Tuesday, June 23, 2009

How broad a salvation?

Our son, Nathan, is, at this writing, engaged in a survey of "four views of hell" as taught over the course of the history of Christianity. He's just posted a summary of the view "universal redemption," which is distinguished from "universal salvation" (read the post to understand the distinction).

What makes Nathan's survey engaging is that he presents each of the views without grinding a particular axe, without taking sides. He presents scriptural evidence for each.

I posted a comment to his "universal redemption" discussion, which raises another passage on that topic, which I'm posting below --

On the topic of universal redemption, I find Rom. 5:12-21 most intriguing. In summary:

-- Death came to all through Adam.
-- Life came through Jesus Christ.
-- MANY died through one man's trespass [Adam's].
-- The free gift of life comes by the grace in Christ for MANY.

"Many" = "Many"? How many died in Adam? All. Correspondingly, how many come to life in Christ? The same word is used..."many." Can that "many" mean only "some"?

Continuing on...

-- One trespass led to condemnation for ALL men.
-- One act of righteousness leads to justification and life for ALL men.

"All" = "All"? How many died in Adam? "All." How many are led to justification and life? "All." Can "all" mean ALL when referring to the impact of sin upon mankind, and then "all" mean only "some" when referring to the effect of Christ's work of securing salvation?

Moving on...

-- One man's disobedience made MANY sinners.
-- One man's obedience made MANY righteous.

How "many" were made sinners by Adam's disobedience? All. Can the "many," then, who are made righteous by Christ's obedience be only "some"?


-- The law came in and INCREASED the trespass [of Adam].
-- but...where sin increased, grace ABOUNDED ALL THE MORE.

In the earlier verses of Rom. 5, "many" = "many," and "all" = "all" (or so it should seem), but in this verse, Rom. 5:20, grace is GREATER than sin; we see that grace is actually superior, and has a greater effect, a more wide-ranging effect, than sin. If Adam's sin impacted "ALL," then Christ's obedience to death on the cross is more powerful and is more than sufficient to be applied to "ALL." As "many" who were ruined by Adam's fall, they now have been redeemed by Christ's righteousness...Or so implies Rom. 5:12-21.

I'm not so inclined any more to reject this idea out of hand.


  1. Ahhh - now I see why Nathan was so interested to discuss this when I called on the way home from a baby shower. :) I'll admit, I've not spent much time considering this topic before, but your points are interesting. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and we are looking forward to reading more!

  2. I'm not saying I accept "universal redemption," but what Nathan posted on his blog, and this passage in Rom. 5, make me less inclined to be dogmatic about the fate of people who don't come to Christ in this life. The fact that "universal redemption" used to be the dominant teaching in the church before the rise of Rome is very interesting.