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Tyler

Rob Bell--Love Wins

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OK I've listened to the Rob Bell video promo for this book, and on the basis of that he may still be teaching one of the more lenient variants of the "traditional" position. I know Taylor's read some of the book, but Bell often takes his time building his arguments and then moves in for a quick punch at the end. I'd be surprised if Taylor, Piper, Driscoll et al have seen enough to pronounce judgement of, and those guys seem unaware that conditionalism is a valid Evangelical position (in the UK at least).

I mean surely all of them would agree with the book's title that "Love Wins"?

Matt

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Fred "Slacktivist" Clark, a liberal evangelical, argues that there are only three passages that support the existence of Hell (Luke 16:19-31, Matthew 25:41-46, Revelation 20:11-15) and finds them "pretty weak":

But the really strange thing about Team Hell invoking any of these passages is that none of them supports anything like what Team Hell has to say about who belongs in Hell or why they should wind up there.

What one finds in all three of these passages, instead, is a seeming Pelagianism. All that matters in any of these scriptures is deeds and actions. Not a word anywhere here about grace or faith or the power of Jesus' death and resurrection. Deeds and actions and those alone are what determines the eternal fate of everyone in each of these passages. They couldn't be any clearer on that point -- the main point of each passage above. What determines if someone is to be cast into Revelation's "lake of fire"? The dead will be judged, Revelation says, "… according to their works, as recorded in the books. … according to what they had done." Who are the accursed "goats" on Jesus' left hand who will be consigned to "the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels"? Those who did not feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked or comfort the lonely. And why was the rich man in Luke's gospel sent to Hades? Jesus never quite says, but he seems to suggest that the rich man went to Hades because he was rich just as the poor beggar Lazarus goes to Heaven just because he was a poor beggar.

Awkward, that.

Insurmountably awkward, I think, for those members of Team Hell who want to insist that these passages must be interpreted "literally" in support of a sadistic notion of eternity. Because if we read these passages in the "literal" manner that would allow us to regard them as teaching the existence of Dante's Hell then we must also "literally" accept what they say about who that Hell is for. (And it clearly isn't for Gandhi.)

Now as it happens I don't think these passages are about soteriology any more than they are about charting out the details of Heaven or Hell. I think anyone turning to these passages for such things is reading them wrong -- that a "literal" reading that turns out to be about something other than what the passage is actually about isn't really "literal" and isn't really "reading." Reading shouldn't be about missing the point.

The point of these passages, clearly, is ethical instruction and I don't think they can really be made to accommodate any other reading. Luke 16:19-31 is not about Hell and it's not about how to avoid being sent to Hell. It's about how you and I ought to respond to the beggars at our gates. Matthew 25:41-46 is not about Hell and it's not about how to avoid being sent to Hell. It's about how you and I ought to respond to the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and imprisoned. Emphasize anything else and you've missed the point. You might as well not have read them at all.

The strongest case for Team Hell, in other words, involves a perverse reading of passages that excludes the very reason those passages were written. And that's the strongest case. . . .

Hmmm. In the readings for the Sunday of the Last Judgment this week, there was also e.g. the bit about the fire not being quenched and the worm not dying, which is a passage from Isaiah 66 that Jesus quotes in Mark 9. I suspect there are other passages that Clark has skipped over, too.

Overstreet wrote:

: In the Old Testament, Abraham . . . said "If there is even one righteous man," but alas, there wasn't.

FWIW, Abraham actually got God to agree to spare the city if there were TEN righteous people there.

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How heretical would it be to pray for the souls in hell, to pray that God will make a way to save them? To pray for mercy? To pray for those who went to their graves cursing and punishing Jesus?

On the one hand, it would not be heretical at all from a Catholic perspective (the only one I can speak to) to pray for "the poor souls who went to their graves cursing and punishing Jesus", as no one particular soul, even the worst sinner imaginable, can be said to be in Hell with certainty. Thus Dante would no doubt have endorsed praying for the souls whom, in his Inferno, he imagined in Hell. Similarly, Catholics are encouraged to pray for other broad categories of those who committed grave sin in their last moments, such as suicides.

