Well, this is a day late.

Yesterday I spent the day on a trail ride. Actually it was a work day; trail maintenance. Mantracker is coming to our neighborhood and my brother is going to be the guide!

Anyway, here is a two part interview where Pastor Neil Christopher briefly shares his story and then he and Pastor Nar begin a discussion on mysticism, ecstatic utterances, Gnostic Christianity, and go head-on into one of the most widely debated topics in Christian theology: Ultimate Reconciliation.
Part 1.
Part 2.

By the way, the Sunday Morning Podcast may be late for the next month as I will be participating in some ranch rodeos.


Here is excerpts from a blog post of  Richard Beck at Experimental Theology. Richard is looking at George MacDonald’s sermon Justice. It is a great read:

MacDonald wants to push back on that notion [of equivalence between the “punishment” of sin and God’s “justice”], to suggest that justice is a far richer concept than punishment. And if this is so, no amount of punishment in hell gets God closer to achieving justice. To illustrate this MacDonald has us consider someone stealing our watch:

Suppose my watch has been taken from my pocket; I lay hold of the thief; he is dragged before the magistrate, proved guilty, and sentenced to a just imprisonment: must I walk home satisfied with the result? Have I had justice done me? The thief may have had justice done him—but where is my watch?

The point here, obviously, is that a “just” result can’t be found through punishment alone.

The doctrine of substitutionary atonement feels right to us because, as victims, we want wrong-doers to be punished. It’s emotionally satisfying. We want people to go to hell.

In short, the appeal and logic at work behind subsituionary atonement is really just a symptom of an evil impulse within our own hearts. But this evil impulse doesn’t describe God’s justice. God only punishes as a means, not as an end in itself:

It is no pleasure to God, as it so often is to us, to see the wicked suffer. To regard any suffering with satisfaction, save it be sympathetically with its curative quality, comes of evil, is inhuman because undivine, is a thing God is incapable of. His nature is always to forgive, and just because he forgives, he punishes.

A further problem with the allure of substitutionary atonement–to have Jesus suffer the consequences of my sin rather than me getting into the hard work of repentance and reconciliation–is that it is selfish, a theological product of my sin.

Substitutionary atonement is an attempt to cling to my sin ever more tightly! Let Christ suffer the consequences of my sin so I don’t have to make amends and restitution. I’m off the hook as it were.

If I hate the sin in my heart how is substitutionary atonement good news? It’s only good news for people who love their sin but want off the hook.

Our business is not to think correctly, but to live truly. One chief cause of the amount of unbelief in the world is, that those who have seen something of the glory of Christ, set themselves to theorize concerning him rather than to obey him.

But the question is still out there, how does MacDonald see Christ as our atonement? Toward the end of the sermon he offers his positive view:

I believe in Jesus Christ. Nowhere am I requested to believe in any thing, or in any statement, but everywhere to believe in God and in Jesus Christ…
Jesus, our propitiation, our atonement. He is the head and leader, the prince of the atonement. He could not do it without us, but he leads us up to the Father’s knee: he makes us make atonement. Learning Christ, we are not only sorry for what we have done wrong, we not only turn from it and hate it, but we become able to serve both God and man with an infinitely high and true service, a soulservice. We are able to offer our whole being to God to whom by deepest right it belongs. Have I injured anyone? With him to aid my justice, new risen with him from the dead, shall I not make good amends? Have I failed in love to my neighbour? Shall I not now love him with an infinitely better love than was possible to me before? That I will and can make atonement, thanks be to him who is my atonement, making me at one with God and my fellows! He is my life, my joy, my lord, my owner, the perfecter of my being by the perfection of his own. I dare not say with Paul that I am the slave of Christ; but my highest aspiration and desire is to be the slave of Christ.

There is a great question posted at Kingdom Grace that has got me thinking:

Is it or has it ever been God’s intention to punish mankind?

I gladly call myself a Christian Universalist or an Ultimate Reconciliationist. I have to be. Even though I do not know if it is true or not, I do know that there are enough verses and concepts throughout the scriptures to make this position at the very least possible if not probable. So I have to put my hope where God puts his hopes. It is his will that NO ONE should perish. Ultimately all creation will be reconciled, things in heaven, on earth and under the earth.

I would almost say that if you did not at the very least have a hope that Universalism is true than you are not a Christian. Of course I don’t and won’t say this, but  I do think it from time to time.

This is not to say that I am not human. I would like to see some roast eternally, but in reality, these are few and far between. Most I’d just like to see hurting for a weekend or two.

