My Weekly Squawk – Tribal vs Global

This particular post has probably stewed in my draft box for longer than any here at RJsCorner in the ten or so years of its existence. It has finally ripened.

2018-06-26_10-47-03.pngI believe we are at a point in this world where, if we are to survive, we have to start thinking and acting globally. The tribalism/populism that is happening around the today is the perhaps the last breath of rebellion against this inevitable action.  Will we eventually accept that we are a global community or will we hunker down against the BIG BAD world outside our shores? Who will win this conflict will determine how our world will be for our children or at least our grandchildren.

This epiphany is similar and related to the one I had several years ago in the spiritual realm so I want to first tell you about that as a background for this one.

I was taught at an early age that I was one of the few that God would save. The rest would go to an eternal agony! Even as a youth the dichotomy of God’s Love vs God’s Wrath was very confusing to me. I was told that God wants everyone to be with him for eternity, how come he couldn’t make that happen? I was taught that God was all-powerful but for some reason, he couldn’t get that done?

When I finally read the words in the book below that God would reconcile everyone in his own time and in his own way, the God of Love finally burst forth dispelling the god of wrath.

2018-06-26_10-49-34.png“How can you believe that God’s grace isn’t sufficient, that many of God’s children will languish in hell forever, that they’ll never be restored to their Father, that evil will claim victory in so many lives? How can you believe that?”…

I insisted we were free to reject God’s grace. It never occurred to me that God might be free to reject our rejection.

Gulley, Philip; Mulholland, James (2009-03-17). If Grace Is True: Why God Will Save Every Person

Finally accepting the idea of universal salvation made me realize that we are ALL God’s children and he cares for each and every one of us, not just me and a few others who looked and were taught as I was.

Getting back to the immigration issue that started this post, all of us need to recognize that we are all citizens of the world. Tribalism is an archaic and perishable belief that got us through the stone ages but it is time for that concept to fall aside in preparation for the next world order. Once we realize that we are all in this world together and that we all have value, we will finally come to accept that there is no such thing as an illegal alien, instead, they are just people like you and me who are trying to escape suffering.

It is not illegal for a person born in Indiana to move to North Carolina. In the same way eventually, there will be a free flow of people around the world.  We can’t choose where we were born but we should all have the ultimate choice as to where we will live out our lives.

Like David Brooks in a recent post, I am an incurable optimist. Of course, this won’t happen in my lifetime or maybe even for anyone presently alive, but I am convinced that it will eventually happen in the same way the all the earth’s religions will finally be reconciled with each other. I know there are some of my readers who will say my vision is naive at best, but I kinda believe as Thomas Jefferson did that “Hope is sweeter than despair”.

Finishing this post out with a slightly different twist, I don’t think the answer to any country’s problems is for its residents to flee to somewhere else. Instead, they should do what it takes to the point of even sacrificing their lives to make their homeland what they want it to be. Just running away is not the solution.

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About Atonement..

One of the current foundations of the Christianity is the atonement. Generally that is thought to be Jesus taking the wrath of God for us with his substitutional crucifixion in order to appease God wrath toward man’s sinfulness.  I, like many others I’m sure, thought that atonement was a foundational issue with Jesus and the early church.  In reality it was post-Constantine theologians who gave us the doctrine of original sin and the blood atonement, the belief that Jesus came to earth solely for the purpose of dying for our sins, was a doctrine not fully developed in the church until the tenth century.  It was almost upsetting to me to learn this fact since so many of my inherited beliefs hinged on it.

We all like to think that the things we are told to believe about Jesus  were actually established by him.  In reality the idea of atonement was not settled until centuries after his death. Yes, Jesus mentioned here and there about dying for us but I don’t now believe it was ever a central theme. Even the concept of man’s innate sinfulness is still a matter for disagreements.  Are we born bad and must be saved, as some assert, or are we born good, as others maintain, but have forgotten where we came from, where we are going, and to whom we belong? Was the death of Jesus on the cross necessary for the salvation of the world or was he here for other, or maybe additional. purposes?

