"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

The Compelling Love of God

One of the things I love most about blogging is the interaction with readers. After my post detailing how George McDonald left the theology of his childhood and came to believe in universal reconciliation, several Arminians wrote me, quite upset that I could believe in God's distinguishing and effectual love for His people. I always learn from people, particularly those who disagree with me, and I thought one particular exchange with Kristen helps clarify what seems to be some misperception about the power of God's love for His people - whether His people belong to a select group of innumerable individuals from every nation, tribe, kindred, tongue and family (i.e. "the world") as I believe, or every single individual of the entire human race, as George McDonald believed. My Arminian friends, like Kristen, have trouble seeing how God's love can always be effectual without taking away human freedom. For example:

Kristen: "As an Arminian I believe that God must put the desire to be rescued in the human heart. The difference is that I don't believe God makes the desire so overwhelmingly strong that humans have no power to refuse."

Wade: "I think you are misunderstanding what I believe, Kristen. I have never believed, have never taught, and have never written that any human being does not have the power to refuse.

I have always believed, taught, and written that God makes His love is so captivating, so alluring, so charming, so dazzling, so enthralling, so mesmerizing, so spellbinding (gospel comes from "good spell"), so magnetizing, so enrapturing, so gripping, so compelling, so hypnotizing, and so absolutely "sweep me off my feet" enamoring that I cannot, will not, and must not refuse, though I have the power to do so.

Have you ever been loved like that? I have! By Him"

Why is it important to see that God's love for us is not drawn out by our loveliness nor diminished by our ugliness? Because it is only the comprehension of the incomparable love of God that leads to change in our lives (see Ephesians 3). Or to summarize, allow me to put in modern language a saying by a wonderful divine of old:

"Real faith is coming to God in the absolute absence of any positive feelings or spiritual desires, without any healthy glow or good aspirations, weighted down with low thoughts, failure, neglect and wondering forgetfulness, and yet being able to say to Him, 'You are my Refuge.'

49 comments:

Philip Miller said...

Love this post, but it does raise an interesting question for me. Do you believe a person can be converted more by an aversion to God's wrath and judgment, rather than wooed by His charming love? I would say that was true in my life. As someone who raised in very legalistic church environment (Old Order Amish)I was drawn to God early in my twenties when I realized I was making a wreck of my life on my own. I did seek God's grace and forgiveness, and in a sense embraced His love. Still, it was more a sense of forgiveness from judgment that I was aware of at the time. It was not until much later that I slowly and progressively began to understand His great all encompassing love.

Wade Burleson said...

Philip,

One of the most astute questions I've ever had in the eight years my blog has been up! No joke.

I don't put a great deal of stock in Confessions (though I know them all), but if someone were to press me, I would say I subscribe to the 1644 London Baptist Confession. Most Baptists who consider themselves "Reformed" say they ascribe to the 1689 Baptist Confession. There is a difference between the two.

In the 1644 Baptist Confession, the London Baptists specifically said there was no need for "the work of the Law" in order for people to be saved. They meant that, contrary to what Presbyterians taught, one did not have to feel the "terror of the law" and the judgment of God in order to be brought into union with God. The LOVE of God in Christ was sufficient - period.

Interestingly, because Baptists in the 1600's were considered a "sect" and possible heretics (more than likely they were about as close to New Testament Christianity as Christians have been since the 2nd century), 45 years after signing the FIRST LONDON confession of faith, Baptists in London wrote ANOTHER confession -- this time trying to identify themselves with more prominent and political Presbyterians and CHANGED their written confession in this one area. The 1689 Confession stated that a sinner must feel the terrors of the law before he can be delivered by God.

I don't believe that is true, never have, and thus subscribe to the 1644 London Confession. There are a few other differences between the 1644 and the 1889 including the Lord's Supper and baptism being ordinances of CHRIST (1644) instead of the CHURCH (1689) but I will leave those differences for a later comment.

I am glad that you are "progressively understanding His all encompassing love."

Let me encourage you to read Ephesians 3:14-21, personalize it (say ME instead of YOU), memorize it, and watch what God does in terms of making His LOVE crystal clear.

Kristen said...

Wade,

I appreciate your kind words in response to my comment. But I'm still confused. Do Calvinists believe in "irrestible grace" -- or not? You seem to be saying you don't believe in "irrestible grace." Or is that what, in fact, you are describing?

