Things do not add Up: The Question from Rob Bell’s “Love Wins”

It’s no longer just a video clip from HarperOne promoting Rob Bell’s Love Wins.  Many of us have actually read the book.  And if we haven’t, we’ve read a few reviews of it.

Thanks to HarperOne, I’ve read and reviewed Love Wins.

The second page into chapter one, “What About the Flat Tire?” Rob Bell asks the question, a question that he will come back to throughout the book:

Does God punish people for thousands of years with infinite, eternal torment for things they did in their few finite years of life? (bold added)

The question is no insignificant question.  I’m glad Rob Bell had the guts to ask it.  And now I find myself wrestling with it.

And I’ve even heard that God is glorified through the eternal, conscious torment of unbelievers in hell.

In my finite mind, things do not add up: a few years of unbelief, rebellion, and disobedience equal infinite, eternal torment in hell.

So I ask, What kind of God is this?

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163 Responses to Things do not add Up: The Question from Rob Bell’s “Love Wins”

  1. Craig Benno says:

    Huge question T.C. Huge question!

    Personally I still think that the wages of sin is death – yet the gift of God is eternal life. It’s not that death is a punishment, its more a result and instead a reward of eternal life is offered.

  2. Todd Beal says:

    TC,

    It is not acts alone by which one is eternally punished just as it is not acts alone by which one is eternally rewarded, but by the condition of one’s heart from which those acts proceed. Over which, finite time holds no claim and is therefore irrelevant; thus, eternal judgment for finite acts.

  3. kenny chmiel says:

    It’s not a math equation. The nature of sin needs to be explored a bit more in this whole discussion. Someone should do a biblical theology of sin to understand it’s nature and consequences. This whole Bell episode is going from a discussion of what the text is explaining to a discussion governed by reason disconnected from the story of scripture. We need more discussion of key texts and less discussion of infinite vs. finite actions.

  4. Jon Hughes says:

    T.C.,

    I struggle with the concept of eternal conscious punishment for the unredeemed. Who doesn’t? But we’re bound by the Word of God here, aren’t we?

    By Bell’s reasoning, we could not expect eternal life to be consciously eternal either, could we?

    • T.C. R says:

      Craig,

      It think it’s a question worth asking.

      Todd,

      Well, I know Bell, echoing Wright, talks of those in hell being less human to the point of ex-human.

      Kenny,

      But how can we engage Scripture without reason? How can we engage Scripture as it applies to us with emotional investment as will?

      |By Bell’s reasoning, we could not expect eternal life to be consciously eternal either, could we?|

      Jon,

      Of course we’re bound by the Word of God! I’m not debating that.

      But help me to understand your question as it applies to conscious eternal life?

  5. The wages of sin is death according to Scripture. Honestly, this question is not one that I wrestle with. Strangely enough, I think of the Parable of the Vineyard (Matthew 20) where the landowner gives the same day’s page to all his vineyard workers despite the fact that some CERTAINLY were employed longer than others. Was the landowner unjust in doing so?

    Time in the vineyard did not affect the wages the tenants received. In the same way, the comparative brevity of life now does not affect the wages received when one chooses to reject Christ.

  6. carl sweatman says:

    To echo the comments of those before me, but bouncing off a different wall: it is entirely possible to ask a significant question which is at the same time a wrong one, and that is what Bell has done. Punishment is not because of wrong/evil/ungodly deeds; it is because of rejection of God.

  7. Jon says:

    I’m with you T.C.; not a huge fan of the whole thing. I really, really hope annihilationism is correct and that when it says God will destroy the wicked, what it means is God will wipe them out of existence rather than eternally inflict pain, misery, and anguish on them. I understand eradication from a God of holy love; but Miltonian eternal torture stuff… not down with it.

    And then along with that I really, really hope that God didn’t predestine human beings to that kind of eternal suffering in order to display the full manifestation of his glory… in some way. Because that’s a little twisted, let’s be honest.

  8. Ferg says:

    Tc
    Forgive me if I misrepresent Calvinism but I don’t understand how a Calvinist could have a problem with hell.
    A belief system that says God ordains in his good pleasure all the evils of the world including rape, sexual abuse and a myriad of terrors, and ordains who will go to hell anyway without genuinely giving them much of a choice is in my viewing of it a God who would have no problem with eternal punishment as it seems part of His nature to act like that anyway.
    A couple of weeks ago John Piper had a prayer for Japan on his website that prayed that behind this tragedy people would see the smiling providence of God.
    Really? Is that what we are to convey to people? Yes your child was raped, it’s evil and sinful and devastating and God appears to be angry and maybe sad about it but that just anthropomorphism, he’s actually happy that all is going according to plan.
    That to me sounds mental but also sounds like a God perfectly happy to eternally punish people.
    Again, forgive me if I misrepresent.

    • T.C. R says:

      Missional girl,

      We’re talking grace in that Vineyard Parable. Now if you want to, then, turn around and apply such conclusion to those who reject Christ, it’s something that Scripture doesn’t do.

      |Punishment is not because of wrong/evil/ungodly deeds; it is because of rejection of God.|

      Carl,

      Fair enough. But why does this rejection of God in finite time translate to punishment in infinite time.

      |And then along with that I really, really hope that God didn’t predestine human beings to that kind of eternal suffering in order to display the full manifestation of his glory… in some way. Because that’s a little twisted, let’s be honest.|

      Jon,

      At any rate, it’s something that each of us must work our for ourselves.

      Ferg,

      Throughout the book, Bell calls the Calvinist conclusions on such matters into account. These are not simple matters. As I understand Calvinist, the emphasis is usually on God’s sovereignty over all things.

      I find no problem with Piper’s statement about God’s providential smile. I think is what is needed, even if you’re not a Calvinist.

  9. Jason says:

    “By Bell’s reasoning, we could not expect eternal life to be consciously eternal either, could we?”

    Jon, this is where I tend to go with the question. Just as the redeemed will consciously and physically dwell in God’s presence in the new creation, so too will the damned dwell in conscious separation from God.

    • Jon Hughes says:

      Jason,

      This would seem to be the clear implication of Daniel 12:2, as well as a number of N.T. verses.

      Ferg,

      Calvinists do seem to get out of balance at times, and forget passages like Genesis 6:6 and Matthew 23:37.

  10. Dan says:

    I would like to ask the opposite question of Bell: “Is it fair to accept Christ for only a few short years and receive eternity with him as a reward?”

    • Jon Hughes says:

      Exactly!

      • Here, Here Dan! We can only “reason” in biblical revelation. But we will still never know all the answers! Let God be God, measure the Doctrines of Grace! I am with Carl here, this is the wrong question; when one is standing before Almighty God, we shall then see what each of us has to say… questions? Perhaps for the Redeemed, how did such a Holy God choose to redeem me? For the lost and reprobate, perhaps..I did not become redemptively human, and I grovel before myself. As was said, the doctrine of human sin is so profound! But the Federal Head is always Adam, but also the Last Adam. Again, GOD will have the last statement…and Glory! When we come full circle here, it is always the Doctrine of God! (Rom. 11:36)

    • Todd Beal says:

      Right there is the answer to this post. Problem identified; problem solved. Well said, Dan.

