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Introduction A

March 17, 2011

(this is the wandering, detail-oriented version for detail-oriented Christians.  For the more “popular” version see Introduction B )

 

the “National Soul” is a new (to me at least) perspective on understanding God’s revealed truth in the bible.

I’ve always taken seriously the idea that the bible is wholly from God, especially the parts that I never understood.  I believe there’s not one part that’s not there for a reason.  Sometimes I’d wonder how much of it we’d even understand at all this side of eternity, or even how much any one person could understand.

As I write this I still don’t really understand it a fraction of what I hope to one day, but I’m starting to get a glimpse of something that seems to keep popping up all over the place in the bible, and I can’t find anyone else talking about it.  I thought I’d better write a book about it.  Maybe this will only end up a booklet.  Anyway, either I’ll only get so far and realize I had it all wrong, or hopefully, make some contribution to some reader’s understanding that will help them see God and their own place in existence more clearly.

I’m a bit reluctant to write this in the sense that I’m compounding a few ideas some would call heterodox (do 3 heterodox stances make one heretical view?), and yet making a firmly orthodox stance too.  In the end, this will probably please neither the right nor the left, but regardless of whether I even finish & publish this, I’m hoping it will plant a seed for people in the middle who will say “this is what I’ve been waiting for  – this makes sense!”

So far I think there are two main components to the idea: 1) the “National Soul” concept, and  2) a constellation of specific “isms”, viewpoints from Christianity, namely Calvinism, Post Millennialism (including partial or orthodox Preterism) and Annihilationism.  In the end I think we’ll end up as well with a different sort of Inclusivism (ed: which I’m now calling Particular Inclusivism).  I’m also 75% leaning towards Physicalism over Dualism. All the “isms” seem to work well together with the National Soul concept.

Wait! Before you write this whole blog off because of all these red flag words, read a little further and hopefully you’ll see some of the nasty “stuffing” attached to these scarecrows come off. Maybe you’ll realize you’ve actually have had issues with “straw-man” concepts and not the real arguments.

next

A post about a comment (1)

September 1, 2014

Michael wrote a long and thoughtful comment on “The National Soul – 4) problems“, so I thought it would be better to reply to his questions as a separate post.  His comments are shown as quotes:

I think at the bottom of it, we don’t stand a chance under your “inclusivism” either. It is a question of degrees. A lot like poor Dances with Bears, is he to be excluded from salvation? I think Calvinism is saying that he would not be excluded if God had predestined him to be saved, or excluded if he was foreordained to damnation. What role then does living a righteous life play in his day to day affairs? If all is preordained, how does morality fit into the picture? Without personal autonomy, I don’t think morality is possible.

The connection between predestination/election (the Calvinist / Reformed positions) and morality in my view of the bible is how one defines “belief in Christ”. Yes, belief in Christ does include believing that he died and rose again, but the real emphasis on belief in the bible is “if you believe it, then you’ll act on it”. Even more, the emphasis is on “repentance”, i.e. resisting the selfish impulse to do what you know is “the right thing to do”. That’s how Jesus is defining belief in the passage about the people who visited others in jail and fed the poor when they didn’t know that would be considered salvific faith. Same with the Dances with Bears example.

…The point of morality is that it serves as a guide for people’s actions. Because of this, moral judgments are made about actions which involve choice. It is only when people have possible alternatives to their actions that we can say those actions are either morally good or morally bad…

I agree!

This has important implications because if the existence of God is incompatible with the existence of free will (other than the will to sin), then none of us have any real choice in what we do…

It depends on how you define “free will”. I personally think that libertarian free will (the one most people are talking about when contrasting free will with accountability to God) is an impossibility in that it seems to be saying that a person can actually make choices that are truely random, i.e. wholly apart from their inner conflicting desires. Perhaps thats a topic for another blog one day…

and, therefore, cannot be held morally accountable for our actions.)

In my view (which I suppose would have to be in the “compatiblist” camp) our choices are derived from one or more of the “citizens of the soul” choosing a thing. What I mean is in any situation we have conflicting desires that must be sorted through, one overcoming another, and after the internal conflict is over (whether an actual conscious conversation or subconscious processing) we may end up having chosen an obviously moral or immoral path. Seeing as my point of view of the afterlife is one whereby unbelief is destroyed and not tortured for eternity, I have no problem with God creating persons that have no belief in Christ (a.k.a imputed righteousness) at all (although I can’t imagine there are many of those). In the end if we are saved or lost, it is God who is accountable for whether we are saved or not. Yet, paradoxically, we, being “along for the ride”, witnessing our own inner struggles and progress, do in fact, by observation in a sort of Heisenberg uncertainty principle kind of way, do participate in our own sanctification. That’s basically a lot of words to say “its a mystery”.

Dances with wolves (ed. actually its Dances with Bears – I don’t want to violate copyright, ha ha) would also be worshipping false gods, I presume, too, which you would say is a lie that can’t be reconciled with God.

Yes, if Dances is saved, its by the gift of grace depositied in him – his willingness to self sacrifice for the benefit of others – that saves him, and not the false beliefs in this or that god of his religion. That said, remember that the Christian worldview also includes the idea that all people groups originated from Noah’s family, and just as every tribe on earth has a flood story because it actually happened, every people group would also have remnants of truth left in their otherwise faulty systems.

You mention that under Calvinism, a true Christian can’t lose his place in heaven, but to the Arminians, free will can cause man to lose his salvation. This, by the way, is a one-way risk. It doesn’t work the other way around, that one who is not one of the elect, can win their place in heaven.

I agree, (and good point – I’ve read a lot about this subject and no one’s brought that up before) that’s partly why I think Arminianism is false.

God may allow for some people to possess a shred of His Grace and thereby be elected, but for some others, God may choose to create people with no redeeming value at all….But at the bottom of it, there is nothing you can do for a person who is not earmarked for salvation.

Right. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.

And, as a last point, it is unfortunate, to me, that the followers of other religions cannot be saved. At all. End of story. There really is an “us” and “them”.

No, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that anyone can be saved (just as anyone can cook – see the movie “Ratatouille” ;)). The only way to “know for sure” in this life is to knowingly embrace faith in Christ, but I would think that many from other religions will be saved, but never consciously or verbally profess Christ. Think of this analogy: the “saved” are like all humans, vs. the unsaved as animals (no I’m not trying to be insulting – just go with it for a while). The “real” Christians (i.e. not the fake ones that Christ tells “I never knew you”) are analogous to humans that are actually born physically. In contrast, the “saved” group of my version of inclusivism correspond to the unborn in the womb. They’re still human, still have the DNA of the saved, but don’t reach “consciousness” in this life, but do in the life to come. The point is, if they are saved, its through Christ, not through whatever religious or anti-religious background they come from.

