My Thoughts on the Boyne Article, Grace: Evangelicalism 1; Armstrongism 0

 

 

 

 

 

 

(While I’m on the roll on the topic of The Unevangelized Dead, Divine Perseverence,Restrictivism and the like, I am posting my post about my thoughts about it from Gary Scott’s old blog XCG from June 28th, 2005—The Editor, Felix Taylor)

Like everyone else in cyberspace a few months ago, I looked at the new column from the Ambassador Watch website from Gavin Rumney called Third Thoughts featuring Jamaican journalist, Ian Boyne who is a proud and dedicated member of the Church of God, International which was founded by the late Garner Ted Armstrong. I commend Gavin, of course, for bringing to the table a whole range of religious perspectives in order to broaden ones understanding. Ian Boyne, had a lot of comments which I felt where very stimulating and lightened up a lot of sparks in my brain. I knew I had to express my thoughts in words and I am very glad that I have that particular opportunity! Some people saw Ian Boyne’s article as threat to their post-Armstrongite beliefs, I see this as an opportunity to articulate MY post-Armstrongite beliefs and why I believe them.

Does evangelical Christianity have problems? You bet it does! Do I believe Evangelicals have a corner on truth? No I don’t! Is Armstrongism superior to Evangelicalism? No way buddy! Ian Boyne’s declaration that it is, misses the mark in doing so! I will take Evangelicalism’s view on grace on the believer ANYDAY! I will take any day a God who is so in love with me, he will NEVER leave me nor forsake me in his offer of salvation. His grace is not fickle which means that if I keep do not keep pleasing him every five minutes, I will be automatically on His bad side. Imagine in a marriage the husband will say to his wife, “I love if you will cook for me tonight and I will love you again if you make love to me tonight, I will even love you again if you clean the house tomorrow morning” and so on and so on! That marriage is just performance-based; there is no real relationship, a getting to know you. The husband says he “loves” his wife but it is only conditional upon a performance. I am sure any wife in that position is going to have a miserable marriage wondering whether she will measure up to her husband, was she a good and faithful wife. The longer in that performance-based marriage, she will be tormented and will experience a mental breakdown because of her restlessness of trying to be that perfect wife.

Contrast that to a husband who passionate in knowing about his wife. I mean what goes on in her mind, her innermost feelings and desires. She may not be the finest cook and she is like Jessica Simpson when it comes to cleaning her bedroom but her husband is still in love with his wife, wanting to see her come through these things. He wants an active dialogue in understanding and appreciating his wife, always desiring the best for her and seeing her through this wonderful relationship. I pray in the not too distant future I will be in a marriage relationship (and may God lead me to an extremely beautiful and extremely intelligent woman soon!) and I pray that I will have a relationship in the latter scenario and definitely not the former scenario! I can only liken Evangelical view of grace (which really is the Reformation view on grace, if you really want to go way, way back!) is like a marriage relationship based on unconditional love and trust between each other. Armstrongism, is performance based religion in which God must be pleased every time with you doing something. Does anyone remember Herbert Armstrong talk about qualifying for the Kingdom? If I can only completely forget it but I can’t and I remember a pastor from the United Church of God trying to reinterpret the meaning but I’m sorry, you can say HWA meant something different by qualifying for the kingdom but everyone took it to mean that you had to perform for God in order that you will be suitable to enter His Kingdom. If you didn’t pray for an hour a day, God didn’t love you. If you didn’t go to church on Saturday regularly, God didn’t love you. If you didn’t go to Bible Study regularly, God didn’t love you, so on and so on!

Why does then Ian Boyne conclude that the “God of Evangelicalism, Adventism and Orthodox Christianity is not worthy to be worshipped”? The reason is that most of evangelical Christianity takes an Augustinian-Calvinistic approach to Exclusivism. For the layperson who’ll say, “Felix, what did you just say a minute ago?” Let me explain. In the 4th Century A.D., a theologian (who is called a church father) called Augustine, concluded that there is no salvation outside the Church. All unbelievers go to hell and thus you have the theological school of exclusivism. Enter the Reformation and one of its theologians, John Calvin who believed in predestination, God predestines both who are saved and lost. He also believed that Christ’s death was of all classes of men, not all men in general which formed the basis of Calvin’s doctrine of Limited Atonement, thus compounding this doctrinal school of exclusivism.
Most of Evangelical Christianity today accepts the exclusivist (or sometimes called the restricitvist) position.

I, like Ian thoroughly reject the Augustinian-Calvinistic view of exclusivism but I am still exclusivist. I believe that Jesus Christ IS the ONLY WAY to salvation. Your works or efforts have nothing to do with salvation. Every human being must respond to the gift of grace or be eternally separated from God. I, like British scholar, John Stott who said, “I have never able to conjure up (as some great Evangelical missionaries have) the appalling vision of the millions who are not only perishing but will inevitably perish. On the other hand…I am not and cannot be a universalist. Between these extremes I cherish and hope that the majority of the human race will be saved. And I have solid biblical basis for this belief.” Yes, I believe a righteous provision for the unevangelized dead is necessary for a moral God of grace. Some of those in the evangelical community will sadly misrepresent my belief as a “second chance”. Martin Luther believed at one point in divine perseverance but believed that those who spurned their opportunity in this life will not be having ANY second chances.

