One of the moral challenges to the Christian viewpoint entails the fate of those who have never heard the gospel, a.k.a ‘the unreached,’ and whether or not they are damned. Naturally, there are ‘biblical’ Christians on both sides of this non-essential, but important doctrine – some think that the Unreached will somehow be saved, while the majority view is that without Christ, they are lost. How we answer this question flows from our view of God, our view of what is loving AND just, and our soteriology.
But for the sake of argument, if you believe that those who have never heard quite probably are going to face judgement and eternal punishment for their sins, how can you call God just? Isn’t it unfair that some people have had a chance to hear the gospel, and others have not? The real accusation is this – is it just for God’s mercy to be inequitably distributed – that is, some people hear of God’s mercy, and some do not. Is that fair?
Below, I explore this theme, but I want to suggest a theodicy that defends the idea that God is just in condemning those who have never heard, and that they have in some sense received the gospel and some measure of mercy, based on one principle alone (though others may apply) – that of Generational Justice. Read more
I am currently reading Dr. Jerry Walls’ book on purgatory (for Protestants!) entitled Purgatory: The Logic of Total Transformation, and one important question he addresses is, “Is purgatory for the purpose of satisfaction or sanctification?”
Satisfaction, meaning paying for one’s sins, is rejected by Protestants since we see Christ’s work as full and final on that account. But what about sanctification? Walls is proposing that, among other things, Purgatory would answer the question as to how God intends to complete our sanctification before we come into his presence.
Now, I’m not sold on his solution, but he offers it in response to this important question, which I want to address in two parts – “Does God require complete sanctification before we can enter into His full presence, and how does he accomplish it?”
Walls answers seem to be “Yes” and “Purgatory” for the repentant (he also believes in post-mortem repentance, but that’s an entirely other subject).
My thesis regarding santification, however, is different:
MY THESIS: Full Practical Sanctification (FPS) is composed of two parts – moral purity, and moral maturity. The former is fully attained at the resurrection, when we receive our new bodies, having left the old corrupted bodies behind. The latter is achieved throughout eternity.
Let’s explore, shall we?
In Proportions for Public Policy – the Normal Curve, I introduced the image below, suggesting that the relative proportions of legislation should follow a normal curve (pun intended). I suggested that this is optimal for freedom and order. Lt me add that I think that this represents how the American system was intended to work.
My main purpose in making this proposal, however, has a goal, and that is to reduce the amount of acrimony in our society by reducing the amount of legislation that is coercive, that is, both Prohibitions (making activities illegal), and Provision (redistributing money for government programs).
It is now no secret that I am a Conditionalist sympathizer, now that I am a contributor over at RethinkingHell.com. However, I have been collecting links and such to Conditionalist content on the web, and I need a place to collect it, other than in Pocket. Essential or introductory material are labeled with an (E).
CONDITIONALIST / NEUTRAL
- Doctrine of Eternal Punishment / Hell – lots of good articles (theologicalstudies.org.uk)
- Edward Fudge Ministries - tons of articles, audio, and video
- Hell According to Scripture
- Rethinking Hell – informative podcasts and articles. I am a contributor there. (E)
- Warren Prestidge Archives – videos and articles
The following is an excerpt from my Research Paper, A Framework for Preparing A Christian-Center Call to Unity & Action: THE MENLO DECLARATION
Regarding public policy, I propose that a method is needed to quantitatively balance and proportion the various types of public policy actions. With that in mind, the following spectrum of public policy types are proposed, and superimposed over them is a normal curve which, it is argued, reflects the most effective relative emphasis, which should be pursued by Christians.
Briefly, the five types of public policy efforts, listed from most negative to most positive are:
- Prohibition – legislation prohibiting various actions, such as murder or theft
- Prescription – legislation regulating various actions, such as alcohol or product labeling
- Permission – no legislation proffered, government remains neutral
- Promotion – legislation incentivizing various actions, such as home ownership or savings through tax incentives or low cost loans
- Provision – legislation redistributing money to provide services
I’ve had my ‘blues patch’ beard for almost a decade now, and even though it’s more common and popular now, many of my Christian friends ask why I keep such a beard, and even my wife wishes I would remove it so that I could have a ‘clean’ look. Since I’ve had to defend my preferred choice of facial hair many times, I’ve developed the following answers.