On the other hand, although there is a rich tradition for us of praying for "the poor souls in Purgatory" in general, it is hard to imagine anybody praying for "the poor souls in Hell", because that implies hope for their salvation, which would be, if not heretical, at least clearly mistaken.

Edited by David Smedberg

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The point of these passages, clearly, is ethical instruction and I don't think they can really be made to accommodate any other reading. Luke 16:19-31 is not about Hell and it's not about how to avoid being sent to Hell. It's about how you and I ought to respond to the beggars at our gates. Matthew 25:41-46 is not about Hell and it's not about how to avoid being sent to Hell. It's about how you and I ought to respond to the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and imprisoned. Emphasize anything else and you've missed the point. You might as well not have read them at all.

The strongest case for Team Hell, in other words, involves a perverse reading of passages that excludes the very reason those passages were written. And that's the strongest case. . .

Excellent points here, in my opinion.

As I stated earlier-- both here and in at least one other thread from yesteryear-- this Team Hell hangs most the weight for their conviction on one nightmarish passage in Revelation, which of course is speaking in the prophetical language of a dream/vision and is not intended as a doctrinal statement.

Edited by Greg P

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Yes thanks for that Peter, not quite put those two things together before.

Actually now you mention Mark 9 I think it's that rather than Luke 16 that is the other passage Max Turner means when it comes to 2 passages that speak of eternal conscious torment. Luke 16 is about a place called Hell - though lets not forget it's a parable, possibly adapted from a well known one from the time (it's the only one of Jesus' where he uses people's names).

Incidentally, I think this actually argues against Clark's case a little. My hunch is that Jesus subverts a well known story for his own ends. In his version though it ends talking about "even if someone rises from the dead they will not believe" and I think this is possibly the critical point in Jesus/Luke's re-working.

Matt

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Rob's most vocal online critic, Ken Silva, who writes about Rob and Shane nearly every week, has read the book, and is writing about it in a series of posts, apparently over the next few weeks. He doesn't say how he got a copy of the book. I would not be surprised if Rob sent it to him personally.

Ken Silva actually admits, in his own way, that Rob is no Universalist. That he believes in hell but doesn't think it is eternal for those who go there.

Ken and his "Apprising Ministries" is one of the most divisive sites online. It's like a giant finger pointing at everyone but themselves, but particularly at things they deem so-called "emergent."

Personally the way this is blowing up online -- and here -- makes me think that Rob is more in touch with Banksy-style publicity, and that the joke is already on those who argue. Not that it's a joke. I think Rob is deathly serious about this stuff and has a passion to spark this debate. But the fact it's blowing up the way that it is speaks to people who think they have the right corner on God when really it's only their own belief.

And since we mentioned him here a few posts ago, I should say that I'll bet Peter Rollins is loving every second of it. His term of pyro-theology (burn it all down to find out if "God" is even in it) hasn't been put to more good use.

Edited by Persona

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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.

I have a hard time with that "narrative theology." It is missing a few very fundamentally key elements, such as the function of the law as a revelation of the holiness of God which is responded to by the "obedience of Christ." I can't recall reading a basic statement of theology that so wholesale neglects Paul's "narrative theology" in Romans 1-6.

But I also find this particularly hopeless: "God will reclaim this world and rule forever. The earth’s groaning will cease and God will dwell with us here in a restored creation." This isn't quite heresy, but it is sad. The NT teaches something far more majestic and faith-worthy than the reclamation and restoration of an already existing cosmic material:

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!'"

Revelation is certainly an obscure text, but one of the clearest statements it makes is that at some point in time, an incomprehensible creative transfer will occur between this world and "the world to come." There is an idea prevelant in these Rob Bell markets of contemporary evangelicalism that our current physical world is to be prized and celebrated because it will one day be the locus of God's restored Edenic presence. But this is not the case. This new world to come is so difficult for John the revelator to describe that he resorts to a collection of odd descriptive phrases (such as a world in which there is no more sea), all of which collectively serve as a witness to the dramatic act of God making all things new.

