The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Commentary thread for JRP vs JPH vs Christian Universalism

As the thread title says, this is the thread set up for forum members to comment on my (verrrrrrry) extended reply to JP Holding’s article (or series of related articles rather) vs. Christian universalism.

I probably won’t participate much here myself, being busy working on things elsewhere.

If JPH shows up and comments here, though, be nice or else! He’s a good Christian apologist who works hard, and I expect him to be respected. Be warned–be very awarned. :wink:

Otherwise, have fun. There’s a ton of material on the way, including some things I haven’t argued before in public (so far as I recall)!–so hopefully it’ll be of some referential use, too. :slight_smile:

Greetings !

  :smiley:  :smiley:  :smiley:  :smiley:  :smiley:  :smiley:  :smiley: 

 gee hmmmm do I know who JP is ?   I was smiling rather wide when you very politely mentioned JP personality ...

        Thus I will rev up the engines when I have more time ... 
     but I will give Jason a suggestion for JP .... IF he ever visits this forum...  
      JP is very aggressive at times and very active in his responses .. which could make members of this forum
       feel uncomfortable ...  as for me I have no worries  :wink: 

    Besides IF JP does show up ... I will certainly have no need, wish or desire to dicker with him ...

    My reason for being here is simple ...  to share my personal insights without the need for heated discussions
         or flame wars ...   :wink:    I hope to continue to encourage others to build up their Passion for 
        their particular viewpoint too.   

     all the best !

I am liking the response so far. (though I haven’t read through the last one because of length) I do have one question though, in the beginning of the last one, you say we all reject God’s grace, could you elaborate please?
Thank you and keep coming with the responses! :smiley:

Thanks Brent! Yes, Part 5 is pretty large. Starting with Part 6 onward, I’ll be replying with one Part per criticism of JPH’s article vs. post-mortem evangel–ironically because each of my replies there will be long enough to be worth its own Part (and in one case at least two maybe three)!

To elaborate on what you asked about: the concept I’m working from is that any and every sinner abuses the grace of God by sinning: it is by God’s grace that we exist and have capabilities at all, and it is by God’s grace that we continue existing even when we misuse our capabilities. We don’t force this abuse of God’s grace onto God–He voluntarily bears it. But that abuse is worse than any mere rejection of God’s grace, and all sinners do it, even though God (in His love for us) keeps us in existence.

That’s the quick version. There’s a bunch of detailed predecessory argument leading up to that concept.

A slightly less quick way to see a slice of what I’m talking about would be to click on the SttH hyperlink in my signature below, download the pdf at the top of the thread, and search the text for “grace”. (I just tried that myself; there are only a couple-dozen times I use it, so it doesn’t take long to page through them and check the contexts for where and why I am using the word.)

While I don’t recall the phraseology being used in the scriptures this way, I have in mind the many poetic complaints of God from the OT of how even His beloved specially chosen servants betray Him in various adulteries after everything He did and does for them (and even despite everything He will do for them). But I don’t want to divide “those traitorous servants over there” in comparison with myself as though I am any more loyal to God: any sin involves action (at least in mental intention) against the foundational source of our own existence, so any sin would be a mortal sin apart from the grace of God to keep us in existence despite our doing that which, if God did it, would result in His annihilation (since God, as the foundational source of all reality, would have no one to save Him from the results of acting against the foundational source of reality!)

Anyway, I hope that helps explain where I’m coming from. :slight_smile: I developed the theme from some things Lewis used to say, so I hope JPH (my fellow student of Lewis) will recognize the principles.


Thanks Jason for all your helpful comments. I am just trying to follow your thoughts on John 5:22,23 and think through how definitely universalistic it is. I may be wrong, but your argument seems to be based on the idea that the purpose of judgment being entrusted to the Son is that all may honor the Father and the Son. I would like to think that this is what the verse actually says but I am not sure that it does. Couldn’t some argue that the verse actually says that the purpose of the Son’s judgment is not that all may honor the Father and the Son, but that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. So rather than a comment on the number who will honor the Father and the Son, it is rather a comment that whatever number it is, there will be a sameness in the honor given to the Father and the Son. It may not be clearly universalistic in nature then, because it could be argued that some will honor the Father and Son very poorly. I hope my question is not too confusing. Thanks for your help.

Hi Craig!

Jesus makes clear in the same set of verses (as well as elsewhere in GosJohn) that the number of people who honor the Father are already equal in number, at any point in time, to those who honor the Son, because He adds the logical qualifier, that those who do not honor the Son do not honor the Father either.

So someone could honor the Father and be agnostic about the Son, and still would be honoring the Son in principle (those who are not against Him are for Him); and someone could honor the Son and be agnostic about the Father, and still would be honoring the Father on the same principle. But to actively dishonor either while claiming to honor the other doesn’t work.

Those who honor the Son already honor the Father, and those who honor the Father already honor the Son, assuming they don’t actively dishonor either. Moreover, those who honor the Son (and thus the Father) are not brought into judgment.

Consequently, the only topically relevant change would be to bring those who actively dishonor the Son and/or the Father (and so who also dishonor the other Person) to honor the Son and the Father. Those who actively dishonor one or both Persons are also those who are brought into judgment, and the purpose of the judgment is “that all may honor the Son even as they honor the Father”. (Or more literally “in accord as they honor the Father”.)

Hope that was helpful! :slight_smile:

Thanks very much Jason. That was very helpful. :slight_smile:

JP Holding has sent me an email commenting on (as far as I can tell) Parts 1 and 1.5 of the series. With his permission, I’m copying his reply below (minus a couple of minor social things as we’re talking to one another.)

