First off, I understand that if the behavior of the man is changed, then the heart is changed- in other words the tree bears the fruit. So I would disagree with the pastor. I would argue that arrogance is often (though not always) confronted by the wrath of God. God’s wrath breaks men of their arrogance but instead of finding a God who hates them for their arrogance, they find the kindness of a loving God welcoming them home. At least that’s how I see things. But I too am not certain I’m right, those are only my musings.
I do think there are very good answers to these things. However I don’t think you are really open to hearing them yet. Before you can hear the solution, you need to recognize that there is a problem. I don’t see you doing that.
Well Derek you are answering my question by throwing it back at me. I don’t know if you have read any of the my other posts in this thread but I think I have given a fairly thorough overview of how I see it. I don’t know what I can add here without being redundant. So I really would appreciate your response to my question. You don’t seem to have much problem with responding to others who are quite opposed to your view of a non-retributive God. Ironic that, because I am very sympathetic to your understanding of that and was quite thrilled finding your blog. I am reading your book and also resonant with it, so far so good. But on this forum I am sensing a different vibe from you. So I would like some sense from you what is going on, if there is a problem.
Good points Mel. I was under the impression that the grace of God that Paul referred to frequently was the unconditional kindness and generosity of God. But perhaps I am the odd-man out with that understanding to.
I joined this forum back in April I think, but I had been reading through many posts here months before that trying to get a feel for the general tone and tenor of the place. Even with careful reading of many posts by the so-called purgatorial universalists I still don’t understand how they view the significance of the what Jesus accomplished at Golgotha. I know that they are emphatic about it not being about Jesus paying for our sins, which I wholeheartedly agree with, but I don’t have any sense if they have a positive understanding of what happened at Golgotha. Did it actually accomplish something for the salvation of the world. Rather, I get the sense that God saves each sinner one at a time through their own personalized retributive correction plan. I hope, I am mistaken about that, I really do.
Dave, Derek’s interesting particulars have been challenged here by fellow universalists, even us on both his right and left, which I’d imagine can be a taxing load for response. Would it help to affirm that while God does not prevent suffering in this life, that we expect God’s day of resurrection will heal everything and prevent it for all?
Bob, Derek is very selective about who he responds to. You and Auggy have gotten many responses from him and have some sense of a considerate ongoing dialog with him, even though you disagree with him. I have not challenged his basic views because I agree with them and with considerable enthusiasm. Others, including myself, have gotten very little or no responses. Perhaps I should be more disagreeable and then I would get some engagement from him. So the explanation that he is overtaxed does not wash. Answering a perfectly civil question with the same question is not the way to do it.
Man, I wrote my response and it didn’t post. What a drag.
Derek, indeed you are right. I can’t accept the premises that seem fallacious because I don’t recognize that the conclusion is true - God is not punitive. So I think you’re right. You seem to argue that God can’t punish (albeit you’re referring to abuse and violence). But why not say God is not abusive? Why not say God is not violent? Why say God is not punitive if in fact he can punish with a loving form of punishment? Seems punishment is a bad word for you because
A) Men of old have used godly punishment as a means of correction and it’s drenched in blood.
But if God can use punishment as a means of correction, then we should be able to agree, God is punitive. And if God is punitive we should be too.
But a fair question arises, are evil things (rape, murder) forms of punishment (as in the OT)? Does God utilize evil to bring down evil when Paul says to repay evil with good? I see the force of this and am clearly open to hearing more on it.
But I think we need to reframe your position:
God does not utilize evil to punish.
This avoids the difficulty of “God is not punitive”.
I was not intending the “throw the question back at you,” I was just trying to get you to say a bit more about the concern you had. I thought you might be able to express some of the difficulties you were seeing and that this could be interesting.
It seems however that you are feeling a bit slighted, and that is certainly not what I had wanted to convey. When I ask a question, it is with genuine interest. So I apologize if it came across in a bad way
As for myself, I do see difficulties with the idea that those who had never heard of Jesus… or perhaps who had heard of Christianity, but in a very hurtful way… or perhaps those who don’t seem to be very spiritually inclined… would all be left out. That strikes me as being rather unfair, and I would hope that God is bigger than that, and that it would indeed be pretty tragic if all those people “fell through the cracks”. Is that sort of what you were getting at?
