Utah lawmakers tend to quickly fall in line when the influential church makes a rare foray into legislative politics. So Tuesday’s action could have broad effects in this highly conservative state where more than 80 percent of lawmakers and the governor are church members

From here

To be sure this post is not about Gay rights but more about how influential a church/religion can be.  Conversely it shreds the concept  that there  is actually a seperation of church and state.

As a wise man once told me “I’m in favor of the state when the state is in favor of me; otherwise I don’t give a damn”.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, November 12th, 2009 at 10:02 am and is filed under Politics, Uncategorized, What Can You Say?, quote. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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79 Comments(+Add)

1   nathan    
November 12th, 2009 at 10:27 am

separation of church and state as a legal principle is a good thing.

i certainly wouldn’t want the SBC, by virtue of their size being able to dictate by fiat, as a religious beauracracy, what civil law should look like.

there would be a whole lot fellow Christians “out of luck” if that’s the way our system worked.

i don’t think the existence of good and right legal category is the denial of the reality that people cannot escape the influence of their values/beliefs, etc. nor should they…

2   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
November 12th, 2009 at 11:07 am

The church is faced with only two overarching choices/directions.

Either:

1. Seek and find a continuing supply of moral whipping boys

or

2. Be redemptive to all sinners

Sadly, many have chosen #1. When churches take a political position on moral issues they undermine the gospel and become one more political voice among many.

That was in Utah, just over their eastern border Focus on the Family would take a much different political view. The whole thing just adds more noise in an atmosphere that is hard to hear the gospel already.

3   Paul C    http://thepathtolife.wordpress.com
November 12th, 2009 at 11:21 am

Here’s more of a question.

We know from the Bible that God judged entire nations and regions for their ungodliness. Sodom & Gomorrah is the typical one we point to in matters of homosexuality (though they were sinning in various ways otherwise).

God held them to a moral standard and judged nations when they (like Romans 1) wholly departed from fundamental principles of human society.

He judged the earth with a flood in the days of Noah because of pervasive sin.

At the end of the day (Rev) God judges the world because her sins have piled up to heaven.

So, God is not dismissive of those nations and peoples that turn their backs on the moral law of God written on the hearts of every man. How, in your opinion, is this level of human responsibility measured?

I know the gospel in the pre-eminent focus and the only path for a man to be set free from sin. But should Christians be involved in moral issues at all when they are impacting the nation in which they live?

4   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
November 12th, 2009 at 12:43 pm

There is a litany of things God did in the Old Testament that He no longer does in this age of the New Covenant. Nations (ethnic groups) are no longer dealt with as a monolith, and the gospel is not only a pre-eminent focus, it is our exclusive calling.

Leveraging moral issues apart from the gospel demeans the power of God and places His body as just another political voice. The greater the slide into morality in a nation is a greater opportunity and responsibility for Christ’s body to shine.

And this moral slide is not because of liberals or humanists or atheists, no, the guilt lies at our doorstep. The church should repent and pray for a mighty move of God’sSpirit among us. Until then, politics is a poor substitute and only soothes our conscience.

5   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
November 12th, 2009 at 12:47 pm

I think that a good case can be made that the judgment of nations in the Old Testament had to do mainly with how those nations related to Israel and God’s plan to bring salvation through Israel. I think God saw Sodom and Gomorrah as having such a potentially harmful effect on Abraham’s descendants that He decided that they had to be dealt with at that time. I liken it to finding out you have a cancer now that might not effect you right away, but you realize that unless it is dealt with now, it will have dire consequences down the road.

Everything that happened in the OT has to be read through the lens of how it related to Israel and what it’s impact was on the nation.

6   Paul C    http://thepathtolife.wordpress.com
November 12th, 2009 at 1:48 pm

#4: yes, I completely see where you’re coming from here and I agree. In Canada we have no “moral” political party or lobbying as far as I know. No Christian-right pressuring Ottawa… But neither do I see the church overtly active in any sense – it’s practically invisible. That’s not to say that people are not living for Christ individually and spreading the gospel, but there is little to no public voice.

When I look over the border, to the US, what I see is not an amalgamation of church and world. In every aspect the church is becoming more and more worldly – politics, culture, pursuits, dress, etc…

So, as you say, in a darker area, the greater the true light must shine. But it appears the church is deeply asleep.

#5: yes, I can see that.

So, would you consider something like the increase in natural disasters worldwide to be in any way related to God’s judgment in correlation to an increase in sin?

7   Paul C    http://thepathtolife.wordpress.com
November 12th, 2009 at 2:00 pm

“This country is not gospel-hardened, it’s gospel-ignorant, because most of the pastors are gospel-ignorant.”

- Paul Washer

8   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
November 12th, 2009 at 2:01 pm

“So, would you consider something like the increase in natural disasters worldwide to be in any way related to God’s judgment in correlation to an increase in sin?”

I think they may be signs, but if they were judgments God surely desires to judge poor people. The disasters seem to avoid afluent areas.

9   nathan    
November 12th, 2009 at 2:35 pm

ewwww… quoting Paul Washer is probably as useful as quoting Marcus Borg…for some people.

;)

10   Jerry    http://www.dongoldfish.wordpress.com
November 12th, 2009 at 3:02 pm

I’m reading Justification and, it appears, that more than we think are ignorant of the Gospel.

