Monday, May 19, 2008

Quote of the Day

"In conclusion, let me ask you to hold in your mind traditional Christian visions of the future, in which many, perhaps the majority of humanity, are excluded from salvation forever. Alongside that hold the universalist vision, in which God achieves his loving purpose of redeeming the whole creation. Which vision has the strongest view of divine love? Which story has the most powerful narrative of God's victory over evil? Which picture lifts the atoning efficacy of the cross of Christ to the greatest heights? Which perspective best emphasizes the triumph of grace over sin? Which view most inspires worship and love of God bringing him honor and glory? Which has the most satisfactory understanding of divine wrath? Which narrative inspires hope in the human spirit? To my mind the answer to all these questions is clear, and that is why I am a Christian universalist."

----- The final paragraph of Gregory MacDonald's The Evangelical Universalist, pp. 176-77



At 5/20/2008 12:49 AM, Anonymous Ed Gentry said...


I so like your perspective, and yes that is a beautiful quote. Though, I do find that CU has serious exegetical difficulties. But since this is quote is theological in nature perhaps I'd respond as follows.

Isn't CU a bit too much like Calvinism (or perhaps I oversimplify). Doesn't it come down to some form of irresistible grace? Either God forces someone to be resurrected to life against their will - since they have declared by their life and actions that they want no part with Him. The other option is that God simply just overwhelms their will so that they see that He is really the best choice. It seems like coercion either way.

Everything about the Biblical story as well as life experience seems to testify loudly to the fact that God gives dignity to our choices. Why would he be coercive at the very end.

At 5/20/2008 11:19 AM, Anonymous matthew r malcolm said...

My hesitancy with this would be that I'm not convinced of MacDonald's characterisation of the two polarised opposites. My own inclinationi is to go with a view that I first encountered in a sermon by Charles Spurgeon (a convinced Calvinist), years ago: That there will be way more people in the Kingdom than we presently imagine: Spurgeon insisted that "in all things Christ will have the supremacy" and this really struck me. Since then I have thought a lot about the parables of the Kingdom, in which the future harvest is unimaginably bigger than you would guess from the initial success of the sowing. So I wonder if there are more who come to saving faith than appears obvious to us, from our perspective here. I wouldn't want to limit the 'traditional' view to being that "the majority of humanity are excluded"

At 5/20/2008 12:29 PM, Anonymous Owen Weddle said...

As ed said previously, its a bit too much like Calvinism. Not just in the free will aspect, but much of the argumentation in the end is based upon an emotional appeal and certain assumptions as to the nature of certain attributes of love. To Calvinists, the notion is that sovereignty means that God can not allow for free choice or it abrogates that sovereignty. And then by golly, if you don't believe as they do, you aren't giving God all the glory.

Similarily, the assumption that God's love is a) of every single individual and b) will overcome all things in force. And then, by golly, if God sends to hell, by golly, God can not be loving.

I know MacDonald isn't per se trying to prove Universalism in that paragraph. But still, its feels to me like one is trying to justify their belief, but it woefully speaks too much about the nature of God where we have had little revelation of such, and I find that problematic (forgive me for sounding Barthian there!).

At 5/20/2008 1:38 PM, Anonymous Ed Gentry said...

I certainly agree with Matthew, that we "there will be way more people in the Kingdom than we presently imagine." I just find CU immoral. God takes by force what He wants for His own purposes. The entire Biblical witness and especially the suffering of the Son screams against this.

I admit that as an annihilationist, my position is much easer to accept. Since God is ultimate reality there is no life without Him. Ergo If I don't choose God I don't choose life. (But I don't consciously suffer forever either).

At 5/20/2008 1:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The question one must answer is "does man truly have "free will". Scripture seems to say that God directs man's path. A few scriptures in no particular order...(Rom. 3:11 Jn. 6:44 1 Tim. 4:10 Col. 1:20 Eph. 1:11 Romans 11:32 Eph.1:4 Proverbs 16:9, 19:21 1 Kings 22:22 Daniel 4:35 Jeremiah 10:23 Proverbs 21:1 Proverbs 20:24
Isaiah 10:15 Philippians 1:29
Romans 12:3)
He certainly is the Potter and He certainly can do what He wills with us little lumps of clay.