Also, I appreciate and find compelling the idea of equating the nation of Israel with one’s character as a whole, while the kings and generations of Israel over the centuries represent our personal characteristics. From a literary point of view, this is indeed intriguing. And your arguments are well made and clear about this. The National Soul idea is a good one. I like your idea of the one/many pattern in the bible correlating with the individual person, the one, and the many–the thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes which collectively make up a “soul”. There is room here for discussion! It seems quite beautiful an idea.

Thanks! I can only make a claim to the idea as a discovery from what I see to be already there in the biblical story. As well I think the kernel of the idea came from leafing through the book “The Society of Mind” by Marvin Minsky. I never actually read it apart from a cursory skimming as I lost it before getting the chance to sit down and read it thoroughly.

RethinkingHell post

August 11, 2014

(To the members of the RethinkingHell facebook group)

I have a hypothetical new position on the final punishment triangle that I’d love some feedback on, somewhere between classic Annihilationism and Universalism. For sake of just having a name to refer to it as, I’m for now calling it Reconstructionism. (This probably already exists as a view somewhere, but as I’m not very well read I don’t know about it – I’m probably just re-inventing the wheel)

helltriangle_med_detail_20140810182031448

I haven’t actually made up anything out of whole cloth, but I do think this view does answer some persistent conundrums in Christianity that no other views I know of do as a whole.

I’m submitting this knowing that no one will agree in total, and many will probably tell me I’m off my rocker (but at least my experience with this group indicates that you will tell me that in a polite manner ;). This is not //about// conditionalism, but as you will see it //requires// conditionalism. It may also require physicalism.

I think this view solves (or at least goes towards solving) the Calvinism vs Arminianism debate, as well as the unpardonable sin, and many others.

This is mainly a different view on the nature of man. That’s what I’d love feedback on.

I call the entire concept regarding the nature of man the “national soul” model, and to put it’s hiddenness in perspective, I think it is found in a similar way that the trinity is found, i.e. not through direct statements but pieced together from the whole. Also, it is based upon a figure of speech I see used in the bible a lot (and even in modern life) but I’ve never seen anyone else talk about. I call it “spiritual equivocation”.

Usually equivocation is bad, i.e. You don’t usually want to use the same word in two different ways in similar contexts and mean different things without being perfectly clear. I think, however, that God is actually doing that in scripture . He’s in charge and he gets to reveal things however he wants.

Before I explain exactly what I mean, I want to point out as an example another similar figure of speech that God does often use (and about which there is at least some agreement on) : the judgment imagery of clouds. (here’s where the preterists may get on board)

I can paste a section on “coming on clouds” imagery following this posting for people into the details if needed. Short version is this: the bible uses the imagery of coming on clouds to mean an earthly government or ruling institution coming to an end by way of God’s destructive judgment.

It is a literary device that is unique to the bible and has a specific function that is hidden unless one is well versed in what’s gone on before in the bible, kind of like how the older humor in Bugs Bunny is hidden from the children viewing it.

So, the bible contains literary devices that, although aren’t always apparent at a surface level reading, are actually there and convey real and important concepts.

The figure of speech I’m calling “spiritual equivocation” is likewise somewhat hidden, but I think both real and important.

Spiritual equivocation in general, and in the bible, is when you talk about / to a person using normal language like “you are this”, or “he is that”, but what you are actually talking about is the current “spirit” or attitude, or set of assumptions that is directing that person’s current words or actions.

Take, for example Jesus’ conversations with Peter :

Mat 16:15-17 NET v 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” v 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” v 17 And Jesus answered him, “You are blessed, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven!
Mat 16:21-23 NET v 21 From that time on Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests, and experts in the law, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. v 22 So Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him: “God forbid, Lord! This must not happen to you!” v 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, because you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but on man’s.”

So which was it? Was Peter blessed or was he the devil? I think Jesus was obviously talking towards Peter’s stance on correcting him. He was talking to Peter and not actually to Satan directly, although he was pointing out that the attitude was ultimately of satanic origin.

I think that a lot of scripture may do that, leading to many seemingly contradictory stances that different people take, like Arminianism vs Calvinism.

So how does my view solve the Calvinism/Arminianism problem? I see the human soul to be like a nation, specifically, the nation of Israel as described in the bible. When a Calvinist insists that once a person is saved they are always saved (I’m simplifying the argument for brevity), that means that if God has deemed fit to give that person the gift of the desire to be obedient to Christ, that is like the presence of one righteous person in a nation that God would otherwise bring to judgment.

The following verses are very similar and suggest at first glance that one can lose their salvation.

Eph 5:3 But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; 4 Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.

1 Cor 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous[a] will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,[b]

Gal 5:19
Rev 21:7 Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. 8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
Although it doesn’t actually say you can be saved, then start acting like this and lose it, we all know people who were apparently Christians and then fall away, living like the world.

The following verses suggest that you can’t lose your salvation:

John 6:39, “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.”
John 3:16,
John 10: 7-28, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand.”

And this one suggests that you can’t lose salvation, but you appear to.

1 John 2:19, “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us.

Spiritual equivocation solves the dilemma by saying a person can, like OT Israel, consist of God honoring parts (based on repentant belief in Christ), and evil (selfish/self oriented) parts. From man’s perspective, the person is like one coherent nation (Israel) that can ebb and flow, be ruled righteously and unrighteously. But from God’s perspective, each attitude (each individual Israelite) can be talked towards and judged individually. That’s why a person can sin against Christ and be forgiven (outward actions that others can see) when one repents when true faith takes over, but the individual attitude or action that a person does (a true rebellion against the holy spirit inside them) cannot be forgiven and won’t escape destruction in the end.

Basically, Reconstructionism is the view that for those who are chosen (have varying degrees of belief in Christ), the parts of them that are not honoring to God will be annihilated, and their soul will be “reconstructed” out of their Christ-believing parts, filling out their God given personality and talents. The varying degrees coincides with the varying degrees of punishment until all the sin is annihilated. At first this may sound like a form of universalism, but of course there’s no guarantee that Christ has acted in everyone’s souls. It’s probably more like a form of inclusivism, although one that blurs the line between the church and the “unchurched”.

Here’s the pragmatic difference as seen in the “backslider”: Arminianism holds that the backslider is saved, then unsaved (and some might then get saved again etc – I’ll have to write something about Hebrews 6 here). Calvinism holds that if the backsliding is bad enough, maybe you really weren’t saved when you thought you were. Reconstuctionism holds that, while you were faithful you were making progress on your soul, and now that you’re backsliding you’re wasting your talents, but when you become actively believing again, the progress resumes (from a new unique perspective).

The benefit as I see it (if it turns out to be correct) is it prevents us from theologically “resting on our laurels” seeing as each of us will experience the “burning away” of our sins (as per Isaiah’s coal to the lips), and it prevents us from “writing off” the adamantly non-Christians in our lives, as they may inadvertently possess faith in Christ that just needs to be encouraged to help them combat their predominant sinful attitudes and beliefs.
Anyway, this is just an idea in progress… there’s more about it from a couple years ago here: https://thenationalsoul.wordpress.com/

What do you think? Should I be on the lookout for crowds with torches and pitchforks?

