Annihilationism: A Controversial Christian Alternative to Hell

“You don't have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.”   -C.S. Lewis


Kepler 11-Courtesy of NASA



It’s time for a true confession. My gut really likes the idea of annihilationism as opposed to conscious, eternal torment for the unsaved. However, I also have to admit that Biblical evidence comes out on the side of a literal, eternal hell. Tomorrow, I will look at a literal hell a little more closely. There are varying opinions on what goes on in that place of horrors as well.


Please forgive the rather tedious quoting that follows. However, I wanted to be sure that I handled the subject with a modicum of intelligence.


What exactly is annihilationism?

According to LINK

“Annihilationism is the belief that condemned unbelievers will be annihilated, or destroyed after death, instead of spending an eternity of punishment in hell.”


So, in the blink of an eye, one ceases to exist. Many atheists believe that they cease to exist when death occurs. Some take comfort in this fact. Derek Miller, an atheist, wrote the following in anticipation of his death. He died this past week. LINK


“I haven't gone to a better place, or a worse one. I haven't gone anyplace, because Derek doesn't exist anymore. As soon as my body stopped functioning, and the neurons in my brain ceased firing, I made a remarkable transformation: from a living organism to a corpse, like a flower or a mouse that didn't make it through a particularly frosty night. The evidence is clear that once I died, it was over.


So I was unafraid of death—of the moment itself—and of what came afterwards, which was (and is) nothing. As I did all along, I remained somewhat afraid of the process of dying, of increasing weakness and fatigue, of pain, of becoming less and less of myself as I got there. I was lucky that my mental faculties were mostly unaffected over the months and years before the end, and there was no sign of cancer in my brain—as far as I or anyone else knew.”



Do all annihilationists believe the same thing?

Not exactly. According to Evangelcial Annhilationism in Review By JI Packer LINK

  1.  “Some have maintained that the snuffing-out will occur immediately upon Jesus’ sentence at the final judgment, following a form of penal pain in the pre-resurrection interim state.” This means that punishment will take place prior to the final judgment. Extinction will occur immediately after judgment.
  2. “Some have thought that each person banished from Jesus’ presence will then undergo some penal pain, doubtless graded in intensity and length in light of personal desert, before the moment of extinction comes.” This means that punishment will take place after judgment and prior to extinction.
  3.  “Some base their annihilationism on an adjusted anthropology. They urge that endless existence is natural to nobody; on the contrary, since we were created as psycho-physical units, that is, personal selves (souls) living through bodies, disembodiment must terminate consciousness. So after our initial disembodiment (the first death) there is no interim state, only an unconsciousness that continues until we are reembodied on Resurrection Day, and after resurrected unbelievers are banished from Christ ,their consciousness will finally cease (the second death) when, and because, their resurrection body ceases to be.” This is called “ conditional immortality, a phrase coined to make the point that the postmortem continuance that religions envisage and most if not all desire, is a gift that God gives only to Christian believers, while sooner or later He simply extinguishes the rest of our race. Ongoing existence is thus conditional upon faith in Jesus Christ, and annihilation is the universal alternative.”


Why were evangelicals shocked when John Stott seemed to embrace annihilationism?


John Stott, according to Wikpedia ” is an English Christian leader and Anglican clergyman who is noted as a leader of the worldwide evangelical movement. He is notable as one of the principal authors of the Lausanne Covenant in 1974. In 2005, Time magazine ranked Stott among the 100 most influential people in the world.”


In 1988, Stott made the following statement: LINK

"I find the concept [of eternal conscious punishment in hell] intolerable and do not understand how people can live with it without either cauterising their feelings or cracking under the strain. But our emotions are a fluctuating, unreliable guide to truth and must not be exalted to the place of supreme authority in determining it. As a committed Evangelical, my question must be — and is — not what does my heart tell me, but what does God's word say?"


This sent shock waves around the Christian establishment since Stott was a beloved, traditional, evangelical scholar. He was "one of the boys" and this sort of thing is just not done.  However, to this blogger, it seems that Stott is dropping his professorial detachment and expressing his deep compassion for others. In other words, "one of the boys" is actually demonstrating some heart.

Since that initial statement, he has not said much in defense of his position. Many questioned Stott’s commitment to the Scriptures based on this one statement. However, in a recent post at Adrian Warnock’s blog entitled “What About CS Lewis, John Stott and Hell”, Warnock found two other quotes, both of which he thinks demonstrates Stott’s commitment to Biblical integrity. LINK

“ (Warnock speaking) Similarly Stott is obviously someone who still trembles at the Word of God. He may have concluded that annihilationism was the best theological conclusion But he did so without changing his whole approach to the Bible. And he did so, aware that decisions in this life had consequences forever, so for example he said:


(Piper) “Similarly, Jesus taught that the easy way, entered by the wide gate, leads to destruction. He did not define what he meant by this, and presumably the precise nature of hell is as much beyond our finite understanding as the precise nature of heaven. But the terrible word ‘destruction’ (terrible because God is properly the Creator, not the Destroyer, and because man was created to live, not to die) seems at least to give us liberty to say that everything good will be destroyed in hell—love and loveliness, beauty and truth, joy, peace and hope—and that for ever. It is a prospect too awful to contemplate without tears. For the broad road is suicide road.
 By contrast, the hard way, entered by the narrow gate, leads to life, even to that ‘eternal life’ which Jesus explained in terms of fellowship with God, beginning here but perfected hereafter, in which we see and share his glory, and find perfect fulfillment as human beings in the selfless service of him and of our fellows.
-John R. W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) : Christian Counter-Culture, The Bible speaks today (Leicester [Leicestershire; Downers Grove, Ill., U.S.A.: Inter-varsity Press, 1985), 195.


And also, when speaking of 2 Thessalonians 1:

For example, the punishment will be ‘eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord’ (RSV); they will be shut out (NIV) or ‘cut off’ (REB) from his presence. Do these words throw any light on the debate between biblical Christians about the nature of hell? That the final state of those who reject God and Christ will be awful and eternal is not in dispute. But the question whether their exclusion-destruction means conscious torment or ultimate annihilation cannot be settled by an appeal to this verse and its vocabulary, since the apostle does not here clearly allude to either.
In contrast to the appalling nature of hell, Paul goes on to portray the glory of heaven.
- John R. W. Stott, The Message of Thessalonians : The Gospel & the End of Time, The Bible speaks today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., U.S.A.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 148-49.”


