ENDLESS PUNISHMENT IN THE VERY WORDS OF ITS ADVOCATES.
In the following pages I wish to call the attention of the reader to some facts and considerations, which, though only preliminary in their nature, seem to me important, and, if duly weighed, must in some measure prepare the earnest inquirer for an intelligent and, I trust, candid study of the controversy now going on in Protestant Christendom, – and affecting in some degree even the Roman Church, – upon the question of universal salvation and endless punishment.
|What basic Christian doctrine is being examined? The doctrine of eternal punishment is being challenged.
If there is not such a doctrine as eternal torment of the unbelieving, what takes its place?
The orthodoxy insists that unbelievers must be properly judged for the shame of their unbelief. The orthodox view of Holy judgment is eternal suffering. Universalism does not condemn any in God’s creation to eternal conscious torment; which is often call “hell” by the orthodoxy.
The controversy challenges the orthodoxy to prove their theological belief in the eternal damnation of all who fail to believe in Jesus Christ. What the orthodoxy must do to prove their theology of eternal punishment is to manipulate scripture to mean what they intend their doctrine to mean.
The alternative that challenges the theology of eternal punishment is Universal Restoration.
A truly candid study of God’s Holy Word does not lead a person to conclude there is an eternal separation from God, The Father. Even much less is there support for an eternal burning torment for failing to believe His Son and our Messiah. In fact a study of scriptures that is candid and led by the Holy Spirit concludes “God is love.”
That’s the controversy; which is right, endless punishment or ultimate restoration?
In every aspect the subject is a momentous one, in which no man who believes in God and immortality can fail to take a profound interest, but to which a faith in the Christian religion adds a fresh importance by lifting us out of a narrow egoism, in which we are apt to indulge, and inspiring us with a broader and purer love for our fellow-men, and so making the welfare of every individual of our race dear to us, and an object of affectionate and earnest desire.
|Dr. Sawyer could not be more assertive. This controversy impacts nearly every facet of our spiritual and physical lives. He states that “no man who believes in God and immortality can fail to take a profound interest…” in our fellow men.
The need to understand the fate of our souls, our bodies and our spirits is critically important to a Christian. We should also have the same kind of need, perhaps a greater need, for others to understand the fate of their souls, their bodies and their spirits.
Every believer is convinced God is their Savior. Every believer is convinced of immortality. Every believer has a “profound interest” in the outcome of their lives and the condition of their respective immortality. They also have a “profound interest” in the outcome of the unbelievers’ immortal state.
Unfortunately faith in Christ is quickly tainted by theological contaminants. Even so a Christian is wise to set himself apart from denominational traditions and look only for knowledge in His Word.
Each person reading this editorial is likely professing to follow Christ; to be in Christ; to live as Christ. That being the case we should look for every opportunity to love especially those who hate us, even those who passionately disagree with us. We have a regard and a desire for the welfare of those like us, but we should possess a higher regard especially for those not like us. Because we believe we are truly affectionate for one another, to include those who hate us, we will hold their interests in greater stead.
Or is that “lip-service?”
But the question reaches much farther than the mere happiness or misery of a few individuals, or even the great majority of mankind. If any – be the number large or small – are finally to be lost, whether by the suffering of annihilation or of an eternity of woe, this awful event, let us reflect, must occur in the universe of God and under his moral government, and hence cannot fail to affect directly and most disastrously, one would naturally suppose, the character of both that government and its divine Author.
Did he call these unhappy beings into existence for this fearful destiny, or is it to happen as something unforeseen, to meet him as a surprise, and afflict him as a fatal disappointment?
|The controversy involves the kind of end of multitudes of people. The controversy affects the original couple to the most recently born baby. The actual numbers of people affected is not significant. If the number of persons lost is only a few, then their fate would be “the suffering of annihilation or of an eternity of woe….”
Their judgment is God’s responsibility. His Will will be done and His will will be just. To be sure whatever the judgment is to be it will be reflective of Him. The punishment given demonstrates “…the character of both that (God’s) government and its (God’s government) divine author.” Whatever the judgment, whatever the penalty tells us much about our Father.
Dr. Sawyer asks, “Did God create people only to be eternally tormented?” It doesn’t really matter if the sinner knows he is a sinner. He may know and choose to be cast into hell knowing what it is. He may not know that he is a sinner and not know to ask forgiveness. That won’t matter either for the outcome to both the sinner who knows and the sinner who does not is already committed.
Fortunately the time has now arrived when these grave questions can be discussed with a degree of calmness and under an absence of prejudice and passion which hitherto it has been difficult, if not impossible, to command. The larger hope, nay, the assured belief, of the final victory of good over evil, is no longer so utterly heretical as to throw its possessor beyond the pale of common-sense and Christian charity. The most zealous advocate of endless punishment is obliged to confess that there is something to be said in favor of a doctrine for which all good men pray, and which, if true, would not only fill the moral universe with joy, but must also redound to the infinite glory of God.
|Let’s recall that Dr. Sawyer wrote this paper in 1879. It may have been safe to openly discuss this controversy without reprisal then. It does not feel like it is safe to contradict orthodoxy today.
One of the lessons I have learned in the work the Lord has led me lately is to know that He is Sovereign. I have become more patient with others. I am especially patient with those knowledgeable men and women who disagree with me. I have learned that good people who go to church regularly and study their Bibles in fellowship with like minded others are very often stuck. Many, if not most, are stuck in the belief that unbelievers will “burn in hell.” They are cemented to the doctrine of eternal suffering to the point they protect it adamantly, even aggressively. (We will see some of that in Dr. Sawyer’s book.)
The doctrine of eternal suffering is almost too hard to imagine.
As Dr. Sawyer says, “The most zealous advocate of endless punishment is obliged to confess that there is something to be said in favor of a doctrine for which all good men pray, and which, if true, would not only fill the moral universe with joy, but must also redound to the infinite glory of God.” Even if the “zealous advocate of endless punishment” cannot be persuaded differently, he must agree the alternative is sweeter than what he proposes and advocates.
Nor should the fact be wholly overlooked that, notwithstanding their differences, the two parties in this controversy – the Universalists on one side, and the Orthodox, so called, on the other – still hold much, and much that is fundamental, in common, and I trust with equal sincerity and affection.
We agree, for instance, in believing in the one living and true God, the Creator of all worlds and the moral Governor of all intelligent beings; in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, the great Teacher and Savior of men; and in the Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament and the New, as containing a revelation of the divine character and will, and of man’s relations, duty, and destiny.
|It was not hard for me to leave the orthodoxy’s doctrine of eternal torment when I accepted the Truth about God being love and that He is mercy. But, my friends in church changed when I my belief changed. My belief in Ultimate Reconciliation changed me.
In the past my friends and I often discussed and disagreed on many theological subjects. I often thought my decisions about my set of Christian doctrines were set in stone. My Christian values were like an idol that had become an anchor. I worshiped the Lord, but only as far as my Christian values would let me. I was chained to my orthodox Christian values.
As it happens the chains that bound me are binding my friends and my family. We have a great deal in common. With regard to very nearly every basic Christian doctrine we agree on them all. It suits our purposes to agree with one another especially regarding Christian orthodoxy. Even so, there are differences of opinion between us, but none is an obstacle to our love for one another.
That is, until my set of basic Christian doctrines replaced eternal torment with Universal Reconciliation. Every other Christian doctrine was shared or the differences accepted. With a better understanding of Universal Restoration it becomes apparent that holding fast to the doctrine of eternal conscious torment is not possible. I truly believe the Lord led me to this time in my life and it is now that He has revealed to me my error.
