The Light of Scrutiny

Posted: 13th August 2011 by admin in Uncategorized
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Have you ever driven down the road to see someone honking and pointing at your car?  That happened to me the other night.  I stopped and looked my car over, expecting a flat tire or smoke or some other major problem.  It turns out that I forgot to turn on the headlights.  Suppose I were to get angry that some stranger had the audacity to point out a flaw in my driving methods instead of realizing that the stranger was only trying to help me?  What if I was so hung up on the fact that someone was scrutinizing me or my car, that I kept driving?  I could have caused an accident.  People could have been injured.  Yet this is exactly what happens when I try to discuss belief-opposing information with fundamentalists.  They are so caught up in the idea that I am challenging centuries of cherished beliefs that they don’t stop to consider there could be a genuine problem that needs to be addressed.  They are so accustomed to driving around in the dark and so entrenched in the idea that they have already got all the answers, that they flat out refuse to allow any formal, public consideration of opposing views to take place within the church walls.  It’s a damn shame.  Yes, I said damn.  If you are hung up on that, then this blog likely applies to you.

If there were cable TV in the pre-Reformation days, the Roman Catholic Church infomercial would look very much like those we see in religious programming now, except that instead of promising prosperity and healing to generous donors, the infomercial would be peddling indulgences, that is, little publications that declare ”As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs” as if any human being has the right or ability to make such an arrangement.  The implication here is that if one does not pay up, then he or she is inadvertently responsible for the torment of a loved one.  The shepherds and sheep in modern religious institutions would like to think they’ve moved past all that archaic and erroneous teaching – that Christians nowadays are too enlightened and reformed to fall into such blatant corruption.  During the heyday of indulgences, the ruling church/government alliance felt very threatened when pamphlets which highlighted corruption in the church became widely distributed, with the help of the newly invented printing press.  Reformers were shunned, persecuted, called heretics, and sometimes put to death, nevertheless, the message spread faster than the church could suppress it.  In response, the church/government created a major advertising and preaching campaign against the “new heresies”, the illegal 95 Theses, and similar writings.
Readers may wonder why I bring up all of this old history – the reason is that history is repeating itself.  It may be very difficult for someone whose habits and worldview revolve around a religious organization’s model of thinking and weekly activities to see the difference between fundamentalist criticism of Christian Universalism and Christian Universalist’s criticism of fundamentalism.  The nearly perfect analogy is the early Reformation days between Protestant Reformers and the Roman Catholic System.  I say “nearly perfect” because herein lies the flaw – the institutional church, at least here in the USA, does not have the power to put people to death or physically assault them for bucking the system.

When the Reformers pointed out the ways in which the religious leaders were fighting dirty, they were criticized for speaking against the church. Today, this can be compared to a modern-day Reformer being treated badly for pointing out that there are mistranslations as well as marginal misinformation in almost all modern study Bibles, and consequently, erroneous teachings being passed from one generation to the next.   What is wrong with taking the time to examine these claims?  I would likely be less convinced that the system is corrupt if the system included a platform for scrutiny.  But it doesn’t.  Anyone who scrutinizes is simply pushed out and considered “other”.

Thankfully, God is picking up where He left off during the Reformation.  One tiny step in the right direction might not seem terribly important until one continues in that direction for hundreds of miles. The new wine simply cannot be contained by the old wineskin. Does this mean I think everyone who shows up at church every week is an old wineskin? No. Does this mean I think that everyone in the religious system is as corrupt as the Roman Catholic church was in the pre-Reformation days? No.

I have a problem with the system itself. It perpetuates a line of reasoning that perpetuates a line of reasoning.  In other words, it is a system that allows for little if any spiritual imagination, as if we already have all the answers we are ever going to possess, as if there is nothing new to discover, no course corrections to be made, no errors to be weeded out of our thinking.  If I have a problem with individuals within the system, it is only with those leaders whose decisions empower the system to suppress the knowledge of truth. And even then, I don’t consider these people as the enemy as much as I consider them victims of the system.  They are used, changed, and corrupted by it.

No one has a right to be the spiritual police over anyone else.  That’s why you see so many Christian Universalists exiting the system – because it is extremely difficult for us to be who God created us to be in that atmosphere.  For example, read for yourselfthe way the Roman Catholic church responded to Martin Luther and those in agreement with his observations:

“those who are filled with foolishness”

“foxes have arisen seeking to destroy the vineyard”

“lying teachers are rising, introducing ruinous sects”

“They have bitter zeal, contention in their hearts, and boast and lie against the truth.”

“[heresies] must be destroyed at their very birth”

“Some, putting aside [the church's] true interpretation of Sacred Scripture, are blinded in mind by the father of lies. Wise in their own eyes, according to the ancient practice of heretics, they interpret these same Scriptures otherwise than the Holy Spirit demands, inspired only by their own sense of ambition, and for the sake of popular acclaim, as the Apostle declares. In fact, they twist and adulterate the Scriptures. As a result, according to Jerome, ‘It is no longer the Gospel of Christ, but a man’s, or what is worse, the devil’s.’”

“false, scandalous, or offensive to pious ears, as seductive of simple minds, originating with false exponents of the faith who in their proud curiosity yearn for the world’s glory, and contrary to the Apostle’s teaching, wish to be wiser than they should be. Their talkativeness, unsupported by the authority of the Scriptures, as Jerome says, would not win credence unless they appeared to support their perverse doctrine even with divine testimonies however badly interpreted.”

“We have therefore held a careful inquiry, scrutiny, discussion, strict examination, and mature deliberation with each of the brothers, the eminent cardinals of the holy Roman Church, as well as the priors and ministers general of the religious orders, besides many other professors and masters skilled in sacred theology and in civil and canon law. We have found that these errors or theses are not Catholic, as mentioned above, and are not to be taught, as such; but rather are against the doctrine and tradition of the Catholic Church, and against the true interpretation of the sacred Scriptures received from the Church.”

Notice how similar the language and complaints are to those on fundamentalist websites:

“It is a man-centered religion totally devoid of both clarity and biblical authority.”

“We have a duty not only to expose, refute, and silence Rob Bell’s errors, but also to urge people under his influence to run as fast and as far as they can from him, lest they be gathered into the eternal hell he denies. It won’t do to sit by idly while someone who denies the danger of hell mass-produces sons of hell…”

“Our Lord clearly expects His true disciples to be able to spot spiritual imposters and wolves in sheep’s clothing—especially those who are purveyors of deadly false doctrines.”

“guilty of promoting a false gospel”

“exposing another wolf in sheep’s clothing”

“This tree needs to be cut at the root now and kept from the public ear.”

This language is in no way limited to opinions stated on websites, this is how real people are treated every Sunday in the system. No one wants to live like that, going back week after week for more abuse.

Organized religion is nice and kind and organized and reasonable on stage or on mic, but go to the back rooms where the door is shut, the private meetings, the plans of deacons and elders on what action ought to be taken next to silence the spread of the Victorious Gospel of Jesus Christ, and you will witness cruelty, rudeness, confusion, and irrationality. I challenge anyone reading this, who thinks their church is exempt from this description, to go to your senior pastor and ask if I can come to your church to explain what Christian Universalists believe, why we believe what we believe, and do a Q&A session for opposition and rebuttal.  If you do this, your suggestion will be flat out rejected, and you will be eyed with suspicion from that point forward.  Why is this?  Because just as in the days of the Reformation, the error is considered correct, while the truth is considered heretical teaching.

Do you see how it works? The leaders control the conversation. The leaders act according to the system, protect the system, and perpetuate thinking that limits and stifles spiritual progress.  The system is designed to avoid important conversations.  It is even designed to avoid important conversations about avoiding important conversations.

This conversation is one that God has determined will take place, evidently, outside the church walls. If my suggestion about asking your senior pastor to let me come speak at your church is too scary for you, try this experiment instead.  Post 1 Timothy 4:10 in your Facebook status, send it via email, Twitter it, etc.  Just quote the verse without further comment and see what kind of push back you get.  The pressure you experience will be a small sample of what Christian Universalists or anyone who challenges status quo feels in the religious system.

