Paul Vander Klay
April 26, 2010
I donâ€™t quite understand how the act of debate supports the reality of hell. While I believe in the reality of hell, Jesus was pretty adamant about its existence, I canâ€™t follow your logic here. My apologies, I may be dense. In what way does â€œthe existence of hell reveal the decibel level of that love against which no hold-out can remain?â€ What does that mean?<br><br>â€œBefore the face of this God we must either concede completely, giving ourselves over to perfect honesty, humility and security, or we would be crushed, unable to flee the forum His wisdom and beauty being the kind of weighty torment no being our size could bear. Hell is the final refuge.â€<br><br>So is a Hell a torment a being our size CAN bear?<br><br>Sadly enough, Hell is not even a final refuge. PS: 139 If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.<br><br>Prov. 15 Sheol (the place of the dead) and Abaddon (the abyss, the final place of the accuser Satan) are both before the Lord--how much more, then, the hearts of the children of men?<br>
1. Sheol is not hell. <br>2. People's imagining of hell usually revolves around circumstances and so they tend to look at passages that answer the question of hell's furnishings. I think Jesus' parables offer a much more relational picture of hell. Often the image is a shut door or people outside the party. <br>3. Likewise people's imagining of our blessed final state tends to revolve around the furnishings as if we're comparing a resort to a slum. The presence of a person whose company you desire or whose approval you covet converts even the worst of situations. Now imagine how God's presence changes everything and that presence has so much volume thing can dampen it. I'd like to shift the focus more to the presence of God. Why throughout Scripture can on one bear God's presence when he's fully in the room? <br>4. If we stay away from annihilationism then we must ask the where and how of those who persist in resisting God's presence? Hell can be the only answer and it is in a strange way both mercy and judgment.
Okay, men, I'm gonna jump in here and try to meet both of you halfway. <br><br>Joni Erickson Tada, in her "Heaven" study, totally altered my concept of heaven when she wrote words to the effect of, "Heaven is not so much a place as a Person." And didn't the Lord say as much when He said that it is possible to gain the whole world, but lose one's very soul? What, indeed, do human beings opt to have instead of Christ? So you have more money/conquests/brains/videogames/automobiles/homes/children/HD TVs/books/you-name-its than I do. Big whoop. If you don't have Christ, you are truly a pauper. May not seem so empty right here, right now (could be pleasantly distracting, in fact), but about one nanosecond after this life is over, it will all be meaningless. And since eternity is forever, and that forever is spent apart from a Christ one will realize they could have had, but chose something (anything!) else over...well, Paul puts it very well when he writes in this post that 'God's love makes hell necessary.' <br><br>But Rick is right too, because Jesus never debated, about anything. If I read my Scriptures correctly (and I am pretty sure that I do), those who heard the Lord speak were delightfully awestruck by the authority with which He spoke, or infuriatingly engulfed by anger, or sorrowful because they realized the implications of what He was saying would dethrone their false idols. He did ask questions to get their minds prepared. But I don't think He debated, if the word 'debate' is understood in the context of ideas competing...seems to me the only idea those who continually badgered the Lord had, was ensnare Him and trap Him. <br><br>Peter Kreeft, interviewed in one of Lee Strobel's excellent books (may have been "The Case for Faith") pointed out that hell is really a testimony to God's great respect of to our worth as individuals created in His image: He created us as human beings who can make choices - and God does not force us to make the right choice, but neither does He diminish our responsibility when we make the wrong choice. And if that choice is to live apart from Him eternally, He will allow us to do so and experience the consequences of that choice.
