Wednesday, November 16, 2011
5. Whose Choice?
The Bible makes it very plain that God entrusts to the Church the work of preaching the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What happens next? We have broadly speaking the following four positions:
1. God does not direct and guide us to those who are to hear the good news and make the choice of whether or not to accept it, that is left to chance, circumstance, and the commitment of the Church in telling people the good news.
2. God directs and guides us to those who are to hear the good news and make the choice of whether or not to accept it.
3. God directs and guides us to those who are to hear the good news and also helps them to make the choice to accept it.
4. God directs and guides us to those who are to hear the good news and also enables them to make the choice, which he has already decided they should make, to accept it.
I am sure that many in the Church, especially I suspect in the Anglican Church, would go with a version of 1. Of course, we will still pray about it and ask for God's strength and help, but the business of going and choosing is the responsibility of us human beings. If you believe this, then 'good luck', and I use those words advisedly, and I wish you every success, but it is not a position that I personally can share. Whatever he may do with the universe, I can't believe God plays dice with people's salvation.
For others in the Church, and especially those trying to be faithful to the Bible's teaching, 2 and 3 seem to allow us to keep a commitment to allowing humans freedom of choice, while also involving God in the process - which is nice. They also sound reasonable and spiritual: God and us working together for the salvation of humankind.
There are, however, questions that those holding either of these two positions have to answer. With respect to 2, why does God direct and guide us to these particular people? I suppose the best answer would have to be something like these are the spiritual equivalent of a football manager's choice of a squad for a game. They are the ones most likely to play.
With respect to 3, however, why is God not only offering the Gospel to some and not others, but actually helping some and not others?
I am not, for the moment, saying that either 2 or 3 are wrong, simply that they don't escape the accusation of, at best, bias or, at worst, unfairness on the part of God.
That leaves 4. Oh dear, we don't like this one at all do we? But the reason we don't like it can't simply be because it makes God unfair. On any view, but 1, he is still that. And even then he can be accused of unfairness in leaving whether or not people hear the good news to chance.
So what's the real reason we don't like to think that 'God directs and guides us to those who are to hear the good news and also enables them to make the choice, which he has already decided they should make, to accept it.'?