God is an Anarchist
Salvation For All
Written by Darrell Anderson.
I was taught by many people that eternal salvation — the gateway to Heaven — was possible only through accepting Jesus of Nazareth as Lord and Savior. An obvious conclusion to that teaching is those people who fail to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior are condemned to Hell for eternity. Furthermore, an often-repeated question asked is what about all the people who lived before Jesus — what happens to them? What happens to people who have never heard of that man?
For a long time I never was able to fully answer those questions to my satisfaction. That such questions would fester inside me provided me understanding why people reject religion or the Christian faith.
However, from several years ago when I turned my back on churchianity and began seeking knowledge and wisdom rather than hand-me-down doctrines, questions such as these were slowly answered. I believe the Christian doctrine of salvation as currently taught is flawed.
There is an explanation that provides a partial workaround to these questions. In his letter to the Roman Christians, Paul explained that those people without knowledge of Jesus would be judged by their own laws — by the nature in which they lived (Romans 2). C. S. Lewis seemed to have adapted that angle into his wonderful stories of Narnia, when Emeth, despite worshipping Tash instead of Aslan, nonetheless finds himself in the next life a welcomed member of the new Narnia. Lewis’s message was despite worshipping the wrong name, Emeth’s life-long actions proved that he nonetheless sought the true God Aslan. However, that explanation still leaves a huge hole that defies what is traditionally taught about the nature of God.
Consider that long before you and I existed, before any individual was a twinkle in their parents’ eyes, there was no earth, no humans at all. If God created the earth, that is. I don’t want to get into a discussion here about first causes or origins, I am only stipulating a beginning point for this discussion. Thus, once upon a time no humans roamed this earth.
Another presumption I bring to this discussion is that God is omniscient — that he is all-knowing. If God exists and he did indeed create the universe, then I do not believe that such an entity is constrained by the dimension of human time. Hugh Ross, an astronomer, in his book Beyond the Cosmos, has provided some interesting thoughts about how God’s “extra-dimensionality” might operate — at least with respect to how humans can understand such a topic. I also do not want to wander into a discussion about the full meaning of the word omniscience, but for this discussion I provide only the simple boundary that God knows all events. Whether that knowledge means God also knows all possible permutations that could have happened based upon people making different decisions is not necessary for this discussion.
Consider then that God decided to create the earth and humans. With foreknowledge God knows that humans will defy the simple natural laws he embeds in their essence and that humans often will cause their own grief and sorrows. God knew people would intentionally and unintentionally trespass against one another. God also knew that some people would reject him and deny he exists. He knew all of this would happen — all before he twitched his nose, blinked his eyes, wriggled his forefinger, or just spoke or thought the universe into existence.
If God exists, I prefer to believe in a rational and just God. I prefer to believe that deceit is impossible for such a being and that his nature prohibits such mischief.
Based upon my own studies I think that I have written nothing thus far that contradicts basic Judeo-Christian teachings. Yet, as I have previously mentioned, the explanation I just provided based upon the epistle to the Romans creates a problem, one that non-believers easily attack.
If God knows that humans will trespass and cause pain and sorrow, and then God creates humans anyway, how can a rational and just God condemn humans for what he knows is an essential part of human nature? To create humans and then condemn them for the very nature he designed in them is irrational, and certainly smacks of a hypocritical God who does not know or honor justice. To follow or worship an irrational God is itself an irrational act.
I refuse to embrace such reasoning, yet based upon what churchianity teaches, this conclusion must be so. In other words, all people are damned before they are born. That idea is repugnant to what seems to be the nature of God as taught in the Bible. More importantly, the idea is repugnant to common sense.
There is a better explanation, one that more easily ties the Judeo and Christian teachings together. How can God create humans and then condemn them based upon the very nature God created in every individual?
The story of grace is the only solution. Based upon the presumptions that God foreknew what would happen and God is perfect in his nature, God must have forgiven all humans from the very beginning — before he created humans.
This is a radical idea, but one that makes sense. Many questions immediately arise, of course.