There are those who understandably wish to level the playing field out a bit, by pointing out that Christian Universalists criticize and “cause division” in the institutional church, without ever stopping to consider that WHY.  What is the motivation?  We are concerned with destroying strongholds that enslave and starve God’s sheep. We don’t want to destroy His people, we want to see that believers have the ability to speak to each other, to teach each other, learn from each other, argue, disagree, or whatever – the leaders are clearly against the organic, dynamic, egalitarian church described in the New Testament.  The glorious freedom in Christ has been exchanged for the stratified, hierarchical, politically inclined model much like the Pharisaical system and the church of the Dark Ages.  The reason the leaders of this system protect it from scrutiny is that they subconsciously know that it can’t stand in the light of scrutiny.

I have a few John MacArthur books on my shelf.  Truth is truth wherever you find it, and sometimes MacArthur speaks the truth.  Sometimes. Here lately, he’s been spewing a bunch of unholy chunks of bunk.  I stopped by his website to see what he’s been up to lately, and it turns out that for the last two weeks he’s been picking Rob Bell apart.  (I’m not surprised.)  But this makes me very happy.  Let me explain.

In the early days of the Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church was in such a tizzy over the idea that the masses of stupid sheep were being mislead by Martin Luther’s heresy (that is, we are saved by grace through faith that is not of ourselves, it is God’s gift) that they concentrated their efforts on reeducating people in the same-old-same-old-church-has-got-you-by-the-balls junk, comparing their doctrines to Luther’s in an attempt to show how right they were and how wrong Luther was.  Only, it had the opposite effect.  People would read the Roman Catholic propaganda and see Luther’s quotes and ideas and think, “Well that makes sense.  I wonder if the Bible really says what Luther says it says.”  And then they would go and do their homework and find out that the church has been misinterpreting the scriptures, covering up the truth, persecuting those who speak the truth, etc.  The more the Roman Catholic Church fought against the Reformation, the more they inadvertently helped the cause.  Well, I’d love to do a point by point analysis of MacArthur’s material – maybe I will someday.  But for now, I just want to say how disappointed I am that so many people don’t check up on what MacArthur teaches to make sure what he says is true.  He has definitely been off base on his teachings in the past two weeks.  For an example of just how far out there his (and a good portion of all evangelical Christian) teachings are sometimes, I’ve posted a vid that one of my MacArthian Facebook friends posted the other day.  In order to make sense of the rest of this blog, you will need to watch the vid.  For a good ironic belly laugh, keep in mind that MacArthur’s ministry is called “Grace to You.”  Apparently that “you” is an exclusive group of chosen people, according to MacArthur, and for the rest, it is “Eternal Torment to You.”

MacArthur vid

MacArthur website

MacArthur’s ideas are as follows:

1. “Jesus died for somebody”

Does MacArthur not know “the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us ALL”?

2. “Jesus died specifically for those who would believe in Him”

Does MacArther not understand that “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world”?

‎3. “If He gets glory from judgment the way He gets glory from salvation, who are we to question that?”

MacArthur is really saying that by tormenting your Grandma or your best friend in Hell forever, God is getting glory.  How can this possibly be true?

4. “If you say that He paid in full the penalty for all the sins of all the world then what is anybody doing in Hell?”

This shows me that MacArthur thinks God torments people forever because they need to pay the penalty for their sin. This also demonstrates to me that MacArthur must believe that Jesus did not pay the penalty for all the sins of whole world. Yet, anyone who argues with this can be accused by MacArthians of “diminishing the nature of atonement” as MacArthur says in this video.

5. When MacArthur is asked if believers who witness to those who I call “not-yet-believers” should bring up the idea of LIMITED atonement, he replies, “We have to be careful of what we say…”

Kudos to McArthur for at least being humble enough to acknowledge the tension with his awful doctrine, and he is “happy to concede that God can resolve things [MacArthur] can’t.”

McArthur says the resolution to this dilemma is “only in the mind of God” but he is wrong. The resolution is in His people as well. Unfortunately, the institution of church shuns and ostracizes those who try to explain this resolution to others.

