Embracing God’s Capacity to Love and Forgive Is Greater Than Man’s Capacity to Comprehend, Repent and Believe and God in Christ Jesus Will Still Get His Full Inheritance
Coming out of the closet is never “easy”
We have seen over the last few years more and more people coming out of the proverbial closet, and that has usually meant a personal self-revelation to the world, of your change in sexual orientation. Someone I love dearly recently declared herself as to be “coming out of the closet” but was instead referring to re-embracing her birth name, the name by which she was named by her mother and father. She had tried to re-embrace her full name in the past but had relapsed to using the “short version” of her name. So now she has become adamant that in coming out of the closet and declaring her true identity, then she will fully embrace who she is as a person. It has proven to be more difficult than she expected, generally have to correct not only the people who know her, but having to also correct herself as she catches herself using her shortened name instead of her birth name when introducing herself to others.
In like manner, some of us who declare ourselves to be “Christians” face a similar challenge
It seems that more and more Christians are bent of defining themselves by what they believe rather than their actions, and yet much of the acts being carried out and justified by many Christians, both cause division among other Christians, as well and confuse the general public. If you have ever studied the life of Mahatma Gandhi, you will come to realize how influenced he was by the Gospels and the life of Christ, and yet it was the “church of his own day” that caused him to not embrace Christianity. Yet, he read the Gospels every day, and practiced what Jesus taught, and read the Hindu Scriptures and lived the life of a holy man, dedicated to God and to peace and non-violence.
The correspondence between Leo Tolstoy and Mahatma Gandhi between 1909 and 1910, is quite telling. Both Tolstoy and Gandhi had issues with institutional Christianity. While Gandhi had issues with the Western church and its missions in India, Tolstoy had issues with the Orthodox Church in Russia, and had a foreboding of evil tidings befalling a state church that sided with the aristocracy and not the poor, which eventually led to the overthrow of the Csar and the Romanov dynasty of 300 years in 1917, just seven years after the death of the Russian writer. Tolstoy suffered rejection and opposition from the state church, and government officials for his egalitarian stand. To fully appreciate Tolstoy and his views, you need to read his masterful work on Christianity, “The Kingdom of God is Within You,” and it is this very work that truly impacted Gandhi, as they openly corresponded and supported each other.
Gandhi himself while in South Africa set up a cooperative colony called Tolstoy Farm near Johannesburg, which was inspired by Tolstoy’s ideas. The colony comprised 1,100 acres and was funded by Herman Kallebach, a friend of Gandhi. Those who came to the farm experienced the essence of what Tolstoy believed and taught. The impact of Tolstoy and the portrait and understanding of Christ as a man of peace and non-violence of which he spoke of, and had a huge impact on Gandhi and his methodology and ethics in promoting non-violent resistance against the British Empire in India. This time of engagement with Tolstoy was a life shaping and history altering encounter and experience that would shape all that Gandhi would do in the remainder of his life.
For Gandhi and his objections to “Christianity,” his challenge was how to embrace the teaching of Jesus about peace and non-violence, without embracing the “cultural Christianity” which was rooted in the “non-practicing” beliefs, attitudes and actions of the “Christian establishment,” the institutional church, its attitudes and its influence in British administration in India. For Gandhi, there was a world of difference between the teachings of Christ in the Gospel and the plain sense of that teaching, and the practice of the ordinary Western Christian. So, he rejected Western Christianity, but embraced the Gospels and the Sermon on the Mount in particular, and he had Leo Tolstoy to thank for his awareness and understanding.
Tolstoy and Gandhi set the pattern for me and Rob Bell and Brian McLaren catapulted me forward
It is interesting to note how significant the Sermon on the Mount was for both Tolstoy and Gandhi, and both considered themselves to be followers and doers of the instructions Jesus gave in the sermon, where Jesus expressed the idea of self-denial and honoring and preferring others ahead of yourself. As mentioned Gandhi sought the wisdom of his own Hindu tradition and sacred writings. The mindset of these men was that no matter what age any of us are, we continue growing and evolving as human beings, and we keep seeking to know and understand the essence of love, grace, beauty, and all that is good, and seek to express that good toward all people. These men both challenged the accepted norms of their culture and the accepted beliefs, even of their own spiritual tradition. They both set the pattern to explore and seek the truth of life, through a wider lens and more powerful scope of vision.
