The New Universalism

“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Acts 4:12.

If you are confused by the situation in our country today, this ought not to be thought surprising. In the years immediately past and indeed in the current hour, we are witnessing changes, vast unparallel changes, socially, economically, politically, and certainly ecclesiastically, if not spiritually. We make specific reference to some of the things that have occurred in the name of religion; the demonstrations, the marches, the sit-ins, the lie-ins, the teach-ins, not to mention the riots that fill our daily papers. The significant fact is not simply that such things occur, but that they are given the cloak and mantle of religion. Clergymen participate in them and give them their blessing. Indeed, in some cases these things are summed lip under the head of “Evangelism.”

Put this fact side by side with another. The people who engage in these activities are not preaching the Gospel as we know it, or as the Bible sets it forth. The name of Martin Luther King is in the papers and news magazines daily. For all the accounts that you have read of the things that he had done, the speeches he has made, have you ever read that he said to any audience anywhere, “You are sinners who need a Savior”? Do you recall having read such a statement from his lips? And when locally, in some sort of empathy with the situation in Selma, Alabama, last winter, a demonstration was effected on a Sunday afternoon. did you hear anything about a preaching of the Gospel?

Some sincere people undoubtedly participate in these things, because they think it is a part of their Christian witness. Sincere, but deluded people. When one analyzes the philosophy of its leadership this movement is born cut of universalism. Why is it unnecessary to preach the Old Gospel of sin and salvation? Why can they devote their time totally to social, political and economic endeavors? If you search out the thinking of the leadership of these movements, it is because they hold that man has no need of salvation. Since the matter of salvation requires no further attention, the effort of the church may be directed toward the things that Bible-believing Christendom has always thought of as being secondary.

The current movements compel us to consider the new universalism. The old universalism? How old? Oh, as short a time as ten, fifteen or twenty years ago, and dating back into the early history of our country. The old universalism taught that all men are or will be saved. Some taught a second chance, so-called. There were many theories, but the idea was that all men either were or would be saved. This is the old universalism. The new universalism teaches that man does not need to be saved. This is the basic difference. The old universalism taught that all men were or would be saved. The new universalism teaches that man has no need for salvation.


Consider this subject under three familiar heads: Sin, Salvation and Gratitude. First, the new universalism teaches that man is not a sinner who is in need of salvation. Have you asked yourself the question, “Why is the Book of Genesis under fire?” If you are reading at all in theological and church papers, you will know that this is a fore· most issue right now: the denial of the historicity of the Book of Genesis, particularly chapters one to eleven. The newest theory is that beginning at chapter twelve in Gene· sis one encounters history, but that chapters one through eleven are a collection of myths and sagas—certainly not historical fact.

Have you ever asked yourself, “Why?” or have you ever asked another question, “What difference does it make?” The answer lies at the point of Adam, the fall, original sin and its impact in the corruption of the race. In doing away with the historical character of the early chapters of Genesis, the critics also do away with the historical figure, Adam. Adam is nonexistent in the new theology. There was no one man who, as the original father of the human race, fell into sin and passed on the corruption of his nature to all his posterity.

You must see the connection between this matter and another that may seem unrelated. This is the stress upon evolution in theological circles. Have you ever asked yourself, “Why do theologians, not the scientists so much but the ecclesiastical leaders, promote the idea of evolution?” If it were true that man is indeed an offspring of the beast, then his faults are to be explained by that fact. When he does things that are wrong, horribly wrong, this is not sin.

Neither is he morally guilty. He is simply working his way out of the jungle. Therefore, rather than being condemned, he is to be commended for the progress he has made. Perhaps he hasn’t made a great deal of progress. The world is still a terrible place. The human race is still terribly evil. Even so, man is to be commended for whatever progress he has made. No sin, no guilt, only commendation.


If one were to accept this position, then it raises a second great question. The question is, “What about Jesus Christ?” If man does not need a Savior, if he is neither sinful nor guilty, and therefore, does not need a Savior, what about Jesus Christ? The answer is: He becomes irrelevant to man’s destiny.

