God's friends are those who trust him.
1. The Fact of Division
Since God began to realign selves, wrongdoing has remained widespread, and as a result history has consisted largely of a series of disasters. Why is this? I see only one explanation, and it is the one assumed by the whole Bible. Not all selves have been realigned; some have died wicked, and presumably others will do likewise for the foreseeable future. At any given moment mankind is divided between welldoers and wrongdoers. Until the goal is reached, crop and weeds grow in the same field.
"Wheat and tares together sown, unto joy or sorrow grown."
Henry Alford, Come ye thankful people come (1844), paraphrasing Matthew 13:24-30, 37-43.
But (to extend the image) what happens to the weeds at harvest-time? This site is neutral on the question. The Bible's authors (insofar as they addressed this question, that is, mainly the New Testament authors) seem to have believed that only those who have been God's friends in this age would enter fulfillment, while his foes would hereafter experience only distress. Whether that posthumous distress would be terminal or perpetual is a question that does not concern me, as I incline to the view that God will save all selves, that even "the wrath to come", if really a posthumous experience rather than an interpretation of this life's experience, will be remedial, for I believe that all God's works tend to the flourishing of his world, and I see no benefit in inflicting distress merely because it is deserved.
I cannot doubt that They whom you deplore
Are glorified; or, if they sleep, shall wake
From sleep, and dwell with God in endless love.
Hope, -- below this, consists not with belief
In mercy carried infinite degrees
Beyond the tenderness of human hearts:
Hope, -- below this, consists not with belief
In perfect Wisdom, guiding mightiest Power,
That finds no limits but its own pure Will.
Wordsworth, The Excursion Book 4
Either way, better to be realigned now, for the refining process will be more distressing if delayed until hereafter.
2. The Necessity of Division
But why does God not immediately realign everyone? And how does he choose? These questions are expressed in the following objections.
"For God to realign some selves now and others later (or never) is unjust."
It is difficult to make sense of this objection, but since it is often raised it is necessary to address it. Probably what is really meant is that it is unjust of God to be aloof from any self because they are not really evil. This argument was dealt with earlier, where it was established that no wrongdoer has a right to God's help.
But if God was not obliged to help any, it cannot be unjust for him to help some. If someone has obligations to several people and fails some of them while doing more than his duty for others, we blame them for favouritism. But God has no such obligations so we have no reason to suspect him.
If the division of mankind is permanent, this objection is more significant, because on that assumption it is a permanent preterition that is accused of injustice. I have worded both objection and reply in terms of the milder ("universalist") view, but the reply is the same either way.
"For God not to realign all selves immediately is wasteful."
God does his utmost. For details, see Optimal Realignment (and Predestination).
3. The Manifestation of Division.
Realignment manifests itself in a tendency toward good deeds, including true beliefs. God the Indweller inspires welldoers. Not that realignment immediately transforms all one's habits; compliance with natural standards and pursuit of our cultural task are learned gradually through persistent effort. But every welldoer makes that effort, develops some good habits, and is willing to learn more. This is how God's real friends can be distinguished.
"Not every one who says to me, Lord! Lord! shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven."
"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me."
John 10.27. (When selves refuse to hear God's voice we must infer that they are not his "sheep".)
4. The Channel of Division
Those good deeds arise from trust. Trust is the immediate human response to God's realigning action, the awareness of our dependence.
"God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever trusts him should not be lost but have the life of the age to come."
John 3:16. The word used by the New Testament writers (and also, though with the doctrine less clearly stated, by the "Septuagint", the Greek translation of the Tanakh they used) for the saving intention towards God is pistis. The usual translation is "faith", but that word has accrued negative connotations, as in the definition of faith as "believing something you know is untrue". Trusting God is not in conflict with reason (see the "Method" page), but I think it better to avoid the contaminated word.
(Sacramentalism, held (1) by Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran and Anglo-Catholic and (2) less clearly, by many others) "At the time of Moses God provided circumcision as a means of grace along with trust. Christ told his apostles to practice baptism, the Christian equivalent of circumcision, and the New Testament sometimes refers to baptism as if it were identical to conversion, so at least it must be an important part of the process."
These texts are talking about the reality that baptism symbolises, not about the physical event.
Paul of Tarsus says that Christ sent him "not to baptise but to preach the gospel" (1st Corinthians 1.17). This means more than that it doesn't matter who does the baptising; it tells us that baptism is not a significant component in the event of becoming a welldoer, but merely a conventional expression. The central component in that event is hearing and responding to the message of God's grace.
There is nothing especially Christian about baptism. When the New Testament was written, baptism was an accepted way of expressing a renewed reverence. Modern reverence groups should dispense with this anachronism and welcome new members in the same way as any other organised group, by membership application form or some such procedure. Divisions over the issue of when and how people are to be baptised are as frivolous as would be a dispute about the colour of the membership form.
(Synergism, held by later Lutherans, Methodists, Arminians, Quakers et al.) "When God has done all he can, a self only realigns if they choose to. If one self is realigned and another is not, the fact that the first trusts God is not only an effect of realignment, it is also a cause of realignment."
This supposes that a misaligned man's efforts can have a salvific effect. It is true of course that certain gross wrongdoings can cut us off from realignment in this life, suicide being the most obvious and final of them, and in that sense deeds are relevant. But the question is whether to propose this to the misaligned as a motive, and the answer is clearly "no". A misaligned man does not desire realignment, and it is nonsensical to advise him of how to maximise his chances thereof; if he openly denies his need, such advice is impolite and means nothing to him; if he pretends to accept it, it panders to his self-deceit. In either case, it can only confuse matters.
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