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#301 Attica

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Posted 16 April 2011 - 07:12 PM

M. Leary said:

:I would go a step further than that, and call this idea obscene. Jonathan Edwards, QED.



We'll in my defense. I did reply and say that I had used the term in the wrong way.

I do apologize for this use of the word, it came across different than I had originally intended.

#302 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 16 April 2011 - 07:34 PM

That belief system most certainly does not cause most mental illness. But I think it can cause mental anguish, and distress, and can/ has really messed people up, to the point of being mentally ill. Especially if they already had some issues.

Same thing could be said for believing in the existence of the ratio of a circle's area to the square of its radius. Many beliefs can be a cause of mental anguish or distress, but this has nothing to do with whether they are necessarily true or not.

It's that as soon as someone hears the word universalism they think of mainstream liberal theology. I'm actually mildly conservative in my belief and practice, as are many through Christ alone universalists ... The questions Rob Bell is asking are not, from what I've seen, about "Liberal Universalism" or Unitarian beliefs. I just wonder if that is what is going on here with a lot of people, is a misunderstanding of the questions.

I've been hearing a lot about these distinctions between different types of Universalism at my church recently, and I can't help but wonder at the long and elaborate detail with which different universalists will explain how different they are from one another. Regardless of their distinctions, anyone who's read one single decent book on the history of the church should remember that Universalism (of whatever sort) was discredited and knocked outside of mainstream Christianity as early as the Second Council of Constantinople around the 550s. Modern church culture seems to frown upon the intolerant narrow-mindedness of the old church councils. But if there's one thing they did, it was help bring a level of unity to Christian doctrine, without which Christianity would be undefinable. So as soon as I hear the word "universalism," I don't think of mainstream liberal theology, I think of Arianism, Nestorianism, Pelagianism, Gnosticism, Origenism, etc. Then I think of the Nicene and Chalcedonian Creeds.

I don't care about labeling Bell as a universalist. But I refuse to take the popular view that certain questions of doctrine have not been settled yet.

But I think it has been a position, although smaller than others, in church history that extends back to even before Origen (of course someone with this understanding would say that St. Paul believed this). There have been people who have held this position across most, if not all, of the denominational spectrum. Maybe not so much in the middle ages, or if so, underground.

See, one of the leaders at my church Bible study just said the same thing. "You know, I never knew that so many other historical Christian leaders believed in universalism, etc., etc." The problem is, whenever I actually read about it, I keep finding that one of the most common characteristics shared by universalist writers are their demonstrably false, or later discredited, claims about church history. Hosea Ballou, Heinrich Kostlin, Pierre Batiffol, Thomas Whittemore, John Hanson, George T. Knight - all these guys seem to be guilty of making historical claims about early church fathers believing in universalism, either without any evidence whatsoever to back up their claims, or with evidence later demonstrated to be false or mischaracterized.

To me, the biggest disappointment with Bell's book still remains the critiques from church historians, like the one by Carl Trueman posted earlier in this thread.

Edited by Persiflage, 16 April 2011 - 07:36 PM.


#303 M. Leary

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Posted 16 April 2011 - 07:43 PM

Sorry, Attica. I missed your response in the flurry of posts today. I can certainly understand how hard it is to make just the right choice of words to get your point across. FWIW, you strike me as a kind and gentle person, so I apologize for causing anyone to think otherwise.

I spend a lot of time in class talking about the problem of evil, and the Abrahamic tradition of hell figures strongly in that discussion (this whole issue is not simply a Christian one, but a Jewish and Muslim one as well...). It is very difficult to read through McCarthy, Kafka, Weil, Dostoye. etc... without realizing that the concept of hell affects the way we think about God and time in the present. I actually used the Bell/Bashir interview in class the other day to demonstrate how confused American religion is about the fundamentals of theodicy.

Edited by M. Leary, 16 April 2011 - 07:44 PM.


#304 Attica

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Posted 16 April 2011 - 09:04 PM

Sorry, Attica. I missed your response in the flurry of posts today. I can certainly understand how hard it is to make just the right choice of words to get your point across. FWIW, you strike me as a kind and gentle person, so I apologize for causing anyone to think otherwise.

I spend a lot of time in class talking about the problem of evil, and the Abrahamic tradition of hell figures strongly in that discussion (this whole issue is not simply a Christian one, but a Jewish and Muslim one as well...). It is very difficult to read through McCarthy, Kafka, Weil, Dostoye. etc... without realizing that the concept of hell affects the way we think about God and time in the present. I actually used the Bell/Bashir interview in class the other day to demonstrate how confused American religion is about the fundamentals of theodicy.





Thank you for that. I have been worried that some of my posts would be taken in the wrong light, and when I read those comments I went back to the post and realized that it
did sound wrong. But your post has made me feel better.

