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Author Archives: Dr. Larry Dixon

About Dr. Larry Dixon

Seminary professor, teaching systematic theology and other topics. Grandfather, wicked tennis & table tennis player, love playing chess on letsplaychess.com. Please check out the six books I've written. "The heart cannot rejoiced in what the mind rejects as false!"

What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You! (time for a great commercial)

This commercial cracks me up!  The daughter is THRILLED with her first car — and then it gets CRUSHED by a monster of some kind!  I’ve reproduced the picture of that event below.

QuickTime PlayerScreenSnapz001Let’s face it — no matter how much insurance you have, it won’t cover all the tragedies and calamities that can befall you in life.

That’s one of the reasons I’m so glad to be a believer in Jesus. He has not promised to save us from robbers, thieves, or monsters.

Some Christians suppose that a relationship with Jesus gets them a “Get Out of Jail Free” card, guarantees them a happy and pain-free life, and removes all actual and potential threats from their zip code.  That supposition is a lie and comes from the pit.

Here’s how J.B. Phillips put it:

“Frankly, I do not know who started the idea that if men serve God and FirefoxScreenSnapz759live their lives to please him then he will protect them by special intervention from pain, suffering, misfortune, and the persecution of evil men. We need look no further than the recorded life of Jesus Christ himself to see that even the most perfect human life does not secure such divine protection. It seems to me that a great deal of misunderstanding and mental suffering could be avoided if this erroneous idea were exposed and abandoned. . . . The idea that if a man pleases God then God will especially shield him, belongs to the dim twilight of religion and not to Christianity at all.” (J.B. Phillips, God Our Contemporary)

Questions:

1.  “What you don’t know can hurt you.”  Isn’t it true that what we do know can also hurt us?  Can you think of one example?

2.  Living in a work of hurt, would you agree with the statement by Pastor Stephen Brown that “Sometimes we can serve God better with our wounds than with our wellness?”  Why or why not?

 

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2014 in disasters

 

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Beth Moore’s Commission to Faith

Lord, today I accept my calling
not to perfection or performance.
My calling is to faith.
I have been chosen for this generation.
I have a place in the heritage of faith.FirefoxScreenSnapz599
I’m going to stop wishing and whining
and start believing and receiving.
What Your Word says is mine.
I won’t let others steal my hope.
I won’t argue with a Pharisee.
I will believe and therefore speak,
for You, my God, are huge.
Nothing is too hard for You.
Our world needs your wonders.
Rise up, oh Lord!
Please renew Your works in our day.
I confess the unbelief of my generation
and ask You to begin Your revival of faith
in my own heart.
For You are who You say You are.
You can do what You say You can do.
I am who You say I am.
I can do all things through Christ.
Your Word is alive and active in me.
Satan, hear me clearly:
My father is Maker of heaven and earth.
You are under my feet,
because today and the rest of my days,
I’m believing God!
 
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Posted by on July 22, 2014 in commitment

 

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What animals are thinking #16 (scroll down)

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Posted by on July 21, 2014 in funny animals

 

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What animals are thinking #13 (scroll down)

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Posted by on July 20, 2014 in contact lenses

 

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What on Earth Are We to Do about Unbelief? (Part 10 of 10)

FirefoxScreenSnapz689If you have read through all these posts on the one-chapter letter of Jude, thank you.  We’ve seen a lot in this battleplan for believers, haven’t we?

What started out as an epistle of praise for our common salvation got changed into a challenge to these Christians to recognize false teaching and to stand strong for the truths of biblical Christianity.  Much of Jude’s emphasis, however, is on the believer’s responsibility to grow in the things of God himself.  And that growth impacts how we reach out to those who are still outside of Christ.

Let’s notice our tenth part of our response to unbelief in our world and it is this –


Step #10-  We must Live Our Own Lives as a Praise to God! (vv. 24-25).

24 To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

After changing the purpose of his epistle from a letter of rejoicing in our common salvation to a battleplan for believers, Jude concludes his challenge to these Christians by driving them to worship!  The unbelief in the world around us should not push us into despair, but into praise!  We, of course, should grieve for those who don’t trust Jesus, but Jude’s concluding focus is not on an unbelieving world but on a praise-deserving Savior!

Note two specific truths about this God we are to praise.  First, He is able to KeynoteScreenSnapz155keep us from stumbling.  That’s precisely what had happened to these false teachers — they had stumbled from the faith.  Second, He is able to present us before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy!  There is going to be a great day of Jesus presenting His bride to His Father and she will be a spotless bride, without fault.  Notice also that He will do that presenting “with great joy”!  He is looking forward to that presentation.  If inwardly you aren’t jumping up and clicking your heels and saying “Whooppee!”, check your pulse.  You might be dead.

Jude concludes by assigning glory, majesty, power, and authority to “the only God our Savior.”  Pretty strong evidence for Jesus’ deity, don’t you think?

In light of all that we’ve seen in this one-chapter epistle, let’s worship Him FirefoxScreenSnapz734– and make sure we’re in the battle!

“The idea that this world is a playground instead of a battleground has now been accepted in practice by the vast majority of Christians. . . .  The ‘worship’ growing out of such a view of life is as far off center as the view itself – a sort of sanctified nightclub without the champagne and the dressed-up drunks.” This World: Playground or Battleground? by A.W. Tozer, pp. 5-6.

 

Questions:
1.  Take each of the four nouns — glory, majesty, power, and authority — and ask what is specifically demanded of you if you follow Jude’s injunction to give these to God.

