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March 14, 2011

Comments

The simple lesson to be learned, hopefully early in life, is that new and improved is often neither and fresh eyes on the subject are often blind ones.

One of the biggest problems with American fundamentalism is its tendency to read its own theological dogmas (e.g., the traditional view of hell) in places where those dogmas have no proper place. A good example of this is the tendency of fundamentalists to read the traditional doctrine of hell into Jesus’ warnings of judgment in the synoptic gospels. For instance, despite the fact that the warnings about the road to destruction are not warnings about a post-mortem fate awaiting the wicked, most fundamentalists are supremely (and naively) confident that in these passages Jesus is telling his listeners that most people will burn in hell forever. Another example concerns Jesus’ teachings about the kingdom of God. Despite the fact that these teachings are not about a place you go after you die, the tendency of the American fundamentalist is to interpret these passages as though that is exactly what they are about.

Thankfully actual New Testament scholars are doing what they can to correct this nonsense. N.T. Wright, for instance, has done a lot to correct this systematic misreading of the gospels so prevalent in American fundamentalist circles. His book “Jesus and the Victory of God” (especially the eighth chapter) is a good resource for getting over these fundamentalist prejudices. Although I’m less familiar with Andrew Perriman’s work, the following resource seems helpful:

http://www.postost.net/

"Bell is going to lead people astray and give sinners false hope when what they desperately need is not a new message, but the old one - the Biblical one."

The Saducees also had this view. If they had won out, we wouldn't even believe in an afterlife at all.

But what/where is 'orthodoxy' and 'tradition' in Protestantism? What/where are the criteria?

See here:
http://tinyurl.com/pq65xw

It's a serious question that I'm battling with because if anything, as a Catholic, I'm finding it harder to work ecumenically because of the radical subjectivism and the growing ridiculous theologies and ecclesiologies I'm finding myself surrounded by.

It's as if each Christian is in a church of one and has their own criteria, as if everyone, except for themselves, is some form of heretic. So, from the outside, Evangelicialism, here in England, seems to be going into meltdown.

Yet, paradoxically, rather than the usual stupid questions based on Jack Chick tracts and Loraine Boettner's drivel, I'm beginning to get genuine questions from, 'people who want the straight up, unvarnished truth. They want doctrinal edges and traditional orthodoxy. They want no-holds-barred preaching. They don’t want to leave traditional Christianity. They are ready to go deeper into it.', and who have started meeting with me on a weekly basis to learn about Catholicism rather than challenge it...

Is 'orthodoxy' simply based in numbers, 'staggering', or not, or the 'most reasonable', like a theological equivalent of the Jacobins?

If we take Greg's last video, surely if the Bible was actually perspicuous there would be only one translation in each language, no need for any commentaries or secondary texts, and orthodoxy would be as plain as the nose on one's face?

What makes orthodoxy different from personal preference when there are so many orthodoxies around?

I watched the video. Very clever, and also very sad! All along, questions and emotive phrases are used which lead people to think that universalism is the way, but he never says so. Then, to conclude: two words of Gospel – love wins! If you are going to "Columbo three" me, and be so emotive, then you need to go on and provide some better answers from Scripture to set the soul at ease. Bell has not done that..nor will he be able to do so! By his own admission, Rob Bell is a man who promotes ambiguity and doubt rather than revelation and clear, objective truth. Who could have use for such a teacher?

Paul

"What makes orthodoxy different from personal preference when there are so many orthodoxies around?"

Those are orthodox only to the extent that they affirm that which as taught and practiced in the first century church and by the apostles of that church. So, there can be varying degrees of orthodoxy in the branches that you mention. However, the core beliefs must be orthodox for them to even be in the Christian camp. Simply because they call themselves orthodox, does not make them that. The evidence of their practice and worship when compared to the example set by the founding fathers should determine if they have any right to that label.

Since Malebranche has brought his N.T. Wright argument to yet another thread (third time's the charm?) here's my reference to our first discussion on it again.
http://str.typepad.com/weblog/2010/12/what-aslan-means-to-liam-neeson.html?cid=6a00d83451d2ba69e20148c6b23ff5970c#comment-6a00d83451d2ba69e20148c6b23ff5970c

I guess Malebranche holds to the propagandist's teaching that you can convince by sheer repetition.

