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Posts Tagged ‘Theology’

On Pharisees and Evangelicals

April 5, 2011 5 comments

“”Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.”
-Matthew 23:13, 15

Jesus seems to be saying that the Pharisees are doing two things:

  1. They are making very specific demands on who gets to be saved and who doesn’t, yet they themselves seem to miss the point of the faith they are trying to defend, and are thus leading themselves astray.
  2. They are trying hard to get someone to agree with their list of required beliefs, and when they do find someone who does agree with them, they turn even worse than their mentors.

The Pharisees tried to show outsiders that they were “among God’s chosen”, by showing off the rightness of their beliefs and life choices. Among those distinctive views that they emphasized in order to impress others were their rightness on issues of sexuality, on prayer/fasting and on water rituals, among other things. Their reaction against those who did not conform to their own standards was to call them “sinners” and shun them from their assembly of Pure, Chosen, True Covenant Members.

In a sense I wish these admonitions against the Pharisees applied only to those with the same theology, superficially speaking. Us Protestants have historically divided religious views in only two camps: those who hold to “salvation by works” and those who hold to “salvation by grace through faith”, i.e. the right view. Hence, Pharisees are merely seen as the example of people in the former camp, and Jesus is the person in the latter camp setting and example for those who would position themselves to be in this theological camp.

Something makes me think this is totally missing the point.

First of all, the criticism Jesus continuously gives the Pharisees has nothing to do with a specific theological system of how one is made righteous, but rather of the attitude of religious people trying to reduce the Kingdom of Heaven to a strict set of requirements and expelling and shunning everyone who don’t live up to their standards.

Second, as I already hinted at the start, the Pharisees were not really legalistic in the sense that they were trying to earn their righteousness by moral “actions” – they relied on “works of the Law” in the sense that they tried to show their Covenant membership by doing “Jewish stuff”, rather than by a faith in God and his Messiah.

What sneaks up on me is the realization that Christians who hold to a strict doctrine of Sola Gratia and Sola Fide, may sometimes be the most guilty of being “Pharisaical”. Jesus primarily warned of Hell to those pious religious people who excluded and shunned others, not to sinners.

Now, I’m sure he’d have a word or two to say in an environment that was overly “inclusive” in a way that ignores truth. But what I’m saying is merely that a lot of us conservative Christians should be afflicted by Jesus’ words to the Pharisees. Yes, Liberal theology can be very dangerous.

But the theology that Jesus confronted wasn’t liberal in any way, shape or form. They were in many ways the Evangelicals of 1st Century Judaism.

PS. I’d very much like to talk more about that last verse as well. What are the dangers of evangelism? Can the wrong kind of evangelism make a person into an EVEN WORSE child of Hell than before? Hmm…

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Why I can’t get over Calvinism

March 3, 2011 16 comments

I have, over the last few years, tried to understand Calvinism as well as possible. I’ve looked for ways it could possibly give a picture of a loving God that is similar to the God I’ve found revealed in Jesus Christ. To my dismay, however, I’ve only kept failing at this task.

One defense that I’ve seen is basically that Calvinism does say that everyone who comes to Christ will be saved, that he turns away no one. That the “unregenerate” sinners can choose to repent if they “want” to. The problem is, of course, that their “Total depravity”, their “deadness” in original sin, prevents them from ever even being able to consider the thought of repenting. They apparently all “hate God”. And so, while all might have a “choice” to repent and come to Christ, only those who are irresistibly drawn by the Father to come to Jesus to be born again and regenerated by the Holy Spirit to be given a new heart, CAN ever repent. Basically, it’s as if Jesus is standing to the right, and all the sinners are tied up in strings to the left, and the Father from eternity had chosen to cut the strings of  only a few of the guys to the left, so they could ever come to Jesus.
In my eyes, this is just another way of saying we don’t have a choice in the matter. Regardless of what specific breed of Calvinist philosophy you adhere to regarding the logical order of election, all Calvinists seem to claim the following things about God:

  1. After the Fall of Man, all men are afflicted with total inability to repent as a result of original sin. Calvinists disagree on whether or not Man was free to obey God in Eden or not. Regardless, this is “Total Depravity“.
  2. God does not need to consider free will in saving human beings – He intervenes and forcibly transforms an unwilling heart into a willing heart.  (“Irresistible Grace“).
  3. Hence, God would be able to save all by doing this to all, if He wanted to.
  4. However, God chooses to only pick some people to be saved, entirely arbitrarily. (“Unconditional Election“)
  5. God does all of this for his glory. In fact, the ultimate point of Creation is to glorify God. Everything else is unimportant in comparison.

If this is incorrect in any sense, please correct me. From all my research, this seems to be a fully correct view of Calvinism, though.

I don’t really care if Calvinism affirms that we have a theoretical choice to repent if there is absolutely no actual choice. It’s not that I need to have a certain number of words attributed to God to be at ease. The point is that God sees our supposedly utterly and completely lost state, and chooses to only do something about it to some of his lost creation. Does he even truly love humanity, then? Does he love the person he didn’t elect as much as the person he does elect? The general Calvinist answer seems to be “not really”, which I guess answers my question. God arbitrarily chooses to love a few.

