Baptists and Everlasting Retribution

I just learned that Dr Zach Manis, whose book Sinners in the Presence of a Loving God I reviewed two years ago, has lost his tenured position at Southwest Baptist Uni­ver­sity, due in part (some speculate) to his controversial views on eternal damnation.

“Is he a universalist?”

No.

“An annihilationist then?”

Nope, not that either.

“Then what’s the controversy about?”

Manis is a critic of the traditional view that God everlastingly punishes the reprobate as an expression of his retributive justice. He personally advocates a view similar to the “river of fire” construal taught by many Orthodox priests today. I guess this means that by Baptist standards, the Orthodox are heterodox. Needless to say, the Orthodox aren’t going to lose any sleep.

I truly regret this has happened to Zach. I have enjoyed email correspondence with him over the past several years. He is a thoughtful philosopher and gracious Christian gentleman. I do not know if he has found a new position yet. If not, I pray the Lord will quickly secure him a new—and better paying!—position at a more congenial university or college.

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9 Responses to Baptists and Everlasting Retribution

  1. michael letourneau says:

    Fr Kimel personal question how would you respond to someone saying religion/spirituality is illogical and devoid of reason?

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Michael, I would respond by suggesting that the person needs a more expansive understanding of reason. But I know that such a person will not find this response persuasive, even if it should be defended by a philosopher as brilliant as David Bentley Hart or William Desmond. I would then point the person to the scene between Puddleglum and the Emerald Witch in The Silver Chair.

      Life is too short. I’m on Jesus’ side, even if reason should fail me.

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    • brian says:

      I recommend D.C. Schindler’s The Catholicity of Reason. Don’t be dissuaded by the title if you are not Catholic. The argument is sound for anyone.

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    • Jonathan says:

      My first response would be to ask what the person means by logic or reason. Then I would ask what’s so great about those things as the person defines them.

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      • Jonathan says:

        Might as well ask this person what he or she means by religion while you’re at it.

        And bear in mind that most people much of the time aren’t actually stating anything substantive but rather posturing, seeking to establish themselves as a certain kind of person, someone who’s “right” and has things figured out, someone who is not being duped.

        Also realize that despite what people who like to argue like to think, its not likely that anyone has ever been argued into or out of a religion.

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    • Peter says:

      I, like Jonathan, would simply ask this person to explain what they mean. Never answer a question that isn’t asked and always respond to a sweeping assertion with a more incisive question.

      How is religion “illogical and devoid of reason?” And go from there, until sweeping assertions finally become particular and personal enough to be responded to person-to-person, rather than ideologue-to-ideologue. There are good and sound philosophical responses to such sweeping assertions, but in my experience, they just don’t work for a person in the frame of mind that allows them to make said assertions.

      In societate passionum Christi,
      Peter

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  2. Sorry to hear that. I enjoyed interacting with him here. Personally, I don’t think the problem is that he was a victim of meanies at his university (though I don’t know the details). I loved Pete Enns’ book “Inspiration and Incarnation,” but if Westminster felt his understanding of inspiration went beyond what their doctrine permits, I think it’s fitting he find a place where he can agree with the doctrinal statement. The problem isn’t that professors shouldn’t be kicked out if they disagree, the problem is that many place’s doctrinal statements are bad.

    As Alvin Plantinga wisely said, “fundamentalist” is just the name that we give to anyone to the right of me. I was a fundamentalist to my chaplain supervisor because I believe in the historical incarnation and resurrection of Christ. Anyways, I hope he finds another place soon. Enns and Tremper Longman landed on their feet, I’m sure he will too.

    Not implying that Fr Aidan was calling anyone mean. Just offering my thoughts here since “how dare they” is usually a common response to these sorts of things.

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  3. Jnana Hodson says:

    Hey, love often looks illogical and devoid of reason. As does hope, in many situations. So does anyone want to live without them?

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  4. Tom says:

    So sorry to hear of Zach’s news. I’m sitting here shaking my head though. Zach holds to hell as perpetual/eternal torment, and he agrees only God can be responsible for the design of creation that gives the finally reprobate up to their self-chosen end, and the wicked ‘hurt’ (am I saying this?) just as badly. This isn’t enough for his school board? They want it to be the case that God is personally torturing the wicked? I mean, in a sense, Zach meets even that criteria since on his view the glory of God’s goodness (which is God himself) is experienced by the wicked as torturous. I don’t get the Baptists here. What the ‘hell’ (literally) do they want?

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