I did not try to persuade my Men’s Bible Study mates to consider another point of view. When I spoke of Universal Salvation my friends would quickly move to challenge my understanding of scripture. I could refer them to many scriptures that point to, at least, a potential for salvation for all, but they would not hear me. It was demanded of me to read Christ’s words on Gehenna. But, they could not be convinced to agree on the term “hell” much less discuss Gehenna. My friends are convinced their theology regarding eternal torment is so right that they are right to divide with folks who disagree.
I’ve since stepped away from that Men’s Bible Study. The subject of eternal damnation came up often. I found myself arguing for the blessed hope against deeply entrenched hell-fire knowledge.
My friends are really good people and I am grateful for them. I pray for unity with them. I love my family. I am grateful God loves them. I pray for our unity in Him.
This controversy should not divide us. After all is said and done we agree on more than on what we disagree. I don’t know that there is even one thing that should cause us to divide except pride. I’m letting my pride go.
Yet, cordially agreeing as we do on these great fundamental truths, the fact need not be disguised, and indeed cannot be, that we still differ, and differ widely. When we come to consider God’s ways, and to interpret his word, we often find ourselves on divergent and, as it sometimes seems, opposite paths.
|It is lamentable that good men will find a way to divide themselves. God’s Word only means what God means. Men have rendered His word to mean what they want it to mean. In this case men have determined that all men are destined to fiery, eternal punishment unless they believe in Jesus. A belief in Jesus absolves the believer from the consequences of God’s judgment of eternal fire. These men are mistaken.
Men disagree on choice, free will, chance, predestination. In their disagreement they separate themselves into groups of like minded men. Denominational-ism has its roots in the disagreements of men. Even in ideas of lesser importance than eternal suffering there is disagreement on fundamental truth. Men have divided over choice, free will, chance, predestination and a host other points of view almost since the beginning. It’s been nearly 140 years since Dr. Sawyer wrote this paper. The theological divide he writes about then in the Church has not lessened today. A case could me made that the divide has widened.
Even men without a denominational anchor do not agree with all basic doctrines held by their contemporaries. The arguments rage over the cessation of spiritual gifts. Charismatics believe fully in Holy Spirit baptisms, signs, wonders, healing, and much more. Legalistic brothers call charismatic believers heretics for practicing what they believe. Charismatics report their belief the Legalist is suppressing the Holy Spirit.
Baptism causes many to build walls around their theology to prevent an attack by the other church. Immersion baptism, infant baptism, proxy baptism, sprinkling, baptism by the Holy Spirit and still other divisions over baptism rest in what we call church.
There are chasms between denominations over who serves as a Pastor. Does a man require seminary training? Can a woman rightfully take a Pastor’s mantle?
The divisions in the church are sometimes deep and seemingly unsolvable. Sometimes the divisions are shallow. These should be resolved easily, but they often never get resolved.
Let’s resolve that God is Sovereign. God is love. God’s mercy is limitless. With that as a starting point we should have success and we will bring glory to God.
The points of view we occupy, the principles of exegesis we adopt, or the prejudices of education and habits of thought under which we act, must obviously be very different to explain the different results to which we come, and account for the distinct and, in some respects, conflicting systems which we form.
|Dr. Sawyer’s observation is profound. What has led all these learned men to different conclusions about the same subjects? Dr. Sawyer’s analysis is that our points of view are made by the way we interpret God’s Word. The ways we interpret God’s Word is influenced by our educators. Theological things are learned and then passed on. Whole schools develop based in a particular understanding of a particular theological thing.
Proof of this is obvious. Count the number of seminaries. Count the different denominations that establish and support seminaries. Even unaffiliated seminaries espouse specific variance with other affiliated and other unaffiliated seminaries. What would their need to exist be if not for a division with others?
Each seminary ever established was established on the basis of filling a need. That need is based on a difference in understanding or interpretation. With all that we know we still disagree. With all that we share we still separate ourselves from each other. Traditions become more prevalent than adherence to God’s Word.
Traditions supplant the Gospel.
