Friday, July 23, 2010

The Paradox of Truth

Christian thought often seems dysfunctionally extreme, so very false. On one side are the exclusivists, the theological determinists (who I have already dealt with in past blogs), ones who claim God only wills to save a limited number of humans, and the rest of us are preordained to Hell for his pleasure and glory. Pray tell me where the Good News is in that hopeless despair.

On the other side, are the inclusivists, the universalists who emphasize that all humans will be saved, that Hell will eventually be emptied. This sounds so good and has found strong support among great Christians of the past from Origen to the Greek scholar William Barclay. The position has recently been championed by the Quaker writers Phillip Gulley and James Mulholland. But there is a huge problem here as well. See below.

In the New Testament, Jesus, instead, speaks in paradoxes. Consider this statement:
Matthew 7:14 NASB For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Why does Jesus talk so exclusively at this point when elsewhere in the biblical text, he is the ultimate inclusivist/universalist? He emphasizes how God is not willing for anyone to perish in his or her wrong ways, that God is like a father who longs for the return of his wayward son, like a woman who rejoices when her precious possession that was lost is found.

Here’s the key:
As appealing as the universalism of the Good News is—For God so loved the world; God sent not his son into condemn the world John 3:16-17—of what use is it to tell everyone that all people are saved, if we don’t help each individual change? For in fact, at this very moment millions of particular individuals are living in minor or major hells on earth or ‘living like hell’ hurting others. Of what use are liberal religious platitudes, no matter how wonderful they sound theoretically, if in fact we aren’t seeking to help ourselves and others to change right now? Of what use is theology claiming truth when at present Christians and Muslims are killing each other allegedly for God? Of what use is universalism when at present millions of individuals are suffering loss, being selfish, living immorally, being discriminated against, drinking to excess, abusing others or being abused, making war, living in greed, lust, envy…?

The Truth, the Good News, is only universal in the here and now when it is accepted, when we turn from our wrong thoughts, deceitful choices, egocentric ways, bad actions.

God doesn’t cease being True, Good, and Loving, but when we as humans refuse to respond to the Truth, the Good, and the Loving, God incarnate is again crucified within us and others suffer.

This is Jesus’ point! For example, Jesus loves the rich young man, but he can’t help him when the young man refuses to personally accept the truth and change.

The way to Truth is narrow though the Truth of the way is as wide as infinity:-)

In the endless Love of God,

Daniel Wilcox