The Evangelical Universalist Forum

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


“In fact, I think I can see them coming now with their torches and pitchforks” - Classic!

I think Mel means did you consider that Mclaren’s endorsement might keep other’s (not EU) from reading the book. At least that’s what I think he’s getting at.



Yeah, sorry I wasn’t being clear in where I was coming from there. I’m a bit of a closet universalist in my congregation, I’m afraid. But since your book does not overtly support universalism, it does have an appeal to a potentially wider audience.


There are two types of Christianity: One that is focused on grace and another that is focused on fear. One that is focused on relationship and another that is focused on religion. One that is focused on caring for people and another that is focused on condemning people. One is life to me and the other is poison.

I love the first one and am just sooooo sick of the second one.

I know a lot of people who are longing to break free from that poisonous hurtful judgmental fear-based religion. People whose faith has been really damaged by it. People who are tired of all the hate and fear. People who are longing for a way to read the Bible that does not crush their souls, and pull them away from the Jesus they know through a life giving personal relationship.

I wrote the book for them.

I doubt that any of them would be afraid of Brian. People who are afraid of Brian (who by the way is the nicest guy ever) probably have never even read his books, and even if they did read my book would freak out after the first 3 pages when they find out that I deny penal substitution.

I did not write the book for them. They can read it, and I hope it plants a seed in their hearts. But I’m not gonna deny people I respect, and consider friends just to win their approval or appease their fears. Brian is awesome, and I’m proud to call him my friend.

Perfect love casts out fear.


I hear you.

I would add only that there appears to be a third type of christianity as well; let’s call it, ‘schizophrenianity’ :wink: The people that I fellowship with fall on many different levels of this scale, but I know for a fact that the leadership are smack dab in the middle of it.
It’s absolutely maddening. There is so much mixture. Out of one side of their mouths comes real grace, and out of the other side comes real fear.

Regardless of the reason, I think it’s a shame that some won’t read your book due to fear of…whatever it really is;
because those are some of the people who need to read it the most.

Oh well; I had recommended it to a rather large group of people in this fellowship, prior to hearing this comment. I hope some of them read it, because they need to.


I have a lot to thank Brian McLaren for. I love his books, especially ‘Everything must change’ and the ‘New kind of Christian’ trilogy which have been very influential in my journey to a more mature and healthy faith - along with Derek’s blog.
Mel has a good point, but from my perspective I’d say its high time the conservative evangelical wing of the church started paying attention to its prophets. If it doesn’t, I reckon it will die out within a generation - die out or become a tiny, insignificant cult. The evangelical movement has in general been a huge blessing to the church, and it is tragic that the word evangelical in recent years has become synonimous with words like intolerant, blinkered, narrow minded and so on. Also a shame that so many influential evangelical leaders use their power to ensure that young, enthusiastic christians don’t read a lot of the books which would really benefit them and the church. I can appreciate that church leaders have a responsibility to protect their flock from corrupting influences, but what if the prophets are right? Gamaliel and those who listened to him got it right.


I think you’re spot-on about this Drew. I see it happening around me. As much progress as the younger generation is making over many of their elders,I see that they could be making more progress if it weren’t for the “theological thought police” squelching certain lines of exploration. :frowning:



Thanks for the great and challenging questions. Definitely things to think about. Part of the difficulty for me with your view is if Jesus’ beating took away the sins of the world, then why is the world being thrashed about currently? Unless it’s for no good reason? Would you say that the atonement is only effective at the end when everything is restored? If not, then how is it Jesus took away our suffering, by bearing it upon himself (vicariously), yet people still suffer? In other words.

For me the bible is declaring a process of transition. That is God is healing the world and it started with his teaching and is completed with the resurrection. After all, if Jesus didn’t raise from the dead, then our faith is useless which means his beating meant nothing and we are dead in our sins. So then what did the cross accomplish?

I tend to believe that Jesus pleased God by giving himself over on behalf of the world - that is to be killed - in order to save it. Jesus was not ignorant of his resurrection, he spoke plainly to the disciples about it. But the only possible way for resurrection is to die. So I believe he had to die willingly, in order to please God thus leading to God’s salvation of him - to rescue him from death. This is why another reason why I don’t believe he didn’t call legions of angels (turn the other cheek) to save himself - he had to die in order to be resurrected. I don’t believe the beating itself did anything molecularly - in other words, his wounds are not magical. It’s the love of God that compels us, thus the beating has a quality of what our God did for us - died for us while we were his enemies and reconciled us to himself. However, even as we’re already reconciled, we must come to repentance otherwise God’s wrath (not eternal) remains on us as Paul describes in Romans 1-3. At least that’s how I see it. Even we who have repented are perfected in suffering as Jesus was. And as Hebrews (which Ruth wants desperately to remove) states that good parents discipline (educate) their children and the context is regarding suffering in trials. As James says “consider it pure joy brother when you encounter various kinds of trials”. Why? Because it produces spiritual fruits such as self-control and perseverance.