11   Neil    
November 12th, 2009 at 3:02 pm

So, would you consider something like the increase in natural disasters worldwide to be in any way related to God’s judgment in correlation to an increase in sin?

I’m not convinced that there is an increase in sin – aside from the fact that there are more people doing it. I am not convinced that the church is more worldly than ever.

To be sure technology has made us more efficient in our sins, and in the observing of them. But it is impossible to really say things are worse, since we have never lived in a time other than our own.

12   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
November 12th, 2009 at 3:07 pm

Perilous times will come, and evil seducers will wax worse and worse. The time will come when people will not accept sound doctrine.

I think the Scriptures are clear that times will not get better.

13   Neil    
November 12th, 2009 at 3:08 pm

Speaking of disasters and judgment – on what are we determining that there is more of them now than before?

And how do we interpret them? I saw one website that “Showed” how God judged the countries in FL that went to Bush in 2000.

14   Neil    
November 12th, 2009 at 3:10 pm

Rick, I agree that the Scriptures do not promise things getting better and better.

Contemporary anecdotes do not prove that they are getting worse.

We can only judge our own time and our own culture… to say “the world” is worse no than before is purely subjective standard.

15   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
November 12th, 2009 at 3:17 pm

Jesus told us of certain signs to watch for. Even in my lifetime, which I can accurately assess, things have gotten much worse.

16   Paul C    http://thepathtolife.wordpress.com
November 12th, 2009 at 3:48 pm

Neil: to say that the prevalence of sin is not increasing – both within and outside the church – is ridiculous.

I don’t buy your argument that this is an unknown since we’ve only ever lived in our time.

If you read Amusing Ourselves to Death, the argument is made that media availability has a massive impact on people’s habits. Thus, simply by making sin more readily available (ie: internet pornography) you will have more people engaging in it.

This doesn’t just apply to the Internet, of course, but virtually every aspect of life. Think of it like this: modern technology in warfare enables a greater number of people being killed in armed conflict.

But that aside, scripture very clearly shows a major increase in and acceptance of sin and basic morality as we draw closer to the end of this age.

17   Paul C    http://thepathtolife.wordpress.com
November 12th, 2009 at 3:49 pm

Jerry – can you elaborate on comment #10?

18   Neil    
November 12th, 2009 at 4:12 pm

Even in my lifetime, which I can accurately assess, things have gotten much worse.

In the sense that you can assess it – while things have gotten worse here – the Gospel as spread ten-fold in Africa and Asia…

19   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
November 12th, 2009 at 4:17 pm

” the Gospel as spread ten-fold in Africa and Asia…”

As Jesus said it would. But AIDs, malaria, and world hunger has also increased. Pornography and pedophilia have increased, and more people died in WW II than any other by far.

20   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
November 12th, 2009 at 4:27 pm

I find that when a single Christian American votes, that is a minor compromise. However, when the church organizes, passes out political literature in church, preachers go on talk shows, Christians side with caranl talk show hosts, and the church acts like a voring block, well, that is disgraceful and fully at odds with the gospel of redemption.

21   Neil    
November 12th, 2009 at 7:14 pm

Paul C.,

Please forgive me my stupidity and utter inability to grasp the obvious and things clearly shown from Scripture.

I am sorry I wasted your time with an argument that was so ridiculous you need not even address it – just dismiss it for the drivel that it is.

22   Neil    
November 12th, 2009 at 7:30 pm

…and more people died in WW II than any other by far.

As I opened with – no doubt we have gotten more efficient at killing. But that is just the same sin with better technology.

23   Neil    
November 12th, 2009 at 7:32 pm

Pornography and pedophilia have increased…

I agree pornography has increased since there are so many more avenues for it. But I wonder if pedophilia has as well. More accounts of it only mean there are more accounts of it – not that there is absolutely more of it.

24   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
November 12th, 2009 at 7:36 pm

Neil – Would you agree that there is coming a time where iniquity will increase, even if you do not believe it is today?

25   Neil    
November 12th, 2009 at 8:08 pm

I believe that there will be an increasing polarization – that the Gospel and Kingdom will continue to increase and so will the forces (passive and aggressive) against it.

It is obvious that there is more sin and misery… since there are more sinners. But as rediculous as it sounds, I am not convinced that the human heart is any worse.

And I certainly reject the notion that the church is more corrupt and worldly and worse than ever.

When was the last time an army bearing shields emblazoned with crosses killed 100’s of thousand – overtly – in the name of Christ?

26   Paul C    http://thepathtolife.wordpress.com
November 12th, 2009 at 9:54 pm

But that is just the same sin with better technology.

As I said earlier, a very clear case can be made that availability to sin actually leads to greater acts of sin. This dramatically increases as the lines between sin and righteousness, light and darkness become more clouded – which is happening today in the church as well as in society on the whole. Therefore, you have churches debating homosexual ordinations, as an extreme example.

It is obvious that there is more sin and misery… since there are more sinners.

But the increased number of people is not what I’m referring to in the overall picture here. Nor do I think this is what the Bible speaks of. The hearts of men grow increasingly dark as we head toward the end of this age. And this has permeated the church significantly.

Are there people standing for God? Of course. But there is a vast number of professing believers living as though Christ is never returning. We could point to any age and say the same to a degree, I suppose, but in my opinion it is much worse today than before, though a cursory look at the service might fool us.

