So, finally, here's the last part of my interview with Gregory Macdonald. You can find the previous two parts here
I'll follow this up with an assessment of the interview and (to a lesser degree) book before too long. If you're interested, I've written a few other posts that are relevant to this discussion. Perhaps most relevant would be: Why Evangelise if there's hope for non-Christians?
Though Universalists get to claim that others fail to take their strongest passages at face value, I would argue that you do so here. To me, there appears to be a thread throughout Scripture where life is given to the righteous, but death/destruction/nothingness awaits the 'wicked'. How does 'eternal destruction' become 'salvation and everlasting bliss'?
I do think that universalist texts are often not taken at face value. However, I do say that the traditional evangelical approach of reading them in the light of the hell texts is a legitmiate thing to try and do. The point is that we have two sets of texts which seem to contradict so how do we handle that? Let the contradiction stand? Read the A texts in light of the B texts or read the B texts in light of the A texts? One has to try out different options and see which one seems to handle the overall evidence best.
You are quite correct that I am reading a B text (eternal destruction) in the light of A texts (universalist ones). Traditionally evangelicals do the opposite and that's OK too. The reason that I abandoned that strategy was because of wider theological problems with hell.
I 100% agree with you that there is a strand in Scripture of life for the righteous and death for the unrighteous. I wish to affirm it.
You ask how Eternal destruction becomes eternal bliss. Well, it doesn't. The hell texts are not treated by me as texts about eternal bliss - they are about fearsome punishment. Period. I do take that punishment as penultimate but not because every text that mentions punishment speaks of it in this way. I speak of it in that way for the reasons given earlier (and far more fully in the book).
In the end the issue is one of wider theological hermeneutics.
(How does the annihilationist handle the universalist texts? How do they handle the problem that God does not achieve his all purposes for creation (esp. if I am correct in Chapter 1 to argue that he could save all without violating our freedom)? For me, it is always a judgement of how to handle a wide range of issues and not just a matter of looking at individual texts.)
I guess I'd start by saying that I believe very much in a wider hope. So, those who are destroyed may not be many. I am an inclusivist and understand 'faith' in very active terms. (E.g. I expect to see Gandhi on the new earth.) Maybe God's love and committment to our freedom are such that he is willing to not achieve every last aspect of his purposes. We see this in Jesus - "O Jerusalem! I would have held you to me..." I'm not sure it's necessary for the annihilationist to demonstrate that every objection can be overcome, because we don't have all of the data. What we do have are passages of scripture that are very clear that life and immortality are given to the righteous and death and destruction (even being no more) await the wicked. Alongside that we see that there is no duality in eternity and God will be all in all. So, on that explicit data alone, without needing to bring in any hopeful implications it seems most natural to posit annihilationism of some kind.
I am happy to agree to disagree. I guess my view is predicated on the conviction that God could save all without violating our freedom - if that is so then God does not need to allow some to be lost out of respect for our freedom. If you could show that my arguments on freedom and sovereignty do not work then I think your position would be very attractive to me.
If God can ensure that all will repent without removing freedom, why can he not do this pre-death for all people? If the existence of Hell serves some purpose for Him, does that not undermine your position?
That's a great question! I do not know the actual answer but here are two routes I could explore:
...it's a biblical command!
Though I once found it awkward to think through the kind of stuff below, I now feel enough removed from the role of a pastor to say what desperately needs to be said.
For the life of me, I cannot figure out why Pastors seem to be either held up on a pedastal, or trampled underfoot. Neither can I quite grasp why so many of the pastors that I know are generally under-valued, under-paid, unappreciated and seriously taken for granted by the powers-that-be above them and the people around them.
I remember hearing Brian Mclaren talk a few years ago about an interview he' d given at a conference. I believe it was with Dallas Willard and they were discussing why a trip to your average bookshop would reveal a great upsurge of interest in Buddhism and New Age, but a sharp disinterest with Christianity.
As with the previous part of my interview with Gregory Macdonald, I feel the need to apologise for how much is assumed on the part of the reader. Some of this may not make a lot of sense unless you're familiar with arguments/texts commonly used by Universalists, or sitting with a copy of The Evangelical Universalist in front of you.
In part three (or maybe, four), I will post the last part of my interview with Gregory, along with an assessment of the book. However, let me at this point state that I am very grateful for the time he invested in this conversation, along with the openness conveyed. I may as well nail my colours to the mast and state that I was impressed by the argument of The Evangelical Universalist, even if I wasn't finally convinced. All said, I do believe that Gregory admirably achieves his goal of demonstrating that one can be an Evangelical and a Universalist. Perhaps now we need a decent book to demonstrate that one can be an Evangelical - or human with a heart-beat - and believe that the God revealed in Jesus Christ will torture the majority of humanity endlessly!
There were more than 4000 Anabaptist martyrs in the sixteenth century, outnumbering any other group of martyrs in that period. Men, women and children. Leaders, fresh converts, theologians, preachers, spouses, faithful saints.
These are our brothers and sisters in Christ. These are my cloud of witnesses
. These are the smiling faces that I look for in the crowd. These are the voices that I hear from behind me: "Stand up. Keep going. He is faithful."
I meant to add some quotes to yesterday's post
, to go alongside my quotes from the Reformers last year
. See if you can guess which of these are not really from the pen of Martin Luther: