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
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
- External – historical or scientific inaccuracies
- Internal – too many textual variants or obvious interpolations and other later edits
- Internal – logical inconsistencies
In this last category falls the serious objection known as “Jesus’ failed prophecies,” which is discussed in one of the most challenging books on leaving faith that I have read, former Wycliffe missionary Kenneth Daniels’ Why I Believed.
Are the life and teachings of Jesus a proper focus for the development of a Christian ethic, and could such an ethic fit into the framework of the rest of the New Testament? In The Politics of Jesus, John Howard Yoder answers with a circumspective but enthusiastic ‘Yes!’ Yoder sets out to show why Jesus was of direct significance for social ethics, and why we should consider Jesus normative (POJ, 11).
Specifically, Yoder argues for a “messianic ethic” of non-violence from the New Testament – first, by interpreting Jesus’ ministry in the context of the “Jubilee Year” principle that pervaded Jesus’ teachings and self-understanding, and second, by addressing the challenges that orthodox theology surrounding Pauline writings poses to such a stance. Lastly, Yoder rounds out his apology with a discussion of John’s apocalyptic visions, and how they too might be understood within the non-violent ethic.
Making headlines in atheist circles is the fact that one of the former members of John Loftus’ team over at Debunking Christianity has left atheism and ‘reconverted’ back to Christianity. In Autobahn To Damascus, Darrin Raspberry outlined some of his reasons for reconversion, and those reasons lead me to make the following observations.
1. All world views have weaknesses
Can Christianity satisfactorily answer all ultimate questions? I don’t think so. There are many issues which apologists and theologians have wrestled with over the centuries, and many of these are still disputed, having no absolute or complete answers.
Often, people bring up the argument that atheism or religion lead necessarily to evil. Here, I assert that both history and logic support the arguments that atheism and certain kinds of religion (Divine Command religion, specifically), combined with man’s predilection for abusing power, DO lead to violence, both logically and evidentially.
However, Christianity, in a form that does not involve a commitment to Divine Command theory (such as St. Thomas Aquinas‘ view), does NOT lead necesarrily to evil, and perhaps necessarily to GOOD.
Further, this contention is supported by both logic and historical evidence, with exceptions, of course (we argue from the norm, not the exception). Syllogisms examined below.
Many evangelicals and fundamentalists are tea-totalers, and a good number of them also look down upon Christians who do use alcohol. And while such judgmental Christians are disobeying the command of Romans 14:3 to “not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him,” this does not mean that they are wrong to abstain.
But the question arises, is the biblical perspective on alcohol entirely or mostly negative, or the opposite?
NOTE: You can hear my sermon on this subject at The Biblical Perspective on Drinking and Alcohol.
As part of my hermeneutics class, we must read some of the works of John Owen (1616-1683), one of the greatest (and often least known) Protestant theologians of history, and by many accounts, the greatest that England has ever produced. In this week’s reading from Pneumatologia, we read Owen’s thoughts on illumination (the role of the Spirit of God in helping us understand scripture) and perspicuity (the understandableness of scripture and it’s message). One of the questions he answers is, if God wanted us to understand Him, why are the scriptures not written in a more didactic fashion?
Atheists and secularists love to trot out the canard that religion has harmed more people than it has helped, and has been at the root of many or most world concflicts. However, in Atheism, not religion, is the real force behind the mass murders of history, Dinesh D’Souza,Rishwain Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford, argues that actually, atheism is responsible for more murders in history. His points are summarized below. Read more
Liberals often rightly complain that the “bible thumper” who harps on sin often pushes people away from God, rather than drawing people to God. But fundies claim that to avoid the sin issue and only focus on love is telling half the truth. How do we present the truth of the gospel in both it’s aspects – that of guilt, and that of salvation which demonstrates the goodness of God?
Purpose can be defined as “the application of one’s self, with its talents, to a noble task.” This begs the question, what are the available noble tasks here on earth? And what makes a task noble? I submit that we must pursue an ethic that promotes life and
happiness health for all living beings, and especially humans.
In response to the recent spate of in-depth pro-gay theology comments, I have been reading and researching, and came across this debate between Christian exegete James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries and liberal activist Barry Lynn, an ordained minister of the United Church of Christ. Their debate covers many of the scriptures and contextual questions discussed, and I thought it pertinent. However, it does not address all of the arguments at hand, but merely a good number of them. I have excerpted the arguments against homosexuality by James White below. White has also penned a book entitled The Same Sex Controversy: Defending and Clarifying the Bible’s Message About Homosexuality.
If a man asks you this question, beware! He is most likely just looking for an argument. In fact, a question like this is just begging for fruitless, heated discussion. Allow me, however, to presume to answer this question once and for all, and prepare you with the biblical answer. The answer is…man is BOTH good and evil. However, before we examine the biblical viewpoint, there is one more point to be made about this question, and that is – this is a bad question.
A friend of mine told me today that the thing that really bugs him about religious people is that they never want to critically evaluate what they believe, and turn a blind eye to contradictions in their scriptures or the teachings of their spiritual organization.
I agree, many people are not critical and don’t want to be. However, not all people with faith “turn a blind eye.” For instance, I left my faith for many years, for intellectual, emotional, and spiritual reasons, and later returned to Christianity. I am not blind to the apparent contradictions of scripture, or complex reasoning that people must sometimes use to harmonize scriptures. However, as a fellow seeker, I offer the following observations and cautions:
1. The Limits of Reason
While reason may help you to identify a trustworthy source of faith, reason has its limits in the quest for spiritual truth, and we must also use the faculties of our heart and conscience in the quest.
While the scriptures are clear on the morality of some issues, on the more mundane issues, it is largely silent, and it is up to us to apply principle to determine these issues. So to answer questions of the gray areas of personal morality, Romans 14 is very instructive.
The Apostle Paul taught that, while some matters are black and white, other matters, like whether it is a sin to eat meat offered to idols, are up to the individual. He gives the following guide to navigating such gray areas: Read more