Saturday, September 10, 2005

How Deep is God's Forgiveness

Brant asked,

A quick question:

Is everyone forgiven? Right now, everyone stands forgiven of their sins?

Is it heretical to suggest that they are? I'm beginning to believe this is the case, but I lack scriptural expertise.

This isn't to deny the reality of heaven and hell, for those who choose to make God the king or, instead, choose their own autonomy.

Tell me if I'm being a heretic. Viewed this way, though, a whole lot of things make more sense to me. I'd love some input.


Well... I started to quote John 3:16-17, but then wasn't so happy with it. I'm not sure how I can help you. Maybe you should tell us a little more about what your looking for. I can tell you that the difference between Calvinist and Armenian is often the issue of whether atonement in limited or not. Armenian's have invented the term "prevenient grace," meaning that God creates an atmosphere of grace that allows individuals to choose either Christ or themselves. Calvinists (at least full Calvinists) would argue that God died for a limited number of people.

Whether people are forgiven, we could say that all people have become free enough to choose Christ as King, whereas before they were slaves to the devil.

I'm trying... but don't feel like I'm being much help. Help me... to help... you!


Anonymous said...

I think I mentioned I was predestined to be Armenian.

I think the fixation on heaven and hell has thrown a lot of us off of Jesus' message of the Kingdom, and perhaps has confused us on forgiveness. Maybe forgiven = heaven, not forgiven = hell isn't the way Jesus deals with it.

Rob Bell, for instance, says there will be forgiven people in hell, and I tend to see the wisdom in this.

I want to be truthful, first and foremost, of course. But if all really are forgiven, this changes some things, in very non-purely-academic ways:

1. I must extend forgiveness as a consequence of the reality we're in. God has forgiven this person -- every person -- and to be in line with that reality, I must forgive, too.

2. The "good news" is more obviously good. You're a cheat, a prostitute, my angry neighbor, or something? Guess what -- God has already forgiven you! You're forgiven. And so am I. I'm trying to follow Jesus -- join me. We'll start the journey together.

3. No more goofy "What if I sin right before I die and don't ask for forgiveness in time" -type scenarios.

4. The sheep-and-the-goats parable becomes more understandable. Hey, didn't some of the goats say the prayer? etc. doesn't matter anymore. The question is, "Did I know you -- or did you make yourself king?"

Ultimately, God acquiesces to our kingdom decision.

5. What about people who grow up under other religions, and never hear, or aren't accurately shown, the Good News? -- this question seems more answer-able. They're forgiven. They still could choose to reject God's King-ship, certainly.

6. It may shed light on old divisions like "once-saved-always-saved" or whatever.

7. The pray-this-prayer approach has never made sense to me. Ever. Like Todd Hunter says, "If you're depending on some prayer you said at junior high camp -- well, I sure wouldn't."

If I don't want God as King here on earth, why would I even *want* to go to heaven? He's going to be King there, too, last I heard.

I've seen the glimpses of the nature of Brant Hansen's Kingdom, and it's got the faint smell of hell to it.

There are about a million other implications. I'm not doing any heavy thinking, here, either. Just wanting to explore to see how far out of the church I'm going to be thrown.

I do think that thinking about it this way, if it's rooted in truth, would do a LOAD of good for really sharing the "Good News" with people, by eliminating so much of the goofy baggage we now carry.

Lacking scriptural insight,

Anonymous said...

By the way, a Bell-point, I think:

Those who would say, "This is cheap grace! You're not taking sin seriously enough!"

-- those people aren't taking Jesus's sacrifice seriously enough.


Christie said...

It's strange that I discussed this very issue over dinner last night with friends. Although I shy away from identifying my views with a man, my ideas are certainly more Calvinist than not. To me, either way you view the atonement, you could say it was "limited" in one way or another. For the Arminian -the atonement is limited in its efficaciousness because it did not accomplish salvation for all - even though, in that view, it could have if only people had chosen Christ. For the Calvinist, we would say that the atonement was infact efficacious and that it fulfilled the purpose for which it intended: the salvation of the elect. Although that does limit the atonement to the covering the elect, it doesn't limit its effectiveness.

I can't scripturally balance humanity being dead in their sins and any sort of preveient grace. Ephesians 2 speaks clearly to the fact that we are dead and Christ has made us alive. Therefore, from my limited amount of study, I believe that the atonement did not cover the sins of all. If it did, then some would have their sins paid for twice. Once by Christ and then again by their punishment in Hell.

Just my thoughts!

Brian said...

I'm rushing out some thoughts because of limited time.

Brant, my views are similar to what you are describing. It will take me some time to lay out my arguments for it, and of course Christie, who did a nice job without casting stones, will be able to find holes in it because the breadth of the atonement is so magnificient that it probably takes at least two theories at the same time for it to be attempt to be defined.

As far as heresy, the problem with being thrown out is that Brant's view ends up being more conservative than Evangelicalism. A forgiven person can go to hell. The trust about evangelicalism is you can be a heretic as long as your more conservative and rather than less.

People probably think these emerging guys are more liberal, but most of them end up being more conservative, taking Jesus' words more literally, and so on and so forth.

Hopefully more when I get more time, which may not be until Thursday.

Anonymous said...

Yes -- please do, Brian.

I'm not sure I call this view conservative or liberal.

I think Ephesians 2 still makes a whole lot of sense given the view that I'm espousing here.

Though, certainly, in a poetically true sense, the "wages of sin is death" -- I don't believe Hell as an atoning payment in the sense of Christ's sacrifice, so I'm not sure about the paying-twice argument.


Anonymous said...


Have you checked out the web link I e-mailed you? There seems to be "some" solid scriptural points, as well as philosophical points.

Is atonement at the sole discretion of God? I've thought a little about this and am a bit uncomfortable with the implications.

rob smith

Brian said...

I didn't mean that it was conservative or liberal as far as you or I stand. You asked, perhaps tongue in cheek, will I be kicked out of the church. The answer is no, because I would hammer them with the fact, in their culture, it is a MORE conservative view and they would back off. I was only using conservative in the question about being kicked out of the church.