"The Really Good News About God" is a popular edition paperback that presents a lay-person's introduction to Christian Universalism, rather than a theological or philosophical argument for that position.
This page discusses some of the thinking behind the views presented in Chapter Seven and also addresses several genuine questions that are often raised when topics such as these are debated.
Hopefully, this will put some meat on the bones in Chapter Seven and stimulate healthy, respectful discussion by those who choose to dig a bit deeper.
For those who wish to dig a lot deeper, other books and websites are listed in the Recommended References link towards the bottom of the Topic Menu on the left.
|Practical Hints||Popular Scenarios||Frequently Asked Questions|
Using St Paul as a Biblical example, let's begin with a general description of a Christ-follower. In his own words, Paul described his starting point ...
I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man.
God's interception ...
I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.
The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
God's reason ...
So that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive life in the ages.
[ 1 Timothy 1 : 13 - 16 BV ]
The Church was established by Jesus Christ in the first century AD and is called the Body of Christ in the Bible.
It is an organic body, the hands and feet of Jesus on this planet, empowered by the Holy Spirit to respond to the mindset and yearnings of the Head, Jesus Christ himself, and in training to rule with Christ in the coming ages.
The Body of Christ is present wherever genuine Christ-followers gather in authentic, missional community (which may or may not appear as part of the institutional church, the most visible expression of mainstream Christianity on the planet).
The Church is the most exciting, adventurous, revolutionary and productive body of people on earth.
Sharing the good news of God being at peace with us and of him desiring us to be a peace with him is one of the main purposes of being chosen as an early believer.
And what a privilege to be given such an important responsibility!
Firstly, I earnestly desire that my friends enjoy the same relationship with God that I have.
The Christian life is so rich and empowering that it is worth having, even if there was nothing beyond life on this planet to look forward to.
Secondly, By God's grace alone, I have been chosen as one of God's partners in fulfilling his plan for mankind.
God's plan is to save all, and he uses early believers as one of his means of achieving his goal.
Not everyone will have a "Saul on the road to Damascus experience" or a "Thomas in the locked house experience".
Most people come to faith on this planet as the good news is shared with them by others.
When the good news is made known ...
But how can they call to him for help if they have not believed? And how can they believe if they have not heard the message? And how can they hear if the message is not proclaimed?
And how can the message be proclaimed if the messengers are not sent out? As the scripture says, "How wonderful is the coming of messengers who bring good news!"
[ Romans 10 : 14 - 15 GNB ]
faith is given ...
So then, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message comes through preaching Christ.
[ Roman 10 : 17 GNB ]
and people move from darkness to light.
He rescued us from the power of darkness and brought us safe into the kingdom of his dear Son, by whom we are set free, that is, our sins are forgiven.
[ Col 1 : 13 - 14 GNB ]
Paul also declares that it is we who have been given this task of passing on the good news of reconciliation.
All this is done by God, who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends and gave us the task of making others his friends also.
Our message is that God was making all human beings his friends through Christ. God did not keep an account of their sins, and he has given us the message which tells how he makes them his friends.
Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ's behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends!
[ 2 Cor 5 : 18 - 20 GNB ]
This is the way God has planned for his ambitious, gracious, reconciliation project to be implemented on planet earth.
Thirdly, it is so satisfying, so exhilarating, to be sharing the good news with friends and see them receive faith to believe and appreciate what God has done for them through Jesus.
Seeing God touch people's lives through little me is so exciting, yet very humbling.
The ministry of reconciliation is an awesome privilege God has given us.
Let's not allow our discovery of God's end result deflect us from the purpose of our early calling. Indeed let's be further stimulated by it.
* * * * *
I have taught my four sons to drive.
That teaching began when they were quite small.
They would sit on my knee behind the steering wheel as we drove deserted country roads or the longish driveway from the front gate to the carport.
They had their hands on the steering wheel and (mostly) looked out the front window as we travelled.
They thought they were driving the car and it was totally in their control.
But, of course, I was driving the car, deciding where we were going and how fast we were travelling.
