Monday, August 14, 2017

Evangelical Anarchy & Chaos

Truths We Believe About God, Part 11
Conclusion: Part 1 

A Biblical & Theological Rejection of Wm. Paul Young’s book Lies We Believe About God*

By Pastor Larry DeBruyn 

“Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you worthless; They speak a vision of their own heart, Not from the mouth of the Lord. They continually say to those who despise Me, “The Lord has said, ‘You shall have peace’”; And to everyone who walks according to the dictates of his own heart, they say, ‘No evil shall come upon you.’”
—Emphasis added, Jeremiah 23:16-17, NKJV

Evangelical Anarchy & Chaos
m. Paul Young admits The Shack is a story, but that it's wrapped in theology. Readers are thus challenged to discover the theology behind The Shack, and this has been the purpose of my interaction with Young’s book Lies We Believe About God. “Strictly, theology is that which is thought and said concerning God.”[111] So what does Young think and communicate about God? What is his theology which underlies Young’s writings?

It has been demonstrated that God’s Word is not core to Young’s beliefs. The assumption of Young’s big story, one contradicting Scripture, is that God is reconciled to everybody and everybody’s reconciled to God—that from time immemorial all people either now have or will develop a loving relationship with God. That The Shack has sold upwards of twenty-two million copies and the movie has attained star status indicates the “feel good” message of Universalism has become popular among evangelical Christians. So what’s going on here? It all begins with authority because theology is based on authority, on God’s Word, the Bible.

As they look at the development of American pan-evangelicalism over the last decades, conservative Christians try to understand and explain the phenomena of both the book (2007) and movie The Shack (2017). Beliefs that were subtly implied and peddled by author Wm. Paul Young in The Shack are now openly declared in his non-fictional work Lies We Believe About God, in which he claims to expose lies commonly accepted as truths among evangelicals. To expose the twenty-eight lies he believes plague evangelicalism’s collective psyche, the author cleverly frames arguments around his impressions, experiences, conversations, questions, misrepresented Bible verses, and personal convictions. In his “conversation” with his readers, he intends for his core beliefs to influence theirs and that they too will reject lies they believe about God. After all, if what he exposes are really lies, shouldn’t readers embrace Young’s truths?

So as he wrote The Shack to explain to his children what he had grown to believe about God, ten years later he’s written a sort-of-theology Lies We Believe About God to make credible what he believes about God to his followers. Many pastors and Christian leaders have spoken out and written against The Shack, and their criticism has not been well received by those who love the book and movie.

Universalism Undeterred 
Wayne Jacobsen, who collaborated with Young in writing writing The Shack, did so knowing that Young’s belief in universal reconciliation not only contradicted what he believed about salvation but also would offend, at least initially, mainstream evangelicals who possessed a superficial and cultural acquaintance with the Gospel. So Jacobsen attempted to help Young clean up obvious and offensive references to Universalism the first manuscripts of The Shack. Through their discussions, Jacobsen thought he had influenced Young to move away from Universalism toward a more traditional view of salvation, and in the editing process overt evidences of Young’s Universalism became obscured. Thus when critics arose who rejected the book’s humanization of God and undertones of Universalism, Jacobsen pejoratively labeled them hostile conspirators and defended both Young and his religious story-narrative-allegory he helped to edit. After all, criticism of Young was indirectly criticism of him. So one of the questions Jacobsen addressed to defend Young was: “Does The Shack promote Ultimate Reconciliation (UR)?”[112]

Jacobsen admitted the theme of universal reconciliation “was in earlier versions because of the author’s partiality at the time to some aspects of what people call UR,” but that both he and Young came to an understanding which he thought “affected” the author’s view of salvation. In other words, in the give and take of the editing process Young grew out of believing in UR. So Jacobsen excused Young as follows: “Holding him [Young] to the conclusions he may have embraced years earlier would be unfair to the ongoing process of God in his life and theology.”[113] So in answer to the question, “Does The Shack promote Ultimate Reconciliation (UR)?” Jacobsen categorically denied, “It does not.”[114] Yet a decade later in his book Lies We Believe About God, in refuting what he calls the lie “You need to get saved.” (Chapter 13), Wm. Paul Young “outs” his personal belief in Universalism. In the conversation he’s having with readers he writes,

Are you [Paul Young asks of himself] suggesting that everyone is saved?
That you believe in universal salvation?
That is exactly what I am saying!
This is real good news!
(LWBAG, 118) 

So as we look at what is happening in the religious conglomerate called evangelicalism, we ask, how has the movement grown so insensitive to the Gospel which it once accepted? That TBN (the Trinity Broadcasting Network) recently completed a 20 episode series “Restoring The Shack” featuring Wm. Paul Young, who also appeared on the Oprah show, indicates the authority of the evangel has been lost amidst entertainment.[115] As he rides the wave of celebrity, Young appears comfortable in peddling his synthesis of quasi Christianity and New Age and New Spiritual beliefs, and it appears that professing Christians are eating, or should I say buying, it up. So it must be asked, how did evangelicalism transition from Bible teachers like Dr. M.R. DeHaan (1891-1965) of the Radio Bible Class and Theodore Epp (1907-1985) of Back to the Bible to evangelists like Billy Graham (1918- ) and now to faith innovators like Wm. Paul Young (1955- )?[116] Did these early Bible teachers create a climate in which lies could flourish?

A Question of Authority 
“Ideas have consequences” is a phrase that has been often repeated, and nothing is more consequential and devastating to the Christian faith than thinking that one, the Bible, though it may contain the word of God or be a record of people’s experiences with God, is not the transcendently sourced inspired and authoritative Word from of God; and two, that the Scriptures are not determinative as to what Christians should believe, what they should not believe, how they should not behave, and how they should behave (2 Timothy 3:16). When Christians jettison the idea that Scripture’s authority without and external to themselves, spiritual anarchy results. Much group Bible study involves participants saying, I feel this verse means this or that. But the Bible means what it means and says what it says despite what I might personally think or feel. Preachers have popularly proclaimed, “The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it!” I would change this to: The Bible says it, that settles it! God’s Word is God’s Word independent of whether I believe it or not. If people believe whatever might suit a contemporary whim or fancy, and we fundamentalists and evangelicals are not immune from doing this, then what they believe about God is sourced within them, and such individualism is naturalism. Absent any coherence provided by the external authority of God in His Word, then everyman will believe and do whatever... whatever... they want. “In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6; 21:25). About such a condition of faith and life, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) wrote:

The choice for us today is really as simple as it was for those first Christians in the early days. We either accept this authority [i.e., The Scriptures] or else we accept the authority of ‘modern knowledge’, modern science, human understanding, human ability. It is one or the other.[117] 

We, all of us, need to quit philosophizing and legalizing our faith and get back to God’s Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Gospel and the Bible!

God’s Immanence, God’s Transcendence 
For centuries naturalism has asserted itself against Christianity in western civilization, and the church, more or less, buys into it. The Christian faith must be adapted to fit nature (i.e., the culture, society or science), and nature interprets and influences man’s understanding of God. Thus earth is viewed as the replica of heaven, “As above, so below.” (See John 8:21-24) God is viewed to be no longer transcendent over or independent of the material universe (dualism), but rather immanent and dependent upon the material universe (monism). When as promoted in The Shack, this monistic worldview becomes mainstream, then the biblical God and His truth fades into obscurity for as Francis Schaffer (1912-1984) said, nature will inevitably eat up grace. Whether at either the macro or micro levels, naturalism possesses zero tolerance for supernaturalism, the theistic evolution and deistic intelligent design movements being examples. So what’s the bottom line of this transcendence-immanence business? What’s the big deal? In a story he says is as old as history, and it is, Peter Jones frames the issue for evangelicalism: “Will we worship Nature or the God who created Nature?”[118]

So to understand the current state of affairs in contemporary evangelicalism one must be aware of naturalism’s influence upon the culture in general and Christianity in particular. To this end a general understanding of evangelical Christianity in America and how naturalism has influenced it might prove helpful.

