Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VII!

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Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VII!

Postby Ithilwen » Apr 17, 2014 3:37 pm

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It is time, once again, to begin the journey anew in this, the seventh incarnation of Christianity, Religion and Philosophy!


Last time, we ended on topics including:

- The best age for baptism, as well as its significance.

- Original sin.

- The Flood of Noah, and the theological/philosophical aspects of the new Noah film.


And now may the discussion continue into these and other thrilling topics! Everyone is welcome, no matter your religious (or non-religious) leanings. So grab a snack (and the lightsaber of your choice) and join us in this friendly conversation/epic battle and/or quest for truth. :-B


~Riella =:)
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VII!

Postby The Old Maid » Apr 18, 2014 1:48 pm

Ooh, I get to start the thread. Okay, WARNING … wall of text ahead.

King Erlian wrote:

It wasn't a bathtub I was baptised in, more like a miniature swimming pool at the front of the church—sections of the floor could be removed to reveal the pool underneath.


Baptistry, yes. That’s what those pools are called. I’ve also seen churches baptizing their members outdoors in lakes, rivers, etc.

As for receiving the Holy Spirit, don't get me started on that one. I was psychologically and spiritually damaged by aggressive "get-filled-with-the-Holy-Spirit" types during the first few years after I began attending church, and now any talk about exercising the Gifts of the Spirit makes me shudder.


One of the mods, Dr.Elwin Ransom, made some excellent posts regarding the tendency of some churches to elevate an “emotional” experience over all other forms of faith, worship, and experience. Jesus said that we should “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27. Unfortunately some churches say that the heart trumps all. Maybe it’s a coincidence, but this parallels the rise of “romance” as the modern reason for marriage.

Now, it is true that “there’s an eternity of distance between the head and the heart”—i.e., between mental assent/accepting reality, versus love/relationship—but love isn’t always a theatrical production. By their logic, the one who loves a spouse in deep, quiet, and thoughtful ways (as opposed to the public-displays-of-affection of newlyweds) must not “really” love the spouse at all. (“Because if you were really in love, you’d do it the same way that we do!”)

Well, Ransom says it more eloquently and graciously than I did. Maybe someone whose google-fu is superior to mine can locate the posts and link them.

One could say that a child doesn't start off as "saved" and then become "unsaved" so much as starts off as "pure" and is "lost" when he or she sins for the first time, which has to be an act of the child's own will.


But helplessness is a factor in the expression of will. Before I had heard of the “It’s a good life” example, the “Augustinian” example I had heard—I have no idea where—is that if a newborn baby had the strength of a mighty gorilla to get what it wants, we would see it doing harmful things. Maybe even a preborn child, if it had that level of power. I don’t know if Anthony of Peaksville had his superpowers all of his life, but if a baby could kill his caregivers because he didn’t like the taste of the baby food, or because being born probably hurts, well, this one would have.

For one thing, it makes understanding Jesus' position a lot simpler: if he inherited Original Sin through his bloodline and was therefore under God's wrath for that, even though he hadn't sinned himself, then he would have needed to be saved before he could save anyone else.


As I heard it, the Catholic position is that, since the Virgin Mary believed Gabriel, she became the first believer who really knew who Jesus was. Therefore her salvation was applied retroactively by God (Who is outside of time). At which point apparently there’s a Catholic belief that Mary’s salvation took the form of making her sinless and/or sanctifying her parents so that they could give birth to a sinless Mary. Any Catholics on board, please correct if I’ve heard incorrectly.

As I’ve heard assorted Protestant positions, they seem to share a belief that it takes two biological parents to pass along sin nature to a baby, and Jesus only had one biological parent. Thus any sin nature that Mary could have carried could not be inherited. Another way to phrase it is that, in terms of her ability to reproduce creatures like herself, it would make her “sterile” in the way that all virgins are sterile; you have the equipment, but without a partner it doesn’t work.

If God somehow blocked Original Sin at the moment of Jesus' conception or birth (whichever is the correct point), then why couldn't he do that with all of us, or why couldn't he have done that with Adam and Eve's children so that Adam and Eve would have been the only ones to have died in sin?


I don’t know either. I expect that’s a question we’ll all be asking in Heaven, as well as here and now.

On the other hand, if everyone starts out "clean" and is only lost when he or she starts sinning, then Jesus remained clean, although he had the potential to sin and was tempted to do so.


Jesus had the opportunity to sin, certainly. Potential, I don’t know. As part of the triune God, would that require the Father and Spirit to have the potential as well? We do know that Jesus was tempted (Hebrews 4:15). Therefore, being tempted isn’t a sin. But it is an affliction. (Yielding is the sin.)

