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Rob Bell--Love Wins

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The idea of fiery judgement upon sinners actually sorta thrills me sometimes. Something in me would rejoice to see the world's worst, most violent politicians tormented day and night forever. Absolutely.

But that's one reason why I reject the traditional view of hell-- it has a distinctly primitive, human aroma.

Yes, hell seems to appeal to people just fine. It's the "who goes there" that people find troubling. Frankly, a heaven with no Freddie Mercury but a Jerry Falwell seems pretty unjust.

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My hunch is that this will be some form of Conditionalism / annhilationism. I'm torn between that and some form of universalism.

FWIW though what's usually called the "traditional" view of hell isn't. All 3 broad positions go way back, and IIRC it's conditionalism that's the oldest.

Stef said:

: particularly the one that describes a burning trash dump outside of Jerusalem.

Does he debunk that at all? The evidence for that is 2nd millennium at the earliest. It's about as reliable as the convenient traditions about there being a smallish gate in Jerusalem called the needle's eye.

Matt

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Well, I think that depends. Certain theological systems don't put as much weight on individual efforts to convince others of the legitimacy of faith. Anyway, that comment does remind me of Jesus' story of the rich man and Lazarus, where we get his exchange:
Those "theological systems" that say they believe such a doctrine-- with such horrific implications for the people around them-- and yet remain passionless and inactive are speaking in flatus.

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Those "theological systems" that say they believe such a doctrine-- with such horrific implications for the people around them-- and yet remain passionless and inactive are speaking in flatus.

But some of these systems would deny the ability of human effort to bring about salvation for other people, at least human effort unaided by the transforming and redeeming action of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, these systems believe that Hell serves a necessary, and ultimately, proper function in God's divine plan, that it is just and right that some would go there, and that God has not only predestined some to salvation, but predestined others to damnation. I am speaking, of course, of a kind of stark, harsh Hyper-Calvinism.

And isn't passivity/inactivity problematic if believers hold *any* conception of Hell that's not along the lines of a Purgatorial/Universalist standpoint and allows room for human agency to participate in the narrative of salvation? We hardly want to shrug our shoulders at the prospect of annihilation, which is a pretty horrifying idea. I fail to see how this is only a significant issue for those who believe Hell is an actual lake of sulfur where people writhe in flame for eternity.

Edited by Ryan H.

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I'm gonna steer clear of the hyper-calvinist debate and whether people are delightfully pre-ordained as "vessels of wrath fitted for destruction". Maybe another thread.

And isn't passivity/inactivity problematic if believers hold *any* conception of Hell that's not along the lines of a Purgatorial/Universalist standpoint? We hardly want to shrug our shoulders at the prospect of annihilation, which is horrifying in and of itself. I fail to see how this is only a significant issue for those who believe Hell is an actual lake of sulfur where people writhe in flame for eternity.

Well, not that there's ever an excuse for passivity about such things, but one particular stream of Annihilationism certainly does away with the massive traditionalist guilt trip.

Men naturally die and cease to exist-- that is a reality that offers no guilt or anxiety for those of us who believe in a conditional afterlife. I don't have to wring my hands over those tired arguments about the fate of some tribe in Africa who doesn't "know Jesus". Their minds will not travel to another plane after death-- the machine will auto-terminate as it has naturally for every person since the beginning of time. Fairly painless, although i believe there could be considerable angst on the way out, not having been touched by God's Grace and having no hope in an afterlife. Regardless, in this view, God is not "doing" anything to anyone. Christopher Hitchens and Billy Graham will die in like manner, without respect to persons.

I am not apathetic about death, but it is a reality for all humanity and I dont get my undies in a bunch about who hits the cosmic lottery and gets Second Life. I imagine many, many more will be there than religious people commonly envision. The Judge of all the earth shall do right. The option to continue living after the body dies, is a privilege given only to those who receive God's Grace.

Edited by Greg P

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That neatly avoids certain questions, sure, but I don't think what you described is even in the ballpark of what the Biblical witness seems to suggest about Final Judgment.

Edited by Ryan H.

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Most Evangelicals belong to churches that only espouse the traditional view of hell-- albeit a very dialed-down version-- so it doesn't surprise me that the annihilationist/conditionalist concepts would seem totally foreign. The Edward Fudge book "The Fire That Consumes" helped me consider a reasoned, alternate view years ago. As did some writings by William Crockett on the Metaphorical view.

When I read NT scripture now about the future of the wicked, I see nothing there to indicate torment or torture. On the contrary, I read language implying termination, cessation and merciful finality. Granted some have great difficulty over the extravagant, poetic language used to describe such a fate, but many of those verses are quoted directly from OT passages.

