Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Before the foundation of the world?

Ephes. 1:1-4 (ESV)
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:
[2] Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
[3] Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, [4] even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love
Ephesians is a great book for explaining the grace of God. Everything revolves around the will of God in Ephesians from the Apostleship of Paul to our own salvation. This is the way it is with grace. It doesn’t depend on us. It is the work of God. Either that or it is not grace. So He chose us in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world. Election, predestination, etc. , all of this revolves around a choice, but not our choice. Remember everything revolves around the will of God; our will stays out of it. It is God’s choice, or election. He chose us before the foundation of the world. What does that mean” before the foundation of the world.”
Typically this would mean before God created the world. He chose us before he even created us. You don’t get around it in Ephesians, election. Nor do I want to get around it. But of course it is a sticky issue. Many of us want to read more or less into this than what it says. Some want to then think God must also have predestined the others to hell. But of course, if that were true then God must have created hell for men too, and not just the devil and his angels. (Matthew 25:41) Others would like to ignore these passages all together and leave it up to our choice. I won’t go either way. God has chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world.
I will not believe for an instant that Adam and Eve sinned in accordance with God’s will. There seems to be an oxymoron there. How can we label something sin that is done according to God’s will? To believe that sin is done in accordance with God’s will is a radical extrapolation. To believe God created many of us humans to get some sort of sick pleasure out of torturing us in hell is just not Christian.
On the other hand it is God’s choice and not ours. This is clear from the text. So why some and not others? I don’t know. Guess I am only thankful I am included in those God has chosen to give faith to. Lutherans are happy to leave this where it is at. If we believe we realize this is the work of the Holy Spirit who has come to us through the word. If we are lost we attribute that to our own fault, not God’s. Heaven is God’s choice for us through His Son Jesus Christ. Hell is our choice for ourselves.
I don’t know that this resolves any tension. I don’t know that we are called to resolve this tension. Yet I do believe much of this might be resolved if we better understood God’s relationship to time. We can’t hardly think without thinking in terms of space and time. We are bound to space and time. We even talk about before time? What could be before time? If there was no time there was not before was there? Time is a creation it belongs to this world. God can do with it what he wants, step in and out of it, work both within time and outside of time. God is eternal. Eternity encompasses time, it is not merely time without end going on forever. We are bound to time, not God.
Well that is enough for now. We’ll explore this more as we go.


Anonymous said...

Rev. Bror,

You have DEFINITELY opened up a line of thinking I’d never considered but thought that I had. “Eternity encompasses time, it is not merely time without end going on forever. We are bound to time, not God.” You are right, we generally think of “eternity” like “infinite or unbound time” going on and on. I recall this very thought sitting many moons ago in my college calculus courses and relating it to the idea of God. Even in our highest mathematics we tend to think of it as time without limit, forwards and backwards, but not eternity encompassing time. I’m still chewing on that last one, eternity encompassing time, I don’t know right now what to think but am interested in where you may go with it.

Moving from Reformed to Lutheran thought myself I got it down to the “lostness of the lost” is rejecting the very same grace that is the “savedness of the saved”. That is, the lost reject the same grace the saved receive. Ultimate damnation lay there, not the individual sins of life nor even the whole of our sins, but the rejection of grace “I’ll resolve it myself thank you very much”. That seems to be the thrust of many of the parables most notably the Prodigal Son. But then one runs into why do some believe and others not? To put a much finer point on it, why do some suddenly want to trust the grace of God and other not? It’s almost a “who would turn down an utterly free gift of a trillion dollars” (on the earthly level)? Answer: Only a fool.

Yet, we feel it in ourselves over the grace of God. I do and it scares the hell out of me more than ANY normal sin I can think of. That sin of “if so and so is forgiven, now that’s grace too far, I don’t want to be in that heaven if he/she is there”. That’s the unforgivable sin due to its very nature. Such thinking casts us to hell, does it not? Maybe I’m the only one but do we not know of that certain person either personally or nationally or historically that we look at and say, “THAT evil, that cannot be saved, that’s far too offensive for grace.” It differs for us individually I suspect but I think there are some crimes against others that raises that up in us, the crime that is so heinous, that we begin to reject the idea of grace. It might be a Hitler or something more local, but it’s there. Within me that scares me more than ANYTHING, or ANY other sin that I deal with in thought, word or deed – because that’s when I could feel myself actually wanting to reject such grace. We think: “I’m a sinner, but I’m not THAT kind of sinner”. Do you know what I mean? We don’t see ourselves normally as “that” evil, “not what that guy did”. Then all one can cry out is, “Lord I am like the elder son, save me from myself”. The Pharisee in me scares me magnitudinally more than the rank sinner. Now I must say what I say next carefully lest I be accused of giving license to “just sin”. That’s not what I’m indicating, but in light of what I just said: In an odd way I must continue to fall into the other sins (none rejection of grace sins, and be a REAL sinner) so that I can SEE my need for grace. Because if I fail to see myself as a real sinner and not just a pretend sinner, then I’m inclined increasingly to “lower the bar” of “that other guy over there” to whom I don’t think “deserves grace” (defective view of grace).

Somehow, therein, lay the workings of the Law and Gospel, a moment of “Woe to me, I am a man of unclean lips and live among a people of unclean lips”. A sight of God that “undoes” us, like Job eventually. Then “you want grace”. The mystery of why that operates and creates faith in some and not others, I don’t have a clue!

C.S. Lewis once said that hell is first a door locked from the inside. I think that is true. Our pastor once said of the Rich Man and Lazarus parable that the most frightening part of the whole parable is that the Rich Man didn’t ask to be gotten out of hell, he never requests that, only to have water be brought down there to him. I’d never thought about that before, but it’s true. My theory: To the fallen flesh hell is actually not repulsive, unless one’s idea of it is this torcher chamber or something medieval in conception, but in fact attractive, deeply attractive to us.

I think Luther’s death bed confession might be the most profound thing and confession of faith post Apostolic ever written and recorded, “Yes this is true, we are beggars…”. Earned merit permeates everything in our world. E.g. Ever notice how when you go to dinner and your other party picks up the check to pay for it – it becomes a battle for the check. OR you will reply, “I’ll get it next time”. Or if you do accept it right away you feel guilty like a naked beggar. Or something similar. I’ve always thought it has a theological connection, it’s not just a small or incidental thing. We like to have the books balanced legally, we don’t like empty naked beggarness (Adam and Eve were once not ashamed of their needy nakedness, then were). It’s the same in marketing. It’s well know for example in the restaurant business that one has to be careful and not set the food prices too low as it will be perceived as cheap and unworthy to buy. Free things are passed by except by the needy. The more money one thinks one has the less likely they will accept a “free thing”. Yet put a price on it and they snatch it up. There is a certain blessedness to being IN DEBT and IN NEED.

That doesn’t solve the mystery, and I’ve blathered on too long, sorry about that. You got me to thinking.



Bror Erickson said...

Glad to have you thinking Larry.

steve martin said...


If you can get out here to Southern California, I will graciously permit you to pick up the check when we go to dinner.

Lobster, anyone?

Good points! I never thought about that way, but I do believe you are right!

Thanks Larry!

- Steve

steve martin said...


Nice job!

We do not have to resolve every tension when it comes to matters concerning our faith. It wouldn't be 'faith' then.

In His Grip,

- Steve

Anonymous said...


Ha ha ha, if I ever make it out that way you have a free meal coming!