God in Venn Diagrams

God in Venn Diagrams

Video blog today!  Click the pic to view…

  • Mary Vanderplas August 4, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    I agree that in Christ God has acted definitively to defeat sin and death and that at the end of history God will finally triumph over all of the powers of evil, restoring and renewing creation. I agree, too, that God’s work of renewal and restoration is cosmic in scope, encompassing the whole creation. I don’t agree, though, that God’s act in Christ and his intention for creation necessarily mean that every person will be saved in the end. I still can’t rule out the possibility that God will allow those who have turned away from him to live in self-chosen alienation. As I’ve said before, I also can’t rule out that God, in his great mercy and desire that all be saved, may act in the end to change the hearts of those who are against him so that they turn to Christ in repentance and faith. And I certainly don’t think that any person can be excluded from the possibility of salvation. The reason is that the One who will come to judge is the One who in dying on the cross took upon himself the judgment of God for the sins of the whole world. Nevertheless, though, I can’t say unequivocally that every person will be saved. As I’ve noted before, there are as many texts that speak of final judgment and separation as there are ones that speak of the inclusiveness of ultimate salvation. By simply ignoring the judgment texts and focusing only on texts that suggest universal salvation, you present a biased perspective that doesn’t do justice to the totality of the biblical witness.

    Regarding the Old Testament texts you cite, I don’t think that either one can be legitimately used to support universalism. In the case of Psalm 86:9, it at most supports a kind of internationalism, envisioning the nations responding to Yahweh’s rule by willingly joining in praising Yahweh. However, both of the texts are part of Israel’s articulation of how the nations were related to Yahweh (under his governance and obliged to accept his rule), not predictions of a time when all the nations and peoples of the world would be included in the community of Yahweh-worshipers. In the case of the Zephaniah text, far from supporting universal salvation, the picture is one of divine judgment against the nations for failing to obey the command of Yahweh to whom they were accountable as subjects.

    I agree that the Colossians text presents a grand vision of all creation under the lordship of Christ and the object of his reconciling work. I don’t agree, though, that the part about “the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints” refers to anything other than the fact that the gospel, which previously had been concealed, has now been made known among the nations (Gentiles). There is no suggestion here that God had in mind only a select group to receive his revelation, nor is there any hint that this mystery will be revealed successively through different ages in history. While God may have a plan to bring unbelievers to him at the end, I don’t agree that this text refers to a plan that will be implemented in successive stages or ages. I do agree that we (believers) are called to share in the work of the gospel, which, as the text spells out, involves proclaiming the message of Christ, along with admonishing and teaching toward the goal of developing spiritually mature believers.

    One doesn’t have to judge God’s work “sloppy and incomplete” simply because not everyone is included in the circle of those who believe and are assured a place in glory. God has acted in Christ definitively to conquer sin and death; and in his infinite wisdom and abounding love God for all may yet act to bring every lost one of his children home. In the meantime, it is incumbent upon us who have been given the grace to respond to his gift to announce God’s great salvation and to share his love, trusting the Holy Spirit to do the rest.

    I don’t agree with your take on the 1 Corinthians text. Again, there is no suggestion here of successive stages, except for Christ being first, followed by the rest at his coming. The emphasis is on Christ’s resurrection as the prelude to the resurrection of all at the end of history and the final victory of God. I agree that the text is suffused with hope, but the focus is the final triumph of God over the last enemy, death, and not a scheme by which those who are made privy to the secret are made alive in Christ.

    I like the Venn diagram format a lot. In spite of the fact that I disagree with some of the content, I think the presentation is well-done.

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