1. I hate shaving my chin
Actually, I hate shaving in general, but the chin can have some of the most gnarly and tough of all facial follicles, and with all of the angles, it’s easy to cut yourself or irritate the face. And I don’t even have a cleft. For women, I liken it to shaving your knees, not sure if that captures it, though.
2. It keeps me warm
Sure, California doesn’t get that cold, and my beard only covers my chin. I’ve had it cover more space, and whatever it covers is warm. That’s a plus.
3. I want to promote non-conformity, especially among Christians
One of the most pernicious, soul-killing forces in the world is the pressure to sublimate our true person in order to fit into society’s expectations, which are often superficial and crafted out of insecurities, not real values. The pressure to conform to a ‘clean’ image is even more pronounced in religious circles, and I think such conformity is contrary to how God raises up mature people.
In Christian circles, the negative view of the self and self-care, based in poor understandings of ‘self-denial’ in scripture, leads many to ignore or even hate their created self, as I discussed in Orthodox Heresies – 7 false doctrines of the Church. I want people to feel the freedom to differ, to express their uniqueness, and to enjoy being themselves, even as their brokenness is still contaminating and being removed from their created self as they are changed by God.
In my New Testament 2 class at Fuller Theological Seminary, my big ‘aha’ (I usually hit one per class) was experiencing for the first time the New Perspective on Paul (NP). For those of us who are Reformed in our theology, the NP is initially a slap in the face. So I wrote a paper on it. Click the image to the right to download the PDF. Also, here are some good links on the NP, I would watch/read them in the order presented below:
- Tom Wright & James Dunn The New Perspective on Paul (youtube, 11 min)
- The New Perspective on Paul (theopedia.com)
- The NP: Introduction and Summary (The Paul Page)
- Critical Assessment of the New Perspective on Paul 1/4 (Cornelis Venema) (youtube, 4 episodes, 15 min each)
- The New Perspective on Paul: Its Basic Tenets, History, and Presuppositions (The Master’s Journal)
- The Doctrine of Justification and the New Perspectives on Paul (Ligonier Ministries)
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross is famous for developing her five-stage model for grieving loss. Those stages are:
- Denial and isolation
I want to encourage my fellow conservatives, and conservative Christian friends to move through the stages quickly so that we can recommit to making a positive difference. Personally, I am somewhere between Anger and Depression right now. Denial and Bargaining won’t get us anywhere, since we’re stuck with the results we’ve got.
So let me articulate the vision that I am focusing on in order to move past the perceived doom of the current election results.
I have recently published a few articles on the topic of Annihilationist (a.k.a. ‘Conditionalist’) view of hell, which claims that the Bible does not teach eternal conscious torment for the lost (the Traditional view), but that those who fail to receive Christ are punished according to their deeds, then destroyed. This view is growing in momentum among Evangelicals, and has a home base over at RethinkingHell.com.
I have noticed, not surprisingly, a knee-jerk reaction among conservative Evangelicals against this ‘new’ view, and quite a few misunderstandings. However, I urge my more conservative friends to enter into dialogue on this, at least enough to understand it correctly so that their refutations are grounded in what is really being claimed, rather than straw men.
Many Evangelicals were rightly alarmed when Rob Bell published Love Wins, his book claiming that Christian Universalism, i.e. ‘everyone will eventually be saved through Christ’ was the truth. This was distressing because Rob was a darling of the Evangelical movement, and part of the very innovative, intellectual, and influential Mars Hill Church.
But as the diagram to the right shows (courtesy of rethinkinghell.com), Conditionalism has more in common with Traditionalism than Universalism.
