. . . go to hell!” You will never see this quote from Billy Joe Shaver on a Christmas card. It is too harsh and abrasive; especially during the Christmas season when we celebrate God sending his son to save the world.
But is Shaver right?
Most evangelicals would reluctantly say yes. Eternal punishment is what awaits all who don’t accept Jesus as Savior, from Hitler and Stalin to the nice couple down the street who happen to be devout Muslims.
But this condemnation contains a spiritual dissonance that is seldom acknowledged, as Phillip Gully points out:
On the one hand, we assert God is loving and merciful. On the other hand, we believe God will forever torture the very people most in need of forgiveness. We seldom question the jarring contrast of such beliefs, preferring to live with the inconsistencies rather than be transformed by the grace of God.
And according to theologian Jacques Ellul,
A theology of grace implies universal salvation. What could grace mean if it were granted only to some sinners and not to others according to an arbitrary decree that is totally contrary to the nature of God? If grace is granted according to the greater or lesser number of sins (including the sin of unbelief?), it is no longer grace.
Here’s a happy thought for the Holidays: What if God’s grace doesn’t take no for an answer?