 

This is the second of a series of blogs about R.C. Sproul’s book, Willing to Believe: The Controversy Over Free Will.  If you haven’t read the first one, “Does God Command Us to Do the Impossible?” you really ought to.  It covers some foundational questions about free will.  Moving right along…

Chapter Three: “We Are Capable of Cooperating”

“If anyone says that man’s free will [when] moved and aroused by God, by assenting to God… in no way cooperates… [and] that it cannot refuse its assent if it wishes… let him be anathema!” – Council of Trent

Ah yes, the Council of Trent and their favorite word, Anathema!  (Not the band from Liverpool.)  Anathema is church-speak for excommunication.  Keep in mind as you read this that over 1000 years have passed from the time of Pelagius and Augustine.  The church has been through the Dark Ages.  The Council of Trent takes place not too long after Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses and the Protestant Reformation started spreading like wildfire.  The Roman Catholic Church felt that it needed to regroup, so they met 25 times over the course of 18 years and decided among other things, Tradition + Scripture = The Rule of Faith, condemned Protestant “heresies,” and affirmed the Latin Vulgate as the official Bible translation.  The Protestants were guaranteed safe passage (in other words, they wouldn’t be killed going to and from) for Protestants who wanted to attend the church council meetings.  They were allowed to participate in discussion, but they were not allowed to vote.  This is the backdrop for what you are about to read.

Semi-Pelagianism

While Pelagius asserts humanity has the ability to obey God, Augustine asserts that humanity is incapable of obedience.  Many people, unable to figure this thing out, decided on what is called Semi-Pelagianism, a sort of hybrid doctrine.  The Council of Trent, according to Lutheran theologian Martin Chemnitz, “both reaffirmed the church’s condemnation of Pelagianism and retreated from a clear condemnation of Semi-Pelagianism.  In the sixth session of the council this declaration was made, “If anyone says that after the sin of Adam man’s free will was lost and destroyed, or that it is a thing only in name, indeed a name without reality, a fiction introduced into the Church by Satan, let him be anathema.”  For some reason, I have a hard time punctuating anathema with a period.  It really feels like it needs an explanation point, doesn’t it?  Anathema!

Chapter Four: “We Are in Bondage to Sin”

“Free-will without God’s grace is not free at all, but is the permanent prisoner and bondslave of evil, since it cannot turn itself to good.” – Martin Luther

Martin Luther considered his most important book to be The Bondage of the Will, “because it spoke to issues that he regarded as being the [...] very heart of the church.”  He even went so far as to say that anything he wrote besides this and a children’s catechism could be tossed out.  Sproul explains,

To the chess player these are contingencies, events he cannot predict with certainty.  We speak of a contingency plan, to which we will turn if our original plan does not work as we hoped. [...] In his perfection God knows all things perfectly. [...]  He is not a Great Chess Player who must wait to see what we will do, but he knows absolutely what we will do before we do it.

If God has decided ahead of time how everything happens, who believes, who does not believe, then free will is more than irrelevant, it is non- existent.  It is with this in mind that Luther claims, “This bombshell knocks ‘free-will’ flat, and utterly shatters it…”  Luther sees no middle ground at all in this argument.  Salvation belongs completely to God, because a person can’t choose to believe or obey.  God’s grace isn’t mere assistance for salvation, it is necessity.

Is God a Bully?

I started in the first blog asking, “Does God Command Us to Do the Impossible?”  Let’s suppose for argument’s sake that we cannot obey God or believe God unless He intervenes and causes it to happen.  If you take this idea in combination with the idea that God chooses only some to believe then the implications are huge.  Why would God command people to believe, knowing all along that they can’t?  Is He rubbing our own weakness in our faces?  This is what Erasmus infers.  Luther comes against Erasmus’ idea, saying that we must consider God’s character.  God’s cosmic game of nanee-nanee-boo-boo-stick-your-head-in-doo-doo is a ludicrous assertion.  So is there any other reason that God would command us to do what He knows we are completely incapable of doing?  Luther says there is a perfectly good reason, that is, “God is trying us, that by His law he may bring us to a knowledge of our impotence.”