And here's how his Hell argument flopped just a day ago.
http://str.typepad.com/weblog/2011/03/what-does-rob-bell-really-believe.html?cid=6a00d83451d2ba69e20147e330754d970b#comment-6a00d83451d2ba69e20147e330754d970b

And then there's Malebranche's example of an "actual New Testament scholar", N.T. Wright, who here corrects some nonsense for us:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vggzqXzEvZ0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Zk31Uc_pCY&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ka2AAKgIRSM&feature=related

I'm not quite sure how he can be an actual New Testament scholar and a blaspheming heretic at the same time (Malebranche's words, not mine).

@Louis

Thank you for replying, Louis, I totally agree, but that's exactly why I had to become Catholic.

Which one of the 35000+ denominations is in line with the first century church? They'd all claim to be, wouldn't they?

When did the apostasy occur, and what was the name of the church that carried the baton after the Catholic Church supposedly fell away? Or was it a sort of closet Dan Brown-like mystery cult which kept the flame burning until the great prophet, Martin Luther (Peace be upon him), arrived on the scene? Or was it, Ulrich Swingli, John Calvin, Jacob Arminius, Charles Taze Russell, Joseph Smith...? :-)

The article I pointed to ( http://tinyurl.com/pq65xw ) shows the problems with this view, and this one:
http://tinyurl.com/ndle8z
is related to your idea of church being simply a collection of branches.

How do you address the issues of Ecclesial Deism and schism which undermine any attempt to claim orthodoxy?

The neo-evangelical consensus is cracking up. Love Wins is simply one of many tremors.


I wholly and completely agree. We need to quit pretending that we can hold on to the "evangelical" umbrealla. If you want to read more on this read Carl Trueman's book "The Real Scandal of the Evangelical mind."

Thanks for the tip, Adam. I'll get it - it looks interesting.

I read Noll's book some year back, and this will be an interesting comparison!

Paul

"Which one of the 35000+ denominations is in line with the first century church? They'd all claim to be, wouldn't they?"

I hope you don't expect an instant easy answer to that one. :) If it was a simple answer, all those offshoots would long ago have combined into a single unified church. Yes, you are right. They would all claim that. Gong through that many branches may seem daunting, but since it is easy to simply dismiss the heretical ones by looking at the core doctrines of the deity of Christ, the proper understanding of the trinity, Christ's redemptive work etc., the job becomes somewhat simpler. The glaring divergence from those key doctrines will almost in seconds sink a branch. That should take much less time, given several researchers, to whittle down those that are orthodox to a mere few.

"When did the apostasy occur, and what was the name of the church that carried the baton after the Catholic Church supposedly fell away?"

Well, the Catholic church has had its problems and it has often stemmed from its leadership, but I don't know if you could actually call it apostasy. As far as I know, the Church has retained its core orthodoxy even if there were season when they had leadership held to odd practices. This is why I don't know if the word "apostasy" is appropriate. But to your point as to who it was that carried the banner, I think that the Catholic church continued to do so through its core doctrines as did others who actually disagreed on major points of deviation. Such issues as the sale of indulgences (not today's definition of the term but that of actually purchasing your way to heave with money), I think was a departure from traditional Christian practice to which Martin Luther objected.
The real answer of who carried the torch of Christianity is that it was carried in the hearts of devout Christians who were a part of many different denominations of Christianity that included the Catholic church. This is difficult for folks committed to objecting to heterodox practices within different branches to admit. But admit it or not, they are all members of the same Christian community and the same church, regardless if they fly the banner of the Vatican on their flagpole or not.

Perhaps you will not find my response satisfying. I am sorry, but on such a complicated issue, this is the best I can do at this time.

Paul,

I think the best way to do that (decide which church is closet to the first century church)would be to read the documents from that time period. My problem with the Catholic church is how much weight they put on traditions from much later (3rd and 4th century). I really have no problem with this so long as it doesn't go against the Scripture which WAS written in the time of the first church and prior to.


Now, you might say that Protestants do the same thing, but they look to Luther or Calvin who were ever FURTHER from the first century. Well, sort of. Luther and Calvin and people like them defend their views with first Century scripture, so in that respect they aren't just arbitraty. In the same way, if one of their views clearly contradicts the scripture, then I will not hold to it either.

