Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - 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

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

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) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

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

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

3 Positions of Hell: The Traditional View, Annihilationism, and Universalism, Part 1 of 3

Universalism and Death (by Jeff Cook)


by Scot McKnight
July 6, 2015
Scot: This post is by Jeff Cook, and I am committed to giving space to Jeff’s public ruminations because they are reasonable and give us space to think through challenging topics with rigor.


Jeff Cook: I’ve become convinced this year that the traditional view of hell will not last as a dominant theory among scholars for much longer. The arguments for the traditional hell fail so spectacularly and their conclusions are so repugnant that the traditional view is only carried in the popular mind by assumption and convention.
No, the conversation about hell in the 21st century among those who study [theology] will shift and the debate will focus on two morally-coherent views of hell: annihilationism and universalism.
Recently, at Fuller a conference was held outlining and exploring these two views, and I wish to present and dialogue through the three arguments I presented. This will be the first of a three part series thinking through the purgatorial view of hell.
First, though I am passionate about the intellectual and ethical failures of the Traditional View of Hell, [however,] I do not feel the same way toward the Purgatorial View. I champion Universalism as a far superior option to Traditionalism and think it can be spoken of boldly from within orthodoxy defined by the Creeds.
Second, let’s talk definitions. For “Annihilationism” to be a proper description of hell—one person must cease to exist and no human being can suffer indefinitely. Given the Annihilationist conception of hell, It could be the case that there will be souls who repent in some purgatorial world; so too, a soul may be punished punitively for a limited time if that is necessary to fulfill justice. Looking at them in turn, Annihilation has the widest arms, allowing for appropriate reprimands and, if possible, inviting God’s love to do its work in a postmortem sphere.
By “Universalism” (or the “Purgatorial View”) I mean the theory that every human being will eventually, now or in some post-mortem future, embrace redemption through Christ. For the sake of these posts, I will exclusively engage the writings of John Hick and Robin Parry who have done praiseworthy work for the rest of us and set out some initial reflections to questions I’m inclined to ask.
Lastly, what I hope to do in these posts is offer a set of potential anomalies or inconsistencies for Universalism to consider. I myself do not think any of these arguments are decisive disproofs, but taken together I think they constitute a worthy set of questions that may push Universalists to a more complete theory or move them toward a preference for Annihilationism.

So here we go…
Argument 1: Universalism needs to Wrestle with Death
What is the point of death? God has allowed, if not foreseen, a world in which human beings will die. Death may be the result of sin and human choices, but God has actualized a world in which death could be/would be a reality. So why?
What purpose does death hold on Universalism? If the soul is immortal and redemption will happen eventually, why does God create the twofold experience of life, then death, then a different form of life?
There’s an argument to be made here from Ockham’s Razor: If we hold that a simpler world is more likely, Annihilationism is not only superior to the Traditional View, but to the Purgatorial View in its simplicity.
Given Universalism, those who reject God will experience a purgatorial state, but if we hold to Ockham’s Razor we might ask: “Why didn’t God simply create the purgatorial world without a physical death? Why the two stages and not one?” What’s the purgatorial experience going to solve that this world cannot? Perhaps it provides more time, but why not construct a world with more time?
I am inclined to think some knowledge and experiences may be counterproductive in this life (given the function of life now), but quite valuable after death. So too, I am open to thinking some choices may only be available after death and only then have soul-restoring power. Why this could be the case, however, needs clarity.
Now, Robin Parry has an answer here. He argues, “Hell is supposed to be a punishment for wrong doing, but in this supposedly efficient scenario people have not even had the opportunity to act wrongly. I understand hell to be a post-mortem situation in which God brings home to us the terrible consequences of sin, [but] this makes sense for someone who has lived a sinful life and needs education.” (MacDonald 162).
I don’t find this line sufficient. God could provide knowledge of sin’s consequences in any number of ways without violating one’s freedom or contradicting the achievement of God’s other priorities. For example, we know many things about sin and its consequences: intuitively, through watching the experiences of others, even fictional displays communicate very well (I imagine a dark screening of “Clockwork Orange” or “Kids” may be sufficient for many to know the horror of life without God).
Now, is knowledge of the consequences of sin the only reason for the experience of death? If so we might question, given the deep pain associated with death, whether this was the best option available to God. All things being equal, death seems something to avoid and the fact that God did not avoid death in the world he actualized points to a difficulty within Universalism. God could have created a purgatorial world perfectly constructed for soul-making without death.
Now, as an Annihilationist, I would affirm the purgatorial world [of this life] is the world God created. That is, our world sufficiently purges, refines, awakens, and constructs what are initially embryotic souls.... Some Universalists affirm the perspective of John Hick and his recent articulation of an Irenaean theodicy, much of which I would also champion (see Everything New). Hick does a masterful job showcasing why pain in this world is necessary given God’s aims at creating sons and daughters.
The Annihilationist has a good answer to why God allows death. Given death and our potential evaporation, the weight of our moral choices are elevated and have more significant consequences. Given how human beings function and the seductive nature of some sins, death is a spur for right living.
Furthermore, the simplicity of Annihilationism [(sic, Ockham's Razor)] makes it more likely, not relying on non-empirically verified spheres of existence or extended lengths of time to do work that we all see is presently taking place in the lives of many now.
Jeff Cook teaches philosophy at the University of Northern Colorado. He is the author of Everything New: Reimagining Heaven and Hell(Subversive 2012). You can connect with him at everythingnew.org and @jeffvcook.

