Refuting ‘universalism’ slanders of C.S. Lewis, part 1

Blog | | Thursday, February 3, 2011
Some Christians are just nutty, and nuttiness does not revoke salvation. But many carefully discerning Christians have been deceived into believing they should fear C.S. Lewis because he supposedly held heretical belief in universalism.
Series:

Can we just nuke this? Can we finally and fully blast it to shreds? Or will there always be pieces of the monster that somehow repair themselves and lurch back to life, groaning, and head to the internet and post things like “C.S. Lewis was a heretic; hide your children!”?

I had thought to write about something else instead: that some evangelicals, with good intentions, seem to over-use Lewis, and forget that we do have other scholars, even if they’re not as creative or popular.

But then this issue came up, and for the time being, I’ve swung right back to the other side.

Sure, I still think evangelicals often over-venerate Lewis, quoting him, writing even more books about him and his works, and making yet another Life of Lewis visual documentary.

Actual quote from one Christian-conspiracy-theory website: “Pan, the pagan sex god (…) is deceitfully renamed to ‘Tumnus’ in the (‘Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’) movie.” (I’d rather not link to that site because it could corrupt you, but I need to show it directly for a good cause, so that you will know how bad it is.)

Yet then along come other Christians who react in the opposite extreme. Perhaps they are so used to being in a minority-party status and reacting instead of acting, that they instinctively detest anything popular, suspect it of doctrinal compromise, and pass along conspiracy lies.

If this were only said by fringe types, bless ‘em, who roam Christendom and also say things like “rock music is hypnotic and the Devil’s tool” or “all Greek gods are actually demons” without Biblical proof, I could live with that. Some Christians are just nutty, and nuttiness does not revoke salvation. Surely God is waiting to surprise all of us countless times, in the New Earth.

But many carefully discerning Christians also have been deceived into believing that they should fear Lewis because he supposedly held heretical belief in universalism.

Wretched mistake

Recently, Wretched Radio lapsed into this. They’re an overall fantastic resource for Biblical truth and graciously refuting false teachers, and they recently posted an audio clip from the program in which host Todd Friel read from Kevin DeYoung’s Jan. 28 column Cautions for Mere Christianity. That was a good column; I pointed others to it myself. But Friel took it further, saying he’d call people to be even warier of Lewis’ work.

Worse, the audio clip was titled “C.S. Lewis the heretic.”

Later Friel wrote to say he would not have used the term heretic; it was accidentally used by a staffer. We can’t interview Lewis to know for sure, Friel noted.

Still the damage was done. Commentators bemoaned (mostly rightfully) all the heretics who get around, the false teachings, etc. — and so may, without hearing of other bypassed truths, miss out on some of the best writing ever used to honor God.

Mere Lewis-anity

Yes, Lewis had some issues. Don’t all Christians? Yet his were prevalent in his time and culture:

  1. In Mere Christianity he was far too fuzzy on why Jesus died. As DeYoung noted, Lewis allowed for other theories about how His death brought God’s forgiveness, including the notion that God has already forgiven people, somehow, and Christ died to show it.
  2. In The Problem of Pain Lewis, like many genuine Christians (including theologian B.B. Warfield in the past and theologian Wayne Grudem in the present) made up evolution-inclusive myths for God’s creation and man’s rebellion. Scripture-ignore fail.
  3. Elsewhere Lewis had plenty of respect for pagan myths, which causes understandable angst among many Christians. This is actually among his lesser errors, if it’s an error at all, and requires careful discernment and reasoning about how even pagan stories can contain truth and whose hopes are fulfilled in Christ. (Where does sin originate? Does the Devil “own” all stories that ignore God? Should we avoid even knowing their details, as if they’re corrupted — and as if even the prophet Daniel would have been horribly corrupted by knowing Babylonian myths and magic practices in Daniel 1?)

But Lewis was not a universalist. He blatantly denied believing this throughout his works. Those who claim otherwise need to check to make sure they’re absolutely right in their reading. If not, they are guilty of spreading slander about a Christian, and dishonoring the God of truth.

One of Lewis’ strongest statements against the notion that someone could, after death, escape Hell, comes from his The Problem of Pain. Though problematic elsewhere, he’s right-on here:

The Divine labour to redeem the world cannot be certain of succeeding as regards every individual soul. Some will not be redeemed. There is no doctrine which I would more willingly remove from Christianity than this, if it lay it my power. But it has the full support of Scripture, and, specially, of Our Lord’s own words; it has always been held by Christendom; and it has the support of reason. If a game is played, it must be possible to lose it. […] I would pay any price to be able to say truthfully “All will be saved.” But my reason retorts, “Without their will, or with it”? […]

I said glibly a moment ago that I would pay “any price” to remove this doctrine. I lied. I could not pay one-thousandth part of the price that God has already paid to remove the fact.

[… Some Hell critics say] death ought not to be final, that there ought to be a second chance. I believe that if a million chances were likely to do good, they would be given. But a master often knows, when boys and parents do not, that it is really useless to send a boy in for a certain examination again. Finality must come some time, and it does not require a very robust faith to believe that omniscience knows when.

Next week: did C.S. Lewis use Emeth, a noble but pagan Calormene in the last Chronicles of Narnia story, The Last Battle, to suggest that all people would be saved in the end?

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E. Stephen Burnett is a journalist, aspiring novelist, and editor and webslinger at Speculative Faith. His mission: to explore and enjoy epic stories that reflect the truths and beauties of the first and greatest Epic Story, God’s Word. He also writes for a dynamic news franchise in Austin, Texas and delves into Christ-and-culture doctrine at Christ and Pop Culture. He also enjoys nonfiction, soundtrack music, and spending life with his wife, Lacy, in their home near Austin, Texas.

