"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Lame In Both Feet While Sitting at the King's Table

My favorite chapter in the entire Old Testament is II Samuel 9. It's the story of Mephibosheth (sounds like "Me - Fib - O - Sheth"). His story is my story. His story is your story. His story is the story of us.  II Samuel 9 is the John 3:16 of the Old Testament.

Mephibosheth is a cripple, "lame in both feet" (II Samuel 9:3). King David wished to show kindness to Mephibosheth "for Jonathan's sake" (II Samuel 9:7). Jonathan, Mephibosheth's father, had died at the hand of the Philistines. Mephibosheth's nurse tripped and fell while fleeing from the Philistines with the young prince in her arms. When the nurse fell, Mephibosheth's vertebrate broke, causing the son of Jonathan to be a cripple (see II Samuel 4:4).

So Mephibosheth is just like you and me. Due to a tragic fall, he no longer was the person he was born to be. Crippled and broken, he grew up hiding from others in the little city of Lodebar. His name changed to Mari-baal to possibly reflect his shame and loss of fame. Baal was the god of culture in Canaan, and somehow, the son of Jonathan found himself lost in Lodebar, following the gods of Canaan.

Yet King David, in sovereign grace for a cripple, "fetched" Mephibosheth from his dark place "for the sake of Jonathan."

King David is a type or picture of our heavenly Father who shows kindness to crippled sinners "for Jesus sake." Religion tells you God is kind to saints for their religious performances. Christianity tells you God is kind to cripples "for Christ's sake." God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ (II see Corinthians 5:19).

So the story of Mephibosheth is the story of grace.

David fetched Mephibosheth from Lodebar, "and he sat at King David's table like one of the king's sons" (II Samuel 9:11). So too, when God saves us by His grace in Jesus Christ, He fetches us in our dark, shameful places and brings us to His table and meets our every need by His grace, for our good and for His glory (Philippians 4:19).

Lame in Both Feet

What strikes me in this fascinating story of grace is the description of Mephibosheth at the beginning of the story (II Samuel 9:3) and at the end of the story (II Samuel 9:13). At both the beginning and the end, Mephibosheth is described in this manner:

"He was lame in both feet."

One would think Mephibosheth's story of grace would end like this: "And God healed Mephibosheth of his lameness and he sat at the table of the king as one of his sons." 

No.

Mephibosheth's story begins with lameness, and Mephibosheth's story ends with lameness. 

However, there are two Hebrew words in II Samuel 9, both translated lameness.

The first word, which begins Mephibosheth's story is nakeh, which means stricken, or smitten. It is used of lameness of both body and soul. It speaks of a broken spirit. In other words, while hiding in shame in Lodebar, Mephibosheth was a broken man, both on his feet and in his spirit. 

The best way to illustrate nakeh is with what I've seen in hundreds of suicides. It's been my job during the years of my work with police departments to go to scenes of suicide, take the note that is often left, and inform next of kin of their loved one's death. These suicide notes are filled with nakeh. They are written by broken spirits. 

This describes Mephibosheth prior to the experience of the king's grace.

The second word translated lame in II Samuel 9 is the Hebrew word pisseach. It is ONLY used in Scripture to refer to physical lameness. 

When we first meet Mephibosheth in II Samuel 9, he is a broken man in body and in spirit. At the end of II Samuel 9, after experiencing the king's grace, Mephibosheth is only broken in body. He remains lame under the king's roof, but he's learned "to be content regardless of his circumstances" (Philippians 4:12), because "he's learned he who is by the grace of God" (I Corinthians 15:10). 

God's grace may not cure your cancer, but God's grace will definitely cure your lack of contentment. God's grace may not heal your body, but God's grace will definitely heal your soul. You will sit at the King of Kings table, and have all your needs met, but sometimes what is wanted may remain. 

Grace changes the heart to teach us contentment in all things.

God Looks with Favor on Those with a Nakeh Spirit

I am often asked what I think about lesbians, gays and transgendered people. I sometimes wonder why I'm not as often asked about how I feel about gossips, over-eaters, egotistical, and controlling people. It's amazing how we tend to categorize sin, emphasizing those sins with which we don't struggle. But, let me respond. Do I love sinners? Of course. Will God treat them with favor? 

It depends.

The only other time the Bible uses the word nakeh is in Isaiah 66:2. Listen to what God says.

“But on this one will I look with favor:
On the one who is poor and contrite (nakeh) in spirit."