I also decided on how much force I allowed my son to exert on the steering wheel, depending on whether he was trying to direct us where I had previously decided to go or not.
Our prayer life is a bit like this.
God knows where He is going and how fast He wants to get there.
And He does allow us, indeed invites us, to put our hands on the steering wheel.
How much effect we have on the steering wheel depends on whether we are heading in the same direction He is or not.
So if we want to be effective in prayer, we need to be on the same page God is.
We need to know His will regarding the subject of our prayer so we can pray "in Jesus' Name" and be gently placing our hands on His steering wheel.
Praying for something that is not in God's will is as useless as my son trying to pull the steering wheel in a different direction to where I have chosen to go.
I will just "out-pull" him with my stronger grip.
So how do we know God's will?
First, we need to know what God has revealed about His intentions in His Word.
Second, we need to spend time (in prayer) asking God what he wants us to pray for before we begin asking for things to be done.
I often answer the question, "How do you get all your prayers answered?" with the one-word instruction, "Cheat!"
Find out what God is planning to do, and pray for it to happen.
A beautiful example of this cheating is demonstrated by Daniel in the Old Testament.
... I was studying the sacred books and thinking about the seventy years that Jerusalem would be in ruins, according to what the LORD had told the prophet Jeremiah.
[Daniel 9 : 2]
What had Jeremiah prophesied?
This whole land will be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years.
[Jeremiah 25 : 11]
For Yahweh says, "After seventy years are accomplished for Babylon, I will visit you and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you," says Yahweh, "thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope and a future.
[Jeremiah 29 : 10, 11]
With this information about God's plan, Daniel continues :
And I prayed earnestly to the Lord God . . .
[ Daniel 9 : 2, 3 ]
You can read the whole prayer in the following verses.
A Biblical example of cheating! Knowing God's plan and praying for it to happen.
It gives me great peace to know God's will cannot be overridden by the will of any of his children.
Can you imagine the chaos if God granted every request, especially those prayers that ask for very different (even opposite) outcomes or actions from God in the same circumstance?
We need to gently place our hands on God's Great Steering Wheel if we are to get all our prayers answered, and be co-workers with Christ in the Body of Christ.
Those who have been following our family cancer journey will know that for several months I have been researching alternative treatments that might kill and/or prevent cancer.
There seems to be some evidence that cancer cells cannot survive in an alkaline environment, while healthy cells flourish.
These destructive little cancer critters are themselves destroyed when the body they are invading is alkaline - has a PH somewhat above 7.
So our eldest son, who has had his third case of brain cancer in less than 10 months, is working at maintaining his PH at 8 or 9, a level which is about 50 or 60 times more alkaline than normal.
If the science we have been reading is correct, his cancer cells (and any other unwelcome products of an acidic environment) should be killed in this environment and expelled from his body.
I have also been thinking a lot about the kingdom of God lately, and how we can live successfully as members of it.
And I've been noticing an interesting parallel with my cancer research.
If the Scriptures are correct, being filled with the Holy Spirit also produces two outcomes.
Firstly, the sin/worldliness in us is killed and expelled from our lives and ministry, as evil cannot survive in a spirit-filled environment.
Secondly, the good/Godliness already in us is enriched and empowered to be even more effective in kingdom duties and responsibilities.
So just as my son is attempting to keep his body more alkaline to rid his body of unwanted nasties and to enrich his healthy cells and organs, we need to work at keeping ourselves more spiritually saturated and Christ-oriented to rid ourselves of the nasties that compromise our witness as followers of Jesus and to make us more responsible and productive members of Christ's kingdom.
* * * * *
Maybe, over a period of time, it might be something like this ...
(A more concise version for a one-off death-bed conversation follows at the bottom.)
When your time comes to leave this planet, your first conscious appointment will be with God.
This will be a huge event, because God is awesome - the Creator and Saviour of the world.
But let me tell you that ......
God loves you very much and holds absolutely nothing against you, no matter what you've done.
Indeed he is waiting for you as any loving and concerned father waits for his lost son to return home.
