Two blogs in one day!! I think this is a first.
I just finished the introduction to a book that a fellow-blogger recommended (her blog is excellent: http://lightenough.wordpress.com/) and I am really very excited about it! I anticipate lots of blog-fodder from this one. 🙂 It is called Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World. Four essayists present their theologies, the others respond, and then the original essayists get to respond to the responses. Got all that? It sounds like the views presented range from strict and literal adherence to scripture (salvation is through Christ and only Christ and Christians must evangelize) to broad and inclusive theology where everyone gets a golden ticket.
It’s got me thinking about where I stand (again) and I’ve decided to make this a small blog project. Below is my current and extremely brief stance on salvation insofar as I actually know what I believe. After I’ve finished reading the book, I will re-post it and let you know if my opinion has changed.
I believe in the divinity of Jesus. I believe that he removed the obstacles between us and God; that because he came, we can hope for ultimate peace. HOWEVER, I also believe that loving “…the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength”, and loving”…your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:30-31) is entirely possible without knowing Jesus and God the same way I do. Even the more specific verses that indicate that Jesus is the only way to God don’t specify every single way in which someone can come to Jesus. Although I have more research to do, I also am leaning toward the view that Jesus’ death on the cross was retroactive. In other words, those that died before Christ could still come to God through him.
There are lots of blanks there, I know. Hell, for example, is a topic I can’t even begin to touch right now. I’ll keep you posted!
This morning at church I volunteered to do the weekly prayer, lifting up the joys and concerns of the congregation. I wanted to share a reflection on Romans 15:13 during this prayer, but I wasn’t terribly prepared and fumbled through embarrassingly when I couldn’t read my own scribbles. The verse reads:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
When I read this a few weeks ago, I found myself trying to understand what it means to “…abound in hope.” People are always hoping for things. And often that hope, our anticipation and preparation for something, is a big part of what makes it exciting and fun. So we should be taking incredible joy from anticipating and preparing for our ultimate fulfillment in God.
After failing to deliver this little reflection, I sat back down and felt so disproportionately embarrassed that I could hardly pay attention to the rest of the service. I fidgeted and felt self-conscious. I knew it was ridiculous. It was done, and really no big deal at all, but I couldn’t seem to control my (very self-involved) response. Ironic, since the sermon today was about listening for God and making him your focus. 🙂
I hope (there’s that word again) that I can eventually overcome such feelings, but if nothing else, those kinds of mistakes are humbling. They make you less judgmental and generally kinder. I was a terribly critical kid. If I’m being honest, I was downright derisive sometimes. I’ve grown out of that, but I think we all still need the occasional reminder to consider the feelings of the people upon whom we animadvert. (Hah! Okay, I confess, I used the thesaurus for that word. But I’ve never heard it before and really wanted to use it! Means “to comment unfavorably or critically.” :))
Hope everyone has a great day!
The fact that I am, that we all are, eternal beings struck me in a new way recently. For some reason it suddenly seemed strange; another one of those taken-for-granted Christian concepts. It seems like a pretty huge thing to take for granted, but I don’t know… you hear John 3:16 rattled off enough times and its electrifying, supernatural promise can get a little bit lost. I don’t act as though I’ll be alive in some capacity forever. Generally, I think about my life in mortal terms. The decisions I make, while they might impact my post-death experiences, are usually made for my immediate, or at least foreseeable future. Certainly my conscience makes its argument and I take my moral and religious obligations into consideration. And perhaps that’s all we can do, since most of us don’t have foresight that extends beyond the grave in a literal way.
Even if this awareness doesn’t perceptibly change the way I behave, thinking of people as eternal subtly changes my view of humans. Hehehe. I’m currently envisioning a room full of eternal souls instead of just bodies… how odd!
Could the ways I contribute to the development of my daughter’s heart and mind have eternal ramifications? I’m not trying to make parents feel even greater burden than they already do, here… just following a train of thought. 🙂
I have a very hard time understanding who I am apart from my body. For example, I might feel strongly, passionately moved by something and attribute it to my unique personality and spiritual self but how much of that is in fact attributable to the chemicals and hormones at work in my body, shaping my emotions? I don’t know what the soul is without the body. I don’t know what kind of existence we will lead after death, what kind of individuality we will retain. I spent some time reading verses about life after death yesterday and this morning. While the Bible gives us plenty of references, there is also still plenty of mystery as far as I’m concerned.
So, I’m curious: In your interactions with people, are you ever conscious of their immortality?
A while ago, I mentioned that I was reading If God is Love by Phillip Gulley and James Mulholland. The authors believe that God will ultimately save every person. These men are educated, articulate pastors who grew up in what sound like traditional Christian households. I was intrigued by the book, but didn’t think it gave terribly specific support for their theology. So I’ve started reading If Grace is True, their first book, which addresses their beliefs somewhat more expansively. Disclaimer: this post is not intended as either support or condemnation of Universalism.
I find some of their arguments quite compelling. If you don’t know much about this idea, I’m sure your brain is already forming all kinds of questions and objections. Gulley and Mulholland do address many of them. I will not attempt to do that here, but the book is worth reading if you want to know more. There is some very interesting scriptural support for Universalism. Just a few examples include:
I know: You can think of arguments already and about a million other contradictory scriptures. I still think this is fascinating and worth exploring. My issue with the book is that the authors reject certain biblical accounts that don’t conform to their theology and accept others that do. This is a problem for me. I don’t know how one can maintain intellectual objectivity while rejecting parts of the history book and endorsing others. Perhaps they don’t agree with the selection of books that was canonized, but if any of their agreements and rejections are within the same book or even written by the same author, I’m just not sure I can take their conclusions into consideration. I would be much more interested to read an argument for Universalism that reconciles contradictory scriptures, if in fact that can be done.
At the very least, this book has introduced me to another viewpoint. It has also got me reflecting anew on my doubt that logic will ever lead us to a definitive answer regarding spiritual matters. Even the smartest, most devout, faithful and well-intentioned among us hit snags in the fabric of belief. All the more reason to commit to careful examination of our hearts, minds and actions.