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Source: (consider it) Thread: Reverse evangelism
Eutychus
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Reeling from the decisionism of the early stages of the Reading outpouring, my mind turned to a team member on an evangelistic campaign many moons ago.

Shouldn't we refrain from evangelism, she argued, because sharing the Gospel would, in her words, "make people more accountable" to God?

How can the evangelistic imperative in Scripture be reconciled with the fuzzy quasi-universalism most Christians seem to exhibit in practice, without falling into the opposite extreme of decisionism?

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Let's remember that we are to build the Kingdom of God, not drive people away - pastor Frank Pomeroy

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mr cheesy
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I've not fully thought this thought through, but could it be that those who are most likely to do evangelism are also most likely to believe in an individualised form of Christianity - so that what is being offered is a "golden ticket to heaven, only available here today".

If one is a "real" believer* in Universalism I suppose one must look at the nature of Christian belief and the atonement in a different way to the above.

Presumably one is then not offering the "golden ticket" because there isn't much point in using that phrasing if all will be saved anyway.

But one could use a different form of language which makes conversion important. So one maybe could instead of talking about heaven directly talk about the difference that God will make in the life of the believer, the power of faith, his healing touch and so on. Do you see what I mean?

All might be saved in the long run, but your life in the here-and-now is only going to be complete if you allow the Lord to heal and use you.

Or that could be complete garbage, I'm not sure if I've ever actually met someone who really believes in Universalism.


* and I suppose by that I mean someone who has thought it through and intellectually assented to the idea that All Will Be Saved rather than the fuzzy sort described in the OP

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arse

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Baptist Trainfan
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quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:
Shouldn't we refrain from evangelism, she argued, because sharing the Gospel would, in her words, "make people more accountable" to God?

Yes, I've heard that: "If they've never had the opportunity to hear the Gospel, God will treat them mercifully. But he won't, if they've heard it and rejected it".

What does that say about how people hear, understand and receive the Gospel; and about God's goodness, foreknowledge and foreordination. I don't buy it (and I can't see any justification for it in Scripture).

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Baptist Trainfan
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
I've not fully thought this thought through, but could it be that those who are most likely to do evangelism are also most likely to believe in an individualised form of Christianity - so that what is being offered is a "golden ticket to heaven, only available here today".

I don't think that would be true of all evangelists/Evangelicals - but I think it's true for some, who will emphasis that "today" is the day of salvation (and you might not have a tomorrow).
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Martin60
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Eskimo: 'If I did not know about God and sin, would I go to hell?' Priest: 'No, not if you did not know.' Eskimo: 'Then why did you tell me?' Annie Dillard

Why indeed?

I agree mr cheesy, it's about life transformation.

[ 31. January 2017, 13:50: Message edited by: Martin60 ]

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Love wins

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:

Or that could be complete garbage, I'm not sure if I've ever actually met someone who really believes in Universalism.


* and I suppose by that I mean someone who has thought it through and intellectually assented to the idea that All Will Be Saved rather than the fuzzy sort described in the OP

I'm pretty sure we have at least a couple on the Ship.

But Universalism is much closer to Jesus' message than needing a club membership to pass the Pearly Gates.

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So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

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rolyn
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Jesus in the KJV Bible doesn't seem to have a message of Universalism, quite the contrary. You have to go for fuzzy Jesus who doesn't do sheep and goats or wailing and gnashing of teeth if you want Universal salvation.

Still, better a fuzzy salvation that no salvation?

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Change is the only certainty of existence

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lilBuddha
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The Bible was written by people other than Jesus. ISTM, you need to read for a consistent message.
And it club membership isn't consistent with Jesus.
There is plenty of middle ground between universalism and condemnationalism, but IMO, the core of the message is more acceptance than Fry you Heathen Bastards!

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So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

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SvitlanaV2
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IMO the more MOTR or moderately liberal end of Christianity is more or less universalist in practice if not in theory. This would explain why evangelism often seems especially unappealing or distasteful for Christians in this group.

The practical problem is that universalism makes evangelism less likely, makes Christian parents less concerned to transmit the faith to their children, and leads to churches closing and denominations shrinking. But few church leaders are honest enough to unpack and defend their de facto theology of church decline.

To return to the OP, ISTM that the concept of belonging before believing (and I've also come across 'belonging before believing before behaving', which refers to personal transformation as the final goal) is a way of avoiding decisionism. I understand that most growing churches attract adherents who become involved in church life over a period of time before they undergo formal conversion or baptism.

