Before I get back to my book review of Chapter 5, I wanted to interject some very valuable information from a book I am currently finishing called The Evangelical Universalist by George MacDonald. One issue that has really caused me some grief through the last 10 years has been the setting in opposition of God’s love and His justice. In reformed theology, this is the belief: God is love but He is also just. God loves the elect with a special love, but all others with a general love because He allows them to live and enjoy life here on earth for a time. However, the elect of God, the special few I spoke briefly about in the last post will receive God’s ultimate love by being ushered into His presence, His heaven after this life. There they will spend all eternity with God, worshiping Him forever. The reprobate, the unsaved, the unbelievers in Christ, because of their willful sin and love of continuing in that state, will suffer eternal conscious torment in hell forever. This is because God is just. In no form or fashion is this looked at as a loving act, since God is essentially removed form the situation. He merely gives them what they want, to live after their own desires and remain in their sin.
And so, we are told that God is loving, BUT He is also just. Whether reformed Christians deny this or not, it is in fact true and there is no getting around this opposition. God loves the elect BUT is just with the unelect.
This traditional Christian doctrine of hell (ECT – eternal conscious torment) divides God’s nature into these two parts creating an internal conflict within God. The traditional view of hell (ECT) says, “God loves mankind and desires to save them BUT at the same time God is holy and cannot tolerate mankind’s sin.So, since God is just, He must punish sinners.” The internal conflict is just as previously stated. God is loving and desires to save us BUT He also wants to punish us because He is just. Therefore God’s love and justice are in distinct opposition with each other.
Since this is so, what are we to believe about God? Our joy in God’s new heavens is because He loves and is merciful. And, the ECT of those who don’t believe in Jesus in this life (the damned, the condemned) is a direct result of God being just, and not because of His love. No theology but evangelical universalism can reconcile this situation. The Calvinist cannot. The Arminian cannot. The evangelical universalist looks at both mercy and justice as loving acts and therefore, those in heaven receive His mercy and love and are truly blessed. And those in hell are under His wrath, but not absent from His love, but merely suffering under the severity of His love. This suffering is due to their own sinfulness (not being covered by the blood of Jesus shed on the cross) and unbelief in God/Jesus. HEaven and hell are equally manifestations of His love, mercy, justice, holiness, and wisdom.
Would you / can you worship / believe in a god who is so internally conflicted or would you / can you believe in a God who is unified in His person and loves all His creation equally? Does it make the Bible and God more coherent to see His elect as receiving blessings without having to suffer in hell for an age and the unbelievers to receive punishment for their sins and then be fully restored one day, just as Paul told us in 1 Cor 15, Col 1, and elsewhere? Which God/god makes more sense out of the biblical texts and the overall storyline of God’s creation?
Unfortunately I have to stop there and head to work (again!) but I do look forward to your comments and questions. What we believe about God is far more important than money (i.e. a full-time paid ministry position), holding to church tradition or dogma, or just leaving this situation alone because you don’t know what to believe or are afraid to challenge the “majority” belief. Remember, we are taught to test all things and to hold fast to that which is true! Let me know if I can help in your quest for the ultimate truth of God!
Blessings to you!