Monday, July 10, 2006

Who is God?: 2 Views of Opposition

“There is much to support the idea that Jesus died for all without need of any help on the part of mankind to complete the work” (FiddlerPaul, a blogger)

Great quote about salvation and what Christ did on behalf of humanity. Funny that quote might sum up the idea behind mainstream church’s idea’s about salvation.I think the church doesn’t believe ‘mankind participated in the cross’ by simply believing or doing…that’s ludicrous. I think mainstream church thinks the cross is the act of salvation but can we refuse that gift? According to Danny Kaye (a blogger) ‘yes’, according to many of the bloggers on YBMT ‘no’. Basically it’s all in perception.

One group says ‘God did it all and man has no choice but to accept it’. Another group says ‘God did it all but man does have a choice to accept it’. That’s the 2 views in a nutshell. Which one is speaking for God? That’s the tough part to figure out. But you don't write blogs to hold back so I'll add my 2 cents in.

What strikes me as odd is that one side is proporting 'free will' and the other says there is no 'free will' within the salvation process (it can't be both). Free will means we have the choice to choose Christ's redemption for our lives by simply believing in Him. No free will means Christ's redemption was automatically calculated onto us, whether we believe in Jesus or not. On one hand I find some judgement, if you don't believe you perish but that is strictly your choice. On the other hand I find it doesn't matter what you believe because God made that choice for you. That's where I have to draw the obvious line, 'chose for me'?

How can a man say to me, God chose for me? What reality is that based on? That's like saying my parents chose to become carpenter's so I have to and my kids have to, etc. Well that's just simply flawed reasoning from any human's point of view, cause I can so choose what my parent's want not (I'll be an electrician). Or it has been deemed by the gov't's of the world the whole world is capitalist now, does that exactly make you one? No. I still have Che Guevera leanings. Free will (decision making) exists in every situation and unbelievably that makes this colorful world what it is (to deny that is to deny absolute reality). But somehow I have to believe God denies us free will.

Here's a short OT lesson from the very start of the bible, Genesis page 1. In the beginning God chose to make the world. He chose 6 days to complete that work. He chose to rest on the 7th day. He then chose to make humanity in 'his image' (which is why I can see we are a prized possession). He chose to make a man, then the man asks for a woman (choice), so God makes him one. Then man chooses to disobey God & believe a serpent in eating an apple from a 'forbidden' tree. Man gets the boot from the garden and this is how sin came into the world. Well, what's the exact moral of that story? We don't have choice in our outcome? God made a decision on our behalf to boot us out? God 'made us in His image all except for the 'choice' part?

I can speak like a man, walk like a man, act like a man, think like a man, but I cannot make a choice like a man. If man was totally redeemed at the cross riddle me this: Why doesn man choose to still commit henious crimes against his fellow brother? Why does Jesus mention 'repentance' and so does Paul/John/Peter (I call it personal responsibility)? How can a man be saved if there is nothing to be saved from? Jesus recognizes choice throughout the gospel and this one should ring loud and clear 'do unto others as you would have done unto you, for this is the Law & the Prophets'. Again, looks like we have a choice to make according to the OT.

I actually can't find a place in the gospels where choice is not part of the equation, whether that be parables or in the stories of Jesus. If Jesus has to make that choice to die on the cross, what makes our 'crosses' any different? The early disciples understood that. If they were preaching such a 'universalist' gospel then why do 2 people drop dead in front of Peter for 'lying' to God? Why in Matthew 25:31-46 is there a dividing up of people (based on choice) when the 'son of man' comes in His kingdom? The only possible reason can be is this: there is a choice to be made.

In the same breath, we are not the determinents of people's salvation (so we have no right to condemn people), that is between them and God; not their faith judged by a church's authority (ex: let's see he's said the prayer, attends church regularily, now all we need is baptism for the tri-vector - to prove himself to the church he is saved). That's what Jesus taught against so a lot of the feelings I read coming from people that leave organized church is justified (see Matthew 6: 1-7 for real faith in God - a little too unsubstantiated for organized religion).

That's why I can draw strength from people that leave the church that preach 'universalism', they've been in this struggle, can't change it, so for freedom's sake they leave...they make themselves more my brothers by admiting the church is failing humanity. I can also say people that say 'salvation is a choice' are my brothers for they also believe in the same Jesus I do, but wait til you get burned and seek God's love and acceptance in full capacity. The rubber hits the road right here, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ and I think the 'universalists' have seen the short-comings of mass church practice, I applaud them for God has opened their eyes to see what religion can become. I also applaude the reality of choice taught within churches about salvation, I mean who doesn't want to choose Jesus once the 'real Jesus' is proclaimed. So how's about a big hand for all the believers in Christ...too peacemakerish?


chris said...

