Salvation "From" The World Not "Through" The World

The foundation of every social construct and mental map of the world I've ever seen is the assumption that as human beings we are inherently flawed from the start. And I think this can be an incredibly misleading notion.

Our modus operandi is that we must look to something other than ourselves for answers, something outside ourselves for deliverance. We are in one reality, salvation is in another. We are limited and dependent. We are hopelessly enslaved and in need of redemption. The external reality, the world around us possesses this redemption we are in need of. Surely it must, that's why I keep looking. I am in need of "other". Almost, anything! Anything in the world, except, well "me" is worth examining for potential salvation: sports, wine tasting, religion, sex, etc. The inherent assumption is that we are lost and incomplete without relations with something external. to us. Something on the outside world, that is not me will provide me with what I truly need.

Society tells you a man will make you happy. Society tells you a woman will make you happy. Society tells you a high paying career will make you happy. Society tells you, sex will make you happy. Society tells you drinking will make you happy. Society says these new pair of shoes will make me happy. Society says a brand new outfit will make me popular, and therefore happy. Society tells you going to high school, then university, then getting a career, then getting a promotion, then finally the golden 65 retirement will make you happy. Society even tells you how to avoid a decrease of happiness (aka pain). Society says avoid rejection at all costs. Society says don't talk to strangers. Society says don't risk looking embarrassed. Society says don't upset the flow of things. Society says fall in line and follow pleasantly, be mediocre and most importantly fit in. Society says be like every person around you, don't stand out clearly. Society is like your best friend, it shows you not only how to increase your happiness but also decrease your painfulness by avoiding harmful situations.

I wonder if your ballshit meter has risen even a little yet? Most of us have done/had many/all of these things, yet we are not extremely fulfilled or undoubtedly happy. We are not on some perpetual high, nor do we feel some ultimate fulfillment like a divine love drug similar to ecstasy. In fact we have problems that are never ending, never-ceasing, and once we solve one, then arises another. We hope the deliverance may come in the future, but none of what society has given so far has satisfied our expectation. In fact it's produced a mass-consumer culture of addicts invested in perpetually buying whatever "merchandise" they need to give them that temporary hit, that band-aid over the wound.

In all these cases something outside of you tells you the condition of that which make you happy and the adequate answer to that condition. That's nice isn't it? Except that each condition and answer fails every time at producing long-term deep satisfaction, or as I call it spiritual nourishment. It's all just a temporary fix. I remember sometimes "longer" fixes would come along, like a video game that last for hours, but eventually it runs out of stem, the novelty dissipates, the high becomes a low and boredom, or depression and hate reappear.

So what is salvation? Who is salvation? How can I earn salvation? Society has the answer. Salvation is finding about reincarnation on Oprah Winfrey. We will go through endless lives until we are finally delivered. Fun is determined by watching Jersey Shore. Healthy living is determined by watching Dr Phil. Acceptance is determined by buying the right make-up kit. For me regaining approval will be found in a hair-growth surgeon! Losing hair means I am now incomplete according to many infomercials, until salvation comes in the form of a toupee. That's society for you.

Christianity also has the answer to salvation. So does Islam. Don't forget, Mormons too. Everyone has the fucking answer. Heak, everyone except me. Everyone is an infallible authority. Some how everyone magically knows the answer. Not a single person alive seems to have failed to share the conviction that, they have have the truth and/or salvation through some (external) system of authority other than themselves, whether it be Islam, science or girly magazines. We are all to follow the authority like good children. I am not an authority. But everybody else is, every religion, and every ideology, every construct, and every mental model.

It is apparent from the above, that in each and every case I seek completion outside of me, I willingly put my completion in the hands of a reality who is just as flawed, if not as imperfect as myself, in the above illustration I use the architects and results of some mainstream aspects of society which make absolutely no sense, saturated in mainstream media that engages in high rhetoric and empty promises. Why do we give away this power to the world around us? I have no idea. But i'm going to deconstruct the basic flaw in principle. I will pick on the Evangelicals as a case in point, to show how and why none of this works.

Evangelical Christianity commonly asserts things like: "I don't have a religion, I have a relationship with Jesus Christ".

It's mean't to be an attractive package for us on lookers. Since the evangelical in question is not religious (a word they incorrectly associate with mere 'legalism') but rather 'relationship' orientated. We all need a relationship with the perfect partner and savior who can match our every need. But who can fit such a description? The evangelical insists: Jesus.

Obviously since no human can be perfect, the selling point is that God became the perfect human in Jesus. They usually go onto to say something like: "If you ask Jesus to come into your heart and experience a relationship with you, he will come into you, give you joy, peace, salvation and live inside you as Lord and Savior."

Notice the over-lap and commonality the Evangelical belief has with the aforementioned notions made by mainstream society. In both cases happiness, completion and salvation is that something that lay outside of me, something external to me, the world around me (if you will), which will come and redeem me. In this case "Jesus" instead of "a boyfriend" or "alcohol" or "successful career". Jesus is my new "drug", Jesus is being sold as a "made to feel better/happiness provider" and "savior of my soul and long lasting relationship".

Hence the concept of Jesus in this regard, like every other concept is made to appease our stimulating mechanisms. In the same way we can't help but respond to the shiny objects or beams of light at rock concerts, Jesus is functioning the same way. A very good psychological effect, but alas only a happy-time story, and a temporary fix. 

Unfortunately not even this Jesus himself can resolve our feeling that something is missing in our lives, outside of a few places (e.g. Church) times (worshiping) or years (when your Pentecostal passion ceases).

So do I need a relationship with Jesus to complete me? Will this restore some deep part of my being?

  1. A person cannot experience relations with another person who they have never encountered. (even if requested or not). The implication? I must look to myself
  2. No experience of a relationship has ever completely satisfied me. I must look to myself
  3. External relations do not produce long lasting deep satisfaction/spiritual fulfillment. (evidence: "Family, Friends, Work etc"). Look to myself, much
  4. External relations with a perfect external entity do not cause permanent spiritual fulfillment. (evidence: "Christians who've had divine relationship/experiences with God yet remain dissatisfied and long for heaven and/or death TO BE (future tense) with Christ since they aren't content yet"). Look to myself, instead
  5. I do not require relations with the external to be complete. (I'm an introvert and prefer the company of my lonesome self. In-fact without anybody existing, negative mental labeling/activity, bad stereotypes, envy, hatred, comparison etc, would become almost entirely obsolete). Me, me, me! 
  6. To look to the external world is to make the fundamental mistake that another has enlightenment and you lack it. Why begin with negative assumptions over positive? 

