Monday, September 6, 2010

Alternative Views of Christ's Mission

On a couple of previous posts, two commenters offered their views on what the death of Christ means in Christian theology. Their ideas are an alternative to penal substitutionary theory. They said I could repost their comments in the context of this post, so I appreciate them contributing their points of view! I have really enjoyed reading them and thinking about them.

John pointed out some problems with penal theory by referencing the first book in C.S. Lewis' Narnia series. The character Aslan the lion is meant to represent Christ. He is the son of the Emperor Across the Sea (who does not directly enter the stories). The Witch represents evil, or perhaps even the devil.

"The penal substitution is so well described in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. It makes sense because the Witch WANTS Aslan's blood. She WANTS him dead. She is evil. Aslan lets her kill him so that Edmond may live. She is happy as she wants Aslan's blood. That all makes sense to me. However, in the sacrifice of Jesus my upbringing taught me that God was wanting Jesus to die on the cross. Essentially, God wanted Jesus's blood. That is really confusing. God and the Witch are playing the same role. I understand it better when the Witch is involved, not when God is involved. Plus, people always seem to state that two wrongs don't make a right. Well, does one wrong? Did killing Jesus really make things right? Or, was it a tragedy that he died for trying to get the people around him to open their minds to new ideas about who God is and what it means to have a close relationship with Him?"

John is quite right that in Lewis' version of events, Aslan is sacrificed to pay the Witch, not the Emperor Across the Sea. In penal theory, God is the one whose justice demands appeasement. Here is John's idea of the mission of Christ:

"My best interpretation of it is simply to say that, with the assumption that Jesus is God and that Jesus rose from the dead after being murdered, then He showed the ultimate level of forgiveness and mercy to all those around Him by still being forgiving and merciful even after being murdered viciously. So, i can understand the Christian thought process of following Christs example by loving, forgiving, and showing mercy to the same level He did on the day He rose from the dead and continued His path of love rather than revenge (so the opposite of retributive justice, right?). Anyway, that explanation only works with the assumption that Christ and God are one."

nuclear.kelly's vision of the atonement of Christ runs like this:

"Mainly, I see Jesus as "activist," if you will. Sage, prophet, commentator, charismatic leader. Social and political turmoil was high during the Roman occupation of the Palestinian coast. Without going in to much detail, I think that Jesus' life, as touched by and in tune with God, stands as a demonstration of what every person's life can be, and his death (reasonably inevitable though it was) became the proof that we must be willing to sacrifice everything for what is right (don't confuse this with sacrificing everything for what we think God wants!). Most of us would be willing to sacrifice most of what we have for a few people; Jesus was willing to sacrifice everything he had for all people (even those who hated him), because it was the only "righteous" conclusion to his life to that point (to run away from death would have made him simply another fleeting character in a history book, full of a sense of fairness but unwilling to fulfill what was necessary to plumb the depths of unfairness). In that sense, the atonement doesn't have anything to do with judgement or sin or debt, but is instead a beacon of what is attainable at the limits of human nature. Atonement is being willing to lose everything for nothing; the natural outcome of utter sacrifice."

Both John and nuclear.kelly's view are really meaningful to me and could lead to a lot of great discussion!

The version I will offer here is still one of substitutionary atonement. It maintains that Christ still takes the place of sinners in a sense. But it removes the "penal" part, which is the idea that Christ's sacrifice was to appease God.

Christ submitted himself to death at the hands of sinners. He showed us the wages of our sin by taking them on himself, for sinfulness responds to love in violent ways. Contemplating the death of Christ at the hands of men, who represent the imperfections we all have, convicts our hearts. This leads us to turn from the destructive ways of sin. Therefore Christ has substituted himself for us, showing and bearing the consequences of our sin and convicting our hearts in order to lead us to the more beneficial path of right action. And of course, this right action, leads us to "at-one-ment" with God.

Christ dies for our sins, because of our sinfulness. But not because God needed to be appeased, but rather because there is a natural, metaphysical suffering that comes about when we do not know love.

This interpretation is one along the lines of Ghandi's hunger strikes. By taking this physical burden on himself to protest potential combat between Muslims and Hindus, he convicted the hearts of both sides and, at least for a while, led them to avoid conflict. His was a substitutionary atonement.

If you are one that thinks about Christian theology, what is your view?


  1. I love your thought process of Christ showing us by example what the wages of sin are: brutal, unfair torture and death. His death shows us just how horrific sin can be, and teaches us a lesson before we have to learn it "the hard way" ourselves.

