The Three Conditions of Hell

Many today wonder if a loving and good God can “punish” humans endlessly in hell in a way that can be called just. There are, however, actually two kinds of eternal punishment doctrine. One can be called hard retribution. This view argues that God sets out the conditions, humans knowingly (or corruptedly knowingly) choose otherwise, and God’s just retribution is eternal. In this case, eternal hell is divine punishment and is viewed from the angle of God’s punishments. A second view, which some call “progressive,” and which focuses not on the divine side but on the human choice, is just that: humans knowingly choose hell endlessly. I would call this non-retributive eternal hell instead of progressive. I think this is an important distinction. Which all raises the conditions for hell: what is required for hell to be just? If many think that the retributive model ultimately fails to meet the “justice” or “goodness” test, what about the non-retributive model? What would be the conditions for a non-retributive model that is ultimately just and compatible with a good God?

In the book, Universal Salvation?: The Current Debate, edited by Robin Parry (aka, Gregory Macdonald) and Christopher Partridge, Eric Reitan puts together the three conditions for hell. In other words, for hell to be “fair” or “deserved” or “just,” the following three conditions must be met:

1. Humans must have a full and adequate understanding of the nature of the choice to refuse God in Christ. That is, humans must be free from all ignorance and deception. [Without this, it would be unjust for God to send someone to hell endlessly. A person must know what is the outcome of choice.]

2. Humans must be free from any bondage to desire or sinful desires the human is incapable of resisting. [Again, the same logical point.]

3. Humans must have the ability to have chosen otherwise (this is called libertarian free will). [Otherwise, the person is coerced and not truly free.]

Without these, for God to punish someone eternally is somehow unjust or undeserved. Reitan’s argument is that eventually, given libertarian free will, or given all three of the above, humans will all choose God and thus he is a universalist.

Inherent to the universalist case is another belief, and it is encased in this sentence by Reitan: “The person must unwaveringly choose to reject God at every moment for the rest of eternity, even though the person sees absolutely no good reason for doing so, has every reason not to do so [here his argument is that it becomes increasingly irrational and incoherent for someone who knows what they are doing to reject god], and has absolutely no compelling desire to do so? Is that really desirable? [I've omitted italics.]

Universalism, in other words, in this set of beliefs, is not conceived apart from the capacity of humans after death to have an eternity of choices, and we are back to the problem we had Tuesday: What evidence in the Bible is there for “second chance/s”?

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://www.dodifferent.org.uk David Bunce

    I think part of the issue I have with something like this is that, whilst I am sympathetic to the argument and might want to say something similar myself, much of the reasoning that you have outlined of Reitan is taking place on sub-Christian levels: it is dealing with the abstracts of logic, God and ‘a person’ rather than the concrete reality of how Christ shows God to be.

    I think we always have to start with the incarnation and what sort of God we have if Jesus is true when we are thinking about things like eschatology: it is only in the light of this and the knowledge that in Christian terms there is no other, hidden and malicious God at the back of Jesus (T.F. Torrance) that we can begin to talk about God’s grace, God’s welcome and God’s Holy Love.

    Arguing on points of logic, however, or even arguing on a rapid exchange of opposing Bible verses, is not good theology in my opinion. Rob Bell was definitely right about one thing: questions about eternity are, in the end, ultimately questions about the nature of God.

  • http://conditionalism.net/blog/ Ronnie

    A second view, which some call “progressive,” and which focuses not on the divine side but on the human choice, is just that: humans knowingly choose hell endlessly

    This view will be very difficult to maintain. I can think of no passage that says anything of the sort and few that would even imply such a thing. Scripture overwhelmingly portrays final punishment as the active judgment and wrath of God. Any Christian, then, who holds this view seriously needs to ask himself, “do I believe this because I think Scripture teaches it, or because I think it can withstand certain philosophical challenges better than the retributive view?”

    Moreover, this view assumes that all humans are immortal. Even if a person continually rejects God, why should anyone think that said person will live forever? Wouldn’t he or she eventually die? Traditionalists of the retributive stripe have an answer for this: God will keep the unrepentant alive forever in order to punish them. What is the “progressivist’s” answer?

    Immortality is not an inalienable right; it is a gift that is bestowed only upon faith in Christ (1 Timothy 1:10). Since traditionalism of any stripe must affirm that all human beings are (or will be) immortal, it must be rejected on those grounds.

  • http://conditionalism.net/blog/ Ronnie

    ugh that should read 2 Timothy 1:10 :-D

  • Peter

    Although there is a part of me that would be glad to learn that the opportunity for repentance remains after death, at this point (with these Scriptures) it does seem a bit like wishful thinking.
    When considering the possibility that all that fire and brimstone would convince someone to repent, I think about all those hearts apparently being hardened by what they’re exposed to in Revelation – two ideas of how a person might respond to punishment, two ideas that cannot be reconciled one with the other, IMHO.

  • angusj

    A second view, which some call “progressive,” and which focuses not on the divine side but on the human choice, is just that: humans knowingly choose hell endlessly

    It seems to me that those who hold this “progressive” position must believe that “hell” is a tolerable abode.

  • http://anderslundblad.blogspot.com Anders Lundblad

    Did Satan meet the above three conditions when he rejected God? If so, perhaps a human could also deliberately do the same.

    If “love always wins” I think it’s ultimately a question about whom we love. Yes, God loves us, but do we love him? If we love the world/ourselves more than Jesus I think it’s conceivable that we could choose to spend our lives (even eternally so) apart from him. People reject each other daily. People even rejected the perfect love of Jesus when he walked this earth.

    Why must it be different in the light of eternity? I’m not sure heaven’s glory and hell’s despair can change my sentiment towards God. What if the choice is not so much between heaven and hell, but between God and Myself. And that would not be an easy choice for anyone.

  • http://www.dyfedwynroberts.org.uk/ Dyfed

    I agree that the human soul is not immortal in and of itself. But is it right that we turn to 2 Tim 1:9-10 to argue that immortality is a gift bestowed by Jesus?

    In v.9 Paul talks of a ‘grace that has been granted us from all eternity’. I’m guessing that we would interpret that by saying it was in the purpose of God to bestow this grace upon Paul and Timothy even though they didn’t exist. But could it also be argued that in some spiritual/soulish way Paul and Timothy existed eternally and received grace in that state?

    In v.10 Paul is not saying that ‘life and immortality’ has been bestowed as a gift to humanity but that it was brought to light or was revealed by Jesus. Could this suggest that it existed previously but was hidden until Jesus came?

  • normbv

    Well basically we first need to distinguish between Hell/Hades and Gehenna. Hades is the abode of the dead who were awaiting the Judgment of Christ against the old Covenant of Law ushering in the new covenant kingdom. The terminology replaces the Hebrew concept of Sheol and the Pit of death as the Greek term Hades came into vogue. Gehenna is more a physical location [valley of death] representing physical covenant judgment as well and is used to illustrate the plight of those in the first century’s rejection of Christ in the City of Jerusalem.

    The hadean realm though is being ushered out through Christ who is defeating the realm of Hadean death under Adamic Law.

    1Co 15:55-57 where, O Death, thy sting? where, O Hades, thy victory?’ and the sting of the death is the sin, and the power of the sin the law; and to God–thanks, to Him who is giving us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ;

    Once judgment occurs upon the rejecters of Christ, then the Hadean realm is destroyed as well and is no more.

    Rev 20:14-15 and the death and the hades were cast to the lake of the fire–this is the second death; and if anyone was not found written in the scroll of the life, he was cast to the lake of the fire.

    The language is Covenant judgment language in regards to the messianic coming of the deliverer [Christ]. It should not be formulated into Eternal Conscious Torment of the individual by God as that is taking it out of its original context and application.

    Now the bad news appears to be that through rejecting covenant with God that one simply loses the quest for eternal life. Nothing about ECT as Hades no longer exists but very likely simply non existences will be the plight of the non-faithful as they chose not life eternal. It’s their choice alone.

    Gehenna though is reserved as a stigma and place of retribution upon those caught in the City of Jerusalem and signifies their just judgment for persecuting and killing Christ and the faithful. It also ended when the prophecy of Christ had been fulfilled during the first Century by Titus when many a body was physically dumped in the valley of Gehenna. Translating Gehenna as Hell is not called for and bears the wrong concepts as the two have essential differences.

    Paul pretty well lays it out for us in his response to the first century believers. The problem is that everyone who reads this thinks it’s still in the future when it has long since passed and already been fulfilled in their day. The eternal destruction spoken of here is simply pointing out that it’s principles of fulfillment are set in stone forever which is what happens when people separate themselves by their choices from God’s eternal blessings. If one dies in such a state of rejection then they have sealed their fate of separation from God eternally. This will not make the Universalist happy but it will also not make those who believe we have to have ECT happy either.

    2Th 1:4-10 Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. (5) This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering– (6) since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, (7) and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels (8) in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (9) They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, (10) when he comes on that day …

  • http://www.fivedills.com Watchman

    What evidence in the Bible is there for “second chance/s”?

    In the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus found in Luke 16:19-31, there is a dialog occurring between Abraham and the Rich Man who was consigned to Hades. This demonstrates that there is NOT a total absence of good, nor is there a total absence of God in Hell. Abraham explains to the Rich man that there is no way for him to get across the great chasm to save him. This event of course precedes Christ’s atoning work on the cross. Once Christ’s work on the cross was accomplished, His resulting death bridged the gap between God and man and reconciled the two together. There is no longer a great chasm that cannot be traversed.

    “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
    (Colossians 1:19-20)

    But, I think the burden rests upon those who don’t believe God can save people after death. If the Christian genuinely believes in the complete sovereignty of God, both on earth and in heaven, then why can’t God still save people even after their natural death? Is there a Scripture passage that alludes to God’s limiting salvation power only to the natural realm in which we live?

