The Great Grace Eraser

Taken from COAS’ ‘Religious Legalism and the Army Chaplaincy’ (mainly my questions on Grace)

Jesus forgives ALL sins of those who place their faith in Him alone.  Grace would not be grace if God ever took it away.” (Brad)
 
Grace would also be quite useless if it forgave intentional sins of the magnitude we are discussing.
 
For example, let’s say a kid goes to war and has to kill others – no problem – he’s trained to do that. Then they capture some stronghold and start raping women – just because some of that old ‘isolation mentality’ kicks in. Then they torture the crap out of someone to get them to speak – like an Abu Gharib scenario.
 
At which point in that scenario does one’s faith become absolutely useless?
 
Grace is good – but if grace is used as a cover for responsibility – then one is no longer serving God but serving their own appetites – which to me makes one’s faith utterly a point of non-value anyways.
 
Once confronted and made aware of their sin, all of them repented and turned towards God.” (Brad)
 
True, I cannot speak for the Tanakh literature (that would be dishonest of me) – but as for Saul – he converted and still faced the consequences of his actions. I speak of the idea no one can die for intentional sins – this is in Hebrews also.
 
Heb 9:7 & Heb 10:26 – which is an allusion to an idea from Numbers 15:25
 
The idea there is that sins committed in ignorance can be atoned for – but the sins committed in willful disobedience there was no atonement for. It is not to say they were screwed – but that they had to go and deal with their sin both in judgment and with trying to make situations ‘right’ again (ie: charity or repentance)
 
To be honest, the Jewish system that we take this atonement idea from is a lot more responsible when dealing with issues of atonement than our own. This is my personal opinion – but from my basic studies on the issue – I would say they have a way more well rounded system (which I tend to believe is taught by Jesus).
 
Grace is never meant to be taken advantage of (Rom 6:1-2).  If it is, then there is a critical lack in understanding what grace is” (Brad)
 
Or maybe even worse, there is a critical lack of understanding by mainstream theology on what the role of grace really is (its limits and strengths). Grace is good – I agree – but to me it seems to function as God’s mercy in the way it is used. Maybe grace is not just mercy – but an idea that Gentiles were added into the community if God. The identification with that community is on the individual to make. I figure someone can as easily lose salvation as they can gain it.
 
I’d say that they are definitely linked, as salvation empowers and strengthens morality.  As a result of God’s saving Grace (salvation), morality changes from something we should do to something we want to do” (Brad)
 
Thus the reason I point to the idea Christian responsibility has weak moral foundations. Following the teachings – and I mean everything Jesus taught – is simply – a choice. It has no links to nothing in terms of one’s salvation (which is something outside them altogether). Nothing they do will mean anything – since it only matters what Christ did for them. That is the type of responsibility no parent would dare teach their child. It means your actions mean very little in the large scope of life – they are taken care of ahead of time (and are not important because of someone else’s righteousness being added to you – which is vicarious in nature). If we started teaching children this level of responsibility (to be vicarious) – this world would go to hell in a handbasket.
 
It is not enough to rely on choice or ‘want’ in this matter – this is a matter of correct standards being taught to everyone so they can rightly take their place in the kingdom of God. We teach people a ‘cop-out’ – well you call this a ‘sin stained world’ – it will only get worse.

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35 thoughts on “The Great Grace Eraser

  1. If I’m understanding correctly, salvation seems to trigger a change in response to morality. It makes morality something that someone wants to do, as opposed to something that someone does because they know it’s the right thing, but if given a choice, wouldn’t do in the first place.

    I don’t agree with that idea (and I could be misunderstanding). There are many un-saved people who want to do the moral thing because they want to, not because of some outside constraint.

    By that blog’s definition, I am unsaved. Yet morality is something that I often want to do.

    The other problem with this idea of grace that you are discussing is something I touched on in my recent blog post (this isn’t a “Hey, go read me now!” comment).

    What about someone who sincerely repents ten minutes before dying, and yet committed some awful atrocities in real life? They are forgiven and escape hell. While the victims might not have the correct faith, and so do go to hell.

    Where’s the accountability then? The culprit faces no justice whatsoever, no reconciling with the victim, no atonement to the victim. They don’t have to repair the relationship with the victim.

    That’s why I like how you commented about how parents teach children that actions do matter in real life, and it’s not just about what someone else has done for you. Much of how we are defined is by what we do, our motivations, and our morality. Yet if we are defined by God in terms of our faith in one person … that’s almost making us two-dimensional. It’s dimissing everything else about us, everything that we’ve done, responded to, and had done to us.

