Al Mohler, Kevin DeYoung and *Lig* Duncan: If One Is Theologically Minded, There Is No Place to Go But to Calvinism


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“I know that I am intelligent, because I know that I know nothing.”  Socrates

__________

I viewed this discussion with frustration at the willingness of these men to insult and denigrate the intelligent and theologically minded Christians throughout time who have not found a home in Calvinism.

I respect those who are Calvinists and/or Reformed.I disagree with them because I am theologically minded. I remember one summer, sitting in a beach chair on Topsail Island and reading through Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem. Yes,the big one!! I did so because I am theologically minded and I wanted to learn and understand.

However, there are other places to go and other ways to understand and I found those. Many others have as well.Those who are intelligent would know that.


Comments

Al Mohler, Kevin DeYoung and *Lig* Duncan: If One Is Theologically Minded, There Is No Place to Go But to Calvinism — 199 Comments

  1. ION: At the age of 50, I’ve just had my first go at Mario Kart on the new Nintendo Switch. (King Boo, in case you were wondering. A ghost shaped like a little whale – what’s not to love?)

    #”Cool”Parents

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  2. I will not watch the video, because I really don’t want to spoil my appetite for dinner. These people are the most arrogant sons of… these people are really very arrogant. Arrogant heretics, IMO.

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  3. “There Can be No Salvation Outside of CALVIN.”
    CALVIN with his Perfectly-Parsed, Utterly Airtight THEOLOGY.
    CALVIN Who Has God All Figured Out — how dare He act any other way than how CALVIN hath predicted?

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  4. “Where else are they going to go? If you’re a theological minded, deeply convictional young evangelical, if you’re committed to the gospel and want to see the nations rejoice in the name of Christ, if you want to see gospel built and structured committed churches, your theology is just going end up basically being Reformed, basically something like this New Calvinism, or you’re going to have to invent some label for what is basically going to be the same thing, there just are not options out there, and that’s something that frustrates some people, but when I’m asked about the New Calvinism – where else are they going to go, who else is going to answer the questions, where else are they going to find the resources they going to need and where else are they going to connect. This is a generation that understands, they want to say the same thing that Paul said, they want to stand with the apostles, they want to stand with old dead people, and they know that they are going to have to, if they are going to preach and teach the truth.” (Al Mohler)

    Arrogant Al seemed to have forgotten that the vast majority of Southern Baptists are non-Calvinists! They have been for the past 150 years. Are they not committed to the Gospel? Do they not want to see the nations rejoice in the name of Christ? They don’t preach and teach truth?! This is an affront to the millions of SBCers who simply don’t agree with the tenets of reformed theology, along with 90+% of Christendom worldwide. I continue to be amazed that Mohler kept his job after making that statement … but he and his movement appear to be clearly in control of the Southern Baptist Convention at this point. Where else are they going to go?! I can think of a lot of places.

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  5. As a high school student in a Christian school, my curriculum told me I was Protestant. Even as a boy this sounded like a note from the Gong Show. It didn’t sound right, and my text books made no effort to convince, only pronounce as fact.

    But how could this be, when I am not protesting anything? Even to a boy, Calvinism / Protestism represented a reaction against Society. At it’s core it represents a political struggle. My life is not about a social struggle. Protstism can not exist outside of social struggle. It’s reinvented Neo-Evangelical form of 1948 specificaly called for social influence of Protestant traditions.

    I am a believer because God is my Father. That is not the same as the understanding in Neo-Calvinism in how one relates to God.
    There is a division in the Kingdom of God. This division will not cease at death.

    Reform Theology is too clever by half. There is no contingency for when incompatible Christians wake up side by side in the afterlife. They will still be the same persons, with the same disputes. Only in the next life, we are not weak powerless individuals.

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  6. I never met Socrates, for several obvious reasons. By contrast, I have met Dee. Both (as cited above) share my view that if someone says their philosophy is the only viable one in any given context, it makes me look askance at them and their philosophy.

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  7. Where does one go? I love this question.

    When a Court hands down a decision that is in error, you appeal. Now it just so happens that the Father is seated in a Court.

    The objective is to have the Five Heads struck down.

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  8. So their goal is to once again institutionalize Jesus. Well, the PCA would say Christ and the Sovereign Grace would say the Savior. But anyway . . .

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  9. Patti: I was going to talk about their arrogance.

    That is the first descriptor that comes to mind when these folks open their mouths – it just feels so slimy. Indeed, arrogance is the mantle of the New Calvinist movement. No one would accuse the New Calvinist icons of humility, IMHO … even though Mahaney wrote a book on humility … yep, the same Mahaney!

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  10. Patti has pretty much already said it, but I would say that if one is theologically minded, there is no place to go but Jesus.

    *Full disclosure: I didn’t watch the video because I left that cult.

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  11. This is a timely post because of the 400 year anniversary of the Remonstrance. RC Sproul’s ministry is publishing articles on it right now, such as this one: https://tabletalkmagazine.com/article/2019/01/the-reason-for-dort/

    Paul opposed the legalists, Athanasius opposed Arius, Augustine opposed Pelagius, and Martin Luther opposed Erasmus. These are a few examples of how Christians have contended for the Apostolic faith in history. After the Reformation, one of the greatest challenges to the Apostolic faith arose within the Dutch Reformed Church from a minister and professor named Jacobus Arminius and from his followers.

    It is interesting that they would make the claim that Calvinism is THE Apostolic faith. When I read the writings of early Christians I find nothing that looks like Calvinism. These folks should read more history. When they don’t read history they end up with interviews like the one that is the subject of this post.

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  12. Never mind that I Corinthians 6 states that murderers will not enter Heaven, and Calvin had no problem having his opponents executed by the state.

    He was little more than an unhappy Catholic who found a way to make himself Pope of his own religion. Most of his teachings are a regurgitation of Augustine’s original sin viewpoints (Presbyterians practice infant baptism, though Reformed Baptists do not).

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  13. Also let’s not forget that the American Godfather of Calvinism, John MacArthur, in his book Strange Fire, for all intents and purposes stated that EVERYONE in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements is a Hell-bound heretic.

    So it’s not surprising that his acolytes (even if differing with him on some things) come up with something like this (of course, this is what their version of the doctrine of election ultimately produces).

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  14. Q. Facebook apparently recognizes some seventy-two sexual identities; Calvinists, like Mohler, however recognize only the two that are listed in the first few chapters of Genesis. It looks like he’s is simply agreeing with God, since the Bible is His book, right?

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  15. Let’s keep all of this clear: the issue behind all of this is power and influence. And how can a pastor have more influence than to be neo-Calvinistic? I met the Rev. Dr. Mohler at a conference in Atlanta when he was still the editor of the Georgia Baptist paper at which time I asked him about the rumors he was headed to Southern Seminary to become the new president and lead the seminary in a Calvinistic and much more conservative direction. His response to me was that he was happy in Georgia and had no interest in leaving his post.

    Two weeks later he was in Louisville . . .

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  16. Dishonesties, it would seem, exist with new Calvinists. By stealth they apparently wish to circumvent conventional church order of traditional Baptists without respecting proper notification.

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  17. Nick Bulbeck: ION: At the age of 50, I’ve just had my first go at Mario Kart on the new Nintendo Switch. (King Boo, in case you were wondering. A ghost shaped like a little whale – what’s not to love?)

    #”Cool”Parents

    I like Yoshi, but I do King Boo from time to time as well. Love the way his tongue sticks out. My Mom prefers Wario, because of his laugh and how he cries, “Everybody cheating!” when she loses. 😀

    My Mom is cool to play Mario Kart with me, in her 60s. Got her into MMOs, too!

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  18. I won’t defend these guys. I agree that the arrogance is over the top. No I won’t watch the video. I have never been impressed with actual teaching from Dr. Mohler. I never understood why he became such a voice for the Reformed movement.
    My own travel to Calvinism came about because so much of the Christian church I experienced after I became a Protestant seem shallow. At least that was my experience. It seemed all of the big movements in my town were charismatic figures who got a following by their topical teaching. When I read the Bible for myself I found concepts like sovereignty, election, predestination, etc. However the popular churches in my town wouldn’t touch these teachings. Only taught what appeared to me to be a very limited diet of what the Bible actually seemed to me to teach over and over. I never have understood why the broader Protestant Christian church seemed to stay away from what was actually in the Bible. It just seems to me that if you don’t agree with Calvinist interpretation of these words and concepts you should at least come up with interpretations that explain the text. It appeared to me and in fact still seems to be true that most who are on the other side just pretend these things aren’t taught in the Bible. I at least can respect preachers more who teach expositionally through entire books of the Bible dealing with all that comes along. Who beside the preacher with a Calvinist conviction does that? Am I just unaware of them?
    There is definitely a lot wrong with these three guys. However I still see a lot that is needed in Protestantism from expositional preachers. They won’t all agree about all points. But they won’t leave out or skip over verses they don’t want to be there.
    I don’t mean at all to be insulting to anyone. Just wanted to give another perspective.

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  19. Ken A: It just seems to me that if you don’t agree with Calvinist interpretation of these words and concepts you should at least come up with interpretations that explain the text. It appeared to me and in fact still seems to be true that most who are on the other side just pretend these things aren’t taught in the Bible.

    I believe that Calvinists are not trying to be difficult when they say they can only see the Bible through a Calvinistic lens. But I suspect it’s like an optical illusion where once you can see it another way you can no longer only see it one way. I don’t know how much you have looked for viable alternative interpretations, but good options are available. Here is just one example: https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/orthodoxbridge/plucking-the-tulip-1-an-orthodox-critique-of-the-reformed-doctrine-of-predestination/. I have found it very useful to look for an Eastern Orthodox perspective because they often view things from a very different perspective. They have some very solid answers. But there are also Protestant perspectives that are very good. They are not hard to find.

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  20. Luckyforward: I met the Rev. Dr. Mohler at a conference in Atlanta when he was still the editor of the Georgia Baptist paper at which time I asked him about the rumors he was headed to Southern Seminary to become the new president and lead the seminary in a Calvinistic and much more conservative direction. His response to me was that he was happy in Georgia and had no interest in leaving his post.

    Two weeks later he was in Louisville . . .

    Classic
    Check out the tack editor Mohler took on the fundamentalist-moderate SBC conflict in the early 1990s, before he took the presidency of Southern Seminary:

    “That non-aligned center of the denomination is increasingly traumatized by divisiveness caused by either party,” said Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr., editor of the Christian Index, the Georgia Baptist newspaper.”

    http://nl.newsbank.com/nl-search/we/Archives?p_product=AT&p_theme=at&p_action=search&p_maxdocs=200&p_text_search-0=mohler&p_field_label-0=Author&p_field_label-1=title&p_bool_label-1=AND&s_dispstring=mohler%20AND%20date(11/17/1990%20to%2011/17/1990)&p_field_date-0=YMD_date&p_params_date-0=date:B,E&p_text_date-0=11/17/1990%20to%2011/17/1990)

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  21. Max: [W]hen I’m asked about the New Calvinism – where else are they going to go, who else is going to answer the questions, where else are they going to find the resources they going to need and where else are they going to connect. This is a generation that understands, they want to say the same thing that Paul said, they want to stand with the apostles… (Al Mohler)

    Max, we should remind Al of what Paul really said: “Is Christ divided? Was Calvin crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Calvin?” (1 Corinthians 1:13, with very little editing…)

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  22. Ken F (aka Tweed): But I suspect it’s like an optical illusion where once you can see it another way you can no longer only see it one way.

    Our minds seem to be designed to perceive pattern and system, and once one thinks one discerns a system, that can control the interpretation of other data.

    I think the Reformed system is admirable as an attempt at a internally coherent account of God and His relation to the world. But admirable is not the same as “true.” Newton’s theory of gravitation is an admirable account of the phenomena of the Solar System; his system works extraordinarily well as a description of planetary motions, and it took hundreds of years for astronomy to advance to the point that discrepancies with Newton’s system could be detected. But in spite of the admirable descriptive accuracy, Newton happens to be profoundly mistaken at the core of his vision of the material world (infinite propagation speed of physical influences, absolute time, his notion of simultaneity, etc).

