Ambassador of Reconciliation

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Posted 12/31/11 at 10:58 AM | Diane Castro

Fear, Faith, and Freefall

A few years ago my son called me from Florida, where he was going to school, and said, “Hi, Mom, just wanted to let you know that I’m about to jump out of a plane.” I said to him, “You’re what? And what do you mean you’re about to? Couldn’t you at least wait to tell me until after the fact?” As it turned out, the wind was too high to jump that day and they had to wait until the next day, so I had a full 24 hours to worry. But he did it and he loved it and he was fine.

Not long after that, I went down to visit him. A day or two before I went, we were talking on the phone and he asked me what I’d like to do while I was there. I said, “What would you suggest?” He said, “I’d recommend skydiving.” Some friends had given me some mad money for my birthday and told me to buy something or do something out of the ordinary. I don’t think that was quite what they had in mind, but I figured that skydiving counted as being out of the ordinary, and I said OK. FULL POST

Posted 12/28/11 at 1:22 AM | Diane Castro

Jesus: A Fruitful and Unfrenzied Life

For many the holiday season brings vacation time and a break from normal routines, but stress does not go away during this time; in fact, it often rises. Jesus faced more stress than we ever will, but He was never stressed out. How did He maintain His composure and keep pursuing God’s will in the face of tremendous obstacles? The gospel of Luke, especially the fourth chapter, gives some insight into His equanimity and sense of purpose.

Let me paint a little picture of a day in a mom's life; maybe some of you can relate:

Alarm rings.
Hit snooze button.
Ten minutes later, hit snooze button one more time.
Another ten minutes, stumble out of bed.
Take a quick shower.
Get dressed and put on make-up.
Grab a cup of coffee.
Get kid 1 out of bed.
Send husband off with a kiss and a bagel.
Rummage in the hamper to find semi-clean, matching socks.
Get kid 2 up.
Find missing shoe.
Feed kids breakfast.
Eat last three bites of kid 1's soggy cereal.
Drink last inch of kid 2's orange juice.
Pack a bag lunch for one kid and scrape together lunch money for the other.
Make kids collect their school stuff and brush their teeth.
Send kid 1 off to the bus.
Make kid 2 walk the dog.
Take kid 2 to school, go to work, hoping your boss won't notice that you're late.
Put out fires at work, eat lunch at your desk, fly home to meet kids.
Give them a snack.
Drive to soccer.
Come home and start supper.
Pick up at soccer, drive to piano lesson.
Pick up at piano lesson.
Come home and feed family.
Clean up kitchen.
Help with homework.
Make sure kids take a bath and brush their teeth.
Tuck them in.
Return phone calls.
Pay bills.
Throw in a load of laundry so you'll have clean socks the next morning.
Collapse into bed. FULL POST

Posted 12/15/11 at 9:37 AM | Diane Castro

Toward a Unified Field Theory of the Spiritual Universe, Part 3 of 3

This series of blogs suggests that the doctrine of ultimate reconciliation—the idea that God will fully accomplish His purpose of reconciling the whole world to Himself—can serve as a kind of “unified field theory” of the spiritual universe, one that makes sense of many truths about God, ourselves, and the meaning of life. Part 3 is the conclusion of the series but not the end of the story—I believe that as our understanding grows, we will see more ways that God’s truths are in complete harmony with one another.

The whole question of faith vs. works is a huge issue that cannot be adequately resolved with the traditional view. Luther’s discovery of the doctrine that “The just shall live by faith” ignited the Reformation, but may also have caused us to lose sight of the tremendous emphasis that the Bible puts on works. Luther even rejected the epistle of James because it talks about the necessity of works. The Bible does require us to have faith, but it also has a great deal to say about the importance of works. For example, the basis for judgment in Matthew 25 (a passage often cited to prove eternal damnation) is works—how one treats the poor, the sick, and the prisoner. In the restoration view, there is no conflict between faith and works; God calls on us to exercise faith and to practice good works, and He will figure out all the complexities of how they work together and how our lives are to be evaluated. FULL POST

Posted 12/6/11 at 1:03 AM | Diane Castro

Toward a Unified Field Theory of the Spiritual Universe, Part 2 of 3

Part 1 of this series suggested that the doctrine of ultimate reconciliation—the idea that God will fully accomplish His purpose of reconciling the whole world to Himself—can serve as a kind of “unified field theory” of the spiritual universe, one that makes sense of many truths about God, ourselves, and the meaning of life. In Part 2 we will look at more problems raised by the doctrine of eternal damnation and show how they can be resolved by a paradigm shift to ultimate reconciliation.

