Jesus Christ Is Lord

That every knee should bow and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father!

Posts Tagged ‘Annihilationism’

VeggieTales Versus Rob Bell: Not That Much Difference!

Posted by Job on March 24, 2011

First, let me say that I haven’t read Rob Bell’s book and I do not plan to ever to. The reason is that my bookshelf is so stacked with great items from legitimate Christian writers that it will take me years to go through them all, and I am yet in the process of trying to acquire more (I want a good commentary on the book of Daniel and on the gospel of Luke; I am accepting recommendations towards that end). So I don’t have the time – or the inclination – to read prattle from a known false teacher. Further, the doctrines that Bell are spreading are not new, but instead are the same abominable heresies that the church has been contending against since nearly the beginning, and then just as now are  the result of reading humanistic and pagan ideas into the Bible text. So, if you want a review of Bell’s “Love Wins”, I suggest Albert Mohler, Ken Silva (from whom I first learned of Bell and the movement that he represents), Phil Johnson, Tim Challies, The Gospel Coalition, and a host of Christian thinkers far more capable of that sort of thing than I. Meanwhile, I will continue to spend my free time reading books that actually contain truth from the likes of Charles Spurgeon, John Bunyan, George Whitefield and John Eadie.

Still, it is curious to note a curiosity or two. First, the postmodern hermeneutics employed by Bell, Brian McLaren, and similar are by no means new. Quite the contrary, it is reminiscent of allegorical and other techniques that have used to either ignore or alter the meaning of “inconvenient” Bible texts for hundreds of years. I won’t go into the various doctrines that these methods have been used to support or reject, but it goes without saying that using his interpretative method when it suits your own purposes makes it a lot harder to stand in the face of a blasphemer that is using it for his.

Second, it is even more difficult to hold figures like C.S. Lewis in high esteem (and for that matter Billy Graham) when Lewis, Graham, and many other giants of evangelical Christianity hold the same basic views as does Bell! Any number of evangelical Christian leaders encourage us to run out and take our children to see the “Narnia” movies because “it is oh so important to support Christian efforts in Hollywood and the mainstream culture.” As for Billy Graham, well, their “Gideon: The Tuba Warrior” episode saw fit to depict Graham (of all the preachers in history) as one raised up by God despite Graham’s publicly stating beliefs similar to those of Bell.

Speaking of VeggieTales, I recall reading the line “The evangelical “Veggie Tales” cartoons—animated Bible stories featuring talking cucumbers and tomatoes—probably shape more children in their view of scripture than any … catechism does” in the Wall Street Journal. (Note: here is a good catechism for children.) They are not alone. Quite the contrary, you are more likely to encounter an actual Biblical theme in VeggieTales than you will in any “Christian” children’s programming in your local Christian video store, or on Christian broadcasting. But evangelical and many fundamentalist parents buy things like Veggie Tales, The Horned Avenger, On The Farm, Hermie The Caterpillar, Adventures In Odyssey etc. despite the clear fact that A) most of them offer a “Christless” Christianity focused more on ethics, morals, virtues, so-called family values, than the gospel. Phil Vischer specifically stated that this is done to increase sales and make more money from Christians, and has the motto “the more you preach, the fewer you reach.” So, all of that Jesus Christ talk will mean not selling videos because Christians won’t buy it! And they know of what they speak … consider that Good Times Entertainment, whose products were often about Jesus Christ (consider the Bible series featuring Charlton Heston), went bankrupt in 2005. An example of what leaving Jesus Christ out results in? Their “The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything” movie allegorically depicting Satan as the brother of Jesus Christ. Another example? Teaching works-righteousness in “Minnesota Cuke and the Search for Noah’s Umbrella“, when the lead female character tells the lead male character (who in true feminist fashion – yes feminism has made real inroads in evangelical Christianity – in an incompetent idiot) that “Do you know what those who do the right thing are called? Righteous.” Actually, the New Testament says that righteousness comes by being imputed through Jesus Christ, and that it is impossible to be considered righteous apart from Jesus Christ. So the need to omit Jesus Christ in order to sell more DVDs results in teaching the exact opposite of what Jesus Christ taught and denying the reason for Jesus Christ’s ministry and work! As no one raised a peep about VeggieTales’ essentially endorsing Mormonism, Islam, Hinduism, modern Judaism, and every other false works-based religion, how can we be surprised when Rob Bell has such a huge audience? Bell is only reaping the fruit that that was planted and watered by others in fields that were plowed by others.

Now granted, VeggieTales does get around to mentioning Jesus Christ and even His atonement occasionally (see their Easter episodes, though typical of modern Christianity, they give Christmas much more attention than Easter, including promoting the very destructive Santa Claus works religion in two of them … telling kids that there’s no Santa Claus means not selling any DVDs though!), they and the other “Christian” entertainment rarely – if ever – mentions the other side. They will tell you “accept Jesus Christ and go to heaven.” They will not say “if you do not, you will go to hell.” Indeed, even mentions of hell are rare, and this is the case in Christian children’s entertainment, contemporary Christian and gospel music, Christian movies, Christian books, and most Christian evangelism and preaching. So, since we are in a Christian culture that leaves out this important detail, what is the basis, the justification, for getting angry when Rob Bell comes in and fills in the blanks for us?