    I’m not confident that any of the current major theological systems on offer has an adequate account of the biblical data. Pick the system that appeals most to you, but don’t cling to it too tightly. Some day we will see more clearly, and we will probably all be significant embarrassed in various ways.

    ———

    Here’s an oddity in the Reformed system that played a large part in my move away from it. The theology of “justification” is derived primarily from Romans. But the theology of “what we are justified/saved from” does not come from Romans; it comes from Jesus’ “gehenna” sayings in the synoptic Gospels and from the fiery lake scene in Revelation 20. (Much of Protestantism resembles Reformed theology in this respect of which texts are relied on to support which doctrines, though the doctrines differ in detail).

    If you try to derive a theology of wrath from Romans, you get something that is basically entirely “under the sun”, much like the theology of wrath of the Old Testament. If you try to derive a theology of justification from the synoptic Gospels, you get something that looks like “works righteousness.” I don’t see the justification (no pun intended) for privileging the synoptic Gospels over Romans for the formulation of a theology of wrath, and then reversing the emphasis for one’s theology of justification. The Reformed system, it seems to me, imposes itself on the Scriptures more than it emerges from them, at least in these areas.

    That’s not to disrespect it as an effort of human intellect; it’s simply to doubt whether it is actually true.

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  23. jyjames:
    Nathan Priddis,

    Who are the 5 heads?

    James.
    When a figure such as Calvin or Augustine are finished writing, only complete losers, or those with to much time on their hands actually read it. The writings are gigantic, and then they die.

    It falls to descending followers to decipher and codify the teachings.

    The 5 heads of Calvin-ism are not an “ism” at all. They are the Canons (verdict) of the Synod (court) of Dort. Handed down May 9th, 1619. Excepting the Lutheran Churches, which declined to attend, they are the declarations of unified international Protestism.

    In pdf form they run about 10 pages in English. They are online. 5 Heads, in 3 groupings.

    To help one remember them, a later non-Calvinist created the 5 Points of Calvinism. A sort of cheat-sheet if you will. I keep them on my phone instead, because I can never keep them strait.

    They will be appealed.

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  24. Nathan Priddis,

    Correction: French Protestants did not attend, as they where forbidden by the French Court. However, the French action shows the importance of the Synod. Also one delegation failed to show after a significant member’s death, if I recall. They also would have attended.

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  25. Ken A: I won’t defend these guys. I agree that the arrogance is over the top. No I won’t watch the video.

    You are not missing much! I listened for 4 minutes and got incredibly bored and realised that it was 4 minutes of my life wasted and which I will never get back! I have never had the displeasure of hearing Kevin DeYoung preach but he sounds and looks as dull as dishwater.

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  26. Samuel Conner: I’m not confident that any of the current major theological systems on offer has an adequate account of the biblical data. Pick the system that appeals most to you, but don’t cling to it too tightly. Some day we will see more clearly, and we will probably all be significant embarrassed in various ways.

    Wise words Samuel. These systems can be helpful but as they were framed by men, they are fallible and open to question.

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  27. Ken F (aka Tweed):
    This is a timely post because of the 400 year anniversary of the Remonstrance. RC Sproul’s ministry is publishing articles on it right now, such as this one: https://tabletalkmagazine.com/article/2019/01/the-reason-for-dort/

    It is interesting that they would make the claim that Calvinism is THE Apostolic faith. When I read the writings of early Christians I find nothing that looks like Calvinism. These folks should read more history. When they don’t read history they end up with interviews like the one that is the subject of this post.

    Thank you, KenF! You took the words right out of my keyboard!

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  28. Nathan Priddis,

    Yikes. Augustine is one of the giants of Western Christendom. He casts his shadow over many centuries. Have you never read his *Confessions*? It is standard reading for countless college students. It is certainly assigned far more frequently than Calvin’s *Institutes*!

    And Augustine’s *City of God* is considered hugely important, a milestone in the Western tradition. My husband just finished re-reading it, and I assure you he isn’t a “loser.”

    I’m no fan of Calvin — far from it — but I think even he is read by more than just “losers.” *The Institutes,* I’m told, helped shape the modern French language. That’s pretty significant from a linguistic and historical perspective.

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  29. Ken A: I don’t mean at all to be insulting to anyone. Just wanted to give another perspective.

    Your perspective is welcome Ken and it is not taken as insulting. I have read quite widely over the years from many different schools of theology – Calvinism, Arminianism, dispensationalism, Pentecostalism, Methodism and many others. They all have value and none of them have got it 100%. All groups had men that love God and some had great theological minds. However their systems are fallible as they were framed by men. I have also heard many of them either contradict themselves or (unconvincingly) explain away passages that do not support their system. This is true of men in all these groups.

    I am personally more towards a free grace position (as taught by men like Charles Ryrie and Dwight Pentecost) but I have a lot of respect for many traditional Calvinists. They have a very God-centred approach, they have deep love for God and reverence for the Lord and they have a very high view of Scripture. Obviously I disagree with Calvinists over their views on the atonement, election and related issues but they are my brothers in Christ. Disagreements can and should be discussed in brotherly and friendly ways.

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  30. My observation: Here at T.W.W., there appears to be a “knee-jerk” reaction to Al Mohler.
    _____________

    If Mohler likes it, I’m against it; regardless of what it is.

    It’s the Mohler “resistance.”

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  31. Samuel Conner,

    I don’t see what you are saying. It appears to me that the “justified” of Romans 3 is from The wrath that is what God is against the sins of Romans 1&2. Paul makes his argument, what appears to me to be pretty thorough, that all mankind is condemned in sin without hope in themselves. Paul’s argument seems to flow right from the letter. I know I probably won’t convince anyone. But it seems so clear to me. I love the book of Romans and have studied it for years. I do not have any seminary training. But the arguments look clear to me.

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  32. Samuel Conner: Our minds seem to be designed to perceive pattern and system, and once one thinks one discerns a system, that can control the interpretation of other data.

    I very much agree with all of what you wrote in your comment and was not sure which part of it to quote. In addition to pattern perception, there are other psychological aspects such as group think and loss aversion that can make it difficult to jump to a different pattern even if one can see the different pattern. When I opened my aperture by looking at other Christian traditions and historical Christianity it put me in a bind. I’m not quite now where to put myself in the Church or whether it really matters much. My wife and I recently started attending a large and vibrant UMC congregation. But I don’t know what will happen to it after the big conference next month.

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  33. Ken A: But the arguments look clear to me.

    This is the challenge for all of us – getting stuck into a way of not being able to see something any other way. A few years ago I started a list of some of the better internet links I found offering reasons for why Calvinism might not the best interpretation. I posted that list on TWW in 2017: http://thewartburgwatch.com/interesting/books-movies-tv-etc/#comment-330068. I have not recently checked to see if all of the links are still active, but most of them should be. Reading alternative views is like the choice between taking the blue and red pills – once you start seeing other viable alternatives it becomes difficult to not see them.

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  34. If one is a true Christian and theologically-minded, there is no place to go but the BIBLE, not Calvinism or some other man-made construct.

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  35. Funny that they choose not to say…”There cannot be salvation outside of Jesus.”

    I have always wanted to ask one of these guys what type of Calvinist Jesus was. Was he only a 4 pointer? Or did he make it to 5?!? Lol.

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  36. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    I think there is a danger in our interpretation of scripture that each of us is susceptible to, including me and everyone of us. We get the idea that the Bible is a collection of verses that can be taken out and stand on there own. I don’t believe this is a healthy way to do Bible interpretation for any of us. I am susceptible as anyone else. The book of Roman is laid out with arguments that build on each other. Paul is laying out, what I think is very logical arguments for his understanding and by implication because he was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write what he wrote in the NT, God’s revelation of the Gospel. As I said, I think it flows very logically. I think that was his intent. I don’t think it has much to do with whether you are a Calvinist or not. “Context is king”.

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  37. Ken F (aka Tweed): I very much agree with all of what you wrote in your comment and was not sure which part of it to quote. In addition to pattern perception, there are other psychological aspects such as group think and loss aversion that can make it difficult to jump to a different pattern even if one can see the different pattern. When I opened my aperture by looking at other Christian traditions and historical Christianity it put me in a bind. I’m not quite now where to put myself in the Church or whether it really matters much. My wife and I recently started attending a large and vibrant UMC congregation. But I don’t know what will happen to it after the big conference next month.

    I fear next month conference for UMC will be the Methodist version of the red wedding on game of thrones, but let me ask you a seemingly simple question, you most likely have done as much searching for higher meaning and truth in your quest for a place to call home ( belief system wise). But as far as Protestantism goes do you feel the essentials for orthodoxy are basic throughout the broader protestant movement? I personally struggle with RCC so I will leave them out of my orthodox box.

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  38. Ken A,

    In Romans, “wrath” is thoroughly “under the sun”/pre-mortem — read it closely and note the contexts when “wrath” is mentioned. The Romans 1 wrath dynamic is “under the sun”, and ends in bodily death. The civil magistrate bears the sword and is an agent of wrath to punish wrong-doers — this is again “under the sun”. Believers are not to seek vengeance, but rather leave room for the wrath of God. Believer vengeance is “under the sun” (we don’t imagine that Paul is counseling his readers to not seek vengeance in the afterlife); it could not conceivably “crowd out” post-mortem punishments, so the wrath that is being left room for in this verse is also pre-mortem.

    If this is what faith justifies from, Paul had a very different vision than the Reformers.

    But as to the argument of Romans itself, I invite readers who can get hold of it to examine NT Wright’s commentary on Romans. To my mind, it makes better sense of the structure of the argument of Romans, and especially the puzzling Israel-focussed interlude in chapters 9-11 (and also some puzzling aspects of chapter 15), than the conventional readings. That’s not to say that it is flawless. It too is a human production.

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  39. I read once that the human mind trying to figure out God was akin to a dog scratching in the dirt trying to solve a calculus problem. I love theology. I love delving into the mysteries of the faith. But, I have discovered when I think I have found definitive answers, they vanish like the mist. For me there are three operative words as my “faith seeks understanding”. First word is paradox, the Bible is full of them. So, when I am asked whether it is election or free will, my response is “yes”. The second word is mystery. The mind of God is infinite. Anytime a finite mind says “I have it figured out.” that mind is probably partially or totally wrong. For me the Bible is not an answer book as much as it is a travel companion on the mysterious journey of faith. The last word is humility. Long ago, as I ranted about the “rightness” of my position in an argument, someone asked me, “Did you ever think you may be wrong?” That question pierced me like a pin popping a balloon. It took all the air out of my self-assured certainty. Since then these words from Paul have been my companion “Let the mind of Christ be in you… he humbled himself. To quote Paul again, “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love (love is not envious or boastful or arrogant), I am nothing.”

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  40. Dan,

    Well said!

    The “goal” (at least the “under the sun” goal) also wants to be kept in view:

    Gal 5:6 (context: a theological dispute of the 1st century)

    “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”

    or 1 Tim 1:5

    “The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith”

    THe whole section from v3 to v11 is useful in reference to the history of theological dispute in the churches.

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  41. Ken A: … leave out or skip over verses they don’t want to be there …

    Calvinists do that, too. When anyone approaches Scripture with a predetermined theology in mind, they will distort passages to support their belief and practice. The reformed spin on Ephesians and Romans are good examples. I dare say that all “theologies” torture Scripture in various degrees.

    Scripture speaks much about the sovereignty of God. Scripture speaks much about the free will of man. It all works together in a way that is beyond human comprehension. To put the mind of God into a neat theological box is to stand in arrogance before the Creator. This is best typified by the attached video; in their promotion of New Calvinism, Mohler, DeYoung and Duncan say there are no options out there, but 90+% of Christendom worldwide have rejected the tenets of reformed theology for the last 500 years.

    Millions/billions of non-Calvinists love God, have accepted Christ as Savior, read their Bibles, pray, and minister in Jesus’ name to fulfill the Great Commission the best way they know how. Have they not been elected? I was young and now am old … in my Christian experience, I have seen a great multitude of souls “elected” into the Kingdom by repenting of their sins, receiving Christ, and living lives honoring Him … it’s a shame that Calvinists view God’s love for ALL men so differently.