What is the main argument in support of annihilationism?


At the blog Intellectual Conservative, we read: LINK


“Annihilationists argue that the goodness of God makes the traditional view of eternal punishment incongruent with God’s perfect justice: doesn’t hell contradict God’s love.”

The blog continues with the following three quotes.


Clark Pinnock says:
“I consider the concept of hell as endless torment in body and mind as outrageous doctrine, a theological and moral enormity (that goes) far beyond an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. There would be a serious disproportion between sins committed in time and the suffering experience forever. The fact that sin has been committed against an infinite God does not make the sin infinite. The chief point is that eternal torment serves no purpose and exhibits a vindictiveness out of keeping with the love of God revealed in the gospel “(247).


Edward Fudge is in substantial agreement with Pinnock, for he pleads with his readers:
“to carefully and prayerfully consider the evidence for conditionalism (annihilationism) and then to jettison the ancient tradition of everlasting conscious torment. It is a horrible doctrine, unworthy of God, foreign to the Bible, spawned by pagan philosophy and preserved by human tradition. It deserves to be rejected once and for all “(208).


Gary R. Habermas and J. P. Moreland, believing that this argument of the annihilationist theologians is their strongest, give this alternative response:
“If we compare extinction with life in hell, it is clearly more immoral to extinguish humans with intrinsic value than to allow them to continue living in a state with a low quality of life. In fact, we do not believe the second alternative is immoral at all, but the first alternative (extinction) is immoral . . . the endlessness of existence in hell at least dignifies the people there by continuing to respect their autonomy and their intrinsic value as persons. Extinction does not . . . . Hell saddens all of us, God included, but we believe that the traditional notion of hell is both biblically and morally sound” (Habermas and Moreland 173-174).”




JI Packer, in the aforementioned Evangelical Annihilationism in Review, weighs in on this matter .

“The uncertainty expressed in Stott’s “perhaps” is strange, for there is no reason to think that the resurrection of the lost for judgment will change their character, and every reason therefore to suppose that their rebellion and impenitence will continue as long as they themselves do, making continued banishment from God’s fellowship fully appropriate.”


“For if, as the argument implies, it is needlessly cruel for God to keep the lost endlessly in being to suffer pain, because His justice does not require this, how can the annihilationists justify in terms of God’s justice the fact that He makes them suffer any postmortem pain at all? Why would not justice, which on this view requires their annihilation in any case, not be satisfied by annihilation at death?”

He goes on to argue that many annihilationists believe in the Final Judgment in which believers and nonbelievers with stand before God to receive their reward or punishment. Many also believe that the punishment may involve some form of limited pain or torment, which will end in annihilation. This is illogical, according to Packer. “… if God’s justice requires no more than extinction, and therefore does not require this, the pain becomes needless cruelty, and God is thus in effect accused of the very fault of which annihilationists are anxious to prove Him innocent.”


Are there other arguments for annihilationism?

Once again, from JI Packer’s Evangelical Annihilationism in Review as referenced above:

1. “The first argument is of necessity an attempt to explain “eternal punishment” in Matthew 25:46, where it is parallel to the phrase “eternal life,” as not necessarily carrying the implication of endlessness.

He dispatches this by saying “Granted that, as is rightly urged, “eternal” (aionios) in the New Testament means “belonging to the age to come” rather than expressing any directly chronological notion, the New Testament writers are unanimous in expecting the age to come to be unending, so the annihilationist’s problem remains where it was. The assertion that in the age to come life is the sort of thing that goes on while punishment is the sort of thing that ends begs the question.”

"while if God’s justice really does require some penal pain in addition to annihilation, and continued hostility, rebellion, and impenitence Godward on the part of unbelievers remains a postmortem fact, there will be no moment at which it will be possible for either God or man to say that enough punishment has been inflicted, no more is deserved, and any more would be unjust.”


2. “The second argument is that once the idea of the intrinsic immortality of the soul (that is, of the conscious person) is set aside as a Platonic intrusion into second-century exegesis, it will appear that the only natural meaning of the New Testament imagery of death, destruction, fire and darkness as indicators of the destiny of unbelievers is that such persons cease to be.”

He dispatches this by saying “For evangelicals, the analogy of Scripture, that is, the axiom of its inner coherence and consistency and power to elucidate its own teaching from within itself, is a controlling principle in all interpretation, and though there are texts which, taken in isolation, might carry annihilationist implications, there are others that cannot naturally be fitted into any form of this scheme. But no proposed theory of the Bible’s meaning that does not cover all the Bible’s relevant statements can be true.”


He then uses the following Scriptures to shore up his argument.

“Jude 6 and Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 25:30 show that darkness signifies a state of deprivation and distress, but not of destruction in the sense of ceasing to exist. Only those who exist can weep and gnash their teeth, as those banished into the darkness are said to do.


Luke 16:22-24 shows that, as also in a good deal of extra-biblical apocalyptic, fire signifies continued existence in pain, and the chilling words of Revelation 14:10 with 19:20; 20:10 and of Matthew 13:42, 50 confirm this.


In 2 Thessalonians 1:9 Paul explains, or extends, the meaning of “punished with everlasting [eternal, aionios] destruction” by adding “and shut out from the presence of the Lord” — which phrase, by affirming exclusion, rules out the idea that “destruction” meant extinction. Only those who exist can be excluded. It has often been pointed out that in Greek the natural meaning of the destruction vocabulary (noun, olethros; verb, apollumi) is wrecking, so that what is destroyed is henceforth nonfunctional rather than annihilating it, so that it no longer exists in any form.”

Is belief in annihilationism, in itself, a heresy?


Now here is where it grows interesting. There seems to be diverging opinion in the conservative evangelical world.

Peter Lumpkins makes a case that annihilationism is as heretical as universalism. LINK

He makes his case thusly:

"My point is simple: I suggest if evangelicals burn Bell for his belief, then evangelicals ought to build a fire for John Stott too.** Why? Both annihilationism and universalism have been treated similarly by theologians. Both are condemned so far as orthodoxy is concerned, especially Calvinistic orthodoxy. Schaff wrote, "Everlasting Punishment of the wicked always was, and always will be the orthodox theory." In many standard theologies, universalism and annihilationism are treated as very close positions–theological "first cousins"–so to speak.


