If Grace Is True: Why God Will Save Every Person

If Grace Is True: Why God Will Save Every Person

by Philip Gulley, James Mulholland


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061926082
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 02/02/2010
Series: Plus Series
Pages: 242
Sales rank: 245,620
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Philip Gulley is a Quaker minister, writer, husband, and father. He is the bestselling author of Front Porch Tales, the acclaimed Harmony series, and is coauthor of If Grace Is True and If God Is Love. Gulley lives with his wife and two sons in Indiana, and is a frequent speaker at churches, colleges, and retreat centers across the country.

James Mulholland, author of Praying Like Jesus, is a theologian with ecumenical experience in the American Baptist, United Methodist, and Quaker denominations. He lives in Indianapolis, where he is active in neighborhood development.

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If Grace Is True
Why God Will Save Every Person

Chapter One

The Dilemma

Sally was likely dead before she hit the floor. One minute she was laughing with co-workers. The next minute she lay crumpled at their feet. They called the paramedics, who rushed her forty miles to the hospital, where the doctors and nurses kept her heart beating for twelve more hours. Long enough for her son to call the church and ask me to come. Time enough for family to gather, to grieve, and to ask why. The doctor called it a stroke. I called it a mystery. Neither answer brought much comfort. Whatever the explanation, Sally was likely dead before she hit the floor.

Sally's death shook me. She was my age, our birthdays only a week apart. I thought this the cause of my discomfort when they asked me to speak at her funeral, but in preparing her eulogy I faced far more than my own mortality. I learned many secrets about this woman whom I'd often judged, sometimes condemned, and never respected. I discovered her life had been as cruel as her death. I realized my opinion of Sally had been unfair. At her funeral, I would bury my self-righteousness and arrogance. I would leave next to the flowers arranged around her grave a belief I'd held since I was a child.

Let me tell you about Sally.

Sally's father deserted her when she was three. Her mother filled the void with a parade of temporary replacements, none of whom wanted Sally underfoot. She was discarded. Passed from aunt to cousin to grandmother and back again, staying only as long as their patience allowed. Shuffled from school to school, from town to town. She made only acquaintances, never a friend. Longing for a stability she'd never known, Sally married young, and poorly.

Her husband abandoned her with three small children, no job, and no diploma. Her dreams withered away as she struggled to survive. All her life she'd been neglected, and now she began to neglect herself. Like dominoes falling, bad jobs were followed by worse ones; a poor husband was replaced by abusive boyfriends. Alcohol and drugs sped her descent. When the last domino toppled, Sally was thirty-two years old, the mother of five, unemployed, and living off the leftovers of neighbors and relatives. That domino tumbled the day she slept in with a hangover and woke to find her youngest daughter drowned in the pool next door.

When her son came and through his tears told me the news, I could barely contain my rage. Unaware of Sally's sad past, I saw only a mother who had failed her child, and I despised her. It was with great difficulty that I preached her daughter's funeral.

Before the funeral, Sally told me she'd been abandoned by God. I assured her God hadn't forsaken her. I told her, "God loves you. He knows your pain. You're not alone." But I offered those words through gritted teeth, certain she neither heard nor cared and doubting, myself, whether in her case it was true.

After the funeral Sally stood by her daughter's casket, clutching a wad of tissue and crying. "There's no reason to live," she said. "No reason at all."

She was wrong.

The last five years of Sally's life were her happiest. That's what everyone said at Sally's funeral. That's what her children said, what her mother said, what her friends said -- Sally's last five years were her best.

How could that be?

In the days after her daughter's death, Sally repented. Now by repentance, I don't mean she fell to her knees at a church altar and confessed her sins aloud. I don't mean she affirmed a set of spiritual laws or accepted a Lord and Savior. By repentance, I simply mean what the word itself means -- Sally turned. She turned from thoughts of suicide. She turned from crippling self-pity. She turned from despair. She turned.