If the objective is to make us aware of the fact that we cannot save ourselves, then this whole thing makes a little more sense.  God is teaching us, not being a bully.  This should be a relief, but we still have a huge problem that has yet to be addressed.  If Luther is correct, that we are in bondage to sin, and so much so, that we cannot obey God’s commands, and we can’t even believe for salvation unless He first places that desire to believe in us, then all of us are in big trouble.  So far in this adventure through R.C. Sproul’s book, Willing to Believe: The Controversy Over Free Will, it is implied that God will place the desire to believe in only some of us.

Your Feedback, Please

What do you say, reader?  Does God do most of the work in salvation as long as we cooperate with Him?  Do we have any part at all in our own salvation?  Or are we completely helpless and at God’s mercy?  And what do you think about this idea that God has chosen only some to be saved?  Did He choose the ones who He knew ahead of time would choose Him back?  If this is the case, then why does Jesus explicitly say, “You did not choose me, I chose you”?  Why does the Bible say that we love Him because He first loved us?  If His loving us and choosing us is what causes us to love Him, why would He only choose a few?

For anyone who feels very upset by all of this, please understand that the content of this particular blog (as well as the next one in this series) could be compared to walking out of the movie theater while the girl is still tied to the railroad tracks, and the good guy is being chased by a bunch of bad guys with guns.  It always looks hopeless until the last 5 or 10 minutes.  You know how it is.  This is not the end of the story.  There is much more to be said about Who God is and what God does.  Unfortunately, there is also 1500+ years worth of religious bullshit to clear out of the way as well.  Don’t walk out of the theater prematurely.

Coming soon…

Chapter Five: “We Are Voluntary Slaves” & Chapter Six: “We Are Free to Believe” (These are the big two, in my opinion, because they hold such influence over modern Christian thinking – the views of Calvin and Arminius.) See you then.

I learned something very disturbing, yesterday… But first, let me give you some background information.  Everyone is aware of the concept that history is written by those in power, so we only get their version of the story if that is all the information that is available.  For example, there are certain Native American tribes that we only know about because some Spanish sailor decided to keep a journal.  These thousands are only represented in history through the eyes of one who was to them a distant stranger.  No one really knows their story.  Now back to what I heard yesterday.

It is Illegal in the State of Florida to Teach Revisionist History

This concept, that history is written by those in power, is now outlawed in Florida’s Public School System.  Yes, you read it correctly.  Public school teachers are not allowed to present anything other than a state approved view of history, and they are not allowed to teach kids (even high school age) the concept of revisionist history.  No kidding.

The information about this Jeb Bush approved act of censorship, although available to the public, is buried in a 160 page Bill (H.B. 7087e3):

“American history shall be viewed as factual, not constructed, shall be viewed as knowable, teachable, and testable, and shall be defined as the creation of a new nation based largely on the universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence.”  So that everyone is clear on exactly what history is, the Bill includes a list of people groups represented during ”the period of discovery, early colonies, the War for Independence, the Civil War, the expansion of the United States to its present boundaries, the world wars, and the civil rights movement to the present.”  Unfortunately, this list fails to include what is probably the most significant example of why revisionist historicism is extremely important, the Native Americans.  We’ve all heard the Columbus version of history.  Who will tell the story of those who were silenced?

There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance – that principle is contempt prior to investigation. – Herbert Spencer

Sometimes information is available, but it is withheld, suppressed, or misinterpreted by those currently in power. The same rings true for church history.  There are certain very important stories that are either not included or glossed over in most church history books, even though the information is available to those who write the books.  I suspect that there are those who omit on purpose and those who omit out of ignorance.  God is the judge as to their intentions, but the fact that the important information is omitted is now glaringly obvious to me.  I’m sure that if you continue to read this blog, you will see examples of the missing or distorted information being pointed out to you.