  • http://randyboswell.com Randy Boswell

    As I look at this issue, everyone (and I mean everyone) who comes to Scripture draws inferences on various doctrinal topics, especially that of the Trinity which we work out in detail from the passages that teach us this doctrine. Further, especially in relation to eschatology, we seem to infer many things such as the immediate state of the believer after death, the nature of the millennium, and especially on the nature of infants who die (with the age of accountability being the inference here). In essence, Scripture is not a handbook of propositions that lays out doctrine in a readily accessible form, but a narrative that describes the nature and character of God in Jesus Christ. This means we have to infer and attempt to draw the lines together on certain issues. One such inference that seems to be completely clear for many is the eternal nature of hell.

    Scot and others are right that there is no explicit teaching of Scripture that says, “There will be a second chance after death.” There is a sense of immediacy to the NT accounts and what happens after death and I. Howard Marshall mentions this in his response in the book Scot mentions. What makes me have doubts on the eternal nature of hell is not explicit teaching, but inferences I draw from various threads I find present in Scripture.

    First, I believe that the evidence on the nature of the word “eternal” is in fact less certain than some believe; there is an entire book written on the terms for eternity in pre-blibical, biblical, and post-biblical usage by Ramsell and Konstan. It is entitled “Terms for Eternity.” For me, they argue convincingly that we are pressing a philosophical usage for eternity onto Scripture to notate it as an infinite duration of time. Scot, I know you’ve quoted BDAG before, but this study is much, much more extensive and in-depth on this particular word and holds more weight for me. Have you happened to have read this book anyone? Thoughts?

    Second, there are passages in the NT that seem to point towards universal reconciliation at first blush, yet traditional evangelical interpretations explain these away in various manners. This is necessitated by the fact that hell is eternal in duration and this fact becomes the hermeneutical key for the whole interpretive process in relation to these passages. Universalists instead allow their hermeneutic to flow the other way and place more weight on the passages that seemingly speak of universal reconciliation (it is certain for them and not seemingly) and in concert with the disputed nature of the terms for “eternity” (and their doctrine of God) this opens space for an inference that there are second chances.

    Finally, the overall nature and character of God is read differently by universalists. They don’t simply emphasize God’s love at the expense of his justice or at least not the serious evangelical scholars I’ve read. Instead, God is both loving and just; however, the nature of his just is not purely retributive and is ultimately restorative. This confluence of factors is enough for me to at least question whether we’ve gotten it right in speaking of hell as eternal damnation. Right now, I can’t completely shift my views because their is a wealth of tradition against universalism and many non-fundamentalist evangelical thinkers, Scot included, that I respect continue to adhere to traditional views.

  • Scot McKnight

    normbv,

    Your comment appears to me to be mostly a red herring, and I’m asking no one to get into the debate about Hades and Hell distinctions in a way that distracts from this discussion about the conditions of hell and evidence for a second chance.

  • normbv

    Scot,

    I appreciate your wanting to stay focused, but if your defining subject matter is based upon possible misconceptions then it should be noted upfront. A first century Christian perspective of Gehenna, Hell and Hades is very likely not the same as the modern Christian concepts.

    It may in fact render some of the discussion moot at its core implications.

  • Kenton

    From my pretty much unabashedly universalist perspective, I read your concluding question and think, “that is so just the wrong question.”

    I think you’re to frame universalism within a traditional paradigm, and it doesn’t really work that way. The issue for us (I probably should say “me”) isn’t how Jesus is our fire insurance and the question is can you obtain said insurance after death, the issue is that we don’t have to live in fear of the fire. We don’t have to live in fear of the fire for ourselves, and we don’t have to live in fear of the fire for our loved ones (like Francis Chan’s grandmother)!

    The downer is we don’t get to see the butt-kicking of our enemies. Of course if we love our enemies that’s not really a downer, but think of what a downer it will be for those who hate their enemies. That’ll be… HELL.

    And as long as they hate their enemies it will continue to be hell. I imagine for the worst of humans it may take him millions and millions of years and millions and millions of tears, but from what I see of the life of Jesus, God still wants to restore them, and I can’t see why he wouldn’t be willing to.

  • Gem

    What evidence in the Bible is there for “second chance/s”? -Scot</b?

    Flesh keeps us in bondage (#2) and inhibits understanding (sight) (#1)

    “when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” 1 John 3:2

    “Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.” 1 John 3:6

    “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face.” 1 Cor 13:12

    “Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.” Rev 1:7

    “when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” 1 John 3:2

  • Scot McKnight

    Kenton, I’m on the road, and have only a phone, but that is pure exaggerated caricature. The issue is how to establish a case for post mortem opportunity to repent or respond in faith and love to God for the first time.

  • http://seguewm.blogspot.com/ Wm

    If ‘fairness’ is an attribute of a ‘loving’ God, then the author is headed in the right direction. Better to question the implications of a Bible authors words, than our confidence in a just & loving God. The bible isn’t God. God would not be fair in punishing anyone because, (1) there isn’t any such thing as ‘free will’, (2) no human being ever has all the facts, (3) no human being views anything without bias, (4) no human being has the necessary intellect even if he/she had all the facts and no biases. The scriptures awkward presentation of ‘hell’ must therefore be the projection of human need for retribution – quite contrary to the nature of a fair and loving God.

  • Randy L.

    My issue with Reitan’s analysis is that it subordinates God to human nature. In this analysis, humans have an inalienable right to what is defined as fair. Hell must therefore conform to that notion of fairness.
    While humans have a special place in creation (Psalm 8), this status is given by God. How can we claim to be entitled to this special status while at the same time rejecting the Creator who is the only source of this status?
    God is not under obligation to save anyone. Scripture teaches that God desires everyone to know Him and to be in a relationship with Him that will transcend death. We are mortal beings who have the potential to be transformed into immortal co-heirs with Christ.
    This is where I part company with Rob Bell. I don’t think you can play a numbers game with God — I don’t we can presume that “love loses” if a majority of humans, even a vast majority, never achieve this metamorphosis.
    I also believe that there are many people who are in some stage of transformation — they have some understanding of God but have not embraced the fullness of revelation provided through Jesus. If they have the opportunity to do so after death, I don’t think that is so much as a “second chance” as much as an extension of what began in this life.
    Whatever ways God deals with us, they lie in His nature and are not bound by ours.

  • http://theologica.ning.com/profile/ShermanNobles Sherman Nobles

    “Universalism, in other words, in this set of beliefs, is not conceived apart from the capacity of humans after death to have an eternity of choices, and we are back to the problem we had Tuesday: What evidence in the Bible is there for “second chance/s”?”

    Well, let’s see, Jonah was in Sheol, realm of the dead, experiencing affliction and separation from God (cast out of your sight) (2:2-9). The KJV even translates Sheol as Hell here. And separation from God and being in affliction in one’s soul sure sounds like Hell to me. And from Hell he cried out to God, repented, and God delivered him from hell and even brought him back to life. – A biblical example of a second chance, an example of post-mortem repentance and deliverance from Hell.

    And then of course there is the 1 Peter 3:18-4:6 passage which speaks of Jesus preaching to the spirits in prison, those who rejected the salvation of God through the ministry of Noah (the most wicked, evil generation of people of all time, where every thought was evil). Jesus preached to them so that they might be judged according to what they did while living in the flesh, so that they can live with God in the spirit.

    And then in 1 Cor. 15 Paul speaks affirmatively of Baptism for the dead, which seems to affirm the Catholic concept of purgatory.

    And then there is Gehenna that Jesus warned of. There is some evidence that the Pharisees during the time of Christ used Gehenna as a theological metaphor to warn of God’s judgment and punishment of sin. Rabbi Shammai (50 BCE – 30 CE, President of the Sanhedrin during the time of Christ, succeeded by Gamailial in 30 CE) believed that only the most righteous went straight to Gehenna, everyone else went to Gehenna for purification and were there up to 12 months. Concerning the most wicked of the wicked, it was debated as to whether or not they stayed in Gehenna indefinitely longer (as long as the Lord saw fit) or whether or not they were annihilated.

    Anyhow, the point is that the Pharisees, at least those of the school of Shammai, believed and taught something along the lines of Gehenna being like Purgatory, a place/time/event where people encounter the fire of truth and it burns the hell/evil out of them. It is thus very significant that Matthew is the one who predominantly quotes Jesus warning of Gehenna, for Matthew wrote to the Jews and had a special focus of rebuking the Pharisees. Jesus took their theological metaphor of Gehenna that they used to try and control the masses of people through fear, turned it around and used it to warn them of their religious hypocricy and oppression of the weak. Of the 10 times the word Gehenna is used in the Gospels, 7 are in Matthew; only one passage in Mark, and one passage in Luke.

    People often mistakenly say that Jesus preached on Hell more than anyone else in the bible. Actually, it was Matthew who preached on Gehenna (Purgatory) more than anyone else in the Bible, using Gehenna to rebuke the Pharisees.

    Another passage that could indicate second chances is where Paul says he turned a brother over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh so that his spirit might be saved, which reminds me of the passage in 1 Peter.

    I believe that we were all created for relationship with God, and that without God there is a God-sized vacum in our hearts that we seek to fill. And I believe that ultimately everyone turns to God to have that hole filled realizing that this is what were created for all along! Ultimately every knee bows in worship and every tongue joyfully proclaims allegiance, devotion to the one who redeemed us and set us free by His blood! And the revelation of the Lamb burns the hell/evil out of us.

    Over the last few years I’ve heard many testimonies of people who have died and experienced Hell, only to have Jesus save them, even show some of them heaven, and of course brought them back to life. Each case resulted in salvation of the person and salvation of many who heard the testimony.

