If Grace is True

In their 2004 book, If Grace is True, Philip Gulley and James Mulholland make a case for universalism and this is their essential creedal contention:

I believe — on the basis of their experiences;
God — who is the gracious, loving Father Jesus revealed;
will — this is what this God wants;
save — ultimately, finally, perfect;
every person — who has ever lived, is living, and ever will live.

Some of you may have read this book and know of some discussions out there. I’ve not seen them. But, the book is giving expression to a lurking desire on the part of many who have a pluralistic faith or who are moving in that direction. The book is well-written, flows easily, and is laced together with some evocative stories.

Since I’ve been blogging of late on conversion, I thought I’d use this book to illustrate what “crisis” can mean for a (de)conversion, which is for both of the authors a conversion from historic Christianity to universal pluralism.

I find five crises in these two authors:

1. The death of a woman named Sally whom one of the authors could not make sense of and who was beginning to turn to faith. The more he learned about her past (abuse and getting her life turned around) and unlearned the many mean things he had thought about her, the more sympathy he felt for her and therefore, so he reasoned, if God is even more compassionate, then God would also be compassionate on her.

2. A close Christian friend, also a minister, began to admit his gay tendencies, eventually came out, and the author was led to the conviction that it was OK to be gay and that the Bible in this matter had to be wrong.

3. Reading Joshua 10:40, and God’s command to destroy all persons in the city, led the author to the view that some views of God in the Bible are not right; what is right is that God is gracious and loving. He learned to “weigh” Scriptures, “discerning which Scriptures accurately reflect God’s character” (51).

4. Become convinced that eternal punishment is consistent with God’s good and gracious and loving nature. Therefore, once again, the Bible can’t be right in some of its statements.

5. He saw the Ghandi movie. There and then he realized two dimensions of this crisis: (a) that some non-Christians follow Jesus while (b) some Christians do not follow Jesus. What matters is the life one leads, not whether or not they confess Christ.

A major leverage for Gulley/Mulholland is that one has to trust their experience of God. These five crises lead them to “deconvert” from historic Christian faith to universalism.

The fundamental theme is what I would call the radical logic of grace: if grace is true, they contend, universalism follows.

There is only book I’ve read that really takes on this radical logic of grace from a biblical-theological viewpoint, and I think it is the best book I’ve read on atonement. It is by Hans Boersma, Violence, Hospitality, and the Cross.

But, we can’t get into two books at once. I wonder how has read If Grace is True or who has thoughts. I’ll be reading their second book, If God is Love, next.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.


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