God is gracious and shows kindness "for Jesus' sake" to the one who is crippled in spirit and realizes nothing good is deserved from God because we "have fallen and can't get up." We are not as He created us to be. To boast and brag and demand that we MUST be accepted and loved in our sin is to not feel brokenness and contriteness over our sin. There is no Savior for anyone who feels they have no sin.

But God looks on the broken in spirit with favor. 

That's why we who sit at the King's table are still lame.

We have nothing of which we can boast but Him.

Warning to Churches Who LIVE Broadcast Services

Faith Assembly Hitachi ZHD5000 cameras 10 11 12 8
A Syrian Muslim converted to Christianity and was baptized at First Presbyterian Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His baptism was publicized by the church on the Internet. When the Syrian convert traveled back to his home country of Syria, he was kidnapped and tortured by radicalized Muslims who "learned about the baptism from the Internet." The man said he was "blindfolded, beaten and forced into a 55-gallon drum for long stretches at a time, and continually threatened with beheading." The torture only ended when he was able to free himself from his bonds, obtain a gun from his captors, and kill an uncle who was participating in the torture. The man is now wanted for murder in Syria.

Some articles you read in the newspaper send chills up your spine. Today's Daily Oklahoman article by reporter Kyle Schwab, recounting the Syrian man's conversion and baptism in Oklahoma and his capture and torture in Syria, was one such article. 

After the Syrian finally escaped his captors and made it back to the United States, he filed suit against First Presbyterian Church, Tulsa, Oklahoma. The man argued before the court that he never consented to the church's publicizing his baptism, and made it clear he wished it to be confidential. The pastor, disputing the man's account, said he never requested "that the church depart from its normal practices, which includes making records of baptisms publicly available."

The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled yesterday on behalf of First Presbyterian Church, Tulsa. The court ruled "the publication of the baptism was an act rooted in religious belief." Further, the court stated,

I have a friend on the Oklahoma Supreme Court named Yvonne J. Kauger. She wrote a dissenting opinion and stated, "the church's autonomy doctrine is only applicable to internal administrative matters and to church action involving members."  First Presbyterian Church frequently baptizes converts to Christ who do not desire membership in their church, similar to the baptism of this Syrian man. Associate Supreme Court Justice Yvonne Kauger argued in her dissenting opinion that the church should be held liable for the torture of this convert.

Wow. 

Regardless of your feelings about the majority opinion or the dissenting opinion, this extraordinary case should cause all of us who broadcast our services over the Internet to pause.  We live in a different world today than we did even 20 years ago. What we used to say in the comfort and security of our local churches is now being broadcast to the world.

In the 1980's police television show Hill Street Blues, a police supervisor would always end roll call with words that are appropriate for churches who use the Internet in 2017: 

"It's a dangerous world. Be careful out there." 

God Will Not Relent in Love Till He Has My Heart

"For Your love is as strong as death; Your ardent love is as unrelenting as the grave." Song of Solomon 8:6.

The power of One.

Some say relationships are mended only when two at animosity with each other finally see eye-to-eye and reconcile. Not always. There is a powerful, unconditional, unrelenting love that will not stop until the one with animosity is won over because of this agape love.

"We love Him because He first loved us." (I John 4:19).

Too many people think God and His love are like us and our love. When our hearts are filled with animosity toward a person who has offended us, we must see change in the offender to be reconciled. So we assume God is the same way. For God to be reconciled with us, He must see some kind of change in us.

Not so.

"But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were yet still offenders (sinners), Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8).

The unrelenting, unconditional, personal and powerful love of God obtained reconciliation for sinners to Himself even when we sinners weren't asking for it. In other words, sinners were reconciled to God at the cross.

"And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the reconciliation." (Romans 5:11).

The King James Bible uses the word atonement in place of reconciliation in Romans 5:11.

The great biblical scholar Adam Clarke writes: "It was certainly improper to translate katallage here by atonement, instead of reconciliation; as katallassw signifies to reconcile, and is so rendered by our English translators in all the places where it occurs."

All modern translations (e.g. NKJV, NASB, NIV, RSV, ESV, and Holman Standard) properly translate Romans 5:11 as "reconciliation" - "by whom we have now received the reconciliation."

Why does the King James Version use the word atonement in Romans 5:11?


William Tyndale Invented the English Word Atonement

When William Tyndale (b.1494 - d. 1536) first took it upon himself to translate the Greek New Testament into the English language, he came to Romans 5:11. Wanting to convey in English the full impact of the Greek word katallage (normally translated reconciliation in English), Tyndale struggled. Tyndale did not wish to use the English word reconciliation because of how the Roman Catholic Church in the early 16th century used the word reconciliation.