    • AMW says:

      I don’t see how this answers the question or solves the problem. Assuming you’re right, now we’ve got two injustices instead of one.

  11. T.C. R says:

    |Jon, this is where I tend to go with the question. Just as the redeemed will consciously and physically dwell in God’s presence in the new creation, so too will the damned dwell in conscious separation from God.|

    Jason,

    Why should we have a problem with the application of God’s grace in this way. In fact, grace by its very nature does these sort of things that defy human reason. Remember the Parable of the Vineyard.

    |I would like to ask the opposite question of Bell: “Is it fair to accept Christ for only a few short years and receive eternity with him as a reward?”|

    Dan,

    Yes, because we’re talking God’s grace here. We should exult in this!

    • Dan says:

      TC, I’m not so sure about the answer. Because really the question comes down to the use of “fair.” That’s my point. Rob Bell really isn’t asking a very good question. It’s ALL because of the grace AND sovereignty of God. I don’t think my question is any more “fair” than Rob Bell’s question, in that respect. I think if Bell asks the question to that end, the opposite end should be explored. And we DO exult in God’s grace! But we should bow in awe of his absolute sovereignty as well.

      It is not “fair”, to use Bell’s word, that I live 85 years like hell, confess Christ in my last breath and get into heaven FOR ETERNITY. That is not “fair.” That is grace.

      • T.C. R says:

        Dan,

        True, Bell’s question does bring up that discussion about “fairness.” It is inevitable.

        But regarding the 85 year old, that’s the nature of grace. But I don’t think this necessarily runs the other way. About grace, we know for a fact that it is amazing.

      • Todd Beal says:

        Dan,

        | It is not “fair”, to use Bell’s word, that I live 85 years like hell, confess Christ in my last breath and get into heaven FOR ETERNITY. That is not “fair.” That is grace. |

        No, that by itself is not fair. But, the fact that God sends someone to eternal punishment after a short time of disbelief, and also gives eternal life to someone after only a few minutes of belief is fair. God is fair in that he works it both ways. The bottom line; the condition of one’s heart upon leaving this earth is the deciding factor, not time. For the purposes of salvation, time is a window of opportunity (a comma before eternity), not the measure of duration. Otherwise, if you were saved as a child and I as an adult, you would receive a greater reward in heaven than I would, for the greater duration of your salvation.

        God is fair in all things, including his extension of fairness alongside grace.

      • A “comma before eternity”..I love that! Such are all of our lives! “Choose this day whom you will serve!” (Josh. 24:15) The Gospel has and always will be a choice. Christ is that choice for eternity gained or lost!

      • AMW says:

        I think I’m starting to understand where the doctrine of purgatory came from.

      • Todd Beal says:

        | “Choose this day whom you will serve!” (Josh. 24:15) The Gospel has and always will be a choice. Christ is that choice for eternity gained or lost! |

        Absolutely, Fr. Robert. I got a bit choked up just reading this!

  12. kenny chmiel says:

    I said “reason disconnected from scripture.” Reason isn’t autonomous in anything and it owes it’s loyalty to it’s premises and if the premises are disconnected or uninformed by the story of scripture, we as Christians should have a problem, especially if the reason starts to move into the biblical story.

  13. God isn’t dragging people to a party they don’t want to attend. If you reject Jesus and the free gift of salvation in this life, why would a loving God force you to endure the fruit of salvation in the eternity?

    He would not. We get what we “work” for. Do I revel in the idea of people being tormented eternally? I don’t.

    Jesus offers eternal life to humanity who have a very finite time line in this life. Why? Don’t know. What I do know is that He is sovereign and gracious.

  14. kenny chmiel says:

    “Cur deus homo” anyone? I know Anselm is out of favor these days of Cristus victor imperialism, but this work does address the magnitude of sin done by finite individuals.

    • Good point Kenny,

      We love to quote Anselm’s ‘faith seeking understanding’, but few moderns realize, save like the words and theology of P.T. Forsyth, that the real Pauline doctrine of the Atonement is Ansemian! I would challenge our theological friends to read Forsyth’s: The Cruciality of the Cross!

  15. T.C. R says:

    |I don’t understand what premises you are signifying here.|

    Kenny,

    I was being more anticipatory than anything else. You can discard that, since you weren’t really advancing these from Scripture itself.

    |He would not. We get what we “work” for. Do I revel in the idea of people being tormented eternally? I don’t.|

    Missional girl,

    And the person who rejects God’s offer in Christ and thus continue in rebellion, in this finite time, gets an infinity of torment to think about this?

    • TC, btw just to drop this in, even the pagan Plato said the soul of man was eternal!

      • T.C. R says:

        How did our friend Plato arrive at this? And what did he mean by “eternal”?

      • TC,

        Because of the depth of Plato and Platonism…immutable essences, ideas and just the logical forms which make the world of essential reality (for him), one must read some Plato here! It would be too long I am afraid for a open blog post or reply. But simply eternal for him was the essence of the human soul, note too his understanding of the Universals. A pivotal concept is that of his “forms”. These are independent, real, divine, invisible, and changeless. But they share the features of the things of which they are the form, but and also cause them. Welcome to Plato! 🙂

  16. @ TC
    Yes. Folks are tripping on “time” and God isn’t–at least from my study of Scripture. To be clear, eternal separation from the Almighty is torment in itself.

  17. Dan says:

    TC, that’s my point. Grace isn’t about “fair.” Thus, Bell’s question is not a good one. God’s sovereignty isn’t “fair” to us, either.

    Does it bother us? Obviously. It is horrible to think of, but our view of “fair” has nothing to do with the sovereignty, or grace, of God.

  18. T.C. R says:

    |Yes. Folks are tripping on “time” and God isn’t–at least from my study of Scripture. To be clear, eternal separation from the Almighty is torment in itself.|

    Missional girl,

    That’s the “torment” of it.

    Dan,

    But Bell’s point is not about grace. It’s about seeing God as the One who sends people to an eternal, conscious hell.

    Yes, this view of God’s sovereign is outside our purview.

    I’m reminded of Job 42:3: “You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
    Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
    things too wonderful for me to know.” (NIV)

    • Dan says:

      Yet, we still ask, don’t we? We still probe. Asking the questions come natural to us.

      • T.C. R says:

        That’s why I’ve taken a different approach to Bell’s book. That’s why I can’t understand how a church can dismiss it’s pastor, and so on. Needless fallouts, I say. But this is just me.

  19. posting a bit blind here – TC it is not a person’s acts that separate them from God, it is the heart. And yes, the rebellious heart that hates God will lead that person toward separation from God…

  20. T.C. R says:

    Brian,

    What kind of separation do you have in mind? 😉

  21. kenny chmiel says:

    3 chapters into Bells book and so many Questions!! So far this book is written at such a low theological level it boarders on being silly. I thought Bell went to Fuller! Anyway I hope it gets better to justify the 11.99 and to think I could have bought another work by Larry Hurtado at the same price.