Many think that if we disregard sacrificial atonement then we must throw Christianity out the window as Jesus’ death meant nothing.  To those the idea of universal salvation is pure heresy. But to others, like Philip Gulley it meant no such thing.  They believe that while it was unnecessary for God to come in the form of Jesus to kill himself, Jesus’ time on earth was to among other things to teach us how to live and how to love. While that purpose is very encompassing he also physically conquered death by his resurrection. That is no small thing!

Sacrificial atonement is something that I have always had trouble understanding. Why would God need to take on another form and kill himself to satisfy is own wrath?  Robin Meyers in his book entitled “The Underground Church” stated:

It is no coincidence that it took as long for the idea of the blood atonement to be fully formed as it took for Christians artists to begin to show us an image of the corpse of Jesus hanging on a cross.

No dead Jesus for a thousand years. This is not to say that the suffering of Jesus is unimportant; indeed it bears witness to the depth of his capacity to Love

It is not widely acknowledged in many Christian churches just how unresolved the issue of atonement is. It continues to be widely discussed even today.

God Whispers In Every Ear..

This is the fourth and final post of Philip Gulley’s book entitled If Grace is True. Universal Salvation is not something I intended to find during my extensive study into the words of Jesus but that is where I was led.

If Grace is trueI didn’t consider this for many years. I actually thought my experiences rare. I was one of the chosen. I was special. Now I know the truth. God whispers his love in every ear. He isn’t interested in declaring his love to a select few. He doesn’t limit his presence to Vatican City, to the halls of seminaries, to the offices of preachers, or to church altars. God doesn’t restrict his communication to the Bible. He doesn’t confine his presence to any single denomination or religion. God speaks to all people, even when they’re not inclined to listen.

Fortunately, God looks for the slightest yielding, the smallest opening, to make his love known. God doesn’t stand with his back turned until we ask for him. God doesn’t hide and expect us to seek him. God doesn’t keep his distance and await our call. God said, “I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, ‘Here I am, here I am’” (Isaiah 65:1). What God did for the children of Israel, God does for all. God stands at the door and knocks, and if we don’t answer, he looks for an open window.

Gulley, Philip; Mulholland, James (2009-03-17). If Grace Is True: Why God Will Save Every Person (Plus) (pp. 18-19). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

The quote above is from the time that Philip Gulley first experienced God’s Grace. I too remember the specific time when I finally stubbornly admitted that I finally get it. I felt the Holy Spirit enter my soul. So you could say I was born again if that is your thing. God chose that particular moment and method to communicate with me maybe because my stubborn resistance was at a low point. It was a very emotional moment for me.   I felt like one of the chosen; one of the special ones. God found that smallest opening and made his love known to me. But what if it is really true that God does not choose among his children but has agape love for all of us and chooses us all?

I know there are places in the Bible that seem to say something contrary but if you really look at them with an eye toward universal salvation they also make sense in that venue.

  • What if we got this eternal damnation thing wrong?  After all it wasn’t really even formalized until the tenth century.
  • Are we wasting our time trying to get others to see Jesus when he already has a plan for revealing himself to each of us?  Could we be spending our time doing something that God has already worked out?
  • If grace is true then why isn’t it true for everyone?
  • Instead of trying to save souls maybe we should be teaching others about Jesus and how to follow his ways?
  • Wouldn’t the world be a much better place if we all concentrated on doing the work that Jesus told us to do?

These are the questions I have been asking myself lately.  God doesn’t turn his back to us until we ask for him. He doesn’t lay back waiting for us to call his name.  He patiently keeps coming to us until we set aside our stubbornness and pride and see him as he truly is. God loves us all; I will leave universal salvation up to him to make that happen. I know he can if he wants to and he told us he wants all of us to have his love.

Can it really be as simple as that? I have come to believe so…

God’s Wrath vs. God’s Grace…….

The following is part 2 of a  series of posts which will subsequently be compiled as an In-Depth report here on RJsCorner came from my other blog RedLetterLiving.net.

If Grace is true“How can you believe that God’s grace isn’t sufficient, that many of God’s children will languish in hell forever, that they’ll never be restored to their Father, that evil will claim victory in so many lives? How can you believe that?”

