Free to Choose

Author’s Note: This story was originally written for a Junior Sabbath School class at Pioneer Memorial Church at Andrews University. Following the teaching pattern of Jesus, I have tried to make concepts easy to understand and memorable to students who have many competing distractions for their attention.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/11200

Sinner: “Help, throw me a line or I’ll drown”
Jesus: “Do you love me?”
Sinner: “No”
Jesus: “Very well, I love you so much that I’m going to let you go. Good bye”

Is this an accurate reflection of the love Jesus has for humanity?

1 Like

Sigh! We think we’ve been taught the Bible but the Bible isn’t perfect and our teaching isn’t perfect

Adam and Eve didn’t reject God. They wanted to be more like God. And the Bible says they succeeded!
And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: (Gen 3:22a

Neither Satan nor Lucifer was referred to as a cherub. EGW got her Lucifer information from the fiction of post-New testament Christian leaders. The king of Babylon claimed to be the morning star which was called Lucifer by the Romans.

Isaiah 14 is an eye opener. The King James translates Morning Star as Lucifer in a taunt letter when dead pagan kings chant O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down….(Gen 3:22a) to the Babylon King/Morning Star god.

Our church will never correct this stuff. Firing pastors and teachers is far easier.

Sorry for the rant. I share your concern about our picture of the Gospel. What it boils down to is all humans are born guilty of a capital offense and will be executed unless…whatever. EGW said that fewer than one in twenty of The Remnant will be saved. Pity the poor non-remnant.

I trust the Gospel will do much better than that.

4 Likes

If there is really pie in the sky waiting for us when we die, as Jimmy Cliff sings in “The Harder They Come”, it seems this “lucky” bride’s “love” will typify that of the heavenly horde bowing and scraping credulously before the thrones of Jesus and his dad.

“We’ve seen the way you guys rain fire down on those who don’t requite your absolute affection, Dearest Divine Duo, so of course we love both of you most deeply and will do so for all time.”

Me? If there is an afterlife, I suspect I’ll be forced to spend aeons listening to an endless loop of Billy Joel singing “its better to laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints”, or perhaps “We Didn’t Start the Fire”, while The Heavenly Father and His Holy Son enjoy their last laugh by frowning down in everlasting arrogance and eternal “affection” on me and all the other skeptics whom refused to believe that love is, or ever could be, the product of fear. :grinning:

1 Like

I can’t imagine a loving human parent “letting go” if rejected. Most of us would take a more universalist view toward our children, I think.

3 Likes

One of the foundational suppositions of Adventist theology is that man possesses a ‘free will’ that will never be encroached upon by God. This means that most people will be lost because they will not accept the work of Christ on their behalf. Thus, God is largely powerless and can do little about this because He won’t violate our will. So, Christ’s effort to save humanity will come up short and, at least by the final numerical count of those lost vs. saved, Satan will be the winner (at least until he is cast into the lake of fire to be incinerated with all those he has deceived).
If this is your view of the gospel then God bless you and read no further.

If this view strikes you as not reflective of our God and thus His plan for humanity, then you may have to rethink some of your suppositions.
The article compares God to a male suitor of a young girl who is rejected and can do nothing to win her love:

To be frank, this is an inappropriate, indeed ludicrous analogy. To me, to see our God as this feeble and powerless is completely off base. He’s not a frail, faulty human being like us. We serve the Creator of the universe - almighty, all wise and impelled by His agapé love for us, His creation. He has a plan for humanity and is in the process of implementing it.

If you don’t agree with the characterization of God in this article, you might want to take a look at this, which I believe is a more Biblically based understanding:

https://tentmaker.org/articles/free-will-gift-or-curse.html.

I think you’re all missing a couple of critical points. There isn’t a single person who has lived on this earth, with the exception of Adam and Eve, that wasn’t born with a death sentence on their head at birth. Yet, not a single one of us was given the opportunity to choose whether we wanted to be born or not. We didn’t have a way to opt out.

Carry this one step further. There was war in heaven long before the earth was created. The instigator of that war was cast by God to this earth. An all knowing God, with no time-line to His perception, must have known what was going to happen in the garden. In a crude analogy, it is like casting a young innocent person into a prison yard with hundreds of hardened criminals and expecting a good outcome.

I don’t look at this with blame toward God, but rather, God is more aware of our plight than any of us can imagine. I am quit sure that He would not have sent his Son to this earth to die for the sins of this world and only limit it to a tiny fraction of those who were strong enough and faithful enough to endure through all that the devil throws at them, to be salvaged.

If you believe in the first two paragraphs, then God’s grace must be in much greater abundance than we give Him credit for. He is looking for any way possible to save each of us. The judgment is a referendum on Him. It is to demonstrate to the universe that He is not so arrogant and pompous that he demands loyalty, like some people we’ve recently seen in the public eye. After all, the entire morality play we are in on this earth is to demonstrate a loving God that the universe can cling to, not because He demands our love, and certainly not out of fear of His retribution, but because He goes beyond human understanding to demonstrate his love to our frail and flawed human behavior.

1 Like

Lynden,
I’d like to comment on what you have written by sharing some of what I have come to believe. I was an Adventist for almost 20 years so am familiar with Adventist theology. My own studies have led me to a radically different understanding of God and His plan for us. I believe it is Biblical and hope you will consider it.

I think you are correct in saying we have all been born separated from God because of Adam’s fall. He, and we in him, were created immortal but he sinned and lost that status for himself and us. So, our plight, our death sentence as you say, was not our fault. Yes, God knew beforehand exactly what would happen in the garden. As a matter of fact it was all part of His plan as Paul tells us in Rom 8:20.

As such, I believe God has accepted the responsibility to rectify it. I believe our salvation has been restored to us by the grace and mercy of God through the life, death and resurrection of Christ. Paul, who received this gospel or good news directly by revelation tells us that Christ abolished death on the cross. (Of course we have yet to see this happen.) Paul also said that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself by no longer counting our trespasses against us. Paul also said God desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of this truth and Christ is the saviour of all men, especially of believers (because we believers, in this age and early stage of the process, are the first to acknowledge and understand what Christ has done for all mankind).

Where sin has increased, grace has abounded much more. God is not stingy but lavish in His love and forgiveness. He is not looking for a way to save us, He and Christ had the plan from the foundation of the world. It is only a matter of time as it unfolds. As to whether it is a referendum on God or is necessary as a demonstration of His love, I have no idea. I think the ultimate goal of the plan is to have us achieve status as true children of God and co-heirs of the coming kingdom with Christ, our elder brother.

2 Likes

God has never said, “Love me, or I’ll kill you.” If you reject God’s love, all He can do is cry as He gives you up and lets you go.

Oh contrarie, He did say His reward was for “those who love me and keep my commandments”. This is a contradiction to the very foundation of who God is. You can’t have it both ways. I’m inclined to believe a God of grace and not a God of retribution.

It’s quite a challenge to try to comprehend what the Bible is telling us about God and His plan for us. I guess that’s why there are differing Christian denominations and theologies.

The Calvinists stress the sovereignty and justice of God, that He is all powerful and what He desires will come about. Hence their theology of determinism or predestination. They believe God has already chosen a small group who will be saved and we have no say in the matter.

They must disregard or reinterpret the statements about God’s desire to save everyone because they don’t see that happening. They see that most people on earth (have) live(d) and die(d) without a saving relationship with Christ.
I believe their answer is that God has several ‘wills’ and the one to save all is subordinate to the one that saves only the elect.
So, God doesn’t want to save all.

They maintain that God makes the first move in the salvation process. Paul wrote that ‘the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them because they are spiritually discerned.’ (1Cor 2:14). Paul put it another way in Rom 8:6-7: ‘To be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace, for the carnal mind is hostile toward God, for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can it be’. I think Paul is saying we were all born ‘natural’ (or carnal, fleshly, selfish, fallen) and we cannot turn to God on our own. We have no desire to; we are simply not capable. God must make the first move and chooses to initiate the salvation process by a regeneration, and He does this for the few He has elected to salvation who will then be able to respond to Him.

Arminians, the free will people like Adventists, have their passages that talk about the man’s choices, about man’s ability to exercise his will. They like Joshua 24:15, ‘Choose today whom you will serve… Yet for me and my house we will serve the Lord’, and the choices Moses gave the Israelites in Deut 30, ‘I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses’, and Jesus’ lament about how He wanted the people of Jerusalem to be gathered to Him as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but they would not. The problem is they misapply these passages to the initiation of the salvation process. But these verses all refer to people who were already believers in God. All they are really saying is that God gives us choices in this age to move forward from our initial state of salvation or fall back or even away.

Arminians must downplay or ignore God’s role in the affairs of nations and people, how He leads or repeatedly influences our decisions (which is stated for many individuals and many times in the Bible) because that would undermine their idea that He will not interfere with man’s free will.

They must disregard or reinterpret the statements about God’s desire to save everyone because they don’t see that happening. They see that most people on earth (have) live(d) and die(d) without a saving relationship with Christ.
I believe their answer is that God leaves salvation totally up to human choice and since most don’t choose Christ (in this age and life), most will never be saved.
So, God can’t save all.

Each group must disregard or reinterpret the statements about God’s desire to save everyone because they don’t see that happening.
Maybe we all should think about Jesus’ words to the disciple Thomas:
‘Blessed are those who have not seen, and have yet believed’.

What if you’re wrong, Dave?
What if god has no more plan than my dog?
What if, instead of being some grand designer with an overarching, hidden scheme or an ultimate, ulterior motive, our creator is as clueless as a quark and is looking to us, the created, to sort things out for ourselves and chart a reasonable course to a better future?
Not Biblical, I know, but then again, there’s lots of stuff not in the Bible. For example, the Bible doesn’t mention internal combustion engines or give even a hint at what god’s purpose was in allowing us to leverage that technology.:rofl:

1 Like

I agree Bruce, there is much to learn and to unlearn and to take into consideration. I would ask then, what is God? A real entity or a product of our imaginings. Whichever it is, what do we hope the underlying characteristics of God to be? IMO those characteristics we choose define the God we have faith in. The demonstration Christ provides of God, when seen without the cultural baggage religion has added, will elicit an empathetic response to others and to our world which is probably the closest we can come to true love. Empathy allows for individual freedom, equality and forgiveness, the essence of what Christ demonstrated.

