Gospel Conversations—an exciting discovery

For months, I haven’t had the headspace to write as it’s been one of the toughest years of my life. However, I recently made such an exciting discovery, that I just had to tell you about it. To put it in context, I know hundreds of Christian Universalists in the US but only a handful in Australia (primarily due to the much smaller population). Therefore, I was delighted when Robin Parry told me about a reputable Australian group, Gospel Conversations, which discovered orthodox Christian Universalism this year!

© Gospel Conversations — Explorations in Christian thought

They describe themselves as:

A monthly event and podcast exploring the richness of the gospel in a conversational forum. … Essentially we want to take God out of the religious box we put Him in, and position Him as Lord of Creation. That means recovering a much bigger picture of God and his project than a merely ‘religious’ program whereby the Christians are rescued from the earth and escape to heaven.

Gospel Conversations / About

They’ve done over 8 hours of talks and a panel discussion exploring the issues (I’ve made a playlist) :

Hell is the question we all avoid but it is the corollary of hope. How do we fit the two together? Is the traditional model of hell right? Or scriptural? Could everyone get saved in the end? Tony begins to address these vexed questions by first examining the landscape of the debate – the language and assumptions, the possibilities, the history and the problems of all the usual positions. He ends by suggesting a better question to frame our thinking.

Hope & Hell (1): Is ‘hell’ the answer to the wrong question?

Our second talk builds a richer view of ‘judgment’. “What house is God building?” is a better question – and it immediately opens up a new view of judgment. Architects judge as part of their creative process. This positions ‘judgment’ out of the penal system and inside a creation system. Tony explores this new perspective in this talk.

Hope & Hell (2): Judgment—punishment or reform?

Tony advances Gregory’s picture of the Restitution of all things. The question of ‘universal salvation’ needs to fall onto a big eschatological landscape not onto a narrow one. Only then does it make sense. That is what Gregory does. Tony gives us a detailed summary of his epic eschatological vision of creation in ‘On the Making of Man’ which explores the profound implications of being made in the image of God.

Hope & Hell (3): Summarising Gregory of Nyssa’s vision

St Augustine laid the foundations for the doctrine of Hell in his epic tome the City of God. But did he get it right? Tony gives a penetrating diagnosis of where Augustine’s thinking had ‘code errors’ that distorted the gospel and predisposed him to the idea of hell as never-ending torment. Unfortunately, the church of Rome validated his thinking and excluded the broader eschatology that we are now beginning to realise was the orthodoxy of the Patristic Fathers.

Hope & Hell (4): St Augustine’s Code Errors

Tony finally confronts the scary verses in this talk – the passages that at face value talk about hell, judgment and wrath. Traditionally they have so gripped the dark imaginations of the church that they have totally overshadowed the even clearer verses that declare universal hope. But we need to answer the question – What do the ‘Bad News’ verses really say about eternal hell? What do they really tell us?

Hope & Hell (5): The Good / Bad News

As we continue to ponder the hope of ‘apokatastasis’, we confront some of the ‘so whats’, beginning with evangelism. At face value, it looks like a doctrine of ‘universal salvation’ makes evangelism unnecessary – why preach if everybody gets saved eventually anyway? Tony addresses this question by first changing the question – and then building a far bigger picture of ‘salvation’ into which we can place ‘evangelism’.

Hope & Hell (6): Apokatastasis—So What for Gospel and Evangelism?

Our Hope and Hell series has raised a lot of interest; people like the ideas a lot but everyone has questions. We created a panel of three to address eight of these questions that our listeners sent in. In this talk, Ron, Andrew and Tony give their responses in a free-flowing, exploratory and honest dialogue. Mark Ridgway facilitates the dialogue.

Hope & Hell (7): Panel Q&A

I haven’t finished listening to them all yet but so far one of the highlights has been Tony’s summary of Gregory of Nyssa’s amazing vision of what God began in Creation and will complete in the New Creation. It’s a stark contrast to Augustine’s vision. Anyway, God willing, I’ll get to fly up to Sydney and meet them in 2019!

For more information about Gospel Conversations:

3 thoughts on “Gospel Conversations—an exciting discovery”

  1. Hi Alex and Happy New Year! I loved the quote about God is an architect and that He needs to judge His work to make it perfect – just look at the Opal building in Sydney, that was not judged/assessed correctly and is now having to be judged/assessed so that engineers are happy the high rise building will not fall down!

    It intrigues me that “social justice warriors” – as a generalisation have the heart of God and most may not know it. SJW are about righting wrongs, confronting injustices, closing the gaps, helping the victims & vulnerable e.t.c One aspect of the ‘harm ninimisation’ strategeies is ‘Restorative Justice’ – another aspect of the Bible is ‘the punishment needs to fit the crime’ – both of these aspects that the criminal justice system has latched onto are Biblical and if one looks a little deeper, universal in reconciliation!

    I will listen to the Gospel Conversations – all the best from southern Tasmania and I pray that for you and your family 2019 will be the year of growth and propering in your soul. God Bless.

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    1. Happy New Year Neil! Yes, I liked the way Tony describes God as an architect making beneficial assessments/judgments about what He is building.

      I believe it’s godly to identify injustices and desire to correct them. At the same time, I think it’s often far harder to right wrongs than we expect… Our finite view of the world means we’re prone to miss key factors and can be ignorant of the flow-on effects of our intervention. Additionally, we need to be careful as our motives can be easily clouded by resentment and a desire for revenge/retribution (which is why I think God says, “The exacting of justice is mine, I will requite”—Romans 12:19 DBHNT).

      Having said that, if we have carefully examined our motives (including, ideally, talking it over with other mature Christians) and have addressed our own failings in the particular area, my understanding of, “First take the beam of wood out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye”, is that, then we may humbly, graciously, and carefully try to help others.

      I love Restorative Justice and believe that the response to wrongdoing shouldn’t be excessive. I believe both are biblical principles and have positively influenced our judicial systems. I also agree that they fit best with Christian Universalism.

      Thanks for the encouragement! I pray that God blesses you and your family this year too!

      Liked by 1 person

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