Archive for the ‘Universalism’ Tag

Judgment, Mercy, and God   1 comment

Kings (2009)

Above:  Captain David Shepherd and King Silas Benjamin of Gilboa, from Kings (2009)

A Screen Capture via PowerDVD

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The Collect:

All-powerful God, in Jesus Christ you turned death into life and defeat into victory.

Increase our faith and trust in him,

that we may triumph over all evil in the strength

of the same Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 39

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 16:14-23 (Monday)

1 Kings 18:17-40 (Tuesday)

Psalm 74 (Both Days)

Revelation 20:1-6 (Monday)

Revelation 20:7-15 (Tuesday)

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Till when, O God, will the foe blaspheme,

will the enemy forever revile Your name?

Why do you hold back Your hand, Your right hand?

Draw it out of Your bosom!

–Psalm 74:10-11, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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And the dead were judged according to their works, as recorded in the books.

–Revelation 20:12b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

–James 2:24, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.

–Romans 5:1-2, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities,

Lord, who could stand?

But there is forgiveness with you,

so that you may be revered.

–Psalm 130:3-4, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Where does judgment end and mercy begin with God?  I do not know, for (A) the mind of God is above me, and (B) the scriptural witnesses contradict each other.  How could they not do so, given the human authorship of the Bible and the range of human perspectives on the topic of divine judgment and mercy.  I am not a universalist, so I affirm that our works have some influence on the afterlife, but I also rejoice in divine forgiveness.  And, as for works, both James and St. Paul the Apostle affirmed the importance of works while defining faith differently.  Faith was inherently active for Paul yet purely intellectual for James.

What we do matters in this life and the next.  Our deeds (except for accidents) flow from our attitudes, so our thoughts matter.  If we love, we will act lovingly, for example.  Our attitudes and deeds alone are inadequate to deliver us from sin, but they are material with which God can work, like a few loaves and fishes.  What do we bring to God, therefore?  Do we bring the violence of Elijah, who ordered the slaughter of the priests of Baal?  Or do we bring the desire that those who oppose God have the opportunity to repent?  Do we bring the inclination to commit violence in the name of God?  Or do we bring the willingness to leave judgment to God?  And do we turn our back on God or do we seek God?

May we seek God, live the best way we can, by grace, and rely upon divine grace.  May we become the best people we can be in God and let God be God, which God will be anyway.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 18, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LEONIDES OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR; ORIGEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN; DEMETRIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND ALEXANDER OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANSELM II OF LUCCA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAUL OF CYPRUS, EASTERN ORTHODOX MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/18/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-proper-5-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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God, Affliction, Judgment, and Mercy   1 comment

The Two Reports of the Spies

Above:  The Two Reports of the Spies

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

All-powerful God, in Jesus Christ you turned death into life and defeat into victory.

Increase our faith and trust in him,

that we may triumph over all evil in the strength

of the same Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 39

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 28:9-13 (Thursday)

Deuteronomy 1:34-40 (Friday)

Psalm 130 (Both Days)

1 Peter 4:7-19 (Thursday)

2 Corinthians 5:1-5 (Friday)

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Out of the depths have I called to you, O LORD

LORD, hear my voice;

let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.

If you, LORD, were to note what is done amiss,

O Lord, who could stand?

–Psalm 130:1-2, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Who indeed?

We read of judgment, mercy, and affliction in the pericopes for these two days.  Faithfulness to God, especially when the depiction of God is that of one with a short fuse, is especially dangerous.  And even when texts depict God as having more patience, persistent faithlessness remains perilous.  The readings from the New Testament add the element of enduring suffering for the sake of righteousness faithfully.  Trust in God and rejoice, they advise.

I recognize that judgment and mercy exist in God.  Sometimes the former precedes the latter, but, on other occasions, mercy for some entails judgment on others.  I prefer a utopia in which all is peace, love, mutuality, faithfulness to God, and other virtues, but that is not this world.  If, for example, the oppressors refuse to refrain from oppressing, is not the deliverance of the oppressed sometimes the doom of the oppressors?  We human beings make our decisions and must live with the consequences of them.  Nevertheless, I choose to emphasize the mercy of God, but not to the exclusion of judgment.  (I am not a universalist.)  The depiction of God in much of the Torah disturbs me, for the divine temper seems too quick.  I prefer the God of Psalm 130.

Nevertheless, enduring suffering for the sake of righteousness patiently and with rejoicing is something I have not mastered.  I am glad that my circumstances have not led to such suffering.  Yet I have endured some suffering with great impatience, finding God to be present with me during the ideal.  I have rejoiced in the spiritual growth I have experienced in real time and after the fact, with the benefit of hindsight.  Divine mercy has been especially evident in difficult circumstances.

I conclude that trusting God to fulfill divine promises is wise, for God is faithful.  None of my doubts have led to divine retribution, fortunately.  God has never failed me, but I have failed God often.  Reducing the number of instances of failure is among the spiritual goals I am pursuing via grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF ARMAGH

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/17/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-proper-5-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Grace, Outsiders, and Theological Humility   1 comment

Elisha and the Shunamite Woman

Above:  Elisha and the Shumanite Woman, by Gerbrand van den Eeckhout

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Everlasting God, you give strength to the weak and power to the faint.

Make us agents of your healing and wholeness,

that your good may be made known to the ends your creation,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 24

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 4:8-17, 32-37 (Monday)

2 Kings 8:1-6 (Tuesday)

Psalm 102:12-28 (Both Days)

Acts 14:1-7 (Monday)

Acts 15:36-41 (Tuesday)

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He will look with favor on the prayer of the homeless;

he will not despise their plea.