For whatever reason...God chooses some to be good vessels and some bad in this lifetime and let's us know that His will - will be done on earth as it is in heaven...which seems to be a restored creation of all things.

At 5/20/2008 2:24 PM, Anonymous Weekend Fisher said...

And riffing off the quote:

"Which one does the most justice to every mention of judgment portrayed in Scripture?"

If it were a matter of creating the most friendly religion to suit ourselves, universalism would win. But that's not what I come to Christ for nor how I choose my beliefs ...

Take care & God bless

At 5/20/2008 3:46 PM, Anonymous Ed Gentry said...


As Chris' quote was theological, I've chosen not to get into exegeses. I would have very different readings of many of the texts that you list than the traditional Calvinistic ones.

But, since I am in a provocative mode let me add the following:

I do agree that absolute free will is a myth. But to deny that God somehow limits his sovereignty to allow us some dignity of choice is hugely problematic. How else do you explain how God could be loving and yet all powerful.

I suppose the Calvinists would answer that we are all robots doing what God for ordained so that he would be glorified.

It is untenable to think that God sends people arbitrarily to be tormented forever - people who could not help but sin, and who He chooses not to save. This kind of god is not worthy to be worshiped he is to be cursed. I want no part of the Calvinist's evil, capricious, glory hungry monster they call god. If they are right then it doesn't matter anyway. And happily much Calvinistic nonsense like double predestination doesn't stand up to exegeses.

But this does not mean that salvation is universal viz. that everyone will be resurrected to life. In this other extreme (CU) God is still immoral and coercive.

The entire scope of scripture is testimony to God giving His image bearers *some* dignity of choice - a dignity which he honors by limiting his sovereignty.

At 5/20/2008 4:01 PM, Anonymous Shaylin said...

My thoughts were much like Weekend Fisher's. The quote is rhetorically powerful, and certainly the answer to all the questions MacDonald does ask is "Christian Universalism." That answer, though, will certainly not do for the question he (rather conspicuously, it seems to me) doesn't ask: "Which is most consistent with the witness of Scripture?" And that is why I am not a Christian universalist.

At 5/20/2008 4:25 PM, Anonymous Brian said...

The quote, seemed to suggest if one maintained the traditional position over and against CU then one maintains a weak view of love a weak view of God and a weak view of salvation - but I think that is presenting a possible non-sequitur.

There are plenty in this world who would look at the question "Which view inspired worship and love of God...?" and say "worship God? No thanks." To transform these people into one who love and worship God without themselves allowing God to do this seems to me a bit robotic and loses the idea of personhood and personality. I am thinking of C.S. Lewis' variation in The Great Divorce where it seems many were given the opportunity to go to heaven but many too got back on the bus.

At 5/20/2008 9:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said... would be interesting how you would interpret many of those scriptures for your stance, but sadly, I would probably not take the time to be molded to the thought that I can actually overturn the "will of God" which seems to be clear.

ed wrote: "It is untenable to think that God sends people arbitrarily to be tormented forever - people who could not help but sin, and who He chooses not to save. This kind of god is not worthy to be worshiped he is to be cursed."

I'm pretty sure a CU doesn't believe in God tormenting someone forever...

At 5/21/2008 12:03 AM, Anonymous Owen Weddle said...

I'm not ed, but lets just say I feel your interpretation of such verses really reads something that is not even being addressed by the context. My opinion though, so take it for what it is worth. In addition, I think it relies upon certain assumptions that are not necessarily founded in any revelation we have, but attempts at logic.

At 5/21/2008 3:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said... to your youth, I'll give you a revelation that possibly you may accept since you are young and hopefully not to immersed in mind games of those who are revered as wise.

Revelation: Your professors and all those great theologians you study, don't quite have the answers either. There is an agenda...and it's called traditions of men with pens in their hands.

