18 June 2009

N. T. Wright on Hell

or, "Honey, I shrunk the Lake of Fire!"

by Dan Phillips

This is not new, but it is new to me; and may be to you.



Here's part of a transcript from this page, with some cleaning up and emphasis:
The word hell has had a checkered career in the history of the church. And it wasn't hugely important in the early days. It was important, but not nearly as important as it became in the middle ages. And the in the middle ages, you get this polarization of heaven over here and hell over there, and you have to go to one place or the other eventually. So you have the Sistine Chapel, with that great thing behind the altar. This enormous great judgment seat, with the souls going off into these different directions.

Very interestingly, I was sitting in the Sistine chapel just a few weeks ago. I was sitting for a service, and I was sitting next to a Greek Orthodox...who said to me, looking at the pictures of Jesus on one wall. He said, these I can understand. The pictures of Moses on the other wall, he said, those I can understand. Then he pointed at the end wall of judgment, and said, that I cannot understand. That's how you in the west have talked about judgment and heaven and hell. He said, we have never done it that way before, because the Bible doesn't do it that way.

I thought, Whoops. I think he's right actually. And whether you're Catholic or Protestant, that scenario which is etched into the consciousness of Western Christianity really has to be shaken about a bit. Because if heaven and earth are to join together. Its not a matter of leaving earth and going to heaven. Its heaven and earth joined together.

And hell is what happens when human beings say, the God in whose image they were made, "We don't want to worship you. We don't want our human life to be shaped by you. We don't want, who we are as humans to be transformed by the love of Jesus dying and rising for us. We don't want any of that. We want to stay as we are and do our own thing." And if you do that, what you're saying is you want to stop being image-bearing human being within this good world that God has made. And you are colluding with your own progressive dehumanization. And that is such a shocking and horrible thing, that its not surprising that the biblical writers and others have used very vivid and terrifying language about it.

But people have picked that up and said, "This is a literal description of reality. Somewhere down there, there is a lake of fire, and its got worms in it and its got serpents and demons and there coming to get you. But I think actually, the reality is more sober and sad than that, which is this progressive shrinking of human life. And that happens during this life, but it seems to be that if someone resolutely says to God, "I'm not going to worship you . . ." (It's not just, "I'll not come to church." Its a matter of deep down somewhere, there is a rejection of the good creator God), then that is the choice humans make. In other words, I think the human choices in this life really matter. Were not just playing a game of chess, where tomorrow morning God will put the pieces back on the board and say, OK that was just a game. Now we're doing something different. The choices we make here really do matter.

There's part of me that would love to be a universalist, and say, "It'll be alright. Everyone will get there in the end." I actually . . . The choices you make in the present are more important than that.

Some of my thoughts:
  1. Did the polarization of Heaven and Hell into two diametrically-opposed destinations really arise during the Middle Ages (cf. Matthew 25:32-46; Revelation 20:4-15)?
  2. If someone "cannot understand" the concept of a final judgment, is that a comment on the concept, or the individual?
  3. Is Hell something that "happens" when we make certain philosophical choices, or is it a place of judgment and punishment?
  4. If Hell were an actual place, what language would the Bible have had to use to make that fact clearer than it is in the text as we have it?
  5. If the writers of Scripture saw Hell as "shocking and horrible," and used "vivid and terrifying" language to describe Hell, but it is a mistake to take it as a "literal description" of Hell — (1) then shouldn't the reality be more terrifying than their language?; and (2) is what Wright describes more shocking and horrible and terrifying?; and (3) how could they have signaled more clearly that they were not speaking metaphorically?
  6. Does Wright leave the impression that avoiding Hell is worth cutting off precious and irreplaceable parts of our body (Matthew 5:29-30)?
  7. How does Wright's notion of Hell relate to Jesus' flat statement that God throws the damned, body and soul, into Hell — and that He should be feared above all else for that reason (Matthew 10:28; cf. Revelation 20:15)?
  8. Is there something un-Biblical about viewing the last judgment as a separation of two humanities with two starkly different eternal destinations (Matthew 25:32-46; Revelation 20:4-15)?
  9. Is it that view of judgment and Hell that is "Western" — or is it not Wright's own existential, philosophized presentation that is thoroughly and almost squeakingly "Western"?
  10. Does Wright's explanation of Hell as the "progressive shrinking of human life" strike you as "more sober and sad" than unquenchable and eternal fire, endless gnawing of worms, in fathomless darkness, cut off from every vestige of God's goodness?
  11. Do you have to been born in the East to understand fire and darkness and wrath and judgment?
  12. Does Wright present his unbelieving listeners with a Hell that is just and unbearable punishment for crimes of infinite gravity and guilt that we committed against a blindingly holy God; or with a Hell that is a rather tame, if "sad," natural consequence of our philosophical bent?
  13. Which is truer to Jesus' presentation of Hell?
  14. Does Wright communicate any urgency in escaping Hell?
Your thoughts?

