Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Timing of Guilt and Forgiveness

Guilt and forgiveness occur in two different frames of reference and sometimes are out of sync as a result. We feel remorse for our sin and the need for forgiveness in real time, it's felt in the present like a dagger to the chest or a weight upon the shoulders. Guilt is experiential in the moment. Forgiveness, on the other hand, is past perfect--fully established by something Christ finished in the past.

Guilt, when it is our experience, is our experience until another one supersedes it. Our heads may understand the principle of vicarious sacrifice and the mechanism of forgiveness finished in the past, but our hearts feel guilt and remorse in the present and do so until they are alleviated. A battle rages between our minds and our hearts on the subject, because there is a difference between knowing something intellectually and feeling it emotionally. Believers in Christ can end up feeling shameful before God, even ostracized from him, despite knowing about the cross.

When Christians focus on their feelings of guilt they become prey for the enemy, who seeks to drive a wedge between them and God, ultimately to undermine their faith in God's forgiveness. Believers under the weight of guilt are on the edge of doubting their status before God. On the other hand, believers who are presumptuous, and ride roughshod over conscience, can undermine their own faith, sin against the grace of God, and wind up in the same place anyhow. God help us!

Guilt is not a necessarily bad thing for a Christian, but I think it takes an experiential revelation of forgiveness for it not to be so in the long run. That doesn't mean we're not forgiven if we don't feel forgiven, or even that we're not forgiven until we confess our sin and ask. Forgiveness was attained on the cross and sealed by the resurrection. It's a fait accompli. The one who believes in Christ and what he accomplished through his passion is forgiven regardless of confession or feeling.

But given the timing of guilt and forgiveness, there will be occasions when the believer will have to hold on to the facts of forgiveness with an iron grip until the feelings of guilt crumble and give way to those facts. Sometimes guilt must hang on the cross of Christ until it dies.

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Open Door to Heaven

"After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven..."      Rev 4:1 NASB

The Apostle John looked up after his visionary experience as an amanuensis, saw an opened door in the heavens and heard the now familiar voice of his visions calling to him, presumably, through it. We're not told what caught his attention first: the appearance of the opened door, or the voice beckoning him. It really doesn't matter. A new phase in his visionary experience was beginning, and its significance would soon be apparent.

The opened door in the heavens most readily signifies access to what normally would be inaccessible to mankind. In this particular instance that represents access to two things beyond human purview: 1) the throne room, or very presence, of God; and 2) the future. God has to open the door to the experience of either, or the heavens remain closed. So, even though it is not specifically mentioned in the text, that door had to have been opened by Jesus, a key bearer who opens what no one else can open or close.

Doors, opened or closed, serve a variety of roles in the Apocalypse, but the basic concept is the same regardless--doors represent a barrier only authority or power can open. There are doors only God can open (like the one in question), and there are doors that God does not (cannot?) open. That would seem an odd thing, a door barring God, but the Apocalypse represents such a thing existing. Jesus stands knocking, in that case, waiting for the invitee to open the door. The implication for monergism, perseverance, and the whole of Calvinism is troubling, to say the least.

"Come up here," though in the form of a command, was more along the lines of divine commentary and was specific to John (singular). It cannot be related to the Rapture, nor really, to anyone else's access to God or heaven, whether by prayer or other means. Immediately, John was transported beyond the door into the midst of whatever it was opened to reveal. The surroundings were obviously symbolic because God (the Father and the Spirit) were represented tangibly when they are actually incorporeal, and Jesus was represented as a lamb rather than the corporeal form he has taken.

The purpose of John's visionary translation was to find out what things take place after the things he had already been shown. Those things were contained in the opening vision of Christ and the Letters to the Seven Churches. It stands to reason, it seems to me, that this particular sequential characteristic undermines viewing the Letters as representing successive ages of the Church. Instead, the Letters, all of them together, must have had reference to something that could have been existent in the time of John and before the bulk of what is revealed as happening afterward according to the stated purpose of the command.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

When Something Dawns on the Mind of God

There is life outside of this universe. God lives that life. His life existed when the universe did not, and would still exist if the universe dissolved into nothingness tomorrow. God is, everything else is made by him and exists at his pleasure. Therefore, there is something in and about God which has nothing whatsoever to do with creation, and which creation does not affect nor which creation orders.

God is perfect. He is entire within himself and in need of nothing. His perfections were as they were without creation, they are what they are upon creating, and they are what they would be if creation ceased to be. Therefore, God's perfections are not reliant in any respect upon creation. It could come and go but God would be the same.

When God created the universe and established something other than himself, of necessity, changes occurred within him due to his relation to that reality. That reality could have nothing to do with his perfections or else he wouldn't have been perfect apart from creation. The changes that reality caused upon its coming into existence, likewise, could have nothing to do with his perfections. So even though God does not change in regard to perfection, change is still part of his experience.

Before or apart from the decision to create, God had no relation to creation. If that reality was in his mind eternally (as would be the case on Essential Omniscience, Determinism, or Molinism) but undone, he would have been less than perfect apart from creating. He would have needed to create in order to fulfill that unfulfilled ambition, or to instantiate that knowledge in his mind which had no source in existence. Therefore, when creation did not exist God had no knowledge of it--there was nothing to know.

