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Many are called, but few are chosen?

Rethinking how salvation works and opening the door to universalism.

[God] desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim. 2:4).

Having been brought up in a Calvinist home and listened all my life to sermons in Reformed churches, I have grown to believe that only a chosen few will be saved from eternal damnation by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ. I now believe that I must repent from this belief. To repent means, among other things, to re-think one’s actions or beliefs for the purpose of making a positive change.

I have been reading a book on the history of Christianity and am struck by how many of the ancient theologians in what is now called the Eastern Orthodox tradition believed that the justice, mercy and grace of God will result in the eventual salvation of all humans created in God’s image. They did not deny that sinners must face judgment and punishment, but they believed that all humans, including those who never had the opportunity of hearing the gospel in this life, would come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ in the life to come. Just how that might happen is not for us to know on this side of death. But that it will happen after death and with the coming again of Christ in glory, they did not doubt.

A matter of justice

One of the cardinal principles of justice is that punishment for crimes must be commensurate with the seriousness of the offence. Punishing a petty thief with life imprisonment is clearly viewed as incommensurate. The punishment must fit the crime. Thus, punishing someone eternally (time without end) seems clearly unjust as the crime was committed in time. As God is unfailingly just, eternal punishment seems to violate God’s justice. Many New Testament writers seem to share this view.

There are many questions to be asked about universalism, that is, the belief in the eventual salvation of all humankind along with the full restoration of the cosmos; but, if God desires it (1 Tim. 2:4), it will be so. Here are some other biblical texts that lend credence to this belief:

So, I am re-thinking (repenting of) many things that almost 76 years of being steeped in Reformed theological teaching have taught me. I’m not sure just yet where my re-evaluation of beliefs about salvation will take me. But as Good Friday and Easter Sunday approach, I take comfort in the promise of the resurrection and of new life in a restored creation as presaged by the death, resurrection and translation into glory of my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Christ is risen; he is risen indeed.

  • Bob is a retired Professor of Education (The King’s University) living in Edmonton.

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