UPDATE:
see also this companion-piece.

Dan Phillips's signature

147 comments:

Randy Talley said...

Extremely good points, Dan.

Sadly, Wright is simply being consistent with himself. All he did was pull one more arrow out of his quiver to launch another assault the character of God and the credibility of the Bible. The Jesus Seminar couldn't have done it any better.

Thankfully, his quiver is loaded with Nerf weapons. What's sad about this is that (a) he has a vast audience (and some of that audience actually listens to him), and (b) “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves." (Matthew 23:15)

Melchizedek said...

I jumped right into the text without so much as a thought to what I was reading, just assuming that it was another great DP article. I slowed down about a third of the way in and stopped at two-thirds of the way in and let my mouth fall open. "What is he doing?" I said. You can imagine my relief when I got to the "Thoughts" section. I immediately went back to the top and re-read the beginning. I'll not make the same mistake again and I'm sorry I ever questioned your doctrine (or salvation!) LOL.

My intemperate thought is that Wright is in for the shock of his life.

Matt said...

Is it that view of judgment and Hell that are "Western" — or is it not Wright's own existential, philosophized presentation that is thoroughly and almost squeakingly "Western"?

Bingo! This is exactly the problem with these revisionist types who try to make the most ancient views like like modern cultural novelties, and attempt to read their noveleties/souvenirs/party tricks back into the early church.

You know the difference between God and liberal theologians/historians?

Even God doesn't change the past.

Blessings,
Matt

Matt said...

My intemperate thought is that Wright is in for the shock of his life.

Melchizedek: You're not actually suggesting that a loving God would allow people to dehumanize themselves, do you?

donsands said...

"In other words, I think the human choices in this life really matter."

When one sins this sin really matters is right. God will call to account for every sin, and He hates sin, with a white hot wrath.

"Does Wright present his unbelieving listeners with a Hell that is just and unbearable punishment for crimes of infinite gravity and guilt that we committed against a blindingly holy God; or with a Hell that is a rather tame, if "sad," natural consequence of our philosophical bent?"

He surely does tame it down, and whose to say one day dismiss it altogether if he sees another mural in a chapel and then talks about it with another liberal theologian?

I don't understand NT. He's way to smart for me.

I understand John Lennon though:

"Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today...

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one".

Many in the church today seem to be agreeing with John.

Could there have ever been a more ridiculous song?

gary and brenda said...

Making an arguement by asking questions -- where'd you learn that?
--Gary

DJP said...

Shhhhhhhhh.

(c;

BMF said...

'If earth and heaven are to join together ...' What does Wright mean? I don't understand this type of language. Does Wright believe in the green, eco-friendly social gospel?

DJP said...

It is a strange category-jump, isn't it?

Lisa said...

What strikes me over and over is how so many in the church see heaven and hell as a concept, more nebulous than reality, as if when we leave these physical forms, we move on into a fuzzy-idea-dream-like place. If we believe that this fallen physical frame is a bit limiting, why would the life to come become less real when we are released from those limits?
So, the idea seems to be that seeing reality as real is rather childish, or primitive, and to see reality as non-reality is very clever and sophisticated. Another nose dive into the bottomless pond of ambiguity...geesh.

So, does the fact that God is ineffable speak to His substance, or our inability to comprehend?
Sorry Wright is struggling with not being able to understand Hell, I do too...but my limits in no way diminish reality.
There is no neat little box for this stuff. The Bible is not an "answer book", it is a revelation, many times of things we cannot begin to contain in these measley brains. But, sometimes it is so plain, we recoil from its bluntness.
I fear our theology has become tainted by narcissism, if I don't get it, and gosh, I am so darn smart, then it must not be real.
(not a comment on Wright, a comment on the times)

seeingclearly said...

Thanks for pointing this out, Dan. So why are people looking to him to explain justification?

