2017 Fall Issue 4
A Soteriological Proposition
by: Sam Chee
A Soteriological Proposition
Up, sword; and know thou a more horrid hent:
When he is […] about some act
That has no relish of salvation in't;
Then trip him, that his heels may kick at heaven,
And that his soul may be as damn'd and black
As hell, whereto it goes.
– Hamlet (3.3 89-96)
“I know that what has been done is wrong […] At least I'm certain that all have gone to heaven now. If things had gone on who knows if this would be the case.”
– John List, letter to his pastor after murdering his family
A man postpones a murder, while another shoots his family dead. The former is fiction; the latter is fact, but in both, life and death is predicated on a twisted understanding of salvation. My attempts to make sense of soteriology is part of what brought me to my first year here at Regent College.
Over the last few years, I’ve felt been stuck in what feels like an impasse with God. The reasons for this feud would be another topic. Suffice to say, while I acknowledge the Word of God, I don’t embrace it. Key among the things that I don’t reciprocate is His agape, so it stands to reason that if I don’t relinquish my recalcitrance before death, I consign myself to hell.
This wasn’t always the case. When I was a child, I was confined to living out Matthew 18:3, and it seems I would have been fitter for God’s kingdom then. But in God’s providence, I did not die young, so I now find myself (nominally) an adult, with the prospects of salvation decidedly reduced. Pessimistically, I co-opted Calvinism’s views on unconditional election and limited atonement, resigned that I lost out on the election lottery, and that I’d be better off coming to terms with my impending damnation.
I still believe that if I die today, I’d be segregated outside of God’s kingdom, but in the last month, I’ve relinquished my unconditional election views for a model that permits more uncertainty to against my pessimism. For this, I’ve adapted Schrödinger's famous thought experiment to make sense of things.
For those unfamiliar, Schrödinger's Cat is a thought experiment critiquing what was seen as a problem in quantum mechanics. Picture this: a cat is sealed in a steel box with a Geiger counter. The Geiger counter is linked to a hammer ominously placed over a sealed flask of toxic gas. A small amount of radioactive matter is placed near the Geiger counter, with a timespan of one hour in which there is an equal chance that the material might, or might not decay. If the Geiger counter detects radiation, it trips the hammer, breaking the flask, and poisoning the cat. Until the steel box is lifted however, there is no way to tell if the cat is dead or alive, thus allowing the cat to be paradoxically dead and alive.
Here, I’d like to modify the thought experiment so that it becomes theological: A human is sealed in a world with a righteousness counter. The righteousness counter is linked to judgment. In my scenario, there are two divergences:
1. There is no radioactive substance equivalent. Judgment is determined by whether the human accepts or rejects Christ.
2. The timespan of the experiment is indeterminate, but not indefinite.
Like it’s cat counterpart, there is no way to determine if the human is saved or damned until the “seal” is lifted, thus allowing the human to be simultaneously saved and damned. One distinction for hope is that unlike Schrödinger's Cat, where the passage of time increases the probability of decay (and thus death), the passage of time does not entail an increasing likelihood towards damnation. Given that the human presumably has choice, it’s possible to oscillate between states of salvation/damnation. But when the human is unsealed from the world and dies, it needs to be judged in one state or the other.
One thing that has haunted me in The Chronicles of Narnia is the fate of Susan. Spoiler alerts: In the final book, it’s revealed that while her siblings held the world of Narnia and Aslan dear to their hearts, Susan ultimately became “too keen on being grown-up,” dismissing the reality of Narnia outright. Her siblings were effectively revealed in a final state of salvation, but hers remains uncertain.
The intent behind Schrödinger's Cat was to highlight the ridiculousness of being simultaneously dead and alive, but in quantum mechanics, it happens to be the case where binary states of being do in fact occur simultaneously. While we are on earth, we are both living and dying to ourselves, though in our hope in Christ, we strive for the latter. Stuck, as it might be analogized, in a “superposition” of salvation/damnation, my hope then is that when God finally measures me outside the trappings of this world seal, I should be found in a state that is to His pleasing.
A Challenge from:
by: Bailey Carrick
First off, thank you Amy Anderson for so powerfully speaking God’s words to us in chapel last week.