I think William Tyndale chose wisely. Atonement is a really good word which properly conveys full reconciliation of sinners with God.

Let me explain.  

The Roman Catholic Church in the days of Tyndale viewed reconciliation as being made to God at the cross for only Adam's original sin, but not for the penalty of individual sins. The Roman Catholic Church taught that Catholics had to pay God for their individual sins by works of special merit and penance.

So the Roman Catholic Church in Tyndale's day taught that a sinner is reconciled to God at the cross by Christ's work for original sin, but not be truly at peace with God, or fully accepted by God, because of their own sins. Sinners must make it up to God for their individual sins. So, according to the Catholic Church, Christ's work at Calvary was only half of what was needed. For the sinner to be at peace with God, one must perform works of penance and works of merit and fulfill the sacraments.

This false Roman Catholic teaching led William Tyndale, while translating the Bible from the original Greek, to want an English word that conveyed the overall teaching of the Bible that God made sinners completely accepted by Him through Jesus Christ at the cross!

Tyndale knew that the Bible taught "God makes sinners fully accepted in the Beloved One" (Ephesians 1:6), but he also knew the church of his day was teaching something different. Tyndale knew that God, by His great grace and love for sinners, made sinners at one with Him through the expiatory sacrifice (e.g. "the removal of the guilt of the offender") of Christ, a sacrifice undertaken by God's own initiative. Tyndale despised the notion that something more than the work of Christ had to be done for sinners to be made right with God.

So Tyndale invented a new English word. At-one-ment

Let's take these three syllables from last to first and see Tyndale's intentions with the word atonement

Ment - is a Latin suffix which means "the act of." It turns verbs into nouns. For example, cement is a word that means "the action or process (Latin: ment) of hardening (Latin: se)." Likewise, when you call someone demented, you are saying they have gone through the process (Latin: ment) of unraveling (Latin: de). At-one-ment is "the act of making one."

One - English definition: Unity, without division.

At - A preposition that points to a specific location or event.

The immortal, invisible and loving Creator, came to earth as Man, to remove the guilt of sinners at the cross, to reconcile sinners to Himself in the act of at-one-ment.

When the King James translators (1611) published their English version of the Bible, they adopted Tyndale's invented word "atonement" for Romans 5:11, believing that it more accurately conveyed the concept that sinners are "fully accepted by God in the Beloved One" (Ephesians 1:6) through Christ's work.


Atonement Is the True Meaning of Reconciliation

Sinners are reconciled to God at the cross. The cross is "the act of making sinners at one with God." Because of Christ, nothing stands between God and sinners. Nothing.

No sin. No unbelief. No hardness. No guilt. Nothing.

"But wait! The atonement must be received!" modern evangelicals cry.

I find it amazing how modern evangelicals are not much different than 16th century Roman Catholics whom Martin Luther, William Tyndale, and a host of other reformers opposed.

It's not that the act of Jesus' atonement "must be received," as much as it is Jesus' atonement "will be received" by those for whom He died, for God will not relent till He has my heart.

God's unrelenting, unconditional, personal and eternal love wins me over to love Him. My love for Him may never measure up to His love for me, but I can rest in the knowledge I am fully accepted by Him in the Beloved One.

400 years ago the Roman Catholic Church wrongly said, "God made reconciliation for Adam's original sin, but individual sinners must pay for their own sins through penance and works of merit."

William Tyndale said, "No! God has made sinners fully accepted in the Beloved One through atonement."

Today, modern evangelicals wrongly say "God made it possible for sinners to be at one with God (atonement), but sinners must receive the atonement to actually be reconciled to God."

William Tyndale would say, "No! God has actually reconciled sinners at the cross through the at-one-ment of Jesus Christ."

"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst." (I Timothy 1:15).

"You shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21).

The Bible knows no such language of God "hopes to save." He shall save. He has saved.

We are saved by His grace through faith, but even that faith is "not of ourselves" for He is the "Author and Finisher, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end of our faith."

We love Him because He first loved us.


God Will Not Relent in Love Till He Has My Heart

The power of One.

God has done everything.

He has loved me with an eternal love. He has given me His Son. He has reconciled me at the cross. He has made me one with Him through His Son. He is fully at peace with me, though I am never fully in love with Him.

