Saturday, July 17, 2010

11 Reasons you shouldn't be a Universalist;


because Universalism ...
  1. Makes the need for salvation superfluous because everyone will be saved eventually
  2. Weakens the urgency of salvation
  3. Changes the nature of sin (If it's the worst thing shouldn't it deserve the worst thing?)
  4. Changes the nature of sin (If it's personal and uniquely human how can God be joined to it?)
  5. By making judgment remedial relativizes evil in the world
  6. By making judgement remedial weakens the idea of atonement
  7. Forgets that 'Eternal Punishment' has been a longstanding doctrine of the church
  8. Requires an earth-like second-chance-style purgatory
  9. Requires a redefinition of other biblical themes (eg anger and selectivity of God)
  10. Is reductionistic about the nature of God, making one attribute (love) the essential nature of God
  11. Is selective, wants to qualify some passages (eg Matt 25:46) but not others (Rom 5:18)

35 comments:

Allan Smith said...

Ten reasons not to be an Eternal Heller

because Hellism ...
1.Makes salvation impossible. No one in heaven can be perfectly happy knowing Grandma is in eternal torment.

2.Takes the good news out of the gospel, and turns belief into a work.

3.Changes the nature of grace (The worst thing is destroyed by the best thing. “Do not overcome evil with evil, but overcome evil with good.”)

4.Changes the nature of sin. (What will triumph? The grace of God or the sin of man?)

5.Destroys morality. If the endless torment of multitudes is good by definition, human morality (which repudiates this thought) is meaningless.

6.Makes salvation judicial, thereby weakening the atonement. I don't want to be declared righteous. I want to be made righteous.

7.Forgets that universalism was the position of 4 of the 6 most ancient Christian schools, was held by some of the most venerable Fathers, and wasn't condemned by Rome (the imperial church) for five hundred years.

8.Requires us to believe that though God loves us devotedly, he will not give anyone a second-chance.

9.Requires a redefinition of other biblical themes (eg. The final triumph of God, and the nature of his glory.)

10.Defeats the love of God. Love never fails, but hell is eternal failure.

11.Is selective. It wants to qualify some passages (“And Christ shall be all in all,” but not others.

arthurandtamie said...

Hi Luke and others

I haven't quite kept up with the universalism posts...

But it seems to me that universalism is strangely oppressive in the end, because it entails all people going happily to heaven. The Bible seems to think differently: every knee will bow and every tongue confess, but there is no suggestion that this will be joyful in every case. The Bible's picture of the depth of human stubbornness is very severe. It leads me to believe that when Jesus is revealed in glory, perhaps some will wish they had repented, but there will be others who will be no more inclined to. I take it that God honours the dignity he has given us by finally honouring our various stances toward him -- and some of us, it seems, are not interested in God's second chance. It looks to me like universalism only flies with some people being forced to change their minds about God...

Cheers

A

Allan Smith said...

Arthurandtamie said: It looks to me like universalism only flies with some people being forced to change their minds about God...

Freedom isn't the ability to do what you want. It's the ability to do what you ought. A free will is one which does good. A will that chooses evil isn't free, but enslaved. We can freely choose heaven, but it's impossible, by definition, to freely choose hell. As the Calvinists rightly teach, we who are dead in sin must first be regenerated by the grace of God. Once we are set free from our bondage, we will come. Christ leads captivity captive. The grace is irresistible.

From another angle, no one in their right mind would choose hell over heaven. The inhabitants of hell cannot be in their right minds, and therefore cannot be held responsible. Their only hope is for a good God take pity on them in their madness, reach down and save them. "While we were still his enemies, Christ died for us..."

Lastly, we can only choose responsibly when we are in full possession of all the pertinent facts. Otherwise, it's more a gamble than a a choice. Does hell exist as popularly imagined? Where is the objective evidence? Belief in hell is more like tossing a coin than making an informed decision. And it would be unjust for God to condemn someone on the basis of tossing a coin.

Cheers.

Jon said...

@ arthurandtamie - re universalism being oppressive or making God a monster, a few people have said this or versions of it in this discussion and it baffles me. It's a bit like saying feeding hungry people is oppressive because they might not want to eat.