In addition, Charles Spurgeon has some stinging words for those like John Stott who embrace annihilationism. With his ever-fiery style, he wrote:
“No honest man can be a member of the church meeting at the Tabernacle, and hold annihilationist views, for now and in all time past we have borne testimony to the generally-received doctrine” (Spurgeon’s Autobiography, Vol 4, p.129)


Hence, for Spurgeon, embracing annihilationism was enough to warrant church discipline. Could it be that embracing universalism could muster a yet stronger discipline? It hardly seems reasonable.”

However, Lumpkins received a comment on his post that disagrees with his assessment.

“I think you have failed to consider the difference between heterodoxy and heresy. On this issue Church History has been quite plain. Since the time of Origin, Universalism has been "universally" condemned as a heresy, but annihilationism has not. They purport two distinct things. Universalism promotes the idea that all will eventually be saved (explictly called anathema by the 2nd Council of Constantinople in 553 A.D.). Annihiliationism agrees with those who believe the traditional view that all will not be saved, but do not agree that the torment is forever. It was not universally condemned as heresy, but has been consistently viewed as a serious error (hence the term "heterodoxy").


Throughout history conservative, Evangelical Christians have treated annihilationists differently than universalists. So the Reformed folks are in pace with historic Christianity to view the two views distinctively with universalism being the greater error.” D.R. Randle.


Another commenter, Quartermaster offers this counterbalance to Lumpkins’ assessment.

“Do either annihilationists or universalists believe in an ultimate afterlife for unbelievers? Yes, Annihilationists do, it simply isn't eternal. This is not nuanced in any way.

Do either annihilationists or universalists believe in two future groups of conscious peoples after death? Yes. As with the first question above, it simply is not eternal for the unbeliever.

Do either annihilationists or universalists believe all people deserve everlasting bliss? NO. – The question here is does any Christian believe that we *deserve* everlasting bliss. Traditionally Christians have said no, and only in Christ do we attain to eternal life those things that we can't imagine that God has for those who love him. Even with Faith, we don't deserve it. WE get it only In Christ.

There have been a number of Historical Christian figures that held Annihilationism. Martin Luther, Adam Clarke, and several others. Currently, Dr. David Reagan has stated on his website that he believes the annihilationists have the better of the argument. He bases this on 2 Tim 6:14-16. He glosses over the fact that we can be made immortal at the resurrection and so suffer eternally in the lake of fire.

Frankly, if teaching that a person will eventually perish in the lake of fire is the only aberrant teaching they have, then I will accept them as a Christian.”


Where does that leave me? I am empathetic to the annihilationist position but Scriptural evidence seems to point elsewhere. However, the likes of Stott, Luther and, apparently CS Lewis are in this camp which gives me some pause to my assumptions. Each of these men are (were) devoted believers.


I believe that one can be a deeply devout Christian and be an annihilationist. This is one of those secondary issues that, while interesting to debate, should not cause further division in the already factionalized evangelical world. Unfortunately, the phrase “Christian unity” has become an oxymoron, much to the detriment of the faith and much to the delight of atheists and agnostics.


Although Packer disagrees with the annihilationist view, he started his review with the following words:

“Factors shaping that mindset during the past half-century include the dogmatic, devotional, apologetic and activist nurture given in evangelical churches and parachurch movements; the reading matter (books, journals, magazines) that evangelicals produce for each other; the feeling of superior faithfulness to the Bible, its God and its Christ, which evangelical institutions cultivate; a sense of being threatened by the big battalions of the liberal Protestant, Roman Catholic, and American secular establishments, leading to bluster when these ideological power bases are discussed; a passion for effective evangelism; and an idealizing of scholars and leaders as gurus, whence a sense of betrayal and outrage surfaces if any of these are felt to be stepping out of line. Within the distinctive corporate identity of evangelicalism an awareness of privilege and vocation, a siege mentality, a low flashpoint in debate, a certain verbal violence, and a tendency to shoot our own wounded — all obtrude.”


Well said. May God have mercy on us all.


Lydia's Corner: Judges 8:18-9:21 Luke 23:44-24:12 Psalm 99:1-9 Proverbs 14:9-10




Annihilationism: A Controversial Christian Alternative to Hell — 40 Comments

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    Dee and Deb:

    Both or one of you mentioned Martin Bashir in the earlier posts about Rob Bell’s new book. You were very interested in Bashir and his background etc. and how Bashir would be so knowledgeable about the issues Bell had written about.

    This morning I had breakfast with some friends who know about these things.

    Bashir attends Redeemer Church in NYC. Tim Keller is his pastor. I was also told that Bashir was essentially “standing in” for Keller in that interview.

    The comparison between Kelller and Bell is interesting.

    Keller is a guy who actually does live on the edge. He has pastored in NYC for many years now. He actually gets asked hostile questions from non-believers all the time in NYC and when he travels to speak at college campuses.

    Keller would not have flubbed the questions that Bashir asked of Bell in the T.V. interview. I have seen Keller treated aggressviely by reporters and he answered the questions much better than Bell did.

    Bell, it appears, my be a bit of a poser. A good musician and super creative speaker. But he may not have really been tested academically or culturally. It’s one thing to actually be on the cutting edge. It’s another to pose as if you are on the cutting edge.

    Anyway, I thought you might find this information interesting.

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    Again, and as Lydia echoed, who wants to to like hell? As human beings, as Albert Bandura pointed out in his social psychology studies, everyone seems to love justice — something that is a natural, driving force in us.

    In a study at Stanford, Bandura brought in college students who were told that they were helping students from another college that they were helping them learn through punishment. As part of the study, there were three groups, and those who administrated the test “let it slip” to the “teachers” who delivered the shocks (which were not actually real) that the people in one of these groups were “animals” and were inherently bad. With another group, the administrator lets it slip in passing that he’d met the group, and they were really good guys.

    The identified “animals” received more shocks of longer duration, the “good guys” received the fewest shocks, and they were of a shorter duration. The control group of whom no moral judgements were mentioned received a number of shocks and a duration that fell midway between the two groups. In other words, in our society, we tend to have some sense of justice which gives us a prejudice which favors the good and punishes the bad.

