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Peter T Chattaway

Hellbound?

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I'll be honest, I'm a universal reconciliationist, and I'm excited to see this movie.

Taliesin. The film's website has tonnes of resources if your interested. They cover something from the several different viewpoints on the subject.

I moved from the eternal hell camp to the ultimate reconciliation camp several years before Rob Bell's book came out (after believing in eternal hell for most of my life) and the hubbabaloo around his book and the topic escalated. I'm glad to see this film come out as well and also that more Christians are starting to have honest and open questions and discussion about this.

Edited by Attica

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I do hope to see this film when it's released on DVD, even as I choose not to spend what little free money I have to see it in the theater. Too many reviews that I've read of it have remarked on the almost complete absence of serious, credible theological voices representing the understanding of Hell as eternal punishment (or, at least, as eternal separation from God, which is my view, as a Catholic, and which I think is the worst form of punishment), and even though I'm hardly a Jonathan Edwards acolyte (anymore, that is-- I was a strong Calvinist for years), it irks me that this film would apparently present one point of view so strongly, to the near exclusion of having thoughtful voices for other views. (I don't consider Mark Driscoll to exactly be the most thoughtful theological voice out there.)

Even more irksome for me is the fact that more and more, when American films, TV shows, and journalists address Christianity, they hardly ever take into account Catholic and Eastern Orthodox theology, but rather, address themselves almost only to a certain "low-church" form of American Protestant evangelicalism (if not fundamentalism). From the reviews, that seems to be the tendency of this film, though I don't want to utterly assume that before seeing it. The Catholic perspective on Hell is there for anyone to find in the Catechism (and, I believe, in the Bible, but then, I am a Catholic!), but from the American media, one would have virtually no idea of it.

Edited by Christopher Lake

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The film does interview an Eastern Orthodox Bishop and to my understanding Catholic clergy.

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The film does interview an Eastern Orthodox Bishop and to my understanding Catholic clergy.

From what I remember reading though (and perhaps what I read is inaccurate-- I hope so!!), the Catholic clergy interviewed don't exactly faithfully articulate the official teaching of the Catholic Church on Hell. Kind of like interviewing a self-professed "Bible-believing Christian" who denies the Trinity. Problematic.

Edited by Christopher Lake

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This could be. I haven't seen the film yet.

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I believe that there have been serious concerns raised, theologically, in Orthodox circles about the Orthodox archbishop who is interviewed in the film. I just found Frank Schaeffer's scathing review of CT's review of the film though, and he does mention that Dr. Peter Kreeft, a Catholic, is in the movie, though I don't know how long his interview lasts and/or how it is edited, which could make a difference.

Kreeft definitely holds to the Church's teaching on Hell, which is neither the dominant American evangelical Protestant "exclusivist" view nor the "universalist" view. Here is a short chapter on Hell from one of Dr. Kreeft's many books on Christian/Catholic doctrine and practice: http://www.peterkree...topics/hell.htm

Edited by Christopher Lake

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yeah, I just recently read Kreeft's thoughts on Hell in Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Heaven Hell and the Afterlife. His thoughts got me rethinking some of my UR tendencies. I've only recently gone UR though and mostly because of a friend who very logically and strongly proved the possibility of it to me. I've long questioned the eternality of hell and it's always bothered me. As one friend said, I've been leaning UR for years. I think I've come to the conclusion that I just don't know for sure, and that I'm fine with that. I know God is Good, and I know it'll all make sense on the other side of the veil.

For now I'm pretty strongly UR...but I won't lose my religion or anything if it's disproven.


"The truth is you're the weak, and I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin Ringo, I'm tryin real hard to be the shepherd." Pulp Fiction

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yeah, I just recently read Kreeft's thoughts on Hell in Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Heaven Hell and the Afterlife. His thoughts got me rethinking some of my UR tendencies. I've only recently gone UR though and mostly because of a friend who very logically and strongly proved the possibility of it to me. I've long questioned the eternality of hell and it's always bothered me. As one friend said, I've been leaning UR for years. I think I've come to the conclusion that I just don't know for sure, and that I'm fine with that. I know God is Good, and I know it'll all make sense on the other side of the veil.

