Despite the fact that no Christian has been able to refute the interpretations of Scripture and arguments I’ve laid out in this book since its first edition (and I’ve asked hundreds of Christians to do so since I first wrote it, many of whom promised they would, but then never actually got back to me afterwards), most of the Christians who are reading this book have already rejected nearly everything I’ve written, but there’s a very simple reason for this: God has made sure they aren’t able to see the truth. This might sound strange to most people. “Doesn’t God want everyone to come to a knowledge of the truth?”, most will ask. Well yes, He does, but “each in their own order,” and that order is decided by Him. In fact, Jesus Himself stated that He spoke in such a way so as to keep the truth concealed from those who weren’t meant to know it at that time (those who were not predestined by God to believe the truth and be saved) when He explained in Mark 4:10-12 that He spoke in parables so that “seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.” This tells us that not all of God’s truths are intended for everyone to understand just yet. This is also backed up by what He said in John 12:36-40, which is that “they could not believe” because “He [God] hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.” This tells us that the truths Jesus taught while He walked the earth (and I would argue that the same applies to the truths He later taught through the apostle Paul) are so blatantly obvious that God has to actually blind people and harden their hearts, since otherwise they’d see the truth and be converted, also telling us that only certain people are predestined for salvation in this lifetime.
Of course, many people are uncomfortable with the idea of predestination, and so they like to say things along the lines of, “God doesn’t want robots,” and teach that God gave us something called “free will” (even if they might also say that “free will” is perhaps somewhat limited, not realizing that “limited free will” is a contradiction in terms). These people don’t understand that “free will” is a complete impossibility from a purely logical and scientific perspective, however, and that it can’t actually exist in reality at all. You see, while everyone agrees that we can make choices, most people who teach the importance of “free will” also believe that the choices we make can’t be predetermined ahead of time in any way (although a choice is simply the act of selecting between two or more existing options, regardless of whether the selection that’s made was predetermined or not, which is why the ability to make choices isn’t the definition of “free will” in-and-of-itself). This ignores reality, however, since every choice has to be predetermined, by our nurture and/or nature (meaning our life experiences and/or genetics), and/or by influences outside the sphere of the physical universe (such as by God). You see, even though it might feel like our choices are independent from any cause, it’s important to remember that an event has to either have a cause or not have a cause. There’s no way for any event (even an event such as selecting a specific option) to be anything other than caused or uncaused, and if it’s caused, it means it’s predetermined, while if it’s uncaused, it means it’s random (which I doubt any Christian would think is better than being predetermined, or qualifies as “free will” either), and nobody has ever been able to provide a third option that works within the limits of reality (although, if you disagree, please let me know what that third option is).
When Christians talk about “free will,” though, what they’re almost always really getting at is that they believe the fault for not choosing to believe and/or do the same things as them when it comes to matters of salvation lies entirely with the one making the choice, and that the choice couldn’t possibly have been predetermined in any way whatsoever. There are other reasons too (such as self-righteousness and pride), but one of the big reasons Christians want to insist that “free will” exists is to make sure that God doesn’t receive any of the blame for a person’s refusal to choose to “get saved,” and to make sure it’s clear that the sinner in question is entirely to blame for whatever negative consequences this might result in (to put it simply, it’s largely because they want to make sure God is absolved of any responsibility for someone who doesn’t choose to “get saved” ending up suffering without end in the unscriptural version of the lake of fire they tend to believe in).
Since everything has to have a cause, however (since otherwise the thing happening would be uncaused, or random), the questions that really matter when discussing the topic of who deserves the credit or blame for a particular choice are:
1) “What is the cause of the choices that people make?”
2) “Taking all the variables that were present at the time a choice was made into account, could the person making that choice have actually made a choice other than the one they did; and, if so, how, as well as why would they have chosen differently if they did?”
In discussions with Christians on this topic, when asked those very questions, they’ll often deflect by saying things along the lines of, “Nothing causes the choice except for the chooser.” Of course, even if this non-answer were true (which it certainly isn’t; it’s really nothing more than an assumption with no foundation, but one which they’re forced to believe — pun intended — in order to continue holding on to the idea of “free will”), it tells us absolutely nothing about what really matters, which is why a particular choice is made, and it also ignores the second question altogether. (On purpose, I’m fairly certain, even if just on a subconscious level, likely in order to avoid thinking about the topic from this perspective so that they couldn’t possibly end up discovering that they might be wrong about it.)
But even if we were to ignore all the passages in Scripture that tell us God is ultimately responsible for our salvation (including everything we covered in the previous chapter of this book), and put the credit and blame for choices entirely on “the chooser” instead, we’d then have to ask, “What is a chooser?” Well, a “chooser” is simply a person whose brain selects between available options, and one’s brain is made up of (among other things) neural connections which are wired differently in each person by a combination of their life experiences and their genetics (our nurture and nature, in other words). The different layouts of the neural networks in each of our brains results in different choices made by each of us, and none of us gets to choose the way our brains are wired, because we didn’t get to choose the life experiences and genetics that caused our brains to be wired the way they are at the time an option is selected. This means that, at the end of the day (presuming God or other spiritual beings don’t interfere), it’s ultimately our life experiences and our genetics that determine what choices we make, which means our choices are, at the very least, predetermined by our nurture and nature. And so the answer to the question of whether, in a hypothetical parallel universe, with every particle being in the exact same state as it was here when a specific choice was made, including the particles that the atoms which make up the wiring of the brain of the person making the choice consist of, they could have chosen something different, has to be no, they couldn’t have. But if you believe they could have, I’d like to know not only how they possibly could have, but also why they would have (meaning, what would be different in this hypothetical parallel universe, which was identical to ours up until the point they selected the different option they did, that would result in them selecting a different option from the one they did in our universe).
