According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals
and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power
is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. - anon

Monday, February 4, 2013

Why an Emergent Christian View Seems Important When Thinking About Hell

This weekend a close friend asked me what heaven is like, but before I could answer he drew his own very literal conclusions. My hesitancy in reply was that I believed he needed a comforting answer, but not a pat answer. Listening to his further explanation I eventually replaced all the metaphors of his speech and spoke reassuringly that I believe heaven is a place where God’s love surrounds us, uplifts us, heals us, forgives us, and places us within a community of other similarly pained souls sharing personal hurts and griefs. It was an answer I hoped would bring comfort to his anxiety, while also avoiding "counting the deck chairs, the number of diamonds in a crown, or the largeness of a mansion" a faithful believer might expect to be awarded. Or, the "kinds and types of banquet feasts enjoined," or even if "one could see into hell like Lazarus was able to do in Jesus' parable".... (remember, I did say my friend's view was a literal one). His pictures of heaven were not unlike other popularly expressed evangelical pictures I've heard and read time and again. Opinions that seem to be far askew of the biblical idea of the Kingdom of God present both in this life, and the next, as discovered in the Spirit and work of Christ. A Kingdom made of flesh and blood for today's postmodern age of upheaval, injustice, self-absorption, and uncertainty. A Kingdom where love reigns, heals, forgives, provides, sustains, upholds, embraces, blesses, and creates.
 
Similarly, when thinking about hell, I suppose I would describe it as a place where God’s redeeming love cannot occur. And as corollary, leave unanswered whether the future of an unbeliever is (1) one of eternal torture and damnation (the Catholic and popular evangelical view), (2) one of annihilation (mine own position, but not necessarily the same as Edward Fudge with his minutia of extracted detail and biblical circumvention as reported in the  articles found below), or perhaps (3) of a later redemption from hell (a purgatorial and universalist position). Whereas "purgatory" by its description conceptualizes the universalist perception of redemption, the universalist position would not need a purgatory because hell itself is its own purgatorial experience. But should we entertain the universalist position than we must also admit that God's redeeming love must be able to reach across the divide of even hell itself (and yes, it can). And, I think, one must also ignore the evil and injustices caused against others at Jesus' provocative commands to live out God's love now in this life, or to suffer the judgments to come - both in this life and the next - if they are not. To fear evil, to do justice, and to love your fellow man, if you are to walk humbly before your God:

"He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"
- Micah 6.8 (ESV) (for further commentary go here)

And to those still considering the universalist position, I would further submit the position of Divine Synchronicity which asserts that each-and-every opportunity has been created by the wisdom and direction of God within  t-h-i-s  life of ours for the salvation of any soul. Regardless of personal context and historical conditions. Thus making any kind of purgatory in the next life unnecessary, if not placing its very form and concept within this current life of ours. Just as one could picture a heaven on earth, so one could also picture a hell on earth.... However, within this concept of divine sychronicity will also come the requirement of entertaining a much looser definition of our idea of biblical salvation. To which I think Jesus' atonement has already provided and made possible.... An atonement which still warrants the missional call to evangelize and redeem, but not necessarily the stricter evangelical requirements of salvation by formulaic proclamation in Jesus' name. Somehow God will justly enact the human hope for divine redeeming love at its broadest level of salvation despite even the mute witness of a surrounding denying world. Which is the other meaning carried by the term of universalism - the good side of its meaning.... That Jesus' atonement was universal in scope and application. That it would effectuate any seeking heart crying out to God for hope and salvation. Even to that soul in deepest despair lost upon the dimming seas of hopelessness. Never believing God's salvation could ever be their lot. Yes, to even this one God's atonement will come.

... Putting aside such things, when I first began this web blog I did so to address the rhetoric being directed towards Rob Bell's book, Love Wins, a book many misperceived as teaching a form of universalism (yes, true) when in fact it was a rant upon evangelicalism's loveless perception upon sinful mankind. It took the high pontifications of God's name proclaimed by the (evangelical) church and asked where is God in the plight of human misery and suffering that has been left unaddressed by the Christian societies around it? Where is the love of God that is sung each Sunday from the choir's high chancelleries to the homeless at the church's doorstep, the dereliction's of the city's slums, the abysmal schooling conditions whacking the inner city's impoverished? It said that God's Kingdom is now, but that you wouldn't know it by the churches who do not live it now, awaiting its more glorious return in the next life. It called to account Christianity as a religion to become a living faith of mercy and compassion. Actively seeking and listening for those unempowered and overlooked by fat, satisfied Christians too comfortable in their warm homes and measured lives. This was the real sin of Love Wins. To question the state of affairs of the today's church, refusing to give pat answers to the wrongs of society lying everywhere about. It wasn't a doctrinal book but a strident book seeking reform - poking at the very chest of Western Christianity asking the hard questions too long denied.

