Mother, God in the Flesh

Listen to this story:

An old friend of mine just lost his 97-year-old mother. He’s a well-rounded guy, witty, solid family man, grandfather, successful pastor and businessman, an open-minded, openhearted thinker, and grief is killing him. He’s now in therapy. His experience reminded me how existence goes for us, driving us to sickening numbness at life’s painful transitions. I thought about my own mother’s death and the ensuing grief.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Would you have God force his gift upon us? The alternative to inviting us to accept his offer of life is to make us take it. And my understanding from Ellen is that God will not use force, but only persuasion.

Your idea would have heaven populated with rebels compelled to accept something they did not want in the first place. Sounds like hell to me.

God did give us free will, an astounding gift, and allows us to use it as we see fit. He steps back, giving the creature space to make up his own mind. Some choose to accept the gift of salvation, others reject it. They are all free. And the freedom of fellowship with God is open to all, no requirement. The temple veil has been rent, top to bottom, opening the way to the holiest.

But if you choose to avoid that fellowship, walking away, turning your back on Him who is life, then what can God do?

He accepts your rejection and all that that entails. He would prevent it, but cannot keep such a one from wailing and gnashing of teeth.

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The attraction between ionic bonds are very strong and requires large amount of energy to equal it and break the bond. Similarly, what belief system is large enough that would lead our church leaders to relinquish the maternal experience they had with their own mothers and in the process lose their empathy, to lead them to deny WO, itself a practice of maternal support? I cannot think of anything other than pathological reasons. Even Jesus as he was dying in the cross was still thinking about his mother. Imagine that. Let it sink!


The title of this article is riveting, oh so true. No wonder the RC church developed strong theology on Mother Mary. Jesus and motherhood, one who cares, should go together. When I visited the Vatican I saw many statures of Mother Mary, some statures were quite revealing with a child on her open breast, showing the motherly side of God. (I am not so sure that Mary would like to see herself in the many topless statures that represent her in the Vatican.)


dear allen, thank you for your response. i am very familar with the logic of your argument, but you and i are the product of a Divine experiment that went wrong. we had no choice in the matter, no freedom to accept or decline. sin was thrust upon us, and now our salvation is up to us, our decision. something seems unfair about that. even the late billy graham hinted at something so mysteriously gracious at calvary that we haven’t a clue of its true meaning. i am just not as certain as you how it plays out. what if ‘in a twinking of an eye’ we all changed for the good? i am not ready to package an answer such as yours without questioning perhaps the Cross is more mysterious, more miraculous than we ever thought. If God put it all back together, saved the wicked as children, before they turned evil, would you have a problem with that? fundamentalism and its love affair with certainty has been nothing but an incarcerating hopeless experience. i am free now, and i wonder at the mystery of God’s love and its saving powers. it’s His gift to me. if i am wrong, i rest in His love.


You mean the matter of the tree in the garden, where freedom of choice centered? You mean that was a mistake? Not giving freedom of choice would have been better?

BTW, this is not just incarcerating fundamentalism’s ideas, but the broad thinking of many philosophies, that is the idea of freedom of choice.

I agree that sin was thrust upon us without our consent. But we do have the freedom to accept or decline. If we want, we can be free from sin through Jesus. It is possible. The process may not be complete here, but we can be free from sin. And you seem to think we have some kind of freedom, for you say, at the end, “I am now free.” Is that so?

There is another side to this, however. If Adam had received the just reward for his transgression, then we would not have been here at all. So, in a sense, it is by the mercy of God that we exist at all. God could have justly let Adam and Eve die then and there.

So here we are, the result of an act of creation and mercy, and yet under the curse of sin. I think the cross is the answer as you do, but in a bit of a different way. I don’t see God changing the wicked in a way they do not want to be changed, as I said.

Is it the punishment of the wicked that is the problem?

I, too, am free. But I am curious about what you felt so incarcerated about. Taking the freedom of the wicked away does not seem like an act of grace, but totalitarianism. I think God respects our choices, profoundly; so much so that he will let us turn our backs on him. And many do. But you see their freedom to do so as some sort of accident?