I’ll be sending an email link to my reply when I’m done. JPH is very busy right now with his Tekton projects (such as TektonTV, or as he calls it “Ren and Stimpy Apologetics” :smiley: ), so I’ll remind members not to take a lack of further reply from him as meaning anything.

I want to remind our readers that JPH is not the sort of person who thinks Christian universalism is a major problem needing disputation, compared to (for example) Jesus Myth proponents. So long as we’re still talking about everyone needing to be saved from our sins, and Jesus being the only Savior and Way to the Father, and especially the doctrines of trinitarian theism being affirmed (all of us affirming the first two, and most of us, myself included, affirming the third), he’s not actually worried: he just answered Gary’s challenges because someone asked him to, and his dispute vs. post-mortem salvation was more aimed at a set of Mormon opponents per se.

But then, I’m answering JP’s counter-challenges because someone asked me to. :slight_smile:

And, too, what we claim to be true about salvation and judgment and punishment, makes a difference in our evangelism and our apologetics. Unbelievers who only want to scuffle barely bother to waste my time anymore; the ones who were actually interested are more willing to listen now. I’d be willing to bet JPH sees such advantages in taking his agonstic position, too, even if not quite to the same degree.

Anyway, I’m not indulging in (now slightly over 100 pages of) commentary because I think JPH’s position is some kind of horrible atrocity. But he provides a nice springboard to discuss a lot of issues (mostly exegetical) that visitors and members of our forum are interested in.

Onward then to my actual reply to his email, quoted above.

Hi other JP! {g}

I’ve now updated the intro to the Parts regarding the coincidental connection between WIHIGO and Rob’s LW. I have also added links in several places of that thread, over to this portion of the commentary thread, regarding the topic of theory revisions upcoming in your atonement eBook; and I’ll be removing my wrong guesses in the Parts as to how you’d proceed, based on your further information above. (Although for accounting sake, I’ll be leaving a few notes here and there to explain that I did have guesses originally, what the guess mainly was, and why I removed the guesses.)

I’m inferring (perhaps wrongly) that you’re only looking at Part 1, and (apparently) 1.5 (where I compare your agonistic article with your position in WIHIGO). You may at least want to read Part 2 which mostly involves agreements from me to replies of yours to Gary’s challenges.

I’ll topically sort replies based on your topic enumeration:

1.) Hm, I was guessing completely the other way around: that you were going to revise your argument to better account with the language of active punishment (or relationship) by God in the scriptures. Maybe in a way that’s still true, if you add more detail about emotional rhetoric and exaggeration; but it still looks as though you’re going to disassociate God even further from, not only anger and punishment, but any active relationship to sinners post-mortem.


Yes, as a matter of fact I would call standing in the corner punishment. It’s being authoritatively imposed for various reasons having to do with misbehavior by the child. Similarly I would consider being sent to his room a punishment for the child. I would also consider a stern talking-to to be a punishment. None of these, including sending a child to stand in the corner, actually fit the practical outcome of your theory as spelled out in previous articles so far. Neither does your Ruk example from Star Trek (which is why I didn’t talk about that example, having a lot on my plate already). More on that later.

1.1.1.) For what it’s worth, I expect most post-mortem punishment will amount to no more than a stern talking-to (followed by repentance, reconciliation and restoration), but the scriptures being written in Ancient Near Middle Eastern idiom talk more about the maximum penalties for sake of dramatic emphasis.

1.1.2.) Yes I’m aware of how ANME idiom works; for example the king’s opening threat in the parable of the unforgiving servant, to sell his family into slavery for his embezzlements, would have been likely interpreted in its original cultural context as an “opening position” for bargaining, as Kenneth Bailey–a Middle-Eastern evangelist–argues in one of his books.

That doesn’t mean the maximum penalties are only an empty threat; some persons seem prophecied to certainly suffer the maximum penalty, and besides you obviously affirm a real hopeless maximum penalty of some kind. What the maximum penalty actually involves would be (scripturally) an exegetical issue and (theologically) a metaphysical issue. Obviously as a Christian universalist my basic position would be that the penalties, no matter how severe, are not hopeless. And the penalties are no more severe than God sees to be necessary to achieving His goals, which I think most Christian non-universalists would agree with in principle. What we’d disagree at least partly on are the goals. (Including, in some cases, whether God has any goals at all in regard to evildoers post-mortem.)

1.1.3) Having said that, your appeal to dramatic cultural exaggeration can only go so far. ANME cultures (among ancient cultures generally) also inflicted harsh punishments similar to the ones they might talk about for dramatic rhetorical purposes. This is an important and relevant cultural factor I myself have to take into account as a Christian universalist, so I’m certainly not going to let you off on it. :wink: An exaggerated description of active punishment is still a description of active punishment, and your theory increasingly disassociates God from any action relative to sinners post-mortem at all. That’s categorically different from accounting for exaggerated dramatic tendencies during interpretation. Dramatic cultural exaggeration is an emotional appeal for emotional effect, typically motivated by emotional states; but your theory involves reducing or even eliminating emotional concerns in God. While I consider this only a minor problem, since I actually agree for technical theological reasons (mostly having to do with ontology) that God doesn’t have our emotional reactions to stimuli (and I’ll more to say on this later), it does reintroduce the question of misleading hearers/readers if the emotive language doesn’t correspond to something properly important in God’s active, intentional and personal reality, including in how God relates to not-God reality. An appeal to dramatic cultural exaggeration in the language, unless the appeal is backed by solid prior metaphysical (and/or exegetical) reasoning, would undercut to exactly the same proportion similar language regarding God’s love, mercy, patience/longsuffering, forgiveness, and other things of that sort. I don’t see you adjusting for this in the argument yet. A Calvinist might be entirely ready to underdetermine God’s expressions of love to sinners (or even to the righteous??), but I have a hard time imagining that an Arminian would really be prepared to do that in principle.