So that within the first six months of Relevancy22's growth as a website I found myself following dozens of different responses to Love Wins while attempting to discern the reasons for the vitriol created on both sides of the discussion. Largely, I was using these rhetorical debates as a way to begin the formal deconstruction of my own evangelicalism - both in its dogmas and inherent ideologies as a Christian religion. A religion that took a person's faith and restructured it into formal institutionalized beliefs combining Christian tradition with biblicized folklore. At the same time, I was also beginning a more formal, concentrated effort at reconstructing what an emerging Christian faith might look like if it were possible to step away from one's own heritage and look deep within it from the outside. A heritage that should at once be centered around Jesus and not around a set of dogmas or skewed beliefs - which in the case of evangelicalism was centered around its praxis of salvation. Which in my mind was putting the cart before the horse, rather than the other way around. So that, as respecting the Emergent faith, it is one that is Jesus-centric, not salvation-centric. Which then would create quite a different outlook similar to the one we've been describing here for some time. In its aftermath, everything changes when you begin to see yourself - and others around you - through the eyes of Jesus, and not through the eyes of religious criteria or formulaic conventions.

From there, I intended to move towards investigating what an emergent Christian faith might look like that was both biblical and postmodern. One stripped of Christian conservatism on the right, and progressive mainstream liberalism on the left. A faith for the 21st century that could uplift the orthodoxies of the church's historical past, while seeking a global, postmodern revisioning of its own Christian expression. At which point I understood that my task would require deftly listening to, discerning, and assimilating, a variety of Christian positions from both the right, left and middle. Not an easy task to do. Especially for an outsider to the teaching professions and academic institutions of the hallowed halls of the church. But one that has become a necessary task until such a time as Emergent Christianity finds its own doctrinal legs, showing a sensible balance of direction to match its passionate heart for a lost mankind. While also protecting it from the damning hounds of evangelicalism wishing to pursue it to its death and destruction as a very legitimate threat. One, that I think, is in unnecessary apposition with Emergent Christianity - should it be willing to deconstruct itself, just as I, and other emergents, have gone through at some inflection point in our lives. But to set oneself up as judge and jury is a task I would rather leave to the Lord, and not to ourselves. For a true emergent learns to distrust himself, to maintain a penitent heart, and to seek a wisdom not of this world, but from the Lord Himself.
 
That said, I've covered a lot of positions and thoughts about the biblical topic of hell and here submit Scott McKnight's observations on yet another published view - that of annihilation. A publication that seems to me to skew the facts towards the topic pursued, so that even though I would chose the viewpoint itself, I might not use the same historical premises or grammatical interventions that Fudge has used... in essence, there are ways to get there, and then there are more proper ways to get to the same position. However, my interest here is in showing how the Catholic/Evangelical view might not necessarily be the fullest, nor the completest view of hell, given to us today. That others will read those same scriptures with varying sentiment counter to the more popular pictures of hell we hear bantered about in the press. Statedly, I should also note that McKnight himself is a progressive evangelic, but one that I find is usually just and careful in his analysis. Who has a heart for a Christianity that can move beyond its present convictions, and thus, more allowing for one that may be more emergent in nature (not his words, but mine). So that, I thought we should use McKnight's observations and see where he goes with this subject matter. Personally, one usually can find in the Bible what one wishes to find... so for me, I'm always a bit cautious in presaging an idea beyond its context. In McKnight's review you see this occurring by Fudge, but perhaps it should occur to counter-balance some of the overheated arguments from the other, more conservative, sides of discussion, too harsh and self-confident in their biblical statements about hell and damnation. Anyway, for additional discussions please refer to the sidebars under "Hell, Love Wins, Rob Bell, and Universalism" amongst others. Thank you.
 
