As I do the math, there are five great mysteries in theology:

1. Creation out of nothing (ex nihilo): How did God create being out of non-being? Being transcendent in relation to the universe (above all time, space, and matter), the reason for God’s being is necessary (hence why we often call him the “necessary being”), so his existence does not require a cause-and-effect answer. Yet where did he get the “stuff” to create all that there is? It could not have come from himself, as that would place him in our universe of time, space, and matter. Then we would just be looking for the really real God. The same is true if the “stuff” was outside himself. All that there is must have come from nothing as a rational and philosophical necessity. All other options are formally absurd. While creation out of nothing is not formally absurd, it is a great mystery or paradox.

2. Trinity: We believe in one God who eternally exists in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This would only be a formal contradiction if we said we believed that God was three Gods and one God or if we said we believed he was three persons and one person. But to say that the Trinity is one God in three persons is not a formal contradiction, but a mystery.

3. Hypostatic Union: We believe that the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, is fully God and fully man (at least since the time that he became man). We don’t believe that he is fifty percent God and fifty percent man, or even ninety/ten. Christ is everything that God is and has eternally, even in the incarnation, shared in the full divinity of the one God, yet he is everything that man is forevermore. Whereas the Trinity is one nature with three persons, Christ is one person with two natures. This is indeed a mystery, but has no earmarks of a formal contradiction.

4. Scripture: We believe the Bible is fully inspired of God, yet fully written by man. God did not put the writers of Scripture in a trance and direct their hand in the writing of Scripture (often referred to as “mechanical dictation”), but he fully utilized their personality, circumstances, writing style, and mood in producing the Scriptures. Another way to put it is that the Scriptures are the product of the will of God and the will of man. Mystery? Yes. Contradiction? No.

5. Human Responsibility and Divine Sovereignty: God is sovereign over the entire world, bringing about his will in everything. He does as he pleases in heaven and on earth. There is not a maverick molecule in all the universe. He even sovereignly predestined people to salvation before they were born, while passing over all others. Yet man is fully responsible for all his actions. There will be a judgment of the unrighteous one day in which God will hold people responsible for their rejection of Christ. How could there be a judgment if people were doing only what they were predestined to do? I don’t know. But I do know that they are truly responsible for their actions and rejection of God.  This is a mystery beyond any human ability to solve, yet not a contradiction.

Are there more than these? Most certainly. But in theology, these are the biggies. These are the big pieces of our puzzle that are missing. Why are they missing? I don’t know. I just know they are. God chose not to tell us. I will ask him when I get there. But I will try to trust him until then. After all, don’t I have to borrow from his morality in order to judge him for leaving the puzzle unsolved? I think I will pass on that.

Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with trying to solve these, and I think everyone needs to get into the ring and wrestle with these issues. But church history has seen that whenever these are “solved,” heresy or serious aberration is always the result. Unfortunately, many continue to opt not to let these mysteries remain. Often with good intentions, Christians have found “solutions.” But these “solutions” normally have to distort God’s revelation to do so. Preferring a settled logical system, many find pieces of another puzzle and force it to fit. The result is an obscured and inaccurate, sometimes even damnable, view of God.

Where God has left the puzzle pieces out, so should we. He knows what he is doing. Let’s just thank him for the pieces we do have and worship, for now, in the white mysterious area. Hand firmly over mouth is a good theological posture sometimes.

Let’s see if I can get you a verse here . . . Got it!

Deut. 29:29
“The secret things [missing puzzle pieces] belong to the Lord, but the things revealed [present puzzle pieces] belong to us and our children forever.”

Oh, and one more (my default NT go-to verse in these matters):

1 Cor. 13:12
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

Keep the original design. It’s good stuff.

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C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    144 replies to "The Five Great Mysteries of the Christian Faith"

    • Nice! For me its not so much that God has left out pieces, as He is just always mystery, and divine mystery really cannot be solved!

      “Keeping/holding the mystery of the faith with a pure/clear conscience.” (1 Tim. 3:9)

      But having said that, we do have in the Ecumenical Councils, especially, as the essence of the Nicene “homoousios”: In Christ is ‘very God’! Of course God & Man, Christology that is theocentric. However, this reminds me of something Luther said and wrote: “That it is not enough nor is it Christian, to preach the works, life and words of Christ as historical facts, as if knowledge of these would suffice for the conduct of life, although this is the fashion of those who must today be regarded as our best preachers.” (Luther, Treatise on Christian Liberty) And indeed too, we see this so much today, even in Evangelical circles.

    • I am convinced that these mysteries are one of the proofs of the Christian faith. I would expect the real God to be beyond our understanding. But we would not invent a God we did not understand. I suspect the reason He has not told us the answers to these things is that we would not be able to understand them if He tried. But that they are there shows we are dealing with someone bigger than ourselves.

    • Douglas Gibson

      I am always mystified by the fact that so many people think they know what Jesus looks like and post pictures, even though the Bible condemns graven images.

    • C Michael Patton

      Say what? Did you read the post? It has nothing to do with what Christ looks like. Nor is this picture being leaned upon for worship in any sense.

      In the culture of the day, idols or images were used for power plays and manipulation of the gods. If you had an idol, the god represented was more obligated (in their minds) to do as the one who possessed it requested. Therefore, the second commandment is an issue of divine sovereignty. Follow the spirit of the law, not the letter and you will be free.

      But this post will certianly not be about such a tangental issue (important as it may be).

      Hope you enjoy argument made: there are many theological issues that need to remain a mystery.

      Hope you are doing well my friend.

    • C Michael Patton

      Fr.,

      There are certainly some thing that the finite cannot understand of the infinite. But, being infinite, don’t you think God could give us a satifactory understanding to some of these things, he has just chosen not to. They are “secret things” that belong to him, but not necessarily things that are always beyond our comprehension.

    • Steve Martin

      The prohibition against ‘graven images; is the worship of them.

      We have many depictions of Jesus around our campus and one in our sanctuary. They are aids to worship Him. We don’t worship the pictures.

    • @Michael: My point of the great mystical reality of God was not a negative, and surely we can “know” something absolute of the great “mysteries” of God, in fact St. Paul said, of the apostolic and ministers: “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” (1 Cor. 4:1) But in the end, these are again: “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness, etc.” (1 Tim. 3:16) 🙂

    • Just a note about “images”, with the Incarnation the image of the Crucifix is still a remarkable visual. And I still have a use for the tasteful Crucifix, myself. But then I am an Anglican! 😉 Indeed, we must see things since the Incarnation as redemptive ‘In Christ’, the Last Adam, but always spiritual and in “spirit and truth”! 🙂

    • Aaron Walton

      Michael,
      I don’t think I understand the point for sure.
      What does it look like for the Trinity to “remain a mystery” and” But the history of the church has seen that when these are solved, heresy or serious aberration is always the result. “?

      Do you mean that we should wonder at it be satisfied with theology as “sighing and stammering” (Barth) and that if we arrive at a more “satisfactory” answer it’ll be heresy?

      The question is what does it end up looking like practically?

    • @Aaron: And I am not sure I get your point? the word “mystery” (Musterion) fills the Letters of Paul! It is both a Greek Hellenistic and Greco-Roman word, that Paul certainly uses in his theology and revelations! But certainly in the NT it denotes more of the reality of that which is only God’s Revelation, given in especially St. Paul’s “dispensation”, and understood spiritually, i.e. spiritual truth in general!

      Note Jesus too, in Matthew 13: 11, etc.

    • Jason

      1) God created something where there was nothing through exercising effectively infinite power. That’s not really a mystery, just something we can’t do because we don’t have that sort of power.

      2) Jesus as hypostatic wisdom fits nicely within Jewish philosophy.

      3) Understanding Jesus as hypostatic wisdom makes sense of Jesus as God and man. Jesus was God’s wisdom, now he is God’s wisdom with the additional nature of a man.

      4) Scripture is a truthful record of God’s words to human beings, and his interaction with them throughout human history. Anyone can write an error free account. 1 + 1 = 2, I can do it myself.

      5) Calvinism is irrational. That’s not a mystery, that’s a logical contradiction. Slapping the label “mystery” on it doesn’t make it coherent. Simple foreknowledge, where God’s knowledge of who will answer his call leads to him preordaining them for salvation before the foundation of the Earth, removes the mystery completely.

      With the possible exception of 3 I didn’t find those particularly challenging. Christianity is God’s revelation to human beings. He is well aware that the vast majority of human beings are rather thick. He wouldn’t make things that complicated. As Fr Robert points out, “mystery” as used by Paul relates to God’s revelation, those things which wouldn’t be discovered by human reason, but once revealed can be understood by human reason.

      It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter. Proverbs 25:2

      For reason is a property of God’s, since there is nothing which God, the creator of all things, has not foreseen, arranged and determined by reason; moreover, there is nothing He does not wish to be investigated and understood by reason. Tertullian

    • James B

      What is interesting about this list that most of these “mysteries” are considered core to the faith and salvation. It is considered that one MUST believe in the Trinity in order to be saved. Or that Jesus was fully God and fully man. Or, as you’ve discussed before, the infallible nature of Scripture.

      I’m not saying that these doctrines ARE necessary for salvation, just that they have been considered as such. Which, to me, has been scary. Because they are mysteries, it is easy to get wrong. It is easy to really misunderstand the Trinity and move into what has been historically considered heresy. Or even the nature of the humanity of Christ!

      It is interesting.

    • Irene

      I don’t think there’s anything simple about the Son not created but begotten from eternity. I do think some things are learned through reason, but definitely not all. They are higher than our reason can reach, rather than our reason reaching higher than the mysteries of God.