A lot of Christians are angry at Bell for not believing orthodoxy, but the real problem is that those who believe orthodoxy will not preach orthodoxy.  Challies mentions a new book that discusses “issues pertinent to the church today” which a lot of popular contemporary writers contributed to. According to Challies, there is no chapter on hell, and there are only two references to it in the index! That is no surprise. Clark Pinnock, the Rob Bell of his day, related that when a major Christian publishing company solicited prominent evangelicals to represent the traditional, Protestant view in Four Views On Hell (which is a theological debate in published form) they found no one wanting to take the job! (Ultimately, dispensational pastor and theologian John Walvoord took the challenge.) Pinnock – and again this is nearly 20 years ago – defended his position at the time, annihilationism (this was before Pinnock discarded any remaining pretense of adhering to inerrancy and adopted views similar to Bell’s) by stating that due to the increasing unwillingness of evangelicals to preach about and defend the doctrine of hell, the result would be a widespread embrace of universalism. (Pinnock was not well versed on pluralism at the time, but after learning more about purgatory from the Roman Catholic contributor to the project, Zachary Hayes, he ultimately adopted it as his own position.)

So, Veggie Tales and its effects on children is merely symbolic for the larger Christian scene itself, whether an unwillingness to oft preach and share the whole gospel because it is not acceptable in modern humanist culture – we Christians have to keep our place in the mainstream! – or an unwillingness to confront, condemn and separate from those who preach false doctrines. Quite the contrary, Christianity Today, long the evangelical standard, published a missive aimed at Christians appropriately denouncing Bell, claiming among other things that they lacked the necessary qualifications and standing to do so, and that their actions reflected a lack of various Christian virtues. The writer calls (indirectly but very intentionally) those attacking Bell “meain-spirited”, directly accuses them of “lacking self-restraint”, and pines for the days when such debates were the exclusive domains of people like Plato and “Saint” Thomas Aquinas – in addition to Moses and Augustine – “who gained respect through a lifetime of scholarship.”

Well the respect of the world earned by “Saint” Aquinas for advancing popery and of the pagan Plato is not what we should be after in the first place. Instead, we should seek the grace given through Jesus Christ. That so many of us want the respect of those in whom the truth is not present is precisely why this great vacuum on teachings about hell exists. The problem is not that Rob Bell stepped up to fill it, for there have always been and will always be until Jesus Christ returns false teachers. No, the problem is the carnality caused by the love of this present world in the church that allows this void to exist to begin with.

The result of this void caused by the worldliness is that as many as 59% of evangelical Christians believe that salvation can be obtained outside of Jesus Christ. Not surprisingly, 59% of evangelicals also have “dealing with moral breakdown” as a forefront issue; apparently the great commission can wait for another day. Again, and this should surprise who? Did you think that it was secular humanists being raised on VeggieTales, Hermie The Caterpillar, Focus On The Family etc. and buying them for their kids? Or that atheists are the ones buying Christian and gospel music that does a great job of emulating secular music (or maybe not) but oft neglects the gospel? That theological liberals are the ones heading to Christian bookstores and loading up on “devotionals” that are increasingly just Christianized pop psychology and motivational writings?

The issue is not Rob Bell. The issue is the church and its dereliction of its duty while chasing after worldly pleasures. And let Revelation 2 and 3 remind you: the church is where judgment begins. To more that is given, more is required, and the parables of Jesus Christ tell us that to those to whom more is given, more is required, and further if we are not faithful with what we have been given, then what we have will be taken from us and given to those who have been faithful. We Christians have been given the gospel, and we must avoid allowing the love of this world to prevent us from proclaiming it in its entirety.

In closing, it must be said that if you are a not a Christian, do not take comfort in the lies of the pluralists and others who claim that there is salvation outside of Jesus Christ. Yes, the Bible does declare that love wins, but it will be love of holiness, justice, righteousness, and the only way to have those attributes is by imputation through identification with One who has those attributes, which is Jesus Christ. Unless you live in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ lives in you, there is no life and victory, but only eternal torment. So, I urge you to repent of your sins and join with Jesus Christ immediately.

Follow The Three Step Salvation Plan!

Advertisements

Posted in Bible, child evangelism, Christian hypocrisy, christian worldliness, Christianity, church hypocrisy, church worldliness, false doctrine, false religion, false teaching, Jesus Christ, religion, religious left, religious right, universalism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

How Can A Loving God Send People To Hell? Answering Requires Knowing What Love Is

Posted by Job on March 12, 2011

Many people reject the doctrine of eternal damnation, opting instead for universalism and annihilationism, using the logic: “how can a loving God act in an unloving manner?” To answer this question, we have to deal with love itself. To that end, notes from a sermon on love preached by Stanley Jordan are below.

Key verse: 1 John 4:7-11 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son [to be] the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.

Once we come to know Jesus Christ, He desires for us to live a live full of love.
Real love is promoting the good of someone or something for its own sake.
Love is not desire, because we can desire something without even wishing it well.
Desire is the essence of lust.
In our fallen world, love constantly falls prey to lust.
However, love is the deepest essence of God.
It is impossible for God not to love.
Pride is thinking all your desires should be met.
Lust and pride lead to a world of fear.
Jesus Christ came to show us the ultimate love and to take away fear so we can live lives full of love.
The crucifixion of Jesus Christ is the climax of love on earth.