Although there’s no scriptural or logical reason to do so, at this point some will try to evade these facts by claiming that our mind isn’t actually generated by our brain, but instead somehow exists on a deeper, “spiritual” level (some will also get into pseudo-scientific talk about quantum realities as well, although I can guarantee you that few to none of them have any idea how quantum mechanics actually works). The problem is, aside from the fact that this is clearly both unscientific and unscriptural (as we covered in the last chapter, consciousness, or “soul,” is generated by an unconscious spirit powering a biological brain, and can’t exist separately from a living body), even if this idea were true, it couldn’t actually help support their ideas so much as simply push the problem back a level. A supposedly “spiritual mind,” whatever that’s supposed to actually be, still has to be “made” out of something (out of whatever it is that spirit, or whatever it is they’re claiming a mind comes from, consists of) and still has to make decisions or choices based on what its “neurological structure,” so to speak, would then be made up of, and so the questions of why a particular option was selected over another, and whether another option could have actually been selected instead (and why it wasn’t), are still the relevant questions that need to be answered, even if this were the case. Basically, to simply stop at the level of “the chooser” without finding out what “the chooser” consists of and why “the chooser” selects the particular options they do is essentially to say that a specific “chooser” is simply either naturally good or naturally bad (or perhaps naturally intelligent and/or wise, or naturally unintelligent and/or foolish).
In fact, along those lines, other Christians have said things like, “It isn’t about the ability to choose something else, but about the inner motives of the heart. Some people choose to not get saved because they are lovers of themselves and not of God. They don’t want let go of their way of life, and so they don’t want to believe and be saved. It’s a choice that reflects the inner motives of the person.” This assertion is actually very close to the truth because, yes, most people do prefer to love themselves over God, and don’t want to let go of their current way of life. These facts don’t help the common Christian arguments either, though, since it’s still getting down to a matter of the nature of “the chooser” while ignoring the question of why the nature of “the chooser” is what it is (basically, why “the chooser’s” biological brain, or even “spiritual mind,” if you prefer, is “wired” the way it is at the time an option is selected), with the ultimate blame (again, presuming God doesn’t interfere) being on that particular selfish and/or evil nature. And if it comes down to just that nature, it means they still couldn’t have ever made any other choices than the ones they did since that would go against their nature, which means the choice was ultimately predetermined by that preexisting selfish and/or evil nature which they had no say in being given to them, because said nature was generated by their life experiences and genetics.
I’ve also heard some Christians suggest that, while God doesn’t predetermine everything Himself by manipulating every particle in existence (including the particles that ultimately make up our brains) in order to control every detail of the universe that way, He still gets all of His will fulfilled because He’s smart enough to be able to manipulate events within the universe to ensure people do His will. How He’d do this without controlling the very particles that make up the physical universe, though, I’m not sure. Perhaps He only manipulates certain particles, to make sure certain things happen, but stops short of controlling the particles that ultimately make up the human brain. But even if He isn’t directly controlling the particles that ultimately make up the human brain, if He’s controlling enough details in the rest of the universe to ensure His will is done, He’d still technically be manipulating the brain, even if from the outside, and if His will ends up being done (as the people who suggest this idea believe happens), then He’s still making sure that the brain of the person making the choice does end up making the choice He wants them to make (since otherwise His will wouldn’t end up getting fulfilled). And so, at the end of the day, the end result of this idea is still predestination by God, and regardless of how the action that God wants completed ends up happening (whether it be via direct control of the brain or via manipulation based on events happening outside the brain), the action would still end up being predetermined by God.
This all means that there are two options and only two options, which are that either A) our choices are predetermined — by one’s nurture and/or nature, and, perhaps, by outside influences such as God — or B) our choices are random. As I already said, nobody has ever been able to give a third option, and until they do, those remain the only two options available for us to work with, which means that even though we do all have a will, our wills can not be said to be free (particularly before we’re saved — can a slave to sin be said to be free?), and so it’s time to recognize that “free will” is not only a completely illogical and unscientific concept, but that it’s entirely unscriptural as well, which means that it’s time to throw the idea away and accept that God is fully in control. And don’t worry, this doesn’t mean we’re robots. Because, honestly, that would actually give us too much credit.
All that being said, though, even if something labeled “free will” could hypothetically exist, as we learned in the last chapter of this book, our condemnation is based entirely upon the action of the first Adam, and our salvation is based 100% upon the action of the last Adam, with us as individuals contributing nothing to either our condemnation or our salvation in any way whatsoever, which means that the existence of “free will” is completely irrelevant, at least when it comes to salvation from an absolute (and eventually physical) perspective. However, whether “free will” could exist or not, it can still be asked, do we choose to get saved from a relative perspective?
Well, in answer to that question, the apostle Paul (who didn’t choose to become an apostle himself, but instead, as he said in the beginning of five of his epistles, was an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God rather than by his own will) taught that faith is not out of oneself, but rather that the faith which leads to the salvation he primarily taught about is a gift of God (it isn’t only the salvation and grace that are referred to as being a gift in Ephesians 2:8-9; the faith clearly is as well, especially since there’s no way anyone could think the salvation or grace could possibly be “of yourselves,” considering the definition of grace and the fact that nobody can save themselves, not to mention the fact that receiving salvation would be a transaction rather than a gift if we had to produce faith on our own in order to receive said salvation anyway, so the reference to the gift has to include the faith — besides, if it didn’t, we could then glory in producing our own faith and boast about our wise choice to get saved), and that only those few people God has elected (or predestined/chosen) for eonian life in the heavens will be given the gift of faith and be reconciled to God in this lifetime. Only those relative few will get to live through all of the eons to come in vivified bodies, because only they have been granted by God to be repenting and to be believing the truth, since only they have been been ordained to “eternal” life, meaning predestined to — or set for — life eonian, although for a specific purpose (for those of us in the body of Christ, God not only chose us, but prefers us from the beginning for salvation, at least from a relative perspective). And since everyone will eventually experience salvation from a physical perspective, predestination is actually simply about when someone experiences that salvation rather than about if they experience that salvation (although I suppose it could also be said to be about whether one experiences salvation from a relative perspective and joins the body of Christ or not, if you prefer).