Over the years, God has convicted me that I do not trust that he provides enough, and that what I have is far more than my share. This past week I preached on Proverbs 27:23-28 about poverty and wealth. I have often heard the opinion that the Bible teaches that wealth is neither good nor evil, it is what we do with our wealth that matters. But this interpretation doesn’t sit well with me.
I spent two weeks with a host family in a shantytown in Nicaragua. It was a drought, and water was only delivered to people once a day—if you lived in town. When we got thirsty, the kids and I went in out of the sun to watch television. One of them put in a DVD he scavenged from someone’s trash. Images flickered on the screen: seductive close-ups of various womens’ body parts, money falling through the sky, a man snapping his fingers and having everything he wanted appear at his fingertips. I sat there, horrified in a dingy construction made of cardboard and wood scraps. Not a single thing in the world on the screen was recognizable in the world around me. I was repulsed deep inside; that world on the screen was my world—the world that glorifies wealth and power. Sickeningly, I realized I wanted that world on the screen. And it was placed in sharp relief against the world of people fighting to live in a society that appraises them as less than trash. Literally. More money was invested in the landfill than in the people living in it. I’ve since watched those same music videos in my safe North American context, and it nauseates me that they blend right in. And more still to realize that it is because of our appetite for the world in those videos that those kids are living in the conditions they are. But someone has to pay for our life, and in our globalized economy it is too easy to hide the dirt.
“A rich man is wise in his own eyes, but a poor man with understanding will find him out”
It’s easy to get comfortable in our wealthy North American context. Most of us have many assets that give us power and sway in society: academic degrees, North American passports, friends with connections, job experience. As a poor student, I thought for a long time I wasn’t wealthy, but God held up the mirror, showing me in no uncertain terms that I was a full participator in our consumer-crazed society. Let’s hold up the mirror to ourselves and our churches here in Vancouver.
In Vancouver, we have a major housing crisis, leaving many people in vulnerable places. Those who are wealthy excel at keeping up appearances: a home and money to spare provide a good cover for the very same struggles.
Everyone, poor or rich, is lonely, and many of us have addictions and mental illness, but poverty lays our struggles bare, while wealth conceals them. If I have money to spare after paying for my addiction, I can use it on things to keep up appearances, and maintain my place of power in society. This is a delusion. If we look down on others because their struggles are visible, we oppress them and reinforce a vicious cycle. It’s hard to move out of a difficult place when the only thing people see when they look at you is a mental illness or an addiction. Instead of pretending we’re fine, what would it look like for us to admit that too often we are consumers who would rather fit into our churches’ polite society than sell all that we have and give to the poor? What if Jesus doesn’t condemn schizophrenia and prostitution and addiction, but privilege and self-righteousness?
One night, I woke up to hear my host father gasping desperately for breath. I thought he would die. I got up and went over to him; my host mother was beside him, praying urgently for God to give him breath. Instinctively, I asked, “Can I call an ambulance?” My host mother looked at me, “The ambulance does not come here.” Since she didn’t have the place in society to get medical care; prayer was her only response. No one else was going to help. But Proverbs says depend on God, not wealth. Our society is greed driven: We treat everything and everyone as a product to be consumed. We assign value based on personal profit: “To show partiality is not good, but for a piece of bread a man will do wrong.” But in God’s economy, nothing is a product, everything is his deeply loved creature. And if we don’t take care of each other, he will.
“Whoever multiplies his wealth by interest and profit gathers it for him who is generous to the poor.” In the end, if we amass up wealth, God will redistribute it to the poor. God is for the poor, the weak, the vulnerable, and I cannot shake that conviction.
God, convict us of our sins of consumerism! Show us what it means to choose the lives of your creatures over our own profit! Teach us that you are enough!
Poet of the Week: Anne Michaels
Curated by Blythe Kingcroft
Every week or so, The Et Cetera will give you an offering of poetry. These poems might come from one of Regent’s very own creative prophets or someone outside our walls. Today, you get a poem about a dinner party by Toronto’s Poet Laureate, Anne Michaels.
