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Monthly Archives: June 2017

To Hell With Our Fallen Love: Why “Annihilationism” and Universalism Fall Short

A taste of heavenly fellowship, of un-fallen love… (The Parable of the Prodigal Son, Gerard van Honthorst, 1623)

 

One of our Lord’s great promises is the blessed fellowship we will know in the life to come:

“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.”

The Apostle Paul, in Philippians 4:1 and I Thessalonians 2:19 respectively, can hardly contain himself when he thinks about this fellowship:

“Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!”

“For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?”

On the other hand, the famous 20th century philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre is famous for his quip that “hell is other people”. Many want to say “Amen” to this, but then again, a moment’s reflection will tell us that being alone and isolated is no fun either. Broken people that we are, most of us can nevertheless think of at least some people in our lives who we continue to want to be with.

No Monsieur Sartre, hell is not other people.

Actually, hell is not other people, but the exact opposite. It is the lack of other people – particularly the people who love you and care about you the most – that would be Christians.

Heaven is other Christians.

If you don’t know any Christians who you think fit that description, I am sorry, but overall, this is true. Christians are called to love all persons, including their enemies, and so you are certainly included in the number of those they are to care for. Christians know that life on earth can be very hard, but ultimately, if they are taking the teachings of their Lord seriously, they want nothing else than to see you in heaven on the other side.[i]

Should the Christian hate wicked men? “Religion Overthrow[s] Heresy and Hatred” (pictured). Study Rom 5:10-12, Matthew 7:11, and John 12:24-26.

That is why hell, in part, means not being with them. Eternal separation from them.

“Wait, wait, wait,” you might be saying. The Christians I know told me that hell was eternal separation from God – not Christians.

I understand, but I think they are clearly wrong.[ii] So let’s deal with this point first. As a matter of fact, the Scriptures say the following:

“If anyone worships the beast . . . he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever” (Revelation 14:9–11).

John Piper says that the angels and the Lamb attend this punishment “not for enjoyment but for vindication”. Given that we are told that God does not desire the death of the wicked, I think it is very safe to say that this has little to do with enjoyment. But even accepting for the moment that this does have to do with “vindication,” as Piper suggests, does the torment seen in this passage mean that God is torturing these persons? And if it does not (I don’t think it does) would it nevertheless not just be more humane to destroy, or annihilate, these persons?

Jerry L. Wells: “The traditional view [of hell] should be presumed correct unless shown to be false beyond reasonable doubt” (p. 96)

No. After all, if a person is convinced that a doctor is trying to kill them (“annihilate” them) rather than heal them, a good and knowledgeable doctor who will not fight against that lie but gives up is not helping that person. The key point here is that it is we, not He, who are the liars (see Rom. 3). It is we who do not love, and do not love the truth.

In the new Four Views on Hell book from Zondervan (2016), you will, at various points in the book, “learn” that:

  • God is not loving if He doesn’t give us second chances.
  • God is not loving if the punishment of hell is eternal.
  • Anyone in hell means God’s plans end in failure.
  • God doesn’t love those who are in hell (stated explicitly).

In each of these cases, fallen man projects his sin-infested understanding onto God, in essence accusing Him of what is actually true about us. Insofar as we are sinners, we are unable to help ourselves, and hence always lie and project. Importantly, it is we — not He — who do not understand love. It is we who would be, and in fact are, the destroyers of relationships. As I wrote in a past post:

“Rather than seeing others as those whom we can welcome and share life with – and who have significance outside our own desires and pursuit of happiness – we, often, would rather they simply not exist (for ours is not so much the age of anger and hatred, but apathy and indifference). Men might enjoy using this or that “God” for their own self-centered pursuits, but the flip side of this is that oftentimes, man, the fool, wishes the jealous and zealous God of Israel out of existence (Psalm 14:1). I suggest that this is one reason why there is eternal punishment with God, and not annihilation (the cessation of all personal existence, popular in Eastern conceptions such as Nirvana).”

