Saturday, April 02, 2005

"It Is Good..."

"It is good to be young. It is good to be a student. It is good to be young and a student at the University of South Carolina."
- Pope John Paul II, USC Horseshoe, Sept. 11, 1987

I was a sophomore at USC when the Pope came to visit, and as a commuting student there was no way I was going to try to find a parking space downtown. But I remember watching alot of the event on TV, and those opening words have stood out to me since.

We are starting a book discussion of McLaren's new book at the NKOC Website, and I posted this as my thought from the opening paragraph of the Introduction:

"I believe that God is good. No thought that I have ever had of God is better than God actually is. True, my thoughts - including my assumptions about what good means - are always more or less inaccurate, limited, and unworthy, but I am still confident of this: I have never overestimated how good God is because God's goodness overflows far beyond the limits of human understanding. That conviction gave birth to this book." - Introduction, p. xiii

That's the opening paragraph of McLaren's THE LAST WORD, AND THE WORD AFTER THAT - and I want to stop right there with an opening question: what does God's goodness make you think about the topic of hell?

For me this morning, I'm embarrassed by the radio show I listened to on the way home from work yesterday afternoon. I listen like I might linger over NASCAR on TV, waiting for a spectacular crash of some sort. The speaker, presidient of an SBC seminary and really conservstive and more fundamentalist than he thinks he is, was extolling the virtues of the ailing Pope, how he respected the person, how he admired his stand for life and morality - but because his theology is ultimately flawed and denies certain aspects of justification by faith alone, there's no hope he'll be in heaven. I yelled at my XM - "WHAT?!?" - he's a great man, very kind, very astute and moral, very loving and open, and going to burn for eternity because his doctrine's wrong?

From this opening to the Intro, "God is good" - and I have to think His idea of who's in and who's tossed into eternal brimstone would be different from ours.

As word goes out that the Pontiff has indeed passed away, I just want to remember that this was a good man who knew Jesus in ways we'll probably never understand. And I want to give him every benefit of the doubt, because God is good and is so much better than we would be.


Blogger JP said...

I used to think the same way that guy on the radio does. The pope is hell bound? Thanks to prayer and books like that of McLarens, I see things differently. I believe I am getting a better understanding of GRACE. Well, well, well, there is powerful thing for ya, grace. Its not about ME and my plan of salvation or my formula of steps for salvation. Although I do not agree with all Catholic dogma he was very faithful servant, lived his life that way, loved others and loved the Lord. I think many of us could learn a thing or 2 by the pope......relationships. Relationships that he had with his fellow brethren and His faithful relationship with the Lord.
By the way, did you enjoy the last book of the trilogy?

2/4/05 2:23 PM  
Blogger julieunplugged said...

Great question.

Ironically, Catholics have been in the forefront of leading the way to acknowledging the light that lives in other faiths and cultures. (Dr. Paul Knitter (Catholic theologian and professor emiritus from Xavier University) has a fabulous book on this topic: Introducing Theologies of Religions. He sarts with the evangelical point of view and works through five different doctrinal systems about what happens to those of other faiths that function in both the Catholic and Protestant churches. He does a great job of showing the strengths and weaknesses of each position.)

Protestants, and particularly evangelicals of the literalist persuasion are the least willing to consider any position that differs from their own.

2/4/05 3:02 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

how did i like the last book of NKOC? i liked it alot, but probably for all the wrong reasons ;)

got my review over on the sidebar.

2/4/05 3:05 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Good thoughts, Rick! I for one will miss him. But today I am remembering and celebrating his life...not his death.

Btw, I'm not sure if I let you know yet or not buuuut, my old blog went kaput (long story). So, I am temporarily blogging at:

And very soon I'll be blogging at:
This time around I'm paying for a domain name where I have full control over it's sustainability!

Peace 2U!

- Rich

3/4/05 10:02 AM  
Blogger David M said...

Is it impossible for good people to go to hell? Really? And the standard for "good" is . . .

I personally believe Pope John Paul II knew Jesus unto his salvation. So I'm not really bothered by his death "as a Catholic." I know my doctrine has changed over time, as I'm sure the radio guy's has (seriously, no change since 2nd grade?!?!). Did the last Pope acknowledgge to Jesus his full dependence on him in this life and the one to come? I seem to have read so, somewhere. But that's me. Did he misunderstand Mary's role? I think so. But I often misunderstand my role in other people's lives :-)

But "good"? Is that the "standard" for the vital indwelling of the Spirit? And how long does someone have to be "good" before the Spirit dwells? Can they loose Him when they are no longer "good" - how long of being "un-good?"

Even those called "God's People" (Israel and the Church, each) are often called "non-good" or even "anti-good" (as it pertains to their actions). Both Hosea and James call us whores. Ouch.

I just gotta challenge the idea that "good" = relationship with God and ultimately bound for eternity in His presence. That doesn't seem consistent with the Scriptures.

And before we get to caried away with a "good" God - did the Canaanites think He was good when He commanded the death of all of them, including children? Or the wives and kids of divorce in Ezra? I think your view of God's "good" is perhaps limited and indifferent to His holiness and even His wrath (both of which are also elevated in Scriptures).

And I REALLY like Brian McLaren - as an author and even moreso as a person. For the record.

3/4/05 6:57 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

i didn't write that the Pope is in heaven now, nor that he was now living out the result of "salvation" in this life. i was only challenging the notion that "good but wrong" is necessarily destined for hellfire, in such an absolutist and judgmental fashion.

the paragraph i quoted starts the introduction of his new NKOC book - and the predominant topic is hell. his thoughts on hell are shaped somehow by his thoughts of God's goodness - not man's, but God's. i realize that our goodness and righteousness is filthy rags - and that our goodness isn't justification for life.

but God's goodness - in conjunction with His wrath and His mercy and His love and His holiness - is. to say that He was somehow un-good in dealing with the canaanites or any others in the bible might be selling our understanding of goodness short.

"good" questions, sir.

3/4/05 7:30 PM  
Blogger iggy said...

I am sick or those who think they can judge others eternal destiny... are they God? Especilly based on their own frail and sickly man made doctrines!
My opinion this was one of the greatest Popes to ever live...imagine a Pope going tot he wailing wall and asking God to forgive the RC Church? He was a great leader who had a great moral character. All that and I am not even Catholic.
By the way, Rick, are you on the Postmodern theology group on Yahoo? You seem somewhat familar.

3/4/05 8:32 PM  
Blogger MaryAnn M said...

i cringed when i heard a precious old saint say, "i really pray that the Pope was born again" would be sad that such a good man, full of such zeal for Christ and His Kingdom would be in Hell.

and i thought: what hope do i have? surely this Pope knew God, heard God and obeyed God...surely He was committed to the Way of the Cross..and devoted to the Son...
.........but....did he ever utter the "sinners prayer"?? does that make it all right? not the heart acknowledgement and life actions?

does that make the bloke who hears a tear-jerking sermon in a church and says the "sinners prayer" on Sunday and walks out the door and back to his depraved life on Monday in better standing with God than a man who has rallied for God's Word and Kingdom worldwide for 26 years faithfully?

the old saint is in my family and it made me quite uncomfortable to challenge him...

4/4/05 9:32 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

i'm more comfortable with being ambiguous and praying that he was saved, then in pronouncing judgment from behind my dogma to say his dogma kept him out at the end :) - this old saint might have it more right than any of us, since we really don't know 'til the end.

4/4/05 10:20 AM  

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