Everything You Always Hated About Christianity Today Magazine (But Were Afraid to Say)

Once in a while you’re handed a gift. I don’t like Christianity Today magazine, and as the gatekeepers of the evangelical establishment they don’t like me. But bashing people over the head when they give you a bad review sounds defensive and petty. So how sweet it is to be able to bash these keepers of the flame of second-rate Christianity over the head for bashing a friend of mine.

Kevin Miller’s astonishingly good film Hellbound? is about to be released into theaters in New York City, Dallas, Minneapolis and in 23 more theaters across the country and nationwide in Canada. Most folks who are interested in keeping a lively discussion on spiritual values going in our increasingly secularized culture will welcome this film with open arms, glad that someone finally made something that has enough commercial potential to get ordinary folks thinking about issues normally reserved for late-night dorm discussions in conservative seminaries. But not the editors of Christianity Today.

The key to understanding the review (below) is that CT represents the establishment and Miller ignored them. He didn’t interview them. And here’s the tip off in this peevish review; “There was a near complete absence of professional theologians [in ‘Hellbound?’].”

Heaven forefend!

In other words Miller didn’t take the CT people seriously enough. The reviewer says the movie is about theology rather than about hell. CT editors and people like them see theology as “their” private domain. It’s all about theology, not about God let alone the truth. This is like the folks that make talking about God really talking about the Bible or rather their version of it. This is like the reaction of some old school OBGYN doctors to midwives and in-home births.

Since when do theologians know more about Hell than anyone else? I mean what’s a PhD in make-believe worth? Anybody’s guess is as good as theirs.

Let’s take this review apart as an example of everything wrong with the gatekeepers of the smug evangelical world. (Does anyone think that if they could get a job doing anything else they’d be doing what they do?)

And I’ve produced their whole review here. I’ll put my thoughts interspersed with their “views” in the block quotes.

First off, what reputable magazine publishes a review on a topic where the reviewer has an ax to grind? In this case the movie Hellbound? features Rob Bell, among others, who wrote the book Love Wins. I guess you could say the movie is sympathetic to his point of view. So how odd and yet somehow typical that Christianity Today would assign this review to Mark Galli, senior managing editor of Christianity Today and author of God Wins, a book that simultaneously tried to cash in on the best-selling title Love Wins while at the same time “answering” the book in order to defend the evangelical establishment view of a literal hell, say the kind of hell all those Jews gassed in WWII went to seconds after they died because  they never “accepted Jesus.”

Galli is no disinterested reviewer. As one reviewer on Amazon described Galli’s quickie book:

 

“With how image-conscious Christianity has become, I’m surprised that this response to Rob Bell’s Love Wins doesn’t take many cues from the book that inspired it. Instead of echoing Bell’s stylistic flourishes, postmodern structure, and graphic design obsession, Galli writes in a straightforward, often dreary way, that Hell is real and people who do not accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour will go there. I point this out because this plodding, dogmatic text will almost certainly not appeal to the same people who feel excited and moved by Bell’s writings…  If Galli and others are able to simultaneously believe in God’s all-encompassing love for and desire for reconciliation with humanity, AND his desire to expel and eternally punish people–even though He is the one who chooses whether or not those same people will believe in Him–more power to them. Personally, my brain can’t bend that way…”

 

So here’s the CT review with my points interjected between quotes.

 

You know a documentary about Christian faith is in trouble when it begins with film clips of and interviews with people from Westboro Baptist, the infamous hate-filled fundamentalist church in Topeka, Kansas.

 

You know a review of a movie like “Hellbound?” is in trouble when it’s written by the author of God Wins, one of several derivative, quickie books dashed out to control the “damage” created by Rob Bell’s book Love Wins. If the author of the review hadn’t been so blinded by theological bias he would have taken time to reflect on why the filmmaker would have begun with such an obvious caricature of the Infernalist position.

Rather than portray it as the norm, Miller gets the audience engaged by despising something of which no one would approve, eventually bringing them around to see that what the “clean-cut” Reformed folks believe about hell — like the the editors of Christianity Today and professional theologian-pastors-celebrities, like Mark Driscoll and Kevin DeYoung– is the same as the extremists, only the packaging is different. The theology is exactly the same: God loves some people and hates others.

This reviewer is also hung up by his biblical literalism, which he projects onto the movie itself, completely unaware of its subtext.  But I guess that’s the best you can expect when CT assigns a professional theologian with a personal commercial ax to grind rather than a professional film reviewer to the case.

 

Director Kevin Miller (right) with angry Wesboro Baptist members Hellbound?, the directorial debut by Kevin Miller (a writer on Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed and the recent Kirk Cameron-hosted documentary, Monumental), opens with Westboro members protesting at the 10th anniversary 9/11 in New York City. They’re carrying signs that say “God Hates Fags,” “God’s Wrath = 9/11,” and so forth, with one protestor—apparently pastor Fred Phelps’ wife—spewing angry lines about 99.99999 percent of people on the planet going to hell.

 

If the reviewer–who chides Miller for not interviewing scholars–had done a shred of research he would know that Margie Phelps is Fred Phelps’s daughter, not his wife. One quick Google search would have made that clear.

 

This is the set-up for a documentary on hell. One can only sigh.

The foolishness does not end there.

 

This is a blanket rhetorical criticism that utterly fails to deal with the substance of the arguments the film presents. It’s meant to merely dismiss the film rather than engage it critically. And starting the review with the smug “one can only sigh” might work if you’re an erudite Bill Buckley, but not if you’re running a little obscure rag on the Christian right that wouldn’t know a nuance if one bit them. And not if you can write a whole “movie review” that never mentions anything about the movie as a movie and only deals with the theology. (Note to theologians who want to review movies: you have to at least pretend to like films. Choose one:  talk about the quality of the cinematography, the music score, the entertainment value the actors or interview subjects. Then again art and culture haven’t been evangelicals’ strong point for a while, say since the 18th century or thereabouts.)

 

The documentary—now showing in limited theaters—returns to these protesters two more times in the short film, as if Westboro somehow represents a widespread point of view that needs to be refuted. While I admire the film’s attempt to wade into a complex theological subject—hell and universalism—I was stunned by the carelessness evident throughout.

 

Again, no evidence is presented. Total smear job.

 

There was a near complete absence of professional theologians—and this in a documentary about theology.

 

First of all, there are a number of professional theologians in the film, including several PhDs. Sharon Baker, Michael Hardin, Brad Jersak, Greg Boyd, Robin Parry, Jaime Clark-Soles, Peter Kreeft, Ron Dart and Jerry Walls, to name just a few! And then there is Archbishop Lazar Puhalo of Canada who is not only a professional theologian, and well known with a rather large rep of publications, but a major church’s archbishop. One might have included him in the “list,” but then maybe at CT the Orthodox bishops even one who is a world renowned  theologian doesn’t “count.”

Second, this isn’t a film about theology. It’s about the debate everyone–not just “theologians”–are having about hell and more importantly about the nature of God. It’s about a retributive view of God versus a view of redemption and love. It’s about a retributive society that worships wealth and power versus a gospel of  the good news that the cycle of sacrifice and retribution is ended.  That debate has spilled out onto the streets, which is why the movie begins and ends on the streets rather than in a cloistered ivory tower, say like the editorial offices of CT.

 

We hear from pastors, writers, speakers, and, yes, one biblical scholar (who doesn’t believe in a literal hell, but only the hell we make for ourselves when we don’t listen to God in our lives), and one conservative theologian who discusses something extraneous. Two cheers for including populist writers and speakers, because they do have a better way with words. And so we hear from people like Brian McClaren and Kevin Young, William Young and Mark Driscoll. But while a lot of the talking heads talk lot about what the church has and hasn’t taught through the centuries, not one church historian was interviewed.

 

The reviewer can’t spell McLaren’s name correctly, but never mind they’ll probably change it later in their online version… And do I detect some very sour grapes in ” Two cheers for including populist writers and speakers, because they do have a better way with words…”? I think perhaps the reviewer might be making the same “argument” against people like Brian McLaren that Republican Party rubes make against President Obama, you know, he has a way with words and all that but we’re right!

 

We hear a lot about the place of hell in the Bible, but only one biblical scholar addresses the topic, and then from only one side of the debate. We hear lots of speculation about the place of hell in Christian doctrine, and not one systematic theologian addresses the topic. We hear much about the “fear” and the “controlling” nature of the institutional church (which is said to promote the doctrine of hell to protect its power), and not one sociologist of religion makes an appearance.

 

One doesn’t have to be a card-carrying historian or sociologist in order to make astute observations about history and sociology. And in my experience only the smallest of small-minded people give a dam about “credentials” in the softest of all soft sciences– theology and sociology. Overall I would say Mark Galli is really upset he wasn’t interviewed. This review sounds a lot like a “What about me?” protest. After all, he wrote a quickie book on the topic and judging by its sales numbers on Amazon no one cares.

 

In juxtaposing Westboro Baptist protesters and an angry Mark Driscoll with calm universalists, the film suggests that those who believe in hell as conscious eternal torment are basically tormented themselves: fearful and judgmental.

 

At least that point came through loud and clear!

 

It never seems to have occurred to the filmmaker that there are thoughtful, careful, irenic evangelicals who believe in hell and may have some pretty strong reasons for doing so.

 

Rather… “It never seems to have occurred to the filmmaker that there are thoughtful, careful, irenic evangelicals like ME, like ME who even wrote a book on this and who is editor of a VERY IMPORTANT magazine filled with VERY  SERIOUS articles on a pretend world by people LIKE ME who believe in hell and may have some pretty strong reasons for doing so and have PhD s and everything in Hell Studies and all…

 

Given such problems and many more (which space precludes exploring), a viewer begins to wonder what the film is really about. This is my take: First, the film condemns the self-righteousness of many conservative Christians. While I heartily cheer that effort, I’m afraid it does this so well that as we mentally condemn the boorishness of these people, it tempts viewers into their own self-righteousness.

Second, the film wants to promote a vision of God that is loving and gracious. Again, I can only applaud this effort, though not the execution. Why? Because the film ends up committing the same mistake that fundamentalists make: smoothing out the mystery of God.

 

Completely untrue. When the Universalists talk about the afterlife, they all say there’s plenty of room for post-mortem punishment! It’s not all daffodils and bunny rabbits and rainbows. It’s a hard justice where EVERYONE has to come to terms with the life they’ve lived–and make appropriate reparations. If I were Penn and Teller I would stop the review here and say, “Bullshit!”

