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SDG wrote:

: Does this universal reconciliation include angelic people such as the devil?

According to people like St. Gregory of Nyssa, yes, it might. This has been mentioned already in the Rob Bell thread.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Your just saying that because you haven't read the books.

No, I'm saying it because I trust the guiding power of the Holy Spirit in the moral unanimity of historic Christian conviction.

:Really? How plausible is that? Has there ever been anything that every human being without exception agreed on?

I don't quite understand what you mean.

I mean, anything that human beings are truly free to do in principle, some human beings will choose to do actually.

Is there supposed to be something noble in this?

I don't understand the question. I don't even know whether the speculative nobility in question is hypothetically associated with God or with men. I believe that God has given men the dignity of immortality and of true freedom.

I picture some dude in the lake of fire screaming for the Lord to help him and God replying with "I can't. YOU chose this forever and because I Am Love I cannot violate your freewill". Talk about flimsy.

This other thing about God loving us so much he refuses to violate our freewill even it means eternal torture inside a giant oven, is mighty mighty weak.

Talk about "flimsy" and "mighty mighty weak," indeed! There's nothing like being aggressively caricatured to give one the warm feeling that one's interlocutor is on shaky ground. :)

Finney took the approach that men's unchecked selfishness has an appetite that will grow even after death and will be like compound interest in hell, snowballing into greater and greater monstrosity.

Interesting, but not the view I incline toward. As I've mentioned in the past, I see the biblical data on hell as combining imagery of torment, including eternal torment, with imagery of destruction as well as exclusion. I wonder whether what suffers in hell isn't something that becomes smaller, less human and perhaps even less conscious in the process, though without ever entirely ceasing to exist. In other words, I wonder whether annihilationism, while not true, isn't closer to the truth than many orthodox believers in hell suppose.

Isn't that pretty much just what Lewis' THE GREAT DIVORCE suggests, albeit without the matching belief in Hell as a literal furnace?

I think The Great Divorce offers excellent counter-pictures of perdition to the ones that Greg proposed.

I would think that this is also problematic for the eternal hell doctrine, because in this understanding, if eternal hell is true, then peoples sin and the consequences of this sin will have an eternal affect on God. Essentially the painful effects that sin causes in God's heart will not be totally eradicated.

This argument won't carry much weight for those who accept the traditional doctrine of divine impassibility. God does not actually suffer pain, or anything else. This is metaphorical language.

: Does this universal reconciliation include angelic people such as the devil?

According to people like St. Gregory of Nyssa, yes, it might. This has been mentioned already in the Rob Bell thread.

But I wasn't asking St. Gregory of Nyssa, I was asking Attica. I can't put follow-up questions to Gregory.

Edited by SDG

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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SDG wrote:

: But I wasn't asking St. Gregory of Nyssa, I was asking Attica. I can't put follow-up questions to Gregory.

:)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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SDG said:

No, I'm saying it because I trust the guiding power of the Holy Spirit in the moral unanimity of historic Christian conviction.

Well. A lot of those books are being written because the authors are being spoken to by Holy Spirit. Some are even having divine revelation.

But here's the thing..... one of the authors wrote under a pseudonym because he knew that his book would cause flack in the evangelical circles in which he walked.

Other Christian universalists have said that they will "come out of the closet" and write about their beliefs and findings after they have retired, so that it doesn't

harm their jobs and ministries.

Yet others who have come out with their beliefs have lost their Christian jobs, received ridicule, and even told that they were going to hell.... ect ect.

But they are still writing and speaking out, even when they know that it is harmful to their lives.

At least one famous Protestant writer had written about how Holy Spirit spoke to her declaring through Christ alone universalism, and showed her this in the scriptures. After she died the evangelical publishers took out

that particular chapter in later printings (there recently have been publishings with the chapter included). I realize as a Catholic you wouldn't take as much stock in what a Protestant writer says.

But my point is that her writings were changed, and made to look like her experience or views never existed.

Millions of Eastern Orthodox don't or have not believed in eternal torments (at least in the same understanding as some Catholics and Protestants do), and the Orthodox

faith is very interested in hearing from the Holy Spirit and having a mystical union with God.

Then you've got other groups like the Coptic, Ethopian and Syrian Orthodox. I don't know as much about the Coptic and Ethiopian groups, but from my understanding the Syrian Orthodox

have some universalist leanings and indications in their ancient liturgy.

There have been Catholic "mystics" and Spirit led people who have expressed Christian universalist beliefs, and some of these people were and have been poopooed because

it didn't line up with the "traditions" that had already been set in place. So then once the traditions are set in place people who are hearing from the Holy Spirit on the matter

either speak up and get branded a heretic and a fool, or go underground. Either way the tradition stays in place and folks think that this is the unanimous view, when

it isn't, people are either scared to speak up, or don't have the energy and time to, and give up. Or they do speak up and get persecuted and rejected.

The list of suppression goes on and on.

One just can't see the doctrine of eternal hell as being the moral unanimity of historic Christian conviction, when he sees the obvious ways, times, and places, that contrary

beliefs within Christendom have been suppressed.

So then the tradition stays intact, and some people think that this is the only view that has relevance. But that is not true, many people have been hearing something else from

Holy Spirit. As a semi-educated guess, I would think that this is one of the reasons that Rob Bells book is selling like hotcakes. It is saying things that are lining up

with many peoples spiritual experience.

The idea of the ultimate restoration of all, through Christ alone is what Holy Spirit has been speaking to me, and I do trust this. Then I start looking into the matter and

find out that there are an awful lot of Christians who are (and have had) the same spiritual experience, gleaning the same understandings from the scriptures, and realize that

I am far from being alone, and that this belief is growing in leaps and bounds amongst Christians from all across the denominational spectrum. Also, even though it was held

amongst a smaller segment of Christians (since Ante-Nicene times at least), and or forced underground, it has always to at least a certain degree, been within

the Christian faith.

Including some recent Catholic writers.

link to - Good goats.. healing our image of God

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Well. A lot of those books are being written because the authors are being spoken to by Holy Spirit. Some are even having divine revelation.

Here's where I'm coming from:

I believe that Jesus is the definitive revelation from God, and that the apostolic era represents the final stage in public revelation, that is, revelation that is normative or universally binding for knowing who God is and what He wants us to know. Additional revelations, what in my tradition would be called private revelations, are possible but non-normative and non-binding, and can never contradict what is known through public revelation.

I also believe that the Church is the body of Christ, and that -- the fallibility and sinfulness of her members notwithstanding -- the Holy Spirit always guides the Church in the proper interpretation of public revelation. The Holy Spirit imbues the Church with a charism of truth guiding her members corporately into the proper understanding of revelation. This doesn't necessarily mean that there will always be unanimity on matters of faith, but it does mean that truths of faith are always upheld and errors against faith are always confuted. When and where moral unanimity of faith does arise, it is a sure index of the hand of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, a unanimity once made clear cannot be undone by subsequent dissent. The Spirit does not unsay what He has once said.