This is a very well thought out post, but I guess it’s really a matter of point of view. I have a list of over one hundred scriptures that seem to point to the universal reconciliation of mankind to God. I also made a decision to follow Jesus. So, who is right? The scriptures speak of Jesus as being the second Adam. The first Adam brought sin upon all mankind. I didn’t ask to be born into sin, did you? The second Adam brought reconciliation to God. Again, I didn’t ask for that reconciliation. Most churches teach that in order to receive Gods Grace you have to ask for it. If that is so then Jesus isn’t really the second Adam because his work on the cross wasn’t good enough. The other misconception is that “universalist” don’t believe in a punishment for sins. I can’ speak for everyone, but I believe there is some sort of correction. I have done a little study on the concepts of hell and eternity in scriptures, (I am not an expert) but it seems something was lost in the translation. I also appreciate you calling Christian Universalists brothers. Most people just label us as heretics without even checking into its relevance. By the way, have you checked out YBMT’s blog lately?

SocietyVs said...

Chris, I am just trying to be a voice crying in the wilderness, this wilderness happens to be within the internet world (which is a jungle).
I know for 100% of a fact I don't have the answers but I raise questions and speak my mind (or write it I mean)...nothing wrong with that. I guess I think if someone has it all figured out (scripturally) then it's worth a question now and then.
I really enjoy finding the gems that most people are throwing out there within their posts, sometimes it takes grinding discussion for that to come out...damn I love it!
I have nothing against a single person on either side of the religious fence, I am more interested in the discussion that needs to exist there. So I can say for a fact I have not a single thing against any person confessing Christ, but I like the dialogue.
People that teach Christ saved all, I have nothing bad to say about brings hope to the hopeless which is instrumental in reversing some of the judgmental Christianity I experienced (and others know very well). IT IS A NEEDED ENDEVAOUR, DON'T MAKE THAT MISTAKE. So how can I not say these are my brothers and sisters? They love God and love others, awesome.
But I do raise questions about 'free choice' since I cannot find a way around choosing things, and rightly so...I am a product of a choice. Nothing wrong with doing that and the people that don't like being questioned, well maybe they miss the point of these we can all learn from one another.

curious servant said...

Thought-provoking post.

And thoughtful comment on my blog.

Thank you.

chris said...

Free choice is a sticky subject. I have even listened to scientist, via the discovery channel, arguing on the subject. There are some scientist that claim our DNA has a powerfl effect on the decision making process. I don't know, I just know what I have found to be true in my personal relationship with God. It's true that some people make terrible choices, and It is hard to understand the theory of universal reconciliation when you hear of suicide bombings and mass murderers. It is also hard to understand an eternal torture for those that don't understand who Jesus was, even though they led a good life. I guess I will just leave the judgement in Gods hands and trust that he will be compassionate and forgiving to all. Because in the end we don't really know the answers. We can only speculate.

SocietyVs said...

"It is hard to understand the theory of universal reconciliation when you hear of suicide bombings and mass murderers. It is also hard to understand an eternal torture for those that don't understand who Jesus was, even though they led a good life." (The Ledgerwood)
I think I am somewhere in between in my understanding of the scriptures, which is 'lukewarm' haha.
I think somewhere there has to be judgment for people that murder others so callously, also teaching others the same opinons (ex: terrorists, The Klan, Nazi's) are justified and blessed of God. But I also feel because some person leads a good life and denies Christ isn't damned...why? Well if you look closely at those people you will see they actually follow Christ's teachings of repentance (responsibility) and ethics (doing unto others).
I know it seems 'wishy-washy' of me and like I have a scale of human ethics, well, maybe I do. There are just some things that seem damnable to me and some things that don't (but I am the 1st to admit I am not in God's shoes on this subject).
But I am futile human being trying to figure out God, and can admit I know very little (actually next to nothing). I also agree with this statement "I guess I will just leave the judgement in Gods hands and trust that he will be compassionate and forgiving to all. Because in the end we don't really know the answers. We can only speculate." (The Ledgerwood)
I am no man's judge but I am each person's friend (do unto others).

Danny Kaye said...