    There are also those in life and in the Church who see power, love, and grace as something of a “finite resource,” and everything as a competition in a “zero sum” game. For them there is only so much goodness to go around. If one person gets some, then in their heads, somehow that means that there is less for them. Or for some, no situation is seen as “win-win” for everyone with some best possible outcome. For them, every single interaction is “win-lose,” and they must always be the winner, or they feel a total defeat.

    This might be something of a survival instinct that doesn’t shut off, or life experience has not built enough altruism in them. In the way that some speak of “irresistible grace” and of “unconditional election” (the “I” and the “U” in Calvinism’s “TULIP”), it seems that there is some kind of gain in venting aggression at the “non-elect,” as if it makes their own position more secure. It is more than just grief or offense over how others end up treading on grace or giving it away to people that do not merit it from God. It is a prejudice that seems to communicate an elitism for personal gain so that there is more irresistible grace left over for them — as if God does not have quite enough to go around. It turns grace into “survival of the spiritually fittest.”

    I think that for many, especially the separatists that preach an elitist separatism as a doctrine that even includes their “lessers” who confess Christianity but fail to meet their legalistic standards, there is some sense of gain or coming out ahead of others. I believe that those who are persuaded this way tend to see both justice and personal gain through the idea of an eternal hell. Sometimes, I wonder if these folks were kids that didn’t want to share with others when they were little, or if they were traumatized by events in their early adult lives, and they are trying to make up for that. I think that they have an extra impetus on top of the natural prejudice for justice that all men seem to have in the studies of social psychology.

    In the old cable series called “Dead Like Me” (if you’re into that dark kind of melancholy and humor), Mandy Patinkin’s character says at one point that riding the bus/public transit is “the great equalizer.” No one is honored above another. That phrase has popped into my head a few times, and when there is no justice for someone in this life, I think that we hope to see some leveling of this in the after life. The underdogs win and the snot-nosed brats get a much needed reality check that they never comprehended in this life, and those who lived what my friend calls “the charmed life” share in the suffering of their fellow mankind. I hope for that justice as well…

    But I know that rather than justice, because of God’s forgiveness, I get mercy. I don’t want to save it up for me, but I want everyone to get the great and fully unmerited blessing that I received. I also want to honor those who offered me comfort (the Lord and those who comforted me in the spirit of 2 Cor 1) by showing that same comfort and hope to others. By faith, I get mercy instead of “what’s coming to me,” so I want and hope for others to get the same. Trauma on top of trauma seems pointless, and I also follow right along with Stott’s thinking through the reasoning, based on the information that we have and what we can see from our finite, human vantage.

    But I didn’t write the Scriptures, nor am I the God who looks not to the outward things about a man but can see into the intent of the heart. And per the Scripture and my own introspection, I cannot even know my own heart — who can know it? I leave that to a just God, one in whom I trust because I believe and because I believe that my own life bears out the evidence that He is faithful, kind, and loving. Aside from everything, I also believe two things surely: God is God, and I am not, and we can all be glad about that.

    I read this just this morning in 2 Cor 5:
    Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences. As stated in earlier threads, I don’t believe in a literal hell because I like the idea, and I were God, I would do many things differently, hell being one of them. I believe that there is punishment, and I hope that I never know personally what that really is.

    In that list of questions from Bell’s first book chapter, I think there is one minister who preaches of an elect group that escapes hell but is not part of the group, but I would add the qualifier that he is not 100% sure that he really is part of the group. RC Sproul has taught that though he is sure of his salvation, there is that humility in him that says, that this is all really by faith and it is his humble hope that he will enjoy a heavenly reward. But there is always a part of him that readily admits that he could well end up being one to whom God says, “I never knew you.” Many believe they are getting into heaven, and one day they will find out that they were only kidding themselves. I share Sproul’s perspective.

    But then there is that which is written in the canon, and I trust Iraneus (the disciple of Polycarp who was the disciple of John who penned his Gospel of Jesus and his epistles) who accepted the core of the writings of the New Testament. Even excluding the NT books like Hebrews that many disputed as canonical, there is sufficient evidence that indicates that there is some terrible punishment that awaits a certain group that God judges, based upon the intent of their heart. If they never knew about Jesus, I believe that our just God will treat them with due honor (and He may offer them the option to receive Christ after death before determining their eternal fate). But the, I grew up with a concept of a holy God, while “knowing the terror of the Lord,” I also know of his tender mercies that are new every morning because I’m sure that I deplete my day’s allowance, if that’s how it works. I know of His tender “hesed,” His lovingkindness. Many people know nothing of it because all they’ve seen in the ambassadors of Christ is miserable, and they find more lovingkindness in the general comfort of good men who don’t believe in God or Christ.

    May God have mercy on us all. By faith, I believe that when we throw off this mortal coil, a whole lot more about all this will make much sense. Until then, I stick by my best and earnest understanding of what is written.

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    Goodness! I wrote a tome! To those who are still conscious, my apologies.

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    I am so glad for your tome. I think I sent all the readers to sleep with this discussion. Had to do it though. I am interesting in your comment but I need to finish today’s post so will comment later.

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    Wow! Great info-I did not know his connection to Tim Keller and Church of the Redeemer. I agree that Keller would have done well with the interview. Then again, he is more of a traditionalist on this issue.

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    Another way of looking at it….the stories in Bible [possibly lies of Rome Empire anyhow–a Colonization of certain Christ believer truths 300 years to 100 years prior, believers who were SLAVES to the Rome colony of Judah/area of that time, the Empire takes certain truths or beliefs, adds their OWN Sumer-Babylonian-Phoenician Cult to Molech twist on it–and hijacks it and turns it into something completely anti-Jewish God and anti-Jesus, ALL IT TAKES IS A LITTLE LEAVEN TO POISON THE ENTIRE MESSAGE–MIX WINE WITH IMPURITY, etc [CAPS FOR EMPHASIS BTW], Rome’s pantheon ‘gods’ beliefs are today’s DENOMINATIONS…

    repeat of Cycle [time], Dialectic, etc.,

    so, let’s say under that hypothesis, that we sort through the lies to get to the grain of truth, and in the context of the REALITY, OPPOSED TO ‘MYTH’ OF LIFE UNDER SLAVE-ROME of that time…then we can see through the language of the oppressed, of what Jesus was supposed to have said, such as