Another dilemma that cannot be resolved in the traditional understanding is the question of how we can be completely joyful in heaven knowing that billions of people, including many we love, are simultaneously suffering unbearable pain. We believe that God will wipe away every tear and give us boundless joy, that He will remove all the sources of sorrow and create the conditions that provide untainted joy. Yet what is the cause of our deepest sorrow and our greatest delight? Is it not people—the pain of broken relationships, of seeing others suffer, of watching loved ones reject Christ; and the joy of restored relationships, of relief from suffering, and of watching loved ones come to Christ? When you imagine heaven, what are the primary images that come to mind—golden streets, magnificent mansions, lavish banquets, creature comforts? Those realities are far overshadowed by looking forward to being reunited with loved ones, having all brokenness healed, and experiencing perfect fellowship. Will the source of pain still exist and the joy be limited? The thought of others still suffering is particularly difficult for parents; any good parent understands that it is more painful to see your child suffer than to experience suffering yourself. FULL POST

Posted 11/25/11 at 5:23 PM | Diane Castro

Toward a Unified Field Theory of the Spiritual Universe, Part 1 of 3

For decades scientists have been searching for a “unified field theory”—an explanation of all the fundamental forces in the universe within a single theoretical framework. Albert Einstein coined the term and spent much of his life trying to formulate such a theory, but neither he nor anyone else has been successful so far. With respect to spiritual truths, I believe that the doctrine of ultimate restoration is as close as we have come to a unified field theory of the spiritual universe. It harmonizes many apparently contradictory or competing truths and resolves many dilemmas that have confounded theologians and lay people alike (and often caused deep divisions and enmity and even war). Each part of this series examines how different truths can be integrated within this framework.

In Ephesians 1, Paul reveals God’s ultimate purpose for the universe: “And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ” (vv. 9­−10). In Colossians 1, Paul presents the framework for God’s work from eternity past to eternity future, as I laid out in a previous blog (“Reconciliation: The Heart of God’s Grand Plan for the Universe”): FULL POST

Posted 11/19/11 at 10:15 PM | Diane Castro

"He Himself Is Our Peace"

Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump.
I said, “Don’t do it!”
He said, “Nobody loves me.”
I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”
He said, “Yes.”
I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?”
He said, “A Christian.”
I said, “Me too! Protestant or Catholic?”
He said, “Protestant.”
I said, “Me too! What franchise?”
He said, “Baptist.”
I said, “Me too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?”
He said, “Northern Baptist.”
I said, “Me too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”
He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.”
I said, “Me too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?”
He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.”
I said, “Me too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879 or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?”
He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.”
I said, “Die, heretic!” And I pushed him over.

[Emo Philips, Reader’s Digest, October 2011, pp 124-125] FULL POST

Posted 11/14/11 at 10:53 AM | Diane Castro

"That They May Be One"

My last post, “Unity in Diversity and Disagreement,” generated a great number of comments, but few of them were directly related to the topic of the post. The comments seem to reflect the idea that we need to be in agreement in our thinking before we can experience unity. This whole subject is one that I would like to pursue more, so I am posting another essay about unity—what it is and what it isn’t and how we can achieve the kind of unity that Jesus prayed for.

As we were talking about the concept of Christian unity, my husband reminded me of the words of Merrill C. Tenney, professor of New Testament and Greek and dean of the graduate school of Wheaton College. Dr. Tenney, who received his Ph.D. from Harvard University, also served on the translation team for the New American Standard Bible.

In his commentary John: The Gospel of Belief,[1] Tenney discusses Jesus’ high priestly prayer in chapter 17. In His prayer Jesus asks the Father that His disciples might fully experience eternal life, including knowing Him, being protected and kept safe by the power of His name, having the full measure of His joy, and being sanctified by the truth. And as Tenney says, “Unity is another factor in eternal life. The final prayer of Jesus for the believers as a whole was that they should be one (22).” Jesus reiterates this idea over and over in His prayer: FULL POST

Posted 11/9/11 at 12:56 AM | Diane Castro

Unity in Diversity and Disagreement

Most of my posts so far have been about my great passion—to share the truly good news that God will fully accomplish His purpose of reconciling all people to Himself. Yet this truth is not some esoteric philosophy that has no relevance to how we live our daily lives. It seemed appropriate at this time to turn to a practical consideration that is related to the doctrinal question of ultimate restoration: in light of the fact that God’s great purpose is to reconcile the entire creation to Himself, how can we in our daily lives get on board with what He is doing? What does reconciliation look like in our homes, churches, and communities?

Two recent posts, one by Barry Bowen and one by George Sarris, have quoted a statement by seventeenth-century German theologian Rupertus Meldenius: “In essentials unity, in nonessentials liberty, in all things charity.” That motto bears repeating. It is also the theme of this post, which is adapted from a lecture on Romans 14 given at Community Bible Study (CBS). I know that unity in diversity and disagreement is possible; CBS is the best model of unity I have ever witnessed. It represents part of the work of reconciliation that God is already accomplishing and is a foretaste of the perfect unity that we will have one day. (To learn more or to find a CBS in your area, go to http://www.communitybiblestudy.org/.) By practicing the principles in Romans 14, we can participate with God in His work of reconciliation. FULL POST

Posted 11/7/11 at 7:26 PM | Diane Castro

Quick Questions: Brief Answers to Common Questions and Objections Regarding Universal Salvation, Part 2

Part 1 dealt with some of the questions that are likely to arise regarding the idea of universal salvation. Here is another set of questions. I do not have answers to all the objections that might be raised, but I am trying to take every consideration into account. Feel free to raise other questions.

Q: Isn't the desire for the final salvation of everyone just wishful thinking? Don't you embrace ultimate restoration just because you're worried about your loved ones who don't know Christ?
A: No and no. Almost everyone who is presented with the idea says, "I wish it were true"; there is a longing for complete restoration of the universe as it was intended to be and of course for the salvation of all our loved ones, and in the case of compassionate people, even for the salvation of our enemies. But wishful thinking doesn't make something true, and it is stupid to believe something just because it makes you feel better. For my own part, yes, I want it to be true, but no, I don't want to believe it if it's not true. Even if all of my own family and friends came into God's family, it wouldn't change the fact that billions of other people have lost their loved ones. Obviously the personal element makes it more important to know the truth in this regard, but my pursuit is for truth above comfort. (Praise God if I get both!) FULL POST

Posted 11/4/11 at 8:44 PM | Diane Castro

Quick Questions: Brief Answers to Common Questions and Objections Regarding Universal Salvation, Part 1

In any discussion of universal salvation, certain questions and objections are likely to arise. Here is an attempt to give very brief answers to some of these questions, each of which could be the subject of a full essay or even an entire book. The whole topic is so massive that it’s difficult to pursue one train of thought without getting sidetracked by another equally compelling one. By posing these questions I’m letting you know that these considerations have not been neglected. In future blogs I hope to address them in more detail. In the meantime, I welcome other questions and objections that need to be addressed.

Q:  Does ultimate restoration mean all paths lead to heaven?
A:
No! The only way to become fit for heaven is through Jesus Christ by way of the cross. We must come in repentance and humility, and He must cleanse us from all unrighteousness through the application of His blood shed for our sins before we can be in the presence of God.

Q: Does a belief in ultimate restoration reduce the incentive to share the gospel?
A:
  By no means! Suppose you know that your child will be in a terrible fire and suffer horrible burns, but you know he will not die. Within twenty years he will recover completely and be fine. Does the knowledge that he will not die take away the incentive to warn him about the fire? Not at all! You still feel great urgency, just not absolute desperation and hopelessness.Similarly, those who do not come to Christ in this life will face judgment for their sins, and although they will not suffer forever, those who love them feel the urgency to warn them about the judgment to come and to offer them joy and peace now. Moreover, the gospel of ultimate restoration truly is good news! The traditional gospel might be good news for those who have an opportunity to respond to it, but it is the worst possible news for their loved ones who have already died without Christ. Sharing the traditional gospel means eventually revealing the dark secret that the non-elect/unrepentant are being tormented forever (or else are annihilated and go into oblivion), with no possibility of being reunited with believers—which is a serious deterrent to those who might otherwise accept the gospel. How much more joyous it is to be able to share with people the good news that Jesus died for them and that He is offering the same gift to their loved ones who have died. FULL POST

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