Friday, December 31, 2004

All's well that ends well-2

The universalist is in a bind. Unlike the conditionalist, the universalist must affirm that the hell-bound will live forever, but disaffirm that they will live forever in hell. He needs the eternality, but not the fixity, of the afterlife, to make room for postmortem conversion. There are, however, no passages of Scripture, whether individually or in combination, that drive a wedge between fixity and perpetuity, or teach, or even permit, a postmortem reversal of fortunes.

Sensing, I guess, the inadequacy of his exegesis, Bonda takes another bite at Mt 25:46 later on: "Now his blood will be given as a ransom for many (Mt 20:28). His blood will be poured out for many (26:28). Twice we read ‘for many.’ who are these ‘many’? They are the many who have entered the wide gate and walk the easy road that leads to destruction (Mt 7:13; cf. Mt 22:14). These are the same people of whom he just said that they will end in ‘eternal punishment’" (218).

By way of reply:
i) This interpretation is nonsensical on its own grounds. In Mt 7:13-14 & Mt 22:14, the "many" are relative to "the few." But in universalism, such a contrast is meaningless. In universalism, the choice is not between the comparative contrast of the many over as against the few (a la Calvinism), but between the superlative contrast of the salvation of all (inclusivism) as over against the salvation of some (exclusivism).
ii) It clearly does violence to Mt 7:13-14 to turn two divergent roads into one convergent road.
iii) The "many" is Mt 20:20 & 26:28 is not an antonym for the few or a synonym for all. Rather, it is a literary allusion to Isa 53:11-12. In this chapter, "many" and "all" are interchangeable designations for the covenant community. The Messiah lays down his life for his people.

Bonda goes on to claim that "eternal punishment does not forever continue, since that punishment itself, is not his goal. When God’s purpose has been achieved, there is no need for further punishment--for sin no longer exists!" (219).

By way of reply: notice how this turns the word of God on its head. In Bonda’s interpretive alchemy, "eternal" punishment is temporary. "Unquenchable" fire is quenched. The "undying" worm dies of hunger. Bonda systematically converts Biblical affirmations into Biblical negations, and Biblical negations into Biblical affirmations. This is exactly how the Devil would rewrite Scripture.

Continuing,
"Let us review: The word ‘eternal’ has played a major role in the doctrine of eternal punishment. But what Scripture tells us about God’s purpose with this punishment remained a secondary concern. We have seen that this divine purpose must be our first interest in any Biblical discourse about the eternity of the punishment. Never is there any other purpose than that the unbeliever return to obedience to God. Nowhere in Scripture do we find a statement that tells us that God wants those who are punished to suffer without end--that is not the purpose for which God created humans! If we keep this singular purpose of God in focus, we understand that eternal punishment is punishment that has as its only purpose an obedience return to the God of love...When Jesus refers to this punishment as eternal, he simply underlines...the eternal seriousness--of God in pursuing his one and only purpose" (219).

By way of reply:
i) In what sense did the divine purpose remain a secondary consideration in formulating the traditional doctrine? Is the administration of justice not a purposeful activity?
ii) Even if it were a secondary concern, is there something wrong with deriving a doctrine from passages of Scripture which directly and primarily address the subject-matter of the doctrine in question?
iii) This is an ironic complaint to lodge against Calvinism, for no theological tradition shows the same respect for God’s inviolable purpose.
iv) Bonda is using this appeal as an inner canon and winnowing fan to demote and deny the witness of Scripture whenever it comes into conflict with "his" primary concern.
v) Nowhere in Scripture? Isa 66:24? Dan 12:2? Mt 25:41? Mt 25:46? Mk 9:48? 2 Thes 1:9? Jude 7? Jude 9? Rev 14:11? Rev 20:10?
vi) Isn’t it simplistic to insist that God can have only one purpose for what he does? Why can’t the revelation of his justice be one such purpose? Why can’t the revelation of his mercy be another such purpose?
v) It is difficult to divorce the temporal end of God’s creatures from the teleological end of his creatures. Their final destination in time answers to his final design outside of time. And their eternal destiny marks the climactic realization of any ends-means relation.
vi) To equate the threat of eternal punishment with eternal seriousness in God’s pursuit of every lost sinner is a form of words which bears no resemblance to the wording, import, or intent of our Lord’s usage. This is a wholly artificial gloss that fails to connect at any point with what our Lord ever said or ever meant.

