Posted 03 October 2012 - 01:19 PM
Posted 03 October 2012 - 01:51 PM
About the idea of paganism entering the early Church, and "corrupting" it with the doctrine of Hell as eternal, conscious separation from God, that is exactly what my non-Trinitarian friend believes, as the reason that most professing Christians today support the doctrine of the Trinity. He doesn't see the early Fathers teaching it. He doesn't believe that the Bible supports it. The Trinity is a pagan doctrine, in his view, that "corrupted" early Christianity-- similarly to the way in which the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox understanding(s) of Hell, as officially taught by those Churches, is supposedly the result of "pagan influence" in early Christianity.
Apparently, everyone from Protestant, "fire-and-brimstone" fundamentalists, to "non-Trinitarian Christians," to Universal Reconciliationists, believes that the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches were/are doctrinally corrupted fairly early on by paganism! I'm happy not to have to sort out all of these issues anymore; it's good to be Catholic! Of course, I know that everyone believes that it is good to believe what they believe, by definition, but I digress!
It's important to note here that at least some of the Church Fathers who you, personally, understand to have taught UR are not necessarily understood, by the official teaching authorities of the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, to have taught UR. As a Catholic, I might understand a Church Father to have taught a certain thing, but I am not ultimately subject to my own interpretation. My own interpretation is not the final word for me, and I'm very glad for that fact. I am subject to the teaching authority of the Church, which knows both the Bible and the Church Fathers much, much better than I do.
Edited by Christopher Lake, 03 October 2012 - 02:08 PM.
Posted 03 October 2012 - 03:25 PM
I'm speaking largely of different Protestant groups here-- but I'm also referring to the Catholic Church, as at least, the supposed "pagan" view of Hell that you attribute to Dante's Inferno, and, seemingly, to the Catholic Church, is not actually the view of Hell that the Church herself officially teaches. Inferno is not, and was not intended by Dante to be, a dogmatic statement on the exact particulars of the Catholic view of Hell. Poets don't tend to make the best dogmatic theologians, nor vice versa (though I'm sure there are a few exceptions in history somewhere!).
Yes, some ancient Christian writings, from Origen and other authors, do appear to support universal reconciliation. However, a major problem for contemporary Christians who wish to state that UR is, in fact, the orthodox position of early Christianity, is that said Christians often have to move towards what looks very much like a form of "conspiracy theory" thinking, in which the true Christian doctrine of Hell (UR, supposedly) was taught very early on, but then was suppressed for at least several hundred years, if not much more, while the other, supposedly "pagan" view of Hell predominated in Christianity.
Anti-Catholic Protestant fundamentalists (from many Pentecostals, to certain branches of Southern Baptists, to very strong Calvinists) have these same (or very, very similar!) sorts of theories about "pagan corruption" in early Christianity too-- as do Mormons, Seventh-Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and many others. I just can't subscribe to such theories. I'm not meaning to equate those who hold to UR with these groups, but the "conspiracy theory" sort of thinking about what happened to "corrupt" early Christianity is quite similar. It's just not historically credible to me.
About the "Apocalypse of Peter," some of the Bishops in the early Church may well have believed that it was inspired Scripture. However, the fact is, it was not ultimately received by the Church as part of the canon. Many Bishops were Arians too, and the only people whom I know, personally, who follow their view today, tend to subscribe to the aforementioned "conspiracy theory" thinking about the early Church, insofar as "pagan corruption" which supposedly messed up the "pure, early Christianity of the Church, as taught in the Scriptures."
Edited by Christopher Lake, 03 October 2012 - 03:30 PM.
Posted 03 October 2012 - 05:31 PM
You have spoken to a Bishop, maybe more than one, who has confirmed your view. Perhaps there is some merit to that confirmation. However, I can find Bishops in the Catholic Church who will quite vehemently "confirm" for me that the Church has supposedly not always held artificial contraception and abortion to be grave evils. Those Bishops do not represent the official teaching of the Catholic Church. They might well benefit from a long talk with the Pope.
As to the paintings of Hell in Catholic churches and cathedrals, Scripture itself uses symbols to point to deeper realities. Because many historic Catholic paintings artistically depict Hell in certain ways, that does not mean that all of the particulars of those paintings are part(s) of Catholic dogma and doctrine about Hell.
