Advancing salvation for all, a theologian and philosopher wonders why traditional believers insist that a loving and just God must condemn some souls to eternal torment
I admit I have a taste for provocation. It is not a malicious one, I hasten to observe, but it may sometimes come close to a kind of rhetorical lex talionis and I have it on Christ’s own authority that “an eye for an eye” is not the Christian ideal. I have always directed my most exuberant aspersions at writers who fired first – not at me, usually, but at persons or institutions or ideas I have thought worth defending.
It would be difficult, for instance, to exaggerate the sheer bumptious truculence of the “New Atheists”, or the verbal violence they so delighted in flinging at those they disdained. Still, perhaps responding in kind is a moral misstep. On the other hand, there is Christ’s own example in the Gospels, and from that one would hardly deduce that the proper Christian oratorical style should be polite periphrasis or evasion. If something is worth denouncing, it is worth denouncing vigorously, candidly, and with perhaps more than a hint of righteous wrath.
Of course, this is probably special pleading on my part. I suspect I have H.L. Mencken rather than Jesus to thank for my own habits in public disputes. (So, mea culpa, sackcloth and ashes, cleanse me O God, and so on and so forth.) That said, I can still find it annoying to be arraigned for rhetorical ferocity when I think myself blameless. I have written many books over the years, and vexed my fair share of hostile critics. My most recent book has received reviews both rapturous and indignant, which is pretty much par for the course with me.