- - Endorsed
- - Indifferent
- - Contested
|The Nashville Statement
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
My complete profile...
Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
- Marc Heinrich
His posts are either funny or challenging. He is very friendly and nice.
- Rose Cole
[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
This post contains nothing that is of any use to me. What were you thinking? Anyway, it's probably the best I've read all day.
- David Kjos
Daniel, nicely done and much more original than Frank the Turk.
- Jonathan Moorhead
There are some people who are smart, deep, or funny. There are not very many people that are all 3. Daniel is one of those people. His opinion, insight and humor have kept me coming back to his blog since I first visited earlier this year.
- Carla Rolfe
| God's Grace In Salvation
There are two competing schools of thought in evangelical Christianity concerning the way in which a person is saved and subsequently sanctified.
Both camps understand (for the most part) that the damnation of sinners is something that must be earned by and through a willful rebellion against God's rule (i.e. sin). In other words, all are agreed that sinners are damned by their own sin and can only escape their inevitable damnation through the reconciliation God made possible in Christ. All agree that this reconciliation is appropriated through faith, and that salvation is not owed to anyone, but is supplied as an act of God's grace.
But the camps differ on where and when they see God's grace being applied in the process of salvation.
The division begins with how one understands texts such as 1 Timothy 2:3-4 and 2 Peter 3:9, and 1 John 2:1-2:
- This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.- 1 Timothy 2:3-4 [ESV]
- The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. - 2 Peter 3:9 [ESV]
- My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but (C)also for the sins of the whole world. - 1 John 2:1-2 [ESV]
The Heart of the Matter
One camp reads these verses and interprets them to mean that God wants to save everyone (i.e. every last man, woman and child) and therefore that God is trying to save everyone (primarily through the influence and ministry of existing believers). They recognize that God isn't actually saving everyone, but chalk up this failure to the unfortunate imperfections inherent in every Christian ministry. The idea is that if Christians were better Christians, then God's desire to save everyone would be being met by Christian obedience.
The other camp does not draw from these verses the conclusion that God is trying (and failing) to save everyone, believing that the scriptures elsewhere make such a conclusion intellectually untenable. They believe that sinners cannot and will not surrender the rule of their life to God of their own accord (i.e. repent), nor can sinners find it in themselves to trust God's promise of salvation (i.e. faith). In other words they believe that the act of salvation is an act of divine intervention from beginning to end rather than a divine provision that enables, but in no way ensures the production of, saving faith.
Rational versus Irrational
At first glance, it may seem, given only these three verses, that the latter camp is ignoring the content of the three quoted verses mentioned above. Given no other information, these verses would teach that God desires  to save all people,  for everyone to repent, and that  Christ is the propitiation for the whole world. For the first camp these thoughts are plainly stated, irrefutable truths that can only be denied by someone deceived enough to be unsatisfied with what they clearly say.
Yet those in the other camp would not describe themselves as denying plainly stated and irrefutable truths. They would say that they their interpretation of these verses is informed by both the immediate context of these verses, and by what is said elsewhere in the scriptures concerning these three thoughts.
Take Acts 17:26, for instance. There we read, "And He [God] made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place" [ESV]. Luke is describing Paul's address to the men at Athens concerning the unknown God whom the Athenians had set up an altar to. Paul is saying that the God of the Hebrews is that unknown God, and that He Himself determines where and when people are born.
Since God controls where and when a person is born, it follows that if God is really trying to save everyone He will not allow anyone to be born in a place or at a time when they would not be able to hear the gospel message. Although the text of Acts 17:26 itself isn't describing the way of salvation and has nothing to say about how many people God is trying to save, it does tell us something that (if we are inclined to an intellectually honest theology) necessarily causes us to conclude that God is not trying to save everyone, since He alone had determined that generation after generation of aboriginals would be born in North and South America (for example) having no opportunity to hear the gospel, and therefore being without hope of the salvation God Himself made it impossible for them to hear.
That leaves two possibilities. Either God did not intend to save these people, or God wasn't able to provide a way of salvation for them. Obviously God could have provided a means for them to be saved, but He did not, nor did He cause them to be born in an area or at a time when the gospel was known and being preached. It is therefore not a desire to do injury to the text of 1 Timothy 2:3-4 that causes the informed reader of scripture to conclude that God is not trying to save everyone - it is a desire to reconcile what is obvious and true (God does not intend to save everyone) with what that verse is saying.