So this "outward" figure, the one mean't to "descend from the heavens" to be our savior, redeemer, and relationship extraordinaire is ultimately a substitute used for external stimulus. This is not to say that we cannot find God and/or Jesus, but to say that I think that Evangelicals have fallen into the common societal structure of providing a missing need and then filling the void with a cheap fix, which is why this movement is falling apart. It's as utterly bankrupt as are all the other notions claiming salvation is external.

While I do make the affirmative existence of the objective world (based on faith), I do not make the claim that this world can redeem me or liberate me. I must find the source of my liberation in my own choices or "free will" and test/check that against the world around me.

A Battle of Metaphysics: Materialism vs Idealism - Who Is The Winner?

Materialism and Idealism are competing views debating a particular question: "What exactly is the precise nature of reality?" or "What singular substance composes reality? Matter or Mind?" or: "Does matter produce mind, or does mind produce matter?"

Both positions are committed to the view that reality is only comprised of one substance, but disagree on the nature of this substance. 

Atheists and Theists can adhere to either one of these views. Both positions are compatible with Atheism or Theism. In today's post I would like to introduce an Atheist Idealist. That is a person who does not believe that matter (commonly viewed as mind independent physical nature) is all that exists, but rather an Atheist who believes reality is non-physical and composed by merely mind or consciousness. In this Idealist view matter is an emergent property of consciousness, in the Materialist view mind is an emergent property of matter, though in both cases they are only viewed as properties, not as distinct substances since reality has one single substance according to both positions. 

Both Theists and Atheists have this debate among themselves, in their own inner-circles and with each other. My position is if I were an Atheist, I would still be an Idealist. I think the Atheist Idealists happen to have a decent argument, and I will appeal to one to explain why.

James T Stillwell (also known as OpenAirAtheist and I—Theist) is a former Christian Theist (an "OpenAirPreacher") and former Atheist Realist who became an Atheist Idealist and Power Nihilist. Former fan and/or associate, of colleague of Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron, his skepticism/doubts began in his viewing of a debate with Dan Barker and James White which ultimately lead him via a process of skepticism to reject Christianity and theism as a whole and become an apostate and atheist, or "I-Theist" as he likes to call himself. He runs the blogs OpenAirAtheist.blogspot.com and TheStillWellPost.blogspot.com and the YouTube Channel  I—Theist. He argues the Abrahamic God cannot exist since these theists define God as nothing. If God is no-thing, he has no existence, as only things have real existence. That is God does not have a positive identity which possesses borders and boundaries. rather he is limitless and therefore is either nothing and/or everything which is just logically incoherent (1, 2). He has videos mocking Faith/Theism (1, 2), has videos either challenging and/or debating popular Christian Apologists such as James White (1), Matt Slick (1) and Sÿe Ten Bruggencate (1). He asserts that even if theism were true it cannot account for objective moral values, duties and/or a purpose:

"This qualified form of moral nihilism is active Nihilism not passive. It is a skepticism or disbelief of claims to objective or absolute meaning morality and purpose, a recognition that moral dogma along with religious & political ideologies are a means of control or gaining power over others. It contends that the existence of a God or Gods is insufficient to bridge the is-ought gap or produce objective moral values & duties." (source)

Similar to Anti-Theists he argues even if God existed he would not submit to God, he does not grant that anyone has authority to make him comply with any particular moral norms including the notorious: "Golden Rule". He views himself as a kind of God and/or Superman, and views Judeo/Christian modernity like (Nietzsche) virtually as a curse. (1).  In one comment in his own video he comments:

"I'm not down with calling the universe god or defining myself as a pantheist, due to the massive baggage acciated with those terms. I will use the term god when referring to myself, since I am highest in my own hierarchy of values, and I create my own values instead of borrowing from social norms and the herd." (source)

And:

"You seam to 1 have mistaken me for a materialist/physicalist but I'm not. 2 i don't "believe" in anything (depending on what you mean by belief). 3All praise Allah? No I am my own God. I am an I-Theist. You can grovel and subjugate yourself all you want. As long is doesnt thwart my will to power progress I could careless. Most people are by nature slaves like and so if there is no master around they will invent a Skye Daddy. That's fine with me as long as you leave me out of it." (source)

Stillwell therefore views himself as a God rather than a slave, which represents the majority of humanity. He has this emancipation complex similar to that of Tyler Durden in the movie Fight Club. He is free from the bonds of modernity, society and Judeo-Christian values and ethics and is in his own right a kind of Creator and has been set-free from the sheep and masses.

Despite being no friend of theism or Christianity, seemingly defining himself as an enemy of our God, you can see in the above quote (emphasized in red font), that he rejects a common position that many Atheists identify with, known as: "Materialism".

As mentioned, in it's base line form materialism asserts: "physical matter is all that reality consists of." This is a monistic view of reality, that is the belief that all reality consists of only one singular substance. Particularly in this case, that substance is physical, natural, material, commonly identified as: matter. This is in contrast to methodological naturalism which according to the Supreme Court can be described like this:

"Expert testimony reveals that since the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries, science has been limited to the search for natural causes to explain natural phenomena.... While supernatural explanations may be important and have merit, they are not part of science." Methodological naturalism is thus "a paradigm of science." It is a "ground rule" that "requires scientists to seek explanations in the world around us based upon what we can observe, test, replicate, and verify." (source)

Theists are quite often accused of the "God of the gaps" fallacy, meaning that when science cannot explain something we provide magic or "God did it" as an alternative hypothesis, which is really no explanation at all, it's certainly not science. However ironically this is nearly the exact same fallacy of the materialist otherwise known as: "Naturalism of the gaps".

The idea is when science cannot account for, or explain a natural phenomenon, we must be apriori commit to an eventual and inevitable materialistic explanation that will in the future be provided by science. This is despite not having any current and/or contemporary evidence for such a belief, we are expected to trust in science as the golden calf or holy grail of all reality and truth because of it's proven track record and consistent observation that all has been explained in terms of physical reality.