  22. T.C. R says:

    Fr. Robert,

    I had my introductory share of Plato a few years back during an undergrad philosophy class. But hardly the transition was made into theological matters. You, know “forms,” and the like. 😉

    But of course, building a theological structure on Greek philosophy and the like is not going to cut it out here.

    Kenny,

    It’s the same impression I had at first. But keep reading. Also, keep in mind that Bell is writing a book for the average person to access.

  23. Dan says:

    TC, please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not dismissing Bell, nor am I dismissing any pastor that would raise questions. I think questions need to be raised. I am attempting to INTERACT with Bell’s question and show it’s just not a good one. It can be asked differently, in my opinion, and the overall attitude is one we all have from time to time, I think.

    If his question can’t be interacted with, then the mistake is made on BOTH sides… Don’t side with Rob Bell… and don’t seem to side AGAINST him…

    Fundamentally, as I am trying to say, the question he poses can be dismantled by asking the same question in the opposite direction. That doesn’t take away the problem many have, which is the eternal punishment of a soul. That’s why we have universalism, annihilationism, etc.

  24. Bobby Grow says:

    TCR,

    What from Scripture does not “add up?” This is a huge issue you’re dealing with here, in my mind, ultimately, potentially, challenging who God is and what He thinks and knows (from His vantage point) what is best. I think with something of this gravity, it would be prudent, for you, to not just throw a question up like this; w/o also first throwing up some exegesis on salient passages that speak to the “eternal conscious separation from God stuff” (hell), in order to better serve all of us in this really subjective and emotionally driven conversation.

    • Bobby: Agree, this is the problem with the Bell mind-set! It is one thing to have some thoughts and questions, but quite another to write a theological book about one’s questions, etc. Especially on a pastoral level! And in reality Bell is a emergent type, so why really should we be surprised? Emergents make their living here.

      • Dan says:

        What I think is that my question posed earlier and Bell’s are similar, just at opposite ends of the spectrum. The answer to both questions is: “NO. It’s NOT ‘fair.'”

        But, somehow, we’re okay with the unfairness of eternal life and not okay with eternal damnation. It SHOULD bother us. It should bother us so much we pray more and ask for the power of the Spirit to use us more so that we demonstrate the radical love of God on a daily basis.

      • Dan,

        Well we would be closer there. But, always the doctrine of God! I think that is also Bobby’s point, and I know mine.

  25. Kevin S. says:

    This is a tough question that’s not easy to answer, especially when we remove ourselves from Scripture. But there are so many questions not answered even by scripture because scripture can support eternal separation and it might not depending on how you look at it. There doesn’t seem to be an easy answer.

  26. T.C. R says:

    |But, somehow, we’re okay with the unfairness of eternal life and not okay with eternal damnation. It SHOULD bother us. It should bother us so much we pray more and ask for the power of the Spirit to use us more so that we demonstrate the radical love of God on a daily basis.|

    Dan,

    The reason why we’re okay with “unfairness” on the side of eternal life is because we’re talking about grace here. Again, it’s the nature of grace. This is the basis. But the same doesn’t go for the opposite direction. We’re talking two different things here.

    But I do agree with the need for prayer in all this. Yes!

    Bobby,

    Fair enough. But it’s a question that we should all be preoccupied with whether not we agree with each other. Exegesis of salient texts is just that exegesis. But we’re left still with endless questions. As you know, this is not a new debate. But of course, each generation of Bible readers and interpreters have to wrestle with the same.

    Kevin,

    Exactly! It comes down to the reader. But I hope our motives are pure as we engage Scripture at that serious level.

    It ultimately comes down to, What is God like? But who am I a mere mortal to ask this.

    • TC,

      Personally, I think the real problem is that we so-called “Evangelical” Christians just no longer (as a whole) believe and tremble before God, nor His Word! I am for example re-reading, in my devotional time, my copy of Packer’s old classic: Knowing God. And certainly the main-stream Evanglical’s are way far from from his positions now! Also, I bet most now, have never even read the book! (Note there was a 20th anniversary copy back in 1993). I say all this just to make a certain point. And I hope that is obvious.

      • Bobby Grow says:

        I’ve read that book 😉 . Although, I’m not really a Packer fan, overall.

      • Bobby,

        Well we both know that Packer is an old school type Federal Calvinist. But I quote the book for its Evangelical so-called heritage, which is now well on the wane.. to say the least. 🙂

      • T.C. R says:

        Fr. Robert,

        But it’s how we understand this “trembling before God” now, after the events of the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ? I adore the doctrine of God, but much of it calls for reimagining.

      • Bobby Grow says:

        I don’t really think that a Doctrine of God is so much in need of a “re-imagining,” as much of a “hearkening back to;” with folks like Athanasius, Didymus the Blind (in some respects), Ephiphanius, and Cyril (contra the Cappadocians, in some ways). TCR, you should read TFT’s The Trinitarian Faith or his The Christian Doctrine of God — I actually think the former is better to start with first.

        Fr Rob,

        I agree the “Evangelicalism” that I new, in ethos, is on the wane (in some ways that is good, at least “culturally,” but in other ways I’m not so happy with “doctrinally” — my real concern is that folks seem to be rejecting the Councils like Nicaea-Const.-Chalcedon as mere fixtures marginalized by their contextual position so that in a way what they articulated there is seen as extra-biblical and discardable by folks who don’t seem to have much of an idea about what these stalwarts were dealing with dogmatically and scripturally relative to a canon or regula fidei).

      • kenny chmiel says:

        Herman Bavink’s “The doctrine of God” was the book that made me tremble. Packer was baby food compared to the harder dutch mind.

      • Kenny,

        If ya ever met Sir Packer, you would quickly see he is not baby-pablum, and he has a real shepherd’s heart. Sadly something lacking in far too many Reformed today! And I like Bavink also, and many of the Dutch Reformed, Ridderbos’s ‘Paul’ is still one of my favorites.

    • Bobby Grow says:

      TCR,

      Yes, the theo-logic of the Text is always present as well. I wonder though, where was God’s grace when Jesus was hanging on the cross?

      • Bobby Grow says:

        And I mean when Jesus, Himself, personally was being tortured and physically/spiritually dying. Where was the grace of God then, for His Son?

      • Bobby,

        Since Christ died for sin and sinners, should we not make some Anselmian position for the Death of Christ? Even in the Anglican Articles, the Death of Christ is a “satisfaction” for Sin! But does the Death of Christ make satisfaction for the sins of those that finally reject Christ? And what do we make exegetically of John 17: 12?

      • Bobby Grow says:

        Fr Rob,

        I don’t see a problem with “satisfaction,” as long as it is framed in a way that sees man’s need to be reconciled to God and not God reconciled to man. Of course I see this apparent dilemma reoriented when we see both Godward/manward enveloped in the Person of Jesus Christ.

        So I don’t really see “satisfaction” as some sort of “transaction” that satisfies something in God; which would then only make Jesus the ‘instrument’ of God’s satisfaction; which would then break asunder the persons of God from His coindwelling being.

