If Christ Is The Victor, Hell Could Only Be Temporary

If Christ Is The Victor, Hell Could Only Be Temporary May 27, 2015

blaze fire flame

Over the course of the past year I’ve had an ongoing series introducing readers to what I call the “biblical alternative to hell,” which is a position called conditionalism. Scot McKnight has also been discussing hell from a very similar angle over the same period. Recently he’s had Jeff Cook on his blog discussing arguments from his new book, Everything New: Reimagining Heaven and Helland Jeff has raised some really excellent arguments that I wanted to dissect a bit in a few posts here.

In brief for newcomers, those who hold to the position of conditionalism or annihilationism believe the Bible teaches that those who ultimately refuse to be reconciled to God through Christ are “totally destroyed” or “blotted out of the Book of Life,” as in, they ultimately cease to exist (aka, the “second death”). Thus, the word annihilation. (See 25 verses that support that position, here.)

Within our camp there are two general positions on what happens to the unjust after death: some believe they enter into “soul sleep” until the resurrection, at which point they pass through the fires of God’s love and are either reconciled to God, or find that there’s nothing left of themselves (annihilated). Alternatively, there’s the position that the unjust are conscious after death and waiting in some type of holding area until the resurrection (such as what might be described in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus), after which they face the judgement and are either annihilated or reconciled. Regardless of which camp a conditionalist sides in, there is the common belief– and this is what makes us different from those who hold to the traditional view of hell– in that we believe that if there is a hell, it could only be temporary.

While I think the testimony of scripture is overwhelming in the case of annihilationism, and even taking the visual of fire literally we know that fire consumes what is put in it, Cook brings a different way of arguing that if there is a hell, it could only be temporary. He brings some philosophical arguments to the table which are very compelling and a good partner alongside the scriptural evidence for “hell” to be temporary in whatever form it exists.

Rob Bell famously asked, “Does God get what God wants?” which is a good question to help us ponder possibilities of postmortem repentance. Cook seems to be asking a slightly different question– but equally important: “Is God victorious over evil in the end?”

And this is precisely where the traditional view of hell (eternal conscious torment) seems to answer, “no, he’s not victorious over evil in the end.” As Cook states in a recent post:

“We might say it this way: If God is supremely good and powerful, then God would have the ability and motivation to eventually end evil, but the traditional view has God intentionally allowing the reign of sin to persist.

This seems a significant problem. If hell is eternal conscious torment, evil itself will never cease affecting God’s creation. That is, if the traditional view of hell is true, God’s creation will be tainted by the fruit and work of sin forever. But given who God is, this possibility does not stand.

New Testament scholar Richard Bauckham rightly reflects that “the victory the Messiah has won is the eschatological event, but it cannot have reached its goal until evil is abolished.” If hell is eternal conscious torment than clearly “some” of God’s creation is still infected by the reign of sin and rebellion, and this gives us good reason to think the traditional view of hell fails as a worthy view of judgment and the future.”

I think the entire argument could be distilled as follows: Christ came as a result of the fall and introduction of evil into creation. The chief purpose of his life, death, and resurrection was to “destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). In order for Christ to truly be victorious over evil, from an eschatological standpoint, everything that is evil- at some point- must cease to exist. However, if the traditional view of hell is correct, evil doesn’t cease to exist at all but continues on and on for all of eternity. In the traditional view of hell, Christ is not the victor– he simply contains evil, allowing it to continue in some corner of God’s new creation.

Cook is right- on these grounds alone the traditional view of hell is worthy of judgement, because it strips God of his ultimate victory- victory over evil.

In order to hold to a view that God is victorious in the end– that he successfully and totally eradicates evil from his permanent/perfected creation, one could only hold to one of two positions: the position of universal reconciliation (Christ eventually reconciles everyone who has ever lived, thus eliminating evil) or the position of annihilation (those who refuse to be reconciled cease to exist, thus eliminating evil).

But the traditional view of hell? That view paints a picture of God where He loses in the end.


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  • Marvin Foster

    Could the problem of The unjust death to final resurrection be solved by remembering that ‘time’ is a product of physics and creation. God and conceivably the dead souls should exist outside time, therefore the they would move immediately to resurrection even though it is in our ‘future’.

  • Fire consumes, but is only a useful fire when consuming the cruft and salvaging from the dross. That’s exactly the fire described by Paul against the lazy/unyielding “servants” of 1 Corinthians 3:15-17. Folks will be rescued thereby, while simultaneously suffering loss (zemio-) and ruin (phtheiro).

    You’re correct that only with PUR (purgatorial universal reconciliation) and annihilationism do we see (1) views present in the early church and supportable by Scripture (2) wherein God is actually victorious and brings everything into unity.

    The trick is that Scripture is pretty clear about how this unity is achieved, and it’s not through mass slaying (or mass “letting die”). Romans 14:10-11 says that at Judgment, everybody will submit to God and fully confess to God (same word as those who sought John the Baptist). Paul’s cited text continues in Isaiah that the unrighteous will come in shame.

    This 100% precludes the idea of an endless rebellion, hell locked from the inside, or incorrigibility-to-annihilation. Those won’t happen. Everyone will freely choose the rational course, or will have a mental disorder in need of repair.

    Indeed, 3 chapters earlier, Scripture explicitly says that the pleroma of Jews and pleroma of Gentiles will be reconciled. Romans chs. 9 through 11 is a “theodicy of stubbornness” that explains how all faithlessness and rebellion is a temporary part of the plan, in service of an ultimate and universal reconciliation eventually.

    Love is the pleroma of the law. The Earth is God’s, and the pleroma in it. Christ is the pleroma of the Deity, bodily. “Pleroma” isn’t something to mess with. It means overfull abundance, even such that it was used as an idiom for patched clothing.

    Google “Purgatorial Hell FAQ” for the rundown. PUR is the only view that fully maintains how the Bible defines God’s justice, his rank of preferences, his promises, and his plans through Christ.

  • Terry Firma

    The “unjust.” Wow.

  • I really like your point that eternal torment does not result in good and/or the end of evil. But if you’ll allow some pushback, I question that annihilation does.
    Why isn’t annihilation evil? After all, it involves the destruction – the erasure from all existence – of the people God loves. And for those people who are not annihilated, how is God causing the loss of their friends and neighbors loving towards them? And if it is not loving, how is it good?
    How can we, being presumably good in God’s presence, not then do as Christ did and offer our own destruction for the sake of our friends? Yes, really. How can we be good otherwise?
    Now, one could say “the goodness of annihilation is a mystery that we’ll only understand in God’s presence,” but this is the same argument used by Calvinists and all eternal conscious torment supporters. And so annihilation becomes merely a “soft” alternative to ECT.
    You probably know far more about this than me. But I still don’t see how God is victorious if, by annihilation, he and we commit evil.

  • I’ve never thought of that before. Fascinating!

  • jeffcook

    K – I think your comments are spot on.

    I think the question is one of human freedom. If a human being resolutely serves and is united to the reign of sin and death, that choice is suicidal.

    What should God do? Overwhelm their freedom? This would destroy their humanity and force them to be “someone else”.

    Shall God allow them to embrace sin and death hoping they let loose. This apparently is what God does.

    I think God’s goodness stands given annihilation but goes not given ECT.

    How would you respond?

    Grace and peace.

  • Mark Edward

    In the above presentation, Jesus came to destroy the works of the satan… which includes the existence of sin. Hence, the final solution (so to speak) is to obliterate unrepentant sinners. But if most (or even some; the exact number is irrelevant) of humanity winds up exiled from God’s presence to such an extent that they cease to exist… is that really a victory over sin? They were annihilated. Jesus may have saved some of humanity, but sin still successfully pulled countless others down into total oblivion. It’s that familiar saying: Jesus won the battle, but sin won the war.

    But couldn’t the original line of reasoning be taken even just a little further? Jesus came to destroy the works of the satan… which includes the exile of any human from God’s presence. Hence, Jesus’ work is effective enough to continue reaching for the condemned even after they’ve been sentenced to punishment, so that in the end all of humanity might be reconciled back to God.

    It’s the same starting position — Jesus came to destroy the works of the satan — but the means by which he does that is different: annihilating sinners at the final judgment, versus continuing to call to sinners after the final judgment.

  • Thanks for responding! You raise an interesting point, and I agree that it would be cruel to imprison someone against their wishes. But this is goodness itself, God Himself we are talking about.
    So human freedom is insufficient as an answer. If someone – say, your own child- is suicidal, we would be aghast at letting them kill themselves. We would get help, restrain them if necessary, and assure them that it will be okay. How can it suddenly be okay to let people cease to exist forever and ever?
    Basically, annihilation to be true, there must come a deciding point. God’s patience must run out, rendering people hopeless to change. And that is not good, at least I don’t think so.
    What do you think?

  • jeffcook

    Very well said!

    How do you wrestle with human freedom in this scenario?

  • jeffcook

    I think this is a great response.

    If one of my sons were suicidal I would do all I could, but there would be a point where they would need to choose life. I can only constrain them so long before I am killing them in a different kind of way.

    You wrote, “How can it suddenly be okay to let people cease to exist forever and ever?”

    Well, it wouldn’t be sudden. There is a lifetime of meaningful, character forming, personal identity establishing decisions occurring prior to death. Do you think our present choices are meaningful? And how do our present choices have value if their significant is erased at death?

    You wrote, “Basically, for annihilation to be true, there must come a deciding point. God’s patience must run out, rendering people hopeless to change. And that is not good, at least I don’t think so.”

    I think the annihilationist can claim that through one’s whole lifetime we are choosing to become more human or to surrender parts of our humanity to sin and death. Anyone who knows an addict knows our trajectory matters and eventually we lose all our humanity.

    For consideration: CS Lewis, in The Great Divorce has the lead character say of a peevish woman in Hell: “The question is whether she is a grumbler, or only a grumble. If there is a real woman–even the least trace of one still there inside the grumbling, it can be brought to life again. If there’s one wee spark under all those ashes, we’ll blow it till the whole pile is red and clear. But if there’s nothing but ashes we’ll not go on blowing them in our own eyes forever. They must be swept up … Ye’ll have had experiences … it begins with a grumbling mood, and yourself still distinct from it: perhaps criticizing it. And yourself, in a dark hour, may will that mood, embrace it. Ye can repent and come out of it again. But there may come a day when you can do that no longer. Then there will be no ‘you’ left to criticize the mood, nor even to enjoy it, but just the grumble itself going on forever like a machine”

    I think this is a better way to understand annihilation. It is self-chosen and we can all see it empirically happening both to others and sometimes to ourselves.

