Archive for July, 2010

Exploring Hell – Part 3

Friday, July 30th, 2010 by Jason Wermuth

In our last discussion, I wrote about hell in the Second Temple Period and how certain texts such as 1 Enoch and Jubilees portray eternal judgement. What we saw was that the place of judgment in Second Temple Jewish literature was primarily the place of judgment for the fallen angels and their offspring. Now we must enter the New Testament to find out what Jesus thought about eternal judgment. This week we will focus on Jesus’ use of the term Gehenna in the gospels:

A sampling of passages translated “hell” that use the term Gehenna:

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. (Matt 5:22)

If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. (Matt 5:29)

If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell. (Matt 5:30)

Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matt 10:28)

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. (Matt 23:15)

If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell. (Mk 9:45)

But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him! (Lk 12:5)

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The Gnostic Temptation

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010 by Dale M. Coulter

Recently I presented a paper at St. Bonaventure University in western New York. The beautiful scenery, coupled with my own paper topic and the questions that resulted, reminded me of the need to resist the perennial temptation to embrace Gnosticism among Christians.

As a perspective, Gnosticism essentially is a denial of the fundamental goodness of creation. It’s appeal is for a wholly otherworldly place and experience. It is the longing for heavenly realities coupled with the struggle with earthly realities that forms the heart of the Gnostic temptation. What turns the longing for the glory of eternity into Gnosticism is simply the overreach. Can you long for glory too much? If that longing turns into a hatred of the human body (including your own), a rejection of food and drink, a rejection of marriage and the goodness of sexuality, a complete disavowing of culture as corrupt in its essence, it may just be too much.

Let me explain what I mean further. Read the rest of this entry »

Grace That Won’t Leave Us Struggling

Monday, July 26th, 2010 by Antipas Harris

It seems that in contemporary times Christians limit grace to continuous opportunities to access God’s forgiveness. The previous chapters have explored the important and profound object lessons on grace as divine favor. This chapter introduces grace, the teacher, as particularly explained in the Pastoral Epistle of Titus. Titus 2:11-14 states:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He is is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.

Emerging from this passage is a unique character of grace expressed in conjunction with the Greek word paideuousa (training). This term is related to a popular ancient Greek educational process called paideia, according to which education is culturing or training human beings in virtue.[1] Biblical Scholar Luke Timothy Johnson points out that “for Paul, the grace of God itself has an educative function as it trains or cultures Christians toward the goal of becoming human social Christians.[2] Johnson explains that in Titus, as in other Pauline passages, “the Christian life involves a transformation from the old life to the new… God’s grace actually becomes a pedagogue for the new believers, training them in civic and social duties.”[3]

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Spiritual Formation

Friday, July 23rd, 2010 by Diane Chandler

A resurgence of interest in spiritual formation has prompted many voices to offer perspectives about what it means to be transformed into the image of Jesus. Several contemporary authors have written on Christian spiritual formation including Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, Robert Mulholland, Ruth Haley Barton, James Houston, and Simon Chan.  Others have developed theories that attempt to capture moral and character development such as Lawrence Kohlberg in his theory of moral development and James Fowler in his theory of faith development. Neither of these theories is without critique nor addresses the inner dynamics and mystery of formation.  Read the rest of this entry »

Let Me Hear Your Voice…

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010 by James Flynn

Hearing the voice of the one you love is one of the greatest joys of any relationship. When you love someone, communication literally determines what you possess together. People will go to great lengths just to hear a few words from the one they love, because words are the way human beings connect and share what is in the depth of our hearts. In Song of Solomon, the bride longs to hear the voice of her groom: “O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, In the secret place of the steep pathway, Let me see your form, Let me hear your voice; For your voice is sweet, And your form is lovely” (Song of Sol. 2:14).

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Public Christians?!

Monday, July 19th, 2010 by Wolfgang Vondey

If asked whether you viewed yourself as a public or a private person, many Christians would probably prefer the latter designation–if they thought they understood the question. Christianity, as a religion, may be seen as a public entity, but the same does not count for Christians. To use the metaphor used by the apostle Paul, we are all members of the body of Christ–and most of us prefer not to be in the public eye. My concern is not so much that we privatize our faith, although this is a significant issue.  Rather, the issue is more fundamentally a failure among Christians to understand themselves as public in the first place. Read the rest of this entry »