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Author Topic: Is Salvation a "Free" gift?  (Read 2185 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: January 12, 2011, 11:32:03 PM »

I have been trying to understand the differences and meanings of the Greek words for gift- Dorea, and Charisma, in the context of our salvation being a "free gift".

I understand that we can never earn, or truly deserve salvation, but my understanding of the process, as an Orthodox Christian, is that we do have to work towards our salvation (as co-workers), and that God provides us with His Grace in our efforts.

The idea that salvation is a "free gift" does not make sense to me.  If it were really free, then we would not have to do anything for it, i.e., repent, get baptized, take the sacraments, give alms, participate in the life of the Church, etc. 

Is the idea of a "free gift" a Protestant concept?  How should we, as Orthodox Christians, understand the parts of the Bible where the term gift is used, such as Ephesians 2:8 "For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God"

(I have read that the Hebrew word for faith is not about a belief, but that it is about taking action based on belief)

I do not believe that salvation can be a free gift; there are conditions attached.  Am I adopting a non-Orthodox position?

Thank you for any insight on this!
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« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2011, 11:38:09 PM »

The idea that salvation is a "free gift" does not make sense to me.  If it were really free, then we would not have to do anything for it, i.e., repent, get baptized, take the sacraments, give alms, participate in the life of the Church, etc.
Repentance and the Sacraments are free gifts. I did nothing to earn my Baptism, Chrisimation and Communion as an infant. All it cost me was 4 locks of my hair at my tonsuring! The other things, almsgiving, prayer, loving our neighbour and our God, etc are simply the duties of a human being (i.e., we should be doing them anyway without hope of "reward").
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« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2011, 11:44:10 PM »

The idea that salvation is a "free gift" does not make sense to me.  If it were really free, then we would not have to do anything for it, i.e., repent, get baptized, take the sacraments, give alms, participate in the life of the Church, etc.
Repentance and the Sacraments are free gifts. I did nothing to earn my Baptism, Chrisimation and Communion as an infant. All it cost me was 4 locks of my hair at my tonsuring! The other things, almsgiving, prayer, loving our neighbour and our God, etc are simply the duties of a human being (i.e., we should be doing them anyway without hope of "reward").

Thank you ozgeorge.

I should have mentioned that while I read many (mainly Protestant) writings that mention "free gift", I have not seen the word "free" actually used in the scripture where gift is mentioned.
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« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2011, 11:58:20 PM »

The idea that salvation is a "free gift" does not make sense to me.  If it were really free, then we would not have to do anything for it, i.e., repent, get baptized, take the sacraments, give alms, participate in the life of the Church, etc.
Repentance and the Sacraments are free gifts. I did nothing to earn my Baptism, Chrisimation and Communion as an infant. All it cost me was 4 locks of my hair at my tonsuring! The other things, almsgiving, prayer, loving our neighbour and our God, etc are simply the duties of a human being (i.e., we should be doing them anyway without hope of "reward").

Yet again we look at things from opposite ends Smiley Isn't salvation the ultimate example of something that isn't free? Salvation requires you to give your whole heart, mind, body, and soul over to Someone, whether you really want to or not. When the young rich man came to Jesus, and asked about what he had to do yet to be saved, Jesus didn't say "Well hey, do what you can". Instead he said "Give everything that you have to the poor, and come, take up your cross, and follow me" (I apologize if I am conflating a couple passages here). Doesn't sound free to me. Also, Christianity requires a faith-full affirmation, an intellectual obedience of sorts... that's one thing I find difficult, and it certainly doesn't seem easy or free. So where does that leave us? As peteprint asked about, are there not conditions attached to salvation--the process of salvation?
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« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2011, 12:02:10 AM »

How should we, as Orthodox Christians, understand the parts of the Bible where the term gift is used, such as Ephesians 2:8 "For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God"

If someone gives you a present, you have to unwrap it and open it in order to receive it! If you said "Thank You!" and just left it in the packaging, then to me that would resemble burying a talent and then trying to give it back in the same condition when the master returns to collect. In that parable, I don't recall the master being too happy with the servant who buried his talent. In the same way, I think we can also apply that to the person who actually opens the present but then doesn't do anything with it. Nothing says "thanks" like setting aside a gift and forgetting about it in your storage room!  Cheesy
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« Reply #5 on: January 13, 2011, 12:17:23 AM »