I don’t believe that. God, of course, knew the outcome but went ahead anyway. The truth is, we learn best from our mistakes - (the question we get wrong on an exam; the results of bad behaviour). If anyone in the universe has a choice, there has to be something to choose between. If we are to be intelligent and free creatures, we must choose and suffer natural consequences, good or bad.

The kid that doesn’t experience natural consequences is not free to make choices. If we live by commandment, with a threat of death or worse hanging over our heads, we are not free to make a choice. Only when our intelligence; our love; our rejection of sin comes naturally, in the presence of unconditional love, have we made a choice.

When God made us He left our characters for us to develop, otherwise we’d be robots.


Allen and Greg: You guys remind me of Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple.” SDA theology’s very own “odd couple.” :slight_smile: I’ll leave it to you to decide who is Felix and who is Oscar.


Have you considered that the issue may not be God but in what stage we are in our relationship with God as we journey through life? A clearer understanding of relationships show that there are stages when “rejection” is considered normal. When an adolescent separates psychologically and individuates from his parents, “rejection” may be considered normal to afford the adolescent a chance to explore his world and choose his own trajectory in life. Did you not get pushback from your children during their teen years nor did you not pushback on your parents during your early adulthood? The burden falls on parents to give their adolescent children psychological space. A parent who does not understand this may be psychologically impaired and could be psychologically crippling their children for life. I have seen this phenomenon in my clinic so for you to come to the conclusion that “He would prevent it, but cannot keep such a one from wailing and gnashing of teeth” may be nothing more than showing us how you understand and perceive God. Certainly God sees what stage we are in our spiritual journey.

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God can do whatever he wants. The issue is whether Jesus spoke for God.

Universalism is held by most Christians. Just suits our age of inclusion. No one being left out.

If God wanted to do it, he could, but it does not seem Jesus embraced that idea, but rather warned us to be diligent and careful because few would find the narrow way.

I am not the standard, Jesus is, so it is what he said that matters.

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I’d be interested in the stats for that…

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Re: Universalism.

I stand corrected. From much of the reading I had done, my impression was that most American Christians had rejected hell. I recall hearing a Catholic bishop mention purgatory, but say he did not know if anyone was really there. And at most funerals, the deceased is spoken of as if in heaven, never hell.

But polls show that a large majority believe in both heaven and hell.

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Allen, I’d like to comment on some of your statements about man’s free will. Several years ago when I started studying the Bible on my own, I began coming across passages that contradicted the Adventist (Arminian) view that I had been taught that God would never interfere with man’s free will. I found many such passages, so many that I came to appreciate the position of my Calvinist friends. Two prominent examples they quote are Paul’s remarks in Romans 9:10-21 and God’s interaction with Pharaoh during the time of the exodus from Egypt (Ex 7:1 - 14:18). There are many others I could quote but the point is I don’t believe Scripture exclusively supports the Adventist view.
This view assumes that we are in a position to make an informed decision for or against God. Yet, the book of Hebrews says that only one who is spiritually mature can even distinguish good from evil. Surely, no one who first comes to Christ is able to do so.
We are not spiritually mature adults, we are spiritual children. Paul says we now see through a glass darkly and God’s judgments are unsearchable and His ways unfathomable to us. In most instances, we cannot figure out (and thus sensibly agree with or reject) what God is doing. We must have faith that God our Father will work things out for our good much as a child relies on the judgment of a loving parent.

Regarding your thought about the incorrigibility of the wicked, I think that when God reveals Himself more fully (and I believe He will as His plan for humanity unfolds), eventually there will be no more rebels. Saul of Tarsus, who hated Christ and had followers of Him imprisoned or murdered, was instantly converted (Acts 9) when he personally met Jesus. In the presence of such holiness Isaiah (Is 6:5) and Peter (Luke 5:8) both immediately realized the depth of their sinfulness. When God appeared and queried him, Job said, ‘I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted’ and he proceeded ‘to repent in dust and ashes.’
I’m glad you said that God can do whatever He wants. Scripture says He ‘desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.’ (1Tim 2:4). I believe the depth of His love for us means He will not settle for less than this. Ultimately Satan and sin will not win. You are correct in saying the way is narrow and few in this age find it. (I think the Bible calls them overcomers or the elect or the firstfruits.) Because I have come to understand that certain ancient words mistranslated as eternal or forever actually mean pertaining to a finite period of time or an age, I now see the plan of God as progressing through several ages to His final goal of restoration. As Paul said, even death cannot separate us from the love of God. I believe that one day when His plan for us has been fully manifested, all will come to marvel of their own free will at what He has done. Every knee will gratefully bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Below is a link to an article outlining the way I think we should look at the will of man and God’s will:

