The More I Follow Jesus, the Less I Like His Teaching

Friday, September 02, 2011

Over the years I have been increasingly troubled by the doctrine of Hell. As my love for God and my neighbor increased, the horror at the thought of many of those I love suffering eternal punishment had increased with it. In other words, this was not a crisis of faith, it was the result of my faith. The more I experienced God's grace in my life and grew to share Jesus' heart for the lost, the more I was troubled by Hell.

Now what makes this even more complicated is the fact that most of the statements about Hell found in the Bible are said by Jesus. The one who is leading me to question Hell, is the very one who teaches it. Similarly, Jesus is known for preaching love of enemies and nonviolence, yet many of his teachings use very violent imagery. Again, how can we understand these apparent contradictions? How can we think of Jesus as compassionate and loving when he says such harsh things?

There's a movement among emerging folks like me to focus on the teachings of Jesus over the doctrines of Paul as a way to get away from legalism and back to grace. I like the idea of getting to grace, but I've always had a problem with this for two reasons: First of all, Paul is all about grace, and any legalistic dogmatic interpretation of him is a misinterpretation. Second, Jesus (as we have seen) is anything but easy to interpret. In fact, if one takes a literalistic approach to the teachings of Jesus they are sure to come up with the most un-Christlike teachings imaginable. So in light of that, I'd like to offer a more sophisticated approach to interpreting the teachings of Jesus that take all of this into account.

Let's begin with the parable of the unmerciful servant (Mt 18:21-35). Jesus tells the story of a king who forgives his servant for a huge debt, but then when he hears that this same servant has refused forgive very small debt, the king becomes enraged. Jesus tells us that the king "handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed." and the concludes “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Now the debt the servant owed was basically unpayable. Scholars say that it was more money that an entire kingdom would have had, and so it would be like us saying "a zillion dollars" meaning he would never be able to pay it, and would thus be tortured forever. So are we to conclude from this that if we don't forgive others that God will torture us in hell forever? It is crucial here to look at the context: Jesus tells this parable in response to a question from Peter were he asked Jesus "how many times must I forgive, seven times?" Jesus answers "no, seventy -seven times" (v. 21-22). So if we read this like an accountant we would need to conclude that we should forgive 77 times, but God does not do this. God (according the parable here read in a pedantic fashion) does not even forgive seven times like Peter suggests, or two times for that matter. Just one chance and then that's it. God here appears at first infinitely merciful, forgiving a huge debt, and then suddenly flips and wants to torture us forever.

Does God suffer from some form of borderline personality disorder where he is at first loving and forgiving, and then suddenly becomes brutal and merciless? Are we more merciful than God? No, this is a parable, and a parable is essentially a loose analogy. As everyone knows, if any analogy is pressed too far it becomes absurd (as we can clearly see here). The broad point Jesus is making here is that it would be really horrible if we were forgiven a great debt, but then turned around and were merciless to others. We should treat others with the same grace that we need, and which God has richly shown us.

This is an interpretation that fits with the overall point of this pericope. To read it literalistically would mean that the point Jesus was making to Peter was completely undermined by Jesus' own parable -- be merciful as your Heavenly Father is... who is not merciful at all! Clearly, that cannot be what Jesus was trying to convey. To understand Jesus we need to listen to context of his larger point which is always about showing mercy to others, about radical unconditional grace.

Now, so far I've just been following rules of basic biblical interpretation -- considering genre (a parable), reading a passage in context (explaining to Peter why we should forgive more than seven times), and focusing on authorial intent (teaching that we should show great mercy as God has shown us great mercy). Let's take that a step further now: In the above parable Jesus compares God to a king who -- in the way dictators do -- flies into a rage and orders torture for an ungrateful servant. Yet if we keep reading in Matthew, we see that a couple chapters later, Jesus questions the entire idea of comparing God to a king. "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mt 20:25-28). In other words, Jesus models the way of God, not as one who "lords it over others" but as the servant Lord, and calls for us to embody that way too. Following Jesus means rejecting the way of domination, the way of kings.

So to the extent that you have embraced that idea, you will have a problem with the above parable of the king. You'll read "God is like an angry king" and think "No, Jesus teaches us that God is not at all like a king, God is like a suffering servant," and you would be absolutely right. In each of these parables, Jesus is turning our thinking upside down. He begins by turning the idea of payback on its head. When he says "not seven times, but seventy-seven" he is alluding to a passage from the Old Testament where Lamech says "If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times" (Gen 4:24), and reversing it. Jesus replaces escalation of violence with the escalation of mercy. In the second parable he is similarly dismantling our understanding of greatness, and redefining how we see God. God is the servant. Power is about lifting people up, not pushing them down.

In doing this, Jesus not only dismantles our traditional concepts of what justice and power are about, at the same time, he also dismantles his own parables. Once we have embraced Jesus' understanding of servant lordship, we cannot accept the crude comparison of God to a volatile dictator. So when reading these parables as disciples of Jesus, we need to keep in mind that each one is beginning with the assumptions of the crowds. He begins there, with their familiar ideas of kings and slaves and torture and then introduces a radical new idea into the mix which flips one of those ideas on its head. The more we embrace these ideas of Jesus' "upside-down kingdom," the more we will have trouble with the worldly assumptions that these very parables are situated in. That's not because we are disagreeing with Jesus here, but because we have fully embraced his new way of thinking. So the more we follow Jesus, the more we'll question the worldly values the parables are set in. That is, we can embrace the idea of forgiving a great debt (which is the point Jesus is making), but reject the idea that God is a torturing dictator (which reflect the worldview assumptions of his first century audience -- assumptions Jesus is repeatedly challenging).

That means that when we read statements about Hell and "torture," we need to ask whether these are the main point Jesus was trying to teach, or whether it is in fact part of the worldview that the people had already accepted -- like they had slavery and dictatorship -- which Jesus is dismantling bit by bit.

Consider the parable of the sheep and goats just a few chapters later in Matthew (Mt 25:31-46). Here we hear Jesus make some very harsh statements about Hell, "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels" (v. 41). But again, what is the central point that Jesus is illustrating here? It is not a description of how the last judgement will look. That is the assumed setting, just as the first parable we looked at assumed a king and servants. Here Jesus is drawing on the familiar apocalyptic imagery of his Jewish audience, and once again he is turning the tables: The righteous will not be determined because they are part of the right race or religion (as his audience thought), but rather by how they love the least. Jesus redefines what makes a person "in" or "out" -- you are in if you care for those who are out. In doing this, he tears down the very barrier separating insiders from outsiders. Once again, he begins with a common assumption (the image of the final judgement) and turns it on its head: you show your allegiance to God by how you love those who are condemned.