"Bell is going to lead people astray and give sinners false hope when what they desperately need is not a new message, but the old one - the Biblical one."

You mean, your view of the biblical one.

Thank you both (Louis and Austin) for your courteous and honest replies. They're very helpful.

@Nick M
Had to chuckle :)

Wow. The heretic hunt is ON! Nice rush to judgement.

It would be sad if Stand to Reason became just another Calvinist watchblog.

There are already way too many of those, and not enough STRs.

Jeff - just to be sure we're all on the same page, the topic in this thread isn't Calvinisim per se. It's the doctrine of Hell.

Can you say who is "rushing to judgement"? Did you read Kevin DeYoung's full review?

What points in his review personally concerned you the most?

Frodo!

Calvinist watchblogs attack all members of the christian community who do not precisely hold to their system of thought. Not at all confined to the five points.

Their normal mode of attack is to isolate certain statements out of their original context and time. Case in point, all this criticism of Rob Bell's book by people who haven't even read it. If you are not going to try to really understand a person's view....best not to jump on the bandwagon.

Now I don't really follow Bell's thoughts much. So I don't pretend I know them well enough to pass judgement on them.

Another case in point; Greg's friends over at the "White Horse Inn". I listened to a show recently where they got all over Dallas Willard and completely misrepresented his views by isolating statements out of one of his early books.

I had just listened to an interview of Dallas that directly contradicted how they characterized his views.

That is the typical of a Calvinist watchblog, passing judgement on someone who you haven't taken the time to understand.

I hate to see STR stoop to this. They do so much other good work.

As far as Rob Bell's view on hell....I would suspect Rob still preaches the Gospel at his church....

""That is the typical of a Calvinist watchblog, passing judgement on someone who you haven't taken the time to understand."""

Case in point, the Calvinist watchblog, the Whitehorse Inn?

STR always stresses reason, but is Rob Bell writing theology, in its strict sense?

Now, let's say both Fred Phelps and John Piper wrote papers on homosexuality. Which one's likely to be the more reasonable (i.e., writing theology in the strict sense), and therefore, in STR terms, to be taken most seriously?

However, as a silly example, what, if one day, NT Wright and John Piper should lock horns over Justification (which they wouldn't because they're both so reasonable and great scripture scholars). :-) What then?

Can you do anything apart from do what my NT professor used to say: 'You pays your money and takes your choice'?

In essence, is a confusion of genre taking place - or is it, as Jeff suggests - a heretic hunt is on?

As Nick M says @ Melinda, "You mean, your view of the biblical one."

Or, as MacIntyre might put it, "Whose Interpretation, Which Rationality?"

This really does look like turf wars - and proof of the neo-evangelical consensus cracking up...

I'm one of these people that was raised in a strong evangelical family that is now someone "who [doesn't] want to leave the faith but can’t live in the faith [I] once embraced." I also know that there are many young people like me out there - a big reason why there is an Emergent movement in the first place.

When I read books by authors like Rob Bell and Brian McLaren, I feel their interpretation of the Bible rings much truer to the person of Jesus than the one I grew up hearing about in Sunday school.

The thing that most scares me about all this anger towards Bell's new book is how much Christians WANT to believe in a literal eternal place of torment (Hell). They don't want to hear that maybe their deceased non-christian relative or friend might not be burning in some dark pit in the center of the Earth.

The more I read about Hell in context of scripture the more I see that it refers to either the grave, or the dumping ground outside Jerusalem - and maybe it's not God's eternal concentration camp.

It all starts with a deficient view of Scripture. Most Christians are attracted to the whole idea of "listening" to God's "voice" in their personal experiences. They seek personal guidance from God, apart from His written word, and elevate their experiences and feelings to have divine authority. The bible is subtly replaced in their minds, although they might continue to give lip service to it as the word of God. This is an epidemic within Christianity, and it will lead to a new liberalism and apostasy within evangelical circles. It will emerge in many forms, and Rob Bell is one influential example of some of the consequences.
Stand to Reason has an excellent resource on listening to God (in a biblically responsible way). It is called "Decision Making and the Will of God."

