picture from http://www.wnd.com/category/front-page/faith/
picture from http://www.wnd.com/category/front-page/faith/
“The pastor is retired now, so I really hope he is playing golf and no longer preaching. Here’s why. At the time, he served as senior pastor of a large congregation in my church body, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. He was being interviewed on the radio. The interviewer asked him a simple question.
Q: Does God have some other way of salvation, other than Jesus?
A: God can do anything. So, he can save people anyway he wants. But Jesus is the only way we know of.
If his answer doesn’t shock you, it should.
When asked the question, “Does God have some other way of salvation, other than Jesus?” the pastor answered, in effect, “Maybe. I don’t know.”
Near the end of his article, Pastor Wilken says the following:
I’m sure that the retired pastor on the radio I mentioned earlier thought that he was being reasonable, open-minded and tolerant. He wasn’t. He was undermining the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I’m sure he thought he was affirming God’s omnipotence. He wasn’t. He was speculating about a god that can and might do anything, not the God of the Bible. I’m sure he thought he was making God sound very loving. He wasn’t. He was pointing away from the only source of God’s love there is. I’m sure he thought he was comforting people with the idea of God’s omnipotence. He wasn’t. He was robbing everyone who heard him of the only true comfort for sinners when faced with God’s omnipotence.
This is a really good article. At some point, the whole thing will be available on their website. That said, I suggest that you subscribe to the Issues ETC. Journal so you can read the article now. It will be well worth your time.
Here is another great article touching on the same issue: http://justandsinner.com/theologoumena-from-a-great-theologian-rev-dr-marquart-on-who-may-be-saved/
Note again that we are not kind like Him – far from it. Even if we might be able to imagine ourselves as those who did heinous and evil deeds condemned by all (see part I), it may still be difficult for us to see how bad we actually are – that we don’t need to imagine being evil! That said, we can all be led to see – by logical deductions made from the Golden Rule – that we should be willing to be more kind than we are. And we are not – for man does not want to give to others that which we, in our hearts, know we ourselves need. If we do venture to talk about forgiving our neighbors – even those we should love the most – we do it from a selfish perspective: I did it for my sake; it helped me. It is all about us making the subtitle of “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus our God” our god, that is, “how to get what you want out of relationships”. No, there is no virtue whatsoever in realizing the truth that unforgiveness and a thirst for revenge will destroy us.
No, if we think that we deserve some credit for coming to this realization that is fully and completely damnable. There is nothing noble in such self-interest devoid of real concern for one’s neighbor (note I am not saying all self-interest is bad, just incomplete). Just like the end of Romans 1 says, in our heart of hearts, we reveal ourselves to be persons “without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful” (Romans 1:31, NASB). If we do genuinely want to show mercy and bring comfort to persons besides ourselves, it is only to those who continue to please us. And even if God would have us escape this damnable state, it’s one that men, without His help, aim to live in. Those without Christ are incapable of grasping the “weightier matters of the law” – true mercy, justice and faithfulness (Matt 23). Even if by His grace He would help us to see and live the wisdom of the Golden Rule in a more fulsome sense, without the clear word that Christ is our Life – who indeed forgives all our sins – we all are destined even to be prideful of this knowledge and life we “possess”. To take at least some very real credit for our goodness. At the very least, we are proud of being humble. Or we are proud of realizing we are proud of being humble, etc. etc. At bottom, we know ourselves to be good persons with good hearts. There are perhaps some truly bad persons, but we are not among them.
Is it not clear that man perpetually underestimates the depth and seriousness the sin within him that leads to all manner of actual sins? No one deserves mercy, but if we could speak that way surely God – who does not need the Golden Rule – would be more than just in withholding it from us. Is it not clear that a “Great Divorce” on His part would actually be just!? In spite of the fact that this thought does not seem to occur for many modern persons claiming Christ?
We sophisticated modern persons often seem to think we are more loving and forgiving than God himself! Before any accuse Him of not following His own Golden Rule here, let us realize that He does not need our mercy and forgiveness. No, He is the creator of and enforcer of the Golden Rule.
Even if we were to never hear of Jesus Christ and His mercy that restores, all of us can still be shown that we deserve damnation. This should be clear from what has already been said above. No, if there is any love in the world it is from God, and apart from God’s continually influencing and completely turning human being’s hardened hearts, they shamefully reject the tender mercies which restore both life and eternal life through and through. In short, if in our heart of hearts we believe that seventy-times-seven forgiveness should be for us but not for our neighbor – whether explicitly or implicitly or tacitly (if we care to make all these distinctions!) – we are really saying that it is not for us at all. In spite of the fact that we are all one in Adam, we deny that we are our brother’s keeper.
