This is interesting from JPII.
“Eternal damnation”, therefore, is not attributed to God’s initiative because in his merciful love he can only desire the salvation of the beings he created. In reality, it is the creature who closes himself to his love. Damnation consists precisely in definitive separation from God, freely chosen by the human person and confirmed with death that seals his choice for ever. God’s judgement ratifies this state.
I have heard Pentecostal pastors say that a loving God would never send a person to Hell. John Paul II had the same belief.
Also, I note that JPII states that the path to the state of Hell is immediate at death, and is irreversible. So praying for the dead (at least some of them) is useless, as confirmed by JPII himself.
A commentator noted a few of these posts ago that Willimon liked Narrative Theology. I am not always a fan of any theology which seems to force Scripture interprets Scripture as the only means of interpretation, however, which Narrative Theology, on the surface, seems to enforce. I do, however, like a theology which can take the whole of Christian canonical experience and create a story, but without prohibiting the free study of the individual parts. I’m not sure where Willimon fits into this quandary here, but in this chapter (3), he does use Narrative Theology to tell the story of Salvation.
He begins with the statement that, “Salvation is God’s projection of God’s desires upon us.” Agreed. He moves to write, “Salvation is the story, the whole story, from beginning to end, the discernible shape of the narrative that is being told by God, not just the end of the story.” Agreed, doubly so. I note that many view salvation as a one time moment in their particular history, in that they have a religious experience or moment of compunction and declare themselves saved, but (and I think that this is where Willimon’s nascent Wesleyanism comes in at) salvation is a long, broad path which the Christian journeys upon to a final destination which is really just the beginning. In the back of my mind is Paul who writes of having been saved (past), of being saved (present), and of being saved (future). Paul, Wesley, Barth and now Willimon are saying nothing different – that salvation, having already occurred at the Cross is now something people are called to participate in, but that there will be a final realization of it in the Eschaton.
Willimon says something else though, something that I find particularly intriguing today. He says that we have been taught to listen to “Scripture anthropologically rather than theologically.” He’s right. Often times I hear well intentioned people saying, “How does Scripture speak to me?” or “what does this mean today?” Instead, Willimon what us to understand that Scripture is not about us, but about God and then, only because Scripture is it about God, it turns to us. Scripture is not speaking to us as Dagon, but it is God’s story which we are invited to listen too.
For Willimon, Salvation is a Comic Event (Christus Victor?) which is only something that God can accomplish. The more I read Willimon and others, the more I come to see Salvation as indeed a past event, decided already, for everyone, at the Cross. While it is an on going ‘Mass’, it is forever set in History, and yet above History. It is something we are called to participate in, but we cannot validate it or ’cause’ it or even ‘accept’ it. In my opinion, any of these actions would take Salvation out of hands of God and put it into our hands, as if we can somehow either cause it or prevent it. I would agree with Willimon, that God’s desire is one which reaches from Genesis 1 and 2 (more 2 than 1 in my opinion) and completed at Golgotha. He writes, “The restless Creator became the relentless Redeemer. The Redeemer is the same fabricator of the chaos whom we met as Creator. The work of the cosmic Christ is cosmic salvation.”
From here, he knows the question which will be asks and goes to answer it, “Is the hope of universal restoration, the hope that all people will be saved – that hell will not be eternal and that God will eventually be “all in all” (1 Cor 15.28) – a legitimate Christian hope?” Well, is it? (He answers it, but you, what do you say?)
God reveals Himself to us, He doesn’t give us theories.
Salvation is not found in a theory – Salvation is found in Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the most important part of Creation
– Jesus is the Creator
– Jesus is the Redeemer
– Jesus is the Restorer.
If you have read this blog for long, or others (why would you read others?) then you will remember the controversy which erupted over Rob Bell‘s book, Love Wins. It actually began due to a tweet by John Piper which simply read, ‘Farewell, Rob Bell’. I’ve since read and reviewed Bell’s book and found it lacking of the need to have such a controversy. It was, after all, nothing really new, and in all actuality, more of a pastoral book. Indeed, it was truly a pastoral book because it was Bell telling his congregation to shut up about sending people to hell.
Willimon’s book was published in 2008. I hadn’t heard of it until I read a post by another author who happens to be a former UMC student pastor. But while reading this book, I had to wonder why Willimon wasn’t given the treatment that Bell was…
I would postulate that either it didn’t make it on the radar of Piper et al, or maybe Piper wasn’t really wanting to confront a well-known conservative United Methodist Bishop. Or maybe, Bell is just really easy to pick on because he dresses funny. Whatever it is, I ponder these things when I read statements such as the one on page 14:
The Revealer who delights in revelation desires recipients for the revelation. So a first response to the question, “Who shall be saved?” might be, “Well, who is created? What creatures are so beloved by the Creator that the Creator cannot let them alone? Who is God’s favorite conversation partner? These are the ones God saves.”
That’s not nearly as vague as most of Bell’s book. Considering everything said before and after that statement, about how God doesn’t want to be alone and seeks to be near us, then we are left with only a few legitimate answers to Willimon’s questions.
Willimon, unlike Bell, is a theologian. This is a strength for him, actually. Further, where as Bell is concerned with our own self-imposed hells, Willimon is concerned with God’s salvation. The viewpoint between the two are different. For Bell, it is more about humanity’s actions and choices; for Willimon, it is about God in Christ.
He begins chapter 2 with,
“Who will be saved?” is not as interesting a question as “Who saves?” That which makes Christian salvation counter-intuitive, counter-cultural, and strange is the God who saves.
The Bishop is deeply concerned with having God placed in the right order. Salvation is God’s and not ours. It is a gift, not earned. It starts and ends with God. For Bell, I get the feeling that humanity is the center of the universe. In reading so far, there is a sence of some of the Reformed Tradition mixed with self-professed Wesleyanism.
So far, so good.