And this, of course, dovetails neatly with Paul's depiction of the current world as a womb, groaning with birth pangs as something glorious erupts from its birth canal as part of this eschatological revolution in which all things will be caught up in the unstoppable waves of redeeming grace that ebb through history from the cross. The NT describes what comes next as something different, as in: "and now for something completely different."

Any concept of the world to come less radical than this is impoverished, and doesn't quite grasp the significance of the argument from lesser to greater that the NT makes concerning the difference between Eden and the New Jerusalem. This doesn't mean we abandon the current world, or think of it as something that doesn't deserve our full attention and care. Quite the contrary. This is currently the place in which we apprehend the presence of God and His resurrection-bound victory in time and space.

(I may be misinterpreting this bit of the "narrative theology," but I am in part responding to Stef's description of it. And I hear this neutered eschatology in other places with increasing frequency.)

I'm not familiar with Rob Bell or Mars Hill, beyond the little bit I just read of them at the provided link. As you say, from their brief description of heaven, it does sound insufficiently glorious, perhaps verging on insipid and - dare I say it - maybe only a few steps away from Pleasantville, in its fully black-and-white mode, of course. I'll give you that. But in trying to draw an appropriate contrast, I think you may have overstepped a bit too much the other way, at least for me.

Some semi-random thoughts and quotes:

According to Genesis that "already existing cosmic material" was made by God, after all, who saw that it was "good" while He was making it, and, when He was finished making it, that it was "very good."

In your twenty-six-sentence post, your three-sentence caveat about still valuing God's creation would ring truer if generations of churchmen hadn't stood by saying and doing nothing while rapacious men among us squandered and defaced that same creation. It availed those churchmen nothing that they thought themselves right, that they thought it acceptable to leave God's creation strictly in the hands of scientists and industrialists, in their single-minded pursuit of saving men's souls. God cannot be mocked. Man is, and always will be, the jewel in His ring of creation, but He also cares for the setting and the band. God's patience is sorely tried by man's self-sufficing disregard for the rest of His creation. The churchmen have long needed to start speaking up about this and, thank God, some of them finally have.

At the World Council of Churches at New Delhi, in 1961, when the American Lutheran theologian Joseph Sittler gave his keynote address, "Called to Unity," in which he spoke about our responsibilities to God's creation and quoted from Richard Wilbur's poem, "Advice to a Prophet," most of the assembled churchmen just stared at him - uncomprehending, indifferent. What is this crazy dude talking about, anyway? Sure doesn't sound like theology to me:

What should we be without

The dolphin's arc, the dove's return,

These things in which we have seen ourselves and spoken?

Ask us, prophet, how shall we call

Our natures forth when that live tongue is all

Dispelled, that glass obscured or broken

In which we have said the rose of our love and the clean

Horse of our courage, in which beheld

The singing locust of the soul unshelled,

And all we mean or wish to mean.

Ask us, ask us whether with the wordless rose

Our hearts shall fail us, come demanding

Whether there shall be lofty or long standing

When the bronze annals of the oak-tree close.

The Danish pastor-hymnist-scholar-theologian (it is difficult to know when to stop when listing his accomplishments) N. F. S. Grundtvig (1783-1872), in a sermon delivered in 1838 (!) about Romans 8's "The whole creation groaneth and travaileth..." and its alleged obscurity, intoned to the assembled believers that when we understand that the translation should read

"Nature waits with longing for the revelation of God's children," then we find that there is nothing obscure in it, apart from what is inherent in the nature of things, in our body's obscure but certain connectedness with the whole of nature; for so long as this connectedness or solidarity has not become clear to us we can have no clear idea of what it is to say that the whole of nature shares our distress and sighs with us over the law of death and decay, to which all bodily things are subject, from the flower which is born today and dies tomorrow, to the shining heavenly bodies which seem incorruptible and were therefore worshipped as gods by the heathen in their blindness, but which according to our prophets and apostles are to grow old as a garment and fall to pieces, just as our bodies decay and just as metal is dissolved and smelted in the fire. ...

