Ambassador of Reconciliation

CP Blogs do not necessarily reflect the views of The Christian Post. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author(s).

Posted 10/23/11 at 4:48 PM | Diane Castro

Is There Grace Beyond the Grave?

If coming to Jesus Christ in repentance and trust is necessary for salvation—and I believe that it is—then the doctrine of universal redemption hinges on whether there can be repentance and salvation after physical death. Many people go to their graves without ever acknowledging Jesus as their Savior—some without ever hearing His name. If it is true that they will ultimately be redeemed, as I have contended in many articles on my blog, then there must be a way for them to attain salvation after they die.

The Bible never says, “People can be saved after they die.” Neither does it say, “People cannot be saved after they die.” The answer to the question of whether they can be saved after they die must come by examining what the Bible does say about God and His work and purposes.

Although our physical death, like our physical birth, marks a dramatic change in our lives, I believe that God sees our whole life as a continuum, and He is continuously working in us throughout. Those of us who have trusted Him as Lord and Savior understand that He knew us before we were conceived, He knitted us together in our mother’s womb, He calls us to Himself and sanctifies us in this life, and He continues His work of drawing us into deeper knowledge of Him throughout eternity. Thankfully we are not locked in to the condition we are in when we die; God keeps revealing Himself and building our relationship with Him. FULL POST

Posted 10/21/11 at 12:08 AM | Diane Castro

Presuppositions and Interpretations: How Our Assumptions Affect Our Understanding of the Bible, Part 3 of 3

Part 3 is the continuation and conclusion of this series that has been examining how our presuppositions can affect our interpretation of Scripture, specifically with regard to our understanding of issues surrounding doctrines of heaven and hell. The challenge is to make sure our interpretations are built on the solid foundation of the whole counsel of Scripture itself.

Although the doctrine of eternal condemnation has been accepted by the majority of Christians as a fact taught in Scripture, there are many passages that suggest that God will not inflict everlasting conscious punishment. Yet when these passages are approached with a predetermined belief in eternal damnation, they are often interpreted in such a way as to discount any universalist implications, as in the NIV Study Bible notes. Parts 1 and 2 discussed a number of verses from the epistles, John, and Revelation. In another group of key passages that seem to teach the universal extent of God’s love and salvation, the NIV study notes almost acknowledge it or simply fail to comment on it:

1) Verses: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him (John 3:16−17).
NIV notes: world. All people on earth—or perhaps all creation (see note on 1:9). [The note about world in 1:9 says, “Another common word in John’s writings, found 78 times in this Gospel and 24 times in his letters (only 47 times in all of Paul’s writings). It can mean the universe, the earth, the people on earth, most people, people opposed to God, or the human system opposed to God’s purposes. John emphasizes the word by repetition, and moves without explanation from one meaning to another.”]
   My comment: The note for John 3:16 says that in this case the word world means “all people on earth—or perhaps all creation.” In other words, it acknowledges that God loves “all people on earth—or perhaps all creation,” so much so that He gave His one and only Son for them. His purpose was that we could escape from perishing and have eternal life by believing in Him. Do we really want to put limitations on this great declaration of God’s love for humanity and His goal in sacrificing His Son? FULL POST

Posted 10/16/11 at 2:55 PM | Diane Castro

"Heaven: We Have a Problem" What Does the Bible Say About Heaven and Who Goes There?

Not long ago I was talking with my husband about heaven and hell and who goes where and why. He told me, “You have a big problem with your idea that God will restore everything and everybody. There are verses in the Bible that clearly teach that some people will never be restored to God.” I agreed; I do have a problem. But I said, “We both have a problem. My problem is that some verses do seem to teach that some people will be eternally condemned. Your problem is that some verses seem to teach that ultimately God will redeem and restore His entire creation.”

So we have two competing ideas:

1) Some people will never be redeemed.

2) God will eventually redeem all people.

Two contradictory ideas, both with scriptural warrant but mutually exclusive. They cannot both be true; what is a Christian to do? Some will automatically reject one of these statements or the other. Those who hold to the traditional view of hell (historically, the majority of Christians) accept statement 1 and consider the universalistic thrust of statement 2 to be erroneous if not heretical. For example, one person responding to a previous post of mine said, “It is an undeniable fact that the Word of God teaches that those who die in their sins go to hell. They will suffer conscious torments forever. believer and others have given you the scriptures pertaining to this teaching. If interpretation of certain other scriptures lead you to believe otherwise, then the interpretation of those scriptures is wrong.” FULL POST

Posted 10/14/11 at 5:07 PM | Diane Castro

I Wonder What Would Happen . . . If a Christian Took a Queer Studies Class

As reported in the Christian Post on October 14, 2011, CSU Fullerton has become the fourth Cal State school to adopt a Queer Studies minor, to the delight of the LGBT community and the consternation of Christians. One more example of Christian values being eroded in our culture—what are we to do now?

When I read the headline “Cal State Fullerton Launches Queer Studies Minor; Conservatives Troubled,” I felt the same alarm as other conservatives. For decades the Christian values that once helped shape our society have been subject to erosion from all quarters, including the normalization and promotion of homosexuality as a perfectly acceptable lifestyle. Here is another venue where young people will be indoctrinated with LGBT values.

Then I started wondering, What would happen if Christians took queer studies courses? What if they were to attend the classes and ask for the same respect and opportunity to voice their opinions that the LGBT community is demanding? What if they could really get to know these people? If we want to be witnesses to those around us, we have to understand their culture. You wouldn’t go to Africa or Asia to be a missionary without first studying the culture of those you hope to reach; if we want to share our faith with those in the gay community, why not learn about their history and who they are and how they feel? Jesus made inroads into people’s lives by meeting them where they were, even eating and drinking with them. You might even find yourself developing a friendship with a struggling young lesbian or transgender person.

One of the most enlightening books I have read on the subject is And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic, which chronicles the history of the epidemic in the 80s. It was written by Randy Shiltz, a gay journalist and author who later died of AIDS. It was a stunningly candid revelation of what was going on within the gay community during the early days of AIDS. It was graphic and disturbing, but reading it helped me to understand a culture foreign to my own. It also strengthened my desire to help people avoid or escape from that lifestyle. Perhaps attending a queer studies class would have a similar effect and also open doors for dialogue.

Back in the mid-90s, a gay activist was invited to teach a health/sex ed class to the ninth graders at our local high school, raising a firestorm in our community. Mr. Cook and I exchanged several editorials in our local paper. In that context I stuck to the health issues, raising concerns such as the fact that he was being asked to teach “safe sex” while he was practicing very dangerous sex. For example, I quoted a statistic that I had learned recently:

One frightening fact I learned is that epidemiologists estimate that 30 percent of all 20-year-old gay men will be HIV-infected or dead of AIDS before they turn thirty. (Cited in E. L. Goldman, “Psychological Factors Generate HIV Resurgence in Young Gay Men,” Clinical Psychiatry News, October 1994, p. 5.)

Mr. Cook wrote back, “Mrs. Castro cites very accurate and troubling statistics about the disturbing resurgence of new HIV infections among younger gay men. The study she quoted is one that I too have quoted. . . . The study states that as many as 30 percent of 20-year-old gay men today may be infected with, or dead from HIV before they turn thirty. The flip side of that is 70 percent will not.” I was shocked at his “logic”—to find good news in the fact that “only” 30 percent of 30-year-old gay men will be dead or dying—but I was heartened by the fact that he respected me and that we were able to have a real dialogue. In the same editorial he wrote, “Diane Castro and her husband have been nothing but polite and courteous, but sadly the same can’t be said for some of their philosophical soulmates.”

The specific statistics are outdated, but the underlying issues remain the same: we need to address the challenges to our values, but we need to do so in a way that shows respect for other human beings. We must be informed and we must engage in thoughtful dialogue rather than just reacting in anger or quoting Bible verses or wringing our hands in dismay.

I'm not advocating the establishment of queer studies programs, but we have to deal with the fact that they are a reality in our society. So what should we do? Just wondering . . .

Posted 10/14/11 at 12:28 AM | Diane Castro

Presuppositions and Interpretations: How Our Assumptions Affect Our Understanding of the Bible, Part 2 of 3

This series of posts is a call to take a hard look at the filters through which we view the Bible. Our interpretations of Scripture can be colored by our own set of presuppositions without our even being aware of it. Therefore, it is critically important to step back and scrutinize our assumptions to make sure that they are true, so that the interpretations built upon them will also be true.

As stated in Part 1, the doctrine of eternal condemnation has been accepted by the majority of Christians throughout church history as a fact taught in Scripture, but there is substantial reason to question whether that understanding is true. This series presents Scripture passages that suggest that God will not inflict eternal conscious punishment but will ultimately redeem all mankind. Yet when these passages are approached with a predetermined belief in eternal damnation, they are often interpreted in such a way as to support the traditional position and discount any universalist implications, as in the NIV Study Bible notes. Part 1 discussed a number of verses from the epistles. Here in Part 2, other verses from the epistles as well as John and Revelation are listed, along with their NIV study notes and my comments on the verses and notes: FULL POST

Posted 10/8/11 at 11:14 PM | Diane Castro

Presuppositions and Interpretations: How Our Assumptions Affect Our Understanding of the Bible, Part 1 of 3

All of us view the world through the grid of a lifetime of accumulated experiences. Whether we’re aware of it or not, we interpret what we see and hear and read according to the framework we have developed. We all have certain presuppositions, and we tend to form our interpretations of the Bible on the basis of what we already believe. This series of blog posts will take a specific subject—eternal damnation—and explore how one particular source—the NIV Study Bible—interprets certain passages on the assumption that eternal damnation is a fact, often contrary to the plain sense of the verses. Part 1 discusses a number of verses from the epistles. Parts 2 and 3 will list other verses from the epistles as well as from John and Revelation, along with their NIV study notes and my comments on the verses and notes. These verses seem to present a different picture of God’s ultimate purposes and man’s final destiny, suggesting that there may be an alternate paradigm to account for the truths that have been revealed in Scripture. The challenge is to step back and scrutinize our assumptions to make sure that they are correct, so that the interpretations built upon them will also be true. FULL POST

Posted 10/2/11 at 2:25 AM | Diane Castro

Reconciliation: The Heart of God's Grand Plan for Creation

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." (Colossians 1:15–20)

This passage summarizes the whole sweeping scope of God's magnificent purposes for His creation, climaxing in the reconciliation of all things to Himself. What does Paul mean when he says that through Jesus, God will "reconcile to himself all things"? The context here, in conjunction with other passages, identifies the extent of "all things" and defines the meaning of "to reconcile."

Verse 16 says, "For by him all things (τα παντα) were created." Paul goes to great lengths to show that "all things" means absolutely everything (with the exception, of course, of God Himself). In verse 15, he says that Christ is "the firstborn over all creation" (πασης κτισεως). In verse 16 he elaborates on what he means by "all things": "things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him." FULL POST

Posted 9/26/11 at 9:42 PM | Diane Castro

Pick Two (Who Got It Right: Calvinists or Arminians?)

Reading a post by George W. Sarris, "Predestination or Free Will? . . . The Debate Continues" (July 22, 2011), prompted me to post my thoughts on the subject. I agree with George that Calvinists and Arminians each got it right about a crucial component of God's character—that He is absolutely sovereign and that He is unfailingly loving. And as George pointed out, we have a huge problem if we say, "God is loving, but He is also sovereignly just" or "God is sovereignly just, but He is also loving" because we thus create a conflict in His very nature. I would suggest that we need to re-examine a doctrine that both Calvinists and Arminians agree about.

A number of years ago I was trying to develop a budget for a project we were doing at the publishing company where I worked. My boss called me into her office to give me some guidelines and help me understand some of the obstacles to creating a high-quality product on time and on budget. She drew a triangle on a piece of paper and wrote one word at each vertex: Good, Fast, Cheap.

Then she said, "Pick two. If you want it to be fast and good, it won't be cheap. If you want good and cheap, it won't be fast. And if you want fast and cheap, don't expect it to be good." In the publishing world it's not an absolute impossibility to get high-quality work that is produced inexpensively and turned around quickly, but it's highly unlikely that all three conditions will be met simultaneously. FULL POST

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