I remember the first time I experienced the fullness of God's love, and it was indeed captivating, alluring, charming-- but I did not in fact experience Him that way until after what I would call my conversion experience. In that experience I simply felt an awe-filling Presence, but my experience was that the Presence was saying, "Here I am. I'm real. Will you surrender to Me?" Never was there a feeling that the Presence was so captivating, alluring, etc., that I could not draw back.

But if you believe I could have drawn back, you're not like any Calvinist I've ever talked to.

Wade Burleson said...

Kristen,

That is, in fact, what I am describing.

However, I despise the word "irresistible." God's grace is often resisted in everyone.

I much prefer the word "effectual" grace and "effectual" love. Meaning, God's kind of love always overcomes the most stubborn resistance in the hardest hearted sinner upon whom He shows grace.

Victorious said...

I was converted without even knowing for sure if God was real! Following the death of my father, I wanted to know what happened following death. On the airplane ride home, I decided I was going to find out once and for all. But where does one begin to search for God? I went to several churches and after looking around at the congregation....chatting, adjusting their clothing, looking around, etc. I decided if there was a God, He wasn't in that church. If He was, I thought those people would be flat on their faces in His Holy presence.

My search continued until someone gave me David Wilkerson's book, “The Cross and the Switchblade.” After reading it, I got so angry that I threw it across the room and it landed behind the sofa. Surely God wasn't THAT real where He spoke to people!!! Such nonsense!!

Months later I found the book and figured it couldn't hurt....smile...to say the prayer in the back of the book. I waited until everyone went to bed and knelt down beside the sofa and read the prayer. I actually felt kind of stupid reading that prayer. Could finding God really be that easy??

That same person who gave me the book, followed up by inviting me to a prayer meeting at the Episcopal church down the road. I replied that we were Catholic so we couldn't go to that church. She said it wasn't for a church service as such, so I agreed. I was amazed at how much love those people had for God. I was told about the baptism in the Holy Spirit and given a book to read. It was called “Nine O'Clock in the Morning.” After reading that book, I knelt down again and told the Lord that I wouldn't believe anything they told me since they were Episcopalian, but that I wanted everything He had for me, so if it was true what they said, please give it to me. (whatever it was....) At that very moment, alone in my living room, I was baptized in the Holy Spirit and received the gift of tongues.

Because of the way I was converted and filled with the Holy Spirit, I find it very difficult to hold to ceremonies, rituals, and regimented systems of conversions many hold dear and insist on. For me, I believe God meets us where we are and knows our hearts. His love surpasses even our expectations and He longs to pour it out on those who want it. “…. and I'll never turn away the one who comes to me. John 6:37 ISV

Kristen said...

Wade -- ok. I don't think God turns up the love beams, as it were, so high that humans are overcome. That's where the difference between us does lie, no matter what words we use to describe it.

Wade Burleson said...

Kristen,

"I bow my knees before the Father and pray... that you would strengthened in your inner person... and that you might know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up with all the fullness of God" (Ephesians 3:14-19)

I think my concept of God's love beams is closer to the Scriptural account than your concept. :)

Thanks for the dialogue

Paul Harrison said...

I have often pondered Paul’s conversion on the Damascus road. How did Paul’s “free will” hold up against the revelation of Jesus Christ? Paul was not seeking anything but the persecution of Christ through the persecution of his church. He did not pray a “sinner’s prayer” and had apparently already made his decision about who this Jesus was and what he should do about it.

But the Lord brought Paul into submission against whatever measure of will Paul had. In fact Christ asked him how we was doing “kicking against the goads”. If he can "subject all things to himself" then Paul was not much of a problem.

Is Paul's case the exception or the rule regarding free will and the means of salvation?

Respectfully …

Marc B. said...

Interesting dialogue going on here. I did a lot of study/debate on this a few years ago and landed on the Arminian side of things. I think in light of all the theological dissection that's been done in 500 years or so, it's pretty subjective to say one concept is more "Scriptural" than another (of course, that's just my "subjective" opinion). From all my readings (Sproul, Piper, Picirilli, Olson, etc.), I can understand why both sides claim a closer adherence to the Word. We all have our convictions and passions. This debate used to get my blood boiling, but not so much these days...otherwise I might have a bone to pick with you Wade...j/k :)

Kristen said...