Sally moved to a small town. She found a job. Then she found a better one. She bought a car. She bought a house. She planted flowers. She even planted a tree. She made friends, not acquaintances. She made peace with her family. Life wasn't perfect, but she'd turned from despair.

A month before her death, she told her son of a new and surprising desire. The day before Sally's funeral, her son revealed her confession to me. It was the memory that comforted him the most. His mother had simply confided, "I think I'm going to look for a church."

Sally died searching.

The woman I'd so easily disregarded while she lived had become a dilemma in her death. I sat in my office, reflecting on all I had learned and struggling with the words I should speak at Sally's funeral. To many Christians, Sally's destiny was an easy judgment. Having never accepted Christ, Christ wouldn't accept her. She was doomed to hell.

I grew up believing we were destined for either heaven or hell. I was taught that only those who confessed their sins and accepted Jesus as their Savior before they died would live with God forever. All the rest would suffer hell's eternal torment. As a child, I'd never questioned this formula. It was simple and clear. As an adult, I'd held on to this belief despite life's complexities.

Now Sally's life and death had unsettled what was once a sure conviction. In clear response to our prayers, she had been drawing close to God. She'd turned from the path of destruction. She'd been asking, seeking, and knocking. I couldn't believe God would invite Sally to his home, then slam the door as she stood at the threshold. It seemed a cruel joke ...

If Grace Is True
Why God Will Save Every Person
. Copyright © by Philip Gulley. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Table of Contents

A Note from the Authorsxi
1The Dilemma1
2Trusting Our Experience with God11
3The Character of God48
4The Will of God89
5The Salvation of God124
6The Persistence of God161
Appendix 1Universalist Themes and Verses in Scripture199
Appendix 2A Short History of Universalism211

