Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

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Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby Alex Smith » Tue Sep 18, 2012 9:00 pm

Given Derek's new book Healing the Gospel (see RevDrew's excellent review) looks at Penal Substitutionary Atonement (often comes up on this forum), I've invited him to do a Q&A for us here! Derek's username is @sharktacos.

I'll kick us off with a question that I've been asked:

Is all Biblical justice ultimately restorative rather than retribution? Does God do any retribution?
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby sharktacos » Tue Sep 18, 2012 9:39 pm

Is all Biblical justice ultimately restorative rather than retribution? Does God do any retribution?


Thanks Alex! Wow that is one doozie of a question!

Where I see the sticking point here is that
1) it is clear from the teaching of Jesus that we humans are not to act in retribution
2) Jesus presents God the Father as the model of enemy love
So if God is retributive but we can't be, how can God be a model for us?

Michael Gorman suggest that the answer is found in Philippians 2 where we see that Jesus although God, humbles himself in kenotic love. Taking that as Paul's "master narrative" he then suggests that the pattern we see is that while God alone may be understood as having the right to retribution, God instead chooses the cross. God chooses to forgive. God models enemy love for us in Christ.

What I see in the NT is a text in transition. I see a people who have assumed that the way of retribution is God's way, and I see Jesus speaking into that context, and trying to show them a better way--the way of enemy love, the way of restorative justice. I see Jesus continually pushing at their assumptions.

Take for example the parable of the Sheep and Goats: It begins with the traditional religious assumptions of retributive judgement, and then Jesus completely turns the tables, basically saying "You believe in judgement? Well, if anyone is gonna go to hell, it's you religious folks who are ignoring these people in need by trying to keep yourselves pure!"

He begins with their assumptions (of hell, of retribution, etc) and then pushes at them, always in the direction our acting in mercy and compassion. So while there certainly is language of God's retribution in the NT, I think if we look at the big picture, what we see is a trajectory moving away from retribution and towards restoration. Or if you will, the broad narrative of the NT is that retribution is the problem that is solved by the superior way of God's restorative justice.

Derek
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby JeffA » Wed Sep 19, 2012 6:34 am

Hi Derek,

I have read your blog (and the articles) for a while now and, having come from a Conservative, Penal Substitution, Eternal Torment background (Plymouth Brethren in the UK - I'm currently agnostic), have enjoyed reading a different take on the meaning of Christ's atoning death.

In contemplating getting the Kindle version of your book I had a look at the sample chapter on your site and found a paragraph that seemed to contain something of a typo..
'Love is not in conflict with justice, love is how justice comes about because New Testament understanding of justice is ultimately not about , about making things right again.'

All the best,

Jeff.
Yours in doubt

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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby sharktacos » Wed Sep 19, 2012 6:52 am

Thanks for pointing that out Jeff. The sample chapter is from an earlier version I had (due to technical issues). That typo does not appear in the Kindle or print version of the book. I'll update the sample chapter. It should read:

"Love is not in conflict with justice, love is how justice comes about because the New Testament understanding of justice is ultimately not about punishment, but about making things right again."
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby amy » Wed Sep 19, 2012 7:13 am

Derek, I love how you stated that. Of course it's what I've been convinced of for awhile now, but haven't been able to express as concisely as you just did. I usually avoid sharing stuff like this on fb, but I'm going to have to make an exception for this one.
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby Catherine » Wed Sep 19, 2012 8:06 am

I've ordered a paperback copy from Amazon Uk. :D Sounds just what I need.
''Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.'' Isaiah 45:22. (sounds like a command to me. Don't God's commands always come to pass?)
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby DaveF » Wed Sep 19, 2012 8:28 am

Derek I am so glad you are here on this forum. I recently discovered your The Rebel God blog and have been devouring your insightful and illuminating posts there. I intend to order The Healing of the Gospel today. It is contibutions like yours that makes me believe that something new (the ruach) is stirring in the world. May these first refreshing breezes grow into a tempest of truth that will free the world.

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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby sharktacos » Wed Sep 19, 2012 2:18 pm

DaveF wrote:Derek I am so glad you are here on this forum. I recently discovered your The Rebel God blog and have been devouring your insightful and illuminating posts there. I intend to order The Healing of the Gospel today. It is contibutions like yours that makes me believe that something new (the ruach) is stirring in the world. May these first refreshing breezes grow into a tempest of truth that will free the world.

Dave


Thanks Dave, that's really encouraging :)
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby revdrew61 » Thu Sep 20, 2012 2:46 am

Derek,
The answer, I think, lies in a deficient understanding of sin. Flood rightly says we are enslaved to sin and even sick with it. But not once does he angle his definition of sin vertically. He does not mention that the first commandment is always the first to be broken. He does not follow Joseph or David's concern that sin is fundamentally against God (Gen. 39:10; Ps. 51:4). And despite Flood's focus on Romans, he does not tells us that idolatry is the lead-off sin in Paul's case against the Gentiles. Sin as idolatry is completely missing.

How would you respond to Peter Gurry's accusation (in his review of your book for the Gospel Coalition) that your view of sin as sickness rather than crime lacks a vertical dimension and does not take idolatry seriously?
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby Username » Thu Sep 20, 2012 3:26 am

Hi Derek

Just a quick note to welcome you to the forum (although I see you have actually been a member for quite a while :D ), and to say a massive 'thank you' for your Rebel God blog. I stumbled across an earlier version of it in, I think 2005 or 2006, and your article 'Penal Substitution vs Christus Victor' had a huge, and hugely positive, impact on my life. At that time I had read little of my now favourite theologian (not that he'd refer to himself that way :D ) George MacDonald's writings on the atonement, so your article really opened my eyes.

For years I had been deeply uncomfortable with many tenets and doctrines of 'orthodox' Christianity - so much so that I very nearly abandoned the faith altogether. I just couldn't believe in a God who required a blood sacrifice to forgive sins, or who consigned His children to everlasting punishment for not believing in Him. Thanks to you, and GMac, and all the Universalist writers and theologians 'out there' (nobody in my church ever mentioned any of this stuff, other than to dismiss Universalism out-of-hand) I now no longer have to live with that impossible tension. So thank you, Derek, you are an inspiration and an apostle of the true gospel.

I shall be downloading Healing the Gospel onto my Kindle forthwith! Can't wait to read it! :D

Peace and love to you

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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby auggybendoggy » Thu Sep 20, 2012 8:05 am

Shark,

Thanks for taking the time to do a Q&A with us here at the EU.com, we appreciate it.
You and I have been dialoguing on this very topic and while we may have our differences regarding the nature or definition of the word “retribution”, I agree that God’s intent is for restoration.

Without rehashing that issue again, I’m interested in one of your points you make here –
“God chooses to forgive...”

When Jesus states that there are false prophets and that we are to beware of them, and seems to paint for us the image of what’s going to happen to them – they will be cut down and thrown into the fire, and that many will be cast away from God “depart from me” – would you say Jesus too is in a transition? (Matt 7)

Jesus and Paul, as far as I can see, are in sync. Paul too describes that those who reject the truth are given over to destruction, that those who practice evil will not escape God’s judgment. What are your thoughts on Jesus’ warnings for those who act like the devil?

I tend to think God forgives and can still punish without violating the “forgiveness”. Do you think that’s incorherent?

Blessings to you.

Auggy
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby sharktacos » Thu Sep 20, 2012 10:23 am

johnnyparker wrote:Hi Derek

Just a quick note to welcome you to the forum (although I see you have actually been a member for quite a while :D ), and to say a massive 'thank you' for your Rebel God blog. I stumbled across an earlier version of it in, I think 2005 or 2006, and your article 'Penal Substitution vs Christus Victor' had a huge, and hugely positive, impact on my life. At that time I had read little of my now favourite theologian (not that he'd refer to himself that way :D ) George MacDonald's writings on the atonement, so your article really opened my eyes.

For years I had been deeply uncomfortable with many tenets and doctrines of 'orthodox' Christianity - so much so that I very nearly abandoned the faith altogether. I just couldn't believe in a God who required a blood sacrifice to forgive sins, or who consigned His children to everlasting punishment for not believing in Him. Thanks to you, and GMac, and all the Universalist writers and theologians 'out there' (nobody in my church ever mentioned any of this stuff, other than to dismiss Universalism out-of-hand) I now no longer have to live with that impossible tension. So thank you, Derek, you are an inspiration and an apostle of the true gospel.

I shall be downloading Healing the Gospel onto my Kindle forthwith! Can't wait to read it! :D

Peace and love to you

Johnny


Johnny, thanks so much for sharing this. I'm so happy that I could be a part of God's grace working in your life like that. That's honestly the whole reason I do this. So hearing stories like yours makes it all worthwhile :)
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby sharktacos » Thu Sep 20, 2012 3:10 pm

revdrew61 wrote:Derek,
The answer, I think, lies in a deficient understanding of sin. Flood rightly says we are enslaved to sin and even sick with it. But not once does he angle his definition of sin vertically. He does not mention that the first commandment is always the first to be broken. He does not follow Joseph or David's concern that sin is fundamentally against God (Gen. 39:10; Ps. 51:4). And despite Flood's focus on Romans, he does not tells us that idolatry is the lead-off sin in Paul's case against the Gentiles. Sin as idolatry is completely missing.

How would you respond to Peter Gurry's accusation (in his review of your book for the Gospel Coalition) that your view of sin as sickness rather than crime lacks a vertical dimension and does not take idolatry seriously?


Hi Andrew,

Well there are two separate questions here. One is whether sin is best understood as crime or sickness. Peter says it should be both.

I make the case in the book that viewing sin strictly from a legal lens has led to a profoundly deficient understanding of sin that in fact trivializes the problem and offers no real cure, and in fact adds to the hurt. It is a view of sin that is out of step with everything we have learned over the last century about mental health, and out of step with the NT.

Peter completely ignores all that, and simply makes the unsubstantiated claim that there is no problem with viewing sin as crime. But there is in fact a huge problem. If I get a speeding ticket, that works pretty well at deterring me from speeding. So in cases like this, it seems to work fine. But our prison system has an enormously high rate of repeat offenders, and an alarming amount of people in prison are mentally ill or addicts. What we are increasingly finding is that punitive measure do not lead to their reform, they make them worse. In contrast, restorative programs have had great success and reducing violence in prison and to bringing about actual rehabilitation (no repeat offenses). In addition to that, restorative programs also help the victims of crime to heal. Punitive programs do nothing to restore victims.

We also need to be clear that Peter does not think that retributive justice should have have the function of restoring (or deterring for that matter). He thinks that the purpose should be to inflict hurt for hurt. When he says retribution, he really means it. We need to keep that in mind when he speaks about the "vertical aspect" that is allegedly missing in my book. What is missing is the idea that God must punish sin, and that God cannot simply heal it. In other words, in his view, even if God could heal us and make us loving, good, and holy in Christ that, Peter thinks that would not be enough. Even if God could mend the hurt done by our sin to ourselves and others, that would not be enough. God (according to Peter) demands blood, demands hurt. I think that is a view of God that is completely out of step with the New Testament, and deeply troubling.

