Tag Archives: anthropology
Why in the world would someone believe in hell? And what exactly does it mean to “believe” in hell? These are a couple of the questions we want to answer in this ten-part series of posts. We’ve looked at REASON #1 — I got saved out of a fear of hell. We’ve also thought about REASON #2 – Hell makes sense. We’ve also considered REASON #3 — How does the doctrine of hell relate to the doctrine of God?
Let’s look at REASON #4 this morning — How does the doctrine of eternal hell relate to the doctrine of man (anthropology)? Here the central argument is the nature of the human being. Do we have immortal souls? Is there existence after death or does one cease to exist at death? Might God put out of existence those who reject the gospel (annihilationism)?
Scripture teaches that physical death is to be defined as the separation of the body from the soul or spirit. Eternal death is the separation of the person from God forever. When we say the wicked person (we are all born wicked; “the wicked” refers to those who die without Christ) is separated from God forever, we need to remind ourselves of God’s omnipresence. Spatially no one can escape the presence of God. But in hell God is there, not as Savior, but as Judge. [The late Donald Bloesch taught that God’s omnipresence in hell offers eventual hope to the lost, but that contradicts Scripture].
So, spatial language (being cast out of God’s presence [“depart from me, I never knew you” – Mt. 7:23] and sinners not standing in the assembly of the righteous – Ps. 1:5) is used for the relational point of being cut off from life by God.
There is existence beyond the grave (as evidenced by Elijah and Moses’ talking with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration – Mt. 17) for both the righteous and the wicked (see Lk. 16’s story of the rich man and Lazarus). Granted, there are no specific references to man’s having an immortal soul, but the Bible is clear that, for the believer, “absent from the body = present with the Lord” (Phil. 1). For the unbeliever there is, upon death, a being cast into temporary hell (hades – Lk. 16) there to await final judgment and eternal hell (the lake of fire – Rev. 20).
The arguments for annihilationism (the cessation of existence) are lacking in Scripture, despite the best efforts of people like Edward Fudge and books like Rethinking Hell. In the gospel there is, indeed, a hell to shun and a heaven to gain!
We are trying a bit of an experiment with these posts. What did the Lord Jesus believe — and teach — about MAN? Granted, He did not present a finely-articulated systematic theology in terms of our divisions of doctrine. But He certainly had much to say about what we ought to believe about sin, salvation, God, man, and other critical areas.
Jesus affirms man’s creation (Mt. 19:4), defends marriage between one man and one woman (Mt. 19:4-5), teaches that man is more than a material creature (Mt. 16:26), and emphasizes that man is the object of God’s great love (John 3:16).
The division of systematic theology known as anthropology involves such issues as man’s creation, the human person being made in the image of God, man’s make-up (is he body + soul + spirit or body + soul/spirit?), and practical questions such as: can we honestly hold to the idea of capital punishment and why?, does the Bible teach “male headship?”, etc.
Without a doubt the Lord Jesus made visible the invisible God in His incarnation. If one asked what is God like?, the answer is “Look at Jesus!” But He also modeled what is means to be a perfect man, a sinless human being. As a human, Jesus became hungry and thirsty, could weep, expressed emotions like joy and grief, and had specific social needs (I think of John 6 when He says to His disciples, “You aren’t going to leave me too, are you?”).
He affirms both man’s material and immaterial natures. The classic text on this point is Matthew 16 where we read,
(1) It is quite possible to put human concerns above the plan of God (“merely human concerns”, v. 23).
(2) One’s human life (and priorities) often need to be denied to truly follow Christ (v. 24).
(3) Gaining the whole world and losing one’s soul is a poor exchange (v. 26).
(4) There will be rewards for those who choose to serve Him as redeemed human beings (v. 27).
The humanity of the Lord Jesus is a prominent theme in the Gospel of Luke. Read through that gospel, highlighting verses that help to answer the question “What does it mean to be truly human?” (to be continued)
I love the theology of Calvin . . . and Hobbes! Watterson deals with some of the most critical issues facing us in life — through his cartoon characters. As a recluse, Watterson retired in 1995 and has avoided interviews. I wonder where he got the theological ideas for his strip.
Years ago I fantasized about being given permission to go over all the complete collection of Calvin & Hobbes’ cartoons to organize them in theological categories. That’s not going to happen, of course.
But this blog allows me to publish his best cartoons — and to comment theologically on them. The cartoon in this post certainly highlights ANTHROPOLOGY. Being human does not mean being mean and greedy and evil. Being a fallen human does involve sinful behaviors and thoughts.
Blaise Pascal emphasized both truths about man in his theology: man’s glory (made in the image of God and highly esteemed by Him — Ps. 8) and man’s fallenness (man has become the scum of the universe, Pascal says). Thankfully, redemption is available for all who come to Christ. I don’t think Watterson has understood that fact.