Then neither do I condemn you.

I haven’t touched the subject of Christian Universalism in a while, but I came across some interesting thoughts a couple of weeks ago, which I have been meaning to post.  Once again, even if we don’t believe that scripture supports a Christian Universalist perspective, it is fair to say that hoping for and desiring universal salvation is Biblical. To that end, I continue to read hopefully on the subject.

The Evangelical Universalist links to a post written specifically in response to N.T. Wright’s views on hell, particularly as discussed in Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (as I recall, Wright dedicated maybe 3 pages to the subject of hell).  The writer (Dan) has this to say, which does not require a knowledge of Wright or his works:

. . . given Wright’s emphasis upon the biblical narrative, I’m a little surprised that he doesn’t think (or at least doesn’t say) that the salvation of all might be just the sort of “surprise” that fits rather well within the trajectory of that narrative. Despite the Old Testament material that shows us that the Gentiles would be also be welcomed into the Kingdom of God, the offer of the inclusion still came as a surprise to many in the days of Jesus and Paul. Of course, in retrospect, we 21st-century Christians can see how that inclusion fits the story rather well. I can’t help but wonder if a similar surprise awaits us. Given the hints that exist within the Scriptures, we might also see the inclusion of all people in the consummation of the Kingdom.

. . . I can’t help but think of the scenario in Jn 8.1-11 involving the woman caught in adultery. I wonder, if at the moment of judgment, once we have been fully confronted with both our own sinfulness, our own complicity in the broader structures of sin, and the ways in which those who sinned against us have been sinned against, if what will result is similar to what happens to the woman. In 1 Cor 6.2, Paul tells us that the saints will judge the world. I wonder if this means that God will say “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone.” I wonder then, if we are unable to throw stones, if God will also say to those being judged, “then neither do I condemn you. Come now and leave your life of sin.” (Link)

Interesting thought, no?

4 thoughts on “Then neither do I condemn you.

  1. Jay

    Interesting, certainly, but I must comment that it does contradict Jesus’ warnings of certain choices leading away from eternal life with God.

    But certainly something I wouldn’t have come up with on my own.

  2. Linea

    It is an interesting thought. Its a concept I ran into when researching the Romans 11 passage I spoke on. The writers of a few commentaries spoke of Paul’s view of the eventual redemption of all the Jewish people because of the ancient covenant and the promises that God made to this people. So, it is definitely not a new thought.

    I ponder this from time to time, mostly when I realize how pervasive sin is and how it affects the lives of people in ways they may not even be aware of. And then the more I factor in God’s graciousness, the more reasonable it seems. I wonder how anyone will be able to resist his love when they come face to face with God.

    On the other hand, it seems fitting when faced with great evil, that the perpetrators of it should be punished.

    There is simply too much that we can never know till later.

  3. Marc

    Linea: N.T. Wright, to whom “Dan” is responding” has similar sentiments:

    I find it quite impossible, reading the New Testament on the one hand and the newspaper on the other, to suppose that there will be no ultimate condemnation, no final loss, no human beings to whom, as C.S. Lewis put it, “Thy will be done.” I wish it were otherwise, but one cannot forever whistle “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy” in the darkness of Hiroshima, of Auschwitz, of the murder of children and the careless greed that enslaves millions with debts not their own.” (Surprised by Hope, p. 180)

    We can’t imagine it otherwise, but we’re only human. Perhaps God can. Our notion of justice does often seem to be quite different than his.

    And perhaps being face-to-face with God will be a more terrible judgment/punishment for the despot or the sex-predator than anything we could imagine.

    This is all musing, of course.

    Jay: I’m curious to know which of Jesus’ words you are thinking of. Can we wipe out what might be argued to be the sweep of Biblical narrative with a few choice words by Jesus plucked out of the text? Jesus also told the parable of the lost sheep, for instance. The shepherd goes out and gets the sheep that has wandered off.

    Related to this, here is another quote from Wright:

    . . . When Jesus was warning his hearers about Gehenna [a burning pile of garbage outside of Jerusalem], he was not, as a general rule, telling them that unless they repented in this life they would burn in the next one . . . His message to his contemporaries was stark and . . . political. Unless they turned back from their hopeless and rebellious dreams of establishing God’s kingdom in their own terms, not least through armed revolt against Rome, then the Roman juggernaut would . . . turn Jerusalem into a hideous, stinking extension of its own smoldering rubbish heap. When Jesus said, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish,” that is the primary meaning he had in mind.” (p 176)

  4. Don Hendricks

    Marc, I continue to enjoy glimpses of your and Dixie’s life as you raise those beautiful kids. In this issue I have moved past hoping to defending and teaching, but do not believe this excludes the just judgment of those whose actions harmed others with violence. For me the meaning of ionian as “age enduring” rather than “eternal” and correction rather than torment has tipped the scale of biblical narrative to a generous orthodoxy. The character of God as restorer has brought peace like a river into my ministerial life.

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