If you study all the passages that allude to hell in the Gospels, you will see this pattern over and over: Jesus is not in fact teaching "this is the way hell is" any more than he is teaching "God is like a emotional dictator." Rather, these are the people's assumptions that he begins with in order to introduce a radical new idea focused on grace. That's how we need to read Jesus, and that's a point that even many biblical scholars miss. Because in order to really get it, you need to follow. You need to adopt the way of Jesus, and let his heart become your own. The more I do that, the less I think God looks like a king or a judge, and the more I think God looks like Jesus who redefines all those terms, and indeed redefines how we conceive of God.

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71 Comments:

At 12:07 AM, Anonymous peter said...

Hi Derek,
it's perfectly clear for me, that we have to interpret Jesus with the presumption, that he is consistent and constructive. Thus, I agree, that the parables can be easily taken too literally. (There are some nice german books: Susanne Schmidt-Grether: "Jesus der Jude" Band1+2)

It's also clear to me, that we have always have to check, whether grace is still in the center of our understanding of god, our teaching, and - most importantly - our actions.

But I cannot see how this can remove the conflict between grace and the "Judgment-Theme" out of the gospel.
Take the very small parables in Matth. 24,39bf. Reduced to grace in the same way as you did above, it remains: "Time will end."

There is something missing....

Blessings
Peter

 
At 1:04 AM, Anonymous Derek said...

Peter, can you elaborate a bit on what you are referring to in Mt 24:39? I'm not able to follow what you are trying to say...

 
At 3:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Derek,

sorry, for being probably not very well understandable. (Yeah this sentence must sound amusing!) I'm not a native english speaker....

mt24,39b-41 is only one small example. Others are probably better to go into the grace-plus-judgment-thing.

Just to make clear: I'm not arguing against your opinion. For me, there is still something open, when I think this way further downstream.

When I understand you right, concerning mt18 you propose, that the grace part is the real message and the judgement part is only for the better unerstanding (or so).

Even if it may be right to do it with this parable, it's probably not generally possible to remove judgment out of jesus' teaching, i think.

If I do this with mt24 I strip away "one taken, the other left" (some kind of judgement, or?) then, what remains?

Blesings
Peter

 
At 8:07 AM, OpenID metacognizant said...

Derek, this is something I had realized recently myself. All of Jesus' teachings that involve God using some form of violence are in parables, and I came to the conclusion that Jesus was using these stories with commonsense notions of the time to convey something different than the violence. This is well-articulated, and I'll probably be referencing a few of my friends here in time.

I'm curious, though, as to your exact view on Hell. I read your article on it, so I'm aware you're a Christian Universalist, but I still don't understand the nooks and crannies of your position. In particular, on your view, for those "out" in the parable in Mt. 25 mentioned, do they go through a period of purification (intense enough to fittingly be called Hell) after death until they themselves choose to love the least, or do they simply go to God after death?

 
At 10:20 AM, Anonymous Derek said...

Peter,

Feel free to write in German if you like. I can translate it into English here. In the passage you cite, I would not classify this as a parable at all. Jesus is warning here of a coming disaster. Some think it refers to the end of the world, others (NT Wright for example) think it referred to the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. Broadly I would say that Jesus message here is something like "judgement is coming, and so your response should be to practice radical forgiveness and love of enemies." In other words, the way of violence (which many Jews had embraced including Paul before his conversion) will reap violence, and so we should adopt the way of Jesus instead. That's the broad message. Here in this verse, the message is simply "watch out! Wake up!" with the implication of leading a moral life.

As far as how judgment fits with grace, I think Paul helps to clarify (I believe in reading the whole NT together, and letting each part shed light on the other parts as a whole). Paul's message is that we are headed for judgment as long as we embrace judgement (i.e. judging others and hoping that God will "get the bad guys"). Paul argues in Romans that the problem is we all are "bad guys" and so that attitude of judgement will come back and destroy us too. So we should adopt the way of grace (unmerited love) in order to stop the cycle of violence. That is how God works to bring about real justice. So if you will, justice and judgement are in conflict. But more accurately, I'd say that justice is the solution for judgement in the sense that judgement is the consequence of sickness, and justice is the way God heals our sickness.

 
At 11:00 AM, Anonymous Derek said...

Meta,

I think the best way to describe me is a "hopeful universalist." That is, I hope that God will be able to make things right despite our stupidity and hurt. I do not believe in universalism in the sense of saying "everything is fine" or that there will be no consequences. What I see is a cause for hope based on the character of God (amazing grace), and on the surprise of the cross which shows how God can turn an impossibly bad thing into the source of life, raising the dead and vindicating the condemned. That gives me a basis for hope that "love wins."


How God might do that I have no idea. I don't think anyone saw the cross coming. Isaiah maybe came the closest and he writes "who can accept this message?" because it seems so crazy. So perhaps God will work to purify people in some kind of "hell" leading them to repentance, but I tend to think instead that God will do something that we cannot imagine right now, just as we could not have imagined the cross. Something that is amazing, surprising, and wonderful. I do certainly think that *something* needs to happen in their lives that leads to their sanctification/healing, as opposed to God just saying "that's okay, forget it" since that would not make them better, and so the cycle of hurt would continue.

 
At 9:39 PM, Blogger Josh said...

Interesting reading, Derek--as usual.

A few additions:

1) The word that Jesus uses that is typically translated "hell" is Gehenna--a place on earth, not an other-worldly realm. I don't understand why translators don't simply transliterate it.

2) The genre of parable often seems to end with a threat of judgment, the function of which seems to be emphasis--like an exclamation point at the end of a sentence. This function is not dependent on a literal translation.

3) Human language has limitations. If God is just, then injustice (evil, sin) makes God angry. If the Bible's writers had not employed language describing divine wrath, then how else might they have conveyed God's rejection of injustice?

 
At 4:12 PM, Blogger Kansas Bob said...

Great read Derek! Thanks for writing it.

