Why I Do Not Believe in Universal Salvation
webb wrote: Vance,
All of that is to say, I do not regard our alienation from God as something that is thrust on us by God in terms of the condition into which God brings each of us into the world--as though God is our enemy from the moment of our conception. That--no matter how common it is to believe--is a grotesque idea, and even theologically pernicious upon examination. If I am correct (and I would have thought that a person in your position would be particularly inclined to agree), then the basis is removed from your attempt to pose a kind of balance--on the one hand, involuntarily spiritually dead in Adam, thus, on the other side of the balance, perhaps also involuntarily brought alive in Christ. God never did shove anyone away who did not themselves first shove him away.
If the view that Adam, like Christ, is a corporate figure for all of humanity is a "catastrophic (if typical) over-reading of Paul's argument" then I'm in good company for this has been the view of the church throughout it's history (Moo, Douglas, The Epistle to the Romans, p. 328 n. 61). And while it's true some believe the death that Paul speaks of is only physical, clearly it does not refer "to physical death alone...spiritual death...is also involved." (Moo, Douglas, The Epistle to the Romans, p. 333.).
Let everyone enjoy the full and free liberty of thinking for himself:... — John Wesley
You just dug a little deeper, and the topic is continuing to open out to a whole giant cave. A few questions, if you would like to go caving with me on this. (1) What do you think of the initial thesis of my last post--that all human beings are created to be God's children? (2) Can you think of a good exegetical reason to resist the following interpretation of God's command to Adam in Genesis 2 not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? God told Adam that all the fruits in the garden--including the fruit of the tree of life--were nutritious to eat and therefore Adam was invited to eat them all. God's reason for forbidding eating this one fruit was the very reason he gave Adam for not eating it: because eating it was lethal. I.e., this fruit was deadly poisonous, and it would kill you--not instantaneously, but speedily. (3) Who can you cite before Augustine who will say that God has been the enemy of every human being descended from Adam from the moment of their conception, or, alternatively, that every human being descended from Adam has been condemned to spiritual death by God before they were ever conceived? After all, it is these ideas that I'm characterizing as over-reading, catastrophic, grotesque, and even pernicious, not the bare and abstract notion of some kind of mystical participation in the sin of Adam. The two are not simply equivalent--there are a number of logical moves and options you have to choose in order to get from the latter to the former. I ask (3) also because I don't see in the main text or the footnote you cite from Moo anything that justifies your claim that "this has been the view of the church throughout its history." I do find in Moo's main text a clear concession that he is going beyond what Paul actually says. If you don't want to get into all that history of interpretation stuff, that's fine--after all, it's time-consuming, and when you're interpreting Scripture, among the weakest arguments you can make is, "we all say so, therefore it must be true" (what I call Bandar-log epistemology). But if you really are interested in the history of interpretation, I'm game--I am working on a Romans commentary, and it will stimulate me to do my research on this issue.
Thanks for your reply and perspective.
It is my understanding of Paul through the book of Romans, among other books in the scripture that the condemnation was brought to all people The spiritual death spoken of brought eternal separation from God.
I understand the foundational belief you have is ' will' of people to find peace with God one must accept Christ. However, my foundational belief is that because of Christ ( as example of Paul on the road to Damascus). all mankind will eventually have an encounter with Christ and will come around.
You ask, is this possible as you have not yet seen this in your reading of the texts. Yes, it is possible because mankind is all part of creation, and made in the image of their creator and He can not deny His own, nor can anyone ( demons, angels, death) separate us from His love. And therefore we will have to agree to disagree.
The issue I take with your foundational premise that the will of man prevents God from accomplishing a restoration of ' all He creates' is the same issue any of a reformed theology ( Calvinism) would pose to your view. The danger I see with holding to the ' fee will' perspective is it leads to a pharisaic mindset, and puffs one up with works of Faith. Rather than the finished work of Christ.
Let everyone enjoy the full and free liberty of thinking for himself:... — John Wesley
You said, "because of Christ ( as example of Paul on the road to Damascus) all mankind will eventually have an encounter with Christ and will come around."
Your logic seems to be,
"Paul, a great sinner, right in the midst of opposing Christ, was converted to saving faith when he had an encounter with Christ, therefore, in principle, any sinner, no matter how great, will be converted when he or she has an encounter with Christ."
But this is generalization from a single instance, a hazardous procedure. Paul would certainly approve if you said,
"Paul, a great sinner, right in the midst of opposing Christ, was converted to saving faith when he had an encounter with Christ, therefore, in principle, any sinner, no matter how great, may be converted when he or she has an encounter with Christ." After all, he says in 1 Tim. 1:15-16, "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst."
But he also talks in a number of places about the encounter that the unrepentant can expect to have with Christ when he comes to judge both the living and the dead, and he characterizes that encounter as one of anger and condemnation to fiery destruction, not one of loving remonstration and heart-melting compassion. So it sounds as though you expect, at some point downstream of this wrathful encounter, for there to be a gentle, converting encounter during which Christ provides some sinners for the first time with the ability to say "yes" to him. Because they were, up to that moment, strictly unable to say "yes," no one ever has to deal with having credit for the faith that is implanted in them, and no one ever has to worry about having a theoretical basis for pride over their supposedly self-generated achievement of faith, and sinning in that way. I can imagine that this removal of any basis for pride could offer some kind of pastoral advantage, but to tell you the truth I haven't observed it to be effective. Whatever the theory is, I've noted Calvinists to be every bit as capable as other Christians of indulging in prideful, boastful, and disdainful attitudes towards others whom they consider to be inferior. Be that as it may, the major issue is not whether there are potential pastoral advantages to believing this or that, but whether there are theological and/or exegetical advantages or disadvantages.
If the Scripture teaches me something that could tempt me towards pride, then I will take it on prayerfully and then try to figure out how to avoid pride (or repent of pride) over that truth. For example, the Scripture offers me the highest position of dignity and worth imaginable for a created being: the identity as God's own child. I don't refuse to accept that identity because I'm worried that accepting it might tempt me to pride. Such a refusal would actually stem from pride itself--from my unwillingness to accept any gift from God whose acceptance might show me up to be a sinner. This, in my assessment, is typically the case with Christians who refuse to be taught by Jesus to call God Father, and instead address God as "Heavenly Master." It's not humbler to relate to God as Master than to relate to God as Father, given that it is God himself who asked you, as your Father, to relate to him as Father. The solution is not refusal of the gift, but thankfulness for that gift, and willingness to acknowledge that God is equally desirous of giving that gift to others as to give it to you. That goes in particular for the gift of ability to respond in faith to God. The ability to form, to have, and to express faith is core to the identity of children of God, and, by the same token, so is the ability to form, to have, and to express cynicism and disbelief. If you deny the reality of those two abilities, you effectively make God the only agent in reality, and you completely hollow out the whole idea of what it means to be created as God's children.
Let me pose a quick question that may seem off topic, but isn't.
Readheart wrote: The danger I see with holding to the ' fee will' perspective is it leads to a pharisaic mindset, and puffs one up ...
As far as you know, has God created any other children for himself besides human beings?