The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Cold Case Christianity vs universalism

J. Warner Wallace misunderstands universalism about as badly as most people do, in his daily post today. :unamused: … -like-hell

At least he doesn’t try to void the active punishment of God when making his free will defense, although that ends up breaking his free will defense in a different way. (Which is why people appealing to free will to explain hopelessly lost sinners have started tending to outright deny God’s active punishment of them, since obviously God must be coercing that punishment on them.)

Comments are Facebook only, which leaves me out, but others may want to chime in. Have fun, and play nice! :sunglasses:

Update: JWW tries to void the active punishment of God in at least one other related article, right before trying to explain why punishment from God is yadda yadda. See below.

Since I can’t comment on it there, I’ll do so here in case anyone points back to this thread while commenting there… {ahem}{g} I should probably mention here that I appreciate JWW’s apologetic work usually, and I realize he’s trying to do the best he can with what he thinks he has. Thus:

It’s only an “apparent” paradox if being holy and just is treated as NOT exclusive to being loving, gracious and merciful to the same person with the same action. But then JWW will have to argue that God is being loving, gracious and merciful by hopelessly punishing sinners. Since he doesn’t exactly argue this, the paradox is real not merely apparent, and in fact is a contradiction (not merely a paradox) to the fundamental self-existence of God as an active fulfillment of fair-togetherness between Persons (if the Trinity is true, which JWW and I both affirm).

This foisting of two different and opposed intentions toward persons in God, is why Christians “have sometimes struggled to respond” to the sceptical criticism that Christians are being theologically self-contradictive to promote the idea of a hopeless punishment or fate (whether ECT or annihilation). Christians (and Jews) who think the scriptures testify to that different and opposed intentions in God toward persons, are naturally stuck having that contradiction in their theology, but appealing to theologically self-contradictive scriptural testimony isn’t going to help sceptics respect the scriptures more, much less respect Christian theology more.

At any rate, purgatorial Christian universalism affirms, not denies, that God hates sin and punishes sinners, including post-mortem (and even Christian ultra-universalists affirm this usually, just not post-mortem); so we don’t deny the verses cited by JWW involve punishing impenitent evildoers, even post mortem. We just deny the punishment is hopeless, for which we have various reasons. (Incidentally, it’s unfair to imply Rob Bell denies post-mortem punishment, since in Love Wins he explicitly affirms that people can have hell both now and later. Again, what he effectively denies, is that the punishment is hopeless – although he does allow that a never-ending stalemate might happen.)

I (and other purga-u’s) affirm and don’t deny that. We even affirm that true love requires punishing impenitent wrongdoers eventually. But we also affirm that true justice requires mercy, and JWW apparently denies this; or more to the point we affirm that the punishment of a sinner involves both justice and mercy toward the sinner. Even more to the point, we affirm that true justice in punishment of a sinner aims at fulfilling fair-togetherness between persons (which is itself the ground of all existence if trinitarian theism is true, and which is itself the ground of morality which sinners sin against). Any hopeless punishment from God would transgress the same self-existent reality of God which the sinner was transgressing by being a sinner, though the mode of transgression might be different in form.

We very much agree with that; we very much disagree that any hopeless punishment from God counts as being loving (or even justice) toward the sinner, even if the sinner is currently impenitent.

JWW thinks the importance of free will solves the problem of a hopeless punishment not being loving toward its object:

But then why is God coercing them after their rejection of God altogether?! JWW’s soteriology doesn’t eliminate coercion of impenitent sinners by God, but instead hopelessly maximizes it! Nor does a hopeless maximization of God’s coercion of sinners result in any kind of justice based in God’s trinitarian reality.

I’m as big a believer in the importance of creaturely free will under God as anyone, which by the way is why I can’t figure out why JWW is putting free will in quotes here and afterward during his free will defense. Maybe because JWW realizes that God cannot possibly be respecting the gift of free will He Himself gave the creature by doing anything to destroy the gift of free will, including allowing the creature to destroy its own free will, or granting the creature’s wish to destroy its own free will??

Certainly, “free will necessitates consequence”, and I agree that “hell is the place where humans who freely reject God experience the consequence of their choice.” But I don’t turn around and deny that they continue to have free will to repent of their sins and return to God; and I certainly don’t do so after appealing to the importance of human free will for explaining the punishment of God. Because that would be self-contradictory.