The typical justification for this is view is according to the principle of induction, science has resolved similar situations in the past and will inevitably do so in the future (belief on materialism). For example the storm god Thor is no longer viewed as the cause or source of thunder, rather the typical modern scientific view is that thunder is the result of a shock wave caused by the rapid expansion of hot plasma contained in lightening. Richard Carrier expands:

"The cause of lightning was once thought to be God’s wrath, but turned out to be the unintelligent outcome of mindless natural forces. We once thought an intelligent being must have arranged and maintained the amazingly ordered motions of the solar system, but now we know it’s all the inevitable outcome of mindless natural forces. Disease was once thought to be the mischief of supernatural demons, but now we know that tiny, unintelligent organisms are the cause, which reproduce and infect us according to mindless natural forces. In case after case, without exception, the trend has been to find that purely natural causes underlie any phenomena. Not once has the cause of anything turned out to really be God’s wrath or intelligent meddling, or demonic mischief, or anything supernatural at all. The collective weight of these observations is enormous: supernaturalism has been tested at least a million times and has always lost; naturalism has been tested at least a million times and has always won. A horse that runs a million races and never loses is about to run yet another race with a horse that has lost every single one of the million races it has run. Which horse should we bet on? The answer is obvious." (source)

One of the main criticism of this methodology is that when I don’t know how something works or how to explain it, the correct conclusion is “I don’t know.” A second problem is while science has aided us in providing a better and proper coherent explanation of these observations, the belief that what we are studying is mind-independent "matter" (naive realism) and that this matter has to be physical/material is now a belief independent of science. It is highly controversial in physics to advocate a particular definition of matter/energy. The reality is we don't really know what energy/matter is. However there are good reasons for rejecting the view that matter is merely "physical stuff" that exists in and of itself, that is independent of mind. I think there are plenty of other responses to the so-called defenses of "materialism of the gaps", but I don't want to go into exhaustive detail.

Instead, I will appeal to our Atheist friend Stillwell to explain, ultimately why Carrier (and other Materialists) seem to be wrong according to science. 

The Case For An Immaterial Soul


While Stillwell may not use the term: "soul" (I would have to ask him, but it's unlikely given his agenda to avoid giving credence to anything associated with theism), I use "soul" here as a synonym for an individual perceived sense of personal self (distinct from other independent selves/entities), a mind embodied and self awareness and consciousness. One could argue such a metaphysic is in contradiction with Christianity in general or not present in the Bible, that's fine, that is a separate argument. My personal view however is the Bible is not teaching metaphysics in either sense and is possibly compatible with both. But, that is a debate in and of itself for another time. Moving on to the evidence for the Soul.

Stillwell began in 2012 to make public videos inclining towards a non-materialistic view, that is that while reality is monistic (is composed of one substance) that substance is not necessarily physical, but rather matter is an emergent property of an immaterial substance, namely consciousness. But lets hear him explain it in his own words:





Later that year he published this:





The next year he strengthened his belief in Idealism, and argues materialism just cannot explain consciousness/mind:





And finally he made this video in 2014:





He also linked to the following video (in his 2013 vid) that argues that materialism/dualism are both refuted faith positions, and that the mind transcends all physicality, which indirectly is a good argument for the use of the word: "soul":




Stillwell, is correct. Berkeley argued as an empiricist that Locke (a fellow empiricist) should be an idealist. As wiki notes:

"An argument for idealism, such as those of Hegel and Berkeley, is ipso facto an argument against materialism. Matter can be argued to be redundant, as in bundle theory, and mind-independent properties can in turn be reduced to subjective percepts. Berkeley presents an example of the latter by pointing out that it is impossible to gather direct evidence of matter, as there is no direct experience of matter; all that is experienced is perception, whether internal or external. As such, the existence of matter can only be assumed from the apparent (perceived) stability of perceptions; it finds absolutely no evidence in direct experience."

How A Universalist View of God's Love Trumps Them All

Introduction 


A fundamental teaching of Christianity (and the Bible as commonly understood with a Christian pretext) is that God is the infinite source of love. God is love itself. The Bible does not make this statement about any other feature of God with the exception of: "God is Spirit". God's spiritual (that is non-physical) being is commonly construed as the fundamental nature of God within Christendom.

Now because of this understanding of God's spirit as a fundamental aspect of God for thousands of years, Christian theologians have been forced to deduce and infer God's love is also fundamental in the exact same manner, since both statements in the original Greek New Testament are construed and posited using the exact same grammatical construction and syntax, they are indistinguishable bar one word: "God is .... (love/spirit)".

It is undeniable, if one is an essential aspect of God's nature as Christian scholars, theologians and Greek grammarians maintain, then the other has to be. This gives us at-least two essential aspects of God. God subsists in his very essence, being and nature as pure perfect love and spirit. To put it another way, if God was composed of "stuff" (like energy/matter is) it would be "love and spirit energy/matter and/or atoms and molecules". This gives you an incredibly rare and unique insight into just how loving God is, his very center, his whatness and isness, his pure existence is love. The very composition that constitutes him (or that he constitutes) is comprised of perfect absolute love.

God is not only loving or spiritual, as in an adjective describing a temporal like state. It's not that he sometimes behaves this way, temporarily manifesting this quality, nor is he even is just generally like this as some long term part of his character. The profound truth is that he is what embodies and perfectly exemplifies these adjectives in his very unity of being, he is the noun form of love itself, absolute love, he exhausts the category of love from inside and out.

If Sue says Joe is "loving", we can imagine a relative statement here, meaning Joe from the stand point of his beloved Sue is the most wonderful and loving man in the world. Yet he is not synonymous with "love" the noun. Yet if I say "Joe is human" he is synonymous with "human", everything that human is, Joe is. We can say Joe is loving, but not love itself. Of God we say, he is loving because he is love

Joe therefore does not behave lovingly because he is fundamentally love, rather Joe has a potential or range of behaviors he could exemplify (non of which are permanent), he will choose to express or won't. This expressive love we exhibit is not fundamental, nor continuous, immutable, everlasting, perfect, nor does it envelop our very essence or our totality of being. Hence Joe is choosing (but is not inherently) love, where as God is (inherently) love. 

