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Beatitudes, part 5: Blessed are the Merciful

The first four Beatitudes identify felt needs as virtues:  the poor, the mourning, the meek, and the hungry.  The next three identify states of character as virtues.

The first is mercy; the merciful will receive mercy.

Some people think that mercy is not meting out a deserved punishment.  Not so.  Mercy is more akin to gratitude.  “Lord, have mercy,” is better understood as “Lord, continue to be gracious with us.”  That’s why the KJV renders “mercy” as “loving-kindness.”

This has to do with the honor-shame society of the Bible and the satisfaction of personal debts.  Taking the high road with people who owe you something is a virtue that God loves (see Mt 6:15-15; Mk 11:25; Lk 6:35; Eph 4:32).

Jesus told the story of a wealthy landowner who demanded payment of a huge debt from one of his servants (see Mt 18:23-35).  The servant didn’t have it, so the landowner forgave the debt completely.  Later, that same servant demanded payment of a far smaller debt from a fellow servant.  When the second servant couldn’t comply, the first had him thrown into prison.  The landowner then ordered the first service imprisoned.  Jesus said that if we do not forgive the debts of others, then God will not forgive the one we have with him.

Forgiving others, having mercy on the undeserving are all rooted in God’s character.  The real idea of Christianity is to transform us, no to leave us to enjoy the pleasures of this world.  We are adopted as sons of God, and he does so to mold us into the image of his Son.  Therefore, having mercy on others as God has had mercy on us is a sign of that transformation.

Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask, part 9

Former Christian turned atheist DaGoodS (DGS) has compiled a list of eleven questions that he doesn’t think Christians can answer. I’ve decided to take him on, since I’m a sucker for questions that Christians supposedly can’t answer. Hopefully, DGS and I can learn something from each other.

I temporarily skipped questions #7 and #8 since they deal with unfamiliar territory. My familiar ground is philosophy, and those two questions deal with science. I will answer both tomorrow, to finish off this series. Which means that only question #11 will be dealt with today, and it’s a short one:

If God has mercy, doesn’t this render his justice arbitrary?

Mercy is selective by nature. When God has mercy, he is selecting certain people for salvation and passing over the rest for damnation. In DGS’s mind, selective automatically equals arbitrary. That’s a non sequitur.

If I wish to purchase a laptop, I need to think about a few things first. Primarily, my career field is going to be freelance writing, with emphasis on philosophy and Christian apologetics. According to freelance writing gurus like Bob Bly, the modern freelance writer needs reliable Internet access. Nearly all business for freelancers is conducted online these days.

Open source programs like OpenOffice.org for articles and short stories, Scribus for graphic designs and layouts, and CeltX for screenplays take care of most of my writing needs. Therefore, preinstalled software isn’t an important factor for me. I can customize my laptop with almost anything I need from the open source community.

The primary thing I’m looking at is WiFi access so I can work on the go, a big enough monitor that won’t cause eyestrain, and a comfortable keyboard since I’m prone to marathon-writing sessions. Carpal tunnel syndrome is not an option for me!

It looks like a laptop is going to be the way I’d go. Notebooks aren’t going to have a big enough keyboard or enough resolution for the monitor. I would like a physical keyboard, so most tablet PCs are also out. This is me being selective as to the sort of laptop that I’m going to eventually purchase.But, is that arbitrary?

The criteria I set forth are reasonable and help me discern what I’m going to invest time and money into. Though I’m being selective, none of these criteria are randomly chosen; I have a reason for each one. And this is how God works also: he had a reason for each elect soul he chose for the glory of heaven, predicated on his love and the good pleasure of his will.

Arbitrary would be if God were rolling dice as he made each soul, and only saving the souls on which he also rolled double sixes. But that’s not what happens; instead, God has a purpose for each soul made and a further reason for each soul he saves.

The rub is that we don’t know his criteria for who is saved and who is not. It’s not specifically revealed in Scripture. We know only that it has nothing to do with any perceived worth in the creature.

There is so much more. Election is a rich and dynamic doctrine, and I’ve already defended it extensively. More information is available here.