Views on Divine Election: Sublapsarian Universalism

The doctrine of limited atonement (the L in TULIP) states that Christ’s work on the Cross was effectual only for the elect, who in God’s sovereign will were chosen out of the mass of humanity for salvation. This is represented by the infralapsarian and supralapsarian order of decrees. The sublapsarian sequence of decrees broadens the scope of what was accomplished by Jesus Christ through His death. The order of divine decrees reads:

  1. Creation of human beings
  2. Permit the Fall
  3. Provide salvation sufficient for all
  4. Election to salvation and reprobation

Universalism

As you notice upon comparing the infralapsarian and supralapsarian decrees, the salvation made possible by Christ was only for the elect. The Universalist searches the whole of Scripture and finds a different idea; that Christ’s work on the cross was sufficient for all people and made effectual upon their exercise of faith. This is the view of an interesting union of Arminians and some Calvinists and it makes the gospel message of John 3:16(-17) come to life:

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.

Election, for the universalist, is neither limited nor conditional but is rooted in merciful character of God. As portrayed in the well known passage above, election is an expression of God’s love for the world which is unconstrained in scope and unconditional in application. In other words, the universalist will point out that the New Testament declares that God at a minimum wills or desires the salvation of all humans and is not will that any of them should perish. To link these ideas to scripture:

This is good, and pleases God our savior who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim 2:3-4)

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Pet 3:9)

God’s mercy is fixed in his love, and God is love. Universalism will dispute that God’s love is evidenced by the Augustinian God who separates in His mysteries one from another for salvation. This unconditional election is incompatible with the God of love described by 1 John 4:8-16 whose very essence is love and the object of that love is all the world. The Arminian who is able to thwart God’s desire, thus His plan, is also considered to be incorrect because, though God’s love may be resisted, it cannot be denied or challenged. God does not stop loving those who reject them and this brings Him ever greater glory.

Conclusion

Christian universalists believe that, apart from a corporate salvation of the human race as a whole, there is no real grace and no worthwhile salvation for anyone. Limited election replaces mercy with a decree, and an arbitrary one at that, while conditional election grants the human agent who exercises their free will to choose God a kind of moral superiority that outshines God’s grace. To quote Thomas Talbott, “For no power in the universe, not the power of death itself and not even the power of our own recalcitrant wills, can finally ‘separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.'” (Rom 8:30)

Sola Scriptura

Other Views on Election

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8 thoughts on “Views on Divine Election: Sublapsarian Universalism

  1. 1) By “Universalist,” I take it that you mean one who believes in “General Atonement.” Is this correct (or are you speaking of Universalism in the sense that Christ died for all and that all will be saved regardless of faith in Christ)?

    2) How would you classify these statements?

    – But this is how God showed his love: He sent His only begotten Son into the world, so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

    – In order that people may be brought to faith, God mercifully sends proclaimers of this very joyful message to the people He wishes and at the time He wishes. By this ministry people are called to repentance and faith in Christ crucified.

    – God’s anger remains on those who do not believe this gospel. But those who do accept it and embrace Jesus the Savior with a true and living faith are delivered through Him from God’s anger and from destruction, and receive the gift of eternal life.

    – The cause or blame for this unbelief, as well as for all other sins, is not at all in God, but in man. Faith in Jesus Christ, however, and salvation through him is a free gift of God.

    – Since, however, we ourselves cannot give this satisfaction or deliver ourselves from God’s anger, God in His boundless mercy has given us as a guarantee His only begotten Son, who was made to be sin and a curse for us, in our place, on the cross, in order that He might give satisfaction for us.

    – This death of God’s Son is the only and entirely complete sacrifice and satisfaction for sins; it is of infinite value and worth, more than sufficient to atone for the sins of the whole world.

    – Moreover, it is the promise of the gospel that whoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish but have eternal life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be announced and declared without differentiation or discrimination to all nations and people, to whom God in his good pleasure sends the gospel.

    – However, that many who have been called through the gospel do not repent or believe in Christ but perish in unbelief is not because the sacrifice of Christ offered on the cross is deficient or insufficient, but because they themselves are at fault.

  2. Hello again brother. Universalist in this context does relate to general atonement – the Cross was sufficient but effective only for those who believe. Each of the statements that you offer lead to the beautiful notion that God’s mercy was ultimately shown to humankind in the Cross and that belief in the mercy of the Cross through believing in the Lordship of Jesus Christ is the reception of that mercy. That belief is made whole and visible through the fruit that one bears in a life of obedience and worship. “But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” 1 Jn 2:5-6

    That said, the division in the Church comes from the differing views on the source of that belief: a free will choice of regenerated man or an irresistible accedence to the Father’s choice of the object of mercy.

