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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

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