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If Grace Is True 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 37 reviews.
Saved-by-Grace More than 1 year ago
I always considered meself to be a very strong Christian, and yet I found my eyes opened to a totally new perspective of God's love in this book. It is not a "utilitinarianism" view of all people being saved, but that the grace of God will be strong enough to bring each and every person to repentence and redemption through the grace of Christ. I can not say enough good things about this book, and I've recommended it to everyone I know. It shows OUR need to be the ones who save ourselves choosing to accept God's grace. Those who don't accept His grace are damned. People have the need to be in control of their destinies, and need "justice" (or more correctly termed vengence) for those who act wrongfully. We just don't want to surrender to the fact that God's love for us is absolutely independent of our feelings and actions. Even if we hate Him, He loves us. He loves us and wants us saved. He has the desire and the power to do this. When we leave this life, He shows us His grace and love. This is so powerful that it will bring everyone to redeption. Those who lived a sinful life will realize the errors of their ways and be truly repentent. Of course, this would be quite painful and guilt ridden for them. It doesn't meant that "anything goes" and we can have a "get out of hell free" card. When we chose to live our lives on this earth separated from God's will, we are never happy. We are refusing the peace and joy that His grace gives. Our eternal life starts now. Don't you want to enjoy the unconditional love, joy, and peace that He offers us? In these trying times, we so often need Him to carry us through the sands of our hard lives. Sorry this is so long, but it is truly a life changing book. It doesn't replace the Bible in ANY means what so ever. It bases most of its contents on the Word of God. However, it does give people who know the Word a wonderful view of our beloved Father who wishes to save all his precious children...not just those who agree with us. After all Christ came to heal the sick, not the well...and who amongst us is actually "well" afterall? Please read this book! Lisa
Guest More than 1 year ago
By reading the previous reviews posted, it is apparent that some people are smearing a book and are sinning (gossiping and lying) by saying things about something of which they know nothing. Someone said 'just because it is fun to be a materialistic, God won't let us off the hook'. Whoa -- obviously from someone who did not read this book! Another reviewer said, 'Repentence, mercy, faith, (and a whole lot of grace) precede judgement.... which is not in this book'. Again, the total opposite of what the writers said in this book (and which would have been apparent IF the writer of the review had read the book). This book stimulated my thoughts and made me really rethink what I believe, and why I believe what I believe. That seems healthy and right. These are ideas folks -- and ideas should not be threatening. How sad for the one review that said 'Christians should NOT read this book'. So much for loving the Lord your God with your mind. For discriminating, intelligent Christian readers.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book has been anticipated by many in our area since the local paper ran an article on the collaboration of these authors on this subject almost two years ago. It was worth the wait. This book has done what good books are supposed to do by getting people reading and discussing subjects that challenge conventional beliefs and make them think in new ways. The authors' style of writing was easy for laity to understand and their personal stories made it a very human book. They cited sources in the appendices to enable further research for the reader on universalism. I encourage all seekers to read this book for an accessible explanation on an interesting subject that will possibly shake up what they've believed for years; and please, don't condemn it without reading it first.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've been reading through all of the reviews, both negative and positive. I found this book refreshing. The Bible is the Word of God written down by men. Humans are fallible. Men (and Women) are human. Therefore, men are fallible. Jesus came not only to die for our sins, but to wake up a world steeped in the 'hell and brimstone' of a vengeful God as depicted in the Old Testament, to relate the ultimate message they missed the first time around --God is Love. As our Father, it makes sense that God would punish us for our sins, but also, that He would love us all unconditionally, and He would opt for having ALL of his children sitting at His table. As our Father He would want to demonstrate the way forgiveness is really given -- without restriction. In the end, none of us truly knows how God will be towards anyone. That is what makes faith in God a 'leap,' and why we will always err in our interpretations of the Bible, therefore, it makes more sense to err on the side of a belief in a loving God.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book has helped to open my heart and soul to a new understanding of life and to the simple yet overpowering/transforming love of the creator for its creation. I was raised in a conservative, all unsaved will burn in hell forever, local congregation but my own path and experience of the divine speak to something much different. This book has helped to open my eyes and ears to the revolutionary good news of Jesus of Nazareth and the impact that this can have in our hearts and lives as we share this boundless grace of the creators eternal drawing love with and to all we encounter. I hope to be able to share this book with as many as I can in all humility and encourage others to do the same.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you have ever worried about about a friend who is not a christian then this is a book for you. I know it says that even Hitler and Stalin will go to Heaven, but just think of God not just as a 'god' but as a father and as such a father would not kill his children no matter how misbehaving they were. I recommend this book for anyone who has a curiousity about God.