Being predestined for salvation isn’t just for members of the body of Christ, though, I should add. As far as the Israel of God goes, Peter told his written audience that it is “by Him” (Christ) that one believes in the true God and not “by ourselves,” which is something he’d been proclaiming (that faith was “by Him”) from the very beginning of his ministry, although this is no surprise since he’d been taught firsthand by Jesus Himself that one can’t choose to believe without God first choosing them, and that he himself (along with the rest of the disciples) indeed didn’t choose Jesus at all, but rather Jesus chose him (and the rest of the disciples) instead (although it couldn’t be any other way, since becoming sons of God by receiving Him and believing on His name is not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God). That said, I’ll be focusing primarily on the salvation connected with Paul’s Gospel in this chapter.
The simple and sad truth is, because most Christians believe that people can choose to believe Paul’s Gospel (or whatever gospel they believe is true) on their own, and in fact believe that one’s choice determines where they will spend eternity (ignoring everything we learned in the last chapter about the salvation of all humanity), they’ll go to extreme lengths to try to ignore the face-value meaning of all the passages in Scripture about predestination and election, using all sorts of theological gymnastics in an attempt to prove that, because God knows everything that’s going to happen, He simply predestined, or elected, the specific people He foresaw would choose to believe the truth in the future for membership in the body of Christ (or the Israel of God, as the case may be). The problem is, aside from the fact that there would then be no reason at all for any of the writers of Scripture to even have discussed predestination or God’s sovereign choice in those passages in the first place, this idea is also essentially salvation by works or salvation by self, and is really nothing more than humanism dressed up in religious garb.
Of course, I realize the idea that “choosing to believe the Gospel on one’s own in order to be saved is actually salvation by works or salvation by self” goes against what most religious leaders have taught, but if you need to stop sinning and decide to choose Jesus as your Lord and Saviour in order to be saved (as most Christians teach that one must), how could it be anything else? The first part of that should be obvious enough, since forcing yourself to stop sinning in order to be saved is obviously a works-based salvation, but even having to choose to believe is a work. If you don’t agree with me, try choosing right now to truly believe in Thor as your lord and saviour. Can’t do it, can you?
Forcing oneself to believe something that one hasn’t already organically come to believe (or that God hasn’t given them the faith to believe) is one of the biggest mental works a person could do, and it seems unlikely that anybody is actually capable of it (outside of, perhaps, a regimen of strong drugs and extreme brainwashing). And if someone has been given the faith to believe the truth, it means they already believe and have already been saved; this is a very binary concept with no middle ground: one either truly believes (which means they have been given the gift of faith by God to believe the good news) and is saved, or they don’t (which means God hasn’t gifted them with the faith necessary to believe the good news) and aren’t. Now, one might try to argue that there isn’t compelling evidence to believe that Thor is our saviour, but pretty much all non-believers would argue that they don’t see compelling evidence to believe that Jesus is either (for that matter, most Christians don’t believe He is our Saviour any more than any atheist does, but instead believe He’s only our potential Saviour, and only becomes our Saviour if we choose to let Him save us, which means they haven’t believed Paul’s Gospel yet either — Calvinists might object to being included here, but while they can sort of claim to believe that “Christ is our Saviour” by redefining the “our” in “Christ died for our sins” as “the elect’s,” as they misunderstand the term, rather than “all humanity’s,” they still aren’t in the body of Christ because “our” really means “all humanity’s” in that verse, as I demonstrated in the last chapter, so they also aren’t in the body of Christ while believing that), and we have to believe they’re telling the truth because, if they were lying and actually did see the evidence, they’d have already believed the truth about Christ and salvation, which would mean they were already saved.
Regardless, even if someone could somehow brainwash themselves into believing something they really didn’t previously believe (although, if they didn’t already believe it to be true, they’d have no reason to try to brainwash themselves into believing it in the first place), it would still be an action (even if just a mental action) they had to accomplish to save themselves (or accomplish to participate in saving themselves), which means it would, by definition, be a work. Pretty much every Christian denomination and cult out there teaches salvation by a combination of Christ’s sacrifice plus our own choice to believe in, and even somehow “receive,” Christ’s sacrifice (aside from some Calvinist denominations, who at least sort of understand God’s sovereignty), but if salvation is by grace plus something else, it’s not by grace alone. (And yes, I know it’s by grace through faith; but that faith, just like the grace and the salvation itself, is not out of ourselves but is, instead, a gift of God, as I already explained; and if we already had the faith that the Gospel is true, it would mean we were either born with it or were given it, but either way, it would mean we were already believing the truth and hence were already saved.)
Basically, most Christians actually reject the free gift of salvation (despite mistakenly calling the transactional salvation of their so-called “gospel” a free gift) because they don’t truly believe that it’s what Christ did that saves us (since otherwise they’d have to admit that everyone will be saved) or that salvation really is a free gift that has been given to all (okay, a few Christians will agree that He did give the gift to everyone, but they also teach that He’ll later take it back from people who don’t appreciate the gift enough before they die, although this strange understanding of salvation is believed by very few, thankfully), but rather most believe that Jesus saved absolutely nobody through His death and resurrection. Instead, they believe that His death for our sins, along with salvation itself, is nothing more than an offer rather than an already existing fact (and that Paul’s Gospel is a proposition rather than simply a proclamation of good news about that fact). They think that Jesus only made it possible for people to save themselves by making the right choice with what He did there (although they’d feign humility by claiming to still give the credit to God and Christ somehow, pretending to believe that salvation is no merit of their own, all the while condemning others to “hell” for being too unmeritorious to choose to believe the specific thing they think saves people), and that it’s actually one’s acceptance of the gift of potential salvation that saves them.