      One of my favorite CS Lewis quotes, from Till We Have Faces:
      Holy wisdom is not clear and thin like water, but thick and dark like blood.

      Here is free audio of lecture by Peter Kreeft, on Till We Have Faces, about why we can’t understand God…
      http://www.peterkreeft.com/audio/16_cslewis-till-we-have-faces.htm

    • I love that C.S. Lewis quote too Irene! Indeed the “mystery” is always in God! Just think of it, we will have an eternity ‘In Christ’ to gaze and think on all the mysteries of Christ! (Col. 2: 2-3) But just to see Him will be quite nice to start!

    • @James: It is one thing to not understand God’s mysteries, this is on a curve for all of us. But quite another to stand in unbelief or even agnosticism. Note the true agnostic does not believe that the human mind can know that God is the ultimate cause in the material universe, etc.

    • C Michael Patton

      We are making a big picture of this as part of the tour of the Credo House. We want to make sure that people understand the necessity of allowing for mystery in our theology.

    • Aaron Walton

      @Fr. Robert, post Number 10
      I wasn’t trying to make a statement. I was trying to ask a question.

      If nothing else, I think my question was partially answered in the responses: seeing both heresy and the pride.

    • […] The Five Great Mysteries of the Christian Faith: […]

    • […] The Five Great Mysteries in the Christian Faith […]

    • […] The Five Great Mysteries of the Christian Faith: Are there more than these? Most certainly. But in theology, these are the biggies. These are the big pieces of our puzzle that are missing. Why are they missing? I don’t know. I just know they are. God chose not to tell us. I will ask him when I get there. But I will try to trust him until then. After all, don’t I have to borrow from his morality in order to judge him for leaving the puzzle unsolved? I think I will pass on that. […]

    • Tiffany N ewton

      Where does the Bible actually say God created something out of nothing? It never says there was nothing. It just says “In the beginning, God created….” It never says there’s nothing there for him to create with.

    • Aaron Walton

      @Tiffany Newton
      Hebrews 11v3 is the answer to your question: “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”

    • Bruce

      Excellent post Michael. We constantly bump up against mystery as we encounter the infinite-personal God revealing Himself to us in His word — and how could it be otherwise. Question — to your 5 great or primary mysteries should we not add a 6th —- the Theodicy concerning suffering and evil?

    • James B

      @Fr. Robert: I totally agree. We must not look at these “mysteries” as stumbling blocks. What I find interesting is that they are often considered core doctrines and yet they are mysteries.

      For example, the trinity. It is a “mystery” as to how it works, but if you get it wrong you are in danger of Hell!

    • @Bruce: Indeed “Theodicy” is a great mystery, but we can thank Leibniz for the term and idea. We must always be careful not to fall into some form of dualism! Indeed God is Immutable, and somehow always outside of time. But certainly defending the goodness and omnipotence of God in the face of suffering and evil, is also part of God’s great Immanence also!

    • @James: Yes indeed 🙂 , at least great loss and heterodoxy, if we loose God’s great mystery!

    • […] Great Mysteries in the Christian Faith Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with trying to solve these, and I think everyone needs to get into the ring and wrestle with these issues. But church history has seen that whenever these are “solved,” heresy or serious aberration is always the result. Unfortunately, many continue to opt not to let these mysteries remain. Often with good intentions, Christians have found “solutions.” But these “solutions” normally have to distort God’s revelation to do so. Preferring a settled logical system, many find pieces of another puzzle and force it to fit. The result is an obscured and inaccurate, sometimes even damnable, view of God. […]

    • Tiffany Newton

      @ Aaron Walton That verse just tells me that God took invisible things and made them visible, not that He made something from nothing.

      • C Michael Patton

        Creation out of nothing is a philosophical necessity, not a biblical one.

    • bethyada

      Michael, you have mentioned the mystery of creation ex nihilo previously as well. I just don’t get what you find a mystery. Can you expand on this as I don’t see what needs explaining? God creates matter and…?

      Perhaps a more detailed post at some stage?

    • Bob Pratico

      Yup – same 5 that I would list.

    • […] Five Great Mysteries of the Christian Faith – “Are there more than these? Most certainly. But in theology, these are the biggies. These are the big pieces of our puzzle that are missing. Why are they missing? I don’t know. I just know they are. God chose not to tell us. I will ask him when I get there. But I will try to trust him until then. After all, don’t I have to borrow from his morality in order to judge him for leaving the puzzle unsolved? I think I will pass on that.” (H/T) […]

    • […] you had to list the five great mysteries of the Christian faith, what would they be? Here are C Michael Patton’s. I think he does a good job of highlighting those truths that will […]

    • Kent

      @Bruce
      I totally agree. Michael left the big one off the table–the goodness of an omniscient, omnipotent God and the existence of suffering and evil. It’s the biggest stumbling block to faith there is. The biggest and most personal mystery that people have to face.

    • philwynk

      Guys —

      The attempt to claim that these mysteries are not formal contradictions is vain. They are, indeed, formal contradictions, given our universe as a premise. That is what makes them mysteries — because, though they contain contradictions, they are nonetheless true.

      The solution to these mysteries lies outside our universe. The premises of formal logic presented by our universe apparently do not hold outside of our universe; but we have no way of knowing which premises do not hold, or in what way. Sometimes we have clues from Jesus’ statements (i.e., “I pray that they will be one as we are one,”) but the truth is that until we have stepped outside our universe and experienced the presence of God, we have no way to verify whether our interpretations of these clues is correct.

      I maintain that the existence of such mysteries is inevitable when we’re attempting to describe a God who exists apart from our universe, simply by virtue of the fact that our language and thinking is rooted in our experience and cannot express what lies outside of it. Trying to describe God accurately is like trying to describe a color one has never seen.

    • philwynk

      Kent wrote:

      Michael left the big one off the table–the goodness of an omniscient, omnipotent God and the existence of suffering and evil.

      He left it off because it is genuinely simple to resolve. There is not even the appearance of a contradiction.

      The possibility of evil appears as soon as free will appears. God did not create evil, because evil is not a thing. God created beings with the ability to choose, and the outcome of choices that violate the character of the God who created us is called “evil.” The horror of it explains why God commands us not to choose such things.

      Of course, not all suffering is evil. Some is simply resistance necessary for growth. You would not be able to stand up if your muscles and skeleton were not opposing each other in places. By the same token, you would not be able to grow to maturity without challenges that test your virtue.

      The challenge for us is believing a truth that the Apostles declare, and which must logically be true if God is truly good: that for every evil that a created being chooses, God produces a greater and more potent good to overbalance it. “…where sin increased, grace abounded all the more…” (Rom 5:20)

    • Ben Gum

      2 thoughts:

      First, on a philosophical level we’re talking simply about the impossibility of the finite creation ever having full understanding of the infinite Creator. I think it’s important to dispel a common tenant of folk theology I heard a lot growing up in evangelical churches – that once we’re in heaven we’ll have all our questions answered and understand everything. We will certainly have a new clarity about the existence we’ve already understood “in part,” but we will never know everything as that is, of course, an attribute God shares with no one.

      Second, regarding the creation – since the text reads as a matter of fact narrative that (as is typical) moves from broad statement into detail, it has seemed to me that Genesis 1 reads like God’s first creative act was to create distinctions from Himself (His first act to define holiness: “set apart”). These distinctions would necessarily (and consistently with the text) be CHANGEABLENESS (since He is unchanging), which defines TIME; ORIENTATION (since He is everywhere), which is SPACE; and PHYSICALITY (since He is Spirit), which is MATTER. God can and does manifest Himself in time, space, and physicality, but He is necessarily separate from and superior to them.

      In other words, Genesis 1:1-2 tells us God created Time (“in the beginning”), SPACE (“over the face” – 2x), and MATTER (“heavens and earth”). He created the laws to allow for and govern creation, then He created the raw stuff of creation, then He formed that stuff in the ways that follow.

      Also interesting on the subject of creation is that scientists have been concluding that the mysterious stuff of string theory, the unknown force behind the existence and sustenance of everything is VIBRATION. God created how? … He spoke. His Word reverberates perpetually through all creation. Only His Word can destroy and remake it.
      (Interesting that Tolkien interpreted creation’s WORD as song).

      This stuff gets me going. I’ll shut…

    • Carl Peterson

      Good post. Mystery is important to my faith in a God who is so Transcendent that He could be Immanent and become one of us. I agree with many of the posts about mystery. Mystery is not that we can say nothing about a doctrine. I just think that in the end it is a realization that we cannot just reason ourselves into knowing God completely. Tozer once compared this to the dark side of the moon. I like that. I thnk mystery is often a guard against using reason too much or too exclusively. There are limits to our human reason. Not all I could say about mystery but all I want to say now because mystry is mysterious.

      I think you left out the sacrmanets though. I would have put them in also. Transubstantiation vs. Consubstantiation vs. spiritual presence vs. memorial view. Heck often people use the word mysteries for the sacraments.

    • Michael "Dubshack" Wright

      1) It’s not the “out of nothing” part I have a problem with… it’s that only John, not Genesis expresses the idea. Everyone in the ANE believed in functional ontology… they didn’t even have a concept of zero at the time.

      2) Didn’t you read The Shack? lol

      3) Easy. Quantum Entanglement.

      4) I do a lot of TC work, both in the NT and LXX. Inspiration isn’t a doctrine for me so much as an inescapable observation.