In the same way this same camp would look to the story of Noah and ask themselves, was God trying to save everyone in Noah's day? Did God command Noah to make an ark that was big enough to provide for the possibility of all of mankind's repentance? If not, why not?
Was it just that God knew that no one else would repent, so He simply didn't bother making provision for them? If we tell ourselves that this was the reason, then we might say that the reason God did not cause generations to hear the gospel was because He knew that not one of them would believe, so he didn't try to save them. But that would go against this particular understanding of 1 Timothy 2:3-4. How can God be trying to save everyone, if he sees beforehand that they won't be saved, and so doesn't even given them the option? Was God really trying to save everyone from the flood?
The easiest way to save everyone from the flood would have been to cancel it, rather than build an ark big enough to save everyone. But God did neither. Perhaps God determined to send the flood, as a way of (hopefully) provoking some to repentance? But this assumes that men could repent, that God didn't know whether or not they would, and that God was not hardening their hearts against the possibility of repentance as the scriptures plainly tell us elsewhere, He had done with others. If God was trying to save those people (from the flood) wouldn't He have made provision for such a salvation? That fact that God made no such provision suggests that God was not trying to save them - He was judging them.
It isn't that those in the one camp hate the idea of God trying to save everyone. It is that they have clear examples in the scriptures that show God actively making it impossible for anyone to be saved except those whom He has chosen to save. Such evidence must be considered in understanding what is being said in 1 Timothy 2:3-4. If the character go God is immutable (does not change) - if there is no shadow of turning in Him - can we really believe that God is only now beginning to try and save everyone when previously it wasn't in His character?
Then there is the question of means - God saves through the preaching of the word.
In Isaiah 55:11, we read that God's word does not fail to do what He sends it out to do, rather it always accomplishes the thing God sent it out to accomplish. It follows that if God is trying to save everyone through the preaching of the word, then everyone who hears the gospel will be saved since God's word always achieves what it is sent out to do, and God must be sending it out to "try" and save everyone, right?
The words of our Lord leave no wiggle-room -we are forced to admit that if a person hears the gospel and is not saved by it either  God failed to do what he intended, making him both liar (for having said that His word succeeded in doing the thing He sent it out to do) and fallible (since He tried to do something but failed to do it), or  God is not actually trying to save every last person - in which case the gospel remains the power of God unto salvation but is intended to save only those whom God intends to save - for the rest the gospel will be foolishness.
Then there is the whole matter of God hardening people's hearts so that they will not repent and believe (Judas, Pharaoh, the sons of Eli, etc. etc. etc.) How can God be trying to save those whom He is actively hardening (to the point of damnation) against faith and repentance? What about the unforgivable sin? How can God be trying to save everyone if there is such a thing as a sin that cannot be forgiven? Is God trying to save those who are committing or have committed in the past an unforgivable sin? Think that through until the lights come on.
For the latter camp, it boils down to this: in order to believe that God is honestly trying to save everyone one would have to find a way to interpret those texts that show how impossible that conclusion is - and those in this camp have not found an intellectually honest way to do so.
Similarly, the camp that sees God as trying to save everyone must have an answer to what otherwise seems an irrational interpretation of the text of 1 Timothy 2:3-4.
Some (many) modern Christians, having been influenced by worldly philosophies such as Humanism and Relativism, etc. might suggest that both sides are right, or alternately that both sides are wrong - as if truth was unknowable, and the way to solve problems was to accept them as unresolvable riddles. No one can be ultimately proven wrong, so let's give everyone the benefit of the doubt and say that each party is as right in what they believe as the other and accept the problem as an unresolvable theological stalemate.
In this way any theological disagreement becomes a matter of doing or believing whatever seems right in your own eyes. Whatever choice you make between two arbitrary and equal opinions is a matter of personal choice, and no one can say that your choice is better or worse than anyone else's. What is true for you, may not be true for others - but who are you to say that your truth is better?
In other words, to settle matters of truth, the modern philosopher replaces the obstacle of objective truth with the malleable (and therefore meaningless) "subjective" truth. Now both parties can be right, and sweet harmony can ensue.