To get at my problem more clearly, this is the image I get from the (soft version!) Calvinist view of election:

God created creatures with a free will of some sort, which was built-in with a horrific backfire mechanism that came into effect the moment a sin was committed. Once they sinned, they were caught in God’s trap, where only those he arbitrarily chose to “love” would be saved, while he would angrily look at the ones he didn’t choose and say “Love me! Except you can’t. I can make you do what I want you do to do… BUT I WON’T! Because that wouldn’t glorify me as much. I’m still gonna tell you what you’ve ought to do, however!”

Then at the end, he judges these two groups entirely based on whether or not they were picked by him, sending those he didn’t pick into eternal, tormenting hellfire. All of this, essentially being based on the action Adam and Eve chose, ages before, with every sin subsequent to that only really being a chain reaction from that original backfiring mistake, that God knew they would make from all eternity.

Can you please, please, tell me what I’m getting wrong in this picture. Because I’ve tried and tried, but in fact, the picture is only getting clearer and more horrible. I know those sent to Hell are supposedly really punished for the sins they committed, rather than mainly for the original sin. However, I don’t see how punishment is ever due to someone who genuinely had no choice in the matter. In the end, it’s REALLY all based on whether or not they were elected by God.

So what am I to say? I cannot help but be disgusted by this. Calvinists claim that the reasons for God choosing not to save is “for his glory”. First of all, when was eternal suffering considered glorious? What messed up picture of God assumes that God considers eternal torment and punishment for sins committed by a person who had no choice in the matter to start with, displays His glory? And finally, how is that picture of God in any way, shape or form, related to the picture of God displayed in the character and life of Jesus Christ, dying on Calvary for the same people who crucified him?

Here’s a short case for Resistible Grace that has a great analogy 🙂

Babies, Law Court Judgement and Christ

February 10, 2011 5 comments

It’s been a while since my last post, especially in English. I might make yet another post later on to answer “what’s up?”, but I’m posting for another reason now. I was notified by my friend Lisa Greer this morning about Greg Boyd’s latest post on “Baby Universalism and Reasonable Infanticide“, and I realized I have quite a few thoughts on this. So I wrote her a reply, which I realized would work out as a blog entry! It sort of assumes that you have read Boyd’s blog entry, however, so if there’s anything unclear, it might be a good idea to read it.

This is a question I’ve been wondering about for years, but no one else has brought it up, so Greg did what he usually does and asks the question no one else dares to ask. I’m totally with Greg on this. Any logically and morally inclined person who seriously believes in baby universalism should wander around murdering all the babies within reach, as well as forcing mothers into having abortions. It reminds me of an atheist I met once who said that if he was a Christian (as he understood them), he’d force people into accepting Christ by any means possible, damning himself if he had to (Rom 9:3). When you think about it, the notion that God gives a free pass only to those who don’t enter into adulthood makes our lives into nothing more than a cruel joke. It basically gives a thumbs up to all the teenagers who kill themselves: “Good idea, there’s absolutely no good reason to continue striving in this world!”

I understand and sympathize with the basic view of God and babies that makes one assume God would never condemn a baby who hasn’t started making conscious choices, but in the end, I think this scenario proves the absurdity of “Law Court Final Judgement“.

Most Western Christians assume that the final judgement is a scene where Humanity is standing before God, and those who have consciously signed the Jesus-contract in their earthly lifetime are magically Jesus-protected from God seeing their sin. Those who haven’t consciously signed the Jesus-contract in their earthly lifetime, however, won’t be prevented from God seeing their sins, and so God’s alarms will go off and he’ll throw them into eternal hellfire, regardless of anything those people might say when they get into heaven, because they are all radically morally totally depraved sinners who hate God anyways.

When Baby Universalism is connected to this view of the Final Judgement, babies are presumably either given a free Jesus-contract, or they simply commit no sin that the Father has to torment them for. I think both these alternatives are weird. In my view, (original) sin taints all of creation, and although it depends what kind of infirmities God is looking for, babies are not perfect. Free will also doesn’t “pop up” at the age of 11-12 in children, they start making choices independent from their instincts very early on.

If God made an “exception” in the law court system to babies below the arbitrary age of accountability, does that mean he gives exceptions to people who had a bad upbringing? People who started hanging out with the wrong people in their teens? People who got bullied in school? If we wants to keep any consistency here, we should just say that God should give an exception to everyone, and accept universalism. The other option within the law court system is to go the other way with election instead, and just change God’s character so that he enjoys sending people to Hell. That works too.

