Thursday, April 02, 2020

Do you find the Gospel shocking?

A basic problem I have with Arminianism (I'm using that as shorthand for varieties of evangelical freewill theism, including universalism) is that they only grasp half the gospel. The Gospel is supposed be shocking. That's because a good God, a just God, is supposed to punish the wicked. This is a point of tension that runs throughout the OT. On the one hand, Yahweh is supposed to punish the wicked. That's one of the things that sets him apart from heathen deities. The heathen deities are wicked, so they can't very well be just judges!

On the other hand, Israel is wicked. Some OT heroes of the faith do wicked things. So how can anyone be saved?

That's a point of tension or apparent contradiction which Paul wrestles with in Romans. For him, the contadiction is resolved through vicarious atonement and penal substitution. 

For those of us who've led charmed lives, the idea that God is supposed to punish the wicked is an abstraction. But many people throughout history and right up to our own day, live in societies where individuals or entire regimes commit hateful miscarriages of justice, and get away with it. They even flaunt their immunity. They get away with it because the legal system is twisted by nepotism and bribery. Where the administration of justice all depends on the race, religion, or social class of the perpetrator and victim. They are used to seeing atrocities committed with impunity. 

From that standpoint, the idea of a God who forgives the wicked is shocking and appalling. You can't understand or appreciate the gospel unless you allow yourself to find it morally shocking or even initially repellent. 

And for many Christians, that takes a conscious effort. If you've led a charmed life, you need to seriously imagine what it's like to suffer horrendous injustice, and watch the perp get off Scot-free. You need to mentally project yourself into that situation. 

Likewise, Christians can become so conditioned by the notion of divine love and forgiveness that they take it for granted. The shock of the Gospel rolls right off their backs. 

They jump straight to love. They jump straight to forgiveness. They skip right over the morally shocking, morally outrangeous stage of the Gospel. 

But Christians should never lose the shock value of the Gospel. That's not a phase to outgrow. Without that point of contrast, you lose have the message.

That's what's so repulsive and nauseating about the glib theology of someone like Jerry Walls. 

No comments:

Post a Comment