[W]e should not, like our fathers, consider nature in us and around us, as the property of the Enemy, but as the work of God, which never fell from his hand or slipped from his care... however much it was spoilt by sin and put to shame by death as the wages of sin. Yes, we shall consider nature as God's work, in us and around us, which shall in no way be hated, mistreated and destroyed, but loved, cleansed, healed and sanctified, yes, which should share in that same glory, which in the Spirit we already rejoice in, in that liberty and blessed incorruptibility, for which, as the apostle says, the whole of nature, as well as our hearts, sigh, for which the whole of nature longs with a wonderful hope. In no way then should we set nature and revelation [italics original] in opposition to one another, as things incompatible with each other; rather, we should call revelation nature's light and salvation, as our Lord Jesus Christ calls himself the light and saviour of the world, without troubling ourselves that unbelievers misuse our expressions just as they misuse our Lord's and twist them according to their own false conceptions, as if we either said or meant that nature could enlighten, heal and save itself...

In short, when you describe the eschaton as "and now for something completely different," I stick on that little word completely. Because if what Revelation describes as the new heaven and earth is so utterly different (sui generis) from all that went before, then it seems to me an important thread of connection that links Genesis to Revelation at the opposite ends of time has been lost.

Edited by tenpenny

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Rob and all the Internet traffic are now on the Grand Rapids 11:00 News. WoodTV... checking their website... Wow, it's currently Front Page there, I guess it will be archived Here.

I can't believe any of this would make the news here. They refer to Rob as "A local Pastor." Goes hand in hand with the thing I've talked about before -- no one from the area outside of the church people knows that he's connected with much outside of GR. More people outside of GR know where the "Love Wins" bumper stickers come from, GR natives have seen them for years and don't know what they are. I've asked many people in this town if they know what the bumper sticker is, and no one does.

It just seems to me that Rob should have made the news in Grand Rapids already. This whole surge of news lately just seems so... late, and lame, too. All the news here is about a decade behind the times in regard to the events of Mars Hill GR, which was the fastest growing church in America in its day...

Oh, the news clip just came on.

Quotes: "Bloggers are calling a West Michigan Pastor a heretic..."

[video clip]

"It appears Rob is pushing Universalism... The buzz is so big CNN is even covering the story..."

Rob declined comment to the local news.

[more video clip]

"We also reached out to several well known Pastors and theologians in our area... They said they wanted to wait until the book is out for comment."

Edited by Persona

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In short, when you describe the eschaton as "and now for something completely different," I stick on that little word completely. Because if what Revelation describes as the new heaven and earth is so utterly different (sui generis) from all that went before, then it seems to me an important thread of connection that links Genesis to Revelation at the opposite ends of time has been lost.

Unless that thread is Christ (in a Col. 1:15-20 vis-a-vis the Adam/Christ Romans 5 argument sense), and the thread is unbroken. The thread isn't lost, it is actually bound up in the mystery of the Church. I am drawing on Cullmann, Ladd, Schlatter, etc... I think Bell just didn't spend enough time in Fuller's library. The thread of connection is incarnation, which is posed by Luke as the center of salvation-history. (Another little thing that the linked "narrative theology" neglects - I have nothing to say about the book, I am still responding to his church statement of faith - which is not a faith I would commend in any context.)

I know my posts seem like a non sequitur, but if we want to talk about hell, we need to talk about heaven. It is not the fairly indeterminate descriptions of hell, it is the clearer descriptions of heaven in the NT record that compel us to work harder.

There are few places in the bible in which God sounds excited, but he exclaims: Look! I make all things new! Write this down!

When he exclaims "It is done." What is "it"? This is where love wins.