During the Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church accused Martin Luther of making things up, coming up with new ideas that have never been part of the Christian tradition.  But when all the dust settled, after people finally had the information they needed made available to them, after they were able to consider all the possibilities instead of just the clergy-approved possibilities, Luther was vindicated.  He didn’t make up the ideas after all.  They were there all along, only conveniently buried, suppressed, and misinterpreted by those in power.  Why?  Because they didn’t want people to know that they had misrepresented God.  Does this sound familiar?  I certainly hope it does.  If it doesn’t, then start paying attention when the rumors fly around church as to why someone stopped attending.  It could be that they write blogs like this one, and those in power want to silence them.  Those in power want their own version of church history which maintains the status quo.  Who will tell the story of those who died, lost their property, and went through all kinds of hell to share the Victorious Gospel of Jesus Christ?  Who will set the record straight?

Recently I placed a comment on my Facebook status pointing out that I have a new blog, and I would like to include a list of websites.  Then something happened that I did not expect to happen, something that made the remnants of legalism (that’s church-speak for spiritual-police behavior) in me rise to the surface.  A Preterist friend named his blog AD70.net to be added to the list.  My knee-jerk reaction was, “I’m not a Preterist, so I should not post his website.  People might view his website and be led astray by the ideas there.”  But then I realized that if I were to go along with my initial reaction, that I would be doing to him what was done to me in my old spiritual stomping grounds.  The reason I was shunned out of that fellowship was, “We are not Christian Universalists, so we should prevent you from sharing your views in this place.”  If we examine this concept psychologically, we could say that people plant a flag in an organization or on a blog – a flag that is symbolic of their particular brand of truth, in order to exclude anyone with differing views.  I’m all for planting flags, as you might have noticed, but ought flags be planted for the purpose of censorship and control?  Is this Biblical?  Is this the will of God?

Unity of the Church

In another blog, I mentioned that believers would likely get along much better if they thought of the church as a who instead of a what.  We don’t go to church; we are the church.  And the church is a very diverse group of people.  Did you know that there are over 33,000 denominations in Protestantism alone?  A not-yet-believer might ask, “How did this happen?” wondering what the heck is wrong with church people that they need to divide themselves in such an extreme way.  Well, it happened because when people started planting flags, they forgot that the only flag that really matters is the one that says, “The glory of God is displayed in Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World, Who died and rose again so that we might live.”  People may disagree about the exact nature of the God-head (another example of church-speak, the English translation of the Greek word theotes, which means the divine nature or the fullness of deity or simply, God’s Godness), the exact manner in which Jesus was crucified, how people ought to be baptized, what the so-called end time prophecies mean, whether believers ought to celebrate Christian holidays (since most of them have pagan origins), etc, without disassociating with one another.  They can agree on what matters and agree to disagree on the rest.  I believe that this is what the Biblical references on unity indicate.  Finding a heretic behind every blog post or heresy in every spiritual discussion that takes place outside of one’s church-bubble is wrong.

Test everything, hold on to what is good.

That is why I decided to post the Preterist website, even though I disagree with some of the Preterist ideas.  I have Preterists to thank for helping me have a better understanding of the events that took place AD70 and the significance these events have on the way certain passages of scripture are to be interpreted.  They are one piece of a puzzle that seems to be coming together nicely for those of us who are willing to cooperate with each other in love, holding on to those essentials of the faith that unify us.  We are told to “test everything and hold on to what is good,” and the only way to test something, really test it, is to examine it thoroughly, to ask the Spirit of God to show you the truth, to compare it to other scriptures, and to use your God-given common sense.  If, after examining certain ideas, you still find yourself at odds with the ideas another believer presents, ask yourself this – “Does he or she acknowledge Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World, died and rose again so that we might live?”  If so, what right do we have to accuse him or her, using words like heretic, wolf in sheep’s clothing, or say he or she is causing division, regarding other issues?  What right do we have to silence him or her?  Some of the Preterist ideas are correct.  Should I cut myself off from someone because we disagree on nonessentials?  How else are we supposed to learn from each other, but to compare notes, agree or disagree, explore the reasons why we agree or disagree, and perhaps even solve mysteries that have boggled the minds of believers for centuries?  Do we believe that God is done teaching us?  Do we already know everything there is to know?  Are we to assume that every single thing we currently believe is 100% accurate?  Absolutely not.

