Posts Tagged ‘hell’

Further Reflections on “Approaching” Hell

Monday, June 6th, 2011 by Dale M. Coulter

The Great River of Christian Tradition

Last week I wrote against what I identified as the Ida Syndrome (the Ice Dancing Approach to scripture). With its attempt to glide across the expanse of scriptural texts, I described this approach as a more sophisticated version of proof-texting. Its basic components are as follows: 1) mistakenly equating depth as a well-choreographed assembling of scriptural texts or isolating a particular trajectory within scripture; 2) selective reading of parts of Christian tradition as somehow supporting the whole; 3) a failure to understand the underlying ideas and structural relations between various doctrines within Christian tradition; 4) a fracturing of the narrative whole of scripture in favor of supporting a particular position.

These components continue to work into the interpretive project within evangelicalism as the continuing debate about hell reveals. And let me be a little bold here: Sometimes, and I did say sometimes, an embrace of the Ida Syndrome really amounts to a lack of theological imagination, by which I mean a failure to allow the great river of Christian tradition to fill the mind with images and ideas that provide the foundation for interpreting scripture. I have found that some theologians or thinkers who claim, “it’s not a logical or rational position,” simply lack the imagination to see (in Johannine terms) how something could be the case. They fall back onto “logic,” but what counts as logical is not what follows the rules of logic, but what they imaginatively conceive as possible. This is one reason why Christian writers like Dante or even C. S. Lewis reverted to mythical and poetical accounts in order to place Christian ideas into a new imaginative framework so as to reveal what is indeed possible.

With this in mind, let me further identify some of the doctrines that are related to the doctrine of hell and the questions it poses.

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Hell and the Ida Syndrome

Monday, May 30th, 2011 by Dale M. Coulter

In the past few weeks, there has been another splash on the internet with respect to the doctrine of hell. Yes. . .again. It was created by the popular Christian speaker and author Francis Chan’s video about his forthcoming book, Erasing Hell. You can view the video at his website. I find it somewhat ironic that there is a rush on the part of some detractors to critique a video, not unlike the rush to criticize Rob Bell. But then, this is the brave new world of the internet.

Without commenting on Chan, mainly because I weary of dissecting comments on a video that are explicitly designed to market a book and thus must be provocative, it seems to me at this point that both the defenders and growing detractors of the doctrine of hell get it wrong, especially in the evangelical world where this debate is primarily being waged. I’ll try to spell out several areas that both sides need to deal with before they arrive at any conclusions about hell, but the debate reveals how persons can be “biblical” without being biblical. This current debate in and around the edges of the evangelical world has confirmed my own growing sense that one cannot be authentically biblical without immersing oneself thoroughly into the great river of Christian tradition. I say thoroughly because folks like Bell will stand on the banks of the great river and cherry pick select authors in the same way that many individuals employ selective scriptures as proof texts.

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Rob Bell, Discipleship, and the Matrix

Friday, March 18th, 2011 by Dale M. Coulter

The book is out, and I read it; or, rather, I skimmed it at Books-a-Million tonight in about 20 minutes. I would not pay retail, or even half of retail through Amazon, for a book that requires so little to digest. Although I have nothing to confirm this hunch, the book feels like it was a series delivered orally and then transcribed into a manuscript, which is to say, this is not really a book. It is, however, Rob Bell at what he seems to do best: communicate with rhetorical flair to get folks pondering issues and contemplating questions.

Is it theology? Not really. If theology is akin to meat and potatoes, then this book is more like a light salad, a mix of greens with a dash of spice and a little vinaigrette for flavor. I feel somewhat confident with the thought that Harper must have pulled out all the punches to get the final product at over 200 pages. The font is larger and there is a space between each paragraph. If you reduced the book to a typed manuscript, my hunch—again, only a hunch—is that it would be no more than 40 pages, or the equivalent of two 20-page papers. So, all in all, light reading that requires only that the reader skim to get the main points that fall here and there, like slivers of carrots laced throughout the greens. The greens themselves are the steady diet of questions that Bells throws out. In short, theology, it’s not.

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Rob Bell and Hell

Friday, March 4th, 2011 by Dale M. Coulter

The Bell saga, which is only a “saga” in the 24-hour news cycle world in which we live, continues. In light of the chorus of voices surrounding Bell’s statements that “love wins” and his casting doubt on someone’s certainty that Gandhi is in hell, I thought I would say a few words about hell, and then point you to the long discussion of hell by Jason Wermuth on this site, which begins here. My aim is simply to set forth some basic ideas that all synergists would embrace because I think the Bell saga provides a nice moment to reflect on these ideas.

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Exploring Hell – Part 4

Friday, August 13th, 2010 by Jason Wermuth

In the previous three posts we have been discussing hell from the Old Testament, the Second Temple Period and from the Gospels. In this final post I want to conclude with some thoughts on what the rest of the New Testament has to say about hell. As we saw in post 3, Jesus certainly taught that there will be a place of judgment for those who are sinners. That place is primarily referred to as Gehenna by Jesus, which was a valley known for death and agony. In the rest of the New Testament there is hardly any mention of hell. In the Pauline Epistles, hell is almost completely absent aside from a few allusions.

In James we have one mention of hell with reference to what will happen to those whose tongues run unbridled.

And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell (James 3:6).

As with Jesus’ use of the phrase in the gospels, James here uses the word Gehenna. It is not clear what he is envisioning when he says this, but it appears that James is using this term in a manner similar to the way Jesus used it. Namely as a phrase to denote a real punishment that will take place, in this case for those who use their tongues violently.

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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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