God’s got sons by the tons: Ecumenical Jihad, ecumenical Shmeehad

Once at a Bible study meeting, the leader said that all God’s human creatures are children of God. I interjected that the Bible does not say that everyone is a child – a “son”- of God. Later, over tea, one member of the the Bible study said that I needed to show more Christian love. I’m not sure whether she was referring to the timing or the content of my interjection. If to the timing, what do you want from me; wait for tea to tick the man off – on such a crucial matter? Not on your universalist nelly! I couldn’t wait for ”sharing time” at such a travesty of biblical truth. What love is this, you ask? Not shmaltz, for certain.

Adoniram Judson Gordon, founder of Gordon College

Adoniram Judson Gordon, founder of Gordon College (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Christian theology, two kinds of universal salvation are proposed. The first kind states that every human being will be reconciled to God, no matter what their beliefs or non-beliefs or their (im)moral behaviour. This was the belief of Carlo Carretto. Carretto was the leader of the Italian post-World War II youth movement known as Catholic Action. In 1954, He resigned from that position and joined the Little Brothers of Jesus at their novitiate in the Sahara desert. The Little Brothers of Jesus movement was inspired by the life and writings of Charles de Foucauld. (See Universalism, Love, and the Mystical Desertion of the Gospel).

The second kind  is described in one of the documents of the Second Vatican Council, “Nostra Aetate,” the Declaration on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions proclaimed by Pope Paul VI, October, 1965. Nostra Aetate rejects the papal (infallible) bulls of previous centuries by stating that salvation can be attained in other religions if adherents remain faithful to their beliefs and follow universal moral values.

The Roman Catholic catechism states “The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day” (pp. 242, 243).” In such a view all who acknowledge a creator are “sons”of God. And Buddhists? Them too are members of God’s family. But, hang on, they don’t believe in a a creator. Well maybe not of the Mosaic kind. In the end they must surely hold – unlike the latest beautiful physics theory – that something can’t come from nothing. So Richard Dawkins’ kind of mysticism, and others like him, for example, Lawrence Krauss is beyond the pale: “Why you can’t see the extraordinary beauty of the idea that life started from nothing?”

Peter Kreeft, the Catholic philosopher and apologist, in his “Ecumenical Jihad,” sounds the modern Cathslamic call: “We can and should investigate and learn from the wisdom in other religions” (Peter Kreeft Ecumenical Jihad p.79). “Allah is not another God…we worship the same God”(Peter Kreeft Ecumenical Jihad p.30). “The same God! The very same God we worship in Christ is the God the Jews-and the Muslims-worship.” (Ibid. p. 160). (See The influence of Universalism on society and the church).

Here is a description of the modern kind of evangelicalism contrasted with the biblical view of what it means to be a “son of God”:

” So, says Adoniram Judson Gordon, the most dangerous theology in circulation among us to-day is an evangelicalism which keeps most of the phrases of orthodoxy, and yet is utterly void of the vital substance thereof. ‘Atonement! Yes, indeed,’ says this other gospel. ‘ Jesus Christ is the martyr-man of the race, one in whom the enthusiasm of humanity kindled to such intensity that it consumed the heart from which it proceeded, giving the most splendid example of self-sacrifice which the world has ever seen. Not that in his death he bore the curse of a violated law! Such an idea spoils the poetry and pathos of his martyrdom, needlessly embarrassing it with the theology of substitution and vicarious satisfaction for human guilt, thereby keeping alive the old “offense of the cross.” Divinity of Christ! Yes; with all the heart let it be believed; and since by his incarnation Christ became our kinsman according to the flesh, let us rejoice in “the essential divinity of human nature” also.’ Thus, whereas in a former generation the contention was for bringing Christ down to the level of our common humanity, now it is for lifting up our common to the level of Christ. And so is brought in that most deadly doctrine of broad Christianity, that ‘all men by nature are sons of God,’ a doctrine proclaimed among us with such alluring eloquence that thousands of uninstructed souls imagine they hear the ring of the true gospel coin in what is really only the prolonged resonance of an old Pelagian heresy.

