It’s your choice!
“God doesn’t send you to hell, it is your own choice to accept him, and salvation, or reject him and be damned to hell.” (Paraphrase of something the pastor said in his sermon today.)
If we accept this idea as true, and many evangelical Christians do, then it either proves that god cannot be omnipotent or that he is a sadistic, evil being. If god cannot control our destiny, then he isn’t all-powerful. If he were, and really desires that all be saved as most Christians will claim, then he could make it so.
The Calvinist (and I was one during the last stages of my Christian belief) believes that the sovereignty of god means he is in control of every minute aspect of the universe and knows everything that has ever happened, is happening, and will happen in the future. Because of this belief they accept that people only come to salvation when god wills it, or calls them to him. It is said that without the wooing of the holy spirit to salvation, man cannot understand the things of god and will never be saved.
I fail to see how anyone who believes that god is omnipotent and omniscient cannot believe this. However, the god in this belief isn’t a very nice being to condemn some to eternal suffering when he could call them to him and give them salvation. The only justification I’ve ever heard for why this god would call some and not others is the oft repeated phrase, “His ways are not our ways.” (Christianeese for, “I don’t have any clue but I’m going to believe this anyway.”)
The Arminian (and most Southern Baptists hold the Arminian view, so I was brought up in it) believes that god, being omnipotent, gives up his control over us, granting us the free will to make our own choices about our destiny. Now, the way I see it this idea has some flaws at a fundamental level. If this god is still all-powerful and all-knowing (as many who hold this belief) then it knows the final outcome of “butterfly effect” on your life. Perhaps the position of an atom at the creation of the universe being just a tiny bit different would effect your choice, god would know that and thus would still be able to change your destiny while still, at some level giving you the ability to choose. But let us not worry about these problems right now and assume that this is, indeed, the way this omnipotent and omniscient god works out destiny. What kind of being, knowing the consequences of such a choice, that some will not believe and because of that disbelief suffer eternal torment, would still make such a choice?
There are examples in scripture that say that god doesn’t want anyone to suffer for all eternity. 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (ESV) If, as Peter says here, god wants everyone to be saved, then why would he either a) not call some to him, or b) give us the free will to make our own choice, knowing full well that some will not believe?
To put this in human terms let us use the example of a parent and and young children. Let us say two children between the ages of 3 and 5. This parent effectively has control over whatever the child does in life (not really so in reality, but parents certainly have a lot more control over the lives of their young children than anyone else in a free world). Let us say that the children are in immediate danger of running out into oncoming traffic and the parent is able to stop both them from doing so.
In the Calvinist example, the parent chooses to save one but allows the other to run into traffic and die. We have no idea why the parent made this choice, since they obviously love both of the children and do not wish them to die, and they knew that they would be able to save both. What would we think of this parent if we had all of this information?
In the Arminian example, the parent lets the children make their own choice: Will they run into the street or not? Sure, the parent calls out to the kids and asks them to come away from the street and back into the yard. They tell the kids they will die if they go into the street, but since they want to let the kids make their own decisions in life they don’t physically stop them when they are in the act of running into oncoming traffic (even though, as we have established, they would physically be able to stop both kids from running into traffic if they wanted to). One child heeds the parent’s warning and comes back but the other runs out into traffic and dies. How is this an example of moral parenting?
If the stakes involved in our salvation are higher than those involved in the example above (as most Christians believe that death is not the end of life) then how can we still consider the omnipotent, omniscient god many Christians believe in to be a good and moral being?
I began to see the failings of the commonly held Arminian view of many of the Baptists around me when I was in college. Perhaps because I was friends with a goodly number of folks who were starting to study “reformation” (essentially Calvinism) theology at that time and I began to look into it myself. In fact, I began to believe that it was the only possible way to make our religion make sense. However, I still saw that there were ways to interpret scripture in ways that supported both schools of thought, and I soon began to see that neither god was a very moral being if these things were true, and he was downright insane if he actually desires that everyone be saved but then goes about things in either of the ways I’ve outlined above.
I realize that there are plenty of Christians who do not hold to either view, that believe that god will, indeed, save every person in the end. I’m not entirely sure how many of them back it up in scripture but I am quite certain that they believe this because they are good and moral people who cannot believe in a god who is not good and moral. They are, as some have said, better than their religion, and have changed their religion to fit their own moral views. But there are still plenty of Christians out there who hold firmly to the Calvinist or Arminian views and believe that god is omnipotent and omniscient, wants everyone to be saved, but allows some to suffer eternally for reasons beyond our knowing.
I couldn’t make these ideas mesh into a coherent viewpoint so I abandoned it all together.
In just a bit of site news, I apologize for abandoning this blog for nearly four months. I really have no excuse other than I’ve just been spending time doing other things, none of it overly important. November and December were, of course, two of my busiest months with holiday travel and lots of extra music stuff around Christmas time, and January is always kind of my mental recovery time for that.
I’ve also been spending more time these past few months playing video games. So, I was in Dunwall helping to find the young princess and stop a coup, in Skyrim going on various quests, wandering colonial America looking for an artifact to help stop the end of the world, or in Detroit getting killed and being revived with cybernetic augmentation techology by the biotech firm I work security for. All very important things, of course!
I think, too, that I had much of what I’d intended to say when I started this blog and was suffering from a bit of writer’s block. Sometimes the level of stupid that comes from the pastor’s mouth is just too much for my mind to process… At times this blog has been a way for me to blow off the steam of listening to it, but sometimes I think I just need to let it pass and forget about it.
I won’t promise to post more regularly, but I will promise to try!