The Church teaches that Hell involves conscious suffering. Catholic paintings have artistically depicted that suffering in many different ways. However, to be eternally separated from God is the worst possible suffering for man, period. Yet many people do at least seem to choose to be separated from God while in this life. Some of them may well choose that separation for eternity-- but if they do, it is, finally, their choice. Does not Scripture state that after death comes the judgment-- from the One who truly is fit to Judge? Whence such a judgment, if all are, or will be, saved?
God sends no one to Hell who has not already made that choice for him/herself. There is no injustice with God. He gives us what we eternally choose-- life with Him, in friendship with Him, or apart from Him, as some may well wish for themselves, sadly.
About the differences between the Catholic Church and Orthodoxy, on original sin, and on certain other doctrinal matters, yes, there are differences, but I am not aware of any strong tendency in Orthodoxy to assert that those differences can be pointed to to support UR as a legitimate Orthodox position. (UR is obviously a non-starter in Catholicism. It has been officially condemned as a heresy-- which is why I, a Catholic, called it a heresy. Should I misrepresent what the Catholic Church teaches, so as not to offend you, or anyone else here, on a Christian message board? I'm writing about matters of dogma and doctrine here, not trying, or meaning, to insult you or anyone.)
Last thoughts for this evening, as I have to go... you wrote that "Arianism was always considered to be a heresy by the early orthodox church." This is simply false. As I mentioned above, in an earlier comment, up to the 4th century, there were many geographical areas of the Church in which Bishops (including most of the Bishops, in certain areas!) taught Arianism as the "orthodox view," and viewed Trinitarianism as heretical. The matter was finally settled by a Church Council, but it is not the case that Arianism was simply, clearly, "always considered to be a heresy." These matters were debated and settled over time through Councils of the early Church (whether one understands the early Church to be Orthodox, Catholic, proto-Protestant, or something else).
On that subject, where are such Councils still being called today?
Edited by Christopher Lake, 03 October 2012 - 05:57 PM.
Posted 03 October 2012 - 09:24 PM
Edited by kenmorefield, 04 October 2012 - 07:58 AM.
Posted 03 October 2012 - 09:38 PM
:FWIW--and I say this not as a moderator (because I'm not)--as someone who has seen the film, I think this film has ceased being about the film, even tangentially, and has become about a topic prompted by the film. As such, I think it would be more appropriate in "Faith Matetrs" or some other forum. (I'm not saying it couldn't be integrated into a discussion of a film thread but given that so few have seen the film, it seems like the film is an excuse to rehearse the debate about the subject matter.)
Ryan H. said:
:There are already two threads where a lot this stuff has been tackled, including this one: Hell and how to preach it. I'm sure this chat can move there.
Okay. Sorry.. I apologize. I actually hadn't originally intended for this to go beyond the film. But I see your point.
Edit: I've removed my posts and moved the last couple over to that other thread.
Edited by Attica, 03 October 2012 - 09:56 PM.
Posted 04 October 2012 - 12:43 AM
But then again maybe I wont I'll warn... I don't expect everybody is going to want see this.
Edited by Attica, 04 October 2012 - 12:51 AM.
Posted 04 October 2012 - 10:46 AM
Before I go, I do want to say, and I would hope that this doesn't even need to be said, but just in case, I strongly, strongly abhor both the theology (on Hell and on other issues) and the tactics of Westboro Baptist Church. There is no room in the Catholic Church for such hyper-hyper-hyper-Calvinist insanity-- and I should add that every Calvinist whom I have ever personally known (including myself, for years!) also abhors the thinking and approach of Westboro Baptist Church.
Posted 07 October 2012 - 10:39 AM
Posted 07 October 2012 - 11:07 AM
But then again maybe I wont I'll warn... I don't expect everybody is going to want see this.
Attica, I think you did redeem this thread by posting the WBC News. It is interesting that, without knowing Kevin Miller, they immediately describe him as "God-hating," which is far from the truth. Having had the pleasure of chatting with Kevin a few times, he is far removed from "God-hating." But I digress to keep from getting off topic again.
WBC is an interesting inclusion in such a discussion. Contrary to the Christianity Today article Peter posted earlier, I believe that WBC and their tactics are an important inclusion into such a documentary. They explore the extreme affects of a theological perspective on Hell and how that then takes form as one interacts in the world. I think they also provide an extreme to balance the overly calm and passive extreme of the Christian Universalist's theologiccal perspective on hell. Extreme inclusiveness and extreme exclusivity are the bookends that define this spectrum and the attitudes that shape how one then interacts and communicates with the world around them.
