Apocatastasis

This has been a week of controversy. Whether you love him or hate him, Rob Bell has stirred the pot of modern evangelicalism and brought into sharp focus the topic of heaven and hell – specifically, who’s in and who’s out. I can hardly believe it’s been 7 years since I started my own journey through this difficult subject.

Yesterday a dear friend of mine told me I should change my middle name to “controversy.” I told her I’d rather change it to “makes people think outside the box”, but, of course, that’s too long for a usable middle name. I guess what I’d really like to challenge people to do is examine their beliefs in light of the implications they carry. In other words, how many of us spend the time and energy it takes to walk our beliefs all the way out to their full conclusion – to really consider what our beliefs mean? In today’s modern age, not many. Rob Bell was willing to do that, and now he’s taken on the unenviable title of ‘heretic.’ Hey, Rob, welcome to my world.

Apocatastasis: meaning either reconstitution or restitution or restoration to the original or primordial condition (according to Wikipedia). The article goes on to say:

The word, apokatastasis, only appears once in the Bible (Acts 3:21). Peter heals a handicapped beggar and then addresses the astonished onlookers. His sermon sets Jesus in the Jewish context, the fulfiller of the Abrahamic Covenant, and says:

“[Jesus] whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring (apocatastasis) all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago”;[10] or in a less literal translation:”He [Jesus] must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore (apocatastasis) everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.”[11]

Both these translations use “time” (singular) to translate “χρόνων” (“of times”). A strictly literal translation of the whole verse is: “whom it behoveth heaven, indeed, to receive till times of a restitution of all things, of which God spake through the mouth of all His holy prophets from the age.”

What has boggled my mind for the past 7 years is how angry Evangelicals become when I even suggest that God has it in mind to restore everything and everyone to Himself. But what makes me angry is the reasoning they use to justify it. Bar none, the most maddening argument I hear over and over again is “what’s in it for me?” In other words, “if everyone is going to get a ‘free pass’ then why am I suffering through this life?” I cannot imagine a more selfish or heartless argument. I mean, they are basically saying, “I’m giving up all of these worldly things for God, there damn well better be a reward for me in the end!” Really? Or, “I’m trying so hard not to sin that there better be some serious punishment for all the crappy people in the world like Hitler.” I guess no one is teaching anymore that deep down we’re all Hitler. I mean, the whole, “there but by the grace of God go I” must be utter nonsense, since I’m obviously so much better than those dirty rotten sinners who are gonna pay, by God! That’s exactly what I’m hearing, whether they’re meaning to say that or not. But I’m not the only one hearing it … the very ones these people claim to be trying to save are hearing it too. And that breaks my heart.

I think what’s really at the core of that argument is the feeling that God owes me something. I mean after-all, I figured out that God wants me to believe in Jesus as my personal Savior, so if I do that I deserve some sort of reward, right? And yet, the rain falls on the just and the unjust. There is no favoritism with God. Sure, we hear those words, but I’m not convinced anyone really believes them. In fact, I don’t think people believe the Bible at all anymore. Do you know how many times I’ve asked my Evangelical friends to please produce Scripture which backs their claim of an eternal torment (or separation, for that matter) for people who don’t believe in Jesus as their personal Savior? A whole bunch of times. They can’t do it (because it isn’t in there). Oh, they produce Scripture all right …

Let’s see, the most used argument would have to be the rich man and Lazarus (the story begins in Luke 16:19). I love this one. I love how so many Bible thumpers are willing to take things completely out of context when it suits them. But they turn around and take the plain text (try Romans 5:18 – oh, by the way, all means all) and rewrite it to suit their church dogma. Whatever happened to ‘reformed and always reforming’? Where is the commitment to challenge every belief of man with what the Word says, no matter what it does to your pet belief?

I digress. This particular section of Jesus’ teaching actually begins in Luke 15 and ends in the middle of chapter 17. The issue is not heaven or hell but social class and money. How do I know this? It’s called context. In the beginning of the section the Pharisees are grumbling about who Jesus is hanging out with (social class). Right in the middle of the whole section and just preceding the little parable about Lazarus we read, “14Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him” (money). Finally, the section ends with Jesus talking about the obligations of slaves (a whole other interesting topic we could delve into related to this idea of ‘I believe so I’m entitled’). The context simply does not support the idea that Jesus was giving us a literal picture of what happens after we die. I don’t really think Jesus did a lot of that in general – Jesus’ focus was much more on what happens while we’re living!

