Concerned With a Sinner’s Eternity?
Not According to Some Theologies
I read a post about the eternal whereabouts of Steve Jobs. It suggested that we pay way too much attention to a person’s earthly accomplishments and precious little being concerned about his eternal destiny. And yes, I have expressed the same sentiments.
But the post I read was written by someone who embraces a reformed theology and who believes that man has no free will and that God chooses who He will save and who He lets go to hell without remedy. Now if this theology is true then being concerned about anyone’s eternal destiny is feigned and misplaced since every sinner is headed to where God desires them to be. Nothing can change any sinner’s eternity, nothing. The only thing a chosen sinner awaits is the means with which God will save him.
There are many, many teachings in the New Testament which go against the teaching called “limited atonement”, and many times the plain meaning of words must be manipulated since they go against such theology. The words “all” and “world” and “any” and others cannot mean what they seem to for the reformed theology to be true. And so they are given a contextual nudge by those who wish to have their doctrine fit.
I want to take one narrative in our Lord’s life to show us how Jesus felt about the free will of man and the destiny of sinners.
Lk.13:34 - O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!
Matt.23:37 - O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!
How often I would have gathered you? That certainly seems like God’s will was for the Jews to embrace Him as Messiah and Lord. He came unto His own but His own received Him not. Who are these “His own”. And when Jesus recounts how the Jews rejected him, He says “but you would not”. You must be disingenuous with the Scriptures to insist that the words and attitude of Jesus do not openly reveal a God given free will of man. God wanted to gather the Jews to Himself but they refused.
“But what about the sovereignty of God” is how some respond. But that’s just it! So many who loudly tout the sovereignty of God deny God the sovereignty to create man with a free will. They use that argument which is a false dichotomy and a straw man to boot! God’s sovereignty has no bounds even if man constructs a doctrine which restricts Him. Can God make a mountain so big He cannot move it? Yes! But then He cannot move that mountain? Yes He can! But how can He do both? He's God!
Can God make a man with a free will without violating one molecule of His sovereignty? Yes! But how can that be? He's God! Oh my dear friend, you think you have God all figured out and that He must bow to your systematized doctrines? You think you have all the mysteries unraveled and neatly organized within the shelves of your intellect? And one day it will be revealed that God's plan for man, including the gift of free will, will redound to His glorious majesty in spite of the energetic teachings to the contrary.
II Pet.2:1- But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.
Here is another example of a Scripture teaching that many make jump through doctrinal hoops in violation of what it plainly says. This openly implies that these false prophets deny the “Lord that bought them”. Now I ask you, how can limited atonement be true when these verses teach otherwise? And instead of admitting that these and other verses seem to teach things that are incongruous with limited atonement or the free will of man, many just offer an embarrassing manipulative exegesis which is so twisted it reveals their doctrinal bias.
I admit that there are verses in Scripture that seem to teach election through God alone. I admit it. But I still contend that the preponderance of Scripture does not support that view. And along with my view I openly and without hesitation believe that there is divine mystery inherent within the overall framework of Scriptural teaching even though the core teachings are clear and forthright. That in and of itself is a glorious paradox. The nonnegotiable forts must only be built around the central doctrines of the faith. All the rest should have varying degrees of conviction.
But let me return to my original point. If you hold to the doctrine of limited atonement, and if you do not believe that man has a God given free will, and if you believe God alone chooses who He will save, then you cannot have compassion for a sinner’s soul since you cannot know if you are outside God’s will for that sinner. I mean what good will all night prayer meetings do? Will it change anything? Will it make a non-elect sinner become elect?
Who cares if Steve Job died and went to hell, God wanted it that way. And it would be more congruous to your doctrine if you rejoiced when a sinner went to hell. God’s will was accomplished! Aside from the evidence of Scripture, I can not align myself with a doctrine that is without pathos for the lost and who views prayer as some kind of perfunctory exercise that seeks to repeat what already is rather than beseech the Heavenly Father in matters wherein He can intervene if your cries do not supersede His perfect will.
But if Steve Jobs (and others) could have been saved, but was not reached due to the self absorbed lethargy of the church, then “Houston we have a problem!” But if God did not choose Steve Jobs, and if God did not die for Him, then who cares where he went? I remember conversing with my Calvinistic brother about election. I remarked to him that perhaps God did not elect one or more of his three children. And with the unemotional and ambivalent reply that is so often the case with those whose doctrine has become their faith, my brother replied, “That is correct.”
I cannot envision a God who would bless me with three children who were nothing more than passengers on the hell train whom I was called to feed, clothe, and love on their way to a reserved seat in hell. And oh, by the way, God wanted me also to teach them about Jesus and His salvation. That would be more like taunting than it would be witnessing. But that is not the case at all. In reality, teaching things like unconditional election and limited atonement has a residual effect as well. It removes any conviction about evangelism and it elevates the passion for doctrine above any passion for souls.