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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Limited or Universal Salvation?

Steve Heyduck is a United Methodist pastor who currently serves as the Chaplain of the Methodist Children’s Home in Waco, TX, plus some other similar tasks there. He considers himself a postmodern, possibly emergent Christian.

I found his blog by chance. The blog has an impressive title (Everyday Theology, from a nonconstantian, postmodern perspective). Well, the title can sometimes be deceiving, but Steve has some interesting points that I liked.

There is a blogpost where he talks about what should be the job of the church: transforming the world is not our job; it is God’s; God doesn’t even need our help, but God has invited us along on the journey toward a transformed world. That resonates, I think, with the ideas exposed by another pastor that I am honored to know, Reverend David Ensign, the Minister of the Clarendon Presbyterian Church in Arlington, VA.

By the way, the title of that blogpost was Missionderstanding. I totally agree. Instead of lecturing people about the superiority of Euro-centric Christianity the preachers should invite us in a journey toward the universal values that even God likes (I hope I am not going further than the blogpost of Steve suggests :) Just kidding).

How I arrived to the blog of Steve Heyduck, the pastor from Waco, it's another story. I was trying to find an answer to a question that I think about for a long time. The Predestination as it is presented by Calvin always seemed to me far too restrictive (to put it mildly: I thought of it as truly barbarian), and I was very intrigued how could emerged from it today's Reformed Church, so progressive and inclusive.

Well, first of all, I didn't know the whole truth about the doctrine of Calvin: he thought that all of us are sinners and so none of us would deserve Salvation. And he considered that God elected from the beginnings some of us to be saved. A decision that we cannot question the reason , because it is not to us, humans to know what God does.

Well, you could say then, let's sin, some of us will be saved anyway, the rest not, so what to do other than sin? I would say here that moral and religion are separate things. If we do bad things here on Earth, it is the society that punishes us. The moral is created by humans and operates on a human scale, through laws and coercion and stuff. God operates on another scale: everything we do here on Earth, good or bad, is just sin, because it is far from God.

So this was the point of Calvin. And I didn't know that the Reformed theologians got rid of Calvin's opinion on Predestination and evolved toward other ideas.

Some went on to the radically opposite side: God will save us all, because he loves us all. And all our deeds, good or bad, are nothing to Him, as they are just on human scale. God has another compass. Two schools of thought went towards this idea, (and finally in America they merged in the Unitarian Universalist Church: Unitarians keep that humans are too good to be not saved by God, Universalists believe that Good loves us too much to not save all of us; if you allow me a joke here, Unitarians keep that people are too good to not accept God regardless, Universalists keep that God is too good to not accept us regardless).

It is a very generous idea, that has however a bias: what remains of the free will? Some of us just don't want to be saved. Is Christianity a religion for slaves?

And Steve Heyduck has another impressive blogpost about this question (Universal Calvinism). Firstly he thinks that Christians have done a huge disservice to our task of welcoming and growing Kingdom here and now by putting hope off until life after death (he adds that in The Great Divorce Lewis suggested that life after death will be a magnification of this life). Then he observes that if God accepted everyone, then what happens to humanity’s vaunted free will?

It is much to say and I will come back to this. And not only once. It is much to say about the Five Points of Calvinism, about all its history up to Postmodern Christianity, about the Posse Peccare / Non Posse Non Peccare and all that stuff.

Maybe Catholicism has a better answer (Reformed guys would be surprised): God is too delicate to impede upon our free will. We are free to follow Him or to sin. It's to us, not to Him. He does not interfere.

Or maybe the bias in all these various schools of thought is too much reasoning. Eastern Orthodoxy will just say that all this is mystery. Silouan the Athonite expresses it admirably: keep you mind in hell, but do not despair.

(Church in America)



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