In the realm in which we live, we must not avoid – and cannot avoid – making judgments about what is right and wrong. That said, only sinless ones are entitled to cast the first stone – that judgment that seals the final cutoff and great divorce, or eternal separation.
But look what even the only Sinless One does instead! He is merciful. He takes the harsh blows meant for us! Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!
I hope you can join with me in saying to this Lamb: “Lord have mercy! Hosannah! (that is “save now”)”
First of all, in case any of you were unaware of the fact, the “Pontificator” is back. Father A. Kimel, the prolific theological blogger who converted from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism years ago, has now become Eastern Orthodox and is now blogging over at Eclectic Orthodoxy. Years ago, Father Kimel’s blog was the place for very interesting theological discussion for those of the more ancient expressions of Christian faith, and I always found it interesting how he tried to incorporate Lutheran insights into many a conversation.
Recently, he has had a few posts discussing justification by faith, and with this notions of penal substitution (see here and here and especially here) In his view, we cannot say “the attributes of justice and mercy are reconciled at Calvary.” This is because “the penal construal of atonement makes justice prior to mercy: the latter can only be displayed once the demands of justice are fulfilled.”
Put that way, of course there would be a problem. After all, God’s merciful heart not only flows from the cross, but leads to the cross. In any case, this series of posts can be seen as a re-frame and defense of God’s just nature. Here goes…
We are all utterly damnable. Mercy-rejecting people all. How so?
Note that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth… God gave them up… (3 x)” (Romans 1:17, 24, 26, 28). Not only this, but part of our ungodliness and unrighteousness is this: “in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things” (Romans 2:1).
Ouch. Evidently, this fact also points to a suppression of the truth on our part.
And first and foremost, let us all acknowledge that there is plenty of this suppression going on. As Romans 1 also indicates, men have an unarticulated sense – in their bones – of the reality that is God, and this from their earliest days (this is your “infant theology” for this post – see here for more). Further, intellectually they simply know that something cannot come from nothing (see here for more on this). But suppression of the truth is not something that only applies to those denying these realities.
As far as how we are to act there is also a great deal of suppression going on. I hope you will allow me to demonstrate. Note that all adults are able to at least grasp the idea behind the “Golden Rule” – we are not just to not do to others what we don’t want them to do to us, as many teachers before Jesus Christ said – but we are simply to do unto others as we would have them do to us! (note: if a person does not think this seems to work with the sixth commandment, for example, that person should think about how they would want others to treat their own mother, sister, or daughter).
So, the “Golden Rule” is our template for how we treat our fellow man. Now consider this: Do we want others to forgive us – i.e. restore us when we have done what is wrong and harmed those relationships? Of course we do (after Adam and Eve’s sin, love does mean, contrary to the song, all of us having to say we are sorry). And hypothetically, if we found ourselves to be those who had done deeds that not only harmed relationships but were universally seen as heinous and evil, would we still want forgiveness for ourselves? Unless we were in total despair over our despicable deeds, we certainly would! We would long for a mercy and kindness that could restore us – and not justice of the retributive kind.
We Christians also know that “God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance” (Romans 2:4). But this is not how we operate – for we are not ready to show such kindness to others, and this extends to our anemic understanding of how the “Golden Rule” should permeate our lives. We are not ready to give forgiveness to others as we would like to be forgiven – where our own inward evaluation takes us outside of ourselves and our individual interests and concerns. No. Rather, we see life as being all about “what I do for myself by myself to enrich myself” (Beverly Yanke) – and we are self-centered persons who want from others what we will not give to others. In short, we do not love our neighbor as we love ourselves, much less love God with all our heart, strength, soul and mind. We do not fear, love and trust in God. And this is incredibly serious.
Without Christ in our life, it is not just that we will be damned, but we are damned already. Life without God is hell.
To say that we should freely restore all who sin, however they have sinned seems unfair (note: this does not mean that there will never be consequences for our sin)… there is a bit of the scandal of the cross detectable even here, written in the reason God gives us and which is accessible to every man. Not only this, but the Holy Scriptures of course give us definitive proof that God is kind, and that in His patience, He is always looking to lead persons to the path of godly sorrow and repentance which leads to faith in His pardon, and hence, forgiveness, life, and salvation. Jesus has cleared up any confusion once and for all regarding what the Father’s face looks like towards sinful human beings.