Based on those sermon notes, we can plainly see that love is not a transaction. It is not conditional. It is not “give and take”, it is not “I’ll scratch your back, you’ll scratch mine. Legitimate Christianity is based on an unconditional love for God. See the book of Job. Much of modern Christianity, such as the prosperity/Word of Faith doctrines, is based on the transactional model, where love is where you do things that someone else want in order to get something that you want in return. For many Christians, that is what salvation is: a transaction. I “give Jesus Christ my heart” and obey to live according to certain religious, moral and ethical rules, and in return God gives me heaven! That is not salvation, and it is not love. Contrast that with Paul’s amazing statement in Romans 9:3, when he stated that his love for his Jewish people was so much that he wished that he could trade his own salvation in return for that of the Jewish people! Paul was willing to spend eternity in the lake of fire so that Israel could be saved! Needless to say, you haven’t heard very many sermons preached on Romans 9:3 have you? Let me give the pastor who preaches from Romans 9:3 some advice … pass the offering plate before the sermon! But let it be said that the person who wrote Romans 9:3 understood true love, because he received love and the revelation of the meaning of love from Jesus Christ and from the Holy Spirit.

So, what we understand as love today is actually a corrupt perversion of the concept. Now I am not a fan of the Buddhist Tina Turner, but she was absolutely 100% right in “What’s Love Got To Do With It.” The way that the fallen world portrays love, it is just a secondary emotion. Fallen, worldly carnal love is just a manifestation of human desire; a personal attraction towards the things that make you feel good. It is not noble or praiseworthy, because it often comes without any concept of sacrifice, commitment or responsibility.

A woman can fall in love with a man, pledge herself to marry him, and then leave him standing at the altar while she runs off with the best man because she loves him too! And that man ten years later can walk out on that woman and the four small children that they have had together for another woman – or in these wicked times, another man! – that he has allegedly fallen in love with. And that jilted woman can use her feelings of anger and rejection over this event as an excuse to abuse her children, and when the state comes to take her children away to save them from the abuse, she will protest by claiming that she wants and deserves to keep her children because they are hers and she loves them! This is the result of seeing love as giving and getting in order to meet your emotional needs and desires. It is precisely this fallen notion of love that causes so many parents to spoil, neglect, deprive, become co-dependent on, or otherwise abuse their children. In the church, we absolutely positively cannot continue to take the fallen, carnal love that is mostly based on temporal feelings and fleshly desires for the pure, eternal love that is part of God by way of His attribute and character.

Now this is hard to do because human culture exalts fallen, carnal love. Look at love songs, and it does not matter the genre of the music. Most of them are simply about pleasure, desire and emotion. And it is not just contemporary culture either. Take classic literature: look at Romeo and Juliet. It’s about two “lovers” committing suicide! Much of the so-called love literature throughout the ages has been about adultery and other illicit romances! (For those who bash Hollywood, contemporary movies and TV shows are actually more moral than classic literature.) Fairy tales? Most of it is desire and infatuation. A prince wants to marry a woman that he has never seen before merely because she is beautiful, and it was “a dream” for a woman merely because she got to be a princess and live in a castle.

The love depicted in entertainment and literature often more resembles the selfish, irrational passion-driven behavior of false gods of Greek, Roman, Norse or eastern mythology than the God of the Bible who sent His only begotten Son to save sinners. Despite what man-centered thinking and theology, this was not only a huge sacrifice, but a one way sacrifice. Tell me the way, shape or fashion that sending Jesus Christ to die on a cross was to the advantage or benefit to God the Father? How did God the Father gain from that transaction? Realize that where all false religions – Buddhism, Hinduism, Mormonism, modern Judaism, Islam, Catholicism, Scientology, the mythology systems, you name it – are transaction based (based on trading and transacting between the worshiper and the object of worship) legitimate Christianity is the only one based on what the sovereign God did with no expectation of any gain or advantage for or to Himself, and demands that its adherents follow after God’s example (see 1 Peter 1:16) by also acting righteously not because we expect to be rewarded, but because our love for God causes us to.

We need to stop mistaking love for desire, for where the former leads us to Godliness, the latter leads us to be more like Satan. Carnal desire leads to pride, and pride is what precipitated the fall of not only Satan, but of Adam. Adam’s fall was due to the lust of the eyes (desire for what one sees), lust of the flesh (desire to fill one’s wants or appetites) and the pride of life. Adam’s fall happened because he traded Godly love for carnal love. As a result, carnal love is primarily what those who are in Adam know for themselves and desire for themselves.

Where perfect love, Godly love, casts out all fear (1 John 4:18), carnal love can only result in fear. The reason is that where perfect love causes one to deny himself and seek that which is not to his own benefit, carnal love is obsessed with getting what you want, holding onto it, and getting still more. The fear comes from the dread of being denied what you want, losing what you have, and also even the thought that getting what you want may not even make you happy. One only need to peruse the despair of Solomon in Ecclesiastes, which was the result of his trading Godly love for carnal affections, to see this dread and fear.

