In an effort to reach more people with the truth about what the ELCA teaches regarding salvation, Exposing the ELCA has created this video highlighting universalism being taught by ELCA leadership.
Universalism, the belief that all people will be saved, is prevalent in the ELCA. But an article in the ELCA's official publication, The Lutheran, shows us that universalism has gone from “a” belief, to “the” belief of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The ELCA has announced to its readers that the universalism is the doctrine the denomination is now built on.
The ELCA article “Who Gets Saved?” is written by pastor Peter W. Marty and he writes:
Lutheran Pastor Tom Brock responded to The Lutheran article on Facebook saying, “If anyone doubts that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America pushes the heresy of universalism--the teaching that all people will be saved whether they believe in Jesus or not--see the article...from The Lutheran, the ELCA's official magazine. Tragic what the writer does with John 14:6, turning the teaching of Jesus on its ear. The author's point is that you don't really need faith in Christ to be saved. John 14:6, Acts 4:12 and 16:31 teach otherwise. No wonder the number of missionaries the ELCA sends out has gone down. If everyone is saved, no need to send missionaries.”
The other day a came across another ELCA pastor publicly proclaiming universalism. ELCA pastor Scot Ruffatto in Mukwonago, Wisconsin (former missionary of the ELCA to the Central African Republic) writes this on his church's blog:
People will be going to hell for eternity because the ELCA has embraced the teaching of universalism and as a result are not proclaiming the Truth of God's Word which says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.” - John 3:16-18
See more documentation of the ELCA teaching universalism. (here and here)
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America promotes that everyone, worldwide, is saved by grace. This theological position flies in the face of sound Biblical teaching. That's why you will not hear ELCA leadership respond to the question, “What must I do to be saved?” with a Biblical answer like “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31) or “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38).
This false understanding of salvation for all plays out clearly through the ELCA's policy for the very small number of missionaries that they send out. ELCA missionary Rev. Angela Zimmann lets everyone know what her job is NOT as a missionary of the church. She writes,
“My job as a missionary in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is not to convert anyone to anything. The 'accompaniment model' for missionary work, to which we subscribe, is defined as walking together in solidarity, practicing interdependence and mutuality.” (read here)
Jesus said, "Go and make disciples of all nations" (Matt. 27:19). Yet in complete opposition to the Prince of Peace, an official website of the ELCA churchwide published an article whose author clearly states,
“I usually associate evangelism with an effort to convert nonbelievers to Christianity, something that makes me very uncomfortable. Too often the desire to bring about conversions grows out of a belief that nonbelievers need to be 'saved' from eternal damnation by adopting the Christian faith.
To the extent that evangelism is about 'saving souls,' I want nothing to do with it.
I approach matters of faith and belief with humility, unwilling to assert the superiority of my own religious beliefs over those of others.” (read here)
Can it be true? The ELCA and its missionaries do not seek to bring anyone to knowledge of God and faith in Jesus? There is no doubt. The ELCA once again admits it on their website Living Lutheran -
“Today, missionaries with the ELCA serve in 48 countries. . .Most missionaries from Europe and North America are now lay people with special expertise, rather than clergy intent on conversion.” (read here)
I imagine that the enemy of God is very happy that the ELCA does not seek to save anyone who does not know Christ as Lord and Savior. So if ELCA missionaries and ELCA leaders are not interested in bringing the lost to Jesus, then what is the point?
Jim Hazelwood, Bishop of the New England Synod of the ELCA went to a youth camp this summer and taught the heresy of universalism to the 450 youth in attendance. The bishop held what he called, “Text and Talk with the Bish” where he invited the youth to text him any questions and then stood before them for 15 minutes and answered many of the texts he received.
Bishop Hazelwood blogged about his heretical teaching, sharing that one student texted, “Do you think god sends nonbelievers to hell?”
Bishop Hazelwood gave this answer to the youth, “No, I don't think God sends nonbelievers to hell, because God is not in that business. Plus it's not about what we believe, it's about the fact that God believes in us." (read here)
What kind of answer is, “God believes in us”? And it doesn't matter what we believe? Bishop, you are teaching the non-Biblical belief of universalism, the belief that all people will be saved.
People of the ELCA, do you see the damage this teaching will do to the 450 youth listening and the countless number of people who hear this belief that is constantly spouted within the ELCA?
Bishop Hazelwood's statement is downright false, deceiving, dangerous and against Christian teaching. God tells us in John 1:12, “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is inundated with pastors who preach universalism.