Two other men have been formative in my journey the last fifteen years. Both Brian McLaren and Rob Bell were originally viewed as “successful and visionary Evangelical leaders” and like other sub-cultural groups within our society, the “church” sub-culture is in a quest for “spiritual heroes” and “role models” and “visionary mentors.” Both of these men are visionary and yes by default they become mentors, spiritual trail blazers for the rest of us, who have no words or vocabulary to articulate what is going on inside us at the gut and Spirit level of our beings. You know what I mean. It’s those moments where you go, “Ah ha! Finally, someone has put words where I had none to describe what has been going on in my life!” Rob Bell and Brian McLaren are men of that quality, the inquisitive, the explorer, the unsatisfied heart that will not surrender until God blesses them in their quest. When they have lost everything, and all that is left is the sheer beauty of Jesus Christ, to these men, and men and women like them, “Jesus alone is more than enough!”
Bell and McLaren through their books, teachings and videos have pulled me into a world of sheer beauty and grace, and has enabled me to cut through the jungle foliage of what is viewed to be the Evangelical socio-political-philosophical worldview. They have journeyed as Oregon Trail-Blazers through new territory unsatisfied with the status quo answers to the deeper questions of life and belief, and have come to a place where God is much larger than any system of belief and theological pre-suppositions. The categories which all of us Evangelicals were subjected to in our theological training in Bible colleges and seminaries, were things that we were told were essential to not only our faith, understanding of God and this world, but that our understanding of salvation actually depended on this concept of “correct belief.”
People reject those who think different than they do and then demonize them
Like Tolstoy and Gandhi before them, both Bell and McLaren have faced their opposition, within their own church belief systems and fellow believers. I have seen some pretty raunchy judgmental attacks on Bell and McLaren over the years, by prominent Evangelical scholars, teachers, preachers, bloggers and writers, who by the way, have much to gain by protecting the status quo, and do all they can to use fear and intimidation with the “Christian public” to “warn” them of these supposed “false teachers” that would “lead them astray.” The denominations may have changed names, but the “spirit of the Inquisition” lives on in how these Evangelical “leaders” carry out a witch hunt, as “God’s Thought Police!” The only difference between the actual historical Inquisition, is that today, we do not sanction or carry out arrest, imprisonment, torture, forced confessions, and then executions by the gallows or burning at the stake, for daring to challenge and offer an alternative understanding to the “accepted Evangelical beliefs!”
When you see how much scorn, ridicule, rejection, and judgment that befalls a Christian, especially a publicly recognized leader, when that leader deviates from the “accepted norms” or “challenges the belief system” of the power and controllers and people of influence within the “Evangelical movement,” you then get a real picture of how “ego-centric” the movement has become, and how politically correct in their own understanding of protecting their worldview and ideology they have become, you see that these “biblical Evangelicals” are no different than the “liberal establishment” they always castigate, judge and criticize for being intolerant and unaccepting of those who think differently than they do. This is where all of us can easily drift into that shroud of religious veneer that is nothing more than spiritual hypocrisy and smug self-righteousness.
Both Bell and McLaren took a lot of heat for their books, and the two that stand out are Bell’s Love Wins from 2011, and McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity in 2010. When I saw the lack of respect, the lack of Christian love, charity, grace and openness that was extended to both of these men, all in the name of “keeping the historical Christian faith pure” it really blew my mind. Perhaps the thing that melted my heart more than anything was the response from both of these men to their judges and critics. It was the grace with which they handled all their comments and criticisms. The fact that the judgments did not dissuade them from their own convictions, but rather motivated them even more to pursue the “road less traveled.”