So, when the issue is applied to eternal damnation in the lake of fire, we must remember 3 things.

1.God does love humans, but He does not only love humans! It is narcissist for us to believe that our considerations must come first, or that our treatment must outweigh all. This is not a surprise, because fallen, want and desire based “love”, the second hand emotion, is inherently narcissistic because it values meeting one’s own desires above all. The truth is that in addition to loving humans, God by His own character is also required to love holiness, justice, righteousness and order. These are God’s attributes – part of God – and yes God does love God (see John 3:35, which says God the Father loves God the Son). For God to put His love for humans first would make humanity into a god that Jehovah must serve! And further, as humanity is limited in power, knowledge and morality and therefore sinful, the love required to put humanity first would have to be an imperfect love, a love that is more akin to the fallen carnal love common to humanity that is clearly distinct from and inferior to perfect divine love. By possessing and acting according to such a love, God would be in contradiction with Himself, contain imperfection and unrighteousness – or sin – within Himself, and not be God at all. Therefore, God must balance His love for humanity with His love for such things as holiness, justice and righteousness, and with His love for God. This is done by mercifully saving some humans from the punishment that they deserve by grace through the actions of Jesus Christ, and giving the rest of humanity the punishment that sin requires.

2.Why must the punishment be eternal? This is because in order to be a just punishment, it must be in proportion to the offense. God is eternal, not temporal. Sin is an offense against an eternal Deity, and thus has eternal consequences. The eternal consequences of sin were such that it required the death of God’s eternal Son on the cross! So, in order for the punishment to fit the crime, the eternal consequences of sin require an eternal punishment. Annihilationism rejects the eternal consequences of sin, and in effects treats the consequences of sin to be temporal. Yet, annihilationism inconsistently accepts the payment of sin by Jesus Christ to be eternal and not temporal! For annihilationism to be consistent, there cannot be an eternal reward for those that Jesus Christ redeemed. Or at the very least, the death of Jesus Christ was a payment that vastly exceeded the nature of the crime! If sin were temporal and not eternal, why would not the sacrifice of a temporal being that is not charged with sin, such as a bull or goat, adequately deal with it?

3.Be not deceived: God does love those who are going to hell! Claiming otherwise is treating love as a transaction, where God’s love is determined merely by the treatment that He metes out, and in the context of how we perceive it – how we want to be treated and think that we should be treated – in particular. It is only fallen, carnal love based on fulfilling our desires and seeking our own interests for our own sakes that makes it difficult to fathom how God can love someone that He sends to the lake of fire. Instead, of viewing love as a transaction as the world does, Christians should strive to see love as an attribute inherent to God’s nature. Love is God, love is part of God, love is defined by God, and it does not and cannot exist in the absence of God. Love is not this independent attribute that is part of creation (a naturalist view), nor is it this impersonal energy or force (like the karma and similar in eastern religions). We would like to define love on these terms because it suits our own agendas. And this notion of love according to our own desires is what allows us to declare God unloving and unrighteous because He does not conform to it. We either do this out of hand (in the case of atheists) or we reject Biblical truths and doctrines that transgress our view of love while accepting only those that fit our self-styled and self-serving ethics and morality (far more common than atheism, but just as dangerous).

So, true perfect love is part of God. It is given to humanity in part as a gift of the Holy Spirit through common grace, and man due to his fallen nature misunderstands, corrupts and to a degree rejects even this part (see Romans 1:18-32). But it is given to Christians in a more full and perfect measure as a fruit of the Holy Spirit. However, a great many Christians, particularly those who are spiritually immature, do not reach their potential in fully understanding or comprehending this fruit, as this pure perfect love is acted against by our flesh (our fallen nature) and is even denied by some less than ideal Christian doctrines and practices. But the duty of the Christian is to better know God so that we may better know and understand His love. This can be achieved by A. loving God ourselves through the keeping of His commandments (see Titus 1:16) and seeking a better, fuller revelation of God through B. studying and meditating on the Bible, C. through legitimate worship and praise that is with reverence and Godly fear, and D. by the revelation of the Holy Spirit, which we are more open and receptive through by our faithfully and diligently pursuing A., B., and C. Where a human cannot understand how God can love those that He sends to hell (or more accurately the lake of fire), God’s ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9). We cannot understand God’s ways in full, but our duty is to become closer to God and more like God, to submit ourselves to being conformed into the image of Jesus Christ, so that our knowledge of God and His ways, though partial, is greater and more accurate.

Ultimately, these things are not for the world’s consumption. The fallen mind is going to go after fallen things. The duty of the Christian is not to get fallen man to accept Christian doctrines, or to declare them to be “acceptable” or “reasonable.” The Bible tells us that the fallen world is going to find these things foolishness and contemptible, and ill-treat Christians as a result. Indeed, this has happened ever since wicked Cain slew righteous Abel, and will happen until Jesus Christ returns to save His church from the same world that rejected and slew Him on a cross. (And yes, many of the same people who claim that a loving God would never send people to hell also claim that a loving God would never send His Son to die on the cross as payment for the sins of others … even some so-called Christians refer to this as “cosmic child abuse”, as they too see love as a transaction and not as a Divine attribute within the Divine and therefore defined by the Divine).

