A Debate with Christian Universalists

For the sake of brevity, I will refer to the two Christian universalists from this Facebook dialogue as CU 1 and CU 2. Based on my understanding, CU 1 is a Catholic and CU 2 is a Wesleyan of some type, maybe a United Methodist. CU 1 objects to my view of exclusivism by postulating that pagans in foreign lands, for example, the Native Americans, couldn’t all end up in Hell without hearing the Gospel. It would be unjust for God to eternally punish “good” pagans without giving them a chance to hear of Judeo-Christian salvation. I respond by saying that I believe in prevenient grace: that God has always been using the Holy Spirit to internationally draw pagans to the people of Israel so they could hear the Word of God, either by ship, person, miracle, dream, or vision. CU 2 proposes that I am so haughty, and incorrect to assert that Romans 2:12-16 does not allow for “good” pagans who have never heard the Gospel, to be saved from Hell. I respond by first acknowledging my imperfection, because his reply was only a knee-jerk ad hominem attack, revealing the insecurity he has about his universalist view. I reply that this passage is not referring to the Atonement and cannot be sufficient for salvation, because, without faith in the blood of Jesus, the conscience can’t be cleansed from guilt. That is the most essential part of the Gospel. Then I tell him, that in my view, Romans 3-8 is the substance of the Gospel message. Unless a person comes to faith in the Atonement; and is changed into a life of holy obedience to God’s commandments, then it doesn’t matter what country they are living in, or what time period they are living in. Without faith in the religion of Moses in Old Testament times; and without faith in Christ in New Testament times: there is no Atonement and no holiness and no salvation from Hell. CU 2 then asks where the Old Testament saints went who were not exposed to the New Testament Gospel message, and I reply that they were sent to the underworld paradise known as Abraham’s Bosom (Luke 16). CU 2 then jumps to the conclusion that “good” pagans must go to Abraham’s Bosom today then, but I reply that Abraham’s Bosom was emptied by the resurrection and ascension of Christ, because the Atonement of Christ now allows saints to live in Heaven with God in New Jerusalem.

CU 1: My question on salvation is this, taking accounts of the Native Americans prior to the introduction of Christianity: due to their isolation from the Christian world, and ignorance of Christ, did any native person before Christianity made it to Americas go to Heaven?

Wesley Gospel: No, I can’t say that they did. Anymore than the pagans in foreign countries during the Old Testament; or the pagans in the first century who were not able to hear the apostles. Hell is most likely where they went. Unless the Gospel was communicated to them by dreams and visions, which is unlikely, although not impossible. It is always possible that prevenient grace could have drawn some Native Americans to travel to Israel for whatever reasons, and be grafted into the faith that way. There were many pagans from all sorts of countries that migrated to Israel in the past 6,000 years.

CU 1: Would it be sound to say that those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do His will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience—MAY (possibility as opposed to permission) attain eternal salvation?

Wesley Gospel: No way. Galatians 1:11-12: “I certify you, brethren, that the Gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Without the Gospel revelation, there’s no saving grace, no blood to assuage the wrath of God, no salvation by faith. Conscience is not saving grace, but I’d say it would be a “prevenient” grace that could lead up to “saving” grace through the revelation of the Gospel. Native Americans in Old Testament or New Testament times would either have to 1. Travel by boat to Israel and hear God’s saving revelations. 2. Have dreams and visions of God’s saving revelations in the Western hemisphere first; and then as a result of that, end up traveling to Israel to receive more complete theological teaching. 3. Be physically teleported to Israel like Philip was (Acts 8:39-40). 4. Travel from Alaska to Russia, and then down to Babylon or Persia, where they heard about Judaism or Christianity at the proper times.

CU 1: I think my question may have been misunderstood, because of the way it was worded, so let me try and restate it. Let’s say there’s a man named Gerald who is living in the pre-Christian America; and Gerald lives for 33 years, has never heard the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and has no idea who Jesus is, doesn’t even know that there is a Jewish race out there; and dies at 33 years old. If God were to look at Gerald and say, ‘Oh by the way I’m the God of the universe. The one who created you, and because you have not believed in my Son, who you did not have knowledge of; and because you did not follow my Son’s teachings, which you did not have knowledge of, you are now going to be punished for eternity in Hell.’” Would this be just of God to do?

Wesley Gospel: There is no Biblical warrant for salvation outside of the revelations given by God to the people of Israel. Gentiles were grafted into Judeo-Christian religion from the beginning of time, regardless of their geographical locations. I believe that the vast geographical distance from say, Mexico to Israel, is so large, that to your mind, you’re thinking it would be almost impossible for say, the Mesoamerican people like the Olmecs, to come into contact with the people of Israel. My only answer to Christian universalism or anonymous Christianity is this: “there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” God is Almighty, all-powerful, and is more than capable of getting people in far and distant pagan lands to come into contact with either the message of Moses or Jesus, depending on the time period they were living in. And it would be unjust for God to eternally punish a person who was never given a chance of hearing about either Jewish salvation or Christian salvation. But I believe in prevenient grace: that the Spirit of God has always been working on people internationally, to come into contact with Judeo-Christian revelation. That’s why if the Olmecs or the Mesoamericans went to Hell, then it was no fault on God’s part, because he was likely trying to speak to them about Israel by dreams and visions. In fact, I’ve actually heard that some archaeologists suggest that during King Solomon’s reign, he might have dispatched ships to either North or South America on expeditions, and that items have been found to suggest such. Although I am no Biblical archaeologist, and my proof for such a suggestion is greatly lacking at this moment, it might be worth exploring. Solomon was the richest man in the world; and would have certainly had the resources to send ships to the Americas for any purpose: see this article. Though some people believe this could be a Mormon forgery: click here.

CU 2: So you think indigenous people go to Hell?

Wesley Gospel: Without the Gospel they do.

CU 2: So people who have never heard of Jesus Christ will be in Hell? You’re so incorrect.

Wesley Gospel: Show me in the Bible.

CU 2: Romans 2:12-16: to those who live righteousness.

Wesley Gospel: Nope, there’s no faith in the blood of Jesus there to cleanse the conscience from guilt. That doesn’t work.

CU 2: You are very haughty. And you argue against Scripture? So what do you say about the Old Testament follower of God? Who never knew who Christ was?

Wesley Gospel: Abraham’s Bosom (Luke 16). Sure I can be haughty: I’ll admit that definitely. Romans 3-8 is the Gospel as I see it. The Atonement is always necessary in my view of things.

CU 2: And Abraham’s Bosom is where people who have never heard of Jesus go. Just like the people in the Old Testament.

Wesley Gospel: Not according to evangelical Protestants. Abraham’s Bosom was emptied during the resurrection and ascension of Jesus (Eph. 4:8; Heb. 9:27). Abraham’s Bosom was the paradise of the righteous dead who lived by the faith of Moses. The only reason why Heaven became the paradise of the saints, is because the Atonement broke down the barrier between God and his people fully.

CU 2: Sir that’s why Jesus told the thief about paradise. It’s still in effect.

Wesley Gospel: There’s no support for universalism with the thief on the cross (Luke 23:39-43). Jesus said, “Today you will be with me in paradise,” but that doesn’t mean he meant, “A couple of months from now, you will be with me in Abraham’s Bosom,” because there’s reason to believe that the thief would have been transferred with all the other saints into New Jerusalem up in Heaven after the ascension of Jesus. The thief had a faith in the Atonement; he understood something of what was going on: the Innocent One suffering on behalf of the guilty.

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