Another revelation: Wesley got most of it. Should you desire to stay within tradition...go back to Wesley and help reclaim your church.

P.S. Too bad Asbury lost the great General Paul Rader (interim President). I don't know what happened, but I would assume he challenged the wise professors to be fools for Christ and was asked to leave.

At 5/21/2008 4:54 PM, Anonymous Gregory MacDonald said...

Hello again,

Sorry - the last comment was just me checking that my GM name came up and not my actual name (which would be unfortunate as then everyone would know that I am actually ... Homer Simpson).
I am pleased that the quote has generated such a fun discussion. I hope that some of those who commented might be prompted to read the book (from the comments it is clear that some people have not). Let me simply make two points.
1. Several people assumed that universalism requires God to force people against their will to be saved. That is not the case (see chapter 1 of my book)

2. Shaylin. You might be right about universalism being unbiblical and, if it is then it is wrong. But perhaps you ought to read the book before deciding that it's unbiblical. I do spend most of the time attempting to begin formulating a biblical defense. There are still some matters to resolve (Chris in his previous post raises one issue I need to consider - when I have some time) but I think that the outline looks plausible to me.



At 5/22/2008 11:39 PM, Anonymous Owen Weddle said...


"That being said, and speaking entirely as a technical theologian: I don’t consider “God loves every single individual” to be an assumption. I consider it to be a theological conclusion, following as a corollary from orthodox trinitarian theism (which I also do not consider to be only an assumption, btw.)"

But see, there is where I have problem with such theological conclusions. It is heavily based upon drawing upon seeing a absolute transference of characteristics in one realm to another. Now I am not sure how you derive Trinitarianism to love of every individual, but most attempts to make the Trinity the basis of some theology, instead of the conclusion of our theology, is problematic, as it presumes we understand all the different nuances of the reality of God who is three in one. Nuances which might result in different conclusions that what we have drawn. And it is for that reason, I would rely on revelation over a logical conclusion from Trinitarianism.

And that is where I find Universalism falls short. It can build an impressive logical case, but as ed mentioned above, it has serious exegetical difficulties. And the proposed solutions that I have seen have only created more exegetical difficulties rather than fewer. It falls short of being based upon anything that purports to be revelation from God (Of course that depends on the relationship you see between the Bible and revelation).

Furthermore, I haven't seen clear affirmation of what CU proposes. The main arguments used are essentially negative statements that criticize the traditional understanding of certain passages and then tries to mince words on other passages to affirm CU. Tis the nature of much of theology, actually. But what CU seriously lacks in my experience (granted, I haven't read a lot of material on it) is that there is no place it can point to that we see the actual restoration of all people being talked about, either in narrative or propositional form.

Furthermore, I feel that CU is anthropocentric. It makes the purpose of redemption to redeem humanity itself, whereas I think the Scripture speaks to it being about the redemption of the world as a whole. Now granted, you would accept that too, but if one says God has failed to redeem all of creation if a person is not redeemed, it is essentially basing the success of redemption on the acceptance of people and not on all of creation.

To put it other terms, what is God ultimately working towards? Saving every individual or creating a new world and kingdom of peace? The latter doesn't exclude the former, but it doesn't necessarily include the former either.

Now understood that free will is understood in my theology, and it is for that reason I see no problem with love and yet eternal justice. Of course free will is the conclusion of all the things I think are contained within the Bible, but it is that logical conclusion by which I harmonize the notion of justice and love (which is also, ultimately a logical conclusion and not one based upon revelation).

That the final eternal rejection of some people isn't based upon some meanness in God, but it is what is necessary to recreate the world in a society that is in peace/shalom. Having people who are murders, liars, etc. etc. would upset the harmony and balance of the new world God is creating. Justice is necessary for peace.

At 5/23/2008 3:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Owen wrote: "Having people who are murders, liars, etc. etc. would upset the harmony and balance of the new world God is creating. Justice is necessary for peace."