But if you happen to be someone who does still believe that salvation depends on a choice we make ourselves, then please ask yourself (and let me know) which of the following options it is that exists within you that made you able to choose to get saved that’s missing from everyone who doesn’t choose to get saved:
- If you were saved because you were smart enough to do so, it’s the intelligence you have — which the unsaved don’t have — that saved you, which means that we’re ultimately saved by intelligence (what Christ did was only step 1, while we have to complete our salvation through step 2: making the right choice to believe the right thing, making us our own, at least partial, saviours).
- If it’s because you were wise enough to do so, it’s the wisdom you have — which the unsaved don’t have — that saved you, which means we’re saved by our wisdom.
- If it’s because you were righteous enough to do so, it’s the righteousness you have — which the unsaved don’t have — that saved them, which means that we’re saved by our own self-righteousness.
- If it’s because you were humble enough to do so, it’s the humility you have — which the unsaved don’t have — that saved you, which means that we’re saved by naturally having the right amount of humility.
- And if it’s because you were simply lucky enough to happen to do so, it’s the good luck you have — which the unsaved don’t have — that saved you, which means that we’re saved by good luck, or simply by random chance.
Whichever of those it is, though, it means that your superior nurture and/or nature is responsible for you making the right choice, and those who don’t choose to get saved must have an inferior nurture and/or nature because something inside them keeps them from making that right choice, ultimately making salvation a moral accomplishment we do for ourselves, completing our salvation through our righteous decision to seek after God after we understand the truth and believe in Christ, with Christ Himself merely accomplishing step one of our salvation by giving us something to believe in (His death and resurrection) so we can be saved. Or at least it would mean that if salvation was based on a choice we have to make for ourselves.
Of course, Christians who believe that salvation has to be based on a choice we make don’t quite seem to grasp the irony of their belief that God won’t force anybody at all to bow the knee to Christ and confess Him as Lord in this lifetime, yet that He will supposedly force everyone who doesn’t choose to worship Him now to do so in the future (they’re forced to believe this because they don’t like the idea that Paul’s prophecy that everyone eventually will do so will be voluntary and done out of love and thanksgiving, but rather that this obeisance will be forced out of them at “gunpoint,” so to speak, even though just two verses later Paul said that it was God working in them to even will to do anything good at all, not to mention the fact that nobody can even acclaim Jesus as Lord and mean it apart from having the Holy Spirit within them to allow them to do so). Likewise, they fail to recognize the contradiction inherent in their belief that He won’t force anyone to go to heaven, because that would be unloving of Him (as some claim), while at the same time also believing He’ll force these very same people to go to an inescapable torture chamber called “hell” if they don’t make the right decision before they die, not considering the question of why our supposed “free will” only seems to matter while one is alive when it comes to avoiding never-ending torment in “hell” (unless one believes anybody would actually choose to be tortured in literal fire and want to continue to remain there without end, or even just choose to be burned up in actual fire in order to cease to exist, which seems highly unlikely to anyone who has ever burned themselves even for a fraction of a second).
You see, if those who do believe that salvation depends on a choice we have to make for ourselves accepted that it was actually 100% what Christ did that saved them rather than their own good and wise and humble choice, they’d also have to accept that Christ’s death for our sins, and subsequent entombment and resurrection, saves everyone, regardless of whether everyone chooses to believe it or not, which is just unacceptable to most of those in the Christian religion. To be fair, yes, you do need to “accept that Jesus is our saviour” (please note that I didn’t say “your saviour”) if you want to experience eonian life during the next two eons (which is limited to those who actually do accept the existence of the free gift, and believe the good news that everybody will eventually experience said gift, at least for those under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision). However, accepting Jesus as our saviour doesn’t mean choosing to allow Him to save you (which would mean you would have a role in your own salvation, even if just the small role of making the right decision). Rather, it’s accepting that He has already saved you (and everyone else) after you’ve been given the gift of faith to believe the good news of our (meaning everybody’s) already existing salvation because of His death for our (again, meaning everybody’s) sins, and His subsequent entombment and resurrection. Basically, most Christians put the cart before the horse, thinking they first had faith and were then saved because of this faith. Believers in the necessity of making a decision for salvation might not realize it, but they ultimately believe it’s their faith that saves them, when it’s actually by grace we are saved, through faith, rather than by faith we are saved, if we accept grace. These people, in fact, have faith in their own faith for their salvation rather than simply have faith that it’s what Christ did for all of humanity that actually saves us all (our faith on its own can’t take away our sins or make us immortal; grace is the horse and faith is the cart). So it’s actually that they were first saved (from an absolute perspective) by what Christ accomplished, and (if they were also elected for eonian life under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision) were then given faith by God to believe the good news of everybody’s already promised impending immortality and sinlessness (which is what salvation will be from a physical perspective), giving these believers the promise of eonian life, and membership in the body of Christ (which is what salvation is from a relative perspective), as well.