I just saw the full film last night so I am still processing to avoid knee-jerk reactions.
P.S. Favorite WDB quote, "Pimp Satan's lies"
Posted 07 October 2012 - 01:33 PM
:Attica, I think you did redeem this thread by posting the WBC News. It is interesting that, without knowing Kevin Miller, they immediately describe him as "God-hating," which is far from the truth. Having had the pleasure of chatting with Kevin a few times, he is far removed from "God-hating."
What some of these folks like the WBC don't realize is that people come to different positions not because they are God hating but because they are God lovers. But most importantly because some have deeply experienced the love of God and people who have experienced this cannot align with folks like WBC.... or even for that matter I don't believe the Mark Driscoll types.
:They explore the extreme affects of a theological perspective on Hell and how that then takes form as one interacts in the world.
I could say more about this but then I'd be taking the thread offtrack . Suffice to say a lot of the burning of heretics etc. throughout history was because of the belief that "heretics" were leading people to eternal hell.
:Extreme inclusiveness and extreme exclusivity are the bookends that define this spectrum and the attitudes that shape how one then interacts and communicates with the world around them.
Yes. This is part of the problem I think. The word universalism is a loaded word. People hear it and think that ALL these people don't believe in any sort of afterlife justice and are not taking the Bible (and the faith including its history) seriously. Or don't believe in salvation throught Christ alone. I'd prefer it if that word wasn't even used in the discussion, it holds connotations that don't fit.
This all does influence how we see others around us.... do we see them as only "children of wrath" or do we see them as captives that God wants to set free. Or do we think that eveythings Okey-Dokey and therefore don't try and reach out to people outside the church. I'd think that these views very much change how we interact with the world..... even including its art an culture.
:I just saw the full film last night so I am still processing to avoid knee-jerk reactions.
There are a lot of knee jerk reactions around this topic.... from all camps.
Edited by Attica, 07 October 2012 - 09:43 PM.
Posted 07 October 2012 - 05:24 PM
Posted 13 October 2012 - 10:36 AM
I had considered writing a piece on my thoughts of Hellbound? (I did for Expelled) but I must say that, in the end I was underwhelmed. Don't get me wrong, I think the piece was done well and provides a great place to start when thinking theologically about hell but I am not a fan of talking head documentaries. I don't know if I would even consider this a documentary as much as an informative piece (splitting hairs, right?). This entire film could have been a nice essay in print. It would have definitely been more interesting as an essay film, a "Miller's March" sort of thing, explore the journey. It would have been really cool to see a drive across country that interviewed people "on the streets" about hell as they drove from one "expert" intervew to the next. This could potentially show religional perspectives on hell from the "everyday" person maybe even show the influence of the "experts" on the everyday people.
It would also have been interesting to see how the congregations of the experts interpret, absorb, and articulte the theological views being taught to them. The ONLY time we see this is with WBC.
Edited by Thom, 13 October 2012 - 10:42 AM.
Posted 20 October 2012 - 01:22 AM
Some initial thoughts. I thought the inclusion of the WBC throughout was handled all right. This is mainly because they were brought up at pertinant times that fit with the films questions or points.
I agree with the criticism that the ultimate reconciliation people came across as more gentle than the eternal hell people. I DID see anger in Schaeffer though. He might have been soft spoken but there was anger that I saw underneath. I also liked his comments. I've been following Frank for a couple of months now on his blog and whatnot. I'm certainly more conservative than he his on many issues and as well have no question as to the truth of God in Christ. I may not like how he sometimes expresses himself, but I do think some of his points are well thought out and worth consideration.
I also thought that Driscoll came across as thoughtful, well meaning and articulate in what he was saying. He gave the impression that, like another fellow had expressed, he thought it was wrong and irresponsible to not teach eternal tortures (of course I disagree.) But then when I heard him preaching that there was some people in the room that God hates.... ect. I don't really have much patience for that kind of talk.
The film wasn't as theological as I expected. It touched on some basic things but never went that deep. Which is all right I suppose, considering its running time and the idea that it's really only a stepping stone towards deeper study and reflection. I did wish that they had touched on the words aionos and kolasis and how Jesus used them in Matthew.
