Monday, August 1, 2011

Daily Debate: August 2, 2011

I'm really looking forward to this one.  There will not be a chosen winner.  But I will highly appreciate any and all comments.

Was Christ's sacrifice universal?

However you interpret that question, fire away!


  1. I don't know if I'm allowed to participate or not. But I would say that if God is a loving and good God, it would only make sense for Christ's sacrifice to be universal. Think about it, if your children were in a burning building and it was on fire and you could save all of them or just some of them, which would you pick?

  2. I agree with Libby Anne on this one. How can a loving God choose his Son's sacrifice for just "chosen" people? To me, that isn't loving at all. So I think it makes sense that it was universal. To say so otherwise would make it elitist.

  3. The above comments are correct, so long as we believe in a God whose paradigm is identical to ours. If God operates as nothing more than a big, super-powerful human being (like Zeus or Odin) than the aspects of his nature which define his behavior would be no different than our own. Thus we could hold him to our standards of justice. If the essence of God is defined solely by my idea of God than I can comprehend nothing other than one who possesses no ontological attributes beyond my scope of understanding.

    However, I think that the God of the bible (which is clearly the God we are discussing) has a right to define himself, and that he does so through scripture. (I'm sure you'll agree the debate on the validity of scripture to represent God is for another time, but seeing as scripture is the only source of the idea of Christ dying to save humanity, we must give scripture the benefit of the doubt.)

    In scripture God makes it quite clear that he exists on an ontological level that far exceeds our capacity to comprehend. Also, he views reality from an archetypal perspective that exceeds the very bounds of the cosmos. Imagine a nuclear physicist trying to explain to a two year old what he does for a living. There are no words he can use that could possibly enable that child to truly comprehend who he is and how he operates and what he is achieving by his actions. God faced the same limitations in explaining himself to us through mortal tongue.

    I write all of this to point out the fact that if we insist on discussing the God of scripture we must approach our arguments on the God of scripture, not the God of "how it seems to me he should be." Our mortal concept of what is just cannot be used to define the actions of a God who operates on a plane that far exceeds our own. Thus, if we can't use our own limited perception, we must rely on this God's revelation of himself. That revelation being scripture.

    That's the only point I wish to make in this initial post...that if we are arguing a concept introduced in scripture, we cannot use logic alone to ascertain its nature, we must use scripture itself, credible or no. Thus, our debate really must be between the meaning of passages, not moral logic.

  4. Okay, since nobody has posted anything else since this morning, I am going to ask a question at the risk of sounding stupid. Personally, I haven't ever heard anyone say that Christ's sacrifice was anything but universal. If He didn't come for everybody, what certain group of people would He have wanted more than others?

  5. Thirtysomething Wife - Calvinists believe that salvation is only available to those chosen as the "elect" by God.

  6. Keeping it simple, there are two main perspectives on salvation besides universalism (that Christ died to save everyone).

    1. Christ died to save only those who will believe in him. If anyone does not believe, they will not be saved. but the choice is theirs to make.

    2. Christ died only for those who were chosen before the world was even made. God decides which people choose him and which people refuse. In other words, he creates some for the purpose of being saved, and some for the purpose of being damned.

    People of this view are indeed usually called Calvinists (those of the first view are called Armenians) However, there are many who don't consider themselves Calvinist (they consider themselves followers of God, not of a man named Calvin), but believe in the same principles.

  7. Okay, yes, I understand about Calvinism. I'm still a little confused about the implication of universalism and Arminiasm (is that right?) Benjamin--it it the universalist belief that people of all religions may enter heaven? And Arminiasm has the view that only those who believe in Christ will go the heaven? Thank you for the brief synopsis!

    So, I just have to say, I think the question "Was Christ's sacrifice universal?" has two different implications. #1--Did Christ die in order to possibly save ALL people vs. a select few, and #2, Because Christ died on the Cross, can anybody enter heaven, no matter what God they believe in. So, I believe with Libby Anne and Erika--I don't think Christ came just to save a certain few--but all of us. But, just because Christ chose us, not all of us choose Christ. I don't think that all are going to heaven.