If we resist this, we simply need Him to hold firm and not give into our lies. Driving home the point vs. “annihilationism”…:

“Though God certainly expressed regret in the O.T. at creating man, He emphatically cannot be said to “take life”, or “snuff out life” in order to be rid of relationships forever, de-Personalizing reality. Said differently, it is man who desires that God not exist, not God who desires that man not exist. Is man really so foolish that he would tell God what love is – namely treating others as if they do not exist, disregarding their presence, and ultimately destroying life, destroying relationships? Evidently. “Would you condemn me [to non-existence or otherwise] that you may be justified?” (Job 40:8). Indeed this is our problem.”

So, I understand things this way: God stands by these forever even if they would always reject Him. For this is the God who, in Christ, wept over Jerusalem before its destruction.[iii]

Preston Sprinkle, co-author of “Erasing Hell”: “Any honest exegete should agree that annihilationism is a credible – indeed biblical – evangelical option.” (Four Views on Hell, 205) Really?

And with all this said, we can now address the earlier claim: that the punishment of hell is, in part, eternal separation from the children of God.

First of all, going back to Piper, does all of this have to do with vindication? Perhaps to some degree, but not in an “I told you so” kind of way – and not in a way that Jesus hangs around for this reason. Rather, it has to do with justice. And here, our view of justice cannot be so narrow. An important aspect of justice[iv], as N.T. Wright tirelessly points out, is that it has to do with a “setting of the world to rights,” and here, vindication, security, protection, and relief for God’s children would be highlighted.

And “no,” Bishop Wright, “Fear him who can destroy both the body and soul in hell” does not mean fear the devil!

In short, the sheep must be kept apart from the goats, because, in a sense, those who are in hell want to be there. This does not mean that they want to be in the place of Hell, per se, but they also certainly do not want to live among those for whom the highest pleasure is worshiping the Lamb.

Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, 1432.

Rather, we have every reason to believe that this is something that they, even after the final judgment, would ferociously reject and cannot abide. After all, when all the invisible things are made visible and the shadows become reality, Jesus Christ can never again be denied, never again be “out of sight and out of mind”.[v] Therefore, if all of Adam’s children were still together, these enemies would only seek, at every turn, to rage against the Lamb, undermine Him, and crucify Him – at least in the hearts of His children. Therefore, for the sake of His little ones, justice demands that these enemies of the faithful be kept far from them (see the Psalms!). As the Scriptures say, there is a large gulf, and they are unable to cross it. The faithful will never be harassed and persecuted again.

And, at the same time, this is indeed real punishment for those who did not and do not trust in the Lord. This is indeed prison. Why? The reason is not hard to grasp. For though they found themselves enjoying the presence of Christians while on earth – and indeed still long for the comfort and relief their presence would bring (see Luke 16) – this they will have no longer. Again, we need not insist that it is the torment or duration that is the chief punishment of hell. There is also this element of isolation from the goodness experienced from other persons — particularly those who lived according to Christ’s call for obedience and mercy.

Augustine: “They who desire to be rid of eternal punishment ought to abstain from arguing against God.”

For mercy defines the Christian as it defines their God. They do not need to think of hell as a place where the unbelievers are actively tortured, even if, as with Dante, it is only the most grievous sinners who receive such horrific punishment. As a matter of fact, given our charge to love our enemies and show mercy, we should strive to overcome any desire for our enemy’s pain. Rather, Christians can certainly believe that weeping, fire, sulfur, and worm that does not die are powerful symbols of the confused feelings of regret and hate the damned experience as a result of their isolation from the true love they rejected.

Christians further have no reason to believe that God’s love for the wicked ends, even as the hatred the wicked have for Christ will not end. Whether they would be able to choose differently, or are given once and for all what they wanted come the final judgment – persistent rejection of the Lamb of God – we are given no indication there will be another change in their hearts for the better. Even if ideas of “universalism” sync with God’s desires to save all persons, it is nevertheless a notion thoroughly unsupported by the whole of the Scriptures.

Bell loses. See Four Views on Hell (2016), pages 30-31.

So, instead of giving people unwarranted hope that universalism is true, we must insist that God’s judgment has teeth.