    There is judgment and punishment of sin, but I believe that scripture affirms that such judgment and punishment of sin flows out of God’s love for us and ultimately works good in us. And folks, judgment and punishment of sin is based on how we actually live our lives, not just what we profess to believe. In fact, most of the passages concerning judgment and punishment of sin are written as a warning for the believer, those who consider themselves to be children of God. They are primarily warnings for us, calling us to repentance, I believe.

    Think about it, even the separation of the kids from the flock passage in Mt. 24 is a warning about how we treat those less fortunate than we, the hungry, the homeless, those in prison! Faith in God or Christ is not even mentioned in the passage. It is for us, and the punishment warned of is for us if we do not repent and live like we should. The goat kids were sent away to “aionian chastizement” why? So they could mature and be helpful members of the flock. The punishment warned of is inflicted by the Good Shepherd!

  • Jon G

    Francis Chan addressed his former congregation about this topic on 6/19 and discussed conversations he’s had with Rob Bell. I thought it was interesting even though I believe Chan and Bell are having two different discussions. You can watch it here (it’s called “Erasing Hell”):
    http://www.cornerstonesimi.com/special/media_player.html

  • http://soapbox.clanotto.com keo

    Randy Boswell #10 — I haven’t read that book, but here’s one from 1875 (full text online) that goes through the aion / aionios use in both the Bible and other Greek literature: http://www.tentmaker.org/books/Aion_lim.html and points out how often it does NOT mean “eternal.”

    Evidence for 2nd chances? I Peter 3:19 (speculative, I know); Romans 14:11 perhaps?

    Karl Barth’s understanding of election — that all of humanity is elected through the one Jesus eliminates the need for “second chances,” however. Which is probably the better way to frame the issue.

    “What is required for hell to be just?” That it be what the just God actually set up for the vast majority of humanity before Adam even sinned. Which isn’t so clear, particularly if we’re really only confident of the few “Lake of Fire” references in Revelation and have decided that the Hades and Gehenna and Tartarus references (though they are the words that are actually translated as “hell”) might not be the final “hell” for all of the unsaved.

  • Kenton

    Scot-

    Really? Perhaps I shouldn’t paint the traditional paradigm with a broad brush, but the “fire insurance” metaphor is not exaggerated caricature. I have pretty recently those very words proceed from the mouth of someone I worship with.

    Perhaps I should have prefaced my remarks with the “have I restated this belief in a way that you would say accurately represents it” (per ChrisL’s remark yesterday). Maybe I should ask this: if you’re suggesting that Jesus’ offer is not “fire insurance”, then why are you so interested in the question of second chances?

  • http://theologica.ning.com/profile/ShermanNobles Sherman Nobles

    Keo @20, Rom.14:11 is interesting in that it connects Judgment in vs. 10 with every knee bowing and every tongue confessing that Jesus is Lord. It seems that the purpose of judgment is positive, to bring about reconciliation and ultimately to bring about worship to God. And it is because we trust God to judge rightly, that we leave judgment to Him. Sadly, when we judge it rarely, if ever, results in reconciliation and worship to God; it usually results in exclusion, anger, and frustration, more selfishness, not worship.

  • scotmcknight

    Kenton, the question is on the table.

  • scotmcknight

    Thanks Sherman. That is where we have to dig in. Thanks.

  • Rick

    “In other words, for hell to be “fair” or “deserved” or “just,” the following three conditions must be met”

    That is based on a man-made scale. Is that what we are to be measuring with?

  • http://aarondbrooks.wordpress.com aarondbrooks

    What gives Keiton the right to establish these three criteria for hell’s “fairness”? What does he base them on? His own moral compass? As the first comment noted, they certainly aren’t scriptural, so on what authority should we accept them?

    I guess my point is that if the universalist’s case rests on these criteria, then I can dismiss it entirely due to my own differing presuppositions.

  • http://www.gurrydesign.com Peter G.

    We need to think very carefully about how death is being defined in our thinking about the possibility of post-mortem repentance. If we’re not careful, physical death is going to become something less than part of God’s judgment on sin. For example, note how Watchman (#10), asks the question: “then why can’t God still save people even after their natural death?” But theologically, there’s nothing natural about death. It’s an aberration of God’s good creation and a God-ordained punishment for sin. This may have just been a slip on Watchman’s part, but it’s a slip that will lead to bad theology if we let it go unnoticed.

  • http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/ Chris L

    In some ways, I’ve come down a long road to the opinion that conditional immortality/annihilation has probably the most Scriptural support (particularly when taking the cultural context into consideration) and logical support (balancing God’s love, justice, mercy, grace and holiness).

    If innate immortality in the age to come (a Greek/Hellenistic assumption, not a Hebrew one) is not true (and I’m unfamiliar with any Scriptural support for the assumption of innate immortality), then the yin/yang of ECT/UR is irrelevant. If Jesus “has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” – if the gift of the gospel is “eternal life” – then one would simply experience a “second death” without this gift.

    If one rejects this gift, there is no eternity of second chances (which is problematic for many reasons discussed here recently) and there is also no infinite punishment for finite sins (which is also problematic for many reasons discussed here). Libertarian Free Will can easily exist as a manifestation of God’s love without trying to subject it to an eternity of choices.

    And if we’re going to look at the beliefs around Gehenna expressed by the School of Shammai, which Jesus does not appear to have spent any time correcting (an odd “dog that didn’t bark” moment for those who support ECT) then we also have to note that Shammai’s school also believed that the most wicked would be annihilated after the year of punishment, while the bulk of humanity would then enter the presence of God.

    Overall, I would agree with Bell’s sentiment that we are best advised to hold no specific view of hell as certain, that we should see the choice as urgent today (not some day out in the future), and that these should be left in tension with one another. So, while I believe that annihilation (or more accurately, cessation of existence in a “second death”) is the most likely destination of the wicked, I’m still willing to say I could be wrong.

  • http://www.gurrydesign.com Peter G.

    Sherman, where is Jonah’s repentance in chapter 2? I see thanksgiving but not repentance. Compare Jonah 2 to, say, Ps 25, 32, or 51 and there are some stark differences between a hymn of thanksgiving and a hymn of repentance.

  • http://www.virtuphill.blospot.com phil_style

    angusj, #5:
    Interesting point about tolerability. Although any circumstance might be tolerable relative to other options.

    Is living in a council flat on £5 a week tolerable? Perhaps not, but certainly compared to living as an unemployed peasant in 1870s Bermondsey it would be.

    Do people chose to endure a worse option? yes.
    Do people sometime erroneously think that a better option is worse? yes.
    Could someone choose to exist in a hell, out of hate or fear of the alternative? possibly.

  • http://www.virtuphill.blospot.com phil_style

    Chris L, 27:

    your point is well articulated, and your final expression “I’m still willing to say I could be wrong” is most humble and agreeable.

  • http://www.gurrydesign.com Peter G.

    The goat kids were sent away to “aionian chastizement” why? So they could mature and be helpful members of the flock.

    Sherman, are you serious? How exactly does this chastisement work to mature small goats into adult sheep? This is a process I’m unfamiliar with.

  • http://theologica.ning.com/profile/ShermanNobles Sherman Nobles

    Rick @25,
    Affirm prima scriptura, I recognize the role that reason and logic plays in theology. In the OT, if a person killed someone by accident, the Law made provision for such and though there was still penalty for such sin, it was not as bad as if the person had murdered someone on purpose. And the concept of an eye for an eye was to prevent the escalation of evil; we should not take a life for an eye. This spirit of justice is the foundation of the Law and is a reflection of the character of God, I believe.

    So, in short, I believe that it is right for us to logically think through the concept of Hell. And I believe that some of the logical objections to it are valid.

    And in a round about way, I think Reitan is simply highlighting the concept of the Total Depravity of humanity, that we are dead in our sins, slaves to unrighteousness, born in sin under the bondage of evil from within and without! And from scripture and experience, I’ve come to believe that Total Depravity is true; and thus we are totally dependant upon Jesus to save us from evil, within and without. And because of the Total Depravity of humanity, the concept of Hell, ECT, being Just is, well, illogical.

    As I’ve shared before though, it was not logical or emotional reasons that moved me to not believe in Hell, but it was the lack of scriptural evidence in support of such, and the many scriptures that seem to affirm UR. But there’s no need to repeat all that here.

    In fact, to me there is much more biblical evidence in support of 2nd chances, than there is in support of ECT. And 2nd chances sure seems to fit better to me with the character of God being loving and just than ECT does; but ultimately it was my understanding (or misunderstanding) of scripture that compelled me to hope in, well, have faith that Jesus truly is the savior of all humanity, especially (not only) we who believe (1 Tim.4:10). But I could be wrong and Jesus is not the savior of all humanity.

    Reitan is also highlighting that we are not “free” and thus cannot make a “free” choice. Frankly, I do not affirm human autonomy. In the scope of our lives we do not choose the make up of our personality, whether we’re male or female, what influences come into our lives, who we’re born to, where, when, or how we’re born, what religion we’ll be raised in, what revelations from God we’ll receive, whether we’ll be mentally competant, or the level of spiritual, physical, emotional, mental bondage we’re born in. Considering the scope of our lives, we only have maybe 1% autonomy. And even that 1% is suspect. Thus to base our endless destiny on the relatively few, if any, choices that we make is, well, not just. But of course, that’s just looking at it logically.

  • http://theologica.ning.com/profile/ShermanNobles Sherman Nobles

    Peter @29, Jonah’s repentance is seen in his actions. After being ressurected from the dead, in the grave for 3 days, he obeyed God’s command to go to Nineveh, whereas before he was going away from Nineveh. He also says in 2.4 that “I will look again toward your holy Temple.” Apparently he was not looking toward the Temeple, and turned his view.

  • Paul Johnston

    Where is Satan’s place in all this? Is he not offering an alternative to Godliness? Can we choose an eternal relationship with the demonic? Is it possible for someone to hate God? Have you ever met a person who speaks of Christ and the Christian faith with the utmost contempt?

