A Curious Girl

The musings of a girl who is curious in both senses of the word. Life, God, and York. Oh, did I say York? I meant Bradford!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

More Hellish Dilemmas

Hi Folks,

This is really a very long entry, mainly in response to what people said in comments on my "Hellish Dilemmas" post. I actually feel I have lots more to say, but then, mercy is a Christian virtue, is it not? :)

You can read the comments on the post on this page (scroll down past the entry to read the comments). Please post any new comments at the end of this page.

I figured with such a long entry, to have any chance of any sane people actually reading any of it (who am I kidding? This is my blog, none of you guys are sane) that having subheadings might help. Feel free to skim through. Enjoy.

On hating God, why we do it and whether it's curable

Dave wrote:
If the New Creation is going to be as described in Rev 21 ... with a all-consuming consciousness of God's presence, it is a bit much to expect those who do hate God to want to be there.

I see your point. Having heard lots of theories about what "hell" could be like, one of the ones that interest me is the idea that it's having to endure the presence of God when you hate God. It's an intriguing idea, because it suggests that hell is of our own making, in a C.S. Lewis-ish sort of way. We can come to a lot of complex questions on what choice we have, and what it means to accept or reject God. It often seems to me that many people don't hate God, they hate Christians... They come to associate "God" with whatever foolish Christians (including me) are espousing; perhaps a god who hates homosexuals more than anything, or a god who would rather you sang some Matt Redman songs than help the poor.

And then again, I know that I personally often ignore God because I love myself more. Sometimes beans on toast is just more immediate that a three-course meal by an accomplished chef, if you get my parabolic drift. So I guess I might reject God not because I hate him but because I happen to be pre-occupied with something else.

And it seems to me that both rejections are curable. If you hate God because he's unfair and unfeeling, you'll be pleasantly surprised to meet the real God, and if you become preoccupied with the little insignificant things, you can be given focus. I guess the question I am posing is, is it possible to see the full glory and wonder of God, and hate him? You might be afraid of the cost of following God, you might be in love with something else, or you might just not know God... but it seems to me that if God is as glorious and loving as we say he is, then knowing the truth would indeed set us free... We would have the freedom from fear and selfish love so that we could follow God. Of course God could choose not to bother enlightening us and I've noticed humanity tends to plan to do one thing and then do another. Often when we have the grandest intentions we fail most badly - or perhaps it's just that when we have grand intentions, our failure is most apparent.

Some thoughts on choosing salvation

Is there choice involved in salvation? Can God make people want Heaven? Before becoming a "hopeful universalist", I was most certainly an Arminian, believing that the only way God would reject someone would be because of their own choice and not because he just inherently doesn't like them, making them so he could enjoy burning them in that lake of fire just to prove how great he is (Sorry, I'm using emotive language again, gotta stop that). But here's the paradox - I prayed like a Calvinist. I met a girl on a camp once who was very troubled about her parents. They'd lost interest in correct doctrine and didn't care much for God. I offered to pray for her, and her response was simply to question the point. They made their choice, she said, and though she could reason with them, since they had decided to reject Christ she had to respect their choice, just as God would. Prayer would make no difference... This scared me because I realised it was the logical outcome of Arminianism - one cannot pray for the salvation of the person who has rejected it. I guess in a way I behaved like a Calvinist who considered the elected as consisting of my loved ones and anyone I felt moved to pray for. I always prayed with the belief and the hope that God could melt the resolve of the stubborn and break through the unbelief of even the most resolute atheist.

And if one comes to "TULIP" Calvinism, in that people are unconditionally elected and only saved because of the empowerment of God that allows them to call on him and be saved... The idea that those who saved don't even take the credit of *choosing* salvation, then I don't see why God bothered to create the people who'll be eternally damned. Calvinism means that some people are damned essentially not because they were unwise, stubborn, cruel, self-centred or evil, but just because they were the unlucky ones. All the other unwise, stubborn, cruel, self-centred and evil people got healed and saved. Believing total depravity, unconditional election, irresistible grace and perseverance of the saints would automatically make it impossible for me to believe in limited atonement, I'm afraid. (Dave has heard much of it before, lucky him, but think of all the verses in the Bible where it says Jesus came for the world, not just the select few.)

