Advance notice… (way ahead of time!)

Over the past months I have held (with Ro Lavender and Steve Lowton) a series of ‘open zooms’, zooms unrelated to the books I wrote. The next of the ‘open zoom’ evenings is now scheduled for Tuesday December 6th, 7.30pm UK time. (See ‘way ahead of time’.)

We have three planned, all with the idea that they will throw light on where we are at, and so we could call them (more or less) ‘Kingdom Economics’ (we might also call them, ‘some thoughts on how we respond in this season’, but that is far too long! We will follow on in February 7th. with Rosie helping us respond and then try to tie some of it up on March 7th.

In a Zoom like this a few months back Peter McKinney joined us and shared from his own setting insights that resonated, challenged and helped clarify sight. In the light of that we have asked him if he would come back and so he has agreed.

I am sure Peter will help us tune in to the season we are in and help us navigate the challenging times that we are entering. I think all three should be enlightening, challenging, creative and fun! Now that is a lot of enticing adjectives, so you really will need to be there!

And not to worry I will follow this up from time to time with little reminders – a kind of ‘ahead of time’ to a final one of ‘you really missed out and I have no idea now you will ever be able to catch up cos those webinars revealed everything about the here and now and the here and then and the then and here, and I have lost my train of thought’… Yes those kind of helpful posts.

See you in December!

Zooms for 2022

And a little north star thrown in

Admin day… sorting out dates. So first a change:

I plan that the first Tuesday of each month to have an ‘open zoom’, not directly related to the books I have written, but seeking to address some practical outworkings. I was originally hoping to begin on Feb 1st, but I have cancelled that one as I will be travelling with Gayle over that period. So:

Open Zooms:

March 1st., 7.30pm UK time will be the first one. I will present some material for discussion on the tensions of the nobodies being the key to change, and the scenario where CEO’s and those who carry authority to change things need to be reached. I do beleive this is the key issue facing us – transformation but how?

On April 5th., 7.30pm UK time Ro Lavender will follow this through with the valuing of every contribution as being key to transformation…. what do we avoid doing because it is ‘so small’, and what do we not see we are doing because it is ‘so small’.

If you wish to participate in one of those evenings or simply be put on a mailing list, send me an email or fill in the form on the home page: https://3generations.eu.

Book 1 Zooms:

I will start two groups that will be based on Humanising the Divine also in February. They will start on February 23rd. (Wednesday), one at 10.30am and the other at 8.00pm UK time. Let me know if one or other of those you would like to be involved in.


True North…

Ever since I was a young boy I have been fascinated by direction, and from an early age understood how one could follow the Big Dipper / the Great Bear / Ursa Major to find the pole star / north star. Find that and one could find the way home, or travel in a specific direction. The great bear was always high in the sky in the winter months for me, easy to find and then bang, there it is, the north star.

These last days since arriving back in Spain the night sky has been so clear, I began to look again for the north star. I was pretty sure I had it nailed, but where was the Great Bear? Pretty sure is good, but without the Great Bear… how sure is pretty sure? Then I realised I had to look to a different part of the sky to what I expected, much closer to the horizon, for I am much further south than back in the days of my youth.

We have to find the north star, but where we have to look to find what points to the north star might well have changed. (Apologies to those in the Southern Hemisphere but I think you have something with the Southern Cross?… That sounds pretty good!)

In December I was constantly having the same image – that 2022 would present us with four possible doors in every situation where we were to move forward. I can pull on Scriptures about an open door – but four? However, it was always the same, four doors that would open. Probably will be literal at times but as I have meditated on it seems that four being representative of creation / world, it is a world door that will open. The choice means that when in the past we might be looking for the definitive one, this was saying, go through the door. Which one? The one you choose. It does mean not going through the others, and the amazing thing is I realised that God was the other side of each door. It almost doesn’t matter which one we go through.

The other side of the door is the north star. How we are sure we are pointing to the north star (finding the Great Bear). Go through the world door, whichever one. It is a new way of navigating this year, and for some we will have to come to terms with we can’t do it all… but we can still be aligned to the GPS of heaven.

