Anybody up late that can give me some help with how I can best respond to these questions? I know this is fairly simple and I should be prepared, but all of the sudden I feel such pressure and want to get it right. It’s like I’ve been cramming for this big test and I don’t even know where to begin. It might be the only time I get this opportunity and I feel enormous pressure, don’t want to get it wrong. I have some ideas, but could use any suggestions. I have been interacting with him lots lately, but this is the first time he has really asked to know where I am coming from. I feel sick to my stomach!!! (In an excited, butterfly kind of way!)
All the best with your reply. Here’s my 2 cents worth, off the top of my head
Trick question. God’s love means that all are saved, when Christ draws them, and when they come to Him in repentance.
When Christ draws someone to Himself by the power of the Holy Spirit, and when they come to Him in repentance.
Works without Faith is dead. Faith without the response to Grace of Works, is dead.
Fully God and fully man.
The inspired revelation of God through human authors.
Sin at the most basic level is rebellion and opposition to God.
Yes. There is now and there will be in the future. However, the consequences do not have to be Eternal Conscious Torment in order for them to be real, meaningful and just.
Hi Alex, thank you for your responses. With the exception of your last comment I think my pastor would agree on everything. And yet, I don’t think it’s quite accurate that there aren’t some serious differences in our thinking .It’s occured to me that what he’s really wanting to know are not the questions he’s asked. I think he is detecting our differences in these areas… how I perceive the character of God, what his love and justice are, what his victory entails, the purpose of his wrath, etc. These are the things I probably need to explain. When I get done with that, it’ll be the tip of the iceberg of questions. This’ll lead to words about aionian, etc., I imagine. But, I’m jumping the gun and ready to sail him all the way down the river. I better take it one thing at a time.
I’m looking forward to reading what others might share, if they were me. I’ve decided not to hastily respond to him, but rather get some sleep (it’s late here) and pray about it. Plus, get all of your fine advice!
I think the best approach is to just answer his questions with succintness and clarity like Alex did, perhaps just adding that universalism is not inconsistent with the enormous common ground that you both share. It’s positive that he is asking for clarification, but I’m not sure it helps to try to explain everything at once before he asks more.
Amy, I like what Bob says about keeping it simple, but I’ll give you what comes to my mind as I look at these questions.
- Does God’s love mean that all are saved regardless of what anyone does?
This question makes no sense to me at all–in my current way of thinking about salvation. He’s probably thinking “salvation” = “getting out of hell.” At least that’s how I used to think, and that’s the only way I can think of to make sense of the question.
Now I would say that salvation means coming through Christ into right relationship with God. It means being one with Christ. It is impossible to be saved and continue in rebellion. Everyone is not yet saved–obviously, we can look around and see that!–but Scripture prophetically proclaims this to be God’s goal.
- How is salvation obtained?
By faith in Christ. I see salvation as relational. It is becoming one with Christ. Salvation is being crucifed with Christ, joining Him in His obedient death to His own will, and being raised with Him into newness of life–the life that is knowing God–eternal life.
- Are faith and works related or seperate?
They are intimately related and also separable.
Faith consists of works. Faith is really believing God. Therefore Abraham’s faith meant that he left Ur. Noah’s faith meant that he built an ark. The faith comes first and manifests as obedience to God’s will. You could say maybe that works are the visible manifestation of the invisible truth of a person’s faith.
We cannot earn salvation through works of the Law. We are saved by grace through faith. It’s like a marriage: Grace (God’s loving good will toward us) is joined to Faith (our trusting response to God) to produce Salvation/Atonement/Reconciliation.
- Who is Jesus?
Yay, an easy one!
Just off the top of my head, He is:
the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world
the Son of Man
the Son of God
the Light of the World
the Word made Flesh
the Good Shepherd
the Bread of Life
the Blood of the new covenant
the Revelation of the Father
the Living Water
the Way, the Truth, the Life
the Lamb who was slain
the King of Kings
the Alpha and the Omega
the Savior of the World
What is the Bible?
The writings of men of God who were moved by inspiration from the Spirit.
What is sin?
That in us which separates us from God. Anything that is not of faith is sin. Anything that violates “Love God and love your neighbor” is sin. Anytime we know what we ought to do and do not do it, it is sin.
Is there consequences to sin?
