Should Everything Change Like This?

Thanks Bull, for the following book review by Gary Gilley, discussing Everything Must Change by Brian McLaren:

Everything Must Change by Brian McLaren
Written by Gary Gilley

Everything Must Change is a large diverse work in which McLaren dabbles in everything from economics to politics to the eco-system to Jesus. The author believes our planet is facing a perfect storm (his words) involving crises of four kinds. He calls them:

• Prosperity crisis—an unsustainable global economy that is overwhelming the environmental resources.

• Equity crisis—caused by the growing gap between the rich and the poor with respective fear and resentment.

• Security crisis—War and violence is the inevitable outcome of the equity crisis.

• Spiritual crisis—World religions, including and especially Christianity, have failed to address these issues with Jesus’ “framing story,” i.e. worldview.

It is these four crises that McLaren believes desperately need to be addressed, but Christianity has misunderstood what Jesus wants us to say about these issues. We need to rescue Jesus from our false understanding about Him and what He taught (pp. 72-73). Jesus true “framing story” must be discovered and proclaimed. And what is this framing story? “The Bible is the story of the partnership between God and humanity to save and transform all of human society and avert global self-destruction”… “Jesus came to launch an insurgency to overthrow that occupying regime. Its goal is to resist the occupation, liberate the planet, and retrain and restore humanity to its original vocation and potential” (pp. 94, 129). These, and other similar descriptions, are what McLaren, here and elsewhere, calls the gospel of the kingdom of God which he believes Jesus initiated when He was on earth.

In order to promote his new emerging agenda it is necessary for McLaren to reject many, if not most, of the major doctrines held dear by the historic evangelical church, for it is these very doctrine, in his opinion, that have caused the global mess in which we find ourselves. McLaren claims:

• Christ’s cross work was not for the purpose of propitiating divine wrath or redemption from sin; it was a nonviolent example for us to follow (pp. 158-159).

• The second coming of Christ is without biblical warrant “for it leads us to believe that in the end, even God finds it impossible to fix the world apart from violence and coercion [therefore] no one should be surprised when those shaped by this theology behave accordingly” (p. 144). A new heaven and earth are unnecessary because “good will prevail by peace, love, truth, faithfulness, and courageous endurance of suffering” (p. 146).

• Original sin is not our problem; McLaren fully believes that unregenerate mankind will be able to change society to conform to God’s kingdom (pp. 223, 262, 265).

• The need for forgiveness and salvation from sin are not on the agenda because most, if not all, are already citizens of the kingdom by virtue of having been created in the image of God (p. 223). The greatest problems facing mankind have to do with physical concerns of the planet, not spiritual issues (p. 46).

• Hell is not a literal place of judgment for rebels against God but starts on earth now when we don’t live for the kingdom of God, as described by McLaren (p. 146).

When the author turns to Scripture in an attempt to support his views it is an exercise in distortion. McLaren resorts to several methods: changing the meaning of words to suit his preference (pp. 96, 99, 113), ignoring Scripture he does not like (e.g. concerning the second coming, pp. 144-146), or simply twisting the meaning beyond all recognition (pp. 97, 107, 111, 135, 137, 144-145, 177, 238-241). All of this would be laughable if it was not so serious. Without question, McLaren cannot reconstruct Jesus, the gospel and Christianity if he faithfully interprets the Scriptures with any sane method of hermeneutics. But if his readers are willing to ignore this fact then some will be taken in by the message of Everything Must Change.

From a social/political angle McLaren might be described as the Michael Moore (ultra-liberal film producer) of Christianity. Capitalism is “legalized greed,” Moore says and it would seem McLaren would agree. McLaren uses the same poor interpretive skills which he applied to Scripture to analyze the evils of society. His understanding of what is wrong with the planet is as pathetic as his solution. Here is his prescription for societal ills:

• First, we will seek to help the poor through generosity.

• Second, we will call the rich to generosity.

• Third, we will work to improve the system (p. 246).

If you are disappointed with this “revolutionary” solution to our global crisis you should be. Like many, McLaren is long on identifying problems but short on answers. What McLaren consistently misses is that the gospel of Christ (the true gospel as derived from proper interpretation of the Word) addresses man’s real need of alienation from God and sinful corruption through redemption and regeneration found through the blood of Christ. Regenerated lives will have true impact on societal problems, but the final solution awaits the return of Christ and the new heaven and earth. This is the good news that Christ came to offer and McLaren has rejected.