A question I think about these days is whether we are born immortal or if we become immortal when we are born spiritually (i.e. born of the Spirit). I like the latter idea because it cleanly deals with the afterlife by proposing that only people who have been born spiritually live after they die.

Please let me know if you have written about this or if you have any input on the question.

 
At 11:06 PM, Blogger Teresa Johannesma Wood said...

I was browsing about, like I usually do at night, searching out various subjects of interest. I came upon your site and read some of the material you have posted. What are your thoughts about Mid Acts Dispensationalism or sometimes referred to as hyper-dispensationalism by the opposition. ***note- I read the Bible through a Mid Acts Pauline Dispensational rightly divided approach, 2 Timothy 2:15 and I am curious how the emergent church views this ??? Derek

 
At 11:10 PM, Blogger Teresa Johannesma Wood said...

By the way , this page signed me in under my wife's account when I wanted to post my question. It is kind of funny because I am Derek and there is already another Derek on this thread :-)

 
At 11:14 PM, Blogger Teresa Johannesma Wood said...

Here is my YT channel if our lines get crossed. http://www.youtube.com/user/midactsD?feature=mhee

 
At 12:05 AM, Anonymous Derek said...

Derek,
Well, if I understand your question correctly, I tend not to believe in any type of dispensationalism, since it seems to imply that God changes how he acts towards people (first without grace, then with grace, then without grace). I would instead stress that the way of Jesus (=grace) has always been (and always will be) God's way. So Jesus does not reveal a dispensation, rather Jesus reveals God's true nature and way.

Derek

 
At 8:46 AM, Blogger Teresa Johannesma Wood said...

So you would view the God's dealings with man as Covenant in nature ? Like the Covenant theologians ?

 
At 9:09 AM, Blogger Teresa Johannesma Wood said...

There was a typo, it was not supposed to read "the God's" dealings ;-) , I understand what you are saying about God's Grace but what about how God dealt with the Israel as a nation in" times past" under the Law contract , yet in the "but now" , how God deals deals with individuals not nations (neither Jew nor Gentile ) in this age of Grace and how God will once again deal with the Jews in the "ages to come" to fulfill His prophetic promises. I understand the Bible through two programs, Prophecy versus Mystery . Prophecy dealing with Israel , Mystery given to us by our Apostle Paul.

 
At 9:23 AM, Blogger Teresa Johannesma Wood said...

If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.Ephesians 3-7 * note the word Dispensation and Mystery. Just food for thought.

Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. Philippians 3:17

For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: Romans 11:13

 
At 7:58 AM, Anonymous True Believer said...

Derek,

One simple Biblical principle at the heart of God's relationship with man explains how an omnipotent omni-beneficent God can accommodate any degree of misuse of human free will and have love and goodness prevail in the end. It explains the issues of hell and theodicy, and how a totally loving, beneficent, omnipotent God could allow humanity to blow itself up in the years to come, and still prevail in his love. Taken a bit deeper, it also explains why the essence of our relationship with God is such that He suffers with us.

This principle at the heart of our relationship with God is clearly present within the Bible if one knows where to look, but despite being written about by one of the early church fathers it is not a part of orthodoxy. In fact the principle was condemned by orthodoxy as being heretical by people who did not even understand what was being said (i.e. politics at its worst).

I'd be happy to say more about this, but invite to to reflect on your understanding of Biblical eschatology to see if the answer comes to you.

Blessings

 
At 8:54 AM, Anonymous Derek said...

Kansaus Bob,

"are we born immortal or do we become immortal when we are born spiritually (i.e. born of the Spirit)."

I think the majority of Paulinian scholars would say that Paul thought it was the later. That's why we become a new creation, and come alive "in Christ." Salvation entails vivification. So from the perspective of Christus Victor, because Christ has conquered death, we have eternal life through the Spirit.

 
At 9:17 AM, Anonymous Derek said...

Derek,
I'm familiar with the passages you quote above, but I would not say that God has different ways of dealing with folks in different seasons, but rather that before Christ folks only saw God through a dark veil, and that God was only truly revealed in Christ. So now it has been "made known" and "revealed" in Christ who God has always been.

The word translated as "dispensation" in Eph 3 in the KJV is I think better translated as "commission," meaning that Paul has been given a *task* by God to proclaim grace to everyone. That has always been God's way, but it had been "hidden" until then.

 
At 3:10 PM, Blogger Kansas Bob said...

Thanks Derek for the response on being born immortal or becoming mortal when we are born again. From what you say can I extrapolate that you would say that all people do not live past death because they have not all been born of the Spirit?

 
At 8:04 PM, Anonymous Derek said...

It seems like a reasonable conclusion. But I don't really feel I have studied it closely in Paul's writings enough to say.

 
At 12:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Derek this is FANTASTIC! I love the "upside down" way you think - it has really opened my mind!
I especially loved your series on Christus Victor - I did a 3-part summary of it on Facebook and it was very well received.
Tess

 
At 5:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In arguing about the problem of evil and suffering I use to try to place God in a human category and say He must behave a certain way. What I failed to take into consideration is the holiness of God. God is set apart from His creation and transcendent. He's distinct. We are to imitate God in His holiness in certain ways but there are also ways we are not to imitate God. We cannot be like God in every way. He alone is God and He therefore has rights and prerogatives that we don't have. Just to name a few ways I'm not like God: God is infinite in wisdom, God is all-powerful, God is sovereign, God is self-sufficient, God is all-knowing. When I try to be like God in every way it leads to pride and arrogance. He is the Creator and I am the creature.

The Bible tells us that God is love. It doesn't say He is ONLY love. And while God is love it's a holy love. For the Bible says that God is holy, holy, holy. Not only this but the Bible also speaks of a holy hatred that God has. So, it's my contention that the problem of evil and suffering doesn't even get started. For God's love isn't merely a human love but a holy love. This isn't the same omnibenevolence that we try to ascribe to God. For God has a holy hatred as well. Nonetheless, He is completely holy and deserves our worship.

 
At 8:05 PM, Anonymous Derek said...

Hi Anon,

The idea of "holy love" is one that goes all the way back to John Wesley, and since Methodism was extremely influential is shaping American evangelicalism beginning in the 1800-1900's, the idea of "holy love" has become a very common one among evangelicals. When I attended Asbury Theological Seminary, it was the first lesson we learned in fact.