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Baptist Trainfan
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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
IMO the more MOTR or moderately liberal end of Christianity is more or less universalist in practice if not in theory. This would explain why evangelism often seems especially unappealing or distasteful for Christians in this group.

The practical problem is that universalism makes evangelism less likely, makes Christian parents less concerned to transmit the faith to their children, and leads to churches closing and denominations shrinking. But few church leaders are honest enough to unpack and defend their de facto theology of church decline.

I agree with what you say - I have heard too many folk (in the URC) saying, "Numbers don't matter" - but, whether we like it or not, they do.

Your last sentence is intriguing! Can you flesh it out a bit?

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anteater

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Eutychus:
quote:
Shouldn't we refrain from evangelism, she argued, because sharing the Gospel would, in her words, "make people more accountable" to God?
That surely is a rarely held view. I've only ever heard that argument used against certain doctrines to try and show them up as unscriptural.

Like someone I know, who is evo, chari and near fundi (very anti-gay). I said to her that few christians today believe that you have to accept Christ in this life to escape damnation. "I do!" she said, and repeated when I said "are you sure?". The conversation, as you have probably now guessed went:
- So those who never heard the Gospel?
- Ah well! God will be fair, and he somehow offers them the Gospel at the moment of death.

There are variants but this one is the most dodgy, 'cause all you and me get is a fairly boring sermon by Rev Stodge, whereas Jimmy the Heathen gets a personal talking-to by some supernatural Person.

And indeed, why bother with evangelism? Which is why most don't. Nobody else will suffer through their negligence because God would not allow that to happen.

quote:
How can the evangelistic imperative in Scripture be reconciled with the fuzzy quasi-universalism most Christians seem to exhibit in practice
I don't think it can.

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Schnuffle schnuffle.

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no prophet's flag is set so...

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Sheep and goats and golden-ticketism is a form of terrible darkness the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission has shed light on. It is a very thin line between graciously and kindly offering an opinion about how life, the universe and everything works and cultural and religious imperialism. Where you fail to listen, get hepped on your version of cosmology, and denigrate others by denigrating their culture and religion. Many say that they don't want this Christianity because of the things it has wrought.
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Martin60
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quote:
Originally posted by rolyn:
Jesus in the KJV Bible doesn't seem to have a message of Universalism, quite the contrary. You have to go for fuzzy Jesus who doesn't do sheep and goats or wailing and gnashing of teeth if you want Universal salvation.

Still, better a fuzzy salvation that no salvation?

Jesus' hard sayings were from and for hard times. Running eschatologically amok with them now is useless. And the W. European churches didn't bleed white from the C19th because of universalism.

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Love wins

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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:
quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
Few church leaders are honest enough to unpack and defend their de facto theology of church decline.

I agree with what you say - I have heard too many folk (in the URC) saying, "Numbers don't matter" - but, whether we like it or not, they do.

Your last sentence is intriguing! Can you flesh it out a bit?

I'm not a theologian myself, but I understand that some theologies refer to the weakness and brokenness of God. Maybe this could be reconciled with the acceptance of a weak and broken church.

Alternatively, there's the idea that the church isn't weak enough. Maybe we're under severe chastisement and should be responding in humility to that. Why would a perverse and error-ridden church move heaven and earth to make a single convert who'll only end up as twice the child of hell? Perhaps ashes and sackcloth would be more fitting....

In any case, I fear that without a strong urge to do God's will what drives our evangelism is mainly a desire to maintain the existence of our institutions. This is understandable, but it makes me uneasy. And I don't know what the alternative is, since we quite clearly want to maintain our expensive church hierarchies and institutions as they are, despite declining resources and manpower.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:

In any case, I fear that without a strong urge to do God's will what drives our evangelism is mainly a desire to maintain the existence of our institutions. This is understandable, but it makes me uneasy. And I don't know what the alternative is, since we quite clearly want to maintain our expensive church hierarchies and institutions as they are, despite declining resources and manpower.

On this I'd just say that decline and death are a natural part of the cycle of most churches. If we take the position that those churches were being used at some point in the past, then we have to live with the idea that they have built-in senescence.

I suppose one of the things that makes me most annoyed is the idea that churches need new converts to "maintain our expensive church hierarchies and institutions as they are, despite declining resources and manpower".

Churches are (in the best view) vehicles for God's grace in the present. They do not have any particular right to exist, have no particular reason to continue into the indefinite future.