That’s obviously false, if he means that God’s victory requires hopeless punishment, unless JWW thinks God’s victory require him to be hopelessly punished (or even requires someone else to be hopelessly punished so that JWW won’t be. Which just as obviously wasn’t Christ, even though JWW thinks Christ took our punishment so we wouldn’t have to: even JWW doesn’t think Christ was hopelessly punished by eternal conscious torment or in any other way.)

What JWW means however is that God’s victory over sin requires punishment of impenitent sinners. I agree that sooner or later impenitent sinners have to be inconvenienced to some degree – also that this inconvenience is very obviously coerced on them, to whatever degree God sees as best to accomplish His goals.

But I disagree that the victory of justice involves hopelessly final injustice, because that’s literally nonsense. So long as a sinner freely chooses to continue impenitent in injustice, justice is not yet victorious. If Justice Himself acts to ensure that an unjust person will never be just, then Justice Himself has defeated Justice, which again is theologically nonsensical. Yet again, if an unjust person manages to achieve permanent injustice, then Justice Himself has been defeated by injustice, and even by created injustice, which again is theological nonsense. No appeal to the importance of free will is going to get around any of that; but no appeal to the importance of free will is going to succeed in any case if the appeal involves the final destruction of free will.

I also note as an aside that so far as JWW insists that God’s victory over sin requires punishment of impenitent sinners, then in exactly the same proportion he denies that Christ’s death has anything to do with fulfilling some requirement of punishment by God, unless JWW claims the sinless Christ was not only actually a sinner but an impenitent one and a permanently impenitent sinner at that! (Which is completely aside from the tacit schism between the Persons of the one and only Most High God if trinitarian theism is true, which as a trinitarian Christian apologist I am going to be hot to avoid if I care even slightly about coherently professing the truth of God in ortho-doxy. Which I care more than slightly about. Be that as it may.)

I am glad to see that JWW appeals several times to God being all-powerful as well as all-loving. If God is all-powerful, then God should be sufficiently competent at leading all sinners to stop sinning sooner or later, even if that takes eons of eons for some sinners due to God’s insistence on treating sinners as free-willed children (thanks to God’s gracious gift of free will to them) rather than as mere puppets.

And the just nature of God requires love if it is to be meaningful – and not only some kind of negative balance where God’s love (and injustice?!) to one sinner requires God’s unloving justice to another sinner. God’s love to a person requires justice to that person if it is to be meaningful, and God’s justice to a person requires love to that person if it is to be meaningful.

I most certainly agree that “the consequence for evil actions must ultimately be appropriate if God is to be just”, but I don’t regard ultimate injustice to be the appropriate consequence for evil actions in order for God to be just.

I most certainly agree that “the power of God necessitates victory”, and even eternal victory; but I don’t agree that the eternal victory of Justice could ever even possibly require a mode of punishment (or any other action of God) that results in the final injustice of the sinner.

I realize that JWW (along with other theologians) has twisted his metaphysics into razored knots trying to make this work out in such self-contradictory fashions, because he thinks the scriptures testify to some kind of finally hopeless punishment. Since he didn’t focus on scriptural exegetics, but on the metaphysics of his theology, that is where I have also focused my reply. As a sample reply to his sample of scripture apparently testifying to hopeless punishment, please refer to my extended exegetical commentary on the narrative and thematic contexts and linguistic details of the judgment of the sheep and the goats from the end of Matt 25 (which JWW cites in his list).

But if the reader doesn’t care to check that, I can at least appreciate that JWW has referred us to Psalm 77 to learn what the holy way and the greatness of God involves: not rejecting sinners forever, being favorable to them again instead, not withholding His mercy forever, not forgetting to be gracious to sinners He has punished, nor even withdrawing His compassion in His anger, but rather remembering His promise to save those He punishes from their sins. Asaph (who composed this psalm) comes to realize that part of his grief or infirmity is that he had mistakenly come to think that the right hand of the Most High had changed so that God would reject sinners forever!

So, thanks JWW! – but Asaph’s corrective revelation about what he believed about God’s hopeless punishment of sinners doesn’t fit but actively rebuts JWW’s own claims about God’s hopeless punishment of sinners.