Luke, your list in order

1. Everyone being saved doesn't make salvation unnecessary, just comprehensive.
2. Yes so it does, but so does salvation by grace through repentance - I can keep sinning and repent at the end of my life.
3. No, it just changes the way God responds to it.
4. Ditto
5. Ditto
6. No, it strengthens it because atonement is universal not selective - but it does change how it comes about.
7. Yes - or else not so much forgets it but identifies it as a long-standing mistake.
8. ...or something else enabling people to encounter God after death.
9. Yes
10. No, but it does propose a different way of understanding God's nature and his love.
11. Yes, but so does the other view, just with different passages.

Luke said...

My responses to Allan's ten

1. This presupposes your grandmother wasn't Jezebel.
2. Not in a purely Calvinistic sense.
3. I don't understand this one.
4. Hell is the eternal victory of God over sin.
5. Destroys morality. If the endless torment of multitudes is good by definition, human morality (which repudiates this thought) is meaningless. This unfortunately plays both ways, if all evil is reconciled to God, it makes any distinction between good and evil now, meaningless.
6. Declarations can change your ontological status, "I declare you husband and wife." God makes us righteous through a judicial action.
7. That's a fiction until proved, some of the most venerable Fathers Origen?! and ....
8. Good point.
9. Requires a redefinition of other biblical themes (eg. The final triumph of God, and the nature of his glory.) a. yes b. Not at all.
10. Says who?
11. Agreed, on-one has the pure inside track on what God really means.

Luke said...

My responses to Jon's responses:

1. Doesn't salvation being comprehensive still make salvation superfluous? With universalism everyone can legitimately say "right now I'm as good as saved, regardless of what I do!" In fact given that any amount of time is tiny compared to eternity, all people, past, present and future are saved!
2. Your response gives away the crucial difference, at the end of your life. Why bother even then?
3. Fair observation.
4. Universalism would want to make sin part of God?
5. I'm focusing on the "relativizing" of evil. Wouldn't all evil be seen in the light of universalism as some sort of remedial activity?
6. I was thinking of the remedial aspect not the extent.
7. As a fan of the reformation I respect this answer, but I don't think it satisfies the four Cs of getting theology from church tradition.
8. If your universalism is of the salvation through Christ variety then that doesn't follow, because universalism simply extends the current world and process of salvation into the next, but without a scriptural description or warrant.
9. -
10. No, but it does propose a different way of understanding God's nature and his love. How is that not reductionistic?
11. I'm happy with this, but are all the universalist commenters happy that universalism is a theological construction, and not the pure inside track on what the bible is really saying?

arthurandtamie said...

Hi Allan and Jon

I'm focusing here on hell as the place where God is not, the place where life is not, the place where the future is not -- the outer darkness, you might say.

I'm led to believe, on balance, that even were we to somehow fully know the horror of this, we would still prefer it to recognising Jesus as Lord. That is how all-consuming his Lordship is and how all-consuming my sin is. Even drenched in God's grace, I find that I come kicking and screaming -- thank God for his Spirit, Christ in us, the hope of glory!

The Bible, clearly enough I think, presents human decisions with respect to God as responsible decisions, for all our insanity and ignorance. Sin is enslavement, yes, and something to which we are blind, certainly, yet it is not a place into which we have naively wandered but a place in which we have knowingly made ourselves at home. The picture is that some will finally end up in hell because they would indeed choose it: a life of their very own, beholden to none, the horizons bright with the promise of personal progress.

The Bread truly is vital, but from the garden to the city gates, this world is both one in which our conscientious objection really is possible, and one in which God will not force-feed such detractors.

Cheers

Arthur

Allan Smith said...

I can think of three problems with the idea that hell is a place where God is not.

There cannot be degrees of absolute separation from God. (“It will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day...”)

Existence, consciousness, reason, the ability to feel pain are all good gifts from God. Hell would be meaningless without them. I don't find unconditional immortality in the Bible, but I do find it in Greek philosophy.

