Debunking Catholic.com's ECT Article

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Harold

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So for backstory, on this post the user on Christianity board named Johann sent me an article from Catholic.com that promotes Infernalism. I posted a reply there, but then did my own analysis and figured I'd make it into it's own post. God bless!

Johann sends me this message [in orange] August 14 2023
Everyone Goes to Heaven

Which is a copy-paste of the following article from Catholic.com
Do All People Go to Heaven?
Therefore I will rebuke it.

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The prolific author and Eastern orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart has just released a new book that covers a very old topic: Universalism, or the belief that all creatures will definitely be saved.
In his new book That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation, Hart argues that eventually all people (which may include fallen angels, though Hart doesn’t explicitly come out and say it) will spend eternity with God in heaven. That’s because an eternal hell is supposedly so unjust that if it were an essential part of Christian doctrine it would be (in Hart’s words) “proof that Christianity should be dismissed as a self-evidently morally obtuse and logically incoherent faith.” (As an aside, my colleague Karlo Broussard has done some great work showing hell is not unjust.)

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[Editor: I believe that even the fallen angels shall be saved, as the Lord upholds all those who fall.]

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The possibility that hell is empty is not a twenty-first century novelty. In the third century, the ecclesial writer Origen argued for apokatastasis, or a “restoration” that would unite all things, including unrepentant sinners, to God. This would seem to rule out the possibility that anyone would spend an eternity in hell, though modern commenters are divided over the implications of Origen’s theology on this question. According to Bible scholar Richard Bauckham:
Until the nineteenth century almost all Christian theologians taught the reality of eternal torment in hell. Here and there, outside the theological mainstream, were some who believed that the wicked would be finally annihilated. . . . Even fewer were the advocates of universal salvation . . . though these few included some major theologians of the early church.
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[false again, http://www.mercyuponall.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Prevailing.pdf is an ebook that shows Christian Universalism was the prevailing doctrine during the times of the Early Christians around 300 AD even.]

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The Catholic Church condemned universalism at the regional council of Orange in 543, though a few theologians still held out hope for all creatures to be saved. This uniformity of thought began to change, however, with the rise of denominations like the Universalist Church of America (which exists today under the name Unitarian Universalism).
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[I rebuke the Roman Catholic church for their false teachings in works salvation through the sacrements, it is faith alone by which we are saved. Let us look at biblical scripture for proof in Christian universalism, rather than mere human made denominations]

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Most Christian universalists like Hart agree that hell is real and even believe that some or many people will go there. But from their perspective hell is a temporary “purgatory-like” condition and the Bible’s references to it being “eternal” only mean hell is a temporary punishment that the damned face in “the age to come” because the Greek word for eternity (aionion) can also mean “age” (Hart even refers to hell as “the purifying flames of the Age to come”).
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[The word Hell does not appear in the bible at all
Hell is Leaving the Bible Forever
I do not believe in purgatory in the sense that, while people do suffer for their sins, even after death, it is the suffering that convinces them to believe in Christ, the belief is what saves them, not the suffering. That’s why it’s temporary, because eventually in any number of aions and olams, all shall be convinced to have faith alone in Christ to be saved. I do agree that the word aionion means “pertaining to an age” because it’s literally an inflection of the word “aion”]
 

Harold

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As I’ve shown in my engagements with others who dispute the eternal aspect of hell, the endless nature of hell is quite obvious from the biblical texts. Given the strength of the Catholic Church’s case, universalists can’t just claim that the punishments of hell might not be permanent. To be convincing, they need to show positive evidence that all people will eventually be saved. When it comes to providing positive evidence, universalists usually cite biblical passages that, from their perspective, describe God effecting the salvation of every single person.
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[Alright, so where is the Catholic Church’s case then? They mention that it’s apparently quite obvious, but where is this proof? From my perspective, Christian Universalism is quite obvious, but I at least post proof texts, such as this one]
John 6:33 "The Bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives Life to the WORLD."

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Hart seems puzzled, though, that these passages were not given more attention by theologians throughout the Church’s history, noting “how odd it is that for at least fifteen centuries such passages have been all but lost behind a veil as thin as the one that can be woven from those three or four deeply ambiguous verses that seem (and only seem) to threaten eternal torments for the wicked.”
But perhaps that’s because these passages don’t teach that everyone will be saved. Instead, they express the hope that anyone can be saved.
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[We see though that it is God’s hope that everyone will be saved. 1 Timothy 2:4 NKJV - who desires all men to be saved. So it’s not merely our hope, but rather God’s hope. And does God’s hope ever fail? God is love after all, so no. Because love never fails 1 Cor 13:8]

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In 1 Timothy 2:4, for example, St. Paul says that God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” But God also desires that we not sin, and yet we still do. God desires the good for all of his creatures, but because he has also given human beings and angels the gift of free will, it follows that God will allow us to enjoy or suffer the consequence of this good gift, even if it means eternal separation from him.
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[Let’s say that God does separate us endlessly from Him. Here’s the problem…. SIN still exists! That’s right. Sin is still there, it’s just tucked away where you can’t see it. It’s like you have dirty clothes. What does God do? Does God either a) Christian Universalism wash the clothes by the blood of Christ aka convince all people to believe in Christ to be saved
Or b) does God just hide the clothes inside of a closet and then they start to mold and rot? Obviously, God would choose a). Because God clearly loves us John 3:16. God loves the clothes! He does not want to just throw out the clothes when He can easily wash them, because He has the authority to do so! And the desire to do so!