In answer to cfowler’s query about the popularity of Universalism, today it is officially held by only a small minority of Christians. (Although, as you say, there are always many universalists at funerals). In the first four centuries of the Christian era it was the majority, orthodox view. It was taught in four of the six ancient centres of Christian instruction. But, as organized religion gained power and control, and the church came to insist that all must follow its edicts to be saved, it was eventually deemed heresy.


thank you, david, for your thoughts and for the link you provided. in my own feeble thinking i have arrived at similar conclusions, but i can’t begin to compare my analysis to the the thoughtful presentation of your link. i have often felt God’s fingerprints were all over creation, including it’s failure. He is ultimately responsible, as your link powerfully explained. genesis 6 reveals God’s lament in creating us, admitting it was a failure of which He regrets. the behavioral approach: what i do now determines my place in eternity, is just another my performance earns my destiny. my puny will usurps God’s divine will. (talk about blasphemy)! God’s soverignity must bow to my will is as fallacious as an eternal burning hell. forgiveness was granted to roman soldiers torturing Jesus. they did not ask it nor is there any evidence they repented. did Jesus ‘force’ His forgiveness on an unrepenting throng? apparently so. i am clueless how God will ultimately restore His creation as i am clueless how sin could erupt in a heavenly sin-free environment, but i choose to believe in His goodness and His divine sovereignty to make it right. He is God. He is love. and He is my Redeemer. How can i lose? Good news indeed!


Greg, thanks for your response.
I’d like to submit a few further thoughts and a link to another article which may be of interest to you.

Any theology is our attempt to squeeze an infinite God into our finite minds - perhaps the best we can hope to do is come up with an explanation that may contain some elements of truth. I wanted to comment to Allen because I think a person can get so involved with one way of looking at things that it becomes very difficult to even consider another view. That’s why I tried to point out there are many verses in the Bible that show God overruling our free will. And when you think how about it, how else could He coordinate things to work out His plans with 7+ billion of us all at once? (But, it’s important to remember that realizing this does not absolve us from our responsibility to live in the way he has set out for us.)

When I became an Adventist I had some interesting discussions with some Calvinist Christian friends who, of course, believed in the sovereignty of God and predestination. It was difficult because we each had our verses and none of us could reconcile them with those of the other viewpoint. It was only much later that I came across a theology that used verses from both camps, i.e., it could embrace them both without self contradiction. It seems reasonable to me that a theology that can do that should be closer to the truth.

You might be interested in the article linked below which helped me see both sides have their place in God’s grand scheme:

Christ prayed for the unity of believers.
I think the theology mentioned in this article is a way we can get there.
God is love. Love never fails.


In the Tentmaker article, the opening sentence or so stated, “personally accepting Jesus as their Lord?”. Are you able to give a definition to this phrase or define what this may mean?

Hi Lincoln,
The sentence I think you are referring to in the Tentmaker article was written in the context of a preacher stating that man’s will is stronger than God’s. So, I think it’s talking about the fact that most of the Christian church believes that each person’s salvation depends on their free will choice to either accept or reject what Christ has done for them (the Arminian view). The author says that taking that position means either Satan’s ability to deceive us or our free will is more powerful than God’s desire to save us. I would add that I believe this position can be based on another possibility which I think is that of Adventism - that God is the most powerful but He allows each of us to have our own way; that He regretfully bows to the will of all those who reject Him and end up lost. This, of course, is based on the assumption that each of us is capable of making a mature, informed choice to accept or reject Christ. My first comment and the Tentmaker article both try to show that this assumption is not warranted, that we are not spiritually mature enough to do so; that if we were we would never reject Him; that we understand very little in this age.