A loving person can exhibit love, since love is a potential attribute that can be demonstrated, but imagine a case where a loving person is love, imagine if it's not merely potentially expressed, or a general depiction of how someone behaves but imagine a God who is absolutely identical with love. A space where there exists no potentiality, or regression or change, he is for once and forever: perfect love itself fully exhausted and appropriated and expressed.

This literary device is not used of any other positive aspects of God's nature, which is quite telling. God is identified with two nouns in the qualitative construction (and no others) in the very construction used to also establish the ineffable certainty of Christ's divinity "and God is the Word (translated as the Word is God John 1:1c)". This means is the very concept of these nouns exemplifed and embodied in personal consciousness therefore we must explain God in this light.

Notice regarding any of the aforementioned qualities there is no Biblical statement like: "God is Faith (wrath, anger, justice, etc)", however there is: "God is Faithful (wrathful, just, etc)". This is of course because God is not faith itself, rather he is the object of faith. And he is faithful because his love endures forever, his promises remain the same, and he will never give up on us. So his "faithfulness" is the result of his loving essence, not because "faith" is an essential aspect within God's being independent of love, rather faithful here is the manifestation and application of love given God's relationship with the created world, which makes it a behavior that God exhibits in the context of relating to creation, but love is the foundation for such divine activity.

Likewise this explains the existence of "mercy". Mercy is apart of God, yet it is not a fundamental aspect of God's being. Using our language mercy is derivative of God's pure loving essence. To explain: How can God have mercy on one, or be essentially merciful when when there was no sinners to have mercy on? This shows us that mercy is derivative of God's love, and only came into fruition when sinners began to exist. It's an adjective describing God's behavior or his activity when he was manifesting love. When the creation finally required mercy, mercy as a loving expression of God's activity came into being out of necessity. God's mercy (the merciful one) therefore is a particular application of love in the context of divine-human relations, and the activity, or adjective did not exist prior. Mercy does not exist as a real independent and phenomenon in God (like love and spirit are two essential aspects), it's a description of an action (and trait) that God makes, which is based in love.

Christian teaching then as passed down for hundreds of years has two fundamental descriptions of what God is. His very own essence is love and spirit. This means statements in the Bible that appear to contradict or undermine the loving essence of God must be re-understood in light of God's fundamental being and loving/spiritual essence.

Christianity teaches God is a Father and yet Christians do not literally believe God is a biological Father (with genitals and sperm), nor a literal "him". The Bible use these terms to describe God because he is personal rather than a "thing" or an "it". The Bible however quite often refers to God's attributes, such as his wisdom, and his divine presence, as "her", demonstrating God is personal no matter what gender pronoun you wish to employ. The Bible also ascribes repentance and evil unto God, but again we do not take this literally, since God is portraying himself in these passages like a man on purpose to demonstrate his willingness to listen to our prayers and his supremacy over creation.

However despite all of the aforementioned what is fascinating is that many contemporary Christians forget that other adjectives and or attributes assigned to God are also non-literal in terms of the human notions of such concepts, and the same qualities must be explained in the context of God's fundamental loving nature, that is his very being.

In the Bible God is commonly assigned human qualities like "anger" or "wrath" or "vengeance" (as mentioned) sometimes even "evil". Many of God's attributes, his wrath, his justice, his anger, his judgement, his righteousness, etc must be qualified in light of his essence so we can infer the proper understanding of these descriptive terms in the context given God's all essential-loving being. We cannot propose any description or definition of these qualities that contradicts God's core loving being. Historically, the Church has understood these more human like descriptions to be anthropomorphic in nature. That is God is an unfathomable consciousness, above and beyond human reality. It was therefore necessary for God to condescend on our plain and speak to humans in our own limited way by relating to us using terms and language and emotive states of being that only we experience and learn from. (1)

So when you think of God's anger, wrath or judgement don't conceive of such common intuitions or common sense assumptions that the ordinary humans perceives in finite mind. God describes himself using terms that you have some subjective emotive correspondence to and experience with, but no such application exists in the context of the Almighty who possesses no such temporal states of emotion, incomplete desires, passions, no inadequacy nor imperfection,  he cannot be "frustrated" or "made angry" like we are, rather these explains God's own activities, behaviors and responses to human behaviors from the stand point of human interpretation. 

All of these anthropomorphic descriptions are to be explained in the context of God's essence, not as God acting like humans relating to other humans or God desiring equal measure for punishment and sin, or good and evil. Within Christianity is a doctrine known as the impassibility of God has been largely confusing especially for protestant reformers.

On the one hand these theologians wish to adhere to God's impassibility since it's completely Scripturally sound while simultaneously holding to views that contradict God's immutable loving state, including such beliefs as God's judgement is expressed through eternal conscious torment. The problem is both doctrines cannot possibly be true. And God's impassibility tied to classic theism is a historic doctrine of the Church. As one Encyclopedia describes the doctrine:

"Impassibility is that divine attribute whereby God is said not to experience inner emotional changes of state whether enacted freely from within or effected by his relationship to and interaction with human beings and the created order. More specifically, impassibility means that God does not experience suffering and pain, and thus does not have feelings that are analogous to human feelings. Divine impassibility follows upon His immutability, in that, since God is changeless and unchangeable, his inner emotional state cannot change from joy to sorrow or from delight to suffering. Biblical basis. The Bible does not address the philosophical question of whether or not God is impassible. Nonetheless, divine impassibility is founded upon the same scriptural evidence as that of divine immutability. Summarily, God, within the Old Testament, reveals through his immanent actions within time and history that he is personal, knowing, and loving. He is the One God who is Savior, Creator, and Sanctifier. These immanent divine acts reveal that God transcends all else that exists. He is completely "other," and so He cannot be numbered among all else that exists. Thus, God is present and active within the created order of time and history as the one who, as the "Wholly Other," transcends it. Unlike creatures, whose emotional inner states change either through their own actions or by being acted upon, God as all perfect transcends this changeable created order. He neither can change his own inner emotional state nor can another effect a change in his inner emotional state, and thus He is impassible. Within this Old Testament context God, nonetheless, is seen as displaying a variety of emotions. Due to his faithful love, God hears the cry of his enslaved people in Egypt and so "suffers" over their plight (Ex 2:23–25; 3:1–8, 15–17; Dt 4:37). Moreover, because of his love God equally grieves over the sinful disloyalty of his people and even becomes angry (Hos 11:1–4). Yet, his heart "recoils" within him and his compassion "grows warm and tender," and thus he will not execute "his fierce anger." The reason is, "For I am God and not mortal; the Holy One in your midst and I will not come in wrath" (Hos 11:8–9). While God's wrath rises in justice, it is always tempered by his forgiving, compassionate, and faithful love (Ex 32:11–14; 1 Sam 15:11). Within the Old Testament then God is seen as "suffering" with, or on behalf of, or because of his people, and so he grieves with or over them (Ps 78:40, 95:10–11). These various "emotional" states are said to cause God to "repent" or "change his mind" (Gn 6:6–7; Judg 2:18; 2 Sam 24:16; 1 Chr 21:15; Ps 106:45; Jer 18:8; Amos 7:3 & 6; Joel 2:13; Jon 3:19). In the end, God consistently acts with great compassion and mercy. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord."(2)