Introduction B

December 22, 2011

You are a unique individual.  You are not, however, indivisible, and that is a good thing.

The bible speaks of the human soul and spirit, and this book will pull back the curtains to see the distinction between the two concepts, drawing from both scriptural and commonplace life examples.  For those who are followers of Christ I hope to light up the bible anew for you as passages that used to be unclear will now come into focus, or rather clarify to become the lens through which you will better see God and his will and character.  For those who remain skeptical of the Christian religion, I hope to give you a new perspective that can change for the better how you interact with both your own thoughts and the people around you.

If this book’s lofty ambitions are fulfilled then Christians everywhere will see their own hearts and those around them with new eyes and take hold of their role in shaping history through Christ.  Some former unbelievers will discover evidence that God has actually marked them for His greatness.  Unconvinced non-Christians seeing through Christendom’s recent misguided fumbles will nevertheless begin to understand that what the bible is  actually staying is no reason for alarm nor ridicule, but rather reason to engage along side Christians in our broad areas of mutual concern.

The human heart and mind is such a mystery, even as we experience them every waking moment.  What if we could understand and clearly see how it is that we think and feel and fail and succeed? What if there was an obvious clear model to study so we could stop sabotaging our selves and others and instead become better at loving others the way we were designed to?  There really is a model of the human soul, and it is the biblical nation of Israel and its resurrected body, the Church.

The national soul is the notion that we are to see ourselves not as one indivisible blob of thoughts and feelings, but a little nation inside of ourselves –  one with an indivisible national personality and unchanging characteristics and traits, but also with many different mental/spiritual “citizens”, i.e. thoughts, beliefs and attitudes that ebb and flow like history, sometimes presiding over times of great blessing, and sometimes running the nation (our lives) into the ground.  If we agree to entertain the idea, we certainly have a lot of material to work with: all of human history.  In addition, the Christian will recognize that God has written his thoughts on the subject extensively in the form of the bible. In it He outlines the creation and purpose of Israel, its special place in history, its rescues and successes as well as its horrible mistakes.  I believe that the purpose of all of what was recorded in the bible was not only the obvious shaping of actual history, but also the shaping of our souls, which in turn will shape the soul of our nations.

Next: chapter one – how on earth did I get this idea from the bible?

Greg Koukl’s Inclusivism

September 20, 2011

or

“Should I Come Up With a Different Term Than ‘Inclusivism’?”

I Just listened to Greg Koukl’s talk about the list  of non-negotiables that should prevent your sending your child to various bible colleges.  In it he specified that (among all the other things I agreed with) they should not hold to inclusivism.  Here’s the link.  The topic is at about 2/5 of the way through (I think at around the hour mark or more).

The question he wants you to ask about the school is “Do they think that Jesus is the only way of salvation, or are there other ways?”  He’s talking here about pluralism (different religions can save people) and inclusivism as well, but I think he’s blurring the line between the two.  He does this by describing inclusivism as a straw-man depiction (at least in my eyes), meaning he’s including an obvious flaw in the argument that I don’t consider part of inclusivism in order to be able to knock it down.

He continues: “inclusivists hold that Jesus is the only way but God will put up with your belief in another religion as a show of good faith and forgive you through Jesus even if you got the details wrong”.  So far, so good…
Here’s where I think he starts making stuff up (or at least getting thinks wrong):

“…but they’re really included by God’s grace and under the blood of Christ because they’re good Buddhists, or good Jews, or good Hindus, or good Muslims,  so it amounts to the same as pluralism, but they get there in a little different way, but in both cases the great commission is undermined, because if people can get to God without the gospel, then there is no pressure to get the gospel out and fulfil the great commission.  There might be value to it, but its not essential.  That’s the distinction.  Most of these groups, or at least inclusivists will say ‘gee the gospel’s valuable but its not essential – people can be saved without believing in Jesus.  And that to me undermines the great commission.”

Now, I don’t know if he’s accurate that this is what some bible colleges hold when they say they allow teaching on inclusivism, but its certainly not what I mean.

Lets break this down:

…but they’re really included by God’s grace and under the blood of Christ because they’re good Buddhists, or good Jews, or good Hindus, or good Muslims,  so it amounts to the same as pluralism, but they get there in a little different way

When I say that the bible seems to be teaching inclusivism, that means all of the bible still applies and I think that exclusivists have actually made a mistake.  Its obvious that no one will be saved because they’ve been good at being bad.  All of the above mentioned religions teach things that contradict God’s word, so if the kind of inclusivism I’m thinking about is correct, its not for this reason.  I think that if a professing Muslim dies without professing Christ and still ends up in eternity (and not entirely destroyed, remember I’m an annihilationist) its not because of anything to do with Mohammed.  It entirely has to do with Christ.  If that person has repented from selfish reflexes to do a real (objectively virtuous) good deed, something to help someone around him at his own expense, there is no possible way he or she could have done that on their own without the movement of the Holy Spirit.  He could have heard people talk about that virtue at some point earlier in his life…

Rom 10:17 Consequently faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the preached word of Christ.

and remember that the first person in existence to speak was God himself, and we know that:

Isa 55:11 So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.

What I’m trying to say is that just like “innocent” humans born in abject circumstances can suffer due to the sins of previous generations through no fault of their own, so too might people eventually be blessed by the preached word of Christ (the personification of truth) implanted into their (otherwise deranged) culture as little bits of moral truth were told to their forefathers in the past and made it through to them.  Christ wants us to be front and center with our faith, but He can still work at the fringes.

It may seem as you read this that I’m emphasizing inclusivism as a main pillar of my view of the Gospel, but its only so because its in such contrast with the current state of the majority of evangelicalism.  Its really (in my current interpretation) at the perifery of Gods intension for how God’s people are to participate in the conquoring of the world for Christ, just as those innocent human persons (aborted babies) that never make it into active society today are still human persons nonetheless.  Likewise I persist in this line of thought about inclusivism because to sweep it under the rug has a similar effect to just ignoring the problem of abortion.  Its been 30 odd years since Roe v. Wade and society hasn’t collapsed in the states yet, right?  But its still an outrageious abomination and some would argue that that may have some part of what’s happening in the states today as their society does seem to be reeling now.  In the same way, the reason I seem to be harping on inclusivism here is that I think (if I’m right in my hypothesis) it can be part of what is ailing evangelicalism in the world today.  If its true, then its true and truth will prevail.  The faster we get more truth glorified in more areas of life, the sooner the blessing of God can begin to reach new heights in building the kingdom of God

Lets continue.

but in both cases the great commission is undermined, because if people can get to God without the gospel, then there is no pressure to get the gospel out and fulfil the great commission.