In contrast to Universalism, and in common with Traditionalism, Conditionalism teaches:
- That there is no redemptive or purgatorial function in hell
- That not all will be saved
Now that I’ve worked my way through all of the state initiatives, I thought I’d publish my guide to these, and how I voted. Some of the initiatives are confusing, and it’s hard to figure out the actual outcome! However, when the thuggish, criminal SEIU is involved, I know which way NOT to vote. Thank God they weighed in on some of these confusing initiatives. You can research all of these initiatives at votersedge.org.
Prop 30: Temporary Taxes to Fund Education, Public Safety – NO
While this initiative proposes to raise money for schools and public safety, it’s a temporary fix to the bigger problem of spending. Also, I’ve never met a temporary tax that didn’t want to become permanent. Additionally, Prop 38 takes a long term view that doesn’t just tax the employers (those earning > $250K a year), but everyone. Now THAT’S what I see as ‘fair.’
Prop 31: State and Local Budget. Constitutional amendment and statute – YES
The SEIU is against it. Do I need any more evidence to vote for it when a known criminal organization is against it? No.
Recently, I posted about an upcoming documentary promoting the Christian Universalist view of hell, called Hellbound? An interesting piece of news is that, one of the pastors who vocally supported that view was fired by his church (you can see a newspaper clipping of it in the preview, but here’s a news article), Chad Holtz, has since changed his mind on the subject, and has returned, I think, to the traditional view of eternal torment. From his posting “I Repent”
I repent of my past denial of hell or that a person could ever be eternally separated from a holy God. I know now that I had no fear of God. Therefore, I had no knowledge of God (Prov. 1:7). I was a fool with an MDiv. I was wrong.
Marrow’s Chapel United Methodist Church was right to ask me to leave. It was God’s mercy. I am so sorry for the pain I caused them through that entire ordeal last year and I ask their forgiveness. I have wept many tears over the last many months, pleading with God that no one would be lost for my prideful and blind confident assertions (1 Tim. 1:7). Love doesn’t win. God wins. And it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of a holy, living God (Heb. 10.31). I lost sight of this and God, in His mercy, granted me a chance to repent.
My old blog will be deleted this weekend (and this one was only created for the purpose of this post).
It is a reality that if you don’t agree with the doctrines or politics of the board of elders of a church (who supposedly represent what the church founders and congregants believe), you shouldn’t be up front leading them in a different direction.
I’ve always been a bit of a seeker, and have re-examined and overturned many of my previous convictions as I gain more perspective. Beginning as a scientist agnostic, I explored many subcultures, and then did a stint in Charismatic Christianity. I then left it and explored yoga and Buddhism for a time, then returned to a Reformed Post-Charismatic Evangelicalism.
I never wandered into the Emergent camp, but I was not always comfortable with Evangelicalism either. So, as I am wont to do, I began reading, and I began to take issue with certain doctrines of Evangelicalism. And then I took a big step. I enrolled in the M. Div. program at center-left Fuller Seminary.
Fuller is infamous among evangelicals for abandoning the traditional view of scriptural inerrancy, though it still holds scripture in high esteem as “the written word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice.”
In my first class at Fuller, Christian Ethics, my big aha moment was discovering the Christian Center, which essentially incorporates the best priorities of both Evangelical right and Left, and is well represented in the NEA’s For the Health of the Nation, as well as David Gushee’s The Future of Faith in American Politics: The Public Witness of the Evangelical Center.
Now in my second class, New Testament 2 (Romans to Revelation), I have had my second aha moment (it seems to happen about midway through the 10 week class). I have discovered, albeit late to the party, the view known as the The New Perspective on Paul. And it is not trivial.
I intend to do a series of posts on it, but here’s the real comment I want to make.
I decided not to enroll in a traditional Reformed seminary in order to broaden my perspectives. I chose Fuller because, among other things, I too had decided that plenary inerrancy was illogical, and not taught in Scripture.
So this is the risk of attending a more ‘liberal’ (but not liberal) seminary – my perspective is being seriously challenged again! And it is irritating. But hey, I am getting exactly what I had hoped for. So there you go.