As should be obvious at this point, most Christians actually teach that God and Jesus don’t really save anyone, but instead teach that it’s up to us to save ourselves, despite using scriptural-sounding language to disguise this fact (trying to make it look like they’re actually giving the credit to God and Christ, often even lying to themselves about it), making salvation — from an absolute, relative, and physical perspective — rely on us rather than on God. But in order for one to be saved from a relative (or even physical) perspective, one has to already be saved from an absolute perspective, and entirely apart from any action on their part (at least under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision; under the Gospel of the Circumcision, salvation is more of a joint effort, with works indeed being required or else one’s faith would prove to be dead and useless, but that’s a whole other sort of salvation which we’re not talking about right now), including the act of believing, otherwise their salvation wouldn’t be real to begin with, and it would be their faith bringing a non-existent salvation into existence rather than what Christ did that brings salvation. “For instance,” as Martin Zender put it, “what is the use of me asking someone to believe that I deposited a small fortune into his or her bank account if I haven’t actually done it? Would the person’s affirmative confession add money to an empty account? Neither God nor Christ would ever ask unjust God-avoiders to believe a fairy tale, let alone insist that such belief could change fairy tales into realities. In fact, why ask unjust God-avoiders to believe anything unless You were prepared to provide the necessary faith Yourself? This is just what God does: ‘[He] imparts to each the measure of faith’ (Romans 12:3). It’s the only way that anyone can believe. Is salvation real, or isn’t it? Or is it not real until human belief makes it so? But how can human faith make an unreality real simply by the act of believing? I may believe with all my heart that the moon is made of cheese, but it doesn’t make it so. This is madness. Only just people can do something so noble as seek God, but no one is just, not one. Thus, all avoid Him. These are Paul’s words under the inspiration of the holy spirit. Unjust God-avoiders believe and confess nothing concerning God, and even if they could, why pitch them a fable? The question then arises — Did Jesus save me, or didn’t He? If He didn’t, then what am I supposed to believe, even if I could believe? Am I supposed to believe that Jesus didn’t save me? What would be the use of believing a falsehood? If Jesus did save me, then I’m already saved and my subsequent belief — however it comes — affirms a truth, not a fable. Because honestly — who affirms a fable? Lies are to be denied, not affirmed. You Christians laud Jesus Christ in all your colorful brochures, heralding His death and resurrection as though it actually accomplished something — up until the time I must ‘believe or burn,’ at which time salvation turns from a done-deal wrought by a spectacular Savior into a job-op proposed by a Wanna-Be Hero. Jesus didn’t save me after all; it was false advertising. What you mean to tell me is that Jesus merely provided me the opportunity to save myself if I could somehow break through a God-enforced, Adamic stubbornness. Is that the exercise? Then present salvation as an exercise, not a grace. You misrepresent it. You’re hypocrites. You idiots really ought to make up your minds about salvation: is it real or a put-on? If it’s real, then present it that way. Stay true to your spectacular Savior brochures. Tell me what Jesus Christ did, and not what He hopes to do if only I can cooperate with Him. Tell me that I’m saved, and mean it. Do that, and my belief will become the caboose on the train of salvation that it truly is, rather than the engine. Jesus Christ on the cross is the engine, is He not? Unless, of course, I’m really not saved. If I’m not saved, then quit telling lies such as ‘Jesus saves.’ Jesus doesn’t save squat if I’m in the same position after the cross as before it. Before the cross I’m doomed, and after the cross — according to you — I’m still doomed. What the hell did Jesus actually do on the cross then? At best, Calvary is a proposition. If it’s merely that, then quit saying, ‘Jesus saves.’ Say instead, ‘Jesus tried.’ If I am saved, then tell me I’m saved and I’ll believe it, because why would I deny a fact? It’s not my habit. I’m into truth, not pretense, and certainly not duplicities. Give it to me straight, you deceitful people who say one thing and mean another.”
So, which is it? Did Jesus Christ save you, or did you save yourself? If someone is saved because of the fact of Christ’s death for our sins, His entombment, and His resurrection, and because of that fact alone (regardless of whether they believe it or not), then it can indeed be said that Christ saved them (and that He saved everyone else too). If, on the other hand, they’re not saved, because they haven’t believed that He saved them through His death for our sins, and His subsequent entombment and resurrection, then it can’t be said that Christ actually saved them (because they haven’t actually been saved yet), nor can it be said that He is their Saviour (because someone can’t be said to be a person’s saviour without having actually saved that person first), or really anyone’s Saviour, and this “gospel” can’t actually be called good news at all, at least not for most people.
And so, even though Christ died for our sins, was entombed, and was roused the third day, most Christians teach that you still have to help yourself before God will help you, because there’s still something specific you yourself have to do in order to get saved, which is choose to believe a very specific thing (because what Jesus did wasn’t enough on its own to save you without your belief in that specific thing, and if you can’t help yourself by bringing yourself to choose to believe that specific thing, you’re out of luck and God just won’t help you). Of course, some will also add certain actions — such as repentance of sin, confessing Jesus as Lord, and even water baptism, among other things — to the requirements for salvation, but for now let’s keep it simple and just leave it at having to choose to believe something very specific in order to get saved, especially since adding additional requirements on top of believing something specific won’t actually change anything about my point that the common belief is Jesus’ death for our sins, and His subsequent entombment and resurrection, just wasn’t enough to save anyone without them having to add to what He did by choosing to believe something specific.
What is that specific thing we have to choose to believe, though, in order to be saved? Well, it can’t be that we have to believe Jesus is our Saviour, or that Jesus saved us, because we’ve already determined that He isn’t our Saviour (since otherwise we’d already be saved) and that He didn’t save us yet, so to believe He did save us when He didn’t actually do so yet would be believing a lie, and I hope no Christian would claim that we have to believe a lie in order to get saved (or that believing a lie somehow turns said lie into the truth).
