Thursday, May 30, 2013

Historically Interesting

The other day (the one I wrote my last post on) I stumbled onto an issue, which seems to be a great debating point inside the church-world. My wife and I have done quite a bit of talking about that particular issue (if you want to read about it go here). The comments to my Facebook link are near 100 and are continuing right now (as I write… literally I just saw another notification about it).

This is a world I’m quite familiar with, the one where topics are hotly debated and heretics jump on the chance to have a fight with orthodox Christians (Orthodoxy simply means basic Christian doctrine, the reason orthodox doctrine are basic Christian doctrines are because without them – or even without one of them – we loose the gospel. Things like the inerrancy and authority of Scripture, God as Creator, the virgin birth, heaven and hell’s eternality, the dual nature of Jesus that he is both fully God and fully man among others). But I ignorantly forgot that not all Christians inhabit this world of debates about doctrines.

We don’t all sit around late at night on Facebook or creating websites to advocate for our orthodox or non-orthodox doctrines. We don’t all look at Hebrew and Greek and think, “Ah-ha my point is proven!” only to have the same person comment back for the millionth time. And you might be thinking that is a realm for pastors and kids that still live with mom and don't have jobs, or men in white towers (funny how those last two are in the same sentence).

Yet there is a small child-like faith out there that must be shielded from the wolves of false doctrine by pastors and the kids who love good solid biblical orthodox doctrine and men in white towers. And solid doctrine does not conform to what we want – even, or rather, especially if it hurts - that’s why it’s a shield. It’s cold and is not nice, but what it teaches us is warm and wonderful.

Doctrine teaches us about God, about his character and glory. Good doctrine will always make God scary and glorious, holy and beautiful, loving and vengeful, just and merciful, gracious and tender; it will always end in God getting glory and us getting grace (eternity with him) or exactly what we deserve (eternity in his wrath).

It is always under attack and always being slandered as, “traditionalism”, or “conservatism”, or “the old way of thinking”, or my favorite, “unbiblical.” There’s another swing in history happening, it happened the last time hell was being used to slander God.

Last time is called the Reformation, when the Catholic Church said hell would end if only you paid enough to the Pope; now it is the old re-hashed theory of annihilationism that is coming to town to attack the side of God’s character that is his infinite eternal just wrath on sin.

I’ll end it here for now, but it will be very interesting – I think – to see what becomes of the debate between the orthodox view of hell (the one the Bible clearly teaches) and that of annihilationism. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Problems with “Annihilationism”

A while ago I was tagged in a note on Facebook about why we should give annihilationism (the teaching that hell is ending) a chance. The essay used was written by well-known Open-Theist Greg Boyd (Here 'tis), who tries to support his position biblically for an ending hell.

However there are several things (there's accutally more than 'several' but for the sake of time and a blog post this only has 6), which must be dealt with when considering the ending of hell. These problems are listed below:

1) Misunderstanding of the word "immortal"
  • Immortal means having no beginning AND no end. As created souls we distinctly have a beginning and therefore it is right to assume only God is immortal (1 Tim 6:16). We are just eternal beings, i.e. souls.
2) Time-centric view of eternity
  • God being outside of space and time as its Creator is therefore not subject to time and by placing a capstone of time on the eternality of God and/or his creation outside of time is to limit the understanding and depth of eternity into base numbers. In other words you attempt to confound the wisdom of God by using his creation.
3) To say, "The wicked are “destroyed forever” (Ps 92:7), but they are not forever being destroyed." Is to miss the point of language and words entirely. 
  • In the punishment of unbelievers in 2 Thessalonians 1, “They,” means those, “… who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (2 Thess 1:8)” Inside this punishment is the constant continual action of, “eternal destruction” (2 Thess 1:9). Which means it goes on for eternity (true story). This is not unclear; this is not guesswork on the meaning of words. ‘Eternal’ means eternal (with a beginning but without an end) and ‘destruction’ means frick-this-is-hell. In modern vernacular, it’ll freaking suck. So arguing the semantics of the ‘end of hell’ is about as illogical as wondering if McDonalds is healthy for every meal. 
4) If hell is ending then so to must heaven be ending.
  •             If hell is ending so to must heaven be ending. If the destruction of the wicked is ending then so to must the redemption of the saved. However we talk and read of salvation being a constant thing, “We were redeemed (Ephesians 2:1-10), we are being redeemed (1 Cor 15:1-2), and we are not yet fully redeemed (Matt 24:13).” If redemption were to have an end then in the midst of eternity would come a time when our salvation is no longer effective and the casting out of heaven would come for Christians and then to be annihilated, but this is simply not taught in Scripture.
5) If hell is ending then why was Jesus' death necessary?
  •             If hell is ending then what is Jesus saving us from, annihilation? No. Jesus isn’t saving us from annihilation; he is saving us from the just wrath of God stored up for our personal sins. Therefore when God saves us he is saving individual people. Annihilationism takes the personal love of God and makes it an abstract teaching. God loves – in annihilationism – humanity, not individual people, but the whole humanity, and therefore when Jesus dies on the cross in the annihilationist’s view he is dying, not for you specifically or for me specifically, but he is dying for all in the abstract sense. But God’s love is personal and as such must move our hearts away from annihilationism
  •             Still more on this point is the simple fact that annihilationism takes the gospel and tries to bury it in the dirt. What is the point of Jesus attempting at saving souls when the unsaved will just cease to be? Why not let them go away and be full in the Trinity as God once was before creation?
  •             Annihilationism attempts at making God dependent on man, on his creation. Rather than God loving man so much that he gave his Son to give us Himself and show us his unfiltered glory, annihilationism would say that God’s love hinges on man, not God.
6) If hell was ending then why do we worry about evangelization?
  •             Lastly, if annihilationism is true then why worry about telling people about Jesus? What’s the hurry in telling others about Jesus’ redemptive work if they’ll just cease to be and not endure eternal suffering?

Hell is eternal and will be endured forever and therefore Jesus’ redemption is of eternal significance and damnation is of eternal potency. Thus evangelization is of eternal weightiness and who we worship is of eternal importance. Either we worship God to our joy or we worship self (especially in annihilationism) to our destruction – God is the centerpiece of all eternity (because he defines eternity) and as such we must have eternal worship and eternal damnation.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Going to Seminary

I've been hesitant to go to seminary for some time. I railed against the idea in my mind for years, calling it, "cemetery", "the death of pastors everywhere," and lovely names like that. Now that I'm in the same town as a seminary every person I see is potentially a classmate or a student at the college...

One thought is, "these people are studying the divine nature of God ever day." Another is, "how cocky are they?" Quickly followed by, "How cocky am I?" We who claim to know things about God because we've read books and studied about Him, we who try to tell other people about him (really I'm describing all living Christians) do we also know that we're standing on the edge of the vastness of God and what we "know" is less than the tip of the iceberg?

Honestly I'm scared of the halls I'll walk down and the rooms I'll learn in, I'm scared of thinking that God is completely knowable, because he's too big to know fully, thank God! 

But what we can know is beautiful! That he'd create a phenomenal world and know every particle intimately and hold them together. That he'd cause a people to be his people and be their God. That he'd choose men and women to believe to depth of the beauty and simplicity of the complexity of the gospel and breathe the breath of life into their dead bones making an army of believers to send over all the earth. 

Sure some of us folk in seminary are going to be cocky, stupid and probably should never have come here, I just pray that's not me (in fact I'd love it if you prayed that too for me.)