I'm wondering if on some level, if perhaps I'd always KNOWN, because of a pecularity of my testimony regarding this. I read Charles Slagle's book "Absolute Assurance in Jesus Christ" in 1999 and I saw absolutely no conflicts between it and what I believed. I'm sure that I read it. No big light bulbs went off and I wasn't offended by it. Didn't particularly crave more info. Just went back to what I'd always been doing as far as ministry went. That's had me thinking over the last few weeks "what was up with that?"
But, practically, a seed got planted. Then around February/March of 2001 a friend pointed out to me a copy of Jan Bonda's book "The One Purpose of God: An Answer To The Doctrine of Eternal Punishment" and within a month or so, I'd finished reading it AND........the rest is history...
I'd really gotten ahold of it then, and knew the contrast between UR and everything else that I'd ever been teaching or hearing up until then.
Within a few weeks, I'd read Knoch's "All in all," Jukes's "Restitution of all things," Thomas Talbott's "The Inescapable Love of God," "Analytical Study of Words" by Louis Abbot, "The Greek Word 'Aion,'" by J.W. Hanson, "Plain Guide to Universalism," by Thomas Whittemore, "The Covenant: A Theology of Human Destiny," by Jakob Jocz, "Christ Triumphant," by Thomas Allin, and a few other books. I still couldn't really find rest in it until 2003, when I got my hands on a copy of Elhanan Winchester's "The Universal Restoration." I still had Biblical questions up until then that nobody knew how to answer. I mean nobody. And, I finally got all of my questions answered with Elhanan Winchester's book. I'd been teaching UR a couple of years by then, but still was nagged by the overwhelming sense that I didn't have enough of the Bible under my belt regarding it.
I was never closed to it. My big thing and frustration for a few years was "Show it to me from THE ENTIRE BIBLE!!" and not just from 60, 80, or 100 passages. I feared the consequences of being wrong on so fundamental a consideration of the nature, provision, wisdom, intent, predetermination, and free will of God.
Other books have helped along the way, like Charles Chauncy's light read "Mystery Hid From Ages And Generations," but Jan Bonda's book, Hanson's "The Greek Word 'Aion,'" "Analytical Study of Words," by Louis Abbot, and Elhanan Winchester's Dialogues on the Universal Restoration really helped to ground me. Jakob Jocz's book "The Covenant: A Theology of Human Destiny" was helpful with helping me understand WHY I needed to resolve this issue and why this was important to my understanding, my ministry, and my sanity.
I never want to be without a copy, or even very far from copies, of Jan Bonda's book, Andrew Jukes's book, Thomas Talbott's book, and Elhanan Winchester's book. Those are my UR "catechism."
I agonized over why UR was unacceptable to other Christians, but never about it being true. I agonized about how to hold it in "Reserve," to protect my ministry work, but it was one of the greatest breakthroughs of my relationship with the Lord that I've ever had. I'm genuinely not sure how much I actually believed it until I read Elhanan Winchester's book for the first time in 2003, although I'd already seen it and was already teaching it.
Yeah, I just said that I'd been teaching it, even online for a couple of years, before I really believed it. So, what did that make it for me? About a 4 year process from when I read Charles Slagle's book in 1999 to where both my mind and heart were at-one-ment with the message. It takes a while to totally flush out the human heart after it's had years and years of the message of Christ's ultimate failure in some lives because of their free will, His not having made provision sufficient for each life, or, and more commonly, His not having enough follow through with each individual life until they're all presented before the Father in 1Corinthians 15:28 as perfectly in tune with the divine nature through His own Faith, Grace, and Blood!