Only that's entirely bunk. Truth is not a riddle. It is (by its nature) entirely knowable. Wherever there are contrary interpretations of scripture, at least one (and perhaps both) interpretation(s) are demonstrably wrong.
The First Verse (in its context)
What we read in 1 Timothy 2:3,4 cannot be understood properly without reading the two verses that came before it (1 Timothy 2:1,2) :
When Paul uses "all people" in the verses immediately preceding 1 Timothy 2:3,4, he uses it to suggest to Timothy that he (Timothy, and by extension, those whom he pastored, and by a still greater extension - all who read this) shouldn't exclude certain classes of people from his prayers (in this case, he should pray for "all people" then clarifies that thought by identifying a group that may have been being excluded from Timothy's prayers: "kings and all who are in high positions".
- First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,
who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the
truth.- 1 Timothy 2:1-4 [ESV] (with verses 1,2 in bold text)
Why does Paul make that clarifying remark ("kings and all who are in high positions") after mentioning "all people"? Paul must have had reason to believe that Timothy was neglecting, or would be soon provoked to neglect praying for those "in high places". We don't know why Paul felt that way, but we can say with some certainty that Paul had a concern in that direction. The important thing is that if Paul took the time to clarify whom "all people" should include - we ought to understand that he was correcting the omission of one group of people, by saying "all people". He uses the expression then in the same sense we might use the idiom "all walks of life".
Some readers of the text will not accept a simple contextual notion like this, at least when such a notion is being used to disagree with their interpretation. Though one can read the text this way, one can also read it the other way, and since the other way agrees with their interpretation, they not only read it the other way, but employ a misplaced piety to reject any other way of reading the text.
But it isn't that those who reject the notion that God want to save everyone reject this notion because they are so hung up on their settled opinion that they willingly ignore what is obvious. These are not imagining some that there are loop holes in order to deny what is "plain and obvious". It is rather that they refuse to ignore the purpose Paul employs "all people" to mean in this passage. Here Paul is saying that you should pray for all kinds of people - including those in high places. He doesn't explicitly say it this way, but he doesn't need to be explicit either since that is the obvious meaning in the text. Since the notion that God is trying to save everyone is untenable on the grounds of what the scriptures say elsewhere, a reader can only conclude that this verse is teaching that God wants to save everyone if that person's God is a failure and a liar. If God is no liar, and does not change, and cannot fail - this passage can only be saying what the context suggests - that we shouldn't pray just for common folk, but for all folk because God wants to save all kinds of people, and not just common people.
The Second Verse
The text of 2 Peter 3:9 makes more sense when you read verse 8 along with it:
Peter is saying, don't miss this fact - God is patient towards you all doesn't wish for any of you to perish but for all of you to reach repentance. Unfortunately the modern English convention of using "you" for both the second person singular and second person plural hides a little of the context from uninformed reader. The "you" in the text is in the second person plural (y'all or "you all"). Again we have no reason to imagine that Paul is saying that God desires everyone in the world to repent if that were so, how could God harden anyone's heart? God is not willing for any of those to whom he originally sent this letter (i.e. ...those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ (c.f. 2 Peter 1:1) - in other words for any Christians) to perish, but rather that they (Christians) should reach repentance.
- But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. - 2 Peter 3:8,9 [ESV]
The Third Verse
In the same way, when John (c.f. 1 John 2:2) describes Christ as the propitiation for the sins of the whole world, the latter camp asks whether John intends to say that Jesus made atonement for everyone. John begins the epistle by comparing those who walk in darkness and those who walk in light - a picturesque way of describing those who are deceived by a false doctrine (walking in darkness) and those who adhere to the Apostolic teachings (those who walk in the light). Those who say they have no sin (those who walk in darkness) and those who confess their sin and are being forgiven their sins and cleansed from all unrighteousness (those who walk in the light).