” We fully affirm that this doctrine is not only contradicted by all Scripture, but disproved by all human experience. ‘ As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. Here is sonship to God, but it is predicated solely on the ground of the new birth, the solemn necessity of which, as announced by our Lord, bears witness to the depravity, not to the divinity, of human nature. Can we brave it out with God, still maintaining in the face of explicit humanity Scripture that without repentance and without regeneration . . . men are the children of God? Such a doctrine Milton rightly traces not to Christ, but to the prince of fallen angels, whom he makes to say: ‘ The son of God I am, or was, And if I was I am; relation stands, All men are sons of God.’

(Adoniram Judson Gordon, a biography with letters and illustrative extracts drawn from unpublished or uncollected sermons and addresses. New York, Revell, 1898).

Here is Gordon’s Milton quotation in a fuller context. The Tempter (that is what “Satan” means) addresses the Son of God, Jesus the Christ:

Thenceforth I thought thee worth my nearer view

And narrower Scrutiny, that I might learn

In what degree or meaning thou art call’d

The Son of God, which bears no single sence;

The Son of God I also am, or was,

And if I was, I am; relation stands;

All men are Sons of God; yet thee I thought

In some respect far higher so declar’d.

(Paradise Regain’d: Book IV (1671)

So, grant the Tempter his due, for he “thought in some respect” that Christ’s Sonship stood above the sonship of ordinary men. The devils believe, and tremble.

When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?” (Matthew 8:28-29).

I am reminded of James White’s rubric opening to his “Radio Free Damascus” podcast, where a Muslim apologist rattles: “You don’t read your Bible properly.… God’s got sons by the tons.”

I return to the sheepy (and often sheepish) “sons of God.“ (As Rabelais would have said: “Revenons à nos moutons1 See Note 1).” I continue with Adoniram Judson Gordon. He asks: “Are we all God’s children, or only Christians? And answers: “The Bible is clear that all people are God’s creation (Colossians 1:16), and that God loves the entire world (John 3:16), but only those who are born again are children of God (John 1:12; 11:52; Romans 8:16; 1 John 3:1-10).”

(I would question whether “God so loved the world” means the “entire” world, that is, everyone without exception. I would go along with the “limited atonement” view that “world” means “without distinction” and not “without exception.” I leave the matter there).

Gordon continues:

In Scripture, the lost are never referred to as children of God. Ephesians 2:3 tells us that before we were saved we were “by nature objects of wrath.” YET YOU SAY GOD LOVES THE “ENTIRE” WORLD) Romans 9:8 says that “it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.” Instead of being born as God’s children, we are born in sin, which separates us from God and aligns us with Satan as God’s enemy (James 4:4; 1 John 3:8). Jesus said, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me” (John 8:42). Then a few verses later in John 8:44, Jesus told the Pharisees that they “belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire.” The fact that those who are not saved are not children of God is also seen in 1 John 3:10: “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.”

Here is an excerpt from Charles Spurgeon’s sermon “Sons of God. His text is:

“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God; and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”—Romans 8:16, 17.

