Thursday, October 30, 2014

Forgiven Yet Not Regenerated?

I read a post by Arminian theologian Roger Olson this morning entitled, Is It Possible to Be Forgiven (Reconciled) but Not Born Again (Regenerated)?  It’s a long post, and that was daunting to me, at first.  But I am glad that I stuck with it.

I was expecting the worse, especially after reading some of Olson’s past posts about whether we can question anyone’s salvation.  See particularly his post: Is A “Carnal Christian” Saved? (Part Three).  There, Olson gives us a fictional scenario of a man named named John, who accepted Christ at a revival when he was twenty years old, yet John is dishonest in his business, has gone through multiple marriages, had committed adultery while he was married, and seems to be filled with bitterness when people talk with him.  Olson asks: Can a pastor at least raise with John the possibility that John is not saved and needs to receive Christ?

That hit home a little too deeply for me.  I have not committed all of John’s misdeeds, but I do struggle with bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness.  And I would be outraged if someone suggested to me that I am not saved.  Why would I be outraged?  Because I have tried.  I said the sinner’s prayer years ago.  I was baptized.  I go to church.  I pray.  I read my Bible.  Maybe there are reasons that I am bitter, resentful, and unforgiving.  What makes judgmental Christians think that they wouldn’t be, either, if they experienced life as I experienced it?  What’s more, I am very skeptical that even the judgmental Christians are so perfect.  Guess what?  It is natural to be mad at people!  Not everyone likes everyone!  When we are hurt, we get mad!  You’d probably have to be a robot to pass the salvation tests of a lot of judgmental Christians.  Then again, maybe a robot would not pass either, since the judgmental Christians would accuse him of not being emotionally passionate for Christ enough, or of being lukewarm.

What a better world this would be if Christians were compassionate to those with character defects rather than judgmental.  If you are talking with someone and find that he or she has bitterness, how about praying for (or even with) that person that he or she might experience the peace of God, rather than getting on your high horse and questioning that person’s salvation?  What exactly is questioning people’s salvation supposed to accomplish, anyway?

These are just my reactions, and I am not saying that Olson is one of those judgmental Christians.  I’m also not particularly interested in being nitpicked over technicalities or accused of being an uncareful reader, for this post is simply my honest, raw response.  We’re allowed to have those, I do believe.

Anyway, Olson’s post that I read this morning was good, for he asked a question: What if a person sincerely had a salvation experience, and yet he does not seem to have spiritual affections?  Is he truly reconciled with God and forgiven, if he does not manifest any change in his life and his affections?  Maybe this person does not commit gross misdeeds, Olson says, and yet that internal transformation does not seem to be there.  Olson appeared to be open to the possibility that, yes, that person may truly be reconciled with God and forgiven.

I have wondered about this myself.  I have come across my share of people who appear to be Christians, and sincere Christians at that.  Maybe they actually do have religious or spiritual affections, but they are not particularly nice people.  I am tempted to say that they were not really saved, especially if they have rejected me or hurt me in some way, but who am I to judge?  There are people who may make the same sorts of judgements about me.  If these people reach out to God, in some capacity, and their lives do not appear to be transformed radically, does that mean that God does not honor their reaching out to him?  I would like to think that a loving God does honor that, along with my attempts to reach out to him.

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