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Does God Weep for Dead Egyptians?

Over at The Gospel Coalition, in a post titled Why I Don’t believe in the Universal Fatherhood of God, Justin Taylor posted an excerpt from one of my all-time favorite preachers, Charles Spurgeon:

“Believe the doctrine of the Fatherhood of God to His people. Abhor the doctrine of the universal Fatherhood of God, for it is a lie and a deep deception.”

The quote goes on to elaborate some reasons why Spurgeon, and I’m assuming Taylor, believe that the doctrine of the Universal Fatherhood of God is a “lie of the devil.”

Contrast this with a story I heard told once that’s always stuck with me. The angels were gathered around God’s throne, watching as Moses led the Israelites to the shores of the Red Sea. The Egyptian army was hard on their heels. The angels whispered among themselves, “What would the Lord do to rescue His people?” To their surprise, God parted the waters, led His people through and swallowed the Egyptian hordes behind them. The angels broke out in raucous celebration. Until they noticed that God wasn’t joining in. In fact, he was weeping. “Lord,” one of the angels said. “Aren’t You happy? You saved Your people.” The Lord replied, “But did you see how many of My people I had to kill?”

Perhaps it’s a matter of semantics. An adventure in hair-splitting. But I think we lose something vital if we disregard the concept of the Universal Fatherhood of God too quickly.

Yes, Scripture designates only those who are “born again” (Jn. 3:3) as children of God.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name (Jn. 1:12 NKJV)

If a person is given the right to become a child of God, then they must not be one. And that “right” must be exceedingly precious.

The Bible is narrow in this regard. Racial and cultural distinctions notwithstanding, Scripture seems to define only two categories of people: the saved and the unsaved, the lost and the found. The differential between the two may not always be clear (see the Parable of the Tares and the Wheat, Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43), but Scripture is clear about a divide. The lost — those who have not “received” or “believed” (Jn. 1:12) — are never called children of God.

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. (Eph. 2:1-4 NKJV)

Notice, before they were “made alive” they were “dead in trespasses and sins,” considered “sons of disobedience” and “by nature children of wrath.” Romans 9:8 is equally blunt: “those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God.” And then Jesus told the Pharisees, “You are of your father the devil” (Jn. 8:44), without blinking.

So much for the Universal Fatherhood of God.

But having said all that, Scripture declares that all people are God’s creation (Col. 1:16), fused with His image (Gen. 1:26), and madly loved (Jn. 3:16) by Him. God is not indifferent to death or suffering or injustice simply because the victim is “dead in trespasses and sins.” And this is the problem I have with opponents of the Universal Fatherhood of God concept: They don’t envision a God who weeps over killing His children, the Egyptian army.

In fact, they don’t envision the Egyptian army as His children.

I’ve always loved the Apostle Paul’s approach to the Athenians on Mars Hill in Acts 17. His apologetic tactic smacks of the Universal Fatherhood of God concept:

“He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. From one man, he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries.

“His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ And since this is true, we shouldn’t think of God as an idol designed by craftsmen from gold or silver or stone.” — Acts 17:24-29

“We are his offspring,” whether Jew, Greek, Sudanese, or Indian. “He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need” of every Muslim, Buddhist, Jehovah’s Witness, or Scientologist. “He is not far from any one of us,” whether we worship Him, curse Him, or deny His existence. He gave “life and breath” to the Egyptian army. And He took it away.

The Universal Fatherhood of God is the basis for respect and dignity for all human beings, not just the saved. Furthermore, it acknowledges that God is wildly in love with EVERYONE and constantly seeking to draw us into a deeper, fuller, truer relationship with Him. This doesn’t mean everyone makes it to heaven. This doesn’t mean we aren’t by nature “children of wrath.” It means that even as children of wrath, God “fathers” us, showering us with blessings and knocking incessantly upon the door of our heart.

It means that God weeps for His children. Even dead Egyptians.

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{ 17 comments… add one }
  • Katherine Coble October 8, 2012, 7:07 AM

    Well said. There are too many verses in the Bible that contradict Universalism, so as much as I want to believe in the beautiful story of that I can’t quite give in.

    I am, however, prepared to admit that Salvation and Eternity are concepts we finite humans don’t truly understand. I am prepared to believe that God knows a few things we don’t.

    I will NEVER ever embrace the idea advanced by so many of the Calvinist school of thought that salvation is not meant for all, that God does not love all and did not die for all. That is a great heresy that mocks Christ’s purpose in death and resurrection. All may not be saved but all CAN be saved.

