Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Significance Of Tertullian

Tertullian is widely acknowledged to be a significant figure in church history, but his significance is often underestimated for a variety of reasons. He's considered a schismatic by many. He's overshadowed by other figures of the patristic era who are thought to have accomplished more. Like other Western sources, he's often dismissed as having little significance to Eastern Christianity. He often contradicted Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy (see here and here, for example), groups whose historical claims and high ecclesiology make such contradictions more difficult to explain. In some ways, the more mainstream Tertullian is considered, the more of a problem he poses for such groups. Protestants make lower historical claims for themselves, so their disagreements with somebody like Tertullian aren't as difficult for them.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Funny Fridays: "Defending" Peter Lumpkins From the Viciousness of a Chuckle by Peter Lumpkins

Seems my tactic of ignoring the honest publisher’s summary, the online videos, the other sermons that the fellow has preached, the folks who’ve read a book before saying the author was dangerously close to hypocrisy, or any number of other ways one could state a prima facie ignorant assertion about the hoopla surrounding the hoopla surrounding Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins, keeps catching the attention of some. In fact, one of my posts on the Bell fiasco so far may best be expressed something like this: a bunch of words pretty much unrelated to the content of anything remotely similar to the topic at hand. And, it seems to naturally follow from that: if you ignore the evidence for something that other people do not ignore then they are the fools, not you.

Truth be told, my granddaughter, who is but 3 years old, has a higher IQ than I.

On the other hand, your average band of “scare quote” websites which specialize in reason and rationality instead of hating on James White, has this to say:
But the Bell kerfuffle was just a trap which Schultz cleverly set to ensnare the grand muftis of modern Arminianism: Ben Witherington, Peter Lumpkins, Scot McKnight, and Roger Olson. He knew they’d take the bait, rushing to the defense of Bell.

What is there to say? Some people read to understand and write to clarify. Others--unfortunately, like so many Internet apologists named Peter Lumpkins--read but do not understand and write but only confuse. But just because a post starts pretending to be from the National Enquirer as reported by Mitty Muckraker in no possible way could indicate this column could possibly be satire.

We know who is really behind it. James White*.

With that, I am…


* Some unaccomplished theologians** insist White embraces what is known as historic Hyper-Calvinism

** These are collectively known as “Peter Lumpkins.”


Oh noes!!! Whatever shall I do. Peter Lumpkins has responded to this post:

peter lumpkins said in reply to Benjamin Musclow...

BTW, Mr. Musclow

Just for kicks, here’s a another link for you concerning the website I cited as an example of “Reformed Apologetics websites which specialize in Calvinism on steroids.” Not content to allow the spoof of me to stand as is with a bit of humor most can appreciate, the good old boys there must needs copy/paste the post here to their site. But instead of letting it speak for itself, they instead purposely add statements to the piece as if I wrote it—statements I most certainly did not nor would not. Such stands as fairly good evidence why few if any not in their particular club gives them the time of day.

With that, I am…


Apparently, Lumpkins believes the average reader is only as intelligent as he is, and he actually feels the need to inform you that yours truly did "purposely add statements to the piece as if I wrote it--statements I most certainly did not nor would not" (sic). No way! In a piece clearly marked as "satire"?! Who would have possibly been able to tell that?!

Certainly not any of those unsophisticated losers on that militant Calvinist blog. Good thing we have Lumpkins to save us from ourselves lest the world be completely doomed.

Reformed Perfidy

The National Enquirer

Mitty Muckraker

Rob Bell’s book Love Wins has ignited an unprecedented firestorm in the Christian blogosphere. But as I followed the leads, I uncovered a deeper, more sinister story. As it turns out, the whole controversy was carefully orchestrated by Calvinian blogger Matthew Schultz, who hatched the plot to bring down Arminianism.

Schultz had his minions at the Gospel Coalition gin up interest in Bell’s forthcoming book by floating the insidious suggestion that Bell was a universalist. Schultz then brought this to the attention of his contact at the NYT to further puff the story. This, in turn, set Twitter a-twitter.

But the Bell kerfuffle was just a trap which Schultz cleverly set to ensnare the grand muftis of modern Arminianism: Ben Witherington, Peter Lumpkins, Scot McKnight, and Roger Olson. He knew they’d take the bait, rushing to the defense of Bell.