      5) This is what I’ve never understood… how can there be a contradiction if it is indeed God’s sovereign will to allow human beings free will? What if that’s the highest honor or value to Him, even if we chose wrongly? That we are free to choose Him as opposed to coerced seems more in character with God than a contradiction. It’s like marriage, my wife and I disagree about how many times I’m allowed to watch the same episode of Law and Order. She says once. I say she’s not home that much. We certainly don’t divorce over it.

    • Carl Peterson

      philwynk,

      I do not agree. I think it is still a mystery. Why did a good God created beings with the ability to choose evil? I like the explanation you give regarding free will but I do not think it answers the problem completely. I think there is still a large mystery to it. Like C.S. Lewis, I was a lot quicker to state the answer to this problem until I went through a real dark time. Then these answers seemed not as helpful as before. The traditional (actually much of the Patrisitc) view of the doctrine of God and deification really helped me but not the whole free will argument.

    • Pelagianism, and even semi-Pelagianism have not served the true Gospel! The historic Church needs once again, ‘Law & Gospel’, in the face of Jesus Christ! (St. Paul’s 2 Cor. 2: 14-17 with 4:1-7, etc., are profound here. But indeed, always “mystery”!

    • Bill Mayor

      I would have to say that these five mysteries hold only from certain philosophical viewpoints. To suggest that answers to them venture into heresy is to ignore that almost any theological statement is heresy. Even the Council of Nicaea could be counted as heretical as “homoousious” was declared heretical by the Council of Antioch 268-9.

    • Bill Mayor

      Might I also note in response to I think it was post 19, citing Hebrews 11:3, that this merely states that the visible was created from the invisible, which is not creation from nothing. Given our modern understandings of physics, there are ample ways to understand this.

    • Carl Peterson

      FR. Robert,

      Disagree but only in the fact that I think God has used Pelagianism and Semi-pelagianism for his own glory and even to serve the church and the gospel. But this is only because I think God can use bad things for his glory. I assume that I agree with what I think your basic view of these views though.

    • JJ

      Kent wrote:
      Michael left the big one off the table–the goodness of an omniscient, omnipotent God and the existence of suffering and evil. It’s the biggest stumbling block to faith there is.

      It is definitely a challenging aspect to any faith that sees God as omnipotent and also good. How can we trust a Sovereign who has the power to affect good, but does not? Of course, it seems to me that the very question assumes that we know better than the Sovereign. But leaving that aside for the moment….

      The only meaningful answer to the problem of evil (for me) is that of eschatology. Eschatology (last things) is of great concern in the OT as well as the new. It is one of the main elements of our faith…that God has a future for the company of the redeemed.

      In short, God never promises that this world is the “best of all possible worlds.” Rather, we only believe that this is the BEST WAY to the best of all possible worlds. And, we do that by faith. Christ significantly moved the concept forward in His resurrection from the dead… a type of first fruits that we will follow (eschatolgically), into the best of all worlds.

      Of course, we Christians differ on what those future steps and goals look like. 🙂 Still, it is this resurrection hope, where we participate fully in the rule of God, that is a hope almost all Christians would claim. And it is in THAT hope that we can let go of a “claim” that things OUGHT TO be better in this life. Yes?

    • @Carl: Yes, God can even speak thru the apostate Balaam! But, they surely don’t “know” the kerygma of the true Gospel!

    • Carl Peterson

      Fr. Robert,

      Yes. They do not know the Truth. I only meant to say that God uses even the foolishness of man for his glory and for the good of his family. I think we agree.

    • We do..! 🙂 But then were Reformational and Reformed!

    • Darryl

      Election has always been a tough issue but here is a solution. God chose certain people on the basis of the severity/number of their sins. While all have sinned and fallen short, God recognizes as the redeemed the “misdemeanants” and the reprobate are “felons”.

      Have you had gay or premarital sex?
      Have you committed adultery?
      Have you murdered anybody?
      Have you ever spent a night in a jail for a crime?
      Were you born in a Protestant household?
      Do you go to church each Sunday?

      If you answered “No” to all but the final two questions, then you’re almost certainly elect. You can rest assured that your sins have been paid for by Jesus because frankly, the sins you have committed are “misdemeanors”, thus you are forgivable.

    • philwynk

      Darryl —

      How does what you described differ from earning one’s own salvation by behaving well?

      What do you say regarding those who have committed sins 1-4 but have repented?

      What do you say to those who have not committed any of those “felony” sins but have no love for Jesus whatsoever?

      I’m sorry, but what you’re describing sounds like a weird version of 1st century Judaism watered down to attract a modern, Protestant crowd. It does not sound like anything described by either Jesus or Paul, or any of the other apostles for that matter. Their teaching is more apt to call on everyone to repent and devote themselves to God, regardless of what they have done in the past.

      Personally, I think the doctrine of election is the least useful doctrine in the book. I don’t see any difference whether the young believer frets over whether he might lose his salvation, or whether he is not one of the elect; they’re both fretting over things that they cannot control, and they both need to stop fretting and trust God. Jesus Himself warns against attempting to judge election by appearances before the Day of Judgment. If it turns out, after death, that I was predestined from the foundation of the world (which I don’t doubt, btw,) then I’m grateful, but I’m not placing any stock in the fact before I actually stand before the throne. My trust is in the Father, not “election.”

    • Clark Coleman

      Alternate title: “Four Great Mysteries of the Christian Faith, and One Unnecessary Problem Introduced by Calvinism.”

    • No real problem with good “Calvinism”, still lots of mystery!

    • fishing

      Election, divine sovereignty and moral responsibility is a ‘mystery’ if you are Calvinist – I would say mystery is a modest way of describing a logically incoherent concept. It is not a mystery and is coherent if you accept God has middle knowledge as proposed by Molinists which is no less scriptural than Calvinism.

    • Thus with middle knowledge, as proposed by Molinists, we don’t have mystery, and thus loose the doctrine and “mystery” of God! (1 Tim. 3:9 ; 16)

    • Darryl

      Well, there is no way of knowing whether or not you’re going to be “elect” because nothing you can do can ever change God’s mind one way or the other. I once felt that if I just kept believing that Jesus died for my sins, that I would be one of the saved. But then the theory of election came to me and I realized that all my beliefs could be for naught. I once saw God as a loving Father but the thought of him just abandoning most of his creation when they need him most was just the most horrible thing I could ever imagine. God places no stock in our ability to decide for ourselves, making me think that he had only hatred and disrespect for humanity. But the better part of election- the one where a few people get into heaven- I came to the conclusion that the rules of the Bible were a set of “dance steps” that if performed to the best of our limited abilities could get us into heaven.

      If we fulfilled enough of them, maybe God would show us mercy and those who did not care about following the rules were reprobates who would get they deserved anyway. I think only by fulfilling as many divine mandates as is humanly possible can we show that we truly serve God. The death of Jesus on the cross is absolutely free but maintaining it is the most expensive thing in the universe, because we need to follow rules- possibly more rules than what the Old Testament law contained.

    • Clark Coleman

      “Thus with middle knowledge, as proposed by Molinists, we don’t have mystery, and thus loose [sic] the doctrine and “mystery” of God! (1 Tim. 3:9 ; 16)”

      Of course, there are many mysteries besides the ones that we can create unnecessarily. Pick a doctrine that you think you understand. If I then come up with a convoluted alternative to that doctrine that makes no sense, I could then declare my doctrine to be just another “mystery” and then I could criticize your straightforward understanding as “losing the mystery of God (1 Timothy 3:9,16).”

    • Of course my point was to the overt logic of the Molinist middle knowledge! We need some scholasticism, but we simply must also use the Holy Scripture, exegetically in our theology. And for me anyway, Reformed Scholasticism is simply closer biblically, and also centre’s a biblical mystery. 🙂

    • fishing

      I agree with Clark Coleman’s comments.

      If you are to refute Molinism and to extol Calvinism you need to support your case by demonstrating that:
      1. Calvinism is more faithful to scripture than Molinism, and
      2. Calvinism is not logically incoherent

    • I prefer myself the presupposition of Holy Scripture, with both the Ecumenical Councils & Creeds, and surely both the Irish Articles 1615, with the Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles! Yep, I am a “presupper”, Van Til, John Frame, etc.! And yet, as an Anglican I am “FV” friendly! 😉

    • fishing

      Would you care to elaborate more specifically in defence of Calvinism over Molinism?

    • And too btw, I am with Luther & Calvin, an Augustinian! (And even Aquinas was something of an Augustinian, as he said himself.) It is here too that we must back-up into St. Paul’s Jewish Hellenism and Greco-Roman thought! 🙂

    • @fishing: We really cannot do that justice on an open blog! Note, I was raised Irish Roman Catholic (Dublin, 50’s and 60’s), my first degree way back when was a BA in Philosophy (Catholic College). And I spent a few years as a an English Benedictine (R.C.), just before I left and went to Anglicanism. But, yes, I had (many years ago now), an Pauline/Augustinian conversion. And that over the many years now, has settled. Though I do appreciate the EO, and even somewhat follow their Christology and doctrine (the regal & monarchy of the Father) in the Trinity of God. Indeed so much mystery, and things that closely touch each other, and yet always a GOD Who is Totally Other & Immutable! Note, I like Barth too! (Though not a Barthian) 🙂

    • philwynk

      Will some of you here indulge my ignorance, in my attempt to end it? Thanks in advance.

      I do not argue that God has middle knowledge; I argue that what God laid out completely in creation and what we do while exercising free will within time are the same thing.

      The sticking point in free will is time. If we exist and chose our path outside of time, there is no contradiction in our universe between God’s sovereignty and free will; one defines the other.