The Condition of Chaos 
Historically the theological lapse of Christianity from supernaturalism and order into naturalism and chaos might be summarized as follows. After the Pilgrim-Puritan Fathers settled in this land (1620-1691) and after the First (1730s through 1740s) and Second (Late 1790s to Mid 1800s) Great awakenings, there occurred in six interconnected and interacting movements: 1. The Rise of Liberalism (Mid to Late 1800s); 2. The Reaction of Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism (Early to Mid 1900s); 3. The Rejection of Fundamentalism by Neo-Evangelicals (Mid to Late 1900s); 4. The Romancing of Evangelicalism by early Pentecostalism and then the Charismatic movement (Early 1900s to Present); 5. The Repackaging of Evangelicalism by the Mega-Church Movement (Late 1970s to Present); and 6. The Restructuring of Evangelicalism by the Emergent Church Movement (Early 2000s to Present). The historical phases were and are....

Rationalizing the Message—Liberalism 
In their attempt to remain relevant to a changing culture during the mid to late 1800s, major Protestant seminaries, denominations and pastors began adjusting their message to suit a determinative naturalistic-scientific worldview influenced by the acceptance, whether in part or the whole, of evolutionary theory. Trying to keep in step with the scientific elite and materialistic culture, liberals jettisoned belief in the “embarrassing” creation account of Genesis in favor of viewing the opening chapters of the Bible to be myth. As a result and given the interconnectedness of the rest of the Bible with Genesis, other biblical and supernatural beliefs began to fall like dominoes. Denominational hierarchies grew out of touch with some of their membership who remained Bible believers. Where could these believers go to find fellowship with others of like precious faith?

Reacting to Liberalism—Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism
So across denominational lines these believers sought the encouragement from and with others of like-minded faith. Their fellowship centered upon five essential and supernatural fundamentals of the faith to which they agreed—the inspiration, inerrancy and authority of the Bible, Jesus’ virgin-birth and incarnation, His substitutionary atonement on the Cross for sin, His physical resurrection from the dead, and His promised personal return to earth. This rejection of naturalism by Bible believers was called “fundamentalism.” That the movement attracted a significant number of followers became evidenced by the Bible conferences that were held and the Bible believing seminaries (Westminster, Dallas, Fuller, etc.), colleges, churches, independent faith missions and publishing houses that were founded. Because of its emphasis upon the Gospel (good news, the evangel, Greek euangelion), this network of independent fundamental Christians and institutions also became known as “evangelicalism.” Bible believers found a home in which naturalism did not oppress their faith, and for about fifty years all seemed to go well.

Reservations about Fundamentalism—the Neo-Evangelicals 
After World War II during the late 1940s through the 1960s, a spirit of discontent settled over some evangelicals (traditional fundamentalists were not similarly disaffected). Tired with some of the movement’s censorious attitude toward liberal Christians and Roman Catholics along with its disregard for advancements in science (evolutionary theory, quantum physics, etc.), in biblical scholarship (historical and higher criticism regarding the origin and authorship of the biblical books) and the need to be socially relevant (the social gospel, i.e., “WWJD”), evangelical leaders and scholars began to distance themselves from separatistic and “narrow minded” fundamentalists and their churches and institutions. This protest movement became known as New or Neo-Evangelicalism.

Generally, new-evangelicalism de-emphasized the local church and founded parachurch ministries to compensate for what they thought were the fundamentalism’s deficiencies, ministries such as the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Christianity Today magazine, Youth for Christ International, Campus Crusade for Christ, Christian publishing houses, etc. With varying emphases, some biblical and others not, most of these ministries remain within evangelicalism today. But philosophical naturalism with its emphasis upon rationalism and evolutionary theory, continues to influence the collective mind and soul of the evangelical movement both from within and without. The world, always the enemy of God, continues to exert pressure upon Christians to conform (1 John 2:15-17). And not immune from these pressures, evangelicalism continued to host naturalism. As such, evangelicals no longer felt in their hearts that which their minds no longer believed.

Reviving the Message—the Charismatics! 
Parallel with the rise of Neo-Evangelicalism, first the Pentecostal (Early 1900s to the Present) and then the Charismatic (Middle 1900s to Present) movements influenced the soul of evangelicalism in America. By the rousing up emotion for Jesus, the Charismatic movement with its emphasis upon supernatural “signs and wonders” revived feelings of faith which since the days of the manipulative evangelist Charles G. Finney (1792-1875) had lain dormant because of naturalism’s intrusion upon the collective evangelical mind and soul. These movements remain viable and influential among persons considering themselves to be evangelicals. But despite the influence of these movements, the 60s generation, “the baby boomers,” grew to feel disconnected from the traditional church religion their parents passively and nominally embraced.

Repackaging Church—the Church Growth Movement 
So new strategies and methods of doing church were conceived during the 1970s and 80s in institutions like Fuller Seminary and its connection with Leadership Network, and by leaders such as C. Peter Wagner (1930-2016) and management consultant Peter Drucker (1909-2005), methods designed within a naturalistic framework to produce predictable results, namely church growth. So evangelicalism was repackaged to attract the bored-with-traditional-church crowd of “baby boomers.”

The church growth movement revised church “worship” to accommodate the contemporary tastes of those born during the late 1940s through the 1960s, accommodations which included entertaining worship teams performing upbeat rock music accompanied by special effects, cultivating a casual atmosphere by encouraging people to dress informally and providing coffee, communicating psychologized messages designed to meet people’s “felt needs” and make them feel good about themselves, and providing full service ministries for the whole family. In the church growth movement the consumer became king and influential pastors, taking their cues from Bob Schuller (1926-2015), conceived of doing church the “Purpose Driven” (Rick Warren) and “Willow Creek” (Bill Hybels) ways, both of which employed “tricks of the trade” learned from the master maestro of “The Crystal Cathedral.” (By the way, The Crystal Cathedral is no more. It went bankrupt.) Churches became “welcome centers” employing user-friendly management techniques and schmoozing-seeker-sensitive messages to reach the disconnected generation of “baby boomers” who felt the church to be irrelevant to the materialistic and well-adjusted life they wanted and pursued, and on the surface at least, the new management, method and message appears to have worked, especially in affluent suburbia America. Manipulate... manipulate... manipulate....

Evangelicalism in Chaos 
This confusing, incoherent, chaotic and disparate mix (i.e., Traditional Fundamentalists, Evangelicals, Neo-evangelicals, Dispensationalists, Reformed, Calvinists, Neo-Calvinists, Open Theists, Pentecostals, Charismatics, the Jesus Movement, the Latter Rain Movement, the New Apostolic Reformation, Trinity Broadcasting Network followers, Evangelical Radio and Television Preachers, Evangelical Publishers, Fuller Theological Seminary, Leadership Network, Purpose Driven and Willow Creek, Contemplative Spirituality—Richard Foster, etc., the Emergent Church movement, and much more) I years ago referred to as “pan-evangelicalism.” By the way, though confusing on the surface, not everything in this mix is bad. Nevertheless, in one of his books Francis Schaeffer warned of The Great Evangelical Disaster.[119] We are now living in the disaster.

That many evangelicals have become disaffected by being part of the evangelical chaos and seek structure, stability and authority for their faith may be indicated by their defection into Eastern Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism, the recent conversion of the Bible Answer Man’s Hank Hanegraaff into Orthodoxy being a case in point (many others like Thomas Howard, Elisabeth Elliot’s brother, and Frank Schaeffer, Francis Schaeffer’s son, preceded him).[120] James Stamoolis, who has written on the defection of evangelicals to “this older iteration of Christianity,” ascribes it to “the whole idea of authority,” and with the movement’s defection from believing in the inspiration and authority of the Bible, evangelicalism now espouses spiritual anarchy. So Stamoolis adds, “I know a lot of people who have converted from Protestantism to Catholicism and Orthodoxy because it’s fixed. It’s settled.”[121] 
Hank Hanegraaff became Orthodox (Source)

Rescuing the Gospel—the Emergent Church 
But as the entertainment phase of doing church wanes (it doesn’t take long for the bored to get bored again with the entertainment business called church), influential leaders and authors, who are really liberals, have arisen within the ranks of the evangelical movement. These individuals think and propose that change is again needed, that the aging, wrinkled and self-centered evangelical movement has grown out of touch with the needs of the world and had better get its act and message together or die and like an empty ship go drifting in the cultural sea of irrelevancy and obscurity. So to become relevant to our secularized culture, these voices view that evangelicalism doesn’t need another “face lift” (the mega-church has already tried doing that that), but a “mind lift.” Strong sentiment therefore exists in the emerging church that after decades of “lifts,” adjustments and readjustments, the church still hasn’t got the Gospel right.

