Tuesday, October 10, 2006

So, Was That A Sign?

When I stay up too late, I get sucked into useless activities. So, I was going through YouTube videos and I saw something from Westboro Baptist Church. They are the folks who hold up signs at funerals saying people are going to hell. (I was going to link to a photo, but that'd probably be overkill.)

So, I watched the video that I presume came from these people, and they have this girl who's smiling and matter-of-factly talking about how "you're going to hell" while playing a slide show of people holding similar signs with big smiles on their faces. All the while she's describing the whole thing with a smile on her face and a smile in her voice.

I'm a 5-point Calvinist, and this kid is quoting Romans 9 to me, and I'm thinking, "yeah, that's true" (in part). But another part of me is thinking, "have you read the book of life? How do you know your name is written therein?" I believe this business about God choosing who he'll be merciful to, and who he'll give grace to. I believe there's only two things people encounter after death: mercy or justice. There's mercy in Christ and there's justice for everyone else.

I believe in asymmetrical, double-predestination, which means God has a good idea to whom he'll offer the Effectual Call of the gospel in the context of my or someone else's preaching of the Universal Call of the gospel. I also believe God hasn't told me everything he knows. I suspect that God hasn't told the girl from Westboro Baptist Church everything he knows, too.

We live in a world that's "virtually arminian" in that God never tells us the details of his decrees, how his predestination works out. From our perspective, contingency is undeniable, because from our perspective God keeps some secrets.

One of those secrets is that book of life the Bible talks about. It talks about the judgement and the books being opened then. They aren't open now. I don't know whether God has numbered the folks at Westboro Baptist Church among elect; I don't know whether he hasn't, either.

It's incredibly arrogant to tell folks they're going to hell, because we just never know absolutely. There's grace. With grace you get mercy and you get heaven. Without grace you get justice and you get what you deserve. Who gives grace or not? It isn't the girl from Westboro Baptist Church, but God.

We can know with some degree of likelihood whether someone is in a state of grace or not. If I don't fool myself about the state of my heart, I can believe and my faith is counted to me for righteousness. That's faith alone: Romans 5. But I don't know what's in the heart of that girl from Westboro Baptist Church. I don't know if she really believes what she's saying or whether she's just faking it, gaming her family like teenagers are wont. Or maybe loving God not one wit, but only loving her self enough to dream up some rationalization that'll make her think she'll escape hell. I don't know. Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart. It's between her and God.

Jesus had something to say on the subject. He was asked what's the bottom line of God's law: the one-sentence summary of the OT perpetually binding moral obligations on all mankind. He said the first commandment is to love God and to love mankind. How can you love God that you have not seen, but hate his image-bearers (humanity) that you do see?

The book of James talks about how the devils know that God exists and that Jesus is God's son. But they are not loyal to him and they don't obey him. James is a practical book and its intended to give humans practical advice. He says that a man is justified, and I think he means here justified before other men, by his faith and his works. You can fake what's in your heart, but if I look at your life and your good works, I can infer whether your faith is just lipservice or not. Good works means law keeping and law keeping include that pesky love stuff Jesus was talking about.

They say that Christians can only be fruit inspectors: does a person's life bear fruit of good works or not? Based on that we stand or fall in each other's opinion. The only opinion that counts is God's and that depends upon the state of your heart.

So, what got me on this riff was right after the girl from Westboro Baptist Church got done saying for the zillionth time, "You're going to hell..."


The timing was absolutely perfect. It was spooky, like one of those moments when you wonder if the Rapture just happened. There I sat in the dark with my laptop running on batteries glowing in the dark and I see that kid smiling and saying I'm going to hell.

So, was that a sign? Am I going to hell? I like to tell folks my favorite Amish aphorism is, "If you want to know if I'm a Christian, ask my neighbor."