Tuesday, June 28, 2011

All those "ALL"s...

Signs by paynehollow
Signs, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

And so, keeping in mind the previous post and noting that I'm not wanting to be argumentative or divisive, I DO have a question I'm curious to hear some thoughts on...

As I've said before, I'm not a universalist. I believe God has given humanity the option of choosing grace or not, and that some people can and DO reject God's gift of grace. Now, having said that, I'd have to say that there is some biblical and logical reasons to think that some universalist-ish positions.

I got to thinking about this because of hearing some more fundamentalist/conservative types insist that ALL people truly sin (not merely have a sinful nature, but sin) - including babies. The reason they think this, they say, is because "the Bible says it and I believe it!" They point to passages such as Romans 5...

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned...

And where I see "all sinned" to be a hyperbolic way of stressing that we all are imperfect humans, prone to sin and who, given the chance, DO sin. But I would insist that it's hyperbole because, obviously, babies do not sin. A newborn just out of his mother's womb obviously has not/can not sin, just because there is no capacity there to make deliberate choice to sin.

"Not so," came the response in a recent conversation. "Babies sin, too. They're EVIL!" Seriously, some fella just asserted that babies were evil.

Anyway, I say all of that to say that, IF you go on to read that passage that says "all sin," you see the complementary passage, saying Jesus' work of grace was to save "ALL people." And I wonder about the more literalists who say "All sin" means that everyone sins, if they think that "ALL people will be justified" and saved means "ALL people," and, if not, on what basis do they claim literalism for the one sentence, but not for the other.

The passages that some more universalist-types would point to are below. Thoughts?

But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!

Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for ALL people.

Romans 5: 12 - 18

I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way ALL Israel will be saved...

As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and God's call are irrevocable. Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that God may have mercy on them all.

Romans 11: 25-32

since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ ALL will be made alive.

1 Corinthians 15:21, 22

For in him [Christ] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Colossians 1: 12, 20

Not looking for divisiveness or disrespectful disagreement, just wondering what your opinions are, for what they are worth?

To be clear, what I'm looking for is along these lines...

"When I read these passages, I think that 'all' is/is not to be taken literally. I think this because..."

No need to point to HIM or HER or name names about another's opinion and give your thoughts on OTHER's hunches, I'm just curious what you think about all these "ALLs."


Listen by paynehollow
Listen, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

A couple of posts back, I referenced some of the many biblical injunctions against "argumentativeness" and "divisiveness." I think it's a good thing to keep in our minds and so I'm repeating them here, as a post.

Given other biblical examples of Godly people (including, and especially, Jesus) debating/calling out others, I think we need to acknowledge its a balancing act of speaking truth when you fear others are in error (at least at times), and doing so strongly, and doing so in love respectfully, AND choosing NOT to do so when it's mere contentiousness.

The trick is knowing when its a GOOD "speaking of truth," and when it's a foolish "quarreling over words" and useless debate over opinions.

As I've stated, my main measure for such disagreements is actual, real-world harm. That seems to be a starting place. If someone is being HARMED by another's actions (or societal practices), then speaking out for "the least of these" - those being harmed - that seems to me to be the main biblical practice.

But for most of our disagreements over relatively harm-less opinions (I think it's okay to drink, she thinks not, he thinks it's okay to smoke, they think not, I think it's good to marry, they think not, I think the Trinity is the right way to think of God, she thinks not, etc, etc, etc), it can be okay to discuss these and offer our opinions, but I just am not convinced that it's anything to get riled up about or to spend TOO much energy in divisive, strife-ful dissension.

And so, I offer these passages for a reminder to keep our eyes on the important things and lighten up on the less important...

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.


A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.


Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.


If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.

~1 Corinthians

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.


For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?

1 Corinthians

Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.


Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers.

~2 Corinthians

Ouch. "Those who do such things will NOT inherit the Kingdom of God." Now, THAT is a serious warning, one that I'm striving to take to heart. So, if in the future, I seem reluctant to argue too much with you, you'll know why.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Just Ask the Donkey

In keeping with my mood following some of the previous comments and my vacation, I'm offering up a poem from ancient Persian Poet/Wise Man, Hafiz...

Just ask the donkey in me
To speak to the donkey in you,

When I have so many other beautiful animals
And brilliant colored birds inside
That are all longing to say something wonderful
And exciting to your heart?

Let's open all the locked doors upon our eyes
That keep us from knowing the Intelligence
That begets love
And a more lively and satisfying conversation
With the Friend

Let's turn loose our golden falcons
So that they can meet in the sky
Where our spirits belong—
Necking like two
Hot kids.

