What follows is in response to a lengthy comment I received on a previous blog post from someone who goes by the alias of Chuck. I will respond briefly to certain portions of his comment which, I believe, deserve the most attention.
Thanks for your comments. I believe you make a common error here, a category error or mistake. Analogies can be helpful in illustrating truth, but we go too far when we assume an earthly father-son relationship can accurately and fully explain the heavenly Father-Son relationship. That God would need psychological help is obviously neither true nor possible, thus your conclusion is rendered nonsensical. It begs for a better analogy or perhaps even better, none at all.
Firstly, it is untrue that God actually needs psychological “help”. That is precisely the point we are trying to make. Doctrines like ECT naturally follow faulty presuppositions about God. If he either cannot reconcile all things or has chosen not to do so, we cannot sensibly claim that his love is unfailing; neither can we claim that his grace and mercy is ever new.
Secondly, why shouldn’t we correlate the Heavenly Father-Son relationship with what we know through life experiences? He created the world and all that is in it to parallel spiritual truths, so that we could, on some level, grasp/identify heavenly truths.
Since God has invited us to come and reason with him, I doubt he expects us to throw our hands up when manmade theology conflicts with what is true about his nature; only to chalk up our theological inconsistencies up to mystery. If Christians continue elevating their presuppositions up to divinely inspired levels, they will make it that much more difficult to mature in their faith and to develop spiritually.
Again I see the myopic focus on God’s love, as if this one quality, if you will, must predominate any and all others. We are also told that God is Spirit. Should we then insist that this quality must predominate all others? There is no scriptural reason for this insistence that “love” must rule. We are told that God is many things…love, Spirit, righteous, wrathful….etc. Who decides which, if any, predominate. Love, I fear, only does so because we humans find it “attractive, comforting, etc.”, or perhaps we focus on it because we fear it not being predominate.
I would not say that love predominates all of God’s attributes, although Scripture clearly labels it as “the greatest of these”; neither would I say that God’s attributes are equal. Rather, I prefer to say that they are so perfectly intertwined that any expression of one of his attributes can be seen as an expression of any of the others.
Consider a word from A.W. Tozer: “Every age has its own characteristics. Right now we are in an age of religious complexity. The simplicity which is in Christ is rarely found among us . . . If we would find God amid all the religious externals, we must first determine to find Him, and then proceed in the way of simplicity.”
There will be no way, in this life, that we will be able to comprehend the fullness of God. Anyone who isolates an individual quality or essence of God for the purpose of dominance over all others is illustrating little more than personal preference.
No one is saying that we can fully comprehend the fullness of God, but it would be naive to say that we can make no sense, whatsoever, of his nature. We are not isolating love over the rest of his attributes, but allowing each of them to reveal themselves as coequal. “Without love to the full, there can be no justice; without justice to the full, there can be no love.” —George MacDonald
Certainly we see God “being” many different qualities at many different times. This does not necessarily indicate that any of those qualities are dominant over all the others. It merely points out our inability to comprehend God in all His fullness. The schizophrenia is in our understanding, NOT God’s behavior. Trying to restrain God from being more than we can understand, or approve of, is indicative of our pride, our unwillingness to accept the inevitable; we do not and cannot understand God in His fullness.
Indeed! God’s behavior is definitely not indicative of schizophrenia on his part, but on the part of man made doctrine; namely, the doctrine of ECT. ECT misrepresents his nature and, therefore, chases a great many reasonable skeptic away from God and his kingdom.
I must say that we do not restrain God from being more than we can understand. We embrace his grandeur, while admiring that we were created to know him. To truly know him necessitates an ability to understand what he has chosen to reveal about himself.
In my book, I mention how Scripture teaches that no mystery is designed to remain hidden; that all mysteries will eventually ascend out of the shadows and bloom in the light of Christ. The only thing that is concretely mysterious is what we are absolutely unaware of. Those are the only things we cannot hope to understand, because we currently cannot even fathom their being . . . much less their mysteriousness.
To state that something is true, but simply beyond our ability to comprehend defies sound logical processes; it is the lazy way out of fulfilling the Scriptural command to test all things and to hold onto what is good and true. We are never told to hold onto the irrational as absolute truth because the illogical is, by default, not good — it is false.
What seems contradictory to us is often spoken of God, sometimes within the same verse or passage, i.e. love, compassion, mercy, etc. contrasted with wrath, judgment. Obviously the inspired writers saw no inherent problem with this, or if they did, they didn’t write about it.
Yes, they did! Have you ever heard of progressive revelation? I don’t blame godly men and women of old for not being able to connect certain dots before Jesus came to reveal the mystery of his will. The very passage which uses this terminology mentions, quite literally, that it is his will to reconcile all things through Christ.
Jesus and his Apostles taught that there is essentially little contrast between any of God’s attributes. Our fallen nature is guilty of falsely constraining God’s nature with itself. There is no black and white with God; there are no fifty shades of grey; in him is life, and this life is the light of men.