I’ve moved this from an earlier thread for discussion, and will add the first two responses in the comments below.

RavingPente (per Bull)

33 thoughts on “Should Everything Change Like This?

  1. First comment from Teddy:

    Teddy Says:
    October 8, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    Gary Gilley (whose ministry I enjoy)is an excellent author of at least two books I’ve read – “This Little Church Went To Market”,”This Little Church Stayed Home’ and there’s a new one I’ve not read – “This Little Church Had None;A Church In Search Of The Truth”.

    I passed the first two books onto an Anglican minister because of his interest in growing his church God’s way.

    Hour 2 of the attached is an interview he did with Jan Markell of Olive Tree Views.

  2. Second comment from MN:

    mn Says:
    October 8, 2009 at 9:36 pm

    Hi Bull

    if Gillies analysis is correct then McLaren appears to be reinventing the Gospel in his own image.

    Anyway I certainly disagree with the positions put by Gillies as being advocated.

  3. Yes, if Gillies understands MacLaren correctly, then I’d have to disagree with MacLaren. But some of his points won’t be completely wrong.

    Obviously generosity is important, and we are called to help the poor. It was alongside spreading the gospel.

    Also, in my view, a version of hell ‘starts on earth now when we don’t live for the kingdom of God’ – OK, not the real deal, but we don’t have life when we don’t abide in Christ, and in that sense, we are living in death, which has some portion of hell. Certainly, when we don’t live in love, our actions will contribute over time to suffering for ourselves, others, and depending on what aspect we are talking about, the environment as well.

  4. Further I would go to say these positions are almost non-positions, and in reality are no different to the secular humanist rationalist approach that has been in vogue since the Age of Enlightment and Rousseau – who lead of with the social contract

  5. Following on from your comment RP, sure I wouldn’t disagree with some of the things put, but can’t see them as being specifically representative of a biblical Christianity, but something else altogether.

  6. quite.

    The fact is, we can all be generous etc.

    However, the idea that we can bring all this about as we are all saved etc, and we don’t need Jesus to come back is not just ignoring scripture. It is, in effect, dousing it in paraffin and striking a match.

    MacLaren has basically abandoned Scripture.

    Many evangelicals have. When the extremely well known Steve Chalke (UK chap) writes a book and basically tells the readers that “the substitutionary atonement is cosmic child abuse” then he is going down the same path.

    We will not solve all the problems of the human race.

    A few years ago, there was a big campaign to “make poverty history”.

    Nice sentiment. But Jesus said “the poor you will always have with you.”

    He may have been only talking to his disciples and speaking only to them and their generation, but until the human race stops being greedy, we will not end poverty. We will not end war. We will not end exploitation.

    We thought we’d ended slavery … but people are still being traded as commodities. Dubai is a favourite place to force people into slavery.

    Sex slaves are imported into Britain. Young people are exploited by multinational companies to produce cheap clothes for Western consumers.

    Poor people are exploited by pulpit pimps who extort money from them by telling them that if they put money in, they’ll get more out and if they don’t put money in, God will curse them.

    It’s all part of the same problem. Greed.

    People are made redundant from their jobs. Greed.
    People are having their pay cut. Greed.
    Banks lost a lot of money in the financial crisis. Greed.
    Banks paid massive bonuses to people who did not understand the financial products that were killing the world economy. Greed.

    All about Greed.

  7. It’s so unnecessary to reinterpret the Gospel message to address contemporary social issues. Some of these issues should be on the Christian agenda anyway as has been mentioned. I agree that greed is at the heart of the problems. I think the church should be an example of equity, justice and freedom as it was in the beginning.

    I’ve never read any of his books but I can’t imagine many Christians going for this.

    “• Christ’s cross work was not for the purpose of propitiating divine wrath or redemption from sin; it was a nonviolent example for us to follow (pp. 158-159).”

    It’s not original to attack the substitutional atonement. I think Christ’s death was firstly to atone for our sins and secondly as an example to us. He’s creating a false choice.

    “• The second coming of Christ is without biblical warrant “for it leads us to believe that in the end, even God finds it impossible to fix the world apart from violence and coercion…”

    The conclusion does not follow. It can’t be without biblical warrant because it may possibly lead some to an undesirable conclusion. It can only be without biblical warrant if the doctrine has neither clear biblical foundation or support.

    Secondly, I’ve never heard anyone say they thought it was “impossible” for the world to be “fixed” by God apart from violence and coercion and needless to say that it’s not necessary to draw that conclusion from a belief in the second coming.

    I can’t agree with much of what he says and I won’t go on but his prescription in the end is benign enough:

    • First, we will seek to help the poor through generosity.
    • Second, we will call the rich to generosity.
    • Third, we will work to improve the system (p. 246).

  8. The questions re hell raised in that article should not be ignored because they are the very issues that cause a lot of people to reject God by framing Him as an abusive Father. It would be good if we were able to handle those issues with sensitivity and wisdom, rather than just ignore them or try not to think about them.

    Here is a view of hell that is not emergent, and I’m not saying that it’s correct or not – but it is more ancient than the evangelical view. From the Eastern Orthodox church:

    Paradise and hell are one and the same River of God, a loving fire which embraces and covers all with the same beneficial will, without any difference or discrimination. The same vivifying water is life eternal for the faithful and death eternal for the infidels; for the first it is their element of life, for the second it it is the instrument of their eternal suffocation; paradise for one is hell for the other. Do not consider this strange. The son who loves his fathre will feel happy in his father’s arms, but if he does not love him, his father’s loving embrace will be a torment to him. This also is why when we love the man who hates us, it is likened to pouring lighted coals and hot embers on his head.

    – From the ‘River of Fire’ speech.

    This is a very long article, but demonstrates an ancient alternative view of hell.

    I think I’ve linked to it before, and am meaning to work through some of the issues in the article.

  9. The thing about the orthodox view above, when read in its entirety, is that it does address the questions raised in the article that Teddy provided the link to. It also maintains that the devil slandered God by introducing a slight alteration to Western theology, which survived in the West but was rooted out in the east. 🙂

  10. Greed breeds mean deeds. I read this when I first went to uni on many big billboards (1995).

    The west has become extremely materialistic for whatever reason. What bugs me is for example with the Victorian bushfires people somehow donated around 300 million out of nowhere to help. Why can’t they do that for charities or perhaps help the family down the road struggling?

    There’s probably people that do help others but would be in the minority. We need to redefine ourselves and revolutionise our thinking when it comes to money.

    Michael Moore has an excellent movie out about capitalism and its pitfalls

  11. Hal

    yeah I had similar thoughts around the thesis about the second coming. It seemed a very illogical response – an unsustainable assumption based on a disconnected assumption, because on a percieved outcome which he doesn’t like.

    Wow man! I’m sold!

  12. Interesting thoughts on hell RP.

    Best to stay away altogher.

    On Christ the solid rock I stand
    All other ground is sinking sand
    All other ground is sinking sand.

  13. Their view of hell doesn’t negate Christ, as far as I am aware. I’m not about to become Eastern Orthodox though.

    Because I stand on Christ regardless, I don’t mind taking a look at different views. I don’t think we have anything to fear by hearing the theology of others so long as we stand upon Him. Theology is important, but Christ is far more important, as all here would agree I think.

  14. Even if there exists a means of escaping the eternal wrath of this omnipotent but wicked Being (the death of His Son in our stead), it would be much better if this Being did not exist. This was the most logical conclusion of the mind and of the heart of the Western peoples, because even eternal Paradise would be abhorrent with such a cruel God. Thus was atheisrn born, and this is why the West was its birthplace. Atheism was unknown in Eastern Christianity until Western theology was introduced there, too. Atheism is the consequence of Western theology. 3 Atheism is the denial, the negation of an evil God. Men became atheists in order to be saved from God, hiding their head and closing their eyes like an ostrich. Atheism, my brothers, is the negation of the Roman Catholic and Protestant God. Atheism is not our real enemy. The real enemy is that falsified and distorted “Christianity”.

    Another quote from that article.

    The way these guys view ‘Western Christianity’ is similar to the way we view the ‘prosperity gospel’ etc.

  15. What a great read RP. Interesting, his idea of biblical justice, the Pagan idea of higher Necessity, the thoughts of the eastern fathers. Food for thought.

    MN – It’s funny cause McClaren’s probably a really smart guy but yeah, in these instances I think his logic is a dog’s breakfast. Not inspiring.

    I do get where these guys are coming from though. They’re trying to fix things that they think have bad (unchristian) outcomes.

    In the case of Hell, RP’s post shows not only the antiquity of some of these problems but how the eastern fathers argued for similar ideas concerning perceived violations to the absolute goodness of God without losing sight of the scripture.

    I think Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” did a lot to frame modern ideas of hell. I never liked that style of preaching or the emphasis nor the grotesque descriptions. I find many Christian ideas of hell and who goes there to be inconsistent with their other beliefs and this is an area always worth thinking about.

  16. A question and answer on hell-

    Is There No Hell?
    Q –
    I recently visited the church I attended in high school. Well, I walked in and could cut the tension with a knife. I thought it might be money troubles or something. Then, this week, I was informed that the pastor has begun teaching that there is no hell and no eternal damnation.
    He has always been a teacher I respected as someone who diligently studied Greek and Hebrew versions of scripture, and held to the grace of Romans 5, so this feels like a left hook that has left me, and it seems like half of that church confused as to where he’s coming from.
    Here’s a quote from this week’s church bulletin: “I can now boldly preach God’s justice because God’s eternal judgment (Heb. 6:2) is that His justice must be paid in full which in Christ was completely covered at the cross. One does not die to pay for their sins because there is no longer a sacrifice for sins other than the cross. But there will be punishment or pruning until one comes to the place of not paying for their sin but to the place of receiving the payment which has been paid which is Christ.” …so forth and so on. It seems contrary to what you taught about limited atonement.
    Are you familiar with this position? Do you know if it should be refuted and how to do it?
    Jim –
    This is very interesting. I have to give this guy credit. At least he was brave enough to follow his Arminian theology to its logical conclusion. Most folk aren’t that committed. But, he comes to a faulty conclusion because he began with a faulty premise.
    You are absolutely right; this has to do with limited atonement, or particular redemption. Limited atonement is an absolute theological necessity (besides the fact that it’s a Biblical imperative). Here’s what I mean. If Jesus did die for all the sins of everyone who ever lived – which is the fundamental Arminian position – then it’s an inescapable conclusion that absolutely everyone must be saved. But, Arminian thinkers have had to struggle with the fact that the Bible is replete with references to people being lost, condemned, eternally punished, etc. So, they have had to figure out a way to divide the saved from the unsaved without sin being the causal factor (seeing as how all sin was paid for). So, they’ve posited several different theories.
    For instance, some say that faith is the deciding factor. Everyone’s sins were paid for, but that payment is not effective unless you activate your faith, make Jesus your Lord, and personally take advantage of His gracious offer of forgiveness. According to that thinking, Jesus did not actually save anyone. He simply made salvation available. He made it a possibility. But, it is up to individual people to validate His work and get themselves into a saved condition. Quite unbiblical, but very popular.
    The Catholic Church, on the other hand, went the rest of the way and decided that universal atonement (Christ dying for the sins of the whole world) will indeed result in universal redemption. Everyone – including Satan himself – will one day be gathered to Heaven, because an all-loving God simply couldn’t exist in a universe where there was any suffering or torment. In fact, it would be an utter failure on God’s part if He does not fully redeem any part of His creation. So, in order to get everyone to Heaven eventually, the Church at Rome created Purgatory, where people can work off their sin debt after they’ve died. Of course, this also reduces the work of Christ at Calvary to practical negation. He failed to fully redeem anyone. He simply created a method for salvation, but individual people have to say enough prayers, attend mass, confess their sins, do their penance and spend their time in Purgatory, atoning for their own sinfulness.
    The pastor you’ve spoken of here has taken those two concepts and blended them. He seems to have started with the idea that Jesus died for every sin of every person and then raised that notion to its logical conclusion – universal salvation. All he did was skip Purgatory. But again, I have to give him credit. At least he recognizes the sufficiency and efficiency of Christ’s atoning work. He errs in that he assumes that Jesus died intending that every individual who ever lived is equally covered in that atonement. Hence, the salvation Jesus accomplished is both sufficient and efficient in every case, with deference to all. That’s attractive sounding because it gives Jesus all the authority and praise, which He surely deserves. But, it also dramatically truncates the very nature and character of God.
    Throughout Scripture we read of God’s jealous defense of His own holiness. He says repeatedly that He will punish the wicked. He will separate His people (hagios – saints, sanctified, set apart) from this “wicked, adulterous generation.” Jesus spoke of sheep and goats. He spoke of friends and enemies. He spoke of His church, against which the gates of Hell will not prevail. All of that language bespeaks a definite separation between saved and unsaved people. And, that separation is said to continue out into eternity.
    Okay, so let’s take a look at the details for a moment. Assuming that this fellow’s position is true and there is no Hell and no eternal punishment, then Jesus was seriously deluded. And, if Christ was wrong on this point, how many other points was He wrong on? Should we really trust our eternal, ever-living, never-dying souls to a Savior who simply doesn’t understand the eternal consequences of His words? For instance, Jesus taught:
    “But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.” (Matt 11:22-24)
    There are two very important concepts in that passage: judgment and punishment. There’s no sign of forgiveness in Jesus’ diatribe; only condemnation. Or, He also taught:
    “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.” (Matt 23:14-15)
    Jesus spoke of damnation, hell, hypocrisy and punishment. Was He simply deluded? Or, did He actually know what He was talking about? Or, how about this?
    “And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.” (Luke 12:4-5)
    Or, perhaps the most obvious passage:
    “And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” (Luke 16:22-24)
    You cannot ignore the contrast Jesus created here. One man went to flames of torment while another rested comfortably in the bosom of Abraham. Jesus posited two destinies, after death, for two different people.
    My point is obvious. Either Jesus was seriously confused, or this pastor you’ve written about is seriously confused. Pick one.
    The Apostle Peter was equally clear about such matters when he created contrasts such as:
    “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.” (2 Peter 2:9)
    We could also site the distinctions between the first and second deaths in Revelation 20 and the multiple references to the lake of fire. Or, language such as:
    “The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.” (Rev 14:10-11)
    It’s just that plain. The Bible speaks of punishment, hell, condemnation, damnation, judgment, and everlasting torment.
    Now, just because some guy stands up and declares that those things simply do not exist, it does not eliminate them from God’s economy. It’s like denying that Detroit exists. It will continue to exist whether we deny it or confirm it. It is axiomatic, self-evident, it proves itself.
    For as long as God’s word has existed, there have been those who have perverted it. It happened in Paul’s day as readily as it happens today. People, raised up in their ego and self-confidence, deny the Word and create theologies that are more to their liking, preaching a gospel that simply is not equal with the true gospel.
    “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” (Gal 1:6-8)
    You were right to feel uneasy with this preachment. It’s wrong. It’s dead wrong. It’s deadly wrong. It will create a false confidence in folk, who will cease striving for the Christian life and walk because Christianity itself loses its distinction if everyone ends up rewarded equally. I mean, why not commit adultery? Why not kill? Drink? Abuse? You’re going to Heaven anyway. There’s no risk.
    This position should not sit well with you. And, it’s a very encouraging sign that it doesn’t. Paul argued that the Spirit of God that indwells His people testifies to the truth of the Word. If you cannot stomach lies about God, it is only because God has taken up residence in you and is pulling you toward His truth. That’s a very cool thing.
    “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” (Rom 8:16-17)
    Thanks for being true to the Word and not letting heresy undermine your faith. And, don’t be fooled. This is heresy, plain and simple. Call it what it is. This will not redound to God’s glory. It will serve confusion, in the end. Plant yourself firmly in “thus sayeth the Lord” and you’ll be fine. 🙂
    Yours in Him,

