Friday, February 15, 2013

Question on Salvation

I received this question through an Anonymous comment to my post: "What Does Ex-Gay or Change Mean to Me" 
"What do you think about Alan Chambers saying Reparative Therapy doesn't work, that 99.9% of 'ex-gays' still have SSA, and that gays can go to heaven just by believing in Jesus?"
I responded to the first part here in my last post: "Alan's Statement on Reparative Therapy" 
I'd like to begin responding to the second part of the question. I believe Alan's comments are a bit out of context here. BEFORE I get to his comment, I'd like to ask you to join me in examining the beauty and magnificence of God's infinite Love.
 
WHO is God and What do we know about Him.  
It is clear that he desires to be known by us and to have an intimate relationship with us. Some of this is evident just by natural reason along. God has left his fingerprints all over everything.  


No created being has anything from itself. For how could a thing which does not exist from itself have anything from itself? Moreover, if there is not anything except the one who has created and the things created by Him, it is clear that nothing at all can exist except the one who has created and what He has created.  - St. Anselm (A.D. 1033)
Civilizations at all periods of history have recognized Him through his work. One of my favorite examples is Plato. Writing 400 years before Christ, he seems to have the better understanding of who God is and even who Christ is than many Christian theologians today. 
 "Of divine perfection, we signify that God is just and true and loving, the author of order, not disorder, of good, not evil. We signify that he is justice, that he is truth, that he is love, that he is order, that he is the very progress of." - Plato (424 B.C.)
Scripture confirms that he is anything but arbitrary. He is prefect and unchanging.
  • "His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He." - Deuteronomy 32:4
     
  • "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." - Hebrews 13:8
     
  • "This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all." - 1 John 1:5 
     
  • "But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness." - Psalm 86:15 
 Who are YOU in God's eyes 
  •  "Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered." - Matthew 10:30
  •  "Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed." - Psalm 139:13-16
  • "He will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. - Zephaniah 3:17
  • "Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever." - Psalm 136:26
  • "God loves each of us as if there were only one of us." - St. Augustine
     
  • “If God were to cease to think of you for a single moment you would cease to exist”-St Thomas Aquinas
  • "He shows no partiality to princes, nor regards the rich more than the poor,  for they are all the work of his hands?" - Job 34:19
     
  • “We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God.” ― Pope Benedict XVI

  • "All men are by nature equal, made all of the same earth by one Workman; and however we deceive ourselves, as dear unto God is the poor peasant as the mighty prince." - Plato (424 B.C.)
   
Why do we need a Savior? 
Sin separates us from Him (objectively and not arbitrarily). He is perfect (Matthew 5:48) and Sin makes us imperfect. If the separation were due only to his arbitrary will, he could have redeemed us without the Cross - by simply changing his mind. 

  • "Death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned. Death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam." - Romans 5:12-14
     
  • "We must tell it, then; and even if my language is somewhat crude and brutal, you must not suppose, Socrates, that it is I who speak thus. A perfectly just man will take on the appearance on injustice. He will have to endure the lash, the rack, and finally, after every extremity of suffering, he will be nailed to a tree (crucified)." - Plato (423 B.C.)

God desires ALL to be saved  
(Not just the self-righteous people who think they are special and "chosen")
 1 Timothy 2:4, Ezekiel 18:23, Ezekiel 18:32, Ezekiel 32:11


 
Like it or not, YOU have been Redeemed.  
ALL of us have been redeemed by Christ’s death on the crossAtheists, Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, etc. ( 1 Timothy 2:6, - 1 Timothy 4:10, 1 John 2:2).

  • "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world" - 1 John 2:2
     

  • “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! - John 1:29
  • "For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly did not obey . . ." - 1 Peter 3:18
     
  • "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us..." - Romans 5:8-10  
  • Jesus is the "one mediator between God and man" - 1 Timothy 2:5-6
     
  • “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”- John 12:32
     
  • "The bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” - John 6:51
     
  • "He gave himself a ransom for all" - 1 Timothy 2:6
     
  • "The Savior of all people, especially of those who believe." - 1 Timothy 4:10 

Christ has made Salvation possible for YOU and each and every one of us. 
“One who has hope lives differently.”  ― Pope Benedict XVI

His atonement is UNLIMITED - so none of us have the right to place limits on His mercy. Alan Chambers was right to avoid placing limits on the mercy of God.