Human nature being what it is, orthodoxy and heresy alike have been advanced by unscrupulous means. St. Cyril's tactics against Nestorius at Ephesus were unprincipled, but the Christology Cyril championed remains definitive. The vagaries of Church history, including claims of suppression and so forth, don't silence the voice of the Holy Spirit in the moral unanimity of the Church.

Ultimately, I look to the bishops, the councils, and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church as the final arbiters of the authentic meaning of divine revelation. Here is where the Church's charism of truth is most authoritatively and definitively exercised.

So, while I'm happy to meet exegetical arguments on their own terms, my a priori confidence in the correctness of the Church's understanding doesn't depend on my own familiarity with what dissenting voices may be saying. Again, I'm happy to rebut the arguments on their own terms, but I begin with the confidence that truth can always be defended and error rebutted.

Millions of Eastern Orthodox don't or have not believed in eternal torments (at least in the same understanding as some Catholics and Protestants do), and the Orthodox faith is very interested in hearing from the Holy Spirit and having a mystical union with God.

Then you've got other groups like the Coptic, Ethopian and Syrian Orthodox. I don't know as much about the Coptic and Ethiopian groups, but from my understanding the Syrian Orthodox have some universalist leanings and indications in their ancient liturgy.

Differences in interpretation between East and West (along with the attendant controversies, polemics, side issues and red herrings) don't obscure the fact that on the fundamental point at issue the ancient Churches all reject both universalism and annihilationism, and confess that in the resurrection some souls are eternally unable to enter into the happiness of the Beatific Vision, and that for these souls their essential condition is necessarily one of torment and misery. Any suggestion that Eastern Orthodoxy is in any real sense open to universalism seems to me baseless.

Including some recent Catholic writers.

Some dissenting and/or heretical writers. The Church's teaching is clear and unchanging.

Edited by SDG

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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For the sake of clarity, some recycled thoughts on how I think about hell, universalism and annihilationism.

1. It might be that all are saved. For me as a Catholic, this proposal lurks in the wings, but cannot be embraced. Universalism, at least in most of its forms, is flatly incompatible with Catholic belief. It contradicts the plain sense of many scriptural texts as well as the weight of tradition in historical Christian belief and in magisterial teaching, in which Catholics see the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The proposal that Christian tradition has so profoundly misunderstood divine revelation is not compatible with Catholic faith in the teaching of Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit.

2. Is there any sense in which a back door might be left open to universalism? Some have proposed that even if we can't affirm that all are saved in fact, we might possibly dare to hope that all may be saved. Catholic faith affirms definitively that hell exists -- the devil and the fallen angels are there for all eternity -- but we do not have definitive knowledge that any particular human beings go there. Can we at least hope that perhaps none do?

From a Catholic perspective, this view is, if not strictly heretical, at least proximate to heresy and gravely suspect. Proximate to heresy is nowhere that I would want to be -- but I don't go so far as to affirm as an article of faith that people are definitely in hell. The only safe view of scripture and Church teaching for me is that hell exists and people go there -- but I allow myself, if not a hope for universal salvation, at least a doubt as to the absolute reliability of the historic understanding on this point. That's as close as I can get to universalism.

3. It might be that those who are not saved are annihilated. This also is not a live possibility for me as a Catholic, even more so than universalism. The Church's teaching on this point is definitive: The soul is immortal and does not cease to exist, ever. However, as indicated previously, I wonder whether annihilationism might not contain a partial truth. Scripture does use imagery of destruction as well as of eternal suffering and exile. Is there a way that both could contribute to a larger understanding of the reality of hell?

4. It might be that the punishment of hell is not infinite. How can eternal punishment be finite? One way would be if it were progressively lessened. One can plot a curve that goes to infinity without ever crossing a certain finite threshold (e.g., halving over a given span of time, then halving again, etc.).

That would be simple enough if the punishments of hell were imposed from without, in which case one could imagine God, as it were, turning down the dial over time. But if the Catechism is right in saying that the main punishment of Hell is the inability to enjoy the Beatific Vision, then how could that be diminished over time?

One way might be if the capacity to suffer -- awareness of suffering, perhaps consciousness itself -- diminished over time. What if hell were not oblivion, but a slide toward oblivion? This proposal has for me the attractive quality of tying in both with the scriptural imagery of destruction and also the imagery of eternal suffering, while also allowing the sufferings of hell to be finite. However, it is wholly speculative, and I am aware of no precedent for this style of thinking in tradition or theology, so I don't put much weight on it. It's just an idea that I happen to like.

It seems to me at least plausible that if in Christ we become fully ourselves, then in definitive separation from God we cease to be ourselves. If in Heaven we become full or complete persons, then perhaps in hell we cease to be persons at all, and in that sense, perhaps, cease to be objects of God's love.

5. Finally, it might be that the goodness of God and the reality of hell are part of a larger reality in other ways that we can't fathom. For example, perhaps when we understand the nature of human freedom from the other side, as it were, we will see that we are indeed capable of freely choosing eternal punishment, and that there is nothing contrary to God's justice or mercy in it.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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Is there supposed to be something noble in this?

I don't understand the question. I don't even know whether the speculative nobility in question is hypothetically associated with God or with men. I believe that God has given men the dignity of immortality and of true freedom.

The speculative nobility is with a God who "so loved the world" he gave them a free will to choose eternal torture -- as if any human being ever clearly considered such a unimaginably wretched prospect enough to warrant it-- and who will respect that lofty ideal even as the subjects beg for release from their misery. I would like to remind you that traditionalists love to use the "more-than-a-mere-parable" of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16 for their proof of literal, conscious torment. Well if that is in fact the case, we have a clear example of a soul BEGGING to be let out of their physical torments-- thirst, fire, heat, extreme suffering. Not properly choosing and certainly NOT wanting. (of course I do not subscribe to that interpretation at all, and I dont believe the parable is intended to address the specifics of the afterlife at all)

The traditionalist interpretation of Luke 16 is clear:

1)The rich man did not properly choose to be there-- he ends up there

2)He is there against his will-- and he is surprised and alarmed to find himself trapped

3)He is literally mad with pain and suffering

4)God will not answer his prayers

So yeah, I find the argument that God nobly gives men the "freedom" to choose hell-- as if we're supposed to find the notion admirable to begin with-- a semantical smoke screen and a cop-out that obscures the traditionalist's reality that people are PUT into hell against their will.

Human reasoning dictates that this is an ludicrous-- the notion of men "choosing" eternal torment for their temporal sins, or choosing the lake of fire over the streets of gold. Human reasoning also tell us that a God who tortures people endlessly for infractions committed in time could not possibly be just.

Edited by Greg P

"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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The speculative nobility is with a God who "so loved the world" he gave them a free will to choose eternal torture -- as if any human being ever clearly considered such a unimaginably wretched prospect enough to warrant it-- and who will respect that lofty ideal even as the subjects beg for release from their misery. I would like to remind you that traditionalists love to use the "more-than-a-mere-parable" of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16 for their proof of literal, conscious torment. Well if that is in fact the case, we have a clear example of a soul BEGGING to be let out of their physical torments-- thirst, fire, heat, extreme suffering. Not properly choosing and certainly NOT wanting. (of course I do not subscribe to that interpretation at all, and I dont believe the parable is intended to address the specifics of the afterlife at all)

The traditionalist interpretation of Luke 16 is clear:

1)The rich man did not properly choose to be there-- he ends up there

2)He is there against his will-- and he is surprised and alarmed to find himself trapped

3)He is literally mad with pain and suffering

4)God will not answer his prayers

So yeah, I find the argument that God nobly gives men the "freedom" to choose hell-- as if we're supposed to find the notion admirable to begin with-- a semantical smoke screen and a cop-out that obscures the traditionalist's reality that people are PUT into hell against their will.

Human reasoning dictates that this is an ludicrous-- the notion of men "choosing" eternal torment for their temporal sins, or choosing the lake of fire over the streets of gold. Human reasoning also tell us that a God who tortures people endlessly for infractions committed in time could not possibly be just.

Your invocation of "nobility" is a strange one. It never occurred to me to think of "nobility" as a concept even applicable to God at all, either in connection with human freedom or in any other connection. I don't understand how the idea of human freedom to accept or reject God is supposed to redound to greater admiration of such an attribute in God. You seem to be shadow-boxing with an apologetic for hell I haven't made. I feel no compulsion to defend this concept.

As for the story of Lazarus and Dives: I see that Jesus mentions torment; I don't see that he mentions surprise or alarm. Nor am I at all sure what you mean by "madness." I see that Dives wishes for and requests diminution of his suffering in hell; I don't see that he wishes for or requests release and entry into paradise.

As for whether Dives -- and his five brothers -- freely choose their fate: Abraham explicitly states that if men will not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not heed any warning. In other words, implicit choices may still be real choices, as real as explicit ones. If I believe that it is possible to obtain eternal life through implicit or inchoate acceptance of grace -- and I do -- then I don't see why I should object to the notion that it is equally possible to lose eternal life through implicit or inchoate rejection of grace.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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As for the story of Lazarus and Dives: I see that Jesus mentions torment; I don't see that he mentions surprise or alarm. Nor am I at all sure what you mean by "madness." I see that Dives wishes for and requests diminution of his suffering in hell; I don't see that he wishes for or requests release and entry into paradise.
Well, if to be taken literally as you suppose, he is clearly ignorant of the Rules of the Pit-- implying a pitiful degree of bewilderment. He also prays for mercy (v.24) and finds none. He wants water for his physical torment and finds none. Are we to believe he wanted to be there? C'mon...

My point was, that by the traditionalist view God exacts vengeance on the wicked, with or without their compliance. They are PUT into hell by a force external to themselves, they are tormented, they seek comfort but can never find it... and no matter how they plead, they will be there forever. The reality of this position is decidedly more ugly than merely saying "well, as agents of free will, they put themselves there..." or something like that. Believers in traditional hell know such talk is a Gaussian blur filter over something much more unseemly.

In other words, implicit choices may still be real choices, as real as explicit ones.
By this token, could a person receive the gift of eternal life without explicitly choosing Christ? Edited by Greg P

"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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In other words, implicit choices may still be real choices, as real as explicit ones.

By this token, could a person receive the gift of eternal life without explicitly choosing Christ?

Didn't Steven blatantly say as much? "If I believe that it is possible to obtain eternal life through implicit or inchoate acceptance of grace -- and I do . . ."

Edited by Ryan H.
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Thanks, Ryan.

Greg: When did I say I took the story LITERALLY? I don't, any more than the parable of the sheep and the goats. I don't believe that the righteous literally go to or ever went to Abraham's bosom, or even that Abraham currently has a bosom to go to. I don't believe that the lost currently have tongues on which they could receive or wish to receive drops of water, or that they are otherwise capable of suffering from literal flames. (The condition of the lost in the resurrection is another question.) Likewise, I don't believe that people on judgment day are literally sheep or goats.

But here is what I do believe: I believe that terrible figures of speech represent terrible realities. As Lewis says, "My heart is broken" is a metaphor, but it's a metaphor that means something more catastrophic than "I feel rather unhappy." When Jesus calls us to take up our cross and follow him, that's not a call to literal crucifixion, but it means something more daunting than "Be prepared for moderate discomfort."

I don't know whether there is literally an eternal lake of fire in the eschaton, but I do know that whatever is behind all the terrible NT passages that have been adduced in this discussion is the ultimate catastrophe, something we should regard with no less horror and revulsion than if they were the literal truth.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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I don't know that my position obliges me to say that the lost "want" to be in hell. I do imagine that they prefer their chosen vices to dying to self and being made new in Christ. What do they want? I suppose they want an impossibility: they want for God not to be God, for themselves not to be his creatures -- not to owe Him the infinite debt of their existence; not to stand in need of redemption, of repentance, of conversion and grace. They want to cling to grudges, to hate those whom they hate. They want to cling to the false, self-gratifying narratives of reality and their lives that they have woven -- to regard themselves as the wronged and abused tragic heroes of their own lives, conspired against even by God himself. They have made themselves incapable of the only eternal happiness there is, and while this makes them miserable, they would not have it otherwise WHERE "otherwise" means anything compatible with reality.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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RIP David Wilkerson...

Now that guy knew how to preach about hell! As a kid I gravitated towards his no-BS, hard-ass prophetic calls to repentence and used to collect and study his sermons. Despite being so far removed from that world he and the Times Square Church devotees lived in, I found myself strangely moved by the news of his passing today. He was a seriously flawed and yet fascinating guy.

Edited by Greg P

"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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SDG said:

:I mean, anything that human beings are truly free to do in principle, some human beings will choose to do actually.

Well it's an interesting point for discussion, but I don't think it can be proven.

:This argument won't carry much weight for those who accept the traditional doctrine of divine impassibility. God does not actually suffer pain, or anything else. This is metaphorical language.

I believe that Jesus was (is) the expression of God, and he weeped with us. I know of many people who have felt that Jesus has shown them that he has weeped with them in their pains, laughed

with them in their laughter, and danced with them in their dance. They have found great comfort and love in him showing them this.

He is the Lord of the Dance.