Wade, the scripture you quoted was Paul's prayer for people who were already in the church-- had already responded to God's drawing and been saved.

I don't think we're ever going to see eye to eye on this. There was too much control and compulsion in my early life for me to be able to worship a God Who overcomes people, however benevolently.

Kristen said...

PS. What you said, "I cannot, will not and must not refuse, though I have the power to do so" reads like a self-contradiction to me. "Cannot" means "does not have the power." You cannot have the power and not have the power at the same time.

Wade Burleson said...

Kristen,

When an unworthy, broken, empty, undeserving, ugly human being is loved like a prince (or princess) by the King of Kings, that becomes the "cannot" refuse part.

I really appreciate the dialogue!

Wade Burleson said...

Kristen,

When an unworthy, broken, empty, undeserving, ugly human being is loved like a prince (or princess) by the King of Kings, that becomes the "cannot" refuse part.

I really appreciate the dialogue!

Rex Ray said...

Wade,

What percent of the world would you guess have NEVER heard of Jesus?

How does God use his ‘Overpowering Love’ to save those people?

“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14 NLT)

You’ve said before that this Scripture applied only in the time of Jesus—that the Gospel had not spread over the world.

I believe the Gospel didn’t even exist until after Calvary and Jesus knew it. If His words are not true today, why would He say something that was impossible to happen?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_by_country

Of the world population, 31.9 percent are Christian. Most are Catholic with 1.09 billion.

Of those who are classified as Christians, how many are actually saved? From Victorious wonderful testimony on how she was converted makes one wonder.

Wade, you seem to believe that God chose to love an innumerable company of sinners, and that’s the majority of the world.

I think if you really believe that, you have your head in the sand about waist deep. :)

Anonymous said...

I would think most folks would think Abraham had his head in the sand about waist deep too, waiting for that promised baby.

But it happened!

As with Paul on the Damascus road, we just do not know what God may do or not do with a person at the point of death.

Linda

Kristen said...

Wade, I appreciate the dialogue too.

You said:

"When an unworthy, broken, empty, undeserving, ugly human being is loved like a prince (or princess) by the King of Kings, that becomes the "cannot" refuse part."

I was thinking about the story of Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane in Dorothy L. Sayers' wonderful novel Gaudy Night. Harriet's exact problem with Peter is that she is a lowly commoner who was once tried for murder, and he is a spotless peer of the English realm. She simply does not want to be swept off her feet; she wants to make a rational decision. She does not want to marry him merely because she feels indebted to him for his notice of lowly her.

She is, however, deeply attracted to him, and there comes a point where he knows that if he simply took her in his arms, she would fall into them. He refrains, however, because he also knows her rational mind would later rebel at being overcome emotionally in that way-- that she has to choose him of her own free will. So he holds back, continuing to simply befriend her. And later she does come to him of her own free will, knowing she can trust him to never emotionally overpower her.

Sayers was a Christian, as I'm sure you know, and I do think she intended to say something metaphorical there about free will.

I think Sayers grasped how I myself felt about it, when God was wooing me. Maybe sometimes, to those to whom it matters less, God's wooing can feel more like a "sweeping off their feet."

Christiane said...

Hi KRISTIN,

I, too, am a great fan of Dorothy Sayers.
If you can imagine Dame Harriet Walter in the role of Harriet Vane, here's something you might enjoy:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E4f8GhFKqnQ

Matt said...

Wade, I appreciate the nuances in your description of "effectual grace" vs "irresistible grace," and in the different versions of the London Confession.

I'd love to read a post that elaborates more on the differences between between the two.

While I still consider myself more of an Armenian, I find these nuances more compelling than what I hear from most reformed believers. They also help me understand your last post a little better, and why, from your perspective, the options are "designated love" or "universal love."

Wade Burleson said...

Matt,

Thank you for your kind and considerate comment.

Communication is a two-way street. Your comment let's me know I'm communicating effectively because you are communicating to me exactly what I intended to write!

Blessings. I will try to write a post on the differences between the two Confessions in the future (no promise except to try!) because I think the distinctions are important. Problem is, very few people are like you and me and interested in the subject. :)

Wade Burleson said...

Matt,

Thank you for your kind and considerate comment.

Communication is a two-way street. Your comment let's me know I'm communicating effectively because you are communicating to me exactly what I intended to write!