Rob Bell took this line of reasoning and ran with it in the first chapter of his book, Sex God. He writes,

"Now if there’s a realm where things are as God wants them to be [heaven], then there must be a realm where things are not as God wants them to be. Where things aren’t according to God’s will. Where people aren’t treated as fully human. It’s called hell."

NT is the playbook writer for all things emergent...

Keep it real!

Associate-to-the-Pastor said...

I just loved the message that appeared part way through: "N.T. Wright, Leading New Testament Scholar." It's like in A Few Good Men: 'Your honor, I STRENUOUSLY object.'

Frank Turk said...

I'm going to miss N.T. Wright. For a guy who gets the resurrection so well, it sorta kills me that he misses that there are those resurrected to eternal life, and those resurrected to eternal judgment.

May God convict him in this life and not in the next.

A Jam C said...

Hell terrifies me. I hate thinking about it, but it the thought must enter our minds to cause us to fear the Lord. Many people, Christians even, cannot fathom such an awful place, so they try think of whatever they can to comfort themselves. As scholarly as NT Wright is, and as much as I appreciate his role as a historian, I think he might be doing a little bit of that here.

Do I want people, including loved ones, to suffer forever, of course not. But, that doesn't mean I should stop believing the truth.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"I have friends who I am quite sure are Christians who do not believe in the bodily resurrection," says the Right Reverend N. T. Wright, Bishop of Durham. This is a truly dangerous and unbiblical assertion, made all the more shocking when it is offered by someone of N. T. Wright's caliber.

Read it all here at Albert Mohler's blog.

DJP said...

Yep.

They could also have read thoughts by a lesser light here on this blog.

Stan McCullars said...

The same thing happened to me as happened to Melchizedek. I was reading along and thought Dan had gone off the deep end. At that point I thought I must have missed something. Which I did.

Thanks for the post.

DJP said...

Mel & Stan

That's pretty funny. Thanks for giving me enough benefit of the doubt to think you might have misread me, and going back to double-check before bringing out the Comfy Chair.

One of my very top frustrations as a blogger is people who read carelessly, hurl accusations — then refuse to consider that they might have misread. I point them back to the post, they refuse to go, they demand that I reinvent the wheel for their amusement.

I've never gotten around the logic: if you refuse to read me the first time I write it, how is it wise for me to write it again?

Barbara said...

Oy, Wright's depiction pretty much matches up to my own hopeful estimation of what Hell might be - when my perception was darkened, still dead in my trespasses and sins, and still blindly headed there. Anything to make it easier for the conscience to swallow under the veil....

Red and Black Redneck said...

I must agree with Frank Turk's comment above. I thoroughly enjoyed Bishop Wright's "The Last Word."

The White Horse Inn had good overview of Bishop Wright's theology as part of their June 1, 2008 broadcast which was part of the series, Christless Christianity.

DJP said...

Right, Barbara. In fact, you suggest a test to me:

If your explanation of Hell leaves it less terrifying...

...you're doing it wrong!!!

MSC said...

"If Hell were an actual place, what language would the Bible have had to use to make that fact clearer than it is in the text as we have it?"

I say a similar thing about the creation account and the flood. If is was really 6 days and it really was global what language would you use to convey that?

I think these all fall into the same category of unsustainable views for our enlightened age. How can we be taken seriously by the world when we believe in a young earth, a global flood and a literal hell of retributive justice?

olan strickland said...

Hell defined as, "Progressive shrinking of human life"? "Dehumanization"?

If Wright is speaking of the uselessness and worthlessness (Romans 3:10-18) of the unregenerate then OK. But if he is speaking of and defining hell as such then that's not OK.

This then turns out to be a reconstruction/deconstruction of the Biblical definition/revelation of hell.

DJP said...

Right. I don't think "shrinking" is a terrifying image today.

Maybe I should have titled this, "Honey, I shrunk the Lake of Fire!"

Except it isn't funny.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

DJP: "They could also have read thoughts by a lesser light here on this blog."

Oh my goodness! Clicked on the link and it's a 264 comment thread! I'm up to about comment #50 and I'm now seeing fireworks flare between I-Monk and the TeamPyro 3.

Yow!! Will now go back to reading the rest of this most interesting thread in the archives of TeamPyro.

olan strickland said...

Leaving out the reality of hell being the just and necessary wrath of God against sin and replacing it with the progressive shrinking of human life mimimizes the necessity of the death of Christ. No need to flee to Him from the wrath to come if there is no wrath to come.