    My biggest concern with Universalism, isn’t in it’s outcome. I pray for it. Nor do I think of God as anything other than a universalist, I am certain of it. In God’s infinite love we are given free will. We are free to choose what God would otherwise have us not choose.

    My concern simply is sin. If the “Love Wins” universalism is the truth what does this say about the simply horiffying manner in which we have treated one another throughout the centuries. Our violence towards one another and God’s creation is appallingly grotesque. Words cannot encapsulate the conscious horrors we have inflicted. Do we all just get a mulligan? Is that what the Cross did, free us to inflict every sin imaginable upon others and ourselves?

    Universalism is moot unless there is an A priori rejection of sin on the part of the believer. Some people consciously crave sin, at times I am such a person. Are you? Do you know anyone who does?

    Evil is a real alternative that the Rob Bell notions of universalism tragically underestimate.

  • Paul Johnston

    Sherman, I am confused. If total depravity is true to you wouldn’t ECT be the logical outcome for an eternal spirit that chose to live in opposition to Christ?

  • http://theologica.ning.com/profile/ShermanNobles Sherman Nobles

    Peter @32,
    Yes, I’m serious. Goats are valuable members of the flock, providing milk, meat, and skins. Shepherds raise goats right along with sheep and even cattle in the same flock. Goats though, being more individualistic do require more training to function with the flock. Sadly, because probaton and eriphos are translated “sheep and goats” as opposed to “flock and kids”, I think people misunderstand the analogy Jesus is making. The kids are valuable members of the flock, but they need training, discipline, part of which is punishment. It’s important to train goats at a young age though, because the older they get the more stubborn and hard to train they are.

    The point of the passage in Mt. 24 is calling us to spiritual, even social maturity – looking out for the needs of those around us. Spiritually and socially immature people are so wrapped up in themselves that they don’t even see the needs of others around them. These are set in comparison to the spiritually and sociall mature people who take care of the needs of others almost unconsciously, often self-sacrificially and for no personal gain. The point of the passage is to call us to grow in spritual and social maturity, I believe.

  • http://soapbox.clanotto.com keo

    Yes, Romans 14:11 / Isaiah 45:23 is very interesting. Especially if the ESV, NASB, and others are correct in translating it as “every tongue shall swear allegiance.

    If allegiance is what is meant by the “believe” in “believing in Christ,” rather than opinion / intellectual belief (See Karen Armstrong, The Case for God, quoted at http://kjvonlydebate.com/2011/04/23/the-etymology-of-belief/ for Jerome’s use of credo rather than opinor for pisteuo), then this verse indicates everyone will wind up at least most of the way to Romans 10:9 — and believing that God raised Jesus from the dead ought to be the easy part at that point, yes?

    Confess Jesus is Lord.
    Believe God raised Jesus.
    “Then you will be saved,” it says. Nothing about not being judged for our works still, of course.

  • http://theologica.ning.com/profile/ShermanNobles Sherman Nobles

    Paul @36,
    Nope. If total depravity is true, then we are totally dependant upon Jesus to save us. Salvation is completely a work of grace, whether experienced in this life or the life to come. We are dead in our sins, but Jesus raises us to life and righteousness. Some of us are fortunate to experience that now, even in this present evil age. We can only choose to follow Jesus, after we’ve been set free, made alive by the Spirit in our spirit. It is those who are saved who are given choice; slaves and the dead have no choice.

    Also, I don’t believe that we can exist completely apart from God, and thus are not “eternal” in and of ourselves. Existance is dependant upon God. We came into existance and thus we could be taken out of existance. If not for all the passages in scripture that indicate to me UR, I’d believe in annihilation based on what I see in scripture.

  • Paul Johnston

    On a related note, I think discussions/understandings of the judgement of others misses the point. I think we are meant to consider judgement as something intensely personal. What will my life say of me? Am I prepared to stand as I am?

    Forget whose in or whose out. How are you? Is your testimony complete? Are you ready to face God? If not, what needs to change?

  • http://theologica.ning.com/profile/ShermanNobles Sherman Nobles

    UR is a radically different paradigm than the Hell-based paradigm. Salvation becomes more about getting heaven into us Now, instead of us getting into heaven some day; it’s more about participating as citizens in and ambassadors of the kingdom of heaven Now than in the sweet by and by; it’s more about being like Jesus Now than maybe someday making it into heaven. It’s praying, seeking, and living “Thy kingdom come on earth as it IS in heaven!” Jesus saves us from “this present evil age”, translating us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. And it’s the hope and faith that yes the kingdom of light with overrun the kingdom of darkness, that death will be swallowed up by life, that Hades will be plundered completely (not endlessly filled with any, much less most, of humanity), and the kingdom of Satan will come to an end (not last forever as in the traditional concept of Hell).

  • http://conditionalism.net/blog Ronnie

    Re (36)

    If total depravity is true to you wouldn’t ECT be the logical outcome for an eternal spirit that chose to live in opposition to Christ?

    This is precisely the kind of innate immortalism that often undergirds the doctrine of ECT. Traditionalists who are familiar with the arguments will often disclaim that they (or the Christian tradition in general) believe such a thing, but for some reason, it’s exactly what the “guy in pews” normally believes; people (or their souls) just are immortal.

  • http://theologica.ning.com/profile/ShermanNobles Sherman Nobles

    Paul @40,
    I believe that Judgment is an eternal reality, something we can tap into in the Now. I’ve experienced the judgment of God a few times, and well, it burnt the hell out of me, forever changed me. I actually cried for several weeks a couple of times, when encountering the unshaded truth concerning my wickedness. It was terrible but liberating and resulted in me having a much greater devotion to God than I ever dreamed I could have, and a much greater love for others and grace towards others. Judgement is an eternal reality, something that we can and need to taste of now, though we might not fully experience it until that day when we a physically dead, shedding this skin that radically mitigates our experience of the present spiritual reality of God, good and evil, and realize we are fully in His presence. In fact, I don’t believe one can experience grace until one has also experienced judgment. With God they go hand in hand. Those who love much have been forgiven much! And forgiveness comes through judgment. There must be a reconning in order for there to be reconciliation between us and God and each other!

  • Paul Johnston

    I was talking about Satan, Sherman. Doesn’t he live in ECT. Wouldn’t someone who ascribed to Satanism freely choose a similar future.

    If grace is all that is required than surely all will be saved.

    But does grace effect salvation in me apart, from my co-operation? Am I not free to reject grace? And if I reject grace, then what?

    Conversely what of sin, am I not equipped to reject it? And should I choose to reject and work to overcome sin, will that not be reckoned to me as faith?

    If my will and the choices I make have no bearing on the outcome, how does God judge me?

  • http://www.soulation.org Dale Fincher

    Thanks, Scot, for demonstrating philosophical reasoning in theology.

    The last quote you list of Reitan highlights something very important. People make choices contrary to reason all the time, whether on earth or in hell. Choosing against God is irrational, and can be KNOWINGLY irrational. I’ve learned that we can willingly be people of the lie (Scott Peck) and hide. We do it on lesser issues too… self-deception is part of the equation. Oh how often our own neuroses gets in the way in the name of being “right” and “rational”! C. S. Lewis was a master at drawing this out. Ten Elshof’s recent work “I Told Me So” also addresses this as it relates to soul care.

    I do agree that God has to be just for hell to make sense. And I’m glad you continue to highlight it. We draw from the Bible’s view of justice and then apply God’s own standard to himself. If God is able to break his own rules of justice, whether in this debate or any other, then he cannot be trusted to uphold any promises, neither to Israel, nor to the church.

  • Paul Johnston

    I really like what you said in #43 Sherman. Thank you. I suspect I am talking past you somewhat in comment #44.

  • GFCandinthatorder

    Here is a simple logic top hell for anyone who can’t understand it. I believe (I claim not to be a teacher and this is just my opinion) that God is a just and eternally loving God. In God’s great love for all of His creation he gave us and the angels in heaven a “free will” to choose to follow in His love. But in God’s loving and just ways He also created a special place for those who chose to go thier own way and not His. It is His Love that provided a place for those who chose to take the different road. That is what makes God so infinitely good and just. Hell is a very bad place because of the beings that make it so. I mean think about it. If you put (what we call evil) evil beings all in the same place that is what constitutes hell in my book. And when you have no hope of ever changing that it surely is hell. Yes, I believe athat we choose hell in the first place and then we are sent there because there must be a seperation between good and evil. Just like here on earth it plays out over and over again. Good and evil cannot co-exist together it is not posible.

  • PaulE

    Reitan’s first condition is dubious (as I think are the other two as well). No punishment can be fully understood unless it has been first experienced*. If ignorance of the full nature of one’s punishment renders it unjust, then no punishment is possible. Yet this does not match our intuitions of justice. Does a criminal need to have already experienced life in prison before she can justly receive such a sentence?

    Reitan might argue that this condition only needs to be met in the case of an endless hell, but unless someone wants to argue otherwise, this amounts to special pleading.

    * Except perhaps by an omniscient mind

  • Ryan

    Sherman said: “The point of the passage in Mt. 24 is calling us to spiritual, even social maturity…” I know this is off topic, but that is not what Mat. 24 is about.

    Interesting how many times Scot brings this topic up on Jesus Creed…over and over again with the same point/counterpoint over and over again. Will leave my comments to this: This post, in particular, is based on human logic and, probably, what someone hopes to be true. When that is the launch point, it is a non-starter for me. At least some proponents of Universalism seek to use Scripture instead of logic, but again, its a point/counterpoint. I personally don’t believe when Scripture is taken as a whole that Universalism can be supported.