The universalist view is that our rejection of God - whether because of sin or ignorance - is yet another thing we must (and will) be healed of, so that even those who hate God will love God someday, and when every knee bows, every tongue confesses, and all the creatures in heaven and earth and under the earth praise God, it will be out of love and not out of fear and compulsion. Likely? Well, consider me an optimist.

A couple more good quotes from Dave

I feel the desire to quote this passage of Dave's comment because I sort of wish he'd been at the meeting where it was contended that we'll all be caught up with worshipping God and barely notice anyone else:

That is one of the worst heresies I have ever heard! It makes love of neighbour a mere duty and not part of worshipping God as it is clearly described. How can you forget the 2nd greatest commandment. Jesus hated the Pharisees for doing just that.

*Smile*

And I see the sense in this:

We must both cry for justice and forgiveness (just as God does). And these meet in Jesus on the cross - Praise God for his mercy.

I do see the sense in a duality of justice and forgiveness - I think this plays out every day in courts and our lives. For instance in one sense prison is simply there to punish the criminal, but the legal system also has an impetus to prevent re-offence, and in this sense the criminal needs mercy that will allow him/her to change. In fact, isn't punishment itself sometimes a mixture of justice and love? Spare the rod and spoil the child, as it says in Proverbs...

Mum knows best

Mum had these helpful thoughts on the nature of love:
OK, you know I'm not particularly devout. But love is infinite - it has to be. It doesn't take up space. For example I love you and your dad. Do I love you any less because I love your dad? No, of course not. If you have kids, you know I'll love them too, so will that reduce my love for you or your dad? What a silly question. If I can do all that with one human heart, imagine what God can do.

Hell... it's just a mystery... A really horrible mystery...

SocietyVs said:
The argument of a loving God sending people to an eternal torment, weird huh?
I can't say I get either but then again I have love in my heart for Him and for others after having picked up this faith. Prior to having this faith my thoughts, emotions, and temperments were all out of whack. So out of whack I cannot really remember what used to be my paradigm before faith (what did I really believe?).


Thanks for commenting; I appreciate your honesty. You seem to have accepted Hell as a mystery - true, but perplexing since God is love. I used to be able to do that... "Does Hell exist? Hey, it's a mystery, let's not worry about it now." There were periods during which I worried about it, and sometimes I basically declared myself an annihilationist (ie. believing that instead of an eternal Hell of torment, the damned just cease to exist). There are quite a lot of passages in the Bible that back up view, and I'm sure I can provide you with a study if you like... I can't think why I started worrying about hell most recently, but essentially the true implications of the idea hit home. Though I have never been the kind of Christian who believes that people go to hell through simple ignorance of the gospel - because of having lived in a non-Christian country or simply having been too young to understand the gospel when they died - the full implications of anyone having to go to Hell utterly horrified me. I couldn't imagine wanting my worst enemy to go there (Admittedly, I don't personally have any especially bad enemies). In fact since Jesus commands us to love our enemies, it seems very right that we should be horrified by the endless suffering of even the most despicable person.

When I thought about all sorts of people suffering Hell eternally I was terrified. For a few days I wondered if I was going to have a nervous breakdown, or possibly if I was already having one. I found myself looking at people and wondering if they were going to Hell. I felt almost as if I'd been tricked by God - of course the Bible went on about how good he is, and most preachers keep relatively quiet about the Hell thing, but actually God was not only not going to save much of humanity, he wouldn't even allow them to end their pain and die. Maybe, I thought, God is actually a sadist playing a great trick on us all? "Worship me or burn eternally!" Faced with the hideous realisation of all that "eternal torment" could entail, I prayed desperately that God would show me the truth and enable me to accept it, because it seemed that so many other Christians were quite happy with the idea of Hell, and, much as it pained me, I figured that if God is completely holy and loving he could make it clear to me why Hell is necessary and enable me to cope with this without it giving me a nervous breakdown.

