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A Simple Truth….

April 8, 2013 — Leave a comment

If Grace is trueI 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 Grace, when rejected, was withdrawn.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?

This is a continuation of the previous post about being afraid of God. It is a precursor to undertanding the underlying message of the book we are reviewing:

If Grace is trueOf course, her final question reveals the deeper issue hidden in any discussion of ultimate human destiny. Who is God? Is God a gracious, loving father waiting long through the night, with the light lit and the door open, confident his most defiant child will one day come home? Or is God a harsh judge eager to pass sentence, eager to punish and destroy all who do not satisfy him?

I hope you will consider the possibility that God is gracious beyond your expectation. I hope that in reading this book you’ll have an experience with God that will transform you. I hope you’ll hear God’s voice. I hope you’ll believe the very best about God. I hope you’ll not be so afraid you’ll shut this book and read no further.

I assure you that since I have come to believe in the ultimate triumph of God’s grace, no lightning bolt has struck me, no plague has cursed my children, and no earthquake has destroyed my home. But then, the God I’ve experienced never does such things.

Gulley, Philip; Mulholland, James (2009-03-17). If Grace Is True: Why God Will Save Every Person (Plus) (pp. 46-47). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

The idea of universal salvation strikes fear in many clergy leaders in the church today. They believe that if you take away God’s anger and replace it with his love that they will lose control of their congregations.  So, to me much of this fear is the fear of humans losing power over others.  Being afraid of God is so endemic in too many churches.

I read the words of Jesus on a daily basis and in those words I see God’s love  much more so than His wrath. As Mr. Gulley states in the end it comes down to who is God?  I will put my eternity on the line to align with the God of love who wants us to experience his grace first-hand. He has an agape love for all of us and I do mean all. I believe the very best of God.

While I am not done with the review of this book I think I have given you enough to pray that you get a copy and consider the idea of universal salvation. It is not as radical as some of your clergy will try to convince you it is. God doesn’t take pleasure in cursing his children but in loving them. If agape love and grace is true then why wouldn’t God have a plan to save every person?

Many mock the idea of universal salvation but I think maybe they do that out of fear rather than sincerity. God clearly said he loves all of us and wants all of us to be saved. I am beginning to understand that he is capable of doing just that if we humans quit trying to put conditions on him.

If Grace is true“How can you believe that God’s grace isn’t sufficient, that many of God’s children will languish in hell forever, that they’ll never be restored to their Father, that evil will claim victory in so many lives? How can you believe that?”

Gulley, Philip; Mulholland, James (2009-03-17). If Grace Is True: Why God Will Save Every Person (Plus) (pp. 89-90). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Some think the idea of universal salvation is a new thing but in reality it goes back to the founding fathers of the church. Origen and Gregory of Nyssa believed in the salvation of all people. But of course we know that the champions of God’s grace were often silenced by future theologians especially by those who followed King Constantine several hundred years later. Much like the old saying that “history is written by the victors”, much of Christian dogma was written by those who charged their opponents with heresy and got that claim to stick.

As I have mentioned before I am still wrestling with the idea of universal salvation. It is easy to show with pride how I am saved while so many are damned to hell for eternity.  Like the return of the prodigal son I don’t want to admit that some who have led totally broken lives will  somehow sit alongside me in God’s presence.

In the end I simply will not diminish God’s grace in order to sustain the belief of God’s wrath.  I want to finish the post with some final words from the book that took hold of me and shook me.

I insisted we were free to reject God’s grace. It never occurred to me that God might be free to reject our rejection.

Who is more powerful God or human will? I think I know the answer to that question….