After lots of recent theological conversations with my sister trying to define what it is that we believe, and one really fun car ride with my mom this morning, I think I can finally tell you what it is that I believe.
I believe that God is good. All the time. Even in his judgements. I believe that he has plans to prosper me not to harm me. I believe that He works all things together for my good. I believe that He is true to His word. I have faith that in the end He wins, and I don't need to be able to understand or explain everything in human terms. I believe that He is eternal and sovereign. I believe that though a thousand years are like a day to Him, He still cares about the sparrow and the lily in a single moment of time that is like vapor in the grand scheme of things. Though He is vast beyond measure, He is intimately involved in the tiniest of details. I believe that He sent His son Jesus as a sacrifice to cover all my failings and adopt me as His daughter. And that single fact reduces me to tears even as I type it. I am unendingly grateful that He would come for me in all my imperfection.
For some people, that would be enough. If I told them that was what I believed of God they would not ask for more. But to some, that doesn't answer the harder questions. For example: Freewill vs. Predestination. Limited atonement vs. Universal Atonement. Being able to lose your salvation vs. Once Saved always saved. You know, things like that. ;)
I'm not going to take the time to explain the train of thought behind each of these views, but if you're not sure what each is or where they take their argument from Scripture feel free to look into them for yourself. This is how I have come to see things (at least at this point in my life... but it's a continual growing process and I am open to where the Lord leads me in the future).
If I put a coin in your hand, can you see both sides at once? No.... But does it mean that there aren't two sides to it just because you can't see them both at the same time? No. Does it mean that just because you choose to look at one side more often than the other, that side makes up more of the substance of the coin? No. (Hang with me.... I'm getting there....)
This is where it gets a little tricky.... I believe in freewill and predestination. (Just for slight clarification, basically freewill is that we choose God when we get saved, predestination is that God chose us when we got saved.) They seem opposite, right? But I think they are two sides of the same coin. Imagine that on one side of the coin it says "In this moment" and on the other side of the coin it says "Eternity." I think that theologies seem to be contradictory because one of them is viewing things from the perspective of time on a timeline and this moment right here and now, and one of them is viewing things from the perspective of eternity. Both are real things, but in our finite human mind it is incredibly difficult (maybe even impossible) to consider both at the same time when trying to explain God.
One of my favorite verses, Ecclesiastes 3:11 says "He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart, yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end."
Notice, it did not say that God has set eternity in the human mind. I think that's interesting :)
Ok but seriously, maybe this isn't making sense to you. Let me give you a real life scenario to show you how you could look at one situation from two different perspectives. Here's another theological issue you might have a hard time with: Does God cause bad things to happen in people's lives, or does Satan? If you believe the former, you probably think along this line of thought: In the beginning, God created everything, including Lucifer, the angel who fell and became Satan. Because God is all-knowing, He knew that this would happen when He created the angels, and He didn't stop it. Because nothing can happen without God's permission, even if it is Satan that causes the bad thing to happen in your life, God must have given his permission, so ultimately he allowed it, so it was from Him. BUT! If you believe the latter, you probably think much less about the grand scheme of things and think more about the actual moment you are living in. You probably think that although God knew Lucifer was going to fall, that's in the past, and what happens now is either Satan's doing (bad) or God's doing (good). You probably quote many scriptures that were part of Jesus' teaching when He walked the earth. John 10:10 "The thief (Satan) comes only to steal, kill, and destroy, but I (Jesus) came that they may have life, and have it to the full." Or maybe Matthew 7:9-11 is a favorite. "Which of you, if your son asks for bread will give him a stone? Or if he asks for fish will give him a snake? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" Or how about what Jesus' brother James says in James 1:17. "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." You probably believe that Satan causes bad things, and God redeems and works them for good in your life (Romans 8:28)
So here's the real life scenario: You've just been diagnosed with a serious illness. Who do assume it came from? God, or Satan? If you believe it came from God, is your reaction to be angry with Him, or to trust Him? If you believe it came from Satan, what is your reaction?
If you believe it came from God you are looking at things on the scale of eternity, that He knew it would happen before time was set in motion, and maybe that regardless of what you do the outcome is in His hands. If you believe it came from Satan, you are looking at things on the scale of the moment. That the evil thing happening to you is coming directly from Satan at that moment, and maybe that you need to fight. You see the battle happening at that very moment, you maybe don't think about the fact that God already sees the outcome of the battle. Both ways of looking at that situation are legitimate. But which one will increase your faith more? Which one will cause you to press into Jesus more? I think that only you can answer that question.
So here's what I propose. God actually gives us permission, through Scripture, to look at things on the scale of eternity, or on the scale of the moment. We have to decide which way causes us to draw closer to Him, which way increases our faith, which way causes us to love our neighbor more, be a more intentional witness for Christ, which way causes us to spend more time with Him, or which way causes us to trust Him more. If you tend to think very in the moment, this is probably making a lot of sense to you. If you tend to think more along the lines of eternity, you're probably thinking "God already knew she'd write this post today and already knows which way I'm going to choose to think.... So really it's Him choosing, not me..." ;)
I would venture as far as to say that all Biblical theological stances that seem to be at odds with each other are actually just looking at the same thing but through either the lens of eternity or the lens of right here and now (the moment). And as I said earlier, it's pretty near impossible to look through both lenses at the same time. Hence the two sides to the same coin. And we've come full circle. :)
Eternity vs. the moment. I'd love to hear what you have to say, as I find all of this extremely fascinating. :)