In contrast, I would argue that God is not the one with the problem, we are. That's why God comes to us, while we were yet sinners, while we were God's enemies, and first loved us. There is a vertical focus, but that focus is not us-up-to-God, it is God-down-to-us. Jesus continually draws our attention to how we treat others as a reflection of how we love God. "As you have done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto me" Jesus tells us. When David says in Psalm 51 "Against you only, Lord, have I sinned" he is saying the same thing as Jesus. As the king he had thought that he could do whatever he wanted, and so he raped Bathsheba, and then had her husband killed. But now David has realized that in sinning against these powerless subjects of his, he had in fact sinned against the king of kings. The point here is not to say that God doesn't care about what David has done to that poor couple, and instead wanted to have all the attention. The whole point is that God wants us to care about the least, to care about each other. Vertical sin is inseparably connected to horizontal sin.

So if by a vertical focus we mean the notion that God is somehow “offended,” and needs to be mollified by us—that God can't love us until “satisfied” by violent punishment, then yes I do reject that idea. God is not some insecure monarch demanding his pound of flesh. God is the one who comes to us in Jesus, seeking reconciliation. God is not the one with the problem, we are. God does not need to be changed, we do. God does not need to be turned around (repenting), we do.

If however a vertical focus means that we need to center our lives around God revealed in Christ, then this is in fact something I discuss at great length in the book. I see it as absolutely essential because it is through living with Jesus as our bottom line, as our Lord, and indeed as our friend in an intimate and growing relationship that we learn to love others just as Christ did. This is the "antidote to idolatry" Peter is looking for, found in a loving and transformative relationship with God. That vertical relationship with God naturally flows into our horizontal relationships with others because when we have truly experienced what it is like to be unconditionally loved by God, not based on our goodness, but based on God’s goodness, how can we help but want to treat others with that same grace and mercy we have known? This is not a heaven-ward focus, because a focus on God in Christ calls us not to look up, but to look down to the least. That's where we find Christ.

So I do have a clear "vertical focus" in the book, but it is one focused on a loving and good God showing us enemy love and grace, rather than on an angry God demanding punishment in order to be mollified. That sounds more like a primitive volcano god to me, and not like God revealed in Christ.
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby sharktacos » Thu Sep 20, 2012 3:39 pm

auggybendoggy wrote:When Jesus states that there are false prophets and that we are to beware of them, and seems to paint for us the image of what’s going to happen to them – they will be cut down and thrown into the fire, and that many will be cast away from God “depart from me” – would you say Jesus too is in a transition?


Hi Gene,

I would note a couple things:

First, this is Matthew's version of Jesus. Matthews gospel is much harsher with more of a violent apocalyptic than all the other Gospel writers. So what we have is not so much Jesus in transition as Matthew in transition. To put it differently, he is writing for a Second Temple Jewish audience who have assumed the legitimacy of violence. Yet even here we see that the intent is to begin there and move away from that and towards a message of radical forgiveness.

Second, is the fact that Jesus is not a "teacher" in the sense of someone who clearly explains concepts to people in a didactic fashion. That is why we see his audiences constantly being baffled by what he says. Jesus provokes, challenges, pulls the rug out from under people. That is his style of "teaching." So we see that Jesus begins where his audience is at--which is often with the assumption that we should kill bad people in the name of God, that we should condemn and cast out the sick and disabled because they are under God's curse. Jesus begins there, and then moves people away from that view with both his parables and his actions. Both of which are often intended to provoke and to shock.

So I do not think it is correct to see Jesus as advocating violent divine retribution. I think that is where his audience begins, but not where Jesus wants them to end up.

auggybendoggy wrote:Jesus and Paul, as far as I can see, are in sync. Paul too describes that those who reject the truth are given over to destruction, that those who practice evil will not escape God’s judgment. What are your thoughts on Jesus’ warnings for those who act like the devil?


I would say that Paul understood this as a natural consequence of their behavior: Have an affair and it will destroy your marriage. Not as an externally inflicted punishment, but as the natural consequence. I do not think at all that Paul saw that as good (i.e. that it had a positive restorative function). Perhaps it can, but Paul's focus is on how it is a negative consequence that we want to avoid. Further he distinguishes from what is the natural consequence of our actions (the "wage") and what is God's action of justice, which is clearly restorative.

auggybendoggy wrote:I tend to think God forgives and can still punish without violating the “forgiveness”. Do you think that’s incorherent?


I guess I would need you to be more specific with what you mean exactly by that, but initially I find it problematic to say that because it would imply to me that we should then inflict harm and suffering on people in order to "restore" them. This is something Augustine did. He had people beaten, he took away their property, and so on. This eventually lead to people being regularly tortured and killed in the name of "curing them." There is a long and bloody history of what is called "the myth of redemptive violence." I am very aware of that painful history, and so all sorts of red flags go off for me when I hear the idea of redemptive punishment. I'm sure this is not what you intended to propose, but I am simply stating that this is historically where this has lead in the past. So I am holding up a big sign that reads "those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it." I think we need to look at the history of redemptive punishment, recognize how profoundly hurtful it has been, and look for a better way.

Derek
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby Melchizedek » Thu Sep 20, 2012 6:12 pm

sharktacos wrote:
revdrew61 wrote:Derek,
The answer, I think, lies in a deficient understanding of sin. Flood rightly says we are enslaved to sin and even sick with it. But not once does he angle his definition of sin vertically. He does not mention that the first commandment is always the first to be broken. He does not follow Joseph or David's concern that sin is fundamentally against God (Gen. 39:10; Ps. 51:4). And despite Flood's focus on Romans, he does not tells us that idolatry is the lead-off sin in Paul's case against the Gentiles. Sin as idolatry is completely missing.

How would you respond to Peter Gurry's accusation (in his review of your book for the Gospel Coalition) that your view of sin as sickness rather than crime lacks a vertical dimension and does not take idolatry seriously?


Hi Andrew,

Well there are two separate questions here. One is whether sin is best understood as crime or sickness. Peter says it should be both.

I make the case in the book that viewing sin strictly from a legal lens has led to a profoundly deficient understanding of sin that in fact trivializes the problem and offers no real cure, and in fact adds to the hurt. It is a view of sin that is out of step with everything we have learned over the last century about mental health, and out of step with the NT.

Peter completely ignores all that, and simply makes the unsubstantiated claim that there is no problem with viewing sin as crime. But there is in fact a huge problem. If I get a speeding ticket, that works pretty well at deterring me from speeding. So in cases like this, it seems to work fine. But our prison system has an enormously high rate of repeat offenders, and an alarming amount of people in prison are mentally ill or addicts. What we are increasingly finding is that punitive measure do not lead to their reform, they make them worse. In contrast, restorative programs have had great success and reducing violence in prison and to bringing about actual rehabilitation (no repeat offenses). In addition to that, restorative programs also help the victims of crime to heal. Punitive programs do nothing to restore victims.

We also need to be clear that Peter does not think that retributive justice should have have the function of restoring (or deterring for that matter). He thinks that the purpose should be to inflict hurt for hurt. When he says retribution, he really means it. We need to keep that in mind when he speaks about the "vertical aspect" that is allegedly missing in my book. What is missing is the idea that God must punish sin, and that God cannot simply heal it. In other words, in his view, even if God could heal us and make us loving, good, and holy in Christ that, Peter thinks that would not be enough. Even if God could mend the hurt done by our sin to ourselves and others, that would not be enough. God (according to Peter) demands blood, demands hurt. I think that is a view of God that is completely out of step with the New Testament, and deeply troubling.

In contrast, I would argue that God is not the one with the problem, we are. That's why God comes to us, while we were yet sinners, while we were God's enemies, and first loved us. There is a vertical focus, but that focus is not us-up-to-God, it is God-down-to-us. Jesus continually draws our attention to how we treat others as a reflection of how we love God. "As you have done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto me" Jesus tells us. When David says in Psalm 51 "Against you only, Lord, have I sinned" he is saying the same thing as Jesus. As the king he had thought that he could do whatever he wanted, and so he raped Bathsheba, and then had her husband killed. But now David has realized that in sinning against these powerless subjects of his, he had in fact sinned against the king of kings. The point here is not to say that God doesn't care about what David has done to that poor couple, and instead wanted to have all the attention. The whole point is that God wants us to care about the least, to care about each other. Vertical sin is inseparably connected to horizontal sin.

So if by a vertical focus we mean the notion that God is somehow “offended,” and needs to be mollified by us—that God can't love us until “satisfied” by violent punishment, then yes I do reject that idea. God is not some insecure monarch demanding his pound of flesh. God is the one who comes to us in Jesus, seeking reconciliation. God is not the one with the problem, we are. God does not need to be changed, we do. God does not need to be turned around (repenting), we do.

If however a vertical focus means that we need to center our lives around God revealed in Christ, then this is in fact something I discuss at great length in the book. I see it as absolutely essential because it is through living with Jesus as our bottom line, as our Lord, and indeed as our friend in an intimate and growing relationship that we learn to love others just as Christ did. This is the "antidote to idolatry" Peter is looking for, found in a loving and transformative relationship with God. That vertical relationship with God naturally flows into our horizontal relationships with others because when we have truly experienced what it is like to be unconditionally loved by God, not based on our goodness, but based on God’s goodness, how can we help but want to treat others with that same grace and mercy we have known? This is not a heaven-ward focus, because a focus on God in Christ calls us not to look up, but to look down to the least. That's where we find Christ.

So I do have a clear "vertical focus" in the book, but it is one focused on a loving and good God showing us enemy love and grace, rather than on an angry God demanding punishment in order to be mollified. That sounds more like a primitive volcano god to me, and not like God revealed in Christ.


Awesome answer.
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby sharktacos » Mon Sep 24, 2012 10:46 pm

So to start the ball rolling after our downtime, let me throw out something:

One of the major themes of the book is looking at how our doctrines translate into actions. How they impact our ability to trust in a loving God, and how they impact how we treat each other. A big theme here is the inherent violence in our popular understanding of "justice," and the proposal to replace this violent understanding of justice with restorative justice.

Along those lines, I wanted to bring up the issue of how these ideas might intersect with folks from a universalist perspective. Specifically I'd like to make an argument against pairing together universalism with a belief in redemptive violence.

Many universalists have adopted the view that Hell is restorative. So instead of having the view that it is eternal punishment, or that is is annihilation, the view is that it is redemptive suffering... more or less the same as the Catholic idea of purgatory.

Of the 3 above choices, I can see why universalists would be drawn to this last one. The concern I have is the notion of "redemptive suffering" which Walter Wink has called the "myth of redemptive violence" and the consequences that embracing this can have on how we treat others. Specifically, looking at history, and especially church history, we can see that this idea of redemptive punishment has been behind a lot of violence. It was the logic of why prisoners were tortured in the inquisition, it was the reason children were severely beaten for centuries, it was the reason for inhumane treatment of prisoners, and on and on.

I hope we can all agree that this practice is abusive, and should not be something we should do. Perhaps God can, but we cannot. So for example a sovereign God might allow some tragedy to happen in my life, and from that I may have a major turn around. That is very different from me causing that tragedy in your life "for your own good."

That is an extremely important point that we humans should not try and harm someone else, should not terrorize or violate them "for their own good." Maybe that seems like a no-brainer, but this was precisely how people have thought for centuries, and many still do.