It would seem by your revelation that the new world God is creating will have none of us. Last time I checked...we all are murderers, liars, thieves, egotists, etc., who are completely full of ourselves. Yes, even those of us who believe.

So maybe Ed is almost right. We all get annihilated.

At 5/23/2008 5:13 AM, Anonymous Weekend Fisher said...

"... maybe Ed is almost right, we all get annihilated ..."

"... somewhere in their soteriology, justice is not being fulfilled ..."


2 things go by the name "mercy": the real thing from God and the cheap counterfeit. In God's mercy, the evil in us is annihilated and dies on the cross with Christ. In repentance, we kill our sins as a sacrifice. (Yes, someone is bound to say it will not be complete til kingdom come; true enough but for the moment that is beside the point: the evil is always annihilated in God's mercy which works in tandem with repentance.) Therefore, God's mercy is greater than justice.

In the cheap counterfeit, the sinner has his sins overlooked but never cleansed, and the evil inside never goes through the death of the cross. That kind of "mercy" is less than justice.

So what is it that doesn't "fulfill justice" in traditional Christian soteriology? Is it something greater than justice or something less? Is the evil annihilated but separated from us? If we will not be separated from our beloved evils, then it is we who must be separated from the good.

Take care & God bless

At 5/23/2008 1:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ed wrote: "In repentance, we kill our sins as a sacrifice."

I'm not sure "we" can do anything.

Ed wrote: "the evil is always annihilated in God's mercy which works in tandem with repentance.) Therefore, God's mercy is greater than justice."

Abraham received God's mercy, yet God's justice kept Abe from going into the promised land.

I have a hard time when man thinks he has the ability to override God's will and plan. Because "I" repented" because "I" did good works...makes "me" worthy of God's mercy, grace, love, and justice. I personally am not worthy of anything. Sure...I try to love my neighbor, love the Lord, but in my 50 plus years, and most of them following Jesus, I fail miserably and I'm pretty sure most of the world does too.

I do believe like you Ed, that evil will be done away with. God's mercy, grace, and judgment will burn it out of us and it will be annihilated...eventually.

God bless you, and all of us as we look to Him.

At 5/23/2008 2:52 PM, Anonymous Weekend Fisher said...

Hi anonymous

I'm not Ed, by the way.

You say you're not "sure we can do anything." Are we in the image of God or not? And if yes then as God is holy we are called to be holy, as God is merciful we are called to be merciful and as God is sovereign then we are called to some sovereignty of our own which is a gift of God.

You speak almost as if you think I'm saying our agency saves us so let me clear that up: our agency does not save us. Meanwhile, God works in and through us so that the penitent offers "the sacrifices of God, a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart that God will not despise" (Psalm 51 paraphrase). It leads us to our prayer "Create in me a clean heart, O God".

Anonymous says: "Abraham received God's mercy, yet God's justice kept Abe from going into the promised land."

Maybe you mean Moses? But no, I'm not saying any of us "overrides God's will and plan" as you were saying. But consider: God's will and plan is that we be more than pawns; God's will and plan is that we become children of God. So when we act, we are not "overriding" God's plan but taking our part in it, since God wills us to act.

Take care & God bless
WF (not Ed)

At 5/24/2008 5:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry WF! Thanks for your comments. Yes, I did mean Moses and I can't believe I wrote Abe! Well, yes I mind isn't like it use to be.

Anyway, to me it seems there is a big difference between choice and free will...which my comment about us not able to do anything would be about. I can choose to be broken, or I can choose not...but whatever that choice would be, God's will will not be thwarted...which His will is to save all mankind.

Scriptures tell us that we can't believe or have faith unless God gives belief or faith to us. Either that's true or like a lot of folks these days, we ignore bit's of scripture or find ways to make those scriptures work for another purpose.

If God alone gives us faith and belief, makes a great vessel or a really rotten one, it would seem that choice is given and not free will...which then turns it all back on God. Because God owns all of creation, His laws dictated how creation worked, then how it would become corrupted, then redeemed. It becomes clear to me that God is responsible for all of it. Hence, I am whom he created me to be, the good, bad, the ugly...and I am created for His purpose, as was Moses, you, John Doe, Pharaoh, Hitler, or anyone else.

Thanks and blessings WF. (not ED!)

At 5/24/2008 3:17 PM, Anonymous Weekend Fisher said...

Hi anonymous

I've never heard a definition of "free will" that I thought was both coherent and sufficient to meet the theological weight the Arminians would put on it. (I'm Lutheran,btw; we think Calvinists and Arminians are both all wet, loudly proclaiming the only 2 possible answers to a misleading question. So usually in discussions like this I'll have everyone ticked off at me before too long.)

So, anon, you were saying:
"Scriptures tell us that we can't believe or have faith unless God gives belief or faith to us."

Really? Where does it say that? The only reference I've ever seen cited on that was gifts of the spirit given to those who were already Christians. Being Lutheran and unapologetic about Sola Scriptura, you wouldn't mind providing a reference, would you?

While you're reference-hunting, if you can follow Greek or a Greek interlinear, please look up exactly what Paul said in his Mars Hill speech in Athens (Acts 17). Look exactly what it was that God gave to all by raising Christ from the dead (v.31). My point is both the trickiness of translations and our modernist slightly off-centered notions of the relationship between our faith and God's faithfulness.

The objection I have to your scenario is that it does make God the cause of evil. The Bible is clear that everything God created was good. Granted, if God chooses that Person X will never believe and in fact chooses that Person X will be (say) Hitler in all his evil, as you suggest, that makes God directly responsible for all the atrocities in the world. Usually the only verse in the whole Bible cited in this favor is the old KJV translation (semi-faulty) of Isaiah 45:7 where "ra" (a multi-purpose word) as the opposite of "prosperity" is translated as "evil" ... which, you know, evil is not the opposite of prosperity and most translations do a better job with that verse.

So all I'm saying is if you're holding out for God picking and choosing who has faith and causing evil, the reason I can't go along is what Scripture says about the relationship between our faith and God's faithfulness, and what Scripture says about God and the relationship between good and evil.

Take care & God bless

At 5/25/2008 4:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

WF - So, anon, you were saying:
"Scriptures tell us that we can't believe or have faith unless God gives belief or faith to us."

Really? Where does it say that?"

Rom. 3:11 says that no man seeks God. John 6:44 says that no man can come to the Son unless the Father draws him. Eph 1:11 God is operating all things in accord with the counsel of His will. Rom 11:32 God shut up the whole to unbelief so that He could do kindness. Phil 1:29 to you it was granted to not only believe...Rom 12:3 God did deal a measure of faith 1 Cor 4:7 that we may not be boastful, what do we have that was not given Matt 13:11 to you it's been given but to many it has not been given Jesus said to the Father in Matt:25 You hide these things from the wise and intelligent /ROm 11:8,32 Rom 9:18 and so on...

God chooses who believes and who he will allow to come to faith in this life. There are more scriptures to back this up, but we know that you have found your truth and nothing I say will matter that much to change your perspective.

Acts 17:30-31 "Indeed, then, condoning the times of ignorance, God is now charging man ,everywhere, to repent, forasmuch as He assigns day in which He is about to be judging the inhabited in righteousness by Man Whom HE specifies, tendering faith to all, raising Him from (among the) dead.

Isaiah 45:6,7 "...I am Jehovah, and there is no one else. Forming the light, and preparing darkness. Making peace, and preparing evil. I am Jehovah, doing all these things." prosperity? there's a reason I stay away from the KJV.

As one who believes in Scripture, I can't understand how anyone can look at it and think that God created this angel or being with free will or a choice, he fell/rebelled and all of a sudden God has this problem that He has to fix because all these other stupid rebellious creatures are going follow this super wacko who rebelled. Like God didn't know that was going to happen? Of course He knew and that is why that before the foundation of the world Jesus was and all things were created through Him and for Him, and HE is before all, and all has its cohesion in Him.