On what ground are you going to keep the extensive scriptural statements of God’s love, while reducing or even eliminating scriptural statements of God’s anger (with attendant action descriptions either way)? If you answer (as I hope you would), “on ground of trinitarian theism coherency, summarized by God being essentially love in His own eternally active self-existence” (or words to that effect), then great: but this would just as easily mean that God’s actions in anger are founded on God’s active love for the object of His wrath, not that God has no wrath at all toward the object.

(A key scriptural text on this topic would be Isaiah 27:4-5: smack in the middle of a bunch of very typical warnings of butt-kicking wrath and destruction to come upon evildoers, up to and including God slaying Satan/Leviathan, God takes a moment to provide the amazing clarification that He has no wrath in Him, but is only fighting against those who go out to war against Him with thorns and thistles. And He’s only burning up their thorns and thistles, not them–although naturally they’ll be burnt, too, so long as they hold to their weapons against Him–the goal being that they will seek reconciliation with Him instead. No doubt there is a ton of metaphorical language being thrown around here, but the principles involved are much different than God inactively and unintentionally pressuring sinners hopelessly away from Him as a sort of inadvertent side-effect. God does wrath, but God is not wrath: God can and does stop doing wrath, but God never stops doing love.) Relatedly, an appeal to exaggerated dramatic language against God’s wrath and active punishment of sin (post-mortem or otherwise…?), could be applied just as easily against any scriptural attempts to support your theory of a hopeless never-successful fleeing from God’s presence, too. Dramatic exaggeration is, as dramatic exaggeration does. Finally, in regard to paid mourners who “obviously had no personal grief to speak of”, when trying to provide an example to illustrate rhetorical exaggerated language by-and-concerning God: Jesus didn’t have a high opinion of people who only pretended to be concerned about other people, and tended to call them hypocrites and liars. That “everyone KNEW the expression was not ‘real’”, was not a neutral judgment of their character, much less a positive one. (Relatedly, He threw out the professional mourners for Jairus’ daughter when they wouldn’t leave quietly.) There is a very important categorical difference between exaggeration for eloquent dramatic effect and merely acting. Rending your robes as a dramatic expression of your real grief is an example of the former; rending your robes as a pro forma expression of grief about blasphemy when that was the goal you were angling for all along and in reality you’re relieved you finally got the evidence you wanted, is an example of the latter.


1.2.1.) Yes, getting away from “punishment” language in your soteriological account would be a good idea if you’re disassociating from God’s active continuing infliction of their state upon evildoers post-mortem. Ditto for terms like “rebuke”. Those terms (and “judgment”) might be relevant at the start of the condition–although I’m unsure if even that remains (or could logically remain) in your account now–but they could not be relevant to the ongoing condition of the lost.

1.2.2.) I am assuming you’re replying to where I wrote (with my original emphasis) " Unless, of course, the punishment, and thus the goal of the punishment, is quietly dropped out of the account" and “In short, it is difficult for me to see how exactly JPH is closing off the hope for such sinners, other than by quietly dropping the notion that God is actively punishing them.” I called it “quietly dropping the notion that God is actively punishing them” only because you do talk about God’s punishment of them, including other related active terms like “rebuke” and “judge”–but I was especially referring to your claim that the goal of God’s punishment, including God’s active shaming of someone, is always repentance, reconciliation and restoration of the sinner.

So long as you keep that concept in your account (and I noticed you didn’t mention it at all in WIHIGO), you can’t logically close off the hope for salvation other than by (quietly or explicitly) dropping the punishment.

1.2.3.) But if God punishes at all–if He actively inflicts any inconvenience on persons as a result of their insistence on sinning at all–then at some point He has to stop punishing them for your soteriological theory not to add up to purgatorial universalism. And so far your theory doesn’t clearly indicate why God would stop actively keeping sinners in a state of inconvenience due to their sins. But if He doesn’t actively keep them in that condition, then they are either not inconvenienced by God for their sins; or they are saved by God from their sins; or they have begun to exist dependently on something that isn’t God (whether Satan, or Nature, or themselves, or whatever). Or they’ve been annihilated out of existence altogether.

Only one of these options fits your theory at all. But it’s the option that technically denies supernaturalistic theism to be true.

1.2.4.) Relatedly, you theory has strong ontological problems, insofar as you disassociate God’s actions in relation to sinners post-mortem. I talked at some length about this in Parts 1 and 1.5; and since your reply doesn’t address these problems I won’t reiterate them here (aside from a brief summary in 1.2.3 above.)

Possibly this would be part of the “many other cases” where I raise objections that you “would answer from other articles” which would take you “a lot of time to unravel it all and make the connections I need to make”, which you don’t have time for. Which would be understandable.

But as a trinitarian Christian theologian and apologist, this is my main concern about your theory.


No complaint from me here!–my main reason for rejecting the standard penal sub model (aside from an iffy scriptural basis), is that it conflicts strongly with ortho-trin theological coherency. (And does no theological favors for unitarian or polytheistic Christians either, much less modalistic ones.)

I myself hold to several goals for the atonement, including a cleansing/restoration model (at-one-ment), but also including a modified version of penal sub where God is reckoned with (not instead of) transgressors, suffering with sinners as well as with those who have been sinned against.

1.4.) Coming back to the topic of God’s emotions: I am certainly no fan of open theism (although some other Christian universalists are), and much less of appealing to God’s emotions per se as evidence of it. The whole thing smacks of the mere gods of Mormonism; and relatedly, open theists have a tendency to devolve into emergent theists (although usually on a more cosmically naturalistic/pantheistic level than Mormonism).