One major problem with the West is that we view sin so individually, and primarily juridically. Sin taints all of creation, and it is contagious like nothing else. Everyone is at one level guilty of sin, and yet everyone is at one level a victim of it as well. This is why we in the confession of sins say: “Through my sin I am guilty of more evil than I understand on my own”. This reality about the nature of sin makes it hard for me to see how Western Law Court Justice can ever be appropriately meted out. It’s so pervasive, and it doesn’t seem to be fixable by punishment.

Because of this, I am less inclined to believe God’s problem with sin is that his Divine Justice must be fulfilled by meting out Just Punishment to all those guilty, which in the end turned out to be redirected to Jesus/Himself. You’d think the Crucifixion would be a lot more intense if God needed to pour out all the punishment and wrath on the God-man on the cross. Especially when you consider that the cross, according to this view, was supposed to be the punishment for all humans replacing our punishment in eternal hellfire, due to sin against the eternal God (by finite beings…). You’d think the punishment due to Jesus (if comparable with eternal torment) in this view would be more like a billion nuclear bombs exploding and imploding on him over… well, eternity? That’s not to say Jesus did not experience things beyond what met the eye on the cross. He assumed all of humanity, and thus, without having sinned himself, “became a curse for us”, and “bore our sins”, so all the weight of our evil was upon him in those last moments.

This is something I will explore as I write my essay on the Atonement, by the way, but it is not that I deny all substitutionary or legal language for the Atonement, but I believe the introduction of Western Human standards of justice into God’s character is a large reason why people can’t see the beauty of God in Christ, when he takes upon Himself the Sin of the world. He took on our sins as something that is in ITSELF horrific. Sin is horrific and deadly, not God. The only reason God’s holiness is dangerous is because Holiness (wholeness) exists, and sin, distorted creation, ultimately doesn’t. It is not creation, but yet we cling to un-creation when facing God. No wonder it is dangerous to fall into the hands of the Living, Existing God like that. You can read what I’ve previously written on sin and salvation here. But there is nothing inherently scary in God’s character. God, in Jesus Christ, took on all of Sinful Humanity and lived it out (without sinning) to its logical consequence, death. When God had finished that, the Old Adam was brought to his end, and Jesus Christ destroyed sin, death and the Devil who had lived as a parasite on that fallen humanity, and rose victorious on the Third Day, creating a New Humanity in Him.

I think the view of sin within the Orthodox Church, which Greg Boyd seems to share, is more compatible with the loving character of God as perfectly revealed in Jesus Christ. God’s problem with sin is that it damages us and our relationship to Him, each other, ourselves and everything else. He wants to heal us, but we flee from Him, in fear that He will judge us and accuse us. Who is the accuser? Not God, but Satan. We have made God into Satan, by assuming that his greatest problem with us is his punitive anger against our sins. In reality, it seems the only reason He reminds us of our sins is to simultaneously ask “Will you stop holding on to that and give it to Me, please?”. All He asks is that we stop making our tormentors (Sin, Death and Satan) into our lords, and make Jesus Christ our Lord instead. Through choosing to return to Jesus Christ and taking part of His New Humanity through the Incarnation, we are given a new identity in Him as righteous and holy. We are then to put on Christ’s Humanity  and put off Adam’s humanity every day, so we may walk and continue the Life of Christ on Earth, by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Heb 2:14-18; Rom 13:14; 1 Cor 15:22,45)

Here is a wonderful passage fleshing out (pun not intended) the wonders of the Incarnation and its centrality to our salvation:

But we see Him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting that He, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.”

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make atonement for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

-The Epistle to the Hebrews, 2:9-18

And also:

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.

Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.

-The Epistle to the Romans, 6:4-13

From my understanding, in the Eastern view, the Final Judgement is about whether or not there is a sign of Divine Life inside of us, whether or not we take part of the Divine Energies that God wants to envelop us in. He gives them freely to all who seek His Face, and in the end, He will be all in all (1 Cor 15:28). When this happens, the love of God will envelop everything. Those who refuse to see the truth of who God is, however, will experience His love as torment and wrath. They will not experience it this way because God created it such, but because their lord Sin has become their guide to how to interpret everything they see, like Gríma Wormstongue in Lord of the Rings. Heaven and Hell are the same place: the loving prescence of God, but He will not force Himself into anyone’s mind.

So Hell is a reality in our minds, and a state of mind that I’m sure all of us have already tasted. That is not to say, however, that being freed from Hell is a mere decision and change of mind. It is a deadly mind virus and a parasite, and if we do not let the caretaker of our souls, Jesus, uproot it, it could take over our entire existence, and harden our hearts towards God. As for what God in his loving-kindness will ultimately do to those who end up in this situation, I don’t know. As I have previously written (in Swedish), although with a lot less clarity on the nature of Judgement, I think there is Biblical support for the view that all that is not in accordance with God will be as if it never existed. However, I am not certain of this view, and in the end, I can only look to Christ and know that He is Good.

