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.
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.
Gerry T. Neal
July 12, 2014 at 6:55 pm
The conditionalist argument that the idea of the immortality of the soul shows a Hellenizing influence on Christianity makes little sense. It seems to assume that if we can trace an idea in Christian theology to classical Greek philosophy we must therefore throw it out as an impurity? Tertullian – “what has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” – might like that, but it would otherwise go against the mainstream of Christian theology from the Apostles through the early Church Fathers on. Clark Pinnock was right, to a limited extent, in saying that the New Testament authors adopted a Greek perspective, but his conclusions do not follow from that. The most obvious example of Hellenization in the New Testament is the first verse of St. John’s Gospel in which Jesus is identified as “the Logos”. Here we see a sythesis of Greek and Hebrew thought, for the way the word “memra” is used in the Targum literature, to depict a “Word of the LORD” that is both identified with yet distinct from YHWH is very similar to how St. John uses “Logos” here, borrowing the term that Greek philosophers since Heraclitus of Ephesus had used to identify the unifying and underlying “Reason” beneath the chaos of the world of phenomena and which they too identified with their, admittedly much vaguer, concept of God. In the same century in which our Lord walked the earth, Philo of Alexandria also produced a Greek/Hebrew synthesis in which the Logos and Memra were equated. The idea of Jesus as the Word, Who co-exists eternally and equally with God the Father, in a relationship of “eternal generation”, and Who became man for us, is fundamental to orthodox Christology and the doctrine of the Trinity. Perhaps the early Church could have formulated and defended that doctrine without the help of concepts borrowed from Greek philosophy but it would have been more difficult. We should be wary, therefore, of those who too freely equate the Hellenization of Christianity with the corruption of Christianity. Jesus Himself quoted a Greek proverb when speaking to Saul on the road to Damascus and Saul, as St. Paul, freely quoted Epimenides and Aratus when addressing the Epicureans and Stoics at the Areopagus in Athens. Interestingly, as it pertains to your primary topic, with the exception of references to “Gehenna” and the “Lake of Fire”, which come from Jewish sources, the New Testament’s language for “hell” is lifted entirely from Greek mythology. When it speaks of hell, not as the place of eternal punishment per se, but as the equivalent of the Old Testament sheol, i.e., the underworld, the land of the dead, it uses the Greek term for the underworld which is the same as the name of the Greek deity who in Greek mythology ruled the underworld. When St. Peter speaks of the place where the enemies of God were imprisoned, he uses the term “tartaros” which was the prison in which Zeus cast the Titans. St. John’s references to “the abyss” in the Apocalypse refer to the same place. If we were to try and strip Christianity of all Greek influence, we would have little left, I am afraid.
Dr. Larry Dixon
July 14, 2014 at 6:54 am
Thank you for your insightful comments. Pinnock is guilty, I think , of the genetic fallacy (judging something as good or bad on the basis of where it came from). What, if I may ask, are you up to these days? Blessings. Larry
Gerry T. Neal
July 15, 2014 at 8:58 am
You’re welcome! I work full-time for the Union Gospel Mission in Winnipeg. I started working there shortly after my last semester at Providence and have been there ever since. In more recent years I have added a second occupation as an essayist, specializing in unfashionable, politically correct, and reactionary opinion pieces on a wide range of topics, mostly for self-publication online at my own site (http://thronealtarliberty.blogspot.ca/) but occasionally for traditionalist Anglican devotional societies as well. Gery
July 14, 2014 at 3:15 pm
Regarding Hellenization and the immortality of the soul, CI is not making a guilt by association argument. It is claiming that this concept is foreign to the Bible and Judaism, while ever present in Greek thought, so its inclusion is suspect. This is also why CI proponents quote scriptures such as Genesis 3:22 and Romans 2:7… to show that the best case to be made FROM SCRIPTURE is the mortality of the unregenerate soul.