Ah, Ok. If I’m understanding what you’re saying correctly, that helps me more clearly see part of why you’re viewing things a certain way. I used to think that too, until I realized that it’s the other way around. (Or at least, that’s the other way of viewing it.)
To clarify, the behavior is the outward sign that the inward has changed. What I hear you saying is that if the behavior (outward) is changed first, then the heart (inward) will follow. Again (unless I’ve misunderstood you, which is possible ) I see it opposite: The inward has to change first, then the outward follows, but punishment (in the stricter sense) cannot effect the heart change.
Mel, yes I would agree with your view. I would say that the inward must change first and then the behaviors follow. This means that God must change our hearts and then we will behave correctly. So allow me to rephrase "if the behavior of the man is changed then you can be assured his heart is ALREADY changed.
My disagreement is that punishment can’t change a mans heart. I would argue that it in fact can make a change but not a complete change. Indeed God’s kindness leads us to repentance but I just say that often it’s God’s wrath that breaks us of our arrogance. Usually I believe that because arrogance has a nature about it, it never commits suicide and always seeks it’s own preservation. So in order for our stubborn hearts to melt away (mind you not all of us), we may go through very harsh times such as Nebuchadnezzar when he lost his mind and when given it back praises God. His claim was God does as he pleases and God humbles the most arrogant men. Indeed some of us do require that but it’s always true, IT’S GOD’S LOVE THAT LEADS US TO REPENTANCE RATHER THAN US GOING RIGHT BACK INTO OUR STUBBORN NATURE. We change by his love but that does not negate that his love punishes to make initial changes. One thing I always point out is Cor 13 - Love is slow to anger, but it does get angry.
Oh, Ok. That’s not as diametrically opposed as I thought then, but I realized that the wording you used might have been easy to misread (which seems to be the case). I do agree God has a hand in breaking us of our arrogance; and if by wrath, you mean that natural consequences of our actions come back to bite us, then I suppose I would have to agree with that terminology as well, since that appears to be what the scriptures teach. I guess the bottom line is that however it happens, we have to “come to an end of ourselves” in order to break us of that pride of independence. That appears to be the mechanism that God has “designed” into the system to help us recognize our need. He demonstrates his kindness to us in our brokenness, and that leads us to change our mind (aka “repent”).
I’m barely a soft-determinist. I don’t believe God orchestrates every single action like a Calvinist. However, I do think there is merit to the Calvinist claims.
Of course this is what leads us to ask the obvious, it seems that God preventing evil in the world is the only thing that would rescue the free will position from the problem of evil. if God rescues one family from the Nazi ovens, what about the family that follows after them who God does not rescue? Is God showing favoritism? Is God showing grace towards one while restricting his grace from the other? If we remove God so that he’s not showing grace to the family who’s saved from the Nazi ovens then do we divorce God from all good things that happen?
It seems there’s tons of problems for everyone, that’s the way I feel. I just don’t hear Derek admitting his view suffers these issues. If there are good answers I’ve yet to hear them - or understand them. For me I doubt because I hear:
a) Not all punishment is evil. [some punishment is good]
b) God is not punitive.
In order to avoid calling God punitive he redefines punishment as “abusive or violent”. Fair enough but lets call things what they are and lets agree God can be punitive and be good.
I would like to know what God can and can’t do to us humans that might bring about the good ends he intends? In John 9 we find a man born blind who Jesus says it wasn’t either because of his sin or his parents but that God might show his power in him. Sounds alot like Paul in Romans 9 where God hardened the pharaoh. But was it a coincidence that the man was born blind? Was it just natural causes and God got lucky to use him? What if it was part of God’s plan? Seems to me it was.
Look I’m not certain about anything I write, I’m as searching for the truth as the next person. I only hope Derek can understand why it’s hard for me to embrace his view on this topic.
I’ve thought about starting up a blog at some point, but I’m not sure if I have the time or energy to maintain it… something for me to think about though, for sure. Thanks for the encouragement.
You’re right bro, it’s all about love.
Often a theme I’ve found, at least in my own experience, is that life is meant to be a place where you learn what it is to be loved and to love in return… because of this world’s brokenness and darkness, that’s not easy, in fact it’s hard, but I do believe that may be what life is about, more than anything else, really… as Paul said, ‘these three remain; faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love’…
I started out life as a very introverted and pretty lonely kid who was quite self-absorbed, to be honest, talked to himself alot, that sort of thing, and who sometimes felt as though he was trapped in a dark room… and I believe that God has spoken to me throughout my life, through other people, through stories, through circumstances, and in my heart, telling me that He can change me, can help me to learn and to grow, can teach me to love as I have been loved, and can open the door and lead me out of the dark, and into the light, where I can be free, where I be my true self, who I was meant to be, where I can join in the dance, where I can be at home… or something along those lines, anyway.
This is only my experience though, and it sounds kind of vague and ambiguous, I know, and it may be different from others’ experience… but that’s where I’m coming from.
Thank you, Derek I really appreciate that
Thank you so much for your encouragement, bro That really speaks to my heart, and I will try to hold to that for sure.
I’ll be sure to take a look. Thanks
That’s cool, bro I’m glad we’re pretty much on the same page there.
And that’s a beautiful vision you had, Derek.
I shared that with my friend Charles Slagle today, and he thought it was powerful and beautiful.
In fact, I was talking with a few of my friends, including Charles, today about your book, spreading the word and recommending it.
Thanks again Derek for your kindness and your encouragement
And I admire your humility and your graciousness, even when you disagree with Derek or others here. I think that’s pretty cool, if you ask me.
After reading Derek’s book, I can say that he gave me a lot to think about and consider, and a lot of what he had to say spoke to my heart, and made a lot of sense, at least to me… but the fact is there are still unanswered questions…
Even in his book he admits that whatever framework we use, whether that be penal substitution or Christus Victor or some other framework, it isn’t going to be able to explain everything about the atonement or about God or about life, or answer every question we may have, and we aren’t going to be able to get our minds around everything, and really, when it comes down to it, the truest understanding isn’t found so much in thinking about the way of Christ, which is a way of love, so much as it is found in walking in it, which is of course a challenging call for all of us…
I hear ya there, bro. Even universalism leaves some unanswered questions, if we’re honest. I guess the best we can hope for is to find frameworks, find ways of looking at things, at God and life and everything, that answer more questions for us than not, that encourage trust and hope in God rather than less, that resonate with our hearts and our minds more than other frameworks we’ve been presented with…
To me, universal reconciliation answers more questions that it leaves, encourages trust and hope in God far more than eternal torment or annihilation, and resonates in my heart and my mind profoundly… the same is true for a framework like Christus Victor over something like penal substitution…
But I think honestly that’s about as good as it’s gonna get for us, at least until we meet God face to face, and He can give us all some kind of theology 101… all we can do is look around at the world around us, try to use our heads, and our hearts too, and pray, asking for discernment and guidance, for help, as we walk this road of life…
We are searching for the truth, but in all honesty, our hearts cannot fully embrace any kind of ultimate ‘truth’ that is presented to us unless it sets us free, unless it’s something that helps up to get up in the morning, rather than something that keeps us awake at night, if you know what I mean… our hearts long not only for truth, but also for beauty, for wonder, for hope, for peace… and if ‘the truth’ about life at rock bottom that is being presented to someone is found by them to be ugly, horrible, despairing, and/or crazy, then who could blame them for questioning it or even rejecting it?
The gospel is supposed to be good news, not bad news, after all, and I think that’s something we need to keep in mind when we talk about all of these things…
If we believe that what we believe about God and about the meaning of life, and all that big stuff, is something that is not only true, but also beautiful, and wonderful, and hopeful, and life-giving, that it is good news, then we need to be able to help others to see that it is so, if they don’t see that already, or otherwise we cannot blame them for not embracing it…
When I hear people out there complaining about others ‘ignoring the facts’ and believing something ‘because it makes them feel good’, it kind of makes me mad. If the so-called ‘facts’ being pushed are basically saying that life sucks, or that life has no real meaning, or that God hates you, or that you’re on your own and God isn’t going to help you, so you better get busy pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, or that sort of thing, is it any wonder why some might question or reject those ‘facts’?
