Clear As Mud

“And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?” 1 Corinthians 14:8

It has been said that all six billion people on earth are God’s people. And that is true. It has also been said that God is God to all of His people, which is also true. And that God loves all of His people – true again. And therefore, it has been concluded that all of the many different religions are equal in God’s eyes and are equally true for those who practice them, that all religions are only different paths to the same God. This conclusion, however, is not true according to the Bible.

This belief, called universalism, has been around for a long time and much confusion has been associated with it. It exists in two forms: pantheistic universalism and monotheistic universalism. Pantheistic universalism believes that all religions originate equally from God and that God equally honors all who practice the various religions. Here all faithful practitioners of the various religions will be reconciled to God. Monotheistic universalism believes that there is only one true God and only one true religion, but that God will ultimately reconcile everyone to Himself. Here all people will ultimately come to believe and be reconciled.

In response to numerous heresies the 4th Century Church put into a creed the already believed doctrine of the Trinity emphasizing the teaching that Jesus was fully God and fully man as a correction against Arianism. Long story short, Arianism was a controversy about the nature of God. Who is God? What is the relationship between God and Jesus Christ? The Council of Nicea clarified the issue with the famous three Persons, one substance formula, settling the issue to the present day.

Psilanthropism (belief that Jesus Christ was a mere man) was rejected by the First Council of Nicaea, which was convened to deal specifically with this concern. Socinianism was identified as a form of psilanthropism in 1643 and was again declared to be a heresy and banished from Poland by the Catholics. And of course, Socinianism, a form of Anti-Trinitarianism, and named for Faustus Socinus, has been around since the 1500s. This is not a new thing. The world was different then, of course. The Reformation was in full swing and the Roman Catholic Church had lost its hegemony of the churches.

There are also versions and variations of Christian universalism, as well. For instance, in August 1985 Pope Paul II visited Morocco. At a historic meeting with thousands of Muslim youths in Casablanca Stadium, he said that “we believe in the same God, the one God, the living God” (Catholic News Service), suggesting a Catholic version of Christian universalism.

The fruit of psilanthropism in the 17 and 18th Centuries flowered into Deism, the theistic belief that a supreme God exists and created the physical universe, but does not intervene in its normal operation. Deism is related to a religious philosophy and movement that claims to derive the existence and nature of God from pure reason – the Enlightenment, which followed the lead of Immanuel Kant, and laid the ground for modern liberalism in the church and out.

According to the logic of Deism, a consequence of God’s policy of nonintervention pertains to the deity of Jesus Christ. Deists can believe God sent Jesus (Christianity is not a necessary part of Deism), but because God doesn’t intervene, Jesus is not understood to be divine. A logical consequence of Deism is that God did not manifest Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ. Of course, there were Christian Deists who held that Jesus was divine, but in doing so they were repudiating the central tenet of Deism, and thus creating a logical contradiction. So much for pure reason!

Much confusion continues to reign in all of these areas. The great need in our current time is careful, clarification of what the Bible actually says about the many things that confuse people.

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