Last, we're told explicitly that “though I descend into hell, you are there.” ie. God is omnipresent, without exception.

If the Lake of Fire is God himself working with purifying power, all these problems resolve. Because he loves us, we continue to exist, reason, feel. There are degrees of punishment depending on the depth of our depravity. There will come an inevitable point where the ever-growing anguish of our alienation from God will overcome our pride, we will come to our senses (prodigal sons that we all are) and make our way back to our father's house.

Any punishment violates our free will, because no one freely chooses to be tormented. But in the hands of our gracious and wise God, this violation of what we call “our freedom” is the tool He uses to set us truly free.

arthurandtamie said...

To clarify, Allan -- not the place where God does not exist (as if that were possible), but the place where God has turned his face.

Can I recommend Tim Keller on these matters, here.

A.

Allan Smith said...

Arthur said: To clarify, Allan -- not the place where God does not exist (as if that were possible), but the place where God has turned his face.

How is this metaphor a clarification? God's face is turned from us all, right now. No sinner can see his face and live, and none have.

If we are not by nature immortal (a Greek idea), God must actively keep sinners alive in hell. But why? In order to continue the punishment. To what end? God finds no pleasure in the death of the wicked, let alone their eternal death (but all heaven rejoices when one sinner repents.)

Does God sustain sinners (their nerves, their flesh, their minds) so they may better feel the torment? Forever? To no good end? My stomach turns at the very thought. How could anyone worship such a monstrous God? Rather, God holds us in existence because he loves us and will see us whole. As Jesus said, Blessed are those who mourn. They will be comforted.

ps. I'll have a closer look at Tim Keller's article tonight, but the bit I read seemed to be circular. ie. Jesus talked a lot about hell. (He didn't.) We already know what he meant by the word. (We don't.) Therefore, Jesus affirms the traditional view. (He doesn't.)

Cheers.

Luke said...

Allan said: Jesus talked a lot about hell. (He didn't.) He did. Jesus mentions Hell 13 times, eternal punishment once and eternal fire twice. (And yes, tentmaker.org aside, αιωνιον means eternal.) Jesus also refers 7 times to a place where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Jesus affirms the traditional view. (He doesn't.) But as church history affirms, Jesus started the traditional view!

Possum said...

1. Makes the need for salvation superfluous because everyone will be saved eventually
That doesn’t seem logical. Can you please expand?
2. Weakens the urgency of salvation.
Potentially but not necessarily – and this wouldn’t mean it’s not true.
3. Changes the nature of sin (If it's the worst thing shouldn't it deserve the worst thing?)
No, it doesn’t change the nature of sin. Is your sin less serious to God than a non-Christian’s sin just because yours has been paid for? Jesus had to spill his blood for you. The sin still deserves God’s righteous punishment it’s just that a Universalist believes that Jesus’ sacrifice is sufficient for all, He wants everyone to repent and He is irresistible, so sooner or later everyone will accept God’s offer of forgiveness.
4. Changes the nature of sin (If it's personal and uniquely human how can God be joined to it?)
Huh? How can God be joined to you?
5. By making judgment remedial relativizes evil in the world
Please explain. (I’m not convinced that judgment is purely remedial, btw.)
6. By making judgement remedial weakens the idea of atonement
Please explain.
7. Forgets that 'Eternal Punishment' has been a longstanding doctrine of the church
It doesn’t forget. Rather, it questions the legitimacy of this doctrine because of the many apparently opposing passages throughout the bible, as well as the possibilities left open by ambiguously translated words.
8. Requires an earth-like second-chance-style purgatory
Can you prove that God offers no second chances?
9. Requires a redefinition of other biblical themes (eg anger and selectivity of God)
And yet seems to fit perfectly with so many other aspects.
10. Is reductionistic about the nature of God, making one attribute (love) the essential nature of God
I get your point but I think you should be careful to not overstate this one. We’re not talking about sentimental love of teenagers here. God is love. What are the two most important commands? Love God, love others. Love covers over a multitude of sins. Without love we’re clanging cymbals. I dare say love is pretty important in the scheme of things :)
11. Is selective, wants to qualify some passages (eg Matt 25:46) but not others (Rom 5:18)
That seems a bit hypocritical and not very fair. We all want to qualify some passages more than others.