Hard push

Starting February I am planning on starting two groups on book #1 Humanising the Divine, so here comes the hard sell!

If numbers are sufficient I will have a day-time group and also an evening group (UK times).

I am aiming for Wednesday February 2nd 10.30am and Wednesday February 2nd 8.00pm as the start dates. We will use the book but I will give some background that is not present in the book: reading the Bible as historic narrative; reading with Exile as key OT time, and the Jewish Wars of 66-70 as a major horizon that came into view.

At this stage I should pull out some reviews, so pulling two by random I have a review related to book#1:

Disappointed by the last chapter

and one on book#3:

Did not break any new ground.

However, what those reviews do not reveal is my clever strategy – did you note there were no comments on Books #2 and #4? You see you have got to read book 1 to be able to move on to book 2, and likewise book 3 to grasp book 4. Those – if I were to pull out the reviews, even by random would show that they were amazing.

OK long story short, my point is that there are some who really valued the books others not so much. All a bit irrelevant to me. They are not written at an intellectual level (a quick check on the author’s name will reveal that), are aimed at helping us (read ‘you’) think through your own conclusions, with no need to agree with me. Indeed joining one of the zoom groups only requires complying with two rules: you do not assume I am right on everything I write or suggest, and that you also do not assume all your perspectives are correct.

Irrespective of the reviews – good, bad or indifferent – I would love to have you join me. Send me an email with the group you would like to join.

martin@3generations.eu

Why I am not a Universalist

I am writing a few articles that stand alongside the books and are at times a response to questions from a Zoom group. It is not uncommon for a version of ‘why are you not a universalist?’ to come up. Understandable as I am not an exclusivist; I do anticipate that most who claim to be ‘born again’ will partcipate in the age to come (I do not use the ‘go to heaven’ langauage as that is not found in the Bible)… I anticipate that as God is gracious – hence my faith for myself is that I will ‘be’ there as through the cross God is gracious to include me… I also expect to be surprised who also is included!

These articles I am uploading at https://3generations.eu/explorations, but I thought I would include this one here as a post.

First I cover my back!!

I am not a Universalist (all will be ultimately ‘saved’) though I have a sneaky suspicion that God might well be. I am not only covering my back, though, as I consider that the Scriptures give us a picture of God that shows his generosity to all. Generosity is seen in the garden of Eden with the permission to ‘eat of all the trees’, or we can consider one of the reasons that Peter gives as to why Jesus has not yet appeared:

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:10).

If only a few were to be saved the longer the delay would simply mean that more people were to perish. This Scripture seems to present an optimism in the delay. Likewise in 1 Timothy 2:3 we read,

who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Apart from not viewing the cross as a transactional exchange mechanism that acts as the answer to the wrath of God, these Scriptures are some of the reasons why I do not subscribe to a ‘limited atonement’ perspective (that Jesus died for the ‘elect’; those for whom he died will therefore necessarily be saved). There is a consistent ‘died for all’ that comes through in Scripture, and for anyone who approaches the Bible as a Calvinist to avoid the universalist perspective, I find it difficult that the uncomfortable (and to me unavoidable) conclusion is that God wants something (all to be saved) but chooses something very different (only an elect are saved). If Jesus died for all, and he pays the price for all, then I find a universalist position the most natural one to take, if we view the cross through the lens of penal substitution.

There are many ‘universalist’ texts, with the ‘as in Adam’ / ‘as in Jesus’ texts being core ones. Alongside those we have the ‘reconciliation of all things’.

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.(Col. 1:10).

to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ (Ephes. 1:10).

Another Scripture to consider is the description of Jesus as the Saviour of all, especially those who believe (1 Tim. 4:10). There is a parallel verse, language-wise, in which Paul asks Timothy to ‘bring… the scrolls, especially the parchments’ (2 Tim. 4:13) indicating that he is asking Timothy bring as many as possible. He is not asking just for the scrolls (‘only the parchments’), but is asking Timothy to take as many as possible. If salvation is only by the choice of God and he can save whoever he chooses, then it would seem he does not have to make the choices that Timothy might have to make! ‘How many can you bring Timothy? If you can’t bring them all make sure that you bring the parchments.’ If you can’t bring them all. But if God can save all he does not have to make that choice. Timothy, limited by capacity and ability, but God limitless.

