Thursday, March 30, 2017

Lies We Believe About God (Catena)

Summary of "A Catena"
Young lists a chain of Scriptures (picking his preferred translations and giving his own emphasis) that speak to the biblical theme of God's saving work for all. He believes they speak powerfully in support of his perspective.

I'll react to each verse independently below:

Luke 3:6 "All flesh shall see the salvation of God"
Of course, these words from Zechariah (father of John the Baptist) only say that all humans will see the salvation of God, not that all flesh will experience it. In fact, in the very next paragraph, John the Baptist is telling some people that they are a 'brood of vipers' and need to flee wrath. They need to repent and produce fruit. They should stop thinking that they are children of Abraham. They're headed toward death and hell. When John's hearers then ask, 'What should we do', John's reply is not 'realize your true identity.' His response is actually quite performance based. Share your extra tunic. Stop robbing people. Don't make false accusations. In other words, I don't think the wording of Luke 3:6 necessarily communicates what Young thinks it communicates and the context seems to say some things at odds with his conclusions.

John 1:7 "That through him all would believe"
Young here picks a translation that uses the word 'would' whereas most every translation uses the word 'might'. The Greek, it seems to me, allows for either. Even 'would' doesn't necessarily mean that all will. It could just as easily mean 'would be able' to believe (which is the same as 'might'). Indeed, just a handful of verses later John writes "Yet to all who received him to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." This seems to speak against Young's idea that all people are automatically children of God in every important sense and against his idea that all will certainly end up saved (since salvation is conditional upon believing/allegiance).

John 1:29 "Takes away the sin of the world"
Yes, Jesus is the one who takes away the sin of the world. Nobody else is able to do that. The verse doesn't necessarily mean that Jesus actually has already taken away the sin of every individual in the world. Nor can it mean contextually since the words come form John the Baptist who preached repentance of sin.

John 3:16-17 "God so loved the world... To save the world through Him"
God loves the whole world. But individual members of that world only experience eternal life if they believe in the One God sent. Jesus is The Way to be saved. Young's quotation only supports the truth that God loves all people. It does not support the idea that all people are already saved.

John 3:35 "The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand"
The context of this verse is the statement in the previous verse that God gave Jesus the Spirit without limit. So the meaning of this verse is most likely reiterating that point. Additionally, the very next verse repeats: "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life for God's wrath remains on him." Young isolates verse 35 to make it sound as if all individuals are already saved by Jesus, but the context doesn't really support such an interpretation.

John 4:42 "This really is the Savior of the world"
Yes, Jesus really is the Savior of the world. Young seems to think that anytime the words 'salvation' and 'world' are used in the same sentence, this must mean that all individual members of the world will be (or, in fact, already are) saved. This doesn't really follow. It could just mean that the only way for the world to be saved is through Jesus.

John 6:33 "Gives life to the world"
Yes, Jesus is the source of life. Anyone who has physical life owes it to Jesus. And anyone who has spiritual life owes it to Jesus. Jesus is a giver of life. But that doesn't mean that every individual in the world receives Jesus' gift. Again, just two verses later Jesus makes clear that you actually have to come to him. Some don't come to Him. One's response to Jesus is a matter of life and death. It is simply not the case that we all already have life and just need to realize as much.

John 8:12 "I am the light of the world"
Indeed, Jesus is a light to the whole world. But the world prefers darkness to light (John 3:19). Again, the very same verse (just not the part of the verse Young quotes) says we actually have to follow Jesus to have that light. It's not already in us.

John 12:32 "Will draw [drag] all men to Myself"
First of all, I think his emphasis [drag] speaks, once again, to the fact that he's coming from a Calvinistic background. Second, just because Jesus draws/drags all people to Himself doesn't mean they all repent and are saved. It could just mean that everyone will at some point be confronted by the reality of the cross. Third, the statement was prompted by a visit by some Greek people who wanted more of Jesus. The statement could simply be saying that all people (more than just Jews) were and will be drawn to Jesus. It needn't be suggesting that every individual will be drawn to Him (let alone that they will all then be saved or realize that they are already saved).