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25 responses

  1. Okay, post-related comment pending, but I clicked that image to look at the site it came from…and, oh my….those people have nasty minds…
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    • Kaci — I presume you’re talking mainly about that site’s sudden jump from the “evils” of the first Narnia film to talking about all the other supposed Smut that separate Disney artists and animators have been putting into cartoons. We’ve heard of all this before; it’s old and stale conspiracy-rhetoric.

      First, the evil Anatomical Shape in the Little Mermaid’s father’s castle. Was it intentional? Don’t know, but who cares? With that movie’s pro-teen-feminist storyline, if you’re going to complain about it, that’s like whining about a stained tablecloth in the dining room of the Titanic.

      Second, the supposed Secret SEX Message in the Sky in The Lion King. I recall the artists said that was in an-joke for “SFX,” special effects. Again, if you pick on that movie, there was a whole New-Age message or something minor like that.

      Third, the naked picture flying past in one scene in The Rescuers. That was proved true — and Disney removed the prankster’s work from future editions. But how, exactly, is this supposed to prove some kind of intentional Conspiracy on the part of every single person working at Disney? To rant and claim this without proof is simply slander.

      And left unsaid the whole way through is how, exactly, these things actually corrupt a Christian anyway — or why it is that, if it’s so dangerous, we all need to see the pictures to see for ourselves. If it’s corrupt, then don’t talk about it everrrr! Aiiiee! Exorcise it from our minds!

      This brings me to one of the saddest parts about it. To go looking for Suggestive Images in cartoons, intentionally, then say things like “I have Righteously removed the Offensive Portion of this image” is merely another symptom of caste-system Christianity. It also reveals a rather sicker side of human nature. You may dislike dirty jokes, but whether you laugh or scowl, sorry, you’ve revealed you’re not innocent because you clearly understand it. And when you are “seeing” innuendo that may or may not be there, it’s likely the only one with a mind in the gutter is you.

      What’s the solution? Do more, try harder, forget that nasty innuendo (whether or not it was meant that way)? Or take the blow of the Horrible Outside-Generated sin, bravely absorbing its horror to protect the Innocent? No. Christ and the Gospel is the only means of deflecting sin’s consequences, and the Spirit alone changes us from within, and begins removing our own sin.
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      • Yes, I was. I didn’t read the whole thing, but I got the gist. I’m that person who would hear things like “Aladdin tells Jasmine to take off her clothes on the balcony scene” and, despite trying to hear it twenty times, still didn’t. So I’m a bit on the skeptical side of all that nonsense. My theory is, if I have to try that hard to find it, it’s not there.

        To go looking for Suggestive Images in cartoons, intentionally, then say things like “I have Righteously removed the Offensive Portion of this image” is merely another symptom of caste-system Christianity. It also reveals a rather sicker side of human nature. You may dislike dirty jokes, but whether you laugh or scowl, sorry, you’ve revealed you’re not innocent because you clearly understand it. And when you are “seeing” innuendo that may or may not be there, it’s likely the only one with a mind in the gutter is you.

        Exactly. Though I think I’d say there’s a difference between understanding the joke and having a dirty mind. But that’s me.
        Kaci’s recent blog: Observations- Blog Rage &amp the City of Tranquil LightMy Profile

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  2. Hurray! This is such a good topic for a series. I’m looking forward to reading more in the next installment.

    I remember reading “Mere Christianity” years ago and LOVING it, and then hearing our pastor say (more recently) that it was not all theologically correct and there were some issues he took with it, while he still appreciated the book as a whole and Lewis as an author. I felt a little embarrassed for having not seen the issues myself, but obviously I’m not as discerning as our senior pastor, and I’m not a very thorough reader. :) I’ve been wanting to re-read it again more carefully, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. What you said about his fuzziness on why Jesus died must be one of the things my pastor was talking about.

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  3. CS Lewis’ “fuzziness” on why Christ died is not fuzziness at all but rather an open disdain for penal substitutionary atonement as the only way of interpreting His death. I hear that Lewis opts more for “The Perfect Penitent” atonement theory. Not all Christians buy into the strict modern version of penal substitution because of how it portrays God. It emphasizes God’s wrath at the expense of His grief; and makes God angry in a way scripture warns us is fleshly and immature.

    I’m sure Todd Friel would call him a heretic for that, and the rest of the theological thought-police (read: DeYoung) but CS Lewis wasn’t a fuzzy thinker. He meant to write what he did, and he meant to leave penal substitution out, because he and many other Biblical Christians see it as dishonoring what is revealed about God in the whole of scripture. As for the “accusation” that Lewis believed God has already forgiven us before Christ died…well…we are told of His “great love with which he loved us WHILE we were yet dead in trespasses” (Eph. 2:4) And John 3:16 says God’s love was His MOTIVE for sending His Son in the first place…again, before Christ died. So maybe God’s “wrath” has more to do with His great love, and His grief in seeing His creation choose self-destruction…rather than “You broke my rules..I hate you.”

    As for evolution, yes, Lewis and many other Christians believe it is compatible w/ Genesis. Tolkien obviously did. I guess philosophically, they figured it was God’s way of giving His creation its own “realness” – in the creation story…the earth brings forth plants, animals, etc. So that isn’t “scripture ignore fail” – look closer at Gen. 1, God is calling His creation to collaborate with Him as He creates. The seas bring forth and the earth brings forth…and God’s command. However much “time” that took is open to interpretation. I’m an Augustinian when I read Genesis, not a Frielian – so I see evolution as being compatible w/ Genesis. But I’m sure Friel would call me names on his show and question my salvation. That’s okay…I’m not sure about his either.

