Earlier today I received an email from a dear friend and sister. Long story short, she informed me that George MacDonald, whom I quoted in a previous post, which has subsequently been deleted, was a universalist who rejected substitutionary atonement. As providence would have it, this sister is reading John Piper’s, “Jesus, The Only Way to God” and came upon Piper’s discussion of the Roland Heins edition of “Creation in Christ”, a collection of MacDonald’s sermons. Here’s an excerpt of that discussion:
“To my great sorrow, I read these words: “From all the copies of Jonathan Edwards’ portrait of God, however faded by time, however softened by the use of less glaring pigments, I turn with loathing.”
Those are strong words spoken about the God I had come to see in the Bible and to love. I read further and saw a profound rejection of the substitutionary atonement of Christ: “There must be an atonement, a making up, a bringing together—an atonement which, I say, cannot be made except by the man who has sinned.” And since only the man who has sinned can atone for his own sin (without a substitute), that is what hell is for.
MacDonald is a universalist not in denying the existence of hell, but in believing that the purpose of hell is to bring people to repentance and purity no matter how long it takes. “I believe that no hell will be lacking which would help the just mercy of God to redeem His children.” And all humans are his children. If hell went on forever, he says, God would be defeated. “God is triumphantly defeated, I say, throughout the hell of His vengeance. Although against evil, it is but the vain and wasted cruelty of a tyrant.”
Disagreement between believers is nothing new. The apostle Paul was hardly put off by this. But when he entreated early church members to agree and be of one mind, he was particular. He said, do it “in the Lord”. In other words, there are clear non-negotiables of the faith. The atonement is one of them, friends. It is true that another Christian could have, in good conscience, posted anyway. Just because we don’t agree with people doesn’t mean they can never have anything good to say. The quote I shared was only a few sentences long and on a different topic entirely. Yet, had I known he was a universalist, I certainly would have granted him no place on my blog. That said, “Mr. MacDonald, I respect that brilliant mind of yours, but I can’t allow you to stay here at Heavenly Springs. I’m sorry but I have to give you the boot!” 🙂