    eyes gouged out and hands cut off better than hell–REALITY OF TIME, slaves always had eyes gouged out and hands cut off as punishment when they offended the slave master [ROME CITIZEN] and it was a form of terror in ALL ANCIENT SOCIETIES GOING ALL THE WAY BACK TO ‘UR’ TO KEEP SLAVES IN LINE…they WERE deemed ‘dogs’, nonhuman, subhuman, women were nothing more than chattel vessels to rape for seed, FACT. Their life was HELL … daily, but Jesus says, better to have eyes gouged out or hands cut off than to go into hell where God [Lord, ruler] can destroy soul–what was HELL THEN, the dungeons of the torture that drove people INSANE–destroyed souls,

    the Catholics of course — the remnants of ROME, didn’t lose this lovely terrorism–the witchhunts are proof of this–a holocaust that happened first in believe it or not, PAGAN ROME. FACT.

    So one could take this saying as, Better to obey and be content SLAVE with your eyes gouged out or hands cut off or raped while passed around Woman to the Roman Guards [FACT, THIS IS WHAT THEY DID] than revolt and wind up in our HELL–where we make Sure, Caesar as god, will destroy your soul.

    Think this isn’t possible, gee, there is Iran today, Afghanistan, Egypt, etc., those people know what Hell is…

    this is just one example, out of allegories of the supposed sayings of Jesus–about hell, that describes very well the Reality of life in the times under Rome–another good one is Judas,

    Judas represents the ‘slave’ with skills [only men need to apply here] who COULD redeem themselves to upper level [like jail trustee] or who could yes ‘buy’ their freedom–under Roman law, this included the colonies…they would often Do this, by ‘snitching’ on other slaves, especially those who were planning on running away or revolting, and Judas was name given Because back during earlier times, there was a Jew named JUDAS who revolted against Rome–who stood up and said NO to the worship of Jupiter and Romans hated this man–because he lead a revolution of sorts [Maccabbees] against the Roman Empire [Romulus-dogs-Phoenicians-Greeks, etc], a Jew that would not sell out his God, though many Jews who loved materialism/greed Would–

    anyway, slaves who had skills would BETRAY those lower slaves to buy their Freedom [kind of like in capitalist-Egyptian modeled Slavery via pyramid]…

    another allegory–of course twisted, turned on it’s head but the FACTS OF ROMAN-SLAVE HISTORY show this is and was the reality of the real lives lived then…in contrast to the Disney World Roman Babylonian MYTH

    another example is the mark in the head [or beast] that John refers to in Rev, in Slavery under Rome–they branded the slaves with tattoos in the forehead–so when they ran away [which many of them did–eyes gouged out, raped, tortured, burned, hands cut off, like African slavery here in America, yea people tend to run away] and so the Romans had this idea–brand them like cattle in forehead or arms [like Nazi’s] so if they run away, they are obvious to be slaves therefore can be Returned to the right master.


    and it’s been that way in totalitarian regimes ever since–in Iran for example they gang rape nine year old girls until they claw their faces off with their own nails-hands [actual factual report/human rights] if That isn’t hell,

    I don’t know what is…

    if one wanted to terrorize a whole society of people into submission because it costs manpower and RESOURCES to micro-manage–what better way to do than with images of terror–with of course the added screams of torture via crucifixion.

    Now I do believe yes there was a JESUS, I also believe the allegories to be true–however, I DO ALSO strongly believe they have been altered, twisted, and hijacked by the very powers of ancient slave rulers, Empires, GATES OF HELL, to create a false Christ and false religion, with the help of Masons, Illuminati, and so forth,

    this is my theory–to make the Israelite s jealous maybe, why God allowed? Who knows, hard to say, and I tend to go back and forth with this theory–

    but This one thing I do know, there is HELL on this earth, and it’ perpetuated by none other than Religion, and the West, City on Hill, the Celts, the Romans, the Greeks and the Mesopotamians/ISLAM,

    they are anti-semitic, they are Very anti-woman, they are very PRO-EGYPTIAN PYRAMID SLAVERY and they yes create HELL AND KEEP CHILDREN, PEOPLE OF COLOR AND THE POOR AND NEEDY, IN HELL

    and Why is it, WE do not focus on that? why is it that Jesus the story Leaves Heaven, and goes to hell to save Lazarus,

    Lazar-us or Laz ur us — and today’ JESUS, colonizes, establishes the houses of hell and then rapes them for resources, Slave labor and death camps?

    Something don’t add up–the puzzle don’t fit..

    and why is it, we worry about the after death hell, why we are indifferent to the hell here in LIFE? I see babies with worms eating them HERE ON THIS EARTH



    to hell with bowing to CAESAR.

    just another way of looking at it.


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    “Unfortunately, the term ‘Christian unity’ is an oxymoron….much to the delight of athiests and agnostics.”

    How ironic for a Christian watch blog to decry the lack of Christian unity ;). I really did like this post, but I can’t stop laughing about that line.

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    But folks, seriously, how can you claim that God is a God of love and mercy and justice? Even if I committed a lifetime of murderous sin-would it be just to torture me for ETERNITY? If God loves all the little children of the world, then why is he so inept at making sure that they hear the good news that could save them from an ETERNITY of God directed torture?

    In order to save people from himself, God sacrificed and tortured himself, so that we could escape his ETERNAL torture? If this isn’t conversion under threat, then I don’t know what is!

    So a housewife in Iran dies after a lifetime of service to her neighbors and family, but she will suffer in hell for all eternity (for being Muslim) while Jeffrey Dahmer will be welcomed with the loving arms of his Father in Heaven?

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    You bring up an interesting question in the quote from the post.

    Why is it that agnostics and atheists would cheer at Christian disagreement, or find in that some support for their positions from that?

    It really makes no sense when you think about it. What intellectual movement is monolithic? Politics, science, social science, sports – all of human life gets divided up into camps due to our nature.

    I am a big believer in democracy, but there are all sorts of forms of democracy and democrats fight over all sorts of things. That does not harm democracy. It just shows people disagree about things. There is nothing new to that.

    I wonder why an atheist or an agnostic would think that disagreement by members of a religious group would somehow validate the athesit’s or agnostic’s views.