Why then, does God need to judge people? Perhaps merely because he is a just God and in the end to prove to everybody that no human is innocent of never having trespassed. However, if all people are forgiven, then judgment could serve a different purpose other than determining who goes to Hell or Heaven. If everybody is already forgiven, then that is the foundation upon which everybody begins. Perhaps then judgment serves the purpose of deciding what each individual brings into the next life. Indeed, the Bible teaches that all works will be tested by fire. Most works will not survive, but the Bible teaches that each individual survives. This makes sense only if each individual is forgiven in the first place.
What about Hitler and Stalin? They are forgiven? Under such a hypothesis, yes. Such a thought is repugnant to a traditional sense of justice, a sense of justice that most human seem to possess. Yet, as Frédéric Bastiat reminds everybody through the title of his essay What is Seen and What is Not Seen, repugnance to such a thought precludes an ability to look at the other elements of the discussion. Such a strict attitude forgets the part of God’s presumed nature — his grace. Possibly nobody deserves a pardon — none. All people deserve judgment. Why? Because everybody is a creature of free will, and everyone causes grief and sorrow because each individual chooses to. Every human commits intentional trespass and escapes restitution. The only difference between the majority of people and Hitler and Stalin is the degree and intensity of those intentional choices. As John Bradford allegedly declared while watching another man being led to the gallows, “But for the grace of God, there goes John Bradford.” Only through God’s grace does each individual begin to realize the potential each human is capable of.
Perhaps that is the cornerstone of Jesus’ teaching against hating, that when an individual hates he or she actually is committing murder — at least within the heart. In other words, the motive is the same albeit with a different result. Perhaps that is the story of Cain and Abel. Cain could have restrained his hatred for his brother, but chose to use those same thoughts to kill. Perhaps Jesus was trying to describe the potential wickedness of humans. The difference between hatred and murder are mere physical actions, the thoughts are the same. The difference between most people and Hitler and Stalin is that the latter acted out their potentials — to the utter horror of the rest of humanity. John Bradford understood grace.
Why then does the Christian religion stress an acceptance of Jesus of Nazareth? If everybody is already forgiven, what is the use?
Two possible reasons. One is so each individual begins to change from within. Each individual needs to understand the meaning of God’s grace and each individual needs to act out that meaning in the real world. Only by personally demonstrating God’s grace does an individual hope to change the world. Nobody knows how the world might be different today if somebody had demonstrated God’s grace to Hitler or Stalin. Perhaps there would have been no difference with those two men, perhaps they both were utterly evil — nobody knows, but the possibilities of the thought should make most people wonder.
Another possible reason that accepting Jesus is important is even if an individual realizes that all people are forgiven from the beginning, the rest of the world might not. The Christian therefore lives a life of hope, and despite all the grief the world and people cause, the Christian should believe that all is not futile or hopeless. A Christian should go to his or her grave and not despair. The rest of the world, however, lives mostly in despair, with no hope. Thus, their life on this planet is Hell.
Lastly, what about the individual who comes to have these understandings but then decides to live an evil life, thinking that all people are forgiven anyway?
One might think that the unforgivable trespass against God is to mock God. By definition, any individual who comes to this understanding and then decides to purposely commit evil, thinking forgiveness is already in hand, is mocking God.
Does an eternal Hell exist? I have no idea and I am not going to discuss that topic here. However, to understand the meaning of grace and then understand that mockery of God might be unforgivable, then I would have to allow that an eternal Hell could exist. On the other hand, Paul wrote that where “sin exists grace abounds more,” implying that despite the free will to reject God, God’s grace will not allow such a decision.
In the long run, if what I have just written is reasonable, then I hope people will admit that churchianity has caused much mischief for almost 2,000 years, causing people to doubt and wonder about the next life — if such a life does exist. I believe what I have written makes more sense — is more rational — than what traditional churchianity has taught. I prefer to believe that if God exists then he is rational and just. I would not want to seek any other kind of God.
Next: The Good News