Archive for the ‘Redemption’ Category

Inexorable Love

Thursday, November 8th, 2018

A few words of earnest caution must be added here. I trust it has been made plain in these pages that in teaching universal salvation I have not for a moment made light of sin, or advocated the salvation of sinners while they continue such. I earnestly assert the certain punishment of sin (awful it may well be, in its duration and its nature for the hardened offender), but in all cases directed by love and justice to the final extirpation of evil. Nay, I have opposed the popular creed on this very ground, that it in fact teaches men to make light of sin, and that in two ways: first, because it sets forth a scheme of retribution so unjust as to make men secretly believe its penalties will never be inflicted; and second, because it in fact asserts that God either will not, or cannot, overcome and destroy evil and sin, but will bear with them for ever and ever.

I repeat that not one word has been written in these pages tending to represent God as a merely good-natured Being, who regards as a light matter the violation of his holy law. Such shallow theology, God forbid that I should teach. Infinite love is one thing; Infinite Good-nature a totally unlike thing. Love is never feeble, it is (while most tender) most inexorable. In the light of Calvary it is that we are bound to see the guilt of sin. But let us beware, lest, as we stand in thought by the cross, we virtually dishonour the atonement by limiting its power to save — by teaching men that Christ is after all vanquished; lest, while in words professing to honour Christ, we, in fact, make him a liar, for he has never said, “if I be lifted up, I will draw some men,” or even “most men,” but “I will draw all men to me.”

— Thomas Allin, Christ Triumphant, p. 268

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, November 7, 2018

Winning the Kingdom Without War

Sunday, November 4th, 2018

Finally, the last thing I know is this: If the God of the Bible is true, and if God became flesh and blood in the person of Jesus Christ, and if Jesus Christ is — as theologian Greg Boyd put it — “the revelation that culminates and supersedes all others,” then God would rather die by violence than commit it. The cross makes this plain. On the cross, Christ not only bore the brunt of human cruelty and bloodlust and fear, he remained faithful to the nonviolence he taught and modeled throughout his ministry. Boyd called it “the Crucifixion of the Warrior God,” and in a two-volume work by that name asserted that “on the cross, the diabolic violent warrior god we have all-too-frequently pledged allegiance to has been forever repudiated.” On the cross, Jesus chose to align himself with victims of suffering rather than the inflictors of it.

At the heart of the doctrine of the incarnation is the stunning claim that Jesus is what God is like. “No one has ever seen God,” declared John in his gospel, “but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known” (John 1:18, emphasis added). The New American Standard Bible says, “The only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (emphasis added). So to whatever extent God owes us an explanation for the Bible’s war stories, Jesus is that explanation. And Christ the King won his kingdom without war.

— Rachel Held Evans, Inspired, p. 76-77

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, November 4, 2018

Entirely Human

Thursday, November 1st, 2018

Among the many problems of Calvin’s theory of the cross is that it turns God into a petty tyrant and a moral monster. Punishing the innocent in order to forgive the guilty is monstrous logic, atrocious theology, and a gross distortion of the idea of justice. This debate, billed as “The Monster God Debate,” was recorded and eventually viewed tens of thousands of times online. Over the next year I received hundreds of correspondences from people around the world relieved to learn that Good Friday was not the day when God killed his Son. What Jesus did on the cross is far more mysterious and beautiful than simply offering himself as a primitive ritual sacrifice. Ritual sacrifice may appease the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, but it has nothing to do with the Father of Jesus. The cross is a cataclysmic collision of violence and forgiveness. The violence part of the cross is entirely human. The forgiveness part of the cross is entirely divine. God’s nature is revealed in love, not in violence. The Roman cross was an instrument of imperial violence that Jesus transformed into a symbol of divine love.

In our scriptures and creeds, we confess that Christ died for our sins, but this does not mean we should interpret the cross according to an economic model where God had to gain the necessary capital to forgive sins through the vicious murder of his Son. How would this “pay off God” theory of the cross work anyway? Did God have some scale of torture that once met would extinguish his wrath? If God required the death of Jesus in order to forgive, did it have to be a violent death? Did it have to be by crucifixion? Did it have to involve the torture of the Roman scourging? Did God require a minimum number of lashes that Jesus had to endure? Was the crown of thorns necessary? Did God require a specific number of thorns to expiate his anger? And if you say, “No, that’s absurd! Some of the abuse Jesus suffered was gratuitous torture by the hands of cruel men,” well, please explain just how this division of labor works. How much of the torture of Jesus was necessary to satisfy God’s wrath, and how much was just for the sport of it?

— Brian Zahnd, Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God, p. 101-102

Photo: Abbaye de Royaumont, France, November 7, 2005

Until He Finds Them

Tuesday, October 30th, 2018

We have already examined, in the previous chapter, the possibility of postmortem conversion, which is usually featured, at least as a hope, in most versions of inclusivism. Although there are a handful of passages that can be interpreted as pointing in the direction of this possibility, the strongest argument in favor of this proposal rests on the character of God’s steadfast love who looks for lost sinners until he finds them (Luke 15). There is simply no compelling reason to assume that God’s posture towards someone changes at their death. There are also no explicit scriptural declarations that a person’s fate is definitively sealed at death. Often those who deny the possibility of postmortem conversion point to passages that affirm that human beings face judgment when they die (Heb 9:6; 1 Cor 5:10), but these passages do not spell out what judgment consists of and what is made possible by the judgment. These passages do not say that judgment leads to an eternally-dualistic outcome, but this assumption is often read into these texts. Supporters of the possibility of postmortem conversion will certainly agree with these scriptural affirmations that all people face divine judgment when they die, but they will also affirm that God’s judgment is designed to illicit repentance and foster reconciliation. Appeals to postmortem judgment, again, do not suffice to close the door on the possibility of postmortem salvation.

