Romans 11: Not Finding What You’re Looking For

What scares me the most about the Bible is that it is written for believers and at the same time about believers… and most of the stories about the believers are not good ones.

In Romans 11, Paul says:

So this is what has happened: The people of Israel did not succeed in what they were seeking for but the ones God chose did succeed. The others were made stubborn and refused to listen to God. (Rm 11:7)

The first thing we have to do when looking at passages like this is put it in context. What Paul of Romans is referring to when discussing seeking is salvation. He just got done referencing Elijah (1 Kg 19:10,14) where God says that he will save a remnant of his people.

Then Paul talks about God saving that remnant by Grace not by their actions. So the seeking here – in context – is Israel seeking to be saved.

The key question becomes: who is Paul talking to and referring to now?

I’m tempted, and I think the church at large is as well, to read passages like this and think these stories and condemnations are about Israel, unbelieving Jews and Pharisees. But Paul is not talking to Israel or Pharisees but rather to believers (see Rm 1:6)!

This is the scary part: Paul is telling believers, people who think they are Christians, that some of them, possibly most of them, will not succeed in being saved.

Saying the Lord’s Prayer or asking Jesus into our heart is not a magical phrase that gets you into Heaven. In fact, many people who say those phrases end up in Hell (see Matt 25:31-46).

I think the churches fundamental misunderstanding of being chosen has lead many to an incorrect worldview that seeks attendees, converts, and baptisms and teaches doctrine full of to-do and to-don’t lists. These converts and attendees end up with the wrong idea that actions can lead to salvation. Instead it is the opposite.

Then I wonder if I have fallen for this same misunderstanding. That scares me.

Is Atheism Anti-Intellectual?

I ran across this article that makes an excellent observation about modern atheism: many of the leading proponents, while cloaking themselves in intellectualism, are actually anti-intellectual. Check it out:

Which brings me to the problem with modern atheism, embodied by the likes of Harris and Hitchens, authors of “The End of Faith” and “God Is Not Great,” respectively. So often it seems like a conversation ender, not a conversation starter. And the loudest voices of today’s militant atheism, for all their talk of rational thought, don’t seem to want to do too much thinking at all. As James Wood wrote in The New Yorker, “The new atheists do not speak to the millions of people whose form of religion is far from the embodied certainties of contemporary literalism. Indeed, it is a settled assumption of this kind of atheism that there are no intelligent religious believers.”

What spiritual quest are they on, except to put an abrupt end to those like my father’s? For them, the science is settled, the data are conclusive and the book (no, not the Good Book) has been written. Time for everyone else to pack up and move on to other business, like, presumably, accumulating wealth and fulminating at the sight of the nearest Christmas tree.

The militant atheist wants nothing more than to spoil the believer’s spiritual journey. That’s both meanspirited and radically unenlightened. Read more.