R.E. Slater
February 4, 2013
 
 
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *



Hell and the Final Word
Part 1 of 8
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2012/12/03/hell-and-the-final-word/

by Scot McKnight
Dec 3, 2012
Comments
 

What do you believe about hell? And one more: Where did you get your belief about hell?
 
There are a number of typical beliefs about hell by people today, and one can read about these in Edward Fudge’s new accessible study called Hell: A Final Word. Here is Ed Fudge’s list of what most seem to believe:
 
1. Hell is experienced now in the results of bad decisions or injustices.
 
2. God is good; a good God and eternal conscious punishment in hell are incompatible. Therefore, hell must be diminished.
 
3. Hell is the just deserve for the wicked, like Hitler.
 
4. What one person thinks is hell is not hell for another; hell is too dependent on personal perception.
 
5. Hell is a ramped up expression for death; after death we are no more.
 
Where do folks get such views of hell? How do we decide? One person says “It’s speculation.” Which is fine unless one thinks what the Bible says, interpreted as it must be, about hell is what we are to believe. Then it’s not necessarily speculation.
 
Question for the day: What was hell like in the preaching/teaching of your church? your pastors? your parents?
 
Some observations for some early chapters — and they are short chps — in Fudge’s book.
 
1. Many people have responded to the gospel because of hell-fire and damnation preaching. For some such people — not all — hell becomes an important element in the gospel. Hence, some who pushback against my King Jesus Gospel are actually saying they think hell has to be involved or the edge for decision is lost.
 
2. Most people have not studied the “history of hell” (or the history of how hell has been articulated) in the history of the church, and do not know that there are four major contributing streams to what many today believe about hell (as eternal conscious punishment):
 
  1. Ancient Greek Platonism/NeoPlatonism and philosophies,
  2.  
  3. Dante’s famous sections on hell,
  4.  
  5. Jonathan Edwards and other revivalist teachings about hell, and,
  6.  
  7. John Bunyan or spiritual formation writers’ perceptions/teachings about hell.
 
Add to this what you learned from parents and pastors or friends, and you’ve got what most people believe today.
 
3. Fudge sees five major themes: hell is real (not just fiction), hell is bad (real bad), hell is punishment, hell is separation from God, and hell is eternal. The issue for Ed Fudge is what kind of eternal, and here the issue is that most have believed hell is eternal and conscious. Where do these major ideas come from?
 
4. Most people have not studied what the Bible says in its context, which is what Ed Fudge has been doing for decades.
 
5. Some of the most respected people in history have firm views of hell, graphically firm, and those ideas may not be as biblical as their authority extends: Fudge looks at two statements, one by Charles Spurgeon and one by John Gerstner.
 
6. Some have penetrating issues with hell, including the character of God that comes to the fore/surface in one’s view of hell — whatever one’s view of hell. Rob Bell, folks, wrote a book about God’s character as much as he did about hell.
 
Ed Fudge has put all of what we say to a test and to the text of the Bible; he has constructed a biblically-constructed view of hell; Ed Fudge believes in what is traditionally called “annhiliationism”: hell is eternal, but eternal here means ceasing to exist.
 
Join us in this series of considerations about hell....
 
 
 
Questions about Hell
Part 2 of 8
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2012/12/10/questions-about-hell/
 
by Scot McKnight
Dec 10, 2012
Comments
 
The claim is bold. The claim is this: those who are “in Christ” will spend eternity with God; those who are not “in Christ” will go to hell. The claim, then, not only claims that there is an afterlife, one in which there is blessedness or destruction, but the claim is to know who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. Edward Fudge, in his accessible Hell: A Final Word addresses this claim and asks and seeks resolution to some important questions.
 
What are the two most important things you have concluded about hell?
 
What does hell mean to Jesus? It is often heard that Jesus talks more about hell than anyone in the Bible; that statement is both true but can also be naive. Yes, Jesus talks about “hell” if one means “Gehenna,” but if by “hell” one means “eternal torment” then one has to be more than naive. Fudge examines the term Gehenna to observe that Jesus is the only one in the NT who talks about Gehenna as final judgment (and some today would question if Jesus is talking about final judgment; I think he uses Gehenna as his trope for final judgment). Here are his observations about Jesus:
 
1. Gehenna is the place where God is able to destroy both soul and body (Matt 10:28). Total destruction is the idea.
 
2. Jesus never addresses “sinners” with Gehenna; he addresses his disciples and the religious leaders of Israel.
 
3. Who goes to hell? Jesus: those who abuse fellow humans (Matt 5:22), those whose eyes lead them into sin (5:29-30), missionary proselytes (23:15), those who see others suffering and turn away (25:31-46).
 