    We would all do well – regardless of theological flavor – to search the Scriptures daily to see if what any preacher/teacher/theologian is saying is true … a seminary degree is highly overrated. We need to approach God in the Spirit, rather than the intellect. We need to tune out the teachings and traditions of mere men and pray for the Holy Spirit to teach us truth. There are options out there, Dr. Mohler … in God’s presence is fullness of joy; as we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us. I hope I live long enough to see religion’s funeral preached … it’s about relationship.

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  42. Max: Calvinists do that, too.When anyone approaches Scripture with a predetermined theology in mind, they will distort passages

    I agree, though “distortion” is perhaps “too strong” language. I suspect that the actual dynamic is more subtle, which is why people rarely perceive it at work in themselves. The problem is that our prior system preconditions our biblical interpretive process.

    On many topics within Systematic Theology, one will find biblical texts that appear to speak at cross-purposes. How is this apparent tension/contradiction to be resolved?

    An old interpretive principle is “the analogy of Scripture”, that texts that are of more clear/plain meaning should be given higher priority than texts that are more difficult to interpret.

    The principle seems clear enough, but how does one decide which text has the plainer meaning? Unfortunately, one may not be able to do this by relying on the Bible itself. And this is where the interpreter brings his theological system pre-conceptions to bear. One’s prior system can have the effect of informing one which texts are “plain” and which texts are “obscure”. Thus, for the Reformed, that system tells you that the texts in Romans that reference justification are “plain” and have interpretive priority over texts in the Gospels that on their own seem to imply “works righteousness.” Similarly, the texts in the Gospels that mention “gehenna” are taken to have interpretive priority over the “wrath theology” of Romans (even though, to my mind, Romans has the plainer, clearer theology on this subject).

    This dynamic (that “your system tells you how to apply the principle of ‘analogy of Scripture’ and therefore controls your interpretation of Scripture whenever the ‘analogy’ is in view) is inescapable unless you are prepared to attempt drop all system and try to “start from scratch” in your interpretation of Scripture.

    There are people in our day who are trying to do that. They generally use “history”/”historical method” as an alternative to “the analogy of Scripture”. NT Wright is an example of someone whose work along these lines, though controversial, is still substantially orthodox. (If you have the patience, you might find his 2018 “Gifford lectures” — about 8 hours — to be useful. Bring some coffee, as it gets ponderous at times. His “Run through Romans 8” is more stimulating and also shorter). Andrew Perriman’s approach is more radical. Both are IMO worthy of attention (and doubtless there are others).

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  43. Ken A,

    Ken. There is an easier to describe the situation. Here goes:

    Christianity is…
    …afraid of the Scriptures.
    …views some truth through the lens of tradition.
    …accepting some traditions as underlying truth.
    …is not precise in its termanology or interpretation.

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  44. Ken A: As I said, I think it flows very logically. I think that was his intent.

    Well, yes, it does flow very logically. But different people come to very different conclusions based on their starting point. If you start from a Calvinist assumption that predestination is about who gets saved, then you will find that the logic proves your starting assumption. But that starting assumption could be wrong. If one were to compare salvation to a banquet, another way of looking at it is predestination is about what is on the menu, not who gets invited. The invitation is truly extended to all, but not everyone will want to eat what is on the predestined menu. If you start from this assumption you get a very different conclusion. Another way of looking at it is predestination is about the people group chosen to bring the Messiah (the line of Jacob, not the line of Esau).

    I encourage your to read the first link from the list I provided above. Baxter Kruger started out as a Calvinist who read and studied everything Calvin ever wrote. He ended up rejecting Calvinism, not because he did not understand it, but because he understood it too well.

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  45. Benn: But as far as Protestantism goes do you feel the essentials for orthodoxy are basic throughout the broader protestant movement? I personally struggle with RCC so I will leave them out of my orthodox box.

    I wish I could answer that. On my search for historical orthodoxy and practice I found it to look a lot more Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholic than I had hoped. I heard someone make the analogy that if early Christian beliefs and practices were like items in a museum, the Eastern Orthodox would view themselves as guards who don’t allow anything to change, whereas the Roman Catholics would view themselves as curators who don’t get rid of the old items but move some things to the basement and add new exhibits as the need arises. If we are to add protestants, I think it might be more like a pawn shop where ancient artifacts are only there if they have utility. In practice, Eastern Orthodoxy did change a bit during the early years (such as addition of the Trisagion to the liturgy, adopting the liturgy of St Chrysostom), which makes me wonder why they seem to be so resistant to change now.

    The limited research I did leaves me thinking that EO is probably closer to the early church than anything else out there, that RCC retained all the ancient beliefs and practices but added a lot along the way, and that protestants reject too much history and rely heavily on relatively new innovations. But it’s difficult to really capture this because different protestants have very different views on the value of things like ancient creeds and practices, ecumenical councils, the value or early Christian writings, etc.

    I suppose that answer is about as clear as mud. I wish I could do better.

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  46. Samuel Conner: unless you are prepared to attempt drop all system and try to “start from scratch” in your interpretation of Scripture.

    “Confirmation Bias” makes it very difficult for any of us to start from scratch.

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  47. The condescension aside…I do not disagree that the Reformed faith is a neat and tidy theological system. However, my experience in human relationships is those relationships do not always adhere to “neat and tidy” rules. Why would we foolishly believe God–three persons in one–abide by our developed “neat and tidy” rules?! Any system that has defined the mystery out of knowing God is not a godly system as God is full of mystery beyond our understanding.

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  48. Samuel Conner: inescapable unless you are prepared to attempt drop all system and try to “start from scratch”

    I suppose that’s what the “Done” movement is all about … done with organized religion, but not done with Jesus … perhaps the largest growing segment of the Christian population in America these days. The institutional church and its assorted buck-stops-here know-it-all leaders just ain’t feeding the sheep. So it’s come to this for many folks … search the Scriptures daily and call on the Holy Spirit to teach truth. Yep, “start from scratch” might just be the best thing to do … too much theological noise drowns out God. The drums of New Calvinism are so noisy!

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  49. Max: I suppose that’s what the “Done” movement is all about … done with organized religion, but not done with Jesus … perhaps the largest growing segment of the Christian population in America these days.The institutional church and its assorted buck-stops-here know-it-all leaders just ain’t feeding the sheep.So it’s come to this for many folks … search the Scriptures daily and call on the Holy Spirit to teach truth.Yep, “start from scratch” might just be the best thing to do … too much theological noise drowns out God.The drums of New Calvinism are so noisy!

    Max: I just recently became a “Done”.

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  50. Oops, bumped post before commenting.
    The mystery thing, that is where I SMH in heated conversation over Calvinism. When they can no longer answer my questions about their logic, they say God’s a mystery and we cannot understand everything. So I am just supposed to accept that everything they do think they understand about God is the correct understanding.

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  51. Ken A: It just seems to me that if you don’t agree with Calvinist interpretation of these words and concepts you should at least come up with interpretations that explain the text.

    I can explain in the same amount of detail that Calvinists, but against Calvinism. I had to. I was raised in Calvinism side by side with traditional Baptist, which is not quite Arminian. When I was a teenager, my parents were Assembly of God, which is very Arminian. Extended family was Catholic, Mormon, JW, New Age, etc. I said God cannot exist if all these can’t get together on the facts. But that was before I actually knew God through Jesus Christ for myself. My crisis came when I asked God the question about where my two babies are who died before they were born. So much doctrine there. So I studied predestination for myself. I have understanding and can argue quite scripturally soundly why I believe the predestination verses which I am sure you were alluding to do not mean the same kind of predestination that Calvin and his mentors before him believed them to mean.

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  52. Ken A,

    “When I read the Bible for myself I found concepts like sovereignty, election, predestination, etc. However the popular churches in my town wouldn’t touch these teachings.

    However the popular churches in my town wouldn’t touch these teachings. Only taught what appeared to me to be a very limited diet of what the Bible actually seemed to me to teach over and over.

    I never have understood why the broader Protestant Christian church seemed to stay away from what was actually in the Bible.”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    it seems to me that every faction of christendom focuses on some things and stays away from other things, even calvinism / neo calvinism.

    it is not possible to have a belief system and live by it that embraces all that is in the bible.

    i mean, one can try, but they end up like this:

    https://www.pinterest.com/pin/443745369504532541/

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  53. Ken F (aka Tweed): It is interesting that they would make the claim that Calvinism is THE Apostolic faith. When I read the writings of early Christians I find nothing that looks like Calvinism. These folks should read more history. When they don’t read history they end up with interviews like the one that is the subject of this post.

    These guys should read the Acts of Perpetua and Felicitas, which dates from about 203 CE. The document claims to contain within it a diary of Perpetua, a young married woman. It’s probably the first identified Christian writing by a woman. What they would discover is that Perpetua’s view of Jesus and Christianity is not exactly the same as theirs. She received visions, for example, and was asked by others to pray for visions. She didn’t respect her father, who told her to make the sacrifice (which I presume meant burn incense before the emperor’s statue) and she told him no. In the Calvinista world, women don’t have that ability or authority. I’d note that Perpetua was martyred at Carthage but I half suspect the Calvinistas might not think she was a good Christian or even a follower of Jesus because she didn’t believe in TULIP.

    Actually, I’d recommend reading the Acts of Perpetua and Felicitas. There are a number of translations out there. I read a version called “Perpetua’s Journey” from Oxford University Press. The first part of the book is a graphic novel version of the Acts and the second part is the historical and social context. For example, the graphic artist describes Perpetua’s baptism, but doesn’t show whether it was by full immersion, sprinkling, pouring or whatever, because we don’t know.

    I’ll be honest, I came away from this with some unease. When I was younger, I thought Perpetua was very brave for sticking to her guns. Now that I’m older and have lived a lot longer, I’m not so sure about that.

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  54. Mark R: Also let’s not forget that the American Godfather of Calvinism, John MacArthur, in his book Strange Fire, for all intents and purposes stated that EVERYONE in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements is a Hell-bound heretic.

    So it’s not surprising that his acolytes (even if differing with him on some things) come up with something like this (of course, this is what their version of the doctrine of election ultimately produces).

    MacArthur is another guy who needs to read the Acts of Perpetua and Felicitas, obviously. I suspect Perpetua’s steadfastness in the face of death would scare MacArthur to death.

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  55. Patti:
    Oops, bumped post before commenting.
    The mystery thing, that is where I SMH in heated conversation over Calvinism. When they can no longer answer my questions about their logic, they say God’s a mystery and we cannot understand everything. So I am just supposed to accept that everything they do think they understand about God is the correct understanding.

    I have experienced this in debating some of them. Admittedly some theological issues are complex but that does not mean that we should not think about them. Pleading “paradox” or “mystery” sets a precedent. For example, Years ago I read one Christian apologist criticise the Koran for contradicting itself between divine sovereignty and human freedom. I thought that seemed quite hypocritical considering he defended Calvinism for doing exactly the same thing. If you want to plead paradox or mystery then you must allow others to do the same – you cannot claim a monopoly on it.

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  56. ZechZav: For example, Years ago I read one Christian apologist criticise the Koran for contradicting itself between divine sovereignty and human freedom.I thought that seemed quite hypocritical considering he defended Calvinism for doing exactly the same thing.If you want to plead paradox or mystery then you must allow others to do the same – you cannot claim a monopoly on it.

    I’ve had several New Cals tell me that if I couldn’t understand, that proved I wasn’t elect. But they clearly couldn’t explain some of the seeming contradictions either (particularly on the verses that use the word “all”).

    I’m pretty sure some of them had just convinced themselves they understood it even though they didn’t, to reinforce their belief in their own election. But there still are problems with Calvinist theology just as there are problems with other theological viewpoints.

    The only other thing I’d like to add to the entire discussion is that there isn’t just two options, which is a common fallacy of Calvinism vs. non-Calvinism. Even classical Calvinists I’ve known make the mistake in thinking that Armininianism is the only other theological option. There are a number of other theological systems and views on predestination and election.

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  57. Ken A: It just seems to me that if you don’t agree with Calvinist interpretation of these words and concepts you should at least come up with interpretations that explain the text.

