IS GOD FAIR?
Why St. Paul, But Not Gandhi?
(the original, online article from 2004)


By James William
Edited by Michael Riley
 
A few years ago my dad's favorite TV minister produced a sermon entitled, "Is God Fair?" My father was so intrigued by the message that he bought a tape of it for me. At first, I resisted listening to it, probably because it's just my nature to resist someone trying to convert me to his or her way of thinking. Now if it's my idea to amble down a path of discovery, that's a different matter. But this was a gift from dad, and I'm sure you can understand the guilt I would have felt if I had not listened to at least some of the opening words. Plus, after he had given me the tape, I had an hour drive home from his place in Quihi. So the environment and my conscience found agreement, and I reluctantly played it on the drive home, even though I would have preferred Cold Play or Green Day.
 
By the way, don't feel too bad if you don’t know the whereabouts of Quihi. The only reason God knows its location is because it's His business to keep up with people like my parents who retired way out there. But not to worry, it doesn't overload His memory; I think the population is 15, plus or minus 10. Quihi is near the edge of the West Texas desert about 12 miles outside of lonesome. It's hot and dry most of the year, and not too much grows out there except cactus, scorpions, rattlesnakes, and silence. Quihi life is pretty slow and simple. Heat and boredom are frequent companions. Most of the early German settlers who survived in the area did so by hard work, common sense and a strong desire to be independent, or maybe isolated. My dad has an historical marker on his place. It reads, "On this site in 1896, nothing happened." And that Quihi tradition continues to this day.
 
Fortunately for our family, that kind of retired atmosphere has allowed mom and dad plenty of time to do what they love most - pray for their loved ones finding strength in the scriptures for them. It's also given my dad the opportunity to contemplate perplexing questions like "Is God Fair?" and hope for his children's sake the answer might be "yes". It's a question that many great philosophers and theologians have struggled with over the years, and yet the answer may be as simple as the life in Quihi. Maybe using the scripture as a guide, and some good old Quihi common sense, we might be able to formulate a respectable opinion.
 
I must say from the start that I appreciate the minister who tackled this question on the tape. He has a great ministry and anyone who blesses my father, has my support. But his answer, "No, God is not fair", made me a bit uncomfortable. So I began searching the scriptures for myself and then discussed the topic with my closest Christian friends. Frankly, we had some very intense moments. I also requested additional input from two other very famous Bible scholars and authors. Thankfully, they both responded in personal letters, but surprisingly, none of them were in agreement. I ended up with three answers: No, Yes, and Sometimes.

The fairness question is as old as mankind and one that has never generated a unanimous response. We realize the toughness in finding an answer that fits our human experiences while trying to maintain an image of a loving, just God. If we are honest with ourselves, we may feel that God is not fair; or if we think He is, we may not have convincing explanations for many of the tragedies and sufferings universally a part of the human experience. But like the young boy who threw his rock out over the lake, we don’t have to understand the intricate mathematical details behind all the laws of physics at work on the rock at any given moment in time to know how it all works out eventually in the desired and much anticipated "big splash." Given enough education and experience, we may eventually be able to look back and appreciate God's laws at work in the details of our lives, but this paper is going to leave the fairness issues in these complicated finite moments to another article and address fairness in view of the anticipated outcome in eternity. We firmly believe that pointing our telescopes to the great beyond will make circumstances easier to understand when focusing on the fairness issues under the microscope of the present.

WHAT IS FAIRNESS?

With this in mind, we asked our panel of three to explain fairness with respect to the eternal destinies of Paul and Gandhi. Each quickly bowed out by conveniently appealing to the "mystery of God." Pretending to hold the question in abeyance until "we get to heaven" may be the result of a genuine lack of knowledge, or it may be a subconscious form of denial used to avoid the issues raised. Certainly, we all have our blind spots, but, reluctance to face clear words and bold Biblical examples referred to in this paper may just be a means of protecting reputations locked in the status quo. Whatever the reason, we believe it's time for an open, honest discussion. Within this article we hope you will see not only how a simple question produces confusion in those blinded by traditional religious theory, but also, we hope you will observe that out of this chaos, a simple answer emerges so wonderful that it exceeds all expectations.