   "Everything we believe about God, and everything we know about man, prevents us from accepting that beyond the limits of the Church there is no more salvation, that up to the time of Christ all men were subject to the fate of eternal damnation. We are no longer ready and able to think that our neighbor, who is a decent and respectable man and in many ways better than we are, should be eternally damned simply because he is not a Catholic. We are no longer ready, no longer willing, to think that eternal corruption should be inflicted on people in Asia, in Africa, or wherever it may be, merely on account of their not having "Catholic" marked in their passport.
        Actually, a great deal of thought had been devoted in theology, both before and after Ignatius, to the question of how people, without even knowing it, in some way belonged to the Church and to Christ and could thus be saved nevertheless. And still today, a great deal of perspicacity is used in such reflections. The question we have to face is not that of whether other people can be saved and how. We are convinced that God is able to do this with or without our theories, with or without our perspicacity, and that we do not need to help him do it with our cogitations." ― Joseph Ratzinger, 1964
DISCLAIMER: This was written when he was a theology professor and 30 years BEFORE he became Pope Benedict XVI. He did not proclaim this Ex-Cathedra (in the Office of St. Peter) - therefore it is considered only a private opinion. While it represents MY views, I am NOT referring to this quote as a summary of Catholic doctrine. Catholic theologians are free to disagree with this and there are many that do.


I have no right to speculate on anyone's salvation. I do know however that Heaven without Sanctification would BE Hell.

Heaven without Sanctification would be Hell.  
Relationship requires being SEEN completely and authentically - EVERY part of me.  My sins are never "Covered" or "Hidden" where God cannot see them. That would not be any type of Salvation. 

"Death is not the worst that can happen to a man. To die, having a soul which is like a vessel full of injustice, is the last and worst of all the evils. He who commits injustice is ever made more wretched than he who suffers it." - Plato (423 B.C.)

Justification and Sanctification are one in the same (Romans 6). 
Salvation requires BOTH and it is a continuous process that usually begins with Baptism (1 Peter 3:21) and continues until my Soul itself becomes PURE, Sanctified, and Pleasing to God. Salvation is a full and complete restoration and sanctification process. Salvation restores a relationship with God that was previously damaged and severed by Sin. 

Righteousness is not "Imputed" by a Legal act. Christ's sanctifying grace is INFUSED into my soul to transform me a NEW creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17) God created us for a relationship with Him. I will never be fully happy apart from Him and I can never be close to Him if I refuse to Surrender everything to Him.
 
Two kinds of Grace
  1. "Actual Grace" is external to us. It is what moves our hearts seek Him.  
  2. "Sanctifying Grace" is what he infuses into our hearts to begin restoring us and bringing us to salvation.  
God's Actual Grace is working on your heart at this moment and call YOU to open your heart to his deep Love.
Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you” - Revelations 3:20
“Be still and know that I am God.”- Psalm 46:10
"a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." - Psalm 51:17
If you would like to know more, please click "Read the Rest" to open the rest of this post.

Biblical Plan of Salvation
Let's review some of what God's word says about Salvation. I added links below to the full text so you can read each in it's full context (and select from almost any translation):

Faith formed by Love:
  • “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life." - John 3:16
     
  • "Without faith it is impossible to please God" - Hebrews 11:6
     
  • Faith is more than just intellectual acknowledgement: "Even the demons have that and shudder." - James 2:19
     
  • "You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone." - James 2:24
    (This is the only time the words "Faith" and "Alone" appear side-by-side in scripture)
  •  Good works are required by God because he requires obedience to his commands (Matthew 6:1-21, 1 Corinthians 3:8-15)
     

  • We must "enter through the narrow gate" - Matthew 7:13-14
  • "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" - Philippians 2:12
     

  • "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven." - Matthew 7:21
  • "Why do you call me "Lord, Lord," and not do what I tell you?’" - Luke 6:46  
     
  • "For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury." - Romans 2:6-8
     

  • "For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified." - Romans 2:13   

  • "For if we willfully persist in sin after having received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries." - Hebrews 10:26-27
     
  • "What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you?" - James 2:14
     
  • "So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead" - James 2:17
     
  • Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. - Matthew 25:45
     
  • "For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life." - Romans 2:6-7 
     
  • "If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up."  - Galatians 6:8-9
     
  • Eternal Life awaits us if we obey (Matthew25:34-40, Galatians 6:6-10)
  • "No one knows whether death, which people fear to be the greatest evil, may not be the greatest good. We ought to fly away from earth to heaven as quickly as we can; and to fly away is to become like God, as far as this is possible; and to become like him is to become holy, just, and wise. We are twice armed if we fight with faith." - Plato (423 B.C.) 