Blessings. I will try to write a post on the differences between the two Confessions in the future (no promise except to try!) because I think the distinctions are important. Problem is, very few people are like you and me and interested in the subject. :)

Anonymous said...

Wade,

I am with you in your preference for the 1644 First London Confession. The emphasis on the New Covenant, and the Appendix by Benjamin Cox are of particular interest to me. I have been looking at the differences between the 1644/46 and the 1689 Confessions for some time , and there is a lot of information on the internet. I hope you will find time to give us the benefit of your research ability into the matter as the subject deserves attention. How about it ?

Gordon

Rex Ray said...

Linda,
I’ve admired your comments for several years.

What were you thinking?—when you wrote: “…we just do not know what God may do or not do with a person at the point of death.”

Do you not believe John 3:16?

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven…(going to hell?) On THAT DAY MANY will say to Me, Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name? Then I will announce to them, “I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!’” (Matthew 7:21-23 Holman)

These guys were not Christians fallen from grace, because Jesus said, “I never knew you”..

In the Scripture above what is Jesus referring to when he said? “On that day…”

I believe this verse tells the answer, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27 KJ)



OK—so I’m wrong. I just realize you said, “…at the point of death” and my reply was for a person already dead.

My uncle Hez lived on a farm and one time he heard a voice, “Go to Ector.” He turned around but no one was there. Later he heard the same voice, so he went to his house and asked his wife if they needed anything at Ector. She said no, but he drove a wagon 3 miles to Ector, TX. At the grocery store, they asked if he’d heard the news that a certain person was at the point of death. Everyone knew he was not a Christian. Hez asked him to become a Christian, but he replied, “I don’t know how.”

Hez held his hands and the man repeated the prayer asking Jesus to save him. Immediately he yelled for his wife. He told her with a big smile, “I’ve got some hay to haul.”

“You old fool; you’re not in shape to haul hay!”

He died three days later. Through the years he had taken hay from my dad to feed his one milk cow, and my dad had never mentioned it.

Anonymous said...

Rex Ray--thanks for the compliment!

When I speak of not knowing what happens at the point of death, I'm speaking of the time when medically the death process has begun BUT the person is still living.

My pastor is a dr and she tells me that while most people believe death happens in an instant, the truth is that it is a process for most people. At some point in the process most people are no longer conscious and never will be again, but not quite truly and finally dead.

So there is at least the possibility of hope that during those final moments God may grant one last chance to believe in Jesus. Paul and the Damascus road incident give me hope since he was not seeking Jesus nor was any human attempting to evangelize him.

So it is just that--theoretical hope. I certainly don't recommend anyone to not evangelize the world, or any unsaved person to just put off believing counting on one final last chance.

Like Pastor Wade, I believe God is a consummate "wooer". I personally have no trouble with the concept that we are indeed free to reject Christ and yet that He is so winsome the elect will not want to reject Him.

And not being omnipotent, I have no idea how large the pool of the elect is. I can find scripture suggesting small, scripture suggesting large, and scripture that plain doesn't say.

So I stand with the Arminians that Christ's death is sufficient for the salvation of all, with the Calvinists that all the elect will be saved, and hope (but do not know) that the universalists will prove them both right and that God indeed saves all.

That is all it is, hope. But it keeps me pushing forward sharing the gospel, prevents burnout when it isn't accepted, and ultimately leaves me to trust that He will do all things well.

Linda

Wade Burleson said...

You are quite the theologian Linda. Good stuff. All relational and posited with an excellent spirit. Thanks for your comments.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Pastor, and Rex.

I'm learning much from the challenges this site gives us to study widely.

Or turning into an uppity female according to some:)

Linda

Christiane said...

My brother is a medical doctor and he concurs with the idea that death is a 'process' that takes its course. We are not privy to the hearts of others, as is Our God, nor are we able judge that which is shrouded in mystery.
I agree with Linda, also. There is strong 'hope' for the dying, in the best sense, for the great and holy mercies of God are beyond our human understandings.

REX, I loved your story, thanks for sharing that!

A Prayer For The Dying from my faith:
(rather graphic to see this, so a caveat is needed before you watch this)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZND53eM-Ks

Rex Ray said...

Linda,

I was tempted to leave this conversation with all feeling good, but then…:)

You said: “So there is at least the possibility of hope that during those final moments God may grant one last chance to believe in Jesus.”