So, let's begin our discussion with what it means to be "fair." According to Webster, a fair person is one who does not show favoritism or partiality. In an answer to the panelist who said God was not fair, we sent three scriptures: Acts 10:34, Rom. 2:11, and Eph. 6:9. Each plainly states that our heavenly Father does not show favoritism or partiality, the very definition of fairness. There are two other scriptures in the Old Testament that say the same thing unambiguously (Deut. 10:17; 2 Ch. 19: 7). Therefore, the Bible leaves no room for misunderstanding; God is Fair. And with His fairness fully established, let's test the assertion by examining the story of Paul and compare it to that of Gandhi.

In Acts chapter 9, we find Saul (his name was later changed to Paul) on a journey to Damascus when suddenly a light shone from heaven around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice, which asked, "Why are you persecuting me?" Saul responded with a question, "Who are you, Lord?" Notice the title of respect given to this yet unknown power.

A SADISTIC PHARISEE

 Saul, at the time of these events, had been participating in the murder of innocent Christians placing him in the category of an "enemy of Christ." Further, Saul strengthens the indictment against himself in his first letter to Timothy where he used the word "hubristes" to describe his old self. In his commentary on Timothy, Greek scholar, William Barclay, pointed out that Aristotle defined the noun form "hubris" as a person who means to hurt and cause injury for no other reason than finding delight in the suffering of another. "Hubristes" described a man who inflicted pain for the sheer joy of it. Such a monster deserved to be a target of God's wrath, profoundly unworthy of mercy. But mercy is exactly what this sadistic, murder- condoning Pharisee received. On the other hand, Gandhi clearly had none of these traits. Yet, Gandhi is the one who is lost and facing eternal damnation or annihilation?

It should also be obvious that Saul was not pursuing Jesus, or asking for a revelation. He had no idea who was behind the voice and had to inquire. Later, there would be an admission of ignorance, but it was very much apparent in his reaction at this point; he was "astonished!" After Jesus revealed Himself and exposed Saul as an enemy, his natural response in fear and trembling was, "what do you want me to do?" At that point Jesus told him to go into the city and wait for further instructions. Saul needed some time to absorb what had just occurred. Blind and helpless, his only choice was to be led meekly by the hand to Damascus. He was so shaken by the event he could not eat or drink for the next three days.

Would anyone react differently after such a demonstration? Can you imagine the sheer terror that gripped his soul? I'm sure Saul asked himself repeatedly, "How could I have been so wrong?" Also during those three days, I'm sure Saul had in the back of his mind a constant unwelcome companion-- the uneasy thought that his blindness might very well be permanent-- no doubt an appropriate sentence for his treacherous deeds. His only choice was to repent. There was no out! All he could do was ask for mercy and forgiveness.

The answer to his prayers came in a vision where he saw a man named Ananias lay hands on him so that he might receive his sight. And three days later a man named Ananias showed up at the door. He confirmed the miraculous Damascus lane experience, and then told Saul the Lord had sent him to lay hands on him so that he might receive his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. And when Ananias laid his hands on him, Saul received his sight and was baptized and filled.

What an incredible conversion experience! It included the following:


A heavenly light
A voice
Instructions
Witnesses
A vision
Confirmation of his holy highway hijacking from a total stranger
Validation of his vision from that same stranger
A healing
A baptism
A filling with the Holy Spirit
 

 
And all ten miraculous confirmations occurred within three days! Is it any wonder Paul would later write that the faith to believe is a gift from God? Note the gift was GIVEN, NOT MERELY OFFERED, and not originating in the works or deeds of man, thus eliminating any boasting (Eph. 2:8-9). And you have to love God's teaching methods, for He not only explained with words, but He also used dramatic demonstrative pictures of salvation with implications that rock orthodox theology while bringing God's fairness into light.

