An email appeared in my inbox which led to a page called Jesus is Plan A. It was written by Ryan Ferguson and is subtitled, Your Gospel Sucks and Makes You a Sucky Person. Most of it accuses Christians of not really understanding the Gospel.
But over time, and over talking to many different Christians, something disturbing has often come up: even though most of the Christians I’ve spoken to can get the events of the gospel right — that the Son of God became human, lived a sinless life and died a sinner’s death on behalf of sinners, so that sinners could be reconciled to God — many don’t know what to do with it. They know about the beginning of salvation, but when asked questions such as: “If you’re forgiven for all your sins, what’s the point in being good?” they stumble over themselves. Worse, some actually justify that because sins are forgiven, they really may as well continue sinning. This is a sign that the gospel they have heard is at least incomplete, if not a perversion of the actual gospel.
I thought the answer was that when people are “saved,” they get a “new heart” and want to do good. But Mr. Ferguson finds something more seriously flawed by their failure to answer that challenge.
The gospel is not primarily about how to get saved. One of the first clues about this is that it’s called the gospel. So that we can discuss The Gospel, let’s consider what A Gospel is. A gospel is big, game-changing news, normally about the new king taking up his throne or about the king winning a battle. It’s an event that changes how things are for everyone. It confirms who is in charge, and it has implications for everyone under the king’s authority. So then, what is the Christian gospel primarily about? It is primarily about the Christ being enthroned for all eternity as the king over all creation, demonstrated by his resurrection and ascension. And that means the first question isn’t: “How do I get to heaven?” Instead it’s: “What are the implications now that the Messiah is in charge?”
I would think “getting saved” would be the most important consideration since it affects ourselves but I guess that’s just my selfish psychopathy speaking. Ferguson sets our priorities straight by saying,
In the kingdom of God — the kingdom where the Christ sits on his throne — humanity is fully realised. This begins with Jesus being the perfection of humanity, but doesn’t end there. Rather, it is his desire that all of humanity be fully realised, and so with Jesus on the throne we are to become perfected with him. Jesus Christ is perfect as his father is perfect (John 5:19-24), so we are called to be perfect with him (Matthew 5:48). On numerous occasions, the Apostle Paul encourages us to clothe ourselves in Christ so that we may become like Christ (Romans 13:14, Ephesians 4:24, Colossians 3:12). And just as in God’s kingdom we are called to conform ourselves to Christ, God is at work conforming us to his image (Romans 8:29, 2 Corinthians 3:18). This, as it so happens, is the birthright of humanity, for we were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-28).
I find the above offensive on a number of levels. So Jesus is “the perfection of humanity” and “with Jesus on the throne we are to become perfected with him.” I don’t think I have seen such a statement since Dostoevsky. Most of us know better than to think it’s all about Jesus. Dostoevsky thought you had to be Christian to be a good person. We now live in a pluralistic society where myriad religions are practices and where atheists live morally.
God’s main method of punishing sin in the Bible is not to retaliate against sin, but to let it cultivate and fester into its fullness. If sin, ontologically, is a departure from being human, then God’s wrath against the sinner is to let them become increasingly inhuman, and taken to completion, his wrath is to let us become completely inhuman. One interpretation of hell, based on this, is that the imagery of flames that never go out and worms that never stop eating the flesh is symbolic of the human being completely given over to sin, that the sin we so love eats away every last bit of our humanity, until whatever remains can no longer be called human.
So non-christians are not human and become increasingly inhuman. God, who is omniscient, knows some of his creations are going to reach this sorry state. He makes us “human” so we can become inhuman. Well, as a psychopath, I am used to being called inhuman. Whatever…
The article gets into a defense of Calvinism. He makes the point that predestination does not preclude free-will, an interesting idea. But Ferguson goes on to discuss Arminians and Calvinists in order to refute “dumb arguments” against Calvinism. In reading some of this, I came across the word “compatibalist” which peaked my curiosity. I did a Google search for that term and came across another article (http://www.slu.edu/~turnerjt/papers/CompatFWDef-web.pdf) arguing for Calvinism. Although I don’t agree with it at all, I thought it might be amusing to refute it point by point.
Compatibilism and the Free Will Defense
Faith and Philosophy
The free will defense is a theistic strategy for rejecting a certain argument
for the non-existence of God. The argument, sometimes called the “logical
problem of evil,” insists that it is logically impossible for an omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly benevolent God to co-exist with evil.
“Co-exist with evil?” Try creating evil. After all, everything that exists was created by “god.” Therefore, if evil exists, “god” must have created it.
The atheist begins the skirmish by saying,“God, if there were one, would have to be omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly benevolent. But, necessarily, any perfectly benevolent being preventsany evil insofar as it is able and can foresee it. And, necessarily, an omniscientbeing could foresee all potential evil and an omnipotent one could eliminateall of it. So, necessarily, if God existed, there would be no evil: he would haveprevented it.
The free-will defender responds, “Wait a minute. I don’t buy your premisethat ‘any perfectly benevolent being prevents any evil insofar as it is able andcan foresee it.’ A perfectly benevolent being may allow some avoidable, fore-seeable evil so long as a much greater good is produced thereby:
a perfectly benevolent doctor may allow, or even cause, the ‘evil’ pain of a vaccination in order to bring about the much greater good of prolonged life.”
“The goods God is worried about here are not prolonged lives but creatures with the ability to make morally significant choices. Such creatures are very, very valuable, and if God needs to allow a bit of evil in order to have them, they are worth it. IfGod were to eliminate all evil, he would have to do it by keeping his creaturesfrom acting evily, which would require his taking away their free will. Butwere he to do that, they could not make morally significant choices and avery valuable good would be lost.”