As the mega-church movement centers upon methods, management strategies, music styles and psychologized preaching, the emergent church now attempts to adjust and adapt its message by creating a new “missional” narrative to fit an evolutionary “kingdom now” theology (which in its postmillennialism, denies the futuristic prophecies of Jesus, the prophets and the apostles). Thus, emergent church leaders focus upon such “now” issues as developing a sense community in the church (something lost in the mega-church), discovering a real, more authentic and more relevant historical Jesus, advocating a “green” worldview including an ecological message, and attending to social and political justice issues, communicating a more inclusive gospel message, and so forth. To get its message across, the emergent church attempts to create a new story to attract new believers from the crowd of secular skeptics and doubters like millennial youth who have grown to see “entertainment church” as being too self-centered to have any real impact on the modern world. (About this they are so right.)

Now that we have seen what has gone on in “the church of what’s happening now” we could ask, where might evangelicalism be going? My answer would be evangelicalism is going to go where it’s been going, and that’s deeper and deeper into naturalism and this philosophy’s inherent demand for pantheism, mysticism and universalism—that everything is spiritual, and that everyone is saved. The ingredients of naturalism are evident in Wm. Paul Young writings. He became the popular communicator of the new framing story coming out of the emergent church. He is on the cutting edge. Mark this also: When Young’s star begins to fade, and it will, someone else will assume the mantle of a false prophet. Someone else will arise to promote universalism. Nevertheless, into this evangelical chaos enter Wm. Paul Young and others...

Conclusion: Part 2 to follow...

[111] Geoffrey W. Bromiley, “Theology,” Baker’s Dictionary of Theology, Everett F. Harrison, Editor (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1960): 518. 
[112] Wayne Jacobsen, “Is THE SHACK Heresy,” Life Stream, March 4, 2008 ( 
[113] Ibid. 
[114] Ibid. 
[115] Wm. Paul Young, “Restoring the Shack,” TBN, Episodes 1-20, March 5-July 9, 2017 ( See also interview by Oprah Winfrey of William Paul Young, “If Love Is Forced, That’s No Love at All,” SuperSoulSunday, Season 8, Episode 801, July 9, 2017 ( 
[116] There is also a glut of other popular entertainer-communicators who also played a role in the historical transition between historic evangelicalism and modernity, names like Peale, Schuller, Warren, Hybels, Osteen and more. See Pastor Larry DeBruyn, “Bewitched: Evil Eye Over Evangelicalism,” Discernment Newsletter, March/April 2010, Volume 21, Number 2 ( See also Paul Smith, New Evangelicalism: The New World Order (Costa Mesa, CA: Calvary Publishing, 2011). Paul has particularly insightful observations about Charles Fuller, the founding of the seminary bearing his name, and that seminary’s fall into modernism. See also Harold Lindsell, The Battle for the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976): “The Strange Case of Fuller Theological Seminary,” 106-121, and “Other Denominations and Parachurch Groups,” 122-140. 
[117] D. Martyn Lloyd Jones, Authority (Chicago, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1958); 60. 
[118] Peter Jones, “Preface,” On Global Wizardry: Techniques of Pagan Spirituality and A Christian Response, Peter Jones, Editor (Escondido, CA: Main Entry Editions, 2010): 15. 
[119] Francis A. Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1984). “Have Christians compromised their stand on truth and morality until there is almost nothing they will speak out against? Has the evangelical church sold out to the world?” This is the question the book asks. 
[120] Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra, “‘Bible Answer Man’ Converts to Orthodoxy: CRI’s Hank Hanegraaff joined the Greek Orthodox Church on Palm Sunday,” Christianity Today, April 12, 2017 ( 
[121] “Why Orthodoxy Appeals to Hank Hanegraaff and Other Evangelicals,” Christianity Today, April 20, 2017 (

*Read the previous articles in this series:
Part 1: Truths We Believe About God 
Part 2: Doing the Universalist Twist 
Part 3: OUR Way or THE Way? 
Part 4: An Imaginary Cosmic Reality 
Part 5: Universalism & Trinitization 
Part 6: A Catena: The Chain of “All” 
Part 7: A Catena: Universalism's Troubles With “All
Part 8: A Catena: Universalism's “World” and “Everyone” 
Part 9: A Catena: The “Catenization” of Universalism 
Part 10: Pretending Evil Doesn't Exist

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Discernment, Devotion and Division


[Ed. Note: This post was requested by Pastor Larry DeBruyn to be included at this point in the sequence of his multi-part series (see previous post) reviewing the Universalism inherent in Wm. Paul Young's recent book Lies We Believe About God. Pastor Larry felt that this word of exhortation, just before his final conclusion, would be a good reminder to those who believe in Jesus Christ to hold fast to the faith.]

Bio: Ruth Paxson
Ruth Paxson (1889-1949) was Bible teacher, missionary, and author. Born in Manchester, Iowa in 1889, and accepted Christ as her personal Savior when a child. She graduated from the State University of Iowa, and afterward spent one year at Moody Bible Institute. She served as YWCA secretary for Iowa and eventually traveled as secretary for the Student Volunteer Movement. Sponsored by the YWCA, in 1911, Ruth sailed for the mission field in China. Later she left that work to devote herself to evangelism and summer Bible teaching among missionaries in China. In that country her Bible lessons to pastors, evangelists, and teachers during the 1920s were well received. In response to requests from both Chinese and missionary friends, the lessons were expanded and originally published in three volumes, now combined in a one-volume edition of Life On the Highest Plane. 

Leaving China for health reasons, Miss Paxson went to Switzerland; then followed a period of Bible teaching on the European continent and at the Keswick Bible Conference in England. For fifteen years prior to World War II, Miss Paxson, with her friend and companion of 34 years, Miss Edith Davis, also a gifted Bible teacher, ministered the Word of God in various countries, including Holland. In Amsterdam alone there were forty-five Bible classes taught by people to whom these two Bible teachers had ministered previously. 

In 1947, Miss Paxson, with a traveling companion, flew across the Atlantic to minister the Word of God in Europe and at Keswick, England. The impact of the testimony and Bible teaching ministry of Miss Paxson has been felt around the world because of the circulation of her books. Miss Paxson was called Home to be with the Lord, October 1, 1949. This selection is taken from the third volume contained in her one volume book, Life On the Highest Plane.[1] In this selection she writes that one “relationship” to which the Spirit calls all Christians is discernment (See 1 John 2:18-27.). 

Note: To this point, we can contrast Wm. Paul Young’s emphasis upon “relationship” in The Shack (“We are a circle of relationship... Submission.... is all about relationships of love and respect.” (The Shack, 122, 145) Centuries ago Paxson wrote about relationships, but not the kind of relationships Young would stand for; that in days of “deepening apostasy” God calls every spiritual Christian “to three things: discernment, devotion and division.” Nine decades ago Ruth Paxson wrote this encouraging word to Christians who engage in their relationship with God and His Word through discernment [2]:

Prophecy of Apostasy
Under the inspiration of the divine Spirit Paul foretold the apostasy that would sweep the entire professing Church and would eat at its very vitals. Into a veritable whirlpool of doubt, disbelief and disloyalty multitudes would be drawn.

1 TIM. 4:1-2, R. V., “But the Spirit saith expressly, that in the later times some shall fall away from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons, through the hypocrisy of men that speak lies, branded in their own conscience as with a hot iron.” 

2 TIM. 4:3-4, R. V., “For the time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts; ...And will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables.” 

Deception and Departure within Christendom
No Spirit-taught student of the Word of God and of the universal condition of Christendom doubts that the day of this prophesied apostasy is already upon us. In the churches of the mission field as well as in those of the homelands this declension from the true faith and this disloyalty to Him who is the Truth is in everyday evidence. (In China about twenty-five hundred missionaries, representing all denominations and nationalities, united in a Bible Union as a testimony before the native Christians of their loyalty to Jesus Christ and to His Word, and as a protest to the inroads of Modernism, into a field where for more than one hundred years the pure Gospel seed had been sown and nurtured by thousands of missionaries loyal to Christ and to His truth.)