Grace is Essential (Even our good works are God's gift)
  • Our obedience is impossible without God's grace  - Romans 5:5
     
  • "For it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure." - Philippians 2:13

Sacraments (Conduits of Sanctifying Grace)
  • "Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ" - 1 Peter 3:21
     
  • “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." - Acts 2:38
     
  • "And now why do you delay? Get up, be baptized, and have your sins washed away, calling on his name." - Acts 22:16
     
  • "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life." - Romans 6:3-4
     
  • "When you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead." - Colossians 2:11–12
  • "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" - 1 John 1:9
     
  • After his resurrection, Jesus passed on his mission to forgive sins to the eleven remaining Apostles, telling them, "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you. . . . Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" - John 20:21–23
     
  • "...Truly truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed" - John 6:47-55   (Reference to Exodus 12: At Passover, the Jews had to Eat the Lamb itself and not a symbol of a lamb)

Sanctifying Grace is INFUSED ("Poured into" - not "Imputed").
  • "and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us." - Romans 5:5
     
  • "Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come." -2 Corinthians 5:17
     
  • "The gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles." -Acts 10:45
     
  • "He saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life." - Titus 3:5–7
     
  • "To love rightly is to love what is orderly and beautiful in an educated and disciplined way."- Plato (423 B.C.)

Grace is Resistible
  • "You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are forever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do." - Acts 7:51
  • "Some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain." - Mark 4:4-7


Perseverance in Sanctifying Grace (in this life, it's the Cross - not the Crown)
  • "Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.'" - Matthew 16:24 
     
  • "Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him." - James 1:12
  • "He who endures to the end will be saved." –Matthew 24:13
     
  • "The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe only for a while and in a time of testing fall away." - Luke 8:13

  •  "Now the works of the flesh are plain: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." - Galatians 5:19:21
     
  • "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." - Matthew 5:48
     
The Gift of Purgatory (the vestibule of heaven)
  • "For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly did not obey . . ." - 1 Peter 3:18
  • "Each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire" - 1 Corinthians 3:13-15
     
  • "All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal." -1 John 5:17
     
  • "Nothing unclean will enter Heaven" - Revelation 21:27
     
  • "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." - Philippians 1:6  
  • “It is not by sidestepping or fleeing from suffering that we are healed, but rather by our capacity for accepting it, maturing through it and finding meaning through union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love.” ― Pope Benedict XVI, Saved in Hope: Spe Salve 


I am so sorry for rambling. ;)

IF YOU ARE STILL READING, I'd like to respond to the original question on Alan's statement
.

 Alan's comments are a bit out of context in that quote, but I believe he is referring the Calvinist doctrine of "Once Saved Always Saved." That appears to be a heated topic among Protestant theologians.

I have listened to both "sides." Each claims a list of scriptures that they view as "fundamental" and seems to show a disdain for the scriptures that might seem to support the other "side." They both want to put God in box so badly that they dismiss HALF of His word as "symbolic," "out of context."   

One "side" attempts to limit the mercy of God and the other side limits his salvific work to a mere Legal act or "imputation."  Both "sides" show a complete misunderstanding the entire purpose of Salvation and why we needed a Savior in the first place. I have met individuals on both "sides" who have very deep relationships with God and whose faith is very strong. As an academic exercise though, I feel that arguing either "side" leads to a truncation of the Gospel.

One of the most beautiful allegories on God's salvific plan is Dante's Divine Comedy (written in 1308). The Purgatorio especially dramatizes the entire journey of letting go of Sin, taking up one's Cross and being truly sanctified and made PERFECT (Matthew 5:48) so that one can enter Heaven. My sophomore year, I read both Dante's Divine Comedy (A.D. 1308) and Milton's 17th century epic Paradise Lost.  


The contrast is amazing!  


What a difference 450 years makes!