This just follows from my argument above.  As always, Christ is the only one who can save, however (and this may be a major dent in the armor – I’m not sure about this next statement (time for research)) I don’t think it says “the gospel saves” but “Jesus saves”.  I think the gospel makes people into Christians, i.e. when they comprehend the good news, the Holy Spirit comes upon them in such a way as to awaken them to new life – the conscious awareness of Christ working in their life, and the beginnings of their participation in that.  They become born again, born from above over top of their life in the flesh (meaning their bare biological life and all that that entails).  So if I’m right that God can choose to bring some people into eternal life by the finished work of Christ on the cross without their knowing it outright within their lifetime, that has no bearing on the great commission other than to possibly enhance it.

Here’s the implied argument in the statement “no pressure to get the gospel out”: “inclusivists say that God doesn’t really care about the overall health of his kingdom here on earth let alone glorification, He’s really just wanting numbers – pew sitters in heaven.  Therefore if we know that some, or probably many, non-christians will get to heaven, what’s the rush to get all excited about talking about the gospel.  In fact why bother even praying…”  You know the argument, its just like the old “Why do Calvinists bother praying or doing missionary work” argument (because Calvinists are serious about the belief that God chose all believers before they were even born, some Arminians argue that for a Calvinist to be consistent, they shouldn’t bother to try to “convert” people – more on this in the chapter on that debate).  I think inclusivism actually demonstrates that God does care about the overall health of the kingdom.  I think its part of his providence.  He takes care of us in a minimal sort of way by acting in grace through non-churchy and perhaps even “anti-religious” people doing actual (objective) good when the church isn’t doing what it should be doing well enough.  I think this method of providence may even be to shame the church onto action – I don’t know.

I think its safe to say that every Christian yearns for perfection – both their own perfection and the perfection of the church.  The great commission says that we are to make disciples of all the nations.  I believe we are in the spiritual millennium (1000 figurative years of Christs kingdom on earth as he rules from the right hand of God) that was foreshadowed by the actual millennium (1000 literal years of the kingdom from Solomon to the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70AD).  History will unfold by the nations eventually becoming fully Christian (disciples), and just before the end (in 100, 500 or maybe thousands of years from now) Satan will be released to deceive the nations against the church briefly one last time before the end of this age.  That said, how does the fact that some people might get to heaven without being a conscious christian dampen that yearning to strive for christian perfection , i.e. maturity in Christ on the personal and international levels?

In fact I think that if this kind of inclusivism was widely accepted, that would make it easier to disciple the nations and bring all these “pre-born” christians into the world as it were.  Again its like the abortion problem.  If everyone agreed that it was wrong to sacrifice innocent human persons to the pagan god of our convenience (acknowledge that fetuses of any age are human persons) then more of them would make it into life alive and ready to join in with the glorification of God.  Picture yourself on a plane next to someone who’s not yet a believer.  What’s harder to do, trying to convince them that the straw-man Jesus they have in their head is not actually the true Jesus and that they should start believing what you believe about him, or trying to steer the conversation towards what’s good and bad about the world and perhaps where that goodness comes from or maybe fan the flames of that righteous attitude?  I don’t know, but I just think inclusivism is helpful in the evangelism department rather than a hindrance.  Besides, like I said before, it doesn’t reallly matter if its good or bad for evangelization.  Its either true or its not true, and if it is true, I’m just saying it’s not to the detriment of the discipling of the nations.

Lastly, Greg says:

inclusivists will say ‘gee the gospel’s valuable but its not essential – people can be saved without believing in Jesus.

The gospel is essential.  There is nothing good in this world that wasn’t either created by God or originated in something said by God.  In fact, everything created in the physical universe was through the word of God anyway.  The fact that society continues to proceed forward in spite of the church dropping the ball for the past 100-200 years is because of the residual effects of the word of God living in the hearts and minds of individuals throughout all those years, and against the buffeting winds of scientism and secularism and relativism etc.  The world needs the gospel for the kingdom to grow however – it is the spirit of the kingdom.  Saying the gospel is not essential to christianity is like saying consciousness is not essential to living a human life.  Sure you can be human and unconscious, but that’s not what we’re made for, and a christian who’s an inclusivist certainly doesn’t think the gospel is in-essential to the church or to those who end up with eternal life either way.

Greg’s last sentence there (people can be saved without believing in Jesus) is the crux of his making inclusivism a straw-man to be knocked down.  I’m not saying here that people can be saved without believing in Jesus.  I’m saying that believing in Jesus includes a lot more than what many evangelicals today say that it means.  Every statement in the new testament concerning how one can be saved (I think that may be the next real “chapter” I’ll have to write about – going through all the salvation passages) describes examples of the many ways that a person can exercise faith in Christ.  They are examples of the underlying theme (only Jesus saves), not an exclusive list of items that you have to check off to “make the grade”.

So now that i’ve differentiated what I mean from what Greg means by “inclusivism”, how should I proceed here?  I don’t want to drive readers away from learning something potentially valuable just because I use a red flag word.  I think I’ll start using the term “particular inclusivism”  This is mainly because it emphasizes this book’s main thesis – the national soul.  If God grants immortality to someone at the fringe of Christendom – someone many of us might be surprised to see in eternity, he’s granting it purely because of the “parts” of that person he identifies as the work of his son.  The other “parts” of that person not glorifying Christ will be destroyed.  For further discussion, see here.

The heresy of damnable heresies

August 31, 2011

The topic of heresy is a natural one to come up when we start thinking in terms the human soul as national. If the saving or damning parts of a person are their heart-felt, deeply ingrained beliefs, and specifically the saving part being beliefs in Christ, then does that leave room for the concept of heresy? I think the answer is no (edit: or a qualified “yes”, depending on your definition of heresy – read on…). Before we go any further, let’s first define the concept…

Well, I just looked it up (wikipedia and google dictionary) and it appears I may have a different definition of heresy than the orthodox definition. That makes me a heretic on the definition of heresy ;-). It seems the wikipedia article focuses mainly on the political ramifications,from http://www.theology21.com/2011/03/24/what-makes-a-heretic-and-how-should-they-be-treated/ I.e. Around the 300s when the distinction between church and state became blurred, heresy was a reason to put someone to death if the church didn’t like what a competitor was claiming about Christianity. The dictionary definition was mainly focusing on a certain belief being “not orthodox” or “not the mainstream view” and emphasizing the change of ones viewpoint away from the former orthodox view.

Somehow, perhaps with my Christian experience being in the Evangelical realm, I’ve come to define heresy as “having a belief that destines one to hell”. Perhaps it is a slightly different thing I’ve had in mind all this time – the “damnable heresy”. The view that I will eventually explain should not be very controversial, at least among Calvinists, as the Calvinist view is that we’re all heretics (so to speak) unless we have been elected by God the Father to be saved by Christ, and there really is no such thing as a damnable heresy because we believe that nothing (not even a false belief) can take the elect out of the hands of Christ. I’d imagine (correct me if I’m wrong) Arminians would believe in a damnable heresy that causes one to lose one’s salvation as it (losing one’s salvation) is a possibility in their eyes.