We constitute two clearly distinguished schools of theology, and perhaps I may say the only two which
Christendom actually exhibits. The differences that separate the various orthodox sects and parties – and I use the word “orthodox” here in a comprehensive sense, including all who accept the doctrine of endless punishment or annihilation – are rather superficial than fundamental.
They relate largely to the mere externals of religion, its rites and ceremonies, its order of worship and form of government, and the like, or at most to the varying phases of doctrine or their mode of statement, without affecting the general scheme to which they belong, or the final result to which they tend.
Even the dispute about fore-ordination (predestination) and free-will, which has been so often raised between the necessitarian and his opponents, loses all its significance the moment we pass the barriers of the grave, where, according to both parties, the sinful soul can no longer repent, or repentance is utterly unavailing, and hence becomes as fixed in good or evil, as if it had never possessed a moral nature, or exercised moral power. Nor does the most rigid Unitarianism lose its orthodox character, unless, as it is now perhaps more and more doing in this country, it associates itself with Universalism.
|Dr. Sawyer reckons after all is said and done there are really only two schools of theology. The orthodoxy includes all denominations, all seminaries and the like. There are sects among the orthodoxy, but all are orthodox. The orthodoxy believes in endless torment or annihilation. Within the orthodoxy are disciplined men who follow Augustine and Calvin. Other disciplined men follow Arminus. One group believes they are chosen. The other group believes they have chosen. It’s not a subtle distinction.
Predestination or Fore-ordination or free will; which is it? This is a very serious subject. It is an important issue and, forgive my pessimism, is not likely to end well.
These divergent theologies unite, though, when it comes to eternal torment. They unite themselves in a battle to prove their theology of eternal suffering is not to be challenged. They unite in their theology to declare at death the sinful soul cannot be redeemed. The orthodoxy would have all believe that at death your place in goodness or in evil is absolutely determined. The unforgiven will be consigned to eternal punishment.
There is an alternative to consider. It is a worthwhile effort to set aside all our preconceived notions regarding what we believe about what happens to us after death. Ultimate Reconciliation is a theology that is demonstrative of God’s love for all His creation. Consider the possibility. Consider the freedom that comes with an understanding that God’s love is all consuming fire.
It makes little difference to us or our theology, whether God exists in Unity or Trinity, if the divine attributes and the principles of the divine government remain the same, and the final issues of it are unaffected. Damnation, whether it consists in annihilation or endless punishment, will be neither better nor worse for being ordained by God the Father, or by what is called the Triune God, combining the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
|Your belief in God’s nature as Unity or Triunity does not matter. The theologies of the Unitarian and of the Trinitarian share the same doctrine of eternal conscious torment. Both theologies teach our Father curses the unrepentant sinner with either eternal torment or annihilation. Their respective disagreements with each other are not a complete split. They still have eternal punishment at the end.|
It should be regarded as matter for thankfulness, however, that, antagonistic as some of the opinions of Universalists and their orthodox neighbors still are, we are certainly, though perhaps slowly, approaching each other, and if we do not yet “see eye to eye,” as watchmen on the walls of Zion should do, the experience of the past fifty years is sufficient to encourage the confident hope that ultimately we shall attain, by manly discussion and intelligent conviction, that essential “unity of faith,” which the Roman Church has for centuries been striving in vain to reach by ecclesiastical authority, the suppression of all proper freedom of thought and all private opinion.
After saying this, I hardly need add that the point of greatest difference between the Universalist and the orthodox world about him relates to the extent of the salvation by Jesus Christ.
|I am grateful for every minute I have spent in local churches. I am particularly grateful for the opportunities the Lord blessed me with to preach. To this day I think of all the good folks I’ve come into contact with in small town churches and realize how much we have in common, especially all we have in common with the Lord.
I was blessed to preach to a small church for over a year. In the year I preached there the Lord was reshaping my understanding of “hell.” I read a couple of books and researched online. It became clear that the doctrine of eternal conscious torment is wrong.