For now I'm pretty strongly UR...but I won't lose my religion or anything if it's disproven.

I believe that a person can come to a strong UR hope through studying the Bible and better translations of certain words, as well as through regarding some of the earlier Ante-Nicene Christian's understandings of these words and their theology. Added to this a certain understanding of God's character and some thought through philosophy.

It seems that most people need to have Holy Spirit touch on them about the subject in order to get to the point of being fully assured of UR. I've come to full assurance in several ways.

I believe that there have been serious concerns raised, theologically, in Orthodox circles about the Orthodox archbishop who is interviewed in the film. I just found Frank Schaeffer's scathing review of CT's review of the film though, and he does mention that Dr. Peter Kreeft, a Catholic, is in the movie, though I don't know how long his interview lasts and/or how it is edited, which could make a difference.

Kreeft definitely holds to the Church's teaching on Hell, which is neither the dominant American evangelical Protestant "exclusivist" view nor the "universalist" view. Here is a short chapter on Hell from one of Dr. Kreeft's many books on Christian/Catholic doctrine and practice: http://www.peterkree...topics/hell.htm

The film's website has an outake of his interview here.

Edited by Attica

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One of my favorite, probably most favorite, sermons is Justice by George Macdonald. It's pretty much what won me over to UR along with my friend's logical takes on aionios etc. I think you're right that people can come to a reasoned and logical belief in UR with some good study. That's why I still pretty much believe it. Maybe not wholeheartedly, but I've never been one to believe many things wholeheartedly.


"The truth is you're the weak, and I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin Ringo, I'm tryin real hard to be the shepherd." Pulp Fiction

Justin's Blog twitter Facebook Life Is Story

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I believe that there have been serious concerns raised, theologically, in Orthodox circles about the Orthodox archbishop who is interviewed in the film. I just found Frank Schaeffer's scathing review of CT's review of the film though, and he does mention that Dr. Peter Kreeft, a Catholic, is in the movie, though I don't know how long his interview lasts and/or how it is edited, which could make a difference.

Kreeft definitely holds to the Church's teaching on Hell, which is neither the dominant American evangelical Protestant "exclusivist" view nor the "universalist" view. Here is a short chapter on Hell from one of Dr. Kreeft's many books on Christian/Catholic doctrine and practice: http://www.peterkree...topics/hell.htm

I'm not sure what the Bishop in this film views are but it isn't outside of Eastern Orthodoxy to have a strong hope for the salvation of All. There have also definitely been Eastern Orthodox Bishops, especially amongst the early Ante-Nicene Greeks, that believed and even taught it. In fact in his writings Basil the Great said that most of the Christians at that time believed that there would be an end to the punishments.

Edit: Of note.... the "hell" that Mr. Ware uses in his quotes, is actually Gehenna which leaves for a discussion of what Jesus was trying to say. Also the same with aionos... which he translates as eternal.... while there is evidence that the early Greek Christians understood it as referring to an age.

Edited by Attica

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I believe that there have been serious concerns raised, theologically, in Orthodox circles about the Orthodox archbishop who is interviewed in the film. I just found Frank Schaeffer's scathing review of CT's review of the film though, and he does mention that Dr. Peter Kreeft, a Catholic, is in the movie, though I don't know how long his interview lasts and/or how it is edited, which could make a difference.

Kreeft definitely holds to the Church's teaching on Hell, which is neither the dominant American evangelical Protestant "exclusivist" view nor the "universalist" view. Here is a short chapter on Hell from one of Dr. Kreeft's many books on Christian/Catholic doctrine and practice: http://www.peterkree...topics/hell.htm

I'm not sure what the Bishop in this film views are but it isn't outside of Eastern Orthodoxy to have a strong hope for the salvation of All. There have also definitely been Eastern Orthodox Bishops, especially amongst the early Ante-Nicene Greeks, that believed and even taught it. In fact in his writings Basil the Great said that most of the Christians at that time believed that there would be an end to the punishments.