You could look at it from God's perspective. Yes, He did create us but he also loves us so much that He decided to gift us with coming down to become God-Man, allowing us to see Him, touch Him and even partake of Him in a most elemental level, encouraging us to become more like His image and likeness, and finally the possibility that we may be going home to Him at the Second Coming. That is what Ephesians meant: all of this is His doing and His gift to us. Another way of putting may be the crude metaphor of dance: He is always waiting to dance with us but it is up to us to accept the offer. The dance is His gift. To think of the act of dancing as hooks or conditions is a bit absurd, don't you think?
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« Reply #6 on: January 13, 2011, 12:41:04 AM »

Thank you all for the input.  These are interesting analogies.  Perhaps (using the idea of the Church as a hospital), the gift is like medicine?  We still have to take it when and as prescribed?
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« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2011, 12:47:22 AM »

The idea that salvation is a "free gift" does not make sense to me.  If it were really free, then we would not have to do anything for it, i.e., repent, get baptized, take the sacraments, give alms, participate in the life of the Church, etc.
Repentance and the Sacraments are free gifts. I did nothing to earn my Baptism, Chrisimation and Communion as an infant. All it cost me was 4 locks of my hair at my tonsuring! The other things, almsgiving, prayer, loving our neighbour and our God, etc are simply the duties of a human being (i.e., we should be doing them anyway without hope of "reward").

Yet again we look at things from opposite ends Smiley Isn't salvation the ultimate example of something that isn't free? Salvation requires you to give your whole heart, mind, body, and soul over to Someone, whether you really want to or not. When the young rich man came to Jesus, and asked about what he had to do yet to be saved, Jesus didn't say "Well hey, do what you can". Instead he said "Give everything that you have to the poor, and come, take up your cross, and follow me" (I apologize if I am conflating a couple passages here). Doesn't sound free to me.
From a Christian perspective, what Christ as God was asking of the rich man, and of us, is nothing extraordinary, Christ was simply telling the rich man to do his duty as a human being created in His Image. Christ is not demanding anything, rather He is pointing out the natural way the man should live (ie. "This is what I created you for and therefore this is the way of life in which you live your full potential").
There are conditions to salvation, but these conditions are no more than what we as human beings created by God should be doing anyway (I speak as one who believes in God). For instance, the three conditions required for our sins to be forgiven are:
1) Repentance
2) That we forgive all who offend us, and
3) That we judge absolutely no one.
But these three conditions are the natural duty of a human creature of God.

Also, Christianity requires a faith-full affirmation, an intellectual obedience of sorts... that's one thing I find difficult, and it certainly doesn't seem easy or free. So where does that leave us? As peteprint asked about, are there not conditions attached to salvation--the process of salvation?
What Christianity requires is belief " in God, the Father Almighty...and in One Lord Jesus Christ..,..and in the Holy Spirit...and in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church...and in one baptism...." As you know, belief that something exists is not the same as belief in it. Even the demons believe that God exists, and tremble. So belief in the existence of God is not in itself salvific.
As for "intellectual obedience", returning again to my earlier example, I was Baptised, Chrisimated and received Holy Communion as a full member of the Church when I was only six months old- so what "intellectual obedience" was required of me? My salvation then cost me no more than 4 locks of hair, yet I was a full Christian with the privileged of receiving Holy Communion at 6 months.  As I got older, my intellect developed, and as a result I sunk deeper and deeper into plani (or "spiritual delusion") and the sins of youth and lost that former radiance. It was then that "intellectual obedience" was required, but it was only required because I had drifted away from my natural state. Theosis is the natural state of a human being, it is sin which is unnatural. Yes, I agree, it takes effort to come back and to strive to remain in the Church, but this effort was not initially required of me, and I was in a much better state at 6 months with no effort than I am now at 45 with so much effort!
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« Reply #8 on: January 13, 2011, 03:32:56 AM »

A truly free gift would be where someone just gave you something while expecting nothing in return.
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« Reply #9 on: January 13, 2011, 03:47:43 AM »

I think that part of my concern about the free gift idea is, having been raised a Baptist, I tend to see it as related to the "once saved, always saved, doctrine," which I now reject as an Orthodox Christian.

I have been criticized by family members that are still Baptist for our fasting rules for instance.  They are convinced that I am engaged in "works," and love to tell me that everything has been done for me already by Christ, and can do nothing to acquire salvation.

My explanations to them of the Church's position regarding faith and works falls on deaf ears.