  • http://theologica.ning.com/profile/ShermanNobles Sherman Nobles

    Ryan @49,

    Actually, if you look at what Jesus is addressing in Mt.25:31-46, he’s addressing how we treat one another, especially those in need around us, giving water to the thirsty, clothing to the naked, meeting the needs of a stranger, even visiting those in prison. Judgment in this passage is based on how we actually live, and doesn’t say anything about faith. It’s a call/warning for us to be mature and meet the needs of others, not immature and selfish.

    Also note that the shepherd is separating out members of his flock, not wolves from the sheep, but kid goats (eriphos) from the flock (probaton – sheep, goats, and cattle). Of course, I do use logic and reason as best I can to understand scripture.

    Traditional interpretations, by taking this passage and reading into it Jesus separating believers from unbelievers, saved from the unsaved, completely miss the point of the passage and its call to all of us believers to righteousness knowing that we are accountable before God.

  • http://www.fivedills.com Watchman

    #27 Peter G – Not a slip at all. It’s completely Scriptural.

    “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment…” (Hebrews 9:27

  • Ryan

    Sherman…AHH Matt 25, not 24! You’re still missing the point of the passage as does your description of “traditional interpretations”, if in fact your description of traditional interpretation is correct…both are wrong!

    First, eriphon can mean kid or goat, only used 2x in the Bible. And they weren’t part of the flock. The shepherd would separate the goats out of the flock every night because they had intermingled during the day…so, they weren’t part of the flock. This is why the metaphor makes sense for Jesus to use, there will be a separation when the Son of Man returns–the flock will be separated from those not in the flock

    Second, the judgment referred to here isn’t at all about Christians taking social responsibility and feeding, clothing, visiting, etc. The judgment referred to is how the world would receive his “brothers”, “the least of these” or “little ones”. These refer to his disciples (see Mt 12:48-49, 10:40-42) at the least he is referring to those who already believe in Him. So, will the gentiles receive His disciples as they travel throughout the world preaching the gospel…and by inference receive Jesus Himself, or will they reject his “brethren” and by extension Jesus? This will determine whether they are in His flock or not.

    Third, this brings us to the judgment itself. We have the possibility of kolasin (punishment) or zoen (life)…both are aionion (everlasting, forever, etc). Kolasin, in classical greek literature, originally had to do with pruning, but grew into the idea of punishment and torture. 4 Macc. uses denai kolaseis (great punishments) preceding the execuation. Life (we could go on forever on this word) was more than just days alive, but had the spiritual, everlasting imprinted on it as well. One simply ignores the evidence and words used if one accepts the idea of zoen aionion (everlasting life) but doesn’t accept kolasin aionion (everlasting punishment). I also believe this rebuts the idea of a single punishment, an instant vaporization, so to speak, and then its over. These ideas simply aren’t supported by the text.

    This is why I said “human logic” and “what someone hopes to be true” are non starters for me. You can say “of course, I do use logic and reason as best I can to understand scripture” which comes across as a sarcastic response to what I said, but doesn’t represent what I said at all. We all use human logic, but I didn’t couple that with reading Scripture, I was speaking of using human logic on its own.

  • Kenton

    The judgment referred to is how the world would receive his “brothers”…At the least he is referring to those who already believe in Him.

    Well that will certainly be good for the folks at the Presbyterian church that run the local soup kitchen to hear. They’ve been trying to feed EVERYBODY that comes in their door – not just believers. I’m sure once they hear this take on Matt 25 there’s going to be a lot of “NO SOUP FOR YOU” like the Seinfeld Soup Nazi. What a relief!

  • http://theologica.ning.com/profile/ShermanNobles Sherman Nobles

    Ryan,

    In the Middle East, even today sheherds care for sheep and goats together. They are part of the flock. And goats are just as valuable as sheep. And probaton is a term that refers to any small 4-legged animal, whether it be sheep, goats, or cattle. And the primary meaning of eriphos is kid, as in young goat. Either way though, eriphos are part of the probaton.

    I do agree it’s not just about Christians taking social action, it’s about everyone looking after those who are in need. Being Christians are seeking to follow after Christ though, I’d think that it especially applies to us.

    Concerning who are the little ones, the least of these, I don’t think it’s talking about how people treat the disciples, but about how people treat those who are less fortunate, those in need. Jesus identified with all of humanity. And all of us are created in the image of God and thus valuable, worthy of others’ care. We shall all be held accountable how we treat others, regardless of whether they are disciples of Christ or not, and regardless of whether or not we are Christians.

    And as you noted, kolasin did originally have to do with pruning, and it can be translated chastizement as well as punishment. Because of its association with the shepherd separating out the kids, I think of it more as chastizement. And I’m sure you’re familiar with the extensive debate over the meaning of aionian. It was aionian fire that destroyed Sodom. Judgment is described by aionian, neither of which was or is endless I think. From my studies, without going into detail, I believe it’s a word that speaks more of quality than quanity, that speaks of the realm of God, having to do with God. Chastizement from God is certainly something to be dreaded. As noted, there is much debate over the meaning of aionian.

    So I do believe in kolasin aionian as well as zoen aionian, and do not ignore either one. And from experience, I’ve tasted of kolasin aionian, and it is terrible, resulting in much weeping and gnashing of teeth on my part; but it worked good in me. We should not despise the chastening of the Lord.

    Concerning what I said about logic and reason, I did not mean that to be sarcastic at all. I was raised in a denomination where reason and logic, even education, was dispised, so I only intended to highlight that we need to use logic and reason in interpreting scripture, and we all do so whether we recognize it or not. The “plain” meaning of scripture, might not be what was the intended meaning.

    Well, got to go for now. Hope you have a nice evening.

  • Ryan

    Kenton, it’s not a take on Mt. 25, it’s what the text means. Does the world receive The least of these “brothers of mine”. Taken in context with chap. 24, who are these brothers. Those whom the Lord is sending out to proclaim gospel. But hey, just be sarcastic, that’ll help!

    Sherman, I don’t know about modern shepherding practice, but in the ancient world, the goats were separated from the flock at night…this wouldn’t need to be done if the were a part of the flock. Again, this is why the metaphor makes sense. The son of man returns to separate the goats away from the sheep (don’t discount the symbol of the sheep at the right hand) sending some to eternal judgment and some to eternal life.

    I too have experienced chastening from the lord, but I could not describe it as being “eternal”.

  • http://www.gurrydesign.com Peter G.

    Watchman (51), I’m not sure what you’re saying is Scriptural. In any case, the slip I referred to was in your calling death “natural.” Not sure what Heb 9:27 has to do with that.

  • http://www.thepietythatliesbetween.blogspot.com Eric Reitan

    Scot: I need to make a correction here. You read my article as spelling out the conditions under which eternal punishment can be just. But that is not my aim in the article in question. In effect (as you note) there are two broad classes into which doctrines of hell fall, depending on whether they explain eternal damnation in terms of the vindicatory justice of God, or in terms of the free choices of the damned. In a nutshell, there is eternal damnation either because it is just for God to impose eternal alienation, or because some creatures eternally choose alienation.

    My article in the Parry/Partridge volume was not about the former but the latter. My focus was on the question of whether a doctrine of eternal damnation could be justified by appeal to the free choices of the damned. That is, can we explain/justify eternal damnation on the grounds that some continually choose, freely, to exist in a state of alienation from God for all eternity–and God, out of respect for their freedom, eternally gives them what they choose?

    What you identify as the conditions for damnation being just are, rather, what I take (following Talbott) to be the conditions that must be met in order for the choice to reject God to be one that is made FREELY. My point is that if these conditions are met, no one will continually make this choice for all eternity–and so we cannot justify eternal damnation on these grounds.

    In short, my aim is to show that the “liberal” or “progressive” justification for damnation–in terms of permanent free rejection of God–does not work since anyone who is truly free would not freely reject God forever. As such, the claim that there is no scriptural case for continued opportunity to choose God after death is beside the point. The liberal justification for damnation assumes that there is such continued opportunity and that the damned are those who do not avail themselves of it. I argue that this just won’t work.

    I do have much to say about the issue of justice–which I think is also a deeply untenable foundation for eternal damnation. But my arguments for that–developed collaboratively with John Kronen and spelled out in our forthcoming book–are very different from what you lay out here.

  • http://www.thepietythatliesbetween.blogspot.com Eric Reitan

    By the way, I’m not at all sure that condition #3 is actually correct. But I assume for the sake of argument that it is in order to argue that, even given this assumption, we have good reason to suppose that no one would freely reject God forever and so be damned for this reason.

  • http://thesometimespreacher.blogspot.com Andy Holt

    Pardon me for skipping the other comments, it’s very late and I ought to be sleeping, but I wanted to leave a comment…

    Reitan’s line of reasoning only makes sense from a weak-group, or individualistic perspective. In other words, for these conditions to hold, human beings must be autonomous individuals with no pre-existing attachments to any other being; masters of their own destiny, so to speak. But as Joseph Hellerman points out in his book “When the Church was a Family”, this view is, historically, the minority view among humans, and found primarily in western cultures.

    The historical majority, including the cultures which have given us the Scriptures, holds to a strong-group, or collectivist perspective of human beings. That is to say, we are not a loose collection of autonomous individuals but rather a tightly-knit family unit, with the honor (and dishonor) of the family falling on every individual within that family. Most of the people who have ever lived don’t view themselves as autonomous individuals, but rather as a part of a family whose honor supersedes their personal desires.

    In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul, who has a strong-group perspective, says, “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” Paul believes that all of humanity is “in Adam”, that we are all a part of his group, his family, and therefore we all suffer his fate, which is death and, presumably, condemnation. Death and condemnation are the starting point for every person because every person is naturally “in Adam”. Like Achan’s children, we suffer the consequences of our father’s sins along with him. His shame is our shame, and his punishment is our punishment.