Gulley, Philip; Mulholland, James (2009-03-17). If Grace Is True: Why God Will Save Every Person

Some think the idea of universal salvation is a new thing but in reality it goes back to the founding fathers of the church. Origen and Gregory of Nyssa believed in the salvation of all people. But of course we know that the champions of God’s grace were often silenced by future theologians especially by those who followed King Constantine several hundred years later. Much like the old saying that “history is written by the victors”, much of Christian dogma was written by those who charged their opponents with heresy and got that claim to stick.

As I have mentioned before I am still wrestling with the idea of universal salvation. It is easy to show with pride how I am saved while so many are damned to hell for eternity.  Like the return of the prodigal son I don’t want to admit that some who have led totally broken lives will  somehow sit alongside me in God’s presence.

In the end I simply will not diminish God’s grace in order to sustain the belief of God’s wrath.  I want to finish the post with some final words from the book that took hold of me and shook me.

I insisted we were free to reject God’s grace. It never occurred to me that God might be free to reject our rejection.

Who is more powerful God or human will? I think I know the answer to that question….

If Grace Is True

After many years of resistance and finally accepting God’s love I find it strange to believe that so many believe he is going to damn the vast majority of those he loves to an eternal anguish.  We spend less than a century on this earth in one degree of happiness or another and then billions, if not trillions of centuries in total misery and anguish. That is just not the God that I have come to know.

I grew up in a very sheltered life in a small midwest town. There were no visible minorities there and there certainly were nothing but Christian churches of one flavor or another in the area. It was not until I went to college that I was exposed to anyone outside my usual cliche. Things would change rather dramatically for me during those years.  I learned that everyone who didn’t go to a Christian church were not bad guys. Many seemed to share the same level of morality that I did during those years.

It was later in my life than it was for Mr. Gulley that I saw the movie Gandhi but it also affected me greatly.  I went on to learn more about the man and the religious stands of his version of God. Gandhi was a man of infinite morals. He understood thing about loving your fellow man that I still can’t fathom. Why would God send him to hell while giving me a place in heaven.

I like the idea of emptying hell. Is God really going to eternally condemn those stubborn souls who fail to recognize him during their utterly brief time on this earth?

To Those Who Need It The Most…..

2016-12-17_15-19-24.pngToday I thought I would talk to you about my struggle with the inconsistency of the Bible. Philip Gulley who has written several books on this topic is a well know Christian author of the Quaker persuasion. He is one of my favorite authors of any genre. Let’s start this topic with a quote from one of his books.

For what good is grace—this unconditional love of God—if it is not extended to those who deserve it the least but need it the most? God is love. Holiness and justice are not competing commitments. God has not chosen to turn his back on us or to punish us as our sins deserve. God has chosen to redeem us. Nothing requires God to condemn us, so God has not. Rather, in his sovereign freedom, he waits patiently for the day of our redemption.

Gulley, Philip; Mulholland, James (2009-03-17). If Grace Is True: Why God Will Save Every Person (Plus) (pp. 87-88). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

The above quote comes at the end of a chapter entitled “The Character of God” in Philip Gulley’s book “If Grace Is True”. I must admit that I have had many of the same painful questions about the character of God as Mr. Gulley.  When I was told to believe that absolutely everything in the Bible is literally and in absolutely true I simply could not reconcile much of the god of the Old Testament to the person of Jesus. Until I was willing to weigh scripture the dichotomy of a vengeful God vs. Jesus of “love your enemy” I was racked with doubt about all things the church pronounced. Could any of it really be true?

I must admit that the God of the Old Testament scares me.  When he supposedly in the tenth chapter of Joshua told the Israelites to kill every man, woman and child in the town of Libnash this horrified me. This simply didn’t sound like the God of Jesus I had come to know in the New Testament. I heard various rationalizations trying to reconcile the two gods. One was that God was trying to protect the Israelites from the corrupting influence that intermarriage would have caused. That sounds much like what Hitler used for destroying the Jews. That couldn’t be the answer…

When we finally reject the idea of every word in the ancient and pretty much unverifiable text is absolutely true and applicable for eternity then this contradiction between two gods goes away. I, as Mr. Gulley quotes above, believe  Jesus showed us that all scripture is not equal or inerrant.  There are just too many places where he taught us a much different way than was recorded in the Old Testament.