  8. Benjamin - #1 "Christ died to save only those who will believe in him. If anyone does not believe, they will not be saved. but the choice is theirs to make." Is it? Not always. What about people who have never heard about him? The idea that God would make salvation contingent on belief rather than, say, action or heart attitude is somewhere between strange and bizzare.

    #2 - "Christ died only for those who were chosen before the world was even made. God decides which people choose him and which people refuse. In other words, he creates some for the purpose of being saved, and some for the purpose of being damned." Oh but wait, this is even more barbaric! God creates some people specifically to torture them without giving them a single chance? I'm sorry, if there is a God and this is him, I say we start a rebellion against the sadist!

    And so I say the only position that makes any sense, and can be reconciled with a God of love, if universal salvation.

  9. Thirtysomething Wife - Yes, I'm sorry, I could have been more clear with my terminology. I mean universalism as Libby Anne explains below, that Jesus died so that all might ultimately be saved, no matter what they believe in this life. I meant Arminianism as the idea that Jesus died for everyone who will believe in him, but it is up to us to chose if we will be saved or not. Naturally, as Libby Anne also pointed out, this poses a problem, will God just ignore those who never hear of him? Is that just?

    I think your explanation of the two implications was spot on. It seems you fall under the first category, and that Libby Anne and Erika fall under the second. I fall under a very rare third opinion which I will explain in a moment.

    Libby Anne, I agree, to me the first seems strange and a bit off. The second seems to be barbaric and cruel. The irony is that, were the second the case, were we to rebel against such a God, that would mean he planned for us to rebel (assuming that if his nature is such that he wishes to control our salvation, he would have no reason NOT to control every aspect of our lives.) My human mind agrees with you 100%. (Of course there's a catch...) :)

  10. I won't reiterate all that I said as the third comment t this debate, but if you haven't read it, it is vital to understanding my perspective (I apologize it is so thick, I tried to keep it as simple as possible). If we are going to define a God who is revealed in scripture, we must use our logic as applied to scripture, not simply pure logic based on our understanding of reality. If we do not, then why are we even discussing Christ? Not even the most brilliant of mortal minds can—even in a thousand lifetimes—comprehend the full nature of God (I Cor. 2:11b). Thus, whenever we approach a topic of theology we must understand that, though God has revealed many mysteries of the gospel through his written word, there will always be more mystery, an element our mortal minds simply cannot understand (Eph. 5:32a).

    That in mind, it seems to me that it is quite obvious in scripture that we make decisions and that God holds us responsible for our decisions. This seems to support a free will. I won't give needless scripture as I'm sure you all agree. However, I then come across verses like these…"He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will" (eph. 1:5) "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him" (John 6:44) And even Romans 8:20, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” God himself subjected creation to “futility” (the fall) in order that he might show his redemptive power! Wait, I thought it was Adam and Eve's choice…

    Then I read this, from II Sam. 24, “Again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, "Go, number Israel and Judah.” Yahweh incited David to sin. Yet we see in 24:10-17 that David realized he had sinned and repented, but God still punished Israel for this sin, even though he clearly claims to be the ultimate source of David's actions. Why? Verse 25, “And David built there an altar to the LORD and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the LORD responded to the plea for the land, and the plague was averted from Israel.” Who is the great "sacrifice" that caused the "plague" of sin to be removed from the redeemed? Christ! David's sacrifice represent the work of Christ on the cross. This story paints for us a picture of Christ. It’s a whisper of coming redemption. We also find that even though the Israelites were considered to be making their own choices (John 5:37-40) God himself blinded Israelites to the truth of his Son (John 6:44, 12:39-41, Romans 11:7-10). Paradox? On a level of human comprehension yes, truly, but on God’s level obviously not.

    I'll stop here for lack of space, but the scripture goes on and on supporting both free will and the sovereignty of God over good and evil. Why? It seems that in every account it points to the coming redemption through Christ, and the wonder lies not in the fact that Christ lets some go to hell as well all deserve, but that Christ, in his "kind intention," would wish to save any at all. Below I will post a bit I wrote once on Romans 9…and again, I apologize for the length, I am most likely abusing the intention of IC for these debates.