Thatâ€™s what I like about this site, rational dialog among brothers and sisters. So once again, please excuse me if I am simply displaying my ignorance or lack of comprehension.<br><br>â€œWhere the fire is not quenched and the worm dieth notâ€ is not quite like â€œpeople outside the partyâ€ That is much too innocuous. There are 54 references to hell in the old testament. From Deuteronomyâ€™s â€œFor a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increaseâ€ to Davidâ€™s â€œThe wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.â€ I am not satisfied to just say, sheol is not hell as if that statement solves something. What hell are you talking about, you must have one in mind? Nor am I furnishing a concept of hell through my circumstances or imagination. For the sake of the discussion let's just stick with Jesus' concept of hell. I agree that the Bible does not support annihilationism. But how could an eternity of torment, unquenchable thirst and fire, be â€œin a strange way both mercy and judgement?â€ I really still donâ€™t have any idea of what you are saying. What does this mean; â€œNow imagine how God's presence changes everything and that presence has so much volume thing can dampen it. I'd like to shift the focus more to the presence of God.â€ Try reading it out loud. <br><br>So is a Hell a refuge from God, a torment a being our size CAN bear? Really?<br><br>â€œImagine the community of the debating vanquished. Perhaps Internet debates gives us a window into what might look like.â€ What might look like? I presume you mean what hell looks like. Hell looks like internet debaters who have lost the debate? What?<br><br>I appreciate your desire to be original, but this needs work.
<br>Calling hell a refuge. How very provocative. You are clearly trying to emulate Tim Keller, who does his best to emulate C S Lewis. Does minimizing the doctrine of hell get you into some sort of exclusive club? Do you win a badge of honor from Keller or N T Wright? You probably also believe that this earth is NOT reserved for fire. Er, good luck with that. See 2 Peter 3:3-10, Hebrews 12:26-29.<br> <br>
Let's consider a few other things. <br><br>1. The word "hell" isn't in the Bible. Now you might open your English translation and find it in a number of places, but with just a bit of scratching you begin to notice references to Gehenna and other things. Why? "hell" is a product of Christian theology in the same way that the Trinity is. You can find all the evidence you need in the Bible to construct the doctrine, but you won't find the word. <br>2. Read the Gospels with a view of watching images of reward, parties and feasting. Few would argue that a parable like the parable of the wedding banquet isn't a parable about the age to come. Once you mark the feasts not how often exclusion from the feast comes up. Read Luke 13:22-30. Here we have a door held shut and pleas rebuffed. Outside is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Look at the parable of the 10 maidens in Matthew 25. Look at all of Matthew 25. One of the most interesting one is Luke 15. Each section has a celebration at the lost being found. The chapter clearly ends with the older brother in jeopardy. The feast is underway and the older son has excluded himself, he is out in the field. In the parable of the unforgiving servant the image is of that servant handed over to the torturers. <br>3. What we begin to see is that final blessedness and final perdition are a pair. The images of perdition are multiple some involving fire, worms, darkness, weeping. People used to ask "how can their be fire AND darkness?" I think the images are evocative of the judgment of God. If God is the source of all goodness, beauty, and joy, then the absence of the presence of God and all his good gifts are the utter absence of all of these things. I can't pretend to draw a picture of it. <br>4. Here's a piece I wrote a few years ago that relates to Hell and Parties: <a href="http://leadingchurch.com/wordpress/?p=66" rel="nofollow">http://leadingchurch.com/wordp...</a> <br><br>I don't really think I'm being original at all. I think this is all in the text. pvk
Yes, and Paul simply calls it "Christ" at times. Thanks for your comment. pvk
Thanks for your comment. I filled out the picture a bit more in my response to Rick below.
