What is salvation? What does Jesus accomplish on the Cross and in the Resurrection?
For me, salvation is fully accomplished in the work of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It was God in the hands of angry sinners – that’s the phrase that I would use. I’m not a penal substitutionary guy. But I am a substitutionary guy. But I don’t see the Father pouring out his wrath on the Son. I see the human race pouring out their wrath on the Son. So I see the only hope for the entire cosmos is what the Son chooses to accept, crawling up on the instrument of our greatest wrath. He met us at the deepest, darkest place.
That still gives every single person an eternal and ongoing right to reject this affection. But I don’t think it changes the relentless affection. God’s pursuit of me is eternal in nature. That’s what Romans 8:38-39 is talking about. Read the list of things that cannot separate you from God’s love, and you’re going to run smack into this: nothing [can separate us].
But the Bible is replete with language of divine wrath, not just the Old Testament but the New as well. What do you make of that?
I am not opposed to wrath at all, but what’s changed for me is this: I grew up inside a paradigm that said wrath was punitive and retributive in nature. I now see it as restorative. And part of that is affective.
Having children changed a lot for me. If my son was an amphetamine addict, I would like to be a fire and burn that out of my son’s life. If I had a daughter who believed a lie about her value, I would want to be a consuming fire – absolutely. I’d want to get inside of that and burn it out.
So to me, fire is something everybody has to deal with, because we all have crap. It needs to be dealt with, and it’s going to be. To some degree we’re dealing with it in this world, but we’re going to deal with it at some point. But it’s because of love, not because we fail to live up to expectations.
So do you believe in the Last Judgment — with emphasis on last?
Yeah, probably. If you read C.S. Lewis‘s introduction to The Great Divorce, in a beautiful way he acknowledges that he and George MacDonald and other writers are dealing in speculation. The only certainty I have come to with regard to any of this is that I’m now way more certain about the kindness and the goodness of God, even if it’s also a fire. I’m certain of his goodness. But I don’t know how it all works out.
One question I get, of course, is, “Are you a universalist?” I’m not, because I don’t think you can make that step doctrinally. I don’t think Scripture is that obvious. There is this respect for the human creation’s ability to say no. God will not force love. And we still have to choose to be reconciled. But Colossians says that’s what we are to be praying for, that everything gets reconciled back to him.
Taken from the interview by Mark Galli in Christianity Today, March 2013 Issue