Absolutely! Sin results in death. Death is separation from God. We are all dead in our sins until we are made alive in Christ. Paul says that before we were saved, we were dead to God and alive to sin. This is the natural consequence of sin–when we sin we go away from God (the source of all life) and towards Death.
There are also specific consequences to sin: God gives to everyone according to their deeds.
Rom 2:7 to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.
We also have to deal with the reason for the consequences–which I would say is to turn the sinner from his ways and teach him to seek God.
Bob gives great advice. The same question can call for different responses depending on the questioner’s context and intentions. But I’ll toss out my immediate thoughts:
OK, I count seven questions each one of which is a doozy, and none of which requires a particular answer by universalists. Do these questions have something to do, Amy, with a conversation you’re having with him about UR? If they do, then I’d just say that there is no ‘one’ right UR answer to each question.
The most important question, though, is the first about love (and love’s regard for what is loved). I’d say that love never disregards the one loved—indeed, love just is this regard, perfected and pursued in the best interests of the one loved. And I’d add to this that I think there’s a certain necessary mutuality to the divine-human relationship that precludes our viewing the relationship in exclusively deterministic terms (i.e., in terms of which God determines [or decides] everything about the loved one). So my answer would be: No, God’s loving us does not mean God saves us “regardless of what we do.” I’d suggest to your pastor friend that God’s loving us IS his regard for us as distinct from Godself, and that means (I think) God’s actions toward us:
a) are always an expression of our inestimable worth to God,
b are designed with our best interests in mind,
c) always create the space and grace we need to freely comply.
In my view there’s a certain ‘synergy’ necessary to divine-human loving relations. God can value and pursue us unconditionally (i.e., regardless of anything we do), but God cannot bring us into the experience and fulfillment of his love for us regardless of anything we do. That experience is had through mutual regard for the other as distinct from one’s self.
Dad, you are on in Israel! Good to see a sighting of you! I could have predicted this would be your advice. Alex knows what he’s doing. I will try to follow this great advice!
If I take Sonia’s approach it might be a bit long? I like, Sonia, what you share.
Sonia, I think in my pastor’s understanding we do continue in rebellion, to a certain degree, since none of us are without sin. This is why we need the blood. Only then does God no longer see any of our rebellion. I was thinking this as a result of our discussion of the difficulties we have with PSA. Whether we address it formally, or not, doesn’t it seem like our difficulty with PSA inevitably surfaces?
We have had multiple convsersations, even ones about my doubts about PSA, that have probably resulted in his questions. He specificly, which I can’t quite figure out, asked these questions after I’d responded to a quote of his from Charles Spurgeon on FB. It said something about certain Christian workers not having the spirit, bearing fruit, and needing to get out of the way so God could plant another tree in their place. I asked what does it mean to have fruit, have the Spirit. I quoted Spurgeon that, for him, it was to believe in election and limited atonement. (Frank, my ex Pastor, is an Arminian/Calvinist mix and now works for Calvary Chapel.) I asserted that I believed it was to love my enemies, do good to others. About people like me, Spurgeon said we should question if we are really even Christians and asserted his view that we have the spirit of the devil at work inside of us. What followed were all of these questions.
Maybe this, somehow, threw him for a loop as he considered that maybe what is most important is not that we believe certain things, since I doubt he’d agree with limited atonement, and that fruit,having the spirit, is about doing good? In his understanding of PSA he seems to rail against doing good being what is important since what is important is that God no longer judges us according to that. Hard to know exactly what is in someone else’s head.
TGB, you’ve got me thinking, and I was feeling this already a bit, that maybe I should just stick with answering question number one. It’s what is centrally different about us, the way we see God and how he interacts with us. Then I would fulfill my dad’s advice to keep it short. Love your abc, btw!
Hi Amy, I too would keep it short, and often answer a question w/ a question. Also, when someone says that the are “Not” doing something, that’s exactly what they are doing; they’re just trying to cover it up to themselves. For example,
Does God’s love mean that all are saved regardless of what anyone does?
Is salvation based on Grace or based on how good or bad we’ve been?
Sherman,I see your point. Perhaps, it is that he just wants to help me, maybe? I’m hopeful there is a small part of him that is actually interested to hear how I can explain these things, realizing that I am making some small sense. I’m probably hopelessly delusional. I never give up!