So I'm very familiar with the distinction you make here of "holy love." The problem (as a fellow Wesleyan theolgian Thomas Jay Oord has pointed out) is that the qualification of "holy love" is not found anywhere in the Bible. Like Oord I also have a problem with the term because holiness as it is commonly understood within evangelicalism means "separation from sin" and so you often hear us evangelicals say things like "God cannot be where there is sin because God is holy." The problem with this is that Jesus is the one who should be our picture of what holiness looks like. Jesus is after all the "perfect" one, the "spotless lamb," the true picture of holiness. But Jesus goes out of his way to hang out with sinners. In doing so Jesus purposely disrupts and calls into question that understanding of holiness that the Pharisees had (and that for some odd reason many evangelicals have likewise adopted).

So since people commonly have a messed up understanding of holiness, I don't think it is a helpful qualifier, and in fact tend to bring us to very un-Christlike understandings. If we have any qualifiers, I would want to rather speak of "Christ-like love" meaning a love that reflects the character and way of Christ.

As for imitation of God, you are right of course that we are not supposed to imitate every aspect of God. For example God is able to judge others in a way that you or I cannot since we do not know another's heart. However, as far as morals and character go, we are absolutely supposed to reflect God. There is not a moral double standard. So if God does "hate" something as you say, then so should we. Now when you say that God has a "holy hatred" I would agree with you if you mean God hates sin. I hate it too. But God does not hate people. In fact, God loves us, even when we are in sin. He loves us so much that he sent his only Son to die for us "while we were yet sinners". That's the gospel. God loved us and gave his life for us while we were his enemies, and that unmerited grace is what turns us around (repentance), and makes us want to love others with that same amazing transforming love.

So when you say "The Bible tells us that God is love. It doesn't say He is ONLY love." I think you need to re-think that. No where does it say "God is hate" because hate is not a character trait of God. In contrast, love is a character trait of God. Not only that, love is clearly in the NT the primary character trait of God (and specifically the love we see in what God has done for us in Christ). So therefore love is not merely one attribute of God among many, it is THE primary defining attribute above all others. All other attributes of God need to be understood in the context of Christ-like love.

 
At 9:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The way I was using holiness was in the sense of "otherness"
Holy refers to everything that seperates God from the rest of creation. This would include moral purity but its not limited to it. Holiness is God's primary attribute for it is the only attribute that is repeated three times in a row for emphasis to express its importance. So, since God is holy all the rest of His attributes are holy as well. All attributes need to be understood in the context of His holiness.

Would you like for me to show you some scriptures that say God hates not only sin but sinners as well? They teach that God abhors the wicked and hates them.

 
At 11:30 PM, Anonymous Derek said...

That view could not possibly be less Christian. Christianity is about a God who loves sinners, not a God who hates them.

So, no I don't want to hear about your God of hatred. If you are preaching hate then you should take that somewhere else.

 
At 11:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't preach hate. My God says: Vengeance is Mine. I will repay. Rather if your enemy is hungry feed Him. God teaches us to love our enemies.

 
At 7:35 AM, Anonymous Derek said...

Does God love his enemies too, or does God hate them?

 
At 12:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

God loves some of His enemies. While we were yet sinners Christ died for us. But God has a holy hatred towards the reprobate. God is the Judge not us. He is perfect and therefore has the right to judge.

Psalms 5:5

The boastful shall not stand before your eyes;
you hate all evildoers.
You destroy those who speak lies;
the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.

 
At 4:25 PM, Anonymous Derek said...

So God loves those who will repent, but hates those who won't. As Jesus says, "Big deal. Even sinners do that."

What you are describing is classic hyper-Calvinism. It does not however reflect what Jesus teaches. Jesus says that we should love our enemies, and that when we do we will "be like our heavenly Father" who is the model of enemy love.

My guess is that you are too entrenched in your Calvinism to hear this now. In my experience, people cling to Calvinism because they have been hurt in some way and desperately need to make sense of the world. Calvinism provides this through its harsh understanding of double predestination. The problem is that this also causes people to adopt a view of others that goes in the opposite direction of grace and compassion -- to defending and advocating the idea that God hates.

So I pray that one day you will truly experience God's overwhelming and healing grace and that this will allow you to break out of the bondage of Calvinism. One step in that direction is to see that God is not above and distant, causing your suffering, but rather God is with you in your suffering, hurting and grieving with you.

 
At 6:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

God doesn't cause suffering He permitts it. I see you can't deal with what the Bible teaches. I don't believe in double predestination in the sense that God has POSITIVELY predestined the reprobate to perish. No, He passes over them and allows them to die in their sins. He gives them over to their reprobate mind. Don't worry about me. Christ has removed God's wrath from my vision at the cross. I can now see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. By beholding His glory I am being transformed into the image of Christ. And as I already explained God says, "Vengeance is Mine. I will repay. Rather if your enemy is hungry feed him." When my faith is in God my heart opens up to love the enemy.

 
At 4:46 AM, Blogger Kansas Bob said...

I agree with Derek. When we love our enemies we are like our heavenly Father. I do find it interesting how many believe the Lord to be a vengeful God or wrath when so much of the NT says that He loves the world and wants us to do the same. Perhaps some simply have a predisposition in that direction?

 
At 4:50 PM, Anonymous Andrew said...

It might indeed be a predisposition. When I first encountered Calvinism I was floored. I really could not believe that people believed this stuff.
There is no use debating this--God's character will pierce the darkness of this world as long as we continue to share Him with others.

 
At 1:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the past, I have had mixed feelings about the Holy as well because I was living in sin. On the one hand God has a holy hatred towards sin. On the other hand He's compassinate and merciful. It's both/and not either/or. God is both wrathful and merciful. We see this at the cross where God's wrath and His mercy meet. On the one hand I was repulsed and wanted to run away from the Holy, but at the same time I was drawn and attracted to the Holy. Grace and wrath.

Now - because I've been covered in the righteousness of Christ -there is no condemnation for me. My sin has been covered by the robes of Christ's rightousness and God's wrath has been removed from my vision. I can approach God with a bold humility and in His presence there is fullness of joy. I am intrigued by God's holiness. God is opening my eyes up more and more to see more of the glory of Christ. That is, He is opening up my eyes to see His holiness as lovely and beautiful. The more beautiful He becomes in all His holiness the uglier my sin becomes and the more I want to be like Him in His purity.

