Category Archives: Universalism

Non-Inclusion On a Personal Level

On the way to visiting my buddy Paul Joseph in Brantford this past weekend, I was thinking of this issue of inclusion again. We talked about it while we did some running around to get some errands done while I was there.

There is a website called “Love Without Agenda” run by Jimmy Spencer Jr.
“Love Without Agenda” is inclusionary in their core set of values, and one of the team members, in his bio, speaks of it in a way one speaks of Jesus or the Gospel. Here is what he says:

“JACOB WENTZEL / DEVELOPMENT WRITING & FORMATION My name Jacob Wentzel and I am a 25-year old native of the Chicago area who now resides in Bucktown. Since graduating from Loyola University Chicago with bachelor’s degrees in English and French literature in 2012,1 have been working at an office job, acquiring a masters of liberal arts at the University of Chicago, and pulsing, patiently, to become part of something significant, here and now, for the welfare of humanity. At the core of our initiative is the message of unconditional inclusion and equality within the human experience, which has also become the core belief of my personal philosophy From the start, I was raised to get along with all types of people, and was even particularly attracted to the misfits who were excluded by the mainstream. Then, about 12 years ago, when Spencer became my youth pastor, I found out what happens when the message of inclusion is applied to the place from which is should most radiate, but which more often practices exclusion: the Christian Church. As Spencer took his message of inclusion beyond the Church and as his initiative evolved over the years, I did whatever I could to help, including editing articles and essays in exchange for chorizo burritos. Meanwhile, I also ingested the message of inclusion through my pursuit of the liberal arts, which taught me the beauty and truth of a polyphonic community in which no voice is excluded or even hushed. As one who is constantly reflecting upon my immediate community and looking to solve its problems, I am eager to combat the evil of exclusion and to give a voice to all walks of life.”

I’m going to chalk some of Wentzel’s enthusiasm to age (he seems to have a world/global vision for he speaks about the “welfare of humanity” and combatting exclusion for all walks of life) but you can see how much inclusion means to Wentzel. It’s as if it isn’t even questioned. He LOVES inclusion. It’s almost as if he is having an orgasm. It’s as if this is what he lives for. THIS IS THE GOSPEL!

It’s understandable that some would think this way as they believe that Jesus was all about the marginalized. But let’s face it. Jesus had some that were closest to him while excluding others. And ALL of us don’t include EVERYONE in our close circle and we do it for several reasons. Some because of differences of opinion, some because of culture, sex, age, interests, etc. As a matter of fact, it is physically and humanly impossible to include everyone in our lives. And it isn’t “sinful” to not do so for the reasons given.

The modern Christian belief is that in the consummation of the ages we will all be loving everybody in Christ. There will be no hate. Everyone will be included. Perfect love will abound. How we come to that point is another post but for now, let’s simply accept that that will be the case. So, in the mean time, in the “all-ready-not-yet that we now live in, we are supposed to work toward that vision. In other words, we are supposed to be loving towards others NOW, based upon a future eschatology.

But let’s think of many of those reasons mentioned above as to why we don’t include others. And let’s think of this on a very personal relational level between the sexes. Say a person, wants to date someone but that other person doesn’t find them attractive for various reasons. Let’s just go with looks as the surface reason. Question: The person who rejects someone on that basis–is their negativity toward said person sin? I mean, it certainly doesn’t fall within the eschatological vision of where we love everyone. Most of us would say it isn’t sin even though it is VERY exclusionary. They simply are not attracted to the other person on a physical level and it is that lack of attraction (negativity) that is my main concern here. There could be other reasons. Economic. One person is poor while the other is not. That makes cause for lack of attraction. Negativity again. Is it not sin to exclude for those reasons? Is not that lack of attraction sin? Again, on a personal level, not many of us would say it is sin. We just accept that this is the way the world works. That this is the way of the world. And that we simply want to get on with our lives and live our lives from day to day.

If we are all ONE at some future point then I would suspect that whatever negativity that one has for excluding someone on a personal relational level ie., why they can’t be lovers, or included in their inner circle would not be the case at that point. ALL of that should be erased. Yet we accept that “negativity” now for personal reasons but not for thinking generally about Christian love and ethics for and towards all humankind as is the case in Wentzel’s spiel (to be exclusionary is the epitome of evil!).

