See pt. 1 for an explanation as to “why” these articles have been published.

Note: This will be my last article on the topic unless there is a direct communication or response made from Jason to me.

As I was compiling my work for my follow-up article to “Response to Jason and Universalism,” I discovered that Jason had responded quietly to some of my older materials that addressed some of his claims. Initially, this pt. 2 was going to focus just on whether or not Universalism is heresy according to the church and what I was going to jokingly call, “the Origen trail.” Instead, this article will be formatted a bit differently. 

Here we will:

  1. Respond briefly to some of Jason’s critiques
  2. Boil everything down to the heart of the issue 
  3. Answer, Is it Heresy?

Response to Jason’s Critique

Jason posted his critique in a peculiar manner; in his Instagram stories and without tagging or alerting me. Given that I have sought to engage with him directly many times, and have left that door open still, it is strange that he decided to respond in this manner. With the door open, why not engage me directly? That door is still open by the way! Yet, why not alert me or tag me? My website and associated accounts weren’t mentioned either, but rather just my name (though, points for this as sometimes folk will avoid such!). Even while Jason’s tagging is off, meaning I can’t tag him, I have done him the courtesy of directly alerting him via direct message anytime I speak regarding his work and I wish the same especially since my account is “taggable.”

Nonetheless, he frames the critique as a paper he wrote a long time ago, and instead of sharing it in a way that is accessible, he screenshots this paper paragraph by paragraph in his stories which inevitably disappear after 24 hours. Perhaps they’ll be placed in a highlight? I’m not sure, but hopefully so in order that you can verify all that I say here. His critique focuses on a number of comments/posts from my early addresses (not my recent address). Jason claims that I have indirectly addressed him and have “subtweeted” him. Quite the contrary, which is evident to the public and so I don’t need to dwell on this. 

Jason states, that I have repeatedly misrepresented his view “as well some of the historical, biblical, and theological details related to the topic as a whole.” This is what I am most interested in addressing here, but I’ll pick up some other bits here and there. 

He begins, “Nick utterly mischaracterizes Christian Universalism by stating that it teaches ‘the wicked can remain as they are in carnal hedonism, even raging against God with the devils, and still gain the promises of believers who live for Christ.’ This could hardly be further from the truth. I and other Christian universalists are emphatic that sinners cannot be saved so long as they remain in a state of rebellion against God.” 

At this point, I’ll quote yesterday’s article where I say, 

“As articulated by heavy hitters, Christian Universalism then states that only those who repent and confess that Jesus is Lord will be saved, and this will inevitability include those in Hell. In this view, Jesus is still the only way of salvation – yet all will be eventually saved through Jesus, and he alone is the means of salvation. Hell is a restorative punishment that brings sinners to repentance and faith in Christ. Further in this view, God will hold each person accountable for their deeds, and those in Hell will be punished, but as a means of reconciliation, not punishment itself. Eventually, every knee will bow and confess Jesus as Lord in a salvific sense.” 

Did I misrepresent Jason? No, I express the same thing he corrects me with. Did I say, ‘the wicked can remain as they are in carnal hedonism, even raging against God with the devils, and still gain the promises of believers who live for Christ?

Yes, I did. What did I mean?

I meant simply that we can live any way we please, here and now, on earth, go to hell and still reap the benefits in the end. Is this wrong? Jason would have to say no since he must recognize that is exactly what will happen in his position. Many who reject God now, who live their best life now on earth, and who die in sin, will still ultimately be saved despite their lives on earth. I don’t deny the idea of a punishment in hell in the universalist position, I’m saying how we live now is ultimately inconsequential in light of universalism.  

Jason likely disagrees with this assessment, but what did Origen, Jason’s predecessor, think? Many of us would consider the early church legalistic, because of its stress on obedience and hell as a means of preventing people from falling into sin. 

This comes out in Origen’s Contra Celsum 6.26 where he is speaking about hell, simply calling it a place of punishment, and states, 

“But the remarks which might be made on this topic are neither to be made to all, nor to be uttered on the present occasion; for it is not unattended with danger to commit to writing the explanation of such subjects, seeing the multitude need no further instructions than that which relates to the punishment of sinners; while to ascend beyond this is not expedient, for the sake of those who are with difficulty restrained, even by fear of eternal punishment, from plunging into any degree of wickedness, and into the flood of evils which result from sin.” 

Notice what Origen is saying – no more should be said to “all” on the topic except that there is eternal punishment because of the potential flood of lawlessness. Origen, the famous universalist, indicates that Universalism was not a Gospel to be shared with everyone on the same grounds that I presented (see also Guarding the Mysteries of Salvation by Scott).

