Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Border of Stupidity

According to President Obama, Israel should withdrawal to its pre-1967 borders and make room for a Palestinian State. Perhaps he's discovered a viable principle that should be broadly applied any and everywhere with equal validity:
  • Germany can go back to its pre-1945 borders
  • Mexico can go back to its pre-1848 borders
  • For that matter, "Indian Territory" can go back to its pre-1763 borders
  • Or Judea could return to its pre-135 borders.
Obama's policy is stupidity, or the abetting of genocide. I have no doubts God will never let it stand. Will voters do the same in 2012? Apparently not, we are truly in the last days!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Why Cessationism Bugs Me

There are many brothers and sisters who don't see the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the same way that I do. That's OK, although I wish for them the experiences I have had in the Holy Spirit, and even better ones. Honest Christians who don't see from the Word the way into such experiences, are acceptable to me. What isn't are smug naysayers who justify in their own minds an experience of Christianity which isn't like that reported in the Word. All the while, ridiculing those who dare to believe that such an experience could be theirs.

Demands are made for proof, for documentation, for willingly undergoing a spiritual colonoscopy to satisfy the lack of belief in the naysayer. Jesus never felt compelled to bend to similar demands from his naysayers, I see no reason for the spiritually experienced to do so today. I say that any explanatory onus is not on the one endeavoring to live experientially in line with what's in the Word, but on the one who isn't experiencing what is described in the Word. In light of the divergence their experience demonstrates from what is reported in the Word, it is the cessationists and spiritually inactive who have some explaining to do!

I understand, there have been all manner of fleshy demonstrations, goofiness, and out and out fraud among charismatics, but how is that record any worse (or even different) from that for cessationist Christianity. The plain truth is that for cessationists God is mutable, and perhaps even disabled. Without warning or explanation he pulled the rug out from under the disciples' mission and changed their assigned techniques for evangelism and practice within the church. What could be the reason for that, did he run out of power?

If anything changed, it was Christians, specifically their faith in God to demonstrate what he said he would demonstrate through them. It is not surprising to me that when and where Christians dare to believe that what is described in the Word can be their experience, it becomes their experience. God has not changed, neither has his mission for the church, nor the power he makes available for them to do what he's commanded. I think what needs to change is us.

Friday, May 6, 2011

What Happens After We Die: Final Thoughts

I think the scriptures are reasonably clear about what happens when people die. The body turns back to dust in death and the soul departs to one of two places. For the believer (or the immature child of a believer) the soul is ushered into the presence of God, where he or she stays until the Rapture. For the unbeliever, their soul is placed into Sheol (in Greek, Hades), under some duress (if the story of the rich man and Lazarus was intended to describe the afterlife factually).

At the end of time God will raise all the dead who had not been raised up to that point. Everyone of them, soul reunited with body, will be brought before God's judgment bench for final disposition. Those written in the Lamb's Book of Life are taken into eternity with Christ, those that are not are judged by their works and thrown into the appropriately heated place in the Lake of Fire. The conditions of all parties is final and eternal.

We cannot be essentially destroyed; we cannot have our wills co-opted and still be what God made us to be; the unrepentant among us cannot be allowed to roam free. What can be done with the likes of man after death and for eternity? Those that repent and embrace Christ can be cleansed and remade and then freed to live in agreement with God. Those that do not repent must be locked forever into an environment that will keep them from expressing their sinfulness.

Annihilation is clearly unscriptural; universalism is as well; inclusivism is and isn't at the same time. For the incapable children of believers, inclusivism is absolutely true. For the incapable among unbelievers there is some reason to be optimistic that it might be true. For what I'll call "noble savage inclusivism," the doctrine can only betray the semi-pelagianism of the one promulgating it, and it is patently untrue.

When we get to eternity, I am sure there will be surprises concerning who made it and who did not. There is no reason not to think that we will find the odd unknown walking the golden streets, who far from the climes of the Levant, was visited by God (like Abram), repented and put trust in him as a result. While I'm satisfied admitting my necessary ignorance in the matter and leaving it to the judge of all the earth to do right, I am certain that there will be no post-mortem grace, nor will any idolater see the kingdom of heaven.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

What Happens After We Die: Inclusivism III

We continue our talk on what happens after we die by delving further into the subject of inclusivism, which posits that people who do not know Christ directly or perfectly will be included in the salvation he has wrought.