    Whachathink?

  • Romans 14:10-11 says that everyone will submit and fully confess to God at Judgment, so if we take for granted that human freedom is preserved, then it means this choice of submission and confession is freely and rationally made by everyone.

    Some people think that (1) the future promise and (2) the universality of the promise of this submission/confession precludes free will. This comes from a thing called the “modal scope fallacy” which pops up a lot when using views of free will that are incoherent.

  • Time was on my mind as well, reading this post. If the past, present and future are all simultaneous to God, I’m not sure how annihilation is much different than ECT in terms of God vanquishing evil. Of course, in those same conditions, I’m not sure how creating the physical world was a net positive either..

  • Brian Johnson

    Oh, my word! How on earth do you come to the twisted conclusion that the idea of an eternal hell is somehow a victory for evil? That evil “continues”? When we lock a person in prison do we honestly say that evil “won”?? Do we say the JUDGE and JAILER were the losers? Hell is not a continuation of evil: it is nothing short of God’s perfect justice TRIUMPHING over evil! No soul in hell is going to be there claiming, “Ha ha, we got away with more evil!!” Satan will not be gloating one bit: He will be in just as much torment, since the lake of fire was “created for Satan and his angels” in the first place. And just as God’s goodness will continue forever for those who surrendered to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, so the PUNISHMENT will continue forever for those who rejected Him.

    It really is so simple: Open a Bible and stop trying to make God into something he’s not just because your human logic cannot fathom everything on God’s mind. (If God were completely fathomable, He wouldn’t be much of a God anyway.)

  • I like your style, Jeff.
    My confusion with both the ECT and annihilation view is that it presumes a mindset within people that simple isn’t found in real life. The notion that a person with a functioning mind, when presented with the option of “believe this thing that you can clearly see before you” or “be burned forever (or be snuffed out)” would CHOOSE the latter…how is this accepted as something that would ever occur? It runs contrary to all our experiences of incentives, self-interest, etc.. Besides the controversial notion that people exist who know God exists and Christianity is true, yet bafflingly refuse to believe in Jesus (as someone who is unable to believe in the supernatural, this is hard to wrap my mind around), people are assumed to be so stubborn in their animosity towards God that they would rather suffer forever or cease to exist rather than acknowledge a simple reality and live forever? Perhaps I’m utilizing the typical mind fallacy here, but why is there any reason to think people would behave this way?

    People can be stupid sometimes, for sure. But my suspicion is that the original sin doctrine has so jaded Christians regarding the more realistic level of goodness that exists within people, that motives and intentions are assigned to them that can be only be found in a horrible future universe that looks nothing like our own.

  • jeffcook

    Stan — If this is the case, does this conversation–indeed do any ethical decisions–matter?

    (Great thoughts)

  • Stan, if you get a chance to read Harris’ Free Will book, I’d love your thoughts on it. (I live in a post-FB universe, so email would be ideal).

  • Mark Edward

    I was actually talking about the ‘free will’ side of this with a friend, yesterday. I don’t believe God’s will compromises our ability to make real choices, while at the same time I think a lot of us fail to recognize that human ‘free will’ really is much more inherently restricted than we like to think. We make too much of an argument out of something we don’t really understand.

    For example, what shirt are you going to wear tomorrow? You can make a real, authentic choice, but your choices are limited to what’s in your closet. And even if you attempt to ‘prove’ your ability to make unlimited choices beyond your closet (going to a store, hopping online, wearing no shirt, etc.), you only made that attempt in direct response to the original context of ‘What shirt are you going to wear tomorrow’.

    In other words, our choices are real, but every one of our choices is conditioned by our environment: no one does anything completely independent of their surrounding context. I think somewhere in that (admittedly hazy, philosophical ground) is a plausible explanation for how Jesus might ‘win over’ every individual without negating their ability to make real choices.

  • Cindy Harthorne

    “Behold, I make all things new” Rev 21: 5 This is in keeping with the fact that the gospel really is GOOD news.

  • That question is an oft-asked one! But that degree of “at the end of the day” is radically reductive and destroys interim meaning. There is meaning to our lives, thoughts, actions, words, love, relationships, families, struggles, blessings, and punishments beyond “what happens in the very, very end.” Indeed, God’s creative process being so long and drawn-out (still ongoing!) requires a divine interest in interim processes.

    Formation/reduction is super, super important for debugging certain theological discussions: http://stanrock.net/2015/03/11/the-sun-also-rises-or-the-heterophroneo-of-everything/

  • I feel like your second paragraph is the equivalent of a homeopathic medicine claiming to cure cancer, then closing with the asterisk “This statement has not been validated by the FDA, and should be considered advertising.”

  • jeffcook

    Ryan,

    I like this line, though I strongly disagree. I see not only in others but in myself a magnetic pull to destroy myself, the relationships I have with others, and to go down the rabbit hole of dehumanization.

    A vibrant display of this might be the story of a Walter White. Granted this is fictional, but I think we understand how our trajectory and selfish decisions can take us into the desert.

    We are moving into the area, not of eschatology but soteriology. And I imagine you and I would actually be much closer here, and so perhaps the question is *anyone* thoroughly committed to warring against life and the creation and what ought God do about such personalities?

    Does that hit your perspective and claims?

  • jeffcook

    Good.

    So I am a compatibilist on the question of human freedom and I do think there are worthy roads the universalist can walk to establish both human freedom and the divine desire to see “all saved.” These are difficult to reconcile with Jesus parables in my mind, but philosophically the path is coherent.

    **The way** God instigates a new creation, saves all, while preserving human freedom I think needs to be pictured consistently. But I imagine someone could do it, and I’m sympathetic.

    The problems that emerge in my mind with universalism are light and nowhere near the difficulties I experience with eternal conscious torment. For Stan and others I think we are debating good naturedly and with small stakes, and I long for your success with your arguments.

  • Michael Edwards

    In 1 Peter 3:18-20 and 4:6, Christ crashes the gates and preaches to the spirits in prison to give them life. Of *course* the Good Shepherd goes to gather in all the lost sheep. A temporary hell makes much more sense than an endless scream fest.

  • It’s certainly possible that the mind of certain socio/psychopaths are intent solely on warring against life and creation. But even if they are, those intentions are born of a mind they didn’t choose, and likely can’t control (depending on how one views free will). I don’t have an issue with the idea that *if* salvation is a thing, and there’s a mechanism for it, everybody would require it. If everyone is presented with the equation of “Here is a series of prepositions. Do you believe them?”, and all must answer in the affirmative to be saved, this will be easier for some than others.
    My issue with annihilation is that it assumes that the most stubborn of us, even after being dead yet maintaining consciousness in some kind of supernatural state (which in itself would quite the revelation to atheists like myself), would still answer no when presented with the same equation of “If you believe X, you’re good to go.”
    Walter White was certainly self-destructive. Annihilationism maintains that he would continue repeating his self-destructive choices until God was certain he’d never do differently, and finally saves him from himself via snuffing. I think this is too low a view of Walter White, and the hypothetical God.

  • Mark Edward

    The second paragraph is basically a person’s bullying way of shutting down any discussion because they want everyone to agree with their view, no questions asked.

  • I think that’s a reasonable place to end up, philosophically, which is why I mentioned at the end there were only two real alternatives. What keeps me ultimately from embracing universal reconciliation is scripture itself- just too many verses about the destruction of the wicked for me to embrace the idea that no one will ever be “lost,” whatever that looks like.

  • jeffcook

    I ask the question because it invites other important questions: Why this world? Why not create us in that future state from the beginning? Why does God hide his face from so many for so long? Why does God allow moral evil to continue to harm so many?

    Universalism is beautiful on one front, but I think it has difficulties when we look at the world we live in and the other philosophical issues facing a theistic metaphysic.

    I can say that our individual lives have meaning, but I think unviersalism has a trouble with systemic meaning–with the value of the metanarrative itself.

    What say you? (Much love)

  • Value proceeds from interests (there are something like 5 reasons value appears purely objective, but it’s definitely interest-dependent). God has interests, and in that interest set, there must be circumstantial incommensurability between certain interests (this is the only way “bad stuff in the world” + “good God” is possible).

    Your questions are challenging irrespective of eschatology. They are challenging for those who believe in PUR, for those who believe in annihilation, and for those who believe in endless hell. As I mentioned above, there must be a divine interest in interim processes; subtlety; mostly-natural-events; minimal obtrusive intervention. Consider that Scripture spans millennia, and there are only a few dozen public miracles.

  • Gr. apoleia/apololos, “perish/perishing/destruction,” can always be seen as “lost/lostness,” a state from which one is ultimately salvageable (but through dishonor, and from the ruin). Consider the “lost [Gr. apololos] coin” of Luke 15.

  • Ignatz

    In Eastern Orthodox theology, hell is temporary for at least some.

    Personally, I believe that we continue to grow toward God after death, and that includes those whom we now regard as out of the kingdom.

    This is one reason I have come to believe in something resembling the Catholic concept of Purgatory. It not only conforms to some sections of Scripture, but it makes sense if we presume that God is actually just.

    There is clearly no justice in eternally torturing human beings for being sinners when their nature makes it impossible to not be sinners.

  • Ignatz

    ” Do we say the JUDGE and JAILER were the losers?”

    The judge and jailer WANT the criminals to be locked up. But Scripture says that God wants everyone to be saved.

  • Compatibilism is the best! You might be interested in the parable of the Unmerciful Servant in Matthew 18, which parallels Paul’s Romans 2 eschatology against the unrepentant hypocrites. Various parables have different “fates of the wicked,” but this one is explicitly an imprisonment for debt-recompense, and is the only one that parallels an overtly “Final Judgment” passage.

  • Thanks for the advice. I opened my Bible (wow, such a long book) and strangely found the part where Jesus said hell is a place where the soul “dies”. Looks like he taught annihilation too.

  • jeffcook

    So, again, you’re making assumptions about my answers to soteriological questions (questions about how “salvations” works). I reject the answers your pitching, and so … we’re not really talking in the first paragraph :)

    On the other points, if you assume/embrace a naturalistic perspective (which I hear you are doing) is there really an issue here? How could you escape annihilationism (as it were) if you embrace a material world? Our two views, the future of some are identical.