(This is what comes from prooftexting a verse without checking context. A problem I find to be endemic among proponents for some kind of hopeless punishment when citing the scriptures. I used to have the same problem myself, but I learned better.)

I think the Biggest problem many Christians didn’t understand is what is God’s Justice for not accepting the
Universalism :smiley:

in Revelation I’m seeing an obvious example of God’s justice which there will be no more sorrow, pain and…
even rich people in this world have sorrows :slight_smile:

God is not the enemy of his children and hell is not holocaust :laughing:

their argument is they believe the people are throwing themselves into hell, not God,
because when I’m speaking about God’s love, they don’t have any answers but this,

I don’t know where this Doctrine comes from that it is not God who throwing people to hell,
maybe from the free will of Arminianism, but this is a huge error, not small and God is a weak God,
which Satan is out of his control, and he is winning hands down by taking billions into hell, if this is true which is false,
and if he is the creator of everything, he should destroy everything now :slight_smile:

Satan: God messed up by creating these, next one :laughing:

Do you know where the origin of this come from that people are throwing themselves into hell?
although this is a huge error! lies of satan (just an argument)? or just an error?

I’m unsure where the idea originally came from (certainly not from anywhere in the scriptures!), but my Teacher C. S. Lewis must unfortunately be regarded as its most important English advocate in the 20th century, and a ton of Arminianistic scholars (Catholic as well as Protestant) are following his lead on that today.

Such people have absolutely no reason to complain about universalists supposedly not following the clear teaching of the scriptures, since there is at least a little apparently clear teaching of universal salvation in the scriptures (as Lewis himself recognized) and nothing of the passively weak defeat of God in respect of sinners’ free will or whatever (and LOTS of data against that).

I got into a discussion about it earlier this year with a comrade and fellow apologist (friend of several friends of mine), JP Holding, whose theory of the atonement has led him to progressively shed even the slightest active connection of God to the permanently damned, especially denying any active punishment by God. One of these days I should go back and do a more in-depth review and criticism of the ebook he published this year on the topic; but I recognize it the approach as a fellow student of Lewis like JPH. :wink:

For fellow non-facebookers, it’s also possible (and easy) to comment directly on the blog.

Here’s the link … … jXZni_n-M8

An excellent analysis, Jason. JWW demonstrates a very shallow understanding of grace, and of the nature of mercy and grace as congruent attributes of God. He would do well to read and ponder on GMac’s Unspoken Sermon ‘Justice’, don’t you think?

Yep, and congrats on the grandbaby there by the way Johnny! (I saw that in another thread but was quickly passing by and didn’t have time to comment then. :slight_smile: )

I vote you keep that as your avatar theme henceforth, but with updated photos. Same shirt and couch if possible, though. :sunglasses:

Thanks for the link, QFT! Too busy today to think about adding to it, and I’m probably too late to more than stir an already stale discussion there anyway. :frowning: But I’ll try to keep that in mind for future reference.

Why Doesn’t God Reform People RATHER THAN Punish Them In Hell?

Not sure where the other blog entry for this is (for us non-Facebookers), but you should be able to see one problem I have with it off bat just in the title. :wink:

i’m not a FBer anymore (i detest the site), so i’m with you.

my initial thought (or at least my thought after censoring my initial thought) is “oh just go away. you are missing the point so obviously that you’re clearly doing it on purpose.”

The article should show up at the Stand To Reason blog eventually, though when I looked a moment ago it wasn’t there yet. I did see a recent related article defending disproportionate punishment for finite crimes.

It’s about as mixed up and poorly thought out as you might expect from JWW on this topic by now. He’s good at some things, but when he starts his explanation by saying that the Bible nowhere shows God inflicting this punishment (yes it does, very often), and ends by appealing to the idea that crimes against the highest authority naturally should involve the greatest punishment by the authority in proportion to the greatness of the authority, then I get the feeling he’s kind of desperately grabbing around for whatever pickle slice might stick on the window after he flicks it up there… :unamused: :laughing:

Anyway, as QFT noted upthread, comments are able to be posted by anyone on the STR blogs, so anyone wanting to be nice about disagreeing with his factual claims and logic is welcome to do so. I’m busy elsewhere at the moment. (If/when STR puts up the previously linked article on reformation vs. hell, be sure to post the appropriate link here please, assuming I don’t do so first.)

