The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


A dying man's words

What did he really mean?

As Walter Bouman’s seminary roommate 51 years ago whom I visited only once since then, I was pleased to see the article detailing his last days and highlighting his faithful service to the Lord and his faith journey ("Counting the last days," November, page 22 in the print edition). But on a sensitive note, I must ask: Is it possible that a few sentences from the interview were misunderstood? On page 24 Walt is quoted as saying: “I’ve come to accept God’s universal salvation .... Christ will raise us all—and somehow bend us into shape ....” I, too, believe in “universal salvation”—that Jesus Christ died for the forgiveness of sins of every person who ever lived. That is the greatest core doctrine of Lutheranism ever espoused. But, the big “but”: “The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Pretty clear words from God. We know the Universalists teach that everyone will be saved. If that were true, which it isn’t, why would we Lutherans preach law and gospel? Yet the paragraph on page 24 makes out my roomie to be a Universalist, which I don’t believe he was. I think he was referring only to believers.

Clyde W. Kaminska
Port Charlotte, Fla.

Bouman’s farewell article portrays many beauties of God’s grace and goodness. Yet his thinking about God raising us all on the final day and bending the most vile sinners, repentant or not, into a God-shaped kingdom really is sad—sad because then there would not be the God of Scriptures who will return to “judge the living and the dead.” Jesus didn’t come to scare the hell out of us, but he truthfully proclaimed that without faith in God’s redeeming and delivering power there is an eternal consequence that ends in a place “where the worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched” (Mark 9:48). C.S. Lewis wrote: “I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish; but their rescue consists in being put back on the right road.”

Jim Peterson
Byron, Minn.

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