Saturday, June 15, 2019

Do We Really Want All to be Saved?

Evangelical Christians sometimes claim that we are “hopeful universalists.” This term can have a couple of different meanings. One is that we aren’t sure whether or not universalism is true, but we hope for the best. Another is that while we think universalism is not true, we wished it were. This is more or less not “hopeful” universalism as “wishful” universalists, but more people are familiar with the former term, so I’m co-opting it. I have said that I fall into this camp of people who think universalism is false, but wishes it were true. I began wondering, though, if I really didwish it to be true.

On the surface, this seems like a crazy question. Of course I want everyone to go to Heaven! But wanting everyone to go to Heaven as a collective group isn’t the same thing as wanting each individual person to go to Heaven. For one, I don’t know each individual person on Earth. But for another, there may be times where, though saddened, it’s appropriate to be satisfied with the result of eternal separation from God (indeed, I’ll argue briefly there are some cases where it would be inappropriate not to). I used the term “satisfied” in the previous sentence, and while it’s not quite right, I hope to explain where I am coming from.

Suppose someone engages in Hitler-like eugenics and genocide. Suppose they further do not repent, growing even stronger in their evil the more they are challenged. Suppose finally this person explicitly wants nothing to do with God and Jesus, and openly mocks them, claiming they hate God. While I am convinced God is—and we should be—grieved that one of his creations has made that choice, I think we intuitively perceive that this is just, and even a rightresult. It’s not the way things were meant to be, but it’s the right result: a defeat of evil, cast away from God and his redeemed creation.

If this is right, then universalists must maintain that there is a conversion for every such person; otherwise we have a situation which is fundamentally wrong. This is something, no doubt, most Christian universalists are happy to do. But it’s worth pointing out that even for those of us who wished universalism were true, there are some times where the only appropriate response is eternal separation from God. What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Video on Resurrection with Mike Licona

Hey all, yesterday I posted a video of me and William James Herath (and his awesome ministry to seekers, Ready...Set...Question!) talking about the problem of divine hiddenness. Today, I'm posting a video of a few of us at a Red Robin in Denver from the same event--only this time, Mike Licona (New Testament scholar at Houston Baptist University) is sketching out (literally) a case for the Resurrection. Check it out!

Monday, January 14, 2019

Video on Hiddenness of God

Hello, long time no see! Below is a video I did with William James Herath, who has a wonderful ministry called "Ready... Set... Question!" We met at the recent annual meeting of Evangelical Theological Society in Denver, CO, and we decided to do a brief video on the problem of Divine Hiddenness. Please check out his ministry, and I hope you enjoy!

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Hypocrisy vs. Openly Bad Acting

In our culture, as well as in the biblical record, there is something especially wrong with being a hypocrite. Saying one thing and doing another, or presenting yourself as one way (usually favorable) while acting privately another way (usually less favorable) is typically considered to be especially bad. This is, I think, correct (since I am a Christian, and a Bible-believing one, no less!).

In fact, we often hear complaints about other people tempered with addendums like, “Well, at least she isn’t lying about who she is,” or “He may be a total jerk, but at least he never pretends to like anyone,” etc. In fact, virtually no matter how poorly a person may act, lacking hypocrisy seems to count as some kind of virtue, even for these bad actors.

Yet, intuitively, and definitely biblically, there is something wrong about a total lack of shame. That is, there is something wrong with one who would openly do evil and not care about the consequences. Here there almost seems to be an inconsistency on the surface; on the one hand, we should not be hypocrites, because hypocrisy is an especially bad sin. On the other, we have biblical texts condemning evildoers for openly oppressing the poor, disregarding God’s law, etc. In fact, it is their opennessin evildoing that seems to be cause for an extra portion of condemnation. So which is it? Should we not be hypocrites or hide our evil?

The quick answer is, of course, we should simply avoid evil altogether. That would ease the tension quite easily. Of course, the result here is evildoers aren’t exactly exempted when they lack hypocrisy. There is another route we could take, and I hinted at it earlier: shame. Or rather, in this case, shamelessness.