“We are the children of God.” And here I am met upon the very threshhold by the opposition of certain modern theologians, who hold that sonship is not the special and peculiar privilege of believers. The newly discovered negative theology, which, I fear, has done some damage to the Baptist denomination, and a very large amount of injury to the Independent body—the new heresy is to a large degree, founded upon the fiction of the Universal Fatherhood of God. The old divines, the Puritans, the Reformers, are now in these last days, to be superseded by men whose teaching flatly contradicts all that we have received of our forefathers. Our old ministers have all represented God as being to his people a father, to the rest of the world a judge. This is styled by our new philosophers as old cumbersome scheme of theology, and it is proposed that it be swept away—a proposition which will never be carried out, while the earth remaineth, or while God endureth. But, at any rate, certain knight-errants have set themselves to do battle with windmills, and really believe that they shall actually destroy from the face of the earth that which is a fundamental and abiding distinction, without which the Scriptures are not to be understood. We are told by modern false prophets, that God in everything acts to all men as a father, even when he cast them into the lake of fire, and send upon them all the plagues that are written in his book. All these terrible things in righteousness, the awful proofs of holy vengeance in the judge of all the earth, and successfully neutralized in their arousing effect, by being quietly written among the loving acts and words of the Universal Father. It is dreamed that this is an age when men do not need to be thundered at; when everybody is become so tender-hearted that there is no need for the sword to be held “in terrorum” over mortals; but that everything is to be conducted now in a new and refined manner; God the Universal Father, and all men universal sons. Now I must confess there is something very pretty about this theory, something so fascinating that I do not wonder that some of the ablest minds have been wooed and won by it. I, for my part, take only one objection to it, which is that it is perfectly untrue and utterly unfounded, having not the lightest shadow of a pretense of being proved by the Word of God. Scripture everywhere represents the chosen people of the Lord, under their visible character of believers, penitents, and spiritual men, as being “the children of God,” and to none but such is that holy title given. It speaks of the regenerate, of a special class me as having a claim to be God’s children. Now, as there is nothing like Scripture, let me read you a few texts, Romans viii. 14.—”As many are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” Surely no one is so daring as to say, that all men are led by the Spirit of God; yet may it readily enough be inferred from our text, that those who are not led by the Spirit of God are not the sons of God, but that they and they alone who are led, guided and inspired by the Holy Spirit, are the sons of God. A passage from Galatians iii. 26.—”For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus,” declaring as it seems to me, and rightly enough, that all believers, all who have faith in Christ are the children of God, and that they become actually and manifestly so by faith in Christ Jesus, and implying that those who have no faith in Christ Jesus, are not God’s sons, and that any pretense which they could make to that relationship would be but arrogance and presumption. And hear ye this, John i. 12.—”To as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God.” How could they have been the sons of God before, for “to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name, who were born not of blood,”—then they were not make the sons of God by mere creation—”nor of the will of the flesh,” that is to say, not by any efforts of their own “but of God.” If any text can be more conclusive than this against universal sonship, I must confess I know of none, and unless these words mean nothing at all, they do mean just this, that believers are the sons of God and none besides.”

Ecumenical Jihad, ecumenical Shmeehad.

1 A French phrase that means literally ‘Let us return to our sheep’, which has been used for hundreds of years in English to mean, ‘Let’s get back to the subject’. It comes from the French comedy /La Farce de Maistre Pierre Pathelin/; or /l’ Avocat Pathelin/ (/c./ 1460), in which a woollen draper accuses a shepherd, Aignelet, of cruelty to his sheep. In telling his story, the draper continually digresses from the subject in order to discredit the defendant’s attorney, Pierre Pathelin. The judge has to interrupt him continuously by saying, ‘Mais, mon ami, revenons à nos moutons’. The phrase was frequently quoted by Rabelais (/c/. 1495-1553) and has a facetious equivalent among some English speakers, when asking someone to keep to the subject, in ‘Let’s return to our muttons’. The saying was popularised in Marcel Pagnol’s Topaze. (See here).

Buddhism, Judaism and Catholic Nostra Aetate

(See related post “John 17 and Catholic Universalism: That they may be One – (Reformed) Protestants need not apply”).

There is a growing number of contemporary Catholic monasteries and parishes that hold Buddhist retreats and workshops. A Jesuit priest come Zen master, Robert E. Kennedy, holds Zen retreats at his “Morning Star Zendo”. Kennedy asks “students to trust themselves and to develop their own self-reliance through the practice of Zen.” ( I’m not recommending Kennedy’s Zendo, but merely citing my sources, which  I like to do not just now and zen, but often).

It’s difficult to understand how one can be both a good Zen Buddhist and a good Catholic. It seems he was more interested in converting Catholics to Buddhism than in Catholicism itself. “The future of Zen is in the West,” he says. And the future of Catholicism? That was too limited in scope, too Roman; not universal enough, not catholic enough. The future lay in the emergent union to be born out of the merger between East and West. Merton had the backing of his illustrious and saintly predecessor, St Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, who proclaimed: “All that is true, by whomever it has been said, is from the Holy Spirit.” Could we also say “all that is deep, by whomever it has been said, is from the Holy Spirit.”