    This is why I really like Paul’s statement in Romans 2, where he speaks that God will repay everyone according to the deeds done — those who do good with patience get eternal life, and those who don’t obey the truth but wickedness, and the anguish/distress for those who do evil. Then it goes on to say that the doers of the law are justified, and speaks of the Gentiles who instinctively do what the law requires.

    It gives an idea that there is more to this life than simply making the right choice about God. You, as a whole person, are taken into consideration.

  2. “If I’m understanding correctly, salvation seems to trigger a change in response to morality. It makes morality something that someone wants to do, as opposed to something that someone does because they know it’s the right thing, but if given a choice, wouldn’t do in the first place.”

    Not necessarily. If given the choice, they may or may not make the choice in the first place. I had no problem choosing to watch pornography before I became a Christian. But now that I am, and I (barely) understand God’s grace, (while I still struggle with it) I would never want to view it again.

    “What about someone who sincerely repents ten minutes before dying, and yet committed some awful atrocities in real life? They are forgiven and escape hell. While the victims might not have the correct faith, and so do go to hell.”

    It depends on the heart and motivation. If they repent because they fear hell, then that’s pretty iffy. They would be putting their faith in their own freedom and happiness, not Jesus. But if they repent because they truly regret what they did, and they accept Christ, then yeah… it counts.

    “Where’s the accountability then? The culprit faces no justice whatsoever, no reconciling with the victim, no atonement to the victim. They don’t have to repair the relationship with the victim.”

    That’s why Jesus is referred to as the “once and for all sacrifice,” passover lamb, etc. He suffered that justice on his behalf. “Vengeance is mine” sayeth the Lord… and all that. God promises to right every wrong, and redeem everything stained by sin. Our ability to forgive our transgressors is innately tied to that promise. If we did not believe in God’s justice, how could we forbear it ourselves?

    “This is why I really like Paul’s statement in Romans 2, where he speaks that God will repay everyone according to the deeds done — those who do good with patience get eternal life, and those who don’t obey the truth but wickedness, and the anguish/distress for those who do evil.”

    Bingo.

    “Then it goes on to say that the doers of the law are justified, and speaks of the Gentiles who instinctively do what the law requires.”

    Oh but Paul so beautifully hooks his audience with that. He also goes on to say that they will be judge “by” (instrumental of means) Christ Jesus (v 16), and tackles pharisaical hypocrisy (v 17-25). He discusses the impossibility of keeping the law perfectly in almost all his letters. Thus, that passage is far more like “Sure, if you can keep the law perfectly, whether you are Jew or gentile, you will be saved… good luck.”

  3. Jason,
    You do a fine job presenting the Jewish point of view here. Thanks. Interesting conversation to be taking place as we are busy at shul getting ready for the High Holy Days which will be here in a couple months. I’ve spent the past few days doing a fair amount of reading on teshuvah and atonement in preparation for the educational role I’ll be playing this year. This one is right up my alley, introspective thoughts to share with the community during the 40 days.

    So…..I disagree that ‘grace’ makes people more moral than those of us whose lives revolve around mitzvot. This assumes that the only reason for doing right is because we feel like it and that only those who believe in Jesus will ever have the ability to ‘feel like it’.

    Just a few thoughts:

    1) It is taught that it is more meritorious for those who are obligated to perform a mitzvot to do so than for those who are not obligated to perform a mitzvot but who do so anyway. The reason being that those who feel obligated because they are commanded will continue to perform the mitzvot no matter what, whereas those who only perform it because they feel like it may well stop as soon as they no longer feel like it.

    2) Even if someone just mindlessly follows the rules, it doesn’t mean the rules have no value or that this mindless following will always be the case. Pesahim 50b in Talmud: “Even if for the wrong reason, eventually it will be for the right reason.” It is better to do a mitzvah even with the wrong intentions than not to do one at all. The person may, by virture of having done a mitzvah, eventually learn to do the mitzvah for the right reason. Postive motivations often follow positive actions. Doing good, even if for the wrong reasons, will train us to do them for the right reasons. (Marriage counselors use the same reasoning. Act as if you love each other no matter what you feel. Surprise, surprise, you may just find yourselves loving each other again.)

    3) We raise our children with requirements to do things whether they want to or not. We don’t consider it better that our kids clean their rooms because they love to clean rather than just because we told them to clean. Personally, I don’t care why they clean their rooms as long as they do so. I also don’t care why they do their homework as long as they do so. It’s nice if they like all these things, but let’s get real here. In life there is much we do whether we want to or not just because we are obligated, whether to ourselves, our families, our communities, our creditors, our country, our God, the list is endless. My kids might as well get used to it.