And another:

"Classic theism teaches that God is impassible — not subject to suffering, pain, or the ebb and flow of involuntary passions. In the words of the Westminster Confession of Faith, God is "without body, parts, or passions, immutable." It is important to note that the debate regarding the doctrine of impassibility does not center on whether God has feelings or emotions. Though some would argue for the position that God does not possess any feelings or passions, those such as Paul Helm who seek to preserve impassibility do not view God as completely apathetic. Rather, the question is whether or not God's passions are voluntary or involuntary. Does God actually react to his creation in an emotional way? Can humanity hurt God, emotionally? The standard difficulty encountered by advocates of impassibility is that the Scripture narrative presents a God who does, in fact, react to his creation. The typical rejoinder to this is that the narrative portions of the Holy Text also present God with certain human features such as hands, eyes, etc. Surely, it is claimed, we do not accept all descriptions of God in human terms (anthropomorphisms), and as such we should be cautious in accepting the emotions and passions of God at face value. In recent years many in the Open Theist circles have explored the various anthropomorphism's of God to discover if, in fact, they do reveal something about God, however imperfect the description may be." (3)

Hence it is impossible for God to be both literally love and hate, or anger and peace, nor can God 'alternate' between human states of emotional being,  rather God is beyond human states of transitivity and he himself is pure being and his his own unique essence that is composed of a deeper but real mystery of love. The Church went with the passions as the anthropomorphisms they were intended to be yet ironically they still preserve false doctrines that contradict this.

When a Christian affirms that God is love, or God is infinitely loving or the source of infinite love, I must ask them what on earth they mean by this? That's because ninety percent of the time it's just lip service to the so-called "Gospel" of highly active imagination.

Egoic 'pseudo' love, a human type of god presenting a human type of love. A literal heaven or hell, Christ or torture, born or burn. This shallow exclusivity has frequently under ranked and under estimated who God is. It has reshaped and redefined God as made in man's image. This naive formula so often regurgitated, has asserted and presented itself as synonymous with God, that image that constipates God and turns him into a blithering fool, is not life, God is life.

Most Christians are like the Pharisees who were so fond of espousing and protecting certain divine truths without contemplating or reflecting the divine majesty and the very suchness, beauty and purity of such a precious reality. They neglect to ponder even the slightest profundity, failing to realize any far reaching implication. Your entire life could be cast into all the majesty and glory of the divine heavenly kingdom. The precious one condescending into you his child, and manifesting through your presence, his grace made perfect and complete, and your unity with his being, sealed forever. In the split of a second, the breath of one moment, the world around you could change forever, such beautiful, deep, deep spiritual mysteries, treasures revealed from our unbreakable bond and union with God. Transcendent knowledge and peace, and God in us and us in God.

O mortal; creature, how you have under estimated God's infallible, perfect power and immovable unquenchable divine love? His love cannot be quenched by you or me alone, it's unending, it will consume every rebel, every murderer, every coward, and every failure. How can man place a boundary, a limitation upon his God's unending unquenchable love, while God himself cannot?

How can God's love ultimately be defeated by sin and death? How is it, God's perfect love can be stopped, ceased or made fallible? How can a man's will thwart God's will to bring him into loving communion? How can man's inaction stop the perfect and complete one? How is it that pure love does not consume the lost souls of every last sinner with pure and absolute affection and unending grace given and made manifest by our perfect heavenly Father?

How can God's boundless and limitless perfect love not be sufficient for even one sinning creature? How can God's infinite love not consume all of "hell" and melt every rebellious heart of every sinner until the piercing/ circumcision of all soul? Why is it that God can stretch his hand out to save me and you, and yet he can't save all made in his image? Will he let one of his children go astray? If he can change my heart, can he not change every heart?

Lord make us less selfish and more compassionate. Take us from the old and into the new. God open the eyes of our hearts, Lord, of all who doubt you and send them your loving angels,

Come unto me and I will give you rest says the Lord.


(1) To use a modern analogy, imagine if you wanted to communicate with an Ant. How are you going to do it? Do they speak, German, French, English or Arabic? No. Any other language? No. Do they understand human non-verbal communication? No. So is it even possible? One way to relate to an Ant is you would have to learn the Ant-language, or signal them patterns of behavior and signs that communicate to them in their own way. It's ironic, you can know about an Ant, but an Ant can know nothing about you. As you can see God is confined to using our range of emotive experience in communication with us, he is able to communicate to some degree some far reaching concepts.

(2) http://www.encyclopedia.com/article-1G2-3407705591/impassibility-god.html

(3) http://www.theopedia.com/Impassibility_of_God

Is Universalism a Damnable Heresy? - A Response to Answering Judaism

Bobo aka the owner of the "Answering Judaism" blog, has persistently attempted to undermine my Exclusivitic/Inclusivitic (but non-pluralistic) Biblical Trinitarian Universalist position since the publishing of an older post of mine defending the position as a possible Christian Trinitarian view (1). Bobo does not appear to be happy with my debate on the subject which can be found on his YouTube Channel (2) but also available on my Blog/YouTube Channel (3), (thanks Bobo). In this post, I will not be addressing the Patristic or Ecclesiastical resources, definitions or proclamations but strictly speaking from my perspective of the Bible along with sound reasoning as is so common in our post-modern society. 