Moreover, I deny that God has emotions in the reactive fashion that humans (and other creatures) have emotions. So when I read things about God’s bowels being troubled (as in Jeremiah 31) out of grief that his rebel son Ephraim had to be punished to death by Him, I realize that this is not to be taken literally in the way that David’s bowels were troubled on hearing that, in the forest of Ephraim, his rebel son Absalom had been stabbed to death in the side with a spear while hanging with a bleeding scalp from a tree in dishonor–although no doubt that’s the referent comparison being made. (Also worth noting: God says in that chapter He has not permanently turned His face away from Ephraim; prophecies that Ephraim, slain in his sins, will thereby finally learn better and repent; and promises righteous Rachel, weeping for her slain rebel children, that He shall restore them to her someday: through a mysterious riddle where a woman shall, in some new way, encompass a man. Be that as it may.)

So when I talk about God’s anger, grief or love, I am not talking about an automatic non-rational reaction to stimulus.

What I am talking about, are actions of God, with attendant rational attitudes and expressions, to which our emotional reactions are derivative natural correspondences. And although for convenience I say “actions”, I really mean (as Lewis would stress) one complex action of love toward all the history of every natural creation–complex because God’s creation is complex, not because God Himself is technically complex in fundamental composition–the mode of which differs according to natural/created circumstances, especially in (voluntary!) accord with contributions to history made by His created children, be those contributions for the better or for worse. God’s anger at rebel Ephraim is the same action as God’s love for loyal Rachel, and the same action as God’s grief over slain rebel Ephraim, expressed in different modes: all of them involving God’s active love for the object, which seeks the fulfillment of fair-togetherness (the Greek term typically translated “justice”) between persons–between Ephraim and Rachel, and between Ephraim and God, no less than between Rachel and God. (And none less than between the Persons of God Themselves!)


I wish you had been more detailed here, as to what issues of universalism you’re talking about me having pulled in. In Parts 1 and 1.5, the only issue of universalism (per se) that I pulled in, was an issue you yourself explicitly mentioned: the goal of God’s punishment is to lead people to repentance and restoration, consequently the only way to avoid purgatorial universalism as a logical result (with God forever persisting in leading sinners to salvation from sin, however long it takes) is for God to stop punishing sinners. (Or maybe never punish them in the first place…?) Which is definitely a main point to your prior articles, and won’t be lessened in your forthcoming revision. What does look to be lessened, if WIHIGO is anything to go by, is your position that the goal of God’s punishment is to lead sinners to repentance and reconciliation!–since (as I noted in Part 1.5) you don’t mention that anymore.

(Obviously, all the subsequent Parts are replies to issues of universalism that you were explicitly trying to cover, so I suppose you weren’t talking about those issues. I did briefly refer in Part 1 to the existence of obscure OT passages about rebel angels being shamed and reconciled to God, but I did so in support of your point about the goal of God shaming sinners; and strictly speaking even that wouldn’t necessarily be universalism, no more than salvation of some human sinners necessarily involves universalism.)


3.1.) God, on your theory, is still actively keeping sinners in conditions of inconvenience due to their sins, rather than letting them exist as sinners without inconvenient results of their sins (which they would naturally prefer); and God, on your theory, actively puts them into that condition.

The problem isn’t that I’m stretching the semantics of “active punishment”, in describing a condition of extreme active conditioning from God (a conditioning that you yourself describe in extreme terms), as “torment” or “torture”: which as you well know are scriptural terms that are used to describe the experience and condition. The problem is that you’re disassociating God’s action in relation to sinners post-mortem. That’s a dispute of technical ontology between us, not a semantic one.


3.2.1.) The main reason I don’t devote much space to exile and separation as the primary experience of hell, is because you yourself deny that there is any exile and separation from God’s omnipresence–which is one of our few agreements on the ontological issues involved here. When you describe sinners trying and failing to flee from God’s omnipresent holiness, then we aren’t talking about an experience of exile and separation. We’re talking about people trying but failing to separate themselves from God in order to avoid His “rebuke”.

3.2.2.) I’m not familiar with the example from Sartre (and you didn’t mention that example in WIHIGO), but I am familiar with Ruk’s example, which you very accurately described: and which has nothing in the least to do with sinners trying and continually failing to flee from the rebuke of an omnipresence they can never escape from.

True, I could have pointed that out in Part 1.5, but I had a lot on my plate already to get to work on; mainly I was only concerned to illustrate that your hellshame position hadn’t changed in writing WIHIGO (with the possible exception of your previous affirmation of God’s goal in punishment, which you didn’t mention in WIHIGO. But that may have been an oversight–nothing you wrote in WIHIGO seemed to exclude repentance and reconciliation as God’s goal in shaming/punishing people.)

3.2.3.) I think it’s interesting that you’ve forgotten, or are now renouncing, the actual second analogue you used to describe hell in WIHIGO (which lay outside my limited scope for Part 1.5, but which I assure you I was going to get to in commenting on WIHIGO eventually once I commented on the articles you challenged universalists to reply to!) It’s also a Star Trek analogy, and I’ll reprint it here for reference:

, for his second analogue to hell (JRP’s new emphases in bold)"]A second image comes from the Voyager incarnation of the Star Trek series. One of the crew members, accused wrongly of murder, was sentenced by a planet’s justice system in which the death penalty was considered too cruel. Rather, mind-altering technology as used so that the crew member would periodically relive the murder, from the point of view of the victim. (The pain of being murdered was not clearly involved in this; the main focus was apparently on the experience.)

