thegoodshepherd

Is the parable of the lost sheep just wishful thinking?

It has been suggested, or rather lamented, that we cannot love as God loves. For God loves without limits, and we cannot seem to live without erecting borders, whether national or personal. Humankind does not love. But, I would also add, humankind does not live either, precisely because they do not love. It is our own limitations that blind us to the truth of Ephesians 3:20, “Now unto him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think…” If our own limitations lead us to think that most of humankind will forever abide in Hell without end; we must be reminded God is able to do exceeding abundantly above what we think. We must not project our own limitations on God.

It is a sad state of the Christian Church that its members look with despair upon their brothers and sisters and have no hope. The parable of the Good Shepherd who leaves the 99 to find the one sheep which was lost is, in the eyes of Church members, just wishful thinking. For the reality is the beggar on the street, the homeless under the bridge, the addict in the drug house, the rebellious brother, sister, mother, or father who did not make a profession of faith toward God—none of them were rescued by the Good Shepherd. God is, in the end, a failure. And God failed because the one being rescued did not reach out to Him.

Dear Body of Christ, God cannot fail. God will not fail. Do not look with despair towards the end. Our story is a triumph, not a tragedy. And if your understanding of salvation will not allow you to hope in this manner, then you have a terrible understanding of salvation. For God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think. And the God who loves without limits can cause you to love as he loves too. For to love your neighbor is to love God; and to love God is to love your neighbor. One cannot be done without the other.

 

God’s minimum cardinality (a SQL explanation)

ERD_GOD_MAN

SELECT * FROM Humankind WHERE Saved = ‘true’ AND Loved IS NOT NULL
? rows returned

Cardinality here refers to whether God has any sort of mandatory relationship with the whole of humankind. Is it an optional relationship, as in, its possible no one may be with him in the end? Is it a mandatory 1:1 relationship, as in, at least one human will be with him? Is there a difference between Christ’s ideals and the reality he can feasibly create? Is Christ’s ideal to save all humankind, which is a “one to many” relationship? Will he fail in his ideal?

Let’s start by evaluating Christ and humankind by examining some statements which many Christians have held to be true throughout history, statements that start with ideals, but then are reduced by reality.

1. God sincerely wills or desires the salvation of each and every sinful human being.

2. God will eventually achieve a complete victory over sin and death and will therefore accomplish the salvation of everyone whose salvation he sincerely wills or desires.

3. Some human sinners will never be reconciled to God and will therefore remain separated from him forever.

To accept statement #3 as true, you must reject either statement #1 or #2. However, let us examine some clear “one to many” statements in the Bible and see if these statements point to a different truth. What effect does the “one” Christ have on the “many” humankind?

I Cor. 15:28 “When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.” So, in the end, all things, including humankind, will be in subjection to God. This does not mean God will have forced praise heaped upon him from unwilling participants. He calls that iniquity in Isaiah 1:11-13. Rom. 5:18 “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.” Thus, all humankind will have justification and life. Verse 19, says that same group, humankind, will be made righteous. And the force of God’s grace is more powerful than the potency of sin (verse 20). I Cor. 15:22 “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” Thus, all humankind will be made alive.

From these verses, the entity Humankind has the following 5 attributes:

Future subjection (not forced).

Future justification.

Future life.

Future righteousness.

They are given grace more powerful than sin.

 

What attributes does the entity Christ have that necessitates this effect on the many?

I Cor. 15:45 – The last Adam, the life-giving spirit.

I Cor. 15:49 – the man from heaven.

Rom. 5:10 – the Son of God.

Rom. 5:21 – Our Lord.

From here we can create statement #4 which removes statement #3 above. Instead of rejecting either statement #1 or #2, we can accept both and make a new statement.

4. God will eventually accomplish the salvation of each and every sinful human being.

The minimum cardinality for humankind is the same as the maximum. Christ (“one”) created a mandatory relationship with humankind (“many”). Notice, this does not negate the (1:1) relationship in which Christ is the only way to heaven. Neither does it require that all humankind accept the (1:1) relationship in this life. All references to justification, life, righteousness, and subjection are future relationships. Neither does it destroy hell. It just means hell will not last forever because God will not fail in his ideals. God’s ideals will be reality.

References:

(The statements #1 – #4 above were adapted from the reference below, p. 38.)

Talbott, T. (2014). The Inescapable Love of God. Wipf and Stock Publishers: Eugene, OR.

The Heretical god

Calvin-and-Arminius.Pics

It is a sad fact of the Church that its members declare boldly God’s love for the world and yet also delineate just as boldly where in the world love’s limits can be found. ‘Love goes this far and no farther.’

Ephesians 3:19 says God’s love passes knowledge. But, many take God’s incomprehensible love, shrink it down and place limits on it. Whether intentional or not, this makes God’s love comprehensible. The Biblical revelation in 1 John 4:8 says that ‘God is love.’ As God and his Love are one and the same, placing limitations on God’s love is a heresy. For to declare limits on God’s love is the same as to declare limits on God, and thus, to declare God as comprehensible. But, no one can reduce the Infinite to the finite, or the Formless to some form. To do so is to make God a god. And the only useful thing to do to a god is to kill him.

‘But, who has placed limits on God?’ One might ask.

It is those in the Reformed Tradition (RT), which is to say, the intellectual descendants of John Calvin. But, it is equally those in the Arminian Tradition (AT), the intellectual descendants of Jacobus Arminius. For the former declares God chooses for Himself only a portion of the already-damned humankind, and the latter declares the All-Powerful One to be impotent against man’s will to damn himself. For the RT, God will do nothing for the finally-damned portion or humankind. For the AT, God can do nothing for the finally-damned portion of humankind.