In fairness, though, Bonda defends this reinterpretation by recourse to prophetic usage. By way of reply:
i) Once again, Bonda is confounding historical judgements with eschatological judgments. We need to distinguish preexilic prophecies that have reference to the Exile and Restoration from postexilic prophecies which have reference to the eschaton.
ii) We also need to distinguish oracles that pronounce a common judgment on the nation of Israel from those that pronounce judgment on one party, but deliverance upon another (Isa 26:14,19; 66:24; Dan 12:2)..
iii) On a related, we further need to distinguish judgment on the nation of Israel from the impending or eventual redemption of the remnant (Isa 1:9; 4:3; 6:11-13; 10:22; 45:20) .
iii) On another related note, also need to distinguish between the end of the old covenant and the inauguration of the new (Jer 31:31-40).
iv) Bonda pedals in half-truths. The logic of Isaiah is thus: just as there is but one Maker of men, there is but one Judge and Redeemer of men. Whoever would be saved can only be saved by the one true God.
v) Bonda is very selective in his citations. In Isaiah you can see inclusivity and exclusivity side-by-side. In Isa 45:22-23 you have a universal form of address, but this is immediately followed, in vv24-25, by a dichotomy between the enemies of God, who shall suffer shame (24), and the people of God, who shall be justified (25). Likewise, in Isaiah 66:23, you have a general expression, immediately followed by a dire pronouncement upon the damned (24).

It isn’t hard to relate the two: if there is only one true God, then there is only one true knowledge of God. The God of the Jews is the God of mankind. The saving knowledge of God disclosed to Israel must be revealed in due time to the Gentiles. But just as salvation did not extend to every single Jew, neither does it extend to every single Gentile.

v) Bonda divorces 45:23 from the taunt-song in 46:1-2. But it’s all of a piece. The ancient world was not a democracy. You bowed the knee before your lord and swore fealty to him because he was your lord. What you thought of him was quite beside the point. He was your sovereign, and you were his subject. Even the high "gods" of Babylon must bow before the Lord’s emissary (Cyrus). The kingdoms of Egypt and Mesopotamia were absolute monarchies. This is where we get the phrase "oriental despotism." And the God of Israel is the king of kings.

Bonda rushes by Dan 12:2 in a couple of sentences:
"The text does not deal with a judgment over all the dead...our interest here is limited to the term ‘eternal’" eternal life and eternal shame and contempt. Jeremiah mentioned redemption following eternal shame, but Daniel does not" (216).

By way of reply:
i) The comparison with Jeremiah disregards the fourfold distinction I drew above, viz., mass/remnant; old/new covenant; pre/post-Exilic perspective; common judgment/divergent destiny.
ii) Dan 12 is part of a larger oracle targeting the end-time (11:35,40).
iii) For the rest, one can hardly improve on Joyce Baldwin at this juncture:
"Hebrew rabbim, ‘many,’ tends to mean ‘all,’ as in Deut 7:1; Isa 22, where ‘all nations’ becomes ‘many peoples’ in the parallel v3; and in Isa 52:14-15; 53:11-12, where this key-word occurs no less than five times, with an inclusive significance. As Jeremias points out, the Hebrew word kol, ‘all,’ means either ‘totality’ or ‘sum’; there is no word for ‘all’ as a plural. For this rabbim comes to mean ‘the great multitude,’ ‘all’; cf. ‘Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth...’ (NIV). The emphasis is not upon many as opposed to all, but rather to the numbers involved.

In the light of this usage our author can be seen to be thinking of a general resurrection prior to judgment. Jesus almost certainly had this verse in mind in Mt 25:46 & Jn 5:28-29," J. Baldwin, Daniel (IVP 1978), 204.

Moving from the prophets to Paul, he cites Rom 14:10-11 & Phil 2:10-11. Yet is hard to see how the passage in Romans is a prooftext for universalism. To begin with, it is on the theme of judgment. In addition, it takes the Christian as the object of divine judgment. But if even the believer must stand before the tribunal of God, what hope is there for the unbeliever?

Although the judicial role is unstated in Phil 2:10-11, that is implicit from the parallel passage in Rom 14:10-11. The person and work of Christ in Phil 2:6-9 have qualified him to be the judge of all the world. I’ve already discussed the Isaian background of both passages. This is what is meant by the Lordship of Christ.

We have gone from the age of absolute monarchy, to constitutional monarchy, to titular monarchy, to popular sovereignty. We have forgotten what it means to "reign." But the dominion of Christ is the antitype of the oriental despotism. Either submit willingly or be forcibly subjugated.