Hey there, Societyvs. I decided to take a break and come on over.

You write pretty well about your battle to understand all the perspectives of the universalist/choice debate. I am brand new to it as I was only inroduced to the concept of Christain universalists the other day. And so am faced with trying to understand the concept, ask the questions, and profess my own understandings all at the same time. (You can understand why Bruce's site was not the forum in which I might do that successfully, don't you?)

Anyway, it seems the permiating thought being thrown out to me is "Well, when you faith fails you...THEN you'll understand."
This just doesn't make sense to me. My faith will never fail me. I have been through some serious church break-ups/blow-ups. But my faith has not yet failed me even once. Man has failed me. I have failed me. But my faith has never failed me. I guess I just don't believe that faith can ever fail. We may lose our faith. But that doesn't mean faith failed. It means I quit and gave up.

I will admit that some of the interpretations of Scripture the universalists throw out there give me pause to think. I can almost see the point. But then when I put the passages back into the whole Bible, well, the interpretations don't seem to gel anymore.

I am interested in undertanding more fully the whole universalist concept. But I don't know that I am going to be sold on the concept. I try not to look at things from traditional eyes of Old Thyme Church Bias. (though I am not perfect at this). But even through those eyes, I am unable to believe the concept is biblical.

SocietyVs said...

Danny, The universalist point of view has some really great things to offer and there focus is something to be admired, God is love, compassionate, forgiving, accepting, etc. I think the focus they take is the same focus I see in Jesus' original teachings.
That being said, I do not agree with everything they teach because I feel they ignore some biblical concepts for the sake of doing so. But I realize I don't have to accept everything they teach because that's real life...I am at this place of learning and they are at that place of learning.
But I will add this radical view of mine, they are my brothers and sisters in Christ and on this there can be no denying. They both follow and promote Christ, follow and promote love, and have some teachings that the regular church could really use. I'll send you a site to check out to see what they believe.

chris said...

I appreciate the outlook you have on the brotherhood of Christ, and I also believe there has to be some kind of punishment for sins. I just don't believe it is an eternal torture and damnation. I believe Gods grace will eventually triumph. I also believe that those that live according to Christ teachings will make "heaven" It is not about saying the sinners prayer it is about relationship with the father. Still, I admit there are areas that seem to point either way in scripture. But, I am not a literalist when it comes to that. I think many of the bible images are metaphorical not literal. But, if we profess Jesus as lord and savior then we are brothers and sisters no doubt!!

Jim Jordan said...

Hi society (I like saying that)
I would agree with Danny Kaye that it matters 100% when we deny Christ. As Chris says the most important thing is our relationship with our Father. Jesus is calling us to be sons of God (what we were created to be) and that says it all. A dog does not give birth to a lizard, and neither would a free spirit choose to have slaves for children. Without free will, that is all we are, slaves. The patriarchs of the OT wrestled often with God, and they were not condemned for it. As Thomas Merton put it, "God prefers an honest disagreement to a dishonest submission."

And "dishonest submission" is what we see all too often in mainline churches. God is slowly shutting the door on the Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Catholic, denominations. The fastest growing church model is that which says Place name followed by the word Church; remember the first churches were Antioch Church, the Church at Sardis, the Church at Ephesus, etc.

who doesn't want to choose Jesus once the 'real Jesus' is proclaimed.

You hit the nail on the head there.

BruceD said...

Do we think of our children as "slaves"?

Jim Jordan said...

Hi Bruce
I had said A dog does not give birth to a lizard, and neither would a free spirit choose to have slaves for children. Without free will, that is all we are, slaves.

Our children are not slaves as they are free to choose.

BruceD said...

My children might turn their back on me, they might ingore me as if I never existed, they might hate me and wish I had never brought them into the world, but they will always be my children, and regardless of what they think of me, I will always love them, and will always recognize the piece of me which is in them. They are not slaves to me, but they are mine.

BruceD said...

I might add...

My love for my children does not depend on their love for me.

If anything, I am a slave to them...

SocietyVs said...

Children as slaves, interesting...will have to remember this debate when I actually have a child. So I cannot speak as a father as of yet.
That being said, thanks Jim for coming over a writing a few words, I really appreciate that.
Bruce, again thanks for coming and speaking freely, nothing wrong with some food for thought.
I agree with both of of you in some small ways and hearing someone else's voice in the wilderness is just fine with me. What can I say about the debate, it was a worthy sidenote.