Monthly Archives: February 2011

do we need a hell in order to forgive our enemies????


Reading up on the universalism controversy I was kinda shoqued by a blog post by a bloke called Kevin DeYoung, of whom I don’t know anything, but it seems that he’s a rather vocal (neo)calvinist. I have no idea if he’s known or not, and frankly I don’t care at all, the inner kitchen of this kind of aggressive calvinism is as far from my spiritual bed as are the pope and the magisterium…

Now the guy, in a response to Rob Bells alleged ‘universalism’, quotes 8 reasons why we need hell and eternal punishment (or more precisely Gods wrath), which he seems to quote straight out of some book he has written. I don’t think I completely agree with one of those, but I was kinda repulsed by and utterly disagreed with the second one:

we need God’s wrath in order to forgive our enemies. The reason we can forgo repaying evil for evil is because we trust the Lord’s promise to repay the wicked. Paul’s logic is sound. “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19). The only way to look past our deepest hurts and betrayals is to rest assured that every sin against us has been paid for on the cross and or will be punished in hell. We don’t have to seek vigilante justice, because God will be our just judge.

Maybe I’m outing myself as an anabaptist now, but I find this reasoning to go against the message of Jesus himself, since this goes against the commandment of enemy-love, and against Jesus’ last prayer ‘Father forgive them, for they know not what they do’, which was echoed in the last words of the early church’s first martyr stephen ‘Lord, lay not this sin to their charge’. I think those two examples of enemy-love show us that we need Love in order to forgive our enemies. We are to want forgiveness for our torturers at our moment of dying. I suppose that such a thing requires the help of the Holy Spirit, but the whole thing is that we need to have the mind of Christ!

(and I think the Rom 12 passage is exactly about that btw. )

I don’t agree at all that the fear of hell as motivation will ever lead to loving God more. It might scare people into some kind of conversion, but I’m not convinced it will be able to make people love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. We should have a positive gospel, not a negative one: Jesus is Lord, death, sin and evil are conquered, and He’ll make all things new. A gospel that says that we are saved from God by Jesus, as some versions of penal-substitution-only does not at all sound like a loving God to me.

The bible says God is love, not God is wrath, and love is more important than faith and hope says Paul, so his wrath will be in function of His love. Surely, if God loves us he will have a lot of whitehot wrath; He will be pretty mad at the things that are going on in this world, and causing destruction in our lives and all of his loved creation. If He’s to make all things new a lot of things are to be erased, in my life, and in the whole of the world. But the good news is that Jesus is doing that, and that in the end the whole of creation will be renewed. At the final judgment all evil will be erased. And probably some creatures will keep on hating God and not be able to live in this renewed world, or even cease to exist if all evil is erased from them. If God will allow them to exist outside of His love or if they will annihilate in His presence I do not know. I do know he wants none to be lost.

So we need some concept of hell, unless we do away with human free will and say that in the end everybody will bow and accept Jesus as Lord. But I’m not calvinist enough to be such a Christian universalist, sorry… And if we ‘accept Jesus’ out of fear and not out of love, we might still be in problem if we have to spend an eternity with God in all His glory… I don’t think we win anything with converts who are more interesting in escaping hell than in following Christ and being reconciled to their savior. What you with then with is what you win them to…

shalom

Bram

would universal reconciliation make the gospel worthless?


My last post was about Christian universalism. I am not at all a Christian universalist, but sometimes I’m amazed at how some Christians really hate the idea that the cross of Jesus would be able to save all in the end. I don’t share the universalists optimism (and I won’t be dogmatic about any position on the afterlife) but why do we definitely need the wicked to be tortured forever in a conscious state of mind to have a ‘good news’? Wishing other humans to be tortured for eternity goes counter to the great commandment to love our neigbor and our enemies by the way!

One important rebuttal of Christian universalism (to some) is that the idea that everybody will be saved invalidated our need for the gospel, or at least the need for spreading the gospel. If everyone will be saved in the end, why would anyone need to have the gospel? Why do we need to share the gospel if everyone is going to get saved in the end?

The question is what gospel we are talking about. If we narrow the gospel down to some points we have to believe in to not go to hell, then it is important that we give this information to every human being, so that they can accept it. Not doing this gives us the responsibility that everybody who doesn’t know is going to hell.