Fudge grew up thinking non-Christians and people in other churches were going to hell, as were those who lacked sincerity, commitment and genuine repentance.
 
So who will go to hell?
1. No salvation outside of Jesus (Acts 4:12).
 
2. Salvation comes by grace through faith (Eph 2:8-9).
 
3. Same salvation applies to all.
 
4. God judges on the basis of light (John 3:20-21; Rom 4:19-22).
 
5. We are not the judges (Matt 7:1).
 
6. The “many” and “few” of Matt 7:13-14 is about God’s wishes.
 
7. The first promise of salvation in the Bible — in Abraham — Gen 22:17 — speaks of the numbers of the sand grains on the seashore: an optimistic vision.
 
8. The near-closing visions in Revelation say the people are innumerable: Rev 7:1-12.
 
9. God is predisposed to save, not condemn (John 3:17).


Not reasons to go to hell:
1. God will not make people go to hell.
 
2. No one goes to hell because of Adam’s sin; Adam’s sin has been dealt with by Christ (Rom 5:12-21).
 
3. No one goes to hell because of location (Acts 10:34-35): God is at work with everyone.
 
4. No one goes to hell because they missed the true church.
 
5. No one goes to hell for accidentally misunderstanding some doctrinal point while sincerely seeking God’s will.
 
People go to hell who refuse to believe in God/Christ.
 
 
 
Eternal Conscious Punishment and Justice
Part 3 of 8
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2012/12/17/eternal-conscious-punishment-and-justice/
 
by Scot McKnight
Dec 17, 2012
Comments
 
Some contend that endless punishment for temporal sin is “intuitively and irreconcilably inconsistent with fundamental justice and morality.” Some contend right back that such a theological claim for that reason is arrogance, unsubmissive to God’s Word and rooting theology in our own moral perceptions. OK, I get that… but….
 
… anyone who claims humans don’t know justice and injustice, at some intuitive level, are standing on morally dangerous turf.
 
We are looking at Edward Fudge’s Hell: A Final Word, and Fudge (an annihilationist who wants above all to root his ideas in what the Bible teaches) contends that the pushback above fails to deal with some important themes taught in the Bible. What are they?
Here are our questions: Can we comprehend justice well enough to know when something is just or unjust? Is the accusation, rooted in our intuitive senses of justice, that eternal punishment does not square with temporal sin a good argument?
1. God’s laws to Israel assume Israelites and judges can determine the just from the unjust. Read Exodus or Leviticus or Deuteronomy and you will saw laws where God says the Israelite judges ought to know justice. Thus, “Do not injustice in judgment… but judge your neighbor in righteousness” (Lev 19:15).
 
2. Abraham bargained with God on the basis of God’s own theory of justice: “Far be it from you to slay the righteous with the wicked so that the righteous fare as the wicked!” (Gen 18:25). That is, it would be unfair, unjust, unrighteous. Abraham wins this argument because God is just.
 
3. Can God do whatever he wants? This is the cry from some today, and I’ve heard this more from the NeoPuritans than anyone else, but this makes God’s will, not God’s goodness or love or holiness or character, the ground of morality. God does not answer to creation; God is God. That God is God is what emerges, too, from Romans 9-11. Fudge admits that Paul’s argument in Romans 9-11 could suggest that God can do what God wants, and there is no one who can answer back — but “could” is not the same as “does.” The Bible, however, tells us that God will judge in righteousness and will do what is just (52; notice Acts 17:30-31).
 
At the bottom of this post is this question: Can we comprehend justice well enough to know when something is just or unjust? Is the accusation, rooted in our intuitive senses of justice, that eternal punishment does not square with temporal sin a good argument?
 