July 14, 2014 at 3:19 pm
I do, however, want to complement you on representing the content well, and raising a host of issues which we must continue to address with vigor. Of course, many of those are addressed at rethinkinghell.com, as well as in the podcast. I highly recommend Podcasts 4 and 7 for the biblical arugments.
July 14, 2014 at 5:10 pm
It amazes me that grown up people can spend some time to argue about this. Just be patient and when your time comes you might find out if you will be eligible to get the full or only partial residence privileges in Hell.
July 14, 2014 at 5:50 pm
John, for those of is who are saved, perhaps the nature of hell is unimportant if we assume we are not headed there. But we Comditionalists are mainly concerned with representing the gospel correctly, and not putting unbiblical stumbling blocks in the way. If ECP is in error, as we contend, we may not only be misrepresenting the nature of a God and his justice, we may be also, like the Pharisees, be keeping people OUT of the Kingdom due to our love for a God who is harsher than He has revealed. Please read my article below, thanks. http://www.wholereason.com/2014/07/conditionalism-and-evangelism.html
Wm Tanksley Jr
July 15, 2014 at 1:54 pm
Thank you for your review and interaction.
From the review: //If death equals non-existence, then how does one explain// … //If death equals non-existence, then how do annihilationists view the death of the Lord Jesus on the cross?// … //It appears that none of the contributors to this volume understand death to mean immediate cessation of existence, for…//
IF Death means non-existence, yes. But since you know that “none of the contributors to this volume understand death to mean immediate cessation of existence”, doesn’t this entire paragraph represent a red herring? After all, if death doesn’t produce immediate non-existence, then death is itself something other than non-existence. In particular, Christ died without becoming non-existent — a point that Peter makes in his first sermon in Acts 2, and then elaborates on by pointing out that two results of death couldn’t have applied to Christ, first being bound by its coils (“pains” is bizarrely incorrect by context) and second having His Holy self corrupted (and we see elsewhere that corruption is the process by which a dead person becomes uncreated into dust).
To me, the best way to compare the lies of the devil to the truth of God is not to make up things the devil might say, but to look at how the Bible represents him contradicting God. We see this clearly in Gen 3 (q.v., please), where that old serpent verbally agrees with God on many points (even the claim that she will be like God is actually in agreement with God, as seen at the end of the chapter), but he teaches Eve one thing in disagreement with God: that if she eats the fruit, she will not die. God disagrees — not only will Adam die and return to dust, but God takes action specifically to prevent Adam from living forever.
Unfortunately, you inform us, sinful man WILL live forever in spite of God’s action — blocking off access to the Tree of Life wasn’t enough. In ultimate effect, by your words, everything the serpent said was true — and it’s God’s warning that was false.
Are you sure channeling Screwtape for this review was the right move? I mean, of course it’s a petty and mean thing for you to do, and far outside of your normal behavior and reputation, but aside from that, it’s also disturbingly aptly applied to what you’re trying to teach.
Dr. Larry Dixon
July 15, 2014 at 3:45 pm
Thank you for your comments. May I ask how you came across my blog?
1. You make an excellent point re death being something other than non-existence. I was not intentionally trying to commit a red herring, but I see what you are saying. I need to do some more research on the annihilationist view of the after-death condition.
2. I apologize for your taking offense at my Screwtape framework. I did not mean it in a petty or mean way. I thought it was kind of creative — IF one holds to ECP.
3. I don’t want to be doing the devil’s work! And I don’t want to be on his side. I just don’t buy the annihilationist view of Genesis 3 in light of other Scriptures.
Do you think your words “channeling Screwtape” and “petty and mean” are a bit strong? Just asking.
Thanks again for commenting.
Wm Tanksley Jr
July 17, 2014 at 12:31 pm
I keep an eye out for reviews because I had some role in the book — proofing Hebrew in Ellis’ chapter, mainly. I found a mention of it in the “RethinkingHell” Facebook group (a closed group, but into which you’d be welcome).