If there is anything we have to choose to believe in order to be saved, I would suggest that it’s simply the good news that Christ died for our sins, that He was entombed, and that He was roused the third day. But even if choosing to believe that good news is what saves us, we still can’t legitimately say that it’s Jesus who saved us. We can say that He contributed to our salvation, and even that what He contributed was a crucial component of our salvation, but at the end of the day we could only claim that we ultimately saved ourselves (or at least participated in saving ourselves) by choosing to believe the right thing.
If this still isn’t clear, remember that we weren’t saved prior to our choosing to believe the good news (at least according to the traditional Christian perspective). Up until we hear the good news, Christ’s death for our sins, and His subsequent entombment and resurrection, accomplished absolutely nothing (at least for us) because we’re still not saved yet. (Think about it: if the traditional Christian perspective is correct, at the time that Jesus walked out the tomb, nobody could have possibly been saved yet, which means His death for our sins, His entombment, and His resurrection had accomplished literally nothing for anybody yet; so, at that point He wasn’t anybody’s saviour because nobody had been saved yet, since nobody even knew about — much less believed in — His death for our sins and His resurrection yet, which means that even His disciples couldn’t have been saved at that point — contrary to what Luke 10:20 seems to imply — because they didn’t even believe in His resurrection yet, nor were they aware that His death was for our sins.) What actually can save us, according to most Christians, is our choice to believe the good news that He died for our sins and was entombed and was roused the third day, after we hear this good news. If we hear it and don’t choose to believe, we’re still not saved. If we hear it and do choose to believe it, we get saved (with your belief in what He did somehow being a sort of divine alchemy making it so that what He did actually did save you, even though it apparently didn’t actually save you up until the point that you chose to believe it actually did). So what is it that makes the difference as far as our salvation goes? Obviously, it’s our choice to believe. This ultimately means that, even if Jesus contributed a vital element of our salvation by doing the thing we need to choose to believe in so that we can be saved, it’s our choice to believe that message which ultimately seals the deal and saves us, meaning that we are our own saviours, and that we save ourselves by choosing to believe something specific. Which also means that Jesus Christ is not your saviour, but only a contributor to your salvation (or at least this would be the case if the traditional Christian idea that we can’t be saved if we don’t choose to believe the Gospel were true).
The reality, however, is that the choice isn’t about getting saved vs not getting saved to begin with (at least from an absolute and physical perspective). The actual choice (as far as Paul’s Gospel goes, anyway) is about experiencing salvation early vs experiencing salvation at the consummation of the eons. The confusion arises because most Christians assume that people have to decide between “accepting Jesus as their personal saviour” or being damned for eternity, when the choice is actually between A) believing that God will save everyone from a physical perspective through what Christ accomplished, and getting to enjoy that salvation early if you believe this good news, or B) not believing this good news and having to wait until a later time to experience salvation from a physical perspective.
As we previously covered, the good news which Paul taught isn’t that you can avoid an inescapable torture chamber called “hell” if you believe their “gospel” now, as most Christians have mistakenly assumed it to be. The good news (well, the end result of the good news) is that you will experience salvation because of Christ’s death for our sins, and His subsequent entombment and resurrection. And if God happens to gift you with the faith to believe what this good news means — and that it’s true — now, you’ll get the special salvation Paul wrote about in 1 Timothy 4:10, which is an early experience of that immortality and sinlessness which everyone will eventually experience.
To put it another way, the good news isn’t that you can escape never-ending punishment if you happen to choose to believe the good news that you can escape never-ending punishment. (Think about it, that’s what the traditional Christian message actually is: believe the good news and you’ll be saved from “hell,” with the good news you need to believe being that you can be saved from “hell” if you believe the good news that you can be saved from “hell” — it’s an entirely circular doctrine, if you really break it down, although almost no Christian ever does.) In actuality, the good news is simply that you will be made immortal and sinless because Christ died for our sins, and because He was entombed and resurrected; and if you happen to believe this good news, you’ll even get to experience said immortality and sinlessness earlier than everyone else will (but they will still experience it eventually). Simply put, in order for anyone to be saved at all, absolutely everyone has to be saved.
This means, I should add, that very few Christians have been saved yet, at least from a relative perspective, even if everyone can be said to already be saved from an absolute perspective, thanks to what the Gospel means. Because you can’t believe something without understanding what it means, and because very few Christians have actually understood what the Gospel really means, we have to conclude that most Christians haven’t actually believed the Gospel at all, which means they haven’t been saved from a relative perspective at all (and have not actually joined the body of Christ, despite thinking they have). This is, of course, because faith in the good news which tells us everyone will be saved is a gift God only gives to a relative few, and if one isn’t among the elect, then judgement is still a part of God’s sovereign plan for that person, and they couldn’t possibly believe Paul’s Gospel and experience the eonian life he wrote about, no matter how hard one tries to get them to (yes, the light that is Christ might illuminate all men — note the word “might” there, since this is a Circumcision passage that technically might only be talking about “all men” who are born as Israelites, as tended to often be the case in the writings of John when he mentioned “men” and “the world,” although that’s a much bigger topic than I have the room to get into here; however, there’s a decent chance this could be a trans-administrational principle which applies to everyone, and the next point definitely is, so I’m still using it here — but all will fail to perceive that light unless God opens their eyes since their minds have been blinded to it; and this passage does apply to everyone, at least everyone who hasn’t been elected by God for eonian life). One can’t simply build up true faith on their own to believe the actual good news while their minds have been blinded to the truth (and if God has given them the faith to believe the good news then they’ve already been saved, relatively speaking, because if they have the faith that the good news is true then they already believe the good news and hence have already been saved). Everything we have, including our faith, we ultimately received from God (otherwise we could boast about our good decision to believe the Gospel, when the truth is that the moment we are given faith to believe the good news, we have already been saved from both an absolute and a relative perspective). This doesn’t mean that those who don’t believe the good news haven’t also been saved from an absolute perspective, however, of course. They’ll still be given immortality at some point in the future thanks to what Christ did for them some 2,000 years ago. They just won’t also get eonian life the way those to whom God chose to give faith will, and so they’ll miss out on some things that the few who are saved from a relative perspective will get to enjoy because God, in His sovereign will and preference, decided to let certain people enjoy salvation earlier than others.
