Posted by: mystic444 | April 19, 2011

Who Will Be ‘Saved’?

Rob Bell, pastor of a large Evangelical Christian church in Michigan (Mars Hill Bible Church) sure has stirred up a bee hive recently. He published a book entitled “Love Wins” in which he suggested that it just might be that everyone will eventually go to heaven – whatever heaven turns out to be.

I haven’t read the book; but I did watch a couple of videos Rob put out. One of them was a short preview clip advertizing the upcoming book; the other was a much longer interview with Mr. Bell concerning the views he expressed in the book. From what I can understand, he didn’t aggressively insist that everyone will certainly be saved – many other people have done that, including yours truly – he just presents it as a hope with good Biblical grounds. He points out that in the vision of the “new Jerusalem” in Revelation 21 and 22, the gates of the city never close (21:25). So even though nothing impure can ever enter the city (21:27), it would appear that the possibility of repentance is always open – and the repentant sinner can then enter into the city through the always open gates.

Despite the fact that many another person has unhesitatingly insisted on the certainty of “universal salvation” without causing a great uproar, Rob Bell’s suggestion of the possibility has created a national (and perhaps international) furor. Time magazine just published a lengthy article about him and the opposition he’s getting. Even before the book was published, it had created a national sensation. I became aware of it through a Christian blog I like to read (the Pangea Blog). At this time, there are 161 comments on that original blog article (several other articles followed) –some of them approving, and others highly critical.

Recently, even a Muslim doctor and Imam in the Chicago area wrote an article about the controversy – and I am glad to say that he strongly approves Rob Bell’s good hope in the conquering love and mercy of God. He commented that he used to preach fiery sermons about the punishment of hell; but he no longer does so and has no intention of ever again doing so. He essentially takes the same position that Rob does: hopeful expectation in God’s surprising mercy, without dogmatic assertion of the certainty of universal forgiveness.

I have written several articles about Christian Universalism (Christian Universalism; Christian Universalism, Part 2; and Everlasting Punishment?) as well as several articles on reincarnation; so I won’t use this article to again attempt a detailed defense of the “larger hope”. In brief, my arguments were essentially that the word “punishment” itself refers to corrective discipline, not mere vengeance; “fire” is a symbol representing trial and purification; and the Biblical Scriptures specifically and emphatically state God’s intention to bring everyone in heaven, on earth, and under the earth into voluntary and heartfelt allegiance to Him.

As those of you who have been keeping up with my blog know, a bit more than a year ago I started ‘investigating’ Islam to see if the accusations that it is a violent and hateful religion were really true. I almost immediately fell in love with the Qur’an (Koran); and today I am essentially a Muslim – although I still have not ever gone to a mosque (shame on me! 😀 ). A few days ago a couple of Qur’anic verses caught my attention, which appear to me to beautifully teach this very concept of God’s corrective ‘fiery’ punishments. Somehow they had not made an impression on me when I initially read them last year; but because I had just been carrying on an e-mail discussion with some staunch fundamentalist Christians about Universalism versus “eternal punishment”, those verses ‘jumped out at me’ this time around. Here they are in Muhammad Asad’s English rendering:

[13:17] [Whenever] He sends down water from the sky, and [once-dry] river-beds are running high according to their measure, the stream carries scum on its surface; and, likewise, from that [metal] which they smelt in the fire in order to make ornaments or utensils, [there rises] scum. In this way does God set forth the parable of truth and falsehood: for, as far as the scum is concerned, it passes away as [does all] dross; but that which is of benefit to man abides on earth. In this way does God set forth the parables [13:18] of those who have responded to their Sustainer with a goodly response, and of those who did not respond to Him. [As for the latter,] if they possessed all that is on earth, and twice as much, they would surely offer it as ransom [on the Day of Judgment]: a most evil reckoning awaits them, and their goal is hell: and how evil a resting-place!

I believe this is a key passage in understanding the teaching of the Qur’an about “hell fire”. God sends guidance by His Prophets (especially the Qur’an through Muhammad – peace be upon him), which is like refreshing rain which fills dry river beds, stirring up and dispersing the “scum” in those who respond favorably to this guidance. His Revelations expose our ‘corruption’ and guide us in getting rid of it.

For those who refuse to follow God’s kind guidance, however, there are more drastic means of getting rid of that corruption or “scum”. Such people become like metal which must be heated in the fire to melt away the “scum”. Yes, the fire to which the metal is exposed is “a most evil reckoning”, and an “evil resting place”. The end result, though, is that useful “ornaments or utensils” are able to be made from that metal! 🙂 That, my friends, is “universal salvation”, and it’s taught in that supposedly ‘hateful’ book, the Qur’an!

As the very first Sura (chapter) of the Qur’an says (Yusuf Ali’s version): 1. In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. 2. Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds; 3. Most Gracious, Most Merciful; 4. Master of the Day of Judgment. The “Master of the Day of Judgment” is He who is “Most Gracious, Most Merciful” and “the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds”. He is the One who knows how to be just while showing mercy, and be merciful while rendering justice. All praise is due to God alone. God is Great/Greater/Greatest (Allahu Akbar)!