Thank you for considering my point! What follows will be an attempt to explain, not persuade.
For “what conditionalists believe”, I think Ellis’ chapter makes some good points (although he does so from an anti-dualist point of view which I do not share). Of course, you know that we consider Genesis 3 to be the institution passage of death (just as Genesis 2 is the institution of marriage), so that we see death as a cessation of life so that sinful man cannot “live forever”. Particularly valuable, I think, is Ellis’ approval of Athanasius (see http://www.ccel.org/ccel/athanasius/incarnation.ii.html for the full text). Now, Athanasius is no conditionalist; but his understanding of man’s natural fate here is that man tends toward returning to uncreation through corruption. Corruption is something the life in us fights against, and when life has ceased (AKA when death begins), corruption begins to take over. But in Christ although death did have its way, and life ended, corruption did not begin. Thus Christ did not become uncreated/annihilated — and as I mentioned, that point is one of the first points preached by the Church in Acts 2.
Likewise, we hold that annihilation/uncreation, although part of the promised fate of the wicked, is not their punishment; rather, _death_ is their punishment. Their annihilation into ashes or dust is merely a convenience to the righteous — clearing the way for the full enjoyment of the resurrection kingdom. See the reaction of the saints to the total destruction of the great city/whore in Revelation 19, the treading on the ashes of the wicked in Malachi 4, the “all evildoers and all causes of stumbling” being thrown into a fiery furnace like tares “burnt up”, and then the righteous will shine like the stars in Matthew 13.
Further and finally, just as death rather than annihilation is the just punishment of sin, so also _suffering_ is not God’s punishment for sin. Although we see that Christ did suffer for us, we also see that we are called to suffer for him at the hands of evil men, and even to fill up what is lacking in His suffering.
As for my language being a bit strong: I think if you consider for a moment what you’d think if someone decided to review one of your books within a similar framing story, you’d have to agree that “petty and mean” is simply reasonable. Do you think more Bible studies ought to include discussions along the lines of attributing opponents’ work to the devil? As for “channeling Screwtape”, I meant that only as a neutral description of your framing story. I certainly don’t claim to BELIEVE the framing story, any more than you do.
July 15, 2014 at 6:36 pm
I like to think that I am a reasonable person with average common sense. But the content of some of the contributions to this blog gives me an inferiority complex. I must be well below the average, because these highly analytical discussions on what will happen after death leaves me only bewildered.
I appreciated dgsinclair’s link to his “whole reason.com” article, where he elaborated on the concepts of Traditionalism, Conditionalism and Universalism. Let’s face it: Regardless of all the cleverness of theological writers, NOBODY knows what is going to happen after death.
Religion is big business. It employes more people than any other industry. Knowing this, makes me realize that a good business plan would include an effective scare tactic. What better than ECT !!! I like this acronym: Eternal Conscious Torment. No wonder that most theologists like it. It helps to get more people into churches. The ones who object to it, are the ones who profit from the other alternatives by having written books to supplement their income in a profitable way.
At my age I am probably closer than any of you readers to find out first hand of what is going to happen. I have no fear of Hell, because I don’t believe this nonsense, but even if I would believe it, I would also have to believe in God’s fair justice.
Dr. Larry Dixon
July 28, 2014 at 11:11 am
Your comment “Regardless of all the cleverness of theological writers, NOBODY knows what is going to happen after death.” is an assumption.
I agree that religion is often big business. But what if the threat of hell is real? What if, at the end of time, God says to those who reject Jesus, “You never said to me in life, ‘Thy will be done.’ You never wanted anything to do with me. Now I say to you at death, ‘THY will be done. Forever.”