    Anyway, why is it that only with God does anyone think it all has to be ALL about what we want to do or it is somehow defective? Why is the critique so quick to arise when people instead choose to live life by what we are obligated to do, regardless of if we want to do or if we don’t?

    Just as an example, something I have been criticized for often enough in some circles: I daven three times per day, whether I feel like davening or not. (Davening is sort of like praying in that it includes praying.) This simple discipline helps me to be a better person because it helps me either get my head on straight or keep it on straight, yet if I only davened when I felt like it, it wouldn’t happen nearly as often and I’d get far away from the core of living a meaningful life. Davening helps me connect to God and my community. Three times per day I am pulled away from life being about ME and MINE and pulled back to life being about connecting to GOD and COMMUNITY, local, worldwide, universal. Three times per day I repeat the words that remind me of how I’m to live my life.

    This is the best way for me to live my life, the best way to help me become a better person. It’s not defective. That someone else finds the same thing through a different means is great. But, why must they claim another people’s way is somehow lacking while theirs is superior? Why can’t they just be two different yet equal means to the same end?

  4. Brad,

    **I had no problem choosing to watch pornography before I became a Christian. But now that I am, and I (barely) understand God’s grace, (while I still struggle with it) I would never want to view it again.**

    But my point here was that there are people who genuienly don’t want to watch pornography who aren’t Christians, and that has nothing to do with their saved status. It’s their sense of morality. Same with any other good works — wanting to do good is not limited to those who are saved only, and that’s what it sounded like you were saying: those who aren’t saved will never sincerely want to do good.

    ** But if they repent because they truly regret what they did, and they accept Christ, then yeah… it counts.**
    But that’s the point I’m seeing from Society, and that I’m echoing. If this truly occurs, then nothing else in your life matters. At all. Everything you do simply means nothing, except making the right choice. We don’t define people that way, and yet God does? As Society said, “Nothing they do will mean anything.” We can say that Grace is fantastic, frightening, demanding, that we have to produce good works for a true response to grace … and yet the words are somewhat hollow, because what it really comes down to is making the right choice before death.

    **That’s why Jesus is referred to as the “once and for all sacrifice,” passover lamb, etc. He suffered that justice on his behalf. **

    But that in itself violates the very core of what justice is. An innocent man suffering for the guilty is not just. The victims of the attacker would be, I hope, rightly horrified at such a sentence. That’s not even addressing the accountability towards the victim, nor is the attacker repairing his relationship with the victims. If Jesus takes the “justice,” then the culprit still has not faced any consequences for his actions at all. And then we still have the victims facing an eternal torment. What’s been repaired for them? What’s been redeemed in this situation?

    **God promises to right every wrong, and redeem everything stained by sin. Our ability to forgive our transgressors is innately tied to that promise. If we did not believe in God’s justice, how could we forbear it ourselves?**

    But this is two different things. When we forgive someone, we say that we let go of our rage/anger/sadness. It’s also tied to the idea that we relinquish any right we have to vengence. But if we’re only forgiving because we feel that God will punish the perpetrators later down the line, then, to me, that cheapens forgiveness. The punishment, our right for vengence sitll occurs. Otherwise, we’re just saying, “I forgive [won’t punish you] because God will do it later.”

    Plus, this calls into the whole matter of how God forgives us — God can only forgive us if someone takes the punishment? But forgiveness means you give up resentment [which God did not do, if Jesus took on that resentment], as well as say, “I will not pursue what is owed to me.” [Which God did not do as well, if Jesus gave God what was owed to Him — a death/ransom].

    And can we really say we trust God to be just if He punishes an innocent man in the place of the guilty?

    **Thus, that passage is far more like “Sure, if you can keep the law perfectly, whether you are Jew or gentile, you will be saved… good luck.”**

    Well, there’s a difference between hypocrites, and not keeping the law perfectly. Paul’s focus in that letter again ties into you can’t just say we hear the law, and so we’re okay. Is the law working the way it should? Such as while you preach against stealing, do you steal? and so forth. If Gentiles can’t not steal because they know it’s the right thing to do, then those who are under the law (unlike Gentiles) have no excuse.

    That, and the passage tells me that one’s whole life is taken into account, not just one decision of trusting God. God repays according to one’s deed, and there are non-Christians who try to seek outside themselves, and seek for truth, as well as patiently doing good.

  5. Where in Torah does it say we must keep Torah perfectly? Where is there any concept of Christian ‘salvation’ in Torah?

