Does God Control or Persuade? (And Is His Future What We Make It?)

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Remember my post “Waffles?” Me neither. Weirdly enough, hitting my blog’s “Publish” button triggers a corresponding “Delete” function to go off in my head: on my blog means out of my memory. But I see that “Waffles” generated 135 comments, so it must be awesome. My guess is the hot picture of Virginia Woolf is what got everybody all excited.

One thing I do remember from that post, though, is a particularly thoughtful comment left on it by one Siri Erickson, a Lutheran pastor (ELCA) at Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater, MN. (Trinity’s blog is “The Theology Project.“) For a while now I’ve been meaning to share what Ms. Erickson had to say with my thoughtful and discerning readers, for whom I’ve lately had reason to be particularly grateful.

Below is what Ms. Erickson had to say on the question raised in “Wafffles?”; namely,

“Is God really all-powerful and all-knowing? Because if he is, then when someone is born, doesn’t God already know that person’s ultimate fate? And if God knows that a person is going to end up spending eternity having the living flesh seared off his bones, couldn’t he have gotten him a desktop computer stopped that person from going to hell? And if God can stop someone from going to hell, but doesn’t, doesn’t that make God a complete dick?”

(Wow. No wonder I forget stuff I’ve written. Clearly that’s best for everyone.)

Anyway, here is Ms. Erickson’s great response to that interestingly phrased and fastidiously quoted question:

God can’t be both all-powerful (in the sense of controlling, coercive power) and all-good/all-loving. You have to choose between the two, or you have to redefine the nature of God’s power. Or BOTH.

Is the highest form of power the ability to control things, or is the highest form of power the ability to love and persuade? Is the highest form of power the ability to predetermine the outcome of everything that is going to happen in the world, or is the highest form of power the ability to be in an influencing relationship with people and a world that has its own genuine freedom? Which type of power is more worthy of respect and awe?

Personally, I think a loving, persuading, relating, influencing God is more worthy of respect than a power-hungry tyrant God who decides and causes everything – good and evil – to happen. The controlling God ends up being a morally questionable being who I would not want to have anything to do with.

The future is open. God responds in real time with a call to the good as each moment is unfolding. Humans make real choices that have real consequences, both good and bad. God doesn’t have a plan for everything that is going to happen in our lives before it happens. That whole line of thinking needs to be abandoned, in my opinion. Nobody really lives that way.

Do you get up in the morning and think that God is causing you to eat pancakes instead of Cheerios? Do you think God causes cancer or predetermines before birth which people are going to heaven or hell? What is the point of living at all if God has planned every moment of your life already? What fun would it be for God to know everything that is going to happen in your life before it happens? If God is genuinely in relationship with us, then God is affected by that relationship, responds to that relationship, and delights in the unfolding of that relationship in each moment.

Don’t you love it? It does posit that God’s future is open to what we make of it, which I could see being problematic if you believe that God knows all, through all time. Erickson is suggesting that, in fact, God knows no more of the future than any of us do.

Anyway, interesting stuff.

Related awesomeness: Free Will vs. Predestination: Can’t Anyone Give Me a HARD Problem to Solve? and “God Can Love Me; God Can Send Me To Hell. But He Can’t Do Both.”

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter. If you shop at Amazon, help support John by entering the site through this link right here--Amazon will then send John 3-4% of the cost of anything you buy before exiting the site again.

 

  • http://www.whitenoisemetal.com Brian Shields

    I thought my Belgian Waffle joke would have made that thread memorable. :(

    • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

      It so did! No matter how hard I tried to forget that terrible, terrible joke…

  • http://ramblingsofaspiritualidiot.wordpress.com ~Julia~

    "Personally, I think a loving, persuading, relating, influencing God is more worthy of respect than a power-hungry tyrant God who decides and causes everything – good and evil – to happen. The controlling God ends up being a morally questionable being who I would not want to have anything to do with."

    Oh, I like her! :)

    • Diana

      Me too!

      • http://allegro63.blogspot.com/ Sylvie Galloway

        Me three!

