Universalism, Reconciliation and Trivializing Horrors


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Here is a serious question. Universalists believe (rightly in my view) that God will not only reconcile all people to himself but also all people to each other.

The serious issue is this: some crimes, such as the holocaust, are so absolutely horrendous that we need to be careful not to end up trivializing them by glibly declaring that God will reconcile the offender and the victims, period!

We need to say more. We need to recognize that the final reconciliation between humans does not occur by way of ignoring or downplaying the gravity of the sin or the torment inflicted. We need to make sure that our accounts do not have God riding roughshod over the wills of the victims. But we also need to affirm that whilst with humans this forgiveness may be impossible, with God all things are possible.
So - if you have thoughts on how to due justice to this issue please do offer your reflections.
Posted by Gregory MacDonald at 12:35 PM
The Christian Heretic said…
We need to make sure that our accounts do not have God riding roughshod over the wills of the victims.

I personally don’t believe in free will, seeing it as a logical impossibility.

As I once wrote, every person alive is a victim of their genetics and past experiences. In other words, every choice we make is predetermined by our nurture and nature. Why do you favour your right hand when I favour my left? Something in our DNA or some factor in our personal development decided that for us. Why do you choose lobster while I choose steak? Because, again, some part of our DNA gives us different taste preferences, and another part, along with other life experiences, causes us to order the food we prefer (or to order the food we don’t prefer if some other gene and/or past encounter is causing us to want to try something different at that particular moment).

This lack of belief in free will is one of the reasons I believe so strongly in Universalism. None of us asked for the genes that shaped us or the life events that made us who we are. Even the Bible agrees that “the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it in hope, that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”

May 15, 2008 2:15 PM
Gregory MacDonald said…
Dear Christian heretic,

Thanks - you are certainly right that our choices are highly constrained and may possibly be determined (I am agnostic on that issue).

But even supposing that your argument for determinism works (and I do think that it makes too big a jump from predispositions to predetermination) it presupposes a libertarian definition of freewill.

In other words, you suppose that a free action is
(a) an action that one wants to perform, AND
(b) an action that the actor could either perform or not perform

Not everyone accepts that understanding of freedom. Many would argue that only condition (a) is required. If that is so then freedom is compatible with determinism and your argument is not an argument against freedom, merely against libertarian accounts of freedom.

Be that as it may, my point is merely that God should not ride roughshod over the wishes of the victims and this only requires ‘freewill’ in the sense of (a) above.

Consequently, my point stands whether or not determinism is the sober truth about the human condition.

May 16, 2008 6:28 AM
caty said…
Perhaps like Zaccheus, who promised to restore fourfold to anyone he had wronged, people will have a chance in the hereafter to make up for the sins they have committed against their fellow man.

May 16, 2008 10:24 AM
The Dude said…
The problem for me seems to be in the simplistic understanding of ‘the good guys’ versus ‘the bad guys’.

Yes, there are some people who have done horrible, horrible things on a mass scale (they need not be named), and there are some who have done very serious evil on a very small scale (they also need not be named, because I myself am probably included). This is not to simply make all of us bad or good, certainly there are degrees of each, but it is to say that reconciliation cannot happen without repentance - both on a small scale and on a large scale.

What if Hitler, in the fullness of the Kingdom, repents and asks for forgiveness? What if I, in the fullness of the Kingdom repent and ask for forgiveness? Would we not both, in the presence of God, see clearly what we have done and fall at the mercy of God? If, then, this is the posture of all people at the eschaton, how different will our understanding of reconciliation be? We will all need mercy and forgiveness from God, and we will all desire it from one another. I only hope that receiving forgiveness from God will compel me to forgive others.

The question for me is more about how the Church in the present age actually acts out and performs this call to forgiveness and reconciliation. Perhaps it seems impossible to us because we haven’t explored the imaginative possibilities of our creative freedom to love, and are left only with bad models of forgiveness from which to draw from.

May 16, 2008 5:06 PM
caroline1008 said…
It is easier to forgive when the other person fully acknowledges the pain she has caused, is remorseful and is seeking forgiveness. It is also easier when the person being asked to forgive knows that she has been forgiven much, is aware of what God has done to redeem what she has suffered and lost and is currently in a state of peace and joy.

We can only attempt in our present brokenness to forgive, whether privately or publicly in Truth and Reconciliation hearings. It pleases God when we work at it. But even if we should fail, it is not fatal as there will be a time when we can not, not forgive.

I look forward to that time of reconciliation when forgiving will give me more comfort and joy than making the other person pay.

May 17, 2008 8:46 AM
Don said…
Dear “Gregory McDonald”,

I am so pleased you are blogging. Your book helped me on my journey immensely. I think from the posts I am reading your decision to write anonymously has the focus of a two edged sword. You want the evangelical church to listen without judging or excommunicating you, and…you are not sure you agree with all the doctrines those in the UR community have been espousing. Your stuck in the middle of hoping both groups will listen and find balance. At least thats were I am in this walk.


May 17, 2008 12:18 PM
Rachel said…
I don’t have my own brilliant insights here, but I can offer that Jurgen Moltmann does quite a bit of writing about reconciliation between victims and perpetrators…and he’s also a universalist. :slight_smile:

May 25, 2008 7:19 PM