But let's push this a bit further: Do we really think that God causes hurricanes to wipe out cities or gives people cancer? Do we even think that God purposely "allows" someone to get cancer. I think it would be pretty hard to trust a Father who would "allow" their child to be hurt.

So what I would like to propose is that Hell is not "redemptive" and neither is any other kind of pain or suffering. Pain is bad. Suffering sucks. Cancer is evil. God does not do evil. God does not inflict suffering. What God does is God works in the middle of that pain, turning "what was evil into good."

Hell is the sucky rotten reality of our own hurt and hurtfulness, and Jesus is in there with us working to overcome all that in love.

So now we have an understanding where we do not need to affirm that God would do something that would be evil for us to do. In other words, the character and way of God is a model for our behavior.

Thoughts?
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby Catherine » Tue Sep 25, 2012 5:30 am

Just got home and my copy has arrived. :D Will tuck in later tonight.
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby JasonPratt » Tue Sep 25, 2012 5:47 am

sharktacos wrote:So to start the ball rolling after our downtime, let me throw out something:

[snip]

Thoughts?


Speaking as one of the big-gun purgatorial universalists on the site:

1.) I agree that we ought to be restrictive when it comes to major punishments, and even if due to social circumstances we believe we have to inflict them we should do so as mercifully as possible. I may be in favor of the death sentence in various cases, but I'm not in favor of death by torture. Relatedly, though, it would be better to institute a system of restitutionary justice where the criminal is expected to do good for those whom he (or she) has wronged. As a practical matter this becomes very difficult to implement, moreso than merely punitive systems (do your time, pay your debt to "society" in the abstract, then go your way or be buried). But there are scriptural precedents for it. Even the OT laws, harsh by our standards, were very progressive for their times and circumstances; not least because there were numerous safety factors built in (and built upon them later) to help prevent maximum penalties from being adjured. Yet the maximum penalties were still there, and still really viable (not merely theoretically so): for fallen human nature, at least, the stick has to be real or there will be a lack of respect.


2.) On the other hand--and this is something I find myself having to stress with some frequency to both non-purgatorial universalists and non-universalists whose systems divorce God from being actively involved in the fate of sinners (this is one of my main criticisms of JP Holding's soteriology which I've been commenting extensively on recently)--any infliction of an unwanted condition by God, amounts to God inflicting suffering!

The suffering may be light or may be severe to any degree, but it's still suffering. We may agree that God does not do what would be evil for us to do, but insofar as He opposes evil at all in any practically effective way, those who do evil will suffer as a result. Someone may love their sins because of corrupted psycho-physical wiring (so to speak), but healing that problem still involves inflicting an inconvenience directly opposed (to some real degree) to the person's current preferences. That's an infliction of suffering just as real as keeping sinners hopelessly alive in some inconvenient condition (no matter how relatively light that inconvenience may seem), or just as real as intentionally withdrawing active upkeep of a sinner's existence so that the person is hopelessly annihilated. If God sits someone down for a stern talking-to (which is what I hope and expect most post-mortem retribution will amount to, aside from healing corrupted natures), that's an infliction of suffering by God. If someone in their sin does something with an inconvenient result of its own, and God chooses to let that result occur to inconvenience the person, then that's still an infliction of suffering by God. God may not have wrath in Him, but if He goes out to war against those who go out to war against Him, He is still inflicting suffering by burning up their thorns and thistles with which they try to wage war--even if they themselves (metaphorically and/or literally speaking in whatever degree) aren't burned in passing, or by trying to hold onto the thorns and thistles, they wanted and intended to use those thorns and thistles which God has now forcibly denied them!

There wouldn't be much point to God being reckoned with transgressors, either, if those transgressors had not transgressed against God and were suffering as a result. Different rabbis even outside Christianity picked up and applied both concepts from OT scripture, that the Messiah (or even YHWH!) shares suffering inflicted by YHWH on Israel for her sins, and that the Messiah (or even YHWH!) suffers Himself due to sin by Israel against YHWH: God (and/or His highest appointed representative) voluntarily suffers with victims and with the guilty.


I sympathize with the problems in trusting a Father who would "allow" their child to be hurt, but your own proposal still involves God allowing His children to not only hurt themselves in their sins but to hurt each other in their sins (completely aside from the question of God allowing them to hurt Himself in their sins!) Otherwise sinners would never be inconvenienced at all, ever; and if I am not supposed to trust a Father who would "allow" his child to be hurt, then I only have to recall EVERY SINGLE UNFAIR SUFFERING I HAVE EVER EXPERIENCED OR KNOWN ABOUT (whether really or only apparently unfair) to be just as fatally solvent in trusting the Father.

Maybe this comes from spending many years as a Christian apologist, but that's a big factor in lack of trust in God already for unbelievers. If we cannot offer anything better than that principle lack of trust due to any kind of allowance of suffering, then frankly I recommend becoming at least agnostics, maybe atheists, and even maybe anti-theists.

Personally I prefer knowing that God Most High, the One authoritatively responsible for setting up and maintaining conditions where people suffer, doesn't inflict those conditions from on high but shares them with us as a promise and evidence of His ultimately benevolent intentions toward us. The judge Who inflicts our inconveniences (whatever those are) for our sins, is also our Paraclete who stands with us and even suffers our penalties with us. The judge who arbitrates between us and those we have sinned against, also stands with our victims sharing their victimization, just as He shares our unjust victimizations with us. We have no appeal and we have every possible hope.

But our sin doesn't have any hope at all. God is going to inflict against our sin, sooner or later (or sooner and later), one way or another (or in a bunch of ways). Insofar as we insist on holding to our sins we're going to be that much more inconvenienced by the infliction but we're going to be, and already are, inconvenienced anyway by God in action regarding our sins!

If I, who fondles my sin, am going to be inconvenienced on God's authority and (in various ways) by God's active choices against my sin in any case (which must be true if God opposes sin in any practical way), I had better damned well hope that salvation from my sin, and the achievement of justice for all, is God's goal for the inconvenience!

Otherwise it's ECT or anni. Which are at least as inconvenient to my currently fondling of sin, and so to my current personal preferences (to some degree), as salvation from sin. ;)

But my point, in summary, is that even salvation from sin, in whatever fashions, must be an inconvenience, and thus an infliction of suffering, by God. We may hope it will not be more than a minor inconvenience, but it will still be an inconvenience, and logically moreso insofar as we insist in holding to our sins.


To which I could add more comments regarding violent imagery claimed of God (and by God, at least by report) in the scriptures, in opposition against sin: even accounting for Ancient Near Middle Eastern hyperbole and possible (even likely) misunderstanding by messengers, those are still warnings and outright predictions (and reports) of God's opposition to sin and to sinners. Inconvenience, at least authoritatively allowed by God, due to our sins, is a past, present and future reality (even if not the ultimate end of our reality). And most of those statements, by far, are not merely about God allowing inconvenience, but about God inflicting inconvenience.

And, from a purely self-critical perspective, I do not have much trouble expecting that for at least some people, that infliction has been, is, and will be, inconveniently extreme for various reasons--primarily having to do with people insisting on holding to their sins. Being baptized in God's consuming fire sounds great to a Christian charismatic. Not so much to someone holding onto adultery and murder and pride in his heart.

Being salted by the unquenchable fire, to such a person, sounds frightfully hellish and affrontive to their personal self-worth.

And for very good reason.
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby Melchizedek » Tue Sep 25, 2012 7:18 am

Good thoughts, Derek and Jason. Just one comment in passing;

JasonPratt wrote:
Speaking as one of the big-gun purgatorial universalists on the site:

1.) I agree that we ought to be restrictive when it comes to major punishments, and even if due to social circumstances we believe we have to inflict them we should do so as mercifully as possible. I may be in favor of the death sentence in various cases, but I'm not in favor of death by torture. Relatedly, though, it would be better to institute a system of restitutionary justice where the criminal is expected to do good for those whom he (or she) has wronged. As a practical matter this becomes very difficult to implement, moreso than merely punitive systems (do your time, pay your debt to "society" in the abstract, then go your way or be buried). But there are scriptural precedents for it. Even the OT laws, harsh by our standards, were very progressive for their times and circumstances; not least because there were numerous safety factors built in (and built upon them later) to help prevent maximum penalties from being adjured. Yet the maximum penalties were still there, and still really viable (not merely theoretically so): for fallen human nature, at least, the stick has to be real or there will be a lack of respect.


I may be off base here, but I think that there is a stick that's real without necessarily forcing post-mortem punishment; and that is simply, "do not be deceived, for God is not mocked, a man reaps what he sows". My question is, why would God put that in there if there wasn't a question about the reality/ necessity of post mortem "zorching"? It would seem to be a strong indicator that our punishment for sin is contained within the consequences of the sin itself, and not inflicted by God directly.

As to Derek's question about God causing evil (Great book, by the way; I'm about 3/4 through); "causing" appears to be a tricky word, even in passages such as Isaiah 45 (which I'm learning myself). I do think that it carries more of the sense that God uses evil to accomplish his good purposes, though he may not actually be causing or doing the evil directly. He does at the very least seem to claim responsibility for it in the sense that He is using it to effect a greater good. This sovereignty stuff is tricky business!
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby DaveF » Tue Sep 25, 2012 9:06 am

Thanks Derek for throwing this out. I was going to do so myself if someone else didn't.

If Jesus of Nazareth is the definitive revelation of the true character of God then God is a healer and not an afflictor. "For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men." Lam. 3:33 Your book "The Healing of the Gospel" is a much needed antidote for the affliction of retributive justice that has overshadowed the healing and liberating truth of the Gospel of Jesus the Healer. The healing Gospel has been suppressed and diluted with retributive notions to such an extent that it bears little resemblance to the Gospel of Jesus the Healer.

In the first century B.C.E. the expectation of the coming of the messiah of YHWH was at fever pitch. One of the common expectations of the liberating messiah was that he would be a military leader who would overthrow, through the violence of battle, the oppressive gentile powers, namely Rome, and subject all the nations to the Torah and rule of God. Jesus never presented himself as a military messiah using violence and bringing down retributive justice on those who opposed (rebel sinners) the Kingdom of God; to the contrary, he was the polar opposite of that.

So why did many Jews, mainly the poor, sick, outcasts (sinners) and oppressed, begin to see him as a type of messiah figure. Because he healed them, he fed them, he brought them life and a new vision of the truth of God by demonstrating to them that God was not against them but forever for them and with them.

The way he died was not just a demonstration of that in the most graphic and visible way. It is the revelation of the true nature and character of God that nothing before in the biblical narrative could demonstrates with such stark clarity and radical newness. It is more than just another event, as often portrayed in Christian theology. in the so-called plan of salvation--albeit a significant one. It is a singularity event on par with the creation of the universe in the first moment of the Big Bang. It is not at all an act of retribution or a justification for violence, it is the resounding No, against violence and retribution. It is an act of creation, new creation that brings the Life of God to all the godless and godforsaken. God in Jesus subjected himself to the almighty power of death at the hands of the violent death-dealing minons (the political and religous authorties) who serve that power. The death of Jesus brought Emmanuel to the place of all the countless victims of the power of death--even to the long lost dead and extinct.

