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Rob Bell--Love Wins


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#21 Persona

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 12:10 AM

Huh. I know there was more conversation around that film, Pers, but the only thing I can find is way back Here. A bunch of us had a screening of this in 2003 or 2004... If you ever want to start a great conversation, throw this one in after your next dinner party.

#22 Greg P

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 08:53 AM

The idea of God allowing people who are made in his image to suffer in torment for eternity even if they have the capacity to regret their decision and ask for his mercy... that's not something I can currently reconcile with other things that are said about God's love.


You're not alone, Jeff.

I think the traditional doctrine of hell has done more to repel people from Christ than any other peripheral belief in Christendom. The evangelicals who defend it the most stridently don't even preach it consistently in their sermons. And without question, if such a place exists men ought to be warning others with strong tears... night and day. Name one mainstream Protestant preacher who speaks of a burning, smoldering hell every Sunday-- the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. There are none that I know of. As a stripling, I used to listen to old David Wilkerson and Leonard Ravenhill tapes. I had quite a collection. Those were the only guys I ever heard shriek about the terrors of hell consistently. But they represented a very niche, neo-puritan market in Christendom-- hardly mainstream.

I reject this traditional view enthusiastically, and not -- as the conservatives tend to charge-- merely because it's "unpleasant" or offends my liberal sensibilities. The idea of fiery judgement upon sinners actually sorta thrills me sometimes. Something in me would rejoice to see the world's worst, most violent politicians tormented day and night forever. Absolutely.

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

Edited by Greg P, 28 February 2011 - 08:55 AM.


#23 Ryan H.

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 09:03 AM

We've kinda been here before.

But as I've said, I'd gladly leap into the annihilationist camp with ya, Greg, if I could reconcile it completely with the Biblical witness (and yes, I know you believe your position is supported by the Biblical witness, but I don't quite see that), which, as a child of the Reformation, I grant primacy of authority. That said, the "traditional view of hell," i.e. a physical space of unceasing fire and torture, doesn't quite strike me as cutting it, either.

Edited by Ryan H., 28 February 2011 - 09:04 AM.


#24 Greg P

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 09:23 AM

But as I've said, I'd gladly leap into the annihilationist camp with ya, Greg, if I could reconcile it completely with the Biblical witness (and yes, I know you believe your position is supported by the Biblical witness, but I don't quite see that), which, as a child of the Reformation, I grant primacy of authority. That said, the "traditional view of hell," i.e. a physical space of unceasing fire and torture, doesn't quite strike me as cutting it, either.

That leaves you with Metaphorical, Purgatorial or Universalist options. Curious-- do any of those cut it for you?

Don't feel bad, I don't think I know anyone any more who truly believes the traditional view of hell. At least not in my limited sphere. I'm sure there are some stragglers out there. I used to be one. But faith without works is dead, and anyone who believed their friends, relatives and neighbors were rushing headlong into an unending universe of torture would of necessity be out of the closet and doing something about it.

Edited by Greg P, 28 February 2011 - 09:23 AM.


#25 Ryan H.

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 09:36 AM

That leaves you with Metaphorical, Purgatorial or Universalist options. Curious-- do any of those cut it for you?

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

That passage in Hebrews reminds me of something from Bell's preview for LOVE WINS, to which he objects to the notion that somehow Jesus rescues us from the wrath of God. He may dislike that idea, but I'd say the Biblical witness attests to that notion pretty strongly, and not just in Hebrews.

But faith without works is dead, and anyone who believed their friends, relatives and neighbors were rushing headlong into an unending universe of torture would of necessity be out of the closet and doing something about it.

Well, I think that depends. Certain theological systems don't put as much weight on individual efforts to convince others of the legitimacy of faith. Anyway, that comment does remind me of Jesus' story of the rich man and Lazarus, where we get his exchange:

And he said, 'Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.' But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.' And he said, 'No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' He said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'"


Edited by Ryan H., 28 February 2011 - 09:52 AM.


#26 Thom Wade

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 09:52 AM

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

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


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

#27 MattPage

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 10:23 AM

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

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


Stef said:

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

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

Matt

#28 Greg P

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 10:43 AM

Well, I think that depends. Certain theological systems don't put as much weight on individual efforts to convince others of the legitimacy of faith. Anyway, that comment does remind me of Jesus' story of the rich man and Lazarus, where we get his exchange:

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

#29 Ryan H.

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 10:57 AM

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

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

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

Edited by Ryan H., 28 February 2011 - 11:17 AM.


#30 Greg P

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 11:50 AM

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

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

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

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

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

Edited by Greg P, 28 February 2011 - 11:57 AM.


#31 Ryan H.

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 12:09 PM

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

Edited by Ryan H., 28 February 2011 - 12:10 PM.


#32 Greg P

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 12:26 PM

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

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

Edited by Greg P, 28 February 2011 - 12:32 PM.


#33 Ryan H.

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 12:28 PM

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

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

#34 Greg P

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 12:37 PM

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

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

Edited by Greg P, 28 February 2011 - 12:47 PM.


#35 Ryan H.

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 01:06 PM

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

#36 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 01:10 PM

MattPage wrote:
: Persona wrote:

: : . . . particularly the one that describes a burning trash dump outside of Jerusalem.
:
: Does he debunk that at all? The evidence for that is 2nd millennium at the earliest.

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

#37 Overstreet

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 01:51 PM

David Sessions at Patrol joins the discussion.

#38 Persona

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 04:07 PM

MattPage wrote:
: Persona wrote:

: : . . . particularly the one that describes a burning trash dump outside of Jerusalem.
:
: Does he debunk that at all? The evidence for that is 2nd millennium at the earliest.

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

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

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

Edited by Persona, 28 February 2011 - 04:07 PM.


#39 Ryan H.

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 04:09 PM

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

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

#40 Ryan H.

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 04:20 PM

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

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

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

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

Edited by Ryan H., 28 February 2011 - 04:21 PM.