We'll I am trying to be a kind and gentle person. :)


As to the Jewish view of hell. Current views from my understanding say that it is of temporary duration, something like 12 months then God's mercy shines through.

Some of them did have an eternal torment view starting in the times between Old and New Testament writings. But there is an argument that this made it to them through Egyptian
paganism. I'm not sure if I can find any writings on this view online. But I'll look it up.

Edited by Attica, 17 April 2011 - 02:19 AM.


#305 Attica

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Posted 16 April 2011 - 10:13 PM

Persiflage:

:Same thing could be said for believing in the existence of the ratio of a circle's area to the square of its radius. Many beliefs can be a cause of mental anguish or distress,
but this has nothing to do with whether they are necessarily true or not.


Oh. I agree that it has nothing to do if the belief is true or not. But it has a lot to do with how I respond to a belief that I don't think is true, which I have
seen causing people mental anguish.




:Regardless of their distinctions, anyone who's read one single decent book on the history of the church should remember that Universalism (of whatever sort) was discredited and knocked outside of mainstream Christianity as early as the Second Council of Constantinople around the 550s. Modern church culture seems to frown upon the intolerant narrow-mindedness of the old church councils. But if there's one thing they did, it was help bring a level of unity to Christian doctrine, without which Christianity would be undefinable. So as soon as I hear the word "universalism," I don't think of mainstream liberal theology, I think of Arianism, Nestorianism, Pelagianism, Gnosticism, Origenism, etc. Then I think of the Nicene and Chalcedonian Creeds.



Well.....some of the Bishops that gave us the nicene creed were known universalists, and some of their writings still exist. At that time the refutation of Origenism was against some of his ideas, such as those leaning towards his version
of reincarnation, and what not. Bishops of his time who refuted this did not refute his universalism stance. In fact some (if not most) who refuted the Ante-Nicene version of Origenism were Christian universalists.

The thing is. If Christians around the time of the Nicene creed were opposed to the idea of limited torments, why doesn't the nicene creed mention eternal torments or hell. Of course it mentions the judgement to come. But if they
were trying to stamp out what they believed was Origen's false doctrine of hell, then why didn't they say that the judgements were eternal in this creed. Remember there were at least 2 bishops (that I know of) at that synod that were Christian universalists. They elected Gregory Nanzianszus to be head of that synod, and there is universalism expression in some of his writings.

By the way Origen wrote the most about the doctrine, but he was not the only one who expressed this. He came from the Alexandrian school, and at that time they were all universalists. Origen was after Clement of Alexandria who
has universalism in his writings. Who knows what some Christians before that thought. For example Irenaeus' writings seemed to express annihiliation. But there is also a lot in his theology that could lead a person towards
considering universalism.


But you've touched on something that I think is interesting. Nobody firmly rejected the doctrine until after 500 or so A.D. In his writings St. Augustine.... who was the first to teach it dogmatically said that "the mass of men believe
that there will be an end to the punishments". By 500 AD the church, the church (western church anyhow), was a different animal than the Ante-Nicene church. It was beginning its decline into the dark ages.



The first time that it was ever brought to pass in a Synod was by a Roman Emporor...I believe Justin.... who wanted it put through. There was some dealings around that, that were suspicious if I remember my readings correctly.
There were Bishops that didn't want it to go through, but the emporer got it in. Also by that time they were mostly reading from the Latin scriptures and not the Greek. It can be proven that there were places where the Latin
scriptures mistranslated.


Throughout history there have been legitimate mystics such as Julian or Norwich, whom God has told that in the end all will be well, actually tonnes of people. The mildly famous Hannah Whithall Smith (1832-1911), author of the
classic Christian devotional, The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life, and highly revered in some Christian circles, became a Christian Universalist after an experience with God. She wrote some of this down in her
book and it was later edited out by evangelicals. It has now been restored into her writings.

http://www.thomastal...om/censors.html

This kind of thing happens more than one would think. There have even been at least one Bible translation (in my understanding), that has been re-translated in order
to make sure the doctrine of eternal hell stays in.


:The problem is, whenever I actually read about it, I keep finding that one of the most common characteristics shared by universalist writers are their demonstrably false, or later discredited, claims about church history. Hosea Ballou, Heinrich Kostlin, Pierre Batiffol, Thomas Whittemore, John Hanson, George T. Knight - all these guys seem to be guilty of making historical claims about early church fathers believing in universalism, either without any evidence whatsoever to back up their claims, or with evidence later demonstrated to be false or mischaracterized.



I don't know if that is true or not to be honest. I just read a book called the Hope of the early church.... which is not a book by universalists. It touches on how some of the early writers, including universalists beliefs. Some of them expressed universalism, some not (at least in the writing expressed in that book), and some such as Basil the great, expressed both beliefs in their writings.


http://www.amazon.co...03008268&sr=1-1



And there is a reason for that. You see even Origen had eternal hell writings at times. But I've read a book of some of his writings.


http://www.amazon.co...03008377&sr=1-3



where he says something really interesting. He said that Bishops who were, in his words (not mine), spiritually mature taught eternal hell to those
on milk in order to keep them in line. But they had to write what he considered to be their true understanding, at times, in order to fight against
claims that God wasn't good. I've read this writing of his with my own eyes.