PAUL AS A PATTERN

Paul also realized that his salvation was NOT AN EXCEPTION but served as a pattern of His "longsuffering" for others that would follow (1 Tim. 1:16). This pattern has given us a picture of how undeserving we are and about the depths and extent of His love for us. His love resulted in God pursuing us and dropping the faith in our hearts to believe. Jesus knew what it would take to make a believer out of Paul. He controlled the situation from the start to the finish. God arranged the date, time, place, and all the characters. It wasn't chance or man who produced the outcome. It was the will of the Father that resulted in conversion. This was a classic case of the potter molding the clay, of the Great Shepard pursuing the one lost sheep until found. It's really no more complicated than that! Anyone reading the story should easily see that Jesus did what was necessary to convince Saul to believe and follow Him just like He has done for us.

 
One of our panelists characterized Saul's conversion as an exception, and felt God chose him because He needed someone to take the Gospel to the gentiles where many would be saved. Where is the logic in this assertion? First, a "pattern" is not an "exception". Secondly, are we seriously proposing that God will save you if He NEEDS you, but if He does not feel the need, you are on your own? Can you feel the love?

Albert Einstein couldn't feel it either! After astronomer Edwin Hubble provided evidence of an expanding universe from measurements of forty different galaxies, Einstein's prediction of this expansion from his original general relativity theory was fully established. For years Einstein tried to find a new force in physics canceling out this expansion notion. Facing the facts of an exploding universe, Albert admitted his greatest error, and acknowledged the necessity for a beginning with "the presence of a superior reasoning power" to orchestrate its construction. However, Einstein denied that God was personal. Here's what he said: "If this being is omnipotent, then every occurrence, including every human action, every human thought, and every human feeling and aspiration is also His work; how is it possible to think of holding men responsible for their deeds and thoughts before such an almighty Being? In giving out punishment and rewards He would to a certain extent be passing judgment on Himself. How can this be combined with the goodness and righteousness ascribed to Him?"

Einstein's superior reasoning abilities drove him to question modern apologetics. In effect, he was asking, "Is God responsible? Is He good? Is He fair?" Unfortunately, the clergy of his day could not provide him with an adequate answer. Avoiding the implications in their exegesis, they appealed to "the mystery of God." Sound familiar? The answers we received from our three experts would not have helped Mr. Einstein either. We say that God is responsible, good and fair. But there is only one outcome where He will demonstrate all three without any mystery. Maybe you already know where this is leading, but let's play it out.

Continuing our discussion of Paul and Gandhi: according to Romans 1:20 all men are without excuse because "ever since the creation of the world His invisible nature, namely, His eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made." So, prior to this experience, Paul was on the same level and without excuse just like Gandhi and all the other millions who died as non-believers in Paul's time as well as the billions of non Christians who have died since.

TWO BIG QUESTIONS

ONE. If we know that God doesn't show favoritism or partiality, then why did He give Paul an undeniable, hands-on, life changing, miraculous experience and not do the same for others bound for hell or extinction?

TWO. Why would an arrogant, sadistic, traitor to his heritage, Pharisee of Pharisees, and enemy of Christ get the advantage of this series of convincing miracles, and not others who needed it as much as Paul?


LifeguardFinalSmall

Common sense dictates that if a non-believer had the same or a similar personal experience, the outcome would be conversion! Would Gandhi have become a believer? We believe so. Yet, Orthodox Christianity would have us believe a better man is facing eternal torment or annihilation while Paul enjoys the pleasures of Heaven. This is a perfect picture of favoritism. I know we all have the benefit of His death on the cross, but the sequence of events here shows that He went an extra mile for Paul that He has not, or will not do for others. Do we have an arbitrary, capricious, unfair God; or we have jumped to the wrong conclusions about the outcome of His intentions? We are convinced it is the latter case.

At this point, most of the religious establishment falls prey to the argument: well, not all epiphanies result in salvation insinuating that God did not use this method for others because it would not have worked. Attempting to justify God's fairness by using this line of reasoning is hopeless. To prove the argument is flawed, all you need to find is one person who would have been converted but did not get the same chance as Paul to prove God's favoritism. Do you think there might have been at least one convert had God crafted something so beautiful and so personal for each one of the billions of non-believers? Was Paul the one lone man out of the billions God could get to respond by use of such an epiphany?

