Echo Zoe Answers, Episode 1


October 13, 2017

Kevin (via Twitter) asks:

There's some depth to this question, perhaps more than Kevin bargained for, but I love the question. I particularly like the irony of the question.

The article that was liked to in the tweet doesn't actually say that this particular person, a self-professed PCUSA Pastor, is a Universalist, but addressing her point of view should cover Universalists too.

Before we get to her view, let's just talk about what a Universalist is. There are two major views of the eternal state that deviate from the historic, Biblical view. The Bible teaches that it's appointed once for man to die, and then the Judgment (Hebrews 9:27). One view that grants that not everyone fares the same in Judgment is known as Annihilationism. This view states that the redeemed go to Heaven, but the reprobate are destroyed; they cease to exist. Some Annihilationists do believe in Hell, but see it as the mechanism God uses to completely and ultimately destroy souls.

I did an episode of Echo Zoe Radio last year with Len Pettis on Annihilationism. You can learn more about that viewpoint and why it's unbiblical by going to echozoe.com/104

The other major errant view of the Eternal state is Universalism. Like Annihilationism, there are different flavors of the view, but what unites them is that the believe that everyone (eventually) goes to Heaven. Some believe in a form of Hell, or purgatory, where the wicked pay for their sins before being ushered into Heaven, while others teach that Jesus' atoning death on the cross paid for the sins of every man, woman, and child that has ever lived, and that everyone goes straight to Heaven based on His sacrifice.

The article doesn't necessarily say that this is what this particular pastrix believes. She says that everyone CAN go to Heaven, and that Christianity is not the only way to get there. There is no indication of what she believes happens to the most wicked of people. Most people recognize that the historic teaching of Hell as a place of eternal torment might be reasonable for people like Adolf Hitler. Does this woman see Hitler as eventually joining the rest of us in Heaven? I don't know.

This may seem like a trivial issue to some, but it most certainly not. The nature of salvation is a primary doctrine in Christianity, and your view of salvation can very well effect whether or not you are actually saved.

Let's spend some time in John addressing the nature of salvation.

First, Ms. Kershner, the pastrix in question, does say that she thinks non-Christians can get to Heaven. Typically the line of thinking is that “good Buddhists,” or “good Muslims,” being faithful to their religious teachings, can go to Heaven. But what does Jesus say?

In John 14:6, Jesus says “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Just unpack that a little. Jesus claims to be “The Way.” We see in the book of Acts, before Christians were called “Christians,” they refered to themselves as “The Way.” See Acts 9:2, where Saul of Tarsus set out for Damascus in order to bring anyone belonging to “the Way” and bring them back to Jerusalem, presumably for trial. This title was a recognition that Jesus said He is “The Way.” He isn't *A* Way, He is *THE* Way.

Jesus also says He is “The Truth.” This is foundational to Christianity. We are called to recognize the objective nature of reality. There aren't many truths, there is only The Truth. Christianity stands (or falls) upon it's own truth claims. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 1 Corinthians 15:12-19

So Paul, the Apostle that brought “The Way” to the Gentile world, says that if Christianity doesn't correspond to reality, if it isn't true, then Christians should be pitied.

Rounding out John 14:6, Jesus also said He is “The Life.” We find throughout Scripture that, in regard to the eternal state, Life is synonymous with Heaven, and Death is synonymous with Hell and judgment. In John 14:6, when Jesus claims to be “The Way, the Truth, and the Life,” he is making an exclusive truth claim. Jesus never claims to just be *A* way, or even the *BEST* way to everlasting life, He claims to be the *Only* way. Peter reinforces this in the book of Acts when he says “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

I've sometimes heard Universalists go to John 3:16 as a proof-text for their views. Synergists do too, but that's another show. Let's just read John 3:16 and see how it stands up.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
We can even add verse 17:
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
Sounds compelling. God loved the whole world. He didn't send His Son into the world to condemn it. But that's not all the passage says. It doesn't say that everyone is saved through the Son. It says “whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” The logical construction of the verse leads us to the conclusion that whomever does NOT believe in him WILL perish. And if we continue reading, this is further reinforced. Let's continue with John 3:18, which says “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

So we see that Jesus does not save the whole world, but rather makes salvation available to the whole world, and makes it contingent upon belief in Him. The rest of the pericope reads much like the last half of Romans 1, which lays out the wickedness of man and the nature of God's judgment upon mankind.

Going back to the original question in regard to Universalists, as well as the specific question of the PCUSA Pastrix, they teach a different Gospel. Paul said, in Galatians 1:6-8:
 

6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.

So ironically, the Bible teaches that Universalists do not go to Heaven. Ironic because they teach that everyone goes to Heaven. But that's a different Gospel, and Paul explains that another Gospel is no Gospel at all.

This was just a few verses, based around John 14:6, but the entire theme of the book of John is that Jesus Christ is the savior of mankind. No other major religion has, nor ever has had, a savior. Christianity stands alone in having God send His Son to pay the penalty of rebellion against Him, in order to reconcile criminals to Himself. All other religions give instruction on what mankind must do to earn their way to paradise, Nirvana, or whatever eternal state they claim is available. Christianity says that your parents have a sin nature, that they were born in rebellion to God, and that they passed this nature on to you. Furthermore, there is literally nothing you can do to escape this cycle. The only way out is to be rescued, and Jesus Christ is the one doing the rescue.

You cannot get to Heaven by following the Buddha's instructions to earn your way there. The same goes for Muhammed's instructions, the Baga Vad Ghita and Hiduism, or any other roadmap to Heaven. You're dead in your trespasses and sins, and the only remedy is resurrection from the dead. First, a spiritual resurrection, then ultimately a physical resurrection yet to come. Jesus not only died to pay the penalty for sins, but He also raised from the dead and conquered death, proving that He has the ability to someday resurrect everyone, as God has promised to do; some to Glory, and the rest to judgment.

So this being the only question I received ahead of this first episode of Echo Zoe Answers means a short show, but thank you to all who joined live, as well as those of you watching after the fact. We'll do another show in two weeks, on October 27th; same time (7:30 Central or 8:30 Eastern US). Please send more questions, Ideally I'd like to get closer to 20 minutes for a show. I do need time to prepare them for the show though, so please don't hesitate.

Thanks again, and if you haven't heard the latest episode of Echo Zoe Radio, check that out at echozoe.com/114. I did the show with pastor Nate Pickowicz, and we talked about the Five Solas of the Reformation.


Posted at 9:13 pm in: Echo Zoe Answers

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