I’ve been allowing the comments to pile up over at Gregory MacDonald’s before I respond. Let’s look at what his commenters have to say:
“The way Steve treats Rachel...he'd better be glad Christian Universalism is true!”
Actually, I treat Rachel the same way I treat Jason Pratt or some of the other commenters. So why does Bobby single out Rachel? Because she’s a woman?
In other words, he’s a sexist. He thinks that women are the weaker sex. Need to be handled like a fragile piece of porcelain. Women break so easily, ya know! Does Bobby belong to one of those polygamist Mormon cults where women know their place?
This also illustrates the chasm between universalist rhetoric and universalist practice. Why would Bobby be posting supportive comments on a universalist blog unless he’s a universalist? If so, what does that thesis entail?
What if something really bad happened to Rachel? What if Rachel were gang-raped? Then left in a dumpster for dead? According to universalism, God would be unjust or unloving or both if he didn’t save each and every one of her assailants.
If Bobby is this hypersensitive to mere words, what does this say about his universalism if it ever made contact with real evil? Personal, palpable evil?
The average universalist is about as convincing as Angelina Jolie as a kickboxing superheroine.
The Christian Heretic said...
“I went to read his response to your response but his attitude and name calling turned me right off.”
Here’s another case in point. Christian Heretic is put off by my tone and attitude. He wants to have a nice, dainty, lady-like dialogue about universalism.
Yet he thinks that God is going to save everyone. God is going to save all the serial killers.
If he’s put off by my tone and attitude, don’t you think he’d find the tone and attitude of the average serial killer a tad off-putting?
The universalist professes to be infinitely tolerant and loving in theory, but the very same universalist is remarkably intolerant in practice. He talks in loving abstractions about loving everyone, but his threshold for actually dealing with all the people he talks about so lovingly is amazingly low when he actually has to talk with them.
Imagine if the Christian Heretic were a POW in the Bataan Death March. If he’s put off by my tone and attitude, how would he ever cope with his captors? You know, Japanese soldiers who sodomized, bayoneted, beheaded, or disemboweled their prisoners?
If you’re going to be a universalist, then you’re not entitled to be such a sissy about how people address you. You don’t get to pick and choose. You have to love everyone, remember? You have to forgive everyone, remember? No exceptions!
The universalist extends a plenary pardon to everyone who—conveniently enough—never harmed him, but bursts into tears at a verbal pinprick. It would be instructive to see our yuppie universalists leave their gated communities and spend some quality time with Vlad the Impaler.
If they react this way to merely verbal abuse (as they deem it), how would they ever apply their touchy-feely rhetoric to a real world situation should they ever found themselves strapped to a table surrounded by sharp implements?
Oliver Harrison said...
“Well I always thought the OT had a patchy and/or developing theology of the afterlife, let alone of an eschataological soteriology. Therefore for the OT not to contain an explicit account of the final revelation of universalism is surely to be expected?”
It’s not a question of what we’d expect. In making his case for universalism, MacDonald has a chapter on the OT. He brought it up, not me. And his chapter ends with the admission that the OT doesn’t teach universalism. I’m merely drawing attention to his own admission at this point. It’s relevant because he made it relevant by including a chapter on the OT in a book designed to prove universalism.
Incidentally, I don’t agree with Harrison or MacDonald. I don’t think the OT is silent on the question of universalism. Rather, it’s negative on the question of universalism. But I was accepting MacDonald’s admission for the sake of argument.
Harrison’s comment is also deceptive. In my review, I did more than merely point out MacDonald’s concession. Rather, I also noted examples in which the OT uses universalistic language even though, in other places, the scope of salvation is clearly limited to a subset of humanity. Therefore, you can’t infer universalism from universalistic language. The language is hyperbolic.
“Anyway, I savaged ‘Pierced For Our Transgressions’ (a massive pro-penal substitution magnum opus peddling the li(n)e: ‘Jesus was punished for our sins and bore the wrath of God on the cross’ ), and only got good mail from that review (which was also in Anvil, so also read by evangelicals).”
That’s a very revealing window into universalism, don’t you think? Harrison boasts about “savaging” the belief that “Jesus was punished for our sins and bore the wrath of God on the cross.”
I mean, what more do we really need to say?