A very interesting conversation going on at Rod Dreher’s blog about the time and place to shun.
Here is some from Dreher:
Growing up in the Deep South is good training for developing the kind of conscience that can love sinners despite their sin. Every younger person, white and black, knows at least one old white person who holds immoral views on race, but who is also, in other ways, a kind, generous, and upstanding person. Are we to condemn them wholesale for their moral blindness on this one issue? How fair is that? More to the point, how truthful is that, given that all of us are morally blind in one way or another, and depend on the mercy of others, hoping that they will love us and accept us despite our sins, failings, and errors. Once you start pulling at that thread, and deciding who you are and aren’t going to love and live in relationship with because they’ve transgressed an important moral boundary, who knows where it will end? There are some moral boundaries that, when crossed, to require disfellowshipping. But I think we ought to be reluctant to draw those lines.
One commentator on the blog said that she had grown up in a family where people “thought it was their responsibility to inform everybody of their sins, or at the very least to let their disapproval be known”.
She said that in her teens she realized that all of this “fraternal correction” was to save themselves from hell, and not because they actually cared about those who erred or thought that their attempts to correct would amount to anything.
She also says that no one really cared that the unkind things that people said turned others away. And then she says this:
No matter–my family knew with utter certainty that on judgement day, they could proudly stand before the Lord and say, “But I tried to tell all these sinners! I pointed out their sins to them, Lord!”
It was utterly self-serving and self-absorbed. I have a feeling the worst of them were in for quite a shock when they hit the pearly gates.
I loved them anyway, of course, and I hope for God’s mercy for them, but I also hope none of my children turn out that way.
Now I wonder if the commenter has perhaps flattened out the complexity of this situation a bit too much. But let’s assume not.
Here is my reply to her, currently in moderation:
Of course that should not be the motivation. They were simply wrong. The Christian’s motivation should always be out of love for God and love for one’s neighbor (see Paul in Romans 9:1-5). Love for God by honoring Him and choosing His way of doing “tough love” and love for neighbor that starts at home (preferably in a Christian home and at the very least in the wider family of the Church, starting locally) and seeks to include more and more persons in its embrace.
If [what you say] is the motivation of the Christian and they become aware of such a motivation (and hopefully brothers and sisters who sense this is their motivation will make them aware of it at appropriate times), they should simply confess it before God and rest in the peace of His absolution. We fight the war against the world, our flesh and the devil not to attain peace with God, but because we have peace with God through the flesh and blood of the crucified Son of God, God incarnate.
Again, if that is not the reason we fight, we should confess our sin before God – our sin of not believing that He constantly gives broken sinners forgiveness, life and salvation 70 x 7 – and move on in faith, sometimes boldly, and sometimes with trembling.
you seem incapable of believing that it is possible for a person who chooses to shun/stigmatize another might love them. I am telling you, they can. If you can’t believe that, I can’t make you. Their greatest desire is that they are going to be able to have the most perfect relationship possible with that person in the next life. They simply know and believe that true faith in Christ only exists in repentance – exactly the thing that that first “Protestant” said first in the 95 theses he posted that ended up starting the Reformation.
This conversation is why I think blogs can be so valuable. They can be marvelous and challenge you with things and scenarios you never would have imagined on your own. They force you to clarify your thinking. To define terms and deal with concrete situations (as much as we can do that not being in the particular circumstance/context ourselves).
(“Darwin Day” is Feb. 12 – I was bummed to find out I had missed it)
What could be more interesting than the creation-evolution debate?
As a very young child, one of the main things I wanted to know about was how science and the Bible fit together. “What about the dinosaurs dad?” (an elephant?)
The powers that be inform us that anyone who believes in something like young earth creationism is a complete and total moron (evidently people like Leonard Brand, Ben Carson, Terry Hamblin [Wikipedia article here], Andrew McIntosh, John C. Sanford, Raymond Damadian, Stephen Lloyd and Todd Wood for instance). These days, saying you believe this a good way to socially assassinate yourself when it comes to intellectual respectability*.