Alex Smith said...

1. a) If no-one was saved, would the need for salvation be made superfluous? No. If one person was saved, would the need for salvation be made superfluous? No. If two people were saved, would the need for salvation be made superfluous? No. If 1,000,000,000,000 people were saved, would the need for salvation be made superfluous? No. Even when the very last person is eventually saved, salvation is never made superfluous. By very definition, to be saved, requires salvation.

b) Suppose I came up with a 100% effective cure for AIDS that I was able to distribute to everyone who needed it. Would you call my cure superfluous? I hope not. Sin is even worse than AIDS, and I'm saying God has a 100% effective cure, that he is able to distribute to everyone who needs it... Why is that superfluous?

2. There are still many reasons why we urgently need salvation.
a) Why is the fear of Hell the only motivation to repent? From a positive angle, we should be overwhelmed by the mercy and love God shows us and desire a relationship with the Father, Creator, Sustainer, source of all that is good, urgently.

b) Suppose God told you that He guaranteed, no matter what, that you would live till a 100, and that on your death bed you would be saved. Would you then say to yourself, "Well I can do whatever I like now, there's no urgency to be saved, as God will sort it out later"? Surely not.

c) Rom 6:1-2, answers the question of "why now, shouldn't I just go on sinning so grace might increase?" Paul says "No way!!"

d) Even if I knew my parents would take me back, would I rebel from my earthly parents? No way, the suffering caused would still be very real, even if they forgave me and we made up, it would still take years of hard work to mend the relationship.

e) Finite punishment is still painful.

3. Not at all. Everyone has done the worst thing, and everyone deserves the worst thing. However, God has given an even greater sacrifice to pay the debt, so as surprising as it is, we no longer get what we deserve. You're happy to accept that for yourself, and for anyone God elects, but if God elects everyone... not happy?

4. Not at all. You were a sinner and yet somehow you will be joined to God... i.e. You know God has figured out how to make you clean, all I'm saying is that he has figured out how to make everyone clean.

5. What do you mean by "relativizes evil"?

6. How? When it comes to atonement, the more the merrier. If I had 100 sheep and 1 was lost, I'd drop everything to go look for it, and when I found it there would be great rejoicing. Imagine if I'd lost all my sheep, and then found them? I'd be even happier. Likewise, we are all lost and God is out looking for us... so far he has found a few, he won't rest or give up till all are home :)

7. We haven't established that definitively either way yet. And even if this turns out to be correct, it wouldn't be the first time that longstanding doctrine of the church had to be changed.

8. Why is that not possible? Hell must be "earth-like" to some extent for people to exist in it. So I'm guessing you're objecting to the second chances? Why? What proof do you have that there aren't any second chances?

9. That would actually be a good thing, if they are incorrectly defined at the moment. But I'd need to see how you see each biblical theme being redefined before I could comment further.

10. What part of God's nature do you think I'm leaving out? I see him as Father, Judge, King, Creator, Saviour and many other things.

11. Sorry but that's not really a fair point. There are easy and hard passages for both sides of the debate. I have shown you many passages that non-universalists have to qualify. Anyway, I don't see Matt 25:46 needing qualification if it's correctly translated.

Allan Smith said...

Luke said: He did. Jesus mentions Hell 13 times, eternal punishment once and eternal fire twice.

I stand by my claim, and will have a go at justifying it tomorrow:)

In the meanwhile, what can be plainer than this?

13And I heard every created thing in heaven and on earth and under the earth [in Hades, the place of departed spirits] and on the sea and all that is in it, crying out together, To Him Who is seated on the throne and to the Lamb be ascribed the blessing and the honor and the majesty (glory, splendor) and the power (might and dominion) forever and ever (through the eternities of the eternities)! Rev 5: Amplified Version

Luke said...

