Judgment Wins

Love and judgment are not opposites. Love and indifference are opposites. Those ideas are well-known but still worthwhile to state. Connecting love with judgment helped me work through some of the theological obstacles I had when I was a younger Christian (i.e. the “how can a loving God judge people” ones).

Still, there is much more to be dealt with.  I am re-reading Broughton Knox’s The Everlasting God. He brings up a slightly different way to help someone understand judgment, connecting it with creation and purpose.

Here is a sampling of quotes from his section on judgment (pgs. 36-41):

“Creation implies purpose. In contrast, impersonal evolution is purposeless – things happening by accident without plan. But creation is a personal activity of an almighty, supreme God. Personal action implies purpose, and this in turns implies assessment. The doctrine of judgment is closely related to that of creation.” (37)

“Thus the gospel that contains judgment, and salvation from judgment, is a gospel that is always relevant to the hearer, no matter what state of civilization he may have attained. Such a gospel does not need to be assimilated to the culture of the people who are hearing it.” (39-40)

“A gospel that minimizes or omits judgment must concentrate on this life and benefits that Christ brings for this life. Most modern preaching, whether liberal or evangelical falls into this mistake. The liberal preacher may emphasize a social gospel, for example, one of alleviation of poverty or political oppression; the evangelical may emphasize a happy life, love, joy and forgiveness.

But the Christian gospel is concerned with the future. It proclaims Jesus who rescues us from the wrath to come. When hearers accept the gospel for the benefits of this life, such as peace and happiness, it is a contradiction to ask them to suffer for the gospel. The whole purpose of their accepting the gospel was for some present benefit which they had been offered by the preacher. This presentation and acceptance of the gospel of Jesus Christ for the benefits it brings here and now may well be the explanation of why it is that although evangelical Christianity is growing, for example, in the United States, Christian influence on society is receding.” (pg 40-41)

A few observations:

  • Establishing the story of a people in a purposeful creator/creation relationship, as Two Ways to Live does so well, seems to be the way to assimilate this “no-assimilation-needed” gospel. Are there other ways or variations on the theme that you have found true to the above ideas?
  • By connecting creation/purpose with judgment, are we making an unintended statement about God and his ability in creation? (i.e. “God is surely not a very powerful, or good, or able, etc. creator if this world is his handiwork”)
  • With that, will the conversation inevitably trace down the road towards predestination and, among other places, Romans 9?
  • His observation about preaching the gospel towards this world’s benefits or felt needs is spot on. Just this last week, I’ve heard at least two mature Christians recount talks to non-Christians about the essence of Christianity. Their talks were all about self-fulfillment and inner peace. Those may not always be there. Future judgment will.
  • I haven’t heard a better concise explanation of how and why Christianity can grow but have a lessening effect on society.

4 thoughts on “Judgment Wins

  1. Thanks Marty, stimulating thoughts, including the heading. You’ve motivated me to re-read The Everlasting God.

    In terms of other ways or variations on the theme of people in a purposeful creator/creation relationship, a common one I’ve noticed throughout the Bible is that of people as children of a just Father.

    Fatherhood is also based in God as Creator; or to use Knox’s way of putting it – Creation implies Fatherhood. But also Fatherhood implies Judgment. God is our Judge because he is our Father. And he is Just because he is a good Father.

    I was reminded of this recently in reflecting upon Deuteronomy 32:3-6, where we see the language of people as rebellious children under God as Father who is also faithful and just. We’re quite used to the Bible portraying God as Judge, but probably don’t often notice that God’s judgment is not in tension with his Fatherhood (e.g. 1 Peter 1:17). The Old Testament actually gives the role of Judgment to human Father’s in Israel (Deuteronomy 21:18-21).

    In our culture I think it is much harder to understand God as both Father and Judge. But because God is the Creator of us all, and so is by origin our Father – whom we owe every duty to honour and obey – this is what also makes him our Judge – who will require repayment by way of just retribution for our failure to honour and obey him.

    So I guess what I’m saying is that this variation on the ‘purposeful’ creator/creation relationship shifts the focus off ‘purpose’ and more onto the nature of the relationship. In other words, it is also because of the nature of that relationship that we have with God that he gives us Judgment.

  2. Joe,
    Thanks for the comments. Yes, I think that is the right direction.
    One question of clarification. For a non-Christian would you make your case that God is their Father or only as a potential. I’ve taken the trajectory of the Bible in that all people can call upon on God as their Creator but only those in and through Christ can call upon the Creator as Father. What do you think?

  3. Hi Marty,
    Yes I agree. To use the Two Ways 2 Live trajectory, the next statement might be, “but that is not the way we see things now…” Although our father Adam was by nature the Son of God, he rejected God his Father and was banished from God’s House. In a sense then, Man (incl. we in Adam) came under the judgment of God the Father. We all now as Adam’s children have no right to call God our Father; and we do not deserve to be called his sons. Because in fact we all by nature share Adam’s spirit of rebellion, and live as children of God’s ‘wrath’; we are born as fallen children who share his estrangement from God.
    I think it is of relevance that in the law, Deuteronomy 21:18-21, Israel is commanded that a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father and who though disciplined, will not listen to his Father, that son should be put to death. So too God as the Father in the beginning gave death as the punishment to his Son, Adam. And so we all as his children are by nature dead in sin, and in need of redemption. It is only by grace that through the death of the perfect/true Son of God we can be reconciled to God with the right to call him ‘our’ Father.
    I’m not suggesting this model of explaining Two Ways to Live is easier than the focus on ‘purpose’ in Creation. But a focus on the ‘nature’ of our original vs present relationship with God does perhaps make easier sense of God’s Judgment (both present and future), potentially?
    What do you think?

Comments are closed.