Today many religious leaders in all parts of Christendom have departed from the faith and are openly in revolt against the truth. They will not endure sound doctrine but are actively declaring war upon the foundational truths of Christianity. Just last week a minister, still occupying an evangelical pulpit, was assisting in the ordination of a Unitarian minister. On that occasion he made this pronouncement, “The Church is in revolt against Fundamentalism and Puritanism,” which means that he is openly in favor of Liberalism and License. Such men are at heart Unitarian because they deny every truth of the Word which makes the Lord Jesus Christ the unique Son of God. Their place is entirely outside the evangelical Church and, if they practiced even the most elementary principles of the ethical gospel which they preach, they would pack up their ecclesiastical belongings, depart from the evangelical pulpit, and establish themselves either with their Unitarian brethren or seek virgin soil in which to plant their tares.

But they have no intention whatever of leaving the evangelical pulpit, rather they purpose deliberately to stretch forth their hands and stealthily lay hold upon the entire machinery of the Church both at home and upon the mission field and secure its control. They usually are such adepts in the manipulation of language that through the use of “good words and fair speeches” (Romans 16:18) they deceive even the true people of God. They preach sermons filled with the rankest poison but sugarcoated with sweet words and eloquent phrases, patronizing the Jesus of history. Only those who have the discernment which the Holy Spirit alone gives detect the deception. And, when the men and women who love their Lord better than they love their own lives cry out in protest against such high-handed dishonesty, they have the blatant effrontery to charge them with bringing division into the Church and to accuse them with lack of love.

The conflict between Fundamentalism and Modernism is dividing organized Christianity in twain. There are some who live near the border line of both camps who earnestly desire neutrality between these opposing forces. They plead for unity; they plan for union; they pray for unanimity. But those who live at the headquarters of both camps know that this can never be. The only unity which the Bible enjoins is “the unity of the Spirit” which is based on “one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God.”

Such unity is not something which we attempt to “make” but rather is something already created by the Holy Spirit which we “keep.” Such unity does not “become” for it “is” wherever there is oneness in Christ Jesus. This and only this is the unity for which our Lord prayed and which He expects of His children.

EPH 4: 3-6,Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” 

Such unity can never exist between Fundamentalism and Modernism for they are as far apart as darkness and light, as death and life. Let me quote from an editorial of The Christian Century:

The God of the Fundamentalist is one God; the God of the Modernist is another. The Christ of the Fundamentalist is one Christ; the Christ of the Modernist is another. The Bible of Fundamentalism is one Bible; the Bible of Modernism is another. The Church, the kingdom, the salvation, the consummation of all things--these are one thing to the Fundamentalist and another thing to the Modernist. Which God is the Christian God, which Christ is the Christian Christ, which Bible is the Christian Bible, which church, which kingdom, which salvation, which consummation are the Christian Church, the Christian kingdom, the Christian salvation, the Christian consummation? The future will tell. You may sing ‘Blest be the tie’ till doomsday, but it cannot bind these worlds together. 

Thus according to the testimony of Modernism itself we see that between Fundamentalism and Modernism a great gulf is fixed which nothing or no one can bridge. The issue admits of no neutrality. Loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ demands that every Christian study to know and declare himself either for or against the Christ of the Fundamentalist or the Christ of the Modernist. In such a conflict as this silence is cowardice, nay, it may even be construed to be desertion and treachery. Loyalty to God in these difficult days of deepening apostasy calls every Christian to three things; discernment, devotion and division.

The Call for Discernment 
Christians should be able to discern between false and true teaching even when the former is given in its most subtle form, so that there shall not be the slightest deviation from the truth of God’s Word. It is not enough to believe God’s truth, we are to “walk” in it.

2 JOHN 1-4, “The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth; for the truth’s sake, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us for ever.... I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father.” 

3 JOHN 3-4, “For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” 

Discernment requires watchfulness; it required a continuous prayerful study under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit of God’s Word and a careful comparison of what one hears and reads with what one studies. Paul told the Ephesian elders that from among themselves men would arise speaking perverse things to draw men away after them and cautioned them to watch and to remember his warnings.

ACTS 20:31-32,Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. And now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.” 

He warned Timothy to be on his guard continuously against false teaching and unsound doctrine.

2 TIM. 4:3, 5, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” 

He warned the Christians against deception and urged them to become adults in the faith that they might always be able to discern the false and the true.

EPH. 5:6,Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of Cod upon the children of disobedience.” 

EPH. 4:14,That we henceforth he no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” 

The Call for Devotion
Loyalty to the Lord Jesus demands devotion to the truth at any cost as the Holy Spirit has taught us. When men and women everywhere are departing from the faith, possibly even members of our own family and our friends, God asks of us a faithfulness to the faith of our fathers that beats no retreat.

2 TIM. 3:14, “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them.” 

2 TIM. 4:7, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” 

1 COR. 16:13, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.” 

2 TIM. 1:13,Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou host heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” 

Devotion to Jesus Christ calls us to a loyalty to truth that brooks no neutrality. It even challenges us to take our place in the front ranks and “to fight the good fight of faith.”

1 TIM. 6:12, Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.” 

JUDE 3-4, “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered livered unto the saints.... For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

The Call for Division 
There is pseudo-union in Christendom today that is tantamount to dishonoring disloyalty. Its slogan is “For the sake of peace we must have union even at the cost of truth.” It bids the Fundamentalist sit silently while the Modernist seeks and secures control of the machinery of the Church both at home and abroad. If he protests he is accused of being divisive.

As one studies the gospel of Matthew he will find a place where the Lord Jesus Christ made a definite, deliberate break with the men who had willfully rejected Him. There was a clean-cut cleavage between Him and the religious leaders of that day and He withdrew from them and from that time on devoted Himself exclusively to those who were His own.

We have not only His example but we have the clear teaching of Scripture to guide us in this very delicate and difficult matter. God calls His children into complete separation from all those who are traitors to the truth. He commands His loyal ones to have no fellowship with them and not to be partakers of their sins.

1 TIM. 6:3-5, “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome some words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine trine which is according to godliness; ...He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings,... Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness, from such withdraw thyself.” 

2 JOHN 9-11, “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.... If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.” 
Such loyalty to the Lord Jesus is bound to mean suffering to the man or woman of sensitive spirit. It will incur a persecution as real as anything endured by the Christians of the first century, even though of a different nature. The intellectuals of the twentieth century consign the conservative to the slums of scholarship and the worldlings regard him as an antique. But for the joy that is set before him the Fundamentalist endures the ignominy and reproach of the cross.

2 TIM. 3:12, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” 

2 TIM. 1:8, “Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me, his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the Gospel according to the power of God.”

[1] Ruth Paxson, Life on the Highest Plane: A Study of the Spiritual Nature and Needs of Man (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1928): III. 230-238. The bio is taken from the dust jacket of the book. As a personal and sentimental aside, I inherited a copy of this book (3 volumes in one) from the estate of my Aunt Leona Hertel (1917-2009) who until her retirement ministered with the Radio Bible Class from its beginning under Dr. M.R. DeHaan. Like Paxson, she too was a single woman who served the Lord all her life. 
[2] Bold headings have been added by me to help readers trace the movement of Paxson’s thematic statements about the relationships of a spiritual person.

Ed. Note: See the archived Ruth Paxson's book Life on the Highest Plane at:

Volume 1: The Person and Work of Christ
Volume 2: The Relation between Christ and the Christian  

Volume 3: The Believer's Response to the Holy Spirit's Inworking

Friday, July 28, 2017

Pretending Evil Doesn't Exist

Truths We Believe About God, Part 10

A Biblical & Theological Rejection of Wm. Paul Young’s book, Lies We Believe About God

Part 1: Truths We Believe About God 
Part 2: Doing the Universalist Twist 
Part 3: OUR Way or THE Way? 
Part 4: An Imaginary Cosmic Reality 
Part 5: Universalism & Trinitization 
Part 6: A Catena: The Chain of “All”
Part 7: A Catena: Universalism's Troubles With “All 
Part 8: A Catena: Universalism's “World” and “Everyone” 
Part 9: A Catena: The “Catenization” of Universalism  

By Pastor Larry DeBruyn
Electric barbed wire at Dachau
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord,
shall enter into the kingdom of heaven;
but he that doeth the will
of my Father which is in heaven.”

—Jesus, Matthew 7:21, Emphasis added.

