« Do Animals Have Souls? (Video) | Main | Narnia Films "Subvert Lewis's World" »

December 06, 2010

Comments

Neeson has absconded with an artifact from another culture and told his own story about it.

I'm shocked. Shocked!

And just as the Solstice is upon us too!

RonH

Neeson, just like J.K. Rowling, raises the question of where the meaning of a text comes from--the intention of the author, the content of the text, or the interpretation of the reader. Those who insisted that Dumbledore was gay thought the intention of the author was everything, even if the author left their intentions out of the book and possibly even changed her mind after the book had been written. If intention is everything, then Aslan represents Christ, not Buddha or Muhammad, because C.S. Lewis made it very clear that that's what he intended.

Neeson apparently thinks the interpretation of the reader is everything. If he's right, then Aslan is only Muhammad, Buddha, or Christ for those who take him that way, and Dumbledore is only gay for those who take him that way.

After thinking about the case of Dumbledore, I decided that what matters is the intention of the author when they were writing. If Rowling wrote anything in Harry Potter with the intention of portraying Dumbledore's homosexuality, then he's gay. But if there is no content in the books with anything she intended to be a portrayal or reflection of his homosexuality at the time she was writing it, then he was neither gay nor straight because his sexuality is no part of the story. If she thought of him as straight when she was writing, but then decided after writing that he was gay, then he is not gay because she never intended for him to be gay when she was writing about him.

The same thing applies to who Aslan is. From what I understand, Lewis intended all along for Aslan to represent Jesus Christ, and it's very clear even in the first book. So Aslan is Jesus and nobody else.

I always imagine James Bond as a middle-aged Baylor philosophy professor living in Woodway, Texas.

In the case of quality literature (as opposed to much of the swill that's peddled as "literature")...

the single most important consideration in the author/reader relationship is the intent of the author. The reader bears a particular responsibility (if he/she is conscientious enough to acknowledge it) to get in the author's psyche...to extract and siphon as accurately as possible every drop of intent (whether minute or "big picture") the author puts forth in the particular words he chose to use. The best authors are not necessarily the ones who entertain us the most, but those who are able to select and assemble the scenarios, stories, words, and devices that most accurately communicate what they are thinking; they are the authors that, for a purpose, are able to genuinely give themselves to you. (If we are entertained in the process, even better.)

Neeson is an actor, a voice. He's a really good one... Many celebrities are. They get paid remarkable amounts to pretend to be someone else for our entertainment. Neeson's publicly-expressed view on Aslan is about (or should be about) as significant as RonH's sarcastic jab in the initial blog response...i.e. nil.

The saddest part about it is Neeson, because he is a celebrity, gets a venue and a forum to share his discombobulated Oprah-esque theology. (And some goofball will probably listen to it...)

I don't really have anything to say, except I wish Dr Beckwith's response had a "like" button.

What do you think about this passage from Romans 2. 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) This passage basically says that if people have not heard the Law, they are measured on how they act on the principles of the law. So, I would think that God has a different measure for saving those who "have not heard". I enjoyed the post about Neeson and Narnia.

I do not take an inclusivist view; however, I disagree when people say flatly that Muslims serve "another god." There is only one God, there is no other. I think that in one distance sense, Muslims believe in the God of Abraham. The thing is, they have very wrong beliefs about God, and sadly do not know Him, because they do not know God through the One Mediator, Who is God the Son, Jesus the Christ.
In other words, it does them no good at all to believe in God when they do so wrongly.

It may be a matter of semantics to say that Muslims believe wrongly in God vs. they believe in the wrong God. To say the latter is saying they believe in a god who is not. I prefer to see that they have an awareness of God, the real, true, One God, however deathfully wrong their understanding is. I think we should have at least as much respect for Muslims as Paul had for the Athenians at the Areopagus in Acts 17. Almost, "Okay, you have it wrong, but let's at least start where you are."

