Clear As Mud

“And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?” 1 Corinthians 14:8

It has been said that all six billion people on earth are God’s people. And that is true. It has also been said that God is God to all of His people, which is also true. And that God loves all of His people – true again. And therefore, it has been concluded that all of the many different religions are equal in God’s eyes and are equally true for those who practice them, that all religions are only different paths to the same God. This conclusion, however, is not true according to the Bible.

This belief, called universalism, has been around for a long time and much confusion has been associated with it. It exists in two forms: pantheistic universalism and monotheistic universalism. Pantheistic universalism believes that all religions originate equally from God and that God equally honors all who practice the various religions. Here all faithful practitioners of the various religions will be reconciled to God. Monotheistic universalism believes that there is only one true God and only one true religion, but that God will ultimately reconcile everyone to Himself. Here all people will ultimately come to believe and be reconciled.

In response to numerous heresies the 4th Century Church put into a creed the already believed doctrine of the Trinity emphasizing the teaching that Jesus was fully God and fully man as a correction against Arianism. Long story short, Arianism was a controversy about the nature of God. Who is God? What is the relationship between God and Jesus Christ? The Council of Nicea clarified the issue with the famous three Persons, one substance formula, settling the issue to the present day.

Psilanthropism (belief that Jesus Christ was a mere man) was rejected by the First Council of Nicaea, which was convened to deal specifically with this concern. Socinianism was identified as a form of psilanthropism in 1643 and was again declared to be a heresy and banished from Poland by the Catholics. And of course, Socinianism, a form of Anti-Trinitarianism, and named for Faustus Socinus, has been around since the 1500s. This is not a new thing. The world was different then, of course. The Reformation was in full swing and the Roman Catholic Church had lost its hegemony of the churches.

There are also versions and variations of Christian universalism, as well. For instance, in August 1985 Pope Paul II visited Morocco. At a historic meeting with thousands of Muslim youths in Casablanca Stadium, he said that “we believe in the same God, the one God, the living God” (Catholic News Service), suggesting a Catholic version of Christian universalism.

The fruit of psilanthropism in the 17 and 18th Centuries flowered into Deism, the theistic belief that a supreme God exists and created the physical universe, but does not intervene in its normal operation. Deism is related to a religious philosophy and movement that claims to derive the existence and nature of God from pure reason – the Enlightenment, which followed the lead of Immanuel Kant, and laid the ground for modern liberalism in the church and out.

According to the logic of Deism, a consequence of God’s policy of nonintervention pertains to the deity of Jesus Christ. Deists can believe God sent Jesus (Christianity is not a necessary part of Deism), but because God doesn’t intervene, Jesus is not understood to be divine. A logical consequence of Deism is that God did not manifest Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ. Of course, there were Christian Deists who held that Jesus was divine, but in doing so they were repudiating the central tenet of Deism, and thus creating a logical contradiction. So much for pure reason!

Much confusion continues to reign in all of these areas. The great need in our current time is careful, clarification of what the Bible actually says about the many things that confuse people.

19 comments for “Clear As Mud

  1. August 27, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    “Few things are more disrupting to the core of a man than to discover that the base of his belief system is not a timeless truth or an absolute constant, but a man-made invention. Far more disrupting is to realize that he himself is the inventor.”

    From the time of Adam & Eve’s family, men and women have all imagined and invented our own values, rules and perceptions that we like to call “truth”. Sometimes we have the help of that wily defeated Snake, and other times we’re fully capable of duping ourselves without any help. Today, I could spend my whole day, –my whole life– sifting through the controversies and complications of how Mankind’s religions overlap, intertwine and conflict to attempt to reach an unattainably complete understanding of the Truth. But the truth is… He’s sitting right next to me. He walks with me. He talks with me. He knows my name. And I know His.

    Strip away all religious inventions for all traditions and all complications, and take Him at His word. (See Genesis 1:1 to Rev. 22.21 for starters.)

    And as for the tumult of religions, complications and conflicts? My dad settled that storm for me a long time ago. He worked with mentally disabled children when he was my age, and made a very wise observance of their relationship with their God.