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Related Articles on Hell @ Relevancy22 - refer to topic list under "Hell"
Why Not Purgatory? - Divine Synchronicity: What Does It Mean for Christianity?

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Related Articles on Hell on Scot's blogsite
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This post is by Jeff Cook, and I am committed to giving space to Jeff’s public ruminations because they are reasonable and give us space to think through challenging topics with rigor. Jeff Cook: I’ve become convinced this year that the traditional view of hell will not last as a dominant theory among scholars for [Read More...]

Repainting Hell: Jeff Cook’s Closure

Jeff Cook teaches philosophy at the University of Northern Colorado. He is the author of Everything New: Reimagining Heaven and Hell(Subversive 2012), and a pastor of Atlas Church in Greeley, Colorado. You can connect with him at everythingnew.org and @jeffvcook. One thing I admire about Jeff Cook is his willingness to put his thinking on the line for others to debate, [Read More...]

Repainting Hell: The Argument from Location (Jeff Cook)

A solid number of theologians and scholars over the past century have questioned whether the church has understood hell correctly. The most widely held view has interpreted “hell” as “eternal conscious torment,” but this view is not as easily justified through the scriptures or through reason as we might think given its prominence. I wish [Read More...]

Repainting Hell 3: Jeff Cook

Repainting Hell : The Argument from Desire  (Jeff Cook) As Thomas Aquinas once offered five ways to know a God exists, so too I hope to offer five ways to know that hell is not “eternal conscious torment.” Like Aquinas, my arguments will be philosophical in nature. Though I think there are many solid biblical [Read More...]

Repainting Hell 2 (Jeff Cook)

Repainting Hell: The End of Evil  (Jeff Cook) As Thomas Aquinas once offered five ways to know a God exists, so too I hope to offer five ways to know that hell is not “eternal conscious torment.” Like Aquinas, my arguments will be philosophical in nature. Though I think there are many solid biblical reasons [Read More...]

Does God’s Mercy Endure Forever, or Does it End?

Rob Bell asked the question if God’s mercy would endure forever so that people would have opportunities to turn to God in the afterlife (postmortem opportunity = PO) or if that mercy would end at death. Bell’s answer was a deft move in rhetoric: love wins, he said. Dante’s famous Divine Comedy disagrees for in it we [Read More...]

Repainting Hell: C.S. Lewis and N.T. Wright (by Jeff Cook)

One of the features of this blog I like is the inclusion of disparate voices. I, Scot McKnight, am not the only voice; RJS is another voice; John Frye, Jonathan Storment, and Jeff Cook are other voices. And others send me posts and we post them to give yet more voices a platform to create [Read More...]

Is Heaven Vital for Morality or Not?

You may well recall the famous scene in Les Miserables in which Jean Valjean comes clean in public to take the place of another who was in fact on trial instead of himself (Valjean). The scene poses the moral theory called altruism, that is, that one does what is good for others in a disinterested manner. It [Read More...]

God’s Love and Hell

Here’s how he begins the chapter, with a question: How can hell exist if God is truly love and will bring his world to the perfect comic end we explored in the first chapter? The answer? Well, what I want to argue is that hell can exist precisely because God is love. Because God is [Read More...]

The Importance of Heaven and Hell

No one in the world has thought more about heaven, hell and purgatory than Jerry Walls. He has an academic, but accessible, book on each topic and now he has brought all his thinking together in one far more accessible, rearranged book called Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory: A Protestant View of the Cosmic Drama. Just a few [Read More...]