Sunday, October 18, 2009

God cannot? or God will not?

Under all the controversial Greek words and different perceptions on key Bible texts, I really feel the universal salvation debate comes down to this; If God does not save all humanity, it is because He either cannot...or will not. All the opposing arguments that can be raised against Ultimate Reconciliation, boil down to one of those two morbid conclusions. And it seems to me that both conclusions are riddled with problems even just within themselves.

God cannot?
This is the conclusion we must come to, if the Arminians are correct(this is where most of mainstream theology falls). Because they propose that although God would really like all peoples to be saved, he cannot execute it because of "free" will. This is the more "friendly" conclusion of the two, since it paints God as sortof a hopeless romantic, rather than a big-fat-meanie-face. Yet I find it poses God as either very weak, or very in lack of priority.

In this view, He seems very weak because there is a force(ie human "free" will and or Satan) that can overcome His plans against His will, and for all eternity none the less. Either that, or He seems very in lack of priority because (as I stated in last weeks blog) He views human "free" will as the most sacrosanct thing in all the universe, even in the case of it doing irreparable destruction to ourselves. And as I said before, that would not be a demonstration of ultimate love, but a demonstration of ultimate apathy for His very own creations.

If we boil the "God cannot" theology down even father, we continue to find the same apathy. Because even though God isnt barring anyone from accepting his grace, He already knows that most will never accept or benefit from it. But if God knew that all humankind could not be saved(despite His desire to) that means He brought billions upon billions of people into existence, knowing that most would be forever doomed! You can pawn it on "free" will and the Devil all day long, but the bare bones of it is that He knew, yet still made...which seems no more responsible than two minimum-wage-earning adults, purposefully having more kids than their salary can obviously support...then blaming most the kids for their starvation, instead of themselves and their bad planning. I would grandly hope God is not that ridiculously stupid.

Some will argue that perhaps God does not actually know the future, or at least does not know who will be saved when all is said and done(one such idea is open theism). That would seemingly get God off-the-hook, except that that would mean God just took a huge gamble with the eternal destinies of mankind. God created humanity, and didnt stop its condemnation, knowing at least that the outcome could be less than all souls finding redemption. This poses God both as a cosmic gambler and a haphazard, inept creator...none of which can I believe God to be.

God will not?
This is the conclusion we must come to, if the Calvinists are correct. They propose that God will save all that He so desires(which is the "elect"), but God simply does not desire to save all people. He could save all, if He wanted, but He doesnt want to...thus He will not. So yet again were presented with the cosmic gambler, who rolls a big die in the sky on who He will love and who He will not. If youre lucky, God will lavish the knowledge of the truth to you and give you eternal paradise! But if youre not so lucky, you will become one of Gods eternal stress balls.

I find this view, deeply more disturbing. Partly because it doesnt have the human "free" will scapegoat to clean Gods hands of our big sin mess(which it wouldnt anyway, but I digress). But mostly because it means that God purposefully created people that He not only knew wouldnt be saved, but didnt want to save either and finds glory in their everlasting torture. God has the ability to cure all his offspring(through Christ), but chooses only some while disowning the rest and leaving them to die. And I cant help but ask, would that even be a god you could love with all of your heart? Many calvinists or reformed people claim so, but I honestly dont think I could.

In conclusion, this is the question I ultimately came to before knowing about universalism, and I think it applies to both the Arminian and Calvinist view: Why would God even create a single, precious soul, allow them to be born into sin and yet not want to rescue them or know he wouldn't be able to? If you do not believe in ultimate reconciliation, I really challenge you to chew on that question this week.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Choice, and its various shades of grey

Choice. Its a word you often find in Christian discussion, commonly used to articulate beliefs such as "free" will. Many Christians like to use it in attempt to sort of cleanse God's hands of any responsibility, regarding His creation and their deeds(particularly choices that determine ones afterlife destination). They may use it in a sentence like "Well God loves everyone, but He loves them so much that He gives them a free will choice!" or "God nor anyone else causes people to do bad things, they choose themselves to do bad things! He wants them to do good, but its their choice!"

And of course that sounds all warm and fuzzy, and seems like a simple enough concept to grasp. I certainly accepted it for many years. But once I really dived into some of the variables surrounding "choice", I found that it appeared to lose its supposed "black and white" simplicity, and gain various shades of grey.

