John Owen On The Logics Of Universal Salvation

To which I may add this dilemma to our Universalists:— God imposed his wrath due unto, and Christ underwent the pains of hell for, either all the sins of all men, or all the sins of some men, or some sins of all men.

If the last, some sins of all men, then have all men some sins to answer for, and so shall no man be saved; for if God enter into judgment with us, though it were with all mankind for one sin, no flesh should be justified in his sight: “If the Lord should mark iniquities, who should stand?” Ps. cxxx. 3. We might all go to cast all that we have “to the moles and to the bats, to go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty,” Isa. ii. 20, 21.

If the second, that is it which we affirm, that Christ in their stead and room suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the world. If the first, why, then, are not all freed from the punishment of all their sins? You will say, “Because of their unbelief; they will not believe.” But this unbelief, is it a sin or not? If not, why should they be punished for it? If it be, then Christ underwent the punishment due to it, or not. If so, then why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which he died from partaking of the fruit of his death?

If he did not, then did he not die for all their sins. Let them choose which part they will.

John Owen, The Death of Death p.174-5; Christian Classic Ethereal Library (Paragraphs added for blog friendly-read)


13 thoughts on “John Owen On The Logics Of Universal Salvation

  1. Dear Prezzy et al

    You have “yet to encounter anyone who can make a successful case for believing in God (sorry for the capitalization, but it’s the capital G God were talking about) as a prerequisite for living a good and just life.” And you may never find someone able to “make such a case.” What I can do,, really the only thing that I can do, is to present my story Re: my comnection with God, and see if this resonates with your experience, or even might show you how someone can (hopefully) live out such a “case.”

    One of the questions that had plagued me throughout my skeptical decades is this What precisely are the conditions for the possibility of living a good, just and moral life? Where do these notions of goodness, justice and morality originate? The Humanist (and by no means do I want to collectivize that term, there being all kinds of Humanists – St. Thomas More publicly progaimed himself as one ) oftimes turns to genetics, some contemporary sense of Natural Selection, or what has been termed “The good gene” to explain the origins of morality, of goodness. This simply does not “ring true” to me. And, since “ringing true” falls not under the scope of scientific investigation (darn it!), there is no way that I can prove “my case.” My sense is that those who so argue – from David Hume to Richard Dawkins – are fully engaged in what can best be termed “proof by proclamation. “Where does goodness come from? It comers from the good gene. How do we know we have a good gene? Why, because we act morally). I see this as being either a vicious circle or “true but trivial.” It begs the question of why there is a “good gene.” It seems in fact to mimic the argument for Papal Infallibility. The Pope, when speaking ex cathedra, speaks infallibly. How do we know tis? Because the Pope says it, and he is infallible in matters of Faith and Morals. A tautology is a tautology, whether voiced by the Holy Father or by Professor Dawkins.

    Since there seems (of course, seems to me) no final argument as regards the origin of Virtue (I know I am using “good,” “just,” moral” interchangeably – and do so for the lack of space and time to individuate them), I can only go to the phenomena of Virtue (good phenomenologist that I am, and see how it presents itself to (my?) consciousness. I served as a hospcie chaplain for many years; I ahve watched people die, seen them suffer, been with them as they suffered. This can be unerving toil. When asked, why do you do it, rather than what? rocket science? ), my answer has come to be “Because I’m a nice guy.” I use that language because langauge itself cannot give the answer. There is (and this is my proof by proclamation) much more than meets the eye. the answer: aI am called – as in vocation – by God, to do such. this is my personal experience. The only “reason” I can give for this is “The Grace of God). As I mentioned earlier, Grace is an opening up the the Goodness available in the world.

    Consider Kierkegaard and his “leap of Faith” It’s difficult to imagine there being a “leap of the scientific method.” But filled with “fear and trembling” –“I don’t want to die” What is to be done?

    In the long run, all reasoning is circular. The larger the circle, the harder it is to see it as a circle. But reason we must because it is part and parcel of our being human (again, self-conscious, self-detrmining beings). I need God (it’s not a question of WE need God) I need God because, without God, nothing matters.

    I could go on for centuries (I’ve been known to do so). But let me suggest two personal statements of Humanistic belief. “Why am I a Catholic?” by Gary Wills, and “Practicing Catholic,” by (I think) James Carroll. Listen to their stories, as I listened (and heard) the words of Lord John Acttion. He was a Cathoic layman (responsible for “power tends to corrupt; and absolute poser tends to corrupt absolutly. Almost all good men are bad men) Lord Actipon fought, unsuccessfully of course) against what would become known as the Doctrine of Infallibility. AFter he lost thata battle. he was asked if he would leave the Catholic Church. His answer was to the effect of “Where woild I go?”

    Where would I go – in order to be of sservice, live morally, do good? Where but God? Certainly you don’t suggest going to “the moral gene”?)

    No intent to be critical – in any negative sense, but “where do you go?”

    RevTom Burdett

    p.s., I’d prefer RevTom to Reverend Burdett; the latter is, what?” “Precocious” comes to mind.

  2. dear reverent burnett: goodness is a choice that is easily founded by logical reasoning: with goodness one makes friends, one lessens suffering, and one attests to the knowledge that no one man is essentially different or more/less valuable to another. we all love, bleed , suffer and die , regardless of our beliefs. and we all want to grow old, see our kids grow up and enjoy some stability in life. but as i said in my earlier posts here, i have yet to encounter anyone who can make a succesfull case for believing in god as a prerequisite for living a good and morally just life. pascals wager has been debunked by the same reasoning in my earlier post. so im still wondering what gain it brings to believe in god as opposed to being a humanist skeptic. altho i must say this: your reasoning is much less fanatic and more of a companion like way of walking the path together with other seekers for truth than i am used to finding among the clergy. i applaud and respect you for this. on the other hand however as i said, i have still yet to find any reasoning that makes the classic christian view that prayson has acceptable to myself. im just wondering what for instance the damage to a believer or his personal beliefs is when a gay couple is happy together and decide they would like to grow old together. religion seems to have huge problems with this example, when im just asking myself: is it my place (or anyone elses place) to judge whether this is immoral or not? does it affect my life negative? all i see is two humans that are happy together. if anything that is a positive influence on me, not a negative one. why is it so easy for religionists to critisize them when those same religionists hide child-abuse by priests, the stealing of land, subjugation of other thinking humans (ie not adhering to the same doctrines)? im not for quoting scripture but what was that thing about casting the first stone again? to me personally belief means adhering to what sounds plausible and reasonable, till i find more information either supporting or refuting my earlier beliefs. for that, it serves no purpose to dig in ancient scriptures of people, no matter what their perceived authority may be to others. Justin Martyr created the ultimate excuse by saying that only christians can attest to the truth of the gospels. its essentially a non-argument that muslims and hindus use as well. when we now know that none of its writers ever even met jesus it makes the bible a collection of memories and personal convictions to me, not the actual word of god. are people the way they are because of original sin? no, personally i think that the pattern has been survival for 1000s of years, mankind doesnt just simply snap out of such a hard to break habit. our economy is just a really new method of survival, only in stead of the most olive-trees or cows, the game is about the most money now. if people do good because they believe its in accordance with their religion, im happy with it, even if the motivation is not one i adhere to. but i agree with striving for that goal: to minimise suffering and to promote equality and understanding. so if i turn out to be wrong in the end and god exists: he wont mind me not being in church much because i tried to do what the basic thought of us living together on the same dirtball hurdling through space is about: one could even argue i tried to take care of his creation in my own humble human and error prone way. by be good to others, to living things and the planet itself as much as i can.
    thank you for opening up in such a nice way, it makes a welcome change from scripture hunting and arguing about personal stuff here 😉

  3. dear rev. Burnett, you are referring to Pascals wager, which is both really funny and relevant.

    Pascal’s Wager (also known as Pascal’s Gambit) is a suggestion posed by the French philosopher, mathematician, and physicist Blaise Pascal that since the existence of God can not be proved (or disproved) through reason, but since in his view there was much to be gained from wagering that God exists (and little to be gained from wagering that God doesn’t exist), a rational person should simply wager that God exists (and live accordingly).

    he is basically saying its better to assume god is real, because if a) He turns out not to be real, a person would have lived a pious and morally just life anyway, and b)if He does turn out to exist then the persons soul is saved. that is, if one accepts that God is needed for living such a morally just life. which i for one do not accept. also, i dont think He`ll be that favourable to christians who call part of His creation, being gays, for instance, sinners and abominations. if He exists and is just, those types of believers would be in serious trouble i think.
    but the opposite is even more true: it is my belief that i do not need God in order to live a pious and morally just life. therefore if God exists, He will look favourable upon me when he sees i lived a just an moral life, even tho i didnt worship Him in church, and when He doesnt exist, i will have lived a just and moral life as well.

    also, it states that it was “in his view” meaning its an opinion, not a fact that there is much to be gained by assuming God is real.

    one thing puzzles me though: at some point in your post you say we skeptics, doe you mean to say youre a skeptic too? i know i am, and im definitely not a former skeptic. but i thought you are a reverent. how can one be a skeptic and a believer at the same time?

    • Dear Prezzy:

      Like many of we 20th century holdovers, the “digital revolution” leaves me close to impotent. Luddite that I am, and shall remain, I strongly de-value this exercise in Efficient Causality run amok that is loosely termed “the internet.” Case in point: my “brilliant” reply to your last post both left me in tears and moved me to raucous laughter. But then, before I could launch it, it vanished into the ether. Oh well, God is telling me to be brief and to the point — and so I shall (I hope).

      How can I be both a skeptic and a believer at the same time? That is how I read your question. Good question — vital question. “A foolish consistency,’ we are told, is “the hobgoblin of little minds.” And I hope to justify my not-so-little (and admittedly not-so-great) mind by turning to a dualism of sorts. I am and remain a skeptic, an agnostic, regarding all that is mundane. “There is no reason why the sun should rise tomorrow,” (David Hume). What we label “certain” is merely “constant conjunction in experience and the expectation that such shall continue.” Hume needed to “mitigate” his Skepticism; or else, how could he make it through the day (there being no reason why the floor should hold him up)? Hume did so by grounding his doubt in Custom and Habit. Well, good enough for Hume, but not for me. Doubt is necessary — but doubt, alone and by itself, is deadly; just as certainty, alone and by itself, is murderous.

      That Certainty leads to mruder is obvious to any student of history. That doubt leads to despair and often suicide, should be equally obvious. Yes, life is “nasty, brutish and short.”
      And death, perhaps more often than not, seems the only answer — either the death of the “other” (the infidel) or of the Self.

      So, not to ask the obvious, but “Where are we to turn?” “What is to be done?”

      Pascal offers a wager — and he offers it to the Skeptic (and not the Lutheran, not the Muslim). The Lutheran and Muslim have made their “decision for Christ (Allah).” But all too often, such decisions are played out through blood-and-guts. Hence, The Peasant Revolt and hence the Jihads. Contemporary examples include the genocides of the 20th and 21st centuries. Not all Lutherans and not all Muslims are murderers — but ANY Certainty can kill.

      Just as any doubt can give birth to suicide, of the mind if not the body itself.

      Pascal offers a FORMAL solution (or so I have come to think). Faith here serves as the Proscenium Arch under which life can have meaning, life can be moral. Morality, for the skeptic, has come to be equated with Custom and Habit.. “There is no way to get from and “is” to an “ought.” (again, Hume).

      But to “gamble,” to “role the dice,” and then to “play them as they lay” – that is what Pascal asks from the Skeptic. I don’t KNOW, and yet I BELIEVE. Yes, such is absurd thinking. But “Credo qui absurdum est.” (Tertullian).

      Two decades ago (or in my case, three — but who’s counting?) I would have countered Pascal by saying that the wager was “inauthentic.” Back in the “swinging sixties,.” authenticity got equated with morality. And so, we had “Saint Genet: Actor & Martyr). But I have learned that authenticity, like custom and habit, can be very nice and can be close to atrocious. Athenticity ain’t enough.

      And the Wager, presented only to we Skeptics, prescribes a way of life that allows us – encourages us – both to know that we doubt and that, in the Imitation of Christ, lies the answer.

      Questions abound of course. Is one wager equal to another? Mormonism equal to Stalinism? Capitlism to Communism? And if not, where is the difference.

      But that is for another post, or another sermon.

      Thanks for listening — it is good to be thinking about these matters after a decade of hibernation.

      REv Tom Burdett

      • Thanks Rev. Tom Burdett,

        For answering Prezzy. I am Prayson, the blogger of this blog.

        I would like some clarification on your first comment. Did you mean to say that Logic opens the door to belief but in belief logic is totally unproductive?

        Could you be kind and explain more on that.

        In Christ,

        • Hi and Happy New Year!!

          My thinking has been strongly influenced by both Kant and Hegel. I am a Neo-Kantian/Hegelian. Where I think Kant is correct (It is truly amazing how his thinking has stood the test of time!) is in his understanding that rteason is the same filtering mechanism through which all phenomena are (whaat else?) filtered. We, qua human, are self-conscious, self-determining beings. Our critical capacities are of course diverse, but the very notion of critical faculties is apparent to each and all of us, save for those who have lost such faculties.

          I also think Kant was onto something when he divided reality into phenomena/noumena. Of course, the divide is always there, but he most cogently described it. Being a self-conscious, self-determining being (being human) is simply not enough, for we are also, qua human, fractured, fallen. To sin, as you no doubt know, is to “miss the mark.” And wow do we do that often.

          The noumenal order, the order of things in themselves. is forever beyond out ken. How do we know that this order exists? Well, we don’t, but we would do best – and do do best – by acting as if it did exist. And here comes Faith: “an opening up to the Goodness availalbe in the world.” Such Goodness ( such God-ness) is not available-on-demand, nor can it be reasoned through. Better, it can be reasoned to but not reasoned through!

          What is the role of reason? It is to affirm the boundaries that divide us from the Noumenal order; and it is “to be reasonable” – which is to say, to be free.

          Here is where I see Hegel coming in. Especially in “The Philosophy of Right,” Hegel describes both how we are free, how we can possess Rights, and what that exactly means. We, as human, are “Bearers of Right.” And to what do we have a righ?. We have a right to everything that we, qua human, can possess; e.g., Life, Liberty the Pursuit of Happiness. And the opposite of right, of course, is Wrong. To delineate What;’s right and what’s wrong for us, qua human, qua children of God — that is the riole of Reason, My belief, which itself is not open to proof, is that “The Real is Rational.” Life is not “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Life i srather a working out of the huan relationship with the Divine.

          Now Reason and the Bible — by which I mean the Christian and Hebrew Scriptures. I believe that the Bible is the Word of God; word as in “logos.” And being the Word of God, it is and must be True. But enter Pilate “What is Truth?” Paul Ricoeur helps us out here when he points out that “Meaning is never to be found in the Word alone, but rather in the relationship between words.” This is why I have such difficulty with the notion of Biblical inerrancy. Since meaning (truth) is discourse (the Logos) that is to be dis-covered in the relatiopnsjhip between words, it necessarily comes with a surplus. Since there always needs be a surplus of meaning, our job, qua human, is to sort out the meaning and bracket off the surplis. this is not small task.

          What troubles me is that many people seem to have “rendered down” Biblical meaning into two or three big statements: e.g., homosexuality is anethema to God; abortion is murder, and I know not what.else – pick your choice. But little time is spent speakling, say of the Beatitudes or the Parables. What I see happening is a fetish-izing of the text. In a fetish, the part is mistaken for the whole. a fetish is a dangerous thing — and I think that we. qua human, need to fight against any such propensity.

          I hope this helps you see what I mean about the relation between Knowledge and Faith. I am always eager to learn (“Man, by Nature, desires to know” Aristotle). Please share with me your insights and your disagreements – for I’m sure you posses both.


          Tom Burdett

  4. a small add: argue does not mean to search for the silver:
    c.1300, “to make reasoned statements to prove or refute a proposition,” from O.Fr. arguer “maintain an opinion or view; harry, reproach, accuse, blame” (12c.), from L. argutare “to prattle, prate,” frequentative of arguere “make clear, make known, prove, declare, demonstrate,” from PIE *argu-yo-, from base *arg- “to shine, be white, bright, clear” (see argent). Meaning “to oppose, dispute” is from late 14c. Related: Argued; arguing. Colloquial argufy is first attested 1751.
    maybe it helps you both to know im in my 40s, a trained social worker and classed as hyper intelligent, mensa level iq140. ive read more books than most people have seen in their lives. about many subjects.
    also, i think rev. burnett, it would be helpful to direct the statement about logic to prayson since hes the one stating it as a prerequisite for this discussion 😉 as i have told prayson before, im not here to tell him his beliefs are wrong. belliefs are personal and ill even fight for his right to believe what he believes. i do however react when he states it is “what is true”, and arguing that different viewpoints are wrong, and therefore untrue.

  5. reverent burnett: it is that same logic that is used in the bible to discredit the followers of Baal and “prove” the authenticity of god. remember the story about the offering? according to the story, god showed himself by igniting the fire. so it is about empirical proof, of god fysically manifesting his existence. so its ok to use it when youre a believer, but its wrong to ask critical questions when youre not? i for one do NOT KNOW if god exists, and i reserve room for that lack of empirical proof. i do however question whether the resulting order to slay the followers of baal was actually a christian thing to do. and no, i personally do not think theres a second coming. i think if theres something to be learned by the story of jesus, its that life itself is sacred, we should be loving to each other and accept the other one as part of the whole as we all are. and that means ALL of us. not just the pious ones, the ones that live according to the rules in the bible. i think the church in general is doing a really poor job of those things, telling everyone who lives their life not according to their rules is a sinner, and issuing statements as “condoms should not be used because its against gods will” or “being gay is a sin”. remember manifest destiny? based on interpreting the bible in white mens advantage, to find a logical fiat to plunder, rape and kill indigenous people. including infected blankets. also, in the vatican the age of consent is still 12 years . in holland (where i come from, so i use that example, it happened everywhere) thousands of kids in the care of priests were molested. i think one should practice what one preaches. there are as you see many ministers (jim baker etc) and so called believers who do the exact opposite: they cheat, lie, commit pedophilia and worse, and twist the truth in order to find reasonable explanations, forgetting that such an explanation is different from being proof. charlemagne used an asbestos tablecloth to impress his visitors, by throwing it in the fire and showing it doesnt burn. his visitors thought it was magic. we now know it is not. its too bad that i cant remember the link, but i even remember the church inventing a miracle of fish changing its species in the mouth of a person (was it calvin?) in order to deify him, because there were no miracles recorded as being performed by him. as i said in another thread on another forum: i have no qualms with god or jesus. its his fanatical entourage that i have a problem with. belief is personal, not a club thing. the bible isnt meant to be used to beat people into a corner of submission. to me that is what prayson is doing. if that is really gods will, i wonder what the logic behind that is, and if that kind of god even deserves worship.

    • Thanks Prezzy,

      I can not follow the point of your comment. I am waiting Rev. Tom Burdett clarification of his comment on the use of logic(correct thinking). I believe most of what you said fell out of the topic above.

      Thank you though for your comments.

      In Christ,

  6. Dear Prezzy (if I may call you by that moniker):

    You are literate, gifted in critical thinking, and most important (at least for my purposes) you actively believe in God and His message of the coming of the kingdom. the problem that presents itself here has to do with your “way” of thinking. You apply classical logic to a fremework wherein it does not belong, and cannot long adhere without absurdities galore being birthed.

    Faith is a “language game,” in the Wittgenstinian sense of that term. Faith is a portal through which we skeptics (or, I guess former skeptics) can journey with the help of Pascal’s wager. That wager was specifically waged for skeptics — a way to jettison their agnosticism for something far more productive.

    Logic opens the door to belief, but it is totally unproductive within the realm of belief itself. Vicarious atonement is nowhere to be found in the Christian scriptures. It was a fabrication not fully realized until theTenth Century — or therabouts (this was before my time). The Question as to “who is saved?” is pure Alice-in-Wonderland Non-sense (again as Wittgensterin would use that term).

    And Prezzy, you seem to want to marry “internal logic” with the enhanced non-sense of Proof Texting. It cannot be done except as a sleight-of-hand way of justifying what one already believes.

    h truly to “argue” (to search for the silver, the “argentia,”) then let’s be certain which language games we are playing.


    Rev. Tom Burdett

    • Thanks Rev. Tom Burdett,

      I am Prayson, the blogger of this blog and Prezzy is a follower and regularly commenter.

      I would like some clarification so I do not go on and attack a strawman. Do you mean to say that Logic opens the door to belief but in belief logic is totally unproductive?

      Could you be kind and explain more on that.

      In Christ,

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