Wow! People are upset by some of the things Paul Young, author of The Shack, has been writing. The most commonly held concern people have is that he is a universalist. What they mean is that they believe he is teaching that all people are saved, and going to Heaven. Now, I want to be careful here because 1) a lot of people that I love and admire have come out really strongly against him and his teachings, and 2) since I don’t personally know him I can’t speak on his behalf, but from what I have read I believe that he is expounding a really important Biblical truth that Western Christianity has largely ignored. But before you throw me under the bus with him, let me explain…
Firstly, here are some questions for you…
Did Jesus die for the whole world?
And did He die as all humanity?
There are some people that believe that atonement was limited. They believe that Jesus only died for the people God chose. But the Bible clearly shows that what Jesus did on the cross affected all of humanity. Have a look at a few verses that show the heart of God on this,
It is the will of God that ALL should be saved.
It is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. Matthew 18:14
God wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 1 Timohty 2:4
What Jesus did on the cross was for ALL people.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16
He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:2
God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:19
Jesus is the saviour of ALL people.
Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. Romans 5:18
For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 1 Corinthians 15:22
God is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe. 1 Timothy 4:10
The above verses clearly show the heart of God towards the World. God wants all people to come to a knowledge of the truth and be saved. God has done something that affects every single human being. Just as Adams choices affected the world, so did Jesus’.
Paul Young takes the above verses seriously, and so should we! The Western Church has glossed over these verses, and tried to apply them to the believer only. But as we can see from above, Christ reconciled the world back to the Father.
This is an an interesting concept that doesn’t fit the box of evangelical theology that relies heavily upon the believer needing to do something to be accepted by God. Western theology would rightly expound upon the importance of faith, repentance and belief.
And so there is a very real tension between two very true statements:
- Jesus death and resurrection affected EVERYONE and
- EVRYONE needs to repent and believe
On the one hand we have Paul Young sticking up for the first truth mentioned, that Christ’s death has impacted ALL of humanity. On the other hand we have Western Evangelical Christianity championing the second truth mentioned, that you must believe to receive.
Church, we have got to stop pitting ourselves against each other. We should take the time to listen to one another and understand where we are all coming from. Both views are – wait for it – Biblical! The problem is modern evangelicalism has not done enough to understand the inclusiveness of Jesus incarnation, death and resurrection. And the problem with the side of Christian theology that Paul Young is coming from, is that faith seems to be tossed to the side in an attempt to stress the importance of what Christ has already accomplished.
I believe we need to be more like The Apostle Paul who comfortably agrees with both statements and summarises in 2 Corinthians 5:19-20,
God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
Here we see that reconciliation is a two-way street. God has done His part, now it our turn to respond. Daddy God is holding out His arms and inviting us into His warm embrace. We are all His kids. But we can choose whether we participate in this gift or not. We can walk away, or we can give in, submit, repent and believe and enjoy the big hug from Daddy God!
The truth is that God loved us first! It was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us. Jesus really is the Savior of the World!
Now, before I finish, I would love you to see a few comments Paul Young made over at his blog. There was a time when I was prone to shooting off my mouth, quickly labelling people heretical and a danger to the faith. Perhaps in your passion for to defend the truth you have done the same thing with Paul. If you have, then I encourage you to contact him and tell him you love him. But here are a few more quotes that demonstrate his point if view.
No, I don’t believe all roads lead to God, but I do believe that God goes down any road to find us…
Yes, I believe that what God accomplished in the power of the Holy Spirit, in Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension effects and includes the entire cosmos and every human being ever conceived…
No, I don’t believe in limited atonement, that Jesus died for only a few who God had previously elected. Jesus is the One elected in whom we all died and rose (II Cor 15).
He then ends with an attitude that I believe reflects the heart and will of God,
No, I don’t believe in a doctrine that holds that every person will ultimately be reconciled full back to God. Yes, I hope that is true. In fact, Colossians asks us to pray for that, and I do.
So there you have it.
Is Paul Young a Universalist?
What do you think?