    At the very least, Lewis was an inclusivist – not a universalist. He obviously believed (gasp!) that the Holy Spirit could work even in cultures where either Christ hadn’t been preached, or had been misrepresented by bad examples of Christianity. The Spirit can draw people close to Christ even using a human religion as a starting point…(kind of like he did with Judiasm in the gospels).

    I’m surprised it took this long for the Christian thought-police to catch on. Of course they won’t like Lewis. But What you label his “errors” I don’t accept as such. I would love to see your reasoning on why these are errors, rather than a list that assumes we will all agree with you without explanation. I think Lewis was right on all of those points. And I would warn against calling him “fuzzy” anywhere in his thinking. He isn’t, and he usually has good reasons for saying what he says.

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  4. Hey back, Derek,

    Though these issues go beyond Lewis and fiction, and thus this column’s emphasis, I don’t mind bringing them up because of their foundation to the topics, and also, what I read as a rather stringent “doctrine police” demeanor in your tone as well. I don’t fault that, but what I do fault is an inconsistency in calling others “doctrine police” while just as eagerly proclaiming your own beliefs as well. In response I would remind you that ultimately we are all in the same boat: holding to our beliefs, and hoping to persuade others. Kevin DeYoung or Todd Friel are no more “guilty” than C.S. Lewis, me, or you.

    Might I also remind you that you do not know Todd Friel personally, and nothing he’s said publicly on the radio, or even against C.S. Lewis, is worth saying you question his salvation. That was uncalled for, and I would not do that to you either — just as I have said that Wretched doesn’t need to be faulting Lewis for that (and Friel later agreed).

    Let me take a few of your quotes — though addressing everything in your comment all at once would take time! — and offer some initial responses. If you wish, we can continue the discussion in a more organized way, starting from these foundational issues.

    As for the “accusation” that Lewis believed God has already forgiven us before Christ died

    By that I meant not a belief in predestination (which as you note from Ephesians, is certainly a Biblical concept) but the notion God had already in our reckoning of time forgiven people, and had no “need” to punish Christ. Yes, God certainly has decided, in some mysterious way that still permits humans to make meaningful choices, whether someone will be saved (example: after Paul’s preaching, “as many as were appointed to eternal life believed,” Acts 13:48). But to accomplish that, He had also planned to “wound” and “crush” His Son for the iniquities of those people (Isaiah 53:5).

    …well…we are told of His “great love with which he loved us WHILE we were yet dead in trespasses” (Eph. 2:4)

    Amen times ten. And them Reformed folks who believe in penal substitution — hardly a modern invention, either — include this tenet, for Christ died directly in place of His Church, those whom God had determined to save. Other ideas can also explain this (though I might quibble graciously with ‘em!), saying that Christ died as a substitute for the entire world, and gives “prevenient grace” to those who will decide to turn from their sins and receive His gift of forgiveness.

    And John 3:16 says God’s love was His MOTIVE for sending His Son in the first place…again, before Christ died.

    And again, I’m not at all objecting to the idea of predestination! (Trust me, if we’d known each other before this column, you’d know.) What I objected to was the idea that God could easily forgive people while also preserving His holiness. Sin demands a penalty, and God took that penalty upon Himself, with His Son, the ultimate sacrificial lamb, bearing His people’s iniquities. God didn’t slack off on that whole “blood is required to atone for sin” notion, before Christ’s death. “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22). So instead, Christ fulfilled the Old-Testament sacrificial system, rendering further sacrifices unnecessary through His final sacrifice.

    A very important question about God’s motive for sending Christ: is His love the only, overarching motive for what He does? Or is there a deeper goal, which does not at all cancel out His love, but certainly makes it fuller, mysterious, awesome?

    I love the Harry Potter series, but its emphasis on love as the be-all-end-all of the universe falls short of the Biblical complexity when God is involved (but of course, He’s ignored in the series, and thus His nature isn’t attacked there). So does a conception of Christianity that doesn’t go deeper — as deep as Scripture goes, anyway. Related questions: Who does God love more, Himself or His creation? What is the absolute center of His purpose? What does Scripture say is His goal, to which His love and everything else are means to that end?

    I would also suggest that understanding this is vital to understanding God’s wrath — a characteristic you, I believe wrongfully, put in quotation marks. Sin’s consequence is not simply self-destructive, as if God just steps back and has no role in enacting punishment. To think otherwise would be far too rosy a view of human nature, and contradictory to constant Scriptures that explain to us the total hopelessness of humans without God’s intervention (Romans, for example).

    Now, this doesn’t remove the “grief” aspect from God at all. But please understand that despite your limited experiences (and mine), not all damage among Christians has been done because people over-emphasized God as a Wrathful, Punishing Avenger. And not all damage has been done because people over-emphasized God as a hand-wringing, whatever-shall-I-do-about-their-sin Deity either. But much damage has been done by the latter notions, and that’s what many folks — whom you evidently see as doctrine police — are bothered about, and rightfully so. Such myths downplay the holiness and love of God, and elevate man beyond what the Bible says about man.

    Are we as bad as we could possibly be? No. (Lewis wrongly thought that’s what “total depravity” meant.) But we cannot possibly meet God’s holiness and love. Without His intervention, we may believe in Him, but we’ll want to use Him as a means to other ends, and not value Himself for Himself: His own intrinsic value.

    I will mostly skip the parts about evolution for now, because this seems more crucial. Yet I would encourage you to make sure, especially given your desire to ensure professing Christians don’t forget God’s love because they also want His wrath to be known, that you’re not maligning God’s reputation. He made everything in “six days” (whatever that means, though I have my view on that) and called it “very good” several times. To say that during that time He either supervised or simply let happen a process of bloody, disgusting evolution, with thousands of organisms dying, diseased and ripped apart by other creatures makes Him out to be a bit of a fool for claiming this was “very good.” It also in effect denies that sin/death/horror is any kind of foreign invader in this world.

