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« Last Supper | Main | Why I Am Still an Anglican »

March 20, 2007


Jamie G

Let's make this even more complicated. The question is posed about whether our salvation is dependent on anything other than grace. Well it seems to involve a response by us to god, otherwise all would be saved, which seems to run counter to scripture.

OK, you could argue that it is God's grace that allows us to respond affirmitavely to his salvation plan. Then why does he extend this grace to just a few? We end up with a capricious God. Again, counter to scripture.

The way I'd answer this is similar to the way I'd respond to James' insistence that 'faith without works is useless'. This doesn't imply that works are needed for salvation; it implies that any 'faith' that doesn't result in transformation is not a real faith at all. Similarly, if we fail to forgive those around us, it suggests we've failed to grasp the gospel message to the extent that it can be efficacious in our lives. If we understand the least bit about God's grace to us, then it is absurd to think that we could then withold forgiveness to others.


I'll let somebody else tackle the apparent contradiction mentioned in the first point, but with regard to the 'turn the other cheek' comment, I think Jesus was warning against the negative and destructive human traits of revenge, bitterness and the harbouring of grudges.

This doesn't mean one should feel any shame in trying to protect themselves from abuse and in taking steps to ensure the abuse stops, both to yourself or others. Even if this means reporting something to the authorities, I don't think this can be construed as a vengeful act.

David Keen

On cheek slapping - a slap on the right cheek would involve a right-handed person slapping you back-handed. In other words, it's not just physical violence but a calculated insult. To turn the other cheek, the left one, asserts your status as an equal of the aggressor, as they can no longer slap you back-handed. It says 'if youre going to hit me, hit me as an equal, rather than as an insult'.

I'd also question whether 'grace alone' or a capricious God are counter to scripture. On grace, there are plenty of occasions when Jesus speaks of God's judgement being based on our actions. Grace may begin the process of salvation, be a necessary condition as it were. Sometimes in scripture 'works' is shorthand for certain Jewish 'works of the law', which were part of the debate in Acts 15 over what Gentiles had to do to convert.

On capriciousness, God hardens who he wants to harden, and sends the apostles in the early church to particular places. Why is the door shut on Paul to preach in Asia and Bythinia but not in Macedonia? We do have to reckon with a God who doesn't treat all people as equals, and who in the New Testament extends the grace of the gospel to certain people and not others. Why do the Macedonians get to hear but not the Bythinians? Why does Cornelius get to hear but none of the other God-fearing Gentiles in Israel at the time?

I'm not denying that God is just, loving, holy etc., I'm just a bit wary that we can say something is 'counter to scripture' when scripture itself doesn't paint such a simple picture. God is gracious, and judges us by our works. He is loving to all but chooses some to be specially blessed and others to be instruments of wrath.

Jamie G

David, very thoughtful comments. Much more insightful than my hastily typed thoughts.

Let me do some explaining: when I used the term 'counter to scripture', I was being a bit lazy - I was trying to express the idea that the idea that we have to bear in mind the whole counsel of scripture rather than try to wrestle doctrine from just small parts in isolation.

I was saying that the idea that God just picks who he likes, irrespective of their response to him, doesn't sit happily with the rest of scripture. We know we are saved by grace alone, yet our response matters - perhaps it is the way we respond to God when we meet him that aligns us in such a way that his grace to us is effective.

I agree: we can't put God in a box. I'm sorry if I tried to...

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