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Hell and how to preach it


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Christopher Lake said:

:It helps our discussion. I just probably won't be able, physically speaking, to respond to you at the length, and with the detail, with which you might sometimes respond to me. I will do what I can though.

No worries. I don't want to treat you unfairly in any conversations.

:For example, is it your contention that the Bible and the early Church both teach that all people are saved after their deaths? Do you believe that there is an eternal Hell of some sort but that is simply empty? Do you believe that any people go there, at all, even for a limited amount of time?

I believe that it is a corrective sacrament that lasts for a period of ages that are limited within time. How long that potentially lasts I have no idea. I don't think it's a place where anyone would want to go.... at all.

This quote from an early Christian pretty much sums it up. There were more early Christians who had this kind of understanding than many people realize.

Do not suppose that the soul is punished for endless eons (apeirou aionas) in Tartarus. Very properly, the soul is not punished to gratify the revenge of the divinity, but for the sake of healing. But we say that the soul is punished for an aionion period (aionios) calling its life and its allotted period of punishment, its aeon. --Olnmpiodorus (AD 550)

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I believe that it is a corrective sacrament that lasts for a period of ages that are limited within time. How long that potentially lasts I have no idea. I don't think it's a place where anyone would want to go.... at all.

Thanks for this clarification, Attica. Given that this is what you believe that Jesus and His original disciples taught about Hell, at what point do you believe that the early Church began to "fall away" from this understanding?

Given that God, presumably, wants to communicate the truth to us, about Heaven, Hell, and others matters of serious importance, why do you think that He has allowed (what are, in your view) false understandings of Hell to be taught, predominantly, for well over 1, 500 years, in Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and Protestantism?

Even in terms of historic Orthodox theology, which is more amenable to your view (perhaps-- Orthodox scholars disagree among themselves on this) than either Catholicism or Protestantism, Orthodoxy today does not teach your view of Hell as a legitimate position to hold within the Orthodox Church(es).

This means that of the two oldest visible, organized, established Churches within Christendom (Catholic and Orthodox, or Orthodox and Catholic, depending on which you believe was first, hehe!), neither one currently allows your view of Hell as a legitimate view to hold within their fold(s).

The Catholic Church definitely does not teach UR, nor does she even allow it to be held by her members. The Orthodox Church(es) allow for more latitude, as to what Orthodox Christians believe about Hell, but I am still not aware of any branch within Orthodoxy today which allows its members to hold that all people definitely will be eternally saved.

Now, I know that you believe that the earliest Church, the one established by Jesus Himself, did actually teach your view of Hell, because you believe that this view is what Jesus Himself taught. Over time then, not only in Catholicism and Protestantism, but apparently, also in Orthodoxy, you believe that a "corrupted, paganized" doctrine of Hell gained predominance. (I write this, given that Orthodoxy today does teach that Hell is eternal, and people can go there eternally. Therefore, it seems that you must believe that Orthodoxy was eventually corrupted by paganism too, regarding the subject of Hell.) When did this corruption begin?

How do you account for the fact that UR-- the correct view, in your opinion-- has been such a very minority opinion for at least a thousand years-- not taught officially, or even allowed to be held, within Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and most Protestant circles? How does this not equate to a form of "ecclesial deism," in relation to God's workings among Christians?

The following article is a lengthy one, by online standards, but it is on the theme, which you have mentioned, of doctrinal corruption in the early Church. I hope that you will read and seriously consider it (especially as I haven't given you many numerous articles to read thus far-- only this one, I think?): http://www.calledtoc...cclesial-deism/

I have some major work that is due tomorrow, for a graduate class in theology, and I have a mid-term on the 10th that is 30% of my grade for the class. Between now and then, I may not be able to respond, at least not at great length, on this thread. On other threads here, I will be commenting, if at all, only very briefly. I apologize for the hiatus in our discussion, but I really do need to attend to my formal studies. Lord willing though, I will be back! Blessings. smile.png

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Hi Christopher. My response pretty much ended up being a small book. If you don't want to take time read my ravings I completely understand.

Christopher said:

:The Catholic Church definitely does not teach UR, nor does she even allow it to be held by her members. The Orthodox Church(es) allow for more latitude, as to what Orthodox Christians believe about Hell, but I am still not aware of any branch within Orthodoxy today which allows its members to hold that all people definitely will be eternally saved.

Well I think Peter summed it up when he said

"And then there are Orthodox, like St Gregory of Nyssa, who have believed that everyone will ultimately be reconciled to God in the end. They're a minority, but they do exist, and it is certainly permissible to *hope* for universal reconciliation, even if we cannot dogmatically state that it will happen."

To my understanding it might not allowed to be dogmatically stated. But also to my understanding, like Peter stated, there are Orthodox who DO believe in UR. Frank Schaeffer doesn't believe in eternal hell and in fact actively speaks out against it, yet he's still welcomed in the Greek Orthodox church, which Peter alluded to being the more "Liberal" of the Eastern Orthodox. He's even invited to speak at events and such. Then there was that Eastern Orthodox UR writings that I linked to in the above post where UR is clearly stated by a member of the Eastern church.

These amongst others.