The texts in favour of universalism cannot be taken in isolation from other texts. God’s saving purpose has universal scope but people may refuse to enter into that purpose. In Col. 1:19-23, for example, the Colossian believers enter into the reconciliation effected by Christ ‘provided they continue in the faith’. Universal reconciliation does not, in and of itself, necessarily imply that all will voluntarily submit to Christ. All ultimately confess the Lordship of Christ, but not all might do so willingly. Although Paul says that all will acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus, including that which is is under the earth (Phil. 2:9f.), yet when he speaks of ultimate reconciliation he does not include that subterranean sphere (Eph. 1:9f.).

Ultimate reconciliation could mean that of individuals (and demons, the devil) are included, or it could indicating that all rebellion in all spheres comes to an end. If the former then Universalism is a given, if the latter ultimate final inclusion of all as participants in the age to come is not implies by the use of such terms as ‘the reconciliation of all things’.

The ‘as in Adam’ / ‘as in Christ’ Scriptures (Rom. 5: 12-21; 1 Cor. 15: 22-23) could imply a universalism. All are in Adam (by birth) and all are in Christ (by the work of the cross). Perhaps the Corinthian texts are the strongest with the repeated ‘all…all’, but the final verse in the reference above makes us ask a question as to who ‘belongs’ to Christ. The two verses with an emphasis added are,

For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.

Those who come with him are the ‘dead in Christ’ (1 Tim. 4:16), those who will be raised from the dead. The ‘all’ are the all who are in Christ. Not all are in Christ, we read,

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).

We read if someone is in Christ. The ‘if’ suggests that this is not automatic, and in the Pauline letters participation in Christ seems to be conditional on a response to Christ. Being included in his death, we read in Romans, was conditional:

We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life (Rom. 6:2-4).

This ‘belonging’ to is not too dissimilar to verses in John ch. 1. Jesus came to ‘his own’ but they did not receive him. But to those who did they were born of God. Later using the same terminology in the Gospel of John we read that he sat at table with ‘his own’ (the disciples at the Last Supper). Responding to the offer of salvation seems to be the criterion that determined if those who were ‘his own’ were truly ‘his own’.

There does appear to be the belief in a final judgement,

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad (2 Cor. 5:12).

Perhaps there is a post-death opportunity to respond to Jesus, but Scripture is not explicit about that as a future possibility, with the strong emphasis that our lives and responses pre-death determine participation in the age to come.

Finally, the warnings (particularly in Hebrews) I consider are not theoretical warnings to keep us in line but warnings of the consequences of rejecting Jesus. Those two final words (‘rejecting Jesus’) also give me an optimistic hope that many will be included in as participants when the renewal of all things take place, for I place the emphasis on the exclusion of those who (in some way actively) reject Jesus, rather than a narrow approach that insists that only those who have received Jesus (and how is that defined depends so much on one’s tradition) are included in.

Those in summary are reasons why I am not a universalist. I think I have left sufficient in the above paragraphs to show that I am not of a simple ‘all born again are in’ and ‘all not born again are out’ belief. (Of course that begs also a huge question of the use of the term ‘born again’ and to whom that applies.) I am optimistic, I believe as Clark Pinnock described it in ‘a wideness in God’s mercy’.


Addendum

I consider that the strongest appeal to universal salvation would be if a penal substitutionary view of the cross is held to. If Jesus paid the penalty for all, then all are free, irrespective of their acceptance of that. Certainly for God to endlessly punish people for their sin that has been ‘paid’ for I would consider is a gross injustice. The ‘limited atonement’ perspective (Jesus only died for the elect) seems the only way to protect a penal substitutionary from becoming a substantial piece of the pro-universalist argument. Hence on the cross, I consider we have to find another way of understanding what took place there.

