Posts Tagged ‘Eschatology

10
Jan
12

new year and christian hope

May I wish all who from time to time drop into this blog a Happy and Prosperous New Year.  It is a belated wish I grant.  I hope for you the New Year holds many blessings.  It is right of course to look forward in hope.  Hope, in a rather hopeless world, is a profoundly Christian blessing.

For many, the future, looked at without Christian hope, is fairly bleak.  Even in our cushioned West, future well-being is anything but certain.  The economic slump (self-inflicted it would appear, as most of our woes self-evidently are) promises a difficult year.  Add to this the normal vagaries of life and Christian hope is vital to combat a sinking pessimism that life itself can so easily inflict.  I need only glance at the lives of various friends to see how the New Year promises fresh troubles.  Some have health problems, others marital problems or money problems, others church problems, and in many cases no obvious solutions present themselves.  For these  folks  hope must lie outside of circumstances and personal understanding. Their hope must lie in God.

And to have our hope in God is to have it precisely where it ought to be.  True wisdom teaches us to trust in God and lean not on our own understanding.  God, is the God of hope (Roms 15), who as we share in the hope he holds out for us in the gospel (Col 1:23) fills us with joy and peace in believing (Roms 15:13).

The gospel is God’s message of hope.  In the gospel promises that sustained men of faith since the beginning of time are fully revealed and realized.   Every possible source of joy is promised and perfected in the gospel.  For the gospel is Christ in whom all God’s promises find their confirmation and certainty.  We are blessed, the gospel reminds us, with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  Everything the human spirit could intelligently desire and hope for is found in Christ.  God gives us Christ and with him freely gives us all things that are for our good and blessing.

Life in a world East of Eden, is hard.  It is a valley of disillusionment and death.  Despite advancing technologies man that is born of woman is still of few days that are full of trouble.  To say this is not to be pessimistic, but realistic.  More than that, it is to think biblically.   Hope, believers have always understood lies only in God.   In Christ we find ourselves rejoicing in the ‘hope of the glory of God’ (Roms 5:2).  Our hope is no small thing for God’s promise is no small thing.  It is no less than sharing in God’s own glory.  Glory, indescribable glory, is my hope.

Nor is this hope mere wishful thinking for it is a hope we have already begun to realize in our hearts through the Spirit of the indwelling Christ; Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith is the hope of glory; its first instalment.

How will this New Year be for us ‘happy and prosperous’?  Through faith that lives in the hope of the gospel.

When I get out of bed each morning I can live with myself, my failure and sins because of the gospel.    I rejoice that my sins are forgiven and that one day soon I will no longer have sin in my members staining my humanity but I will have a body of glory where sin is banished and no more.  Never again will I be tempted to that which destroys happiness but will delight eternally and fully in God.  I go out and face the frictions of life, the family squabbles, the theological wars, the opposition of the world  knowing that these are not forever, but only for a time.  ‘Forever’ is a new world where heaven and earth are one, where the dwelling of God is with men and he shall be our God and we shall be his people, where wars of all kinds shall cease and weapons of war will be turned into tools for prosperity.  This body that each morning tends to drag me down with its frailty and fragility will have given way to a body of glory without corruption or weakness.  My hope in Christ is of a future without fear, failure, fragmentation, fatigue, futility and folly.   Weariness and wastedness will be no more.  This is the hope that lies before and nerves me today to run the race.

I invite you this year to live in this hope.  Such hope fills us with boldness (2 Cor 3:12) for the glory is not simply ahead it is realized by faith now as I lift my eyes from the difficulties and traumas of life and see Christ in heaven, reigning and glorified.  My spiritual intelligence tells me my sins are gone, my life is secure and safe in him.  I wonder and rejoice at the glory I see there.  Here  there will be troubles and disappointments, many tests of faith,  but when, even through these, I look up at Christ I am consumed with joy unspeakable and full of glory. And the joy of the Lord so experienced becomes our strength.  We weaken because we fail to nourish our souls in Christ.

