Monday, 21 January 2008

This Week's Poll 21/1/08

If you want to do more than just click comment on this post.

Last week's poll. Should Home Mission stop funding churches opposed to women ministers? 17 votes in total, 10 yes, 7 no. One more vote - tricky one this, I reckon Dick's comment carries more weight than some of those who replied appeared to ready to give it. The difference between this and opposition to black people in ministry is surely, from Dick's perspective, that the Church is agreed (at least in theory) on race and ministry where it clearly isn't on women in ministry. However, I do reckon some issues are so fundamental to the heart of the gospel that we may need to go ahead and use power (subject of course to agreeing to act) to further the cause. So I vote "yes".


Catriona said...

I wish there was a choice that said "I hope so but my theology isn't quite there yet" - think I need to read some of the recent stuff on evangelsicalism and universalism.

I tend to say, if pressed, that whilst I'm not a universalist I'd like to think that God is!!

Julie said...

I agree! I'm a 'hopeful universalist!

tim f said...

I hate sitting on the fence but I have absolutely no idea, so am not voting. All I know is that it's up to God, and I trust Him to do the right thing. Sorry if that sounds glib.

If it was up to me, I'd say everyone except Margaret Thatcher, Joseph Kony, Jim Davidson and Paris Hilton. And Hitler.

Catriona said...

Tim, that's interesting, cos I always kind of hope that Judas Iscariot did get reconciliation with God. And if Judas, then yes, any and everybody.

I fully agree it is God's decision not mine - thankfully - and that is something that is really helpful when doing funerals, so that I can in good conscience and in faith entrust people about whom I know nothing at all, or who I know to have been right ******* to the 'grace and mercy of almighty God'

Good post Glen! Making us think hard.

Phil Baiden said...

Er, why preach the Gospel at all if all will be reconciled to God? Why repent of sin? Why pay attention to Jesus?

"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it."
Matthew 7:13

Just out of interest are there any particular Baptists left in the UK?

Catriona said...

Good point Phil, but not one I'm sure that can't also be expressed the other way around - why preach the gospel at all if there is double predestination? In extremis it says that you're already 'up' or 'down' before you're born which seems to render evangelism irrelevant.

This is where I find that either extreme view troubles me, because both seem to negate the need for the church, and in part, why depsite its attraction, I can't quite get to universalism. If either everyone is in come what may, or if it's all already predetermined then frankly we'd be better off alleviating poverty, global warming etc etc instead of, rather than as well as, preaching the gospel. But hey, I always was a heretic.

Btw, yes, Particular Baptists are alive and well and living in Cambridgeshire last time I looked!

tim f said...

Phil, surely because we don't want people to only be reconciled to God after death - we want them to know God now. We care about the quality of people's lives now, not just in the future and we believe people are more fulfilled when they turn to God.

And Catriona, whilst the trouble with what I'm about to say is that it doesn't tend to be true in practice, surely people who're in communion with God ought to be better at alleviating poverty, global warming etc. So converting people ought to make them more likely to focus on social problems than otherwise.

There's also an extent to which we should evangelise with no thought to the results but just because it's a natural expression of faith, I think. A little bit like a fanatical football fan who can't resist telling their friends how their team's doing even when (s)he knows they don't care about football.

Phil B said...

Thanks Tim for your response. Is there a danger though that Christianity becomes a lifestyle "choice" rather than a transforming act of God in the lives of his people?

Catriona: I didn't mention double predestination. That's as big a barrier toward evangelism as universalism.

I want to say with that great Baptist, CH Spurgeon: "“Lord, call out your elect, and then elect some more.”

Catriona said...

Hi Phil, no you didn't, and I wasn't meaning you were, though among (at least some) Particular Baptists it is a fairly accepted doctrine.

It could be argued that Spurgeon's quote brings him to the murky middle ground that, whilst called 'evangelical Calvinism,' is mighty to close to 'general atonement' which is not the same thing as universalism, though oft parodied as such.

"Lord call out your elect, and then elect some more" taken to its natural conclusion is, potentially interpretted as universalism, albeit in stages.

Now I'm going to shut up because I've never really studied any of this in any depth and am probally showing my ignorance more than my knowledge.

But thanks for making me think a buit more, and thnaks Glen for hosting this conversation.

To parody the TV phone voting announcers... "whose in? God decides!" And I'd still like to hope that eventually everyone might be reconciled with God.

Phil said...

"Who's in? God decides!"

Can't argue with that.

Anonymous said...

Maybe some kind of doctrine of purgatory might help fill in the gaps...