    The question for you and I both–when we begin thinking about our lives and the devastating effects death has on everything we love–is: is there hope? Is there any way out of the meaning destroying, life prohibiting effects of death?

    This is a reason I find theism a worthy assumption.
    when I assuming there exists a God who cares for me reality transforms in surprising and life giving ways.

    On the Walter White image, White’s course itself is suicidal. God in this instance would not eliminate him.

    Now, you may be right. This may be too low a view of Walter and I am willing to concede maybe no one is ultimately annihilated, but I can get there because of my faith in the Jesus-looking-God. Such a God would need to be presupposed for the life of White (and myself, and you, and everyone we care for) to having any meaning at all.

    Can you get there on a naturalistic view?

    Also, I’d be curious why these issue appeal to you? Why spend time here?

    Thank you for your perspective!

  • ChuckQueen101

    I could accept the possibility of annihilation if that means giving the alienated person every possible opportunity to change/repent and move in a different direction. In other words, that possibility would have to extend into the next life. Because certainly, there are those in this life who are at a great disadvantage. Children who have been abused, neglected, and exploited do not have the same freedom to grow and change that those of us do who have been nurtured well have. We all know this. Their freedom to choose has been severely limited. So to limit their opportunity to experience the redeeming power of God to this life would mean that God is not fair or just in dealing with God’s children. So, if annihilation teaching limits opportunity to this life I reject it, because it makes God unjust. On the other hand, if a person, after given time and opportunity to change, becomes more confirmed in evil with no possibility of changing then I could accept annihilation as a just response from a gracious God. However, given a new context, new opportunities in a different environment, enough time and discipline, can we imagine anyone persisting in egocentric behavior and refusing to change. This is why I am a hopeful universalist. It simply makes more logical sense and I can’t imagine someone being so confirmed in evil that he/she would always resist love and transformation.

  • Mark Edward

    I agree that ‘destruction’ language is far, far more prevalent in the bible than eternal torment language, and a straightforward reading of the bible would probably lead to an annihilationist position. But there’s something I think annihilationists miss:

    Sodom is absolutely obliterated in Genesis 19, and we find it repeatedly used throughout the bible to describe judgment on Babylon, Assyria, Moab, etc. But we also often find Sodom’s destruction used to describe the destruction of Jerusalem. Isaiah 32.14-17 says Jerusalem will be a wasteland den of wild animals ‘forever’. Jeremiah 25.8-11 says Jerusalem will be an ‘eternal shame’ when it is ‘utterly destroyed’ by Babylon. In the end, Jerusalem was destroyed. But then after the end, it was restored. Even Sodom, the paradigmatic example for describing the total destruction of God’s enemies, is prophesied to be restored in Ezekiel 16.

    My point is: While ‘eternal destruction’ language is used very often in the bible, we do have biblical precedent for that destruction being overturned, and even when it wouldn’t naturally make sense. (Sodom, restored? What’re you talking about, Ezekiel?) So when we see Paul, James, John, etc., reapplying the punishment language common to their scriptures for the final punishment of sinners, I’m not so sure it’s outside of a biblical purview to suggest restoration may follow that ‘eternal destruction’. Israel was a wild den ‘forever’, until God restored it. Jerusalem was an ‘eternal shame’, until seventy years were over. Sodom is an example of the ‘eternal fire’, but God will restore even Sodom.

    To put it succinctly: When we find ‘eternal destruction’ in the old testament, it need not be permanent. Why can’t the same be said for the new testament?

  • jeffcook

    Not following you here. Sorry.

  • God must have an interest in letting the world tick-on mostly through natural processes; he must be interested in there being interim action in a drawn-out creative plan.

    This is the only possible answer to questions like, “Why not create us in that future state from the beginning? Why does God hide his face from so many for so long? Why does God allow moral evil to continue to harm so many?”

    “There is interminable doom for some” does not answer those questions for us; the fate of the unsaved is moot here.

  • Worthless Beast

    Poking around here, reading this… I had the weirdest brain-fart. In one of the paragraphs where you reference “Cook,” I forgot for a moment that it was a person’s name and started thinking about cooking – how cooking food kills harmful bacteria and changes the chemistry of the things being cooked, which changes their flavor and various things about them. Seeing that I’d heard of the idea of “hell” being a refining fire, I sort of thought maybe you could make some kind of metaphor from my brainfarting?

    Eh, I don’t know. *Holds up hands.* Not here to argue theology, I just thought someone might get amusement out of my mis-reading something while tired.

  • Mark Edward

    I’d like to prod you a little here, if that’s okay. This used to be one of my go-to passages when I held to an annihilationist position, but now I don’t think that view holds up any better than the eternal torment view:

    “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

    In Matthew 10, Jesus is addressing his twelve disciples (v1) on how they should evangelize, with immense urgency, to ‘the lost sheep of the house of Israel’ (v5-14). Jesus heavily implies a great judgment is coming (v15), and will arrive before the disciples can even reach all of Israel’s villages (v23). Especially when compared with Matthew 24, the judgment hanging in the background of Jesus’ instructions of Matthew 10 was likely the coming downfall of Judah in its war with Rome (66-70 AD).

    When we get to Matthew 10.28 (the verse in question), Jesus has actually combined idioms from Isaiah 10.18, a prophecy about divine judgment on Assyria, and Jeremiah 19.1-9, a prophecy about divine judgment on (sixth-century) Jerusalem. Both of those events would be comparable in type to Rome’s conquest of Judah. Noting both the historical context Jesus was speaking to, and the two sources of the language he uses, Matthew 10.28 seems to refer to being swept up in the divine judgment on (first-century) Jerusalem.

    The annihilation position does better justice than eternal torment by acknowledging the sense of finality implied in the wording, but still misses Jesus’ intent when it removes the verse from the surrounding chapter and imports it into the issue of final punishment.

  • I spend time here because theology is interesting, and if I had a choice in the matter, I’d prefer belief in God over not believing in God. The benefits to those who DO believe are obvious, and while many of them can be achieved within naturalism, not all of them can. Having been a Christian once, I know how awesome the hope of eternal life was to me. I’m not questioning your ideas because I want to sell my ideas in place of yours (my product, atheism, is hardly something to write home about, though many would disagree). I’d like to be persuaded, if it’s possible, and that requires throwing out my ideas to be picked apart and improved upon. Hopefully that’s what we’re all doing.

    My short answer to your first question is no, there is no hope in the macro view. But as Stan has been writing about, there can be interim hope in the day to day minutia, and that is worth pursuing. It’s taken me awhile, but I’ve come to view death as a peaceful end to everything, instead of impending doom. I won’t be there to reminisce about it, after all.

  • I agree- and have previously written that much of what Jesus talked about regarding “hell” was a reference to the coming sack of Jerusalem. However, there does seem to be in the Maccabean period this association or dual inference that also included some type of postmortem punishment. I will concede however (and think I’ve said it publicly previously) that Jesus’s primary context was a prophetic reference to the coming destruction of AD 70.

  • I don’t disagree with you– I think that absolutely is a valid and theologically legitimate possibility. My personal view is that I simply don’t believe that everyone will ultimately choose God, which is the same position Bell takes on it.

  • I can’t speak for everyone in my camp, but I know many of us are completely open to this type of scenario and feel it would be very consistent with God’s character as revealed through Christ.

  • louismoreaugottschalk

    that’s good worthy! The hell of alcoholism & MI has sure had a refining effect on me! I’m working a 12step program & i’m clean & sober 10+ yrs. I never had so much peace in my life as now!

  • Pierce Baugh

    I noticed that you used the the word “unjust” to call those who are temporarily in Hell. It’s definitely a difference from the words that I heard in churches which were “saved” and the “unsaved”. Why that word choice? It seems that the word “unjust” was used very purposefully. Do you think that Biblical salvation weighs more on how just someone is or isn’t rather than the very mainstream idea of salvation which is say a prayer and boom, it’s all good. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how eternity works out for good people. I’m not just talking about good people who are Christians but I’m also talking about good people who are Muslims, Atheist, etc.

  • It works if you work it and it won’t if you don’t. I’m Seoc and that’s all I got. Glad we’re here.

  • John Thomas

    I don’t understand why very few Christians are universalists as I completely agree with many universalists when they say that universalism perfectly represents love of God as fully revealed in Jesus Christ who loved even the gravest of sinners. Maybe because it has less Biblical support compared to Annihiliationism. Robin Parry in the link below gives an excellent defense of universalism:

    http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/ask-a-universalist-response

    Some of the early church fathers like Gregory of Nyssa, Origen of Alexandria were indeed universalists. What they are arguing for was some form of purgatory. So if there is a state of purgatory where every soul is tested by fire, made aware of their actions, made known the glory of God and since every soul is from God and was originally good when they were conceived, eventually every soul through their free choice will acknowledge their wrong actions and recognize the glory and love of God and thereby reach the state of heaven or eternal life with God after which purgatory will be abolished. In that way both justice and mercy of God is equally accomplished.

  • louismoreaugottschalk

    wowza! hey i heard fr herm & he’s swell daddy-o!

  • Awesome! I miss him…

  • The word choice came from Matthew 5, where Jesus says that God causes it to rain on the just and unjust alike. You could substitute a variety of words to suit one’s particular preference.

  • RonnyTX

    That’s a good one WB. :-) And you’re right,in the sense that God will “cook” out of all of us,that which needs to be gone! :-) And God will instill in all of us,that which we lack and which we need. So in the end all will be good and well,for every last person,from Adam on down! :-)

  • RonnyTX

    Amen Chuck. And as I read your post,what popped into my mind was the scripture that goes,with God,all things are possible. :-) And indeed,that is true.

  • Brian Johnson

    “Death” does not mean cessation. We use it that way after two millennia of casual mis-use, but death means separation. The first death is separation of body and soul; the second death is the separation of the soul from all relationship with God. Conversely, not everyone who exists is alive, as the Bible defines life as being in Jesus Christ. Don’t just “open” your Bible: STUDY it to show yourself approved.

  • RonnyTX

    Chuck,your post reminded me of something else too. That is,from Adam on down,I wonder how many people were born in this world and died,without ever hearing about Jesus Christ and the cross? Yet I was brought up in a church,where I was taught all such people went to a Jesus Christ created hell of eternal torment. Then God taught/showed me better. :-) And it sort of astounds me,that I ever believed in a Jesus Christ created hell of eternal torment;but then such was the man made junk I had implanted in my mind, from the church I grew up in. And for so many years,I couldn’t go against what I was taught there,because I was also taught to believe there,that whatever I heard from the pulpit,that always had to be true and it was the equal of my hearing straight from God,being taught such by God. But then, it’s not. Not on a whole lot of things!

