The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"


I thought that infants have an instinctive ability to find their mother’s breast, at least newborn mammals of other species certainly do. The mother just lies there and makes herself available. But I think it would be a stretch to call it controlling, guiding perhaps.

The problem I have with that is that it is invariably is the controlling, patriarchal image of God as the stern disciplinarian who occasionally loses it in a fit of pique, a la OT wrath style, and completely overshadows God as the giver of life and nourisher of the creation, which is what is seen clearly in Jesus. Even more, it demonstrates a serious underestimation of the efficacy of God freely giving his life to create and heal in order to accomplish His will and bring the creation to its fulfillment. In light of the revelation of God in Jesus, particularly at Golgotha, I would have to say God is the all-bountiful (Mighty Breasts) instead of the all powerful (cosmic controller). Nothing all-powerful about someone hanging helplessly on a Roman cross, but there sure was a lot of life pouring (his blood and water, the wellspring of the river of Life)out of him onto the Earth.

You first encountered it on Beck’s blog the other day? Hmm… I have made several references to that in past posts here and most recently a few days ago in this thread. :confused:


Derek, I totally appreciate your handling these issues and I realize you’re not throwing pejoratives. Thank you. I hope you realize by now, neither am I. I know my (Calvinistic) view is disturbing for you but as I said, I have to work these things out and to simply agree with you when I don’t is useless. I for one appreciate what you’re getting at and you may in fact be right. But I must be able to deconstruct my own view so I must fight vigorously for it in order to do that. So please don’t think I’m attacking you, I’m not.

It seems God having meticulous control vs. complete control is begging the question. We the meticulous evils happen, we’re asking why? If we rely on “for some unknown reason” then we can’t say it’s a good reason, it might be because evil is more powerful than God. So why does God not have meticulous control? In my opinion the problem remains, either God chooses to have meticulous control and not prevent the evil or he can’t have meticulous control? Now if he cannot stop the meticulous evil events from happening? How in the world does he assure anyone that the complete welfare of the universe will be well? At what point in time will he gain control? It seems that God hardened Israel that mercy might come to the gentiles? Was God causing Israel to reject their messiah or at the very least hardening them to ensure that they would?

On the issue of legality, this is why if my daughter was going to be kidnapped into some sex-trade operation, I’d prefer to have someone who’s willing to squeeze the trigger and kill the kidnapper, than a legalists who believes his faith in Jesus (to turn the other cheek) is loving. In other words, I’ll take the atheist over the dogmatic Christian because the atheist understands that to love my daughter is to kill the perpetrator – you’re view seems deplorable to me. Whereas the Christian legalist insists to turn the other cheek is enemy love -never mind my daughter’s well-being; you’re missing the forest for the trees.

What I think I’m really getting at is that under your paradigm you have difficulty understanding good from evil, which is exactly what you charge me of – that I might baptize evil and do great harm. We all have this problem and laying down a law of turning the other cheek cannot fix it.

But I’m hoping you might actually not believe that it’s wrong to lie (sin) to Nazis in order to protect Jews. That you cannot slay (violence) a man in order to protect others (salvation).


Thanks for that input Aug; it reminded me of something else I wanted to throw into the mix here.

It seems that a lot of the trouble we’re running into in debating the different sides of the issues presented has to do with who gets to decide what’s “good” and what’s “evil”.

My thought on this is that when we humans try to take over the responsibility of deciding, we’re showing our “tree roots” as a result of our disobedience in partaking of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
Perhaps part of the reason God warned us not to partake of that tree was precisely due to some of the issues we’re bumping up against here in this thread. Only God has the ultimate authority to decide what is called good and what is not, and our view should adjust to match His, not the other way around. (I’m not saying anyone here is doing that necessarily, it’s just a general cautionary statement for everyone, myself included).


Yes, I also affirm that the more traditional view (i.e. yours) is legitimate!

We all see through a class darkly, especially when it comes to what God is doing behind the scenes in this world. So I think we all need to recognize our limitations here and try and find a way of seeing things that let’s us trust in God’s goodness. I can see how your way does that, even if I have some problems with it. I can also see how you may have some problems with my way of approaching it.


Just to put it out there: I really strongly disagree with this. This kind of reasoning has historically led to all sorts of atrocities being committed in the name of religion. Maybe you are not aware of that. So I just wanted to put up that red flag.