:Here's where I'm coming from:

:I believe that Jesus is the definitive revelation from God, and that the apostolic era represents the final stage in public revelation, that is, revelation that is normative or universally binding for knowing who God is and what He wants us to know.

Additional revelations, what in my tradition would be called private revelations, are possible but non-normative and non-binding, and can never contradict what is known through public revelation.

:So, while I'm happy to meet exegetical arguments on their own terms, my a priori confidence in the correctness of the Church's understanding doesn't depend on my own familiarity with what dissenting voices may be saying. Again, I'm happy

to rebut the arguments on their own terms, but I begin with the confidence that truth can always be defended and error rebutted.

:Ultimately, I look to the bishops, the councils, and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church as the final arbiters of the authentic meaning of divine revelation. Here is where the Church's charism of truth is most authoritatively and definitively exercised.

Fair enough. Here's where I'm coming from. I believe that the Western Church DID let in heresies, and that they are in Catholicism and to differing degrees (sometimes more so) the Protestant groups that came out of this. I believe that some of this thinking can easily be rebutted as error. But what's the point, many people won't listen because the rebuttals are against their error filled traditions, which they have been told that they are heretics (or even worse damned) for not believing.

You say that Holy Spirit is in your tradition, with confidence that error is rebutted, but some of the current Catholic beliefs are very different from older Catholic beliefs. For instance in this conversation you have been saying that the Catholic belief is that all have the choice as to whether or not they accept the gift of heaven. But this wasn't a Catholic belief for centuries.

link to - Early Catholic teaching on Salvation

That's just an example, fitting to this discussion. That early belief survived for centuries, if not a millenium or more.

As well I have read some of the Ante-Nicene fathers, who have some very different beliefs again.

Now you seem like a real good guy, and I most certainly don't want this to come across as a personal attack on you or your faith. So please don't take it that way. I'm just trying to point out my view.

I think that the western church went astray, either through the failure of men, or the influence of the demonic. I believe that three of the main culprits in this were Constantine, Augustine, and Anselemn (I think that's how one spells it.)

But there have of course been others.

Anyhow because of this I am very very cautious as to any arguments that rely on a tradition that I believe has been influenced by misguided thinking. I also outright reject doctrine that can be proven to be inconsistent with the Bible (in it's original languages). If one starts speaking from Ante-Nicene thought then I'm very much more likely to take it into consideration. Yet here's the thing........as mentioned before there were some Major Ante-Nicene Bishops who were universalists, and it was the time in the churches history when it has been, overall, most open to this doctrine (also obviously when the church was timewise closer to Christ). Most of these theologians spoke in Greek and were reading from the Greek scriptures. The later Latin theologions like Tertullian and Augustine spoke little or no Greek and were reading from the Latin Vulgate, which has been proven to have some major translation flaws. Who should I be more inclined to consider?

Like I said If the apostolic era represents the final stage in revelation, why can I point out places where the traditional churches views and doctrine are in disagreement with the Ante-Nicene Christians. As I've said I have read some of their writings and I can show this to be true in several different places.

So not only can I not buy into what you are saying.... much of the traditional view, which has so strongly been influenced by dark age, and medieval Christianity....... troubles me.

Therefore if Holy Spirit is trying to correct the church we would be wise to listen.

With that in mind I did a little bit of googling and found this Catholic link.

universal salvation - and the Roman Catholic Church

Also here's some quotes from the last Pope. I realize that his use of the word universal salvation might often be indicative of the salvation of Christians outside of Catholicism (yes the

last Pope thought that Protestants are going to heaven.) But there are other quotes that people say have a Christian universalist leaning.

Has the Pope been giving us hope that all will be saved.

:Any suggestion that Eastern Orthodoxy is in any real sense open to universalism seems to me baseless.

Well Peter would be wiser than me to answer this..... and feel free to correct me Peter, but there have been (and are) Eastern Orthodox open to the hope of univeralism.

The point I was really trying to make was that when one says that the traditional church has been without error on this and other subjects, I can point to ancient traditional

churches that have, at least in part, differing views. They obviously cannot all be right, so therefore there must be errors, to at least some degree, somewhere in the traditional church.

Again please don't take what I've said as an attack or insult on yourself or other Catholics. I'm actually married to a lady who was raised Catholic and then converted to Protestantism. Her family is Catholic and I love them dearly. I have

also attended Catholic functions with them, and am happy to do so. I believe that there are Catholics who know, and sincerly love God, and that Holy Spirit does move in this church. But this cannot change my spiritual and intellectual understanding of some traditions in the Western church (including much Protestant thought.) Peace :hippie:

To be honest I came on these boards to talk about film, and would be spending more time doing so if Rob Bells book hadn't led me astray. :azzangel:

Greg P said:

I would like to remind you that traditionalists love to use the "more-than-a-mere-parable" of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16 for their proof of literal, conscious torment. Well if that is in fact the case, we have a clear example of a

soul BEGGING to be let out of their physical torments-- thirst, fire, heat, extreme suffering. Not properly choosing and certainly NOT wanting. (of course I do not subscribe to that interpretation at all, and I dont believe the parable is intended

to address the specifics of the afterlife at all)

This brings us back to an earlier conversation. Like I had said before I also don't believe that this parable is talking about punishment.

Yet here is the thing even if it is, the parable is talking about them being in Hades, not hell, in the original greek (and the more accurate English translations.)

Hades is the place of the dead (a holding tank) which is emptied into the lake of fire and destroyed in the book of Revelation, so therefore it is not eternal. So when people talk about this parable as referring to eternal hell it

actually strengthens my conviction that the doctrine of eternal Hell is, at least in part, based on bad translations of the original languages.

Here is a bit that I wrote on the other thread.

I'm sorry..... but there are an awful lot of Christian scholars, teachers and theologians that do not believe the parable of

the Rich Man and Lazarus is about eternal torments. This includes people who are not universalists.

Have a look.... these are just a few of the studies.

http://bible-truths.com/lazarus.html

http://www.tentmaker.org/articles/Lazarus-byHuie.htm

http://www.concordant.org/expohtml/HumanDestiny/lazarus1.html

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:I mean, anything that human beings are truly free to do in principle, some human beings will choose to do actually.

Well it's an interesting point for discussion, but I don't think it can be proven.

Not deductively, perhaps, but inductively I think we can be as confident of that as anything in human nature. Certainly with respect to hardness against God it accords with what we see about the state of many people in the days and months and years leading up to their deaths.

I believe that Jesus was (is) the expression of God, and he weeped with us. I know of many people who have felt that Jesus has shown them that he has weeped with them in their pains, laughed

with them in their laughter, and danced with them in their dance. They have found great comfort and love in him showing them this.

Jesus' mortal humanity was passible. His divinity is impassible. God cannot change because change is incompatible with perfection and with divine simplicity.

Fair enough. Here's where I'm coming from. I believe that the Western Church DID let in heresies, and that they are in Catholicism and to differing degrees (sometimes more so) the Protestant groups that came out of this. I believe that some of this thinking can easily be rebutted as error. But what's the point, many people won't listen because the rebuttals are against their error filled traditions, which they have been told that they are heretics (or even worse damned) for not believing.

On that last point, that's why I said twice "I'm happy to meet exegetical arguments on their own grounds." My account of my guiding principles was an explanation of the basis of my confidence, not a dismissal of the subject.

As a partial analogy, suppose you were talking to a Jewish person who said he could prove from the Jewish scriptures that Jesus wasn't the Messiah. You believe that the New Testament offers the definitive interpretation of the Old Testament, so you are confident that he is wrong. That doesn't mean you can't still discuss OT exegesis on his terms.

You say that Holy Spirit is in your tradition, with confidence that error is rebutted, but some of the current Catholic beliefs are very different from older Catholic beliefs. For instance in this conversation you have been saying that the Catholic belief is that all have the choice as to whether or not they accept the gift of heaven. But this wasn't a Catholic belief for centuries.

Yes, it was. The website you're linking to appears to be flawed and misleading. Certainly this claim in your second link is pretty much completely false:

The doctrine of universal salvation (also known as Apokatastasis or Apocatastasis) has usually been considered through the centuries to be heterodox but has become orthodox. It was maintained by the Second Vatican Council and by Pope John Paul II and it is promoted in the new Catechism of the Catholic Church and in the post-Vatican II liturgy.

For instance, the Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say about hell:

The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire."617 The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs. (1035)

Likewise, Pope John Paul II, while leaving open the door for the possibility of hope (not belief) that all may be saved, also lamented in his 1994 book Crossing the Threshold of Hope that too often "preachers, catechists, teachers ... no longer have the courage to preach about hell" (p. 183). Here is what JP2 had to say about hell in Church teaching:

In point of fact, the ancient councils rejected the theory ... according to which ... every creature would be saved, a theory which abolished hell ... [T]he words of Christ are unequivocal. In Matthew's Gospel he speaks clearly of those who will go to eternal punishment (see also Mt 25:36). [but] who will these be? The Church has never made any pronouncement in this regard. (pp 185-186)

Church teaching affirms, and has always affirmed, that our eternal destiny depends on our own choices. It also affirms that God predestines to eternal life those whom He wishes to save, and that in some sense He does not wish to save all, though there is also a sense in which He does wish to save all.

We are in the realm of mystery here, and it is not possible to diagram the will and action of God and how it relates to the will and action of man, any more than we can diagram how the divine authorship of scripture relates to the human authorship of scripture. We can say things that are true and false about it, but we can't fully understand or explain it. (One formula that the Church has rejected is the Calvinist formula of double predestination, that God actively predestines some for hell as well as others to heaven. God is not an agent of the damnation of any soul.)

Now you seem like a real good guy, and I most certainly don't want this to come across as a personal attack on you or your faith. So please don't take it that way. I'm just trying to point out my view.

No worries!

I think that the western church went astray, either through the failure of men, or the influence of the demonic. I believe that three of the main culprits in this were Constantine, Augustine, and Anselemn (I think that's how one spells it.)

But there have of course been others.

Anyhow because of this I am very very cautious as to any arguments that rely on a tradition that I believe has been influenced by misguided thinking.

I'm not advancing such an argument here for anyone but myself. Feel free to look deeper into the doctrine of hell in the Eastern Churches; I believe you'll find it just as implacable as the Western tradition.

Yet here's the thing........as mentioned before there were some Major Ante-Nicene Bishops who were universalists, and it was the time in the churches history when it has been, overall, most open to this doctrine (also obviously when the church was timewise closer to Christ).

The bald statement that "there were some Major Ante-Nicene Bishops who were universalists" is problematic. One may argue that some ante-Nicene bishops had universalist tendencies, or entertained universalist speculation, but to say, e.g., "St. Gregory of Nyssa was a universalist," as if he baldly affirmed "No one goes to hell," much less "The scriptures teach that no one goes to hell" or "The apostolic tradition holds that no one goes to hell," is so misleading as to be essentially false.

Most of these theologians spoke in Greek and were reading from the Greek scriptures. The later Latin theologions like Tertullian and Augustine spoke little or no Greek and were reading from the Latin Vulgate, which has been proven to have some major translation flaws. Who should I be more inclined to consider?

You should consider the continuity of apostolic tradition as well as the exegetical arguments of the fathers. You should also consider that universalism was always speculative, controversial and roundly rejected at the conciliar level.

Like I said If the apostolic era represents the final stage in revelation, why can I point out places where the traditional churches views and doctrine are in disagreement with the Ante-Nicene Christians. As I've said I have read some of their writings and I can show this to be true in several different places.

You will not find the theology of the ancient Churches differing from the moral unanimity of the ante-Nicene Fathers. On any subject where moral unanimity existed, it has been maintained. Baptismal regeneration, for instance. The possibility of falling from grace, for another.

Well Peter would be wiser than me to answer this..... and feel free to correct me Peter, but there have been (and are) Eastern Orthodox open to the hope of univeralism.

Individual Eastern Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant Christians can probably be found believing anything that has entered into the mind of man. That doesn't alter the teaching of the communities to which they belong or the historic shape of their communities' beliefs.

The point I was really trying to make was that when one says that the traditional church has been without error on this and other subjects, I can point to ancient traditional

churches that have, at least in part, differing views. They obviously cannot all be right, so therefore there must be errors, to at least some degree, somewhere in the traditional church.

Certainly wherever you have fallible human beings, you have errors. But not every subject dissolves into a morass of conflicting opinions. Consensus can and does arise, and on some subjects is widespread enough to be considered universal. Some dissenting opinions are obviously marginal enough to be discounted as significant.

Yet here is the thing even if it is, the parable is talking about them being in Hades, not hell, in the original greek (and the more accurate English translations.)

"Hades" is not a translation at all, but a transliteration. "Hell" has traditionally meant more than one possible destination, a nuance unfortunately lost on most people today.

Hades is the place of the dead (a holding tank) which is emptied into the lake of fire and destroyed in the book of Revelation, so therefore it is not eternal. So when people talk about this parable as referring to eternal hell it

actually strengthens my conviction that the doctrine of eternal Hell is, at least in part, based on bad translations of the original languages.

I think this is too rigid and supposes a level of established, developed technical theological vocabulary accepted throughout the Christian world, that didn't exist in New Testament times. Bear in mind that Jesus is speaking to Jews and we must consider how the story would have been understood in the matrix of first-century Jewish belief.

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In other words, implicit choices may still be real choices, as real as explicit ones.

