Monday 22 April 2013

What is the default - salvation or damnation?


There must be a default.

Is damnation something that happens unless we actively embrace salvation?

Or is salvation something given us unless we actively reject it?


To 'win', does Satan have to make people actively anti-Good, Good-rejecters; or is it sufficient to make them not-pro-Good, simply to neglect Good?


And what difference did Christ make to this - did Christ, by his work, change the default?



vanderleun said...

"To 'win', does Satan have to make people actively anti-Good, Good-rejecters; or is it sufficient to make them not-pro-Good, simply to neglect Good?"

You're getting warm. Remove one of the o's from "Good" and you'll pretty much have it.

Bruce Charlton said...

@v - Of course - but which set-up?

Boethius said...

I'm going to speculate

I increasingly think that Satan/Evil works by making man forget or reject the possibility of meaning,order and union between man,the universe,and God,for example loss of traditions,loss respect for his ancestors,loss of identity,loss of particularity and alienation in his own land.

Evil is reality pulling apart without possibility of recovering it's former existence.

I was inspired by physics see this:

I guess the default is the tendency
of reality to pull itself apart.

Christ,a jew of noble descent(particularity) was God's intervention and light that makes clear that only through him man can stop and perhaps reverse this natural tendency.

Wm Jas said...

Jesus didn't make it very clear what the default was. He said both "He that is not with me is against me" (Matt. 12:30) and "he that is not against us is on our part" (Mark 9:40). Luke agrees with Mark. John has nothing to say on the matter.

Bruce Charlton said...

@WmJas - "Jesus didn't make it very clear what the default was."

In a sense, that is obviously correct - it never was made explicit.

But the decision must be made nonetheless.

And if the Gospel is to be regarded as Good News, which is clearly how it struck the Apostles at the time, then the decision must (I think) be made that the default is NOW salvation, and that the work of Christ changed the default (and did this restrospectively, too).

This is not, however, as cheerful as it sounds - since there are so many people nowadays who would (apparently) reject Christian salvation even if they knew for sure that it was true: they do not WANT it to be true, because the truth of salvation would place them under some *constraint*, liberation-from-which they demand at any price.

Cink said...

He wins when a person chooses to be separate from God. When we choose not to serve.

When Adam chose to disobey, he separated all mankind from God. The default became damnation.
No matter what we do without God, the results in the end are North Korea or Detroit.

I believe the only point in life is to remake this choice by Adam.

Creating, helping others, living a pure life are things loved by God, but loved like a parent loves his child's artwork. Living as a witness helps others see the light, but does not create the light. A saint is not a substitute for God, but one who surrendered his life to God's will. An example of which way to choose.

Judge one by what he does. Satan lies and deceives. He distorts and hides the truth, that we were made to be with God. Look at the first test he threw down, mankind can live without God. Adam made the wrong choice and sorrow followed.

We can choose to stay on Adam's path, or to go another way. Satan's mission is to prep the battlefield, to create shame, greed or anything that will influence us when our time ( or times ) to choose is upon us.

Gerry T. Neal said...

I agree that there must be a default. What complicates matters is that the default is not the same for man in his various estates. The default for man in his created estate, must be salvation if salvation is an appropriate term for blessedness prior to sin, damnation, and the need for salvation. The default for man in his fallen estate is damnation. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, however, has, as you have suggested, changed the default. Since Christ died for the world, completing the work of salvation for the world, the default position is now salvation, bearing in mind, of course, that this is the default for man in Christ.

Bruce Charlton said...

As so often CS Lewis is good on this topic - e.g. in The Screwtape Letters we can see how, on the one hand, it is quite 'easy' for the demons to deter someone from Christianity or seduce a Christian away from his faith; but equally it is easy for someone to see, in a flash, the error of his ways and be snatched from Satan at the very last moment (as happens in the wonderful bittersweet ending of Screwtape).

Peter said...

