Books Early Christianity

David Burnfield: Patristic Universalism – An Alternative to the Traditional View of Divine Judgment

By David Burnfield (Universal Publishers 2013)

From the book description at

51n3sAFcwTL“From the earliest days of the church, there have been three views on what happens to those who die without knowing Christ: damnation, annihilation, and restoration. Patristic Universalism presents scriptural, philosophical, and historical support for the restoration view and demonstrates why it was the model advocated by some of the earliest and greatest church fathers. Anyone disillusioned with the traditional view that one must get it right in this life or spend eternity in hell will find Patristic Universalism an appealing alternative that remains true to Scripture. One does not need to abandon the Bible as the inerrant and infallible word of God to discover that there might be more to the salvation equation then we’ve been led to believe.”

From the introduction:

“For more than 20 years I was a “devout Baptist” believing that only those who made a profession for Jesus Christ in this life would be saved. But even though my theological thought was firmly planted in the idea of an eternal hell, I still had trouble accepting that a loving God could send so many people to such an awful fate. But I could quickly move those troubling thoughts to the black burner of my mind by reasoning that everyone will be given an opportunity in this life to accept or reject Christ and therefore, everyone who ends up in hell is there of their own free choice. And for most of my adult Christian life, the matter was settled.

But as I began to think more deeply about what I believed, I could not shake the feeling that something wasn’t right. Could the God I serve really send someone to hell for all eternity simply because they didn’t accept Christ in this life? […]

So I began thinking about the two major theological viewpoints regarding salvation – Calvinism and Arminianism – and it seemed that both viewpoints had offered up glimpses of truth while at the same time suffering from the problem of gravitating to the extreme.

Arminianists were correct that Christ’s atonement was for everyone; that Christ’s death on the cross was a price paid for all mankind (John 3:16) and that it is God’s desire for everyone to be saved (1 Tim 2:4). They understood that Jesus was “pierced through for our transgressions” (Isa 53:5) and that “All of us like sheep have gone astray” (Isa 53:6) and that this Servant, Jesus Christ, “will justify the many … and intercede for the transgressors” (Isa 53:11-12). Where they missed the mark was believing that God’s desire to save all of mankind could be thwarted by the freewill of man. If this were true, it would render Adam more powerful than God since Adam – a mere mortal – was able to destroy the perfect plan of God for all mankind while Christ’s atoning work on the cross was successful only for a lucky few. But didn’t Paul tell us that God’s decisions are not based on what we do but solely on His will (Rom 9:11)?”

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