Thanks Jason :smiley: . Seeing as how I own numerous identical Ramones T-shirts, it’s very likely that your vote will be a winning one :smiley: .

Of course, what I meant to say was that God’s justice and mercy are congruent - and that is the category error ECTers make in setting the two in opposition.

Continuing his series, JWW acknowledges (despite his title) that God doesn’t have a one penalty fits all stance: … -different

Readers are invited to compare this with other articles to see if he holds to the same point in any meaningful way there. :wink:

The further parts of the series don’t seem to be showing up at the STR blog yet – I have no idea whether I’m looking somewhere wrong, or if their system has messed up somehow, or what the problem is.

Anyway, on JWW’s own blog the series continues. Facebookers, go forth! :wink:

Wouldn’t A Good God Make Sure Everyone Gets To Heaven?

That question would seem to be rather “Wouldn’t a competent God make sure everyone gets to heaven?” since JWW agrees that God is good enough to desire and act (to at least some extent) toward everyone getting to heaven. As previously JWW thinks if God was competent enough to succeed at that, it would “eradicate” free will. :unamused: Isn’t God competent enough to lead some people to salvation without “eradicating” their free will?? How much less competent does God have to be, for hopeless punishment to exist?! As usual, God’s respect for free will lasts right up to the point where He allows people to hopelessly destroy their free will, or else authoritatively chooses not to give more than a damn Himself anymore regardless of His gift of their free will.

Why Would God Send Good People to Hell?

Cause they ain’t good enough to be saved of their own free will, duh! – oh and they were saddled with problems not of their free will which God condemns them for. Wait… :wink: Well, anyway God is going to choose not to keep leading people not to violate their own or other people’s free will, because of how much He loves and respects free will, or isn’t competent to do so. It’s interesting how such a free-will-respect-based defense ends up making human free will the most poisonous and powerful thing in existence. :unamused:

(The usual justice-over-here vs mercy-over-there dichotomization comes into play again, too.)

I feel kind of bad banging on JWW, because I’m sure he’s doing the best he can according to what he thinks is right as far as he can see, and he does good work in other regards. But this can’t be helping his apologetic evangelism much. :frowning:

Someone might want to alert STR blogger Melinda Penner that Gregory Nyssa’s anti-slavery arguments are connected to that belief which JWW regards as false if not unChristian. :wink:

As usual, I can’t find any of the new hell articles from JWW on the STR blog itself (where anyone can comment), but as might have been expected there was a podcast this weekend on the topic of the previous week (although it’s actually a repost of an earlier podcast since JWW is off touring campuses somewhere. I wonder if many of those articles were actually reposts and only the first two were ‘new’, so that’s why they show up on the STR blog feed but the others don’t?–including the podcast below for the weekend.) … -1-podcast

Don’t know when (or even if) Part 2 will go up. (I just tried changing the address to read part-2-podcast and that didn’t work.) Also, I’m unsure how even Facebookers are supposed to comment on this one. But members can always drop their comments in here. :mrgreen: Have fun!

JWW looks like he’ll be going after Richard Dawkins this week, btw.

Done (under the TomM handle).: … onist.html

I wish I could have responded sooner, but family duties prevented.

BTW, I think the Stand to Reason site is a cut above most apologetics sites, with the one glaring exception of ET.

Thanks for reminding me of Thomas Allin’s book, btw, QFT!

Yes, there are several good apologetic sites around – I like Credo House and JPHolding’s efforts, too (to pull a Calv and Arm example each from the hate). The Christian Cadre have done good work as well, and one of their main contributors is a Christian universalist! :mrgreen: (Although he and the others have been busy elsewhere doing other projects and have lamentably let the weblog slide a lot in recent years, sigh…)

No problem. Time permitting (ha ha ha), it would be great to hear how you think Prof. Ramelli’s book compares with Allin’s (as well as with Hanson’s).

I’ll be getting to Dr. R’s book next month; plowing through my final book for this month (around 850 pages in itself, and I’m running a bit behind schedule).

A comparison with Hanson (and Allin) would be interesting, but I’ll have to finish the book first to see if I’m up to it.

Understood. Count me among the very grateful for the work you will be doing with Dr. Ramelli’s book.