[JRPnote: how the main focus could be on the point-of-view experience without experiencing the pain of the murder from the point-of-view of the victim, is left to the imagination of the reader. I was unable to find scenes on YouTube, but [url=]the official trailer calls it “a fate worse than death” and “the ultimate punishment” and shows him grimacing in apparent… unwanted inconvenience, let us call it for want of a better term. :wink: ]

The Biblical perception of justice makes punishment equitable to the crime (reaping what you sow). A Hitler would be shamed more than (say) a robber baron by the degree of his deeds; but also, they might be compelled to relive the experiences of their victims. Thus, for example, Hitler might be compelled to endure, from the point of view of the victims, each and everyone one of the millions of deaths he caused, in an endless, eternal loop.

You go on to note that the victim will remember it eternally also, although I’m going to guess you don’t think Hitler’s victims are compelled to eternally experience it firsthand in an endless inescapable loop. Equitable punishment (your term in WIHIGO) of reaping what you sow, and an eye for an eye, would not seem to involve an endless inescapable loop of repeating the suffering of one’s victims, either.

At any rate, it isn’t hard to see why you wouldn’t want to reference your own actual second example from WIHIGO, since it’s blatantly about persons being actively judged, actively sentenced to an actual punishment, having the punishment actively inflicted on them, and continually being compelled to endure this: a punishment that involves experiencing something that naturally lends itself to rather more than shame of victimization (although that, too), namely the experiences involved in being murdered. In fact, even the Voyager illustration breaks down on this point, since Tom Paris was innocent: so what did he have to be ashamed about?! He isn’t wincing from shame; he’s wincing because he keeps experiencing himself being murdered (by himself) every fourteen hours!

3.2.4.) Since you mention Sartre’s No Exit as your (new?) second analogue to hell, I decided to look it up, and unless Wikipedia’s article is completely misleading, this experience also has nothing to do with continually trying but failing to flee from the crushing omnipresence of God’s holiness. It’s more about certain people driving each other crazy forever with each other’s faults and sins. (Thus the famous line “Hell is other people”, although in context the problem is not all other people but certain other people.) An experience which none of them chooses for themselves, and which is definitely inflicted on them, by the way. Is the analogue supposed to be that sinners are driven crazy forever by God inflicting His faults and sins on them???–because God’s sanity, goodness and purity ought to be helping them (encouraging them, for example, to slake their thirst and wash their robes in the freely given river of life flowing out of the never-closed gates of the New Jerusalem, thus obtaining permission to enter the gates and eat of the tree of life, the leaves of which will heal them). Thus, in order to keep fondling their own sins, they try to escape.

But can’t.

4.) Things you didn’t address in your reply, which perhaps you meant to imply were addressed in other articles, but which are pretty important topics for your theory’s coherency (or the lack thereof):

4.1.) The ontological issues involved in God acting to sustain sinners in existence (or to remove them from existence if annihilationism was true), involve actions by God to put them into various conditions and to keep them there. Your theory, by contrast, increasingly disassociates God from having anything at all to do with sinners post-mortem. But then God wouldn’t judge them, nor raise them from the dead, nor even put them into a lake of fire condition distinct from being in hades.

4.2.) Relatedly, your theory kind of requires ignoring the bodily resurrection of the evil as well as the good, in order to avoid the suggestion that evildoers suffer penalties for their sins in the body not only in spirit.

4.3.) Is the goal of God in shaming someone still to lead them to repentance and reconciliation (per your original article), or not necessarily that anymore?

4.4.) You still seem to affirm a “multiplier effect” in a sinner receiving back the treatment/effects he or she gave other agents. Your stated examples do not usually involve a multiplier effect, however: reaping what you sow might, but “eye for an eye”, “proportional judgment”, “unkindness for unkindness shown” etc. do not. Your theory doesn’t clearly explain why there would be a multiplier effect, except insofar as the person continually tries to flee from God. But then…

4.5.) …you still don’t clearly explain why God would set things up so that sinners would only continually flee from Him.

4.6.) Relatedly, you still lack a clear explanation for why God is not acting to shame anyone anymore (completely aside from explaining why they are still somehow being shamed by God’s apparently active presence!) Possibly you’ve revised this, by now denying that God’s goal in shaming someone is necessarily to bring them to repentance, reconciliation and restoration. But then you’ll need to explain why God’s goals have changed. (Or you could go the Calvinist route instead of Arminian, and deny that God ever had any goal of saving those sinners from sin!)

4.7.) Also relatedly, you still need to explain why God doesn’t just dial down their perception of His omnipresence if He isn’t actively judging/rebuking/punishing them anymore. (Or ever?) Similarly, you still need to distinguish why God’s increase of a sinner’s perception of His presence leads to final unending hopelessness when His salvation of sinners from sin previously involved increasing sinners’ perception of Him in various ways.

4.8.) More generally, you haven’t explained why God doesn’t just make a heaven for them where they can fondle their sins forever without bothering other people (only facsimiles thereof, if a perception of making other people suffer is necessary) or being inconvenienced as a result of their sins. There are some obvious answers to this, of course, but those answers tend to involve God being actively resolved against sin and so actively doing something about sin!–which your theory currently disassociates from, in principle.

4.9.) If people with greater sins are more unable to withstand God’s omnipresence than people with lesser sins, then you still need to explain why greater sinners would not be proportionately more likely to repent and be saved from their sins than lesser sinners (since neither sinner can escape from God’s omnipresence.) A sinner may never of themselvesgrow so long as they don’t accept God’s grace, but God manages to lead us to grow even when we don’t yet accept God’s grace, including growing able to accept God’s grace, growing able to repent of our sins, and growing able to act toward fulfilling fair-togetherness with other people. Explaining why the sinner cannot now grow any longer, despite being even more (and more inescapably) exposed to the gracious presence of God, is an important element of the theory.