As for the babies, then… I don’t believe our souls become inactive after death. I think we are either purified or hardened against God. As I have to assume there has to be some point in staying alive on Earth, I believe babies must be given the chance to choose beyond this life instead. But I think Boyd gave the answer to this question in his blog post and elsewhere. As I said before, in the end, I can only hope that God will be God in all situations. If I see Jesus, I see the Father, and Him who “is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature” (Heb 1:3, verbatim).

Kyrie eleison! Lord, have mercy!

Guds kärlek och villoläror

September 6, 2010 4 comments

Som jag nämnde i tidigare inlägg, och borde ha visat spår av under en längre period, så är jag till stor del på en resa i min teologi. Jag drivs av en enormt stor iver att ha en sund och sammanhängande världsbild, som stämmer överens med vad jag säger och gör. De flesta känner nog igen sig i detta, men för mig innebär det att jag också måste tänka kring hur olika teologiska tankar och idéer påverkar min världsbild. Många kristna tänker att så länge vi bara pratar om Guds kärlek och lever enligt den, så behöver vi inte reflektera kring några av de andra teologiska tolkningarna vi har gjort – det vore ju att kompromissa med budskapet i vår tro!

Frågan som har drivit mig under de senaste månaderna är denna: är budskapet i vår tro främst en samling dogmatiska lärosatser, som måste formuleras enligt ett visst sätt, och är den typen av frågor vad Bibeln oftast behandlar? Ibland får jag känslan av att kristna tror att vår tro handlar om ett tiotal grundläggande påståenden av Gud, varav ett är att han är kärlek och vill ha en relation till oss, men att detta inte har någonting att göra med tolkningen av de andra påståendena. Till exempel brukar det sägas att “Guds kärlek måste balanseras mot hans rättvisa och vrede”. Dessutom innebär tydligen per nödvändighet påståendet att Jesus är enda vägen till Gud att VÅR väg till Jesus är den enda vägen till honom.

Jag tror att det finns en stor rädsla och osäkerhet hos många s.k. konservativa/evangelikala/bibeltroende kristna. Om man tror att Jesus var den han sade sig vara i evangelierna, och vill vara i en kyrka som poängterar lärjungaskap efter honom, så gör många därifrån ekvationen att desto mer icke-politiskt korrekta eller s.k. “fundamentalistiska” åsikter man väljer att ha, desto mer trogen är man också Jesus. Så å ena sidan finns där en genuin tro och längtan efter att följa Jesus från Nasaret, Gud med oss, men å andra sida känner man sig tvingad att explicit eller implicit tro på massor av andra idéer som sägs vara baserade på Bibeln.

Exempel på sådana idéer är 6000-årskreationism, med tanken att det mest “bibeltrogna” sättet att tolka Urhistorien i 1:a Mosebok 1-11 är att läsa dem som en kronologisk berättelse som gör naturvetenskapliga påståenden om jordens tillblivelse. Detta leder till att man tvingas konstatera att jorden skapades ur intet för cirka 6000 år sedan. Även om många kristna idag känner tveksamhet inför den här tanken, tror jag att många plågas av en inre röst (eller konkreta röster från andra kristna) som anklagar. Dessa anklagelser säger har ofta i princip kontentan att du är på väg mot liberalteologins område, och därmed är på riktigt farlig mark. Snart förkastar du säkert Jesu gudomlighet och tanken på synd också!

Jag hade själv en längre period av mitt liv när jag hade den inställning jag skrev om ovan… Från den tidiga tonåren, då jag på allvar började ta tydliga åsikter i trosfrågor, började en attityd växa fram hos mig. Jag tog till mig enkla svar och tog en fientlig inställning till all kritik mot mina tolkningar av hur tillvaron såg ut. Jag fann en sorts “liv” från tanken på att jag hade rätt svar, och den översittarattityd med vilken jag förklarade hur fel andra hade. Det är spännande att vara politiskt inkorrekt, och Gud skulle säkert belöna mig för att jag sa att jag trodde på saker som jag egentligen trodde för därför att det var något jag kunde lägga ner tid och energi på att hålla igång tron på.

Grejen var bara den att jag levde med en sorts dubbelhet i detta. Jag kunde inte riktigt förklara för andra människor hur jag kunde ha de åsikter jag hade (om  t ex evolution, sex och helvetet), och fann mig själv tvivla allt med på det. Jag hade visserligen inte så många kristna vänner, men de jag hade vågade jag aldrig på djupet prata om de här sakerna med. Jag tror att känslan till stor del var ömsesidig. Istället blev jag allt mer påverkad av världen runt omkring mig när det gäller hur jag VERKLIGEN såg på de här frågorna, även om jag kanske fortfarande skulle ha sagt att jag höll mina gamla åsikter i frågorna. Detta ledde till en kris i min Gudsrelation, även om den redan innan var ganska ytlig. Jag flörtade med annan typ av andlighet (hednisk/fornnordisk sådan, till exempel), och lade ner med tid, tro och intresse i olika konspirationsteorier om jordens slut än i vad Gud ville göra här och nu, med mig eller med andra.