Also like Ian, I have a very strong interest in the Hebraic roots of the Christian faith. As late former Canadian WCG member Jesse Ancona would say about describing herself, “A Christian with a Judaic perspective.” I have those sentiments too. At the end of her life she was associated with the Messianic Jewish movement and the Church of God (Seventh Day), she saw no need to become a “Reformed Armstrongist”. Neither do I see the need too. I am also a strong stubborn pre-millenialist meaning that Jesus Christ will come before the millennium to establish His reign on earth for 1000 years to led the whole earth into an unprecedented time of peace, prosperity, health, wealth, a greener earth and freedom of the individual and unimagined freedom of worship of an ethical monotheistic God, unlike Herbert Armstrong’s sick totalitarian perverted fantasy called, “The World Tomorrow”. Armstrongism is a selfish religion and one of the wicked religions to ever walk the face of the earth. It cannot in anyway be reformed, repackaged or be made good. It must be exposed as a brew of witchcraft and manipulation on people’s minds. “Reformed Armstrongism”, “Armstrongism Lite”, and “Moderate Armstrongism” is ALL the same, it is like calling somebody a “moderate Nazi”. It is an ALL or nothing proposition because Armstrongism is really a religious ideology, not a theology and ideologies leave little room for the middle ground and refuse to see grey areas (if so, they are a disturbance and hindrance to the cause). There are many beliefs (and I am talking about non-essential doctrines) in the historic WCG, which one can believe without being an Armstrongite, for example one can still believe in the Sabbath (which the Seventh Day Baptists, Adventists and Messianic Jews believe) the Holy Days, dietary laws (which Messianic Jews believe) and even exclusive reckoning (Jesus Christ was dead and resurrected literally three days and three nights) which many scholars of various Christian denominations believe! You don’t need to belong to an XCG splinter to hold on these beliefs if one wishes to!

Ian does make legitimate criticism of those who radically embrace anything and everything of evangelical Christianity without any questions but I think the rush to evangelical Christianity is all about their view about and grace and salvation which again is far, far superior to Herbert Armstrong’s perverse idea of “qualifying for the kingdom” any day. May many more people in the bondage of Armstrongism experience the liberation of the true grace of God!

Another Editor’s note: It is 2008 and still looking, hoping and praying for that extremely beautiful and intelligent woman (who ever it is) to be my wife!!! LOL!!! 🙂

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Mark Tabladillo’s survey on the unevengelized dead

Editor’s note: Byker Bob, Pasedena Guy10 and James Pate, yes there was a post here but the contrast and comparison chart was simply not working and unfortunately wordpress was not flexible enough to shrink it to size so I had to rearranged something different. To the greater audience, this is a piece that Mark Tabladillo of Jesus Loves Fellowship message board wrote in 2001 about his thoughts about the unevangelized dead and his own survey of the many theories of the destinies of such. Mark has always something interesting to say and I thought this one was absolutely no exception. May all have good read of his post!

Hi all

Classically, WCG would produce booklets which asked questions, and through the text went ahead and showed the answers to those questions. IMHO, they could have saved money by printing simple booklets with a new question on the cover, and put the answer “Jesus Christ” on the inside.

I brought up this postmortem evangelization question with my girlfriend Stefanie, and she did not recall that we had talked about the question before. At first look, she said there is no way God was going to give people a chance to live at the judgment, because that was the essence of the strong message which she had been taught about what the judgment is. In many minds, the judgment is all about opening up the book of life, and if your name is in there, you’re in, and if not, you’re out. With such a simple story, it does not seem like a time to call people.

And yet, it’s also interesting that at the same time, the “books” are opened too. The books are clearly a record of all which has happened. Some people keep scrapbooks and diaries, but these books appear to have a written record of all which has been done, as if a stenographer were watching us at all times — it makes sense, for how could we be guaranteed justice if we did not know the Lord was always paying attention?

Rev 20:14 clearly says that the lake of fire represents the “second death”, and if so, the question is what the “second life” is all about. It is my personal belief (and I will contrast it with competing beliefs) that it is possible for the Lord to call someone at the judgment. This belief is called “postmortem evangelization”. I’m not saying that this is a prophetic event or even a likely occurence, but a definite possibility.

However, the belief does not start with an assumption on Revelation or a creative attempt to fill in the blanks. The assumption starts instead with the question of whether God will present himself to all people and give them a chance for salvation.

Those of the strong Calvinist bend believe that “Limited Atonement” applies — namely that Jesus Christ died ONLY for those who would ultimately accept him. Therefore, by the strict interpretation of this belief, Jesus did not die for any who would reject him. Quickly we get into the debate of whether or not God knew beforehand who would accept and who would not.

Perhaps someone of that thought would draw a distinction between forgiveness and atonement. After all, the Lord Jesus asked for forgiveness for all those who chose to kill him at his crucifixion. Could it be that he was prophesying that all those present would be saved? And if so then we could say that forgiveness and atonement were the same thing. More simply, the counterargument would be that Jesus could forgive an unrepentant sinner, and that unrepentance would also mean that the person had no covering atonement.