      One of CS Lewis’ characters argued something like this at the end of The Great Divorce. I think he was correct.

      Does this make me a Molinist? Or is my position something else? And would my current position possibly fit some historical heresy, or (better) some position taken by an orthodox theologian that is not currently in the mainstream?

      Again, thank you for indulging my ignorance.

    • philwynk

      Darryl wrote:

      I once saw God as a loving Father but the thought of him just abandoning most of his creation when they need him most was just the most horrible thing I could ever imagine… I came to the conclusion that the rules of the Bible were a set of “dance steps” that if performed to the best of our limited abilities could get us into heaven.

      And yet, Jesus and the apostles argue against precisely the conclusions you have reached. God abandons nobody if Jesus is to be believed, and the “rules” of the Bible are not rules at all if Paul is to be believed.

      On the other hand, I certainly understand your discomfort with the idea that God actually abandons the vast bulk of humanity to its fate, and saves only a handful. That is what makes Calvinism completely unacceptable.

      A much better way to resolve the difficulty is to grasp that God simply grants to every man what that man chooses. God presents Himself to everybody — the whole of creation declares His glory to us, that is the very point of creation — and we either embrace or reject Him. He continues to show Himself and His mercy to those who reject Him (Matthew 5:45) until they have chosen to place themselves literally and completely beyond His reach, at which point He sadly consigns them to the thing they have chosen — a world without God. And that, Darryl, is hell. It doesn’t take fire and brimstone to make the absence of God into hell, as any ordinary alcoholic can tell you.

      For the record, Darryl, I don’t think you are damned by your errors here. I think you are searching honestly, and all eventually find that for which they truly seek. I trust that your gracious Father, who has not abandoned you or anyone else, will reveal Himself to you completely as you commit yourself to Him. only, do not imagine that your works can earn your way into His goodness; nothing can do that. He accepts you because He loves you, and for no other reason.

    • Sinful humanity does not really have “free will”, as ‘responsible will’, there is a big difference! This issue all depends upon how one sees natural so-called theology? Myself, there has been in the First Adam, a grave failure of nature, noting St. Paul’s Romans 1:18-32, and yet Romans chapter Two & Three follows, and “man” alone still fails (falls short) (3:22). Perhaps also Paul’s chapters in 1 Cor. 1 & 2, will help us out here…1: 23-31 / chapter 2: 14, etc. We are always confronted by OUR sin and failure, as ‘In Adam’ (Adamic), and only the Last Adam can set us Free! (Rom. 5-6)

      Again, grand “mystery”, as GOD In Christ! But we don’t start with the Birth of Christ really, as looking back from the Resurrection-Ascension, to the birth and incarnation, and see the Death of Christ – Himself: The Lamb of God! The value of the Atonement is Jesus Christ Himself, and now Risen!

    • Bill Mayor

      Suppose that we allow the scientific disciplines to help enlighten our understandings of the Bible and theology, rather than relying on prescientific philosophies to guide us, as they have been proven wrong time and again in laboratoroes. Might not this approach resolve some of these supposed mysteries, even as it left others unfathomable?

      I would allow science to show me what is unique about humans that allows them to be called “in the image of God”, there is a known reason after all. I would allow violation of this aspect of humanity to count as Sin, after all modern mental science states that such as act leads to our sense of alienation from self and others. I would then progress through many of the other “mysteries” and find them not so mysterious, even as other mysteries remained unknowable. But then to do that means to abandon most, if not all, historical theology.

    • philwynk

      Bill Mayor writes:

      Suppose that we allow the scientific disciplines to help enlighten our understandings of the Bible and theology, rather than relying on prescientific philosophies to guide us, as they have been proven wrong time and again in laboratoroes.

      If you think science can say word 1 about what is right, about the nature of God, or about the sin of man, you clearly understand nothing of either science or theology.

      What you call “science” was born as a child and aide to theology, and can only remain helpful if it remains in its proper place. The attempt to elevate science above theology can only result in the distortion of both.

      In fact, you need to take a lesson from Francis Schaeffer here. Man, himself, is not part of the machine of nature; only his body belongs there. His soul is beyond it, and so is reason. The behavioral “sciences” of the 20th century were concocted on the premise that the soul of man is actually part of the machine, not outside it; and the failure of those “sciences” to determine laws of human behavior comparable to the laws of physics that govern the physical world is a consequence of that error. If you think science can solve the mysteries of the human heart, you are making the same error, and will experience the same failure.

      Why repeat an experiment that we’ve already seen fail, at enormous cost?

    • JJ

      Darryl says:
      I came to the conclusion that the rules of the Bible were a set of “dance steps” that if performed to the best of our limited abilities could get us into heaven.

      Darryl —

      A sticky problem, isn’t it!? 🙂 I think that Philwynk has offered some good insights here. Save one… I think you will find that Calvinism has a wide range of proponents that answer these sticky issues in ways that differ from one another.

      I think the core issue that your “position” needs to deal with is the grace of God. If you view God’s election as merely an obedience to the rules of God, “a dance we perform to the best of our abilities”, then you have basically a “works-based” gospel message no different than the standard Roman Catholic position or Mormon position. That doesn’t necessarily make it wrong, but it doesn’t follow Paul very well. 🙂

      I love the fact that you are running through these categories of thought and presenting them here. It is always good to consider what impact election or God’s grace has on us here and now.
      JJ

    • Amen there philwynk, I am an old churchmen! And I still do remember Schaffer! (We are both historic pre-mill. 😉

      Btw, my father was a scientist and physicist. An Irish moderate R. Catholic (RIP).

    • JJ

      Philwynk —

      You wrote:
      I argue that what God laid out completely in creation and what we do while exercising free will within time are the same thing.
      The sticking point in free will is time.

      Interesting. And I see why you think that Calvinism is not a system that answers these questions. 🙂

      Certainly some Calvinist will point out that your position robs God of His sovereignty. That it makes God’s decree subject to the will of man. 🙁 Not a grand thing for even a moderate Calvinist. 🙂

      Still, I think your basic point/objection is spot on. I mean, regardless if a Calvinist believes that man’s will is not free (or it is), there is a problem for us all (as you indicate) in the synthesis of what the Scriptures call us to do and with a Sovereign who has chosen any act at all from us. The question is simply this: Has God determined our actions in a way that is detrimental to our choice, or has he not?

      Your synthesis of the two concepts (ala, CS Lewis) is certainly possible, but it needs to answer the question of time. Either we are conformed to His will (determined all from distant past) or we make real moral choices that have real moral implications.

      What either side has done on this issue is either sacrifice God’s elective choice, his decrees. Or we have sacrificed Man’s choice in any real, meaningful sense. Your proposal aims to keep both (probably a good thing!)

      However, I would question your premise. If God’s decrees outside of time determine what we will do (in time), then in what way do those choices have any free will to them (something that it seems that you want to maintain). How does that position differ appreciably to what Calvinists say?

      If people freely chose their action and God simply OK’s from an eternal past, how does that grant any sovereign choice to God? Besides, if He is doing this, why does he hold us responsible in time!?

      Michael’s right. It is a Mystery! 🙂

      There may be…

    • Carl Peterson

      JJ,

      “The question is simply this: Has God determined our actions in a way that is detrimental to our choice, or has he not?”

      I think I know what you are saying here but isn’t it clear that God in fact does make it harder for some to choose Him than others? If that is so then what God has determined is sometimes detrimental to our choice. I do not see much of a way around it unless we think of God much different than the Christian God of the scriptures.

      CARL

    • I am what is called an “Infralapsarian”, that God’s plan of salvation for “some” people (the Elect) followed and was a consequence of the fall of man from grace. This of course is opposed to supralapsarian. Most Reformed Creeds come from the infralapsarian position.

      *Btw, it would be nice if more Evangelicals read the Anglican Article XVII, Of Predestination and Election. Simply one of the very finest statements about this grand and profound subject!

    • philwynk

      JJ,

      Thanks for the kind words.

      Certainly some Calvinist will point out that your position robs God of His sovereignty.

      Yep, that’s what they say to me.

      What I say back is that I didn’t rob God of anything, He handed it to me before I had the wit to ask. And also, once I figured out what I had and where it had come from, I handed it back like a hot potato. 🙂

      The real story is a bit more complicated than that, of course, and involves a whole lot of ill-considered self-will and painful consequences, but you get the idea.

      Regarding time and free will, it does appear to be the case that you and I make our choices in Eternity (whatever that is) and work them out here within time. The argument for reason that exists independent of nature occurs in Lewis’ book “Miracles,” and I won’t repeat it here unless you want me to try.

      Trying to imagine existence outside of Time, let alone a concurrent existence both inside and outside of Time, makes my brain hurt and scares me a little. So I think I’ll join you and call it all a mystery. Let’s have some tea.

    • One should read Augustine’s De natura et gratia, where the term “prevenient grace” originated. And because of the depravity in/a consequence from original sin, is it only thru the enablement of God’s prevenient grace that one has the possibility to “choose properly.” The grace that comes before even human action…again God’s power & enablement!

    • JJ

      Hello Carl,

      You write–
      “Isn’t it clear that God in fact does make it harder for some to choose Him than others? If that is so then what God has determined is sometimes detrimental to our choice.”

      Boy, I feel kind of stupid here, Carl. I am thinking about what you wrote, and I am drawing a blank as to why I would accept that premise (that God makes it more difficult for some to choose Him).