The resurrection of Jesus is much more than the rising of one man from the grave. It is the precursor for the universal resurrection (new birth/creation) of all things across all the time and space of the universe. It is no mere spiritual "resurrection" of enlightenment. It is the new birth, of all things directly from the Life of Abba, Father.

Resurrection is another aspect of the Gospel that needs to be healed. Philosophical dualism has imprinted the meme of an "after life" of going to heaven or hell deeply into Christian thought. Resurrection is not just another theory of the "after life." It is the supreme healing event of the universe. It is the negation of death. It is healing taken to the nth degree undoing all the injustices, violence and death of the past and freeing the creation to be filled with the full living presence of YHWH and the Lamb bringing the creation to its fulfillment--and then life really and truly begins.

If YHWH does not remember our sins (for they are erased, blotted out, the slate wiped clean) then that perception of the cosmic observer of all space and time will transform all of reality in the cosmic Jubilee and all sin past, present and future becomes an impossibility. The former things have passed, "Behold, I make all things new." All have been healed/resurrected, all have been made free and are no longer under the bondage of sin and the coercive power of death.
The tsadeq and dikaiosune (equitableness) of God will fill the ever expanding creation to overflowing. It is audacious; it unbelievable; it is beyond our wildest hopes; it is impossible; it is the madness of the God who freely gives all that He is to all that there is and makes the impossible possible by making all things new. Not by an act of coercive power or retribution but by emptying Himself completely into the creation.
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby auggybendoggy » Tue Sep 25, 2012 9:59 am

If God is working in the middle of evil suffering (hell) to redeem people why would we not say God works in the middle of hell (evil suffering) to redeem people?

This presents a sort of caricature of Evangelical Universalists, that is we would proclaim “Evil saves”. I don’t think anyone on the board believes that. We don’t proclaim Hell saves, we see it in the sense that God brings about a form of suffering in us because we need it.

I however would say that the propositions are too simple. I’m not certain that all suffering is evil. As Jason points out, if suffering is evil, then punishment all together is evil – for its purpose is to inflict some form of suffering. Therefore parents are not allowed to punish but must be like God allowing the child to suffer for what they’ve done by some natural means. I asked this very question to you Derek at the Rebel God blog. I asked if you place your child on time out and you responded, that’s hardly torture – but it does cause suffering doesn’t it? Is Derek evil for introducing some unnatural consequence upon his child? I doubt it.

My main concern is that the premise: All suffering is evil is incorrect. This is the why I have difficulty embracing this proposition.

Sometimes, I believe God does even cause the suffering in us in order to produce better character by some means. As Paul writes in Romans, it was God who hardened the Pharaoh to disobey his very command and thus punishes him. But I believe Paul is explaining that God did so to bring about mercy. The ends justify the means. Of course how extensive are the means is always a gray area. As Jason and I are both pointing out, if you deny it’s gray, then you cannot support punishment (causing suffering) of any type – for its all evil.

I’ve argued that retribution can be a good thing, such as charging a fine for speeding. This is to inflict some sort of loss or suffering to the offender. But its overall intention is not to make money but to keep the public safe. Thus retribution – where someone must pay for the damage done – makes sense. My difficulty is that you seem to paint it as synonymous with VIOLENCE. And that is a plain fallacy.

So I remain unconvinced that all punishment is abusive or all suffering is evil. Heak, I’m one who believes we should lie in order to save Jews from Nazis (Rahab), I simply hold we desecrate the command and yet remain blameless – and if Jesus can do that, so can God.
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby auggybendoggy » Tue Sep 25, 2012 10:34 am

Derek,

Forgive me for sounding so arrogant. When I said “it sounds like a caricature” I didn’t mean to make it sound like you were attacking anyone who holds that position. I sounded defensive of EU and I didn’t mean to come off so poorly. Again sorry for that.

Thank you again for your taking time and I need to re-read my posts before I hit “post”.
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby JasonPratt » Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:02 am

Melchizedek wrote:I may be off base here, but I think that there is a stick that's real without necessarily forcing post-mortem punishment; and that is simply, "do not be deceived, for God is not mocked, a man reaps what he sows". My question is, why would God put that in there if there wasn't a question about the reality/ necessity of post mortem "zorching"? It would seem to be a strong indicator that our punishment for sin is contained within the consequences of the sin itself, and not inflicted by God directly.


Paul in Galatians 6:7-8 indeed follows that up by saying that the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, yet the one who sows to the spirit (or to the Spirit) shall from the Spirit reap eonian life.

However, Paul was also well aware that doers of injustice seemed to live and to die well--certainly this is a common complaint among OT prophets and patriarchs!--and taught the bodily resurrection of the unjust to judgment. I certainly wouldn't try to pit Gal 6:7 against 1 Cor 15:25 or 2 Thess 1:6-10, or many many other such scriptures indicating that God directly and authoritatively punishes, whether now or later, before and after His coming, also before and after the general resurrection. Or is Paul supposed to be the one miraculously inflicting whole-ruination on the Stepmom-Sleeping Guy of 1 Cor (apparently to the death, but certainly to major unwanted inconvenience, although with hope and expectation of salvation in the day of the Lord to come), yet Christ/YHWH is not inflicting whole-ruination (same term) on doers of injustice in the same Day of the Lord to come described by Paul in 2 Thess (citing at least two sections of OT prophecy on the same topic)?

As you say, God does at the very least claim authoritative responsibility even for evils which afflict people. Whether He is using an otherwise naturally produced effect to a greater good, God authorizes that the effect shall indeed follow and affect, and self-sacrificially keeps the effect (and the effectual cause(s)) in existence for whatever duration even if the immediate causation is natural reactions and/or actions of derivative agents. If God insists upon authoritative responsibility even for such things--a responsibility entirely consonant with supernaturalistic theism distinct from polytheism and/or atheism (or even from most pantheisms)--then I strongly doubt we have grounds for disassociating God's active responsibility from events more directly represented as afflictions: if the lesser and more subtle, then also the greater and more obviously stated.
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby Melchizedek » Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:54 am

Hmm, yes. I can also see that God disciplines those He loves, and since He loves everyone, then it has to happen sooner or later. The trickiest part is that it's often hard to tell (on this side of the dark glass, anyway) if it's strictly "discipline" for its own sake, or if it's just stuff happening that God is using to perfect us and demonstrate His power in bringing about good (such as in the case of Joseph's brothers selling him into slavery for an ordained purpose).
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby JasonPratt » Tue Sep 25, 2012 12:07 pm

Let me add in relation to Auggy's comments: I don't regard Christian ultra-universalists as being necessarily not Evangelical Universalists, just like I don't regard Christian purgatorial universalists as being necessarily EU (even though more EUs seem to be currently purga-u than ultra-u.)

So I don't regard Derek as speaking necessarily against evangelical Christian universalism. Ultra-universalists can have a high view of Judeo-Christian scripture (even higher than mine ;) ), and a concern for preaching the good news of salvation from sin by God through Jesus Christ alone. I'm even willing to acknowledge non-trinitarian Christians as evangelical, so long as they're dogmatically unitarian (not the doctrineless so-called unitarians) or non-pantheistic Incarnational modalists with a clear concern for holding to primitive Christianity for sake of accurate representation of God in the world and proper objects of worship. We may have major theistic differences in our Christologies and/or Pneumatologies, which logically prevent us from worshiping in communion per se (since our objects of worship won't exactly line up), but we're still monotheists calling for fidelity to God Most High through loyalty to the King Messiah of Judaism, the man Jesus of Nazareth, in historic appreciation of the struggles of Israel into whose promises we all (even Israel herself) are grafted.

Nor am I much (or usually even at all) concerned with ultra-universalism from an ethical standpoint; I don't regard it as some kind of moral aberration which must be rejected and from which we need rescuing (so long as the ultra-universalism involves salvation from our sins).

I only disagree with ultra-universalism as a question of accuracy as to facts in God's characteristics and relationship to His creatures; and even then I don't typically disagree as to the characteristics and relationships presented--I just don't think enough are being presented. :)
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby JasonPratt » Tue Sep 25, 2012 12:10 pm

Mel, quite so. :)
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby Melchizedek » Tue Sep 25, 2012 2:02 pm

JasonPratt wrote:Let me add in relation to Auggy's comments: I don't regard Christian ultra-universalists as being necessarily not Evangelical Universalists, just like I don't regard Christian purgatorial universalists as being necessarily EU (even though more EUs seem to be currently purga-u than ultra-u.)

So I don't regard Derek as speaking necessarily against evangelical Christian universalism. Ultra-universalists can have a high view of Judeo-Christian scripture (even higher than mine ;) ), and a concern for preaching the good news of salvation from sin by God through Jesus Christ alone. I'm even willing to acknowledge non-trinitarian Christians as evangelical, so long as they're dogmatically unitarian (not the doctrineless so-called unitarians) or non-pantheistic Incarnational modalists with a clear concern for holding to primitive Christianity for sake of accurate representation of God in the world and proper objects of worship. We may have major theistic differences in our Christologies and/or Pneumatologies, which logically prevent us from worshiping in communion per se (since our objects of worship won't exactly line up), but we're still monotheists calling for fidelity to God Most High through loyalty to the King Messiah of Judaism, the man Jesus of Nazareth, in historic appreciation of the struggles of Israel into whose promises we all (even Israel herself) are grafted.

Nor am I much (or usually even at all) concerned with ultra-universalism from an ethical standpoint; I don't regard it as some kind of moral aberration which must be rejected and from which we need rescuing (so long as the ultra-universalism involves salvation from our sins).

I only disagree with ultra-universalism as a question of accuracy as to facts in God's characteristics and relationship to His creatures; and even then I don't typically disagree as to the characteristics and relationships presented--I just don't think enough are being presented. :)


This is related to an interesting thing that I'm learning in looking into different forms of universalism, a popular version of which lately seems to be varying forms of Pantelism. Pantelism is interesting because, while it is essentially an extension of Preterism, it is by definition effectively a version of Christian Universalism that is decidedly evangelical, as well as fully preterist.
This is the angle on the gospel being promoted in a book I'm currently reviewing, "The hour we least expected", as well as Ivan A. Rogers' "Dropping Hell and Embracing Grace:..." which I have also recently read, and plan to do a review on once I'm done with THWLE.
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby Bob Wilson » Tue Sep 25, 2012 4:03 pm

Derek,

Thanks, I'm glad we can continue the dialogue from the break at 9-20. I agree that Jesus' way, absorbing evil, challenges assumptions that inflicting violence is redemptive. Yet Jesus/Paul assert that God throws some into painful 'fire' (e.g. 2 Th 1:8f; Mt 13:48f). So (9/20) you rightly say that they might mean "negative destruction" that is bad behavior's "natural consequences." Yet you add, Paul did "not at all see that as positive or redemptive"! But I wonder if that could imply that God is more brutal than even your violent opponents think?

For in such an order, doesn't God allow this built-in correlation with consequences that feel so painfully punishing? Wouldn't insisting that there is no "postive" purpose in such pain then be perverse? In judgment, I suspect that a loving God would only permit such awful consequences as 'natural, ' if God indeed secures some redemptive value in them. What am I missing here?