  17. Hal: “I do get where these guys are coming from though. They’re trying to fix things that they think have bad (unchristian) outcomes.”

    Ah yes you’ve hit the nail on the head – these guys are outcomes driven.

    If someone is purely outcomes driven then`they will do anything to get the desired outcome – it used to be called the end justifies the means.

    Trouble is at that point one’s moral and spiritual compass has been totally compromised, and you could end up literally anywhere.

  18. well re Hell, i had a friend that overdosed back in the 90s and appeared to me in a dream/vision and he was in a sort of hospital.

    I asked him why he killed himself and he said “I was stupid” and then i asked him what is was like, where he was and he showed me (it was like a private hospital) and he said he was helping people. I was relieved as I was concerned and as a Christian curious, so anyway, after that i felt peace so i don’t know cs lewis described “levels” in hell or afterlife so………

  19. ok …

    this is my understanding of Hell, Faith and all that.

    I am drowning in a sea … Jesus is standing on the shore and throws me a rope. He says “hold on to the rope”. When I am pulled to safety, I can tell everyone I am saved by Jesus. However, if I let go of the rope, I drown.

    I couldn’t ever tell anyone that I saved myself, or that the rope saved me. I could tell everyone that Jesus saved me through His work (throwing me the other end of the rope) and not through my holding on.