    Reitan seems to start from a position assuming both human innocence and individual autonomy. But Paul seems to assume a strong-group, macro-collectivist picture of all humanity being “in Adam” and, therefore, sharing the consequences of his sin. Reitan (and many of us) misses the point, then, because he misunderstands Paul’s, the Bible’s, and the historical human majority’s perspective of humanity.

    Reitan’s conclusion is, therefore, absurd in the sense that the choice has already been made for us because we are “in Adam” and we bear the shame of his sin (not to mention our own sin). Paul’s conclusion, however, is beautifully hope-filled because he states that we have now been given a different strong-group–a new family–with which to align ourselves. Rather than being “in Adam” we are now “in Christ”, and instead of bearing the consequences of Adam’s sin, we reap the benefits of Christ’s righteousness.

  • http://theologica.ning.com/profile/ShermanNobles Sherman Nobles

    So, back to the OP question, is there scriptural evidence for 2nd chances (post-mortem repentance)? Few have addressed this question and thus I’d like to highlight what has been shared thus far on that question.

    In post 18 I noted that the following seem to indicate such 2nd chances:
    1. Jonah repented in Sheol (Hell, separated from God, soul in torment) and was ressurected to life.
    2. 1 Pet.3:17-4:6, Jesus preached to spirits in prison, even the souls who rejected salvation under Noah’s ministry, the most wicked of all generations, resulting in them being judged according to the flesh but made alive in the Spirit.
    3. In 1 Cor.15 Paul speaks affirmatively of baptism for the dead.
    4. 1 Cor.5.5 Paul says to turn someone over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh so that his spirit might be saved. This is not post-mortem, but similar priniciple, experiencing evil to save.
    5. Jesus warned of Gehenna, which Shammai, lead Pharisee, president of the Sanhedrin taught that most people went to Gehenna for purification before being admitted to Ga Eden, Paradise, Abraham’s Bosom.
    6. Contemporary testimonies of people who have died, experiencing the full reality of this present evil age (Hell), cried out to God, were saved, some even shown heaven, and brought back to life.

    Gem in post 14 points out that scripture affirms that everyone who sees Jesus shall become like Him and that everyone shall see Jesus – an interesting point.

    Keo in post 20 points out that Rom.14:10-11 connects judgment with apparent restoration, every knee bowing…

    Another point that I’d like to make concerns the creation account, and this might be too speculative or logical for some; but if God had intended to leave humanity in the bondage of evil, oppressed by evil from within and without, it seems then that God would have only needed to allow Adam and Eve to partake of the tree of life and live forever in this present evil age, under the bondage of Satan. I mean, some people are so consumed by evil now that they even commit suicide seeking a way of escape from the pain and anguish. Unless maybe, the evil that we suffer due to our sins and the sins of others, demonic bondage, affliction of our souls, destruction of relationships, constant turmoil, etc. is not enough penalty. It seems though to me that death, in the creation account, was meant to bring an end to such bondage to evil.

    When we die, I believe there will be a reconning, judgment, where we come to grips with our sin, and the truth, well, burns the hell out of us. I don’t believe that the Bible says in vain that God will dry every tear, for I imagine there will be rivers of tears to dry (just from me)! Right now we can hide from the truth to a greater or lesser degree, but on that day there will be no place to hide! PTL!

  • http://theologica.ning.com/profile/ShermanNobles Sherman Nobles

    Andy @ 59, Thanks for sharing. The Romans 5 passage was one of the primary passages that in context, literary and cultural, compelled me to seriously study scripture concerning Hell. The more I studied though, the weaker the biblical support seemed for ECT and the more I saw UR throughout the scriptures. It was a difficult paradigm, world-view change for me, but one I had to make based upon my understanding (or misunderstanding) of scripture.

    Though I do think that Reitan was highlighting that we are not inocent and not islands to ourselves, that the concept of Hell being a place where people freely choose to separate themselves from God is illogical. In order to be “free” we would have to be inocent, have full mental capacity, and not influenced by others; but we are not inocent, are influenced by evil from within and without, and often do not fully realize or understand the negative ramifications of our bad choices. We live in deception and darkness, and until the light comes on we just stumble around. Is it just or right to punish a blind man for stumbling over a chair because he’s blind? We are born into the world, this present evil age through no choice of our own, and are slaves of unrighteousness; that’s why we need a savior, a redeemer, a deliverer!

  • http://theologica.ning.com/profile/ShermanNobles Sherman Nobles

    Ryan @55, I don’t know where you got the idea that goats where not part of the shepherd’s flock in the ancient near-east, nor why you would think a good shepherd would leave the goats without his care at night and not herd them into the fold.

    Goats and sheep are and were herded together, even along with cattle if they were rich enough that have them. Sheep prefer to eat the grass and goats actually prefer to eat the weeds, thus they herd well together. Goats are valuable just like sheep. Goats are valuable for their milk, skins, and meat, and the fact that they often bare twins.

    Goats are valuable animals. In fact, a well trained billy-goat is a valuable animal for the herd because he can and will fight a wolf or wild-cat. A billy-goat is one tough little animal. Goats are more individualistic and require more training when young to be useful and not be a pain or problem when older, but they are non-the-less amazing and valuable animals to the shepherd.

    Sadly, goats have been demonized in tradition, and the Mt.25 passage has been interpreted thinking that the goats were not valuable or useful parts of the shepherd’s flock. That is simply not the case though. Because of their individualistic personalities they do require more training, but they are none the less valuable than the sheep. This is why I believe that instead of “probaton and eriphon” being translated “sheep and goats” it would better be translated “flock and kids”.

    If the Lord had intended to speak more of a judgment of retribution, I think He’d have used a different simile, maybe like a judge condeming a murderer, or a shepherd killing or chasing off a wolf, or a fisherman separating out the desired fish from the trash fish. But a shepherd separating out the kids from the flock seems to imply remedial punishment, chastizement, as kolasin can mean. But I could be wrong and some people are valuable to the Lord and others are not. And I could be wrong and Jesus is not the savior of all humanity, and only the savior of some of humanity.

  • http://www.gurrydesign.com Peter G.

    Sherman, there is a Greek word for “flock” (ποίμνη) that Matthew uses in 26:31 but he doesn’t use it Matt 25. Speaking of different similes, if Jesus wanted us to know that those who endure chastisement are eventually incorporated into the flock, why not talk about the sheep (πρόβατον) and the flock (ποίμνη) rather than sheep (πρόβατον) and kids (ἔριφος)?

    How do you incorporate v. 41 into your interpretation? “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” does not sound like words spoken to those who need training so they can join the rest of the group. Calling them “cursed” right before he plans to rehabilitate them comes off a tad two-faced.

  • Ryan

    Sherman, my problem with many on this blog espousing your views is summed up in how you end your post…making statements absurd enough to be taken as sarcasm which makes the arguments degenerate. I do not believe the point of this passage is for us to defend the worthiness of goats as productive animals. This is a simile to help listeners understand the point…the simle not being the point.

    The Shepherd does separate the sheep and goats…so will there be a separation of humanity when the son of man returns. Again, if you apply a weak understanding of eternal in terms of judgement, that must also apply to life. In this passage you cannot have eternal life without the negative opposite with the same force of eternal.

    I am aware of the “debate” regarding aionion, but I believe it is based on two things: misunderstanding of the root word (or incorrectly overlaying the meaning of the root onto every derivative), and cherry picking verses upon which to build a theology. I could guess motive, but that tends to be inflammatory.

  • http://theologica.ning.com/profile/ShermanNobles Sherman Nobles

    Peter, ποίμνη speaks of animals under the shepherd’s care and ποιμήν speaks of the shepherd that cares for the animals. πρόβατον is a general word and speaks of any 4-legged animal, and in Mt.25, when in relation to ποιμήν, the shepherd, it speaks of those under his care. Two different words that mean basically the same thing. Sometimes when speaking of the animals in the shepherd’s care one could say animals, flock, herd, etc., all meaning the same thing.

    Concerning vs. 41, I suppose it depends on the purpose on thinks that the devil and his angels are being punished. If one “assumes” that their punishment is ECT, then one would see in this statement ECT for those people being separated from God. But if one doesn’t make that assumption, and rather either assumes or recognizes the possibility that such punishment is for their betterment, remedial punishment, then it fits well with the concept of chastizement and the shepherd separating out the kids for chastizement/punishment/training.

    Concerning people being “cursed”, they are “doomed” to punishment. Punishment language is usually, if not always extreme. It is meant to highlight the worst possible scenario so as to encourage the person to not go down that path. And usually, the remedial purpose of the punishment is never mentioned, though it be intended to be remedial.

    Also, from another perspective, one could stop and consider where Satan and his angels are now. 2 Peter notes that they are in “Tartarus” until judgment. But Satan led Adam and Eve astray, and, I think, are the principalities and powers of this present evil age. So if they are in Tartarus now and ruling over this present evil age and influencing people now, then people are in Tartarus now, slaves in the kingdom of darkness, hell on earth.

    I realize that such is pulling together passages from vastly different contexts and not likely what Matthew was getting at, but it is interesting to consider. Matthew/Jesus was using the most fearful of punishment language to encourage people to repent, to treat others less fortunate with the grace, love, and respect due them simply because they are valuable to the Lord (and I believe that they should be valuable to us too).

    Of course, my understanding and interpretation of the Mt. 25 passage is dependant upon the “assumption” that the Lord is speaking of the judgment of individuals. Some make a pretty good case that Jesus is speaking of the judgment of nations, groups of people and how they relate to Jews and/or the followers of Christ. And it’s possible that all of these aspects are correct simultaneously, multiple meanings or multiple applications of the same truth. There has been, is, and will be a judgment. God has, is, and will punish evil, so repent!

  • http://www.gurrydesign.com/ Peter G.