You can see this theme in the Messianic Psalms (2:9; 110:1-2), which is, in turn, picked up in the NT (1 Cor 15:24-28; Rev 12:5; 19:15). Indeed, the Apocalypse is a NT version of OT holy war. Christ is a warrior-God and conquering king (Rev 19). Hell is a permanent POW camp. His enemies are vanquished and taken captive. The camp has an entrance, but no exit.

In the section on Revelation, Bonda says the following:
"All nations will come and will worship God (15:4)...In other words, the ‘forever and ever’ of 14:11 was not the final word! Just as the prophecy about Edom in Isaiah 34:10--from which this imagery of the eternally ascending smoke is borrowed--was not the final word. Isaiah’s prophecy and this vision are both related to the destruction of Sodom (Gen 19:24,28). We saw that God’s judgment over this city did not imply the end of his compassion for it" (230).

By way of reply:
i) He maunders the meaning of Rev 15:4. As Beale remarks, "’All the nations’ is a figure of speech (metonymy) by which the whole world is substituted for a part of it in order to emphasize that many will worship, which is in line with 5:9; 7:9ff.; and 14:3. The whole for the part is clearly the meaning where pas (‘all’) occurs with ethnos (‘nation’) elsewhere (5:9; 7:9; 13:7; 14:8; 18:3,23)," G. Beale, The Book of Revelation (Eerdmans/Paternoster 1999), 797-98. Cf. Bauckham, Climax of Prophecy (1993), 238-337 (esp. 312-13.
ii) I’ve already dealt with the judgment upon Sodom.
iii) The last word on the fate of Edom is Mal 1:1-4, which is decidedly less than sanguine!
iv) The fate of the damned (14:10-11) presents an antithetical parallel to the rest of the saints (14:13). The saints are forever at rest while damned are never at rest.
v) The fate of the damned (14:10-11) presents an antithetical parallel to the adoration of the angels (4:8). As long as the angels shall praise God, the damned shall suffer.
vi) The same time-maker ("forever and ever") is applied to the very life of God (4:9-10; 10:6; 15:7). As long as God shall live, the damned shall suffer.
vii) The fate of the devil and his minions (20:10) presents an antithetical parallel to the reign of the saints (22:5). As long as the saints shall reign, the damned shall suffer.

For better or worse, the state of all parties is fixed for all time. The timeline is isochronic for God and Christ, saints and angels, devils and idolaters. And once the die is cast, there is no reversal of fortunes.

Bonda then says that those outside the New Jerusalem (22:11) are invited to come inside (22:17). But this commits a level-confusion. The invitation is directed, not to the narrative characters, but to the reader, the audience, the congregation (of the seven churches of Asia Minor) to whom the prophecy is addressed.

"God has created man with the intention that all should love one another, as he loves them. This love allows of no exception: One is even to love one’s enemies, since God loves them all (Mt 5:44-45)...In God’s law the single command of love, given to all human beings, we find the answer to the doctrine of eternal punishment. This law makes it crystal clear that we are dealing with a doctrine that clashes with God’s commandment" 102.

By way of reply:
i) Mt 5:44-45 doesn’t say that God loves everyone. Rather, the point of Mt 5:44-45, like the parable of the wheat and the tares (note the same agricultural setting), is that God dispenses common grace to all as a way of dispensing special grace to the elect. Because the elect and the reprobate inhabit in the same world, living under same roof (as it were), sun and rain cannot discriminate. All must prosper to some degree for any to prosper at all.
ii) It is illicit to invoke Mt 5:44-45 in order to negate everything else the Bible might have to say on the subject.
iii) This is not the only command that God has given to man. He also commanded the Israelites to execute the Canaanites.
iii) Mt 5:44-45 does not address the destiny of man, but rather, the Christian code of conduct for the duration of the church age.
iv) A divine command is not equally binding on God and man. God is the judge. He bears a different relation to man than man to his fellow man.
v) Bonda has a very flat-footed concept of love. There are different degrees and species of love. Conjugal love is not the same thing as neighborly love. Love can be exclusive as well as inclusive, intensive as well as extensive.

"What has this doctrine of Israel’s rejection brought about? The great catastrophe of our century tells us: The murder of almost six million Jews from 1940-45 in post-Christian Europe would not have been possible without the preparatory work of this ecclesiastical tradition.

