leave you with but one single example of the same exact same Greek word for all being translated in a more proper manner.
And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. (Matt. 4:23)
The same single little Greek word is here translated as the phrase "all manner of" which is exactly the thrust of the word more often than not.

Click to get to Part 2