M S

"It may be a matter of semantics to say that Muslims believe wrongly in God vs. they believe in the wrong God. "

I would actually support you on this point if I didn't know that Allah comes from a pantheon of Arab gods, two of which were actually female. The truth is that anyone who believes in a false god does not actually believe in the one true God. This concept works the same way as saying that we both drive the same car. Your argument would go along the lines that they both have an internal combustion engine, four wheels, a steering-wheel, breaks, muffler, trunk, spare tires...etc. Then the argument would go that the only difference is that I call my car a Chevy and you call yours Ford, but they are the same car. I am sorry, but reality doesn't work this way. It is the unique characteristics of God/car being described that determines their identity, not their similarities. Identity, is not a matter of semantics.

CS Lewis is spinning in his grave. Aslan symbolizes Christ. There is no question about this. There is no other Savior besides Him

Even more likely, Lewis is laughing in heaven.

>>This passage basically says that if people have not heard the Law, they are measured on how they act on the principles of the law.

Thanks for your thoughts, Jason. Romans is focused in the first few chapters on explaining why all are under the judgment of God. First he explains why the Gentiles are (chapter one), then he explains to the Jews why they are (chapter two). The passage you're referring to is the part when he's explaining that their merely having the Law doesn't make them better than others because it's the doing of the Law that counts. However, he goes on to make it very clear that nobody has succeeded in keeping the Law: "By the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight." Not even the Jews, who have the Law, are good enough. The Law merely reveals their sin more clearly to them, "So that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God." That's in chapter three. The very next passage explains that the only hope for us is justification through the cross by faith in Jesus.

Will the Gentiles be "measured on how they act on the principles of the Law"? Yes, absolutely. But that's not good news for anyone! "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." So whether you've heard of God or not, "all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law." And since all have sinned, that's bad news. The first two and a half chapters of Romans are not meant to give hope to anyone, but to make clear our condemnation.

Never read a Bible verse.

Same stuff happened when all The Lord Of The Rings movies came out and the director and actors tried to distance themselves as much as possible from Tolkien and any Christian meaning. Of course in this situation it is even more blatant but that is just what you get in a postmodern society where we get to craft our own narratives and stories.

Even post-modernists complain about being misunderstood.

Amy,

we must be called by God to be saved, and hearing the Gospel is the only means by which God calls people to Himself

Represented more formally, this seems to mean the following:

(1) A person S is saved only if S is called by God
(2) A person S is called by God only if S heard the Gospel.
(3) Therefore, a person S is saved only if S heard the Gospel.

I doubt very seriously you believe both (1) and (2). I doubt that you think the verdict is finally in and we are now in a position to know that God has eternally abandoned our dead infants to everlasting hopeless languishing. Or perhaps you want to say that every dead infant indeed heard the Gospel and accepted it?

I’ll assume that you don’t want to endorse a view according to which every person who died in infancy has been eternally abandoned by God to unending horror on account of their sinful nature or whatever. But that plausibly means that it is false that a person must hear the Gospel in order to be saved.

I think it’s important to ask ourselves, “Why do we want to avoid views according to which God abandons all infants to eternal perdition due to their sinful nature?” I think the answer is pretty obvious, if we are honest with ourselves. It is not because the Bible explicitly rules this view out. Rather, it is because such views are simply morally horrific and turn the good news of Jesus Christ into something worth mourning over, not celebrating. Our moral sense motivates us to search the Scriptures in order to ‘get permission’ to think infants don’t all go to hell at death. In fact, it is so important that we get this permission that we are even willing to make exceptions for some of the things we would otherwise think very Biblical (like what you said above about having to hear the Gospel in order to be saved).

Well some of the same motivations are behind the inclusivist hope. The inclusivist may very well think that a gospel according to which God freely abandons all those who have never heard to eternal wickedness and languishing is not good news to humanity and is certainly not worth celebrating. That is certainly reasonable and understandable! But if such motivations are good reasons to make exceptions in the case of infants, why are they not good reasons in the case of the unevangelized heathen? One could respond by quoting Scriptures that assert the necessity of faith for salvation; but of course that can be done in the case of infants as well.

Even the Westminster Confession is not so hope-crushing as to say that it is necessary to hear and accept the Gospel in order to be saved:

Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated, and saved by Christ, through the Spirit,[12] who works when, and where, and how He pleases: so also are all other elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.

Really, who cares what actors think about anything, other than acting?

