The Logical Absurdity of Biblical Redemption

This 6-stage debate I’m posting on a sister blog found here.


13 thoughts on “The Logical Absurdity of Biblical Redemption

  1. Catherine Kuszny says:

    Hi Phil, hope you are well. We had a few discussions a year or two back and I can’t remember which forum it was on. You’ve popped into my thoughts a few times. I’m just reading a book that addresses the ideas of punishment, justice and salvation as portrayed by ‘orthodox’ Christianity and it shows how the traditional understanding is indeed logically absurd. I thought of you. The book is called ‘healing the gospel’ by Derek Flood. If ever you get a chance to check it out or Derek’s blog, I’d love to know your opinion on it. Best wishes Catherine.

    • Hi Catherine,

      I’m interested in any new version of the gospel, but not enough to buy every new book on the topic. Could you give me a synapse of the book addressing especially the notion of hell and god’s wrath?

      Thanks, Phil

  2. Catherine says:

    I’m only half way through it but its purpose is to: challenge the assumption that the Christian understanding of justice is rooted in a demand for violent punishment and instead offers a radically different understanding of the gospel based on God’s restorative justice…..It’s a vision of the gospel that exposes violence rather than supporting it – a gospel rooted in love of enemies, rather than retribution’.

    One of the endorsements says:
    “No book focuses on the question of what’s wrong with conventional penal substitutionary atonement theory better than this one … combining the mind of a theologian with the eye and heart of an artist, Derek sees that meaning comes in images and narratives, not just formulas, theories, or models. So he combines the two, and in the process, presents us with something we thought we knew but didn’t really.” —Brian McLaren.

    Derek’s got a web page for the book that has more info and a free chapter to read and Q&As so if you have a spare ten minutes I’m sure you’d get the overall impression of what the book is about if you check out the book’s web page. Derek’s blog is called ‘’ .

    best wishes


    • I read many of his blog posts, but found his commitment to hermeneutical rigor quite deficient. For example, he simply dismisses the references to Jehovah’s revenge found in the first chapter of 1 Thessalonians as not what Jehovah actually meant. He actually suggests that Jehovah ingenuously said he would take eventual revenge to prevent the Thessalonians from taking their own revenge.

      Can you imagine an non-revengeful father who tells his son to forgive a bully without bloodshed, then dishonestly tell his son that he, the father, would extract eventual vengence, just to keep the son from retaliating against the bully himself?

      Perhaps you found more rigor in this argument of his in the book. Could you go through step by logical step and explain how he can invert the prima facie meaning of the 1 Thessalonians passage in the way he does?

  3. Catherine says:

    I’ll finish the book in the next few days, and will see how Derek manages to uphold his belief in a Jehovah who does not use violence or any methods that cause trauma, in light of the many verses in the bible that clearly suggest a God who uses evil (which is what my understanding of Jehovah is: a God who uses evil). I’ve asked Derek about certain examples of Jehovah using evil e.g the stoning to death law and Derek does not believe God ordered such an evil act i.e man has added this to the accounts. I’m having a problem with that but I’m starting to wonder if this is indeed the answer: does the bible contain error or rather egregious error? When I finish the book, I’ll come back to you more specifically on 1 Thess. Bye for now.

  4. Catherine says:

    I meant to say that what you’ve gathered from the blog does not sound like what Derek is saying in the book?? I’ll clarify this ‘delayed vengeance’ with him and come back to you.

    • Thanks for looking into this.
      I sense, based on his treatment of 1 Thessalonians on his blog, that he does not employ a rigorous and consistent standard of hermeneutics, and that he is simply choosing which passages trump others based on his desired conclusions. Please correct me if you can demonstrate otherwise.

  5. Catherine says:

    I’m struggling to correct you so far….

  6. Catherine says:

    I’ve finsihed the book. Here are some initial thoughts: It has convinced me that my understanding of Jesus’ ‘sacrifice’ (the mainstream ‘orthodox’ view) was wrong. It had always felt wrong and now I know why. The book develops the understanding that Jesus’ death was as a result of showing enemy love, and not because God had needed a human sacrifice to appease His anger and ‘balance’ some kind of scales of justice. Jesus didn’t die ‘instead of us’ but ‘for’ us. (‘instead of’ is not even in the Bible) I now see a man teaching people to love and turn the other cheek (showing people what the Father is like) who encountered loveless people who didn’t want to listen, but rather silence this person who healed people and talked of love, and so Jesus was killed by his ‘enemies’. If we are loving our enemies too, then we are called to share in Christ’s death and sufferings (and will also share in his resurrection which is reconciliation or being made whole ie healed). If we view the cross as a journey to healing (Derek demonstartes how ‘sin’ in the Bible is very often likened to sickness) then is it right that God hurts people even if only temporarily? Derek would argue that God never hurts, only heals. He sees suffering as a consequence of our actions or other people’s actions. This is where I am not convinced. It seems that you can only rule out God hurting people, if you discard large parts of the bible. The NT reflects the same ideas of God acting in ways that we would call violent. I’d love Derek to be right, but I would argue that even if we are sure that Christ does teach a future ‘judgment’ where suffering is a part of this, (Matt 25:46 and Paul’s references in Thessolonians) I take comfort that the suffering is not ‘eternal’ but only for as long as is necessary. (there is much support for the word ‘aionios’ in Matt 25:46 to not not mean ‘eternal’ but rather ‘age enduring’ or ‘pertaining to the age’ and the word for punishment ‘kolasis’ in Matt 25:46 has the idea of restorative action- like pruning a bush to remove dead or diseased parts and so ultimately EVERY single human who has ever lived will be reconciled to God and healed, with some having to undergo a temporary course of restorative rehabilitation that may not be pleasant). Sorry Phil, I’m not very good at summarising the book. There’s so much to take in. I’ll endeavour to condense down the main thrust of the book in a couple of paragraphs, with some verses to support it. Bear with me. (You may have checked this out already but there’s a post on Derek’s blog called ‘A Response to the Gospel Coalition’s Review of my …’ Derek ‘reviews’ the review (which is negative) and brings out some good points about his book, which I can’t really disagree with. Logically, Derek makes much sense. Bye for now.

  7. The jealous and vindictive god of the OT seems to be getting quite the makeover. I feel redefining god and completely changing centuries-long doctrines to better map to current social norms is the only way christianity can survive in a more rational and peaceful world.

    If Derek is right, it means that a personal god could think of no better way to communicate truth than through a fuzzy-book process that he, in his omniscience, knew would yield centuries of beliefs entirely off base. If you were a loving god with a message for humans, would this be the best you could come up with? I don’t think so.

    Sorry. The god of the bible remains an absurdity.

  8. Catherine says:

    I hear what you are saying. I’m out of my depth in discussing these things with you Phil, but I’m enjoying reading through your blog. I must admit I don’t understand a good bit of it, but you do make a lot of sense.

    • I know you’re much sharper than you let on, Catherine. ;)
      I’m probably less sharp then I let on, but more feisty in confronting what I believe to be nonsense.

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