Saturday, February 26, 2011

Rob Bell, Love Wins, and Karl Barth

UPDATE: I don't want to add another post to the phenomena, but if you do want to see the latest comment I've put on one of the blogs of Bell's detractors, see comment 20 below. I'm happy to talk about this more in the comments if anyone wishes.

Rob Bell has a book coming out March 29th called Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. It has already met with considerable suspicion by some prominent evangelical figures. You can see the video teaser for the book and a (what I consider to be rash) blog reaction here.

First of all, come on. We are none of us perfect, but we can do better than this blogger. Based on the trailer we ought to have questions, not condemnations. Let's stay out of the pre-emptive anathemas and ism-hunting and hear the brother out.

Secondly, Bell's teaser is provocative, no doubt, but none of the theological questions asked in it are new. In fact they are important enough that they have been discussed and debated with varied results within Christianity for centuries. Bell may be worthy of critique, but we will have to see. And "worthy of critique" is a far cry from "servant of Satan" (a charge made explicit in the first run of the blog post and then amended to be merely implicit).

Thirdly, this reminds me so much of what I've been researching in Karl Barth the last couple weeks it is uncanny. Readers may recall the letter I posted a little while back in which Barth was responding to a request from Christianity Today (put to him through a friend) to defend himself against theological suspicions. What were they? You guessed it: He had been labeled a "universalist". I'll re-excerpt the letter below (and give something of Barth's actual, theological reply below that), so you can see how Barth responded to this blogger's ilk in his day:

Dear Dr. Bromiley,

Please excuse me and please try to understand that I cannot and will not answer the questions these people put. To do so in the time requested would in any case be impossible for me. The claims of work in my last semester as an academic teacher (preparation of lectures and seminars, doctoral dissertations, etc.) are too great. But even if I had the time and strength I would not enter into a discussion of the questions proposed.

Such a discussion would have to rest on the primary presupposition that those who ask the questions have read, learned, and pondered the many things I have already said and written about these matters. They have obviously not done this, but have ignored the many hundreds of pages in the C.D. where they might at least have found out — not necessarily under the headings of history, universalism, etc. — where I really stand and do not stand. From that point they could have gone on to pose further questions.

I sincerely respect the seriousness with which a man like Berkouwer studies me and then makes his criticisms. I can then answer him in detail. But I cannot respect the questions of these people from Christianity Today, for they do not focus on the reasons for my statements but on certain foolishly drawn deductions from them. Their questions are thus superficial.

The decisive point, however, is this. The second presupposition of a fruitful discussion between them and me would have to be that we are able to talk on a common plane. But these people have already had their so-called orthodoxy for a long time. They are closed to anything else, they will cling to it at all costs, and they can adopt toward me only the role of prosecuting attorneys, trying to establish whether what I represent agrees or disagrees with their orthodoxy, in which I for my part have no interest! None of their questions leaves me with the impression that they want to seek with me the truth that is greater than us all. They take the stance of those who happily possess it already and who hope to enhance their happiness by succeeding in proving to themselves and the world that I do not share this happiness.

Indeed they have long since decided and publicly proclaimed that I am a heretic, possibly (van Til) the worst heretic of all time. So be it! But they should not expect me to take the trouble to give them the satisfaction of offering explanations which they will simply use to confirm the judgment they have already passed on me.

Dear Dr. Bromiley, you will no doubt remember what I said in the preface to CD IV/ 2 in the words of an eighteenth-century poem on those who eat up men. The continuation of the poem is as follows: “… for there is no true love where one man eats another.”

These fundamentalists want to eat me up. They have not yet come to a “better mind and attitude” as I once hoped. I can thus give them neither an angry nor a gentle answer but instead no answer at all.

With friendly greetings,
Yours,
Karl Barth

P.S. I ask you to convey what I have said in a suitable manner to the people at Christianity Today.
To be sure, I think this debate is closer to home for Bell and so he will probably be best to carefully and gracefully enter the fray - but I wouldn't blame him for finding some resonance with Barth's feeling at this point!