Do you think God would/could save a Buddhist in this condition if they’d never heard the name of Jesus?

I think they’d have as much chance becoming a Christian as we would changing to a Buddhist in a second before our death.

Well, I don’t really believe that because of the Holy Spirit, but I think you can get the point.

Do you think we will meet in heaven the “Many” that were told at Judgment to “depart” from Jesus because he never knew them?

Christine,

Thanks for making my day!

Anonymous said...

Rex--I believe in an omnipotent God.

So, yeah, if God had deemed that Buddhist one of the elect but we pitiful humans had not gotten around to obeying the great commission and telling him about Jesus God can employ other means.

I do not believe anyone will be in heaven without explicit belief in Jesus. I would not want to bet your hypothetical Buddhist's eternity on hope of mercy, sit on my backside, and not do missions.

But I cannot say I could know for sure after that Buddhist died that God did not reveal Himself to him after he lost consciousness.

God is merciful and God is just, so I doubt anyone will burn in hell who never had the chance to accept Christ, that is, if they were part of the elect.

I simply say I do NOT know the scope of election. It may be few, it may be many, it may be all.

That is God's call.

And I trust Him that it will be good.

Linda

Anonymous said...

Are we to consider "to woo" and "to draw" as synonyms?

Who ever stood over an open well and "wooed" the bucket up?

Trevor Davis
Great Commission Church

Wade Burleson said...

A bucket is an inanimate object. A human is animate. There is a difference.

Rex Ray said...

Wade,
Always look for truth—if Crusoe was white as in the picture with no shade, he must have had a barrel of sun lotion protection. :)

Linda,
If God would “reveal Himself to him [Buddhist] after he lost consciousness” then why did God execute his Son at Calvary?

You said, “I simply say I do NOT know the scope of election. It may be few, it may be many, it may be all. That is God's call.”

I believe “election” has another scope—zero.

Trevor Davis,
As a kid, I had to work hard to get water out of an open well to give to the pigs. I never thought of wooing it up. Your comment made me laugh.

Wade,
You indicate there’s a difference between a bucket and a human.

There’s no difference in the feel of a rock and a person that been underwater a day. Been there done that.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe God did execute His Son at Calvary.

I believe Jesus willingly died for our sins on Calvary.

If the scope of election is none, then all will burn in hell.

And re the hypothetical Buddhist--are you putting a time limit as to when in this life God can save? Not sure I understand your comment.

Rex Ray said...

Anonymous,

“Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, the man who is my partner,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. Strike down the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered…” (Zechariah 13:7 NLT)

“On the way, Jesus told them “All of you will desert me. For the Scriptures say, “God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered. But after I am raised from the dead, I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there.” (Matthew 26:31-32 Mark 14:27-28 NLT)

Anonymous, you’re right that Jesus was willing to do the will of his Father by dying for our sins on Calvary. But who punishes sin, the devil or God?

It is a sin to murder or kill someone unjustly. God cannot sin and our sins had to be paid for in blood. Therefore God killed Jesus justly or a better term—God executed His son for taking our place on the Cross.

You asked: “are you putting a time limit as to when in this life God can save?

“As a man lives so shall he die, As a tree falls so shall it lie.” J. Ray English Proverbs1678

Rex Ray said...

Wade,

Would you agree that all who are NOT saved will go to hell?

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him IF they have never heard of him?...” (Romans 10:13-14 NLT)

I believe to teach that God’s love is going to save a lost person just before dying is trying to ‘wipe away tears on Earth’ when they can be wiped away ONLY in Heaven.

RRR said...


Brother Rex Ray, you still there?

You got my attention when mentioning dying Buddhists. You said, "Do you think God would/could save a Buddhist in this condition if they’d never heard the name of Jesus?"

Here’s my position and it’s based on my personal interpretation of Scripture and conversations that I have with God during our times alone: “Yes”.

They can be saved without ever hearing the "Name of Jesus". But they won’t enter heaven as “Buddhists”.

I know a ton of Buddhists. I talked to an old Buddhist monk day before yesterday at a mountain-top Buddhist shrine. He was in his 70s, toothless and when I asked him his name he laughingly said that his name was “Arnold Schwarzenegger” (he’s a fan).