Edit: Of note.... the "hell" that Mr. Ware uses in his quotes, is actually Gehenna which leaves for a discussion of what Jesus was trying to say. Also the same with aionos... which he translates as eternal.... while there is evidence that the early Greek Christians understood it as referring to an age.

I certainly hope that the outtake of the interview with Peter Kreeft, from the movie, is simply an outtake, and not the entirety of the time that he speaks in the film, because that clip does not allow him adequate time to explain the Catholic position on Hell (to which he holds). The Church does not teach annihilationism, and Dr. Kreeft does not hold to it, but that clip seems to present him as believing something akin to it, which he does not. From his books, I know he believes that whatever does continue to exist of a person in Hell will experience very real suffering. In a chapter of one of his books, "Fundamentals of the Faith" (featured in the link of my previous comment), Kreeft describes the Biblical portrait of Hell as being somewhat like an "eternal dying" that, by definition, never ends, and that may well change the one who experiences it into a sort of phantom of his/her former self-- but that phantom will exist forever, separated from God by personal choice, i.e. free will.

On an autobiographical note, and without meaning to be too controversial, disputed theological questions such as the one in this film (the nature and existence of Hell) are part of the reason that I decided to leave Protestantism and return to the Catholic Church. I spent several happy and productive years (in terms of growth in understanding, and in personal sanctification) in different evangelical and Reformed congregations, studying numerous issues from the historic "Sola Scriptura" position-- certainly not discounting evidence outside of Scripture itself, but with Scripture finally being my highest authority... except for the fact it was my interpretation of Scripture that ended up being my highest authority. As a person who had been convinced of "five-point Calvinism" by studying Scripture, I held to the "exclusivist" position on Hell, also from my historical-grammatical study of Scripture.

However, the more that I looked around at other theological schools of thought (other than Calvinism), I saw that serious Biblical scholars increasingly disputed among themselves about more and more theological questions. Almost anything seemed up for debate from within an historical-grammatical Protestant framework of interpreting Scripture.

Many open theists, and others of various "non-denominational" persuasions, sincerely and seriously understood the Bible to teach universalism. Lutherans, Presbyterians, Southern Baptists, and other denominations equally sincerely and seriously understood the Bible to teach the "exclusivist" position, and along with it, Hell as eternal, conscious separation from God. Lutherans and Methodists believed that a Christian could genuinely walk away from God and lose (or repudiate) his/her salvation. Other denominations vociferously disagreed-- with all of them working from a "Sola Scriptura" (not "Solo Scriptura") interpretive position.

I myself was a serious student of Scripture, but Protestant scholars far more Biblically educated than I couldn't seem to agree on what the Bible teaches on (insert serious theological question here). Again, this was only one of the factors which led me to the conclusion that too many Biblical matters simply could not be answered through historical-grammatical study of Scripture alone (with other factors, such as the early Church Fathers playing a role in interpretation, but with "Scripture itself," or my interpretation of it, being the final, highest court of appeal).

Even when I studied the Church Fathers, along with Scripture, it was still my interpretation of both that I was left to try to "figure out," with the help of the Holy Spirit, as a Protestant. I finally concluded that if this were how Christianity were meant to "operate," so to speak, then the ancient creeds, such as the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds, could never have been written and taken to be normative for the early Christian church-- and this was not a predicament which I found to be logical or even tenable as a Christian. Ergo, I "re-Poped." smile.png

The Catholic Church does allow a certain sort of "hope" for everyone to be saved, but it is a hope which also equally holds to at least the possibility for human beings to say "No" to God in ultimate ways, and to never repent of that "No"-- with the end thereof being eternal, conscious separation from God. Certain gifted Church writers and even leaders, such as Origen, seem, to many scholars, not to have held to this understanding of Hell. Church writers such as Origen tend to be read with regard but also with caution in the Catholic Church, and their view on Hell is not approved, as it contradicts the historic teaching of the Church.