    I also enjoy the thought process of "Christ conquered death" which was mentioned in a comment in an earlier post. It is very meaningful to feel that Love conquers death/sin. I believe most people believe this, whether they realize it or not. We have way too many books and movies that have a good guy win for me to believe that it is not in our nature to believe that Good triumphs Evil both in fiction and in reality.

    However, I still tend to believe that the main message of the Gospel story, including the death and resurrection, is that no matter how much we hurt God (hurting God means hurting ourselves and those around us) He still loves us and wants us to grow and be at peace. In other words, the main message is forgiveness and mercy.

  2. Steven, I love this: Christ dies for our sins, because of our sinfulness. But not because God needed to be appeased, but rather because there is a natural, metaphysical suffering that comes about when we do not know love. Very well said. This post has reminded me of a quote by Robert Woodifield:

    "Some interpretations of the doctrine of the Atonement which have been held by professing Christians are definitely anti-Christian. There is, as the outstanding example, the doctrine that God the Father was so angry with the human race because of its sins that he condemned the whole race to everlasting torture in hell; that his more merciful Son shed his blood on the Cross in order to appease the Father's wrath; and that on account of this blood-shedding those people who should afterwards be `converted' (and only those) would be let off this awful punishment and admitted to heaven when they die.... This interpretation is one variation of the general view that Jesus, by his death on the Cross, effected a favourable change in the mind of God towards men. This view, even when held in a less repulsive form than the one I have just described, is definitely unorthodox. For the orthodox teaching is that nothing could change, or is needed favourably to change, the mind of God towards men. The one thing upon which we can rely is... God's `eternal changelessness.' It is the mind of men towards God and his purpose for human life that needs changing."

  3. Great stuff, John and Kelly.

    I really like the Woodifield quote. I have never thought about it that way before!

  4. Steven, saw this:
    "ps: Actually, if you refer back to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Aslan died as a result of offering his life in place of Edmund's, satisfying the "Deep Magic" of Narnia. He wasn't sacrificed to pay the witch, but to satisfy the law. The witch was simply the hench(wo)man, albeit an eager one."
    Which is interesting to me. I always thought there were actually two separate things going on here - the first was that Aslan gave his life in place of Edmund's to satisfy the Witch, the second that the Deep Magic was "imbalanced" by this "propitiary" sacrifice, and thus brought Aslan back to life. As Aslan himself says in the book:
    "It means... that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward."
    Wasn't sure why the extra post disappeared, but it intruiged me and I wanted to respond.

  5. This is the comment from Rebecca which she had trouble posting last night. Apparently the site was acting up


    You seem to have spent a great deal of time thinking about Christ’s reason for being and why that is important to others (and yourself), which is an amazing endeavor. So many people don’t even seem to give a passing care. However, what I understand from your writings is that you are making what you want of Christ’s atonement. He never said He was coming to show you what the cost of your sin was and how YOU could pay the debt, but to pay the cost Himself, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16; and, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep…. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative.” John 10:11; 17-18a The picture isn’t so much a raging god demanding blood for a wicked world; but that He desires to be with those He created and to do so, Jesus offered Himself to cover those who accept His atonment on the cross. To be pure and right, we had to never thumb our nose at God and never chose to do things our own way—which is in effect, sin—we can’t sin and then do good to bring ourselves back up to His level—we had to maintain that level all along. The ‘good’ we do in life is what we should always be doing because that is what God created us to do in the beginning—that was His standard for us and for the world He created. The righteous, pure, holy God cannot be with sin—so Christ covers those who accept Him so that all God sees is Christ and accepts us into fellowship with Him—our sins atoned for and forgiven in Jesus—no one else. Choosing to think of Jesus and His sacrifice in another way is choosing to believe in someone other than Him. To quote C.S. Lewis (arguably one of the best thinkers of the 20th Century—an atheist who discovered he couldn’t reason away God) from Mere Christianity, “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” By the way, if you haven’t read Lewis’ Mere Christianity, I have an idea you would greatly enjoy his short work—he touches a lot of the topics you have written about and discusses them much more adroitly than I ever could (with a delightful flavor of British humor:).

    ps… Actually, if you refer back to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Aslan died as a result of offering his life in place of Edmund’s—satisfying the “Deep Magic” of Narnia. He wasn’t sacrificed to pay the witch, but to satisfy the law. The witch was simply the hench(wo)man, albeit an eager one.