The complete sovereignty of God and His purposes for creation from before it all began is one of the most important factors in the Bible, and is taught throughout it (and while most Christians would claim to believe in His sovereignty, not very many actually do), yet so few people are aware that He has a reason for everything that has happened in creation, and has had very specific plans for the eons (and those in each eon) from the beginning. In fact, thanks to certain less literal translations of Scripture, most Christians aren’t aware of the concept of the eons at all (or they confuse the eons with dispensations, which are something else altogether; an eon is a specific period of time that can contain multiple dispensations, or administrations, sometimes with more than one of these dispensations occurring at the exact same time as each other). Instead of knowing (and glorifying) God as God, which would involve them understanding that He is completely in control, placing everything where He intends it to be and subjecting all to His will, nearly all Christians believe that God really hoped Adam wouldn’t actually sin, but that God is now on Plan B because Adam did end up sinning. They just don’t believe Paul when he said that God works all things after the counsel of his own will and not just some things. But the fact is that He really does, which means that everything about creation — be it good and evil, righteousness and sin, pleasure and suffering, faith and unbelief, even the devil and the crucifixion — was all intended by God from before the beginning of creation (God is not only able to see the future, He declares what is going to be done from the beginning, and what He desires to be done will be done).
Yes, from a relative perspective, God does ask people to accept the truth and believe the good news, but one has to recognize the fact that God is still 100% in control from an absolute perspective, and that Scripture is using a figure of speech called “Condescension” in places that appear to make it look like things are ultimately up to us. Not recognizing the difference between the absolute and relative will of God (or, perhaps better put in this case, His preceptive will and His providential will, which means His public will — or commandments — and His hidden intentions) also leads Christians to believe that God never intended for people to disobey Him in the first place, when the truth is that He secretly intended for people to rebel against His commandments all along. Perhaps the best example of this is in His commandment against murder. God made murder a sin, yet He had the murder of Christ planned from the foundation (or disruption) of the world, knowing full well when He gave the commandment against murder to Moses that without murder there would be no salvation for anyone. A less obvious, yet no less helpful, example would be His order to Adam and Eve to not eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When one considers the facts, that while He told them not to eat of it, He all the while placed it right in the centre of the garden with nothing to make it difficult to get at (when He didn’t have to place it in the garden at all — or even anywhere on earth, for that matter — if He really didn’t want anyone to sin), and made it look like good food and pleasant to the eyes and to be desired to make one wise, and even placed the serpent right there to tempt them (it’s important to remember that nobody is anywhere that God didn’t specifically place them), not to mention the fact that without eating of it humanity would not only not understand evil but would never truly understand good either (it wasn’t called just “the tree of the knowledge of evil,” it was called “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”), it becomes obvious that God actually intended for them to disobey Him so that death could enter the world (and, again, had already intended to have His Son killed prior to this, which would be a strange plan if He didn’t also intend for sin and death to exist — God doesn’t make contingency plans; each plan He makes is something that He fully intends to take place and that will indeed happen, which means the death of His Son wasn’t just something He had in mind to do if humanity happened to sin, but was instead a plan He fully intended to implement long before Adam ever sinned, and in fact the reason Adam sinned was so that a mortal race could exist in order that He could implement the plan). And, of course, the entire reason He even gave Israel the Mosaic law at all was so that they would sin all the more. It might seem hard to believe, and some even try to deny it by making the assertion — one that is not only found nowhere in Scripture but that is actually contradicted by it — that “God is not the author of sin,” but the Bible actually tells us that God has not only purposely locked up His human creation in unbelief, but that He has also purposely locked us up in sin, locked us up in vanity, and locked us up in corruption (meaning in decay, humiliation, and death), all in order that He can later set us all free (He can’t free us if we aren’t first locked up).
So, while sin is still sinful, it’s not something that surprised God or that He didn’t actually secretly intend to come into existence in the first place (for the purpose of revealing grace, as I mentioned in the last chapter; contrast is often necessary to truly understand and appreciate things, and knowing this helps us come to understand that sin was actually necessary for God to complete His purposes). Remembering that the word “sin” means “to miss the mark” might also help make this seem a little less blasphemous to those who are still horrified by the idea of the necessity of the existence of sin, however. Yes, Adam missed the mark by failing to avoid eating the forbidden fruit, but God hit the bullseye when Adam sinned because that was His secret plan for Adam all along, which means that even though He’s responsible for it from an absolute perspective, God didn’t sin by ultimately being behind it all, because He didn’t miss the mark since sin and death entering the world through Adam was His intended “mark” from the beginning (this also means that if Adam hadn’t sinned then God would have been the sinner instead, because it would mean He had failed to accomplish His intended goal — and for those who want to insist that God’s intended goal was a world where humanity never sinned, that would also make God a sinner because Adam did sin, which means that God would have missed the mark if that sin-free world was actually His intended goal; and if His plan was simply to give Adam “free will,” whatever that actually even is supposed to be, and to then sit back and watch what happens, as some seem to believe, having no goal at all for the world, and the death of Christ simply being His backup plan to use if Adam did happen to sin, that would make God an extremely irresponsible deity, and His sovereignty would be a lie, as would be all the passages of Scripture that tell us He’s completely in control).