 

In fact, the Bible gives us a picture of a God who is almighty and vulnerable, Lord and friend, judge and gracious, hater of sin and forgiver of sin. We see this especially in the life and ministry of Jesus, God incarnate. He graciously accepts the woman caught in adultery, and violently drives blasphemers out of the Temple area, with a whip no less.

 

Bullshit again!

 

Christ didn’t drive people out of the temple, he drove out animals. And this wasn’t an act of anger, it was a prophetic pantomime done in the tradition of Jeremiah, whom he quotes as he does this! Is this guy supposed to be a biblical scholar? This is the problem with Infernalists–they want to base their theology around an apparent exception rather than the rule of Christ’s life, which was an utter rejection of violence, even to his dying breath.

 

He calls to himself all those who are weary and heavy laden, promising rest, and tells others that if they follow him, it will mean nothing but suffering and death. He lifts up an inspiring vision of the kingdom of heaven while warning people about the curse of hell.

 

This God of rough edges will not be smoothed out, neither by the fundamentalists who think he is mainly interested in populating hell, nor the liberals who imagine hell is empty. But the Bible will not allow us to put God in a box, even if the box is prettily decorated with the bright colors of grace. On this side of the kingdom, some paradoxes will never be resolved, some mysteries never unraveled. We have the courage to live in the mystery, because we’ve been gifted with faith to trust that, in the end, all things work together for good, that God’s justice is more just than we can imagine, and his mercy more wonderful still.

 

Thanks for the soapbox sermon, Mark, but this is supposed to be about Miller’s film, not your views. Publishing this review two days before the film’s release is probably meant to discourage “Real Christians Like Us” from going. But if Christians – the kind that think for themselves instead of following the dictates of the establishment — have their wits about them they will easily look past this defensive self-serving hatchet job of a “review” and see the movie for themselves.

 

When they do watch “Hellbound?” they’ll see a really good film, learn that the world of the gatekeepers is crumbling as they are being replaced by “outsiders” who don’t bother to kowtow to big time religious establishment types for permission to speak, and as a subtext they’ll have just one more piece of evidence that the days of standard evangelical approaches to issues of faith just don’t cut it anymore. Go see the movie!

(You might want to see how Variety Magazine reviewed the movie, CT editors take note: This is what a movie review looks like!)

 

About Frank Schaeffer

Frank Schaeffer is an American author, film director, screenwriter and public speaker. He is the son of the late theologian and author Francis Schaeffer. He became a Hollywood film director and author, writing several internationally acclaimed novels including And God Said, "Billy!" as well as the Calvin Becker Trilogy depicting life in a fundamentalist mission home-- Portofino, Zermatt, and Saving Grandma.

  • http://www.bradjersak.com Brad Jersak

    Thanks Frank. It means a lot to me when someone as seasoned and profiled as you steps in to defend a very bright young Christian thinker who stumbles into the mean-spiritedness of the Evangelical Sanhedrin. I’m glad you blew the whistle on the shenanigans when the daggers came out. Just this morning I had a semi-major American Evangelical author / teacher tell in hushed tones that you are becoming his favorite blogger. I guess you say what many are thinking but too scared to say. “No professional theologians.” I guess I could send him my ‘Her Gates Will Never Be Shut’ but then again … why?

    Anyway, your rants make a lot more sense to me when I see you coming to the defence of someone who’s receiving a sucker punch. Much appreciated.

    Brad Jersak

    • Frank Schaeffer

      Brad, thanks for the kind note. And Kevin miller is worth defending. What amazes me is that someone like Kevin is so much more talented than the entire staff of the usual evangelical outfits that years ago squashed all the creativity out of their people because everyone is so afraid of the gatekeepers. And yet without people like Kevin the witness of faith will be dead here in the US, even more than it is already. If CT was worth a crap they’d be putting him and his movie and others like him on the cover and begging their people to get behind his movie, but then again like the Roman Catholic bishops these folks protect their institutions not their people.

    • https://www.facebook.com/john.fincher John Fincher

      “Evangelical Sanhedrin” – BRILLIANT turn of phrase.

  • Kris Schulenburg

    Wow, while I might agree in principle with most of Frank Schaeffer’s message, the bitter, angry and proud and loud (sarcasm always implies intellectual disdain) delivery of the message is off-putting at best, but mostly cringe-worthy. I have not read a lot of Frank’s stuff, but the angry resentment towards “professional theologians” in this article is positively Freudian. My favorite Christian writers are C. S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer. I grew up attending Park Street Church in Boston, pastored by Harold Ockenga. Ockenga was apparently an “emotionally unavailable” dad, and busy and preoccupied with theology; this made him an awesome teacher / preacher, but lacking in the dad department (according to some of his kids). Could this also be the case with the Francis Schaeffer household? The pure disdain (hatred even…) for “professional theologians” is palpable in this article. My apologies to Frank if he has clarified his position regarding professional theologians and his dad elsewhere in his writings, but the spew of venom towards theologians was getting embarrassing as I read this piece. The “close to home” nature of his remarks made the comparison and question about his own relationship with his dad sort of obvious in my mind. Without theologians, such as Lewis, Schaeffer, Bonhoeffer, Augustine, Aquinas, (Marvin Wilson, Stan Gaede – professors of mine at Gordon College), I and thousands of other thoughtful Christians may not be “thoughtful Christians” to this day; I shudder to think of the alternatives available to my life if I had rejected Christianity. Sure, there is a lot of room for disagreement in the “soft sciences”, but even if you feel venom and disdain coming at you from the other side, does that justify dishing it out and continuing that vicious cycle? I prefer the thoughtful and “elegantly stated” (to borrow a phrase) works of Lewis and (Francis) Schaeffer to sarcastic venom.

    • Frank Schaeffer

      Hi Kris, sorry you are offended. I’ll leave that for another day. But one thing you may not know that would interest you since you mention Francis Schaeffer (Dad) as a favorite, was his utter disdain of Christianity Today Magazine. He literally hated them and everything the evangelical gate keepers stood for. So whatever Dad might or might not agree with in my article you can bet that A) he’d be on Kevin Miller’s side versus the CT folks and B) he’d love me going after them.

      Also maybe I got my aversion to theologians from Dad. He loved talking to anyone not a theologian at L’Abri and would shudder and mutter if folks turned up at his discussions from the usual American seminaries. Dad’s idea of a good time was talking to people like Kevin Miller and the usual crowd at L’Abri circa 1968 would confirm that. Note that we had regular arts weekends, but I never recall a theology weekend.

      Lastly when a review slams a film, book whatever the reviewer is playing for keeps. He writes a review in moments to “describe” a 2 year night and day project like Miller’s and dismiss it. So anger yes, anger at the safe stupidity of the termites that infest the world and bite real creativity in the ass. They need to be bitten back sometimes.

      • Kris Schulenburg

        Hi Frank and Michael Hardin: Thanks much for the replies. Sorry for the personal nature of my original comments. I was not offended, just saddened. In this political season I’m weary of bitterness and raging, no matter where it is coming from. As I said, I have no argument with the content of your rebuttal to Mr. Galli’s review, it’s the tone that makes me wince. I understand your anger, but I am weary. I get that it’s “mainstream Evangelicals” who give Christians and Christianity a bad name, but here we are anyway and “true Christianity” lives. As long as God is sovereign it will continue to live on.
        Blessings

    • http://godslovewins.com Phillip

      What if there is a third way of seeing this? Perhaps we do not have to throw stones in either direction. Maybe we are both right, and wrong?

      What if it is required for us all to admit being wrong in order to be right, together? Could it be we are all “heretics” that need each other in order to stop being heretics and find “true truth”? Maybe this “true truth” remains illusive as long as we write off parts of our own Body, the Church. It appears God built this interdependence into His Body just as He did our physical bodies.

      What if we joined together everything we each treasure about the Gospel and heard it all at once, in one place? Would we not hear about the God who is both all-loving and all-powerful who came to undo the doing of Adam, saving us from our condition of sin and death in order to restore and heal His entire creation? (Arminian, Calvinism, “conservative”, “liberal”)

      As much as I disagree with Mark Galli I have also been helped enormously by some of his ideas. The same I would say of many who oppose Galli. So why does there have to be a villain in this Story? Maybe ‘some of us is not as wise as all of us’ and we desperately need each other in order to find once again the ‘good news’ in the Gospel. Was this what Jesus was after in His prayer in John 17 “That they may be one …that the world may know.”?

      I appreciated very much Kathryn Schulz’s book “Being Wrong.” It actually saved me as did Brian Zahnd’s “Beauty Will Save the World.” Would the world find this often caustic debate beautiful? As Zahnd asks: Is not what is most beautiful our savior’s words, “Father forgive them, they know not what they are doing?” Maybe we all need to start with understanding that our brothers and sisters who oppose us “know not what they are doing.” According to Jesus it appears that forgiveness is where “true truth” begins. So maybe we won’t ever be right until we forgive each other and all admit we are wrong.

      http://godslovewins.com/blog/arent-we-all-heretics/

  • Kris Schulenburg

    Regarding the article: “Everything You’ve always Hated about Christianity Today…”
    Wow, while I might agree in principle with most of Frank Schaeffer’s message, the bitter, angry and proud and loud (sarcasm always implies intellectual disdain) delivery of the message is off-putting at best, but mostly cringe-worthy. I have not read a lot of Frank’s stuff, but the angry resentment towards “professional theologians” in this article is positively Freudian. My favorite Christian writers are C. S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer. I grew up attending Park Street Church in Boston, pastored by Harold Ockenga. Ockenga was apparently an “emotionally unavailable” dad, and busy and preoccupied with theology; this made him an awesome teacher / preacher, but lacking in the dad department (according to some of his kids). Could this also be the case with the Francis Schaeffer household? The pure disdain (hatred even…) for “professional theologians” is palpable in this article. My apologies to Frank if he has clarified his position regarding professional theologians and his dad elsewhere in his writings, but the spew of venom towards theologians was getting embarrassing as I read this piece. The “close to home” nature of his remarks made the comparison and question about his own relationship with his dad sort of obvious in my mind. Without theologians, such as Lewis, Schaeffer, Bonhoeffer, Augustine, Aquinas, (Marvin Wilson, Stan Gaede – professors of mine at Gordon College), I and thousands of other thoughtful Christians may not be “thoughtful Christians” to this day; I shudder to think of the alternatives available to my life if I had rejected Christianity. Sure, there is a lot of room for disagreement in the “soft sciences”, but even if you feel venom and disdain coming at you from the other side, does that justify dishing it out and continuing that vicious cycle? I prefer the thoughtful and “elegantly stated” (to borrow a phrase) works of Lewis and (Francis) Schaeffer to sarcastic venom.