      Seems to me that statement is fraught with problems. What does it mean to be “more difficult.” Does that mean that some believe but through greater hardship? If so, perhaps that is exactly what God needed to provide to help that person believe. If, on the other hand, your statement means something like, “God has prevented belief for some” then you are simply taking the position that God indeed violates our choice. That may not be a wrong position, but that is the position that some (many?) Calvinists already take. And certainly not the position that Philwynk was taking.

      I guess my thought is that we don’t have to assume that God violates the moral choices of man in his election process. But, hey, it is a mystery… the reason it got listed here. There is no easy solution. It seems that both extremes are likely to discount some Scripture some place.

      Still, there is one intriguing description of this that I think may make sense of what Philwynk might be thinking about, if I am reading him correctly. I will suggest it in the response to him.

    • JJ

      Philwynk wrote –
      Let’s have some tea.

      Indeed. But let’s make it a Luther Latte! 🙂

      In regards to your earlier post, you seemed to indicate that the things we do in time were the things that God decreed in someplace outside of time. 🙂 Yep, my head hurts too!

      If that is basically your thought, I didn’t want to pick it to death (gee, it is hard enough to grasp the concepts when we are creatures in time and operate on the assumption that our choices matter… so don’t take any of this as a severe critique.

      What I wondered if there was a way to understand that idea in terms that may make more sense in our world (see below for my suggestion).

      First, I should say that my goal is to maintain fully that God’s choice (his election or his determined decrees) is soveriegn. And also that man’s moral choices are indeed his own (they are not coerced).

      So, how can that be? 🙂 This example may not be of help, but I will offer it as a possible real world example of how the two might not be in conflict.

      Consider a choice you made. I think it helps if you think of a silly decision so that you don’t offer objections for the sake of morality. Something like the type of socks I wore today. Or the choice I made to have coffee instead of tea.

      While some would deny the concept that this choice was free. And in a sense, all decisions have precursors to them that tend to favor one choice over another. I agree (but not my point). But, for the sake of our discussion, I think most people would say, “Yep, JJ, that choice was made more or less freely.”

      Now, put that choice in the past (we are placing the TIME element into the equation). Was that choice any less free now that it is past?

      Most would say that history (past events) is determined. It doesn’t change. What if God’s decrees (determinism) effects man’s choice in a similiar way, since God is outside of time? Most don’t have a problem with history being determined, what…

    • JJ

      …then what about “future” history? If we don’t have a problem maintaining that past history can be totally determined (what would be more determined than history!?) and still man makes those choices (more or less) freely, then should it not be equally plausible that future history can be determined without violating our choices along the way???

    • Clark Coleman

      Bill Mayor writes:

      [quote]Suppose that we allow the scientific disciplines to help enlighten our understandings of the Bible and theology, rather than relying on prescientific philosophies to guide us, as they have been proven wrong time and again in laboratoroes. Might not this approach resolve some of these supposed mysteries, even as it left others unfathomable?[/quote]

      OK. Go ahead and choose one of the five mysteries posted in this entry (preferably one of the first four, as I am not a Calvinist) and show us how science solves that mystery.

    • philwynk

      JJ wrote:

      In regards to your earlier post, you seemed to indicate that the things we do in time were the things that God decreed in someplace outside of time.

      Actually, what I think is that we choose “God” or “not God” outside of time, then God decrees the specifics of how that looks within time to conform to our choice. I do think that God has granted man the power to choose his own end, and does not take it back. I do not see how that robs God of His sovereignty, any more than a king granting a choice of fiefdoms to a young knight robs the king of his kingship.

      The details of what we choose are beyond me. However, I recall noticing when I was a young believer that there seemed to be “decision points” in my life where I had to choose obedience or disobedience, and once I’d made the choice at that moment, what happened for the next N years seemed to be more or less like skiing down a mountainside — lots of variety, maybe some ability to steer in the moment, but all pretty much determined by the earlier choice. I used to pray that God would give me the wisdom to choose properly in my “Chooser,” not really knowing what that was — but I always had the sense that while God would do many things to persuade me, in the end I was the one who had to choose.

      And in real terms, what He seems to want from me is surrender. My life these days consists in learning how best to surrender my will completely so it’s His. Call me a mystic.

      The Molinists seem to want to place God within Time, even though He created it. That makes my brain hurt even worse, but probably just because I didn’t think of it that way at first. My notion has been to look at time like a model train running on a track. God is the modeler standing beside the track. He has access to all points at any moment, while we’re consigned to run along the track in a single direction.

      And, I look at history like the roof joists on a prefab building: God drops the…

    • philwynk

      (cont.) entire, completed set of joists onto the frame in one motion. The whole of history is already played out, in precisely the manner you described (I actually agreed with pretty much all of your last post). That’s how He “knows” what is going to happen at any point, and can inform prophets and such: He’s actually been there already, while we’re just progressing along a track and can’t see ahead.

      So, what does that make me? An overly-complicated Molinist? A reluctant Calvinist? A pure Arminian? I’d still like someone more familiar with the debate (which I try to avoid) to help me define what my position is called.

      Coffee it is. I’ll take mine with cream and no sugar, and as strong as you can make it.

    • fishing

      As you have articulated philwynk, I don’t think you are a Molinist, but a Compatibilist (some Calvinists are compatiblists), i.e. Determinism and ‘Free-Will’ are compatible.

      Molinism affirms libertarian free-will and God’s omniscience. He knows what each individual will freely choose in each and every circumstance that He places that individual in (middle knowledge). God’s middle knowledge is a feature of His omniscience, in that He knows these counterfactuals before He creates the individual. So, for example, God knew you philwynk, before He created this world, and before you were created. He knows all the decisions you are ever going to make. However, the focus of God’s foreknowledge and middle knowledge is His omniscience.

      “My notion has been to look at time like a model train running on a track. God is the modeler standing beside the track. He has access to all points at any moment, while we’re consigned to run along the track in a single direction. … The whole of history is already played out … That’s how He “knows” what is going to happen at any point”

      This is the B-theory or static theory of time. Another analogy is like a movie reel where all history can be located at fixed points along the movie reel. It implies determinism or fatalism.

    • fishing

      God’s middle knowledge is based solely on His omniscience. Sans creation, God is timeless. At the point of creation of time, He is related temporally to the world. The A-theory or dynamic theory of time is likely to be the more accurate understanding of time (see Time and Eternity, WL Craig). God’s foreknowledge and middle knowledge allows Him to decide who, when and what will be the instruments of His sovereign decree. By His omnipotence, He will create the world and orchestrate when and where people will live (Acts 17:26b). God’s intimate knowledge of each individual (Psalm 139:1-4), including middle knowledge allows Him to place the right people in the right place at the right time to fulfil His sovereign decree.

      There is no need to invoke B-theory of time to account for His middle knowledge. One does not need to invoke His omnipotence to explain His omniscience. God’s middle knowledge is a feature of God’s omniscience. Bill Craig explains middle knowledge clearly, e.g. http://www.reasonablefaith.org/molinism-and-free-will; You can search for other relevant articles on his website.

    • […] C Michael Patton, The Five Great Mysteries of the Christian Faith […]

    • philwynk

      fishing wrote:

      I don’t think you are a Molinist, but a Compatibilist (some Calvinists are compatiblists), i.e. Determinism and ‘Free-Will’ are compatible.

      Thanks. I will do a little research about these terms, and also about A-theory and B-theory. I’ve heard the terms before but not grasped what they were addressing.

      fishing also wrote:

      At the point of creation of time, He is related temporally to the world.

      This sounds incomplete to me. Rather, at all points in time, God is related temporally to the world. He is equally present in all moments, not just the moment of creation of time.

      Have we just said the same thing in two different ways?

    • fishing

      “He is equally present in all moments, not just the moment of creation of time.”

      Yes I agree, because God is eternal, i.e. everlasting.
      Sans creation, God is timeless. When He created the world, He is “in time” with the world. See http://www.reasonablefaith.org/god-time-and-eternity-2.

      God bless you brother.

    • fishing

      Correction:
      Since the creation of the world, God is “in time” with the world

    • Here’s a bit of a quote from Thomas Aquinas:

      “If in predestination one considers the act of predetermining, the predestination of Christ is not the cause of our predestination. For God predestined him and us in one and the same act. But if one considers the end and object of predestination, the predestination of Christ is the same as ours. [Note Barth here] For God has ordained from all eternity that our salvation should be brought about by Jesus Christ. For eternal predestination involves not merely that which is come about in time, but also the manner and order according to which this is to taks place in time.” (Summa Theo., III, q. 24, a.4).

      The latter of “manner and order” is sorely missed by Louis de Molina, and Molinism. Btw, Catholic Dominican’s, Thomistic theologians, and of course Augustinian’s reject this. With Molina grace, either sufficient or efficacious, does not differ before we give our consent. And of course for the other views, grace is always only an “efficacious” grace, when we are “called”, which determinines my will, and can move me forward. Note here, a Blaise Pascal! And too here btw, one simply must read both Pascal’s, “Pensees” and “The Provincial Letters”. And also, Pascal is certainly in the “Mystical” tradition, as Augustine (The Confessions, etc.)

      Finally, I thought myself that John Frame’s book: No Other God, A Response To Open Theism, to be a hammer blow, here!

    • Brian Millhollon

      I sometimes wonder (but rarely out loud) if I might approach these “truths in eternal tension” like they are a kind of test to see if I have what it takes, as though holding onto them without question, like a good soldier, is the price I have to pay to keep my ticket to heaven. I am afraid to examine the logical tenableness of such historical constructs as the trinity because of where such serious questioning might lead, or in the end, might leave me.

