Without A Belief In The Bible’s Inspiration…
- Why would I read, meditate upon, or study it daily (or at all) to guide my life?
- What will be the paradigm for directing and shaping my life?
- From where will I draw my understanding of Who Jesus is, what He did, and how I must relate to Him?
- How do I form my understanding of where I came from, why I am here, or where I am going?
- Why would I trust or follow what it says to do in even a single case, circumstance, or verse?
- What logical, ultimate constraint do I have from any behavior or act I desire to do, no matter how aberrant or outlandish society finds it?
- How do we evaluate the content of any word, attitude, or action for rightness or wrongness?
- On what basis would I accept absolutes, which I must (even if I absolutely deny the existence of absolute truth)?
- Who or what will be my standard of authority?
One of the most famous movie scenes of all time depicts Dr. Richard Kimble, played by Harrison Ford, desperately running, orange prison jump suit, shackles, and all, as a derailed train caroms out of control, rapidly gaining on him, and threatening his life. The videography is spectacular, cutting quite an imposing figure. A multi-ton mass of metal off the rail and out of control promises nothing but damage and destruction. As long as the train is on the track, its weight and speed do not pose a threat. If it is not, the prospects are frightening.
The premise that the Bible is the Word of God from the mind of God through men provides an answer to all the above, weighty questions. If one refuses to accept the Bible is what it claims to be (1 Cor. 2:11-12; Gal. 1:6-9; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:20-21; Jude 3; etc.), then of necessity he or she must choose an alternate guide for life. It is fair to evaluate that alternative with equal criticism and scrutiny. Wisdom would seem to suggest choosing what best explains the whole picture–our complex design, moral compass, appreciation for beauty, universe’s order, and more. What we are talking about are the very biggest issues of life! They deserve our deepest thought and wisest choice.
Whether we are preaching, teaching, or simply trying to engage in spiritual self-improvement in personal study, our approach to Scripture, to be profitable, should have three basic components for maximum effectiveness. When we are studying a Bible book and engaging in proper interpretation, we will discover a precept. A “precept” is simply a rule meant to regulate how to live and behave. The very word appears 19 times in Psalm 119 alone. God’s Word is full of precepts, God showing us how He wants us to live. When our attitude is to see the Bible as God guiding us through earthly life toward a heavenly home with Him, our time in study will be so profitable. Such an approach will also help us open our mind to see the heart of God. Thus, from precepts flow principles. These are the inspired truths of God that form the foundation for how we view the world and how we live in it. The more we are in that word, the more influenced we are going to be by God’s precepts in determining our principles. We will look to see how His word applies in our lives. If all is as it should be, these principles find their way into our practice. He tells us, we accept and understand it, and then we do it. How profoundly simple! The Bible is not an archaic volume best meant as a shelf’s dust collection. It is a living, breathing book (Heb. 4:12). It is an exegetical, explanatory, exercise manual. We grow thereby (cf. 1 Pet. 2:2).
Universalism is the idea that all are saved or that one is saved without his meeting any conditions whatever. Merriam-Webster defines it as “a theological doctrine that all human beings will eventually be saved” (www.merriam-webster.com). What are the true , ultimate implications of this increasingly popular idea? Is it not that impenitent mass-murderers, political despots (like Hitler, Hussein, and Khadafi), rapists and molesters, and the like will eventually be saved? We are repulsed at the very idea!
However, how does one get to universalism in the first place? May I suggest that it is incrementally, bit by bit. It is also the case that some will not go as far as the illustrations above, but they will be willing to say that people will be saved who have not fully followed the Lord’s teaching. We are not talking about following Scripture perfectly every time and in every regard. That is the extreme, false idea of “perfectionism.” Instead, we are talking about omitting conditions for salvation and/or conditions for the saved.
It might be easier to answer “why,” possibly, people want to widen the circle of supposed divine acceptance of people. One reason could be that we tend to believe in “meritorious works.” By this I mean the idea that if people are basically good, moral people (and this is often subjectively determined), then they will be saved based on their goodness. But this denies the atoning work of Christ at the cross and shifts the power from His sacrifice to our goodness. Paul says, “There is none righteous, not even one” (Rom. 3:10). There are acts of obedience required of us to receive the benefits of God’s grace, but there are no substitute or partial plans. Another reason might be the climate of “political correctness” that pervades our culture’s thinking. We find it distasteful to exercise judgment or evaluate the content of another’s behavior (cf. John 7:24?). We do not want to hurt anyone’s feelings or be seen as condemning another. Nobody likes to be the “bad guy.”
Most people do not begin by saying absolutely “all” will be saved. Before that, they will say that all sincere, devout believers in Christ will be saved (but, Mat. 7:21-23). They might say that generally good people will be saved (but, Isa. 64:6). They might say that sincere people in all religions will be saved (but, Ac. 4:12; Jn. 14:6). But to say this, “they” must try to take the place of Christ as the one having all authority in heaven and on earth (Mat. 28:18). No, the road to universalism ends at an eternally frightening destination. Let us remain on Christ’s way, the narrow way (Mat. 7:13-14). As the song suggests, “There Is Just One Way To The Pearly Gates.”