Saturday, December 24, 2011

Public Debate: Did Christ redeem all mankind?

Recently, I wrapped up a public, formal debate called "Particular Atonement" at the Christian Forums. I post there as "MrPolo." My position is that Christ's sacrifice made ransom for all mankind in their futile bondage to sin (i.e. Unlimited Atonement). In other words, when Scripture says "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16) I understand the "world" and "whoever" to mean all persons in humanity.

The other gentleman in the debate took a "5-point" Calvinist's position, which says God ordains some to heaven and some to hell, and Christ's sacrifice was therefore limited in effect only to those who go to heaven (i.e. Limited or Particular Atonement). In other words, when Scripture says "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16) he understands the "world" and "whoever" to mean only persons God ordains to heaven without regard to any response, merit, or attribute in those persons.

Merry Christmas. :)

Related post: See the papacy debate here.

Monday, December 12, 2011

If your football team loses, it doesn't mean God doesn't love you

Yesterday, the Chicago Bears, for whom I was fully rooting, lost in overtime to the Denver Broncos whose quarterback is outspoken Christian Tim Tebow. The Broncos were down 10-0 late in the fourth quarter. The Bears went into what is known as the "prevent defense" which makes it easier for the other team to advance the ball, but prevents a "big play" because so many of the defenders are deep. Denver took advantage of the Bears unwise strategy and marched right down the field in medium chunks for a touchdown. Still up 10-7, the Bears got the onside kick and started to run the ball to waste the remaining 2 minutes or so. Unfortunately, Bears running back Marion Barber ran the football out of bounds on one of the plays, which stopped the clock. This ended up leaving more time for Denver to come back the other way after the Bears punted. Without Barber's error, Denver would only have had a few seconds. At any rate, Denver got the last-second field goal to tie the game. And in overtime, they took advantage of a Barber fumble on 3rd down, which would have otherwise lead to a Bears field goal attempt to win the game. Instead, Denver kicked the winning field goal.

Dan Bernstein, radio host of 670 the Score here in Chicago and senior columnist, wrote scathingly about this game in his column today. He was not mad about the Bears prevent defense. He was not mad at Marion Barber.

He was mad at God.

The headline? Tim Tebow’s God Is Mean.

Normally, I might find Bernstein's rant against God to be a bit of sarcasm, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, because the outspoken Christian's team won the game thanks to at least a couple favors the Bears gave them rather than earning the advantages themselves. But Bernstein has been hostile against Tebow on his radio show in the past. I have heard him mock Tebow in a caricature of a voice crediting God for his situation.

Bernstein's column yesterday is no different. The tone is condescending, angry, and anti-Christian. It bears the fury of Dracula in the face of a crucifix. His irrational reaction is not just about Tebow. He includes some standard secular criticisms: "We knew the Old Testament god was kind of a jerk – that’s well established" (lowercase "god" appears as original in Bernstein's article).

To a secularist such as Bernstein (who offered all but zero sports analysis in his sports column), it seems that the "goodness" of God is directly measured by "how often I get what I want." The premise of his article is to mock the goodness of God if Bears fans suffer. God is measured by temporal rewards only.

He shows no concept of the eternal promises of Christianity, verses the suffering that even Christians will endure. To educate those who do not understand the "Biblical God" very well, the Catechism responds and anticipates the difficulties of the human condition in the face of any suffering (even if it's being mad over one's football team).
CCC#272 Faith in God the Father Almighty can be put to the test by the experience of evil and suffering. God can sometimes seem to be absent and incapable of stopping evil. But in the most mysterious way God the Father has revealed his almighty power in the voluntary humiliation and Resurrection of his Son, by which he conquered evil. Christ crucified is thus "the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." It is in Christ's Resurrection and exaltation that the Father has shown forth "the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe".
Suffering itself is ordered toward the resurrection. Christ leads the way, accepting suffering in perfect innocence, showing us that if we join him, we will be raised to glory. St. Paul writes: "Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." (Rom. 8:17)

The Christian's view of suffering, or even the afflictions suffered by those in the Old Testament by the permission of the "god" that Bernstein calls a "jerk," is totally alien to the secularist understanding of goodness. After all, if Christ indeed paved the way, and taught us that the way to an eternity of joy is to suffer with Christ, then God isn't a jerk, He's a leader. And He loves you. If a father tells his child the importance of learning math, but the child isn't at a stage yet where he can understand why, the child's perspective doesn't trump the father's.

Whether or not on this side of heaven's gate we come to a full understanding of suffering is not enough to dismiss the example first set by God incarnate. Now, no doubt, many secularists deny that Christ is the God-man. But the fact remains, if Christ is indeed God incarnate, and He implores us to unite to His body to join Him in the heavenly banquet, then the secularist is completely wrong. Only if the man known as Jesus the Christ was the greatest con man in history could rants like Bernstein's be accurate. But unfortunately, he did not have the space, or perhaps not the consideration to articulate to his audience why that might be the case.

So, I can only invite Bernstein and others who believe a "good" God is one who "makes your sports team win," to refrain from shooting poison darts from your tongue, and give matters of the faith a sober analysis. You don't even have to "like" Tebow's open style of evangelism. And I'm sure there are unbelievers who feel they have given the faith due consideration, and yet do not become furious when their football team loses to opponents with Christian players. Approaching any claim with such emotional staccato can hinder an objective analysis. Rather, give pause, do otherwise, and see what the Church has to offer!

See also the March 11, 2011 article Should earthquakes shake faith in God?