Anonymous said...

Catriona's right to connect universalism and high calvinism. They both assume that God's will will over-ride ours in the end, whether we like it or not. Thats why I'm arminian. Most universalists emphasise human dignity over covenant relationship, but forget that that to believe that God will take over and remove our choice in the eschaton is actually to posit that God is no respecter of our free will.

I wish evangelical universalists were actually have decent at getting folk to commit to Christ, as Tim suggests. But portraying a future reconciled and then inviting people in now without expecting them to actually repent of personal sin is to create a monstrous community in which everyone just keeps doing whatever they like because there is no norm of what behaviour is.

Universalism will become increasingly popular in post-modern society because it equates to the eschatology of pluralism - its amazing how similar Derrida's vision of total hospitality is to a universalist position. But universalism doesn't deal adequately with everyone's need to repent of personal sin and live holy why bother repenting? I know loads of folk who are good people and apply themselves to issues of social justice and global warming better than any Christian. Why on earth would they need to repent now? God's already accepted them anyway, according to a universalist position.

"God loves you, he will accept the way, do good to others and care for the environment while your here on earth...but it doesn't really matter if you know Christ or not." That wouldn't convert would just affirm me in my smug self-independence and ability to justify myself.

tim f said...

Sorry, Paul, I don't buy that.

It sounds from what you say as if people make careful choices weighing up the pros and cons of following Jesus. I'm not sure that anyone actually does that.

If this God who the bible talks about exists, who created everything, is all-powerful, infinitely loving and knows a thing or two as well: if He exists and actually wants to bother with me, why would I not want to tag along with Him now? Why would I want to wait until heaven?

When you say why repent of personal sin if we're already destined to be reconciled, surely we shouldn't be repenting to get into heaven anyway? Shouldn't we be doing this because the more we get to know God the more we simply want to stop hurting Him? Repentence for any other reason is just an intellectual process.

I also don't think it's a good argument to say that universalism suggests people who already do good works couldn't do more good if they had Jesus as their inspiration just because other Christians are really crap.

I think conversion is about whether we're interested enough in pursuing truth even if the results might be counter-intuitive (from a human perspective), about whether we dare to call out to God and risk Him actually responding. Then the rest is up to God. It's not working out whether I'll get to heaven or not and then following God if the calculation shows it's the only way of getting there. How inauthentic and self-serving would that be?!

I still don't know whether universalism is right, but I don't think it can be written off.

Oh, and as to whether God is a respecter of free will or not - to what extent can we really exercise free will from a sinful state? It would make intuitive sense on some level (that's not to say it's true!) to say that God lets us decide whether to benefit from His company in this life, and then reconciles us to Him at the end of it.

Stephen said...

I think it's interesting that this same conversation echoes through the centuries. Part of me also thinks that it's a shame these conversations can take place without reference to the historical Universalist Church, which, although never significant in Britain was a large denomination in the United States. The Universalist tradition, now merged with the Unitarian tradition does not spend much time engaging with universal salvation as a Christian theological issue today.

The Universalists were evangelical circuit riders in the eighteenth century, and did believe in spreading the Good News that a loving God wants a relationship with people in this life, using similar arguments that to Tim F's.

But it's certainly correct that the early Universalist theology was a modified Calvinism, where God's will is supreme, but this developed somewhat different later, and the Universalists never fully agreed amongst themselves exactly what people being 'eventually' reconcilled with God means.

What I mainly get from the Universalist tradition is the phrase that holiness and happiness are inseparable. The Christian life is a joyful life.

Anonymous said...

God always says 'Yes' to us but we can always say 'NO' -I can't imnagine why anyone would say 'No' when faced with the reality of God in eternity but I believe that they will always have that choice

PB said...

So the decision of a human being is greater than the power of God?

Anonymous said...

Yes, if God should limit his power out of respect for the freedom of what he has created. Which is of greater value to God - human autonomy or human destiny? I can't call that one, or tell God which to choose.

For me this is where systematic theology breaks down, as the philosophical argument gets more and more speculative.

The parable of the prodigal son is tantalisingly about a Father who lets his son say 'no' and leave, but watches for his return every day and runs crazily to meet him when he finally comes to his senses and says 'yes'...

(though of course that story's more about whether or not the church could include 'sinners', so it's probably me who's getting further from the point!)

Andy Jones

Anonymous said...

surely the point about the parable of the prodigal is that the father doesn't run after the prodigal and also, theoretically, the son could have remained in the pig-sty. The father says "yes" when the son choses to be included again, and after he has repented of his own free will.