I read your essay on Hell and it was very enjoyable. I also must say, The Great Divorce is my very favorite CS Lewis book. Ok, maybe his Science fiction trilogy is. OK, Its a toss up. I donâ€™t regard the Great Divorce as establishing doctrine though, it is a very penetrating look at human nature, grace and forgiveness, employing fantasy and metaphors. Iâ€™m also aware of the distinctions between Gehenna and Sheol and a little bit of the etymology of both words. And of course we also have similar Greek concepts of hades and tartaroo. <br><br>I think you have taken a number of parables and made some assumptions. Jesus really says nothing about the final eternal state of the unbeliever in the Wedding party parable, the 10 Wise virgins parable, the Rebellious tenants and the Forgiven Steward who persecutes his debtors. That is not the point of those parables. They are not there to create doctrine about the particulars of the afterlife. After all, the unwise virgins are virgins (believers who love the bridegroom and bride) who had oil (the Holy Spirit) and in their quest to refill their vessels they miss the wedding party. When Jesus wants to talk about the afterlife he is very specific and intentional.<br><br>If we want to form doctrine the better thing to do is to read all the references where Jesus specifically identifies his subject as Hell and the afterlife. They are all very consistent. They have less to do with the absence of God and more to do with the physical torments. Itâ€™s no way to do a Bible study, but you can do a quick perusal in a concordance of every time Jesus uses the word hell and you will have a very graphic picture quickly. It has nothing to do with being excluded from a party, going to jail until the debt is paid off or shopping for oil in town. In fact, of the 15 references to his use of the word hell, the qualifier he most often uses is fire, as in hell fire. Luke, James, Peter and John are also very consistent in talking about the torments of hell fire.<br><br>I donâ€™t believe hell is a refuge from God or a torment a being our size was ever designed to bear. I wish CS Lewis was right and there is much I donâ€™t understand, but I think it breeds a false hope to think of hell as the ante chamber for those who donâ€™t want to go to the party. I have heard may boastful teenagers talk about how they are going to party in hell. Which is kind of a modern reprise of Miltonâ€™s Paradise Lost.
Paul - great points. I'm actually talking about hell today on my blog, as I've been having a lot of conversations with Christians who are adamantly sure that hell exists, and those who aren't so sure. <br><br>Love the link to the honest Facebook debate. I can stand to read the comments on most non-Christian blogs and sites.
Matt, let me just say that the old Gehenna Gambit does not work. When Jesus said "fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" he was not talking about the Jerusalem municipal dump. Or "Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him." or "it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:" or "And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off". Your commentators on your blog are very astute as well. If we can't believe what Jesus says here, why should we believe anything he says? I agree with your sentiments, but in the end, I have to stand with scripture.
This might make sense, IF hell consists of complete separation from God, rather than the infantile fantasies of a lake of fire that a vengeful God casts his enemies into. The latter makes no sense, and has rather limited Biblical foundation. The former may well be true, although by the time I know for sure, it will be too late to debate the point, of enlighten anyone.
I appreciate that you want to be true to Scripture as the inspired Word of God, but it seems to me you are reading short phrases with your own post-medieval Christian conceptions of "hell."<br><br><i>â€œFor a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increaseâ€</i><br><br>That does not read like a warning concerning the afterlife for individual humans. It sounds more like a threat against the physical earth, within the boundaries of space and time. What exactly does "mine anger" burning "unto the lowest hell" mean? It doesn't unambiguously say "For my anger against your sinful life will motivate me to cast YOU into the lowest hell where you will burn forever." It isn't even close to such a meaning. That's just looking at the English translation, without asking a rabbi what the original Hebrew really conveyed.<br><br><i>â€œThe wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.â€</i><br><br>That doesn't tell us what "hell" consists of. Nor does it tell us when or on what basis this will happen. And what is the hell that "whole nations" will be "turned into" wholesale? Again, this isn't a picture of what we all heard sometime or other in Sunday school.<br><br>Perhaps hell IS a little bit like an endless internet debate: those who would rather endure the torture of pointless circular arguments for all eternity rather than admit that God is God, after all, and at last we know, instantly and irrevocably, what the nature of God is and what our relationship to him has always been and will be forevermore.