  • sally apokedak October 8, 2012, 7:29 AM

    I agree that Christ’s death is sufficient for all, even though I don’t believe it was effective for all because I believe some won’t partake in the effect–they will, in fact, go to hell.

    But the Bible is clear that all are invited–all are commanded, even–to turn from their sin and be saved. To look upon Christ, lifted up, and be saved.

    I am not so much in a hurry to say that God is Father to all, because, as you pointed out, Mike, Jesus said that some were of their father, the devil. I see, as you do, two classes, lost and saved. I believe we are “in Adam” or “in Christ” and only those in Christ are adopted into God’s family and have the rights to sonship. Those in Christ have the inheritance, incorruptible, kept in heaven for them.

    None of that negates the fact that God loves all his creatures and he is merciful to all his creatures and he weeps for them.

    Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem…how I longed to collect you under my wing, but you would not.

    That is quite the lament. The cry of a mother hen (or father) who has been rejected by the chicks.

    God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked on the one hand, and on the other hand he will laugh as he hurls them into hell. I don’t think I can understand this, except to believe that He knows best and that there will come a time when he rejects and laughs at those who rejected him, but as long as they are living he longs for them repent and he’s commanded us to love them and seek their good. Today if you hear his voice do not harden your hearts…he wants them to turn.

    But there will come a day when the option is no longer available and then, no, I don’t think he’ll weep. I think he’ll laugh. I think that because as much as hate those verses in Revelation about us washing our feet in the blood of the wicked, I believe them. I believe there will be great rejoicing when the battle is won and the wicked ones are defeated by Jesus Christ, the warrior king.

    • Jill October 8, 2012, 8:15 AM

      I sincerely hope that God doesn’t laugh as he hurls people into hell.

      • sally apokedak October 8, 2012, 8:56 AM

        It’s interesting and unsettling. The Bible says he holds the wicked in derision. He’s no laughing with joy, just as he’s not jealous with a human kind of jealousy, but he does mock the wicked as he pours out wrath.

        How will heaven be heaven if we are all weeping over the lost? I have a hope that we’ll find out more and that God will make a way to save all–why should Satan have any? And yet, I think part of knowing God means I must know his holiness and his justice as well as his mercy. His holiness is such that he holds in disdain the weak kings and their foolish strutting about as they conspire against him. (Psalm 2)

        Why do we love stories where heroes win and the wicked get what they deserve? Isn’t something of the image of God in us that makes us want justice? And yet, how can we, sinners, want mercy for ourselves and justice for someone else? But God is not a sinner and the Bible does get pretty bloody when it discusses God pouring our his wrath on the wicked.

        • sally apokedak October 8, 2012, 8:59 AM

          Oh, and I should add…the verses about washing the feet in blood are in Psalms (my mistake) and the Revelation verses I was thinking of were about God treading the wine press of his wrath and the blood flowing. And I do think we need to take into consideration that they are symbolic and poetic, but I also think they are telling us something about God’s holiness that many, many Christians today have totally missed.

        • Jill October 8, 2012, 9:11 AM

          I don’t laugh at justice, though. I feel satisfied on a deep level by it because it means the scales are balanced.

        • Jenni Noordhoek October 8, 2012, 1:24 PM

          [b]Why do we love stories where heroes win and the wicked get what they deserve?[/b]

          I have to wonder if this is as universal as suggested, though. I may have strange tastes, but I actually prefer stories where the only baddies who get horrible fates are the actual irredeemable (the story equivalent of demons, orcs, etc) or have done something so shockingly awful in the story that I can’t emotionally justify anything else.

          I suspect that this attitude is because of the view that I have towards stories – I see myself both in the villains and the heroes. (See: Avengers and the strong Loki fandom out there.)

          • sally apokedak October 8, 2012, 1:36 PM

            Jenni, I think that’s what most of us want. We want mercy, we want redemption, even for other poor sinners. But the really bad guys, we want them to stop hurting others. We will cheer when the Adolph Hitlers or the Jeffrey Dahmers of the world are locked up or executed. We don’t want them to go to hell, we just want them to be gone from this world. They don’t deserve to live after the way they’ve killed others. But in God’s sight there is a day when all me are irredeemable. Not because they are more monstrous than you or me, but because they have rejected Christ and treated his death–his huge sacrifice–as something to be scorned.