Nik Papageorgiou said...

I was surprised to read that it was a Greek Orthodox that started this whole thing... I guess things must've changed since I was growing up in Greece, because back then Hell was thought of and taught in very realistic colours (e.g. at school RE).

Of course, the way to avoid this horrific Hell was baptism and, well, try to be a good person. After all, Hell is only for the REALLY bad folk...

I'm so utterly thankful for the Gospel.

DJP said...

Wow, Nik. You take me back.

I'd just been a Christian for a few months. I was already trying to start learning Greek, so I talked with a Greek-born girl in my senior class at high school - Monica.

I remember her telling me that she'd talk to the priest, and tell him she didn't really have any sins to confess.

He'd shrug and say, "Nobody's perfect."

Yes, thank God for the Gospel.

Johnny T. Helms said...

Dan,

Wright is not far removed from Lee Strobel whom I heard say (and read in one of his "The Case for..." books) on The Bible Answer Man that God will not deny the unregenerate's dignity. If the lost want to go to hell then God will allow them to for that reason, i.e., that they may keep their dignity. In both cases, Wright and Strobel, it is heresy.

xfrmdxrenewal said...

Dan first of all thanks for this post as I had just heard Wright interviewed on a local Christian station and it left me befuddled how any "NT Scholar" could come to those conclusions. Also I was relieved to see I wasn't the only one who had to go back and read the start after thinking you had gone off your trolley :)

John said...

I am glad someone finally called wright out on this. Dead on - Wright is squeakingly western. One wonders if he has actually read 4QMMT, and why it applies so dearly to his theory of justification, but can be chucked to the curb when it comes to hell...

Mike Riccardi said...

At the foundation of what Wright is saying is pride.

When he equates hell to "dehumanizing oneself" he's applying dignity where there is none. He's switching categories entirely. And he's doing it to find some worth in the human condition. Hell is not dehumanization. It is condemnation to mere humanization forever.

Every human thing about me -- except perhaps my actual physical body -- will be different in the resurrection. The perishable (natural, human) will put on the imperishable (spirit), cf. 1Cor 15. I long to be "dehumanized" along with Paul in 2Cor 5:1-5, Phil 3:20-21, and Rom 8:23ff.

Matt's great comment: You're not actually suggesting that a loving God would allow people to dehumanize themselves, are you?

Not only did he allow it, but He killed His Son whom He loves to make sure it happened. Dehumanizing me and
"Christifying" me
is the most loving thing I can think of.

I really am surprised that this man is a voice in evangelicalism. Babies and bathwater and all that, but sometimes you just have to put some folks at an arm's length.

Daryl said...

Man oh man that's sad.

I was contemplating hell the other day and, as always happens, I begin to imagine being there and promptly terrified myself into repentance.
I mean, I hate when I think about it (although we must) but Wright's version makes me think "I'd take that chance".

And, contrary to what he said, doesn't his idea essentially make him a universalist? In his view, everyone gets what they want. The righteous get Jesus, the ones who don't want Jesus just go away, albeit slowly.

As well, didn't his assertion that choices in this life matter, while true to some extent, amount to salvation by works?
Yes, our choices matter, as do our actions etc, but didn't Jesus die for my choices? I need to obey, no question, but if anything eternal depends on my choices, well it doesn't look real good for me, or him.

It's video's like this that give the lie to his "my critics don't really understand me" line. How much plainer and wronger could he be I wonder?

John said...

I think your point 5.1 is absolutely spot on. Just as heaven will be so much better (grander?, more awesome?) than we can imagine, so will hell be so much worse than we can imagine. Jesus, when He spoke of hell, was describing it as horrifically as He could to His first century listeners, but that doesn't mean that it is only that horrific.

Your pont 9 is also great. So many people claim that Christianity is a "western" religion, but it is not, and Wright's truly western theology is blinding him to a tru understanding of heavenly (and hellish) things.

John

eastendjim said...

When I read interpretations of hell such as presented by Wright, I like to go with the "what's the worst case?" scenario.

The worst case scenario for hell is that it's exactly as described in the bible.

I don't think I'd like to gamble anyone's eternity merely on someone's differing opinion.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Mike Riccardi: "I really am surprised that this man is a voice in evangelicalism."

I understand. Yet see this response to my question at Justin Taylor's blog:

TUAD: "I need assistance in getting a handle on N.T. Wright's service to the King. It's incomplete.

