Sunday, October 21, 2012

Is God Equally Judge and Equally Father?

Slowly but surely, I am making my way through the list of questions I think are birthed when we believe in the God of eternal conscious torment that Chan talks about in his book Erasing Hell. 
Throughout the book, Chan emphasizes the legal/courtroom/God as judge concept when he uses phrases such as….
After Jesus looks at the evidence
He gives His verdict: Believers are awarded everlasting life, while unbelievers are awarded everlasting punishment.
But Jesus goes on to say that God’s courtroom will be much worse, for here the Judge has the power to sentence you to the “hell [gehenna] of fire”
The legal context of this statement ensures that Jesus is referring to the consequences of judgment day.
When Jesus uses stock phrases like “gehenna of fire” in legal contexts like this one, He means a literal place of punishment after judgment. He means hell.
The phrase sentenced to hell is once again reminiscent of something you would hear in a courtroom.
So…is God mainly judge or is God mainly father?
William Barclay, in I Am A Convinced Universalist explained it this way:
Further, there is only one way in which we can think of the triumph of God. If God was no more than a King or Judge, then it would be possible to speak of his triumph, if his enemies were agonizing in hell or were totally and completely obliterated and wiped out. But God is not only King and Judge, God is Father - he is indeed Father more than anything else. No father could be happy while there were members of his family for ever in agony. No father would count it a triumph to obliterate the disobedient members of his family. The only triumph a father can know is to have all his family back home. The only victory love can enjoy is the day when its offer of love is answered by the return of love. The only possible final triumph is a universe loved by and in love with God.
And John Gavazzoni, a favorite kingdom minister of mine, says it this way in his article “My Dad, God”:
One thing stands out clearly to me when I compare my father's relationship with his children to the way our Heavenly Father is presented in conventional orthodox theology. It is simply this: Lou Gavazzoni's relationship with me was paternal, not legal. Whatever factors came into play, all was built on a familial, not a forensic foundation. There may at times have been a friendship element, associate-in-business element, fellow-musician element, boss-employee element, even lord-servant element and yes, the element of judgment came up as well. But, I never stood before one who was essentially a judge, who might, after legal matters were settled, then allow himself to be fatherly.
I stood before my father who might, as necessary, act in a firm, unyielding and corrective judgment as part of his love for me. Yet, it seems clear to me, that most of Christianity assumes that a relationship with God is only possible after legal matters are settled. Our minds are so entangled with what we perceive to be legal, judicial and forensic necessities that we miss the Father-heart of God.
So is God really everyone’s father…or does he only become Father when we “pray the sinner’s prayer” and “ask Jesus to come into our heart”?
More on that….in my next post…..