They, Bell and McLaren, are role models for those of us who have that same “pioneer spirit.” They have blazed a trail, although a very public one, of separating from the crowd, and following their heart, and passion for God, that continues to lead them to a greater awakening to God’s beauty, magnificence, grace and love, that the world needs to know and experience. They have left the judgments and critical spirit behind, and have left the idol of “correct belief” behind, and are looking for God and his raging beauty. They will not be distracted from becoming God’s agents of grace and love in a hurting and broken world, and agents of reconciliation and understanding. It is a quest that all of us can engage in, in our own way, in our own place, in our own time. People pleasing is on the shelf. Loving God and loving people is first and foremost.
Biblical Christianity is much more than a statement of belief or creed or a code of conduct
I grew up “in the church” in that my family was a “Christian” family, and my parents raised us under the “headship of Christ and the Scriptures.” Both of my parents were raised in “secular religious homes,” meaning that they grew up in a predominantly “Christian culture” where people believed in Christianity, not because of a conversion experience or encounter with Christ, but as a value and belief system. If you had asked either of my parents if they “knew Jesus,” they would not have even understood the question, other than acknowledging Jesus as a historical and religious figure. I, however grew up in a zealous Evangelical Pentecostal home, and not only that, but my parents would have been seen as “professional Christians,” in that they “worked for God” as pastors and leaders in church plants, missions, and established congregations. They “worked” at home in Northern Ireland, and on the “mission field” in France, Belgium, Germany, and Canada, when we immigrated to Canada in 1967. I grew up thoroughly “incubated” and “well indoctrinated” in what it meant to be a “Christian.” I grew up knowing that being a “Christian” was more than simply an acknowledgement of a worldview, or belief system. I knew it was about having “a relationship with God.” At the age of 9, just a month after arriving in Canada from the United Kingdom, I made a confession to my mother, while we were in the laundromat in Drummondville, Quebec, that I needed and wanted God in my life. She prayed with me as I asked Jesus to take my life and make me his own. That was the beginning of my journey of faith that was highly personalized and intimate. I knew God loved me, and I loved God and I knew being a Christian was all about loving God and belonging to him. It was much more than believing in the “book” (Bible).
Moving from a hard line Evangelical Pentecostal Calvinist to a ultimate reconciliation advocate
In my formative years of exploring my faith in my late teens and in my university and college days, I explored many views that did not seem to be accepted as credible and “correct” by the exacting standards of belief by the Evangelical mainstream. I had always towed the line on what was seen as a necessary belief, and I found myself more and more moving away from restrictive statements of faith, and moving towards less strident and forceful wordings about the Christian faith. I moved away from the Nicene Creed and embraced more fully the Apostles Creed.
When I read the Apostles Creed it is for me the simplest way to identify with my Christian roots, and to proclaim the historic Christian faith. In so doing, I am agreeing with and confess in the reading and declaration of it, that this is what it means to be a follower of Christ Jesus, the Saviour of the world. You will note that it is not heavily laden with “theological jargon,” but makes some very deep professions and confessions of belief. It is easy to say the statement, and another to understand it, and another to explain it to one who enquires about it. It is both ambiguous, but definitive enough to be seen as an “orthodox statement” of Christian belief.
Where some may find this ambiguity a “weakness” of the Apostle’s Creed, I find in it a strength. It has reinforced for me the harsh reality that “dogmatic dogma divides” rather than edifies and strengthens. In my younger and more zealous days, and days when I was arrogantly correct and seeking greater precision in my correct belief, I held to the Nicene Creed of 325 C.E. and the Chalcedonian Creed of 451 C.E.. It was at this time that I began my exploration of Byzentine Christianity, or better known as Eastern Orthodoxy and its expression of Christianity. The Eastern Orthodox began their separation from the Western Church with that very Chalcedonian Creed which had become the standard “orthodox” doctrine of the Church concerning the view of Christ and the Incarnation and the debate over the nature of Christ, the issue of the human and divine natures. The results of this division which began at this time are still felt to this very day. This is what “dogmatic dogma” tends to do. It tends to separate and divide and make it all the more difficult to have dialogue and reconcile. We have seen the current pope of the Western Church, Pope Francis, engage in meaningful dialogue with the patriarch of Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, and this has taken a great deal of effort on the part of all parties, to come together and dialogue and make progress together. Tensions remain, and it is taking more effort to work together in consensus and agreement on things that truly matter.