I imagine the problem with this argument is that it opens up the possibility that someone else might, just through conscious effort on their own part, refrain from sin throughout their lives and thus be "saved" without any help from Jesus. But even if it were conceivable in theory, I think it's a safe bet that it simply wouldn't happen in practice. If the odds against something happening are 10-to-the-googleplex-to-1 against, at what point do we cross from saying something is improbable to saying that it's impossible?


As I understand it—any Jewish readers on board, please correct if wrong—Judaism teaches that it isn’t possible even to obey all Ten Commandments. The belief is that a really dedicated person might obey the first nine and then stumble on the tenth: “Thou shalt not covet.” This was put in the Decalogue to keep the righteous humble, and to remind them that only God is perfect. So I’m guessing we already crossed that point in the time of Moses, if not earlier.

… if people are born (or even conceived) "lost" because of Original Sin, then babies who die in the womb or just a minute or two after birth go to Hell, even though they haven't done anything …


It used to be that Catholics did believe in baby hell, but a Dante version, where the punishment fit the crime. Thus, the torments were so “mild” that the babies didn’t really feel them. Catholics later moved away from the belief in baby hell and moved toward Limbo. Then they got rid of that too. Interestingly this makes them almost Baptist/Anabaptist in that some of them seem to lean toward an age of accountability, although they won’t admit it and would be shocked if it were pointed out to them.

waggawerewolf27 wrote:

A prayer of "asking Jesus into my life" is not a quick fix that will bring an instant change, like an e-book loading onto a reader.


Not even in the more non-denominational churches, which specifically advertise their approach as such! How many readers on this board are familiar with the re-re-re-re-dedication phenomenon? (“Please save me, Jesus! This time, I really, really mean it!”) Yet such churches would resist the suggestion that it sounds a lot like the “state of grace” churches: you are in right relationship with God today, sin tomorrow, and have to go to Confession / repent by confession to the congregation / do something because you are outside of grace until you do. Fear is a common denominator in both.

“Salvation in a moment, conversion in a lifetime” … a lot of Christians miss that point, I think.

Many of our practices and beliefs in the Christian church are tied to a time when there was quite a high infant mortality …. [snip by TOM] …. Therefore babies were christened as soon as possible, so that whether they lived a short life or a long life they had at least been admitted to God's Church and hopefully God's care.


My understanding is that parents have the authority to baptize their babies/children because of Acts 16:33, 1 Cor. 1:16, 1 Cor. 7:14. It doesn’t challenge the baptism of adults, just opens the door for the children. They then accept or reject their baptism when they are older, which is something that adults also can do.



So … what do I wish I believe? I wish I believed in Universalism; that is, that all souls will be saved.

Well, maybe that’s not quite accurate. I wish God may believe in Universalism.

In comparison, what do I actually believe? Okay …

I don’t believe in the spiritual innocence of children. I wish I did, and for a while I was in churches that did, but I don’t. Anthony of Peaksville went a long way toward putting that into words for me.

Therefore I don’t quite believe in an age of accountability. Sort-of-mostly-don’t, that is. I agree heartily with the blogger that God has no grandchildren and no one can “make” a child get saved.

But I also agree—more heartily still—with the suggestion that If you are on the fence, my advice would be to to err on the side of grace and allow them to be baptized.” Remember all those churches that teach the children that they can’t get baptized until they reach the “age of accountability”? In my observation, it seems that such churches teach children that they’re not old enough to go to Heaven, but they are old enough to go to Hell—because if the children did not desire to be saved, they wouldn’t be worrying about it. Let the poor kid get baptized and stop trying to impose your own timetable on them to satisfy some rule. The loving parent and loving church definitely errs on the side of grace.

Finally, there’s the “what would Jesus do” idea. I think that the best picture we have of the nature of God is Jesus. And I have a hard time picturing Jesus roasting pagan babies on a spit.

So, I don't believe in "live infant innocence." But I do believe in "dead infant salvation." That is, a dead child is "safe in the arms of Jesus," as the expression says it. Whatever an "age of accountability" is, this satisfies it. And if there's none, it satisfies what we seem to know of the portrayal of Jesus.

Live children don't get this because they are still a work in progress.

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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VII!

Postby Shadowlander » Apr 18, 2014 3:22 pm

The concept of infants going to hell is repellant to me. It was horrible before I had a kid but now the concept is horrific now that I do have one, and so I tend to be a bit more protective of my Sarah than I probably would be without. There's nothing in Scripture that really says one way or the other where the soul of a child goes, and it falls smack dab into a grey area of sorts. I have to believe in my heart that given Christ's special love for little kids that there would be a special grace granted to them that we just don't know about. The alternative is simply too awful to contemplate. :(
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VII!