On the positive side of the ledger:

(1) Defends the historicity of the Resurrection against Jesus Seminar scholars. (But to be honest, seems like many other evangelical theologians could have done the same thing).

On the negative side of the ledger (admitting my theological biases):

(1) Staunch egalitarian.

(2) New Perspective on Paul.

(3) Believes that one can be a Christian without believing in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, per Albert Mohler. Which sort of offsets the positive contribution he made against the Jesus Seminar scholars.

So overall, according to my admittedly and woefully incomplete scorecard, I'm rather underwhelmed by Bishop NT Wright and am puzzled as to why he seems to have an elevated status in the Christian world.

Can someone illumine me as to why +Wright merits a higher status than what my scorecard has assigned?"

Andrew Cowan: TUAD,

Not many people who have read Wright's work ask the question of what benefit there is.

Here are some of the major points:

1) His work on methodology in The New Testament and the People of God is brilliant. He articulates a robust critical-realist epistemology and defends a healthy hermeneutic geared towards authorial intention within that framework.

2) His defense of the biblical portrait of Jesus' life as historically viable in Jesus and the Victory of God is both compelling and highly illuminating. (This book helped me to understand scores of passages in the gospels that were previously opaque to me.)

3) His exegesis of Paul is also at times very illuminating. Even if you disagree with his take on the New Perspective (and I do, in certain places), if you read him, I believe that you will find that he is a very insightful exegete whose work on Paul has undeniable merits.

4) Within the Anglican communion, he has been one to stand up and say that homosexual practice is not biblically justifiable.

5) He has managed to pull all of this off and not only be respected, but also to be viewed as one of the leading scholars in not only the Evangelical world, but also the broader world of biblical scholarship. It is probably the fact that one who holds so many conservative views is so respected there that he draws (and deserves) such attention from Evangelicals.

Anyway, I could go on, but, as Wright likes to say, in reality, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. In my estimation, the pudding is good; I commend it to you."

Daryl said...

John,

I don't think I'd call Wright's theology "western". That whole east-west line has been trotted out way too many times and pretty much always been wrong. (It certainly is as Wright uses it here)

It's beginning to sound to me like he's so bent on finding another angle that he's actually finding them where they aren't. Almost (but not quite, yet) like McClaren's "Secret Message of Jesus". Either that or he just want's to make life and death easier on everyone, wherever they end up after the judgement.

Sir Aaron said...

Ok...if there is no hell, what am I doing here? I might as well go do what I want. And why o why did Christ need to die for my sins if I wasn't being saved from anything?

That about sums up my objections to any characterization of hell as anything but a literal place of torment for actual people.

John said...

Daryl,
By "western theology" I merely meant Enlightment/post-Enlightment, modernism/postmodernism, where man, and especially the self, is at the center of ones' perspective instead of God.

John

stratagem said...

THIS is why I love Dan Phillips's writing: So logical, so clear, so irrefutable. When someone like NT Wright makes these Pomo statements like this and I can only stammer about searching for ways to refute it, Dan comes along and zings an arrow into its heart.

I don't know much about NT Wright, I just know that his name sure comes up a lot among "Hell-o-caust Deniers" and other backdoor Bible denigrators.

timburns said...

I haven't read through all the meta yet, so please forgive me if I'm inadvertantly repeating someone else's thought(s).

When I 1st watched the video, I was left with the distinct impression that Wright believes that Hell isn't good - but at the same time he didn't give any description about what Hell actually is.

It wasn't till I read Dan's post that I understood that Wright's view of Hell is the "dehumanization" of man.

And I thought: that's IT?!?

You gotta be kidding me. Jesus described the place as a place of torment where the worm never dies & the fire is never quenched... We see a picture in Revelation of the lake of fire where the Devil & unregenerate people are thrown into for eternity...

...And the best Tom Wright can do is say that Hell is just "dehumanization?"

For crying out loud, I can point to *Christians* who are more stinking depressed than unbelievers who are supposedly "dehumanized."

Wright's description of Hell isn't Hell; it's a bad hair day.

Daryl said...

John,

I agree that that kind of thinking is a problem, but I would also say that it's not hardly a "Western" problem.
All through Scripture putting oneself and self-interest ahead of God is the number one issue I think.

As Ravi Zacharias often reminds us, people in the west pretty much think of themselves in the same way that people in the east.
I am King, God had better leave me alone.