Dr. Fudge, author of the clasic book s The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment, Third Edition, presents the exegetical case for the annihilation of the unsaved, rather than the traditional view of eternal hell.
The traditional view of hell, that of eternal conscious torment of the lost, is under fire again, this time, not from Christian Universalists like Rob Bell, but Conditionalists, who believe that the Bible teaches that the unsaved are punished at judgment, then are destroyed, NOT tormented forever. The term ‘Conditionalist’ is short for “Conditional Immortality,” which means that we are not eternal souls, but temporal souls who must inherit eternal life in order to exist for eternity.
I am strongly leaning this way, but of course, am not quick to abandon the Traditional view, which has been the orthodox position for most of Christian history. I am often asked WHY I am even questioning this doctrine. So here you go.
The greatest reason to consider the view is that it may be a more accurate interpretation of the text – we want to ‘rightly divide the word of truth’ (2 Tim. 2:15). While every interpretation may have some open questions, the Conditionalist view obeys Occam’s razor, that is, it is a simpler, less convoluted answer – it’s a more straight forward reading of the text.
With endorsements from Frank Schaeffer and Brian McClaren, you would rightly suspect that Hellbound? is questioning the traditional view of hell, and perhaps supporting Christian Universalism, as promoted in Rob Bell’s bestseller Love Wins.
This documentary covers both the critics and supporters of the traditional view, and pushes lots of buttons (in fact, the tagline for the movie on the website is ‘prepare to have your buttons pushed’). Here’s the trailer.
I am still in the midst of considering and perhaps adopting the Conditionalist view of hell, which is that those who reject Christ are punished according to their deeds, then annihilated – that is, they cease existing rather than entering into eternal life.
I am coming to this conclusion based on scriptural exegesis, not personal preference, and I am not alone – just visit rethinkinghell.com and see the growing Conditionalist movement within evangelicalism.
One of the classic books supporting this theological position is Eward Fudge’s The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment, Third Edition.
The story of how Fudge came to write this book has been made into a movie called Hell and Mr. Fudge. Check out the trailer below.
One of my favorite atheist podcasts is from The Thinking Atheist. Seth, the proprietor of TA, is a former Christian who is now an outspoken atheist apologist. He is both thoughtful as well as, at times, maddeningly blind to his lapses into some of the typical straw men and caricatures of Christianity used by anti-theists. I guess we all do that to our ideological opponents.
In one of Seth’s recent posts entitled Ten Questions About God, he provides an incisive list of questions that he feels he SHOULD have asked himself as a believer, and he asks us to do the same.
I have given each set of questions a Difficulty Rating, from 1-10, where 1 is an easy no-brainer, and 10 is a question which I find very challenging to my faith, and have no good answer for. Ready?
I have had a few major doctrinal and ideological shifts since becoming a Christian at the age of 21 in 1986, which in itself was a huge shift from my family’s agnostic, scientific, anti-faith perspecive.
1. From Arminian Holiness to Calvinism
In 1990, I abandoned the burden of Arminian holiness for the grace and peace of Calvinism. I am often surprised at some Christians’ strong negative reaction to Calvinism, but perhaps they have experienced the fatalistic hyper-Calvinism I described in Orthodox Heresies – 7 false doctrines of the Church.
For me, trying to keep my salvation through holiness was an unbearable burden, but the rest described in Hebrews 4:1-8 is the result of seeing all the work – salvation, sanctification, and perseverance – as God’s doing.
I have a whole list of pet peeves, but one of my top annoyances to date is a list of Christian doctrines that are not only erroneous (IMO), but have driven people away from faith unnecessarily. I want to call these out and toast them.
But before I do, allow me to clarify – I am talking as an Evangelical about Protestant errors – not the many Catholic errors that instigated the Protestant Reformation, many of which persist to this day. We could go on at length about the many souls who have missed salvation in Catholicism due to its erroneous doctrines, such as indulgences, Papal infallibility, the cult of the saints, and the general way in which Catholicism obscures the gospel with a doctrine of works and the ideas of confession, penance, and purgatory.
So, let us turn a critical eye towards our own house. Read more