    I agree with Dee. I perceive that they do get some joy out of that. Maybe they just enjoy seeing others disagree.

    It’s odd to think about. But it really doesn’t make sense.

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    I would not be surprised if Bashir met with Keller before the interview, got Keller’s review and take on the book, and event got some suggested questions to ask.

    It’s clear to me that Bashir had some assistance from someone with a background in church history or theology.

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    You are correct, the fact that the internecine warfare of the church continues unabated is by no means validation of my position as an atheist.

    Now, just because I like catching flack, I will comment on your comment which asks “What intellectual movement is monolithic”, by asking, “Who says Christianity is an “intellectual” movement?

    Yes…I can see all of you stooping to pick up rocks now..but give me just a moment please…I am NOT saying the Christianity does not have, within its ranks, intellectuals. What I am saying, is that to call, what passes for logic and reason, in a system whose initial premise is based on fantasy, a desire to believe, wishful thinking or faith without a shred of credible evidence that points specifically to the Christian God, is just grandstanding, and pseudo-intellectualism at best. Just like wars, we love to romanticize and make things more important and respectable than they in fact are.

    Or, if you prefer, to wax Biblical, Christianity, it’s ideas, and suppositions of an afterlife and its machinations is a house built on the sand….

    All we know, for certain, is that things which were at one point “alive”, cease to be alive after a period of time, and this appears to be true for all living things. What happens after that moment, neither theist, nor atheist, king nor philosopher knows…it is ALL speculation…but since there is no evidence of an afterlife which we can examine, or analyze…the most REASONABLE and LOGICAL position to take is that there is none. In any case, to spend one’s time, energy and our intellect trying to concoct a coherent story of what might happen based on a desire for it to be true, and actually, and this is the incredible part for me, arguing with each other and going to war with each other over the details of this fantasy world is insane.

    Cindy K. Apologies for another tome 🙂

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    “If God loves all the little children of the world, then why is he so inept at making sure that they hear the good news that could save them from an ETERNITY of God directed torture? ”

    How is high speed travel, 24/7 communications which is global, “inept”? I know of Muslims who dreamed of Isa for so long they sought out the truth, risking their lives, and were saved. I know of some “secret” Christians in Afghanistan right now who were witnessed to by underground Christians in Pakistan and brought with them when they came home after the Taliban was kicked out. I have family members who traversed entire countries in Africa with the Good News…going from village to village. I have a Russian friend whose Grandmother was a secret believer during the dark days of communism who planted that seed in her heart. It was ingrained in her at school there was no God. She would visit her Grandmother who was devout and told her the truth. She is now a believer living in the states.

    We now have the capability to spread the Good News faster and better. It could be one reason why Jesus Christ as tarried coming back.

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    “But he may not have really been tested academically or culturally. It’s one thing to actually be on the cutting edge. It’s another to pose as if you are on the cutting edge.”

    I find this a spurious argument against Bell. Peter was not cutting edge or tested academically. He was a smelly fisherman. the one who tested academically was sent to the Gentiles who could have cared less about rabbinical school or Gameliel as the teacher.

    How does one “pose” they are on the “cutting edge”? What “cutting edge” are we talking about?

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    “Yes…I can see all of you stooping to pick up rocks now..but give me just a moment please…I am NOT saying the Christianity does not have, within its ranks, intellectuals. What I am saying, is that to call, what passes for logic and reason, in a system whose initial premise is based on fantasy, a desire to believe, wishful thinking or faith without a shred of credible evidence that points specifically to the Christian God, is just grandstanding, and pseudo-intellectualism at best. Just like wars, we love to romanticize and make things more important and respectable than they in fact are.”

    So, evolving from apes or growing out of primordal slime is more intellectual, logical and reasonable? :o)

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    You have just written my post for me on Friday. I will explain what causes true Christian disunity.This is one of my favorite topics.

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    It only makes sense when Christians pontificate about unity and then proceed to show we are no different than the world. We divide over the smallest thing, just like politicians. I think I am going to write about this on Friday. It is actually a very interesting topic.

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    I am loving reading all these discussions and seeing questions that I had in my head being asked by so many other people. Thank you!
    I’m glad that people aren’t afraid and continue to examine traditions like these and seek the truth. Truth might be in the tradition, but just because it’s tradition doesn’t make it truth.

    – Just Amy’s Blog – Fearless in His Love –

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    I am going to assume from your comment on evolving from apes that you actually know very little if any of the evidence in support of evolution, since evolution does not say that we came from apes, actually it says that we did NOT evolve from apes! (but why let facts stand in the way of a good response.).

    As for slime…well I believe there is only one book that says we were made from dirt and that would be the Bible….Genesis 2:7 which says “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

    Thank you for making my point on pseudo-intellectualism, I couldn’t have done better.

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    Dee, re. a slow commenting day… I think it’s very hard to contemplate the awfulness of both total annihilation *and* eternal conscious torment.

    At this point, they’re both unconscionable to me, though annihilation would seem to be more merciful 9from my limited, very human pov).

    I realize some of you will say that the flames of hell are vividly – and literally – described in the NT, but I wonder how much of that has to do with both mistranslations and misperceptions caused by mistranslations… Which is about all I am able to say right now – no plans on my part to debate eternal conscious torment or exact descriptions of the torments of a fiery hell.

    I really believe that our knowledge of these things (and of the afterlife in general) is quite limited and that we have unintentional (because of cultural influences) preconceptions re. many things about the final judgment and the afterlife. (Revelation is a very difficult book, and not one, I think, that is meant to be read literally… again, I know many of you have differing viewpoints on that, and I respect where you are and what you believe.)

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    I studied Polycarp (the disciple of John who laid his head on Jesus’ bosom) and Iraneus who was his disciple. I’ve studied the reliability of the texts. The only other work of antiquity that even remotely comes close to the reliability of the Bible is Homer’s Iliad, and the evidence for Homer’s writings don’t even begin to compare to the strong evidence for the reliability of the Bible. There are the Dead Sea Scrolls that were recovered that compared perfectly with our commonly known texts. Then there is all the historical evidence that verifies the reliability of the historical Jesus. And if you want to know more about the reliability of the texts, it is not a matter of not knowing. You can learn the original languages and take classes and read books. There are too many sources to list here, and there are plenty of classes at many schools that teach these things, and those interested can put their doubts and their beliefs to the test. That’s what I did. I paid in sweat, money and time to learn.