2.  What other biblical texts talk about that day of presentation?

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2014 in unbelief, worship

 

Screwtape reviews ”Rethinking Hell” (re-re-repost)

Friends:PreviewScreenSnapz062

I’ve recently read the book Rethinking Hell, a collection of essays in favor of annihilationism or conditionalism.  You may access the full ten-page review by clicking on this following link:     screwtape-reviews-rethinking-hell

I will also add the entire review below:

 

Screwtape Reviews Rethinking Hell:
Readings In Evangelical Conditionalism
Larry Dixon, Ph.D.
Columbia International University Seminary and School of Ministry, July 2014

My name is Screwtape. Perhaps you have heard of me.  I don’t normally review theology books, but I could not resist reviewing the book Rethinking Hell.

Oh. You didn’t think we demons read? Of course we do. And we write, as well. (Where do you think all those sappy Harlequin romances come from?)

Most followers of Our Enemy Above don’t read.  They fortunately seldom read The Book, that awful communiqué that talks about truth and — you know — Him.  Sadly the books that I’ve inspired others to read, especially challenging what The Book clearly says, gather dust on the shelves of liberal theologians and pastors. [Interesting how those worn-out ideas are being “discovered” these days by some of those “Emergent” Christians].  Real followers of You-Know-Who seldom read good or even bad books.  I want to do everything in my power to make sure they read this book.  It’s that good, I mean, bad.

It is, of course, quite difficult to be objective about the subject matter.  The editors of this book are dealing with where we and other followers of Our Father Below live! Some things they get right. And some things they get terribly wrong.  But I’m a thorough-going pragmatist, so I don’t care whether they get things right or wrong, if it serves our purposes.  And if what they get wrong makes Our Enemy Above look bad, then so much the better.

I’m not sure how much of what the contributors have put in this book comes out of a sense of embarrassment about our domicile.  A whole gaggle of qualified scholars and theologians contributed to this volume.  And although we can’t exactly see into their hearts, we know that the  traditional doctrine is shocking enough that they had to write what they wrote.  Motives will always be questioned, but that provides a great deal of entertainment for us demons, who couldn’t care less about such trivialities.

But allow me to be “objective” for a little while. I will assume the persona of a mature Evangelical theologian (one who happens to hold to the idea of eternal conscious punishment) who is reviewing this book — and then I’ll come back and I’ll tell you what I really think.

A (Mostly) Objective Review of
Rethinking Hell: Readings In Evangelical Conditionalism

Rethinking Hell: Readings In Evangelical Conditionalism, was edited by Christopher M. Date, Gregory G. Stump, and Joshua W. Anderson.  The foreword is by John G. Stackhouse, Jr.  The book is divided into six parts which have the titles:  “Rethinking Hell,” “Influential Defenses of Conditionalism,” “Biblical Support for Conditionalism,” “Philosophical Support for Conditionalism,” “Historical Considerations,” and “Conditionalism and Evangelicalism.”  There are aticles by twenty-two writers (some deceased).  The book is a collection of articles written and published across decades and centuries.

Most writers appear to come from and/or were educated in countries other than the United States.  More than one-half come from the United Kingdom.  One chapter is a report from the United Kingdom’s “Evangelical Alliance.”

The editors have done a commendable job of assembling these articles which challenge the eternal conscious punishment (ECP) view of eternal lostness.  In its place they argue for some form of annihilationism, that is, that the wicked will either cease to exist or be actively put out of existence by God at the judgment.

Some of the contributors show respect for the traditional view of ECP; others more vehemently reject “such a monstrous view of a god who would torture His creatures forever.”

The primary issues which are tackled in this book include the following:
1.  Does the Bible categorically teach the ECP view — or is there equal or even superior evidence for the annihilationist position?  The charge is made that the ECP view rests on just four core texts:  Mt. 18:34-35; Mk. 9:43-48; Rev. 14:10-11; Rev. 20:10 (151).  Some contributors (such as Marshall and Witherington) suggest that either view (ECP or annihilationism) is exegetically possible and equally orthodox (302).

2.  All the contributors, it appears, agree that the concept that the human person naturally possesses an immortal soul is a Hellenistic view adopted by the early Christians.  Some (Pinnock) even go so far as to say that the New Testament writers adopted a Greek perspective.  The contributors argue that “eternal life” is a gift given only to those who believe the gospel.  Man is not naturally immortal.  Only God possesses immortality.

3.  Church history shows that the ECP view has always had competition with other viewpoints (244).  All the writers dismiss universalism as unbiblical.  Marshall, however, says, “it is quite appropriate for Christians to hope fervently for the universal redemption of all humankind, especially since this is evidently something God personally desires (I Tim. 2:4; 2 Pe. 3:9).” (218).1

4. Evangelical annihilationists believe that their view is superior in a number of ways to the ECP view.  They believe the ECP position violates the principle of proportionality — that is, the annihilationist view argues that it is unthinkable for God to eternally punish finite sins committed by finite human beings.  The annihilationist view is set forth as a superior theodicy (a defense of God’s justice in the face of evil’s reality) because it posits a “clean universe” after God’s judgment.2  The ECP view is accused of holding to an eternal dualism of good and evil.3  The annihilationist view argues that its view of God’s character is far superior to that posited by ECP.  F.F. Bruce is reported as saying, “Eternal conscious torment is incompatible with the revealed character of God.” (280).4

5.  It is predicted that contemporary Evangelicals will continue to join the annihilationist ranks, especially in light of such luminaries (Date uses the term “thoroughbred evangelicals”) as John Stott, Michael Green, I. Howard Marshall, and others advocating this “alternative” position.  Rethinking Hell is part of a wider campaign to encourage such “conversion.”  There is a rethinkinghell.com website as well as an annual “Rethinking Hell” conference.  The primary American spokesman for annihilationism is Edward Fudge5 whose personal theological journey has been produced as a film entitled Hell and Mr. Fudge.