If the only reason we want converts is for pew-fodder, I'm not interested. That's an utterly bankrupt way of thinking. Either the message means something other than keeping the thing going or it means nothing at all.

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arse

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Gramps49
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I have always thought of evangelism as one hungry person telling another hungry person where to find food.

I find people really do hunger about their existence, their meaning in life, their sense of belonging and their connectedness to the universal.

Now, there are many ways to satisfy that hunger, some positive, many others negative. I don't mean to denigrate any movement, but I feel compelled to share works for me.

If anything it is not about being concerned about making others (unbelievers [?]) more accountable to God, but living up to my responsibility to share what I have come to believe as the good news for today.

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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
Decline and death are a natural part of the cycle of most churches. If we take the position that those churches were being used at some point in the past, then we have to live with the idea that they have built-in senescence.
[...]
If the only reason we want converts is for pew-fodder, I'm not interested.

Well, this is the thing. Clergymen don't tell their congregations that 'built-in senescence' is okay, and indeed to be accepted or even welcomed. This silence may need to change, especially if we're heading resolutely and irrevocably towards the death of large numbers of congregations, and even whole denominations - which is what's projected to happen in the near future.

Looking more closely at your claims, I suppose that individual churches have always disappeared here and there, and the closure of the odd hamlet church building in the Middle Ages or the late Tudor period might not have been hugely significant. A number of exotic sects from the Reformation period have surely fizzled out over time, and their members probably returned to the bosom of the state churches.

However, with regard to the Victorian period onwards, the historian Robin Gill has noted that church closure has frequently had a detrimental effect upon church involvement and engagement among the laity. In already secularising communities it's a sign of decreasing adherence to Christian doctrines and is likely to hasten the irrelevance of the Christian religion over time.

If we're going to accept the retreat of Christianity in our society then we need a theological way of expressing and explain that to ourselves, which is the point I was making. Alternatively, the moderate end of the spectrum urgently needs to develop a proper theology of evangelism which has more to offer than 'we need to get a few more young people in if we want our church to stay open.'

[ 31. January 2017, 21:17: Message edited by: SvitlanaV2 ]

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Ethne Alba
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As an aside and not wanting to de-rail totally.....
It is far easier to accept the theory of a life cycle of a church (which btw, i absolutely do...), when one is faced with nearby alternatives. In our city, should a church building and/ or congregation become unviable, in all honesty there will be alternative christian congregations reasonably close by.

But in the countryside? The loss of a viable building and / or congregation in the countryside is an altogether different matter.

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Ethne Alba
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Whilst to return to the topic at hand.....
Far more work could usefully be done within churches to tease out exactly and precisely what evangelism is....and ....what it is for....

Evangelism presented as the christian either saying or more usually feeling:
"Right. That's It. TODAY you have not accepted. It therefore follows that you will go absolutely go straight to hell when you die."....
.....is hardly evangelism.
ISTM

I like the idea of one hungry person telling another hungry person where to find food.
There's just the whole time scale thing that niggles..... Like we are God or something.

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Humble Servant
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quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:
quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:
Shouldn't we refrain from evangelism, she argued, because sharing the Gospel would, in her words, "make people more accountable" to God?

Yes, I've heard that: "If they've never had the opportunity to hear the Gospel, God will treat them mercifully. But he won't, if they've heard it and rejected it".

What does that say about how people hear, understand and receive the Gospel; and about God's goodness, foreknowledge and foreordination. I don't buy it (and I can't see any justification for it in Scripture).

But doesn't that also imply that He will treat us all the more harshly for deliberately withholding the Gospel?
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Jolly Jape
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Sorry, just spotted this.

quote:
Or that could be complete garbage, I'm not sure if I've ever actually met someone who really believes in Universalism.
Really? I think there are plenty of them around, myself included. Not as high a percentage of all believers as in the early church, where they seem to have been a majority, but I would guess, based on personal encounter, that ten percent or so of theologically literate Christians hold some form of universalist belief.

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To those who have never seen the flow and ebb of God's grace in their lives, it means nothing. To those who have seen it, even fleetingly, even only once - it is life itself. (Adeodatus)

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Lamb Chopped
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I think the simple fact that he told us to evangelize is enough to settle whether we ought to do it. (backs up and tries to rephrase so as not to sound obnoxious) I mean, he knows what he's doing, right? And cares about those people? So presumably he'd not tell us to do something that is going to make things worse for them, rather than better?

