The gospel is universal in that all people, be they black or white, bond or free, male or female, Jew or Gentile are to accept it by coming unto Christ. It is not, however, objective. (more…)
As we have discussed in the past, Mormonism embraces at least a quasi-universalism in its teaching that hardly any of the inhabitants of the earth face an eternal hell after this life. And if it turns out that there is progression between kingdoms (an idea that has had both detractors and supporters among Church leaders over the years) then an even more robust form of universalism exists.
But as we have also discussed, it is not clear that it is useful to Mormonism (or to God for that matter) for all Mormons to embrace a more robust universalism even if it turns out to accurately represent reality. That is because universalism tends to kill motivation to repent and to work hard in the church. Why? Well to use the old “carrot and stick” motivation analogy (where the stick = negative consequences for actions and the carrot = positive consequences) universalism completely removes the “stick” when it comes to religious motivations.
Among the most radical teachings of Joseph Smith was his flat rejection of creatio ex nihilo — the idea that a beginningless God created all else that exists out of nothing. By rejecting creatio ex nihilo Joseph opened a world of theological and cosmological possibilities that are precluded from the creedal Christians who accept creation out of nothing as a foundational believe. One of the the theoretical possibilities is an idea I am labeling “radical universalism”.
Here are some of the theological assumptions that would underlie a radically universalistic cosmology:
A. God is beginningless
The scriptures that support the idea of a beginningless God plentiful so one might think that this is an uncontroversial assumption. However in some of our past discussions Mark D. and others have argued that while the rudimentary parts of God are beginningless it is possible that there was a time before there was a fully formed God. While I entertained this idea in the past I currently believe the scriptural support for the claim there never was a time before God is stronger.
B. The One God is a union of multiple divine persons
Questions like this one don’t create any anxiety for me these days. I blame it on my creeping universalism.
By creeping universalism I mean this: I just can’t bring myself to believe in permanent divine punishment anymore. I know some people believe in it and I don’t begrudge them their beliefs — I just think they are wrong. Don’t misunderstand — I believe in divine justice. That is largely why I don’t believe in permanent punishment. If our souls are eternal I just don’t think there is anything we could do in 70 years here that would warrant infinite punishment. So I think people pay in some fashion for every sin they refuse to repent of; I just think that process won’t take forever. So when someone asks if I will end up in the highest kingdom of heaven (whatever that means) I feel confident in saying “yup”. I just think y’all will end up in the same condition too. (Heck, I now vaguely suspect we may have always been in that condition before our sojourn here on this planet as well…) That is what I mean by my creeping universalism. (more…)
Why preaching the highly questionable notion of no progression between kingdoms might be a good idea
About a week ago I posted insisting that there must be progression between kingdoms of glory or God is not the loving parent we think of him as. When the discussion thread there exceeded 100 comments I wrote a follow-up post to continue that discussion and to issue a challenge for someone to provide a better model of the eternities than my favorite model. The discussion in that thread has been very informative too. In this post I want to recap the three main positions that have been argued (as I understand them) and point to reasons to reject some models and accept others. (more…)