I ended up reading a lot on Universal Reconciliation/Christian Universalism, which is the belief that Jesus destroyed all sin on the cross and that all judgements are temporary, leading to a final reconciliation of all humanity with God. As you might imagine, this hasn't made me very popular in more conservative circles. If you want to read about it, there are lots of helpful websites, search for "Universal Reconciliation" or "Christian Universalism" on Google, there's lots of stuff that'll hopefully explain the many Scriptural issues with this position, because this post is long enough already without me going into all the different arguments every which way, but that does bring me to your final point:

So let's throw out the gospels?

I know that God is love and the eternal punishment thing I don't get either, however, it is in the gospels. Maybe we should remove the gospels? Maybe they are not reliable? That being said, that's where I learned God was love in the first place.

I suspect you're being a little facetious :) It's generally taken as given that Christians should read and study the Bible... In my really quite defunct "Jesus Blog" (formed for such a noble purpose, but alas I failed to deliver on my good intentions), I went through Matthew for references to Hell. (I meant to do it for all the other gospels and the epistles too... Yes, I'm a really fun person and they love me at parties!). I think it's really important to examine these passages. I can't find a way to reconcile "God is Love" and "there is a place of eternal torment", so I have looked deeper into these passages. I do think that looking at Jesus' teachings, Hell isn't quite as clear-cut as people would have us believe. It's necessary to take context into account, too. What does "Gehenna" mean to a first century Jew? Is the parable of Lazarus and the rich man to be taken literally, and if not, how symbolic is it, and what is it symbolic of? Even the verses that many evangelicals quote to prove the point about eternal punishment - the judgement of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25 - doesn't really match up with evangelical theology. It is a judgement based on how the two groups treated the poor and vulnerable, not on whether they happened to pray the right prayer. It amuses me that conservative Christians often disregard Jesus's reason for judgement but emphasise the separation into eternal punishment and eternal life... whereas many universalists actually believe the whole thing, bar the word "eternal".

It would be silly to remove the gospels - of course I imagine one could get a little picky about the discrepancies between them, but to completely remove them would be ridiculous even to the woolliest liberal. They are the best records we have of Jesus's life and teaching. If I wanted to completely reimagine Jesus so that he completely matched my own politics and ideas, that wouldn't be Jesus, it would just be a god of my own making. If I want to give up on the Jesus of the gospels, I'd figure it would just be more honest to give up on Jesus.

Love demands hell?

Matt K said:
...the way I see it is this: God's love *demands* there be a Hell.

Hi Matt, long time no see. I'm afraid I disagree though... I do agree that no sort of sensible, worthwhile love would be happy to tolerate pain inflicted by sin and injustice. If God said to the Kurds, "Well I love you a lot, and I'm sorry about Saddam, but I love him too, so I'm afraid he's going to continue slaughtering your people", I doubt they'd be convinced as to his love... I don't expect God to tolerate sin... it's one thing for him to blink at someone smoking a cigarette, but I doubt that anyone wants a God who literally lets us get away with murder...

But the reason I disgree is that I think God's powerful enough to have more than one punishment. "You stole some paperclips? Into the furnace with you!" In fact, in the old Testament, with only a couple of exceptions, all the punishments and judgements decreed were very clearly for this life. God never mentioned to Adam that he might just end up in endless torments if he ate that fruit. He didn't mention that Sodom and Gomorrah would be in their burning torments forever (in fact in Ezekiel it says Sodom will be restored). His various judgements on Israel usually involve their capture and domination at the mercy of various Gentile nations. Hell is conspicuously absent from the Old Testament. In fact the hope is that all peoples will come to worship God - in Psalm 22, one of the most prophetic psalms, it reads that all the nations will turn to God and worship him. That sounds like everyone to me. True, love sometimes prompts punishment, but I believe true grace is found in the punishment that causes people to repent. There is no repentance available in the eternal torments of hell, as most conservative Christians understand it. The punishment is both pointless and disproportionate (eternity, for a finite life?).

Justice? Punishment? Healing?