    “[Faith, Religion, Truth…] if it doesn’t work for the mentally handicapped 40-year-old, then it doesn’t work [at all]. [In order to be true] It HAS to work for the mentally disabled.”

    The mentally handicapped cannot debate or complicate; they can’t read theology or argue trinity. They simply know their Creator, and they Love His Smile. We could stand to do the same.

  2. August 27, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    John, I understand the wisdom of keeping the mentally handicapped in mind. God will not leave them behind. They are probably closer to God than the mentally able are.

    That said, however, God does not want us to remain immature and unaware. We are to use the gifts that God has given us. The fact that the mentally handicapped cannot debate the finer aspects of biblical Christianity does not mean all Christians are to strive to be like the handicapped in this regard.

    No one is saved by their understanding of the truth. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone according to Scripture alone. The handicapped are saved by grace, and the geniuses of the faith are saved by grace. So, rather than ignore theology (the study of God), those who love Him also desire to know and understand Him. Of course God is an ultimate mystery, but so is your wife!

    Nonetheless, in order to facilitate the relationship we engage Him (and her) to the best of our abilities. To do any less is to neglect the relationship, which is not a good thing (in either case).

  3. April Love
    August 27, 2008 at 6:42 pm

    Really deep important information…people need to know that there is only one true God…the “anything goes” attitude that so called
    “religion” teaches has mislead many people…I was one of them which led to some bad choices in my past due to my many years of religion…having a relationship with Jesus Christ and following the BIBLE is critical…God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. People today are searching for something real…it’s Jesus Christ. Are there any churches in the area that teach the Bible…the truth without adding all of their own “stuff”…??? I am nothing without Christ…I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me…

    I don’t know if I answered or commented anything helpful? You know me, I want to know the truth, and I’ve learned a lot through the school of hard knocks…which isn’t always necessarily bad…I may have made better choices in my past if I’d known the Bible…and known to ask God for wisdom and His good and perfect will for my life…I’m still learning every day…

    In Christ,

    April

  4. Ted Bradshaw
    August 27, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    All people belong to God and are subject to Him, whether thy know it or not. Not all people are the people of God.

    I have found it clearer to state, much to the dislike of many, that there are two kinds of people – Children of God and creatures of God. Because God created all people they are naturally, without God’s intervention, His creatures.
    God in Christ intervened, surrendering His life for our sin. To all who believe in Jesus, to them God gave the power to become to children of God.
    All that continue in the darkness of sin remain the creatures of God. If the Holy Spirit calls them out of darkness, then they, seeing the light, embrace Jesus and God adopts them as HIs children and joint heirs with Christ of eternal life.
    If the Holy Spirit leaves them in darknes the creatures of God receive the wages of sin – eternal damnation under the wrath of God.

    tb

  5. August 28, 2008 at 7:53 am

    Good point, Ted. The children of God are born creatures of God and made children of God by adoption, which provides them with inheritance rights.

  6. tim
    August 28, 2008 at 10:03 am

    Sounds like Oprah’s schooling will fit right in.I’ve been preaching from Revelation and it is all in there.pertaining to the false world religon.It’s important for us as pastors to make sure our people are aware and understand the pit falls of this belief.

  7. August 28, 2008 at 10:53 am

    Tim, yes it is. And the pitfalls are many and deep. But the best way to teach people to recognize a forgery is to teach them the real thing. Remembering and accounting for all the different ways a thing can be forged is too hard. Recognizing the Real McCoy is simple, but only if you already know the marks of the Real McCoy.

  8. David Dake
    August 28, 2008 at 11:15 am

    Good thoughts, good writing,

    As I speak with people concerning there thoughts and patterns of life, I find that hedonism is there focus. The world and many within the church are too keyed on the fact of just getting by and living comfortable doing what they desire to do. If they give time to goodness, or service for others, it’s what they get out of it that seems to be their focus.
    Articles like this need to be read and thought about more often. As a whole the church spends time on the common aspects of life, and less if any time pondering the divine nature and plan of God.

  9. August 28, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    Dave, Right you are. It’s almost like worldly success sucks the ideals of selfless service right out of our souls. Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way, but it usually is.