 
 
Providential Accidents
Part 4 of 8
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2013/01/03/providential-accidents/
 
by Scot McKnight
Jan 3, 2013
Comments
 
How someone decides to study something, and then that something becoming one of life’s consuming projects, is often a story worth telling. (Got any stories of what led to any of your major passions?) Ed Fudge, deeply submerged into the culture of the Restoration (Stone-Campbell) Movement as a Church of Christ family, got into trouble with some because he believed in the “grace-unity-fellowship heresy,” which essentially meant that he, though CofC, believed others are “in Christ” and worthy of fellowship in Christ, he lost his incomes at his local church (where he was the preacher) and at the publishing company (CoC), wrote an essay on hell for Christianity Today, and then got “hired” by Robert Brinsmead (of Australia) to examine the ancient sources on what Jews believed about the afterlife, heaven and hell. Ed tells this story in his Hell: A Final Word.
 
Of these four, which do you think is accurate?
 
Brinsmead’s offer led Edward Fudge to study 40 hours a week for a long time and it led him to see four facets of the traditional view of eternal conscious torment/punishment.
 
1. The Old Testament says nothing about hell.
 
2. Between the Old and the New Testaments the traditional view became traditional — it was the “Jewish view.” Jesus fits into this scenario.
 
3. NT authors follow Jesus in this teaching.
 
4. The immortality of the soul requires eternal conscious torment unless one believes in forms of universalism.
 
“Either these pillars are true or they are not” (65).
 
On #1: Does the OT say nothing about hell?
 
If we look at the OT asking what it says about hell? Nothing. If we look at what it says about Gehenna, nothing. But if we look at the “end of the wicked” — what appears? He dips briefly into Psalm 37 to find these kinds of terms: wither and fade and perish and destroyed and “they will not be found.” Fudge finds more than seventy similes of what happens to the wicked … and he asks this: Do they depict a “fire that torments forever, a fire that purifies, or a fire that consumes?” (69).
 
The Pentateuch provides two major images of what happens to the wicked: the flood and Sodom’s destruction. Peter makes an analogy between the water that consumed in the Flood and the fire that consumes in the final judgment (2 Peter 3:5-7). He does more or less the same with the fire and brimstone of Sodom.
 
Some more images: smashed pottery (Psalm 2:7-9), corpses on a battlefield (Ps 110:5-6), unburied dead bodies (Is 66:24). He sums up Isa with this: “They are dead. They are unburied. They are disappearing. They are disgusting” (77).



The Jewish Context for What Jesus Said about Hell
 
by Scott McKnight
Jan 7, 2013
 
For many people today what one believes about hell is a matter of fidelity to orthodoxy. Most don’t quite want to contend that if you don’t believe in eternal, conscious punishment you are a heretic though some get mighty close. In fact, for some the gospel itself is shaped to get people out of (a theory for) hell that is about eternal, conscious punishment. In other words, change hell you might change the whole gospel for these sorts. So, when Edward Fudge, in his many writings, including Hell: A Final Word, contends the Old Testament only teaches consuming fire and not an eternal conscious punishment, some stridently warn him of falling off the “faithful cliff” [or even, of erasing hell - res]
 
Yes, I detect a genuine pursuit of truth on the part of Ed Fudge, and so when he examines each of the four pillars for the traditional view, and what the OT says is the first one, I am interested to see what he sees. The second pillar is the Jewish context. The simple contentions are these: (1) there was one Jewish view and (2) that view was eternal conscious punishment. [For hermeneutics, remember this: anyone who says "the" Jewish view on something is probably either exaggerating and uninformed. Except in the obvious -- murder, etc -- there was plenty of diversity among Jews.]
 
How often do you hear “the” Jewish view when it comes to eternal punishment or hell? Why do you think “hell” is so inflammatory of an issue (no pun)?
 
From the days of Malachi to the time of Jesus was about 400 years, the equivalent [time period between] the publication of the King James Bible and the NIV 2011. We are talking then about the end of the Old Testament and the production of the apocrypha, the pseudepigrapha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and then writings that we find after the New Testament that draw on a deep history that goes back into the time before Jesus, in literature like the Targums, the Mishnah, the Tosefta, and various other Jewish documents.
 
In general, Fudge contends the Apocrypha agrees with the “fire that consumes” conclusion of the Old Testament but he finds an eternal conscious punishment in Judith 16:17: “Woe to the nations… the Lord Almighty will take vengeance against them in the day of judgment, to put fire and worms in their flesh; and they will weep and feel their pain forever.” Isaiah’s dead corpses here are revolutionized into living torment. From a fire that consumes to a fire that torments.
 
Rabbis: diversity rules. Some saw a fire that torments forever, some that torments temporarily, some a fire that purifies, and others a fire that consumes. Some experts on Jewish theology even think the torments forever language is an image for total annihilation.
 