But, just in case you still believe this parable should be read as a formula for going to heaven then by all means, follow in Lazarus’ footsteps:

Be extremely poor, very sick, and beg for crumbs while you are suffering public humiliation. Um, I can’t see anything in this passage regarding Lazarus’ disciplined spiritual life. We aren’t told anything about what he believed about Jesus or if he was even a Jew. No mention of him being a righteous man (like Job), only that he was poor, sick, and starving. This was a parable, and last time I checked parables aren’t supposed to be taken literally in the first place. Meanwhile, the purpose of this parable in context was to confront the false Jewish belief that God favored the righteous with riches while the poor were suffering His judgment. Jesus was speaking to the upper-class Pharisees of His day, urging them to recognize that God does not distinguish between rich and poor in the way they thought He did. This passage is the worst justification for a belief in hell that I’ve ever heard.

Next comes Matthew 25, the story of the separation of the sheep and the goats. Oh, check it out! If you want to go to heaven, all you have to do is be a liberal Christian! Yep, just feed the poor, give water to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned, and you are good to go! No mention of faith, no mention of belief, nada. Do, do, do! Or maybe I should say, “work, earn, receive.” Clearly you guys aren’t doing enough to get in. I mean, you’re just saying people have to pray a prayer. That’s not what Jesus said! Tsk, tsk. It’s a lot more complicated than that!

And my last favorite Scripture justifying a belief in eternal, conscious torment is (drum roll, please): Mark 9:

43“If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire,

44[where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED.]

45“If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell,

46[where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED.]

47“If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell,

48where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED.

49“For everyone will be salted with fire.

Hm. Did you know that there are 3 different words in the Bible all translated ‘hell’ by our Protestant forebears? As you would imagine each one has a different meaning. Let’s address Jesus’ favorite (actually, exclusive) one: Gehennah, the Valley of Hinnom. It was an actual location (you can even visit there today on your next tour of Israel) outside the walls of Jerusalem. Everyone in Jerusalem knew about this place – if nothing else, by the reek it produced. You see, Gehennah was the trash heap. It was where all of the refuse from the city was taken and disposed of. It was also where pagans used to burn their children in worship to their false gods.

So let’s look at this parable. What does Jesus say is the quickest way into Gehennah? Having an eye which causes you to stumble which you refuse to pluck out. Or a hand that causes you to sin which you refuse to cut off. So I’m thinkin’ there are way too many two-handed, two-eyed Christians running around today. I mean, if they don’t want to spend an eternity in hell then they better get to pluckin’ & a-choppin’. I know for a fact that any of you guys reading this have lusted this week after a pretty girl (possible in the last five minutes, and she didn’t even have to be pretty). Sounds like eye sin to me. How about you over-eaters out there? Whose hand pushed that extra bag of chips into your gluttonous face? I mean, hell is serious people. It’s time we start taking Jesus’ words to heart! (But let’s leave out verse 49, ’cause we wouldn’t want to let on that everyone is fixin’ to burn…)

This would be the extent of the utterly weak Scriptural arguments in support of hell as eternal conscious torment (or separation from God, if that’s your punishment of choice) that my Evangelical friends have been able to produce. Every one of these examples is a parable – a story told to make a point – and not one of them – if taken in context – makes the point Evangelicals try to use them to make. At the same time, my friends are not interested in the plain text (an abundance of them, actually) that teaches God’s intent to reconcile all things and everyone to Himself. These are rewritten with nonsense like, “Oh, ‘all’ obviously can’t mean ‘all’ because Matthew 25 clearly says … oh, ‘all’ means ‘all’ here, but not there. All the while what I really can’t understand is how any of you sleep! I mean, there’s a whole neighborhood outside your door getting ready to populate hell and you are wasting precious time going to yet another movie! Whatareyoukiddingme??!

So not only can you not produce any Scripture to support your belief, you can’t produce any compassion for the people around you whom you claim are going to hell in a hand-basket. From the recent conversations on FB I’m beginning to think some of you can’t wait for ‘us’ to get there! Real Christian of you, I must say. Or could it be insanity instead of Christianity?

Do any of you remember the lady a year or two ago who murdered her children claiming that she was saving them from going to hell? Guess what – she was the sanest of you all. Think about it. If it’s true that there’s an ‘age of accountability’ and prior to that moment every child gets a free pass into heaven, then why in the world aren’t you parents murdering your children before they become responsible for their own sins??! If you really believe that your own child is in danger of suffering eternal conscious torment (or just an extended stay at the Motel 6 while God is obviously inhabiting the Hawaiian Hilton), then not killing them before their ‘age of accountability’ is the ultimate hatred of your kids. I mean, you can’t leave that kind of thing to the chance of their free will! That would be madness!

The other night one of our FB friends made the comment that if everyone gets in then why not go out and do the worst sin you can think of? I mean, if God is going to forgive you anyway… I’m so glad you asked! In fact, that’s the exact question Paul’s Roman readers were asking! Hmm. Maybe Paul was sounding a lot like me. Maybe Paul understood and taught that God’s grace trumps … everything. In fact, that’s exactly what Paul taught:

Romans 5:18-21 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.  The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,  so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 11:32 For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.

