Saturday, April 19, 2008

Yesterday's Encounter

Yesterday's encounter kept me awake last night. I could not help but think about that young lady and her situation. While replying to Susan's comment in yesterday's post, I wrote this:

Isn't it amazing that such divine encounters happen when we least expect them? When I shared this event with my son (who arrived home about an hour after it happened), my daughter (who was traveling in the car with some friends), and then my husband at work, (who was very concerned...then laughed when I described Sasha racing in circles around the women outside on my front lawn just as the police officers arrived); it was then that I realized that the Lord must have directed her to my particular house.

These things do not happen by accident.

We live about 7 houses down from a main rural road. I don't know whether or not she tried knocking on other doors before she got to mine.

I have been thinking about this terribly troubled young woman who is only a year younger than my own daughter. She has so many "strikes" against her. She is deaf, mute, schizophrenic and bi-polar. I laid awake in bed for hours last night thinking about her. Mostly, I thought about how would a Christian witness to someone like that? Would sharing the gospel be comprehended?

Susan, I cannot tell you how many times the Lord has led me to either a Bible verse, Christian book, article, or a Christian friend's words when such deep questions enter into my mind.


This time, my mind was led to recall a portion of a chapter from the new book I am currently reading. It is called, To Everyone An Answer: A Case for the Christian Worldview. Excellent book!! I am enjoying reading it!

In the chapter entitled, "Religious pluralism and Christian exclusivism," author David K. Clark brings up the question that Arlen had previously asked at this blog; namely, what about those who have "never heard" or, as this new book states, "can't understand a religious message."

Several commenters contributed excellent answers in that previous thread! You might notice that Clark's answer includes some of them. I just thought that the author's answer to this very important question was remarkably good!

Clark writes:

With Christianity, what about people who lived before Jesus? Or cultures where Jesus is unknown? Or people who can't understand the Christian message--like very young children?


I would add people like the young woman who came to my home yesterday. We can each wonder - does God have special grace for people like her? I think that Clark gives us a sufficient answer to this question. Readers, let me know what you think.

Clark continues:

Exclusivists [described in the book as believers in Christ as being the only way to God the Father] offer many responses. For one thing, many qualifications fit with exclusivism. Some say God gives special grace to children or others who can't understand a religious message. Others say that God knows every person who would respond and ensures that all people who would believe have a chance to believe.

For a Christian, this objection is difficult because we just don't know all that God will do for people who don't know about Jesus. But we do know about the character and the intentions of God. Regarding God's character, among God's essential attributes are justice (intense opposition to evil) and grace (passionate love for people). Regarding his intentions, a deep divine passion is to rescue all people. If we start with what we know, we can gain confidence. Somehow--it's speculation to say exactly how--God is at work to draw all people to himself.

One reasonable scenario is that God will give all people the opportunity to receive salvation. How God will do this is partly clear and partly hidden. The clear part is that God has instructed Christians to offer to others the opportunity to receive the gift of salvation. The less clear part is what God is doing behind the scenes. If God's character and intentions are as the Bible says, I surmise God is doing far more than we know. So, on the one hand, it would be arrogant for Christians to presuppose and mistaken for critics to assume that God's entire effort is limited to what human beings do. On the other hand, it would be irresponsible for Christians to conclude they may shirk their duty to share the message of Jesus just because God works in unexpected ways behind the scenes to bring his love to the world.

As I said, we don't know all God's ways. As a Christian, I say some things (like my responsibility to humbly share Jesus with others) are clear and nonnegotiable. But others are less clear. To answer the third charge against Christian exclusivism, however, it's enough to know that God will both conquer evil and draw all repentant people to himself.


What a powerful statement is contained in that last sentence!! It describes why Christ came to die on the cross for our sins and the purpose of the gospel message!!

Clark continues:

The objection is that exclusivism is unfair to those who have no chance for salvation because, humanly speaking, they haven't heard that message. But I believe God will give the chance to all. We don't know how this works. If God is committed to drawing all people to himself, then the objection doesn't hold against Christian exclusivism. We can reasonably infer, given God's commitment to overcome evil, his longing that all people love him, and his infinite resourcefulness, that his plan is fair. Abraham once asked rhetorically, "Will not the God of all the earth do what is right?" We don't know exactly how, but we have confidence he will. (bold mine)


Clark's last two sentences reminded me of one of Arlen's comments in the Never Heard of Jesus? thread:

"But quite frankly, if we knew everything, we wouldn’t need faith."

7 comments:

mike rucker said...

you simply can't have it both ways. you cannot build your reformed or calvinistic theology and quote romans saying that God creates some people just to burn them in hell forever, and then appeal to "God's character" to do what's "right" about people who aren't Christians. if the "character" of God involves creating someone from nothing to torture them forever and ever (amen), then i don't think i'd like to appeal to it if it was me.

it's at this point - the point i reached after many, many years of wrestling with my baptist upbringing - where you look at the God that has worked in your own life and realize that (a) there's no way in hell - pun intended - that He creates anybody just to show divine wrath, and (b) human death is likely not the end of God's offer of grace to us through Jesus.

but you can't say "sola del gloria" about a God who comes and judges the world - a world full of people who some say God judges as guilty ("born into sin") at the time of their birth - and then make up doctrines like the age of accountability when your prior theology says quite plainly that a baby dying in infancy is doomed to fry forever.

you either pretend to be "biblical" and pick and choose the parts you like and the ones you don't, or you change the idolatry in your life that's placed the book in the place where God should be. more importantly, you stop hammering the pulpit with absolutes of what God is or isn't going to do and begin to speak in humility and grace, admitting that we're all on this journey doing the best we can.

mike rucker
fairburn, georgia, usa
mikerucker.wordpress.com

Christinewjc said...