  6. Here is my response - This is me this time! ;)


    Thanks for your points. First, as to the Narnia book, you are quite right that Aslan's death was to satisfy the law or the Emperor's "deep magic." I have written elsewhere (the justice posts recently) about how I think the conservative Christian idea of God's justice is incorrect and immoral. But even if we assume that it is correct, Lewis' example still departs from Penal Substitutionary Theory.

    The Deep Magic requires that a traitor be handed over to the Witch. This is different because the traitor is not being subjected to The Emperor’s wrath, but rather to the Witch’s. Penal Theory says the punishment is owed to God, not to the Devil. In the Narnia books, the witch is not just the henchman, but is rather the very one who is owed the kill. This is closer to the early Christian idea of Christ as a ransom paid to the devil, than to the more recent Penal Substitutionary Atonement idea.

    But there is nothing just about Aslan being killed. How could the death of an innocent in the place of the guilty satisfy justice in any of its forms? It is rather the idea that his sacrifice rescued Edmund that makes it beautiful. But rescued him from what? From the wrath of God (The Emperor)? No, rather from the sin and treachery of the world.

    You say that we are remaking the atonement the way we want it. I think you are right. By using our moral intuitions and our reason, we are seeking out answers that satisfy our sense of right and wrong - which may differ from some of the ideas in the past - even some in Scripture. I hope that we do this with an humble attitude, seeking truth in prayer, meditation and reflection upon God.

    You referenced that C.S. Lewis could not reason away God. Fair enough. But those are the words of a person who respects reason and moral intuition. If one believes the Bible, surely it is the result of moral intuition and reason. We are only appealing to those same sources in our search for what is right.

    “The picture isn’t so much a raging god demanding blood for a wicked world; but that He desires to be with those He created and to do so, Jesus offered Himself to cover those who accept His atonement on the cross.”

    But if God has set up the rules, then he does require blood to be appeased. Why would the blood of an innocent “cover” the sins of the guilty? Does God’s justice require a revenge killing for all the sins of the world? Can we separate God from the rules that he created - his “justice”?

    “The righteous, pure, holy God cannot be with sin—so Christ covers those who accept Him so that all God sees is Christ and accepts us into fellowship with Him—our sins atoned for and forgiven in Jesus—no one else.”

    I think the idea that God saves us from sin is wonderful and hopefully true. Of course, this version still turns Jesus’ death into a revenge killing. And once again, I think this version of Christ’s atonement is not morally right.

    What do words like “righteous, pure and holy” mean when they are divorced from love, forgiveness and acceptance? As in the quote provided by Kelly, was Christ’s sacrifice intended to change God’s view of mankind, or mankind’s view of God?

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  8. Would you really want to separate God from his rules—His justice? Would you worship a god who did not care if someone senselessly (or purposefully) killed a family member of yours? How about if it did not matter to him if another person hit you in the face every morning? Or, it was ok for someone else to steal your belongings whenever they wanted? For that matter, would you accept such a government that allowed any of these? How about instead God and the government both said, “NO! Murder, theft, adultery—these are wrong!” And that was that—there was just a blanket statement, but no penalty, no justice if a crime was done against the laws. Would anyone bother to follow the laws, or if they did, stay long in the country where anyone else might, with freedom and no repercussion, violate the laws and harm others? There had to be laws and justice—especially for a world where men chose to ignore God at the first and put themselves in God’s place (Eve was tempted by the serpent to know what God knew—to be like Him). If we put ourselves in God’s place and ignore Him—won’t we most certainly ignore other people and do what we want regardless the feelings or rights of others most of the time?

    If you steal a car and the police hunt you down and put you in a court of law where the jury finds you guilty based on the evidence and the judge sentences you to several years in prison as required by the law set down by elected government officials—do you feel anyone of these individuals or systems is personally satisfied for your crime by their action in bringing you to justice? In a sense they are as they are part of the community that has laws against stealing, but they were not the individual that owned the car you stole. And if they choose to get their ‘kicks’ out of seeing you squirm, that’s their issue. Edmund did not commit a crime against the witch, but against his brother, sisters, and indirectly, Mr. Tumnus. She got her kicks out of being the henchman, but that was her issue. The penalty for the crime was that the witch got to kill the traitor, her part was simply carrying out the justice. The punishment is ‘owed’ to traitor, if it is ‘owed’ to anyone. The traitor knows the penalty and chooses it, when committing the crime. The judge, jury, society, lawmakers, even the individual was ‘owed’ right action. The traitor did not give it, instead, the traitor chose to ‘buy’ a penalty with his crime. The penalty is death and separation from God—eternal aloneness.