5.) Things I addressed in later Parts which are relevant to your agonistic theory; which naturally you didn’t address (because you wouldn’t have read down that far), but which I’ll want to see addressed eventually (in your atonement update eBook if not elsewhere):

5.1.) The scriptures indicate that the Father and the Son (and the Spirit, although this isn’t talked about as much) are very much concerned with honoring each other, and with bringing created persons to honor each other. For one of the Persons to do something, or by willful choice to omit doing something, that results in permanent dishonoring of any of the other Persons would run flatly against this intentional goal (a goal that has strong connections to the ontological coherency of trinitarian theism). Continually existent never-saved sinners would logically result in at least one of the Persons (and thus all of the Persons really) never being honored but continually dishonored instead in the lives (actions, attitudes, etc.) of the sinners.

The agonistic theory hangs strongly on sinners being shamed for dishonoring God, but for God to keep them in existence as permanent sinners would also dishonor God. On the other hand, if God is not keeping them in existence, then either they are annihilated out of existence (and C. S. Lewis’ otherwise clever attempt at having both annihilation and ECT would not obviate this point for the sinners still exist in relation to God’s existence if not in relation to the history of anyone else going forward), or else God is not the one and only independently self-existent fact of reality, meaning supernaturalistic theism (much moreso trinitarian theism) is being denied.

5.2.) Relatedly, your agonistic theory strongly involves the notion that God shall certainly fulfill His will that sinners shall come to a realization of the truth, even though they continually flee from it. However, St. Paul in 1 Tim 2 directly connects this with God’s will that all sinners shall be saved. Any non-universalistic soteriology has to be able to coherently explain why the Son, acting to fulfill the will of the Father in one regard (coming to a realization of the truth), chooses not, or is unable, to fulfill the will of the Father in the other regard.

An appeal to God refusing to “inflict” salvation on sinners due to respecting their free will is all well and good; but by exactly the same token God shouldn’t inflict any kind of condition on a sinner, including realization of the truth–but especially not a condition where the sinner will be unfree (or permanently so) to repent of their sins and be saved! Nor would allowing the sinner to somehow get into such a condition (even if that was coherently possible against God’s will) respect that person’s free will. Your explanation so far is self-refutingly incoherent, and must at least be improved. (See my discussion of 1 Tim toward the end of Part 5 for more details.)

5.3.) Your agonistic explanation of Jesus’ honorable act of merely providing an offer of salvation (your term “mere offer” and “no more than an offer”) being “far greater” than Adam’s shameful act of transgression, does not square well with St. Paul’s affirmation here in Rom 5 that where sin exceeds grace hyper-exceeds as an avowal of God’s ability to overcome sin.

No doubt the free gift has to be received to get the benefit of reigning through Jesus Christ (per 5:17). But if, as you say, it is “unreasonable” “that the results of justification are brought even on those who [your emphasis] reject God’s offer of grace”, then one wonders how any sinner per se (who by definition intentionally abuses the grace of God one way or another) was ever saved by God’s grace and justified by God (now or later in a process)! We all reject God’s grace, and worse than reject it: that’s why we need saving from our sins. God doesn’t wait for us to accept His patronage before acting to save us–an action which has to involve an intentional resolve to justify us. And for whatever reason St. Paul puts it grammatically (I expect for prophetic emphasis of surety of fulfillment by reference to God’s extra-temporal omniscience, although there are other interpretations, too) that Christ’s free gift to all men results in justification (as though it is an already accomplished fact) for that same group of all men. Paul repeats this emphatically several ways over and over throughout Rom 5.

If the emphasis is prophetic, then neither is there any conflict between giving the free gift and needing to receive the gift to benefit in some important ways from the gift: Paul would be saying that eventually all sinners will receive the free gift and so benefit from the results of receiving the free gift. Everyone eventually contracts to the patron. (See Part 5 again for more details.)

At any rate, you should at least spell out where you think the “contractural/patronage” elements are in Romans 5 that you say “cannot simply be ignored”, rather than simply ignoring them, too. :wink: (My guess was 5:17, but there isn’t any talk about contracts, covenants, inheritance testaments, etc. throughout chapter 5.)

5.4.) If hell is an experience of shame from God, as in your comments on Psalm 30:5, then hell logically cannot be the experience of indifference from God. The two concepts are mutually exclusive. Whatever else Psalm 30 is about, anyway, it is absolutely not about God’s indifference to sinners!–although it is certainly about the shame, repentance and reconciliation of sinners to God as a result of God’s punishment of them. (With some hints that this may extend to sinners in hades.)

WIHIGO sort-of fixes this by omitting an explicit reference to God’s indifference, but the rest of your eBook just kind of avoids the topic of whether God is indifferent to those in hell. Maybe this points toward the upcoming revision affirming more consistently that God is not indifferent to people in hell. Although that might also involve you going back to God being unmerciful to those in hell: indifference certainly doesn’t count as mercy, but how is God being merciful by ensuring they can never repent? (See Part 5 comments again.)

5.5.) In regard to your brief comment on 1 Cor 15:28, unless you were attempting a meaningless tautology along the line of “whatever will happen will happen”, then “what shall be” would have to involve God’s goals being completed and fulfilled: which would mean that your theory involves God’s goals being fulfilled and completed by sinners continually and always dishonoring God! This seems inconsistent. (Part 5 again. I covered a lot of relatively brief comments there. :mrgreen: )

5.6.) Your defense against Gary’s “infinite punishment for Jesus” challenge, would seem to still require that Jesus be permanently shamed. Gary’s question there isn’t about how Jesus could have suffered enough: it’s a question about Jesus bearing our penalties for us. If the penalty is hopelessly unending shame, then either Jesus bears that penalty of hopelessly unending shame for at least one person or else Jesus does not bear that penalty for any person. In WIHIGO you avoided this problem by only talking about the Son’s loss of honor status in creation–not really (although you emphatically put it this way yourself) the Son’s “loss of ALL honor status”, since that would include permanent utter loss of honor by the Father (and the Spirit?) with hopelessly unending shame replacing Christ’s ascribed honor. (Part 5 again.)

