The Inescapable Love of God by Thomas Talbott

Published in 1999, Thomas Talbott’s thesis has just come swashbuckling over my horizon. In it he attempts to present a Universalist reading of the Bible, and especially Paul, an ambition that for most evangelicals at least, would appear doomed from the outset.

The most important works I have encountered on the issue of Endless Punitive Separation / Eternal Damnation / The problem of Hell include:

  • F.W. Farrars “Mercy and Judgment” (1881)
  • James Mulholland and Phillip Gulley’s “If Grace is True” (2003)
  • Brian McLaren’s “The Last word and the Word after that” (2005)

I must now add The Inescapable Love to this list. Significantly, of these 4 books, Talbott’s is the most assured, rigorous and confident. Farrar is at pains to declare his “hope”, rather than doctrine, in the eventual restoration of all things, reluctantly opposing any suggestion of “universalism”. Mulholland and Gulley are honest enough to say that a few aspects of their view maybe seen to be at odds with certain readings of scripture, but perhaps because of their Quaker or mystical tradition, do not find this a showstopper. McLaren’s goal is to open the debate to the Emergent audience via a cunning narrative, giving credit to all points of view, and without sticking his neck too far onto the chopping block of heresy.

Now, clearly no-one should take confidence to equate to correctness. But in his systematic refutation of the idea of Eternal Punishment and its supporting theology and assumptions, Talbott seems a step ahead of others. But despite the strength of his arguments and the unabashed rebuttals to his opponents, he manages to avoid arrogance. Rather, he exhibits the calm awareness of having hewed an immense and pernicious root from underneath our theological and cultural feet.

The success of his approach owes much to the fact that his starting point and his diagnosis is clear and incisive, from the outset: “Those who believe that God has revealed himself in the Bible will face … the problem of interpreting the Bible as a whole: They must provide an interpretive structure that avoids a fundamental logical inconsistency in what they take to be the revealed truthabout God”. [p 46] He avoids the common tendency to explain away that which is incompatible with the traditionally “soft” liberal agenda, which will emphasise mercy over judgment and can in no ways be charged with holding a “low view of scripture” or sidestepping the hard questions.

Thomas Talbott is first and foremost a philosopher of religion. This gives him certain advantages over those whose primary skill is theological, and for me is one reason for the clarity and range of his thinking. He manages to identify the paradigm in which most theology operates (and seems incapable of transcending) rather than the familiar and perhaps hackneyed set of ideas themselves. In his bold embracing of an alternative view, he states “Universal Reconciliation is a clear and pervasive theme in the letters of Paul … the standard ways of explaining away this theme are untenable, even contrived”. [p 107]

It is the philosopher’s job to show up fallacious arguments; and he does this with aplomb, but not without a certain empathy for our failings: “Of course people are not always consistent and do not always see the moral implications of their own beliefs, neither do they always believe what they think they believe”. [p 141] The doctrine of “election”, originating with Augustine, comes under particular scrutiny, and he gives voice to some of my own deepest intuitions: “One cannot both believe that he has divided the world into the elect, whom he loves, and the non-elect, whom he despises, and believe that he is worthy of worship, and, at the same time, love one’s neighbor as oneself”. [p 142]

It is not just the average believer who suffers from bad thinking; Talbott takes on distinguished current thinkers and revered church fathers as well. He shows Augustine’s thought on the issues of Judgment to be fundamentally flawed. For example, he exposes the Saint’s explanation of the key text 1 Tim 2:4, describing “God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth”. Augustine manipulates its meaning shamelessly: “… by all men we are to understand the whole of mankind, in every single group into which it can be divided”. [p 49] So he arbitrarily forces “all” to equate to “some from all categories”.

And he squares off with that twisted logic that an infinitely holy God needs to exact an infinite punishment for sin: “If, as Calvin suggests, we have inherited a depraved and corrupt nature, if we are subject to evil impulses not of our own making, then God has less to forgive us for, not more”. [p 152]

Talbott’s basic goal is “simply to work out the implications of Christian hope with as much consistency as possible”. [p 213] To this end, he proposes that philosophically, there are 3 basic views one can take in these matters. In a useful heuristic, he suggests 3 propositions, of which only 2 can be true. These are

  1. God, in his merciful Love, is desirous of saving all.
  2. God, in his just and powerful Sovereignty, is capable of saving all.
  3. There are those who will be damned: not all will be saved, but some will be consigned to the eternal punitive separation of Hell, or be annihilated out of existence.

On the surface of it, the majority of those professing Christian belief will want to hold to all 3 of these statements. But he shows that is not possible, and that one of them HAS to be rejected. What happens is that this (logically) rejected belief causes us to “save face”, such that by holding it we harbor a deep inconsistency in our view of God.

In essence then, the 3 views are as follows:

  • The Augustinian: If we hold to Sovereignty (2) and Damnation (3), we reject and have to save face on Love and Mercy.
  • The Armenian: If we hold to Love (1) and Damnation (3), we reject and have to save face on Justice and Sovereignty.
  • The Universalist: If we hold to both Sovereignty (2) and Love (1) we reject Damnation. What is key is that by so doing, we will not need to save face. (Rather, we shall have to account for the problem of evil).

Ambitiously, Talbott attempts to do this. Needless to say, to hold that evil will be overcome but also that all sinners will be saved, is asking almost too much of our imaginations, conditioned as we are by myths of punishment. But in this stretching, I have a sense of Jesus own radicality, asking of us the (almost) impossible. That is, to believe in the ultimate, and inescapable love, and at the same time, justice, of God.

At the risk of hyperbole, I believe that such ambition is nothing short of an attempt to redefine orthodoxy. Although Talbott makes no such claim, he does take the axe to the root of “orthodox” thought as defined since the 4th Century. As such his thesis finds a place alongside other contemporary visionaries like Brian McLaren, with his “Generous Orthodoxy”, or Phyllis Tickle with her “Great Emergence”.

And the Neo-Orthodox-Emergent Bishop of Durham, N. T. Wright, in his pithy “Evil and the Justice of God” (2006), concurs on the radical nature of love, justice and forgiveness:

“The tough, many-sided offer of forgiveness should be the ultimate aim as we think about the problems of global empire and international debt, of criminal justice and the problem of punishment, and of war and international conflict … but forgiveness is not the same as tolerance. It is not the same as inclusivity. It is not the same as indifference, whether personal or moral. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that we don’t take evil seriously after all, it means we do. In fact, we take it doubly seriously.” [p 105, p 99]

What sets Talbott apart from other refuters of the purely punitive vision of God (who would normally be classed as “Liberal” or having a “Low view of scripture”) is that he does not attempt to sidestep difficult scriptures, but rather heads directly and deeply into their most profound and hidden meanings. He is like a diver who is prepared to go the extra distance to get a proper handle on what lurks below. And the pearls he brings to the surface are often unexpected and surprising.

