One of the most influential people in my lives has been Robert Capon. In 2010 I wrote that there was a good chance I had fallen in love with him. We tried to call him a few times on the phone over the past few years just to speak to him and thank him and spoke to his lovely wife instead as she assured us that everything he wanted to say he said in his books. He has greatly influenced our thinking and helped us see the scandal that the gospel really is. Unfortunately we’ve just discovered that he has died. He had a lot to say about death.
God makes the world out of nothing, not out of vapourous, pre-existent glop; and he raises it up out of death, not out of some spiritual half-life that’s less interesting than a good collection of bones. And as the nothing out of which he calls us into being is always there to make us laugh at the incongruity of existence, so the death out of which we rise is perpetually present for the same reason. Like the trees with next years leaves in their pockets, we too are in on the joke that applies not just to bank presidents, bishops and bureaucrats but all across the boardroom of creation: while there’s death, there’s hope. Mere continuance is a bore; and a rebirth that can’t happen till after we’re dead is a discontinuity. But the continuous resurrection of the continually dead…that’s hilariously good news.
“We are raised, reconciled, and restored not because we are thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent but because we are dead an our life is hid with Christ in God – because, that is, Jesus has this absolute thing about raising the dead. In the Gospels he never meets a corpse that doesn’t sit right up.”
His books will always blow my mind and give me new words to understand the grace of God. He will be missed and we praise God for his life. Our friend Al used to send us “Sunday Morning Capon” quotes..I’m hoping he will start back up again. And of course, my favourite quote from him of all time.
“I am and I am not a universalist. I am one if you are talking about what God in Christ has done to save the world. The Lamb of God has not taken away the sins of some – of only the good, or the cooperative, or the select few who can manage to get their act together and die as perfect peaches. He has taken away the sins of the world – of every last being in it – and he has dropped them down the black hole of Jesus’ death. On the cross, he has shut up forever on the subject of guilt: “There is therefore now no condemnation. . . .” All human beings, at all times and places, are home free whether they know it or not, feel it or not, believe it or not.
“But I am not a universalist if you are talking about what people may do about accepting that happy-go-lucky gift of God’s grace. I take with utter seriousness everything that Jesus had to say about hell, including the eternal torment that such a foolish non-acceptance of his already-given acceptance must entail. All theologians who hold Scripture to be the Word of God must inevitably include in their work a tractate on hell. But I will not – because Jesus did not – locate hell outside the realm of grace. Grace is forever sovereign, even in Jesus’ parables of judgment. No one is ever kicked out at the end of those parables who wasn’t included in at the beginning.”
— Robert Capon