This was epitomized again a very brief time ago in the city of San Francisco. There, a second great Festival of Faith was held. The first was held in 1955. Now, ten years later, a second Festival of Faith was held in San Francisco. On the same platform were a Jew, a Mohammedan, a Buddhist, a Hindu. Other pagan religions were also represented. One so-called representative of the Christian Faith was there. They all offered prayers to God. Nobody said what god. Some god. Everybody’s own god. They all prayed, each to his own god, for peace in the world. However high-minded their motives may have been, what utter rank blasphemy this was! Again, we must raise the question, “What about Jesus Christ?” If we can enter into that kind of relationship with the Mohammedan, the Buddhist, the Hindu, the Jew, and any other pagan you may care to name, what place remains for Jesus Christ?

It also constitutes a denial of everything that we have done, and that our forefathers have done in generations past, in the field of Christian missions. Consider, if the god of the Mohammedan is a real god or at least as real as our God, and if he can be prayed to, and if he can send peace in the world, then why should we make any effort to convert a Mohammedan, a Buddhist or a Hindu? The answer is: In many cases no effort is being made to convert them. And you had better believe it! No longer is it popular to say that there is one name under heaven, and none other, whereby we must be saved. Jesus Christ is not the Savior of Men. Man needs no Savior. He is not a unique figure, the only-begotten of the Father, Very God of Very God. No, He has been demoted to a plane of equality with Mohammed, Buddha and all the others.

If this be true, what are we to say about the Gospel accounts which present Him as God, the Only-begotten of the Father? You see, these too are manufactured accounts. We must look for whatever little truth may be found in them. And Paul, it is commonly said, represents a corruption of the Christian Faith. His epistles cannot be accepted at face value. No, Jesus is not a unique figure. He is not the one name under heaven whereby we must be saved.

What about Him then? What, if anything, did He do that was significant for mankind? One answer, I suppose, might come out of the play which some of you may have seen at the New York World’s Fair, sponsored by the National Council of Churches “through the New York Federation, entitled The Parable. Robert Moses, the director of the Fair, strongly suggested that it ought not to’ be shown, but, they continued to present it nonetheless. We shall recount one or two incidents from the play, because it gives us the new view of Jesus Christ, the heretical view, really not very new.

This is the story of a circus. As the circus train travels along the road, one sees a clown in white. His clothing is white. His face is painted. He follows on a donkey. When the circus stops, a tired man is attempting to water the elephants. The clown waters the elephants for him. The elephant tender follows the clown in gratitude, but there are those who are angry because he has interfered. Later one sees a dodger, a colored man, sitting on a platform. One throws the baseball at the target. If you hit it, he falls into the water. The clown took his place. The colored man was grateful. He followed the clown, but again, some became angry with the clown. One or two additional incidents are shown. In each case some follow the clown, but others are angry with him. In the end those who are angry with him put him to death.

Then, as the circus moves out, a clown appears. The killer of the clown has put white grease paint on his face. Now he takes the place of the clown, riding the donkey. What, then, is Jesus Christ? Well, like a lot of other dedicated men, he provides an inspiring example. Now that He is dead, moved by his example, others will follow in his train. No uniqueness, no Saviorhood. At best, an inspiring example.


This brings us to a third consideration. At first glance it may seem totally unrelated, and yet, it is very closely related. This is the lawlessness of the age in which we live—not only the fact that crime is on the increase and abounding throughout our country. J. Edgar Hoover offers repeated warnings on this point. In addition, we are witnessing mass crime, rioting and destruction of property. Utter disregard for authority. Anarchy is abroad in the land.

You ask, “How is this related?” O, very closely. The historic view is that we obey God because, when we were hopelessly lost, He saved us. Now, out of utter gratitude, we live unto Him. The Roman Catholic view has been that one lives unto God to merit, at least in part, his salvation. Both of these views are undercut by the new theology. If man docs not need to be saved, if he was not sinful, and if he is not guilty, he has nothing for which to be grateful to God. Again, if he is neither sinful nor guilty, he does not need to earn or merit salvation.