Edited by Greg P

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Most Evangelicals belong to churches that only espouse the traditional view of hell-- albeit a very dialed-down version-- so it doesn't surprise me that the annihilationist/conditionalist concepts would seem totally foreign.

Oh, it's not. I've read a bit of annihilationist/conditionalist literature--not the works you mention, however--but I've not found any of them convincing in terms of their exegetical/interpretive work.

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Fudge's is generally considered to be the most thorough historical treatment. Well it used to be, anyway.

From the old Fudge camp debates: It's interesting that of the over 200 NT texts dealing with the future estate of the wicked only one seems to indicate eternal torment (Rev. 14:11) The majority of verses indicate literal destruction/finality.

Edited by Greg P

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Well, we can talk about the "eternal torment" debate (and we already have, though I forget in which thread), but my biggest problem with the way you presented your particular spin on conditionalism is that it seemingly leaves no space for the resurrection of the dead to judgment, ala John 5:27: "And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment."

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MattPage wrote:

: Persona wrote:

: : . . . particularly the one that describes a burning trash dump outside of Jerusalem.

:

: Does he debunk that at all? The evidence for that is 2nd millennium at the earliest.

Really? Huh. This is a reference to "Gehenna", right? I thought that was associated with "the Valley of Hinnom", which is one of the valleys bordering Jerusalem.

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MattPage wrote:

: Persona wrote:

: : . . . particularly the one that describes a burning trash dump outside of Jerusalem.

:

: Does he debunk that at all? The evidence for that is 2nd millennium at the earliest.

Really? Huh. This is a reference to "Gehenna", right? I thought that was associated with "the Valley of Hinnom", which is one of the valleys bordering Jerusalem.

I would have to go back to my old computer to find the teaching and know which word for sure, but I think it was Gehenna. It was one of the more enlightening and interesting teachings I remember at Mars Hill, I've hoped for a long time to see some of it in book form where one can read it and take it in a little better.

I can say this about Rob's beliefs and the book: I am somewhat certain he sees hell as a literal place Jesus was referring to on earth, and that Jesus was using the place as a metaphor for sin. Also, in regard to heaven, if you were to look at Mars Hill's Narrative Theology, you'd see a belief that heaven is something that comes to earth, at the culmination of the ages, the recreation of all things. I am certain Rob does not find evidence for a "rapture" in the Bible.

Edited by Persona

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Does he debunk that at all? The evidence for that is 2nd millennium at the earliest. It's about as reliable as the convenient traditions about there being a smallish gate in Jerusalem called the needle's eye.

I have to say, I've heard the "Gehenna" thing peddled about for ages. This is the first I've heard that this is off-the-mark. Could you expand on that?

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I can say this about Rob's beliefs and the book: I am somewhat certain he sees hell as a literal place Jesus was referring to on earth, and that Jesus was using the place as a metaphor for sin.

Hm. That reading might work with some of Jesus' references to Gehenna, but not to all of them (and that only works for the references to "Gehenna," specifically; if you get into the references to "Hades," that would entirely fall apart), given that Jesus speaks of Gehenna as a place where God sends individuals as an act of judgment/sentencing.

I am certain Rob does not find evidence for a "rapture" in the Bible.

On that, he and I are agreed. But there's nothing, really, to link a belief in an actual Hell and rapture theology.

Edited by Ryan H.

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I am certain Rob does not find evidence for a "rapture" in the Bible.

On that, he and I are agreed. But there's nothing, really, to link a belief in an actual Hell and rapture theology.

Sure, it's just that the subtitle says the book is about much more than just hell, and I think his thoughts about heaven might turn just as many evangelical heads.

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Well, we can talk about the "eternal torment" debate (and we already have, though I forget in which thread), but my biggest problem with the way you presented your particular spin on conditionalism is that it seemingly leaves no space for the resurrection of the dead to judgment, ala John 5:27:

If anything, the conditionalist argument allows the resurrection verses to really shine. Truly dead men will be suddenly raised to life. Traditionalists place the individual souls already in heaven or hell (or some limited version of each), and at the trump being reunited-- teleported ala some cosmic transporter-- on earth with a waiting resurrected body. For what reason, I'm not sure, seeing that they've already been enjoying their respective estates in a soul state. Maybe the resurrected body thing will be a major upgrade to the soul state. In any case, this is a rather anticlimactic event, by that interpretation.

Conditionalists believe that all men die alike and that some will rise again to life everlasting on the final day. The others will simply cease to exist. Whether the wicked will get a resurrected body first before they are blotted out, is a matter of small debate. I happen to think they have already met their judgement.