A key achievement of The Inescapable Love is showing how the normal dualism of justice vs. mercy becomes false, if our view of Love is big enough. What is asserted is that these 2 aspects of God are one and the same thing. He observes “his mercy demands everything his justice demands, and his justice permits everything his mercy permits. According to the alternative picture, in other words, ‘mercy’ and ‘justice’ are but two different names for God’s one and only moral attribute, namely his love”. [p 146]

Put more extremely, (and at great risk of being misunderstood), the claim is that punishment and forgiveness are the same. There are false notions of either, but an expanded view of Love will encompass both justice/punishment and mercy/forgiveness. The contacted view of justice/punishment however, amounts to retribution, and serves no ultimate redemptive purpose. The contracted view of mercy/forgiveness amounts to the conditional releasing of the wrongdoer from guilt, and thus fails to truly liberate.

Peter Rollins, another irrepressible emergent and postmodern philosopher of religion, echoes this radical view as he ponders (on his blog) the radical meaning of true forgiveness:

What if “forgiveness” that has conditions, that is wrapped up in economy, is not really forgiveness at all but rather nothing more than a prudent bet. What if such forgiveness was like a love that only loved those who loved in return i.e. a forgiveness without blood and sweat and tears? What if repentance was not the necessary condition for forgiveness but rather the freely given response to it?

In Talbott’s expanded view then, there is no Punishment that is not Loving, Just and Forgiving, and there is no Forgiveness that is not Loving, Punishing and Just. Herein lies the radical nature of his thesis, and the hope that we may in fact remain true to scripture and yet believe in the universal restoration of all things.

The “Inescapable love of God” is a triumph. It is a triumph of right thinking, and squarely challenges many theological fallacies going back to Augustine. If Orthodoxy is defined as right thinking, Talbott’s voice is Orthodoxy of the highest order.

And above all, it is a triumph of hope and imagination: “… given a long enough stretch of time, the Hound of Heaven can overcome all of the obstacles that our wrong choices present and can thus achieve all of his redemptive purposes, in that respect, he is like the grand chessmaster who, though exercising no direct causal control over the moves of a novice, is nonetheless able to checkmate the novice in the end”. [183]

Love endures all. May it be that love is, indeed, Inescapable.

 

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71 Comments »

  1. Chad said

    Nic –
    Wonderful post! You are the second person to commend Talbott’s book to me. I will make it part of my Christmas break reading. Thanks for this very insightful and informative review!

  2. Yikes! It costs R415 at http://www.loot.co.za! Ouch…

  3. nic paton said

    Eugene – you are welcome to take it out from the soundandsilence library.

  4. Wow, thank you Nic. Where do I apply for membership? :)

    May I suggest you turn of the Snap Preview on your blog in your Dashboard/Appearance/Extras? If I move over a link to fast I get an error message “Out of memory at line: 1″.

  5. Sorry it’s called Snap Shots not Snap Preview.

    I have a question that has been running around in my head since reading your “Eternity, Evolution, and Emergence” post. It is about the nature of hell. Here you mentioned that the Greek word translated as “eternal” in the bible actually means an age:

    In Greek, it is aionios, eon – essentially meaning an age or period of time, albeit long.

    Can it be that hell, as in the after this life, has a purgatory nature and that God uses hell also to accomplish His desire that ALL be reconciled to Him? (By this purgatory I don’t mean the one used by the Roman Catholic Church during the dark ages to solicit money from people.) A scripture that comes to mind that might suggest this is 1 Cor 5

    4When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 5hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature[a] may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord. (NIV)

  6. Chad said

    Good question, Eugene (and thanks for your email!)

    Nic,
    I have been in a long blog discussion about this topic in a place where I was the minority view. I have stepped out for now as I can only take so much of having my salvation, my calling as a pastor, my love of scripture and any number of other things called into question. It is amazing how the same people who will scream for grace and insist that we are saved not by works but by the work of Christ alone will at the same time insist that if you do not believe in a literal, eternal hell or if you have the audacity to believe against hell and hope in the God who is the “hound of heaven” you are no longer in the fold. We have a long way to go.

    I wonder if you would be open to my sharing some of the bigger objections with you and your readers here and see how we might navigate them in a way that is hopefully better than what I attempted? I have not been thinking through all this as long as others (like you, it seems) and could benefit from speaking with people who think as I do yet have had longer to meditate on some of the more troubling aspects or objections. My blog is a safe place to have such discussions and I assume it is here as well. It is nice to have a place to hash such things out without the conversation being bogged down by people who question one’s faith at every turn.

    peace.

  7. Nic Paton said

    Eugene
    I like the way your thinking is going. I do think we need to revisit and deconstruct the idea of purgatory, yes. Surely, if we are all to be in a Holy Gods presence, we shall have to be purged of all that separates us?

    I also think your reservation is right on – if purgatory was abused by clergy to solicit increasing depandence on them for the bereaved, that is an abomination IMO.

    Talbott brings another angle to the discussion of the word “everlasting” – he suggests that it means “Having its source in the Everlasting God”, such that references to everlasting punishment might mean punishment eminating from a (loving) God.

    BTW did you see my post on https://soundandsilence.wordpress.com/2008/12/10/my-agricultural-revolution/ which I husteld togethe with you in mind…

  8. Nic Paton said

    Chad
    You would be most welcome to present your thoughts, so that we can work through them together, its can only strengthen us all. What format do you have in mind; I have one suggestion.

    A group of about 6 of us (in SA, the UK and the USA) are going to be reading “If Grace is True” (Mulholland/Gulley) starting in early Jan, and hoping to open this discussion up in a somewhat controlled way. The only requirement is that we read, together, 1 chapter per week, then enter discussion on a blog.

  9. Chad said

    Nic – that sounds great. I love the idea. I will get that book along with Talbotts.

    I just completed a synopsis of Will Willimon’s second chapter of Who Will be Saved? You may find it interesting.

    http://chadholtz.wordpress.com/2008/12/16/the-eros-of-god/

  10. ruZL said

    Chad, i hope you take part in the collaborative reading project in the new year.

    one question i’m curious about is: which word in the hebrew or greek holds the meaning of “eternal” in the sense that the average jo understands it – never ending? in the sense that God is “eternal”? if we’re going to believe that “eternal” means for a specific length of time or for an age, which word denotes “without end”?

    i’m still looking for that one.

    russ.

  11. Nic Paton said

    RuZl – I tried everlasting but blow me sideways if I can make sense of the results
    http://www.in.gr/dictionary/lookup.asp?Word=everlasting&TranslateButton2=Translate

    Now I know experientially what it means to say, “It’s all Greek to me.”

    Still, good question. We normally ask “What is the Greek word incorrectly translated eternal” Now we ask “What is the Greek word correctly translated everlasting”.., is that right?