    I think this is a good example of an alternative interpretation of the atonement from what Calvinists teach: https://www.ptm.org/q-r-how-is-christ-a-sacrificial-lamb-brad-jersak. Brad is Eastern Orthodox. Before I started investigating Eastern Orthodoxy I had assumed they had a low view of the Bible. But I was greatly mistaken. Everything I have read from them relies heavily on their interpretation of the Bible. When I compare their interpretations with Calvonist interpretations I find the EO logic more compelling and more internally consistent than Calvinism. I was not expecting that.

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  58. My take? New Calvinism is actually very illogical. Since so many preacher boys have been brainwashed in it at so high a cost in student loans they have a vested interest in promoting it. Who wants to admit they paid all that money, blood, sweat and tears for codswallop? And if they admit THEY don’t understand it either they are out of the club, so what they do not understand they pass off as “intellectually challenging” and “deep.” Which it is neither.

    They should learn there are highly intellectual theories of the atonement beyond penal substitution, theories of election such as corporate and Arminian that are rigorous intellectually, and far more coherently logical systems of theology than Calvinism.

    But then what to do with that pricey degree?

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  59. I probably agree with most of what these guys are saying. That being said, I still cannot watch the video due to many of the reasons already mentioned in the comments.

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  60. elastigirl:
    Ken A,

    “When I read the Bible for myself I found concepts like sovereignty, election, predestination, etc. However the popular churches in my town wouldn’t touch these teachings.

    However the popular churches in my town wouldn’t touch these teachings. Only taught what appeared to me to be a very limited diet of what the Bible actually seemed to me to teach over and over.

    I never have understood why the broader Protestant Christian church seemed to stay away from what was actually in the Bible.”

    Ken, most believers do believe in the things you listed above, but ( there usually is a but), it has to do with time and sequencing of the events,, ie, the Ordo Salutis.

    How did/does the order of salvation take place, it makes all the difference, example, Calvinist hold to salvation before faith to believe, traditionalist hold to Spirit calling, sinner through faith believes, salvation is granted.

    He died for all people, not just all “kinds” of people, and then the elect are saved
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    it seems to me that every faction of christendom focuses on some things and stays away from other things, even calvinism / neo calvinism.

    it is not possible to have a belief system and live by it that embraces all that is in the bible.

    i mean, one can try, but they end up like this:

    https://www.pinterest.com/pin/443745369504532541/

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  61. The only doctrinally-honest Calvinist I have read of is A.W. Pink who famously declared that “God does not love everyone”. He accepted the logical conclusion of Calvinism, but he had to wear his “Systematic Theology” glasses (i.e filter everything through the hermaneutics of Calvin) when reading John 3:16, 2Pt 3:9 (etc). People err by attempting to resolve the tension between love and justice by redefining God in terms of disingenuous love that either ignores sin, or loves legalism–neither of which God does. God really is who he claims to be–fully loving and fully just. God does not surrender his sovereignty by loving everyone or granting them free choice –but only God can manage all that.

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  62. Dan: I read once that the human mind trying to figure out God was akin to a dog scratching in the dirt trying to solve a calculus problem.

    This idea is very common, and indeed commenters here at Wartburg have occasionally gone further and made very strong and sweeping claims about how God is fundamentally unknowable to the human mind. The problem with this is twofold. Firstly, it is itself a claim about God, resting on humanly conceived assumptions about what “god” must be like. Secondly, and more importantly, the bible describes at great length the lengths to which God has gone to reveal himself to humanity.

    That’s not to say I disagree with what you wrote. Far from it – I think you put it really well in describing the bible as a travel companion. I love the way it raises questions as well as answers (if the bible said that God didn’t care or was all about survival of the fittest, then The Problem Of Evil would disappear!).

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  63. ishy: I’ve had several New Cals tell me that if I couldn’t understand, that proved I wasn’t elect.

    Hah! I don’t need a Cal of any age to tell me I’m not elect.

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  64. mot,

    “I just recently became a “Done”.”
    ++++++++++++++++++

    Hello, mot. Good to hear from you. your news…. i imagine a lot has happened leading up to it.

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  65. ishy: I’ve had several New Cals tell me that if I couldn’t understand, that proved I wasn’t elect.

    Oh, the arrogance … to tell someone they have been damned before the foundation of the world, before they ever drew breath, lost and undone, with no hope. And, of course, they are they elect and can prove it because they accepted reformed indoctrination. The arrogant cusses were predestined, but you were not?! Doesn’t make sense that Heaven would be populated by such characters.

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  66. Ken F (aka Tweed):
    This is a timely post because of the 400 year anniversary of the Remonstrance. RC Sproul’s ministry is publishing articles on it right now, such as this one: <a href="https://

    It is interesting that they would make the claim that Calvinism is THE Apostolic faith. When I read the writings of early Christians I find nothing that looks like Calvinism. These folks should read more history. When they don’t read history they end up with interviews like the one that is the subject of this post.

    Amen, Ken! These Calvinists sound nothing like the Cappadocian Fathers, or St. Athanasius, Justin Martyr, Maximus the Confessor, John of Damascus and many more. These Calvinists are an innovation and have little resemblance to the Apostolic faith.

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  67. ishy: I’ve had several New Cals tell me that if I couldn’t understand, that proved I wasn’t elect.

    I have found that New Calvinists have a mistrust in personal Christian experience. I’ve seen them squirm when I refer to having a personal relationship with the living Christ and that the Holy Spirit leads me. They are much more comfortable discussing doctrines about grace, rather than hearing that someone has had a direct experience of Grace. They just don’t seem to get that. I suppose that’s why they don’t talk much about Jesus. That leaves me wondering just what they have been elected to … to a theology, rather than the Body of Christ?

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  68. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    Muff Potter: The truth is out there…
    (queue in x-files theme music)

    Frivolity aside, what you describe really is a dizzying array of ideas and counter proposals. The sheer volume of both is daunting.
    So much so that it can a be a weariness of the flesh, as the writer of The Book of Ecclesiastes observed.

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  69. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    “…and that protestants reject too much history and rely heavily on relatively new innovations”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    maybe that’s why protestant church seems so cute.

    far too cute to believe it is actually an ancient religion.

    quite honestly, i’ve finally come to terms with the fact that i simply haven’t bought into most of it for years. at least 20 years of attending church.

    it’s all just too cute and wrapped up in a tidy modern bow.

    credibility-challenged.

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  70. ““I know that I am intelligent, because I know that I know nothing.” Socrates”

    –That’s us, dude!

    My theologically mindedness actually took me to Orthodoxy and far, far away from Calvinism…..

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  71. Jojo: Two years ago I stood on the soil where Perpetua and Felicitas were martyred. I have never been the same.

    It wasn’t until after I came back from Japan last October that I was hit with the realization that Christians had walked–and died as martyrs–at places where I’d walked. I mean, I knew, but I really didn’t KNOW the whole situation. The trip wasn’t supposed to be a pilgrimage, but it turned into one for me after the fact. I want to go back to Nagasaki, Shimabara and Unzen. And, to be clear, I’m pretty sure the Calvinistas wouldn’t think the people who were crucified in Nagasaki or drowned in the Unzen hot springs were Christians. That’s not how I feel about it.

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  72. Muff Potter: GOOD NEWS!

    Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun has been welcomed into Canada as a human rights refugee and will not be deported back to Saudi Arabia.

    I was telling my brother about this today. I said one good thing had come out of the horrible death of Jamal Khashoggi, and that was how people now understood the Saudis mean business. The pleas of a young woman weren’t ignored this time. It’s still terrible he died the way he did, but we now know Mohammed bin Salman can’t be trusted.

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  73. Carl:
    The only doctrinally-honest Calvinist I have read of is A.W. Pink who famously declared that “God does not love everyone”.He accepted the logical conclusion of Calvinism, but he had to wear his “Systematic Theology” glasses (i.e filter everything through the hermaneutics of Calvin) when reading John 3:16, 2Pt 3:9 (etc).People err by attempting to resolve the tension between love and justice by redefining God in terms of disingenuous love that either ignores sin, or loves legalism–neither of which God does.God really is who he claims to be–fully loving and fully just. God does not surrender his sovereignty by loving everyone or granting them free choice –but only God can manage all that.

    A.W. Pink was honest and he makes easier and better reading than John Piper. Piper is not honest enough to admit that he believes just the same thing. He spends page after page talking like a politician attempting to explain and rationalise it . A truly hopeless task!

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  74. ZechZav: A.W. Pink was honest and he makes easier and better reading than John Piper. Piper is not honest enough to admit that he believes just the same thing. He spends page after page talking like a politician attempting to explain and rationaliseit . A truly hopeless task!

    John Piper may IMO be more honest than he gets credit for from his critics, but you have to read closely.

    Piper’s god loves his own glory above all else and subordinates everything to that. And, in Piper’s vision of what “god’s goodness” means, that is the only way that god could be truly righteous.

    Correct me if I am mistaken, but I think this is a succinct summary of Piper’s distillation of Edwards’ vision of the meaning of true virtue.

    IOW, JP’s god is the ultimate narcissist. In humans, this kind of self-absorption would be wicked and ugly, but in god it is beautiful and glorious (by the self-referential standard that JP proposes).

    It has been suggested that there seems to be increasing incidence of narcissistic traits in public pulpits. Perhaps this is an outworking of the biblical principle that people become like what they worship.

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  75. Muff Potter: Frivolity aside, what you describe really is a dizzying array of ideas and counter proposals. The sheer volume of both is daunting.

    Exactly. My faith walk was much simpler before I discovered this. Ignorance is bliss.

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  76. Muslin, fka Dee Holmes: These guys should read the Acts of Perpetua and Felicitas, which dates from about 203 CE.

    Thanks for the reference. My biggest problem with ancient Christian writings is not knowing where to start because there are so many available and I don’t have much free time. The reformers did not give much attention to these ancient writings, and not many protestant groups do much digging. It’s a shame because there is so much rich history and tradition.

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  77. elastigirl:
    Ken F (aka Tweed),

    “…and that protestants reject too much history and rely heavily on relatively new innovations”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    maybe that’s why protestant church seems so cute.

    far too cute to believe it is actually an ancient religion.

    quite honestly, i’ve finally come to terms with the fact that i simply haven’t bought into most of it for years.at least 20 years of attending church.

    it’s all just too cute and wrapped up in a tidy modern bow.

    credibility-challenged.

    But where did all the Orthodox affectations come from? Don’t tell me a group of fishermen from Judea wandered around in tall hats, golden robes, chanting in greek or latin.

    Of course they didn’t have a stage show wearing the latest hipster gear either.

    Will the real Christianity please stand up?

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  78. Ken F (aka Tweed): Exactly. My faith walk was much simpler before I discovered this. Ignorance is bliss.

    Ken, you are exactly the right walk. Too many Christians and other faiths don’t ask questions. We have never lived in a simple world. If God is about truth, then everything is up for debate. Stay thirsty, my friend.

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  79. Jack: But where did all the Orthodox affectations come from? Don’t tell me a group of fishermen from Judea wandered around in tall hats, golden robes, chanting in greek or latin.

    Of course they didn’t have a stage show wearing the latest hipster gear either.

    Will the real Christianity please stand up?

    Historians will know better, but one might reckon that the liturgical traditions see justification for special (and even costly/ornate) vestments for public officiators in the OT regulations about priestly garments.

    Personally, I’m a bit uneasy about this because it’s another way of professionalizing ministry and creating special classes of believers within the churches. My sense is that Paul’s numerous “one another” instructions are intended to diffuse ministry widely among the people, so that there is not a strong laity/clergy distinction. On that reading, “elder” and “deacon” are not “the two offices”, but rather two specific kinds of functions within the churches, which are assigned to people who are well-equipped to fulfill them. But there are many other “one another” functions, just as there are many “Spirit giftings”.

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  80. Ken F (aka Tweed): The limited research I did leaves me thinking that EO is probably closer to the early church than anything else out there

    Any particular part of Eastern Orthodoxy? There are still some Palestinian Christians in the Holy Land, although their ancestors might not have converted on the day of Pentecost. Cities named in Scripture still have churches. You mentioned limited research; did you look into these questions?

    Eastern Orthodox worship in the old country/ies is an overwhelming and mystical experience, so very different from Protestantism in the US. There’s so much beauty in the variety of worship.