Post-medieval Christian conceptions of hell? <br>Justin Martyr, 151 AD: We have been taught that only they may aim at immortality who have lived a holy and virtuous life near to God. We believe that they who live wickedly and do not repent will be punished in everlasting fire (â€œFirst Apologyâ€ 21).<br> <br>[Jesus] shall come from the heavens in glory with his angelic host, when he shall raise the bodies of all the men who ever lived. Then he will clothe the worthy in immortality; but the wicked, clothed in eternal sensibility, he will commit to the eternal fire, along with the evil demons (â€œFirst Apologyâ€ 52).<br><br>Polycarp 155AD: Fixing their minds on the grace of Christ, [the martyrs] despised worldly tortures and purchased eternal life with but a single hour. To them, the fire of their cruel torturers was cold. They kept before their eyes their escape from the eternal and unquenchable fire (â€œMartyrdom of Polycarpâ€ 2:3)<br><br>Iraneus 189 AD: [God will] send the spiritual forces of wickedness, and the angels who transgressed and became apostates, and the impious, unjust, lawless, and blasphemous among men into everlasting fire (â€œAgainst Heresiesâ€ 1:10:1)<br> <br>The penalty increases for those who do not believe the Word of God and despise his coming. . . . [I]t is not merely temporal, but eternal. To whomsoever the Lord shall say, â€˜Depart from me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire,â€™ they will be damned forever (â€œAgainst Heresiesâ€ 4:28:2)<br><br>Clement of Alexandria 195 AD:<br>All souls are immortal, even those of the wicked. Yet, it would be better for them if they were not deathless. For they are punished with the endless vengeance of quenchless fire. Since they do not die, it is impossible for them to have an end put to their misery. (from a post-Nicene manuscript fragment)<br><br>The Epistle of Barnabas 70-130 AD The way of darkness is crooked, and it is full of cursing. It is the way of eternal death with punishment. (â€œEpistle of Barnabasâ€)<br><br>I could go on and on. The Church fathers almost universally believed in a fiery eternal hell.
Yes, this notion has fairly old roots, but my primary point is that none of these statements are Biblical. They almost all date to a century or more after the Crucifixion, and post-date the separation of Christianity from its Jewish roots. I suspect that this notion derives more from Greek mythology than from a strictly Jewish world view, and imputes to faith in the Gospels a concept that Jesus made only occasional reference to in the nature of parables, which could be construed in many ways. For example, I find in Matthew 25:31 et seq certain proof that non-Christians will indeed be received into paradise, while other rely on it to affirm that all who have not accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior are doomed to everlasting torment.<br><br>Those you have cited are neither prophets nor apostles, and certainly their writings are not the Gospels.
Death and hell are real places cast into the lake of fire in the book of Revelation; and also any one not found written in the Book of Life. It is extremely disappointing to me when I read statements that sidestep the very real words of Scripture and act as if certain passages don't have meaning, that we can't know what they say. And this is why there is a hell - it will be the torment of one knowing that they could have chosen Christ, but they chose to put something ahead of Him. <br><br>It is not too late on this earth right now to enlighten people about what an eternity without Christ means, i.e., eternal torment. There is no getting around that part of Jesus' teachings. And really, why would we want to? The fact is, the Lord Jesus Christ goes to prepare a place for those who place their trust in Him. We can emphasize both aspects of the Lord's teachings with boldness and gladness, and without fearmongering.<br><br>A short testimony: when I became a believer, I knew not only that there was a hell, but that I was a sinner and I deserved it. I knew that if I didn't recieve Christ as my Savior, that I would perish - and deservedly so. And I knew that Christ wanted ME - sinful, mean spirited me - to place my faith in Him. I did as He graciously invited and I have never regretted that decision. I know this may not carry a lot of weight in today's world, especially with intellectuals. But I have to wonder...we have this kind of intellectualism that can run circles around plain folks as regards the original Hebrew and Greek and nuances, etc. - but how many professing believers out there today actually have a testimony in their hearts and minds and personal experience that says, "Amen!"<br><br>Such a testimony won't be vaunted like man's philosophical tweakings, but it will sure carry the joy of heaven itself with it.