      I hesitate to openly evaluate or rethink the great mysteries of the christian faith in light of what has been learned (or unlearned) over the past 2000 years because to do so might threaten the foundations upon which my religion stands, and with it my hope. I understand this but I also believe that we can, and must, pursue the truth in God, ask the hard questions, refuse to say it’s “ok” when it does not make sense, no matter how threatening the outcome may seem.

      To do so takes confidence that our relationship with God is secure and does not depend on anything other than a sovereign, loving, merciful, and faithful God’s commitment to receive me and see me through to the end, confusion, questions, doubts, and all, that our religion is not man made and is built on unshakeable foundations, and like any pure thing more light, rather than exposing cracks and weakness, reveals true beauty and perfection.

    • @Brian: I have found the only “cracks” to be in me, one of my favorite verses here is St. Paul’s 2 Cor. 4:7, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves.” Btw, the metaphor of the “soldier” is certainly good and Pauline! (1 Tim. 6: 12 / 2 Tim. 4:7) 🙂

    • Bill Mayor

      Clark,

      You seem to have missed that philwynk has decreed that I know nothing of either science or theology. Now I have several professors at various seminaries and universities you might disagree , but that is beside the point.

      However, before I venture in to explain how some of these “mysteries” vanish, might I inquire as to just how many of your assumptions you are willing to set aside?

      In a post on another board they are discussing the Trinity, and I have noted that the “Transcendant” Trinity is a statement about the ontological nature of God based on specific understandings of certain passages. However, that this is true is an assumption, not a fact. The “Economic” Trinity is just as well supported by these passages but does not make the same ontological statements. It merely recognizes that God appears to us in these three forms and that we do not truly know anything about His essential nature other than what He has clearly stated is true. This excludes statements by men about His essential nature though.

    • Btw, on the Trinity of God, simply one of the best so-called modern statements is by the Catholic scholar: Karl Rahner. His little but theologically dense book: The Trinity, is the best statement on the Economic & Immanent Trinity! Indeed the beauty of both “catholic” and “reformed” theology is to rethink and restate (somewhat), the essential truths in a contemporary idiom while staying in the continuity of and with the biblical and thelogical tradition of the Ecumenical Councils and Creeds. Sadly, the latter is where some modern evangelical Christians stray, save some of the Reformed and too Lutherans and some conservative Anglicans. Here too, the EO and Rome still have some great people and scholars, etc.

    • Darryl

      But I guess the mystery of election does have a purpose. If you ever needed any proof of “limited atonement”, look at reality television or even the newspapers. When I hear a story about a scum-of-the-earth strip club owner who wanted to hire some Mexican hitmen to kill the mayor of Arlington and a Dallas lawyer, “reprobate” comes to mind. When I see the loathsome idiots and cretins on the “Jersey Shore” and “Toddlers and Tiaras”, I think that surely Jesus did not want to save those horrible people. He came to save the men and women with a modicum of intelligence and enough decency to know that assassinating government officials is not a good idea.

      Another example is when I’m walking home from a gym after a good workout and I see a 300+ pound blob of a man walking by. It makes me remember why I chose to lose that weight in the first place. Will I ever have the kind of body that a pro athlete would? Unfortunately, no. But if I keep following my diet and working out five days a week, I can look down on morbidly obese people and not feel a sense of hypocrisy. The same is true of salvation.

    • Funny, I am one of those Reformed Anglicans that does not see the Atonement (as I see in Calvin too), in a quantitative, but rather qualitative manner. The Death of Christ is certainly Sufficient to save everyone, but it is only Efficient or efficacious, to save the Elect! This appears only too theologically obvious in the depth of this fallen, broken world! John 3:16, is “whosoever will”, and only those who “believe” unto salvation, are really redeemed, and made redemptive! Another amazing “mystery”!

    • philwynk

      Darryl,

      I could not disagree with you more.

      In the first place, the people you despise are the very people Jesus does, in fact, want to redeem. The guys that hired those hit men? Yes, that was disgusting. But I’ve heard testimonies of guys who did as bad or worse, and Jesus reached into their filth and redeemed them.

      The Jersey Shore gang? “Shallow” does not even begin to describe them. And yet, why would you think that the sin of vanity they are committing is so much worse than other sins? Yes, I’ve met “pretty” people whom God reached and changed. He loves them as much as He loves us.

      As to the morbidly obese, I’ve had that thought at times, and a couple of them, God made a point of showing me how much BETTER those “morbidly obese” people I was despising were than I was!

      That was the point of Jesus eating at the homes of tax collectors, who were viewed more or less like the Nazi collaborators were viewed by the ghetto Jews during WWII.

      And in the second place, the sin you are committing by thinking yourself better than they, which is pride, is in Christian terms a far worse sin than any of those you named. If God truly wanted nothing to do with any of them, He would also want nothing to do with you.

      However, the good news is that He does want something — everything, really — to do with both you and them, despite your sins.

      You will not be ready to serve God until you’re ready to admit that your notion of yourself, that you’re not all that bad a guy, is a delusion. None of us earned His favor. We’re all scumbags saved by grace.

    • The Parable of the Pharisee and the publican! (Luke 18:10-14)

    • Darryl

      And what about God making the decision as to where we would be born? I have a book on the Christian faith which used this symbol for the Resurrection of Jesus, a red circular “sun” against a white field.

      https://www.furaffinity.net/view/7841683/

      Do you think that the people born under that flag have as much an opportunity to benefit from the Resurrection of Jesus as we here in the United States of America do? Just thinking about how many cultural, lingustic, and geographical barriers must be crossed to reach the people of Nippon makes me realize how lucky I am to be born in America.

      I think that being born to Protestant parents in a country like the United States is definitely a plus if our ultimate goal is salvation.

    • philwynk

      Well, Darryl, first of all, our ultimate goal is not salvation, it is conformity to the will of God. Salvation is a byproduct, not the goal.

      Secondly, equality is not important to God, so I’m not sure why it’s important to you and me. You don’t need to consider nations, just consider how different you are physically from the nearest person to you. One is fast, another tall, another intelligent, and so forth. We’re not all called to the same thing. That is painfully obvious.

      However, we are all responsible for what God has put in our hands, and we are all responsible to do good with what we know. God holds us accountable for what we have, not for what we don’t have. He holds us accountable for what we know, not for what we don’t know. Do you really think God doesn’t hold your Japanese friends to a different standard than He holds you to, with your Protestant upbringing? Jesus Himself said we were only accountable for what we know (see Luke 12:48). So did Paul (see Romans 2:14-16).

      See, I think you’ve judged God harshly, but you’ve done it based on a warped model of who He is. You would have done better to stick around and learn better who He is before you judged.

      Finally, I think everybody has an opportunity to benefit from the cross, whether they’ve heard of it or not. As I said at the beginning of this conversation, God reveals Himself to everybody; that’s the point of creation. To those who respond positively to His self-revelation, He gives more. Evangelists all the time are reporting finding people who have already discovered God’s revelation for themselves; if you want to read about it, pick up Don Richardson’s fine book, “Eternity In Their Hearts.” God’s a lot more active around the globe than you think He is.

    • Darryl

      But then there comes a time when you have to ask yourself- why was I born in this country and at this point in history rather than another time and another place. If we had lucked out, we could have been born right as the events of the Bible were unfolding. Against the howling and idolatrous mob, we could have been the bodyguards and students of God’s prophets. If we could have gathered on the shores of Lake Galilee and heard Jesus himself speak or seen the miracles described in the Book of Acts, our beliefs would obviously be much stronger than what these apostate churches are preaching today.

      I’m probably not the first to look at Biblical history and think I could have been a heroic servant to a prophet of the Most High, but I would like to think so. But at least we still have the Gospel written in our own language, which is something that people from other countries don’t have. And since God will hold them accountable for not hearing the Gospel, it is something we should be thankful for that we have it.

      And if it is the Gospel and not “election” that saves, we should begin translating the Bible to the unreached people groups as quickly as possible, assuming we do care about them. But if it’s “election” that saves, and not the Gospel, then we should let those unreached people groups die, because there is nothing we could do to save them anyway.

    • Bill Mayor

      Darryl, do you not think that God is capable of determining if someone is seeking Him regardless of whether or not that individual has access to some specific book? The scriptures tell us that those who seek Christ will find Him. The do not state that only those who are born under a specific set of circumstances will ever find Christ.

      Actually I seem to remember some passage about people who say “Lord, Lord” and do not get into heaven while people who claim never to have known Jesus get in. I wonder if those who called “Lord, Lord” had access to the writings, while those who claimed not to know Him did not have such access.

    • The Gospel of the Grace of God In Christ, surely posits the doctrine of God’s calling and election or choice, and thus God’s preservation of the believer or saint (Jude 1:1 ; 24-25 / 1 Pet. 1:2 / Rom. 8: 28-39). But of course we must certainly persevere in the doctrine of grace, itself ‘In Christ’.

    • Darryl

      If “election” saves people, then the Gospel serves no real use, because it would only save those who were elect already. The evangelist has no real reason to exist and we would have no reason NOT to turn to a life of hedonism or despair over our fates.

      But if the Gospel saves people, then that means more new people are being inducted into the Lamb’s Book of Life with every passing day. New believers are being told to trust in Jesus for their salvation and then after their names are added, then they tell others living in places near and far, and more names are added. And they’ll tell new people, as well.

      Generally, Calvinists think that God wants to minimize the number of people in heaven by predetermining them to hell and taking pleasure in doing so. Non-Calvinists think that God wants to maximize the number of people in heaven by giving them a real opportunity to believe in Jesus Christ, and that he does not take pleasure in their refusal to accept the grace handed them. The decision to believe in Calvin or not believe in Calvin is a decision between a hate-filled God and a loving God.