Hell: Across the Spectrum of History:
http://www.facebook.com/notes/michael-patton/hell-across-the-spectrum-of-history/10150130495817993

Mike

"The thing that most scares me about all this anger towards Bell's new book is how much Christians WANT to believe in a literal eternal place of torment (Hell)"

What makes you think that this is what devout Christians really "WANT" to believe? What makes you think that this is a matter of preference?

@Mike A
Isn't it simply the case that Brian Maclaren and Rob Bell merely express what you want?

@Louis
Hi again, Louis. How do you tell what's a matter of preference, and what's a matter of fact?

Paul

"Hi again, Louis. How do you tell what's a matter of preference, and what's a matter of fact?"

When we speak of a preference it is a personal preference we are talking about. It is something that someone actually wants or wants to be so. If one wants something to be so, there has to be a motive behind that want. That motive is often apparent as that want is expressed in the language used by the individual. You caught on to this with Mike A and that is why you asked:

"Isn't it simply the case that Brian Maclaren and Rob Bell merely express what you want?"

It would seem to me that you are quite able to determine what is a matter of preference and what is not.

You saw in Mike's statement:

"Bell's new book is how much Christians _WANT_ to believe in a literal eternal place of torment (Hell). They don't _want_ to hear that maybe their deceased non-christian relative or friend might not be burning in some dark pit in the center of the Earth. "

His use of the word "want" twice. Once in terms of what he thinks Christians want to believe and another want to hear. This seems to focus attention to what one wants things to be rather than what things are. Since the context of the wording shows no interest in what things actually are, but much interest in what someone might want them to be, it is clear that Mike has more interest in preferences or wants than he has in facts of what is actually the case. His choice of words reveals his motives behind those words.

It seems to me that Evangelicals and fundamentalists come to the Bible with many presuppositional biases. They believe there is one correct way to read the Scriptures (the way they've been taught), but don't necessarily employ textual criticism to question what they're reading. Hence, they only rely on what they've been taught. To question the fundamental issues they have already accepted 'de facto' is to question those who have taught them, and look upon those teachers as possibly in error. This seems, to the fundamentalist, unconscionable.

Al Mohler:

Like so many others, Bell wants to separate the message of Jesus from other voices even in the New Testament, particularly the voice of the Apostle Paul. Here we face the inescapable question of biblical authority. We will either affirm that every word of the Bible is true, trustworthy, and authoritative, or we will create our own Bible according to our own preferences. Put bluntly, if Jesus and Paul are not telling the same story, we have no idea what the true story is.

http://www.albertmohler.com/2011/03/16/we-have-seen-all-this-before-rob-bell-and-the-reemergence-of-liberal-theology/

Louis - I believe many devout evangelicals want to believe in Hell because it makes them win in the end. I know, because that's how I once felt. I also know this because when I visit my brothers evangelical church I see the grins and "right on" expressions when the pastor preaches about the unfortunate choice people make when the reject the "gospel."

Paul - It might be the case that I'm merely attracted to Bell and McLaren's message so I'm inclined to believe that is what the Bible teaches. I'm also attracted to the message of Jesus in the gospels opposed to Buddha or Muhammed (not that Bell or McLaren are the second coming), because the message rings so true to the world I live in (ie love neighbors, care for the poor, go the extra mile, compassion, forgiveness, etc.). I rarely heard of this Jesus growing up. I mostly was taught about the teachings of Paul and the Prophets of the Old Testament...and of course the Rapture and Revelations.

Louis - I understand that I'm coming off subjective in my reasoning, but all I have is the experiences I have had in my life and the things I have learned and read from other people. Once I stepped out of my Evangelical bubble I grew up in, the more I came to realize how much more gray there was when it came to theology. I have strong beliefs about many things within Christianity, but I'm not going to lose sleep over them. I used to spend hours debating my Mormon cousins and tried to convince them they worship a different Jesus and that they should convert over to my particular sect of Christianity. I've come to realize that those arguments were a waste of time. Belief is a very tricky thing. Can you imagine two young men from Canada going door to door trying to convince American's to convert to Canadism?

@ Perry Shields

I'm not sure, but I believe it's what they pejoratively term, 'tradition', but only Catholics commit that error, so you must be mistaken. :-)

@Daron

It's an interesting quote from Al Mohler. But, from where does his authority come?