I appreciate your honesty when you write: “At my age I am probably closer than any of you readers to find out first hand of what is going to happen. I have no fear of Hell, because I don’t believe this nonsense, but even if I would believe it, I would also have to believe in God’s fair justice.” My, John, if it were that easy. Not believing something doesn’t make it untrue! I would be happy to pursue the idea of God’s justice with you, if you wish. If He is as holy as the Bible says, and we are as sinful as it declares, we all are in a bunch of trouble. Blessings. Larry
July 29, 2014 at 1:32 pm
I too would be happy, if you would be happy to pursue the idea of God’s justice with me.
Let’s start by me pretending I believe in God the way you do. God has created me. He has given me a brain capable to think rationally. But in His wisdom He also put a limitation on my mind that makes it impossible for me to accept what the Bible says about creation and Jesus. No messengers of God have appeared to me who would have enlightened me. Theologians and preachers like you were also unable to convince me otherwise. So, how much blame do I have to accept for this shortcoming? To be truthful, I do not know how I could force my mind to accept what every fiber of my being rejects.
Now it is your turn to tell me about God’s justice to put me into eternal Hell for having made me this way.
I have no doubt that you will find some fine words, but I am also certain, that no words would be able to align my thinking to accept Jesus as more than an outstanding human being.
Hope you will not think less of me for having different thoughts than you.
Dr. Larry Dixon
July 30, 2014 at 3:17 pm
First of all, I won’t think less of you for having different thoughts than me. I have and continue to pray often for you and for myself! For myself, I pray that I will give good and sufficient answers to your questions. For you, I pray that you will be open to considering the claims of Jesus Christ on your life.
I was hoping you would respond to my point that simply not believing something does not make it untrue. Just as simply believing something doesn’t make it true! The issue isn’t, at the first, our faith or belief or confidence, is it? The primary or first issue is the trustworthiness of the object in which one places his or her faith. A chair not worthy of the faith that it will hold me up doesn’t care one whit what I believe about it. If I sit on an unreliable, unproven, unstable chair, my seat of learning will receive a valuable, and hard, lesson!
I would want to investigate what “limitation” you believe God has put on your mind that makes it impossible to accept what the Bible says about creation and Jesus. I think the evidences of design and purpose in the universe outweigh the examples of chaos and tragedy, showing us both the creativeness of the Creator and the fallenness of His creation.
No one is asking you to commit intellectual suicide. There are good and strong evidences to support belief in the person of Jesus, to take what Josh McDowell calls not a leap into the dark, but a step into the light. My question to you would be: What would you accept as evidence that Jesus is who He claimed to be? Or will no evidences suffice?
You remind me a bit of the story about Bertrand Russell (as you know, the famous author of “Why I Am Not a Christian”). Someone asked Russell at some meeting: ‘Lord Russell, what will you say when you die and are brought face to face with your Maker?’ He replied without hesitation: ‘God,’ I shall say, ‘God, why did you make the evidence for your existence so insufficient?’” What would be your level of sufficiency, John?
You want to blame God for keeping you from believing the gospel, seeing Him (I guess) as unjust in sending you to hell “for making me this way.”
You write: “. . . no words would be able to align my thinking to accept Jesus as more than an outstanding human being.” That sounds like our conversation is over before it’s really begun, John! The “outstanding human being” point is (in my humble opinion) shattered by C.S. Lewis’ argument in Mere Christianity where he says, “‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Bk. 2, Ch. 3).
But you’ve said no words can convince you, right? I will keep trying.
July 30, 2014 at 7:34 pm
You raise some good and classic objections, which have answers, though perhaps not entirely satisfying.
A. THE LIMITS OF REASON
Your presupposition that we have limited minds is, of course, correct, but your argument that this is the reason you don’t understand/accept the gospel seems incorrect to me.
First, if God gave you *reason*, it may be the *proper* functioning of your mind that causes you to reject the message – that is, it appears illogical to you. I mean, the limited mind has no problem accepting contradictory or complex things on faith (trust in the credibility of another).
