Monday, January 04, 2010

forgiveness weirdness

On page 146 of Velvet Elvis Rob Bell writes, "Heaven is full of forgiven people. Hell is full of forgiven people. Heaven is full of people God loves, whom Jesus died for. Hell is full of forgiven people God loves, whom Jesus died for. The difference is how we choose to live, which story we choose to live in, which version of reality we trust. Ours or God's."

I'm not sure what Bell means by this but in my mind, forgiven means excused for a fault or offense; absolved from payment.

I have not read this book but two people who have read and loved it explained to me what they thought Bell meant. Their explanations were similar and they agreed it was a proper understanding of Scripture. I do not.

One wrote, "though one can make a decision and believe the right things, if one does nothing to expand the Kingdom but works still to bring hell on earth, they may not be saved." I don't understand that. Even the demons believe (James 2.19). Who would construe that they are forgiven? And worse, is this statement promoting salvation by works? If he means belief as a function of faith resulting in obedience to Christ, then yes they are forgiven - but they are also not in hell. One can neither see or enter into the Kingdom unless they are born again (John 3.3-6). Whoever believes in Christ in this manner is not condemned and receives eternal life (John 3.16-21). They can be identified because they are those that come to the light and hate wickedness. Others may claim belief but if they love the darkness then they are not children of the living God. These are the ones who inherit eternal suffering. Those in the light will not enter hell.

My friend continues to explain that forgiveness means, "one is reconciled ... which simply means the books are cleared ... but nothing has been added. So one stands with a clear slate without yet receiving all that is imputed and imparted to them through Jesus Christ. [In other words] they have not received Christs life to live eternally, nor Christ righteousness to be made righteous ..." Yikes! I think he is saying there is a two step imputation going-on. Based on the work of the cross the sin of all (as in every individual) men are imputed to Christ and they are forgive - even without repentance. Separately, Christ's righteousness is imputed to us only after we live right.

To ensure I'm not confused, he further clarifies, "These live in a state of believism but have no life ... they have a form of godliness but lack the power ... So we can have our slate cleared .... the debt removed, but if one does not recieve the Life they are forgiven dead men. So like the servant who is not faithfully doing as the Master commanded him to do in Matt 24, those who say the believe yet do not do as is commanded, and beat and abuse the other servants will be tossed out. Forgiven as they are servants ... or as the servant who was forgiven a great debt in Matt 18 who did not forgive others their debt, one may be forgiven yet if they do not do likewise, they will end up in hell.

We are to be both hearers and doers ... we are to believe and receive ... believe and do ..."

This is very wrong. How do we see the wicked servant in Mt 24.48 as forgiven? I do not.

So I get my friend's issue with those that say they have faith but do not live it. But those I would not call forgiven, only falsely professing faith and not having it. In a later post I will say more about forgiveness and its conditions.

1 comment:

dle said...

Best retort to your friends' (and Bell's) bad theology:

If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
—1 John 1:6-9

The lost have no conviction of sin by definition. Therefore, they cannot confess their sins to receive forgiveness.