Let’s look at the scripture that seems to talk about this:

2 Peter 2:1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. 2 Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; 3 and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgement from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

When I was googling this topic, all the scripture references were to this passage. Some used the phrase “destructive heresies” and some used “damnable heresies”. I have 4 bibles on my phone and all of them use the phrase “destructive heresies”. As I write this the thought crosses my mind that perhaps I’m making a straw-man argument that I can then knock down. Maybe I’ve misread people all this time… Is it only the cultists that talk of damnable heresies? I’ll have to look into it.

Anyway, what is 2Peter talking about here? Well, the first chapter seems to say something along the lines of “even though you know you’re saved because you’re a Christian, you really ought to keep making sure by adding to your faith the right way, all the time”. It talks about constantly building oneself up with the things Christ has taught the apostles, then switches gear to talk about how that building up can be reversed, ie damaged or destroyed by these false teachers and their “destructive heresies”.

A little later on right at the end Peter writes this:

2 Peter 3:17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

Now, even though the unprincipled men teaching these heresies don’t appear to be saved (although you might argue its possible they are “as a man escaping alive from his burning house” as some of them at least once did believe, but now their situation is worse than before they first believed), the one being duped by them is certainly saved, but they’re just not having grace and peace being multiplied to them as much as they would if they were following chapter 1 correctly. In other words, their belief in the heresy has not damned them to hell.

So now that we’ve sort of already “established” that there’s no such thing as a “damnable heresy”, it shouldn’t be so hard to see how that fits in with the national soul idea. Let’s say that the heresy in mind is Arianism. Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia:

Arianism is the theological teaching attributed to [Arius] ( [ca.] AD 250–336), a Christian [presbyter] from [Alexandria] , Egypt, concerning the relationship of the entities of the [Trinity] (‘God the Father’, ‘God the Son’ and ‘God the Holy Spirit’) and the precise nature of the [Son of God] as being a subordinate entity to God the Father. Deemed a [heretic] by the [First Council of Nicaea] of 325, Arius was later exonerated in 335 at the [First Synod of Tyre] , and then, after his death, pronounced a heretic again at the [First Council of Constantinople] of 381.

So let’s say you believe that Christ did not always exist in “eternity past” as us good trinitarians believe, but that he was created when he was born. Let’s say that you also believe that he was crucified and thereby paid for our sins and rose again on the third day. Just for good measure, let’s say that you also help the poor, not because you feel guilted into it or because you think it will get you ahead in the eyes of your peers, but because Christ said you should and besides, deep in your heart you know (and this belief may have been planted by Christ himself) that its just the right thing to do. Are you a Christian? Yes, although some Christians would deny that, and you wouldn’t be accepted as a member in the church I attend. Are you saved? Yes, because you have faith in Christ. Is your Arian view of Christ a heresy? Yes, and I believe that when you are resurrected for eternal life in the new heavens and new earth that that false belief will no longer be a part of you. Will the heresy be a “destructive heresy” in this present life? Yes, because any anti-Christian beliefs, whether its Arianism, or garden variety greed or lust, will have its consequences due either to the direct consequences of sinful behavior / beliefs, or perhaps the absence of other supportive Christian beliefs and attitudes that the heretical belief undermines. It will also adversely affect to varying degrees the lives, both now and in eternity, of others inside your circle of influence.

Okay, reality check: why am I writing this? Well besides the fact that I’ve just been thinking about this lately, I have come across in various places, but specifically at one blog that is associated with a podcast I value (I don’t feel the need to say the name) this attitude of “so-in-so (let’s call him Chuck) is failing to delineate “belief A”, a correct belief, from “belief B”, a clearly heretical (read incorrect) belief and we have to call him out on that”. Now I’m not saying that these people are saying that Chuck is going to Hell, but I’m pretty sure they’re saying anyone who is a “belief B” person is probably headed there unless they repent of it. So what’s’ the difference between my view and this podcaster’s view? We both believe that “B-ism” is wrong, heretical and damaging to the church. Well, first, I’m less likely to use inflammatory language in dealing with them, thereby undermining my own correct beliefs (ie the ones that are actually objectively true). Second, I’m not going to differentiate between this “hyper-bad” view over here and that “just plain bad” view over there. If something is anti-christian, its not any more wrong than another anti-christian belief. We should stop bashing people and instead bash bad ideas. ( End of rant)

the Gospel and Repentance: “Good News”, not a “Good Deal”

August 6, 2011

To me these two concepts – the gospel and repentance – on the surface, seem incompatible. “Huh?” you say, “but Dave, that’s basic Christianity…” Let me explain. “the Gospel” means “good news” and I think we are to take that seriously. What I mean by that is its not a declaration that we only have one thing to do to “get to heaven” because if that were the case we are saved by Christ plus our works, meaning our personal superiority of being smart enough to recognize Christ and “invite him in to our heart”. No, the gospel is truly good news – its an announcement of something that’s already happened.

Picture all those black and white photos and newsreels of New York when it was announced that World War II was over – Streamers and confetti falling from above, everyone smiling, people hugging and kissing in the streets… That was a good day! I wasn’t alive then, but I can still feel the sublime joy and relief 65 years after the event.

The Gospel is like that. So when you hear the phrase “preach the gospel” it should be accompanied by a knowing and feeling of great relief – almost to the extent of something like “you know all the rotten stuff we have to put up with and the worry in this life? Well, don’t worry – its all taken care of – we won! It’s over! (Yay!)

Now wait a minute. If that’s true, what about repentance?

Acts 26:16 ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

19 “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. 20 First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds.

So we’re back to the same old conundrum: is it really a gift, faith alone (i.e. the faith itself is the gift)? Or do we really have to perform? Is it really just a good deal that’s offered to us, but we have to take it? Spiritual equivocation doesn’t negate the fact that Christians are to separate themselves from the rest of the world by their behaviour. As Christians we are to behave a certain way – that’s what repent means – “don’t just talk about it – do it” But if we look inside ourselves, before we can repent, the Spirit must open our eyes to see the contrast between what we believe in Christ, i.e. the truth that Christ has placed in us, the need for self-sacrifice, and what we have believed or bought into that is of the devil (whether rooting back to Adam or some new instance) – the selfishness that lies in all of us (pun intended 🙂 The fact that Christ is in us in the first place is the good news. To know if it really is Christ, to know if we’re really saved we have to act on that belief – to really do something for someone else that is by definition a turning from selfishness – a repentance. This is a process that has to be repeated over and over again throughout our lives and each time we see the victory we should give thanks to God and “party in the streets!”

the Great Commission

August 1, 2011

Scripture first:

Mat 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

My initial reason for writing this post is the observance that it does not say “get all the nations to ‘say the prayer’ or ‘ask Jesus into their hearts'”. Yes, making a conscious decision or acknowledgement that Christ has done a saving work in their lives is implied by the “baptize them” part, but I’m convinced the great commission is about more than just a “head count” – numbers of people in the pews and numbers of people baptized last year. No churches I know of actually put it in those words, but functionally that’s how a lot of churches behave. I also think its more than getting to know our neighbors so that we can relate to them and pray for the moment we can tell them about Jesus.