How do I know that Paul was being as radical about grace as I am? Because the question people started asking was the same question people ask me:

Romans 6:1-2 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?  May it never be!

Grace has never been a license to sin, but rather the power to live a new life. But because we have turned belief into a work that earns salvation we have lost the true power that grace can give us. Martin Luther understood this, which was why he could say with confidence, “Love God and do as you please.” He knew that if we understand our acceptance before the Father is not based on anything we have done or not done, what we believe or don’t believe,  but solely on what Jesus did for us, we will be free to live a life apart from the Law that will reflect the love of God and His holiness at the same time. Unfortunately, Armineanism and it’s focus on man – specifically free will – has insidiously eroded the true Gospel of grace and done irreparable damage to the Church, simply by making man’s will to choose the focus over and above God’s design. Sounds a whole lot like snakes, trees and fig leaves to me. But I’m not buying it anymore. I’m not God and I don’t wanna be. There’s simply no room left in my heart for guilt, legalism, or the belief that I can figure out who’s in and who’s out. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it doesn’t matter whether you believe love wins or not, He is going to anyway.

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22 thoughts on “Apocatastasis

  1. Lori Jeffries

    I am so sorry if you think that I have mocked or belittled you in anyway. I have truly been trying to understand your beliefs. I don’t mock God. And by questioning the point to this life I am not belittling your beliefs. My point, plain and simple is this – I have always believed that the whole plan for life on this earth is so that as many as will will come to a saving belief in Christ. If all is reconciled in the end, then it matters not what one believes on this earth, so what is the point. We really don’t have free will. All will be reconciled in the end, no matter what we believe. So, the time on this earth is pointless, it doesn’t gain us heaven, it doesn’t cost us hell. SO, by leaving us here to suffer through the trials of earth is pointless.

    As for an eternal conscious torment or eternal separation, I don’t know what I believe concerning the nature of hell. I am just not convinced that there is a point to us being here if there is not eternal consequences to our choices.

    I have always tried to be honest with you, defend your right to your beliefs as well as defend your sincerity and my belief that you are a sincere follower of Christ. I am sorry if you have felt differently. However, I would be less than honest if I didn’t say that I felt that this blog was a bit of a personal attack. I have never come back with sarcasm and if it felt that way I am truly sorry.

    However, I just don’t believe in the concept that there are not eternal consequences to our choices. But, I can’t answer what God does with those who don’t hear/He hardens their hearts, etc. But to bend the Gospel to answer these questions rather than leaving it to the mystery of God is, in my opinion, wrong. All that to say, that these are not matters of salvation. So, I will leave them be. I would rather save a friendship than be right. I will refrain from commenting on any further posts from you or Bo on this topic.

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    1. Lori,

      I have never felt belittled by you (but your FB “friends” did a real nice job in that department *grin*). I know you and I know your tone – one of love for me and even respect! I know this and never question it. I’m sorry you felt attacked personally by this post. It wasn’t meant that way – however, I am weary of some of the arguments I have heard (not from you, but from others) over the past 7 years. They rarely have anything to do with Scripture and that bothers me more than I am able to express. I am having the hardest time understanding why Christians aren’t interested in studying the plain text as much as they are in defending their beliefs with questions that often aren’t even addressed in Scripture. At times it is maddening (thus the sarcasm born of frustration). That is what I was confronting here. I certainly hope you won’t stop responding! I need your questions to make me think through the full implications of what I believe too!

      Now to your good points above. We have free will. Period. I just don’t define it the way you do. I sort of see an umbrella thing going on. My free will stands under the umbrella of God’s “free” will. His will always has sway no matter what I choose. However, my choices really do matter. Jesus made this clear. I think where we are missing each other is that Jesus talked about choices relating to works and you are talking about choices in what to believe. These are two different things. Did Jesus encourage believing in Him? Of course. But He never once associated that with any form of judgment. Only our deeds will be judged. Until we can see eye-to-eye on this I think we will continue going around in circles. 🙂

      I think the other spot that separates us is the issue of the atonement. Because we see the work of Christ on the cross from different perspectives, we are not able to see eye-to-eye on the implications of it (each perspective goes in a different direction in terms of implication). And that’s okay – because I really believe that both (and maybe even a couple more) understandings of the atonement are taught throughout Scripture!