As they say in Africa (and I say here): “Christianity is a million miles wide and an inch deep.”

When was the last time an army bearing shields emblazoned with crosses killed 100’s of thousand – overtly – in the name of Christ?

If that is your measure of evil, then there’s a problem. Remember, we live in a day of gross deception and seduction. Those men were no more men of God than the men today who profess Christ but preach falsehood (ie: Osteen, Dollar, etc.). Just because they smile as they slaughter, it doesn’t mean they are less dangerous.

The battle has taken on a different face – like Revelation says, the false prophet will speak as a dragon (demonic) but have two horns like a lamb (religious).

27   Neil    
November 12th, 2009 at 10:13 pm

1963

28   Neil    
November 12th, 2009 at 10:17 pm

Therefore, you have churches debating homosexual ordinations, as an extreme example

And there was a time churches debated the ownership of other…

And there was a time those with whom you disagreed were simply burned…

tit for tat anecdotal examples…

29   Neil    
November 12th, 2009 at 10:24 pm

…which is happening today in the church as well as in society on the whole.

…which is happening today in the church many American churches as well as in society on the whole.

30   Neil    
November 12th, 2009 at 10:28 pm

The hearts of men grow increasingly dark as we head toward the end of this age.

book chapter:verse

31   Jerry    http://www.dongoldfish.wordpress.com
November 12th, 2009 at 11:29 pm

Paul,

I could, and maybe I will, tomorrow. Tonight, I’m tired.

jerry

32   Paul C    http://thepathtolife.wordpress.com
November 13th, 2009 at 10:03 am

Neil – you make the very typical argument that we’ve had on this site (with others I think) a few times and an error on a couple points. One is the fact that I’m from Canada and I have never bought the American version of history. It’s actually laughable to people outside of the US.

In fact, this is what we teach our children: that history is pretty much an agreed upon lie. So we get into other aspects of it from different viewpoints. Open any 5th grade US history textbook and see the Indians and Pilgrims sitting jovially around the Thanksgiving table.

I’m probably the most skeptical commenter here (OK, maybe Rick) when it comes to Americana.

You asked for chapter and verse. Matthew 24 speaks not only of the destruction of Jerusalem, but also the return of Jesus Christ:

Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

Paul also mentions warnings to Timothy as well as other places in scripture.

33   Neil    
November 13th, 2009 at 10:53 am

Paul C.,

Thank you for addressing the question. I know you are Canadian, and I took that into account. It does not, however, change the fact that you cannot make accurate statements like “…which is happening today in the church…” as if it were a universal phenomenon.

Did you read the 1963 essay?

Finally, I find your offering of Matthew 24 as proof that things are much worse today severely lacking. It very well may be a prediction of specific end times events… then again it may be much more general than that.

34   Neil    
November 13th, 2009 at 10:56 am

Paul C.,

I find an interesting irony in this discussion. You state that “scripture very clearly shows” the end time scenario… even to the point of saying it must be very specific events.

Yet the church has been very divided over the question of end times for generations.

And were the church has been very solid, say on the Trinity, something orthodoxy has seen very clearly taught in Scripture for better than 1500 years – that you say is unclear.

35   Paul C    http://thepathtolife.wordpress.com
November 13th, 2009 at 11:02 am

Did you read the 1963 essay?

Yes, that’s why I commented as I did in #32. I agree it’s very easy to fall for an “apple pie” version of history… when you look at things through one particular lens for example (ie: a white middle class male).

In regards to Matthew 24, you asked for a scripture so I referenced one… knowing that it would probably be shot down anyways or reasoned away.

The point is that even the ungodly people I speak with are taken a little aback with the degradation of the human condition on the whole. I find this amazing. We are to be able to discern the times we’re living in (not by reading headlines) and be sensitive to the spirit of the age.

We could go back and forth, but I am fully convinced that things are rapidly declining.

Discussions like this remind me of accounts of the 2004 Asian Tsunami:

Before the waves came crashing into the beaches, the shores pulled back hundreds of meters, leaving bare shells, corals and the like.

Tourists: “Oh look honey! Let’s go and collect shells. There’s hundreds of them everywhere,” as they got off their beach chairs and rushed toward the receding shoreline.

Animals: Sensing something “not good” was underway, headed for higher ground. Elephants broke their changes and headed away from the shore.

The “academics”, as usual, were proved wrong.

36   Paul C    http://thepathtolife.wordpress.com
November 13th, 2009 at 11:09 am

#34: Neil, even from your own defense of the Trinity (from previous discussions) I found the evidence quite weak.

Basically, it comes down to: “The church has taught this for 1500 years so we shouldn’t question it.”

Well, the church has also taught the concept of hell or instantly going to heaven when you die (as opposed to a resurrection at the return of Christ). The scriptures don’t, the church does.

A lot of Christian orthodoxy is like American History Orthodoxy.

Can you go to West Virginia and make certain claims that American History and the Forefathers weren’t quite so pure as they think? Not if you want to leave with your life.

Likewise with Church Orthodoxy.

“Don’t touch the sacred teachings – just believe them.”

I still maintain that if the Trinity or the Doctrine of Hell were SO FOUNDATIONAL to the early church, how come it is not reflected in any epistles?