Church Club Rules of Conversation

One of the reasons that the institutional church is afraid of engaging in challenging discussions is that they fear some impressionable people who happen to be listening will be suckered into believing something that will eventually land them or someone they know in Hell, to suffer for eternity. To them it is better to avoid the conversation and react very strongly to anyone who insists on putting everything on the table in the light of scrutiny. The same thing happened to Martin Luther in the Reformation.  The Roman Catholic Church was wrong for engaging in the practice of indulgences.  And they were double wrong for not having the humility to recognize that God had sent someone to correct them.  Why is it that God’s people have more freedom to discuss hot issues at Starbucks or in a discussion thread online than they do inside the walls of their church-club?

Don’t Quench the Spirit

I do not want to perpetuate small-minded practices that quench the Spirit of God. Take a look at this blog comment:

Alex Smith writes:

evangelicaluniversalist.com

As far I can tell, up until Calvin, belief in postmortem salvation (for at least a few) was mainstream (see http://www.evangelicaluniversalist.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=1355). Interestingly, one of the reasons given was Matthew 12:32 (ESV) “And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” Which implies there are some things that can be forgiven in the age to come.
Also in a letter to Hanseu Von Rechenberg in 1522, Martin Luther wrote “God forbid that I should limit the time of acquiring faith to the present life. In the depth of the Divine mercy there may be opportunity to win it in the future”

I appreciate Alex’s comment.  It is well thought out and contains specific references and clear, reasonable ideas.  However, there is a portion of the comment that I believe is not completely accurate.  Jesus spoke these words before He was crucified.  I believe that when Jesus died and rose again, we entered into a new age.  In other words, I believe that when Jesus said, “…in this age,” He was referring to what was His present time period, the age of the sacrificial system and the Mosaic law, and when He said, “…or in the age to come,” He was referring to the age following His death and resurrection, the age of Grace in which we presently exist.  Now should I, as admin of this website, mark Alex’s comment “unapproved” or reject his request to post his website on my list (if he were to make such a request), just because we disagree on this?  What if he is right, and I am wrong?  I have just shut him out, disrespected him, and quenched the Spirit of God, Who may want to teach me something that I am misunderstanding about the ages.  Or perhaps it goes the other way around.  If I behave this way toward Alex, this would likely cause division between us, because I would not be acting in love, I would be acting in fear.  He might not pay any attention to me when I try to discuss this idea with him, because I would have established an unhealthy precedent for this or any other discussions we might have had.  I would have quenched the Spirit of God, Who wants to teach Alex something that he is misunderstanding about the ages.  Do you see how responding to each other in love instead of fear makes a huge difference?  Do you see how ignoring the ungodly restraints the institutional church places on conversations helps us to relate to one another in freedom and respect, without fear?  Isn’t that a wonderful way to be the church?  I think so.

Comments

Being new to the blogosphere, I am very grateful that people are actually taking the time to read this blog (thank you Google Analytics for showing me what happens after I hit “publish”) and refer it to others.  I am especially thankful when people take the time to comment.  From time to time, I will feature in blogs some of the in-depth comments that resonate with me for one reason or another.  Please do feel free to respond to blogs, make suggestions, or even comment on stuff that has nothing to do with the blog, and don’t be insulted if your brilliant insight doesn’t end up in a blog – I am a full time student, so starting this blog under heavy time constraints is a small miracle in itself.

Coming Soon…

The next blog will be a book review on Bill Tancer’s Click: What Millions of People Are Doing Online and Why It Matters.  Of course, I will examine the book’s (unintentional) spiritual insights, which is evident from a recommendation by TVWeek, who named Bill Tancer one of “12 to Watch” for 2008: “There once was a time when we used to share our deepest secrets with our hairdresser.  Now, we share those secrets with Google or Yahoo or MSN.com.  We tell Google what we want, who we’re interested in, how we are feeling.  We are what we search for.  That’s why Bill Tancer is in demand.”  Kirkus Reviews said, “In Click, he boils down those mouse-using multitudes to reveal valuable observations about [...] the very human frailties that people expose in their online searches.”