Merton was influenced by Gandhi who advocated that the way to finding the deeper roots of one’s own religious tradition is by  immersing oneself in other religions, and then returning “home” to see one’s own traditions and beliefs in a clearer light. The Catholic Church, since Vatican II (1962), has radically changed its attitude towards inter-religious dialogue. Merton and other Catholic devotees of Eastern thought had a significant influence on changing Rome’s attitude to non-Christian religions. The papal encyclical Nostra Aetate (“In Our Time”) states:

(Nostra Aetate is the Declaration on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions proclaimed by Pope Paul VI, October, 1965)

“The Church therefore has this exhortation for her sons: prudently and lovingly, through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, and in witness of Christian faith and life, acknowledge, preserve, and promote the spiritual and moral goods found among these men, as well as the values in their society and culture” (Nostra Aetate 2).

Wayne Teasdale comments that the (Catholic) church has yet to realize the full implications of the above statement.

The encyclical Nostra Aetate started out (in 1961, the year of Vatican II) as a “Decree on the Jews.” The final text of Nostra Aetate consisted of five sections:

  1. Introduction.
  2. Hindus, Buddhists, and other religions.
  3. Muslims.
  4. Jews.
  5. Conclusion.

The Vatican starts out with the best of intentions towards the Jews. Let’s try and sort out this Jewish millstone hanging round our necks of Pope Pius and the Holocaust. (Pope Pius XII was on the papal throne during the Holocaust). The Jewish view is that he could have done more to save the Jews.  We’ll stop telling the Jews that they killed their Messiah. We’ll write an encyclical and say, “it is wrong to call them an accursed people,…or a deicidal people,…”.  Hang on. Why waste a whole encyclical on the Jews.  While we’re about it, let’s go the whole hog and bring in the Muslims and the East as well. Let’s be truly catholic.” The monotheistic Jews end up as the last item behind the monotheistic Muslims. But who gets first prize? The new darlings on the Catholic block – Buddha and Krishna.

In October 2010, “Why Israel” reports, a Catholic synod called at the Vatican to discuss increasing persecution of Christians in the Middle East.  Much of its final statement was related to the Vatican’s demand to Israel to end its “occupation” of Arab lands. In his final statement at the synod, Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros of Boston said that Biblical  promises made by God to Israel “were nullified by Christ. There is no longer a chosen people.”   The Editor of “Why Israel” concludes, “the Vatican’s commitment to its earlier declaration regarding the Jews and God’s promises to them remains at least partially in question.” What commitment? It’s all tripe.

I’ve been scathing, which most would consider inimical to interfaith dialogue. My view is that much interfatih dialogue  is mostly, and often  sentimental; but not spiritual.  In interfaith dialogue, there are religions that have contradictory revelations from the same God. Only one can be true. Each of these religions, if they want to remain faithful and true to their own, should not budge on their major doctrines (which they believe comes from God). What, therefore, is there to dialogue about except “let’s respect the UN Charter on Human Rights, and not violate our right to free speech and free assembly, and so forth”? In a nutshell “Let’s not harass or persecute one another, and let’s also try to find a way to  make the world a better place for all;” which is the clarion call of all (secular) humanists.

Let me consider further the problem of interfaith relations. Here is the attitude of a Rabbi and a Priest (Catholic?) to each other. Rabbi Blech sincerely wants his fellow Jews to have more respect for the goyim. He mentioned a “priest” he met at an airport who asked him for a blessing.

Priest: “May I ask you a very important favour?”

Rabbi Blech: Sure

Priest: All my life, I’ve been waiting to meet a rabbi because I know that you are God’s chosen people, and all my life, I’ve been waiting to ask a rabbi for a blessing. I would love a blessing from a rabbi, could you do that for me.”

