In May 2017 I wrote up my Christian testimony and shared it with a few people, and was thinking about how I might eventually share it with a wider audience. I thought about posting it on the web but I was not sure exactly how to best go about doing that. So I procrastinated. Then about a week ago I felt so strongly about conclusions and views I was coming to on the flat earth theory versus the spherical earth theory controversy that I felt I had to move forward and get something on the web, so I started this Blog in the easiest way I could find, using Google’s Blogger app. So I no longer have an excuse to procrastinate in getting my testimony out on the web.
The only thing I think I would add for clarification at this point, is that I feel that I am definitely a religious pluralist. Both of the books that I recently read by Dr. Boyd Purcell, “Spiritual Terrorism” and “Christianity Without Insanity,” helped me to conclude that I have to be a religious pluralist, even though it is a concept that is worthy of much further study and deeper understanding. I simply do not feel that it is my goal to attempt to persuade those of other faiths or agnostics or atheists to believe as I do. I would rather love them, come to know them, learn from them, share with them, and appreciate them for who they are and how they have come to where they are in their life’s journey.
Dr. Purcell has written and posted on his web site (ChristianityWithoutInsanity.com) a truly liberating message of Good News from God. The first 5 lines which make up the title I have pasted below for reference.
Five Liberating Truths—Religions in a Nutshell
SALTED WITH FIRE
The Good News of God’s
Eternal Love/Amazing Grace/Infinite Mercy/Perfect Justice
Just because God will ultimately save all, this is not an excuse to live unrighteously. The Biblical principle is that people reap what they sow in this life and/or the life to come. The principle of Karma from eastern religions is a very similar concept.
Also, in this brief introduction to the posting of my testimony on this Blog, I want to confess my sin of having given the gospel of Jesus Christ to many people in a spiritually terrorizing manner by threatening with hell (unending punishment aka eternal torments) to those who do not believe. So if there are people out there who end up reading this who I gave the “turn or burn gospel” to I humbly ask for your forgiveness and I hope and pray that your life can be healed from any trauma that this caused.
So my testimony document from May 2017 follows.
A Brief Testimony to my Christian faith
By Timothy Mark Hightower, also known as Mark Hightower or T. Mark Hightower
San Jose, CA
I started working on this document on May 9, 2017 and I wanted to complete it in one sitting, but something pulled me away, so I am back today to complete it on May 24, 2017, on my third sitting.
I have prayed to God for guidance as I write this brief testimony and witness to my faith in Jesus Christ. Over the last three and a half years both of my parents passed away due to failing health, the last being my dad in February 2016. This was a very difficult time for me. Over the last 5 years or so God has granted me repentance toward the things of God and over the last couple of years God has rescued me from a most horrible situation I got myself into of relapsing into anxiety and depression due to abusing alcohol as a means of coping with the family stresses related to my father’s failing health and his care. I was raised in a Bible believing Christian family and when I was a senior in high school in 1974 with a troubled life and seeking answers I was introduced by a friend’s mother to the ministry of a particularly dogmatic Bible teacher and pastor who had a tape ministry, where people would listen to his teachings on reel-to-reel audio tape. I became a hard core follower of him, I swallowed everything he taught hook line and sinker, and felt that I then knew “the truth.” This pastor was of the same educational background as the pastor of the church where I was raised, both being graduates of Dallas Theological Seminary where a form of Christian theology known as Dispensationalism is taught, but he was super dogmatic in his approach to teaching. I eventually left this teaching after quite a few years for less dogmatic forms of Christianity and spirituality. I went through a skeptical phase where I explored agnosticism and atheism, but found it difficult to fully embrace atheism. Perhaps it would be possible for me to write a whole book about my life, but that is not my intent here. I want to keep this relatively short.
So, whereas there was a time many years ago when I thought I knew “the truth” and found a teacher who taught “the truth,” I now realize that there is much that I am uncertain about, and I am OK with that, and I still have my faith in God and Jesus Christ. So please realize when I give my testimony here of my faith in God and Jesus Christ I am speaking as a fallible human being based upon what I have come to know and believe in my life.
SEEK AND YOU SHALL FIND
I encourage people to seek religious and philosophical truth, and I even include atheism and agnosticism within the scope of this. If one becomes enthralled by a particular teacher thinking that everything from them is the truth, I urge caution, as this can become a trap that is difficult to escape from as I learned the hard way in my life. But I would encourage people to seek out multiple and opposing viewpoints to the extent that they are comfortable doing this, and to seek God’s help and guidance in their spiritual journeys.
So my Christian witness is going to be pretty brief. Based upon my Christian upbringing, my experiences in life, and what I feel that God has revealed to me through the Bible, I am convinced that I am a sinner, imperfect and subject to much failure before a perfect God, my creator. The promised coming savior of the Old Testament, the seed of the woman of Genesis 3:15, was fulfilled in the birth and life of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as revealed in the New Testament. Jesus Christ died on the cross for the sins of the world, was buried and rose again, and has thereby provided restoration of sinful man to a perfect holy God. Man’s only response is to accept what God has done through faith.
Once accepted, God opens up the possibility for one to live a life pleasing to God, victorious over sin, where God is there to help you through difficulties in life, with peace in your soul even through hardships, and where beyond your life on this earth you will live with God and all other saved creatures forever in happiness.
The fact that Jesus Christ has died for the sins of the world providing salvation is known as the gospel, which means good news.