6.  Rethinking Hell makes the point that Evangelical annihilationists are part of God’s family and should be welcomed as such. It is argued that their viewpoint is not heretical.  This is merely a family squabble, says the Evangelical Alliance report, for the issue of the nature of hell is a secondary rather than a primary issue (288).  It is claimed that annihilationists fit under Bebbington’s four key characteristics of an evangelical: conversionism, activism, biblicism, and crucicentrism. (286). Roger Olson declares: “Annihilationism does not strike at the heart of the gospel or even deny any major Christian belief; it is simply a reinterpretation of hell.” (290-291).6

An Evangelical ECPer Might Raise the Following Concerns:

1.  The biblical doctrine of death needs to be thoroughly researched.  If death equals non-existence, then how does one explain passages such as Luke 16:19-31 (it is not sufficient to simply call this a parable and not pay attention to what Jesus says about the Intermediate State), Matthew 17:1-3 (where Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus on the Mount), and 2 Corinthians 5:8 (“to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord”)?  What is the annihilationist view of the Intermediate State?  Presumably they believe in the resurrection of the wicked dead.  But why would the wicked be given resurrection bodies if their ultimate end is destruction?  If death equals non-existence, then how do annihilationists view the death of the Lord Jesus on the cross?  Did the Second Person of the Trinity simply cease to exist temporarily?7  It appears that none of the contributors to this volume understand death to mean immediate cessation of existence, for they advocate some time of punishment for the wicked.  Presumably they hold to the resurrection of the wicked who are then put out of existence.  If, however, physical death is the separation of the body from the spirit or soul, then Jesus did not cease to exist at His death (His soul or spirit was simply separated from His body).

Certain Scriptural texts seem to indicate that death is not cessation of existence, but separation (such as 1 Jn. 3:14).  If “death shall be no more” (Rev. 21:4), how are we to understand that?  If death equals no-more-ness, then how can one cause no-more-ness to cease to exist?  Wright acknowledges, “That the essence of human beings is not destroyed by physical death is certainly taught in the New Testament.  But this scarcely constitutes ‘immortality’ in the stronger sense of being ‘incapable of dying.’  In fact, Jesus spoke about the one who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell.” ( 231).  I know of no ECPers who would argue that God couldn’t put human beings out of existence, if He chose to do so.

Wright argues, “In short, hell is the infinite loss of God . . . ultimately the loss of God who is the source and ground of all life provides no way in which any creature could continue to be.” (Wright, 233).  When we look at 2 Thessalonians 1:9 (“who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His might”), Atkinson says, “To be destroyed from the presence of the Lord can therefore only mean to be nowhere.” (101).  However, this is a philosophical, not a biblical, argument.  Is it what the Bible actually teaches?  Does the Bible teach that to be separated from God equals non-existence?  (It certainly appears from Rev. 20 that the devil, the false prophet, and the beast continue to exist forever in torment).

2.  More thought needs to be given to the definition of “destruction.”  We commonly speak of a wrecked car as “destroyed,” even though it has not ceased to exist.  Certain expressions (such as “cut off”) seem to be referring to the wicked person’s having no more influence on the earth (not cessation of existence).  We read in Psalm 34:16- “The face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.”

Does an expression like “be no more” indicate extinction, or a person having no more impact on this world?  We read of the wicked person in Job 24:20- “The womb shall forget him; the worm shall feed sweetly on him; he shall be no more remembered; and wickedness shall be broken as a tree.”  In Psalm 39:13 we hear the Psalmist (not one of “the wicked”) pray, “O spare me, that I may recover strength, before I go hence, and be no more.”  Psalm 104:35 says, “Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more. Bless thou the Lord, O my soul. Praise ye the Lord.”  We read in Ezekiel 26:20-21 about the city of Tyre:  “I will bring you down with those who go down to the pit, to the people of long ago. I will make you dwell in the earth below, as in ancient ruins, with those who go down to the pit, and you will not return or take your place in the land of the living. 21 I will bring you to a horrible end and you will be no more.”  It appears that the Old Testament view of the afterlife is that the wicked will no longer have any impact on this life — it is as if they no longer exist in this world.  Because at death, they don’t (exist in this world).

And why the expression “eternal destruction”?  Is it intended to indicate the eternal results or the everlasting process of destruction or ruin which never comes to completion?  Fire’s purpose is not just to consume.  Sometimes it is used to get another’s attention (note the burning bush in Exodus 3 which was not consumed).8

3.  If “eternal life” is the gift only of believers, when do they receive this gift?  Ellis says that only those in Christ will “put on immortality” and “they will do so individually only at their bodily resurrection at the second coming” (129).  Doesn’t the Bible teach that believers have eternal life now? (see Jn. 3:36; 4:14; 5:24; 6:27; 6:40, 47).  And isn’t the concept of eternal life far more than unending longevity?  Doesn’t it refer to a quality of life, a passing from death to life into fellowship with God?