Show me JUST ONE reference to Hell in Acts or any of the epistles. Just one. Yet today, if you don’t make these the ‘pillars’ of your faith, you are a heretic. Interesting.

37   Neil    
November 13th, 2009 at 12:16 pm

Basically, it comes down to: “The church has taught this for 1500 years so we shouldn’t question it.”… “Don’t touch the sacred teachings – just believe them.”

If you boil the whole thing down to this I guess there is little point going any deeper. This is but one aspect – one that I find very very compelling since it is “clearly taught in scripture.”

But to claim that this is what I am saying is to employ an absurd reduction.

38   Neil    
November 13th, 2009 at 12:18 pm

…instantly going to heaven when you die (as opposed to a resurrection at the return of Christ).

These are not in opposition.

39   Paul C    http://thepathtolife.wordpress.com
November 13th, 2009 at 12:29 pm

#37: I am not trying to reduce your argument to this alone, but this does seem to make up the bulk of your argument from previous interaction. It’s not a criticism, just something I observed, and I could be wrong. If so, forgive me.

But the same argument holds for the doctrine of hell too. You might claim it is foundational to our Christian faith as many do. And yet, not even once does it show up in any of the preaching of the early church.

Do you find this omission odd? Not once in Acts? Not once in a single epistle from Paul?

Yet, you can hardly go a single weekend in contemporary Christianity without hell – a burning pit where we become goblin-like – being preached as one of the ultimate ends of human existence.

#38: don’t want to get into a debate right now, but I believe they are in opposition in the sense that the promise of the gospel is not heaven and hell, but life and death.

Right now, when we die, we are dead, awaiting the resurrection at the return of Christ:

1 Cor 15: For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.

40   Neil    
November 13th, 2009 at 1:16 pm

But the same argument holds for the doctrine of hell too. You might claim it is foundational to our Christian faith as many do. And yet, not even once does it show up in any of the preaching of the early church.

a) not what we were talking about…
b) ….another argument based on what was not said…
c) to be absent from the body is to be… where?

41   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
November 13th, 2009 at 1:28 pm

I guess Moses and Elijah on the Mt. of Transfiguration were…holographs? :cool:

I suggest the argument will be “they are exceptions”, no unlike baptismal regeneration people who suggest the thief on the cross somehow falls into a different category.

42   Paul C    http://thepathtolife.wordpress.com
November 13th, 2009 at 2:39 pm

b) ….another argument based on what was not said…

Not sure I’m tracking with you. Neil, can you explain the verse from 1 Cor 15?

#41: To understand the transfiguration you have to read the final verses of Matt 16. 6 days later the transfiguration appears.

Remember, these men have not received the promise as yet. Read the end of Hebrews 11.

Or

John 3: No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.

43   Neil    
November 13th, 2009 at 3:42 pm

Not sure I’m tracking with you.

Way too often you response is in the form of an argumetn from silence… pitting one portion of the Scripture against another.

When you say the Epistles never speak of Hell, that only mean they never speak of Hell. It has no bearing on whether or not it exists… unless you want to pit Jesus against the Apostles.

Neil, can you explain the verse from 1 Cor 15?

Probably not to your satisfaction. I’m not sure what it has to do with the discussion… but here goes.

In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul is speaking of the resurrection, first arguing for the resurrection of Jesus (past tense) and based on that the resurrection of those who are in Christ.

Not sure what that has to do with state of the dead in Christ in the meantime.

44   Neil    
November 13th, 2009 at 4:08 pm

#41: To understand the transfiguration you have to read the final verses of Matt 16. 6 days later the transfiguration appears.

Rick’s point though, was the presence of these guys. They were not yet resurrected, but they were also not in the grave waiting.

The only problem saying that the transfiguration was the fulfillment of Matt 16:28 is Matt 16:27.

45   Paul C    http://thepathtolife.wordpress.com
November 13th, 2009 at 4:26 pm

#43: Neil, consider your logic for a moment, just as it pertains to Hell.

Does it show up even once in the OT?
Does it show up, just one time, in Acts or any of the epistles?

So we are left with the gospels. Virtually every reference to hell was in the form of a parable and very often Jesus was speaking of the dump, Gehenna, outside the city. It was parabolic language. He was speaking of an eternal separation from God.

Yet what happens today?

Hell is one of the pinnacle doctrines of the church (thanks to the RCC). You can scarcely preach salvation without mentioning hell.

Yet was it even brought up once by the early church? There were several instances in which it would have been suited nicely, say, like on the day of Pentecost!

An honest reader (who isn’t trying to build or rest on a doctrine) would at least question why. That’s all I’m saying.

The only reason I bring up Hell is because you brought up my thoughts on the Trinity.

I am simply demonstrating how we can cling to traditional doctrines because “they are taught”.

46   Paul C    http://thepathtolife.wordpress.com
November 13th, 2009 at 4:32 pm

They were not yet resurrected, but they were also not in the grave waiting.

Where were they?

In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul is speaking of the resurrection, first arguing for the resurrection of Jesus (past tense) and based on that the resurrection of those who are in Christ.

But when does the resurrection take place? “At his coming” In the same chapter, he clarifies:

What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.

One day our mortal frame will give way to immortality. It’s our hope.

