Saturday, October 10, 2009

Half-truth on salvation and damnation

Have you heard people proclaiming from the pulpit that if someone does not accept Jesus as savior, he/she will not be saved? This is not entirely wrong. But it is only half-truth.

Recently I came across a case. The mother of a family has just passed away without accepting Jesus, as far as we know. And due to this, the son who is a Christian grieves over the fact that his mother is now burning in hell for eternity. Obviously the son is assuming too much after absorbing too much half-truth preached on salvation and eternal damnation.

Here is the other half. First, we will never know what happened at that final moment before someone dies. He/she may go through conversion through unseen means. Second, we must not think that the salvific capability of Christ is limited by our imagination and bound within our capability to convert.

"...if somebody dies in unbelief, is he then out, or is there hope also for him? The answer is: Our means of preaching and praying come to an end with death, but not Christ's power, because he was resurrected and has his possibilities with the dead, preaching the Gospel in the world of the dead. There is, therefore, no reason and no right for us to condemn and exclude anyone, living or dead. We are not the judges of faith, but the servants of joy."
(Jurgen Moltmann, Double Predestination: The Elected Ones and the Crowd of the Condemned, emphasis added).


brianoverholt said...

Interesting idea. I am not partial to Reformed Theology myself, though I do believe in election... I just don't take it as far as Calvin does.

However, I'm not sure that Moltmann's reformulation of the doctrine of double election is either biblical or necessary. Of course, I would argue that there is too much biblical support of free will to make an airtight case for a Calvinist view of election.

But even if you assume the Calvinist view of election to be true, even to the point of double election, what exactly made it necessary to reformulate the doctrine, as Moltmann asserted? Didn't he say it was that Calvinist believers were beginning to see themselves as "the elected" and unbelievers as "the rejected?"

I think if anybody thought that way, they didn't properly understand how election worked. Just because somebody doesn't profess faith in Christ today doesn't mean that he won't change his mind tomorrow. And if he does change his mind tomorrow, then you could say that he was in "the elected" all along and it just hadn't manifested itself yet.

But I don't think that it is necessary, or biblical, to say that Christ may still save them after they have died. In their final moments in some unseen way... sure maybe. I don't see a theological problem there - we just wouldn't know if it had happened or not. But I think there are problems with saying that people will be saved after they die.

As it says in Hebrews 9:27-28 "And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him." -- nothing happens after death except judgement. Judgement of what? The passage seems to me to imply judgement of their lives.

It seems to me that it's what we do in this life that counts. Romans 3:26 "It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." What kind of faith in Christ can you have after you've died? It's over by then. Now is when our faith counts.

Also, how will we watch and prepare for Christ's return (Matt. 24:42-51) if we are already dead? the preparing needs to be done before death, not after.

I'm sure that God could potentially save someone who never had faith in Christ during their life. But that doesn't seem to be the plan He laid out in His Scripture.

reasonable said...

It is not against biblical teachings to say that people may have a after-death encounter with Jesus, and those whose character and heart were relatively good would "naturally" embrace the Truth when they encounter Jesus, while those who have been developed along the path of selfishness could not genuinely embrace teh Truth during the encounter with Jesus. They may submit out of selfish reason, but that would not be acceptable by God.

It is not just me who entertain such after-death encounter with Jesus; the Dr Simon Chan also entertained such a possibility. But mine is more elaborate :)