The dark side of destiny

I recently listen to an interesting conversation between Chris Date (from RethinkingHell) and Greg Crofford about a new book of Greg entitled: The Dark Side of Destiny: Hell Re-Examined.

Chris Date is a Conservative Evangelical (and a Calvinist!) holding to the teaching of conditional immortality and hell meaning utter destruction.

He is a very brilliant, bright and insightful man and he represents the most defensible and respectable form of reformed theology I am aware of. His blog  http://www.theopologetics.com/ is worth checking out.

Greg pointed out that the doctrine of eternal torment gives us a very dark picture of God which emotionally hinders many people to seek a deeper communion with Him.

He laid out a pretty interesting argument against endless torture:

1) If God eternally tormented many of His creatures He would be a sadist
2) Jesus is the human face of God
3) Jesus was not a sadist
4) Therefore God won’t torment beings forever

He explained why the authors of the New Testament (if interpreted in their historical context) most likely saw immortality as God’s gift the wicked ones will not inherit.

I started out disagreeing with him as he began criticizing universalism, which he seems to equate with inclusivism, the view that non-Christians will be given a chance to respond to the Gospel after their deaths.
Both notions are, however, far from being identical.

I am an inclusivist but not an universalist because I consider it very likely that at least some people will reject God beyond the grave.

Conservative Evangelicals typically defend Exclusivism (only those dying as Christians will inherit eternal life) using the following reasoning:

1) The Bible is the full and unique revelation of God (which is the central pillar of Evangelicalism)
2) There is no Biblical evidence that people will have a chance to choose God after having passed away
3) Therefore only Christians will get to heaven

Yet as Randal Rauser pointed out, this is an extraordinarily offensive assertion.

“They attacked the towns and spared neither the children nor the aged nor pregnant women nor women in childbed, not only stabbing them and dismembering them but cutting them to pieces as if dealing with sheep in the slaughter house. They laid bets as to who, with one stroke of the sword, could split a man in two or could cut off his head or spill out his entrails with a single stroke of the pike. They took infants from their mothers’ breasts, snatching them by the legs and pitching them headfirst against the crags or snatched them by the arms and threw them into the rivers, roaring with laughter and saying as the babies fell into the water, ‘Boil there, you offspring of the devil!’”

Now against this backdrop turn to the encounter between a cacique (or tribal leader) and his Franciscan captors. In this encounter Hatuey, the cacique, has been told he will be executed (for no greater crime, it would seem, than not being Spanish), but that he can still save his soul before his body is slain:

“When tied to the stake, the cacique Hatuey was told by a Franciscan friar who was present, an artless rascal, something about the God of the Christians and of the articles of Faith. And he was told what he could do in the brief time that remained to him, in order to be saved and go to heaven. The cacique, who had never heard any of this before, and was told he would go to Inferno where, if he did not adopt the Christian Faith, he would suffer eternal torment, asked the Franciscan friar if Christians all went to Heaven. When told that they did he said he would prefer to go to Hell.”

It is extremely blasphemous to state that Hatuey won’t have any chance to reach heaven.

So I think that the above reasoning can be turned on its head:

1) As perfectly loving God must give a post-mortem chance to many of those who have died without Christ
2) There is no Biblical evidence that people will have a chance to choose God after having passed away
3) Therefore the Bible cannot be the full and unique revelation of God
4) Therefore Evangelicalism is wrong

(Of course many people would contest 2), thereby invalidating the conclusion).

Finally Greg pointed out that the parable of the foolish and wise virgins has to be taken at face value, thereby showing that people not having chosen Christ during this life won’t be given a second chance.

A huge problem is that as a conservative Protestant, there are quite a few things in the Bible that Greg cannot interpret literally.

The parable of the sheep and the goats illustrates that very well.

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Taking this parable at face value would lead one to believe that works play an important role in salvation, a doctrine Evangelicals passionately detest.

More importantly perhaps, this parable teaches that people having never heard of Christ were serving Him while doing good deeds and will usher into His holy presence.

That aspect aside,Greg Crofford seems to be a good and sensible practical theologian and I advise my readers to take a look at his works.

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17 thoughts on “The dark side of destiny

  1. “I am an inclusivist but not an universalist because I consider it very likely that at least some people will reject God beyond the grave.”

    if for the sake of argument we accept your premises here, how does one reject an omnigod?

      • “By claiming you can do things better than he/she/it can.”

        i can claim that the earth is flat, right.

        so, again, how does one reject an omnigod?

        • I don’t see how you have replied to what I wrote. If you want to say that a flat earth would be better than an oblate spheroid, and then lived as if it were flat, then you would satisfy my requirement. I was, however, more targeting the obedience or disobedience to objective morality, with the basics accessible in the form of “if it’s bad for other people to do it to me, it’s bad for me to do it back to them”. To pretend that morality is other than it is, despite the pain and suffering and failure to properly predict subsequent happiness, is to create a world opposed to God and claim that world is better than the one he created.