People in our culture are often shameless when it comes to traditional or biblical morality.[1]This shamelessness means they do not have a sensitive enough conscience or sense of moral guilt such that they know their deeds are evil. Or, in another sense: they know; they just don’t care. One can think of someone who thinks God exists, but simply shakes his fist at God and exclaims, “I hate you!” Such a person is not to be commended for not having hypocrisy, but instead should be reprimanded for such shameless behavior before a holy and good God. Acting “with shame” would be a moral recognition of the wrongness of the action, as opposed to pretending one is good (though obviously acting with shame can easily lead to hypocrisy). Our culture tends to extol shamelessness (to a certain extent—shame is the tactic used for addressing certain cultural taboos, both in older times as well as contemporary ones).

So we can see the tension can be resolved: being a hypocrite is bad, and so is shamelessness. It is not a virtue to avoid being a hypocrite by being shameless.

[1]By “often” I simply mean that it is not uncommon.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

How Should Christians Address Transgenderism?

In the last post, we saw that it can be problematic to refer to some people as “Christian homosexuals.”In this post, the continuation, I’d like to discuss the idea of Christian LGBT—specifically the “T.” I’d read a blog post where a well-meaning person suggested it would be a good step for the Southern Baptist Convention to seek to hear from members of the LGBT Community. There’s a charitable way to interpret this suggestion, but it got me thinking about this issue. In the acronym LGBT, one of these things is not like the other. The “T,” specifically, does not relate to sexual orientation. In fact, it trades on the supposed distinction between gender and sex, and so differs greatly. A trans man is one who was born a female in sex, but identifies as a man in gender. This identification may or may not coincide with sex re-assignment (now called “gender confirmation”) surgery.

Can the Christian Church recognize so-called Christian transgender? In order to answer this, one must answer what his anthropology and philosophy of gender/sex are. On the Christian view, we are persons made in the image of God, created as male and female. The intention is for the two to be separate, and thus, along with the last post I made, we can conclude there is something wrongly ordered about the mixing together of the two in one human being in some way.

However, we must ask ourselves the questions: are gender and sex two separate things, or identical? Are there really such things as gender roles or gender distinctives? Our society has been of incoherent mind about each of these questions, but Christians cannot afford to be. To the first: if gender and sex coincide (or are identical), then there really isn’t such a thing as transgender as outlined above. Whatever sex you are “assigned”[1]is what your gender is, and hence what you really are. If gender and sex are not identical or do not coincide, we have to ask if we think God assigns a gender and allows it to be distinct from the sex. If we think that God does assign a gender, then we must answer the second question in the affirmative. We must think there are gender distinctions, and that includes at least functional roles of some kind or other. Additionally, if we answer the first question by saying gender/sex are identical or at least coincide, we must answer the second question in the affirmative. Only in the case that we say sex and gender do not necessarily coincide and God does not assign a gender to a person can we answer the second question in the negative (and even here, answering “no” does not necessarily follow). 

If there are no gender roles or distinctions, it makes little sense to say there is a true gender beyond the sex one is (at least currently). So this means, essentially, there are gender roles and distinctions. As Christians, we ought to think about gender and sex in terms of what God intends, in a rightly-ordered fashion. God intends that some of us are male and some are female, not switching or intermingling the two. I further think it’s problematic to say there are no gender roles or distinctions, given the Christian view. Thus, while we can debate about the functions of the roles and the kinds and extent of the distinction, Christians should not debate that there aresuch roles and distinctions.

As such, recognizing “Christian transgender” as a category is unhelpful from a Christian standpoint. As with the LGB post earlier, it’s important for us to recognize these people are made in the image of God. We ought to find ways to love them and come alongside them in support of who they are or can be in Christ. And we ought to recognize there is a rightly ordered way—a way humans were meant to be—and move forward with any proposals with a distinctly biblical and Christian way of viewing this issue.

[1]A somewhat silly concept, as what sex one is typically is a matter of objective, empirical fact, not subject to arguments from the humanities.