Schultz, who used to attend Redeemer Church in Manhattan, then directed Tim Keller to tap Martin Bashir–who not so coincidentally, also attends Redeemer Church–to ambush Bell in his now notorious interview, which quickly went viral on YouTube. And, of course, the interview was also plugged by Schultz’s minions at the Gospel Coalition.

By discrediting Bell, he simultaneously brought discredit on Bell’s unsuspecting, high-profile Arminian supporters.

So Schultz was the puppet-master, pulling strings from behind-the-scenes, to implement his nefarious scheme. 

Interview with Martin Bashir

Paul Edwards interviews MSNBC's Martin Bashir.
Here’s the audio of my interview with MSNBC’s Martin Bashir on his interview with Emergent Universalist Rob Bell of Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids. Martin discloses whether or not he is a committed Christian and if the blog rumors are true that he attends Tim Keller’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.

Is Bell a universalist?

Rob Bell's church has issued a public clarification:

Ironically, the statement unwittingly confirms that Bell is a universalist in the very process of denying that Bell is a universalist.

                                LOVE WINS FAQS
[Frequently Asked Questions]
We hope this FAQ helps you interact with the book, Love Wins. For information on Mars Hill’s beliefs, see our Narrative Theology at
Does Love Wins affirm that Jesus is the only way by which we are saved?
Yes. Love Wins is clear, our only hope for reconciliation with God is found in Jesus alone because of all he accomplished through his life, death and resurrection. Rob shares in Love Wins his belief that the only way to God is through Jesus by quoting and affirming Jesus’ statement, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” [pg. 154]. Mars Hill affirms that Jesus is the only way to inherit salvation, how exactly that happens, however, is a matter of mystery that we do not claim to have all the answers to. As Rob says after quoting Jesus, “What he doesn’t say is how, or when, or in what manner the mechanism functions that gets people to God through him” [pg. 154].

But so-called evangelical universalism says the same thing. Everyone is saved through the atonement of Christ.

What does Love Wins say about heaven and hell?
Love Wins recognizes heaven and hell to be realities all around us. We see hell everyday through the atrocities of war, famine, human trafficking, broken relationships, and abuse. We also see heaven all around us through acts of love, kindness, and compassion. 
There is also the reality of heaven and hell in the future. Our ultimate future hope is a restored creation under Christ where God will dwell with us forever on a restored heaven and earth [Rev 21-22]. There are many who accept the invitation of the life of heaven and many who reject the invitation. Those who reject the invitation experience a purifying “fire” of judgment in hell, yet there is hope. We live in the hope that the redemptive work of Christ is beyond what we can ask or imagine. Love Wins helps us have a biblical imagination that leaves room for the hope of the redemption of all while recognizing humanities free will to continue to reject God.

That is universalism. Hopeful universalism. There is a hell–a purgatorial hell. Hell is remedial punishment. And the possibility of postmortem restoration remains a live option. 

Does Love Wins promote Universalism?
No. Rob isn’t suggesting Universalism [all will be saved, regardless of their faith]. He is proposing that God’s love is so big that the invitation to God’s grace may extend into the next life so that all could be saved. Love Wins clearly points to the centrality of Jesus and the work of his life, death, and resurrection and the hope that Christ’s work will bring restoration to all. Jesus is the only way to God.  God’s love does not force anyone and there may be those who continue to reject the invitation extended to them. Love Wins speaks often speaks of human freedom [72-73, 103-104, 113, 115, 117]. Rob shares, “Love demands freedom. It always has, and it always will. We are free to resist, reject, and rebel against God’s ways for us. We can have all the hell we want.” [113]
That's consistent with so-called evangelical universalism and hopeful universalism. According to evangelicalism, people are saved through the atonement of Christ. Moreover, they are saved through faith in Christ. However, that may be postmortem faith in Christ.

Likewise, hopeful universalism doesn't insist that everyone will be saved in the end. Rather, God must always leave the door open.

What matters in hopeful universalism is not that God actually saves everyone, but that the damned are never abandoned by God. God never gives up on them.

