Friday, 4 September 2015

The fallacy of universalism: Jesus had preferences among people

One example of destructive nonsense which has been imposed on Christianity is the notion of 'universalism' - that a good Christian should have, or must have, equal regard for everybody - and that love for one person more than another is a failure and a corruption.

It is hard to know where this idea comes from, but its pseudo-plausibility and destructive potential is so great, and it has been so hard to eradicate, that probably it originated with Satan.

Perhaps the clearest and quickest way to refute the universalist fallacy is to show that Jesus did not live by it. This was brought out for me by a few sentences from William Arkle:

No one knows the ultimate secrets within loving friendship any more than we know the ultimate secrets within loving friendship any more than we know the ultimate nature of humans we call friend. These things remain to be endlessly disclosed and constitute a further reason for valuing one another. As a guide, we notice that the man Jesus could not help being closer to his disciple John in the personal sense, although He loved them all. There is nothing any of us can do about this, it is the mysterious personal chemistry of love which can never be tamed and will always apply. Even amongst the most intensely beautiful treasures, those who are able to view them will be drawn to one thing rather than another.

It is clear throughout the Gospels that Jesus had a special love for this Apostle - evidenced by (for instance) John's unique non-abandonment of Christ at his arrest and presence at the crucifixion, Jesus leaving his Mother in John's care, and John's special mission to live until Christ's second coming.

(Yes, this does mean that John is still alive today - somewhere on earth; which knowledge should be a source of great wonder, consolation and hope.)

Jesus's special love of John seems to have led to some jealousy from the leader of the Apostles, Simon Peter. After Peter had been told of his own mission including a prophecy of the sufferings of its ending - this led to a mild rebuke from Jesus and a statement of John's contrasting destiny (this is one of several occasions when Jesus found it necessary to rebuke Peter!).

John 21:

15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. 16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. 17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. 
18 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. 19 This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.
20 Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? 21 Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do22 Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me. 

('The disciple whom Jesus loved' is the way that the Apostle John refers to himself in his Gospel.)

At any rate, Jesus's clearly special love for John ought to be enough, in and of itself, to refute the incoherent and anti-Christian notion that our ideal should be a personally-indifferent universalism.