  • Kris Schulenburg

    Sorry for the double posting!

  • http://www.preachingpeace.org Michael Hardin

    Thanks Frank. I read the review and was miffed. Galli’s argument that no “professional theologians” were consulted was an insult to those of us in the film that may not be card carrying PhD’s (although many are) and who work outside the establishment of university and seminary settings (like McLaren and I). You are correct that Galli’s review is a hatchet job; worse yet is that it is from a so-called senior editor who does not take the time (as you rightly point out) to do a spell-check!

    @Kris Schulenberg: Please know that Frank’s “venom” is directed at the arrogance of Mr. Galli. I also wanted to write a rebuttal of this review but felt that I would be too critical of Galli’s narrow minded bigotry, so held off. I’m glad that FS has the courage and spleen to do so. Kevin Miller has made an awesome movie; I expect more reviews in the style of Galli inasmuch as hard core conservative Evangelicals like Galli have too much of their wallets and social position invested in their Jesus-decentered mindset and not enough of their hearts and minds.

  • http://www.lifewalk.info David Foreman

    Great article. I can hardly wait to see the movie.

    • Frank Schaeffer

      Hi David good point and take it from me if CT doesn’t like it that’s a high level of credential. Remember these are the folks that love folks like Franklin Graham. With enemies like CT one doesn’t need friends.

  • Gene

    It’s too bad Jesus didn’t draft up All-Stars from the sanhedrin for establishing the church. Instead he drafted a bunch of scrubs; fishermen, tax collectors. Maybe he would have converted the whole world if he had picked up some of these professional theolgians of his time. Too bad.

    Keith Green is one of my inspirations and he was hardly a theologian. I never dismissed his opinion (though I disagree with some of his theology) because he lacked a certificate printed with the ink of men. He had a heart for God and I loved to listen to him.

    • Frank Schaeffer

      Thanks Gene! Best, Frank

  • Frank Schaeffer

    BTW for anyone interested in reading an actual review instead of a CT evangelical smear try this at the Wall Street Journal (at least its factual).

    http://online.wsj.com/article/AP9e330e87c1a74440b49827c9f9c1c110.html

  • http://www.murraystiller.com Murray Stiller

    What a breath of fresh air. I just left a comment on the Christianity Today article refuting the reviewer’s facts.
    I was the sound designer of ‘Hellbound?’ Other than Kevin and the editor, nobody watched the film more than I did. And it was a blessing to me. Frank, your participation took weight of guilt off my skepticism of opinions of people like those at Christianity Today. Between this experience and my time filming The (former) Wittenburg Door folk, I realized that the questions are probably more important than the answers because our arrogance that we have the answers right most often leads to idolatry.
    I’ve already been paid for my services on ‘Hellbound?’ so I can recommend, without a conflict of interest, that it is a film for Christians (and non Christians) to see. Please support it. There is integrity behind the film. I’m proud of Kevin and everyone who participated.

    • Frank Schaeffer

      Hi Murray, BTW one of the strong points of the movie is the sound design. Really good work! Thanks for reading and responding here too. Best, F

  • http://www.HealthOnPlanetEarth.com James DuBois

    Thank GOD (Great Organizing Designer) that Kevin Miller is taking on this insane Fundamentalist Fear promoting Fraud of “eternal torment”/damnation/hell. Like Voltair said “Beware of those who can get you to believe an absurdity because they can then get you commit an atrosity, which the Fundamentalist Protestant and Catholic Religion has ben doing for centuries with their Crusades, Inquisitions, witch hunts, torture racks, burning at the stake, heresy hunting, the “Left Behind, Wrath of GOD”, books and movies, spiritually terrorizing all humanity. I hope Kevin,s next movie project will be “None Left Behind”. Great job. Kevin! It’s time for “Christianity Without Insanity”. I’ve seen the “Hellbound” Trailer and I really want to see the movie and I recommend it as a must see and discuss for everyone.

    • Frank Schaeffer

      Hi James, thanks for reading the article. Isn’t it odd that the editors of CT decide they need to defend hell? I mean what Germans want to defend WWII or National Socialism and Hitler? Most people stuck with the most insane parts of their history are glad to move on. You have to wonder what’s wrong with “Christians” so attached to hell to the point they have to smear a great new film to make a pro-hell point.

  • http://togetherforpeace.com Apollos

    I re-read John 2:15, “So he made a whip out of cords and he threw them all out of the temple, including the sheep and the cattle; he scattered the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables…”

    This translation gives the impression, that contrary to your assertion, Christ did drive some people out of the temple.

    Can you provide greater support for your assertion that, “Christ didn’t drive people out of the temple, he drove out animals.”

    Could it not be said that Jesus, in removing that which hindered worship of God, was demonstrating godly wrath?

    “And this wasn’t an act of anger, it was a prophetic pantomime done in the tradition of Jeremiah, whom he quotes as he does this!”

    Does something being a *prophetic pantomime* speak to the nature of the emotion being portrayed in the text?

    I guess I don’t understand why this can’t be prophetic pantomime that portrays Jesus responding with a godly sense of anger.

    Thank you for your time. I enjoyed reading this.

    • Dan Arnold

      Apollos, the Greek in John 2:15 is ambiguous. The NRSV does a good job reflecting this ambiguity. “Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle.” Given that large barnyard animals are difficult to motivate and that the electric cattle prod had not been invented, yet, it is highly likely that the whip was used on the animals and not the people, as FS asserts.

      • http://togetherforpeace.com Apollos

        I would have appreciated the article simply pointing out the fact there is some ambiguity instead acting as though it was utterly ridiculous anyone would conclude Jesus drove out the animals and some people.

        Additionally what FS asserted was, “Christ didn’t drive people out of the temple…” I struggle to see the absoluteness of this such that it would warrant the remark, “Is this guy supposed to be a biblical scholar?”

        Lastly, does this, “And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.” strike you as a passive Jesus who didn’t drive any people out of the temple?

    • Frank Schaeffer

      Hi Apollos, thanks for reading the article. One of the best books on Jesus I’ve read is the Jesus Driven Life by Michael Hardin. I think his argument for a non-violent Jesus is the best I’ve seen. I’d rather point you to that book than try and add to my comment in the article here. F

      • http://togetherforpeace.com Apollos

        What would it take for a person, during the NT times, to be considered a *violent person*? I don’t know. I would be cautious about be anachronistic in this area.
        Do you think Jesus doing this, “And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.” was an act of violence?
        Do you believe there is a difference between being violent and expressing righteous anger?

  • http://www.journeyintotheson.comw Cindy

    Well, you know what they say about publicity — better bad than none. It would probably make me curious — only I fear the film may not come to my town. We’re pretty much conservative USA around here and the idea of not believing in the fire and brimstone sparks almost as much anxiety as the fire and brimstone themselves. I would love to watch the film in the theater, however I may have to wait for a DVD. People I know don’t relish or even preach hell — but they do believe in it.

    Odd then, that I should not . . . but that was the Holy Spirit, and no other hand involved. God will have His way in His time. My friends worry that disbelief in hell might make one less evangelical — which is odd, since it increased my desire to share the GOOD news of the kingdom. Less anxiety over my possible failure to “convert” the “target” and more desire to bless the weary and scattered who wander about like sheep without a shepherd.

    So, sorry, but yeah — I am evangelical to the core. Well, I guess the “sorry” is kind of a lie — I’m not really sorry. We can all be brothers and sisters though, whether or not we agree on everything. ;) I’ve never read CT. Does that help?

    Blessings :D
    Cindy

    • Frank Schaeffer

      Hi Cindy, thanks for reading my latest here and the kind response. I think you’ll enjoy the movie because for one thing the folks in it making the case for what I think of as a sane God are evangelicals too as well as Orthodox etc. And if you ever read my book Sex, Mom and God you’ll find that I spend time defending one of my favorite evangelicals — my mother — on the grounds that she was a better person than her theology. It sounds to me that you are evangelical and also a lovely human. That’s a good combination.

  • http://godslovewins.com Phillip

    The ironic thing in all this is that it has been the more “theologically minded” neo-Calvinists who have been supporting and building the very foundation for the universal restoration theology!

    Their views regarding “restorative justice” point to an ultimate justice that must be restorative in nature.

    The “missional” movement that Keller helped ignite was inspired by Newbigin, a universalist who clarified the purpose of election: for the salvation of the rest of the world.

    The Calvinist/Arminian debate is being seen for what it is: 2 parts to ONE Story as Reformed theologians like Keller answer like full-on Arminians when defending eternal hell.

    Theologians such as Keller, Driscoll, Galli, Chandler, Piper, C. Plantinga, Chan etc., have been saying astonishing things they are not supposed to mean and we are not supposed to believe. We are observing how THE EVANGELICAL CHURCH ITSELF reveals that faith in the “restoration of all things” is in our spiritual DNA.

    http://godslovewins.com/blog/how-the-body-of-christ-is-supporting-christian-universalism/

  • Frank Schaeffer

    Phillip, thanks for reading my post and for the very interesting response. I’m glad you point us in a direction that I’d never thought about before. Best, F

    • http://godslovewins.com Phillip

      Frank, I understand everyone’s absolute frustration with the “gatekeepers” censoring the questions of Bell and now those of Kevin in “Hellbound?” but we are discovering how they themselves are deconstructing the very paradigm of ECT they claim to support and building their own case for ultimate reconciliation(!)

      We have devoted two entire websites showing how Galli, Keller, Piper, Driscoll, D. A. Carson, Chandler and other neo-Reformed are walking into universalism. (We address Arminian theologians as well like Scot McKnight and Roger Olson.)

      We even challenged Jefferson Bethke in his “functional universalism” by noting what he said and did not say in his viral “I Hate Religion.”

      GodsLoveWins.com (…a combination of Bell and Galli’s titles!)
      ChristianUniversalism.com

  • Kevin Miller

    Thanks so much for all of the support, folks. Does my heart good to read these comments. Interesting thing is, I noticed someone had linked to this blog post at the end of Mark Galli’s review. Guess what? That comment is no longer there. Someone at CT deleted it! Shows you how concerned they actually are about having a balanced discussion on this matter.

    • http://www.preachingpeace.org Michael Hardin

      The CT gatekeepers are so afraid that their house is crumbling that they feel the need to censor intelligent conversation? How ironic! And how sad! It simply speaks to the fact that they have a theology, not of the hope of the gospel, but of the fear of the god of archaic religion dressed in the guise of “Christian faith.” The fact is that the god of the CT folks is no different than the gods castigated as idols in the Jewish Scriptures. And little wonder that they spend so much time defending “The Book” when what they are really defending is their own resentful religion.

  • Kevin Miller

    BTW, I was just thinking that Rob Bell wrote “Love Wins” and Mark Galli wrote “God Wins.” Maybe the next book should be called “Frank Wins.” :)

  • JW

    Galli’s review is bad, and Frank points out some of it’s more obvious flaws. But wrapped in such smugness and derision Frank’s response does nothing to move the discussion forward. A pox on both your houses.

    • http://godslovewins.com Phillip

      I would say that the approach that Paul took in Acts 17 where he respectfully pointed out “Your own prophets have said” is relevant here. There is honestly no need to read books on ultimate reconciliation if you take a look at what the theologians themselves are saying (and not saying).

      Mark Galli himself speaks out of both sides of his mouth as he uses Arminian language to buffer his Calvinist message. (As do Keller, Driscoll, Chandler etc.,) I don’t fault him for this as I did it for over 30 years but it does reveal there must be a “gospel third way” as Keller would say.

      Mark Galli inadvertently supports a theology of the ultimate reconciliation of all. From the message on the cover of his book “God Wins” to his quote by Bonhoeffer (most likely a universalist) he undermines his own position! So I believe we can graciously but firmly say to the neo-Calvinists, “Your own prophets have said”!

      http://www.christianuniversalism.com/2012/03/mark-gallis-god-wins/

  • http://www.patheos.com deborah arca

    Great conversation here, and a great post, Frank. I loved the movie, and just published Part 1 of my interview with Kevin Miller about the making of the film. His answers were most generous and compelling! Check it out here: http://www.patheos.com/Progressive-Christian/Hell-and-Back-QA-with-Kevin-Miller-P1-Deborah-Arca-09-20-2012.html

  • Dee

    Hi Frank,

    I can see what Kris was talking about when he was highlighting the “venom” he felt. With all the lessons God has poured into my life over the years, I try and make sure not to harm anyone, not with words, not with physical damage. I use a phrase: “Christ-like kindness”. And this phrase, as a matter of forcing myself into pensive compassion and a mode of ‘putting on their shoes’ mentality, in the same way the WWJD bracelets were meant to do, has always got to include the fact that I must KNOW Jesus first. Personally.
    Jesus would have pushed my buttons unabashedly and unrelentingly. Sometimes I crave to have my ‘fleshly’ buttons pushed by God because I know that on the other side of the squirming, I will have become freer, more at peace, and ultimately, more like Him.

    I prefer to think of others as delicate and innocent as children. I find it easier to stay calm when responding to a child when they mock me or my ideals. I am much more ready to slap a full-grown adult for brutish behaviour. So, no. I try not to make it my style to attack back at those who send out messages that seem to lack thoroughness and even an improper view of the God I have come to know and love. But I am not you, thank God. You’ve done something I dare not. And your piece is just as important as what I have learned and need to share.
    I want to hear more of what you have to say, though I may not be prepared to pick out the perceived barbs I might feel that come attached to any words you might say.
    Having said that, there are two things that are true about me, and I suspect, true of all of us:
    Just because I think I see or feel a barb, it may just be my past wounding.
    And, I am quite able and ready to throw darts at any given time because I am often angered and trying to bite back too. (Yeah, I have fangs and venom too!)…But I still have a valid point.
    Thank you for yours.

    Peace and good,
    Dee

  • Dan G

    Frank, I feel your anger man. I really do. Thanks for this rebuttal. I have really high hopes for this movie and think it is coming along at exactly the right time with exactly the right message.

    A question for you, and maybe for Michael Hardin if he’s still reading comments here. We’re trying to capture/recapture a Jesus who is non-violent to the core, which means we find it easy to leave ECT and violent atonement theories in the dust. What does this mean for the tone we should use when standing up to bullies like Christianity Today and their ilk? I also have a ton of anger, probably for many of the same reasons as you (past involvement in right-wing xian extremism, etc.), but I wonder at what point our words start becoming violent.

    Just musing aloud. Keep up the good work.

    • Frank Schaeffer

      Good stuff Dan, I’d just say this, I’ve never answered a review of my own work in kind, good or bad. So in this case I was defending someone else and an idea, no a person. I think that makes a difference. I’m going after a reviewer for lying. If it is unkind to call a liar and a shit outfit like CT liars mea culpa. But then again maybe the best defense of Jesus is to stop pandering to the SOBs selling him down the river.

      • Dan G

        “But then again maybe the best defense of Jesus is to stop pandering to the SOBs selling him down the river.”

        Now that’s a line I’ll use in the future. Spectacular.

  • Lee

    “We ought not violate the very love that Christ demonstrated by firing cannon balls over Golgotha at one another. We do well to present our proposals with genuine meekness, with generosity for our rival theorists, renouncing contempt wherever it lurks. Let us not tread, through lack of charity, upon the very cross we proclaim.”

    These words are Brad Jersaks, from his article in “Stricken by God?”. While the article in CT was weak and unfair, I find little of Jersak’s admonition being taken to heart by Schaeffer, I find it surprising and disappointing that Jersak and Miller would endorse Schaeffer’s tone and choice of words here, and I find no little irony that Jersak, with all of his theology degrees completed and in progress, would choose to align himself with someone who admits to an “aversion to theogians”. As a long-time annihilationist, I was — was — looking forward to seeing this movie, even after reading the CT article. After reading Schaeffer’s article and seeing Jersaks and Millers support of it, however, I am exceedingly less interested.

    • Frank Schaeffer

      Again stop with the “tone” nonsense. I was answering a MOVIE review by a multi-million dollar organisation of bullies picking on one brave film maker. This ain’t Sunday school Lee. It doesn’t even have anything to do with religion. It has t do with a vast establishment protecting its corporate ass. Sticking up for CT in this context is like sticking up fr Bain Capital or the Koch brothers in the context of politics. Get real and quit hand wringing.

  • Gene Barrette

    Classical intellectual, speculative theology, some with the support of valid Biblical interpretation, all too much based on fundamentalistic, literal text application. Is hell imposed punishment by God? Or is hell the sad consequences of deliberate refusal to life the Gospel imperatives of compassion, inclusiveness, of “this is the greatest of the commandments, love one another as I have loved you.” Does our “Abba” impose it in wrathful anger, or with enormous sadness, oberseve his/her sons and daughters walk into the final darkness because it is impossible for them to approach or walk into the Light, for they have burned out their capacity to face the Light in lives lived always chosing to turn away from it – so at the end, were they to face the Light – they would have their sight completely burned, frazzled, by it. All is not a punishment – all this is a “consequence”. Before which Abba, the Lord, and the Spirit who prodded, pushed, pulled, whispered etc. sighs and enormous sob/sigh – for the Spirit too senses enormoush hurt, all its work, brought to naught by the great gift of the individual’s free will – used wrongly, over and over and over again. If a movie promotes the punishing, angar, fire-breathing, judging God – re-read the Gospel and recognize the “face of God” there. Is that punishing God there in the “prodigal-son / prodigal-Father” story. Where is the angry one in the seeking Shepherd story. Let’s convey understanding, compassion, love – not what we as humans would perhaps do. And if a film is used as a trampoline for it’s “procrustean bed” theological vision – then the critic of that film – again, if he/ she is sleeping in that same bed should be recognized as such a critic – and any reader or seeker who wants to be open, and seek to recognize and hear the Spirit at work in all form of art – then the best suggestion I cen give is to get up and out of the “Procrustean bed” – perhaps even out of the room perhaps filled with rigid – one – shape – must – fit – all containers and move into
    a space filled malleable places, that hold an insight, then you are twirled to another such place where the perspective is different and you see the other side of things, and on and on you flow in that wondrous process called the “experience of life” – the only place where God – the Spirit – and the One who companions us to teach us how to be “fully human” dwells. To the tunnelled vision critic – read them – they also can contain a morsel of two of insight that can give us an “aha” or an “humh” – - pause. A blessing. And we never know where those can come forth. All that we asked is to be awake – yes, even if it’s about a movie – where at times when watching I may doze here and there – but a critic may remind me – “Did I miss that? I’d better pick up the DVD and make sure I have all the pieces before I dismiss what this one or that one said about it…….”

  • http://www.hellboundthemovie.com Kevin Miller

    Lee: You make a good point. Sometimes we can let our emotions get carried away in debates like this, but that’s only because we are so passionately involved in working these things through. Dispassionate scholarly study can only take you so far. And a perceived injustice always stokes the fires of wrath. I don’t think anyone–Frank included–is staying in an angry place. I’m certainly not. But sometimes you need to say something forcefully in order to get folks to sit up and take notice. And I do hope you see the film regardless, Lee.

  • http://www.beyondtheboxpodcast.com Raborn Johnson

    Thanks Frank for giving us the “other side”.

    I was really surprised at how dismissive Galli’s review was. Saying things like:

    “There was a near complete absence of professional theologians—and this in a documentary about theology.”

    really bothered me. It’s just down-right not true. Sharon Baker, Brad Jersak, Michael Hardin, Luzar Puhalo, etc. aren’t “professional theologians”?

    I so appreciate you saying:

    “In other words Miller didn’t take the CT people seriously enough. The reviewer says the movie is about theology rather than about hell. CT editors and people like them see theology as “their” private domain. It’s all about theology, not about God let alone the truth. This is like the folks that make talking about God really talking about the Bible or rather their version of it. This is like the reaction of some old school OBGYN doctors to midwives and in-home births.
    Since when do theologians know more about Hell than anyone else? I mean what’s a PhD in make-believe worth? Anybody’s guess is as good as theirs.”