But I don’t see any biblical reason to narrow the gospel, or good news, of Christ down to a ‘get out of hell free while all others will burn’ card when you believe in a set of doctrines about God and Jesus. Nor can the gospel be equated to accepting the idea penal substitution atonement. The gospel is bigger than only our afterlife.

The gospel is the good news that Christ is Lord, the good news of the Kingdom of God. This good news has (at least) 2 dimensions: The first one is that the coming age of Gods Kingdom is breaking in into our current situation, and that Jesus saves us here and now, and transforms our lives and through us the world. The second dimension is that after this life we will be with God forever. But we shouldn’t forget that eternal life is first and foremost life with an eternal quality, which begins here and now already, and goes on beyond death and beyond the final judgment when all evil will be erased.

Another problem is that the gospel is about saving the whole creation (see Romans 8), not just about the saving of individual souls. The gospel is good news regardless of us. In the end it will fill all of the earth, and there will be no place for anthing that doesn’t align with it… This is good news, and it’s a lot bigger than the idea that we do not go to hell after this life.

So the conclusion would be that universal reconciliation only makes an incomplete gospel worthless. But a gospel that is made worthless if Jesus would save all in the end might not be a real gospel at al, if our good news depends on us being saved and others being lost we’re not at all Christlikel.

But all of this does not mean that we as Christian are not supposed to spread the good news of the Kingdom of God, through our lives as light and salt, and through our words. We are to live out that salvation, and share it with the lost. We hope that the salvation of Christ will save as much as can, and we will align our lives with that!

Vive la revolucion

Shalom

Bram

evangelical universalism? (and Rob Bell)


Yesterday the controversial evangelical preacher and writer Rob Bell suddenly was a trending topic on Twitter. I had no idea why, until someone tweeted a blogpost of some bloke called  Justin Taylor from the (generally reformed) gospel coalition condemning Rob Bell as a heretic and an ‘universalist’, based on his new book Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. A book that isn’t out yet, and that hasn’t been read, but noneteless everybody is already reacting against it. But I guess that’s what Rob wants with his pre-release advertisement campaign anyway. A very interesting defense came from Kurt Willems, who argues that Rob isn’t advocating universalism at all, and if Kurts predictions are right I might agree with most of the book (just as I did with Velvet Elvis and sex God), and if I see that endorsement by Greg Boyd that Kurt quotes there’s no way it’s about fluffy ‘everybody gets to heaven’ universalism, but I know Boyd himself tends to conditional mortality.

But in fact I wasn’t planning on writing about Rob Bell, the guy is getting enough attention already, and I don’t feel like just being part of his expanding and emerging free advertisement system for his latest book… (Too late I guess; so before we go on to another subject I’ll link to this 2 posts by Carson Clark and Tom Batterson for those who are interested in Rob’s latest controversy)

What I wanted was to look at the word ‘universalism’, which is used by some to discredit Christian they don’t like, for various reasons. The problem is that the term can mean a lot of things,which are lumped together as of they’re all the same,  but they are in reality sometimes almost the opposite of each other. So the term should never be used to discredit someone without making clear which universalism we’re talking about, and why it is problematic. Unless we want to give false impressions and insinuations, which might be the same as breaking the commandment of bearing a false witness. I’ve seen that kind of tactics too much times in combination with logical fallacies as guilt by association arguments and worse…

So what is universalism when we’re talking about Christians? I’ll just point out 2 very distinct meanings here, though there are probably a lot more nuances and different versions.

Religious universalism
The first one is religious universalism, or the idea that ‘all religions are the same’ and ‘jesus is just one of the ways’ and ‘it doesn’t matter everybody ends up in heaven anyway’. It is sometimes linked to new age religion or integral spirituality consciousness stuff (of which I don’t know much), and I think the Unitarian Univeralists hold to this, but I’m not sure, so correct me if I’m wrong. I agree that this position is not a Christian position one at all, and far outside of any form of Christian orthodoxy. I know most people do think about this idea when they hear the world ‘universalism’, but that’s not what most self-identifying Christian universalists believe at all. I agree that this kind of universalism does not fit together with Christianity, with the Faith in the triune God and the Incarnation of God the son in the human Jesus, who saves us, trough his incarnation, teaching, example, and death on the cross and resurrection. (I’ll talk about just the cross further on, but I see the others as having part in our salvation too)

Universal reconciliation
The second meaning of Christian universalism is that of ‘universal reconciliation’, which does take the saving capacity of Jesus even more serious than most Christians: through the cross of Christ all will be saved in the end. This is in many ways the opposite, since it makes the cross and resurrection  of Jesus sufficient to save ALL of mankind in the end, so hell will end up being empty. This idea is as old as the first church fathers, but has always been a minority position in the church. This idea can be hoped for, or believed with a dogmatic certainty. And it IS an idea that can be defended biblically, as wel as annihilationism and the classical eternal conscious torment are defended biblically. (I’ve actually read the evangelical universalist by Gregory Macdonald and found it theologically solid and very biblical, though a bit boring, and I’m still unconvinced.)