    Revenge killing is not a correct understanding of the substitution of Christ. Instead look at it in the sense that you owe $1000 (I assume you accept that any analogy is just a tool to explain, not a perfect replacement for the truth concept)—each day you only add to your debt. There is no way you can pay off your debt, because your obligation was to remain debt-free to begin with. One day some guy shows up and offers to pay off your past, present, and future debt with his money. All you have to do is believe he will do this and allow him to change your way of life, thinking, everything. It’s awesome that you have this opportunity, yet still a sacrifice to accept his changes and just believe he will write off your debt—knowing you chose to allow him to change your heart—it is no longer solely your own.


  9. God made the world, but gave each man a soul of free will and said we could decide what we would do with our souls. However, he did set up physical laws and moral laws for our world. Mankind was not to choose self over God. When we do, we ring up a debt that must be paid or forever be separate from God. The only thing he “gave” us was our self. Everything else is his. When we enter the world through birth and when we leave through death, all we take with us is our soul. The only thing acceptable to pay off our debt is our soul. We can accept Jesus’ perfect soul as the pay off of our debt or use our own. But our naked soul has a debt larger than the US National Debt and that cannot find a place with God. (And this is where the analogy breaks down—it’s not as if God was stingy in heaven, hoarding all the gold and denying payment of the debts of millions of sinners—He sent Christ to clean us if we choose. The only thing that was an acceptable substitution for our souls was His because His was perfect [sinless] and everything else was not worth the value of a soul in heavenly currency. If the law was not satisfied with correct ‘payment,’ then the law would be worthless and void.)

    Why would those who chose not to accept Christ’s payment be accepted by God? If we spent the whole of our lives separate from God and selfishly choosing our own way, not accepting Who He sent to save us, how can one expect to suddenly find compatibility with God after death? Not only that, it was not the choice made by individual who reject Christ! Once Jesus is accepted into a person’s life, He begins to change that person (whether the changes are visible to others immediately or not, changes happen) into one that is compatible in an eternal communion with God. A fully loving God chooses to meet our need for salvation through Jesus, forgiving us through Him—retains His full purity, righteousness, and justice by receiving those who accepted Christ’s sacrifice and covering/cleansing into relationship with Him—the terms are not divorced, they are perfected in Him.

  10. Replying to nuclear.kelly:

    You did note an interesting part of the discussion—Aslan’s and in fact, Christ’s perfect and free sacrifice did not just satisfy the law, but because of the fullness of the sacrifice—it erased the penalty of the law because it was fulfilled for all time and eternity in one act—for those who accept the payment! That is why the Stone Table cracked—because it would no longer be needed for the purpose of killing a traitor as Aslan offered his life in exchange—and it was a perfect, all encompassing exchange. In the Bible, the phrase, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” I Cor. 15:55, comes to mind.

  11. Hi Rebecca,

    No, I would not want God separate from his justice, provided that it is real justice. Real justice provides correction, deterrence and safety. False justice is revenge with no further purpose.

    And even if we do accept a solely retributive idea of justice, how does punishing an innocent person satisfy the requirements of this justice? Human sin is not described in Scripture as a traffic fine, but rather as a capital offense - one worthy of death. An innocent person taking death for a guilty person would not be seen as just by anyone these days. It’s based on an ancient morality code that today we see as immoral. Would we grant a killer freedom if an innocent person went to the chair for him? Would we consider his debt paid? Surely not.

    “If we put ourselves in God’s place and ignore Him—won’t we most certainly ignore other people and do what we want regardless the feelings or rights of others most of the time?”

    But what if we want to acknowledge the feelings and rights of others because it has actual, real benefit? You are implying that the only reason to respect the rights and feelings of others is out of fear of punishment. There is no question that we are all short-sighted and we miss the mark quite often. But just punishment would be corrective, not just a meaningless penalty of suffering to enforce a code that is arbitrary and has no real, substantive good to it.

    “The punishment is ‘owed’ to traitor, if it is ‘owed’ to anyone.”

    This is not the perspective in the book. The witch states that she is owed a kill. And if, as you say, the punishment is owed to Edmund, then Aslan would not have been able to take his place. The punishment would still be owed to Edmund. It only works if the witch is owed a punishment and another person would do.