      Okay, one last thing – I have an answer (I think?) to your question of “Why this life?” I’ll borrow from Paul since he always says everything way better than I do:
      Romans 11:32For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all. Somehow this mess is going to reveal God’s mercy in a way that goes beyond our understanding (the rest of chapter 11). The short answer to your question is that we live in a sin-sick world. Things happen to people in such a random way that I cannot come to believe that everything is a result of my choices. That just doesn’t make sense in the scheme of things. But God’s mercy and grace, they make a whole lot of sense to me when I see the world through their lenses rather than the lenses of the Law. Does that mean there is no application of God’s Law in the world? May it never be!! I remain at this very moment estranged from my daughter due to not being able to cross a line of Law which she has chosen to cross. Whether this is a denial of grace on my part is irrelevant. The truth is, I can do no other, though it breaks my heart into little pieces. Does what we choose to do matter? Absolutely. Can I say for sure what that implies for my eternal state? Nope. That’s all I’m confronting here, Lori, is people’s supposed assurance that they *know for certain where a path may lead. The simple fact is you don’t know, I don’t know, no one knows, but One. And so I leave it to Him to decide. If He wants to punish people for all of eternity in hell, that’s His choice (though I don’t believe that to be consistent with what has been revealed in Scripture overall); if He wants to receive everyone into the Kingdom once their flesh has been done away with by death, that’s His choice too. My only contention is that His choice trumps.

      Love you and miss our backyard deck conversations. I hope you won’t abandon me now.
      C

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  2. Angi

    Wow,wow,wow! As I was read I wanted to jump up and down and scream YES! over and over again. It is so easy to get caught up in “Well, I believe in Jesus now,so I will get my just rewards and those non-believers over there are screwed” mindset.I burn with anger when I see “Christian” use the bible and Jesus’s to justify hatred towards other religions or minorities. I have also had a passion to love and respect and fight for gay and lesbians and MAN! you would no believe how many times other believers have not been too happy about that. Well, maybe you would. I am totally conflicted when the military goes into other countries because i can’t help but think of the innocent children and women who become collateral damage because I can’t help wonder how Jesus must feel about it all. It seems like faith=speaking for God to others when it should be striving to love others like Christ did. I can admit I can get caught up in the game of telephone people play when books like Rob Bell’s come out. I need to read it myself. I hope he does a study guide with it and if not maybe you could ;). One reason I miss hearing you teach…and really hope you finish YOUR book.

    p.s. Do you care if I share this with others?

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  3. Dear Angi,

    Thanks again for the encouragement! You can share this with whoever you like. I’m sure Rob said it all way better than I ever could, though. Since we’ve been on this journey for awhile now, his book is nothing “new” for us, but I still enjoy the way Rob expresses Truth.

    As to the homosexual issue, I still believe our choices matter. I just don’t think they matter in the way most evangelicals do. There is no room in Scripture for the condoning of homosexuality. And while I am still in this body of death – my flesh – I accept estrangement from my own daughter rather than embrace her chosen lifestyle. This causes me pain beyond imagining, and yet, I can do no other and stay true to the Scriptures. The same Word that teaches me about His grace also teaches me about dangerously destructive choices. That we love everyone is clear. That we embrace lifestyles, not so much. And so, while I do not believe a homosexual is damned because of their choice, I do believe they are experiencing a momentary separation from Love, Who cannot – and will not – embrace their sin. Instead, ALL of our sin will one day be burned clean out of us by the fire that is His holiness. For that day I long (not for others, but mySELF!).

    Hope this explains some things. Love and miss you – your desire to learn is refreshing in a day when most people are too caught up in other things to think through anything. Keep seeking, keep knocking, keep finding … Him!

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    1. Angi

      I do hope you keep yourself open to your daughter. My mother cut me out of her life when I was 15. I was very wounded by that and I didn’t really forgive her till this year. That is 20 years. She doesn’t know my children. It’s her loss because my dad remarried and my step mom is their grandma.I just hope you too can work it out. I guess you just having to keep praying about.

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      1. Angi, door’s always open to her – just not her girlfriend. Rachel has chosen to draw her line in the sand there. But she may one day find the road home is a long one. I’m hoping not. I want her to know that there will be no shame in coming home. As I’ve learned over the years, admitting you’re wrong gets easier the more you do it. 🙂

        I’m glad you were able to forgive your mom. One thing I remind people about a lot is something I learned a long time ago as a parent: we are all doing the best that we can. Unfortunately in a sin-sick world, sometimes it doesn’t feel like enough, but it will have to do. Thankfully, one thing I am convinced of is that the redemption we look forward to will be a complete one – no relationship will be unredeemed in the end. But I think the pain of it will not be easily done away with. I was thinking about Job the other day and while he may have had everything restored to him in the end, that would not have been enough to take away the pain of losing the children who died in the beginning of the story. I wonder if the pain doesn’t make the restoration all the sweeter?