Even those who don't know what Docetism is will recognize that in 1 John the Apostle is defending the notion that Jesus came in the flesh. It is good to note that the author of Hebrews, in defending against the same heresy points out that in order to make propitiation Jesus had to come in the flesh:
Pay attention to how John's thoughts progress from 1 John 1:5 to 1 John 2:6. :
- Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.- Hebrews 2:14-17 [ESV]
Since the blood of Christ is what makes atonement (i.e. propitiates) for the believer we can see from the progression of John's thoughts that he is making a distinction between those who are propitiated by the blood of Christ and those who are not. The propitiating blood of Christ is applied to, and thereby washes clean, those who walk in the light. Those who walk in the darkness are not being washed by the blood, that is, they are not being propitiated. We can readily deduce from what John says here that the heresy he is addressing is one that denies the propitiating necessity of Christ's death. If Jesus didn't come in the flesh, he certainly couldn't have died - he may have seemed to live and die, but didn't, and so the whole propitiating blood of Christ thing is moot.
- This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. - 1 John :5-10 [ESV]
- My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. - 1 John 2:1-6 [ESV]
John is saying that anyone who denies that Christ came in the flesh, and died a real, propitiating death, is deceived. That Christians are cleansed from all unrighteousness by the death of Christ (as an aside, the "blood of Christ" here is a metonymy for the death of Christ. c.f. Leviticus 17:11 - For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.) John is defending an orthodox understanding of the atonement when he describes the blood of Christ cleansing Christians from all unrighteousness. To deny sin, is to make an atoning propitiation entirely unnecessary. John's argument then is that this heresy is a heresy because it denies the necessity of Christ's death.
The point is, that by the time we get to 1 John 2:2, John has already tied propitiation through the blood of Christ's to Christians alone, and consequently denied it to those who walk in darkness (i.e. those who are not genuine Christians). When John says, He [i.e. Christ] is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world - he cannot mean that Jesus propitiation for everyone in the world, since he has already argued that Christ had to come in the flesh in order to make an atoning propitiation (by His necessary death) for those who being cleansed of all unrighteousness thereby - i.e. Christians).
Either John is saying that Jesus is not only the propitiation for himself, those with him, and those he writes to, but also for Christians everywhere in the world, or John is saying that Jesus is not only the propitiation for their church, but for every genuine church in the world. The idea being in either case, that genuine Christianity holds Christ as having come in the flesh, and subsequently died in that flesh in order that His propitiating death could cleanse believers from all their unrighteousness - that this understanding of propitiation is not a truth for John's friends alone, but for all Christianity - that to deny this is to deny the truth.
However you want to slice it, when John says, " if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship
with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all
sin" he applies the cleansing death of Christ (which makes atonement/propitiation for us) to believers only - making the notion of a universal atonement/propitiation as impossible as it is untenable.
The bottom line is that the camp that denies that God is trying to save everyone doesn't ignore these verses or re-interpret them in a way that favors their opinion - it simply looks at the verses in their context and recognizes that in order for them to mean what the other camp suggests, they would have to contradict themselves in the context from which they were pulled.
Where does Grace come in: Camp One?
If God is trying to save everyone, then His grace in salvation is not directed at individuals, but rather is directed at all of humanity. He doesn't choose to show grace to one person and deny that same grace to another since that would be unfair! He isn't obliged to save anyone, so that sending His Son to be the Saviour of any person who has the opportunity to hear the gospel, and the good sense to appeal to Christ for salvation is itself the "grace" intended in Ephesians 2:8, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God".
In other words a we saved by producing within ourselves a faith in answer to the grace that God has shown in providing a way of salvation through Christ.
Where does Grace come in: Camp Two?
Romans 3:10b-11 reads this way, "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God." [ESV]. In other words, even if God really did supply a Savior, and leave it up to us to believe, Paul tells us in no uncertain language that no one on earth would. One might conclude that king David, whom Paul is paraphrasing (c.f. Psalm 14:1-3), was using hyperbole when he said that no one seeks after the Lord - since David himself was seeking the Lord. But that isn't how Paul understands the verse, and our a priori presumption is that Paul's interpretation and usage is necessarily correct. Paul's argument in the context is that every person is a sinner without exception -and Paul is quoting King David to show that this is not some new invention of His, but a truth that has been known and expressed for hundreds of years (by that time). If King David was speaking in absolutes, as Paul shows that he was, then it follows that no one on earth seeks the Lord.