Michaels is most captivated by themes of place and memory. She observes these themes by paying cautious attention to her speakers’ physical surroundings, weaving sharp sentimentality into her concentrated writing. In this poem, she lends attention to a leftover dinner ingredient, charging this herb with a subtle but present pull. Here, mint apprehends, then sinks low. This week as you dine and commune may you eat well, and may there be “more glasses than guests” at the end of your meal.
By Anne Michaels
Fresh mint slinks towards us through the dark kitchen,
crowds the table,
loud with its own good suggestions.
Persuasive as an extra electron, it changes
conversations, reminds us of
The way there’s always
more glasses than guests at the end of a meal.
It binds us in its loose weave,
thread of moonlight in water.
Soon we don’t notice
the wild smell,
being so filled with it.
Maintain a GPA
- ‘Good Perspective, Ay’
by: Claire Perini
Wherever you’re at in your Regent education, I would guess that at some point, you may have said one of these comments to yourself:
“What on earth am I doing here?”
“This is all too hard … I am going home for Christmas and never coming back!”
“If I have to tell my story one more time …”
“I just want to be around people who have known me longer than 3 months.”
“I feel like I am learning so much that I am not learning anything.”
“I miss feeling like I’m good or competent at something.”
“This is costing me a lot of money!”
“Nobody really knows me. People don’t ‘get’ me, and I just feel lonely.”
“Why couldn’t the Bible have just been written in English (or whatever your first language is) the first time?”
If any of these statements resonate with you, I want to assure you that it is totally normal. You are totally normal, and are joining those who have gone before you and most who sit beside you. With this in mind, I want to offer you some tips on how to maintain a GPA – ‘Good Perspective Ay’:
1. God is still God, Jesus is still redeeming everything and the Holy Spirit is still present … regardless of how well you do at Regent.
2. Remember Whose you are ... the sum total of who you are, your worth and your intelligence are not found in your ability to understand what on earth Foster was talking about in his thesis, or the difference between JEPD sources or how many Hebrew vowels you can memorise.
3. Remember why you felt God brought you here in the first place … especially when you’re questioning whether or not coming to grad school was a good idea!
4. You are not as dumb as you feel. Others are not as smart as you think … nothing more to say on that.
5. Be patient and gracious with yourself and with others … for some of us, it is possible that in the last 6 months you have: changed jobs, changed churches, changed friends, had to develop new ways of connecting with old friends, moved house, moved city or moved country. These are big changes so show yourself and others patience and grace.
6. Stay human …
Take a Sabbath.
Rest. There is nothing wrong with what I like to call an ‘LLD’ (a little lie down).
Eat properly, exercise.
Stress breeds stress … try speak normally to one another so that our stress doesn’t infect each other.
Go and do something with someone who is not at Regent.
7. Get the broad brushstrokes …
You can’t know everything straight away. Actually, you can’t know everything about everything anyway!
Carry two baskets – things to think about now, things to think about later. You have the rest of your life to figure out the details. The Holy Spirit will remind you of what you need to be reminded of at the right time.
8. There is the ideal and the real … ditch perfectionism, do your best.
Don’t try and move a pile of rocks all in one go – just move one rock at a time. Ask yourself, what can I do in the next hour?
Know when enough is enough.
9. This too will pass … the angst of deadlines and papers and exams is not forever. Somehow you will get through it and will all get done somehow. It always does. God is more gracious than we think in helping us get through crazy times.
10. It’s not what you know but Who you know … keep asking God what he wants to teach you about Himself and yourself. It may be different to what you are expecting.
Regent is great … but the God who Regent serves is greater. Maintain a GPA.
Dear St. Clement,
Every year when November comes around I get really embarrassed. As ‘no shave november’ gets going I feel pretty inadequate with my puny, wiry, and few hairs that protrude from my chin next to all these great beards. Do you have any advice on how to retain some self-esteem with my babyface? Thanks
Follically Challenged in Fairview
Dear Follically Challenged,
God wished women to be smooth, and rejoice in their locks alone growing spontaneously, as a horse in his mane; but has adorned man, like the lions, with a beard, and endowed him, as an attribute of manhood, with a shaggy chest – a sign of strength and rule.