In contrast, the Calvinist position is that Adam’s fall was complete and in our fallen state apart from God we are completely incapable of recognizing our situation and initiating any sort of relationship with Him. They call this ‘total depravity’ and quote verses such as, ‘…both Jews and Greeks are all under sin;…There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God;’ (Rom 3:9,11), ‘…because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so,’ (Rom 8:7), ‘But the natural [carnal] man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.’ (1Cor 2:14). ‘When the Gentiles heard this (Paul’s message of salvation in Christ), they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.’ (Acts 13:48). Calvinists insist that God must make the first move, that He sovereignly chooses who will believe and be saved. My Calvinist friends say that everyone deserves to be lost and are grateful to God that He chose them for salvation. They believe they are part of the group the Bible calls ‘the elect’.

My view is that ultimately, when God’s plan for all of humanity is complete, it won’t matter which group was right.

I think the Bible tells us that God reserves the right to interject His thoughts into our minds when He sees fit. Yet, as I said, we still have a responsibility to live with love and respect for others and each of us will be judged at the end of this age on how we lived our lives. There will be varying punishments depending on what we had the opportunity to put into practice (Matt 11:21-24). Like those of a father to his wayward son, at times they may not be pleasant but they will always be corrective in nature. I believe that our salvation is not the issue in this judgment. The cross abolished death (2Tim 1:10) and reconciled the world to God (2Cor 5:19).
The way I see it, Adventists are right in saying there will be an IJ of believers based on their works at the end of this age but it’s not about who is saved or lost, it’s about our roles in the coming kingdom.

The way I understand things the problem is that we can’t seem to see beyond our own individual salvation (or personal acceptance of Jesus as Lord). We think that the few who find the narrow way or are chosen by God in this age are the only ones to be saved. It never occurs to us that they may only be the first ones to be saved. God has always used His chosen people (first the OT Israelites, then the NT Christian church) to participate in His plan and be the priesthood to the world. I think the body of Christ He is calling out now will play such an essential role in His plan for humanity in the upcoming Sabbath millennium.

If you are able to look back at some of my previous comments to other articles, you’ll see how I’ve tried to promote this view.
I hope this rather lengthy response has answered your question.

Last week in Sabbath School, this topic came up (peripherally), and we had just heard of the death of Stephen Hawking - “the atheist” someone mumured. I said, well, there might be a big surprise on resurrection day, when Jesus says “Stephen! Great to see you, pal! Let’s have a really good, long talk about the universe! Love ya, love ya!”. Who can fathom the mind of God?


The problem in Pharaoh’s case is God’s “hardening of his heart”, and the possibility that Pharaoh can say at the judgment, “I had not choice, you hardened my heart, and now you are punishing me.” This does not seem fair.

Your answer would be that God will save all, so that His manipulation of Pharaoh will not result in his loss of heaven.

In Roman’s Paul answers this by two statements:

  1. Does not the potter have right over the clay to make some vessels for common use and some for noble use? (Romans 9:21) and, “Who are you, oh man, to talk back to God?” (Romans 9:20.
  2. “What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objets of his wrath–prepared for destruction:” (Romans 9:22)

So which is it, God hardens, those prepared for destruction, or has great patience with them as they harden themselves for destruction?

I see it this way. God’s actions lead men to confront His will. Some are softened by that confrontation, some are hardened. Those that are softened prepare themselves for the kingdom, while those that harden themselves, for destruction. If God had not acted, there would have been neither. But because he did, he can be seen as instrumental in both. The human, chooses which way he will react to the action of God’s will.

God used pharaoh’s stubbornness to show his great power. But Pharaoh will not be able to blame God for his place in hell, for he had every opportunity to choose another way. God knew his character and took advantage of it to show his power. But Pharaoh will be judged as unworthy because of his own stubborn will.

Right in the middle of one of the most Calvinistic passages in scripture is this statement about God’s patience with the children of wrath. That sounds more like God bearing in mercy with them rather than forcing them.

As you stated, there seem to be scripture on both sides of some issues. In this case, John 1:9 says Jesus is, “the true light that gives light to every man.” If that is so, each of us has some measure of insight such that we can make a decision. The parable of the sower shows this as well. All the soils receive the seed and react to it. They are all lightened in some way. But they do not all respond the same way, some with rejection of that light, some with acceptance.

John says the same in John 3:19, after those wonderful statements in John 3:16-18: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead light.”