Jesus explained this in his story of the Prodigal Son.
I would read or relate this parable and follow with a summary like ...
The father offers no judgement, no paying off the debt, no penalty, only full acceptance, wild celebration and reinstatement into the family.
God does this for you too, because of what Jesus has done for all of us.
I would explain Jesus' Birth, Death and Resurrection.
Everyone's sins have been dealt with and everyone will live, eventually.
Isn't that just good news?
This great home-coming celebration depended only on the lost son ...
his change of heart towards his father
his readiness to admit his mistakes and selfish attitude
his desire to return home and be reconciled to his father.
The father had already forgiven the son and was reconciled to him, even before the son had started heading for home.
But the father couldn't show him his love until the son had decided to return.
It was all up to the son.
So it's up to you how you meet God.
As someone with a bad attitude to God and fearful of meeting up with him?
As someone confident and appreciative of God's love, forgiveness and full acceptance?
Yes, you can turn for home like the Prodigal did, be reconciled to your Father, and begin to live in a way that shows you've changed.
And live happily and in harmony with God forever.
We will all get to that point eventually, one way or the other.
But the sooner we do, the easier it is; and the sooner that life can begin.
In fact, if we become reconciled to God before we leave this planet, we can start that life straight away.
That's what God calls the good news.
Jesus has done everything that needs to be done for you and me to live in harmony with God forever.
God is already on your side.
We just need to get on his side to get the full benefit of what Jesus has done for us.
What would you like to do now that you know all this?
Here's a simpler, more concise version I might use when time is short.
Most people think that God is angry with them because of their sins.
Actually it's the other way around. God is in love with them and they are angry with God.
The message of the Bible is that God is waiting for us to be at peace with him.
God loves us and is on our side.
He has done everything to make sure there is nothing between us and him, from his side, through Jesus Christ.
God asks us to believe him in this, to admit our mistakes and selfish attitude, and to genuinely desire reconciliation.
Which means to drop whatever we hold between us and him, to be at peace with him, and to thank him for his generous invitation to live in harmony with him.
Hopefully this simpler version will be enough to get their attention so that they ask the questions necessary to fill out the story and be given the faith to believe it. [ Romans 10 : 17 ]
Those who know me are acutely aware that religion, including the Christian variety, is not my thing.
My Brisbane neighbours who eventually discovered I was a church pastor would often claim they were not religious in the hope they could avoid any discussion about God or of a spiritual nature.
They were then surprised when I admitted that I was not religious either (but enjoyed a great relationship with God).
It may also surprise many people to know that Jesus did not come to earth to establish a religion.
In fact, he didn't even mention the words religion, Christian or Christianity.
When you look at the original meaning of the word religion, it is easy to see why Jesus avoided it.
Religion comes from the Latin and means to tie, to bind, to obligate or to fasten.
The word conveys a sense of duty, living according to a set of rules and restrictions.
The highly restricted, performance-based life of a monk illustrates religious life in the extreme, but most people committed to a religion of any variety are dominated by the need to perform and to please in order to 'make it' or 'be accepted.'
Jesus came for something entirely different, indeed the opposite.
He came to set us free from religion, to reconcile us to God without the need to perform - nothing to do with religion or religious performance at all.
Religion is mankind striving after God.
Jesus did the opposite - He brought God to mankind, and ultimately will bring all mankind to God.
"And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself."
[ John 12 : 32 NIV ]
Religion is the outward performance of ceremony, conduct and service motivated by a sense of duty.
Jesus gives life that produces inner joy and peace and service motivated by a relationship of love.
Following Christ is the outworking of that life that brings us to God and Godliness.
This section contains the questions I have most frequently been asked on the broad topic of Our On-Stage Role, and my usual answers to these.
As you read, please remember that some questions may not have precise answers. There are so many things we creatures do not know about our Creator and how he operates, even though we often have many clues in the Scriptures.
However, if you have some better answers than I have presented here, please offer them through the last item, Ask Your Question, on the Topics menu on the left. I will really appreciate being able to add to my understanding through your input.