    In the Bible, there are many texts that talk about the faithfulness of God to believers. These lead some to a strict Calvinist approach. There are other texts which talk about “work out your Salvation”, “Keep yourselves in the Love of God” and so on.

    What is interesting is that both ideas tend to run together within the context of the passages they are in. So Calvinism and Arminianism are two sides of the same coin.

    What strikes me very strongly is that God was so faithful to the Jews that he upheld the mosaic covenant (even to our day) to the extent that the curses contained within it also are upheld. God promised to curse and bless His people after all.

    Paul wrote to the Roman gentile believers and described how the gentile believers were wild branches grafted into the Jewish Olive tree under the auspices of the New Covenant. He then said this:
    “Don’t be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the Natural Branches, He will not spare you either.”

    Judgment begins in the Household of God.

    It is possible to read Deuteronomy 28 and see the Holocaust.

    Which leads me onto the subject of Hell. David Pawson wrote a book on Hell and started getting requests for interviews from the BBC etc.

    They would always start the interview with this Question:

    “How can a loving God send anyone to hell?”

    DP: “How do you know God is a God of Love?”

    Interviewer: stuttering and stammering “well, uh, don’t Christians believe that? Didn’t Jesus teach that?”

    DP: “As a matter of fact He did. But everything I know about Hell I learned from Jesus. So aren’t you picking and choosing what you want to hear from Jesus teaching?”

    at this point the interviewer would draw the interview to a rapid close.

    Hell isn’t ready for anyone yet. It is a place being prepared for the Devil and his Angels. Since they cannot die, it is a place of eternal torment.

    Since every human is going to be resurrected, and these new bodies will also be immortal, it will also be a place for the wicked to spend eternity in.

    That’s my simple understanding. Pick holes in it if you like.

    To think of people I know who might end up there is just shattering. I doubt I will ever feel comfortable preaching a hellfire and damnation message … but if we ignore this cos we don’t like it, then are we ignoring some aspect of God?


  20. Good post Bull – I’ve been a Christian for 24 years and it’s only in the last year or so that the notion of the reality of hell being questioned has come to the forefront so dramatically.

    Sign of the (end) times? Deny its existence and you have a false gospel.

    It’s men like Brian Maclaren, Rob Bell, Tony Jones and Doug Pagitt who have been saying this. These same men deny Christ as He has been represented for the past 2000 years. This goes hand in hand with the watered down gospel that has taken over the pulpit.

    We are being saved from the wrath of God not the devil!

  21. MN – Yes, outcome driven. At least that’s how it seems. Wanting to create what they think is the right outcome and attacking what they perceive are the offending doctrines. I mean, if he thinks Christians are too justifying of violence etc then write a treatise on the biblical injunctions not to retaliate but to love and forgive, show how Christians used to live, etc.

    But that’s probably naive, I don’t know much about him/them apart from the odd article. I hear these names but really I struggle to pay attention to what these guys are doing/saying.

    I think most Christians believe in Hell of some kind. I do, but I don’t have all the answers. I’m not quick to tell people who is in Hell and who isn’t and when asked I often refer people to the judgement of a just, merciful and sovereign God. Because in the final analysis it’s not really my decision to make as to whether this or that person goes to or has gone there. I believe in Jesus Christ and I believe he saves me from judgement and the consequences of judgement. Consequences that are grave, fearful, terrifying. He did this by the sacrifice of Himself, bearing my sins, giving me favour completely unearned and has secured my eternal destiny with Him. So to, for everyone who puts their faith in Him. And I cling on to that. If it was left up to me to make myself like Him there’s not any chance I could do it. But He is able, He can get me there as the psalmist said, ” “Though he fall, he shall not utterly be cast down for the Lord upholds him with his hand.” He can perfect me and keep me for that day. And on that day I’ll be at peace with God because He secured peace with God for us.

    So in practicality I believe in the perseverance of the saints but not because they can’t be lost, because He won’t allow them to fall beyond His Grace. Which in practicality is the same thing but in theory is different. I don’t hold strictly to a particular theological system anymore but I lean on the reformed side of things. However I’m a long way from being a Calvinist.

    I think that at Judgement God can decide to have mercy after the fact upon whomever He chooses for whatever purpose He chooses without regard to anything but the exercise of His own Sovereign will. So be it. Believe in Christ and escape the judgement of God.