Concerning inclusivism I have found this book informative:

http://www.amazon.com/Faith-Comes-Hearing-Response-Inclusivism/dp/0830825908

Like it or not, we might have to acknowledge that the public does show signs of listening to what actors or other celebrities say. It's not a completely related example, but think of how the public has responded to news reports of Mel Gibson's drunken rants or Tom Cruise's Oprah-couch-jumping interview: what those actors said/did has caused people to act differently (though in those cases, it made many members of the public more loath to see their movies, despite their skill as actors).

Another example is the recent popularity of "pregnancy photos" for lack of a better word. When glamorous people like Halle Berry get photographed with their baby bumps, all of a sudden, pregnant ladies all over America want to have pregnancy photo sessions that they then paste all over Facebook. (Note: I'm not saying there's anything wrong with this, but women used to go out of their way to hide those baby bumps a few years ago) It's fair to admit that celebrities' words and actions do, sometimes unfortunately, influence the public.

Now to bring this back to Narnia... I get convicted every time I read Dawn Treader and read Coriakin's description of the Duffers' behavior. WE are Duffers all too often, following the head Duffer, no matter how ridiculous the things he says are. We often don't realize that work/tending the garden is actually for our own good. I get convicted, and then I praise the Lord Jesus for being ever so much more patient, merciful and forbearing with us (with me), we silly Dufflepuds, than even Coriakin was.

It saddens me to read Liam Neeson's words since he so missed the significance of Aslan, but I hope people will be Lucys rather than Dufflepuds when they hear his mistaken understanding of Aslan. Even if no one will listen to them.

Sam

"Even post-modernists complain about being misunderstood."

There is a reason for this that is more basic, I think. Before people had television and all the other modern-day distractions, they had something called books and they did a lot more reading. Today, many more folks are just plain out of practice. Show me someone who misunderstands an author's intent and I'll show you someone who has spent more time watching video than reading books.

Malebranche, I actually had a lengthy conversation with someone about this before, so you can check that out here. But I'm pretty sure "incapable" doesn't mean "hasn't heard," but instead it means not physically capable of comprehending. But I refer you to my comments linked above.

Louis,

>>"Show me someone who misunderstands an author's intent and I'll show you someone who has spent more time watching video than reading books."

Nice.

(Penmanship in the under-30 crowd is meeting a similar fate, too.)

Amy,

I read through about the first half of the posts that you linked to regarding Inclucivism. Like many I sense a desire for the message of Inclucivism to be true, yet understand that Truth is not dependent on what I wish to be true.

My question is this: you distinguished between the infant and the heathen in two ways- physical capability to understand the Gospel, and the action of sinning (rather than the inheritance of total depravity through Original Sin). Regarding the second one, does the idea that infants have not sinned contradict Scripture?

"All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..."

If "all have sinned," surely infants are included? This seems counter-intuitive to me, but it is in Scripture.

As a clarirication, I am not trying to argue against the inerrency of scripture. I am a Christian with orthodox beliefs, but am looking for further understanding.

Being caught up on the Calvanism thing, I find it hard to care too much about inclusivism anyway. Thinking about Inclusivism seems to assume that our choices matter, though from the Calvanist viewpoint I am not so sure this is true.

-Austin

I haven't read through that conversation in a while, but if I remember right, I think I was referring to Greg's position on this. I've heard him say that since infants haven't acted on their nature, they would go to heaven.

My position is that the only way an infant would get to heaven would be if God elected him or her, and justice doesn't require Him to save all or even any.

And yes, in terms of Original Sin, they have sinned in the sense that Adam is our head, and so all are sinners (see Romans 5:12-14)--otherwise, they would not die, according to that passage. The orientation of all our souls is towards sin when we're born, so we are all, by nature, objects of God's wrath (Ephesians 2:3) from the beginning. So whether they've had a chance yet to act on it or not, every human being is a soul in rebellion against God from the start.

Because of that, God is not required to bring any infant to heaven, just as he is not required to save any adults. Both infants and adults need to be regenerated by God, and would be helpless to choose Him otherwise.

The physical "incapability" difference is the only reason I could see why God might choose to elect some infants, but He might not. I don't think the answer is totally clear.