    Thank you so much for standing up for “the rest of us”! I’m not a professional theologian, but I dedicate a huge amount of my life to understanding theology, God, and topics such as hell. According to people like Galli, I guess I just should not have a voice. Thankfully, his voice is not the final authority in the matter. :)

    I consider Kevin Miller a friend, and I have to say that he is one of the most insightful people that I know. “Hellbound?” is a great movie that offers some alternative voices on a subject that has been dominated for too long by those who embrace infernalism. Its time that other voices are brought to the table, and I am thankful for thoughtful works like “Hellbound?” that give opportunity for other voices to be heard.

    • Frank Schaeffer

      Thanks Raborn: I’m in NYC right now about to help lead the after movie screening discussion in the Cinema Village. I wonder how many CT events go on there? While CT parses and slanders Miller’s movie, he’s out in the real world dealing with an actual movie release for which he’s risked everything as an artist. While CT talks to there own backwater Miller is out holding a discussion about spirituality with the sort of people CT regards as the “other” and a threat to them.

      • http://www.beyondtheboxpodcast.com Raborn Johnson

        Wish I was there with you guys!

  • http://patheos threeten2yuma

    Well if there is a Hell, maybe this is what at least part of it looks like . . .

  • Joe Chip

    It really saddens me every time I read a Frank Schaeffer article. While I usually end up agreeing with him more often than not, his tone – sarcastic, tense, angry, bitter, unloving – remains the same, and has remained, for YEARS. He really comes off as someone with vast childhood issues that remain unresolved. Frank – for God’s sake lighten up. Make use of some of the fine herbs and beverages the Good Lord has put on Earth for our enjoyment, take a load off, and remember to breath. We’re all going to meet our Maker in short order; there’s no use going through life in a fit of perpetual rage against the infidels. Love God, love each other, love yourself. Peace.

    • Frank Schaeffer

      Joe what a load of crap you spout here. A don’t be sad cheer up. I’m just another writer no one important. B Read my other posts here on Patheos and tel me what is bitter about writing about being forgiven by my wife and daughter for being such an asshole. Last if you agree worry less about tone and more about truth. Most deadly lies come packaged politely.

  • http://www.debatingobama.blogspot.com Greg Metzger

    I have criticized different columns/articles from Christianity Today before and I have definitely had and still have at times great frustration with things there, but this response is so vicious and so wide-ranging as to cry out for a deeper explanation from you for you and your father’s disdain for the magazine. I also have to say that the Mark Galli you describe here is not the Mark Galli I know. Even when I disagree with him or his editing, I never sense in him the kind of craven, egotistical man you paint here before us. Instead, what I see in this piece is more of the same painfully raw wounds in Frank’s soul. I pray for you, brother. It feels sometimes that you have just replaced one group of people that you hate with another group of people that you hate, but the hate is still there. Please try to disagree agreeably. This is not modeling a deeper spirituality or a vision of journalism any better in anyway than what CT, warts and all, provides.

    • Frank Schaeffer

      I think it is time for evangelicals who want to play critic to grow up. I think you should read the posts by me and others on Huffington Post where I live most of the time pro or con and use that perspective when reading my post, not Sunday school etiquette. If CT wants to play critic f movies being released into the larger culture then they should bring knives and forks to the food fight. Where have you been living? All the sobbing over tone is odd. This was an answer to a movie review by a crumby little mag. Why should I have been nicer? CT is a multi-million operation, not the old lady down the street.

  • Lori

    Mark 11:15-17 (NIV)
    [15] On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, [16] and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. [17] And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written:
    “‘My house will be called
    a house of prayer for all nations’*?
    But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.*’”

  • Tim Seitz-Brown

    Hellbound? Is an awesome film. Lays the range of perspectives on Hell. Focuses on the core issue: the character of God.

    After seeing the film, I admired the honesty of the Westboro Baptist Church. They take a particular understanding of Hell to the logical conclusion. Then Miller demonstrates through the film how many hold a kinder, gentler version of future, eternal torture, not facing up to the logic and consequences of their belief.

    Now– how do we convert the Mark Gallis of the world? I treasure Frank’s passionate, vehement defense. And I’m struggling with how to be the grace, love, kindness of Christ– not being accusatory and condemning of those not yet drawn to the vision of Christ who reconciles all things

  • Pingback: Hellbound?

  • http://www.contratimes.blogspot.com Bill Gnade

    Dear Mr. Schaeffer,

    I have carefully read both the allegedly offensive review of “Hellbound?” and your review of that review. I shall not compound things by reviewing a review of a review for fear that I shall accidentally concoct a recipe for my own demise.

    Here’s the deal, at least, about universalism. If universalism is true, if all of us are finally received into the gracious breast of God, then this conversation — and our concern for the topic of hell — are both ridiculous. Moreover, conversations about the nature of God are, at least in praxis, irrelevant. For surely this is the message of universalism, at least, again, in praxis: All paths lead to salvation. I said it: ALL paths (which, at least in the original English, means ANY path).

    If ALL are in; if ALL are indeed saved, then there is no “better” way to be saved. If ALL are loved there is no “better” way to be loved. In the end, God doesn’t really care about the distinctions you seem to need to make between yourself and the editors of Christianity Today (CT). The fundamentalists who tout a literal hell are accepted by God; as are you; as are the Westboro Baptists; as are the 9/11 terrorists. God applauds, in the end, the editors of CT, and then God applauds the editors who criticize the editors of CT. Mr. Miller believes “Love Wins,” but he would still be ushered into glory if he had written the undeniably capital book, “Hate Wins.” If universalism is true, and I have no idea if it is, Mr. Miller is no closer to defining God’s nature than anyone else; and even if he is, his work has no practical meaning for salvation, as even those who preach a God of judgment are as close to the Father — in the Father’s eyes — as anyone else.

    Theoretically, of course, various theologies and sundry views of God may be interesting, and some may even confer certain psychological benefits, but the practical reality laid down by universalism renders these benefits temporary and rather meaningless. In universalism there will not be those who are “merely saved” standing on one side, and those who are saved in a “better way” — the allegedly “psychologically fit” — standing on another; universalism renders all conceits vapid. If ANY way leads to Rome, well, one might as well not take a way, since not taking a way is as good as an easy sprint down the broadest avenue or a dolorous meander down the Via Dolorosa.

    Really, if all will be well in the end, who cares? Ironically, even the nihilists may ask the same question: In the end, who cares?

    Peace to you.

    BG

    • http://www.contratimes.blogspot.com Bill Gnade

      Correction: ¶3 ought to read “Mr. [Bell] believes ‘Love Wins,’ but he would … ”

      Replace “Miller” with “Bell”. Sorry.

      BG

  • Gene

    In defense of Frank, wasn’t Jesus harsh with the self-righteous? It wasn’t the “sinners” he was telling they’re gooses were cooked, it was those who claimed to know God but acted like the devil.

    Bill Gnade, the points you raise have long been refuted by Universalists. The argument if God loves all then none are loved is applicable to the elect as well. If God loves all the elect, then none of them are loved – in other words, it’s an obvious fallacy.

    Lastly, would you say if hell is not forever then God’s got nothing on you? I suppose if God’s punishment is not eternal then you don’t fear it, right?

    The idea that infinite qualities are necessary to make something meaningful is simply fallacious. And these reasons you give are fallacies as well. When God saves ANYONE, their repentance from sin and reconciliation to himself is valuable to him – after all – For God so loved the wicked.

    So to answer your question “if all the elect will be well in the end, who cares?” I think God does. Only I believe he cares that all will turn from their sin and be healed.

  • Gene

    One more point.
    If all my children were drowning and I saved all but one, is that the real reason my children would rejoice in my saving them? What if they asked why their sibling died and I told them “so you could appreciate my saving you”? Would they appreciate it more? I wouldn’t, I’d counsel him to get some medical help.

  • http://www.contratimes.blogspot.com Bill Gnade

    Dear Gene,

    I appreciate the reply, though I wish you had offered something of a refutation, particularly since, contrary to your words, I never said a thing about the “elect.” Nor did I mention a thing about “infinite qualities.” You seem to be challenging the wrong set of arguments altogether.

    If universalists have indeed refuted my argument here, please post those refutations. I am not, as you might think, arguing FOR anything; consider me a nihilist. However, the problem I have described has not, at least by you thus far, been refuted: If God “saves” everyone in the end, then none of these distinctions we make matter. They are useless for salvation, or whatever you want to call it. All they permit us to do is either boast — “I am better than you because I believe God is all about love” — or they assist us psychologically. That’s it.

    And this last point is important, as it surely reflects what you’ve articulated, namely, that God is somehow interested in our repentance as it leads to our being “healed.” Is there some advantage given to those healed “in time” compared to those healed “at the end of time”? Really? What is it if not mere psychological health? If I am promised that whatever I do my team will win, well, the great thing is that I don’t even to play the game. I can even OPPOSE the game and win. The temporal winners have nothing on me, at least in God’s eyes. I am a winner because I am always, eternally, loved, and, well, love always wins. Moreover, if time itself is irrelevant to God; if He is infinite, there is nothing gained in being healed in 2012, or 1812. The infinite and the eternal are not divisible. To God, or so it goes, it is all “Now.” Hence, when I am healed is meaningless.

    I return to my game analogy: If everyone wins, and everyone knows that everyone wins no matter the game, then why would anyone shout things like “That’s not fair!” or “You are cheating!” Those who cheat win; those who don’t cheat win. In other words, if universalism is true, then those who propagate it as a doctrine regarding eschatology and the nature of God, should really just shut the hell up. They are proclaiming nothing. The only advantage gained in proclaiming oneself a universalist is conceit: “I am better than you because MY view of God is so much more loving and gracious than yours.”

    Cool, dude, but even we nihilists who hate life are going to win the same trophy as you. Why don’t you just quit your silly boasting and whining?

    In the end, or so it seems, this is another argument in which certain people need to define themselves in an oppositional manner. Frank Schaeffer rebukes Christianity Today for committing intellectual and spiritual crimes that have no existential import whatsoever.

    Here’s my message to Christian universalists derived from their own argument: If everyone stands in the Father’s eternal love which always wins, then just shut up and quit trying to convince the Father — and your siblings — that you’re the better child.