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  81. Max: When the blind man who Jesus healed was tossed out of church, Jesus went looking for him. (John 9)

    Dispiriting chapter. One miracle, twenty arguments.

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  82. ___

    “Some thoughts, perhaps.”

    hmmm…

    TWW, thank you, for this prestigious and faithful platform, year after year…

    I am very grateful.

    Calvinism is a religious reformed theological system. Many theologians have promoted some form of it for over five hundred years. I have many of their books in my modest library. Much of what they have taught is profound and profitable. However they in essence sometimes present a God I have never known.

    Let me explain.

    When I was young and on my own, I asked God to show me He was real; I really needed His help with my life. The world was such a big place, and I needed help to determine my place in it. Well, to my surprise God showed me over the next few years how real and how wonderful He could be.

    I will spare you the details, somehow I don’t think you would believe me any way.

    Yet it has been pretty remarkable, fantastic actually. (an understatement)

    He is kind, generous, and thoughtful. He has alway knowns what I need before I do, He is not pushy or a bully.

    My faith in Him and His Sòn has become strong because of His enviable love for me. I asked God years ago to show me He was real. All I can say to you today, is that He has taken my breath away…

    hum, hum, hum, I can see His love for miles and miles…

    I really don’t need a Calvinist theologian to show me God is real and wonderful. God has done that all by Himself for as long as I can remember.

    Some folks, I know, have a hard time having faith in God. I can understand that. But for me, I have the opposite problem, as it were, —I have a hard time NOT having faith in Him.

    *

    Mind you, not that my life has been always easy, but He has been with me, offering friendship as only He can, for so long, I would miss Him desperately if He wasn’t there.

    ‘My God, My God, Why have. You forsaken me?’ Well, the answer is He never has.

    *

    It wasn’t that I understand my bible better than say, my pastor, it’s just that God has taken a personal interest in me, taught me to follow His word (I’m still learning), and that gracious, divine effort is evidenced to some extant or degree, by all who know me.

    Perfect?, I am far from it, but He loves me, and has never given up on me, all the same…

    For that I am very gr8ful! Thanx Lòrd!

    *

    IMHO The best is yet to come!

    “Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said: ‘Streams of living water will flow from within him.’” -Jesus

    To all of you wonderful folks who are reading this, —all the best in 2019! 🙂

    Sòpy

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=UFrDpx7zLtA

    ;~)

    – –

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  83. Friend: Any particular part of Eastern Orthodoxy?

    It’s been a combination. I’ve listened to quite a few hours of podcasts from Ancient Faith Radio, which is Antiochian but has contributors from others. I’ve read quite a few articles from other sites such as OCA, GOC, and ROCOR. I read a handful of books such as “Orthodox Dogmatic Theology” and “The Orthodox Way.” And I’ve attended divine liturgy about a dozen times at a parish near where I live that does the liturgy in English. I’ve learned that there is no way to plumb the depths of Orthodoxy because its history and traditions are so complicated. I suppose I have done a lot more enquiry than most protestants but I still don’t feel like I can answer questions about it with much confidence.

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  84. Carl,

    Excellent points, Carl! Pink is the exception, a Calvinist who does not hide, deny or ignore the more deplorable, but undeniable, assertions of his theology. I disagree with nearly every aspect of his beliefs, but at least he’s honest.

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  85. Jack,

    “But where did all the Orthodox affectations come from? Don’t tell me a group of fishermen from Judea wandered around in tall hats, golden robes, chanting in greek or latin.

    Of course they didn’t have a stage show wearing the latest hipster gear either.

    Will the real Christianity please stand up?”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    yeah, it’s all a costume party, dressing and playing the part.

    for me, the only christianity i can buy into at the moment (& for the last 20 years, even though i couldn’t articulate it, even to myself) is:

    matter-of-fact kindness and philadelphia, wherever i happen to be. no costume, face, or personna to put on.

    and the concept of prayer.

    (but this old news)

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  86. Max: Calvinists do that, too. When anyone approaches Scripture with a predetermined theology in mind, they will distort passages to support their belief and practice. The reformed spin on Ephesians and Romans are good examples. I dare say that all “theologies” torture Scripture in various degrees.

    Max, I think you are very thoughtful. Yes, I think you and I agree about all of us having a predisposition to only promote our own theological construct or the way we see it. We all are susceptible. My solution offered, though not foolproof I must admit, is to teach verse by verse through entire books of the Bible. That way we must deal with what is there. We won’t all agree, but we will have to deal with the text whether it is own view or not.

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  87. Samuel Conner,

    You are obviously a very thoughtful person. Are you saying that Romans doesn’t deal with eternal judgement? If so, don’t we need to keep in mind the larger context of the entire Bible? Mankind needs a “gospel ” because they “died” in their relationship to God in Eden. Paul gives the evidence of man’s sinfulness or his rebellion against God, his absence of relationship to God as it works itself out in the life of each man in Romans 1,2 and 3. Giving proof of mans eternal just judgement. “Though they knew God, they neither glorified him as God, nor were they thankful”.
    This looks like an eternal consequence to me. Salvation can not be divided up between the “under the sun” as you say and the eternal, can it? At least, I would not say that is a good way to look at it.

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  88. Friend: Dispiriting chapter. One miracle, twenty arguments.

    As you say, there’s something both sad and familiar about this chapter. Still today, there are whole swathes of christendom who intensely dislike tales of non-medical healing, and who will try and dismiss any such on technicalities of law or principle.

    For many years, Lesley had suffered from the debilitating side-effects of asthma medication that were only slightly less acute, and much worse chronically, than the asthma itself. Well, to cut a long story short, about 18 years ago Lesley got free from it. She still is; now we go fell-running together and she is fitter now than she’s ever been. But the hostility from the local para-church congregation was so great over this story that we eventually left.

    Many professing christians don’t believe in God. I don’t know what proportion “many” means in this context, but if my experience is anything to go by, it’s not insignificant. That’s why they’re so keen to speak for God, and/or to set out the (undisprovable) theorems on what he will, will not, can, and cannot, do.

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  89. Jack: But where did all the Orthodox affectations come from? Don’t tell me a group of fishermen from Judea wandered around in tall hats, golden robes, chanting in greek or latin.

    Just like most things in Christianity the answer to this is both complicated and inconclusive. The Eastern Orthodox will tell you that the very first Christians continued Jewish worship style, including liturgy, chanting and vestments. I question this, but history does not give good counterexamples. To disprove this one would simply need to find historical evidence for when these traditions started. But apparently you cannot. It appears that these traditions may indeed have started right from the beginning. If there was a different set of traditions they seem to have been lost in history. This is not what I was hoping or expecting to find.

    My best advice to those who are happy with their current style of worship is to not ask any questions. My search for the early church falls into the category of “if you can’t stand the answer dont ask the question.”

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  90. Max:
    mot,

    When the blind man who Jesus healed was tossed out of church, Jesus went looking for him. (John 9)

    And even with all of the authority Jesus ceded to those holding the seat of Moses (Matthew 23), He didn’t leave the fate of the blind man up to them and their rejection.

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  91. JDV: And even with all of the authority Jesus ceded to those holding the seat of Moses (Matthew 23), He didn’t leave the fate of the blind man up to them and their rejection.

    Also, look at the preceding verse to Jesus’ finding the blind man again: “They replied, “You were born in utter sin, and you are instructing us?” And they threw him out.” (John 9:34) Here’s the case of someone cast as unworthy to challenge the assertions and the instruction of the assembly leadership.

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  92. elastigirl: yeah, it’s all a costume party

    Agreed, and I understand your current pain.

    Still… I was taught as a child that church pageantry was a show of wealth, upheld by squeezing donations out of the poor. (There is some truth in this, but in our circle, it was anti-Catholic bias.) Later I learned that grand cathedrals, vestments, chant, and incense were intended to give glimpses of the glory of heaven. There’s some basis in Hebrew scripture for offering the finest materials and artistry for items used in worship. Services in ancient Orthodox churches are mystical and absolutely breathtaking.

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  93. Friend,

    “Services in ancient Orthodox churches are mystical and absolutely breathtaking”
    +++++++++++++

    i was in Notre Dame cathedral in Paris for mass one evening. it was so powerful and moving — the atmosphere and the amazing structure made it so (helped along by location, beautiful language, and countless candlelit flames).

    so, i can see the value of pageantry.

    pageantry in my church experiences amounted to dishtowels as turbans, cardboard props, and a band of novices in low styrofoam-ceilinged office space.

    my thought at the moment is to what extent human lives are exploited to create pageantry that is amazing, mystical, and breathtaking?

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  94. Ken A: Max, I think you are very thoughtful. Yes, I think you and I agree about all of us having a predisposition to only promote our own theological construct or the way we see it. We all are susceptible. My solution offered, though not foolproof I must admit, is to teach verse by verse through entire books of the Bible. That way we must deal with what is there. We won’t all agree, but we will have to deal with the text whether it is own view or not.

    Sound so easy and safe. Exactly what my former Calvie pastor claimed to do. Then it became obvious how quickly he skipped over what he preferred to ignore, and gave emphasis to sometimes the least important or imported concepts. I certainly believe in studying all of scripture, then holding up what I am currently reading and comparing it to everything else scripture says; particularly the narratives. I is so easy to twist words to mean whatever you wish; far more difficult to deny the events of a narrative. Not that many won’t try.

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  95. Nick Bulbeck: Lesley had suffered from the debilitating side-effects of asthma medication that were only slightly less acute, and much worse chronically, than the asthma itself. Well, to cut a long story short, about 18 years ago Lesley got free from it.

    That is a wonderful story, and I thank you for sharing it with us. You and Lesley must be grateful every day.

    How awful that your local para-church folk were hostile. I don’t understand the connection between curing and healing, but I absolutely believe in it.

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  96. elastigirl: my thought at the moment is to what extent human lives are exploited to create pageantry that is amazing, mystical, and breathtaking?

    Well, that and the unholy alliance between religion and state.

    But I think God can speak to us through all senses and in all settings; we invoke God. I’ve done some artistic work for a church, and felt that it was sacred in part because I brought together fine materials (donated) and my utmost effort (donated). When these items are used in worship, devotion and love make them ever more precious and holy, as part of something both intimate and infinite.

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  97. Ken A: teach verse by verse through entire books of the Bible. That way we must deal with what is there.

    Oh, I agree Ken. I have been in lay ministry as a Bible teacher/lay preacher for 40+ years. I prefer expository teaching verse by verse, rather jumping around the Bible on topical studies. The problem inherent with any form of teaching is when the teacher pauses to give his interpretation of the text in line with a pet theology. In preparation for a class, I prefer to sit alone with my Bible, reflect on text within its context, and pray for the Holy Spirit to teach me rather than consulting commentaries or following outlines provided by the authors of church literature (e.g., LifeWay materials). I then impart what I believe I heard by the Spirit to others who sit under my teaching. As I read the Word, I’m reminded “But you must understand this at the outset, that no prophecy of Scripture arose from an individual’s interpretation of the truth” (2 Peter 1:20). Truth is more important than an interpretation of truth and that only comes by the Holy Spirit who leads us into all Truth … the teachings and traditions of men can lead us astray.

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  98. Ken A,

    My argument is against projection of post-mortem punishments onto texts that probably are concerned with pre-mortem wrath and its ultimate “under the sun” expression, mortality itself. It’s a kind of eisegesis and does not promote understanding.

    I think we have a lot less biblical data on the details of post-mortem consequences than we are accustomed to believing (and that I once believed). Perhaps the wicked are simply left in the grave and not granted resurrection and the life of the Age to Come. That is certainly an “eternal” judgment, but of a very different kind than the present-day prevailing view. This view, which sometimes goes by the name “conditional immortality”, is at present quite unpopular, perhaps in part because it is held by groups that are heterodox (such as Seventh-day Adventists) or heretical (such as Jehovah’s Witnesses). But I think it is more strongly defendable from Scripture than the conventional view.

