Trinitarianism is NOT Universalism, by Stuart Johnson

My friend Stuart Johnson leads Perichoresis, Australia (located at

A friend of mine described me as a ‘gadfly’.  Look it up on Google if you do not know what it means.  I have had to constantly deal with those who describe themselves as ‘universalists’ ever since I have engaged in a spreading the Good News of the Gospel.  These are the ‘gadflies’ I have to deal with.

Ever since I embarked on the Trinitarian journey, the question always arose as the whether or not I am advocating the doctrine of Universalism.  I spent many thousands of hours carefully looking at this doctrine and after a number of years I am able to come draw a conclusion of my position as well as the position of Perichoresis Australia and Perichoresis USA.


Here is why:

1. We can only understand God in His acts toward us as conveyed in Scripture, especially His act as the Man Jesus Christ.  In Jesus Christ, God stoops down and makes Himself known in a way that we are able to comprehend in our own rational understanding.  God’s act, His economy, gives us somewhat of a window into His immanency, His Being.  There is no division between the economy of God in His steps towards humanity by His own initiative and who He is in Himself i.e. His immanency.

2.   When we take in the implications of God’s act toward us we must turn to Jesus Christ along with THE WHOLE context of the New Testament Scripture.  We must not ‘cherry pick’ our way through and to support whatever hypothesis we are trying to support.  If one leans towards Limited Atonement with the strong emphasis on hell as the outcome then this hypothesis will overshadow the covenantal theme of the whole of the Bible.  If one leans towards universalism with the strong emphasis on explaining away hell, then this hypothesis will also overshadow the whole covenantal theme of the Bible.

3.  Good healthy Trinitarian theological exegesis does not begin with an hypothesis.  One does not construct an idea in the fallen corrupt mind of humanity and take this idea to Scripture to find evidence to support their hypothesis.  Grabbing hold of certain aspects of the economy of God as displayed in the Person and work of Jesus Christ and following a line of ‘If God is love therefore . . .’ or ‘If this is what God has done therefore He must  be . . . ‘ is not a healthy theological exercise.  It is clearly mythology.  This is the corrupt logico/causal arguments that concerned both Karl Barth and T F Torrance where they have traced this origin to the Latin Heresy.  It is dangerous to probe into the atonement and to see how the work of Christ applies to us.  To put it plainly: It is Scholasticism!

4. It does not matter the calibre of who is declaring the hypothesis of Universalism, stating such a case is falling back to Scholasticism.  Some of the greatest minds in history have made this mistake of carelessly trying to determine who God is and what He can do based on ‘cherry picked’ theories in Scripture.  This is certainly the case with some of the church fathers.  Even though they may have declared such a thing, as with most great minds, we do not right off everything they have said.  For example, one of the greatest of the Reformers, John Calvin, someone whose work both Barth and Torrance greatly admired, popularised the doctrine of Predestination.  Calvin drifted slightly back to Scholasticism and Barth provided a corrective that was sorely needed.  Barth wisely left the outcome as ‘mystery.’

Withdrawing the clear threats in Scripture is a reckless thing to do.  This is not to say there is a possibility that He will not fail in His mission to bring every last person to His presence.  If this is not the case, then we are hardly in a position to say this is a failure on His part.  If we say so, then we are scholastics.  Thus we are left with two possibilities of which we can hope for the most positive for every human being.  We are left in tension and good healthy theology will leave room for the loving mystery.  With mystery, we worship and adore.

Trinitarian theology does not equal Universalism!!


The Mediation of Christ
by: Thomas Forsyth Torrance
publisher: Helmers & Howard Publishers, published: 1992-07-01
ASIN: 0939443503
EAN: 9780939443505
sales rank: 217828
price: $11.90 (new), $8.75 (used)

In “The Mediation of Christ,” Thomas F. Torrance (Professor Emeritus of Christian Dogmatics at the University of Edinburgh) sets forth a devotional theology of the atoning work of Christ in: the mediation of revelation, the mediation of reconciliation, the person of the mediator, the mediation of Christ in our human response, and the atonement and the Holy Trinity. This important 2nd edition adds a foreword addressing the reality of unconditional grace in relation to “the integrity of the response we are called to make in repentance for sin and in acceptance of Jesus Christ as our personal Savior.” Also added to this edition is a new final chapter, which further addresses the centrality of the Trinity in the atonement.

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