An Osmotic Creed
Websites for protestant churches tend to include a page which provides a detailed sketch of what they believe on important doctrinal points. It is appropriate to do up my own such “Statement of Faith”. I may add to this and modify it as time goes by and my understanding changes.
Apophatic theology has pride of place in my understanding of God. The way of negation is the key to correct conceptualisation of the divine. Four texts are uniquely determinative for my understanding of God. Exodus 3:13-14, John 1:1-3,14, 1 John and Chapter 1 of the DaoDeJing:
DaoDeJing 1, John C.H. Wu (edited)
The Tao (道) that can be told is not the Eternal Tao (道).
Names can be named, but not the Eternal Name.
As the origin of heaven-and-earth, it is nameless:
As “the Mother” of all things, it is nameable.
So, as ever hidden, we should look at its inner essence:
As always manifest, we should look at its outer aspects.
These two flow from the same source, though differently
And both are called mysteries.
The Mystery of mysteries is the Door of all essence.
Exodus 3:13-14 RSV-CE
13 Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM..” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
John 1:1-3,14 RSV-CE (edited)
1 In the beginning was the λογος (道), and the λογος (道) was with God, and the λογος (道) was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God; 3 all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.
14 And the λογος (道) became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.
1 John 4:16 RSV-CE
16 So we know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
1. God is essentially ineffable mystery
“The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao” – That is, it is impossible to capture God in words or language. He is beyond all of our abstractions and conceptualisations. If you are able to talk about God – that’s not really God. God is a mystery before all else. This fact is also encapsulated in the divine name: When Moses asks God what his name is, God thunders at him “I AM WHO I AM”, which is both a name, and a refusal of a name. It is a statement that no name can truly capture who God is. God is above every name and beyond every category of which we can conceive or speak of.
2. The mystery of God is perfectly revealed via incarnation
“In the beginning was the λογος, and the λογος was with God, and the λογος was God. He was in the beginning with God, and the λογος became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth”
God became incarnate; God took on flesh; God became a man. In doing so, God has changed the game completely: God has revealed himself in a way that we can understand, interact with and relate to. This opens up the door for cataphatic, positive statements about God.
3. God’s nature is perfectly summed up by the word “love”
Seeing as the incarnation permits us to make positive statements about God, the first and most important statement, which fundamentally determines the doctrine of God and governs all other dimensions of theological inquiry, is that God is love.
What does love mean? Love is defined as the sort of self-sacrificial love which Jesus displayed on the cross when he died and descended to Hell so that we don’t have to.
It is fundamental to God’s nature that he is loving: he cannot act in any other way. His love for us is infinite, unconditional and universal. No one is excluded from his love. Furthermore, his love cannot be restricted or reduced in any way: while it may be the case that he gives different gifts to different people, in the final analysis he loves everyone equally and desires the best outcome for everyone.
1 Timothy 2:3-4 RSV-CE
3 This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
God does not desire the damnation or destruction of anyone, he desires the salvation of all. He has the best possible outcome in mind (Heaven, salvation) for every individual without distinction, discrimination or exception.
Any doctrine which attempts to limit God’s unlimited, universal, salvific love in any way whatsoever is to be held as immediately suspect and rejected.
4. God has the power and ability to fulfil his all his promises and succeed in all his plans
God is omnipotent (all-powerful): He can do anything. He can even do the logically impossible (such as create a rock that he can’t lift), however he chooses to restrict his omnipotence so as to avoid paradox and so that it is in accord with logic. Whatever he desires, he has the power to bring about. Furthermore, God is omniscient (he possesses all possible knowledge). He possesses the necessary knowledge to wield his power such that he is able to bring about all his purposes.
It therefore it follows that he has the ability to bring about the salvation of all men, if only he would desire this outcome. As we have already established, God does indeed desire the salvation of all men, therefore it follows that this is what will actually happen.