4.  If the NT writers succumbed to Hellenism (as intimated by Pinnock), then that seems to imply that some New Testament writers taught the immortality of the soul, but were wrong to do so.  Other annihilationists argue vehemently that the Bible doesn’t teach the immortality of the human soul.  One can’t have it both ways.  Either the Bible teaches the immortality of the soul or it doesn’t.  If it does, then the issue becomes one of inspiration and one’s view of the Scriptures.9

5.  The question of proportionality of punishment needs to be carefully considered.  Witherington agrees with Rob Bell regarding the injustice of infinite suffering for finite sin (298).  But if eternal punishment for finite sins is wrong, how is eternal nothingness better?  Marshall admits that, “An eternity of nothingness is as much an infinite penalty for finite sin as an eternity of pain.” (218).  One could ask, if the wicked suffer at all, then why are they not then brought into heaven when their suffering is done?  Why are they put out of existence?  Isn’t suffering in hell in annihilationism really a kind of self-atonement?  If their suffering is remedial (as several of the contributors argue), then why are they then extinguished?

One contributor asks the question, how could the redeemed enjoy God and heaven while loved ones are in eternal hell?  (230).  Is it better to think that they cease to exist?    Is that a superior view?  The question, “How can God in any meaningful sense be called ‘everything to everybody’ while an unspecified number of people still continue in rebellion against him and under his judgment?” is a great question.  But couldn’t the same question be asked of the annihilationist about the extinguished members of creation?

7.  We must discuss the nature of God’s judgment.  Is the punishment retributive or remedial?  There appears to be no discussion of God’s eschatological wrath in Rethinking Hell.  Universalists argue for the punishment being remedial, educative.  At least one annihilationist insists that God’s justice is in no way constituted by retribution or vengeance upon sinners, but is rather a “restorative and reconstructive justice, a saving action by God that recreates shalom and makes things right” (207).  Marshall says that ECP teaches that “divine justice is essentially and ultimately retributive justice.  More worrisome is that the doctrine of final damnation could be taken to mean that the God we are to imitate is finally vindictive, not forgiving, that salvation is, ultimately, the achievement of coercive power, not of self-surrendering love; that punitive pain is an everlasting reality, not a remedial or restorative mechanism.” (210).  This perspective, to me, seems but a small step from universalism.

The idea of retributive punishment is thoroughly rejected by some contributors to this volume.  Marshall continues, “Because the pain of hell leads nowhere, because there is no benefit for those who endure it, Kvanvig aptly describes hell as ‘paradigmatic . . . of truly pointless, gratuitous evil.’” (216).  However, Marshall acknowledges the retributive nature of the New Testament when he writes, “the retributive language and imagery of the New Testament do not a retributivist theology make.  And yet . . . retributional words and metaphors are still deliberately employed by the New Testament writers in discussing final judgment.” (225).  That leaves me confused.

8.  Marshall says that “Hell is nothing if it is not a problem!” (225)   Marshall argues, “references to judgment and damnation still abound in the New Testament, and they pose profound problems, both philosophical and moral, for Christian belief.” (213).  I don’t see hell as a problem, but as a solution. Marshall says ECP has two propositions that are unsupportable: (1) that redemption can be considered complete even though sin and suffering continue forever in hell, and (2) the reason why the wicked are kept alive by God in hell. (214).  Concerning the first proposition, we confine violent criminals in prison for life and yet see our society as good and worthwhile, don’t we?  Concerning the second proposition, why must we know the reason God keeps the wicked alive in hell?

9.  There seems to be a consensus in this book that Jesus’ teaching on hell is “sketchy.”  I would disagree (see my chapter in The Other Side of the Good News).   Marshall quotes Kueng regarding Jesus:  “Nowhere does he show any direct interest in hell.  Nowhere does he reveal any special truths in regard to the hereafter.  Nowhere does he describe the act of damnation or the torments of the damned. . . .  The heart of his message, which is meant to be the eu-angelion — not a threatening but a joyous message — lies elsewhere.” (212-213).  I would beg to disagree.  Most of our information about hell comes from Jesus.  We should not be surprised that annihilationists look at what Jesus says in the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) and dismiss it as irrelevant.10

10. Do annihilationists deny the Intermediate State?  If the Bible doesn’t teach the immortality of the soul, but rather focuses on bodily resurrection, then what happens to both the righteous and wicked upon death?  Did Old Testament believers cease to exist upon their deaths?  Guillebaud says Luke 16 seems to deal with the Intermediate State and “is, therefore, outside the scope of this book, and we shall not discuss it” (156).  But what if that parable is indicative of what awaits the wicked in the Eternal State, only with resurrection bodies? Witherington suggests “that the dead are still out there, and have not yet been consigned to hell” (294).  He reiterates, “. . . while lots of people are in the land of the dead just now,  none of them are yet in hell” (296).  Upon what basis does Witherington make such statements?  How does a text like 2 Corinthians 5:8 (“to be absent from the body [is] to be present with the Lord”) fit into the annihilationist viewpoint?

11.  The annihilationist perspective is sometimes accused of removing a great evangelistic motivator for the lost.  “If hell is not eternal suffering, but rather merely passing into non-existence, then what motive is there to believe the gospel?,” some might ask.  Wright responds, “If human beings would not do to their worst enemies what God, according to some, purposes to do to creatures whom he loves, then this kind of God is not worth believing in and it is hard to blame people who find it impossible so to do.” (Wright, 231).  There is an allure to annihilationism, it seems to me, which removes a biblical fear of God.11

12.  Do annihilationists acknowledge a real devil?  If so, upon what basis can they then explain away Revelation 20 and its connection with Matthew 25?  Revelation 20:10 speaks of the devil, the false prophet, and the beast being “tormented day and night forever and ever.”  How is that to be understood?  If the false prophet and the beast are seen as symbols of the world in rebellion against God, what about the devil?  Is he or is he not a real being?  [By the way, as a finite creature, does not the proportionality argument apply to him?]

