I thought that the debates of Calvinism and Arminianism were a thing of my past. Yet today at college the debate has once more reared its head. The Rev. Ravi Holy offered in a lively passioante presentation a case for universalism. In 2.5 hours so much ground was covered. He sought to distinguish universalism from pluralism and in a philsophical/ethical/theological tour de force he put forward the poposition that ‘all people, through Christ, will be reconciled to God.
To arrive at his conclusion he anaylsed the logic of calvinism and arminianism.
a) God is sovereign,
b) he desires some to saved.
a+b= Some are saved
a) God is not soverign in salvation due to freewill
b)he desires all to be saved.
a+b= Some are saved.
Ravi then critiques each position. He thought the restrictivism of the Calvinist position (b) to be unbiblical and not something which can be harmonised with the idea of God being pure love. (an attribute which he think is the bedrock for discusses all other attributes). Likewise he rejects the anti-soverign (a) position of Arminianism.
Putting the other points together (Calvinist a and Arminian B) he hold to the posiiton of God loves and desiring all to be saved and also God soverignly bringing this to pass. He agrees with Tom Talbot
‘If you simply take the Augustinian idea of God’s sovereignty in the matter of salvation… and put it together with the Arminian idea that God at least wills or desires the salvation of all, then you get Universalism, plain and simply’
What was missing from the presentation was any sustained exegesis of scripture. Logic seemed to play the dominant role. It seems to me that soteriology does not find authority by the laws of coherence or logic. The norm of Soteriology must be taht of scripture. In the exegesis of scripture we see that our minds cannot comprehend of put together in a logical synthesis all of its divergent voices. In my reflections upon Romans 1-4 (amongst others) I cannot see universalism as an option but this does not mean that my position is logically watertight. Does theology have to be logically watertight (trinity, dual nature of Christ)
All in all an interesting afternoon with plenty of soteriological food for thought.
Here is a couple of links on universalism.
Richard Baukham ‘History of Universalism’