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  4. Lori Jeffries

    I do love you. I know my FB friends can be a bit much sometimes. I know the post you are referring to and if you read my answer to her, I want everyone to know that while we may disagree on this issue, it is not a matter of salvation so therefore in the grand scheme of things it is trivial. (Ok, maybe not trivial, but not life and death as we both agree that Christ is the only way).

    I get the difference in view points. And I have to say at this juncture that I am becoming more and more convinced that hell is not a place of eternal conscious torture. I don’t know what it is, but I am sure it isn’t that.

    I still can’t get past the fact that I don’t see how we have free will if we are not free to chose Christ or reject him. Why is the Bible totally centered around revealing Christ, our choice to seek Him/serve Him when it doesn’t matter. I know what you say, but if all is reconciled than it doesn’t matter. Why do works matter? If in the end, we are all reconciled then nothing matters. I can reject God all day long, choose against him and still end up reconciled to Him (apparently by my actions and choices against my will). So, we have no free will. So, if my choices do not matter, then what is the point of my time on earth making choices that don’t matter.

    Anyway, I am reading the Bible through this year and am doing so trying to read in context and with fresh eyes. I need to stop for awhile, because this is incredibly frustrating.

    Sorry about my friends. I keep reminding everyone that one of the joys in my life is that I have friends of all different opinions and we can all talk respecifully.

    Love you.
    lori

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    1. (((((Lori)))) It’s kinda fun all being on this crazy journey together, isn’t it? And i don’t mind your friends wondering about my salvation. I laughed when I read it. But it makes me cry the way we try and judge one another. I have a hard enough time judging myself (which is why I need all of my friends to stay close). I understand taking a break – I really haven’t even talked to anyone in depth about this subject in a long time. It’s something that wears me out as well. As to the free will thing – considering theologians have been arguing about that one for centuries, I figure it’s not something we can fully comprehend and I’m happy with the mystery of it all. Hey, have a wonderful week – I tend to go under the radar once I get back to work.

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  5. Mindy

    Cindy, you wrote…”As to the free will thing – considering theologians have been arguing about that one for centuries, I figure it’s not something we can fully comprehend and I’m happy with the mystery of it all. ”

    Hi there…great thread as always…I have a quick question for you, Cindy…how does one answer a 2nd grader in Sunday School whose question is this, “Once we’re in heaven can we be kicked out?”
    Hm…says my brain. One the one hand, there is is scripture that says we are in the palm of his hand and no one can snatch us out because of God’s great love for us. Then, we have the blessing of an eternal God who promises us to live in eternity, with Him forever. Love it sounds good. And with that comes God’s love, Jesus blodd atoned for our sins, our sins will be burned up as you said…(yay!!!! Let me rejoice in that!), that we can sin no more. But, Lucifer was an angel and chose to glorify himself and was sent out of the heavens. He sinned. Evil was born. If, then, the evil one was able to get thrown out, wouldn’t mankind also have the same potential, by virtue of free will?

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    1. Hey, Mindy! Thanks for reading my stuff. Sure do miss sitting in a class studying the Word at your side.

      Anyway, well, let’s first address the whole Lucifer was an angel kicked out of heaven bit. Instead of giving you my opinion on that, I’d like you to find me the Scriptures you think teach it. Let’s start there and then let’s talk about ‘free will.’ 🙂

      Love you!
      C

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  6. David

    My children (now some grown) either live or have lived “under my umbrella” of choice and guidance so to speak (I, an imperfect parent subject to the human frailty and sin of man). Within the framework of our “father-child” relationship each has his/her own will to make choices once they reach an age where developmentally they are capable. Often those choices do produce consequences both good and bad. And at times (when the choices have been wrong), I have chosen to discipline in order to teach. All the while my love for them never waivers or falters (and remember I am an imperfect man) and my sole desire is to provide a consistent place of refuge where they feel consistently and unconditionally loved.

    I cannot help but believe that our Father in Heaven and Creator of each of us (He being the PERFECT parent) has an incomprehensible love and grace for me and all His creation and would not want the same—to restore me completely and wholly to His presence despite my folly. Maybe the opportunity to be a parent is a small hands-on course where I get to “glimpse” by experience a tiny fraction of the grace available to all of His creation.

    Bottom line, He said He would restore all Creation to Himself. Its not mine to argue though personally I do not care for people who do things I consider to be reprehensible. I often wonder what have I done that someone else may think reprehensible. The problem with legalism is that the ones making the laws have a sliding scale subject to their own interpretation. I don’t like when bad things happen to people. I don’t know why other than I’m sensitive to the human condition cause I am one. But I believe one thing. God has His creation in His hands and for this I am thankful. My “duty”, best I can tell, is to respond to His offer of infinite grace and love through the sacrifice of His Son and my Savior, Jesus Christ. I then allow Him to work His work through me, an imperfect man prone to sin who acts simply and clumsily as a vessel. Hopefully during the process the inner vessel is cleaned through the blood of the atonement and can reflect to others like me what He has done and continues to do for those He calls His.