 
At 4:09 PM, Anonymous Derek said...

I think there is something to the idea of having a predisposition towards grace or law, but I also believe that our predispositions are formed to a huge extent by our relationships and experiences. Those relational experiences shape and form us so that we are predisposed towards one particular way of seeing. That's good because it allows for the possibility of our way being changed by God's grace.

In the case of Anon, that course has allowed them to move from sin towards holiness, and for me (and I suspect for Bob and Andrew) having traveled on the road of grace a bit longer, we have moved beyond holiness (the idea of following what is right) to the much deeper idea of grace (the idea of loving people even when they are wrong and hurtful in order to move towards making things right).

When I was in n earlier part of my relationship with God, I did not really understand grace, and so I would similarly talk about what is wrong and right. But the Holt Spirit slowly taught me that real love means sticking by someone even of they make wrong choices--that's what grace looks like. I don't think you can just hear that kind of thing explained to you. You need to live through it to really get it. You need to be broken by it like the guy who wrote Amazing Grace was. You only can understand grace like that by experiencing it first hand, and that is for a lot of people (myself included) not something that you learn though being born again (as important as that is!) but rather it is the fruit of spiritual maturity that comes from walking in that relationship with God and dealing with other broken people for a long time. It is something that only the mature can understand, because you can't really get it until you've seen a lot of life.

 
At 4:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

we have moved beyond holiness (the idea of following what is right) to the much deeper idea of grace (the idea of loving people even when they are wrong and hurtful in order to move towards making things right).

Is the idea of loving people even when they are wrong and hurtful a good action? Do you see the point I just made? I'm not sure how you move beyond holiness. You have just claimed you are beyond God.

BTW I too try to love those who hurt me and are wrong. Can't say I'm always perfect at it though. I just place my faith in God when He says, "Vengeance is Mine I will repay. Rather if your enemy is hungry feed him." All sin was either paid for at the cross or it will be paid for in hell. Either way vengeance belongs to God alone. Not me. He's the Judge. Not me. When my faith is in Him it opens my heart up to love the enemy. This is faith working itself out through love. Just as Jesus trusted and relied upon God. I try to do the same.

 
At 5:33 PM, Anonymous Derek said...

I don't think any of us claim we are "beyond God" but rather that we have moved away from a primitive understanding of a violent punitive God towards the image of God revealed in Christ who loves his enemies. It's about moving from law to grace, from Moses to Jesus, from OT to NT.

That is the very heart of the gospel that Paul proclaims. The conversion that Paul underwent was not one where he is converting from paganism, but rather one where he is someone with lots of religious education, a Pharisee trained in the Bible, who believes that his persecution of the Christians (including his participation in the killing of Stephen) is something God wants him to do to be holy. Paul converts away from that religious violence as the picture of holiness, to the way of Christ which entails a totally different way, the way of grace, which he describes as "apart from law" (meaning (not the same as, beyond the law), but nevertheless "testified to in the law and prophets." Paul learned that way because people in the church loved him even though he had hurt them, and their loving their enemy turned Paul around and turned his messed up idea of a hateful God around too.

 
At 5:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes. Paul also said in Romans to leave room for God's wrath for vengeance belongs to God. We are to follow in the footsteps of Christ and trust God and love the enemy. I've repeated this about 5 times now but you still think I hate my enemies for some reason. It's quite strange to me why you continually do this. When Jesus fulfilled the law it's original use changed. A new era has dawned and we (as Jesus followers)relate to the law differently than Israel did. Here are some of the changes:

1. Jesus nullified the OT ceremonial laws.

2. Jesus said that it was all summed up in love. In saying this, Jesus directed us away from a focus on the commandments per se and toward a relationship with Himself that bears the fruit of love.

3. The people of God are no longer defined by ethnicity or by participation in the theocratic system of kings and priests and judges and all the ceremonial and civic laws that held that system together. The people would be defined by faith in Jesus and the fruit of love. No longer is it God's will that His people take vengeance in His name on the wicked. No longer do God's people govern themselves by putting to death blasphemers or adulterers, or fornicators or Sabbath-breakers or sorceresses or false witnesses or those who disobey their parents.

4. The entire religious system involving priests and temple and sacrifices reached its goal and end in Jesus.

 
At 6:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's also strange that you think you have moved beyond holiness. Again, there are ways we are to be like God and ways we are not. He alone is God and He therefore has rights and prerogatives that we don't. When I'm in the HOLY Spirit's presence I'm:

Humble

Content

At peace

Thankful

Full of joy

Self-Controlled

Faithful

Patient

Kind

Loving

Forgiving

 
At 11:29 PM, Anonymous Derek said...

I never said you hate your enemies, but you have said repeatedly that God hates his enemies. That is a false image of God. God is revealed in Christ. But I don't imagine that you have ears to hear that. I pray that one day you will.

 
At 2:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, God is showing His common graces right now on His enemies. He causes it to rain on the just and the unjust alike. But there's comming a time when that will be over and He will pour out His holy hatred on the reprobate in Hell. I lean towards the idea that the reprobate will be destroyed and turned to ashes under God's holy wrath. It is possible though that after God destroys the reprobate He will resurrect them and bring them into heaven. Either way I don't think God's holy hatred will last forever. The Bible tells us that His anger lasts only a moment. But His mercy endures forever.