In the Divine Mercy Chaplet prayer, Catholics pray for Jesus to "lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy." We affirm this prayer, along with the possibility that, through their own choice(s), people can separate themselves from God, and that that separation, if unrepented of, can last forever.

I cannot say that I am at complete ease or peace-- not at all-- with the existence of such a fearsome eternal reality (how could I be, truly, as one who cares for and loves other people, including my potential "enemies"?), but as a Catholic Christian, I do affirm it, and I affirm that it can happen to me as much as to anyone, and it can happen to me more easily than to many people. To those whom much has been given, much is expected.

Edited by Christopher Lake

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Christopher Lake wrote:

: I believe that there have been serious concerns raised, theologically, in Orthodox circles about the Orthodox archbishop who is interviewed in the film.

Yes, I alluded to that earlier in this thread. But I don't think anything he says on this particular topic, in this particular film, is out-of-bounds from an Orthodox point of view, necessarily.

There are Orthodox who do emphasize eternal judgment after death (and our services around Lent, for example, do make reference to some of the grimmer Old Testament passages on this subject).

There are other Orthodox who emphasize the notion that God is love, and that everyone will be exposed to his love after death, and that some people will welcome his love while others will find his love oppressive and painful. The emphasis here is not so much on God judging people and casting them out whether they like it or not, as it is on our condition and whether we are responsive to God's love.

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.

Archbishop Lazar may tilt towards the second or third option, but that, in and of itself, would not put him beyond the pale.


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

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Christopher, I look at it like this...

They can say no for eternity and God will keep pursuing them. Since eternity means time without end I hold the hope that eventually, in time, even if it takes billions of "years", everyone will eventually say yes.


"The truth is you're the weak, and I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin Ringo, I'm tryin real hard to be the shepherd." Pulp Fiction

Justin's Blog twitter Facebook Life Is Story

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Christopher Lake wrote:

: I believe that there have been serious concerns raised, theologically, in Orthodox circles about the Orthodox archbishop who is interviewed in the film.

Yes, I alluded to that earlier in this thread. But I don't think anything he says on this particular topic, in this particular film, is out-of-bounds from an Orthodox point of view, necessarily.

There are Orthodox who do emphasize eternal judgment after death (and our services around Lent, for example, do make reference to some of the grimmer Old Testament passages on this subject).

There are other Orthodox who emphasize the notion that God is love, and that everyone will be exposed to his love after death, and that some people will welcome his love while others will find his love oppressive and painful. The emphasis here is not so much on God judging people and casting them out whether they like it or not, as it is on our condition and whether we are responsive to God's love.

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.

Archbishop Lazar may tilt towards the second or third option, but that, in and of itself, would not put him beyond the pale.

Thanks for that clarification on the Orthodox archbishop, Andy.

I'm aware that there are differing views on this subject in Orthodox circles. When I was re-investigating Catholicism, and trying to discern whether I could remain a Protestant, Eastern Orthodoxy was a very real possibility for me. In many ways, it was more appealing and attractive for me to become Orthodox than to return to the Catholic Church. For various reasons, though, I ultimately decided to "re-Pope."

During my "pre-Catholic-reversion" studies, and up to the present day, one of the things that, honestly, has been hard for me to ascertain is whether or not there is a certain, definable "Orthodox position" on Hell. Different historic Orthodox Fathers teach different views on the subject, and today, I find a similar situation within Orthodoxy pertaining to Hell. Obviously, one can also find Catholic theologians teaching differing things about Hell too, and the Church's understanding of Hell has certainly developed from, say, the 4th to the 12th to the 21st centuries. The only difference is that the Pope can speak publicly and say, in a sense, "Ok, we can debate about certain aspects of Hell, but Catholics are not allowed to legitimately hold to annihiilationism and/or to say that, regarding one's moral choices while in this life, no one ever goes freely to Hell for eternity."