    • […] The Five Great Mysteries of the Christian Faith. Are there more than these? Most certainly. But in theology, these are the biggies. These are the big pieces of our puzzle that are missing. Why are they missing? I don’t know. I just know they are. God chose not to tell us. I will ask him when I get there. But I will try to trust him until then. After all, don’t I have to borrow from his morality in order to judge him for leaving the puzzle unsolved? I think I will pass on that. […]

    • Clark Coleman

      Bill Mayor: I am happy to discuss whatever you want to discuss about these mysteries.

    • Bill Mayor

      Clark,

      Then let us start by looking at Romans 1:20 where we are assured that all that may be known about God is knowable from nature. This implies that anything not knowable from nature, no matter how well scripture seems to support it, is not correct.

      Now in Hebrews we learn that everything that is visible was made from that which is not visible. This fits perfectly with modern science and the Big Bang theory. It does not require creation ex nihilo. In fact, since it refers to that which is not visible, it actually contradicts creation ex nihilo.

      Now the Big Bang theory requires a point of virtually infinite POTENTIAL energy as a starting point. However, such a thing would not be visible because of it being too small for one thing, and for another because of a virtually total absence of light. While Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle precludes perfect darkness, it does not preclude darkness broken by no more than a single photon a millenium. Something was present prior to our current universe, whether we look at it from science or scripture, the unseeable was present.

    • As truely as we see in Salvation history and Reformed theology, Calvin is concerned to affirm that knowledge of ourselves principally means the knowledge of our sins. “But the knowledge of ourselves consists, first, in considering what was given to us at our creation, and how God sweetly continues His grace towards us, that we may know how excellent had been our nature, if it had remained whole; yet at the same time thinking, that nothing that we have is of our own, but is conferred upon us by God for us to hold precariously, so that we may depend upon Him.” (Calvin, Inst. II, 1.1.)

      Indeed humanity is always in both the First Adam and the Last Adam.. Christ! And only the latter is in the redemptive grace & glory of God In Christ!

    • Clark Coleman

      “Then let us start by looking at Romans 1:20 where we are assured that all that may be known about God is knowable from nature. This implies that anything not knowable from nature, no matter how well scripture seems to support it, is not correct.”

      I think you mean Romans 1:19 even more than 1:20. Reading 1:18 – 1:20 in context of the entire argument of the first two chapters of Romans, we can see that Paul says that everyone should believe in the existence and the divine power of God as Creator, because they can see his creation. Romans 1:20 only says that everyone can know his “eternal power and divine nature” among his “invisible attributes.” This is a minimal but important knowledge: that God exists and is powerful and is the Creator.

      Romans 1:19 says that “what can be known about God is plain to them [i.e. the unrighteous mentioned in 1:18], because God has shown it to them.” Followed by 1:20, we see how God showed it to them: through his creation.

      You are reading “what can be known about God” as if it means “everything that can be known about God.” The word “what” has a context in these verses: only knowing that God exists and that He is the Creator is argued by Paul in this passage. Many attributes of God are revealed in scripture, which is why the study of scripture is recommended in several places in scripture.

      Caution must be exercised when trying to interpret language that might seem absolute at a glance. The language always has a context, whether it be narrative, argument, poetry, or even the mindset of the audience being addressed by the writing. Generally, the scope and degree of the language is limited by the context. Luke 2:1: “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.” How many Mongolians got counted in that census? Native Americans? Pacific Islanders? Japanese?

    • Clark Coleman

      “Now in Hebrews we learn that everything that is visible was made from that which is not visible.”

      This seems to be a reference to Hebrews 11:3. There seems to be a translation issue here. Almost all reasonably literal translations read some form of “not made from that which is visible.” KJV; NKJV; ASV; ESV. A minority read some form of “made from that which is not visible.” NRSV; HCSB. I don’t know enough Greek to say where the word “not” should be placed.

      The first rendering in completely compatible with creation ex nihilo. But I doubt that I want to build any creation doctrine out of this one verse. Someone needs to convince me that it is a slam dunk case that one group of translations is correct and the other is incorrect.

      Trying to piece together a tenuous interpretation of Romans 1:18-20 with a debatable translation of Hebrews 11:3 to create a new doctrine, or mystery, or problem seems unwise.

    • All of Holy Scripture and Revelation is really “mystery”, (1 Tim. 3:16). And, “creatio ex nihilo” is an important philosophical & theolgoical construct, since it denies any active role in creation to the materials from which the world was made. But, Creatio or creation can also be distingushed into two stages, (1) creatio prima, the first creation, corresponding to Gen. 1: 1-2, during which God drew out nothing the materia prima or materia inhabilis, the primary or unformed matter; and (2) creatio secunda, according to which God produced individual beings by imparting form and life to the materia prima. Btw, Lutherans and the Reformed agree in calling the entire work of creation a free act of God resting solely on the goodness of the divine will. And for the Reformed the consequence of the creation is a necessity since the divine act of creation does result from the eternal and immutable decree of God!

    • Btw, no “Theistic Evolution” here! 😉 One can jump there, but that is certainly not in the “Text” itself!

    • And even if we use Ancient Hebrew Cosmology, the Bible nowhere dates the age of the earth or creation! Young or Old Earth, does not matter. And to my mind anyway, the Holy Scripture does not really posit modern science. It is here too, that the study and importance of biblical genre comes into play. 🙂

    • Whether we like it or not, we are stuck with theology and certainly epistemology!

    • William Huget

      5. Human responsibility/divine sovereignty. We have revelation on the other 4 points that give most of us consensus/clarity despite non-exhaustive understanding. The last point is only mystery, antinomy, conundrum if we assume hyper-Calvinism instead of http://www.opentheism.info (Molinism, Arminianism are also not fully helpful).

    • And this is certainly worth the read…

      ‘[The word of God] stands on a level high above all human authority in state and society, science and art. Before it, all else must yield. For people must obey God rather than other people. All other [human] authority is restricted to its own circle and applies only to its own area. But the authority of Scripture extends to the whole person and over all humankind. It is above the intellect and the will, the heart and the conscience, and cannot be compared with any other authority. Its authority, being divine, is absolute. It is entitled to be believed and obeyed by everyone at all times. In majesty it far transcends all other powers. But, in order to gain recognition and dominion, it asks for no one’s assistance. It does not need the strong arm of the government. It does not need the support of the church and does not conscript anyone’s sword and inquisition. It does not desire to rule by coercion and violence but seeks free and willing recognition. For that reason it brings about its own recognition by the working of the Holy Spirit. Scripture guards its own authority.’ (Herman Bavnick)

    • Certainly Open Theism is a modern spin from Molinism (the Jesuit theolog Louis de Molina, died 1600). And btw, it is not all that popular with today’s Catholic theologians/theolog’s. It has come to be more so a Protestant or modern Evangelical thing, (Craig, Boyd, etc.)

    • C Michael Patton

      Open theism will be covered on Theology Unplugged in a few months as one of our heresies. It is definitely destructive even though I have respect for those who hold it. It is exreme or hyper-Arminianism. Unfortunately, many Arminians get labeled such.

    • Indeed Michael, I will be looking for that! But again, it is most interesting that modern Catholic theology, itself, is not moving toward Open Theism at all, in fact the majority of Roman Catholic theology is Thomastic, and even somewhat Augustinian, as is Benedict/Ratzinger, at least. Btw, too bad we don’t have the voice of Karl Barth here, he would have taken the OT to great task, I believe!

    • William Huget

      Boyd used to say he was neo-Molinism. William Lane Craig is a proponent of it and against Open Theism. William Hasker has refuted philosophical, convoluted Molinism. Open Theism is a more biblical, coherent free will theism than Arminianism (it denies exhaustive definite foreknowledge, unlike Calvinism, Molinism, Arminianism). Open Theism is NOT Molinistic (middle knowledge).

    • Bill Mayor

      Might I note that the quote from Herman Bavnick could be used against the Trinity, as that doctrine was enforced by emperial decree. It was a capital offense to teach any other doctrine at one point in the Roman Empire. If scripture supported the doctrine so well, why didhte empire need to add its support?

    • Indeed this all moves in some way from Molina, etc. ‘Bird’s of a feather flock together’! 😉

    • @Bill, you need to be a bit more specific? The so-called Roman Empire, the Emperor, etc. And certainly Bavnick was a Trinitarian!

    • Darryl

      How difficult could it be to admit that humans have the opportunity to make decisions, even the ones that could possibly save their lives, but God still knows what decision they will make?

      It’s like a book where we all know the ending but we get to decide whether or not we will join up with the Lord and share in the victory or be defeated forever with the bad guys. It’s not that Calvinism has a problem with John 3:16 as much as the verses following it. Calvinism needs to have a God who came to the world to condemn it, not save it. And yet 3:17 says God came into the world so that through him the world might be saved and not condemned.

    • fishing

      William Huget, can you clarify:
      1. Why Open Theism is your preferred position?
      2. The problems you have with Molinism?

