Why I am Not a Universalist

I recently gave an interview where I was asked to plainly state what I believe.  Among other things (trinitarian, Jesus followin’, Bible lovin’) I said that I am not a Universalist.

Following the interview, Andrew asked me to clarify what I meant. He believed that my confidence that any person could be God’s voice to me, betrayed a universalist thread in me.  An excellent observation.

Here is how I responded:

(Note: this response was originally posted on the website “Homebrewed Christianity“, a site that all of us should visit often. http://homebrewedchristianity.com/2013/02/12/tony-kriz-on-neighbors-and-wisemen/)


I appreciate your encouragement for me to clarity my use of the word “universalism.”  In an interview context, like this podcast, it is easy for a guy like me to just throw around terms and leave the listener holding the “interpretive-bag.”

Okay, where to begin.  First of all their are two realms that affect my understanding of “universalism.”  One is life “under the sun” and the other is the great life beyond.  Let’s begin with my thoughts as it relates to “life under the sun”, a term that Solomon used for this struggling reality of incomplete revelation that theologians also refer to as “the now and not yet.”

Here are a few of my thoughts on universalism “under the sun”:

-I can’t believe that every religious/philosophical position is equally valid.  Some, it seems to me, are downright destructive (Aryanism for instance.)  However, I also don’t believe in a single baptized system that holds exclusive right to “God’s way” (like Protestantism, for instance.)
-I do hold to the uniqueness of Jesus in the story of the cosmos.  He is “over all and through all and in all” and in Him “all things are held together.”  I don’t believe that these beliefs are primarily cognitive and propositional in nature.  I believe they are more ontological (nature and being) and relational in nature (Jesus’ relationship to Jupiter and dragonflies, as well as humankind.)  Our understanding of the complexity of accessing and engaging Jesus is one of the great mysteries and one of the reasons that I wrote “Neighbors and Wise Men.”
-I don’t recall my tone in the interview, as I slogged through my neighborhood, but I would not want to “forcibly” dismiss universalism in all in connotations.  I would embrace the universality of God’s penetrating work in the cosmos, the access to that work for all people (and creatures) AND the great adventure, expectancy and creativity that such a belief releases in us all.

Here are a few of my thoughts on universalism in the great life beyond:

-Last week I lost one of the dearest people in my personal story.  In the next weeks we are going to lose another.  I believe in the continuation of life beyond this limited stage.  I believe that this thing we call “life” is more of a “preface” to the novel, than the novel itself.
-I also think that a theological position where some continue on and others don’t, found in many forms of annihilationism, feels more like an avoidance and a bit of a thumb-sucking theology.
-For now, I hold to the continuation of all souls.  There seems to be enough allusion in scripture to an eternity with diverse story-lines, those story-lines include something heavenish and something hellish (as well as the probability of a far more complex dynamic.)
-I have no idea how those story-lines will ultimately play out.  As a wise man once said to me, “There are only three things I am sure of in regards to heaven.  I am sure that I will be surprised by: 1) who is there, 2) who is not there, 3) and I will be surprised that (if) I am there.

Finally, the question of conversion.

-I don’t believe that I am the primary player in another’s spiritual journey or epiphanies.  I don’t even believe that I am the primary character in my own spiritual drama/story.
-It has been a long time since I thought about “faith-conversation” and even “faith-debate” as a “hell-saving initiative.”  No more than I thought of courting my wife as a “singleness-saving initiative.”  Anything I love, I talk about: the musical Rent, my neighborhood, my bombastic boys, Reed College or Jesus.  And hopefully the greater I love something the closer it is to my daily conversational-playlist.  Also, the greater my affection, the greater my disbelief when the other cannot see the beauty that I see so plainly.  The Jesus-Way should be on my lips at a volume that is congruent with the extent, passion and integration that it holds in my actual life and personal paradigm.
-All this to say, the extent that I talk about Jesus is not primarily fueled by the question of “spiritual destination”, It is more about relational integration in the now with a growing hope for the “not yet.”

 I hope that clarifies.  Tony


One Response to “Why I am Not a Universalist”

  1. What about the possibility of “universal salvation?” Do you think that is a possibility or blasphemy?


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