It's not scripture (i.e. Scripture doesn't mention Al Mohler as an authority), so A) is it that you simply agree with what he says?, or B) lots of people normally agree with him, so he must be right?

Hi Paul,
Who said Mohler has authority?

A little thought for those who think that fundamentalists (whatever that is and whomever they are) are merely reading their own depraved views into and imposing them on the Word:
For 35 years or so I have been a Christian. I read my Bible (poorly and with little interest) and prayed daily. I lived a good life and people would have considered me (I hope) nice and moral.
I believed in libertarian free will, a God who maybe could, but certainly didn't, act in my life (I was highly competent - thought I _ and didn't actually need His help), a dissolving into the energy of the universe, etc. I had no conception of demons, Hell, or even any kind of literal Heaven. I thought the Bible, the OT especially, was man's best attempt, looking back on his history, to see what God had wanted and how he might be, retrospectively, fitted into the story.
When I read bloggers discussing sovereignty or predestination I shut them out of my mind immediately. That was not the loving, hands off God I thought I knew. More importantly, that did not honour me the way I honoured me. It did not take into account my nobility in finding faith, my goodness and my responsibility for my knowledge and salvation. And, since there was no rea Heaven, and since my loved ones were not beleivers, Hell couldn't really exist, either.
And "Calvin's Geneva"!? Forget about it. That just sounds evil, doesn't it? He MUST be a bad guy.

But I changed my mind, bit by bit. The first domino to fall was when I read apologetics for the historicity of Christ's Resurrection. What I always thought was just a handed down belief, that I accepted in a vague sense due to my culture, became a reality. I KNEW God had walked the earth as a man, had died and raised Himself from the dead. When this became a concrete reality for me, and not something I held to because I heard it when I was young, everything started to change. If God did this, and the accounts in the Bible were true, then the accounts could be afforded more trust. And what else did they show? Well, Jesus, Who really loved and died for my sins, also quoted the OT, believed in the existence of its characters and the history it gave. And so I started to accept these.
And, it turns out, that no matter how I had previously thought, He actually interacted with Satan and his demons, and He actually preached Heaven and Hell. This started about 7 years ago and about 2 years ago I joined a Reformed church, still resisting the ideas that are pejoratively swept around and called "Calvinism" here. But the more I study and listen and learn from people who have done the work, the more I come to realize this is what the Bible teaches. And the more arguments against these teachings I encounter the less convincing those arguments are.

That little back story is only to point out that these blanket, broadbrush claims about what people "want" are ignorant and baseless - from both sides, I am sure, and from me no less than from anyone else.

Mike

"Louis - I believe many devout evangelicals want to believe in Hell because it makes them win in the end."

That could be true for some. But could not your statement above be similarly motivated? Is it not possible that sometimes, by focusing on winning and actually winning, you may actually lose? That is to say, you may win the battle, but lose the war. The question is which is more important, the battle or the war. I think that Bell is focusing on a battle while ignoring the war and this I think is a mistake. Ultimately this issue of winning or losing to one branch of the faith or another is nothing but a small skirmish and should not be given excessively large weight. In Christendom, there are more important battles to be waged that put to better use our energies.

"I know, because that's how I once felt."

And now you feel another way. But there is one constant. You seem to be relying on feelings as a guide. Feelings have no sight. If you have to feel your way through life, it is a sure sign you are blind. If I was such, I would be concerned.


"I also know this because when I visit my brothers evangelical church I see the grins and "right on" expressions when the pastor preaches about the unfortunate choice people make when the reject the "gospel.""

If it were about my bad choices, I would be laughing at myself. But I agree with you on this and that is that people's bad choices is no laughing matter. I think what you saw was examples of a lack of maturity and discipleship comes into play there. It is a question of understanding the gravity of people's bad choices. That is why I like a good sermon of a fire and brimstone variety, once in a while, that gives a proper depiction of what awaits someone who makes a choice that effects their eternity. There is nothing funny about someone's rejection of God's provision for sin. It is a tragedy.