Matt also said:
If you're married to a beautiful woman (or a handsome man) and then somebody comes along, murders that person in a very bloody way, I'm sure that no rational person would say that said murderer can get away with the crime. There has to be a consequence. Why? Because of the *love* for that person. If you loved them, you'd have treasured their memory and the love demands that some kind of retribution, justice, has to be made up for it. Actually, it is *love* that motivates punishment.

In your analogy there is very clearly the sinned-against and the sinner. But real life is messier than that. Whilst love for the "sinned-against" motivates the punishment for the sinner, people also love sinners, and in fact Jesus urges us to be loving and gracious even to our enemies. Of course they don't deserve forgiveness (isn't that the point of forgiveness?), but Jesus forgave people all the time and he didn't always wait to be asked ("Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing"). I also think that healing is more important than justice or punishment. If the attractive spouse in your analogy had been killed by an undiagnosed schizophrenic who thought he/she was a demon (Public service announcement: that was unfair mental health stereotyping. Please ignore in real life), or had been killed by cancer or a natural disaster (an "act of God" as it were), setting the situation right would obviously involve more than just locking up the culprit behind bars. If the husband or wife of the murdered victim had the choice of getting their spouse back or putting the culprit behind bars, I think all would pick to get their spouse back... And similarly, if we're standing in Heaven and someone tells you that Adolf Hitler didn't go to Hell after all, he just ceased to exist, I don't think we'll all be terribly disappointed. In fact, if after a couple of million years in Purgatory, Adolf Hitler turned out to be such a nice guy that God was willing to forget his sin and take him in, I doubt any of his victims - happily standing in their resurrection bodies, restored and worshipping God - will be in the least bit upset. Healing is better than punishment - the healing of both sinner (from their own sin) and sinned-against (from sin inflicted on them) - I guess that's the point of the cross, isn't it? People getting what they don't deserve!

Matt K said:
Now I know what you're saying... oh, but God, knowing how we're made could let us off the hook... well... yes, He sort of has. That's what the cross is about!

I'm not actually saying that I don't think God should punish people. As I said above, in a sense punishment is part of love. Parents discipline their children because they love them, don't they? It's just my imagination fails me when I try and discern why on earth eternal hell is necessary and just.

That old free will argument

God never forces salvation on anybody. That's just not love, anyway.

How could I disagree when you've used the word "forces"? I'm afraid to say, though, I'm a little fed up with the free will argument. So it wouldn't be love to force salvation on them... would it be love to let them endure an eternity of hell without purpose and without end, where neither death nor repentance are possible? Does God still love them, despite punishing them endlessly?

Matt K wrote:
...So then HE *first* comes to us, Jesus *dies* on the Cross and we then harp on about how it's not fair Hell exists? And how it can't do because of a God of love? But don't you see? God actually craves relationship with us above all things but that originated in sin... and we willingly divulge in sin. We have a way out.

(I think you mean "indulge", btw). You seem to take the "Pelagian" view that all sin is deliberate and wilful. The curious thing is that often the Bible seems to take another view... in Romans 11:32, it says, "God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all." The general theme of Romans is that we are all sinners through Adam - we are helpless and need saving, and it is by God's grace we are saved. I would hesitate to say that we have free will. As I mentioned above, I met a girl (at Faith Camp) who had taken it to its logical conclusion and did not pray for her non-Christian parents to receive salvation. Of course free will and predestination are tricky topics, but I do have to wonder just what I was trying to do when praying that someone would find Jesus, if I didn't think that God could somehow bypass their free will.

It's in the Bible, isn't it?

Let's not let mushyness and sincere personal want obscure what is actually clear in the Word. Annihilationism or 'eternal Hell' isn't, perhaps, that clear, but the fact that there *is* a Hell of some sorts is very blatantly clear and I'd absolutely love to engage somebody who can interpret the Bible in any different way.

You would? Good stuff. Try Tentmaker, Charles and Paula Slagle, Martin Zender, Craig Nolin, Gospel for Today, and if you want to do some reading on universalist doctrines, try reading some Christian Universalism articles. Some of these websites have discussion forums and I'm sure there are some universalist bloggers who'd be happy to talk with you (If you want to talk with Matt, please leave a comment!).