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Does he debunk that at all? The evidence for that is 2nd millennium at the earliest. It's about as reliable as the convenient traditions about there being a smallish gate in Jerusalem called the needle's eye.

I have to say, I've heard the "Gehenna" thing peddled about for ages. This is the first I've heard that this is off-the-mark. Could you expand on that?

Just as a side note, I grew up in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio called Gahanna. Depending on the source, and what the source might have at stake, the name was either taken from an Indian word meaning "three rivers" or a bastardization of the biblical trash heap. Since Gahanna was historically the scene of some notorious bars and brothels, I tend to favor the latter reading. Shockingly, the Chamber of Commerce does not agree.

Edited by Andy Whitman

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Whether the wicked will get a resurrected body first before they are blotted out, is a matter of small debate.

Relatively minor in the development of a theological/philosophical framework, perhaps. But I am seeking for the best reading of the Biblical witness that can be found, adherence to the well-testified scriptural notions in this territory, such as the resurrection of all dead, not just the saved, is quite important to me.

I am aware of the conditionalist treatment of the importance of the resurrection, and the weight it gives the resurrection has some genuine appeal. But again, I find a number of passages in scripture for which I find more monistic interpretations deeply unsatisfactory. That's not say I would ever refer to the immortality of the soul, necessarily, since I find that language deeply problematic. And, yes, I do think it would be fair to suggest that whatever "spiritual" existence occurs after death would be significantly less than ideal.

Edited by Ryan H.

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Well, in certain theological areas--and Hell is one of those--I am willing to suspend more systematic treatment of theological topics and allow tensions to remain. The Biblical witness is quite clear there will be a Future Judgment, and that that Future Judgment is something to be deeply feared. As Hebrews says, "It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." But beyond that, I'm not sure I can synthesize everything in the Biblical witness into a neat-and-tidy "position on Hell." I lean toward something more Metaphorical. I see little support for Purgatorial and Universalist positions.

Like many of the above posts, I have struggled with the doctrine of Hell that is promoted in most Evangelical circles. I have a hard time reconciling such a vision of Hell (see James Joyce's description of a hell-fire sermon in PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN if you want to know what I object to), but this is pretty close to where I'm at in my understanding.

Also, in regard to heaven, if you were to look at Mars Hill's Narrative Theology, you'd see a belief that heaven is something that comes to earth, at the culmination of the ages, the recreation of all things. I am certain Rob does not find evidence for a "rapture" in the Bible.

Perhaps, like myself, he has been reading the quite-orthodox N.T. Wright's SURPRISED BY HOPE. I tend to agree with this view.

Edited by Anders

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I believe they have met, I know Rob's a fan, and I do remember at least one time hearing Rob say he'd love it if we could fly Wright over to guest speak sometime.

Peter Rollins was back again last week, so I don't think that's ever out of the realm of possibility...

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I believe they have met, I know Rob's a fan, and I do remember at least one time hearing Rob say he'd love it if we could fly Wright over to guest speak sometime.

Peter Rollins was back again last week, so I don't think that's ever out of the realm of possibility...

Ha! I liked quite a bit of both of Rollins books that I've read too. If I had a car I'd drive down to Michigan and visit some time.

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Planning. That's what it would take, Anders. You get to Detroit and we'll figure out the rest together. Particularly if Wright is the target.

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There have been a number of recent books on Christian universalism –e.g. If Grace Is True: why God will save every person, by Philip Gulley and James Mulholland (2010) which I found very persuasive, with many supportive references from the bible. Other authors on the same theme --Gregory MacDonald, Thomas Talbott, Eric Stetson, Carlton Pearson, etc. So I don’t understand why people are making such a fuss about Rob Bell’s book.

I think it comes down to this: Bell is wildly popular, particularly with college students. I think the loudest critics think Bell is going to creep into their children's dorm rooms and snatch them away.

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You may have a fair point there Jason. So the question becomes: Snatch then away from, and to, what? From evangelicalism to, um... evangelicalism? I sometimes think it is cool hearing that we're "post-evangelical" but I don't even know what it means, and I'm not sure I think it's true.

Snatch them away to a place where there's an emphasis on words, because words have been used for posturing and pronouncing scarlet letters when they could instead be used to inspire hope and good for as many as possible, if not all?

Snatch them away from assumptions set in stone, the idea that they and only they have a core of beliefs that is 100% accurate, when maybe admitting we don't get it is the key to growth and conversation?

Snatch them away from a bullet point form of thinking that is unnecessarily rigid, laughably un-flexible? Snatch them away from their God or perhaps idol, Theology, instead of the simple message of love and grace and hope for all that could have been this church?

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