Beyond the Abyss 10

I feel a need to complete Sharon Baker’s challenging book, though I think we’ve talked through her topics (Razing Hell: Rethinking Everything You’ve Been Taught About God’s Wrath and Judgment). In the end, Sharon Baker is a universalist as I read her book. Humans hear in the now the grace of God in Jesus Christ, [Read More...]

Beyond the Abyss 9

So what does “fire” mean in the Bible? When it comes to hell and eternality, fire comes up often. Sharon Baker, in her new book (Razing Hell: Rethinking Everything You’ve Been Taught About God’s Wrath and Judgment), sketches what the Bible says and comes to this conclusion: Fire purges, fire destroys, but fire does not [Read More...]

Beyond the Abyss 8

So what is forgiveness? Sharon Baker, in her new book (Razing Hell: Rethinking Everything You’ve Been Taught About God’s Wrath and Judgment), asks this question and makes this point: In serving retributive justice, the offense would be held on to tightly, not forgiven unless and until the offender balanced the accounts through payback of some [Read More...]

Beyond the Abyss 7

Traditional Christian thinking has a fundamental belief in retributive justice at work in its concepts about grace, forgiveness, and even love. Let’s be clear here: The sacrificial system required, for God to forgive, a sacrifice that cost the person something and someone had to pay; both satisfaction and substitutionary atonement theories conceptualize God’s grace, God’s [Read More...]

Beyond the Abyss 6

What does the image of God look like when we begin afresh from Jesus?

In Sharon Baker, Razing Hell: Rethinking Everything You’ve Been Taught About God’s Wrath and Judgment, that question is asked. Here’s how she puts it: “And as we we construct an alternate view of hell and read the Bible through one specific lens [the Jesus Lens], we will choose to pay more attention to verses that more consistently harmonize with the life and teachings of Jesus” (76).

We all pick and choose, she says, and I agree with her. The question is “how do we learn to pick and choose so that we read the Bible/history the way the Bible writers/persons read?”

How do we avoid being arbitrary in this conscious “picking and choosing”? What are the alternatives? [Read more...]

Beyond the Abyss 5

In Sharon Baker’s world, “violence” is bad. That’s fine, but it sure would help if she defined the term for us. Frankly, I can’t figure out what she means by the term “violence.” What I can see in her book, Razing Hell: Rethinking Everything You’ve Been Taught About God’s Wrath and Judgment, is that judgment is violence, eternal punishment is violence, hell is violence, war is violence, and it sure seems to be that any kind of retributive justice is violence. Whence such a definition of “violence”?

And because she doesn’t define violence, she can label things as violent and make them inherently problematic. Both Jacques Derrida and Hans Boersma have studies of violence, but Boersma shows that elective love – the sort of thing we do every day in choosing those with whom we are intimate or friends – can be seen as a form of violence.

So her chp 5, “Rethinking the Violence of God,” is riddled with the problem of a lack of definition. So far as I can tell, the entire book is built upon her perception of “violence” and her lack of defining the term makes it difficult to make her case.

Here’s my big question: Is judgment by God “violent”? [Read more...]

Beyond the Abyss 4

Admittedly, this is not the typical way to start off a Monday morning, but we are going through Sharon Baker’s book, and the topic she deals with — the justifiability or unjustifiability of hell — is a serious topic and one worthy of our best thinking. In chp 3 of Sharon Baker’s Razing Hell: Rethinking [Read More...]

Beyond the Abyss 3

Sharon Baker’s approach to the problems with hell is the “image” of God at work in hell. The essence of her argument then is this: the image of God conveyed in the traditional view of hell is inconsistent with the Bible’s emphasis on God as a God of love and forgiveness and grace. Don’t be [Read More...]

Beyond the Abyss 2

Sharon Baker is attempting to construct a Christian belief in the afterlife, particularly hell, that squares somehow with the unconditional love of God and the fundamental verse she continually mentions: 2:3 Such prayer for all is good and welcomed before God our Savior, 2:4 since he wants all people to be saved and to come to a [Read More...]

Beyond the Abyss 1

Perhaps the fundamental obstacle in embracing the biblical understanding of what happens beyond death, in particular what is traditionally called “hell,” is the rhetorical powers of misguided Christians who have exploited hell to persuade people to escape it. It was this that Brian McLaren was tapping into in his newest book’s sketch of what he [Read More...]


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