Happiness and prosperity of spirit is realized as by faith we meditate upon Christ in glory.  This is what I wish for us all in 2012.  May we who have hoped in Christ (Eph 1)  have the eyes of our understanding opened to see the hope to which we are called and the inheritance that is ours in Christ (Eph 1:18) and as by faith we experience these just now may we also with patience  await their full realization  (Roms 8:24).  May we continue steadfast in faith not shifting from the hope held out in the gospel (Col 1:23).  This is the victory that overcomes the world in all its forms, even our faith (1 Jn 5:4).  And what is faith but ‘the assurance of things hoped for and the realizing of things unseen’ (Hebs 11:1).

1John 3:1-3 (ESV)
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he [Christ] is pure. 

Titus 2:11-14 (ESV)
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. 

05
Dec
11

our extravagant god

To recognize the fulfilment of his [God's] promises, you must base your expectations not on the minimal but maximal interpretation of their terms’ 

David Gooding An Unshakeable Kingdom (Pg 30)

David Gooding’s small commentary on Hebrews ‘An Unshakeable Kingdom’ is among the finest of its kind on this book.  And it is free for download here along with others he has written!

24
May
11

preaching postmortem salvation is neither legitimate nor loving

A number on the evangelical left (for evangelical left read neo-liberals) are intent on foisting some version of universalism (that all will ultimately be saved) or quasi-universalism on the evangelical community.  Unfortunately, among many they are likely to find an open ear for not only do many have a woefully inadequate basic knowledge of what the Bible teaches but the salvation of all is naturally appealing.  One example of a quasi-universalism is the belief that in hell there will be a further opportunity to repent and trust in Christ.  We are told that holding out such a hope is surely, at the very least, a generous and loving approach.  Is it not better to hope that all may ultimately be saved than to say that millions will be in hell?

Well, it is only a generous and loving hope if it is true.  If, however, there is no biblical ground for such a hope and every indication that the opposite is the case, it is far from loving.  It is not loving for a doctor to tell a patient with a life-threatening illness that although they would be better to get it treated immediately nevertheless if they don’t they shouldn’t worry for they can get it treated at a later date.  This is not loving, it is criminally irresponsible and negligent.  Doctore are likely to be struck-off for such advice.

Likewise, those who preach that there is an opportunity for sinners to be converted in hell when no such optimism is merited from the biblical revelation (which is after all the basis for all Christian belief) are not acting in love but are being criminally negligent and are also in danger of being ‘struck-off’.

The whole thesis of universalism (that all will be saved) whether as a belief or a hope faces intractable opposition from Scripture.  In the previous post we noted that Jesus himself, when asked about the number who will be saved, is guarded in his response.

Luke 13:22-30 (ESV)
He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem. And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.’

His words, ‘“Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.‘ by themselves would lead any responsible teacher of Scripture to be chary of any universalistic inclinations they may cherish.  His immediately following words would be enough to close completely the mouth of any who fear God from positing or preaching postmortem conversion.

‘When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” 

The picture is clear.  There is a time of opportunity but it is not forever.  God’s patience and grace is not extended forever.  The invitation to the heavenly Kingdom is not indefinite.  There is a point when some may wish to enter but find they are too late.   Yes, undoubtedly people from every nation will be in the kingdom (it will be universal in its scope and vision and embrace), but not all from every nation will be there.   Undoubtedly, the ultimate fulfilment of Jesus’ words lies at his Second Coming and his Kingdom is completely realized.  Then the door is shut.    Ironically those who are ‘shut out’, and are on the outside in this text are some who assumed they were on the inside (we ate and drank in your presence and you taught us…).   There is a ‘cast out’ group who wish they were not.  And their bitterness and gall is because they know they will have no further opportunity to enter.  They are told to ‘depart’,  a word pregnant with finality (Cf Matt 7:23).

Jesus (and it is nearly always Jesus who spells out the terrible fate of the damned) says something similar in Matt 25.  In the parable of the Wedding and Ten Virgins the five careless virgins find themselves shut out from the wedding celebrations (another image for the Kingdom of God) with no prospect of a late entry.

Matt 25:10-13 (ESV)
And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. 