Amy, when you say infants have sinned in the sense that Adam is our head, do you mean that literally? I'm asking because there are some people who say we literally sinned from within Adam's womb when he sinned, so we ourselves actually did the dirty deed. But other people say that Adam merely represents us, and his guilt is imputed to us because of that representation, but we couldn't have literally sinned since we didn't literally exist when Adam ate the fruit. Which one of these views do you subscribe to, or is there a third view you subscribe to?

LOL Not Adams womb; Adam's loins.

Amy,

I’ve read those remarks. It seems to me that you maintain something like the following:

God, from all eternity, has freely decided to abandon a large portion of humanity to eternal languishing, wickedness, and despair. All of those who never accepted the Gospel prior to death but who have committed personal sins shall be abandoned by God to eternal destruction and unending horror. They deserve to go to hell anyway, so that poses no problem for God’s justice or goodness. Infants, however, have not committed personal sins, and are not physically capable of following God. God may, therefore, grant them mercy and save at least some of them from eternal ruin, even if they don’t believe in the Gospel (that, by the way, entails that even after Pentecost it is not a necessary condition for a human being saved that the human believe the Gospel).

However, the issue is not crystal clear in the Scriptures, so we can’t be terribly confident either way. Perhaps God will save none. Perhaps he will save some and abandon others. Or perhaps he will save them all. For those who have lost children either through miscarriage or abortion, we simply don’t know whether God will bring those precious ones into glory or consign them to the eternal weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Shall we then comfort those grieving parents with these words: “There is a non-zero chance that God has not abandoned your precious child to eternal torment and destruction. Jesus might have died for your child.”

Perhaps God will save none.

You know, I have toyed with that idea. Like maybe this is all a game to God, and he has deceived us into embracing various religions and worldviews. It's all part of the game, but in the end, he's just going to chuck the whole thing and maybe do something different.

Sam, I'm not really sure because I haven't thought about it deeply enough, but I think it's as our representative.

If you are serious, Sam, this is a sign that you neither know Jesus Christ, nor the God he came to show us. Read the gospel accounts, talk to those whom seem to have a real relationship with Christ, and come and know his Father and our Father, won't you? He is Good - through and through- and not "good" in some indecipherable way that you will never be able to understand, but Good in a way that encompasses all you know to be good, and in more ways besides.

If you are serious, Sam, this is a sign that you neither know Jesus Christ, nor the God he came to show us.

That's a bummer. I guess that means I HAVE been deceived. I've been deceived into thinking I'm a Christian.

Don't worry, Arnauld. Just because I toy with an idea doesn't mean I take it seriously. I just imagine stuff.

Hey Malebranche, you simply cannot beg authority from WCF ch. 10 par. 3 on one note only to ignore par. 4. Here it is: "Others, not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet they never truly come unto Christ, and therefore cannot be saved: much less can men, not professing the Christian religion, be saved in any other way whatsoever, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, and the laws of that religion they do profess. And to assert and maintain that they may, is very pernicious, and to be detested."

I would hope that you will submit to sound teaching, but I dont think that was your intent above.

Brad B,

Oh I'm quite aware of how pernicous the ol' classical Calvinists think it is to believe that Socrates' wife and children might be in heaven even though they never believed the Gospel in this life. I was only quoting those folks in order to point out that even they won't endorse something so harsh as to entail that all those who die in infancy are damned for all eternity. Even they will search the Scriptures in order to make room for infants!

Well, Malebranche, maybe you ought to read a little more closely since what you are hoping to get from the Westminster Divines isn't quite what they have divined from the scriptures. Here's your proof again with a little emphasis added by bolding a few key words. "Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated, and saved by Christ, through the Spirit, who works when, and where, and how He pleases; so also are all other elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word."

It seems evident that you read everything through your pet lens only seeing what you want to see, dangerous.

Sorry, bolding didn't quite emphasize all I wanted in the above, so also are all other elect persons was to be included also.

It's Malebranche again. Do you just copy/paste your own stuff?

Shall we then comfort those grieving parents with these words: “There is a non-zero chance that God has not abandoned your precious child to eternal torment and destruction. Jesus might have died for your child.”
Shall we lie to them? I asked you this last time and then you went away.