I get uncomfortable anyway stating that God is going to do this or that based on inferences. Yes, we're told that "of him to whom much is given, much will be expected," but in any given specific evangelistic interaction, there's no saying, humanly, what the nonbeliever is actually taking away from it. Might be a whole lot less than the Christian thinks.

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Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!

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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Originally posted by Ethne Alba:

It is far easier to accept the theory of a life cycle of a church (which btw, i absolutely do...), when one is faced with nearby alternatives. In our city, should a church building and/ or congregation become unviable, in all honesty there will be alternative christian congregations reasonably close by.

The alternatives have to be 'acceptable', of course.

When my Methodist church closed the minister said at least the CofE, URC and the Baptists were nearby. He wouldn't have been so sanguine if only the Pentecostals had been available.

The problem is that many ordinary laymen are not always as willing to switch from one denomination to another as his comments suggest. Or rather, they may prefer to switch on their own terms, not as a result of 'their' denonmination bailing out of the area.


quote:

Evangelism presented as the christian either saying or more usually feeling:
"Right. That's It. TODAY you have not accepted. It therefore follows that you will go absolutely go straight to hell when you die."....
.....is hardly evangelism.
ISTM

More importantly, it can't be very successful, can it? Do modern Western people ever actually respond to such an approach?

Having said that, I've read that for some Christians, evangelism isn't so much about converting outsiders as about doing what they see as their Christian duty. And some commentators say the JW emphasis on evangelism has more to do with strengthening the bonds between church members than with bringing new people in.

Regarding the statement about hungry men helping each other, it's admirably poetic but it assumes that my hunger is the same as yours, etc. IME there's not much sense that people in our communities are hungering for Jesus. If they are, they don't realise it, which doesn't help us with evangelism.

[ 01. February 2017, 13:23: Message edited by: SvitlanaV2 ]

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goperryrevs
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quote:
Originally posted by Jolly Jape:
quote:
Or that could be complete garbage, I'm not sure if I've ever actually met someone who really believes in Universalism.
Really? I think there are plenty of them around, myself included. Not as high a percentage of all believers as in the early church, where they seem to have been a majority, but I would guess, based on personal encounter, that ten percent or so of theologically literate Christians hold some form of universalist belief.
<Waves> Another one here... In fact, it was in large part due to discussion on the Ship that I was finally convinced. And unless our most prolific poster has changed his mind too, there are a few more of us.

quote:
Originally posted by rolyn:
Jesus in the KJV Bible doesn't seem to have a message of Universalism, quite the contrary. You have to go for fuzzy Jesus who doesn't do sheep and goats or wailing and gnashing of teeth if you want Universal salvation.

We've done this before on the Ship, but not for a few years, so I'll bite.

KJV, you're right. Greek, not so much. It might disappoint the damnationists, but "eternal life" and "eternal punishment" are misleading translations of zoen aionion and kolasin aionion. These verses are not about living forever and being punished forever. As an adjective, aionios, (and its noun aion) is more frequently used to refer to finite lengths of time (not surprising, since we get our English word aeon from it). Kolasis is used to refer to corrective punishment - discipline rather than vengeance. So, enduring life and enduring discipline are more suitable translations than eternal life and eternal punishment.

As Clement neatly states:

quote:
"For all things are ordered both universally and in particular by the Lord of the universe, with a view to the salvation of the universe. But needful corrections, by the goodness of the great, overseeing judge, through the attendant angels, through various prior judgments, through the final judgment, compel even those who have become more callous to repent."
"So he saves all; but some he converts by penalties, others who follow him of their own will, and in accordance with the worthiness of his honor, that every knee may be bent to him of celestial, terrestrial and infernal things (Phil. 2:10), that is angels, men, and souls who before his advent migrated from this mortal life."

(on I John ii, 2)

quote:
"For there are partial corrections (padeiai) which are called chastisements (kolasis), which many of us who have been in transgression incur by falling away from the Lord's people. But as children are chastised by their teacher, or their father, so are we by Providence. But God does not punish (timoria) for punishment (timoria) is retaliation for evil. He chastises, however, for good to those who are chastised collectively and individually."
(Stromata 7)

For Clement, both the sheep and the goats are saved - just in different ways. So the parable of the sheep and goats at least is entirely compatible with Universalism; in fact, translated accurately, if anything, it strongly supports it.

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"Keep your eye on the donut, not on the hole." - David Lynch

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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Originally posted by Jolly Jape:
I think there are plenty of [universalists] around, myself included. Not as high a percentage of all believers as in the early church, where they seem to have been a majority, but I would guess, based on personal encounter, that ten percent or so of theologically literate Christians hold some form of universalist belief.

I should think the figure is far higher than 10% outside the evangelical churches. And most British churches are not evangelical.

I'm interested to hear that most believers in the early church would have been universalists. Can you say more about that, or provide a link?

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Martin60
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@goperryrevs, excellent hermeneutics, you and old Clem both.

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Love wins

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Baptist Trainfan
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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
quote:
Originally posted by Jolly Jape:
I think there are plenty of [universalists] around, myself included. ... I would guess, based on personal encounter, that ten percent or so of theologically literate Christians hold some form of universalist belief.

I should think the figure is far higher than 10% outside the evangelical churches. And most British churches are not evangelical.
Remember, though,that most if not all of the larger churches (including virtually all of the BME churches, are evangelical. Just one church of 1000 members counts the same as 20 churches of 50 members.
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Ethne Alba
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SvitlanaV2....Well no that approach isn't very successful. Neither is it what many christians say....but it is IMHO exactly what many Christians think. And it is very often what Christians do, as in "I've been out evangelising."

Evangelism being reduced to an exercise... an event ... a specific discussion or at the very least a stated or specific conversation; where The Truth is explained, expounded and a response is sought.

Maybe were evangelism viewed slightly differently, we wouldn't be thinking about reverse evangelism?

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SvitlanaV2
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Baptist Trainfan

A handful of megachurches doesn't make up for the vast number of churches with only 50 members. If it did, church decline wouldn't be a reality.

Ethne Alba

You obviously come from a very evangelical context where this kind of problematic evangelism is quite widespread, so I can understand your concern.

However, the mainstream churches I'm more familiar with focus on evangelism as 'belonging before believing', which is to say that they focus on developing the social networks surrounding church life. This helps non-worshippers to see the church as a friendly, helpful environment. The hope is that individuals will migrate from the after school club/coffee morning/mums' and toddlers' group, etc. towards the Sunday and/or weekday service and gradually find their way to faith that way.

Alternatively, many mainstream congregations have been creating Fresh Expressions of Church. These are like church plants or churches within churches, usually designed to be much less formal than most worship services, and aimed at people who wouldn't normally attend church. At the moment some of these FEs are quite successful, but they do throw up quite a few challenges. The evangelical version of the FE seems to be the 'niche' church.

I understand that some people disapprove of the divisiveness of the niche or FE church, but in these pluralistic times it must be easier for people to 'belong' if they feel they fit in. Believing may then follow on, reducing the need for hasty conversions.

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Baptist Trainfan
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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
A handful of megachurches doesn't make up for the vast number of churches with only 50 members. If it did, church decline wouldn't be a reality.

I agree. The "New Churches" have often claimed to be reversing the decline in Christianity, but all they are doing is arresting it a bit.

No; I was merely trying to say was that if X% of churches are Evangelical, that does not equate to the same percentage of professing Christians being Evangelical.

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ExclamationMark
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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
However, the mainstream churches I'm more familiar with focus on evangelism as 'belonging before believing',

Can you really belong unless you believe?

You can be linked to, associated with, be connected within - but to really belong you have to accept and follow the "rules" of the group whether it's a golf club or a church.

I wonder whether we are selling ourselves short or misleading people by pretending that they are really part of things if they attend a messy church, toddler group, sunday morning without going further.

I agree that we have to welcome, invite and have ways in to church, just as there are ways to enter any group. But there are core values - the essential DNA of the group - which, if not embraced, suggest you are not (yet) part of it. The question is what people think they are belonging to.

The real measure of belonging is whether we'd be prepared to allow those who attend church activities to set the vision/agenda and make decisions on behalf of the church. I don't know of any churches (Fresh Expressions included) who do that.

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Eutychus
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quote:
Originally posted by ExclamationMark:
quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
However, the mainstream churches I'm more familiar with focus on evangelism as 'belonging before believing',

Can you really belong unless you believe?
I read that as "Can you really belong unless you behave?"

Which is perhaps more accurate.