47   Brendt    http://csaproductions.com/blog/
November 13th, 2009 at 5:22 pm

… it shreds the concept that there is actually a seperation of church and state.

Going back to the OP (yeah, late to the party), I have to disagree.

The concept of the “separation of church and state” stems from where the founders came from. The idea is that the state shall not officially endorse/enforce a particular religion/church, nor will any given church directly affect/direct the governing of the people.

A church/religion having a large influence on a given government, such as the one cited in this article, is not a violation of the separation of church and state — it is nothing more than an issue of demographics. Until such time as the force of law is used in Utah to enforce a view held by the Mormons, specifically because it is held by the Mormons, no violation of the separation of church and state has been committed.

And even if something that ludicrous occurred, Utah still wouldn’t be in violation of the U.S. Constitution, seeing as how there’s nothing in that document that addresses the separation of church and state (contrary to the fallacious belief that is held by the large majority of those who holler about the concept). Utah might be getting close to violating “freedom of religion” (which is in the Constitution) if they did that, but they still wouldn’t definitely be there.

48   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
November 13th, 2009 at 6:14 pm

It might be productive if the church becomes THE church within the culture before we attempt to leverage the political landscape.

As Dr. Lector once said, “First principles…”.

49   chris    
November 14th, 2009 at 10:33 am

Going back to the OP (yeah, late to the party), I have to disagree.

Good thing I said “concept” not “idea” or “fact” or “truth”.

I think you and I agree. The church, in this case, had a huge influence on the law of the land. Conveniently when it lands in the favor of the church we applaud and say that “Truth won”. When it lands in the favor of the convenient whipping boys we wring our hands and decry the moral slide of our land. Never once recognizing that our government isn’t and never was “Christian”.

50   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
November 14th, 2009 at 11:04 am

Chris is formally awarded the

“Frueh Plaque of Excellence”

:cool:

51   mrs k    
November 15th, 2009 at 9:54 pm

#50-
Hear, hear!

52   Neil    
November 16th, 2009 at 12:03 pm

Paul C.,

I agree with you that “Hell” as a doctrine and a motivator has been abused by churches of the millennia.

53   Neil    
November 16th, 2009 at 12:05 pm
In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul is speaking of the resurrection, first arguing for the resurrection of Jesus (past tense) and based on that the resurrection of those who are in Christ.

But when does the resurrection take place? “At his coming” In the same chapter, he clarifies:

We agree, the resurrection takes place at his coming. I’m not sure how this fits into the discussion.

54   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
November 16th, 2009 at 12:14 pm

So, would you consider something like the increase in natural disasters worldwide to be in any way related to God’s judgment in correlation to an increase in sin?

Sorry I didn’t get a chance to respond to this earlier. I left to play at a conference on Thursday afternoon of last week, and I didn’t get back until Saturday evening.

I’ve yet to see any really hard data that proves that the number of natural disasters on the earth is really increasing. There are more people in more locations on the earth, so things like droughts, floods, earthquakes,etc, are bound to impact more people.

For example, there were large portions of the planet that were relatively uninhabited as late as 200 years ago (maybe even 100 of 50). If these areas experienced this kind of phenomena, there simply wasn’t anyone to see it and report it. Well, now through satellites and radar, we can pretty much track weather all over the globe. Additionally, because of the 24-hour news available to us, we generally know about disasters wherever they happen on the globe.

I just don’t see that there’s been any type of increase in these things. I think the famines and earthquakes Jesus was referring to in Matthew 24 occurred prior to 70 AD and the fall of Jerusalem. In fact, it’s pretty much a historical fact that they did.

55   Neil    
November 16th, 2009 at 12:37 pm

Phil,

There are two really weak links in saying the increase in natural disasters worldwide is related to God’s judgment in correlation to an increase in sin.

The first you pointed out. The second is connecting them to God’s judgment.

56   Paul C    http://thepathtolife.wordpress.com
November 16th, 2009 at 1:47 pm

I agree with you that “Hell” as a doctrine and a motivator has been abused by churches of the millennia.

Neil, while I can agree with this statement, I think the point is being missed. I’ve never said it’s been misused or appropriately used. The point is that it is a doctrine formulated strictly on parabolic language which is why you will not find the apostles or the early church preaching it even once or in passing, either in their interactions (Acts) or epistles.

Neither does it appear even a single time in the OT.

So, we’re left with parables, most often used interchangeably with a trash heap outside Jerusalem.

That’s my point. Fast forward to today and it is one of the prime doctrines of the church.

If you can find me a single instance where the apostles warned of hell, I will back away from my position on this. Just one.

But what we clearly see is a continuation of the hope passed on from the OT: not heaven or hell, but rather eternal life or death. When? At the resurrection which occurs at the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.

57   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
November 16th, 2009 at 2:40 pm

The point is that it is a doctrine formulated strictly on parabolic language which is why you will not find the apostles or the early church preaching it even once or in passing, either in their interactions (Acts) or epistles.

Well, as far as Paul talking about Hell, I’d say it’s not explicit, but if you look at Paul’S theology within the context of Second Temple Judaism, there is room for some sort of afterlife judgment.

Also, the Church Fathers as early as Clement of Alexandria were talking about Hell. Specifically, they were talking about Christ preaching to souls trapped in Hell. So there was an assumption that these people were conscious.