We'd like to take this absurdity further by thinking through some very personal examples of what Christians are expected to believe. We have some Jewish family and friends. They are wonderful people with beautiful families that we love dearly. We raised our children together celebrating nearly every birthday and holiday in huge family gatherings. We share the intimate details of life together laughing and crying knowing that if someone is in need, the family will be there. Religion has never been a problem because we love and respect each other so much. Some of them believe that Jesus was a real person, but they are not sure if He was really the Son of God. Now, our stone cold hermeneutics requires us to believe that they will either suffer in hell forever (beyond trillions of billions of years) or will be annihilated after death for failure to believe in someone they've never seen or heard. And what is just as awful is the idea that heaven will be a joyous place without them! How can compassionate people be held captive by such an utterly repulsive scenario? And there is no one who could convince us that ten personal, miraculous confirmations within three days would not persuade any of these highly intelligent, sincere and loving people to follow Jesus.

Saying that others would not be saved after a very personal revelation of Jesus such as this would be in conflict with the scripture where Paul said, "I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, for a pattern..." The King James verbiage sounds a bit clumsy, but the meaning becomes clear when we find that "all" means "thorough." So, the idea was that Jesus' longsuffering was thorough, adequate, or sufficient enough to complete the salvation of Paul just as it will be for others that follow. This was meant to be a bold demonstration of God's thoroughness and sovereignty. He couldn't have given us better proof of His ability to mold, shape, persuade, and convince free will agents to follow Him. It is analogous to the Grand Master playing a novice in a game of chess. Despite all the free will of the novice to make any move he wants, eventually, the Master brings the novice to checkmate.

This discussion brings a question to mind regarding the orthodox prayer for someone's salvation. What is it that we are asking God to do? "Oh God, please, will you try one more time with Sally?" Does God respond, "OK, I'll try one more time. But don't get your hopes up; I've already made six other attempts?" Or does God say, "no, she's 49.9% convinced, and if I give her any more evidence, I'd violate her free will." Where does God stop? And if He does, is that fair? How can an infinite, all knowing God hold a finite being with limited knowledge infinitely responsible?

SOME OR ALL?

If we really believe that God is fair as His word dictates, then there is only one possible outcome, and it is summed up beautifully in Romans 5:18-- "Then as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men." What part of this can we not understand? "Acquittal" is often translated as "justification." It is a forensic term meaning a legal argumentative exercise eliminating all possible condemnation. In layman's terms, it means, "to let off the hook." And there are over a hundred scriptures in the New Testament alone that point to the same outcome! Jesus, for example, said, "If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me." "All" includes, Gandhi, Albert, your "lost" loved ones, family, friends, neighbors, and even your enemies, because His longsuffering will be as thorough in their souls as it was in Paul's, yours and mine! God does not show favoritism! The word translated"draw" could have been translated as "drag" or "persuade." The Greek word means to draw in as with a net, or drag sometimes using force, or to persuade.

Yes, there will be a time of judgment for sins, but further study will show His judgments to be remedial in nature, not merely punitive. (When you have more time, we refer you to our Links page for George Howe's summary of the New Testament scriptures on punishment , Elwin Roach's article on fire and brimstone , and Mike's paper entitled "And These Shall Go Away".) In God's kingdom, judgment marks the turning point toward repentance and the beginning of forgiveness and restoration of relationships. Death and destruction mark the end of the old and the beginning of new life. This design comes from a heart of love. This is the Good News: "Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world."

FROM THE PULPIT?

Many Christians have enjoyed these comforting verses throughout church history, but most have missed this peace due to sincere but misguided ministers whose attempts to justify their view of God's character and plan may do more harm than good. Other pulpits remain silent because either they cannot make a clear and cogent argument that supports what they've been told, or because it's too harsh to dwell upon. Those ministers who try to justify God within the boundaries of this sad paradigm unfortunately end up reflecting less love and compassion than what truly may be in their hearts. When you have some time, we refer you to letters written by another Christian to two well respected and dearly loved TV evangelists who attempted traditional sermons on this subject. You'll find these letters of rebuke in the article "Exposing Those Who Contradict" on our Links page .