    How about I save the discussion about Lewis’ other ideas for another time? There’s plenty to discuss here, I’m sure. And I look forward to continuing that if you wish.
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    • Thanks E. Steven for your response.

      If I try to do quotes with the html, it doesn’t quote work…don’t think I’m understanding it.

      Todd Friel is a hack. If you respect him, enjoy that. I’ve seen too many of his “ambush witnessing” videos to consider anything other than the damage he is doing by pushing people away from a loving God by his 3rd rate Sean Hannity impersonation. Saying I question his salvation was mostly a joke, since he is the one who feels qualified to say who’s in and who’s out. And that is exactly what he does. His method of “evangelism” is based on pushing people into a corner with the 10 commandments, which were orginally given to people who were already called into relationship with God and begins with “I am the Lord that brought you out of Egypt…” Why doesn’t he begin with “Has the Lord ever brought you out of Egypt?” as part of his ambush? Because it would reveal his mishandling of a pretty basic text. If he screws that up so royally, I have no desire to hear him butcher the rest of the Bible. I do enjoy the name of his radio show though, as it is unintentionally accurate in a humorous way. I do appreciate him doing that.

      As to the basic Reformed beliefs that I am supposed to accept as the highest articulation of the Christian faith..let’s see..a God who is only concerned about His only glory…doesn’t explain why He would empty Himself of that and become one of us. Or why he would forgive us FOR HIS OWN SAKE. Eliminating us could bring Him just as much glory, wouldn’t it? Creating us knowing in advance we would fall and then hating us for what He knew we would do before we did it and yet making us anyway. Makes a lot of sense. I guess his ways aren’t our ways. So basically you could insert any nonsense and put God before it and have it make sense by saying if it made sense it wouldn’t be God.

      Sounds like God has an anger problem. He tells us to love our enemies but can’t live up to His own teaching. Yes, I put quotes around the Reformed idea of God’s “wrath” because scripture tells us repeatedly God is slow to anger. I believe in the whole Bible and the whole story that the Bible tells, not the cherrypicked verses that make up the Reformed faith (that usually refer to Israel breaching the covenant, not humanity in general).

      And I cannot believe you are trying to say there is anything deeper than God’s love. I had to reread that a few times to make sure you could even write that. What is deeper? I guess what you’re suggesting is His “holiness” which you interpret as moral excellence when the word actually means transcendence. God is love…God so loved…because of His great love with which He loved us…

      Saying there’s anything “deeper” than that (which is a subjective interpretation of scripture, as is any interpretation that attempt to proves one thing deeper than another when both are taught plainly) boggles the mind. So now we’re reduced to a “what goes deeper” Bible duel. That’s all subjective. But you do hit on something unintentionally – the God of the Reformed faith doesn’t really love His creation in any real way. If God, who basically hates me (since I was predestined not to be Reformed) would only love me because He gets to mutilate His Son and get His frustration out, that’s not love. There’s nothing real there; it’s a legal fiction. He declares NOT GUILTY when it’s not true. Tell me, how do I cultivate a loving relationship with a being who was equally fine with hating me and killing me for something He knew in advance would happen if He created me in the first place?

      I am not an over-emphasizer of God’s wrath, obviously. I believe He does get angry but because humans are choosing self-destruction and I hate to scandalize you again, but I actually believe God’s love for His creation frames His dealings with us. So sorry to put Christ’s teachings and actions on a “deeper” level than Paul’s. But you do the same thing when you tell me what is deeper than something when both are taught in scripture. It’s a way of theologizing personal preferences. I am not a vampire Christian – I value the teachings and actions of Christ – not just His blood. And it’s funny, everything Jesus teaches is the opposite of what you have said. The only people Jesus chides are the ones who have God all figured out (coincidentally in their favor). If God was so concerned about His honor, He really picked the wrong way to be born and the wrong social class to be a member of. he picked the wrong people to hang out with and the wrong stories to tell. The Reformed faith reminds me of the Pharisees. So concerned with God’s honor, the life of Jesus scandalized them.

      Show me ONE instance in the Gospels where Jesus even remotely resembles the God of the reformed faith. Don’t say the cleansing of the Temple either because that was directed at the religious know-it-alls that kept everyone else on the outside while making a hefty profit off them. The Todd Friels of the 1st Century. Anywhere else…anywhere. If Jesus was the image of the invisible God, He would be the most angry person in existence and constantly punishing people angrily. When James and John wanted to call down fire on Samaria, He would have been for it. If you can’t show me your God’s attributes in Jesus, it’s a false God.

      I’m happy to keep this going as long as you want. CS Lewis didn’t have much esteem for Reformed Christianity, so it’s humorous to see Reformed folk offer “critiques” as if he would care what they thought. Again I’ll affirm, He wasn’t fuzzy on why Jesus died. In Mere Christianity he offered the Perfect Penitent explanation and in Narnia, he uses the Ransom theory; the oldest atonement theory…right behind Christus Victor. Anselm invented the modern version of penal substitution based on the “honor” of a feudal lord being insulted and read that into God’s motives for punishing Christ. Lewis thought that explanation to be inferior and the God of that belief to be abhorrant. He wasn’t fuzzy on it at all – He saw God’s love being revealed in Christ’s sacrifice; not the anger of a primitive God of a death cult. That’s why I adhere to Christus Victor. It makes death and hades the enemy, not God. God is the one on the cross, winning our battle for us. So just disown CS Lewis already – he’s basically a Brian McLaren theologically…if you read his views on scripture, inclusivism, etc. I wonder what a strictly reformed person like you has in common with him at all.