He is not in dock, we are. He is not unloving. We are. He is not a liar. We are.

At the same time, Christians should not be ashamed of having sensitive dispositions that recoil from ideas like “double predestination,” and yes, some ideas of hell. God is, after all, hanging on the cross for us for a good reason. As the Lutheran Confessions of 1580 assert:

But it [the true judgment concerning predestination] must be learned alone from the holy Gospel concerning Christ, in which it is clearly testified that God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all, and that He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance and believe in the Lord Christ. Rom. 11:32; Ezek. 18:23; 33:11; 2 Pet. 3:9; 1 John 2:2.

The blood that covers him is for you to.

FIN 

 

Images:

Jean-Paul Sartre CC BY-SA 3.0 nl ; Religion overthrowing heresy and hatred in public domain: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Religion_Overthrowing_Heresy_and_Hatred_Legros.jpg ; logo of Universalist Church of America prior to 1961 merger, Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication ; N.T. Wright by Gareth Saunders, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Notes:

[i] Charles Spurgeon said: “Oh, my brothers and sisters in Christ, if sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies; and if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay, and not madly destroy themselves. If hell must be failed, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unsprayed for.” Quoted by Denny Burk, Four Views on Hell, (2016) p. 43.

[ii] Regarding 2 Thes. 1:9, see the comments on pages 34 and 35 in Four Views on Hell, ed. Preston Sprinkle.

[iii] To get more theological, and to address the arguments being made against hell today (see Sprinkle’s favorable comments towards annihilationism), we can say the following: When God “destroys” He confirms persons in their spiritual perishing, disintegration, and dying – sealing the “second death”. Those who experience hell are like “charred chaff,” ruined spiritually forever – they are without spiritual life, true trust and love. Universalists are right that God gives eternity as a gift in Christ to all – for life and reconciliation found for all in Him, man’s Head. At the same time, some reject this eternal life, and this gift, this love, becomes eternal death to them.

[iv] Of course, Hebrews 10:30 and Romans 12:19 speak of the Lord’s vengeance as well. Vengeance is also a part of justice – “just retribution” – even as this should not be understood in a crude, “pound-of-flesh” fashion. For an interesting discussion see this post.

[v] In Four Views on Hell, Jerry L. Walls argues that C.S. Lewis’ Great Divorce “illustrates many of the central points of [his essay on purgatory],” including that God shows “optimal grace” to the damned in the life to come (presumably giving them another chance) (see pp. 172-173). On the contrary, Lewis may simply be showing the persistence of damnation, including the persistent attitudes of the damned.

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

What James Comey — and Liberal Westerners in General — Could Learn From Martin Luther

Comey: He asked for my loyalty. And your point is…?

Ah, just what you love, right? Theologians sounding off about politics. Well, when you’re right…

With this particular series of events, I couldn’t help sounding off. Say what you will about Donald Trump, but I just can’t shake the conviction that the man has a point about the importance of loyalty.

James Comey has a reputation as a straight-shooter, the “most honest man in Washington” some have said. Even so, there is one key thing that he didn’t get.

I wrote this piece about two weeks ago (May 21st) under the title “Why Donald Trump Has the Moral High Ground in the Comey Affair” and submitted it to the Federalist. They didn’t publish it then, so I’m doing it now. I think I have a good opinion to share.

+++

Some say that Donald Trump’s firing of James Comey is a good indication that he has something to hide. On the contrary, it suggests to me that when Trump detects incompetence, unfairness, injustice, and disloyalty, he eventually acts on that impression.

And regarding loyalty, take it from this lay Lutheran theologian: 500 years ago the Pope had every reason to expect that Martin Luther would not start what we call the Protestant Reformation, but rather be loyal to him. And Martin Luther, in a sense, actually agreed! As anyone who has examined the history can tell you, apparent in books like Scott Hendrix’s Luther and the Papacy for example, Luther was determined to be a loyal solider of the Pope – until he was absolutely convinced that he no longer could.