 
At 6:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also agree that Christ was defeating evil and death in His death and resurrection. But this isn't the only thing He was doing. The Gospel is a multifaceted diamond. Here's a few things that Christ was doing in His death and resurrection:

1 Removing God's wrath
2 Pleasing His Heavenly Father
3 Learning Obedience and Being Perfected
4 Achieving His Own Resurrection from the Dead
5 Showing the Wealth of God’s Love and Grace for Sinners
6 Showing His Own Love for Us
7 Canceling the Legal Demands of the Law Against Us
8 Becoming a Ransom for Many
9 Forgiving Our Sins
10 Providing the Basis for Our Justification
11 Completing the Obedience That Becomes Our Righteousness
12 Taking Away Our Condemnation
13 Abolishing Circumcision and All Rituals as the Basis of Salvation
14 Bringing Us to Faith
15 Making Us Holy, Blameless, and Perfect
16 Giving Us a Clear Conscience
17 Obtaining for Us All Things That Are Good for Us
18 Giving Eternal Life to All Who Believe on Him
19 Delivering Us from the Present Evil Age
20 Bringing Us to God
21 Giving Us Confident Access to the Holiest Place
22 Freeing Us from the Slavery of Sin That We Might Die to Sin and Live to Righteousness
23 Enabling Us to Live for Christ and Not Ourselves
24 Freeing Us from Bondage to the Fear of Death
25 Securing Our Resurrection from the Dead
26 Disarming the Rulers and Authorities
27 Destroying the Hostility Between Races
28 Ransoming People from Every Tribe and Language and People and Nation
29 Rescuing Us from Final Judgment
30 Gaining His Joy and Ours
31 Showing That the Worst Evil Is Meant by God for Good

 
At 9:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're also trying to strip Christ of His authority. He makes demands all through the Gospels:

1. You must be born again

2. Repent

3. Come to me

4. Believe in me

5. Love me

6. Listen to me

7. Abide in me

8. Take up your cross and follow me

9. Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind

10. Rejoice and leap for joy

11. Fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell

12. Worship God in Spirit and truth

13. Do not be anxious about the necessities of daily life

14. Humble yourself

15. Do not be anxious about the threats of man

16. Do not be angry

17. Do the will of my Father who is in heaven

18. Strive to enter through the narrow door

19. Your righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees

20. Love your enemies

21. Believe in God

22. Believe in me

23. Love your neigbor as yourself

24. Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven by giving sacrificially and generously

25. Do not take an oath

26. Baptize disciples and eat the Lord's supper

27. Let your light shine before others

28. Make disciples of all nations

 
At 2:41 AM, Anonymous Andrew Lamour said...

Perhaps another way of looking at the word 'holy' is separation. Not a separation from something, but a separation for a specific purpose. This was Israel's greatest sin of omission. They failed to live up to their elective status as a people who were called to make known their God to the godless nations. Thus our call to holiness is not to live isolated lives but to see our holiness as a privileged call to be witnesses of God to a godless world. Therefore God sent his Son. And therefore God commissions us…that is our responsibility of holiness.

 
At 2:47 AM, Anonymous Andrew Lamour said...

Derek, allow me to thank you for a great blog and a very informative post. You have given substance and clarity to my befuddled thoughts. Would you mind writing something on Universalism?

 
At 8:06 AM, Anonymous Derek said...

Andrew,

I like what you say about holiness meaning "separation" in the sense of being "set apart" as an example of goodness in the midst of a hurting world, rather than being isolated from it. That's good stuff.

Can you elaborate a but on the universalism thing: where their certain questions in particular around universalism you wanted me to address?

 
At 8:40 AM, Blogger Kansas Bob said...

@Derek - One question I have about Universalism is why some adherents believe that folks will have a second chance after they die. That view seems to presuppose that time will exist (in the same way that it does before death) after we die.

To me the idea that only people who have been born of the Spirit have a spirit which will survive death makes sense. The idea that all people have immortal spirits doesn't make sense - to me anyway.

 
At 11:30 AM, Blogger Peter Gurry said...

Derek,

Good reflection on an important parable. But I wonder if you haven't missed one more layer of reversal that's there. You're quip that the parable seems to be saying "be merciful as your Heavenly Father is... who is not merciful at all!" is spot-on. The king's treatment of the servant at the end seems anything but merciful. But then the fact that Jesus says it is his heavenly "Father" who will do this should give us pause. Perhaps we are seeing schizophrenia where Jesus saw none.

I think the key may be in realizing both the parallels and the disjunctions between the master and the servant. Both are given opportunity to be merciful. That the obvious parallel. But it cannot be said that both are also shown mercy. Only the servant is shown mercy--and it is extraordinary! Zillions, as you say. But the master is shown mercy by no one. That's the disjuction. The master cannot be shown mercy by anyone because he is indebted to no one. He owes no one anything. So who could begrudge him withholding mercy? How could anyone legitimately compare the servant's lack of mercy to the master's? When the master withholds mercy he does no wrong. Quite the contrary! It is fully within his purview to ask to be paid what he is owed.

But the same cannot be said of the servant. He is not in the same position of owing no one anything. So there is an important difference (in kind, not just degree) between the master when he withholds mercy and the servant when he does the same.

This helps us when we come to the statement that the servant "should have" had mercy on his fellow servant. That "should have" cannot apply to the master the way it does to the servant. The reason it can't is that the difference between them is not just one of degree (how much is owed) but of kind (the indebtedness of the one owed).

Seen in this light, would it not be perverted to judge the master by the same essential standard as the servant? I wonder if this isn't Jesus' deeper objective. This may be the most radical point where Jesus is turning our assumptions on their head.

It is not simply a parable about our need to forgive (though it is that). But it is a parable about the way our gut-thinking about forgiveness exposes our deepest sin. For us to withhold forgiveness from our fellow man is tantamount to idolatry. It is to act as if we are the most offended party involved when we are not. God is always the most offended party (cf. Gen 39:9; Ps 51:4). We never are. To act otherwise--say, by withholding forgiveness--is to put ourselves in the place of God. It is idolatry. Jesus is not just exposing the calcified nature of our hearts. He is exposing the river of idolatry that cascades right through it.

Given this interpretation, how could a loving God's response be anything other than the punishment we see in the parable's closing lines? How could it be good for God to show mercy to those who use it to fuel their own idolatry?

Jesus may well be dismantling a worldview in this parable. But it is a worldview that marks our own day as much as his. It is a worldview that would put the creature in place of the Creator.

 
At 5:56 PM, Anonymous Derek said...

Peter,

I agree that the master in the parable does not owe the servant mercy. But isn't that what grace is all about: *unmerited* favor. That's why grace is called "amazing"! Loving your friends is just and fair. Doing good to those who do good to you is just and fair. Grace goes way beyond fairness and justice in the sense of what is "deserved" and demonstrates love of enemies. God demonstrated this love for us when he gave his only son for us while we were sinners and in doing so he brought about true justice by making the ungodly godly.

This parable pushes us in that direction, in the direction of forgiving radically, but the master in that parable does not give us the full picture of who God is. That full picture of the father is seen in Christ and in what Christ did for us sinners. That's what God's love is like.

 
At 6:07 PM, Anonymous Derek said...