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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby sharktacos » Tue Sep 25, 2012 4:27 pm

Whew, lots of stuff here!

Catherine, hope you enjoy the book!

DaveF, really good stuff, amen!

Jason,
Let me throw out a clarification just to make sure we are speaking about the same thing. I suspect we may be talking past one another a bit:

1.) I agree that we ought to be restrictive when it comes to major punishments... I'm not in favor of death by torture....On the other hand... any infliction of an unwanted condition by God, amounts to God inflicting suffering!


Let's be clear on our terms: When I speak of inflicting suffering, I am referring to things like torture or abuse. Abuse and "inconvenience" are clearly not the same thing. So if a parent tells their child that they can't watch any more TV tonight, then that child might find that inconvenient, but they would not have cause to notify Child Protective Services and have their parents arrested for child abuse.

So if all one means by "consuming fire" is the uncomfortable experience of being confronted with love, then I guess I am in your camp too. I have no problem at all with that.

My concern is in the idea of inflicting harm and suffering for the alleged good of a person. Again, I am defining this as causing a person to feel violated and terrorized, and not simply an unpleasant experience, in other words I am talking about behavior that mental health professionals would classify as "abusive" in the strict technical sense of the term.

I'm concerned that we don't advocate for that practice ourselves, and that we don't imply that God does this either.

I notice that you say that you imagine God having a stern talk with people, along with healing their hearts. If that is all that is meant, then I have zero objection. I'm only speaking against the Dante-esque vision of tormented souls being prodded with molten iron pokers as a form of "purgation".

There is of course more that could be said, but I just wanted to clarify that point to make sure we are talking about the same thing.
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby sharktacos » Tue Sep 25, 2012 5:02 pm

auggybendoggy wrote:My main concern is that the premise: All suffering is evil is incorrect... I’ve argued that retribution can be a good thing, such as charging a fine for speeding.


Auggie,

Yes, as I was saying to Jason above, I agree that not all punitive consequence is evil (I have also discussed this with you at length on my blog as you know).

The question is: what is the consequence for the person? If the result is that the person undergoes psychological trauma so that we would classify this today as abusive, then that is specifically what I am speaking about. That is obviously not what happens when a person gets a speeding ticket :)

To bring this home: We are speaking of the atonement, and the question is whether the crucifixion can be considered a fulfillment of retributive justice. As I have understood it, some universalism make the case that punishment is restorative.

Now if we want to apply that to the cross, we need to look at what really happened there: Christ was brutally tortured, humiliated, and killed. That would absolutely be a traumatizing experience.

I'm suggesting that the crucifixion was not the fulfillment of punitive justice in any sense. I do think that God in a scandalous and wonderful way was able to make that cross in to the place of salvation, but not because what the Romans were doing was good or right.

I think that is where the rubber hits the road with all of this.

Let me also stress that most of the time those whom I dialog with are not universalists, but traditional evangelicals (which is my own background, and more specifically charismatic). So my apologies if I mischaracterize anyone's position here. Please feel free to correct me when I do, and I look forward to learning from all the diverse perspective you folks have. What I most appreciate is the common focus I see on grace. I can't say how good that is to see!
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby Melchizedek » Tue Sep 25, 2012 5:32 pm

Thanks for those clarifications, Derek.
I'm about 3/4 of the way through your book, and one of the things I appreciate about it is that I could hand it to some "forward-thinking", but non-universalist pastors and teachers, and I know some of them at least would "get it". So I think it's an important work partly in the sense that it could very well be a "stepping stone" book in the universalist/ non-universalist dialogue. It doesn't appear to be overtly pro-universalism, but there are ideas in there that clearly point strongly in that direction.
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby auggybendoggy » Tue Sep 25, 2012 6:36 pm

Derek,
Excellent points and ones I think most here agree with. I believe most here are not penal substitutionists. Again, I think our disagreement on what is the definition of "suffering" is a small one. My tendency is to agree with your point regarding our (mankinds) inability to control our anger.

I was going to raise the point that the book is truly about the atonement in relation to violence. And I for one am one in your corner. I don't see Jesus' death as God's punishment (in any sense) upon Jesus. For similar reasons I've already stated in our disagreements, I do think there are some premises that penal substitution get right, such as "God is angry with the wicked". That makes sense to me since love, according to Paul, is slow to anger, but it does get angry - and only because he loves us. His anger is never "violent" or "destructive" but rather is (as Talbott puts it) severe and restorative. So while I understand that PS gets some premises right, they are far too literal and draw an illogical conclusion that God is punishing an innocent man.

And let me also say what I'm exploring: The notion of the trajectory of the N.T. is a point that I believe has a lot of merit. As I've listened to you on the Beyond the box podcast and read your blog (and emails), I think there is a great truth to this point.

Blessings to you Derek.
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby sharktacos » Tue Sep 25, 2012 7:01 pm

Thanks Auggie, agreed!
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby sharktacos » Tue Sep 25, 2012 8:09 pm

Bob Wilson wrote:Derek,

Thanks, I'm glad we can continue the dialogue from the break at 9-20. I agree that Jesus' way, absorbing evil, challenges assumptions that inflicting violence is redemptive. Yet Jesus/Paul assert that God throws some into painful 'fire' (e.g. 2 Th 1:8f; Mt 13:48f). So (9/20) you rightly say that they might mean "negative destruction" that is bad behavior's "natural consequences." Yet you add, Paul did "not at all see that as positive or redemptive"! But I wonder if that could imply that God is more brutal than even your violent opponents think?

For in such an order, doesn't God allow this built-in correlation with consequences that feel so painfully punishing? Wouldn't insisting that there is no "postive" purpose in such pain then be perverse? In judgment, I suspect that a loving God would only permit such awful consequences as 'natural, ' if God indeed secures some redemptive value in them. What am I missing here?

Grace be with you,
Bob


Bob,

That is an important, deep, and challenging question.

I see sin (note I say "sin" not sins") as having the natural consequence of separating people from God in two ways. (1) When people are selfish this self-orientation cuts them off from their true relational selves, and thus from love. (2) Conversely, when people suffer from sin (either because a person sins against them or because they fall victim to tragedy or illness) this can also make a person feel cut off from love. Many people report that sickness makes them feel cut off and abandoned. Those who suffer abuse often feel dehumanized...

I think we would all agree that the latter of these should not be seen as a punishment. It is not that person's fault when they get sick or a horrible tragedy happens to them. It's just what sometimes happens in our broken world.

What God is active in doing (as we see revealed in Jesus) is healing that alienation, both in terms (1) making sinners loving, and also (2) in mending the wounds of our souls.

So God is active in redeeming in the middle of all that. So redemption is there! We are not simply abandoned to pain. God is there in the middle of our pain and wretchedness, working to love and heal.

I see as axiomatic then Jesus says "In this world you will have trouble, but take heart I have overcome the world." That is slightly (and significantly) different than saying "In this world you will have trouble, but take heart it's for your own good."

***********

Now where this gets sticky is your question of why God allows suffering at all. Before I respond, let me stress that this (along with all theology really) is something we really need to figure out together in humble dialog. So I stress that what I say here is not intended as a "final word," but rather as a contribution to the conversation:

Here we are dealing with a question of theodicy. That is, how can a good and all powerful God allow evil or suffering? We might think that if there is suffering it is because God allows it for some greater purpose. I think that Dostoevsky give a powerful reply to this when he says that there is no prize that could be worth that price. It's a passage that I can't read without weeping:

Oh, Alyosha, I am not blaspheming! I understand, of course, what an upheaval of the universe it will be when everything in heaven and earth blends in one hymn of praise and everything that lives and has lived cries aloud: 'Thou art just, O Lord, for Thy ways are revealed.' When the mother embraces the fiend who threw her child to the dogs, and all three cry aloud with tears, 'Thou art just, O Lord!' then, of course, the crown of knowledge will be reached and all will be made clear. But what pulls me up here is that I can't accept that harmony. And while I am on earth, I make haste to take my own measures.

You see, Alyosha, perhaps it really may happen that if I live to that moment, or rise again to see it, I, too, perhaps, may cry aloud with the rest, looking at the mother embracing the child's torturer, 'Thou art just, O Lord!' but I don't want to cry aloud then. While there is still time, I hasten to protect myself, and so I renounce the higher harmony altogether.

It's not worth the tears of that one tortured child who beat itself on the breast with its little fist and prayed in its stinking outhouse, with its unexpiated tears to 'dear, kind God'! It's not worth it, because those tears are unatoned for. They must be atoned for, or there can be no harmony. But how? How are you going to atone for them? Is it possible? By their being avenged? But what do I care for avenging them? What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell?

I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don't want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price. I don't want the mother to embrace the oppressor who threw her son to the dogs! She dare not forgive him! Let her forgive him for herself, if she will, let her forgive the torturer for the immeasurable suffering of her mother's heart. But the sufferings of her tortured child she has no right to forgive; she dare not forgive the torturer, even if the child were to forgive him! And if that is so, if they dare not forgive, what becomes of harmony? Is there in the whole world a being who would have the right to forgive and could forgive?

I don't want harmony. From love for humanity I don't want it. I would rather be left with the unavenged suffering. I would rather remain with my unavenged suffering and unsatisfied indignation, even if I were wrong. Besides, too high a price is asked for harmony; it's beyond our means to pay so much to enter on it.

And so I hasten to give back my entrance ticket, and if I am an honest man I am bound to give it back as soon as possible. And that I am doing. It's not God that I don't accept, Alyosha, only I most respectfully return him the ticket.


I don't know if I agree with everything he says above, but I feel his anguish, and it is simply gut wrenching. So I read it with my heart more than anything, and I have to agree that this can't be intentional. Something is wrong with our world. I can't believe that this is all planned out.

Yet somehow I want to trust Jesus when he says "take heart, I have overcome the world" I want to believe that even though this world is full of injustice and pain that God apparently can't stop for whatever reason, that somehow I can still put my hope in the weakness of the crucified God that "All shall be made well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be made well."
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby DaveF » Wed Sep 26, 2012 2:59 am

Yet somehow I want to trust Jesus when he says "take heart, I have overcome the world" I want to believe that even though this world is full of injustice and pain that God apparently can't stop for whatever reason, that somehow I can still put my hope in the weakness of the crucified God that "All shall be made well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be made well."



Derek,

Now you are getting to the heart of the matter. Past all the theological categories and christian jargon into the broken, bleeding heart of the matter. A "good" all powerful God is a reason to be an atheist not a believer in such a god. That is the concept of God that causes people who care about the injustice and suffering in this world to become atheists. But a crucified God, that is a real God for a real world, the world we live in. It is the Gospel of that crucified God that the world needs to hear not that of the cosmic sovereign who has a plan, but a crucified God who has an unquenchable passion to overcome the injustice and suffering in the world at whatever cost to himself.

Most everyone here agrees that Jesus did not pay for the sins of the world, but would they not agree that he is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. "Take away" as in really take away so that they did not happen to us, so that sin and death itself is removed from the chain of causality and replaced with a new Genesis that began with the Big Bang event of Golgotha and resurrection of Jesus.