  • Roybe

    Woo hoo! First post! Better be a good one! Here's my take on the idea of predetermination/God knows all. In my theological view of everyone's theology, God created man with only one idea in mind, boredom relief. Wait a minute ride this one out. Knowing the outcome of everything, God gave man the one thing that would continually surprise Itself, Free Will. With it, God really has no idea what we are going to do in the situation of choices, which, is what morality is really about. This also explains why God would care to watch over this miserable little mud ball, think of it as Its way to kick back with a beer and have something entertaining to do, kind of like watching Sean Hannity or Ann Coulter.

    • Roybe

      oh well took to long!

  • frank sonnek

    The official teaching of the Lutheran Church is to distinguish between God knowing all in advance and his willing all things or "predestining" things to happen.

    So this says that God knows that we are going to do something very bad and does not stop us ordinarily. Or does it?

    Lutherans also believe that God only exceptionally works outside of means. outside of means means miracles. working though means means that he stops us through the means of police and government and fines and the fear of societal disapproval. So this cannot result in a robotic cast of humans doing what they are predetermined to do can it?

    So we Lutherans do believe that God knows everything, along with the entire church believing this as well through all history "omniscience". But we do not need to draw the conclusion from this like John Calvin did that this means that God also wills to happen what he fore-knows.

    This may not be all a neat logical package, but it is what the bible teaches everywhere.

    One móre point. Jesus when he was on earth, set aside his godly powers in some ways. So his not knowing something while on earth is not proof that God does not know.

    • Tim

      Hi Frank—

      I liked your point about Jesus setting aside His Godly power. I tend to think Jesus, being fully man and fully God, simultaneously, maybe He only appeared to set His Godly power aside. You're certainly right about this not being a neat logical package. Our logic can't possibly wrap itself around far enough to comprehend God in His fullness. But I do believe God reveals Himself in new ways everyday. To me, that is the key to lasting relationship. Always hungering for another morsel of information/truth/revelation about God. About anyone you love, for that matter. It is always worth the wait in my opinion.

      Blessings.

    • Appalachiana

      How about this……Christ was the son of God. We are all children of God. Does this mean God is in all of us? That we are all godly? If so, and if God is love and kindness and all that is good, then in as much as we tap into that part of ourselves and help others to find it in themselves to do the same, then God is in control because we are in control. We can all draw certain logical conclusions about the future and what is likely to happen given certain pieces of information and humankind's willingness or failure to react to its knowledge. In that sense the godly part in us can affect the future if we so choose. Is God something mysterious and apart from us? If so, then we have no real knowledge of what God controls and does not control. The Bible is full of conflicting descriptions of God. Wouldn't accepting God as a loving, kind, and forgiving God encourages us to behave in such a godly fashion? When we do, who is in control, God or us or are we not simply joined in the journey?

    • http://luwandi.wordpress.com Beth Luwandi

      I’m weighing in late in the discussion, I know, though I’ve followed from the beginning and this comment is likely to get somewhat buried.

      The discussion’s an interesting one but largely mute for me, personally. I’m IN a loving relationship with God, the creator of all things seen and unseen. Before I knew Him in this on-going personal intimate, growing way, I was afraid of Him in the way a child might naturally be afraid of getting in trouble.

      But I do believe He exists, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Partly I believe this because I have experienced Him that way. He has made himself real and known to me over a number of years and done so through Jesus Christ, as Father (who on earth doesn’t long for a good dad?) and through the Holy Spirit.

      Which is not to say that I have been without suffering. Also a mute point.

      There is a God and I, thankfully, am not IT, though I can sometimes pretend to be. I am also not just part of the divine, God IN me as many Eastern religions teach and we conveniently like to think.

      (If there is a Being outside myself with whom I can choose to engage relationship, then I have both more responsibility and less importance. The former is so much easier.)

      I’d submit most people aren’t so screamin angry that bad things happen as they are they can’t control them.

      Thinking of God as a big angry dick-head out to get humankind is as mature as a four-year old calling their parent a Big Meanie because they didn’t get their way on a given day. For those who had ill-willed or mentally ill parents I can see this as an ineffective comparison, but suffice it to say, the God who has deeply loved me deserves much love. I choose to trust Him no matter what. I am His and He may do with my life whatever is required. My confidence is in His love.

