Universalism and the Gooder News Theology
"Universalism is a religious view that affirms the ultimate salvation of all humans" (Macmillan, Encyclopedia of World Religions). This statement forms the central doctrine of Universalism. The doctrine defines the ultimate destiny of humanity but does not define the means by which this destiny is achieved.
There are, of course, various explanations how this ultimate destiny is achieved. The classic explanation is "that hell cannot be everlasting but must be in some way educative and reformative, so that in the long run all must be saved." (Dictionary of Religion and Philosophy, Geddes MacGregor).
The Gooder News Doctrine shares the same central doctrine of ultimate universal salvation, but the means by which this result is achieved is different.
Hell is not a factor - Jesus is. In its purist form, Gooder News doctrine affirms that universal salvation is achieved because of the sacrifice of Jesus. An acknowledgment of Jesus as God / Savior, etc. is not required. Repentance, at least in this life, is not required. Even being religious is not required. "Gods luv extends to all."
Thus the Gooder News minister can appear quite orthodox.
They can affirm that Jesus is God, that Jesus died on the cross and that Jesus arose from the dead.
They can affirm the Triune God and communion.
They can declare that Jesus is their personal savior.
They can affirm the Apostle Creed and other creeds of the church.
They can even invite others to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
They can proclaim that Jesus will return.
They can even say, "Jesus is the only means of salvation."
Even the sermons would appear to be "kosher" because one can omit the negative without being noticed. Thus a Gooder News minister would simply never say:
Unless you accept Jesus as your Lord, you shall not receive salvation.
We need to send missionaries to India because souls are being lost and we need to present the saving gospel to the people.
To the typical defenseless pulpit nominating committee or church shopper, the Gooder News minister can talk and act amazingly similar to a Good News minister.
The best method to detect a Gooder Newser is to ask the simple question: "Are Buddhist (or Muslim or some other major world religion) going to Heaven?" If the answer is yes or a complex 250-word explanation that avoids the simple answer, you can be assured you have a Gooder Newser.
Another common indication is the introduction of quotations of non-Christian "holy men, gurus, or mystics" in sermons. This lifting up of these non-Christian ideas in worship is not in itself wrong, but a pattern of this practice is certainly a warning.
Can a Gooder Newser quote scripture to support their view? Of course they can. Like any other cult, selective scriptures can support almost any view. To the person in the pew who has little doctrinal training the issue can easily be confused. But an honest systematic reading of scripture reveals the heresy.
The Gooder News has appeal because it takes the worry out of salvation. Evangelicals are well aware of the concern for non-believing loved ones. Would it not be a comfort to know that your spouse, parents, children, and even best friends would be with you in heaven - regardless of how they live their lives or express their faith or even lack of faith?
Is the Gooder News theology heresy? From the perspective of those who hold a scriptural interpretation of salvation, the answer is a resounding - Yes. Universal salvation denies the necessity of repentance and acceptance of Jesus as God. It even allows one who actively denies Jesus as God to live any kind of debased lifestyle and still receive salvation - even a Satanist - even Satan himself.
The pure form of Gooder News is probably rare, but degenerate forms certainly exist. Mix strong Christian traditions with the universalistic ultimate destiny, add a dash of Borgish theology and you have Christian flavored Universalism without the necessity of a living Christ. This theological view certainly exists within the Presbyterian Church USA. Interestingly, the Gooder Newsers would probably consider this theology heresy.
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