real quick.. thanks for the new questions. I so appreciate the thought and time and elucidation you have put into them and am honored that you'd give me a crack at them. I can relate to them all! . . . --heh, sorry, but brilliant minds think alike :)
No, really, . . . you have the kind of probing, relentless mind I soooo appreciate, myself being one whose logical needs drove me from "pillar to post" as they say, searching . . . searching . . . for "the truth" which I needed desperately to satisfy my inquisitiveness and deep down belief that there must be "a truth" and that it should be able to be found (IF there really is a God) . . . .
And for what it's worth, I want to reiterate that the answers I will attempt to provide . . . come not from my own opinion but rather from what is known generally as the "reformed, 'classical' Biblical" understanding. As far as possible, I don't intend to give you my opinion on these matters, but give you what the Bible--God Himself--teaches.
Just as I made my way through various religious "paths" until I was at last given the knowledge that Christ is The Way . . . then I set about sorting through the different "Christian" sects and understandings of the Bible to find which of those represented the best, closest 'interpretation' of "the Word", though I should add . . . that while there are a myriad of different "Christian sects" . . . and this is a common critique . . . what I have found is that there has always been a "classic" so-to-speak understanding of we would call "Biblically Christianity" and that for the most part, the mainline denominations agree on the fundamentals. In Christian parlance, the admonition is to "major on the majors, minor on the minors" . . . and/or "don't let 'secondary' issues divide The Body" . . . and, they don't really . . . . I know of many top Christian Apologists, preachers and teachers from different denominations (ie., Presbyterian, Baptist, Reformed Anglican, Charismatic) who, though differing on certain "minor" doctrines, nevertheless count each other as "brother in Christ" and fellow "Believers". . . .
There are indeed some "sects" however, that, while calling themselves "Christian" . . . are not, or at least, they follow a "different Jesus" and have added all sorts of ceremony, doctrine, beliefs and even added "revelation" to what the Bible teaches. Overall, these would be considered "cults" or "false teachers" . . . . I would include in these such "religions" as Mormonism, Catholicism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian Scientist, Oneness Pentecostal, Unitarian . . . to name a few. . . .
This won't make much sense to you now, but after all my studies so far, I would roughly call myself a Reformed Charismatic Who Lives And Acts As Though Arminianism Were True . . . which appellation, lol, contains about 3 or 4 seemingly contradictory descriptors--but more on that later. . . .
Your 1st question in this next wonderful batch you've sent me touches on a topic I am quite fascinated by and interested in and regularly write about. I look forward to addressing it yet again as it relates to one of the greatest of mysteries and paradoxes pertaining to the reality of this situation (our life in this world as creatures of the one true and living personal God). . . . And I thank you for allowing me to share this discussion with my sweet blog readers as you are expressing deep, profound, vexing questions that probably nearly every seeker/finder has pondered at some point or other. . . .
Back shortly with more,
J wrote: "I cannot for the life of me recall the passage in the Bible, but somewhere it’s stated, and I’m paraphrasing here, that God is going to choose those whom He wants to extend salvation to. (In fairness, it goes on to say the number of people He will extend such to is akin to the grains of sand on the beach, i.e., numbering in the billions.) However, it does make me wonder… why go to the trouble of allowing the existence of individuals He doesn’t want? If He’s sent His Son to redeem mankind, but He’ll only acknowledge certain people’s acceptance of His Son, it almost makes the Crucifixion seem like a cruel joke. (As you’ve mentioned before, context is everything. Since I can’t recall the passage in question, and when I heard it discussed the discussion was limited exclusively to a couple of verses, it’s entirely possible I’ve got hold of the wrong end of the stick regarding this matter.)"