4. And then there’s that word “immutability.”
“To Aristotle, and to many Christians still today, God is the Unmoved Mover. God can’t change, God can’t become human, God can’t suffer, God can’t become sin, God can’t crucified and numbered among the transgressors. God can’t go to hell. So when Jesus does those things he can’t really be God – but he is! The gospel of Jesus Christ and him crucified was foolishness to the Greeks because they couldn’t get past their revered law of non-contradiction.” (p.6)
In an overflow of McSwain’s confusion of the two natures of Christ, he states that God is not “unchangeable in his being.” Rather, God cannot change – for he is not like man that he should change his mind and who does everything according the counsel of his own will. God is independent and he is unchanging. Though the Father invites us to interact with him personally, it doesn’t mean that his personality is equivocally the same as ours. For God is not contingent, but rather all things are contingent upon the godhead.
It is also worth noting that what the “Greeks couldn’t get past” was not their revered law of non-contradiction but their pride and disdain for weakness. The epistles of Paul leak – especially 1 and 2 Corinthians — the foolishness of the gospel made manifest in the one who became the servant of all. Non-contradiction is not the problem Paul faces, but rather pride and boasting in self, achievement, and reputation.
5. Universalism and Particular Redemption
“Paul doesn’t tell us that Christ died so we wouldn’t have to, he says when Christ died we died, every single human being died with Christ (2Cor5:14).” (p.10) and
“If the cross covers all sins for all times, past, present, and future, how can their still be leftovers? Was the work of Christ impotent or ineffective? Is there still justice to be meted out?” (p.13) and
“For instance, surely it is better to live with the question – How can one who belongs to God end up in Hell? — than to live with the dangerous idea that some belong to Jesus and some do not (even the goats of Matthew 25 belong to the shepherd!). Did Jesus die for some but not for others? Did Jesus decide from all eternity that he would create some folks and then send them to hell without a chance?” (p.14)
At times McSwain sounds Reformed, at times he sounds Arminian, and at others, universalists. Take the above three quotes.
The first quote sounds as if every person is united with Christ, and it certainly follows that union with Christ means redemption and salvation in him. If this is true, all are safe regardless of whether they have believed in their heart and confessed with their mouth.
Secondly, the powerful effect of what Christ has accomplished is secure. He is able to save completely those who are being saved. I like this. Christ died. He bore all of God’s wrath so that non is left to be expended on me.
Thirdly, I don’t think he’d like the Reformed position of particular redemption. The trouble with those who espouse a universal sacrifice of Christ for “whosoever” means that at least for some, the redemption of Christ is not enough – you’re not safe. I don’t expect many to be able to swallow particular redemption easily, but in response to his question, “Did Jesus decide from all eternity that he would create some folds and then send them to hell without a chance…” Why not? Jesus told the goats, “Depart from me. I never knew you.”
That McSwain posits the question as to whether Jesus decided from all eternity exposes his pervasive inability to navigate the subtle distinctions of theological discourse. Though he claims he is Trinitarian in his position, his discourse reflects a bi-tarian position (God-Jesus) which fails to honor and recognize the Father’s work in redemption. Repeatedly he speaks of the trinity as God, Son, Holy Spirit. In so doing, he linguistically and even pragmatically negates the economic work of the Trinity: the Father ordains and predestines, the Son obeys and secures salvation through his obedience, and the Holy Spirit empowers and applies that salvation.
6. A conditional submission.
“A person cannot truly confess until he is given a safe place.” (p.12)
McSwain rightly speaks against the manipulation behind a lot of what is gospel presentation. However, he implies in this quote that confession is impossible without “safety.” A person’s confession is not dependent upon whether they are given a safe place. Confession is squeezed out of a heart which apprehends the truth. One day every tongue will confess – some of those confessions will not be because individuals are safe, but rather because the weighty glory of God Almighty is crushing it out of them. The Holy God of the universe does not except or welcome his creatures on their terms.
I don’t believe that McSwain is out to present a plausible heterodoxy. Rather, I think he rightly apprehends the increasing irrelevance of the gospel as forgiveness approach for this younger generation. I do think his passion in ministry is commendable and inspiring. However, as one who leads others, his communication of the subtleties reflects a lack of circumspection and wisdom, and as such he appears a maverick charging ahead and doing his own thing because he likes his way of doing it more then other’s way of not doing it. Is this unjust? The children will tell.
“The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.”‘ But wisdom is proved right by all her children.”