Second, as Graham Oppy has related in both an interview and in his book Arguing about Gods, if there were conclusive arguments either for or against theism, we would not be having this argument (except with a small minority of crackpots, and let’s assume that the atheist minority is not in that camp for this moment ;). My understanding of Oppy is that *both* sides have good intellectual arguments, but both have weaknesses, and therefore are never enough to move the objective agnostic to faith or against it. In the end, after exploring the intelletual answers as far as they go, we make an intuitive decision based on our own experience.
Oppy Interview: http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=5472
Even John Loftus has admitted that no faith decision is made via an entirely objective, reasoned process, but includes our emotions and intuitions, not matter how much we try to limit their influence.
As I have argued elsewhere, the use of intuition in every day life, accompanied, perhaps even led by reason, is a full and normative use of our epistemelogic faculties.
So I would argue that you have intellectual AND emotional/experiential/intuitive reasons you are rejecting the gospel message, some of which may be valid, others, perhaps not.
Third, IF we have limited minds, then by definition there will be some things we can not ever understand. I have discussed in the post below that using our limitation as an appeal to mystery is a cheap out, UNLESS you can make an argument for a limited few ideas that *might* be impossible to understand, based on some basic characteristics. I outlined those attributes, then argue that the only two dilemmas that fit these attributges and on which the Bible appeals to mystery are the “problem of Evil” and your issue, the relationship between free will and predestination.
Science itself has a hard time with the ideas of biological determinism and mind, perhaps because, as the scritpures teach, both are true, paradoxically. For an interesting solution to the problem see my article on Molinism:
B. ANGELIC VISITATION
Regarding angelic visitation, I appreciate the difficulty in believing in a history you have not seen, especially with regard to an omni God who is hidden (this difficulty is known as ‘the hiddenness of God’). But most of us come to believe without such visitations, and as you are aware, they are uncommon. The question then becomes, why would anyone believe such audacious tales without direct visible supernatural interaction? This too is addressed in scripture. It answers the question this way:
1. Everyone knows that there is a God (theism) through the complexity and beauty of creation
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:18-19
2. Miracles may initially convince, but true conviction regards the conscience, not the mind
There are plenty of examples of Jesus doing miracles and people still not believing, not to mention these passages:
“Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent.” Matthew 11:20
In the parable of the rich man in torment:
“[The rich man replied] ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
C. GOD’S JUSTICE AND ECT
You are right, this punishment seems disproportionate and cruel, and I suspect your intuitive and logical rejection of it are entirely valid. This is one reason why many Christians have come to doubt the traditional view, and like myself, have re-examined the scriptures, and found that the ECT view is hardly the only possible understanding of the passages, and certainly a very weak one.
Having embraced the ‘Conditionalist’ view, which states that if we fail to believe that Jesus was punished for our sins, we must give an account and recieve a FINITE punishment for such, then, failing to inherit etneral life through Christ, we perish – die, never to come to life again. That seems both just (finite payback), plus we are merely NOT RECIEVING eternal life (which is free, but must be accepted as a gift, otherwise, we don’t get it). Our sins have caused us to die, and that death becomes permanent if we don’t fix it. It’s just the consequences of being broken, and God offers us the opportunity to defeat death and live in the restored world to come.
Sounds like pie in the sky, perhaps, but the archeological support for the things we CAN determine from scripture (places, governors, history) are overwhelmingly validated, and much of the moral teaachings of Jesus, if you read them, are awesome (love your neighbor, love your enemies, be wise as serpents but harmless as doves, forgive, give, develop the qualities of patience, goodness, admitting when wrong etc.). All that’s really left if you reject the ECT message is the plain message of scripture – come and be reconciled to God who loves us.
July 31, 2014 at 8:39 pm
Thanks for your reply. I have very few in my age group left with whom I can have a mind challenging discussion. Your words are not lost on me, but they only bring to light our differences of thoughts in general, and particularly on religion.
Words can be used in any way one chooses as you so well exemplified with “simply not believing something does not make it untrue. Just as simply believing something doesn’t make it true!”.