In my previous post, I explained how a "hopeful" universalist like my friend Paul Young, author of The Shack, believes that God has reconciled every sinner without exception to Himself at the cross. Paul believes that God's love for the world means every sinner without exception. I believe God's love for the world means sinners without distinction (e.g. "a great multitude from every nation, from all tries and people and language groups" Rev. 7:9).

Paul Young, I and William Tyndale all believe the same thing about the powerful, unconditional love of God and the efficacy of the cross of Christ.

Paul Young simply disagrees with William Tyndale and I over the question "For whom did Christ die?" 

I have a dear friend and worship mentor named Daniel Brymer. He is an amazing song writer and musician. His gifted son, David Brymer, has written a song that he and Misty Edwards sing called You Won't Relent.

David Brymer wrote the song based on Song of Solomon 8:6 where the people of God recognize that the love of God is strong as death, and the ardent love of God for His people is as unrelenting as the grave.

You will not understand Song of Solomon 8:6 or the words of David Brymer's song - "You will not relent in love till you have my heart" - unless you recognize that nothing can stop the unrelenting love of God.

Nothing.

Jesus reconciled you to God through His work, not yours. God has made you fully accepted in Jesus Christ.

God will not relent in His love for you until He has your heart.

The power of One.

This is the Gospel.


The Shack and Universal Reconciliation: Answers to the Charge of Heresy by Evangelical Christians

In March 2017 the movie The Shack will hit theater screens across the country. It's a guarantee that Tim McCraw and Faith Hill's original song for the movie, Keep Your Eyes on Me, will be a hit. Whether the film itself is a blockbuster is yet to be seen, but without any doubt, some evangelical Christians will again charge Paul Young, author of The Shack, with heresy. Dr. Al Mohler recently wrote a blog entitled The Shack - The Missing Art of Evangelical Discernment, where he said,
"The Shack rests on the foundation of universal reconciliation... (The) fact is that the Christian church has explicitly identified these teachings as heresy. The obvious question is this: How is it that so many evangelical Christians seem to be drawn not only to this story, but to the theology presented in the narrative — a theology at so many points in conflict with evangelical convictions?"
I know both Al Mohler and Paul Young. I respect Dr. Mohler and his theological acumen. I have the honor of calling Paul Young a friend, and he's been the source of great encouragement to me.  After observing Paul Young minister to hundreds of people at the church I pastor, spending precious time with each person individually - never rushing to the next person or glancing at his watch as if he had other important things to do - I asked Paul Young his philosophy of ministry. He said, "Wade, there is no person or moment more important to me than the person before whom I stand at this moment." I've attempted to model that philosophy of ministry ever since.

Dr. Al Mohler considers himself a five-point Calvinist. He believes God has a distinguishing love for "the elect" and the cross of Christ actually saves the elect. In other words, Dr. Mohler believes the people for whom God sent His Son to redeem are actually delivered (saved) from their sins at the cross by the work of Jesus (see Matthew 1:21). I understand Dr. Mohler's theology and happen to agree with it, though I prefer to call it "the doctrines of grace" because I see these doctrines taught in Scripture.

Paul Young believes the same thing as Dr. Mohler regarding God's unconditional love and the power of Christ's cross. He simply disagrees with Dr. Mohler over "For whom did Christ die?" Paul Young believes that Christ died for every sinner who has ever lived or ever will live.

Paul Young told me he is a "hopeful universalist." He believes that our loving God sent His Son to die for every single sinner without exception. One day God will effectually reconcile every sinner to Himself. Paul uses the term "hopeful" universalism because he understands that the Scriptures speak of judgment, but Paul is "hopeful" that even in judgment, the love of God will eventually bring the sinner being judged to love for Jesus Christ. Paul Young is "hopeful" that the fire of God's love will eventually and effectually persuade every sinner of God's love in Christ. So Paul Young believes exactly like Al Mohler when it comes to the unconditional love of God and the efficacy and power of the atonement of Jesus Christ. Both men believe the cross actually reconciles sinners to God.

However, Dr. Al Mohler believes Christ saves selected sinners because God unconditionally loves only certain sinners He has chosen to save, and not every sinner without exception. Paul Young believes God unconditionally loves every sinner the same, and Christ's death reconciles every sinner to God. Again, Dr. Mohler and Paul Young both believe the same thing about God's effectual love and the power of Christ to save. Where these two men part company is over "For whom did Christ die?"