Now, of course, Barth did answer the questions about his seeming "universalism", and he did so in print. The question was put to him best by G.C. Berkouwer, in a book called The Triumph of Grace. Here is something of Barth's reply:

‘If I am in a sense understood by its clever and faithful author, yet in the last resort cannot think that I am genuinely understood for all his care and honesty, this is connected with the fact that he tries to understand me under this title....

Grace is undoubtedly an apt and profound and at the right point necessary paraphrase of the name Jesus,’ but ‘the statement needed is so central and powerful ... it is better not to paraphrase the name of Jesus, but to name it’ lest we become concerned with a principle rather than a living person at precisely the place where that person matters most (Church Dogmatics IV/3.1, 173). God is love, but ‘love’ is not God.

Furthermore, 'universalism' is an -ism that doesn't get us very far. You have to say more. Barth didn't go in for a lot of -isms and neither should we. In fact, he quite famously and aptly remarked: "I don’t believe in universalism, but I do believe in Jesus Christ, the reconciler of all."

Undoubtedly this is one of the more difficult questions in theology. I am not sure if I admire Bell's boldness or find his promotional teaser a bit flippant. Regardless, this is not an open and shut theological issue - it deserves careful consideration and gracious dialogue, and I imagine that is what he'd hope for. Please let's not reduce everything to principles, label everyone by those principles, and then proceed as if we are protectors of a point of view rather than persons in communion with faith seeking understanding.

At this point Bell raises questions, but does not merit condemnations. If anything, the main question we might ask is why it isn't called "Jesus is Victor"? But we aren't going to be legalistic about book titles. The least one can do is read the book before leveling a full-bodied critique (let alone anything worse).

48 comments:

Ian McLaren said...

Could not agree more, Jon.

Wrote a little post about this myself, mostly in response to a tweet I read earlier from Josh Harris.

Hope all is well in Aberdeen.

Jon Coutts said...

hey Ian, I saw that post, and I'm curious if you'd pass on the tweets? I'm not on twitter.


Aberdeen is great. Crazy to think how this was all I mystery to me when I first emailed you two years ago.

Justin Stratis said...

I think it's cuz Donald Bloesch wrote "Jesus is Victor" in 1976 - and as all theological authors know, "You don't mesch with the Bloesch."

Seriously Jon, you are a blogging master. I'm taking notes here.

Colin Toffelmire said...

That kind of response is the Barth that I love. He pushes us to return always to Christ, and to eschew loyalty to principles or concepts as the defining mark of our faith, calling that kind of belief idolatry, and rightly so. Thanks for posting this.

David W. Congdon said...

Well said, Jon.

Anonymous said...

Totally refreshing... thanks for doing that work Jon. It is so refreshing.

bob p

A Gerrard said...

You inspire and challenge me, Jon. Thanks.

Stephen said...

Ok, I don't know you from Adam, but after looking forward to the book Love Wins, all I could seem to find online when searching was fear. I don't know you at all, but I think your blog post here is the most fair response to the hysteria of fear that is building up concerning this book. Thank you for this. I am with you 100%. I am going to redirect people who don't know what to think about this book (which hasn't even been released yet!) to this blog. Great stuff.

Brett Gee 英 明 said...

Yeah, maybe reading the book is a good idea before they tear the guy apart.

I really like Barth's response. And I don't think that Rob Bell is just trying to sell books. I think that's he's really on a journey and sure does have the guts to come out and write a book for millions of people to read regarding such a topic. Good for him.

It's crazy how the Internet can turn someone into such an evil figure. I noticed on that link that there are already 13 000 people who "like" it on Facebook. Spreading the mass hysterics one click at a time.

Jason Goroncy said...

Well put, Jon.

Isaac Gross said...

Enjoyed this. Through Briercrest peeps came across your blog. There is an article up on CT about the whole thing with many echoes of what you've said here:

http://blog.christianitytoday.com/ctliveblog/archives/2011/02/rob_bells_book.html

Sunil said...