Dead Sea Scrolls: “consistently expected the wicked finally to be destroyed and gone forever” (85). Fudge sees the Scrolls in general depicting a fire that consumes. There is no fire that torments forever.

Pseudepigrapha: Variety. A fire that consumes is found in Psalms of Solomon 13:11: the wicked “will be taken away into destruction, and their memorial will be found no more.” A fire that torments in 2 Enoch 10:1-6, where we see [and I quote from Charlesworth's edition] “a very frightful place; every kind of torture and torment is in that place, and darkness and gloom and there is no light there, but a black fire blazes up perpetually… places of detention and cruel angels and carriers of torture implements, tormenting without pity… for all these this place has been prepared as an eternal reward.” This is Dante-esque stuff.
 
Fudge: there is no such thing as the Jewish view at the time of Jesus, so we will look at Jesus’ view in the next post.
 
 
 
What Did Jesus Teach (about hell)?
Part 6 of 8
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2013/01/09/what-did-jesus-teach-about-hell/
 
by Scot McKnight
Jan 9, 2013
Comments
 
The traditional view of hell rests on four pillars: that the OT says nothing; that the Jewish view at the time of Jesus was one of eternal conscious punishment; that Jesus’ view was thoroughly Jewish; and that the NT authors follow Jesus.

Edward Fudge, in Hell: A Final Word , subjects each of these to examination in a readable, accessible format. The first pillar is wobbly; the OT does speak about the “end” of the wicked and the idea is one of a “consuming” fire (not tormenting fire).

The second? Wobblier. There were three views: a consuming fire, a purifying fire, and a tormenting fire. Third? Today we sketch Fudge’s short chps on what Jesus taught, and I shall sketch his sketch.
 
1. Gehenna, Jesus’ typical term, is a trope for the place of destruction/fire south of Jerusalem. It cannot be proven to have been the dump in the 1st Century.
 
2. What happens there? The wicked are destroyed, they perish there. Matt 10:28: “fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell/Gehenna.” The issue is if “destroy” means “destroy” or “preserve forever in a destroying state.” Fudge thinks traditionalists ruin the meanings of words on this one: destroy means destroy, not preserve forever. Had he meant preserve forever he could have said it that way. He then lists eleven uses of “destroy” in the NT and shows that each means “destroy”: why not in Matt 10:28? [Matt. 8:25; 12:14; 16:25; 21:41; 22:7; 26:52; 27:20; John 11:50; Acts 5:37; 1 Cor. 10:9-10; Jude 5, 11.]
 
3. Gnashing of teeth means anger, not pain. Cf. Acts 7:52-54.
 
4. Eternal punishment fits with other uses of “Eternal” as an adjective: salvation (Heb. 5:6), redemption (9:1), judgment (6:2), punishment (Matt. 25:46), destruction (2 Thess. 1:9). Big conclusions: the term refers to something in the Age to Come, it is endless and it refers to the result of an action. An action leads to something being permanent: one is not redeemed forever, one is redeemed and then lives forever; one is not judged forever, one is judged and then has consequences forever. [I sense a technicality here that is not as tight as Fudge says it, but there's a good observation here.] Eternal punishment refers to eternal capital punishment. The second death. 2 Thess. 1:9 says it is “eternal destruction” so that eternal punishment is eternal destruction — and eternal fire refers to fire that destroys forever.
 
5. Rich man and Lazarus: it’s a parable; Fudge sees Jewish folklore at work here; it’s Hades not Gehenna; this parable says nothing about hell; it’s not literal; it aims to motivate Jesus’ contemporaries to care for the poor with the threat of irreversible consequences. [There are negations here that are not necessary, but in the main I agree with much of what Fudge says in this section.]
 
 
 
Hell: From James to John
Part 7 of 8
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2013/01/23/hell-from-james-to-john/
 
by Scot McKnight
Jan 23, 2013
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In a previous post we looked at what Jesus taught about hell. The traditionalists contend the rest of the authors of the New Testament tow the line alongside Jesus. Today we want to sketch what Edward Fudge, in Hell: A Final Word, summarizes about James, Acts, Peter, Paul, Hebrews, and 2 Peter-Jude say about hell.
 
James speaks of the end of the wicked five times: death (1:15), destruction (4:12), consumed (5:3), slaughter (5:5), death (5:19).
 