In Jesus I see a God who takes the sin, suffering and dying of the world so seriously that he who is the very source of life goes into the unholy, godless places and expends himself unreservedly into that desolation and void to fill it with his healing, transforming, life giving, presence. This is the God of non-power.

The God revealed in the non-power of the powerless Jesus hanging from a Roman cross is also the God of resurrection. The resurrection is the universe creating and transforming life of God that does what a an almighty god with a plan and retributive "justice" can never do: He can make things new, he does not just forgive our sins he can forget them so that they are never a part of the reality of his beloved creation.

The end is the beginning: The ultimate reality when God becomes all in all, or to paraphrase: when all that God is is given to all that there is. This is the true beginning of all things, the new Genesis where all things are made new and the former things have passed away and no longer define the creation. A whole new chain of causality is established. The notion that the past of the universe is not fixed but can be changed is not based on mere fanciful speculation, it was proposed by physicist John Wheeler, one of the leading physicists of the 20th century. http://discovermagazine.com/2002/jun/featuniverse. All will be resurrected, born anew, not through evolutionary processes or genetic transmission but directly from the source of life, the Father (parent) of all creation. This is sadaq, the justice of God made real, true creative and restorative justice, not the counterfeit retributive justice that passes for justice in this world.

All of space/time, from the beginning of time to the end, is brought together into a new singularity of universal resurrection where all the laws of nature and the whole history of causality goes through the crucible of Golgotha. In this crucible all the inequitableness, pain and death experienced by the whole creation is judged (removed). The creation will be set free from the necessity of evolution; there we be neither survival of the fittest nor for that matter salvation of the fittest (being made fit for the new creation through punishment\correction). This was not accomplished by the plan of a sovereign, almighty cosmic potentate but rather through the passion of the Father and the powerless Lambkin hanging on a Roman cross. The Lamb has not paid for the sins of the world; he has taken away the sins of the world. He takes the injustices, pain and harm suffered by his creation so seriously that he, who alone is worthy and capable, takes exclusive possession of them. They will be hidden from us and only the all-bountiful life-giving and healing waters flowing from His presence among us will be seen and experienced by us — this is the new Genesis.

The world is facing an unprecedented convergence of crises that will shatter our civilization and bring suffering and death in scales never before experienced. This is not the ranting of Christian tribulationists but of hard nosed scientific thinkers such as Guy McPherson who recently wrote at his blog Nature Bats Last

Climate chaos is well under way, and has become irreversible over temporal spans relevant to humans because of positive feedbacks. Such is the nature of reaching the acceleration phase of the nonlinear system that is climate catastrophe.

As a result of ongoing, accelerating climate change, I’m letting go of the notion that Homo sapiens will inhabit this planet beyond 2030. I’m letting go of the notion that Homo sapiens will inhabit this verdant little valley at the edge of American Empire after it turns to dust within a very few years. I’m letting go of the notion that, within a few short years, there will remain any habitat for humans in the interior of any large continent in the northern hemisphere. I’m letting go of the notion we’ll retain even a fraction of one percent of the species currently on Earth beyond 2050. But I’m not letting go of the notion of resistance, which is a moral imperative.


If this sounds extremely implausible it is only because most of us are not well informed enough and paying attention to what is really happening to this living planet. Earth may well be the only living planet in the universe of 100 billion galaxies because the fine tuned parameters that allow the Earth to exist as the verdant place that it is are extremely improbable. Copernicus was only right about the insignificance of the Earth relative to its position in the solar system, the latest findings of cosmology and astronomy are that because of its unique parameters, which are many, the Earth may be the only planet that has complex life. This may go against the grain of the popular imagination fed by Star Trek but it is much closer to the real nature of the universe.

This is all well beyond the issues of Christian self-concern. Their sins, their repentance, their personal salvation... Soon, much sooner than we think, the ability to discuss these things comfortably from our computer over the internet will become impossible. Those who look for chastisement will get far more then they imagined, but it won't be from the God revealed in Jesus but from the long suffering tormented Earth rising up against its tormentors.

If these things come to pass and we descend into a true hell on Earth, the Crucified Risen One will be there before us and the last one to leave that hell until all are healed and saved. And then all the dead and extinct will awaken into the dawn of the sunrise of God's liberating, healing justice made real by the Crucified Risen One and all the former things will be no more, they will have never been. This is the unvarnished, unequivocal Gospel that the world desperately needs to hear in the coming hour of its greatest need.
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby auggybendoggy » Wed Sep 26, 2012 7:09 am

Dave,
Here’s what I see as a problem. Almost everything you state, is compatible with EU. We agree with the summation of all things under Christ. This is what makes it difficult to really hash out the differences.

I agree with Jason that Ultra-U does indeed take sin seriously. But I hope you can see so does Evangelical-U. Our disagreements are on the nature of punishment and suffering and how we should see this sovereign/non-sovereign God at work in our universe.

Speaking last night with Bob, he stated that he thinks the notion of freedom (fee will) is really looming here. I think he’s right. In fact when I raised up an objection regarding Paul’s articulation of the account regarding the Pharaoh, no one has commented on why it’s a false interpretation. I imagine there are other valid interpretations, but if you’re going to allow us to see what you see, you must be able to contrast your view with our own by explaining how you see things. If you just declare the things you do, we simply can’t wrestle with them, we need explanations.

From what I gather you seem to, at the very least, embrace imputed righteousness. Christ died for all and therefore everyone is saved. Perhaps I’m wrong about that.

So while I agree with Derek regarding God not punishing an innocent man, I don’t agree that God does not punish the wicked. It seems from both my experience in life and in scripture, that is exactly what happens – there is suffering for those who practice evil and it doesn’t stop in this age. That is based on my interpretation of a plethora of verses. Yes I know my interpretation may be wrong (probably is) and Derek may have some great insight into that. But we have to be able to compare and contrast our ideas. The worst thing you can do in defending your position is to either ignore it or dismiss the charges by stating that the writers were wrong – Paul didn’t know what he was talking about regarding the Pharaoh. It seems to me that the one who really promoted the grace of God also had ideas that God indeed was causing people to “fall asleep” because of their lack of care for the poor. This Paul endorsed that it was God who hardened not only the Pharaoh, but also Israel that mercy might come to the gentiles. How do you understand these things?
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby sharktacos » Wed Sep 26, 2012 7:46 am

auggybendoggy wrote:Dave,
It seems from both my experience in life and in scripture, that is exactly what happens – there is suffering for those who practice evil and it doesn’t stop in this age.


Can you give some examples of what you mean when you say: "It seems from... my experience in life... that is exactly what happens – there is suffering for those who practice evil"

My observation (and that of the Psalmists) is that this is actually not the case. So I'm not sure what experiences you are referring to.
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby JasonPratt » Wed Sep 26, 2012 8:33 am

sharktacos wrote:So if all one means by "consuming fire" is the uncomfortable experience of being confronted with love, then I guess I am in your camp too. I have no problem at all with that. [...] I notice that you say that you imagine God having a stern talk with people, along with healing their hearts. If that is all that is meant, then I have zero objection. I'm only speaking against the Dante-esque vision of tormented souls being prodded with molten iron pokers as a form of "purgation".


Except that I was talking about uncomforts and inconveniences that might be intense, too, even intense to the extent of being (in one or more senses) fatal. And whatever we decide to do with it, the textual fact of the matter is that Jesus Himself by report used a term for "torturer" when describing someone being handed over into prison until he should pay up the final cent.

I fully acknowledge and insist that we've dangerously misread the point of that (and several other related) judgment parable, if we try to make the punishment hopeless (such as by regarding the get-out condition as being an impossible sop to legality mocking the fate of the prisoner), or if we try to make the punishment about being an embezzler instead of being about being unmerciful and insisting on punishment for someone else. ("Was it not required of you to be merciful?!") The point is lost if there is not really any threat of punishment to those who are unmerciful, though.

Is it the intensity of a condition that constitutes "violation" and "abuse", or is the goal of the infliction of the condition? A child could easily regard being required (or outright made) to stand in a corner or to go to his room, as being an "abuse" or "violation"; there are adults who claim such a thing, too, for all practical purposes! What about light spankings?

If the child likes or doesn't mind the punishment (YAY, I GET TO GO TO MY ROOM AND PLAY!--my own attitude as a child when told I had to go to my room :mrgreen: --what bothered me was that my Mom or Dad was unhappy with me), then what has been accomplished by inflicting the condition at all? And it is still technically an "infliction" and a "coercion". So would be the "uncomfortable experience of being confronted with love" (aside from whatever the particular psycho-physical conscious sensastions of that experience would be).

What you proposed was "that Hell is not 'redemptive' and neither is any other kind of pain or suffering." If by "redemptive" you meant that so much pain somehow weighs or pays out against so much injustice, then I agree; but that kind of thing isn't what redemption usually involves anyway. What redemption does usually involve is repentance for injustice, insofar as we're talking about moral redemption and the immoral person's cooperation with it. But the redemption itself is inflicted on us by God whether we want it or not, too. Without God inflicting something on us we don't at the moment want, we wouldn't be healed enough to want to repent or even to have the capability of doing so.


Derek wrote:My concern is in the idea of inflicting harm and suffering for the alleged good of a person. Again, I am defining this as causing a person to feel violated and terrorized, and not simply an unpleasant experience, in other words I am talking about behavior that mental health professionals would classify as "abusive" in the strict technical sense of the term.


I am not sure what the strict technical sense of "abusive" is, but I do know that the strict technical sense of "suffering" and "inflicting" involves God acting to bring about (or authoritatively permit) and maintain (for any duration) any experience we are compelled to react to whether we want to react to it or not. Even if we want to react to it, that infliction could be abusive: that's why it's still morally wrong to aggressively seduce someone sexually until he or she can't help but respond to the pleasure in a particular way, or to use drugs to render someone pliable to suggestion in various circumstances. But the moral issue of abuse has to do with the selfishness and the goals of the person inflicting the suffering. As the old maxim says, abuse does not abrogate the use: we cause suffering (strictly speaking in a technical sense) when we please each other in making love (and very intensely, too, if we're doing it right!), and we use drugs with psychosomatic effects in therapy to help heal a person or protect them from pain during a procedure. But the relevant moral differences involved are not reducible to pain or pleasure or the intensities of either. A drill sergeant trying to prepare soldiers for rigors of even non-combatant duty during a time of involuntary war (when circumstances dictate there isn't a choice about resisting the opponents in some dangerous fashion), may have to inflict some rather intense suffering but he (or she!) is intending to help the other person. A broken leg may have to be set or even rebroken and then reset without aenesthesia.

JRP, writing as the character 'Portunista', in Edge of Justice wrote:"I didn't want to face the possibility that perhaps the self that I was protecting was pestilent, deformed and malnourished from trying to feed upon myself in my pride.

"Sometimes a bone that has been broken, by foolishness or by fate, heals wrongly, crippling the shape and the function, destroying the joy that could be had, that still could be had again... if only the bone can be rebroken, and properly set to heal.

"But, it hurts to break a bone. And it hurts, beyond comprehension, beyond the bearing of consciousness, to break a bone that has badly been set, swollen with infection... infection that sooner or later will spread to corrupt and destroy.

"It hurts so badly sometimes to heal, that only trust will allow the healing to start.