  10. August 28, 2008 at 7:55 pm

    Phil, your article was well done. Psilanthropism was a new word for me, so, hurrah, I learned a scrap of trivia. Setting universalism in a historical context was helpful. By ignoring the very real fact of God’s sure judgment (as is the case in many churches today) there is not much difference in the teaching of universalism and the teaching of these churches. In both cases the hearers are given a false hope. Maybe Dante was right that there will be degrees of punishment for false leaders and unbelievers. What form of punishment awaits unbelievers is problematic for me and many biblical scholars. But it is important to keep in mind the distinction between the traditional view of hell (eternal torment) and conditional immortality (annihilation). The doctrine of hell is a for sure rabbit trail, so I won’t go there.

    I suspect Deism in one form or another is alive and well today. I have relatives who articulate an aberrant form of it. Belief in God, who isn’t really sovereign, the Bible not inspired or authoritative, and Jesus as just a great person. That’s after eighteen years, more or less, in an evangelical church and a “Christian” family.
    Shalom – Paul

  11. August 29, 2008 at 6:03 am

    Paul, because universalism is at the heart of liberalism, and most churches today are sliding down the slope of liberalism, they are, as you said, teaching universalism in one way or another.

    Even conditional immortality, which is a variant of the idea that all people are saved (stating it in the negative — no one goes to hell), is a variant of universalism. But we won’t go there.

    Not only is Deism alive and well, but it is the dominant American religious perspective in the church and out.

  12. Angela
    August 30, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    There are all kinds of people with itching ears in the world and all kinds of people who refuse to follow sound doctrine and allow “themselves” to be lead astray. Paul knew it, we know it. It isn’t our job to rescue them or save them. In fact we’re to have nothing to do with people who are not true believers (Jesus Christ is God come in the flesh, ye shall know them by their fruits, etc.) beyond preaching the truth of Jesus Christ to them, and allowing the Word to go out and do it’s thing / His thing.

    I can’t stand all these “ism’s”. God didn’t come up with a single one of them. Dust off your feet and let those with itching ears who will not hear truth be deaf. God does harden some hearts and so be it.

    This is a conclusion that I’ve come to recently after watching debates about whether or not our behavior even matters. What we think feel or believe outside of salvational belief in Jesus Christ doesn’t even matter. The only thing that matters is what the Bible really says. (Our behavior being one of those things, by the way. It’s all over the NT.)

    Phil you said “Much confusion continues to reign in all of these areas. The great need in our current time is careful, clarification of what the Bible actually says about the many things that confuse people.”

    I respectfully disagree. First of all, it isn’t confusion. It’s blatant disobedience to the Word to “decide” to believe in anything but God’s truth. The great need wouldn’t even apply to these people. They don’t care. They only care about what they would like to “form” God into for their self gratification. (idolatry)

    For example…. ACIM. A Course In Miracles. I allowed myself to be sucked into it at one point in my life. I taught its principles – that sin isn’t real, nor death nor hell nor satan nor anything that isn’t “love”. I was not confused, I was living in disobedience. Until I repented, there was nothing anyone could say or clarify for me that I would have allowed myself to hear. No one but the Lord Himself, that is, who deals with and changes hearts where no other is able. No amount of clarifying of Scripture, no behavioral lectures – nothing but Christ alone could have brought me back. This is why Paul decided that a brother who claims to be a believer but whose behavior is flip opposite of Truth should be handed over to satan for the destruction of his flesh, that in the end his soul may be ultimately spared. They have to hit rock bottom. They just do.

    April you said “Are there any churches in the area that teach the Bible…the truth without adding all of their own “stuff”…???”

    Nope. And none of this started with the Roman Catholic Church. It started in Corinth in 1 Cor 1 and Paul warned them about separation at that time. They did not listen. Some will say that it is impossible for the church to be His church without denominations / separation. But Paul says otherwise. It can be done, if we are “willing” to speak the same things and refuse to participate in / condone the “differences”. Which more and more people are concluding by the moving of the Holy Spirit, and decidedly doing. It asks a lot of us. If an issue is out there that is up for “debate” people are all over it like a fly on doodoo. And believe me, if you refuse to debate or argue, people who wish to do otherwise will come against you. And so be that, too.