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  5. Derek, Sir, I agree with you in some areas, though I am closer to Stephen on many more, I’ll admit. Regardless, if we truly believe that the Lord, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, became man, and died for our sins, will forevermore be man now and on the New Earth, and the rest of the fundamentals about salvation, then we are brothers and sisters in the faith. Please stop being so rude. I know Stephen can be abrasive himself sometimes, but he is a caring brother, and has been kind to you, even in disagreement. Please be kind yourself. God bless you, my brother.

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  6. Weel, now…isn’t this interesting? And here I thought it was the crusty, compassionless Calvinists who are always cold, rude and loveless in their presentation of the Gospel.

    Derek; I have one suggestion and one question for you.

    Suggestion: if your theology as stated above is something you believe to be correct, then you have thoroughly failed to convince me by the simple fact that you do not act as if you believe God’s love is the highest motivator of the universe. I suggest you go and immerse yourself in that theology even more so that your life will begin to match what you preach.

    Question: What, exactly and precisely, is your intention here? I can think of a few possibilities…

    1) You have a deep desire to make sure that the truth about God is known so that others might have the opportunity to understand and love and follow Him as you do. If so: see above—you pretty much need to apologize and start over.

    2) You have real questions about theology which you hope to gain knowledge concerning by engaging other views in robust but godly discussion. Your theology was challenged by Stephen’s post and you discerned a place where your questions might be honestly engaged. If so: great. The conversation definitely ought to continue, and I’m sure Stephen will be glad to carry on the discussion: just call off your dogs. No need to slander anyone. Simply present your scriptural case.

    3) You are a troll: i.e., a member of a tribe of internet entertainment junkies whose chief enjoyment of life consists of going around to different blogs and stirring up trouble. You have no interest in a real discussion, only in stirring up trouble and airing your own grievances. If so: get your own blog. Stephen nor any of us are obligated to keep allowing your posts to appear here or take time to answer them.

    So now…my request (although I am presuming upon Stephen’s authority to make it, as this is HIS blog)—is that you do one of the following things: #1 State clearly your intention here, if different from what I’ve postulated above; OR admit to having the goal of #1 above and apologize, then change your tactics to continue the discussion; OR admit to #2 and call off your dogs and act like you believe what you preach; OR just move on and get your own blog. WordPress is great, so is Blogger. Send an invite.

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  7. God is love but how dd He manifest this love? By saving us. But from what? Death and Hell. But Hell is the final destination of sin and the objects of His wrath. So by saving us from Hell and demonstrating his love for us while we were yet sinners He saved us from His wrath.

    How did He accomplish this? By ransoming us. From what? The world and the corrupt nature of our flesh. How? By becoming one of us. But you can only ransom kinsmen ( see kinsman redeemer ). So He ransomed those that were His, the elect, by paying the price they could not pay. What was this price? The price of sin and our transgressions.

    What was Christ victorious over? death and hell. Death and hell are objects of or the destination of those apart from Him. So in effect He was victorious over the need for justice and the satisfaction of His holiness for those He loved.

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    • Okay. I’m sure that all makes sense to you, and I’m glad it does. If God found satisfaction for his holiness, I’m glad for him. It must be great to be so satisfied. What a wonderful life he must have.

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  8. Hello again, Derek — I will try to give some rebuttals and thoughts below.

    Yet first, I must also note (along with Timothy and Esther above) that for a guy who talks a lot about God’s love, I don’t see a whole lot of that directed toward Christians who also read and seek understanding from the verses that do, indeed, say that the Lord is holy and just and indeed does all things to glorify Himself. Shouldn’t those who are pushing more of God’s “love” show that as much as talk about it?

    Secondly, I shan’t try much to defend Todd Friel. He can be annoying. But so can a lot of Christians in this wild thing we call the Church. In the past several months I’ve had in-depth discussions with professing Christians who

    a) lied about C.S. Lewis and Narnia,
    b) insisted that “turn the other cheek” means letting a battered wife suffer and only pray for God to make the abuser repent,
    c) lied about them Calvinists, saying they believed doctrines of demons, blah blah blah (whether you like TULIP or not, that’s just more slander — and yes this was the same guy who promoted letter a).

    And yet all of them just might be saved anyway, if they adhere to the essentials of the Gospel. No one should “joke” otherwise just because we happen to disagree with them personally, or even if they still have active addictions or sins (such as to reactionary, System-based conspiracy theories) that are ultimately the Spirit’s job to rout out.

    So let’s move past My Guys versus Your Guys, or what-have-you, and might we also move past the argument-from-outrage? You used that a lot in your response, but it’s ineffective against anyone who hasn’t already been persuaded by better means to believe as you do. I could use argument-from-outrage to “prove” anything: man didn’t land on the Moon, God isn’t real at all, it’s “unloving” for God to send anyone to Hell for any duration with or without some “second chance,” etc.

    Instead, therefore, I’ll just keep asking you: have you been reading the Bible in a way that respects its authors and Author? Or have you — most Christians do, and I know I have, so there’s no greater shame in it! — read it to salvage for parts for other stories, or else spiritual Systems?

    His method of “evangelism” is based on pushing people into a corner with the 10 commandments, which were orginally given to people who were already called into relationship with God and begins with “I am the Lord that brought you out of Egypt…”

    (And I thought Calvinists were fatalists!) ;-) So you’re saying that we need somehow to know in advance who has been called by God into the fulfilled New-Covenant relationship before we share with them the Law, which will if effective (the Spirit’s work) inform repentance only in those who are called to repent and place their faith in Christ’s work? Quite the “law,” that, but not a Biblical requirement.