When I walked out of a fire and brimstone sermon last year (yes, they are rare) with my brother he had tears in his eyes. He said "I know I believe this, but I never think about it like this. I realize now how awful it is that I might be complacent about anybody not believing in Christ".
As I had been a few years earlier, he was convicted. He suddenly realized that the consequences for our loved ones are too profound to ignore. While we can hope in piety for those who have gone before, we have a duty to call a warning from the watchtower.
More than only a duty, we have a desperate desire that everyone be saved and none perish. But we don't accomplish that by merely ignoring what we wish weren't the case.
For how is it that Paul was afraid of having blood on his hands if none would perish?

Louis -

Feeling aside...I believe (not just feel) that a correct interpretation of the scriptures does not teach the evangelical/fundamentalist view of Hell.

If evangelical/fundamentalist Christians really took the doctrine of Hell seriously, they should be at every street corner of every city with signs and bull horns proclaiming the "good news."

I recommend this article on the subject...

http://www.outofur.com/archives/2006/05/brian_mclarens_2.html

And a discussion on why we are talking about this.
http://networkedblogs.com/fAuKN

Mike

"{Feeling aside...I believe (not just feel) that a correct interpretation of the scriptures does not teach the evangelical/fundamentalist view of Hell."

I think it is only fair that I first explain what my position is on the word "believe" as I have stated this before elsewhere. Belief is an extension of the intellect and intellect entails knowledge. So, to say that you believe, indicates to me that you know. If you know, then how do you know that which you affirm through belief?

Here is a reference in your link that is easy to find fault with because it is faulty.

""If you don't accept me as your personal Savior by saying the sinner's prayer . . ." then you'll experience the lake of fire. That's not what he says."

Why would any christian affirm what is claimed here as a means of salvation? Greg has already spoken against the "magic prayer" often enough to show that this doesn't work and only gives false hope. Doing the above will not save anyone from the "lake of fire". Why would anyone think that God cannot see beyond the action to the motives of the heart behind that action? Is it not the motives of the heart that we are judged by?
What the quoted statement shows is an attack on a presumed, not actual, picture of classical Christian view of what salvation entails. Are there some people who hold to the magic prayer formula of salvation? Perhaps. But it is not fair to paint the rest of Christendom with that same paint brush. Nor is it fair to say that this is the classic Christian view.
The real reason for anyone to be cast into the lake of fire is for their moral crimes, not because they didn't say the magic prayer. Those moral crimes are listed after Matthew 25:41 that Brian mentions in that link you gave. One needs to look beyond that single verse to see what does get one cast into the lake of fire. That's why we should never read a bible verse. Doing so, we miss the important stuff and then think that they get cast there because they reject Jesus. It is like saying that a criminal gets thrown in jail because he did not throw himself on the mercy of the court. That's a silly notion. He gets thrown into jail because he committed a crime and broke the law.

"If evangelical/fundamentalist Christians really took the doctrine of Hell seriously, they should be at every street corner of every city with signs and bull horns proclaiming the "good news."

That may actually not be the best approach as has been pointed out in many of Greg's call-in shows. Not everyone would respond to such methods and may well respond contrary to positive expectation. As to how seriously evangelicals take this, it varies from person to person and from church group to church group. However, in every community you see outreach programs to reach their fellow neighbors which methods are often far more effective. So, taking it seriously entails also an examination of what works, not just an emotional response and a knee-jerk reaction to a situation and blindly flailing your spiritual arms in hopes you will connect with something.

Louis -

You make some good points, but my argument isn't about how one is converted or reborn, it's about whether or not the evangelical/fundamentalist view of Hell is really found in the scriptures. We could go on for days going back and forth with versus and quotes from expert theologians, but that just reaffirms the fact that no doctrine is perfectly provable. If they were then we wouldn't have so many sects, divisions and religions all based on the Bible.

What is the most important thing that the Bible/Jesus teach? I would ague that it is "Love." "Love thy God and Love thy neighbor." I don't read passages that read perfect doctrinal truth is the most important.

I believe that Jesus is God in the flesh and that He was raised from the dead (literally). I don't believe that my Mormon cousins are going to burn in a "lake of fire" for eternity because they have slightly different views on Jesus.

Am I still a Christian or an unsaved heretic like some think Rob Bell is?