Just my thoughts.


It’s a big topic for a seperate thread. :wink:

You are certainly making me think in ways I’ve never thought before, and I can see why I couldn’t understand the ‘good news’ before and certainly didn’t have confidence in sharing this ‘good news’. Here’s an example: my husband is an atheist. He said to me the other day ‘you would have me believe that God sent His Son and had him killed…’ I knew that the usual answer of ‘well Jesus died instead of us- he took the punishment that was meant for us’ would sound just as weird so I just nodded and said it did sound far fetched. (I was stumped so didn’t know what else to say). I’ve never understood this reasoning and have always sensed it was wrong. Your book is helping me to finally make sense of all this (he died for us not instead of us. Yes I get that. :smiley: ). I’ve struggled to understand the ransom sacrifice especially, most people telling me an explanation that amounts to a human sacrifice that appeases God in some way. I’ve prayed many times over the years to understand these things and never thought I would but I think I’m starting to understand now… Thank you. (I’m hoping God answers my prayer about the deity of Jesus. I’ve always had a similar problem with the trinity and still ‘feel’ it is wrong, but I don’t know so hopefully God will show me the truth of the matter.) :stuck_out_tongue:


My original question to you was about suffering and punishment in the next age / life. It is obvious that suffering is occurring presently, at least according to our time-bound view of things. I also believe in this age we are being healed and that healing is available because of the cross. I also believe we will not experience complete healing in this life. I also believe in this life we can shoot ourselves in the foot – suffer the consequences of our actions, reap what we sow. I also believe we can learn from shooting ourselves in the foot and become more wise / mature.

But what about the next life / age? Will we be retributively punished and made to suffer for unrepentance and sins committed in this age? This is my question. It seems like a plain and simple question but maybe I’m just not clued in to all the theological nuances.

If the answer is yes, which I hear often (I don’t yet know what position you take), then I don’t understand what Jesus accomplished on the cross.

Sorry if i’m beating a dead horse or asking an unfair question if so then I’ll stop. Also, I don’t really want to hijack Derek’s QA thread but I think this question has bearing on “Healing the Gospel”.

Thank you auggie.



Past interactions here on the cross display two major options concerning the “next age.” Some (esp. ultra-universalists) think it means that there can be no place then for the way that you acknowledge that we now “learn.” More traditional universalists perceive it as possible that God’s future dealings can have some analogy with the way he works in the present.

Your objection seems to be that this would leave the cross with no purpose. But I don’t see Jesus’ purpose as “accomplishing” an objective transaction that now requires that God no longer can pursue repentance (I actually did not imply that God didn’t accept repentance before the cross; in arguing that God doesn’t fundamentally change, I explicitly said that he has always forgiven the repentant). Again, more subjective alternative views of what Jesus was accomplishing would see the cross as leading us toward repentance and to an approach to power that is consistent with the way of Christ. I perceive that the apostles saw the cross as fulfilling the way that the new age would be inaugurated when God’s Spirit would begin to write his true law on our hearts, enable us embrace what God has always pursued, and thus assure us that we will be justified. I just don’t see where it automatically guarantees everyone an escape from sins’ consequences, or makes any process of repentance now unnecessary or irrelevant to what we will experience. Derek’s book would probably be helpful here on other ways to understand what the cross was about.


Bob, thanks for trying but I’m not following your responses to some of the questions I’ve asked. I seem to be understanding your responses to be exactly opposite of what you are communicating. Clearly it’s my failing and not yours.

Thank you again for trying.


Sorry I was too obscure. Maybe I should first have asked you to clarify your understanding! Why do you think the cross’s purpose is to eliminate all possibility of “future” suffering, regardless of whether there is repentance?


That’s great to hear! I think the whole focus of the cross is not on how we can make God better (as if God was the one who had the problem), but on how God makes us better. So God comes down to us, and enters into our messed-up lives, and in doing that we are able to be in that hurt together with God, with love incarnate. It is not at all the picture of a God that above everything, always mad, always threatening, always beyond suffering, always distant. It’s an understanding of God who is suffering with us, who identifies with us in our weakness. Immanuel.

Part of getting the trinity I think is that God is not the mad volcano God that Jesus needs to appease to protect us. God was in Christ. God was on that cross. God is the one who suffers with us. God is the one who will give anything to get us back. Jesus and the Father are one, and the way we really know who the Father is through the Son. Not through Mosses. Not through the volcano image of God from ancient religions (including ancient Judaism). No. Jesus shows us the Father. “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.”

So now I’m curious: What is the issue you have with the deity of Christ?


Can I jump in here guys?

It seems that for both sides of this discussion, the assumption is that the purpose of the cross was to solve the problem of retribution, to appease God’s wrath.

What if that was not what the cross was about at all?
What if retribution is the wrong focus all together?
What if retribution is the problem… not God’s problem, but our sinful problem?
What if retribution is sin itself, the very essence of sin?
What if retribution therefore leads to a false understanding of God as retributive?
What if the solution is therefore not to fulfill retribution, but to overcome it, to dissolve it, to abolish it?
What if retribution is of the devil?

I’d suggest that the Christ event (the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection which are all inseparable) is about our healing, and that happens by our being able to enter into a transforming loving relationship with God.

It’s therefore not about a legal forgiveness (in the sense of God saying “oh never mind”) because we have real brokenness and saying “that’s okay” means ignoring our need and our brokenness which leads us to hurt others and ourselves.

It’s also not about a legal repentance (meaning our performance and actions as a precondition for acceptance) because our problem is much deeper than that. We are estranged from life, and it is only when we are able to enter into a new identity, and experience being loved unconditionally that we can really start to heal. Then in that loving relationship, in that beloved identity, all those actions just naturally follow.

So forgiveness and repentance have a roll, but not in the legal paradigm, but in the paradigm of a loving relationship.

God came to us, in our brokenness and darkness, in order for us to be with him, to live in love. That love heals, and leads to us being ambassadors of that healing love to others. That love overcomes the darkness in us and in our world. That love will overcome sin, death, and hell itself.

Retribution does not heal. It hurts. It kills. It is from hell.
Love heals. God is love. Love triumphs over retribution.

God in Christ conquered retribution, triumphing over it.
Death where is your sting? Retribution you have been vanquished by the lamb!


Derek, I agree. Although I allow for a different definition of retribution, I do agree that the “theory of retribution” is a legal matter and is false. I totally agree that the cross does not mean God overlooks our sin and leaves us in this decrepit state. Instead it testifies to us God’s healing power not only to see our own sin, but to give that healing hope that God is faithful to resurrect and give life. The fear of death vanishes.


Hallelujah and Amen to that. Thank you Derek



I don’t think this is the purpose of the cross and I don’t think I ever said it was. How did you come up with that?

I believe that we will one day wake up (be resurrected) and stand before God. The dark glass we see through presently will be crystal clear and we will for the first time see things as they truly are. This means we will see in an absolutely all encompassing way what Christ has done for us via the cross - we don’t even have a clue now I believe. Our earthy understanding and way of looking at things will become COMPLETELY obsolete. Our old nature / man will be destroyed and we will be totally free from that. The struggles, pain, and mysteries of this life will suddenly make complete sense.

I don’t see how we could possibly wake up in a new reality in the presence of our creator, redeemer, father, savior, and healer, and still desire to hang on to all our old junk. How could we? Then as a still defiant petulant child be told we must now reap what we sowed and then after we’ve paid some retributive penalty and become truly repentant we will be fully restored.

But, maybe I’m wrong and we will face eons of corrective punishment and suffering in order to finally be all God wants us to be.


Yes thank you for this Derek!


Derek, Communicating distinctions is challenging. I was not promoting an “appeasing” atonement, a legal forgiveness, and certainly not affirming retribution. For me, the “Subjective” interpretation of the cross is precisely about healing. So I’m not seeing how it’s contradictory to see both retribution as “our sinful problem,” and the cross as addressing that, and showing a different way to deal with evil.

Davidbo, what I meant by characterizing your view as no “future suffering,” is precisely what you fleshed out here as everyone waking up with no need to experience “correction.” As usual, I seem to occupy a middle ground, which repudiates retribution, but does traditionally see God as at work in seeking to refine our character even in the painful consequences of our choices. As Derek and I have found, clarifying how to best formulate God’s role in such things, and yet avoid a perverse view of God that encourages us to pursue anything less than Jesus’ compassion is mysteriously challenging, and our varying sensibilities may find differing solutions preferable.

It may be best to focus on the central values that we should all want to be upheld. I know the traditional universalist assumption that God wants, not to remove some supposed retributive penalty, but to heal, restore, and correct us, is fearfully alienating to those who are fearful about God and his judgment. My own assumptions about how God would pursue this in light of the love I see in Christ, means that I find it easy to trust that I don’t need to fear God’s dealings with me, anymore than I should fear the dealings of the very best of human fathers. Love always seeks & preserves my welfare.



huh? I don’t think David holds to any form of retribution. Bob, as far as I know is does not believe in retribution. I would be the only one to fit those premises into my belief. So when you say “both sides of the discussion” is confusing to me. I can understand you’re assertion as applying to me, but not Dave or Bob.

Were you just addressing “you guys” in general terms or were you referring to Bob and Dave?