5. God is Trinity and Unity
Deuteronomy 6:4, The Shema Yisrael
שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָֽד
Shema Yisrael Adonai eloheinu Adonai ehad
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord
This foundational statement is the quintessential biblical statement concerning the unity of God. Jews pray this prayer during all their morning and evening prayer services. It has a Classical Arabic counterpart in the Islamic traditions; one of the most important prayers for all Muslims worldwide.
لَا إِلٰهَ إِلَّا ٱلله مُحَمَّدٌ رَسُولُ ٱلله
lā ʾilāha ʾillā llāh muḥammadun rasūlu llāh
There is no god but God, and Muhammad is his messenger.
These statements of strict monotheism are firmly affirmed by Catholic and Orthodox Christians, however there is a spin placed on them: There is only one God, but he exists in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
5.1 There is no number in God
Recall point 1: God is fundamentally mystery and therefore beyond all categorisations and descriptions. This implies that it is impossible to “count” God. Strictly speaking, we cannot truly and accurately say “there is only one God”, similarly we cannot say “there are three Gods” or “there are three persons in one God”. The reason why, is that these concepts of “one”, “three”, “person”, “God” are created concepts: God pre-exists these concepts. When we use these words to describe God, we are using them in an analogical way. There is not really “one” God, because “one” is a created concept. God created “one”. Similarly there are not really “three persons” in God, because the ideas of “person” and “three” were both created by God.
With this in mind, we have to understand the Shema and the Shahada as affirming something much more mysterious and profound than the fact that there is numerically only one God. God is One … gloriously, ineffably, wonderfully One … but not by counting.
The confession of the one God is not more comprehensible than the Christian confession of the trinitarian persons. Its ineffability is not “somehow less intense than that of the divine Trinity,” comments Denys Turner:
Christian Trinitarianism does not rock a unitarian boat that would otherwise be plain sailing for Jews and Muslims. … Whether by God’s oneness or God’s threeness, we are in equal measures theologically benighted, or, as one might more positively put it, believers of all three faith traditions are thereby invited into a participation in love with the same unknowable, indescribable Godhead.
5.2 God exists in a state of perfect perichoresis
The doctrine of perichoresis (aka circumincession, interpenetration and coinherence) states that each of the members of the trinity perfectly contains the other two members. It is impossible to separate them out from each other: If you take the Son, you’re going to get the Father and the Spirit in full as well, because the Father and the Spirit fully coinhere within the Son. Similarly, if you take the Father, you will get the Spirit and the Son too. There is no way to pull them apart.
This doctrine preserves the unity of God: There are indeed three persons in God, but there are not three Gods, there is only one, because the three persons are perfectly united in an beautiful interpenetrative dance of love.
Biblical support is found in John 14:6-11
John 14:6-11 RSV-CE
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him.”
8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me; or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves.
Note what Jesus says: “I am in the Father and the Father is in me”. This is a vague biblical reflection of the fully developed doctrine of perichoresis.
5.3 The explicit Trinitarian doctrine
It is helpful to lay down the actual essential doctrine of the Trinity. This doctrine is represented by 7 propositions, taken together:
- The Father is God
- The Son is God
- The Spirit is God
- The Father is not the Son
- The Son is not the Spirit
- The Spirit is not the Father
- There is only one God
These seven propositions perfectly encapsulate the doctrine of the trinity. To believe them is to be a Trinitarian.
6. God’s primary motivation and goal is to love his creation
I firmly deny any doctrine which states that God’s supreme motivation in his actions is to “glorify” himself. While it is true that God’s actions bring him glory, this glory is entirely dependant on his successfully showering creation with unlimited, unconditional love. God receives no glory from people suffering everlasting punishment. God receives no glory from sin. God is glorified only when he works events towards the salvation of sinners. If he fails to save someone, he is not glorified. If he chooses not to save someone, he is not glorified. God is glorified when he loves us and when we love him back. He receives no glory if we will not freely give it to him.
7. God is simple
I affirm classical theism, specifically the doctrine of divine simplicity. Simply put, this doctrine states that God has no components or parts. He is the most fundamental thing possible, it is not possible to divide him in two or separate out attributes from his essence and nature. In fact, his attributes are equivalent to his essence and nature, and therefore his attributes are equal among themselves.