Postby The Rose-Tree Dryad » Apr 18, 2014 6:06 pm

Hello all! Hooray for the shiny new thread! :ymparty: I hope that all of you are doing well; I'm hopping back into the discussion since I have a bit of spare time at the moment... I find that I keep missing out on fun topics in this thread because of being busy. It's so annoying when real life has to take precedence over joining in on some of my favorite kinds of discussions. ;))

I really liked your post, TOM—length and all! I agreed with a lot of your points, too. :)

The Old Maid wrote:So … what do I wish I believe? I wish I believed in Universalism; that is, that all souls will be saved.

Well, maybe that’s not quite accurate. I wish God may believe in Universalism.


I think I might know how you feel. Personally, I've always been more emotionally connected to the general idea of universalism, but at the end of the day, I'm not so interested in hearing what I like to hear (or believing what I'd like to believe) as I am in learning the truth, especially when studying scripture and trying to discover the ultimate messages of the Bible. At the end of the day, this isn't about searching myself and discovering what is acceptable to me: it's about searching for God and discovering what's acceptable to Him.

Even though the basic idea of it resonated with me on many levels, I'd always thought that universalism was more of a fringe belief without any Biblical basis to speak of. And while it probably still falls into the fringe category if we're talking numbers, I've actually run across some interesting and compelling scripture-based arguments for universal reconciliation in the past year or so, thanks to Google. I'm not convinced and I continue to look into it from a Biblical standpoint, but all in all, it's a very intriguing viewpoint.

(I feel like I'm punning by saying "all in all." ;)))

During my God-seeking travels through cyberspace, one of the most fascinating and unexpected discoveries I made along the way was learning more about the author George MacDonald and beginning to study his beliefs. His writings indicate a very strong optimism for universal reconciliation, though as far as I know, he never specifically used the word "universalism" in any of his sermons. As a big Narnia fan, however, perhaps the most interesting fact to discover was just how highly regarded MacDonald was by C.S. Lewis, and how profoundly Lewis was influenced by him.

C.S. Lewis in George MacDonald: An Anthology wrote:This collection, as I have said, was designed not to revive MacDonald's literary reputation but to spread his religious teaching. Hence most of my extracts are taken from the three volumes of Unspoken Sermons. My own debt to this book is almost as great as one man can owe to another: and nearly all serious inquirers to whom I have introduced it acknowledge that it has given them great help—sometimes indispensable help toward the very acceptance of the Christian faith.

... I dare not say that he is never in error; but to speak plainly I know hardly any other writer who seems to be closer, or more continuously close, to the Spirit of Christ Himself. Hence his Christ-like union of tenderness and severity. Nowhere else outside the New Testament have I found terror and comfort so intertwined.

... In making this collection I was discharging a debt of justice. I have never concealed the fact that I regarded him as my master; indeed I fancy I have never written a book in which I did not quote from him. But it has not seemed to me that those who have received my books kindly take even now sufficient notice of the affiliation. Honesty drives me to emphasize it.


I'm about halfway through MacDonald's Unspoken Sermons, and I can definitely see what Lewis was talking about. It's incredible how consoling and yet utterly convicting his sermons are. I would recommend them to anyone.

On the general topic of salvation...

Something that I find really interesting—and a little bit bizarre!—is the motley mosaic that's made up of the groups within Christianity who adhere to a particular viewpoint regarding who will be saved. These groups of thought vary wildly from one another, and yet they're all supposed to be drawing from essentially the same source material. (At least within Protestantism, at any rate.)

It really boggles my mind. You can have convinced Arminians and convinced Calvinists and convinced Universalists. There are people who fervently believe in eternal conscious torment, annihilationism, or reconciliation. And I'd say that the majority of them base their beliefs on the Biblical texts and usually have decent arguments to defend their viewpoint.

I don't know what exactly is happening here—is it the imperfection of human interpretation, or the perpetually unfolding nature of infinite truth?—but it is a fascinating phenomenon to observe.
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VII!

Postby IloveFauns » Apr 18, 2014 8:56 pm

I have never experienced a baptism. My mother was possibly baptised(Dad was surely not). It looks to me that they are just "throwing" water on someone to symbolize there commitment to the church/Christianity. I guess than it would be better to wait to the person is ready to make there own decisions. Either way you can always go back on the decision. I mean if someone leaves the church or Christianity they won't believe baptism does anything.

I have noticed in many religious debates that both sides think they have one and the people commenting on the debate thing there side has won. I always think the atheist/agnostic makes better points but a Christian would generally thing the Christian has.
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VII!