What if the words “tormented day and night forever and ever” really mean “tormented day and night forever and ever”?  If the beast goes to his destruction (Rev. 17:8, 11), is not that “destruction” defined by the expression “tormented day and night forever and ever”?  How does Atkinson’s statement that the lake of fire “is the agency of utter destruction” (113) square with this expression in Revelation 20:10 (“tormented day and night forever and ever”)?  What about all human beings whose names are not found in the Book of Life, described five verses later in the same chapter of Revelation?

If the second death is annihilationism, how do we explain the words used of the unholy Three (“tormented day and night forever and ever”)?  It is quite easy to say that Revelation 20:10 is “outside our scope because it is not concerned with human beings” (113).  Guillebaud uses the expression “perpetual memorial” several times (167-168).  He wants to see the torment as completed, but acknowledges that the first impression of those words (“the smoke of their torment goeth up for ever and ever,” Rev. 14:10-11) seems to be that the torment will continue forever and ever.  He argues that the fate of the unholy Three (Rev. 20) “is no sort of indication of the fate of ordinary human beings” (170).

But Matthew 25:41 and the rest of Revelation 20 makes the connection with human beings.  Jesus speaks of “the eternal fire” which is prepared for the devil and his angels in Matthew 25:41.  Wicked humans are cast into that place prepared for the devil and his angels.  The burden is on the annihilationist to show that humans will cease to exist in the same place where the devil will continue forever in torment.  Ellis suggests that Revelation 20:10 can’t be taken literally, because that will “contradict the teaching of Heb. 2:14 that Jesus will destroy the devil.” (132).  Guillebaud uses Ezekiel 28:11-19 to argue that the devil’s existence will come to an end (171).  Witherington says, “Annihilation or destruction of Satan, hell, and its inhabitants is a possible interpretation of the eschatological endgame . . .” (297).

13.  Will some annihilationists eventually turn to universalism?  N.T. Wright’s argument that “God’s love is the driving force of his justice” leads Marshall to write:  “While it may include punitive recompense for wrongdoing, God’s justice is larger than retribution and is ultimately satisfied by healing and restoration, not by punishment.  From this it follows that even the eschatological condemnation of the wicked at the Last Judgment must flow ultimately from the restorative love of God, not from the demands of retributive justice.12  It is out of undying love for every human being, not out of a need to exact retribution, that God declares eternal judgment on the impenitent.” (219).  Quoting Travis, Marshall says, “there cannot be genuine retribution in the context of personal relationships. . . . To talk freely of punishment in the sense of retribution is to distort the Christian message and encourage misunderstanding.  To speak of relationship or lack of relationship with God is to get to the heart of the matter.” (221).  Marshall emphasizes, “God’s final word is not retribution but restoration, the recreation of heaven and earth so that sin, suffering, sickness, and death are no more” (227).13

My response would be:  Aren’t those blessings reserved for the redeemed?  There will be no sin, suffering, sickness, or death for the righteous.  Marshall approvingly footnotes the universalist Bonda that all that are lost will come to conversion (227).  Wright declares, “. . . this discussion leans in the wrong direction.  The ultimate reality about God is not the iron logic of his justice and his laws but the illogical extravagance of his love.    God’s essence is not wrath but love.  Wrath is a temporary manifestation of his holy love, but not the last word.” (229).  This is exactly the argument used by universalists in pressing their case that all without exception will be saved.  Witherington adds, “While I certainly believe God is holy, just, and fair, I also believe God is loving, compassionate, and merciful, even to the lost or damned.” (298).

Those are some of my concerns with Rethinking Hell.  We should heed A.W. Tozer’s statement that, “The vague and tenuous hope that God is too kind to punish the ungodly has become a deadly opiate for the consciences of millions.”

Me again.  I’m glad to step out of that role-playing.  Whew.  But doesn’t this discussion just give you goosebumps?  It does me!  We demons love it when Christians argue over our home.  But we love it even more when they never waste a thought on what will certainly be the home of those who don’t turn to You-Know-Who.  For many of the human vermin, they can’t imagine our destiny as their destiny, forever.  So, they don’t fear nothingness at all and the prospect of temporary suffering followed by nothingness is quite attractive to them.  Let’s do all we can to keep them thinking that way.

Gotta run.  I want that clumsy nephew of mine Wormwood to read over my review.  He did an okay job of inspiring the makers of the film Hellbound.   Let’s hope he makes equally good use of Rethinking Hell.

 

ENDNOTES:

1 But see my warning below that some annihilationists might move toward a form of universalism.

2 Guillebaud says that if Rev. 20:10 really means “that absolutely endless torment will be the fate of the devil and the evil power inspired by him, a tremendous problem arises as to the eternity of evil, with regard to which we could only wait for further light till we know as we are known.” (172).

3 Thiselton approvingly quotes Paul Tillich when Tillich says that there can’t be a dualism or split in the divine nature that would allow “for a realm of darkness, disobdience, and ruin to co-exist forever by his sustaining power.”  “Splits in the nature of reality are for him [Tillich] demonic, and render the nature of an enduring hell absurd.” (176).