Another part that wasn't mentioned is Peter's mention of the reconcilation of all in Acts 3 which in Greek was Apostacacasis from which these early Christians got that word, connecting it with their UR views. As well they didn't touch on the connected text coming a bit later in Acts 3 where it mentions God's covenant with Abraham where he's promised to bring all of Abraham's seed, the nations and all of the Jews away from their wickedness.
I think the film should have at least mentioned this, because I've come to believe that these texts were central to the early Christian understanding of Aposcastacasis (because that's obviously where they got the word from), but I think it should also be central to the conversation. They showed the three lines of texts with prooftexts for each position and how the one person believed that different people put some texts above the others in their interpretation. But they failed to mention that one can also interpet how to read these through the fact that God has made a BLOOD COVENANT..... to bring all Abraham's seed (all mankind) from their wickedness. This happened before all those texts were written and as is said MUCH later in Acts, has not and will not be forsaken or forgotten.
Also as to the 3 lines of texts for each position. That was getting into Protestant prooftexting. Most (I'd argue all) of those texts, when understanding them through proper translations and in context, don't teach eternal hell... at all.
But also, for the sake of fairness, some of them arguably don't teach UR. But with others there is a stronger argument for UR than the film touches on.
Also for the sake of fairness the film didn't touch on one of the arguments for hell being God's holiness. I'd argue against that point as being an valid argument for ECT, but it is considered a pertinant point in the conversation and thus could have been wrestled with.
But there is another place where the film possibly falters a little. The case for UR comes across as being more prone towards philosopy than it actually is, there is more Biblical backing than was presented. But also, the eternal hell stance came across as more likely to come from radicals than it actually is.
But I think one of the main problems is that many Christians just accept that eternal hell is true and anything different is, to their minds, obviously heretical, wrong and irresponsible, so they just simply don't question, research, or pray about it. Many don't realize that there was a great many of the early Christians, some very significant, that believed in UR who were not considered to be unorthodox in the least.
That is where this film's strength lies I think. It's not completely fairly representing any position (especially annihiliation) but it IS opening the doors to the fact that one can legitimately question these things and that as long as one ultimately believes in salvation through Christ alone, their questions and views won't fall outside of views that have been believed somewhere in the historical Christian tradition.
This is actually a pretty big step.
Another thing I liked was the films talk of justice. When one comes to the understanding of God's "wrath" of which we are saved from, being that of allowing us to go our own ways into destruction..... then this also changes another understanding. There isn't as strong of a guarantee that Christians will be able to automatically escape some sort of correction in the afterlife, although there are still some points such as "justification" that surely argue this. But the film did touch on the question/idea of Christians being corrected, although when one looks at that text which was mentioned closely it's talking about our straw being burned away AS THOUGH through a spiritual fire (Greek Purea, literal fire would be Pur-if memory serves). So this text doesn't actually conclusively teach that Christians will be in the fire. That being said I've actually came to the conclusion that I'm happier with the idea that I might possibly be corrected in the afterlife, than the idea that those without Christ are under eternal wrath without hope.
It's like Brad Jersak said in the film. People say that Hitler deserves eternal tortures because of justice..... but then under much of current Christian theology that would also mean that the millions who were tormented because of Hitler are ALSO going to eternal hellfire.
I can find no way of aligning that with justice, or with a just God. It just can't be done. I've come to the point of thinking that I'd rather have some correction myself, than live in a world that is ultimately unjust and run by a God who is, and I'll say it, a bit of a bastard.
Here's my prediction. The question of eternal tortures and the belief in UR was fairly small in conservative Christian circles until Rob Bell's book came out and started the questions rolling in mainstream conservative Christianity. Bell's book was, of course, quite controversial. This film is going to open the doors further, and although it is somewhat controversial, there isn't as big of a push back as there was to Rob Bell's book. Christendom is very much moving into a period of reconsidering our view on these things.
Where we will be in the next 10 or so years is anyone's guess. But my bets are that the main gist of any debate will be between ultimate reconciliation or ultimate annihiliation. I think we're moving into a radical shaking of Christian's belief systems when it comes to hell. The shaking has already begun.
Edited by Attica, 20 October 2012 - 04:59 PM.