Throughout his blog he has published multiple posts responding to me and addressing Universalism in general. In this post I would like to address his latest in a series of these types of posts. (4,5,6). But I will start off addressing an older comment in our debate commentary exchange (7). 

Bobo asserts the following: 


"No, Calvinism isn't on trial and never has been in our conversation, not the article I wrote, Universalism is on trial. You are the one who months ago wrote an article on it and I refuse to repeat what I have told you about my criterion since you refuse to take it on board. You are misusing and abusing my criterion. Consistency is important, I am not going to dispute that. Again, your argument is akin to someone saying that if the Trinity is true, Roman Catholicism must also be true, It's an absurd argument."

Bobo alleges I abuse and misuse his criterion, even candidly reject it, however is this true? 

In a comment made from the same post Bobo asserts:

"If Universalism is true, Then we can happily embrace it and those who teach such, but if it can be shown that Universalism is in fact false and that the scriptures teach to the contrary, then those who teach it are teaching a doctrine of demons and those who believe in the heresy of universalism need to repent and shun it."

I responded:


"The ONLY CRITERION Bobo specifies is that something is in fact false if it is contrary to Scripture, THEN it's demonic. Well, Bobo, is Calvinism contrary to Scripture or not? According to Bobo it is, hence it's a doctrine of demons."

Again (as I previously stated), Bobo makes his criterion clear:


"Addendum: If Universalism CONTRADICTS THE BIBLE, IT IS FALSE, period, ERGO, condemned as FALSE TEACHING and A FALSE GOSPEL."

As I pointed out:


"Does limited atonement contradict the Scriptures or not? Does unconditional election contradict the Scriptures or not?"

And:


"In context you are referring to Universalism, however I am extracting the criterion you use to judge Universalism. The very standard you use to reckon Universalism as a demonic-non-Christian heresy. The only criterion you give to show that universalism is unbiblical was that it is a doctrine contrary to scripture and/or that it contradicts Scripture. However this is as equally as applicable to Calvinism since according to you Calvinism is contrary to the Scripture, yet you say one is a heresy but not the other. It's time to be consistent"


Now Bobo thinks he has an answer to this by asserting that one is a "disputable matter of faith" and one is not. However, that is not (I repeat not) what I can infer from Bobo's comments about his criterion to determine what constitutes heresy. 

Heresy according to Bobo is anything (or something, meaning "a doctrine") which contradicts and/or is contrary to Scripture, and Calvinism fulfills this criterion since it is not taught in the Scripture according to Bobo. If Bobo wishes to make an exception for Calvinism, then he must provide a definition of heresy that would logically exclude Calvinism from meeting the very parameters of heresy, so far I have nothing, squat to work with. We cannot beg the question. That is; make a logical fallacy and assume both doctrines are disputable (or non-disputable) matters of faith without sound justification, as this would violate consistency, and according to Bobo: "Consistency is important, I am not going to dispute that". 

If anything that opposes or is contrary to Scripture is heresy (and Bobo clarifies he uses this word as "damnable" heresy) then Calvinism must fit into this category. So what Bobo has to do, is to argue: "Anything that opposes or is contrary to Scripture is heresy unless it is Calvinism". Now without begging the question: why should anyone make an exception for Calvinism but not Universalism? They are both unbiblical according to Bobo, they are both contrary and contradictory to Scripture. Ah but one is allegedly "disputable" while one isn't. Yet how do we know this without assuming our conclusion instead of arguing for it? 

As analogy if someone deemed that eternal security (E.S) was a disputable (or indisputable) matter of faith (as some Calvinists argue the latter), how would we know this, Biblically speaking? Well one of the most sensible and reasonable answers is whether the doctrine is Biblical or non-Biblical. This is the one that Bobo implicitly attests to in his posts, and the one I inferred from reading his posts, but pointed out to Bobo we must apply consistently, and not cherry pick whatever we want and/or hope to be the case. 

Finally I must point out his representation of my argument is nothing other than a strawman, since it does not represent the reality of what I propose. I do not argue that if the Trinity is true, Universalism must also be true. No I argue if Arminianism is true, Calvinism (and Universalism) are both false, and therefore both can be defined as heresies.    

However recently in my assessment, Bobo has finally come up with something that at least attempts to give an explanation for the previous dilemma in his most recent posts. He tries to explain why Arminianism can still be true, whilst Calvinism is not heresy, but Universalism is. Confusing? That's because it is.   

Bobo makes the following points:
  1. Genuine Calvinism carries out evangelism
  2. Genuine Calvinism teaches evangelism is a divine mandate 
  3. Genuine Calvinism asserts a regenerated person must hear the Gospel 
  4. Genuine Calvinism teaches holiness, 
  5. Genuine Calvinism teaches repentance from idolatry and sin
  6. Genuine Calvinism has concern for lost souls/fallen men and desires repentance
  7. Genuine Calvinism believes sin itself cuts you off from having a relationship with God
  8. Genuine Calvinism says sin as a serious problem that needs to be rectified.
Bobo has therefore construed a possible criterion for what is to be deemed heretical versus a disputable matter of faith. Allegedly because Universalism fails to successfully achieve these conditions (albeit unintentionally for the most part) or affirm these propositions in the correct manner as expressed by God, then it must fall into the domain of heresy, where as Arminianism and Calvinism successfuly achieve these conditions (and affirm them as revelatory propositions) and therefore the differences between these last two can be considered merely disputable

Bobo makes other interesting objections towards Universalism (which I will address later on, Lord Willing), but first I will address his objections to how Universalism fails to carry out these 8 bullet points. 

Now i'm not exactly sure how many of these propositions Bobo is expressing Universalism manages to fail to conceptually assert or appropriately (successfully) execute. Possibly he thinks Universalism at-least asserts these ideas in words but not in practice (given the Universalist framework). But I suspect ultimately Universalists fail to "achieve" all of them (possibly excluding 3 and/or 6). I will now therefore go ahead and quote his prime objections. 

