Kevin DeYoung's (not) Rhetorical Questions

#1 … l-brouhaha

Over at Kevin’s blog post on the Rob Bell Brouhaha (which we’ve been discussing elsewhere on this forum), he uses a few paragraphs of questions, “Nothing but questions. Not a single indicative proposition. Yet who could think for a moment that I am not teaching something? This is not mere provocation. It is not an expression of searching inquiry or humble wrestling. My questions pack a rhetorical punch. ***They tell you what I think is foolish and what is wise. They suggest that some beliefs are noble and others are not. They tell you what God is like and what you should believe about him. My questions teach. And only a teacher with stunning naivete or remarkable cowardice would suggest they didn’t.***” (emphasis added)

That quote wasn’t those three example paragraphs, of course. But I thought it might be worth considering answering his example paragraph questions, since the whole point of his illustration is that someone can teach what they believe is wisdom and foolishness by asking such questions (meaning he can hardly dodge out of the questions himself as being rhetorical introductions that he himself would answer against!)

Here are the three paragraphs:

I’ll do my own answers to them afterward, so as to make it easier for other people to reference the paragraphs as a whole for their own replies. :slight_smile:


Righty then…

“Will God save everyone?” – Yes, or at least God will keep at saving everyone forever (even if there’s a stalemate.) But I find the scriptures to reveal He will eventually save everyone from sin. Not necessarily from hell.

“Does everyone go to heaven no matter how bad they were and no matter what they believed?” – Do the elect go to heaven no matter how bad they were and no matter what they believed? Will they be saved by Christ without having to earn their salvation, and be led by Christ to live and believe better? Would a God Who loves and saves sinners, bringing them to light and to life, still be holy and just? If so (and Arms and Calvs both believe so, but especially Calvs!), then why would the principle be different if God saves even those He has not elected to be Christians in this life? These two questions do not address the real issue, unless the real issue is supposed to be a complaint that God would save any sinner at all!

“Is Hitler there next to Bonhoeffer enjoying the same eternal bliss?” – My guess would be not yet. But eventually yes.

“What kind of God would that be?” – A God Who graciously saves sinners and brings about peace and righteousness (fair-togetherness) and joy even between the worst enemies, so that grace is hyper-victorious over sin. (Instead of sin being hyper-victorious over grace.)

“Would that God [Who saves Hitler the sinner as well as Bonhoeffer the sinner and makes peace between them] still be holy and just?” – Absolutely. Or else the same complaint could be made in principle against any reconciliation of enemies under God. Which no Christian anywhere has ever complained about. Would that God Who saves Saul of Tarsus, who murdered the church of God, as well as Stephen the martyr, whose death by stoning Saul heartily approved, still be holy and just? Would that God Who saves Simon Bar Jonah, who was once called Satan by Christ for opposing Christ, and even cursed himself rather than keep his promise of loyalty to Christ, as well as Kevin DeYoung the good and (no doubt) sinless Christian teacher who, unlike the chief of Apostles, so impressed God that he earned his own salvation from God, still be holy and just?

“How would we make sense of Jesus’ strong language about hell or the chilling scenes in Revelation?” – By believing in the strong language of Jesus’ hope (“All sins and blasphemies no matter how great shall be forgiven”) as qualifying the strong language of Jesus’ warning (“Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven in this age or the age to come”), instead of believing in hopelessness over hope. By believing in love even in wrath, rather than in graceless wrath over grace. By noticing that the chilling scenes in Revelation are offset by revelations of what will finally happen after Christ shepherds with the rod of iron (as an enactment of the Hebrew of Psalm 23!): the Son and the Spirit lead the kings of the earth and their followers out from the lake of fire, and out from the number and the idolatry of the beast, into the New Jerusalem, both with and without the help of the Bride of Christ. By believing in the fair-togetherness of the Trinity as the ground of all reality, rather than the monomaniacal pride of mere monotheism. By believing in the cross as the heavenly throne on which Christ reigns (as RevJohn reveals), and in the blood of the cross by which the fullness of God is not only delighted to dwell but to reconcile all sinners to Himself whether those in the heavens or those in the earth.

“And what would that do to our understanding of the gospel?” – Well, for one thing we would believe in the “eonian gospel” proclaimed by the angel in the heavens in RevJohn, instead of denying and rejecting that the gospel is “eonian”. A Calvinist ought to have advantages on this topic over an Arminian!

“Would Jesus’ death still be necessary?” – As necessary as it was to save any sinner, whether in the heavens or on the earth, through the blood of the cross.

“Would faith in him really be that important?” – As important as the faith of any person led to faith by Christ. (Again, a Calvinist ought to have advantages on this topic over an Arminian!)

“Why would we still send out missionaries and evangelists?” – For the same exact reasons Calvinists send out missionaries and evangelists to preach to those of the elect among the non-elect; God’s ultimately sovereign and sufficiently effective choice to save the elect (later if not sooner) does not negate evangelism, so Calvinists believe. Why would God’s ultimately sovereign and sufficiently effective choice to save sinners (later if not sooner) negate evangelism if the scope of real evangelism is Arminian instead of only Calvinistic?

“What would be so good about the good news if, in the end, there is no bad news?” – What would be so great about God’s victory if God’s victory was complete? But Calvinists, like Universalists, actually do believe (unlike some Arminians) in the complete victory of God. So is the Calvinistic question rather, what would be so great about news of God’s good victory if there was no bad victory of God? (But then Universalists and Arminians are derided for suggesting that the Calvinists preach a gospel of utterly hopeless bad news for some people, which is the very anti-thesis of good news, instead of a gospel of hope for all people.)

“And if there is no hell, or we can’t really be sure anyone is there, why have almost all Christians in all of history believed there was such a place of eternal suffering?” – Do sinners tend to believe in hopelessness from salvation, and/or in hope for the continuing of their sin? Would people who believe this not tend to interpret scripture (and try to reason principly) along this line? Are any Christians in all of history not recovering sinners?

“Have we found something that historic orthodoxy has missed all these centuries?” – Historic orthodoxy in the East didn’t miss this for all these centuries (although neither do they dogmatically affirm universal salvation.)

“What if the things you’ve heard recently are not the truth about Christianity?” – Then Christianity is about hopelessness of salvation from sin. Maybe about hope of salvation from sin, too, but maybe not for ‘you’ over there, who knows?

“What if the warnings in Scripture are real warnings?” – Then they are real warnings about hopeful punishment. Not hopeless punishment.

“What if God is purer than we thought, we’re worse than we imagined, and hell is as real as the nose on your face?” – What if God is purer than we thought, we’re worse than we imagined, and the hell of sin does not have the final victory after all? (After all, when God says in the Old Testament “My ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts are not your thoughts”, He does so in rebuke against those denying the hope of salvation and preaching despair instead.)

“What if the “only way” means the only way?” – Christ is still the only way for any and all sinners to be saved, if Christian universalism is true.

“What if God is glorified in salvation and judgment?” – What if God’s glory in judgment is judgment (even in war) unto fair-togetherness?–as the scripture also teaches (including in RevJohn 19).

“What if the God of love and the Father of mercies is also a righteous Judge, a holy Sovereign, and a conquering King?” – What if the God of love and the Father of mercies does not stop being the God of love and the Father of mercies while being a righteous Judge, a holy Sovereign, and a conquering King, but is still also the God of love and the Father of mercies while judging righteously, and conquering in holiness, being sovereign in holiness? Does righteous judgment and holy reigning have nothing at all to do with love and mercy? Do we not pray in regard to ourselves that goodness and mercy shall continually hound us (pursuing to overthrow us, as in the Hebrew of that Psalm) all the days of our lives? Do we not praise God for the comfort of His rod of iron as well as of His staff?

Well, apparently most of us don’t!

But some of us do. :slight_smile:


This sort of comment never ceases to amaze me when it is put by ‘christians’. Do they really think that I am any better than Hitler or that I am any worse than Bonhoeffer? They may pay lip-service to ‘grace’ but reveal that they REALLY believe heaven is reached by merit alone.


Actually, as long as they’re phrased as just questions like that, I don’t see them as necessarily teaching anything and think that they are left open to answer much as you did, Jason.

I totally agree. Once Hitler is cleansed, is broken and contrite and has repented and made up for his wrongdoings, I’d bet we’d all be more than willing to welcome him back and wouldn’t want him to suffer hell a moment longer. :smiley:


When asked this, I’ll ask, “Well, if in his last moments before the bomb killed him, the lights came on and Hitler was truly repentant and asked God for fogiveness, and was hurriedly baptized, would he be saved?” Of course, they usually hmha around a little before I point out that we both believe that salvation is by grace through faith, and not dependant upon how bad the person is.


Brilliant Jason, just brilliant! :sunglasses:


Tom: We can do this too…here is an argument by interrogation:

Can God save everyone who cries to him? Is going to heaven only for people who don’t sin REALLY badly like Hitler? Can God save Bonhoffer but not Stalin? Does God love Mother Teresa but not Charles Manson? What kind of God would that be? Would that God still be loving and merciful? Would that God even be just? What would THAT do to our understanding of the gospel?

Could go on and on.

But the best is this Q by Kevin:

What would be so good about the good news if in the end there is no bad news?

I wanna just hang my head and cry. Serious folks. I just feel like weeping.



It is odd that people think bad news makes good news better. Which one’s sounds better to you:

Version 1. The search party found the missing hikers and airlifted them to the hospital. Three of the party had already died of hypothermia, but one of them is going to be okay.

Version 2. The search party found the missing hikers and airlifted them to the hospital. All are recovering well and are very thankful for their rescue.


It is sad that people don’t find more joy in the notion that God’s plan might really be to save all. I recently had a conversation with my former youth pastor about why Jesus was a stumbling block to the Jews. He said they had all kinds of preconceived notions about him, that were wrong, and they were wrongly wanting a God to come in power, not weakness, but it was this weakness that God exalted. So in response I wrote him this…

I wonder how much, these days, our understanding of what God is really like, as our messiah, is still distorted? Do we think he’s still about coming in violence, at a later time, to just wipe people out with no regard for their welfare because some are hopeless to believe, like we do, and will, as a result, unlike ourselves, be forever excluded from God, even that some God never loved in a saving way, enough to elect them? What darkness has crept in the back door and distorted our understanding of God?

Do we, now, think differently of our God that has demonstrated the extent of his love, that genuinely forgives his enemies and loves unconditionally, showing he is more concerned with our restoration than meeting the demands of retributive justice? Such a wonderful God, full of mercy for all - not just ourselves - is, indeed, hard to fathom.

How much will our preconceived notions still need to be destroyed as God shows us how seriously he deals with sin and, yet, how much he never stops seeking the restoration of the sinner? Will we have underestimated God’s effectiveness to save us, from even ourselves and our inability to come to repentance in our own effort? How complete do we envision his victory over sin and it’s devastating consequences to the creation he loves?

May it not shock us too much to see God overcome evil with good and may we rejoice in it as it results in something wonderful, not just for ourselves, but for the whole world. God’s way, to love others, often looks weak,like it doesn’t pay off, but in faith we trust that it does because God sees what is done in secret, cares, and will reward those that do good and seek him.

I think Kevin is right about this. I’ve been coming to the conclusion that the major paradigm difference, I’m sure this a no brainer, is that we see that everything God does is out of love. Wrath takes on a whole new meaning as it is remedial, meant to turn people. Not a surprising twist, according to the bible, that, I think, demonstrates God wants to draw his people back. Wrath has a role and as much as grace is key to it all, I wonder if this isn’t a subject we shouldn’t talk more about? I like that Rob Bell asks the question what is God like? He may have his ideas and want to lead somewhere, we all usually do, but it is a legitimate question and everyone’s paradigm is different. Let that paradigm, that says God’s glory is not always for us, be exposed! Let’s have a conversation about what is really love, grace, and wrath.



Don’t forget Version 1(b)!

The search party found the missing hikers and could have easily airlifted them all to the hospital, but arbitrarily decided to show off their own power by leaving two of the hikers to die in the cold as an object lesson to the third hiker about how she had better be grateful to the search party. The third hiker’s doing fine and is sending thanks to the search party every day so that the search party won’t come back and dump her into the cold to die again! (Whether the third hiker is sorry about the loss of the other two hikers is unclear, but she was warned not to concern herself with them, or else risk being thrown back out there. An extra operation, sponsored and paid for by the search party, that the third hiker received on her frontal lobe after being taken to the hospital, seems to be helping her with this, fortunately.) Sieg Heil to the Search Party! This report has been paid for by your friends, the Search Party, who are carefully watching over whether you get lost in the mountains or not.


Brilliant, Jason! Now that’s what I call “good news”?!?
Amy, thank you for that passionate post! He’s right and you’re right, what we believe God is like is at the heart of this… and the Bible clearly teaches that when we see Jesus, we see exactly what God is like. This coming Sunday, the cycle of readings many churches follow will be looking at the Transfiguration story in Matt 17. May Jesus lead all of us would-be followers, including Kevin and those who agree with him, up the mountain away from the noise of our disputes. May we see his glory, hear the Father’s affirming voice and feel the touch of Jesus as he lifts us from cowering fear, fills us with love and then leads us back down the mountain to shine that love throughout his world. Amen?


Jason – :laughing: :laughing: Be careful, certain people might accuse you of ridiculing certain doctrines! :wink:

Revdrew – Amen! Well said! Christ should be our focal point, the theories and disagreements are secondary, to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, doing the will of the Father, is the primary thing.



Revdrew, I will second amen that! :smiley: Nothing speaks louder of Christ than walking in his footsteps. And, at the end of the day, what God really cares about is if we’ve loved, or believed in penal substitution. Ok, maybe not the latter. :mrgreen: I’m so bad. :imp:


Amen RevDrew, Amy & Sonia :sunglasses:



When ze Messiah says, ‘You are ze master race!’ / then we say HEIL! phthhg HEIL! phthhg right in Messiah’s face!
Not to love our Messiah, would be a big disgrace / so we say HEIL! phthhg HEIL! phthhg right in Messiah’s face!

Okay, the spiraling levels of irony are getting too spiral-y. I had better stop now. :wink:

(For visitors who aren’t familiar with me, you need to know that I’m serious about Calvinists having a lot of strong and good points, too, just as I said back in my various critiques of KdY’s counter-universalist remarks. The hyperlink above goes to some Allied humor from WWII, most prominently featured in a Donald Duck short from the period.)



Is God’s justice dependent on whether punishment is eternal? Eternal punishment is essential to our justification? How so? Eternal punishment makes us look more like Jesus?

(BTW, if we are to be like Jesus, and if Jesus is the same in essence as God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, should we not also be the Wrath of God? Ah, now it makes sense. :confused: )

I wonder what his definition of “important God-honoring things” is that supposedly neglects that “one thing”. If this is sarcasm, please tell me.

I don’t need to visit the cess pool of a drug-infested ghetto to appreciate the beauty of a scenic mountain view.

This is showing compassion out of fear, not out of love. I don’t think that was God’s intention. Try reading I Cor. 13:1-3.

I admit there is a place for God’s wrath, but not to induce love, but to point out the absence of it in our lives.

Article source: … with-hell/


If Hitler (after remedial chastisement) isn’t saved, then John Calvin has no business being in Heaven either.

(And neither would I for that matter)