Once again (with the arrival of the bridegroom) the door is decisively shut against them and there is no hope of it opening, however much they plead.  Notice again, here they wish to enter and are refused.  At the end of the chapter the parable gives way to plainer language when Jesus says,

Matt 25:41-46 (ESV)
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” 

However, one interprets this text it is clear that on the day of judgement there are two final and unalterable destinies for humanity.  Everyone finds himself in one or the other and there is no further possibility of a switch.

In the story of the rich man in hell (again recounted by Jesus) the rich man in hell is told,

Luke 16:26 (ESV)
And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’

Two points are worth observing here.  Firstly, the chasm or gulf is not the unrepentant heart of the rich man (a weak and specious suggestion some forward).  It is clearly a gulf God has fixed.  Again we are reminded of doors that God has shut;  people do not remain in hell because they want to be there but because their fate is now fixed.   Secondly, from this insight (however parabolic) into the state of the damned, N T Wright’s view that those in hell are effectively de-humanised has a hard time justifying itself.  The rich man seems only too human and that is part of the terror of the picture.

In desperation, some tell us that the gates of the New Jerusalem are never shut (Rev 21:25) so that those outside (the lost in hell) can enter.  But this interpretation is as derisory as it is desperate.  The open gates signify the security of the city – it has no enemies to fear .   Indeed nothing that defiles it can enter (v27).  Only the redeemed can enter (Rev 22:14) while eternal outside are those with unwashed robes – the unholy (v15).  To try to introduce some kind of postmortem salvation here is not only contrary to the rest of Scripture but to the thrust and intention of the text itself.  Indeed, the angel who gives the vision, far from speaking of a postmortem evangelism (salvation after death), speaks of destinies already drawn and decided.

Rev 22:10-13 (ESV)
And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.”  “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

The writer goes on to make a very solemn pronouncement.  He says,

Rev 22:18-19 (ESV)
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. 

It is a very serious thing to meddle with what God has revealed, one may find oneself among the ‘shut out’.

This post does not by any means tackle all the arguments of those who espouse a universalitic hope.  But I hope they will help reassure some believers that what evangelicals have taught for centuries is truly biblical; that ‘today is the day of opportunity’, that hell is forever and fixed for those who find themselves there, and that of all things that are unloving the most unloving is to allow sinners to think that they may stall in trusting Christ now for they will have an eternal opportunity to do so, perhaps damnably unloving.

In the words of Mike Wittmer,

‘I wish that God would empty hell, that he would save everyone who has ever lived. But I can’t say I hope for that, because I don’t have a promise from God to hang my hope on. Christians may have lots of good wishes for deceased atheists, but we don’t have hope. Not because we are mean or stingy, but because we dare not offer more hope than God promises in Scripture. That would be false hope, the cruelest hope of all.’

09
May
11

questions we must shelve

It has become quite trendy to assume asking questions in the Christian faith is a good thing. And of course by and large it is.  However, not all questions are good.  We saw in the last post that questions ostensibly asked to inquire can really be intended to subvert.  Satan is a master at this type of question.  His, ‘Has God said’, in the garden has been asked a million times since.  The motivation behind a question must be discerned.

Some questions are asked merely to trip up.  Jesus was asked questions he refused to answer because he recognized the motivation was insincere and ulterior.

Luke 20:1-8 (ESV)
One day, as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders came up and said to him, “Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority.” He answered them, “I also will ask you a question. Now tell me, was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?” And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” So they answered that they did not know where it came from. And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” 

Some questions are simply not ours as creatures to ask.  The big question we hear people ask is, ‘How can a God of love send billions of people to endless punishment in hell’.  It is essentially the question Jesus was asked by someone as he travelled through Judea and he refused to answer it.

Luke 13:22-24 (ESV)
He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem. And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.

Jesus didn’t answer it because the question was merely philosophical and not related to the inquirers own eternal well-being.  What real business was it of his whether few or many were saved?  What good would it do him to know the answer?  There are issues that belong to the Creator that not ours as creatures to judge or know.  Jesus tells the inquirer the real matter that should concern him is ensuring he is one of the number who are saved – be they many or few.