There's always the possibility of final restoration. And, conversely, there's always the possibility that some will remain irreconcilables.

Triablogue Topical Index

We've sometimes put together posts that link to some representative material we've written over the years on a particular topic. What's below is a list of such posts. The list could be updated or expanded in the future. You may want to check back on it from time to time.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

"The Injustice of Infinite Punishment for Finite Sin"


Aliens abducted Ted when he was 13. Only Ted never knew he’d been abducted because the aliens immediately placed him in a replica of the world he left behind. They abducted him in his sleep. When he awoke, everything seemed to be exactly the same. The aliens then continued his life-story within the simulated world.

The aliens wanted to study human behavior. So they created an artificial environment in which everything Ted did was in response to a series of meticulously prearranged nonevents. 

In his simulated reality, Ted became an atheist because his parents didn’t take him to church. He married Jennifer instead of Genevieve because Genevieve didn’t ask him to be her prom date. He attended Texas Tech instead of Caltech because Texas Tech offered him a scholarship while Caltech did not. He bought a Welsh Corgi because he and Jennifer couldn’t have a child. He had pancakes instead of scrambled eggs for breakfast because the supermarket was out of brown eggs the day he went shopping. He bought the blue model rather than the red model because the dealer was out of stock the day he took a stroll around the car lot. He went to work by an alternate route yesterday because there was a pile up on the main drag. He had one roofer reroof the house rather than another roofer because the lower bid by the other roofer was lost in the mail.  

The Relatives Of Jesus In The Bible And Church History

Jesus' relatives are significant as witnesses to the historical Jesus. They're also significant in Roman Catholic theology and other contexts. What I want to do in this post is gather some links to posts we've written about the relatives of Jesus.

Here's a post that provides an overview of what we know about his relatives and how they influenced our view of Jesus' childhood. The post includes a discussion of some evidence that Luke had Jesus' brother James as a source.

The gospels agree in presenting an unusual view of Jesus' closest relatives that's unlikely to have been fabricated by the early Christians.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Handicapping Bashir's performance

Surfing the web, I notice a number of Bell’s defenders who are critical of Bashir’s opening salvo because they think it’s a false dilemma:

Which of these is true? Either God is all powerful but doesn’t care about the people of Japan and they’re suffering or he does care about the people of Japan and but he’s not all powerful?

I agree with them that it’s a false dilemma. That, however, doesn’t mean Bashir was wrong to ask the question that way. After all, that’s a stock objection to Christian theism. It’s a variant on the hoary Euthyphro dilemma.

Ironically, many of Bell’s defenders have hitherto defended him for “just asking” the kinds of questions that many doubters do. Well, this is one of those questions.

It’s up to Bell to explain why the question poses a false dilemma.

Widespread Patristic Rejection Of Universalism

Universalism has been discussed a lot lately. For those interested in the early patristic evidence, see here. On Origen, see the comments section of the thread here.

They enter into peace

I. Introduction

I’m going to begin by quoting some excerpts from a transcript of Bashir’s interview with Bell:

Bashir: Before we talk about the book, just help us with this tragedy in Japan. which of these is true? either god is all powerful but doesn’t care about the people of Japan and they’re suffering or he does care about the people of Japan and but he’s not all powerful? Which is it?
Bell: I begin with the belief that god, when we shed a tear, god sheds a tear. I begin with a divine being who is profoundly empathetic, compassionate and stands in solidarity with us.
Bashir: Which is true, he’s all but powerful and cares?
Bell: I think it’s a paradox at the heart of the divine, some paradoxes are best left as they are.
I’m a pastor so ideal with real people and a real world asking and wrestling with these issues of faith. what I have discovered and over again people who have questions and hunches and have sort of I’m struggling with this and when you can simply give them the gift of, by the way, within the christian tradition, there are scholars and theologians and other people who have had the same questions. they have had the same theories.

