I see this as the major area that Spencer Burke and I may part. It is over Grace… which is a bit ironic huh?
Though I really like the idea of “All in unless we opt out” style of Universalism, I see the fatal error is when one is confusing forgiveness with salvation. Yet even more I see it as a limited understanding of Grace itself.
- To acknowledge that God has forgiven us is not a “work” but it is more like acknowledging a gift. It is saying thank you in response to the gift…
- To receive salvation one must acknowledge that God is for us, not against us… it is in the relationship that Grace can grow.
In #1: I have found that we are all forgiven at the cross… Jesus is the High Priest and gave the final sacrifice, then as Hebrews tells us; Jesus (The High Priest) sat down… no more sacrifice of blood for our sins. The sin issue is dead… and the doorway to eternity has swung open wide for us to enter into the Kingdom. This is not just a future event; rather it is a present and future event simultaneously.
Remember eternity is outside the bounds of time and space. To God all time is now… (Even that is a finite understanding). We are linear in our understanding of time so eternity is a concept that is beyond… it is here yet beyond our very grasp… it is within us, yet it is outside us… it is everywhere and yet… no where.
To grasp this one must grasp an understanding of multi dimensional thinking. To try to tell someone in a 2 dimensional world about an orb would be almost futile as they would only see it as a circle with a dot in it. We in the 3 dimensional world can readily grasp what an orb would look like as we have the benefit of the extra dimension to “see” with.
This is why it is a bit beyond us to understand eternity.
Grasping at least why it is hard to understand eternity, we can then see it is hard to grasp Grace. For Grace is in creation itself… placed there by our creator. It is not just unmerited favor, but the substance that sustains all creation. For God, the One Who created all things by speaking it all into existence, could easily un-speak all things into non-existence… and we would never even know. Grace is the purest substance in all creation and the glue that holds it all together.
That is why we cannot work for Grace… it is like saying we are to work for air to breath… it is so intricately intertwined in our being that it is as if it is not their. For Grace to be grace… it must be without our help at all… otherwise we are not in grace, but against it.
Still though I see forgiveness in a universal way, one can refuse to receive the gift of forgiveness… As to not receive forgiveness is a sign of not having grace dwell within us. It is in that very moment that we “see” this forgiveness… the kindness of God, that Grace enters and empowers us to repentance. This empowering is not a work from us, but of God that we respond to. Our repentant response is the “eternal thank you” back to God.
I see that even many who claim to be Christians and refuse to forgive … or even receive forgiveness may have the root of their issue in their lack of understanding grace. They have reduced it to a formula… and have torn it out of the fabric of creation and placed it in a box of finite human reasoning. In doing this reduced it Glory… to simply, unmerited favor from God.
In #2: To acknowledge salvation is from God and God alone… through the works of Jesus… who all things were created… yet not Grace itself as it is the very nature of our creator… Grace is the very character of God Himself… we receive salvation in response to what God has done… Our repentance is the eternal groan within us acknowledging we are in right relationship with creation… with Grace, and with our creator Himself.
To not acknowledge this… is to deny Grace, (God’s nature within us). It is to deny the Kingdom itself which is this Grace for the Kingdom is within us.
We are saved by grace through faith. Faith is not an action of works, but of surrender… the acknowledgement that we are not right as our own gods and need to be inline with Grace. This is very “opt in” and, yes, exclusive, yet… because of it not being works… very, very inclusive… this is an and/both situation… not an either or.
To say, “all in unless we opt out” denies Grace as the sustainer of all things. It says those who are outside of the very nature are still in the very nature of God which seems to contradict itself and cancel itself out logically.
Again, I really like the idea of “all in unless we opt out” as it reflects a sense of compassion that one might see grace as being “unmerited favor”. Is it? Yes. Yet again, that is not “all” grace is. The rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous… as does grace. Yet at least for the righteous, made clean/right by God’s grace and continually teaching and guiding us in the renewal of our minds… We will one day see all as it should be and will have God be our very LIFE Himself. For those who refuse forgiveness as consistent with a fallen character, there is judgment. They receive the rewards consistent with this character which denied Grace. The character of saying “works” will save us… in that meaning our own works and righteousness… outside the very Grace that sustains all creation. It is choosing the limited view… or blindness over being made right in God… by Grace. When we think we can be saved by works… we “fall from grace”. Because we think we are the sustainer of our self. It is to believe the lie, that we will not surely die… yet there is no life outside of Grace itself.
I think God is more than merciful in that He sees us mere human beings… as worthy of His love. To restore us in Him… in His Grace and with all creation.
On a more personal note to Spencer:
I know that writing a book is not easy. I think that for someone to write their thoughts out in a readable and coherent manner is simply amazing and I wish I too could write more clearly. When I said that you and I “part” it is not in fellowship… only ideology. We are emerging… in that we take and build upon, or tear down to rebuild what we have been taught in the past. The attempt is to build with integrity and honesty and authenticity upon the foundation, Who is Christ Jesus. We must at times reach beyond ourselves in our thinking to achieve this “beyond” you are seeing in your heart… and you are not alone. Many of us see this “beyond”. I believe it is the Kingdom itself that we see at times and we are trying hard to express the almost inexpressible in our current state of corruption.
I admire that you have written your thoughts and in a metaphoric sense… if not is some ways very real sense… exposed your nakedness of thought for all to critic. I have read a few of your “friends” reviews and some are really brutal. That would be tough. I have never met you, yet I will say… still over all… I agree very much that “Grace is too big for religion” as I have tried to even express here… I think it is only on the issue of salvation we may disagree. Like I said, I admire the ability for someone to express their views in a way that makes me truly think… wrestle and even question what I believe. To help me in an honest approach to my faith and to what it is built on… shifting sand or Christ Jesus.
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