Below you will find commentary by Dr. Robert A. J. Gagnon, an associate professor of New Testament at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, explaining how universalism is not Biblical. (the information below comes from Dr. Gagnon's facebook page here) Read it and then try to explain how any ELCA leader in their right mind could teach that everyone will be saved.
Reverend Nadia Bolz-Weber is a troubled Evangelical Lutheran Church in America pastor who has grown in popularity within the ELCA ranks. She is highly sought after by ELCA leadership to speak at conferences and gatherings, and to preach to their leaders, members and youth. (see here) Just last week an ELCA website published a letter she had written praising Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson for his leadership.
But there are problems with Rev. Bolz-Weber, big problems. The problems I'm referring to rest in two areas, her teaching/theology, which is non-Biblical in many important areas, and moral issues that she seems to take pride in and actively flaunts.
God tells us what an appointed church leader should look like; He says the leader “must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” Tell me if that sounds like Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber as we examine an interview she recently gave -
I guess Rev. Bolz-Weber can blame Jesus for that.
Let's be clear, this stance is not Biblical, but it is espousing universalism, the very dangerous belief that all people will be saved. The Bible says there will be judgment for those who deny Christ or do not have faith in Christ. John 3:36 says, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him.”
As you can read from this interview, Bolz-Weber's “sailor's mouth” is on full display; and I'm not listing all of what she said. (see video here)
Rev. Bolz-Weber is dangerously wrong regarding very important Biblical doctrine and Biblical Truth. (see here, here and here for some more examples) Additionally, this ELCA pastor has a toxic tongue. There is no repentance or evident desire to tame her month. Paul tells us in the truth of scripture, “Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.” - Ephesians 5:4
Here are two snipits from Rev. Bolz-Weber's Facebook page that show her worldly and bankrupt spiritual state:
What is really telling, with this exposition on Nadia Bolt-Weber, is that this is someone the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has elevated to a place of leadership and authority.
Living Lutheran is an online publication of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Last month, in the “Ask a Pastor” section of their website this question was posed:
“What happens to people of other faiths? My husband and I try to discuss, but not very successfully, the point that we are saved through Jesus Christ alone. Well, how about people of the Jewish faith, or all our friends or family who do not practice any faith or even my son, who is atheist. Can’t they be saved? I believe in my heart that they can, but I can never explain it.”
This question was asked by Helen, a member of an ELCA congregation in Venice, Florida. The ELCA website chose Rev. Monica M. Villarreal as one of the three pastors to respond to this question. She said,
“Dear Helen and husband, what a deep and relevant question. One of my favorite books on the subject is 'Christ Crucified: A 21st-Century Missiology of the Cross' by Mark W. Thomsen. At the risk of being a heretic and with the hope of reclaiming the profound Lutheran understanding of God’s salvific work on the cross, I contend that God in fact saves the whole world and all peoples through Jesus Christ alone and that this salvation extends to all, including Jews, Muslims, agnostics, atheists, etc. For where there is love, there is God. Scripture says, we cannot love God whom we cannot see if we do not love our neighbors whom we can see (1 John 4). At the core of our Christian faith is love. And at the core of God’s work of salvation is love. I believe in a God who loves all his created beings — regardless of religion, creed or disbelief. So, why be a Christian? Christians/Lutherans have much to offer to this hurting world by building relationships of love — the love that we experience in Jesus.”
The ELCA website offered this information about Rev. Villarreal:
“Monica M. Villarreal is a mission redeveloper and pastor of Salem Lutheran Church in Flint, Mich. A 2011 graduate of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and 2007 graduate of Michigan State University with a degree in cultural anthropology and specialization in peace and justice studies, she enjoys practical theology, cultural studies, and is an avid bowler. She is passionate about people, inner-city ministry and social justice. Her congregation will tell you she is always asking, 'What is God up to? What is God calling us to?'” (read the “Ask a Pastor” article here)
That fact that this official ELCA website wanted to include Rev. Vallarreal's answer to Helen's question is proof that the ELCA is “welcoming” of the dangerous, unbiblical belief of universalism. By posting this answer the ELCA is telling their readers that faith and belief in Christ is not necessary. The ELCA is leading people astray and they will be held accountable for any reader's eternal damnation. "If anyone causes one of these little ones--those who believe in me--to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.” - Mark 9:42.
More evidence of the ELCA promoting universalism here and here.