My relationship with every person in that church fellowship is a wonderful blessing.
My last few sermons were directed toward explaining Universal Reconciliation. Unfortunately those sermons were not well received. I gave them each a copy of “Hope Beyond Hell” by Gerry Beauchemin. I hope each of them read it.
After all is said and done the only real difference between that little church and me is the extent of Christ’s salvation. That’s the question Dr. Sawyer answered over a century ago.
Is that salvation to be partial or universal?
|The controversy is exposed to Light. Jesus saves a few or He saves all. Which is it?|
Is the Redeemer ultimately to gather into his kingdom of purity and love the whole human race, or only a part of it?
|There are serious ramifications if your answer is that God only loves a part of the whole human race. One of the consequences of that kind of thinking is that now you have to believe God created some people to torment. How then can we say God is love if we believe God eternally torments His creation?
There is freedom in our spirits when we come to realize God created no being to experience eternal suffering.
The liberty in Christ I experience now is great and a blessing. My first step was only to consider it possible my orthodox teachers were mistaken. After a little while and serious study it is clear to me that the doctrine of eternal conscious torment is false.
Are all souls finally to render homage to Christ, and acknowledge him Lord, to the glory of God the Father; or are some made reprobate by the eternal decree of God, as some teach; or will they, as others affirm, resist forever all the attractive forces of the cross and continue in ceaseless rebellion against the divine grace and love?
|To the Universalist all will in the end “render homage to Christ, and acknowledge him Lord, to the Glory of God the Father; ….” To the Universalist “every knee will bow and every tongue confess Jesus is Lord.” To the Universalist “God is love.” The Universalist believes Jesus died on the Cross for “the sins of the world.”
The orthodoxy does not concur with the Universalist. The orthodoxy does not mean for the Church to believe “all” means “all.”
The orthodoxy are of two factions in regard to eternal conscious torment. On one side their theology requires that unrepentant sinners are “…made reprobate by the eternal decree of God….” There is not a second hearing. No appeal. Knitted in the womb by the Creator that will torment the reprobate eternally. The second group are those who “…resist forever all the attractive forces of the cross and continue in ceaseless rebellion against the divine grace and love.”
In both cases the punishment is eternal.
Dr. Sawyer was making this point in 1879. Nothing has improved. An argument could be made that the controversy is more problematic than ever. Universalism as doctrine may be on the rise, but the orthodoxy is firmly entrenched. They will not give up their theology easily. It’s as if they need others to suffer eternally to satisfy some morbid need in their own hearts.
In a word, is the universe which, under the divine hand, began in unity, to end, as Augustine, Calvin, and so many others have taught, and so many still believe, in a hateful dualism, as dishonorable to God as it must be unhappy to his creatures?
|Dr. Sawyer’s question is profound. The answer can only be “no.”
Augustine, Calvin, great theologians, and preachers today have taught that unrepentant sinners would suffer eternal torment as just punishment. The punishment is just only in their eyes. Proponents of eternal suffering agree God is Sovereign. We all agree that God is love except when He isn’t.
The orthodoxy believes eternal punishment is given in the form of interminable anguish.
How do we reconcile our diverging beliefs?
How is it on one hand God is love, but on the other hand God is wrath?
What can be more beautiful than to be knitted into the wombs of our mothers?
What can be more gracious than to breathe into us His Holy Spirit?
God’s gift of life is a gift to every person.
God is love. His creation is built in His love. We are His creation. We are built in His love.
Should not every Christian everywhere be on his knees before the Lord asking Him to intervene? We know people who do not know the Lord. We know family, friends and acquaintances who have not surrendered to the liberty of salvation in Christ. These are our friends. These are our family. Some may even be our children. No doubt some are.
According to the theology of eternal punishment these unsaved family and friends are destined for eternal torment. There is nothing they can do about it. Their fate is determined and “hell” is their punishment.