Postby waggawerewolf27 » Apr 19, 2014 3:03 am

Nice thread! :) But I've much to say, carrying over from the last thread. :(

@Warrior4Jesus: Thank you for your reviews of Noah, which concluded the last CRP thread. I will make an effort to see the movie, now, maybe as a Mother's day treat ;) . I must confess a particular urge to see a film which some Imam or Mufti or other has slammed as anti-Koranic, and which some Christians also have objected to on the grounds of Biblical inaccuracy. It is even more delicious that the mainly atheistic press reviewers are also somewhat dismissive of this film, since it doesn't suit their ideas either. ;)) And as Russell Crowe promised, he "would not be filmed on the bridge of the Ark, flanked by a giraffe and a lion". :D As you may have noticed, I dislike banning books etc on the mere grounds they don't suit one narrow-minded bigwig or other or any sort of "ism".

Of course if I have any comments about it, it will be in the regular Spare Oom threads for the purpose, since my evaluations will be on the sort of film it is. Hopefully!

Shadowlander wrote:The concept of infants going to hell is repellant to me. It was horrible before I had a kid but now the concept is horrific now that I do have one, and so I tend to be a bit more protective of my Sarah than I probably would be without. There's nothing in Scripture that really says one way or the other where the soul of a child goes, and it falls smack dab into a grey area of sorts. I have to believe in my heart that given Christ's special love for little kids that there would be a special grace granted to them that we just don't know about. The alternative is simply too awful to contemplate. :(


It is repellent to me also, and I wonder where the Catholic church got this idea from, really. No, I can't see Christ, who said "Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven" (Luke 18:16, Matthew 19:14) having a bar of such shenanigans.

The Old Maid wrote:My understanding is that parents have the authority to baptize their babies/children because of Acts 16:33, 1 Cor. 1:16, 1 Cor. 7:14. It doesn’t challenge the baptism of adults, just opens the door for the children. They then accept or reject their baptism when they are older, which is something that adults also can do.


Thank you. This is one solution which occurred to me when my first child was born almost 10 weeks prematurely. I felt ill, tired, horrified that my baby was so sick, intimidated by the humidicrib she was in, and perhaps the authoritarian attitude of some nursing staff. Also, I didn't want to be bothered with the family dynamics I had mentioned in this April 9th post on the Wuv & Mawwiage thread.
These days, new mothers are treated with a good deal more sensitivity than was the case forty years ago. At least I would hope so.

IlF wrote:I have never experienced a baptism. My mother was possibly baptised(Dad was surely not). It looks to me that they are just "throwing" water on someone to symbolize there commitment to the church/Christianity.


"Throwing" water on the baby to christen it, is part of receiving it into the church until it has grown enough to make its own decisions. Christening may only be a symbolic Baptism for babies so young. Godparents who promise to rear the child in the Christian church were more important in days gone by than now because of the possibility the child might need adults to turn to in the case of the death or incapacitation of parents. King Erlian and The Old Maid have both explained all I have learned about baptism in this thread, and its immediate predecessor. I was christened and confirmed in the C of E, as were all my children. Some still go to church, but not others. Sometimes what you do is not only a matter of what you believe or not, but also what family and societal pressure is being exerted, whether to adhere to church practice or not.

In a sort of way you might recognise references to baptism as part of your compulsory English studies. Andrew Barton Patterson (Banjo Patterson) wrote a poem called a Bush Christening, published in 1893, when the states which were to make up Australia were, at least nominally, Christian, though the 1901 constitution was strictly non-denominational. I also linked to this poem in my last post on the other thread. Thanks to Banjo Patterson, you have possibly sung to the music (Walzing Matilda, composed in Winton Qld), seen the movies (Man from Snowy River) and maybe even answered your exams "with a thumbnail dipped in tar", like Clancy of the Overflow. Like Peter Dodds McCormick, who wrote Advance Australia Fair, which was adopted as our national anthem, strictly omitting Christian and pro British references, Banjo Patterson has become quite recognisable. :)

Even if you haven't heard of Banjo Patterson before, please read this latest link. In Banjo's Bush Christening, a boy aged 10 makes a fuss about being christened and ends up with the first name of McGinnis. But what did his parents call him before the "praste" happened by? And why hadn't McGinnis' parents also instructed him about the need for baptism? Of course this poem doesn't work as well now, as it probably did in 1893. By Federation in 1901, it was law to register the birth of all newborn babies with the Government as well as marriages and deaths. But earlier on in the 19th century, the only registries of births were through christenings at local parish churches.

I have noticed in many religious debates that both sides think they have one and the people commenting on the debate thing there side has won. I always think the atheist/agnostic makes better points but a Christian would generally thing the Christian has.


I agree that there are wrongs and rights on both sides. Atheism didn't really become a force to be reckoned with until after the French Revolution, caused by past abuses of the powers that be in France, including France's powerful and worldly clergy. A dangerous earthquake in Lisbon and the ham-fisted and ignorant attitudes of some of the clergy in Portugal also fanned the sort of atheism and rationality of philosophers like Voltaire, and a century later, Nietzke.