Professors at Wartburg Theological Seminary (ELCA) are known to promote and teach universalism. Dr. Duane Priebe, Professor of Systematic Theology at Wartburg wrote this in the first printing of the Augsburg Fortress Lutheran Study Bible, “Jesus includes in salvation people who do not believe in him or ever know about him (5:3-10; 25:31-45).” page 1658. Wartburg professor Dr. David J. Lull, Professor of New Testament, published an article where he said, "Jesus did not have to die as a condition of God’s forgiveness of sins. Mark knew that Jesus knew that God had always forgiven the sins of 'many/all,' and that God would keep on forgiving their sins." (see here)
Today we will look at and quote from a sermon given at Wartburg Theological Seminary, in the chapel, by Rev. Dr. Craig Nessan. Dr. Nessan is the Academic Dean and Professor of Contextual Theology at the ELCA seminary.
On February 27, 2013, during Dr. Nessan's sermon, he went into a strange diatribe on salvation, saying that some people think they know who will be saved. At one point Dr. Nessan, in my view, seemed to be mocking God with a number of statements including this, “God knows who deserves to live and who deserves to die.” This was Dr. Nessan's way of setting up his view of salvation for those listening (future ELCA pastors).
The scripture readings for Dr. Nessan's sermon came from Luke 13:22-31 and 2 Chronicles 20:1-20, to which he called the later “texts of terror.” Luke 13:29 says, “People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.” From this verse Dr. Nessan switches to the 2 Chronicles passage concerning the country of Judah and tells the students that the people to the east, west, north and south are the Ammonites, Philistines, Syrians, and Moabites. This was another step in Dr. Nessan's leading his listeners in his universalist way of thinking, by associating these peoples, who worship false-gods, with those who would inherit salvation.
Completing his plan, teaching and leading the seminarians toward universalism, Dr. Nessan refers to Luke 13:24 where Jesus says, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door . . .” and Dr. Nessan concludes, “It makes me wonder, what is the shape of that narrow door? Who gets in if the narrow door is shaped like the cross? Who gets in if its shaped like the 'loaf?' Who gets in if its shaped like the 'cup?' Who gets in when it is given and shed for you, to the east? And given and shed for you to the west? And given and shed for you to the north and to you to the south? Given and shed for all for the forgiveness of sins?” (listen here)
Dr. Nessan failed to proclaim and uphold God's Truth revealed in Scripture. He taught heresy to future pastors and untold lives will be adversely affected because of this. God clearly tells us his plan for salvation and how one is saved. John 3:36 says, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him.” John 1:12 tells us, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” (Also see Romans 10:9-10, Romans 3:21, John 8:24.) God tells us we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8), and it is not Dr. Nessan's dangerous false-doctrine of universalism.
After hearing the sermon, one seminarian on Facebook said, “Chapel at WTS messed me all up today. I think that is a good thing.” Responding to the seminarian's comment, an ELCA pastor said tellingly, "Jesus Christ is present in . . . religions."
_The ELCA leadership is notorious for questioning scripture. They love to introduce doubt into lay persons’ and seminary students’ minds. Doubt about the truth of scripture. They did this when the ELCA website openly questioned the virgin birth. (read here) Similarly, they encourage questioning key areas of orthodoxy in regard to sin, salvation, creation, hell, factual events in scripture and the inerrancy of scripture, to name a few. (just look around this website) Consider the following as further shocking evidence of one key ELCA leader’s thoughts in regard to hell. (also notice the tone of universalism in what he says)
Bishop Peter Rogness of the Saint Paul Area Synod had this to say:
“I’ve never been much concerned about hell, I guess.”
“I think the ministries that emphasize the reality of hell are also prone to a heavy dose of self-righteousness. . .”
“While the Bible has several intriguing (and varying) references to hell, clearly the God we meet in Jesus Christ is a God who meets us in love and grace and forgiveness and acceptance . . .”
Please go back and read your Bible a little more diligently, Bishop Rogness. Jesus spoke about hell more than anyone else in scripture. If hell is an important enough topic for our Lord and Savior to warn people about, maybe you should too.
Bishop Rogness also said, “I think we have to conclude that whether there is a hell or not is ultimately not going to make or break our faith.” (see here)
This is a perfect example of the ELCA leadership’s view of scripture. If there is something in scripture that the "intellectual" elites do not like, they question it or discard it.
Bishop Rogness, the book of Revelation has a lot to say about the realities of hell. Revelation also says, “And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.” - Revelation 22:19
Universalism is a teaching that is widely held in the ELCA. (see here) It is very apparent to anyone who isn’t blindly loyal to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church (Richfield, WI) is in the process of voting to leave the ELCA. I would like to direct you to a document they produced in which they answered this question, “Has the ELCA really changed the basic message of the Christian faith?”