The office of the President of the United States and the office of the papacy in the 16th century Roman Catholic Church certainly have their differences. That said, there is a principle here that can and should be more widely applied, which is that loyalty is a critically important part of life – even if many in “sophisticated’ circles yawn. For example, as New York University sociologist and ethics professor Jonathan Haidt points out, today’s liberals care about things like liberty and fairness but are basically unconcerned regarding matters of sanctity, authority, and loyalty.

When recently responding to the idea that he might have swayed the election James Comey stated that it made him “mildly nauseous.” Given the sentiment surrounding the President, it’s not a big leap to assume that Comey was saying that this nausea had something to do with the idea that he may have played a role in Donald Trump becoming our President. Certainly his statement would give just that impression to many, with some would cheering and others jeering. In any case, according to some accounts in the media, it was precisely this statement from Comey that sent Trump over the edge.

And in truth, if this were the case, I can hardly blame the President.

Yes, add that to the list of all the other issues with Mr. Comey! And consider for a moment that it might indeed be the case that there is ultimately no “there there” when it comes to the matter of the Trump campaign’s purported collusion with Russia. If you are Donald Trump and you are confident that you and your associates, as far as you know, did no wrong, how frustrating must it be for this investigation to perpetually drag on? How maddening would it be to constantly hear from those in the intelligence community that the investigation is ongoing and yet there is no known evidence of wrongdoing? That the President himself, in fact, is not under investigation?

How long must the pressure of this cloud over the administration’s integrity – not the desire to impede any reasonable investigation – remain? How long must the mob that is the mainstream media grow ever more restless, waiting for more and more rumor, innuendo and anonymous leaks? At what point do concerns about incompetence or – given the known history of the F.B.I. director – concerns about speedy, fair, and impartial processes become something that those questioning the administration take seriously? Perhaps some hostile to the President are just banking on the idea that the President, feeling unfairly treated, will just give into his rather primal nature, looking to right the wrongs he senses in a way that will further discredit him?

Well, if that’s the case, I’m glad Donald Trump is fighting them as best he can.

Perhaps you are shocked by my saying this and wonder how I can think this way. Donald Trump a victim and not a victimizer?! Well, now we get into why this is a bit primal for me to. “What if it is indeed true,” you might say, “that Trump asked for Comey’s loyalty?” Well, what if I told you I think he’d be a bad President if he didn’t expect this – even from the F.B.I. director? When it comes to congress, we used to resonate with the idea of the “loyal opposition,” and it seems a no-brainer that any President should expect the members of his administration to be loyal to him. If a President asks you for your loyalty the only proper response is “Yes.” Not, “you have my honesty,” or some other evasive and trust-destroying answer.

“But wait a minute,” you say. “What about the Constitution? We must be loyal to the Constitution first and foremost, right?” The question here is why anyone would think that loyalty to the President and loyalty to the Constitution are necessarily antithetical to one another. If you don’t think you can say “Yes, you have my loyalty,” period, you can always add something like, “And of course, I assume you, like me, want to be loyal first and foremost to the Constitution of the United States”. And it is one’s duty to be loyal to the President until one is absolutely convinced that such trust has been dis-earned, at which point, yes, very difficult decisions need to be made.

“Hold on a second, though! Is it reasonable to think that a person is going to be able to come up with an answer like that on the fly in the face of a question like ‘Will you be loyal to me?’” Of course it is. The reason is because such an answer should be second nature to anyone deeply involved in politics. That it often may not be second nature simply underscores the depth of the problem that we are facing – not on the part of a deeply populist President, but on the part of those duty-bound to show loyalty to him.

Of course, given Jonathan Haidt’s observation above, it makes sense that those who continue to maintain relatively conservative dispositions will more readily pass the kind of loyalty test the President is purported to have put James Comey through. And this would explain why Trump’s first impulse would be to show loyalty toward someone like Michael Flynn, not ordering that the investigation involving him stop, but expressing the hope that it might – assuming that Flynn has only acted in an improper and not criminal fashion.