By this token, could a person receive the gift of eternal life without explicitly choosing Christ?

Didn't Steven blatantly say as much? "If I believe that it is possible to obtain eternal life through implicit or inchoate acceptance of grace -- and I do . . ."

Yes he did! My apologies Steven.

Greg: When did I say I took the story LITERALLY? I don't, any more than the parable of the sheep and the goats.
Point taken. I should've worded this more carefully.

I'm dredging this up from a previous discussion... but do you not believe that Luke 16 -- obvious figurative language included-- represents something beyond a mere parable? The traditionalist party line is that what Dives suffered in this pre-resurrection existence was a foreshadowing of the Second Death... which of course will be infinitely more severe.

So in other words, the miseries described in those verses are like a thumbnail sketch of the actual unparalleled horror that awaits. Like that's somehow better! (or more nuanced, enlightened or something...)

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"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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I'm dredging this up from a previous discussion... but do you not believe that Luke 16 -- obvious figurative language included-- represents something beyond a mere parable?

Yes, I think it's more than a parable, if parable is even an accurate term at all. I think the story of Lazarus and Dives represents, in pictoral language, real eschatological beliefs current in first-century Judaism that Jesus accepted. It seems to me incredible to think that Jesus would tell such a story if he didn't think that there was really a state of enduring, conscious suffering after death. Can you imagine Jesus telling a story about reincarnation, as some kind of counterfactual allegory? I can't.

The traditionalist party line is that what Dives suffered in this pre-resurrection existence was a foreshadowing of the Second Death... which of course will be infinitely more severe.

So in other words, the miseries described in those verses are like a thumbnail sketch of the actual unparalleled horror that awaits. Like that's somehow better! (or more nuanced, enlightened or something...)

This I don't know about. I don't know that anything in divine revelation as I read it or as the Church interprets it establishes any particular hierarchy or relationship between the pre-resurrection and post-resurrection suffering of the lost.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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No one believes all elements of these passages literally--meaning that Jesus is actually separating farm animals or that the wine of God's wrath is a result of fermented grapes (quite a bouqet on that one, I'm sure). Are we using literal as a (perhaps unfair) pejorative by association with fundamentalism?

SDG, do you believe in resistable grace?

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SDG, do you believe in resistable grace?

I'm not sure that "resistible" and "irresistible" are helpful terms, or that anyone can really adequately explain how grace, freedom and predestination are related. Here is what I can say:

  1. God gives everyone sufficient grace to be saved.
  2. Not everyone who receives sufficient grace is brought to the grace of regeneration (sanctifying grace).
  3. Not all who receive sanctifying grace remain in the state of grace all their lives. Some fall into mortal sin.
  4. Not all who fall into mortal sin remain in it. Some repent and are restored to grace.
  5. All who die in mortal sin, whether they were once regenerated or have never been regenerated, are lost.
  6. All whom God predestines to be saved die in the state of grace.
  7. God predestines no one to hell.

P.S. This might be helpful: A Thomist version of TULIP.

"A Tiptoe through TULIP" by Jimmy Akin

T = total inability (to please God without special grace);

U = unconditional election;

L = limited intent (for the atonement's efficacy);

I = intrinsically efficacious grace (for salvation);

P = perseverance of the elect (until the end of life).

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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Jesus' mortal humanity was passible.

What of his glorified humanity?

I know this question will take us off track just a little bit, but I'm curious as to what your thoughts are on that highly difficult element of the Incarnation and its implications for the nature of the Godhead.

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SDG said:

:Jesus' mortal humanity was passible. His divinity is impassible. God cannot change because change is incompatible with perfection and with divine simplicity.

I don't really consider God's weeping, over us as being a change at all. I think that is completely compatible with his unchanging divine character.

:On that last point, that's why I said twice "I'm happy to meet exegetical arguments on their own grounds." My account of my guiding principles was an explanation of the basis of my confidence, not a dismissal of the subject.

My point had been intended to be more generally speaking.

:Yes, it was. The website you're linking to appears to be flawed and misleading. Certainly this claim in your second link is pretty much completely false:

Okay. Point taken.

:We are in the realm of mystery here, and it is not possible to diagram the will and action of God and how it relates to the will and action of man, any more than we can diagram how the divine authorship of scripture relates to the human

authorship of scripture. We can say things that are true and false about it, but we can't fully understand or explain it. (One formula that the Church has rejected is the Calvinist formula of double predestination, that God actively predestines

some for hell as well as others to heaven. God is not an agent of the damnation of any soul.)

Yeah that's a tough one to wrap ones head around. I to completely reject the double pre-destination view. Yet Calvin was heavily influenced by Augustine who was a early Roman Bishop. While not having as strong of a view on this as Calvin those tendencies were there.

:No worries!

good ::cheers::

:I'm not advancing such an argument here for anyone but myself. Feel free to look deeper into the doctrine of hell in the Eastern Churches; I believe you'll find it just as implacable as the Western tradition.

I have read some stuff from the Eastern church. One book in particular is "Christ the Conqueror of Hell". Here is the books description.

This in-depth study on the realm of death presents a message of hope held by the first generation of Christians and the early church. Using Scripture, patristic tradition, early Christian poetry, and liturgical texts, Archbishop Hilarion explores the mysterious and enigmatic event of Christ s descent into Hades and its consequences for the human race. Insisting that Christ entered Sheol as Conqueror and not as victim, the author depicts the Lord s descent as an event of cosmic significance opening the path to universal salvation. He also reveals Hades as a place of divine presence, a place where the spiritual fate of a person may still change. Reminding readers that self-will remains the only hindrance to life in Christ, he presents the gospel message anew, even in the shadow of death.

About the Author

Archbishop Hilarion (Alfeyev), Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations, is well known throughout the Orthodox Church as a leading theologian, writer, and musical composer. He holds a doctorate in Philosophy from Oxford University and a doctorate in theology from St Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute in Paris.

:The bald statement that "there were some Major Ante-Nicene Bishops who were universalists" is problematic. One may argue that some ante-Nicene bishops had universalist tendencies, or entertained universalist speculation,

but to say, e.g., "St. Gregory of Nyssa was a universalist," as if he baldly affirmed "No one goes to hell," much less "The scriptures teach that no one goes to hell" or "The apostolic tradition holds that no one goes to hell," is so

misleading as to be essentially false.

As I have mentioned before. I don't believe that there isn't a "hell", only that it is corrective and not eternal. This is what I'm saying some of these Ante-Nicene fathers had expressed in their writings. As I have mentioned in other posts I have read writings from Origen where he says something along the lines that the spiritually mature (his words not mine) taught eternal hellfire to the babies in Christ in order to keep them in line. But the truth must sometimes be told in order to combat views from outside Christianity that God wasn't good. Now I know that Origen is considered to be a heretic by many, but what I'm trying to get at, is that this writing is indicative of a view that was in Christianity at the time. Which I think was actually rather idiotic.