Also. Again. I'd add that there are many ancient branches outside of Eastern Orthodoxy and Catholicism. There are the Syrian, Ethiopian, Coptic Orthodox, and Celtic. Here's some evidence of an Syrian Orthodox author and teacher who has written a book about the doctrine of the ages, to which I had mentioned.

:The following article is a lengthy one, by online standards, but it is on the theme, which you have mentioned, of doctrinal corruption in the early Church. I hope that you will read and seriously consider it (especially as I haven't given you many numerous articles to read thus far-- only this one, I think?): http://www.calledtoc...cclesial-deism/

I had a glance through this article. It's written by Catholic converts from the Reformed group, from which you say you also converted. I sense that your conversion back to Catholicism must have been fairly recent.

Please understand. I've never been in the Roman camp or the Reformed camp. This isn't really all that relevant to me. I'll explain.

As mentioned before. I'm a student of Celtic Christianity, which is one of the ancient branches of Christianity, that has Bishops in apostolic succession. This being separate from Rome's. As well I'm part of an Anglican community which is also in Apostolic succession. Initially Rome rejected Anglicanism's apostolic succession but they have since acquired succession from the Old Catholic lines, Old Catholicism being a combination of Orthodoxy and Rome.

I've talked with my Anglican Priest about UR and he's quite fine with the concept, likely believing it himself. I've talked with Celtic Bishops in apostolic succession. One of them believes in annilihation, the other two in UR. Obviously none of them have ever had a problem with me believing it. They seem to hold to the belief of Soul Liberty on this subject. Thus one website states.

The Celtic Anabaptist Communion affirms the fact that the word translated "eternal" in relation to hell in the New Testament does not mean eternal in the original languages, but rather means an "eon," or "age," -- a long, indefinite period of time. Consequently, the CAC does not affirm an unconditional universalism, an unconditional eternal hell, nor annihilationism. The CAC thus allows for freedom of conscience on details of the afterlife.

So now I'm guessing that your thinking that "they should listen to the authority of the Pope". But the fact of it is, that none of the several ancient branches outside of the Roman church ever considered the Pope to have authority over them and none of them ever will. I don't mean this as a point of offense. It's just is what it is.

The Coptic Orthodox branch even has its own Pope.

So now. Here's a bit of my journey to help explain some answers to your question.

I come from a family of Scottish immigrants to Canada who were initially from the Isle of Skye and the Outer Hebrides islands. These were two of the places where the Celtic church had survived throughout the centuries. Mostly because they were in some of the most remote parts of Europe where nobody really bothered them and they received little persecution for the longest time, until around the time of the highland clearances where there was massive persecution from the Scottish Presbyterians. Of course in it's early years Celtic Christianity flourished across a good chunk of Western Europe but was broken down to small numbers, largely through persecution.

The family that I was raised in had retained a lot of this worldview although I was raised in a fairly Liberal Protestant denomination. In my late 20's I moved to Evangelical Christianity which I was in for over a decade. But there were aspects to it that very much didn't sit right with me. Namely too much of a retreat into their sub-culture and this angry wrathful end-times God that they believed in. It often didn't align with my spiritual understanding of God as I'd felt he had and was showing me.

Several years back I felt that Holy Spirit was calling me to look into my heritage and upon doing so I found that the Celtic church was beginning to put up websites and expand out of the fringes of traditional Celtic lands where it had previously moved underground because of persecution.

So I began studying this form of the faith and talking with various clergy.

One wrote this.

One of the most helpful lights to our path is to firstly understand the Father's heart and then the heart of the Celtic saints. Father's heart is passionately, unquestionably towards all of His creation but particularly towards all mankind (us) our response to this revelation as lived out by so many of the Celtic saints is an equally passionate pursuit of personal holiness. It's not about debts its about being part of a great love affair about total abandonment to a person and a purpose. God is of course the person as in Father, Son and Holy Spirit, while the purpose is simply adoring,loving and worshiping God, while living to overcome every sinful obstacle and fleshly weakness the hinders us.

When Jesus said those wonderful words "It is finished" that's exactly what it meant, it was like father slammed a massive rubber stamp in the heavenlies with the words "Paid in Full Forever" across everything with no if's or buts', no exclusion clauses and definitely no small print.

I hope this is helpful and as you continue to stand and ask, that Holy Spirit will do what Jesus said He would and lead you into all truth. For the moment I would like to share the following verse Jer 6:16 Thus says the LORD: "Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.

I feel this is where you are currently standing. I believe God will reveal even more to you as you pray through this verse and ask Him to show you the "Ancient Path".

So of course I did search out the ancient paths.

Later when talking with another Abbot this came up in his conversation.

God does not blame humanity for sin and expresses no wrath on sin, but merely wants to liberate humanity,

In studying these ancient paths a Bishop said that if one wants to drink fresh water they should go to the beginning of the stream. Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy puts a great emphasis on the creeds. But the Celtic church instead puts a great emphasis on the writings of the apostles and their successors.

Celtic Bishops were present at the Nicea council which gave us the Nicene Creed. To my understanding Eusubius wrote that the Celtic Bishops opposed the changing of the dates of Easter and Sabbath as was being mentioned during this council. The Celtic church rejected several other decisions from this meeting, for instance.... Metropolitan Bishops and needing two or more clergy to ordain. At that time Roman influenced Christendom started paying their clergy and moved into the Cathedrals, amongst other things. Celtic Christianity has never done this. They didn't think that Christianity should be changed in these regards.