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book from the beginning to the end I found it so enjoyable. The thing that struck me most about the book was the authors' genuine love for all humanity, for all human beings. It is from this perspective that they interpret their religious scriptures and with which they view God. They talk about the process of giving up their judgemental views about people, and learning to see everyone through the eyes of compassion. They ask themselves some tough questions. Does the idea of God as a loving father fit with the idea that most of humanity deserves eternal punishment? Is the desire to see punishment in the afterlife for our enemies and forgiveness for ourselves a selfish motive? One analogy I liked is one in which they compare Heaven to a huge banquet table with room for everyone. They believe God wants everyone to be at the table. Any empty seat would be a victory for evil. Their views guide their religion to be an inclusive one rather than an exclusive one. No one is 'Left Behind.' The authors believe that there are Bible verses for and against their position. They are willing to admit that different authors in the Bible presents differing views on God. This is probably too difficult for many to accept. I read this book because I wanted to learn about Universalism. I enjoy studying all religious beliefs, and so that is the background from which I come. I would recommend it to all those who have a curiousity about the concept of Universal Salvation.
Guest More than 1 year ago
An extrodinary view of the depths and limitless boundaries of the love of God. God gives us shining examples of his love through authors like Phillip Gulley. I treasure every word and when the last page is turned I have to climb down from Heaven to return to ordinary life. This, is perhaps, his most definitive approach to theological study to date. Referenced and researched thouroughly, this work is like a beautifully written melody. It plays like background in your mind refreshing and calming your soul. Please don't miss it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A well written, thoughtful, courageous and comforting book that attempts to answer those nagging questions I've always had about religion. Why do Christians believe that God would send Gandhi to hell? Why is it more important to accept Jesus as our savior than live like Jesus? Some books deserve a huge marketing campaign, but end up in a remainder bin because they didn't receive it. I'm afraid this is such a book but I'm thrilled that I found it and read it!
jonesb5 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Fabulous book - life changing!
ALincolnNut on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Quaker pastors Philip Gulley, author of the Harmony novels, and James Mulholland make the case for the controversial belief in universal salvation in "If Grace Is True." Grappling with the perceived dichotomy between God's love and God's justice, and in the face of some hard real world experiences, they insist, "I believe God will save every person."From the beginning, they recognize that this is neither a common nor popular belief among Christians. Indeed, it is likely to inspire passionate, even rabid, opposition from those who believe it is unbiblical and heretical. At its root, universal salvation contradicts the common Christian understanding that those who believe in Christ will go to heaven and those who do not will go to hell.Contrary to this emphasis on human will in responding to God to receive salvation, Gulley and Mulholland ultimately focus on the divine will to offer salvation. The rationale for universal salvation, clearly implicit in their argument, is this: if God wills to save, and if God's grace extends to all of humankind, why would God allow any not be saved? Believing that God's grace does extend to all human beings, Gulley and Mulholland argued that God does will to save and, thus, God will save everyone.In their argument, Gulley and Mulholland parse "I believe God will save every person" in detail, using scriptural references and stories from their ministries, and heavily relying on the image of God as a loving parent. At times, the argument is more emotional than rational, though given the significant emotions involved in the debate, that is understandable and probably wise. Given that their intended audience is general Christians, rather than pastors or academic theologians, the argument is much more anecdotal than rigorous and detailed.As such, Gulley and Mulholland, while clearly empathetic and sympathetic with the beliefs of those who disagree with them, do not seriously consider the counter arguments to their claim. Though understandable, this is ultimately the book's greatest weakness. The challenge of theology is that there are multiple metaphors for God which do not easily co-relate. Gulley and Mulholland emphasize a couple at the expense of others. While few would argue with the significance of divine love or divine grace, one wonders where divine creation, divine revelation, divine justice, or divine suffering fit into the argument of universal salvation.Still, the book is worth reading and discussing. It is well-written and engaging, and it takes Christians and their beliefs seriously, particularly about love and grace. If there are logical flaws in the argument, such as an unspoken belief in a kind of post-death purgatory to make universal salvation feasible, there is great merit in attempting to push the concepts of love, mercy, and grace to the fullest extent possible.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an idea that I had heard before, but the authors give many scriptural references to make their point. I have to admit this God of grace sounds much more like the one Jesus taught about!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Life changing
