Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Spiritual Discipline of Conversation, Part 4

Below is the second half of the conversation j razz and I had almost a year ago. May we continue to involve ourselves in conversations that stretch us.

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Nick said...

Man, these are becoming some long posts, huh?

I appreciate you clarifying some things. I understand that you were not accusing me of anything, but I also think it's clear that I clarify that we do or don’t do certain things.

Now, for some dialogue/commentary:

I am not saying that salvation is not intentional; I am saying though that it is not the primary goal of God.

See, this may be a major point of disagreement with us. I think that since the fall, God has been trying to bring his creation back to him. I think that his ultimate goal is fellowship with his creation, and that cannot happen if his creation is lost. I think he is obsessed with bringing his creation back to him. We will have all eternity to praise (not that it isn’t important now), but we can only win people for a certain time. I think that is God's “MO” and Jesus' when he was on earth: that for this season, God desiring that his people come back to him.

I see that as being a man-centered approach to church, evangelism and the gospel. While I would see myself more in the camp of a God-centered approach. Instead of what can God do for me and how can the gospel benefit me with man’s benefit being the end goal, I would say that scripture is more concerned with glorifying God by glorifying the Son

If you accept the previous premise, than this isn't man centered at all, but seeking to fulfill God's primary purpose. It isn’t asking “what's in it for me?”, because evangelism doesn’t always help out the believer. It would be much more comfortable to make church a social club with nice carpet and not do the work to reach anybody, but that would not be God's will. I agree that scripture is concerned with glorifying God through the son, but the reason seems to be so that "he will draw all men unto him." It goes full circle back to that.

if someone is to be saved they will be saved...because God will save who He wills

When you say this, it seems to hint at Calvinism, predestination etc. I'm not trying to accuse, but if this is your stance, that could be the reason we disagree so much. I am not Calvinistic at all.

We can preach the gospel all day long out of obedience and not see one come to know Christ save for the work of the Holy Spirit...

I agree that the Holy Spirit is involved in salvation (of course). The danger I see is that if we see no one come to Christ, something is wrong. Jesus said we would be fruitful. Why aren't we? We have to answer the pragmatic questions. I don’t mean to be too "business minded", b/c the church is not a business, but the bottom line does count. Souls matter.

To them He uses Hell as a tool to make His point

Thanks for bringing this up. I forgot about the rich man and Lazarus. Although it seems clear that the point is to use Lazarus as a foil for the Pharisees and make a point about position on earth vs the afterlife. Although, I will grant you, Jesus does talk about Hell here, though I would argue that it isn’t the point. Remember I don’t think we should forget about hell, or even avoid talking about it, just that it shouldn’t be the point or focus of our evangelism. I hate the fire and brimstone stuff.

I would rather be told that there is a waterfall less than a mile down the river and unless I pull my raft to the bank I will surely die...

Yeah, this argument is used a lot. My response, like I said, is that I think love is a better motivator than fear. For example, if we did a study and told 100 rafters that there was a waterfall and 26 of them listened, then told the next 100 to pull over and that there were many great things to see on the shore and 54 of them responded, we would be fools not to use the 2nd option. I think that is a closer comparison to the point I am making. I believe in urgency and all that, but I think the truth is that the second way works better; that love is a better motivator. Please forgive the analogy, because I know it isn’t exact, it isn’t that black and white, and it seems to suggest that we are keeping the truth from them. That is not what I am saying (analogies are only so good, you know?). I am simply saying that I am making my point on practicality. The argument against this is that those converted based on love are not real converts, or that they fall away when trouble hits, but I have seen enough examples of people being saved this way to be convinced that that theory is simply not true.

God does not let people go to Hell, He sends them there

I would disagree with this as well. I think CS Lewis had it right when he said that on the final day there will be 2 kinds of people: those that say to God "thy will be done" and those to whom God says "thy will be done." People can choose to be their own king and go to hell or to put Jesus as Lord and go to heaven. It is their choice.

