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Babies, Law Court Judgement and Christ

February 10, 2011 5 comments

It’s been a while since my last post, especially in English. I might make yet another post later on to answer “what’s up?”, but I’m posting for another reason now. I was notified by my friend Lisa Greer this morning about Greg Boyd’s latest post on “Baby Universalism and Reasonable Infanticide“, and I realized I have quite a few thoughts on this. So I wrote her a reply, which I realized would work out as a blog entry! It sort of assumes that you have read Boyd’s blog entry, however, so if there’s anything unclear, it might be a good idea to read it.

This is a question I’ve been wondering about for years, but no one else has brought it up, so Greg did what he usually does and asks the question no one else dares to ask. I’m totally with Greg on this. Any logically and morally inclined person who seriously believes in baby universalism should wander around murdering all the babies within reach, as well as forcing mothers into having abortions. It reminds me of an atheist I met once who said that if he was a Christian (as he understood them), he’d force people into accepting Christ by any means possible, damning himself if he had to (Rom 9:3). When you think about it, the notion that God gives a free pass only to those who don’t enter into adulthood makes our lives into nothing more than a cruel joke. It basically gives a thumbs up to all the teenagers who kill themselves: “Good idea, there’s absolutely no good reason to continue striving in this world!”

I understand and sympathize with the basic view of God and babies that makes one assume God would never condemn a baby who hasn’t started making conscious choices, but in the end, I think this scenario proves the absurdity of “Law Court Final Judgement“.

Most Western Christians assume that the final judgement is a scene where Humanity is standing before God, and those who have consciously signed the Jesus-contract in their earthly lifetime are magically Jesus-protected from God seeing their sin. Those who haven’t consciously signed the Jesus-contract in their earthly lifetime, however, won’t be prevented from God seeing their sins, and so God’s alarms will go off and he’ll throw them into eternal hellfire, regardless of anything those people might say when they get into heaven, because they are all radically morally totally depraved sinners who hate God anyways.

When Baby Universalism is connected to this view of the Final Judgement, babies are presumably either given a free Jesus-contract, or they simply commit no sin that the Father has to torment them for. I think both these alternatives are weird. In my view, (original) sin taints all of creation, and although it depends what kind of infirmities God is looking for, babies are not perfect. Free will also doesn’t “pop up” at the age of 11-12 in children, they start making choices independent from their instincts very early on.

If God made an “exception” in the law court system to babies below the arbitrary age of accountability, does that mean he gives exceptions to people who had a bad upbringing? People who started hanging out with the wrong people in their teens? People who got bullied in school? If we wants to keep any consistency here, we should just say that God should give an exception to everyone, and accept universalism. The other option within the law court system is to go the other way with election instead, and just change God’s character so that he enjoys sending people to Hell. That works too.

One major problem with the West is that we view sin so individually, and primarily juridically. Sin taints all of creation, and it is contagious like nothing else. Everyone is at one level guilty of sin, and yet everyone is at one level a victim of it as well. This is why we in the confession of sins say: “Through my sin I am guilty of more evil than I understand on my own”. This reality about the nature of sin makes it hard for me to see how Western Law Court Justice can ever be appropriately meted out. It’s so pervasive, and it doesn’t seem to be fixable by punishment.

Because of this, I am less inclined to believe God’s problem with sin is that his Divine Justice must be fulfilled by meting out Just Punishment to all those guilty, which in the end turned out to be redirected to Jesus/Himself. You’d think the Crucifixion would be a lot more intense if God needed to pour out all the punishment and wrath on the God-man on the cross. Especially when you consider that the cross, according to this view, was supposed to be the punishment for all humans replacing our punishment in eternal hellfire, due to sin against the eternal God (by finite beings…). You’d think the punishment due to Jesus (if comparable with eternal torment) in this view would be more like a billion nuclear bombs exploding and imploding on him over… well, eternity? That’s not to say Jesus did not experience things beyond what met the eye on the cross. He assumed all of humanity, and thus, without having sinned himself, “became a curse for us”, and “bore our sins”, so all the weight of our evil was upon him in those last moments.