This seemed to be a common practice in the early church and explains why some of the early Bishops writings seem contradictory. John Hanson's
book actually touches on this. So I can see why one wouldn't believe these universalists writings about the early church. But there are places in some
of the early Christian's writings that show that they were saying some things to their congregations, that they themselves didn't believe, in
order to keep them in line. Which was really dumb.... if you ask me.


Also, getting back to the word aionos. One of Origen's arguments for universalism was the Bibles use of this word. Origen and other
Alexandrians spoke in greek, he would have know what the word ment. It was after the church started using the Latin language in the
scriptures, that dogmatic declarations of eternal torments came into being.

So depending on what writings one reads from some of the early fathers, these universalists writings about them (one which I have read) can seem
mischaracterized, or not. And with this idea of Origenism aside, non of the Ante-Nicene fathers who believed in universalism were discredited
at their time, and non that I can think of, in the centuries to come.

Edited by Attica, 17 April 2011 - 02:57 AM.


#306 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 16 April 2011 - 11:55 PM

Attica wrote:
: That's a very interesting comment. And I don't mean in a bad way.

Thanks. And I didn't mean it in a bad way, myself, either. But I think it's a point that one can make fairly objectively, that evangelicals and the traditional churches have such radically different frameworks for dealing with these issues that it shouldn't come as a surprise that no one outside of evangelicalism has found the Rob Bell controversy all that noteworthy. (Well, except for Meachem-like mainline liberals and their sympathizers, who evidently think that some evangelicals might be moving in their direction on this issue.)

: Am I wrong in thinking that in Orthodoxy this hope is based on the idea that some could continually reject Christ's love after death yet there is hope that they wont?

The way I've heard it explained is that we will all bask in the fullness of God's love, and God's love WILL be hell to people who don't love God, who indeed hate God. So in theory, yes, those people could continue to reject Christ's love. Someone like Rob Bell might argue that they couldn't go on rejecting God's love FOREVER, that eventually God's love HAS to prove stronger than their refusal of it, but I dunno; bad choices have a way of reinforcing themselves, y'know?

Persiflage wrote:
: I've been hearing a lot about these distinctions between different types of Universalism at my church recently, and I can't help but wonder at the long and elaborate detail with which different universalists will explain how different they are from one another.

FWIW, I would not consider myself a "univeralist", but I *am* an "inclusivist". I first encountered this terminology in a book called Mansions of the Spirit, by a local Anglican bishop named Michael Ingham (his decision to authorize the blessing of same-sex unions about a decade ago played a huge part in the current Anglican schism), and what I found interesting was that Ingham dismissed "inclusivism" as surely as he dismissed "exclusivism", because "inclusivism" retained the "imperialistic" nature of "exclusivism" by insisting that everyone still had to go through Jesus. Well, I found the charge of "imperialism" rather unwarranted, maybe even silly, but I've been happy to call myself an "inclusivist" ever since. Alas, when I discussed the book with the rector at one of the local conservative Anglican churches (it ended up being one of the churches that led the way in breaking off from the diocese when the schism finally took place), he said he rejected "inclusivism" in favour of "exclusivism". But I wasn't sure whether he really meant that, or if he was just being super-cautious out of fear that "inclusivism" is a form of "universalism" in disguise. At any rate, his response was disheartening, though I found it interesting that both Ingham and this rector were rejecting "inclusivism" for essentially opposite reasons. (Incidentally, in fairness, Ingham had problems with "universalism" too, so he proposed a fourth alternative called "grounded openness"... but that's another story.)

: So as soon as I hear the word "universalism," I don't think of mainstream liberal theology, I think of Arianism, Nestorianism, Pelagianism, Gnosticism, Origenism, etc.

Origenism? Heh. Rob Bell cites Origen as one of his authorities on this subject, IIRC.

: Then I think of the Nicene and Chalcedonian Creeds.

Those creeds don't say anything on this issue though, do they?

#307 Attica

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Posted 17 April 2011 - 01:20 AM

Peter T Chattaway said:

:But I think it's a point that one can make fairly objectively, that evangelicals and the traditional churches have such radically different frameworks for dealing with these issues that it shouldn't come as
a surprise that no one outside of evangelicalism has found the Rob Bell controversy all that noteworthy.


I wonder if Orthodox folks, who have been basically on the same page for centuries, look in on the Protestant groups scrapping and fighting, role their eyes and say. Oooh boy......there
they go again.