Luke to Possum

1. Salvation implies a need to be saved, "I need to be saved from the approaching Tsunami!" being saved from something "Thanks for saving me from that burning car!" and the possibility you might not have been saved. "Thanks for stopping that bullet for me!"
2. The urgency of salvation is a dominate theological theme with a particular emphasis on this side of death, see my response to Jon.
3. No, it doesn’t change the nature of sin. Is your sin less serious to God than a non-Christian’s sin just because yours has been paid for? Jesus had to spill his blood for you. The sin still deserves God’s righteous punishment it’s just that a Universalist believes that Jesus’ sacrifice is sufficient for all, He wants everyone to repent and He is irresistible, so sooner or later everyone will accept God’s offer of forgiveness. An excellent argument, I'll have to think about this one.
4. We are united (in a sense) to God by being united to Christ.
5. By making judgment remedial it relativizes evil in the world because any evil you see or experience is simply God bringing that person closer to him. Evil is evil and shouldn't be connected with God.
6. The point and nature of atonement is retributive. The nature of the atoning death is execution and the point of the death is satisfying justice.
7. Sometimes Reformations are good things, but even the Protestant reformation drew on previous ideas. If Universalism is true, they'd still be a foundation in church tradition.
8. Can you prove that God offers no second chances? That's an impossible (e.g. 'Could God create a stone to heavy for him to lift?') question how does it rebut this point?
9. Good point.
10. Your confusing action and essence. It's reductionistic to argue that one attribute of God is superior to another, it's more accurate to the biblical data to say love is a primary characteristic of God.
11. That seems a bit hypocritical and not very fair. I'm sorry if that came across as rude. But do you see how Universalism is just as much a theological construction as the traditional doctrine?

Luke said...

Allan,
What ever Rev 5:13 means exactly; "And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea," υ͑ποκατω της γης is translated as "under the earth." There is no evidence that this is the outer darkness or the place of eternal punishment referred to elsewhere in the New Testament.

Alex,
In the words of Arnie "I'll be back."

Luke said...

(Babies, dotcha love um, Can't sleep argue about universalism!)

Luke to Alex, in two parts, part A

1. By very definition, to be saved, requires salvation. We need to get the definition of salvation really clear. Like I described to Possum, Salvation implies a need to be saved, something to be saved from and the possibility you won't be saved. If there is no Hell to be saved from, no final approaching doom and a guarantee of heaven, there isn't much left.

2. The Universalist position faces problems on three fronts here: the positive reasons are not good enough and the negative reasons are not dangerous enough. But if that wasn't enough Universalism says despite there being salvation after you die, it's somehow important, somehow urgent to saved before you die?

b) Suppose God told you that He guaranteed, no matter what, that you would live till a 100, and that on your death bed you would be saved. Would you then say to yourself, "Well I can do whatever I like now, there's no urgency to be saved, as God will sort it out later"? Surely not. Would you think I'm a horrible person if I thought, yes, I could spit in God's face for a million years and I'm still guaranteed a spot in heaven.

c) Rom 6:1-2, answers the question of "why now, shouldn't I just go on sinning so grace might increase?" Paul says "No way!!" Paul doesn't answer the question. He's talking to Christians, unless your arguing that everyone is a Christian already.

d) Even if I knew my parents would take me back, would I rebel from my earthly parents? No way, the suffering caused would still be very real, even if they forgave me and we made up, it would still take years of hard work to mend the relationship. Like I said a few posts and comment threads back, this doesn't ring true. In this example you could torment your parents to death and it'd still be fine in the end.

e) Finite punishment is still painful. Not really, it's only finite. How long do you remember a splinter?

3. Good point.

4. I'm not being clear enough here, I need to think of a better way to express this reason.

5. What do you mean by "relativizes evil"? If judgement is remedial then evil is simply God getting your attention or slowly bringing you around.

6. A fair point but I was making different one about Atonement. See my answer to Shelley.

7. This mysterious claim about most of the early church being universalist is sorely lacking in evidence.

Luke said...

