(Most modern Christians are very reluctant to talk about hell and when
they do they skirt around it with much prevarication and equivocation)
Ya reckon?  They seem to have little problem talking about Satan,
demonic possession and all the rest …  Or do you mean the academic
ones, not educated at American bible colleges?
No, pretty much all of them.  Satan, demonic possession is easy.  Hell is another matter altogether.
What has happened, I submit, is that even very fundy Christians no longer truly believe that Hell is a *just punishment*.
Tertullian (c 200ADish) wrote that one of the chief pleasures of heaven would be watching the sufferings of the damned in hell.  When you think about that, its actually quite logical.  God is perfectly just, as are his punishments.  If people are punished with eternal suffering by God, that punishment is what they deserve and the exercise of it is an exercise of righteous correction.  Surely the saints should rejoice in seeing perfect justice being done – if they were sad to see people in hell, doesn’t that imply that (1) they doubt that the judgement was just (2) Satan has won – the saint’s pleasure in God’s presence in heaven is tempered by the sins of others?
Try getting even the most fundy evangelical to agree with Tertullian.  In fact try getting a fundy to actually condemn a particular person to hell.  Ye olde fundies were quite happy to say to particular people ‘You are a sinner, justly condemned to fire for your heinous sins’.  Nowdays they talk as if our inability to reach heaven was some sort of inherent limitation, like being born with no legs, and God has in his love given us a wheelchair – all we have to do is get in and use it.
God’s just anger and wrath has gone.  God has been recast as passive – God ‘because he is just, cannot say that our rebellion against him doesn’t matter. … When I go astray I am actually saying to God, “God, I do not accept you as God of my life – I am the ruler – please go away and leave me alone.” … God cannot just say to Hitler that it doesn’t matter and sweep Hitler’s offence under the carpet. And God (because of his justice) can’t say that my offence doesn’t matter, for my offence may be of a different degree – but its antisocial nature is the same.  God in his justice gives us what we ask for. Eternity without him. ‘Hell’ is not the popularly conceived ‘goblins at the end of the garden’, but rather is eternal loneliness … as God withdraws relationship from us. ‘
Look at all the ‘cant’s’.  God would like to forgive you, but ‘can’t’.  God doesn’t actually punish you he ‘gives us what we ask for’.  Hell isn’t fire but ‘eternal loneliness’.
These people no longer believe that eternal wailing and gnashing of teeth is a just and Godly punishment for those who have not been saved through Jesus.

Tertullian (c 200ADish) wrote that one of the chief pleasures of heaven would be watching the sufferings of the damned in hell.

When you think about that, it’s actually quite logical. God is perfectly just, as are his punishments. If people are punished with eternal suffering by God, that punishment is what they deserve and the exercise of it is an exercise of righteous correction. Surely the saints should rejoice in seeing perfect justice being done—if they were sad to see people in hell, wouldn’t that imply that:

  1. they doubt that the judgment was just
  2. Satan has won—the saint’s pleasure in God’s presence in heaven is tempered by the sins of others?

C S Lewis’ terrible “The Great Divorce“, which people keep on quoting as through it was a canonical work on par with the Epistle to the Romans, has a version of this argument.  He pictures a woman who has reached heaven coming across her late husband, who is stuck in Lewis’ personal version of Hell.

Lewis cannot allow her to feel pity.

“Is it really tolerable that she should be untouched by his misery, even his self-made misery?” Lewis’ narrator asks; is is not true that “the final loss of one soul gives the lie to all the joy of those who are saved”?  Poor George MacDonald, coerced posthumously by Lewis to be the guide responds: “That sounds very merciful: but see what lurks behind it…. The demand of the loveless and the self-imprisoned that they should be allowed to blackmail the universe: that till they consent to be happy (on their own terms) no one else shall taste joy: that theirs should be the final power; that Hell should be able to veto Heaven”

Try getting a modern evangelical to agree with Tertullian—even Lewis can’t go so far as to have the inhabitants of heaven actually rejoice at the deprivation of hell and manages at most a sort of sociopathic contentment.

In fact try getting a modern enlightened evangelical to actually condemn a particular person to hell.

Ye olde fundies were quite happy to say to particular people ‘You are a sinner, justly condemned to fire for your heinous sins’.  Look at good old Jonathan Edwards:

The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect, over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked; his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times so abominable in his eyes as the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince: and yet ’tis nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment; ’tis to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you was suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep: and there is no other reason to be given why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God’s hand has held you up; there is no other reason to be given why you han’t gone to hell since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship: yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you don’t this very moment drop down into hell.

O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: ’tis a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God, whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you as against many of the damned in hell; you hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder; and you have no interest in any mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the flames of wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one moment.

Good stuff. Hellfire and brimstone from a God who sees us as loathsome insects; just like Jesus taught.

Compare and contrast this modern evangelical output, aimed at university students: http://www.credo.org.au/findout/god/hell/

God, because he is just, cannot say that our rebellion against him doesn’t matter. All of us have offended him. We reject God’s commands, which is a personal rejection of God.

When my two year old daughter jumped violently on the back of my baby son, she offended my son but she also offended me. I have been clear with her that she is to be gentle with her little brother. In the same way, when we adults act against each other (in our sexuality misbehaviour, in our selfishness, in banging into each others cars without owning up) we offend another person, but we also offend God.