  12. Chad said

    Nic,

    One would think my 3 years of Greek would allow me to answer your question off the cuff. Looking up random passages, however, I cannot recall what makes zoe aion mean “eternal life.” Literally it means “life of the ages” and McLaren does a good job, I think, to point out that this may be John’s ay of saying the same thing the synoptics do when saying “Kingdom of God/Heaven.” McLaren argues that the coffee-shop discussion of the day was how to have the “life of the ages” today – sort of like Socrates virtuous life discussions. And Jesus said he came to give life “abundantly.”

    In any event, I do remember being taught that zoe aion was an idiom that when heard by the audience everyone would know that means “eternal life.” I remember thinking at the time: How do we know that? Is there some sort of book of common idioms used by 1st century people along with their present day meanings? And now that I understand a bit more about the cosmology of the 1st century and what their beliefs were about eternity I am not so sure at all that such an idiom existed nor that the common person would have thought “eternal life” when hearing “zoe aion.”

    thoughts?

  13. Nic Paton said

    What I do know from my exposure to scrappy, agenda-laden preaching, is the Zoe means (God) Life, and aion means age. Does “Life of the ages” imply life which transcends or overarches each finite age?

    The question here is to do with “everlasting” – is it different from aionian? In the mix we must remember that Greek (Platonic) thought had a notion of the Ideal Realm, a sort of infinite, nonlinear present, while Hebrews looked for a future age of salvation, a time after the (linear) ages?

    Let’s rememeber the problem is the (mis)translation of “aionios kolaisis” as “Eternal punishment”, and the construction of this Christian myth of Hell thereupon.

    1. Aionios implies 2 things not normally considered:
    a) Age-during rather than everlastingly enduring (Many writers including Louis Abbott)
    b) Also the “eternal” might mean “eminating from God” rather than “lasting for ever” (Talbott)

    2. Kolaisis is apparently always a suffering of restoration rather than retribution, as Augustine would have it, obsessed as he was with the punative.

    Chad – over to you for spelling corrections, grammar etc, I demure…

  14. Josh said

    I will have to read Talbott’s book first to take a closer look at his arguments. At first sight, the 3 propositions appear a bit too simplistic to make a good case for the elimination of the possibility of damnation (in the sense of a state of mind that has lost all desire and capability to accept and respond to love). What I’m missing here is that element in love that refuses to be coercive in any way. And while the infinite power and infinite patience of an inescapable love MAY very well win over a will determined to never accept this love, there is no unequivocal evidence in Scripture that this will really be the case. In other words: to argue that damnation contradicts either God’s desire or power, does not take into account that His power and capability is directly tied to His nature. To make a simplistic counter-argument: the God who cannot lie, also cannot and will not force anyone to choose Him.

  15. Nic Paton said

    Josh, I think your reservation points to the fact that no case is “watertight”. I am currently reading Gregory McDonald’s “The Evangelcial Universalist”, and he calls himself a “hopeful dogmatic universalist”.

    - Universalist in the sense he sees a reading of the biblical narrative as a whole in which God redeems All, as plausable.
    - Dogmatic in that as far as can be done, he is able to create doctrine to support his reading.
    - Hopeful in that he is not 100% certain that he is correct. FW Farrar was insistant that he was hopeful that God’s mercy could triumph, but was NOT a universalist.

    McDonald (or was it Talbott??? – too much stuff in my brain) goes on to point out that NO reading of scripture, even our most sacrosanct, is 100% watertight, and yet we still find it acceptable to hold these positions as though they were. (Examples escape me right now, but they are there).

    I do think that ultimately we come to rest in faith, not knowledge. And paradoxically, doubt is integral to faith. At this point in my life, I am only too glad to believe that God is able to redeem All, though I cannot explain it completely, based yes on the due diligence of my studies, but ulitimately my intuitive response to Love.

    Talbott makes some very good points regarding Free will, I had better leave it to him to represent them.

    Thanks Josh for entering the debate – much appreciated.

  16. If you don’t mind I would like to join the discussion. I ordered “If Grace is True” and should receive it by middle of January.

  17. Nic Paton said

    Excellant Eugene, I was hoping your would be able to join us.

    If you have any time before then, browse http://www.tentmaker.org/ for some awesome material.

  18. ruZL said

    Eugene – you play a telecaster so of course you can join in.

    Nic makes the salient point that at the end of the day, it comes down to faith & ultimately i suspect, faith in the character of the fatherhood of God. in the same way that the promise of redemption was first introduced soon after the account of the fall – Gen 3:15 – so to it seems, are glimmers of a greater hope of the final restoration of all things scattered throughout the new covenant scriptures, for those with eyes to see them.

    (lets keep looking for that word in the hebrew or greek that carries the clear sense of “never ending”, in the sense that God will always Be, that the scriptures promise that we will forever more “be”, undying – i think it’s pivotal that we find it, if “aion” & words related to it are to be illuminated as limited in duration.)

    103 years after the summer of 1905, we’re still wrestling with the meaning & implications of Einstein’s theory of special relativity. i cannot prove it but i have a sneaking suspicion that the pieces of the escatological-salvific puzzle would coagulate & shape into a divine magnum opus before our eyes, were we able to understand time – & be both within & without it – as God surely does and is.

    the world is full of tortured souls who believe in a vindictive God who is out to get them, a divine Father who is impossible to please, who withholds His acceptance unswervingly. my hope is that i & anyone who truly desires it, will find the beating breast of the Father and lay their head down upon it.

    That sound changed John forever.

    The sound of the beating heart of God.

  19. ruZL,
    How dare you insult my Strat! :) Ok, ok, ok, I like Tele’s as well but they don’t seem to like me. I never could get as comfortable on a Tele as I am on my Strat.

    That sound changed John forever.

    The sound of the beating heart of God.

    NICE!!!

    I asked my friend, Johan Serfontein, to help look for those words and sent him a link to this discussion.

  20. nic paton said

    Erm – surely you mean strat, Sir Keef?

    rUzL – let us know what you find out about the Greek word in question.

    Can you shape your thought slightly differently, its very intruiging but I am not quite getting your insight into Einstein and our Destiny.

    But your central sentiment is huge… faith is indeed in the character of God, not a book, not an idea. It apears if you get down into the divine space, the space of this beating heart, you are changed, and your thinking needs to adapt.

    Without fear, the whole scope of life is very different. Many an epiphany is based on overcoming fear.

  21. nic paton said

    I see the guitar police arrived while I was lost in a reverie. Alo alo alo whats strumming along here then? Oi Sarge, did you get a look at those single coils? Ooh sir, suits you sir.

    For those taken by the totally justified self righteousness of string instrument players, did you see my zouk? https://soundandsilence.wordpress.com/2006/12/11/my-new-zouk/

  22. Nic,
    Those are not singe coils! They are Fender Lace Sensors! R100 fine to you.

    I refuse to look at your zouk lest I be tempted to break the 10th commandment.

  23. Chad said

    I picked up “If Grace is True” yesterday. Half way through it now. Wonderful stuff so far.

    I look forward to going through it with you all in Jan.

    There was one line that I particularly like: God refuses our refusal. This has been a theme in our theology class this past semester and is a theme that runs through Karl Barth’s work – God’s judgment of our judgment.