I don't take issue with the problem, just the labelling of it as somehow distinctly western or enlightenment thinking.

We're all self-worshippers at heart.

Respectabiggle said...

The existence of a real Hell seems to rank up there with Six-Day Creation and the existence of Satan as doctrines that will get you laughed out of polite academic company. No educated person really believes in all that medieval hocus-pocus, don't you know?



I don't know Wright's heart, so I don't know why he'd come to such a conclusion, but this is the sort of temptation that "Respected Scholars" face.

Phil Johnson said...

DJP: "Maybe I should have titled this, 'Honey, I shrunk the Lake of Fire!' Except it isn't funny."

No, but that title is sheer genius. Shall I add it as a subtitle?

DJP said...

Please, feel free.

Jay said...

I believe it was Paul Washer who said that hell is so terribly horrifying that man is unable to fully comprehend it.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"N. T. Wright on Hell"

Ummmmmm, let's all assume N.T. Wright is a Heaven-going, elect Christian.

Let's also assume that N.T. Wright teaches falsely on a number of doctrines that vary in importance.

Is it reasonable to conclude that there will be heretics (false teachers) of varying degrees in Heaven?

If so, my next question would be: What kind of false teaching or heresy is "acceptable" to God and what is not? What are the limits?

(And I don't even know if it's a good question. I don't want to even get close to the limits or boundaries (I want to stay in the center of God's will) of orthodoxy/orthopraxy, but I am curious.)

For example, I think most TeamPyro readers would accept that there are liberal Christians, emergers, egalitarians, arminians, biblical errantists, Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, theistic evolutionists that will be in heaven. And their positions on various doctrinal views are, from this vantage point, aberrant. Yet they are still elect and heaven-bound. There is some false teaching that's "tolerated" by God and there's some false teaching that is not.

Is there a line? Where's the line? Is the line clear? Or fuzzy?

Just curious.

Angie said...

No hell as the Bible describes it (you know, real with worms and fire) is also something Jehovah's Witnesses believe, is it not?

The Seeking Disciple said...

As someone has already stated here, the fact that Wright has such a large fan base is what makes him scarry. I know of many who take all that he says as "gospel" and to oppose him is to oppose God. Thankfully Wright is just a man who is capable of errors and he has made many whereas God's Word is true.

DJP said...

Well, Angie, I think Wright would say that he believes in Hell, but that the Bible's portrayal is not to be taken literally. That's what I get from this.

JWs on the other hand are annihilationists. The damned are blasted out of existence.

donsands said...

"JWs on the other hand are annihilationists. The damned are blasted out of existence."

My neighbor Alice was a JW. Her husband Glenn was a nominal Baptist from NC.
He was found to have cancer in his stomach, and before he died, I was able to visit with him, and through the mercy of God, and a pastor friend, and my wife, the Lord brought Glenn to himself. There was actual fruit within his last few days.

I told Alice her husband Glenn trusted Christ, and is with the Lord.
She said, "Glenn is gone forever, but he will always be in the mind of God."

There's such a strong deception there.

humanitasremedium said...

N.T. has gone off the deep end. DJP spot on with the Questions.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

DJP: "JWs on the other hand are annihilationists. The damned are blasted out of existence."

There are also some Christians who hold to annihilationism.

If you could choose between these two options for the damned, which would you choose?

(A) Eternal misery in Hell Or

(B) Blasted out of existence?

Red and Black Redneck said...

In Eberhard Bethge's monumental (and tiring to carry) biography of Bonhoeffer, he subtitles a section "The Theologian Becomes a Christian." Maybe that transition has not happened for Wright. Maybe it has.

If the Apostle's Creed represents the outermost ring of orthodox Christianity, then I think Wright could and probably does ascribe to the creed, thereby remaining within the ring.

Red and Black Redneck said...

In the otherwise execrable movie "Event Horizon," one of the characters says, "Hell is just a word." His meaning is that the word cannot convey the horrors awaiting therein.

It is a chilling scene. But not a good reason to watch it. I wish I hadn't.

Jake said...

Is there anything wrong with the progressive aspect of Wright's perspective?

The idea of progression is one of the things that scares me senseless of Hell (the location) and really jazzes me about Heaven (the location). On my good days I'm a pretty wicked sinner and I've lived a life that evidences the fact that sin is numbing--like other vices--and continually requires stronger doses to produce a noticeable effect. The fire and worms will be bad, but the real depressing thought is that I'd have to share the lake with prideful, quarrelsome, evil people who are eternally becoming more prideful, quarrelsome and evil.