This has radical implications. Not only is God loving, he is love. Not only is God merciful, he is mercy. Not only is God Holy and Just, he is justice. Furthermore his mercy is his justice and his justice is his mercy. There is no separation within God.
In this way, God’s will is perfectly integrated. His mercy demands nothing that his justice does not demand, and his justice demands nothing that his mercy does not demand. It is therefore entirely inaccurate to say that God deals in everlasting punishments, because this would violate his mercy. It is also inaccurate to posit that God will simply ignore sin, because this violates his holiness and justice. Instead an integrated solution needs to be found which has the character of both mercy and justice simultaneously. Such a solution is found in the doctrine of purgatorial suffering: Sin leads to punishment, however that punishment is merciful because it has a loving purpose and purifying, purgatorial nature: it is intended to lead the soul back to repentance and enable them to walk in the light once again.
Mankind, Grace, Freedom, Sin and the Fall
1. We are free, but we suffer total depravity
Humans are the most wonderful and beloved of God’s creations. We were originally created good and possessing libertarian freedom: God in no way interferes with or determines the choices we make. We are free to sin or not to sin, to love or not to love. Nevertheless due to the disobedience of Adam, our freedom has been wounded and we now suffer from concupiscence. Our natures have been wounded: we are still free, but we are only free to behave according to our nature, and seeing as our nature is fundamentally wounded, we will always tend towards sin.
2. Total depravity is countered by the work of the Holy Spirit in our souls
If God did not love us, he could have abandoned us to our total depravity and we would have done evil in every time and every place. However God is a loving God who delights in the healing of the sick and the salvation of souls. As such, he has sent his Holy Spirit to the hearts of every individual. The spirit provides a continuous stream of grace and assistance to our souls, such that we are able to fight the good fight against our wounded natures and return to a state of innocence.
3. Grace is resistible
Despite the fact that all men have the spirit, and all men are receiving this constant stream of divine assistance and grace, God does not force himself on us. It is still up to us to climb out of the pit of depravity of our own will and volition. If we resist God’s helping hand, and instead opt for the temptations of the world, the flesh and the Devil, we will remain dead in our sins. God will not force us to love him, for such a love is worthless and hollow, not truly love at all. We must love him freely. As such he provides us with assistance and Grace, and progressively heals us such that we are able to fight against the concupiscence of our fallen natures; but he never overrules our libertarian freedom: we are always free to sin or not to sin, we are always free to love or not to love. God will never make that choice for us.
4. Grace is irresistible
Despite the fact that we can resist Grace, we cannot outrun it forever. Grace is ultimately inescapable. Given an infinite period of time and a chance/opportunity to choose God which never “expires” or “runs out”, all people will eventually freely choose God and be saved. God’s grace and seductive love is the mechanism by which he is able to actualise his promise of Predestination without overruling our freedom. God’s grace is just so enticing, and sin is just so repulsive, that given an infinite amount of time, it is impossible for someone to remain in their misery and sins forever. God does indeed give us that infinite period of time and never-expiring chance.
5. History, and our actions are predetermined… by us!
God created all of history at once, “in the blink of an eye”. Rather than dictating every single thing that happens, he decided to create history in such a way that it unfolds according to certain physical laws and scientific principles. Furthermore, he gave us libertarian freedom, and he took this freedom into account during the creation of history. As such, God perceives all of time: both the beginning and the end, and it is immutable, there is no change or possibility of change, God beholds all events simultaneously. The way that God created it is the way that it is now and forever. As such all events and choices that we make are “predetermined”. However recall that God took our freedom into account during the creation of history. In this way, our actions and choices are predetermined, but they are not predetermined by God, they are predetermined by us!
Promise and Sacrament
God is a God who makes promises. These promises are unconditional, which is to say they do not depend on us in any way, they depend entirely on God’s goodness and Grace. They will come to fruition regardless of how we respond to them and we cannot thwart their fulfilment, despite our libertarian freedom. These promises can be found scattered throughout scripture in an implicit form, and they are spoken explicitly to individuals in the sacraments. The only possible response to an unconditional promise is to either trust the promise or ignore it. We receive God’s promises by faith alone, and when we have this faith, we are filled with joy and love, overflowing with good works. This joy and love is a direct experience of heaven right here and now on earth. As such, we have a doctrine of salvation Sola Fide.