Our rejection of God’s commands is a symptom of our personal rejection of God. God has been clear how he wants me to live and how he wants me to relate to him. When I go astray I am actually saying to God, “God, I do not accept you as God of my life – I am the ruler – please go away and leave me alone.”

God cannot just say to Hitler that it doesn’t matter and sweep Hitler’s offence under the carpet. And God (because of his justice) can’t say that my offence doesn’t matter, for my offence may be of a different degree – but its antisocial nature is the same.

God in his justice gives us what we ask for. Eternity without him. ‘Hell’ is not the popularly conceived ‘goblins at the end of the garden’, but rather is eternal loneliness … as God withdraws relationship from us.

The greatness of the Christian Gospel is that God is not only just, but loving. In the moment of the death of Jesus, the love of God and the justice of God meet. In his last moments on the cross, Jesus cries out in anguish to the Father, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” The answer is that God so loved us, that he has abandoned Jesus (sent him to hell) to pay the price of our rebellion, so that God could in his love accept us, and yet maintain his justice (and not say that our offence does not matter).

We must accept God’s justice, the question is: Will you accept God’s love … and thank him for Jesus death on your behalf?

God’s just anger and wrath has gone.

In fact, God has been recast as passive—God ‘because he is just, cannot say that our rebellion against him doesn’t matter. … when I go astray I am actually saying to God, “God, I do not accept you as God of my life – I am the ruler – please go away and leave me alone.” … God cannot just say to Hitler that it doesn’t matter and sweep Hitler’s offence under the carpet. And God (because of his justice) can’t say that my offence doesn’t matter, for my offence may be of a different degree – but its antisocial nature is the same.  God in his justice gives us what we ask for. Eternity without him. ‘Hell’ is not the popularly conceived ‘goblins at the end of the garden’, but rather is eternal loneliness … as God withdraws relationship from us. ‘

Look at all the ‘cant’s’.  God would like to forgive you, but ‘can’t’.  God doesn’t actually punish you he ‘gives us what we ask for’.  Hell isn’t fire but ‘eternal loneliness’.

They’re prevaricating.  It’s not God’s fault he does nasty things to us. No indeed. In fact he doesn’t do nasty things to us at all, no siree. He just allows nasty things to happen to us because, deep down, that’s what we want to happen to us.  He’d really love us to be happy, but he can’t go against his nature, no matter how much he’d like to. It’s not as if he is omnipotent or anything, after all.

Why do they prevaricate?  Because they no longer believe that eternal wailing and gnashing of teeth is a just and Godly punishment for those who have not become Christians.  Because they no longer believe that a burning lake of fire should justly await the girl who served them chicken laska in the university canteen yesterday.

They don’t in their hearts believe that a loving and just God would condemn their coworkers, their children, their friends and family in that way.

Is this universalism?  Maybe.  But it is a negative version.  A version which shies away from hell but does not proclaim heaven.  A conflicted, hesitant version.  A weak, lukewarm version.

Neither hot nor cold.

Thomas Nelson, “the world’s largest publisher of Bibles in English” now publish The American Patriot’s Bible:

American Patriot's Bible

THE ONE BIBLE THAT SHOWS HOW ‘A LIGHT FROM ABOVE’ SHAPED OUR NATION. Never has a version of the Bible targeted the spiritual needs of those who love our country more than The American Patriot’s Bible. This extremely unique Bible shows how the history of the United States connects the people and events of the Bible to our lives in a modern world. The story of the United States is wonderfully woven into the teachings of the Bible and includes a beautiful full-color family record section, memorable images from our nation’s history and hundreds of enlightening articles which complement the New King James Version Bible text.

Eeek.

More discussion here where Eugene Cho disapprovingly notes:

The Lord’s statement that Moses “is faithful in all My houses” (Num. 12:7) calls for a boxed quote from Grover Cleveland about how the teachings of Christ “results in the purest patriotism…”

Eeek.  Eeek.

HT: Better Bibles

One of the things about WordPress is that you can see where people visiting your site are coming from, and what searches they use to get here.

The other day, someone vistited from the AOL search Carlton Pearson ask god to kill him.

That’s a big call, don’t you think?   OK, so you don’t agree with Carlton; but shouldn’t you pause just a little before asking God to kill him?

Jesus was very keen on the connection between thought and action; isn’t praying for Carlton Pearson’s death morally the same as killing him yourself?

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.

A loveless Creation

March 8, 2007

Boy in the Bands hat tips Stephen Retherford writing at Sisyphus and points out CreationWiki and Conservapedia, ‘conservative’ alternatives to Wikipedia.

Scott rightly points out that these projects are doomed for lack of long term contributors – centrally enforced groupthink doesn’t wash in a networked pluralistic world where leaving is just a click away.

I’m less certain, however, that the Internet doesn’t have the ability to create self-enforcing groupthink: self selecting groups spinning in more and more radical ways. Look at the online political blogwars between increasingly strident sites such as DailyKos and Little Green Footballs for example.

In any case, I offer my condemnation of both these ‘Christian’ sites: although they claim to be about Christianity and Creation, neither CreationWiki nor Conservapaedia have thought it important to write a page about Love.