I'm sure this is horrifying to you. But did you know that this was also around the time that the Eastern Orthodox and Roman church (although I know they hadn't split yet) canonized what Orthodox, Catholics and Protestants believe is the canon of the New Testament. The Ethiopian and Syrian Orthodox rejected this view on what was inspired text thus including texts such as the Epistle of Barnabas but rejecting Revelation. Several years ago there was some talk, probably connected with that Da Vinci code book, about Constantine influencing what was in scripture. But there is evidence that some of the ancient Christian branches believed this.

I could go further into this but it would be offtrack.

So getting back to the "ancient paths" and the concept that God doesn't express any particular wrath on sin. I felt that this fit in with my spiritual understanding. But I could not fully grasp it fom the Bible. Yet one could find texts such as the "Letter to Diognetus", largely considered to be the first Christian apologetic, to contain this sentiment. here's an excerpt.

For God, the Lord and Fashioner of all things, who made all things, and who assigned them their various positions, has proven himself not only a Friend of mankind, but also patient. Yes, he always had that type of character, still does, and always will—kind and good, free from anger, true, and the only one who is good.

Similar sentiments can be found amongst other early Christian writings.

Slowly the light started to dawn on me. Jesus was the full expression of God, representing God in Old Covenant times at that, because most of his earthly work was done before the cross whereby the New Covenant began. There was no wrath in Jesus towards sinners. None. There was nothing but mercy and compassion. The only time he was really all that angry was during the "cleansing of the temple".

Then I read some writings about God's lack of any real "wrath" as is commonly understood, such as this.

Then after re-reading Paul's understanding of wrath in Romans 1...... the penny dropped. The switch flicked. God isn't wrathful. God is Perfect Holy Love.

I wrote the following about the subject and sent it my Bishop friends.

on God's wrath (or lack thereof)

The following is an attempt to explain how God can express no wrath on sin (in the punitive understanding of wrath) in a way that is consistent with the Bible, and it's clear understanding of a just God who judges and corrects the world, setting it right.

How is that the Bible clearly says that Christians will be saved from God's wrath through Jesus (Romans 5:9), but yet in this very same epistle Paul says this.

Romans 3: 5-8

However if OUR (meaining including Paul's) injustice continues to stand together with God's fair and equitable dealings, what shall we say? God, the One continuously bringing Wrath is not unjust – after the manner of a man. I normally say certainly not. Else, how is God constantly making decisions about and repeatedly judging the ordered system. But if in the result of my lie God's truth and reality encircles for superabundance into his glory, why am I ALSO still being continually judged as one failing to hit the target.

When one looks at these two texts there is an apparent conundrum. According to much current Christian theology a Christian is saved from God's wrath through Christ's “substitutionary atonement” on the cross, yet in the above text paul (being a Christian) still considers God's wrath to be brought to himself. Furthermore Paul also mentions that he still is being judged as a sinner.

So my question would be. How is it possible that a Christian who is forgiven and right with God still has God's wrath burn against them according to the Augustinian understanding of God's wrath?

The answer is simple. Many Christians have been given a profound misunderstanding of God's wrath.

Near the beginning of his Romans epistle Paul clearly explains what God's wrath is. In Romans 1: 18-23 he talks about God's wrath coming on to ALL the injustice and irreverence of men, as they are retaining the truth in injustice because God has made his invisible attributes apparent in his creation. Now if one was to read this text through the actively punitive understanding of God's wrath coming on to ALL of the injustice and irreverence of men..... then how would it be possible for God to be merciful? How can God be merciful towards sinners if his wrath punitively punishes them for ALL of their sins.

But then in Romans 1: 24 – 32 Paul proceeds to explain God's wrath. It is God giving over (or allowing) people to go their own “Way”, thus sinking deeper and deeper into their own depravity. In other words he isn't saying that God's wrath punitively punishes all injustice and irreverence, but that it allows all of it to potentially lead down the slippery slope to depravity. As I'll show this is not inconsistent with God's mercy as the other understanding of wrath would be. In fact it is the path to it,. one would never need mercy if they never went astray.

Next in Romans 2: 1-3 Paul says the we need to be careful in judging others because “God's judgement according to truth will come against all who commit these things”. Therefore if we do them we will be judged in God's wrath, which in context of what Paul has said earlier means that God will allow us to go our own ways into deeper darkness.

Yet in Romans 2: 4-5 Paul then says that the richness, kindness and forbearance of God is with people who have been allowed to go into darkness (through God's “wrath”), yet God is with them trying to lead them into repentance.

It's worth noting here that the above understanding of God's wrath is remarkably close to Christ's parable of the prodigal son. In the parable the father allows the son to go his own ways (God's wrath), the son goes deeper into depravity eventually ending up with the pigs. The son gets tired of this lifestyle and makes his way back to the father, who hikes up his robes (an undignified act in that society conveying the fullness of his love) and runs to great the son with joy, welcoming him home.

Thus the prodigal son was allowed to go astray, and returned to mercy.

It's also worth saying that this parable conveys absolutely no punitive wrath from the father according to the Augustinian understanding of wrath.

later in the epsistle Paul moves on to talk about justification (being declared right with God according to “the Way”.) Which brings me back to Romans 5: 9.