In Baptism, God promises us that we are clean, righteous, forgiven, justified and saved.
The sacrament of Confession is a reiteration of part of the promise spoken in baptism: You are forgiven, justified, saved.
Ephesians 1:13-14 RSV-CE
13 In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
In confirmation we receive the Holy Spirit. This is therefore the sacrament of predestination: God is promising us that he will never abandon us and he will successfully get us to heaven.
The Eucharist is the promise that Christ has saved the entire world by his sacrifice of the cross. It is therefore the sacrament of universal salvation. Furthermore on a more personal level it is a promise of our completed theosis and divinization in the eschaton. We physically receive God into our bodies under the form of bread and wine, and thereby become united to God in his divinity. The Eucharist is a promise of the future completion of this process.
5. Last Rites
In Last Rites all the promises of God are reiterated, right before we are about to die and enter into our final battle with Satan. Satan wants to accuse us: “You are dirty, you are sinful, you are condemned, you are guilty, you are damned, you are unrighteous, you are not justified”. However we keep God’s promises firmly in our hearts and minds: “You are clean, you are righteous, you are saved, you are not guilty, you are justified”. This is incredibly helpful as we enter the process of dying, as we are able to dismiss Satan’s temptations to despair and resist his attempts to crush our faith.
Scripture, Tradition, Magisterium
1.1 Scripture is neither perspicuous nor sufficient for the purpose of establishing doctrine
Protestants love to claim that scripture alone is sufficient for an individual to come to a knowledge of all truth and doctrine. They claim that tradition and the guidance of the church are not necessary. I vehemently oppose this position as it is obviously complete nonsense, and this fact is demonstrable by a simple thought experiment and verifiable by scientifically observing every day doctrinal disagreements between protestants.
Thought experiment: Two Christians, guided by the holy spirit, read a given passage of the bible and come to conflicting and mutually exclusive interpretations. Who is correct? How do we decide? This situation occurs all the time in reality and decisively demonstrates the fact that Protestantism is a house built on sand.
1.2 Scripture is both perspicuous and sufficient for the purpose of coming to a state of salvation
While the bible alone is not sufficient for establishing doctrine, it is clear enough and sufficient for any individual to come to a saving knowledge of God, receive his promises and put their faith in those promises. By putting their faith in the promises of God found in scripture, an individual will emerge from the darkness and walk in the light, experiencing heaven here and now. Sola Scriptura can be affirmed if it is understood as this and nothing more.
1.3 Scripture is not self-authenticating
When faced with the question of how to determine which scriptures are inspired and which are not, Protestants often claim that scripture is “self-authenticating”. That is, it is possible to determine whether or not a given text is inspired just by reading it. I firmly deny this doctrine and hold it to be complete and utter relativistic, subjective nonsense. This method of determining inspiration can be used to validate any and all texts.
The canon of scripture is instead an element of the inspired and authoritative dogmatic tradition, which I will touch on shortly.
Tradition is the inspired life of the spirit in the church. It was delivered by Christ directly to the apostles. It manifests itself in many and varied ways, the most beautiful and significant being the wide variety of liturgies that the church possesses as a treasured heritage. Tradition can be roughly divided into the following categories:
2.1 The dogmatic tradition
The dogmatic tradition includes all infallible decrees, anathemas and canons of ecumenical councils, as well as the ex cathedra statements of the Popes. These statements collectively represent a clarification and concrete definition of the contents of the inspired tradition. The dogmas do not introduce anything new, but merely capture and clarify the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints and handed on through the church from age to age until the end of time. Once a dogma has been truly declared, it can never be revoked. Dogmas are inspired by God just as the bible is inspired by God.