My first problem with the above testimony has nothing to do with hell. It has to do with the flagrant use of the term "intellectuals." Why do we continue to pander to this notion that certain human beings are blessed with the duty or right to use the intellect God gave EACH of us, while others either don't have to bother, or aren't capable of doing so? This is a twisted sort of elitism, whether one claims to be one of "the intellectuals" or whether one claims to be part of some sort of elect who don't have to bother with their intellect. I have a high school diploma, no college degree, I have written for Oxford University Press while driving a paratransit bus, I freely ride my bicycle or walk through the "worst neighborhoods" in town, I belong to a church derived from the Great Awakening and I am familiar with the overwhelming evidence for evolutionary biology. Outside my own experience, some of the most respected evangelists in American history were well educated in science and history, while some of the most advanced scientists are born-again Christians. There was a time when "plain folks" greatly valued education -- if only to be able to actually read the Bible for themselves, but not only for that -- and outside of mass media imagery, millions still do. So let's leave that sort of stereotyping out of the discussion. Was C.S. Lewis an intellectual?<br><br>When you say "death and hell are real places" you underestimate how different a transcendent God, and eternity, must be from our own current plane of existence. God is not bound by space or time. So what exactly is a "place" in eternity? "My ways are not your ways saith the Lord." That doesn't mean that there is no hell, it simply means we should be cautious about claiming to know what hell IS. Jesus spoke in parables for a good reason: the human mind could not begin to comprehend the transcendent, except by symbols and analogies.<br><br>I do not share your experience of knowing that "I deserve" to end up in "hell." I accept that all fall short of the glory of God, but that in itself doesn't mean I "deserve" to perish in the sense that I deserve to lose my home if I gamble all my money away, or to be locked up if I wantonly kill or persecute others around me. Those were my choices, being born homo sapiens is merely a condition. But if your understanding has brought you to Christ, so be it. I have no reason to argue with you. I do suspect that when we pass over to eternity, we will ALL be quite surprised at what we really find.
A slight correction: it was not merely my understanding that brought me to a saving knowledge of Christ, and to the truth that there is a hell to be avoided and a heaven to be found when trusting in Christ: it was my understanding of the Scriptures that brought me to this salvation experience, and it lined up with the Holy Bible. I think you can agree that in this day and age, skeptics almost always cast themselves in the clothing of "intellectuals" and try to run Bible believers ragged with arguments about how the Bible can be read this way and that way and upside down but can't be understood literally, and when they run out of that rusty ammo, they shoot out the 'don't we all know that God is so much more than our finite minds can comprehend,' and since God is so big, who are we say the Bible says anything, really, especially when so many disagree with what the Bible says...especially about sinful human beings? <br><br>People - whether calling themselves Christians or not - who justify themselves and pass off these sins, which cost the Lord Jesus Christ His very own blood, as merely being "poor choices" - and then say that God doesn't reserve the right to punish them eternally for these sins, on top of that - there is no answer to this kind of pride.
There are indeed people on the face of the earth who employ their intellect to sustain their own inclination to doubt the truth of Scripture, or the existence of God. There have also been people who devoted their entire lives to using their intellect to understand what the Holy Bible teaches. Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin were both intellectuals -- whether or not your or I or anyone agree with their conclusions. The most pronounced atheists, like everybody's favorite punching bag, Richard Dawkins, are pathetically weak in the intellectual integrity of their arguments, much less their faith.<br><br>I do, however, believe that God is much more than our finite minds can comprehend, and that to the extent the Bible is the word of God, it is likely to contain ten or one hundred layers of meaning, more than any human being could embrace in a hundred lifetimes. When people argue about the Trinity, which is really not supported by Scripture at all, I generally suggest that we are all like the proverbial blind men feeling the elephant. Yes, God has a Holy Spirit, yes, Jesus is who and what he said he was, yes, God the Father almighty did create all that is, seen and unseen, but who are we to claim we can piece all this together in neat little diagrams of persons and how they relate to each other? I have some sympathy for the Muslim criticism that Christianity reinstituted polytheism, because some doctrine create that impression.<br><br>So I think the operative phrase is "it was my understanding of Holy Scriptures," emphasis on my (your) understanding. Someone in a similar discussion once told me that it is impossible to reach two different conclusions by exegesis, because exegesis simply lays out the facts of the Bible. However, the same Bible manages to support the Roman Catholic, Coptic, Holy Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptist, Pentecostal, Methodist, Seventh Day Adventist, Jehovah's Witnesses, and dozens of other faiths, while the Old Testament sustains Judaism, which by definition does NOT recognize Jesus as the Messiah, nor the Son of God.<br><br>There is a kind of insufferable pride in saying "God will put up with anything I do, because he loves me in spite of all," but this same pride appears in some Christians who are real Bible-thumpers, but excuse their own sinful behavior by saying "Oh, I repent every time, and God forgives me." That doesn't sound like the path you have chosen -- but what God reserves the right to do is hardly the question. God can do whatever God pleases. What God chooses to do is revealed to us through a glass darkly -- probably because we'd be frightened to death to see purity and transcendence in all its glory. God told Moses "You cannot see my face and live."<br><br>Your path is not a bad one at all. I'm not sure it is the entire story of what the Gospel, or the Bible as a whole, have to tell.