Have you read the Evangelical Universalist? I think it's a good starting point for discussion. http://evangelicaluniversalist.blogspot.com/

Chris Donato said...

I am duly chastised and cautioned. Thanks for this.

James R. Gordon said...

Where is the Barth letter from?

Jon Coutts said...

Sorry for neglecting to reference the letter James. It is in "Karl Barth Letters 1961-1968", translated and edited by Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1981), pp. 7-8.

Thanks for the link Isaac. I hadn't realized all the twitter commotion. I think Scot McKnight is right:

"John Piper's flippant dismissal of Rob Bell is unworthy of someone of Piper's stature. The way to disagree with someone of Rob Bell's influence is not a tweet of dismissal but a private letter or a phone call. Flippancy should have no part in judging a Christian leader's theology, character or status."

At the same time, I must register my nervousness about the following line of thought, from Bell's publisher:

"Bell addresses one of the most controversial issues of faith — the afterlife — arguing that a loving God would never sentence human souls to eternal suffering."

I will be interested to see where the concept of love comes from that allows Bell to thrust on God such a "never". It may be that he argues that we learn what love is from Jesus Christ, and then uses that to reinterpret some of the hell passages. That would be a legit way to go about it. But if he has a concept of love conceived of some other way then I will have to question the methodology, and then assess how much that warrants a critique of the content.

But at this point we're dealing with a publisher's blurb, and as annoying as I find the "Christian" publication industry and their carelessness with theology, I do want to give Bell the chance to explain before I make further comment.

Anyway, I appreciate all your comments. Hopefully there are good conversations going on around all this.

steveharris.org said...

Mm, thanks. I just watched the video and it seemed pretty tame, considering all the certainty people seem to have about his universalism. Actually he's just asking the same questions Barth and von Balthasar were asking 40, 50, 60 years ago.

Nick said...

Thoughtful and balanced! Thanks!

Ben Vos said...

Fun story - in my Reformation Theology course (taught at Wheaton by the soon-to-be dean at Westminster West), I was informed that Barth was theologically untrustworthy because he was sleeping with his secretary. I'm reminded that the same allegations were made against MLK.

Jordan V said...

I always appreciate your thoughts. Thanks for writing.

Jon Coutts said...

I don't want to make another post about this because the thing is way out of hand. But here's what I wrote on Kevin DeYoung's most recent post defending his judgment of Bell's theology (see http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2011/02/28/bell-brouhaha/?comments#comments#comment-14933 ):

The problem here is that you don’t seem to understand what Bell is asking and saying. These are perennial theological issues, and important ones. Making a judgment about a theological matter is not the problem. It is that you have misjudged what has been said. You don’t seem to be getting Bell right at all. I don’t know the guy, nor have I any extra insight into the book, but he is asking classic and important theological questions.

Let me put the questions this way: Is there a God behind the God revealed in Christ, a God who creates people for the direct purpose of condemning them to eternal conscious torment, all to glorify Himself before the elect no less?
Why do we need to see what damnation looks like to appreciate glory and life? Isn’t life and love good enough on its own? Isn’t it the case that we need to see the love of God in order to know what sin is, and not vice versa? Sure there is judgment for sin. The cross tells us that pretty plainly and not in one instance does Bell suggest there is not. The point is that Love wins. I think it could be said better, with a person and not an idea in mind. Jesus is Victor. But I’ll take that up with Bell once I’ve read the book.

Surely you can admit that these are good and important questions. And that the people from the ‘new reformed’ strain of evangelicalism may actually be the people who most need these questions put to them? Surely you must admit that these questions have been asked and given various biblically defensible answers throughout Christian history? Surely we have nothing to fear from hearing Bell out on them?

