Monthly Archives: October 2020

Hell and ‘Liberal Theology’

Here’s a great piece by Jeff Turner about the misinterpretation of the three main ‘Hellfire’ prooftexts[1], by Infernalist[2] people who themselves cry ‘Liberal!!’ when someone tries to interpret them differently.

Ho-hum. Surprise, surprise.

Ok less of my cynicism. Over to Jeff:


Far too often, those of us who do not hold to the eternal conscious torment view of hell are met with accusations that we do not take scripture seriously enough, or that we are far too liberal in our interpretations.

Ok.

Well, the top 3 passages I usually have it suggested I’m not taking seriously are 1) the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, 2) the parable of the sheep and the goats, and 3) some variation of Matthew 10:28, which reads: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

So, allow me to show you how those who use these scriptures to justify eternal conscious torment do not take them seriously enough, and are far too liberal in their interpretations:

1) The parable of Lazarus and the rich man [Luke 16:19-31, Ed], while a favorite of the infernalist, does not typically match their doctrine of salvation in any way. How? Well, for starters, we are not told that the rich man went to Hades for not believing upon Jesus, nor are we told Lazarus went to “heaven” (that is, to be with Abraham) because he did believe on Jesus. Rather, the text simply says: “…in your (the rich man) lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.” In other words, this isn’t actually about saved vs. unsaved, but is something of a role reversal tale.

Literally, just five verses before beginning this parable, Jesus said:

The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. 15 He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.
-Luke 16:14-15, NIV

Clearly, the rich man represents the wealth-loving religious leaders, who justified themselves by their wealthy status, and Jesus simply was illustrating through this parable that God just didn’t see things as they did.

Additionally, if this were really about heaven and hell, you would think it would include a very, Very, VERY clear plan of salvation. Instead, the rich man is told that his brothers, if they wanted to avoid coming their themselves, could find salvation in Moses and the prophets (verse 29). Now, what grace loving Protestant on planet earth would ever stoop to say salvation could be found in the law or prophets? Never mind the fact that Abraham goes on to tell the rich man that Moses and the prophets’ words should hold more sway than testimony concerning a man risen from the dead. Interestingly, though, after expounding upon this passage, most hell believers then go on to preach salvation through a man raised from the dead, rather than anything from Moses and the prophets.

Clearly, this was a parable aimed at the greedy religious leaders of Jesus’ day. Not a hellfire and brimstone sermon aimed at the middle aged man denting pew # 11.

2) The parable of the sheep and the goats similarly lacks any Protestant plan of salvation. You have this great division that occurs, fire, judgment, the works, but not a word is breathed of, “now believe upon Jesus, and you can avoid this fate.”

No, the sheep are told that they’re sheep-like for works they’d done, not things they’d believed or prayers they’d prayed. It’s the same for the goats as well. They neglected to do certain things, and so found themselves on the goats list. There is nary a whisper about salvation as we’d preach it today. Just “works.”

Clearly, this too is a parable, aimed at the religious elite whom Jesus begins rebuking in chapter 23, and continues to speak of here.

Using this passage to preach “hell” and heaven is irresponsible, lazy, and a result of piss poor exegesis. This is not a 21st century turn or burn message, but a parable aimed at specific people, who understood God’s kingdom to consist of literal power, whereas the Kingdom Jesus revealed consisted in love for the poor and marginalized.

3) For this passage, the main thing missed is that “body and soul” are said to be destroyed, not tormented forever. This would be more in line with the annihilationist view, if taken literally, than it would the eternal conscious torment view.

Also, if we’re taking things hyper-literally here, notice that it isn’t “hades” spoken of, but Gehenna. Now, some insist that these are just two generic names for the same specific place-hell-but that doesn’t work out when you’re coming at things from a hyper-literalist perspective.

Notice, Jesus speaks of bodies being in Gehenna. Now, according to the literalist, there will only be bodies in the lake of fire, à la Revelation 20:13-15, after a physical resurrection occurs. So, this would mean that Gehenna, according to this logic, would have to be the lake of fire, but since Hades is thrown into the lake of fire in Revelation 20:14, they can’t be the same place.