Let's hold hands and get drunk near the sun
And sing sweet songs to God
Until He joins us with a few notes
From His own sublime lute and drum.

If you have a better idea
Of how to pass a lonely night
After your glands may have performed
All their little magic
Then speak up sweethearts, speak up,
For Hafiz and all the world will listen.

Why just bring your donkey to me
Asking for stale hay
And a boring conference with the idiot
In regards to this precious matter—
Such a precious matter as love,

When I have so many other divine animals
And brilliant colored birds inside
That are all longing
To so sweetly

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Grace Enough?

Grace by paynehollow
Grace, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

I've a question specifically for more conservative/traditional types of Christians. Not really looking for debate, just a straightforward answer to what seems like to me a straightforward question:

We recently had a lengthy discussion with a fellow claiming to Christianity yet you said that grace was not enough for salvation.

His claim?

That one must be saved by grace AND by agreeing that gay marriage is wrong. One cannot believe that gay marriage is a good and holy thing and be saved by grace, he contends (and he is free to offer his own statement if he does not think I'm stating his position correctly).

His exact words were...

One cannot be saved by grace alone when one's beliefs so blatantly counter clearly revealed teachings on human sexual behavior

Since that is so far afield from basic orthodox Christianity, I was hoping to hear from other conservative types who'd agree with me that God's grace is sufficient.

EVEN IF you disagree with those who think gay marriage is good (or even if you disagree with those who'd say Christians can go to war or with those who'd say that God sometimes commands people to kill babies or whatever the topic might be), orthodox Christianity does not teach that we must be "right" or have perfect knowledge on all topics or even on some topics. We are not saved by our good understanding, but by God's grace, through faith in Jesus.

I was wondering if I could find any conservatives who'd affirm this basic Christian tenet. How 'bout it?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Summer Boys

Since the crazy heat outside tells us it’s summertime, even if the calendar doesn’t, I thought I’d repost a summery essay from a few years back. Enjoy…

Riding jet skis, if you are unfamiliar with them, looks like riding a motor scooter on the water, blasting over waves and Riding the Sea, Victorious! It couldn't be much harder than riding a bike, we figured.

We were wrong.

My friend, Eddie, and I were at the ocean and wanted to try jet skiing. To save money, we decided to rent one and take turns. Eddie went first.

As Eddie zoomed away from the shore, he beamed with joy. However, I quickly noticed that he spent an awful lot of time trying to stand up on the jet ski, as they are supposed to be ridden, only to fall over. Once you fall off, jet skis have been designed to ride in circles around you.

Presumably, this is to ensure that you do not get stranded in the ocean as your jet ski putters off into the sunset. Watching from the shore, it looked more as if the jet ski were taunting him.

With each failed attempt to mount the monster, I had to laugh. Clearly, Eddie was just too tall to ride this thing. I’d be able to do better.

After many attempts to ride the jet ski, Eddie lay there, hands on the handlebars to keep it from doing its victory laps, but going nowhere. His stomach lay on the jet ski footboard and his long legs just dangled like spaghetti.

He was whipped.

"Bring it in!” I yelled. “It's my turn!"

He returned to shore and collapsed like a long, skinny beached whale.

"Ed, you know that you're supposed to stand up on the thing, right?"

"Go ahead. Laugh," he said. "You'll see. It's not easy."

He tried to warn me, but I wouldn’t listen – it was my turn to Ride the Sea, Victorious!

What I learned later Eddie was trying to tell me: Beware the Jets.

Ideally, when you ride a jet ski, you give it some gas to get some speed going and then quickly jump to your feet and ride the waves. The key thing is to get up QUICKLY.

The problem in not promptly standing has to do with the placement of the jets on the jet ski. Picture this: the jets are right at the back of the jet ski. When you are getting started, your hands are on the handlebar, your belly is on the footboard and the jets are blasting out what feels like a million gallons of water right below your gut.

Each time you gun the gas, it's like getting a crotch shot in softball. And, if this unkind kick weren't enough, you also have to worry about you going one way and your swimming trunks, the other.

Soon, the jet ski was doing victory laps around me. It was all I could do to pull my trunks back up.

When I returned to shore, Eddie was smiling, but not taunting. He knew my pain. I didn't even care that I no longer had my pride.

I was just glad to have my swimming trunks.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


Dan Donna

There Is a Lady, Sweet and Kind
Thomas Ford

There is a lady sweet and kind,
Was never a face so pleased my mind;
I did but see her passing by,
And yet I'll love her till I die.

Her gesture, motion, and her smiles,
Her wit, her voice my heart beguiles,
Beguiles my heart, I know not why,
And yet I'll love her till I die.