Men Gud hade en plan för mig. Genom ett möte med en lärare från Johannelund (LOE) på ett läger, väcktes mitt intresse för att fördjupa mig i tron. Efter studenten ansökte jag därför till Bibelskolan på Johannelund. De första stegen på den resan kan du börja att läsa om på den här bloggen, från oktober 2008 och framåt…

Gud har gjort så mycket i mitt liv, men det som han tydligast har gjort är att förvandla mig från en “rättrogen” religiös tro, som mest handlade om åsikter, till en levande relation med den levande Guden! I den relationen, och i gemenskap med andra med samma längtan, har jag allt mer fått föras in mot djupet av Guds förvandlande kärlek!

När jag började på Johannelund fanns det visserligen en längtan efter gemenskap och fördjupning, men min syn på teologi handlade mycket om att lära mig om djup, mystisk kunskap, och att kunna föra fram mina åsikter. En av de tidigare och största lärdomarna jag gjorde efter jag kom till Uppsala var dock detta, och fortsätter att vara:

Teologi är ett medel till ett mål, inte ett mål i sig. Nej, målet är relation med Gud genom Jesus Kristus. Det kan och får inte vara något annat. Om teologin inte bygger på husgrunden, Jesus (Matt 7:24), och om Herren inte bygger det huset (Psa 127:1), så är allting förgäves. Om vår teologi blir testet för vår frälsning eller källan till vår förtröstan, så har vi missat hela poängen med teologi. Om vår teologi pratar mer om Guds handlade i världen i allmänhet eller om vad vi måste göra, snarare än att vara en väg närmare Jesus Kristus, Guds Son, så är allting förgäves. Därmed inte sagt att vi bör strunta i att ha en ortodox lära. Men vad är problemet med en villolära, egentligen? Tänk efter!

Ibland uttrycks det som att hela världen går under om vi har formulerat evangeliet på ett bara aningen icke-ortodoxt sätt, då vi måste förstå exempelvis precis hur vi blir frälsta av nåd för att det skall kunna nå fram till oss. Gud blir begränsad av bokstaven, då evangeliet framställs som ett kontrakt: Människa dum, Gud arg och vill straffa, Jesus snäll och tar straffet, Gud tillräknar oss inte straff om vi håller ovan för sant. Slut på kontrakt. Med den synen på frälsning blir det klart att en “felstavning” kan förstöra allting! Allting som inte klart och tydligt förkunnar det här kontraktet är en villolära!

Jag tror dock att frälsningen och evangeliet ytterst sätt handlar om något annat, något mer. Jag menar att Guds längtan efter kärleksrelation är grunden till allting han har gjort, gör och kommer att göra för oss! Frälsning är befrielse från det som hindrar den relationen, och den är ständigt pågående! Då blir evangeliet allt som är sagt i kärlek och sanning. Dessa två är dock två koncept som inte kan skiljas från varandra, speciellt inte när det gäller evangeliet! Det går inte att “rent och klart förkunna Guds Ord” (Jesus själv!) om det inte sägs i kärlek OCH sanning. Det står att Jesus var “fylld av nåd och sanning” (Joh 1:14), därför går det inte att predika Honom på ett sätt som går emot hans karaktär utan att ljuga om Honom! Att säga något “sant”, speciellt om Gud, är också att vara kärleksfull. Likaså är det inte kärleksfullt att inte berätta om ondskan som finns i och runt omkring oss, som Gud vill hela oss från!

Så vad är då en villolära? Det är någonting som inte förmedlar den nåd och sanning som Jesus kom med. Allting som inte visar på vem Gud verkligen är och vill med sina älskade barn. Alla bilder av människan och synden som inte erkänner att vår relation till Gud hindras av vår egen inkrökthet. Alla falska bilder av Gud, som vill sätta “men…” efter meningen “Gud är kärlek”.

Med den definitionen av en villolära och ortodoxi, borde många av oss, jag själv inkluderad, nog ta oss en tankeställare på våra prioriteringar när vi talar om Gud. Vi bör lämna de teologiska tankar om Gud som inte pekar på Jesus långt bak i vårt bagage, och som bäst kanske fundera lite över det på vår fritid. Om vi låter “den rätta läran” i olika hänseenden utesluta människor, fast den inte har en tydlig anknytning till Jesus från Nasaret, så bör vi ta en seriös tankeställare.

Så lev i Jesu kärlek, och låt oss vandra vidare med Honom för ögonen i allt vi gör!

Being freed from sin

September 5, 2010 1 comment

A few years ago, the gaming community “Pure Pwnage” was a huge part of my life, and it remains a part of my life that is dear to me. However, since mid-2008, I haven’t frequented it much, but I made a reply to a specific question I was asked by a “theistic satanist” on the boards. I wrote the reply, and thought I might post it here as well, in case anyone else would be interested in it 🙂

Out of interest why do you feel Jesus frees you? Is it the high amount of sins you’re not supposed to commit or have? The thought of having to go to church every Sunday?

