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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.

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