:The way I've heard it explained is that we will all bask in the fullness of God's love, and God's love WILL be hell to people who don't love God, who indeed hate God. So in theory, yes, those people could continue to reject
Christ's love. Someone like Rob Bell might argue that they couldn't go on rejecting God's love FOREVER, that eventually God's love HAS to prove stronger than their refusal of it, but I dunno; bad choices have a way of
reinforcing themselves, y'know?



That is what I had thought. That is so close to my belief system that maybe I'm Orthodox and didn't know it. ;)

I felt that Holy Spirit spoke to me that for the unrepentant this was a sacrament of sorts, which is to my mind, pretty much what you have said.

That also kinda comes close to what I was saying earlier about dualism. I see the whole idea of eternal separation from God as springing from Augustinian dualism, which from my understanding the Eastern
church largely rejected. I know that, in a certain sense, those who are not Christians are separated from God. But I don't think anybody can ever be completely separated from God's love. It's written into the very
fabric of the universe.

As you know to my understanding God's love will eventually win. The greek word pur is what is translated as fire in those passages, and so from what I've read God's love can be a purifying fire. I believe Gregory of Nyssa called it the "wisefire". Gregory Nanzianus said something along the lines that he thought of this judgment as like a medical remedy, through which there is pain.


:FWIW, I would not consider myself a "univeralist", but I *am* an "inclusivist"

I'm definately an "inclusivist" in the sense that I believe that all need Christ and must come to Christ, but certainly think that there are those outside of Christendom that have truth understandings that we don't, or at least
a deeper measure of understanding in certain things than we do. I think that's one of the places where we've often made mistakes in dealing with non-Christians over the centuries. But that's for another topic, and another time. :)



:but I dunno; bad choices have a way of reinforcing themselves, y'know?


See that makes more sense to me than the whole idea of God pouring out eternal tormenting pain and infliction on people. The Western idea of an eternally tormenting God, just doesn't line up with a God who has covenanted himself to the nations under Abraham, and in the scriptures continually stresses that he is love, merciful and compassionate (without denying his holiness). The scriptures even say this in and around his judgements.

I understand what your getting at though, stubborness and the pride of life in some humans hearts is a huge barrier.

Edited by Attica, 17 April 2011 - 02:06 AM.


#308 Attica

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Posted 17 April 2011 - 02:18 AM

M Leary said:

without realizing that the concept of hell affects the way we think about God and time in the present.



Absolutely. I would think it also affects how we interact with people, and how we think God interacts with them, and what we believe his
heart is towards the human race.

#309 Greg P

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Posted 17 April 2011 - 09:48 AM

I have written a post somewhere on ben Zakkai and hell. But I couldn't find it. Suffice it to say, the concept of eternal, awful, violent, unending punishment for unrighteousness is a common 2nd temple theological notion. In fact, I read Jesus' comments on hell in light of this theological heritage. It is irresponsible not to.

Perhaps you can provide actual references for this assertion of violent, unending punishment in ancient Jewish literature. "Common"? As I recall, the majority of references from this time period speak of Ghehinnom as a place of purification and not of unending torment. Maybe I'm mistaken.

Oh yeah and doesn't it snow there as well?

Re: mental illness and the notion of eternal torment-- it is a barbaric, ghastly belief system-- this notion of God brutally torturing human beings forever. That someone could truly believe this and then live their life casually while those around them fall one by one into the the very real place of eternal screams and misery, is more than a little disturbing. I would not say traditionalist belief in hell breeds mental illness, but I do find the emotional gymnastics required to accept this belief, very unhealthy.

Equally troubling is that someone could love and adore a God that metes such infinite justice and brutality on finite beings.

#310 Ryan H.

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Posted 17 April 2011 - 11:21 AM

Equally troubling is that someone could love and adore a God that metes such infinite justice and brutality on finite beings.

Your objection is one of the most striking and effective objections to the idea of a Hell that is "eternal conscious suffering," whether it is the torture chambers imagined by Dante or something more ethereal. The standard response, that rejection of God is a crime that has in its own sense infinite repercussions, makes some logical sense to me, but nevertheless it does not assuage my emotional, gut-level response.

But your idea that it would somehow be troubling for a person to hold to such a belief about the nature of Hell and nevertheless love God strikes me as misguided; many times our love of God is given on faith that many of our questions of theodicy will be resolved, or at least put to rest, in the shining light of the New Heavens and the New Earth. This is the same faith-given love that allowed Abraham to consent to sacrificing his son, the faith that allowed Job to accept God's rebuke at the end of his narrative of suffering.

Edited by Ryan H., 17 April 2011 - 12:03 PM.


#311 Greg P

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Posted 17 April 2011 - 12:03 PM

Equally troubling is that someone could love and adore a God that metes such infinite justice and brutality on finite beings.