    I haven’t gotten it all sorted out in my head yet but I believe this relates to the cry of derilection that Jesus cried on the cross: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? In this cry is the cry of all humanity – it is our cry. It is a recognition of the void we have put between ourselves and God and this void feels like death – in fact, it is death.

    It would appear that God is silent when this cry is uttered (and I like how the authors of this book talk of the “ugliness” that is the theology that speaks of God turning his back on Jesus and sin as if God cannot look at the world – the very world he created and entered into in order to save!) But God is not silent. Easter Sunday is proof that God will refuse our refusal – that there is no chasm too deep or wide that God will not bridge in order to resurrect new life in us. As Barth says, “The Cross was God’s NO! to sin and God’s YES! to all of Creation.”

  24. ruZL said

    Eugene.

    Thanks, glad the words chime within you.

    Nic.

    Looks like Eugene’s friend Johan is going to look for such a word – if we can’t find it, then we have to take that as a massive piece of the puzzle.

    Regarding the Einstein reference, I simply mean what I said: I suspect the variable of “time” is a major factor in our inability to see the escatological-salvific plan of God unfolding.

    It may even be THE factor.

    Adios all,

    r

  25. nic paton said

    Eugene – not fair! To use Cannon Farrars words, its an “unauthorazed accretion to the Faith” to mess with an original Stratocaster design. I reject it! I will not be fined by a heterodox axman, no sir! I refuse to step out of the golden age of Le Strat, which I believe was Mark Knopflers 1980′s.

    Er, what are Lace Sensors? That IS a guitar, right?

  26. nic paton said

    Chad – thanks for the Barthian input in the middle of what has become a guitarists convention.

    That thought about “refusing our refusal” is resonating indirectly with something Talbott says: Because God has forgiven us and has commanded us to forgive others, we have an obligation to forgive, we have no right not to forgive.

  27. nic paton said

    R_z|
    It remains supremely mysterious, my froind. It will take many lifetimes to find this ‘time” enlightenment.

    Do you prefer the future, or the continuous present?

  28. Nic,
    As you know by now I believe that God chose to use meganisms like evolution in His creation process. Thus it is a God given process that the Stratocaster design will evolve including the design of the single coil pickup. But if you want to remain a conservative fundamentalist, feel free to stay stuck in 1980 or 1954 if you choose.

    BTW I installed a LR Baggs bridge pickup which gives quite a convincing acoustic tone.

    Time… Do you think God functions outside time? If so, does that mean He can go in any direction of time unlike us who can only go forward?
    “He knows the beginning from the end.” – Is there such a verse, or is it just something someone said?

  29. Nic,

    Your insightful review of Talbott’s book was outstanding. I got my first copy downloaded for just a few bucks. My life and ministry have never been the same and can never be after my paradigm shifted to universal reconciliation.

    Thanks,

    Don

  30. I just downloaded the PDF of The Inescapable Love of God for $6.00! Here’s the link: http://www.universal-publishers.com/book.php?method=ISBN&book=1581128312

  31. ruZL said

    Nic.

    i’m not sure if we can ever solve the “time” question entirely. however, when the bible says things like Christ was slain before the foundation of the world, i suspect it’s alluding partly to the mystery of time.

    if God can experience the foundation of the world, the crucifixion of Christ & the final judgement simultaneously, this sends out multiple ripples of implication through the waters of time.

    but i don’t want to take the thread off topic – lets get back to Talbott & UR.

    ruzl…

  32. ruZL
    This “time” question has intrigued me for some time. Perhaps we need a post where we can discuss it separately…

    At this time Johan is unable to come up with a word that literally means “eternal” or “eternity” in Greek or Hebrew. He however says that though the understanding of the ancient people of “eternity” might not have been the same as ours it doesn’t mean that the concept of eternity is not true as we understand it. The fact that translators chose to use “eternal/eternity” stays problematic… He also pointed out that the ancient Hebrews did not understand the term “end times” as it is in the modern times but rather the end of a specific time period. An example of this is the book of Daniel that speaks of the end the Jew’s persecution and not of the end of time as in the END of time.

  33. The END of TIME… Theoretically time comes to a standstill in singularity. Does that mean the END of TIME refers to a black hole? :)

  34. ruZL said

    Eugene.

    I’m pleased you have found Nic’s blog – he is indeed the patron saint and chief curator of questions like the one’s you pose. Regardless of whether you are pre-, mid- or post- (80′s strat user), you are most welcome here.

    Time, consciousness, the nature of light – these are all things that mystify the physicists and annoy them while they’re trying to watch Buffy. I just like to throw them into the theological mix sometimes & it makes me sound less like a dumb drummer.

    In terms of universal restoration & the love of God being potentially inescapable, i hope with all my heart that this is true. I pretty much suck as a christian; however i intuit that if i were to receive a glimpse – an epiphany – of the unconditional & unescapable love & grace of God, much of what i struggle with would dissipate like shadows in light.

    May we all seek & eventually experience that glimpse.

    Thanks again Nic for breaking the ice for so many of us on the issue of universal restoration. You have run with it farther than I would ever have dared. Keep following the pillar of fire by night.

    Ruzl.

  35. nic paton said

    Don H
    I am so fascinated by what you say, “My life and ministry have never been the same and can never be after my paradigm shifted to universal reconciliation.” because that is exactly where I want all thsi discussion to come out.

    This is a think tank, sure, but it is the implications of these thoughts in our lives that is the ultimate prize. How it transforms, in joy, hope, and unreserved love, is the most fascinating thing of all.

  36. nic paton said

    RuZl
    I don’t know what type of Christian you suck as. Suffice to say, you believe in Grace. I thank you for you vote of confidence regarding this space.

    I love the images that spill out from you. To follow the pillar of fire is one such one.

  37. Chad said

    Hey Nic,
    I am almost through reading “If Grace Is True.” It is very good. You may wish to wait till Jan. when we go through it chapter by chapter, but I did want to say I have a problem with the chapter that deals with the person and work of Jesus. Everything up to that point I have been in agreement more or less but I think they bite off too much when they render Jesus as just one guy among any who just happened to get living a grace-filled life right.

    I wondered if you had any issue with that particular chapter or if not, what did you see that I might have missed?

    If you want to discuss this I will be happy to elaborate about the problems I saw.

    peace.

  38. nic paton said

    Hi Chad, thanks for the enthusiasm. I shall indeed take a look in the next few days, but am also keen not to jump too far ahead; there is quite a lot of interest from the small group of us at doing this “syncro”. Andy (fakeexpressionsoftheunknown) or myself will be in contact in the next few days. Many blessings over this time (although I guess its a bit of a work time for you…)

  39. Don Rogers said

    Nic- I’m sure you know Muholland and Gulley have written other things including: If God Is Love. I read that one. I must pick up the other similar one before January. Looking forward to it.