For both Traditions, God’s love does not pass knowledge. They know its limits. And, therefore, they know, as in fully comprehend, God. Let us, as true members of the Church, wipe this god of theirs from our minds, for that is this god’s only real use. And worship the God who is limitless, infinite, and formless Love.

John 3:17, For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

Does God desire the good of his creatures?

God is all good. Therefore, God desires the good of all his creatures. But, if humankind was created to find their fulfillment in God, and God only regenerates some fallen humans to be fulfilled in Him, then he does not desire the good of all his creatures. Thus, He is not all good. There is some evil desire in Him.

Of course, there is no evil desire in God. So what does this mean?

Who will I lose?

When it comes to the end of this whole human experience, the end of the world and the universe, where all come to meet their Creator, I cannot help but feel a tinge of fear. OK, maybe a lot of fear. Let me explain:

Ever since I was young, I was thankful that I and my family were among the ones who would be saved from being thrown in the great divine trash heap to which most of humankind was doomed. I would look around at the mass of humanity being carried along by the floods of sin and evil without anyone to pull them out. To be sure, some people might be pulled out. In my mind, my family, friends, and I had been pulled out and were also given the task of pulling everyone else out. But, there are some people you just can’t reach.

So, there we were in the great Ark of Christianity, drifting along the floods of humanity; thankful that we were aboard, but silently mourning the loss of millions of others. Fake comfort was offered to us to alleviate the realization that “this is just how it is.”  We were told either (1) that God logically cannot save everyone since most of humankind was out of reach or refused help, or (2) that God had chosen us above all others and purposely left the rest to drown.

It took years to ponder the implications of each idea. Later on, I could not get past the feeling that God was either, according to (1), impotent against the human will and the gates of hell prevailed over most of humanity, or, according to (2), God did not want to save everyone, making Him quite the divine monster. Must I be told to love my neighbor, feel compassion for him, know him personally, and ache for his salvation until such time as he can no longer be considered my neighbor? Can God throw out his own image into the trash heap?

Yet, I believed that’s exactly what he was going to do. My neighbor, whom I must love as myself, would be ripped from me. And, it would feel like I was being ripped apart. If I loved him, really loved him, that’s what it would feel like. The gates of Hell really were the victors in the end. The gates would steal my neighbors, maybe my future family members, maybe even my own son or daughter.  How can I live with that? How can God, who is said to love everyone even more than I love them, live with that? If God is love, He too will be ripped apart. But, if he already chose some for the trash heap, he is indifferent, uncaring, and places quite the unreasonable burden of future grief on all his followers. They must love all people, but prepare to lose all people. For God did not really love them in the first place. At least, He did not love them enough to save them. How can I truly love my neighbor as myself under these conditions? Will my neighbor, just as valuable and worthy of love as myself, no longer be my neighbor? God forbid! To lose my neighbor is to lose my very own son. That’s the strongest I can put it. To lose even myself to the trash heap of Hell is nothing compared to losing my own son there. I cannot love such a God who would throw him away, be God grieved or indifferent.

God forbid that I should love more than He does. Can God be outdone in love? “No!” my heart cries, “He loves more than I.” I cannot have been educated in love from my earliest memory by my mother and father, by my brother and sister, by all who have ever come before me: whose written words of love have instructed me, and gotten love so wrong. I know not what else to say except that if God is Love, as the Scriptures and all who have taught me say, then His hands are good hands to fall into. In death we all go to Him who is Love. And who shall be able to separate us from the love of God? No one. Not even ourselves.

Still, I do not know this for sure. It is only the logic of Love, which spurns all other logic. It is only the hope that all this will not end in the most horrifying way possible; that not even one will be thrown away – that God will not let one of His lost sheep slip through his hands. They look like big strong hands, don’t they?

a pox on both your houses

The Calvinist: God will save only those he wants to save.

The Arminian: He wants save everyone; God is all-loving. He died to save everyone.

The Calvinist: If God is all-powerful, he will not fail to save those he wants to save. Not all will be saved. But, if you say God wants to save everyone, then you have to admit that he will fail because not all will be saved. If he fails, then he is not all-powerful and therefore he is not God.

The Arminian: But, the Bible clearly states that God wants to save everyone. That’s what an all-loving God would do. If he only saves a select group, then he does not love everyone. If he does not love all, then he is not all-loving and therefore he is not God.

The Calvinist: God loves everyone, but his love is an expression of his all-powerful nature. God’s highest name is Sovereign. God sends people to Hell as an expression of his Soveriegnty.

The Arminian: God is all-powerful, but his sovereignty is an expression of his all-loving nature. God’s highest name is Love.

The Calvinist: No. your God is not all-powerful. He cannot save everyone and is therefore impotent.

The Arminian: Well, your God is not all-loving. He will not save everyone and therefore shows some people love and hates others.

 

What is left of Hell?

Death is now the servant of Christ, bringing me to my own death only to find the bars of Hell broken and the gates crushed and every place therein filled with Christ’s glorious light. Even there his hands lead me and his right hand holds me. He led all the captives which came before me up to Heaven’s height. Shall he do the same for me? Every lightened place and every broken bar is a promise that he will not leave me. Be not afraid, my soul, and neither be in despair, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. When I am ready to enter into God’s fiery presence, and walk before him in purity; when my own sepulchers are emptied, when His light blazes through my own murky depths; when I am stripped naked: then am I clothed in royal linen. And then is the ring put on my finger. And what shall I desire of God after all of this except what he planned to give me from the beginning, when he saw me yet being unperfect — a new name.