The Evangelical Universalist Forum

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


Sorry if I misunderstood you Catherine.

When you say “God uses (or used) evil” do you think that God does this today? Or does God no longer work this way?


Yes, I think we’re seeing things in a similar way. :smiley: This is a very hard subject to get your head around. I’d much rather believe that God does not use evil and is always the healer, but I’m not about to throw away huge chunks of the bible just yet. I’ll no doubt be studying this subject for the next 40 years… :confused:


No worries. :smiley:

That’s a harder question than I first thought. I don’t know… :blush: My instincts are saying ‘yes’. Whilst evil is still a done thing, and God allows evil, then I’d have to conclude He is still ‘using’ it or it is still necessary even. We’re still all dying a physical death and so surely that testifies to a continuing act of God (molecular entrophy??) that causes evil. :confused:


Yes, it is a hard question :slight_smile:

One major difficulty is this:
every example you gave from the OT was not God doing things, it was *people *doing things. Not people sinning and God using that evil for good. Nope. It was people doing things that God (reportedly) commanded them to do. So if we wanted to say that God still worked this way today, would that mean that God may command you to do things that are evil? Should we then preach to people : “if you hear God tell you to do something that seems really wrong to you, that violates your conscience, do it. If you understand that Bible to tell you to do something that seems really wrong to you, that violates your conscience, do it. Don’t question, just obey”

I think that is pretty obviously a dangerous place to go. So it makes me think: maybe there’s something we are missing here.


Derek, thanks for reiterating that what drives you is siding with the abused, rather than telling them that the abuse is a good thing. I completely agree with that, and would hope that all who take evil seriously would agree. When I argued that pastorally, many suffering people express a need to believe their losses have some purpose, that’s not what I would declare to someone (like Lew Smedes) who is more comforted in understanding God as 100% in opposition to that evil. In face of the mystery, I would affirm them and side with what sustained their hope.


I share your concerns. God surely wants us to question Him or reason with Him, which is what we’re trying to do. :wink:

Are you saying that you do not believe that God commanded Abraham to kill his son? Paul affirms this account in Hebrews 11. Wouldn’t the holy spirit have put Paul right, if such a story were untrue? Are you also saying that God never commanded the circumcising of baby boys? I’m sure you can see how problematic this is going to be, if both the OT and the NT are full of untruths. :open_mouth:


Dave, sorry for the late reply.

I wouldn’t say that God is punishing people “into submission”. That doesn’t seem to produce love. Kindness produces love. But I would say that wrath/punishment does have its place when arrogance (evil) binds someone. God deals with that in severe ways. So I would argue it’s always kindness that leads us to repentance but it’s not always kindness that breaks us of our arrogance. Sometimes it seems, though not all the time, punishment is necessary. But it seems logical to me that it can be and it’s at God’s discretion to employ such techniques.

I would agree with what follows as you spell out, that everything God does, be it severe or sweet, is for the purpose of justice – to restore.

My point in showing the two propositions is as follows:
a) God pays 7x what sins deserve is to show that God is not about balancing the scales and therefore his justice is seeking something other than retribution.
b) God pays 0x what sins deserve is to show that God is not about balancing the scales and therefore his justice is seeking something other than retribution.

My point being his accomplishing justice MUST be to restore – it cannot be about balancing the scales if we indeed take A and B seriously.

However, here is where Derek and I disagree – I would say God can use punishment and retribution in order to accomplish his goal of achieving justice (restoration).

I’ll post up later a quote from Thomat Talbott regarding the difference between laws and requests. I don’t have the book in front of me and I don’t care to misquote him.

Hope that helps Davebo.


Hi auggy,

Thanks for the reply. There are still some things I don’t get about your viewpoint.

If God’s way of dealing with people bound by evil is through wrath and punishment then what is the point of the cross?

I think that by His stripes we are healed. He took the punishment, pain etc. so we could be set free. If those bound by evil need to receive their own stripes to be healed then what was accomplished on the cross? It seems according to your view that maybe Jesus’ stripes plus possibly our own are necessary to bring about full restoration.

Also, I believe in this age / life that we are all extremely clouded by or bound up by evil - after all this is the present evil age. So according to your view I will most likely need to face wrath and punishment in order to be set free. Are you are expecting to receive wrath and punishment and if not then why? Are you completely unbound by evil already? What’s the criteria for receiving grace, mercy, and healing instead of wrath and punishment?

I’m interested in your response because I too used to think exactly as you have stated but it no longer makes sense to me.


Well said, David, this is the big question that needs to be asked on this forum. Thank you, and I hope you get lots of responses.


That’s a good point bro, I admit I hadn’t really thought of that… :blush:

I guess I just see that sometimes pain can be a teacher at least in this life, and at least in some situations, but that could be nothing more than God just being gracious as always, and bringing good out of bad, and things may well be way different on the other side, for all I know. :wink:

Though I do believe that pain has some kind of purpose, at least in some ways and in some instances, and at least in this life, I don’t know everything, and am trying to keep an open mind. :wink:

Blessings to you, and thanks for the good question. :slight_smile:


PS Hey, I really catch up on this thread… maybe once I get a few free hours… it’s really hopping here :laughing:


I think we certainly need to be open to the possibility that some things in the OT are wrong. This is a really complicated topic, and so I am reluctant to make blanket statements, but I can say that it is simply not true that Jesus or Paul affirmed all of the OT. They clearly didn’t. That doesn’t mean we should go to the other extreme and just toss it all out, but it does mean we need to do the hard work of learning to wrestle with these things. Anyone who has made it to these forums is probably already doing that to some degree. So the question is: how can we wrestle faithfully so that we learn to read the Bible like Jesus did?


Ah, Ok. Thanks for clarifying that; my brain was going in a completely different direction. Point taken.

There are, I believe, instances in which things are not so black and white however; and this is where “spiritual discernment” (for want of a better term) comes in.
So let’s take for example, lying. Now generally speaking, the Christian world frowns on this (per the NT injunction against it), as does most of the not-yet believing world. Yet there are at least two clear examples in scripture where lying is not only condoned by God, but rewarded! The two examples I have in mind here are the Egyptian midwives (protecting the Hebrew babies from mandated abortion), and Rahab, who hid the Hebrew spies.
These are two examples where the general rule (lying is bad) is overturned in favor of other considerations…

This throws a significant spanner (wrench) in the works in terms of human ability to rely on our own understanding (which the scripture warns us against doing) regarding discernment of good and evil.


Thanks for that, Derek. Amen.



In Penal Substitution, I was told the cross “heals” because Jesus (as you suggest) absorbed God’s wrathful punishment that paid for my sins. Thus we must now be “free” from sins’ consequences & penalty, or in that sense, ‘healed.’ But I argue on my page that this P.S. view is not Biblical, and that life does not work such that we are now immune to consequences of sin. If this is correct and the promised healing is not about rescuing us from sin’s penalty, but freeing us from sin itself and making us whole, then it seems apparent that we are not yet completely freed. Thus, if ‘punishment’ is understood to refer to consequences of sin (the negative side of Jesus’ principle that you cast your bread on the water and it comes back to you, or Paul’s reaping what you sow), then the Bible does not require us to say that the cross has already produced our healing or ended such a dynamic. I see the cross is more about changing us and showing us God’s way to live, than about instantaneously removing the priority God puts on righteousness in our own lives.


Hi Bob,

Thanks for the response. I don’t hold to P.S. either.

So, on the cross Jesus took away the sins of the world and God is no longer holding men accountable for their sins.

However, according to your view God will require men to endure the consequences of their sin now and I’m guessing you also mean in the next life. In other words we still have to pay for our sins. So, in the next life we can be “free from sin itself” while at the same time we may be receiving punishment for those same sins?

I still don’t get it. It sounds like a big contradiction.


Thanks. I also think the issues are complex, which was a lot of why I appreciated Derek’s book; it actually takes some of our (collective) assumptions to task and causes us to question and think more deeply about these things. I’m really loving the dialogue here in spite of the occasional frustrations that arise.


Now, for an “off topic” (yet on-topic) question for Derek.

Why did you choose Brian McLaren to write the foreword to the book?

The reason I ask, is that I’m getting a distinct impression that some are more wary of the book than they should be as a result; the reaction I’ve heard from some, more or less amounts to them pulling out the garlic and crucifix when they find out he had anything to do with it. I’m thinking that this is unfortunately going to poison some people’s opinion of your book before they even read it because of a distinct problem they have with Brian, which may prevent your message from getting to some people it should really get to.

Now, *I *know he didn’t co-write it, but because his name appears in conjunction with it, there is that distinct impression out there.



You say, “So men endure the conseqences of their sin now”? Yes, that is what I see. Does it instead seem apparent to you that we don’t? You ask if, "we can be “free from sin itself” and yet be punished? But I’ve argued precisely that we are not yet that free. But to be clear, I think the Bible’s consistent position is that God is quite able to forgive the sins of the truly repentant. Thus, I don’t see God as demanding perfection, and see his nature and grace meaning that we can trust that all his dealings with us (in this world or beyond) will be consistent with his love for us and our welfare.


Yes we do to some extent endure consequences in this life, but there is still much grace to be found. It is not apparent to me that we will have to endure the consequences of sins committed in this life in the next one.

I asked because that’s what I thought you claimed and it made no sense to me. I’m really confused. You said:

I still don’t see what Jesus accomplished on the cross if we have to reap the results of our sin?

So, God is unable and has not forgiven the sins of the unrepentant? Are you saying that in the next life God holds us accountable for our sins (punishes us) until we cross the “truly repentant threshold” and that we will never be free until this event occurs?

If this is true I still don’t see what was accomplished at the cross. It sounds like that because of the cross God allows us to repent but without the cross he would never have accepted repentance?


This confuses me. You guys are the “Evangelical Universalists.” Who would be friends with you guys and be afraid of Brian? Wouldn’t they be much more afraid of you? In fact, I think I can see them coming now with their torches and pitchforks!