    Bull, The rope story reminds me of William Booth and the similar way he had of looking at it. I don’t mind calling free-will vs election a paradox.

  22. To pick up a point that MJ touched on earlier there is evidently degrees of Judgement hence “worse for you than the inhabitants of Sodom” being “in that day” the day of judgement. Jesus refers to a difference between the judgement of one and of the other unbelievers. Which doesn’t indicate a strict dichotomy, with unbelievers destined for the exact same fate as each other but rather a judgement based more on absolute justice, relative, with considerations of all kinds we know nothing about. On the side of believers also we have “even the least in the kingdom of God” referring to believers in comparison to The Baptist. So to, rewards, harsher judgement for teachers etc. We know nothing about these things. But there are degrees, not of salvation, not at all, but degrees of heaven and of hell.

  23. Peter is talking to believers when he says that if they abandon Jesus they would be worse off than if they had never believed.

    That’s pretty tough language. I think we are mostly on the same page here anyway. Slight differences in emphasis might come into play …

    Ultimately, no one will be able to say to God, on the day of Judgement, “that’s not fair”.

    So when we talk about God’s sovereign will, we can rightly say that it’s up to Him, but at the same time, He will be absolutely right … in our perception as well as His.

    That’s quite comforting …. and quite frightening!

    We will see that we are set for punishment, but everyone will see that Jesus has paid the price for it. Every time I sin, Jesus is bleeding some more.

    I gotta stop … writing as well as sinning.

    Isn’t it amazing and upsetting? Jesus is still shedding His blood for us, even though in space-time it was “finished” some 2000 years ago. It’s what Hebrews is all about … “Crucifying Him Afresh”.

    If we love Him, we’ll stop sinning. If we fear Him, we’ll stop sinning. Do we love and fear Him enough?


  24. To try and make more sense (sorry), ‘Absolute justice’ being the absolute standard of God’s requirements but applied ‘relative’ to one’s circumstance for instance “more tolerable in that day for Sodom” because they hadn’t been there to hear Christ and reject Him. Had they heard and seen the miracles…

  25. “That’s quite comforting …. and quite frightening!”

    It is! And nobody will be able to say it’s unfair. It’s been a comfort for many throughout history to know that, in the end, nobody gets away with anything nor is anything hidden from Him and on that day both the deeds and the heart will be exposed.

  26. “Peter is talking to believers when he says that if they abandon Jesus they would be worse off than if they had never believed.”

    True, nevertheless the Firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows them that are his” (2 Tim. 2:19)

  27. Yes, i think if we cause suffering to others in this world, and not feel bad or sorry, we will face a type of punishment. I believe if you don’t work out your “stuff” down here then later you will just have to. I was brought up strict Catholic and was reminded on an almost daily basis (at school, 70s) about hell and sin and i don’t think it really hurt me too much, although my parents were great role models, so i was lucky. CS Lewis has a sort sci fi book called “The Great Divorce” about a guy who dies and what happens, wish someone would make a movie based on it

  28. Thanks Teddy, yeah ive seen kirk C preach, he isn’t too bad, explains things well. I like how they explain sin and the law as some people i know don’t like to “feel” guilt or think they have any sin. I blame it on modern preaching, its just feel good about yourself stuff, no cleansing and freedom, no reparations for your sin. I stole something from a shop once (school excursion), just something small (it was a dare) and my parents put a crucifix next to my bed for a couple of weeks and said “Jesus sees all”. Sounds a bit much but I got the message and my parents didn’t yell at me or anything, they were very disappointed as I was so “into God” so anyway, we all have weaknesses, temptations but we learn to know them and improve, stop being an such an ass

  29. I do believe hell exists, though I’m not willing to take a stand on precisely what form it actually takes, and I don’t really trust anyone who claims certainty on that issue.

    Are there any Neil Gaiman readers out there? I read Fragile Things recently, a book of his short stories – some of them are very dark. There was a clever, short and chilling story in there about hell, called Other People. I wish so much that I could post it up here! But you’ll have to read it in the book, if you can find it. It’s not based on scripture, but it touches a lot of surrounding issues.

    The first lines read:

    “Time is fluid here,” said the demon.

    He knew it was a demon the moment he saw it. He knew it, just as he knew the place was Hell. There was nothing else that either of them could have been.

  30. I found that hell scene from “What Dreams May Come” where the faces come out of the ground, seemingly unaware of each other, quite disturbing.

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