Edited by M. Leary

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FWIW I see the key parts of the passage (that Mike quoted last time) as being the whole thing of the New Heaven coming down to earth. I've bolded out words that often slip under the radar. I think this is what Wright (and I suspect Bell) are driving at. Hugely renewed and transformed into something glorious, but nevertheless in continuity with Genesis (and not just that in Christ). For me the question what would have happened to God's creation if there hadn't been a fall, is a pertinent one.

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Matt

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The thread of connection is incarnation, which is posed by Luke as the center of salvation-history.

But what does incarnation mean without a transfigured creation? Is an effaced creation, a creation blotted out by something totally else, which seems to be your interpretation, something to be desired as God's plan for us? Reread Wilbur's poem. He's not just talking about animals, he's talking about a kind of Godly incarnation, through and through. If you could but see it. I use the following saying of Maximus the Confessor on the masthead of my blog site, and is it ever apropos here:

"For the Word of God and God wills always and in all things to accomplish the mystery of his embodiment."

Sittler wrote, "I have never been able to entertain a God-idea which was not integrally related to the fact of chipmunks, squirrels, hippopatamuses, galaxies and light-years." Well, me neither. But my sense is that for many Christians, still, these things are not even secondary, not even quaternary... they're nothing. The needle on their dials simply reads 0.00. And all talk about still valuing creation, for them, is, as my dad used to say, "lip service."

Edited by tenpenny

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But what does incarnation mean without a transfigured creation? Is an effaced creation, a creation blotted out by something totally else, which seems to be your interpretation, something to be desired as God's plan for us?

It is enough "else" in this sense: The New Jerusalem is much more than simply a restored Eden.

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FWIW I see the key parts of the passage (that Mike quoted last time) as being the whole thing of the New Heaven coming down to earth. I've bolded out words that often slip under the radar. I think this is what Wright (and I suspect Bell) are driving at. Hugely renewed and transformed into something glorious, but nevertheless in continuity with Genesis (and not just that in Christ). For me the question what would have happened to God's creation if there hadn't been a fall, is a pertinent one.

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Matt

Yes, the bolded bits are important parts. I would much rather bold the entire passage, as it speaks of new things, passing away things, and Immanuel things.

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But what does incarnation mean without a transfigured creation? Is an effaced creation, a creation blotted out by something totally else, which seems to be your interpretation, something to be desired as God's plan for us?

It is enough "else" in this sense: The New Jerusalem is much more than simply a restored Eden.

Yeah. The shift from Garden to City is really interesting.

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But what does incarnation mean without a transfigured creation? Is an effaced creation, a creation blotted out by something totally else, which seems to be your interpretation, something to be desired as God's plan for us?

It is enough "else" in this sense: The New Jerusalem is much more than simply a restored Eden.

Of course the New Jerusalem is much more than simply a restored Eden. I never said or meant otherwise. But you said it was "completely different," which to my mind is not the same as "much more." To me, the latter implies at least some sense of continuity between the two states, whereas the former does not. Of course, Eden <> life now, so we're mixing things up a bit. As I said in my initial post, I got stuck on your use of the word "completely," but now I see that you were probably using the word in a different sense than I first thought.

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But what does incarnation mean without a transfigured creation? Is an effaced creation, a creation blotted out by something totally else, which seems to be your interpretation, something to be desired as God's plan for us?

It is enough "else" in this sense: The New Jerusalem is much more than simply a restored Eden.

Yeah. The shift from Garden to City is really interesting.

But no garden, no city.

You really think there are no gardens in heaven? Try telling that to an Englishman.

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And no sea. Which is an utterly baffling image. (That I think actually has a pretty interesting mythical meaning based in the dawn of the Hebrew Scriptures.)

As I said in my initial post, I got stuck on your use of the word "completely," but now I see that you were probably using the word in a different sense than I first thought.

Ah yes, the Monty Python quote. The Monty Python quote perfectly captures the reference in v. 4 of the "old order of things passed away."

I think you are correct to note that there are some metaphysics at play here that also make me hesitant to say all this stuff we see just vanishes and new stuff appears. But however we formulate it, we have to do justice to the notion that the "first heaven and the first earth had passed away." The word typically translated here as "passed away" has a very generalized meaning of "departing," as in a person that has departed a room and are thus now no longer there. I think foisting a concept of "ceasing to exist" would be pushing the word too far.

On the other hand, we have to let John's words here factor into our concept of the massive transfer being depicted, which is neutered in the theology I was initially responding to.

Edited by M. Leary

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And no sea. Which is an utterly baffling image. (That I think actually has a pretty interesting mythical meaning based in the dawn of the Hebrew Scriptures.)

IIRC, the sea was typically seen as a malevolent, uncontrollable force by the ancient Hebrews, something that they dreaded -- at least, that's what my wife learned in one of her Bible studies. So from that perspective, the notion of "no sea" might be less an indication that there aren't large bodies of water in the new heavens and new earth, and more that they simply aren't places of dread.

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I think that is largely correct. And it is incredibly interesting from a broader narrative perspective, given that the Bible opens with an image of the "waters," which commonly appeared in ANE origin/creation myths as the location of the chaos that was overcome in the act of organizing the world. So here in Revelation, at the end of the story of creation, the world to come is depicted as having "no sea." I think John may intend this to mean that in this new world, the Genesis 1 act of overcoming chaos represented by the "waters" will not even be necessary. This new world will not even contain these kinds of opposing forces. The Bible begins and ends with a "sea" and "no sea" world, respectively.

Edited by M. Leary

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I will admit up front that this kind of conversation mostly bores me because whatever happens in the end, happens, and it will most likely be different than anyone thought anyway.

But I'm also glad that Tenpenny stepped in, because my thoughts were summed up pretty well, and better stated, in a lot of that back and forth that's already gone on.

Just this, to get back to Mike's original statement:

I have a hard time with that "narrative theology." It is missing a few very fundamentally key elements, such as the function of the law as a revelation of the holiness of God which is responded to by the "obedience of Christ." I can't recall reading a basic statement of theology that so wholesale neglects Paul's "narrative theology" in Romans 1-6.

I don't think you necessarily have to worry that it has been neglected, but I think the emphasis is elsewhere. However, I think it is obvious the church accepts the writings of Romans 1-6 when it says in its first paragraph:

We believe God inspired the authors of Scripture by his Spirit to speak to all generations of believers, including us today. God calls us to immerse ourselves in this authoritative narrative communally and individually to faithfully interpret and live out that story today as we are led by the Spirit of God.

That, and that when you say, "I think Bell didn't spend enough time in Fuller's library," well first of all knowing how much he reads, I genuinely doubt that. You and he are kindred spirits in this aspect. Also, he didn't create the narrative theology, but I'm sure he was in the creating process of it. The statement was made by the church elders. I'm sure many writers and theologians were involved.

Edited by Persona

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I've been studying the concept of the ultimate restoration of all things through Christ alone for the last year

or so and have become a "convinced Christian Universalist." In other words I'm 99.9% convinced that everyone

will ultimately be saved. And now beware..... here is a bit of a sermon, but it's filled with hope. :D

Historically St. Augustine was the first to dogmatically teach the concept of eternal hell, although others such

as St. Tertullian touched on it in their writings. Even St. Augustine in his writings says that the mass of

Christians (at his time) didn't believe in eternal Hell. There have always been Christian universalists throughout

history, with the blunt of them being the Ante-Nicene Christians. George MacDonald, who was such a major

influence on C.S. Lewis was a Christian Universalist. The early Alexandrian school of thought taught universalism,

with founding fathers such as Clement of Alexandria, Gregory of Nyssa, Basil the great, and Origen (who is

a bit more contraversial than the others) coming out of it. There are available writings from Gregory Nazianzus ( I think

I spelled that right) who was elected to be the head of the Synod that gave us the Nicene Creed, by over a hundred Bishops.

Some parts of these writings indicate that he thought of the punishment of fire as being almost like a sacramental

punishment, where he uses the metaphor of a doctor removing the sickness, yet where there is also pain involved.