  40. nic paton said

    Hi Don – no I did not know that. It would be fascinating to read, because as interested as I remain in UR as a debate, I want really to get to the implications of Grace. It seems to me that If Love Is True might be helpful in this respect – just guessing of course. Thanks for the tip, Don, and we shall talk in the next week or so – I’m also looking forward to it and very glad to have you alongside.

  41. Don Rogers said

    I have not read his book. I have read many of his articles and cannot disagree with anything he writes (that I’ve read). I wonder tho about his trinitarian views. I still have a great deal of trouble taking this “essential” doctrine as believable. Our mutual friend, Steve Jones said something which has stuck with me. In dealing with the doctrine of Penal Substitution, Jones says: “But I will point out one glaring flaw in the theory: It annihilates free forgiveness. Under penal subsitution, God forgives no one, He instead exacts payment from another.”
    The argument that there is no forgiveness for forgiveness sake, hence no mercy, really resonates with me. I will have to get his book and delve into his mind a bit more. Thanks for reminding me that I’ve only just begun my journey…..

  42. nic paton said

    Oh Don – I dragged Steve Jones into http://www.emergentvillage.com/weblog/so-long-sola which has got quite a lot of attention.

    and it’s getting into trouble (sorry Steve) with the Reformed Crew over at http://blackreformingkid.wordpress.com/2008/12/22/so-long-what-the-emerging-rebellion-against-the-sufficiency-authority-exclusivity-and-necessity-of-scripture-part-3/

    I commented on http://blackreformingkid.wordpress.com/2008/12/16/sola_scriptura1/

    Yes – that article and line of thinking of Steves on Atonement is brilliant. I have reread it several times, and will do so more still. Is he still online?

  43. Chad said

    Nic,

    When do you plan on starting the convo about If Grace Is True? I’m on Christmas break now but will return home around Jan. 3rd.

    Looking forward to more dialog with you and others.

    grace and peace,
    Chad

  44. nic paton said

    Hi Chad
    Andrew will contact you soon but I think It will be a few days after the 3rd. Eugene is still awaiting his copy.

    Have a good break, and I too look forward to the dialog.

  45. I just checked the latest dispatch date of the book I ordered – 15 January. We are on holiday in Mosselbay from 2-12 January, so even if the book is dispatched before the 15th I will only be able to join after the 12th. If the wait is too long you guys must start and I’ll catch up…

  46. Mike Ratliff has written a number of posts opposing the UR view. I would like to discuss the passages he mentions some time.
    http://mikeratliff.wordpress.com/2008/12/20/outer-darkness/

  47. nic paton said

    Hi Eugene
    I have read that article on Outer Darkness, thanks.

    I don’t want to add my voice without taking the issue on with due regard to its subtleties and with proper respect. But my immedate and emotional response is “Why imply that I am believe in the doctrine of devils” – its not a discussion, its a dogmatic assertion. I believe there should be less hysteria and more adult respect with those he disagrees with.

    Do you know Mike at all?

    It does raise many questions, and I am very happy to address and discuss them with you.

    I’m out of town until new year. I’ll try call you – did you get my message?

    Re the book – will probably only get going around the 10 or so anyhow – you will be able to catch up.

  48. Hi Nic
    Thank you for the call, it’s always great to talk to you.

    I don’t know Mike personally, I have only read some of his stuff. The guys at CRN.Info would probably describe him as an ADM (Armchair Discernment Ministry). The ADM’s usually are strict Calvinists/Reformed pointing out everybody else who don’t share their doctrine and then declare them apostate. My idea was not taking him on, because I think that will be a fruitless conversation/argument, but rather discussing these scriptures that suggest eternal condemnation between us and others who can give another perspective without declaring anybody unsaved. Sorry for not making myself more clear and causing you some emotional anxiety. :shock:

    I will continue my reading of Talbott and Farrar in the mean time and ask questions as they come up.

    Enjoy your trip up north and be SOUT!

  49. Chad said

    Eugene,
    I left a comment at Mike’s blog. It appears I am stilll blocked from his site and it is not showing up. Not sure if it ever will. Probably for the best :)

    peace,
    Chad

  50. big questions like universal restoration should never be tackled without a steaming cup of rooibos tea to hand.

    blessings & adventures in 2009 to you all.

    till next year,

    jol!

  51. nic paton said

    Dear All
    Thanks for the input over the last week. I am really excited about what this new year holds, especially in terms of emergence/mission, inclusion/universal restoration, incarnation/ecology and liturgy/worship (my currently resonant categories).

    Eugene – there was no pressure or anxiety! I think your idea of giving the the traditional reformed view a good hearing is excellent. I respect the reformed skill with scripture. Regarding the wiki article which lists some verse for and against, see for example http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Universal_reconciliation&oldid=76366900. I don’t know how good it is – there are hundreds of versions of that article.

    RuZl – I think your choice of infusion for heavy topics is quite inspired. You are a shamanic brewmeister.

  52. nic paton said

    Chad – I have started to catch up on your writings, just to let you know. I am excited to be engaging this with you.

    Have you reposted your comment anyplace? I’d like to see it.

  53. Chad said

    Hi Nic -
    Happy New Year!

    No, if you mean the comment I left on Mike’s blog. It appears to be forever lost. It wasn’t all that profound anyways – I had a sneaky suspicion that he would censor me so my comment was an excercise in conservation. :)

    If I were you I wouldn’t waste much time there. He and those that comment there will allow you to disagree only so much before they banish you to eternal blog-hell.

    looking forward to what this year holds for Christ’s church and her people.
    peace.

  54. ruZL said

    on behalf of all visitors & contributors to this blog, i just want to thank you Nic – our virtual/actual Minister of Emergent Affairs – for your persistence, passion & generosity over the course of the last year, on soundandsilence.

    i’m sure i speak for many when i say that your contributions to various conversations – emergent and otherwise – have brought so much to the table, as part of a wider exploratory feast.

    upwards & inwards.

    ruZL
    Witblitz – Accept No Substitutes!

  55. nic paton said

    Chad – I like that – blog hell. Only thing is, isn’t hell meant to be restorative? Do your comments, after gnashing their teeth and weeping, come out purer? Or do you think blog hell is one way, and these comments will never ever see the light of day again? Should we pray for the comments, or is that too “Romish”?

    RuzL why thank you, it is a 2 way street and you have been most the generous heretic I have known.

    But as for the sudden switch of drink : What has rooibos tea been doing such that Witblitz suddenly becomes the tipple of choice? Is it the change of year (rooibos is SOOO 2008), or has the “white lightning” actually reformatted your neurological structures?

  56. Chad said

    Nic-

    Only a Bible-hating, liberal, Jesus-denying heathen would suggest that my or anyone’s comments once damned to blog-hell would ever again see the light of day. God is furious over these comments and, while your duty is to pray for them and love them, God’s duty is to ensure your prayers are never answered. And please, don’t tell me that God has imprisoned all comments in disobedience so that he can be merciful to all. Everyone knows that “all” does not mean “all.” And no, don’t tell me “hell” does not mean “hell.” The Bible is literal in ALL things I say it is literal in (oh, um, in this case “all” does mean all).