This isn’t about Hinduism being a way to God, this is not pluralism. Bell never says the word universalism, and goes nowhere near pluralism. You are right he is saying something, but he isn’t done saying it. And you aren’t even hearing him right to begin with. I’m a bit annoyed at the provocations of the publication industry myself, but in this case maybe it is beneficial, because maybe by the release date some of this will be out of your system and you’ll actually read the guy. And if you are still unhappy with his answers you can go and read others and see what you really think.

I have no problem with you making a theological judgment. The problem is that you have made a presumptuous misjudgment. Your misjudgment is also public, and a lot of people are going in with you, thus missing a great opportunity. All because of your protectionist defensive approach to theology and biblical understanding. I don’t judge your motives, but your theology. I submit to you that you are in error and are in the process doing more damage to the church than Bell.

Let us do theology from our union in Christ. I believe we are one in Him and that our views can be reconciled. Correct me if I’m wrong.


I kind of regret that I said I "judge" his theology. But I feel quite strongly that he is absolutely missing the point, and creating more mindlessness than thoughfulness -- and this not because he is a bad guy or a non-Christian or anything, but stemming directly from his protectionist approach and his double-predestination based theology.

Brett Gee 英 明 said...

A comment from the De Young blog:

"We are not loveable. We are, by nature, God-haters, totally corrupt and evil…and while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. This is love."

To me, this is blindness. How can a person start out with that sentence, then continue, and conclude by calling it love. How would he know, he says he's 'unlovable'?!

I think that blindness has a lot to do with this. A lot of the critics have seen glimpses of Love but they like to put rules and limits on it. There is no limit to God's love. Does that necessarily mean that all go to Heaven? No, it means that there is always Hope. I mean, the sheep. He left 99 and went after 1. I think that a good question to discuss would be:

"If the Shepherd never stops pursuing. If the Shepherd's love is never ending or changing (even at the Fall), then why would we think that, when he goes out looking for that lost sheep, that he would stop at the gates of Hell?"

Jon Coutts said...

Exactly. And we have some indication that Jesus has already (for us who are still in time) stormed the gates of hell.

I'm beginning to sound like I'm sold on this eschatological universalism, I suppose. But all I want to say is that there is some credibility to it. At least enough to warrant a(nother) good conversation within Christianity.

Anonymous said...

Jon,
Thanks for your thoughts. We must be thinking
Christians. Not name callers but truth evaluaters giving a proper defense only after the hearing.
Josh

Joshua said...

I agree that convicting Bell before we have had a chance to read and ascertain his true intentions is rash. I do think that it's a pretty irresponsible presentation, on his part, though. There is plenty we can debate as Christians that does not cause this type of damage to the BIG church. I understand his questions were meant to be provocative and thought inspiring, but what really happens is he "seems" to push against the gospel. There is ONE sacred to me... the gospel. We should not play with it, tease others with it, or question the integrity of it. Jesus' blood pouring from Him, and the skin being torn from His back and face commands more respect. I'm not convicting of Rob Bell of heresy, I'm pretty convinced that he will provide a pretty decent presentation of the bible, in the book. We shouldn't sell souls to sell books or seats at our churches. I worked for a while with a seeker style church like Mr. Bell's. My issue became, nothing is sacred there. The model seems to act as though we can say anything we want for provocation sake, as long as we hit them with a little Jesus when they get here. It just seems irresponsible to the story of God who died on the cross for us. Rob may give the greatest gospel presentation ever, in Love Wins, but it will not remove the controversy that could have been avoided by maintaining the integrity of the gospel in his video.

Mike said...

Good point Ben. If Barth's untrustworthy because he was sleeping with his secretary, not only would we have to look at MLK the same way, but also reject anything written by King David. That guy not only slept with another man's wife, he had the guy killed to cover it up! I guess we'll have to ditch half the Psalms, and either edit out the stories of his life or bracket them with big bold cautions not to be like this so-called "Man after God's own heart."

PC said...