Romans 5: 9

.... While we were still sinners Christ died for our sakes. Much rather then, being justified in His blood we shall be saved from Wrath through Him. For if, being enemies we were conciliated to God through the death of His Son, much rather, being conciliated, we shall be saved in his life.

This text should not be prooftexted but instead read in the context of what Paul has previously said concerning God's wrath. In other words the Christian is justified (right according to the way) and shall be saved from going their own ways into depravity, destruction, and pain (God's wrath allowing this) through Christ.

So in God's eyes a Christian is right according to “the Way” (and therefore right with God) and with God's help they are to live according to “the Way”. They are saved from going off of the narrow path of “the Way” to other paths, through the help of Christ. This is done through encouragement, guidance, and warnings of the Spirit, as well as various life giving things such as the sacraments, which help the Christian overcome the problem of the law of sin and death (Romans 8.)

Thus Christians are saved from wrath (following their own ways to depravity) through the help of Christ. This is the wrath that Christ saves the Christian from, not a wrath that they have inherited from any “original sin”; or any actively punitive wrath.

Therefore, in this understanding, when Paul says in another text to “work out our salvation with fear an trembling” he is telling us to follow “the Way” and thus “work out our salvation”, being that we are saved from the consequences of not following “the Way”, with Christ's help.

Likewise in James' Epistle he is saying that even though we are right with God according to “the way” it is of little benefit if we don't attempt to live according to “the Way”. The Christian might be right with God, but God's wrath will still allow them to go down the slippery slope that can eventually lead to destruction, pain, and death.

Yet as mentioned in Romans when we stumble from “the Way” God is waiting for us to come back to him and his mercy (in fact he is calling us back) just like in the story of the prodigal son.

One can see this understanding of “the Way” and “God's wrath” in the Gospels.

Matthew 3: 1-8

Now in these days, coming along is John the baptist, heralding in the wilderness of Judea, saying: “Repent for near is the kingdom of the heavens”. For this is he of whom it is declared through Isaiah the prophet, saying.

“The voice of one imploring:

“In the wilderness make ready the road of the Lord!

Straight.... be making the highways”

.......Now, perceiving many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Progeny of vipers! Who intimates to you to be fleeing from the impending wrath? Produce then fruits worthy of repentance.

So with the above understanding John's quotation from Isaiah is relating to “the Way”. To make ready the road (the Way) of the Lord, and to make highways (the Way) straight.

John says to repent and produce fruits worthy of this repentance and thus flee from God's coming wrath. In other words he's saying that God's wrath is going to allow the Jews to go their own ways into their depravity, and he's calling people to repent and show worthy fruits of this, and therefore to not go down this path.

Of course many refused to repent and it is historically known that after this point many of the Jews became progressively more depraved, to the point where the Jewish Zealots instigated the Roman armies to the point where they brought on the destruction of Jerusalem in the “great tribulation” that occurred in 70AD.

This is the coming wrath that the Prophet John was warning them to flee from. It wasn't God punitively hurting them, but rather God allowing them to go their own ways to the point that they brought the destruction and pain on themselves. Of course God also allowed (in his wrath) the Romans to follow their own dark paths leading to their part in the destruction.

It interesting to note that this is the exact same scenario as we see happening in the Old Testament prophetic writings. They mention that God's wrath is kindled against the Jews, and that God stirs up the particular nation against the Jewish people. So how does God “stir up” this nation? God does this through his wrath allowing the nation to go their own ways into depravity, to the point where they build their war machine and attack the Jews.

Thus God's judgment isn't God actively punitively hurting the Jews and the nations, but rather God allowing them to hurt themselves. God then brings good out of their evil in that he uses their violence and war, and it's consequences, to bring the Jews and the nation to repentance, away from their evil ways and back to him.

So similar to the story of Joseph and his brothers God's wrath allows people (Joseph's brothers) to do wrong, but in his love, and longsuffering he brings good out of it. Thus Joseph could say “what they meant for evil God meant for good”.

Also in a similar vein God used the fall of Jerusalem for good in that the Old Covenant system was destroyed, allowing the New Covenant to flourish. The persecution of Christians by the Jewish people (at that time) ended, and there was justice for these persecuted Christians. I believe it's also part of God's plan to lock up the Jews in unbelief so that he can eventually be merciful to them (Romans 11: 25-32).

God has foreknown all things, he knew what they would do, and knew he could bring good out of it. This leads to the Celtic understanding of destiny, which is what Paul was trying to articulate in Ephesians 1. One can walk outside of God's will, but he has foreknown that they would do this, thus they can never walk outside of their foreknown destiny. Therefore through God's activity in the world and in his foreknowing what humanity would do, God is completely sovereign over human destiny without influencing our will, or causing evil. In this all things work together for good.

Interestingly, Jesus says something similar about God's judgment in John 3: 17 – 21, specifically verse 19.

John 3:19

Now this is the judging: that the light has come into the world, and men love the darkness rather than the light, for their acts were wicked.........

In other words the judgment was to allow them to go their own ways, and thus they loved the darkness rather than the light.