“And no broken bone can be rightly rebroken and set, without some co-operation, some willingness to face the pain, some willingness to find someone to trust, some willingness to take such a risk.

"How much harder it is to heal, when one's self is what has been broken... by foolishness or by fate..."



I think the danger in inflicting intense inconveniences in order to try to lead people to repentance is that, due to very real practical concerns, we often can't ensure (against our own selfishnesses, and in favor of witnessing to our intentions) that we share the experience with the one who is being inconvenienced. The rabbinic tradition of YHWH going into exile with Israel, sharing her suffering, is a type of this: it helped Jews remember God's actual intentions and goals in inflicting the exile upon them. It's hard for a child being spanked to believe that it really does hurt the parent more than it hurts the child (and of course there are examples where this is not true, even though stated, or even when the punishment shouldn't be done although it really does hurt the parent more).

But the child often grows up to learn that his mother and father were telling the truth: it really does hurt the parent more in sympathizing and grieving with the child, because the parent loves the child that much.


It'll take me a while to catch up on later comments in this thread. Hopefully tonight!
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby Melchizedek » Wed Sep 26, 2012 9:08 am

I have to agree that there is a significant distinction between causing pain (and/ or suffering) for it's own sake vs. the principle of harming to heal. I must also admit that I see the principle of "harming to heal" at work both in life and in scripture. The big question is; what do we do with that when it comes to understanding how God operates?
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby Bob Wilson » Wed Sep 26, 2012 10:22 am

Derek,

You were gracious and clear! I've long thought the problem of evil is "THE" objection to theism. So I like most of what you say, especially that the mystery of suffering is what's "sticky" here, BUT you (and Dostoesky) say that "God allows suffering for some purpose" is agonizingly unbelievable. I respect that you genuinely feel that way.

But three problems with asserting God does Not "allow" our very existence's nature, and "can't stop pain" remain:

1. This doesn't at all exegetically address the claims that the Bible assumes the contrary.
2. Classically, it's theologically contradictory (unless God is finite - process theism).
3. If God can't stop evil, any confidence that "all shall be made well" seems completely irrational.

I'd much appreciate any further clarification on these three difficulties.
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby sharktacos » Wed Sep 26, 2012 10:46 am

Jason,

I unfortunately lost my longer response so let me try and be brief:

From a psychological perspective, the issue is neither the intensity of the pain involved, nor is it the intent. The decisive factor is the damage that is caused, specifically in the form of psychological trauma.

So what we have found is that inflicting physical harm on someone is not good for them or corrective, but in fact results in severely damaging them. That's why we have laws prohibiting it.
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby sharktacos » Wed Sep 26, 2012 10:50 am

Bob Wilson wrote:BUT you (and Dostoesky) say that "God allows suffering for some purpose" is agonizingly unbelievable.


I don't actually think that. I was trying to say the opposite actually. I do not see suffering as being caused "on purpose" by God for some higher purpose, I see it as the result of the fall (i.e the work of the devil), and as something that God is working against.
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby Bob Wilson » Wed Sep 26, 2012 11:27 am

Derek, I fear you've reversed what I said. When I said it is "UNbelievable" to you that "God allows suffering," I am recognizing precisely that you "do NOT see suffering as being caused on purpose" Thus, don't my three objections to that belief still invite explanation?
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby auggybendoggy » Wed Sep 26, 2012 12:41 pm

Derek you said
Can you give some examples of what you mean when you say: "It seems from... my experience in life... that is exactly what happens – there is suffering for those who practice evil"

My observation (and that of the Psalmists) is that this is actually not the case. So I'm not sure what experiences you are referring to.


In my experience, it seems good often punishes wickedness in order to correct/restore. Parents punish their children in order to teach them that consequences follow bad behavior. In scripture, it seems to follow this same pattern, God disciplines his children and can restore them by perfecting them through suffering.

My real point was that I don't see the atonement as God pounding on an innocent man so he doesn't have to pound on us. I see the atonement as a love letter, not about punishment (not even restorative punishment). But that does not require me to abandon all forms of punishment. I feel as though some people argue by reducing punishment to one form - abuse. I see this also done with anger. I hear Universalists say "God is not angry" and I see Paul include anger in his love list in Cor 13. So I think it's quite ok to say God is angry with us when we do evil, but that's not the same as saying God hates us when we do evil - something Christians often do.

Still, I'm open to you being right and love the discussion. I think there is truth to what you're saying, from a certain point of view.

So thanks again Derek,

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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby sharktacos » Wed Sep 26, 2012 2:20 pm

Ah, okay, thanks for clarifying. So your questions were:

Bob Wilson wrote:1. This doesn't at all exegetically address the claims that the Bible assumes the contrary.
2. Classically, it's theologically contradictory (unless God is finite - process theism).
3. If God can't stop evil, any confidence that "all shall be made well" seems completely irrational.


This seems to be to be related to the classic debate between Arminianism and Calvinism. Both claim biblical support. Both have pretty wide acceptance among evangelicals. Both have verses that are challenging, similar to how there are verse that seem to speak for and against universalism.

In really basic terms, the difficulties with each position are these:

Arminians would tend to say that God cannot violate freewill. That puts us in a bind, because how can God save us then? This is I think what you are referring to
Calvinists would tend to say that God is doing this all on purpose. That creates a problem of God's character. Many people find this even more problematic (I share this concern).

This brings us to the 3rd question: How can we hope?

I don't know if God can prevent evil. I simply observe that God does not prevent evil. Rape happens. The Holocaust happened. So what's going on? Is God good but not sovereign (Arminianism) or sovereign but not good (Calvinism).

My first answer is that I think it is good for us to struggle with this because we care about people. So I would never want us to have an answer that would cause us to passively accept suffering. I think God wants us to be upset and for that to translate into loving action to alleviate suffering where we see it.

But if I was trying to make sense of things, I think I would make the observation that God does not stop natural processes from happening -- whether that is a tornado or a person with a gun. I wish he did. But experience seems to show that God does not.

So if God cannot or will not prevent bad things from happening, then how can we trust God? Here I put my hope in the Christ event. I see that God is with us in our darkness, and I see that he has risen and overcome death. What this points me to is the belief that God does not (as they thought/hoped in the OT) act with force. Perhaps we wish we lived in a world like that, but for better or worse we simply don't. What I see instead at work is the persuasion of grace, the moving of the Spirit. I have experienced how God's loving grace has turned my own life around, and how it has melted hearts of stone, and healed deep wounds. So while it may seem foolish to put my hope in that in a world with real evil and hurt, that is what I am doing. That I think is the foolishness of the cross. I bear the firstfruits in my own life, and I look to love overcoming all of our stupidness and folly with love. On some days I struggle and have doubts, on my better days I hold on to that hope.
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby sharktacos » Wed Sep 26, 2012 2:38 pm

auggybendoggy wrote:In my experience, it seems [God] often punishes wickedness in order to correct/restore.


Can you give me an example of where you have experienced or witnessed God punishing wickedness?

The examples you gave were of parents (which is not the same as God), and Scripture (which is not the same as experience).

Also,the specific Scripture example you site is not of God punishing the wicked, but of correcting children. I don't think we should assume the two are equivalent.

Further, the specific context of the passage you mention in Hebrews is to encourage believers to endure hardship in the form of unjust persecution, arguing that it will work towards the strengthening of their character. I do not see it directly saying that God is doing this to them, rather it is drawing a parallel and saying that in the same way that something hard can be good in one case is also true in another. Key here is that the suffering they are enduring is unjust suffering.
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby Melchizedek » Wed Sep 26, 2012 3:00 pm

sharktacos wrote:
So if God cannot or will not prevent bad things from happening, then how can we trust God? Here I put my hope in the Christ event. I see that God is with us in our darkness, and I see that he has risen and overcome death. What this points me to is the belief that God does not (as they thought/hoped in the OT) act with force. Perhaps we wish we lived in a world like that, but for better or worse we simply don't. What I see instead at work is the persuasion of grace, the moving of the Spirit. I have experienced how God's loving grace has turned my own life around, and how it has melted hearts of stone, and healed deep wounds. So while it may seem foolish to put my hope in that in a world with real evil and hurt, that is what I am doing. That I think is the foolishness of the cross. I bear the firstfruits in my own life, and I look to love overcoming all of our stupidness and folly with love. On some days I struggle and have doubts, on my better days I hold on to that hope.


Derek, That insight in the last paragraph particularly is why I don't think that there is any real solution to Theodicy outside of universalism. If we have no hope that God will make all right in the end, then we really have no hope at all.
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby auggybendoggy » Wed Sep 26, 2012 4:35 pm

Derek,
I meant good punishes wickedness. But I'll answer as if I had written God. No, I've never seen God stick his hand out of the sky (if he's got one lol) and wack guys like hitler in the head. But then again, I've never seen God change a life either by doing anything tangible in this world. I credit it base on belief.

My point is that
A) in my experience in this world I literally see good (law) punish bad people (murderers or robbers).
b) My understanding of scripture is that it too endorses that good things (God) punishes bad people.

God is in the business of correcting people. That we agree on.

I would think we also agree on that - those who practice evil (violence lets say) will inherit violence.

I originally said "there is suffering for those who practice evil" so allow me to translate that:
There is a sword for those who live by the sword.
There is trouble for those who practice trouble.
That which you reap, you will sow.

I don't think we disagree on that. Our difference is really (I think, correct me if I'm wrong) what is morally ok for God to do and what is not. Where you say that it's illegal for people to break the bones of a child in order to correct them, we say it's not illegal for a parent or doctor to break the bones of a child in order to heal them - as Pratt said earlier.

Again, I feel there's a fallacy being demonstrated that: All punishment is abusive.

You yourself said "not all punitive consequences are evil" but then that means some punishment is good - and can't that be from God? Jason has been arguing that it will seem to us to have harsh/severe form and probably even appear to us to be retaliation (by God), but I would assume that our irrational epistemic vision can keep us from recognizing that some suffering, however unpleasant, God causes in our lives is for our benefit.

So it seems to me your argument is: All punishment is evil, therefore God cannot punish.
If you argue some punishment is good, then can God do some punishments for corrective measure?

** also, I'm hearing you and I'm sympathetic.
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby DaveF » Wed Sep 26, 2012 5:14 pm

Hi Auggy,

Thanks for your willingness to engage me in this discussion. I hope we can reason together.

auggybendoggy wrote:Dave,
Here’s what I see as a problem. Almost everything you state, is compatible with EU. We agree with the summation of all things under Christ. This is what makes it difficult to really hash out the differences.

I agree with Jason that Ultra-U does indeed take sin seriously. But I hope you can see so does Evangelical-U. Our disagreements are on the nature of punishment and suffering and how we should see this sovereign/non-sovereign God at work in our universe.


