Journey: Get on the Arc

Read: Spirit of Holiness

The world (that is, everyone and everything) is heading toward judgment.  The Bible makes that clear, and McLaren does not sidestep that fact, or dismiss it in this week’s reading.

But what kind of judgment?  If we see ‘condemnation’ as a synonymn for judgment, then we will understand it punitively.  But if we see ‘restoration’ as a synonymn for judgment, we will understand it redemptively.  The former idea creates a fear-based faith, while the latter generates a hope-based faith.

McLaren calls restorative judgment the arc of the universe.  When I read that I thought to myself, “Our job, like the animals who got on Noah’s ark, is to get on God’s arc–and be saved.”

McLaren rightly notes that restorative judgment does not eliminate pain and suffering in God’s final analysis.  In fact, the more we have become glued to that which is false, the more painful our final judgment will be.  And none of us will pass through “scot free,” because none of us has lived a completely righteous life.  We will all pass through the fire, but it is a refining fire, not a destroying fire.  It is the fire of love.

But there is more, and it is actually the best part.  God’s restorative judgment is a refining process that can begin now.  We do not have to wait until some eschatalogical ‘final judgment’ to have a bonfire of purgation that calls for a firey furnace and flames that light up the night sky.  Instead, we can let the fire of the Holy Spirit cleanse us of any current unrighteousness through the refining process of conviction, confession, and cleansing.

Judgment–the final word.  But because the arc of the universe is holy love, it is a restoration, not a damnation.  The only folks who will miss it are those who refuse to accept this severe mercy.  And if that turns out to be even one person, God’s heart will still be broken because God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to salvation (2 Peter 3:9).

There is only one invitation: get on the arc.

About jstevenharper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 31 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church
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One Response to Journey: Get on the Arc

  1. mteston says:

    Greetings Dr. Harper, it’s been many moons since dialoguing with you around such matters. I graduated from ATS back in 1986. A number of seasons ago I was preparing for a message and looked closely at this word judgement because too often is rendered in the negative. As you well may know, the English word “crisis” appears to be rooted in the greek rendition. As I reflected on this it helped our study groups pull together Jesus’ statements that “the judgement” had somehow come with him, with his presence. My applicational grasp then leads me to understand that we are always in a season of “crisis” when we are faced with the reclaiming and restoration of our false selves in light of the truly “human one,” Jesus. Our journey through this life is a journey to restore and live out the imago dei originally intended. That most certainly is a crisis of epic proportions. I appreciate where such a journey has led you and thanks for the blog. In this season of my life it is quite timely.

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