    Lastly, you are right, Jesus did rebuke and chastise the self-righteous. But who were they? We like to think them the Pharisees. Is this true? What of all those wonderful people who tended the sick, fed the hungry, clothed the poor, housed the homeless, and visited the imprisoned? Were they the self-righteous? You know: were these kindly, thoughtful souls the ones Jesus said would be cast into outer darkness because He never knew them — even though they invoked Jesus’ name as they loved their neighbors? Weren’t these kindly folks the ones Jesus so lovingly described as “goats”, and this after He talked so charitably about “vipers” and about “casting pearls before swine”?

    All this, to me, is about one thing: conceit born of envy. It is a vain grasping at superiority, moral or otherwise.

    Peace to you.

    BG

    • http://www.contratimes.blogspot.com Bill Gnade

      Correction: ¶3 should read “If I am promised that whatever I do my team will win, well, the great thing is that I don’t even [HAVE] to play the game.” Insert “have” and the sentence is complete. Sorry.

      BG

  • gene

    Bill, and a thanks to you as well. Forgive me if I misunderstood you. To some degree I think I did but I think I get the gist of your logic. Most of the claims you make seem conditional but are stated in a dogmatic sense or certainty. You say

    a) If God “saves” everyone in the end, then none of these distinctions we make matter. They are useless for salvation, or whatever you want to call it.

    Why not? It’s like saying 100 people are drowning, if all are saved then what they did in getting saved doesn’t matter since the one who saves them can save them no matter what they do.

    But that assumes that the act of saving those people is totally independent of their choices. This seems to be more reflective of the argument of free will. Often people charge determinists, if God has determined every act, then choices don’t matter. Am I misunderstanding you here? Why could it not be that what you do DOES matter while maintaining that in the end God will not have you suffer eternally. It seems the only logical alternative is to say, the only way it matters is if any suffering you experience is eternal. But why should I accept that?

    I believe the game scenario is a caricature of Universalism. Universalism doesn’t say “no matter what”. Universalism (and there are different flavors) states that everyone will eventually come to win. But it does not say how you play the game has no bearing. That’s wrong. Universalism says, you will suffer for the choices you make and God will use that to bring you to a rational point of view. So the poor choices don’t “not” matter, but instead are part of our journey. It’s part of our experience in life, we suffer and we learn.

    Universalism makes more sense to me because God can let us experience life with real choices and yet assure us that he didn’t create us in a risky universe where he’ll end up torturing us for making some abstract religious decision regarding some truth some foreign missionary brought to us. So ECT (Eternal Conscious Torment) makes no sense to me.

    Regarding your last paragraph on the self-righteous, I’m an inclusivist. I don’t think those who love others are going to hell (what ever that means). I tend to believe myself that those are the people Jesus is saying God is using even if they carry a different culture or wrong doctrine (a good Samaritan). So to answer I would say, no. I realize exclusivists would say yes they’re as bad as the pharisees, but I remain unconvinced of that.

    Also no worried about the typo, we all do it, even the most scholarly. I get a kick when some PHD makes some terrible typo. I got the point of your statement.

    And peace to you as well, but then again you’re a nihilist :) kidding.

  • http://www.contratimes.blogspot.com Bill Gnade

    Dear Gene,

    Again, peace to you. It’s nice to encounter such a decent soul.

    Please note I am not bringing anything to this discussion other than skepticism. I am merely presenting what others have stated, at least in the universalist circles in which I have moved.

    Let’s explore this more. If absolute universalism is true; if the sort of universalism is true that we might call unconditional universalism, then I don’t see how what any one of us does or does not do toward our “salvation”, or whatever we consider associated with God’s approval, matters at all. If everything and everyone is approved and accepted; and if every wound and falsehood and betrayal and infidelity are healed, then what does any of this mean or matter? Every player on the field of any conceivable game is declared victorious. And if God’s approval is equitably distributed, then no one is better or worse than another: everyone, in God’s eyes, is a great player.

    But if we believe in a conditional universalism, one contingent on a person’s free will, then we are no closer to a lovely resolution. If God approves all men and women, conferring to them all the rights of His Grand Paternity, and yet this approval is contingent on each person accepting His generosity, then we are left at the brink of the possibility of rejecting God’s gifts.

    The concept of hell that seems operative in most discussions is one of God damning others out of wrath, anger, or justice. Can’t love grant hell? Surely it does, at least in this world: there are many parents who have lovingly surrendered their children to the forces of self-annihilation many of them choose, freely, defiantly; and this no matter what lovely, gracious and rational appeals those parents make. I see children all the time choose that which hurts them. Does love allow them to do what they demand, or does it prevent them?

    If salvation to all is somehow contingent on something other than what God does, then there is something greater and more important than God’s love in the mechanics, so to speak, of salvation. His love and grace are insufficient to confer eternal life, or even eternal bliss, to those who simply don’t want them. A loving father allows his son to reject him; but a father who refuses that rejection MUST then prefer a false and fabricated love — a love the father creates for himself which his son redirects back to the father — than a love that is painfully born and offered freely. Can it be that some folks simply MUST define themselves in opposition to love, grace, and even joy? Does God want love from folks He eventually forces to love Him?

    You might recall that Augustine considered it a moral and spiritual disorder that humans enjoy attending tragic plays; that people consider it entertaining to see people suffer. He recoils from the idea humans find pleasure in others’ pain; but they do, and we have to ask ourselves how this can happen. But more importantly we have to ask if this tendency is curable, at least in those who find deep pleasure in it. I doubt a suicide would commit suicide if the idea did not somehow give him pleasure. In fact, it seems undeniable that those who commit suicide do indeed find some pleasure in the thought of self-annihilation. Surely they would not commit suicide if they believed suicide would lead to something LESS than what is pleasant or comforting. There is pleasure in the thought of death, at least.

    What can God do when someone resists His love, pleadings, or gifts? Is He REALLY so powerful that He can transform those who want nothing to do with Him?

    But I have gone astray from what you’ve shared here. Forgive me. You wrote:

    Universalism says, you will suffer for the choices you make and God will use that to bring you to a rational point of view.

    OK. Fair enough. But the fact is this: you’re telling me that there exist NO CHOICES for me to make that God WON’T use to bring me to a rational point of view. If this is what you REALLY mean, then doesn’t this actually mean there is no such thing as free choice? For you’ve just told me that the choices I make will be used by God to prevent me from rejecting Him. How is that a choice? If I choose self-annihilation and yet God uses that choice to keep me ever-present, what have I chosen? How am I one whit free? And why would we consider such divine intervention loving?

    Moreover, so what if I make choices that lead me to suffer. Universalists argue that God will take those sufferings away. EVEN if I choose to keep my wounds, He will heal me nonetheless. So why shouldn’t I make nothing BUT choices that hurt me, that cause me to suffer? Heck, it even sounds as if the more bad choices I make the more material God will have to reason me to wholeness!

    The reason I am at all writing about this is that people here are using their view about hell — or the lack thereof — simply as a means of distinguishing themselves as morally superior to those who hold a “medieval” or anachronistic view of hell. But these distinctions are futile and meaningless. If all choices we make, including the choice to believe in a nasty eternal hell for the unsaved, will be used by God to bring heaven’s healing to EVERYONE, then NO view has an advantage over another. Telling folks that the good news of the gospel is that God will NEVER damn them because His love always wins is similarly meaningless, granting them NOTHING more than a psychological benefit that is undeniably temporal. Heck, if BAD choices, including the bad choice to believe eternal torment is real, are used by God to reason us all the more to heaven, then it seems good choices are to be resisted, as they appear to be nothing but thoughtless compliance.

    Universalism takes away the joy of living. Why? Because joy is always born in risk. Joy is enjoyed because of the real possibility that annihilation is always possible. An adventure without risk is definitely not an adventure. A sport without the possibility of failure is not a sport but a tedious, odious thing. If we KNOW everything will ALWAYS work out, we shall die of utter boredom.

    Peace to you.

    BG

    • http://www.onebuckhosting.com/ kIRK

      …” But the fact is this: you’re telling me that there exist NO CHOICES for me to make that God WON’T use to bring me to a rational point of view. If this is what you REALLY mean, then doesn’t this actually mean there is no such thing as free choice?”
      No. It means you are indeed free to make choices. So is God. And God has a FAR wider array of responses to choose from to achieve her goals, farther than we can even imagine. However, the free will thing ha bedeviled far more orthodox systems of theology than Franks, so you are in good company on that count.

      • http://www.contratimes.blogspot.com Bill Gnade

        Dear kIRK,

        Your reply is appreciated but I am afraid it is meaningless. My choices are irrelevant. So are yours. They may indeed be choices, but they have no existential or soteriological import. God wins: God is ALWAYS and ETERNALLY irresistible. He approves all. Even those who profess a hell created by a sadistic God to appease His wrath are acceptable unto the Lord.

        God, in the words of that great theologian Robert Palmer, is “simply irresistible.” I have nothing to fear whatever I do: He will make it right.

        Why? Because, as you said, God has all the answers and I, well, I have no choice but to accept them. None whatsoever.

        And how do I know this? Because your own argument is meant to be final, irresistible: I have no choice but to accept what you’ve posited. And therein lies a paradox.

        Peace.

  • http://patheos threeten2yuma

    Ah, geez, Frank. Now look what you started!

  • http://www.onebuckhosting.com/ kIRK

    Wonmderful stuff; I look forward to Hellbound? coming to the Tampa Bay market so I can go the hell to see it. As a ex-funamentalist, I know you are on to something about the nonsense and poison of modern hell addicticted Christianity.

    • Frank Schaeffer

      You might want to see how Variety Magazine reviewed the movie, CT editors take note: This is what a movie review looks like! http://www.patheos.com/blogs/frankschaeffer/2012/09/hey-hey-christianity-today-this-is-what-a-movie-review-looks-like-hellbound-reviewed-in-variety/

      • http://www.contratimes.blogspot.com Bill Gnade

        Dear Mr. Schaeffer,

        Blessings to you this fine, fine day.

        I am not entirely sure why you would expend any energy on chastising an online reviewer who works for Christianity Today when you consider that organization nothing but an insignificant rag. If CT is of no importance, then who cares?