There is an arrogance and impropriety about the question that asks ‘Can we really believe in a God who consigns billions to hell’.  It is hardly surprising that an improper question pursued leads to conclusions that are as inappropriate and as audacious as the question; irreverent questions lead to irreverent conclusions.  We are told that since many are not converted in this life in the life to come (in hell) they must have further opportunity to repent and believe.  This assumption flies in the face of what Jesus goes on to say.  Having said, ‘Strive to enter through the narrow door.’ he proceeds to say, ‘For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.’

But that is another issue for the next post.

08
Apr
11

andy hunter and love wins tactics

Andy Hunter has a first class post reflecting on the tactics of Love Wins and its protagonists as they seek to make a place for this kind of theology at the evangelical table.  Please make a point of reading it.

06
Apr
11

universal salvation

Rob Bell implies universalism was a common belief in the Christian Church.

Richard Bauckham writes,

‘The history of the doctrine of universal salvation (or apokastastasis) is a remarkable one. Until the nineteenth century almost all Christian theologians taught the reality of eternal torment in hell. Here and there, outside the theological mainstream, were some who believed that the wicked would be finally annihilated (in its commonest form. this is the doctrine of ‘conditional immortality’).1 Even fewer were the advocates of universal salvation, though these few included same major theologians of the early church. Eternal punishment was firmly asserted in official creeds and confessions of the churches.2 It must have seemed as indispensable a part of universal Christian belief as the doctrines of the Trinity and the incarnation. Since 1800 this situation has entirely changed, and no traditional Christian doctrine has been so widely abandoned as that of eternal punishment.3 Its advocates among theologians today must be fewer than ever before. The alternative interpretation of hell as annihilation seems to have prevailed even among many of the more conservative theologians.4 Among the less conservative, universal salvation, either as hope or as dogma, is now so widely accepted that many theologians assume it virtually without argument.’

Richard Bauckham was until recently Professor of New Testament Studies at the University of St. Andrews UK.

The article can be found here.

05
Apr
11

hell hath no fury… the rob bell furore

If you want to keep abreast of the ‘Love Wins’ debate I suggest a good place to begin would be here (then here and here). All are links to the same site – Patheos.  You will not agree with everything said (I certainly don’t) but the analysis is helpful.  Plus, and its a big plus, the links connect to other significant links on the book.  Definitely a site to explore.

I confess, I do get wearied by these whirlwind evangelical debates that whip up leaving destruction and chaos in their wake.   I get especially wearied when at their epicentre lie books by writers deliberately using smoke and mirrors.  Anything I have read by Bell is so wrapped in equivocation and paradox it’s virtually impossible to extract a clear statement of belief (see here for an example).  For Bell, questions are statements, but of course they are not really statements for they are questions.  And questions lie behind the questions.  Just when it seems a rabbit trail may lead somewhere it peters out in a dead-end of contradiction and obfuscation.  To get a grip on Bell is like trying to grasp quicksilver.  He is an expert in the art of displacement.  However, trendy and arty this ambiguity may be it does not commend the gospel and should set warning bells clanging (pun intended).  The gospel is commended by plainness of speech not subtle wordplay and rhetoric.

But ultimately the debate is not about Bell or his book.  It is about a growing mood in evangelicalism, a growing chasm between the effete evangelicalism of the day and a God who is holy and a consuming fire.  The cognitive dissonance means something must give.  As Timothy Dalrymple writes,

‘… this is not about Rob Bell. Bell is influential, especially amongst younger Christians.  But this book is just the logical consequence of much longer trends in evangelical Christianity.  It’s hard to believe in hell if you don’t believe in sin, and countless evangelical churches scarcely speak of sin any more.  One of the gravest dangers to the church today is a rapidly dissipating consciousness of sin.  It’s also hard to believe in hell if you do not emphasize the holiness of God alongside his love, the fear of God alongside his grace.  Hell has no place in moral therapeutic deism; it has no place in the “Your Best Life Now” deformation of Christianity; it has no place in a vision of Christian faith that has devolved into social justice activism.  Even in strong churches, I suspect that the teaching from the pulpit and through the songs and hymns have made it difficult for Christians to believe that the infinitely gracious and forgiving God they experience in worship would ever countenance one of his creatures suffering endless torment.’