    • William Huget

      I believe Open Theism has the most biblical, logical, philosophical support. It allows us to take revelatory passages at face value rather than make them figurative to fit a preconceived theology. Determinism may be fine for Islam, but it is not a Christian option (free will, relational theism is the way to go). TULIP is problematic and impugns the character and ways of God. OT recognizes the two motifs in Scripture: some of the future is settled/foreknown, while other aspects are unsettled and known as possible vs actual. The nature of time vs eternity is another factor. Endless time (duration, sequence, succession) is the biblical portrayal, not Platonic, Augustinian ‘eternal now’ timelessness. This has implications on foreknowledge. I believe it can be demonstrated that exhaustive definite foreknowledge of future free will contingencies is logically impossible, even for God, etc. etc. Molinism is convoluted, philosophical, essentially deterministic, not self-evident in Scripture. One issue is that it talks about would/would not (will/will not obtain) counterfactuals of freedom. It fails to appreciate may/might may/might not counterfactuals. The proofs are technical and involve modal logic, etc. After 30 years of wrestling with this issue, I believe the problems with Calvinism/Arminianism/Molinism can be exposed, while the strengths of Open Theism can be defended (with answers to objections available). The bottom line is to ascertain which view is least problematic and most probable biblically, logically, theologically, philosophically.

    • fishing

      Thanks
      Why do believe that:
      1. It can be demonstrated that exhaustive definite foreknowledge of future free will contingencies is logically impossible, even for God
      2. Molinism is … essentially deterministic
      3. Molinism is not self-evident in Scripture.
      3. Molinism fails to appreciate may/might may/might not counterfactuals.

    • Certainly the subject of Molinism, Open Theism, etc. are quite in-depth, so we cannot get to it here, but again certainly they are connected, just as all the so-called shades of Calvinism. And it is also sad to see a few here be so anti-Calvinist! Again, one must bring into to play the depth and history of Calvinism. And it is here too btw, that we must note Augustinianism and even Thomism.

    • Btw William: I have been after it for over 40 years (I am 62, almost 3 in a few months) and I just don’t see Open Theism, but then I am foremost a biblicist, as an Anglican Reformed. And I have read too my share of Clark Pinnock over the years, now there was a man who changed along the way. I am too a Geerhardus Vos guy, with his biblical theology, though my Anglican eclecticism always kicks in (I am Historic Pre-Mill, and somewhat towards the PD).

    • William Huget

      What is PD?

      Fishing…we could write books of common sense and highly technical arguments for and against these major views. There are readable books and websites as well as technical academic papers. I don’t think I have the expertise or ability to prove these things in short post, but I do believe the statements are generally supportable.

      1. Determinism would make EDF possible. If an agent is making a contingent choice, how can a choice with an element of uncertainty (free will) be FK exhaustively from eternity past before the agent settles the potential future in real space-time? Calvinism/determinism can make a case for EDF, but I would argue that determinism is problematic to theodicy and not the way God has actualized creation. Arminianism assumes simple FK and eternal now, but I don’t think this resolves the issue, but begs the question. Molinism also begs the question by assuming highly philosophical middle knowledge, but does not explain how this is not deterministic in that God actualizes possible worlds and supposedly knows how a free will agent will choose given the circumstances He arranges. A free will choice must have an element of uncertainty (may or may not obtain), so how can God FK exhaustively if an agent can act out of character, etc.?

      2. If God determines the circumstances and then knows an agent will do this given those circumstances, it seems contingency becomes illusory and the agent is more deterministic. To have EDF, even with unexplainable middle knowledge, means the future is still fixed in the mind of God by some mechanism other than the agent.

      3. I doubt anyone would come up with Molinism/middle knowledge, etc. just by reading Scripture (same with Calvinism). It is a highly speculative, philosophical idea that many great thinkers reject or simply find no biblical basis for. I will side with Hasker over Craig, as brilliant as Craig is.

      4. Molinism assumes the issue is will/will not happen. However, if the choice is…

    • William Huget

      …if the choice is free…it may or may not obtain (actualize/happen), so there is an element of uncertainty. God knows reality as it is, so He would know the contingent future as possible vs certain/actual.

      Open Theism picks up both motifs/proof texts and sees that God settles some of the future and knows it (settled by His ability vs prescience), while other aspects are merely probable, possible, not actual until the future is settled by the agent other than God.

    • PD is for Progressive Dispensationalism. And God being sovereign, means GOD does not need to explain His great biblical tensions. And God is always both transcendent & immanent! And always the biblical primary act is not man to God, but God to man; here both Calvin and Barth are right (following St. Paul), and here is a biblical “unio mystica”.

    • Clark Coleman

      PD? EDF? A cardinal rule of writing is to define abbreviations when they are first used. This conversation is getting obscure.

    • William Huget

      I used exhaustive definite foreknowledge in proximal posts before I used EDF. Those familiar with this debate will recognize the standard abbreviation and those who are not can ask for clarification. PD was not defined in recent posts.

    • Clark Coleman

      “Those familiar with this debate will recognize the standard abbreviation and those who are not can ask for clarification.”

      No, that is a rude and selfish attitude. It is not how public communication is done.

    • Btw, I believe our blog host CMP, is a PD! 😉

    • As a classic Anglican, I am one who follows the Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles, closely and theologically, because I believe them to be both “catholic” and “reformed”, historically, i.e. the via-media… the Church of the middle way, such is classic and historic Anglicanism. But, here my “Calvinism” is always seeking perhaps more of a Neo-Calvinism? But I am as I have written too, always, one who reads and follows the Ecumenical Councils and Creeds. Anyway, it is quite amazing to me that Calvin and Calvinism are still being read, (after 500 years). Note today the so-called New Calvinism, etc. Indeed Reformed Theology is alive and well! And it is here that I would recommend certainly, the writings and books of the American Richard Muller! 🙂

      Finally, as I have written too, I would recommend the rather new bio of John Calvin, by Bruce Gordon: ‘Calvin’, (2009, in paperback 2011, Yale University Press, 398 pages). This will last for years I feel, just a gem, and must read for Calvin students!

    • karen

      I don’t think we can handle the revelation about the mysteries mentioned above, so I agree we should really just enjoy what we do know and ask about it when we come face to face with Jesus ***sms***

    • […] more than five things belonging to the realm of mystery in theology, but for C. Michael Patton, these are the major ones. (We might use this at C201 today, […]

    • […] read things at source — they have a graphic that suits this well — so click through to The Five Great Mysteries of the Christian Faith. As I do the math, there are five great mysteries in […]

    • […] Scot McKnight agrees with John Piper. Roger Olson talks about Clark Pinnock. Michael Patton on the five mysteries of the Christian […]

    • Charles Horton

      Hello Mike,

      Like you, I look forward to that Great Day (!) in the next life when we will be able to see God and Jesus face to face. That alone should clear up the mysteries, and, it seems, if we still have questions about them, we will be welcomed to ask away. But I do want to ask this now concerning the apostle Thomas:

      In your mystery #5 on Human Responsibility and Divine Sovereignty, you said

      “There will be a judgment of the unrighteous one day in which God will hold people responsible for their rejection of Christ.”

      I agree, but I think the story about Thomas begs to make this more clear.

      In Thomas’ refusal to believe that Jesus was resurrected after his peers told him they had seen Jesus alive again, he rejected Christ. Of course we will never know whether or not Thomas’ disbelief would or could have changed if he had never seen Jesus alive and Jesus had never shown him the nail holes in his hands and gash in his side. Had Thomas never seen Jesus “face to face,” nail holes and all, what then? We don’t know for certain, but given his determination for hard evidence, his insistence on seeing for himself, it would be logical to conclude that without actually seeing Jesus, Thomas’ disbelief would only grow, and his rejection of Christ along with it, with the result that he could never see salvation.

      Instead, however, we do know for certain that after first rejecting Jesus, and then only after seeing Jesus, Thomas fell and said “My Lord and my God.” Through this we can logically conclude that Thomas would see salvation.

      So the question: In what way did God hold Thomas responsible for his disbelief and rejection of Christ, and what did God do about it?

    • Clark Coleman

      “Had Thomas never seen Jesus “face to face,” nail holes and all, what then? We don’t know for certain, but given his determination for hard evidence, his insistence on seeing for himself, it would be logical to conclude that without actually seeing Jesus, Thomas’ disbelief would only grow, and his rejection of Christ along with it, with the result that he could never see salvation.”

      Another possibility, which I find at least as logical, is that someone does not believe that which is hard to believe the very first time he hears it. However, had Thomas seen all of his fellow apostles not only repeat their claim, but begin LIVING as if they really had seen the risen Christ, then his initial skepticism would have been overcome. Maybe it would have taken six months or two years, but it seems perfectly reasonable to me that we would not have seen a situation in which ten remaining apostles live as if they saw the risen Jesus, and one refuses to believe it for the rest of his life, despite their living example.

      You do not want to dream up theological problems from conjectures. We just do not have the wisdom of God and do not know which direction Thomas would ultimately go.

    • […] The Five Great Mysteries of the Christian Faith | Parchment and Pen. […]

    • Ed Yang

      Great summary of the biggies. Isaiah 55:8 – “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.”

    • Mark

      People need to realize that they don’t have any knowledge of God’s intentions. The reason that God is sometimes referred to as The Creator is describing how what we think came from nothing, it did not. Clearly the universe and everything in it came from something that we do not understand. The only knowledge of God that humans can understand are the things that we know of in God’s creation. For example, the laws of physics thus the laws of nature on earth and everything in the universe. Religion without science is just like science without religion. It is completely useless. God gave us a mind and apparently prefers us to use it more for thinking instead of being lazy and giving up and then calling that faith.

    • Mike Tyndall

      This blog proposed String Theory to explain the Trinity and how we experience the different parts of God as if He were three, even though He is one. http://observationsbytheobnoxious.blogspot.com/2015/01/science-and-holy-trinity-theres-been.html?m=1

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