The genocide was not committed by Christians, but by pagans who had rejected faith in Jesus. However, this would not have happened in Europe if through the centuries the church had been taught to see Israel as the apple of God’s eye," 132.

By way of reply:
i) This is a form of emotional extortion: either interpret Romans my way or else you’ve got the blood of six million Jews on your hands! That brand of blackmail is irrelevant to the meaning of Romans, and given that the Book of Romans was penned by a devout Jew, no authentic interpretation could possibly be anti-Semitic, so we should follow the text wherever it takes us, without fear of consequences, without dragging in extraneous anxieties or imposing extraneous filters on the material.
ii) It would take a lot of documentation to substantiate Bonda’s charge--none of which is forthcoming. What is the relation between church and synagogue in Reformed, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, and Orthodox theology? Is it all the same? Is it all anti-Semitic?
iii) Even if the church had been more philosemitic, how would that have restrained the Nazis?
iv) What about the effect of German Bible criticism, with its evolutionary view of religion, which necessitated a low view of the OT and OT piety?
v) In what sense is the Reformed tradition anti-Semitic? Wasn’t Holland a haven for the Jews? Weren’t the Jews well-treated by the Puritans? Doesn’t Reformed theology stress the continuity of the covenants? Doesn’t Reformed theology speak of OT saints as well as an OT church?

Supercessionism isn’t a racist doctrine. It doesn’t mean that Gentiles replace Jews. It doesn’t even mean that the church takes the place of Israel. There’s a very real sense in which Reformed theology regards an OT saint as a Christian. To be a Messianic Jew is to be a Christian, whether Abraham, Asaph, Moses, or David; Isaiah, Daniel or Zechariah; Peter, James, or John; Paul or Matthew, Simeon or Anna, Mary or Elizabeth, Zecharias or John the Baptist.
vi) What about Jews who are not Messianic Jews? you ask. What about gentiles who are not Christian gentiles? I ask. It's all the same.
vi) I get a little tired of all the complaints about the gentile complexion of the church. No doubt the church would be better off if it were more Jewish. But let us remember that the church is mostly gentile because most Jews chose to opt out. And let us not write off two thousand years of church history as very large and very long mistake. To do so dishonors the plan and providence of God.

In dealing with the imagery of damnation, a couple of cautionary notes are in order.
i) There is not a great deal in Scripture on the eternality of hell. And yet the eternal duration of hell is far better attested than, say, the Virgin Birth. There are many "evangelicals" who affirm the Virgin Birth, but disaffirm the eternality of hell. For example, John Wenham, in his autobiography, uses this statistical approach to minimize the Biblical witness to everlasting punishment. Yet he would never employ that same methodology to minimize the testimony of Scripture to the Virgin Birth--even though that is built on a much thinner database than hell.

ii) It is important not to over-analyze the imagery. Scripture doesn’t speak with technical precision. The imagery is intended to convey a general impression. The attempt to break down the general impression into atomistic word-studies and isolated images does violence to the authorial intent. The general impression which popular as well as scholarly imagination has always taken away from these passages is one of unending misery.

These passages were never meant to be subjected to minute analysis. They don’t demand much in the way of interpretation. To overinterpret is to misinterpret. The broad brush, and not the fine brush-stroke, is what counts. This is not the time and place for finesse, nuance, or sophistication. Blunt, brutal, graphic and primitive picture-language was used to drive home a dire and unmistakable admonition. And it succeeded, for century upon century.

Those who construe the passages otherwise always do so, not because the imagery is suggestive of another interpretation, but because the conditionalist and the universalist find the idea of eternal punishment intolerable. What they give us is not the exegesis of the text, but a hermeneutic of emotion.

Bonda tries to find univeralism in Paul. One obvious objection to this construction is that faith is, in Paul, a prerequisite for salvation. Bonda attempts to get around this by positing postmortem conversion on the basis of Rom 4:17; 5:15; 14:9! That is certainly a novel interpretation of the verses in question. If nothing else, we must give Bonda some credit for ingenuity!

But the point of these passages is that God will save those who die in faith, such as Abraham--the paradigm of sole fide. Everyone dies, including the faithful. What happens to us when we die? If death is a penal sanction for sin, then salvation must apply to the living and the dead, but not all the living and not all the dead. The God who saved the OT saints shall save the NT saints. To die in the Lord is to live in the Lord.

