Saturday, September 14, 2013

A Thought On Judgment

Reflecting on the prevalence of "soft universalism" in every level of the Church, something occurred to me. Why is it so popular? Thinking back to a few personal conversations I've had, I came up with a couple of reasons.

1. "I just can't conceive of how an all-loving, all-merciful God could allow someone to go to hell/send someone to hell."

Initially, the problem here is obvious. The person doesn't agree with the proposition of people going to hell because they can't conceive of it or reconcile it with their personal view of God. Of course, just because a person can't figure it out, this doesn't make it not the case. One would expect God's take on things to be a bit difficult for humans to grasp.

Then you've got a couple of other issues. If it's stated in the former ("allow someone") way, it seems that what the person is asking is for an overriding of free will. If we envision heaven as union with God along the lines of the Bridegroom/Bride, for God not to allow the opportunity to say "no" would pretty much make Him a rapist in the nuptial analogy.

If it's stated in the latter fashion ("send someone"), it ignores the reality that the "sending" is really being done by the sinner. God predestines no one to hell, and anybody who winds up there goes because of their own sins.

2. "Hell is only for really bad people and, seriously, how many of those are there really?"

This usually comes up in one of two ways. First, as a way of saying that sin in general really isn't that bad. It's often prefaced with "Do you think God really cares if I _________________?"

Notice again how the speaker's subjective ideas are what is behind the question(s). The speaker really knows what God thinks about sin and whether it's something bad enough to condemn a person. The speaker really knows what God cares about. Somehow, all this gets dropped into the mental blender, they push puree, and what comes out is certitude that the sin isn't all that bad, and God has better things to do.

Second, sometimes the speaker looks past the concept of sin totally and focuses on other characteristics of the sinner. In this case, it's not about how what they did isn't all that serious. It's more about emphasizing how nice people are and that nice people shouldn't be condemned. Why? Because they are so nice.

Yet again, we see a bit of hubris as the speaker essentially puts themselves in the place of God and determining, per their own subjective criteria, what the nice guy's eternal fate should be.

The best part about both of these "arguments" is that, when countered with something like, say, things Jesus said:

And a certain man said to him: Lord, are they few that are saved? 

But he said to them: Strive to enter by the narrow gate; for many, I say to you, shall seek to enter, and shall not be able. But when the master of the house shall be gone in, and shall shut the door, you shall begin to stand without, and knock at the door, saying: Lord, open to us. And he answering, shall say to you: I know you not, whence you are. 

Then you shall begin to say: We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. And he shall say to you: I know you not, whence you are: depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you shall see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. And there shall come from the east and the west, and the north and the south; and shall sit down in the kingdom of God.

Luke 13:23-29

the speaker will immediately determine such a grave perspective as uncharitable.

This doesn't mean that everyone is going to hell either, regardless of how much we all deserve it. It means that presumption of salvation is a convenient path to hell.

(Here we plug again Ralph Martin's book on the topic.)

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