    “The penalty is death and separation from God—eternal aloneness. “

    How is eternal aloneness instructive? How is that an action of love? Surely this is not the action of true justice, or, more importantly, of true love.

    Rebecca, I think you have a great view of God as loving, however I feel that your view of justice is that it trumps love. I think, and hope, that justice is instructive in nature and serves love, by ultimately bringing us all more together.

    And I find the idea of a God who would give up on his children for all eternity to be incompatible with a loving God. But what if the door always remains open? And given as long a time as it takes, all will eventually be reconciled. This is the only way that God can truly conquer death and evil - to ultimately use it for good. Only then can God be “all in all.”

    Thanks for your interaction. I really appreciate it!

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  13. Steven, your last remark reminds me of another Woodifield quote (believe it or not!).
    "For if even one man were able to resist, to the point of exterminating himself, the 'drawing power' of God, would not that be the defeat of God?"

  14. (ps - sorry about deleting that last comment... it had a big, fat typo!)

  15. PS - I'm reminded of one other quote as well:
    "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you."

  16. As far as God ‘unjustly’ substituting an innocent man—Jesus—for the sinful humans: the offense was against Christ and, more importantly, He was and is God. He was able to substitute Himself for the payment of the crimes of the world. You cannot say He was duped into this, that He did not know what would happen. He wasn’t an unrelated person drug into the scene of God’s justice. Jesus offered to resolve the offense against Himself by dying on the cross. And really, it all comes down to the fact that we are not talking about a court of law in our world, in our country. We are talking about God’s court—His perfect justice, being human, I cannot perfectly understand His decisions (if I could, would He still be God?). I rejoice He is willing to accept Christ’s sacrifice for me, knowing I am utterly depraved—doing what I don’t want to do every day—and absolutely unable to save myself!

    Would you feel God is correct in forcing someone into heaven? At the end of the ages, there are only two options—heaven or hell. He gave us free will to choose one or the other—only, you can’t climb the gates and get in—you can only enter through Jesus. I don’t believe someone who chooses not to accept Christ in this life would (in the absence of God and His goodness/blessings), be suddenly apt to accept Him in hell either. The whole of sin consists primarily in exchanging self for God, so in that light, you can think of hell as only that which consists of self; conversely an absence of God—torturous because we were created, intended to be with God.

    Should a righteous judge absolve a perpetrator of a crime because he knows the individual will not change his actions or even feel sorry for them? We would call that condoning the crime. How can we desire the same from God? His instruction, His love is portrayed over and over as He offers to all of us His life and forgiveness through Jesus throughout our lives.

    Thank you, Steven--I have enjoyed the debate as well. It is good to get the mind stimulated!

  17. Rebecca,

    You are right that my point is that the penal substitution does not correspond to any version of justice that we have in this world. Therefore, isn't it fair to call it unjust?

    It doesn't make sense to say that it doesn't correspond to what we call just, so that means it is "perfect" justice. Rather it means that it is not just. Of course, if God is all powerful, He can do whatever he likes, but that means he is powerful, not that He is just - as we mean that word.

    I am not suggesting that God would not be mysterious. Of course He would be. But we must be careful, because the mystery defense would be used to defend ANY action that a human attributes to God.

    I am not saying that God would force anyone into heaven. I am saying that He would never close the door permanently. And I do not believe in utter depravity. We are certainly sinful, but we have a lot of good in us too. Will that good still be active, even in separation from God? Is total separation even a coherent idea if we believe that all good things come from God, and all people have good in them?

    Perhaps hell is instructive. Perhaps it is purifying - as fire and brimstone are - and the separate self eventually loses the battle and all are united with God. As you said, we were created to be with God, so we can only find our true self in Him. And it is still our choice as to how difficult that process is, so none of this seems a cruel "forcing" of a person by God. No, rather, the cruel thing would be to shut the door forever. To give up. And if this does violate freedom in some way - well, as my friend Eric Reitan says - the freedom to damn myself into misery forever is not one that I want at all. Who would? No thank you.

    I am only arguing that in the end, God will win. Every time.

    I also have a problem with the idea that a person could make a free choice to exist in a tortuous state for eternity - if that person has all the evidence and a rational mind, that is. Why would a person choose something that is fundamentally against their own self-interest? It doesn't make any sense. If they would make that choice, then they are deranged and in need of salvation! Only God could overcome that.