    Anyway, what is so hard about following the law? Read through the law codes and tell me what is so hard? No having sex with your aunts? No being able to keep your neighbors ox that wanders onto your property? Many of the laws only apply to priests and levites, many are only applicable in the land of Israel. And when we fail, the gates of teshuvah are always open. Why go around telling people that they’re closed unless a person believes in Jesus? Surely that is breaking the 2nd commandment in making a false image of God?

    We are not required to be perfect and our purpose in existing has nothing to do with being ‘saved’. We are required to work to repair the world in THIS life, to work for justice and do teshuvah when we do wrong. I don’t know why there is this need to paint such a bleak picture of what is actually a very practical and beautiful way of living life in connection to God and community. Very strange.

  6. Brad

    Im going to go out on a limb here.

    “I had no problem choosing to watch pornography before I became a Christian. But now that I am, and I (barely) understand God’s grace, (while I still struggle with it) I would never want to view it again.”(Brad)

    I have a feeling you would have no problem watching a fight on TV though. Its interesting how Christians will tout Sexuality as a “Big Sin”, yet they have no problem indulging their “Blood Lusts”

  7. Do we fear God so much that we are terrified to live freely in His grace? That’s what I’m hearing hear. You want God’s grace and mercy, but you want to be able to say that you have it because you have earned it through your actions. Well, good luck with that. Maybe it’s my advanced years, but the reality of life has struck me squarely between the eyes, and I’ve concluded that nothing I can do, or not do, will have any effect on God’s love for me, and acceptance of me. Anything else is simply me fooling myself. I cannot live up to any rule-based performance system. And if God is not merciful, then I am in deep do-do. But, I believe that the Christ story is the one, great message of incredible love, and unconditional redemption. Nothing else works. I have to trust the Christ story, or I am doomed. Problem is, most of Christianity doesn’t trust the Christ story. They think it sounds swell and all, but deep down, feel that they must also “do something” from their own power, just in case it’s not true. We struggle and strive and worry and fear… all because we won’t permit ourselves to believe. We live bound up in guilt and doubt, pushing harder and harder all the time to try to measure up to what people told us God wants. But, it doesn’t work. Nothing works. The only thing left is to trust the Christ story, and permit ourselves to believe that the world, and all that is in it, has been redeemed. Let yourselves, even if just for a moment, trust the revelation of grace that Christ brought to all. That, my friends, is the only way to freedom from all that haunts you, and plagues your lives with worry and fear.

    Ahh, but trust is hard isn’t it? Our view of the world is tainted because we’ve eaten from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and think that we know what is right and wrong, moral and immoral, good and evil. Until we can trust the Christ story and let it wipe the knowledge of good and evil from our minds, we can never know salvation (from ourselves and our twisted view of humanity).

    Peace comes from salvation (of our minds), and salvation comes from our awakening to the reality of redemption (total forgiveness – no matter what), and redemption came to all through the Cross of Christ. It is finished, my friends. Why to we continue to cling to human experience when the world of the spirit (the Kingdom of heaven) is within our grasp?

  8. BruceD

    Youre tainted because you still believe stories like this, you just found a more palatable way to put your spin to it.

    “Ahh, but trust is hard isn’t it? Our view of the world is tainted because we’ve eaten from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and think that we know what is right and wrong, moral and immoral, good and evil. Until we can trust the Christ story and let it wipe the knowledge of good and evil from our minds, we can never know salvation (from ourselves and our twisted view of humanity).”

  9. How does God fit into all of this? What draws you to read/talk about Christianity? Why do you go to church? Why do you believe we’re all OK? Why do you seem to focus so much on the “crap”? I guess I just don’t understand…

  10. God isnt Christian. Its an energy force. At least in my mind it is. Now with that said, there are wonderful truths in the Bible and all the other Holy books. The crap, (which by the way I dont focus on), is part of our process. We live in a world of Duality, and my belief is that our duality continues in spirit form too. I dont think there is a get of jail for free card( such as grace). My reality includes the fact that there is consequence to our actions, and I believe they continue even after our physical death. I dont need to escape this world and its pain and joy. I want to understand how it fits into my belief of spirit. JB and yourself and many others on these blogs help me with that quest. So hows life Bruce?

  11. I’m not sure how you can say “My reality includes the fact that there is consequence to our actions, and I believe they continue even after our physical death” on one hand, they say “I believe we’re all OK” on the other hand. It doesn’t seem to add up. Are you really that good at avoiding bad actions and their consequences? I wish I was!

    Things are going great for me! New job, and we’ve been enjoying one of the best summers I’ve ever seen… evenings on the back deck with a nice wine or a brew (I miss those brews you brought to Geo’s – what brand was that again?), sharing life with friends. Priceless!