2.2 The liturgical life of the church
“Lex orandi, lex credendi” – The rule of prayer is the rule of faith, or, The church believes as she prays. This axiom is brought forth in the liturgical life of the church. The approved liturgies of the Church are all inspired by God, and in fact the only reason that scripture is inspired is because it is read in the context of the liturgy. The liturgies include both the many and varied Eucharistic liturgies that have evolved throughout the Christian world, as well as the many and varied forms of the Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours). These two liturgies (Liturgy of the Hours and Eucharistic Liturgies) represent the summit of church liturgical life. These liturgies are infallible, inerrant, inspired by the Holy Spirit. We can make reference to the prayers and rituals of these liturgies to establish theological opinions and advance doctrinal arguments. God speaks to us through the liturgies, just as we speak to God.
Other minor liturgies and prayers for other purposes are also inspired (for example the rosary, the litany of the saints etc) but on their own they are not afforded the same importance as the two chief liturgies of the church, similar to how the Gospels occupy pride of place in the canon of scripture, the Eucharistic liturgies and Divine Office occupy pride of place in the canon of Tradition.
Scripture is essentially “written tradition”. Any translations which have been approved and received by the church obtain equal authority to the original manuscripts in the original languages. In this way, the Vulgate, Septuagint, Peshitta, Hebrew Old Testament, RSV-CE, etc all have equal authority and all must be given respect. Even if there are differences in translation or the translation is inaccurate, these errors are “inspired” and guided by the spirit: they represent authentic development of the tradition. They all must be taken into account by systematic theologies.
Case in point, The Latin Vulgate and various approved English translations all translate “aionion” in Matthew 25 and elsewhere as “everlasting” when a far more accurate and literal translation would be “of the coming age”. Both of these translations have equal authority and therefore both of these translations need to be received as inspired, authoritative and true when engaging in theological speculation.
3.1 Apostolic Succession and Papal Succession
It is an article of faith, that Jesus ordained the apostles and imparted his divine authority to them. The apostles in turn ordained bishops and passed on their authority. These bishops likewise ordained further bishops, and this process has continued on unbroken to the present day. Bishops have authority and must be given due respect, likewise for priests and deacons. Futhermore when all of the bishops come together in an ecumenical council, they obtain the power to declare dogmatic, infallible statements. In this way, the bishops taken as an entire college have the power to direct and define the bounds of the inspired tradition by defining dogmas.
This power is channelled through the Successor of Peter, the Pope. Jesus specifically singled out Peter as the centre of the church and the leader of all the faithful. The Successors of Peter also have this function. Bishops only retain the power to declare dogmas, binding on all humanity, if they remain in communion with the Successor of Peter. The Pope can declare dogmas outside of council at any time by making an Ex Cathedra statement.
The one true church on earth can be easily identified by looking for apostolic succession in union with papal succession. Wherever the Pope is, and the bishops who are connected to him: there is the one true church
3.2 The Church is infallible
To say that “The Church is infallible” is essentially to say that “The tradition which the church guards is inspired”. So, scripture is infallible, the dogmas are infallible, the liturgies are infallible.
3.3 The Church is fallible
However, apart from scripture, dogma and liturgy, the church is entirely fallible. The voice of the church is just one among many. We have a duty to listen to it and respect it as best we can, but if we have good reasons to disagree with official church teaching, we are well within our rights to do so.
In this way I affirm a doctrine of private interpretation: An individual has the responsibility to shape their own theological understanding and they are not bound to believe everything the church tells them. However, the individual must take into account the entire canon of scripture and all approved translations, all approved liturgies and all the dogmatic statements that have been promulgated by the church. Nothing of any of this can be dismissed or discarded. If someone objects to a theological opinion by quoting from a liturgy you have not encountered before, or from an approved scriptural translation which you have not seen before; you cannot simply dismiss this objection on the grounds that the liturgy is “obscure” or the translation is not “common” or “popular”. All approved liturgies and translations are equal in authority and this authority must be respected.