Joshua,
I am not wanting to contradict you, but we should be willing to work out all aspects of our faith, including the parts we hold as "sacred", otherwise, in never allowing ourselves to ask questions or doubt, we may find that what we hold is in itself... nothing.
Even the term "the gospel" is one that has taken on a host of meanings, and in the bible, 4 books with very different slants and purposes are often given that title "the gospels". Figuring out exactly what the good news actually is about is something all of us should be doing.
I don't think the current fervor is helpful to anyone, but certainly asking the questions are very helpful, in the same way as reading authors and theologians of all different points of view (even the big ones we hold tightly) is helpful, it allows us all to wrestle with our own faith, and through that find a resurrected faith of our own.
Chris

Jon Coutts said...

I appreciate these comments. I have read a few sources close to Barth that seem to say he was on the up and up, so I won't comment on his home life other than to say that it doesn't necessarily effect our assessment of the things he said about theology.

As for Joshua's calling into question the provocative sales tactics in all of this, I'll paste a comment I made over at Conversant Life, where Kyle Strobel raised that point as well:

"I've been so busy defending Bell that this has only been a sideline point for me. But you are absolutely right, and as far as pop theology goes this can not be a good trend. I already thought the "Christian" publication industry was a careless and dangerous one (ecclesiologically and theologically speaking), and this kind of provocative mode can't ultimately be good for Christian theology. The mode and content of theology both are witness. And we already have a charged atmosphere enough, it behooves us in Christ to at least seek and be open to reconciled views. Provocation may start conversations (or flat out controversy), but is it really intent on living from our union in Christ? Publishers may have no concern for this whatsoever. I'm never quite sure how much to blame the author?"

Thanks again for your thoughts.

Geordie said...

Good work Jon. I watched the video, read Kevin's lame post and then yours. Maybe, hopefully, all this bruhaha will cause more people to read it and think through the issues thoughtfully.

sewebb@bellsouth.net said...

Dear Jon
My husband and I had almost opposite responses to Rob's video. I thought it was provocative and edgy as far as getting people to think about heaven and hell and our (sometimes) robotic responses based on ideas we may have learned as children while Mike felt that Rob had taken the wide road and pretty much dis-ed
orthodox Christianity. Doesn't God have a great sense of humor to put us in the same household? : )
Anyway I appreciate your thoughtful responses without the harshness I've seen on other blogs and websites.
I say at least read the man's book before you drag him through the mud.

Pete Slee said...

Thanks for this Jon (and all respondents!) - I got here via Maggi Dawn's blog (http://maggidawn.com/) and Paul Wilkinson's "Thinking Out Loud" (http://paulwilkinson.wordpress.com/).
I think Barth's letter is so helpful.
I can't help wondering if God's big enough for all this diversity or whether he needs to employ some fellow Christians to correct our unorthodoxy!

When we stop asking the big questions, it's time to wonder if we've lapsed into complacency.

I hope reading the book will bring us a lot more light on Bell's view - and perhaps some of the current heat will cool.

Ross Christopher said...

What the Bell??? http://tinyurl.com/n63p82

Tony Tanti said...

Watched Bell's video and loved it. I have more of a problem with any Christian out there who isn't asking these questions.

There may be difference of opinion on the answers but I'm so glad for your rebuke of this pre-judgment of Bell Jon.

While it is encouraging to see so many people defending Bell (at least here) I'm still bothered by this whole thing. I've long been very confused by what I see as a common attitude in Christianity; that is the attitude that seems to want large numbers of people to go to hell.

The narrower a person's view is on how to get to God the more people they are damning to hell. I don't get that. How does wanting billions of people to burn in hell line up with the life and teaching of Jesus Christ?

I'm not saying I'm a universalist, I'm just saying that from what I know of Jesus I think his followers should probably hope for universalism, even if they don't believe in it.

Brett Gee 英 明 said...

Tony: I agree. that is what I've been thinking.

Actually, with all of these people quoting verses to cut down Bell's video, I think that there is another verse to look at. 2 Peter 3:9

"The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."