The whole inclusionary vision, based as it is on what I think is a over-realized eschatology doesn’t work in the real world–the here and now. It doesn’t work between groups and it certainly doesn’t work on the personal level.

Maybe it is the case that the so-called “negativity” is not negative. Maybe that is the way we are wired and so we might want to tweak what we mean by inclusion and Christian love a little. That is, when we think of inclusion, maybe it should be viewed as all peoples, ethnicities, races, groups, etc, are simply included in the beatific vision. Either way, right now, it IS the case that we discriminate and don’t included on MANY levels.

Advertisements

Do All Roads Lead To God? No. Kinda. Sorta.

Greg Boyd has an interesting piece here. Here are my thoughts.

A. Totally agree with Greg. Jesus is the only way to God.
B. I agree with his argument contra the idea of “The truth is there is no truth.” Or said otherwise as he puts forth. That’s a flat out contradiction not to mention arrogant because it claims to have a birds eye view of reality. It sits up on its tiny perch above everyone else and proclaims “the truth of the matter”–the truth about reality.
C. This has sort of argument has been put out for the general reader in the work of Watkins and Kreeft and others.
D. [Side note rant] What I have ALWAYS found interesting about the exclusive position that Greg is espousing here is that it is usually connected with some moral issue such that when you talk about Jesus in this fashion, you talk about a moral issue. For an example, most folk think that when you speak about Jesus you are already labelled a “fundie” or religious which entails being of a particular moral standing on an issue, ie., following Jesus=no sex before marriage (it always has to do with sex for some reason). Now we could take the moral issue away and simply be left with the theological issue. Thus folks would still be deeply offended (which is what Greg is proposing) which ultimately goes to show that whether you tack some moral issue on to Christianity or NOT, the exclusivity of saying, “Jesus is the only way to God” is going to be offensive to others. For them, that is tantamount to being arrogant and telling everyone else they are wrong which doesn’t fly in 21st century North America or much of the world for that matter. Regardless, for the most part, most Christian evangelicals give at least lip service to the “no sex before marriage ideal” such that even if they intentionally try to rid tacking on some moral issue the “world” will still judge you and your purity. Regardless X2. The Gospel does come with demands because the Gospel STORY comes with demands–some ethical imperative (though Christians have disagreed about those imperatives at times based on their traditions).
E. I take it that this question can’t be understood aside from other theological questions ie., those who died before the coming of Christ and those who have went to their graves having never heard a peep about the Gospel. As well as the eschatological idea of the eternal destiny of the lost and whether there is actually any hope for people post-mortem (of which I believe there is–and it’s not a very novel idea either). The idea here is whether Christ death is SUFFICIENT for even these (of which I believe it is: Think of a can of soup of which there is only so much of. That can can be watered downed to take care of the needs of the others. In other words it is sufficient. I think of the story of the feeding of the five thousand with five loaves of bread and two fish. Ultimately, is this story not also, among the many interpretations, about the the Saviour who has more than enough and is more than able to satisfy all of humanity’s need (the interpretations I’ve read are usually anthropocentric in nature but I think we should keep in mind first and foremost a Christological view)? He is our provider even of Himself for all others.
F. Some have drawn the distinction between “Christian” and “saved.” As I see it, I do think other religions have a salvific purpose to them. By that, I don’t mean that one becomes “Christian” or finds Christ in or through them. But that is not to say that there is not SOMETHING of salvific value in other religions. This understanding is based on the idea that the Holy Spirit is working through other religions to bring humanity to a knowledge of Himself. Just as the Spirit is at work in Creation, bringing humankind to SOME knowledge of the divine, so is the Spirit active through other religions. We can think of this in terms of those whom Clark Pinnock (a dear friend of mine) called, “Old Testament pagan saints” found in the Old Testament.

In conclusion, while Christians believe that Christ is the only way to the Father we should never say other religions are completely worthless. In saying otherwise, not only may Christians be able to learn more about their own faith, but bridges can be built with others of differing beliefs possibly bringing them to a fuller understanding of God in Christ.


Does God Love Satan?