Just following this text in John 4 the Bible mentions Christ's interesting interaction with the Samaritan woman. In this interaction Jesus is full of mercy and grace, like he is in every interaction with sinners in the Bible (with the possible exception of some of the Jewish leaders – who were not being merciful.)

This raises the question. If the punitive Augustinian understanding of wrath is true, then why doesn't Jesus, whom the Bible says is the full expression of God, ever act in a punitive wrathful way towards sinners, or humanity in general. Shouldn't Jesus, being the full expression of God and fully God, have been acting in a complete and continued state of wrath towards them, until he appeased himself on the cross (and how does that work)? Remember what I had said before about how if the punitive understanding of God's wrath (in Romans) was true then God wouldn't be able to show mercy. Jesus was full of mercy.

So in this view the Bibles understanding of wrath and judgment has nothing to do with the Augustinian doctrine of God's continual wrath on mankind after “original sin”, or with God's punitive punishment of humanity for sin. Rather it has to do with God respecting our freedom to reject “the Way” and walk into the darkness of other paths (rejecting the narrow path of the kingdom of heaven in favour of the wide path.)

Thus the Christian is to live their lives mindful of staying on “the Way” confessing our sins, and attempting to return to “the Way” (with God's help) and thus attain to salvation. Not, in this case salvation from punitive wrath, but rather from the destructive consequences of rebellious living.

God can/will use these consequences of rebellious living to bring people back to “the Way”. I would think that God trusts the “light inside all” and the human conscience enough to know that many people will learn to reject the depravity and the consequences that they see in themselves and the society around them, and thus want to walk according to a better Way.

Thus getting back to Romans 3 Paul can truly say.

Romans 3: 5-8

However if our (including Paul's) injustice continues to stand together with God's fair and equitable dealings, what shall we say? God, the One continuously bringing Wrath is not unjust – after the manner of a man. I normally say certainly not. How else is God constantly making decisions about and repeatedly judging the ordered system. But if in the result of my lie God's truth and reality encircles for superabundance into his glory, why am I also still being continually judged as one failing to hit the target.

And it is not according as we are constantly being slandered and according as certain folks – of whom the result of the judgment is fair – habitually affirm us to be continually saying “We should constantly be doing the bad things so that the Good things may come out of it.

In other words he is saying that God's wrath allowing people to go their own ways into depravity is not unjust, because this is how he judges the world (how else?) and thus sets it right. The truth and reality of God's wrath (allowing depravity) encircles Paul's lie (his depravity) which eventually encircles to God's glory. Meaning God uses the lie as a way to set right, for his glory.

Thus Paul says that people were accusing the Christians of teaching that “people should be doing the bad things that the good things may come out of it”.

My bishop friend responded with this.

I've read your essay and again, you have a great understanding of Celtic Spirituality. None of the early church fathers believed it would be this way...........They were divided between believing that nonbelievers were simply cast into the fire and burned up forever and destroyed - that was their punishment, to be separated from God and have their lives ended. Or they believed sinners would be punished for a period of time and then would get into heaven. After all, hadn't Christ already paid the price for everyone?

So what I believe we can see through the course of early Christianity's journey is that some progressively started to view God as wrathful like the "pagan gods" they had previously worshiped. But did you know that in his writings Augustine mentioned this.

"There are very many in our day, who though not denying the Holy Scriptures, do not believe in endless torments". -- Augustine (354-430 A.D.)

He called these people "tender hearted doctors". But seemed to accept that they could believe it. There was still a Soul Liberty in this.

But as I've mentioned before all (if not most) of the ancient branches rejected the Augustinian understanding of original sin. It's a Catholic doctrine that made its way into much of Protestantism.

So when some read Ephesians 2:3 which says.

: "Immersed among which folks we all also were once twisted up..........Furthermore, we were continuously existing in essence being children of wrath even as the rest were".

They read it through the lense of "original sin" and read it to says something like.... "Because of original sin humanity is born evil, corrupted, or depraved and under God's wrath."

When others read that text they view it through what Paul said about wrath in Romans 1 and say something like......."God's wrath allowed them to go astray and as children of this wrath their natures therefore became corrupted."

Likewise when some read Romans 5:9 which says "being now justified in his blood we shall be saved from wrath through him"

they read into it something like....... "being justified (forgiven of sins) through Christ they are saved from eternal wrath".

When others read the text they read it in context of what Paul has said earlier in Romans about wrath and read something like......"people are justified (made right with God according to the way) and through Christ's help they are saved from going their owns ways into self destruction (which God's wrath would allow).

So, as previously mentioned there is good proof that the Emperor Justinian's influence in a meeting before that one early council, made it so that some Christians perceived the doctrine of UR to be declared heretical, when it can be shown that it wasn't at the actual council.... in and of itself.....not really. This opened up the doors for belief in UR to be disallowed as an orthodox belief. I don't think that half pagan emporers should have been allowed to bugger around with Christian beliefs.

With this in mind look at all of the differing opinions on various critical aspects to Christianity among ancient church's who are all in Apostolic succession. The Syrian and Ethiopian churches have different NT canons, Roman Catholics have a different view of the fall and resulting human nature than the other branches, at least some of the Celtic Bishops rejected relics and praying to saints as pagan. Thus this Celtic website says the following.