      • Bobby,

        So did the Death of Christ do anything toward God’s wrath and righteousness? I say this with the debate of Romans 3: 25-26; and note too Rom. 5: 9-10.

      • Bobby Grow says:

        Fr Rob,

        Yes, I think so; but I don’t think that this is the only issue or THE frame through which the atonement should be understood. I think the atonement dealt with a deeper problem, a heart problem — which clearly the forensic aspect then becomes an aspect of — but I think the cross in Christ dealt with our ontological estrangement from God, which in the process also deals with the symptomatic “Law-breaking” that resulted from man’s estranged heart from God. God’s wrath is prominent in the Text, but I think there is an “order of being,” so to speak; so that God’s wrath is driven by “who” He is in His being (or love — and not in the Rob Bell sense of that idea, which seems to be more of a social Trinitarian derivative).

      • T.C. R says:

        |”Where was God’s grace when Jesus was hanging on the Cross?”|

        Bobby,

        Are you implying by this question that God’s grace meant to rescuing of the Son from the torture and agony of the Cross?

        I confess that this is a hard question, since the Son is never portrayed in Scripture as the object of the Father’s grace. Grace is for the undeserving.

      • Bobby,

        I am being pressed back on the legal, forensic aspect.. at least first. Indeed the ontological place of God cannot really be approached by us, until we have first seen God’s Law, but here also thank goodness God has provided His Own Son as the Advocate, it is both Death and Resurrection. And to use an older Reformed idea and biblical truth, it also ‘Christ in-secession’, on the throne of God. We see this ever so fully in St. Paul’s writings . . . Romans 8: 31-34, etc.

        And, God’s does have an election of grace.. a people that He redeems for Himself! But, those that don’t come, that don’t see Christ as Lord and Savior, these will certainly suffer, and an in an eternal loss. And simply, “And the tesimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 5: 11-12)

        So even in the Johannine text and sense, there is life and light, and darkness and loss. And it is simply in the hands and purpose of God that this is all played out, as we can see in John 17.

        And so we are brought back to fallen man, who is still responsible before the Throne of God, now, and shall be eternally. In the Gospel of God itself, and God’s righteousness. (Rom.1: 16-17) The Doctrines of the Grace of God!

      • Bobby Grow says:

        @TCR,

        Actually I’m looking at the cross as an analogue or way to think about co-existence of God’s grace/love and hell in eternal (or prima facie scriptural) ways. I see Jesus as God’s grace (being in act) personified; and I see the cross as representative of the shadow-side of God’s life in Christ. So that those for whom Christ died, and reject His life for theirs, in a salvific sense, are still in Christ, but only “live” out of the wrath of the Gospel itself. The reality is, God’s grace was never truer but on the cross in Christ; the Father never ultimately abandoned His Son (His grace and love never ceased, even during the event of the cross). So I see how God has the capacity to be always already loving and gracious even in the face of the cross.

        The way I might try to organically fit the reality of eternal hell, with the cross as analogue, is to see it as people “living” out of the chasm that Jesus inhabited on the cross itself. Something like that . . . trying to walk where Angels fear to tread, and stay faithful to the regular reading of Scripture on this.

  27. T.C. R says:

    |I don’t really think that a Doctrine of God is so much in need of a “re-imagining,” as much of a “hearkening back to;” with folks like Athanasius, Didymus the Blind (in some respects), Ephiphanius, and Cyril (contra the Cappadocians, in some ways). TCR, you should read TFT’s The Trinitarian Faith or his The Christian Doctrine of God — I actually think the former is better to start with first.|

    Bobby,

    Better put, our doctrine of God needs re-imagining. We’re simply parrots of what has been bequeathed to us.

    • TC,

      I think it is unfair to say we are mere “parrots” with our past teachers. Many are “gifts” from God, i.e. pastor-teachers. It seems to me it is an “emergent” desire too often to try to “re-imagine” often what we just don’t perhaps even understand in the first place. I am convinced of this myself in what passes today in many Evangelical places. And for example, do you think people like the American A.W. Tozer are just pithy?

      • T.C. R says:

        Fair enough. If we begin with the Text and arrive at the same conclusion as our past teachers, then great. But I’m not sure this is how most of us approach the matter. For example, my Calvinism was first filtered through past teachers. But now I’ve rejected most of their conclusions, as I engage the Text on its own terms.

      • TC,

        Well being an Anglican, I had other theology, besides just Packer when I was much younger. And I for the most part, I was kinda self-taught in my Reformed theology, even in sem way back when. I had my English Puritans, and then the Dutch Reformed. But British theology has been rather liberal for a long time. Funny, my conservative nature came more from my early Catholicism, and my WW2 father and great uncles.

    • Todd Beal says:

      | Better put, our doctrine of God needs re-imagining. We’re simply parrots of what has been bequeathed to us. |

      TC,

      Yes, most theology is parroted and this is the problem I find with most theology. Most theology, including many of the theological opinions presented here, although based on zeal, is nothing more than approaching God’s Word with a human mindset first, and complete submission to the Holy Spirit’s teaching, second. Our default primary mindset/”heartset” is “I’m going to figure this scripture out for myself or borrow what someone else says, then I’m going to plead with the Holy Spirit to lead me based on that head knowledge.” Nothing has changed since the Pharisees. They had zeal then; we have zeal now. They shoved God out of the way for their own beliefs back then, we shove God out of the way for our own beliefs today, and then have the audacity to call that theology.

      Most scripture is not a matter of personal interpretation; otherwise, God would not call it Truth. Paul authored some very important scripture that speaks of personal interpretation over the written code, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” and Romans 14. Other than this category of scripture, the Bible says, “This is the way it is whether you like it or not”. There is a correct way and an incorrect way of interpreting and understanding scripture, no in-between. When God says the sinful will be tormented day and night in the Lake of Fire, what does he mean? Read the scripture and find out. Stop relying on man-made theology to provide your spiritual theology. This is the Holy Spirit’s job. It is then our job to reason through what the Holy Spirit teaches us. Unfortunately, we have it the other way around. We have become spiritually blinded by our egocentric pathetic human intellect.

      For the most part these theological debates go one of two ways: “I say it means this”, “No, you’re wrong and I say it means this”; or “Well, I guess we’ll never know because we can’t reach agreement, therefore it’s a matter of personal interpretation”. From what I read in the scripture, the Holy Spirit is saying, “If you’ll just shut up, and quiet your heart, mind, and spirit, I’ll teach you.”

    • Bobby Grow says:

      @TCR,

      I don’t think so! I wouldn’t say that we are parrots at all. But I also think it highly arrogant to presume that what has been said before, by those Teachers (cf. Eph. 4) in the body of Christ, needs to be said again, and from scratch (which seems to be what is going on for some today, with a rationalist kind of scriptura de nuda). I’m not saying we can’t work constructively “through” the past, but that we should recognize the value that the past has provided. And beyond that, what needs to be overcome, apparently, is more than mere assertions by folk who seem to think that the past (and in this case, the Patristics in particular) is some sort of monolithic whole that can be hastily generalized in slip-shot kind of ways. It can’t be, and people need to spend a lot more time (obviously) understanding the issues that the Patristics (for example) worked through. Then if these same people who dis the Pats. can provide something more robust and a different (more scriptural) grammar; then I’ll be ready and willing to take notice, but that’s a rather steep burden of proof.

      So not parrots, not dicta-phones, but God’s people; who are what we are because of Gods immediate/mediated presence through His Spirit which covers “all” of salvation history (into the present and future). We stand on the shoulders of those before us, we’re not bending over to them (to be crude!).

  28. John says:

    Martin Bashir asked a vital question of Rob Bell on MSNBC –

    “I’m asking you how you respond here and now. The question I’m asking you what you seem to be saying in the book, is that … love will melt everyone’s heart eventually — some even postmortem in death. So you’re the one making the speculation about the afterlife. What I’m asking is, is it irrelevant and immaterial about how you respond to Christ now to determine your eternal destiny? Is that relevant or irrelevant? Does it have a bearing or does it have no bearing?”

    http://www.christianexaminer.com/Articles/Articles%20Mar11/Art_Mar11_18.html

  29. T.C. R says:

    |“comma before eternity”.|

    I’m afraid matters are more complex than our pithy sayings.

    • Todd Beal says:

      TC,

      This statement is not meant to be a pithy saying. I used it to further clarify the relationship of earth-based time to Salvation’s window of opportunity.

  30. Jon Hughes says:

    John,

    I’ve just watched it. Bell reminds me of Joel Osteen in that he’s brilliant at not answering the question, and taking up the entire interview time without really saying anything at all.

    He is quite frankly dangerous.

  31. Craig Benno says:

    How we approach Bell and his line of questioning will depend on our framework of God and how we approach the Scriptures.

    If we approach the Scriptures as a systematic textbook and therefore arrive at a logical systematic theology – our frame work will be totally different to that of someone who may approach the Scriptures through a more Writean or Barthinian framework.

    A lot of our prior foundations are at stake in regards to some of the questions Rob Bell asks. It like removing a card from a tower of cards we are frightened that the whole shebang will come tumbling down…

    I for one after immersing myself into the Gospels, immersing myself into the love of Christ and immersing myself into his narrative… cannot find any talk of him teaching about Gods wrath needing to be appeased… yet much of the frame work that surrounds the Rob Bell controversy is steeped in this very foundation…

    • Craig,

      Indeed our presuppositions are very important! Myself as one that has done theology for many years, I always seem return to a position seeking some balance of both the biblical and systematic theology. But, I confess I am hopelessly Reformed by conviction and persuasion! And here I also see a biblical and Reformed presuppositional theology. And here Doctrine is the grammar of Faith! So not much room for the “emergent” Bell in my world! 🙂 I think it is interesting that the Book of Job has hardly been mentioned in this whole affair! (Though I brother TC did make comment here.) I have spent many hours in my personal life in the Book of Job! We should note too that for Job God is always the sovereign, providential God!

      • Craig Benno says:

        I read a article about a seminary professor who gives his students an option of doing exams and assignments as is normal or taking part in a debating team.

        The teams would have to research a particular position and he wouldn’t tell the teams what side they were going to be taking – until a short time before the actual debate…

        This meant that the students were forced to truly understand the various positions through the frame work of those who held those positions – and not through their own frame work of understanding….and it was only through doing this – that true understanding and engagement with other theological view points actually happened.

  32. kenny chmiel says:

    Now in Chapter 7 of Bells book – it’s really bad. Why all the writing on such a badly written book is a bigger question for me at this point. His glib Cheesy jokes and banal side comments are killing me. My main problem is his exegesis on scripture especially his work on heaven, ghenna, hades, and eternal. His exegesis on the usage of these terms within the contexts in which they are used either limit/skew or leave out key clauses which give the traditionalist reading warrant.

    All the while I keep asking myself who is the audience that Bell is writing for. It seems he is upset at Christians who dare to seem to think these ideas are different from his and then live the unsettling implications out by telling people they might be headed for torment in a flaming garbage dump (what a horrible metaphor). He keeps talking about people who reject Christ because of these bad ideas and how a healthy dose of his view will allow for an acceptance. I keep asking myself what about the traditionalist who has accepted Christ and the horrible doctrine of hell. Are they psychologically weird. It is the love of Christ that causes one to love Christ, hell or no hell.
    I think Bell is trying to help hurting people come to love God, but he seems ready to distort scripture in order to help (plus he seems the need to defend God as this big teddybear -got that from Bobby). He claims that Christianity is a big tent which gives warrant to his claims, true, but this isn’t the standard now is it. If he wants to be taken seriously by students of the text a slower/more careful exegesis needs to be done.

  33. T.C. R says:

    |Something like that . . . trying to walk where Angels fear to tread, and stay faithful to the regular reading of Scripture on this.|

    Bobby,

    I appreciate what you’re saying. Yes, many see Titus 2:11 as Christ personifying God’s grace.

    What exactly do you mean by “stay faithful to the regular reading of Scripture”? Are saying that this conclusion cannot be tested? Help me out here.

    |This statement is not meant to be a pithy saying. I used it to further clarify the relationship of earth-based time to Salvation’s window of opportunity.|

    Todd,

    I understand. But I don’t think we can so reduce that matter.

    Craig,

    Yes, many of us are scared our challenging our approach. Let me paraphrase Socrates here: “The unexamined theological approach is not worth holding onto.”

    • Todd Beal says:

      | I understand. But I don’t think we can so reduce that matter. |

      TC, what point are you trying to make.

    • Bobby Grow says:

      @TCR,

      No, I’m not saying something can’t be tested (or shouldn’t). When I say “regular reading,” I’m saying My reading 😉 . . . of course.

      But really, TCR, you are starting to surprise me a bit; at some point there must be a sense wherein God is no longer our wax nose, but in fact stands over and against us as GOD! The kinds of questions I see Bell asking seem wreckless, and seem to be for the people and not God; which is what I think Dan was getting at above (somewhere). I know plenty of PhD’s and PhD students (right now) who study both Barth and Torrance, and I already they take issue with me on sticking to what Scripture plainly says (which they recognize — by and large) versus going the route that many of them think the theo-logic leads (the way, at least, of a so called hopeful universalist). At some point we break off from our questions, and say “not my will, Father, but yours;” deferring to God’s wisdom and knowledge and standing on what has been plainly revealed (Deut 29.29) in Scripture. I haven’t seen any convincing exegesis that actually (semantically) calls into question the fact that Scripture indicates that Hell is eternal (on the face of the Text); what is driving the current discussion (spawned by Bell) is not really the passages of Scripture that deal with this, but a broader theological framework that is informing any exegesis that is actually being offered. Ironically, its folks who follow Barth/Torrance et al (theologically) that might allow for a kind of universalism. And then of course, there is the “theology” constructed on sentimental/”intuitive”/emotional grounds wherein we end up with another potential “reason” for a kind of “universalism” (so Bell). Either way, I simply believe that the plain reading of Scripture does not support that (no matter how harsh it may seem to be to us — if the Lord has something else in mind in re. to this question when we get to Heaven, then of course we’ll go with that 😉 . . . but until that time, what I see in Scripture does not allow for the kind of “questioning” that you are engaged in right now [in this post]).