My stance is that “righteousness and justification comes through the faith OF Christ and that he himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for our sins but also for the whole world. We will all be justified by grace through faith. And we will all be judged based on our works.”

If Jesus’ life is any indication, it is us religious types that will be judged harshest! God’s people, first Israel and now the church, have always been the first to be judged. Our purpose here on earth is to be a beacon of hope and to manifest the Kingdom of God here on earth as it is in heaven. Share the gospel? Yes. But as a demonstration. Our purpose, from Abraham on down, was to be God’s blessing to the nations. And it is my firm belief that Matthew 25 is about seeing Jesus in “the other”. Jesus uses the Pharisees own doctrine of exclusion and subverts it, turning the tables and challenging them with there own eternal destiny.

So my answer is: No, It never was God’s will to punish. There will be judgment but I believe it will not be punitive but restorative judgment.

[see part one]

  1. God’s redemptive love extends to all. It is His will that all come into a redemptive relationship.
  2. Because of who he is God will accomplish his will. All that He desires to be redeemed will be.
  3. Some will never be redeemed. They will be separated from God, they will perish, or they will suffer conscious eternal torment.

Recall that Ultimate Reconciliation chooses to believe 1 & 2 in our list. And just as Calvinism and Arminianism views weigh the verses that support their position and use those verses to interpret those verses that oppose their view, why couldn’t the univeralist verses be used to interpret the others? And which view would you say has the better image of God? The Calvinist, which states that God chooses some for salvation and some for damnation? The Arminian in which God is either powerless to save all or lets finite/ fallible people make an infinitely important choice of their eternal destination? Or the univeralist, who believes that God desires reconciliation of ALL and will see to it that ALL are reconciled?

As part of this idea of Ultimate Reconciliation, lets look at just how radical the gospel may be. For most of our modern Christianity, we have come to adhere to a theory of justification that is laid out in the so called “Roman Road to Salvation”. In a nutshell, this is summed up in the idea that we all fall short of God’s requirements (both gentile and Jew). We all have sinned and deserve judgment and death. God’s grace provides us a way through faith in Jesus. This faith in Jesus brings us into a state where we are no longer under condemnation. AMEN.

The modern reading of Paul’s letter to the Roman’s has Paul laying out the Gospel in Rom 1-4. Could this be a wrong reading? Could this reading be the result of Luther’s self condemnation? Through Augustine’s idea of original sin? Could it be possible that we are missing something in translation?

There has been much debate in recent times in Pauline scholarship. Out of this controversy comes a book that lays out a possible alternative understanding of the early chapters of Romans: The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul.

In this book, Douglas A. Campbell puts forth a theory that the early chapters of Romans should be read in a rhetorical manner. Where we read the outline of the gospel in Romans 1-4, Douglas suggests that Paul is actually arguing against the false gospel that has plagued his ministry. It is the gospel he wrote against in Galatians and that is written about in Acts 15. This false gospel says that though salvation comes through Christ, we still need to obey God’s laws; therefore circumcision is a requirement. So Paul is countering the arguments of a hypothetical teacher of the false gospel in the opening pages of this letter.

Apparently, the original Greek has distinct language changes that reveal when the false teacher is speaking and when Paul is responding. The teacher condemns the gentiles, Paul comes back with “for that with which  you judge another, you condemn yourself.” This rhetorical style goes back and forth to where the false teacher calls upon father Abraham and God’s covenant of circumcision and Paul counters that Abraham was credited with righteousness before circumcision.

For a good review of Douglas’ extensive book, see Richard Beck’s blog: (Notes on The Deliverance of God:Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII, Part IX, Part X, Part XI, Part XII) Note: part xii provide the alternative rhetorical reading of Romans 1-4 with comments. See my copy without the comments.

So, where we read Romans 1-4 as the presentation of Paul’s gospel, Douglas puts forth that Paul is really arguing against the false gospel. If this is true, then maybe, just maybe, the gospel that we put forth today is a bastardize gospel that has much more in common with the Judaizer gospel Paul fought so hard against. Though this reading does not necessitate a Universalistic understanding, and the Universalistic understanding does not depend on this reading, the two do fit nicely together.

As one who is sympathetic to Christian Universalism, this theory is very intriguing. I look forward to hearing a rebuttal from the NT scholars that reject it.

In relation to redemption, who do you say that God is?

There are three different conclusions that are equally biblical:

  1. God’s redemptive love extends to all. It is His will that all come into a redemptive relationship.
  2. Because of who he is God will accomplish his will. All that He desires to be redeemed will be.
  3. Some will never be redeemed. They will be separated from God, they will perish, or they will suffer conscious eternal torment.