II. Evaluation

What are we to make of this response?

i) In fairness to Bell, it could be said that a 7-min. interview is hardly the best forum to answer thorny questions concerning the problem of evil.

ii) On the other hand, Bell knows that TV interviews are a simplistic medium. If you can’t give suitable answers, don’t submit yourself to the limitations of the medium.

iii) In addition, it’s fairly routine, when a religious figure is interviewed during some humanitarian crisis, for him to be questioned about the problem of evil. Therefore, there’s no reason for Bell not to have a prepared answer. Indeed, pastors are often expected to comment on public tragedies, and they frequently use the opportunity to do so.

iv) What about the notion that “God sheds a tear when we shed a tear?” Is that just a picturesque way of saying God cares? If so, that’s fine as far as it goes.

If, on the other hand, it suggests that God is just as helpless as we are, that he’s lost control of the world, that all he can do is wring his hands and cry with us, then that’s bad systematic theology, bad pastoral theology, and bad theodicy. Frankly, that kind of “God” is pathetic. Worse than useless.

Imagine if God responded to the Israelites in Egypt that way. “Well, I really can’t do anything to save you from oppression, but I’ll cry with you.”

Divine compassion is not a substitute for divine action.

Jesus wept for Martha and Mary (Jn 11:35), but that’s not all he did. That was a prelude to raising Lazarus from the grave.

v) In addition, God gives us a variety of relationships. We don’t get everything we need from one type of relationship. Commiseration is what friends and family are for.

When you go to the doctor, you don’t want the doctor to weep with you–you want him to cure you. Maybe some patients find a weepy physician comforting, but that’s really not the point. We go to doctors for healing, not a shoulder to cry on.

We shouldn’t look to God as our Heavenly Sob Sister.

vi) Finally, Bell says he’s approaching these questions from a pastoral standpoint, but his “answers” or non-answers fail miserably in that very respect. Imagine if he were a Japanese pastor. When his grief-stricken parishioners ask him to make sense of the tragedy, does he tell it’s a paradox? What kind of answer is that? How does that help them cope?

III. Alternative

While Bell’s “answers” and non-answers have been greeted with richly-merited derision, we ourselves need to do more than heap criticism on his performance. We need to present a constructive alternative. If Bashir were asking us the same question, how should we respond?

i) One problem with Bashir’s question is an assumption built into his question: the assumption that God must have a uniform attitude towards the Japanese. But from a Calvinistic perspective, there’s no reason to assume that. In Scripture, God doesn’t have a uniform attitude towards everyone alike. God draws distinctions.

ii) At one level, God cares what happens to all the Japanese, for God made them, and he made them for a reason. He planned their lives down to the very last detail. He cares what happens because what happens is the result of what he planned to happen all along.

iii) He cares about Japanese Christians. He cares for them. Cares what happens to them. Indeed, he’s made provision for their eternal welfare.

iv) He also cares about Japanese unbelievers whom he will bring to the faith in due time. And, indeed, tragedies large and small are one way that God draws people to his Son.

Likewise, a Japanese Buddhist today may be the grandfather of a Japanese Christian tomorrow. God cares about the unbeliever with a view to the future. For in the providence of God, a reprobate may be a link in the chain, leading to one of God’s elect.

One branch branches off from another. God doesn’t care about every branch equally or directly. But he cares about the tree generally because the tree supports the heavenbound branches. The past supports the present. The present supports the future. The elect grow out of the reprobate, and vice versa.

Even branches which will be pruned and cast upon the everlasting bonfire make a necessary, temporary contribution to the outcome.  So each branch is valued, but some are valued in relation to others, while others are valued in themselves. 

v) Appearances are deceptive. God may be most caring when he seems to be least caring. God is near, even when, or especially when, he seems to be far away:

1The righteous man perishes,
   and no one lays it to heart;
devout men are taken away,
   while no one understands.
For the righteous man is taken away from calamity;
 2 he enters into peace;
they rest in their beds
   who walk in their uprightness.

(Isa 57:1-2)

As one commentator explains:

The oblique passive, “are being taken away,” suggests divine action, but God’s role’s is not apparent to those around who do not “lay it to heart” (cf. 42:25; 47:7; 57:11), being unwilling or unable to perceive its significance. Like their rulers, none of the people “understand” because they are affected by the same lack of spiritual perception (cf. 56:11)…
…the calamity is enemy invasion–which has already been threatened (cf. 56:9)–and Yahweh is mercifully removing the righteous before that disaster arrives (cf. 2 Kgs 22:20).
The righteous will “enter into peace,” a phrase which recalls the promise given to Abraham: “You will go in [or “enter”] to your fathers in peace” (Gen 15:15). This describes a life lived out in full enjoyment of the divine provision of the peace of salvation (cf. 53:5; 54:10), and sets the basis for its continuation in the life to come (cf. 2 Kgs 22:20; Jer 34:5). This is in marked contrast to the lack of peace experienced by the wicked (cf. 57:21).