Sherman, what questions would you recommend? I agree that asking questions is a good approach. It shows there are issues we both must wrestle with as we exegete (sp.?) the text. It’s not just whatever we’ve traditionally understood that is the only possible truth. I’m thinking questions like do you see a person is able to have faith w/o works? How does Jesus take away our sin? Is God only concerned with removing the penalty? What is God’s sense of justice? What does it mean, to you, that God is love? I’m going to have to think about this more as my initial response doesn’t include questions.
I’d thought to respond something like this: (as you can see it’s a hodgepodge of answers you all gave. I’m not so original)
I’m sure it’s appropriate to ask a question in there, but how? Any suggestions? Ok, how about this:
Frank, The love I see in 1 Cor. 13 that always protects, never fails, keeps no record of wrongs is consistent with God as I understand him, one that never stops pursuing his lost sheep. What is your understanding of God as love?
- Does God’s love mean that all are saved regardless of what anyone does?
Here’s a question that I might ask if someone asked me this: Are you saved because of anything you did or anything that you didn’t do?
But nimblewill, won’t his response be yes, that he believe in Jesus and the bible tells us this is necessary? I do think I understand where you are coming from, that it’s God’s grace that enables us to have this faith, right?
I think others answered the questions the way I probably would, but I just wanted to add a note that he probably feels that you may have a compromised gospel and feels he has to be a bit cunning in dealing with it since it is so “cunning” in the first place… even though it’s rather simple, common-sense and straight from the heart of God. Just want to encourage you to keep it simple and not too complicated. Don’t fall for the “cunningness” of theological tricks.
I would say, though, that the bible is a set of contextual writings by the historical people of God recording revelations, inspired thoughts and their experiences with Him.
Justin, I’m most comfortable with this explanation as well.
Wow, you, with your cunning comment, and Sherman, with his earlier one, are on the same page. You both are really wary that these questions aren’t coming from a genuine place. I’m sure it’s probably difficult for him to be completely genuine as I’m sure he is not really questioning all that he believes, but I assume he is wanting to know what I think. Perhaps I’m too naive, but in any case, it will serve me well to think the best.
Sherman!!! You recommended I ask some questions and,now that I am, I can’t stop!!! I haven’t sent this to him and want to sit on it for a bit. This is what I’ve written so far…(subject to change) I think I’m not very good at taking my dad’s advice, sorry dad.
Oh geeze, this is ceasing to be short and the questions are rolling right out of me such that I just can’t stop!!! I had trouble coming up with 1 and now I have counted 19!! I guess I didn’t need help with the questions did I? What can I leave out? I think I’m redundant in places. Am I biblicly inaccurate in places? Appreciate all your input!
Hah. Remember, we gotta be innocent as doves but clever as foxes.
I’m just saying, with my background in religion, that definitely sounds like where he’s coming from. We who were most vulnerable to the twisted pharisaical spirit in our hearts know it when we see it.
Amy, I’m because you definitely forgot the part about “short”!! But that’s ok, you covered a lot of ground and hopefully he’ll give it some real thought! I’m looking forward to hearing what kind of response you get.
I know, right! I’m terrible. This is why my dad is always telling me to keep it brief! He knows me so well. He will not be pleased.
Just over dinner tonight, with Gene, I tell him about what I wrote and he tells me I shouldn’t ask so many questions because it comes off like I don’t have answers, that I should just shoot straight. Ugh! I think I’m going to think of how to shorten it up, be frank about what I think, while posing a few of the key questions. Have I mentioned that communication is not my strong suit?
How is salvation obtained? God saves his people.
Are faith and works related or separate? Faith is God’s gift to us. Works are our gift to God.
Who is Jesus? He who made Man is made man.
What is the Bible? Human words inspired by the divine Word. Good, but not God.
What is sin? Leaving home.
Is there a consequence to sin? Pain.
AllanS, you have to be the most succint yet! I could learn a thing, or two, from you. The more I want to explain the longer this thing gets. It’s really just because I so desperately want to help him understand where I’m coming from.
Fewer words the better, in my opinion, especially on internet forums.
I came up with the world’s simplest proof of Pythagoras’s theorem some time ago, only to find it on the web. (Most annoying. There goes my glory.) Basically, you need two squares, 8 lines, and one instruction of 3 words.