I’m not at all a Christian universalist, not even  in the second meaning (and neither is Rob Bell btw.) even though on some days I do hope Jesus will be able to save all, and I don’t believe that can be wrong. But I’m afraid that our human free will make some of us into creatures that will never be able to enjoy being in Gods presence. I’m not sure on how all these things will work in reality (and I’m not sure if we can know!) but the old orthodox idea that the same presence of God which means heaven for some will be hell for others, or annihilation, like a shadow disappears in the full light of day. But I don’t know much about these things…[So, for Calvinists: yes, what keeps me from believing in universal reconciliation is our free will. If I’d be more Calvinist at that point I would probably have been a Christian universalist!]

So, while I reject the first universalism and do disagree with the second one, I still see the idea of hoping for universal reconciliation of all things and everyone to God (as for example some orthodox church fathers did) as not contradictory to biblical Christianity, and to be honest a it seems lot less problematic than ideas like double predestination… The dogmatic version I find a bit too much like wishful thinking, and too pushy towards God…

In the next post I’ll try to explore what the big problem is with ‘universalism’ and the gospel…

Shalom

Bram

Why I wanted to marry an ugly girl as a teenager…


Rachel Held Evans, a thoughtful progressive evangelical woman who is doing a year of biblical womanhood for a book project, and exploring the bizarre world of conservative ‘biblical womanhood’, has a very interesting post about female beauty and the way some ‘conservative’ Christians approach it. I must say I’m not in that segment of christianity anyway, and that I never fully understood how the described mentality can be claimed to be Christian, but who am I but a stranger on this planet… Anyway, for what it’s worth I can give my view on these things, even if it’s as alien to some as conservative christian gender roles are to me.

Let me first say that I am mostly very annoyed by the sexist way this culture defines the worth of a woman by her beauty (according to standards that are alien to me) and that I’m always surprised to see when some Christians seem to teach essentially the same. It seems superficial, sexist and very unrealistic to me. Surely, women are beautiful (if they don’t put on too much make-up and dress like Lady Gaga that is) and God created them that way, but no-one stays young, and whatever our obsession with youth and beauty in this culture may be it won’t change a thing, and our artificial ways of keeping up the appearance are not healthy at all. And there is more to beauty than this.

To quote Rachel:

I often struggle with what appear to be misogynistic elements of the Levitical purity codes, of ancient Israeli wartime conduct, of the letters of Paul and the doctrines of the early church. But in this case, the misogyny is new. The ancient writers of Scripture seem to affirm what all women know -

That our bodies change as we get older.

That our bodies change when we bear children.

That our bodies change when we get sick.

That our bodies change as we experience joy, pain, life, death, victory, heartache, and time.

And frankly, the suggestion that men are too weak to handle these realities is as emasculating as it is unbiblical.

That last sentence is very important. To me it’s very sexist, not just to women, but to men, to suggest that men are too weak to handle this aging and loss of youth in their wives. Maybe men are if the world teaches it to us, I guess it’s a very Freudian idea which has parallels in certain muslim views on men and woman. But by no means there is anything biblically justifiable in it, nor is it Christlike!!

Rachel ended with a question that sounds just too silly to me to seriously consider.

“Guys – What is your reaction to the suggestion that a wife’s changing body incites men to cheat?”

My reaction on her blog was:

I’m tired of this kind of sexism towards men, as if we’re only interested in sexy bodies and not in a life companion to share everything with. My reaction would be that you’ve never loved you wife in the first place if you cheat for such a reason, but that you’ve projected some ‘smoking hot fantasy wife’ onto the woman you married. Which is not very ‘biblical’ at all, and very superficial and ‘worldly’.

I mean it, if you cheat on your wife because she’s aging and becoming less beautiful, you probably never loved her, only her beauty and what it stood for to you.