— Heath Bradley, Flames of Love, p. 123

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, October 30, 2018

All or Some?

Saturday, October 20th, 2018

Is God in earnest in telling us that he reconciles the world? Does he mean what he says, or does he only mean that he will try to reconcile it, but will be baffled? This question often rises unbidden, as we read these statements of the Bible, and compare them with the popular creed, which turns “all” into “some,” when salvation is promised to “all,” and turns the “world,” when that is said to be saved, into a larger or smaller fraction of men.

— Thomas Allin, Christ Triumphant, p. 260

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, October 15, 2015

Divine Possibility

Friday, October 12th, 2018

At the end of the day, I believe that God’s love for us will be more relentless than our rejection of him, and that is why I am a universalist. I do not at all underestimate how deeply rooted self-centered and sinful patterns of living can be, but at the same time I do not think we should underestimate the power of God’s just and holy love to pull the roots of sin out of our hearts.

If I am proven to be wrong about this, if some will forever hold out against God, then I think God will not be offended if I put too much confidence in the power of divine love. Even if one doesn’t go all the way in affirming that God will ultimately heal every human heart and transform every evil will through destroying all sin with the fire of his holy love, it seems to me that every Christian should at least have hope in the possibility of this happening. Jesus, after all, told us that, “with God, all things are possible” (Matt 19:26). We should take careful note of the fact that when Jesus said this he was explicitly referring to the power of God to save even those who seem impossible to save from a merely human perspective (Matt 19:23-26). When it comes to who can be saved, our hope is in divine possibility, not in human probabilities.

— Heath Bradley, Flames of Love, p. 101-102

Photo: Sunset from Waterside Inn, Chincoteague, October 22, 2016

All Means All

Saturday, October 6th, 2018

One thing only I ask, which common fairness and honesty require, that our Lord and his evangelists and apostles may be understood to mean what they say.

Thus, we shall look at a few instances out of many. When they speak of all men, I assume them to mean all men, and not some men. When they speak of all things, I assume them to mean all things. When they speak of life and salvation as given to the world, I assume them to mean given, and not merely offered. When they speak of the destruction of death, of the devil, and of the works of the devil, I assume them to mean that these shall be destroyed and not preserved for ever in hell. When they tell us that the whole of creation suffers, but that it shall be delivered, I assume that they mean an actual deliverance of all created things. When they tell us that redemption is wider, broader, and stronger than the fall, I assume that they mean to tell us at least this, that all the evil caused by the fall shall be swept away. When they describe Christ’s empire as extending over all things and all creatures, and tell us that every tongue must join in homage to him, I assume them to mean what these words convey in their ordinary sense. If I did not, should I not be making God a liar?

–Thomas Allin, Christ Triumphant, p. 241-242

Photo: From Ferry to the Isle of Mull, Scotland, July 12, 2003

God Is Like Jesus

Sunday, September 30th, 2018

Jesus’s entire life was a demonstration of the true nature of God. As Jesus heals the sick, forgives the sinner, receives the outcast, restores the fallen, and supremely as he dies on a cross forgiving his killers, he reveals what God is like. To see Jesus is to see the Father. At last we know that God is not like the thunderbolt-hurling Zeus or any of the other angry gods in the pantheon of terrorized religious imagination. God is like Jesus, nailed to a tree, offering forgiveness. God is not a monster. God is like Jesus!

— Brian Zahnd, Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God, p. 93-94

Photo: Staffa Island, Scotland, July 13, 2003

Changed Hearts

Monday, September 24th, 2018

When we think about how God could bring it about that all would ultimately choose to repent and be reconciled to God, we are not limited to thinking that God will have to twist people’s arms behind their backs or beat them into submission. A foundational Christian belief is that God has the power to break into people’s hearts and lives and change them from the inside out and make them new people. God has the power to dispel our illusions and set us free from the bubbles of self-deception in which we often live. In the age to come, when we are immersed in the divine presence, surrounded by the unmediated and pure holiness and love of God, the light will shine on the ugliness of our sin and on the beauty of God’s love for us. God will not externally force anyone to do something they do not want to do. Rather, we can trust that God has the power to internally compel all people to see the truth about themselves and the truth about God in such a way that will leave them without any motivation to cling to their sin, and every motivation to throw themselves onto the mercy of God.

— Heath Bradley, Flames of Love, p. 99-100

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, October 25, 2013

Join the Revolution!

Tuesday, September 11th, 2018

The message for us, then, is plain. Forget the “works contract,” with its angry, legalistic divinity. Forget the false either/or that plays different “theories of atonement” against one another. Embrace the “covenant of vocation” or, rather, be embraced by it as the Creator calls you to a genuine humanness at last, calls and equips you to bear and reflect his image. Celebrate the revolution that happened once for all when the power of love overcame the love of power. And, in the power of that same love, join in the revolution here and now.

— N. T. Wright, The Day the Revolution Began, p. 416

[Photo: Donnersbergkreis, Germany, November 8, 2003]