Another problem arises for the hyper-literalist in Matthew 23:33-36, when Jesus says plainly that some of the religious leaders of his day will find themselves in Gehenna within a generation. Why is this a problem? Well, if Gehenna is the lake of fire, no one is supposed to go there until after the final resurrection, which, at least to my knowledge, has yet to occur.

Now, I know, I know. These are absurd ways of looking at these texts, but I’m just following the logic of the hyper-literalists themselves, and staying faithful to their own methods of interpretation.

Bottom line? Those who cry “Liberal!!!” are often far more liberal in their interpretations of texts than they’d like to admit. And while maybe I am too, so are they. So who’s right? That can only be decided by looking to the character of the God Jesus reveals, not by badly interpreting parables and words spoken by Jesus.

Just some thoughts.

Peace.

– Jeff Turner, used here with his kind permission

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Footnotes   [ + ]

1. I alluded to two of these texts in footnote [4] of this piece some weeks ago; this present essay goes a long way towards justifying why I was correct to explain them as I did
2. That is, people who really, firmly and gleefully believe in eternal conscious torment in Hell for all those who do not believe in Jesus, in the way they say He has to be believed in. Happy people, these, and so full of joy 😉

Bible in its Proper Place

I’ve written before about putting the Bible in its correct place. I’d just like to reiterate this idea in this short piece where I answer the question of a friend when he said,

“Several of my scholarly friends are constantly sharing about spending time in the Word, Scriptures, Bible…. it’s the answer to everything…and the reason why the world is a mess and people’s lives are a mess is because people aren’t reading the Bible…

But did Jesus say much about learning the Bible?”

Here’s what I put:

Jesus didn’t knock studying the Scriptures; He did it Himself and used them a lot, especially in agruments with the Religious. Meeting them on their own terrain, as it were.

But He also said that the Sciptures weren’t the be-all and end-all. He said that His listners refused to come to Him to have life, despite the Scriptures themselves speaking about Him.

He also put more emphasis (at the Last Supper) on the Spirit teaching, rather than the Bible. He never ruled out Scripture, but He put it in its proper place. And that’s what I do.

If the Bible is held in higher authority than the Spirit, then the Bible is not in its proper place. Granted, different people hear different things from the Spirit, but it seems that’s a risk God is willing to take 😉

 

I hope that makes sense and blesses you

Grace and Peace

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All You Can Eat

There is a subtle but important difference between ‘All you can eat’, like you get offered sometimes in restaurants, to ‘Eat all you can’, which I don’t really think is the restaurant’s intention 😉

I will let you work it out.

But for today, here’s another buffet-style meal of tasty quotes from around the Internet.

Tuck in!


“I always have been, and always will be, your Saviour”
– Jesus

Nothing discourages, dilutes, dissipates, disperses, and, dare I say, destroys the human soul like the pursuit of other people’s respect. Have it for yourself and if others catch on, great. If not, don’t lose a moment of consciousness thinking on it.
– Jeff Turner

People who claim that they went to the ‘University of Life’ and’or the ‘School of Hard Knocks’ are simply highlighting the fact that they never went to University
– Anon

The Gospel does not invite you to receive Christ, but states, as an unchangeable fact, that He has received you.
– Jeff Turner

[Speaking of a photo of a legalism preacher who doesn’t look all that happy] No wonder he’s looking so fed up. He’s missed that the Kingdom of God is not about following rules, but about righteousness, peace and joy. One is a set of behaviours. The other is a state of being. I know where I’d rather live
– Me

Yeah, my ‘salvation’ was cancelled by several people for actively and publicly building bridges with our local mosque.
– Dave [speaking of ‘Heaven’s gate-keepers‘]

Thinking that God is always trying to fix you instead of love you, will cause you to try and fix others instead of love them.
– Matthew Knickle

Please do not mistake my politeness for agreement
– Me

Why go to school if you’re not going to listen to experts?
– Anon

The disasters [ascribed to God] in the OT were, I think natural disasters. That they were ascribed to God says more about the people, or rather about the people’s image of God (which, let’s face it, was probably based upon them making their god in their own image), than it does about God Himself.
– Me