Rabbi Blech: (To his audience) By the way. How would you respond. Some people would say, “Ah, a goy,” – and I gave him a blessing. I said a posik (portion) for him and translated for him and this man walked away as if he had been given the greatest gift in the world, a brocha (blessing) from a Jew. Do you understand where the Bible belt in America is today? Do you understand how much respect there is in America today for Jews? There’s a whole world out there that thinks that knows that acknowledges that recognises that we are God’s chosen people, that puts us on a higher level. I said to myself I was a Rabbi in young Israel for 40 years, nobody came to me and said, Rabbi, you know you are the ultimate, give me a brocha..

Blech believes we are living in the pre-messianic soon return of Messiah. “One of the signs is that the goyim will start to do tchuva (Repentance). What I have written above is part of a much longer piece. I go on to speak of Pope John Paul’s desire to do tshuva (repentance). I wonder how much influence Thomas Merton and his sympathizers had in the drafting of “In Our Time” (Nostra Aetate). Earlier I quoted from the Nostra Aetate:

“The Church therefore has this exhortation for her sons: prudently and lovingly, through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, and in witness of Christian faith and life, acknowledge, preserve, and promote the spiritual and moral goods found among these men, as well as the values in their society and culture” (Nostra Aetate ).

I quoted Wayne Teasdale earlier: “the (Catholic) church has yet to realize the full implications of the above statement.”  The Vatican was cautious of Thomas Merton. It had reason to be so.

Merton doesn’t worry about the radical differences between the two faiths. But then “differences” imply dualism. Religions shouldn’t duel because dualism is an illusion. Merton’s universalistic monism defies logic. Some may argue that logic is a Greek fabrication. Aristotle says that A cannot be not-A. Aristotle cannot be and not be (Aristotle). Who says? Aristotle. But listen to “The science of sciences and the mysteries of mysteries” of the Bhagavad-Gita: I am Being and Not-Being (Chapter 5). The Jews, and ergo the Catholics are unscientific.

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am . This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ”  (Exodus 3:13-14).

Here is the Buddhist adaptation:

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am NOT . This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM-NOT-AM has sent me to you.’ ” (Exodus 3:13-14)

A Buddhist ditches the law of contradiction into the ocean of life and death, but no Catholic can do so. Catholic theology without logic is like Socrates without his dialectic: a diuretic. But we don’t have to appeal to theology. We can go right to its source: the Christian scriptures. But the Buddha first.

Buddha’s final words to his disciples were:

“Make of yourself a light. Rely upon yourself; do not rely upon anyone else. Make my teachings your light. Rely upon them; do not depend upon any other teaching.”

Contrast that with the words of John the Baptist: “He was not himself the light, but was to bear witness to the light” (John, 1:8). John the Baptist continued to proclaim that Christ “is the true light that enlightens every man who comes into the world” (John, 1:9). Christ says “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12). Christ is the light. No human being has any light IN himself waiting to shine forth.

To return to the Jews, the original inspiration for Nostra Aetate. The Pontifical Biblical Commission statement (2002), entitled “The Jewish People and their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible,” states: “The Jewish messianic expectation is not in vain. It can become for us Christians a powerful stimulant to keep alive the eschatological dimension of our faith. Like them, we too live in expectation. The difference is that for us the One who is to come will have the traits of the Jesus who has already come and is already present and active among us.”

How could such an expectation be not vain, given that they refuse Christ, the only Messiah, who has already come? This means, if taken to its logical conclusion, that the refusal of the mystery of the Incarnation, of the birth of our Divine Savior in the flesh, is no longer a sin of infidelity, is no longer a grave sin against the Faith. If this were the case, how could it still be true for Our Lord to say to the Jewish false believers:


So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”

They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

(John 8:24-45)

These were  “Jews who had believed him.” This belief was obviously not in who Jesus said he was but in what these Jews wanted to believe about Jesus. In sum, according to Jesus, they were sons of  the father of lies.

(See related post “John 17 and Catholic Universalism: That they may be One – (Reformed) Protestants need not apply”).


John 17 and Universalism: That they may be One – (Reformed)