3.4 The magisterium develops the dogmatic tradition, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit
It is only by individuals and groups disagreeing with established church teaching that the dogmatic tradition is able to continue to grow, develop and mature. Individuals bring their unique theological insights and objections before the church magisterium and the magisterium sifts through them, deciding which insights are to be trusted and which objections are valid. If it is prudent to do so, a council is called and dogmatic statements are made concerning the issue at hand, or the Pope exercises his power of infallibility by pronouncing an ex cathedra statement.
1. Fully God, Fully man
Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man. It is accurate to understand this as both one person in two natures, and also as one person in one composite nature. The maxim “there is no number in God” applies here also. It is not possible to speak of “one” nature or “two” natures. Christ pre-exists numbers and therefore attempting to count his natures will lead to theological headaches. As such it is appropriate to think of him as having either one or two natures, so long as however this is formulated respects the fact that he is 100% Divine and also 100% Human.
2. Died on the Cross for the sins of the world
Christ defeated the powers of evil in a wonderfully ironic reversal: Satan mounted the powers of Hell against Jesus in order to kill him, and thus score a victory for the hordes of evil and darkness. However in a magnificent twist, Jesus conquered death by his resurrection: The grave could not contain him. And now that he has died and risen, death has no further claim on his life: he will live forever; he will never die again. We are all united to Christ and therefore we have all conquered death and the devil with him and through him. We will all be resurrected just as he is.
The sacrifice of the cross is best understood as a sacrifice of love: Jesus laid down his life in order to save us all from a terrible fate, because he loved us so much. However it can also be understood as a propitiation. Due to our sins we were heading for Hell, which can be understood as “God’s love experienced as wrath”. This would be unfortunate and unpleasant, but thankfully Jesus willingly offered himself up in our place. He “took the bullet” so that we don’t have to.
3. Descended to Hell/Hades
In Greek, the apostles creed declares that Jesus descended into Hades. This is consistent with established church teaching. Jesus went to the “place of the dead”, preached the gospel to them, and those who believed were busted out of the prison and entered into eternal life. I consider this to be an eternal event, and therefore anyone who dies today is going to meet Jesus on the other side of the threshold, and at that time Jesus will preach the gospel to them. This gives those who have not heard the Gospel during their lifetime the opportunity to accept Christ.
In English, the apostles creed declares that Jesus descended into Hell. This can be taken at face value as implying that Jesus suffered the full punishment for sin: he descended to the deepest depths of Hell in our place and experienced the excruciating pain of total alienation.
1. All Creation has been redeemed, All Creation will be saved
God loved the world so much that he sent his son to redeem it all. This includes the birds, trees, invisible and visible powers, humans, everything. God has redeemed even the fallen angels.
God intends the complete salvation and renewal of everything he has created without exception. All mankind will be saved and attain glorification and heavenly beatitude. So too will all the fallen angels.
2. Eschatological punishment
I affirm that all sin will be punished and purified in the afterlife. Nothing will be ignored. God is indeed Holy and Just, but this does not mean he must punish sin; what it does mean is that he cannot simply ignore sin, he must do something about it. What he chooses to do does indeed take the form of a punishment, however it is also a purification. The fires of Gehenna/Hell are purifying, and purgatorial, not merely retributive.
This punishment can be escaped via a heartfelt, active repentance during life, which takes the form of a lively faith which overflows with works of love, penance and indulgence. Such a repentance and faith is already the purification demanded by sin, and therefore no further punishment remains in the eschaton.
3. Eschatological rewards
I affirm that all loving acts will be rewarded by God. The reward takes the form of an increase in “eternal life”, which is to say an increase in the intensity of the beatific vision and the experience of heaven. It can also be understood as an increase in justification, theosis and divinization.
Those who do not get the opportunity to sin and do good during life (for example, young children and more importantly, aborted babies) do not therefore receive particularly intense punishments or rewards. As such, these souls have a very limited experience in the afterlife. Whilst they are indeed saved and enjoy a relationship with God, they have been eternally robbed of all opportunity to grow in holiness and relationship with God. As such, their reward is minimal and their punishment light. They exist in a sort of “limbo” state until Christ returns and inaugurates the resurrection, after which time we can only speculate on what wonders await us all.