Those who believe in the doctrine of eternal suffering should be in extreme emotional agony for what they know to be the outcome for their loved ones.
God blessed me to preach. He has given me the time to speak to others about His glorious coming and the Gospel. For years I was a person who believed God would judge unrepentant sinners with eternal torment. I never studied Ultimate Reconciliation until recently. My belief in eternal suffering was taught to me by good men. They taught me what they understood. They taught what they were taught. And on and on….
The doctrine of eternal torment pervades today’s churches. In 1879 Dr. Sawyer points out the controversy. The controversy pitting Augustine against the Holy Word of God was contentious then. The controversy is no less contentious today, perhaps more contentious.
I did not think that God was being anything less than God. Selfishly I knew I was saved by Christ’s sacrifice. I was assured that I was not going to suffer endlessly forever. But, what about my mother.
Mom was hardly open about her spiritual beliefs. I would ask her on occasion about her faith in Jesus. She would always divert the conversation away from her faith to her privacy. I personally do not know if my mom is saved. There does not seem to be much evidence to support she is.
Mom was beautiful. I don’t say that because she is my mother, but because Mom was beautiful. Her heart was beautiful. Mom was always good even when she wasn’t.
I love my Mom. I don’t think of her as often as I used to. Memories of Mom have been edited. The sour stuff fades and the sweetness of good fill in the blanks. Memories of Mom are all good.
But, I do not really know if she was saved. Buddy, my youngest brother, testifies Mom told him she was saved. There was even a report that Mom wanted to be baptized. Arrangements were made for that baptism. Mom was unable to be baptized. Her body was weak. Her mind was leaving her.
I do not really know if my Mom is saved. Emotionally it is easy to accept Buddy’s testimony. I know he is telling the truth. My Mom is saved. But, do I really know?
If I choose to believe my mother is saved, then all is good. If I choose to believe my mother is not saved, then I have to realize my mother is going to be eternally tormented and that at the command of my God who is love.
I choose to believe my Mom is saved. What would be the consequence if she was not saved?
The thought that my Mom would be eternally tormented by my God is depressing. Only God could deliver eternal wrath, therefore the punishment is meted out by God. Think it through. Satan, The False Prophet and death are swallowed up by eternal fire. Satan would not have the power to administer eternal suffering, therefore it must be administered by God. Only God is eternal.
The orthodoxy teaches that my unsaved mother will be judged and declared unrighteous before God. God will then execute the penalty of eternal suffering for the crime. The orthodoxy describes the penalty my mother will pay for her rebellion. We’ll be looking closely at many of these descriptions of what constitutes eternal punishment.
God created my beautiful mother to suffer eternal torment. Perish the thought!
I am a Christian. The doctrine of eternal torment is repugnant.
God is love. His mercies are infinitely given. His grace is His love.
Could we all agree in answering these questions, touching, as they do, the final issues of the divine government, and by necessary implication its very nature, our other differences, important as they now seem, would gradually be resolved, and a substantial harmony be at last attained. But unfortunately there is no immediate prospect of this desirable result. The orthodox world still clings, though I believe with an ever-lessening tenacity, to the doctrine of endless punishment for a part, larger or smaller, of the human family; while Universalists, with ever-increasing numbers and steadfast confidence, rejoice in the faith of Christ’s final and complete victory, and the consequent salvation of all human souls. And thus the controversy which has been going on, this side of the Atlantic, for the past century, must continue, though, for the larger faith, under more and more favorable conditions.
|Denominationalism exists because we cannot find agreement over small things. With so many little issues dividing us it seems impossible that the orthodoxy and the Universalists could find agreement on such a major doctrine as eternal conscious torment.
We as brothers and sisters in the many various denominations say we want the same things. We call ourselves Christian and as Christians we wait patiently for Christ’s return. But, what happens when a person dies? On that the orthodoxy and the Universalists understand differently.
We agree on so much. But we cannot declare the controversy regarding eternal suffering stalled or at a standoff. We could find harmony in everything else, but this controversy cannot be ignored.