When I asked the monk where the world came from he gave the typical monk answer, “Nobody can know. Buddha taught us not to worry with asking questions that have no answer.” So I told the monk what he probably already knew but has always rejected; that there IS a Creator God who loves him and who was right there with us as we talked. I went on to explain what the monk obviously didn’t know before; that God Himself had come into the world as the man, "Jesus Christ" who died on a Cross to pay for our sins. The monk had at least “heard” about Jesus but his was a confused version and the monk thought that Jesus had died twice. I straightened out that story and explained that Jesus never died following His resurrection.

The monk continues to reject God the Creator and now He also rejects His Son, Jesus Christ. So unless he changes his tune by the time his soul leaves his body he will indeed spend eternity in hell.

But even if I had NOT been there to explain these things, the monk had seen the evidence of God’s creation around him and he has experienced the convicting power of the presence of God’s Spirit. All Buddhists I have talked to know they are sinners, they will be judged and they are terrified at meeting the judge at death. Even basic logic tells the monk there MUST be an intelligent Creator who put the universe where it is. Only fools would deny such evidence. I believe that even if we had NOT been there to explain the reality and truth of “Jesus Christ” to him but the monk had surrendered his life to the Creator God who bears witness of Himself through His Spirit and His Creation he would be saved.

God’s Spirit is real and active and what would prevent God from even carrying on a conversation with this monk just prior to his death when he might appear to be unconscious because his eyes weren’t open? If at the moment before his spirit leaves his body he professes faith in that Creator who he has been rejecting for all these years I believe he will be saved and I’d meet him in heaven clothed not in yellow-orange Buddhist robes but in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

That's the way I see it.

Anonymous said...

RRR--well said!

I always want to ask about the Apostle Paul. Going about his business persecuting Christians. Not seeking Jesus.

Until God moved.

Linda

Rex Ray said...

RRR,
Your comment got me to learn more about Buddhists than I wanted to know.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhism

It is recognized as one of the fastest growing religions in the World. Low estimates are between 350 and 750 million. Higher estimates are between 1.2 and 1.7 billion.

RRR, did you ask your old Buddhist monk how many thousands of times he had been reincarnated or how many animals he had been in his previous lives?

It’s too bad their minds don’t remember; they could tell if it’s more fun to be a elephant or a mouse.

I agree with your statement: “So unless he changes his tune by the time his soul leaves his body he will indeed spend eternity in hell.”

You said, “If at the moment before his spirit leaves his body he professes faith in that Creator who he has been rejecting for all these years I believe he will be saved.”

What do you mean by “Creator”? If that includes Jesus, I agree.


Linda,
Paul was STILL breathing and very much alive when he trusted Jesus by doing what he was told.

RRR said...

Rex Ray,

You said, “What do you mean by “Creator”? If that includes Jesus, I agree.”

I don’t mean that it “includes” Jesus but it “IS” Jesus.

Glad that you and Linda are still flirting with this post. I was late getting on board.

I know it’s boring to go on about Buddhist beliefs but one thing I have discovered is that about the only ones who practice a pure form of Buddhism as Buddha taught are the western posers (like Richard Gere) who try to be cool and think that Buddhism is all about peace and love. In reality all the Asian Buddhists I have met are about as much animist, Hindu and Chinese ancestor worshippers as they are Buddhist. Yes, they all do believe they are continually re-incarnated unless they eventually become enlightened as Buddha himself claimed to have been. They believe they might go to the Buddhist version of heaven or hell when they die depending upon how well they lived one of their former lives but not necessarily the one they’re living today. They do not believe they will be in their hell or heaven for eternity but will eventually leave to be re-incarnated again into this world. Even if they’re successful in living a very good and holy life in this cycle they may go to hell when they die and pay for the lousy life they lived 100 lives ago. Then they may be re-incarnated back into this world as a mangy dog to pay for another bad life or be born as a rich person as reward for a good life they lived in the past. It is not progressive but arbitrary. In the case they reach a condition of enlightenment as only Buddha is known to have done their cycle of re-incarnation ceases and they no longer exist in any form, spiritual or otherwise. They call this "Nippon", or "Nirvana" in English. In that case they are never born again and are like a candle flame which is extinguished. Buddha taught his followers “Don’t pray to me when I’m gone because I won’t be around to help you ever again. You’re the only one that can help you.”