Neither does it appear even a single time in the OT.

This isn’t entirely true either. In Daniel 12:2, there’s a description of the final resurrection, and it says:

Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.

I have a hard time squaring the idea that someone would be resurrected just to be killed again somehow or annihilated. It seems to me there being raised to “everlasting contempt” involves some sort of conscious state of being.

58   Paul C    http://thepathtolife.wordpress.com
November 16th, 2009 at 3:10 pm

I have a hard time squaring the idea that someone would be resurrected just to be killed again somehow or annihilated.

The path, consistent throughout the OT and NT, is either eternal life or death. There are literally hundreds of scriptures that deal with this.

This isn’t entirely true either.

Yes it is. Where is the reference to hell in this scripture? None. That is a very, very vague scripture if you’re trying to point to hell, and I know for a fact (based on previous interaction, such as our talk on Purgatory) that you personally would never build your doctrine on something so loose as that.

In fact, the scripture you quote points to the two ultimate ends of man, which is corroborated by other OT and NT scriptures: either life or death.

In Rev 20, we see that the grave actually dies. Paul talks about death being swallowed up of life.

Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake:

This is the belief of the OT – that all, small and great, rich and poor, good and evil go to a single place – SHEOL – in which they stay until the time of the end.

The apostle Paul, in his last letter before his death declares:

Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

No such thing as ascending to heaven or receiving eternal life upon our last breath. The crown Paul speaks of is eternal life and it is granted at the end, when Christ returns (see 1 Cor 15 as well).

I have a hard time squaring the idea that someone would be resurrected just to be killed again somehow or annihilated.

Yes, I guess it would be much easier to believe that God has created a burning pit, with goblins, demonic prison-keepers and eternal torment. Much more in line with the God of the Bible. :)

59   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
November 16th, 2009 at 3:24 pm

Yes it is. Where is the reference to hell in this scripture? None. That is a very, very vague scripture if you’re trying to point to hell, and I know for a fact (based on previous interaction, such as our talk on Purgatory) that you personally would never build your doctrine on something so loose as that.

In fact, the scripture you quote points to the two ultimate ends of man, which is corroborated by other OT and NT scriptures: either life or death.

In Rev 20, we see that the grave actually dies. Paul talks about death being swallowed up of life.

When I think of Hell, I don’t really see it as much as a place where people exist as much as a state of being. It’s a state where people are left to the ultimate end of there idolatry which is in fact saying “no” to God’s will. So they exist in some sort of conscious state, and any torment they feel would be brought on by there own self-idolatry. It is in essence, the only possible end to chasing after gods other than the true God.

Karl Barth coined the term Das Nichtige, roughly meaning “nothingness”. Now when he used this term, he was attempting to solve the problem of evil, saying that when God says “yes” to something, there is automatically something else that He is in essence saying “no” to. The stuff in this “no” zone is what Barth would call evil. I don’t particularly think this is a good explanation of the origin of evil, but I do think it is helpful when thinking of hell. Those who ultimately reject God have embraced the “no”. So they are free to exist in the “nothingness”. They are phantoms, for lack of a better word.

60   Paul C    http://thepathtolife.wordpress.com
November 16th, 2009 at 3:34 pm

So Phil, how would you explain Paul juxtaposing life against death?

Death is swallowed up of life

or

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

There are lots, lots more. But just the concept for starters.

How do you envision the two popular ends used in Christianity today (heaven and hell, as opposed to life and death)?

61   Paul C    http://thepathtolife.wordpress.com
November 16th, 2009 at 3:38 pm

saying “no” to God’s will

The promise of the gospel is eternal life and the tearing down of the wall between man and God – all through the blood of Christ Jesus.

If a man rejects Christ, he rejects eternal life. All that is left is death (which is simply the absence of life).

God has not created a boiling pit of some sort. That is the stuff of Catholic legend and imagination. A wonderful tool to control the masses to be sure.

Unfortunately, Protestants see it as a wonderful vehicle as well. Though, again it is mysteriously absent in the OT or any epistles and is only used parabolically.

BTW, Jesus never spoke Greek or used the word Hades.

62   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
November 16th, 2009 at 3:44 pm

How do you envision the two popular ends used in Christianity today (heaven and hell, as opposed to life and death)?

If I were to speak in terms of a polarity, I would say that there’s God’s Kingdom, and then there’s anti-Kingdom. Now of course, God Kingdom will one day be all in all, and all that opposes it will be as nothing.

So in some sense, I’m not that far from your position. I just think that from their subjective perspective, those who are not in the Kingdom will have some sort of conscious knowledge of it.

63   Paul C    http://thepathtolife.wordpress.com
November 16th, 2009 at 3:54 pm

Now of course, God Kingdom will one day be all in all, and all that opposes it will be as nothing.

Excellent – precisely what I believe.

As for conscious knowledge though, I think we simply need to understand the two paths set before us: eternal life and the absence of life, which is death.

I think of it like this: what is darkness? Simply the absence of light. Therefore, when the lights are turned on in a room, darkness is gone.

The same with eternal life. When Christ is all in all, death is nothing. It is simply the absence of life.

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

It’s an awesome hope. The kingdom of God will be established upon the earth with Jesus Christ reigning. I believe this hope and I believe it was the hope of the early church.

