Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Who REALLY Loves His Neighbor? Telling the Truth in a Relativistic Culture

I have been dealing with people online who criticize me for "lack of love" when I insist that one's relationship with Christ determines one's relationship with God the Father. That is, does the unbeliever, whether of another religion or none, have access to God, such as to have cause to expect His love and
answers to his or her prayers? I answer "no," without regard to any concept of personal worthiness in that person. My answer is the same whether the question regards Gandhi or Stalin. I have addressed the supposed universal love of God before, such as here.

But Scripture addresses the question I present here in a more-explicit fashion. In Proverbs 15:8-9, 26, we read,

"The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,
     but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to Him.
The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,
     but He loves him who pursues righteousness.
The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord,
     but gracious words are pure."

We see three times in these verses that the spiritual activities of unbelievers, "the wicked," are an abomination to the Lord. That is not a word that indicates a universal love toward them, but rather wrath! In the words of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:7), we are to warn unbelievers to "flee the wrath to come." Instead, they must turn to "Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come" (I Thessalonians 1:10).

Biblical Christianity holds forth this contrast: If you remain in your unbelief, then you remain under the wrath of God. The way to escape that wrath is turn from your sin to Christ our redeemer. As Paul said to the Christians in Rome (Romans 5:9), "Since, therefore, we have now been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God."

Will people be offended when we tell them this? Absolutely! The Bible even calls Jesus "a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense" (I Peter 2:8). To attempt to avoid offending people is to turn Jesus into something other than Who He is. And how is it loving? How can it be called love not to warn a person that he is on a path to destruction? If a person were about to walk over a cliff, wouldn't a loving person call out in warning? Of course! To warn a person of danger is to act in a loving manner.

Here I must, in love, give a warning to the preachers of love of the wrath that they risk themselves. God says (Ezekiel 3:18), "If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand." If your concept of love is so syrupy that you will not warn your neighbor of his spiritual danger, then God will hold you accountable for your neighbor's destruction. If you don't love him enough to warn him, I hope that you love yourself enough to avoid that kind of judgment, so that you warn him, out of a sense of self-preservation.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Kicking and Screaming into the Kingdom of God: His Irresistible Grace

One remark that I often hear from Arminians when they criticize (their caricature of) Calvinism is that God "doesn't force anyone into the kingdom." I have heard it asserted over and over again throughout my thirty-some years as a Calvinist. Yet, I have never heard even one of those theologizers refer to a Scripture in support of that statement.

I would suggest, on the contrary, that Scripture explicitly states the opposite. Consider the prophecies of Hosea 11:1-4 (emphasis added):

"When Israel was a child, I loved him,
     and out of Egypt I called my son.
The more they were called,
     the more they went away;
they kept sacrificing to the Baals
     and burning offerings to idols.
Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk;
     I took them up by their arms,
but they did not know that I healed them.
     I led them with cords of kindness,with the bands of love,
and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws,
     and I bent down to them and fed them."

There is a progression here: Jehovah deals with Israel in a cajoling voice, like a mother encouraging her toddler to eat (an anthropomorphism; I certainly do not believe that God is in any way impotent in dealing with us). Yet, Israel continues his devotion to idolatry. In contrast, while Israel is faithless, God continues faithful (II Timothy 2:13). So, what does He do? He draws them (and us, as well) with "cords of kindness" and "bands of love." Those words represent force, but not aggression, not violence. It is out of love and kindness that He curbs our penchant for idolatry and all sin, and draws us - unfailingly - to Himself (John 6:44).

Here is the Word of God on the matter, not the self-serving speculations of the Arminian. To my mind, that settles the argument.