    Happy New Year :)

  57. nic paton said

    Many a true word is spoken in jest.

    Lots and lots of giggles and sniggers…

  58. ruZL said

    Nic.

    rooibos & witblitz represent the two poles of my nature – my rooibos side has been in the ascendency but the witblitz side whispers things like “kap it uit en suip!” or “suip the cape in shape!” etc.

    i will never touch a drop of witblitz again.

    nee jy lieg! tsek! moenie kak praat nie.

    nee!

    tsek, jy smaak it!

    the wrestling continues…
    :-)

  59. nic paton said

    Hmmm, shades of golum, my preciousss…

    (Apologies for the gratuitous use of local parlance to the uninitiated)

  60. From rooibos tea to witblitz to blog hell… Sounds like a logical progression. See what this Universalism leads to!!! Ek sal maar hier sit met my Droog Maar Jy Kan Dit Drink en stilbly terwyl die brandertjies inrol op Mosselbaai se strand.*

    There is a discussion going on about Christian Universalism going on at christianresearchnetwork.info (where Chad has been taking some knocks). Iggy linked to this very interesting article about the history of CU/UR/US: http://www.auburn.edu/~allenkc/briefhist.html

    *Translation for Chad – I’ll just sit here with my Dry But You Can Drink It and shut up while the waves roll in at Mosselbay’s beach.

  61. Chad said

    Eugene-

    Thanks for sitting around and watching me take all your bruises :)

    You owe me several of whatever your drinking

  62. Chad,
    If I enter that discussion it will only to the detriment of the arguments for CU. My debating skills are close to non-existent and I’m still so new on this subject I’m still figuring out what it is and how Scripture supports it.

    I’ll find out how to ship some Savanna Dry to you to make up for my apparent desertion. Better yet – I think we should organise you that trip to South Africa we were talking about with the help of Nic then I’ll buy you as much Savanna you can drink.

  63. Gavin Marshall said

    Nic – does Talbot give a definition for ‘salvation’ at all?
    Surely one should change the word seeing as the terms ‘salvation’ and ‘saved’ imply something from which to be saved. I’m guessing that in his thinking ‘hell’ isn’t it.

    Also – what purpose does he see religion having, if at all? If all are going to be ‘saved’ (whatever that means) then surely there’s no real need for any specific belief system, other than perhaps a social function to make life run a bit smoother?

    One of the things that really stands out to me in this sort of discussion is how ideas that are considered pillars of faith, that one takes for granted, are not as set in stone and easy to define as one would be led to believe. Perhaps think God should have made this kind of thing a bit clearer, especially to those who have a one to one relationship with him, don’t you think? Or perhaps that’s the next concept that needs to be challenged?

    Once again – playing devil’s advocate ;)

  64. Don Rogers said

    Nic- As far as I can tell, Steve must be on a sabbatical. Still haven’t re-acquired a copy of “If Grace is True”. I am actively seeking it from a friend. I want to recommend a post from a blog I read regularly. You may have ventured there yourself. It speaks to the problem of discussing verses from the bible, finding that everyone’s interpretation is different. The blog author attacks the problem from the point of “the feeling of knowing”. An interesting approach! The link is:

    http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/

    Thanks for sharing your great blog.

  65. Nic,
    I picked up my copy of “If Grace Is True” this morning. :) :D :lol:

  66. [...] grace approach to the problem of hell, such as that proposed by Thomas Talbott (see my recent post) even [...]

  67. Jeromy said

    I am going to be purchasing this book. Thanks for the suggestion.

  68. J said

    Mr.Paton ,

    Reading the review you presented of the book by Mr.Thomas Talbott, makes me want to read the book all the more .

    From what I have read of the description of the book written by Mr.Talbott, unless I have overlooked something, it seems that there are less (if any) postmodernist leanings in the writings of Talbott than there are in other writers such as the postmodernist theologian Brian McLaren . Though Brian McLaren is rather amiable as a Christian writer , I must state that the postmodernist leanings in the excerpts from the writings he wrote I have read are rather marked …and , hence, there are misgivings with the elements of thought I’ve seen presented by him. In all fairness , I have not read the writings he has written at great length …and I do not wish to suggest that everything he necessarily espouses is flawed .

    Ironically, postmodernism by its ambivalence undermines the stance of universalism …even undermining the single-mindedness that is requisite to defending the universalist hope as a hope in a way that is consistent and not in a namby pamby way that extends some sort of monsterously pusilanimous respect to those who would be so weirdly uncharitable to reject the hope of universal salvation , let alone rejecting it as a settled affair …

    One of the insights I’d like to mention here is how counterproductive (to put it mildly) it is to adopt an attitude that God and the matters of Christianity are somehow inherently inscrutible and mysterious ..and allege that somehow deductive logic cannot know all matters of spirituality . That is misleading for deductive reasoning does ceertainly indeed remain the final determiner of truth hence the verse of Isaiah 1:18 has Yahweh say to the ancient prophet , ‘come and let us reason together.’

    Though there is an emotional vexation with the prospect of people being irreversibly and endlessly dammed to torment (be that torment physical or emotional) , transcending that even, is the realization of how NONconsistent the notion of eternal torture is with the references to God as being merciful and being kind, even to the unthankful . It is the nonconsistency of the notion of endless torture in the afterlife, as NOT being consistent with the notion of God as kind , that leads me to reject such a notion with vehemence .

    And such an opposition with the nonconsistency of such a notion , is but an extention of a larger opposition to nonconsistent thinking overall . Hence , duty leads to be wary whenever there is any non-consistent thinking . Therefore, when people propose redefining terms (out and out redefining rather than some specialized technical usage) I am obligated to object to it . Therefore, it is saddening when people become so mendacious as to redefine terms like love and kindess to claim that somehow God’s love is somehow different …and is supposedly different from the sentimental love and kindness that humans can manifest …and thereby try to whitewash the notion of an endless torment of some people in the afterlife .

    Much of the mendacity of that sort, probably gets some indirect ballast from the hullabaloo in popular discourse & pop psychlogy of so-called “tough-love” … at times when that word “tough-love” is bandied about it is ascribed to unsympathetic , murky and sometimes downright ugly ways of treating people …and the term whitewashes such unsympathetic and murky ways of treating others by calling it love . Love, in the most optimal sense of the word, …as in referring to charity …though within certain constraints can be compatible with a sternness of a sort, *must be gentle and merciful* . After all , a merciful/gentle disposition is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit .

    Yet there are a myriad of ways that people will try to whitewash the prospect of an endless torture …even citing the mendacious , authoritative sounding claims of that highly overrated theologian C.S. Lewis , in defense of an irreversible hell ….(Though C.S.Lewis conceived of an emotional sort of hell rather than a physical one , and though he does express the belief that some people could be find salvation from the Lord in the afterlife and be taken out of a hell…and can be applauded for that, nonetheless was woefully inadequate in affirming that it would somehow be acceptable if some people were left in hell and made that silly hyperbole in one of the essays he wrote about how God supposedly couldn’t make “the dog in the manger king of the universe “)…

    One of the obstacles to a good treatment of the issue of the ethical ramifications of a notion of endless torture is the weird tendency of some people be they fundamentalists , or be they postmodernist narative theology, people to claim that reason and logic is somehow in any degree hindered from comprehending the affairs of God .

    Below is a reworked version of an essay I’ve posted elsewhere that shares some commentary regarding the dangerous tendency to want to maintain what is contrary to reason / logic . After all, reason and logic are but fancy words for making sense …and to claim that from time to time that we should even for a moment put aside making sense …is absurd . It is a misnomer to claim that putting aside the making of sense / to put aside accuracy is somehow what is meant by the word ‘faith’. That is not what the word ‘faith ‘ means .The commentary below is but a brief treatment of a number of scriptures which (when interpreted at a quick glance) some take to allege that some inherently mysterious, inscrutible purpose to God (granted not all fundamentalists use that sort of argument to defend the notion they have of hell , but some do) . There are other verses that are taken by some and interpreted to support that doctrine …and I would like in further posts to clarify how another interpetation of such verses is more plausible than the
    ANTI-logic interpretation .

    COMMENTARY FROM ANOTHER ESSAY

    It saddens me that there are people that talk themselves into mendacious thinking, telling themselves that a contradiction somehow it could be anything other than a contradiction …such as fundamentalists who claim that the contradiction between a kind God who loves even the sinners and the prospect of allowing some people to be endlessly tormented after they die, somehow merely “seems a contradiction to us”.. and that in some future era to come it will be shown to us in eternity not to be a contradiction .

    Often people will dress up internal contradictions with fancy misnomers like “paradox” …but the term “paradox” remains a misnomer …There is no authentic paradox ..what seem at first glance to be such are either just contradictions or statments that seem to be self -referential, but aren’t (or other fallacies) in interpreting language .

    The notion that there is some sort of separating between divine reason and some so-called “human reason”, or “human logic”, that could somehow reconcile contradictory propositions …is misleading and runs contrary to Isaiah 1:18, which indicates that God does use the same sort of deductive reason that humans use…albeit with greater committment .

    It shows that the notion that there is somehow a mysterious “insucrutible” Divine reason, separate from human logic …is a false notion, for if God had a mysterious logic different from the logic that human beings use …then there could be no reasoning together.

    The supporters of the weird doctrine which claims that God has an inherently mysterious other sort of logic than the logic of humans may cite the verse in Isaiah that states ,

    .my ways are not your ways / my thoughts are not your thoughts’ ,

    claiming it supports that thesis , but that verse would be more plausibly interpreted NOT that God has some sort of mysterious other sort of logic than the deductive logic that humans use.

    Instead, that verse would be more plausibly interpeted that God is more thorough in using the same deductive logic that humans do …NOT that he has some sort of mysterious other logic . Furthermore, the verse that comes before it indicates that the proposition at stake is that God is willing to show mercy, unlike humans who tend to bear grudges and are less likely to show mercy, For the previous verse states ,

    ‘Let the wicked man forsake his ways and the unrighteous his thoughts and let him return unto the Lord and he will abundantly pardon ‘…thus, indicating that the verse is more of a statement about God being unlike people in willing to show mercy …and NOT the prooftext for the doctrine that God somehow has some mysterious other sort of logic or reason, different from reason that humans have …as some people (especially those influenced by Calvinism would be wont to interpret it) .

    There are other verses which some might misconstrue to claim they support the notion that God has some mysterious inscrutible type of thinking different from the logic that humans are familiar with such as one in Romans that states ,

    For who hath known the mind of the Lord ?Who hath been his counsellor ? and adds , ‘His ways are past finding out’. Yet that could be plausibly interpreted to mean that God is *more resourceful* than humans are
    …*NOT* that God is mysterious , inasmuch as it relates how the *partial* fall from grace of Israel at the time allowed for Gentiles to be grafted into the New Covenant faster .

    And hence the statement in the letter to the Romans where St.Paul states , ‘He hath declared them all in unbelief, so he might have mercy on all .’

    Speaking of the letter of Paul to the Romans, Paul writes a statement in that letter that is quite *contrary* to the notion that claims God’s Will is some sort of mysterious affair .

    He writes that the ‘hidden and invisible things of God are clealy understood by the things that are made and the things that do appear, even his invisible power and Godhead’ . That verse is quite a contra-indication ….if Paul was right when he wrote that verse…of the
    wrongheaded doctrine that claims that the will of God is somehow a mysterious affair .

    IF, I should ever sell out and accept the state of affairs of people being endlessly tormented with no possiblity of another chance at redemption …which is what many Fundamentalists maintain is going to happen …THEN woe be unto me .

    • Nic Paton said

      Hi again J (Is that your real name BTW?)
      You certainly have a lot of ideas. I find myself strongly affirming a lot of what you say. For example, I think your idea of consistancy expresses what I might call integrity, as in :

      “It is the nonconsistency of the notion of endless torture in the afterlife, as NOT being consistent with the notion of God as kind , that leads me to reject such a notion with vehemence.”

      But on the other hand I have to point out that I feel your championing of logic goes too far, and does so at the expense of the more right brain values of imagination and faith.

      It was Chesterton who noted “Try to go straight and life will bend you.” Life is not straight, knowable, and clean. Nature shows us this. I have to stand by my assertions that ambiguity lies at the heart of the world, and of God.

      To reject this ambiguity is a very modernistic posture, in line with Newton’s idea/ideal of a deterministic universe. I see that universe as being constantly unfolding, and creation as forever in process.

      I think too that you would be hard pressed to eradicate mystery from the scriptures. As one example, the Pauline doxology from Romans declares “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” This theme is highly consistant with the whole cannon of scripture and beyond.

      But … divided we stand! The fact that I take you to task on an issue does not mean I do not value you and your words, indeed, I do.

      Thanks again,

      Nic

      • J said

        Mr.Paton Posted :Hi again J (Is that your real name BTW?)

        Response: Hello Mr.Paton . Good to see a new post ! Jason is my real name . Some friends call me Jay for short .

        Mr.Paton Post : You certainly have a lot of ideas. I find myself strongly affirming a lot of what you say. For example, I think your idea of consistancy expresses what I might call integrity, as in :

        “It is the nonconsistency of the notion of endless torture in the afterlife, as NOT being consistent with the notion of God as kind , that leads me to reject such a notion with vehemence.”

        Response: Well, glad that resonates. It is good that resonates with a longing you at times feel towards that . I maintain we ought to be totally maximal about consistency …and I gather from the paragraphs below you have some disagreements with the maximization of it ….