John 13:3 "The Father had given all things into His hands"
Yes, but what does Jesus do with the "all things" that are in His hands? Does He force them to respond positively to His love? Does He force them to adhere to the truth? It is true that Jesus has been given all authority, but He chooses to delegate that authority... to share it... in order to make what He's after (love) possible. This is a point Young is aware of and even supports, so it is a bit surprising if he is taking this verse to mean more than that.

John 6:37, 39 "All that the Father gives me will come"
In context, this passage is not about soteriology (who is or will be saved) but Christology. Jesus is in dispute with unbelievers. These people assumed they were in right relationship to God, yet they rejected Jesus. Jesus point is that the very fact that they are rejecting Him shows that they weren't in right relationship to God in the first place. Everyone who is in right relationship with the Father will recognize Jesus as His Son. The very context, then, shows that some people are indeed outsiders to the Kingdom for the very fact that they don't submit to the Father or the Son.

John 17:2 "Authority of all people, that he might give eternal life to all"
Yes, Jesus has authority over all people. But, again, how does Jesus use that authority? Does He force all people to be saved and/or recognize their salvation? No. He offers them salvation as a gift. They must receive it. The whole rest of the prayer in this chapter assumes a distinction between believers and unbelievers that Young doesn't seem to want to recognize. Jesus often spoke in categories that conflict with Young's most controversial point.

Acts 3:21 "God to restore all things"
Verse 19 says "Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out," Frankly, the text demands that we must be saved (the idea that we are already saved would, it seems to me, be baffling to the New Testament authors). God is going to restore His original intent (a beautiful earth filled with love), but whether or not individual people choose to participate in that by the grace of God is another matter.

Ephesians 1:9-10 "He might gather together in one all things in Christ"
Young might believe that all things are already in Christ, but the text doesn't necessarily share Young's assumption. It simply points to a future unity in Christ. Our response to Jesus determines whether or not we are in the body of Christ.

Ephesians 1:22-23 "Head over all things to the church... Him who fills all in all"
It is somewhat surprising that Young would utilize this verse insofar as it specifically speaks of Jesus as the head of the church (not the entire world). The church is Jesus' body (again, not the world).

Ephesians 2:8-9 "By grace you have been saved through faith... not of works"
I'm guessing that Young included this point because he wants to make sure we don't understand salvation as performance based. I agree. I'd simply remind Young that the reception of a gift is not a performance. No one gets 'credit' for receiving a gift. The passage is saying that the people of faith (not everyone) have received the gift of salvation by grace.

Colossians 1:15-17, 20 "To reconcile all things to Himself"
Young doesn't print the verses in between which speak of the church, specifically, as the body of Christ. The passage says that we were all alienated from God, not just because of lies we believed but also because of behaviors that we performed. But now we (the Colossian Christians and all believers) have been reconciled. Indeed, it is even possible for us to stop being reconciled if we don't continue in the faith according to this passage (v. 23).

Romans 5:18 "Free gift came to all men"
Again, a free gift still has to be received. And this reception is not a work (of course). I agree the gift is offered to all. But there's no indication that all receive it. It is possible to reject a gift of love (otherwise it is not love, it is coercion).

Romans 8:38-39 "[nothing] will be able to separate us from the love of God"
Amen! I agree. God's love is universal. But that doesn't mean it is reciprocated by every individual. Obviously it is not. My love for my children does not dictate that they will love me.

Romans 11:36 "From him and through him and to him are all things"
Amen! It's all about Jesus!

Romans 11:32 "So that he might have mercy on all"
Yes, God has indeed been merciful to all of us. Not only has God been merciful... God has also been gracious. Indeed, God makes salvation available to all. Amen! But that doesn't mean that all are saved.

1 Corinthians 15:22 "In Christ all will be made alive"
Young, it seems, takes this to mean that all are in Christ and saved. There are two other options (both better). It could be that all will be resurrected (at which point they will be distinguished as either holy or wicked). Or, more likely, Young is just wrong in his prior assumption that all are already 'in Christ'. The verse is just saying that everyone in Christ will experience eternal life in a resurrected body.

