[Amplified from the principles in The Prodigal Paradigm, by Dale Taliaferro]
If the commonly accepted dogmas of theology are correct (and unquestionable), we ought to replace the R.I.P. (Rest in Peace) on the tombstones with H.N.C. (Had no Chance).
You see, it is common in orthodox Christian teaching to suggest, even though it would never be articulated in this way, that every person who comes into the world is born in a coffin, showing no signs of spiritual life. And since we go out of this world in a coffin as well, in essence many go from coffin to coffin without any life or any chance of life.
Even if a person shows some signs of life, none of those signs are approved of by the vanguards and self appointed protectors of the Christian faith. You see the signs of life, that they approve of, must be present at the supposed beginning of faith, and they must also be persevering up to the end of his life on earth when he goes into his final coffin. Since none of these overseers are present with every person during their earthly existence, they simply have no way to be certain that anyone else has trusted in God or in Jesus Christ, His only Son.
The assumption is that all men come into the world in a dead condition. So it is no wonder that those God never raises from the dead, so to speak, never do anything pleasing to God. According to this view of man, we were, we are told, from our first breath alienated from God. We could not respond in any way that would be a positive step in establishing a relationship with God. Dead men are not only inadequate, they are completely incapable of doing anything pleasing to God at all. You can almost hear the head of the hammer slamming in the last nail into the coffin.
But a hammer also has a claw on the other side of its head which is used to pull out nails that were driven in the wrong location or were unneeded in the first place. Those nails must be pulled out of the coffin. As self-evident or widely manifested truths begin to present themselves, the squeal of the extricating nail is heard. And those sounds break through the somber of the dirge being played over the wooden coffin.
The real truth is that this man, who is supposed to be dead, shows all kinds of signs of life. Man has been buried alive theologically.
A dead person is supposed to be incapable of doing anything good relative to his own relationship to God. But the person who is supposedly incapable of doing good on his own behalf before God seems to do much good on behalf of others in the world. So even the staunchest Calvinist has to make the concession that the deadness that characterizes every man coming into the world is only true in one sense: he can’t do anything that is good in helping bridge the gap between himself and God. He can do good, but not anything that helps him in regard to his lifeless situation. Not only can man not help himself at all, he can’t even seek for God in order to solve his spiritual problem.
But when we look around in this marvelous world that God has created and continues to sustain, we see lots of people doing good to their neighbors and most people are even seeking God. If loving our neighbors as ourselves is the second greatest commandment and if it is being fulfilled by these supposedly dead people, could it be that they are not all that dead after all? And if we see lots of evidences of man seeking a relationship to God through lots of different religions as well as lots of different denominations within the Christian religion, could it not be true that these people are seeking God after all? God their Creator and Sustainer . . .
“… determined [all men’s] appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.” (Acts 17:26-27)
And with those two observations alone, we begin to hear the sound of the claw of the hammer leveraging those nails out of man’s coffin.
But being dead, we were taught, is supposed to mean that no one seeks after God. God has to seek after him and actually draw him and give him the faith to believe if he is able to come to God at all. If that weren’t true, the person couldn’t be described as dead, we are told.
But God tells us – you read it for yourself above – that He created every person and put him in the place where he lives in order that he would seek Him (while left to himself, he might only grope for him and only possibly find Him). While man’s “groping” and “finding” may expect only slight success (but still some possibility of it exits even here), yet man’s job to “seek” is an assumed reality. We are left to understand the task man has in terms of the nature the one, true God has. Is He the God of love (1John 4:8, 16) or a sadistic God, giving man a task that has no possibility of success? With God’s own overtures toward each man (John 1:9), all are as likely to find God as any person who actually does. We are going to have to make a choice concerning which set of propositions we are going to believe. If the supposed truths we have been taught are self-evidently false, should we still cling to them?
Being dead in our trespasses and sins is usually defined as being totally depraved. And total depravity is usually defined as total inability to do anything to come to God in any way for any reason. Consequently, the man who has not believed in Jesus is totally unable of himself to hear from God, to understand His overtures, or to respond to Him in faith. Being dead, he is lifeless. Where there is no life, there is no ability. It is as simple as that, or so we are told.
But as we look at the first time spiritual death is ever set before us in God’s divine revelation, we find that none of these suggested propositions is true. We find that all of man’s abilities to communicate with God and to respond to Him, when He communicates to the one fallen in sin, are present. Adam and Eve responded beautifully to God who, rather than being angered and unforgiving over their sin, come looking to restore fellowship with them as soon as possible.
When all is said and done, we find that spiritual death is not synonymous to total depravity nor does it have any relevance except in this life alone. That is what the Scriptures require us to believe. All men are fully capable of being convinced that God, who has already made Himself known to them, has revealed Himself and His will in Jesus Christ for their benefit. This Christ has come to bless them in lots of ways in order to help them navigate this life successfully and to experience communion with the God that they would like to know even better. So take the nails out of the coffin, and let the man get out and be the person God created him to be!
Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email