It may be useful to investigate why, in the first place, Christianity became the dominant religion in most parts of the known world in 313 AD, when Constantine the Great won the battle of the Milvian Bridge, and thus legalising Christianity, which became the state religion of the Roman Empire. I've been watching The Dark Ages: Age of Light, an interesting SBS series which explains why the Dark Ages were not really all that dark. For the most part, the incoming Barbarians adopted Roman customs which happened to include Christianity. Moreover, the Church at the time supplied much of the social organisation which allowed society to be somewhat less dislocated than it might have been, especially because of Church record keeping, its willingness to minister to the poor and sick, to educate possible new priests, and its heroism in times of trouble.

Constantine, himself, was said to have had a deathbed baptism, which I'm sure everyone would agree is a bit on the late side. He also built Constantinople as the centre of the Roman Empire, but now it is called Istanbul. Constantine's heirs divided the Roman Empire into the Eastern Byzantine Empire and the Western half fell to Barbarians, whose kings were often happy to leave administration to church officials, thus leaving the church with too much secular power for its own good. I also think that a lot of abuses thus crept in, sooner or later, in a somewhat coercive way, including this idea of unbaptised babies being left out of heaven. I don't think it was in the Bible.

The Old Maid wrote:Live children don't get this because they are still a work in progress.


Aren't we who are still alive, whilst we live, also works in progress?
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VII!

Postby MinotaurforAslan » Apr 20, 2014 11:44 am

Warrior4Jesus, I wasn't expecting you to like the new Noah movie, and I'm pleasantly surprised that you did!

One question I would have for you is that a common complaint I heard from Christians is that there were too many magical fantasy elements in the first half of the movie and it made the story of Noah seem more imaginary and not something that could be pictured as actually happening in history. What would be your thoughts?
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VII!

Postby Warrior 4 Jesus » Apr 20, 2014 6:16 pm

Hi Minotaur, cheers!

There were a few magical/fantasy elements in the first half of the movie, but not as many as people pretend there were. The flaming sword from the Garden of Eden for example, was there in the story of Noah but used for a different purpose. Also, the rock giants (Watchers) were a creative interpretation of the Genesis Chapter 6 passage of the Bible (and Jewish lore and tradition - Book of Enoch etc.) I didn't think the fantasy elements drew attention away from or made the rest of the movie less realistic - save for one element - the voices or movements or something of the Watchers was a little too cartoony. Otherwise, it didn't bother me. If we believe the Bible and Genesis to be true, some very strange things were recorded in Noah's days. Let me also just had, the more fantastical creatures in the Ark didn't make me blink an eyelid, I love creative beasties. I will add though, that I didn't care for the armadillo/coyote? creature.
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VII!

Postby The Rose-Tree Dryad » Apr 25, 2014 2:46 pm

Looks like things have quieted down in here, so I think I'll share something that I've been mulling over lately and see what you guys think of it. :)

During my random googlings, I recently ran across a theological conundrum of sorts—or perhaps even a paradox, if you will. The "argument" puts forth three different propositions, each of which are widely held to be Biblically-based ideas or truths, yet it appears that all three cannot be true at the same time. Here's the gist of it, as far as I can tell:

1. God is sovereign over human destinies.
2. God desires that all people will be saved.
3. Some people will experience eternal torment in hell.

My understanding is—in a very, very general sense—that Arminians reject #1, Calvinists reject #2, and Universalists reject #3. (If anyone would like to differ with that assessment, please do!)

What do you all make of this? Do you disagree with the idea that each of these three truths/messages are actually present in the Biblical texts? Is it possible for all three statements to be true simultaneously? Or is it necessary for Christians to reject one of them, or at least reject the legalistic, unchanging sense in which one of the propositions is phrased?
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VII!

Postby Warrior 4 Jesus » Apr 25, 2014 8:49 pm

Rose, excellent. The Bible definitely contains some difficult and intensely thought-provoking passages. I believe the Bible is God-breathed and perfect Truth. The Bible describes many great and terrible people and events but it doesn't condone sinful actions. The Bible shows God working His Truths throughout history.

As such, I believe that if the Bible presents godly truths, that they are all true. Sounds paradoxical to our humanity but God is much greater than our fallen nature. I believe God is both sovereign but that people can choose to either accept or reject His gift of grace. Because of this, not all will be saved, because not all choose Christ. God is a loving God, but people want to be their own god. He doesn't force us to conform to His ways.

Think about it, Heaven would be like Hell to unbelievers if they're in the very presence of God and don't belief in Him and wish to be there. So, in a way, God is merciful to let people pursue their own ways if they choose to do so. He prompts, He reveals Himself but He never forces His human creations to love Him. That's not love.

Hell is a hugely difficult topic though, because the Bible describes it as a 'life' without God and His love, but it's also a terrible reality for those who don't know Christ. So, we need to be active in living our faith and showing the hope that we have in and through Him.
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VII!