Mike,

Where do you perceive the author (or me) as "trying to have it both ways?"

Notice what is being stated here [C: while I intersperse some comments]:

The objection is that exclusivism is unfair to those who have no chance for salvation because, humanly speaking, they haven't heard that message.

[C: The author states the obvious. Such an objection is rampant among skeptic circles.]

But I believe God will give the chance to all.

[C: This is the perceived solution to the original dilemma - God will give the chance to come to salvation through Christ to all. We many not know all of the ways God will achieve this, but it is reasonable to presume that it can be done.]

We don't know how this works.

[C: Remember, the author admitted that it isn't only human evangelism at work. God works "behind the scenes" in ways that we cannot fathom right now since we only see "as through a glass darkly" - as the Scripture informs us.]

If God is committed to drawing all people to himself, then the objection doesn't hold against Christian exclusivism.

[C: I recently read that Muslims in the Middle East are coming to faith and salvation in Jesus Christ in greater numbers today than ever before in the history of the world! God IS drawing all people to himself...even ones in whom we would never have expected to see such a thing happen!]

We can reasonably infer, given God's commitment to overcome evil, his longing that all people love him, and his infinite resourcefulness, that his plan is fair.


*******

Let's take each of those last points one by one.

1. "We can reasonably infer", meaning, we don't know how, when, where or what...but we know WHY God does this. It is because of His commitment (as stated in the Bible and shown through the Person of Jesus Christ) to overcome evil. It is also because, as the Bible tells us numerous times, because He loves us first and wants us to willingly love Him back! It is because HE FIRST LOVED US that salvation in Christ is even possible!

God has infinite resources in order to achieve both overcoming evil and bringing those who He foreknows will answer His call to repent and be saved through Jesus! Therefore, His plan is fair.

This doesn't mean that all people will be saved. (Scripture informs us that God doesn't want anyone to perish!) It just means that those who are not saved have made their own choice! The foreknowledge of god about one's response to the gospel does not mean that a person's free will is taken away!

We each have the free will choice to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior!

We may not know all of the ways that God will achieve this; but we can rely on His Word and His promises in Scripture that He is a fair and righteous Judge of all persons!

I don't see where I was "pretending to be biblical" or where I "pick and choose" the parts I like and those that I don't. Where do you see that?

All we can do, as believers, is speak in humility and grace. God does the saving!

If you mean that "doing the best we can" is through sharing the gospel message, then I agree with you. We all are on this journey together. However, Scripture even informs us that "all of our righteousnesses are as filthy rags. That should humble anyone/everyone!

Pointing to the only Righteous One - Jesus Christ - takes all the pride of "doing the best we can" away. Wouldn't you agree?

Arlen said...

Very interesting view of perspectives here. I would like to broaden the discussion by asking if anyone reading this believes in “accidents?” By the same token, do you believe in coincidence? Does EVERYTHING that happens have a reason or purpose, or do things ever happen randomly?

My perspective is that Christine’s encounter was not accidental. I have a difficult time believing that anything is random, even the random drug tests that I used to take when performing work for a nuclear power plant. I believe the computer selected those names “at random” for some divine purpose that perhaps I had no notion as to why. Quite frequently, I may never know the “reason” behind the logic of God; I think that I do well to understand as much as I do (which admittedly isn’t much). I’m amazed when I wake up each day at how much I really don’t know.

Happy Sunday, Christine & Mike,
Arlen

Christinewjc said...

Very good points, Arlen.

It's funny. The "random" question [regarding Evolution] is at the height of the issue in Ben Stein's new movie, "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed." I plan on seeing it today. I am putting up a preliminary post and then will add my assessment of the movie when I return.

I agree with you about the fact that there comes a point in everyone's life where they must admit how much they (we) don't know. That happens to me on a daily basis!

For me, there came a point in my life when I realized how much I don't really know - especially regarding spiritual matters. Thus, I delved into studying the Bible for answers. Many of the difficult questions since then have been sufficiently answered. Those that haven't - have been answered by the verse that tells us, "My grace is sufficient for thee."

2Cr 12:9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.


This is why I trust in God and rely so much on God's Word and Jesus Christ to teach me!

Have a blessed Sunday Arlen!

In Jesus,
Christine

mike rucker said...

For a Christian, this objection is difficult because we just don't know all that God will do for people who don't know about Jesus. But we do know about the character and the intentions of God.

this is my point, Christine. if the character of God we use in our theology sends people to hell "for His glory," then this isn't the kind of character to which we can appeal to make decisions in our favor.

remember that talking heads song, "psycho killer"?

i think a line from it applies to your previous comment:

'you're talking a lot, but you're not saying anything...'

:)

mike rucker
fairburn, georgia, usa
mikerucker.wordpress.com

Christinewjc said...

Mike,

This portion of the author's comments explains what you seem to be continually objecting to:

If we start with what we know, we can gain confidence. Somehow--it's speculation to say exactly how--God is at work to draw all people to himself.

One reasonable scenario is that God will give all people the opportunity to receive salvation. How God will do this is partly clear and partly hidden.
The clear part is that God has instructed Christians to offer to others the opportunity to receive the gift of salvation. The less clear part is what God is doing behind the scenes. If God's character and intentions are as the Bible says, I surmise God is doing far more than we know. So, on the one hand, it would be arrogant for Christians to presuppose and mistaken for critics to assume that God's entire effort is limited to what human beings do.


There is no inconsistency to the fact that Jesus is "the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me."

You are replying a lot...but apparently not comprehending...

mike rucker said...

You are replying a lot...but apparently not comprehending...

that was funny - who helped you write that?... :)

mr