When I mention "The Creator" I make reference to The Only True God, who is also “Jesus Christ” in his incarnate, human manifestation and “The Holy Spirit” as He manifests Himself in you and me and works to bring about His purpose in the world today. Scripture and the words of Jesus Christ Himself do not differentiate between the identity of these three and “Jesus Christ” is attributed as being the eternal, creator God.

That's why I conclude that if a person has not been "told" the Name of the Messiah-Savior, "Jesus Christ" but believes in Him and worships Him as He has made Himself known that person is saved and will not enter hell. I compare that situation to that of the Biblical Patriarchs who lived before the Messiah was born. Of course that person must surrender his life to the exclusive control and Lordship of God and worship Him alone. At such time that person is introduced to "Jesus Christ" as being the Promised One of God he will be obligated to accept Him as who He is and follow Him as Savior and Lord.

I’m no academic scholar but simply try to wrestle with the Truth of God as He reveals Himself to me in His Word and through our walk together. I also value the thoughts and positions of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and consider them.

This topic concerning those who have not heard the Name of “Jesus Christ” gets awfully sticky and messy. I'm open to listening to anyone else's proposal as to how God deals with people who love God with all their heart, all their soul and all their might but have not been told that the Name of His Savior is "Jesus Christ". This is how I've settled it in my own mind based on the way that I believe is consistent with Scripture.

Christiane said...
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Christiane said...

sometimes, I think a 'turning away' is needed before someone goes to hell

which to me means that a person consciously was given knowledge of God and consciously turned away from Him, rejecting His love and their salvation

we know that in turning towards Christ, there is deep mourning because it was our sins that crucified Him, but in our repentence, He heals us and forgive us,

I am concerned that those who have received mercy from God often deny its possibility to others, especially the 'others' who do not know Christ through no fault of their own, and yet they are tuned to the sacred words that are carved on their hearts by God, and they live in obedience to Him faithfully

we do not know the Mind of God, and I am always surprised by how readily with such ease, many Christian people judge others to hell . . .
I wouldn't presume to do that, as it has consequences for those people in this life, at times. For example, the young with gender issues often commit suicide because of the way that they know their families will reject them in their confusion.

Let God be God. And, as the Scriptures tell us, if at all possible, be at peace with all men.

some thoughts

Anonymous said...

Rex Ray--I think you missed the part where I was saying we don't know what God may do while a person is still alive but unconscious.

I wasn't advocating blanket universalism where the dead can be saved--although if God decided to so design the plan He could, being God.

I was saying that death happens in stages. It is theoretically possible for God and a person to have a session together when that person is beyond the reach of human interaction. And that the person could respond to God at that point.

I'm comfortable making a statement that "to my knowledge so and so never accepted Christ." Very uncomfortable saying "so and so died unsaved and went to hell."

Linda

RRR said...

Christiane,
“sometimes, I think a 'turning away' is needed before someone goes to hell” and “I am concerned that those who have received mercy from God often deny its possibility to others, especially the 'others' who do not know Christ through no fault of their own, and yet they are tuned to the sacred words that are carved on their hearts by God, and they live in obedience to Him faithfully”

I “think” I understand what you are saying and that you are saying the same thing I am. I don’t “think” that you are suggesting that people have an excuse for not acknowledging God as their God due to their poor circumstances or they will avoid eternal judgment for rejecting God because they have "gender issues" or are brought up in a God-less family or something like that.

Maybe you can help me have an accurate understanding of your response when you say “especially the 'others' who do not know Christ through no fault of their own".

Maybe you are saying that they may believe in God but nobody has told them the story of "Christ"? Maybe you're not suggesting that they will avoid judgment for denying God due to some alterior circumstances.

I also understand your dismay at the insensitive and poor way some proclaim the message of judgment but the reality is that there IS "universal judgment" pending upon ALL people and we are responsible for stressing that when we can. The strong emphasis people who are living in “the light” put on the pending eternal judgment for the lost could be interpreted as being “judgmental” or “non-compassionate” but may instead be due to their genuine concern and sense of desperation that the lost person yield to God before it's too late. Maybe we do get a bit over-enthusiastic at times. At the same time the lost must be told that they are going to hell if they continue to reject God and there is no excuse they can give for not acknowledging Him as their Creator God.

I suspect that we are in agreement about these things but sometimes it just takes a bit more communicating to know.

Rex Ray said...

You ‘guys’ keep saying God can do anything. Well, that’s NOT true.