            • Jenni Noordhoek October 8, 2012, 4:36 PM

              I dinnae. I’m sad whenever people have to be prevented from hurting other human beings. I’m sad because people got hurt. I’m sad because they were hurt by other people, and I wonder what would compel someone to do that sort of thing. I’m sad because somebody wasted the rest of their life because they chose to be bad to somebody else.

              It’s why I have trouble writing antagonists. I feel too much for them.

              Somehow I can’t bring myself to say this isn’t a good thing.

  • Cherie Clayton October 8, 2012, 7:37 AM

    Before I can even comment….I have to chew this article for a while. Very thought provoking. I’ll get back to you later.

  • Kessie October 8, 2012, 8:03 AM

    Well, God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son. Not just the Church or Israel. The World. He’s also not willing that any should perish, but all should come to repentance. But God also has to judge sin or he’s no longer a holy God.

    Beware of basing doctrinal decisions on emotion-laden stories. A friend gave me a story once his pastor had written, saying they’d all cried when the pastor read it. It was about animals going to Heaven, and mentioned God being tempted by sin. Later on I found a verse that states that God cannot be tempted by sin. The story, emotional as it was, was off-base. If the detail about God being tempted was wrong, what about the rest of it, about the fluffy bunny rabbits going to heaven?

    I’ve been suspicious of man-written Bible fanfic ever since.

    • Mike Duran October 8, 2012, 10:58 AM

      I think that story stuck with me because it reveals something biblical. As I hope I’ve shown, there’s different angles to this subject.

  • Jill October 8, 2012, 8:30 AM

    I would deeply mistrust Spurgeon, and I often do, except that he said, “Believing right doctrine will no more save you, than doing good works will save you.”

    I like the way you’ve handled this topic. It’s a paradox of a sort, as well as a mixing of metaphors. Those who are saved are God’s children, as well as his bride. In both cases, humanity had lost its familial position with God–either as a child of or a bride of–and through the death and resurrection of Christ, we’re re-adopted and/or re-married to him. In any case, I would love to add more, but this is too much of a theological discussion for a busy Monday morning.

  • Renee Joy October 8, 2012, 9:12 AM

    I wish this breakdown had been available to me in 1996…. When the 11 year old me asked: “but… What happens to people who never even read the Bible or heard the name ‘Jesus’ before? Like the babies or the people in the Congo who never met a Christian before; what happens to them??”

    This would article and explanation would have impressed me…

    The answer I got at the time… “Then they aren’t saved, and go to hell.”
    I was a pretty sensetive and discerning youth and That answer hurt my feelings and hardened me. I did not want to believe in a “God the Father” who would condemn innocents to hell.

  • Lyn Perry October 8, 2012, 6:08 PM

    Deuteronomy 4:19 – God gave all the other nations the sun, moon, and stars to worship. 😉

  • Patrick Todoroff October 9, 2012, 7:33 AM

    O.K. in the Creator-sense – “in His likeness’/Original Intent – but why did Jesus say the Pharisees were “children of the devil”? (Jn 8:42-44) I also notice He has no problem telling people not to fear men but God, who puts people in Hell. (Luke 12:4-5)

    Not denying God’s unfathomable love and mercy, but I don’t think He’s some love-sick celestial being with a man-shared hole in His heart only we can fill. Gethsemane notwithstanding, seems to me the reason Jesus could have summoned twelve legions of angels when standing before Pilate was the Father was still willing to let the Son call the whole thing off. We fail to grasp how Transcendent and Complete the Godhead already is/was/will ever be . Without us.

    I read that BOMFOG (Brotherhood of Man/Fatherhood of God) is journo shorthand for politicians’ non-sectarian, religious-speak used when they wish to look spiritual but avoid alienating potential voters with doctrinal specifics. Sort of political Bahá’í -ism.

  • Melissa Ortega October 9, 2012, 11:33 AM

    I have always imagined God’s feelings to be like that of any parent who has two children and one tries to kill/harm the other. A mix of joy in saving the one and sorrow for losing the other – a sorrow that knows it would have enjoyed keeping them both if it were possible.

    I feel this way sometimes when my own child does something and I have to punish her by keeping something from her I truly wanted to give. I am even tempted to find an excuse to give it anyway, but this would be selfish on my part.

    That’s what I imagine – and of course it is all based on human experience, which falls very short of understanding the Mind of God.

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