J. MacKay, Isaiah: chapters 40-66 (EP 2009), 428-29.

Bethsaida and Chorazin

This morning, I listened to the most recent Dividing Line from James White. While the Rob Bell interview he covered at the end was quite interesting (and demonstrates a lot of Arminians out there owe Justin Taylor a huge apology), the purpose of this post is actually to point out something from the middle question Dr. White was asked about Chorazin and Bethsaida.

An Arminian question posed to John Samson (which he passed on to James White) is essentially this: Since Jesus says that had Tyre and Sidon seen the works performed in Chorazin and Bethsaida they would have repented in dust-cloth and ashes long ago, doesn’t this imply that Total Depravity is wrong, because those people would not have repented due to the regenerating work of the Spirit, but rather upon the observation of a few miracles?

Now, I agree with White’s interpretation of the text, and think that his view is most likely the correct one on this issue (i.e., that the point of the passage is that those who had the light of Scripture had become more blinded than those who had not had it, and were therefore condemned more than those who had not had such light). I further believe that the repentance that Christ talks about in that passage is not salvific repentance, but rather a turning from some aspects of evildoing (similar in a way to how God restrains evil on earth using civil governments to enforce morality without that enforced morality being salvific).

Regardless, it is too irresistible not to try to tweak the Arminians a bit, for this passage is actually far more detrimental to the Arminian view than to the Reformed view.

Let us take the usual Arminian assumption that the passage is talking about salvific repentance for a moment. Where did Tyre and Sidon end up? Hell. What this means is that Christ knowingly and intentionally sent people to Hell after saying that if they had but seen the “mighty works” they would have repented. To which one could ask, using Arminian definitions of the terms:

What love did Christ show those souls who are in Hell when He knew full well that they would not have gone there if He had but shown up and performed miracles for them? Christ knew how to guarantee these people were not in Hell—presumably without violating free will (since we are going by Arminian assumptions here)—and yet He did not do the very thing He said would save them. Where is the universal love of Christ toward all men in that view? Where is God’s intention to save as many as He can after that? Are there not people in Hell whom God could have saved, knew how to save, and willingly did not save? If so, what precisely is the moral objection to Calvinism again?

Naturally, the Arminian could agree with me that Christ is not speaking of repentance unto salvation—but if he goes this route, then his objection to the Calvinist is rendered moot as well, for Christ is not saying one could become saved without the regeneration of the Spirit, but only that one can turn from extreme evil behavior in this present life simply by observing miracles. Therefore, it’s not a rejection of Total Depravity. But if the Arminian is to insist this is talking about repentance unto salvation, then it causes far more problems for his theology than it scores points against the Reformed view.

Again, I believe these points to be tangential to the meaning of the passage, and I think White’s interpretation is the correct one. If you have not listened to it, I highly recommend you do so. Nevertheless, Arminians, you have some tough questions to answer.

Universalism/Inerrancy Discussion

Awhile back, I had an exchange with someone who was defending a version of "Pauline universalism." Since some of the arguments he was advancing are similar to some of the material in Rob Bell's book, some readers might find it helpful. It also touches on issues related to inerrancy. Below is part of my side of the discussion:

Evan May
Hey Scott,

This might not be an active conversation any longer, but I found some of your comments interesting and wanted to respond to a few of the claims that you made.

“Philippians 2:11 ends with ‘to the glory of the Father’ which if you remember the description of God’s glory on the mountain suggests that everyone’s confession will be greeted with mercy and loving kindness.”
I don’t see how that follows. Why does the glorification of the Father necessitate every individual receiving mercy? Furthermore, it seems that you are only citing half of the Exodus 34 text. The Lord speaks over Moses, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin,” but then says, “but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation” (v. 6-7). God’s glory does not consist in mercy only, but also in judgment for sin (see Jim Hamilton’s book, God’s Glory in Salvation and Judgment, ).

Moreover, the discretionary character of mercy is a theme both in Exodus and in Paul (Ex. 33:19; Romans 9:15). And Paul elsewhere portrays God’s desire to display not only his mercy but also his wrath (Rom. 9:22-23).

Evan May
Hey Scott,

Thanks for replying.

You didn’t respond to my counterargument from Exodus 34 (the text that you initially alluded to with reference to Philippians 2). Please justify the claim that if the Father is glorified, this necessitates that he would bestow forgiveness on every individual, irrespective of their being “in Christ” by faith.

You say:
“Actually Paul moves beyond the anthropormorphic Hebrew idea of God's wrath (except in cases of apocalyptic return, which is still a temporary wrath).”

That is not self-evident. It is an assertion without corresponding argument or exegesis. What exactly, then, is the “day of wrath” concept, for Paul? “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed” (Rom. 2:5). There is an eschatological force .

I disagree with your summary of Rom. 9-11, but that discussion would cause us to digress. Your use of Romans 11:32 doesn’t do justice to the context, which refers to the Jew/Gentile distinction. Paul is not making the claim that God will have mercy on all without *exception*, but all without *distinction* (God will have mercy on both Jews and Gentiles).

Your citation from Ephesians 1:7 is counterproductive, for “redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” for Paul is received only by faith and repentance.


Bashir interviews Bell

Bashir: You ate your mother for breakfast. That’s true, isn’t it?

Bell: I begin with the belief that when we eat our mother, God eats our mother. I begin with a divine being who is profoundly empathetic, compassionate and stands in solidarity with cannibals.

Bashir: I get that. But did you eat your mother for breakfast?

Bell: Eating your mother for breakfast is one culinary perspective within the stream of Christian cannibalism. There’s been within the Christian tradition a number of people who eat their mother for breakfast, but others eat her for lunch, or save her for dinner. Then there’s postmortem cannibalism. One of the things in the book I’m clear on and want people to see is that this tradition has all of these different opinions on the right time to eat your mother.

Bashir: So did you eat or not?

Bell: It’s a beautiful hope. We ought to keep that front and center.

Bashir: You’re trying to have it both ways. That doesn’t make sense. Yes or no: did you or didn’t you eat your mother for breakfast?

Bell: I think that’s a paradox at the heart of Christian cannibalism.

The Eucharist In The Bible And Church History

Steve Hays wrote a post about the distinction between viewing the eucharist as a sign and viewing it as a sacrament.

Here's an article he wrote about the lack of Biblical evidence for the Roman Catholic view of the eucharist.

Gene Bridges addresses the Lutheran view of communion here. Steve has written some posts on the subject as well, like here and here.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Date from Hell

April 3, 2011
In the year of our Underlord

Dear Wormwood,

Are you working any new recruits?



April 4, 2011
In the year of our Underlord

Dear Screwtape,

I had my sights set on Aztexan, but he recently swore that he’d never date an Arminian girl.



April 6, 2011
In the year of our Underlord

Dear Wormwood,

All our best apostates say they’d never date an Arminian girl. You need to break down their resistance one baby step at a time. Begin by planning in Aztexan’s mind a pragmatic distinction between the girls he’d date and the girls he’d marry.



April 17, 2011
In the year of our Underlord

Dear Screwtape,

I took your advice. Aztexan has now convinced himself that as long as he doesn’t marry an Arminian girl, might okay to take one out on the occasional date. However, he’s still afraid that this might be the first step on the slippery slope to perdition.

What should I do?



April 19, 2011
In the year of our Underlord

Dear Wormwood,

Plant in his mind the proud notion that dating an Arminian girl is a test of faith. If he is truly elect, he can withstand any excessive emotional attachments to her person.



May 2, 2011
In the year of our Underlord

Dear Screwtape,

Aztexan took a fancy to your idea. But before he could act on it he became unexpectedly infatuated with a wee pretty Covenanter at the church picnic. Love at first sight. You know how sentimental humans can be.

Is all hope of hopelessness now lost?