Here is Shepherd of the Hills Church's answer:
“While the official teaching of the ELCA is sound,
the actual teaching seen in our seminaries, church
publications, and pronouncements by pastors and
leaders is often very different. Gradually, the ELCA
has de‐emphasized the basic message of sin,
repentance, faith, and salvation through Jesus
Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, and on
Easter, victory over Satan and death (2nd Timothy
1:10). In its place, we read and hear several
One popular ELCA message is the gospel of
affirmation. This teaching suggests that the good
news is that God loves and affirms everyone,
regardless of their faith, life style choices, etc.
There never is a need for real repentance because
God is never angry with us. Another misleading
teaching common in ELCA sources says that Jesus
hgives us the example, and the Holy Spirit gives us
the power, to build the Kingdom of God on earth ‐
‐ by fighting hunger and poverty, promoting
peace, fighting racism, sexism, hetero‐sexism, and
other oppressions, and building brotherhood and
sisterhood on earth by honoring all sincere faiths
as paths to God.
The ELCA has lost focus on our five‐hundred year
old Law/Gospel balance by over‐focusing on the
Gospel (Saved by Grace ‐ Eph. 2:8) at the expense
of the Law (The 10 Commandments). The classic
view is that the Law convicts us of our sin and the
Gospel is the good news that God saves us from
the punishment we deserve by the sacrificial
death of Christ. Grace is defined as “undeserved
love.” Today grace is being redefined to say that
God is always affirming us, and nothing else. This
distorts a biblical understanding of love, where
love includes the “tough love” that prunes our
rebellious hearts into greater Christ‐likeness.
We find evidence for this in the fact that most
ELCA produced Sunday school curriculum,
catechism materials, adult bible studies, the
Lutheran magazine, ELCA website, etc., fail to
plainly explain that we are sinners, doomed to
death, unless we receive Christ with faith. This
shows us that the working theology of the ELCA is
universalism – blanket salvation for everyone,
regardless of whether they know Christ.”
Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church will be taking their second vote on leaving the ELCA June 2011.
The Bible teaches that we need to believe in Christ. John 3:16-18 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
The teaching of universalism, in essence, says that everyone will go to heaven no matter what they do, think, believe or worship. This is not Biblical and it is very dangerous. People will go to hell because they believe in universalism and not Christ. Yet here is a Luther Seminary (ELCA) professor arguing the merits of universalism and encouraging the preaching of this heresy.
“The Rob Bell Controversy: Does Anyone Go To Hell?“ by David Lose, Director, Center for Biblical Preaching at Luther Seminary. (read here)
For more information on the ELCA’s support and teaching of universalism/ universal salvation see here.
Exposing the ELCA polled its readers asking this: “If you conclude that the ELCA teaches and/or supports the belief that 'everyone will be saved,' is that sufficient grounds to leave the denomination?”
The results of the poll -
90.31% of the readers said “Yes.” (177 votes)
9.69% of the readers said “No.” (19 votes)
There were a total of 196 votes cast.
Universal salvation, the view that all people will be saved, is taking over the ELCA as the prominent belief regarding salvation, thanks to the leadership of the denomination. (see here and here) This anti-Biblical, dangerous belief is thriving and leaders in the ELCA are not only doing nothing to stop it, but they are promoting it. All at the expense of billions of souls.
Truth be told, there is no reason to be preaching and teaching universal salvation. First and foremost, it goes against God’s truth revealed to us in the Bible (see here ). Secondly, if it was true, a person would be saved no matter if he/she believed in universal salvation or not.
We know that universal salvation is unfounded and false, yet the ELCA is promoting this belief. The ramifications of this wrong teaching have eternal consequences. 1) Because those that believe this are not telling people about their need for our Savior. 2) People do and believe whatever they want because they think they are “saved know matter what.” Sorry, but universal salvation in the gospel of Satan.
Sadly here is another ELCA leader preaching and teaching universal salvation. Mark Thomsen, Visiting Professor of Mission, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC), writes,
“It would appear that if one takes Jesus seriously, faith in the finality of Christ necessarily includes the recognition of God's creative saving work outside of hearing and believing in Jesus Christ!”
“God's universal transforming work identified in the resurrection of Christ has saving significance for the whole of creation and the whole human family, not just for those who hear and respond to the gospel.” (read here)
The universal salvation believing leaders have taken over the ELCA. In our seminaries you have professors that teach pastors, who in turn, affect eternity for millions of people as well as future generations.