4 Pinnock wrote in his Criswell article: “How can Christians possibly project a deity of such cruelty and vindictiveness whose ways include inflicting everlasting torture upon his creatures, however sinful they may have been? Surely a God who would do such a thing is more nearly like Satan than like God, at least by any ordinary moral standards, and by the gospel itself.” (“The Destruction of the Finally Impenitent,” Criswell Theological Review 4, no. 2 [Spring 1990]). See also his article “Fire, Then Nothing,” (Christianity Today, 20 March 1987).

Millard Erickson responded to Pinnock’s statement by saying, “It is one thing to speak emphatically about one’s sense of injustice and moral outrage over the idea of God’s condemning persons to hell. If, however, one is going to describe sending persons to endless punishment as ‘cruelty and vindictiveness,’ and a God who would do so as ‘more nearly like Satan than God,’ and ‘a bloodthirsty monster who maintains an everlasting Auschwitz,’ he had better be very certain he is correct. For if he is wrong, he is guilty of blasphemy. A wiser course of action would be restraint in one’s statements, just in case he might be wrong.” (quoted in Michael Popock, BSac 156:623 [July 99] p. 359).

5 Fudge’s book The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of Final Punishment (third edition, 2011) receives several commendations throughout Rethinking Hell.

6 However, if it is argued that Jesus’ death equals His temporalily ceasing to exist, then some serious Christological issues must be raised.

7 Robert Peterson raises this issue with Edward Fudge in the book Two Views on Hell.

8 I use the analogy of the burning bush in Ex. 3:2 to argue that fire does not have to consume.   See my The Other Side of the Good News: Contemporary Challenges to Jesus’ Teaching on Hell (Christian Focus, 2003).

9 One may track Pinnock’s changing view of the Scriptures by comparing his early work (A Defense of Biblical Infallibility) to his later view (see his Scripture Principle).

10 If Jesus describes the Intermediate State accurately in Luke 16, then the burden is on the annihilationist to prove that the Eternal State will be categorically different for the wicked.

11 I tried to deal with this issue in my paper “If ‘Fire, Then Nothing,’ Why Be Good?  The Ethics of Annihilationism” (ETS, New Orleans, 1990).  J.I. Packer makes the valid point that nothingness is what we would all prefer to believe.  See his article responding to annihilationism at http://www.the-highway.com/annihilationism_Packer.html.

12 This sounds very much like the argument of the universalist Thomas Talbott in his The Inescapable Love of God.

13 Matthew 25 indicates there are two final words (v. 34- “come” to the blessed and v. 41- “depart” to the cursed).  See also Daniel 12:2.  One wonders if Marshall has been reading Gregory MacDonald’s book The Evangelical Universalist.

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2014 in hell

 

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What on Earth Are We to Do about Unbelief? (Part 9c of 10)

FirefoxScreenSnapz689In our discussion of this one-chapter letter by Jude, the half-brother of the Lord Jesus, we have seen a number of aspects of our response to the unbelief in the world.

Much of Jude’s material has to do with the content and character of the false teachers which had snuck into God’s people.  But in our verses for today we see that Jude’s attention now focuses on how we are to mature in our walk with the Lord.

Let’s continue to look at a ninth part of our response to unbelief in our world and it is this –

Step #9c-  We must Take Responsibility for Our Own Spiritual Lives! (vv. 17-23).

17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. 20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. 22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

And English teachers?!

And English teachers?!

Where does evangelism fit into our concern for a world wrapped in unbelief?  Obviously we are to protect God’s people from false teachers and we are to work hard at developing our own spiritual lives (vv. 20-21).

Could it be that evangelism — seeking to share the Good News about Christ with those who are lost — is a key to our own spiritual growth?  We learn in verses 22-23 that we are to “be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear — hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.”

Sometimes the last response by Christians towards those who doubt is mercy.  We are often tough on those who ask questions, challenge assumptions, suggest alternative ways of understanding doctrines.  Perhaps if we showed mercy, rather than judgment, toward such seekers, there might be more seekers.  And some who are already seekers might settle on the answers the Bible gives to their questions.

Some lost simply need to be snatched from the fire.  What an image!  FirefoxScreenSnapz730Zechariah 3:2 and Amos 4:11 use this expression.  Amos says, “‘I overthrew some of you, as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were as a brand plucked out of the burning; yet you did not return to me,’ declares the LORD.”  There are others who need to be shown mercy, but mercy mixed with fear.  I’m not sure what the fear refers to. Perhaps a fear that they will return to their wayward lives.  Or a fear on the part of the rescuer that he or she might take the path of doubt.  But this third group, those who require mercy mixed with fear, ought to elicit in the rescuer a godly hatred of the effects which sin has had on their lives.

At the very least, verses 22-23 seem to indicate that we can and should take different approaches with different people.  The gospel remains the same (see verse 3), but our methods and approaches can differ quite a bit depending on the type of person we are seeking to reach. (to be continued)

“Christianity today is man-centered, not God-centered. God is made to wait patiently, even respectfully, on the whims of men. The image of God currently popular is that of a distracted Father, struggling in heartbroken FirefoxScreenSnapz592desperation to get people to accept a Saviour of whom they feel no need and in whom they have very little interest. To persuade these self-sufficient souls to respond to His generous offers God will do almost anything, even using salesmanship methods and talking down to them in the chummiest way imaginable. This view of things is, of course, a kind of religious romanticism which, while it often uses flattering and sometimes embarrassing terms in praise of God, manages nevertheless to make man the star of the show.” (A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God, 27)

Questions:
1.  What is one practical way we can show mercy toward those who doubt?