    Furthermore, if as you claim the Law is no longer necessary, therefore not only modern Ten-Commandments-style evangelists, but all the Apostles (especially Paul, apostle to the Gentiles) were completely wrong in their portrayal of God as not only love but large and in charge. To one of the most secular societies of that day, Paul began with quoting a pagan poem about the false god Zeus, but applied it to God — and started with the Law.

    “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” — Acts 17: 30-31

    let’s see..a God who is only concerned about His only glory…doesn’t explain why He would empty Himself of that and become one of us.

    This is why I’m about to call you on salvaging Scripture for spare parts (again, a common malady among professing Christians, with which we all struggle). You’ve referred here to Philippians 2, which just happens to explain the very thing you’ve claimed God’s-working-all-things-so-that-He-can-be-glorified cannot explain.

    Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

    — Philippians 1: 5-11 (bold emphasis added)

    Please read the above, carefully, and consider these questions and points:

    1. Was Jesus only “emptying Himself” for the intrinsic good of being Poor and Humble, or for a greater good and goal? Please don’t only offer a System based on singular parts of Scripture separated from the whole. What does this text say?

    2. It says that Jesus became “obedient.” This is why Christianity needs a Trinity: to help try to explain, with the Mystery that it is, how this could happen: that Christ would be humbling Himself and yet also obeying the Father, about Whom it is never said that He emptied Himself or became as visibly humble as the Son.

    3. Paul doesn’t see a contradiction between Christ emptying Himself and yet also for the reason that He would bring glory to the Father and be exalted. To assume otherwise is to import a System into the Bible that subtly claims it’s impossible to do anything truly good if you do it for a reward’s sake. This is subtle spiritual asceticism — another array of beliefs Lewis directly opposed, by the way — yet another System that may be based on salvaged Scripture, but doesn’t match the whole.

    4. Later on you say plenty about how this doesn’t make sense and that doesn’t match up, and make all kinds of arguments I (or some imagined Reformed bloke out there somewhere) would supposedly make — but I haven’t based what I’ve said on a System of attempted deriving the way you seem to have done.

    I believe He does get angry but because humans are choosing self-destruction and I hate to scandalize you again, but I actually believe God’s love for His creation frames His dealings with us.

    “Scandalize”? This seems an exaggerated opinion of your own prowess! Too many folks out there may be quite gleeful to cause “scandal” to people, at least in their own eyes. I’m quite familiar with the whole “God is love and that’s His greatest attribute” belief; it’s common among evangelicals (I used to hold it by default) and often unchallenged.

    But what you believe or I believe and whether either Sounds Sensible is irrelevant here. The fact is that you haven’t attempted to prove your beliefs with Scripture and have wrongly accused me of elevating one Biblical truth over another or trying to find some Secret Knowledge. And yet your continual rejection of the idea that God to this day maintains righteous wrath against the unrighteous — offering a System supposedly supra Romans — is itself elevating one truth, in a System, above others.

    A few other issues: yes, I’ve often heard the whole “you’re like the Pharisees” angle. Please do some checking into Scriptures such as Mark 7 and find the real reason Jesus couldn’t get through to the Pharisees. The bad ones didn’t give one crap about the real God’s honor, but hijacked God’s real Law and even made up their own in place of it. The Pharisees were all Law and no love, and that was their problem is the common view only because of repetition and propaganda, but doesn’t match Scripture.

    I shan’t belabor that point here, though, only point you to God’s Law and Jesus’ Love at my nonfiction site if you sincerely wish to be challenged by an opposing view that actually shows that God’s real love is far greater than you’d say.

    Your closing parts are even more ad hominem, which is either a typical internet writing style (can’t say I’ve always avoided it myself) or else you’re just angry to see your views challenged. But again, it just seems strange to read this irked rhetoric from someone hoping to prove God’s love (?). Why? Instead I’ve found it’s those nasty “wretched” people who are quite aware of what their Savior has saved them from, and what they had deserved before He died to save them and brought them repentance and faith and joy, who are so grateful for God’s grace that they want to share it with others.

    We don’t need to go into church history or who first articulated what view of the Atonement under what name: only what Scripture says. You have left my citations of Romans and Hebrews as supporting Substitution wholly untouched, simply assuming that making the argument from a personal System will suffice. Why?

    As for Lewis being “basically a Brian McLaren theologically,” well, McLaren may wish! But that seems to show again your unfamiliarity with the works of either. Lewis may not have been as strong about Hell as some Reformed bloke, but he was very clear — unlike McLaren — that people have used their free will “to become very bad,” and for those who “will not repent,” a final Hell is the only just penalty for their evils.

    Finally, the result of the reality of Hell is not for the Christian to preach the stereotypical “turn and burn.” Some may still use that, but if you’re paying attention you’ll see that I haven’t used it here; others, whom you may assume do say this, have not, and it would be deceptive for you to behave as if they do and conclude they must be opposed and criticized at all costs. Instead the goal is to share the view of Scripture:

    God is holy (transcendent and morally perfect, despite your black-and-white, modernistic dichotomy) and loving, and must satisfy His own justice, but actively crushed His Son (Isaiah 53, which you did not even attempt to rebut with anything other than argument-from-outrage) as the final perfect sacrifice of blood (without which there is no remission of sins — Hebrews 9, also ignored in favor of argument-from-outrage). This is both great power/holiness and great love, and thus a great Mystery that leads to gratitude and living in true grace, from those who’ve received so great a salvation from the transcendent yet personal God.

    Why would God save me? I don’t know, but He did, and therefore I want more to be like Christ and experience His love and share it with others!