Kansas Bob,

I hope that people will have a second chance after they die because I love them. I don't know if it makes sense. I'm not sure that it makes sense to believe in resurrection. But that is what my heart longs for. I long to see people restored and healed. I long for love to win.

I don't know anything about time in the afterlife, or how immortality works exactly. But I do know about grace because I have experienced it in my life, and I deeply long for grace to win everyone over, and for it to transform everyone, reconciling them all.

Really I think that our job is not to figure out the mechanics of eternity and immortality. How in the world could we know about these things? Or better yet: how could we know what God's limits are? I think our job is to be ambassadors of grace.

 
At 10:27 PM, Blogger Peter Gurry said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 5:30 AM, Blogger Kansas Bob said...

Thanks Derek. I have not found a Christian Universalist that has considered the idea that time will not exist after we die. If it did exist then our existence would not be too much different than it is now because God exists outside of time and we would not be in His presence because we would be inside of time and he outside of time.

That seems to be a hole in the logic that people will have a second chance in some sort of purgatory type of existence. It is one of the reasons I do not think that people who are not born of the Spirit this side of death will have a spirit that will survive death. Those will simply cease to exist when their flesh expires because they were not spiritually born.

 
At 8:24 AM, Anonymous Derek said...

How do you know God is outside of time?

 
At 9:24 AM, Blogger Kansas Bob said...

If God exists inside of time then He created something that is greater than Himself which makes time God.

 
At 9:45 AM, Anonymous Derek said...

I don't see why that follows. You could say he same about God's goodness: "God can't be good and must be outside of good and evil, otherwise God would be subject to goodness and not be God." Yet I doubt you would say that God is not good or beyond good and evil (I certainly wouldn't).

Saying that God is good does in some sense limit God (God cannot be evil), but it does not diminish God. Saying that God is inside of time also does not diminish God.

If you are interested in this topic, it is covered under what is known as "open theism" which there are quite a few books on you could pick up.

 
At 10:42 AM, Blogger Kansas Bob said...

Using your logic then it would follow that God is simply the sum of natural laws such as gravity. I think that is different than saying that He is good or loving because He created natural law but did not create His character.

 
At 11:05 AM, Anonymous Derek said...

Who says God created natural laws?

 
At 1:11 PM, Blogger Kansas Bob said...

Natural law seem to be a logical extrapolation from Genesis 1. Who do you think created gravity or the concept that we have of the passage of time?

 
At 3:35 PM, Anonymous Derek said...

I don't think anyone "created" gravity at all. Just as God does not "make you fall" when you jump off a diving board, and instead this is simply the result of gravity, in the same way no one "created" gravity either. Gravitational force is caused because large masses (like the earth) attract smaller ones (like us).

It's just physics. In other words, it is simply how the universe works. I don't think God "made up" physics any more than God "made up" goodness. They are not arbitrary.

I also don't think the Bible tries to address these things. These are the kinds of metaphysical questions that Greek philosophy focuses on, but they are not the kind of thing that the Hebrew Scriptures address. Consequently I don't see it as implicit in the Genesis story at all. The Genesis account is not about physics or natural science. It is about theology -- specifically in describing the "fall" of the created order. In other words, it is not about evolution or where time came from, but is instead is a narrative about human nature and why things are messed up with us.

 
At 3:39 PM, Blogger Kansas Bob said...

Do you ascribe to the idea that God is the Creator? If so what do you believe that created? If he created the universe then He certainly created the laws that govern it.

 
At 9:04 PM, Anonymous Derek said...

I do believe that God is the creator but I don't think it follows from that God is outside of time.

It seems to me though that our conversation is at this point kind going in circles because we are beginning from such different paradigms. Like I said before, what I am basically articulating is an Open Theism perspective. If you'd like to read more about that a good place to start would be "The Openness of God" by the late Charles Pinnock et al. It deals with the subject from the ground up, which is something that really isn't possible in these little exchanges here, and so I think it would help a lot more to give that a read.

Another good resource is the Evangelical Universalist forums. There are lots of different perspectives of how evangelical universalists understand time, and mine is just one perspective. There you'd bump into a lot of other ones that you might resonate more with. I think there is certainly room for disagreement here.

 
At 7:35 AM, Blogger Kansas Bob said...

Color me confused. Are you saying that God created the universe and did not create the rules that the universe operates in?

If God is not outside of time then it would follow that He is inside of it and governed by the limitations of time. In that scenario it seems that time is greater than God and, in a sense, time replaces God as God.

Okay to disagree though. I am not a Universalist and really am not interested in a discussion of it as I have had many such discussions already. My original point was that Christian Universalists embrace a view of the post-death experience that embraces a continuation of time as we know it today. Your views in our dialog simply substantiate my point.

 
At 5:17 PM, Blogger Maris Mols said...

Sorry, didn't read all the comments. Just wanted to share my view on Hell.

If a person really wants to die - do you think God will let this person die or will he force him to live?

The problem of sin is not legal in the core. But sin is a way of thinking and life that destroys us from inside. I believe that at the very end of the sinfull unrepentant life lies suicide. This is the hell, the ultimate consequence of the sin - self-desctruction.

That would be nice if God could convert everyone into life, wouldn't it. But on the other hand wouldn't that mean a lack of freedom - because whatever views you may hold, eventually God will trick you into accepting His own ideas anyway.

People will not go to heaven not because God doesn't want them to be there, but because they are not able to be part of society that God has in mind. They are not willing to change they core principles, they would rather die than change. That is the hell.

I don't know how exactly its going to happen, but does it really matter. I'm happy that God is a God of freedom.

 
At 8:22 PM, Anonymous Derek said...

Maris,

There are basically two factors at play here that are both quite important. One is the subject of freewill that you bring up. I agree with you that freewill is very important and that God respects our choices. I certainly don't think that God will "trick" anyone.

The other factor which I think you are overlooking is that people are not just rational. Psychologists have become deeply aware that we do all sorts of things that are not simply rational, and that those things can be self-defeating and destructive. The Bible speaks of this when it describes people as being "hard hearted," "blind," and "slaves to sin."

One example is the way a person who is drowning will sometimes pull the person who is trying to rescue them down under the water, downing them both. This is not a rational choice they make, rather they are in an utter panic and are out of control. That's why life guards use that special neck hold that I'm sure you've seen. Once on the beach the person is back to normal and will tell you that they certainly did not want to drown or to drown the lifeguard either.