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Although Hart admits he doesn’t like “reducing biblical theology to concentrated distillates (prooftexts)” he proceeds to do just that by listing nearly a dozen verses, including their original Greek and Hart’s own rendering of them from his own strange, overly-literal translation of the Bible. Unfortunately, his translation doesn’t offer much in terms of exegesis or understanding of these crucial texts.
For example, in 1 Corinthians 15:22 Paul says, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive,” but this doesn’t mean that through Christ all people shall be brought to eternal life. What it means is that all who are “in Christ” (a phrase Paul often uses for the saved or elect) shall be brought to eternal life. This logic also explains Romans 5:18, wherein Paul says, “As one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.”
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All people shall become alive in Christ and thus all people shall be saved. This is really just putting the “Christian” in Christian Universalism. It’s true that it does mean that all who are in Christ shall be brought to life, however, it also, literally be extension means, that because all humans are descendants of Adam, then all humans will “be in Christ” aka will become believers in Christ and thus gain their aionion life.

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This refers to life for all believers, or those who are in Christ. We know this because in the previous verse Paul says, “If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” This is talking about the salvation of all believers, not the salvation of all people. Jesus himself says that he will “draw all men to himself” (John 12:32), but that doesn’t mean that people can’t reject him even after being so drawn. In this passage Jesus also foreshadows his own crucifixion, which may mean that all people will have their sins atoned for on the cross but the grace that Christ accrues for them may not be applied to their souls if they choose to reject it.
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The contradiction here is that they state that salvation is just for the believers. Even though, all humans have been affected by Adam’s trespass. All people will become believers in Christ and thus all people shall be saved.
Otherwise, through this ECT argument it means that there are humans that are somehow not sinners and already perfect besides God, which is a contradiction. Or that somehow God is not inside of all things, which is also a contradiction.
Rom. 11:36 "Of Him and through Him and to Him are ALL THINGS, to whom be glory forever. Amen"
Romans 3:10 NLT 10 As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous— not even one.
 

Harold

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In other words, Christ draws all men to himself and he died for every single person, offering them the gift of eternal life. But each person still has a choice, and some people will tragically refuse to accept Christ’s mercy and salvation. That is why the Church prays for the soul of anyone who has perished: because God is “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).
If Hart’s universalism is true, then those who reject the gospel would cease to be “the lost” Jesus came to save (Luke 19:10) and become instead “the delayed,” who just have to wait a little longer for the heavenly rewards they rejected in life.
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Sure, it’s up to a person to choose to believe in Christ to be saved. Yet, can any of our free will, if it does exist, go against the will of the LORD, who desires all people to be saved? Who desires all the people of all the nations to worship Him?
Rev. 15:4 "ALL nations shall come and worship You, for your judgments have been made manifested."
Look, the lost are still the lost. We were all the lost at one point, yet we were still referred to as the lost.
Luke 15:24 he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
Look at this person! He was lost and then… was found! Now, did they go back and change the title to “the delayed”? The title is still “lost” here in translation. What it really means is that all people are lost area already delayed.

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The evangelist who foolishly thinks universalism will make it easier to preach the gospel will see that without the “bad news” the “good news” isn’t taken seriously. On this view, Christianity becomes a faith that seeks to merely make “heaven on earth,” and by that point it’s nothing more than secular humanism playing dress-up on Sundays.
Contrary to Hart’s assertion, it is not the presence of hell that makes Christianity a “morally obtuse and logically incoherent faith”— it is its absence.
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As a Christian Universalist evangelist, I’ve seen for myself that there are people who specifically become believers in Christ because I preach Universal Reconciliation. Like my friend can.of.soup on Discord, who became interested in what I was teaching on a Discord server because they saw that it was different from mainstream Christianity. The damage that infernalist Christianity has done to the world has resulted in many people not wanting to even talk about Christianity, because it slanders the nature of God. What sort of loving God tortures people in hell?
And how ironic, that this article posits that there must be “bad news”. Do they even know the meaning of the Gospel? Does not the Gospel refer to the good news? The good news is all good! Because it is the salvation of Christ! Now, does Christ have “bad” inside of Him, or is He only good? The Gospel is the good news of Christ! It is good because it is Christ!
Psalm 145:9 ESV The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.
That last point about “secular humanism” well, obviously, Christian Universalism is not secular humanism because it’s well... Christian. Not really an argument and more like name calling I’d say, since there’s no evidence to back it up.
do-all-people-go-to-heaven

yes?
J.

