Friday, March 25, 2011

Bell, Bashir and Bird

It's a fierce interview, but no ruder than say the Australian political talk show, Q and A.  At one level there are debates about the place of universalism in the church, does it have a valid interpretative tradition and should it have a place in contemporary orthodox theology?  Then there are discussions about a whole swag of Scriptures, both those that seem to support the idea of Universalism and those that seem to leave no room at all for Universalism.  But beyond both those lines of thought are the two most important questions, the first one big and philosophical, the second one practical.

The first is about the ultimate nature of God and evil, 'is evil ultimately part of God', but I'll unpack that one more fully in a later blogpost! The second is asked by Martin Bashir, the host in the clip above; "does my response to Jesus in this life matter?"  An acquaintance from my old church said to Dad recently that his newfound universalism meant he no longer cared about evangelism.  But God's organization of the cosmos means that both our destination and what we do along the way matters.  Thankfully Christ's sacrificial death and obedient life are counted as ours, otherwise they'd be slim pickings on the tree when it came time to harvest.  This in turn made me think of what Michael Bird pointed out a little while ago:
"we should avoid ragging on these with the charge of "synergism" because any soteriology that includes a human response is in some sense synergistic. A better way to evaluate soteriologies (ancient or modern) is to look at the type of divine action, its efficacy, and the human response that makes it effective in a particular scheme."
Bird explains it better than I but basically God's made it so our response is significant, it's not that he's trying to cope with our choices or guess them but that they matter because he made it so they'd matter.