Postby The Rose-Tree Dryad » Apr 27, 2014 1:54 pm

Hi Warrior! I'm nodding my head in agreement with a lot of what you said. :)

I don't know if there are subgroups within Christian Universalism that completely reject the existence of hell altogether, though honestly, I have no idea how they could make a compelling case for that belief based on the Biblical texts. I think it's clear in the Bible that there is going to be at least some sort of postmortem punishment for the unrepentant wicked, though interpretations on exactly what this entails can vary a lot.

Universal reconciliation seems to be an ideology within Universalism, though I'd say it's distinct in the sense that, as a general rule, it contends that hell does indeed exist. It also holds the belief that sooner or later, all souls will finally learn repentance and seek God. As I understand it, universal reconciliation presents hell as a place of punishment, but that its ultimate purpose is reconciling the sinner with God.

One of the most interesting yet simple arguments I ran across when I began to study universal reconciliation was the concept of finite will vs. infinite will. Well, I say it seems simple; some of you may disagree with me after I attempt to explain it. ;))

As far as I can tell, there is no part of a human being that is truly infinite unless and until it is merged with the infinity of God. Any possible eternal qualities and experiences we may come to possess or know are contingent on the presence and will of the infinite God. Our ability to worship and love God for eternity is wholly enabled by the fact that it is God's infinite will for His creation; it's the story that has been written for us and meant for us since before the beginning of Time.

Conversely, if rejection of God is not within the desire or the will of God, then it leads us to this question: how could a sinner have the ability to reject God for infinity? It seems it would be a hopeless and finite battle that the unrepentant wicked would wage against the Lord, and ultimately, eventually, they would have to face the truth, bow down, repent and be reconciled to God, if it is truly God's desire that all men be saved and reconciled to Him. If that's the case, it appears to me that reconciliation would be the only infinitely sustainable action or choice available to a conscious being on an infinite plane of existence.

... Does that make a smidgen of sense to anyone but me? :ymblushing:

I'd very much be interested in any objections or opinions, guys, because I think it's such a fascinating debate. Oftentimes it makes me rather inclined to think that the only two logical outcomes would be annihilation or reconciliation, just because I sincerely doubt that it's possible for a finite sinner with a finite will to hold out against the infinite power, will and love of God for eternity. (It's such an awfully long time. ;)))

If you look at hell in this sense, the paradox presented by the propositions above appears to melt away, but as usual, a multitude of questions remain. How are we meant to understand the word that's translated as "eternal" when it is used in conjunction with hell or punishment? Is a divine sentence that entails an eternal punishment in hell a conditional sentence, since there were certain conditions that sent the sinner there in the first place? Do we retain our free will after our deaths, and if so, is it possible to perpetuate our free will unto infinity unless it is merged with an infinite will? Is salvation available in the postmortem state?

Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. ;)) Quite a lot of philosophical acrobatics going on around here. :P So much to study and so many massive questions to pose, but I find asking them to be awfully interesting, so I suppose I'll keep at it and see what kind of answers I can find. :)
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VII!

Postby Phosphorus » Apr 28, 2014 9:44 am

W4J, I appreciated your review of Noah and largely agree with it. I attempted to write a similar review and posted it here: http://pilgrimvisions.wordpress.com/201 ... lm-review/

A few words on universal reconciliation. It has been favored by some theologians, especially in the East, since the early days of the Church. The idea of an eternal Hell, for some, contradicted the Christian understanding of the deification of the cosmos, the reunion of Creator and creation at the end of time. How can this be completed if there are still souls in rebellion? How can God be all in all if any particle of creation holds out against him? Even today, Eastern Orthodox tend to be more receptive than westerners to the concept of universal reconciliation; they also believe that Hell is not a place, but a condition caused in the unregenerate soul by immersion in the fiery glory of God, which that soul continues to resist (but perhaps not eternally). The Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar urged this paradigm for thinking about the issue: We cannot dogmatically assert that Hell will one day be emptied and no more, but we can hope and pray that God will have mercy on humanity in this way.

George MacDonald, on the other hand, was an universalist in Protestant (Calvinist) fashion, because he believed in both irresistible grace and the universal, transforming love of God. The difficulty for Protestants is dealing with all those passages which, interpreted literally, do seem to insist upon eternal death and, one could argue, ultimately purposeless torment.

A Patristic view of Hell would be very similar to C. S. Lewis’s: progressive dehumanization caused by rejection of the life-giving energies of God. God is the ground of being, even beyond being; to move away from him is to move toward nonexistence, to total loss of the image of God. Thus Hell is not about endless conscious agony, but being burned away by one’s own sinfulness to a nothingness, which might certainly be “painful” but not in the sense of ceaseless physical torture. Those who believe in universal reconciliation would argue that God will not let the unregenerate utterly extinguish the image of God in themselves, but eventually turn them back toward himself. As they are “burned up,” they are reduced to a fragility and neediness that will allow the grace of God to begin to transform them.

I do not know what interpretation I favor, but I lean toward agreeing with Balthasar: we cannot know, but we can hope.
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VII!

Postby Warrior 4 Jesus » Apr 28, 2014 6:16 pm

Phosphorous, that was an excellent review! Thanks for sharing. I've read many different viewpoints on the movie and yours is one of the best. You're right. It's easy to view the movie on two fundamentally different levels. Unfortunately, I think most of the Christian crowd saw it as a movie that didn't do justice to the short account we have in Genesis and left it at that. Even Ken Ham seemed to expect something more happy-clappy (weird since AiG promotes the true reason for the Great Flood). I for one thought it was great, if flawed at times. It certainly made for some intense and thought-provoking discussions. I guess I've always believed that Noah preached to the world, while he and his family were building the Ark, but it's possible that the Bible was referring to Noah teaching his family and their descendants about the one true God and how to walk in His ways. Now, that would make for a very interesting story!

On the other topic, I don't believe the Bible teaches universalism. Just one of the many reasons why, is that Jesus warns people so often to avoid Hell. C.S. Lewis' explanation sounds more to my line of thinking. I'm not saying I wouldn't want everyone reconciled back to God, I would. But God is just and holy and sin must be dealt with accordingly.
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VII!

Postby The Rose-Tree Dryad » Apr 29, 2014 9:24 am

It's nice to see you in CR&P again, Phosphorus! I really liked your post, and I especially appreciated the general description of C.S. Lewis's beliefs on the nature of Hell. Although I've managed to get some understanding of his views by searching the internet, I've yet to get my hands on a copy The Great Divorce (pardon me while I hang my head in shame ;))), so I often find that I'm still a bit fuzzy on his exact stance. Your summary helps clear it up some. :)

Phosphorus wrote:I do not know what interpretation I favor, but I lean toward agreeing with Balthasar: we cannot know, but we can hope.


I'd say that's largely my view as well. Mostly because I'm all too aware of my own fallibility and highly doubt that I'll ever be able to land on a perfect interpretation of the Biblical texts! I can't help but dream and pray regardless, though, because it's the greatest hope I can conceive of: that God will receive all that He desires.

Here is one perspective I'd like to share on the topic of moving away from God until finally reaching a point of nonexistence, in case anyone else finds this as interesting as I did: I recently read one of George MacDonald's sermons entitled "The Last Farthing" (here is a link for anyone who would like to read it), and towards the latter parts of the sermon, MacDonald offered an imagining of what those cast in the outer darkness might experience. I thought it was very intriguing, so I'll try my best to summarize part of it.

He described a state of absolute senselessness and utter isolation in which the unrepentant know nothing but Self; nothing but their own thoughts and feelings. (Which makes a good deal of sense to me, considering that it seems the primary reason why anyone would go to Hell is because they have chosen to love Self rather than God and Neighbor.) This life (if you can even call it that!) of complete nothingness aside from one's own self would eventually become so unbearable that ultimately the unrepentant sinner would wish they no longer existed at all.

This is a most remarkable point for them reach, though, if we remember that it was love of Self that caused them to be cast out into the darkness in the first place—and now it is that very Self that they are rejecting and is of no value to them anymore. This is a revolutionary change inside the heart of the individual. It was in this first, tiny flicker of genuine self-loathing that MacDonald believed the initial step down the long road towards complete repentance and reconciliation with God might be found, because in letting go of love of themselves, they have opened their hearts for love of God and love of neighbor.

MacDonald has so many fascinating perspectives; I've really enjoyed reading his religious writings.

Warrior 4 Jesus wrote:On the other topic, I don't believe the Bible teaches universalism. Just one of the many reasons why, is that Jesus warns people so often to avoid Hell. C.S. Lewis' explanation sounds more to my line of thinking. I'm not saying I wouldn't want everyone reconciled back to God, I would. But God is just and holy and sin must be dealt with accordingly.


I really don't blame anyone for believing that the Bible teaches a permanent (and perhaps purposeless) version of Hell; there are certainly good arguments for that perspective and I can see where people are come from on it. I think what has surprised me the most was that arguments for universalism are a lot better than I expected, and in my Bible study, I keep running into quite a lot of verses that seem to throw a monkey wrench into "traditional" Hell doctrine.

For instance, if you look at Matthew 3, you find verses seven through twelve, in which John addresses the teachers of law:

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

"I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire."


It's in these verses that we see fire referenced for the first time in the New Testament. When it is mentioned again, it is when Jesus speaks of the Hell of fire during the Sermon on the Mount.