Gardens, couples and sight

Always a few aspects that come up in the zoom groups that provoke a little expansion. So here are two related aspects from last night’s zoom.

[BTW I add a few articles from time to time that are drawn from the books and they can be found at: https://3generations.eu/explorations. For example there is one there on Jesus always sinless, but becomes mature. I will also probably expand this post into an article for those pages.]

The resurrection. A cosmic event, that changed the world. Marked by an earthquake and ‘saints’ in the grave coming out (I actually think they came out with resurrected bodies, unlike Lazarus who came back to life with the same body. If I am right then we also have a time warp aspect that took place at the resurrection of Jesus, an event destined to occur at the parousia taking place significantly ahead of time!) The resurrection, that which we bear witness to, is what opens up sight. So…

First starting at the end of the trajectory that I want to touch on. Jesus appears on the road to Emmaus. I put in the books that this was to a married couple (Cleopas and Mary). Mary the wife of Clopas (either a variation of spelling, not uncommon in the ancient world, or the influence of Hebrew / Aramaic coming through) was one of the women who remained at the cross (John 19:25)… more to come, so the two disciples seems to me to be those two, consoling each other, trudging away from the bitterness of disappointment. But before this we have the first sight of Jesus being by Mary Magdalene who identified him as ‘the Gardener’. I put a capital ‘G’ there as her identification is not corrected for I believe there is something very profound going on. Adam, the Gardener leaves the Garden with his wife, with the word ‘death’ ringing in his ears. They leave life behind. Jesus rises in a garden that is full of tombs of death, leaving death behind, so that the word ‘life’ will ring throughout the cosmos. First, visitation is to a woman… the resurrection sets some priorities!

From the woman he visits the couple. For Mary Magdalene he lifted her status (‘my Father’ = ‘your Father’ / ‘my God = your God’ – John 20:17). To them… well their eyes are opened. At evening, just as God used to visit in ‘the cool of the day’, so on the road to Emmaus they come to the close of the day. The original couple had their ‘eyes opened’, opened to see the nakedness of their state (literally and metaphorically) now this couple have their eyes opened also. No longer shame but true sight. True sight as natural sight was kept from them. Sight that dealt with corporate shame, corporate personal disappointment. Looking back on Eden there was fire preventing them returning, now there is fire in their hearts pressing them forward.

The resurrection, ‘it is already the third day’ being on the lips of Cleopas, gave sight. Sight of the future, for ‘there is new creation’; sight on who they are; and sight on who God in Jesus is, that being sight on the past. The resurrection allows sight to go all the way back to Eden. Three left Eden, just as three walked to Emmaus. When there was an exile from Eden, hidden from their sight, was a third companion; humanity never left Eden alone. God travelled with them, the sentence of ‘death’ might have rung in their ears but it was carried for them in the heart of God. Expulsion ends at the cross. The death consequence was truly fulfilled. The resurrection makes that plain.

The resurrection opens eyes to see where God has been all this time. Not locked up in a Temple, nor a ‘holy’ land, but trudging in the dust with the rest of us, even drawing boundaries for the people so that they might find him (!) and not be hidden from them (many implications in that!). The revelation of God is not found in a holy place, nor a holy land – Acts 7 and Stephen’s speech makes that point in a very profound way by selecting the revelations of God that took place outside the land of Israel… oops he should have re-written that speech cos that provokes certain people to pick up stones. (Oh and maybe we should add that the Pauline Gospel is birthed at the gates of Damascus and then nurtured in the desert.)

The resurrection opens sight on all of creation, and all of those who inhabit creation, including the plant life, the animals (even the wild animals, the promise of Old Testament restoration, wonderfully fulfilled in Mark’s account of the temptations of Jesus).

Tonight I am on ‘Witness’ chapter in book 1. Witnesses of the resurrection. If we have seen the resurrection we will see where God has trudged; we will see ‘new creation’ and we will see all others differently. Not according to the flesh, just as the two on the road did not see / recognise Jesus among them, so until we see differently we will not see Jesus among us.

Perspectives