Finally, perhaps you might want to say “Are you serious about this? How can I possibly believe that you would feel similarly about a President that you were opposed to?” Well, if I absolutely felt that I could not serve a President because of his moral character or some other issue I could not abide, it would be my duty to resign and not stand in the way. To become a loyal opposition that looks to challenge the President in proper ways and through the right channels. In sum, I have always believed that the person who fills the office of President is to be honored and that I owe him my loyalty. I am sure that many an American soldier – Republican or Democrat – could say the same. We may not particularly like the President, but he is nevertheless our President.

Yes he is.

All that said, no doubt the military comes to my mind for a reason. I note that this kind of loyalty and trust are increasingly rare. Almost unknown it seems. As for Comey’s lack of loyalty, it is my sincere hope that we will soon know whether or not that disloyalty, no doubt fueled by distrust, had actually been earned beyond a reasonable doubt.

I really doubt it.

+++

I still do. And I don’t consider myself very loyal.

Not like Luther! Because Luther felt so strong about the importance of being loyal — until he could not be — his resistance is markedly different from that of Comey’s.

FIN

 

Note: added that last line, to tie things back to the title, after original publication.

 
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Posted by on June 9, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Science Fiction Writer John C. Wright’s “More Rational Model,” and a Deeper Evaluation of the Difference Christian Faith Makes

Publisher’s Weekly, in 2002 said he “may be this fledgling century’s most important new SF talent.”

 

The science fiction writer John C. Wright recently responded to a question on his publisher’s website which asked:

“Do you have any suggestions for finding faith? I see the necessity of religion, and Christianity in particular, but aside from history and cultural affinity I don’t have actual belief.”

While I am glad that Wright converted to Christianity [i] and wants others to do the same, almost every one of the arguments he makes in response to this question are ones I would not give.

Let’s look at some of the meat in Wright’s article:

…consider that the Christian worldview is more coherent, robust, and rational than any secular worldview.

Our model explains things such as why stars look fair and beautiful to our eyes when it serves no credible Darwinian purpose to do so.

Our model explains the naturalistic fallacy, that is, the gap between ‘is’ and ‘ought’ which secular philosophy cannot explain, and some cannot even address.

Our model explains how free will can exist inside a deterministic universe. A materialist cannot even formulate the question in a rational way.

Our model explains why humans seek beauty. Social-evolutionary explanations for this are less convincing than astrology.

Our model explains how creatures with free will capable of grasping intellectual abstractions can arise in a universe which contains no such thing as intellectual abstractions.

Our model allows investigation of final causes in nature, without which nature cannot properly be understood….

Our model explains the various miracles and supernatural wonders that are in the older history books, and which, for no scientific reason, were excised from being reported.

Our model explains both why there is a plurality of religions and why there are striking similarities between them.

Our model explains the origin of the universe. By definition, if the universe were all that existed, exists and ever will exist, than a material cause for it is impossible.

…Our model explains why you should not let your daughter whore around. She is immortal, and will outlast any nation, and language, any institution and human work on Earth.

Our model explains why you should not, once you have truly and deeply contemplated the vastness of the universe and the oppressive span of time to follow the death of everything you know, fall into despair, and end your meaningless life.

Our model gives something to live for nobler than one’s own pleasure seeking.

Our model avoids the logical paradox of asserting man can create meaning in life out of a vacuum. That would require an ability to create meaning out of meaninglessness, which is absurd.

Our model explains why men and women are different, and how we must arrange the dangerous mystery of the mating dance between the sexes to improve our chances to achieve joy rather than misery.

Our model gives rational hope of seeking the departed dead again.

Our model explains human psychology better than perverted old Freud dressing up old Greek myths in make believe, and far better than cranky old Thomas Hobbes and his cynicism.

Our model makes sense. Others are either incorrect, incomplete, or paradoxical, or lead ultimately to wrath or despair. Our model is the sole one which sees life as not futile and death as not bitter.

And, on an intellectual level, our model is the one to which to turn once your mind has become wearied with the reductionist, absurdist and postmodern models, which are in fact no models at all, but rather, are excuses why one should not make a model of the universe, nor seek any answers to deep questions.