    If you have time, you might find “Jesus and the Victory of God”, by NT Wright, to be helpful as an attempt at an historical reading of Jesus’ public ministry, which is the context of the “gehenna” sayings that form most of the textual support for doctrines of post-mortem punishments. (Caution: NTW recommends that the preliminary volume on historical method, “The New Testament and the People of God,” be digested first.) I also found the chapter on OT precedents for Jesus’ “gehenna” sayings in Brad Jersak’s “Her Gates Will Never Be Shut” to be quite helpful.

    If you would care to hear a philosophical/theological defense of universalism, a view which may be even less popular than conditional immortality, you may find David B Hart’s “The Moral Meaning of Creatio ex Nihilo”

    http://journal.radicalorthodoxy.org/index.php/ROTPP/article/view/135/86

    to be challenging, and perhaps even edifying.

    I write as an ex “Calvinist with baptist leanings” — basically a ex neo-calvinist. I was in that mentality for decades, and ultimately found it to be wanting.

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  99. Max: And one testimony … all the blind man knew was what Jesus had done for him and stuck with his story.

    I study the Bible every day, but I believe the people who live the most like Jesus.

    A lot of people who claim to be Christians I know don’t act anything like Jesus. They are greedy, or selfish, or crude, or mean. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, but some people never seem to grow or change at all, and always put themselves first.

    Some of the people I know who claim to study the Bible more than anyone else look the least like Jesus. Maybe they do really study the Bible that much, but does it have any effect on who they are?

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  100. Perhaps the wicked are simply left in the grave and not granted resurrection and the life of the Age to Come. That is certainly an “eternal” judgment, but of a very different kind than the present-day prevailing view.

    i.e. They are discarded, just like the trash piles in Gehenna, the Jerusalem city dump in Hinnom Valley.

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  101. Max: I have been in lay ministry as a Bible teacher/lay preacher for 40+ years. I prefer expository teaching verse by verse, rather jumping around the Bible on topical studies. The problem inherent with any form of teaching is when the teacher pauses to give his interpretation of the text in line with a pet theology.

    Or bogs down in hyper-detail, spending MONTHS on a single verse and losing the narrative context.

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  102. Headless Unicorn Guy,

    My present view is that Jesus’ “gehenna” sayings are foretellings of gruesome calamity in the AD70 siege of Jerusalem. During that siege, many thousands of dead inhabitants of Jerusalem were tipped over the walls — insufficient room in the City for burial, and insufficient manpower to do the burying — into the valleys below, including the Hinnom Valley. So I don’t think that post-mortem “soul-punishment” is in view at all. It’s what was going to happen to the bodies of the dead. And, given contemporary Jewish scruples about how the dead were to be cared for and properly buried, this would have been a deeply horrifying fate.

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  103. linda: My take? New Calvinism is actually very illogical. Since so many preacher boys have been brainwashed in it at so high a cost in student loans they have a vested interest in promoting it. Who wants to admit they paid all that money, blood, sweat and tears for codswallop?

    Sunk Cost Fallacy, the con man’s friend.

    Get the marks/suckers to invest so much money, time, and emotional energy in the con that they CAN’T back out, even when they know they are being taken to the cleaners. Because they would have to admit they got conned. Some will even fanatically defend the con man and the con game and/or prosletyze others to jump in rather than have to admit they fell for it.

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  104. Samuel Conner,

    “I think we have a lot less biblical data on the details of post-mortem consequences than we are accustomed to believing”
    +++++++++++++++

    religious art hasn’t helped (thinking of renaissance paintings of hell, like michelangelo and signorelli — one look and you’ll never forget). amazing how images deemed important shape and inform our ideas of what is true.

    i agree — i think the information in the bible is pretty scant and sketchy.

    reluctantly, i’ll share that things experienced by people i know concerning loved ones who have passed on (experiences which were in no way solicited), don’t seem to fit the ‘doctrines’ of hell and heaven.

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  105. elastigirl,

    I don’t know what to make of apparitions of the kind you mention, but I’m also reluctant to reject such reports as delusion or to infer that there is something evil underneath them. In Jesus’ first post-resurrection appearance to the gathered apostles, he had to assure them that He was not an insubstantial spirit — which implies that was a concept they were familiar with. It’s been speculated that “Peter’s angel” in Acts 12:15 might be something similar, on the theory that the people may have assumed that Peter had been executed in prison.

    While I think there is not a lot biblical data on post-mortem punishments, I want to affirm that there is a robust theology of hope of resurrection. Practically an entire chapter of 1 Corinthians, the 15th, is devoted to this.

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  106. ishy: I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, but some people never seem to grow or change at all, and always put themselves first … Some of the people I know who claim to study the Bible more than anyone else look the least like Jesus.

    The first shall be last and the last shall be first.

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  107. Max: “But you must understand this at the outset, that no prophecy of Scripture arose from an individual’s interpretation of the truth” (2 Peter 1:20)

    Excellent verse. Thanks for pointing this out. Also…

    vs. 21 ” . . .for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”

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  108. Samuel Conner,

    Some people so certain of their system that they will “beat” the sin out of you. Job is my antidote and refuge to these people who holds a water-tight-theology-created-by-fallen-creature-in-a-fallen-creation. To me any claims of a perfect theological system is a big fat lie and ultimately to be twisted for controlling people.

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  109. Catholic Gate-Crasher:
    Nathan Priddis,

    Yikes. Augustine is one of the giants of Western Christendom. He casts his shadow over many centuries. Have you never read his *Confessions*? It is standard reading for countless college students. It is certainly assigned far more frequently than Calvin’s *Institutes*!

    And Augustine’s *City of God* is considered hugely important, a milestone in the Western tradition. My husband just finished re-reading it, and I assure you he isn’t a “loser.”

    I’m no fan of Calvin — far from it — but I think even he is read by more than just “losers.” *The Institutes,* I’m told, helped shape the modern French language. That’s pretty significant from a linguistic and historical perspective.

    I would say the two works are more foundational to the Faith, then the Scriptures.

    As I recall, significant persons such as Spurgeon have declared Calvin’s teachings to be the Gospel.

    Further back, I believe Calvin interpreted Scripture through Augustine.

    Further still Augustine laid down bedrock. Original sin, signs and the teacher/student pattern of learning.

    Absolutely, you are correct.

    No as for why a person might actually read these two pine on about life, I would offer my own experiance. I read then because I was at home after my life imploded. If it hadn’t, I would have been doing something else with my life, other then listening to a guy from circa 390’s divulge his discomfort with his sexuality. Or, inform us about his complicated maternal relationship.

    Society would possibly call me a loser in life. I definitely had too much time on my hands.

    My memory is failing with my health, but this is what I remember of Augustine’s conversion. I may even get some of the following statements right:

    He describes something like an emotional breakdown in a garden. He emerges to hear a child’s voice saying “go and do likewise.” This followed some random bible verse coming to mind. And then, he runs home to tell his mother, it is done. The “done” was I think a referance to swearing off sexual intercourse. After which he leaves his common law wife, and becomes the Father of Protestism.

    Your husband sounds far more educated then I. He either had some time on his hands, or he enjoys an occasional light read.

    Ok. Jokes aside, I mostly was ready to just die. I mean when is guy done with his confession.

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  110. Nathan Priddis,

    Interesting questions and comments from a student in a Christian high school. Beyond the “labels” that group the people in various theology camps, I would like to encourage you to think about the fact that “The Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world.” Jesus was already there in eternity past and His blood was already shed when our Father chose us (sinners)in Christ to be His children.

    We seem to only think in linear timelines. But for God the beginning and the end are all in view at the same time. He can allow “interactions with humans” even in His eternal plan which is sure, but not stiff or rigid. Hyper-Calvinism is rigid thinking because the finite mind of humans can’t figure out the infinite God.

    We are better off to be simple and believe that John 3:16 holds true anywhere anytime. This Christian hopes that you will come through with an authentic view of the reality of Jesus Christ, and a real love for the God Who loves you, and all souls. And the power of His incorruptible blood should not be discounted.

    Here I humbly ask God to guide you. Please exercise discernment on these comments, too, since I know I am also a finite human being.

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  111. Simple questions.

    “So am I going to hell if I choose not to believe in Calvinism?”
    “Will the theological “l’eaders” of our day, condemn me to hell if I choose not to follow them of their ridiculous theological debates on Calvinism?”
    “Did the fruits of John Calvin’s life reflect our Savior, Jesus Christ’s Ways?”

    “If I believe in Jesus Christ, alone, for my literal salvation, according to His Word and His Ways, then why in the world would I even consider focusing my faith in a man who is a sinner just like me?”

    “Why is the man, John Calvin, worshiped and idolized within the evangelical complex?”

    When ministering the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who are in need of a Good Word, the name of John Calvin or any denominational church never comes out of my mouth, only Jesus, as our LORD and Redeemer, Savior.

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  112. birdoftheair: We are better off to be simple and believe that John 3:16 holds true anywhere anytime.

    By this do you mean that people can come to Jesus, or Jesus can reach out to them, after their mortal bodies have died? I ask in all seriousness. As a teen in a youth group that emphasized this verse and John 14:6 (“…no man cometh to the father but by me”), I constantly proselytized those who did not declare themselves saved. The pressure was all on me to spread the message, which was actually poisonous, because anyone who heard it from me had been duly warned. All of the Chinese communists were also going to hell unless I could get over there and convince/warn them.

    I would like to think that Jesus is not constrained by space and time; or that the verses are more merciful than our youth ministers taught; or that popular beliefs about who goes to hell are not well founded on Scripture.

    Please note: I’m not trying to anger anyone, but to move past clobber-verse teachings that were crystal clear. I am still stuck.

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  113. jyjames: “no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:21)

    Amen! May we have only men of God under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit delivering a word from God in our pulpits. Too many are preaching theologies of mere men, parroting the words of their icons. There are too many preacher-boys in the American church, and not enough men of God.

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  114. Friend: By this do you mean that people can come to Jesus, or Jesus can reach out to them, after their mortal bodies have died? I ask in all seriousness. As a teen in a youth group that emphasized this verse and John 14:6 (“…no man cometh to the father but by me”), I constantly proselytized those who did not declare themselves saved. The pressure was all on me to spread the message, which was actually poisonous, because anyone who heard it from me had been duly warned. All of the Chinese communists were also going to hell unless I could get over there and convince/warn them.

    I would like to think that Jesus is not constrained by space and time; or that the verses are more merciful than our youth ministers taught; or that popular beliefs about who goes to hell are not well founded on Scripture.

    Please note: I’m not trying to anger anyone, but to move past clobber-verse teachings that were crystal clear. I am still stuck.

    I don’t think Jesus was/is constrained by anything, including space and time, and because of that he was/is free to set up the means of redemption in any way they saw fit, so it is very possible and most likely probable that your youth pastors may have been on to something….

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  115. Karen: “Why is the man, John Calvin, worshiped and idolized within the evangelical complex?”

    Because He Alone Has God All Figured Out.

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  116. Ray: Some people so certain of their system that they will “beat” the sin out of you.

    “So what if I rack him ’til he die? For I shall have Saved His Soul.”
    — “The Inquisitor”, Mark Twain’s Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

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  117. elastigirl: i agree — i think the information in the bible is pretty scant and sketchy.

    So is “the information in the bible” regarding angels and demons, but that didn’t stop medieval theologians/angelologists/demonologists from creating elaborate multi-generational edifices of hyper-detailed speculation, with each previous gen’s speculation the foundation of FACT for the next generation’s.

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  118. Friend: As a teen in a youth group that emphasized this verse and John 14:6 (“…no man cometh to the father but by me”), I constantly proselytized those who did not declare themselves saved. The pressure was all on me to spread the message, which was actually poisonous, because anyone who heard it from me had been duly warned.

    What the original Internet Monk called “Wretched Urgency”:
    https://internetmonk.com/archive/imonk-classic-wretched-urgency—the-grace-of-god-or-hamsters-on-a-wheel

    Did you also get the one about how the only thing God would ask you on J-Day was “How Many Did YOU Lead to Christ?” And how your status in Heaven (your “Crown of Glory”) would totally depend on how many notches YOU had in YOUR Bible? And how Christ Was Coming Soon to Rapture you all away (tomorrow at the latest) so Work For The Night Is Coming? (Armageddon clock is ticking clock is ticking tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick…)?

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  119. Karen: “Why is the man, John Calvin, worshiped and idolized within the evangelical complex?”

    Strange, isn’t it? I suppose it has something to do with challenging the intellect, rather than the spirit. Don’t worry too much about it though. The man and his message are adored by less than 10% of Christendom worldwide. We only talk about it here because an army of whippersnapper New Calvinists and their arrogant leaders are wreaking havoc in the church with their “we alone have truth” mumbo-jumbo. This too will pass and the Church of the living God will pick up the pieces, heal the wounds, and move on.

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  120. Friend,

    Something that held my attention from pretty early in my reading of the New Testament is that Paul didn’t seem to have the frantic concern to “reach every soul” that was inculcated in my youth when I was instructed in the ways of “infernalism.” Of course, this can be interpreted in multiple ways; maybe Paul was a 1st century Calvinist and was confident that God would bring the elect within earshot of Paul’s message, or of the churches Paul founded.

    But when one reads through Paul’s letters, one finds very little that is clearly about post-mortem punishments (but, I want to emphasize, considerably more about the believer’s hope of resurrection into the likeness of the glorified Christ).

    And post-mortem punishments is almost entirely absent from the Old Testament (save, IIRC, for a single verse in Daniel that speaks of a partial resurrection of the dead, some to glory and some to shame).

    It seems that on this subject, Paul thought much more like an ancient Jew than a 20th century itinerant tent evangelist.

    But there’s something else that at times shows up in Paul’s writings, and that has to be interpreted away if one is committed to limited atonement or double predestination. At times Paul uses sweeping language to describe the arc of sin and redemption. Here are a couple of examples in Romans:

    5:18-19 which uses a parallel construction to compare the consequences of Adam’s disobedience with the consequences of Christ’s obedience

    11:32 (NIV) “For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.”

    These texts and others that are similar don’t by themselves determine the question; infernalists, conditionalists and universalists interpret them differently.

    But, to my mind, combined with Paul’s discernible lack of interest in post-mortem punishments (no “gehenna” language, for example; that really does seem to have been an Israel-specific feature of Jesus’ prophetic ministry — why this might have been so is IMO an important question, since it may shed light on what the “gehenna” sayings meant to their hearers), it suggests that the received traditional view, that so terrified us when we were being indoctrinated into “the faith”, may not be the right story.

    At the risk of annoying people with repetition, you may find DB Hart’s meditation on the implications of our affirmation that God created the world out of nothing to be helpful:

    http://journal.radicalorthodoxy.org/index.php/ROTPP/article/view/135/86

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  121. Headless Unicorn Guy,

    Don’t forget, “everything will burn, except the souls you save”, so, you really should not work “that hard” in college… the best thing you can do is “go on staff” and save souls….
    Ironically, 30 years later, “staff” from that same organization want some of the money I earn which is partially a result of my “working hard” in school..

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  122. Jeffrey Chalmers,

    Boy, that takes me back. It seems that recruiting believers to join the global campus ministry corporation was at least as important as recruiting people to faith in Jesus.

    I turned away from them in dismay in the late ’80s or early ’90s when they began adopting business-style metrics of “ministry effectiveness”. Another great cause that began as a movement and later turned into a business. I hesitate to assume that they have already degenerated into a racket; perhaps that remains for the future.

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  123. Samuel Conner: It seems that on this subject, Paul thought much more like an ancient Jew than a 20th century itinerant tent evangelist.

    Evidence would suggest that Paul was also a very Hellenized Jew.
    Influenced by Greek ideals of perfection and mechanistic reduction.

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  124. Samuel Conner,
    Headless Unicorn Guy,
    Jeffrey Chalmers,
    Thanks for the perspective and the study suggestions. Very helpful.

    We were continually dared to do more. “It’s controversial, but would you hand out tracts on a street corner?” The tracts were lurid, so this was a three-layer question, starting with the need to land on the correct side of supposed controversy. Way beyond the ken of teens who just wanted to study the Bible and shoot some hoops.

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  125. Jeffrey Chalmers,

    Dang. I tried to thank several people, but the adorable USDA beagle trotted over to sniff my suitcase. It will probably be released from customs later on, but meanwhile, thanks to you, HUG, Samuel Conner, and Muff as well. 😉

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  126. Samuel Conner: Something that held my attention from pretty early in my reading of the New Testament is that Paul didn’t seem to have the frantic concern to “reach every soul” that was inculcated in my youth when I was instructed in the ways of “infernalism.”

    It seems that on this subject, Paul thought much more like an ancient Jew than a 20th century itinerant tent evangelist.

    I’ve occasionally wondered how far the marketing needs of itinerant selling have shaped fundagelical theology over the years. When [generic] you are trying to close a sale in which no tangible goods change hands, then it helps to have a strongly emotive carrot-and-stick approach to get the buying started.

    I’ve also noticed that a lot of hymns from that culture/era follow a certain pattern. They tell the same story in the following three acts (though not necessarily three verses):

     Act I – The writer’s past as a wretched sinner
     Act II – The writer’s spectacular, Damascene conversion experience
     Act III – At some point in the future, the writer will therefore be part of the ultimate in-crowd

    Nothing happens between Acts II and III; probably because the hymn was written to accompany a salesman who couldn’t really demonstrate any product.

    Years ago, I read in the biography of a well-known salesman/evangelist that his “passion was for souls”. But I’m sceptical; at least of what it was he was really generating. In his mind it may have been souls, but in reality they may have been little more than statistics. Stats, not souls, IOW.

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  127. Nick Bulbeck,

    I’ve had similar thoughts, though mine have tended to focus on “risk aversion” in the sense of “Pascal’s Wager.” If you don’t have a crystal-clear idea of the risks you face, it can appear prudent to “assume the worst and prepare for that.”

    I suspect that the PW still holds a strong grip on Christian imagination, at least in the West. I also think that the strong language in Galatians 1 tends to discourage people from questioning the received “infernalist” tradition, which might also (and I think it does) call into question the details of the received traditional understanding of the meaning of “the gospel” (full disclosure: I think Paul’s gospel was very simple: a) Jesus is Lord, as evidenced by b) God raised Jesus from the dead, which reversed the verdict of the rulers that Jesus was a false messiah. In Paul’s view — Romans 10 — embracing this was what would grant one “assurance of salvation”, which I think for Paul meant “assurance of resurrection and a share in the life of the Age to Come”).

    We’ve come a long way (from Jerusalem and Athens), baby.

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  128. Samuel Conner,

    They were a business to me in the early 80’s…. I remember their “strategy” ( business model) was to target the leaders in the Greek system since they were the “leaders”. I also remember one of their “retreat speakers” called himself a “Berkeley radical”. At the time I was a graduate student, and had recently recieved my undergrad degree from UC Berkeley…. in fact my dorm was a couple of blocks from where Patty Hurst was kidnapped….
    Anyway, the speaker was full of BS…. he had only gone to summer school one summer at Berkeley….. you might fault me for being arrogant, but I was proud to have a undergrad engineerind degree from Berkeley…. this clown was degrading my degree! And, the speaker was hypper competative in a pick-up football were had…. really weird..

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  129. Friend,

    When I typed that line, I did not refer to the post-mortal setting. Hebrews 9:27 says “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment”. So my understanding is that we share the good news with people who are alive on earth while we are here.

    Another factor to consider: When God planned to redeem us from an eternal future separated from Him and heaven, He did not want us to live forever in our sinful state, rather, He allowed our body to die so we could have a new body to enter heaven in the righteousness God gave us by our faith. Our soul is born again by His Holy Spirit. And we go through life on earth being transformed into the likeliness of Jesus Christ our Saviour.

    I do not see or know of any option of salvation after death based on what I know from the Bible. If only people all know Jesus and His love!

    I can relate to the difficulty of accepting Jesus as the only Way, Truth, and Life in the context of thinking so many will perish, or so many have perished….We can only rely on God’s justice and mercy to be higher and fairer than our imagination.

    Let us stay close to Jesus so we can hear the true voice of the Shepherd. Let’s base our mindset on what God has said and ask the Holy Spirit to show us what we need to understand, and how we can follow Jesus better. That would be blessings to us all.

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  130. birdoftheair,

    “I do not see or know of any option of salvation after death based on what I know from the Bible.”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++

    could this by an argument from silence?

    i haven’t combed through the Bible/NT to inform myself, but perhaps the bible is silent on the subject.

    i know believers in some theological systems will say, “What a silly proposition.”

    but i’m not particularly interested in things tied up in a neat & tidy bow where God is concerned.

    i think there is a whole heck of a lot is inconclusive, or not addressed at all in the bible.

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  131. elastigirl,

    There are examples that show that once someone is in hell, he can not cross the big chasm to get to the other side, like the rich man who saw the beggar from afar, but could not be helped. So the time to seek salvation is now.

    elastigirl,

    A story in the Bible: There is a chasm between where the beggar (saved) is and where the rich man (not saved) is. When one is in hell, he cannot cross that chasm to get help from the other. So today is the day of salvation.

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  132. birdoftheair: There is a chasm between where the beggar (saved) is and where the rich man (not saved) is. When one is in hell, he cannot cross that chasm to get help from the other. So today is the day of salvation.

    Thanks for your further insights. Is that parable solely about confessing the name of Jesus to save oneself from Hell? Maybe it has something to do with the rich man’s regret for a lifelong lack of conscience, his failure to do justice and show mercy.

    The rich man in Hades pleads with Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his five brothers to repent, not confess a belief. Abraham says, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31).

    Perhaps we emphasize the plight of the rich man in eternal torment, rather than the suffering of the poor, and and the five brothers’ failure in their duty to help them.

    It’s worth remembering that this is not a factual story, but a parable. Abraham’s words suggest that both the Old Covenant and the New Covenant are valid for those who heed; this challenges the idea that confessing Jesus’ name during mortal life is mandatory to avoid Hell.

    I’m an amateur at this. Hope I have not distorted your ideas. Maybe others will weigh in.

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  133. Friend: Perhaps we emphasize the plight of the rich man in eternal torment, rather than the suffering of the poor, and and the five brothers’ failure in their duty to help them.
    It’s worth remembering that this is not a factual story, but a parable. Abraham’s words suggest that both the Old Covenant and the New Covenant are valid for those who heed; this challenges the idea that confessing Jesus’ name during mortal life is mandatory to avoid Hell.

    A parable is a story used to make give a lesson. Parables are supposed to be easily understood. I don’t see how the parable in question can avoid the rich man’s torment and his separation from God.

    As for Abraham’s words challenging the idea of confessing Jesus’ name, the New Covenant certainly supersedes the Old Covenant’s requirement for salvation. The Jews had to follow all kinds of rules that we do not follow anymore.

    Everyone here probably knows and believes John 3:16, but how about what the next 2 verses say:

    16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (NIV)

    “Condemned already”. To what? Condemned is a pretty strong term. The answer seems to me to be eternal separation from God.

    I also don’t know of any evidence in the Bible of people being able to confess Christ after death. If that is the case, everyone with a brain would accept him, and I don’t see that taught in scripture. God is merciful, but His justice is perfect. If the unrepentant got mercy, where is the justice?

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  134. birdoftheair: There are examples that show that once someone is in hell, he can not cross the big chasm to get to the other side, like the rich man who saw the beggar from afar, but could not be helped. So the time to seek salvation is now.

    And when that gets weaponized, you get Wretched Urgency and High-Pressure Fire Insurance Sales Pitches.

    Have any of you heard the one that the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus is a dig on the High Priest Caiphas (of the House of Annas, who had a lock on the High Priesthood)? There are too many parallels:
    First, Lazarus is the only character in a parable who is named. Shortly after the RL Raising of Lazarus, where it’s recorded that the Sanhedrin (under the House of Annas) put out a hit contract on Laz.
    The Rich Man speaks of “his five brothers”, i.e. the five sons of Annas (Caiphas was married to their sister, similar to how Polishing-the-Shaft-Schaap married into House Hyles). Not too much of a stretch to think of Annas as a Patriarch in the mold of GoT’s Tywin Lannister.
    And the punch line at the end — “They will not believe, even if someone should be raised form the dead.”