There are some striking similarities between this story and the one found at the end of the ninth chapter of Luke. Starting with verse 51, we find Jesus sending messengers of His coming to a village of non-believers (Samaritans). The subsequent rejection of Christ moved two of the disciples, James and John, to request "fire" from heaven to consume these people. Jesus rebuked these sons of thunder, no doubt, for their hardness of heart. In our modern version of the story, the rebuke has been posted at the above web site for the last few years in letters challenging the sermons of two pastors named James and John. There's nothing new here. It's the same Jesus, sending us out today with the same message of His coming to the same non-believers; and it is the same disciples in attempting to defend God's name, who call for the same fire to consume them to their ultimate end. Ironically, not even the names have changed.

Generally speaking, Church authority seems to be so sold out to this unfortunate view that over time our senses have dulled and our responses have become almost involuntary. Listen to the statements of one of our three experts surveyed: "Without hell, there is no choice. And without choice, heaven would not be heaven; heaven would be hell." In essence, he comes to the conclusion that we cannot have heaven without hell. In his paradigm, he must have hell just like James and John! However, these statements cannot be found anywhere in scripture. These ideas come from the imagination of men attempting to justify a rather horrifying image of God.

Let's follow this rationale to show how quickly the wheels fall off the argument. This belief is a form of pagan dualism where good never overcomes evil, but the two exist side-by-side forever. The concept is in direct conflict with the Word. The Bible says that death is the last enemy to be destroyed when it is cast into the lake of fire along with "Hades". Hades is the very word our orthodox leaders translate as "Hell". So, if death and hell are destroyed in the lake of fire, we ask, "Where are the believers if we can't have heaven without hell?"

To most people with any feelings or conscience whatsoever, heaven could never be heaven as long as we have loved ones suffering in hell! And according to our panel's vision of the future, there will be plenty of suffering as recent data indicates approximately 70% of the world to be non-Christian. That would make God the big loser in this duel between good and evil.

Do we think any less of these ministers who have the mindset of James and John? Absolutely not! We see nothing more in the story of James and John than two disciples attempting to walk in God's will but in need of correction. God is in the business of correcting, not torturing. Was there a benefit in God setting up the circumstances that would expose the misdirected hearts of James and John? We say, "Yes!" I'm sure the rebuke from Jesus came as a shock, but once corrected, both were better able to communicate the Good News Gospel that would change the world.

It is our hope that these ministers will be moved to reconsider their positions on this subject. However, given human nature with its reluctance to admit error, we know this will be difficult. Perhaps gentle questioning from family and friends over time would lead them to a new appreciation of God's ability to change the human heart. All of these ministers mentioned above have our prayers and love in Christ.

A BUNCH OF BIBLE VERSES

What follows next are a few scriptures demonstrating this Good News. We'll start with one of our favorites; there's nothing like hearing it straight from the mouth of Jehovah Himself:

"Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself; The Word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, And shall not return, That to Me every knee shall bow, Every tongue shall take an oath. He shall say, 'Surely in the Lord I have righteousness and strength.' " — Isaiah 45: 22-24

Most Christians aren't aware that nearly every time we pray, we say the oath. For example, when we ask for forgiveness and give thanks that our salvation isn't dependent upon our perfect performance but upon His righteousness, we confess the first part of the oath. Then, in asking for His strength to avoid temptation in the future, we acknowledge the second part of the same oath that all will eventually swear. Next is the prophetic fulfillment of all swearing the oath as we see the results of the thoroughness of Jesus' longsuffering: "And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: 'Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!' " — Revelations 5:13

For a taste of other scriptures proclaiming the good news, we really struggled because there are so many to choose from, and they're all so good. So we thought quoting a page or two from Thomas Allin's book, "Christ Triumphant", would be a good start for now. We included a little introductory commentary by Tom before he gets on a roll with some of these New Testament scriptures.

THOMAS ALLIN QUOTE

"One thing only I ask, which common fairness and honesty require, that our Lord and His Evangelists and Apostles may be understood to mean what they say. Thus, to take a few instances out of many: when they speak of ALL men I assume them to mean ALL men, not some men; when they speak of ALL things I assume them to mean ALL things; when they speak of life and salvation as given to the world, I assume them to mean given, not merely offered; when they speak of the destruction of death, of the works of the devil, I assume them to mean that these shall be destroyed and not preserved forever in hell; when they tell us that the whole of Creation suffers but it shall be delivered, I assume that they mean an actual deliverance of ALL created things; when they tell us that redemption is wider, broader, and stronger than the Fall, I assume that they mean to tell us at least this, that all the evil caused by the Fall shall be swept away; when they describe Christ's empire as extending over ALL things and ALL creatures, and tell us that every tongue must join in homage to Him, I assume them to mean what these words convey in the ordinary sense; if I did not, should I not, in fact, be making God a liar?

What does the traditional creed require? It practically requires a mutilated Bible... I protest against teaching that "All" absolutely means all when some evil is foretold, but that "All" means only "some" when spoken of final salvation. So rooted is this most inequitable mode of interpretation, that it has become involuntary. The restitution of all things means, we are told, that only some beings are to be restored, while some are tortured forever, or annihilated. That God shall finally become "All in All" means that He will shut up many forever in endless evil, and only save the rest... I submit that the entire history of exegesis contains no stranger fact than this persistent ignoring of so large a part of the Testament. To bring this out clearly, I append the following chain of passages from a long series, clearly and closely linked together, claiming for Christ a saving empire co- extensive with the race, or (perhaps) rather with the whole universe. This connection is clearly marked, for each passage suggests or contains, the same central idea; and thus forms a link in a continuous chain."

THE SCRIPTURE CHAIN

At Creation, when all things were created by God, Who, therefore, as Paul implies, reconciles all things unto God. -Col 1:16-20. Hence His work is the restitution of all things -Acts; 3:21; He is the Heir of all things -Heb 1: 2; in Him all nations are to be blessed -Gal 3: 8; for the Father hath given Him authority over all flesh, to give whatsoever was given to Him eternal life -John 17: 2; and so all flesh shall see the salvation of God -Luke 3: 6. For God Whose counsel is immutable -Heb 6:17, Whose attitude toward His enemies is love unchanging -Luke 6:27- 35, will have all men to be saved -1 Tim 2: 4; and all to come to repentance -2 Pet 3: 9; and has shut all up to unbelief, in order that He may show mercy upon all -Rom 9:31; for (out) of Him, as Source, and unto Him (or into) Him, as End, are all things whatsoever -Rom 11:36; and He has, therefore, put all things into subjection under Christ's feet -Eph 1:22. And so we are assured that God will gather into one all things in Christ -Eph 1:10; and His grace comes upon all men unto justification of life -Rom 5:18. So, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands -John 13: 3, promise by His Cross to draw all men unto Himself -John 12:32. For having, as stated, received all things from the Father -John 13:35, all that was given to Him comes to Him; and He loses none -John 6: 37-39; but if it stray, goes after that which is lost until He find it -Luke 15: 4; and makes all things new -Rev 25: 5. And thus He comes in order that all men may believe -John 1:17; that the world, through Him, may be saved -John 3:17; His grace brings salvation to all men -Titus 2:11; for He takes away the sins of the world -John 1:29; gives His flesh for its life -John 6:51; and, because the gifts and callings of God are without repentance (are irrevocable) -Rom 19:29, He gives life to the world -John 6:33; is the Light of the world -John 8:12; is the propitiation for sins of the whole world -1 John2: 2; is the savior of all men -1 Tim 4:10; destroys the works of the devil, not some of them only -1 John 3: 8; abolished death -2 Tim1:10 ; is manifested to put away sin -Heb 9:26; and thus subduing all things unto Himself -Phil 3:21 (the context clearly shows the subjugation to be conformity to Himself) does not forget the dead, but takes the Gospel to hades -1 Pet: 3:19; of which He holds the keys -Rev 1:18; for He is the same (Savior) for ever -Heb 13: 8; thus even the dead are evangelized -I Pet 4: 6; and death and hades are destroyed -Rev 20:14. Thus all are made alive in Him -I Cor 15:22; for Christ finishes, completes His work -John 17: 4; 19:30; restores all things -Acts 3:21; and there is no more curse -Rev. 22: 2-3; but every knee of things in heaven and earth, and under the earth, bends to Him -Phil 2:10; for the entire creation is delivered from the bondage of corruption -Rom 8:21; and every creature joins in song of praise -Rev 5:13, and so comes the end when He delivers up the Kingdom of God, Who is then All in All -1 Cor 15:24-28.