Saying *that*, if you regard that the Bible is fallible or what not... *shrugs* Have it your own way, because you can do what you like. You only know what you know about God because of His word and if His word is fallible, then why believe in God at all?

I guess this isn't directly linked with the point of this entry, but this argument does annoy me. I don't believe in "picking and choosing" if that's what you mean. One cannot simply say, "I don't like that bit of the Bible, so I hence declare it untrue." As I said above, I don't see the point in reinventing Jesus, since one might as well be honest and just not believe in Jesus. That said, I also don't believe that the Bible is entirely free from contradiction and error. You only have to look at some of the discrepancies between gospels to see that. This doesn't mean that the Bible is not trustworthy. It's also important to read in context and study texts carefully, rather than take everyone at face value. And as for this assertion:

You only know what you know about God because of His word and if His word is fallible, then why believe in God at all?

I thought you were a Charismatic?! I doubt even the most hardline Sola Scriptura believer would say that all they know about God comes from the Bible, since evidence of his handiwork is all around us, and if we couldn't know about God other than from eading the Bible, how would we even know that the Bible is God's word?

Anyhoo, thanks for commenting. Hope my replies haven't infuriated you and they've given you some food for thought.

Final thoughts, hurrah!

It's taken me ages to write this. I feel like I could have written twice as much! I'll leave you with a verse or two:

"I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." 1 Tim 2:1-4

And a question from Sarah Joy you can all digest (posted on the guestbook for my Diaryland diary).

But I have a question of my own: how does God feel about Satan and his group of angels? Presumably He loved them once, does He still?

And with the final thoughts from Julie May (who commented after Matt) and Xianchick:

Julie May said:
Love does not demand justice, it demands forgiveness.
Love is patient, kind...
hopes all things, believes all things, endures all things.
I have heard countless stories of victims families forgiving and befriending the offenders that hurt a loved one. Most of them say they did it rhough the grace of god.


And Xianchick said:
there are some really tough things that come with digesting heaven/hell.

when my faith gets shaken on this one, i try to remember that the torah begins with the letter bet, symbolizing that what came before God, what is above, and what is below are closed to our knowledge.


As always, comments are welcome!

Labels:

6 Comments:

  • At 1:35 pm , Blogger BruceD said...

    Well said, my friend! Your academic credentials are showing! Keep digging, you'll find even more to think about.

    Grace & Peace

     
  • At 12:01 am , Blogger Dave K said...

    A few thoughts, following your headings:

    On hating God, why we do it and whether it's curable

    You point out that if God cured Christians of their hatred of God then there is no reason to suspect he will not similarly cure all humanity at some point ushering in everyone into the New Jerusalem. However I have a number of objections.

    1. (I think I made this point a long time ago in a bluefish comment) God by his grace has surely given so many new hearts to sinners like me and can do the same to others at all points of their life (and you also suggest after life). Of course, we Christians have only experienced the slightest taste of this transformation, and still sin mightily. However, I think it is important to note that the bible always seems to assume that the transformation will begin in this life. There is no indication anywhere though that those who do not demonstrate that they are in-Christ will be united with Christ at a later point. It is those who are ‘eagerly waiting for him’ (heb 9:28) that Christ will save.

    ‘Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.’ (John 5:28f)

    ‘For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels’ (Mark 8:38)

    2. You wonder ‘is it possible to see the full glory and wonder of God, and hate him?’ You suggest not, and point out that often people hate who they think is God but only do so because they do not know him. But what does the story of the bible teach us? From Adam and Eve with God in the garden, to Israel in the desert, and most of all the Jews and Romans meeting with Jesus we have seen that knowing much of God increases the rebellion, not lessens it. It is only by grace the Spirit within us that we see the beauty of our redeemer while we are countless times told how we are held responsible for what we make of him now, but there is no suggestion that if the eyes are not already open when Jesus comes that we will see his glory revealed as beauty.