  • RonnyTX

    Michael,I can’t help but think of Jesus’s story here of the good shepherd. How he went out searching for that last lost sheep,found it,put it on his shoulders and safely took it home. :-)

  • RonnyTX

    Amen Cindy,amen! :-) And as the angels told the shepherds at the birth of Jesus Christ,this was truly good news and for all people! :-)

  • RonnyTX

    Brian,please read the following article.

    http://www.tentmaker.org/articles/hell_test.html

  • Pierce Baugh

    I guess I have a personal bias against the term “saved” because growing up in church the word was always used for division instead of unity. Growing up, people were grouped into two categories: saved and unsaved. I like that you used the term “unjust” because justice has become a very nullified aspect of Christianity in the American version of Christianity. I read your book Undiluted, excellent book by the way, and one chapter was dedicated to justice. In that chapter you talk about how Christians should be active in just causes. It’s also mentioned in that book that Christians who don’t really contribute into making the world a better place may not enter the Kingdom. It has definitely left me asking how much is enough and by what measures will God grade us on our earthly performance…

  • RonnyTX

    Brian:
    No soul in hell is going to be there claiming, “Ha ha, we got away with more evil!!” Satan will not be gloating one bit: He will be in just as much torment, since the lake of fire was “created for Satan and his angels” in the first place.

    Ronny to Brian:
    Brian,the Greek word in the New Testament,that some;but not all,translate as hell,is hades. And the lake of fire is not translated from hades. So those two,whatever they are, are two different things. And look in Revelations,where it tells us that death and hell/hades is to be cast into the lake of fire. So you see,you can’t cast something,into it’s ownself. And when you read about the lake of fire in Revelations,note in one place there,it says that Jesus Christ will be there and holy angels as well. Why do you suppose Jesus would be there? My belief is he will be there,bringing people to repentance and on to faith in him and in what he did for them,on the cross. :-)

  • Connor Haskins

    How is this view reconciled with Scripture that refers to post-death punishment as eternal?

  • jeffcook

    The destruction of the soul is an eternal punishment; it cannot possibly be reversed.

  • jeffcook

    Ryan –

    Great thoughts!

    Do you feel compelled toward naturalism by evidence? What is most striking to you?

    Not to pitch my book, but if you do get to pick it up, I would be super curious how you react to the first 2 chapters. I moved from a deep agnosticism towards God belief because of discussions abut meaning. The first chapter should be free on Kindle.

    Be well!

  • QueenMab

    Excellent post. Thank you.

  • I view naturalism as a default. Nature (the world, planets, people, etc..) are all around us. We know it exists. To believe there’s something more would require evidence that I haven’t found to be there. Others disagree, of course.

  • Hmm, I see your point, but I would say that I don’t think this moment, of losing all spark of humanity, can happen. As someone who knows many addicts, I’d have to say that humanity cannot be lost. Even my addicted family member in jail for trying to kill someone I love- I still see humanity in him, angry as I am. There might just be a spark left that will never leave.

  • Bill Weather

    Very good point! Here is a list of what I see, scripture by far proving annihilation.
    http://helldeception.blogspot.com/

  • Agree with Jeff- eternal is speaking to the permanency of the punishment, not the level of consciousness of the individual.

  • ZitherZather

    We know that fire consumes what is put in it, yes.

    If you want to appeal to empirical evidence, let’s be consistent. We also know the grave does the same thing, the person dissolves into molecules that become trees and grass. Hence, there really is no afterlife, per empirical evidence.

    But if you want to appeal to supernatural explanations that defy empirical evidence, then why can’t there be a supernatural hellfire that defies empirical evidence?

  • ZitherZather

    > the word was always used for division

    Jesus would approve.

    MT 10:35 For I came to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law…

    LK 12:51 Do you think I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I have come to divide people against each other!

  • ZitherZather

    So I will accept the offer that I cannot possibly refuse anyway? That notion sounds mighty tyrannical.

  • ZitherZather

    The all-consuming ovens of hell seem to be your final solution to the problematic untermensch with whom you do not wish to share heaven.

  • ZitherZather

    I think Christians should just start using the terms (1) untermensch for those with whom they do not want to share heaven, and (2) final solution for the fiery oven of “hell.”

  • The concept of postmortem repentance is something I have been thinking about a lot lately. Never heard it called that before, but it’s good to know that others have thought about it too. Here’s my take on it: http://tinyurl.com/q8n8mxn

  • jeffcook

    Just to push here cause I’d love your thoughts.

    It seems the presupposition of naturalism may rule out other metaphysical systems a priori. In this case, the assumption that only empirical evidences will be sufficient will rule out many of the best reasons not simply to believe in a God, but enjoy the beauty and depth of life itself. (Not saying you are not happy here, but some of your comments have gone this way.)

    So question: could it be that the presupposition of naturalism will rule out God belief for you, that all “evidence” will fail because of the presupposition itself?

    I go down this path because when I became a theist it was non-empirical considerations that had the most weight for me. Personal identity, love, meaning, free choice, the nature of pleasure–these topics had obvious status given naturalism (I knew what they “were”), but I found their nature repugnant. I’d be curious how you might respond to that line of thought.

    Be well!

  • jeffcook

    The image of fire is metaphorical. Fire is an agent of destruction. Sin has the same effects on the soul. This is empirically verified.

  • perspective

    Hell in the traditional sense, is the final resting place for souls that, based on free will, chose to live unrighteous lives while on earth. Now, prior to Hell or Heaven (permanent place) is Pergatory which can be broken down to Tartarus and Paradise (Abraham’s Bosom) respectively. The souls of those who accepted Christ, while living, and lived according to his will until their earthly end will transition into Paradise, a temporary abode until the Judgment transitions us into the permanent abode of Heaven. Likewise, those who didn’t accept Christ and chose to live and die in unrighteousness will transition from life on earth to Tartarus and ultimately to Hell.

    The most important thing to remember is that at Judgement we are judged according to how we chose to live our lives while on Earth, not according to postmortem decisions (believing that a departed soul can make decisions concerning earthly life is risky and fallacious). A lifetime of living provides enough chances to understand the operations of God and thus make the decision to follow or go against righteousness.

    Now, the victory which Christ secured over sin simply provided man the privilege of repentance, which gives us the power to win our individual battles over sin each day. Without the mechanism of repentance, we would’ve been required to sacrifice our firstfruits in order to push our tallying sins into the next year, see the Old Testament. Understanding the importance of annual sacrifices back then is crucial to understanding the necessity of Christ’s coming. The determinant is, living and dying in righteousness or sin. Before Christ, the only way to overcome sin while living so that one wouldn’t die in their sin, sending them to Tartarus and then Hell, was to sacrifice your firstfruits. Doing so, placed your sins a year ahead of you, preventing one from dying in their sin. With the coming of Christ, if He’s accepted, repentance instead of sacrifice, prevents us from dying in sin each day.

    Due to the inability to accept or deny Christ after death, one cannot change their soul’s standing with God postmortem. This inability is due to the fact that the requirements one must meet in order to be saved are tasks that can only be accomplished in our earthly form. So, all in all, Christ’s victory isn’t dependent upon whether or not Hell is perpetual. It’s dependent upon whether or not an individual uses His ultimate sacrifice to their advantage or not, granting us eternal life over sin or eternal death in sin. In eternity, as in all things, opposites must exist.

  • jeffcook

    So, from the limited amount you have said, your position is similar to my story. I think a presupposed naturalism is a praise worthy position, and at the end of the day can be defend as consistent and compelling.

    My movement from that position was twofold and I would love your response.

    First, given my naturalism I couldn’t make sense of the things in life I valued most. Love, personal identity, meaning, even the nature of happiness all reduced to something like chemical reactions in my skull, and those–when analyzed–were not as valuable as my experiences suggested.

    Second, I came to a point where I was convinced that my presupposition of naturalism made theism impossible. I was very interested in “evidence” for God’s existence and I thought God hidden. But my movement was one in which I saw the real issue being my presuppositions, not the evidence (Kuhn’s work on scientific revolutions and paradigms was instrumental here for me).

    There’s not a question here, I would just love your response. Grace and peace.

  • ZitherZather

    I’d like to see the studies in which supernatural entities like a ‘soul’ or disobedience to a ‘God’ (sin) or a metaphorical ‘Hell’ have been empirically verified.

  • jeffcook

    I think this may be.

    For annihilationism to be true, *only one person* in the whole history of humanity needs to have lost that spark and fallen out of existence.

    I imagine you and I are in similar spots in our love and hope for those wrestling with identity and God and their future.

    For me, I come down on the annihiliationist side because its the position easiest to square with the teachings of Jesus.

    Grace and peace to you K

  • jeffcook

    Experiential verification of the soul:

    (1) You love (enter a persons name here).
    (2) That love is not simply physical (your love cannot be reduced to your physicality)
    (3) That love is not simply mental (Your love is not based on deductive reasoning).
    (4) the love you experience for _________ comes from something not your body or mind, this source we call the soul.

  • RonnyTX

    Conner,here’s a good article about that.

    http://mercifultruth.com/eternity.html

  • ZitherZather

    Love needs no supernatural explanation.

    The Biology of Love

    http://www.cbs.umn.edu/blogs/cbs-connect/biology-love

    If you want to define “soul” as a being with emotions within consciousness, then fine, lots of animals, human and otherwise, have “souls.”

    See “When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals,” “Affective Neuroscience: The Foundations of Human and Animal Emotions (Series in Affective Science),” or any other scholarly text on the subject.

  • Your reasoning is very convoluted, and dependent upon many separate beliefs that all add up to a confusing picture, if I’m honest. I cannot see how you are tying up repentance from sin and works/sacrifice as both means to achieve salvation. Maybe that’s because you didn’t explain it very well, but I still think it’s a confused mess of ideas.

    However, your closing argument seems to be the old adage “without evil, how can we define ‘good’?” Yes? This is the idea that in order for any concept to exist, there must be the existence of its opposite concept. Then before the fall (of Satan OR of man), since there was no evil, God could not have been good, since he had nothing to define himself against. I think that shows how ultimately flawed that argument is. However, one could just as easily say that to define ‘life’ there must be death, so if those who have rejected Christ undergo the ‘second death’ (or just death!), then those of us still alive in Heaven have our ‘life’ defined by not having undergone death. If other souls are still living, but in Hell, how can we define what those in Heaven have as ‘life’?

