Christian Universalism and God’s radical acceptance, presence, and love for all, “to the ends of the earth”

The Christian Universalist Association explains that their members believe in “an inclusive view of salvation in which all people — even the sinful and unbelieving dead — will eventually find reconciliation with God by repenting of their sins and going through a transformation process, so that nobody will spend eternity in hell.”

They further explain:

We believe that God’s Holy Spirit has inspired numerous prophets, saints, philosophers, and mystics throughout history, in a variety of cultures and traditions; and that by reading the Bible (the authoritative textual basis of our faith) and other great texts of spiritual and moral wisdom with a discerning mind, and meditating to connect to the Spirit within, we may all gain a greater understanding of truth, which should be applied for the betterment of ourselves and our world.

The Book of Mormon was produced by Joseph Smith in 1829-1830 in a historical context where Christian Restorationism and Universalism were commonplace in the religious landscape. Given that context, it is not surprising to find numerous hints and gestures toward universalist theology in the Book of Mormon. For example:

For behold, my beloved brethren, I say to you that the Lord God works not in darkness. He does not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loves the world, even that he lays down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore, he commands none that they shall not partake of his salvation. Behold, does he cry unto any, saying: “Depart from me?” Behold, I say unto you, No; but he says: “Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price.” Behold, hath he commanded any that they should depart out of the synagogues, or out of the houses of worship? Behold, I say unto you, No. Has he commanded any that they should not partake of his salvation? Behold I say unto you, No; but he has given it free for all men; and he has commanded his people that they should persuade all men to repentance. Behold, has the Lord commanded any that they should not partake of his goodness? Behold I say unto you, No; but all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden. … And he invites them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denies none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembers the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.

Book of Mormon RAV, 2 Nephi 11:95-105, 113

A few particulars that I thought worth commenting on:

…the Lord God works not in darkness.

To what extent do we follow that same principle in our theologies, worship structures, or ecclesiastical procedures? How transparent are our procedures, budgets, decision-making and leadership selection processes, etc. etc.? Do we keep anyone “in darkness” and confidential? Why?

[God] loves the world, even that he lays down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore, he commands none that they shall not partake of his salvation. Behold, does he cry unto any, saying: “Depart from me?” Behold, I say unto you, No; but he says: “Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price.”

How literally should we interpret this? Some argue that a person’s ability to perceive God’s presence and Holy Spirit are correlated with their worthiness or membership in the appropriate religious tradition or community. To what extent is that true? Also, coming unto God is an invitation extended without money and without price. Do any of our religious communities require monetary donations or some other kind of financial investment in exchange for access to the rituals that they understand will draw them closer to God? Why do they do that?

[God] denies none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembers the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.

Humans have evolved to organize their social worlds into groups and behave accordingly. Being nice to and trusting your group and being suspicious of the other group was helpful to our adaptation and evolution as a species. That said, the entire ministry of Jesus was fighting against these socially constructed boundaries that his community had erected based on status, ritual observance, ancestry, etc. etc. Contemporary societies are of course not immune to this same phenomena.

These passages teach that God’s acceptance, presence, love, and salvation are openly and freely given to all on a radically equal basis, no exceptions. While our social psychology makes it difficult (if not ultimately impossible) for us to do the same, it seems an ideal worth striving for with all our might as disciples of God.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s