The main emphasis here is teaching. We are to teach the people of all the nations how to obey all that Christ taught us. My question is, “does it matter the order that we do it in?” That is, do we resist the teaching to obey part waiting until they are baptized? Can we not teach people as if all those we are teaching are part of the elect (even though they may not know it), and the baptisms that arise from it are a sign that we’re doing a good job teaching?

What might this look like in real life? Picture someone from a church teaching a group of people who have responded to a community ad about learning to be a better parent or succeed in university or high school, or learning how to take control of finances. There are aspects of all those things that Christ has taught about. If we take seriously the idea of the national soul, we can teach any truth that Christ taught about for any reason to anyone who might never have thought about it in that way before and we are obeying the great commission. Instead of doing a “community service seminar” as some sort of bait so we can “give the gospel message” at the end hoping that a portion of those people will attend our church and make a commitment to the Lord, I think it would be more appropriate to state something at the beginning like this: “As you know, this seminar is sponsored by my church, but I’m not going to ask you to become a Christian at the end. That’s because we believe that you can’t chose to follow Jesus – He has to choose you, and if what I’m about to teach you concerning keeping healthy (or whatever) is objectively right and true, and you see its value and desire to stop doing all the wrong things and start doing what is right, then that may be your sign that Christ has chosen you already. If you’re already a Christian, then this is also for you because you know that you are to do whatever is right and strive for excellence in all aspects of your life, including this one.”

I think the teaching to obey part of the great commission is valid before the baptism part in the same way that a fetus is as much a human person before birth as after.

The National Soul – 4) problems

July 23, 2011

(previous)

So, what if you accept what I’m proposing, just for argument’s sake. Surely it de-emphasizes the importance of the church. Why be a Christian if this was true? I’ll answer that shortly, but first lets explore that complaint a bit. What is it exactly that seems preposterous? That Hitler might possibly “squeak in” to heaven if he actually had one moment in childhood when he obeyed Christ? What about those “backsliders” – why do they “get to have their cake and eat it too”? What about all that wasted anxiety over “good” people who we used to think might go to hell and burn in conscious agony forever, if they may possibly get in on a technicality. Why all the talk of Israel being the “chosen nation”, i.e. what is the real significance of being “set apart”? What about the first century Christians who sacrificed their life – wouldn’t they have been better off verbally accepting Caesar as Lord and repenting later? When we have these questions I believe we are displaying how poorly we understand Christianity in the 1st place and how much we really do want to do our religious tasks, get our ticket to heaven, and then coast the rest of the way.

"Envy" in Hieronymus Bosch's Seven Deadly Sins

We’re saying to ourselves “I really do wish I could do all those worldly things”. We’re seeing Christianity as a chore – a bitter medicine that’s good for us, I guess, so lets get on with it… We’re displaying how much our soul isn’t of Christ. Is yearning for worldly things (by saying “how come they get to do that and still get to heaven?) a godly character? Is looking at the task ahead we have as Christians as only burdensome “of the Spirit”? Of course not.

The beauty of seeing scripture in light of our national soul is that it reveals a new level of God’s awesome grace at two levels: First we see that God could somehow reach out and save the lost children of the world who never consciously knew him, no matter what sort of monster they later become (all the while still hoping they will complete the circle and repent again). Without this we have to invent the concept of the “age of accountability”, where at one point we look at a young child as a “misguided innocent” and then a few years later, after sufficient derailment, we regard him as obviously rotten from the beginning, and just give mouth service to the thought that God could actually save him – especially if he dies without “saying the prayer”. With this new understanding we have even less ability to ignore (consciously or subconsciously) the great “unwashed masses”. Instead we can view every opportunity to find glimmers of Christ in people around us and “fan the flames” no matter how far fetched any immediate results may seem.

Secondly, it reveals that the most immediate mission field we have is our own soul. If we were aware of the possibility that we will be witnessing at point blank range the unquenchable fire of Gods wrath against the sin and unrighteousness in our own lives, perhaps we’d be praying more earnestly for our own obedience to Christ. I get the impression that many Christians do treat Jesus as a ticket to heaven – you’re either in or you’re out. Now while I’m saying that its still true at the level of individual beliefs and attitudes, its patently false to say that all that I am today, being a baptized publicly confessed believer, is who I’ll really be in the eternal state. The only one we could say is completely like their “former self” (disregarding the post-resurrection super-powers) was Christ himself.

So lets say that Adolf Hitler does, miraculously, “squeak in”. How much of the monster that the world saw in the 1930s and 40s will actually be left? Of course none of us can really say, but I’d venture he’d be one of the ones most likely to come with a very child-like state as (not being a Hitler historian) I don’t see any evidence of Christ after that age.

When we see the backslider (formerly upright Christian who now has gone back to former sinful lifestyle patterns) with secret or subconscious envy – i.e. feeling anything other than pity for them – we are backsliding ourselves. My speculation about true backsliders (oscillating between states of true belief and outright self-centred defiance) usually leads to images of a checker-board personality in the eternal state, which even though less desirable than a fully godly countenance, God may yet have some unique purpose for in eternity.

What then is the difference between a Christian who (by definition) is saved and the non-Christian who in part is also saved by Christ choosing him? I believe the difference is the Holy Spirit. The former group has the awareness of the Holy Spirit as a constant presence in his/her life. In non-churchy language that means the Christian knows he/she is a Christian, they are conscious of who is the author of any righteousness in their life, and that constant “awareness of other” acts in their life to coordinate this good (Christly) thought with that good action, and coordinate good societal actions and events with other Christians around them. The latter group still has to still has to have the Holy Spirit acting within them at times, but I belief its more like the instances in the old testament when certain people at times were filed with the Spirit and at other times were not. Of course when God acts in history, he’s fully free to act upon the non-believing nations and individuals, even so far as using “deceiving spirits” – those spirits who choose to be deceiving(but that’s another side issue). The point is, instead of there being 2 groups in redemptive history – “us” and “them” – you can imagine it at first to be three groups: the saved, the unsaved, and the gray area in between. This is entirely in keeping with the concept of election (the idea that God chooses people for eternity prior to them even being born). A five point Calvinist is often criticized in his staunch view of election with the following taunt: “If the believers are truly elect from before they were created, why bother evangelizing at all?” Of course the answer is that God fulfils his election of an individual by way of his other children preaching the word to them.