I am still trying to find out if the Greek words used for "gift" carry any different connotations than the English word.  Often when I have difficulty understanding parts of scripture, I find that the Greek or Hebrew meanings have not been adequately carried over in the English translation.
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« Reply #10 on: January 13, 2011, 09:00:18 AM »


I have been criticized by family members that are still Baptist for our fasting rules for instance.  They are convinced that I am engaged in "works," and love to tell me that everything has been done for me already by Christ, and can do nothing to acquire salvation.

My explanations to them of the Church's position regarding faith and works falls on deaf ears.


If you will tell them that you are 'walking' and ask them if they are 'walking the walk' - this may quieten them.  Sometimes in different religious sects there are the SAME exact things spoken. . . but different words are used, and they completely base their arguments on the fact that they don't understand the jargon. As far as fasting specifically?  Ask them that if Jesus came today and took them to heaven and the ONLY thing they had in heaven was HIM . . .and HIM ALONE - would they be able to stay there for more than ten or fifteen minutes?  Fasting reminds us that we don't truly live here - and we can't take our brownies and steak WITH US when we go home. 
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« Reply #11 on: January 13, 2011, 11:30:17 AM »

I think I agree with Asteriktos.

It depends on what we mean by "salvation." Since we believe salvation is more of a "state" than a "thing", I would submit a more fundamental question: "Is Salvation even a 'thing', a 'gift'?"

The "gift" was God's self-condescension: Jesus Christ. Salvation is the reality, state of being, that is made available to us through him. God emptied himself (kenosis) to become a man, to live a human life, and to die, so in that sense our salvation cost God everything.

Achieving this state is not free for us either, because we in turn have to empty ourselves (kenosis), give up our wills, and then enter into salvation. It costs us everything. Yet Christ died for all people, while we were yet sinners, and we did nothing to prompt him to do so.

So I would have to say using the terms of the question: Salvation is a free gift that costs us everything. Which is how love works, so it makes perfect sense.
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« Reply #12 on: January 13, 2011, 01:43:55 PM »

Quote from: Romans 5:14-19 (KJV)
Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. [15] But not as the offence, so also is the free gift [χάρισμα]. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace [δωρεα εν χαριτι], which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. [16] And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. [17] For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) [18] Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. [19] For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

In my opinion, of course salvation is a free gift (isn't a gift only really a gift at all if it's free, anyway?). Our ascetical struggle has nothing to do with 'meriting' salvation. Our salvation is already objectively achieved and given to us, no strings attached. The New Creation, like the old, is totally gratuitous (free), ex nihilo. What is left to us is for us to be grateful

Quote from: 1 Corinthians 15:57 (KJV)
But thanks [χαρις] be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

and to put into practice the following:

Quote from: John 3:30 (KJV)
He must increase, but I must decrease.

We have to get our ego out of the way, to let God save us.

Another way of putting it, as already mentioned, is that we have to open the gift.

I think it is useful to think of the Exodus and the Israelites in the wilderness. God is continually saving them, and yet they are constantly wanting to go back to Egypt, etc. This, I think, helps make sense of

Quote from: Matthew 24:13 (KJV)
But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

I would agree that salvation costs us everything only if we qualify that by saying it costs us nothing real, nothing good, nothing essentially human, ultimately nothing but sin.

Quote from: Matthew 13:45-46 (KJV)
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: [46] Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.

Accounting entry for merchant:

Pearl of great price = $∞
Everything he had < $∞
---
Net loss = 0
net gain = everything
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« Reply #13 on: January 15, 2011, 11:47:54 PM »

The dialogue Zenith started has been moved to Orthodox-Protestant Discussion.

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php?topic=32924.0
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« Reply #14 on: January 16, 2011, 03:44:07 PM »

The New Creation, like the old, is totally gratuitous (free), ex nihilo. What is left to us is for us to be grateful

My original reply to this got moved to the Protestant thread, I assume by accident.  I'd like to ask again:

While I think I agree with what you say here in principle, I do have to respectfully ask, how is the New Creation "ex nihilo?"

The New Creation is in Christ, Who is eternally begotten of the Father.  How can that be said to occur "out of nothing?"
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« Reply #15 on: January 18, 2011, 09:21:50 AM »

The New Creation, like the old, is totally gratuitous (free), ex nihilo. What is left to us is for us to be grateful

My original reply to this got moved to the Protestant thread, I assume by accident.  I'd like to ask again:

While I think I agree with what you say here in principle, I do have to respectfully ask, how is the New Creation "ex nihilo?"

The New Creation is in Christ, Who is eternally begotten of the Father.  How can that be said to occur "out of nothing?"

I'm curious about this too. The "New Heaven and the New Earth" are not going to be created ex nihilo, they will be the current Earth and Heaven transformed.
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« Reply #16 on: January 18, 2011, 12:14:00 PM »

The New Creation, like the old, is totally gratuitous (free), ex nihilo. What is left to us is for us to be grateful

My original reply to this got moved to the Protestant thread, I assume by accident.  I'd like to ask again:

While I think I agree with what you say here in principle, I do have to respectfully ask, how is the New Creation "ex nihilo?"

The New Creation is in Christ, Who is eternally begotten of the Father.  How can that be said to occur "out of nothing?"

I'm thinking he may mean that the gift of salvation comes with no strings attached. I would sort of agree with that except that my stubborn and Discerning side also tells me that the gift is free but as with every gift we have to interact with it to even know what it is. For me these words sum it up. It moves as you move.
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« Reply #17 on: January 18, 2011, 05:36:07 PM »

In discussing this thread with a friend, I noted something I want to throw out and see what everyone thinks.

We spend a lot of time in the Eastern Church talking about how salvation is not primarily transactional, juridical, forensic -- pick your term -- and that merit really has no place in Eastern theology.  But when it comes to discussions like this, we seem to adopt juridical terms like "precondition" and "cost."  My impression is we do this because that is how the question is framed.  As one good example (not to pick on peteprint, but that's how this thread was started), the opening conclusory question was:

Quote
I do not believe that salvation can be a free gift; there are conditions attached.  Am I adopting a non-Orthodox position?

My inclination is to respond "you are not adopting a non-Orthodox position so much as you are framing a non-Orthodox question."  We don't view salvation as having "conditions," per se, to the extent I understand it correctly.  We view salvation as having us as participants in it, not to merit or earn anything (as a "condition" would imply), but because salvation is something more than just a "not guilty."  It is a life.  It is lived out in the Church.  God doesn't wish to merely declare us forgiven, but to have us live as His children. Protestants separate this out as justification and sanctification. We don't do that, at least not so radically.

So why cede the language if we deny the model (or at least deny that model should predominate our view of salvation)?  My take on this topic is pretty simple:  salvation is of course a free gift.  When someone says "but you gotta.....," our response should not be in terms of condition, cost, merit, etc., but rather in terms of interaction, living, encountering, receiving, co-operating (in the true sense of that word), etc.  You gotta participate in salvation because salvation is a life, not a verdict.

You don't gotta participate in salvation because God has some chart on the wall putting up Gold Stars so you can participate in the ice cream party on Friday.

Put simply, if we don't view salvation primarily as a judicial transaction or exchange, my opinion is we shouldn't speak of it as such and we should try to avoid language, where possible, that speaks of it in those terms.

Thoughts?
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« Reply #18 on: January 18, 2011, 05:37:40 PM »

The New Creation, like the old, is totally gratuitous (free), ex nihilo. What is left to us is for us to be grateful

My original reply to this got moved to the Protestant thread, I assume by accident.  I'd like to ask again:

While I think I agree with what you say here in principle, I do have to respectfully ask, how is the New Creation "ex nihilo?"

The New Creation is in Christ, Who is eternally begotten of the Father.  How can that be said to occur "out of nothing?"

I'm thinking he may mean that the gift of salvation comes with no strings attached. I would sort of agree with that except that my stubborn and Discerning side also tells me that the gift is free but as with every gift we have to interact with it to even know what it is. For me these words sum it up. It moves as you move.

I can see that.  I would avoid "ex nihilo" since it doesn't seem to be the most accurate way to put it, but assuming that's what was intended, the clarification is helpful.
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« Reply #19 on: January 19, 2011, 09:46:16 PM »

it has to be free because of our wretchedness we will never earn salvation he counts our work as filthy rags
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« Reply #20 on: January 19, 2011, 10:18:43 PM »

"Therefore let us go forth to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God."
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« Reply #21 on: January 19, 2011, 10:30:17 PM »

The idea that salvation is a "free gift" does not make sense to me.  If it were really free, then we would not have to do anything for it, i.e., repent, get baptized, take the sacraments, give alms, participate in the life of the Church, etc.
Repentance and the Sacraments are free gifts. I did nothing to earn my Baptism, Chrisimation and Communion as an infant. All it cost me was 4 locks of my hair at my tonsuring! The other things, almsgiving, prayer, loving our neighbour and our God, etc are simply the duties of a human being (i.e., we should be doing them anyway without hope of "reward").

Yet again we look at things from opposite ends Smiley Isn't salvation the ultimate example of something that isn't free? Salvation requires you to give your whole heart, mind, body, and soul over to Someone, whether you really want to or not. When the young rich man came to Jesus, and asked about what he had to do yet to be saved, Jesus didn't say "Well hey, do what you can". Instead he said "Give everything that you have to the poor, and come, take up your cross, and follow me" (I apologize if I am conflating a couple passages here). Doesn't sound free to me.
From a Christian perspective, what Christ as God was asking of the rich man, and of us, is nothing extraordinary, Christ was simply telling the rich man to do his duty as a human being created in His Image. Christ is not demanding anything, rather He is pointing out the natural way the man should live (ie. "This is what I created you for and therefore this is the way of life in which you live your full potential").
There are conditions to salvation, but these conditions are no more than what we as human beings created by God should be doing anyway (I speak as one who believes in God). For instance, the three conditions required for our sins to be forgiven are:
1) Repentance
2) That we forgive all who offend us, and
3) That we judge absolutely no one.
But these three conditions are the natural duty of a human creature of God.

Also, Christianity requires a faith-full affirmation, an intellectual obedience of sorts... that's one thing I find difficult, and it certainly doesn't seem easy or free. So where does that leave us? As peteprint asked about, are there not conditions attached to salvation--the process of salvation?
What Christianity requires is belief " in God, the Father Almighty...and in One Lord Jesus Christ..,..and in the Holy Spirit...and in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church...and in one baptism...." As you know, belief that something exists is not the same as belief in it. Even the demons believe that God exists, and tremble. So belief in the existence of God is not in itself salvific.
As for "intellectual obedience", returning again to my earlier example, I was Baptised, Chrisimated and received Holy Communion as a full member of the Church when I was only six months old- so what "intellectual obedience" was required of me? My salvation then cost me no more than 4 locks of hair, yet I was a full Christian with the privileged of receiving Holy Communion at 6 months.  As I got older, my intellect developed, and as a result I sunk deeper and deeper into plani (or "spiritual delusion") and the sins of youth and lost that former radiance. It was then that "intellectual obedience" was required, but it was only required because I had drifted away from my natural state. Theosis is the natural state of a human being, it is sin which is unnatural. Yes, I agree, it takes effort to come back and to strive to remain in the Church, but this effort was not initially required of me, and I was in a much better state at 6 months with no effort than I am now at 45 with so much effort!

Really good stuff oz, thanks.
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« Reply #22 on: January 21, 2011, 08:32:52 AM »

Salvation is really god gift and a great power. Successful people always believe in salvation and god.
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JLatimer
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« Reply #23 on: January 22, 2011, 04:41:31 PM »

Thanks for the constructive criticism. To clarify what I meant by ex nihilo:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit". Look at the prodigal son. He comes to himself only when he has nothing left, when he is utterly destitute. St. John of Damascus writes:

Quote
He brought all things, both invisible and visible, out of non-being into being and created them—including man.

Thus, human beings owe our very existence to the grace of God. It seems to me there is a real sense in which, in and of ourselves, we are nothing. And when we depart from God, we return to nothing, to non-being. In order to receive the gift of salvation, we have to acknowledge our nothingness, not only as created beings, but as sinners. When we become truly poor in this way, then God will fill us with innumerable spiritual treasures.

As we say in the Liturgy:

Quote
Thou it was who brought us from non-existence into being, and when we had fallen away, didst raise us up again.

The text seems to me to imply that we had "fallen away" from "being", from the true and only life in God. When God recreates us in Christ, there is a very real sense in which He calls us back again from nothingness into being.

However, I do not wish to imply that God destroys human persons in order to create new ones. As has been pointed out, even the new heavens and the new earth will not replace, but restore and transform, the current heavens and earth. (Nevertheless, we should also remember that human beings sin, which means we are in a different position ontologically than a rock, a bird, or a star, for examples.) I just wanted to emphasize that the new creation is not a simple tweaking of what is - our problem was too big for that -, but a real creation, akin to, though not identical with, the first creation. Otherwise we wouldn't call it a 'creation', but rather a 'remodeling', or something like that.
« Last Edit: January 22, 2011, 04:47:53 PM by JLatimer » Logged

1 Samuel 25:22 (KJV)
So and more also do God unto the enemies of David, if I leave of all that pertain to him by the morning light any that pisseth against the wall.
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