" 'It is true that sin is cause of all this pain, but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.' These words were said very tenderly, showing no manner of blame to me nor to any that shall be saved. Then it would be a great unkindness to blame or wonder at God because of my sin, since he does not blame me for sin." (Chapter 27)

If I'm slowing down with my posts on Julian of Norwich, there are two reasons. First, wedding plans are taking over a bit of my life, and that plus some other obligations are keeping my mind from focusing as well as I would like. Second, I'm hitting some stuff that's tougher to chew on.

Take the passage above: "God does not blame me for sin." How does that square with "being accountable" for my actions? And if I'm not blamed, or meant to feel shame, then won't I just do anything that I feel like, whether or not it's good for me?

These questions remind me of some that are circling now with the recent discussions concerning Christian universalism (the doctrine that all will ultimately be saved, and hell will one day be emptied). If God saves everyone, then what's the point of evangelism? And perhaps even more pertinent, what's the point of living a "godly" life?

I recently stumbled upon a blog ((here) by Roger Olson, professor of theology at Baylor University, who, although not a universalist, has this to say:

HOWEVER…What I would like to ask people who get so worked up about universalism is this: What difference would it make in your life if suddenly God revealed to you in a way you couldn’t deny that he is going to save everyone?

I have posed that question to students for almost 30 years and one response has been common and very enlightening.  Many say “I would think it unfair for God to save people who didn’t have to give up all that I have given up to be saved and I would stop witnessing and supporting missions and striving to live a holy life.”  (Of course, this is a paraphrase.  No one student ever said it exactly that way; it’s more of a composite of common comments and class consensuses out of discussion of the question.)

What does this reveal?  It suggests to me that people who respond that way have not yet experienced the joy of knowing Jesus Christ and the abundant life he gives.  I’m not saying they’re not saved; I’m just saying they are missing out on an important aspect of being saved.

Is salvation drudgery?  Would God be any more unfair to save everyone than to save me?  If you know the joy and peace that comes from being saved and having a relationship with Jesus, why wouldn’t you want everyone to know about that now–in this life?

As I continue to work my way through Julian's writings, I ask myself this question: "Can a God who loves me deeply, who sees me standing, who attaches no blame, be strong enough to pull me toward becoming like Him? Or do I need threats or cajoling to enter into His life of love? And if so, why?
4/15/2011 11:06:19 pm

A wedding, how exciting, Sue. I have a student who has chosen to read Julian of Norwich as the extra book that I have my students reading in my British Lit survey class. I'll refer him to your website.

I'm sure you probably know the passage from T. S. Eliot's "Little Gidding" where he quotes Julia but I am sending it along anyway. She was important to him to help him move beyond his modernist despair:


We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always--
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

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Sue
4/16/2011 03:05:15 am

Robin,
Thanks for posting this poem. I like how it brings us back full circle to the garden and the "original sin" of Adam. In a chapter previous to the ones quoted above, God tells Julian that Adam's sin was the greatest that humanity had ever committed - a shocking statement for me to understand, when I think of the evil people who have lived over the centuries.

I like the imagery of the tongues of flame in-folded into the knot of fire. The flames remind me of the cherubim who guard the tree of life, or perhaps it could refer to purifying "hell-fire". Either way, the merging of judgment into the grace of the "crowned knot of fire" (Christ's crown of thorns?) remind me of this stanza from Psalm 85

Lovingkindness and truth have met together;
Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

I can see why Eliot found Julian so powerful. Her vision of God is so profound that it's redefining my own.

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