Luke to Alex, part B

8. Why is that not possible? Hell must be "earth-like" to some extent for people to exist in it. So I'm guessing you're objecting to the second chances? Why? Yes, there are some parallels, but the Universalist second chance place involves almost the entire duplication of earth now into the future after death, you might say but that's the new heavens and the earth, but it's trickier than that. What proof do you have that there aren't any second chances? Hebrews 9:27 "Just as man is destined to die once and after that to face judgement." (The whole point in this chapter is the singularity of Christ's work, here and now.)

In traditional Protestant theology there is a fairly clear sequence, Death->resurrection->judgement->heaven or hell. Universalism has to introduce a purgatory after death, very similar to earth, essentially Earth version 2, reconstructing a whole world for the second chance to take place. Not only is there little to no scriptural support for this but philosophically it raises some very weird scenarios. (If I reject God and die there do I go to another third choice world? Will there be evangelism, churches, marriage and food?)

9. That would actually be a good thing, if they are incorrectly defined at the moment. But I'd need to see how you see each biblical theme being redefined before I could comment further. Anger of God, Predestination: God choosing some for destruction and others for eternal life, God selecting Israel and not Edom, Ninevah and not Babylon, God judging and destroying sinful people, the whole uniqueness of worship theme implying other ways lead to permeant trouble, all need defining if Universalism is true.

10. Allan and Jon have taken that line I wasn't sure if you had.

11. Sorry but that's not really a fair point. I didn't mean to be rude, sorry. There are easy and hard passages for both sides of the debate. I have shown you many passages that non-universalists have to qualify. So would you agree that Universalism isn't a return to what the Bible really says but a theological construction like any other doctrine? If you and Possum agree to this, I'm happy to scrub it from list of reasons! (Anyway, I don't see Matt 25:46 needing qualification if it's correctly translated. Have you found a lexicon?)

Allan Smith said...

Hi Luke,

Sheol and Hades don't mean "a place of post-death torment for the wicked". In the OT, sheol simply meant “the grave”. Both the righteous and the wicked went there. Psalm 6:4-5 "For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise?" When used of a nation or a city, it meant “this nation or city will disappear.” Both Babylon and Tyre went down into Sheol.

“And you, Capernaum, are you to be lifted up to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades...” means “Capernaum will be destroyed”.

“on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it” means “Christ will overcome death.”

The parable of the rich man and Lazarus exhausts Jesus' use of Hades in the gospels. “And in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his bosom.” A glance in Wiki reveals a wide range of interpretations, but let's take it at face value. Here you are, safe in Abraham's bosom, and there's Uncle Fred in torment. He's far away, but you can have a lively conversation nonetheless. He's close enough to talk to, but you can't throw him a bottle of water... Funny place, this. Anyway, you're perfectly happy even as you watch Uncle Fred scream and writhe in the flames.

Abraham says to Uncle Fred, “Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while poor Luke here received bad things, but now he is comforted and you're in agony.”

Uncle Fred replies, “I'm your son, eh? Then give me a fair go! I never boiled Luke in oil!”

“And besides,” says Father Abraham serenely, “between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.”

“Not even God?” replies Uncle Fred.

Taking this parable at face value doesn't work for me:) , but another interpretation does. Israel is the rich man, custodians of the Law and the Prophets. They give barely a crumb to the Gentiles, whose sores are licked by the dogs (ie. who find cold comfort in their idols.) But the Messiah comes. The old covenant dies. The Gentiles inherit the promise, but Israel finds itself in torment. The nation is scattered and Jerusalem destroyed. The gulf of unbelief separates them from God.

In the next installment, I'll look at Gehenna :)

Cheers.

Allan Smith said...

Jesus told a story of a great king who sent his servants to his tenants. The tenants beat them up. Then the king sent his son, whom they killed. The king destroyed those tenants and gave their farms to others.

Jesus, like all the prophets before him, came to call Israel to repentance, to save them from calamitous judgment. In the OT, phrases like “weeping and gnashing of teeth”, “inextinguishable fire”, “worms that don't die”, “the fire of Gehenna”, are all used as metaphors for national destruction. (They're never used in the OT as metaphors for the eternal torment of individual immortal souls.) So when Jesus warns Israel that unless they repent they will burn in Gehenna, he means that literally. Their actual bodies will be piled high in Gehenna (the tip outside Jerusalem), which is precisely what did happen (according to Josephus) after the Romans had finished with them. The fig tree was cursed. That generation did not pass away until all those things had been fulfilled.