McClymond states, “Like most non-universalists, Origen thought that the open proclamation of universal salvation would have morally disastrous consequences. Hell’s non-eternity was therefore to remain a secret, reserved for the spiritually mature. At points in his writings, Origen does not hesitate to state that God could and would use deception, in the same way, that adults use deception with little children by putting on a stern face with them and seeming to be angry without being angry at all. This is done to get the child to obey.” (The Devil’s Redemption, p. 47; see also, Danielou, Origen, p. 94; 280-291).

And,

“It is clear that Origen never proposed a universalist gospel – if by gospel one means a message to be publicly proclaimed. The irony in Origen is that universalism is good news but good news to be kept quiet…why? Because the knowledge of the unreality of hell will lead many people to presume on God’s mercy and to plunge deeper into wickedness, imagining that they can sin now and pay later.” (ibid). 

The point, then, is not that I mischaracterized Universalism as Jason claims, but upheld his position while agreeing with his founding father. 

Jason’s critique moves on to talking about a number of passages and he critiques my response to his analysis on Revelation 21-22. It is described as, “Nick embarks on a length attempt to respond to my exegesis of Revelation 21-22.” Instead of spending time here, however, I’ll re-link my post on the text, and others can weigh and measure the exegesis for themselves. 

Jason also speaks to my post on Romans 5 which I will bypass given my points in yesterday’s post about the extent of the atonement. Ultimately unlimited atonement does not denote that there is a chance of repentance post-the lake of fire. As I demonstrated already, unlimited or limited atonement is inconsequential to the heart of the matter. It’s a poor logical leap and we will circle back to this when we boil it all down. What struck me was the dishonesty of Jason when it came to Athanasius (see my article here).

What is the problem?

Jason says the following, and I’ll just share the images so this isn’t lost upon the readers (my line additions on the second image):

Is this true? Was Jason “clearly” intentional in leaving the quotations up to interpretation? Looking at his original post with again, my added lines.

While the first highlighted quote allows some wiggle room; the post’s title slide and the second highlight imply Athanasius is in Jason’s theological camp. Jason’s post looks designed to give off the impression that “these writers” (Athanasius included) “simply believed that punishment in hell is ultimately for a corrective, purifying purpose and that all will one day have saving faith in Christ…”  

This is neither clear nor is it a honest addressing of my article. For my own honesty, his follow up, which does not include Athanasius, is clearer in his thesis, “that there is question” on the matter. Nonetheless, it would be best for Jason to own his lack of clarity and mistake rather than claim I have misrepresented him. This goes back to my concern regarding his overall methodology and approach, but I digress. After this last slide of his, Jason notes I missed a word “all” in one of my quotes of his, which I’ll happily own, my mistake.

Boil everything down to the heart of the issue 

As I said here and in my last article, we can debate the extent of the atonement until the cows come home along with its respective texts such as Romans 5, but the fact remains that for Jason’s version of universalism (which is distinguished from progressive universalism, i.e, universal atonement = universal application), which states that the unlimited atonement is still only applicable by faith and repentance, Jason must demonstrate that there is a chance of such application post mortem. Actually, Jason must go further, he must demonstrate that there is a chance of conversion in the lake of fire (which for him is the purification). Not only this, but if he holds tight to his position, he must also demonstrate why the Bible is overwhelmingly dishonest (in light of his view) in its presentation of the fate of the wicked. (I would also be interested in whether or not Jason believes the devil, demons, judas, etc, will be saved).

It is not enough to say that because Jesus’ atonement is available for everyone, everyone will have a chance, and will, repent even if they were among those thrown into the lake of fire. He must demonstrate evidence that there is such a conversion post-New Heaven and New Earth and that indeed, “all will be saved.” It is not enough to have a slight inference that can easily be debated regarding the Kings of the Earth in Revelation, in light of the overwhelming narrative of scripture I demonstrated briefly yesterday.

That is the heart of the matter. See Section 4: Will All be Saved, and is Hell Restorative?

Short and sweet here for the reader. 

Is it heresy, though?

A universalist commented on the post from yesterday emphatic that universalism is not heresy. Not only is Christian Universalism heresy, but it is directly condemned in scripture. How can I say that? 

Revelation states, 

“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” (Revelation 22:18–19)

Okay, but how is it heresy? Well first off, the text here refutes the idea that everyone will be saved – the primary thesis of Christian Universalism – as it notes anyone who tampers with the prophecy of Revelation will lose the tree of life, i.e., eternal life. Second, Universalists must add to the prophecy of Revelation regarding events that occur within the lake of fire (the repentance and faith of sinners who were thrown in) and contradict the clarity of its narrative (also addressed in yesterday’s article).

