Thursday, July 22, 2004

Hell, redux.

Like most Christians, lets assume that Jesus' teaching was divinely inspired - either that Jesus was God in person or that Jesus' message carried the authority of God...

Given that Jesus was divine, we must take everything that He said as direct revelation - with no superior - from God.  So, when Jesus says, "love thy enemy," and that He is speaking with the authority of God, how can this possibly conform with the "Christian" idea of hell and eternal damnation - the inherent opposite of "loving thy enemy?" 

If God is really practicing what S/He is preaching through Jesus, doesn't that mean that God too has to love his ememies?  Doesn't that mean that, rather than damning his enemies (those that don't live a certain way or take certain steps) to hell, God has to have compassion on them and love them, just as S/He teaches us to do?  Jesus never taught "love thy enemies that repent or that ask for you to love them."  No, Jesus taught only "love thy enemies," plain and simple. 

For us to claim that God damns those that are his enemies run completely contrary to what Jesus taught.  Assuming hell isn't a place where you'd send people you love, doesn't that mean that the only way for their to be a hell of eternal damnation is if God isn't practicing what S/He has already preached?


At 4:07 PM, Blogger ats54 said...

Let's take into consideration that Hell is a separation from God and not necessarily full of fire, brimstone and guys dancing with pitchforks. If a person lives their entire earthly life wanting nothing to do with God, how could a loving God FORCE that person to be with God for eternity? Wouldn't that be an UNloving gesture? Wouldn't a loving God grant their wish and eternally separate them from God?

Therefore, the afterlife (or nonlife, or whatever) isn't a reward or a punishment - it's really just the fulfillment of your life-long desire.

At 9:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If God is a just and fair God He must judge people who are sinful (i.e everyone). I think that God hasn't violated "Love your enemies" by doing that - He showed the ultimate act of love for His ememies by providing His son Jesus to die on the cross in their place as a way for them to escape eternal judgement and return to God.

At 6:46 PM, Blogger jrl20 said...

That paints a horrifically unappealing picture of God. Every human being is God's enemy? What kind of relationship is that to Her creation? God considers us all enemies and it is only through an Agape-type love that She decides not to condemn us all?

At 6:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quote: "Every human being is God's enemy?"

Gal 3:22 But the scripture says that the whole world is under the power of sin;..... (GNB)

Jam 4:4 Unfaithful people! Don't you know that to be the world's friend means to be God's enemy? If you want to be the world's friend, you make yourself God's enemy. (GNB)

Every human being is sinful, so yes I guess that makes us all God's enemies if we choose to remain living that way.

Quote: "What kind of relationship is that to Her creation?"

If God is unchangeable then His willingness and desire for a relationship with us hasn't changed since the Garden of Eden when he walked and talked with Adam and Eve. It is us who have changed the nature of our retionship with God by being sinful.

Sin cannot exist in God's presence and so we being sinful cannot exist in His presence.

Isa 6:5 I said, "There is no hope for me! I am doomed because every word that passes my lips is sinful, and I live among a people whose every word is sinful. And yet, with my own eyes I have seen the King, the LORD Almighty."
Isa 6:6 Then one of the creatures flew down to me, carrying a burning coal that he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs.
Isa 6:7 He touched my lips with the burning coal and said, "This has touched your lips, and now your guilt is gone, and your sins are forgiven." (GNB)

God loves us enough to provide a covering for us to approach Him despite our sinful nature - through the death of Jesus Christ the requirement that we should die for our sin has been taken away and met.

I don't think that that is horrific at all - it just goes to show how much we all mean to God that He would provide a way for us to return to Him instead of what we deserve.

At 10:13 AM, Blogger Lost In NY said...

God is eternal, no? So how's about an argument that is also eternal, not just something quoting the Bible? If a suspected terrorist said "I didn't do it," would you let him go free just because he said so? Would there be other evidence that must be considered?

At 6:23 PM, Blogger jrl20 said...

In that entire litany, you didn't quote Jesus a single time. We're pretty Jesus-centric here, and proud of it. Part of the Social Gospel movement is to bring Christianity's center back to the person of Jesus. This isn't Islam. We don't have a God-given scripture. Rather, we have a God-given HUMAN BEING: the person of Jesus Christ. It is the historical LIFE OF CHRIST which we should turn to for guidance, not to the Ancient Jewish scriptures and not myopically to the 27 documents which the very fallible Bishop Athanasius (under the strong hand of Emperor Constantine) decided would be canonical in 367 A.D. (See A letter possibly written by James and canonized by the Roman government 300 years later doesn't carry the weight that the words of Christ do. I don't care what the Southern Baptists say.

That being said, the God that JESUS CHRIST talked about doesn't consider humanity his enemy, doesn't consider humanity evil either.

At 6:40 AM, Blogger Michael said...