BTW,
There's Malebranche, and then there's Anselm.
http://www.anselmphilosophy.com/read/?p=347

Brad B,

Exactly. Those who drafted the Westminster Confession did not want to commit themselves to a view that entailed that all infants who die in infancy go to hell. And so they didn't. Even they were not so harsh as to say across the board, "If you live after Pentecost and you do not ever believe the Gospel in this life, then it follows that you will go to hell."

Even John Calvin admitted that the view which entails that God damns all infants to hell is a blasphemous mockery of the good news:

"I everywhere teach that no one can be justly condemned and perish except on account of actual sin; and to say that the countless mortals taken from life while yet infants are precipitated from their mothers' arms into eternal death is a blasphemy to be universally detested." --John Calvin, "Institutes of the Christian Religion," Book IV, Chapter 16, p. 355.

Maybe Calvin wasn't as Calvinistic as we thought? Sounds like he thinks ALL infants avoid hell, despite their "sin nature" or whatever.

Daron I take it that Malebranche is implicitly offering something like the following argument:

1. The Gospel is Good News to the World.

2. If the most hopeful thing we can say to grieving parents is that there is a non-zero chance that God has not abandoned their child to eternal hellfire, then the Gospel is not Good News to the World.

3. So, that is NOT the most hopeful thing we can say to grieving parents.

What premise do you deny?

Hi Arnaud,
2 and 3 are both non sequiturs.
In 2 it does not follow that the Gospel is not good news.
Nor does it provide real hope to people to make things up and give assurances that you have no authority or power to give.

Maybe Calvin wasn't as Calvinistic as we thought? Sounds like he thinks ALL infants avoid hell, despite their "sin nature" or whatever.
I think nobody matches the caricatures you guys are battling. Did you read Spurgeon on this issue when I linked to him? On another thread I was told he was the patron saint of Calvinism and that Calvinists treat him as a Gospel writer.

http://www.spurgeon.org/calvinis.htm

Do you pray about your actions and involvement here? Really?

Sam

"If you are serious, Sam, this is a sign that you neither know Jesus Christ, nor the God he came to show us."

Having followed the discussion somewhat here, I know that this is not the case. However, I did find the combination of some words in this challenge a bit amusing. "Serious Sam" is a game I've enjoyed in the past. I bet you didn't know they named a pretty good FPS after you. ;)

Malebranche

“There is a non-zero chance that God has not abandoned your precious child to eternal torment and destruction. Jesus might have died for your child.”

"But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven."

Does that sound like a Jesus that is looking to abandon little children?

Louis,

No it doesn't. Praise God that we can be confident that God never abandons our children to eternal perdition!

I bet you didn't know they named a pretty good FPS after you. ;)

No, I didn't, but it's nice to know. :-)

Can you imagine Martha giving her new born baby to Jesus? Jesus smiles and embraces the baby, kisses the child on the forehead, and says, “If you do not become like this child, you shall never enter the kingdom of heaven.” The next day, Martha’s baby dies inexplicably, and God abandons the baby into the chambers of hell, where it lives wretchedly for all eternity.

Ought we really to go around saying that God might do such things to our children, since after all the Bible doesn't explicitly and conclusively say that God won't? In my opinion, that is simply a superficially pious way to completely lose faith in God's goodness and the good news of Jesus Christ.

Well first, I don't go around saying that. You asked me. Neither would I ever explain it the way you explained it.

But let me ask you a question: How would the situation be different for Martha if the child grew up? Let's say he grows up and remains in rebellion against God. Ought we to say that "God abandoned Martha's child to hell" (not that I would ever use the word "abandoned" since it implies all sorts of things that aren't true about the situation). Must God elect all infants? No more so than he must elect all adult people. How are the two situations different?

If you don't believe in election, I don't expect any of this to make sense to you. But if God must call the spiritually dead to pluck them out of their already-deserved, just fate, and all those He calls come to Him, then whether the child is an infant or an adult, it's God who does the calling. If the infant is not called as an infant, he would not have been called as an adult, and the destination would have been the same for him either way. And regardless of what age Martha's infant/child/adult died, she would be grieved.