Certain Catholic leaders and authors have taught those positions within history, but said positions are not considered to be part of the "deposit of faith," to which all Catholics must hold, and that they are not free (in terms of moral obedience) to contradict. At the same time, as I wrote above, the Church does pray for all souls to be led to God's mercy-- indeed, unto Heaven!--, but Catholics must hold to the existence of an eternal Hell (as more of a "state" than a "place," per se), and to at least the possibility that some people do go there due to their own choice(s). Even the Popes who have held out the most hope that very few people would be damned, such as Blessed John Paul II seemed to hope for at times, in his writings and speeches, have still taught that there is the sober reality of eternal, conscious separation from God, and that anyone can potentially go to such a state.

Edited by Christopher Lake

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Christopher, I look at it like this...

They can say no for eternity and God will keep pursuing them. Since eternity means time without end I hold the hope that eventually, in time, even if it takes billions of "years", everyone will eventually say yes.

I do genuinely hear your view, Taliesn. There are Scriptures which can certainly be understood to support it, and please know that I don't mean that in any kind of condescending way. Over my several (almost fifteen) years as a Christian, I've learned that very strong cases can be made, from the Bible, for many differing views on the same subject-- with some of those subjects being matters of the utmost, eternal seriousness. This is one of the reasons that I no longer hold to the historic Protestant position of "Sola Scriptura," for determining what I should believe and do as a Christian.

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Christopher, I look at it like this...

They can say no for eternity and God will keep pursuing them. Since eternity means time without end I hold the hope that eventually, in time, even if it takes billions of "years", everyone will eventually say yes.

Yep. The following is really, REALLY, too basic. But in a nutshell here's how I see it. The Bible mentions that humanity has a light of God, being the light that shines in all that is coming into the world and can never be put out. This is the light that Jesus told the Jews of his time (not Christians) to shine brightly. Humanity is also made in the image of God and has the law written on our hearts (our consciences testifying) as Paul mentions in Romans.

Sin and evil might scathe over these things but they are still there, they are an essential part of humanity. Then add to this the Gospels where Jesus says that he will draw (drag as in a fisherman dragging in fish with a net) All mankind to himself. Next add too this what Peter said in Acts 3 about God's covenantal promise to Abraham where God promises to bring All of Abraham's seed and the Nations of the Earth (being everybody) away from their wickedness.

All these things put together..... being a humanity that deep down (deeper down than sins influence) has things written into them whereby they have something of God and are inclined towards God's law, added with a covenantal promise from God to bring people out of their wickedness (and a Covenant is a BIG deal). I honestly can't see that people will reject God forever.

If God's law is written on their hearts and consciences testify of this, eventually they will turn to him. Any future torments in their conscience will be because their conscience is so troubled by what they have done against God's law. Therefore their consciences will draw them towards what James calls God's perfect law of liberty..... which will lead to conviction and repentance.

Attica, I see your point of view, exegetically speaking. Personally, I don't agree with it and, as a Catholic, I am not permitted to hold it, but I have studied the universalist position, from Scripture, and I do exegetically "get" it. See my reply to Taliesin at #67 for a bit more.

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Taliesin, I'm not always as clear in my expression of certain things as I probably could be. Can I help to clarify anything about what I've written so far? I'd be happy to at least try to be more clear. :)

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No it's not what you said, it's whole "not permitted" to believe thing. Basically the idea that Protestants have it wrong because we allow for freedom of thought, thinking outside the box...and people who we respect to hold different beliefs than us...and that that's somehow a bad thing. I didn't want to step on any toes so I didn't respond and to be honest I hope that that doesn't bother you me saying all that. If it does just ignore it.