It was believed that they were our first teachers of Christianity, that they came from the East before corruption had yet overspread the Church; that they took the Scriptures for their sole rule of faith......... that they rejected Transubstantiation, the invocation of Saints, the Veneration of relics, image-worship and the celibacy of the clergy, and they kept their simple worship and pure doctrines undefiled to the last.

So in answer to your question as to if God would allow his church (being in your understanding Bishops in apostolic succession) to be led astray. My answer is..... yes....he obviously has. These different branches of Christianity are believing different things about core subjects, like praying to saints, what happened at the fall, God's wrath, Mary, and even what is the New Testament scriptures. They can't all be right. Therefore somewhere down the lines someone went astray. The question of course is, who, and in what ways.

Sure the "gates of hell" will never prevail against the church. Christianity will never die... it will continue to expand onto the earth. But that isn't to say that it can never go astray in its understanding. Including its understanding of the afterlife.

So in the above mentioned understanding of God's "wrath". Even if God's "wrath" does allow the church to go astray. Paul says that God is still ultimately working all things according to his good purpose, because that's the character of a gracious and merciful God.

So then I can only ask. If some some people are going to suffer in hell for ever..... then will have ALL things been worked out for the good?

Edited by Attica
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Attica, I had a longer reply to your above reply typed out here, and I just lost it. I wish I could reproduce it for you here, but it's gone. I'm sorry. I absolutely have to doggedly devote myself to my graduate studies for the next week. Lord willing, I will be back to this thread by the 12th.

In the meantime, I sincerely hope that you will carefully read and consider, rather than quickly dismissing, the article on "Ecclesial Deism," for which I provided the link. The fact that you are neither Reformed nor Catholic does not mean that the article has nothing which addresses your perspective. (I was not always Reformed as a Protestant myself. I have held different perspectives at different times.) The piece addresses some perspectives and objections that are very similar to ones you have raised here, yourself, about doctrinal corruption in early Christianity. I hope you will consider giving it another reading. http://www.calledtoc...cclesial-deism/

In addition, when you mentioned, in an earlier comment, about us having to "limp along with bad translations of Scripture," I thought of another article which really compares and contrasts our different approaches to reading Scripture well. I do not believe that contemporary Scriptural exegetes necessarily have such a better understanding of Scripture than the comparable exegetes who lived from 100-500 A.D.-- including St. Augustine, yes, but also St. Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Ignatius of Antioch, Clement of Rome, St. Jerome, and many, many others. If any future discussion of Scripture among us is really going to bear fruit, it would probably be helpful for you to read this article about our contrasting exegetical approaches, so that you can understand why I believe that your more lexical, "word-study-based" approach to Scripture (an approach which was mine for years!) is problematic, or at least lacking, in some important ways: http://www.calledtoc...nd-the-lexicon/

To be very clear here, I do realize that you're not all about the word-study approach, in an exclusive sense, and I know that you do care about exegetical tradition (otherwise, you wouldn't be referring to early Church writers, such as Origen and others!), and I also do still care about the word-study, lexical approach, to an extent, but still, there are major differences in how you and I exegete Scripture that are going to lead us to continual stalemates, unless we each recognize where the other is coming from exegetically, and then try to carefully engage each other with the recognition of our differing exegetical "languages/worldviews," so to speak.

Ok, I have one more thread to reply to, and then, I have to go study like a monk in his cell! smile.png Lord willing, I'll be back to this thread by sometime next Friday. I wish you a blessed weekend and coming week!

P.S. In a good bit of your exegesis on God's "wrath," above, you are addressing, at least in your understanding, the Augustinian view of the Atonement, but it actually seems closer to the Reformed view... and the Reformed view of the Atonement is not the Catholic view of the Atonement, especially as relating to the notion of God's wrath: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/04/catholic-and-reformed-conceptions-of-the-atonement/

Edited by Christopher Lake
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Hi Christopher

I'm reading through the first article again.

From the article.

:So the dilemma is this: either he makes an ad hoc appeal to tradition, and thus commits the fallacy of special pleading, or he gives up his appeal to tradition, and thereby loses that by which he tries to draw a principled distinction between the methodologies whereby Baptists and Mormons determine whether particular traditions are in line with Scripture or are ungodly accretions.

A further and particularly significant implication of this ad hoc approach to the tradition is that it undermines the basis for believing the canon of the Bible to be correct. If the Church erred in so many doctrines and practices, then we have no basis for believing that the Church got the canon right. It would be ad hoc to trust that the Church got the canon right while believing that the Church got so many other things wrong during that same period of time.10

In that case we cannot justifiably use our interpretation of Scripture to determine which traditions agree with our interpretation and which traditions do not, because we do not know which books are Scripture. Nor, for the same reason, can we use our interpretation of Scripture to determine which books of the Bible belong there, because that would be to assume at the outset precisely what we do not know, i.e., the canon. As a result, those who claim that the Church deviated from orthodoxy at an early point in history, and use Scripture to show this, undermine the very basis for their assurance that the book they hold in their hand is canonically inerrant.

But what I had written wasn't talking about picking and choosing from Catholic tradition. It was talking about the fact that there are different traditions some of which DO have different opinions of what is canonically inerrant. There are different traditions that have always rejected some of the stuff you are arguing for. This isn't really relevant.