As Christianity became mainstream throughout the ages, false teachings crept in and HELL (among many others) became a prime and very effective way of motivating people one way or the other. The imagery is astounding and compelling.

Unfortunately, it’s based in paganism (ie: Greek Hades), not with the Bible.

64   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
November 16th, 2009 at 5:15 pm

BTW, Jesus never spoke Greek or used the word Hades.

What on earth? Please tell me you just weren’t thinking when you wrote this.

If Jesus traveled in the Decapolis, he had to know how to speak Greek. If Jesus conversed with Romans, he had to know Greek. If Jesus spoke to crowds outside of Galilee, he had to know Greek.

Greek was to the First Century world what English is to the modern world – it was the “second language of choice” (and it enabled the international trade boom experienced during the Pax Romana, and is considered – in concert with the Roman Road system of 57,000 miles – the backbone of the relative peace of that era).

Jesus likely spoke Hebrew when discussing matters of Torah theology with other Jews. It was once assumed that the language of choice would have been Aramaic, but the Dead Sea Scrolls, other archaeological finds and modern linguistic studiespoint to Hebrew as the likely primary language of Israel in the first century (see Bivins & Blizzard, among others, for intimate details on this likelihood).

Undoubtedly, Jesus knew how to speak Greek, and he would definitely have used the word Hades, particularly in Ceasarea Philippi – since Greek was the only language spoken there.

65   Paul C    http://thepathtolife.wordpress.com
November 16th, 2009 at 5:44 pm

Sorry Chris: I didn’t mean he didn’t know how to speak Greek. I mean that when he was speaking (ie: what we read in the gospels) he was speaking Aramaic. There are numerous instances where this is recorded showing consistency. Even when he arrested Paul on the road to Damascus, he spoke Aramaic (though Paul knew Greek and Hebrew). But you’re right: when speaking to Pilate, he might have spoken Greek. Very likely.

My point is that in the parabolic language when meeting with folks in Jerusalem or Galilee, it’s doubtful he used the word “Hades” (in fact, often used Gehenna while in Jerusalem).

Hades is a term referencing the Greek Underworld. It carries with it all sorts of ridiculous and pagan notions. You are speculating when you say he used this word in particular, while there are several instances when his own words are recorded in Aramaic (before and after his resurrection).

66   Paul C    http://thepathtolife.wordpress.com
November 16th, 2009 at 5:51 pm

Chris: what are your beliefs as it pertains to hell?

I think this point has some truth:

When Hellenistic Jewish scribes rendered the Bible into Greek, they used the word Hades to translate Sheol, bringing a whole new mythological association to the idea of posthumous existence.

67   Neil    
November 16th, 2009 at 6:11 pm

Paul C.,

If there is no hell, no eternal punishment for those not in Christ, I see two alternatives – universalism or annihilationism.

You hold the latter – correct?

68   Neil    
November 16th, 2009 at 6:13 pm

Why is the time stamp off an hour?

69   Paul C    http://thepathtolife.wordpress.com
November 16th, 2009 at 6:56 pm

Hi Neil – I believe that in the end death literally dies or that death is swallowed up of life. I’m not sure if annihilationism is a formal doctrine of some sort, hence my reluctance to jump on side with it.

#63 sums up pretty much what I believe when it comes to eternal life and death.

70   Neil    
November 16th, 2009 at 7:05 pm

Paul C.,

Neither 69 nor 63 are clear to me. “death [being] swallowed up by life” sound like universalism. Do you believe that everyone will be resurrected and given eternal glorified bodies?

Annihilationism is a formal doctrine. It teaches, basically, that those who die outside of Christ are annihilated – they do not suffer eternal punishment, suffering, hell… but they suffer eternal death – separation from God – they cease to exist.

71   Paul C    http://thepathtolife.wordpress.com
November 16th, 2009 at 8:43 pm

Can you specify where I’m unclear in #63? Not trying to be vague at all.

“death [being] swallowed up by life” sound like universalism.

This is a direct quote from 1 Cor 15.

To see whether or not I am a universalist, just ask Chad. :) But in seriousness, I am not at all.

I simply don’t believe there is a hell in the sense of it being a place or eternal torment. This is not something revealed in the OT at all, as I’ve specified and neither did the NT church preach about it – even once.

I believe in eternal separation from God through death. Just like darkness is nothing but the absence of light, so death is simply the absence of life. When Christ comes, death dies. So I guess annihilation is where I’d fit if you wanted to put me in a category.

Let me know if that’s clear (not that you agree with me, but that I am at least properly conveying my thoughts on this).

72   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
November 17th, 2009 at 11:56 am

I mean that when he was speaking (ie: what we read in the gospels) he was speaking Aramaic. There are numerous instances where this is recorded showing consistency.

Actually, I would argue that it was more likely Hebrew (rather than Aramaic, though the two are very similar). The idea that the Jews in Palestine spoke predominantly Aramaic comes specifically from the gospel of John, where the author calls out some specific Aramaic phrases.

What a number of modern scholars conclude, though, is that John’s audience is primarily Christians (who, until the middle of the second century or later, often met in Synagogues) influenced by Jewish missionaries and diaspora Jews. The Jews of the diaspora primarily spoke Aramaic (not Hebrew), so John’s calling out specific items in Aramaic is not surprising.