Well, first of all, we have very different concepts of sin. According to today’s society, “sin” is basically synonymous with “fun”. This definition derives from various Puritan and policing movements that have claimed association with the teaching of Christ in various ways. The very original sin from which all other sin derives is the idea of taking the judging of good and evil into our own hands, and making ourselves gods. This mindset has driven and is still today driving people, perhaps especially religious people, to “police morality” from above, to force people into various standards of morality. This is not what Jesus did – He served people, and searched for the broken and rejected to heal them and restore them into the life they were meant to have – but only if they WANTED TO! This behaviour is supposed to be the model for the Church today, but unfortunately we’re not that great at following it as a whole…

So, I don’t deny that believers in Christ have, throughout the ages, done horrible things in the name of Christ, including murder, torture, lies and all other kinds of sin. I confess that *I* have done horrible things in the name of Christ throughout my life. Confessing such acts and turning away from it is part of following Christ.

Anyways, to get back to your question, I define sin differently from the common thought. I see sin as a disease, a black cancer on the creation that God made us to be. I might add that I do not think the first humans were absolutely perfect, as evolution shows. However, I do think the relationship to God that the first “life-breathed” Homo Sapiens had, was intact and whole, until they, however many, went their own way, collectively.

This is sin, to turn away from the source of Life Himself, and instead to rely on oneself. It’s not the image of an obsessive parent trying to micro-manage our lives, and then gets mad when we stay out past 9 pm or something. That’s not the sort of control or the kind of relationship God wants to have with us.

A better picture of God and Man is that of a father and a young son (or mother and daughter) out on a hike together, and walking in moderate distance from a deep ravine, when all of a sudden the son runs away, starts tumbling down the slope, hurting and bruising himself in various ways. The father cries out, tries to stretch out his hand, while the son refuses, instead deciding to jump further down. As this happens, the father climbs further down, all for the love of his son, who would never survive without the support of his father. It’s not about control, it’s about love.

So why do I say that Jesus has freed me? Well, as I said, I define as sin all the things in my life that separates me from a true and real view of myself, from a loving and harmonic view of all others and most of all, the beautiful, living, colourful relationship with God I’m supposed to have. As for what particular actions exemplify sin, I’m have no reason to list – it’s the heart attitude that Jesus is most of all after (see Matthew 5), and then it is the job of the Holy Spirit to convict believers of these things in their own lives. Only in close relationships between believers are we to “judge” or rather discern sin in each others lives, with love, and not with condemnation. But it is not my job as a Christian to point out to non-believers what I find to be sin.

But the attitudes that lie behind our actions are really the root of all evil. Egoism, hatred, judgement, desiring after things that aren’t mine to desire (be they people or things), and all other things of self-indulgence that only leads to further egocentrism. All these things, I abhor.

But my faith, trust, life, love in and for Jesus Christ as the one who defeated sin, death and suffering with his self-sacrificial love poured out by his death on the cross, has, is, and will continue to restore these broken relationships in my life. Being continually saved/healed from my sins, frees me to love others as Christ has loved me. And that is the ultimate expression of freedom that a human being can experience: to love others in the same ways and that Christ loved us. It’s a life project, but it is SO WORTH IT.

Categories: Theology Tags: , , , , ,

Some thoughts on Exclusivism and Inclusivism

June 24, 2010 7 comments

I basically just made a post on the discussion boards of the Facebook group “Open Theism”, and I thought I should post it here as well, if for no other reason to save it for myself! But maybe some other people might find my thoughts interesting.

Basically, first I made a general post asking about Open Theism in connection to Annihilationism, alternative views of the Atonement and Inclusivism. However, despite that being my most minor point, a person reacted to my mention of Inclusivism. I’ll post his reply here:

In one sense or another, every religion may have some seed of truth. Perhaps a buddhist may have a good idea of what mercy is, or a muslim may have a keen understanding of sovereignty or justice. This understanding may help those of different religions understand the Christian God better and lead them to the truth.

However, all other religions significantly or totally rely on merit/works, whereas Christianity bases its foundation on intimate relationship and God’s Grace. Man in no way deserves this Grace. There is nothing any man can do to earn this Grace, or to gain favour based on ability. This is something that no other religion has.

To be frank, I find it quite impossible to support inclusivism based on these grounds alone. All other religions may in some sense hold Jesus to be a great teacher; they may hold Him as a reference point for their proverbs or as a character to emulate. Nonetheless, what they continually fail to see is that he was not just a great teacher, prophet, or social activist, but he was as the old saying goes, “The way, the truth and the life”.

Here is my reply:

The line between Exclusivism and Inclusivism is pretty vague. The extremes of both are very different, but the gray zone between them is hard to define.

In a Christian context, the most extreme Exclusivism I can think of states that no one can be saved unless they explicitly profess faith in Jesus Christ before they die.

The most extreme Inclusivism would state that all people are saved in the end, although it would be through Jesus Christ. Another (although often connected) belief in this extreme of Inclusivism, sees all or most of world religions as positive ways that also lead to Christ, whether they know it or not.

