The proper place for “force” in God’s saving strategies


I’ve assigned myself the longterm task of trying to capture important ideas relating to UR in short, column length essays. They’re not really “essays” per se but are slightly longer than the simple, paragraph response. Or, heaven forbid, the Tweet length statement! (which I find REALLY encourages sweeping generalizations and hasty impulsive inanities… just my take!) The sort of thing one finds in a Newspaper in the “opinion & commentary” section…
So these are generally about 500 to 750 words in length.
For me it’s a great way to try and wrestle with the theology and build coherent ways of expressing what I/we believe…
So here’s another brief essay.
Any comments/impressions are welcome!



If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times…

Besides, love not being the sort of thing that is forceable anyway, God desires freely given devotion and worship.
And this of course plays straight in to the explanation of so many Christian believers who deny the reality of Universal Reconciliation. God respects our “freedom” to reject Him; Hell’s door is locked from the inside – by the sinner; God’s sovereignty is limited by the free choices of those who part company with Him.

God’s unwillingness then to use force to accomplish His purposes can in essence be seen as the cause of God’s limited victory over sin and death. For surely death is not really destroyed if there remain those who’ve chosen it for eternity. Death remains in effect, it remains their reality forever, if God is forced by His gentlemanly rules of engagement to let these choices stand.

Thus for the believer in ECT, or in annihilation, God is bound by His own insistence to eschew force in His endeavors to convict and save us. God’s impotence in this particular instance is thus unmasked.

For the Universalist however, this dynamic is far from necessary or clear. For there are, quite simply, realities about God that do not rise or fall on the sinners ability to grasp them. Thus God is love; whether or not the sinner is able to comprehend this. Further, God has, and has always had, the very best interest of the sinner at heart. The fact that the sinner profoundly misunderstands these truths about God reflect nothing of these actual realities about God.

The barriers then to the proper apprehension by the sinner of God’s real self are not the mark of freedom at all; instead they are the mark of the sinners illusions. A sinners inability to grasp and respond to the true nature of God and His sustaining love is not in any way a mark of his freedom. Rather, it is the measure of his delusion and depravity. For to see God as against us is truly delusional and irrational.

But God need not obligate Himself to cater to such delusions forever. For this places God in the impossible predicament of allowing to stand the very delusions and miscomprehension and degeneracy from which no sinner was ever able to extract himself.

And this is the precise place where God is not only allowed to exercise force to effect the sinners salvation, but obligated to do so by His mercy and love. It is from this prison of misapprehension that Jesus claimed He had come to free us. God simply will not, does not, leave the sinner imprisoned in all his depraved and false perceptions. For any “choice” against God that is rooted in such ignorance, stubborn as it may be, is not free at all; it is instead the epitome of bondage.

And to rescue us from this condition God can and will do anything He must – including the use of force – so that our choices are properly informed by reality and untethered by the horrible determinism of sin.

Divine Rape?!?

Hi TV - I like the format and agree the low word limit is a good discipline. Another criterion I will add - when I get round to doing the same thing myself - is that a non-specialist should be able to understand it!
I agree with all you say here but personally I usually reply to this kind of question with a simple illustration. God relates to us as a Father relates to his children. If God is any kind of Father, he must be a perfect Father. I am a very imperfect father (of three young adults!) Let’s say my son is suffering from depression and I find him repeatedly hitting himself on the head with a hammer. Must I respect his free will to continue and to suffer the consequences? I would of course intervene, using force if necessary. I would do this because I love him and I would do so without any hesitation or anxiety about limiting his free will in this way. If God is a perfect Father then he cannot be a worse Father than me and so he will override free will if necessary.
Am I being naive or missing something important?


I agree with you rev and TV (good Post). IMO that is what Father did in the garden when He imposed death upon us. In His love for us, He forced a limit to how long we could hurt ourselves.

Sorry TV for the tweet size responce :stuck_out_tongue:


Well URPilgrim, the tweet limit is 140 characters so since your’s is 226 characters in length, You’re still good!!!
(Actually, writing a GOOD tweet may be one of the hardest forms of writing of all! Fact remains, lots gets misunderstood with so few characters…For example John Piper’s recent tweet “Farewell Rob Bell”)

As for this thought

I think that’s brilliant! Had never thought of it like that before. Lines up well with Paul in Romans (11 I think) saying “God has shut us all up in disobedience” - maybe??



Yes yes revdrew!

Am very much on board with the Father/Family arguments. Very powerful to me personally. However, I’ve grown a bit disillusioned by it (not that’s it’s a bad argument in itself at all!) because what I’ve found is that a very common response to this is something along the lines of “well yes, God IS a loving/wonderful Father true… BUT He is also HOLY!” – As if being HOLY mysteriously allows anything at all!

Perhaps it’s just me, but I think that the categories of Holy, and Mystery, should be where we place the incomprehensible positives about God! NOT where we shroud these heinous negatives (like ECT for example).

Because of this I tried to find another angle to the same truth and find that bringing up the subject in terms of God using “force” to save us might do the trick. Maybe another aspect of the same truth…

Since real freedom is not possible (this first dawned on me while reading Talbott) unless we are both informed and undetermined, hell, ECT, punishment might be thought of as an uninvited “forceful” intervention in order for God to inform us and to free us from the determination of sin! So in a way it’s like God is “Baker acting” us! Detaining us by “force” while we are in our condition of psychosis (break from reality) in order get us on the road to sanity and true freedom. In this case it’s not only perfectly reasonable for God to toss us into the “padded cell” as-it-were, it’s* courageous and admirable and loving*!!

Hey! Maybe that’s a good title for another essay then… HELL: When God Baker Acts those He loves… (Would that offend anyone here??)