  11. Romans 9
    Did the creator create some for heaven and some for hell?
    Verses 1-13 show us that Paul is looking at this exactly as we’ve seen above. God was working out his story of redemption from the very beginning, filling the Old Testament with imagery of his future redemption. We see God’s hand orchestrating every detail of who his chosen people would be (Isaac, not Ishmael, Jacob, not Esau, etc.), not for any worth they exhibited, but simply because God chose them. Even the nation under Moses was comprised of the “spiritual Israel” (those with a proper understanding of Yahweh’s redemption) and the “physical Israel” (those who were simply related by blood but not in spirit, i.e. the unsaved) (verses 6,8).
    So then, is God unjust because he chose some and not other to be his chosen people? Is he mean? Unfair? (9:14-15) Not at all! For he says himself, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.” Period. Simple as that. So, it doesn’t depend on man’s value, but simply on whom God chooses (verse 16). Not only does he have mercy on and deliver those whom he chooses, but he raises up others specifically to harden their hearts (verse 17-18). Pharaoh is just one example, where it interchangeably says that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, but that Pharaoh also hardened his heart, and that God held him accountable for his choice (Ex. 7:1-5, 13, 22-23; 8:19-20; 9:10-12), and here Paul says God raised him up for this very purpose. To what end? That God might be glorified! (Rom. 9:17, Ex. 9:16) Not only that, but, “[Lord] truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” (Acts 4:27-28) Herod and Pilate were predestined to have a hand in crucifying God’s son.
    So then you say, why does God still find fault in these people? Who can resist his will? (verse 19) Does Paul try to answer this question? Does he try to explain it to us in words that we can understand? No, he simply says: God says it is, and so it is. Who are you to question God? Or as the NASB puts it, drawing a very purposeful link to Job, “Who are you, oh man, who answers back to God?” Will a piece of clay (a piece of dust) say to its creator “why did you make me like this?” Here’s the clincher…
    “Does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonor? What if God, although willing to demonstrate his wrath and make his power known, endured with much patience the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And he did so to make known the riches of his glory upon the vessels of mercy, which he prepared beforehand for glory…” (Verses 21-23)
    God created some for mercy, and some for his wrath. Is this easy to accept? No, not at all. Can we understand why? Perhaps not, but does that give us a right to try to simplify it to something that sounds nicer or makes sense to us? No. Rather, we must trust that God, who is so high above us and our ability to comprehend how things should work, has chosen to reveal to us this glimpse of himself. Thus, we must say that it is true. Does God also wish all might be saved? Yes. (I Tim. 2:3-4) Did Jesus Christ die for all men? Yes. (I Tim. 2:5-6) How can this be reconciled? How can this be explained? On a human level it can’t. But we know that it is true. We must simply know that “The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.” (Prov. 16:4) To what end? For his glory! (Rom.9:17, 23)
    To which we say, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever! Amen!” (Rom. 11:33)

  12. I appreciated your comments Benjamin! After googling calvinism and arminianism, I came across this article which, I think, also goes along with what you are saying.

  13. "Just as it took a supernatural miracle to raise the physically dead before they could respond, so it takes a supernatural miracle to raise (regenerate) the spiritually dead before they can respond."

    Excellent! Wow, what an incredible article. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. Of course, I still disagree with his choice to call it Calvinism. We don't want to act as if one man figured it all out and had it all right and so we follow that man. Our beliefs are grounded in scripture, not the teachings of a man. Otherwise a brilliant article.

    Thank you also for your comment, I was concerned that the amount of information might be overwhelming. This is not simple theology, that is certain.

    It seems to me that this is what the bible teaches throughout its pages. The N.T. writers developed theology based on the O.T., so if someone is going to throw out the N.T. they must throw out all of scripture.

    What never ceases to humble and amaze me is that such a God would delight to stoop down and breath his breath of life into a pile of dust, then to keep that pile of dust alive though time and again that dust spits in his face, and then God was willing to clothe himself in that frail pitiful dust, to die for these undeserving piles of dust who can do nothing to deserve that gift, and even allow us back into his presence one day. It humbles and baffles me. So who am I to question or challenge the way God chooses to use his incomprehensible, undeserved grace? I can only strive to treat others as God has treated me. That is the essence of the gospel.