I eventually became an “eclectic believer”
I was blessed to be raised in a home that allowed me to explore, especially explore through the reading of books. The first memories I have of my father and my mother, is of them taking me on their laps, when I was around three years old, and reading aloud to me from even the books they were reading. I just loved to hear words. I fell in love with words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters and entire books. My parents read to me in French and in English. I learned at a young age the importance of being able to read and write. To this day I have a great love for books and for reading and equally enjoy writing and sharing my thoughts as I do on this blog.
My parents nurtured a love of exploration through reading. I became a voracious reader and by the time I was entering my mid teen years, I was reading a lot of philosophy and a lot of theology and a ton of history and biography. So by the time the high years ended, and the time I spent in the army, and then university and eventually Bible College my thinking had evolved. I was raised a Pentecostal, but my Dad who had been raised Presbyterian had strong Calvinist leanings and he exposed me to Calvin in my teen years as well as to Luther. I became well acquainted with the classical Reformed understanding of the Christian faith and why the Reformation had taken place. The Pentecostal Movement embraced from 1919 onward a Pre-Millenial and pre-wrath rapture of the church eschatology. My Dad exposed me to Post-Millenialism as well as a Post-Tribulational rapture and second coming understanding of eschatology. Doing my own exploration led me to embrace firstly Partial-Preterism. I eventually became a Full Preterist. Preterism has grown in the Reformed and conservative Evangelical circles and now includes many Pentecostals and Charismatics. I well remember visiting the head office of the PAOC with my Dad in the mid 1980’s and I was speaking with one of the senior leaders of the denomination about wanting to do a paper on the evolution of the doctrine of the End Times within Pentecostalism. He gently said, “Sam, I know where your heart is, but the PAOC has believed one thing since 1919, and not you and not anyone else is going to change that!” This was the kind of controlling and stifling environments that I did not want to be a part of. No openness at all. Not even an openness to exploration and discovery.
From this Reformed Pentecostal part of my journey, I then explored and experienced a variety of Anabaptist encounters and studies that included the writings of Menno Simons, and other Anabaptists, and I began to appreciate and understand their views on peace and peacemaking, and their views on church governance and congregationalism. This deeply impacted my understanding of being a Christian in a secular society, and my role within that society, and the role of the Church within society, as well as the ethical necessity to live as a people of peace and be agents of grace and understanding making peace possible in the world. That journey has taken me a good 30 years of my life to reach this crucible point, a crux on my journey with God. I am a full pacifist and practitioner of non-violence. The teaching of Tolstoy, Gandhi and Martin Luther King have played major roles in my philosophical and theological thinking in this regard.
Dealing with ridicule and rejection is just part of the journey
I was told I would need a thick skin, thicker than the skin of an elephant to survive the slings and arrows of my Evangelical peers who simply do not comprehend the wideness of God’s mercy and how variety of beliefs is what is normative. Compliance to rigidity is the opposite of a loving and embracing God. I am saved by the act of a loving God, and not by my mental assent to a set of theological presuppositions that I give my mental assent to. I have taken the scorn and ridicule and at times it has been difficult, but it was simply because I was not a “full Pentecostal” on all points of dogma, or because I was not a “real Reformed Christian” because I was a Charismatic and not a believer in the cessation of the Spiritual Gifts. I was gently chided by the Anabaptists who simply said I was not “radical enough” in my non-resistance and pacifist views, and that I should “go back to the Pentecostals.” So I did not fit in anywhere. I was truly eclectic in every way. I was creating a hodge podge of beliefs in a stew! And the stew was just not tasty enough or pure enough and not compliant to the accepted recipe for that particular stew!
I well remember from my Bible College days what one of my then friends was going through. He was a “Jesus only” Pentecostal, and so many people tried to change his beliefs. He eventually dropped out of school, and the school threatened to not let him graduate for holding to erroneous views on the Trinity and Godhead. I saw what it did to this fine young man, and how devastated he was at being so judged and sent into exile. This was the warning shot across the bow that many of us at the school perceived to be a warning to “remain faithful to the historic teachings of the Church.”