Paul Young and I have discussed Christ's atonement at length, and after listening to Paul describe the power and efficacy God's love in Jesus Christ, I said, "Paul, you believe in God's unconditional love and a powerful cross. You believe that since God intends to save, He will save." Paul agreed with my assessment. He said, "Wade, you understand my view of God's unconditional love and the power of the cross to save sinners. Most people hear 'hopeful universal reconciliation,' and they think heresy. I do not believe anyone is saved apart from Christ dying for them."

Dr. Al Mohler and others believe any expression of hope in universal reconciliation is "heresy."  I would suggest a little humility is in order. The root of the Greek word for humility is "knowledge." When Jesus followers are knowledgeable about the history of Christians disagreeing over the extent of Christ's atonement (e.g. "For whom did Christ die?), the charge of heresy will be put to rest in the hearse of humility.

I was twenty years old when I first read God's Everlasting Love to His Elect by John Gill. To this day, other than the Bible, no book has impacted my life more. John Gill showed me how God is love, and that the Father's love is not drawn out by our loveliness nor diminished by our ugliness.

Previous to reading Gill, I had been infected with the delusion that God had a holy hatred for sinners and Jesus had a longing love for sinners. I wrongly believed that the Father desired to punish sinners because of His holy nature of justice, but Jesus offered Himself to the Father as a Substitute for undeserving sinners. My notion of a bi-polar God bothered me, but I just assumed that justice and love were mutually exclusive--- until I read Gill. Then I began to see that God is love, and when He moves to save His people, He saves them in love, through love, by love, and for love through Jesus Christ. The Father and the Son are one in motive. "For God so loved the world...."  (John 3:16).

I never personally struggled with what some call God's distinguishing love for His elect. In other words, it never bothered me to believe that God unconditionally loves many sinners but not all sinners. In my mind, since every sinner is the source of his own sin and rebellion, I felt that if God chose to unconditionally love an innumerable company of sinners instead of every individual sinner, who can complain that God is unjust (see Romans 9)?

I see the Bible teaching that God graciously and unconditionally loves selected sinners from every family, nation, language group and culture (e.g. "the world"), and gave His Son to deliver His people from their sins, while at the same time holding other sinners accountable for their volitional sins. I have no problem with God's distinguishing love. We all make decisions to love certain persons unconditionally (e.g. spouses, children, family, etc...). I might say to you, "I love the person to whom you are married, but I don't love your spouse like I love my spouse." I unconditionally love my bride. I chose my wife. I didn't choose yours.  I've never struggled with believing that God chose to love many sinners, but not all sinners. I think every sinner, including me the chief of sinners, deserves nothing good from God, so any sinner who is the recipient of His unconditional love, mercy, and grace is one sinner more than the number of sinners who deserve it. That's why salvation and the gift of immortal life is is an act of God's grace. None of us deserves it.

But in my journey of Christian faith, I have discovered that not all Christians are as comfortable with God's distinguishing love as I am. Some believe that God's love abides upon each and every sinner to the same degree. The idea that God has a distinguishing love for those God has chosen bothers some Christians immensely.

It bothers Christians like my friend Paul Young, author of The Shack.

And it bothered a Christian named George MacDonald (1824-1905).

You may have never heard of George McDonald. It's your loss if you have not. Christian writers and thinkers like C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Oswald Chambers, Mark Twain (yes, there are reasons I call Mark Twain a Christian), and a host of other superb Christian writers revered George MacDonald.

George MacDonald believed in hopeful universal reconciliation, just like Paul Young.

When a Bible teacher first explained the doctrine of predestination to George MacDonald, it is said that George burst into tears. Although the teacher sought to assure George that he was one of the elect, George became very distraught with the idea that God loved some sinners, but not every sinner. He had nightmares.

George grew up and eventually became a Congregational minister.  In time, George was asked to leave his Congregational ministry for suggesting that the consuming fire of God's love would eventually overcome sin and rebellion in every human being. In other words, George MacDonald believed in hopeful reconciliation. After his pastorate, George MacDonald turned to writing. His influence through his writings became enormous. Most American evangelicals have never heard of George MacDonald, but we have read books written by authors George MacDonald mentored.

C.S. Lewis called George MacDonald "my master." Lewis had picked up a copy of MacDonald's book Phantastes at a train-station bookstall. "I began to read," says Lewis, "and a few hours later I knew that I had crossed a great frontier."

G.K. Chesterton said MacDonald's book The Princess and the Goblin "made a difference to my whole existence."

Mark Twain was greatly influenced by George MacDonald, as was the great Christian devotion writer Oswald Chambers who said, "It is a striking indication of the trend and shallowness of the modern reading public that George MacDonald's books have been so neglected."

