An honest and fair debate on the major tenets of Christianity from both sides without a descent into religious or philosophical doublespeak
I know, I know ... the loving God granted free will and so we're accountable, but c'mon, eternal flames!
Absolutely. The Bible reveals that God has several core characteristics. They are Love, Righteousness, Justice and Judgement. Love demands Righteousness and Justice. Righteousness and Justice require Judgement.The Bible is very clear about the reality of eternal separation from God on the basis of judgement for sin. If we reject hell, then we reject the reality of sin. If you reject the reality of sin you reject the need for a savior. If you reject the need for a savior, you reject Christ. If you reject Christ you are not a Christian.If you are not a Christian, you will go to hell and be separated from God for eternity. There is no Biblical doctrine more clearly presented than this one.Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." John 14:6
I get that rejecting Jesus' sacrifice must require fair judgment and I get that separation from God would likely be part of that, but eternal flames is hard to swallow.Wouldn't it make more sense to recycle the non-believer (e.g. reincarnation) or to use eternity (that's a lot of time) to present the case again?Do you say that non-believers are going to hell where they will burn eternally? What good does that do anybody? Wouldn't the Christians in heaven be eternally horrified?How long does "I told you so!" need to last?
WE live in a natural world and we do not perceive the realm of the spirit fully and accurately. WE only see it "through a glass darkly". When we die we see it fully and clearly, with all its ramifications.In our human state we do not fully appreciate the enormity of sin and its true impact on God's creation and it's ability to threaten all that is good and righteous and just. I agree that hell seems a harsh prescription strictly from a human viewpoint. However, God is just and righteous and He is the one who decreed eternal separation from Him as the penalty for sin. He is the one who revealed the reality of that separation and what it means. I merely believe what He has said about it.Whether or not hell is about literal flames or not I have no idea. I would imagine in a purely spiritual condition the full knowledge of being separated from all that is good, just and loving would be very intense and may very well feel like spiritual fire. I know I don't want any part of it.Anyway, I didn't make hell up. God revealed the reality of it in the Bible. But now, we are back to the basic issue of how we view the Bible. It always comes back to that. Also, reincarnation is not a Biblical doctrine.
That is a very good response. Would you respond the same if I asked if you believe that a Muslim child would have the same shot at a favorable eternity as an American child?
I would say this. Too much is made about 'fairness' when it comes to the exclusive nature of Christianity and the "one way" concept. It's not a matter of fairness. If you think of sin as a universal disease that affects all people equally, it is about a condition that needs a remedy.IN the case of small pox, for example, when the vacine was invented it was only available in limited quanities. Many people died of small pox, even though a cure was available. That is not an issue of fairness. It is an issue of availability and delivery. The same is true of Jesus (who is the remedy for the disease of sin). Many people die in their sin even though the remedy is available. Some people make the choice to refuse the vacine because they don't think they need it. Some pick another medication they think will work. Some people live in areas where the remedy is not even allowed to be discussed on its own merits (Islamic Nations). That does not negate the truth of the remedy.In the case of Islam, if you read the Koran you will see that Jesus is well known to them. They reject his diety and even deny that he was crucified. Islam as a whole has rejected Christ, but there are individual Muslims who come to Him (although not many). The same could be said for the Jews.However, I know that God is just and I imagine when we can see clearly in a pure spiritual sense when we leave this world, we will understand that whoever is in hell will have earned it by their own choices. I trust the righteousness and justice of God to make those determinations. They are not mine to make.The Bible revelation is that we are all born in sin and are spiritually dead to God. It is only when we trust in Christ that God's spirit comes to indwell us and make us spiritually alive. So its a matter of life and death. Those who do not have Christ do not have life and the spiritually dead cannot share God's kinddom which is occupied by those who have spiritual life. The spirtitually dead will be with the spiritually dead for eternity. The Bible revelation calls that place hell.Hell is certainly not good news. But, Jesus is!
