Thursday, October 3, 2013
doubts and stouts
It still kind of surprises me that 10-15 people show up each month curious to talk about some controversial/theological issue. It reminds me how hungry people are for a connection, for some understanding about who God is and how God is at work in our lives.
Last night we met to talk about the doctrine of election. Predestination - the belief that God predestines some to heaven and some to hell. Over the years, predestination has given Presbyterians a bad rap. In corny church-culture jokes, we're sometimes called the "frozen chosen." Now, gathered with actual church folk I was surprised to learn that they hadn't really heard about this belief through the church, only through history books. It seems our church is so shocked (or shamed) by the stigma that we don't teach about it anymore.
As always, there were more questions raised than possible solutions and as I know this is frustrating to some, it's quite beautiful for me. As Sarah Miles writes in her book Take This Bread, we are perhaps called to be "the personal and institutional capacity to dwell in the ambiguity and unsettledness."
Many of us were uncomfortable with the belief that God chooses some and not others. We struggled with the continuous tension between God's sovereign character (all powerful, all loving, always present) and our own free will.
We did find grace though. We found comfort in knowing God has reached out to us. We found great encouragement in scripture where it is written in Ephesians 1:4 that "God chose us in Jesus Christ before the creation of the world." We found some solace in 20th c. reformed theologian Karl Barth's thoughts who said that Jesus was both the Elect and the Rejected and that through him all are invited to know God. We felt more comfortable with God choosing all of us, granting us free will and then acknowledging that some will turn away. Also acknowledging that justice needs to be part of the equation and we don't need to play judge, but trust that God does.
All sorts of new questions came up for us: What is heaven, really? And what about hell? Are these places or spaces after death or experienced here, too? What about when Jesus talks about the kingdom coming now (on Earth) in the Lord's Prayer...
Well, stay tuned. Next month, that's exactly what we're discussing. Join us and please feel free to continue the conversation by adding your thoughts here.