May 4, 2011
In the year of our Underlord

Dear Wormwood,

You need to stiffen the competition. Up until now, “an Arminian girl” has simply been a blank abstraction to him. So when he goes to sleep, give him a picturesque premonition of a well-rounded Arminian cheerleader for the Dallas Cowboys. That way, when we arrange a “chance” meeting in real life, she will truly be the girl of his dreams.



May 5, 2011
In the year of our Underlord

Dear Screwtape,

But how will I find a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader to play the part? Isn’t she out of his league?



May 14, 2011
In the year of our Underlord

Dear Wormwood,

Sorry for the delay. I’ve been preoccupied with a nail-biting case. A Methodist minister was on the verge of switching to Presbyterianism. It was a close call, but we managed to lure him back into the sulfurous den of Arminius.

I wasn’t suggesting a real cheerleader for the Dallas Cowboys. No, that’s why we have succubae. I’ve already asked the Home office to send me a seasoned temptress who’s got a good ear for local accents and dialects. She’ll be going by the name of Tina “Cupcake” Cantrell. Remember to whisper that to him in his sleep.



An ecumenical proposal

We’ve seen much recent acrimony betwixt Calvinists, universalists, annihilationists, and Arminians. In the interests of ecumenical fraternity, I hereby propose a progressively evanjellycal, generously goldilocks rapprochement:

God conditionally elected some men to everlasting bliss, based on their foreseen faith in the Westminster Confession.

God conditionally reprobated other men to the everlasting BBQ, based on their foreseen faith in the Five Articles of the Remonstrants.

God predestined four-point Calvinists to suffer 5,000 years of dark, teeth-gnashing purgatorial hell–after which time they shall join the sainted five-pointers in the New Jerusalem.

Since this is a G-rated blog, I decline to specify the unspeakable fate awaiting all fans of Justin Bieber, but you can use your own lurid imagination.  

Preterist universalism

Some universalists preterize traditional prooftexts for everlasting punishment. Andrew Perriman uses this tactic. A commenter at his blog has done a nice job of responding to that reinterpretation.

Sheep for us, goats for you

It’s always amusing to see people whose self-image is diametrically at odds with their actual conduct. In the wake of the controversy over Rob Bell, a number of universalists have been defending Bell, as well as defending universalism.

And that’s understandable–if you’re a universalist. But what’s richly ironic is how they go about defending universalism. They defend the proposition that God loves everyone so much that God will save everyone by assuming a belligerent us v. them mentality.

They cast themselves in the role of the white hats, while they cast the Calvinists in the role of the black hats. They treat Christians who adhere to everlasting punishment as the enemy.

In effect, universalists are the sheep, while Justin Taylor, Kevin DeYoung et al. are the goats.

But shouldn’t they make a bit more effort to personally model their generous, inclusive theology? If God is all-loving and all-forgiving, why are universalists so divisive and bellicose in dealing with Christians who oppose universalism?

They act as if they believe in hell for those who believe in hell. That God ought to smite those who oppose universalism.

Shouldn’t a universalist cut back on the fire-n-brimstone rhetoric? 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Lèse majesté

So, going out on a limb…I will take it on myself, as a senior evangelical theologian, to call out those who are attacking Rob Bell based on rumor, innuendo and suspicion and not on a careful, charitable, critical reading of his book.  That includes everyone who has weighed in against his alleged “universalism” so far.   Unless they can provide “chapter and verse” where he clearly and unequivocally says hell does not exist or will not exist forever they should shut up or at least tone down their rantings to a level appropriate to their ignorance or knowledge of what Bell actually says.

Violence Shakes Rocky Mountain "Mecca"

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO -- Protests erupted today in the ultra-conservative city of Colorado Springs, CO as thousands lined the streets to protest James Frey’s new book, available on Good Friday.

Frey’s book sparked controversy when he decided to write a biographical account of a man smoking pot and sleeping with prostitutes. The problem, Christians say, is when Frey decided to portray his biography as if he were the Messiah.

“This outrage is outrageous,” said one protestor, after he fired shots into several businesses along the I-25 corridor from the back of his moped. No one was injured in the exchange.

The scene is reminiscent of the riots of March 2, 2007, when four people were seen being slightly miffed at James Cameron.

The Associated Press contributed nothing to this report.