    Take the rapture for instance. There is only one place in the Bible that speaks about believers meeting the Lord in the air, and that is the Scripture that talks about meeting the Lord in the air. Everything else – all the five hundred million other “rapture” views, are wrapped around that verse. And everyone is right – just ask them. But God is not the author of confusion but of peace. Things that make you go, hmmm.

    Therefore, aside from what I just said, you won’t ever find me having a “discussion” about whether this person’s “view” is correct or not. It doesn’t matter what they, or I, think feel or believe about it. The only thing we know for “sure”, is that at some point either in the past or future, 1 Thesselonians 4 takes place. The end. And that’s the truth. Yet people everywhere act like it’s just not possible or at least “okay” that we may not have enough information “yet” to draw a conclusion.

    So they not only draw “personal” ones, but they feel the need to open their mouths and create separation between believers over them. Not cool.

    Revelation 19:7 says that the bride is going to make herself ready. I suspect that isn’t going to happen until people learn to bridle their tongues and keep their personal “opinions” / thoughts that go beyond Scripture (Titus) to themselves.

    Arguing with people who insist on things like that the Muslims and Christians worship the same God is like arguing with a brick wall. It will go nowhere. Let them be and let those who truly belong to the Lord edify one another and encourage one another in Christ and in real growth in Him.

    That’s my take.

    Angela

  13. Ted Wahl
    September 1, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    I think that your article is good. As far as the “church” goes. Most of the people sitting in pews today do not know what they believe and the are convinced that the only person that should spend time learning theology is that pastor. Our busy schedules have left little or no time for God and we the “church” unfortunately are ok with this. That is why it is no surprise we believe anything that comes down the pipe. We are turning out a mass of Christians that are only able to drink milk and have no intention of putting down their bottles for forks anytime soon.

  14. September 1, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    Ted, Amen! Is it the fault of the students (pew sitters) or the teachers (pulpit pounders)? And, as pulpit pounders what should we do about it?

  15. Angela
    September 2, 2008 at 1:04 am

    “Our busy schedules have left little or no time for God and we the “church” unfortunately are ok with this. That is why it is no surprise we believe anything that comes down the pipe.”

    Hi Ted. I’m not so sure that those who are okay with having little or no time for God are really part of “we the church”, myself.

    As for what “pulpit pounders” should do about it – While your duties are more requiring than that of students, you are still individual human beings saved by the grace of God and are not responsible for the salvation of those who reject the Lord. My vote then would be that you merely continue on teaching truth to those who “have ears to hear” and also speak the truth to the rest that by being exactly that – nothing more than pew sitters, they are living in disobedience and need to repent, and engage. If they do they do. If they don’t, you’ve done your part in obedience.

  16. September 2, 2008 at 6:59 am

    Angela, The issue I was trying to point to is the “teaching the truth” issue. In fact, there is way too little of that happening. So, it may be better to shut up than to teach what is not the biblical truth.

    Part of the problem is that we don’t know who has ears to hear. Because we are all sinners we all begin life in the God rejection mode. Some people convert to the God acceptance mode fairly easily, others need to be pounded on for years, and some just never get it. But if the preacher isn’t pounding with the firm love of truth (the truth of love), he is as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.

    We can’t be too quick to walk away because many of the most faithful Christians have been converted after many years of hating God.

  17. September 2, 2008 at 8:58 am

    All this cyberspace inaction is new to me and very refreshing. Not to throw a monkey wrench into the works, but I’m interested in how the emerging church movement comes down on the issue of soteriology. Do I understand correctly that their emphasis is upon putting one’s faith into action? A sort of postmodern evangelicalism. If so where does the biblical emphasis upon being born again into God’s family fit into their theology?
    CT (current issue) Scott McKnight critically reviews some of emerging spokeperson Brian McLaren’s recent books, which left me still confused. How does the emerging movement differ substantively form the social gospel of liberalism that came on the scene many decades ago? Paul

  18. September 2, 2008 at 9:45 am

    Paul, If you are confused, welcome to the 21st Century. There is no consistent, umbrella position that is emergent. The emergents are all over the board, but mostly with a veneer for the Social Gospel Movement of bygone years — of course they will deny it because there are differences, and there are. Can’t say I’ve heard them talk much about regeneration. Phl

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