"These passages are, I repeat, not taken at random and piled up anyhow. They are the expression of that Purpose which runs through the Bible, a Purpose first stated in man's creation in God's image, a Purpose to be traced in the Law, the Psalms, and Prophets, and most clearly in the New Testament. For we learn, that (I.) Christ came, claiming as His own the entire human race, to the end that He might save and restore the whole, and not a fraction of it, however large. (II.) He came with full power "over all flesh," having received "all power in heaven and on earth" over all hearts, all wills, and all evil. (III.) He lived and died, and rose again victorious in the fullest sense, "having FINISHED His work," as He expressly claims."

Great work by Thomas Allin. Additionally, look at the twenty-five most direct scriptures expressing the outcome of His infinite grace, at our Links page.

THE BAD NEWS?

But what about all those verses that speak of eternal damnation, destruction and hell? It is not within the scope of this article to show how the biases of some scholars led to both obvious and subtle errors in the translation of ancient Biblical Greek and Hebrew texts, nor to explain how those errors calcified over time in the minds of church leaders-- both Protestant and Catholic-- nor to explain how 1600 years of errant group-think behind this religious dogma has come to hold almost universal acceptance to demand unquestioning certainty. Following a painstaking review of the literature and text itself, we have concluded and reached agreement with many others that 1600-year-traditions are, just that, traditions. They do not reflect God, His plans, or His character; they are perceptions in the minds of translators which unfortunately, found their way into English versions of the Bible, e.g. the King James version of 1611. To help you better see these truths, spend some time touring our website, RestoreAllThings.org, where we have provided the names of books and articles by contemporary and historical scholars explaining how we came to inherit such a bad news gospel.

As an example of what you will find in these studies, we would like to briefly touch on one of the more infamous passages where theologians attempt to prove the existence of hell from the words of Jesus. Some of the first scriptures used in their defense are found in the parable of the rich man and poor man. According to the orthodox version, the poor man dies and goes to heaven while the rich man dies and goes to hell.

First, does it not sound strange that Jesus chooses as His example of a Christian who goes to heaven a poor man who is sick and full of sores which are being licked by dogs while he is begging for food at the gate of the sinner? David, in one of the psalms, said he had lived until he was very old and had never seen the righteous forsaken, nor even his seed begging for bread. Secondly, "heaven" is never mentioned in this parable. The poor man went to Abraham's bosom, and there is not one scripture in the Bible connecting Abraham's bosom to heaven. Further, many details are not explained, such as why the poor man died first, and why the rich man had five brothers. Also, if heaven is a place where Christians can look down to see their loved ones in misery forever... how sick and sad!

You’ll find all of this explained in articles at our web site; but not to leave you hanging, the parable is simply a message to the Jews that Jesus was temporarily taking away their calling as Abraham's seed (his seed would become many nations and bless all families of the earth with the Good News) and giving it to another. By the way, "Jew" is short for Judah. Judah is the name of the southern kingdom taken captive by the Babylonians and who later returned to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. This was the nation who rejected the ministry of Christ. Judah is the name of one of the sons of Jacob. He had five brothers from his mother, Leah.

FURTHER READING & RESEARCH

If you decide to investigate further, you will probably be surprised to learn that prior to the church's descent down this path of horrors, that four of the first six Christian schools of learning taught universal reconciliation by some of the most well educated and revered saints in all of Christendom. The school at Carthage in Africa was the only one to teach eternal torment for non-believers. They taught from translations in Latin. Many of the hell fire and damnation proponents like Augustine were uneducated in Greek, and actually hated the dominant language of the original New Testament text. Also, you may be surprised to learn there is good historical evidence claiming the majority of Christians and early church fathers strongly believed in universal reconciliation during the first four to five hundred years after Christ's death. It was especially prevalent in the Greek Church and by those who were well educated and spoke the dominant language of the New Testament - even Jerome was a proponent at the time he translated the Bible into Latin! He was a student and great admirer of Origen, another Universalist who has been called the greatest among the Church fathers even by his opponents.