    Also, most people don't accept Christ because they don't believe the story actually happened, or because they are of a different religion. It is a preposterous idea for Christians to say that all non-Christians are rejecting the Christian religion because they are choosing themselves over God. Hindus, Buddhists and thoughtful atheists around the world do not deserve that disrespect.

    I think your views of God's loving nature are inspiring. But I think, and hope, that God is much better and more powerful than your description.

    Thanks again!

  18. Steve,

    Why would we assume God’s justice is unjust because it doesn’t seem to look like human justice? Because humans are typically so just? I would much rather rest my fate in the hands of a God who allowed His Son to die for me because He loved me, even though I do not always understand His decisions, than the ever-fickle justice of mankind. You say one form of ‘justice’ is counterfeit—could you not allow that the counterfeit is man’s justice not God’s?

    And, how often do we have all the information, rationality, capacity, and STILL choose to do the illogical, wrong thing? I do so daily. Don’t we all choose our own miseries? I do not believe that those in hell would chose to accept God’s forgiveness even if they knew they could escape the tortures of hell. If it is not what they want, wouldn’t heaven be its own torture to them? I would argue God knows if any one individual would (even by the slightest possibility) turn to Him—He said in the Bible He doesn’t want a single person to perish—that He would welcome that person with open arms even if it took 1,000 years. But since we don’t (generally) have 1,000 years to our credit, I would have to say we will all make up our minds fully in the time we have on earth and no amount of ‘extra’ time would change our decision. If the “Hound of Heaven” cannot convince us to change our minds, who will?! Again, if God were to force us to accept His salvation, we would be robots, not the deciders of our fate. He limited Himself by allowing us to choose our own fate—who but God could do that? Again: loving, desiring to be with us, giving up His own to save us, holding out waiting for us to accept Him and choosing not to force us to love Him back—restraining His omnipotence. How awesome is that? Would you want to marry someone you had to coerce and force into loving you? I wouldn’t. Apparently, God did not want a stiff, formal relationship either.

    My daughter (and sons) regularly plan things out for themselves or our family. Going into great detail for a longed for vacation to Legoland or some other wonderful place. Their ideas are logical (to them), full of great joys and expectations, but absent of one major ingredient: Mom and Dad’s approval. Hindus, Buddhists and thoughtful atheists may have wonderful ideas, plans, and certainties they are willing to bet their lives on, but they lack God’s approval—they are not using His plan. Every single person has sinned—that has to be absolved. God planned to have Jesus do so because He is the only perfect person. He is the only gate and the one trip worth taking. The only trip on God’s itinerary. I wish in many ways I was wrong, that God magically saved every person—the sorrow of not being with some of the people I love is poignant; but, He can’t and retain our free will and His holiness.

  19. Hi Rebecca!

    All universalism requires is one thing. That God would never shut the door forever on one of His children. Then the possibility is always there. Wouldn't that be true freedom?

    Why would God deny freedom, the possibility of salvation, to the residents of Hell? Because He knows it is impossible to convince them? Impossible to save them? And yet He created them with that foreknowledge? And if He does not have that foreknowledge, how can He shut the door forever?

    Of course, Buddhists, Hindus and atheists disagree with your assessment of their position.

    The point in your first paragraph is that God's way is better than man's way. Fair enough. But my point is how do we know which way is God's way? We must use our own reason and moral intuition to determine this. It's all we have. Your decision to believe your own brand of Christianity is the only correct way is based on your own intuition and reason. Perhaps you accept the Bible as perfectly true. Once again, this decision must be made based on your own intuition and reason.

    And surely you think that God's actions should somewhat align with our own sense of morality and reason, for you are trying to justify God's actions in condemning souls to hell. If you didn't think this, there would be no need to defend God, for any action attributed to Him would be right, simply because He did it.

    Thanks for the conversation. I am thankful that we both care about these issues so much.

  20. It's been interesting just leaving you two to it, but at this point I must interject.
    My daughter (and sons) regularly plan things out for themselves or our family. Going into great detail for a longed for vacation to Legoland or some other wonderful place. Their ideas are logical (to them), full of great joys and expectations, but absent of one major ingredient: Mom and Dad’s approval.
    This is a wonderful analogy, but I hope it allows you to see something as well. Perhaps God won't let us go to Legoland - not just yet, maybe when you're older - but no one could believe that instead of letting us go to Legoland (heaven), the only other option is for God to put us all in prison for the rest of time! There are other possibilities here - there always are.