It's difficult for me to read what John said about the one who was coming—who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire—and then go on to read all of the times that Jesus talks about fire and judgment without thinking that it relates to (or at least has the ultimate intended purpose of) a baptism of sorts. Something that is ultimately meant for cleansing the sinner and making them a member of the Church; bringing them back to God.

There is so little information available to tell us what Jesus means by Gehenna (the place-name translated as Hell in Matthew 5:22 and elsewhere) in the eleven times that he references it by name. Most people seem to think that he was referring to something more than just the earthly, national judgment of Israel that Jeremiah prophesied in Jeremiah 19 or the physical location where children were once sacrificed to pagan gods, and I think that's reasonable. Jesus refers to it twice as the "Gehenna of fire"; Jeremiah's prophecy doesn't even mention fiery judgment, and it seems impossible to think that God means to literally sacrifice people to pagan gods.

It appears that something must have changed in the public mind regarding Gehenna between the time that the Old Testament was written and when Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, especially since Jesus doesn't offer a definition of the Gehenna of fire when he speaks of it. It's as though he already expects the audience to know what he means.

In many ways, I'd say that what John tells us in Matthew 3 may be one of the only truly reliable sources that offers an understanding of what Jesus's upcoming reference to Gehenna meant in the context of the times—that I've been able to locate, anyway. From a practical standpoint, I think it would make sense that these verses would precede everything Jesus says about Hell and fiery judgment, because it enables the reader to put the unfamiliar language of "Gehenna of fire" into some sort of context.

There are some doctrines within Judaism that allude to purification of the sinner in Gehenna, but it seems these are mostly found in the Talmud. The Mishnah is supposed to be a summary of the Oral Torah, but while the era of oral scholarship certainly encompassed Jesus's lifetime, the Mishnah was written at around 200 A.D. and for that reason, I don't think I can consider it to be concrete evidence regarding what Jews believed about Gehenna during the time of Christ. Still, it's interesting, and if this fire really is meant to be understood as baptismal, then what is written in the Talmud doesn't seem to be entirely incongruent with what John said, either.

This is all just what I've gathered over a few months of research, though. If any of you think I'm missing some viewpoints or verses or whatever, please point them out! Using BibleHub.com to search for all of the verses that employ certain Greek or Hebrew words can be really helpful if you're trying to "use the Bible to interpret the Bible", but sometimes important verses can slip through the cracks because I'm neglecting to search for a word that's essentially a synonym for another one. It's quite possible there are some important verses that I'm missing and that's throwing off my perspective on this.

Wow, this post ended up being very long. @-) Hope nobody falls asleep reading all of this. ;)) Speaking of which... I'm rather sleep-deprived as I write this post, so if some of it doesn't make much sense, that would probably be why. :P
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VII!

Postby King_Erlian » Apr 30, 2014 6:23 am

What makes a human "human"? Is it just our particular DNA sequence? A certain minimum level of intelligence? Something non-physical (the "soul" or "spirit"), and if so, how does this differ from the conscious mind, and from what we tend to think of as "spirits" (angels or demons)? A combination of factors?

Thoughts?
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Re: Christianity, Religion and Philosophy, Episode VII!

Postby Ithilwen » Apr 30, 2014 1:44 pm

King_Erlian wrote:What makes a human "human"? Is it just our particular DNA sequence? A certain minimum level of intelligence? Something non-physical (the "soul" or "spirit"), and if so, how does this differ from the conscious mind, and from what we tend to think of as "spirits" (angels or demons)? A combination of factors?

Thoughts?

My thoughts on the matter:

I'd say a human by definition is (1. a biologically human body that (2. contains a human soul.

The "conscious mind" refers to the state the brain is in when awake and sentient. Because souls can exist outside the biological body, and consciousness refers to awareness within a biological state, we can be certain that consciousness is not necessary for a soul to exist. However, if the soul is in the biological body, and the body is not conscious, the soul may not be aware of itself at that time. If the soul is outside of the body, however (such as after death), it no longer relies on the body's consciousness for awareness, and takes on an awareness of its own. What that awareness entails, or how exactly it works, can't be known because it can't be studied scientifically; all we know about the afterlife is what the Bible tells us. However, this state is temporary, for the Bible says the souls of the dead will be reunited with their physical bodies in the end - except these bodies will be immortal and without defect.

As for the difference between a human's soul and a spirit such as an angel or demon, it's difficult to say since the Bible doesn't go into detail, and it's not exactly something we can study in a lab. I imagine it would be similar to the difference between a bird and a whale, or a monkey and a lizard - all of these are animals, but they are different types of animals. I'm sure there are different types of spirits too. I have a feeling, though, that the "spirit world"'s scientific principles are much different than our own, and we'll have to wait till we get there to find out the details.


~Riella =:)
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