In reading more, you will find that the idea of eternal torment did not begin to dominate the church until ecclesiastical and political authority centralized under the Holy Roman Empire. Power hungry men trying to keep the Roman Empire from falling apart found a convenient tool in a state religion. It seized power and used its emotional influence along with a newfound fear of the hereafter to control the masses and to justify the torture and murder of its opponents. And when this doctrine began to dominate, the horrifying Inquisition was launched followed by a period that came to be known as "The Dark Ages." No wonder David Hume, a noted atheist (1711-1776), said he could not be a believer in a church that justified the torturer and murder of people simply because they had different beliefs, that promoted a god who would torture loved ones forever, that fought scientific discovery at every turn, and that sanctioned the institution of slavery. Yes, it was a very dark period indeed, and some of its effects and remnants are with us today.


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HOW LONG?

When will Christians stand up and say, "This doesn't make any sense"? How long will it be before people start thinking for themselves and realize the personal relationships Jesus desires should not be based on fear but affection? When will we start questioning the validity of a message that is exclusive, disturbing, and fearful? And when will we move toward the gospel of inclusion, comfort and peace? "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love." -1 John 4:18-19. Maybe the dense fog currently blinding most Christians on this topic will be lifted in some distant age to come. Maybe the Lord plans to take more time to expose the contents of our collective hearts, which arrogantly believe that we were smart enough to make the right decision for Christ, not acknowledging it was He who gave us the faith to believe in Him in the first place. Or maybe He needs more time to expose hearts looking more for revenge than forgiveness.

Anticipating our ignorance, God prophetically told Christians in Ephesians 2: 7 that in the ages to come He would show us the exceeding richness of his kindness toward us through Jesus. Incidentally, it was the Christian school at Ephesus who taught the annihilation of the lost. We find it ironic that the prophetic word points this group to the phrase, "the richness of His kindness" as something that will need to be revealed in future ages to come. I pray this age will come quickly.

IN CONCLUSION...

There isn't any way we could express in this article everything that needs to be said about the eternal richness of His grace. We believe, however, we have established a sufficient groundwork for interested readers to pick up the topic for themselves. So here we will leave further study up to you. But before we end, we want to offer you some free books (while they last) and point you to some other helpful resources. First, we will send your choice of books: "The Inescapable Love of God", written by Thomas Talbott, or "What Does The Bible Really Say About Hell?", by Randy Klassen. Tom is a philosophy professor at Willamette University who chronicles his early theological struggles and how he came to embrace a doctrine of universal reconciliation. Randy is a retired pastor of forty years who carefully examines all significant references to hell in the Bible and shows clearly that none provides evidence of a place of eternal judgment. You may receive your free copy by emailing me your name and address (see our Contact Info page or click on the E-mail link on the top-left navigation panel on this page).

Also be sure to visit Tentmaker.org for a wealth of information, featuring many more books, videos and articles surrounding the subject. And don't miss Tentmaker's terrific What-The-Hell-Is-Hell.com for actual pictures of hell - not drawings, real camera photos ! (Everything above can be found at our Links page.) If you find the contents of our efforts to be beneficial, please tell others to visit our web sites, and then, make a charitable donation to the Tentmaker organization. They have done a great job in bringing the Good News Gospel to the rest of us, and they would appreciate your support.

As for us, we would love to provide you with the following:

ONE
Support by answering your questions through email or in person . . .

TWO
Support through resource guidance—books, articles, web links . . .

THREE
Support by bringing qualified speakers like Randy Klassen, Tom Talbott or Gary Amirault to your area . . .

FOUR
Support by making ourselves available to speak to interested groups . . .


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May Jesus bless and bring you comfort in these words. We'd love to hear from you—join our Facebook page, or click on our "contact" link to e-mail.