Lack of Information
One of those shades of grey, is lack of information about the very choices being made. For example, I typically love Asian food, so I may be given the chance by some friends to try sushi for the first time. Lets say however, that I am unaware and uninformed that sushi has raw fish in it which has a higher chance of food-borne illness...and lucky me ends up getting some sort of stomach virus from it. Would it therefore be logical to say I "chose" to have a stomach virus by eating sushi? Probably not, since no one even bothered to inform me on the contents of sushi or the risks. You could say that I probably should have investigated a bit further on the food before hand, which may be true...but regardless is not rational to say that I chose to have the stomach virus, being that the possible result was unknown to me.

In the same way, I don't think its fair to make the deduction that people choose Hell and separation from God, merely because they chose to eat the "sushi" in life(aka sin). People with lack of information on the consequences of sin, do not choose the consequences themselves; they chose the sin in ignorance.

Going back to my sushi analogy, if I eat the sushi and contract a virus from it, what is the likely-hood that I'm going to eat sushi again? Probably not very high. If I do, I can certainly tell you it would eventually lose all appeal to me; if getting sick was a constant result of me eating it. Hindsight and often regret is the result of many of our choices in life, but thankfully we have the capability to learn from them(even if that takes a long while, haha). Thus, it seems like an enormous assumption for mainstream Christianity to say that most of human kind will never learn from their mistakes (in choosing something other than God), and will continue their unrelenting rebellion for all time. I personally cant accept that as a reasonable conclusion to make, especially in light of verses such as Philippians 2:10-11,
"in order that in the Name of JESUS every knee should bow, of beings in Heaven, of those on the earth, and of those in the underworld(wouldn't that be "Hell"),
and that
every tongue should confess that JESUS CHRIST is LORD, to the glory of God the Father."

I don't know about you, but the picture of everything in the universe bowing and confessing to Jesus...just doesn't scream "unending rebellion against God" to me. Obviously there must come a point where, in hindsight, everyone and everything realizes and confirms that Jesus is LORD!

This is a big one. If someone tells me that a crappy looking bridge is safe to cross, can I merely choose to believe them without any confirming evidence? If its breaking apart in certain areas and looks extremely old, chances are I'm not going to personally see the reason to believe that it is safe. Try as I might to believe this person, something needs to cause me to believe that the bridge isn't going to give way and let me fall to my death, after taking 5 steps across it.


That belief isn't something I can just "drum-up" out of thin air and choose to have, it is caused into existence by something else. That something else could be watching other people cross that bridge and not die, or perhaps reading the results of a safety inspection regarding the bridge. So its not a matter of whether I chose to believe the bridge is safe, but whether something convinces me that the bridge is safe...and therefore my belief in the bridge is born.

On a more solemn note, I remember reading something very disturbing once. It said that above the doors to the gas chambers the Nazis put Jews in, read "Christ killers". Regardless of any pre-conceived notions those Jews had about the person of Jesus, do you think reading that had a positive effect on what they thought of this Christ and those that supposedly claimed to do His "work"? Do you think they were any more likely to accept Jesus into their heart in their last moments after reading that? No, of course not. The disgusting actions of Hitler and the Nazis, presented those Jews with a false representation of Christ and His followers...thus marring and probably destroying any hope of those people coming to Christ before they died. And it isn't just the Nazis who have presented people with a false representation of Christ; its happened with the KKK,the Westboro Baptists(God hates fags), "Turn or burn" preachers, Catholic priests molesting children, and even some of the most well-meaning Christians who present God as an ever angry, unsatisfied deity.
Misrepresentation and misinterpretation on who God is and how He views us, radically impacts our Earthly choices to serve and obey him. It also radically impacts whether a love for God is fostered within us. If I'm a Jew hearing about that "Christ killers" story, its very likely that I'm going to think the Christian view of God is a very-antisemitic and demented sort of God... I wouldn't love him or want to obey him based upon that false interpretation.

Choice shouldn't overshadow safety

Its really kind of puzzling to me when I hear other Christians say,
"God loves us SO much, and respects our ability to choose SO much, that He will let people rot and writhe in Hell eternally if they so choose."
As if God letting us toss and scream in our own sin forever, was somehow an ultimate demonstration of true love. If God truly loves anyone, I would sincerely hope that His respect for our choices would never be placed above His will for our eternal safety.

If I had a son who was drowning in the ocean, and I had the means to save him, I somehow doubt it would matter to me if he screamed "NO!!!". My love for his life and well being would be greater than whatever ignorance he was undergoing to think that he can either save himself or that dieing would be better. In the same way, I think there comes a point where God values our eternal well being above our choices. For him to do otherwise, would speak of a far more disturbing evil than the Christian "no-no" of God interfering with our choices.

There are really countless other variables I could bring up(and have in some blogs) that constantly effect our choices both big and small. Choice is not some black and white, free of influence decision, as Christianity would like to paint it. And I truly believe that God is smart enough to realize that as well.