He says:
  
"Universalists cannot consistently preach holiness and evangelism despite that claim. Whether or not a universalist believes that all paths lead to God or they believe that hell is a cleansing process that purifies a person so they can go to heaven, they are not presenting a true Gospel at all and they are presenting a Gospel that essentially says to the person "You can believe in idolatry and live in sin and still be saved" (not the Universalists intention but that is a conclusion the unbeliever could draw) "

Firstly, I'm not exactly sure how what an unbeliever thinks about or construes a doctrine is pertinent to how the Bible defines heresy or what constitutes heresy. For example many Muslims relentlessly misconstrue the doctrine of the Trinity, that does not mean Trinitarians are affirming tri-theism or modalism (a common false dichotomy). Origen made it clear that Universalism was not for laity either (meaning non-believers or babes), but rather for when a babe in Christ becomes spiritually mature over-time and realizes the profound deeper spiritual mysteries and insight contained within Scripture. Hence "Universalism" is not part and parcel with the Gospel according to our view, it's not a necessary Christian belief. Bobo himself concedes this is not what we are advocating conceptually (perhaps excluding the pluralist), so we certainly can't be advocating explicit heresy in this way. This leaves us with a kind of functional discrepancy, Universalists say one thing but the practical implications cannot be achieved due to an overall insufficient framework. Some responses are in order.

I am not personally convinced that heresy is about sinners failing to adhere to and/or practice doctrines. Rather heresy is about doctrinal error. Meaning certain conceptual formulae and propositions must be affirmed or negated by Orthodox Creeds that are Biblically sound. This would mean even if Bobo is correct and we fail in this regard, we would still not be affirming heresy. 

Additionally I think there are Universalists who repent, reject idolatry and accept salvation and affirm these are necessary conditions for entry into God's kingdom. Remember there are many Universalists who accept free will, so these Universalists would understand that belief and repentance are two perpetual and necessary conditions, but they would also extend those conditions to the sinners in the after-life. There are also Universalists who accept E.S. or Calvinistic type positions and so they would accept the doctrine of Lordship-Salvation, that by "faith alone" a proposition according to them including both "belief and repentance" meaning Jesus is Savior (the God-man who died for and paid for our sins and rose again!) and Lord (we must submit to him as Lord of our entire life via the power of the Holy Spirit and regeneration). So how would any of these Arminian/Calvinist type Universalists who affirm and practice repentance be considered heretics?

This also raises another question for Bobo. If a Christian accepts the Free Grace doctrine, often called by it's detractors "hyper-Grace" (this position advocates "once saved always saved" meaning: no matter how much idolatry/sin is committed by a person who had received Christ (they) remain saved by the initial confession of belief. However "repentance" is viewed as an altogether different matter. Meaning a Christian can be faithful/repentant or an unrepentant sinner, e.g. Solomon but still remain in God's family despite deviation). Now as an example of this, I will present to Bobo, Kent Hovind's critique of Ray Comfort. Ray appears to be an Arminian who appears to advocate a doctrine almost identical with "Lordship-Salvation", meaning faith and repentance are both viewed as prerequisites for salvation. The Arminian/Calvinist view appear to be very similar in this regard hence the over-lap of the term "Lordship-Salvation" with an Arminian (this is however, formally/technically though a Calvinist conception).


Now would Bobo say that Kent Hovind is an explicit heretic since he seems to suggest Christians can practice idolatry and live in sin and yet still be saved because of a one time salfivic confession that made them recipients of eternal life? Obviously what Hovind is proposing is incompatible with Arminianism and Calvinism, but is it truly damnable heresy to believe that Christ's righteousness is not only imputed to us (justification) but also his righteousness is our very possession and sanctification. That is that we cannot vindicate our salvation through our own sanctification since our own deeds are filthy rags, where as Christ's sanctification is pure and perfect. 

Now personally I don't think Kent is a heretic, I think he has a different conceptual framework of the Bible. But my question for Bobo would be this. If a Universalist condemned and explicitly rejected Kent's "free ticket to sinning and still enter paradise", would Bobo then denounce that Universalist or admit that the Universalist rejects heresy and therefore could potentially be saved? And how is the explicit Universalist proposition "all men will be reconciled to God in Christ" necessarily advocating free-license to sin like Hovind's view is?

Bobo's next objection is:

"Universalism does NOT seem to take into consideration how righteousness will impact our relationship with God. Sin itself cuts man off from salvation and the severity of sin is there."

I think all positions would affirm this view including the Universalist (even the extreme hyper-Grace adherents would accept this). Basically righteousness would effect our relationship with God, he wouldn't be pleased with us, but according to the O.S.A.S "Hovindian" (coined ~ MB) view this wouldn't mean we have not been adopted into God's family, because our deeds don't determine the adoption into God's kingdom, rather Christ's righteousness does and our historical confession and belief in his finished work on the cross. According to this view this is a one time transaction for all time. signed, contracted with the deal being sealed. We can be bad kids or good kids, but we are still God's kids according to Hovind (and many other evangelicals who accept the "Free-Grace" view).

The Universalists however would have a broader spectrum than that of Hovind. Universalists usually take the Arminian/Calvinist stance that indeed righteousness does separate us from God, which is why it is necessary that God sends Christ and we conform to his image. Nothing within Universalism necessarily entails a hyper-grace view because regeneration and repentance are fundamentals of the Gospel accepted by Universalists.

Bobo also says:

"Universalism doesn't provide that in this life, it doesn't provide hope or liberation of sin, it unintentionally encourages it. Notice I said unintentionally, because there are Universalists that teach repentance from sin, though even then that is rather inconsistent to hold to."

I'm not really aware (given the above analysis) that Universalists would under-rate sin in the sense that Bobo wants to attribute to them. I don't really know of Universalists who accept the Free-Grace view (perhaps other than the pluralists, who think all roads lead to rome). Hence the implication then is that Universalists not only preach repentance from sin but also continual fellowship and communion with God and sanctification by God's Holy Spirit. This would not necessarily be inconsistent, because I don't think Trinitarian Universalists think you just get a free ticket/pass to paradise. Rather even those disbelievers (on earth) and even in the after-life, must repent from sin and believe on the Lord Jesus to be recipients of God's salvation.