The other idea I’m pondering for an essay also revolves around our common notions of freedom wherein we declare that God is not allowed (because of freedom) to come in and overwhelm us. In essence God is not allowed to “determine” us.

If however we are so set against being determined (and I think we should be!) shouldn’t we also be set against allowing SIN to be the ethos which determines?? So something like:
“God will not allow sin to ‘determine’ anyone”
or maybe
"Determined? No! Not by God, or by sin"

More writing ahead!
Thanks revdrew



Thanks TV, I now understand why you have come at it from a different angle. As for the “God is love BUT…” arguments. Nothing is more guaranteed to make my blood boil!! :angry:
One delicious irony though is how the verses “they” usually use to prove that God’s mercy is limited are all actually expressions of the greatness and inclusiveness of God’s mercy - when read in context and with blinkers off:- I’m thinking of Isaiah 55.8, Exodus 33.19, Matthew 20.15 and so on. I might start another thread on these when I have time, although it is a subject well covered in Jan Bonda’s book and in the famous Talbott v Piper debate.




Thanks Bob, I enjoy reading your posts. I’ll attempt to be critical (and try to play the devil’s advocate in italics), as I suspect many of your future reader will be more so.

Everyone will be resurrected on Judgement Day so the people in hell aren’t dead, they’re still conscious. No one will die in Hell, death will be no more.

I’d suggest reordering these sentences as it sounds like you’re insulting the reader, i.e. on the first read, it sounds like you’re saying “non-universalists just don’t grasp the realities”, when I think you’re actually saying “God is always love, even when we don’t recognize that.”

I don’t know if you can use “their”, as having “His”/“Himself” (God) and “his”/“himself” (a sinner) is perhaps harder to read??

God made Himself perfectly clear in conscience & creation, people aren’t deluded, they consciously rejected the infinite God and deserve infinite punishment, He doesn’t have to save anyone.

The only other thing is that maybe you can use something from the OT as an example of God using force on those He loves to bring them spark repentance and salvation?

Hope that is of some help :confused:


Thanks Alex:
Those are very insightful and salient observations. Shows you to be a careful and thoughtful reader. It is a real gift of yours to be able to take others opinions so seriously.
So again thanks!

I must say that I write (how could I not??) with the implied dogma of my upbringing; which was annihilation not ECT. So for me “dead” refers to a state of at minimum, unawareness. Hence “sleep” as we see over and over in the OT. (And a large part of the reason “soul sleep” still makes sense to me…) Why bother using the word “death” as a separate category at all if one is aware and conscious in all of them? Many here of course see death as only spiritual, which of course is one concept of death that Paul employs often.
And of course my denomination has always held to the second resurrection but that was only so they could be confirmed and judged in their eternal wickedness and then (God! do I hate this formulation!) “die” yet again in what “we’ve” called the “second death”…

And good points about my frequent/constant reference to the damned and lost as delusional and under illusions. This is taken straight from Talbotts incredibly insightful observations on freedom in that to be free, one must be both informed and not determined. So any choice made based on the oh so common distortions of God and His character, are by definition a delusion/illusion. Point being that God simply will not allow to stand a decision made which references such deeply skewed views of reality.
So I’m trying to come from a place Alex where, from the perspective of the sinless Universe (assuming this is a cosmic drama going on) and from the perspective of actual reality (defined not by us, but by God) where it’s obvious that a choice against God is either not informed or is determined. Or both.
I think it’s an eternal truth Alex that sane and free minds simply WILL chose God!
Almost seems like a backwards way of defining things but it has great merit don’t you think??

At any rate, thanks for the comments!



I agree, as long as “free” implies informed.

I think it has merit :slight_smile:


I haven’t the time or quite the thoughtfulness of Alex, but I sure enjoy reading your postsTV. I find myself wanting to post so many great one liners you have on FB, but I fear it would fall on deaf ears so I’ll have to be content to enjoy them myself.


I might miss your point, Bob, 'cause I read quickly, but for what it’s worth…

I agree that one cannot unilaterally determine the love of another. God can’t determine or otherwise guarantee that we love him. But I wouldn’t use “will not” or “unwilling to” to describe this since I don’t think it’s a matter of God’s being able to do so but choosing not to out of respect for our freedom. That entirely misses the point I think. For me, it’s about metaphysics and ontology. God literally cannot do so, in which case the very notion of our determining another’s love is self-contradictory (given my own metaphysics of course), i.e., impossible to conceive of rationally/consistently. It makes no sense to say God is unwilling to do what is by definition impossible. So I don’t frame it in such terms.

I’m aware that determining another’s love does make sense to Don Carson, but nevermind that.

For me God doesn’t respect our freedom (certainly not for freedom’s sake) as much as he desires that we fall in love with him. Freedom just happens to be the metaphysical price tag for that. It’s not about freedom, it’s about love. Freedom is important to the extent that it’s really necessary to our becoming loving and responsible partners with God. Other than that, freedom has no intrinsic value per se. It’s not an end in itself. Its value for us is its utility; i.e., the possibility it offers.



Thanks Tom; Good points and I hear what you’re saying I think…

My intended audience is Christians who love God but who have a view of Freedom which they see as constraining (and restraining) God which prevents Him from certain things. And it’s this dynamic that prevents them from embracing UR. So if that view of freedom is real, and allowed to stand, it effectively means God must “respect” the decision of the person to “choose” hell. That’s the basic idea. So what I’m trying to do is challenge, albeit indirectly, their notions of freedom. That what they’re describing is not freedom at all and therefore God is not thereby obligated…

I see this particular view of freedom to be a huge barrier to understanding UR so that’s what I’m trying to chip away at. What this mindset calls “force” then is actually not.

That’s sort of the direction I was thinking…