  • frank sonnek

    ah. one more important detail . the MOST important detail!

    Lutherans teach that God´s will towards us can ONLY be known by knowing Christ. ONLY. Apart from Christ we can only know that God demands perfection. Ouch.

    • Appalachiana

      ….and knowing Christ means?

      • frank sonnek

        It means this:

        We can know everything God wants us to know about him by knowing his Son.

        There are two Christs really.

        The one is the Christ of Leo Tolstoi and the one that all religions make room for … buddhists, muslims and atheists. This is the Christ of the sermon on the MOunt. The Great Teacher of Morality or perhaps the Great Moral Example. It is always good to "Put on Christ" this way.

        Then there is the Christ as Savior from and for our sins. No one can put on this Christ with his own reason will or power. This means that no one makes room for this Christ. Doctoral studies are usually about that first Christ , since human reason can understand him.

        The world desperately needs Christ as Savior. But once we have put on christ as savior in holy baptism, we should not neglect to also put on that Christ as Example as well or any other good example of morality we can find for that matter.

  • Tim

    In paragraph four, Ms Erickson writes, "God doesn’t have a plan for everything that is going to happen in our lives before it happens." I agree. But I do believe that God's foreknowledge allows Him to prepare innumerable contingencies for any possible response on our part, to every single event in our lives. Whether He does that or not is His prerogative. The Bible says that God numbers the hairs on our head…and that if a fallen sparrow concerns Him, certainly our most mundane affairs are important to Him. Such infinite love can't help but be infinitely vested in the tiniest aspects of our lives. Being a father has taught me that much.

    In the final analysis, what He does is always cohesive with His determination to love us. Sometimes love is tough and we can't understand the mind or ways of our heavenly Father. Our petulance is the natural reaction. I don't imagine anything we do surprises God or causes Him enough pain to abandon us. The pursuit and persuasion of God's Spirit causes us either to soften and yield to God, or harden and rebel.

    Our will. Our Choice. I know my Calvinist friends will disagree.

  • Bill

    ********God can’t be both all-powerful (in the sense of controlling, coercive power) and all-good/all-loving. You have to choose between the two, or you have to redefine the nature of God’s power. Or BOTH.********

    So then, we DO define God, right? Which, in turn, means that He is made in OUR image. I've thot that all along. You see, we need to get away from the notion that God is a sentient being with brain patterns, personal relationships and thought processes……hmm., sounds like us!! God is NOT a He or a She, does not Love or Hate or Judge….like us. God is and can only be defined by us humans and the best one to have done that was Jesus. He showed God to us in the way we can best understand. Anything else is sheer human hubris and wishful thinking. It's really so simple, yes? God as illustrated to us by Jesus. The rest is human invention. Why do we go beyond Jesus' illustration?

  • http://none Don Rappe

    ***God doesn’t have a plan for everything that is going to happen in our lives before it happens. That whole line of thinking needs to be abandoned, in my opinion.*** This is great! God is not an object, so their is no objectively correct way of thinking Him. But I need a "line of thinking" which is useful for my soul. I believe God created many different souls and snowflakes and many different lines of thinking may be needed. For me, I need to compare God's act of creation to an infinite struggle beyond my power to comprehend. This way I do not blaspheme by imagining I could have done better. I can try to lead a happy life by keeping small in my own mind. I can embrace the religious symbols which seem to express the meaning I find in life, but have difficulty assigning (valid) meaning to such expressions as "Lutherans think" (or Catholics, Calvinists, Buddhists, Taoists, Christians Hopis etc.) I cannot share Dante's conception of damnation or Milton's. Too objective. May God's will be done down here in the mud as it is in the cosmos is a prayer and far beyond any kind of statement of fact.

  • amelia

    "For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile."~ Jeremiah 29:11-14,

    Does this sound like (the creator of the universe) someone who "doesn't have a plan for everything that is going to happen in our lives before it happens?"