Granted, God is so much more than our finite human minds can comprehend. But my God is so awesome that He is even capable of - get this - moving men by His Holy Spirit to write words that our limited minds can understand. Yes, it is true - the God capable of creating vast unnumbered galaxies and that great expanse of infinity itself is so big that He can even communicate knowledge of Himself by the most basic of human methods -language. In fact, not only is God able to make Himself known in this way, He actually challenges human beings to humble themselves enough to accept the words He shares with us in a volume known as the Holy Bible. <br><br>In this Book, Jesus found a man named Luke and chose him to record the following words: "The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." That these words could be rife with billions of layers of murky, unfathomable God-meaning cannot be denied, but we are not the Almighty, so why don't we just pause a moment to check out the basic meaning behind them?<br><br>Jesus is saying here that He is seeking the lost...that people are without Him in a such a way that they can't find their way to Him and so He has come to seek them. <br><br>And the Lord says He came not only to seek the lost - but to save them. This brings up a question (or two): save the lost 'from' what? And, 'to' what? Why, the Lord Jesus will save the lost from sin's power now, from sin's well-deserved punishment eternally...but not only that. He will make the lost safe with Him eternally, in a place filled with His Holy, Sinless Person: in other words, He will give the lost a home, or as the wonderful Gospel of John puts it, "I go [to the cross] to prepare a place for you...that where I am, you may be also." The apostle Paul wrote it this way: "The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." "He has delivered us from the power of darkness and placed us in the kingdom of His dear Son." "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He has saved us..." "To him that works not, but believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, his faith is counted for righteousness."<br><br>A place where the Lord Jesus is held high above every supposed "good" person and every proud "accomplishment" of mankind and instead Christ's precious blood and resurrection and magnificent holiness and incredible grace and astonishing sacrificial love is forever exalted, and not only that, but He is there in Person??? I know for a fact this is heaven. Because I once was lost - and He found me.
Your first paragraph is of course true. But it does not answer the question, how can dozens of different Christian denominations all read the same Holy Bible, guided by the same Holy Spirit, recognizing the same Savior, and arrive at different doctrines and understandings. Is one of these denominations the True Church? Are some true Christians and others wolves in sheep's clothing? Does each have a small fragment of God's Truth, plus some misunderstanding? I'm not asking about original human thought -- I'm asking about what each has read and understood in the volume known as the Holy Bible. For example, Seventh Day Adventists teach that after the final judgement, those condemned will, die, forever, not be eternally tortured. (C.S. Lewis, albeit a devout Anglican, wrote in <i>The Last Battle</i> that those talking animals found wanting took one look at the face of Aslan and ran squealing into the darkness as mere dumb animals.) The Adventist position, on this particular question, makes great sense to me.<br><br>I wonder a little about "Jesus found a man named Luke, and chose him to record the following words..." Luke himself wrote that he had "taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses." Luke also wrote that he had made a treatise "of all that Jesus began both to do and teach until the day in which he was taken up." My point is that we all DO "pause a moment to check out the basic meaning behind them," and we come to remarkably different conclusions -- although we could certainly define areas of broad overlap and call it, as some have done, "mere Christianity."<br><br>That you were lost and now are found, that He found you, puts you in the company of John Newton, among others, and that is good company indeed. It doesn't mean that everyone will be called by precisely the same path, or that those whose experience is not identical to yours cannot be saved.