Bonda denies original sin. Instead, he reverts to the old Pelagian position. He blames original sin on Augustine’s use of the Vulgate rendering of Rom 5:12. By way of reply:
i) It is unclear to me why Bonda rejects Federalism in favor of individualism. If, after all, you were going to concoct a doctrine of universal salvation, the some form of corporate solidarity would afford a more promising mechanism than radical individualism.
ii) It is a fact that Augustine relied on the Vulgate rather than, say, the Old Latin version or Ambrosiaster? For that matter, Augustine was conversant with the Greek text of Rom 5. (See the commentaries by Cranfield and Fitzmyer).
iii) It is inexcusably ignorant for a Dutch-Reformed pastor to allege that the Reformed doctrine of original sin derives from the Vulgate. Even if Bonda has left his hereditary tradition far behind, he should at least know what he has left behind.
iv) His interpretation of Rom 5:12 disregards the five-fold emphasis, in Rom 5, on the one sin of the one man (Adam) as the basis of common condemnation. (See Murray’s commentary).

Borrowing yet another page from Pelagius, Bonda says, "it is utterly impossible that God reveals his will to human beings, and simultaneously wills that they should not reach the point of doing God’s will. Yet, this is what tradition tells us. It suggests that he would reveal his will to people who were destined not to comply with it" (101).

By way of reply:
i) Needless to say, the Calvinist has heard all this before. It is not in ignorance of this objection that Reformed tradition can exist. The objection has been addressed on numberless occasions.
ii) In Reformed theology, revelation is the rule of faith. The God who reveals his preceptive will is the same God who reveals his decretive will.
iii) Whatever the common sense appeal of this objection, it has no force in theology, for we can only know the will of God insofar as God has made his will known to us.
iv) The objection equivocates over the identity of God’s "will." Bonda is really talking about God’s "law." No doubt God wills his law, as well as the revelation of his law. But that does not, of itself, tells us what purpose is served by the law of God. The law may be instrumental to an ulterior purpose, as a means to a higher end, rather than an end in itself. The revelation of the law brings with it the revelation of sin. The law can serve to harden as well as soften. The law teaches us right from wrong, but by that same token, you can choose to do wrong, to go out of your way to make the wrong turn and go down the wrong road or the wrong lane, just to be spiteful and rebellious. This contentious and contrarian spirit is on display throughout the pages of Scripture.
v) The law is a moral guide, but more than a moral guide. It is also a tool used by God to exhibit the depravity of sin and the gratuity of grace.

Bonda rejects the Reformed reading of Rom 5 on the grounds that, in this event, "it is not true that Christ, through his obedience, more than compensates for the havoc wreaked by the first human’s disobedience" (105). By way of reply:

i) This objection is not distinctive to Reformed theology, but would, if valid, apply with equal force to any soteric system which falls short of universalism.
ii) The problem with Bonda’s truncated allusion to Rom 5:20 is that it omits the introductory reference to the law. The sin in view is not sinful mankind in general, but lawlessness, where the "law" is the Law of Moses. In other words, Paul has in mind the national apostasy of Israel. And yet, not only was there a gracious remnant, but Israel was host to the Savior of the nations as well.

Bonda rejects the idea of a "hidden election" on the grounds that "If that were true, no one in Israel would be able to depend on God, and the question would always be: ‘Am I like Esau?" (146). By way of reply:
i) It is illogical to reject something just because you don’t like the consequences. Many things are true regardless of the consequences.
ii) The short answer is that our warrant for the assurance of salvation should not exceed the warrant of Scripture. If certain Scripturally stipulated contingencies are met (e.g. repentance & faith), then we are entitled to the assurance of salvation. But if such conditions are flouted, then we are not entitled to the same assurance.
iii) Election is hidden in eternity, but revealed in time, in the mirror of faith.
iv) Given the eye-popping maledictions of Deut 32, as well as the dire forewarnings and forebodings of the preexilic prophets, the average Israelite had good reason to examine himself and not take his blessings for granted!

Bonda appeals to Isa 19:21-22 to prove that the hardening of Pharaoh is temporary. But this prophecy is about the future, not the past. It has nothing to do with the Pharaoh of the oppression. He had been dead for 600 years when Isaiah spoke, and its fulfillment awaited the Christian era--awaited the living, not the dead.