One thing Jesus spoke of more than any other person in the Bible story was hell. If one will just allow the words to speak for themselves, it becomes, however painful or hard to accept, that hell is real, and it is eternal. All the hand wringing and textual gymnastics in the world do not change this fact. And those words are coming from the ONE who embodies God’s love in the flesh, among other qualities.
No. Just . . . no. Jesus did not speak of hell more than anything else. The number that preachers have come up with comes from duplicate passages throughout the gospels, which speak of the same event. Moreover, most of its usages spoke of Gehenna, which was an actual burning dump outside of Jerusalem’s walls.
If Jesus place so much emphasis on the hell that you speak of, why didn’t his Apostles follow his lead? Why did no one in the old or New Testament evangelistically “warn” anyone about ECT? Come on, now. UR is naturally derived from a proper understanding of God’s attributes and an honest exegesis of Scripture.
Personally, the only reason I believe hell is eternal is because the Word says so. However much I may wish it were different, it isn’t.
The Bible does not say so. Your presuppositions dictate your interpretation of scripture. Challenge them! If you were to challenge them, you would not be challenging God; regardless of how much you are told otherwise by church authorities.
On a side note, there is something within each of us that longs for ECT to be untrue. Let’s think about that for a moment.
There is absolutely something deep within our souls that cringes at the thought of ECT. Have you ever considered that we were designed to cringe at such a thing because it does not coincide with the Lover of our souls?
Moreover, by saying you wish that it was untrue, you are actually saying that you wish God was not like you believe him to be . . . that he could be much better than he actually is. Does this tell you nothing?!
Now if it turns out God actually does annihilate those who reject Him, fine. Hopefully, I have no dog in that hunt. It’s not like I look forward to sitting in a viewing booth, watching people suffer. I wonder, however, if those who virtually “demand” that God do so, or perhaps save everyone eventually, have given serious thought to what sin is, what it infects, and it’s consequences throughout history.
We have given it much thought. That is precisely why we have come to believe that God will actually defeat sin in its entirety through UR. Abraham Lincoln once said, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make friends of them?” What better way is there to destroy evil? Is God so weak that he has to quarantine the sick rather than heal them?
Even more so, have they given any thought, any prolonged meditation on what the quality of “holiness” is, and God’s refusal to “look upon sin”? As mysterious as that may seem (I mean, doesn’t God “see” everything?), it’s just one of so many things about God beyond our ability to understand. And the main reason for that is that we are not God. Not even remotely close. Not even an “atom” in the universe of His being, so to speak.
Can God not look upon sin? Jesus certainly did. Is he not God? Is Jesus incarnate some lesser form of his heavenly self? You have to get out of the habit of appealing to mystery when your theology breaks God ordained logical laws.
If however, God does save everyone eventually (after, as some suggest, torturing unbelievers with His love until they “give up” and accept it), then why did Christ die? And who for? Not everyone, despite the attempts to isolate words such as “all” or “the world” while ignoring both context and the full teaching of biblical atonement.
What do you mean by asking: “Why did Jesus die?” Jesus died because he loves us, because he desired achieve his decree of reconciling all things, of course.
By the way, “all” always means all unless context demands otherwise. Your presuppositions cannot demand it to do otherwise.
As I have stated before, if the “eternal” in eternal torment doesn’t really mean eternal (as in for all time), then perhaps the “eternal” in eternal life doesn’t mean forever either. Right? On what basis you would reject the one and accept the other? Certainly not according to the definition of the word. Certainly not scripture, for achieving correct biblical understanding is not a mathematical formula, as in 5 “loves” are more than 2 “wraths”.
The eternality of life is not dependent on a few passages that use “aionion” to describe life. There are many other passages that guarantee the eternality of life that don’t even use that word. Have you ever read a literal translation of the Bible? Literal translations never translate aionion or olam as “forever”.
Scripture does not contradict itself (our understanding certainly does), when properly understood. Nor does God. May I suggest to you and others reading this that your focus be more on understanding, or accepting that you can’t understand, God in His fullness, and less on finding a God that you, intellectually and emotionally, can “live with”, a god that tickles the ears and eases the conscience.
Our presuppositions are not necessarily perfect. That goes for prevalent presuppositions about postmortem judgement as well!
UR does tickle our ears and there is nothing wrong with that. It also caresses our hearts because it represents the character of God more fully than ECT or CI. What many mistake as fallacious appeal to the emotions may very well be a valid appeal to the conscience. Apart from our conscience, our decisions and beliefs are arbitrary; nothing more.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. May I suggest that where there is no fear (awe, humility), there is either no wisdom, real wisdom, or that whatever wisdom one might think they have is built on a false foundation, cracking bricks mortared with pride. Thanks for sharing.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but love is undoubtedly its end. We are to fear the Lord with reverence, not with a kind of fear that one would expresses toward a tyrant. Jesus is a friend of sinners. He is the only true foundation. Let us be the mortar that is not weakened with presuppositions that contradict the God we love.
No . . . thank you for listening!