The idea that “love is defined by God” may seem to be nothing more than an invalid debate tactic on the part of a Christian caught in an unresolvable trap or conundrum created by his own doctrines and interpretation of scripture. But the fact that “love is defined by God” is one that is consistent with God’s own revelation of Himself through His Name in the Bible. The Name of Himself that God revealed to Moses: “I AM THAT I AM”. That Name reveals God’s self-existence, and self-existence inherently means self-definition. And being the only self-existing entity, God’s self-definition is the only valid definition. And by virtue of being Creator, God is free to impose His self-definition on His creation, to demand that His creation acknowledge and respond to it, and to judge and punish His creation for their refusal or otherwise failure to do so. Make no mistake, “I AM THAT I AM” means “love is a Divine attribute that is defined by God”, and this means that humans must accept, respect and honor God’s self-definition of His actions as loving and make the appropriate response. And the only acceptable response that a sinner is capable of making is submitting to the loving act of God as represented by Jesus Christ on the cross, and acknowledging its meaning.

If you have not yet done so, do not delay. Respond to the love of God today by:

Following The Three Step Salvation Plan!

Posted in Bible, Christianity, false doctrine, false teaching, Jesus Christ | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Substitutionary Atonement Disproves Annihilationism

Posted by Job on August 22, 2009

Concerning the final fate of those who die unreconciled to Jesus Christ and as a result whose names are not written in the Lamb’s book of life and suffer judgment, punishment, the lake of fire, the second death, the historic position based on the plain readings of scripture has been burning eternally in the lake of fire. However, this doctrine has been under attack at least since the time of Origen, who proposed that punishment in the lake of fire would be temporary and rehabilitative, and after the period of rehabilitation everyone – humans and demons – will be forgiven. A more recent doctrinal trend rejects Origen’s universalism (and his rehabilitative punishment idea, in which the roots of the Roman Catholic purgatory doctrine can be found) in favor of annhiliationaism, the idea that rather than burning for an eternity, human souls will simply be consumed.

Now of course, this ignores that the Bible explicitly states that both wicked and saints will be resurrected from the dead, and at that time both wicked and saints will receive bodies that are eternal and indestructible, and that their torment would last forever. However, the annihilationist view rejects those in favor of various scriptures cited out of context to support the idea that the wicked will simply be instantly consumed, and that the references to eternal punishment mean that the wicked will cease to exist forever.

First, we have to consider the motivations for adopting this doctrine. Its adherents plainly state that it is because an eternity in the lake of fire is too cruel a punishment and therefore unjustifiable. Of course, this is a direct attack against and outright denial of God’s sovereignty, not far removed from the universalist position that a loving God would not condemn anyone. Further, this doctrine appears to be gaining traction when those consider the plight of people who were never exposed to the gospel. Free will-Wesleyan-Arminian-“Biblicist” annihilationists take the position that God cannot impose so severe a punishment on those who by their time and place of birth never had the opportunity to be saved through the exercise of their free will decision for Jesus Christ. (The extreme position of this view is taken by Clark Pinnock, who states that it is unfair for God to so severely punish even those who use their free moral agency to REJECT Jesus Christ, because that would place God at fault for giving us free will and the opportunity to reject Him in the first place.)

Reformed-Calvinist annihilationists have problems with the opposite end of the soteriology question: they cannot reconcile eternal punishment with a God who elects and predestines people to avoid it. Again, God’s sovereignty is in view here. Stating that God does not have the right to deal with His creation in any way that He chooses so long as His dealings are consistent with His nature is tantamount to suggesting that God had no right to undertake and accomplish creation in the first place. Amazingly, both the free will and predestinarian annihilationists have no problem with God punishing demons, evil spirits, forever. If it the issue truly is how a loving God is obligated to behave towards His creation, fallen angels should be the first issue of concern, as no redemption plan exists for them. Instead, it is only God’s prerogative with humans that drives doctrines that attack His sovereignty, which shows that humanism – a manifestation of the pride of life – is what is truly behind them, not the honest pursuit of theology, doctrines or theodicy. So, these folks start with the perspective of humanistic philosophy, wrap it in scriptures, and come up with a pious and spiritual sounding but ultimately false theology

However, it is rather simple to oppose this humanistic philosophy masquerading as theology with, well, theistic philosophy. Where humanistic philosophy that leads to the position adopted by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, and the Church of England (annihilationism), starting with the Person of Jesus Christ leads to a philosophically different viewpoint. Go right to the cross, and consider the doctrine of substitutionary atonement (which incidentally Roman Catholics reject). Substitutionary atonement is the Biblical truth that Jesus Christ died on the cross in our place, Himself taking the punishment of death for sin that God’s righteousness demands (Ezekiel 18) in our stead.

This is the rub: Jesus Christ was and is no mere man. Instead, He is the Word of God, the eternal second Person of the Holy Trinity! Meanwhile, humans are not eternal. We will exist forever FORWARD into eternity either in heaven or the lake of fire. But as creatures (created beings) we have no part in eternity PAST. Instead, we have a definite, finite point of origin. So, when Jesus Christ took the sins of the elect, the church on the cross and died, it was the ETERNAL Son of God dying. Metaphysically, cosmically, the punishment was ETERNAL, and Jesus Christ took an ETERNAL punishment in our place because God is ETERNAL.