Thank you, Rob Bell, for being willing to stir up the hornet’s nest. I expect many people will be reevaluating their concepts of God’s justice after reading your book.

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Responses

  1. In addition, I’d like to give you sincere advice, because the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Religion is sincere advice, Religion is sincere advice, Religion is sincere advice…”

    As far as not going to a masjid yet, I sincerely advice you to do so. I myself am an anti-social person and don’t like to go to gatherings, but it still doesn’t change the fact that going to the masjid is part of being a Muslim (especially a male). You are part of the community and as such, contribute to it and benefit from it. You never know what you don’t know! You could be praying incorrectly, doing something necessary, or you could have a major misunderstanding over a minor issue.

    This is my advise, and inshallah it’ll be beneficial even if you don’t take heed of it 🙂

    • Thanks very much for your advice, and all of the comments you’re making on various articles. Another Muslim correspondent (a lady who lives in Saudi Arabia) has also made such an exhortation; and it’s very similar to what Christian pastors say based on a verse in the Biblical book of Hebrews: “Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is”.

      Actually, I sent an e-mail to an Imam at a local mosque a couple of weeks ago. I explained a bit about myself and my interest in Islam, asked what the hours were for Friday prayers, and asked for any information he felt I should have prior to my first visit. I also explained that due to a physical disability I have, I didn’t think I would be able to sit on the floor (mainly because I don’t think I could get back up once I got down on the floor). Would it be possible to sit on a chair (I’ve been told that mosques don’t use chairs)? Also I need a railing for support if I have stairs to climb.

      Unfortunately, he has never responded to my request for information. Perhaps I can find out the time of Friday prayer service and just show up.

      • Stephen,

        Mosques do have chairs. We have a few in our mosque as well for older people or who might have any issues or injuries.

  2. as-Salaamu Alykum akhi Stephen,

    I want to comment that the traditional Sunni views of Islam don’t seem to contradict your view at all. I was wondering what you have read outside of the Qur’an and if you have listened to any lectures, and if so, by who?

    I just wanted to share that, while I was born a Muslim, I was raised in the United States, lived a basically agnostic life, and also studied philosophy in college, so I feel like maybe we have some similar backgrounds in our views towards religion. I don’t know how to say it, but sometimes you may come towards a subject like religion, and you have this critical view towards the “traditional” view, and try to come to an understanding of it based on your personal interpretation and experience. I feel like I was like that for a long time, but slowly realized that, now that I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m a Muslim and I trust the sources, that I don’t need to, nor is it wise to, personally research every little detail in the religion when there have been 1400 years worth of scholars, who are more righteous and knowledgeable than me, who have done nothing but study these issues. Especially on MAJOR issues like creed and basic tenants of the faith.

    I’m sorry for the rant, but I just thought I’d share that with you. If you want to contact me you can by my e-mail if you’d like. Or not 🙂 but I figure that since you blog about these things that you’d be interested in talking about it.

    Thanks,
    Khaled

  3. Stephen,

    Thanks for your wishes.

  4. Stephen, I believe as well that everyone will make it to heaven, anyone that has lived a good life and has not hurt others.

    • Peace and blessings be with you, AJ.

      Thanks for your encouraging comment. I probably go a bit further than you. I believe that those who have not lived a good life and have hurt others will also be “saved”; but they’ll have to go through the purifying ‘fire’ of ‘hell’ before they reach that state. The ‘fire’ will ‘burn away’ all that is evil, and their ‘ore’ will come forth purified so that ‘good’ vessels will eventually be formed from it. 🙂 So in fact, all will eventually reach the point where they live a good life and don’t hurt others – and then they’ll be ‘saved’.

      Rob Bell believes in this as a hopeful possibility; I believe in it as a certainty. I enjoy his hopeful attitude, though.

      I’m glad you and your family made it safely back to the USA. I pray for God’s kindness and mercy to be shown to your father in Pakistan.