It is the model to which to turn once you are heartily sick of hearing “It Just Happened” as the explanation for the origin of man, the universe, and all things.

Now I really don’t want to get too down on what Wright is doing here. These are some excellent things for anyone to think about. He is on target when he asserts, quite beautifully, that these points are meant to: “whet the appetite of intellects starved and desiccated after vain attempt[s] to feast on the shadows, dust and ashes of modern thought, and show the contrast.” Likewise when he says “All human reason can do is clear away false objections to faith. Faith itself is a supernatural gift bestowed by God to protect his own from the sudden, irrational loss of confidence in the self evident to which our foolish race is prone.”

Amen to that!

My main gripe is this: even though Wright wisely notes that each point in the list above “would require a separate and in depth conversation,” he also says that this is a partial list “of the intellectually satisfying fullness of Christian thought. It is the scent and savor of the feast of Christian philosophy, not the meat and potatoes.”

I disagree that the list has much to do with the fullness of Christian thought at all. After all, all the things above are points that can be credibly be made by Jews and Muslims seeking to reach secular persons as well. Not only this, but many of these points could also be made by informed proponents of other non-theistic religions! This should not surprise us, because in the book of Romans it says:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse…. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice [evil things] deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”

In sum, even if people do not acknowledge the Christian God, everyone knows at some level that there is a powerful divine mind that lies behind the cosmos. Furthermore, while our conscience can be badly seared, we will continually understand at some level, existentially, that there is a real right and wrong and that humans are designed for some things and not others. Regardless of what anyone says they believe, all reveal in their actions that they believe in right and wrong — even if what they believe about right and wrong is exceedingly messed up. This is why atheists like the late Christopher Hitchens would get so offended when people asked him how atheists could be good without God: because he is (was) a human being who stood in moral solidarity with other human beings about a great many things which were clearly perceived, by many wise persons, as being either good or evil (this is also why there are, ultimately, no true antinomians in the world – the world hates God’s law but we will always, even subconsciously, seek to replace God’s law with other laws thought to be good, even as there will always remain some overlap with God’s law). Undoubtedly, these matters are highly complex, but human beings must think about them.

Wright goes on:

Our model explains the prevalence of so many theists throughout history. The theory that over nine tenths of mankind, including some of the most brilliant thinkers in their age, were raving lunatics who hallucinate about imaginary sky beings is not credible and not supported by evidence. (italics mine)

It should go without saying that many of those 90% are not theists. Of course, even cultures that practice polytheism also acknowledge the core importance of hierarchy and so do tend to have supreme gods, such as Zeus or Brahman. Of course, many of the sophisticated elites of cultures like these tend to get abstract when it comes to these notions, depersonalizing their countrymen’s deities. And, of course, as Jordan Peterson puts it, empirically speaking, human beings are the most complicated beings we are familiar with, and a spirit without any form isn’t intelligible.[ii] I’d go on to assert that when we are talking about some kind of a “divine mind,” it only makes sense that that we are dealing with a personal being here (what else has a mind? ; and how can the personal arise from the impersonal?), and ultimately, a supreme personal being. 

Again, Wright:

Our model explains the current hegemony of the West and makes clear the meaning and purpose of what otherwise seems like insane and suicidal attempts by the apparently sober and sane men on Left to undermine and destroy it.

Again, enter the non-Christian Jordan Peterson, becoming more and more popular every day – who believes that the Bible is the thing needed to save Western civilization – though it seems he doesn’t necessarily have our eternal souls in mind…(more) Here, as useful conversation partners for Wright’s and Peterson’s audience, I recommend Vishal Mangalwadi’s and Alvin Schmidt’s work to chew on.

(here’s a bit of Mangalwadi):

 

This brings me to Wright’s first suggestion, which I have saved for last: “Pray.”

Again, I disagree.

Why? Because the Scriptures are quite clear that God does not invite unbelievers to pray, but rather to repent and trust in Him. God certainly could choose to use the prayer of an unbeliever in some way, but we are told time and again in the Scriptures that He does not listen to them.

