Monday, March 19, 2012

why create people destined for hell?

This question was referred to me by a friend for his grandson. The question reflects the complications of the theological concept of omniscience. God knows all. We are taught this in scriptures like Psalm 139. God knows everything. He knows the reason for every thing and person's existence and he knows the end from the beginning. Yet, if some of his creatures will end up in eternal damnation, wouldn't it be better if they never lived at all?

Here are some reasons why it wouldn't be better for them to have not existed.

     1- Each person is created in God's image and is a unique expression of God's creative genius. To leave them uncreated would be to stifle the creativity of God. You are a live worth living... even if you choose not to follow God!

     2- Each person deserves a chance at fulfilling their divine destiny. God doesn't always get his way. That may come as a shock but God has limited his will and made it contingent upon the will of his creatures. No one will enter heaven against their will. God clearly says to us that his will is that "all men may be saved" 1 Tim 2.4;2 Peter 3.9. So to not create those who end up in hell, is to strip them of the opportunity of heaven.

    3- Some may be basing this question on the assumption that God has predestined some for hell. This is a theological error. God clearly wants men to be saved... but he will not kidnap anyone to bring them with Him to heaven. We are each given the right of choice and self determination- ie., free will. Otherwise heaven would be populated with automatons.

   4- Human existence, even if it ends up in damnation, is still worthwhile. Christians should be careful not to minimize the blessing of life in this flesh for the purpose of looking forward to heaven. 1 Tim 6.17 tells us that this life is a blessing from God and has been given to us to richly enjoy. Of course, life eternal is blessed beyond our ability to even understand!

   5-In a sense, God even gets glory from those who will stand on the last day and testify to his faithfulness in offering them the Saving Gospel (though they rejected it). God will shine forth as faithful. Even those who reject the gospel message will fall to their knees and recognize verbally his Lordship. Phil 2 says every knee shall bow and every tongue confess. The hellishness of hell may be that recognition that the opportunity to be with Him for ever is lost!

God knows the end from the beginning, clearly. But this doesn't mean he CAUSES a person to choose a destiny. That choice is left up to the individual. for instance, I may know that a child will rebel when I tell them not to touch the hot stove. I may give warnings, etc. But I am not responsible for the act of defiance that burns those little fingers. Though I suspected it would happen, I was not responsible for the event because I had warned against it. So too the choice is up to you. Who will you serve?

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

The Gift of Tongues

We continue in our study of the gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12 with a discussion of the gift of tongues. There are many who see this gift as controversial. I say that when God heals a sick person, or gives a person a divine word of Knowledge it is just as revolutionary as this gift of tongues. Others have said that this gift is a lesser gift. But Paul doesn't mention any sort of hierarchy of the Holy Spirit's manifestations. What is at view here is the Spirit manifesting himself in the gathering of believers. (You will recall that what Paul writes about from chapter 11 through 15 is regarding their behavior and decorum when "gathered together"). These corporate manifestations are for the blessing of all. So what Paul has in view here, indeed, what the Holy Spirit is speaking about is the common expression of speaking in tongues in a corporate gathering. He is not speaking of personal prayer language, though, he does reference it in chapter 14, but here in chapter 12 he is mentioning the practice of one or another of the brothers or sisters in the fellowship being moved upon by the Spirit and speaking out in a language that they have never known. This may be a language from around the world somewhere (whether known or not) or the language of angels that he references in Chapter 13. I remember speaking to a dear sister in the Lord and she was at a Bible college where the gifts of the Spirit were not welcome (shame!) and a representative from Africa began to great the congregation in his native language. It consisted of clicks and pops and ticks. She confessed to me that she could only think amusingly that some poor soul had that prayer language!

Paul recognizes the power of a word form God irrespective of it's source and sets some guidelines in order. He wishes that all men would speak in tongues as he does, but recognizes that this isn't the case. He also encourages the leadership of the assemblies to welcome and not to forbid the speaking in tongues. He tells us in 14.2 that this language is distinctively for praise (though it is most beneficial when interpreted) because it is between God and man. (This, by the way, rules out the foolish understanding that God imparts supernaturally the language without learning for the purpose of preaching) No, tongues is God-ward and not towards man. In the case of the use of this manifestation gift in the gathered people of God it would be a sort of turbo charged prayer- that all believers would be able to say amen to- but only as it is interpreted. And so Paul's instance upon the gift of interpretation being practiced and demanded that this should be in place or the public use of tongues is of no value in the gathered assembly.

Of course, many of us have witnessed the distracting even self-seeking elements of the flesh at work in the church. God's purpose is to edify the body through these manifestations. Only then will they truly be gifts to the church.