Many times our love of God is given on faith that many of our questions of theodicy will be resolved, or at least put to rest, in the shining light of the New Heavens and the New Earth. This is the same faith-given love that allowed Abraham to consent to sacrificing his son, the faith that allowed Job to accept God's rebuke at the end of his narrative of suffering.

Being asked to accept the sufferings God permits in this present evil time and to accept the sufferings that God Himself purportedly ravages on finite beings in a place of endless torment, are two very different things. Coming to grips with the question of evil in this present life is big enough hurdle-- being asked to accept that God is the author of evil in the next life, is obscene. In the eschatology of the traditionalists is a New Heavens and New Earth wherein dwells no evil thing and where all tears are wiped away, yet remains some miserable corner-- a vast prisoner camp somewhere-- where inmates are tortured by Almighty God, day and night, with unimaginable agony and yet can never escape.

This premise is not only philosophically appalling, it is also of dubious merit theologically, from a scriptural and historical perspective.

But your idea that it would somehow be troubling for a person to hold to such a belief and nevertheless love God strikes me as misguided

I never questioned the sincerity of anyone's love-- read my post again.

I questioned the reality of what there is to love about a God that behaves this way. Again, we are not speaking of a God who merely permits evil and suffering to exist in his universe for a finite period. We are speaking of a deity who inflicts everlasting torture on individuals and demands his subjects not only accept it unquestioning, but actually praise Him for it. If someone told me they believed God designed cancer and that he delights in its work among mankind, I would naturally find such a God terrible and impossible to love. I imagine I wouldn't be alone. That is not a God that is worthy of my praise and adoration.


Take the most vile, despicable torture porn on the planet and it pales in comparison to the world traditionalists claim God has created for people who do not accept Christ. I find all "we'll-understand-it-better-by-and-by" reasoning on this topic to be the ultimate cop-out.

Edited by Greg P, 17 April 2011 - 12:47 PM.


#312 Ryan H.

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Posted 17 April 2011 - 01:02 PM

Being asked to accept the sufferings God permits in this present evil time and to accept the sufferings that God Himself purportedly ravages on finite beings in a place of endless torment, are two very different things.

There is a difference of degree, but the ability to accept it--if only provisionally--comes from the much the same place. You are putting me in the position of defending the belief. I will not do so, since I don't hold to a belief in a SAW-like torture chamber where God inflicts physical misery on individuals for eternity. But I will defend the large swath of Christian believers past and present who have held to something approximating that view and loved God very dearly. It is to those forebears and their legacy of faith, however imperfect that faith may be, that my own faith is owed, and I don't think that faith is somehow so monstrous that it brings into question the entire validity of the Christian profession.

I never questioned the sincerity of anyone's love-- read my post again.

I don't understand your objection to my comments. I never said you questioned their sincerity. But your comments did seeming question the validity of such love, and that is what I wished to defend.

I would question what there is to love about such a God.

You are free to do as you wish. Nevertheless, God's righteousness and justice is not subject to the authority of our own imperfect moral judgments, and my obligation to love him is not waived because I am not satisfied with how he meets my own standards of lovable-ness.

I find all "we'll-understand-it-better-by-and-by" reasoning on this topic to be the ultimate cop-out.

It may be frustrating, but it is not somehow an un-Scriptural way of dealing with questions along these lines.

Edited by Ryan H., 17 April 2011 - 03:34 PM.


#313 Anders

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Posted 17 April 2011 - 03:00 PM


Equally troubling is that someone could love and adore a God that metes such infinite justice and brutality on finite beings.

Many times our love of God is given on faith that many of our questions of theodicy will be resolved, or at least put to rest, in the shining light of the New Heavens and the New Earth. This is the same faith-given love that allowed Abraham to consent to sacrificing his son, the faith that allowed Job to accept God's rebuke at the end of his narrative of suffering.

Being asked to accept the sufferings God permits in this present evil time and to accept the sufferings that God Himself purportedly ravages on finite beings in a place of endless torment, are two very different things. Coming to grips with the question of evil in this present life is big enough hurdle-- being asked to accept that God is the author of evil in the next life, is obscene. In the eschatology of the traditionalists is a New Heavens and New Earth wherein dwells no evil thing and where all tears are wiped away, yet remains some miserable corner-- a vast prisoner camp somewhere-- where inmates are tortured by Almighty God, day and night, with unimaginable agony and yet can never escape.

This premise is not only philosophically appalling, it is also of dubious merit theologically, from a scriptural and historical perspective.


Greg's question is the same one that I think Ursula LeGuin asks in her short story, "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas."

I share Greg's gut reaction that such an idea is appalling.

Correct me if I'm wrong though, but I'm not sure that the idea does represent the "traditionalist" view of Hell that Ryan or, say, C.S. Lewis and others have proposed. It reminds me more of the Hell-fire sermon in Joyce's A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN. And I firmly reject such a view of Hell, while admitting that my own understanding is in a process of evolution.

Reminds me of the anecdote that N.T. Wright shared in which a young man tells him he does not believe in God, and Wright asks, "Tell me about this God you don't believe in." In the end, Wright replies, "Oh, I don't believe in that God either. Let me tell you about the God I believe in..."

#314 Greg P

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Posted 17 April 2011 - 03:35 PM

You are free to do as you wish. Nevertheless, God's righteousness and justice is not subject to the authority of our own imperfect moral judgments, and my obligation to love him is not waived because I am not satisfied with how he meets my own standards of lovable-ness.

The foundation of biblical worship is the concept that God is perfectly unique, good and of ultimate worth and value in the cosmos. The traditional doctrine of hell-- which I've stated earlier, is constructed around some ambiguous NT scaffolding and has scant historical support in ancient Jewish literature-- actually maligns God's character and projects onto the Almighty the image of medieval culture at its most morbid and sadistic. Why should anyone feel an obligation to set aside this most basic instinct of reason in order worship a sadist? That's silly talk, sir.

I don't think any healthy, self-aware human being can honestly consider the prospect of God inflicting eternal conscious torment on people and still truly "love" Him. Those that claim to, either haven't seriously contemplated the doctrine and are just paying lip service or have done the fear-based, religious disconnect which involves powering-down common sense and logic for the sake of complying with authority.

Correct me if I'm wrong though, but I'm not sure that the idea does represent the "traditionalist" view of Hell that Ryan or, say, C.S. Lewis and others have proposed. It reminds me more of the Hell-fire sermon in Joyce's A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN. And I firmly reject such a view of Hell, while admitting that my own understanding is in a process of evolution.

Not sure... But it seems Ryan, like Lewis, leans toward a more metaphorical view of hell. Didn't Lewis suggest in The Great Divorce that hell might be nothing more than a boring, empty existence on some alternate planet? The traditionalist view maintains the fire and the suffering of hell are literal, conscious and eternal in duration.

Edited by Greg P, 17 April 2011 - 03:46 PM.


#315 Attica

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Posted 17 April 2011 - 04:07 PM

Greg P said:


I never questioned the sincerity of anyone's love-- read my post again.

I questioned the reality of what there is to love about a God that behaves this way. Again, we are not speaking of a
God who merely permits evil and suffering to exist in his universe for a finite period. We are speaking of a deity who inflicts
everlasting torture on individuals and demands his subjects not only accept it unquestioning, but actually praise Him for it. If someone
told me they believed God designed cancer and that he delights in its work among mankind, I would naturally find such a God terrible and
impossible to love. I imagine I wouldn't be alone. That is not a God that is worthy of my praise and adoration.


Ryan H said:


I don't understand your objection to my comments. I never said you questioned their sincerity. But your comments did seeming question the validity of such love,
and that is what I wished to defend.



I think you both have a point.

You see, when I first accepted Christ into my heart and go "saved" I was on fire for God in ways that were sometimes near creepy, as so many newbie Christians can be. I had
a great love for him and thought that it would be simple to get others to see what I had. Then after awhile I realized that bringing others into Christ wasn't so
easy or simple after all. I loved God and was fascinated with him, without barely thinking through the eternal hell thing.

So I had a deep affection for Christ, while believing that people were suffering in eternal hell. After all it was their fault for rejecting him? Right?

But then after years walking in this nonsense that we call Christianity, I started to think something. This was...... We are called to be a witness for Christ and to reach out
to the lost in the great commission. But we can get really mixed up in how we do this. So we may not be fully responsible for who comes to Christ, but we certainly
do influence them, we in fact believe that this is part of God's design. Now I know that everybody is responsible for their whole lives, but I also know that they are influenced
by Christian behaviour. How many times have we heard of the saying in current culture "I love Jesus, but not the church". Or even worse hear of the many people who have rejected Christ because of the
religion of their abusive Christian parents. ect. ect. I don't think it's all that hard to find these type of people.

So then I came to the understanding that an awful lot of people are rejecting Christ, at least partially due to Christian nuttiness, mistakes, and sometimes downright
evil behaviour. So then I became more and more upset with the church. All the while loving God and believing in eternal hell.

But then it didn't take long for me to start having issues with God on the matter..... how could he have designed the world to be this way while knowing what was going to happen. ect. ect.

So then when mulling this through and thinking it over, I, after leading from Holy Spirit, started looking into the doctrine of eternal hell.


Now I am at the point where Greg P: is. If I was to truly believe that God was to eternally torment his creation, I would have a real hard time loving this God, and for that matter
loving the church, where so many current North American Christians don't really seem to give a rip.

So now I'm in the place that, when I read something which I consider to be true, from a salvation of all through Christ alone perspective, my heart sours towards him, and when I
read something from the eternal hell perspective (especially something that is easily disproved exegesis) I'm troubled.

But yet I don't really frown down on those who hold the eternal hell perspective, and still love God. How can I when I did it for years.

Yet here is the thing as well. If someone, believes in eternal hell, but also loses the desire to care about the lost or reach out to them. Isn't there a very good chance that this persons heart
have been scathed over. Possibly even because of our theology........ how many Christians are out there that secretly think.... "Oh God's so angry at those people and is going to punish
them according to what they deserve so I'll be really angry with them as well". Instead of seeing them as lost and confused and needing guidance. The scriptures show that this was
at least in part how Christ saw us.

I mean good grief..... we were the religion that burned those we thought of as witches alive. Christians figured that these people were going to spend an eternity in hell anyhow.... so what problem is
there with getting them cooking a little early. And you know what.... according to the eternal punishments doctrine.... I can see how that logic would have actually made sense to them.


So anyhow to make a long story short (I know it's to late for that.) In a strange way I think your both right. It is possible to validly love God and believe in the doctrine of eternal torments.
But there are also an awful lot more people than we realize, out there, who do find this God terrible and impossible to love. Especially, I would think, those who were not raised in
Christian homes, and have never been told the Christian theologies that explain to us (or at least try to) how and why we should, or can, be able to love this God. We also live in a society where
these people are becoming more and more prevalent.


Ryan H said:

It may be frustrating, but it is not somehow an un-Scriptural way of dealing with questions along these lines.



I think that you have made a very good point. So much liberal universalism, comes from being horrified by the concept of eternal hell, and so therefore
just pretending certain scriptures don't exist. That's more or less hiding one's head in the sand.

The thing is though. We all interpret scripture through a certain lense, and need Holy Spirit to help us to know what the scriptures are really saying. Also, I would think,
to help adjust the lense that we view life through. And I'm including myself in this.

Now that I have moved over to the salvation of all, through Christ alone lense, I can see this written through out the whole Bible, and am amazed to discover things written
there that I have not really seen before. Yes I know that my current lense could be the one that is wrong. But remember I used to view the scriptures through the other
lense, and know what that lense is like. I have seen it both ways.

There are others who have been amazed by this new lense as well.

I also have more questions like one I have mentioned above..... which is. Why doesn't the Nicene creed mention eternal torments if the Christians of that time were
against the doctrine of the ultimate restoration of all.

I have new questions into things like this all of the time.

Edited by Attica, 17 April 2011 - 04:16 PM.


#316 Ryan H.

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Posted 17 April 2011 - 09:53 PM

The foundation of biblical worship is the concept that God is perfectly unique, good and of ultimate worth and value in the cosmos.

Yes. But there is another notion, the notion that our individual compasses of what is good and ultimate worth of value in the cosmos is somewhat alien to us and that we struggle to recognize it. In such a scheme, it is possible to conceive of the idea that something that is ultimately true, genuine justice may not make sense to us in our fallen state.

It seems, Greg, that if someone were to provide a conclusive, inarguable proof that the Scripture and tradition pointed to nothing less than the traditional view of Hell, you would seriously consider abandoning your Christian belief and deny the Christian God. I do not feel anywhere near the same way, and that is where you and I would part on this issue, even if we would both agree that, given the evidence on the table, the notion of the traditional, "torture chamber" view of Hell just doesn't make sense.

I don't think any healthy, self-aware human being can honestly consider the prospect of God inflicting eternal conscious torment on people and still truly "love" Him. Those that claim to, either haven't seriously contemplated the doctrine and are just paying lip service or have done the fear-based, religious disconnect which involves powering-down common sense and logic for the sake of complying with authority.

So, just to clarify, you don't believe that Jonathan Edwards truly loved God? Or Dante Aligheri, for that matter?

But it seems Ryan, like Lewis, leans toward a more metaphorical view of hell. Didn't Lewis suggest in The Great Divorce that hell might be nothing more than a boring, empty existence on some alternate planet?

Something a little worse than that, actually. The purgatorial Hell that the protagonist visits is initially that, but there is the vaguely frightening suggestion that things will become worse when the twilight of that purgatorial Hell turns to darkness (i.e., when the way to Heaven is shut forever), and that the denizens of that Hell build ramshackle houses that ultimately do no good (they don't even keep out the rain) in a vain attempt to protect themselves from what they fear lurks in the dark.

#317 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 17 April 2011 - 10:59 PM

Greg P wrote:
: Take the most vile, despicable torture porn on the planet and it pales in comparison to the world traditionalists claim God has created for people who do not accept Christ.

Heh. Reminds me of how Tertullian said Christians don't go to the amphitheatre (with its plays and gladiatorial combats, etc.) because much better entertainment awaits us in heaven ... i.e., the entertainment of watching the pagans suffer in hell. Needless to say, I don't agree with Tertullian, certainly not when it comes to whether or not we should ENJOY the suffering of our neighbours and even our enemies. Jesus did tell us to love them, after all.