Again, I appreciate the dialogue. It is great to have a disagreement where there is mutual respect. Thanks, j razz.


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j razz said...

...this may be a major point of disagreement with us. I think that since the fall, God has been trying to bring his creation back to him. I think that his ultimate goal is fellowship with his creation, and that cannot happen if his creation is lost. I think he is obsessed with bringing his creation back to him.

I think that this is one of our biggest humps to cross. Your foundational element is that God’s primary goal is to attempt to restore as much of creation before His Son returns for the purpose of right fellowship. My foundational element is that God seeks His glory and all of creation’s purpose is to glorify God.

The view I hold is that God cannot and will not fail at anything He seeks to accomplish (He is sovereign). If God supplied a means (Christ’s redemptive work on the cross) then He will see it through to its rightful end (Redeeming a people for Himself). Christ did not die for all to have the opportunity to make it to Heaven (at least I can’t find that in scripture), Christ died for a real, concrete purpose- to save that which was lost (MT. 18.11); He gave Himself for our sins (Gal. 1.4); He gave His life as a ransom for many (MT. 20.28); He gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity and purify unto Himself a peculiar people…(Titus 2.14); He loved the church and gave Himself for it… (He even goes on here to explain why He gave Himself for it.)(Eph. 5.25-27). So, if Christ died to fulfill a specific purpose- that being to redeem us, then He either accomplished that goal of redemption on the Cross or He did not. If He didn’t then He failed and would cease to be God and we both would be living and believing a lie. I think you would say that you don’t agree with my premise. I think you would say that Christ died so that all and any may come to Him. (Correct me if I am wrong). I would say that scripture makes it very clear that He died specifically for those that the Father has given Him. If He died for a possibility what do we do with the scripture that says He died for a purpose? Either 1. He died for all of the sins of all people or 2. He died for some of the sins of all people, or 3. He died for all of the sins of some people. If the first, why are people going to Hell? His death and atoning work was effective and wrought redemption; there is power in the blood. If the second, no one would be worthy of being with the Lord as we would still have sin that is un-atoned for. If the third, then Christ’s work on the cross can be said to have merit as it was a means to an end as it brought about the end goal that was established in scripture as mentioned above; redeeming a people unto Himself.


If you accept the previous premise, than this isn't man centered at all, but seeking to fulfill God's primary purpose.

To respond to this, j razz included a lengthy quote from J.I. Packer that you can find here. I have removed it for space purposes.

if someone is to be saved they will be saved...because God will save who He wills

When you say this, it seems to hint at Calvinism, predestination etc. I'm not trying to accuse, but if this is your stance, that could be the reason we disagree so much. I am not Calvinistic at all.



I believe that God is completely sovereign over every thing that is, was and will be. In addition to that, I also believe that man is completely responsible for every action they commit, every thought they think and every word they say. I would say that these two things appear as contradictory statements, but I would say that appearances are deceiving. For more on this read The So-Called Antinomy Between the Sovereignty of God and the Responsibility of Man.

The danger I see is that if we see no one come to Christ, something is wrong. Jesus said we would be fruitful.

What do we do with great Christian men like William Carey who did not see one single convert for years into his ministry to India and all the while his wife and children fell ill and some died? What do we do with men like Jeremiah or Jonas? What do we do with men like Paul who went to the market place and few believed? Unless the Spirit gives them a regenerated heart and ears to hear, the gospel message falls on deaf ears. I agree, if no one comes to Christ, then something is wrong, but our time and our wisdom is not the timing of God nor His wisdom. What we think to be right and good is folly to God.

Remember I don’t think we should forget about hell, or even avoid talking about it, just that it shouldn’t be the point or focus of our evangelism. I hate the fire and brimstone stuff.

I do not think that we should avoid it either. I also do not think that we should over emphasize it either. That was really the point I was making. It has its place and if we leave it out, then we neglect the whole of the message. We need not build up one side to the detriment of the other else we find ourselves being partial and witholding truth.