    David

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  9. Re: Conversation from J.S. Park’s blog

    I think that we are talking at cross purposes. I need to unpack a bit.

    My concerns are about the self-deception that we can accept Christ’s justification and do no more unless we feel the subjective urge to do so. That is not practicably trusting (acting upon the premises) on Christ, the Christ of Scriptures. That is practicably trusting on our priestly mediator, our subjective faculties. Whether “in season or out of season”, we are to act upon what we believe. What I do find is that deliberately being derelict on small matters does mushroom into greater to the point of apostasy. This does not violate God’s Sovereignty or Grace. His grace and our conduct work in parallel and we must make sure not to conflate the two.

    That really doesn’t much have to do with Driscoll himself. I just don’t hear what you are hearing. What you seem to be implying is that Driscoll is attempting to cattle-prod his congregation to good works. I have been in such churches and I hate it. And I know that it is of little effect. Give your congregation a very high vision to aspire to generally, and they swoon to it, (“Where there is no vision, the people perish” – Prov. 29:18) if they are converted. I don’t think that Driscoll is pushing virtue as much as He is pushing truth.

    I am not a great fan of Driscoll. His type of organization is top heavy and therefore dangerous (few checks). His concept of manliness is a bit uncultivated and uncouth for my tastes. Nevertheless, I have personally witnessed young males, suffering from under the culturally-hostile larger society and effeminate and prissy church environment. God uses the supposedly aggressive Driscoll to draw them unto Himself. As one preacher on a totally different matter wrote, little boys just love be man-handled by their papas, which doesn’t appeal to little girls.

    I have seen the extensive pain amongst modern males and have even felt it myself. And you may not be aware of it. And so Driscoll provides a comfort and a person who speaks their dialect. I will defend him from the small-minded and secondary criticisms, as I tend to always feel the need to defend the preachers, unless they violate a certain threshold.

    My first two boys were born 14 months apart. And the oldest had such a high level of ethical consciousness when he was young, I rarely really needed to discipline him as he seemed to be doing a good job of self-inflicting that discipline on himself. The other was less diligent, let us say. And so I needed to be a little harder on him. My parents would come down after me for my unevenness, not knowing the realities. We have to be careful about making judgments. There are tough polemical chapters in Scriptures (Matthew 23, Jude, much of James). And others are of the sweetest consoling kind. And they both serve a purpose, depending on the state of the hearer. I personally don’t need to be prodded. There are people who do, in order for instance to challenge their self-righteous self-deceptions.

    Driscoll is located in the center of Seattle, if I am not mistaken. He is taking it to the gates of Hell. And I can assure you, when you are in true war, you need to be tough and tough-minded when in direct confrontation. Those who sit back in suburbia or rural areas and don’t threaten the status quo and the powers that be, might not understand the necessity for being aggressive.

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    1. Agreed (mostly). The only comment I will make addresses your first paragraph, and really nothing about Driscoll and his ministry to men (which, if true, I wholeheartedly applaud).

      Truly I am unpracticed at the kind of dialogue you present in PP1. I know what you are saying, unfortunately, I have lost the language with which to explain my position on that not having engaged in these sorts of apologetic conversations in some time.

      I am sorry that I cannot explain myself very well, but basically I understand grace to be the power behind a transformed life. In other words, as we understand more and more that we are accepted through Christ and not through any of our works (even ones done as a result of salvation), the works begin to flow naturally.

      I take issue with people who preach what you talk about in PP1 because I just have never seen it work long-term. The guilt that inherently comes with statements like “Whether “in season or out of season”, we are to act upon what we believe.” I find to be damaging to faith and bleeds into a legalistic understanding of life AFTER salvation.

      You might kind of get what I’m trying to say if you listened to 20 or so of Anthony De Mello’s teachings on Self Awareness (short Youtube videos, from 10-15 minutes in length). In my experience, the more one focuses on what one should do but what one is not doing, the more one cannot do it and vice versa (per Paul in Romans 6).

      The Law acts as a tool to bring out bad behavior, not curb it. Telling someone they ‘should’ do something because they are saved is just as damaging as telling an unsaved (and therefore uncapable) person to do those things.

      Only grace (the knowledge that I am love whether I ever achieve any appreciable change) is the power to truly change from the inside out. This does not come from harpy preachers telling me how to behave.

      I get your parenting analogy. And I believe there comes a day when that kind of instruction is unnecessary – even harmful – to the Christian. There are so very many things about me (negative things) that simply will NEVER change until I see Him face to face, that I begin to understand something deeper than ‘do what you should’: Love. Love goes so far beyond should and should not that it almost cannot be discussed in any context of law keeping or breaking.