“So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie.” (Hebrews 6:18 NLT)

In a nutshell, this is the whole case of God’s promise and oath:

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Joel 2:32; Romans 10:13; Acts 2:21 NLT) “…I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 NLT)

In Hawaii, if lightening had struck a guy dead while I saw him stretching his arms out worshiping his sun god, then his sun was not the right Son to take him to God. If God’s love would save him in that spit second before death would make God a liar.

RRR said...

Rex Ray,
How much time before death is required for a person be saved? Do you think that a mass murderer can make a decision to surrender his life to Christ the moment before they push the plunger on the injection to kill him and go to heaven? What if they push the plunger and he appears to be unconscious but in reality still has his faculties for a few moments before his spirit leaves his body and in that moment pleads with God to save him in the Name of Jesus Christ?

I think those are the kind of questions we're struggling with and we probably can't know for sure.

Rex Ray said...

RRR,

I believe the answer to your three questions is YES! And we can know for sure if we believe what the Bible teaches.

I once told a hired hand if Hitler asked Jesus to save him just before he died, we would meet him in Heaven. He got so angry he quit and walked 6 miles back to his house.

I believe people in hell will be those who have never heard of Jesus OR they believe some other religion that excludes Jesus.

For an illustration ONLY, let’s suppose Muhammad is the savior of the world and not Jesus. Do you think it’s possible that a Christian or lost person who has never heard of Muhammad or doesn’t believe the religion of Muslims just before they died would call on Muhammad to save them?

RRR said...

Rex Ray,

No, I don't think they would know to call upon him.

RRR said...

Rex Ray,

I said; "No, I don't think they would know to call upon him."

At the same time IF Muhammad was The One True Creator God whose Holy Spirit moves throughout the world to accomplish His purpose then according to Scripture ALL people would be aware of such a Creator God even if His Name had not been revealed to them.

I've met more than one person that seem very credible who testify to me that a person who they now can identify as being Jesus Christ appeared to them. Some of them insist that it was not a dream. In some of those instances the people turned from their idols, threw out their altars and spirit houses and threw away their charms because they knew that whoever that was that appeared to them was The sovereign God who they should worship. Sadly, in some cases they continue to turn away and reject Him even though they have had these very real and dramatic encounters.

Christiane said...

I think that for Christian people, and for all people of good will in this world, it is true that love comes from God and flows outward, circulating through mankind, accomplishing much good, before it returns to God. I believe that God's love impels these people to reach out, as a part of their nature has been formed by the goodness of God into a generosity that flows outward to others in need . . . it is not 'forced', but the very nature of the person is now in tune with a sacred generosity of love that gives, and serves, and is selfless in the giving.

I think this because of St. Matthew's Gospel, here:
"“Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” 37Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” 40And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,* you did it to me.”

so if there is an impulse to share, or to donate, or to care for, or to feed, or visit, or clothe, or just to listen . . . remember that all that is good comes FROM GOD.
Does it 'matter' in the whole sense of 'salvation' that this giving spirit is within a person who honors it in his life?

it does . . . to the child at school whose feet hurt until the teacher and guidance counselor bought her shoes that fit, to the dsabled child who takes half an hour to swallow a cup of water on a hot day with help, to a homeless man standing outside of restaurant where your daughter goes frequently, and she buys him sandwiches and brings them out to him, to the people in the nursing where your father is who have no visitors and to whom you show attention and kindness, to the boy is the drug rehab where you teach math whose mother was beaten up by his stepfather and he is crying as he tells of his anger at seeing her bruises when she visited . . .

it matters,
but not in the way we 'get credit' no . . . it matters to THEM, to the ones who were suffering, and we reach out with a kindness 'like that of Our God' . . . because we were given the love to do it and that love is returned to God in our service to these people.

Are we 'forced'?
no . . . we are 'blessed'

big difference, enormous difference

Rex Ray said...

RRR,
I believe in everyone’s life some dreams are real because they are based on true facts.

What Scripture are you referring to that the Holy Spirit will accomplish His purpose to ALL people?

Christiane,
I like your style of writing good comments.

You’re saying, “…it matters, but not in the way we get credit…” reminds me of a pastor in Hawaii telling me of a struggle he was having.

He said, I mow the grass in our churchyard, but nobody knows I’m doing it and it’s killing me.”

I have the same problem. :)