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Let's remember that we are to build the Kingdom of God, not drive people away - pastor Frank Pomeroy

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ExclamationMark
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quote:
Originally posted by goperryrevs:
quote:
Originally posted by Jolly Jape:
quote:
Or that could be complete garbage, I'm not sure if I've ever actually met someone who really believes in Universalism.
Really? I think there are plenty of them around, myself included. Not as high a percentage of all believers as in the early church, where they seem to have been a majority, but I would guess, based on personal encounter, that ten percent or so of theologically literate Christians hold some form of universalist belief.
<Waves> Another one here... In fact, it was in large part due to discussion on the Ship that I was finally convinced. And unless our most prolific poster has changed his mind too, there are a few more of us.

quote:
Originally posted by rolyn:
Jesus in the KJV Bible doesn't seem to have a message of Universalism, quite the contrary. You have to go for fuzzy Jesus who doesn't do sheep and goats or wailing and gnashing of teeth if you want Universal salvation.

We've done this before on the Ship, but not for a few years, so I'll bite.

KJV, you're right. Greek, not so much. It might disappoint the damnationists, but "eternal life" and "eternal punishment" are misleading translations of zoen aionion and kolasin aionion. These verses are not about living forever and being punished forever. As an adjective, aionios, (and its noun aion) is more frequently used to refer to finite lengths of time (not surprising, since we get our English word aeon from it). Kolasis is used to refer to corrective punishment - discipline rather than vengeance. So, enduring life and enduring discipline are more suitable translations than eternal life and eternal punishment.

As Clement neatly states:

quote:
"For all things are ordered both universally and in particular by the Lord of the universe, with a view to the salvation of the universe. But needful corrections, by the goodness of the great, overseeing judge, through the attendant angels, through various prior judgments, through the final judgment, compel even those who have become more callous to repent."
"So he saves all; but some he converts by penalties, others who follow him of their own will, and in accordance with the worthiness of his honor, that every knee may be bent to him of celestial, terrestrial and infernal things (Phil. 2:10), that is angels, men, and souls who before his advent migrated from this mortal life."

(on I John ii, 2)

quote:
"For there are partial corrections (padeiai) which are called chastisements (kolasis), which many of us who have been in transgression incur by falling away from the Lord's people. But as children are chastised by their teacher, or their father, so are we by Providence. But God does not punish (timoria) for punishment (timoria) is retaliation for evil. He chastises, however, for good to those who are chastised collectively and individually."
(Stromata 7)

For Clement, both the sheep and the goats are saved - just in different ways. So the parable of the sheep and goats at least is entirely compatible with Universalism; in fact, translated accurately, if anything, it strongly supports it.

If we are all saved, even after corrective discipline, why bother going to church anyway?
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ExclamationMark
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quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:
quote:
Originally posted by ExclamationMark:
quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
However, the mainstream churches I'm more familiar with focus on evangelism as 'belonging before believing',

Can you really belong unless you believe?
I read that as "Can you really belong unless you behave?"

Which is perhaps more accurate.

Sort of but behaviour will follow belief, surely?
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Eutychus
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I believe there is very often a difference between the changes of behaviour inherent in sanctification and the changes of behaviour that will keep you in many an evangelical church.

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Let's remember that we are to build the Kingdom of God, not drive people away - pastor Frank Pomeroy

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Gamaliel
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The fact is, churches if whatever stripe tend to have a FIFO mentality ...

'Fit in or ...'

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Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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mr cheesy
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Speaking as a evangelical heretic, I rather like the idea of purgatory. Not so much that everyone is saved so much that some people will have a lot of stuff to work on first.

And that it is a lot easier to have some of that worked out here.

Evangelism might just mean reduced pain in Purgatory. Seems like a reasonable reason to want it.

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arse

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Gamaliel
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'Belonging' is a moveable feast. What level of involvement constitutes 'belonging' any way?

At our evangelical Anglican parish there are people who seem to do little else than attend services and church social events or else run the various projects in the community that are the 'face' of the church as it were. There are others who only attend one or other of the Sunday services. There are people who go to the bi-monthly 'Messy' who don't go to anything else.

My wife plays the organ every few weeks at the 9am service and I only attend if she's playing or if I am leading the prayers.

The rest of the time I avoid the place. Why? Because I can't be doing with the 11am services and I've had a guts-full of listening to bog-standard trite evangelical sermons with little depth and bugger all to say other than to promote a pietist approach to everything.

To what extent do I 'belong'?

Sure, I edit the church magazine and make myself useful where I can but I don't attend house-groups or socials because they give me the screaming ab dabs.