: The traditionalist view maintains the fire and the suffering of hell are literal, conscious and eternal in duration.

The suffering might be literal, but the fire?

#318 Greg P

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Posted 17 April 2011 - 11:25 PM

In such a scheme, it is possible to conceive of the idea that something that is ultimately true, genuine justice may not make sense to us in our fallen state

I am always willing to concede this possibility and as a child of Eastern Orthodoxy, I embrace the ineffable mysteries of the Godhead -- but on the other hand I have nowhere near as much self doubt or suspicion of human reasoning as you seem to.

And let's be clear-- I am not rejecting this doctrine merely because I find it unpleasant or it because it's somehow offensive. There are other levels, far beyond emotional appeals, where one can take issue with and utterly dismantle the flimsy premise of the traditional view.

It seems, Greg, that if someone were to provide a conclusive, inarguable proof that the Scripture and tradition pointed to nothing less than the traditional view of Hell, you would seriously consider abandoning your Christian belief and deny the Christian God. I do not feel anywhere near the same way, and that is where you and I would part on this issue, even if we would both agree that, given the evidence on the table, the notion of the traditional, "torture chamber" view of Hell just doesn't make sense.

Well that evidence is never going to "happen" because it doesn't exist, so I'm way past the point of the possibility of being surprised by some new revelation on the matter. It's simply not there in scripture or in ancient Jewish history, so the point is moot and I was obviously being disingenuous earlier when I asked to bring on the references because I know they're not there. At least not in the way proponents of the position wish they were.

If hell is a real place where God torments sinners endlessly, and an angel were to take me on tour there and show it to me, I suppose I could just always reverse my position and go back to being a hard-ass evangelical. I have a lot of old friends who've been praying for this, so you never know!

So, just to clarify, you don't believe that Jonathan Edwards truly loved God?

I imagine he did. I'm just not sure Edwards ever considered how it would be possible to adore and honor a torturer-god, one who derived satisfaction from the unending misery of others.

Edited by Greg P, 17 April 2011 - 11:26 PM.


#319 Attica

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Posted 18 April 2011 - 12:59 AM

Peter T Chattaway said:


:Heh. Reminds me of how Tertullian said Christians don't go to the amphitheatre (with its plays and gladiatorial combats, etc.) because much better entertainment awaits us in heaven ... i.e.,
the entertainment of watching the pagans suffer in hell


Yep. It seems that he was one of the first Christians to use that kind of talk (If not the first). But unfortunately not the last. :(



:Needless to say, I don't agree with Tertullian, certainly not when it comes to whether or not we should ENJOY the suffering of our neighbours and even our enemies. Jesus did tell us to love them, after all.


Exactly. The Bible considers it Godly behaviour to love our enemies, and bless those who persecute us...... So it would therefore seem obvious that God loves his enemies, with all that this concept would entail.


:The suffering might be literal, but the fire?


From my understanding even the early eternal torments guys such as Augustine saw the fire as being a spiritual fire.

I also think Calvin saw it that way. But I'm not sure on that.


Greg P said:

:but on the other hand I have nowhere near as much self doubt or suspicion of human reasoning as you seem to.


I'm on the same page as you there, when it comes to human reason. But I'm also deeply aware that there are deceiving spirits
trying to influence us. I think we should always be praying for guidance into truth, and seeking to find truths, with the realization
that we are all most likely deceived, at least in some ways. Could it be, that even to dark of a view on human nature, is a deception?
I dunno.


:And let's be clear-- I am not rejecting this doctrine merely because I find it unpleasant or it because it's somehow offensive.


Agreed...... Although I'm pretty sure that's where a lot of Christians start their journey out of the doctrine. But I also think that
there is an awful lot of fear, keeping some Christians from questioning these things. Ya know. The whole.... if you question hell
you might lose your salvation and go to hell..... type of thing.


:when I asked to bring on the references because I know they're not there. At least not in the way proponents of the position wish they were.


We'll there are references that I can see people believing, to argue eternal torments. But I also think that there are very strong, if not I daresay undeniable
counter arguments. But here's the thing. There is, absolutely, in no way shape or form, any kind of scriptural evidence for what a lot of these
"prophets" such as Mary K Baxter, are saying about having revelations of hell. What with the whole, Demons sticking pitchforks in your but, being rolled
into a river of fire, then being cast off a mountain into a burning cesspool of torment, type of nonsense. A lot of people are believing this stuff, and it's scaring
the crap out of them.

Edited by Attica, 18 April 2011 - 01:10 AM.


#320 Ryan H.

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Posted 18 April 2011 - 05:40 AM

I'm just not sure Edwards ever considered how it would be possible to adore and honor a torturer-god, one who derived satisfaction from the unending misery of others.

Sure he did.