I remembered exploring many beliefs I had never before studied for myself. I remember my Dad telling me that I needed to be the one to come to a peaceful resolution in my heart and in my mind about what I believed about the Bible, and what I believed to be the important teachings of the Church. He said I had to be like Jacob, and that I need to wrestle with God and the Word of God, and find out for myself and come to that place of peaceful rest at the end, with just that sense of knowing, you know, that moment when you say, “I know that I know that I know.” So this became my modus operandi as I continue my journey of theological exploration.
My 15 year dabbling in and promoting the simple church movement revealed that church is not simple at all
I ventured from the institutional church in 1999 when I resigned my leadership position in a local charismatic congregation and went and embraced the simple church movement or better known as the “house church movement.” I learned a great deal about myself, my beliefs, and human nature in those 15 years. I discovered along the way, that I was not alone in my views on the church system and how in need of change it was, and that the Reformation had done nothing to change the church as an institution. The same clergy controlled the whole structure and apparatus, all the power, all the money, and all the ministry. I saw too just how moving from a “church building” into a “living room” did not change the DNA of church anymore than you going to a gym to work out or you working out at home. The whole DNA had to change, and that included your identity as a believer, and your understanding of the church as a breathing living organism who head is Jesus Christ, and where all people that are grafted in, are equal in status, and uniquely gifted, and that it is the Spirit of God that calls out and establishes servant leaders. It has nothing to do with theology degrees or institutional credentialing systems that recognize, affirm your leadership role. Perhaps the most difficult learning curve and negative reinforcement was how abusive and how intentionally disrespectful my dealings with other people I served with were towards myself, my wife and others who were there to only help and assist. I came to realize again and again just how tragically flawed human beings are and how messy relationships are and how easy it is for people to get angry and vent and walk away, even after all the emotional, spiritual and financial investment you make in them and their families. You feel it more in a small house church only in that there are fewer people to deal with. When one person or a couple leave in a bad way, the whole group suffers the effects more directly and in a more impactful way. All difficult situations and broken relationships, in churches of any size causes pain and sorrow and a lot of wounding.
Sustained by God and his grace alone
After planting numerous house churches, and suffering several implosions from bad relational dynamics, Lori-Anne and I called it quits. We walked away from church altogether. We stayed connected to a variety of Christians and had a few deeper relationships and some which were casual but healthier than the norm. During those years we explored other traditional churches, and also were exposed to the Emergent Church movement and to the writings of people like Brian McLaren and Rob Bell. We attended some conferences and seminars and stayed in the loop, and really immersed ourselves in the “grace movement” that came about around 2008. We embraced the teaching of Steve McVey, and John Crowder, Jeff Turner, Joshua Tongol, Brad Jersak, and Michael Hardin. The grace teaching refreshed our souls and led us to the greatest discoveries of what it is to be “be in Christ.”
The universal benefits of the finished work of Christ, and the radical grace of God
My journey into the arms of an ever increasingly embracing love of God began to expand exponentially with the writings of Rob Bell and Brian McLaren and Brad Jersak and Jeff Turner. I could no longer resist the love and grace of God. I always felt it was “too good” to be true, and I discovered just how true it all really is. My journey from fundamentalist Evangelical dogmatism was not an easy one.
Brian McLaren states in his book, A New Kind of Christianity, the power of an understanding of God that is wrapped up in a fundamentalist mindset. McLaren writes:
“People who are part of what is often called fundamentalism today, whether Christians, Muslims, or Jews, often find it difficult to acknowledge this kind of progression in understanding across the centuries. If anything, they feel obliged to defend and give priority to the early, raw, more primal, less-tested and developed views of God, minimizing or marginalizing what I am calling the more mature and nuanced understandings. So the God of the fundamentalists is a competitive warrior — always jealous of rivals and determined to drive them into defeat and disgrace. And the God of the fundamentalists is superficially exacting – – – demanding technical perfection in regard to ceremonial and legal matters while minimizing deeper concerns about social justice — especially where outsiders and outcasts are concerned. Similarly, their fundamentalist God is exclusive, faithfully loving one in-group and rejecting — perhaps even hating — all others. The fundamentalist God is also deterministic — controlling rather than interacting, a mover of events but never moved by them. And finally, though the fundamentalist God may be patient for a while, he (fundamentalist versions of God tend to be very male) is ultimately violent, eventually destined to explode with unquenchable rage, condemnation, punishment, torture, and vengeance if you push him too far.”
