There May be Hell To Pay, Just Not Hell To Stay

On Sunday last  All Souls Catholic Church, Allen, Texas – a Universal Catholic Church – had a guest preacher, Deacon Marti Martison who is a Unitarian-Universalist (UU) Deacon-Cannon.  Certain phrases or sentences popped out at me, such as:

There may be hell to pay, just not hell to stay.

God’s ways are surely not our ways, but let not man make a tyrant
of God.

No soul is forever lost from the love of God

L to R: Frederic L. Milliken, Jim Kviatkofsky, Bishop Tony Howard, Deacon Marti Martinson

L to R: Frederic L. Milliken, Jim Kviatkofsky, Bishop Tony Howard, Deacon Marti Martinson

Here is the message he brought us:

Luke and the Great Commission


Deacon Marti Martinson

Before concentrating directly on the universalist message in today’s Gospel reading,
I’d like to give some background details on the Gospel of Luke. Luke is third in the New
Testament canon of scripture, and may have been written at about the same time as the
Gospel of Matthew, around the 80s of the common era. Mark, second in the canon, is
actually believed to have been written first, possibly in the 70s. John, the last in canonical
order, may also have been written last, in about the 90s. Luke is believed to have been a
companion of Paul, a Greek, and a physician, as well as the author of the Book of Acts.
These are attested to in the Pauline epistles Colossians, Philemon, and Titus. It would be
too difficult to go into here, but it should be noted that Colossians AND Titus are DISPUTED
Pauline texts: some scholars do not believe Paul wrote Colossians and MOST scholars are
sure Paul did NOT write Titus. Or Timothy.

Getting back to Luke: Luke and Matthew contain common stories; Luke contains its
own L stories, and Matthew contains its own M stories. The common stories are believed to
have been from a now-lost document called Q for quelle, or German for “source”; for it was
German theologians who devised this. The complete gospel of Luke is themed somewhat as

 firstly, the universality of the “Good News” from Jesus – not just to the Jews, but to
Gentiles and all others on whom the favor of God rests;

 secondly, concern for social “outcasts” – Jesus’ own first sermon as recorded in Luke
cites Isaiah’s mission to the poor, the imprisoned, the blind, and the oppressed;

 thirdly, repentance – which leads us to a reorientation toward God and, hence,
reconciles us to one another;

 and fourthly, the ethical aspects of wealth – sharing it, properly accounting for it, and
earning it justly.

After the Easter Resurrection, and after his appearance to the two on the road to
Emmaus, Jesus appeared to all of his disciples just prior to his ascension. So says the Gospel
of Luke. Chapter 24 of this Gospel is, in fact, the last chapter of Luke and does contain the
Resurrection, the road to Emmaus, the Appearance, and the Ascension. Embedded within
the Appearance is “the great commission”:

that repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name
to all nations

This scene is also mentioned in Acts 1:3-8, and in a sentence in Corinthians (1 Cor 15:7),
which is an undisputed Pauline text.

The universal message in Luke, again,

that repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name
to all nations

was a very important point in the history of my denomination. It was taken as instruction
AND promise, in that it was being PREACHED because it was going to HAPPEN to everyone.

As you have been undoubtedly warned, I am not a Universal Catholic; I am a Unitarian
Universalist. I actually WAS a Liberal Catholic for a time and “feared and trembled” under
the yoke of your Bishop, then Seminary Chancellor. But that was another life ago…..

Actually tracing its theological past to the Alexandrian theologian Origen who
promoted the idea of “ultimate, universal salvation”, the Universalist Church of America
was independent before its merger with the Unitarian Church. It did not lose its “Christocentric focus” after the merger, and historically it contained clergy and congregants who believed in the wide range of immediate salvation after death FOR EVERYONE to limited punishment FOR EVERYONE after death, both still having a fervent hope “that no soul is forever lost from the love of God”.

In support of this, Thomas Whittemore, a man whom Hosea Ballou, a prominent
Minister in the history of my denomination, convinced (cajoled, really) to become a Minister,
penned five “points” of universalist Christian theology. They are somewhat reminiscent of
the Four Solas developed by early Protestant theologians to differentiate themselves from
the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. The Solas were, and are, Scripture Alone,
Faith Alone, Grace Alone, and Christ Alone, while the Whittemore “points” can easily be
summed up:

What God wills – is purposed.
What God purposes – is promised.
What God promises – is oathed.
What God oaths – is sent.
What God sends – is accomplished!

If God’s activities included all these, willing and purposing and promising and oathing
and sending, what accomplishment is there in the Calvinist pre-destination? Why even send
a messenger to preach repentance and forgiveness in his name unto all the nations? Why
would Jesus have to die for the sins of ONLY those who are going to be forgiven, justified,
and redeemed anyway? God’s ways are surely not our ways, but let not man make a tyrant
of God.

Biblical interpretation can take many forms, but at least seven have been identified
by Bishop Robert McGinnis of the independent and theologically-universalist Liberal
Catholic Church. The McGinnis text is not exhaustive of every book of the Bible. It is,
however, a serious attempt to present scripture as NEITHER infallible nor inerrant, but the inspired search for God. Among the seven forms he included systematic, dogmatic,linguistic, literal, spiritual, and prophetic. Proof-texting, which will be explained in a moment, is a “negative” form, in that it can often generate an incomplete picture. I offer these:

John 3:17 – For God SENT not the Son into the world to condemn it; but that the world
through Him might be saved.
Titus 2:11 – For the Grace of God has APPEARED, bringing salvation to all.
Lam 3:31 – The LORD will not cast off forever.

Pulling out passages without any sense of the surrounding ones, can lead to things
being taken out of context. But when such a recurrent theme, via a systematic approach to
interpretation, is displayed among disparate instances, and even ages of time, there is a
prudent basis for the “fervent hope” that, literally, “no soul is forever lost from the love of
God” due to “the preaching of repentance and forgiveness of sins unto all the nations”.

There may be hell to pay, just not hell to stay.

The Book of Promises, a Universalist compendium of bible verses supporting
universal salvation, also contained the universalist sentiments of a Methodist, the first
Methodist – none other than the founder John Wesley himself:

O, why should any be violent against us because we hope for universal
deliverance? From that very hope a degree of salvation springs. We pray that
none may be angry with us, even if they consider us to be in mistake; for such a
temper is not justifiable in any case. Rather let them wait and see if the Lord . . .
will not have all to be saved and come unto the knowledge of truth.

Let us be attentive to the preaching of repentance and forgiveness, with our minds and in
our hearts and by our actions. Amen, and may it be.





Posted on April 27, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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