Well that is interesting, but it fails to recognize that the bible is man’s view of God and the religion they created from those imaginings. We need to imagine greater truth that is less contradictory with the love and empathy Christ manifests. How wonderful is that love? It is able to allow freedom and equality, and universal forgiveness and acceptance. It all depends on our response. Do we reflect the empathy Christ manifests for others and all the earth we are blessed with.

1 Like

I’m sorry, but it appears that that timing conflicts with Rev 12 (but agrees with EGW, of course).

  1. And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
  2. And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
  3. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
  4. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.
  5. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.
    6 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.
  6. And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
  7. And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. (Rev 12:1-8)

Notice that the war in heaven took place after the birth of the man child.

If humans are made in god’s image it follows, reasonably, that humans have inherent creative powers as well, including the god-like ability to create gods in human form. Thus, all gods known to humans are essentially man-made.

Further, if each of us creates and serves the god of our preferences and prejudices, then by logical extension, the same can be said of Jesus. That is, people commit innumerable atrocities and engage in countless acts of empathy daily, all supposedly with the approbation of a savior they’ve invented for themselves and in whom they’ve placed their faith.

But again, just as the bible doesn’t provide explicit instructions for flying a plane, the dozens of gospels currently available leave enormous gaps and conflicting ideas regarding what Jesus was all about. Thus, it is not unreasonable to argue along with Nietzsche that the Romans crucified the last Christian two centuries ago.

The upshot of all of the above is that I can’t say with absolute certainty or detailed specificity whether Jesus and/or god wants me to:

  1. Respond to your comment

  2. Write a gospel of my own or

  3. Go play golf.

But having no hour-by-hour “day planner” from Jesus, nor a book laying out god’s day-by-day guide for my life, am I left with a purposeless existence, no means of salvation or even access to my creator?

I’m sure this isn’t the case, but I can’t prove that to anyone’s satisfaction, other than my own.

Would not the existence of specific instructions ruin the concept of free will. It certainly seems to me that asking God to tell them what to do did not work out well for the Israelites. We are creators and connection to the whole is where true love / empathy flows like a river. Have you seen the new book by Robert Lanza, “The Grand Biocentric Design”? Gives me some very interesting ideas.

Just to be clear, I’ve never asked for a Day Planner from Jesus, or his dad, and probably wouldn’t use either, if provided. :grinning:
That said, I have not read Lanza’s Book. but the most interesting thing I’ve read since “The Devil’s Deception” by Daniel Berlinski (not a new book, BTW) was Phillip Goth’s book “Gallileo’s Error” which I found to be an interesting take on pansychism.

Did you mean David Berlinski and the devils delusion? I have not read it. The book by Lanza is about the interesting discoveries in sub atomic particle physics and the interesting dependance on the observer for reality. I’m still listening to it.

Yep. (Dr.) David Berlinski.

Also, in checking out Lanza’s book I came across this in a review on The Johns Hopkins Website:

“…what Lanza says in this book is not new. Then why does Robert have to say it at all? It is because we, the physicists, do NOT say it––or if we do say it, we only whisper it, and in private– –furiously blushing as we mouth the words. True? yes; politically correct? #%$& no!”

So I’ll definitely check it out!

1 Like

Hi Bruce,
Sorry I couldn’t get back to you sooner.
I may be wrong, of course, but I believe God has a plan for humanity and is in the process of carrying it out. Accepting that is a matter of faith. We are told that even faith is a gift to us.

It appears that right now you can’t see the evidence of a master plan by God that is supposedly leading us to a better world. A lot of the time I can’t either. I don’t rely solely on the Bible for my faith in how God is working, but have studied the experiences, ministries and writings of some of the followers of Christ in our modern times who stepped out and acted on their faith. I am convinced of the presence and power of God in our world today. He allows and does many things that I would not were I in His position but I remain convinced He knows what He is doing.

Concerning your ‘day planner’ idea, I have been thinking a bit about that too. The ancient Israelites had the ‘Urim and the Thummim’ to divine the word of God and answer their questions. Perhaps He will set up something similar for each of us if we sincerely request it and use that knowledge in a way to honour Him. But that would be contingent on His willingness to share His deeper things. He doesn’t do it with many, only those who are spiritually mature enough to handle it and have an overwhelming craving to want to experience Him on a more profound level.

Jesus said that if we ask, seek, and knock we will be rewarded and He will not withhold anything good from us. I don’t know whether that desire originates in us or God but I think one has to want that deeper relationship more than anything else.
There are few who do.