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Theology needs the trans-reformation found in this literature. Todays fundamentalism is idolatry of the written Bible God never intended us to worship words and not spirit. This conteracts the misinterpreted and false applications prevalent churches today. It reinforcesthe the Annointed true intent.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think it is unfortunate that this book has been so harshly reviewed, but to each his/her own. I too have come to believe in the salvation of ALL of God's creation with two very large difference. While I have no problem questioning the inerancy of scripture, I do believe that there are a multitude of themes that are guided by the Holy Spirit. Primarily, the overarching theme of redemption through history. We begin in Genesis with the garden, move through the Old Testament with a continual narrowing of the Covenents between God and Man, then arrive at Christ who throws open the doors of Salvation to Jew and Gentile. Additionally, through the New Testament, we see a move by man from a select few [the tribes of Judah], to all of the known world. Additionally, the culmination of this move is demonstrated in Revelation where we have moved from a 'garden' setting with Adam and Eve, to the 'city of God' whose dimensions as described in Revelation encompass all of the known world. What a beautiful and compelling narrative. God has appropriated and redeemed the world we have created. Secondly, the authors while skating dangerously close to the edge of orthodoxy prior to page 124 largely reflect an orthodox view of salvation [See early church fathers particularly St. Gregory of Nyssa]. Ultimately, they fall into heresy when they reject the divinity of Christ, and the necessity of atonement. By heresy, I do not believe that they are anathema, or damned or incapable of entering Heaven, I do believe that they have lost sight of the narrative of God. I believe that this loss of narrative was born of a desire to emphasize the need for Western Christianity to reclaim the roots of it's faith. Evangelical, Protestant and Catholic faiths have become beholden to the Latin view of theology that focuses almost exclusively on Soteriology and Atonement. Whereas most [though certainly no all] of those early church fathers that both east and west churches claim along with the 7 ecumenical councils, strive for a relational understanding of faith that is maximilized through Christ. Though I regret their straying from what I consider an orthodox understanding of universal salvation, I have no doubt that I will be at the banquet table of the Lord with them and all of you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Gulley & Mulholland gutted the tenants of the Christian religion so that it would conform to their doctrine of universal salvation. Obviously their argument is not a logical nor theological one, as it fails miserably to convince on those grounds. ------ One is left wondering what is their motivation for embracing a doctrine--universal salvation--that has been deemed heresy for more than 1,500 years? There seems to be two: the rigidity and gracelessness of the modern evangelical/fundamentalist church and a slight misunderstanding as to what God wants to do in comparison to what he will do. ------ I believe God does want every person to be saved; He certainly takes no delight in the condemnation and punishment of the wicked, as is demonstrated in the book of Jonah. However, it¿s one thing to believe in what God wants to happen as opposed to what will happen. The authors, not quite understanding the kindness and the severity of God, have decided that He will save everyone no-matter-what. ------ Gulley and Mulholland think fundamentalist/evangelical Christianity places too many restrictions on salvation. In order to compensate for the perceived stinginess of evangelical Christianity, the authors fell off the other side of the narrow road, and now proclaim that God will¿absolutely--save everyone. In many places throughout their book, the authors point out many places where the evangelical church has too narrow a view of God, the Bible, and Christianity; and as a result there is a Christian clique that is more interested in removing oneself from the world rather than saving it. In a self-revealing passage, the authors state: ¿So many people enter churches persuaded God is lurking in ambush. They come expecting fire and brimstone, and we¿ve been all too willing to heap it on. We¿ve slandered God¿s character too long. I regret the times I manipulated and coerced other with sermons designed to shame and frighten rather than celebrate the love of God. I failed to appreciate the depth of God¿s love.¿ (pg. 68) ------ Certainly churches exists like those the authors were apart of. However, this type of severity is not true of all churches, not even all evangelical churches. I have found several conservative churches that spend far more time preaching on the love and mercy of God then they do on eternal condemnation and the fires of hell, if they preach on those subjects at all! So it is obvious that Gulley and Mulholland are painting a select picture of fundamentalist Christianity using a very broad brush. ------ The authors are correct to state that God¿s love and grace must be the primary teaching of the Christian church; I have no problem with that. But God¿s unconditional love doesn¿t mean that we escape the fires of hell! Explicit throughout the scriptures, from Genesis to Revelation, is the need to take responsibility for your own actions, and God will reward or punish those actions in a fair and balanced way. If anything, God does not punish us nearly as severely as we deserve, yet there is a theme of punishment unto death throughout the Bible, and especially in the parables and teachings of Jesus. There are also times where Jesus explicitly states that punishment is eternal; but it is made clear that the ultimate decision concerning one¿s eternal destination is made by ourselves, not God! Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God has opened the door of eternal salvation, but we are constantly reminded that we must decide to walk through that door. ------ So while I do not agree with the author¿s solution to the problem of gracelessness in some churches, I do agree with their criticisms. It is my belief every church should extend as much love and grace as possible, and then even go beyond that! Churches more interested in your sins than your salvation only create pride and triumphalism, along with false expectations no one can rightly live up to. ------ God¿s unconditional love