The most controversial aspects of The Shack‘s message have revolved around questions of universalism, universal redemption, and ultimate reconciliation. Jesus tells Mack: “Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans and many who don’t vote or are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions.” Jesus adds, “I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, my Beloved.” (Albert Mohler, The Shack – The Missing Art of Evangelical Discernment)
Can sinners enjoy the kingdom of God? How then, can men of depraved habits and who never have sought the Righteous God, enjoy the perfect holiness of heaven? Such men could never endure the participation in of holy exercises there. Death, in and of itself, makes no radical changes in the moral character. Therefore, if you die unrepentant, you will never reach that high and holy place. Archibald Alexander provides us with his views on this topic:
“Do you really think—anyone of you who judges those who do such things yet do the same—that you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you despise the riches of His kindness, restraint, and patience, not recognizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? But because of your hardness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed. He will repay each one according to his works: eternal life to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but wrath and indignation to those who are self-seeking and disobey the truth, but are obeying unrighteousness; affliction and distress for every human being who does evil, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does good, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek. There is no favoritism with God. All those who sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all those who sinned under the law will be judged by the law.” (Romans 2:3-12)
The one thing needful is, to be fully persuaded that nothing is needful. If men are only informed that there will be no future reckoning, no condemnation of the wicked, no future punishment, they need know nothing else; and whether they believe it or not, all are in the safe way to heaven. . . .
This doctrine encourages men to continue in sin by removing all fear of future judgment and punishment. In this respect its tendency is as bad as atheism itself, for the most impious denial of a divine Being cannot promise more to its foolish votaries than exemption from judgment and future punishment. This species of Universalism is fraught with the very worst poison of atheism. It tells the sinner, that, let him act as wickedly as he will, or as he can, there is no fear of future misery. Indeed, it is in some respects worse than atheism, for it not only promises exemption from punishment, but the reward of eternal happiness to the impenitent sinner! It says to the atrocious murderer and cruel assassin, You need fear no evil hereafter; though you should die in the commission of the foulest deeds, heaven, with all its glory and happiness, is yours. Is not this shocking to every honest mind? And what must the effect be on profane, cruel, and abandoned profligates?
How pernicious its influence in the hour of temptation! Suppose an inexperienced youth in a place of trust to have imbibed this doctrine. An opportunity occurs of defrauding his employer of a vast sum of money, with the prospect of escaping detection. Well, what shall hinder him from enriching himself at once? If the belief of a future judgment were now to rise in his mind, he would be ready, like Joseph, to say, How can I do this great evil, and sin against God? But having no apprehension of any judgment to come, and sure of heaven, let him do what he will, he is led into temptation, and is deprived of every consideration which would lead him to resist it. Even the faint hope that there is no future punishment, has a powerful effect in leading corrupt men to commit atrocious crimes, although this hope is contrary to all that they have ever been taught; but who can calculate the influence of a persuasion that there is no future punishment for the greatest crimes, derived from men who pretend to be preachers of the gospel? Doubtless a large portion of the most abominable crimes that ever were perpetrated, owe their existence to a secret belief or hope of the truth of the very doctrine which Universalist preach.