We could do this for days...I'm glad your Lutheran. I'm not. I'm not a Calvanist or Arminian or any thing else. I claim to just follow Jesus and really don't know why people want to follow guys with names other than the Name above all names. Now I'll get a freakin comment on how to translate His name and I'll get crucified for not being specific or scholarly enough in my meaning.

Sorry, I didn't have time to go reference-hunting.

Thanks again WF. He lives!

At 5/26/2008 3:40 AM, Anonymous Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Jason

1. You were saying: "From some of the good ones, true; it may easily come to that, and inevitably will for those who refuse to stop loving their sin."

That's basically what I mean about not all being ultimately saved. It is not through some fault of God's lack of love nor of lack of power. It is a matter of whether it is a coherent thing for God to force "X" to become "Y" in order to save "X". I mean, if it became "Y" it's no longer X already and he still didn't save X. Or in English (sorry), if someone "refuses to stop loving their sin" then the only way to save that person is to make that person into a different person, so that you lose the continuity between who is saved and who had been lost. That's what happens when you add irresistible force into the equation of salvation: you break what you were trying to save.

2. On God's omnipresence for the damned: you may be familiar with some Eastern Orthodox suggestions that heaven and hell need not be different places; that the fire of torment for the damned need not be a different fire than the fire of the Holy Spirit. The presence of God may be sanctifying and curative for those who love God, but that same presence may be horrifying and destructive for those who despise Him.

3. On justice: I think that "justice" is ultimatley that the evil is destroyed and the good restored, preferably for the wrongdoer as well as the wronged. Meantime what the law dictates as justice may be sightly different. Take the example of David and Bathsheba: the law demanded that David should die. Nathan proclaimed that David would not die because of God's mercy. Was justice fulfilled? You have to give different answers depending on whether it's "the justice of the law" or that ultimate justice by which evil is destroyed and things are restored.


Take care & God bless

At 5/26/2008 4:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jason Pratt said: "In discussing things with you, I am treating you as a child of God; not as a puppet (either of God or of some atheistic reality.)

May I add, however, that you have a tendency to treat your disputants as though there is no point in principle of actually discussing things with them?"

This is one reason I don't like writing out like can't see me, know my face, understand my personality, or know how I'm feeling as a write a certain line. I know I need to be more careful at how I say things...and believe it or not, I think I'm doing better than how I wrote a year ago.

I appreciate your time and attention to all of this and for giving so much thought in how you answered back to all of us. I'm not quite on board with everything you have said, but you have given me more things to work and study through.

thanks again.

At 5/26/2008 4:58 AM, Anonymous Weekend Fisher said...

Hi anonymous

I wonder if you're maybe too used to talking to Arminians? I think you and I are agreed that sinners don't seek God; God seeks us. Christ says he came to seek and save the lost. Those who are ultimately lost are surely among the lost. I think you and I are agreed that no one comes to Christ unless the Father draws him; yet it is only a breath later that Christ says all are taught by God and all who listen and learn come, and still shortly after that Christ says when he is lifted up all are drawn. So the question, to me, is not who is acting: I think you and I are agreed that God is acting. The question, to me, is whether God is favoring some sinners over other sinners on some basis other than Christ in them. I say no; you seem to be saying yes if I understand you correctly. Let me know if I'm understanding you right.

We're agreed that no one comes to faith on their own, that what we have is from God; yet that is not the same as God choosing who has faith. The way God brings us to faith, as we've seen, is by raising Christ from the dead. It is by God's showing his faithfulness that we have faith. Or as it says elsewhere, faith comes from hearing the message of Christ -- that is how God shows his faithfulness, that is how God has given (or "tendered" if you'd rather) faith to all: by raising Christ from the dead.

Granted that God has hidden from the wise and foolish and revealed to children. That's because the foolishness of God -- which is the cross -- is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God -- which is the cross -- is stronger than man's strength.