~ Brian McLaren, A New Kind of Christianity, page 102
I re-discovered God and the finished work of Christ in such a profound way that is was like totally brand new, like looking through lenses of living color contrasted to the dreariness of shades of grey and bland.
I realized that the dogmatism that had helped give my life of faith shape and definition was not based on the inclusive love of God in Christ as the Saviour of the world, but on an exclusionary one, where people were either in or they were out and that at death there was no way anyone who was not already in could ever get in. My dogma was strong and rigid. I deemed myself to be “theologically correct” even if I had pangs of conscience demanding that I review certain established beliefs that I had and defended.
Over time, I examined the doctrines of salvation, the atonement of Christ, the doctrine of “sola scriptura”, and a whole gamut of doctrines. I went back to the historical trail of how these dogmas became what they became, and I found the same pitfalls in each century going all the way back to the Apostolic Fathers and the Anti-Nicene Fathers. It seems if the Church did anything throughout the ages, it was the action of “thought police,” “heresy exposure” and the “purity of doctrine.” Prior to the Edict of Milan, where Emperor Constantine granted special status to the Church, issues of doctrinal differences and discord were treated internally and where issues were more serious, you had people being excommunicated and cast out of the Church. There was nothing like what was to come for about 1400 years, all the imprisonments, tortures, forced confessions, trials and executions for heresy. All of these activities created fear in people and suspicion, and portrayed God as this monster demanding impossible compliance and if you did not do it, the state would condemn you to death in this life, and the Church would damn you soul to hell in the next life. Death by fire was the way the Church utilized their understanding of being “purged by fire” of being purified so that at death God would have mercy upon your soul. What a despicable rendering of God and his love and beauty and grace. This is what absolute power in the hands of men can do to distort the Gospel of Christ and besmirch the reputation and character and honor of God before men.
I don’t give a damn about the Evangelical “thought police” or having “correct belief” anymore. I only care about loving God and loving people
I eventually discovered that I could no longer be a “practicing Calvinist” and for that matter I could no longer be a “practicing Arminian” either. All I could do is love Jesus Christ, and love people. I could embrace the Gospel revealed in Christ Jesus and taught by the apostles, chiefly, by Paul of Tarsus (aka Saul of Tarsus) in his epistles in the New Testament.
I realized that my life was filled with criticism and judgment and of viewed the world in which I lived as a world that was doomed to perdition, and only a minute amount of people were going to escape it. I realized that this belief was the opposite of what the Christian Scriptures teach, and the opposite of the mindset of the Early Church, even right up to the Dark Ages. The Church had always viewed the world as undergoing transformation and change and that the finished work of the cross was what accomplished the possibility of that vision to manifest in the world as we lived out the finished work of the cross in our lives, and lived lives filled with love, grace, acceptance, forgiveness, restoration, healing and hope. Now that sure sounded more like the Jesus I had read about in my youth. It sure looks like the Jesus I read about now in my mid 50’s. If Jesus hasn’t changed, what has? The Church system and the power brokers are the ones who have hijacked the church system and uses “faith” and “religion” and “fear” of “eternal damnation” to control the lives of people. Once that phony baloney is exposed for its tragic flaws and erroneous beliefs, it becomes powerless to control and manipulate.