Plus.... it is completely possible for someone to go astray in one area (like say relics) but not another (like the canon). Is that not so?

:From the article "Ecclesial deism is the notion that Christ founded His Church, but then withdrew, not protecting His Church’s Magisterium (i.e., the Apostles and/or their successors) from falling into heresy or apostasy".

Okay. But Christopher. Here's the thing.

The Catholic Bishops followed Augustine's understanding of original sin. The Orthodox, Celtic, Syrian, Coptic, and Ethiopian Bishops rejected this doctrine as heresy.

If God was protecting the Bishops from falling into heresy. Then why do many of his Bishops consider this doctrine to be heretical? Either the Catholic Bishops had fallen into heresy.... Or the Celtic and Eastern Orthodox Bishops had, because they taught something different.

If God was protecting the Catholic Bishops from falling into heresy why do they have an understanding of transubstantiation that the Celtic and Eastern Orthodox Bishops believe to be heretical. Either the Catholic Bishops had fallen into heresy..... or the Eastern and Celtic Bishops had.

If God was protecting the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Bishops from falling into heresy when it comes to relics and prayers to the dead saints. Then why had the Celtic Bishops rejected this teaching very early on. Either the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Bishops were wrong on this, or the Celtic Bishops were.

If God was protecting the church from falling into heresy in regards to what scriptures were canon. Then why does the Ethiopian and Syrian Orthodox have different views of the canon than Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy? It had to be one of these groups that went wrong.

These ancient groups had/have distinctly different views on these things and more. They ALL had apostolic succession with Bishops who were successors to the apostles.

Some of these Bishops consider the others to have heretical views. Therefore if they have such hugely different views then obviously someone had to have fallen into heresy. So therefore obviously it is possible for this to happen. How could this not be so?

I'll read you other article in a bit. But for now I'd say that yes my study is surely not just a word study. But don't you thing its kind of hard to do a proper study when one is reading from the wrong understanding of pertinent words.

I wish people would read some of the books that have done EXTENSIVE study on these things, including the early church. It's not as if I'm some lone ranger in this stuff.

Christopher Lake said:

: In a good bit of your exegesis on God's "wrath," above, you are addressing, at least in your understanding, the Augustinian view of the Atonement, but it actually seems closer to the Reformed view... and the Reformed view of the Atonement is not the Catholic view of the Atonement, especially as relating to the notion of God's wrath: http://www.calledtoc...-the-atonement/

That could be. It wasn't really about the Augustinian view as such. That wasn't really the main point. It was simply about an understanding of God's wrath not being actively punitive. Which there is evidence of in the early church, is in the Celtic church, and I think possibly, a belief in Eastern Orthodoxy.... at least I've heard it expressed.

Edited by Attica
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Christopher Lake said:

:I do not believe that contemporary Scriptural exegetes necessarily have such a better understanding of Scripture than the comparable exegetes who lived from 100-500 A.D.-- including St. Augustine, yes, but also St. Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Ignatius of Antioch, Clement of Rome, St. Jerome, and many, many others.

Yes.. but here's the thing. It can be proven that Jerome and Augustine were reading from bad translations of certain pertinant words. As well UR was at its most dominant in history during the early years of the church. There are parts of their writings that show this. Plus Irenaeus' understanding of recapitulation fits in quite fine with UR. His writing in against the Heretics seems to indicate a belief in anniliation though but not eternal hell. I've read from (and talked to) those that think the same about Justin's writings.

Oh... and also. Did you know that in his earlier writings Jerome expressed a definite belief in UR and there is indication that this is because he was reading writings from the early Greek fathers..... he later changed his position, some say because of the influence of Latin Christians that he was around. But also lets not forget that Jerome was Augustine's friend.... and Augustine himself said that a great many (possibly translated as most) Christians of his time believed that there would be an end to the punishments. As well we know that Jerome mistranslated some pertinant words when he wrote out the Latin Vulgate translation, that would have drastically changed the meaning of certain passages.

Your using early Christians to argue against me.... when I've been saying all along that many (probably most according to what Basil the Great said) of the early Greek speaking Christians believed in UR and that we should be looking to them. Also that at least some of these Christians believed that the Apocalypse of Peter was scripture and it taught UR. As well when one reads Irenaeus' against the heretics...... it has a much higher view of humanity and human nature than pretty much every Western branch of Christianity..... as well as a much gentler God. It views God as a loving presence active in his creation.

By the way.... Irenaeus was a Bishop in Gaul which was at that time Celtic lands. He mentions in one of his writings that he is amongst the "Keltai". He would have influenced them... but also been influenced by them. What I've been expressing is not incompatible with Irenaeus' understanding of the faith..... in fact my understanding of Christianity was influenced by Irenaeus.

But, maybe more so, Ireneaus helped to confirm me on the path that I was on. Much of what he wrote in the last few chapters of Against the Heretics is pretty much the exact same as my views.

Like I said..... my understanding of these this was helped along by learning about how the very early church viewed things.....which I believe is different than what the church (especially in the West) progressively moved into after Nicea..... and I'm far from the only one that believes this.

Edited by Attica
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  • 4 weeks later...

I just noticed that there was a question that I failed to respond to. I apologize.