    Sherman, I think you may have missed my point. My question is why contrast goats with sheep if the latter category eventually envelops the former? Why not use “sheep” and “flock”? I guess I don’t see the need for the separation language in Matt 25 if the two groups are really one complete unit. More specifically, how does one separate the flock from the goats while still maintaining that the goats are part of the flock? Unless I’m misunderstanding you, your interpretation would reverse the direction of separation as if Matthew had said Jesus would separate “the goats from the flock” (τους εριφους απο των προβατων) when Matthew actually says he’ll separate “the flock from the goats” (τα προβατα απο των εριφων). Surely this is why the English translations take τα προβατα as “sheep” rather than “flock.” In the metaphor, the “flock” is all of humanity and within that flock there are two kinds of animals. Some belong there some do not. Hence the separation (“he will separate the people one from another”).

  • http://www.gurrydesign.com Peter G.

    Sherman, you’re right about the overlap between ποίμνη and πρόβατον. And I didn’t realize Matthew uses ποίμνη in 25:32 alongside πρόβατον. I’m just not convinced that πρόβατον can legitimately be translated as broadly as “flock” in this passage, not when it’s explicitly contrasted with a type of animal.

  • http://theologica.ning.com/profile/ShermanNobles Sherman Nobles

    Ryan, I too believe that the simile is meant to help us understand the point. If we misunderstand the simile, we likely misunderstand the point. And thus whether or not the kids are part of the flock, or the shepherd is separating out animals not part of his flock is a significant point, I think.

    Concerning my statements about not all people being valuable to the Lord, or Jesus not being the savior of all humanity being sarcastic, I don’t intend my statements to bring pain or denounce anyone, only to highlight important points that I believe and hopefully encourage people to think from a different perspective. I believe that Jesus really is the savior of all humanity, not that He only saves some people or only offers salvation to some people, but that He in reality is the savior of all humanity as scripture affirms. The traditional doctrine of ECT affirms that Jesus is the savior of all humanity in title but not in deed. Yes it seems absurb to say that Jesus is not the savior of all humanity. Why? Because we know scripture affirms that Jesus is the savior of all humanity.

    I also believe that everyone, all people, are created in the image of God and thus are children of God, loved by God, though most of them do not know it and are even enemies of God from their perspective. From God’s perspective though, everyone is loved and valuable to Him. And thus I view everyone as my brother or sister in Christ, though they think of me as an enemy. Why does it seem absurb to suggest that God does not love everyone? Because most assume that He does love all humanity. But Arminianists and UR’s could be wrong and Calvinists could be right. Or we could all be wrong.

    I agree that the same force of aionian applies to both life and punishment, as well as judgment and the fire that destroyed Sodom; they all have to do with the realm of God, the realm that transcends time, what we often think of as the age to come, the age of the Messiah. It is a word that seems to me to speak of quality, and not quantity. But I could be wrong.

    As to why people don’t understand it the way I do, I’ll leave that to God to reveal and judge. The reasons I’d come up with would likely be negative towards others, like yours were negative towards others, because I think I’m right but I’ve learned from experience that I could be and am often wrong. So I do my best to listen to others without entertaining negative thoughts about those who see things differently than I do. It could be that others understand things differently because they have a better perspective, having studied more, experienced more, or even recieved a revelation from God that I haven’t.

    Like I’ve said, I believe that Jesus really is the savior of all humanity, in deed not just in title. I’ve come to believe that based on my personal study of scripture and much prayer, fasting, and discussion with other believers. To me, this fits best what I see in, understand from scripture, and fits my experience with the Lord, and seems the most rational to me. The biggest obsticle for me to this belief in UR was my respect for the predominant traditions and the majority view of the church; but eventually the other three (scripture, experience, reason) outweighed that one (tradition) and, well, the beans tipped over.

  • http://theologica.ning.com/profile/ShermanNobles Sherman Nobles

    Peter @67,

    I suppose I just don’t see the difference being “type”, but “maturity,” which seems to fit the concept of the people who are being chastized. These people did not even see the needs of those around them. In teaching others how to facilitate (pastor) small groups, we’d call these people EGRs (Extra Grace Required). Some people are so selfish, so consumed with their own needs and wants that they don’t even see the needs of people around them. You can be in the middle of ministering to someone who’s just lost their child or just recieved a terrible report from the doctor and EGRs will somehow turn the discussion to be all about them and their ongoing problems, showing not compassion or care for others who’s needs are much more pressing. These are the folks that this passage seems to me to be speaking of, people who are so wrapped up in themselves that they don’t even see the needs of others around them.

    Also, I recognize that shepherds care for goats as well as sheep and run them together. One picture of such was very interesting. In it a shepherd was leading his flock across a hill. The sheep were all gathered together dutifully behind the shepherd. The goats were spread out, grazing alone but still within site of and following the shepherd. It was a beautiful picture and really highlighted to me the different personalities I see in the followers of Christ. Some are more of a loner, and others are more group minded, some are braver and others more fearful. There are strengths and weakness in both personality types. And running the two together presents struggles, but also has tremendous advantages, that outweigh the trials, I think.

  • http://www.gurrydesign.com Peter G.

    Thanks, Sherman. What I’m saying is that the words Matthew uses imply a difference of kind not degree between the people on Jesus’ left and on his right. If the goats were immature sheep, Jesus could have said that.

  • http://tatumweb.com/blog/ Rich Tatum

    The logical case described in the post assumes a default etrnal destination of Heaven and challenges the notion of an eternal separation from God. But why should we assume that God would send someone to Heaven endlessly? Why,. exactly would an infinitely just and Holy God do that?

    What if it’s actually the case that our default destination is hell and that eternal separation from God is the standard, and that Heaven is our choice, not Hell?

    Change twos word here (turn “refuse” in plank one to “serve”. and
    “hell” to “heaven”) and re-read this in light of Hell being our default destination unless we choose otherwise.

    1. Humans must have a full and adequate understanding of the nature
    of the choice to serve God in Christ. That is, humans must be free
    from all ignorance and deception. [Without this, it would be unjust
    for God to send someone to heaven endlessly. A person must know what
    is the outcome of choice.]

    2. Humans must be free from any bondage to desire or sinful desires
    the human is incapable of resisting. [Again, the same logical point.]

    3. Humans must have the ability to have chosen otherwise (this is
    called libertarian free will). [Otherwise, the person is coerced and
    not truly free.]

    The test applies equally to both destinations and therefore seems inherently flawed to me.

    Why must we be free from all ingorance and deception in order to avoid hell? Nobody could pass this test save Jesus himself.

    Why must we be completely free from bondage to desire or sin? Again, nobody could pass this test save Jesus himself.

    These debates not only misunderstand the nature and purpose of Hell, but they misunderstand the Trinity.

    The universalist (love wins) camp are Christocentric and focus on the love of God to the exclusion of his other divine attributes. But I believe a more informed understanding of the Trinity will take into account the indescribably pure holiness, righteousness, and justness of God as well as his love, compassion, grace, and mercy.

    Rich
    BlogRodent

  • http://theologica.ning.com/profile/ShermanNobles Sherman Nobles

    Thanks Peter, I suppose I just don’t see a difference in kind or type, but a difference in how one actually lives. In the parable of the faithful and unfaithful managers, Mat.24:45-51, on judgment day one is held responsible for how he uses whatever authority he’s been given. In the parable of the ten virgins, Mat.25:1-13, they were held accountable for their preparedness, missed opportunities, diligence. The parable of the talents, vs.14-30, highlights the importance of diligence and right beliefs concerning God. And the final section, vs.31-46, in this series on judgment highlights the importance of how we treat those less fortunate than we, the needy around us.

    In fact, it was the parable of the talents through which I tasted of God’s judgment. I was reading it one day, came to the verse about the man with one talent, and the Lord spoke to me saying, “That’s the way you are, except I’ve given you 10 talents.” I couldn’t hide from the truth of what He said, and well it resulted in me weeping for weeks, gnashing my teeth in frustration and anger at myself, and ultimately in me repenting, changing in my beliefs and life style. It was terrible, but it was good for me. Over the weeks following that encounter, I meditated on the parable of the sower and God’s word to me and it radically changed my life.

  • http://theologica.ning.com/profile/ShermanNobles Sherman Nobles

    Hi Rich,

    Concerning your statment,
    “The universalist (love wins) camp are Christocentric and focus on the love of God to the exclusion of his other divine attributes. But I believe a more informed understanding of the Trinity will take into account the indescribably pure holiness, righteousness, and justness of God as well as his love, compassion, grace, and mercy.”

    It implies that there is a difference in character between the Father and Jesus, but didn’t Jesus say that if you’ve seen me you’ve seen the father. Isn’t Jesus the perfect revelation of the Father, Emmanuel, God with us, even more so than the written Word.

    And being a universalist, of course I’d disagree with you concering us having a lack of focus on the pure holiness, righteousness, and justness of God. I believe that there will be a reconning, and that we must all face the truth concerning our lives, the good, the bad, and the ugly. And God will help us face that truth. His love, compassion, grace, and mercy empower us to face it. I believe that this is the most “informed” understanding. We cannot separate his love from his righteousness (libertanianism) or his righteousness from his love (judgmentalism, hell). Rather, we need to fully embrace both which I believe results in reconciliation, making things right like they should be and were intended to be. Holiness makes things whole!

  • Ryan

    Sherman, I appreciate the dialogue with you (now and on previous posts) and wish there was the same level of grace amongst all participants.

    Just to briefly outline my belief, as you did yours, I believe that Jesus is the Savior. This offer is available to all. I disagree with your description of the traditional doctrine of ECT…at least my understanding of it. Jesus is the Savior in Title and Deed, AND WE MUST come to repentance and belief. I personally believe there are too many Scriptural examples of persons choosing not to believe, and some choosing to believe and then choosing to apostatize, to come to a belief that all will eventually choose Jesus. For me, this does not negate the Colossians scripture often quoted. God, through Christ, has accomplished everything needed to reconcile and is reconciling all (here’s where the balance of Scripture comes in for me instead of one verse) who choose to repent and believe.

