Total Pageviews

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Is God Like A Computer?

I remember when I first became involved with the Internet and e-mailing. It was the beginning of an exciting chapter of my life, one like a foreign land waiting to be explored. With this, I started to email my friends who were a lot more experienced with technology, and I was amazed on how quickly the message arrived at the other end, even if it was halfway round the world.

Then not long after, I tried to send an email to someone living just a few miles away. About ten minutes later a report came back to me announcing that the message failed to reach its recipient and was returned to me. A visitor came round and I showed him the failed email. Apparently, although the recipient lived locally, the visitor showed me that the email completed a journey as far away as Germany before returning to my computer. When I spoke to the recipient in person a week later, it dawned on me that I left out a dot in his email address!

A tiny dot missing and the message endured a trip through the cables across Europe, then back to me, instead of arriving at a terminal locally. And according to forty years of my Christian experience, I tend to think that God is a bit like that when it comes to salvation and how to receive it.

What do I mean by this? I once read in a Christian booklet about how one author believed on what other churches were thinking:
We are the people. We are hearing from God. We are obeying God. We are doing his will.
So churches of all different denominations, according to the author, were at competition with each other on who was most pleasing to God. He then went on to stress that he and his group were the ones living and preaching what the Early Church practised under the Apostles.

I have seen this many times over the decades. As a young Christian, I have gotten involved with both Jehovah's Witnesses and the Mormons, each insisting that they, and they alone, were the true followers of God as patterned by the first church in Jerusalem. Puzzled and should I say, rather confused, in the early to mid 1970s I visited a Christian bookshop in London (right next to St. Paul's Cathedral, the city's most famous landmark) and bought and studied books on this subject. These pieces of literature revealed many more groups: Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormonism, Christian Science, Unitarianism, Christadelphians, Theosophy, to name a few. Each insisting that they are right while all others were wrong and of the devil. Then on top of this, the more "orthodox" denominations: Anglican, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, Pentecostals, United Reformed - Wheeee! The list seems endless. Little wonder I was confused, after debating with Jehovah's Witnesses who insisted that they were in God's will while all other churches and groups were followers of the Devil and will be destroyed.

When I was in my twenties, as a result, I had developed an idea what the Last Judgement may be like, with all members of every group standing at the Throne, each group carefully arrayed, a bit like that of blades of a fan or propeller radiating from the Throne. Then God says, "The group who has done my will and receives eternal life is...that one." So this one group marches into Heaven while all the rest gets pushed into Hell, shouting, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? In which the reply from the Throne would be, I never knew you, depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
That was how I perceived the Last Judgement to be like back in the 1970s.

The Last Judgement

So among this plethora of different faiths and beliefs came the reasoning that God would only respond and grant eternal life if I came to him in the right way, then attend a church which taught exactly the right things and conducted exactly the right form of service, or else God would shut the door on me. A bit like the email. Minus the dot and it doesn't reach its destination.
Of course, by now I have grown out of this mentality. Yet in browsing the Internet, the debate among believers rages on, and supposedly mature Christian writers and preachers denouncing the other as "devilish doctrine." I felt myself getting sucked in once again towards the 1970s mentality. But before I continue with this article, I was thinking over the past week - does the average reader understand some of the terms I use so readily in my other blogs? It's a bit like a doctor telling me that I have gastroenteritis.
"Er, what?" I asked.
"A stomach bug."

Therefore I shall give the meaning of the terms I have used so readily in my other blogs, so that the uninitiated reader will understand my jargon a lot easier (I hope!)

Eternal Security of the Believer, also Once Saved Always Saved, Calvinism.
The belief that once a person has been declared righteous by God, he is forever saved and is eternally adopted into God's family. He cannot lose his salvation regardless how much or little he falls into sin. This was highlighted by John Calvin.

Arminian, Arminianism, Arminius.
James Arminius disputed John Calvin's emphasis on the Sovereignty of God and divine grace in favour of human choice. The end result was that by human choice salvation can be lost by the believer if he either let his sins accumulate and/or turns from his faith. The conclusion from this that after believing, a Christian can still end up in Hell.

Imputed Grace
A sinner declared righteous by God without the sinner needing to first reform himself. This righteousness is a declared verdict pronounced by God the Judge in the Heavenly Court from the moment a sinner believes. It was the central truth of the Protestant Reformation.

Infused Grace
A supernatural power given by God for the sinner to reform himself to an acceptable standard of behaviour before God can declare him righteous. Committing a serious sin forfeits this power, making the believer in danger of Hell unless he undergoes penance. A central Roman Catholic teaching.

Having given a brief glossary of definitions, as a Calvinist myself, I have in the past week been reading some Internet websites, particularly by Calvinist writers. I felt my heart fall rather than feeling assured or edified. The reason being is that these writers on Eternal Security sees God like a computer, accepting those who hold certain doctrines and denouncing or rejecting those who don't. One writer denounced all Arminians as holding on to a false gospel and are heading for Hell. To be honest, I too have called forfeitable salvation a false gospel. Why was this? Because any human work done to either achieve salvation or to keep it is a denial of imputed grace. Salvation is a free gift given by God to a sinner through faith without prior reforming of himself to modify his behaviour.

