I was recently asked about my view of seeing all people as God’s children. As my response became quite long, I opted to create a mini-series about it. This is Part 4. Part 1 can be found here.
God’s Promise of Rescue
There are several passages in the Bible that speak of God’s promise to save “all” and restore creation. Here are but a few:
1 Tim. 2.3-6: God our savior…wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. There’s one God and one mediator between God and humanity, the human Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a payment to set all people free. (The Greek word translated here as “wants” is θέλω (thelō) and it means to exercise the will.)
1 John 2.2: He’s God’s way of dealing with our sins, not only ours but the sins of the whole world (cf. John 1.29).
1 Tim. 4.10: We work and struggle for this: “Our hope is set on the living God, who is the savior of all people, especially those who believe.”
John 12.47: “I didn’t come to judge the world but to save it.” (Jesus is literally saying, “I came to save the world.”)
John 4.42: “…we’ve heard for ourselves and know that this one is truly the savior of the world.”
1 John 4.14: We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the savior of the world.
John 12.32: “…When I’m lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to me.”
Romans 5.18, 21: Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone…So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus the Christ our Lord. (The question is: “God’s ‘wonderful grace” now rules over who? Well, ‘just as sin ruled over all people…now God’s wonderful grace rules’ over all people.”)
1 Cor. 15.22: In the same way that everyone dies in Adam, so also everyone will be given life in Christ.
I could go on and on. The testimony of Scripture is two fold—those who believe now, and everyone else believing later. This is how I can say that everyone is now God’s children. It’s the same way that the Calvinist can say with absolute certainty that “all the elect” are God’s children. While she doesn’t know who the elect are, that doesn’t change the fact that they’re still God’s children, even if they don’t yet know it themselves.
This last bit leads me to Calvinism and my issues with it. But I’ve been wrestling with the acronym, TULIP, for some time now. I do take comfort in some of it but other parts of it either go too far or not far enough. Let me explain.
I completely reject Total Depravity (the “T”). While I understand Calvin doesn’t mean that people are completely or absolutely depraved, I reject the idea that they’re depraved at all at their deepest level. At humanity’s deepest level is the image of God and the Light of God that darkness (sin) can never eradicate (Genesis 1.26ff; John 1.4-5).
Concerning Unconditional Election (the “U”), I have to say I agree with the notion that God chooses whom God wants to and that it’s not based on any merit within the individual, but election is not unto salvation alone but unto service (1 Pet. 2.9; Rev. 1.5-6). Again, this ties into the idea that people who follow Jesus in this life are priests. Their called to believe now for the sake of others and creation. It’s a real change in the way we think of priesthood but models itself after Israel and their priests.
And here’s my biggest issue—Limited Atonement (the “L”). Let me plainly say: There’s no limitation to the atonement. What’s limited is our interpretation of the atonement. This is where both the Arminian and Calvinist systems fail. They fail because they start from the standpoint that God sends people (or people send themselves) to “hell” where they’ll be consciously tormented for all eternity. Both camps hold this as absolute truth. And, therefore, since that’s (supposedly) true, they both had to do something with the other truth—the atonement actually and thoroughly saves people. So, as you know, the Arminian stated that one’s salvation was based on one’s freedom to choose it while the Calvinist stated that one’s salvation was based on God’s freedom to choose who’s saved. But they’re both wrong. Just as the blood of the goat took away the sin of ancient Israel so, too, did the blood of Christ take away the sin of the world (John 1.29; 1 John 2.2; see my list above).
However, I don’t really have a problem with Irresistible Grace (the “I”) or Perseverance of the Saints (the “P). It’s because of Calvinism, of God’s Sovereignty, that I thoroughly believe that all people are now (mystically) God’s people and that one day all people will come to God and actually be God’s people, whether in this life or the next. That the Grace of God is mightier than any sin that so easily besets us. And, more importantly, I believe God’s Love has already won!
Well, I hope you enjoyed this little mini-series. I’m sure it will probably spawn a whole lot of questions! I just hope I explained myself well enough. It’s the first time I’ve really tried to put into words what’s going on in my head on this subject.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC