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April 3, 2006

Grace and Salvation--Universalism Revisited

In the previous entry on Universalism, I made what might be a tactical argument in approaching the argument from the negative side. What I hope to present here is the mirror image. The two are of a piece, but they say things in somewhat different ways and perhaps clarify the point of what I was trying to say.

The beginning of this post is in the three below. When we consider God's Sovereignty, God's emeth and hesed and the "power in the blood," things seem to come together in a pattern. To me the pattern suggests that God is reluctant to let anyone go. That is, rather than the great and unmoved judge (which He also is) He is the God who goes out seeking His people and inviting them back.

When I think about sovereignty and emeth and hesed, I think about a fundamental commitment to all of His people. When I concentrate on these aspects of God, I am left to wonder how many people have the strength to resist God's grace. Yes, it can be resisted, but God is the importunate widow for most of us--He accosts us right and left, day after day, every day, every hour, every minute, until we give in. It takes a great deal of resistance to be able to resist so long.

So what I have is not an argument, although on both sides of this issue one could compile scriptural references and quotes from the Fathers and any number of other "proofs" until the cows come home. Ultimately, we must go on what we know about God. If our vision of God is that of a Father, the father who welcomes the prodigal, we might be hard-pressed to envision how such a father would not go to all extremes to assure the safety and integrity of His children. That is not to say that all people will return the Father's love--I will never deny that it is possible. But when someone is wooing you every day of your life, every moment of every day, when someone is completely interested in every aspect of your life and existence, completely devoted to you and to your salvation, it is going to be difficult to escape Him.

Francis Thompson said it rather well.

from "The Hound of Heaven"
Francis Thompson

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.

Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,

Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.

But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbèd pace,

Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,

They beat -- and a voice beat
More instant than the Feet --

"All things betray thee, who betrayest Me."

It's a negative way to think about it, but here is the divine stalker, the one who pursues and will not lose the object of His desire. However, this is not stalking as we know it, because the end of this is rapture in eternity. Does the Hound of Heaven capture every fleeing soul? Perhaps not, but given His strength, His knowledge, His power, and His endless self-giving love, it is my belief that it is a very rare and extraordinary soul who manages to escape this much attention.

Hence, we have not so much an argument as an intuition. It could be wrong. But the image it gives me of God is one that allows me to love God more because I see how much care and love He has lavished on me and on all the people around me, all of whom flee--some at a greater rate than others. The God I see in this is one who prizes each one of us so much that the loss of one is unthinkable. It puts me in mind of the Father who sacrificed everything in His Son to bring us back to Him.

Ultimately it puts me in mind of the fact that I am not grateful enough for so generous a God. My love fails, but His does not. And with enough time and with grace, His love becomes my own.

Posted by Steven Riddle at April 3, 2006 9:23 AM

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