This is something I will explore as I write my essay on the Atonement, by the way, but it is not that I deny all substitutionary or legal language for the Atonement, but I believe the introduction of Western Human standards of justice into God’s character is a large reason why people can’t see the beauty of God in Christ, when he takes upon Himself the Sin of the world. He took on our sins as something that is in ITSELF horrific. Sin is horrific and deadly, not God. The only reason God’s holiness is dangerous is because Holiness (wholeness) exists, and sin, distorted creation, ultimately doesn’t. It is not creation, but yet we cling to un-creation when facing God. No wonder it is dangerous to fall into the hands of the Living, Existing God like that. You can read what I’ve previously written on sin and salvation here. But there is nothing inherently scary in God’s character. God, in Jesus Christ, took on all of Sinful Humanity and lived it out (without sinning) to its logical consequence, death. When God had finished that, the Old Adam was brought to his end, and Jesus Christ destroyed sin, death and the Devil who had lived as a parasite on that fallen humanity, and rose victorious on the Third Day, creating a New Humanity in Him.

I think the view of sin within the Orthodox Church, which Greg Boyd seems to share, is more compatible with the loving character of God as perfectly revealed in Jesus Christ. God’s problem with sin is that it damages us and our relationship to Him, each other, ourselves and everything else. He wants to heal us, but we flee from Him, in fear that He will judge us and accuse us. Who is the accuser? Not God, but Satan. We have made God into Satan, by assuming that his greatest problem with us is his punitive anger against our sins. In reality, it seems the only reason He reminds us of our sins is to simultaneously ask “Will you stop holding on to that and give it to Me, please?”. All He asks is that we stop making our tormentors (Sin, Death and Satan) into our lords, and make Jesus Christ our Lord instead. Through choosing to return to Jesus Christ and taking part of His New Humanity through the Incarnation, we are given a new identity in Him as righteous and holy. We are then to put on Christ’s Humanity  and put off Adam’s humanity every day, so we may walk and continue the Life of Christ on Earth, by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Heb 2:14-18; Rom 13:14; 1 Cor 15:22,45)

Here is a wonderful passage fleshing out (pun not intended) the wonders of the Incarnation and its centrality to our salvation:

But we see Him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting that He, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.”

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make atonement for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

-The Epistle to the Hebrews, 2:9-18

And also:

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.

Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.

-The Epistle to the Romans, 6:4-13

From my understanding, in the Eastern view, the Final Judgement is about whether or not there is a sign of Divine Life inside of us, whether or not we take part of the Divine Energies that God wants to envelop us in. He gives them freely to all who seek His Face, and in the end, He will be all in all (1 Cor 15:28). When this happens, the love of God will envelop everything. Those who refuse to see the truth of who God is, however, will experience His love as torment and wrath. They will not experience it this way because God created it such, but because their lord Sin has become their guide to how to interpret everything they see, like Gríma Wormstongue in Lord of the Rings. Heaven and Hell are the same place: the loving prescence of God, but He will not force Himself into anyone’s mind.

So Hell is a reality in our minds, and a state of mind that I’m sure all of us have already tasted. That is not to say, however, that being freed from Hell is a mere decision and change of mind. It is a deadly mind virus and a parasite, and if we do not let the caretaker of our souls, Jesus, uproot it, it could take over our entire existence, and harden our hearts towards God. As for what God in his loving-kindness will ultimately do to those who end up in this situation, I don’t know. As I have previously written (in Swedish), although with a lot less clarity on the nature of Judgement, I think there is Biblical support for the view that all that is not in accordance with God will be as if it never existed. However, I am not certain of this view, and in the end, I can only look to Christ and know that He is Good.

As for the babies, then… I don’t believe our souls become inactive after death. I think we are either purified or hardened against God. As I have to assume there has to be some point in staying alive on Earth, I believe babies must be given the chance to choose beyond this life instead. But I think Boyd gave the answer to this question in his blog post and elsewhere. As I said before, in the end, I can only hope that God will be God in all situations. If I see Jesus, I see the Father, and Him who “is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature” (Heb 1:3, verbatim).

Kyrie eleison! Lord, have mercy!