      Anyway, I think Scripture needs to be dealt with at this point versus just “our questions.”

  34. The scriptures lay out judgment as a result of loving darkness more than light, John 3:19. Before I became a Christian I loved ungodliness more than I loved God. I refused to repent because I loved doing ungodly things. These were not finite decisions either. I made conscious decisions which have ramification unto this day. My sins multiplied across this world like a ripple effect of a stone in a pond. I lied, stole, hurt people, and these in turn left scars which remain to this day.

    We all have received wrong as well. We all have hurt which others have dealt out to us. The question remains, “what about that wrong that never got righted?” If there is no judgment, then God is not just. Even our very lives are due to the union of a man and woman which produced the unique YOU. Ongoing consequences. The word “finite” is a flawed attempt to minimize the depravity of sinfulness.

    Those who are not saved (non-Christians) are separated from God and do not want to be joined to Him. Why would that change just because they die? While I don’t agree with everything in The Great Divorce, it really makes one think. Bell’s entire premise is completely faulty.

    Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

    -The Orange Mailman

    • T.C. R says:

      Todd,

      This is complex matter. This is my point.

      Bobby,

      My position here shouldn’t come as a surprise to you. I consider new leaven a theological lab – I’m always rethinking Scripture. 😉

      What we call the “plain reading of Scripture” may not really be the case. Why? There’s always something that we have not considered. As I said earlier, we’re talking a newer generation of Bible readers. Of course, we continue to respect the past and listen to their voices. But is it possible to go beyong them? Of course! The Spirit is still blowing.

      |These were not finite decisions either. I made conscious decisions which have ramification unto this day. My sins multiplied across this world like a ripple effect of a stone in a pond. I lied, stole, hurt people, and these in turn left scars which remain to this day.|

      Mailman,

      Since we’re still talking this life, our actions are still finite, though committed years back.

      |If there is no judgment, then God is not just.|

      Who says there is no judgment?

  35. I like it when Christians are not afraid to ask tough questions so I very much appreciate this blog post. That said, God’s grace doesn’t add up.

    • Bobby Grow says:

      And yet, “asking tough questions” (however “tough” might be defined, culturally vis-a-vis biblically/theologically) is not necessarily virtuous in itself. It’s very easy to “ask questions,” it’s much harder to try and provide answers to those questions. But the thing is, I still am not convinced at all that Bell is asking a tough question; instead, I see him trying to frame the discussion and favor it in a particular direction that fits with a theological persuasion that he is comfortable with — much like Plato’s Euthyprho “he who gets to ask/shape the questions wins the argument” . . . in Bell’s case “Love wins” or his version of what love is.

  36. T.C. R says:

    Missional girl,

    True, God’s grace doesn’t add up. I stand by that. 😉

    |But the thing is, I still am not convinced at all that Bell is asking a tough question; instead, I see him trying to frame the discussion and favor it in a particular direction that fits with a theological persuasion that he is comfortable with — much like Plato’s Euthyprho “he who gets to ask/shape the questions wins the argument” . . . in Bell’s case “Love wins” or his version of what love is.|

    Bobby,

    I’m not convinced that Bell is totally correct. In fact, his exegesis is seriously wanting at times. But he’s framed things in a way that I’ve not seen them framed before.

  37. T.C. R says:

    |Not new revelation, he’s not, TCR! But this is where you and I seem to be very different.|

    Bobby,

    No, not new revelation but addressing questions for a newer generation of seekers. This is what I respect more than anything else.

    Let’s not forget the 16th cen. Reformation. Now I’m not saying that Bell is approaching anything of this magnitude – but we’re talking a reformation nonetheless.

    • Bobby Grow says:

      Yes, I don’t have a problem with redressing certain things; but certain things I do.

      I think it’s way too quick to say that Bell’s work is something like a reformation (I’ll just say I hope not); it has some (media) attention at the moment, and sure it always will in the circles Bell inhabits (emergent) — but I don’t see anything [c]atholic happening here.

      • Reformation? Emergent doctrine (so-called) ain’t it! This would be an oxymoron to say the least.

      • Craig Benno says:

        Perhaps his doctrine isn’t “Reformed”. However; just perhaps his doctrine is in the spirit of the reformers, and is justifiably Biblically reformative?

      • Craig,

        Not in my “Reformative” world…ever! And again Reformed Scholasticism it ain’t! Reformed Dogmatics has its own order! And Bell, “biblical”? Only for the emergents!

      • Craig Benno says:

        Robert; what is the starting point of “Reformed” theology?

        Perhaps Bell is starting from a different point; which creates a different frame work and set of criteria.

      • Todd Beal says:

        Craig,

        | Robert; what is the starting point of “Reformed” theology?

        Perhaps Bell is starting from a different point; which creates a different frame work and set of criteria. |

        Rob Bell can’t answer a straight question, let alone create a different framework for a different set of criteria. A framework is simply that, a logical structure of integrity, something that Rob Bell’s theology lacks.

      • Craig,

        Reformed Theology is simply the doctrine of God, and the Doctrines of the Grace of God! But it always lets God by God, no matter what man might say, or think. And in my opinion Bell doesn’t have a clue here! Again, this is a biblical and theological issue. I would go so far as to say myself, that Bell has somewhat lost the Gospel!

      • Craig Benno says:

        Robert, Todd. There has to be a starting point when talking or creating a theology about the graces and doctrines of God.

        For instance – you could easily say it begins with the Bible – the question then has to be asked – at what point in the Bible does your theology start from and work out from?

        It appears to me that “Reformed” theology starts from the point of God’s “WRATH” – now I may very well be wrong here.. but I do say it appears to me that this is its starting point…and therefore any theology has to be looked at through that frame work of ideas.

      • Todd Beal says:

        Craig,

        The problem with Rob Bell’s “theology” is that it negates God’s wrath. He has no starting point because he has stepped off any Biblical grounds for establishing a starting point. One cannot blatantly negate God’s character and still remain on solid theological ground.

      • Craig,

        I think it is very plain that Reformed Theology starts with the doctrine of a Holy God: “For God”..(John 3:16)! But see also Romans 1:16-18 etc., to access your point.

      • T.C. R says:

        Bobby,

        All I’m saying is that our image of God may need re-imaging, with emphasis on “our.”

  38. TC, this life is continguous with the next. Souls are created in the here and now which will exist for all eternity based on the union between a man and a woman. When sin entered the human race, mankind did not cease to exist, but was thrust out from the presence of a Holy God. That’s what redemption is all about.

    This whole idea of finite is a false assumption. My sins have infinite consequences. They will keep multiplying from generation to generation. Lives have been brought into exisentence and physically cut short because of specific sins. What do you make of Exodus 34:5-7?

    Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

    -The Orange Mailman

  39. T.C. R says:

    Mailman,

    I’m in essential agreement with your major premise on some levels, but not altogether so.

    Yes, I affirm the implications of Exodus 34:5-7 but confined to this age.