I think most Evangelicals in reality believe something between these two. If we truly believe in salvation by grace and not by gnosis/knowledge/understanding, we need to problematize this. Otherwise, we would be saying that all infants and people of limited understanding would be in danger simply for being mentally incapable of what we classify as belief.

In the book I’ve read on this subject, “Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World”, five authors give four views on this. John Hick, advocating the Pluralist view, is the only non-Evangelical of these, which is understandable, as no person could seriously call themselves Evangelical in any meaningful sense and claim that Jesus is just one of many ways to God. As for the strict Exclusivist view given, I was definitely not surprised to see two Calvinists (R. Douglas Geivett and W. Gary Phillips) explain this. The two views that I found most sincere to the Bible and to God as I’ve come to know Him, were given by Alister E. McGrath and Clark H. Pinnock. Their views were very similar, but McGrath leans towards Exclusivism and Pinnock towards Inclusivism. Both concluded they were not very far from each other, and I would agree. I recommend you to read the book, or any other writings by McGrath or Pinnock on the subject you may find.

I might get into arguing in favour of a weak Exclusivism or careful Inclusivism later on, but at this point, all I’m going to say is that I agree with you. I think the danger of Exclusivism is to give a picture of an unmerciful God (punishing people with hell for, by no fault of their own, not having heard the gospel).
However, the problem with Inclusivism is that it can bring about a naïvity about the demonic aspects of other world religions (including legalism, as you mentioned), as well as relativizing evangelism.

The first problem with Inclusivism is something any Bible-believing Christian must deal with before even thinking about adopting it. While indeed other world religions can have a preparatory role for them hearing the true Gospel (just like any background can), we must also be aware of the demonic chains it can bind human beings in.

The second problem with Inclusivism I think is important, but personally I’ve tried to adopt another view of evangelism. I’ve always had a problem with the common (mostly implicit) idea that Jesus came to save us from the wrath of the Father against us poor sinners. This is why I related this issue to the views on Atonement, by the way. My point is that I don’t think telling people about the Gospel should equal telling them about God’s wrath against our sin, and then adding a Get-Outta-Hell-Free-Card in the form of Jesus in the end. I think evangelism needs to be about telling the good news, although we should of course never forget the bad news either. It’s a matter of how you come across, not a matter of hiding the ugly truths in favour of the good ones.

My point is: While I know there are millions of sincere people whose Exclusivist views of God does not seem to damage their view of God’s love, it has been a moral problem for me and many others, Christian and non-Christian alike. When I came to the conclusion that God as revealed through Jesus is just and probably won’t punish someone eternally for not accepting something they could have no knowledge of, that helped me love God more!

However, I don’t think all who haven’t heard the gospel will therefore automatically be saved, either. I think cultures that haven’t heard of the Gospel are generally at a greater risk of perdition than those cultures where the message of God’s grace is affluent. But I do think the Holy Spirit takes every chance He can get in the world, including those cultures that haven’t yet had Jesus revealed to them.

Jesus is the only way to the Father, but a person who doesn’t know Jesus by name hasn’t therefore necessarily rejected Him. We can only speculate, of course, and there is no other name under heaven by which we can be saved. And I don’t think we are called to encourage any other faiths than ones that glorify Jesus either, you must not get me wrong there. What I do think Inclusivism as a doctrine should change among evangelicals today, is rather our own views of God, as someone who does everything He can to lead people to relationship with Him. He wants everyone to know Him as fully revealed in Jesus Christ eventually, but when that is not possible due to our failure to reach people, I am not sure if that always has to stop God. What I am certain of is that God does everything He can to save as many as possible, without disrespecting our free will in the process. I think perdition, or Hell, in the end is something that happens to people who refuse God to the very end.

I cannot say how or to which extent God does this, but I think there are many people out there who are waiting for a fuller revelation, like the God-fearing Cornelius in Acts 10, or many other believers through the ages who were born BEFORE Jesus. As to what happens to those who reject the Gospel once they’ve heard it, my Inclusivism does not really concern them. Salvation is in Christ alone, by grace alone. I only pray that we will preach the gospel clearly and truthfully, “so that His house may be filled” (Luk 14:23)!

Min sommar och funderingar kring Gud

June 24, 2010 2 comments

Nu är terminen på universitet slut, och jag är hemma i mina föräldrars hus i Halmstad! Två dagar efter min hemfärd åkte jag till London för att hälsa på Tom, Percival, Andrew och Matt, från mina Pure Pwnage-dagar. Träffade allihopa senast i augusti 2008, så det var ett tag sedan! Besökte en anglikansk kyrka där, vilket var intressant! Det är en härlig känsla att kunna komma in i en kyrka och omedelbart känna sig som att man är bland syskon! Morgonen när vi skulle flyga hem vaknade jag 05.30, och vi kom iväg lite sent till tåget, vilket vi missade. Väl på flygplatsen uppstod viss förvirring kring vilken terminal jag skulle till, så jag missade flyget, fast jag stod vid gaten 07.55, 5 minuter innan flyget skulle åka och stirrade på planet. £43 fattigare hade jag snart en ny biljett till planet som gick 17.25 istället. Sov några timmar på flygplatsen efter allt springande, men fick även lite läst. Fick lite trubbel i Köpenhamn med, men med mammas hjälp kom jag hem med tåget till slut.