Bonda says that "if God destines most people to eternal perdition, it would have been better if he had not created the world at all" (151). By way of reply:
i) Better for whom? Better for the damned? Yes! Better for the redeemed? No!
ii) Within the Reformed tradition, there is no received view on the relative number of the elect and reprobate. Actually, the question of how many are saved or damned has less immediate relation to predestination than it does to the condition of faith. Is faith in Christ is a prerequisite of salvation? To do away with hell, Bonda must not only do away with reprobation, but do away with faith in Christ. Of course, he has his pet theory of postmortem conversion, but I’ve already dealt with that.

Regarding Rom 9:23ff., Bonda says:
"To whom does he want to reveal this [the riches of his glory]? To the objects of his mercy? He would not need these objects of wrath for that purpose...No...he wants to show these objects of his wrath something of his mercy for the disobedient, for the heathen [Rom 9:25-26]. Once they were "objects of wrath"--"children of wrath," as we read in Eph 2:3...He wants to do the same for those who are now the objects of his wrath" (151). By way of reply:
i) In this very passage, Paul expressly affirms what Bonda denies: the vessels of mercy are the object of his glorious riches (v23).
ii) The vessels of wrath are instrumental to this aim, for mercy and justice are correlative. To withhold mercy and exact justice is illustrative of the wholly gratuitous character of grace.
iii) The way that Bonda draws the contrast, Jews are to objects of wrath (albeit temporarily) as Gentiles are to objects of mercy. But that is not how Paul draws the contrast. For Paul says that God is calling a people to himself from Jews and Gentiles alike (v24). So we have a part/whole relation here. It is not Jews as over against Gentiles, but some Jews and some Gentiles as over against other Jews and other Gentiles.
iv) Eph 2:3 alludes to original sin, whereas Rom 9:20ff. is spinning off the OT motif of the potter and the clay (Isa 29;16; 45-9-11; Jer 18:1-6). They are not interchangeable ideas.

Bonda quotes Ridderbos as denying that Rom 9 teaches the reprobation of Pharaoh or Esau. By way of reply:
i) Citing scholarly opinion is no substitute for argument. Perhaps Ridderbos has a supporting argument for his conclusion, but, if so, Bonda doesn’t quote it. So all the reader is left with is a baseless assertion.
ii) The predestinarian force of Rom 9 has received a detailed defense by the likes of Murray, Piper, and Schreiner.
iii) Even if what Ridderbos says is true, it is irrelevant. The case for reprobation and/or damnation does not depend on Scripture naming every reprobate or hellion. All that is needed to draw a conclusion in any specific case is a general statement concerning the preconditions of salvation (e.g., grace, faith, regeneration), in conjunction with enough information about an individual to draw a reasonable inference regarding his compliance, or not, with the requisite conditions. To be saved, one must be a believer. The burden of proof is on the believer. What is needed is not positive evidence that the individual is damned, but positive evidence that he was in a position and disposition to meet the preconditions of salvation.
iv) Again, even if what Ridderbos says is true, it misses the point. It is sufficient for Paul’s argument that an Esau, Ishmael or Pharaoh should typify the state of the reprobate, whether or not they themselves were reprobate.

Bonda glosses Rom 9:20 as follows:
"The point here is not that God has the absolute sovereignty to do as he pleases with his creatures and that he tolerates no protest. It is rather: Who are you, a mere human being, that you should tell God what he ought to do...to make all people, the living and the dead, want to come and be saved" (155). By way of reply:
i) The question at issue is not how God deals with his creatures, but how he deals with sinners.
ii) Bonda’s interpretation assumes that Paul’s was teaching universalism, and his sparring partner took offense at that. But what evidence is there that this is how Paul’s words were generally understood? After all, Bonda believes that the church as a whole is guilty of misinterpreting Paul. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that this is so, then why presume that Paul’s opponent thought otherwise?
iii) And if, moreover, Paul did not teach universal salvation, then Paul would be correcting his theological opponent.

Bonda asks, "Where does Scripture speak about…[a] God who punishes people, and continues to punish people who have repented and have ceased to sin?" (228). By way of reply:
i) This is a stawman argument. There are no penitents in hell.
ii) As a matter of fact, there are Scriptures in which men repent of their sins, yet still suffer the consequences (e.g., 2 Sam 12:7-12; 2 Kgs 23:26-27; Heb 12:16).

In my opinion, Bonda is no more successful in making a case for universalism than Adams or Talbott. And it isn't for want of scholarly sophistication. But they are handicapped by the falsity of their position. Ability, however great, cannot overcome the disability of a crippling error.

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