Mike

"You make some good points, but my argument isn't about how one is converted or reborn, it's about whether or not the evangelical/fundamentalist view of Hell is really found in the scriptures."
Perhaps the first thing we aught to look at is just what "fundamentalists" think hell is all about. Before we can even tackle that, why not establish that it exists at all and what God's purpose for it was to start with. Looking at Mat. 25:41 might be one place to find that answer. It is clear in that verse that hell was not originally intended for man as it was created for the devil and his angels. What reason could God have to cast them there? It seems quite clear that the devil and his angels have declared war on God and His kingdom. So, it seems that if God is a just God, He will not apply one law for the devil and his angels when they rebel against Him and another when man does the same thing. It would seem to me that the same crime, deserves the same punishment in a just system. Wouldn't you agree? Or would you prefer that the devil and his angels be allowed entry into the kingdom of heaven?

"What is the most important thing that the Bible/Jesus teach? I would ague that it is "Love." "Love thy God and Love thy neighbor." I don't read passages that read perfect doctrinal truth is the most important."

Really? Is that not a doctrinal truth as well?

"I believe that Jesus is God in the flesh and that He was raised from the dead (literally). I don't believe that my Mormon cousins are going to burn in a "lake of fire" for eternity because they have slightly different views on Jesus."

It is good that you believe thus. I agree and I think that I have already covered this ground. No one is going to go to hell because they have a slightly different views or don't say the magic prayer. They are going there for their crimes against God, their perfectly just sovereign, who is of purer eyes than to look upon inequity. If it is the nature of God to be just, and I think we have sufficient evidence for that, then His nature demands justice be satisfied and that means lawbreaking must be met with a just punishment.

Mike

P.S. I can't answer your question regarding your status with God. That's something only you and God can know and the same goes for Rob Bell. If you say you are a Christian and, I have no reason to disbelieve this, I take you at your word. Unless clear evidence to the contrary comes to light, I consider you my brother in Christ.

Louis -

My point of raising these questions about views on Hell is to point out that it's not so cut and dry. There have been many other beliefs/doctrine's that we have abandoned in the Bible because we have learned otherwise - namely, slavery, women's rights, a flat earth and one day Hell.

I believe in justice, but Love and forgiveness seem to supersede that in scripture. I don't see Justice in a 19 year Jewish girl dying in a Nazi prison camp just to leave to a much worse place...forever!

The punishment should fit the crime. If my 4 year old son kicks our dog, I'm not going to send him to his room for 20 years. If Hell is real and eternal, then a just and loving God would give real and eternal second chances for repentance and forgiveness. Why would Jesus command us to visit the prisoner if he wouldn't do the same for us?

Thanks for the thoughtful dialogue and P.S.!

Here's an article about 7 myths of Christian Universalism that some may find helpful:

http://www.baptisttimes.co.uk/bellshells.htm

Thanks, Tom. That was a nice, clear, and clear-headed piece.

Mike A said:

I don't believe that my Mormon cousins are going to burn in a "lake of fire" for eternity because they have slightly different views on Jesus.

I don't necessarily disagree with you Mike, but your comment stimulates a question borne out of a recent experience I had: 2 young friendly Mormon missionaries came to my door last Sunday night. I invited them in, we had refreshments and began to respectfully explore our differing world views.

These clean-cut, polite men, after the niceties, took the gloves off and made several determined though unsuccessful attempts to discredit much of the New and Old Testaments, including key components of the fundamental nature of Jesus.

This behavior (that is, discrediting the New Testament) is no different than what Muslim apologists try to do.

You may know that Mormons believe:

- Jesus was created, is *not* co-eternal with God the Father (contradicting a variety of scriptures including John 1:1)
- Prior to his life on earth he lived on another planet, and lives there now
- Rather than exist in the presence of, and Glorify God for eternity, Mormons believe we can become Gods and will be given our own planet to rule
- Joseph Smith did more for Christianity than Jesus
- We are not saved by Grace alone but by achieving very specific, prescribed works.
- God had physical intercourse with Mary to conceive Jesus

It seems to me that those who (a) attempt to discredit the Bible with great determination, and (b) hold the above views (among many others) that conflict with Biblical teaching don't seem to be consistent with followers of Jesus. If the Mormon world view is "close enough" to merit salvation, then I'm not certain why "any old world view" wouldn't be sufficient?

Can you help me out here?