It seems another way to do this – not as much of course – is simply to question evolution period, as Ben Steyn argued in the 2008 movie Expelled. Besides the revealing Dawkins-aliens moment, the highlight of the movie had to be the agnostic and secular Jew David Berlinski, the mathematician-physicist turned harsh Darwin-critic. His effortless takedown of neo-Darwinian thought was compelling and his brash confidence admittedly entertaining (see the You Tube clip below for Berlinski on Darwinian evolution). Berlinski has nothing but contempt for what he sees as the intellectually facile system that is called the neo-Darwinian synthesis – a “Scientific Scandal” if there ever was one, he says.
I would say that Berlinski is well worth reading (if not for the sheer entertainment). And recently, our library ordered a book of his essays The Deniable Darwin.
As one can see by looking at Berlinski’s various books as held by OCLC WorldCat libraries, many of his peers in academia evidently did not judge this book to be one of his better moments.
One might be forgiven for thinking the articulate anti-Darwinian thoughts of a highly educated, scientific mind the stature of Berlinskis’ might actually be of interest to people.
Certainly, there is an interest in semi-popularized books about evolution.
All this said, as one can see from the first chart above his 2008 book lampooning atheism did a bit better. In it, he said of Darwinism:
“We have no idea how life emerged, and cannot with assurance say that it did. We cannot reconcile our understanding of the human mind with any trivial theory about the manner in which the brain functions. Beyond the trivial, we have no other theories. (bold mine, p. xiii, see also 156-165).
And in this excellent interview on Issues ETC., Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute talks about Berlinski as well as four other prominent, non-religious scientists scientists who have dared to question the Darwinian orthodoxy*: Jerry Fodor, Lynn Margulis (both opponents of intelligent design), Thomas Nagel (in his book pictured below: “the defenders of intelligent design deserve our gratitude”), and Steve Fuller (an agnostic who defends intelligent design). He also mentioned the late Philip Skell.
Luskin reinforces what should be the obvious notion that science is not the impartial search for truth, but is also governed by important sociological and political factors (and spiritual of course) as well.
It also seems to me that Luskin has been very careful with his examples. I noted several months ago his Discovery Institute colleague Paul Neslon was rightfully skewered (it seemed to me) by a couple prominent atheist-Darwinists, Jerry Coyne and P.Z. Myers, for being careless about representing people’s views.
This topic is always interesting to me. I wish I had more time to read these books!
*That said, here is a link to a recent debate between two prominent young earth creationists (YEC) and two old earth creationists (OEC).
**The article the interview is based on is found in this issue (Issue 2, 2013) of the Christian Research Journal: Are There Nonreligious Skeptics of Darwinian Evolution and Proponents of Intelligent Design?
After my last post,one man left some interesting comments:
Referring to people going overboard in their belief that they had personal words from God which they pressed on others, he said this:
“This problem was precisely why I left the Southern Baptist churches, and went looking for another denomination.
Straight away, I narrowed it down to “Conservative” Episcopal, or LCMS. I started with Episcopalians because C.S. Lewis was an Anglican, and I figured if he could be a member, then I can at least shelter there. We found a church before I could move on to you Lutherans.”
I responded by saying that I was very happy about how LC-MS people’s gut instinct is to flee to the Scriptures, and yet…
“Its just that in the Scriptures themselves we sometimes see God giving special guidance…
But here is where the details get important. I went on to say:
Still, if I am understanding you rightly, you are saying that you discerned – using the Scriptures and your God-given wisdom, that the kind of “special guidance” some persons claimed was from God was anything but…”
Correct. I stand ready to believe anyone who claims special guidance if they tell me they heard a voice, saw a burning bush, had their eyes scaled, etc. Passing a sign for Baskin-Robbins is not a clue from God to date Robin; just because you were thinking about Robin at the time.
This actually harmed me. I had almost totally given up on believing in miracles altogether. A couple weeks ago I heard a story of miraculous healing, and it was the first time I ever believed it. Honestly, I was so relieved I almost cried.
“So relieved I almost cried”. Interesting, huh?
I think what these comments illustrate is that when we fall off the horse either way – on the left or the right – the believer’s trust in God can be harmed.
As I said to start my last post:
When persons ask whether or not God speaks to us today, often they are not wondering about speaking per se, but want to know whether or not God provides specific guidance to us in particular circumstances.
And here’s a good way to end:
Lord, take my hand and lead me
Upon life’s way;
Direct, protect and feed me
From day to day.
Without your grace and favour
I go astray;
So take my hand, O Savior,
And lead the way.*
*Lord, take my hand and lead me. Herman Brückner, Rudolph A. John & others
based on Julie von Hausmann 1826-1901
Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/andrews-pictures/2178722084