Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Sin and Destiny

As you may have picked up from recent posts, I've spent a lot of time with this issue lately. Below is the result of that time and some significant frustration trying to create a visual flow of the issues. As it happens, many other issues only matter to certain brown boxes (like total depravity is only an issue on the left). Also, the 3 brown boxes on the left are all Christian positions. The 4th may be. The 5th (box on the right) is not. If you see any error, let me know.

Anyway, I know this is remarkably boring. I'll do better, I promise. I'm finishing the test for this class tonight (Wendy's recent post is much more authentic). But a couple of you may find it useful (I have a PowerPoint version that builds the chart as it goes--just ask). Thanks Kelly for the pic--your name is well preserved in the PowerPoint version and title slide, but no Kelly Michelle....

The tree represents original sin (am I guilty or not?). The fire represents salvation (who lights the spark and initiates--me or God?).

UPDATE: Diagram edited and replaced 6-1-06

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


Inevitably someone asks if babies and the mentally handicapped go to heaven. Seriously. We all want to know, and I'm ready to give you the answer: Dunno. Seriously. But think about this--how would we as believers be different if God had spelled out the solution to this painful dilemma?

If you want resolution on the issue, then which pole is less offensive? If all babies are saved, then abortion becomes a benevolent and noble gift--a free pass to heaven granted only by the most loving and gracious of parents. Euthanasia as grace. Peter Singer would be validated.

If all babies perish, then abortion becomes unpardonable--the intentional condemnation of a tiny soul to the godless chasm of Hell. Miscarriages would be insurmountable. Life support for the yet unregenerate could never be terminated for the paralyzing fear that a DNR order is tantamount to damnation.

In his wisdom, He does not answer this one. He may hint, but He does not speak. Mystery, and the tension it produces, keep us diligent--and hopeful.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


I have been told that seminary takes a period of “getting over” before we’re any good for ministry. Perhaps that has been the experience of some. It wasn’t true today.

As we struggled over the doctrines of original sin and limited atonement and other fancy words that make people think we loose our hearts, we turned to Romans 8 and the moment built.

There are moments teachers plan for, moments we seek to create, moments we let ourselves believe we control. But sometimes, God actually moves and we get to watch and know we had nothing to do with it.

There is great pain in the Gospel—without it, the Gospel is meaningless. There are big words to describe it, but the truth is difficult: God will save some. Many others will perish eternally. We all deserve to perish; not because we have all sinned, but because Adam did and in some mysterious way, we participate in his sin. We’re guilty.
(Before you react to that, it’s a doctrine older than the Reformation and we have all held it for centuries. Those who didn’t were considered heretics. There is debate over total depravity, but not over original sin. But this is not the point.)
Some will be saved. Many will perish. Forever. And…God chooses. Read it. Romans 8.28-30. Those who love him were called. Those who are called are justified. Those who are justified were foreknown and predestined.
(The big debate here is over how He chooses and not whether He chooses—that’s true among the Cavinists, the Arminians and the Weslyens. Those who say He doesn’t choose must do so without the support of the Bible.)
That’s when the moment came. It was visceral and sincere. With tears and a quavering voice, she pleaded, “But how can he be just? What about my friends—the non-elect—who will go to Hell? I'm not okay with this!” Others chimed in and rang out. She wasn’t the only one crying. Dr. K was silent and moved, as he allowed the moment to find its footing. And then Dan spoke.

Dan’s voice was kind and empathetic and passionate, if not slightly trembling. He started to read from Romans 9. That’s when it all came together. Paul is writing through pain—perhaps even through tears—as he explains God’s love for Jacob and rejection of Esau. Paul feels the weight of verse 19—if it is God who decides, then all are in accord with the will of God.

Here Paul turns the corner. He doesn’t answer the question. Instead, he pulls the focus back to the God we do not nor can not fully comprehend. Although it reads like a rebuke, Paul tenderly returns us to our place as humble and undeserving sinners. Sinners who have been given mercy by the Potter. But it comes with a burden: mercy reminds us of the wrath.

Paul calls it unceasing anguish. I saw it today at seminary as I watched a class weep for the lost. I continue to find my heart here. I hope I never get over it.

• There’s a great article here on the confusion over U2’s use of the phrase “coexist.”
• We’re going to the beach in July—we’re camping again and pretty excited ($15 a night and a much shorter drive and thanks again to T. H. for use of the camper)!
• Dad had his first epidural yesterday (yep, an epidural for a problem in his low back). So far, he’s out of his wheelchair (which I didn’t think would happen) and he asks that we keep praying!