“the work of salvation, in its full sense, is (1) about whole human beings, not merely souls; (2) about the present, not simply the future; and (3) about what God does through us, not merely what God does in and for us.” ― N.T. Wright link
This post will not deal with the salvation of infants who die in infancy. We wrote a post on the subject here. Bottom line: We believe that infants who die go to heaven and we have reasons for this belief.
Some of my beliefs
Please feel free to question me on my beliefs. I am a person in process and would love to discuss my thoughts with anyone who is interested.
-I do not believe that God chooses some people from the beginning of time to be His elected people. This would also mean that He purposely did not choose others.
-God was the perfect parent but His children disobeyed Him in a really big way. My parents did not raise me to be a devout Christian yet I am.
-I believe that God has imbued every person with the ability to freely accept and pursue Him in this life. This is part of His grace.
-I also know that God wishes that none would perish.The Bible says that. Therefore, I believe that God is in the business of actively seeking to get people into his Kingdom more than He is in the business of figuring out ways to keep them out.
-I believe in hell because there needs to be a place to put the immortal souls of people like Pol Pot, Hitler, and Stalin. There must be a place for unrepentant child molesters, serial killers, and those who scam the elderly out of their savings. There needs to be a location for those who want nothing to do with God. Should God drag people into heaven, kicking and screaming?
-I do not see hell as a place of eternal physical torture but a place of bleakness, freely chosen or as CS Lewis said:
The doors of hell are locked from the inside.
CS Lewis also said in The Great Divorce link
“Son,'he said,' ye cannot in your present state understand eternity…That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, "No future bliss can make up for it," not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory. And of some sinful pleasure they say "Let me have but this and I'll take the consequences": little dreaming how damnation will spread back and back into their past and contaminate the pleasure of the sin. Both processes begin even before death. The good man's past begins to change so that his forgiven sins and remembered sorrows take on the quality of Heaven: the bad man's past already conforms to his badness and is filled only with dreariness. And that is why…the Blessed will say "We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven, : and the Lost, "We were always in Hell." And both will speak truly.”
CS Lewis in The Screwtape Letters envisions hell as a bureaucracy link
“The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid ‘dens of crime’ that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices. Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the office of a thoroughly nasty business concern.”
-I understand and accept those who believe that God elects only some to salvation. I understand that said election is fully a result of God's work and there is nothing a person can do to be one of the elect.
-I believe in a God of miracles but I do not believe that God miraculously heals everyone who is sick or dying. Look at the faithful members of the early church who ended up dying horribly in the Coliseum.Their (and our) miracle was, and is, the gift of salvation. Jesus told us this in Mark 2:1-12
1 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, 11“I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” (NIV)
Does prayer and absolute belief guarantee that one's prayers will be answered in the way they wish?
Years ago, when my daughter, then 3 years old, was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, I did not believe that God was going to heal her. It had nothing to do with a lack of faith on my part. It had to do with experience. Most children who have such a terrible diagnosis do die. Each of us will experience death if Jesus does not come back in our lifetime. Death is the norm.
I asked God for her healing but I also asked that he would help me be the best mother that I could be to my terribly ill daughter, my new infant son and my other little daughter. I found much peace knowing that I would see her in heaven because I knew God loved her. Much to my surprise, she survived her tumor and grew up to be a beautiful young woman.
Then we had friends whose son had leukemia. They believed with their whole heart he was going to be cured from the cancer. They overlooked the miracle of his salvation. They prayed, believing he would live but he didn't. They have spent years wondering what they did wrong.
Tom Challies and the salvation of his children
I read an interesting post by Tim Challies, Do You Believe God Will Save Your Kids. He is pondering the salvation of his children.
I don’t only pray it and long for it. I believe it. I believe God will save them. I believe he will save them because that is what he does—he saves. I believe he will save them because that is who he is—he loves to save. I believe he will save them because from their infancy they have been exposed again and again to the powerful gospel of grace, and that gospel is too good and too powerful to do nothing.
As I read this, I pondered the role of election that is an integral part of Challies faith system. That gospel which he says "is too good to do nothing" only matters for those who were chosen before time itself. The gospel does not transform those who are not chosen. He admits that he has seen children who were raised to know Jesus, walk away from the faith as they grow up. I have seen this as well. No amount of believing or doing will change that fact within his paradigm.
Challies says he will trust, not in his own works in raising his kids, but on the merit and work of Christ.
I do what is right and trust his grace, pleading not my own merit, but the merit of Christ, trusting not in my own works, but in the work of Christ. And I pray—I pray that the God who graciously extended favor to undeserving me, would extend it to my undeserving children as well.