But I believe that God is far more merciful than what these Calvinist writers allow. For example, in my younger days I thought that I had to believe in the Holy Trinity before I could be saved. But take a read of Acts chapter 2, and there is nothing about the Trinity in Peter's discourse to the Jews. In fact, this doctrine was vertically unknown, yet it is the central doctrine of the Christian faith.

What Peter exhorted his listeners to do was to believe in the Resurrection of the One they had crucified, this Jesus. His resurrection proved that Jesus is indeed the Christ and forgiveness of sin was available if one changed his mind (repent) and believed this truth. Paul in Romans 10:9-10 says exactly the same thing, that whoever confess with his mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in his heart that God has raised him from the dead, he will be saved. That's it. First the heart belief that God raised him from the dead. This trusting belief will cause the person to declare, "Yes, Jesus Christ is Lord." And God in Heaven declares him righteous from that moment on.

Faith in the truth of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is what saves a person. Knowledge of the Trinity comes afterwards, when he learns that the Holy Spirit is also God, in the lifelong process of sanctification, which means to modify the believer's heart after salvation. The same applies to eternal security. That is realised after one is saved. But one may be taught not to believe in eternal security. The person is still saved.

I sincerely believe that many Arminians are truly saved. Also, a proportion of Roman Catholics, despite what they are taught to believe, had enough faith for God to save them. In fact, the idea that the entire population of France, Italy and the Iberian Peninsula are totally lost without hope because of Catholicism, I find to be ludicrous. Surely, among the multitudes who attend church, there must be hearts who believe that God raised Jesus from the dead and had fully trusted in this truth. Would God really leave such a huge multitude spiritually blind, after giving of his Son to atone for their sin?

Faith here, I'm talking about trusting, not merely intellectual belief. For example, world renowned atheist Richard Dawkins is fully aware of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But he ridicules it as a fancy story, an opiate for people unenlightened by science. Dawkins believes intellectually, but he has no faith, and remains an atheist.

Richard Dawkins

Calvinist writers have no right to pass judgement upon those who don't agree with them. Nor for that matter, Arminian writers passing judgement on Calvinists. God is not a computer. Rather, he accepts anyone who has faith in Jesus Christ as saviour, regardless of background, status, dot or no dot.


  1. Hi Frank,
    I don't believe that anyone can pass judgement on anyone else, God is the Judge. I have met lots of people in lots of denominations, and have heard God speaking to me through what many people have said, regardless of 'denominational doctrine'. I believe we can build one another up and share testimonies, but it is God alone who knows our heart and if I pick up my daily bread and act on what I believe God is saying to me then I believe that is what is required of me regarding my walk with the Lord. The Lord spoke to me through a scripture a long time ago 'No longer will a man teach his neighbour, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest', and I find that I am being taught mostly by the Holy Spirit enlightening what the Lord is saying to me through the scriptures.

  2. Dear Frank,

    Salvation requires believing that Christ is God, the perfect, sinless sacrifice Who died to pay our sin debt (this requirement knocks out all cults that deny His divinity).

    It requires acknowledging that we are sinners deserving hell, and repenting of our sins (this knocks out Satan and his minions who believe the Bible and know who Jesus is, but who feel their sins are justified because of their pride).

    It requires putting our trust in His death, burial and resurrection as the only way to Heaven (this knocks out Buddhists and others who believe in multiple paths to nirvana).

    It requires a personal relationship with Him, recognizing that we are sinners in need of a Savior and making Him Lord of our life (this knocks out those with a "head" knowledge or belief in Who Christ is and what He did, without a heart relationship -- many professing Christians may fall into this category).

    Peter's sermon in Acts 2 was to Jews, as was Jesus' earthly ministry and Peter's ministry after Jesus' resurrection. The sermon seems to me to be a transition between the Gospel of the Kingdom preached by Jesus and the disciples, and the Gospel of Grace preached by Paul through revelation of the resurrected Christ. Peter speaks of Jesus' resurrection, I believe as proof of His divinity and of being the promised Messiah. He speaks of His crucifixion (I believe to make his audience feel personally convicted of killing their Messiah).

    But he doesn't say "you are saved by grace through faith," as Paul would later say, or "whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." He promises the Holy Ghost to those who repent and are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, which sounds more like the Gospel of the Kingdom first preached by John the Baptist (Mark 1:4; Acts 19:4).

    Praise God that He saves by faith in Him, as described in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11. He alone knows the hearts to judge whether that faith is present. Thanks as always for the excellent & thought-provoking post.

  3. Amen, Frank.

    Too many spend their lives trying to prove their position rather than trying to find out what God wants. I Corinthians 11:19 says, "For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you." I Corinthians 3:3 states, "For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?" The very fact they are wasting the time arguing over such matters proves the are not walking in the Spirit. That is the entire point of I Corinthians 11. When we are walking in th eSpirit, wwe will focus on him instead of trying to prove we are right.

  4. This reminds me of when I was a kid walking home from school, and getting into an argument with someone; it usually started, and ended, with the term: 'My dad's bigger than your dad!' I'm sure we all remember that little argument! As a Christian who doesn't particuarly adhere to any denomination, obscure or not, I have just tried to walk with the Lord every day, without worrying about this doctrine or that doctrine. The Holy Spirit is our Guide here. At the same time Frank, your post is as usual excellent and much food for thought. Different denominations saying other denominations are wrong and going to hell hardly sounds like something a loving person would say!