Calvinism · Contradiction · Doctrinal

Book Look – The Inescapable Love of God

Sometimes I get confused with all the details, and need to pull back and look at the forest instead of the trees.

Such is the case in this post. As some of you may recognize if you follow my blog, I have dipped into the theistic determinist discussion of soteriology. Wow Carl – bring it down a bit eh? What did you just say?

Calvinism. Did God choose certain people to be saved and damn all the rest?

It is a logic that seems to be flawless, and I spent close to a decade in it until I snapped. It was becoming more and more confirmed in my mind until it wasn’t. I should not have considered what some other passages in the Word might be saying.

But back to the forest idea.

Recently I picked up a book titled “The Inescapable Love of God”, by Thomas Talbott, and within the first 1/4 of the book, found three general propositions that are contradictory.

Let me share them with you. This information is found in pages 43 – 45 of the aforementioned book, along with a few verses that are used to support the statement.

  1. It is God’s redemptive purpose for the world (and therefore His will) to reconcile all sinners to Himself.
    • 2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:4, Romans 11:32, Ezekiel 33:11, Lamentations 3:22, 3:31-33
  2. It is within God’s power to achieve his redemptive purpose for the world.
    • Ephesians 1:11, Job 42:2, Psalm 115:3, Isaiah 46:10b & 11b
  3. Some sinners will never be reconciled to God, and God will therefore either consign them to a place of eternal punishment, from which there will be no hope of escape, or put them out of existence.
    • Matthew 25:46, 2 Thessalonians 1:9, & Ephesians 5:5

These three propositions cannot seemingly exist together. With three propositions together creating a contradiction, it became necessary to strike out one proposition to provide the basis of one of three historically accepted Christian theologies. This is the intent of the following three sections.

Calvinism

  1. It is God’s redemptive purpose for the world (and therefore His will) to reconcile all sinners to Himself
  2. It is within God’s power to achieve his redemptive purpose for the world.
  3. Some sinners will never be reconciled to God, and God will therefore either consign them to a place of eternal punishment, from which there will be no hope of escape, or put them out of existence.

Let’s strike out the first proposition.

The remaining two propositions provide the basis for the logical framework of Calvinism. This particular thinking arose with St Augustine, (354 430 AD). My understanding is that this teaching existed previous to the Augustine’s promotion of it within the church, but was within a Persian religion called Manichaeism. Christianity had not previously taught the deterministic philosophy associated with this religion. That is, until St Augustine popularized it.

God has the power to save all, but has decided to choose a limited number of souls to save in order to bring greater glory to Himself.

In this philosophy, God’s power and justice are emphasized but it is not within His redemptive love to reconcile all sinners to Himself.

Summary statement – God’s love is questioned

Arminianism

  1. It is God’s redemptive purpose for the world (and therefore His will) to reconcile all sinners to Himself
  2. It is within God’s power to achieve his redemptive purpose for the world
  3. Some sinners will never be reconciled to God, and God will therefore either consign them to a place of eternal punishment, from which there will be no hope of escape, or put them out of existence.

This time, let us strike out the second proposition

This has been my default position, except for a decade of Calvinism beginning in the late 90’s. I simply ignored the aspect that Arminianism implies a restriction of God’s power in the plan of salvation. Of course my teachers would not emphasize (or mention) this weakness, so my ignorance was well founded, but still without excuse.

Arminianism is a teaching that was somewhat codified by Jacobus Arminius followers. Jacobus was a student of Calvin’s successor Theodore Beza, and in his study, rejected Calvin’s theology. Arminius and his followers taught that God loves all, but has granted free will to His creation, giving His created beings choice. This choice impacts God’s ability to save, (and therefore reflects on His power).

In this philosophy, God’s love and justice are emphasized but it is not within His redemptive power to reconcile all sinners to Himself.

Summary statement – God’s power is questioned

Universal Reconciliation (UR)

  1. It is God’s redemptive purpose for the world (and therefore His will) to reconcile all sinners to Himself
  2. It is within God’s power to achieve his redemptive purpose for the world
  3. Some sinners will never be reconciled to God, and God will therefore either consign them to a place of eternal punishment, from which there will be no hope of escape, or put them out of existence.

This time, let us strike out the third proposition

UR is a teaching I had always rejected assuming there was no justification from the Word to consider it. I was surprised to hear a claim from a teacher I respect, that in the first four centuries of the New Testament church, a majority of theological schools leaned to this doctrine. Origen, as far as I can tell, was a major proponent of this teaching in the first century.

UR implies that God’s holiness is limited, a holiness that demands eternal suffering in hell for sinful acts performed against Him. UR teaching does not reject the concept of punishment after death, but the eternality of it. UR teaches of judgement after death, but that hell has an exit door to it.

I know, I know – Scripture doesn’t teach that Hitler could leave hell after a period of time! That is and has been my response my entire Christian life. This is because I only listened to the one who stated their case first!

Proverbs 18:17

The one who states his case first seems right,
until the other comes and examines him.

But as I have mentioned in my purpose for this blog, it is important to at least consider other Christian teachings, to test them and understand their scriptural basis, if any. Not testing a teaching is a blindness we should not allow.

In this philosophy, God’s will and power are emphasized but it is not His redemptive purpose to punish sinners eternally in hell.

Summary statement – God’s holiness is questioned

Conclusion

The three philosophies are supplied here as a 30,000 foot overview, immensely simplified. As stated in the introduction, the intent is to pull away from the details and try to get a general overview of three positions. I am currently looking into UR since I have not spent any time in studying it, and have considered the other two positions earlier in my faith.

I hope this post will generate edifying discussion and I look forward to others providing assistance in my research of all three philosophies.


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