If the bible says that no one seeks the Lord, ...how does anyone seek the Lord? This is where the second camp sees God's grace. The only way a sinner can appropriate a spiritual truth (such as the gospel) is by the Holy Spirit making that truth comprehensible, and introducing into the one who receive Christ the ability to do so. This "quickening" produces faith without necessarily preceding it. In other words, the production of faith in the life of a sinner is the act of grace mentioned by Paul in Ephesians 2:8, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God".
The "Grace" Difference
In the one camp God's grace is an impersonal provision for salvation offered through Christ: a "possibility" given to everyone (well, at least to everyone whom God allows to be born in a country where the gospel is available). In the other camp God's graciously gives the gifts of repentance and faith to those whom He has determined to show mercy, such that no one is owed grace, and God does not give grace to everyone.
The Humanistic Understanding of Righteousness
In Matthew 20 we read the parable of the labourers in the vineyard. The owner of a vineyard gathers workers one morning to work that day and agrees at the time to pay them what is right. Throughout the day he hires more and more workers, and at the end of the day he pays them all beginning with those who worked the least. These he (over) pays, giving them a full day's wage rather than a sum proportionate to the time they worked. When he pays those who worked all day the same amount, they grumble against him because they weren't similarly over paid, but were paid only what they had earned.
The labourers who felt they should be paid more had a wrong-headed understanding of what was right. The owner was not obligated to be generous to them just because he had previously been generous with others.
That sense of entitlement that stirs in us when someone else receives charity is sinful. If I have three five dollar bills in my pocket and see three beggars begging for money, and I am moved in my heart to be generous I do no wrong in giving all $15 to one of the beggars - even if I could have given $5 to each instead. It is my money, and I do no wrong in giving it to whom I will. The other beggars are no worse for my generosity, because I have done them no harm or wrong. If they feel that I should have been "fair" and given my money away in such a way that they should benefit from it - they are being greedy.
In other words, it is a corrupt understanding of righteousness that turns grace into an obligation. Grace cannot be obligatory - you cannot "owe" someone grace, because you gave it to someone else.
Humanism says that it is "unfair" to give to one unless you give the same to all. Those whose morals are by this philosophy will have a hard time with the parable of the labourers in the vineyard because they will see the owner as being unfair, and the labourers as being slighted, even though the bible says that the owner was under no obligation, and that the labourers were soured by their own unrighteous greed.
The Nature of Grace
Grace isn't some power or energy as though God zaps people with "grace" power or anything like that.
It is likewise not an impersonal provision as though God has dumped a one-time pile of grace somewhere intending for anyone and everyone to use it (or not). The grace of God is expressed in His personally gifting you with something you have not earned and cannot produce for yourself: saving faith in Christ.
God is not obligated to give everyone saving faith. If no one seeks God and everyone is damned on account of their unrighteousness (which is exactly what Paul describes in Romans 3 quoted above) and God decides to show grace to one sinner by drawing that sinner to Christ, and producing in that sinner the faith by which that sinner can appropriate the atoning propitiation found in Christ's death, then God is under no obligation whatsoever to give grace to (i.e. produce saving faith in) anyone else.
In other words, if God chooses give up the life of Christ in order to redeem the life of one undeserving sinner, this inexpressible act of grace directed at the sinner who is being redeemed does not obligate God to do the same for anyone else. His generosity to one does not mean He must be equally generous to all - anyone who thinks so is blinded by greed - not the greed of many but the avarice of one who feels entitled to something they haven't earned by virtue of seeing grace given to another equally undeserving sinner.
Unless a person can understand that grace is not grace the moment it is owed to you; that is, unless a person can understand that when God gives grace to one, He is offering no slight to anyone else - then one will never understand grace properly, and one's understanding of the gospel will always reflect an inescapable "works" bias.
God's grace is not impersonal - it is personal.
God does not choose to try and save everyone - He has chosen every individual whom He sent His Son to save -- and every last one of them will be saved. These are the remnant of the world. The rest - those for whom judgment is reserved, God is not trying to save, nor did He send Jesus to save them. Jesus came for His bride - the elect of God, and only for His bride.
The point of the gospel is not to try and save as many people as possible, the point of the gospel is save the bride of Christ. We don't know who the elect are, so we preach the gospel to everyone knowing that only those whom God has elected will be quickened by it into a genuine, saving faith.