It is possible that you intend to try to fix this in the upcoming eBook, by shifting to a different notion of atonement than Jesus bearing our penalties for us (which you seem to affirm instead in the articles in question), but fixing the WIHIGO material along this line, too, would be a good idea.

5.7.) The damned in hades were already suffering the eternal fire of shame (on your theory), so throwing such people out of hades and into a lake of fire which “[now] mean[s] final exclusion or shunning in a judgmental sense” adds nothing; and it’s even more pointless (if possible) to put “death and hades” (at least one of which isn’t even a person) into an eternal shame. You should come up with a better answer regarding why sinners resurrected out of hades are put into “the lake of fire”, whatever the lake of fire is supposed to mean. (Part 5 again. WIHIGO was of no help, the few mentions of the LoF adding no clarity. To be fair, the addition of physical torment for the resurrected wicked would pretty easily explain the lake of fire imagery, but that still wouldn’t help explain the point to hades and death being thrown in the LoF, and you have so far tended to avoid the notion of physical suffering.)

5.8.) It is hard to see how, even on your notion of hell as hopeless shame, those who are never saved from their sins are not lost to Jesus despite definitely (per Arminianism) being given to Him to save. Yet, per your own reference of John 6:44 in your comments on John 12:32, Jesus describes people being saved as being “dragged” to Him–a topic directly related to them being resurrected on the final Day; as verse 36 says, all that the Father gives Him shall come to Him and not be cast out, nor (verse 39) shall the Son lose any of the all who have been given to Him by the Father. On your theory then, either all people are not given to the Son by the Father (which would hardly be an Arminian position), or else all that the Father gives Him shall not come to Him and some shall thereby be lost who have been given to Him by the Father! Which runs totally against the stated promises of those verses. (Part 5 again. WIHIGO doesn’t seem to reference this topic. Judas is not an exception, once the contexts of John 17:12 are considered.)

5.9.) While I fully grant that a judge can sentence a relative to a just sentence, practically speaking the salient point of Gary’s challenge-question on the topic is whether you would be conceptually comfortable with judging your own relative with a result of their hopeless shame. (Part 5.)

5.10.) Lastly from Part 5 (although there are other things there not specifically on topic of honor and shame worth looking at I’d say): your argument that a “mere offer” (your term “mere”!) of grace brings honor to the patron and so the patron is a success, does not square very well with the thrust of scripture regarding God acting beyond the mere offer of grace. (I would argue it doesn’t square very well with implications of trinitarian theism either, but that is a much larger and more technical topic.)

Jesus (whether trinitarianism is true or not) came to actively do the will of the Father. And the will of God (as Arminians acknowledge, at least in regard to humans) is to save all sinners from sin. “Merely offering” salvation from sin is very different from saving people from sin!

But such a concept breaks down much worse when we consider that this “mere offer” by the Patron must be made to the Son, too, with a final result that cannot do anything other than shame the Patron!

Skipping over some details (from this final disagreement in Part 5): If the promise given to Christ (the seed of Abraham) through Abraham is offered to Christ, and fulfilled for Christ, by the Father…

…then how would the Father not be shamed by promising (much less “merely offering”) to the Son less than what is achieved through sin: the corruption of all humanity?!

Or, since such an promise of less than what sin accomplishes would be a Calvinistic position (and you’re Arminian): how would the Father not be shamed by giving up or (worse) being incompetent to fulfill that promise to the Son?!

How can either of those results be the fulfillment of the honor of the Patron!?

How, for that matter, could the Patron honor the Son, or the Son honor the Patron, if any sinners (human or otherwise, up to and including the worst rebel angel) dishonoring any Person of God remain in existence at all!?

Or if all sinners either are saved or else annihilated out of existence, we are back to the questions of scope and persistence in regard to honor: how do the Son and the Father honor each other by promising (or even merely offering) to each other less than what sin can accomplish? (Calvinism) --or by failing (by choice or otherwise) to accomplish their offering to one another? (Arminianism)

The final loss of annihilation doesn’t honor the Father or the Son (or the Spirit for that matter), unless the Persons of God somehow honor each other by offering (promising?!?) finally impenitent unrighteousness to each other. Much less could the Persons honor each other by offering endlessly existent unrighteousness to each other, unless neverending dishonoring of the Persons somehow honor the Persons.

A Calvinist might try to get around the notion of shame in such an offering, by asserting that God always intended such unrighteousness to be offered among the Persons to each other (so that God’s power might be demonstrated in final unrighteousness among persons).

But an Arminian ought to have a better understanding of the shame of unrighteousness than that.

5.11.) Shifting over to your article vs. post-mortem salvation, your comments on John 5:24-29 don’t tally up well with the contexts, especially in regard to the goal of God that the Son and the Father should be honored. (More details than below can be found at Part 9.)

verses 22-23: the purpose of the Father in giving all judgment to the Son is {hina pantes timôsi ton huion kathôs timôsi ton patera} “in order that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father” (with the logical clarification that “the one who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father Who sent Him”).

That term for judgment is the same one being repeatedly referenced afterward at least as far as verse 30 (where Jesus does shift over into the topic of witnesses, the point being that by their own standards the Jews–most likely meaning the Jewish leaders–ought to have recognized and trusted in Him). And your various attempts at arguing for topical disjunction along the way don’t hold much water (although I’m skipping over my discussion of that elsewhere in Part 9).