Of course, because of their soteriology, many people dislike the idea of predestination since it would mean God decides that certain (indeed most) people will suffer without end in a literal lake of fire (or at least decides that most people will be burned up and permanently cease to exist, depending on their soteriology). It’s only when one realizes that God has a specific reason for electing only certain people to be saved in this lifetime and for choosing others to miss out on eonian life, and that nobody remains in the lake of fire, but rather that God actually had a plan all along that works out for everyone in the end, that one might come to understand that predestination is ultimately in our best interests. Of course, if we don’t accept that predestination is a fact, we’re giving the responsibility for not “accepting Jesus” to those who don’t, which also means we’re giving the credit for “accepting Jesus” to those who do, again, making them their own (at least partial) saviours and giving them reason to boast about their good decision. But that aside, the Bible tells us that God takes credit for both the good and the evil (and, from an absolute perspective, even the sin) that exists in the world anyway (even Satan was created the way he is for a specific purpose), as well as for who ultimately experiences reconciliation first and who has to wait until later, so we should really give Him all of the credit rather than boasting in our so-called “free will” and righteous acts (even if it’s just one simple righteous act consisting of a single righteous decision) for our salvation.
Others dislike the idea that God might “coerce” people into salvation, claiming (without any scriptural justification, I might add) that God is a gentleman and that He would never force people to spend eternity with Him against their wishes, saying things like, “God won’t drag anyone kicking and screaming into heaven,” not seeming to realize that absolutely nobody is actually claiming this is something He’ll do anyway (and also seeming to ignore the fact that their so-called “gospel” is far more coercive than the straw man they’re arguing against, with its threat of never-ending punishment if one doesn’t choose be with God). These people seem to have forgotten the conversion experience of someone named Saul who was entirely opposed to the true God, and was in fact on the road to Damascus to kill those who did want to spend eternity with Him when God overwhelmed him with grace and showed him mercy so that he could become a pattern of those who are about to be believing on Him for life eonian, or life age-during (this pattern including the fact that those who are saved, relatively speaking, are made to believe, or are given faith, rather than choosing to believe, even if it isn’t always as obvious in our cases as it was for the man who became our apostle). When God gives a person the faith to believe that the good news is true, this isn’t forcing that person to be with Him against their will (especially since they’re still alive here on earth when it happens; it isn’t like He suddenly drags them off to heaven to be with Him at that point) but is rather giving them the will to actually want to be with Him in the future. And nobody at the consummation of the eons is going to complain that God dragged them out of death kicking and screaming. By that point everyone will be happy to no longer be dead, and will be quite willing to enjoy their newly vivified bodies with Him on the New Earth.
But while predestination isn’t coercive, it is absolute, and is based entirely on God’s sovereign choice rather than on our own, and I truly don’t understand how anyone can read Romans 9 and come away thinking otherwise. The idea that either our decision to sin or our desire for salvation (or even our faith that the good news is true) is based entirely on ourselves or on our supposed “free will” is completely contradicted by this chapter, despite the efforts of various Arminians and other Christians to hand-wave away the actual meaning of the chapter by claiming that Paul is simply talking about Israel there. I mean, they are partly right; Paul does talk about Israel in that chapter (as well as in the next two chapters, where he’s pointing out that Israel hasn’t been replaced by Gentiles), but he’s also talking specifically about Israelites as individuals in this chapter as well, discussing which ones will get to experience salvation (under the Gospel of the Circumcision, I should add) and which ones will miss out on the Millennial Kingdom. On top of that, he not only uses Gentiles as examples of God’s sovereignty and election in this chapter (note that he doesn’t say Pharaoh hardened his own heart in this chapter; his whole point here is that it’s God who is the one who hardens hearts — any hardening of the heart that Pharaoh himself did was from a relative perspective, with God being the absolute source of the hardening, as Paul points out here and as God Himself claims in Exodus — the idea that Pharaoh was ultimately responsible is just reading one’s own desire for human “free will” to be the reason for one’s damnation or salvation into the passages, and it means one is not paying attention to how these passages are actually worded or what the main point of these passages actually are), he also discusses how Gentiles are called as well, so to insist that this chapter is just about Israel as a whole is to ignore large portions of the chapter. Really, a major point he’s making in this chapter is that salvation “is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy,” meaning that neither our own will nor our own efforts have anything to do with our salvation at all, but rather that it’s entirely based on God choosing to show mercy to whomever He decides to show mercy (from a relative perspective, of course; from an absolute perspective, He shows mercy to everyone, even if we don’t all experience it at the same time). In fact, when Paul’s “hypothetical” audience-member tries to “argue” that Paul’s point about God being ultimately responsible for those whose hearts are hardened can’t be right because it would then make no sense for God to blame people for their sins if this were true, asking, “Then why does he find fault? For who has resisted his will?”, Paul doesn’t then admit he was wrong and agree that his opponent must be right. If he had, the next line in the chapter would have been, “You know what? That’s a good point. I must have been mistaken. It must actually be our own fault, because of the decisions we made with our own free will, so I guess God isn’t ultimately responsible after all.” But instead, Paul simply continued in the same vein by saying, “Who are you, to be sure, who are answering again to God? That which is molded will not protest to the molder, ‘Why do you make me thus?’ Or has not the potter the right over the clay, out of the same kneading to make one vessel, indeed, for honor, yet one for dishonour?” Paul’s answer there tells us that he isn’t conceding the point at all, but is sticking to his belief that, while God does hold us accountable for our actions, He is still ultimately responsible for those actions. Now this admittedly might seem harsh, particularly to a Christian who believes this would mean that those whom God hardens and makes into vessels of dishonour will be punished in fire without end; but when we realize that even the vessels of dishonour will eventually recognize it was all necessary for the fulfillment of God’s plans, and that even they will eventually experience salvation, it turns out to be a lot less harsh than one might originally think.