George MacDonald would eventually write many books, but two of them, Robert Falconer and Lilith,  show his intense dislike for the idea that God's saving love is given to some and not to others. C.S. Lewis describes in George McDonald: An Anthology  how MacDonald kept the "worthy portion" of his Scottish Calvinism while renouncing the doctrine of predestination: "In the very midst of his intellectual revolt (from Calvinism), MacDonald forces us to see elements of real and perhaps irreplaceable worth in the thing from which he is revolting."

Don't gloss over what Lewis is saying about MacDonald. In the midst of rejecting God's distinguishing love, MacDonald kept his readers focused on the real worth of Calvinism. If the "real worth" of Calvinism is not God's distinguishing love, then what is it?

MacDonald believed in and wrote with a real sense of God's majesty, sovereignty, and power. MacDonald absolutely believed that God does as He pleases at all times, or else He would not be God. This was the portion of Calvinism that MacDonald deemed worthy.

What MacDonald despised was the belief that God chooses to save some sinners but not all sinners. So George MacDonald believed in hopeful universal reconciliation.

C.S. Lewis never fully adopted George MacDonald's eschatology of universal reconciliation. However, Lewis did challenge the traditional doctrine of hell, showing how much he was influenced by McDonald. Lewis also wrote about hopeful reconciliation in his book The Great Divorce.

In The Great Divorce,  Lewis writes of a person named "MacDonald" (coincidence?) who appears as a heavenly guide. MacDonald shows how a person who continually spurns God's love might spend eternity in total isolation and darkness. Then, a character named "Lewis" challenges the heavenly guide (MacDonald) by reminding him that he (MacDonald) had believed in universal reconciliation while he lived on earth (sound familiar?). MacDonald responds that indeed he believes "it is possible that everyone will eventually be saved,"  but "we cannot know this with certainty."  That's up to God. This is why George MacDonald and C.S. Lewis refer to it as hopeful universal reconciliation.

George MacDonald believed that God, during the judgment of sinners in hell, could eventually and effectually convince every sinner of His love for sinners in Christ Jesus.  In time sinners could freely and volitionally bow their knees to the Lord Jesus Christ, coming to an understanding of God's love for sinners. In time, according to MacDonald, all of God's creation could be reconciled to God.

This is exactly what Paul Young hopes in The Shack.

Hopeful universal reconciliation is not heresy. Paul Young, George MacDonald and other Christians who hope in universal reconciliation believe in a loving God and a powerful cross. The disagreement with men like Al Mohler and myself is over the question, "For whom did Christ die?"

C.S. Lewis came very close to embracing the universal reconciliation of his master George McDonald, but C.S. Lewis is certainly no heretic. Questioning the eternality of hell (as Martin Luther did versus John Calvin), or postulating a hopeful universal reconciliation (as George MacDonald, C.S. Lewis and Paul Young have done), does not place one outside the boundaries of Christian orthodoxy.

John Piper once tweeted "Goodbye Rob Bell" when Rob Bell published Love Wins, a book that questions, but does not deny the existence of an eternal hell. During that same time period, John Piper extolled C.S. Lewis as the greatest influence in his life. Both men, Rob Bell and C.S. Lewis, asked the same theological questions in their writings.  C.S. Lewis asked his questions wrapped in a narrative of fantasy, while Rob Bell spelled out his questions in plain English.

John Piper has never tweeted "Goodbye C.S. Lewis." Could it be that it's far easier for us to fire the gun of heresy at those we've never taken the time to thoroughly read, or if possible, get to know as friends?

If a person chooses to reject the doctrine of God's distinguishing love and finds comfort in hopeful universal reconciliation, we who follow Jesus might be careful before we charge our fellow believer in Christ with heresy. Both Calvinism and hopeful universal reconciliation believe in a God of love and an efficacious cross. The difference is over "For whom did Christ die?"

The only alternative to denying God's sovereign, selective love or God's universal love is to turn God into a weak, impotent deity with a fickle love dependent on the performance of His subjects. A god with fickle love isn't good news; it's rotten news. When we make our god as fickle as we are, we have turned our god into a person just like us.

Thankfully,  God is not like us.  His love is an artesian spring that is not drawn out by our loveliness nor diminished by our ugliness. He is love. His love continues. His love never ends. His love can't end because God continues and He never ends, and God is love (I John 4:8).

Both Al Mohler and Paul Young believe the same thing about God's unconditional love and Christ's effectual death. They just disagree for whom it was intended.

So go and enjoy The Shack.

It is not heresy.