Time Knots and the Eternity Dimension
Consider these verses:
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3:16-17, NASB 95)
First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth." So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.
You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?" On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. (Romans 9:14-24)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:3-6)
Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, "Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?" declares the Lord. "Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel. At one moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to uproot, to pull down, or to destroy it; if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it. Or at another moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to build up or to plant it; if it does evil in My sight by not obeying My voice, then I will think better of the good with which I had promised to bless it." (Jeremiah 18:5-10)
Someone will read John 3:16 and say, "This is the core of who God is and by this understanding I say that God offers His salvation to all men and men must choose to accept or reject." Such persons might refer to themselves as Armenians.
Another will read Romans 9:14-24 and say, "This is the core of who God is and by this understanding I say that God chooses who will be saved.". Such persons might refer to themselves as Calvinists.
And another will read Jeremiah 18:5-10 and say, "This is the core of who God is and by this understanding I say that God limits Himself such that He really does not know the future and will respond to events as they unfold." Such persons will say that they have an "Open Theology."
There have been botany jokes around these notions. Calvinists have their T.U.L.I.P. by which they remember their five essential doctrines. They would look at the Armenians and say that their flower is the daisy whose petals may be picked to the tune, "He loves me. He loves me not." By extension, I guess one could say that the flower of the Open Theologians is the Forget-Me-Not.
Now people think of me as a scholar--and that is true in-so-far as scholarship is a means by which I seek truth with integrity. But I am also a simple man. I know when I have met my match and when to give up. The simple truth is that all the above verses contain incontrovertible truth! Each one has application as we live our lives and make our choices and pray to God.
- As a Christian and part of the body of Christ, I need to learn to love all men and women. And without a doubt all theologies would give lip service to this--and many of all stripes will live it. But if "election" is foremost in your mind and you are preaching the gospel out of obedience, how can the proclamation not lack compassion and warmth? I must rather preach and live with the knowledge that God really does want everyone in the audience to respond, even though all will not. To put this more broadly, every day that I live, I have real choices to make--and preparation of character by which future choices are correct. Except for passages like Romans 9 and others, the Bible reads as if choice and responsibility are real and part of live. It must be so. So I accept and believe that God loves all men and women and that my choices and their choices are real.
- It would seem from the New Testament that most Jews in the days of Messiah and following rejected Him. We find in our own days that most of the World does the same. As we live our lives we have days that go on swimmingly, and then comes the day of unexpected tragedy. These are the times when we have comfort from the sovereign God who controls all things. This is the God who raised up Bill Clinton and George Bush--and Washington, Lincoln, Hitler, and Stalin (cf. Romans 13:1-7). This is the God who brought catastrophe on Job for the sake of a better relationship. When trouble comes, our God is in control and "causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)" So I accept and believe that God is in control and is able to raise up His chosen leaders in a democratic society. I accept and believe that the salvation of my family and friends is in His hands and is by His choice. I accept and believe that the troubles that I face today and tomorrow are from His hand working His purposes for my good and others.
- Prayer is boring, if you are face to face with someone who "knows it all" in the most literal sense. Why bother in light of this: "Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O Lord, You know it all. (Psalm 139:4)" And yet, there are Scriptures that reveal that God wants to here and respond to our prayers--that our prayers and reasoning expressed to God make a difference. Consider Moses who "convinced" God not to wipe out the children of Israel, because it would hurt God's reputation among the nations. I accept and believe that my prayer makes a difference in the unfolding of history.
I also accept and believe that there is no reconciling these truths. In prayer, I am arguing earnestly with one who knows each word before it is formed--but my prayer makes a difference. Today God's love for all men will lead some to repentance and they will move into the category of having been chosen from before the foundation of the world. Others will die without faith and they will move into the category of being fashioned beforehand as an object of wrath. God will relate to me as if He does not know the future--even though He has named every star in every galaxy. He might relent concerning catastrophe or not--although the future course of His plan of salvation and history rely on His acting according to His predetermined plan, which happens to require that He relent at this juncture.
These are the areas where the domain of time "interfaces" with the domain of eternity. It is worth noting that Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am." (John 8:58) He is present in the past--and by extension He is present in the future. God "is" at all points of time. For us time flows, for Him time is a tapestry. For Him the history of the universe is like a book that He is writing--and He can work on any part at any time. He is the creator and we are the creation. Each of the verses above reflect a different light of the eternal God working from eternity relating to creatures bound by time.
If I tie a knot in a rope and firmly attach the ends of the rope to two poles, no one in three dimensional space will be able to untie the knot without undoing one of the ends. A being who lived and moved in a four dimensional realm could easily untie this knot by moving parts of it outside the 3-D landscape. So it is with these irreconcilable and incontrovertible truths. Taken into eternity, they can be unraveled. However, just as I cannot imagine how the knot is untied in that dimension to which I have no access, so I cannot imagine how to reconcile these truths.
But I can accept them, and believe them, and live in the light of their complete truth and reality.
Test everything. Cling to what is good.