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Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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Arethosemyfeet
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
Speaking as a evangelical heretic, I rather like the idea of purgatory. Not so much that everyone is saved so much that some people will have a lot of stuff to work on first.

And that it is a lot easier to have some of that worked out here.

Evangelism might just mean reduced pain in Purgatory. Seems like a reasonable reason to want it.

This is the working hypothesis that makes most sense to me.
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goperryrevs
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quote:
Originally posted by ExclamationMark:
If we are all saved, even after corrective discipline, why bother going to church anyway?

First response: Quite!

Second response: This reminds me of what someone once commented to me on Romans 6:1. They essentially said, if you don't end up asking that kind of question, then you haven't fully understood the outrageous grace of the gospel.

Of course no-one has to go to church. But there are reasons we might want to.

quote:
Originally posted by ExclamationMark:
Can you really belong unless you believe?

In the Gospels, at what point did the disciples believe? At what point did they belong?

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"Keep your eye on the donut, not on the hole." - David Lynch

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Baptist Trainfan
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It was the sociologist Grace Davie who popularised the phrase about "Believing and belonging". In this interview she not only explains what she means but also says she is changing the phraseology to "vicarious religion".

I have studied the Sociology of Religion academically myself, with particular reference to "Secularisation Theory", and there is one snippet in this interview which is interesting: "I think you need to be very careful when you think about secularization in these terms because what it also means is those who do go to church, young or old, are probably going for much more purely religious reasons than for social or respectable reasons. So you have got to be careful what you are measuring. So what I would add is that the young people who do go to church, and there are some, are probably highly committed".

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by goperryrevs:


Of course no-one has to go to church. But there are reasons we might want to.


Right. Hardly anyone ever says that school is pointless as all the educational resources a child could ever want are on the internet.

People go to church because they want to grow in salvation. Makes sense to me.

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arse

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Jolly Jape
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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
quote:
Originally posted by Jolly Jape:
I think there are plenty of [universalists] around, myself included. Not as high a percentage of all believers as in the early church, where they seem to have been a majority, but I would guess, based on personal encounter, that ten percent or so of theologically literate Christians hold some form of universalist belief.

I should think the figure is far higher than 10% outside the evangelical churches. And most British churches are not evangelical.

I'm interested to hear that most believers in the early church would have been universalists. Can you say more about that, or provide a link?

I'll look it up, but from memory, of the 6(?) Centres of patristic theology, 4 were universalist, 1 was annihilationist, and 1 (Rome, if I recall correctly, taught eternal conscious punishment.

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To those who have never seen the flow and ebb of God's grace in their lives, it means nothing. To those who have seen it, even fleetingly, even only once - it is life itself. (Adeodatus)

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Jolly Jape
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The New Schaff-Hertzog Encyclopedia is a bit old, but as far as I know, the scholarship hasn't been disputed.

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To those who have never seen the flow and ebb of God's grace in their lives, it means nothing. To those who have seen it, even fleetingly, even only once - it is life itself. (Adeodatus)

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goperryrevs
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I think a lot of it was East / West perception at the time, JJ. You had Clement, Origen & Gregory of Nyssa who were all clearly Universalist, and very influential.

The two things that changed people's perception were a) Origen's later anathematisation - even though his Universalism was not the reason for it, and b) Augustine stamping his theology over the West.

Origen was so associated with Universalism that his fall from doctrinal grace must have had a negative view on it, purely by association (if not reason).

And a lot of theology we Western descendants still have now we 'think' stems from the New Testament and the early church, but actually it's just a result of Augustine and his stranglehold on western theology. We also presume that theologies that are mainstream now have always been mainstream. What is often the case is that they were peculiar to Rome & the West, but not shared by the majority church in the East. Even Augustine himself said "There are very many / a majority* who though not denying the Holy Scriptures, do not believe in endless torments." Augustine certainly believed in eternal punishment, and as a result of his influence, it's the majority view in the Catholic and Protestant churches today. But it wasn't always so.

Anyway, I hope this isn't too much of a sidetrack on this thread, but I do think it's relevant. Understanding evangelism was something I really struggled with in my younger years. I clearly remember being asked by a good friend if I believed she was going to Hell, and the only honest answer I could give was 'yes'. That was a tough moment, but I still couldn't reconcile the God Who is Love that Jesus revealed with a God who rejected people I loved and condemned them to eternal torment. The cognitive dissonance was too much. Now that I've stopped believing that God's an asshole, I don't have a problem with evangelism any more. I can tell people that God loves them, and share how having faith has impacted my life without having to hold a Hell gun to their head at the same time.