Christopher Lake said:

:you believe that a "corrupted, paganized" doctrine of Hell gained predominance. (I write this, given that Orthodoxy today does teach that Hell is eternal, and people can go there eternally. Therefore, it seems that you must believe that Orthodoxy was eventually corrupted by paganism too, regarding the subject of Hell.) When did this corruption begin?

I believe that this corruption largely began after Constantine and the legalization of Christianity in Rome. They turned pagan temples into churches to attract pagans there. They changed the days of Sabbath and Easter to pagan days (when an earlier council had already decided on the day to celebrate the cross.) They decided that the pagan statues in the temples would represent saints. ect ect.

Some would say that this is all good and fine because it was attracting pagans to Christianity. That's for another discussion. Yet the fact is, that the pagans did come into Christianity, in droves, at that time. Which certainly isn't a bad thing. Except. Many of the pagans never fully converted to Christianity or learned Christian ways. They retained a belief system that was part pagan and part Christian.

That's when it really started to creep in, I think. It came from the pagan gnostics, which were influenced by the Greeks (who had brought some hints of it into Judaism through influence after Alexander the Great's conquests in the inter-testament times.) Which ultimately came from Zoratorianism.

Yet even so. Later on, in his writings Augustine said that the a great many (or could be most) Christians believed that there would be an end to the torments. He called them tender hearted doctors (connected with doctrine.) Augustine was the first real champion of eternal torments, and as I've mentioned. He failed to understand critical Greek words as he spoke Latin and not Greek... and even confessed that he hated the Greek language. He failed to understand the words aionos, and Basionos (means "testing" not "torments")... probably amongst others. This was a full 400 years or so after Christ.

There is evidence that the views of ultimate reconciliation laster longer in the East, an example is a major Eastern theologian... Maximus the Confessor who expresses views that quite likely are UR. Maximus also in his writings shows that he understood the concept of ages. Remember, he was a Greek speaking writer.

Then after Augustine the doctrine of eternal hell had a bit of a foothold in the church. But as mentioned above even during the confusion over the condemnation of Origenism which happened later there were still some, or many, Christians that did not believe in eternal torments. By this time it is now around 500 years after Christ.

So then. Somehow or the other Christendom comes to believe that Origen and UR were anathema... when it really wasn't. If anything Origenism was considered anathema. Which was a different thing, although UR was considered to fall under its wings seeing as Origen was a champion of it. But its interesting to note that Gregory of Nyssa and others who taught UR were never considered heretics, and they also taught it. In fact the Eastern church calls Gregory of Nyssa "Fathers of Fathers"

So after that it seems that the belief in UR became taboo and simply died away amongst many Christians, although there have been Christians who believed and taught it in later periods, especially upon the approach of the end of the dark ages. There is evidence that some of the medieval mystics such as Teresa of Avilla wrote about UR. ("All will be well and all manner of things will be well".)

And of course at the time of, and after the reformation, there have been Christians who questioned the doctrine of Eternal Torments, or who blatently believed in UR. The belief in UR has been growing, sometimes slowly, ever since.

For some reason, it has come to a head in Protestant Evangelical circles and there is a great amount of discussion and debate. In this there are a growing number of Christians who are embracing UR. Especially as better translations of the Bible and more study of the subject are being published.

Edited by Attica
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  • 3 months later...

I just discovered a new book, called Flames of Love, which touches on the subject.

From an interview with the author.

One time a woman came to see me to talk about some “spiritual issues,” and she told me that when she was a little girl she would often cry herself to sleep at night, sometimes crying so hard that she would throw up, because her best friend was not a Christian and her church told her he was going to a never-ending hell. That actually seems to me to be an appropriate response to this doctrine. But should the good news of Jesus cause little girls to cry so hard they throw up?

I began really seriously questioning the existence of an everlasting hell when I was working on a master’s thesis in the area of philosophy of religion. I started out trying to argue against Christian universalism, but the more I studied and prayed about it, it seemed to me that Christian universalism just had stronger arguments philosophically, biblically and theologically.

I believe that you can be a biblical, orthodox Christian and still believe that God will ultimately save all people through Christ, and I want others to know about this perspective. There is an evangelistic impulse at the heart of this book. I believe that God is love and I feel compelled to share that message. In writing the book, I also had in mind more “liberal” Christians who have left behind any conviction of judgment and belief in an afterlife. While I believe we need to rethink the dominant view of heaven and hell, I don’t think we can completely discard them and still have authentic Christianity.

Also and excerpt from the book.

There is probably no quicker way to turn a morally sensitive believer into an atheist than by thelling her that she has to set aside her deepest moral intuitions when thinking about God. Based on my own experience, and on a recent sociological study of what compels a person to become an atheist, people who are told to blindly submit to a harsh and vindictive conception of God that seems completely opposed to what they know about what is good and just places an enormous psychological burden on them that is too great to bear. Oftentimes the only way people can be released from this is to stop believing in God altogether. .... Traditional teaching on hell, and its insistence that God's moral goodness is totally different from human moral goodness, has probably done more to contribute to atheism than anything else.

Atheists are traditionally branded as immoral, but many of them reject traditional theism out of deep moral convictions; convictions that say that a God who tortures people forever for sin that they couldn't help avoiding in the first place is not worth worshiping.

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