I grew up in a home which did not place much value on faith. I didn't understand the story of Jesus and knew very little of the Bible. Yet God reached me through Star Trek and a Life Magazine article. I had no Gospel demonstrated to me growing up. I sincerely doubt anyone was praying for me. However, in keeping with my belief that God seeks out all of us because He wishes that none may perish, I found Him and said "I believe" on the spot even though I had little understanding of the full story.
If one believes that the saving work of Christ is applied only to those who were elected before time itself, Challies prayers for the salvation of his children may not be answered. When it comes right down to it, there is nothing Challies can do to affect the salvation of his children. As an obedient Christian, I know Challies will teach his children about God. I am sure he will role model his love of Christ. But, in the end, unless those kids are elect, his actions, albeit right and obedient, will have no affect on their eternal destination (again-in his system.)
Here are a few interesting comments from that post.
C quotes Challies and asks a hard question.
"I don’t only pray it and long for it. I believe it. I believe God will
save them. I believe he will save them because that is what he does—he
saves. I believe he will save them because that is who he is—he loves to
save. I believe he will save them because from their infancy they have
been exposed again and again to the powerful gospel of grace, and that
gospel is too good and too powerful to do nothing."
And when He doesn't?
Markham asks some reasonable questions as a non-Calvinist.
A few things, and then I'm out:
-First of all, I find your last paragraph "But why should we think it odd that we could love a person or thing more than God loves a person or thing" both laughable and horrifying. Laughable because it suggests that parents who "love their children more than God" are somehow erring in loving their children too much (as opposed to loving God too little). Horrifying because the last sentence seems to suggest that if a child is not elect, our love for them is not "appropriate"…which actually makes a whole lot of sense in Calvinism, since if God hates something (and creating something sinful just to send it to hell is hard to qualify as anything else), shouldn't we hate it too?
-Arminianism (at least the kind I'm familiar with) doesn't require that God do "all he can" to save everyone. Arminianism simply states that God's love for us is such that he wishes for all to come to him, that he genuinely calls for all to come to him, and that he grants that opportunity to all.
-Arminianism is crucially different from Calvinism in one specific regard; In this article, Challies speaks much of God "using" Challies' ministry to his children "because these are the means God uses to save his people." In Calvinism, these means are merely a formality: God has already decided who he will save. In Arminianism, though, these – and others – truly ARE the means by which God woos his people, calls them to him, and saves them: Not taking pleasure in their death, but calling them – ACTUALLY calling them – to "turn and live." (Ezekiel 18).
-For the rest, they are answered by Simple Foreknowledge, prevenient grace-assisted free will, an understanding that all who are in hell choose it (a la Lewis), and an understanding that God means what he says in desiring all to be saved; that he really was saddened by Israel's rejection of him (as opposed to weeping over a rejection that he himself fore-ordained and rendered necessary), and that hell is "Plan B" for all who go there – as opposed to it being "Plan A" for the reprobate.
The only reason I posted here was because Challies presented only one side of the Calvinist God. He neglected to mention that the Calvinist God is the God who loves to save…SOME people. And loves to damn the rest. That God is the one who gives SOME people faith…and created billions of people with the specific purpose of passing over them. He neglected to mention that the reason ANY children of Christian parents turn away from Christ is because Christ himself decided that they should do so. In a determined world, there's no such thing as "single predestination."
This is not "unjust" of God; It is not "unfair". It is not outside of his "rights" as the creator of the Universe. But to pretend that it is somehow "loving" is hilarious – and heartbreaking.
Unfortunately, Challies does not respond to Markham but Don Johnson does:
Dear Friend: Have you yourself been redeemed? You surely speak as one who is lost and I would surely encourage you to fall on your face before God and repent.
Salvation is offered to all freely and all freely reject the gift. That God offers mercy to some in spite of themselves does not mean anyone else has been shortchanged. Must I feed every hungry person in the world if I would feed some?
Ah yes, the *Are you really saved gambit." This is sure to shut down discussion and sometimes I think that is why it is used.
I believe that God loves our children and desires to have a relationship with them. He works through parents, friends, relatives, teachers, etc. to draw them in. He understands it is hard and that parents and friends will not be perfect. He was perfect and His kids rebelled. Yet he continued to pursue them and will continue to pursue our children because He loves them.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the all of this. In the meantime, ponder….
The Hound of Heaven-A Modern Adaptation
Lydia's Corner: Exodus 37:1-38:31 Matthew 28:1-20 Psalm 34:11-22 Proverbs 9:9-10