I've been browsing the forums for a while. Glad to be here.
I was raised in a very strict, very chaotic Pentecostal church. Very scary hellfire and brimstone stuff, even in the kids Sunday School classes. We never handled snakes or drank poison or anything, but just about everything else was fair game. A very prevalent "buckle down for the end of the world" withdrawal mentality. Then my parents split up, and I started attending a Church of God with my mother as a teenager. It was much less chaotic, but still seemed very focused on lists of 'how to stay out of Hell'.
Shortly after my parents split up, I had a really long one-on-one talk with that Church of God minister about predestination to Hell, 'the people in the jungles of Africa who would never have heard of Jesus', all that classic stuff that kids so obviously smell as being wrong, but adults easily swallow whole. He was a very nice man, but was never able to give satisfying answers that seemed to unify the confusing worldview of Christianity-at-large. In fact, he didn't seem to be quite sure of exactly what God's plan for humanity was at all and seemed to be just as confused as I was.
Eventually, I fell away from the faith and experienced a gradual hardening of heart. I spent the last ten years going from Christian-in-name-only, to agnostic, and finally bordering on atheist. I started to look at all religion as superstition, and took great pride in my worldview of 'self-sufficiency'. Ten years of that.
Then, a couple of months ago I fell into a deep depression and couldn't bear the ultimate meaninglessness that atheism results in - eventually the Universe freezes out, and everything means nothing. But I saw purpose everywhere! How could that jive? Everything about our existence as humans would have to hinge on a series of unbelievably improbable coincidences, all stacked on top of an 'uncaused cause' that has no sentience or purpose! What a bunch of junk!
After a week of throwing up, no sleep, and researching philosophy, various world views - I decided that Christianity, to my agnostic state of mind, seemed the least "made up", despite my terrible experiences with it in the past. Then, I was led to Tentmaker. I read. And I thought that Universal Salvation had to be total BS!
How could the bulk of what I had been taught, and what most Christians believe, be unsupported by the very Scriptures they base their beliefs upon? After reading some of the articles on the site, I decided to just tear the Band-Aid off - I was going to read the Bible, cover to cover, and decide. If I hit a passage that seemed related to ET or UR, I would cross-check against multiple translations, etc...
Well, I'm almost done with my first read-through! And I believe! The most confusing thing for me is, even with a really average Bible translation (I'm using NIV as my primary for readability) there are WAY more passages that indicate UR than those that seem to indicate otherwise! And those are easily explained with better translations, etc. How is this not the majority position of the Church?! I'm really astonished. There are so many passages that clearly link Christ's work on the cross as the act that will completely undo the consequences of Adam's fall... ALL men, ALL things... how could someone ignore this?
Why do we cling to ET doctrine? Christianity is so beautiful! And truly just! It's so sad that people are actively leading each other away from this! And for what? Why do we hang on to the idea of eternal suffering for anyone? We're supposed to love our enemies! The traditional idea of God paints him as a real do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do kind of guy! But Jesus came to be The Way! He DID it! God will accomplish all his purposes, and the world will LEARN RIGHTEOUSNESS! Nobody left behind!