1 Corinthians 15:24-28 "God may be all in all"
Amen! God will be all in all. Death itself will be defeated. Everything will be submitted to the authority of God. But this comes after the destruction of some things that would not or could not submit. So the 'all' is qualified in that sense.

2 Corinthians 5:19 "God was in Christ reconciling the cosmos to Himself"
Yes, the incarnation made possible the reconciliation of the world to God. Anyone who is 'in Christ' is therefore reconciled. They are part of the new creation, as the context makes clear. We continue this work of reconciliation as ambassadors. Ambassadors serve among foreigners (people who are not from the nation of the Ambassador). We preach 'be reconciled' not 'you are reconciled already'.

Philippians 2:10-11 "Every knee will bow... every tongue confess"
Yes, all will ultimately submit to the fact of God's authority. But bowing and confession can possibly be done reluctantly. Some translations just have it that every knee 'should' bow (KJV & NIV).

Philippians 3:21 "Subject all things to Himself"
Here's the context: "Many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction... but our citizenship is in heaven." It is the bodies of believers that will be made like His glorious body. Christ has the power to control everyone, but doesn't utilize that power in an attempt to force love. "All are subject" does not necessarily equate to "All are believers".

1 Timothy 2:4 "He desires all people to be saved"
Amen! Of course, God may not get all that God wants because what God wants most is love and love cannot be forced.

1 Timothy 4:10 "Savior of everyone, especially of those who believe"
This statement should be read in the context of the entire letter. Early (2:4) Paul wrote that God wants all men to be saved. Some aren't currently saved and might remain lost. In 2:6 it says Jesus gave Himself for all, but that doesn't mean all people received that gift. Jesus is the only Savior for all humanity, but only those who put their trust in Him receive that salvation.

Titus 2:11 "Salvation to all people"
The NIV has it "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men." The verse doesn't suggest that all people respond to salvation. The next verses speak about those who receive grace (us). There is an insider/outside perspective in Scripture. It's just not based on religious stuff. It's based on Jesus.

Hebrews 1:1-2 "He appointed the Son heir of all things"
The Son will inherit everything the Father has to give. But in an important sense, the Father does not possess the hearts of those who refused His love. Thus, "all things" does not necessarily entail every individual soul.

2 Peter 3:9 "He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come"
Amen! God doesn't want anyone to perish. In the same context Peter brings up Noah's flood. I think we can safely assume that God did not want anyone in Noah's day to perish either. But almost all of them did. God's desire for all to enter into divine love does not (and cannot) guarantee that all will enter into that love because it is love (which must be freely chosen) that we are talking about.

1 John 2:2 "Atoning sacrifice... for those of the whole world"
John Stott comments on this verse: "This cannot be pressed into meaning that all sins are automatically pardoned through the propitiation of Christ, but that a universal pardon is offered for (the sins of) the whole world and is enjoyed by those who embrace it." The point is that this is the one way for the whole world to be put right with God.

Revelation 5:13 "I heard every creature"
This is apocalyptic literature... a dramatized scene (potentially including hyperbole). Or it could be literal but only include those who remain after judgment. Or it could be a recognize of authority without actual heart-felt worship. It need not be interpreted to mean that, ultimately, every individual that has ever existed will experience salvation. Many verses in the book of Revelation seem to suggest otherwise.

Revelation 21:5 "Behold, I make all things new"
This passage is part of the bookends of Scripture. The idea is that God will restore everything that was originally intended. God intended a beautiful planet filled with love-filled human beings. Those intentions took a detour because of human sin. The world and human beings have been experiencing decay and death. But God didn't give up on His original intention. God will take the decay and death and overcome it. He has already begun. He makes all things new in Christ. It's not a statement about every individual who has ever lived nor a promise that each person will ultimately be saved. It's a statement that God's plan for creation will be accomplished. We can choose whether to participate or not participate.

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