But the main thing you're missing is sin. If you could see sin for what it really is (something I don't think we, as sinners, are capable of), you would see that the only scandal is on the side of mercy, not judgment. If you could see the soul of even an infant—even before he has time to act on his inclinations—you would beg God for His mercy rather than demand it. The truth is that it took an infinite being to take the punishment we deserved, and that says something very serious about our sin, and the nature of our souls as objects of God's wrath (His wrath!). This is why it's not "abandonment" if the punishment is given. Our amazement ought to be over the fact that God saves anybody when everyone deserves eternal death.

If I ever am blessed enough to have children, I have no guarantee whatsoever that any of them will be saved, no matter how old they are when they die. And I would not be more grieved about a child's eternal fate as an infant than I would be for my adult child. I don't see the infant situation as any different, or any more of a guarantee, or any more or less grievous than the loss of a child who was in rebellion against God at any age.

I suspect the reason why you see a difference is either because you believe the infant is deserving of heaven or because you don't believe in the sovereignty of God over election—meaning that the infant would never have a chance to do what he needed to do to follow God, rendering the situation unfair. Since I believe that God is the initiator of regeneration, I think this will occur for the elect no matter the age.

Amy,

Thanks for the response.

Although I’m no expert on election, I do understand the general contours of the position. I’m still not perfectly clear, however, on your view. I thought that you endorsed the following account of the Christian message:

Every human (or at least every human who has committed person sins) is sinful by her own fault and is responsible and to blame for her sinful condition. Her condition disposes her to live in radical opposition to God and his will. Her disposition is so strong that she will never freely choose God. She suffers from a spiritual sickness that requires unilateral intervention by God if it is to be cured. In such a condition she is able to do nothing to even begin to bring herself out of her sickness. Such is the deplorable condition of every sinner, and that is our own fault for which God is not to blame.

God, surveying the miserable lot of sinful humanity, is within his rights to abandon them all to this miserable fate which they have chosen and continue to choose. God, however, is forgiving, merciful, and loving, even of wretched sinners (even while they choose to rebel against him!). God, therefore, resolves to send the Second Person of the Trinity to become Incarnate; however, Jesus dies in order to accomplish the actual forgiveness of only the minority of humanity (the road to life is narrow, after all, and few go by that way). Concerning the majority of humanity (all of those who have never heard, perhaps some who die in infancy, all of those in other faiths, etc.), God freely decides to abandon them to eternal languishing, perdition, and destruction. That is what they have freely chosen, and they deserve that anyway.

Within such an economy where God’s saving hand operates with less frequency than his abandoning of sinners, we just aren’t in the position to be terribly confident about what God does with our dead children. Perhaps he consigns them into hopeless, eternal ruin. Or perhaps not. We just can’t be too terribly confident, because Scripture isn’t explicit enough to ground such a confidence

That’s what I take your view to be. Or something like that. You might not put it that way, but I do not intend to be unfair by putting it that way. That truly seems to me to be your and Greg’s position, plainly stated. Of course there may be ways of putting it that seem gentler. But that is no reason to think that they way I’ve put it is not accurate.

As you may know, my biggest issue with that version of the Christian Message is this: that is terrible news to the world, not good news to the world. That is a story of divine abandonment, mitigated by a few saving acts, not the story of God swallowing up the sin of humanity in his omnipotent saving love. More formally, I would put it like this. Call this version of the Gospel ‘The classical Reformed Gospel.’ I would argue as follows:

(1) If the Classical Reformed Gospel is true, then what God does on behalf of humanity in response to their sin is not good news to humanity.
(2) What God does on behalf of humanity in response to their sin is good news to humanity.
(3) Therefore, the Classical Reformed Gospel is not true (from 1, 2).

I think that is a very strong argument.

You say,

If the infant is not called as an infant, he would not have been called as an adult, and the destination would have been the same for him either way.

And I reply, “All the more reason to think that God doesn’t freely abandon sinful adults to eternal perdition either! It is horrific and hope-crushing in the case of our children as well as our fathers and sisters. One could hardly imagine worse news for one’s family than to be told that, in response to their sin, God has abandoned them all while making an exception for me.”

Perhaps some will freely reject God for all eternity, and perhaps God is not able to bring them into glory without disrespecting their dignity as autonomous creatures. That certainly does not, in my opinion, count as being abandoned by God. At least not in the same fashion as Calvin would have it that God abandons most of our sinful loved ones.

But that is precisely what is not the case according to the view you seem to subscribe to! The Reformed folks have it that our will does not render God impotent to save. That, they remind us, is Arminian theology and is mistaken. They believe that God is really truly is able to save all of us, but has in most cases freely chosen to not exercise that ability on our behalf. Is there not a genuine sense, then, in which God is freely abandoning most of humanity according to your view? Perhaps you dislike the term; perhaps you’d prefer to say that God ‘passes over’ them or ‘refrains from delivering them from eternal misery.’ Our terms however don’t change the reality, however; the fact remains that on the view Greg seems to hold, God freely turns his back on most of his sinful children for all eternity. And these are supposed to be the children that he loves more than we could fathom! If this is how God usually treats his children, what are we to think of the way in which he will treat our children? Where in all of this abandonment does one find good news to sinful humanity worth celebrating?

Of course it could always be said, “The way I read Scripture compels me to say these things, although I am free to say them in gentler ways than you have said them.” But that is not something with which I disagree. Rather, my most fundamental point is this:

(1) If the Classical Reformed Gospel is true, then what God does on behalf of humanity in response to their sin is not good news to humanity.
(2) What God does on behalf of humanity in response to their sin is good news to humanity.
(3) Therefore, the Classical Reformed Gospel is not true (from 1, 2).

Indeed, it seems to me that if the Classical Reformed Gospel is true, then God’s forgiveness and saving mercy is clearly the exception to the norm, namely, the divine abandonment of most of his wicked children to eternal perdition.

I don’t see why you would think, given these comments, that I don’t have a sufficient sense of the wickedness of sin. My point never pivoted on the holiness of God’s children; rather it pivots on God’s holiness, saving compassion and mercy.

One last point.

It hardly does anything to show that something is good news on the grounds that things could have been worse. The Holocaust is not shown to be good news for Jews merely by pointing out the fact that even more could have died. Similarly, the fact that God has saved only a minority of his wicked children while abandoning the rest to eternal torment cannot be shown to be good news merely by pointing out that God could have done this to all of his children. If God abandoned all of humanity to eternal horror, that would not be good news to humanity either. And that is entirely consistent with the fact that it is also not good news to sinful humanity that, in response to their sin, God has abandoned not all of them but rather most of them to eternal wickedness.

Folks like R.C. Sproul seem to make this maneuver, but it seems to me no more persuasive than it would be for me to tell you that it is good news that I am going to punch out most of your teeth because I could have punched them all out.

Is there not a genuine sense, then, in which God is freely abandoning most of humanity according to your view?

I would say there's a genuine sense in which God exercises His justice. The word "abandon" brings up images of people asking for help and God ignoring them. The exercising of righteous justice against people in active rebellion is a completely different thing. And I think justice is an objective moral good, even if it's bad news for us.

And I reply, “All the more reason to think that God doesn’t freely abandon sinful adults to eternal perdition either! It is horrific and hope-crushing in the case of our children as well as our fathers and sisters.

Am I understanding you correctly, then, that at root, your problem isn't really with infants that go to hell, but with hell itself? Or by saying "freely," are you just saying that God can't stop people from going there?

perhaps God is not able to bring them into glory without disrespecting their dignity as autonomous creatures. That certainly does not, in my opinion, count as being abandoned by God.

And yet, in that case as well, is He not freely choosing not to save them? How is letting them go their way in that case different from letting them go their way in my case? In either case, God could stop it. In either case, God has a reason not to stop it (you say the reason is the dignity of human autonomy, I say the reason is Romans 9:19-24). In both cases, God values justice and punishes rebellion. I don't think your scenario gets you out of anything you're objecting to.

Is there something other than your understanding of what "good news" ought to be that leads you to believe that most people go to heaven (or did I misunderstand you)? Because this seems to directly contradict Matthew 7:13-15:

For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

I think we've talked about this before, yes? I think we've ended up at this same place before. I've probably recommended The Holiness of God before, then. But if anyone is interested, I've found that book to be very helpful.

The comments to this entry are closed.