I am sure that many Mormans and Jehovah’s Witnesses pray all the time. Furthermore, that they also not only find Christianity as they perceive it appealing and certainly see its “necessity.” Nevertheless, because of their faulty view of Christ and man, they end up being more pagan than Christian.

Sure, they might realize that they need to give attention to the figure of Jesus Christ reported in the Bible, risen from the dead and coming to judge the world[iii], but given that any individual’s assent here is sincere, it is one entirely based on fear and abject misunderstanding, not one driven by true grace, peace, joy, and trust. We grant that they, using the Bible, should be closer to the truth than many, but the fact that they can be so close and yet believe so wrongly – in spite of their prayers – does not assure.

That’s God up there man (the God-man, to be precise), the only One good and strong enough to save.

Therefore, given the above, my first suggestion—given that you insist repentance and faith aren’t a possibility—is to think.

Ask yourself if it makes sense that in the midst of this cacophony of world religions and even this cacophony among those whose central book is the Bible whether God might still speak clearly today for those with ears to hear. Dive deeply into the Bible, preferably with some guidance (see Acts 10) – particularly when it comes to the passages dealing with just who Jesus Christ is. Further note that the Apostle Paul acknowledges the importance of divisions between those claiming allegiance to Christ: “No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.”

By the way, of course God wants all His children (yes, I’ll call you that – see Acts 17, for example) to be those who pray (rightly). As the 16th century church reformer Martin Luther said:

“For those who preach, hear, and know God’s Word but do not pray, indicate thereby that they are still proud and secure, as if they did not need God’s grace everywhere, do not see their need and danger, think that they are now seated firmly and already have what they might request. The devil is right behind them, assaults them, and overthrows them before they even know what happened to them.”  This is why Christ, by his own example, teaches us not to forget prayer in addition to the sermon lest the Word remain without fruit when it is used. (see here for more)

Prayer is certainly a critical part of a believer’s life. I am just urging you to first hear the Word of God and it’s most knowledgeable and devoted proponents, for we are told that “faith comes by hearing the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). That is why I am urging this – which means I am urging you to look to Jesus Christ, so wonderfully described in the Scriptures and well-summarized in things like the Nicene Creed.

Now…

“Taste and see tha the Lord is good!”  “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free!”  And, I pray that even you might come to say: “I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me” (II Tim. 1:12).

Blessed is everyone who takes refuge in Him! — Psalm 2:12 (the picture depicts the All Saint’s Eve in Sweden)

FIN

 

 

[i] From Wikipedia: At age 42, Wright converted from atheism to Christianity, citing a profound religious experience with visions of the “Virgin Mary, her son, and His Father, not to mention various other spirits and ghosts over a period of several days”, and stating that prayers he made were answered.[8] In 2008, he converted to the Roman Catholic Church, of which he approvingly said: “If Vulcans had a church, they’d be Catholics.”[9]

[ii] https://jordanbpeterson.com/2017/05/episode-19/

[iii] As I have written in the past: “I do not think that we can start being “neutral” towards Christian claims upon hearing them. They demand to be taken seriously and demand our full attention and engagement.  Why these claims over the claims of any other world religion?  Why should Christianity and the truths it purports to preach get our attention?  Well, does any other religion claim to vindicate its founder – who incidently, claimed to be God, via a resurrection from the dead? (not to mention all the miracles leading up to that final, crowning miracle – ponder, for example, Mark 2:9-11 here).  Does any other world religion claim to offer proof, assurance, “faith” – that we can know who it is who will in the future judge the world? (see Acts 17). None. Therefore, anyone who does not take these things seriously – is, by definition, not being rational.  Would most philosophers agree with me?  I don’t think so.  And even if some found it to be an intriguing argument, perhaps they may say, after looking at things, that there is “insufficient evidence” for what Christianity claims. Then what? Well, do they get to decide what sufficient evidence is?  Might they be under any obligation to reconsider and look again?  Who charges them to do so?  How deeply did they look into it?  Did they do so prayerfully?”  These words should hit all like a hammer, and to the one who has not been made a friend of God, they should offer no peace.

 

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2017 in Uncategorized

 
 
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