And this is fitting the nature of sin. Sin is a crime against a holy ETERNAL God that has ETERNAL consequences. Paying those eternal consequences for a crime that offends an eternal God requires an eternal punishment, an eternal payment. Being eternal, Jesus Christ satisfied the consequences of this eternal punishment with His own death. So, the eternal punishment of sins, to be meted out to those who will exist forever, is paid. But for those who do not participate in the atoning redemption given by the eternal Son of God’s work still have to pay themselves.

Suggesting otherwise ignores the eternal consequences of sin and its affront to the holiness of God. So, in addition to being an attack against God’s sovereignty, annihilationism denies His holiness.

Posted in Christianity, Jesus Christ | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Goodness Of God: Is It Relative Or Absolute?

Posted by Job on January 4, 2009

I am going to reuse one of my favorite cliches from philosophy: “if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear or see it, has it really fallen?”

Now I do not know much about philosophy but I will attempt to answer it from a philosophical angle. The modernist would reply “yes, because the tree’s falling is fact, a historical event that took place in the natural realm of space and time, a propositional, rational truth. The fact that it was not observed does not negate the fact that it was a real, observable, measurable event that left evidence behind of its occurrence.”

The postmodernist for his part would reply “no, because truth is relative, and is solely determined by the person who interprets and determines truth based on his experiences and biases. So, if there was no one there to hear or see the tree fall, then there was no one there to determine that this event happened or interpret its meaning. Even if you were to claim that the tree did fall, I have the right to declare that it did not, and my opinion would be every bit as valid as yours.”

The premodernist for his part would state “whether the tree fell or not or if there ever was a tree in the first place is up to my religious leader and my political leader to decide – especially if my religious leader and my political leader are the same person -and anyone who disagrees with them will be burned as a heretic so either way the truth really doesn’t matter does it!”

So for some issues, modernism, postmodernism, and premodernism are inadequate. Modernism can only deal with truths that can be observed or measured according to some rational system so that mind makes right. Postmodernism makes truth a moving target so that it can be the instrument of whoever is best able to use – or misuse – it so that feelings make right. And premodernism allows truth to be defined by human institutions and authority so that might makes right. So when it comes to the Bible, all of them come short.

Faith, that which is unseen, hoped for, and will ultimately be realized only in the world to come, cannot be observed or measured. No one has ever seen God at any time. Yet faith is based on direct and core truths that cannot be cast off with feelings, interpretations, or cultural constructs. God does definitely exist. However, true faith cannot be dictated or imposed by human might or effort. God alone provides humans with the ability to truly believe in and obey Him. 

So it is with the attributes of God, including His goodness. Is God’s goodness relative or absolute? The reason why I ask is related to my earlier post on the direction of modern Christian and popular music, and also of much contemporary Christian preaching. Many Christian songs and sermons declare the goodness of God based not only on what God has done, but specifically based on the good things that God has done for them. Now I do acknowledge and commend some among these people that exist in this environment and yet manage to deal with the many bad, cruel, horrible things that are the facts of life: sickness, death, family breakups, persecution etc. But even there, the response is usually “God is still good because He allowed these bad things to happen to me in order to teach me a lesson … to make me stronger.”

So what, then, is the message? The conclusion? The point? That God is good because He is good to us? That would mean that God’s goodness is not absolute but rather relational. It means that God’s goodness is defined according to how He behaves towards His creation, or even a subset thereof. So, God is allowed to be good towards sinful man because sinful man has been redeemed by Jesus Christ. God is allowed to punish those not redeemed by Jesus Christ because a truly good God cannot allow evil to go unpunished. Why the latter? Because a good God HAS to punish the bad people for the things that they have done to other people, especially the good people! (And who are the good people? Why me and people like me, including those that I know and care about!)

This line of thinking creates a problem. If God’s goodness is only relational with respect to His creation, then what about before creation? What about before Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1? As prior to creation God had no creation to be good in relationship to, then was God good before He created? Well, to get around that problem, many claim that God performed creation because of His goodness! That it was because of His goodness God created something to express His goodness with, or to create some expression or outlet for His goodness!

That is fine until you deal with the fact that creation was ultimately tainted by sin, which necessitates destroying practically all of it. So if God’s goodness is a function of how He behaves toward creation, how could He have given creation the possibility of being corrupted by sin? Would it not have been a better working of God’s goodness not to have allowed sin to corrupt creation, or never to have created at all? 

This actually gets to be a real problem when it comes to the eternal fates of human spirits. If God’s goodness is based on how He treats His creation, then how can a good God allow human spirits to burn in the lake of fire for eternity? It is precisely that question that leads people to embrace universalism (everyone will be saved), pluralism (all good people will be saved regardless of their accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior), and annihilationism (those who are not saved will be consumed by Gehenna flames and cease to exist rather than burn eternally). And it does not stop there. Why should a truly good God require holy living, actual faith, and submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ from Christians? A profession of faith, and certainly recitation of a prayer, participation in baptism, and regular church attendance and giving should be enough. 