      • “I don’t see how you have replied to what I wrote.”

        i asked, how does one reject an omnigod in the sense of, how can one reject s/he/it that is the cause of every thing.

        if there is an omnigod, i do not think it is rational to hold that one can reject such an omnigod.

        lotharson opined that it was “very likely that at least some people will reject God beyond the grave.” thus, i asked how is it possible to reject an omnigod–before, now, then, or whenever, actually–given the understanding that an omnigod is supposed to be the ground of every thing.

        so, when you replied that one may “claim…”, i responded that i can also “claim ….” since anyone can claim anything, how does that bring about rejecting an omnigod?

        so, perhaps i should ask: how does one reject that which is the cause of everything?

        • Is there no way for a man to reject a woman without denying her existence altogether? 🙂

          I agree it is healthier in some cases, but is it really the only manner it can be done?

        • Reject in what sense? Reject as extant? This might not be possible in the afterlife. Reject as morally perfect? I think that’s possible, given the plausibility of Satan rejecting him and seemingly not being restricted by that dark glass that we have to look through when he did so. I think talking about Lucifer’s fall is helpful here, because perhaps your argument entails that he acted irrationally or even that his existence is terribly suspect.

      • “I agree it is healthier in some cases, but is it really the only manner it can be done?”

        i don’t know.

        and, i don’t know either how one may reject an omnigod, that’s why i ask.

        can you reject, in any sense, an omnigod?

        if you can, please tell me how.

        remember, by your definition, your omnigod is the the ground of every thing.

      • “This explains everything ;-)”

        perhaps it does.

        but i think it was rather the other way around 🙂

        @ labreuer

        “… because perhaps your argument entails that he acted irrationally or even that his existence is terribly suspect.”

        i have no argument; i’m responding to lotharson’s claim that “some people will reject God”:

        so, again, for the sake of argument, if we accept that your omnigod is, and is the ground of everything, and that there are souls, then, how would/does a soul reject–in whatever sense–your omnigod?

        again, your omnigod is everything, is everywhere, is omni*god.

        picture this, if you will: i don a special space suit, equipped with a rocket that allows me to go into orbit around the sun at about 1 million miles from the sun’s surface, and be able to survive for about 10 minutes. then, i go into orbit, where, for all practical purposes, the sun is almost ever present. then, as the omni-presence of the sun begins to fry my grey matter, i aver, “Houston, i reject the sun!”

        • again, your omnigod is everything, is everywhere, is omni*god.

          Just to clarify, Christianity is not pantheism, nor is it panentheism. Perhaps by noting this, some of your confusion will evaporate?

          then, as the omni-presence of the sun begins to fry my grey matter, i aver, “Houston, i reject the sun!”

          Remember your is-ought gap: there is a world of difference between recognizing that an entity exists, and recognizing that the entity is good. Satan admits that God exists. He thinks God is evil and he is good. There is a long history of people saying, “If God exists, he is the devil.” So the more objective thing to say is that Yahweh defines one of {good, evil}; which one depends on what you believe, and whether you will side with him or against him.

        • I’m sorry xon-xoff, but I no longer understand your objection or what you’re saying, if you can even ask “did you address my question?” I don’t know what else to say to articulate my position. :-/

  2. If you set aside two thousand years of church history and go back to the Scriptures on which that church bases its authority – that is, the Old and New Testaments – you will see that everyone is going to heaven.

    The way to see this is to start with the Old Testament. It is clear that the Old Testament teaching was that everyone who died descended to Sheol (Hades). Everyone. There was a hope of resurrection, but nothing more. Then the New Testament, in the story of Christ, explained how resurrection was going to work. The big surprise – even for believing Jews – was that resurrection led to heaven. They had been assuming that it led back to earth. Jesus shocked them with this revelation.

    Once it was clear that resurrection led to heaven, the only thing left to ask was “Who would be raised?” The New Testament answer was clear: the dead.

    Since everyone died and the dead would be raised and resurrection led to heaven, then it’s clear that everyone goes to heaven. Of course, there’s much more biblical corroboration of this but I’ve laid out the essential logic.

    What people call hell (Jesus called it Gehenna) is the judgment for sin that consumes the earth. It is thus on this earth and in this life. It is not something that happens elsewhere after this life.

    The heaven-or-hell scenario under which the post-NT church has erroneously labored for almost two thousand years is a theological perversion of Scriptural truth. And the longer that error holds sway, the more frightened people are to challenge it. The way to challenge it is not with intellect or emotion, but with the Scriptures.

    To God be the glory!

      • “Eternal destruction” is the biblical alternative to “eternal life.” Therefore, if you make “eternal life” to mean something that only occurs once this life is over, you will do the same with “eternal destruction.” Yet the Bible does not define eternal life in this way. For example, see John 17:3).

        Eternal life is meant to be experienced now. Otherwise, we can only experence eternal destruction.

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