I once considered human freedom the most persuasive argument against the salvation of every person. My friend asked, “How can you believe God would send his children to hell?” I replied, “God doesn’t send anyone to hell. They send themselves. God simply respects their freedom.” Human freedom was the linchpin of my theology. We were saved not by grace, but by our decision to accept God’s grace. I argued that though grace is a gift, it must be unwrapped. Though God’s grace was for all people, only those who accepted the gift could enjoy its benefits. I thought God’s mercy and compassion were reserved for those who, like me, responded quickly and correctly. Grace, when rejected, was withdrawn.
Gulley, Philip; Mulholland, James (2009-03-17). If Grace Is True: Why God Will Save Every Person (Plus) (p. 103). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
I must admit that I too hinge much of my theology on human freedom. I often say that the bad things that happen to man are the result of his previous poor choices and they are not the will of God. I rail against those who claim that everything that happens on earth is God’s will or that every baby born of rape was God’s will. I absolutely disagree that every baby that dies in childbirth is what God wanted. Free will is indeed a lynchpin of my theology. I put everything back on me. It was my choice.
I totally rejected predestination as much as my Calvinist friends cling to it. They think God has chosen them to be in heaven but generally damns most to hell. But I did believe that somehow God hides his grace from those who don’t work hard to find it and personally accept it. I believed that God is only gracious to those who have been baptized in his name. He would be gracious to me if I jumped through all the hoops that my clergyman put in front of me. If I didn’t do that or failed to say the right words that God would turn his back on me and push me into hell. In other words I put condition after condition on God’s grace.
It was only after much prayer and meditation that I come to the conclusion that Jesus didn’t come to give us a magic formula for salvation that he hid away for us to discover. Jesus told us that God loves us all and the only thing he asks is that we love him back and to love each other as he loves us. Given the hell and damnation that many of us grew up with this simple lesson is hard to accept.
I have come to apply Occam’s Razor to my beliefs in this area. We tend to try to complicate everything we touch. We add conditions and rules to everything. But as Occam said oftentimes the simplest solution is the best one. God told us through Jesus that He loves us all and wants all of us to be with him. Why shouldn’t I accept that simple statement as the real truth? Why do I insist on taking that power away from God?