It is a horrible consequence of this doctrine, that it puts it in the power of the sinner to blaspheme and defy Almighty God with impunity! The malignant, ungrateful wretch, instead of praising, may blaspheme the great Jehovah every day of his life, and may die with horrid blasphemies on his lips, and yet he shall be rewarded with everlasting happiness! Indeed, as all the punishment of sin is supposed to be in this life, when a sinner commits some horrible crime in the last moments of his life, as in a late case where a man first shot an innocent person, and then blew out his own brains, where or how will he receive his due punishment? His death is but the pang of a moment, and if there be no retribution for such crimes in the government of God, it cannot be believed that he is a righteous moral Governor. (Future Punishment: The Universalist Refuted)
Filed under: Bible, Christianity, Church Leadership, Evil, Faith, Grace | Tagged: Archibald Alexander, God, Immortality, Jesus, Jew, Justice, Punishment, Sin, Universalism | Comments Off on Sin And Future Fear
Archibald Alexander was born in Rockbridge County, Virginia, 17 April 1772, and died in Princeton, New Jersey, 22 October 1851. He was licensed to preach 1 October 1791, ordained by the presbytery of Hanover 9 June 1794, and for seven years was an itinerant pastor in Charlotte and Prince Edward counties. On the organization of the theological seminary at Princeton in 1812 Dr. Alexander was unanimously chosen as the leading professor. His powers both for pulpit oratory and polemic disquisition were extraordinary. He was always busy, and from 1829 to 1850 scarcely a number of the Princeton Review appeared without an article from his pen. In the following excerpt, Alexander warns us of the doctrines of Universalism:
No benevolent being delights in the suffering of others—for its own sake. But it is one of the clearest dictates of reason, that sin should be visited with punishment. Men may differ widely in opinion as to what sin is, in regard to many particulars, but everyone sees and feels the propriety of punishing crimes, which he acknowledges to be such, in proportion to their evil. Indeed, it would be difficult to give a definition of sin which does not involve this idea; and a better definition of moral evil could not easily be given, than that it is that which deserves punishment. None are found, therefore, who, while they acknowledge a difference between virtue and vice, deny that the latter deserves punishment. And as all sinful acts are not of equal malignity or turpitude, it will be agreed by all, that, in justice, everyone ought to receive just recompense according to his deeds; and that he whose sins are less, should not suffer equally with him whose sins are greater. . . .
Whether the end of punishment is always the good of the sufferer is disputed. On this point it may here be observed that, that intuitive perception, which exists in every mind, of the connection between sin and punishment, has no respect whatever to the benefit of the guilty person. Punishment, according to the clearest and simplest idea of its nature, is some pain or loss to the person who endures it. . . .
Although we are so constituted as to perceive and feel that sin deserves punishment according to its evil, yet we have no precise standard of the degree of punishment which any sin deserves. Reason cannot tell how much pain is due to any particular offence: its clear perception goes no further than to the general proposition that it ought to be punished according to its desert, whatever that may be. Yet it has appeared exceedingly evident to most men, that although some degree of punishment follows sinful actions in this life, men do not receive here a full retribution for their crimes; since very often great transgressors are prosperous. . . .
But in our times and in our country, a new phenomenon has appeared in the religious world. A sect has risen up . . . who profess to receive the Bible as the word of God, and yet utterly deny all future punishment. . . .
[T]he primary motive which has led men to [reject future punishment] is the desire of removing from the minds of worldly and wicked men the dreadful apprehension of endless torments. I say worldly and wicked men, for the true Christian does not need this doctrine for his consolation. He is safe without it. Therefore the humble and devoted Christian is not commonly, if ever, the advocate of this system. It was a doctrine invented for the lawless and disobedient—a doctrine to bring comfort, not to penitent believers, but to impenitent sinners, who are not willing to forsake their sins. . . .
Sinners, if this doctrine be true, may dismiss all their foreboding apprehensions. They may, indeed, “eat, drink, and be merry;” and if they will only make up their minds to bear the inconvenience which sin may bring upon them here—and few are restrained from the indulgence of revenge, ambition, avarice, and lust by this consideration—they may give full swing to their corrupt inclinations, and be just as wicked as they please. And indeed, if there be no future reckoning, the principal source of uneasiness to the sinner here will be removed, namely, the fear of judgment to come. This is indeed a glorious doctrine for impenitent sinners. They may even set their Maker at defiance, for they have nothing to fear from him after this life. Nothing which they can do will either retard or hinder their eternal happiness. . . .
But it may be asked, “Why do these deceivers connect their doctrine with the BIBLE?” Would it not be much easier to take the ground of infidelity at once, and depend upon ‘reason’ for support, instead of Scripture . . . [M]ost people have a veneration for the Bible, [these deceivers] wish to avail themselves of these common sentiments in favor of the Scriptures; and by this means they get a handle for working on the credulity and prejudice of unstable souls, who are ever gaping after something new and strange in religion; “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” By the perversion of the sacred Scriptures, also, they are able to promise their followers not only exemption from future misery, but positive felicity in heaven, which they could not do on the principles of infidelity. (“Future Punishment: The Universalist Refuted”)
Filed under: Bible, Christianity, Church Leadership, Culture, Evil, Faith, Holiness, Theology | Tagged: Archibald Alexander, Bible, Christian, Doctrine, God, Princeton Review, Religious text, Universalism | Comments Off on Closing Down Hell And Swinging Wide The Gates Of Heaven