    Some thoughts on choosing salvation

    I think the key thing on the Calvinism vs Arminism debate is that we remember that the bible emphasises both that salvation is of God, but the responsibility to believe is ours. The best Calvinists (including the best of them all – good old Calvin) would never pull these apart, and I suspect that it was because Calvinists did begin to do this that Unitarians appeared in their ranks. You suggest to be a Calvinist and not a universalist is to believe that some are just lucky. I can understand why you think that, but I think when you start approaching such mysteries Calvin has sound advice:

    ‘If at any time thoughts of this kind come into the minds of the pious, they will be sufficiently armed to repress them, by considering how sinful it is to insist on knowing the causes of the divine will, since it is itself, and justly ought to be, the cause of all that exists. For if his will has any cause, there must be something antecedent to it, and to which it is annexed; this it were impious to imagine. The will of God is the supreme rule of righteousness,50 so that everything which he wills must be held to be righteous by the mere fact of his willing it. Therefore, when it is asked why the Lord did so, we must answer, Because he pleased. But if you proceed farther to ask why he pleased, you ask for something greater and more sublime than the will of God, and nothing such can be found. Let human temerity then be quiet, and cease to inquire after what exists not, lest perhaps it fails to find what does exist. This, I say, will be sufficient to restrain any one who would reverently contemplate the secret things of God.’

    It may seem like a cop out, but we only have the scripture as a guide on these difficult paths and we must seek to listen to it but not go beyond it. If scripture says that suggests that not all will be saved, then we should not jump to the assumption that luck is the core reason behind it, but rather we must be go no further than scripture sees fit to lead.

    Speaking of listening to scripture, I wonder if you are recall the context of the famous passage in Isaiah:

    “Turn to me and be saved,
    all the ends of the earth!
    For I am God, and there is no other.
    23 By myself I have sworn;
    from my mouth has gone out in righteousness
    a word that shall not return:
    ‘To me every knee shall bow,
    every tongue shall swear allegiance.’ [4]
    24 “Only in the Lord, it shall be said of me,
    are righteousness and strength;
    to him shall come and be ashamed
    all who were incensed against him.
    25 In the Lord all the offspring of Israel
    shall be justified and shall glory.”
    46:1 Bel bows down; Nebo stoops;
    their idols are on beasts and livestock;
    these things you carry are borne
    as burdens on weary beasts.
    2 They stoop; they bow down together;
    they cannot save the burden,
    but themselves go into captivity.

    Not all those who bow down will do so out of love it would seem.

    OK this comment is already too long so he are my abbreviated thoughts on the rest:

    You point out that very often punishment in the bible is clearly seen as discipline, or reformative and not purely retributive. I agree but I do not think you can account for a lot of other biblical discussion about punishments in this way either.

    I think pointing out that OT punishments were ‘this life’ and so that all the punishment language there is all with the implication that there will be another chance, is a case of selective reading. Firstly death was often seen as the final thing, and there was no indication of that the writers had contemplated the possibility of a second chance. OT views of sheol are almost uniformly negative (although it is clearly not a medieval hell), and death itself was seen as a curse.

    I think we all need to really rethink the assumptions that we are making which makes the idea of punishment of evil, and evil people, something we should not rejoice in. Obviously Jesus cried over Jerusalem, but that is not all the biblical witness. The Psalms and Revelation (chap 19) all show us that God’s wrath is a praiseworthy thing too.

    This is a really imbalanced and insensitive comment. I have not talked about the horror of punishment, or about enough about how it should fall on me. And I don’t think we should ever talk about God as though he is happily dispensing wrath from a place of comfort. The wrath of God fell on Jesus to a degree we will never know, and there is no clearer demonstration that while the destruction of evil brings God joy, it also causes him pain and sadness.

    I think Xianchick has it right too:
    there are some really tough things that come with digesting heaven/hell.

    when my faith gets shaken on this one, i try to remember that the torah begins with the letter bet, symbolizing that what came before God, what is above, and what is below are closed to our knowledge.

    Once again. I am really, really sorry that this comment should have been the product of a great deal of thought and prayer, and was the result of a tired and busy guy who really needs to sort out his life and bring praise God.

    Ahhhhh!

     
  • At 5:38 am , Blogger beepbeepitsme said...