Bobo also brings to our attention some other Universalist related issues. Firstly I will comment on the use of "eternal" in time Lord willing, so I will skip that for now (I need to read the articles cited by Bobo).

But regarding these questions:


"Does a denial of Universalism mean that God is weak and powerless? No. As I have said previously, He could save all if he so choose, but the question is, Why should he?"

I think I answered this question sufficiently in my original post that began this entire controversy. I will provide several citations:

"But just how does a sovereign omnipotent savior who intends to save every lost soul fail to accomplish just that which he sets out to do? That is to save every last and lost soul? I will let the libertarian explain that one."
"But then why would Christ die for the whole world if God did not intend to save everyone? This might as-well be a rhetorical question, which means the answer is indisputable. The answer is clear. Christ intends to save everyone, the most magnificent omni-benevolent God we could possibly conceive of actually exists. Christ loves everyone equally as his own and God shows no partiality between any lost sinner."
"If out of God's boundless love mercy flows to the most unrepentant and stubborn sinners, they must then be reconciled to God in the same way an elect creature would be the object of the exact same kind of love and mercy. If God's love and mercy are literally boundless, and his desire to save obstinate unrepentant sinners is unrelenting, this leaves God with no lack of intent to save these very sinners with his full range of divine mercy."
  1. "If God has the intention to save someone he will indeed save that someone (desire, will and intention: Ezekiel 33:11; power, ability, sovereignty and accomplishment: John 6:35-40)
  2. But God has the intention to save everyone (John 3:16-17)
  3. Therefore God will indeed save everyone. (see section on Biblical Proof for Universal Reconciliation)
  4. Conclussion: Universalism is true"
"My view is that God's intention to save someone means that it will be done. If God intends something we are talking about a guaranteed outcome."
"In conclusion, then there is no question. God has the desire, the power and the will and intention to save all people, everywhere. And so our omnipotent sovereign savior without question: will."

To add to this splendid view, Universalism is most consistent with a God-centered theology, one of the most magnificent possible conceptions of God that could conceivably exist: 

"Christianity today is man-centered, not God-centered. God is made to wait patiently, even respectfully, on the whims of men. The image of God currently popular is that of a distracted Father, struggling in heartbroken desperation to get people to accept a Savior of whom they feel no need and in whom they have very little interest.

To persuade these self-sufficient souls to respond to His generous offers God will do almost anything, even using salesmanship methods and talking down to them in the chummiest way imaginable. This view of things is, of course, a kind of religious romanticism which, while it often uses flattering and sometimes embarrassing terms in praise of God, manages nevertheless to make man the star of the show." - A. W. Tozer Man: The Dwelling Place of God, P 27

To God belongs salvation, and hence he is sovereign over all souls. 


Finally Bobo raises another interesting point:

"Can heresy be condemned? Despite the varying views of universalism, they all have the consistent point that all will eventually be saved, whether a person is saved after death via Jesus Christ or believe all paths lead to God, How can they contest doctrines to be false? There is a level of inconsistency here that is often not taken into consideration. A charge of heresy cannot be made from their tongues consistently and it baffles me if and when someone in the universalist camp does that. How does it even work? A question to the Universalists, Why do you believe non-universalists are wrong when in the end it doesn't matter? Or does it matter?"

Bobo proposes a really interesting thought experiment, if everyone turns out to be saved, that is to inherit eternal life in the kingdom of God and his Christ, then why does anything matter? We are all going to reach eternal salvation in God's kingdom, so nothing we do here matters in the end. And on what basis can a Universalist declare someone or some position to be heretical? I suppose my answer to this is similar to what I stated in my original post:

"If Christian Universalism is true: why be a Christian? 
The first part almost answers itself. If Universalism is true, and you whom possess a truth seeking and truth bearing property have no choice but to value and desire truth (the contrary is impossible), then you will participate in the truth and be a Christian Universalist. This reason alone is sufficient but what are some other factors? If Christian Universalism is true, then the Triune God created you to be loved by him with his image bearing property inferred on you to love others, to love your Creator and seek and desire God’s love, this nature you possess then is inescapable and only fulfilled by the Triune Lord of the Creation. Your spiritual and emotional needs would be best met in full abundance by your Creator. The unique Christian Triune God exists and no other uncreated Creator exists, hence all other religions are incomplete, inadequate or incompatible with reality, aka: false.

But if there is no eternal hell fire, or eternal hell in any other sense, then why be a Christian? Why not sin and live like a hedonist?

Other than the above reasons that apply to the same question I would like to add some additions. I believe there is an immediate and fundamental compulsory obligation and requirement on all humanity to return and reconcile with God. Sinners must repent, all humans are required to repent. If you do not repent you are already condemned. If you are already condemned you are leading yourself to hell, you only perpetuate your own suffering by persistently rejecting God. In short: sin and death lead to suffering (and separation from God - MB), suffering leads to anger and misery, sadness, depression, the depravity existence without being alive. (partaking of God's full divine abundance of living being - MB)"

Unfortunately this doesn't come close to adequately giving a comprehensive answer to this question, but it's a start. I will have to do justice at a later date, Lord willing. In conclusion, while I am perhaps not as certain of Universalism as Bobo may perhaps be of Arminianism, or Keith Thompson is of Calvinism, I do find it to be within the realm of Christian Orthodoxy. This means it is not a belief that makes me or any other Universalist a formal heretic. And in this way I agree with Sam Shamoun, Jai Habor, Vladimir Susic, Dr Chris Claus, Matt Slick and Jose Joesph (CTW24) who also see no apparent explicit discrepancy between fundamentals, (the Trinity, Hypo-Static Union, Gospel) and some Christian forms of Universalism. 

All glory to our God and Father, his Logos and his Ruach Ha Kodesh

NOTES:


1 http://www.answeringabraham.com/2015/05/introduction-and-defense-of-trinitarian.html
2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0uviu5k4ug
3 http://www.answeringabraham.com/2016/01/does-bible-teach-universalism-dr-chris.html
4 http://answering-judaism.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/universalism-extra-points-to-note.html
5 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-h1R7NEwbE
6 http://answering-judaism.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/universalism-extra-points-to-note-2.html
7 http://answering-judaism.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/after-debate-quick-response-to-dk-man7.html

Google+Badge