The first thing I’d like to point out in this post here at Apprising Ministries is that I strongly disagree with Chad Holtz; however as I told him in the combox of his post “Why Evangelize?”, unlike many others who likely hold the same view of Christian Universalism, I do respect him for at least having the integrity and intellectual honesty to speak of his beliefs plainly.

Please also know that this is in no way intended as a mockery of Holtz who, by way of introduction, tells us he is currently:

working on my MDiv at Duke Divinity School and have the honor of pastoring a wonderful rural church called Marrow’s Chapel United Methodist while I study.
(Online source *Note 3/24/11: His blog has been removed)

Holtz informs us that what follows has been borne from discussions he’s been having recently and which have also led to posts such as “The Universal Good News” where he says:

The more I engage in conversations with people about the universal love God has for the world and his desire to redeem the world the more I find myself scratching my had at some of the objections that are raised or the assumptions leveled at people like myself.   Whether I am being told that I have forsaken all talk of judgment or sin or that I should be ashamed to give “false hope” to the lost by espousing some philosophy like “I’m OK, you’re OK, we are all OK,” the point is clear:

Either I am a) not yet well versed enough in this matter to  articulate my understanding of God’s universal reconcilation or, b) I am, as one friend puts it, “slippery,” or, c) as others have so eloquenty put it, I am still lost and need to just “read my Bible” and “find Jesus.”   If I have a choice, I’ll take letter ‘a’… (Online source)

In “A word from Willimon and Barth” Holtz shares the below from William Willimon’s book Who Will Be Saved? where Willimon writes:

Barth believed that salvation is not the removal of the threat of judgment but the accentuation and fulfillment of divine judgment…  Sometimes to be close to Jesus increases our uneasiness with Jesus. We know not only the one who is able to say “depart from me into the eternal fire…into eternal punishment” (Matt. 25:41-46) and, “I never knew you” (Matt. 7:23). We also know the the one who gave himself as a ransom for all (1 Tim. 2:1-6), the one who promised that he would “draw all people to himself” (John 12:32). We know that in Adam all have sinned, but now we know that the grace of Christ takes precedence over the sin of Adam(Rom. 5:12-21). Or, as Barth preached so eloquently, “God has imprisoned all in disobedience, so that he may be merciful to all” (Rom 11:32). All. (Online source)

Those following AM know that I have recently been discussing the issue of Christian Universalism, sometimes referred to as Universal Reconciliation, e.g. in Rob Bell and Christian Universalism. And as I pointed out in Doug Pagitt and Christian Universalism we are not talking here about a Universalism teaching men will be saved regardless of their religious convictions. Rather what’s under discussion is a Christian Universalism (CU), which does see Jesus Christ as the only way that all men will eventually be saved.

There are various views but this CU is based upon a universal atonement of Christ on the Cross that sounds a lot like the following from Rob Bell, a friend of Pagitt’s, and quite literally the Elvis of the Emerging Church rebellion against the authority of the Bible:

So this is reality, this forgiveness, this reconciliation, is true for everybody. Paul insisted that when Jesus died on the cross, he was reconciling “all things, in heaven and on earth, to God.” All things, everywhere.

This reality then isn’t something we make come true about ourselves by doing something. It is already true. Our choice is to live in this new reality or cling to a reality of our own making. (146, emphasis mine)

Which brings us nicely back around to the “Why Evangelize?” post by Chad Holtz where he could very well be describing what Bell is talking about concerning this new “reality, this forgiveness, this reconciliation, [which] is [already] true for everybody.” What you’re about to read from Holtz very succinctly sums up what my own research into the soteriology of Christian Universalism has shown me:

I believe scripture teaches us that salvation is about being caught up in the dream God has for the world. You and I, we who know this Jesus, we get to be part of that dream!! It is an amazing thing to know you are loved and forgiven by the creator of the universe and get to live this life in such an abundant way – with a purpose that speaks to the hope we have in this God who intends to renew and recreate the world – when the heavens and earth are joined together forever. How cool is that!!!! We get to be “co-laborers” with Christ as we work to build the kingdom with God “on earth as it is in heaven.” That is our mission. And to those of us who have been given much much will be expected (Luke 12).

We love others because we have first been loved by this God. We have come face to face with Love. That is what compels us to evangelize. Not to win “converts” that we can move from the category of “hell bound” to “heaven bound” but to recruit disciples who will be part of this dream that is God’s. Judgment will come. But that is God’s judgment – not ours. Our task is to point to the one who is Lord of heaven and earth and through whom all things are being reconciled to God. Our task is to tell the world the truth about themselves – they are saved, therefore, repent and live unto God. That is why we evangelize. (Online source)

For the record I will clearly state again that I strongly disagree with Christian Universalism believing it to be another gospel; and therefore, it is no gospel at all. That said, for those who wish to better understand this CU, which in all likelihood forms at least some part of the teachings of leaders in the Emergent rebellion against Sola Scriptura e.g. like Bell, Pagitt and Brian McLaren, I also will direct you to another post by Chad Holtz highly illustrative of CU.

In “The Truth About You” Holtz provides the written version of a sermon he preached using Romans 5:1-11 as his text. As I said previously, in my view, what Holtz is about to say could very well be describing what Bell means concerning the new “reality, this forgiveness, this reconciliation, [which] is [already] true for everybody” he speaks of in Velvet Elvis.  Also if you look on Holtz’ blog under “Great Sites” you will see the link to the Mars Hill Bible Church of Rob Bell, and listed under “Recommended Reading,” are Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis and Sex God:

This, friends, is the Good News of the gospel!   This news is not dependent on whether you acknowledge it or not – it is a fact about you that you cannot run away from and will one day have to reckon with.  The truth about you is that you are loved by the God who knew your name before you were ever born, who knows every hair on your head and who stepped out of heaven and all its glory to take the penalty of death on his own shoulders so that we can be saved through his life.  You and I and all the world are being called to belong to the God who loves us so much that even while we were weak, while we were sinners and while we were even enemies of God, God rescued us.  This is the truth about you today.

So if that is the truth about us, what then?  A German pastor and theologian living during Hitler’s rise to power had a wonderful way of describing this truth about us and how we ought to respond.   Karl Barth is his name and he is one of the pastors in Germany who spoke forcefully against Hitler and refused to back him.  Barth asks us to imagine being in a bomb shelter for the duration of the great war.  It is dark and crowded in the shelter below ground.  One day, a day unlike all the rest, an amazing thing happens. The locked doors above fling open and an Allied soldier stands at the top of the ladder, light streaming in from around him.

He announces to all of us in the bunker that 6 months ago they defeated Hitler and freed the country and that we could come out now and live in the freedom that had already been won.   Many will scamper up the ladder and run into the light of the day to live in this freedom that has been won for them.  Sadly, there are some who will not.  They will choose to stay in the darkness of the bunker, refusing to believe what is in fact true about them – they ARE free, yet they reject that identity and choose to live in bondage.    It is a tragic thing to live in rejection of the truth about us and to snub the God who has done everything on our behalf to free us. (Online source)

See also: