I’ve just finished reading this book and found it extremely helpful. In my opinion it is on a par with Gregory MacDonald’s “The Evangelical Universalist” and Tom Talbott’s “The Inescapable Love of God” and I would like to see it included in our “Materials we Recommend” section. Like the two books mentioned, it is both meaty and accessible. A strength of Bonda’s book compared to the others is that it contains an index of scripture references.
Bonda (1918-1997) was a Dutch Reformed Pastor and the book’s argument is presented in conversation with that tradition. Bonda’s scriptural exegesis is fresh but careful and he highlights a number of places where the reformed tradition has misinterpreted scripture in its confessional statements and study materials. The heart of the book is a very thorough study of Romans, and not just the universalists’ favourite bits!
One key insight for Bonda is what he describes as “the call not to acquiesce”, which he explains in the following extract:
From the beginning of this book we have been wrestling with a single question: What is God like? Since Augustine our tradition has taught us that God has two separate goals. He has predestined a small percentage of humankind to salvation, to eternal life. The rest of humanity has been predestined to eternal damnation. Since it is his will that many will be lost, we have no option but to acquiesce.
Our starting point was the question: Is it God’s will that we passively accept the perdition of our fellow human beings? There can be no denial: The Bible teaches us that this is not his will. Being called by God means being called not to acquiesce in the perdition of our fellow human beings. This we discovered in the story of Abraham and his intercession for Sodom, in the story of Moses and his intercession for Israel, and in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son. We noticed this, in particular, in Jesus’ ministry. He heals every sickness and disease, and when he sees the crowds, he is moved with compassion for them. He regards them as sheep without a shepherd, as a harvest that is at risk of being lost. And the calling of his disciples is to be workers in that harvest.
This calling, this refusal to acquiesce, became our starting point in our quest for an answer to the doctrine of eternal punishment. Everything the Bible says about judgment, from Sodom onward, is said to people who were called by God not to accept passively the perdition of their fellow human beings. We may argue about the exegesis of certain texts and can point to other passages, but there can be no difference of opinion regarding this calling, for there simply is no other calling. (op.cit p 256-257)
“The One Purpose of God” was originally published in Dutch as “Het ene doel van God” © 1993 Uitgeverij Ten Have b.v., Baarn.
English translation is © 1998 Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.