What about verses like, “Do not fear men, who after killing the body can do no more. Rather, fear God who can destroy both body and soul in Gehenna.” But“soul” in the OT means “the breath of life”. Animals have souls. Joshua killed souls. My soul isn't “the immortal part of me that floats off when I die.” (If it's immortal, how can God kill it in Gehenna?) So how can I read this verse? I think Jesus is saying, “Don't fear the Romans. They can only kill you. Fear God, who can remove his spirit from Israel, reject Israel in favor of the Gentiles, tear up the old covenant, and leave Israel scattered and desolate.”

It's ironic. We've used parables and apocalypses to create a “literal” picture of hell. Then we've taken Jesus' clear and literal use of Gehenna (the local tip) and translated it “hell”, reinforcing yet again concepts found nowhere in the OT, but everywhere in paganism. Why is it so hard to scrub certain ideas from the brain? It's because, like Adam of old, we fear God and hide. In our depravity of mind, we imagine him to be infinitely more monstrous than we are ourselves. We're all blasphemers. The only way back is to begin trusting him...

Alex Smith said...

Nicely put old man :)

Luke said...

Hi Allan,

Your famous now, I've just finished a post (It'll be up 9 am tomorrow) about why your wrong that Hell in the OT = national destruction only.

I think it's a too big a step to say Jesus *only* meant the destruction of Israel in *every* parable about judgement. You claim to much without showing your working out. Furthermore Jesus like the OT prophets talked about both the near future and distant future. The Preterist (everything fulfilled by 70AD) viewpoint is overly reductionistic.

Its also an odd argument to de-mythologize Jesus' use of metaphors. Of course Jesus meant the local tip, the local tower built on stone, a real shepherd etc. But just as equally these practical examples represented real cosmic and spiritual realities. Although by admitting they were a prophecy for the destruction of Jerusalem you've opened the door for a longer and larger meaning.

Allan Smith said...

I'm famous? Hey... this feels goooood :)

In my post, I've presented a possible perspective on many of Jesus's sayings, and one that's rarely noted.

I agree that the history of Israel is also be the history of the individual. It's fractal, because God doesn't change. So, like Israel, we individuals are chosen, called and loved. We rebel and turn to idols. God punishes us, and brings us back. If we reject Christ, we will suffer age-long punishment, just as Israel suffers in our own age. But as Paul clearly teaches us in Romans, all Isreal will be saved in the end. So too with all individuals.

(ps. I'm an rank amateur in all this, and the depth of my knowledge can be plumbed with a very short stick.)

Alex Smith said...

In response to my "Finite punishment is still painful", you said, "Not really, it's only finite. How long do you remember a splinter?"

I think it's unwise to compare Hell to a splinter. Anyway, I think you're wrong because Christ's suffering was very finite in duration but of infinite significance!

Alex Smith said...

You said "Salvation implies a need to be saved, something to be saved from and the possibility you won't be saved."

1. I agree everyone NEEDS to be saved.
2. I agree everyone is saved FROM sin.
3. I disagree that there has to be possibility of the Salvation failing. I think "salvation", even on a human level, generally implies "saving as many as possible". Even on earth, it is often possible to save all involved. God desires all, and has infinite time and resources to do it (For God, anything is possible). Like the shepherd looking for the lost sheep, I don't think He'll stop until he rescues the last one!

Alex Smith said...

"the positive reasons are not good enough and the negative reasons are not dangerous enough"

I'm surprised that you don't see "being in a relationship" with God as awesome. I might not "feel" it as much as Pentecostals but I think this is an area they are strong in.

I think even a non-infinite Hell is dangerous enough, as that's what I think Jesus was on about in the NT.

Alex Smith said...

You said, "Would you think I'm a horrible person if I thought, yes, I could spit in God's face for a million years and I'm still guaranteed a spot in heaven."

I'm disappointed to hear that.

Alex Smith said...