    About the translations and the languages — if you have doubts, learn them — an especially rewarding activity if you are a believer. I did that too, and I am working at it all the time. There are many Messianic congregations that will teach Hebrew for free. There are all sorts of self-study courses available today. You can even study Biblical Hebrew or Aramaic via a weekly internet streaming class from Israel for $100/month for personal interest (but more $ for college credit).

    In reference to comments here this past week, I think that besides being about 20 years out of date, the neo-gnostic criticisms that claim that the NT books were all written 100 to 300 years after the fact are unreliable themselves, given what I have studied. These same liberal scholars would also have people accept the Book of Thomas as more reliable than Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The gnostics and their followers want you to accept a non-corporeal Jesus who floated around like a ghost while criticizing the historical Jesus and the writings about Him. Kill the message by killing the medium by which the message is communicated. The authors themselves are no longer alive for critics to kill.

    We all have to choose where to put our faith. The life and work of Iraneaus is well documented, as is Polycarp’s life as well as his execution. I chose to put my faith in them because I found that information and more to be most compelling, and to me, it makes what I honestly believe to be spurious opinions about the NT’s alleged unreliability almost laughable. I wish no insult to people who have believed other teachings in earnest, but I don’t find them cogent.

    We make a choice what we will believe. People can choose to deny that there is a God or that God is the one associated with the Judeo-Christian tradition. They can choose to believe certain doctrines. They can choose to believe in no God. They can choose to believe ecumenism. They can believe that man is God. In any case, you have to start with some assumptions, and every single one of those assumptions requires faith. Each person makes a choice about what they believe. I place my faith in what I find to be most satisfying on many levels and after much thought and even criticism. I had my years of doubt, and I’ve found that the doubts have worked to make my faith even stronger.

    I have great respect for people who actually think about what they believe as opposed to just absorbing someone else’s opinion about matters because of what someone else told them. Its much easier to just accept what you’re told when someone does the thinking for you, and it gives you the idea that you aren’t as responsible for the errors. Karlton, a notable participant here, is a joy to watch. He’s decent, kind and respectful — and he thinks deeply about things and won’t concede to anything that doesn’t make sense to him. I don’t think that God (who he likely thinks is my imaginary friend) wants him to sell out his conscience in such a way. I don’t want to see him do that either. It is when we take someone else’s word for a belief against our better judgment that we really get ourselves in trouble, I think.

    I believe that I’m going to give an account for my life one day, and I believe that each person will as well. I won’t answer for what someone else believed or did or said. I answer for me. I don’t and can’t answer for the deeds and beliefs of someone else. And this is where I am, and people can do with that as they see fit. They can ridicule, rage, or rejoice about it. And I may come to change my ideas, and I hope that many ideas that I have do change as I mature. I think that life, in a basic sense, involves being really messed up and then working over time to be less messed up than when life started. Part of that should involve change and hopefully improvement, if I’m doing things right.

    If for the sake of argument here, let me pretend that I live and die and find out that there is no God and I’ve been wrong about everything. Say that I’ve followed this Christianity thing, or this fundie thing, and I’m wrong. You know, I don’t really believe that I will have lost anything, and the gains will be far better than anything I could have dreamed for myself. I don’t know so much about the church or anyone else, but I am very satisfied that by following the moral code laid out in the Bible that I am the better. I’m much less messed up, I’m a more responsible and compassionate person, and I’ve grown in so many ways. I don’t see how it would be any loss, and I see the “risks” well worth the gains. (But I clearly don’t believe that I’m in error, or I wouldn’t be walking out my faith in such a way.)

    People are where they are, and if they are feigning things that they don’t believe, that is not good either. I am here, (and “here I am…”).

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    Oh, man. Another one!

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    Ok Karlton. Whatever you think is the “intellectual” position. I just find it interesting that some atheists think it is ignorant to believe in God but intellecutal to think one descended from apes (or whatever they believe this week)

    Your ignorant friend, Lydia

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    We don’t “choose” what to believe, as though we were picking items to bring home from the deli. We accept what the evidence shows…in a logical and rational fashion. We have no preconceived notion for which we are trying to find support. We go where the evidence takes us, plain and simple.

    I did not mean to imply that you are ignorant…you actually seem to be quite intelligent, but that doesn’t stop any of us from saying things, on an individual basis, that are silly and without support.

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    you have ‘evidence’ that God does not exist?

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    Just make sure you give me credit in your post :).

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    I agree. Christianity is not an intellectual movement. I was saying, or trying to say, that even intellectual or philosophical movements which are not religious are often marked by significant disagreements. The fact that those exist doesn’t address the movements per se.

    I just used that as an example but was not trying to classify Christianity as an intellectual movement, which it clearly is not. It is religious.

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    Again, I have not read Bell’s book and am not familiar with Bell other than this controversy. Some of my friends have followed him for some time and have brought me up to speed.

    My understanding is that Bell tries to, and in this book tried to, engage in serious, scholarly exegesis regarding Bible passages. My friends tell me that Bell has spend a lot of time speaking and writing about Jewish tradition and other more intellectual topics.

    In other words, he does not come across as a guy with a testimony and a pastor’s heart who wrote a booik. There are lots of Christians who do that, some quite effectively and successfully. They will often say that they are not part of the academy and their books are more devotional in nature.

    From what I understand, Bell did not seek to write that kind of a book. My understanding is that this is a serious attempt on his part to reexamine scripture in a fairly detailed way and address the concept of hell. I think, also, that he tried to address the history of the topic. Bashir seems to indicate that in some of his critique.

    My criticsim is that he got over his head without the necessary disclaimers that someone with his background should make.

    The apostle Peter’s writings stand for themselves. Peter never tried to pose as an academic. In fact, I think that the NT indicates Peter was pretty open about his lack of training. All he had was Christ’s calling. And that was all he needed, obviously.

    On the “cutting edge” front, my friends tell me that Bell is part of the emergent crowd. And that his pitch, in part, is reaching non-Christians with secular backgrounds in secular places, and that he is effective at doing this because he, as an emergent guy, has re-thought the way we do church, the way we present things, etc. and that this has made him effecitive.

    He may be right. Again, I don’t known that much about him.