However, I believe that forgiveness by God (as in the case with the women caught in adultery) amounts essentially to atonement. Granted, what the words mean are different, but IMHO they require one another.

And even in a practical sense, I find it hard to forgive someone who does not have covering blood. In that sense, I don’t have to ask the question of whether someone is a Christian or not before I forgive them — and that question does not bother me when someone cuts me off on the highway.

But again, the core question is about whether God will present salvation to all. Perhaps largely influenced by the WCG teaching, I believe the “Day of Atonement” is for all Israel, and it is clear in the historical Jewish tradition that everyone was covered, even the stranger in the gates. Even Ruth the gentile (and ancestor of the Lord) was covered too. The covering during Atonement was different from the other ongoing sacrifices — this sacrifice was not offered by the WORKS of the Israelites, but instead was offered by the High Priest. It was an act of faith and trust in the High Priest which extended the ceremony to the rest of Israel.

Therefore, the conditions today are quite similar — those who believe by faith that they will be covered will be.

At the end of the day, however, the debate will still remain whether God did know in advance who will accept him and who will not.

That issue aside, the core question on “postmortem evangelization” is less about the what the Lord could possibly do in the time between a human birth and the time of final judgment (just before the second death, literally at the last moment of “second life”), and more about what God’s intention is about saving all mankind.

I personally challenge people to think about how little we know about what happens at the point of death. Many stories and testimonies are around about “near death” experience, and we simply do not know what the process is of the spirit leaving the body, and the mechanics and specifics of what happens. Could your whole life “flash before your eyes”? Is there communication with God? Does God speak between the first death and second life?

Further, as I started this message, we don’t know what the “second life” will consist of. Historically, WCG speculated that the “White Throne Judgment” would be a period of 100 years. Some jokingly said that since many who died were babies (as in abortion), would not many be resurrected as babies? And who would want to change those diapers? On the other hand, perhaps the second life resurrection is like the creation of Adam and Eve, fully grown adults. Others speculate that the time is much shorter, being made like waiting in line for court where a sentence would be handed out.

My core belief is based on the idea that as in Adam all die, and so in Christ shall all be made alive. Some qualify the second “all” to mean all who accept Christ, but who ever asked me if I accepted Adam? Inherently, IMHO we all accepted Adam’s way, namely the way of man, which today is called humanism.

What is above is enough background to perhaps solve the question, or provide a basis for your own investigation. To help this process, what appears below is a chart from a book called “What about those who have never heard?” — three views on the destiny of the unevangelized (authors Gabriel Fackre, Ronald Nash, and John Sanders).

This book presents a comparative study of this question, and while three viewpoints are well discussed in the text, the authors acknowledge five identifiable viewpoints which all fall within (and this is important) historical and non-heretical Christianity (the footnote on the chart says “The listed adherents of all these views agree that Jesus is the ONLY Savior”).

Granted, there are aspects of these five viewpoints below which some may have already considered “heresy”, but what is important is having not only the viewpoints summarized, but also scriptures to look at (there are a few listed to get started), and also some names of prolific authors to look up. Thus, if you really wanted to know (for example) Origen’s beliefs on this topic, you would know that you could find them.

Views on the Destiny of the Unevangelized 

Restricitivism

Definition:God does not provide salvation to those who fail to hear of Jesus and come to faith in him before they die.

Key Texts:John 14:6, Acts 4:12, 1 John 5:11-12

Adherents: Augustine, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Carl Henry, R.C. Sproul, Ronald Nash

Universal Opportunity before Death

Definition: All people are given opportunity to be saved by God’s sending the gospel (even by angels or dreams) or at the moment of death or by “middle knowledge”.

Key Texts: Daniel 2, Acts 8

Adherents: Thomas Aquinas, James Arminius, John Henry Newman, J. Oliver Buswell Jr., Norman Geisler, Robert Lightner

Inclusivism

Definition:The unevangelized may be saved if they respond in faith to God based on the revelation they have.

Key Texts: John 12:32, Acts 10:43,1 Timothy 4:10

Adherents: Justin Martyr, John Wesley, C.S. Lewis, Clark Pinnock, Wolfhart Pannenberg, John Sanders

Divine Perseverence (Post-Mortem Evangelization)

Definition:The unevangelized receive an opportunity to believe in Jesus after death.

Key Texts: John 3:181 Peter 3:18-4:6

Adherents:Clement of Alexandria, George MacDonald, Donald Bloesch, George Lindbeck, Stephen Davis, Gabriel Fackre, (Editor’s note: Felix Taylor is a 21st century adherent!)

Universalism

Definition: All people will be saved by Jesus. No one is damned forever.

Key texts: Romans 5:18, I Corinthians 15:22-28, I John 2:2

Adherents: Origen, F.E. Schleiermacher, G.C. Berkouwer, William Barclay, Jacques Ellul

What about those who have never heard?” Three views on the destiny of the unevangeluzed, Fackre, Gabriel J., editor, Intervarsity Press, 1995, page 20.

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