You said, "Paul doesn't answer the question. He's talking to Christians, unless your arguing that everyone is a Christian already."

Yeah he does: v2 "By no means!"

Yes he is talking to Christians, but he's also talking to sinners. Anyone contemplating sinning still needs sanctification.

And yes, obviously I'm not saying everyone is a Christian yet.

Alex Smith said...

You said, "tentmaker.org aside, αιωνιον means eternal".

That's not strictly true, the word αιωνιον, even in the NIV is sometimes translated in other ways. e.g. 2Ti 1:9 they had to change it to "world', otherwise it would read "before times eternal"! Also Tt 1:2 has the cheek to translate it two different ways, "eternal" and "world". If it doesn't work sometimes, maybe they should find a word which works in all the time, like "eonian" of "age of".

Luke said...

Probably against my better judgement I'm been drawn in the debate again:

Alex,

1. You've avoided my question on Romans 6; Is Paul addressing Christians or non-Christians? (I didn't say sinners or non-sinners.)

2. You've got the Greek completely wrong in both locations, as Bryan points out with the Hebrew in a later comment thread the three rules of translation are context, context, context.

2 Tim 1:9
"Jesus before the beginning of time" (the NIV!) Ιησου (Jesus) προ (before) χρονων (time) αιωνιων (eternal)

Titus 1:2
"eternal life ... promised before the beginning of time." (the NIV!) ζωης (life) αιωνιου (eternal) ... επηγγειλατο (promised) ο͑ (the) α͗ψευδης (truthful) θεος (God) προ (before) χρονων (time) αιωνιων (eternal)

Just as in English, words are qualified and understood in their context, interestingly the context of Matthew 25:46 provides no escape from the traditional translation or interpretation.

Alex Smith said...

In answer to 2.:

Sorry, I was flicking between the NIV the and Authorised Version (which uses "world"), and ended up quoting the wrong one!

However, my point that αιωνιων is translated inconsistently by some translations still stands.

The NIV's "before the beginning of time" doesn't seem a very good translation of προ χρονων αιωνιων

The ASV's "before times eternal" is at least more literal, but "eternal" still doesn't seems logical i.e. how can there be a "before" eternal...

Interestingly the ESV translates it "before the ages began", which I obviously like much more :D

Alex Smith said...

In answer to 1.:
I said "Yes he is talking to Christians" :)

But I was trying to show how it can also apply more broadly, i.e. everyone is a sinner. Christians and non-Christians both think about "going on sinning" because they think God will let them off the hook. And Paul answers that, saying "By no means!"

Luke said...

1. Paul addressed Romans to the Christians in Rome "To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints" (Rom 1:7)! So when he says "By no means!" he's saying that to the Christians who are thinking about sinning. It makes no sense at all for Paul to say this to a non-Christian. The only way your argument would work is to say everyone is "effectively a Christian" already. You can't have your cake and eat it, Paul's addressing his argument to Christians and the only way for the universalist argument to work is to argue Paul assumed everyone was a Christian.

Luke said...

Interestingly the ESV translates it "before the ages began"
Of course you know you why the ESV translate it that way because of the preposition "before" and the word Chronos, "time." Context, Alex, context. Where are the modifying clues in Matthew 25:46?

arthurandtamie said...

Hi Allan
Picking up your reply to me... Several miles back on my scroll bar now... :P

Whether or not hell is a perpetual existence is one question, but I think the first issue is the finality of hell, which the Bible seems more interested in and more clear about -- the second death and all that. It is certainly no easy business to figure out how existence in hell might work, but if I were to grant your objections to the perpetual existence of persons in hell, that would lead to me annihilationism before universalism. I find the hell-as-purgatory idea far more slender.

In brief response to your very valid concerns, I reckon you're playing God's love/mercy and God's justice off against each other. But the Bible leaves us with tensions. When I can't logic them out to my own satisfaction, I try to live with those tensions rather than focus on what I can or cannot stomach.

You seem very concerned with hell as judgement/punishment, and I do think there's more to it than that, which is where Tim Keller is helpful. :) annihilationism before universalism.

Cheers

A.