        Mr. Paton Post :But on the other hand I have to point out that I feel your championing of logic goes too far, and does so at the expense of the more right brain values of imagination and faith.

        Response: I see . Well, I’m feeling sleepy this present evening and plus I’m more up for a lighter sort of convivial mood to the response .
        Let me say, sir, that something I like about you is that unlike many other people of a postmodern inclination you don’t get petulant with me posting absolutist stuff, but welcome dialectic and have a joie de vivre to the tenor of the reponse even when debating a little with me …the long winded , preachy old absolutist aspiring old square ….A lot of the postmodernists I’ve debated online get all sour when I post absolutist ANTI-ambiguity posts …you don’t …and so I suspect I will keep on liking you and valuing exchanges with you in the times to come …

        I must make some statements, by passing, of a somewhat polemical sort …..

        Mr.Paton Post : It was Chesterton who noted “Try to go straight and life will bend you.”

        Response: As much as I like some of G.K.Chesterton’s stories and some of his essays ..especially some of the commentary he had on a Pre-Raphaelite painter named G.F. Watts (whose work I cherish) …I maintain he was quite off on that proposition .

        The deal is not to let oneself get bent to be single minded in resisting the bending that goes on ..

        Mr. Paton Post : Life is not straight, knowable, and clean. Nature shows us this. I have to stand by my assertions that ambiguity lies at the heart of the world, and of God.

        Response: Well duty leads me to say that I don’t go along with that sort of proposition, but what can I say…tonight again , I’m wanting to keep it light and plus I’m too sleepy to post a longer polemic. From time to time I will present at length arguments against that notion…and if you still continue to be inclined against that and don’t get on the absolutist wagon then ….as much as a proverbial stick in the mud old square as I am , God still loves you and I’ll still be your neighbor here on this big old globe …and no hard feelings …

        Mr. Paton Post : To reject this ambiguity is a very modernistic posture,

        Response: Well Plato, and Pythagoras were quite opposed to ambiguity and they were hardly modernists …

        Mr.Paton Posted :in line with Newton’s idea/ideal of a deterministic universe. I see that universe as being constantly unfolding, and creation as forever in process.

        Response: Though there have been some rationalists who have maintained a somewhat deterministic stance …such as Leibniz apparently …a rationalist (in the old sense not like those empiricist professional atheist jokers who falsely call themselves rationalists) absolutist position is NOT somehow wedded to determinism . A rationalist, absolutist ontology and epistemology can be quite independent of any claim of determinism . I am supporter of a absolutist , rationalist ontology and epistemology and I reject the notion that the actions of agents are causally predetermined (at least I reject it in the main …though there can be some soft predispositions that, in some cases, can be *somewhat* difficult yet certainly not impossible to overcome) . I maintain that volitional free agency does indeed exist .

        (A pithy way i’ve heard volitional free will explained is a wanting to want ….which would be a kind of meta-wanting that could sometimes when primed by focus get someone to want to want something differently then what they might naturally want , like a person who wants to lose the desire for gambling even though they like it and want to stop wanting it so long that they eventually no longer even desire to gamble, let alone do it. )

        Mr Paton Posted :I think too that you would be hard pressed to eradicate mystery from the scriptures. As one example, the Pauline doxology from Romans declares “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” This theme is highly consistant with the whole cannon of scripture and beyond.

        Response : Well it is an ironic coincidence that you should mention that verse, for that is one of the verses that I seek to explain (among others) would be more plausibly interpreted as *not* actually promoting the notion that God has any mysterious purposes …as some claim… but instead could be interpreted in a much different way . The way I propose that should be interpreted is that Paul was teaching that God was more resourceful than people …are… hence, the figurative hyperbole about His ways being past finding out …and that God —after much of Israel had fallen into partial blindness …(as Paul explains in Romans) had used the opportunity which he did not predestine to bring the Gentiles into the New Covenant in larger numbers and at a faster rate ..Hence the part about ‘blindness in part ‘ has happened to the Israel , ‘until the fullness of the Gentiles come in. ‘ Then , ‘all Israel will be saved. ‘

        I also would like to, as time goes on, address again several other verses that are often touted by those who claim that God allegedly has mysterious purposes …such as the one in Isaiah which states ,

        ‘My ways are not your ways. My thoughts are not your thoughts’ . That verse could be more plausibly interpreted not that God has any mysterious ways nor thoughts , but instead interpreted in a different way that I hope to later explain in the present thread .

        Mr.Paton Posted : But … divided we stand! The fact that I take you to task on an issue does not mean I do not value you and your words, indeed, I do.

        Thanks again,

        Nic

        Response: Immensely looking forward to further correspondence and where dialectic leads. I do listen in the sense that I do hang on an interlocuters every word . I strive to be fair while at the same time being quite one sided …and no those are not antimonies as some might think at a quick glance . Look forward to seeing where discourse leads !

        May the Lord Jesus bless you , sir .

        And, incidentally, if I ever should sell out and take the weird approach of supporting fundamentalism (a prospect I find a far worse state of affairs then myself being tormented in an endless physical hell ) please denounce that I have done so …and do so using linear reasoning of a totally absolutist consistent sort with no ambiguity . Grins :)

  69. J said

    ADDENTUM : Sorry if it seems like I am rambling with a lot of topics , however, there is another area of the Bible where a potential misconception could arise from a rather loose interpretation being put forth by those who claim that a bad situation could somehow allegedly shown to be all for the best, in some allegedly mysterious way .

    There is yet another verse that is sometimes taken in favor of the incongruous notion that somehow bad states of affairs can be somehow all for the good as part of some mysterious Divine purpose, that I would like eventually address and explain how a more plausible interpretation could be applied to the verse , one that does NOT promote the notion that somehow God considers what is bad to be all for the good .

    That is the verse in Genesis, where Joseph says to his brothers after one or more of them expresses regrets for having sold him into slavery (…and it is being sold into slavery that led him to Egypt)

    ‘you meant it for evil , but God meant it for good’ .

    Sometime I’d like to post an essay that goes into a longer dissertation as to how that story does NOT indicate that the bad is all for the good in some mysterious Divine plan . The gist of it, in condensed version, is that a more plausible interpretation of the story would be that God wanted Joseph to go to Egypt to bring back the resources to help his family (like bringing back the grain and other resources to help his family) but God being that God is all good and does NOT want anyone to do anything sinful …did not want Joseph to be sent to Egypt by his brothers selling him into slavery to get there . However, once Joseph was in Egypt as a result of being sold into slavery , God was able to use the situation of Joseph being in Egypt for good…by turning the situation around, after he got there, and providing Joseph with the resources necessary to help his family back in Caanan .

    So the most plausible interpretation, given the premise that God would not want a sinful act: such as the brothers of Joseph selling him into slavery… to take place , of the statement spoken by Joseph to his brothers ,

    ‘You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.’ , the second ‘it’ in the sentence referred to Joseph arriving in Egypt …not to the way he arrived there …NOT to him being sold into slavery by his brothers .

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