The Bible is a book of words, and as such is subject to critical examination. No other book in history has been so thoroughly analyzed and its content used for very different purposes. The true believers use the book itself to verify its authenticity. The unbelievers use it to proof its irrelevance.
The same thing holds true for the words of famous writers. You used the words of C.S.Lewis as if his words would have to be taken as absolute truth. They may be for you, but certainly not for me and the countless others who do not agree with them.
I think you also misinterpreted Bertram Russell. If I would be brought face to face with God and asked the same question, I too would have to say something very similar. This scenario is based on the premise that Russell would believe to be brought face to face with God, which of course he knows that he would not, and so his sharp mind responded accordingly.
You said that there are good and strong evidences to support belief in the person of Jesus. I have no doubt that Jesus existed. My disbelief is based on what he claimed to be.
Bertram Russell uses the analogy of a flying teapot around the sun to illustrate that the philosophic burden of proof relies on the person making scientific unfalsifiable claims. The good and strong evidences you speak of, are not really as strong as you think they are. There is no evidence that God has fathered Jesus. It is reminiscent of greek mythology and just as unbelievable.
I cannot think of one evidence that would be sufficient to make me a believer, but know enough of the wonders of our Cosmos, the many billions of galaxies and the billions of stars in them, that I have great doubt about our uniqueness to be singled out by a Creator.
Sorry, this has strayed away from the theme of God’s justice. Justice is a man made abstraction and it might be better to avoid thinking that it is an attribute of God’s character. It can only lead to illusionary thinking. Btw, the same goes for “God’s Love”.
August 1, 2014 at 4:09 pm
Larry, I submitted a long and thoughtfully wrought comment, but it got caught in the moderation queue. Can you review and approve it? Thanks.
Dr. Larry Dixon
August 4, 2014 at 10:12 am
I appreciate most of your points. I’m not sure I want you to push your conditionalist view on my blog, however.
August 4, 2014 at 7:59 pm
Larry, I appreciate your generosity in posting my comment, which includes ideas critical of ECP and pro-Conditionalist. I do, however, urge you to consider the Conditionalist position, which was held by John Stott, and is currently held by some great expositors like John Stackhouse Jr. Thanks.
August 1, 2014 at 6:04 pm
>> Marshall admits that, “An eternity of nothingness is as much an infinite penalty for finite sin as an eternity of pain.” (218).
Because, though both are infinite in duration, they are not infinite in the sufferers experience. The annihilated feel not pain afterwards.
>> 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?
Because the real penalty for sin is DEATH. Though they may suffer as part of their punishment, death is a PART of the punishment, and is not redemptive, merely the just results of sin.
>> The question of proportionality of punishment needs to be carefully considered.
I have critiqued the traditionalists answers to this dilemma at the post below.
The Philosophical Case for Conditionalism 4 – Proportional Justice and Traditionalism
August 11, 2014 at 8:20 pm
Daniel G. Sinclair
It is only by accident that I discovered your response to “anon” (that is me: John). It was added by Larry in an obscure sequence after you requested his approval.
I apologize for the delay to respond. I thank you for the interesting links you provided, in particular the one to your website “Whole Reason”. I have a hard time to understand your dedication to the pursuit of God, love, and truth, but wish you well.
It would be too much for me to comment on all the points you raised in your response, so I will only comment on the main one: A. THE LIMITS OF REASON
There are several distinct limits. The first one is the more common one, that is that one is just too stupid to come up with a good reason, where another person would have no difficulties.
Then there are limits imposed by emotional interferences. This category comprises a wide range and includes early brainwashing in the developing stage of the mind. There maybe other limits that I may not be aware of, but one stands out and is common to all mankind:
We as a species are unable to understand our Cosmos, regardless how smart we think we are. Take for example SPACE and TIME. Can you picture what unlimited space is, or can you imagine a beginning of time? (Ya..h, but what was before that?).