It leads to “God is good because of how He treats mankind.” And that leads to “God is good because of how He treats ME.” As humans are by nature self – centered (and our postmodern culture makes us even more so!) this is inevitable. And that leads to a distorted view of God from which comes distorted doctrines, practice, and Christian living. If God is good because of how He treats me, then that allows me to judge God by determining what is good and what isn’t. If God does not treat me how I believe that I deserve to be treated, then God is not good. So, I will go follow a doctrine, a movement, a religion whose “god” treats me, accommodates me, in the manner that I feel is appropriate and that I deserve. If I love myself, I will choose a “god” who indulges me, if I hate myself, I will choose a “god” that punishes me. Also, if God is good because of how He treats me, why should I fear such a God? Why should I approach Him with trembling? (I know that Hebrews says to go boldly before the throne of grace in prayer, but the point is not the boldness but the grace. It is only God’s grace that makes such a bold approach possible.)

So Christians have to accept, teach, preach, and live the fact that God’s attributes – His goodness, greatness, love, righteousness, holiness, power, omnipotence etc. – are not relational, or defined in any sense by God’s position with man or man’s position with God. Instead, they are absolute. As God pre – exists, His attributes pre – exists. They define God, and God defines them. They are facts and are the same with or without creation. They are what creation has the responsibility of responding to. And they are what God’s ultimate creation, the church, has the responsibility of interpreting God’s Word, the Bible, in light of. 

So God is not good because of what He does for you. God is good regardless of what happens to you in this life or the next. God bestows goodness on His creation because of grace. But without that factor, or even without creation, God would still be good. So we should praise, worship, and glorify God because He is good, and not because His goodness means any particular positive outcome for His creation or any portion of it. 

Christians need to urgently recognize this fact, and to change their songs and sermons accordingly.

Posted in Christianity, Jesus Christ | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Annihilationism And The Christian Metaphysic

Posted by Job on February 18, 2008

Not long after I began this site, a fellow objected to my brazen emphasis on two foundational Christian doctrines: the Holy Trinity and eternal suffering in the lake of fire for sinners that die without accepting the resurrection and Lordship of Jesus Christ. The man dismissed by being “hatefully intolerant and unnecessarily divisive” on the Trinity issue, and further insisted that the doctrine of eternal suffering in the lake of fire was of pagan in origin and made God appear both overly cruel to sinners and choosing to allow evil to exist for eternity rather than causing sinners and fallen angels to simply be consumed and cease to exist, hence annihiliationism.

Now my first impulse was to simply dismiss this fellow, sincere as he was, as someone with marginal views. Now I see how wrong I am. As for modalism, while the number of those that OFFICIALLY align themselves with this heretical doctrine through membership of varied oneness pentecostal denominations is small, 17 million, they exert influence on the rest of Christianity in a manner far greater than their numbers. Apart from them is also the increasing number of liberal and emergent Christians that really see no need for particulars concerning the Godhead because their doctrines do not require Trinity or for that matter even a truly divine Jesus Christ to begin with, for they have centered their beliefs around the false god of manhood anyway.

But it has recently come to my attention that annihiliationism is also gaining traction in evangelical circles, and among its adherents is evangelical giant John Stott. And just like evangelical Christianity did absolutely nothing regarding T. D. Jakes or the many other oneness preachers, it has refused to rise up and discredit Stott and the annihilationist preachers. Why? Because modern evangelicalism hates Christian fundamentalism worse than Christian heresy. Now is it possible to hold certain heretical or blasphemous views without being a heretic on his way to the lake of fire? I myself believe that to be the case, primarily because of my notion there are degrees of seriousness of doctrinal deviation, and also the hearer is only responsible for the portion of sound doctrine that he has been exposed to. But whatever the implications that a particular doctrine might have on the eternal salvation or damnation of its holder, certain views are still quite simply deviate from scripture, and those that preach them are not to be accepted or tolerated because of their standing or of some misguided desire not to be a Pharisee or cause of disunity, and that goes for John Stott and annihilationism, Billy Graham and universalism, or R. C. Sproul and infant baptism.

Now most of the justifications for this doctrine is typical man – centered doctrine, both the notion that God has no right to treat their exalted notion of mankind in such a way (don’t Christians read the Old Testament anymore?) and that having to publicly espouse the doctrine in the presence of those that reject it make them uncomfortable. But there is one legitimate issue that they have raised that I wish to deal with according to my limited ability to do so: the idea advanced by annihiliationists that the eternal punishment cannot be because eternal existence is a gift from God that will be granted only to those that make a decision for Jesus Christ. In other words, in the view of evangelical scholars like Clark Pinnock, Edward Fudge, John Sanders, Philip Hughes eternal existence is conditional. Some, but not all, evangelicals that hold this view are open theists, those who hold a doctrine that teaches that God changes His Will in response to man’s actions in history (consider it process theology – lite).

