I get the accusation of being a universalist all the time.

There are parts of universalism I don’t ascribe to, so I always have to ask the person, “What do you mean?”

There are some of my “family”, my evangelical tradition, who can read something and see the exact opposite of what it actually says. It’s a learned skill. It’s kind of miraculous.

So, I had this thing in The Shack, where Mackenzie asks Jesus, “Do all roads lead to Papa?”  And Jesus laughs and says, “No, most roads don’t lead anywhere. But I will go down any road to find you,” which is the incarnation.

Well my “family” can read that and go “See all roads lead to heaven, or all roads lead to God” which is the exact opposite of what it actually says. But that’s that skill.

So, when Jesus says, “I am the way, truth, life…” We’re talking about the cosmic Christ. You cannot separate your existence in any sense from Christ or Jesus who is the expression in fully human form and being that is the same as us in our humanity. And he then becomes the darkness we brought to the table to tell us the truth about who we are. He has to tell us the truth about who we are.

If by universalism I mean everyone was saved in the salvific work of Jesus, “Yes”, not even kind of “Yes”.

Paul says,

we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Saviour of all people, especially of those who believe. (I Timothy 4:10)

And Jesus said, “If I be lifted up…” and here’s a problem, we like an old English word which doesn’t mean today what it used to mean, but we kept it because it fits our paradigm, “I will draw all men to myself.”

“Draw” is only used three times in the New Testament: once when they had so many fish in the boat that they had to drag it on to the shore, once when Paul and Silas were dragged in front of the council – that’s the word, “If I be lifted up, I will drag all men to myself.” And then II Corinthians comes along and says,”Look, when he died, you died,” why? because this is Christ.

Everything that is consistent has its being in him. This is why everyone is a child of God according to Paul on Mars Hill quoting the hymn to Zeus of all things. And he’s saying, “Even buried inside your religious ideology, I am there. You just don’t see it.”

And this is the beauty of a God who submits, who climbs into our religious assumptions and values and respects what we brought to the table but wants to dismantle anything that is not of love’s kind.

There’s a lot of beautiful things about religion. And God will respectfully protect it. At the same time as dismantling anything that is not about authentic relationship.

The life of God is in me and it is kind and gracious and good.

The Four Spiritual Laws the way I heard it when I was growing up was not life-giving.

So the second of those four spiritual laws says you sinned and you are separated from God. They quote Romans 3:23, but they don’t bother to tell you about Romans 3:24, but that’s ok because you know it is always about trying to find a proof text to prove what you already know to be the truth.

So, it starts with separation like all religion does, and then they build a bridge and all that kind of stuff. But the first of them sounds true “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life”. Sounds true.

But for those of us growing up in the modern evangelical tradition it was a very difficult thing, because all of a sudden you were put into a place where G-o-d was over here, who doesn’t really like you, unless Jesus is around. This G-o-d has a wonderful plan for your life. So you better figure it out. And the big question for us was, “What is the will of God?”

But, even our teachers realized that we are really a bunch of messed up human beings.  So, they came up with the “perfect will of God” versus the “permissive will of God”. And you can begin to see how religion starts to get things more complicated. Listen, if it doesn’t work for children, or first century slaves, it’s probably not true.

So, the “perfect will” of God, was the real perfect will of God. And the permissive one was that,  if you screwed up badly enough, you would suffer. It’s all based on God coming up with some kind of big plan and us trying to figure out what it is so that we can maintain this relationship.

Now I’m a missionary kid, so I get into trouble for things I don’t even understand. And I’m going like, “How many sins does it take to screw up a perfect will?” I’m thinking like one? So how many screw-ups down the road am I already? A lot. So they say, “Oh but we have the permissive will.” I’m going “This is really complicated.” Well it gets worse.