  12. “It doesn’t seem to add up. Are you really that good at avoiding bad actions and their consequences? I wish I was!”

    Of course it adds up if you dont believe that there is something terrible waiting for you in the end. I just think life is life. Consequence is part of life. I am sure youre life isnt always crappy, right? And even when it is, it hasnt ruined you, has it? No, you bounce back and continue to learn and grow. Now some of us take longer to learn stuff, and in “my” belief the learning continues after our physical death. No biggie. The challenge is when the ones who take the extreme view of consequence and try to make you believe youre a Bad, Bad person. They suck, and are sometimes difficult to tune out. Alas they are also part of the plan. 😉

    The Beer is Keiths Red Amber Ale

  13. kick ass John T. all this talk about grace is ppl argue’n who’s in and who’s out… God is the UNIVERSAL God (one holy, catholic church). It’s like a mountain and we’re all on it… there are many paths on the mountain and each path thinks it’s the correct path. http://toothface.blogspot.com/2007/12/can-there-be-one-way-to-god.html

    we are all trying to do the best we can with what we have. i believe God recognizes this and loves us anyway… if God doesn’t, then that God isn’t a god at all (or at least not defined by 1 John 14:16- God is Love).

  14. I think we believe quite alike, John. I just tend to separate the life/actions/consequences part from the “God is Love” part. Certainly all of our decisions/actions have consequences. That is a simple part of life on earth. But, you’re right… religious people try hard to tie your actions and subsequent consequences to your relationship with God. I see no value in this, and even believe it is a very unhealthy view about life. They desire to create great fear in your life, and that’s how they manipulate you to do what they want, and how they persuade you to fund their endeavors. I think fear is the only true evil in this world, and popular religion preaches it fervently. But, as they say, if there were no contrasts, how boring life would be! If there were nothing to break free from, freedom itself would become our captor.

    Keiths! Yes! I’m going to find some!

  15. BruceD

    I did forget to mention that there are also the ones who dont pay attention to their actions because they think that Grace covers it for them. The other extreme, I try to avoid those also 😉

    Hey why dont you drive up to Ottawa and we will take you out for a Keiths on Draft.

  16. Not every path thinks it’s ‘the correct one’. Some of us just see our paths as correct for US. That other people have their own paths is no big deal, as long as they stick to their path and stop trying to force their beliefs on the rest of us, whether that belief is that we have to believe in Jesus or if that belief is that Jesus takes care of us whether we want him to or not, a view that is incredibly condescending and insulting, BTW, telling me that my whole life is meaningless, all the decisions I’ve made are meaningless, that in the end Jesus will pat me on the head, poor misguided soul that I am and say it’s all OK. F* that. I’d rather go to the mythical hell where at least I’d be treated as an adult who made decisions and accepted consequences.

    If people would just leave Jesus TOTALLY out of the picture for the rest of us, that would be really great. One universal and catholic CHURCH? No thanks. I don’t do churches either. 8)

    But, perhaps only Christians were being spoken to and not any of the rest of us. I just didn’t see that caveat anywhere, that universalism is a Christian teaching totally irrelevant to those of us who follow the ‘No Jesus Needed’ paths. Off to work and on to Shabbat. It’s a great life for us. Gotta love it.

  17. Oh good God…. This is nuts… 19 comments? Holy cow…

    OK, let me try to respond to some of this…

    Yale, OSS, et al,

    I do not mean to say that ONLY Christians will want to do what is right. My particular struggle (one of many, no doubt) is with pornography. Our challenges and convictions will be unique to each person, that was just an example. I also do not mean to say that only Christians will want to do what is right, but that their motivations are unique. Grace gives us a new motivation: gratitude and thankfulness. Our old motivation is an attempt at earning something, whether that be salvation, self-esteem/righteousness, the esteem of others, etc. The Christian motivation of gratitude for what has already been done is the most powerful one because only God is stable, eternal, and dependable in this world. Sorry I didn’t make that as clear as I should have.

    OSS,

    Does the man who confesses Christ at the time of his death have a meaningless life? Or did it suddenly and finally have meaning? It is not that his life did not matter, but that the moment of his repentance filled his life (past, present, and future) with more meaning than he could have attained on his own.

    John,

    “I have a feeling you would have no problem watching a fight on TV though. Its interesting how Christians will tout Sexuality as a “Big Sin”, yet they have no problem indulging their “Blood Lusts””

    I challenge you to show me scripture (in context) that says violence in and of itself is bad. I agree that violence can be used to rape, pillage, and steal, but between two men voluntarily competing in a test of physical prowess? Give me a break. Pacifism was not considered by Christians until the 16th century, and even then it was a vast minority. Be careful that you do not confuse scripture with cultural values.