The "Enlightenment" 
(Philosophies of Nominalism, Realism, and Conceptualism and the re-definition of Salvation)
It appears that the first attempts to separate Justification from Sanctification began in the 16th century largely as a reaction to the extreme sins of religious leaders at the time. Understandably, there was a strong desire to minimize the significance of human action required for salvation. There was a strong reaction to stop anyone from believing they could "Earn" or "Buy" their salvation. This is understandable, but the overreaction of some theologians has been equally problematic.

Reacting to others' sins led to the attempts to downplay the importance of Sanctification. It is important to note that modern revisionist theological traditions that attempt to separate Justification from Sanctification are departing significantly from the understanding held by all Christians for the previous 1,600 years and the understanding that is still held by two-thirds (1.5 Billion) of the ~2 billion Christians today.

The resurgences of Nominalist philosophy in 16th and 17th century also contributed significantly to this concept that human sanctification was not possible and that the Sacraments must be just mere Symbols (or public displays) rather than actual conduits of God's grace. Many began to teach the false gospel that God's salvation involves him HIDING our souls like a "snow covered dung hill."

At its core, Nominalism rejects the idea of perfect form. I personally see this reflected in much of Calvin's ideology. He appears to believe that God's will is arbitrary, emotional, and changeable. He describes a God who desires SOME to be saved (the special "chosen") but he seems to believe the God created most people simply for purpose of populating Hell.

When I was in high school and was struggling in silence with my SSA (Same-Sex Attraction), I was heavily involved in Church. For a while, I went to bible study group where I was the only youth. The leader described himself as a "staunch Calvinist."

One night, a lady brought up a recent News story about the scientist who claimed to have found a Gay gene. She asked what it would mean if Homosexuality really was "genetic." The leader responded dismissively, "Well, maybe they are 'Predestined' for Hell." The lady who asked the question and the rest of the group simply nodded in agreement saying "Oh, well that makes sense" and the conversation moved on to another subject

It would be a few years before I learned how ridiculous his statement was. God provides his Actual Grace (the call on our hearts) to ALL human beings at ALL times in EVERY situation. There are no exceptions. Faith is not an intellectual exercise. God's will is not arbitrary. He does not change. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." -Hebrews 13:8

To be fair, Calvin tried to distinguish his "predestination" theory from "divine arbitrary decree." He argued instead that there is no reason found in us for God to choose to give us Grace. He went on to say "God's eternal decree, by which He compacted with himself what he willed to become of each man" (Institutes of Christian Religion III, 21, 5). 

Nonetheless this does equate to DOUBLE Predestination. It contributes to a misunderstanding of what Grace is and what it does. It perpetuates the deception that Sanctification and Justification are two separate things. The influence of Nominalism and fear of "works based salvation" still permeated much of his work and he seems oblivious to those influences over him.
 
In much of the 17th century literature that followed, there appears to be a truncation of what Salvation is and what exactly it is that we are being saved from.

Milton's 17th century description  portrays God the Father as manically incapable of controlling his own emotions. It portrays a complete misunderstanding of WHY it is that we needed a Savior in the first place. While certainly God is angered by Sin, it is not out of maniacal hatred toward his creation. It is because he desires a relationship with EACH and EVERY ONE of us. He created us for that.

Sin separates us from Him (objectively and not arbitrarily). He is Perfect (Matthew 5:48) and Sin makes us Imperfect. If the separation were due only to his arbitrary will, he could have redeemed us without the Cross - by simply changing his mind. If I were angry at someone for betraying; having them decide to kill my only son would NOT make me less angry with them. (See this parable: Luke 20:9-19)

Having just recently finished re-reading most of Plato's works, I can really appreciate his insights. Plato was a Realist (the opposite of a Nominalist) and his writings very beautifully lay out the argument for why mankind needed a Savior. I personally believe that Plato is largely responsible for laying the foundation for converting the Greco-Roman world to Christianity even though Israel and most of the Middle East has still never accepted Christ.

“The great question: What did Jesus actually bring, if not world peace, universal prosperity, and a better world? What has he brought?

The answer is very simple: God.... He has brought God, and now we know his face, now we can call upon him. Now we know the path that we human beings have to take in this world. Jesus has brought God and with God the truth about our origin and destiny: faith, hope and love. It is only because of our hardness of heart that we think this is too little. Yes indeed, God's power works quietly in this world, but it is the true and the lasting power. Again and again, God's cause seems to be in its death throes. Yet over and over again it proves to be the thing that truly endures and saves.”  ― Pope Benedict XVI

        


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