Exposing the ELCA has documented that the ELCA’s official website supports and promotes Universal Salvation, the belief that “everyone will be saved.” Within a section called “What We Believe,” on a page dealing with “Salvation” the denomination states:
"Because Jesus is the unique and universal Savior, there is a large hope for salvation, not only for me and others with the proper credentials of believing and belonging to the church, but for all people whenever or wherever they might have lived and no matter how religious or irreligious they may have proved to be themselves. It is clearly God’s announced will that all people shall be saved and come to the knowledge of truth (1 Timothy 2:4)."
(ELCA webpage has been taken down but an internet archive website has it here)
This is not the only mention of this false teaching on the ELCA website. On “The Resurrection” page, is a subheading “Resurrection for all?” The ELCA document, after first saying that most of the verses in the Bible say not everyone will be saved, goes on to say,
"(B)ut ELCA members also look to New Testament texts that go beyond those parameters . . . Lutheran theologian Joseph Sittler coined the phrase ‘Cosmic Christ’ in his 1952 address to the New Delhi assembly of the World Council of Churches, saying, ‘It is now excruciatingly clear that Christ cannot be a light that lighteth everyone coming into the world, if he is not also the light that falls upon the world into which everyone comes.’"
A little later it states, “For ELCA members, the resurrection that completes the victory of Christ over sin and death is not intended for Christians alone.”
The article continues,
ELCA members believe that, being ‘entrusted’ with this message of reconciliation, we are to proclaim this salvation intended for all humankind, this redemption of the whole world, this resurrection to new life.” (webpage has been taken down but an internet archive website has the page here)
This is on the ELCA’s official website, and it is contained in a section called “What We Believe.” Is there any doubt the ELCA is preaching Universal Salvation?
To read more evidence that the ELCA teaches and promotes Universal Salvation see here.
Rev. Tim Singleton is a ELCA pastor at New Horizons Lutheran Church in Falcon, CO. You may remember him from an previous article on Exposing the ELCA. (see here)
Rev. Singleton calls himself a Trinitarian Universalist. In a recent blog he explained, in detail, his thoughts on salvation. He said,
"I am convinced. . . that the Spirit of Christ is present within all compassionate faiths.
A rose by any other name is still a rose; and Christ by any other name is still Christ. Christians say Christ, Buddhists say Buddha, Hindus say Krishna, and so on — different names for the same Spiritual Reality revealed through different languages and cultures. Furthermore, God by any other name is still God. Jews say Hashem (Yahweh), Christians say Trinity, Muslims say Allah, Buddhists say Nirvana, Hindus say Brahma, Native Americans say Great Spirit, and Boy Scouts say Great Scout Master. These are different ways of addressing the Ultimate One, articulated through different languages and cultures — but God is God nonetheless." (read more of his blog here)
Rev. Singleton words are strikingly similar to comments made by ELCA Bishop Robert Rimbo of the Metropolitan New York Synod. He recently said, "We commend ourselves to the reliable and merciful arms of the God of Abraham, the God whom Jesus calls Abba, the God whom Muslims and Christians in various parts of the world call Allah. This God promises a reign in which all shall be well." (read here)
Rev. Singleton and Bishop Rimbo's opinion here is not Biblical. God clearly shows in Scripture that He is not the god of other religions. I Kings 18:21 says, "Elijah went before the people and said, 'How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.'" If you keep reading this chapter in I Kings you will find out that Elijah, the prophet of God, had the prophets of Baal killed. That is not an action a "god of all religions, just called by different names" would take.
II Kings 17: 35-39 says, "When the LORD made a covenant with the Israelites, he commanded them: 'Do not worship any other gods or bow down to them, serve them or sacrifice to them. But the LORD, who brought you up out of Egypt with mighty power and outstretched arm, is the one you must worship. To him you shall bow down and to him offer sacrifices. You must always be careful to keep the decrees and ordinances, the laws and commands he wrote for you. Do not worship other gods. Do not forget the covenant I have made with you, and do not worship other gods. Rather, worship the LORD your God; it is he who will deliver you from the hand of all your enemies.'"
God clearly tells us in His Scripture that He alone is to be worshipped (see Exodus 20:2-3). For the ELCA to allow and Rev. Singleton to say that the Father/Son/Holy Spirit is the same as the gods of other religions is heresy!
The ELCA is putting the souls of billions of people at risk by teaching and encouraging universalism.
Read more about Universalism in the ELCA
Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 1 Thessalonians 5:21
Former ELCA seminary student and former ELCA member who is fed up with the ELCA's consistent mockery of God's Word.
If you have been helped and blessed by Exposing the ELCA's ministry, please help us continue to proclaim the truth of God's Word to ELCA members who need to hear it.