    I can passionately believe this AND affirm you as my brother in Christ who passionately disagrees…and I just may be wrong. :) God bless you brother, thanks for being iron that sharpens iron.

  • Kenton

    Ryan-

    Sherman does show more grace than I do, and for that I need to apologize.

  • Robert

    I always am surprised when folks discuss the aspect of 2nd chance and they do not deal with the verse in Hebrews which is rather tricky. It seems to say that there are those who cannot be renewed to repentance. That verse always made me so blue.

  • Tom F.

    Okay, Scot. I hear you pushing back (pretty hard) against second chances. And you know what, I can’t really come up with strong biblical evidence for them. We get a vague sense that Jesus got in touch with some people who were already dead, but fine, let’s just grant for the moment that these are people who knew God already and just needed the Jesus “update”, for lack of a better phrase. What I’m curious is why all this doesn’t seem to be more of a problem for folks who believe that this life is the only opportunity. Off the cuff, here are some of the implications I see of NOT having any chance to respond after death. (Going to assume Arminian theology here mostly. Calvinists already have God deciding that some people just aren’t going to make it. I don’t know how to argue with that other than just repeating it back to them again and again in different ways in the hopes that Calvinists start to hear how truly awful that is.)

    1.) God’s grace is finite for some folks. God’s grace extends only for a certain amount of time, and then stops. Which begs the question, why death? What happens at death that changes God’s stance toward people? So, God is earnestly seeking people right? Trying to woo them into the kingdom? But then they die. All of a sudden, God is no longer interested? God goes from being the father waiting patiently for the prodigal son to putting a bounty on his son’s head? Turns out the prodigal father had a calender marked, “Day I will no longer forgive my son.” What changed? Why is this the point where things become irreversible?
    2.) A finite opportunity to respond to God means that some people may have changed their minds if they had more time, but death cuts that possibility off. In other words, maybe someone would have turned around at 51, but they die at 50. Unfortunately, they’re out. When you throw in that God is in some mysterious manner providentially involved in the timing of people’s deaths, you end up with a set of people who God actually prevented from comming to know Him. Getting around this requires the extraordinary stipulation that God doesn’t let anyone die if they would have at some later point come to know Him. This smacks of special pleading.
    3.) Volitional (“choosing”) existence is radically curtailed after death OR repentenance is worthless after death.
    1. Okay, so the resurrection hits and its pretty clear who the Lord of the Universe is. (“Every knee will bow…”) Is there not a class of lost people who would perhaps want say something like: “Oh, of course. Why didn’t I realize this before now. Praise YHWH.” However, this appears to not be an option. As you keep pointing out, there is no opportunity for any more choices. So one possibility is that people after death actually can’t choose to repent. But if people can’t choose to repent, than they are already very different than how we are on earth. We can make choices down here. So again, if they can’t choose anymore, it begs the question of what it is about death that changes things. It also raises the question of why humans were granted choice in the first place. Our ability to choose is central to being human, so if this is stripped of folks in the initial resurrection (pre-judgment), than are our resurrection bodies less human?
    2. Or perhaps people can change their mind, but God doesn’t care, or is somehow not allowed to withhold the awful judgement of eternal damnation. So in this rosy scenario, we have people who get it, who want to acknowledge God, who make that “choice” as far as it goes on their end, but who burn forever and ever anyway. Nice. I don’t feel like I have to say anything else about this one.

    So, I get that the Biblical material for second chances is thin. What I don’t understand is why the above set of questions doesn’t deeply, deeply unsettle more folks. I realize this post may come across as a bit swarmy and snarky, and I apologize. I’ve tried to look through it a few times and edit, but this is a tricky issue, and some of it may have come through regardless. I hope all criticism is received as being targeted towards ideas, and not towards the persons who hold those ideas. Peace.

  • Sherman Nobles

    Ryan,
    Thanks for the discussion. I’ve enjoyed it. And appreciate and respect you as a brother too.

  • Robert

    Sherman,
    What is your take on the Hebrews 6 verse?

  • http://theologica.ning.com/profile/ShermanNobles Sherman Nobles

    Hi Robert,

    I assume you are speaking of Heb.6:4-6 which says:

    “4 For it is impossible to bring back to repentance those who were once enlightened—those who have experienced the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of the age to come—6 and who then turn away from God. It is impossible to bring such people back to repentance; by rejecting the Son of God, they themselves are nailing him to the cross once again and holding him up to public shame.”

    I agree; sometimes it is impossible for us to bring someone back to repentance, especially after they’ve had tremendous encounters with God and chosen to go the opposite direction. Kinda like Jonah. If a person knows the Lord, and is fighting the Lord, it doesn’t do us any good to get in the middle of that fight. But I trust that all things are possible with God.

    And in its literary context I believe Pricilla (or whoever the author of Hebrews was) is using this as a warning for the Hebrews to not harden their hearts against God and to receive her rebuke, though she rebuked them ever so gently. Spiritual dullness and hardening of the heart are the two most deadly diseases of the spirit that there are!

    Is Priscilla affirming ECT or annihilation, I don’t think so. Nor is she saying that the person will never repent, only that such repentance is impossible for us to bring about in the person. One day, when faced with the unshaded truth of their lives, such a person will repent, though in this life likely not.

    An example of such is Jonah. He knew God, knew that God was loving and kind, forgiving the most wicked of sinners; and yet because of his prejudice and hate for the Ninevites, he rebelled against God, ended up dead in Sheol, in affliction and separated from God, before he repented and turned to God and was willing to obey him. Even after being brought back to life, he still held on to his hatred for the Ninevites. But I trust that the Lord ultimately taught him what was right and revealed to him His love for all people, even the people of Nineveh, arch-enemies of Israel, saying:

    10 Then the Lord said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. 11 But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”

    For me, this passage in Hebrews is a tremendous wake up call to us believers, those of us who think we’ve got all the answers, who think we are qualified to be teachers. Let us remember that all of us can fall, and to whom much is given, much is required! And let us be especially watchful for our hearts being hardened, loosing our compassion for others and mercy towards others, becoming increasingly judgmental and negative. (And I’m just speaking rhetorically and not intending in any way this to apply towards anyone but me!)

  • http://theologica.ning.com/profile/ShermanNobles Sherman Nobles

    Tom @77,

    Your comments started me thinking whether or not we are asking the wrong question. Instead of “is there any evidence to suggest the possibility of post-mortem repentance?” (though as I’ve pointed out there is), should the question be does God ever give up on us? Does He finally throw up His hands in frustration and say, “I just give up! I’ve tried to reach them, but they are too far gone! Even I can’t save them!” Is this the picture scripture paints? Does love fail? Does Jesus fail to save some, most, any of humanity (assuming that He came to save all of humanity)? Does the kingdom of darkness know no end? Is there no end to this present evil age? Does Satan eventually win in the lives of some and prove that fear and hate are more powerful than faith and love?

  • http://nimblewillsgrace.blogspot.com mike

    It seems to me that salvation would have to be by chance to begin with for anyone to get a second chance. Are we suggesting that salvation is by chance? If we are born in the bible belt we have a better chance than say someone born in the jungles of Brazil. Just thoughts.

  • Corey Mondello

    “sinful desires” change from year to year, this would impossible to do. Sin once included woman wearing pants, for instance.

  • http://theologica.ning.com/profile/ShermanNobles Sherman Nobles

    Robert @79,

    Also, concerning the Heb. 6 passage, it’s helpful to note that the purpose of a farmer burning off a section of land is to reclaim it, to rid it of weeds, thorns, and the seeds for those, to prepare it for breaking up; and even the ashes serve as fertilizer. So the fire warned of has a positive purpose.

  • al

    So many people focused on whether the views of the author have support from scripture. Maybe someone should consider whether the are obviously moral and therefore if the are in conflict with scripture scripture is in fact immoral.

  • Steve

    The whole idea of a hell is a medieval concept that should have been abandoned centuries ago. What Christianity teaches, from what I have read and been told by Christians is that to avoid hell, one has to accept Jesus Christ and God. It does not matter how you live your life as long as God is in it. A mass murderer or thief and escape hell just by accepting Christ. Not believing is a justification for your imaginary friend to condemn me to an eternity of suffering…… an infinite punishment for a finite crime. That means that Christianity is an immoral doctrine and that your God is a monster. No thanks. I’ll stick to logic, reason and, you know REALITY.

  • Don

    I take exception to your claim that your “three conditions” are sufficient to portray Hell as “fair” and “just.”

    Let me give a simple counter-example:

    Imagine a country with a totalitarian regime; say one that punishes any dissent with torture and death.

    A dissenter may 1) “have a full and adequate understanding of the nature of the choice” to dissent with the government, 2) “be free from any bondage” dissent, and 3) “have the ability to have chosen otherwise,” but that does not make the actions of the government fair or just.

    You’re saying, essentially, that the fairness or justice of the punishment has nothing to do with the nature of the transgression, and only has to do with forehand knowledge and understanding of the punishment, a lack of coersion, and an alternate choice.

    Every reasonable and rational social contract ever conceived says that you are wrong.

    On top of that, I would argue that your first “condition” has never, and can never be met because, as you know, the human mind is incapable of adequately comprehending infinity.

  • Steve

    1.” Humans must have a full and adequate understanding of the nature of the choice to refuse God in Christ. That is, humans must be free from all ignorance and deception. [Without this, it would be unjust for God to send someone to hell endlessly. A person must know what is the outcome of choice.”

    If I use my brain, that supposedly your God gave me and came to the conclusion that there is no compelling argument for his existence, nor is there any evidence to justify such a belief, I will be condemned to suffer for eternity. How can anyone sit there with a straight face and think that that is moral?