    Perhaps you have not met Gospel-driven Christians who actually behave this way. But I hope (please show me wrong!) that it’s not your lack of reading/believing all of Scripture that prevents you from seeing them even if they’re there.

    Grace and truth to you, and I’m sure we’ll “meet” again, perhaps in more of these comments. Look for the second part of the actual topic that started this — about how C.S. Lewis was not a universalist, despite some System-driven Christians’ claims to the contrary — this coming Thursday.

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    • If God hates me that much and would only love me on a technicality, then what’s the point. I first became a Christian because I thought God loved me and how I wish that were true. But you’re right, and can show from scripture that God only really loves himself and he hates me. When he says he loves me, it’s only a technical thing. He’s really loving Jesus and probably doesn’t even know I exist. Thank you for making that apparent.

      Anyway, we won’t “meet” again…what’s the point anyway. Maybe God will pick me with his einee meenee miney mo. And if not, I’ll just recieve his hatred, which is at least what he really feels for me, rather than the pretend love you suggest he might show me as a best case scenerio.

      I guess you’ve proved that you are chosen and I am not. If I were, I would be able to swallow what you’re putting out.

      And since a Frielite just suggested I should be more loving….ha…what’s the point.

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  9. Sir, believe it or not, I’m truly sorry that you are so angry and bitter. I don’t know how to explain what this means, but to say that God DOES love those who chooses to call to Himself. God is infinite, yes, but He is also finite in one respect, it is IMPOSSIBLE for Him to go beyond His nature. He must punish us for sin. To avoid this, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ to die for our sins.

    In truth, forget fictional heroes, and make my brothers and sisters in the arms in Iraq and elsewhere small nothings compared to the utter heroism that God performed on Calvary for our sins.

    I truly hope that you find the peace you need. Please turn to the Lord, and away from bitterness. I’ll pray for you, my brother. You see, if you do know the Lord, then you, along with me, Stephen, Esther, and all other Christians past, present, and future, we’re all brothers in the Lord. I am worried about you, brother. Please seek God. I’ll say a prayer for you. God bless.

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  10. Uh, brothers and sisters. Sorry for the typo, Ester, lol. ;)

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  11. Thank you for the genuine concern, Timothy. I wish I could turn from this bitterness. But to what? To a God who just wants to punish me anyway? WHY would God WANT to avoid this? E. Stephen Burnett just proved from scripture that God’s love is not his deepest nature, so does he really want to avoid punishing us? Why? His honor is all he cares about, so there is no hope. He can obliterate me and keep his honor. What would be his deeper motivation to do otherwise? E. has already shown that God’s deepest motivation is his own honor, so there is no deeper motivation to avoid punishing me. I’m not playing word games, this leaves me in despair. There’s no amount of verbal gymnastics that can undo what E. just did.

    Thanks for the prayer though.

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  12. Derek, I hope you have also seen the clear portions of what I wrote: that the same God Who ultimately does all things for His own glory — including sending His Son to die for the sins of His people — also gives His people more of His same amazing Self! This is the amazing part of the Gospel! By His making much of Himself to us, we receive more of Him!

    Of course, if one prefers His gifts (either His love or His righteousness) more than the Giver, receiving more of Himself won’t seem to be the greatest gift of all. But perhaps you can see that’s where this is going?

    Are you married, Derek? Or perhaps you have someone special in your life. Even if not, my guess is you may have often anticipated seeing someone special who’s gotten “dressed up” for you. In this case, she would use makeup not to hide her natural beauty, but accentuate it; the same with styled hair or clothes. Is this “vain” on her behalf? Would you, upon seeing her loveliness, criticize her for only doing all this because she is selfish and cares only about herself and not for you? Not if she was doing it with the right heart-motive: to be beautiful for you! Similarly, though God is certainly not “putting on” a show like this but actually doing things that show His intrinsic nature, He is nevertheless giving us more of Himself out of His great love, and mercy, for such wretched sinners!

    I hope you will consider this whole message of Scripture, and not merely see in my words a presentation of an opposite extreme — a case that would be very difficult to make about my beliefs if you’ve read my Full Body of Work (much of it online). It’s an even more impossible case to make about the Scripture itself, which says in the same Book “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son” and

    “For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it [refined My people and tried them with affliction]
    for how should my name be profaned?
    My glory I will not give to another.
    — Isaiah 48:11 (ESV)

    We need not feel these are two exact opposites that we can’t reconcile. If we thought that, it would be ignoring a great Mystery simply because we can’t understand it — as if God were like us, not infinite, and fully knowable — analyzed and reduced to mere Facts and Figures. Yet humbly getting under the Scriptures will introduce us to that same amazing, incredible, full-of-love-and-mercy God — Who we’ll spend eternity learning about and growing to love for Who He is and what He has done for His people!
    E. Stephen Burnett’s recent blog: Salvaging Scripture for a spiritual SystemMy Profile

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  13. Another thought to explore, Derek, is that C.S. Lewis himself also understood that God’s giving glory to Himself, and wanting His people’s praises, is not a wrongfully selfish act (as it would be if we did the same thing about ourselves). Nor does it somehow exclude or minimize His love for His people at all! His thoughts on this, implicit in The Chronicles of Narnia and his other nonfiction works, are more explicit in his Reflections on the Psalms.

    A certain author in his keystone work Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist cites Lewis’ phrasing in Reflections as instrumental in forming the author’s thoughts on Biblical “Christian Hedonism.” In his introduction to the book, he introduces and adds to Lewis’ thoughts as follows.

    Chapter 9 of Lewis’s book bears the modest title “A Word about Praise.” In my experience it has been the word about praise—the best word on the nature of praise I have ever read.