Not only is such an addition condemned, but it is a heresy that, according to the text, warrants curses (plagues) and damnation (God will take away his share in the tree of life). 

But what about church history? 

“If anyone says or thinks that the punishment of demons and of impious men is only temporary, and will one day have an end, and that a restoration (Apokatastasis; I.e., Universalism) will take place of demons and of impious men, let him be anathema.” (The 5th Ecumenical council, second council of Constantinople). 

Many universalists have tried to shy away from this with various tactics but, historians simply disagree with such historical revisionism. Gerald McDermott states, 

“Some have claimed that this condemnation applied only to the doctrine’s association with the preexistence of souls (as other anathemas suggest), but the language in this anathema undermines that claim. Others discount these anathemas because they were added later to the text of the council proceedings, but Blanchard (“Universalism,” 68-69) notes that the universal church nevertheless drew from these anathemas the conclusion that universal salvation had been officially proscribed.” (Gerald McDermott, “Will All Be Saved?”, Themelios, vol. 38, is. 2)

McDermott, like others, points out the consistent disposition towards Origenist thinking on both the soul and explicitly – in its own canon – Apokatastasis. As McClymond observes, “For some fourteen hundred years – or until the mid-twentieth century – theologians and historians regarded the condemnations pronounced at the Fifth Ecumenical Council in Constantinople in 553 as aimed at Origen’s universalism.” 

Richard Price points out simply that Origen was not only condemned in Constantinople but prior to in various local synods and writings that all point to the same thing; Origen and his doctrine were problematic. (See: Letter to Theophilus to Palestine, 400 AD; Synodical Letter of the Council of Jerusalem, 400 AD; Letter of Anastasius to John of Jerusalem, 401 AD, the Ten Anathemas of 543, & The Fifteen Anathemas of 553).  

Highly respected church historian Schaff states clearly, “But the view of Origen [on universalism] was rejected by Epiphanius, Jerome, and Augustin, and at last condemned as one of the Origenistic errors under the Emperor Justinian. Since that time universalism was regarded as a heresy, but is tolerated in Protestant churches as a private speculative opinion or charitable hope.” (History of the Christian Church Vol. I, cha. I2)

 This is seen clearly in the West with the Athanasian Creed which was considered binding in most of the West. The Athanasian Creed opens with, “Whoever desires to be saved should above all hold to the catholic faith. Anyone who does not keep it whole and unbroken will doubtless perish eternally.” Presupposing positions other than Universalism. Additionally, it ends with, “Those who have done good will enter eternal life, and those who have done evil will enter eternal fire. This is the catholic faith: one cannot be saved without believing it firmly and faithfully.”

According to the West, Universalism was a damnable error. Augustine expressing the church’s disposition is clear regarding Origen’s universalism explicitly, “But the Church has rejected Origen’s teaching, and not without good reason, on account of this opinion and a number of others.” (Augustine, City of God, 21.17)

Okay, that’s the West, what about the East? George Scholarios, a Greek spokesman at Florence and student of both Eastern and Western theology, wrote the following:

“The Western writers say, “Where Origen was good, no one is better; where he was bad, no one is worse. Our Asian divines say on the one hand that “Origen is the whetstone of us all,” but on the other hand, that “he is the fount of foul doctrines.” Both are right: he splendidly defended Christianity, wonderfully expounded Scripture, and wrote a noble exhortation to martyrdom. But he was also the father of Arianism, and worst of all, said that hellfire would not last forever.”

To put this perspective, we simply need to remember that historically Arianism has been considered one of the worst heresies the church has faced, yet his universalism is designated as the “worst of all.”

The last question that is posited is, well, if Universalism was condemned, how did Gregory of Nyssa get away with it? Androustos, in his Dogmatics (from DR, McClymond; Gavin) took the view that Gregory’s universalism was condemned while Gregory himself was not. Interestingly, McClymond points out that during the 15th century during the Council of Florence, the Greeks rejected any appeal to Gregory regarding purgatory because they knew he taught universalism. Quoting McClymond, “The greeks informed the Latins that their faith did not rest on the opinion of any church father taken singly. Gregory’s view on apokatastasis (universalism) – in opposition to other fathers – was not acceptable to them.” 

Just as many utilized Origen but rejected his universalism, the same was for Gregory. As cited above, Origen was regarded with the saying, “Where Origen was good, no one is better; where he was bad, no one is worse.” 

So is it Heresy? By all accounts, I’d emphatically say yes, and the warning from Jesus in Revelation is enough to substantiate that.

See more here: Universalism a Historical Majority? and this.


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