Perhaps, nonetheless, you will ask why there is an effort to put away the law of God with the church? This is a fact, There is a very real effort afoot today to remove the law of God from the life of the church. Why? The basic reason is that the natural man is always in rebellion against God, and there are some terribly natural men in the ecclesiastical structure today, Natural man always rebels against God. Having deposed the God of the Bible, as surely the modern church has done, having done away with the Lawgiver you must do away with the law.

Notice, however, that man always has a god. He has elevated himself to the place of god, and he becomes the lawgiver. This explains much that has happened in our time, You are acquainted with the Supreme Court ruling on pornography—dirty, lewd stuff. The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that the standard in any community is to be determined by the views of the people in the community. Think about that! Man becomes the lawgiver. He makes his own law, because he is his own god, This is the ultimate end of the new theology. The God of the Bible is deposed, taken from the throne, and man seeks to elevate himself to the throne of the universe.

Do you think that this is real? The Presbyterian Journal, dated August 11, 1965, reads, “Advice to United Church of Christ Youth: Ditch Sex Guidelines.” This is the story,

“A ‘new morality,’ which throws away all the taboos and guidelines and leaves only the law of love was recommended by a theologian as a way of life for 80 teenagers attending the United Church of Christ Youth Forum.

“It always depends on the situation,” explained Dr. Joseph Fletcher, professor of ethics at Episcopal Theological Seminary, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“‘In certain situations,’ he continued, ‘unmarried love could be infinitely more moral than married love. Lying could be more Christian than telling the truth; stealing could be better than respecting private property.’” This is a minister, a professor of theology, talking to the young people of the United Church of Christ in a meeting at Elmhurst, Illinois.

“Dr. Fletcher said the new morality rejects the old which he described as an effort to ‘prefabricate our moral decisions by applying a lot of rules.’ Instead, the new morality Christian ‘faces every situation determined to do the most loving thing possible under the circumstances.’” And the most loving thing may be adultery or theft or lying or any other sin he may feel he wants to commit.

“Not every pre-marital sex relationship is wrong, Dr. Fletcher told the teenagers. ‘According to the new morality nothing is good or bad of itself, but its goodness or its evil depends entirely upon what it does or does not do—to or for—persons.’”

This is the direction of the youth movement. This has been the direction of most of the major denominations in their university work. Most of them maintain chaplains, so-called, on the university campuses of our country. And, this is the new morality that at least some of these men are teaching to young people.

The height or depth of something or other appears in James Robinson’s book, Honest To God, where he tells his readers that adultery may be a kind of holy communion. You would expect that from the devil and his advocates. The significant thing is that it comes from the lips of leaders in the church, Do we need to spell out what kind of men they must be, since they defy God and the law of God and all that is holy?

This is the new theology. It begins with a man who was never a sinner, who has no sin nor guilt, and who needs no Savior. It relegates Jesus Christ to the background. He is not the Savior of men, nor do they need a Savior. It ends by defying God and all that is holy.

Where, then, shall we stand as Bible-believing Christians? We shall stand just exactly where we always did, We still preach that man is a sinner who needs to be saved. Indeed, that his sin and his guilt are so great that only the death of the Son of God could pay the price of his sin. We still stand on the fact that there is one Savior, one way of salvation. And if anyone wishes to call this position intolerant or bigoted, so let it be. He may apply any nasty, dirty little name he likes. We believe that Jesus is the only Savior. By the grace of God, we are not going to change in order to be popular with an unconverted world that is already under condemnation. And therefore, we believe that our lives ought to be dedicated to God. Now if there be one to whom the Spirit of God speaks, if in your heart is a conviction that these things are true, we invite you in the name of God, the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost to receive life through His name.

Next month the Baker Book House of Grand Rapids, MI, will publish another volume by the Rev. Gordon Girod, pastor of the Seventh Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Mich., under the title GOD IS NOT DEAD. In it are trenchant analyses of some of the ma;or drifts influencing the churches and their members in these days. The article which appears here constitutes a section of the book soon, to appear, which we trust will receive a warm welcome among all who know and love the Reformed faith.