    And since when does omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence preclude GOD HIMSELF from being "genuinely in relationship with us?"

    Oy vey.

    • http://luwandi.wordpress.com Beth Luwandi

      Thanks for posting scripture, amelia. And great point. Who says He isn't a whole lot of kinds of wonderful all at the same time?

      Really really nice.

      • ken

        I think to add on to this whole thing

        How can we the created fully comprehend and contain and understand our creator as if He is one of us? His ways are higher than ours and his thoughts far beyond ours

        I am a christian and this is what I believe, that God knows all things, he knows my fate and how all things end up, He did not create me to evade the boredom, but to have a relationship with me. And as regards the things in life that I cannot control, He assures me that He causes them to work for my good. I find much contentment and comfort in this

        • Berkshire

          Does this sound like (the creator of the universe) someone who “doesn’t have a plan for everything that is going to happen in our lives before it happens?”

          Actually, to me that quote does sound like someone who doesn't have a plan for everything that's going to happen. Note the "if's" and "when's", which imply that we have a choice. If you do A, this is what will happen. I think it supports the original premise that God is in relationship with us, responding. But I suspect that's a bi-directional thing–by that I mean (though I'm saying it badly), we respond to God, too (at least those who are aware of that presence).

          I've read the Bible, but I can't claim to be a biblical scholar, or even a Christian. I just think what she said makes a lot of sense.

  • DR

    That is beautiful, beautiful.

  • http://www.lovecominghome.com christina lewis

    i do love it. God creates hopelessness? i don't think so. i don't think so.

  • Andrew

    It is interesting to hear that come from a Lutheran. It is also interesting to hear that the name of th4e church's blog is "The Theology Project" because what Ms. Erickson is talking about sounds a lot like open deism or a God who is not omniscient, both of which are not biblical. I would say her post was a big not-cool and she needs take another look at her hermeneutic.

    • Andrew

      For everyone who reads this and disagrees with my previous comment, of which there will be many, please do not read theology into it. I did give my personal persuasion dealing with this doctrine. I simply stated some observations.

      • http://dianer.blogspot.com/ DR

        I'm always so fascinated by people like you who drop these drive-by bombs on someone's belief system and then say "But hey, this is just my observation." It's awfully passive-aggressive.

        Of course this is just my observation, don't take any of that personally!

        • http://none Don Rappe

          Aren’t there as many definitions of Lutheranism as their are Lutherans? If not, why not? Oh wait! Wasn’t this name first coined by theologians of an imperial church to describe a heresy? Perhaps “Christian” was coined to describe some who failed to worship an emperor.

          • frank sonnek

            No. there are not many definitions. What is your basis for saying that brother Don?

            The definition of "Lutheran" is found in the Lutheran Confessions called "The Book of Concord". I am a "Lutheran" soley because what is contained there is my own personal confession as well, without reservation.

            The sum total of the teaching of that thick book is this: There is only one Doctrine that the bible exists for. The Holy Gospel of the life death and resurection of Jesus for the forgiveness of the sins of the entire world. All other doctrines are only in support of this one doctrine.

            This means that there is no form of music or polity or tradition that makes one "Lutheran".

            for rome this unifying thing is the pope. for the refomed…. well they have many different confessions don´t they. and for evangelicals …… hmmm.

  • John Murphy

    Ms. Erickson has an interesting exercise in woman-centered logic. Of course the difficulty is that she has to neglect/disregard/explain away, much of the Scriptures. I suggest that she grapple with the God revealed in the Scriptures rather than create the one she wants.

    • Diana

      "woman-centered logic"? Please do explain.

    • http://dianer.blogspot.com/ DR

      Does women-centered logic come in a book that's ghostwritten by Danielle Steele? Does it involve Irish castles and unicorns? Please advise.

    • http://none Don Rappe

      I love her logic. But then, I’m a man with a maternal instinct.

  • amelia

    my favorite part of that scripture is "if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the Lord…" which suggests that our Creator will remain hidden, covered, for as long as we want (a somewhat female characteristic). I think we need to look beyond anatomical attributes here, though. Jesus has likened himself to a hen gathering her chicks, for Pete's sake. He also says we aren't given in marriage in God's kingdom, either. It's like learning to be o.k. with it ALL. Strength, courage, wisdom, compassion, peacefulness, etc. Women can be fierce protectors, brilliant problem-solvers and superior athletes. Men can be softer, more loving, great cooks, empathic and peaceful. Our Creator, through Jesus, gave us an example of complete balance. Think about the angels. I imagine they can take on any form they wish including amazonian features that could lay a man low pretty quickly. Of course they could also look like Michaelangelo's David, with fairy wings. It's whatever the moment requires. imho…

  • http://TheAmericanView.com John Lofton

    Hope you’ll take some time, please, to visit our Bible-believing site, read some articles, listen to some radio shows, give me some feedback. We are Christians FIRST and not Republican Party cheerleaders. God bless you, your family, your work.

    John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com

    Communications Director, Institute On The Constitution

    Recovering Republican

    JLof@aol.com

    PS — And do tell me, please, your specific areas of interest so I might direct you to some helpful information. My desire is to equip saints to be effective in the spiritual war we are in, the war against the Christ, which, alas, in America, especially in the church, has never been more intense.

    Sample radio show: My interview with Ken Ham of "Answers In Genesis." Comments welcome:

    http://www.theamericanview.com/index.php?id=1667

    "Accursed is that peace of which revolt from God is the bond, and blessed are those contentions by which it is necessary to maintain the kingdom of Christ." — John Calvin.

    • Roybe

      "It is the duty of civil government to secure, protect and defend these God given rights, to acknowledge our Creator, glorify Him and make Him known; and when civil government becomes destructive of these God given purposes, it is our duty to alter or abolish such Godless government."

      This is one of the beliefs/demands of this group where does everyone fall on this? Anyone else think this goes against what this country is based on?

    • Argy-bargy

      "Danger! Danger, Will Robinson!"

      • Diana

        Yeah. Tell me about it!

        • http://ramblingsofaspiritualidiot.wordpress.com ~Julia~

          Heeeere we go….

    • http://www.whitenoisemetal.com Brian Shields

      >My desire is to equip saints to be effective in the spiritual war we are in, the war against the Christ, >which, alas, in America, especially in the church, has never been more intense.

      When someone starts to blow smoke up your you know what by calling you a saint, run far away guarding your wallet the whole way.

      • Diana

        It's not my wallet I'm worried about–after all, there's nothing in there. It's my freedom.

        • Roybe

          "Freedom's just another word for having nothing left to lose."

        • amelia

          Me and my Bobby McGee… great song, great singer.

    • http://none Don Rappe

      I am not in a war against Christ. Sounds like a loser to me.

    • DR

      What happens to those people who don't believe in God. Do they get a different set of rights as an American citizen? Or should they just deal with the fact that they are living in a christian nation and be ok with their laws being rooted in a God in which they do not believe and be cool with their taxes they earn and contribute going to enforce those laws?

  • kim

    I really don't believe that God is like an angry father, which seems to be the one of the core tenets of many Christians, together with the teaching that you will burn in hell if you don't join their church, tithe and follow its teachings, no matter how bizarre. I realized this when I has about 9. It too me longer to understand these are great ideas if you want to recruit people to your church, make money and gain power as a result. It has taken me even longer to understand these teaching gives ordinary people to feel better than others.

    Constantine,the first Christian Roman emperor, figured this out in around 350 AD and started to persecute other religions. As a side note he had both his son and wife killed to consolidate his power.

    I believe in the teachings of, among others, Hosea Ballou (1771 – 1852), a New England theologian and clergyman, who reacted against the Calvinist position on salvation of the elect only, and began teaching that all people are saved (universal salvation) and that there is no eternal punishment. We suffer for our sins here on earth. Why would God, who truly loves us, set us up for the fires of hell?

    Anyway this all seems like a discussion in a college dorm room at 2 AM. My hope is guys like John Lofton don't overthrow the government so that he can stick those who don't believe as they do in ghettos, at best, or oven, at worst.