I don’t spend time grieving over healthy actions that were deemed sinful by the folklore of illiterate nomads thousands of years ago.
– Becky Michele

“I seek to end my days on an upward trajectory”
– ‘Michael’

Gratitude puts everything into perspective
– Me

“Compromise where you can. But where you can’t, don’t. Even if everyone is telling you that something wrong is something right; even if the whole world is telling you to move. It is your duty to plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye, and say, ‘no. You move.'”
– Peggy Carter (quoted by Sharon Carter in the movie Captain America – Civil War)

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. But there probably isn’t a will…
– Anon

A god who saves you from himself is a god in whose presence you will never truly feel safe. – Jeff Turner

The phrase ‘Qualifications don’t mean anything’ is most often used by people who themselves have no qualifications.
– Me

“Grace doesn’t sell; you can hardly even give it away, because it works only for losers and no one wants to stand in their line.”
– Robert Farrar Capon

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.”
– Richard P. Feynman

Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are
– Chinese proverb

Labels serve almost no positive purpose in the hands of those who don’t know us. And are irrelevant in the hands of those who do
– Phil Drysdale

As I get older, I realise being wrong is not a bad thing, like they teach you in school. It is an opportunity to learn something
– Richard Feynman

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Jesus’s Universal Pardon

In John 5:22 Jesus declares, “The Father judges no one. Instead, He has given to the son absolute authority to judge.”
According to this verse, God the Father delegated and relinquished all judgment to His son. So, what judgment does Jesus make? What is His verdict?
On the cross, during the most wicked and rebellious act in human history, when the evil and depravity of mankind reaches its final apex and the human race in league with the satanic powers of spiritual darkness conspire together in the brutal torture and murder of the Son of God — the One to whom all judgment has been assigned — at that very moment as He gasps his final breaths, He declares from the cross “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing”.
And in that moment, Jesus Christ, the Father’s delegated judge of all who have ever lived, issues an unconditional and universal pardon to the entire human race. The only One with the authority and right to condemn us all is the very One who pronounces us now forgiven and reconciled.
“For God sent his son into the world not to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:17)
“For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself and not counting men’s sins against them.” (2 Corinthians 5:19)
 – Lee O’Hare
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Ruach

Ruach – the Spirit , breath or ‘wind’ of God

Back when I was a Fundamentalist, Charismatic Evangelical Christian, we used to pray for God to ‘move’ on the earth like He’d never done before. For decades now, most of the Evangelical church has been praying for this worldwide ‘move’ of God, and promising the carrot of the Kingdom which will happen ‘really soon now’, but it never seemed to get any closer.

And that’s because we were looking in the wrong direction.

Ironically, the great work that God is doing right now, in answer to those prayers, is happening among people of all faiths, of all denominations, and of all cultures, races and creeds. It’s happening among people whom the Church would normally see as outcasts: the down-and-outs; the LGBTQ+ community; the divorced; refugees from cults; the poor – in fact, all the people whom Jesus said the Kingdom was for. In the parable of the Banquet in Luke 14:15-24, Jesus spoke of all the privileged people (probably meaning the Religious) who made excuses, so He sent out into the ‘highways and hedges’ (so, outside the church), and almost forced them to come in! And this is what is happening right now, and many if not most in the Evangelical church can’t see it, mainly because they deem the ‘sinners’ being ‘forced’ to come in to be not worthy of the Kingdom. But Jesus never said that anyone had to be worthy; He just invited them anyway, with no conditions, because He is giving a great banquet. Because He’s like that. And the irony is that God is doing this in answer to those very prayers that the Evangelical church has been sending up, and those of many others too – and they just can’t see it; in fact some people even brand it a work of the Devil – again, just like the Religious people in Jesus’ day (Mt 12:24). The ‘tax collectors and prostitutes (i.e. those not accepted by the Religious) are going into the Kingdom ahead of those who are praying for revival (Mt 21:31)! Irony indeed!