The book is barnstorming because it hits a raw evangelical nerve.  The attempt to raze hell is unlikely to go away.  It fits with the mood of a generation of Christians whose faith has been a Christianised western humanism, whose beliefs arise from the mood of their culture and not the Word of God.  So wearying or not responsible leaders must engage with Bell’s book and its trojan theology and expose it for the treacherous beast it is.

29
Mar
11

the ugley vicar and hell

John Richardson has an excellent article on hell in the Guardian newspaper.  See here.

16
Mar
11

you will not surely die

Given the present trend in trendy evangelicalism to pooh-pooh hell and promote variations of universalism (all will ultimately be saved) we should remember the first lie in the garden was to deny judgement.

Gen 3:1-4 (ESV)
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. ​​​​​​​​​​​He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” ​​​ And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.

The serpent’s words may change but his lie remains the same.

15
Mar
11

japan, cosmic judders, and god’s judgements

The Big Questions (a UK TV show that discusses moral and religious questions) was tackling its normal three questions on Sunday.  Predictably the leading question was whether faith in a benevolent God  is called into question by the recent tsunami in Japan.  Just as predictably the biblical answer was not given, or, at best, partly given.

The apparently self-evident virtue of the human race makes it shockingly and morally reprehensible that tsunamis, earthquakes or any other catastrophe should be visited upon us. If there is a God, and he is responsible, then he is in the dock, and guilty.  Confronted with natural disaster (and most other evils) the normally forgotten God takes centre stage as the Machiavellian villain with humanity the innocent and hapless victim.

As a parody, it would be side-splittingly funny if it wasn’t so serious.

Such a view is, of course, the mythology of orthodox humanism; in fact, precisely the opposite is the true state of affairs.  There is nothing innocent about humanity.  Humanity is no oil painting.  Our whole history is one of perennial selfishness, hostility, inhumanity, hatred and destruction – and that’s just towards each other.  Our attitude to our Creator over our history is even more damnable.  Without exception we have rebelled against his creatorial kindness.  We know he exists but live resolutely as though he did not, refusing to give him the honour and thanks and allegiance that we ought.   We will take his daily provision of life and good things as our due without a thought of thankfulness but if a tsunami happens he will be the first to get the blame. We are brazen in our arrogance.  The wonder is not that tsunamis happen but that they don’t happen more often.

For, let me be as crystal clear, just as seed-time and harvest, sunshine and rain come from the hands of God so too do natural disasters.  In the Bible, these are judgements that warn of a coming cosmic judgement.  They are, according to Jesus, birth-pangs of the end.

Matt 24:3-8 (ESV)
As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?” And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.

They serve as a trumpet call to repentance… the fore-shadowing of judgement soon to come. All too often, however, the warning is ignored and the judgement simply serves to reveal the latent hostility of the human heart towards its Maker.   In Revelation, having described in vivid imagery various plagues inflicted by God upon rebellious humanity as a wake-up call, John comments,

Rev 9:20-21 (ESV)
The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.

Yes, tsunamis are divine judgements, but they are deserved judgements.  That some paint divine judgement (in the form of tsunami) as reprehensible shows a breathtaking lack of moral self-awareness.  The self-evident reality of life and a truth the Bible regularly asserts is that no-one, absolutely no-one, deserves anything other than judgement from a holy God, even if he is also (as he is) a God who loves.  The putting of God in the dock is the very essence of our moral depravity.  It shows a complete lack of moral and creaturely compass; the risible spectacle of the creature holding the Creator to account – a creature, let it be said, with a moral track record that should inspire anything but self-confidence.

That we, to a man, deserve tsunamic judgement  is the fundamental reason the Bible gives for human suffering yet no-one so much as hinted at it on the programme, not even those who were representing Christianity (Roms  1:18-22; 2:1-16; Rev 6,8).

Of course, why God should visit a tsunami and earthquake on Japan and not the UK, we do not know.  There is a mystery to suffering as one participant ably pointed out.  Why one should suffer and not another we do not know.  But the mystery is not that some suffer, it is that others do not.  It is the mystery of God’s patience with a world ripe for judgement.  That God should send cosmic wake-up calls, warning shots across the bow, is an act of incomprehensible mercy and grace. This is precisely the point Jesus makes to his own people.