En intressant sak jag märkte när jag var i England var att jag hade lite svårt att tänka och prata engelska på ett naturligt och smidigt sätt första dagen, jag fick nästan huvudvärk. Andra dagen var det däremot helt naturligt, och jag hade nästan svårt att byta tillbaka till svenska igen. Men ändå måste jag säga att jag är mycket mer avslappnad när jag skriver och pratar på svenska. Därför bestämde jag mig exempelvis för att skriva det här inlägget på svenska. De flesta av de som läser min blogg är dessutom svenskar, och det är minst lika många som tappar intresse av den när allt är på engelska, som det är engelsktalande som slutar läsa för att allt är på svenska. Man kan inte vara alla till lags. Men jag tror att jag kommer mest till min rätt om jag använder det här forumet till att skriva på svenska, med något inlägg på engelska här och där, till exempel det som jag kommer att lägga upp härnäst!

Hur som helst, när jag väl var hemma från London fick jag reda på att jag fick VG på hela terminen på universitetet, alltså Religionsvetenskap A på 30 hp! Är väldigt nöjd, speciellt då jag egentligen borde ha gjort två kompletteringsuppgifter i delkurs 1. Kan tänka mig att läraren antingen glömde detta, eller inte orkade bry sig när han såg mina resultat från alla andra seminarier, tentor och uppgifter. Det har varit en bra termin, tycker jag. Jag kommer nog inte att känna någon större sorg över att inte gå på “riktiga” universitetet nu längre, då jag vet att jag bara skulle sitta med urskiljningsradarn på högsta funktion på varje föreläsning. Det finns en frid i att ha sunda lärare, även om jag naturligtvis inte håller med dem i allt på J-lund heller (de håller ju inte med varandra…).

Vidare håller jag på att förbereda för inflyttning till Djäknegatan, då Simon och jag får nycklarna dit den 1:a juni. Åker då upp för att köpa och flytta in saker i lägenheten med mamma! I övrigt ser min sommar rätt tunn ut i kalendern, vilket känns skönt på alla plan utom det ekonomiska. Hoppas på att min chef på tidningsbudjobbet ger mig något alternativ som fungerar i sommar… Det jag har inplanerat är i princip ett bröllop i augusti och att vara ledare på Ungdoms-Oaslägret “En tro som håller” i juli. Det skall bli spännande och utmanande. På tal om ledarroll så blev jag väldigt sugen när jag såg allas bilder och hörde berättelser om konfirmationsläger nu i sommar. Jag vill undervisa! Skall titta på möjligheten att vara ledare nu i höst!

Jag håller just nu på att läsa Greg Boyd, som jag blev introducerad till av Patrik Adlarsson i min hemgrupp i höstas. Egentligen var det först när jag såg att han var annihilationist som jag blev riktigt intresserad av honom. Det kan låta konstigt, men det var precis i en tid då jag funderade på de frågorna, så det blev viktigt för mig. När jag sedan har kommit att lyssna på mer av vad han har att säga, har jag fått omvärdera en del av mina tidigare ståndpunkter, exempelvis kring krig, dom och kärlek. Några av de tankarna går att se spår av i mitt förra inlägg om helig strid. Hur som helst läste jag nyss ut boken “God of the Possible”, som handlar om s.k. Open Theism, alltså tanken att framtiden delvis består av möjligheter, och att Gud därmed känner dem som just möjligheter, snarare än bestämda faktum. Andra saker jag funderat på är inklusivism, försoningslära och pacifism, som Boyd på ett eller annat talar om. Jag har gjort en liten spellista på intressanta videos med frågor och svar som Greg Boyd och Paul Eddy från samma församling besvarar enormt väl i de flesta fall… Svaren är ganska korta, men kärnfulla, och behandlar bland annat ondskans problem, predestination, frälsning, Bibelns trovärdighet, bön och andlig krigsföring! Rekommenderas varmt!

Jag håller på att lära mig mer om Gud just nu. Utmanas i många, många frågor, men utmaningarna har bara fått verka positivt på min tro! Har fått mycket uppmuntran och bekräftelse av min lärargåva senaste tiden, och det glädjer mig. Jag försöker att lära mig teologi, och det gör mig engagerad och glad, men min största passion är att skapa teologi som sätter människor fria att gå in i en djupare relation med den Levande Guden, uppenbarad i Jesus Kristus! Jag hoppas kunna fördjupa mig allt mer i Honom i sommar, och ser redan fram emot att börja mitt andra år på Johannelund i höst!