To further make this point, Pinnock for example ultimately denies the reality of the existence of the created spirit – man as described by Numbers 27:16, Job 32:8, Job 34:14, Proverbs 18:14, Ecclesiastes 3:21 to claim for all intents and purposes that man only has a body, and that to support the hellenistic belief of eternal punishment Christian tradition rejected the biblical doctrine of the resurrection of the body in favor of a focus on man’s eternal spirit. It is not so much that Pinnock or other such people deny the existence of the spirit man, but rather they view that the physical human existence as the ultimate reality – this is humanist evangelical Christianity after all, a fact of which they are very proud! – and as a result the spirit man would obviously share the same fate as the natural body.

I suppose that in a different era, we might have had to give this notion some serious consideration. But thanks to the discoveries of one Albert Einstein, we no longer have to. Not that Einstein was much of an innovator, as he merely proved with his theory of relativity what the Bible already said: that time was part of creation along with space. Three – dimensional space and time are not separate entities, but rather creation consists of four – dimensional space – time. And my King James Version says in Revelation 10:6 that on the day of the Lord, time will cease to exist along with the rest of the cosmos, the created order of space, matter, and TIME. “And sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer.” Please note what the next verse says for reference:
But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets.”

Now this is very destructive to many open theists because their doctrines make God a function and servant of time in some respects. (More accurately, this theology views God as not so much dependent on time but rather in bondage to the free will decisions of man made in time.) But the truth is that God will do away with time when He ends creation, because time is part of that creation. Before creation there was no time, and after creation there will be no time. And that is the problem with the anniliationist view: they see evil spirits – which includes the spirits of men – as needing to be sustained by God for eternity, which in their view is time running forever, a view that comes from math (and physics) class of eternity consisting of infinite time, with that infinity being able to exist in three ways: from yesterday to infinity (negative infinity), from tomorrow to infinity (positive infinity), and from today to infinity in both directions (total infinity).

But math class does not describe the spiritual realm that God inhabits, only the natural realm. In truth, it does not even accurately describe the natural realm, for astrophysics does not regard negative infinity of time – space but rather it having a definite beginning (the Big Bang!) that confirms the creation of both in Genesis 1 (and John 1), and as just stated Revelation depicts the ending of space – time (as do the Old Testament prophets and Jesus Christ also).

Though spirits may appear in the time – space limitations of creation for a time as do angels in their appearances, as did God in Old Testament theophanies, and Jesus Christ in the incarnation, the true abode for spirits is the spiritual realm where time is nonexistent. That is eternity, that is forever, that is the final state. Each human has a spirit man that will have a final existence, a final status, in the spirit realm where time will not exist. Cessation of existence will not be a factor, because cessation requires TIME which is part of CREATION. Instead, spirits of men – in addition to angels whether fallen or not – will simply exist. The only question is where this existence will be. Those that rebelled against God within the time – space of creation will exist in the lake of fire. Those that obeyed God during the time – space of creation will exist with Him.

Despite the scriptures that the annihilationists use out of context (literary context, the context of the audience to whom the scriptures were first given, and the context of the totality of scripture) that they use to build their case, rest assured that their motivation in applying them is borne of a prior conviction that man is too important and precious for God to treat – and in their opinion mistreat! – in such a fashion. “God cannot do this to me because He has no right to!” is the mindset that motivates this doctrine, and that is primarily why it must be rejected.

Please note that some of the more radical exponents of this doctrine, which does not appear to include Stott, state that the reason why eternal punishment cannot exist is because of the implications of free will. God cannot compel us to serve or love Him, but can only accept our decisions to do so arising from ourselves. Now while in their estimation God can and should bestow limitless blessings on those that accept Him, by that same estimation God simply has no right to make the punishment of those that freely choose to reject Him particularly onerous. Their belief: “it is my choice out of my free will, God, and your only choice is to accept my free will, give me a punishment that I decide to be appropriate, and go on about your business and leave the matter be!” I cannot help but considering it to be the “it is my body, my choice, and my life!” humanistic philosophy of the pro – abortion movement applied to Christian theology. At the very minimum, the very same lying evil spirits are at the root of it, seducing the desperately wicked deceitful hearts of man (Jeremiah 17:9)that harbor imaginations and high things that exalt themselves against God (2 Corinthians 10:5).

The final insult is that annihilationism advocates promote their position as the solution to the problem that evangelical pastors are increasingly uncomfortable about the topic of the lake of fire and now rarely mention it, and as a result the doctrine may soon vanish from mainstream respectable Christianity. They propose their view as a way to make divine punishment acceptable enough to the world that evangelical pastors will again start preaching it, and thereby save the doctrine of divine punishment from extinction, making them the TRUE defenders of the orthodox notions of the sovereignty and holiness of God (at least with regards to how those notions relate to the inherent great value of man and his free will). Both the trends of Christian pastors refusing to tread on the topic because of their own cowardice before worldly opinion and the willingness to embrace heretical doctrines to please this same world that rejected and murdered God on the cross is evidence that the great apostasy, the great falling away, is indeed nigh upon us. Sadly, the oneness annihilationist (Laymond was his screen name) was not someone with marginal views, but rather represented one that was on the cutting edge. Instead, the biblical view is the one that is fast becoming marginal.

Posted in apostasy, Bible, blasphemy, Christianity, endtimes, eschatology, evangelical christian, heresy, humanism, prophecy, salvation | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

 
%d bloggers like this: