Thursday, March 31, 2011

Love Wins- We are all God's Children?

Ben Witherington gives his review of Rob Bell's book Love Wins. In this section he comments on Rob's opinion that all humans are God's children...

As in previous chapters,  Rob cites a pile of texts, soundbyting them rather than doing contextual exegesis of them,  for the purpose of suggesting that God never ever gives up on anyone.   The problem with this is that many of these OT texts are about God’ s covenant faithfulness to his own chosen people, not to the world in general.   And in regard to the notion that we are ‘all children of God’   the Gospel of John in fact says—- No we are not!   We are all creatures of God, created in God’s image, but we are not all inherently ‘children of God’.  John 1-3 is pretty clear you don’t become a child of God through the decision of your parents, or through mere physical birth, or through the will of a spouse,  you become a child of God by being ‘born again’.  My goodness, even Nicodemus is told he must be born again in order to enter God’s kingdom.
Does God love everyone, the whole world?  Yes he does, as John 3.16 says.  Does that, or being created in God’s image automatically make anyone a child of God—-  no.   There are issues of being part of the people of God.  And here perhaps more than anywhere else is one of the fundamental problems with Rob’s argument—- bad ecclesiology.   As Paul puts it in 1 Cor. 12—- when it comes to being a real child of God “we were all baptized by one Spirit into the one body of Christ (whether Jew or Gentile), and all given the one Spirit from which we all drink.    God has a people, and the lost need to become found and a part of that people.    This is one of the major messages of both the OT and the NT and it involves  covenanting,  it involves a people set apart,  it involves conscious involvement in the people of God, if you don’t die in infancy.
One of the real problems with this chapter (see e.g. p.  102)  is the tendency to talk in binary opposites.   Is God like the woman who seeks the coin, or is God one who will allow you to spend an eternity in Hell?     Is history tragic, or does love win?    In fact, the Bible is complex, and it gives complex answers to these sorts of questions— questions we have debated for two millennia and can’t be resolved with a simply setting up of a ‘you can give me this or you can give me that’  (cue the Kia commercial)  because both can’t be true.   In fact both can be true.   It can be true that a good deal of history is tragic and also true that God’s love wins in millions and millions of cases.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ghandi- was he gay?

This review by David Ferguson:

In his Wall Street Journal review of Joseph Lelyveld's Great Soul, a biography of Mohandas Gandhi, conservative historian Andrew Roberts calls Gandhi "a ceaseless self-promoter", a "sexual weirdo, a political incompetent and a fanatical faddist" and accuses the revered Indian leader of repeatedly botching his nation's independence movement. In subsequent paragraphs, Roberts goes on to call him a racist, a child molester, and a hypocrite.
Roberts lambasts Gandhi for sharing his bed with young, naked women into his 70's, but then directs us to the section of Great Soul that details a passionate love affair between Gandhi and another man, "... the love of his life was a German-Jewish architect and bodybuilder, Hermann Kallenbach, for whom Gandhi left his wife in 1908."
Roberts states that of the four great goals of Gandhi's life, "Hindu-Muslim unity, against importing British textiles, for ending Untouchability and for getting the British off the subcontinent—only the last succeeded, and that simply because the near-bankrupt British led by the anti-imperialist Clement Attlee desperately wanted to leave India anyhow after a debilitating world war."
He believes that historians have largely given Gandhi a pass for these alleged failings, and that "Mr. Lelyveld is not immune, making labored excuses for him at every turn of this nonetheless well-researched and well-written book." It's unclear in the end whether Roberts's objections to Gandhi and his legacy are ultimately politically based in a reaction to Gandhi's social and historical orientation or based in a puritanical reaction to Gandhi's sexual orientation.

This link to Wall Street Journal Review:

Monday, March 28, 2011

Gehenna by Stoner

by Tim Stoner

Historical context can be of immense help. When deciding whether to invade Viet Nam, Iraq, or Afghanistan it would be good to do some homework on the culture, the values, and the demographics of these countries. Such a study might save you lots of heartache and loss down the road. Context can also sometimes blur the edges just a bit.
Perhaps we shouldn’t blame the sociological and historical studies but the one contextualizing: maybe he just failed to dig as deeply as he should. Maybe he just stopped when his shovel hit the first stone that supported his fixed intention: “We did our due diligence and found clear evidence of WMD’s, thus, we have decided to take preemptive action.” The result of that bit of wrong context was Shock and Awe.
If I wanted to, let’s say, undermine belief in an archaic pit filled with shrieking demons, the sounds of “weeping and the gnashing of teeth, where the worm dieth not,” some historical context could come in handy. I could investigate and find that “Gehenna” used by Jesus was actually a reference to a ditch that existed during His time. It was a geographical location traditionally believed to run outside the southern wall of ancient Jerusalem, stretching from the foot of Mount Zion eastward to the Kidron Valley. The location is in dispute and many now argue that it is actually a reference to Wadi er-Rababi which runs along the southwest boundary of Jerusalem.
But what is contested is its function. Bell in Love Wins describes it as “the city dump” in Jesus’ day; the place where the citizens of Jerusalem “tossed their garbage and waste” and where there was a fire “burning constantly to consume the trash.” There also were wild animals fighting “over scraps of food along the edges of the heap. When they fought, their teeth would make a gnashing sound. Gehenna was the place with the gnashing of teeth, where the fire never went out.” (LW 68).
What is omitted from this helpful bit of contextualizing is that before Gehenna was turned into an unpleasant, smoky landfill, it was something much, much worse. It was so much more heinous that the word became a euphemism for “Damn!” If I lost my temper and told you to go there I was thinking of something more horrific than a stinky dump with sooty fires around which dogs bullied each other. Though it did eventually become the municipal garbage dump, the truth of it is that the gnashing was more likely caused by gnawing on a human femur since bodies of criminals were also tossed out with the refuse.
Gehenna was not only physically disgusting, it was spiritually terrifying. Think of a haunted house. Think of Freddie Kruger and Hannibal Lekter rooming with Ted Bundy in that house and you are getting the picture. It was a place of horrific evil where the abominable demon-god Moloch was worshiped.
oloch (from the Hebrew melech, or king) was the god of the Ammonites, portrayed as a bronze statue with a calf’s head adorned with a royal crown and seated on a throne. His arms were extended to receive the child victims sacrificed to him. The ritual required that a great fire be lit inside the hollow idol, so that its body would glow an ominous red.
According to Rabbi Rashi in the 12th century, “Tophet is Moloch, which was made of brass; and they heated him from his lower parts; and his hands being stretched out, and made hot, they put the child between his hands, and it was burnt. [W]hen it vehemently cried out the priests beat a drum, that the father might not hear the voice of his son, and his heart might not be moved.”
It is possible that the reason the name Topheth was attached to this valley is because the Hebrew toph, means “drum.” It is also possibly connected with a root word meaning “burning” and so was known as “the place of burning” (Jer. 19:6) 
Around 740 BC the Valley of Hinnom became notorious as the place where KingAhaz sacrificed his sons to the Moloch (II Chron. 28:3). Manasseh followed the example of his grandfather by “causing his children to pass through the fire” (II Chron.33:6). It is in the time of Jeremiah that it was referred to as Topheth where the Israelites descended “to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire” (Jer. 7:31). In 624 BC, King Josiah, as part of sweeping religious reforms, finally “defiled Topheth” so that the Israelites could never again use it to sacrifice their children to the dreaded fire god (2 Ki. 23:10).
While the Book of Isaiah does not mention Gehenna by name, it does however refer to the “burning place” in which the Assyrian army is to be destroyed as “Topheth.” (Is.30:33). In that day of great deliverance, God is depicted as coming “with burning anger and dense clouds of smoke; His lips are full of wrath and His tongue is a consuming fire” (Is. 30:27). It is clear what Isaiah is doing, he is contrasting Yahweh with the false calf-headed “king” who rather than burning innocent children, consumes the wicked enemies of His chosen people.
“The Lord will cause men to hear His majestic voice,” he continues, “and will make them see His arm coming down with a raging anger and consuming fire. . . . The voice of the Lord will shatter Assyria; with His scepter He will strike them down (Is. 30:30-31). Lest we miss the not-so-subtle point, Isaiah explains that “Topheth has long been prepared; it has been made ready for the melech (the true king). . . “the breath of the Lord like a stream of burning sulfur sets it ablaze” (Is. 30:33). Since the prophet is intent on making the allusion obvious he includes this evocative statement: “Every stroke the Lord lays on them with His punishing rod will be to the music of tambourines and harps” (Is. 30:32). (Is this also to drown out the cries of the rebel army being destroyed?)
At the end of his book Isaiah related the future day of gracious restoration where “Jerusalem” will be comforted, and some of God’s chosen people will scatter throughout the nations to proclaim the Lord’s glory. “And they will bring all your brothers, from all the nations, to my holy mountain in Jerusalem as an offering to the Lord. . . . and all mankind will come and bow before Me” (Is. 66:19-20, 23).
While Bell uses Scriptures like these to establish his point that Love (eventually) Wins over everyone, he fails to quotes the whole context. For example, the prophet qualifies his assurance of complete restoration with these words: “the hand of the Lord will be make known to His servants, but His fury will be shown to His foes” (Is. 66:14). And though “all mankind will come and bow down before Me” they will be taken out “to look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against Me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind” Is. 66:23-24). With these chilling words this major prophet closes out his book.
The picture we are presented is one of nations turning to Yahweh to worship and turning also to look at the place of (eternal) burning. It is no stretch at all to conclude that when Isaiah, speaking on God’s behalf, prophesies: “I am coming to gather all the nations and tongues, and they shall come and see My glory (Is. 66:18), He is referring to His sovereign prerogative and majestic greatness displayed in forgiving and in judging. 
Bell finds this possibility repugnant. He cannot conceive of a God who can be glorious in pouring out both unmerited favor and fierce and holy anger. Since God is fatherly and not kingly it is impossible for Bell to accept God’s absolute right to punish all those who have not only willfully chosen to refuse His love but have also attacked, defaced and destroyed the creation He loves and the bride He has chosen for His beloved Son.
Since in his mind God is not also King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Bell confidently asserts that, “Restoration brings God glory, eternal torment doesn’t. Reconciliation brings God glory, endless anguish doesn’t. Renewal and return cause God’s greatness to shine though the universe, never-ending punishment doesn’t (LW, 108). However, unlike Jesus, he fails to address Isaiah 66, for it is from Jesus that we get the haunting King James phrase about Gehenna “where the worm dieth not” (Mark 9:48).
This is an incredibly evocative image. One can hardly imagine a more vivid and unforgettable phrase to describe the awfulness of a punishment that has no end. And these are the words Jesus chose to warn about the place of judgment. While He refers to Gehenna 11 times in the synoptic Gospels, He only uses this phrase once, no doubt, concluding once should be enough for anybody.
It is not altogether clear how Bell conceives of Hell. He finds Jesus’ teaching on the subject to be “a volatile mixture of images, pictures, and metaphors that describe the very real experience and consequences of rejecting our God-give goodness and humanity” (LW, 73). It is real. But it is not really awful. After all, Gehenna is only a stinky, smoky dump.
But when Jesus used that word He was thinking about Moloch. He was envisioning little children roasting in honor of a demon-god and of implacably cruel priests pounding drums to cover up the sounds of the shrieks. He was seeing in His mind’s eye glib prophets assuring His people that by offering their innocent babies they would gain the favor of the god. And when He added the words “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (seven times), maybe He was not thinking about dogs chewing on human limbs. Perhaps what Jesus was recalling was the response of parents watching their infants writhing in pain on glowing red arms.
This is how Jesus depicted Hell.
It is not a dump.
It is a place to run away from as fast and as hard as you possibly can.
It is a place that you would not risk going to for a minute, not for all the pleasure in Las Vegas or all the riches in Saudi Arabia.    
(Tim Stoner)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Boy steals car to escape church

He is 7 yrs old. He heard Mark was preaching! :)

Great Ending and Play by Play..

Great ending to this Basketball game between Unicaja Malaga and Real Madrid. Think the play-by-play announcer is excited? Gus Johnson beware :)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Tim Keller- The Importance of Hell part 2

3. It is important because it unveils the seriousness and danger of living life for yourself. In Romans 1-2 Paul explains that God, in his wrath against those who reject him, 'gives them up' to the sinful passions of their hearts. Commentators (cf. Douglas Moo) point out that this cannot mean God impels people to sin, since in Ephesians 4:19 it is said that sinners give themselves up to their sinful desires. It means that the worst (and fairest) punishment God can give a person is to allow them their sinful hearts' deepest desire.
What is that? The desire of the sinful human heart is for independence. We want to choose and go our own way (Isaiah 53:6.) This is no idle 'wandering from the path.' As Jeremiah puts it, 'No one repents . . . each pursues his own course like a horse charging into battle. (8:6)' (We want to get away from God-but, as we have seen, this is the very thing that is most destructive to us. Cain is warned not to sin because sin is slavery. (Genesis 4:7; John 8:34.) It destroys your ability to choose, love, enjoy. Sin also brings blindness-the more you reject the truth about God the more incapable you are of perceiving any truth about yourself or the world (Isaiah 29:9-10; Romans 1:21.)

What is hell, then? It is God actively giving us up to what we have freely chosen-to go our own way, be our own "the master of our fate, the captain of our soul," to get away from him and his control. It is God banishing us to regions we have desperately tried to get into all our lives. J.I.Packer writes: "Scripture sees hell as self-chosen . . . [H]ell appears as God's gesture of respect for human choice. All receive what they actually chose, either to be with God forever, worshipping him, or without God forever, worshipping themselves." (J.I.Packer, Concise Theology p.262-263.) If the thing you most want is to worship God in the beauty of his holiness, then that is what you will get (Ps 96:9-13.) If the thing you most want is to be your own master, then the holiness of God will become an agony, and the presence of God a terror you will flee forever (Rev 6:16; cf. Is 6:1-6.)
Why is this so extremely important to stress in our preaching and teaching today? The idea of hell is implausible to people because they see it as unfair that infinite punishment would be meted out for comparably minor, finite false steps (like not embracing Christianity.) Also, almost no one knows anyone (including themselves) that seem to be bad enough to merit hell. But the Biblical teaching on hell answers both of these objections. First, it tells us that people only get in the afterlife what they have most wanted-either to have God as Savior and Master or to be their own Saviors and Masters. Secondly, it tells us that hell is a natural consequence. Even in this world it is clear that self-centeredness rather than God-centeredness makes you miserable and blind. The more self-centered, self-absorbed, self-pitying, and self-justifying people are, the more breakdowns occur, relationally, psychologically, and even physically. They also go deeper into denial about the source of their problems.

On the other hand, a soul that has decided to center its life on God and his glory moves toward increasing joy and wholeness. We can see both of these 'trajectories' even in this life. But if, as the Bible teaches, our souls will go on forever, then just imagine where these two kinds of souls will be in a billion years. Hell is simply one's freely chosen path going on forever. We wanted to get away from God, and God, in his infinite justice, sends us where we wanted to go.
In the parable of Luke 16:19ff, Jesus tells us of a rich man who goes to hell and who is now in torment and horrible thirst because of the fire (v.24) But there are interesting insights into what is going on in his soul. He urges Abraham to send a messenger to go and warn his still-living brothers about the reality of hell. Commentators have pointed out that this is not a gesture of compassion, but rather an effort at blame-shifting. He is saying that he did not have a chance, he did not have adequate information to avoid hell. That is clearly his point, because Abraham says forcefully that people in this life have been well-informed through the Scriptures. It is intriguing to find exactly what we would expect-even knowing he is in hell and knowing God has sent him there, he is deeply in denial, angry at God, unable to admit that it was a just decision, wishing he could be less miserable (v.24) but in no way willing to repent or seek the presence of God.
I believe one of the reasons the Bible tells us about hell is so it can act like 'smelling salts' about the true danger and seriousness of even minor sins. However, I've found that only stressing the symbols of hell (fire and darkness) in preaching rather than going into what the symbols refer to (eternal, spiritual decomposition) actually prevents modern people from finding hell a deterrent. Some years ago I remember a man who said that talk about the fires of hell simply didn't scare him, it seemed too far-fetched, even silly. So I read him lines from C.S. Lewis:
Hell begins with a grumbling mood, always complaining, always blaming others . . . but you are still distinct from it. You may even criticize it in yourself and wish you could stop it. But there may come a day when you can no longer. Then there will be no you left to criticize the mood or even to enjoy it, but just the grumble itself, going on forever like a machine. It is not a question of God 'sending us' to hell. In each of us there is something growing, which will BE Hell unless it is nipped in the bud.
To my surprise he got very quiet and said, "Now that scares me to death." He almost immediately began to see that hell was a) perfectly fair and just, and b) something that he realized he might be headed for if he didn't change. If we really want skeptics and non-believers to be properly frightened by hell, we cannot simply repeat over and over that 'hell is a place of fire.' We must go deeper into the realities that the Biblical images represent. When we do so, we will find that even secular people can be affected.
We run from the presence of God and therefore God actively gives us up to our desire (Romans 1:24, 26.) Hell is therefore a prison in which the doors are first locked from the inside by us and therefore are locked from the outside by God (Luke 16:26.) Every indication is that those doors continue to stay forever barred from the inside. Though every knee and tongue in hell knows that Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11,) no one can seek or want that Lordship without the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3.This is why we can say that no one goes to hell who does not choose both to go and to stay there. What could be more fair than that?

4. The doctrine of hell is important because it is the only way to know how much Jesus loved us and how much he did for us. In Matthew 10:28 Jesus says that no physical destruction can be compared with the spiritual destruction of hell, of losing the presence of God. But this is exactly what happened to Jesus on the cross-he was forsaken by the Father (Matthew 27:46.) In Luke 16:24 the rich man in hell is desperately thirsty (v.24) and on the cross Jesus said "I thirst" (John 19:28.) The water of life, the presence of God, was taken from him. The point is this. Unless we come to grips with this "terrible" doctrine, we will never even begin to understand the depths of what Jesus did for us on the cross. His body was being destroyed in the worst possible way, but that was a flea bite compared to what was happening to his soul. When he cried out that his God had forsaken him he was experiencing hell itself. But consider--if our debt for sin is so great that it is never paid off there, but our hell stretches on for eternity, then what are we to conclude from the fact that Jesus said the payment was "finished" (John 19:30) after only three hours? We learn that what he felt on the cross was far worse and deeper than all of our deserved hells put together.

And this makes emotional sense when we consider the relationship he lost. If a mild acquaintance denounces you and rejects you--that hurts. If a good friend does the same--that hurts far worse. However, if your spouse walks out on you saying, "I never want to see you again," that is far more devastating still. The longer, deeper, and more intimate the relationship, the more tortuous is any separation. But the Son's relationship with the Father was beginningless and infinitely greater than the most intimate and passionate human relationship. When Jesus was cut off from God he went into the deepest pit and most powerful furnace, beyond all imagining. He experienced the full wrath of the Father. And he did it voluntarily, for us.
Fairly often I meet people who say, "I have a personal relationship with a loving God, and yet I don't believe in Jesus Christ at all." Why, I ask? "My God is too loving to pour out infinite suffering on anyone for sin." But this shows a deep misunderstanding of both God and the cross. On the cross, God HIMSELF, incarnated as Jesus, took the punishment. He didn't visit it on a third party, however willing.

So the question becomes: what did it cost your kind of god to love us and embrace us? What did he endure in order to receive us? Where did this god agonize, cry out, and where were his nails and thorns? The only answer is: "I don't think that was necessary." But then ironically, in our effort to make God more loving, we have made him less loving. His love, in the end, needed to take no action. It was sentimentality, not love at all. The worship of a god like this will be at most impersonal, cognitive, and ethical. There will be no joyful self-abandonment, no humble boldness, no constant sense of wonder. We could not sing to him "love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all." Only through the cross could our separation from God be removed, and we will spend all eternity loving and praising God for what he has done (Rev 5:9-14.)

And if Jesus did not experience hell itself for us, then we ourselves are devalued. In Isaiah, we are told, "The results of his suffering he shall see, and shall be satisfied" (Isaiah 53:11). This is a stupendous thought. Jesus suffered infinitely more than any human soul in eternal hell, yet he looks at us and says, "It was worth it." What could make us feel more loved and valued than that? The Savior presented in the gospel waded through hell itself rather than lose us, and no other savior ever depicted has loved us at such a cost.

Conclusion The doctrine of hell is crucial-without it we can't understand our complete dependence on God, the character and danger of even the smallest sins, and the true scope of the costly love of Jesus. Nevertheless, it is possible to stress the doctrine of hell in unwise ways. Many, for fear of doctrinal compromise, want to put all the emphasis on God's active judgment, and none on the self-chosen character of hell. Ironically, as we have seen, this unBiblical imbalance often makes it less of a deterrent to non-believers rather than more of one. And some can preach hell in such a way that people reform their lives only out of a self-interested fear of avoiding consequences, not out of love and loyalty to the one who embraced and experienced hell in our place. The distinction between those two motives is all-important. The first creates a moralist, the second a born-again believer.

We must come to grips with the fact that Jesus said more about hell than Daniel, Isaiah, Paul, John, Peter put together. Before we dismiss this, we have to realize we are saying to Jesus, the pre-eminent teacher of love and grace in history, "I am less barbaric than you, Jesus--I am more compassionate and wiser than you." Surely that should give us pause! Indeed, upon reflection, it is because of the doctrine of judgment and hell that Jesus' proclamations of grace and love are so astounding.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Ben Witherington on Hell

I love to read Ben. He is a Tar Heel and gives great movie reviews. He also is one of the world's leading evangelical scholars, is Amos Professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary. He is the author of over 40 books and is a frequent commentator on radio and television programs.

This link will give you his take on Hell. Read it carefully.....

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Rob Bell?

Martin Bashir has always been a great interviewer. He has taken on some of the top celebrities in the world and has never backed down or given them softball questions. In this interview, he doesn't let Rob do what Good Morning America and Livestream did in his past two interviews, he tries to get Rob to give a direct answer, Rob rarely does. He didn't last night or this morning either, sad.

 The thing that strikes me about Bell is he changes his answers and the way he answers depending on the interviewer or the audience. He reminds me of Bart Ehrman in this regard. Bart makes great claims in the company of non-christians but in the company of people of Dan Wallace's stature and expertise, for example, he never goes there.

Also, how many of the early Christians were so vague in their Gospel presentations. Rob never really uses the Bible to back up his claims. I would love to hear your comments. If you comment and have a point of view use the Bible to back it up. Rob rarely does.

Tim Keller on "The Importance of Hell" pt. 1

  The Importance of Hell

There are plenty of people today who don't believe in the Bible's teaching on everlasting punishment, even those who do find it an unreal and a remote concept.

by Tim Keller

In 2003 a research group discovered 64% of Americans expect to go to heaven when they die, but less than 1% think they might go to hell. Not only are there plenty of people today who don't believe in the Bible's teaching on everlasting punishment, even those who do find it an unreal and a remote concept. Nevertheless, it is a very important part of the Christian faith, for several reasons.

1. It is important because Jesus taught about it more than all other Biblical authors put together. Jesus speaks of "eternal fire and punishment" as the final abode of the angels and human beings who have rejected God (Matthew 25:41,46) He says that those who give into sin will be in danger of the "fire of hell" (Matthew 5:22; 18:8-9.) The word Jesus uses for 'hell' is Gehenna, a valley in which piles of garbage were daily burned as well as the corpses of those without families who could bury them. In Mark 9:43 Jesus speaks of a person going to "hell [gehenna], where 'their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.' " Jesus is referring to the maggots that live in the corpses on the garbage heap. When all the flesh is consumed, the maggots die. Jesus is saying, however, that the spiritual decomposition of hell never ends, and that is why 'their worm does not die.

In Matthew 10:28 Jesus says, "Do not fear those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." He is speaking to disciples, some of whom will eventually be tortured, sawn in half, flayed and burned alive. Yet, he says, that is a picnic compared to hell. Clearly, for Jesus hell was a real place, since he said that after judgment day people would experience it in their bodies. Hell is a place not only of physical but also of spiritual misery.
Jesus constantly depicted hell as painful fire and "outer darkness" (Matt 25:30; cf. Jude 6,7,13,) a place of unimaginably terrible misery and unhappiness. If Jesus, the Lord of Love and Author of Grace spoke about hell more often, and in a more vivid, blood-curdling manner than anyone else, it must be a crucial truth. But why was it so important to Jesus?

2. It is important because it shows how infinitely dependent we are on God for everything. Virtually all commentators and theologians believe that the Biblical images of fire and outer darkness are metaphorical. (Since souls are in hell right now, without bodies, how could the fire be literal, physical fire?) Even Jonathan Edwards pointed out that the Biblical language for hell was symbolic, but, he added, 'when metaphors are used in Scripture about spiritual things . . . they fall short of the literal truth." (from "The Torments of Hell are Exceeding Great" in volume 14 of the Yale edition of Edwards works.) To say that the Scriptural image of hell-fire is not wholly literal is of no comfort whatsoever. The reality will be far worse than the image. What, then, are the 'fire' and 'darkness' symbols for? They are vivid ways to describe what happens when we lose the presence of God. Darkness refers to the isolation, and fire to the disintegration of being separated from God. Away from the favor and face of God, we literally, horrifically, and endlessly fall apart.

In the teaching of Jesus the ultimate condemnation from the mouth of God is 'depart from me.' That is remarkable--to simply be away from God is the worst thing that can happen to us! Why? We were originally created to walk in God's immediate presence (Genesis 2.) In one sense, of course, God is everywhere and upholds everything. Only in him do we all speak and move and have our being (Acts 17:28.) In that sense, then, it is impossible to depart from the Lord; even hell cannot exist unless God upholds it. But the Bible says sin excludes us from God's 'face' (Isaiah 59:2.) All the life, joy, love, strength, and meaning we have looked for and longed for is found in his face (Psalm 16:11)-that is, in his favor, presence, fellowship, and pleasure.

Sin removes us from that aspect of his power that sustains and supports us. It is to us as water is to a fish-away from it our life slowly ebbs away. That is what has been happening to us throughout history. That is why, for Paul, the everlasting fire and destruction of hell is 'exclusion from the presence of the Lord." (2 Thessalonians 1:9.) Separation from God and his blessings forever is the reality to which all the symbols point. For example, when Jesus speaks being 'destroyed' in hell, the word used is apollumi, meaning not to be annihilated out of existence but to be 'totaled' and ruined so as to be useless for its intended purpose.

The image of 'gehenna' and 'maggots' means decomposition. Once a body is dead it loses its beauty and strength and coherence, it begins to break into its constituent parts, to stink and to disintegrate. So what is a 'totaled' human soul? It does not cease to exist, but rather becomes completely incapable of all the things a human soul is for--reasoning, feeling, choosing, giving or receiving love or joy. Why? Because the human soul was built for worshipping and enjoying the true God, and all truly human life flows from that. In this world, all of humanity, even those who have turned away from God, still are supported by 'kindly providences' or 'common grace' (Acts 14:16-17; Psalm 104:10-30; James 1:17) keeping us still capable of wisdom, love, joy, and goodness. But when we lose God's supportive presence all together, the result is hell.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Friday, March 11, 2011

Celebrating 400 years of the KJV

Many of you know this is the 400 year celebration of the King James Bible. Here’s a timeline of the people, places and events that led up to and include the publication of this great English Bible.
  • 130 B.C. – The Hebrew language stops being used by the masses.  Only the highly educated can read the Old Testament in Hebrew.  The first major Bible translation is done.  The Old Testament is translated into the language of the day, Greek.  This translation is called, “The Septuagint.”  This is the Bible most in the first century probably read, including Jesus.
  • 90’s A.D. – The last book of the New Testament, Revelation, is completed by John on the island of Patmos.  The Old and New Testament are now complete.
  • 100-382 A.D. – The Gospel spreads like wild fire throughout the known world.  These people all need the Bible.  Hand-written copies of the New Testament in Greek are produced all over the world to try to keep up with all the new followers of Christ.  Over 20,000 of these copies exist to this day.
  • 382-1500 A.D. – The known world eventually stops using the Greek language in favor of Latin.  Jerome translates the entire Bible into Latin, it is known as the Vulgate.  The Vulgate is the all-time most used Bible translation in human history.  Used more than the original Greek and the King James Version.
  • 700 A.D. – The Psalms and some of the Gospels are the first to be translated in a new language called English.
  • 735 A.D. – On the day he died a man named Venerable Bede finishes the first complete translation of a New Testament book into English (the book of John).
  • 1384 A.D. – John Wycliffe, a theology professor at Oxford, is fired for believing the Bible rather than the Pope is our ultimate authority.  Because of this conviction Wycliffe and his followers produced the first complete Bible in English. Wycliffe died of a stroke the same year his Bible was completed.  The Wycliffe Bible is a translation from the Latin Vulgate.
  • Associates of Wycliffe, after his death, finish his translation. The Church at the time said only the priests can rightly interpret the Bible so it was illegal to have the Bible in a language other than Latin. Many of Wycliffe’s associates were burned at the stake with their English translations tied around their necks.
  • 1408 – A law is passed in England banning the translation of the Bible into English.
  • 1428 – 44 years after Wycliffe died his bones were exhumed and burned for having translated the Bible into English (they were really mad).
  • 1440 A.D. – Johannes Gutenberg invents the Printing Press.  It is no longer necessary to make hand-written copies of the Bible.
  • October 31st, 1517 – A young Roman Catholic monk named Martin Luther challenges the church hierarchy of his day, like Wycliffe, by nailing his 95 theses to the church doors in Wittenberg, Germany.  This act sparks the Protestant Reformation.
  • Part of the reformation passion is allowing every person to read the Bible in their own language. Martin Luther translates the Bible into German for his country.
  • 1525 – William Tyndale, educated at Oxford and Cambridge and fluent in at least 6 languages including ancient Hebrew and Greek, completes a translation of the New Testament into English.  He flees England to complete his translation in the more friendly protestant land of Germany.  This is the first English translation of the New Testament produced from the original Greek.
  • 1536 – Tyndale famously says he wishes a plowboy to know as much about God as the Pope.  Tyndale is burned at the stake for translating the Bible into English.  His dying words are, “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes!”  Tyndale’s translation was so good 90% of it would reappear in the King James Version (the King of England’s Version).
  • 1539 – An English translation called The Great Bible appears to try to give churches at least one English Bible in their possession.  It is named Great because of its very large size.
  • 1560 – The Geneva Bible becomes the first English Bible where the entire Bible (not just the New Testament) is translated from the original Greek AND Hebrew. It is also the first translation done by a committee of people.
  • At the end of the 1500’s England was torn between two Bible translations.  Most people used the Geneva Bible but the clergy felt it was below them to use the commoners Geneva Bible.  A solution was needed.
  • 1603: Queen Elizabeth dies and King James VI, who had ruled Scotland for 37 years, becomes King James I of England.
  • 1604: King James summons the religious leaders of England together to settle on a common English translation that can be used by both clergy and the masses.  47 men stationed at Oxford, Cambridge and Westminster Abbey worked on the translation from original Greek and Hebrew manuscripts.  The translators, additionally, relied heavily on the Tyndale and Geneva Bibles.  Nearly 90% of Tyndale’s New Testament translation was used in the King James Version.
  • 1611: The King James Version, known in England as the Authorized Version, is published for the first time.  The purpose of the translators was not to make an entirely new translation of the Bible but, “to make a good one better, or out of many good ones, one principal good one.”
  • 1660’s: The King James Bible is not immediately a success.  It takes 50 years for the King James to surpass the Geneva Bible as the English Bible used by most people.
  • The King James Version has endured the test of time.  It has been referred to as, “the single greatest monument to the English language.”  What makes the King James so good? In one word, elegance.  It is not the most accurate, but it is the most beautiful.
  • Since 1611 the KJV has been “fixed” about 100,000 times to give us the translation of the KJV we have today.  Almost all of these “fixes” are minor spelling and punctuation changes.
  • It is impossible to gauge how many King James Bibles have been sold; estimates are simply in the hundreds of millions.  The King James will be the leading English Bible translation for more than 300 years until being surpassed in the late 1900’s by the New International Version (NIV)
(Parchment and Penn)


Beautiful country, beautiful people, terrible tragedy!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Is Wright wrong about Hell?

Quote from NT Wright about hell:

My suggestion is that it is possible for human beings so to continue down this road, so to refuse all whisperings of good news, all glimmers of the true light, all promptings to turn and go the other way, all signposts to the love of God, that after death they become at last, by their own effective choice, beings that once were human but now are not, creatures that have ceased to bear the divine image at all.  With the death of that body in which they inhabited God’s good world, in which the flickering flame of goodness had not been completely snuffed out, they pass simultaneously not only beyond hope but also beyond pity.  There is no concentration camp in the beautiful countryside, no torture chamber in the palace of delight.  Those creatures that still exist in an ex-human state, no longer reflecting their maker in any meaningful sense, can no longer excite in themselves or others the natural sympathy some feel even for the hardened criminal. (Surprised by Hope, p. 182-83, bold added).
(HT: New Leaven)

Wright says "beings that once were human but now are not"

  • say what?- Does he mean they become Zombies....  :)