Sunday, December 8, 2013

Here we go again... "You can't save yourself, but you better save yourself"

Français : Logo de la société LOGIC
Every time I start to feel somewhat comfortable with a new church, they screw it up and start talking theology.  Churches do so much good.  Just stick to that.  More specifically when they start talking "salvation" any sense of reason and/or proportion seems to go right out the window.  Last week it happened again; that sermon you eventually inevitably hear if you go to most mainstream churches long enough.  The one that starts off with the total depravity thing. "There is nothing you can do to save yourself.  I know your ego doesn't like that.  You need a savior.  Jesus is your savior."  So far, OK...  Then "All you have to do to save yourself is believe in what Jesus did for you.". Wait, what...?

I don't go along with the whole total depravity bit anyway nor original sin.  I wasn't born bad, evil and/or defective. I'm not so hideous that God had to kill Godself to "save me".  But, let's assume all that is true.   Let's assume I can't accept that because my ego won't let me accept it.  If there is nothing I can do to save myself, no act that I can do to save myself, wouldn't that include forcing myself to believe that God killed Jesus to save me?  Wouldn't that be an act that I have to perform to save myself?  Isn't that going to puff up my ego, believing that my belief just saved me and your unbelief condemns you?

As the pastor was going through the sermon (which of course, I am highly paraphrasing here) he actually pulled out the number one proof text us universalists use.  If we had to pick one verse in the Bible that clearly shows all are "saved", it would be this one.  

1 Timothy 4:10  That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe,
When this one popped up on the screen I pulled my palm away from my face and waited with bated breath to see how the pastor would handle it.  God, the savior of ALL people, ESPECIALLY (not exclusively) those who believe.  Oh boy, here we go.  I wish I could remember his exact words, but  it went a little something like this. He acknowledged that while God is the savior of ALL people, in a general sense, he is not really the savior of all people in an actual you have been saved sense.  He's just potentially the savior of all people and is exclusively the savior of those who save themselves by believing.  Doh! Yes he did.  A masterful sleight of hand (words) pulled off and I'm not sure how many people even noticed.

There are several things about mainstream Christianity that defy logic and are completely inconsistent.  Perhaps the two that bug me the most are that Jesus died for all of your sins.  All of them, except one.  The sin of "unbelief".  Not believing that Jesus died for your sins is the single sin that can send you to the eternal torture chamber. The other is that God is the savior of all men, especially those who believe, but not really the savior of all men, just those who believe.  

Oh well, the church does do a lot of really good things, they have great music and my wife likes it.  I've heard this all before, I can stand to hear it a few more times again.  :::: deep sigh:::::

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kc bob said...

The word "all" is an interesting one. In the bible I find that it is mostly used in a hyperbolic sense. Unfortunately many take it literally and try to throw mountains into the sea thinking "all" things are really possible when they believe.

Brian said...

Yes, sometimes "all" is used in a hyperbolic sense. Are you saying you think Paul didn't really mean "all men", but meant to say "many" or "most".

"All things" is one thing. It's clear that's hyperbolic. But, to say "all men" when one could just as easily leave out the word all or use most or many ...

How about this one from 1 Corinthians 15:22

For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

Does all mean all when he speaks of Adam? Does all mean less than all when he speaks of Christ?

kc bob said...

To me it is clear that, like Adam, we all with eventually die physically. It is also clear to me that all who are "in Christ" will never die but live forever in spirit.

Brian said...

That is really not clear to me. So, the first all is all, but the last all is all who are "in Christ" (which is only some).

Brian said...

Ah... exegesis.... It's fascinating.

kc bob said...

"All" of the time. ツ

CindyinSD said...


Excellent post and I can certainly relate. My husband doesn't want to go to church (his immunity is too low), or we probably would, but not for the sermons. I've heard a lifetime's worth of them and I can always find one online if I get the urge. The worship is sometimes good, and occasionally you might even find a church where a little bit of fellowship is available, but the sermons -- eh -- you just have to grin and bear it. It's good of you to go with your wife. That's huge. Married women often feel somewhat shamed if we have to go to church alone.

I absolutely agree with you. There's no justification in Ro 5 for limiting the scope of "all". Not only that, but in context, "the many" clearly means "all with the exclusion of Jesus (and perhaps Adam himself if you really stretch it).

If you should want some degree of fellowship and conversation with folks who believe as you do, look up the "Evangelical Universalist" forum sometime. We'd love to have you there.

Be blessed!

Robert Mahoney said...

As one who was an Eastern Orthodox Christian for years and decided to walk away from Christianity (But not Jesus) I know the struggle you are feeling. Here is a great book from the EO perspective.

Brian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brian said...

Thanks Robert. I appreciate the referral to the book. I think I've read a dozen books on the subject by now and looked at it from so many perspectives. I am firmly convinced there is no place of eternal torment.

Robert Mahoney said...

I was a Calvinist for many years until I discovered the doctrine of mercy. So much of modern Christianity is about justice. God must punish sin.

I discovered that the God most people have isn't the God of the bible, rather, it is Schylock the Jewish money lender from The Merchant of Venice. Shylock had a deal with Antonio, that if Antonio didn't pay back the money he was owed, then Shylock would get a pound of Antonio's flesh. People begged Shylock to have mercy but he would have none of it. He wanted his pound of flesh. Essentially that is the view people have of God, he sent His son to die on your behalf, because God is going to get bHis pound of flesh.... either from you or from Jesus, but either way He is going to get it. So, either Jesus can offer it, of God will cut it out of you for eternity.

If Jesus had to come and take your punishment, then God didn't "freely" forgive. God's justice had to be satisfied. But, when someone sins against you, you are told to freely forgive the person...without exception. You cannot say "Well, you did steal from me, and I want to forgive you, but either you have to pay me back, or someone else can in your place, but until justice is served I cannot forgive you." Yeah, good luck with that.

But mercy trumps justice. Who is mercy for? Those who deserve it? But, if mercy is deserved than it is no longer mercy.

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