    "The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people." Gilbert K. Chesterton

     
  • At 12:52 am , Blogger Dave K said...

    Beepbeepitsme. I'm not sure if you are responding to me, but I agree with your quote. However I don't think that means we need to do away with the idea of an enemy (because we love them) or of evil people (because everyone is evil). I've been thinking a bit more about this whole bit, and though I don't know how to put it all together I think there is a clear idea of an enemy in every book of the bible, and that these people should be punished according to the biblical author:

    Genesis - The devil, mankind generally, Sodom and Gomorrah.

    Exodus - Egypt

    Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy - unfaithful Israelites, and nations/tribes who oppose their progress.

    Joshua - 2 Samuel - Canaanites

    Kings/Chronicles - surrounding nations esp. Assyria and Babylon

    Ezra, Nehemiah - the ancestors of the Samaritans

    Esther - Haman

    Job - the Devil

    Psalms - usually 'the enemies that surround me'

    Wisdom lit - foolishness?

    The prophets - various nations and the exploiters of the poor

    Gospels and Act - unfaithful Jews, in particular the religious elite, and to a lesser extent the Romans.

    The Epistles - False teachers

    Revelation - Rome

    If you actually think about these various 'enemies of God', and what they did, it is hard to ignore the shocking evil they perpetrated.

    The amazing thing about Christianity/Judaism is the fact that throughout all of these is the theme that the people of God should 'judge not less you be judged', and that they should not consider themselves better than others. Substantial space is dedicated to the evil and unfaithfulness of the people of God, despite incomparable blessings. However i hope my list brings back memories that throughout the bible there is often considerable attention to the evil who are not part of God's people, and the righteous, who are. This distinction runs through the heart of almost every biblical book, despite reminder after reminder that the righteous are evil too.

    In many respects I have no idea how the biblical writers manage to hold these two things together but they do. It is an amazing thing which I cannot begin to sort into tidy boxes. I couldn't invent a religion like that of the bible - but then if I could I would seriously worry.

    Thank you all for giving me the space to think about this.

    Sorry beepbeepitsme that I hijacked your comment to muse about what I have been thinking about recently.

     
  • At 4:46 am , Blogger SocietyVs said...

    I am just glad I made the blog, who-hoooo! Howbeit in the sense that I think hell is a 'mystery'? Well, it is an unknown for all I know, as far as explaining what 'hell' is (I say the same for heaven and what it is like). I know what earth is like and that's about it. Anyone with a better claim than that should prove they been to either place.

    But if it's a question if a hell exists or an eternal punishment, I have said 'it does', only because that is what Jesus mentions at certain times. I am more than willing to enter a deeper study on the issue, merely from Matthew if need be, to not only prove Jesus mentioned it but that he taught it. If that conflicts with the love of God then who's imposing their 'will' on scripture with that view?

    It's all context anyways and like I say I am open to learning more in a discussion forum.

     
  • At 5:05 am , Blogger SocietyVs said...

    I juts read the "Jesus Blog' and your bit on 'hell', which is interesting and leaves some ambiguity to the definition of 'eternal' and 'age-during'. Then 'age-during' is not really explained...I am guessing it means 'for a time - within this time'.

    It all poses one problem for me, is the word eternal even used in the bible? Or is it 'age-during'? If so then one might have to argue in the other direction against 'eternal reward' also. Which means, if this poses as something true, we have no life afterwards that is eternal. Am I wrong on this?

    Another problem I saw was Matthew 25, which does use the words 'eternal' in light of punishment and reward. There is a seperation based on their compassion and love for their neighbor (in this parable seen as the Poor). If the end means nothing, we all get to the eternal reward, then what makes someone care for the poor in the 1st place? They will all recieve the same reward at some point...which is seemingly against what is taught. Whether I help the poor or not the means don't justify the ends anyways, 'see ya in heaven'...which firstly isn't the point of that passage. The point is 'did we love our neighbors' at all? These are simple things to ask 'giving water, food, shelter, caring for the lonely, etc'. Or is it wrong for God to ask of us something?

     

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