A choice for Hell is not a rational legitimate choice, it can only be a misinformed, dumb choice. While God does respect our real choices, God -- like that lifeguard -- should not respect our "choices" when they are irrational, blind, and dumb. If God knows our hearts, then I'm sure that God is able to tell the difference.

If you have not read it already, I discuss this in more detail in the article on Hell linked to in the articles section above.





The NT speaks of this in terms of "blindness"

 
At 3:14 PM, Anonymous Bundesbedenkenträger said...

So this would be where double predestination might come in again: Some will go to hell. BTW, trying to defend Calvin a bit: For him, the whole predestination thought had the use to secure that we as believers are saved, and that no priest, bishop or pope could ever steal that from us. As a matter of logic, reading his bible, he read about people being destined to damnation so he adds that they seem to also exist. But it isn't so much his point from what I have read by him. And it doesn't appear that he is too happy about it either, I rather remember a slight disappointedness, plus he always comes back again to the security we gain from being elected by God which nobody can take away from us.

And thank you very much Derek for the article and discussions here. It was a pleasure reading.

 
At 5:38 PM, Blogger Irene said...

Without quoting Bible verses, etc. I can say I do not believe in hell after death. I do believe God will let us live in hell here on earth - fire purifies us. I believe God chooses us - in His own time! He calls us unto Him. How many do you know that went to the front of the church & prayed the sinner prayer - changed them for a short time, but today they are living in the world. God was not calling them - they did it out of the emotions, etc. Jesus died to save the WORLD! Many so-called Christians do not know the truth of Jesus due to the many, many false doctrines. God will call each & everyone of us in HIS own time. I do NOT know how HE will do this - but I believe in what HE said. He knew us before the foundations of the earth, we are created in HIS image - not to be tortured in a everlasting hell, but to join HIS family. God is building a family and God is love - He would not create us to destroy us - that would not be love! God does not make mistakes - no one is a mistake. HE will be successful - but I do not claim to know how God will do this - I know though God will not fail.

 
At 6:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I attend a Pentecostal church in South Wales, UK and am increasingly concerned about the emphasis on "correct" belief rather than allowing our belief to be shaped by experiencing the love of God. It's causing me problems, not only at church but in my relationship with my wife who thinks I'm not "saved" because I don't understand the trinity and what happened on the cross in the same way that she and the church do (penal substitution seems to fly in the face of Jesus's free forgiveness and he never taught orthodoxy or trinitarianism per se as far as I can tell). She is becoming reluctant even to pray with me.

Do you have any advice on how I can better explain/express my understanding?

 
At 7:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why does the majority of the Christian church seem to advocate separation (what we mustn't do) rather than engagement without which we can do nothing. For example, what can people who go to pubs and bars hear without a preacher and how will a preacher preach unless he is (believes that he can be) sent? (Rom 10:14-15). Are not pubs and bars included in "all the earth" and "the ends of the Earth"? (Rom 10:18)

 
At 8:12 AM, Anonymous Derek said...

I would suggest speaking with her and trying to listen to and validate her concerns and fears. Demonstrate to her that you take these concerns seriously and care about her fears.

Then tell her how you are feeling too. Maybe yell her your motivation is on showing love and grace, based on the example of Jesus. Tell her you are not trying to walk away, but to go closer to God.

See if you can come to an agreement so you both can go through this together. Don't stop talking, and dont stop praying together. If you pray together, and talk through this together then you would open yourselves up to the Spirit speaking into your lives. Tell her that if you are wrong, then the Spirit can lovingly convict you of that as you pray together. But you do need to keep talking and praying together (both of which involve listening).

 
At 5:00 PM, Blogger René Lafaut said...

Hell

Many seeming contradictions vanish when we pour the intended meanings into words that have lost it because of baggage we carry or the Church carries. So the richer the vocabulary the less rigid and legalistic our reading of Scripture should become as we let Jesus the Light of the world expose things to us as we walk together with Him. We know we have truth when it frees us of baggage or lies and helps us love more deeply. We can also have truth when it brings peace to our consciences or understandings of right or wrong.
Having said that I too struggled with Hell for a long time and how I defined it always connected or connects to how I see God/Jesus and my lack or abundance of love, compassion, tolerance for others. Any model that advocates us all seeing God as mean, petty, angry, and revengeful needs to be discarded; only those separated from God in the after life have such a view of God.
I do see God wanting to restore us all to Himself though...but I also see that many people reject God's desires or advances. And I see God as respecting that.
Two definitions:
(1) "hell" can be defined as a cold dark place lacking any reminder of God's warmth, and any other warm relationships; (2) "the lake of fire" is a spiritual fire meant to purify spiritually those who are thrown into it.
Let's unpack this!
People who land up in hell have rejected God...and God's intent in them visiting this place is to show them the dire consequences of rejecting Him and not choosing to be warm-hearted merciful and forgiving. A cold attitude poisons more and more their hearts and removes more and more the image that we were created in: God's image. The more God's image is massacred the less human warmth they have...so cold darkness is what they have chosen. Having chosen this they view everything in a more and more negative way including God's image. What He has given these; the desires of their hearts...they view with suspicion, negativity, coldness, hatred, mistrust, and darkness. Thus Jesus speaks of God in this way at times...not because He sees God that way but because those who reject love will view God as mean, negative, boring, and draconian.
Now God does not want to leave anyone in hell. Therefore the Bible says all those in hell will be thrown into "the lake of fire"...where they suffer not because God wills it eternally. God intends the fires to purify those there...only problem is that those there don't want to be purified...hence they suffer...! Either they won't submit to purification because of pride...or they like the way they are and decline the work the flames are intended to do. Thus they suffer not because God wants revenge but because they choose to. They have the desires of their hearts...God calls their bluff that "they want spiritual health" by Him providing a way to it...but this is rejected...!

 
At 2:42 PM, Blogger Lewis Schofield said...

True believer
Do you blog or Twitter?
If so could you put out your address.
It would be great to talk to you.
Blessings.

 
At 3:02 PM, Blogger René Lafaut said...

Yes I do have a blog/website that is up and running...
www.brokenintofreedom.ca
You can contact me there...
Cheers!!!
me

 

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