      I truly believe this is what Jesus’ life and ministry were all about – an extravagant display of love to all His creation that not only will never be stopped, but cannot be now imagined in its complex effect on the Cosmos.

      Well, if you understood any of THAT mumbo-jumbo, I give you kudos (and preschool credits). 🙂

      Thanks for making me THINK! Which is why I adore J.S.’s blog. He let’s me think out loud and doesn’t judge.

      God bless, Johnny!
      C

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      1. “the works begin to flow naturally…The guilt that inherently comes with statements like “Whether ‘in season or out of season’, we are to act upon what we believe.”

        It is ultimately dangerous to subscribe to this ‘naturally flowing works’, because we are relying on our psychological disposition, not the Word. And this is an issue that you will have to eventually tackle, as I did. And really, guilt has nothing to do with it. Grace allows us to struggle and fall and get up and fall and get up and fall… without a rational/psychological basis for guilt. But for your sake of sanctification and fruitfulness, but more importantly, for your peace, joy and happiness, it is good to tackle these things. (I am sorry to disturb the holier-than-God crowd, but sanctification is a means to an end and not an end in itself. A person at peace, joy and happiness and reasonably conversant in the faith is a far better witness for Christianity than the most knowledgeable about the faith but sourpussed. I am somewhat of the latter.)

        I will give you an example of this “in season or out of season”. I have more than my share of marital issues. And early on I came across this passage “it is more blessed to give than to receive”. It didn’t say “it is better to give than to receive”, which is how it how it corrupted by the Kantian ascetics. It implies that one will get more out of life in the act of giving than receiving. This sounds selfish. And if one gives only to get, it is actually self-defeating. You are not actually in the spirit of giving.

        In psychology, it is called the hedonistic paradox. One receives far less pleasure through its direct pursuit.

        And beginning with conjugal relations, I found this trite aphorism (found in Acts) is mindblowingly true. But unless we act on faith, regardless of our feelings, we don’t understand. Often understanding requires the actually psychological experiencing of a thing, regardless of our disposition. This is this faith precedes understanding paradigm that you might have heard.

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  10. Further thoughts came to mind.

    You seem to have these anxieties about guilt. As I said, the whole justification thing, our acceptance with God is based on Christ, upon which we subscribe and act upon. It destroys the rational/psychological basis for such guilt. Of course, the psychological experience of guilt might continue. And if one is doing something seriously and deliberately wrong, such guilt serves a teachable purpose.

    If however, these are these inner “voices” and thoughts, which continually haunt you, you need to just ignore and might need to ignore them for a considerable period until they die of their own accord because of their futility. But you need to be secure in the “blood”; that is certain in your justification. Therefore, perhaps understanding the justification and atonement more fully; in order to see how it truly sets you free from performance in order to get accepted. As far as the thoughts/feelings etc, you cannot even engage in them; because by so doing, you will be swamped by them as you focus on them. One says to oneself, not to the thoughts or thought generator, whether internal or external; and perhaps just assumes, “I am covered”, and live life on that basis without contending with the thoughts. (This is this shield of faith in Ephesians 6). I have been there, big time in my life.

    I once was in a Buffalo airport and I saw this 10-12 year old lad, with his family, be so assertively confident. And I realized as I was watching the dynamics of the family that the reason he was so confident and assertive was because he was secure in the love of his family. He could almost do no wrong, even if he did wrong. He has the makings of true accomplishment. In Jewish circles, it is called the Blessing. There is even a book by that name that might be useful.

    On the other hand, and probably doesn’t apply to you, this freedom becomes a license for presumption and lawlessness. And God must protect His grace from such proclivities. This goes back to the warning that if one deliberately violates faithful trust and obedience in small things, it might become a big thing.

    But I think that you particularly are on the other side of the ridge of Grace.

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    1. “But I think that you particularly are on the other side of the ridge of Grace.”

      Wow. You could have just said you don’t want to discuss this anymore. 🙂 Wouldn’t want to disappoint. Conversation closed.

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      1. Oh Dear. You don’t understand what I mean by that ridge. This has nothing to do with your actual status in Christ. It is about your psychological feelings in that actual status. That you are converted/regenerated, I am not at all challenging. But at the top of the ridge is the person most free and yet most zealous for good works.

        There are those who are so free in psyche, so to speak, but use their freedom to be a little lawless . They may be converted. But that freedom makes them lazy and careless.That is the other side of the ridge peak from you. It is like married spouse who is so secure in their marriage that they become presumptuously neglectful of their spouse and their marriage.