  5. so you are enamored with the Qua’ran, so join them, but not in the USA, but at the source. where they train their children to recite and learn the good book, then give them a gun to kill the infidel. Better still join them in Mecca with your dagger (with the handle made from the horn of a rhinoceros) and use it to cut yourself till your blood runs into your mouth or stains your body red.
    And Christians(?) why do they worry, is not in their estimation, god all-forgiving. Even if he is the fiendish God, they are trying to make him out, who delights in torturing their immortal souls for an eternity, it should all turn out OK, either way. Maybe you like the wishy washy one who forgives any repentant sinner for ALL times. He did punish the older generation of Israelites in the wilderness, left them as carcasses, or the flood, why all the trouble, if everyone keeps on living, somehow, anyway. They all must be back by now, have they been forgiven this time? In James, the demons shudder, why? What can He do to them, since they all have those immortal souls, and the chains, James and Jude (the great day) talk about, how could these mean anything (a demon possessed man could not be kept in chains) OR?? are WE fooling ourselves?
    And why are the clergy so concerned about who goes to hell or not, maybe they should live a life pleasing to the One WHO IS JUDGE ALONE.
    Would it make a difference if I send someone to hell or heaven. Also in Revelation 21:8 I read about the second death. If there is a second death, shouldn’t there, of necessity also be a first.What is the difference. Anybody knows.
    since apparently the soul never dies, Immortal, Why do some PUT ON immortality, CORINTHIANS, why do we need a resurrection, John 5:28? or be led to fountains of waters of life (Revelation.)
    In the days of the kings we read that they laid down with their forefathers. Does it make sense to mention this, if their bodies decayed and the souls stayed alive.
    And Jesus said, ‘Be in fear of Him who can destroy …soul and body (no difference for both) Can even He destroy an immortal soul. Doesn’t immortallity means, death cannot touch it?
    But the bible is the word of God, most will acknowledge this. ?????

    • Ah, speaking of God’s mercy and His gracious word (which is like rain filling dry river beds) has certainly stirred up the vile corruption residing in your mind and soul! The question will be: will you submit to God’s guidance so that your corruption can be ‘washed away’, or must that corruption be purged by more drastic means of God’s ‘fiery’ judgment?

      The “second death” in the book of Revelation is said to be the “lake which burns with fire and brimstone/sulfur.” Both fire and sulfur were used in rites of purification. Such a “second death” involves the destruction of the corruption which infests the ‘soul’ (as well as the ‘flesh’); and that is what Jesus meant in his reported statement that God is able to ‘destroy’ both body and soul in hell. The evil thoughts and works of body and soul are purged and destroyed by God’s purifying judgment; but as the apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:15, the person himself will be ‘saved’, yet so as by fire. As the Qur’an says, such purifying fire is “a most evil reckoning”; but it is not ‘never ending’ as it purifies the ore from its corruption, and “useful utensils” are able to be produced from such purified ore.

      The physical judgments on individuals and nations are recorded in order to provide illustrative warnings of what awaits those who don’t submit to God’s guidance after death. So such recorded judgments are valuable for those who will take them to heart.

      Those who ‘put on immortality’ are those whose corruption has been purged – whether by the guidance of God’s Revelations, or by the fiery purification of ‘hell’.

      Now as to my joining the Muslims (those who have found peace through submission and devotion to God): I have already done so in spirit, and have every intention of doing so outwardly also. And I do not need to immigrate to another country to do so. I continue to uphold the basic foundational principle of this nation (which you seem to have repudiated) concerning freedom of conscience and religion; and I’m quite pleased to say that’s a foundation principle of Islam also. “There is no compulsion in religion” (2:256); and “[10:99] And [thus it is:] had thy Sustainer so willed, all those who live on earth would surely have attained to faith, all of them: dost thou, then, think that thou couldst compel people to believe, [10:100] notwithstanding that no human being can ever attain to faith otherwise than by God’s leave, and [that] it is He who lays the loathsome evil [of disbelief] upon those who will not use their reason?”

      Before you allow yourself to propagate the vile accusations and mockeries against a religion and its ‘holy book’, you should seek to verify those accusations and mockeries from a legitimate source (the Qur’an, for instance, in this case). I surmise that you have never bothered to read that delightful book; if you’ve done any reading at all in it, it was just a few verses completely separated from their contexts and from the overall tenor of the Qur’an. Your mockery is just repetition of other mockers; you yourself have no doubt not even attempted to learn about Islam from an actual Muslim. I urge you to ‘take a sabbatical’ from your antagonism to Islam and read the Qur’an for yourself, asking God to guide you as you read it (not seeking ‘guidance’ from anti-Islamic bigots). And read about Islam from actual Muslim sources (The American Muslim, for instance). Perhaps you could take some time to read some articles I have written about the ‘war’ verses in the Qur’an: Does Islam Proclaim That All Infidels Should Be Killed? Islam: A Religion of Hate??? “Slay The Infidels Wherever You Find Them”

      I do not believe the Bible to be the “word of God”, although I believe it contains the words of God in some places. I have come to accept the Qur’an as “the word of God” though, which serves (among other purposes) to confirm the “word of God” which remains within the Bible, and expose some of the errors which are either in the Bible, or are ‘read into’ it by incorrect interpretations.

      Many within Christian denominations have come to realize that the Bible is a contradictory book, in some cases pretty ‘evil’, which simply can’t be all ‘given by inspiration of God’. Fundamentalists, and perhaps most ‘evangelicals’, though, still blindly follow the Bible ‘from cover to cover’ as God’s ‘inerrant word’.

      While I welcome comments which are written in a polite and respectful manner – even though the author of the comments disagrees with me – I will probably delete any future comments you make which, like this one, simply reek of bitterness and rude, groundless accusations.


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