That the church of today is missing it all is unsurprising; the Religious missed what God was doing the first time round too, when Jesus first came. Because the wind blows where She wants Jn 3:8), and not where Religious humans say She has to; that’s just another way of saying that God always does stuff that’s unexpected. But for those with the eyes to see it, it’s magnificent. If it’s God Who is doing something, then the results will be well worth seeing 😀

Anyway, here’s the brilliant Dave Carringer who puts all this a lot better than I do:


Salvation. You might (or not) like hearing the word at this point in your life. Yet taken back to true meaning (before the doctrinal distortions of man were applied to it) it was simply a place of peace, wholeness, preservation and freedom- even to the point of protection and rescue from something that could be of harm or a risk to that wholeness and well being.

The largest move of ‘salvation’ the world has ever known is taking place right now. The true Source of all Light and Life is waking people up (from within) all around the globe. They’re being rescued from veiled distortions of a God they once believed was angry, distant and too holy to live inside them- and back (re-newed) to an upper room consciousness of unity and Oneness with each other- out of the dumbed down, disrupted mindset of separation and alienated ideas of ‘us and them’.

There is a great falling away taking place that is necessary to catapult them back to the truth and resting place of their authentic origin. In this place of peace and wholeness, certain ideas have been taken captive and cast down from their vain and distorted war-like imaginations. This falling away isn’t at all like you may have heard taught over the years; it’s men and women dropping the ill-fitted grave clothes that reek with the stench of fear and death. It’s them leaving passively imposed control and religious hoop-jumping lists behind, and coming back to the true home place freedom of their right mind.

Among things falling away are:

  • Imaginations of a distant judging deity with a continual surveillance log, who’s only pleased by a certain kind of life in service and sacrifice.
  • Mythical imaginations of a place of eternal torment called ‘hell’ which those who don’t believe, live, and serve a certain way will be cast into.
  • The idea that one life is somehow more honored or valuable than another to the Source from which all Life comes.
  • The idea that this God will (in a cataclysmic sci-fi ending) destroy the terra firma earth that exists (while a few escape to a distant members-only paradise) rather than bring man’s mind back to the genesis awareness of ‘very good’ in which it was created.

Though things may ‘seem’ dark and prolonged to our minds that were programmed with ‘time’, one day it will be seen as happening in ‘the twinkling of an eye’. We can argue, debate, and push against it with our powerless traditions all we want- but it’s coming… and nothing can stop it.

And once we see how gloriously beautiful it truly is… we’ll wonder why we didn’t surrender to it long ago.

– Dave Carringer


This wave of the Spirit is bringing a lot of shaking and uncertainty to some Christians. I can understand that many people who feel that they are ‘holding the line for God’; standing up for His truth while so much ‘error’ is flying around; I can understand why they might feel threatened, that the truth is being diluted, and that the Gospel is not being preached. That the ‘whole counsel of Scripture’ is not being adhered to.

What I can suggest to you, if you are reading this and are one of those people, is that you get close to Jesus. Not necessarily by reading more of your Bible, although if this is His main way of speaking to you, then it’s a starting point[1]. But what I mean is to get close to the heart of Jesus Himself. Listen for His voice. Hear the still, small voice right there in your heart. If He tells you something you don’t agree with because it’s not related to how you interpret the Bible, simply remember that Jesus is not confined to the pages of the Bible, and He’s certainly not confined to the way in which you personally understand it.

So, begin to swim in the ‘oceans‘ that you have sung about, where feet may fail. In fact, allow your feet to fail. You’re not supposed to be standing in your own strength anyway; you already know this. Launch off the ‘foundation’ you have been standing on – your own assumptions about God; your own Graven Image of God – and swim free in the oceans of bottomless faith. He will catch you; He will keep you afloat. There is simply no other way to live, and if you can bring yourself to swim like this, there is no limit to where you will go in that vast ocean of faith. But you need to let go of the jetty, and to take your feet out to where there is no bottom. Because when you’re out there, you won’t need feet anyway; you will be kept afloat by Jesus. Whose hands would you feel safer in: yours or His?

Grace and Peace to you.

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Footnotes   [ + ]

1. You need to remember that although the Scriptures speak of Jesus, you still need to come to Him to have life (Jn 5:39-40).