    Sorry if I’ve made things more confusing, but I think that your reasoning simply leads to this unfathomable conundrum.

  • I supposed I’m still stuck in the modernism that Evangelicalism gave me. Facts, answers, reasons, etc.. Occam’s Razor would suggest that since we can isolate our feelings to our brains, there’s no need to develop more unlikely causes for them. I find Sam Harris convincing on the subject of spiritual experiences being given credit for how amazing they are, while still being entirely natural. I’ve not read Kuhn.

    Antony Flew took a similar path to you, I think, though stopping short of Christianity. Perhaps the difference between theists and non is how incredulous it seems that the beauty around us wasn’t made by a creator. Our life experiences, in that case, would shape where we end up on that spectrum.

  • jeffcook

    The reductionistic description of love is, in my mind a repugnant conclusion. That is, the presuppositions which support a repugnant conclusion ought to be rejected.

    Secondarily, of course elephants have souls.

    To close, at this level we are arguing about desires and its effect on epistemology. I hit this extensively in my book “everything new”. I would love any refutations to the approach there. But now we are swimming in deep water probably beyond the scope of a comment section.

    Be well ZZ

  • jeffcook

    Interestingly enough, Flew actually has been the chief proponent of assuming naturalism.

    Good stuff.

    In my experience, I began experimenting with presuppositions. I cannot speak to a bad experience with evangelicals. I can say that in my experience assuming for seasons that there is a God who looks like Jesus was deeply meaningful for me.

    Reductionistically assessing spiritual experience was a slippery slope for me–because then nothing I cared for wasn’t shot, stuff and mounted on the wall. Love, hope, meaning, personal identity, freedom–all of them can reduce to the random flux of atom eventually if the world is just matter in motion.

    Much love to you!

  • Realist1234

    Very few Christians are universalists because it was not taught by Jesus or the apostles. Notice that jesus only said to one of the thieves who clearly had some recognition of who He was and wanted mercy, that he would be with Him in Paradise. He didnt say the same to the other thief, who was mocking Jesus along with the soldiers. There would also be no real justice if ultimately everyone ended up in heaven and paradise. To take an extreme example, do you seriously think the likes of Hitler will end up in heaven after all the evil he and his henchmen committed? I think not.

  • ZitherZather

    I don’t find naturalistic explanations to be “reductionist,” but rather, beautiful. As Richard Feynman puts it:

    “I have a friend who’s an artist and has sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree with very well. He’ll hold up a flower and say “look how beautiful it is,” and I’ll agree. Then he says “I as an artist can see how beautiful this is but you as a scientist take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing,” and I think that he’s kind of nutty. First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me too, I believe. Although I may not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is … I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty. I mean it’s not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimeter; there’s also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes. The fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question: does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds. I don’t understand how it subtracts.”

  • John Thomas

    Personally I have a different take on people who have done wicked things. This is no way justifying their actions. But I believe every person is the product of circumstances he finds himself in from the time of his birth to the present time. We knowingly and unknowingly imbibe good and bad influences into your mind based on the circumstances you find yourselves in. So I am not sure how much responsibility one can attribute to a person for the actions they had done. Sure, they have done wicked actions. Maybe if I had the same experiences that Hitler went through, I might have done the same things, who knows. I believe that everyone at the time of their birth are born the same. It is the circumstances that defines their personality. Sure, we want people to take responsibility for their actions, otherwise there is no way to bring order in a society. But how much responsibility are we talking about? Just my few musings, I am not sure whether I answered your question.

  • jeffcook

    What is “beauty?” on naturalism?

  • Trilemma

    You said, “Likewise, those who didn’t accept Christ and chose to live and die in unrighteousness will transition from life on earth to Tartarus and
    ultimately to Hell.”

    Billions of people have lived their entire lives and never had the opportunity to accept Christ. For God to send them to Hell means God is incredibly unjust. For Hell to be eternal conscious torment would mean God is a sadistic monster.

  • Yes, death actually does mean cessation. In fact, the primary use in Koine is “extinction of life”.

    https://www.teknia.com/greek-dictionary/thanatos

  • You said, “He didnt say the same to the other thief.”

    If Jesus meant that his reunion with the thief would literally be that day, then “paradise” cannot refer to heaven, since Jesus didn’t resurrect until the third day. Some have posited that “paradise” referred to the area of sheol (the “Grave Zone” of Hebrew eschatology) that housed the patriarchs (“Abraham’s Bosom/Side”). Others have postulated that Jesus was referring to “today” only experientially, that is, when the thief shall be resurrected down the road, it will be “today” from his perspective.

    This is an eschatologically complicated utterance and is not straightforward.

    You said, “There would also be no real justice if ultimately everyone ended up in heaven and paradise.”

    It would be real justice if the unrighteous were punished for their crimes before being reconciled. Over and over and over again, from the earliest books to the latest books, across poetry and epistle and Gospel, justice is defined as recompense measured in equity to what a person did. The idea that any sin warrants endless suffering in response is an extrabiblical idea that we inherit from the medieval Scholastics, who were trying to figure out how to reconcile endless hell with the Bible’s definition of God’s justice. This is why Jews broadly consider that idea a perversion of justice. Remember that when Jesus came into the world, those who didn’t believe stood condemned already; Jesus did not come to bring additional, unheard-of, new condemnation. (John 3:16-18)

    You said, “To take an extreme example, do you seriously think the likes of Hitler will end up in heaven after all the evil he and his henchmen committed?”

    I don’t envy what’s in store for Hitler. It will almost certianly be one of the most agonizing punishments imaginable.

    You said, “Very few Christians are universalists because it was not taught by Jesus or the apostles.”

    This is not actually the reason. From the 2nd century onward, we see all sorts of Christians, even orthodox saints, teaching all 3 “big views” on hell: Annihilation, endless hell, and purgatorial hell. At the turn of the 5th century, endless hell teacher Augustine admitted that purgatorial hell was greatly popular in the church, and considered the issue a friendly debate.

    All three “camps” cited the Bible in support. For example, Gregory of Nyssa casually talked of the Gospel as threatening the condemnation of purgatorial hell; his audience was of the same opinion.

    As it turns out, when you dive one layer down, the Biblical language of hell IS very ambiguous. The most important example is that the word family Gr. aion / aionios / aionion is frequently translated as “eternal” or “everlasting” when they mean “age,” “of the age,” or “of ages.” This “bug” was introduced in the Latin, which translated the Greek into L. aeternum. This is probably a major reason why the theological schools in Rome and Carthage were some of the first to commit to endless hell belief.

    Augustine was brilliant, charismatic, thorough, and creative. He is largely responsible for the turn toward the dominance of endless hell belief in the 5th century.

    That is the answer to “Why are so few Christians universalists?”

    You might be interested in the Purgatorial Hell FAQ: http://stanrock.net/2015/05/20/purgatorial-hell-faq/

  • That’s correct, Ignatz. Paul threatens the lazy believers with the ruination of purgatorial fire in 1 Corinthians 3:15-17, promises a universal reconciliation (eventually) in Romans 11, and only a purgatorial punishment has a “point” and is equitable such that it conforms to the Bible’s definition of God’s justice (defined all across Scripture).

  • ZitherZather

    What is a naturalistic explanation of beauty? Vilayanur S. Ramachandran and his fellow researcher William Hirstein have elaborated eight criteria that trigger our brains to feel that something is beautiful, termed the Eight Laws of Artistic Experience.

    V.S. Ramachandran and William Hirstein (1999) The Science of Art: A Neurological Theory of Aesthetic Experience. Journal of Consciousness Studies. Vol. 6, No. 6-7, pp. 15–51.

    p.s. I’m glad you say elephants have souls. I take “soul,” not supernaturally, but as a way of expressing sentience. But in a Platonic/Christian context for the word, in which souls are somehow eternal, do elephants go to hell?

  • perspective

    Well, how can beliefs derived from the teachings of the Bible be separate? Are they not written by those directly inspired by God? If you’re referring to my reference to Purgatory, it was used for the sake of establishing that there is an intermediate state between life on Earth and Heaven or Hell. Contrary to Roman Catholic doctrine that teaches of a place of suffering for rehabilitation, it is broken down as stated previously Paradise and Tartarus. The concept of an intermediate realm is only worth mentioning because we know that no one will see Heaven or Hell until the the Book of Life is opened and we’re judged accordingly.

    Under Old Testament Law, God operated through the heads of households. Each were required to sacrifice their best cattle, crop, etc. in order to push their sins into the next year. This is important, for a student of the Bible knows that if we die in sin, where He is we cannot go. Annually, households under the Old Testament Law were required to offer up sacrifices, so that if their earthly vessel perished in that year, their soul would be safe.

    For reasons only God knows, literally, he ushered in a New Law/convenant, by which we operate under His grace today that was afforded for us all by the perpetuated shedding of Christ’s blood since He died on the cross. His grace is what grants those of us who accept Christ and live according to His will as outlined in the Bible, salvation and eternal life with Him in Heaven.

    Now, why would the master of the Universe need to define Himself? Can you define ‘everything’? Some things concerning God we can only speculate on so what if, being the beginning and end, the alpha and omega, God contained within Himself that which was both Good and Evil, as we his creations do? Indeed all things unarguably come from Him. Further speculation could lead to wondering what one might do in such a position. An artist conflicted by evil within him or herself will expel that energy in the form of an expression that will manifest itself. Now depending on one’s perspective, all creations can be seen as unique manifestations of an infinite God.

    Concerning Heaven and Hell, when it is all said and done, our destination is determined by whether or not we spent our mortality in righteousness or unrighteousness. In righteousness (Heaven) we live forever. In unrighteousness (Hell), we die forever. This is true of earthly life, whether it’s you putting yourself through hell or your putting someone else through hell, or heaven respectively, it ultimately determines our ethereal life/afterlife in Heaven or Hell.