Re: your translation of Isaiah 45:7: in your translation "ra" is still coming across as "evil", which is still a faulty translation. When you have a multi-definition word, context shows us which one is meant. In Isaiah 45:7, "ra" stands as the opposite of "shalom". The opposite of "shalom", any way you slice it, is not "evil".

I was curious, are you quoting Isaiah 45:7 because you believe God is the cause of evil? You mentioned before thinking God made Hitler to be Hitler for God's own purposes. Have I understood you correctly? If you'd rather not answer I'd understand; I certainly don't want to be the cause of your crossing the line to accusing the Holy One of evil. But it sounded like you've already crossed that line and if so I just wanted to make sure I understood you.

So to me the question isn't whether or not our redemption is what you'd call monergistic; to me it's plain that it is and thank God for that. The question, to me, is how God chooses to work his grace: through his power which is a strength which is stronger than our strength, or through Christ which is a weakness which is stronger than our strength.

Take care & God bless

At 5/26/2008 3:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks WF: "The One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity [Heb. ra, “bad, evil”]; I am the Lord who does all these."
Amos 3:6 "If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people tremble? If a calamity [Heb. ra, “bad, evil”] occurs in a city, has not the Lord done it?"

God is the one taking credit for the calamity/evil. I'm not sure how else to think since God is creator of all things. If he did not create calamity/evil then we wouldn't know what it is.

Deut. 30:19; Isaiah 56:4 God holds man accountable for choices, judging according to their deeds (Rev. 20:12, 13). If God were so sovereign that He gives no man a choice to follow good or evil, then how is it that He can yet judge men for their deeds? Would not this be unjust?

I believe that we are in need of understanding free will/choice - God's will/plan to better understand.

Romans 2:17,18 "But if you bear the name Jew, and rely upon the Law, and boast in God, and know His WILL [Greek: thelema, “will”], and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law . . ." we learn to know God's "will" through His law.

Romans 9:19 "You will say to me then, Why does He still find fault? For who resists His WILL [Greek: boulema, “plan, or higher intention”]?" We see there is a difference between the 2 words used for "will".

Romans 11:32-36,"For God has shut up all in disobedience that He might show mercy to all. Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to Him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen."

I know this doesn't answer it all but I do hope it gives enough to understand what I believe...and am still learning and working through.

At 5/26/2008 5:14 PM, Anonymous Anne Hornimouse said...

A fascinating discussion. The thing about Hell that always puzzles me is as follows:
1 - God is a loving God.
2 - God knows everything.
3 - God has given me free will.
4 - I can use this free will to reject God and end up in Hell.
5 - Because God knows everything, He must know if I am going to use my free will to reject him and am going to end up in Hell.
6 - ...But, knowing that I am doomed to misuse my free will and go to my eternal damnation, God - the God of Love - goes ahead and creates me anyway.
7 - ...Which seems a weird sort of thing for a God of Love to do. I can only conclude that either He's not a God of Love, or that He's not omniscient. Whichever, He's not the God that the Bible presents to us. Universalism would seem to offer a way out of that dilemma. But...

At 5/26/2008 7:02 PM, Anonymous Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Anon

I think the problem comes when we in our minds mix the several different things that go by the name of "evil." Which is what I'm trying to get at with digging into "ra" etc. I mean, the cows in Pharaoh's dream were "ra" (evil cows?), but they weren't going to star in any upcoming Spielberg films or Stephen King novels; they're not *that kind* of evil.

We call "disaster" evil (Burma and China are reeling right now; living in a hurricane zone in the U.S., I've seen "disaster" too). God even opens the doors for certain human-originated calamities such as wars. But there are a couple of lines the Bible doesn't cross. God does not cause the evil in our hearts. "Evil" in that sense is not a created thing at all; it is a direction (away from God) or an attitude (enmity towards God / opposition to the good) that does not need "creation" at all, since it does not involve new matter but only the relationship of existing things to each other.

God is good, and all he created was good. This we know. God is against evil, and Jesus disowns the thought that God and the forces of evil might be on the same side when some made the suggestion that he could cast out demons because they were on the same side as him; "a house divided against itself cannot stand."