I know this may be an ignorant question but where do you get your historical accounts of Jesus' teachings from? I always thought the most detailed historical accounts of Jesus' life (the only accounts?) were in the gospels but you say that we do not have God-given scripture. If it's not God-given then how can you trust what it says about Jesus' life? What other sources do we have?
If you are basing your "Jesus-centric" ideas solely on the gospels then you are not really following what Jesus himself taught. Jesus quoted "ancient Jewish scriptures" on a number of occasions, even claiming to be the fulfillment of ancient prophecies (Luke 4:14-21). If they were good enough for Jesus to use why then are we not to use them for guidance and teaching?

And He said, That which comes out of the man is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:
(Mar 7:20-22)

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?
(Luk 11:13)

I think Jesus was saying in these passages that humanity is evil by nature.
I very much agree with you that Christianity must be Jesus - centred but without the context of the whole bible, Jesus' life and message are reduced to a collection of moral teachings by a good man who died, not the divine revelation of God to man and the culmination of God's plan to rescue humanity from it's sinful state.

At 7:14 AM, Blogger jrl20 said...

Michael, I'm very glad that you asked about the historical Jesus. The four gospels we have in the Bible are definitely not the only historical information we have about Jesus. They are only a small sampling of the gospels and other crucial documents that were written by Christians in the first and second centuries. There are several collections that pull together all the crucial primary documents. One good one is Bart Ehrman's The New Testament and Other Early Christian Writings. There are also narratives which try to synthesize the various documents and to determine what sayings in each documents are most likely to have been actually said by Jesus. (The way they do this is to see which sayings are found in MULTIPLE, INDEPENDENT sources.) The best of these is John Dominic Crossan's The Historical Jesus. (A less scholarly, shorter, and more accessible version of Crossan's thesis can be had in his Jesus: a Revolutionary Biography.) As for your quotations from Luke and Mark, let me think about them and get back to you.

At 7:18 AM, Blogger jrl20 said...

Note that particularly crucial non-canonical documents include:
- the Gospel of Thomas
- the Gospel of Peter
- the Cross Gospel
- the letters of Clement
- the Didache
- the letters of Ignatius

At 10:22 AM, Blogger Lost In NY said...

I'm pretty sure Jesus did think all men inherently flawed - by nature. By nature, we are SELFISH beings. We all want to insure our own existence - survival of the fittest if you will. It's what connects us humans to the rest of creation. What makes us different, however, is our increased capacity to be SELFLESS. Jesus was the embodiment of this Godly principle. His whole life - teachings, works, and eventual death on the cross - was devoted to sacrifice, i.e. being SELFLESS.

The idea of human fallibility (I will call it selfishness) does not conflict with what Jesus taught and what the Social Gospel tries to give new life to. Rather, fighting our selfish nature is exactly what Jesus called us to do.

At 11:51 AM, Blogger ats54 said...


How can you consider yourself a discerning reader if you take the Cross Gospel as reliable? That's ridiculous! Have you actually read any of those? Or did you just copy down the table of contents?

At 4:38 PM, Blogger jrl20 said...

The Cross Gospel, according to John Dominic Crossan, was a crucial source for the Gospel of Peter and for the canonical Gospels, especially in terms of their Crucifixion and Passion narratives. (Crossan goes as far as to claim it "the single source of the intracanonical passion accounts.") It was composed early, by the fifties C.E., and in Galilie. I'd say that's a pretty important document.

Are we perhaps referring to different documents? The only truly ridiculous gospel I know of is the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, which you'll note, I didn't include in the list.

At 4:53 PM, Blogger jrl20 said...

Also, note that I ABSOLUTELY don't claim that the documents I listed are reliable. That's not the point. I, for example, think that half of the Gospel of Thomas (perhaps the most significant non-canonical Gospel) is Gnostic crap theology that the authors shoved into Jesus' mouth. What I do think, though, is that when you take all of the sources TOGETHER, it is easier to adjust for the biases and historical "creativity" of each one and to piece together a more complete picture of Jesus' life.

At 7:26 PM, Blogger jrl20 said...

By the way, I own all of the books that I have cited and own multiple books which contain the non-canonical gospels I've cited. If you'd like to borrow I'd be glad to send. Just let me know:

At 10:40 AM, Blogger ats54 said...

I will concede that we may be speaking about different "Cross Gospel"s. The one I speak of is ludicrous.
I've got a copy of "The Complete Gospels" that includes all of the ones you listed, I believe, plus about 15 more.
I would say that all the infancy gospels (2? 3?) and the secret gospels (2?) are ridiculous right off the bat. The Cross Gospel I speak of as well. I'm also a big opponent of the Gnostics too.

At 2:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

RE:Hell- It's also interesting that Rom 12:20 teaches that when we care for our enemies we are "heaping burning coals on their heads".
I wonder if Gods love for His 'enemies' is like that too. Not causing them to burn in literal fire but maybe more a burning with shame/guilt at being loved so lavishly and unconditionally.


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