I think you have identified the essential difference between our understanding. I realize that labeling or categorizing others as EU or Ultra-U is convenient but quite frankly I think it sets up more barriers than facilitates the flow of ideas. I try, but do not always succeed, to evaluate the merits of what a person is saying in the discussion at hand without prejudicing it with some prior assumption of where they are coming from. Actually, I am very sympathetic with Karl Barth's position that he did not want to be labeled as an universalist. Sure everything that he said about the triumph of God's grace through Jesus Christ screams that very conclusion and his opponents saw it and hurled their denouncements of "miscreant heretic" at him. But universalism is really an abstract concept that can be found in belief systems as diverse as gnosticism and Buddhism and yet they are definitely not the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So all that being said I should disclose that I know I am definitely the odd-man out here. Not because I may be considered an "ultra" but because I am not, nor ever have been, an evangelical of any kind, or Protestant Christian for that matter. Aside from being raised as a Romanian Byzantine Catholic (hows that for an obscure church), which is my primary experience of church, I have had limited in-person involvement with protestant, arminian style Christians. However, I have through my own studies going back to 1974 a pretty good understanding of reformation theology and in 1981 I began to read Barth, Ellul and Moltmann and then the unlimited dimensions of God's grace began to be revealed to me. But I have been in exile from Christianity for most of that time since and this has given me the perspective of the outsider closer to all those who are considered unbelievers while being a believer myself.

This question of Theodicy, the fancy word for how God relates to and fits in with all of the real world ugliness, pain and death suffered by this world is for me the the essential heart of the Gospel. My understanding of that essential heart of the gospel comes from the Crucified God and not the Sovereign God of the universe. Sovereignty is an interpretation imposed on the biblical witness whereas the crucifixion of Jesus is central to it. Sovereignty stems from theistic concepts of God that have informed the Christian understanding of the biblical narrative and creates untenable tensions such as: a good God who is love and is also all powerful and thus why is the world such a sorrowful, suffering, mess. My understanding of universalism is not coming from the starting point of the sovereign God who is in control, but from the Crucified God who accepts responsibility for the state of the creation and risks all that he is by taking on the consequences of a broken world in order to heal it and from there takes it into a new direction that is infinitely beyond creation-in-the beginning.


Speaking last night with Bob, he stated that he thinks the notion of freedom (fee will) is really looming here. I think he’s right. In fact when I raised up an objection regarding Paul’s articulation of the account regarding the Pharaoh, no one has commented on why it’s a false interpretation. I imagine there are other valid interpretations, but if you’re going to allow us to see what you see, you must be able to contrast your view with our own by explaining how you see things. If you just declare the things you do, we simply can’t wrestle with them, we need explanations.

From what I gather you seem to, at the very least, embrace imputed righteousness. Christ died for all and therefore everyone is saved. Perhaps I’m wrong about that.


I suppose I once did long, long ago. But I have a problem with the word righteousness. It is often understood to mean moral virtue and purity; the antithesis of sin which is seen as immorality and impurity. About a year or so ago I came across a very import piece of information regarding the Greek work dikaiosune which is translated as righteous in every English translations that I can find. However, the third edition of the B.D.A.G Koine greek lexicon translates it as equitableness or even-handedness and fairness. This is one of those keywords in the scripture when accurately translated unlocks a host of previously hidden implications and dispels a lot of erroneous theological notions. The Koine papyri discovered in Egypt a century ago have slowly and carefully been studied by biblical scholars over the course of many decades and only in the past few decades are the results of their efforts being disseminated to the larger public.

So the righteousness of God formerly believed to be about the holiness and moral perfection of God in contrast to the uncleanliness and moral depravity of sinners, is a false dichotomy. The righteousness of God is in truth the equitableness, even-handedness of God who makes the sun shine and rain fall on both the just and unjust. Through Jesus the equitableness of God is made real to a world being crushed by the inequitableness of the powers and the men who serve those powers. So the equitableness of Jesus is not imputed, or credited to us; it is freely given to us and all creation so that ultimately because of Jesus' singular, prodigious act of courage and selflessness at Golgotha he will make the dream and will of the Father come true: where all that He is is freely given and available to all that there is--the Equitableness of God fulfilled.


So while I agree with Derek regarding God not punishing an innocent man, I don’t agree that God does not punish the wicked. It seems from both my experience in life and in scripture, that is exactly what happens – there is suffering for those who practice evil and it doesn’t stop in this age. That is based on my interpretation of a plethora of verses. Yes I know my interpretation may be wrong (probably is) and Derek may have some great insight into that. But we have to be able to compare and contrast our ideas. The worst thing you can do in defending your position is to either ignore it or dismiss the charges by stating that the writers were wrong – Paul didn’t know what he was talking about regarding the Pharaoh. It seems to me that the one who really promoted the grace of God also had ideas that God indeed was causing people to “fall asleep” because of their lack of care for the poor. This Paul endorsed that it was God who hardened not only the Pharaoh, but also Israel that mercy might come to the gentiles. How do you understand these things?


Auggy, one of the problems is the use of the word punish. The common dictionary definition of that word is: to subject to pain, loss, confinement, death, etc., as a penalty for some offense, transgression, or fault: to punish a criminal. This is clearly not what God does to sinners, not if we are to see God as the one revealed in Jesus. If that common definition is not your intended meaning then it would be a good idea to find a more appropriate word, or words, to accurately convey what you want to express.

So regards to Paul, what Paul is saying is not the problem per say, it is what the translators/interpreters of the English versions of what Paul wrote that is the problem. Righteousness/dikaiosune is a case in point and of course EU Christians are well aware of the aionos problem and how that has muddied the scriptural waters. So when we reference certain specific texts to make a larger more sweeping point we need to tread carefully. Exegesis is interesting and has value and I certainly appreciate the value of etymology, but the truth of the matter is that it is very unlikely that we will ever have an English translation of the Bible that will start from scratch using the best available Hebrew and Greek manuscripts using the latest findings of Hebraism and the Koine Greek papyri that will give us a more accurate reading of what the original authors of the Bible meant.

However, the Spirit of Jesus is alive and present in the world and continues to bear witness to the Crucified Risen One. I don't think there will be another iteration of the gospel proclaimed as a message by Christians who finally got it right somehow. I think the next iteration of the gospel will not be a message proclaimed by Christians but an event: The aionian gospel that precedes the fall of Babylon (the death-dealing institutions and powers that deceive and oppress the world).

Frankly it is too late in the world for this exegetical debating among the Christian inner circle. It has contributed precious little to a world that is in desperate need for the good news of a God who is not against them but forever for them. I suppose my odd and peculiar way of trying to articulate the gospel seems to be deluded magical thinking to some, because of my radical understanding of what the universal implications of Jesus' resurrection are i.e. changing the past and transforming physical reality by a union of the space of God (heaven) and that of the created universe (Earth and all the rest). Some may think this is some newfangled whacked out version of "pie in the sky" looking for the great deus ex machina to save us and fix our unfixable world. But if someone gets that impression it is either due to my failure to articulate my view well or their inability to give it a fair and open-minded reading.

Does my understanding of the Gospel discount the importance and significance of challenging the death-dealing powers and offering compassion and sustenance to those who are victims of the inequitableness of this world? Not as far as I am concerned, to the contrary it gives me all the more reason and stamina to make the effort to challenge the status quo and extend myself to those who are marginalized and victimized by the world as it is. The "here and now" is all we got at the moment but the "here and not yet" is not something we achieve by our world building efforts through social, political and technological progress. It is the gift of God made real through the death and resurrection of Jesus. All those acts of compassion and fair treatment and alleviation of suffering done by countless individuals are not lost but will be integrated into the new creation--they do indeed matter now and in the "not yet." The last couple centuries of apparent progress for those privileged to live in the western societies and born into favorable circumstances is the real delusion. That window of opportunity is now rapidly closing and fewer and fewer will be able to pass through it, and even those few, i.e. the one percenters, will also eventually reap the whirlwind which our civilization has sown.

Thanks for your engagement Auggy, I really do get the impression that you, like I, are seeking the truth as far as we are able to perceive and understand it.

Dave
Last edited by DaveF on Wed Sep 26, 2012 7:20 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

Postby RuthJ » Wed Sep 26, 2012 5:38 pm

Hi Derek

So glad you are talking about this.

It so happens that today I ran across a piece complaining that where the author lives, legislation to prevent violence towards children is being proposed that would include the violence that is euphemistically termed “spanking”.

I thought of how Jesus touched children – only to bless, to heal, to liberate, and to free – just the same as when he touched everyone else.

I thought of how he spoke to the parents of his day: However bad you are, you do know what it is to do something good for your child: it’s clear to you that giving him bread to nourish him, give him energy, and take away his hunger pangs, is good, whereas to give him a stone that will break his teeth and give him pain, is not good. Giving him an egg, containing protein and sulphur and vitamins for healing and growth is good, whilst a scorpion will cause him suffering and fear. Feeding him a fish to make him feel satisfied and make his brain and heart healthy is good; but what child could trust a parent who brought them a snake to hurt and poison them?


sharktacos wrote:What God is active in doing (as we see revealed in Jesus) is healing …

Yes, thank you. This is how we know what God is like: what Jesus is like.

sharktacos wrote:God is there in the middle of our pain and wretchedness, working to love and heal.
I see as axiomatic then Jesus says "In this world you will have trouble, but take heart I have overcome the world." That is slightly (and significantly) different than saying "In this world you will have trouble, but take heart it's for your own good."

I’d say considerably more than “slightly” different!

sharktacos wrote:Now where this gets sticky is your question of why God allows suffering at all…. That is, how can a good and all powerful God allow evil or suffering? We might think that if there is suffering it is because God allows it for some greater purpose. I think that Dostoevsky give a powerful reply to this when he says that there is no prize that could be worth that price. It's a passage that I can't read without weeping:

Oh, Alyosha, I am not blaspheming! I understand, of course, what an upheaval of the universe it will be when everything in heaven and earth blends in one hymn of praise and everything that lives and has lived cries aloud: 'Thou art just, O Lord, for Thy ways are revealed.' When the mother embraces the fiend who threw her child to the dogs, and all three cry aloud with tears, 'Thou art just, O Lord!' then, of course, the crown of knowledge will be reached and all will be made clear.

What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell?

…. Something is wrong with our world. I can't believe that this is all planned out.

Yet somehow I want to trust Jesus when he says "take heart, I have overcome the world" I want to believe that even though this world is full of injustice and pain that God apparently can't stop for whatever reason, that somehow I can still put my hope in the weakness of the crucified God that "All shall be made well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be made well."

The way you put the question on so many minds is, “How can a good and all powerful God allow evil or suffering?” You also say, “this world is full of injustice and pain that God apparently can't stop”.

Finally, you want to put your hope in “the weakness of the crucified God”.

All of these things that you’ve said here, when I pull the threads together, seem to be saying this:

God is good. He is not all-powerful: instead he is the crucified God, the one whose very weakness is what overcomes the world (this must be so, as the world operates on power and can’t be overcome by him being just like it).

The only way “all shall be well” is not, as the character says to Alyosha, by making the victim love the monster, nor by making the monster experience hell:
“What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured?” No, the only way is to make it right - so right that the children have not been tortured, so right that the monster has never become a monster and done those monstrous things, so right that the mother has never suffered the anguish and grief.

Jesus’s apparent failure in being crucified is exactly how God’s “weakness” and “madness” make everything right and new. He doesn’t overcome so much as overwhelm, overfill, over-satisfy, over-give, overflow. The light has come into the darkness and the darkness can’t engulf it; the darkness doesn’t even really exist – so it simply ceases to be, when there is so much light.
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