In his eternal perfections apart from creation, he did not know creation, created beings, nor the things that created beings did. Once he decided to create, he knew creation entirely. He knew created beings and all the things created beings did, completely, utterly, exhaustively. He did not and does not know them because he pre-conceived them in distant ages of eternity, but that in instantiating what he did conceive he knew them entirely through his omnitemporal omniscience. He knows them from the the foundations of the world.

God can change in regard to thought or notion and still remain eternally perfect, as odd as that might sound. It is not at all necessary that God would have to know everything about creation before he conceived it and said, "Be." Theological conceptions which deny the first and insist upon the second lead to bizarre conclusions. The picture of God gets painted with inappropriate colors (as in Calvinism) and/or self-descriptions the Holy Spirit inspired in the Word of God get denied (as in Impassibility) as a result.

That something dawned on the mind of God (like creating), and represented a change for him, which affected him, should not be too difficult a concept to grasp given the testimony of scripture.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

What Is and Isn't In the Mind of God

God is omniscient which means he is all-knowing and all-seeing. He doesn't have to discover a thing, or even think through a thing, he "already" knows it. That being the case, can God be surprised to any degree? Surely, there is nothing of which God is not completely aware of and thoroughly comprehending from all eternity--or is there?

If God was thoroughly acquainted with evil before or apart from creation, then I submit that evil did not find its genesis in creation but in God. In that case, God did not "discover" it in creation, for evil was part of his thoughts quite apart from the existence of creation. It would have found it's way into creation reflectively rather than formatively. That seems an impossibility to me because evil is intrinsically at odds with God.

By Christ's argument, a house divided against itself cannot stand, so neither could God stand if he was for himself (good) and against himself (evil) within his own thoughts.

Therefore, evil could not have been in God's conceptions apart from those which instantiated creation. Even then, it could only have been so in general terms; i.e. "if we make creatures in our image they will do as they will rather than as we will." If evil was a subject thoroughly plumbed in God's mind apart from creation, then God's thoughts would be of evil to some extent and he would not be good, and he would not be pure. The evil that ended up being produced in the minds of mankind would exist as a reflection of the mind of God who made them rather than as an negative consequence of freewill.

Evil is a consequence of freewill, but it cannot be intrinsic in the created, pristine possessor of that freewill without it indicting the creator for it. Adam and Eve were created good and upright. Evil came their way afterwards, when they opted for their own wills instead of God's will (evil=anything against the will of God). Evil is only possible if there is a freewill apart from God's, but evil does not actually exist until (and unless) freewill is exerted in opposition to God.

A mind endued with such freewill would be transparent to God in all its evil, once it existed, because he is omnitemporally omniscient in regard to creation. Furthermore, all the minds that would ever come into existence would be transparent to God in all their evil, once creation was in place. However, if God omnisciently knew the evil thoughts of mankind from all eternity, that is, apart from creation being put in place, it would mean that something which could not come from God's own thoughts (they're not evil) and which only came into being temporally, informed God's knowledge eternally.

If God is pure and holy as the Word avows, and he actually regretted making mankind and was astonished at the depths of Israel's sin as presented in his Word, it is impossible that evil (whether his or ours) was part of his personal, eternal knowledge. The knowledge of evil, by necessity, is confined to and informed by the decision to create man in his image. If God had not created, he would not have any knowledge of evil. The existence of evil demands that God be aware of it by observation rather than by cogitation.

We may live in a universe that is quantumly frothy, but it seems to me that we must be careful in our explications of God's omniscience to accurately describe what is and isn't in the mind of God, lest we suggest something that would, by necessity, annihilate itself.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

A Moment In the Mind of God

We experience, act and think sequentially, in a time-bound fashion, which seems to demand that the entire concept of change be placed squarely within the domain of time. God is not time-bound and sees omnitemporally, and yet presents himself to us within creation as one experiencing change. The paradox is confusing to say the least. Nonetheless, unless we are willing to discount God's self-revelation in scripture, it's a paradox we should accept as true.

I've written previously concerning God's experience of the moment within creation. His timeless experience of the moment in creation means that he's not only always here now, but that what was then is now and what is to be is now for him. We wait on time to unfold--past opening up to present, present becoming future. God sees the beginning from the end and the end from the beginning. He sees all things in motion through time, at once, and he interjects throughout time to affect and influence where things go, at once, and leaves no scar on time to trace that he ever did so.

It is not necessary that he dreamt all this up in the misty ages of eternity, as if he always, forever had a plan to create, and then decided to instantiate it in the moment of creation. He need only to have had a thought and said "be," and in that instant all was what it is in all its time at once before him. From his perspective, all stuff, all time, all the us there will ever be came about with one all-wise, all-seeing, all-knowing decision (or perhaps six day-long decision). The thought that precipitated that decision has not passed: this, right now, is that thought, not the echo of it as it would be if he had to perceive it through the long ages of eternity before he acted.

Really, that precipitating thought was the only one necessary for God to have undertaken regarding all creation throughout its time. Extended pre-planning, meticulous preparation, experimentation, and trial and error were not necessary to bring creation into being. God is wise enough, knows enough, is powerful enough, and is unaffected by time enough to put all this into play, and to still allow creatures free will within time. We are in that moment, the very same moment, and the only moment within the mind of God that produced all creation and in which creation is sustained.