Each of these statements can be backed up in the scriptures. But at any time, only two will ever be true.

Calvinism: God wills that only some will be redeemed. All of these will be redeemed while the rest of humanity will suffer whatever awaits them after this life – they will perish, become totally separated from God or they will suffer eternally in a tormented state. God is God and He will accomplish this! (2 & 3) God’s redemptive love does not extend to all.

Arminianism: God loves and wills for all to be redeemed; however, many will not be in the end. (1 & 3) God’s will that all be redeemed will not be realized.

Most of today’s believers would have no problem picking a side in this historical debate between Calvinists and Arminians. Most would also generously call the other view sufficiently orthodox. But who is the God of these options? If these are my only choices, I am left with a choice between an unjust and unloving God, on the one hand, and a defeated God, on the other.

No matter how you spin it, the Calvinist’s God is a cruel monster who creates many to be cast aside at the end of times. Don’t get me wrong, this may be who God is. But if this is God, I will take the high road and rise up in rebellion against him even though I spend eternity in hell. As Richard Beck say’s, “God is not worthy of my praise just because He is God; He is only worthy of my praise if He is Good.” And to be completely honest, much of the imagery of God in the Bible is not worthy to be praised. A God that calls for human sacrifice(Genesis 22:1-18; Joshua 7:15; 1 Kings 13:1-2; ), the slaughter of innocent babies(Hosea 13:16; Psalms 137:9) and the genocide(Joshua 1:18; 6:21; 10:40-41) is not a God that I will follow.

On the other hand, the Arminian’s God is a) unloving or b) impotent. If God has the power to give eternal life to all but chooses to let unknowledgeable men to choose death, He is like a parent that lets her infant child to run into the midst of a busy freeway in order to not override that child’s free will. I know of no one who would say that such a parent was not guilty of horrendous evil. That leaves us with a God who would save all if he could, but he can’t. He does not have the power to challenge man’s freewill. This is the closest God in the Calvin and Arminian camps that I could follow. The only thing that would keep me from this is if this God created the universe. Because if he created the universe, he did it in a way that condemns many, if not most, of humanity that ever lived.

Am I left with any other option?

How about a God who desires all to be saved and will accomplish His desires! (1 & 2) This is a God worthy of my praise. The sad thing is that though Christian Universalism/ Ultimate Reconciliation is a) no less biblical and b) the most Good image of God, it is the one that the majority of Christians reject as a damnable heresy.

That being said, I am completely satisfied to be called a heretic!

[to be continued]

Robin Parry, the Evangelical Universalist (a.k.a. Gregory) debated his view on Unbelievable? this week.

I think it is a must listen to podcast!

Am I a Universalist?

This is one question I am currently wrestling with God.

“For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.”
1 Corinthians 15

“So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the one the many will be made righteous.”
Romans 5:18,19

“For it was the good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.”
Colossians 1:19,20

So the question is:

Do we interpret away the ALL in these passages to be SOME – only those who make a decision?

“If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Romans 10:9

Or do we interpret the opposing scripture through these universalism ones?

“so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the Glory of the Father.”
Philippians 2:10,11

“For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that  though they were judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to God”
1 Peter 4:6

I don’t think that the manipulation of scripture for either side can totally convince me one way or the other. So I must rely on whom I see God to be. Is he the vengeful God who needs to be appeased through a blood sacrifice and only those who, while alive, call out to him are relieved from an eternity of torture and damnation. Or is he a God of Love that is not willing that any should perish?

I am not as of yet committed to the doctrine of universalism though I hope it’s true, and even pray that it’s true. I cannot imagine any one hoping or praying that the reverse is true. And if I, and evil human that I am, could not wish the modern concept of hell even on one such as Hitler, how much more so a loving Father in heaven? (Luke 11:13)

I do believe that regardless of which version is the TRUTH, all will be judged and some will be punished. The question is what is the extent of the punishment? Eternal? Or pertaining to an age? (both of which is valid interpretations for the greek word AIÓNIOS). I also believe that universalism does not diminish the need of preching the gospel of Christ and of the Kingdom of God. For too long the emphasis of our preching has been of “a kingdom to come” not “thy kingdom come”. We are to join with Christ to proclaim release to the captives, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord. The gospel of Christ is not a personal gospel nor is it a social gospel. It is both and more. We need to care less for the after life and care more for peace and justise for the here and now.