Thank you for allowing me the privilege of interjecting a few thoughts on this topic. When Jesus describes hell he talks about fire and darkness. First, I would repeat what I think I read long ago (possibly in C.S. Lewis, though I would not like to blame him for the idea if I am wrong), that fire and darkness are metaphorical descriptions of hell. These metaphors portray the worst condition we can imagine as human beings. We know that these are metaphorical descriptions because, if taken literally, they are mutually exclusive: where there is fire there is light and not darkness. So the idea being conveyed is that hell is the worst condition that humanity can imagine. What it is exactly may not be clear, but we know that to be separated from God, the source of all that is good, must be a state of unspeakable torture for those who know God or recognize the love of God when they experience it.The great surprise to me is that anyone would choose to be separated from God. But I remember a time in my life when being close to God was a terror to me. To gather with other God-people, to worship God, to talk about God, to glorify God, to work in the name of God-- all seemed like the worst possible way to spend a few hours. At the time I was busy doing drugs with my miserable friends while we inflicted our mutual misery on each other. Still, I thought that was a better choice than doing the God-thing.C.S. Lewis would suggest (The Great Divorce) that human beings who make the choice to be separated from God all of their lives are not likely to change their minds in all of eternity. In a sense, the pain of being separated from God is minimal to them when compared to the pain of being in God's presence. This is the choice they have made and have affirmed thousands of times through life. Lewis seems to indicate that in the next life those who rejected living in the presence of God will still be more comfortable with that choice than with the other option. It is an interesting thought. Think of the people who live in the hell of addiction, and yet they remain in that lifestyle because they are more comfortable with that choice than with personal accountability. And consider those who choose (by their actions) to return over and over again to prison until they are more comfortable with the life on the inside than they are with life on the outside.With regard to someone raised in another faith... I think Paul gives us (and them) some wiggle room with regard to them going straight to hell. In Romans 2 Paul seems to give us reason to believe that judgment is a little more complicated than simply saying those who are Christians are in and those who are not are out.“When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them on the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all.” (Romans 2:14-16)It seems that Paul is indicating that God will judge them according to their conscience—according to what they knew and how they appropriated what they knew.Conscience, the person's culture, their understanding, and each person's response to the loving God will be assessed. Now you may say, "That is setting the bar of judgment rather low." If this sounds like an easy judgment, think again. Since conscience will be one of the standards of judgment, imagine what it would take to be found true to your conscience? That standard alone would be a tough measure. But I feel confident that everything will be taken into account.Make no mistake, any who get into the Kingdom will enter through the grace of Jesus Christ; but the judgment, it seems to me, will be very personal.It is interesting to me that we tend to make God less “persona” than we are. God created us as persons, a reflection of God’s persona. But when we think of God we often make God some automaton Who must draw lines that are very clear—“If you say this in this way, if you are baptized in this way, if you adopt these doctrines and not those, you are in. If you don’t, to hell with you!” Come on. Why does Christianity always have to spiral down to another legalism, the very thing that Paul (the hero of many legalists) fought his whole Christian life to discredit?I think there will be a hell… exactly what it will be I am not sure, except that I know any person who has an inkling of God would find it dreadful. I don’t object to hell, because no one has to go there. It appears to be our choice. But to declare that all non-Christians will go there seems a little presumptuous to me. God is Judge, and I leave the terms and conditions of judgment to God. In the meantime, I entrust my soul to the grace of God revealed to us in Jesus Christ.
Thanks, Bruce. If I ever knew of the verses from Romans, I didn't really know them. That makes a lot of sense. Most of your comments regarding hell and placement there as personal and God as personal are new ideas to me. I must say that I find them intriguing and comforting.I'd love to see this fresh view interact with Stan's comments on the human sociology and the need for God. We should see more on his post this evening. How else might we gain insight into God as personal?Thank you, as always for speaking in plain Twain, i.e., easy to understand language. I assume that's the good influence of your better half.