I’ve often thought of the goal of evangelism as, instead of conversion which conjures up ideas that it is we who are “making the person into a Christian”, it should rather be thought of as “discovery”. That is, we explore the people around us gently like a puzzle and try to see if we can find Christ already there, and try to coax that aspect out of the person using the truth in scripture to the point of awakening and repentance. “But Dave”, you say, “God explicitly talks of the sheep and the goats”, and to that I say yes, of course, but that’s from Gods pint of view. From our point of view, I believe we are to look at the world not like Jonah nor Elijah, almost hoping God will smite all those pagans, but to expect there to be a hidden remnant God has placed there for us to bring out, and the remnant is inside the sinner in front of us (whether or not we’re looking in the mirror).

The National Soul – 3) Refiner’s Fire

July 10, 2011

Now we come to another ism: Annihilationism. If spiritual equivocation is a true concept, then there cannot be eternal conscious torment, at least for humans (I have no problem with fallen angels being eternally, consciously tormented, and as an aside, I’ll have to make it plain that I embraced annihilationism long before I happened upon this new idea). If my belief in and love of truth (Christ) is retained in my new (resurrection body) self after the final judgement, and my desire to steal forbidden cookies along with the thoughts that that would be okay is separated from me forever, it would be a far stretch indeed to suppose that there would be some doppelganger (evil twin) copy of me – a sort of cookie monster – suffering endlessly in hell, always desiring cookies and never getting any. No, that part of me will be destroyed. Its common to hear traditionalists say “annihilationists don’t believe in hell”. That is not only untrue, but if spiritual equivocation is true, then to some extent it may also be true that every human ever born (aside from Christ) will experience hell to some degree as the “bad stuff” is burned away forever, never to appear again. (I will go into the reasons I believe annihilationism is the correct biblical interpretation in a future chapter)

Finally, lets talk about the unforgivable sin:

Mathew 12:22 Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. 23 All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?”

24 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.”

25 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. 26 If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? 27 And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

29 “Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house.

30 “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31 And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

I believe this is similar to the parable about the two brothers:

Mathew 21: 28 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’

29 “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.

31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?”

“The first,” they answered.

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.

To sin against Christ (the Son of Man) but end up forgiven is like being the first son in the scripture above. Its an external sin, either of commission (doing something wrong) or omission (not doing something you should) in relation to the people around him. It is a sin done by the person “as a whole”. One part of you may act in a sinful manner, but because you later repent (or have truly repented at least one time in your life) Christ can forgive you. The one who sins against the Holy Spirit is the inner attitude that sins itself, as the Holy Spirit acts inside of us – at the level of our inner being. It is the belief “I deserve this cookie, and neighbours be damned! I’m eating it!” Its that aspect of you in full confrontation with the Holy Spirit that will be cast into the lake of fire, and to realize this and perhaps still be entertaining such thoughts and actions when you die should give you pause… Do you really want to experience God’s full wrath of judgement as he burns that part of you from your alive and conscious soul, or would you like to deal with it now by asking for Gods help in humility?

next

The National Soul – 2) Israel Inside

July 5, 2011

(previous)

In a sense those old movies or cartoons that pictured an angel on our right shoulder and a devil on our left were almost accurate in this view, except that there’s not just two of them, and they’re not external. They represent all of our conflicting concepts or beliefs about reality, wielding the desires and fears of our heart, or perhaps its our fears and desires wielding them…

Right away, this brings us to one of our constellation of “isms”inclusivism.

It took me a while to find this term which is different from pluralism / universalism. I was calling it “calvinistic pseudo-universalism” for a while. In evangelicalism the terms “universalist” and “pluralist” are bad words. Recall the furor over Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins”. Pluralism is bad because it says you can “get to heaven” by ways other than through Jesus’s death on the cross, which makes His death and all of Christianity in vane. Universalism is bad because it says “sin is actually okay after all, so don’t worry about it”. At the far right of the argument is Calvinism which emphasizes God’s freedom to do with what He’s created as he will by way of His election (choosing) of the saints – those people who he chose from out of the whole of humanity to be given eternal life to the exclusion of others.

At some point in the future I should insert my own summary description of the debate between Calvinism and Arminianism, but for now these Wikipedia links will have to do. Okay, here’s my one sentence summary: Calvinists believe that God has total control, and that a true Christian can’t “lose his/her salvation (place in heaven)” and Arminians believe that God is limited by the free will of man and that people can lose their salvation.

If we see the concept of spiritual equivocation in scripture we can begin to reconcile the tension between the passages Calvinists emphasize with the ones Arminians emphasize. Picture your soul like the star ship “Enterprise” You, meaning your unchanging personality – the little “I Am”, are the captain; your ship is your body, the view screen your “mind’s eye”. You never make decisions in total isolation – you have a multitude of officers at your disposal who offer up suggestions to base your course of action upon.

Coming back to biblical terms, the soul that is saved by Christ’s death on the cross is our personality and character. There is nothing of merit in and of ourselves that can save us. If we are one of the elect, that means that one or more of those “officers” (attitudes, beliefs, spirits) who advise us in our thoughts and actions has been places there by God and represent Christ himself. If we act upon those beliefs, we are “believing in Christ”. If we act upon the “advice” of sinful beliefs/attitudes/spirits, then we are sinning – i.e. acting in unbelief.

When the bible then speaks of a sinner being cast into the lake of fire its speaking of the destruction of those parts of us not attached to what Christ has put in us. And when Christ said it would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, I believe he’s saying that the rich man in his entirety will not make it in, meaning that the greedy part of him (at least that part) would never be a part of the eternal state. If, however, a person had true belief in Christ (in this view – remember, this is just my interpretation and I admit I may be completely wrong) then during the final judgement, Christ’s presence becomes the Passover lamb’s blood and that person is saved, even though all the sinful spirits/attitude/beliefs will be separated out and utterly destroyed, therefore allowing him/her to forever be in the presence of the most Holy Lord.

1 Corinthians 3:11 For no one can lay any foundation other than what is being laid, which is Jesus Christ. 3:12 If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, 3:13 each builder’s work will be plainly seen, for the Day will make it clear, because it will be revealed by fire. And the fire will test what kind of work each has done. 3:14 If what someone has built survives, he will receive a reward. 3:15 If someone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss. He himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

This whole theory might never be more than speculation (this side of eternity) as it relies on subjective experience at some point (no, I’m not a relativist – just a realist). Here’s an explicitly experiential argument that may resonate if you’re both a Christian already and an admitted sinner (yes – that’s a joke). Let’s go back to childhood for some “common sinning”. You’re a child who’s been told not to take one of the cookies cooling on the counter because they’re intended as a gift for someone. You strongly desire a cookie and say to yourself “Mom won’t notice one missing” while simultaneously ignoring the thought, or rather the vague impression “I’m not supposed to do this”. When you get caught (Mom notices the crumbs on your chin) you think “what a dummy – I already knew I shouldn’t have – I’m not going to do that again!”