2.  Do we see lost people as almost already in the fires of God’s judgment?  To snatch someone from the fire indicates imminent danger of being burnt.  Do we see our unsaved friends and relatives that way?  Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” is well worth reading to encourage our seriousness about the extreme danger in which lost people presently are.

 

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2014 in unbelief

 

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What on Earth Are We to Do about Unbelief? (Part 9b of 10)

FirefoxScreenSnapz689Don’t you just HATE to WAIT?  As we look at the world around us, we believers in Jesus long for His Second Coming.  But we are to be waiting . . .

Jude has already said much to us in this one-chapter letter.  We are to notice the unbelief around us, but not to the point that we give up or drop out of the battle.

In fact, Jesus intensifies his challenge to these believers — and us — to get strong in our own walk with the Lord.  We saw in our last post that we are to build ourselves up in our most holy faith.

Let’s continue to look at a ninth part of our response to unbelief in our world and it is this –

Step #9b-  We must Take Responsibility for Our Own Spiritual Lives! (vv. 17-23).

17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. 20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. 22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

FirefoxScreenSnapz723Jude then says that these believers are to “keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.” (21).  Can we do that?  Can we keep ourselves in God’s love”?  Some commentators suggest that Jude is not saying that we can keep ourselves in a condition in which God can love us, for we are sinners by nature and practice.  Rather, he may be saying, “Live in such a way that you show your love for God!”

Notice that keeping ourselves in that condition, that state of showing our love for God, FirefoxScreenSnapz722helps us in our waiting!  We are waiting “for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring [us] to eternal life.”  (21).  Although the Bible teaches that eternal life is the present possession of the one who believes in Jesus (see Jn. 3:15-16; 3:36 [“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.]; 5:24; 6:47; 17:3), it also teaches that eternal life is a future reality awaiting the believer (Mt. 19:29; 25:46; Mk. 10:30; Jn. 6:40).

How’s the waiting going? (to be continued)

FirefoxScreenSnapz724I am convinced that the dearth of great saints in these times even among those who truly believe in Christ is due at least in part to our unwillingness to give sufficient time to the cultivation of the knowledge of God. We of the nervous West are victims of the philosophy of activism tragically misunderstood. Getting and spending, going and returning, organizing and promoting, buying and selling, working and playing–this alone constitutes living. If we are not making plans or working to carry out plans already made we feel that we are failures, that we are sterile, unfruitful eunuchs, parasites on the body of society. The gospel of work, as someone has called it, has crowded out the gospel of Christ in many Christian churches. In an effort to get the work of the Lord done we often lose contact with the Lord of the work and quite literally wear our people out as well.”

Questions:
1.  There is wasted waiting and there is worthwhile waiting.  How can our waiting for the Lord Jesus to return be seen as worthwhile waiting?

2.  If I am right that “keep yourselves in God’s love” means — Live in such a way that you show your love for God — what is one practical way that we can do that?

 

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2014 in unbelief

 

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What on Earth Are We to Do about Unbelief? (Part 9a of 10)

FirefoxScreenSnapz689Do you ever feel like giving up?  No?  (You probably lie about other things as well).  I look at the world around me, and I get a bit discouraged.  Unbelief is rampant.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is ignored or critiqued.  What’s a believer in Jesus to do?

Jude, the half-brother of the Lord Jesus, wrote a one-chapter letter precisely answering that question!  We’ve seen so far in our study that in the face of the world’s unbelief, we are to keep ourselves strong in the faith (vv. 1-4).  But the Christian faith is being attacked — and we need to be aware of those attacks (vv. 3-4).  The Christian is to be ready to do battle for Christian truths (vv. 3-4), acknowledging the fact that the God who delivers is also a God who destroys (vv. 5-7)!  There are many dangers in false teaching that we must realize (vv. 8-10), for those teachers are simply repeating the errors of history (v. 11).  We’ve also seen (seventhly), that we should understand that false teachers have nothing to offer (vv. 12-13).  Eighthly, we saw that false teachers inevitably lead to ungodly living (vv. 14-16).

Let’s look at a ninth part of our response to unbelief in our world and it is this –
Step #9a-  We must Take Responsibility for Our Own Spiritual Lives! (vv. 17-23).

17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. 20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. 22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

What are we to do about unbelief on earth?  We’ve seen a number of steps that we can take.FirefoxScreenSnapz719  But what about ourselves?  What about our own spiritual growth?  Again Jude reminds us of the false teachers in verses 17-19.  He uses the expression “scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.”  They are divisive people who follow mere natural instincts and don’t have the Spirit.  So, obviously, to properly pursue our own spiritual lives means not making the same mistakes as these false teachers.  We must not scoff at the things of God, nor follow our own ungodly desires.  We must not follow our natural instincts.  And we must “have the Spirit” in our lives.

But Jude goes on to positive admonitions about our own spiritual lives.  We are to “build ourselves up in our most holy faith,” for example (v. 20).   Spiritual growth does not happen automatically.  We FirefoxScreenSnapz721don’t become spiritually mature by osmosis (simply sitting “under the sound of the Word,” as some of the older generation used to say).  We are to build ourselves up.  It is not enough just to fight false teaching.  We must invest energy in growing ourselves up!