Mr. Baggins -

I'm well aware of the differences between Christianity and Mormonism. I was raised as an evangelical (from my mom), but my Dad was a non-practicing Mormon. I spent hours upon hours studying everything about Mormonism and Christian apologetics (I even have a signed copy of one of Gregs books!), to prove my Dad wrong so he wouldn't be tortured in Hell for all eternity. I would win every argument, but lose because I would damage his pride. 

This experience took me on a journey of rediscovering my faith over the past 10 years. I'm now 33 years old, happily married and have my third child on the way (just in case any folks think I'm trying to justify some radical pagan lifestyle). I was able to emotionally detach myself from a "big chain" evangelical church after getting involved in the leadership and discovering a corrupt pastor, many power hungry staffers, and a system overly concerned with attendance and money. I know not all churches are like this, but let's face it...IT'S A PROBLEM!

I began by re-reading the gospels and reading books by NT Wright, Brian McClaren, and Rob Bell. The message of Jesus became so much more than what I was taught growing up. It's more about living right, than just thinking right. I also just finished Bells new book "Love Wins." I really encourage STR fans to read it - it's full of more questions than answers and it will help better understand where guys like me are coming from. 

Back to your questions (sorry for the red herrings)...

A) I don't agree Mormons discredit the Bible. They believe it's the word of God, just not as accurately translated as their other "holy" books. And B) I have to say that Mormons in general are much more Christ like than most christians I have known (including myself). 

If God is so concerned with our theology, why didn't he make it more plain in the Bible? In other words, why make things vague enough for emergents, mormons, JW's, evangelicals, etc., to all have a voice?

And, if God was merely concerned with getting souls to heaven, the New Testament should look much more like our Bill of Rights, shouldn't it?

Mike A,

I appreciate you taking the time to respond. FYI ... I too have personal experience studying the Mormon scriptures and practices: my family joined the Mormon church when I was in junior high school. We left after about 3 years -- as they peeled back the layers of belief, my parents couldn't tolerate what to them was a "bait and switch": they were sold Christianity but actually received something very different. Some thoughts:

You said:

I don't agree Mormons discredit the Bible. They believe it's the word of God, just not as accurately translated as their other "holy" books.

Parts of the New Testament directly contradict the teachings of the Mormon prophets, the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, and the Doctrine and Covenants. Both worldviews cannot be true, and many of these disagreements are central to the fundamental nature of God.

Many Gods. One of the most egregious Mormon teachings is that God created multiple worlds and each world has people living on it. They also believe that multiple Gods exist but each has their own universe. We are subject to only our God and if we obtain the highest level of heaven we can become gods ourselves.

If God is so concerned with our theology, why didn't he make it more plain in the Bible?

What parts of the Bible have you personally concerned?

[...] the New Testament should look much more like our Bill of Rights [...]

How did you come to this conclusion?

Any Old Worldview? I think my question still stands. That question is: If the Mormon world view is "close enough" to merit salvation, then I'm not certain why "any old world view" wouldn't be sufficient?

For example, why shouldn't all Muslims be saved as well? The more one studies the evangelical tactics of Mormons the more one recognizes that they closely parallel Muslim tactics: First, claim that our scriptures have been corrupted; Second, point to their own prophet who has the "true, uncorrupted" word of God; Finally, change the nature and message of that God to suit the views of a heretical leader.

Dangerous Lies? That being said, in these posts I never claimed that all Mormons are going to Hell. However, why even begin to make the dangerous wager that those who present a direct affront to our Scripture will in fact be saved? I call it a "dangerous wager" because I think you would agree that Truth does exist. And if Truth exists then lies can exist, too. Like Greg, I contend that some lies are dangerous.

In the end, the statement that Mormons are not destined for Hell may turn out to be one of those dangerous lies.

Mr. Baggins,

I appreciate your thorough reply. I'll keep mine brief.

I believe, evangelicals need to re-examine their interpretation of salvation and the hereafter.

Christians are WAY to concerned with the afterlife in light of...
The OT says very little about the afterlife and the NT mostly speaks about an "abundant / life of ages" when using terms like "eternal", and "the grave / city dump" when speaking about Hell.

The most "Dangerous lie" may turn out to be Hell itself.

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