Thanks for your detailed response.
Needless to say I disagree with most of what you have said. Rather than address each point in detail I want to talk about your theme. I was an Adventist for almost 20 years so I recognize the underlying assumption of your remarks, that man is the ultimate power and definer of his destiny; that man’s free will is a gift of God, is paramount and must never be violated. You may believe at some level that God’s will is more powerful than that of man but even so, God must submit His will and what He wants (1Tim 2:4) to each man’s choice. You say honouring this choice is love. You say even if we reject God, He will always respect our choice. But, had God respected the choice of Adam & Eve He would not have sought them out after they rebelled and sinned. He would not have promised a redeemer. The wages of sin is death. He would have let them die in their sin without the hope of reconciliation with Him. He would not have come as a man to die for the sin of the world to effect that reconciliation. I believe you are wrong about the love of God. The agape, self-giving love of God seeks out the rebel. Over and over again in the OT, the nation of Israel rebelled, abandoned Him and went after the gods of pagan nations. And over and over again God came after the rebels. Oh, He threatened, cajoled, punished, and even exiled them but all for the purpose of restoration. The same applies to all of us. The ninety-nine sheep safe in the pen are not enough. The Good Shepherd sets out to find the lost one and does not rest until all are safe. Greg has caught a glimpse of that self-emptying love of God in the love of his mother. That is a wonderful, life changing thing.
The Bible says that perhaps a good man would die for his friends. Jesus came to die for us while we were His enemies. That is the difference between the love of God and that of man. That is the message of Easter. Christ’s prayer of forgiveness on the cross applies to all of us down through history. We know not what we are doing because to reject God is to reject the way, truth and life. Yes, in this age we have been given a degree of freedom. However irrational, we can reject God. But we are not separated from the love of God by death, by the judgment at the end of this age or by the limits our minds or theology put on that love. You have said you will pray for me. Thank you for that. I will pray for you also. Perhaps a fitting prayer would be that we will come to somehow comprehend the love of Christ which surpasses our understanding and motivates Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we can ask or even think. When every knee eventually bows it will not be grudging submission prior to annihilation, it will be ‘to the glory of God’. The first Adam’s sin which plunged us into darkness will have been overcome by the last Adam’s act of love which will result in our righteousness. As in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.
The reason I first responded was to try to support you Greg in your growing realization regarding God’s plan of salvation for humanity - because, if I understand you correctly, you are moving toward a position which I believe is Scriptural.
I felt it important to let you know that there are indeed others (though not many) who have studied these things who agree with you. I also wanted you to know that even though such a view is not popular today, it was widely accepted in the early days of Christianity, before our current systems of organized religion became the norm. I think that is significant.
I also tried to show that there is a theology that can accept not only the Arminian verses that speak of man’s free will but also the Calvinist ones that speak of God’s sovereignty. If ‘All Scripture is inspired and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;’, shouldn’t we strive for an understanding that can be supported by the passages used by both views?
For example, I no longer have to ignore the verses that speak of God’s sovereign choice of ‘the elect’ (e.g. Eph 1) because I believe they will have a greater purpose in the coming age for the good of others in God’s plan. Adventism never supplied me with any sort of understanding of such passages. In fact, because its theology is based on man’s unfettered free will, it largely ignored such passages.
I’d like to make a suggestion to both of you. I have come to appreciate that part of the difficulty in understanding the Bible is that we don’t speak the languages in which it was written. In some cases, the English words we read in the Bible poorly convey the ideas of the ancient writers. I have found that studying more literal translations is of great help. Young’s, Concordant Literal and Emphatic Diaglott come highly recommended. A good concordance and lexicon are also important.
Allen, you mentioned the word ‘destruction’ in a recent comment. My guess is you don’t know its range of meaning to the ancients. I’m assuming the same holds for words such as perish, eternal, forever, everlasting, etc. Knowing the meaning of key words can make previously confusing passages clearer and open the door to new ways of looking at the plan of salvation. Here is a link to a site and a couple of articles that might help:
I appreciate your desire to show the utter love of God in the way you feel is proper. You sacrifice God’s perfection for his love, feeling that the Tree of Knowledge was a mistake. They should never have been given such a conundrum. Not so?
I have no problem with the texts that show election, for I think that once one has chosen for God, if he persists (He that endures to the end shall be saved) he cannot help but be saved. But I can see how you would see that differently.
If the creation was a mistake, then isn’t all the suffering that ensued God’s fault as well? But I think you see his saving all as a remedy. But that is an awful lot of suffering to be responsible for. In fact all suffering that has occurred. He is really then an ogre of unbelievable dimensions, and does not deserve worship. And if he did not see the consequences of the tree, does not that make him culpable?
What about Jesus saying in Matt 10:28? “And fear not him which kill the body, but at not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
I like your sentiment, and agree with much you say about God. But I think there are difficulties with your position, as many as with mine, if you please.
There are also those years in human childhood in which boys have their “club” and the girls have their “club.” No mixing for a few years, no interest in “the other club.” It’s a highly discriminatory age, very immature indeed. They definitely discriminate, and each tent is protected against any visitor from the other tent. It’s a normal behavior for that stage of immaturity.
Well,… then the years go by… and as they mature things change… and they may even end up visiting each other tents when nobody else is there…
The point being that when people get stuck at a spiritual age in which gender discrimination is allowed and promoted, they cannot function as spiritually mature adults. Those who discriminate against women are just revealing what stage of spiritual development they are at. Discussing discrimination issues with them will not make them mature faster. They may actually enjoy discussing the issue at a very immature level, therefore they will insist that their discrimination is OK. And will continue stuck at that immature level for ever.