Outside of the subject of reason is the deep seated concern of what will happen when we die. Nobody can know the answer to this, but emotionally a great number of people delude themselves thinking they know. I for one, am curious to know what I was before I was born. I must have been quite happy, because I have no recollection of any ill effects. It would be a reasonable assumption that after death a similar state would be achieved.
Religions since immemorial times have tried to bridge this gap in our knowledge by ignoring reason and relying on wishful thinking. Deities with human character traits were central to most religions. Christianity, Judaism and Islam are the latest versions in the long chain of religious beliefs.
I refuse to ignore reason by replacing it with wishful thinking, that really leads nowhere.
The Christian faith is so full of contradictions that it requires a leap of faith that is outside my capabilities. Is this my fault and should I be punished for this ? What nonsense!
Dr. Larry Dixon
August 18, 2014 at 9:28 am
Just a couple of thoughts as I read your comment to Mr. Sinclair on Aug. 11 and your comment to me on Aug. 10:
I appreciated your comments re the limits of our reason. Would you not admit that the statement “Nobody can know [what will happen when we die]” is an assumption on your part? As a follower of Jesus, I try not to ignore reason or rely on “wishful thinking” (by the way, the latter is an over-used excuse to dismiss Christians. If I had “wished” my God into existence, He would be much less demanding than He is!).
Obviously, I don’t agree with you that Christianity is full of contradictions. I’m certainly willing to try to tackle what you see as the strongest “contradictions.” Are you game?
Regarding your comment to me:
You charge me with not thinking outside my self-made box, with focusing all my thinking on Jesus, and holding narrow views. We all have some narrow views, don’t we, John? I insist on driving only on the right side of the road, inhaling only oxygen, not drinking poison, not believing in reincarnation, etc. If Jesus is who He really claimed to be — God manifest in the flesh — then, I would suggest, one cannot be over-focused on Him.
I would challenge your statement that other world religions worship the same God. What’s your evidence, John?
Of course it bothers me that my words have had little impact on you, as you say, but I pray that the Lord will use my feeble attempts to share the Good News of Jesus with you, as others did with me many years ago. Eternity is an awfully long time to be wrong about Jesus.
August 18, 2014 at 1:57 pm
Larry, I have another comment awaiting moderation, probably because I included too many links. Thanks.
August 18, 2014 at 7:57 pm
Why would my statement “Nobody can know what will happen when we die” be just an assumption of mine? Do you know of anybody who does? Or even more specific, do YOU actually know ?
The “wishful thinking” of an afterlife is not limited to Christianity, but is common to most (all?) religions from the very early days of mankind.
I am glad that you are “game” to tackle some of the contradictions.
There are many documented contradictions. It is easy to find long lists of them on the Internet. I won’t bother to dig out some of them to enter a game of up-man-ship.
For me it is not a game, but a serious concern to show you my reasons for not believing in Jesus to be what he claims to be.
My main objection is the utter lack of logic in the Jesus story.
God creates the universe and as part He creates Adam and Eve. He gives them free will and a set of rules. Eve breaks the rule not to take a fruit from the tree of knowledge. The all knowing God knew ahead of time what Eve would do when tempted by the devil.
Centuries go by, but for God this is only a blink of an eye. In all this time mankind is carrying the guilt of Eve’s misbehaviour. To take this burden of guilt from mankind God manages to make Mary pregnant and the result is the birth of Jesus. So Jesus is His Son, intended to be crucified in a most cruel way to purge the sin of Eve. The all knowing God knew all this long before Eve even conceived her sin. So why to go to all this trouble? Why create your own son and then use him to correct his own doing. I say his own doing, because it was Him who set such a high penalty for the misdeed in the first place. He could easily have been satisfied by just chasing Adam and Eve out of Eden and be done with it.
I can guess what your reply will be: “We have no knowledge of what God had in mind for his actions”. Surely, a God that is powerful enough to create a seemingly endless Cosmos would be intelligent enough to have created a more convincing religion than Christianity.