Where do you get this idea? Your examples of Paul, Peter and Isaiah are all men who turned to God when given the opportunity. There are examples of others who did not: Saul, Judas, Eli’s sons, etc. These men did not repent in dust and ashes, but remained rebels.

Every knee will bow, but not all will do so in submission. But only to admit the truth of their foolishness. Ellen makes it clear in GC, at the end (not that her statement is to be taken was settling the issue, the Bible does that. But hers is consistent with it):

"It is now evident to all that the wages of sin is not noble independence and eternal life, but slavery, ruin and death. The wicked see what they have forfeited by their life of rebellion. The far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory was despised when offered them; but how desirable it now appears. “All this,” cries the lost soul, “I might have had; but I chose to put these things far from me. Oh, strange infatuation! I have exchanged peace, happiness, and honor for wretchedness, infamy and despair.” All see that their exclusion from heaven is just. By their lives they have declared: “We will not have this Man (Jesus) reign over us.” " GC 668.

I see the seriousness of our rebellion and that it has eternal consequences. Being free is a horrible freedom, for it makes us responsible, and God takes that seriously, taking us and our choices seriously. He even made a way for forgiveness for our foolishness, but will respect everyone’s decision to not take advantage of the gift he has to offer.

How can it be that great rebels here can enter the kingdom freely? It does not make sense. I don’t think you see (as I have said of others) the seriousness and warping power of sin and rebellion. it changes a person who choose such a course. Evil becomes a habit, part of the character, a settling into error. Just like the righteous become settled into the truth.

As Ellen says, heaven would be torture for Satan and the wicked. Torture. Why would this be so?

[quote=“DaveMoffatt, post:13, topic:15592”]
Below is a link to an article outlining the way I think we should look at the will of man and God’s will [/quote]

I read a portion, but need to think more carefully about it. Well reasoned, but I think incorrect.

I want to address this. I disagree. You mention God’s repentance at creating at the time of the flood. You are correct, he regretted the creation because of the violence and sin that had come to pass. But what about Noah?

You see, if he really repented as we think of it, why did he not destroy everyone, including Noah? By saving Noah, he allowed the suffering to continue, really unabated. All the death and pain, suffering and sorrow since then could have been averted if He had just turned his back on all fo it.

So you have to explain Noah, and the ark. God’s repentance was a partial one. Not a complete one.

I agree. And he died because of it. He took the fall. That means we are off the hook. The Roman soldiers are forgiven as you state.

But not all accept the offer of forgiveness. As Paul says, God has reconciled himself to us (2 Cor. 5:18-20). But we are not reconciled to him if we persist in rebellion. His hand is open to all, but not all accept the gift.

Well of course! Adam and Eve did it. You think God wanted them to take the fruit? He warned them against it, but really WANTED them to take it? Was he schizophrenic?

Let me give an example:

Let us say Bob meets Betty and really likes her. He showers her with gifts and love. But Betty does not respond, she is thinking of another, Brent. What is Bob to do? He knows, he will force her to accept him. So he does, and she give into that force.

Now is that love? Can there really be love without freedom to choose for or against? And I mean real freedom? Without real choice, there is no love.

In fact choice is what makes love possible. Force is antithetical to love. It excludes it.

God does not force us. Only persuades. Thus love is possible.

There is much in your post I agree with, but much I disagree with.

2 Cor. 5:18-20 shows the difference. You note that Christ has reconciled the world to himself, but ignore that then Paul pleads, “Be reconciled to God.

God has done his part. He has reconciled us to himself. But that is only half the process. If we are not reconciled to him, there is ultimately no reconciliation. The way to heaven is open to all. The veil has been rent so that the most holy is visible and open to all. ALL. There is no impediment between us and God. Sinners can pray to him and enter his audience chamber. I am amazed that even when my mind is distracted and hassled, I am still allowed in.

But many choose not to come for multitudes of reasons. And love so respects their choice. Love always respects the choice.

God bless you both, and may you have a restful and enjoyable Sabbath. Sorry for the long post, sort of…

I see this as a kind of false assurance. All will be there no matter what.

That is not the idea I get from the gospels, where we are urged to make diligent carful examination of ourselves such that we know that we will enter into that narrow gate. We are to seek repentance. This is certainly the antithesis of rebellion against God.

I fear for my and your souls if such an idea is embraced.