Now pretend that was really you. We’ve all done things we knew were wrong but we did them anyway. Put the two moments side by side: you stealing the cookie and you declaring to yourself you’d never do that again. They are both you. It’s not like you had a different personality at the different instances. What was different was the spirit or sets of beliefs you were acting upon. In both instances you may even have “felt captive of” those spirits. Now there’s plenty here for spiritual warfare application, but that’s not the point (maybe more on that later). what I’m underlining is the experience we’ve all had that as individuals we are not really indivisible. Our thought life has ‘parts” even though there is always a central person we experience as “me”. How many beliefs does one person have? Thousands?, Maybe tens of thousands? There are probably all kinds, like “I love chocolate” to “the Leafs will never win the cup” to “God loves me” there are also our emotions, desires, talents and attitudes. I’m not going to attempt here to come up with some system to fully and completely describe our inner structure.

When we look at the human soul this way we can begin to see the similarities between an individual as a “plurality” and the way the bible speaks of the nation of Israel, or even a city (like Sodom or Nineveh or the place God said that there were 7000 believers that would not bend the knee to Baal).

Throughout the biblical history of Israel there have always been a remnant of faithful believers among the nation as a whole. Seth (Cain’s younger brother) was a remnant; Noah was a remnant, as were Abraham, the second generation out of the Sinai wilderness, the southern kingdom after the Assyrians destroyed the northern tribes, and finally, the church.

Okay, lets tie this back in with inclusivism, as well as annihilationism, the “unforgivable sin” and “the heathen and the unknown God”. When I was dating my future wife and had recently asked God to take control of my life (not really realizing He already had control) i.e. I’d just become a believer, guess what was the burning question I had for my future father-in-law, a baptist pastor? It was something along the lines of “what will become of the the north American native before any missionaries came to tell them about Jesus? How could they go to hell for something they had no control of on either end? He didn’t get a chance to talk Adam out of sinning, and never heard of Jesus about whom he could believe or disbelieve.

As it was years ago I can’t remember exactly what he said, but I think it was something like “people don’t go to hell for not believing in Jesus, they go to hell because they’ve sinned against a Holy God, and the wages of sin is death”. As an aside, I never thought early on of correcting that line of argument (which I heard several times from several sources) with “don’t you mean the wages of sin is eternal conscious torment?”, but we’ll leave that for another chapter)

Applying spiritual equivocation to this problem, it is possible that Christ may have chosen to act in that person’s life to some degree without their conscious awareness of the source of it being second person of the trinity. What if, for example (we’ll call him Dances with Bears) Dances sacrifices his safety to ward off a bear from attacking his child or wife or neighbour? We know from Paul:

Romans 3 (NIV)
1 What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? 2 Much in every way! First of all, the Jews have been entrusted with the very words of God.

3 What if some were unfaithful? Will their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness? 4 Not at all! Let God be true, and every human being a liar. As it is written:

“So that you may be proved right when you speak
and prevail when you judge.”[a]

5 But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.) 6 Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world? 7 Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?” 8 Why not say—as some slanderously claim that we say—“Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is just!

9 What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. 10 As it is written:

“There is no one righteous, not even one;
11 there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.”
[b]
13 “Their throats are open graves;
their tongues practice deceit.”[c]
“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”[d]
14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”[e]
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 ruin and misery mark their ways,
17 and the way of peace they do not know.”[f]
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”[g]

19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.
Righteousness Through Faith
21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in[h] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,[i] through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. 28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30 since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31 Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.

There is no one good, no, not one. What does that really mean? It means that only God is good, and apart from him we can do nothing that is good. We know from scripture that the Christian is only righteous in the sense that Christ is living in him, and His Spirit is at work in him, and that to a great degree, his (the believer’s) salvation is one largely of legal standing – not realised until the final judgement and renewal of the earth.

Okay, so what about Dances? He did a righteous act, and according to the logic of scripture (not one person is good if left to their “fleshly nature”) that goodness is proof that Christ has done some sort of work in his life. Now immediately the traditional evangelical is going to argue that Dances was merely acting selfishly because if his son or wife died, how would he be successful in the hunt, or have more children, etc.? To me that’s as pathetic an argument as the one that atheists use to try to prove that evolution can select for altruism because of the benefits to the greater gene pool. Let’s face it – non-Christians can do righteous acts. Sure, there are lots of people who try to appear to do good, all the while being secretly motivated by greed or romantic persuits, etc. Common sense and experience, however, tell us that people of all backgrounds and belief systems can do truly righteous acts. Think of Rahab, the non-Hebrew prostitute who, because of her righteous acts was included in the genealogical line to Christ (and included in salvation).

I believe that the reason many Christians have a problem with this is because they see the soul as one individual “blob”. They’ll say ‘if you don’t verbally confess “Jesus is Lord”, no matter how much good you do, you’re going to hell, and by the way, those good deeds you did were like dirty rags to God, so Good Riddance!’

Let’s look at that scripture:

Isaiah 64
Prayer for Mercy and Help
1 [a]Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down,
That the mountains might quake at Your presence—
2 [b]As fire kindles the brushwood, as fire causes water to boil—
To make Your name known to Your adversaries,
That the nations may tremble at Your presence!
3 When You did awesome things which we did not expect,
You came down, the mountains quaked at Your presence.
4 For from days of old they have not heard or perceived by ear,
Nor has the eye seen a God besides You,
Who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him.
5 You meet him who rejoices in doing righteousness,
Who remembers You in Your ways.
Behold, You were angry, for we sinned,
We continued in them a long time;
And shall we be saved?
6 For all of us have become like one who is unclean,
And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment;
And all of us wither like a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
7 There is no one who calls on Your name,
Who arouses himself to take hold of You;
For You have hidden Your face from us
And have [c]delivered us into the power of our iniquities.

8 But now, O LORD, You are our Father,
We are the clay, and You our potter;
And all of us are the work of Your hand.
9 Do not be angry beyond measure, O LORD,
Nor remember iniquity forever;
Behold, look now, all of us are Your people.
10 Your holy cities have become a wilderness,
Zion has become a wilderness,
Jerusalem a desolation.
11 Our holy and beautiful house,
Where our fathers praised You,
Has been burned by fire;
And all our precious things have become a ruin.
12 Will You restrain Yourself at these things, O LORD?
Will You keep silent and afflict us beyond measure?

So, is this really saying what some contemporary evangelicals say it does? Is this saying that only believers can do truly righteous acts? There are many layers to this (just try reading the chapters preceding and following it), but I believe Isaiah is talking about how far Israel has fallen from the will of God, doing only what is right in their own eyes. Regardless, I think its safe to say that those doing the righteous/filthy deeds are the Israelites (people of God), not “unbelievers”, and so this cannot be an argument against what I’m saying here.

So far, I’m arguing for inclusivism, the idea that even though all true and self-described Christians are saved by faith in Christ, He may also choose to save some who do not consciously call themselves Christians. That does not mean that all people are saved, as God may choose to create people with absolutely no reddeming value at all. It also does not mean that other religions can save their followers (pluralism) because a lie cannot be reconciled to God who is Truth itself.

next post: Annihilationism, and the unforgivable sin