  3. Pastor Warren:

    Thanks for the thoughtful reply, with which I agree completely. Just wondered if you knew that all of those statements are found within the Canons of the Synod of Dort?

  4. Dear James, Mr Warren

    God is Alpha

    – But this is how God showed his love: He sent His only begotten Son into the world, so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

    But (freethe (dead) will) not Omega

    -they themselves are at fault.

    dead (wrong) fault ?

    Can God not save the faulty adam dead in sins?

    Resurrection of The Dead The Just and unjust

    Is this correct (or are you speaking of Universalism in the sense that Christ died for all and that all will be saved regardless of faith in Christ)?

    regardless “no” put in with faith “of ” Christ “then yes”

    It is His Faith that saved us, keep asking,searching and you will find when you knock the door will be opened.

    You said”

    This requires that we examine the possibility found in alternative systems before declaring them heretical. We must come to a conclusion: God is the author of sin or God is love.

    There is no other answer to the problem you have found than
    all will saved

    Check out the chart here http://www.gospelfortoday.org/jteachings/calarmuniv.htm

    Richard,

    Held prisoner in His Sovereign Grace

  5. Brother Dr. James

    My apologies for not responding promptly but life has a way of shifting unexpectedly beneath our feet. The Dordt remonstrance against Arminius and his theology is often troubling because, in my opinion, it uses imprecise language that is often equivalent to the phrases and thoughts of the Arminian argument. For example, Article One quotes one of our most blessed scriptures as evidence of the manifestation of God’s love. Both camps would agree on that. Article Two gives a similarly compatible statement, that the gospel will be proclaimed according to God’s plan and people will be called to repentance and faith. Article Three outlines the results of human response: those who believe will be saved while those who do not will remain under the Father’s anger. Finally, Article Four roots the cause of unbelief in human decision.

    In each of the last three articles mentioned, there is a clear inference to action on the part of the objects of the ministry. If ‘people are called to repentance and faith in Christ’ they must be able to freely respond. If ‘God’s anger remains on those who do not believe’ then they must be able to freely believe or not believe. If ‘the cause or blame for this unbelief’ is on humankind’s shoulders, it therefore goes that they must be able to freely choose to believe or not believe. If these sections of the Canons are held up to the Calvinist (Sovereign mystery) or Arminian (Sovereign Foreknowledge) views of how God filled the rolls of the elect they would apply equally well to both.

    Thanks again for your thoughts and contributions. I look forward to interacting with you more in the future. God Bless brother.

  6. Dear Sir,

    That all sounds “well said and done.” But you ignore what the Scriptures say and leave a big hole in the whole statement. Can you answer this question:

    How can a corpse make a decision?

    Take Eze 37 for instance: Did those bones just “decide” to come together?

    Or the dead man who was “dropped” into Elisha’s grave?

    2Ki 13:21 And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha: and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet.

    This is the state of the sinner before salvation comes to him.

    Remember Ge 2:17 that God said, “…for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

    The Hebrew word here indicate a continuing process, (ie by dying you shall die and continue to die). Adam (and Eve) spiritually died, and each day physically died a little until death had the mastery and he was all dead. Thus being sons and daughters of Adam (and Eve) we are all spiritually dead until the command comes:
    Eph 5:14 Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. Universalists contradict the plain teaching of the Word.

    You said:
    Election, for the universalist, is neither limited nor conditional but is rooted in merciful character of God.

    And then you state, some lines later:
    Christian universalists believe that, apart from a corporate salvation of the human race as a whole, there is no real grace and no worthwhile salvation for anyone.

    You attempt to destroy the very hope of the Christian – obviously you haven’t read, or maybe you have forgotten what is written in 1 Co 12. Christian Universalists are contrary to the historic position of the Body of Christ – the view held by the apostles. Not only that, the position held by universalists is logically inconsistent – As we would say down here “you’re between a rock and a hard place.” Consider the following comment from the Lord Jesus Christ:

    Mat 21:44 And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.

    When that rock moves…

    The Universalist is in a precarious position and this should be a warning to all “camps”. It is the inconsistency which destroys the whole position of the universalist – because he lacks the understanding to really know the Supra- and Infralapsarian. Not only should one see each “pixel” in a picture but the whole picture as the artist intended – therefore, sublapsarianism shows a poor understanding of the Word of God, God’s power, and might. It is nothing but the attempt by mere men to understand by their own minds what LOVE means to the Three Persons of the Trinity. It is obvious from your comments that you think that God’s wrath is in contradiction with His mercy and His Love – you are sadly mistaken! And so is every universalist.

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