I can resonate with what Fyodor Dostoyevsky said here:
I can also resonate with the famous Puddleglum speech in C.S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair:
Most people, if not all people, are not only searching for truth, or for facts, but they also searching for grace, for love, for forgiveness and acceptance, and not only for answers to their questions but also answers to the longing and the aching of their hearts, not only for theories to explain things well intellectually but also for a home…
For me, at the rock bottom of our faith is the hope that indeed the truth, the ultimate truth at the core of all life, at the center of our lives and the cosmos, is something beautiful, is something wonderful, is something hopeful, is something life-giving, is something worth believing in and holding onto…
Pilate once asked Jesus ‘what is truth?’…
A profound question, to be sure.
I love how Jesus just stood there, silent, saying nothing, or maybe saying everything in His silence…
But Jesus did say earlier that the truth would set us free, and that He is the way, and the truth, and the life…
So I’d gather from this that truth, ultimate truth, is positive and freeing, and also that ultimate truth isn’t so much an idea as a person, a Someone rather than a Something… a Someone who loves us and can set us free…
It may that the next to last word, the next to last truth, about life and everything, is something hard to swallow, something difficult and painful, something dark… the truth that we are broken, that there is evil, that something’s wrong in the world, that there is pain and suffering, that life sucks sometimes and that people get raped and murdered and beaten and abused, that people die frightened and alone, that there are crazy people on the street who hear voices but have no place to call home, that there are millions, maybe even billions, of people who are hungry and thirsty, that there are many who are tired, confused and uncertain, that there are governments who oppress their own people, that there are nations who hate eachother, and people who hate eachother, families estranged, relationships frayed and severed, that there are children crying in the dark, wondering if anyone will hold them, and adults doing the same…
I could go on…
But I need to believe, I have to, for my own sanity, that the last word, and the last truth, about life and everything, is indeed something beautiful and wonderful, even glorious, as well as true… that the broken will be mended, that evil will be washed away and good will take its place, that what is wrong in the world will be made right, that one day there will be no more pain, and no more suffering, that victims will be comforted and healed, and victimizers will be humbled and changed and forgiven and made new (and aren’t many of us both victims and victimizers?), that those who die frightened and alone will find joy and the presence of Love beyond the veil, that crazy people without homes can be made sane, and can find a place to call home, that the hungry will be fed, that the thirsty will have their thirst quenched, that the tired will find rest, that the confused will find understanding, that the uncertain will find assurance, that all of the structures of this world, governments included, will either be turned on their head or thrown down, and things will be set right, that nation will no longer raise up against nation, nor individual against individual, and all nations and all people will love another, all families of the earth no longer dysfunctional, but well, relationships restored and made right, made new, all children, small and large, brought into the light, held firmly in loving arms…
I need to believe that the final word, that the final truth, at the heart of everything, in the end, is good news… and indeed good news of great joy for all people…
Not sure if I’m making any sense, but I think you probably get my drift, and can resonate with what I’m saying.
With all that said, I agree that God punishing for some loving reason, in order to humble the proud, or that sort of thing, makes sense to me and I see no problem with it, but then a lot of what Derek has to say makes sense to me as well…
It’s like you said, there’s a ton of problems for everyone…
But then I could say that when it comes down to it, maybe we won’t be able to find all of the answers we’re looking for, at least not in this life… that doesn’t mean we should stop looking, but it may mean that some things are just going to remain hidden from us until we cross the veil, when we will know, even as we are fully known…
But as long as we are able to trust God, and what we believe about God does not hinder us in that trust, then we can say along with David:
I guess what I’m trying to say is that we don’t need to understand everything, as long as we can trust in Someone who does understand everything, including our hearts…
And if we have enough answers to know that we can trust, then we can trust that all other answers will come in time…
Not sure if I’m making any sense, but I hope you’ll give me points for trying.
Well, that’s all for now, I think. It’s getting late and such.
OK Matt, there are some mighty good thoughts in this here post.
I think when we meet God face to face we won’t need theology at all. We will know him like he knows us and we will know each other empathetically in the same way. This is hard to imagine because we have never experienced anything like this, but it doesn’t mean it is impossible. The resurrection will make the impossible possible.
Until the truth comes to us and embraces us, and I do mean all of us in the broadest sense of what we can conceive and beyond what we can conceive, then and only then will life at rock bottom be lifted up out of the ugliness, craziness and despair that is hell on Earth for so many, many millions. That rock bottom will be lifted up into the sunshine and enlivening fresh air (ruach, Spirit of God) of the new creation by the foundation of the world, Jesus the Healer.
Isn’t that the truth, it seems so obvious but for most of church history it has been presented as a mixture of good and bad news at best. The world has more than enough bad news that is experienced each and every day, it is long past time for the world to not only hear the unequivocal good news of Jesus the Healer but to also experience it as the event of universal resurrection/healing.
If anyone could prove to me that Christ is outside the truth, and if the truth really did exclude Christ, I should prefer to stay with Christ and not with truth.
Great quote and I would paraphrase it as follows: “If anyone could prove to me that Christ is outside the scriptures, and if the **scriptures **really did exclude Christ, I should prefer to stay with Christ and not with scriptures.”
I can also resonate with the famous Puddleglum speech in C.S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair:
This echos Jesus’ statement that only if we are born again (resurrected) and start afresh as children, actual children born directly from God, and become like little children we cannot perceive and participate in the Kingdom of God/new creation. Fortunately for us, just like our birth into this world it does not require our decision or willingness to be born. It just happens to us, it is a gift. So shall it be for all of us, no matter who we once were in this world.
And our home is not some sort of heaven that we go to at death. It is right here when it becomes the home of YHWH and the Lamb, heaven coming to us. Then God, we and all of the wonderful creatures of creation will truly be at home.
Yes, yes and yes!
'… and if the Son sets you free, then you are free indeed.
Thank you Matt for saying those things. More of this needs to be acknowledged and should be constantly informing all of our God-talk.
Justice Matt, justice! is what you are describing. The healing, liberating Justice of God that Jesus made possible through the courageous, selfless laying down of his life at Golgotha. It is not about payment for forgiveness, it is about God doing whatever it takes at whatever cost to himself to bring that healing and liberating justice to the world. It is not in any sense retributive it is creative, it makes the world new. It is about the God who is never against us but always for us, especially when we are lost, crazy and dead.
Drop the word punishing and replace it with cathartic and I can go along with that statement.
Lord, my heart is not haughty,
Nor my eyes lofty.
Neither do I concern myself with great matters,
Nor with things too profound for me.
Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul,
Like a weaned child with his mother;
Like a weaned child is my soul within me.
And we will be able to really and truly trust that Someone when He is dwelling among us and all of creation and we’ll have been born anew directly from Him (the parent of all) through resurrection; and all will directly receive their sustenance, not by the death of our fellow creatures that we consume, but from El Shaddai, “Mighty Breasts,” the all bountiful One; and Jesus the Healer, the bread of life.
P.S. I want to add that I consider many of the words you have written here to be scripture inspired by the Spirit of Jesus the Healer. It is just as inspired as the words written by Paul, John and the others who’s writings were canonized. I can say this because I am not a card carrying Christian and have no fear of dis-fellowship/excommunication. I am simply an ordinary nobody among countless other nobodies who have begun to see the truth of the Crucified, Risen Jesus–the Healer of the world.
I’m not slighted, I just need to know that I am being heard by you when I speak to you just as I want you to know that I carefully read your blog, your book and your comments here. Is that not equitable? If we are understanding each other now, then lets move upward and onward to what really matters, bringing hope and healing to all those countless others that are starving for it.
I would say that it would be more than rather unfair and pretty tragic, it would be utterly intolerable to God. How can I say that, after all none of us have seen God, we haven’t had exchanges with God on a forum or had a nice in-person sit down chat with him. I can say it because he has revealed himself to the world as the Crucified Jesus who goes down into the place that all those who have fallen through the cracks are. None of us–even the very best of us who really do heroic and selfless things to minister to those who are broken and damage by this world–can ever go there. He, and he alone, has gone to the place that none of the living can go to. He has carried the unbearable burden, the cross that none of us can carry even for ourselves let alone for the whole world. This is the overarching, objective dimension of the salvation/healing of the world that I see. What do you see?
My initial tactic was to cast doubt on the teachings of Paul and to contradict these with the red letters of the bible. We often see Paul’s teachings as being infallible or divinely inspired and I have never seen a valid reason for this. Yes, he had a miraculous conversion, but so have many people. Does this give them a right to put words in God’s mouth?
We see that Paul was mistaken in a number of places - for example:
1 Tim 2: 12 - 14 (I realise that it is questionable that this was written by Paul, but people that believe that his writings were inspired usually believe that it was)
Here we see Paul justifying a belief that women should be in submission to men based on a myth. If his justification is flawed it would be reasonable to conclude that his conclusion was too.
Romans 1:26. Here we see Paul describing homosexuality as unnatural. We know today that for some people (and animals) homosexuality is perfectly natural. Once again we see Paul voicing a belief that just doesn’t agree with how we understand the world works today.
Paul probably saw female hair as being immodest because he viewed it as a sex organ
AFAIC, these types of examples give reasonable doubt to the idea that all of Paul’s writings were inspired. I feel it is necessary when reading NT letters to see that these were written by ordinary people who were influenced by their cultural background.
I am now learning that some of Paul’s “harmful” writings can be interpreted in other ways.
Derek, I don’t have a blog nor the time to blog, but I came across this awesome YouTube video the other day that demonstrates quite emotionally that it is forgiveness and not hate that brings people to repentance.
This ties in really well with the message of grace. The law is like those first two ladies. It tries to get us to reform under the threat of punishment. It didn’t work well. Jesus is like that love filled forgiving father. He pours out love to the point that it hurts and it is only that that brings about a change of heart in the criminal. This is the whole point of grace - it heals and it is far more effective at bringing about reform than law and the threat of punishment.
As I said, I don’t have a blog, but somebody really needs to publicise this and tie this moral to this video.
I resonate with all you’re saying. But I don’t think Derek appreciates my point that a flaw in ones point of view doesn’t necessarily make the other’s right. At the very least it makes us both wrong.
Like I said, I am attracted to the conclusion. I simply think the way he gets there is full of fallacious premises, like guilt by association. Just because the inquisitions justified their evil acts of murder using restorative punishment does not mean that restorative punishment is evil. This fallacious line of reason is exactly the same as an atheist uses:
Awful evil acts of murder have been done in the name of Jesus, therefore anyone who embraces Jesus is destined to commit evil acts.
All I’m saying is that there are good reasons to believe that it is possible that God is punitive. If we import or connote terms like “murder” (violence) into the word, then it’s it no wonder people get confused with this God who restores.
So where does that leave me? Well this is my main concern:
If changing the behavior of a person begins in the heart then we must reach the heart with information that gives hope.
Telling people, don’t be violent, is to me like trying to change the behavior in order to change their heart. I think it starts the other way around. First they need to understand that God is loving and restorative. If they get the good news then the violence and injustice will end because they will in their heart believe that God loves all.
So I don’t think most people will believe in a restorative God when we declare things like God does not punish. It seems to me traditionalists don’t have everything wrong. The one critical thing they lack is the depth and scope of God’s love.
That doesn’t mean we should refrain from preaching that violence is sinful and wrong and that to practice it is evil? I think we should. But I also think it’s proper for us to tell them (as Jesus did) [because God loves you] he’s going to punish you for your violence. I feel Paul understood a compatibility of the doctrine of grace and the doctrine of punishment.
With that, I don’t care to be too much of an antagonist and I’ve been more than vocal about my reservations. So I’ll sort of take a back seat and hope others might get in on the conversation. I can tend to dominate discussions and I hope that’s not the case.