–Psalm 102:17, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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A childless woman bore shame during the time in which Elisha lived.  This was, of course, wrong, but it was her reality.  The story of one such woman, as we find it in 2 Kings 4 and 8, was one of repeated graces–a successful pregnancy, the raising of her dead son, advice to flee ahead of a seven-year-long drought, and, as a widow, restoration of property and income.  Her end, without help, would have been unfortunate.  For example, a widow was especially vulnerable in the Hebrew society of the time.

Widows and barren women were marginalized figures.  So were Gentiles, according to many Jews at the time of St. Paul the Apostle, who was always a Jew.  Christianity began as a Jewish sect.  Indeed, the separation from Judaism was incomplete until 135 C.E., during the Second Jewish War.  The parting of the ways was in progress by the late 60s and early-to-middle 70s C.E., the timeframe for the writing of the Gospel of Mark, the earliest of the four canonical Gospels.  (Thus those religious politics influenced the telling of the stories of Jesus and the twelve Apostles.)  The inclusion of Gentiles and the terms of how that happened caused much controversy within Judaism, Christian and otherwise.  The pericope from Acts 15:36-41 glosses over a fact which St. Paul mentioned in Galatians 2:11-14:  St. Barnabas sided with those who insisted that Gentile converts become Jews first.  Such a position, St. Paul wrote, nullified the grace of God (Galatians 2:21).

Today we read accounts of help for the marginalized.  These people were among the marginalized because other people defined them as such.  This definition labeled people as either insiders or outsiders, for the benefit of the alleged insiders.  I suspect, however, that God’s definition of “insider” is broader than many human understandings have held and do hold.  We humans continue to label others as outsiders for the benefit of the “insiders,” as they define themselves.  Grace remains scandalous, does it not?  And, as Luke Timothy Johnson has said, the Gospel of Mark suggests that many of those who think of themselves as insiders are really outsiders.

I reject Universalism on the side of too-radical inclusion and a range of narrow definitions of who is pure on the opposite side.  The decision about who is inside and who is outside, of who is pure and who is impure, is one for God alone.  We mere mortals have partial answers regarding that question, for we are not totally lacking in received wisdom.  Yet we tend to use the matter as a way of making ourselves feel better about ourselves much of the time.  Often we lapse into a version of the Donatist heresy, in fact.  We ought to live more graciously and with theological humility instead, for we are all broken, weak, and inconstant.  Each of us depends entirely upon grace.  So who are we to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to do?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 2, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIOC, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT TUDWAL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF CHANNING MOORE WILLIAMS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP IN CHINA AND JAPAN

THE FEAST OF JOHN BROWN, ABOLITIONIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT OSMUND OF SALISBURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/12/02/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-fifth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Grace Demanding a Decision   1 comment

oil_lamp_j_1

Above:  A Roman Oil Lamp

Image Source = Rama

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The Collect:

Lord God, with endless mercy you receive

the prayers of all who call upon you.

By your Spirit show us the things we ought to do,

and give us the grace and power to do them,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 22:3-20 (Monday)

2 Kings 23:1-8, 21-25 (Tuesday)

Psalm 119:105-112 (both days)

Romans 11:2-10 (Monday)

2 Corinthians 4:1-12 (Tuesday)

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Your word is a lantern to my feet

and a light to my path.

I have sworn and determined

to keep your righteous judgments.

I am deeply troubled; preserve my life,

O LORD, according to your word.

Accept, O LORD, the willing tribute of my lips,

and teach me your judgments.

My life is always in my hand,

yet I do not forget your law.

The wicked have set a trap for me,

but I have not strayed from your commandments.

Your decrees are my inheritance forever;

truly, they are the joy of my heart.

I have applied my heart to fulfill your statutes,

forever and to the end.

–Psalm 119:105-112, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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One of the recurring biblical themes is the coexistence of divine mercy and judgment.  It is evident in 2 Kings, where King Josiah deferred yet did not cancel out via national holiness (however fleeting) the consequences of successive generations of national depravity and disregard for holiness.  The Hollywood tacked-on happy ending, in the style of The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) after the studio took the film away from Orson Welles, would have been for forgiveness to wipe away everything.  Yet judgment came–just later than scheduled previously.

I would like to be a Universalist–a Christian Universalist, to be precise.  Yet that would be a false choice.  No matter how much grace exists in Jesus, the reality of the Incarnation does demand a response to the question,

Who do we say Jesus is?

(Thanks to Professor Phillip Cary, in his Teaching Company course on the History of Christian Theology for making the point that the Synoptic Gospels pose that question to audiences.)  And, as C. H. Dodd, while explaining Realized Eschatology in The Founder of Christianity, wrote of Jesus in that book:

In his words and actions he made men aware of [the kingdom of God] and challenged them to respond.  It was “good news” in the sense that it meant opportunity for a new start and an unprecedented enrichment of experience.  But when a person (or society) has been presented with such a challenge and declines it, he is not just where he was before.  His position is the worse for the encounter….The coming of the kingdom meant the open opportunity of enhancement of life; it also meant the heightening of moral responsibility.

–1970 Macmillan paperback edition, page 58

So, regardless of the number of challenges and severity thereof we might face due to our fidelity to God, may we find encouragement to continue to follow Christ, our Lord and Savior, who suffered to the point of death and overcame that obstacle.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 10, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN LEONARDI, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF THE MOTHER OF GOD; AND SAINT JOSEPH CALASANCTIUS, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF YORK, ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF VIDA DUTTON SCUDDER, WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/10/10/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-fifth-sunday-after-epiphany-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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