A Review of the Book's Chapters, Concluded
“A Final Word from Dietrich Bonhoeffer” and Acknowledgments

Dietrich Bonhoeffer 
Paul Young concludes his book by drawing upon the emotional memory of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) who has achieved iconic status among evangelicals. Bonhoeffer is to be admired for opposing the evil of the Reich and paying the ultimate sacrifice for his resistance. But as Young’s quotations from Bonhoeffer’s book Ethics indicate, he apparently believed in universal salvation.[104] (LWBAG, 249-250) As William Macleod assessed:

Bonhoeffer was a universalist, believing in the eventual salvation of all. He wrote that there is no part of the world, no matter how godless, which is not accepted by God and reconciled with God in Jesus Christ. Whoever looks on the body of Jesus Christ in faith can no longer speak of the world as if it were lost, as if it were separated from Christ. Every individual will eventually be saved in Christ.[105]

The soteriology (teaching about salvation) articulated by Wm. Paul Young and C. Baxter Kruger (that Jesus’ incarnation revealed His primordial identification with humanity, that all people were positioned in Him before creation, LWBAG, 9-10, 119) bears similarity to that of Bonhoeffer’s; that people are saved not because Jesus atoned for their sins on the cross, but rather that from before time they shared being in union with Christ. Thus Jesus’ incarnation becomes a cosmic announcement of His identification with humanity and their salvation for reason of their being in Him.

Ignoring the Fall, the entrance of sin into the world and the curse upon creation (Genesis 3:1-7, 17-19; Romans 5:18-21), universalists believe the incarnation was the event which shows that from eternity all humanity was, is and forever will be united with Jesus inside the Trinity. Jesus’ incarnation and suffering highlighted His identification with humanity and that corporately, they shared in Jesus’ suffering, death, burial, resurrection and ascension. The incarnation was the event in which God wrapped His arms around humans to remind them that they’re not alone in a suffering universe, but that they really do live, move and have their being inside Jesus and the loving Trinity (Acts 17:28). Hugs all around! To quote Macleod again,

Indeed Bonhoeffer [ed., as Young and Kruger] would argue that we are saved by the incarnation—Christ taking our nature—rather than by His atoning death. He taught that in the body of Jesus Christ, God is united with humanity, all of humanity is accepted by God, and the world is reconciled with God.[106]

Curious it is however, that Bonhoeffer’s belief in universalism did not translate into the reality of his earthly ministry. As the apostate Reich Church began to dominate Germany, many pastors believed Adolf Hitler was another Christ. So opposing that church, Bonhoeffer established a seminary to train pastors to minister in congregations that shunned the Reich Church. This seminary, the ministerial alliance and these congregations belonged to the “Confessing Church” and opposed and separated from the Nazi religion.[107] Bonhoeffer’s separation from the Reich Church may indicate he was not the universalist some make him out to have been. Nevertheless when good confronts evil, subtle or blatant, “life together” does become impractical; that is, if evil is still going to be considered evil.

The Nuremburg Trials (1945-1949) during which Nazi villains were prosecuted bear this out. Human courts, lawyers and judges did not prosecute those accused of crimes against humanity because they did good but because they committed evil. Good and evil are not mutually acceptable in courts of law. So if evil and good do not belong together in history then neither will they exist together in eternity. Love does not provide cover for evil by pretending evil never existed. God, if He’s just and demands fair play in life, can’t just smooth evil over. That’s why, like it or not, the penal substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ on the Cross was necessary and why there’s a heaven on the one hand and a hell on the other. 

Sometime ago I viewed a cable TV talk show (The O’Reilly Factor) in which the host—in the context of the controversy raised by the publication of Rob Bell’s book Love Wins—interviewed a pastor and psychologist-counselor who like Bell believed in universal salvation; that in the afterlife, no eternal reality will exist called Hell. The dialog took place as follows:

Pastor McKinney: “No, I don’t believe in a literal Hell. I think it’s a historical and theological mistake.”
Bill O’Reilly: “Do you believe in a literal Heaven?”
McKinney: “Ah (smiling contentedly and assuredly), I do!”
O’Reilly: “Okay, so that means you’re going to see Adolph up there. Say hello to him for me, ’cause I got to tell you, I don’t want to be anywhere near him.”[108] 
As evident from that exchange, it can be seen that the idea of universal reconciliation conflicts with the sense of fair play residing in the human conscience (Romans 2:15). So while Young calls the passages from Bonhoeffer “a” final word, we can rest assured that the paragraphs are not “the” last word. That word belongs to neither Young nor Bonhoeffer, but to God, and He has already spoken that word in His Son (Hebrews 1:1-2).

Further, by diminishing the cross of Christ as a necessary component of the Gospel (“that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,” 1 Corinthians 15:3) a question needs to be asked: Do not universalists, who believe and teach that everybody’s saved, reveal they are in fact “enemies of the cross” of Christ? (Philippians 3:18)? After all, who needs the cross if everybody’s going to heaven anyway? In the next verse in the same context the Apostle adds about teachers whose faith and life do not jive with the Apostolic message and example, that “[their] end is destruction... [their] God is their belly, and [their] glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things” (Philippians 2:19). In that Young and Kruger preach a salvation that’s earth-centric—that everything’s inside the Trinity—does this not indicate they’re minding earthly things?

  • Young: Young tells readers that his book Lies We Believe About God, “is built on Christology, the question of who Jesus Christ is.” He adds that, “most of the lies we believe about God” stem from “inadequate and often pathetic apprehensions of the Person of Jesus.” He concludes that because we might “believe, sadly, in a very small Jesus, our view of humanity is even smaller.” (LWBAG, 251) 
  • The Apostle Paul: “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him [Jesus], and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11; see Ephesians 1:21; compare Hebrews 2:9.). 

Comments: Think universally! Think big! Even though they seldom call Him Christ or the Lord Jesus Christ, Young and those who believe in universal reconciliation claim to honor a “big” Jesus—“Our Jesus is bigger than your Jesus!” So everyone who doesn’t believe in universalism is ridiculed as pathetically believing in a “small” Jesus. I assure you the Apostle Paul, as the above Philippians quote attests, neither believed in a small Jesus nor in universal salvation! In fact about his brethren the Jews he wrote in deep sorrow of heart: “For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Romans 9:3). Furthermore, other Prophets and Apostles of the Bible (Isaiah 9:6-7; Matthew 16:16; etc.), and for that matter Jesus Himself (Matthew 28:18), did not believe in universal reconciliation.

As has been noted previously,

one can observe that in Wm. Paul Young's novel, The Shack, Jesus is never referred to as Christ or Lord....  [W]e ought all remember that “no one can say, Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3). If we should find a deficiency within us making it difficult to refer to Jesus as “Lord” there may be an indication of a deeper problem going on within our souls....[109]

Let me say at this juncture, I will choose to believe the Apostle's testimony about the Lord Jesus Christ rather than Paul Young's about Jesus.

Berlin, 1945

To be concluded . . .

[104] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1995). Many evangelicals deny that when considered in their totality, Bonhoeffer’s writings indicate he was a universalist. At the time of his death, His Ethics was a work in progress and perhaps not what he intended to have published. Eberhard Bethge, the editor of Ethics, wrote that the book, “is a compilation of the sections which have been preserved, some of them complete and others not, some already partly rewritten and some which had been committed to writing only as preliminary studies for the work which was planned.” (p. 11). As has been pointed out, Bonhoeffer’s actions toward the Reich in life contradicted his belief in universalism. Nevertheless, whether accurate about what he believed or not, Bonhoeffer’s words remain, and Young thereby seeks Bonhoeffer’s support for his universalism.
[105] William Macleod, “Bonhoeffer—A Reliable Guide?” Banner of Truth, September 23, 2016 ( Macleod acknowledges his summary of Bonhoeffer’s theology was indebted to “The Troubling Truth About Bonhoeffer’s Theology,” by Richard Weikart, Christian Research Journal, Volume 35, Number 06 (2012). 
[106] Ibid. 
[107] Mark and Barbara Galli, “Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Did You Know?” Christian History, Issue 32 (
[108] Personally transcribed from You Tube, Bill O’Reilly, “Is there a Hell?” O’Reilly Factor, April 26, 2011. Interview can be viewed on You Tube. (
[109] Pastor Larry DeBruyn, "Jesus Talk," Guarding His Flock Ministries, April 19, 2010 (

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The “Catenization” of Universalism

Truths We Believe About God, Part 9

A Biblical & Theological Rejection of Wm. Paul Young’s book, Lies We Believe About God  

Part 1: Truths We Believe About God 
Part 2: Doing the Universalist Twist 
Part 3: OUR Way or THE Way? 
Part 4: An Imaginary Cosmic Reality 
Part 5: Universalism & Trinitization 
Part 6: A Catena: The Chain of “All” 
Part 7: A Catena: Universalism's Troubles With “All
Part 8: A Catena: Universalism's “World” and “Everyone” 

By Pastor Larry DeBruyn

A Review of the Book’s Chapters

A Conclusion About Young's A Catena  
Paul Young’s A Catena exhibits thirty-four Scripture passages to support and promote among Christians his belief in universal salvation, especially those persons who reside within the spectrum of pan-evangelicalism. “I have listed a chain of scriptures, a catena, that relate directly to this conversation.” (LWBAG, 119) Note: Young calls his “chain of scriptures” (plural) A Catena when more accurately it should be titled A Catenae (Lat. plural.). If Young is intentionally using the collective singular (Catena) , then it must be concluded that the singular verses in his A Catena are to be chanted or meditated upon together as a collective unit, in one long chain; i.e., a narrative. In other words, it is a package deal. In order to describe this process, I have coined the word Catenization:

The “Whole, Every, Cosmos and Other” Passages (29-34)

The “Whole” Passage 

29. 1 John 2:2 (Berean Study Bible, emphasis Young’s): 
“He Himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world.” 

Prevalent in the ancient world was the belief that the gods were offended, and that the sacrificial rite would “atone” for the offense. In short, sacrifices to the gods were the way ancient people sought to appease their gods so that they would become kindly disposed toward them. Leon Morris wrote that, “In the ancient world the universal religious rite was sacrifice. All over that world people offered animals on their altars, trusting that their gods would accept their sacrifices and that their sins would be forgiven.”[91] In her national life in that ancient pagan world, Yahweh ordered Israel to annually observe the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16-17). The idea of “atonement” is rooted not only in the sacrificial systems of the Gentile peoples, but also by the Law God gave to Israel. But does John’s use of the word “atonement” (Greek hilasmos) in this verse to describe Jesus’ death—that He died not for our sins only but for the sins of the whole world—communicate that all humanity is therefore saved? Again the answer is, “No!”

Though Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, the whole world is not of consequence saved. John’s Gospel clearly communicated that the benefit of Jesus’ atonement applies only to those who, as Jesus stated, exercise acceptance by faith; that “whosoever believeth should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). In his last testimony about Jesus, John the Baptist bore witness to Jesus as follows: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36). So what does it mean that Jesus’ death was atonement for the sins of the whole world?

Disregarding the debate as to whether the atonement’s scope is limited (Calvinism—Jesus died only for God’s elect) or unlimited (Arminianism—Jesus died for everybody), I believe that there’s another sense in which “the atonement for the sins of the whole world” can be understood (1 John 2:2); and this against the backdrop of all the sacrificial systems prevalent in the ancient world, including Israel’s. It is this: Jesus’ “once-for-all” atonement is the only sacrifice by which people may find atoning forgiveness for their sins from God! No more sacrifices, animal or human, need be to offered by any people anywhere to obtain forgiveness. Completed in the Son, God accepts no other atonement for sin other than Jesus’. Exclusively, His atonement is for the whole world. As Jesus is “the only way” to come to the Father, so Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross is “the only basis” upon which people can find forgiveness for their sins from the Father. So this atonement statement (See also 1 John 4:10) not only forbids any continuance of sacrifices, but also sends a message that both syncretism (an ecumenical system that tries to combine—synthesize—all religions into one) and pluralism (there are many—plural—paths leading to God) are wrong, both of which Wm. Paul Young espouses (The Shack, 182). As Dick Lucas insightfully wrote:

Christians have always confessed that there is but one God; they have also found themselves in loyalty bound to confess that there is but one way to that God, the God-man Christ Jesus. He alone is the God-given mediator. God has made him the agent of reconciliation for all just because there is no other mediator capable of reconciling any.[92]

The “Every” Passages 

30. Philippians 2:10-11 (NASB, emphasis Young’s): 
“At the name of Jesus every knee will bow—of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth—and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” 

In the transition between time and eternity, all the glory in the universe will pass through the Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father. All “things celestial, and terrestrial, and subterranean” will “bow to the imperium [Lat. command, ed.] of the exalted Jesus.”[93] All beings in heaven are worshipping the Lord now and when resurrected, all persons living, whether believers, skeptics, agnostics, atheists, rebels or unbelievers will kneel, bow and publically confess, “Jesus Christ is Lord.” That every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Jesus Christ is Lord is understood by Paul Young to imply that in the end everyone in the universe will abruptly become fond of Jesus, choose relationship with Him and be saved. But one blunt statement in Philippians, as do others in Paul’s letters, contradicts such an assumption.

The Apostle exhorts the Philippians to follow his Christian example and teaching but grievously warns the congregation about those who neither follow his behavior nor preach the true Gospel.

Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)
—Philippians 3:17-19, Emphasis added.
Questions: Will these “enemies of the cross of Christ” who “mind earthy things,” whose “glory is their shame,” whose “God is their belly,” and whose “end is destruction” be saved? Will these enemies who now despise the cross of Christ suddenly become enamored with the cross and be reconciled to God? Will their confession “Jesus Christ is Lord” be rendered because they suddenly morph to love the cross? (“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God,” 1 Corinthians 1:18.). Will these “worldlings,” these false teachers and their followers, have an after-death break-though experience when they abruptly change from being enemies of the cross to being friends of the cross?

That’s what Young would have us believe, and he advocates this interpretation despite dogmatically stating that if the Son’s Father “originated the Cross... we worship a cosmic abuser.” (LWBAG, 149) In my thinking, if people are not “fond” of the cross now, they will not become “fond” of it in the end. Motyer summarizes the submission of everyone to the Lord Jesus Christ like this:

[A] confession made for the first time in response to the visible manifestation of his glory will not be a saving confession, but a grudging acknowledgement wrested by overmastering divine power from lips still as unbelieving as they were through their whole earthly experience. All will submit, all will confess, but not all will be saved.[94]

31. Revelation 5:13 (Holman CSB, emphasis Young’s): 
“I heard every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth, on the sea, and everything in them say: Blessing and honor and glory and dominion to the One seated on the throne and to the Lamb, forever and ever!” 

Again Young interprets “every creature” to include without exception every human who ever lived. The problem with “cherry picking” this biblical text to support a scenario of universal/redemption/salvation is that Young’s “picking” ignores other contradictory passages in Revelation. Because these statements conflict with what Young considers Lies We Believe About God—“You need to get saved.”; “Hell is separation from God.”; “Not everyone is a child of God.”; “Sin separates us from God.”—the author gives no mention of these contradictory passages. So while choosing a verse he twists to support his universalism, he ignores other statements in Revelation which do not support his hope that in the eschatological end every human being will wind up in heaven. Yet Revelation clearly identifies unrepentant sinners who will not reside in the eternal city. These examples are offered:
  • And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts. (Revelation 9:20-21)
  • For without [the New Jerusalem] are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie. (Revelation 22:15)
  • But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. (Revelation 21:8) 

The Apostle Paul also lists sins, which when persisted in and not repented of, disqualify people from life in “the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:19-21).

Please note: The passages cited above do not teach salvation by works. Rather they characterize the lifestyles of people who are aliens either from God’s kingdom now or to come (John 3:3, 5; Matthew 25:34). We Christians can number ourselves among those who commit sin, but by God’s grace have been forgiven of it. To the Corinthians the Apostle Paul explained, “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of out God” (Emphasis added, 1 Corinthians 6:11). The Gospel gives no room for self-righteous people to get into heaven, but only those who submit to and receive the righteousness of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). As Dr. Walvoord described:

Obviously many will be in heaven who before their conversions were indeed guilty of these sins [Revelation 21:8] but who turned from them in the day of grace in trusting Christ as their Savior. Though works are the evidence of salvation or lack of it, they are never the basis or ground of it.[95]

As someone once put it, three surprises await us in heaven. First, some people we expected to be there will not be there. Second, others we did not expect to see there will be there. And finally, “Surprise!” we’re there.

The “Cosmos” Passage 

31. 2 Corinthians 5:19 (NIV/Greek NT, emphasis Young’s): 
“For God was in Christ reconciling the cosmos to Himself, not counting their sins against them.” 

Young does not accurately quote the NIV. He uses the preposition “For” when NIV translations read either “For in Christ” or “that God.” Scholars debate how the comparative particle plus the subordinating conjunction (Greek particle hos + conjunction hoti) should be understood. Various English versions reflect this: “to wit” KJV, ASV; “that is” NKJV, NRSV, ESV, HCSB; “namely” NASB; “that” or “for” (NIV); not translated (NCV); “for” NLT; “how that” Young’s Literal Translation, Darby; “our message is” TEV. But these versions share one thing in common: they suggest that verse 19 defines the message of reconciliation (as also verse 21) which ministry God delegated to the Apostles and the Apostles to the church (i.e., “us” and “we,” verses, 18b, 19b, and 20). The delegated message of reconciliation is this: God “was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses sins against them,” (NASB), and God “hath made him [Jesus Christ] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (1 Corinthians 5:21). This message therefore demanded the apostolic command: “be reconciled to God” (1 Corinthians 5:20).

Now based upon God’s commission of the Apostle and his urgent appeal for the church to declare this “word (i.e., logos) of reconciliation,” a question arises. If everybody’s reconciled to God, why did the Apostle make this appeal to the church—“we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God”? (2 Corinthians 2:20, NKJV). In Young’s scheme of universal reconciliation, everybody’s either actual or potential friends with God anyway. Is the appeal to be reconciled really just an announcement to the cosmos that God was “not counting their sins against them,” end of story? By including this verse in his A Catena about the salvation of the cosmos Young apparently desires to communicate to his readers that this is just an announcement, not appeal.

To shed some light on Paul Young’s belief about reconciliation, we look at a conversation in The Shack between Papa and Mack. Crossing her arms on the table, Papa leans forward and says to him, “Honey, you asked me what Jesus did on the cross; so now listen to me carefully: through his death and resurrection, I am now fully reconciled to the world.” (The Shack, 192) Fully reconciled Elousia told Mack, as if there was/is no further obligation on the part of people to believe and be reconciled to God. So what’s all this ambassadorial “appealing” and “begging” and “ordering” people to “be reconciled to God” about? Why such urgency on the part of the Apostle if in the grand cosmic scheme of redemption everybody’s already saved?

In a later conversation with Mack, Papa tells him, “In Jesus, I have forgiven all humans for their sins against me, but only some choose relationship.” (Emphasis mine, The Shack, 225) “Be reconciled” is reduced from an urgent appeal to be saved into a mild nudging for the Corinthians to choose relationship with God. That he invites humanity into “relationship” negates any thinking that Jesus’ atonement was either penal or substitutionary, thus softening Young’s inference that any God demanding the Cross is a “cosmic abuser” and unworthy of worship. (LWBAG, 149) In Young’s scheme of salvation it’s more important for God to be subjectively reconciled to man than it is for man to be objectively reconciled to God. If Young is right, then any urgency to command “be reconciled to God” can be dismissed. This reduces the understanding of Christ’s atonement and sacrifice to be mystically and morally inspirational, a divine nudge for people to choose “relationship” with God.

About Young’s use of the word cosmos to suggest that all humanity is redeemed-reconciled to God, Colin Kruse makes this distinction: “It [the word cosmos] hardly applies to the created order, as the trespasses involved are those of humanity, and it is difficult to see it applying extensively to every individual human being, because elsewhere Paul clearly implies that the sins of unbelievers are and shall be counted against them (cf. Rom. 1:18-32; 2:5-11; Eph. 5:3-6; Col 3:5-6).”[96] Philip E. Hughes adds that, “This should not be understood in the sense of an indiscriminate universalism....”[97]

In making forgiveness one-sided, Paul Young makes God, being the bigger person He is, to be the one who needed to forgive sinful human beings so that they might be inspired to choose “relationship” with Him. But as James Denney (1856-1915) pointed out in his classic work The Death of Christ,

Where reconciliation is spoken of in St. Paul, the subject is always God, and the object is always man. The work of reconciling is one in which the initiative is taken by God, and the cost borne by Him; men are reconciled in the passive, or allow themselves to be reconciled, or receive reconciliation. We never read that God has been reconciled.[98]

“Other” Passages 

33. Ephesians 2:8-9 (Aramaic Bible/Greek NT): 
“For by grace we have been saved through faith, and this [faith] is not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works, so that no one can boast.” 

After the pronoun “this,” Paul Young inserts the word “faith” in brackets suggesting that “faith” is “a gift of God” and not like Abraham sourced in a believer’s heart (Genesis 15:6). Young interprets this verse like a deterministic hyper-Calvinist. So the question becomes, is a believer’s faith irrelevant to salvation? In fatalistic theologies like hyper-Calvinism or universal reconciliation-ism, faith becomes unnecessary because either God gives faith to some, or as in Young’s belief system, He gives faith to everybody.

Young cites a version of Ephesians 2:9, he claims to derive from the Aramaic Bible/Greek New Testament. By inserting “faith” in brackets after “this,” naïve readers, under the appearance of scholarly interpretation, will think that the pronoun and bracketed defining noun are grammatically related, that “this” is explained by “faith.” Young’s bracketed insertion means to suggest that Young finds reason for his interpretation in the Aramaic Bible and New Testament’s original language, Greek. But it does not.

Koine Greek: the lingua franca
From the about the 6th to 5th centuries BC onward Aramaic (an ancient Semitic language with characters similar to Hebrew) became the lingua franca of the ancient world. Ancient peoples used Aramaic to conduct commerce. Part of Daniel and Ezra were written in Aramaic. Likely, John the Baptist and Jesus spoke it. Though Jesus’ original sayings may also have been preserved in Hebrew/Aramaic, the New Testament Scriptures were written in common (koine) Greek, the new lingua franca of the Roman Empire. But scholars claim to find influences from Hebrew (called Hebraisms) and Aramaic (called Aramaisms) in the Greek New Testament. Those findings though suggestive, can be subjective. Nevertheless, the extant manuscripts of the New Testament were written in Koine Greek (i.e., common Greek as opposed to Classical Greek). Though written in a “rugged and vigorous koine,” the Apostle Paul’s letters appear “marked throughout by his close acquaintance with the LXX [the Greek translation of the Old Testament which appeared in 70 B.C., ed.] and by his native Aramaic.”[99] But that acquaintance does not change the grammar of Koine Greek. I raise this issue because Young cites the Aramaic Bible as if it bears upon the interpretation (i.e., exegesis) of this verse when it does not. So we turn to Greek grammar to see whether or not the noun “faith” defines the pronoun “this.” Is faith the gift of God? 

The pronoun “this” (touto, neuter gender) does not agree in gender with either the nouns “faith” (pistis, feminine) or “gift” (charis, feminine). This grammatical fact marks Young’s equating of the pronoun “this” to the noun “faith” questionable. Dr. Daniel Wallace states that, “On the grammatical level, then, it is doubtful that either ‘faith’ or ‘grace’ is the antecedent of touto.”[100] So lacking gender agreement, what then could the neuter pronoun “this” refer to? Does the context provide a better option? Agreeing with a host of other scholars, Professor Dr. Harold Hoehner (1935-2009) preferred that, “Rather than any particular word it is best to conclude that touto refers back to the preceding section.”[101] (Wallace calls this a “conceptual antecedent.”)[102] In the preceding section (Ephesians 2:4-7) the Apostle Paul states that “when we were dead in our transgressions” God in His mercy did three things for us: 1. He “made us alive together with Christ”; 2. He “raised us up with” Christ; and 3. He “seated us... in the heavenly places” with Christ” (Ephesians 2:5-6). So as regards salvation’s security and hope for heaven we’re as good as “there.” Here is there! The pronoun “this” can be interpreted as generally referring to the whole “package” of God’s gracious works for us—making us alive, raising us up, and seating in heavenly places in Christ. These gracious acts of mercy, not faith, are the gift. The recurrent statement “by grace you have been saved” verse 5 and “by grace you have been saved” verse 8, ties the section together (Ephesians 2:4-10). The whole described package of salvation is wrapped in grace. Now there’s a Christmas gift to believers! As regards Young’s implication that this verse inferences universal salvation, Hoehner wrote:

Whereas “grace” is the objective cause or basis of salvation, “through faith” is the subjective means by which one is saved. This is important, for the salvation that was purchased by Christ’s death is universal in its provision, but it is not universal in its application. One is not automatically saved because Christ died, but one is saved when one puts trust in God’s gracious provision.[103]

Further, thinking that faith is a gift disregards the Apostle Paul’s quotation that personally and actively, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Romans 4:3, 9; See also Genesis 15:6; Galatians 3:6; James 2:23.). God’s word was the objective stimulus of Abraham’s faith (If God had not spoken to Abraham he would not have been justified.) while Abraham’s faithful response was counted by God unto him for righteousness (See 1 Thessalonians 2:13.).

34. Romans 8:38-39 (ESV): 
“For I am convinced [ESV “sure”] that neither death, [ESV no comma] nor life, nor angels nor principalities [ESV “rulers”], nor things present, [ESV no comma] nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, [ESV no comma] nor depth, nor any other created thing [ESV “nor anything else in all creation”], will be able to separate us from the love of God, [ESV no comma] which is [ESV no “which is”] in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

In comparing my copy of the English Standard Version to Young’s above quotation of it, I observed discrepancies which are marked by bracketed inserts. For comparison purposes, my ESV copy reads:

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39, ESV) 

Without any notice, Young’s citation appears to conflate the ESV with other translations and their punctuations, most noticeably the King James Version and the New American Standard Bible. Though he documents to readers that it is, Young’s citation is not strictly from the ESV. Now we turn to the question, do these “no separation” verses teach universalism?

We notice first the objective pronoun “us” and the possessive pronoun “our.” Nothing shall be “able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Can the meaning of these personal pronouns of address be expanded to refer to everybody in the world? Is there no distinction say... between Christian and non-Christian (i.e., Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, or even nominal Christians, etc.)? As Christ Jesus is “our Lord,” is He also everybody’s Lord? I don’t think so! One can only believe these verses teach universalism by warping the pronouns to mean something other than “us” or “our.” By the way, in this section of the Romans letter, the personal pronouns “we” occur thirty-eight times, “us” eleven times, and “our” nine times. By what arbitrary leap of faith, if language means anything at all, can such pronouns be transformed into meaning everybody. While this section of Romans makes mention of unbelievers, it was not written to them but to believing Christians. The following statements bear this out. Dear readers, about these quotations from Romans ask, “Do they unlimitedly refer to everybody alive or limitedly refer to believers who are alive to God in Christ?”
  • “Consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11). 
  • “Sin shall not be master over you” (Romans 6:14). 
  • “Having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit... the outcome of eternal life” (Romans 6:22). 
  • “But now we have been released from the Law... so that we serve in newness of the Spirit” (Romans 7:6). 
  • “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ” (Romans 8:1). 
  • “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him” (Romans 8:9). 
  • “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16). 
  • “The Spirit... intercedes for all the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27). 

From these statements in Romans chapters six through eight, it’s obvious that the chapters and the two closing verses sloppily quoted by Young to support universalism, apply to believers who are spiritually alive in Christ as distinct from unbelievers who are spiritually dead in the world (See Romans 1:18-3:18). To say otherwise, obliterates the obvious.

A Conclusion About A Catena 
Paul Young intends for his A Catena to feign massive Scriptural support for universal reconciliation which it in fact does not. For those who might not believe that Young is promoting the salvation of everybody, what he states to readers in exposing a lie “You need to get saved.” is here repeated:

Are you suggesting that everyone is saved? That you believe in universal salvation? 
That is exactly what I am saying! 
This is real good news! (LWBAG, 118) 

That Young views his amplified gospel to be “real” good news, implies that the New Testament gospel is just “good news.” Young doesn’t really believe “3:16.” The Apostolic Gospel is not like Young’s apostate gospel, and believers must understand that his message as such, is “accursed!” (Galatians 1:6-9; See 1 Corinthians 15:1-4.) Because the Apostle Paul placed other apostate gospels (i.e., health, wealth and now universalism) under a ban, believers are to have nothing to do with Young’s gospel. Disappointing it is to see that much of pan-evangelicalism reads the book or watches the movie, The Shack, with no regard for anything other than the good vibes they get from them (See Jeremiah 23:16-17.). If people really believe what they are reading and seeing, it appears that universalism is building to become the next wave within the evangelical movement, and devoted souls will either catch this wave and ride it or get “left behind.”
(Mesmer, who developed Mesmerism,
an induced hypnotic-like
altered state of consciousness*)

Because Young advises reading his A Catena aloud with gravitas, suggests he believes that such a ceremonial recitation of the verses will enhance the meaning of the written Word he errantly quotes. Sound becomes more important than substance (“OM....”).  Perhaps Young intends for the gravitas to mesmerize* readers into accepting the error he is teaching. Fact is, not one of the thirty-four verses he “catenizes” teaches universal reconciliation. Young might wish and hope they do, but they don’t.

Some of you might question, well what’s wrong with reading the Scriptures aloud? (By the way, this contemplative activity is known by the Latin words lectio divina, reading sacred things.) Don’t pastors do it all the time? The error lies in the intent as well as the content of the various Bible versions Young conflates and cites. Intent is determinative. Are the Scriptures being read aloud by sound to support God's truth or promote the Devil's error? In tempting Jesus the Devil may have quoted Scripture with gravitas, but he assigned meanings to his narrative that the Old Testament Scriptures did and do not possess (Matthew 4:1-11). And that is what Paul Young is doing with his A Catena. The Apostle Peter states that like the Devil, false teachers “wrest” (KJV, ASV), “distort” (NASB), “falsely explain” (NCV) or “twist (NKJV, NRSV) Scriptures to say what their words do not communicate. Young believes occurrences of words like “all... every, etc.,” teach universalism. But not one of these passages in his A Catena... let it be repeated, not one of these passages when considered semantically, grammatically, syntactically, and contextually support universalism; that everybody’s saved. For sound exegetical reasons I conclude that Young’s A Catena does not support universal salvation at all. Let A Catena be anathema!

[91] Leon Morris, New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986): 73. 
[92] R.C. Lucas, The Message of Colossians & Philemon: The Bible Speaks Today (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1980): 57-58. 
[93] Handley C. G. Moule, Philippian Studies: Lessons in Faith and Love (Westwood, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, n.d.): 96. 
[94] J.A. Motyer, The Message of Philippians: The Bible Speaks Today (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1984): 122. 
[95] John F. Walvoord, “Revelation,” Bible Knowledge Commentary: 2, 985. 
[96] Colin G. Kruse, The Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians: An Introduction and Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987): 127. 
[97] Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1962): 208. 
[98] James Denney, The Death of Christ (Minneapolis, MN: Klock & Klock Christian Publishers, Inc., 1982 Reprint): 103. Hafemann points out, “Reconciliation is God’s initiative and God’s work.” But then explains that “God is not reconciled with us, as if we were the point of reference and God were the transgressor (!); we are reconciled with God.” Scott J. Hafemann, 2 Corinthians: The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2000): 245. Leon Morris also states: “It is interesting to notice that no New Testament passage speaks of Christ reconciling God to man. Always the stress is on man being reconciled.... It is man’s sin which has caused the enmity.” See Leon L. Morris, “Reconciliation,” The New Bible Dictionary, J.D. Douglas, Organizing Editor (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1962): 1077. Of the eleven New Testament mentions of reconciliation, “in every instance man is said to be reconciled to God.” See John F. Walvoord, Jesus Christ Our Lord (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1969): 179.
[99] J.N. Birdsall, “Language of the New Testament,” The New Bible Dictionary, J.D. Douglas, Editor (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.,1962): 715.
[100] Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: 335.
[101] Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 2002): 343.
[102] Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: 335.
[103] Hoehner, Ephesians: 341.

1. The definition of catenization is inspired by the late Pastor Ken Silva, who often satirically coined new words along with Pastor Larry DeBruyn and Sarah Leslie for posting either on his website and/or the Herescope blog. 
2. The two graphic images of lingua franca and catena are adapted from definitions posted at, which also influenced the definition of catenization
3. Most of the graphic images of chains in this 4-part A Catena commentary are from photographs taken by Sarah H. Leslie. A few unattributed images were obtained via Google Images. 
4. This series by Pastor Larry DeBruyn is being concurrently published at his website Articles are used with his permission. 
5. The photo of the shack in this post comes from the book cover of Larry DeBruyn's book UNSHACKLED, his critical review of Young's book The Shack. See:  

*Mesmer, mesmerism: See: and See also our article "Altered States: A Different Gate" at