    • Diana

      Yeah, I'm with you on that one. Some of my favorite people are Christian Universalists, including myself! It's "Christians" like Constantine that give the rest of us a bad name.

  • amelia

    I read a post awhile back about when we're not with God we're just with ourselves and that's quite a hellish thing to endure. I beleive God wishes for all to be saved, but it's up to the individual to choose, right? Jesus said to love God, love people even when they don't love you, take care of the poor, etc. because this separates us from the pack. Well, there will be a place for "the pack." But that's for God to decide, it's His garden, after all (not some fascist's disguised as a Reformed Republican). :)

  • http://www.BuzzDixon.com buzz

    As I understand it (and you may need a 5 lb block of salt for this), God exists outside the universe as we know it; that is to say, while He permeates this universe, He also exists in a place beyond time and space as we understand it.

    He is Eternal. He is, in fact, existing in what the Buddhists would refer to as the Eternal Now; that's why He could say, "Before Abraham was, I AM".

    This universe has a finite beginning and end to those beings inhabiting it. Time for us moves in a linear fashion. From our perspective, we have free will and a future that will be shaped and determined by our actions.

    God does not see it that way. Our universe, from inception to termination, is but a sliver of that Eternal Now. And while we enjoy free will and will indeed decide for ourselves whether we will accept or reject God, from God's POV we are like characters in the middle pages of a novel. To those characters there is an open fate before them, but from the reader's POV everything has been decided and determined. No matter how many times the book is taken down from the shelf and re-read, it will not change.

    This is what predestination is all about. From God's POV we are either already saved or have already rejected Him. To us, it is impossible to know what our fate is, even though it is already settled outside the universe we inhabit.

    For the elect, there will be a new, more permanent universe waiting for us once we pass on from this one. Until that time, we should pray and meditate, trust in God and follow the teachings of Christ, love one another, and in the words of Frank Zappa, "help the next poor sucker on his one-way trip".

    • Diana

      I kind of like this. I don't necessarily agree with all of it, but I like it.

      5 lb block of salt. Nah, just a pinch.

  • Gina Powers

    Belated two cents, but YES, Siri Erickson! Thanks for sharing, John!

  • Kara

    I’ve recently changed churches, and this is one of the things that my new pastor believes that I’d never really considered before, but find fascinating.

    I think a lot of it depends on what you mean by the word “plans” in the Isaiah passage (“I know the plans I have for you…”) There are people in the world who are harmed and who do not prosper, so obviously those plans do not dictate what will occur. Perhaps God’s “plans” as they relate to us are more like “desires”. God’s hopes for our lives, the things God seeks for us.

    But the reality of an imperfect world (disease, famine, natural disasters) filled with imperfect people acting as free-agents (murder, torture, abuse, assault) means that God’s hopes don’t happen, and by the nature of the kind of world God chose to create, that is to say, a free one, those plans can be thwarted.

    God having plans doesn’t necessarily mean God knows the future. Just sayin’.

    • amelia

      What is a prophet?

      • Kara

        I'd wager prophecy only works to the extent that someone has insight into what God is going to do. Just because I don't think God necessarily forsees the future doesn't mean I think God has no say in what happens in the future.

        Or perhaps, since God is everywhere, sometimes prophecy is just drawing logical conclusions using a larger knowledge base than any one human has. If God can see John Wilkes Booth plotting the assassination of Lincoln a few weeks prior, in some ways, there's "future predicting" that can go along with that. But God might not know until people have set things in motion.

        But, hey. People who do believe God knows the future have a hell of a time wrestling with prophecy. So I'm not going to abandon something out of hand just because prophecy is still complicated under it.

    • http://www.BuzzDixon.com buzz

      I think God’s plans extend beyond this lifetime and this universe. This existence is a mere mist, according to the Bible. Here and gone. People are throwing away a chance at eternity with God in order to satisfy momentary itches — and, year, accumulating wealth for 70+ years is just a momentary itch.

      • Kara

        This is fairly off the topic, I rather think, but I believe in universal salvation as well, so your point doesn't hit home for me in the way it might hit someone who believes hell is a place that humans go. I think most Christians downplay the importance of this life far too much. 'Cause in my option, once we're done here, it's all over but the eternity-long victory party.