    But the only performance that I have seen is with Bashir in a secular venue – CNN. He flubbed it. Can’t imagine if he had been before a hostile interviewer, someone like Christopher Kichens (sp?) perhaps.

    My comment was a juxtaposition between Keller and Bell. Keller never goes around saying how he has re-invented the church, church doctrine etc. I have been to Redeemer, and I have friends there. Keller is the “anti” (in terms of style) emergent guy. He’s pretty dry. He’s to the point. He doesn’t live by flash. The music I heard at redeemer was – an opera singer and a string quartet.

    And yet, Keller is in the mecca of secularism. Although Keller has never said so, I get the sense that he has and does dialogue with many people in Manhattan who have serious intellectual and philosophical issues with religious belief and the faith.

    To me, that’s cutting edge stuff. You may not care for the term or the description. Fine. Some people like chocolate, others like Vanilla.

    At any rate, that was the comparison I was trying to make.

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    Done-check Friday 🙂

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    Hitchens, I meant.

    Need something to eat!

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    Of course not, but you bring up a very valid point in logical thinking, the difference between absence of evidence and evidence of absence.

    Absence of Evidence is a condition in which no valid conclusion can be inferred from the mere absence of detection. Evidence of absence is the successful variation: a conclusion that relies on specific knowledge in conjunction with negative detection to deduce the absence of something.

    Here are my two favorite examples:

    1. I ask you to provide evidence that a 18-wheel tractor trailer didn’t drive across your backyard lawn last night while you slept


    2. I ask you to provide evidence that a silent, invisible UFO from another planet didn’t hover over your backyard last night and then fly away back to it’s home planet.

    In the first case, we can do as requested, since we know that a huge truck that is driven across our lawn would certainly leave a large set of muddy tire tracks that are easy to detect. If they aren’t there, and the ground was relatively soft last night we can be rest assured that an 18-wheel tanker didn’t drive through. (evidence of absence)

    On the other hand, what evidence are you going to offer to “prove” a UFO wasn’t hovering in your backyard last night…just because you cannot provide evidence against it, certainly does not imply that it really exists! (absence of evidence)

    So, even though we sometimes use “negative evidence”, it is always under controlled and specific conditions when we know that the evidence, if there, would be detectable.

    More commonly however, we use positive evidence to help guide and shape what we know about the world we live in..for example, the evidence for an 4.5 billion year old earth is overwhelming and there are multiple lines of evidence that support and validate each other, so even though I wasn’t around 4.5 billion years ago I feel relatively safe and sane in believing in an old earth…on the other hand, there has been no evidence of telekinetic powers in the human race, so, even though some people may claim it exists, I withhold my assent, pending more peer reviewed, controlled experiments and “positive” evidence…even though I can’t prove it “doesn’t” exists, it makes no sense to “believe” in it, until evidence is forthcoming.

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    I am glad that you have visited my blog.You are most welcome here. My purpose is to encourage dialogue between many differing opinions. I encourage lots of disagreement on this blog. Just ask Karl. But your comment was very difficult to understand. I am putting it into hold and will re post it if you can help me to understand what you are saying. Please contact me ;

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    “My understanding is that Bell tries to, and in this book tried to, engage in serious, scholarly exegesis regarding Bible passages. My friends tell me that Bell has spend a lot of time speaking and writing about Jewish tradition and other more intellectual topics.”

    You are right. Bell draws on Jewish tradition quite a bit in his older Nooma videos where I first was introduced to him. In fact, I thought his focus on it clouded his understanding of the New Covenant.

    “y criticsim is that he got over his head without the necessary disclaimers that someone with his background should make.”

    One who always answers questions with questions never gets in over his head. :o) That is considered “intellectual” in some crowds.

    “n the “cutting edge” front, my friends tell me that Bell is part of the emergent crowd. And that his pitch, in part, is reaching non-Christians with secular backgrounds in secular places, and that he is effective at doing this because he, as an emergent guy, has re-thought the way we do church, the way we present things, etc. and that this has made him effecitive.”

    Actually, he was all the rage with mega church young staffers and ministers and their following. He has had a huge following in that venue. They are the ones who bought Velvet Elvis and the Nooma videos. Mega church bookstores sold tons of Velvet Elvis.

    “ut the only performance that I have seen is with Bashir in a secular venue – CNN. He flubbed it. Can’t imagine if he had been before a hostile interviewer, someone like Christopher Kichens (sp?) perhaps.”

    If you get a chance, watch the Adrian Warnock debate. It is on Warnock’s blog. It is even worse for Bell.

    As to Keller, I am not surprised you present him as an “intellectual” on this blog. He is fast becoming the “it” Celebrity among the Calvinistas. He hangs with the right people such as Ligon Duncan and Piper…Mohler (The SBC’s closet Presbyterian).

    Here is how “intellectual” he is:

    This article he tries to make the case for “comissioning” NOT ordaining women deacons. (Never mind that Phoebe is called a Dikanos in Romans 16 even though translators chose to use “servant” when speaking of a woman).

    Why do we call institutionalization of the Body, “intellectualism”?

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    “On the other hand, what evidence are you going to offer to “prove” a UFO wasn’t hovering in your backyard last night…just because you cannot provide evidence against it, certainly does not imply that it really exists! (absence of evidence)”

    I can prove it because I was wearing my tin foil hat all night and had not one peep from them the whole time.

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    Do you think we could discuss one issue at a time, offline? I will hold onto your comments, not because they are controversial but because they are a bit difficult to follow. Please email me

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    SETI just got shut down. They will be relying on all of us to wear our foil hats from now on.

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    I presented Keller as a comparison to Bell.

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    I know.Very slick way to promte him. :0) Rick Warren looks like an intellectual when compared to Bell. Are you Louis?

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    Cindy K-

    The Dead Sea scrolls provide evidence that many of the OT texts were not “fixed” and vary widely from the standard Hebrew text (Masoretic). I assume you are repeating Josh McDowell’s or another apologist assertion that the Dead Sea scrolls show how reliable the Bible has been preserved by using Isaiah 53 as an example. The problem with using that isolated scripture, is that it ignores the many variant readings, such as in 1 & 2 Kings that show that the OT text was not preserved and has been changed.

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    Cindy, your last “tome” was excellent!