Functional Universalism

Well, Rob Bell certainly stirred up a lot of commotion very quickly with his promo video for, and the release of, his book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. The conversations and blogs about his book, and the topic of Universalism overall, exploded overnight, and then seem to have died out just as quickly. Pastor David Platt, author of Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, offers a different perspective, and a strong challenge to those who profess Christ as Lord, Savior, and Treasure.

Platt recently Tweeted a link to his video blog with a headline of:The Gospel, India, and Rob Bell: Do We Really Believe What We’re Saying?

He hit to the core of something that I find myself struggling with daily: functional universalism. Functional universalism is when we intellectually acknowledge that people apart from Christ will go to Hell when they die, but we don’t act on these beliefs. It’s not a question of bad theology or doctrine, it’s a question of bad practice. We live in a society that embraces tolerance politically, and we allow that to carry over to our faith. We tolerate our walking by hell-bent people on a daily basis, and in the name of tolerance we’ve become immune to the expressions of people crying out for help. We convince ourselves that we “don’t have the gift of evangelism” because we’re too shy, too outgoing, it’s too rainy, it’s too sunny, Baylor managed to win a football game, we think we don’t know enough to answer the questions people will ask, or think we know too much to explain things simply to non-Christians or new believers.

There are some who are uniquely gifted toward evangelism, just as there are some who are uniquely gifted toward being pastors, but like a pastoral gifting, it’s meant to help the church to be faithful in getting it’s members to do that same work themselves. A pastor’s job is to lead and direct God’s people, yes, but also to equip the church to do the same thing in smaller contexts (ex. a husband pastoring his family). So it is with someone gifted toward evangelism, they are there to equip the church for evangelism in contexts smaller than running an evangelism ministry, one on one scenarios, intentionally building relationships with non-Christians for the purpose of sharing the gospel (Eph. 4:11-12).

As Christians, we must not only have the right ideas about what the Bible says, we have to put it into practice as well. How we do that may vary from person to person, but all Christians have the same command, to love God and love people, and our obedience to this command is reflected by our fulfilling our commission to preach the gospel with our lives and with our lips.

As Christians, we must live missionally for His glory, our good, and the joy of all peoples.

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