You can also ask a question of your own by selecting the same item, Ask Your Question, on the left. If your question gets asked frequently enough, your question and my answer will be added to this page.
I am often asked, "If everyone is going to be reconciled to God eventually, why bother with evangelism?"
This is a really good question within the context of God's sovereignty.
God is the Designer, Creator and Ruler of the universe. As such, He made and makes all the decisions involved in its creation, maintenance and affairs.
Unless He chooses to delegate some decisions to us, he makes all the choices.
Here are some examples of God's choices.
God chose to create the heavens and the earth.
God chose to commence the human race with a man, Adam, made in his image, and a woman, Eve, made from that man.
God chose Noah, the ark-builder, to save 8 people from the global flood.
God chose Abraham to become the father of a new spiritual race.
God chose Jacob to be the father of God's special nation, called Israel.
God chose Joseph to save Israel from starvation.
God chose Moses to free Israel from Egypt.
God chose David to be the greatest of the kings of Israel.
God chose Solomon to build a most elaborately adorned temple in Jerusalem.
God chose Jesus to be the Saviour of the world and Jesus chose to draw all people to himself.
Those last choices involving Jesus were to guarantee that God's ultimate choice that all creation would spend eternity in unity and harmony with Himself would be achieved. (Ephesians 1 : 7 ff)
However, some of His creation are chosen earlier than others, and for a special purpose.
These early-chosen are given belief (faith) and are called believers, disciples, first fruits or the Body Of Christ.
And what do they believe?
According to St Paul, they believe the good news "that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures." (1 Corinthians 15 : 3 - 4)
And what is their special purpose?
The task of the Body of Christ is to announce this good news - the gospel - that God has reconciled the world to Himself. (2 Corinthians 5 : 18 - 19).
And what happens when they do?
Many people will hear this good news and those who have been chosen to join the Body of Christ, to become an early-believer, will be given belief (faith) and will join in this ministry (Acts 13 : 48}.
This process will continue until all those who have been chosen to be early believers have heard the gospel and been given faith.
At that point, the body of Christ will be complete and the events due to be unfolded at the consummation of the ages will commence - the salvation of Israel (Romans 11 : 25 ff) and the commencement of the millennium kingdom (Revelation 20 : 1 ff), for example.
So what is the purpose of evangelism, of announcing the gospel?
It is to complete the Body of Christ, those chosen before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1 : 3 ff) to show the incomparable riches of God's grace in the heavenly realms in the coming ages. (Ephesians 2 : 6 - 7)
We are blessed to have been chosen early, but we also have a major responsibility - to preach the gospel so that God can give faith to the not-yet members of the Body of Christ. (Romans 10 : 17). We usually call this evangelism.
* * * * *
"Most sections of mainstream Christianity preach what they call the good news. But, in many of these, it really is a mixture of good news for a few and very bad news for the majority." (Quote from page 23 of "The Really Good News About God".)
It does not seem to faze these Christians that they gather each Sunday to worship a God of supposed unconditional love who will oversee, even orchestrate, the fearful unending torment of the majority of His creation, the same ones for whom Jesus died.
When I try to explain to any of these Christians what the really good news is, I am treated like a heretic who should be burned at the stake.
Questions like "You don't really believe God will save people like Hitler, do you?" are designed to put me on the defensive and make me abandon the discussion.
And I sometimes do ... until very recently.
I now offer my own provocative questions.
"You don't really believe a God of love would torture those he loves and created in his image, do you?"
"Do you think Jesus was successful when he died for the sins of the world?"
"Do you love your children? If one of them disappointed you, would you torture him/her forever?"
I have changed from leaving myself open to being attacked to asking those sorts of uncomfortable questions. I now avoid being put on the back foot by a person advancing an unbiblical, traditional church position by advancing the true good news found in the Bible.
And what is this good news that the Bible announces?
The end of all things is ...
The Bible has a much better "end of all things" than does mainstream Christianity, and I am becoming much more adventurous in sharing this good news.
(BTW, Hitler is discussed on page 159 of "The Really Good News About God".)