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  135. Pingback: Linkathon! – Phoenix Preacher

  136. Ken P.: the New Covenant certainly supersedes the Old Covenant’s requirement for salvation. The Jews had to follow all kinds of rules that we do not follow anymore.

    Thanks. Jews still live under the Old Covenant. The New Covenant expands beyond the Old, or stands alongside it, but does not supersede it–although you might well be writing from a “grafted” viewpoint.

    Christians in the US are trained to identify with the rich man and worry about avoiding hell. Jesus alleviated the suffering of the poor, ailing, and hungry—not what we tend to hear in this parable.

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  137. Samuel Conner: it suggests that the received traditional view, that so terrified us when we were being indoctrinated into “the faith”, may not be the right story.

    Headless Unicorn Guy: but that didn’t stop medieval theologians/angelologists/demonologists from creating elaborate multi-generational edifices of hyper-detailed speculation, with each previous gen’s speculation the foundation of FACT for the next generation’s.

    Combining these two thoughts, I have great doubts concerning much that has been prepackaged and force-fed me as essential orthodox truths of christianity.

    Ok, so I’m a heretic. Whatever. I believe that God is all about love, about redeeming and restoring that which is tarnished into that which is good. So, a lot of self-important men have asserted what we ‘must’ believe – what makes them any smarter than you or I? Any more sure of being right?

    What if all of the things that have remained confusing, or unconvincing, were simply wrong? What if the whole darn ‘sinners in the hands of an angry God’ is as far from who God is as many today believe? What if those who dare see – wait for it, here’s some real heresy comin’ at ya – universalism in scripure are right? What if the meaning of death being the final enemy to be destroyed, means that someday, somehow all will be redeemed from death?

    Here me well – I’m not claiming to believe any particular theory. I’m asserting the right to withhold judgment; to study and think and ask really hard and unthinkable questions. Most of all, I am asserting my right to believe, really believe, that the love of God for all men is so strong, so powerful and so redemptive that Satan himself will someday be redeemed? Do I know or even think this is true? Not really, but I’m darn tootin’ ready to entertain the possibility!

    All that to say, I’m done being told what I ‘must’ believe. Must believe or what? Get kicked out of your fine church? Too late, I’ve already gone. Be barred from the kingdom of heaven? I’ll call your bluff, Mister Pastor – show me your keys.

    I’m beginning to think that at the end of all of this loss, pain and confusion, I might just be discovering true hope and joy that cannot be dimmed. Whodda thunk?

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  138. In other news, the ERLC is apparently doing a “study” of sexual abuse in the church. I’m sure that’s going to be a hard-hitting expose of anyone not their friends….

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  139. Ken P.,

    “I don’t see how the parable in question can avoid the rich man’s torment and his separation from God”
    +++++++++++++++++++

    is it talking explicitly about the hereafter? could be referring to separation in general, including one’s mortal life on earth.

    i have long thought that eternal life refers to ‘life connected with God’ wherever/whenever. on earth, in the hereafter. i don’t time is linear.
    —————

    ““Condemned already”. To what? Condemned is a pretty strong term. The answer seems to me to be eternal separation from God.”
    +++++++++++++++++++++

    seems to me this doesn’t preclude ‘condemned until such a time when one makes some adjustments’.
    ——————-

    “I also don’t know of any evidence in the Bible of people being able to confess Christ after death. If that is the case, everyone with a brain would accept him, and I don’t see that taught in scripture. God is merciful, but His justice is perfect. If the unrepentant got mercy, where is the justice?”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    no evidence = an argument from silence?

    i don’t see how we can presume anything on how God metes out justice.

    i can fathom opportunity in the hereafter for souls to choose God. i can also fathom souls in the hereafter not choosing God.

    all in all, too big and other for my brain.

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  140. One great thing about Heaven is we get to find out just how UN systematic true theology really is. This is like expecting ants to pass Calculus. (Not a Calvinist here. And this is AFTER two semesters of systematic theology at the college level taught with a Calvinist perspective. There are holes in that theology. Just as there are holes in Arminianism. I personally think our approach to the study of theology has issues. You cannot dissect Scripture like it was a dead frog.)

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  141. Friend: Christians in the US are trained to identify with the rich man and worry about avoiding hell.

    That’s what you get when you cross-breed the Prosperity Gospel with the Gospel of Personal Salvation and ONLY Personal Salvation.

    Just add Ye Ende is Nigh and It’s All Gonna Burn (any minute now…) and you have an even worse combination.

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  142. TS00: What if the meaning of death being the final enemy to be destroyed, means that someday, somehow all will be redeemed from death?

    This is more or less the direction in which my own reflections have been tending. I’m reluctant to assert that this hopeful view must be so; the Scriptures (or our best attempts at interpretation of them) are sufficiently equivocal that it may be best to simply note the range of possibilities and leave it at that — but this does leave room for hope.

    One of the paradoxes of this posture is that it is (or can be) much more open to those who disagree than they are able to be to it. One can be dismayed by, for example, John Piper’s vision of God while still hoping and praying for the conformation to Christ’s likeness of those who hold to that vision.

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  143. Friend: It’s worth remembering that this is not a factual story, but a parable.

    Not according to Calvary Chapel (and other fundagelical sects).
    They believe it to be unabashed and absolute literal truth, with the Lazarus-Abraham story as proof text.

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  144. “Where else are they going to go?”
    —————————————————-

    They could go to Jesus, I suppose. How about that? They could go to Him rather than to the doctrines of men. Those arrogant, smug, blinded men all talking in this video, they could humble themselves and go to Jesus also. But that would require bowing down, sacrificing the earthly kingdoms they’ve built with themselves at the head, giving up on their comfortable lifestyles and the strokes they so crave from their adoring followers, laying their earthly power on the altar, dying to their self-congratulating notions of great knowledge, and repenting in public in the proverbial sackcloth and ashes. Of course, that would require loving Jesus more than their own lives. It would come at a great cost.

    I’m reminded of the young rich man who came to Jesus full of enthusiasm–and rejected Him because he loved his earthly possessions more.

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  145. ishy: I’ve had several New Cals tell me that if I couldn’t understand, that proved I wasn’t elect. But they clearly couldn’t explain some of the seeming contradictions either (particularly on the verses that use the word “all”).

    I’m pretty sure some of them had just convinced themselves they understood it even though they didn’t, to reinforce their belief in their own election. But there still are problems with Calvinist theology just as there are problems with other theological viewpoints.

    Biggest thing I see Calvinists trip over is when you tell them that when the Bible says Jesus died for the sins of the world, the Greek word translated as “world” is “cosmos”, not “Elektos”. It just flat out says what it says, the whole world, or universe, is pretty much the only way you interpret “cosmos”. It is at this point that the average young neocalvinist will start hemming and hawing and say things to the effect of “Ah, but, er…” and then they get REALLY angry and, of course, start demonstrating the spirit of the one whom they truly follow.

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  146. Muff Potter: They believe it to be unabashed and absolute literal truth, with the Lazarus-Abraham story as proof text.

    So they believe that rather than following the lamb, we’ll be sat with Abraham; and that we’ll be able to talk to people in hell? Well, that second point would really appeal to the fundamentalist; it means they’ll be able to give the ultimate “We told you so”.

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  147. Law Prof: I’m reminded of the young rich man who came to Jesus full of enthusiasm–and rejected Him because he loved his earthly possessions more.

    That’s one of the most poignant stories in the whole Bible, to my mind. A fair few quotes of that passage read as far as “sell your possessions and give to the poor”, and drop the “so that you may have treasure in heaven; then come, follow Me”.

    The gospel accounts give at least circumstantial evidence that Jesus didn’t lightly say, to an individual, “Follow Me”.

    I’d follow Him, if I could find any Footprints.

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  148. Law Prof: I’m reminded of the young rich man who came to Jesus full of enthusiasm–and rejected Him because he loved his earthly possessions more.

    And the story doesn’t say that Jesus ran after him to try to change his mind. He willfully rejected the Savior after Jesus asked him to follow him; Jesus let him go.

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  149. Nick BulbeckI’d follow Him, if I could find any Footprints.

    He’s there, He just doesn’t usually leave the physical kinds of footprints. I’m sure not looking for Him anymore in those things they call “churches”, though. Maybe someday, Lord willing, I’ll go back. For now, nope, nada, nyet.

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  150. Nick Bulbeck: So they believe that rather than following the lamb, we’ll be sat with Abraham; and that we’ll be able to talk to people in hell? Well, that second point would really appeal to the fundamentalist; it means they’ll be able to give the ultimate “We told you so”.

    Hence, the reason for the doctrine. Also, the sadistic impulses of the average IFB, KJV-only, or neocal types would also be served by watching someone suffer. Just ask John Calvin.

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  151. Max: And the story doesn’t say that Jesus ran after him to try to change his mind.He willfully rejected the Savior after Jesus asked him to follow him; Jesus let him go.

    But we don’t know what happened after that. Did the Rich Young Ruler come back to Jesus after the Resurrection? Or perhaps on his deathbed? I have no idea, but I hope so.

    Unlike several folks here, I believe Hell is real, eternal, and also populated. But, at the same time, I believe it is self-chosen. As Saint Faustina says, “God condemns no one.” It is we humans who choose “Non Serviam” over humble surrender to Jesus.

    And, as CS Lewis says, those who do so choose probably wouldn’t be happy in Heaven anyway! Everyone gets what he or she truly wants.

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  152. I have some potentially bad news for the commenters here who think they could be heretics if they question eternal conscious torment. It turns out that none of the ecumenical councils dealt with the nature and duration of hell. This technically means no one can have a heretical belief about hell from an historical Christian perspective.

    For fun reading, try searching on terms like apocatastasis, ultimate reconciliation, and Christian universalism. It appears that St Gregory of Nyssa taught it, and he is a recognized saint in most of the branches of Christianity that recognize saints. While this has been a minority view among Christians throughout history it has not been widely condemned as heretical. It appears to be a valid expression of orthodox Christianity.

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  153. Ken P.: I also don’t know of any evidence in the Bible of people being able to confess Christ after death. If that is the case, everyone with a brain would accept him, and I don’t see that taught in scripture. God is merciful, but His justice is perfect. If the unrepentant got mercy, where is the justice?

    I suspect you assume too much about what people will choose after death. Could it be possible that we still have a choice after death, but that we are much less likely to change our minds after death than before?

    Have you ever read about the Orthodox view on hell? Here is a short example: https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/morningoffering/2019/01/the-river-of-fire/

    Another good read is Ray Anderson’s book “The Gospel According to Judas: Is There a Limit to God’s Forgiveness?” He offers a very limited perspective based on the verse that not even death can separate us from the love of Christ. And also the verses about lost sheep and coins.

    Do you believe that God’s justice and mercy pull in opposite directions?

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  154. Catholic Gate-Crasher: But we don’t know what happened after that.

    Just as we don’t know what happened to 9 of the 10 lepers that Jesus healed. Only one returned to thank Jesus and worship him. So many stories we hope had better endings, but we rest in what we do know. Jesus loves ME, this I know.

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  155. Samuel Conner,

    It is rather freeing and hopeful to not be afraid to consider such things, isn’t it? I always knew God would far surpass my expectations, but always thought (been taught) that I dare not dream for a truly happy ending. But what if . . .

    I bet we could have some interesting conversations. I seem to recall you spent time in the OPC, as did I.

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  156. Nick Bulbeck: That’s one of the most poignant stories in the whole Bible, to my mind. A fair few quotes of that passage read as far as “sell your possessions and give to the poor”, and drop the “so that you may have treasure in heaven; then come, follow Me”.

    The gospel accounts give at least circumstantial evidence that Jesus didn’t lightly say, to an individual, “Follow Me”.

    I’d follow Him, if I could find any Footprints.

    Nick Bulbeck: I’d follow Him, if I could find any Footprints.

    You might be following him more than you suspect. Love others, seek justice, hate evil . . . no special lingo required.

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  157. Friend: OK, so I’m a heretic.

    You’re in good company.
    Even though I adhere to the tenets of The Apostle’s Creed as non-negotiable axioms, in some religions, I’m still doomed because I don’t sign onto PSA (penal substitutionary atonement).

    And they’ve got all the clobber verses to ‘prove it’ too.

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