If I may repeat myself…

I thought of how Jesus touched children – only to bless, to heal, to liberate, and to free – just the same as when he touched everyone else.

I thought of how he spoke to the parents of his day: However bad you are, you do know what it is to do something good for your child: it’s clear to you that giving him bread to nourish him, give him energy, and take away his hunger pangs, is good, whereas to give him a stone that will break his teeth and give him pain, is not good. Giving him an egg, containing protein and sulphur and vitamins for healing and growth is good, whilst a scorpion will cause him suffering and fear. Feeding him a fish to make him feel satisfied and make his brain and heart healthy is good; but what child could trust a parent who brought them a snake to hurt and poison them?



I don’t believe in any form of legalism. So I do not think we should blindly follow anything, including nonviolence. We should think through everything, considering the ramifications. In your example one consideration would be how to protect the life your daughter. So while there may be some people who would simply say that we cannot do certain things (for example some pacifists might say we can never kill), I would instead suggest that the goal should be the reduction of violence, and the question we should be asking is: “what are ways that we can reduce violence and bring about good in the particular situation?”

This breaks us out of the endless back and forth between just war folks on the one side who argue for violence, and pacifists on the other who argue against it, and instead has us all ask: how can we do this better? If you read the final chapter in my book on love of enemies, you will see that this is the position I argue for there in contrast to a legalistic approach. I would suggest that there are other options that are better than just the kill/don’t kill dichotomy, options which do aim to protect life and minimize harm, and that we should intelligently explore those options.



I think you summed up our differences beautifully, while allowing for enormous common ground. The problem of explaining evil is THE challenging theological conundrum and thus I suspect bound to remain mysterious. It’s so troubling, it may cause me to lean to interpretations that would bolster a most dogmatic universalism and sovereign victory over evil. I don’t think our differences here are pivotal for any differences that remain on the profound Biblical trajectory against violence, or on what are the historically immoral things that we need to resist justifying. In the face of evil’s strength, I’m afraid that I remain a tad short of 100% pacifism. But I do most resonate with Yancey’s words that an eye for an eye tends to leave us all blind, and Barth’s words that any Christian who is not drawn toward pacifism doesn’t yet see reality clearly.

P.S. Whoops, I just noticed to Auggy that you’re not a dogmatic pacifist either!


I’m not sure what relevance this has to what I’ve posted.


I understand your concern, however I think it depends to a large degree where one goes from this standpoint.
All I’m saying is that in some instances, we call what is good, evil and vice versa precisely because we cannot always see the bigger picture adequately. I’m not saying we can never do that; particularly now with the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide. We just have to be careful not to let our flesh get in the way of true discernment, and that’s the case regardless which side of the fence one comes down on.



Excellent. Also, thanks again for hanging in there. As I was driving home it hit me to convey to you how the only way for any of us to change our views is to be able to reflect them off of one another. So even if we don’t agree now, it doesn’t mean it’s waste of time. Thank you for all your time. I do take this seriously and I’m thankful with you being able to conduct the discussion even when views (as my own) concern you greatly.


OK, let’s try again:

Jesus made it quite clear that we already know what is good and what is not; it’s not complicated, and it’s not obscure.

I thought of how Jesus touched children – only to bless, to heal, to liberate, and to free – just the same as when he touched everyone else.

I thought of how he spoke to the parents of his day: However bad you are, you do know what it is to do something good for your child: it’s clear to you that giving him bread to nourish him, give him energy, and take away his hunger pangs, is good, whereas to give him a stone that will break his teeth and give him pain, is not good. Giving him an egg, containing protein and sulphur and vitamins for healing and growth is good, whilst a scorpion will cause him suffering and fear. Feeding him a fish to make him feel satisfied and make his brain and heart healthy is good; but what child could trust a parent who brought them a snake to hurt and poison them?


Eh? :confused:

Guess my brain works differently… I tend to try to go to the heart of things… but then I also tend to go on tangents as well… so my apologies if I’m getting ahead of myself, or of anyone else for that matter. :neutral_face:

I agree, talking about how people have treated eachother poorly in the name of God throughout the centuries is certainly something worth discussing, but just to say, I do think what we believe about God, and our beliefs about how God sees and is involved in the world’s suffering and pain, does have some direct impact on how we treat eachother…

So discussing the underlying beliefs of those who have done harm to one another in the name of God makes sense, or at least I think it does, and I believe it ties in…

But then maybe one thing at a time…

Man, I’ve got a lot of catching up to do is this thread… quite a discussion we got going here. :wink:

Derek, I’m sorry if this is stressing you out at all, bro. :neutral_face: I can sense a little frustration on your end… :neutral_face: But then I’m not sure, since it’s hard to read people online…

Hopefully we can all be cool with eachother here, and not fight or anything…

Blessings to you, and peace


PS Just to say, I’ve never been to Bible college or to seminary, never studied theology officially or anything like that… as I’ve said elsewhere on the forum, I’m just a janitor, not a scholar, I’m just a regular guy who’s a decent writer but not nearly as educated as some others here… so please be patient with me if I come off as kind of dense or airheaded… :neutral_face:



Great insight on the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil. I suspect that there’s much there for us to explore. I also am advocating or shall I say presenting that same issue - it seems epistemology is a dog. How we know when something is good or evil is something that needs to be discussed for sure. As Derek rightly points out, RAPE IS EVIL. No doubt. In a perfect world there is no violence, rape murder or lying. For a Muslim to protect the honor of Islam they must react with violence, all while thinking they’re doing “good” like Paul who killed Christians. On the other hand when we think we’re doing good we might be doing evil. Follow your heart and trust the way of love.

So like Derek who denies a “full” pacifism, I’m not for violence. I would hold Derek’s hand in a rally screaming STOP THE VIOLENCE. I certainly, being a finite person, if I were governor would never issue rape as a means of correction. I simply think conditions as proven in philosophy can show that there are some worlds or instances where dynamics shift and thus we can falsify a dogma. But because of this issue of epistemology, things get very complicated.

With that said, I’d like to now turn to my more protagonist side and speak about what I do like:

The point of trajectory is something I’m highly attracted to. As some know, this issue of Jesus breaking the law is one of my own eye opening experiences I’ve had in my life. Bob’s paper found here A Case Against Jesus (A case against Jesus) is one of my all time favorite pieces. Primarily for the reasons Derek raises - Jesus was throwing thing upside down and it challenged the people of his time’s faith. This notion that as we move further in time we get a clearer picture of what is true and not true makes sense to me and so I hold Derek’s position as a highly possible alternative to the calvinistic (deterministic) position I’ve held. I simply think we all need to be able to construct and de-construct our own ideas to know them well enough to self-reflect on what really drives us. And this for me has been totally challenging and encouraging.

My hope in the future is to bring on Kevin Miller, Michael Hardin, Brad Jersak and Derek in another swing at the plate as this sort of prepares us for an in depth discussion on some of these ideas that Derek’s presented. I’ll work on getting that going and it would be great to see Derek get some support from other peers. Derek talking to 10 different people is difficult and it would be nice to co-ordinate a controlled discussion to voice those ideas.


That sounds cool :slight_smile:

Yeah, sorry Gene if I’ve contributed to derailing the discussion at all. :neutral_face:
Maybe it’s my turn to sit at the back of the bus. :wink:


No problem at all. We all take take tangents and I don’t think anyone’s truly derailed the discussion. In fact that’s one of the treats of this discussion - it wasn’t hijacked - WELL GLORY TO GOD!!!

I’m thinking if we did a group discussion like that we could inform everyone who want’s to participate and then issue numbers to members so everyone takes a turn. Something like that might work.


Yeah, I have to admit that I have been getting a bit frustrated.

I do believe that God is in control. I trust and love God with all my heart. I want to affirm all of that.
But I do not want to affirm that rape is good. I don’t want to affirm that abuse is good.
I don’t want to tell someone who has been raped or abused that this was good, because it wasn’t.

In fact, I know that when a person who has been abused is told that what happened to them was good, this can really screw them up horribly.

I think that what we need to care about is not defending God (God can take care of himself), but rather we need to defend those who have been victimized, hurt,wounded, and condemned. We need to care for those who suffer. That’s the priority I see Jesus showing.

So if I get bent out of shape about this stuff it is because I care.


I’m not saying it is moral to stone people to death. :open_mouth: I’m saying that large parts of the Bible claim that God uses (or used) evil (or what we would consider immoral ways) in dealing with people:examples being: the law of stoning people to death and requiring a blood covenant with his people that involved ‘hurting’ new born babies with circumcision. Are you saying circumcision is not of God?

I don’t understand Jesus to have broken any OT laws and he certainly didn’t correct anyone in saying that any of the laws were false. He corrected people’s understanding of the laws. The account of the woman caught in adultery, if it can be trusted (it doesn’t appear in the earliest manuscripts) doesn’t have Jesus saying ‘God never said you were to stone people to death’. Jesus opened their understanding of forgiveness and also upheld the Roman laws of that time, that prohibited the Jews stoning people to death. Forgiveness is better than carrying out the punishment as demanded by a law, but that doesn’t annul that law ie sin will still produce consequences that have to be dealt with at some point ( Matt 12:36).

Yes, genocide is evil and the bible does not command us to committ genocide. Jesus clearly teaches us to love our enemies and if we take this literally then we would not join armies or resist people like Hitler?? You mentioned in your next post to me, that ’ the way medicine is being practiced is evolving’ with respects to my traumatic experience and I would agree. It seems that how God is dealing with us and how He wants us to deal with each other is also ‘evolving’. In the OT the methods were not ‘spiritual’ i.e love your enemy. They were ‘evil’ methods for evil people it seems or imperfect methods for imperfect people. Jesus tells us to ‘be perfect’ and to be born again etc, and so the ‘perfect methods’ of loving your enemy make sense and are far superior to the OT methods: they are perfect as Jesus said.

I think you misunderstood me Derek. :confused: I advocate Jesus’ perfect laws of enemy love, not the OT laws of death. I’m just trying to reconcile these two ‘opposite’ ways. I’m not about to throw out large chunks of the bible, because that will cause lots of other problems it seems. Jesus and the apostles upheld the OT. They never said any of it was false but they did reveal that it was an imperfect system that was temporary and was leading to a perfect system which is in Christ.

The bible seems to be saying that God subjects creation to evil (frustration) and uses evil (punishments, discipline) in steering things towards certain outcomes, but that ultimately it’s all about permanent healing and so evil will one day no longer be a reality. only an idea.


I mentioned ‘circumcision’ to Derek in my previous post and thought it worth exanding on this. The NT upholds the reality of and acceptance of circumcision and so I would assert that this was a requirement of God prior to Christ’s new covenant. I don’t like it. I recoil from the very thought of it. :cry: Moses wasn’t too keen on it either. A bit of comfort is afforded in knowing that the cirumcision commanded by God is NOT what is practiced by Judaism today. It was only the removing of a little bit of the skin and not the radical procedure that is now. Jewish men were able to disguise the fact they were circumcised if competing in sports with gentiles (tying the skin in a way to make it seem longer :open_mouth: ) and so rabbis developed more radical cuts to ensure they couldn’t cheat.

So we’ve got a command by God that requires hurting your tiny baby temporarily and thank God babies don’t remember the procedure. This is surely proof that God uses imperfect methods in dealing with us imperfect humans. God threatened to kill Moses’ sons if he didn’t have them circumcised. That sounds like a painful, evil punishment to me… :confused:



You and I think alike. I agree with you regarding circumcision - conditions matter. Wouldn’t you agree Cathrine that if someone circumcised someone just to harm them is quite different than someone conducting the procedure for matters of faith? So I have difficulty accepting that “intentions” don’t matter.

I think this clarifies a distinction in the conversation that Derek is trying to spell out: there are things that are sinful ALL THE TIME, such as murder or rape. That is what Derek is getting at and it’s a good point.

The logic goes deeper and we ought to consider this:

If God can use evil to accomplish good then the question follows:
Can God himself DO evil to accomplish good.

This is where my logic fails: if accomplishing good justifies the act of using evil then it would seem to me that accomplishing good would justify DOING evil and if doing evil is justified then God can do evil.

That is the logic Derek is presenting for us who believe God has been using evil. Of course, I’m not settled with the framing of that because it assumes the justified act is evil and does not consider conditions. As I stated to Derek, if all killing is murder, then I’d rather have an atheist behind a gun to protect my daughter from abduction than a devoted Christian or dare I say, than God himself. For God is doing evil by allowing evil when he could have stopped it thus committing evil himself.