Get Out Of Jail Free Card!

Consider this:  A guy cheats on a couple of exams in school, flirts with a woman who is married, and lies on his taxes one year so he could have some extra cash for his wife and kids for Christmas.  Now, is it fair, is it just, to send this guy into an eternity of torment and misery . . . billions of years just for starters, for these little faus pas?

Universalism says that God will never send anyone to an eternity in hell.  Sounds like pretty good news, you say?  Puts a whole new spin on the good news of the Gospel.  Maybe a few years for either rehab or punishment, but eternity?  Naahhh.

Universalism thinks that after a while in a torture chamber, even the most hardened vicious criminal would look at Heaven and think, “Why am I suffering here if a loving God is willing to let me join Him and the redeemed over there in their free-wheeling banquets and parties?”  Pastors Philip Gulley and James Mulholland write that you can call over to this loving God and get His grace applied, even post-mortem, and that is Why God Will Save Every Person, the partial title of their book on this theme (not worth buying).  Given God’s limitless love and grace, you can pretty much do whatever you want in life, and at some point, He will figure you’ve paid your “debt to society” and give you a Get Out of Jail Free card.

The issue though is plainer than Gulley and Mulholland pretend it to be.  Theirs is an itemization of sins and their reasonable refusal to accept that a loving God would punish someone eternally for temporal malfeasance.  “Let the punishment fit the crime,” one might say.  Sounds fair to our western civilized minds, maybe even just, but we will not go into that detail of the differences between fairness and justice.

There are no errors in Gulley’s and Mulholland’s logic.  Begin with their premises and it is impossible to come rationally to a different conclusion than they have.  So let’s look at their premises, because if a logical progression is predicated on faulty assumptions, you will wind up at a wrong, however logical, conclusion.

The first premise is that the church, as a whole, has been judgmental and presented an angry God who will not tolerate sinful actions.  The second is that our experience with God will provide a clearer picture of what God is like than a dusty old book that is unreliable at best, and somewhat fantasy at worst.  The third is that if people see how wonderful Jesus is they will want Him and His grace.  The fourth is that anyone will choose what is best for themselves if someone shows them why it is best, and God is so persistent that He will never give up on you, ever.

The first premise actually holds water.  The church has been Angry Godjudgmental and made God look like an angry grandfather in the sky just looking for anyone having too much fun so He could zap them with lightning bolts and yell, “Stop that!”  Not just the “church,” that ethereal “they” on whom it is so easy to blame everything, but I have been judgmental and frightened people away from the grace that could save them.  The sin of the Pharisees was that they thought they could see clearly, and so their sin remained (John 9:41), even as they loaded people with burdens they would offer no help to bear (Luke 11:46).

This is not news. Jesus reserved His harshest comments, not for the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11) nor for the cripple from the Pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-14), but for religiously serious.  It seems our human nature culls us into a lethargy, that once we have figured something out, anyone who has not advanced to “our level” is either stupid or evil.  And we judge without reference to the unseen issues of the heart: where one has come from, what has happened that has shaped him/her, what the hidden motivations and desires are.  We evaluate based on outward appearances while the Lord looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7b).

The other premises, though, show major fault lines that easily crack if examined at all.  The Bible is an infallible rule of faith and practice, presenting The God Who Is There as the I AM, a perfect balance of grace and truth, mercy and justice.  One’s experiences with God must be evaluated on the basis of what the Bible says, not what I wish it said, not from my very limited and shortsighted view.  There are “spiritual experiences” that one can have that have nothing to do with God, but “feel” right.  “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness.” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15)  In our society, how we “feel” has taken preeminence over what the Bible teaches.

The third and fourth premises, that everyone will choose Jesus if they really see Him and that with God’s persistence, eventually everyone will see Him and how good He is.  I have addressed the heresy of the third premise before (July 19, 2015), so suffice it to say that the Pharisees and religiously serious got a front row seat to see and know Jesus . . . and they chose to crucify Him.  That choice was still forgivable while they were alive.  My sins were my choice to crucify Jesus; I put the nails in His hands just as forcibly as the Roman centurions on Golgotha, but I have been forgiven.

In The Great Divorce C.S.Lewis presents a more accurate description of why some people will wind up in a place that is separated from the life and joy and peace and everything good that God designed for all people.  I offer nor find any comfort in this warning, but the fact is that “Milton was right. The choice of every lost soul can be expressed in the words, ‘Better to reign in hell than to serve in Heaven.’  There is always something they insist on keeping even at the price of misery.  There is always something they prefer to joy – that is, to reality . . . There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whoGeorge MacDonald.jpgm God says in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’  All that are in hell choose it.  Without that self-choice there could be no hell.  No soul that seriously desires joy will ever miss it.  Those who seek find.  To those who knock it is opened.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StW6ZKHRCFo

Now there’s a Get Out Of Jail Free card, but there are constraints on when and how to use it.  Next week, , I will examine some of those.

3 thoughts on “Get Out Of Jail Free Card!

  1. Thank you most sincerely, capost2k. I was raised to believe this eternal trap for transient “sins.” The “forever” part of the punishment — that sinners presumably have willfully chosen — is as profane a modus operandi as I can imagine. Being good in math, I also knew the calculus behind eternity, the strange ways it was (and still is) justified allows not a single nanosecond of forgiveness or understanding. I know people who absolutely refuse to even imagine how a trillion centuries and a trillionth of a nanosecond are mere mathematics, I think it is a defense mechanism against the entire evil system that their cruel God imposes without a hint of mercy. If Stalin were to have made a deathbed confession, he would have ended up in an equally eternal existence of pure bliss. Meanwhile, Satan would not lose a chance to reveal the missed opportunity that their temporal bad judgement necessitated. This is the stuff of madness. Our tyrant nuns would inform us that the winners in heaven would be shielded from knowledge of those who became defined as forever losers. Stalin could look at the souls he killed and know that an eager Satan would force them to witness Stalin’s pure eternal bliss. This is as odious a judgemental act as I could ever imagine. The deliberate actions of a mad God and his toadies.

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    1. Hi, Bill. But God is not cruel or crazy. He has provided everything one needs to live in peace and joy. If you read The Great Divorce by C.S.Lewis, this might shed some light here. No one who wants to live forever is excluded. Anyone, no matter what sins they have committed are forgivable, but not while they cling to their sin. Those who wind up in hell, an eternal place of separation from the light, life and joy that is in The God Who Is, CHOOSE that.
      Seems absurd, right? Yet Lucifer, who was an angel of light in God’s throne room decided he wanted to BE the God. That alone is absurdity enough. He could never become “The Creator, The Uncreated One.”
      Now the devil invites everyone who will listen to his lies to join him and overthrow The Creator.
      The final knowledge of what happens to us after we leave this life is still hidden from us to a great degree (Now we see in a mirror dimly [1 Corinthians 13:12]). I doubt that we will be shielded from any knowledge in Heaven, but will have better understanding, even for those who have refused it. God is not the nuns or even me, and currently our view is limited.
      Find Him and find His mercy because He is much more merciful than most of us can imagine. He is GOOD. AND HE is trustable. He is the Light of the world (See John 1) and anyone who wishes can come into that light. The fact that some will refuse to do so is not God’s doing, but the devil’s and man’s.
      Lewis said in The Problem of Pain, “It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to.”
      If you come to Lex any time, let me know and we can catch some coffee now that Kentucky is open for business again.

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