        Also, it seems evident that your film will be favorably reviewed by those who are not steeped in the Christian traditions, particularly that theological tradition, in the scholarly sense, of discussing salvation and damnation; about the rescue of the soul from its conceivable demise. Most people who have been deeply involved in their faith would find much of the film pedestrian, while those who have not spent much or any time engaged in Christian theology might consider it groundbreaking and inspiring stuff. But there is nothing groundbreaking in “Hellbound?”, right? I mean, you’ve not uncovered or produced a new theology, concept of God, or method of discourse, correct? So it’s no wonder Christianity Today has looked at “Hellbound?” with a jaundiced eye: this stuff is, to many in Christendom, rather trite. I am not saying such dismissers are right in their conclusions, but surely discussions about Christian universalism in evangelical Christianity are at least a century old. For the seasoned veteran I am sure the film does not move the earth — or the church — or even heaven.

        You already know what the Variety reviewer thought of the film, but what do you think of what he thinks of you? He wrote:

        “Most outspoken of the bunch is author, filmmaker and Orthodox Christian Frank Schaeffer, who wryly suggests that any proper evaluation of the hell-worthy would have to include the most rigid fundamentalists, whom he likens to modern-day Pharisees. Overall, however, the discussion is more temperate, led by smart, engaging interviewees who combine a high level of biblical scholarship with warm, unforced compassion.”

        Isn’t this a brutal slam? Hasn’t he tacitly described you as intemperate, disengaged and not all that smart, apparently lacking compassion? How do you read his remarks? To me, he clearly singles you out as the exception to an otherwise decent film. Don’t you see what I see, or am I missing something? I don’t think Mr. Galli was nearly so mean.

        As for “Hellbound?”, my personal feelings bend toward what Mr. McKee believes, namely, that Christian universalism nullifies Christianity in toto. Unless I am wrong, he is right. The only benefit — the ONLY one — in accepting universalism is a temporal and psychological one. And even that is debatable.

        You know, I wonder why “Hellbound?” has not been criticized for being blatantly sexist: only 2 of 28, or 2 of 36 (depending on the source: the “Hellbound?” website lists 28 while Variety lists 36), interviewees are women. And it seems there was not one woman involved in the production. That’s fine with me, I guess, as the producers can do what they want, but I wonder how this gets overlooked by your reviewers. Are Christianity, and the departments of theology and philosophy in our universities, truly populated by so few women? Are the pews really 90% filled with men?

        Again, it’s all good. Nothing really matters here, or so the universalists argue. Love wins, God wins, we all win. There is no right way, really: Even the wrong way is the right way. Which, to me, is rather boring. But however one talks about God, in the end, will still lead directly to His love. Depict God as mean, angry, vicious — it matters not except in the most trivial ways. Even the wrong opinion has perfect, joyous consequences throughout eternity.

        I wonder, though, where, in the Great End, does God “put” all the wrong opinions, decisions, attitudes and actions; the bitter wounds and sorrows. How does He take the errors of our ways from us; how does He take them “out of Time” and keep them out of eternity? Does He DO something with them? Does He put them “somewhere”? How, in the end, does God “forget”? Or can’t He forget — or forgive — a thing?

        Peace to you, always.

        BG

        • Frank Schaeffer

          Hi BG, unlike our pals over at Christianity Today I don’t edit people who disagree with me or insult me. (They have been cutting comments by people I know sticking up for the movie.) Actually I don’t take it as a slam but if it was so what? What I care about is that the movie “Hellbound?” gets some attention. I am not out to be liked or disliked. Once you’ve had as many reviews of your work as I have (from great ones like the Jan Smiley rave in the Washington Post re “Sex, Mom and God” to the silly stuff in the so-called Christian press) one doesn’t look for compliments, just that the work is read, heard, starts something good. That is all happening with HB? So far so good.

        • Frank Schaeffer

          Hi one other thing BG you talk about Hellbound?” as if its my film. Not so. I just like it so am pushing for folks to see it.

  • http://www.debatingobama.blogspot.com Gregmetzger

    Here is my response to Frank’s post and to his comments to me and others on this thread. http://debatingobama.blogspot.com/2012/09/frank-schaeffer-progressive-demagogue.html

  • jsol

    Thanks for the review! I will definitely make time now to see the movie. I understand your disdain for CT, although I have even more “World” magazine, but that’s a subject for a different time.

    I appreciate you standing up to the haughtiness and arrogance that seeps through the review, it is obvious that the reviewer already had made up his mind before even viewing the film and was searching for fault.

    What really struck me was the tone of the last few paragraphs of the review, where the author reverts to a very rosy portrayal of Christianity stating that “all things work together for good”. All things don’t work together for good, we make bad choices and hurt others and those things aren’t good nor do they work out for good. We may learn from them, but that doesn’t equate goodness, Plus, if hell were an eternity of suffering that would not be good either.

    Anyway, thanks for the article and for seeking truth.

  • jennifer giezendanner

    Maybe it’s not about winning. Maybe it’s about God and how He wants us to treat Him and our neighbors (fellow humans). Frankie seems to think he alone can rescue the film of his friend from the evil Evangelicals, but a good film would be a good film and get the recognition it deserves without this kind of vicious tirade. God embodies Beauty and Truth, though He did not hesitate to suffer and become sin for us.
    I’m wondering, is sin a concept now, or will that end up with your version of hell?
    Looking at your post, it’s hard to imagine that no sin, or hell, exists. It seems like you are already suffering a kind of hell on earth, even now. I’m sorry. Really sorry.

    • http://www.contratimes.blogspot.com Bill Gnade

      Dear Ms. Giezendanner,

      I read your comments with gratitude.

      It had not occurred to me before to note what I think you’ve noted here: That Mr. Schaeffer has actually hurt the promotion of the film he believes so important. His “vicious tirade”, as you put it, can’t possibly epitomize the loving reasonableness of the God the universalists promote — or anyone promotes. So thank you for pointing this out to me.

      And you have landed on a very capital observation, for if hell is merely a concept preached by the angry “retributivists” who walk among us, then what is sin? If anything anyone does leads to eternal life, then what does ANY of this matter? Why should I care? Why should I even SEE “Hellbound?”, or take note of its implications? EVERYBODY IS IN — including those hateful, hurtful, hell-mongering fundamentalists who have hurt Mr. Schaeffer’s sensitivities. Even their alleged sin, peddling a concept of God that is false, still leads them, and anyone affirming the same concept, to God in His ultimate approval. (And yet their greater sin, it seems, is that they’ve not properly reviewed a film about the possible non-existence of hell.)

      Personally, I can’t see how this whole thing for Mr. Schaeffer and his friends is not entirely self-defeating. As I’ve said before, the only gain I see in this for them is temporal and futile: They get to parade themselves as morally superior children of the God Who Loves All Eternally.

      Of course, there are financial gains to be made, too, drawn entirely from the different sort of fear “Hellbound?” peddles: “Come see our movie so that you, too, won’t be wrong about God! Surely you don’t want to have the WRONG God-concept, too, do you? Surely you don’t want to be like … like … THEM!”

      Peace to you, always.

      BG

  • Michael Aqua

    Hi Frank, I agree that this issue of whether a literal or not hell is everybody’s business. And opinions are like noses: everyone has one. Question is, WHAT is the basis of that opinion? Everyone of us–including evangelists and universalists- WILL know the truth one day, after death, and let’s be hopeful that the position we hold is such that even if it turns out that we backed the wrong horse, the consequences won’t really matter anyway.
    However, for an issue that can only be clarified by the Bible (yes, my opinion, as a Christian), I find it disturbing that in spite of your vigorous and confident take on the issue of hell, you don’t seem familiar with the scriptures yourself:
    “Christ didn’t drive people out of the temple, he drove out animals. And this wasn’t an act of anger, it was a prophetic pantomime done in the tradition of Jeremiah, whom he quotes as he does this! Is this guy supposed to be a biblical scholar?”

    Have you never read:
    Matthew 21:12-13 “And Jesus entered the temple and cast out all THOSE who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who were selling doves. ”

    Mark 11:15-16: “And they came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple and began to cast out THOSE who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who were selling doves; and He would not permit anyone to carry goods through the temple.”

    Luke 19:45 “And He entered the temple and began to cast out those who were selling”

    John 2:14-15 “And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting, and when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables”

    Would you still insist that it wasn’t PEOPLE that Jesus drove out, but ANIMALS?
    Perhaps, you ought to spend more time ACTUALLY reading the Bible. Who knows, you could even begin to shape and base your opinions on what you find in its pages.

    • http://www.contratimes.blogspot.com Bill Gnade

      Dear Mr. Aqua,

      You, and at least one other in this thread, have issued a corrective that Mr. Schaeffer seems content ignoring. Jesus did drive out people, not merely animals, in the “Cleansing of the Temple.” If He had indeed merely driven out animals, His comment about making “my Father’s house a den of thieves” seems a bit, well, errant.

      It is ironic, though, what Mr. Schaeffer seems to miss in Jesus’ actions. Jesus cast out sellers of animals that were meant for sacrifice; these vendors were, without doubt, preying on the fears of their customers. This market, if you will, was set up to maximize profits by exploiting anxieties, anxieties about God, judgment, health, life, death, and the afterlife. This market was completely built upon a false idea of God: That God was appeasable only through the deaths of countless animals bought at the best price, at the best market, in the best location. It was a racket perfectly set up to make “a killing.”

      But the philosophical problem for universalists is highlighted, not dimmed, by Jesus’ actions. For He surely was wrathful about something; He surely was not indifferent, nor was He particularly diplomatic. He did not sit down and “reason” with anyone. (Obviously it’s all irrelevant if He wasn’t God in the flesh. But if He IS God, well, then God does pass judgment and He does get quite mad, even physically expressing that anger in Christ.)

      Of course, why should Jesus have done ANYTHING? If universalists are right, then everyone at the market — the thievish moneychangers and vendors, the compliant pilgrims, the priestly caste, the pagan guards nearby — all are “saved”, all are headed to heavenly bliss. What does Jesus’ action mean in light of such a great truth? Heck, if Helen Keller was right, that “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all,” then why would Jesus come and try to take the adventure out of everything with His apparent message of universalism? For surely this is what the universalists are saying Christ essentially preached: “Hear me, oh Israel! You are all eternally loved by God your Father. None of you, not one, is at risk of anything eternally or existentially meaningful. Live your lives as you will, for He has taken all risk away. You are saved.” Where, I wonder, is the adventure in that? If there is no risk, what does this even mean for Christ’s crucifixion? Heck, what does it mean for the heroin user or the rock climber? If even the wrong path leads to bliss, then is there such a thing as a wrong path?