I don't believe the scriptures teach that no one goes to hell. I believe that they (in their original languages) teach that hell is corrective and not punitive, for the point of bringing the rebellious to repentance, and purifying from evil. That is what the general discussion over Rob's book has been about. The idea of no one going to hell shouldn't really even be on the table.

: You should also consider that universalism was always speculative, controversial and roundly rejected at the conciliar level.

Some of them were more speculative than others, I think. Some of them like Origen or Gregory of Nyssa (being the most famous for this) were at a level beyond mere speculation in their beliefs.

Some of Origen's writings were controversial, but even with those controversial writings, his beliefs on ultimate reconciliation were not that controversial until much later. To my understanding Gregory of Nyssa and the others who expressed similar views, were not considered controversial at all.

The Nicene creed mentions the judgement to come, which nobody is or has really argued against, yet there is no mention of eternal torments in this or the Apostles creed. As we know the idea of ultimate reconciliation of all was floating around at that time (the debate would be as to how much so.) If they had have wanted to squash this belief on the conciliar level eternal torments would have been mentioned in these creeds. The fact that it isn't even touched on says much.

The later Athanasius creed does allude to eternal torments. But scholars say that Athanasius didn't write the creed. In fact nobody really knows who wrote it, and it never came out of a synod. Many are suspicious as to any value this creed might have, even when they agree on it's trinitarian views.

:You will not find the theology of the ancient Churches differing from the moral unanimity of the ante-Nicene Fathers. On any subject where moral unanimity existed, it has been maintained. Baptismal regeneration, for instance.

The possibility of falling from grace, for another.

I agree in regards to those two points (although not necissarily in the Catholic understanding of mortal sin). Yet there were differences. One major one being that the Ante-Nicene fathers had a much higher view of human nature than the post Augustinian church. There are others, but I think that discussion goes on to much of a rabbit trail.

:Individual Eastern Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant Christians can probably be found believing anything that has entered into the mind of man. That doesn't alter the teaching of the communities to which they belong or the historic

shape of their communities' beliefs.

I have never read any of the individuals writings, only those from Bishops and theologions.

:"Hades" is not a translation at all, but a transliteration. "Hell" has traditionally meant more than one possible destination, a nuance unfortunately lost on most people today.

Hades is more or less the New Testament Greek version of scheol. Which is more or less "the land of the dead". In old Testament times Scheol in no sense had any meaning pertaining to hell.

The word hell comes from the pagan Saxon God named Hele, and shouldn't even be in Christian language. Of course it's in our wording now and isn't about to leave.

Whatever one might think about the traditional meaning of hell, the original language uses Hades for that passage, and Hades is not eternal.

:Bear in mind that Jesus is speaking to Jews and we must consider how the story would have been understood in the matrix of first-century Jewish belief.

Exactly

He was speaking to Jews according to their language and culture, and wasn't talking about hell or eternal torments. The eternal hell tradition has changed the meaning of this parable.

The parables original meaning fits just fine with the teachings and leanings that the previous parables in this series of parables teach.

The links that I added above touch on what he was really teaching

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Another thing that I just remembered, is that even if the parable did teach about eternal torments, it doesn't teach that a person couldn't get out of these torments if they repented to Jesus.

It's impossible for this parable to teach this, because Jesus (or God for that matter) isn't even mentioned in the text, just father Abraham.

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I don't really consider God's weeping, over us as being a change at all.

Neither do I. Because it's a metaphor. :)

Passing from happiness to sadness, or from any state to another state, is a change. It implies potentiality and variability between possible states, when God is pure act. It implies that God's existence is dribbled out moment by moment like ours, so that what God was yesterday is gone, and what He will be tomorrow is not yet a reality, whereas in fact God possesses the totality of His being in a single timeless Now.

The idea of God experiencing real emotions over sin (and redemption) implies, further, that in interacting with creation -- and specifically by interacting with fallen creatures, by grieving over their sins, and by redeeming them -- God realizes possibilities for Himself that would not have been otherwise available to Him. It implies that God's own Being is enlarged, His horizons broadened, by new experiences. On this view, it is not just that He created us for our happiness and benefit; He gets something out of the deal too.

The high Christian view is that God is always eternally and infinitely blessed, that He cannot be enlarged or expanded in any way; that His beatitude cannot be increased one iota by the eternal happiness of a hundred billion souls, nor diminished one iota either in connection with human sins or human perdition. Whatever weeping over our sins means is an eternal fact about God that in no way precludes or diminishes His infinite beatitude.

My point had been intended to be more generally speaking.

I got that; I just wanted to be clear. :)

Yeah that's a tough one to wrap ones head around. I to completely reject the double pre-destination view. Yet Calvin was heavily influenced by Augustine who was a early Roman Bishop. While not having as strong of a view on this as Calvin those tendencies were there.

Yeah, Augustine was strongly predestinarian, but the points of contrast with Calvin are crucial. Predestination and grace for Augustine didn't mean the kind of human passivity that it did for Calvin; that's why Augustine maintained that the regenerate were free to fall from grace, and why he didn't find it necessary to make God himself the Author of perdition via double predestination.

I have read some stuff from the Eastern church. One book in particular is "Christ the Conqueror of Hell".

The book seems to be fundamentally an exploration of the event that Western tradition calls "the harrowing of hell," or Christ's descent into that hades called the limbo patronum. The author explores different ways of understanding this event and its applicability to different populations of the dead. AFAICT, his ultimate conclusion appears to be that we don't know whether salvation is actually achieved by all, but it is available for all who wish it. This seems pretty close to mainstream Catholic thought, although with differences in emphasis.

As I have mentioned before. I don't believe that there isn't a "hell", only that it is corrective and not eternal. ... The idea of no one going to hell shouldn't really even be on the table.

Okay, point taken. Perhaps I should have said that Gregory's universalist tendencies don't amount to unambiguously affirming "No one is ultimately excluded from paradise / beatitude / eternal life." Gregory's teaching is apparently more ambiguous than that.

Some of them were more speculative than others, I think. Some of them like Origen or Gregory of Nyssa (being the most famous for this) were at a level beyond mere speculation in their beliefs.

This is at least controverted. Some scholars apparently dispute that either Origen or Gregory really taught universal reconciliation.

The Nicene creed mentions the judgement to come, which nobody is or has really argued against, yet there is no mention of eternal torments in this or the Apostles creed. As we know the idea of ultimate reconciliation of all was floating around at that time (the debate would be as to how much so.) If they had have wanted to squash this belief on the conciliar level eternal torments would have been mentioned in these creeds. The fact that it isn't even touched on says much.