Now on to my strange title: my thoughts also went back to some Christian summer youth camp long ago, one to which I don’t have much positive memories. What I do remember is that I was sleeping in a room with a lot of guys who were talking about girls all the time in a not so very ‘christian’ way (not the way the leaders of the camp would have liked…). I can remember some of them making tasteless and not even funny jokes about a girl with unshaved legs. I still feel ashamed I didn’t speak up to silence them. I hated the whole atmosphere of ‘we boys together’, and was sometimes fairly disgusted. I couldn’t look at girls that way, I saw people like me who needed frienship and honesty, and respect. At that age (17 or so) I was still a lonely boy who’d never had a girlfriend though I was good at being friends with girls that I’d never fall in love with.

So about then I had completely crossed over to the other side in the war between the sexes. I saw the way girls, people like me I liked to be friends with, were supposed to conforn to unhealthy standards, and I saw them being hurt by it on the one side, and boys who kicking on playboy posters on the other side. Yes I’m not only moderately feminist from time to time, but even a closet misandrist (who do we have a word for mysogyny but not a male version?) who wants to live in an asexual world when I see some of those abberations of ‘masculinity’.

At that moment I made the decision to marry an ugly girl. I really did. Because it’s just plainly dishonest when people who are less ‘beautiful’ don’t find a lover to share their life with! It’s just immature when the beautiful girls get more chances.

(oh, and I never thought of myself as beautiful nor ugly, it’s always been a non-issue to me.)

I suppose it’s not exactly the average teenage boys dream about girls, but I was very serious. I might have been a struggling christian on some fronts at that age, but I knew love was more important than looks, and I knew that the beauty standards of our world are just not fair. (Later on I wrote the song ‘unfair competition’ about it, you can listen and download it at my bandcamp site)

And it’s not that I’m not very interested in female beauty, I am. That’s one of the reasons why I hate porn so much, because it defiles something so beautiful… But it didn’t seem right to add ‘beautiful’ to whatever list of requirements a future wife should have. It felt kinda evil even… Very unchristlike.

I guess I was a radical (that’s what they wanted us to be on the camp anyway, ‘radical’ christian youth) even though I’ve never talked much about this to people.

And I didn’t succeed anyway: my wife is kinda beautiful. Not only when puts on make-up or pretty clothes, but also when she’s just woken up, or walks around the house in the most uncool old shabby clothes. If you don’t find a woman beautiful in those moments, you don’t find her beautiful, period.

And I do even have a very beautiful baby daughter right now.

And now I kinda wonder if it’s possible anyway to love an ugly woman. Not because ugly people are unlovable, but because we learn to see the beauty in people when we love them. No human being created in Gods image can be really ugly if you love them. There is a beauty that goes deeper than outward looks, and that’s the real beauty. But it might require another way of looking, more in line with the way God looks…

Open our eyes to Love, God

shalom

Bram

just in from a spammer


You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be actually something which I think I would never understand. It seems too complicated and extremely broad for me. I’m looking forward for your next post, I will try to get the hang of it!

from someone with the word ‘porn’ in the website, on my ‘about me’ page…

it’s a strange day…

 

on the evilness of Rebecca StJames and evangelical paranoia…


So today for some reason I was listening to some good old contemporary christian music on youtube. And then I saw the following comment under a live video of Rebecca StJames’ song ‘go and sin no more‘:

This kind of music is too worldly. That’s why Evangelicals are leaving the faith because of worldly music like this. This kind of music follows the genre of worldly secular music and creates a brain frequency that keeps the mind locked into this world. That’s why it’s so spiritually dangerous. The Illuminati and Freemasons created “Christian rock,” to numb people down and lead them into apostasy. This is occuring today. Only 9% of Evangelicals adults hold to a biblical worldview.

This leaves me with a lot of questions:

So this music creates a brain frequency that keeps the mind locked in this world? Should I use trance music that creates a brain frequency that brings me into another world then??

The illuminati and freemasons created Christian rock? That’s a new one… It would explain why there is so much bad christian music in the world though…

And where does the statistic of 9% come from? And what is a biblical worldview? There’s nothing in the bible about rock music, illuminati, brain waves or the freemasons…

But I guess I’m already part of the great apostacy, since I prefer most secular rock and folk and indie above this RSJ song musically… My poor brainwaves…