"The truth is you're the weak, and I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin Ringo, I'm tryin real hard to be the shepherd." Pulp Fiction

Justin's Blog twitter Facebook Life Is Story

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Taliesin, please know that none of what you've written above bothers me, at least in any sense of me possibly taking it personally. I've been in too many different places, over my life, in regard to what I myself do or don't believe, to be bothered easily by what other people believe. Christianity is a big tent (and Catholicism is a much bigger Christian tent than it can sometimes seem from the outside, hehe!), and humanity is a huge tent, and we can certainly express our views here without fear of getting slammed-- or that would be my hope anyway. There have been a few times for me, in years past, when I didn't always feel free to express my theological and moral views here without getting slammed-- and so I left, and just lurked here and read for quite a long time. I really, really enjoyed reading though, and so, I'm back, hoping that my time here will be better than it was in the past. None of what you've written, though, has bothered me, personally, in the least. I haven't agreed with everything that you've written, and vice versa, but that is to be expected, as I'm Catholic, and you're not. We're still brothers in Christ though, and even if we weren't, that would certainly be no ground for any kind of disrespect between us.

I realize that I brought up the whole Catholic/Orthodox/Protestant question, as it relates to the question of Hell, and I also did give some of my own story of having been Catholic, then becoming Protestant (seriously, consciously so, for several years), and returning to the Catholic Church. However, I really should be mindful, myself, to not go too far afield the subject of this thread, so as to not be a distraction to that subject, for the discussion here. I will say, though, that I recognize many of my own former beliefs, in what you wrote about St. Augustine, tradition, and the Catholic Church. From 2005-2009, actually, I probably could have written your comment #71 myself! smile.png

Again, so as not to be a distraction to the subject of this thread, I'm going to refrain from going too much further into why I returned to the Catholic Church, and why I actually, genuinely feel a sense of joy, and even freedom, paradoxically, in not being "permitted" to believe certain things as a Catholic. For me, ultimately, it's a matter of 2 Thessalonians 2:15, and also of having been a part of many different Christian movements, at different points over the years, that were all trying to be faithful to their best understanding of the Bible (and church history), but in the process, were disagreeing, both among themselves and among others, about what the Bible even teaches on (insert serious theological issue of doctrine and practice here).

It's not that I don't want to seriously study the Bible and understand it as a Catholic. I do-- study it, and strive to understand it, that is. The Pope and the Magisterium aren't there to try to "shut me down," in terms of being able to think for myself and understand the Bible. They function more as a set of visible, speaking, teaching "guardrails," so that I won't unintentionally wander off into heresy while trying to read and understand the Bible.

Of course, I understand that many Protestants believe the Catholic Church, itself, teaches heretical things that are contradicted by the Biblical data! smile.png I used to believe this myself quite strongly. After more years of study of the Bible and church history, I no longer do. Has the Catholic Church had some really terrible people in positions of leadership over the centuries? Definitely. Have those people done some almost unspeakable things? Yes-- including, in some cases, some Popes. This does not damage my faith as a Catholic-- but to go further into it, on this particular thread, would probably not be helpful.

If you are curious, though, as to how I studied-- truly studied, and prayed-- my way from the interpretive freedom of Protestantism to the seemingly "less free" paradigm of the Catholic Church, you might find this article to be interesting: http://www.calledtoc...dacity-of-pope/ Peace in Christ, brother! smile.png

Edited by Christopher Lake

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Christopher Lake wrote:

: Thanks for that clarification on the Orthodox archbishop, Andy.

Peter, actually. :)

And yeah, I'd rather not get too distracted by the whole pope or no-pope discussion, as it's not particularly relevant to this particular film. The question this film wrestles with is the truth about hell (including the truth of its existence or non-existence), and not why certain individuals might be regarded as more authoritative on the subject than others.

