Luke 13:24 and Universalism

This past Sunday part of our Scripture reading was Luke 13:24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.” (NIV)

Darrel Bock comments on this passage: “The reason Jesus gives for such diligent effort is that many will seek entry and will not be able to enter. The reason for their inability follows, but the basic idea is that the Lord will not recognize who they are because they did not respond to his call in time. Many will discover the truth after the door is closed, but it will be too late to share in the blessing.” (Luke vol. 2:1235)

This passage got me thinking about the issue of universalism and how this passage would be understood by a universalist. I checked Gregory MacDonald’s The Evangelical Universalist but there isn’t a Scripture index and browsing was of no avail. However, I did find this which I think is instructive:

“One key hermeneutical move I wish to make in this book is to find a broad theological grid that allows me to make sense of a wide range of themes and texts. . . What I would like to note at this point is that this move allows me to say without embarrassment that some biblical authors may not have been universalists. Indeed, it seems to me more than likely that they were not. However, the universalist grid I will suggest is both biblical and broad enough to accommodate what such authors taught about final judgment. So when I claim that universalism is biblical, I do not mean that all biblical authors were universalists but that the universalist tendencies of some authors provide the big picture within which we can happily accommodate the teachings on hell of all the biblical writers.” (40, Page references are to the first edition.)

MacDonald acknowledges that every position has tough texts to deal with. Calvinists have problem texts as do Arminians. The same is true for universalists. (37) He notes that these problem texts are only a cause for worry if they “are significantly serious or numerous.” (37) That seems fair enough unless one argument you have recourse to is to say “Well, Luke was not a universalist, but my position is still biblical.” It seems that if some of the most difficult passages can be dismissed as not agreeing with my position then they really aren’t all that difficult.


About Louis

I am a 1997 graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
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