As to your very good question, namely: "How can dozens of different Christian denominations all read the same Holy Bible...and arrive at different doctrines and understandings [?], may I suggest the following:<br><br>1. They are not all guided by the same Holy Spirit, although they have the same Bible (and let's face it, lots of denominations calling themselves 'Christian' take away parts of the Holy Bible or add parts to it that they teach are just as 'inspired'). Denominations which say that people must be saved by works (baptism; communion; good deeds; prayer; keeping the 10 commandments, etc), are evil, and the book of Galatians further emphasizes that any work added to "save us", cuts off those who would be saved by these works. Salvation is all of grace.<br><br>2. Geo-Politics/Pride - the Bible makes clear that Jewish leaders rejected Jesus knowing He was the Messiah because they thought they would lose their powerful positions (not to mention their very nation). There were Roman leaders whom Paul "almost persuaded" to become believers who rejected the Lord because they didn't want to lose their positions, as well. And so it has been for the past 2,000 years.<br> <br>3. Ethnic/Cultural reasons: These reasons can be because of doctrinal divisions (corruption of the canon) or doctrinal inclusions (syncretisms). Either way, they both lead to a mingling of grace with some kind of human achievement. <br><br>4. Human Love: refusal to admit that dead loved ones are lost, denial that they could possibly be in hell; wrong/bad doctrine kept afloat even though it obviously collides with the teachings of Scripture.<br><br>5. Blindness: The activity of the wicked one in this world (there are not only wolves in sheep's clothing, also tares among the wheat), also an outright hatred of the Gospel that uplifts the Lord Jesus Christ being preached, let alone properly preached; <br><br>6. Mingling the OT Law with God's grace in order to be saved (for example, can't eat certain foods, must keep the 10 commandments, have to keep the Sabbath, pray, etc).<br><br>7. Pride: Takes many forms among professors: Unrepentant of sins and really don't see where they have any, to "Lord, Lord, haven't we done many wonderful works in Your Name?"<br><br>As to your last statement, that my experience will not be mirrored exactly, I agree as far as the personal way I experienced it, but I disagree vehemently as far as the method (learning of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ's crucifixion, burial, resurrection). There is no other way to be saved except by this Gospel message.
These are all valuable considerations. But which churches are indulging in pride, which are blind to what it means to "properly preach" the Gospel, which churches are led astray by ethnic and cultural interests (is the Greek Orthodox Church an example -- although many non-Greek Christians are joining it as more authoritative than Protestants and less tainted with scandal than the Church of Rome?), and exactly which churches ARE guided by THE Holy Spirit? Is this a list that conveniently positions your own chosen church as the only one which qualifies? Or are these criteria firmly rooted in Scripture? <br><br>As to #2, the Bible does not make much of anything clear about Jewish leaders, and certainly doesn't establish that any one leadership body spoke for all Jews. In fact, it is pretty clear that there were at least two elite schools (Pharisee and Saducee) and a large number of plain folk who were neither, some of whom followed Jesus, some of whom didn't, and some of whom vacillated. I have heard the Gospel of John described as a flagrant anti-Semitic text, and I can't deny it from its own words, which troubles me. Since Ioannes was a Greek who wrote some 200 years after Jesus, perhaps its a case of Geopolitics and Ethnic/Cultural prejudice infecting one of the Gospels -- not as Jesus taught, but as it has come down to us.
It is up to the sincere disciple of the Lord to put in the time and effort necessary for maturing Spiritually, and the humble disciple who seeks the Truth, will find, to her/his eternal delight and sheer joy, that the Holy Bible is not some "infected" book that has "come down to us," but a gracious gift sent from the Lord Jesus Christ to bring them to a saving knowledge of Himself, both now - and forever.
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