As for the waterfall argument, my main point is not that I would rather be told about Hell than Heaven, it is that I would rather be told both that Christianity has much to offer as well as Hell is a real place where those who do not believe in Christ will be placed after the judgment. I followed up that paragraph with that statement as I would rather be told the truth than only part of the truth.

God does not let people go to Hell, He sends them there

I would disagree with this as well.

If God institutes a certain method that is to bring about a salvific response and that response hinges on the Holy Spirit first regenerating a heart to be able to respond to the gospel message, I would conclude that God is demonstrating His authority over salvation. I would further conclude that man is responsible for what he does with the gospel message whether or not he has a heart to believe as the Gospel is a command, not an option. If the man has no desire to obey the command as he is given over to his own wickedness, he is held accountable for his disobedience. What separates that man from you or me? God’s intervening grace in our lives in that He chose to regenerate our hearts and give us ears to hear the truth of the gospel so that we would respond in obedience to the gospel call. God is not impotent; He does not let man dictate their future to Him. In the same way, God lets no sin go unpunished. If men disobey His gospel command, they stand judged already and will be placed in their appropriate place. If men obey the gospel command, they too will be placed in their rightful place based solely on the merits of Christ.

Nick again, it has been a pleasure. If only all my dialogues could be of this caliber. Have a great day buddy and just for the record, I do give 2 craps :)

j razz


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Nick said...

thanks for the comments, j razz. I must say though, I am diducting two points for the lengthy quote :). I thought it was you talking until I got to the end.

I think we have hit a wall. Let me recap what I think we have found that our differences are, and see if you agree.

You hold to a sort of divine election belief, a "no man will be saved unless God chooses him" idea.

vs

I hold to a "whosoever will come, can come" idea.


This is an age old debate the books have literally been written about. Their is honestly biblical evidence for both. I doudt you and I will solve this issue.


You feel that God's purpose is his own glory.

vs

I feel that God's purpose is fellowship with his creation, which can only happen if his creation is being brought back to him, which is the primary purpose of the church.


This is fairly major, but I think what is interesting is how we see each belief playing itself out in practice. That is what originally got us discussing this topic.

You have stated that God actively send those who dont follow him to Hell.

vs

Hell was not meant for people, but for the Devil and his angels, but people choose to go there when they make themselves king over God.


Im not sure how much of this is just semantics, but, again, i think it plays itself out in our practice. Beliefs matter, because they effect us in a myriad of ways.

Does this sound fair, j razz? I am of course better at articulating my side than yours, but I tried to do my best. If you think I'm close, than we can agree to disagree, and walk away from this with a better understanding of the other person's beliefs.

Thanks again, friend.

Nick

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j razz said...

I am diducting to points for the lengthy quote :). I thought it was you talking until I got to the end.

Wow! I am humbled that you think I write like J.I. Packer. You have more than made my weekend! About deducting two points- if you must! He just says it so much better than I.

I will just clarify my position where I think it is necessary and then sign off :)

Divine election vs. Whosoever will...

I would say it is less a vs and more of a both and. Whosoever will come will... because God deemed it so.

I doubt you and I will solve this issue.

Come on Nick, let's give it that old college try :)

God's Glory vs God seeking fellowship with creation

Yes.

God sends people to Hell vs Hell is for Satan and his angels

Yes. I would also add to this that if God never intended Hell to be for the majority of mankind, He would not send them there- he would send them where they belong b/c He is God and He is Sovereign and He never settles b/c He has the means not to.

Nick, this really has been a pleasure and a great example of as iron sharpens iron so one man sharpens another. I think that God has been glorified through this and hopefully whoever stumbles upon this will see how Christians can disagree and still be Christians and still be brothers in Christ.

You have been a gentleman in this and I have gained respect for you.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

j razz

2 comments:

Nate Watson said...

Great Conversation...do you have a link to jrazz's blog?

Nick said...

Hi Nate,

Yeah, clicking on his name at the top of the post will take you to his site.

Otherwise, here is it:

http://bloggeddownworld.blogspot.com