    OSS,

    “But that in itself violates the very core of what justice is. An innocent man suffering for the guilty is not just.”

    When we forgive, it costs us something. It is hard to forgive, and it is often painful. The more painful the crime, the more painful the cost of forgiveness (especially if it is from someone we love very much). Christ was not MERELY a man, but God Himself who came as a man, to bear that cost of forgiveness. The pain of our rebellion, our sin, our rejection of Him is unimaginably great. So too is the cost to Himself in forgiveness. In this God accomplished both Justice and Mercy without compromising either of them.

    “But this is two different things. When we forgive someone, we say that we let go of our rage/anger/sadness. It’s also tied to the idea that we relinquish any right we have to vengence. But if we’re only forgiving because we feel that God will punish the perpetrators later down the line, then, to me, that cheapens forgiveness.”

    Let’s tie this back to the scumbag who repents on his death bed. How will his life have any meaning if he is not held accountable for his actions? On the one hand, you (rightly) want life to have meaning in the choices we make, yet you don’t believe in a just God who will punish him for the actions he stands by. Do you see the conflict here?

    My point in all of this is that the cross reconciles this problem. We are given meaning by the atonement of the cross, which moves us to repentance and moral righteousness. Yet for those who insist on reconciling through their own merits, they are justly dealt with in their choices. Forgiveness and redemption are open to all (mercy) because God took the cost of that disobedience upon Himself (justice).

    Where else but the cross can mercy and justice be meaningfully found?

  18. Ok Brad

    Here you go………..

    Matthew 5:28

    But I tell you that anyone who looks at a fight lustfully has already committed violence with them in his heart.

    Hows that for ya 😉

  19. John,

    Not the same. You’re comparing the covenant of marriage (which is intended to resemble the relationship of the Trinity, and Christ and the church) with fighting. The Trinity does not fight within itself, and Jesus does not fight with the church.

    The 9-time UFC Welterweight Champion, Matt Hughes, is also a committed Christian. Total Pacifism is the minority interpretation of scripture by far.

  20. “Did you read the Inescapble Love of God, by Thomas Talbott?” John T

    nope, but it’s on my ever-growing list of books.

    “Some of us just see our paths as correct for US. That other people have their own paths is no big deal, as long as they stick to their path and stop trying to force their beliefs on the rest of us” Yael

    that’s largely what the “mountain” passage is supposed to say… and not so much the CHURCH but the BODY OF BELIEVERS. in a super simplistic way of putting it, is the hindu mystic way view of the pantheon that all avatars (vishnu, shiva, etc) are ultimately expressions of the one transcendent God that is ultimately unnamed. The Ba’hai faith takes this a step further and says that all Gods, Allah, YHWH, Oden, etc, and ultimately the different expressions of the one transcendent God.

    you’ll find this tradition in the christian existentialists and Gnostics, even some strainds of Greek Orthodox as well as Roman Catholic Mystics like Clement and St. Teresa of Ávila. In the Jewish tradition this can be found in the Chasid and Merkabah traditions. Some Jewish commentators find Merkabah elements in the NT Gospel of John… namely the beginning “In the beginning as the Word…” that would be the best illustration… but that gospel goes down hill from there 😉

    “that universalism is a Christian teaching totally irrelevant to those of us who follow the ‘No Jesus Needed’ paths. ” Yael

    actually this should cause both to relax and chill. i’m not out to convert you, but dialogue to the mutual benefit of both of us… so far, it’s been wonderful! at least that’s my point of view…what about you Yael?

  21. just listened to Everclear’s “So Much for the Afterglow” Album this afternoon… it’s been awhile… found this lyric in the song “Why I don’t Believe in God”.

    “In the myth of a merciful god
    In the myth of a heaven and hell”

    isn’t it interesting that when we talk about a “merciful god” that god is always on our side… always merciful towards us, but never “those other people”. there’s always a prerequisite to that mercy… and that is not mercy at all. Unconditional love is simply that… NO CONDITIONS, you just get it.

    this is theological double-dipping. God loves all… doesn’t matter if that all is muslim, jewish, christian or what… We have our systems worked out as to who is favored by God and who is not. We know the good guys from the bad guys.but that is human, not God…

    trackback: http://toothface.blogspot.com/2008/06/eeyore-goes-to-tehran.html

  22. Wow – 2 blogs have juts shot up in comments today – this one and COAS one I linked to – one in the 30’s and on in the 40’s…wow. I guess once we get into easy grace and war justifications that’s when we do some good wrestling on interpretations. They are tough lines to draw out I will admit.