COMING INTO CHRISTIAN UNIVERSALISM OVER THE LAST TEN YEARS
The way I originally learned the gospel was that if one did not believe in Jesus Christ during their life on this earth, that they would go to hell forever, a place of never ending punishment from God. It took me a long time (approximately the last 10 years) and much study to eventually come to believe that all will ultimately be saved through Jesus Christ, even those who don’t come to faith in Him until after their life on this earth ends. What this means is that punishment beyond this life in a place commonly referred to as hell, is a place of punishment for the purpose of correction and ultimate salvation with God. Many Christians will say that it is heresy to believe that all will ultimately be saved through Jesus Christ. I have even had some tell me I am going to hell because I believe this way. The best I can do in this short testimony is to share some highlights so that those interested can pursue their own further research.
The term I like the best for the viewpoint that all will ultimately be saved through Jesus Christ is Christian Universalism. There are a few other terms, but if you search for this one you will find the others. I had no idea there was such a viewpoint as Christian Universalism until I first became aware of it about 10 years ago. Since then I have read many books and web sites on this subject, of which there are many. I have learned that Christian Universalism is not some New Age belief system that was formulated in recent history, but that instead it can be traced back to some of the earliest Church Fathers.
I am not going to try to prove rigorously that Christian Universalism is true, but I am going to try to show that as a Biblically based viewpoint it should be considered at least on an equal comparative basis with two other commonly accepted Christian viewpoints.
I first learned the following logical analysis from the work of Thomas Talbott as presented in a couple of books, one where he was the sole author and one where he was one of several contributing authors. I will express it in my own words so if you want to see the exact words Talbott used, please consult his work.
The Three Propositions. There are three propositions where all three cannot be logically true at the same time. Any two of the three can be true forcing the remaining one to be logically false. First I will state the propositions.
It is God’s will that all will be ultimately saved.
God is able to accomplish all that He wills.
Some will be ultimately lost, i.e. unsaved.
If Two and Three are both true then One must be logically false. This is the Christian theological viewpoint commonly known as Augustinianism or Calvinism. Basically this viewpoint says that it is God’s will that some go to hell forever, i.e. that God predestines some to hell.
If One and Three are both true then Two must be logically false. This is the Christian theological viewpoint commonly known as Arminianism. Basically this viewpoint says that although it is God’s will that all be saved, God is not able to accomplish all that He wills because man’s will supersedes God’s will in this case.
If One and Two are both true then Three must be logically false. This is the Christian theological viewpoint not so commonly known as Christian Universalism. It basically says that it is God’s will that all be saved, and He is able to accomplish all that He wills, and therefore none will be ultimately lost, i.e. unsaved.
You can find scriptures in the Bible which support Augustinianism (Calvinism). You can find scriptures in the Bible which support Arminianism. You can find scriptures in the Bible which support Christian Universalism. In each of these three viewpoints, advocates will seek to harmonize with their viewpoint the scriptures that do not seem to agree with their viewpoint.
I cannot say that I am completely sure which of the three viewpoints is true. I am a fallible human being subject to error. But I can say that Christian Universalism makes the most sense to me and is the most convincing to me, so I can no longer in clear conscience give the gospel by threatening people with never ending punishment in hell if they do not believe in Jesus Christ in this life.
What I can say is encourage them to research the gospel and seek God’s will for their lives and if convinced believe in Jesus Christ for all the benefits that come from this, the sooner the better. But I don’t want to try to rush people into making a hasty decision. This ends up being witnessing for Jesus Christ in a way that resembles “multi-level marketing with Bibles,” a concept I believe I read and/or heard from author and skeptic Michael Shermer many years ago.
From my own experiences in life, I have certainly experienced hell in this life on more than one occasion, and I certainly played a major role in bringing these sufferings upon myself, but God used these things to draw me to Himself, to rescue me in spite of myself, and to bring me to repentance toward the things of God. So this is why I encourage people to seek out God, the sooner the better, but know that God ultimately will draw you to Himself, even if it ends up being after you die. But it is much better to come to know Jesus Christ before you die. And the sooner the better so as to avoid the possibility of having to suffer those hells on earth that can be such horrible experiences.
I am able to read books from many viewpoints, whether within Christianity, or religion in general, or philosophy, or other areas, and I feel I am able to benefit without feeling like I have to agree with everything any particular author says or that I have to know for sure what is true about any or all issues. In many cases I might find myself unable to determine for sure what the truth is on an issue. I am OK with this.
I want to finish my testimony by offering one argument for Christian Universalism based on love, as well as citing some scriptures that are important to me.
The gospel is supposed to be good news. That is what the word gospel means. But is the typical gospel presentation, where one is threatened with never ending torture beyond this life if they don’t believe in Jesus Christ, really good news?
Does God approach man and say, I love you and I want the very best for you, but if you don’t believe in my Son Jesus Christ during your life on this earth, then I am going to put you in a place of never ending suffering? As a man suppose I approached a woman who I was falling in love with and told her of my love and that if she would not return my love I would lock her up and keep her alive and torture her as long as she lived. Would not such a man be considered one of the greatest monsters to ever inhabit this earth? How could God really be like this?
I learned this verse as a child.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16
I also memorized the Christmas story from the gospel of Luke, three verses of which I will quote below.
And the Angel of the Lord came unto them, and the glory of the Lord shown round about them, and they were sore afraid. And the Angel said unto them, do not be afraid, for I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you this day is born in the city of David, a savior, which is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:9-11
How could this be good tidings of great joy for all people if most people are going to ultimately end up in never ending suffering in hell?
One of my favorite verses that supports Christian Universalism.
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 1 Cor 15:22
If the first “all” is not the same as the second “all” in this verse, then the verse becomes totally meaningless.
Finally a verse of God’s assurance of overcoming anxiety.
Do not be anxious for anything but in everything through prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God, and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.