Not only is it what us Christian's should be hoping for, but it is the very hope of God, a patient God, whose heart desires that all will come to know him. God's desire, from the beginning, and continuing on in patience, is that all will know him, all will be in communion with him, that none would perish from sin and their own ways. This is what people need to hear. Scare tactics have no place in the presentation of the Gospel of Grace.

Brett Gee 英 明 said...

One more thing. I found this recording of Rob Bell speaking on Hell. I've heard some of these thoughts before but it was nice to find it all in one place, and to hear from the man himself on what he thinks Jesus says about it.

http://taddelay.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/rob-bell-jesus-wants-to-save-christians-iii-hell.mp3

Jon Coutts said...

thanks Brett, I'll have to check that out.

Tanti: Barth thought it was a Christian duty to hope for universal redemption, and a proud presumption against God's freedom to expect it.

AW said...

My kids have mentioned things about Hell over the past year or so. They've not asked very much, but enough to really make me think about what I think and what I want to say to them about it. I think I've landed on this -
There is a Heaven and a Hell. Every single person who will ever be in Heaven has Jesus Christ to thank for them being there. God is fair. God is wise. God is loving. God is the judge - it's up to Him. I am not going to judge who is going to end up where. I am going to trust Jesus and direct others to Him.
So - in a way, what I will be saying to my kids will be less clear-cut and defined than I was told as a child myself, but I've come to see that we can't tie every question up neatly. God knows.

4granted said...

An important step in clarifying your beliefs is to talk about and even defend them. So the fact that the publicity campaign for Rob Bell’s book has provided an impetus for Christians to actually do theology (to figure out what they think about God) is a positive thing. Even if you disagree with Bell, it’s important for Christians to wrestle with what they believe. Another great resource on heaven, what it's like and who will be there is “Heaven Revealed” by Dr. Paul Enns, released this week by Moody Publishers. I recommend it. Here’s the amazon page: http://dld.bz/P8sz

Anonymous said...

What's frustrating about this sudden furor is that what is public about Bell's book appears to be essentially in line with patristic and Orthodox Christianity, whereas American fundamentalists seem unaware that they have a partly medieval and partly very modern view of hell. Christus Victor is the way to understand things indeed, but the roots of protestantism aren't deep enough to get there. The faith of the Apostles hasn't changed, it's still there waiting for you.

Tony Tanti said...

anonymous: great comment!

Brett and Jon: thanks.

Anonymous said...

Tony, I hope that didn't sound like I was lobbing a grenade into the thread and running away - apologies if it did. In any case, I thought I'd add a link to a link that covers early Jewish/Christian and subsequent patristic commentary on heaven and hell that I hope is helpful for people:

http://preachersinstitute.com/2009/11/03/heaven-hell-in-the-afterlife-according-to-the-bible-peter-chopelas/

Jon Coutts said...

Thanks for your comments 'anonymous' ... I found that article really intriguing, and your first comment particularly apropos. The article raised questions for me, but I found the exegetical work helpful. I guess I wonder what God's "justice" looks like if really it is our choice or perspective that determines the experiences we have and will have. It seems to me that the loving God revealed in Christ not only loves the victim but the wrongdoer, so that there is both forgiveness and justice. Forgiving the wrongdoer without justice for the wrong would be tantamount to not loving the victim. That the wrongdoer simply gets the reality that they live out of doesn't really explain much to me in terms of the active justice of God for sin.

Brett Gee 英 明 said...

Did Jesus die for the sins of man? All men? Just the believers? I am in the "all men" camp. So, if that is true, and he took on the punishment/judgment for it, then what else is there to punish? Hasn't justice already been served?

I am not saying that this means that there will be no judgment, as the Bible talks about that a lot. I am just wondering what you guys think about this. This legal idea of judgment and punishment. People say that sin must be punished with death. Actually, the Bible talks about this. My question is, is this law above God? And if so, why does God have to abide by this law? I mean, he is the creator of all things, but for some reason the Church has put in this "law of sin is death" above God, which, for them, explains way Jesus had to die. Looking at it this way, he died to appease the law, and not because of God's love for us. I think that this view taints the truth and the ever strong love of God come down for us.