The liberating power of grace and love
When I fully embraced Jesus and the grace he has for me, everything changed. People I thought I could not love and accept, they became beautiful and lovable. My restrictions and demands that people change before I could love them were the very opposite of the heart of Jesus. I had lived a false understanding of the love of God in my life. I had replaced unconditional love with rules and demands that only produced a widening gulf between me and God, and me and people, and nothing but discontentment in my own soul. I felt like I was stuck all the time, when all I had to do was to let go of all the religious dogma that I had falsely held on to as being supposedly important in defining my “walk with God.”
I really experienced a full encounter with the love of God when I not only read Love Wins, but actually facilitated a book study of the book at one of the local churches in city. It was life transforming for a few of us dozen people that stuck it through to the end of the book. I saw how the love of God had transformed the life of Rob Bell, and in spite of all the hurt and rejection and pain, he was a new man, and a renewed and transformed man in the making. He was excited to be alive, and excited to discover more and more about the depth and breadth of the love and grace of God and how much God loves this world and all the diverse people in it. His journey was infectious for me and it was an inspiration.
In 2012 Kevin Miller, a Canadian documentary maker released Hellbound? Which also contributed greatly to firming up some things for me and dotting the proverbial “I” and crossing the proverbial “t” in the process. It is funny and odd that people, books, films and encounters come along to just nudge you along in your journey and tap you on your shoulder and say, “There you go. Yes, that way. See and taste and it is good. Enjoy. Be free.” And this is exactly what Hellbound? did for me. It was used to really set me on a path to greater freedom and self-awareness of the impact our respective journeys and “truths” are and what they do to us and what they do to others, when we use our own understanding of truth as a hammer and hammer people rather than loving people. It is a brilliant film and I highly recommend it. The film deals with death, heaven and hell, and the various Christian understanding about the doctrine of hell. It is worthy of being used in study groups as a learning resource and discussion primer.
I had previously, come to a place of accepting the position of the annihilation of the soul about twenty years ago. This teaching states that at death, those who have never repented and turned to Christ in saving faith, these people will not suffer eternal torment but rather, due to God’s mercy, their souls will be extinguished by God instead in an act of divine mercy. When I look at this position now, I find it as untenable now as the eternal torment view I once rejected.
Now, I believe in the “ultimate reconciliation of all things,” where God in Christ Jesus has made a way for all of humanity to be saved, and that when time comes to completion, Jesus will indeed get his “full” and “complete” inheritance and not miniscule amount.
I firmly believe that at death, all that stuff that hindered us, and held us back from fully embracing God, that stuff is gone, forever. I believe that if a person has never confessed Christ in this life, that God has the means and the power to reach them in that transition after death. When a soul is confronted by a loving and gracious God, and all those things that hindered them from believing in God in the past, is gone, and they are given the choice of receiving the gift of life everlasting from God directly, I believe people will not be able to say no. They will all bow their knee to Christ and receive his love, grace and pardon because he has already paid for that in full. They will turn from their wicked ways and embrace life. They will be restored fully to God. God has made a way. Jesus Christ will be fully honoured as Saviour of all humanity, when all of humanity is reconciled to Him. This is what I believe.
OK, I am “out of the closet.” I know what some with think. I am a full evangelical Christian, and that means I believe that salvation is through Jesus Christ alone, and it is by faith alone. I also believe God is much bigger than our finite minds and our theological categories. God is bridging relationships, and not building walls that divide. Through Jesus He has made the way of reconciliation more than a possibility. He has made it a reality. There is no separation between God and man, and man is discovering this all the more day by day. This is the age of reconciliation. This is the day of God and man becoming fully one, a perfect union. Rather than looking at how difficult it is to reach the world with Christ love, and message of grace, I choose to just love the person in front of me. Jesus already has EVERYTHING, and EVERYONE covered by his shed blood. He has already taken care of everything.
Now… that was liberating. Coming out is never easy, even when it comes to coming out of the “theological closet”! But in the end it is worth it. I have to live with myself. You have to live with yourself. It is worth the journey of self-discovery and awakening to embrace that journey fully. You can feel the fresh breeze blowing through the windows of your soul! Jesus has it all covered!
~ Samuel M. Buick
An evangelical Jesus follower, who believes in the completed and finished ministry of reconciliation that Jesus made possible for the whole of humanity.