We don't present the gospel to people as though we were selling a better afterlife for the low, low price of faith. We don't set Jesus before sinners as one who has "died for their sins" - instead we place the Lord before sinners as their only hope for salvation from their sins, promising them with full authority and confident certainty that -if- they genuinely repent of their sins and come to Christ in faith, they --will-- be saved. We don't need to explain to them that it is impossible for them (or anyone else) to come to Christ apart from God's grace.
Having said all that...
Immature believers (i.e. those who are genuine in their faith, but are failing to progress very far in their sanctification) once they fall into one camp or the other, tend to immerse themselves in the shared opinion of their camp. They tend to ridicule those who contend against their chosen view, and high-five those who agree with them, scratching each others theological itches, as it were - to no good purpose except to cement themselves in what they believe - and this is true regardless of which side of the fence you're sitting on.
The point of this post isn't to produce amens and high-fives from those who are in my camp, nor is it to stir up the scorn and ridicule of those who disagree with me. I intend only to state what I see in the scriptures and let the Lord use that as He sees fit.
If God is trying to save everyone, He is failing to do so, and He is a liar, because He said that His word would not return to Him without succeeding in what He sent it out to do. He could have caused people to be born where the gospel was known, but chose instead to have generation after generation of North and South Americans go to hell without every having heard the gospel - and had God been honestly trying to save them no power in creation could deny Him. So either God is an [a] impotent weakling who cannot do what he intends, or He is [b] a liar who says He wants to save everyone, but chooses instead to not only make it impossible for whole nations and generations to be saved - but even hardened in the past (and continues to harden in the present) certain sinners so that they cannot be saved. The only other alternative is that God is actually sovereign in salvation, even as the scriptures teach.
I can't believe in that god, because I don't see him in the scriptures. The God I see succeeds in every endeavor and cannot be thwarted in anything He does. Everyone my God wants to save, He does save, and the fact that He chose them in eternity does not cause me to imagine that He is unjust - He shows mercy upon whom He chooses to show mercy. He doesn't owe any sinner mercy - He owes them justice.
My God created a perfect reality knowing that it would corrupt itself through Adam, planning beforehand to redeem for Himself a remnant in Christ - not some random remnant, but those souls whom He personally chose to redeem before ever this world was created. My God is not bound in time, He created time, created each and every moment in creation from its beginning to its end all in the same act of creation. He exists apart from this creation, apart from time itself --being utterly alien to it, being aware of every moment and every place that has been and will ever be. He can do that because He does not dwell in time and space but outside of both in eternity --that is where my God dwells. He sees all of time and space in the same glance - the whole of creation -- the completed reality-- from His perch (as it were( in eternity. Time rolls on for those creatures (like ourselves) who are bound to both time and space, but God is not a creature like us - He is outside of time and space.
My God is the only God, there is no other god or gods beside him. Three personalities express that singular divinity which is God: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Incomprehensible. Alien. Holy, holy, holy. That is my God. He does not fail, He does not "try", He cannot err.
His glory cannot be even remotely comprehended, but is still expressed (however veiled) in the thought that it would have been an injustice had creation not been allowed to corrupt itself - for the full expression of His glory required the fall in order that the glory of God may be more fully expressed in the redemption of His creation. That is my God. He is beauty without end - an eternity of eternal glories. Even to describe Him thus is but to insult (by way of gross understatement) - the majesty of His glory.
I can't imagine this God intending to save everyone yet failing to do so.
Let me put it this way - God wouldn't be God if He wasn't clever enough to find a way to unfailingly cause a person to believe in Him without having to "force" that person to do so. If God can't do that, He isn't God.
I have had this conversation with God - I will believe whatever you [God] have said, and I will not stand in judgment over it --even if it is something that contradicts what I think is true.
The moment I settled that matter in my heart, the bible lost every contradiction, and became as open and plain to me as could be. Yet I understand that when we fail to see a truth for what it is in the scriptures it isn't because we are stupid, it is because we are blind. Maybe we are blind because we have had the veil of humanism over our eyes since the cradle. Maybe we are blind because we want the bible to say something that pleases us - whatever the case - rejoice, because our Saviour can open the eyes of the blind.
posted by Daniel @