Saturday, August 05, 2006

Some responses

What do you think about inclusivism that does not limit salvation to those who expressed explicit faith in Jesus Christ but still allows for the possibility of rejecting God?

Yes, I think that's where I'm at. That's the CS Lewis Great Divorce scenario - people are shown heaven and still choose not to be there, because they don't want to be with God. I don't think God will force anyone to be with him who doesn't want to. But I also don't think God will reject anyone who genuinely does want to be with him.

I leave the sort of punishment to God. I think that simply being out of God's presence - outside the gates of the city, if you will - and alone is quite a punishment. But smarter people than me have lots of theories about annihilation, etc. And frankly nobody knows.

What is important, I think, is to get it through our heads that it is not really God punishing people so much as people punishing themselves. We want to blame an angry God for being mean, but really if we realize our free will is what leads us away from God (or toward her, as the case may be), then we can't blame God, only ourselves. And if God didn't set up some eternal torture chamber, but rather simply graciously says "OK don't be with me if you can't stand me", then it's pretty much not God who's the bad guy.

I do not believe in instant restoration for everyone. But I do believe in the power of God's love (I've seen too much evidence of it changing lives not to). So if people choose to be away from God for a spell, that doesn't mean it has to last forever. That's all I'm saying. The eventual restoration of all things because, at heart, I am an optimist. That's what J told me yesterday: You're not a universalist, you're just a really big optimist. There are those who can live with eternal punishment and pain for others and grieve over it and genuinely feel terrible about it (as God would) but accept it. I don't know if I can, simply because I know my God. Sure, people can choose to reject God, perhaps for all eternity. I just really really hope they come around.

Now, about this charge of heresy....

I can totally see where our Catholic friend is coming from because to his church, yes, I'm definitely a heretic (see The Bro's comment re: dictionary definition). I grew up in a church where heresy was basically a viewpoint that disagrees with any given individual's beliefs. Obviously a difficult thing to track.

I was wondering why, though, I'm always so hurt when people call me a heretic. I think my fears are:
People don't like me - just good ol' need for acceptance. Calling someone heretic means they're not in your club (for all eternity - ouch!).
I love Christians and the Church, and I don't want anyone to think I don't. I genuinely want to bring the church to deeper truth by questioning everything.
The State of Me in Eternity - because hey, what if God rejects me?

So my questions about my heretical thoughts are:
1. Does it hurt others?
2. Does it hurt me?

So to 1., I say: Possibly, if they think they don't have to turn to Jesus. But I preach Jesus and God's love. Not sure how you can overemphasize God's love. Still, this frightens me - I never want to sell Jesus short. But I've found people really dig Jesus and are never upset when we talk about him. Of course the gospel is foolishness to them - it doesn't make any sense to accept a free gift of grace, it offends our internal sense of justice (that sense that wants a hell and judgment to exist...). Sometimes the gospel isn't good news because it's just too unbelievable. And I think we frequently take the gospel for granted and don't realize just how hard it is to swallow.

I think that aspect of Jesus is offensive, but I don't think Jesus was ever offensive because he was exclusive. He purposely reached out to those he shouldn't have. He showed equal regard for those of other faiths and class. But yeah, if someone were to see me saying Jesus is the Son of God, but then, other faiths also have truths about God, they could conceivably choose against Christianity (though that would probably be because they have a beef with the church in general). I don't say the faiths are equivalent, I'm not there yet...but I say they are valid. And that God reaches back to anyone reaching toward her.

So I dunno if it hurts others or not.

Second question, does it hurt me? Well, actually it makes me more loving and accepting of my neighbor. It gives me access to talk about Jesus with people who would not listen to most Christians. It gives me this forum online where all these people read about something scandalous - the completely free and overwhelming love of God - and how it has impacted my life. Changed the entire course and purpose of my life, really.

So no, I don't think it hurts me, except psychologically when I let those fears mentioned up there overcome me.

Finally, to our friend writing about visiting churches...

You're just like my husband. He's not social situation man. And he's rubbed off on me in that I also get shy around strangers now. It's all well and good for us to categorize and systematize and quantify when each person should be reached. But of course every person is an individual and systems fail. I hope I can be sensitive to folks like you because I live with one. And I'm grateful for your word so that others can realize that aggressive church welcoming (just like aggressive evangelism) just isn't always the way to go.


Anonymous said...

The Roman priest is back again.

I didn't use the title "heretic" in the Catholic canonical sense of a baptized Catholic who subsequently adhered to false belief necessary for salvation. My use of the term was conditioned on the Feminarian's original question which used the term. I rarely use the term in an ecumenical forum because it is so inflammatory.

Since she self-identifies as "theologically orthodox," I'm assuming her use of the term "heretic" refers to someone who knowingly rejects in part the faith of the broader Christian Church, explicitly expressed in the Creeds and early Councils. "Orthodox" itself refers to "right belief." The difficulty here is that universalism has been examined by the Church and rejected as incompatible with the true faith. And since right belief is held by orthodox Christians to be necessary for salvation, it is no wonder she is troubled by the characterization. This isn't a theological discussion akin to the number of angels dancing on a pin. This is about being judged to be placed with the sheep or the goats for eternity. Or to the flow of discussion here, about whether one would self-select for eternal separation from God or eternal union with God.


JTB said...

I personally find Schleiermacher's distinction between orthodoxy, heterodoxy and heresy helpful in these kinds of discussions. If I remember right, Schleiermacher himself was heterodox on this particular question...(but I'm not dragging out the Glaubenslehre to check so open to correction if I in fact remember wrongly).

And my own two cents: most theologians worth reading rate at least "heterodox"...