In my presentation, I plan to share a little of my story and my hope that a renewed faith in our Lord’s intention to save all, and ability to save all, will unite our divided Christian Church and inflame an ancient hope in the people of our world—a longing for communion with our Maker and with each other.
As the son of a Presbyterian pastor, I grew up surrounded by theological tensions that have torn the Church apart for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. I’ve now come to believe that these tensions can be largely resolved if we would only re-examine our commitment to the unbiblical idea that God would endlessly torture some of his own creation. Of course, this “re-examination” also requires that we surrender our “flesh” to the judgment of God—our flesh which delights in exalting itself and our institutions at the expense of our competitors.
As a young man, I watched my father publicly tried and removed from his church by a “liberal” denomination because they considered him to be too “conservative.” Twenty-six years later, I was defrocked and removed from my church by the “conservative” denomination, that my father helped create, because they considered me to be too “liberal.” Ironically, both my father and I wanted to preach the Gospel, which we found in Scripture. Liberals like to think that they champion Love, and conservatives like to think that they champion Truth, while both seem to ignore the biblical revelation that Love is Truth, and Truth is Love, and that’s the painfully Good News revealed at the cross.
For the last 1500 years, the Church in the West, as an extension of nation-states and empires, has taught that Scripture teaches a doctrine of Endless Conscious Torment. In my experience, liberals deal with this horrifying idea by arguing that Scripture is not entirely true, but God is most definitely Love. On the other hand, conservatives deal with this horrifying idea by arguing that Scripture is entirely true but not entirely powerful… or not entirely love, both of which Scripture clearly teaches.
And, of course, this brings up the second great tension in the Christian Church—at least in the West. This is usually described as the tension between Arminianism and Calvinism. Those of an Arminian persuasion deal with the horror of Endless Conscious Torment by suggesting that this “reality” isn’t God’s Will but our will, which leaves us with the terrifying and arrogant notion that our will is stronger than God’s Will—that God is all-loving but not all-powerful. Those of the Calvinistic persuasion deal with the problem of Endless Conscious Torment by suggesting that God’s Will is always stronger than our will, which leaves us with the terrifying and debased notion that God does not will to save all—God is all-powerful but not all-loving.
Some would argue my position to be extreme, but I would argue that it’s in between, and this in-between place is the heart of the Gospel and the center of the Cross. All these tensions are resolved in the revelation of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Everything is gained, and yet one thing is lost—eternal conscious torment and, of course, the human ego. That’s not two things but one.
The name Jesus means “God is Salvation” and destroys the ego which believes “Peter is Salvation.” It’s the ego—my flesh and our flesh—which makes us susceptible to the lie and blind to the clear reading of Scripture.
My ego is not salvation; “God is salvation.” Jesus is Truth in Love and Love in Truth. And God is free to predestine me to freedom—His freedom… even in human flesh, the image of God, our Lord Jesus.
God is all-powerful and God is all-love; both the Calvinists and Arminians are right. Scripture is profoundly true, and Scripture teaches that God is Relentless Love; both the conservatives and liberals are right.
When we meet at the cross, God makes us all right, and God makes us One…just as Scripture testifies that He has and that He will.