You know what I'm saying? I'm kind of all over the map. I haven't studied this stuff like some of you may have, so I am curious to hear your thoughts.

Jon Coutts said...

Great question Brett, and I tend to agree. Justice has been served. Since this was a post on Barth more than Bell I'll refer to Barth's phrase that "the Judge was judged in our place", taking judgment off our backs and out of our hands.

But as I see it there are a couple reasons to think there may be some other manifestation of that justice in the experience of those in resistance to their Creator and Redeemer. The first is that the apostles seemed comfortable indicated that this would be so. This takes the form of warnings, and it picks up on Old Covenant indications of God's wrath for sin and describes it in a number of forms. As anonymous' article mentioned, there is the form of being allowed to live in the reality that one makes for oneself. This jives with the Romans 1 description. However, there is also mention of a white throne judgment, people being accountable for their works, and so on. Until I wrestle through all those texts and convince myself that God in His love for us does not intend for there to be active repercussions for sin, then I'll be unconvinced that there is no justice to "look forward" to.

By that I do not mean that punishment is above God, or that it is even desirable. However, we take a cue from the imprecatory Psalms that at times humanity may itself cry out for a transcendent hand of justice to provide such a thing where we are unable, and are quite frankly shocked and appalled and crippled by the evil that manifests itself around us. I think of the genocides of last century, the horrible cases of child abuse we hear stories about, and even the hopeless suck of oppression in either its capitalist or communist forms.

Perhaps, indeed, the cross is justice enough. I do think we must trust justice to God. However, there are biblical indications (at least) that the bringing to light of sin will resound into eternity as well.

Having said that I'm not insisting that I know what justice has to look like. I am rather attracted to the answer that it has already been meted out on the cross. To me it seems that victim and guilty alike are led by Scripture to trust justice into the hands of God. Interesting to me is the fact that while we talk about hoping for universal redemption, there are also points in history where people have had to hope for some kind of eschatological judgment in order to feel free to forgive offenders in this life and to move on hopefully and openly (entrusting justice to the God who seems more interested in it and able to give it than we are).

I'd be happy to hear more on this as well, as I'm sure I'm only giving a partial answer, perhaps even one full of holes.

Adam Couchman said...

Great post. Thanks!
Adam

Anonymous said...

Barth - "I don’t believe in universalism, but I do believe in Jesus Christ, the reconciler of all."
I dont think using a term like 'universalism' is committed to the kind of dangers that Barth was worried about. If you have to say more then of course more can be said, and the rightful place of Jesus/God/Trinity etc. can be clearly stated. Christocentricism is a bit of an obfuscation in theology I think.

Dont get me wrong I do love and respect Barth and his influence in theology. I thank God for his lead in the theology of his day. But I still disagree with it.
Probably not possible to respond to Barth fully though especially on a blog comment, he says so much!

Richard Smith

Jon Coutts said...

Richard: I'm trying to decide how far to go with Barth on this stuff, and so I'd love to hear you explain what you mean when you say "Christocentricism is a bit of an obfuscation in theology". But if it is too much to get into at the moment with a total stranger I understand. Reservation noted. Thanks for your comment.

Solly Gratia said...

Hello, i found your post while searching about Rob Bell's book. Thanks for an informed approach. I have seen the promo trailer, and also an interview Bell gave on US TV, and I would just say that anyone who has read the Blumhardts, especially Christoph, would not find anything unusual in Bell's comments. And we know who Barth drew upon.

Tony Clay said...

.

The question I struggle with is this: is it morally responsible for a creator God to creat beings with free will knowing that the majority of them will not choose to have a relationship with him and so have to be either destroyed or suffer eternally ? If our creator didn’t have a plan to eventually redeem all of mankind then a) he would be as irresponsible as the genetic engineers today and b) as degenerate as Hitler !