What is the Gospel? What is the good news? It seems that the message has two parts. "Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Repent of the sin that cost us the tree of life in order to gain life once more. We cannot understand Christ without taking Adam into account. But is the sin that we repent of the inherited sin of Adam or our own unique sin?

I think both - in this sense: men sin in the same way they eat. Every meal, every bite, every taste, is a choice. Yet, it is in the nature of men to seek out food. (So we must replace our bread and water with the waters of life and the bread of life).

Of course, at the same time, life is offered to all. So, in this sense, salvation is now primary. But then what does it mean repent and be saved? Does it mean that we repent from a state of salvation in order to receive salvation? What does repentance mean after the coming of Christ?

I think it becomes understandable when we realize that Christ is the tree of life. Before sin, we naturally have the possibility of eating from this tree. When we sin, life is taken away; we become dead. The gospel, the good news, is to repent of these sins and to be graced once more with life. Christ is an aid to this end, whereas the keeping of the law was an attempt through human effort. The eating of the tree was the first breaking of the law; Christ an acknowledgement that we cannot succeed without God's help.

The Continental Op said...

The road to hell is a lot wider and easier than the road to heaven, says Jesus. Since it doesn't take much to get to hell--just do nothing, just sit back, relax, and float downstream--that must be the default.

Bruce Charlton said...

@CoOp - OK, but what, then, is the Good News? - what difference did Christ make?

The Crow said...

Why must there be a default?
The cosmos runs on cause and effect.
In human terms, what human does, causes results human gets.
Human find enlightenment in life, human get eternal life. Human not find enlightenment in life, human unaware of anything, in life, and in death. Unawareness = death.

What difference did Christ make?
But his converts did, after the fact.

Adam G. said...

Perhaps you could explain the necessity of there being a default? I don't understand it.

If you say to someone 'do thus and so, and this is the consequence you will recieve, or do thus and such, and this is the consequence you will receive,' there is no need for a default as long as the alternatives are exhaustive.

Bruce Charlton said...

@AG - Humans cannot reason on the basis of neutrality - therefore we always perceive binary choices in terms of a default. Whatever we may say about things, that is what we always end up doing.

MC said...

It seems to me that the default state of all things is entropy, and I view "damnation" as a sort of entropy wherein we fail to attain the higher state of being (however you imagine it) that Christ's Atonement miraculously makes available to us (which would be impossible to attain by our own efforts).

Dystopia Max said...

There is no "default."

The Sweet Desire for higher things will be fulfilled, by either finding the Son or frantically searching among and repeating human pleasures which one knows, dimly or explicitly, will not satisfy.

Bruce Charlton said...

@DM - Whatever you say, people will, over time, behave as if there *is* a default. It is hard wired. So we might as well make it explicit, one way or the other - we have to make a choice.

Cink said...

- what difference did Christ make?

When Adam made his choice it was not to see Good and Evil, but to decide what was Good or Evil. This is beyond our abilities.

An example, Gosnell cutting a spinal cord 6 inches either way makes the difference between a women's choice and his being charged with murder.

Sin is not the breaking of this or that rule. It is something that separates you from God. Separation from God is by default damnation.

Jesus was the new Adam. Christ will spiritually enter your 'heart' and be there to guide and aid you in making these choices. The 'Curse of Adam' remains, the deciding what is Good and Evil. The difference Christ makes is we are no longer alone to make the decision.

Cink said...

Related to the topic:

A way to show God's view is Jesus's using sheep and the shepherd to describe the relationship between God and man.

Sheep are pretty dumb. They have to be shown where to eat, cannot defend themselves and need to be rescued from the slightest ditch.

The shepherd knows this, and yet stays with them and will save every one of them that he can.

He knows it is up to us to choose, but we are dumb sheep. What is a shepherd to do?

He is patient. He lets us live out and see our mistakes. He sends his son as an example. He inspires some of us, to rise up, to show what we could be.

And, my favorite, to paraphrase C.S. Lewis "A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful ... There are traps everywhere... God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous."