The Book of Acts does not motivate by fear. Four refs to final judgment, and they are stated by Peter and Paul, and Fudge turns to them.
 
Peter: the only reference to the kind of final judgment in the preaching of Acts, from the lips of Peter, is destruction (3:22-23). Paul’s preaching: Acts 17 we see from Paul that God will judge the whole world, his judgment will be just, Jesus Christ is the judge, God raised him from the dead, and in Acts 24 Paul mentions “future judgement.” Not a word on the nature of that final judgment.
 
Paul: What about Paul’s own writings? Paul talks about “hell” more than anyone, though he doesn’t use the word “hell.” Instead, he says the wicked will not inherit the kingdom (1 Cor 6:9-10); they will perish (Rom 2:12); they are anathema (1 Cor 16:22), they will be destroyed (Rom 2:12; 1 Cor 3:17) — sudden and everlasting (2 Thess 1:9). … it is marked by distress, fury, tribulation, and wrath. ”It is strange beyond understanding how anyone can read these words… and explain them to mean anything other than total extinction, unending cessation, and complete annihilation” (128). These words are countered by the opposite: eternal life. Paul teaches, Fudge argues, endless death.
 
Hebrews warns the apostate of worse than physical death (2:2-3) — of destruction (10:39), one created by a raging consuming fire (10:27-31; 12:29) — torments, purifies or consumes?
 
2 Peter-Jude: swift destruction and condemnation (2 P 2:1, 3), like those of Sodom [above image] (2:6); Jude 7 says Sodom illustrates “eternal fire.” They will experience blackest darkness, total darkness (2 Pe 2:17; Jude 13). The Flood — destruction again (2 P 2:5-7).
 
John: John’s Gospel speaks of perish and destruction and death (3:36; 1 John 5:16-17 too).
 
Next post… the Lake of Fire.
 
If the rest of the NT followed Jesus, then the emphasis is destruction. The evidence for endless torment is not evident to Edward Fudge.
 
What do you think? Any evidence for endless torment?
 
 
 
The Apocalypse’s Lake of Fire
Part 8 of 8
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2013/01/25/the-apocalypses-lake-of-fire/
 
by Scot McKnight
Jan 25, 2013
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The almost universal traditional view of hell in the Christian church is that it is a lake of fire, that it will last forever and ever and that the wicked will be conscious and tormented endlessly. So Edward Fudge, in his Hell: A Final Word , sketches what we find in the lake of fire text in Revelation.
 
The Lake of Fire in Revelation in Revelation 20:14-15:
"14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire."
First, the lake of fire is probably related to Daniel 7′s river of fire, a fire that destroys evil world leaders (the Beast and the False Prophet).
 
Second, in Revelation the Beast, the False Prophet and Satan/Serpent are thrown into the Lake of Fire. The place for the unholy trinity of evil. They are “tormented day and night forever and ever” (20:10). Only they are said in the Bible to be tormented endlessly.
 
Comment: Yes, Fudge is right; no one else is said to be tormented forever. But wicked humans are tossed into the same Lake of Fire in the next chapter. But Rev 14 has humans with much the same finality — humans, the smoke of their torment, endless. More importantly, God is thereby now theologically and logically connected to endless torment. The unholy trinity may be upgradings of sin and evil and wickedness but they are still said to be tormented endlessly. Fudge appeals next to a human — Hanns Lilje — but this is an argument from a human or an authority or an experience. It doesn’t for me wipe away the glaring reality of an endless torment administered by God. The problem of endless torment is now officially connected to a theological problem.
 
Death is tossed into the Lake of Fire (20:14). Hades is tossed into the Lake of Fire (20:14).
 
The Lake of Fire is the Second Death. The death of the age to come. Lake of Fire is defined by Second Death, meaning that Second Death is the ruling image. The two options are life (eternal, city of God) and death (final, second death, Lake of Fire). Humans enter the Lake of Fire, the Second Death: Rev 21:8.
 
So for Fudge all texts dealing with endless torment are explained, destruction is seen as the ruling image, Death is the outcome, and the absence of life is the outcome for the wicked. For Fudge the emphasis — undeniable — in the Bible is a fire that consumes or destroys, not a fire that purges or that torments. Edward Fudge makes the best case of anyone alive today for the annihilationist viewpoint.