But for what it's worth, I was something of an unaffiliated post-Anabaptist around the time this board began a decade ago, and by that point I had already come to the basic conclusion that the western churches -- both Catholic and Protestant -- had gotten the atonement wrong. My debates with SDG at that time, on a wide range of topics, actually opened my eyes to the possibility and even necessity of joining one of the ancient churches, but his arguments for the papacy (and a handful of other distinctly Catholic doctrines) didn't convince me in the end -- so I became Orthodox. (I'm sure some of those debates are in the archives here, somewhere, though some of them are not, as they took place on the old Novogate board.)

And the only reason I'm getting into even *that* much detail here is because the question of hell -- the subject of this film -- is very much connected to the question of atonement. Some of the defenders of the belief in hell, as interviewed in this film, stake the necessity of hell on the idea that Jesus was crucified for nothing unless hell exists. One could always argue that universalists are so repulsed by the idea of hell that they have jettisoned that idea and left themselves wide open to the possibility that they might end up rejecting the idea of substitutionary atonement, too -- but some of us jettisoned substitutionary atonement first. (And I actually haven't jettisoned the idea of hell, myself. I'm something of an agnostic on that question, though I think hell has to remain an open possibility, at least, if we're going to avoid the more fatalistic kinds of universalism.)


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

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Peter, so sorry about that mix-up-- I don't know even know why I wrote, "Andy," actually! Maybe I was just too tired when I wrote that comment!

On the nature of the atonement, given that I was a Calvinist for several years, in those days, obviously, I held to a strong view of penal substitutionary atonement. The Catholic Church rejects the "penal" aspect, and has a more nuanced view of the "substitutionary" aspect than Calvinism generally does, and she also puts more emphasis on "Christus Victor" as well, so my view of the atonement has had to adjust quite a bit since my days of reading and, at the time, loving, the books of John Piper! (I still do think that he has some great insights at times.) Being Orthodox, you are probably aware of the great contemporary Orthodox author, David Bentley Hart. Have you read his short book, The Doors of the Sea? It's a very interesting, impassioned, and poignant reply to the theodicies of Calvinist thinkers such as Piper.

I believe in Hell as eternal and conscious (of some sort, that is-- perhaps not quite like our "consciousness" now) separation from God, and I believe that anyone can potentially go there, including professing Christians (including me!), partially because Biblical, exegetical study convinced me of these things, and I continue to believe them because, even though there are good exegetical arguments on many different "sides" of the subject of Hell, as a Catholic, I am "bound" to believe certain things by the teaching authority of the Church. I would have it no other way. I'm not happy about the existence of Hell, and it grieves me that any people at all would ever choose to eternally separate themselves from God. It makes me tremble to think that I am capable of such, but St. Paul does exhort us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (but obviously not only, or even mainly, fear and trembling, given that God is love)....

Edited by Christopher Lake

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Ah. But what about destiny. I believe that God has foreknown all that we would do with our will. We can reject his will for our lives.... but even this is foreknown.... so we can't fall out of our foreknown destiny. What if God has foreknown (not quite the same as predetermined) that everyone will eventually accept him? What if it's humanity's destiny? smile.png

Attica, I'm curious to hear your answer on a question. If it's even a distinct possibility that everyone will eventually accept God, why does Jesus say of Judas that it would have been better for him if he had never been born?

As I've written above, the Catholic Church does allow her members to hold to a certain sort of "hope" for the salvation of all people, but that hope is not one which entails that God will save all people irrespective of what they, themselves, want. I've known many, many people in my life who, by their own admission (sometimes proudly so), wanted absolutely no friendship with God in this life at all. I can't know the hearts and motives of those people, as I am not onmniscient, and I thank God that it's not up to me to judge the nature and degree of their culpability for rejecting Him. Perhaps many of them are only seeming to "reject" God, when they don't actually understand Him rightly (to the limited degree that any of us understands Him, including myself).

With that said, if one truly, freely, willfully, and knowingly does reject Him in this life though, unto death, I don't believe that God will forcibly "reconcile" such a person to Himself for eternity. Such a "reconciliation" would, logically, itself, be torture for the one who wants nothing to do with God (other than to reject Him).