It suggests that the question was not a raging controversy. Hard to draw any other conclusions from silence in the absence of further evidence.

The later Athanasius creed does allude to eternal torments. But scholars say that Athanasius didn't write the creed. In fact nobody really knows who wrote it, and it never came out of a synod. Many are suspicious as to any value this creed might have, even when they agree on it's trinitarian views.

It is a witness of patristic faith, and a popular and respected one. It deserves the same weight as any other mainstream patristic source.

I have never read any of the individuals writings, only those from Bishops and theologions.

Bishops and theologians are individuals, and quirky to heretical opinions can be found even in individual bishops and theologians.

Hades is more or less the New Testament Greek version of scheol. Which is more or less "the land of the dead". In old Testament times Scheol in no sense had any meaning pertaining to hell.

The word hell comes from the pagan Saxon God named Hele, and shouldn't even be in Christian language. Of course it's in our wording now and isn't about to leave.

Whatever one might think about the traditional meaning of hell, the original language uses Hades for that passage, and Hades is not eternal.

:Bear in mind that Jesus is speaking to Jews and we must consider how the story would have been understood in the matrix of first-century Jewish belief.

Exactly

He was speaking to Jews according to their language and culture, and wasn't talking about hell or eternal torments. The eternal hell tradition has changed the meaning of this parable.

The parables original meaning fits just fine with the teachings and leanings that the previous parables in this series of parables teach.

I don't think this account takes adequate note of developments in Jewish thinking about the afterlife during the Second Temple period.

The earliest conception of sheol was simply the abode of the dead, and I'm aware of no evidence that the early Hebrews had any conception of sheol as a temporary destination. On the contrary, much of the OT seems to reflect the common understanding of the ancient world that there was no return from the grave.

Some OT sources, particularly later sources like Daniel, display a developing hope that Israel's God will indeed restore the righteous from sheol. With this new hope comes a welter of new ideas and pictures of the afterlife and the hope for new life, as well as the differing states of the righteous and unrighteous.

Much of my understanding of developing Jewish eschatology comes from N. T. Wright's The Resurrection of the Son of God, and -- unhappily for the present discussion -- Wright's focus on resurrection excludes any detailed consideration of hell or torment in the afterlife. Nevertheless, I think I've gathered enough information to make a few relevant observations about the matrix of Jewish eschatological ideas in the world in which Jesus preached.

One Jewish belief, of course, was that there was no afterlife to speak of (the view of the Sadducees). Other Jews believed in a disembodied immortality much like the Neo-Platonist view. The distinctive Jewish hope, of course, was for resurrection in a new world order. Ideas about the intermediate state differed widely, from oblivion to somnolence to beatitude.

Among those who hoped for more after death than the Sadducees, it was widely believed that there was one fate for the righteous and another for the wicked. For those who believed in resurrection, it was widely believed that there was a resurrection to life for the righteous, but not for the wicked. Or perhaps the wicked were to be raised after all -- only to be judged and cast out.

If the unrighteous were not raised to life, what happened to them? Perhaps their souls went to a place of annihilation -- like Gehenna, a realm of pollution, idolatry and fiery destruction.

But Gehenna might not be a place of sheer annihilation. Some saw it as a place of purgatorial or expiatory suffering from which sinners might ultimately be released. Others saw it as a place of punitive suffering with no hope of release. All of these ideas appear to have been current in the world in which Jesus preached.

The story of Lazarus and Dives uses the term hades, not Gehenna -- but the imagery is remarkably Gehenna-like, suggesting the fluidity both of voculary and ideas at the time. Note that this is the one time in the NT the term hades appears as a place of suffering and torment -- and fiery torment at that. (In this connection it's worth noting that the term "Gehenna" appears a total of 10 times in Matthew and Mark, but only once in Luke; perhaps to the ear of the third evangelist, or to his audience, the term Gehenna lacked the currency or familiarity of hades and so Luke used hades instead of Gehenna here.)

However, in one respect the hades of Luke 16 does differ from Jesus' usual teaching on Gehenna: In Luke 16 Jesus is clear that the rich man's body is buried, so what suffers in the fiery hades is not body and soul, but the soul alone.

This is different from Jesus' characteristic description of Gehenna, which is emphatically a place where both body and soul are cast by God. This suggests a place of final punishment after the resurrection.

Jesus explicitly speaks of such a place in Matthew 25, where in the final judgment those on the king's left depart "into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." This closely parallels the lake of fire in Revelation, where the devil, the beast and the false prophet "tormented day and night for ever and ever," and where all the wicked are cast after the resurrection and the final judgment. Jesus' term "eternal fire" in Matt 25 recalls the "unquenchable fire" that Jesus elsewhere ascribes to Gehenna, closely connecting Gehenna and the fire prepared for the devil and his angels into which the wicked are cast.

Nothing in Jesus' teaching on Gehenna or the "enternal fire" suggests that it is remedial, rehabilitative or temporary. In Gehenna, Jesus says, both body and soul are destroyed. In Matthew 23 Jesus calls the Pharisees and their converts "sons of Gehenna" alongside such terms as "brood of vipers" and "whitewashed tombs." "Sons of Gehenna" seems in fact approximately parallel to the Johannine term "sons of your father the devil."

Likewise, James 3:6 says the tongue is set on fire by Gehenna. Clearly the fire of Gehenna, in keeping with its etymological associations, is a fire of pollution, not a cleansing or rehabilitative fire.

Then, in addition to all the Gehenna imagery, there's also all the imagery of exile, of outer darkness and binding hand and foot, of weeping and gnashing of teeth: imagery that connotes inner anguish rather than external torture, and with no hint of future reconciliation -- or hope of relief through annihilation.

And, as previously noted, Jesus combines these two sets of images in Matt 13, where the wicked are cast into the "furnace of fire" where there is "weeping and gnashing of teeth." The implication is that these images all refer to the same thing.

All in all, I'd have to imagine a Jewish hearer of Jesus concluding that when He speaks of the wicked being cast body and soul into Gehenna, or bound hand and foot and cast into outer darkness, weeping and gnashing their teeth, etc., that He means a state of exclusion from the resurrection of the just, a state from which there is no hope of redemption.

The links that I added above touch on what he was really teaching

I looked over the links. I didn't find what I saw compelling. In particular, as I said, I find the notion of Jesus adopting a counterfactual eschatology as the premise for a parable massively implausible.

Another thing that I just remembered, is that even if the parable did teach about eternal torments, it doesn't teach that a person couldn't get out of these torments if they repented to Jesus.

Nothing in the NT offers any hope that such repentance is possible. And if it were, would it also be possible for those in heaven to repent of having served God and go the other way? If the one, why not the other?

Edited by SDG

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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Hi SDG.

I have family over for the weekend but I'll respond as soon as able.

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