  • perspective

    It is my belief that God will deal with us according to our works whether or not we had the opportunity to accept Christ. For those that have had the opportunity, faith in Him and good works will lead them to Heaven. For those who haven’t they will be judged according to how they chose to live their lives, whether it was in righteousness or in unrighteousness. An example is one who chose to live with love towards him/herself and their neighbors, but was completely ignorant of Jesus Christ and his sacrifice. In my belief, such a person would be granted eternal life. For they operated off of the faith that living “good” as opposed to “bad” was worthwhile for whatever reasons they came to. Such a person is one that God will happily uplift, for without knowing a single thing, they were still drawn to their Father and His grace.

  • Trilemma

    Thanks for clarifying that. What do you believe Hell is like? Do you believe it’s eternal conscious torment in fire like many believe or something less severe?

  • NO! Hold on! Now you’re saying that there is both good and evil in God!!!? He in whom there is no wickedness (Ps. 92:15) and revealed in Jesus, in whom was no sin in order to redeem us (2Cor. 5:21), is not capable of sin or evil – how on Earth could evil, the opposite of God and his righteousness, be present in him? Even by your own philosophical reasoning, God would be a contradiction. He may well have created the potential for evil in Satan and in man, but saying that it was within him is straying WAY off the path, brother! Draw back and think!

    You are also making a major mistake in forgetting that many lived in faith BEFORE the Law. Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness (Gal. 3:6) – in fact read the whole of Galatians to see Paul’s expert dismantling of justification by the law – it is only by faith, and the waiting on the part of those who lived before Christ for his coming and his ultimate atonement. Yes, faith WITHOUT works is a dead and false one, but the works themselves cannot save. You talk about the New covenant as if you think it was unnecessary – you even call it New Law, so for me that clearly means you’re a legalist. Therefore Galatians would just annoy the heck out of you.

    There is only ONE way to the Father, and that masterstroke of grace that walked among us and became the ultimate sacrifice is the fulfilment of all law and sacrificing, AND the prophets (often forgotten). It was the plan all along, the answer, the perfect example of love. There are many who say that the Mosaic Law was all man-made, and I have to admit, in the light of all that the prophets said over and above all the ritualistic lawkeeping they saw, I am starting to understand that way of thinking. Jesus is all and in all, and all that was made was made through him. There is no other name, no other way.

  • RonnyTX

    “4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
    11 Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands— 12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

    Ephesians 2:4,12

  • RonnyTX

    Perspective:
    Concerning Heaven and Hell, when it is all said and done, our destination is determined by whether or not we spent our mortality in righteousness or unrighteousness. In righteousness (Heaven) we live forever. In unrighteousness (Hell), we die forever. This

    Ronny to Perspective:
    In scripture we’re told that the last enemy Jesus Christ is going to destroy is death. And when death is no more,all that will be left is life. :-)

    20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. 24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. 27 For “He has put all things under His feet.”[a] But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. 28 Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all. 1 Corinthians 15:20,28

  • RonnyTX

    Tim to Perspective:
    “NO! Hold on! Now you’re saying that there is both good and evil in God!!!? He in whom there is no wickedness (Ps. 92:15) and revealed in Jesus, in whom was no sin in order to redeem us (2Cor. 5:21), is not capable of sin or evil – how on Earth could evil, the opposite of God and his righteousness, be present in him? Even by your own philosophical reasoning, God would be a contradiction. He may well have created the potential for evil in Satan and in man, but saying that it was within him is straying WAY off the path, brother! Draw back and think!

    Ronny to Tim:
    Tim,scripture says here,that God created evil. Now the thing is with God,God can bring good out of evil. But if we human beings do evil,we can not bring good out of it.

    “5 I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me:
    6 That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else.
    7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things. “Isaiah 45:5,7

  • Are you sure the teachings of Jesus – love for enemies, no matter how inhumane they might behave, who prayed for God to forgive them as they administered a barbaric, evil punishment upon him – square with annihilation? Many of my (more knowledgeable than me) scholarly friends claim Jesus uses such ECT and annihilation imagery to bring our focus onto the immediacy of this life.
    The way I see it, there’s plenty of imagery/support for both theories, and I don’t buy the argument that there’s more textual support for one than the other. You’re simply being literal in part of Scripture where others are figurative, and vice versa with supporters of ECT. The difference seems to be that you think annihilation squares with a good God and ECT doesn’t. Am I wrong?
    But I think neither square with an infinitely loving, patient, and good God: otherwise, we are more powerful than God, taking away his gift of humanity. Why? Because there’s a difference between choosing evil and losing humanity.
    This is important, I think, because 1) if I am more human for choosing good, I *can* say I am a better person than others (And that gets into sticky territory, since Christianity does not a good person make). But by your definition, I *can* say I am a better person than an addict, for instance, because I am more human for not choosing addiction. However…
    There’s so much more that goes into evil decisions than evil inside a person. Keeping with the addiction theme you brought up, addicts don’t freely choose, not entirely. No one chooses with complete freedom in this life. And annihilationism, or the loss of humanity caused by bad decisions, doesn’t really account for that.

    Now, say you are right and we lose humanity for choosing evil. If we have lost humanity, how can we make a fully reasonable choice for God? Annihilation of a person who can’t choose correctly is evil.

    Yet if we can choose fully, we must be fully human and capable of choosing evil after seeing the full goodness of God. Hmm. This implies a more negative view of humanity, and thus it’s not that we are *losing* humanity and extinguishing ourselves, but rather that God is extinguishing us for exercising the free will he gave us, and thus we are back to the question of God’s goodness.

    What do you think?
    Grace and peace to you, too. :)

  • perspective

    If something I say or the manner in which I say something is unclear, ask questions. Your presumptions are quite distracting from the overall discussion.

    I haven’t made a mistake in forgetting those before the Mosaic Law. I addressed them in my mention of the heads of households minus names (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob). There is a difference between faith and practicing The Faith. A difference that was made certain with the coming of Christ and the establishment of His Kingdom, the Church. The former is an intrinsic quality while the latter is that intrinsic quality put to work that is pleasing to God.

    You say by my own philosophical standards, God is a contradiction. To that say, I understand that I am a man and that he is God and that His ways our not my ways, nor are His thoughts my thoughts. Could One that comprises the full spectrum of existence (negative to positive) not be God? By your logic, there is an external force with which God does battle, one completely independent of Himself. Such an independence would be more of a contradiction to the totality of God than what I’ve proposed.

    To your assumption that I suppose the New Covenant ushered in by Jesus Christ is unnecessary. I’m utterly lost, by how you’ve come to that conclusion. The reasons I’ve mentioned both Old Testament law and New Testament law was to first highlight the evolving ways in which God has dealt and deals with man. Second, to highlight the way in which He transitioned us into an era of grace with the prophecy, the first coming, death, and resurrection of His Son. Meaning, without His Son’s sacrifice, there couldn’t be a new law/convenant by which man is to operate today.

    I concur with your last paragraph. Though, the origin of the Mosaic Law isn’t of my immediate concern since it was never and will never be applicable to me as a Gentile.

    I thank Brother Ronny for the reference in Isaiah 45

  • Realist1234

    I disagree. Many people are born into the same circumstances but behave differently. That is why, for example, poverty is never an excuse for crime or violence which some would proffer, as many poor people never get involved in such things. You seem to be trying to remove personal responsibility, whilst Jesus very much held people responsible for their own actions and behaviour, and attitude towards Him. It is because I know what Im like, I cling to Him for mercy. Noone else can save us.

  • Realist1234

    My point about the thief was not for a discussion on ‘paradise’ but rather that He said it only to the one who was ‘for’ Jesus. Using your logic, He could also have said to the other mocking thief, ‘you’ll be with me in paradise/heaven at some point, after some appropriate punishment” but He didnt. I think we are supposed to learn something from this recorded incident.
    ‘The idea that any sin warrants endless suffering in response is an extrabiblical idea that we inherit from the medieval Scholastics’. I disagree. Christians have taken that view because of the words of Jesus and the apostles. I accept that , for example, eternal may refer to the final state of the unsaved rather than everlasting conscious punishment, as is Ben’s view, but that is not the same as saying that some will experience a ‘temporary hell’ so that justice is satisfied, but they will then enter heaven and be with God forever. Not only does that ignore Jesus’ own words of warning (eg He said to Judas ‘ it would have been better for you if you had not been born’ (you cant get much worse than that), the picture painted in the story of Lazarus and the rich man (notice there was no ‘crossing’ from the place of suffering to God’s presence) etc, etc) – such teachings show our future depends on our response to Jesus in this life, not after we die (the Lazarus story explicitly shows there is no 2nd chance after death) , it also ignores teachings such as being made righteous in Christ, the only state in which we can stand before God. Without Jesus’ own righteousness becoming our own in this life, we have no hope.

    ‘Remember that when Jesus came into the world, those who didn’t believe stood condemned already; Jesus did not come to bring additional, unheard-of, new condemnation’. If we have not been born again by believing in Jesus then we will continue in our condemned state until we die, when we will face the full consequences of our choice. It is not a ‘new’ condemnation. But, as Paul said, there is NOW no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. He does not offer hope for those outside of that.
    You say that the main reason why people today believe in an eternal hell is down to the likes of Augustus. Again I disagree. I have never read a word of his, or any ‘church father’ but rather the words of Jesus and his apostles. Again, I reiterate that I accept the punishment may not be eternal, but at the very least those who are condemned will then cease to exist, not enter heaven. I cannot reconcile such an idea of universalism with the teaching of the New Testament, and to tell others of such false beliefs is offering false hope.

  • Oh I know full well that he created evil, and he even sends evil (or troubling) spirits to some people, but it’s a huge leap from that to say that there is evil IN God. Just does not compute to me.

  • You are right, I AM making presumptions. Apologies, but as I said, it’s what comes across in the limitations of social media and blog discussions. I re-read my own and realised that they may come across as angry, when it was more a concern that you were falling into beliefs that are not proper or scriptural. I shall avoid the H word lol. I just see so much legalism around me and it annoys me as much as it annoyed Paul, the fervent Jew who turned against the yoke of his own law. The freedom he preached to the Galatians by grace was undone by false teachers and I see so much still today with believers who think they must follow the law, and the obsession with Jews and Gentiles, when in Christ there is no longer Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female (there I am going back to Galatians chapter 3!). WE are Israel, it is by faith that we are adopted into the one covenant that has simply continued from Old to New, and a belief that as Gentiles we are not subject to the law does worry me, to be honest. We ARE subject to it, but covered by the blood of the One who kept it perfectly and so we are not transgressors in the eyes of the Father.