Dr. Sawyer suggested at the time he wrote this article that Universal Reconciliation was growing in acceptance. He also acknowledges the controversy may never be resolved, but that parties involved would remain at peace.
Today the theology of Ultimate Reconciliation is growing in acceptance. Ultimate Reconciliation is still not the prevailing theology in churches today. Perhaps Ultimate Reconciliation will one day be the prevalent theology eliminating the theology of eternal conscious torment.
The orthodoxy at some level is softening its hold to eternal conscious torment for unbelievers. Some in the orthodoxy say that damnation is not so much a burning eternal agony, but is an eternal separation from God. That in itself would be hellish enough.
The orthodoxy understand many in their congregations have mothers such as mine. It sounds beastly to preach “your mother will burn in unending torment” when it can be softened to say “your mother will never see the face of God nor enjoy His grace.”
The theology of eternal separation is hateful. The theology of eternal conscious torment is cruel.
A hundred years ago Universalists here were very few; they were generally poor, unlearned, and despised. They had but a single house of worship in the whole country, and that was on the sparsely settled shore of New Jersey; they had neither schools nor other resources of influence and power. The
whole wealth, learning, social position, and prestige of the land was arrayed against them.
Under the blessing of God their condition to-day is vastly changed. They now constitute a Church, respectable for numbers, wealth, learning, character, and influence, with more than seven hundred ministers, with two theological schools, three colleges, and several academies. They have between nine hundred and a thousand parishes, owning nearly eight hundred convenient – some elegant – church edifices, with Sunday-schools and all the appliances for church life and Christian work; while their faith, though not generally accepted by the other churches about them, still finds many friends within their bosom, and has ceased to be an object of bitter hatred and abuse, and is gradually winning its place in the fellowship and affections of those who formerly spurned it as the basest and most dangerous of heresies.
Though no longer young, I expect to live to see the day when Universalism will be recognized as Evangelical. At all events, that day is approaching, and in the not very distant future it will, among all intelligent Christians, be recognized as it is, “the faith once delivered to the saints.”
|Dr. Sawyer helps to qualify the Universalists as a denomination and that Universalists are fully committed to being that part of creation that is Christ’s Bride. The Universalist church started poor and small. During Dr. Sawyer’s time the denomination became a movement. The movement has stalled for a time, but is hopefully growing again.
Dr. Sawyer’s testifies about the need for the Universalist church to grow and they had to do it under judgment of the established church. Over time the Universalist church has demonstrated a common belief with other churches in Christ. The common beliefs are too similar to discount. The only separation that matters is the doctrine of eternal punishment.
That controversy is not often discussed. Ultimate Reconciliation dictates all will be reconciled to the Father. No person will ever suffer eternal punishment. Eternal torment is abusive and counter to God is love. Universal Restoration dictates every person will be returned to a righteous state. God reconciles and restores all people to Himself.
Ultimate Reconciliation, Universal Salvation, Ultimate Restoration or by any other name the theology that God is all in all is profoundly a blessing. Salvation, restoration, reconciliation or by any other name is not reserved to some chosen or to some who choose. We are all His regardless and none will suffer eternally.
The Universalist church has grown. The doctrine of ultimate reconciliation is growing. The orthodoxy is successful in its effort to thwart the doctrine’s acceptance.
I don’t know if it is possible to teach and convince enough people about a better hope. For myself I think it better not to dispute over trivial matters. Because I am now convinced our Father will ultimately reconcile every person to Himself I am better able to resist the desire to challenge the doctrine of eternal punishment whenever, wherever I hear it. I am convinced, too, that my place in the Kingdom as already been established. So, too , has every person’s place in heaven been established.
I wonder if any other person will be persuaded by Dr. Sawyer’s arguments and my embellishments of them. If not, then it was not meant to be. If only one, then the effort was priceless. That’s the value He places on His child…priceless.