Saturday, July 21, 2012

What I Believe About Salvation

1. Salvation is not just the movement from death to life, but it is the state of living in God's life.

2. God made humanity as gaping holes of continuous need. Not only do we need food, water, sleep, clothing, hygiene, and health, but we also need a social context, security, contentment, purpose, respect and joy. Salvation is meeting all these needs, for all people at all times. Salvation is not primarily spiritual.

3. The means of salvation is Jesus. Not Christianity, not the Bible, not churches, not worship, not benevolence programs, not politics, not theology. The Jesus of real salvation heals the sick, feeds the hungry, comforts the outcast, teaches the ignorant, forgives the sinner, and brings all not only to God, but to God's power to enact salvation, not someday, but now.

4. Jesus uses the kingdom and the Spirit as the primary tools of salvation. The Kingdom is the realm in which Jesus alone is the Ruler, but is a community where all follow Jesus as Lord. This community uses all their resources to enact salvation to as many people as possible, but especially for those who recognize their need of salvation. The Spirit is the power of God to meet the needs of those who call upon Jesus.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Simply Irresistible

According to Calvinism, God's choice is irrevocable.  If you are chosen, no one can say you are not.  No matter what you do or who you seem to be, God's choice is solid, as real as a mountain, as just as immovable.  Even more.

And this is true even if you yourself don't choose it.  God chooses you, you do not necessarily choose Him.  God is the actor, we are the recipient. And if we try to refuse God, it doesn't matter.  God's choice is from the beginning of the world, and He will hunt you down like the Hound of Heaven He is.  This is known as irresistible grace.  God is going to bless you, if you are chosen, like it or not.  After all, He's bigger than we are.

It is true, Scripturally, that it is God who is the actor and that He is the initiator/seducer in our romance with Him.  Jesus said, "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out." and more specifically, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.". (John 6:44, 37)  

The proof texts for God's choice being irresistible are these: 

"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand." (John 10:27-29)

"For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, "FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED." But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."  (Rom 8:29-39)

The Romans 8 passage has it all: God's choice, God's grace, and the fact that no one can take that choice away.

However, in both passages, the point is not that no one can resist what God chooses, like it or not, but that no one can claim that God's choice is null and void.  The context in Romans 8 is one of persecution.  Religious zealots may claim that some-- namely Gentiles-- are not chosen of God, and that they deserve to be punished and shamed because of their claim to be of God.  However, Paul is saying that no one can take God's choice away.  The choice is indicated by the Spirit of God (as said earlier in the chapter) and no one can claim otherwise, and punishment or shame will not take that away.

But can one chose to reject God's call?  That is certainly shown in Scripture:

"I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne." (Revelation 3:15-21)

This passage is the letter to the church of Laodicea.  They are of the church, and so believers, but Jesus claims that they are on the verge of being "spit out" because of their shame.  Jesus begs them to open the door to him, and those who "overcome" their own sin will be in the kingdom of God.  But those who do not chose this way will be rejected.  It's all about choice.

In Hebrews there's a more interesting passage: 

In the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.  (Hebrews 6:4-6)

Not only can one who, by all accounts, has been saved fall away, but they cannot come back!  

In general, given the focus of repentance as being a presupposition to living a life in the kingdom, I'd say that God's choice is essential, but so is our own.  God's choice and our choice works together to bring God's people together into one nation.

What is the Nature of God?

The quick theological answer about the nature of God takes us through a quick tour of the “omnis”:
  •       Omnipotent: God is all powerful
  •       Omnipresent: God is in all places
  •       Omniscient: God knows all things
  •       Eternal: God is timeless

Biblically, I have questions about all of these statements.  But the fact is, biblically, to say that the nature of God is his being or essence is to miss the point.  That is a metaphysical answer to the question, not a biblical one.

There is one statement about the nature of God that is repeated many times in Scripture, and yet it is rarely quoted, or certainly  not quoted as often as the omnis.  The best answer to “what is the nature of God?” is:

Yahweh, Yahweh God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in merciful faithfulness and truth, who keeps merciful faithfulness for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin, yet he will not leave the guilty unpunished.”  Exodus 34:6-7

This statement, in whole or part, is repeated at least 12 times in the OT alone*.  It is the basic creed of who God is, and is the basis for the statement “God is love” and is the basis for the NT statements which say that we, as God’s children, should imitate God (Luke 6:35-36; Eph 5:1).

Thus, we should focus on God being:
  •      Compassionate: One who understands and desires to help the weak.
  •      Gracious: One who gives of Himself to those in need
  •      Slow to anger: Doesn’t instantly respond to offenses, but takes time to consider a proper response
  •      Abounding in merciful faithfulness:  When he keeps his promises, he does it for the benefit of those he is blessing
  •      Abounding in truth: Doesn’t lie, doesn’t break his promises
  •      Forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin: Is ready to cleanse the heart, mind and any debt incurred from any sin, real, ritual or imagined.
  •      Will not leave the guilty unpunished:  Forgiveness is for the repentant, not for those who continue to purposely hurt others.

This is the true nature of God, and the basis of all biblical truth.

*Passages that are a reference to Exodus 34:
  II Chronicles 30:9; Nehemiah 9:17, 31; Psalm 86:15; Psalm 103:8; Psalm 111:4; Psalm 112:4; Psalm 116:5; Psalm 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2; Nahum 1:3