Luke 13:1-5 (ESV)
There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

God speaks to our world in disasters.  He reminds us that we are not the powerful self-determining race we think and calls on us to repent of our idolatries, submit to his majesty and fear him.   Japan is one of the most technologically advanced nations in the world but is exposed as utterly powerless when God speaks.  If we are wise we will see this.  But we are rarely wise.

On The Big Questions one participant declared his belief in man, not God.  Man was the shaper of his own destiny. Man in his goodness and ingenuity would rise above disaster and overcome it.  I hope and trust that many will help those in Japan who have suffered such loss.  Many who do will be Christians rightly expressing God’s own ongoing grace and mercy to those who survive.  But this defiant and deranged humanism is precisely why judgements come,  precisely the response that John predicted, and precisely why a final tsunamic judgement on our world of cosmic propotions is sure and certain.

From it and in it none will escape.

There will be no heroes rocketed into space to avert this meteoric judgement.  None, who will burrow into the earth’s crust to kick-start its stalled motor or who will travel to a dying sun to re-ignite its combustion.  Humanity will not be, as in the movies, the architect of its own salvation.  Only in God is salvation.  Only in repentance and self-humbling lies hope.  Salvation is available now.  It is full and free if we but repent of our rebellion and submit to God and his Son Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the one who rescues from the wrath to come.  God offers salvation now for those who repent and believe the gospel.

This is the Christian perspective on tsunami.  It is a message the world needs to hear even if it is outraged by it.  It is the message we Christians must have the courage to proclaim.

14
Mar
11

de young tackles ‘love wins’ by bell

As Rob Bell attempts to pour cold water on hell De Young questions the force of his fire hydrant.  Read De Young’s in-depth review here.

07
Mar
11

de young on the virtue of doubt

De Young has an excellent post on the dubious virtue of doubt.  It is in the main the quotation below.

David Hansen:

There is an important place in the ministry for honest questioning over doctrinal issues. But I’m not proud of my tossing and turning over hell. Some pastors wear their agnosticism about hell as a badge of honor. I’ve tried it. I’ve acted as if struggling to believe our Lord’s words were a virtue. But I always found that when I became proud of my doubts, they suddenly become the sin of unbelief. For me, finally, waffling over hell became the sin of unbelief. (The Art of Pastoring, 78)

Another writer commenting on a post sympathetic to Rob Bell’s celebrated ‘doubt’ over hell writes,

“But my suspicion… is that Rob is less a heretic and more a critic of biblical answers that don’t speak in ways that make sense to people.”

Nope, unless by “make sense” you mean conform to a 21st century mind. It is not that Bell is just making things easier for people to understand; he is bringing the Bible into the 21st century by misinterpreting it. There is only a one way street here. You are far far too charitable to him. These doctrines don’t make sense to Rob and some people because they want to be the judge jury, and executioner of Scripture. He has no category for understanding some aspects of God because he has closed his mind to anything that doesn’t seem fair.

As Ray Pennoyer writes re Bell

Bell has a history of not allowing his theology to be controlled by the text of Scripture. This gives him the “freedom” not only to ask the questions we are all asking, but to give us the kind of answers we all want to hear.

And Al Mohler observes

Bell plays with theology the way a cat plays with a mouse.

Exactly.

It is right on hell and any other subject to ask what the bible teaches on it.  It is even legitimate to confess ‘this is a hard saying’.  What we may not do is imply, however subtly or unctuously, ‘this is a wrong saying’.  It is one thing to enquire from a position of uncomprehending faith (the Psalms are full of this), it is another to question and prevaricate from a position of assumed moral superiority.  Tantalizingly suggestive and subversive questions that play fast and loose with the text of Scripture are not clever or courageous but corrupt.  Theological agnosticism in the face of clear biblical evidence is not ‘honest doubt’ it is unbelief.




the cavekeeper

The Cave promotes the Christian Gospel by interacting with Christian faith and practice from a conservative evangelical perspective.

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