A Generous God

In 2011 Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary, wrote an insightful piece on what he calls a generous orthodoxy. Mouw regards himself as an orthodox Calvinist. In other words, he agrees with and adheres to what is broadly accepted as authentic Calvinist theology. With generous he means the opposite of stingy – is the God of the Bible a generous God, or a stingy one?

Mouw finds two plausible principles for arguing that God is generous with regards to who goes to heaven or hell.

The first principle is that people who (according to us) have defective theologies can go to heaven. He gives examples of past theologians whose theology strayed from Reformed confessions, but whose lives made it clear that the power of Christ has transformed them.

The second principle is that who will be saved or lost in the end is to some degree a mystery. He quotes the Dutch theologian Bavinck, who warns against simply assuming that God’s mercy is not available to those who died without testifying that they have accepted Christ. The Westminster Confession also stipulates that infants who die without accepting Christ, and other elected persons who did not have the opportunity to come to Christ may be saved, because the sovereign Spirit of the Living God “worketh when, and where, and how he pleaseth”.

I was recently taken aback by someone’s strong opinion that his sister is going to hell. She is a Christian who is in a legal, monogamous homosexual relationship. He bases his view on Biblical references to homosexuality being unacceptable to God, and compares her to a serial killer who continues to commit sin without remorse.

Aside from the obvious ethical objections to such a comparison, the theological interpretation of Scriptural references to homosexuality is a contentious topic, with many Christian denominations worldwide now condoning monogamous relationships between people of the same sex. To simply condemn such a person to hell seems rash and stingy.

I would argue that there may be a strong case for a third principle: it is possible that people who have a different interpretation of what is acceptable to God may also be saved. Instead of using a fundamentalist, literal interpretation of Scripture, it may be wiser to look for evidence that a person’s heart has been transformed by the power of Christ.

Let us be humble then, in accepting that our idea of a pure theology cannot save us, that we may be wrong in the manner in which we interpret God’s will and other’s actions, and that we know little of how God will decide who goes to heaven.

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