Here’s what I replied to that post. For the sake of this article, I’ve added more commentary on to it.
Oh yeah, David Bentley Hart, I've listened to him on Christian Universalist videos, he's quite popular among Christian Universalists.

Oooooo ok , unfortunatley my friend we can already see a contradiction in your response because it mentions that in the third century, Origin argued for apokataasis, the uniting of all things, and then suddenly Richard Bauckham denies this and mentions that until the ninteteenth century almost all Christian theologians taught ECT.

Specifically, here's an entire ebook that you can read that debunks this notion that Christian Universalism did not exist until recently: http://www.mercyuponall.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Prevailing.pdf


from pdf page 183
Previous to A.D. 200 three different opinions were held among Christians–endless punishment, annihilation, and universal salvation; but, so far as the literature of the times shows, the subject was never one of controversy, and the last-named doctrine prevailed most ...

For a hundred and fifty years, A.D. 250 to 400, though Origen and his heresies on many points are frequently at- tacked and condemned, there is scarcely a whisper on record against his Universalism. On the other hand, to be called an Origenist was a high honor, from 260 to 290.
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1 Corinthians 15:21 , you say, shows that only those in Christ shall be saved. We can see by extension that all people shall be in Christ. This is also an extension to your argument where you state that "This is talking about the salvation of all believers". All people shall become believers in Christ and thus all people shall be saved.

1 Corinthians 15:23 - The Order of Resurrection
1 Corinthians 15:23 NIV But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.


Funnily enough, this concept is explained in the next verse following 1 Cor 15:22. In the beginning, there were people who were first fruits, but later, other people believed and were saved. Just because there are certain believers that are saved now does not mean that other believers following will be discluded. Otherwise, what about us, people who were born after Christ resurrected thousands of years later? If we're only including the first fruits as part of salvation then we end up discluded, which does not make sense. Therefore, all shall eventually believe, yes, even those post-mortem.

Psalm 16:10 - The Presence of God
Psalm 16:10 BSBFor You will not abandon my soul to Sheol, nor will You let Your Holy One see decay.

Each person has a choice to believe in Christ, but, we see that it is also God's desire to have all people saved. We know that this choice is not something that expires, or becomes void just because of a random circumstance that is one's death.

In terms of the Catholic Church, it's ironic that "Catholic" means "Universal" however we know that the Roman Catholic Church also promotes the sacrements, works salvation, even though they are not biblical. So, personally, I believe in the view that the protestant reformation takes, where we should get all of our evidence from biblical scripture alone.

In terms of Christian Universalism being "secular humanism" well... this example kinda falls flat when you realize the following definition

https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/secular
1. of or relating to worldly as opposed to sacred things

Yet, we see that Christian Universalism indeed holds up what is most sacred, what is most divine, specifically the will of the LORD, His desire to have all people be saved, thus it is proven true as the most accurate depiction of the LORD God's desire, for people to live!

Ezekiel 18:32 ESV For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.”

God bless Johann my friend.
 

BarneyFife

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an eternal hell is supposedly so unjust that if it were an essential part of Christian doctrine it would be (in Hart’s words) “proof that Christianity should be dismissed as a self-evidently morally obtuse and logically incoherent faith.

This seems like an ancient argument based on faulty human logic that barely even warrants a rebuttal.

Although I do believe in a form of apokatastasis in that God will doubtless restore all things with the establishment of His saints as kings and rulers of the earth and after the utter destruction of sin and sinners after painful punishment commensurate with the deeds done in the body is accomplished. There will be no stain of corruption left in the perfect creation of our Heavenly Father. The finally unrepentant will, before their sentence is executed, bow and say with the rest of God's creatures:

“Just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of saints.”
“Who shall not fear Thee, O Lord, and glorify Thy name? for Thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before Thee; for Thy judgments are made manifest.”
 

Cassandra

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My problem with this stuff is that Harold wastes any time at all to critique anyone's church when he thinks everyone is going to heaven anyway. Let them believe what they want. What difference does it make to universalists?

Harold go get a kite, or a bike and go enjoy yourself. No need to preach
 

BarneyFife

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Let’s say that God does separate us endlessly from Him. Here’s the problem…. SIN still exists! That’s right. Sin is still there, it’s just tucked away where you can’t see it. It’s like you have dirty clothes. What does God do? Does God either a) Christian Universalism wash the clothes by the blood of Christ aka convince all people to believe in Christ to be saved
Or b) does God just hide the clothes inside of a closet and then they start to mold and rot?
Or c) utterly destroy sin and unrepentant sinners, which He can easily manage?

The blood of Christ does not magically and transformatively convince people of God's love for them against their will.

Unquenchable fire will make sure there is nothing left "to mold and rot."

Universalism renders the conflict in which we now find ourselves just one big, fat, cruel joke.