        That is to say, if we fail to love and give and serve here like we should? No do-overs. This isn't just some blink of an eye before the real game starts. This is the real deal, and it matters tremendously how we live our lives.

  • http://kenni11@gmail.com shorter university a

    This article is really confusing. We have to put a lot of effort to comprehend how God works. But I think, we don’t have the right to question God since we are not holy. And thus, he’s always carrying us in times of trouble. Some of the things are within our control but some are not. We’re given freewill to choose but we should not forget that if we fail there is still hope. Why? Because God is with you.

  • amelia

    Kara, how do you interpret John 17:9 ?

    • Kara

      I assume you're asking because of my position on universal salvation, so that's the understanding I'll be answering from. (If I'm wrong, let me know, and I'll try again.)

      I certainly don't mean that I don't believe there is a distinction between those who follow Jesus and those who do not. I certainly do. Jesus making such a distinction is not surprising or troubling to me. Just because in one specific instance he prays specifically for his followers and not for the whole world doesn't mean much of anything to me, in regard to the overall theology of God's eternal and truly unconditional love for humankind.

      Does that answer your question?

  • amelia

    Sort of. I am wondering what you really mean when you say you don't believe God knows the future and he will save everyone no matter what's in their hearts (universal salvation). This is a huge disconnect from having faith in Christ (who died for our sins), his return to this earth to judge between the righteous and the godless (2Peter3:7) and in God's predetermination of your soul. If you read John 17 further you will read that Jesus was praying for protection for his followers "except the one destined to be lost."

    God loves you Kara, but he hates a liar. That certainly doesn't mean he won't allow one to exist for his work to be glorified, though. Make sure your new church is bible-based and truly follows the teachings of Christ who died for you and me to be redeemed in the righteous, holy presence of Our Heavenly Father.

    • Kara

      My new church is infinitely more Christ-like than the "Bible-believing" church I was raised in, where individual verses, often mistranslated, were used as weapons to to spiritual warfare against the most vulnerable in society.

      What does it mean for God to love us unconditionally if there's… Conditions? Why are we expected to simply forgive others, but then told that God does not forgive in that same simple manner? What kind of parent predestines their child to, as the post so vividly put it, "spend eternity having the living flesh seared off his bones"? A God who predestines to heaven and hell is not one I would worship, completely aside from my views on the universality of salvation.

      If you're espousing Calvinism, then you believe in a God that finds glory in evil, hatred, torture, and oppression. (I'm not saying you do, but that is what Calvinism teaches.)

      My God hates evil, but loves all people, no matter how fallen. My God will absolutely judge all for their lives and freely-made choices on this earth. But infinite punishment for finite transgression is not the policy of a just God, in my view, and though I have no idea when or how, I do believe that God will redeem all. Because I believe in a God who has the capacity to choose to forgive. I don't believe in a God who can be tainted by sin, but in one who can overcome it.

      We really don't have to agree on this. I'm fully secure in my faith, and it's quite evident that you are as well. I have no need to convince you of anything, and have only answered this far in the hopes that my position may be clearly expressed and better understood for what it is. I appreciate your point of view, even if I don't agree with it.

  • amelia

    Thanks Kara. I totally agree with you that people (particularly those in power) could use verses from the bible for their own means. I'm still trying to understand the whole infinite punishment for a finite transgression idea and how God will bring justice to our world, too. That is a new perspective for me to consider and I am so grateful you didn't get mad at me for quoting scripture to try and understand that view in light of being a follower of Christ. He's always saying, "as it is written," so I just automatically turn to him for answers. Peace. <3

    • Kara

      No, thank you. I enjoy conversations like this a lot, because they force me to examine my own beliefs more deeply. I certainly don't have the full lock on truth, so it's good for me to (re)consider other points of view as well. No ad hominim attacks, no strawman arguments, just thinking and talking and explaining. Good times, good times.

      So, once again, thank you, and may we both continue to learn and grow closer to the God who loves us.


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