However, when you examine the Synoptics, linguistically, it becomes obvious that their common source (Q) is more likely Hebrew, not Aramaic, from the underlying structure and translated Hebraisms. Additionally, with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which preserved the Jewish literature of the mid-first century, it has become much more widely accepted that Hebrew was the predominant local language. The primary groups disputing this are Catholics and some Fundamentalists who see John’s references as being a universal indicator, rather than an Asia Minor/diaspora cultural convention.

My point is that in the parabolic language when meeting with folks in Jerusalem or Galilee, it’s doubtful he used the word “Hades” (in fact, often used Gehenna while in Jerusalem).

[...]You are speculating when you say he used this word in particular

1) Note that Gehenna is a Hebrew word… :)

2) I would agree that he used Gehenna when speaking to Jewish audiences.

3) I would note that his usage in Caesarea Philippi in Mark 8 & Matt 16 (which I’ve written about here) is specifically Hades, not Gehenna. We can be rather certain of this because a) Caesarea Philippi was thoroughly gentile and only spoke Greek; and b) where Jesus would have been standing – at Caesarea Philippi – is in the shadow of a geological feature called “The Gates of Hades” since its founding by the Ptolemaic Greeks.

73   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
November 17th, 2009 at 12:32 pm

Chris: what are your beliefs as it pertains to hell?

I think this point has some truth:

When Hellenistic Jewish scribes rendered the Bible into Greek, they used the word Hades to translate Sheol, bringing a whole new mythological association to the idea of posthumous existence.

Actually, I would suggest that while the use of Hades to translate Sheol did bring in some mythological associations from the Greeks, the underlying Hebrew “mythology” is far more an undercurrent that modern Christians miss because we’ve never read the aprocyphal books that were commonly understood in the first century as addressing aspects of the afterlife: 1 Enoch (which is quoted in the Book of Jude), 2 Enoch (which is referenced by Paul in 2 Cor 12) and Jubilees (which is possibly referenced in Rev 20).

Neither Jesus nor Paul undermine what was commonly believed from these books (and Jesus, by siding with Hillel on the question of “is there a physical resurrection” is also giving a ruling in favor of the teaching from Enoch 1, which was rejected by Shammai and the Sadducees), with both Jude and Paul quoting directly from them and Jesus and John both giving a likely passing reference or support to them.

What do I believe about “hell”?

First, you will notice that the Hebrew Scriptures (the OT) are largely silent on the issue of the afterlife, settling only for the concept of Sheol, though with hints of some eternal existence.

However, during the intertestemental period, with its rather large uptick in Jewish persecution/martyrdom, the question arose – what is the purpose in life if it so often cut short? What happens after life?

The apocryphal books I’ve mentioned (which are canonical in the Eastern Orthodox tradition and part of the official Apocrypha in the Catholic tradition) were part of the answer to that question, which many of the Jewish people believed were inspired answers from God (with the Sadducees and the Temple priests as the primary holdouts, most likely because they were personally/professionally threatened by the concept of the afterlife).

As an engineer, I believe more in probabilities and certainties in many things where certainty is not fully granted.

I believe the Gospel, itself, is certain.

The detailed mode of Creation and the structure of the Afterlife, though, I believe purposely have an element of uncertainty to them.

As such, I would say that most of the Christian Scriptures point to the existence of a place or state of damnation we call “hell”, which is what we all deserve, but which we are freed from as a result of Jesus’ sacrifice and our acceptance of this gift of grace. Those destined for “hell” have, in their hearts, rejected this freely given gift.

I see that it is possible that the destruction of death and Hades in Rev 20 is a possible description of annihilation (which would be “eternal punishment”, as it is a permanent state).

I also see that it is possible that Jesus’ quotation in Mark 9:48 could be a description of eternal, conscious punishment. However, I would note that he is quoting Isaiah 66:24, which says (fully):

“And they will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.”

And in this context, I would suggest that Jesus’ usage is more about their state of death and “loathsomeness”, and not a description of eternal, conscious torment.

So – what is my view? Hell is something to be avoided today and for eternity – be it conscious and eternal or temporarily conscious and then eternally obliterated.

How exactly it works is of little importance to how we should live today.

74   Paul C    http://thepathtolife.wordpress.com
November 17th, 2009 at 12:47 pm

Chris : thanks for the thoughtful answer. In reading through, I think we largely agree.

Specifically I agree with this:

I see that it is possible that the destruction of death and Hades in Rev 20 is a possible description of annihilation (which would be “eternal punishment”, as it is a permanent state).

75   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
November 17th, 2009 at 12:52 pm

Paul – I think we likely agree on the end-state of the matter, though the journey getting there may hold some areas of debate :)

76   Neil    
November 17th, 2009 at 1:22 pm

Paul C.,

I find annihilationism a more palatable option. I hope you are right, though I am, as of yet, unconvinced.

77   Paul C    http://thepathtolife.wordpress.com
November 17th, 2009 at 1:38 pm

Can I ask, on what do you build your doctrine of hell upon? Is it solely on the gospel parables?

78   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
November 17th, 2009 at 2:00 pm

Me or Neil?

79   Paul C    http://thepathtolife.wordpress.com
November 17th, 2009 at 2:06 pm

Neil, as I think you and I are on the same page more or less.