  40. Craig Benno says:

    Todd. Does Bell Negate God’s ‘wrath’ in ‘Toto’ or does he negate the understanding you have of God’s wrath – within your own frame work of understanding God’s wrath?

    There is a huge difference… I would suggest that he does the latter and not the former.

    For instance – recently I blogged about the ‘Cross’ being a SIGN towards God’s forgiveness and is not the actual method of forgiveness. Throughout the Gospels we hear Jesus saying “He has the authority to forgive sins!” Therefore the Gospels themselves point to the cross as being a SIGN of God’s forgiveness. …

    Now within this frame work of understanding the cross – it now creates a whole heap of different assumptions about God’s wrath as well as what the cross did. For example… Jesus healed the paralytic man to prove he had the authority to forgive sins… was his word when he told the man his sins were forgiven – not enough?

    • Todd Beal says:

      Craig,

      On his MSNBC video, Rob Bell explicitly proclaimed that God’s love would eventually win over all people, in either this life, or at some point in post physical death. That is to say, Rob Bell does not believe in the Lake of Fire, God’s ultimate wrath in eternal perpetuity. If God’s love eventually wins over all people, in either this life or post physical death, then God’s wrath necessarily does not exist, a clear contradiction of scripture.

    • Craig Benno says:

      Todd. I have not read the book – so I am at a disadvantage.

      However from what I understand – he doesn’t say there isn’t a lake of fire. He does however interpret its meaning differently to perhaps what is commonly thought it means.

      There are many who also differ on the interpretation of the lake of fire from the standard reform stance of eternal conscious torment. John Stott being one of those who differ… and it could well be that Bell is holding to some kind of tension that can be found within Eastern Orthodoxy.

      • Todd Beal says:

        Craig,

        My question then, are they correct or incorrect in their interpretation? According to Rob Bell, God’s love ultimately wins over all people, either in this life or post physical death. This is a statement of absolute. One cannot absolutely say God’s love ultimately wins over all people, either in this life or post physical death, and at the same time say the Lake of Fire is real and therefore does exist. The two statements grossly contradict each other. Did you watch the video; if not, our conversation is pointless.

      • Craig Benno says:

        I have seen a number of videos about Rob Bell recently…I’m not sure which one you are talking about?

        From what I have seen, he seems to argue that the lake of fire is for the devil and his demons. John Stott would argue that for the unsaved the lake signifies eternal death… in a non conscious form of eternally being dead.

      • Todd Beal says:

        Craig,

        The video URL as submitted on this post by John: “MSNBC Host Makes Rob Bell Squirm”.

        | From what I have seen, he seems to argue that the lake of fire is for the devil and his demons. John Stott would argue that for the unsaved the lake signifies eternal death… in a non conscious form of eternally being dead. |

        Are they entirely correct in their interpretation of the Lake of Fire? Jesus himself, the author of scripture, says in Matthew 13:41-42, [41] “The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, [42] and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” – hardly a place of annihilation, but of eternal conscious torment. Would you be willing to stake your eternal life on the alternate chance that scripture does not mean what it explicitly says? I wouldn’t. If you will take the time to read all scripture that directly speaks of the Lake of Fire, eternal torment, etc, the text will speak for itself; there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” for those who choose to go there. According to Rob Bell’s “theology”, God’s ultimate winning love renders this impossible – once again, a gross contradiction of explicitly stated scripture.

      • Craig,

        I had the book from a friend, and at least spot read it pretty well. It seems your presupposition is going to be to follow Bell no matter what? I am myself convinced that Bell has lost the Gospel here! See the link I sent Todd.

        Kenny,

        Many in the visible “emergent” Church are in a free-fall now. It seems that apostasy has even set in to many historic type Evangelical Churches. Very sad!

      • Craig Benno says:

        Robert – I have not made any decision to follow Bell or not to follow him. As I stated – I am to read the book.

        However – I do have my own views on hell, which we have discussed elsewhere. It’s my experience that many within the ‘reformed’ camp will degenerate any who hold views different to their own – with some form of intellectual / theological snobbery…and call every other view that is different to their own as being on the slippery slope of liberalism…

        In reality that is not so – I have been consistent in my comments to try and understand that Rob Bell may be coming from a different framework of understanding than what others have done… this of its self doesn’t mean he is right or wrong…

        After all – the reformation split of from the Catholics because of a different framework of understanding…

      • Craig,

        How about this “framework” of Holy Scripture itself…Matt. 25: 46? Seems very real to me! I will even quote the New NIV’11… “Then they will go to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

        And I am not seeking to brow beat you with some Reformed stick, but I am only seeking biblical and theological precision. This is my goal at least. We simply must try to bring both the head & heart together! 🙂

      • Craig Benno says:

        Robert… I think you and I have worked hard to come to an respectful understanding of each other…

        When quoting Scripture its easy to take one and say it means this – when in reality its got nothing to do with the context within the rest of the Scripture… Eternal destruction can mean they are being eternally destroyed..

        Or it can be understood within the Jewish mindset of antithetical parallelism of death being eternal. …I tend to believe its the later.

      • Todd Beal says:

        Fr. Robert,

        The whole passage surrounding that verse, Matthew 25:31-46 (The Judgment), lays out the issue of eternal punishment more thoroughly and explicitly than any other passage of scripture, OT or NT. I honestly don’t see how this scripture leaves any room for alternate interpretation. I’m glad you gave this reference.

      • Craig,

        Indeed, I see it most historically..as from both Catholic and the Reformed. But indeed the depth of God’s judgment, separation and loss are His to perform! In essence the loss of God is really just that, the soul is left to itself, and wanders aimlessly! (Jude 13) But, scripture also seems to clearly reveal God’s Wrath too! (Luke 12:5…and here we note the injuction to “Fear God! See also Matt. 13:42 / Mk. 9: 43-48) Most certainly Jesus Himself seems to speak of Hell in very real and eternal or everlasting ways!

      • Todd,

        To God be the glory, His Word/breath.. thanks be to God for His awesome Doctrines of Grace! 🙂

      • Todd Beal says:

        Fr. Robert,

        | To God be the glory, His Word/breath.. thanks be to God for His awesome Doctrines of Grace! |

        I felt comfort just reading this. Thanks.

      • As I have said, even the pagan Plato believed the soul was divine or eternal. The nature of humanity is an eternal essence. We can question if the lost soul has not become fully human? But that does not change the makeup of the soul or spirit itself. It lives forever! Note Ecc. 12:7.

  41. TC- Do sinners stop sinning when they die? “Weeping and gnashing of teeth”

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  43. kenny chmiel says:

    Just finished “love wins.” I recommend it to all of you who haven’t read it, because in it you get a glimpse of the direction that this sector of Christianity is going. I find it to be interesting on the level of sociology and consumerism. A constant refrain in the book is “I have talked to such and such a person and they don’t WANT or can’t accept” with Bell then explaining No, it’s not really your grandfathers Oldsmobile ( a reference that might date me) it’s really way better and bigger than that. Point is, this is a salesmen apologetic work designed to sell a God who is all upside – The best stock on the market and only huge pay offs. Oh you’re a hindu, that’s ok, oh you’re a muslim that’s ok too, shinto no problem, secular humanist who believes in the force great. Bell even talks about the Star wars “force” and says it can be seen as Jesus, just personalized. If that isn’t heresy, I don’t know what is. In my estimation Bell is on the road to New Age Christianity here. I am now convinced that he is a false teacher twisting the bible to appease a public who demand a product with only an upside. I just don’t think Bell is too concerned about the extremely dangerous God of the Bible, but more concern with his nice soft baby IDOL.