“Concerning the response that the worst thing you can do is make soemone think they can be saved when they can't seems to me a bit problematic. I never devoloped from the EU (througout the book), the idea that you can do whatever you like and God is ok with it… So his premise to me seems to be a bit off target.”
Gene’s response is so illiterate that it’s hard to tell what he’s trying to say, but his reading level seems to be on par with his writing level. Did I impute to universalism the position that “you can do whatever you like and God is ok with it”? No.
This is what I actually said: “Convince him that no matter what he thinks or does in this life, God will save him in the world to come.”
“In other words Mcdonald said this w/o scoping that God would torture your children in front of you. Scripture simply states nothing of the sort.”
Did I ever say God would torture your children in front of you? No.
This is what I actually said: “Here’s a question: what’s the worst thing you could possibly do to a person? Torture one family member in front of another family member? That’s one of the worst things you can do to a person. But not the worst thing.”
Nothing here about “God” torturing anyone.
“So when scripture reads God deals with the individual then yes mcdonald is right, the worst thing he could do is totrue you.”
I wasn’t discussing the worst thing that “God” can to you. I was discussing the worst thing that you can do to your fellow man.
And the worst thing you can do to your fellow man is to nurse in him the false hope that no matter what he thinks or does in this life, God will save him in the next.
For sheer cruelty, nothing matches that damnable illusion. Instead of warning your fellow man of the worst possible fate, you encourage him to pursue a hellbound path until it’s too late to reverse course. No earthly atrocity comes close to such a vicious and malicious lie.
I didn’t appeal to “tradition” in my review of MacDonald’s book. And it also depends on how you define “traditionalism.” Dante has a “traditional” view of hell, but that’s not the view that I’m defending.
“In steves response questioning ‘divine justice’ it seems to me to be very problematic on how God punished an innocent man. The classic view on the atonement plays a role in that most christians (that I know of) hold the view that God took his wrath out on Jesus so we (who approach by faith) might not receive his punishement of sin. So on divine justice I feel steve owes a clearer definition on ‘divine justice’. If God's divine justice means it's perfect and always right then when does divine justice act in a way that a just person gets punished, namely Jesus on the cross. Seems to me that ‘divine’ needs to be defined and defended in order to accuse one of not holding to divine views. If you are guilty of not embracing divine justice and divine mercy (not embracing law of gospel) then how does it fit his paradigm of justice.”
i) Both Gene and Harrison are right about one thing: There’s more to univeralism than merely extending penal substitution to everyone. Rather, universalism presents a very different theory of the atonement. It commits you to making many fundamental readjustments in your theological system.
ii) I was responding to MacDonald. MacDonald professes to be a Christian. And he tries to defend his position from Scripture (as well as reason).
When I’m responding to a professing believer who claims to honor the authority of Scripture, it shouldn’t be necessary for me to defend a Biblical doctrine like penal substitution. It should be sufficient that Scripture teaches penal substitution.
Now, if you want to challenge the exegetical basis for penal substitution, that’s a different issue. But Gene isn’t raising an exegetical objection. He’s raising a moralistic objection.
iii) Of course, Jesus is more that just an innocent man. Jesus is also the divine judge and lawgiver. It’s remarkable when the judge and lawgiver assumes the role of the defendant.
iv) Even on intuitive grounds, I don’t find anything objectionable about the vicarious principle. That’s the fundamental element of human friendship.
A friend does something for a friend of a friend as a favor to his friend. The friend of the friend is not his friend. But he does it for the sake of his friend, as if the friend of his friend were his friend.
v) How can a universalist be so squeamish about penal substitution? Here’s a guy who tells us that God is duty bound to save every psychopath who ever skinned his fellow man alive. Why is he offended by penal substitution when he’s not offended by universal salvation?
vi) Finally, I’ve always thought there was something uniquely ungrateful about sinners who impugn penal substitution. It’s like a gunshot victim who challenges the paramedic to explain what right he has to treat the victim. Why should a paramedic feel that he’s under some obligation to justify his treatment of the victim to the victim? If the victim doesn’t feel that the paramedic is entitled to treat him, then let him bleed to death.
When sinners presume to impugn penal substitution, they aggravate their guilt. Ingrates like Gene and Harrison richly deserve the worst. Nothing could be more damnable than to impugn vicarious atonement. You might as well shoot the paramedic.