    I shall be writing about how to live in this ‘conundrum’ of law v. faith in my book, when I get to the 6th chapter. It can be complex, but in the end it isn’t, and the letter to the Galatians does it better than I could! Grace and peace!

  • RonnyTX

    You’re right Tim,there is no evil in God. For God can and has created evil;but uses it for a good purpose and will bring good out of it,every time. :-) And as I’ve said,God can do that;but we human beings,we can’t. So you’re right,there is no evil in God. In fact,God/Jesus Christ,is pure love. :-)

  • RonnyTX

    Tony,I really liked that article of yours. Now I can’t say I agree with you on every point; :-) but then,that’s not necessary,that I do. And having a bit of a small health problem,the last couple of days. Woke up last night and couldn’t get back to sleep for some time. So I’ve saved your article link and need to read it again,when my mind is sharper and more focused! :-) LoL

    I do want to say though,that I believe all people will come to repentance before God and that so,be it in our life here or later on. For I know how God brought me to repentance and took me on to faith,in Jesus Christ and the cross. And I have not one doubt at all,that what God has done for one and for some,before all is said and done,God will do the same,for every last person. :-) For in that,is the love of God/Jesus Christ,for us all. :-) For we are all,the offspring/children of God. It’s just that some don’t know that yet and or don’t believe such. But each person will know and believe such and that,at the time of God’s choosing,for each person. And then,as that old song so well puts it;When we all get to heaven,what a day of rejoicing that will be. When we all see Jesus,we’ll sing and shout the victory! :-)

  • Though I took the time to look up Isaiah 45. Many translations use ‘disaster’ or ‘calamity’ for the original word (‘ra). My theological dictionaries of the NT are complete but I have yet to collect all the volumes of the OT so I haven’t got to Resh yet! In other contexts the word is clearly ‘evil’ but it can be translated in different ways, as can many words in any language (I’m a linguist). I would still be sure that it does not mean evil as in ‘sin’, which is the rebellion against God, selfishness, pride or judging (or all of these). THAT is what we were discussing (or at least I was lol). Complex stuff. When I get that volume I’ll give it a read!

  • John Thomas

    So are you saying that people are borne psychopaths and criminals? Are you saying circumstances and experiences have no influence on a person’s personality? I don’t think psychologists will agree with you. If that is the case, why do we have so difficult time to correct personality disorders of people who come from broken homes or those who suffered childhood abuse? Are you saying that if a child grow up witnessing crime around him or a child underwent abuse, he will grow up into a normal adult character? I am not removing personal responsibility. I want people to take responsibility for their actions. But I also understand limits to which they could be held responsible.

  • RonnyTX

    Does fire really consume what is burnt or does it simply change it,to a different form? Or to put it a bit differently;is anything truly destroyed or do forces working on such,merely change it to a different form?

  • Realist1234

    No, of course circumstances affect all of us. But ultimately, we are all responsible for our own actions. Dont get me wrong, I think parents, for example, will have alot to answer for to God as to how they have brought up their own children and the influences they have had on them. We all live in a broken, fallen world with all its consequences. God is just and will do the ‘right’ thing when it comes to judgement and justice. But that does not mean that behaviour can simply be reduced to the effect of our upbringing, or that all roads ultimately lead to God, as universalism teaches. I reject that, as Jesus never taught or even implied it.

  • ZitherZather

    Good questions. If you don’t know the answer to what fire does to humans, study a few examples of the many people burned with fire by Christians who believed the same things you’re suggesting.

  • John Thomas

    Having taken courses in neuroscience and psychology, I hold a different view than you on these issues. I believe that our will itself develops out of our experiences while Christian theology teaches a will that exist independent of our experiences. But that is okay. I understand where you come from. I also understand your rationale for rejecting universalism as I agree with you that Bible or Jesus in gospel accounts does not explicitly teaches universalism. Peace.

  • Realist1234

    I dont think Christian theology teaches that your will exists independently of your experiences, as I have just said they all have an effect on us, and I would include our ‘will’ in that. But that does not remove our own personal responsibility. And I have studied psychology as well! In the end, God is the judge who will ensure that justice is served. Noone will be able to say ‘its not fair!’ as we all shout from time to time, as everyone will see the ‘rightness’ of God’s verdict. But for me, I see Jesus as my only hope of salvation, and that of the world. As in the Highlander film, ‘There can be only One!’ In due course, He is going to renew this earth – do you want to be part of it?!

  • John Thomas

    I respect your beliefs. Peace.

  • Jonny

    I agree that evil has to, at some point, cease to exist. I really can’t see how annihilation is a victory for God though – it might extinguish evil but I don’t see how it would be a triumph over it. It would be for evil to have victory over a person’s life to the extent that God deems it appropriate to end that person’s existence.How is final, irreversible evil a win for righteousness?

  • jeffcook

    K – This is an excellent question, and I hate to be this guy, but at these level you’re asking question that require large-scale, worldview level answers that take a good deal of space.

    I pitch these kind of answers in my book Everything New at this level, but it would take significant time here.

    If there is one part of your comment you want to highlight, I’d love to give it a brief shot. But your stellar questions are too big in scope for a worthy response.

  • There can be. He’s not saying there can’t be; just that if God is all-loving, then that is inconsistent with an eternal hell, in his view. But I guess you know that already :)

  • :)

  • Haha, as I find yhis topic and your take on it very interesting, I will be reading your book for sure. :) I really appreciate your responses this far, however.
    I suppose I could highlight the question of why annihilation is to be taken literally and ECT is not, since both seem to have support in Scripture. But if that is too long an answer I understand. :)

  • jeffcook

    That works.

    In short, I think both should be understood according to hermeneutical standards, and proper ways of reading these kind of pictures in first century Israel.

    My problem with ECT is not the literal images, but the “eternal” and the “conscious” and the “torment.” Dress that up however you wish (see Ryan Joshua Butler’s book for example). It still seems to me that God would not actualize a world with such a condition.

    I do think there will be much more coming from the universalists in coming years. Perhaps the conversation will strongly shift away from ECT.

    Much love.

  • Your point about the thief relies on the fallacy of argumentation from silence. Jesus could have said any number of truths to any number of people at all sorts of different times, and counterfactual conjecture thereabout does not grant us information through silence.

    You said, “He said to Judas’ it would have been better for you if you had not been born’ (you cant get much worse than that).”

    This was a hyperbolic idiom meaning, “Their situation is extremly woeful.” Ecclesiastes employs the same hyperbole. It’s not literal. Indeed, though Judas killed himself, it was after expressing intense regret at what he did. There was clearly something to salvage in Judas, and it would thus be bizarre and pointless to torment him forever.

    You said, “The picture painted in the story of Lazarus and the rich man (notice there was no ‘crossing’ from the place of suffering to God’s presence) etc, etc)”

    The story of Lazarus and the Rich Man uses the Hebrew folk eschatology of Sheol (Hades, in Greek) to discuss the imminent New Covenant. See the context (Luke 16 is in the Luke 15 context).

    Even if you don’t think it’s a parable, though, it’s definitely about Sheol/Hades, and not the hell of Judgment. Sheol/Hades are emptied before Judgment per Revelation 20. Regardless of what you think happens afterward, this renders all “chasm” arguments moot when discussing the duration of hell.

    You said, “But, as Paul said, there is NOW no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. He does not offer hope for those outside of that.”

    Yes he does. Paul explicitly says that the pleroma of Jews and pleroma of Gentiles will be reconciled eventually, in Romans 11. This universal reconciliation is what, in his view, justified the ancillary “stumbling” of the faithless and stubborn — it’s all part of a plan.

    You said, “You say that the main reason why people today believe in an eternal hell is down to the likes of Augustus. Again I disagree. I have never read a word of his, or any ‘church father’ but rather the words of Jesus and his apostles.”

    Augustine. It doesn’t matter that you haven’t read him; that’s where the dominance of this doctrine in the church is owed to. He endorsed, systemized, and helped foster the extrabiblical tradition of endless hell, which (like the other two “big” views) had been present in the church since the 2nd century.

    This “extrabiblical tradition” is what makes people to think things are in Scripture that aren’t (“It is just to give infinite punishment for any sin against an infinitely glorious God”; “The wicked will continue to rebel and sin forever”) and fail to read things that are in Scripture, such as:

    (a) Ezekiel 33 tells us that God’s axial interest — as surely as he lives — is in a person’s repentance, not death. Their death is lamentable. And, of course, Christ has conquered the grave.

    (b) Romans 14 tells us that there won’t be an endless rebellion; all will submit and fully confess to God.

    (c) Romans 11 (as mentioned above) explicitly says that the pleroma of Jews and pleroma of Gentiles will be reconciled eventually, contingent upon belief, which all shall eventually confess (per ch. 14). “For God has bound everyone over to disobedience in order to have mercy on them all.”

    (d) Passages like Colossians 1:15-20 and Ephesians 1 tell us explicitly that God’s “master plan” is a universal reconciliation.

  • Believer in the Word Alone

    Why are Believers debating the Truthfulness of God’s Word or His wrath. Man would like to believe that our merit will make a difference in the end. Maybe God will hear me and forgive me now that I’m dead and facing eternal death,” He was right and I was wrong! He does exist and His Name is Jesus. ” We are saved by Faith in The Lord Jesus Christ alone. What amount of faith would it take to believe in God when you see Him on His Throne. none whatsoever! We can have as many opinions as people on the Earth the only one that counts is What does Jesus say. Does Jesus mince words! It is appointed once for man to die, and then face judgment. These debates when not grounded in scripture will confuse and cause many to stumble. We are commended to declare the Truth of God’s and not what we feel or think is right.

  • Just a gentle suggestion: if you’re not going to use your real name, perhaps you should change your screen name to “Reader Who Comments Before Thoughtfully Reading Articles.”

  • RonnyTX

    You’re right Tim. In Isaiah 45,the evil that God creates and brings about is not sin or sinful.

    A good article,at the following webpage link, Has a lot of good stuff in it about God,evil,how God brings good out of evil,etc.

    http://www.tentmaker.org/articles/TheProblemofEvil.html

  • RonnyTX

    Such people die,no matter who murders them. But that is not the end of them or any of us-not by a long shot. For who dies,that is who God will raise from the dead. And when death,the last enemy to be destroyed by Jesus Christ,when death is destroyed,all that will be left,is life. :-) So we will all spend eternity together. Which is why I sometimes say,in the here and now,we might as well start learning to get along with and like each other! (ha) :-)

  • RonnyTX

    John:
    I don’t understand why very few Christians are universalists as I completely agree with many universalists when they say that universalism perfectly represents love of God as fully revealed in Jesus Christ who loved even the gravest of sinners.

    Ronny to John:
    John,I was born of God when I was 16 years old. That was when God let me know I was lost,showed me my sin,as compared to holy God and led me to repentance. When I repented/agreed with God,the love of God began to pour out upon me :-) and God put a picture in my mind of three crosses. And I knew on that center cross was Jesus Christ and he was there for me, there taking my sins upon himself. And that is how God saved me,how I was born of God. And immediately after God did that for me,I went and told as many people as I could,about what God had just done for me. And my greatest desire then,was that all people have the same type of relationship with God,as I then had. So,God made me a Christian universalist. But before that,I was brought up in a Calvinistic teaching/believing church and taught to believe there,that way was right. And after God saved me,it was back to my home and home church. Some things,how they were done there,made no sense to me;but I came to think such must be right. Why? Because as I grew up in that particular local church,I was taught that what came to me from the pulpit,was not only all true;but the same as if God was saying such to me. Now that wasn’t true;but even before my teens,I was taught to believe that way,in this church I speak of. So I was taught to be a Calvinist in that church,God was showing me better when He saved me and then it was back home to that church,where I was taught to believe what some people said,as if they were God. Then at 55 years old,God brought people into my life who were Christian universalists in belief. I thought what they said and the scripture they used,sounded to good to be true! (ha) But I read and studied on it more and I found out,they were right. And in this time,God reminded me of the desire I had had,right after God saved me. My desire,that every person have the same type of relationship with God,as I then had. And God rereminded me of the scripture that goes,and God shall give us the desires of our heart. :-)

    And well,as far as most not being Christian universalists in belief,I hadn’t even heard of such,until just over 5 years ago. And well,I think most of us are going to keep on believing,whatever we were brought up in church and convinced to believe. That so,be it Calvinism or Arminian/free will in belief. And both of those ways of believing,they have both truths and falsehoods in them. And take out of both what is false and keep only that which is true and well,you end up with Christian universalism and or that before all is said and done,God will have saved everyone and that by way of Jesus Christ and the cross! :-)

  • RonnyTX

    Then Realist,you think wrong. For on the cross,Jesus Christ took on himself the sins of all of us. My sins,your sins,Hitlers sins,etc,etc. And note too,that in scripture Jesus Christ tells us,that he came to condemn no one;but to seek and to save that which was lost. Well, we’re all lost. So,according to how we look at all of this,Jesus Christ either succeeded in doing what he tells us he came to do or else he failed in that. And so much of what goes by the name Christianity, says that Jesus Christ was a failure,at what he came to do. But those who believe in Christian universalism,say that Jesus Christ completely succeeded,in what he came to do. :-)

  • RonnyTX

    Good questions and points John. And I have no doubt at all, that if God had of chosen for me to of been born and grown up with the influences as say Hitler had,then I would of been another Hitler. But God chose differently for me,so 4 years before I was born of God,I was an unsaved,selfrighteous church member. :-)

  • RonnyTX

    Realist to John:
    “or that all roads ultimately lead to God, as universalism teaches. I reject that, as Jesus never taught or even implied it.”

    Ronny to Realist:
    I agree with you on that. For the only road to God the Father,is by way of Jesus Christ and the cross. But what you speak of here,is a Unitarian type of universalism and that is not the same thing at all,as the Christian universalism,that some people like myself believe.

  • RonnyTX

    God does and that by way of Jesus Christ and the cross. :-) And the way I might put it,there is much “hell” to go through,in this life. And I don’t say I like it all,for I don’t; (ha) :-) but I can say this too,knowing God/Jesus Christ,they are in full control of all things and whatever God chooses for me,is for my own good and betterment. And I can’t fully understand all of that now;but I will,in the next life. As will we all! :-)

  • Richard Worden Wilson

    Benjamin, that was not a gentle suggestion, that was high heavy sarcasm. just sayin

  • Art Bucher

    Thanks for this article, Benjamin! My only critique is that the argument makes “death” and “destruction” of evil the means by which Jesus “wins”. I don’t have a solution for that, but I believe it’s problematic to propose that line of reasoning when so many 21st century people are already mired in the belief of redemptive violence. In light of the resurrection and the transformation of death to life, there must be another way to reframe this argument.

  • Realist1234

    That denies Jesus’ own words, and the rest of the teaching of the New Testament. I would like to believe in universalism, but can’t given this.

  • Realist1234

    ok but I understood universalism, including as proposed by others on this blog, meant that everyone will ultimately be in God’s presence and be ‘saved’, even if it means a taste of ‘hell’ for a while. I do not accept that belief is taught by Jesus or the NT writers.

  • Great article!

  • Kirk Janowiak

    If a virulent and deadly virus exists nowhere among the populations of the earth, but is, rather, securely contained *only* in the deep freezers within the vaults of the CDC, have we not been victorious over that virus? Has it not been conquered and, for all intents and purposes regarding humans, been eradicated?

    Why not the same for evil, if it has been contained and secured away from God’s presence, in whose presence reside those in the Book of Life?

    Just wondering why this would violate the victory won by Jesus or the conquering of sin?

    (Please, no adding to the (only marginally) hypothetical situation by bringing in ne’er-do-wells who might steal & release the virus or some such rot. Would one assume/presume such a thing happening with some version of “hell,”, too?)

  • Tim

    The problem with that is that is not the case that the scriptures present. The biblical picture is clearly that evil at some point ceases to exist entirely.

  • Tim

    Exactly; which is part of why I am a universal reconciliationist. The only way for God to claim total victory is to redeem and restore “the all” and “be all and in all” as the scriptures in Greek state it. The transforming work of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and Paul’s interpretation of what this means for all of humanity (and indeed, all of creation) can point to no other conclusion, IMO. Paul makes it quite clear that the death and resurrection of Christ began a new creation, in which we are no longer subject to the law of sin and death.

  • Tim

    Amen

  • jtorito

    Cook’s position leaves unanswered the question, “if God has the power to eventually annihilate evil itself in the end then why didn’t He do it at the beginning, before it infected humanity?”

  • pookdesignz

    Read up on Near Death Experiences.org to find out what some claim happen to us when we cross over. Also the near death experiences of Dr. Eben Alexander, Dr. Mary M. Neale and Anita Moorjani. Each of their experiences are telling and they have common threads to them. I think we need to open our minds up to the fact that there is just so much more – layers if you will, to our existence.There are lots of “clues” from the spirit realm that I feel will lead us to different interpretations of Scripture. Just not buying the Hell doctrine anymore – that is, as it has been presented since “forever” lol – I believe we “do the time for our crimes” but only in the context of learning from our mistakes – eternal torment is so counterproductive and I would think a waste of God’s precious energy.

  • jaymac8181 .

    when looking at the traditional view of Hell, there’s one scripture that keeps coming up in my mind, that challenges it. its Isaiah 66:23-24. The Lord Himself declares that all flesh shall come to worship Him in the end. Notice it doesn’t say all, except for those who sinned. I challenge you to look at this passage and then look at the traditional view of Hell, and make you own decision from it.

  • Tammy

    How do we explain the parable of the rich man in Luke 16 who lifted up his eyes in hell and said he was tormented in the flames? I’m open to another explanation because I began reading this series trying to understand why a loving God would torment people eternally. Growing up in a strict evangelical home, I feared hell more than anything and it kept me awake at night. I too asked Jesus into my heart every time we had a revival. I was afraid that maybe I hadn’t done it good enough the other 50 times.

  • CW

    I kind of think of Purgatory or Hell (or even Heaven) like this: what if in the afterlife, I found myself among beings who were JUST LIKE me? Would I like that or not? If I were a murderous merciless thug, no I would not like a place filled with people like me. If I were an annoying, selfish loud mouth, I would not like that afterlife either and maybe after a while I’d have an epiphany about being an annoying, selfish loudmouth. If I were a kind, thoughtful person, then I’d enjoy an afterlife filled with people like that (unless they were all soppy and clingy to the point of being annoying!). This is how I reflect on my own behavior these days — what if the world were suddenly filled with people who act just like I do? Would that be a pleasant place or not? What I’m trying to say is if I were God and I wanted to teach people a lesson (I didn’t say “punish”) so they have an epiphany and improve, I’d do something like that, i.e. put all the similar beings together and as soon as they have a realization about their behavior, they find themselves amongst slightly more pleasant people. And so it goes until everybody sincerely “gets the idea” and universal salvation is achieved. Hey, I’ve probably got it a bit wrong. But it helps me with my own introspection as I seek to improve my ways so I roll with it.

  • PacificMaelstrom

    All NDE’s are 100% fiction, litteraly they are a form of dream/hallucination.

  • pookdesignz

    How can you prove this?

  • PacificMaelstrom

    Science can tell you that there are physical and mental explanations for the usual near death experience variations. New studies have found brain activity continues even in the deepest of Comas. Everyone who recovered was never truly brain-dead + Philosophy can tell you that if someone comes back to life than they were never really dead because the definition of death precludes coming back to life except by Supernatural intervention. It’s not like you could trick God into thinking you were dead and then God’s like oops they weren’t really dead let’s put them back in their body with memories of the afterlife so they can write a book about it and make millions.

  • PacificMaelstrom

    God is outside of time.

  • PacificMaelstrom

    Imagine that all disease was successfully eliminated from the world and contained in lab. And the world was modified so that disease would never return to the World on its own. You’re right we are victorious over the disease. But why are we keeping it around and spending the resources to maintain the CDC lab? I’m not sure I agree with the article but what would be the point oh, why not just destroy the lab and be done with disease forever.

  • PacificMaelstrom

    I think people are forgetting that God is outside of time. The evil that exists now will exist for God eternally because God exists in all time simultaneously. Perhaps the reason that hell is eternal has something to do with that fact.

  • PacificMaelstrom

    The point y’all are missing is that no one is righteous and that all have fallen short of the glory of God. Salvation is by grace alone. That means that no one deserves it. You don’t deserve it. I don’t deserve it. No one deserves it. There is no way to earn it, so those who are not predestined to receive it will receive only what they deserve. If I see two people and give a gift to one but not the other, am I guilty of wrongdoing because I only gave to one? No it was a gift, neither of them was entitled to anything. In the same way none of us are entitled to Salvation. But all of us have earned the wages of sin which is death.