  44. T.C. R says:

    |Do sinners stop sinning when they die? “Weeping and gnashing of teeth”|

    Mailman,

    To be honest, I never thought about that question. But tentatively, based on what I know, I’ll say yes.

    I don’t see how your “weeping and gnashing of teeth” fits.

    Kenny,

    Yes, that chapter was the most problematic for me too.

    • TC,

      “Weeping and gnashing of teeth” seems strongly to indicate an everlasting position and even attitude! Remember C.S. Lewis thought of hell as self-chosen. Better to reign in Hell, etc. Sadly, I have seen a few die in this condition, angry and cursing God! Remember Job’s wife?

    • MJ says:

      Do sinners stop sinning when they die?

      Why do we sin in the first place? Because we are sinful by nature. Does the rebellion of the eternal soul cease after leaving the temporal realm for the eternal? I don’t see how. The soul that dies in their sins is dead in their sin.

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  47. T.C. R says:

    Fr. Robert,

    Dying in such a state doesn’t necessarily lead to the conclusion that that is how a person will spend eternity, does it? What’s your biblical warrant for such a position?

    • TC,

      I was giving out my own experience with a few souls in death & dying, who so expressed their personal hated toward God while dying. But certainly only God knows the eternal or everlasting place of these souls. However, I would not recommend dying in such a condition myself. Ya know Hell just might be real! What do you do with such verses like these? Luke 12:5 and Matt. 10:28? And the link I sent Todd, by way of our Fr. Stephen, is very profound also. How can we “dance” around this subject with such ease? The doctrine of an everlasting hell has always been prominent in both Roman Catholicism, and also the classic Reformed and Reformational. Here I speak of the West of course.

      • T.C. R says:

        Fr. Robert,

        I affirm “eternal separation from God” of nonbelievers. And can we with “ease” affirm that our reading of the text is the sure one?

      • TC,

        Well I am going to live in the reality of both God’s sure Word, and also God’s historical Church! And it is here that both affirm -for me anyway- the doctrine of an everlasting Hell and separation from God for those who reject Christ! What the Holy Scripture calls “the second death” (Rev. 20:14).

      • TC,

        And btw, perhaps the only exegetical/historical piece I have seen on this whole debate on Hell, was the link I sent Todd. Again, profound!

  48. Brian LePort says:

    @T.C.: Geez, you really know how to light a fire, don’t ya?! 🙂

  49. Dan Reeves says:

    Just curious – has this now become your most popular post of all time?

  50. T.C. R says:

    |Well I am going to live in the reality of both God’s sure Word, and also God’s historical Church! And it is here that both affirm -for me anyway- the doctrine of an everlasting Hell and separation from God for those who reject Christ! What the Holy Scripture calls “the second death” (Rev. 20:14).|

    Fr. Robert,

    We say these things with such “ease,” just to reference something you said earlier.

    Dan Reeves,

    No, I think there are a few on the complementarian-egalitarian debate and another on MacArthur calling out TD Jakes. 😉

  51. TC-

    Hopefully you remember some of my comments on the last discussion on this. After life, meaning death, is like a giant pit, according to old testament theology. When one dies, they fall into this pit never to get out again. See Ezekiel 32 for a detailed description. Sinners don’t stop sinning after they are separated from their body. Also death is like a walled city. When you die, you enter the city, the gates lock behind you and you never come out. See Hezekiah’s prayer in Isaiah 38.

    One big problem that I see is the failure to have a biblical perspective on our own sins and sinfulness. Jesus tells a parable in Matthew 18:23-35 trying to get at how serious our sin is to God. This debt was ludicrous. There was no way that a thousand lifetimes could pay back this debt. A talent was a year’s wage in that day. The sentence was just. Go to prison until the debt is paid. “Have mercy and I will pay all”. Hah! There was no way. The debt could never be paid.

    Based on how we view our sin, we will either have a great love for the Saviour or a small love for the Saviour. See Luke 7:36-50. If you think your sins are some finite thing confined to between your birth and death, you will have a small love for the Saviour. If you realize the eternal ramifications for your sins, and God’s mercy in light of that, your love for the Saviour will be great. Just take a look at Romans 5:12-14 to show how death reigns over all sin. Adam’s sin cursed us for how long? For his life only? Guess again.

    Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

    -The Orange Mailman

  52. Pingback: Elsewhere (04.07.11) | churchministrynews.com

  53. T.C. R says:

    |For me I speak I hope with both faith and conviction…who God is, and what HE has done for us in Christ.. Our God Triune! We can have our “ease” and comfort in GOD!|

    Fr. Robert,

    Amen!

    Mailman,

    You’re too dependent on the OT in these matters. What about the bright lights of the NT, so to speak?

    Matthew 18:23-35 spotlights God’s mercy despite our sins. Amen! Regarding Luke 7:35-50, I passage I personally find comfort in, again, despite our sinfulness, the mercy and forgiveness of God are demonstrated and we are recipients who must show gratitude.

    Romans 5:12-14 must be strained to arrive at your conclusion. It is simply not there. “Guess a gain.”

  54. TC-

    So your response to my citation of Ezekiel 32 and other passages is “You’re too dependent on the OT in these matters?” At least give me something substantial.

    My conclusion on Romans 5:12-14 is that the curse from Adam’s sin outlasted his physical life. You disagree I take it?

    Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

    -The Orange Mailman

    • T.C. R says:

      Mailman, regarding Romans 5:12-14, since we’re still talking physical life, then you still have made the case for your original point, a few comments back.

  55. Thank you Fr. Robert and Todd. Much appreciated.

  56. It is not about finite sin committed but to whom it is committed against.

    God sending his only blameless Son to brutally absorb the Wrath in our places shows the magnitude of how sin offends God.

    God forsaking his beloved Son on the cross, as he cried, Eloi, Eloi lama sabachthani and Christ Jesus broken into tears with his prayer at Gethsemane, looking forward to drink the cup of Wrath of God, show what magnitude sin is on the Holy, Holy, Holy God to whom even the angels hide their faces and feet.

    The more I know about God’s holiness, the more I understand the infinite wrath that will fall to those who are not in Christ Jesus Ark, the Cross.

    Our fallen nature cannot understand, for our sins blinds our eyes to see the wrath of God or the magnitude to which it offends the infinite awesomely Holy God.

    To answering Bell’s question, I will recommend you to dive in and delight with joy and thanksgiving as you fest the Holiness of God, so you could have Peters experience ” “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” of Luke 5.

    In Christ Jesus,
    Prayson

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