Gregory of Nyssa was also one of the Bishops on the Synod that gave us the Nicene creed, and he was a definate

Christian Universalist, yet was never accused of being a heretic.

Their is also no doubt that these early Christians believed in some sort of Judgement. They just saw it as being remedial.

There are those out there that believe that Augustine's doctrine of eternal hell came from the influence of his

Pagan background, and mistranslations of the original languages of scripture. Augustine was Latin and had

little knowledge of the Greek languages, having admitted that he hated the language in his writings.

When Jerome translated the Greek into the Latine Vulgate he (and Augustine as well) translated the word Aionos

as eternal......yet many who have studied the word say that it can not mean eternal but must mean an age, or eon,

meaning an extended length of time of an unknown duration.

The Bible itself would lean towards the thinking that this word must mean age, and most of our translations translate it as age in different

places, because if they used the word eternal the scripture just would not make any sense.

Take for instance.

1 Cor 10:11 - In greek this says: "ta tele ton AIONION katentekan"

Bibles translate this word as age... the translation being.

"Those upon whom the end of the ages has come"

If Aionion was translated as eternal as it is in the Bibles "hell texts" the translation would be

"Those upon whom the end of the eternity have come"

Which of course doesn't make any sense... how could an eternity have an end.

There are many more instances like this that could be shown.

When Jesus spoke of judgement in Mathew he used the words "Aionos Kolasis" Which many

believe should be translated as "age-abidding correction." Go find an Emphasized Bible, Youngs Literal Bible,

or Concordant translation (amongst others). In these Bibles Aionos is translated as age or eon. Here is a bit

from one of my books.

"The word Kolasis has the connotation of beneficial disciplinary correction, such as a parent might punish a child for wrong doing

with the purpose of reform. This is in sharp contrast to ""Timoria"", meaning punitive or vindictive punishment. Kolasis comes

from a root word meaning "to prune", as a tree or plant. When a gardener prunes, it is not done to torture the vegetation,

but to remove deed or crooked branches and cause it to grow in a better, more beautiful way. Kolasis is loving parental discipline

with the goal of helping the one being subjected to it. If Matthew had meant to suggest that Jesus taught eternal torment, he probably

would have written "aidios timoria" instead of "aionios Kolasis".

But anyhow for those who are interested there are books out there written by christians who

have done deep Biblical study of the subject. Here are some links

http://www.amazon.com/At-End-Ages-Abolition-Hell/dp/1410712591/ref=pd_sim_b_8

http://www.amazon.com/Her-Gates-Will-Never-Shut/dp/1606088823/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1299371168&sr=1-1

http://www.amazon.com/Evangelical-Universalist-Gregory-MacDonald/dp/1597523658/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1299371188&sr=1-1

http://www.amazon.com/Christian-Universalism-Gods-Good-People/dp/0967063183/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1299371213&sr=1-2

http://www.amazon.com/Universalism-Prevailing-Doctrine-Christian-Hundred/dp/1165797968/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1299371213&sr=1-4

The Bible says that

God is love... love never gives up..... and love never fails.

Edited by Attica

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A review by Tim Challies, who's actually read the book (well, an advance reading copy of it, at least--sounds like the published version could be slightly different).

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There are some real smug attitudes in the comments of that post-all in praise. I especially like that assumption people who might read and find agreement with Bell's book don't read scripture. Ironically, scripture, combined with many folks along the lines of Challies that I knew at Church pushed me closer to atheism... Bell and folks like the Slacktivist actually give me some hope that maybe there is a God who is good.

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A review by Tim Challies, who's actually read the book (well, an advance reading copy of it, at least--sounds like the published version could be slightly different).

I just read the article and would like to put up a short response if that's alright.

Tim Challies:

:Now here’s the thing: aion and aionos definitely can mean “age” or “period of time,” they also mean “eternal.” The word’s context helps us to determine its meaning.