    Lewis says that as he was beginning to believe in God, a great stumbling block was the presence of demands scattered through the Psalms that he should praise God. He did not see the point in all this; besides, it seemed to picture God as craving “for our worship like a vain woman who wants compliments.” He goes on to show why he was wrong:

    But the most obvious fact about praise—whether of God or anything—strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honor. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise.… The world rings with praise—lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game.…

    My whole, more general difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what indeed we can’t help doing, about everything else we value.

    I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.

    This was the capstone of my emerging Hedonism. Praising God, the highest calling of humanity and our eternal vocation, did not involve the renunciation, but rather the consummation of the joy I so desired. My old effort to achieve worship with no self-interest in it proved to be a contradiction in terms. God is not worshiped where He is not treasured and enjoyed. Praise is not an alternative to joy, but the expression of joy. Not to enjoy God is to dishonor Him. To say to Him that something else satisfies you more is the opposite of worship. It is sacrilege.

    — from Desiring God, John Piper (pages 21-22)

    For further reading, one can download the book’s PDF for free here: Desiring God.

    Or for more, may I suggest a column by Sam Storms (which is by the way a great superhero name) from Enjoying God Ministries (different from Desiring God, but with many same goals). He writes about what he believes was C.S. Lewis’s Most Important Discovery. I’ve tweaked his layout just a bit (with blockquotes) and ended my excerpt here at the very question you expressed above: “How can God love ME if all his infinite energy is expended in the love of HIMSELF?” I think if you read this, if not all of Desiring God, you’ll see the direct Biblical and Biblically-informed-logical support for not only believing but loving the truth that God glorifies Himself, and thus loves His people even more than He would if He loved us more than He loved Himself.

    Lewis was extremely puzzled, even agitated, by the recurring demand by Christians that we all “praise God”. That was bad enough. What made it even worse is that God himself called for praise of God himself. This was almost more than Lewis could stomach. What kind of “God” is it who incessantly demands that his people tell him how great he is?

    Lewis describes his struggle and how he worked through it in an extraordinary passage from the essay, “The Problem of Praise in the Psalms” (found in Reflections on the Psalms [New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1958], pp. 90-98). Although I’m not widely read in Lewis, of what I have read this is undoubtedly the most important thing he ever wrote. To keep my comments distinct from those of Lewis, mine are in brackets preceded by my name.

    [Lewis] We all despise the man who demands continued assurance of his own virtue, intelligence or delightfulness; we despise still more the crowd of people round every dictator, every millionaire, every celebrity, who gratify that demand. Thus a picture, at once ludicrous and horrible, both of God and His worshippers, threatened to appear in my mind. The Psalms were especially troublesome in this way – ‘Praise the Lord,’ ‘O praise the Lord with me,’ ‘Praise Him.’ . . . Worse still was the statement put into God’s own mouth, ‘whoso offereth me thanks and praise, he honoureth me’ (50:23). It was hideously like saying, ‘What I most want is to be told that I am good and great.’ . . . It was extremely distressing. It made one think what one least wanted to think. Gratitude to God, reverence to Him, obedience to Him, I thought I could understand; not this perpetual eulogy. . . .”

    [Storms: I suspect this strikes us as problematic, as it did Lewis, because we want to think that God is preeminently concerned with us, not himself. We want a God who is man-centered, not God-centered. Worse still, we can’t fathom how God could possibly love us the way we think he should if he is so unapologetically obsessed with the praise and glory of his own name. How can God love ME if all his infinite energy is expended in the love of HIMSELF? Part of Lewis’s problem, as he himself confesses, was that he did not see that . . .]

    Read the rest at C.S. Lewis’s Most Important Discovery.
    E. Stephen Burnett’s recent blog: ‘The Word was- the Word is- and the Word will be …’My Profile

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  14. God cannot love us if He has to somehow circumvent His own nature to do so. Anyone who has children knows that discipline is a fundamental aspect if love. This discipline from love is different from ( chastisement is what Hebrews calls it ) the wrath that is being stored up against the unrighteous and the justice that Must be meted out. It is neither unloving nor unjust to punish the wicked for their selfishness, for that is what sin boils down to-selfishness and pride.

    It would be unloving for the Creator of the universe to NOT set things aright; to not care for His children and remedy the damage done to them and His creation in total by sin.

    Remember what Jesus said….greater LOVE has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. OR, For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whosever believed on him would not perish but have everlasting life.

    That is love. To give yourself for the very ones that hate you. The ones that killed your prophets, would spit upon you, and eventually nail you to a roman cross. He was bruised because the Father ordained it but that only shows the extremity of his love.

    The question that must be answered is this: are you a friend of Jesus? Have you repented of your sins and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ? The System will work itself out in the end….He will see to it.

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  15. [...] Last week I started with reminders that Lewis clearly stated in his nonfiction that he believed in a final punishment in Hell for those who refuse to repent of their evils. That’s indisputable. Call him fuzzy on why Christ died on the cross or on the Bible’s inerrancy, but he wasn’t universalist. [...]

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  16. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by E. Stephen Burnett, E. Stephen Burnett. E. Stephen Burnett said: Should Christians angrily say others aren't saying enough about God's love? Did Christ die for love-as-ultimate-virtue? http://bit.ly/fyK0ra [...]

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  17. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by FamilyFiction, Timothy Stone. Timothy Stone said: Speculative Faith: Refuting ‘universalism’ slanders of C.S. Lewis, part 1 http://t.co/wFOOkmv [...]

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  18. [...] on them! Still, I’d challenge such Christians to survey the contents of this series’ parts one and two, attacking the notion that Lewis was a heretic and/or accepted [...]

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