Jude also uses the enigmatic expression “and praying in the Holy Spirit” (v. 20).  What does he mean by that command?  There is no real context to dogmatically determine what he means, but it seems unlikely that he is referring to the supernatural gift of speaking in languages one has not learned.  Perhaps his point is praying in such as way that we maximize our cooperation with the ministries of the Holy Spirit to us (illumination, conviction of sin, leading, etc.).  (to be continued)
FirefoxScreenSnapz720
“The reason why many are still troubled, still seeking, still making little forward progress is because they haven’t yet come to the end of themselves. We’re still trying to give orders, and interfering with God’s work within us. ”
― A.W. Tozer

 

Questions:

1.  What is one factor that keeps you from growing in the Lord as you should?

2.  Name one practical step you can take to combat that hindrance in your life ________________________

_______________________________________________________________________________________

 

 
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Posted by on July 13, 2014 in unbelief

 

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What on Earth Are We to Do about Unbelief? (Part 8 of 10)

FirefoxScreenSnapz689Unbelief is rampant in our world.  Specifically, unbelief in the gospel.  What’s a Christian to do?  We have seen from the little epistle of Jude that first, we are to keep ourselves strong in the faith (vv. 1-4).  Second, we must be aware of attacks on the Christian faith (vv. 3-4).  Third, we must be prepared to do battle for Christianity’s truths (vv. 3-4).  Fourth, we must acknowledge the fact that the God who delivers is also a God who destroys (vv. 5-7).  We must, fifth, realize the dangers of false teaching (vv. 8-10).  Sixth, we must see that false teachers are simply repeating the errors of history (v. 11).  Seventh, we should realize that false teachers have nothing to offer (vv. 12-13).

Let’s look at an eighth part of our response to unbelief in our world and it is this –

Step #8-  We must recognize that false teachers inevitably lead to ungodly living! (vv. 14-16).

14 Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones 15 to judge everyone, and to convict all of them of all the ungodly acts they have committed in their ungodliness, and of all the defiant words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”  16 These people are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.

These false teachers may have taken the believers to whom Jude is writing by surprise, but they did not surprise God.  We saw at the beginning of the epistle that these teachers are “certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago.”  We see in verse 14 that they were prophesied about by Enoch.  Who is this Enoch?  He is described as “the seventh from Adam,” so he can’t be Enoch, the son of Cain (Gen. 4:17) who was the third from Adam.

The saying of Enoch here quoted is found at the beginning of the Book of Enoch (Jude 1:9): “And behold He comes with myriads of saints to execute judgment on them, and He will destroy the ungodly and judge all flesh concerning all things which the sinners and ungodly have committed and done against Him.” These words are taken from a speech in which an angel interprets a vision which Enoch has seen, and in which he announces to him the future judgment of God.

FirefoxScreenSnapz712Enoch was a important person mentioned in Genesis 5:24, the 7th from Adam, the son of Jared (Gen. 5:18) and the father of Methuselah (5:21; Luke 3:37). After the birth of Methuselah at 65, Enoch lived 300 more years (Gen 5:23-24). “So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.”  Hebrews 11:5 says, “By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, ‘and was not found, because God had taken him’; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God.”  Enoch was transported into heaven without dying. With Enoch was conveyed the teaching of both heaven and immortality.

The concept of ten thousand saints is not unique. In Deut. 33:2 And he said: “The LORD came from Sinai, and dawned on them from Seir; he shone forth from Mount Paran, and He came with ten thousands of saints; from His right hand came a fiery law for them.”  Revelation 5:11 says, “Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands. ” The Bible teaches that heaven has a vast population of both angels and people — saints. These are those (either one or both groups) who will come with him when he comes to earth to judge and set up his kingdom.

Jude was writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21), so we know KeynoteScreenSnapz152that what he quoted from Enoch was true. This is confirmed by the fact that the same idea about the Lord returning with His holy ones to render judgment is found elsewhere in the Bible (Zechariah 14:5, Isaiah 66:15, and Psalm 96:13, Deut. 33:2).

The true prophecy of Enoch, though unrecorded, could have been handed down by tradition, as the Jews had a meticulous way of keeping both written and oral tradition. Paul mentions Jannes and Jambres the Egyptian magicians, names known in Jewish tradition, but not from Scripture (2 Tim. 3:8). For him to do this and be accurate God would have had to confirm the tradition.

“Even if Jude cites a passage from this non-canonical book, it does not mean he accepted the whole book as true, only this particular statement. I think it is more likely Jude did not lift this statement from the non-Biblical book of Enoch,. It was either something passed on orally or he received it as a direct revelation from God.” (http://www.letusreason.org/Biblexp118.htm)

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At any rate, we have Jude predicting (from this non-biblical source) God’s judgment KeynoteScreenSnapz151upon ungodly, false teachers.  His emphasis in on their ungodliness!  “. . . to convict all of them of all the ungodly acts they have committed in their ungodliness, and of all the defiant words ungodly sinners have spoken against him” (v. 15).

He then describes the present teachers as “grumblers and faultfinders.”  They follow their own desires, boast about themselves, and flatter others for their own advantage. (v. 16).  We must recognize and point out ungodliness, especially if we wish to guard God’s people!

KeynoteScreenSnapz153

 

“Sin is not judged by what we think about it — but by what GOD thinks about it!”

Questions:

1.  Would you say from the quote above that Rob Bell is advocating ungodliness?

2.  How difficult it is to stay biblically true, regardless of the blowing winds of culture.  What are other examples of ungodliness that you see today?

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Posted by on July 11, 2014 in unbelief

 

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