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Is it possible for Christian to be a universalist? Some will say no, others will say yes. My position is that it is possible for a Christian to be a universalist -- note, I said "possible". But, to be clear upfront, I believe universalism to be a heresy and I would never say, "All universalists are Christians." [...]
The question is whether or not universalism in itself denies any of the essential doctrines of Christianity. Though I consider universalism to be a false belief, I cannot automatically pronounce condemnation upon a person who acknowledges the essentials of the Christian faith and also affirms universal salvation. I don't because I don't see the scriptures doing it. Would I consider someone who holds to both the essentials and universalism to be inconsistent and confused? Absolutely! Should they repent? Yes!
But, should we pronounce the judgment of condemnation upon a person for believing a doctrine that the scriptures have not stated is an essential? For those who would say yes, then are you not elevating the non-essentials to the level of essentials? It would be like a person condemning another to damnation because the latter believes in pre-trib rapture (or post, or mid, or even non-cessationism). Since the scriptures do not pronounce judgment of condemnation for a rapture view or a view on the gifts, then neither should we -- and neither should we concerning predestination, election, millennial views, on which day to worship, charismatic gifts, etc., if others hold views different than we do on these issues.
People can be saved in varying degrees of theological error. There are regenerated people who do not understand predestination, don't accept election, don't understand federal headship, are clueless about imputation, Christ's eternal priesthood, covenant, etc., yet they are regenerated. They simply haven't learned those doctrinal truths yet. Are they condemned for not rightly understanding these very important biblical teachings? No, because the ones I just listed in this paragraph are not declared by the Bible to be essential doctrines.
In case you've been living in a cave without Wi-Fi, one popular blogger who read a couple of advance chapters of Bell's latest book, announced that Bell was probably a universalist. This set Twitter on fire with both speculation and condemnation. [...]
[W]hat is being lost in the anxious chatter is that faithful, devout Christians try to reconcile the love of God with the judgment of God in a number of ways. Many evangelicals who hold to the standard view assume, as one prominent blogger wrote yesterday, that the Bible's teaching on this is "clear." But especially in the last century, things don't seem that clear to many of the devout.
The older form of universalism, originating in the second century, taught that salvation would come after a temporary period of punishment. The newer form of universalism declares that all men are now saved, though all do not realize it. [...]
The Scriptures consistently categorize people into one of two classes (saved/unsaved, also called believers/unbelievers), and portray the final destiny of every person as being one of two realities (heaven or hell).
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