        You are on the other side, I am suggesting. While you may be earnest, you are not yet completely psychological free (because you say you feel guilt and the judgment of others). Presuming that you are not doing something to make you genuinely guilty/ashamed; those feelings of guilt and sensitivities to other’s judgment, is less a function of your actual status in Christ. They are residuals of our natural pre-converted state of being that might never leave us in this life. And a primary cause for that is in not fully grasping your complete and objective freedom in Christ and that allows you to ignore those irrational feelings of guilt or judgments of others (whether they are truly being judgmental or not). It is like the married spouse, who is unsure of the love of the other that they feel compelled, even if they resist that compulsion, to prove their love. (Thus, you perceive that Driscoll is suggesting that you do this and that to prove that you and others are in the faith.)

        A person has truly accepted Christ and His justification. But they haven’t totally bathed/immersed themselves in the psychological freedom that Justification provides (Christ has done it all). It is allowing that justification to fully scar and inscribe itself into the heart and thereby bring comfort and peace into the soul. There is a difference between knowing the truth in a saving way and so knowing that truth that these doubts, fears, anxieties become so ridiculous that they are easily dismissed. (Unlike some say, we can have degrees of doubt but be nevertheless justified/saved). That is why I suggested that although you have accepted Christ; by immersing yourself in fully exploring the Justification and Atonement, such ruminations emit that complete freedom from psychological guilt, shame etc. This is the standard recommendation of the Reformers, who are alot more faithful than this current generation. This is Spurgeon who says dwell on what Christ did at Calvary, which will make still those thoughts. This is the subject of the whole book of Galatians, the object which is true freedom, (Galatians 5:1)

        My discourse is not about whether you are justified/saved or not. It is about being able to achieve that complete psychological sense of freedom from guilt feelings in that justification/salvation.

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      2. The thing is, Johnny, that I do not personally feel the guilt you are talking about. On the contrary, I am experiencing freedom from it like never before. When I came to understand what Paul was talking about in Romans 6-7, I was set completely free. When my eyes were opened to the Truth that Jesus’ faith saves me and not my own, that Jesus as the second Adam has freed the cosmos from guilt, sin, and death (Romans 5), when I began to grasp the Truth that God is not concerned with my actions (or lack thereof) because only love signifies, it was then that I truly could walk free from guilt and the judgment of others.

        You interpret this to mean a license to sin, but quite the opposite. I have never been more committed to holiness before God. It’s just that my list of actions has been boiled down to 1: love.

        My concern is not any judgment Mark may inflict on me (he would judge my beliefs as heresy, but that’s on him, not me), but I am bothered by what guilt, condemnation, and judgment have done to 1. The Gospel and 2. Other sheep who are suffering under it.

        The truth is, I couldn’t care less whether you believe I am saved or not. What I don’t like is people who chat with me for 5 minutes and then decide they know what it is I believe and pass their own judgments on that (limiting the conversation – not affecting me personally in the least).

        I truly believe Christianity MUST become about the conversation. Have you ever heard the saying, “Ask 10 Rabbis their opinion on a passage of Scripture and you will get 20 answers”? It’s time we stopped acting like we have all of the Scriptures figured out. I know I don’t. But there is something I DO know, and that’s what the Bible does NOT say. I finally stopped listening to the party line of the church and started reading it with an open heart to the Spirit. What I discovered was shocking (to me). Very little of what I had been taught can be found anywhere in the Bible. 1 for instance (just for the sake of argument) is the idea that Satan was ever the worship leader in heaven who fell from there because he started an uprising. Utter nonsense that actually stems from Greek mythology and other literature. But you ask just about any Christian in a church today if it’s true and they would practically die for it.

        Did you know the definition of a cult is an organization where there is only one voice? This is what every little church has become. Groups of people surrounding a benevolent (we can hope) dictator who is the only one with a voice. Oh, there might be others in the congregation who preach, or guest speakers, but by God they better all be saying what the preacher WOULD say.

        When I started questioning the stuff churches teach that I couldn’t find in the Bible I was not engaged in a conversation, but instead shown the door. Church leadership is intimidated and threatened by anything that questions their methods, beliefs, and practice. It’s sick. I grew weary of funding the machine either in $$ or attendance, so now we conduct a home Bible study which focuses on people – what the Bible might have to say to struggling parents, teenagers, singles, and others.

        Thanks for trying to explain your point, but I believe you missed mine, and for that, I am to blame. I told you that I lack the language to talk about these matters with churched people anymore. I used to speak it fluently. Now I have utterly rejected it. It’s a lot of unhelpful mumbo-jumbo if it doesn’t make sense to someone who has never heard anything about Jesus. It’s time the church started talking plainly and facing her own untruths.

        God bless,
        C

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  11. Pingback: The Narrow Way | Judah First

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