My buddy Tom Belt has brought up this question once again that we discussed on the old Open Theism Discussion Boards. Really, I wince every time I see pictures or quotes or hear songs of this dual between Lucifer and Jesus where Lucifer is depicted as being “defeated” in some sense that leaves us saying, “Yeah! Go Jesus! Screw you Satan!” (remember Stryper’s “To Hell With The Devil?” Or Carmen’s “The Champion?”). Well, these are the sorts of questions that my Bible school did not ask nor equip me to answer. I am so thankful for guys like Tom Belt and my friend Dwayne Polk and my acquaintance Greg Boyd. They’ve asked these questions taking us to the logical end of such questions I think. And of course, that is what good theology does. There is certainly nothing wrong with coming up with different models and “concluding” which one you think fits the criteria better and makes the most “sense” (of course there are different ways to understand this ie., something may make logical sense but may be morally askew.

So does God love Satan? Well, yes, I believe God does love Satan and the reasons why, as we discussed are:

A. The theological injunction to love our enemies.
B. God is still sustaining Satan and God loves what he/she sustains. Which is also to say that there is something left TO love. It isn’t as if Satan is totally hopeless in an ontological sense where there is not a shed of anything good in him ie., not pure evil through and through.
C. Satan, as a creature of God, comes from God in a metaphysical sense, thus, as with all creation, will return back to God and that metaphysical aspect, I think, in large part, is what is meant by there being good in Satan.


Trying To Make Sense Of It All: On UR

I was reading Kurt Willems’ blog here at Tony Campolo’s “Red Letter Christians.”  Essentially, Willems’ an open theist (such as myself) has two major critiques of Rob Bell’s book, “Love Wins.”   The first one goes like this:

“I have a problem with humans being able to live forever.  Eternal life is not inherent to being human but is something that is a gift from God.  Though humans have a CAPACITY for eternal life, it is not something they innately possess.” 

The second criticism has to do with the “Final Judgment.”  The first part of this criticism is that Willems’ thinks judgment has to do with refinement.  He then says that Rob Bell believes that everyone will be in hell for eternity until they repent (I don’t quite get that last part. How can one be in eternity until they repent? It wouldn’t be eternity then), however, if death is “…the ultimate end of existence” (according to the ancient Jewish worldview) then eternal life or immortality is a gift.  This gift is only given to Christ followers.

The second part of this second criticism is that even after the Second Coming and the Final Judgment, if someone persists in un-repentance then they will in effect be annihilated.

Now I find this last half of Willems’ post to be rather convoluted as there are some important theological points that he is missing.  Let’s go with the first criticism and then into the second.

In response to the first part, what if the GROUNDING of a person or the “logos of one’s being” is God Godself?  In other words, what if creaturely particularity CANNOT BE SEPARATED from the logos reality that undergirds and sustains such creatures?  This is not to say that the actual “ontological substance” that constitutes the creature would simply be a possibility or an intention on God’s part, such that if God did not create the actual, all we would have left are possibilities and not persons.  To say that God is the GROUND or the grounding of said person’s being is to say that God’s creatures are DEPENDENT on God for their EXISTENCE.  God is the ground at all levels and at all times.  Thus, I would say that it is an ontological error to say that we are “gifted” with eternal life as if we can be separated or cut off from God at ANY TIME.  Think of this as an example.  Just as we NEED a life conducive atmosphere to sustain our being, we need to breathe the Spirit of Life or God.  This is why, for some time now, I’ve understood the creature’s relationship to the Creator as similar to a fish in water.  If we were like fish out of water we would certainly die.  What I’m suggesting here is that we don’t need to posit “conditional immortality.”   To do so throws a wrench into the mix.  Just messes things up.  “In Him we live and move and have our being” Acts 17:28 is the idea.

As an aside note.  Think of the implications of this for annihilationism.

To respond to the second part about the Second Coming and Final Judgment I take it that by what I’m saying above it would be IMPOSSIBLE for one to end up being annihilated.  But it is also to say that Revelation and apocalyptic is kinda rough terrain to travel.  That kind of literature is open to a wide range of interpretation.  John doesn’t interpret his visions and neither do any of the N.T. authors.  It may be that it is meant artistically to reveal the glory and the majesty  of Jesus as well as something that is meant to speak to Christians living in hard times.  Grenz even speaks about the different millennial “moods” that  bias one toward a particular millennial bent in his 1992 book, “The Millennial Maze.”

Hopefully we can get a little more clarity on this from Willems’.