I was half-way tempted to ramble some more about the different ways God "creates" faith but it's a holiday weekend around here ...

Take care & God bless

At 5/26/2008 7:05 PM, Anonymous Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Anne H.

You know, I have some relatives (ancestors, while we're on the subject) that I'm fairly sure are not going to be with us in heaven. It was 5 generations back there was a murderer in the family. If God had disallowed him from existing, I wouldn't exist. Nor my mother. Nor my brother. Nor my grandfather, nor his mother ...

Lord have mercy.

At 5/27/2008 9:27 PM, Anonymous Jason Pratt said...


{{This is one reason I don't like writing out like can't see me, know my face, understand my personality, or know how I'm feeling as a write a certain line.}}

I know that feeling anyway! {sympathetic s} Even emoticons don’t always help.

If you didn’t mean it that way, then you didn’t, and I very gladly retract my observation.

For what it’s worth, please let me affirm again that I think you’re doing very well not to be wussing out on omniscience and omnipotence, as Arminians sometimes (though not always) trend toward. You’re rightly concerned to protect and affirm that in our doctrines.

God’s grace to you!


PS: {{God is the one taking credit for the calamity/evil.}}

I would say rather ‘proclaiming responsibility’ for the strife. WF is rightly concerned that the One Who is Good not be found to be a doer of iniquity.

At 5/28/2008 4:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Jason. I know I don't have the education that many do who are commenting fact, I barely got out of high school! But...I have walked with Jesus for a long time and have tried to learn through the help of the net, blogs like these, and just reading, praying, and seeking. Thanks for all your care by commenting and bringing insight to an obvious doctrine that many are struggling with (thankfully!).


At 5/28/2008 5:22 AM, Anonymous Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Jason

Well, I certainly caught you in an ... *agree*able ... mood. ;)

Take care & God bless

At 5/28/2008 11:53 AM, Anonymous Ann Hornimouse said...

I'm slightly worried by Weekend Fisher's earlier observation about family members with homicidal tendencies. He seems to be saying "It was perfectly all right for God to create my murderous ancestor knowing that he would burn in Hell for all eternity, because if he hadn't been created my parents and I wouldn't be here."
Can we really claim that God is justified in making nasty, doomed-to-damnation, people because they in turn make nice, destined-for-heaven, people? Personally, if I knew that the price of my existence was someone else's eternal torment I'm not sure I'd want that price to be paid; fond though I am of living.

At 7/01/2008 5:54 AM, Anonymous Fearless said...

June 30,2008. Rather than the word "universalist" which doesn't have a very Biblical "ring" to it, I would rather polarize with the "group"professing "reconciliation/redemption" of all things. I am in the process of reading a book by Gerry Beauchermin, Hope Beyond Hell, in which he gives some very convincing scriptures to support that belief/hope, i.e. the ultimate salvation of all people. Steven Jones was the first one I encountered adhering to this and his teachings really make sense to me. This final quote that I am responding to sounds almost like Mr. Beauchermin, and is a foundational argument for all who lean in this direction. I'm 72, searching for truth since age 37, though not as diligently as I have for about 1 1/2 years. I have responded to what I believe to be God's grace on my life, and have asked Jesus to be my Lord and Saviour. Recently, with many tears, I have prayed asking the Lord to show me the truth of this matter of ultimate reconciliation, to change my mindset, my paradigm. That if it will have a dramatic effect on the way I live the rest of my life, if it will change my heart to be more like my Father's (which I hold to be loving and merciful) then I want to embrace it. This is not a popular belief -- as you well know, and is called heretical, and those who are high profile in teaching are called False Prophets. I have been learning that God is love because that is His nature, and he loves unconditionally, without partiality ALL people. I have come to believe that the way in which we identify and relate to the truths of "the elect", "the chosen" can lead to religiosity, Pharisaism, pride, hautiness, and all the things that Jesus preached against. Gerry Beauchermin handles this topic with grace. Thank you for your web site. It's very informative and stimulating.


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