I would argue that aionos always means an extended period of time, but at least it's interesting that Tim says that aionos can mean an "age" depending on the context

the word is used in. As shown in my previous post when Jesus talked about judgement he used the word Aionos before the word Kolasis and it can be proven that

the word Kolasis has the meaning of a beneficial disciplinary correction. Therefore if the word Kolasis means correction then that would mean that the punishment

wouldn't be forever by the simple fact that the person being punished will eventually be corrected. So accordingly, in this context aionos would mean "age", in Jesus'

teaching on punishment.

As well many Bibles translate aionos as "eternal" in the lake of fire texts ending up with something like this.

Rev:19: 2 - 3

"Because he has judged the great Harlot, who indeed corrupted the earth with her hand. And a second time have they said - Hallelujah!

And her smoke ascends unto the eternities (aionos) of the eternities (aionos)".

So my question is.... what exactly is an eternity of an eternity? If eternity has no end then how could there be an

eternity of an eternity? How is it possible for someone to be punished for an eternal length of time inside an eternal length of time?

When thought through that translation of aionos doesn't make any sense.

Yet if the word was translated as "age" then the translation would be "ages of the ages" which would make sense in context.

It would mean that there are several ages in God's plan for the human race and during at least one of these ages the unrepentant

will be punished.

Tim says:

So if we assume that these words primarily mean “age” or “period of time,” what happens when we apply that definition to John 3:16 where aionos is used?

For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son so that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have life for a period of time.

That was the exact reasoning that St. Augustine used for translating aionos into eternal instead of age. Yet there is a simple explanation: Christians

have age-abiding life during which time those who have rejected Christ have age- abiding correction. When everyone is eventually corrected

and comes to repentance, then comes the end when Jesus hands everything back to his father and God becomes All in All.

When one thinks about it, in Augustine's mind we would be going into "eternity" after this age is finished. So why would he not conclude the possibility

that we could go into "eternity", after one or more ages past this one are finished. Why would that be such a giant leap of understanding.

Tim says:

:So what of the gospel? Where is the gospel and what is the gospel? Ultimately, what Bell offers in this book is a gospel with no purpose.

......

:That’s the kind of love that wins. That’s the kind of love that motivates us to love our neighbors enough to compel them to flee from the wrath to come.

And our love for people means nothing if we do not first and foremost love God enough to be honest about Him.

In the old Testament when the prophets were calling people to repentance in order to flee from the upcoming wrath, what they were saying had

a definate purpose. Even if the wrath to come isn't eternal that doesn't mean that it still isn't "a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living

God" and it certainly doesn't mean that it isn't a corrective punishment that Christians shouldn't desperately want to help rescue their

neighbors from. It also doesn't mean that Jesus died in vain or that the cross has no value, but simply means that people will have

a chance to repent to Christ either in this age, or in the ages to come after (during?) divine corrective punishment.

As well most Christians would agree that there is at least one age to come, which would be the one thousand year reign, why would it be

so hard to believe that there is at least another age after that? Bibles that translate aionos as age clearly show this.

Tim said:

:A God who would allow people to go to hell is not a great God, according to Bell, and the traditional belief that He would is “devastating …

psychologically crushing … terrifying and traumatizing and unbearable” (pp. 136-7).

God is at best sort of great, a little great—great for saving some, but evil for allowing others to perish. Dangerous words, those. I

t is a fearful thing to ascribe evil to God.

The traditional belief IS devasting, psychologically crushing, terrifying, traumatizing and unbearable, when one truly thinks about it.

That's why I began studying the doctrine.... the thought of my loved ones being punished eternally was killing me, and I think it's

obvious that God loves them even more than I do.

If God's purposes are for everybody to spend eternity with him, and not everybody eventually spends eternity with him, then does

that not mean that God's purposes have failed, or will not be fulfilled. Yet the Bible says that God is love, God wants everybody

to repent and come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, love never gives up, and love never fails.

I don't believe that Tim's logic is as thought through as some of the people leaving comments on his site would like to think.

Edited by Attica

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I just read the article and would like to put up a short response if that's alright.

I think that's great, but would be better served as a response on Challies' site.

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