      St. Paul tells us that those who die in Christ will, upon their death, pass through a “refiner’s fire,” and they “shall suffer loss”? But what does THAT mean if, no matter what I ever gain, that gain, even if lost, leads me to the Great Approval of God? Who cares if we all end up happy, fulfilled, restored and whole — no matter what? Why worry about ANYTHING? Heck, why even TRY anything?

      Peace to you,

      BG

      • http://www.contratimes.blogspot.com Bill Gnade

        Mr. Aqua,

        PS. It should be noted (I mentioned this in a comment to Ms. Giezendanner above), that “Hellbound?” is also exploiting fear in the market of ideas. It’s marketing message, in effect, could be summarized this way: “Surely you don’t want to have the WRONG concept of God, do you? Surely you don’t want to be like those half-witted and heartless fundamentalists who believe in hell, right? Come, join us! Don’t be like them! Be like us: better, more loving, closer to the real God.”

  • Michael Aqua

    Hi Frank, you’re right when you say that the issue of whether hell is literal or not is everybody’s business, not merely PhD holders. And opinions are like noses: everyone has one. Question is, WHAT is the basis of that opinion? Everyone of us–including evangelists and universalists- WILL know the truth one day, after death, and let’s be hopeful that the position we hold is such that even if it turns out that we backed the wrong horse, the consequences won’t really matter anyway.
    However, for an issue that can only be clarified by the Bible (yes, my opinion, as a Christian), I find it disturbing that in spite of your vigorous and confident take on the issue of hell, you don’t seem familiar with the scriptures yourself:
    “Christ didn’t drive people out of the temple, he drove out animals. And this wasn’t an act of anger, it was a prophetic pantomime done in the tradition of Jeremiah, whom he quotes as he does this! Is this guy supposed to be a biblical scholar?”

    Have you never read:
    Matthew 21:12-13 “And Jesus entered the temple and cast out all THOSE who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who were selling doves. ”

    Mark 11:15-16: “And they came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple and began to cast out THOSE who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who were selling doves; and He would not permit anyone to carry goods through the temple.”

    Luke 19:45 “And He entered the temple and began to cast out those who were selling”

    John 2:14-15 “And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting, and when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables”

    Would you still insist that it wasn’t PEOPLE that Jesus drove out, but ANIMALS?
    Perhaps, you ought to spend more time ACTUALLY reading the Bible. Obviously it’s not only for the PhDs. And, who knows, you could even begin to shape and base your opinions on what you find in its pages.

  • Michael Aqua

    very very sorry for the double post :/

  • Pingback: Frank Schaeffer: Prince of the Scorn Merchants

    • Frank Schaeffer

      Hi All, note I let you all have your say here. I don’t edit of your posts, unlike Christianity Today Magazine that carefully monitors their comments section and has cut the comments of several people who tried to post on the article in question. What does that tell you? And since when can’t an individual “attack” a powerful institution for picking on another individual, in this case on a lone young film maker?

      It is interesting to watch the evangelical establishment shills (on this page) circle the wagons over what was after all — by today’s blogging standards — was a rather mild attack. Where are you guys living? It’s interesting to contrast some comments here with the 6000-plus comments on my latest CNN page blog on “hell” or the lack thereof and see how some (not all!) evangelicals always seem to question someone’s spirituality rather than just deal with the subject.

      I fondly remember exchanging some heated emails with Christopher Hitchens after I took him on in my book Patience With God (we’d been in touch ever since he contacted me to say he liked Crazy For God) and while we never agreed it was such a relief to be debating a decent ordinary atheist rather than an evangelical with all the holier than thou BS. Ah to have escaped is sweet.

      • http://www.contratimes.blogspot.com Bill Gnade

        Dear Mr. Schaeffer, again:

        Please note that my comment immediately preceding your last comment (9/29/12 @ 12:40 pm) for some reason failed to post AFTER your comment.

        I’ve asked you and a couple of other folks here what is the benefit of believing the way you do: I have averred that the benefit is strictly psychological and temporal. Alas! What do I find in your essay from 9/23/12 (‘My “Hellbound?” Bush, Hell, Bin Laden CNN Post’)? I find this gem:

        “Why does our view of hell matter? Because believers in hell believe in revenge. And according to brain chemistry studies, taking revenge and nurturing resentment is a major source of life-destroying stress.” [bold added for emphasis]

        Wow! That’s it! That’s what you get if you make the temporal switch from a revenge-based idea of God to a kinder one. Here you go: “Get your stress relief, folks! There’s no hell! Believe like we do! See how stress-free we are! See how peaceful we’ve become! There is nothing but blessed assurance with us!”

        Really, Mr. Schaeffer, who cares? For your own argument affirms that ALL PEOPLE make it to heaven; that ALL are blessed, loved, forgiven — equally! Even the fundamentalists who CLEARLY STRESS YOU OUT are on the SAME footing with God as you! That’s good news, no? That’s the gospel, right? Your ONLY advantage is that you, allegedly, have reduced the “life-destroying stress” from your life.

        How’s that working for you?

        Peace. Really, I bid you peace.

        BG

    • L. D.

      See prev. post dated 10-17 –not sure why it’s out of sequence.

  • http://www.contratimes.blogspot.com Bill Gnade

    Dear Mr. Schaeffer,

    It is interesting that you should think that “the evangelical establishment shills” have circled their wagons on this page? Really? Where’s this circle of wagons; who are these shills?

    I have tried to engage you directly on the matter at hand. I have offered my critique of your philosophical position; where’s your defense or rebuttal? I have dealt “with the subject” while, at least in my view, you’ve run away from the subject. I don’t sense you’re engaged in the substantive aspects of this debate at all. (By the way, I am not an evangelical shill.) It doesn’t really matter to me what Christianity Today does, or does not do, with the comments on its own website. What matters to me is that THIS website, your blog, boasts about being all-inclusive, and that you refuse to edit or delete any comments posted. But there is still a way for you to edit and delete: You do so by evading or ignoring your guests’ remarks (at least some guests). How, pragmatically, is that any different than CT’s moderated comments?

    Peace to you, sir.

    BG

  • ted

    Could you please I get your interpretation of the following scriptures:

     2 Thessalonians 1:7 This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed.

    Romans 1
    The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness,  since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 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. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

     2 Timothy 4
    In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

    Revelation 20
     Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judgedaccording to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. yAnyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

    Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example, in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire” (Jude 7).

    Jw’s and Mormons reject the Biblical teaching on hell as well. So sad; to reject God’s truth. People perish because they refused to love the truth.

    http://carm.org/hell-eternal

  • ted

    Please read the following questions carefully, be honest and listen toyour conscience. Would you consider yourself to be a good person? The Bible declares, most men will proclaim their own goodness. Let’s see if you qualify as being a good person. Have you ever told a lie? Have  you ever stolen anything, irrespective of its value? Have you ever used God’s name to curse?  Jesus said, I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart? Have you ever looked at someone with lust? The Bible says that ifsomeone hates another person they are a murderer (I John 3:15). Haveyou ever hated anyone? If you have answered, Yes, to the previousquestions, then you have admitted that you are a liar, a thief, a blasphemer, an adulterer and a murderer and we’ve only looked at 5 of the 10 Commandments. If God were to judge you by this standard would you be innocent or guilty?  You know you are guilty and deserving ofan eternity in Hell.Jesus Christ came to earth and died a criminal’s death not because Hehad broken the Law, but because we had. God demonstrates his own lovefor us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. What should you do?  Repent, turn from your sins & put your complete faithin Jesus Christ as your Savoir and Lord.  You may die today, in yoursin. Is there any reason why you would not accept God’s gift?  More info at living waters website with true & false conversion audiosermon. God Bless!

    • L. D.

      See my post dated 10-17 — not sure why is got inserted out of place.

  • L. D.

    I’ve come late to this thread…some great stuff…hope it’s not over.
    As for Frank’s review, I say bravo…but simply incomplete. I’ve really enjoyed Bill Gnade’s input–very substantive.
    Then, after all this…we have Ted, who says: “You know you are guilty and deserving of an eternity in Hell” after he just said; “People perish because they refused to love the truth. (citing 2 Thessalonians 1:7, Romans 1, II Tim. 4, Rev. 20, Jude 7). Ted, do you even care that this apparent contradiction makes you and your God distasteful to others? Have you ever studied a Lexicon to understand the variety of meanings in the original languages?

    I find this thread has more heat than light, more smoke than fire. The pivotal axis of logic rests not so much on God’s love as on the issue of truth. If God is not first and foremost Truth, then His declarations of “love” become simply debatable. And the devil is standing first in line for that one! We must first decide if God is really true, honest, candid and forthright, starting with His warning to Adam and Eve that if they distrust Him and rebel, seeking evil, that the consequence would be death. He did not say fire, Sheol, Hades, eternal consciousness, or torment. For approx. 4000 years of human history nothing is said by God that could be construed to mean what Ted thinks he knows. Ted must look simplistically at New Testament verses and extrapolate them onto the entire O.T., in order to see God as being truthful to those people. He must deconstruct the meanings of so many words and verses in the O.T. as well as New; perish does not really mean perish, destroy does not really mean destroy, consume does not really mean consume, but most importantly; death does not really mean death! Ted forgets that the devil made this exact argument in Genesis chapter 3. This is the true evil which many evangelicals blindly propagate–they are ignorantly complicit in sharing the devil’s lie; saying that God did not tell the truth. Sssiiiiiggggghhhhhh. This is not responsible hermeneutics, exegesis, exposition or “doctrine”.

    Frank is right to rave against this nonsense, and yet he is wrong to substitute his weak universalistic views in place of Ted’s, simply because they make God more loving. The main problem is that they also make God not candid, not forthright, not truthful and not trustworthy, since He did not say to Adam and Eve; “Not to worry…there’s really no ultimate bad consequences to sin…it’ll all be O.K. in the end…everyone will win”.

  • newenglandsun

    After your description of the movie, it actually sounds interesting. The way James McGrath wrote about it made it seem like he was just supporting it because he’s a universalist.

    This view is more like the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox view of Hell than it does have any resemblance to universalism.

    By the way, I was a universalist until I read “Love Wins” and saw my heresy refuted by the alleged “heresiarch”, Rob Bell himself.


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