How would this not explain, and nicely in advance, what the purpose of the judgment ({tên krisin} and cognates) by the Son is for?

verses 24-25: the one who hears the word of the Son and believes in the Father Who sends the Son, already honors the Son and the Father (of course), so has eonian life and passes out of the death {ek tou thanatou} into the life, instead of coming into the judgment (or crisis) by the Son–the goal of judgment being that all may honor the Son and the Father, the result of which would be that those who come to honor the Son and the Father pass out of the death into eonian life. It is in this context that the double-amen occurs, promising that an hour is coming when the dead ones shall hear the voice of the Son, and those who hear shall live.

verses 26-27: Just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He also gives (a more accurate translation than “gave”) to the Son to also have life in Himself, and gives to the Son (as the Son of Man as well as the Son of God per verse 25) authority to do judging–the goal of which was already just recently explained to be that all may honor the Son and the Father and so pass out of the death into eonian life.

verses 28-29: An hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, and those who do good shall go out into a resurrection of life, yet those who do the bad( thing)s shall go out into a resurrection of judgment–the goal of the judgment being (as was just previously explained by Jesus) that all may honor the Son and the Father and so pass out of the death into eonian life.

verse 30: As the Son hears, He judges, absolutely not for Himself (with a double-negative emphasis in Greek), because He does not seek His own will but the will of the One Who sends Him. And His judging is fair (or just) {kai hê krisis hê emê dikaia estin}–because the goal of the Son’s judgment, as the Son just recently explained, is that all may honor the Son and the Father and so pass out of the death into eonian life.

Verse 23 not only expressly explains the goal of the Son’s judgment, but provides the context for understanding what the Son means by just or fair judgment–even when that judgment is, understandably, a crisis for the currently impenitent sinner, the one who is still doing the bad things.

These are not small matters. The whole point of the judgment is that all may honor the Father. Why the Son would come to accept some impure or hypocritically false honoring of the Father (or even Himself) is something that, fortunately, I no longer have need to defend (having become a Christian universalist), but even annihilation would involve a failure in the goal of Christ’s just judgment. Indeed by the express terms of Christ’s declarations here, a judgment without the goal that all may honor/value the Father (the Greek term for honoring there routinely carries a positive valuation of the object being honored) would be an unjust judgment!

5.12.) Finally, to presage Part 14 (which I’ve written but not posted up yet): you say that an extra chance after death “must be speculated to be something extraneous to this verse” (Hebrews 9:27a, “Just as man is appointed [literally ‘laid up’] to die once, and after that, judgment”), but so is hopelessness of the judgment. One way or the other there are more details in which light the verse should be understood, including elsewhere in EpistHebrews.

The local preceding context itself is about how previous high priests, even if they kept off judgment for the people by sacrificing something other than themselves, still were mortal and died. By contrast, Christ sacrifices Himself to put the covenant of salvation in effect, since a covenant is never in force while the one who made it lives but is valid only when the one who makes it dies (9:16-17)–which is why those who could not live after dying sacrificed other lives belonging to them in representation of themselves. And yet Christ lives eternally to put that covenant of salvation in effect: a covenant God makes with Israel, which Israel is supposed to keep, but which the Son (acting as the perfect Israel, the perfect prince of God) perfectly keeps and puts into effect.

Thus the contrast by comparison: just as it is appointed for men to die once and after this a crisis (for those men, since they cannot come back to life under their own power), so Christ (verse 28) also having been offered once to bear the sins of many (which in other contexts means “the sins of all”, as any Arminian would agree) shall be seen a second time, apart from sin, by the ones awaiting Him into salvation.

Consequently, the judgment or crisis mentioned by the Hebraist at verse 9:27 is contrasted explicitly to the superior salvation from sin that Christ promises by His covenant, sealed by His dying and rising again: men die once and then are in crisis, but Christ dies once and lives again to save sinners from their sins!–which is exactly why Christians should eagerly await His second coming when He shall be seen by everyone!

And what is the covenant that Christ puts into effect by dying and yet living? The Hebraist talks about it at 10:16, quoting Jer 31:33, “This is the covenant that I will make with them, after those days, says YHWH” (referring to the days of Israel’s punishment for her sins and the coming Day of the Lord) “I will put My laws upon their heart, and upon their mind I will write them. And their sins and their rebellions I will remember no more.” “Now where there is forgiveness of these things,” comments the Hebraist, “there is no longer an offering for sin.”

If the Father and the Son do not keep acting in solidarity with that covenant They have made with each other, as a promissory to the covenant YHWH will make with penitent Israel after their days of punishment, then They are breaking covenant with each other, which would put Them on par with sinners who break their covenants with God. A mere static establishment isn’t enough, just like a promise to keep the covenant isn’t enough for a human: They have to perform, and to keep performing. And the Hebraist emphasizes that this covenant which will be made by God with penitent and previously punished Israel in the Day of the Lord to come, was first put into effect as a covenant between Son and Father with the death of Christ (the Son being faithful unto death for the Father, and the Father being faithful beyond death for the Son).

To cease seeking, or never to seek, to bring about salvation of sinners from sin, would be for the Persons of God to break covenant with each other on that topic, too.

Annnnnnd so concludes my 20 page reply! :laughing:

(It could be worse. I’m up to 89 pages on the main reply. :wink: With certainly some more to come! :open_mouth: )

Thanks Jason for your comments on Phil 2 and Isa 45 in the JRP vs JPH thread. I had wondered about that word “but” in Isa 45:25 in the NIV and you have answered my question before I asked it! - It is not in the Hebrew!