  23. For me there are only 3 points I am making:

    (a) grace should not be a cover for one’s responsibility in a said scenario – if it is used that way – then it is not really grace to the offended party in said scenario

    (b) Responsibility should take an actual form or action – like repentance or charity – towards the person offended (which is why I like the Jewish atonement ideas).

    (c) Vicarious righteousness is not something taught in scripture – nor is it the most responsuble position for someone to take…it lays one off from their actual role in atonement.

    For me, these are serious problems in teaching because they mess with people’s minds.

    For example, I can name handful of people that think about grace and forgiveness in the way mentioned in this blog (vicariously) that committ actions because they think they can get away with them. Now this is not so much their fault – the reasoning of the ideas leads them to that precise point – they are not asked to assume their responsible position for their actions. Now, this is a minority of people mind you – but their crimes are not so miniscule (ex: murder).

    That’s where I see the true problem and it’s weaknesses. Grace seems to let people off the hook if it is held as the highest standard in the theological discussion. I am not about to let people off the hook from committing actions against others they can very well make right – and this is what I expect of myself. This is called responsibility/repentance – and it was Jesus’ first teaching in matthew.

    I like grace – but someone explain to me what it means? If it means mercy – then we already have a teaching from Jesus in th e beatitudes on that – which takes a very responsible position – show mercy and you recieve mercy. Someone define what grace means please?

  24. No time to read all the comments so just did a quick skim since it’s been a hectic day at work, I haven’t slept in two days, and Shabbat is rapidly approaching.

    John, of course I’m priceless! I’m in Minnesota. Come visit me anytime. I’m not much for beer but do enjoy a fine scotch on occasion.

    Luke, no problems with me. I enjoy reading your stuff. Just making sure we’re still on the same page.

    Brad,
    I’m curious about a couple things. What is it you think I’m trying to earn by living a life of mitzvot? Why do you think a person can only do mitzvot for some ulterior motive rather than out of gratitude?

    God gave us the Torah in love, the mitzvot were given to us in love. Isn’t it great that God gave us wise rules for living life because God loved us? I’m ever amazed at the wisdom of Torah and how it speaks to modern concerns just as much as it spoke to my ancestors concerns. My appreciation for this gift of wisdom for living life right here, right now, is a motivation for living the life I live. I don’t expect anything in return even though there are definite rewards for living this life, some tangible, some intangible. It’s just different paths, Brad. Many of the same reasons, many of the same rewards for living very different lives. I don’t get why this is so difficult to acknowledge and why you still keep insisting your way is superior and mine inferior. If anything, you’re the one who has the ulterior motive since unlike me you think you’ll be rewarded in heaven someday. I look for no rewards in any after life.

    The sages teach us, what is the reward of a mitzvot? The opportunity to perform another mitzvot! That’s a bit far removed from trying to earn anything, don’t you think?

  25. Someone define grace for me so I know what I am working off here?

    If I am being accurate – grace is tied to salvation. How far does that grace extend in terms of salvation (more or less). I don’t think is an idea Paul or Jesus were working from – it seems they were more about grace as inclusion of the Gentiles (and maybe the end of the sacrifices era). I am not sure it was grace without some limit as it sounds in many a Christian doctrine.

    But I would ask – what is your definition of the term grace as you know it? (Not some dictionary terminology).

    Thanks John for the video – I haven’t had time to check it yet – when I get a chance I will check into it.

  26. Brad,

    **Grace gives us a new motivation: gratitude and thankfulness. Our old motivation is an attempt at earning something, whether that be salvation, self-esteem/righteousness, the esteem of others, etc.**

    I think you’d still run into the danger of saying that only CHristians will want to do what is right, because you now seem to be saying that only Christians will have the motivation out of gratitude/thankfulness. But non-Christians are also motivated by gratitude/thankfulness — they have lots, so they want to share with those who don’t have any. They are grateful for what they have, and so they pass it on. Non-Christians don’t always do the right things simply because they want to earn something.

    **Does the man who confesses Christ at the time of his death have a meaningless life? Or did it suddenly and finally have meaning? It is not that his life did not matter, but that the moment of his repentance filled his life (past, present, and future) with more meaning than he could have attained on his own.**

    But how does address the idea that while saing that “Grace is fantastic, frightening, demanding, that we have to produce good works for a true response to grace … and yet the words are somewhat hollow, because what it really comes down to is making the right choice before death. ”

    Ultimately, what that man’s judgement depends on is his trust in Christ. That’s it. There’s no life-changing evidence, no good works attached to this grace, because he’s dead in 10 minutes. The danger will still be in this situation that one just has to make sure they sincerely make the right choice before death, and they’ll be okay. I don’t see that in the Tanakh, or the Synoptic Gospels. I don’t even see that in many of Paul’s letters. The whole life is taken into consideration.