Edited by Christopher Lake

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Thanks for your gracious reply Christopher.

I definitely have nothing against Catholics...In fact I tend to believe most, if not all, Catholics are Christians in the most open form of the word. I love the ritual, the tradition, the mysticism, and the strong emphasis on beauty and art.

Possibly my most favorite nonfiction Christian book is written by a Protestant who later became Catholic, A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken. Great book. Anyways. I'm interested to see the movie. I am not one to try to convince people to believe like me, I tend to think such things should be personal revelations from God. So on that note I'll just sit back and watch the discussion.


"The truth is you're the weak, and I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin Ringo, I'm tryin real hard to be the shepherd." Pulp Fiction

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Thanks for the reply, Attica. I should say first that, just to be clear, in asking you the question about Mark 14:21, it was not my intention to enter into a debate about various Biblical texts. I'm not saying that that is your intention either (and I'm not assuming that it is); I just want to clarify things from my end.

Part of the difficulty in these sorts of conversations is that you and I have different "starting points." For me, as a Catholic, the starting point is, "What does the teaching authority of the Church say about Hell, as a matter of faith and morals, from Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition?" Where there is legitimate room for me to form my own opinion on any given subject, I will certainly do so-- but where the Pope and the Magisterium have authoritatively spoken on a subject (such as Hell), I am bound to conform my understanding to that of the historic faith of the Church. I'm not sure exactly what your starting point is, but I know that it's not mine (and I say that simply as a statement of fact, with no rancor whatsoever!), and therefore, on a subject such as this one, there are inherent difficulties, from the outset, in our conversation.

I realize that to many, many people, especially in the Western world today, my position-- the "trusting, obedient Catholic" (*in* terms of Church teaching, that is!) position, so to speak-- is basically synonymous with that of belonging to a cult.

However, in the 4th century, the Church's teaching authority (whether one understands the early Church to be essentially Catholic, Orthodox, proto-Protestant, or something else) pronounced the Trinity to be authoritative Christian doctrine, and yet, the "majority position," in many geographical areas of the Church, at that time, was actually non-Trinitarian. The Arians obviously believed themselves to be Scripturally accurate, and yet, very few professing Christians today would accept Arianism as an acceptable view within Christianity.

Some early voices in the Church seem to support universalism, or something close to it (not that I agree with your take on Clement of Rome's position on Hell-- I do not agree, respectfully--, and I'll have to do more research on Gregory Nanzianzus and Gregory of Nyssa before I can really say more about their beliefs on Hell). However, neither the teaching authority of the Catholic Church nor that of Eastern Orthodoxy has historically given its approval to universalism. The dominant Church teaching on Hell, throughout most of Christian history, up to the present day, has been opposed to universalism. For those two reasons alone, I would be extremely wary to give my support to universalism. Such a position seems a bit similar to me (not the same but a bit similar) as the position of a professing Christian friend of mine, who sides with the Arians as representing "early, historic, and Biblically accurate Christianity," and who believes that Trinitarianism was a 3rd-4th century aberration that unfortunately made its way into being "officially approved" by the dominant Church authorities of that time.

Please understand-- when I say that the position of Christians professing universalism today seems "a bit similar," to me, to the position of Arians (whether of the 4th century, or of today) denying Trinitarianism, I am not equating universalism and Arianism. However, as a Catholic, I must be true to, and honest about, what I believe-- and as such, I believe what the Church teaches on these matters, which is that universalism and Arianism are both heresies (but not on the same level).

However, I'm not the eternal Judge of men's and women's souls, and thanks be to God for that fact! smile.png I also believe that "Sola Fide" and "Sola Scriptura" are heresies, and I fully expect to see my committed, serious Protestant brothers and sisters in Christ in Heaven-- if I make it there, myself, that is! Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner! smile.png (I'm also grateful for my Protestant friends who accept me as a brother in Christ, despite the fact that I, in their view, hold to "Catholic heresy.")

Edited by Christopher Lake

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