Adam G. said...

If humans are little first causes, which a strong theory of human agency requires, then their most fundamental choices can't have a default. That's just part of what being a first cause is. Salvation or damnation is the most fundamental choice.

You're probably right that mortal psychology likes to think of things in terms of defaults, but mortal psychology isn't always right.

Anonymous said...

MC writes, "... I view "damnation" as a sort of entropy wherein we fail to attain the higher state of being (however you imagine it)..."

I agree. I think to "do nothing" would have the same effect on your spiritual welfare -- and therefore on your eternal salvation -- as it has on your temporal welfare. People who do nothing temporally -- don't strive against their cravings and lusts, for example, or discipline themselves to get out of bed and work every day -- end up in the gutter or worse.

Ryan said...

The natural default is hell.

The supernatural element is what makes this such a tough question to answer, because grace is a tricky thing to explain in those terms, and it demands a free will's cooperation. Does a free will have any default choice? If so, I think it's toward the Good. The will always inclines toward what the intellect presents to it as good, but human ignorance in the intellect often inhibits its choices, forcing it into uncertain choices based on faith.

Ultimately, I'd say God gives everyone the grace he needs to attain salvation; hence, the default is heaven unless our wills refuse to cooperate.

Bruce Charlton said...

As I said before, if we don't make these matters simple, they will be simplified for us - usually by enemies!

So my simple view is that the atoning sacrifice of Christ made salvation our default; conditional 'only' upon our accepting it.

So I believe we are born to salvation.

But that 'only' is complicated, especially by the deceits and accumulations of purposive evil in the world (fallen angels and their human allies), but also by the fact that we are free agents who can choose evil, and we come into this world with dispositions: better or worse.

Thus we are born to salvation, we do not have to work for it just say yes, open the door; but it seems that many spurn salvation, sooner or later.


(This leaves aside what happens after salvation - and that there are levels or gradations of Heavenly life - as well as differences between pre-resurrection and post-resurrection post-mortal life.)

Proph said...

Part of the problem here is equivocation over what is meant by "damnation," and more generally, "Hell." Hell in the loose sense is simply separation from God. This really is the natural condition of man, in the sense that no amount of human virtue can merit eternal union with God -- this is a grace that must always and everywhere be freely given, even to the Blessed Virgin. On the other hand, Hell in the strict sense (what we normally mean by damnation) is eternal separation from God + eternal torment and is a specific punishment for impenitence.

So, in the loose sense, Hell is the natural destiny of man. In the strict sense, Hell is not the natural destiny of man. In neither sense is Heaven the natural destiny of man.

Bruce Charlton said...

@gary - But what about Love? That is primary. Christianity ought NOT to be presented as a legalistic contract, it is about a Father's love for His children.

Gary said...

Is Salvation a transaction?

An evangelical Christian recently said to me, "When a sinner turns from sin to the Savior...A transaction is made and a soul is saved."

This statement is the crux of the problem with Baptist/evangelical theology: God DOES NOT conduct transactions with sinners!

God saves sinners, and he does so WITHOUT their assistance or even their cooperation. Salvation is not a is a FREE gift. Gifts do not involve "transactions".

It is interesting to note this point: In Baptist and evangelical theology the sinner has a free will BEFORE he is saved, but loses his free will, the ability to choose or to reject God, after the "transaction" of salvation with God has been completed.

In Lutheran theology, the sinner lacks ANY free will in spiritual matters prior to salvation. The reason that the sinner lacks a free will to make spiritual decisions (such as "accepting Jesus into his heart") is because the sinner is spiritually dead. However, once God saves him, quickens (makes alive) his spiritually dead soul, he then has the ability to make spiritual free-will decisions: to follow Christ, or to turn back to his former life of sin and darkness.

Which theology is most consistent with Scripture and the historic teachings of the Christian Church?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Gary - What you say doesn't square with my understanding of the Bible - I see example after example of people depicted as having free will, making choices for themselves - whether before or after conversion.