If there are any clear biblical grounds for inclusivism concerning children, the best would have to be found in 1 Corinthians 7:14 (and even that is iffy). A decent case can be made that the verse deals in context merely with the legitimacy (clean vs. unclean) of an existing marriage in the eyes of God when one party comes to faith but the other does not. If that union was considered spiritually unacceptable by God, the children would be the products of fornication and unclean. If the marriage is valid spiritually (clean) in the eyes of God, then the children produced by it are clean too.

The thought would have to be Jewish at it's root, developed ultimately from Malachi 2:11-16, as I see it. If legitimacy is the prime concern, then Paul would have to be saying that the principle of Malachi 2:11 cannot be applied to an existing marriage between one who remains an unbeliever and one who becomes a Christian. In these cases, the presence of the believer in the union sets apart the unbeliever so that the union is seen as acceptable by God, and the progeny resulting would be holy. Whereas I see the merit in such an interpretation, I don't think it quite captures the entirety of the thought--more than legitimacy or illegitimacy seems to be at stake to me.

The point of sanctified children is that they would be considered part of the covenant community, benefactors of the covenant blessings. If the marriage was acceptable, then the offspring produced as a result of it are considered part of the Israel. And here is where inclusivism both hits a rock and sets sail for me. If the inclusivist thought is true (i.e. all children are born innocent, and under the blood that was shed for everyone) then why reference the uncleanness or unacceptability of children at all? In what meaningful way could children from a mixed marriage be unsanctified?

Interpretations that refer the thought to being exposed to the gospel or in a better place to come to faith (extrapolated from the spousal argument Paul makes) are unsatisfying. They just don't explain the hullaballoo in the passage. If there is an inclusivist claim that can be made here, the only one that stands up, imo, would be one that says the children of believers are included in salvation until they decide they don't want to be. In fact, I do see the verse substantiating that very thought.

When it comes to children, or even the infirm in general, I cannot say with any certainty what happens after death to those who were born of unbelievers. Good arguments exist to see them as included in Christ: what doesn't exist is a bible verse or verses that say as much. There are, on the other hand, verses that call into question whether or not such is the case. What I can say with some confidence is that children born of believers will be included, and that, at least, is a comfort to me.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What Happens After We Die: Inclusivism II

We continue our talk on what happens after we die by delving further into the subject of inclusivism, which posits that people who do not know Christ directly or perfectly will be included in the salvation he has wrought.

Even the case of the immature and the infirm being included in salvation is anything but airtight. At best a hopeful biblical principle, rather than an explicit statement, can be derived for their salvation. As I see it, three possible grounds exist for inclusivism concerning the immature and infirm: (1) infants have nothing to repent of and so would be included in Christ's resurrection; (2) the immature and infirm are not able to apprehend creation's witness of God, are not truly able to meet the condition of salvation (faith in Christ), and so would be included in the provision of atonement which was made for everyone; and (3) the children of a believer are included in the the body of Christ unless they decide not to believe.

I do not see how infants could have anything of which to repent. Even though they are born into sin and death, separated from God, they have not sinned personally. They have not even had the opportunity to ignore God's witness in creation, so including them in judgment would seem a travesty of justice. It is a God-given principle that children are not made to pay for the sins of their fathers, so it would appear they must be safe.

We do have some disturbing precedents in scripture, however. I wonder, how many infants died in the Flood, or why infants and children were killed by the invading Israelites under the command of God? It seems evident to me that there are mysteries in understanding how God views the situation of children. I search in vain for that one clear, unequivocal passage of scripture that answers these questions.

To me, inclusivist doctrines purporting to understand what God will do in these instances reflect more what the author would like God to do than they report what God said he would actually do. Given Christ's universal atonement, I see the logic in formulating an exclusion to the condition of faith in Christ for those incapable to express such faith through disability. What I do not see is that clearly demonstrated by scripture.