    I use “meaningless” in the sense here in that nothing you do holds any meaning to God, if you lack the right faith. That’s shaky criteria for me, and makes people two-dimensional.

    **When we forgive, it costs us something. It is hard to forgive, and it is often painful. The more painful the crime, the more painful the cost of forgiveness (especially if it is from someone we love very much).**

    But when I forgive someone, the “cost” to myself is letting go of what is rightfully mine — accountability for the action, or reperations, or something. It costs us justice, almost. But if someone kills my mother, part of my forgiveness of them is that I don’t insist they “repay” their life for hers. I have let go of that claim. If God punishes Jesus for what we have done to God, or so God can get what is “owed” to Him, then God has not reqlinquished His claim, He has fufilled it on an innocent man. He has unleashed all His resentment/rage/wrath upon Jesus — but forgiveness means you let go, period. It doesn’t get directed somewhere else. In order for God to say, “I will relinquish what is owed to Me,” doesn’t that mean that He doesn’t punish anyone, including Jesus?

    **So too is the cost to Himself in forgiveness. In this God accomplished both Justice and Mercy without compromising either of them.**

    But this still doesn’t cover the fact of what justice is — justice is connected to morality, and means that those who commit the crime are the same who are held accountable.

    For example: You rob a store. You get caught. An innocent man steps forward, and offers to take the punishment. The innocent man is punished. Would any of us say, “Yes, that is just?” Or would we say that justice has not in fact been delivered, because no accountability was delivered to you? In fact, if the innocent person is punished, then it’s no longer justice, it’s simply revenge/retribution. There’s no morality to the situation.

    So when we say that God is just, we mean that God will deal with each person on his/her own. That is the moral thing to do. Yet God, who is just, instead punishes an innocent person in the place of the guilty — and that very act removes the morality from the situation. If the innocent are punished, then the situation can no longer be just. Any person whose punishment is placed on Jesus is no longer held accountable, Jesus is. But again … that’s not a just system. That’s not how justice is defined. Like I said, any victims in that situation would be horrified.

    If we define God as just, then it means, to me, that God is incapable of punishing Jesus in the place of the guilty, because that would violate His “justness.” And even if Jesus offers, God is incapable of accepting that offer, because then it would mean that God is no longer just.

    And I’d still like to know what justice the victims face, if they end up in hell. Jesus suffering the justice of the attacker is not justice for them.

    I guess maybe I can sum this up with one question: Do you agree that an innocent man suffering on behalf of the guilty is not a just situation? Or do you think it is?

    **How will his life have any meaning if he is not held accountable for his actions? On the one hand, you (rightly) want life to have meaning in the choices we make, yet you don’t believe in a just God who will punish him for the actions he stands by. Do you see the conflict here?**

    Okay, I’m assuming you’re seeing the conflict here because I’m saying forgiveness is cheap if God later punishes? I was reading that as the statement could easily be “The only reason I’m forgiving you is because God will later punish you — I’m able to forgive you *because* you’ll still be punished.” In which case, you aren’t relinquishing your right to get reperation — you’re saying it’ll happen later. So what exactly have you given up?

    If I’m forgiving someone, then I would be saying that I’m no longer holding them accountable, or I’m releasing them from that accountability. No punishment will be forthcoming.

    But if he does repent, then God still doesn’t punish him for his actions — He’s punished Jesus. So I’m still left with an unjust God.

  27. Society,

    **Someone define what grace means please?**

    I was going to answer this, and then you asked for us not to use dictionary terminology. 😛

    However, there is a dictionary one that I’ve always really liked, from the American Heritage College Dictionary.

    1) Divine love/protection bestowed freely on people.
    2) the state of being protected/sanctified by the favor of God
    c) an excellence/power granted by God.

    IN the end, I would see it as a powerful presence of God in my life. I also see it as something that connects us to God, hence Paul’s warning that it is grace that one is saved, and not works, since the works lead to boasting. It’s reminding us to remember who our source is, and where we come from.

  28. JB

    Heres goes………………Grace is our connection to the world of physical and spiritual, with no strings attached. We are all ok in the grand scheme of things. We are Gods kids and he/she/it loves us and is watching us play in our Big Freaking Sandbox. Thats it, Thats all.

    PS. There is a format to the world though, so you will have consequence to your actions, hence the duality. 🙂

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