* "imo quam plurimi" can be translated either as 'many' or 'majority'. Either way, it wasn't a small number of people.

--------------------
"Keep your eye on the donut, not on the hole." - David Lynch

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Martin60
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
The fact is, churches if whatever stripe tend to have a FIFO mentality ...

'Fit in or ...'

LOL!

--------------------
Love wins

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Martin60
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
Speaking as a evangelical heretic, I rather like the idea of purgatory. Not so much that everyone is saved so much that some people will have a lot of stuff to work on first.

And that it is a lot easier to have some of that worked out here.

Evangelism might just mean reduced pain in Purgatory. Seems like a reasonable reason to want it.

Purgatory is a long walk in paradise until we're all sufficiently better. Healed, therapied, restituted, reconciled with all we've wronged and been wronged by, educated, trained, ready. Ready to contribute, to serve. As in the end of the most beautiful film ever made, Tree of Life. I doubt many of us if any will be ready when we wake up.

--------------------
Love wins

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Martin60, slightly edited by me (bold):
Purgatory is a long walk to paradise until we're all sufficiently better. Healed, therapied, restituted, reconciled with all we've wronged and been wronged by, educated, trained, ready. Ready to contribute, to serve. As in the end of the most beautiful film ever made, Tree of Life. I doubt many of us if any will be ready when we wake up.

I imagine if it exists, Purgatory is going to be a painful process for most of us. I suspect the only ones who will move through it quickly will be those who have learned how to be fully-functioning, forgiving, penitant, loving people in this life.

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arse

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Martin60
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quote:
Originally posted by rolyn:
Jesus in the KJV Bible doesn't seem to have a message of Universalism, quite the contrary. You have to go for fuzzy Jesus who doesn't do sheep and goats or wailing and gnashing of teeth if you want Universal salvation.

Still, better a fuzzy salvation that no salvation?

It's all about what we bring to the party and most of us bring fear and loathing. Jesus talked tough for sure and that's all some of us hear. Despite His double promise of a more bearable judgement for the mythically vilest of us. We dread the parable of the unmerciful steward and the allegory of Lazarus. Why? The former can easily be continued with the man begging for forgiveness again. Seventy-seven times.

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Love wins

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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Originally posted by ExclamationMark:
Can you really belong unless you believe?

You can be linked to, associated with, be connected within - but to really belong you have to accept and follow the "rules" of the group whether it's a golf club or a church.

I get the impression that in evangelical congregations coming to the 'right' belief is a more significant part belonging than in moderate, mainstream churches. It's obviously important to various degrees in all churches, but some are more accepting of diverse faith positions than others.

For example, one church might have small groups designed to steer (would-be) members towards the shared doctrines of the church; another will hope that the doctrines will infuse themselves into worshippers via the liturgies, music, sermons, etc., without the need for more intensive teaching or mentoring.

The Methodists even have a name for this. They talk about 'singing the faith'. I don't know where this term comes from, but it seems to imply that acclimatisation to the church's doctrines, as it were, occurs through the singing of hymns rather than through discussions and direct teaching, etc.

We might agree that this kind of approach has its disadvantages. One evangelical commentator claims, as you do, that making people feel at home before they have faith creates confusion. He even feels that it must be destructive to the life of the church. There may be some truth in that.

OTOH, the sociologist David Voas claims that community is even more important than doctrines when it comes to bringing and keeping people attached to the church nowadays.


quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:
It was the sociologist Grace Davie who popularised the phrase about "Believing and belonging". In this interview she not only explains what she means but also says she is changing the phraseology to "vicarious religion".

Be aware that I was referring to 'believing before belonging, not 'believing without belonging'. 'Vicarious religion' has more to do with the latter than the former.

Your quotation from Grace Davie is interesting though, because it seems to conflict with the comment make by David Voas in the link I gave above. Do doctrines or community matter more? I suppose it's quite complicated. Clearly, on the Ship there are quite a few people who choose to attend churches whose conservative teachings and ethos they feel somewhat uncomfortable with. Perhaps evangelical churches are better at creating community, but to do so they have to reinforce shared faith positions that some people find difficult to take. There's a paradox in there somewhere.

[ 02. February 2017, 17:25: Message edited by: SvitlanaV2 ]

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