Anywho, I like Wright. I've drifted more conservative (thanks to this blog) since I read him but he was very influential in showing me that all parts of my life should work toward the glory of God..and for that I am thankful. He is a good popular writer, but like some other popular authors, he tends to water down the hard parts and in so doing he waters down the good parts, too.

stratagem said...

TUAD:

Whether we would choose A or B?

Of what significance would our choice be, since what we'd like to see has no bearing on what is?

stratagem said...

The fire and worms will be bad, but the real depressing thought is that I'd have to share the lake with prideful, quarrelsome, evil people who are eternally becoming more prideful, quarrelsome and evil.

I believe the worst thing about Hell is that there is no hope of anything better for those who are there - ever. No hope at all for endless eternity. Since none of us has ever experienced eternal hopelessness combined with eternal torment, we cannot imagine what it would be like.

Markus said...

TUAP writes:
"If you could choose between these two options for the damned, which would you choose?

(A) Eternal misery in Hell Or

(B) Blasted out of existence?"

I'd choose B in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, it's not my choice.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Markus: "I'd choose B in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, it's not my choice."

I agree with you on both counts.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

I like this phrase: "The damned are blasted out of existence."

My visual is an atomic bomb exploding someone's damned soul in the spiritual dimension and just blasting it into smithereens.

BLAM!!

Arthur Sido said...

What I think is that it is hard to take aa dude seriously when he is wearing a shirt that color.

Robert-the-Chemist said...

C.S. Lewis said very similar things about Hell. Something about "having once been a human" and "being a horror and corruption you would only meet, if at all, in a nightmare". Must be an Anglican thing.

redbeard said...

'If earth and heaven are to join together ...' What does Wright mean? I don't understand this type of language. Does Wright believe in the green, eco-friendly social gospel?

I think he's referring to Revelation 21:1-3.

Jeff Branch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TAR said...

I will leave it to God to separate the wheat from the tares..

But I will just say that one could not make bread from this "fine scholar"

Michelle said...

More like "Honey, I extinguished the Lake of Fire!".

These guys who denigrate the eternal Word of God to score "respectability" points in the eyes of man make me very angry. Thankfully God will deal with them and in His sovereignty will continue to raise up faithful, godly men to preach the Word, unadulterated, until His purposes are accomplished.

JR said...

And what about Stott?

He wrote this century's best book on substitutionary atonement--THE CROSS of CHRIST--and he, good sir, is an annihilationist.

Will we treat him similarly?

I mean, since were on the subject...

Brad Williams said...

I don't see how this description of hell would really bother a lost person at all. It sounds sort of like:

"Well, hell is a lot like your life now...only you just get more self-absorbed and that's awful."

Who would tremble at that?

And BTW, just for funsies, even if the West has touted this idea of hell, that doesn't mean it's wrong. Westerners are not de facto idiots just by living West of Old Constantinople.

And one more while I'm at it: What about the poor folk who live in the East/West divide? They must be sooo confused.

Ryan said...

69 comments, and I think most of you missed the point. Sorry to be so blunt about it.

I would be interested to know exactly how many hours of study and time with God some of you have put into this subject? It seems that many of you are obvious experts on the topic.

BMF said...

'If earth and heaven are to join together ...' What does Wright mean? I don't understand this type of language. Does Wright believe in the green, eco-friendly social gospel?

'I think he's referring to Revelation 21:1-3.'

Still makes no sense as Rev 21:1 speaks about the first earth passing away.

Rev 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.

Dave .... said...

Dan, I've read and heard a lot from Wright and he is amazing in his ability to obfuscate the obvious. He weaves a yarn, missing several strands and calls it whole, usually attacking a caricature of some orthodox belief in the process. I can't tell if he believes his own stuff, but he is smooth and dangerous. Wright is an enemy of the cross - he's routinely and repeatedly devalued it. He's completely unzipped justification - it means becoming part of a community, not being made right with God (silly Lutherans). But see, hell doesn't MATTER once you've abolished the cross and traded grace for a sign-up sheet.

Evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you ... (2 Tim 3:13)

philness said...

Poor N.T. Wright. He couldn't be more wrong. It is his conscience that has been seared. And to think what his hell will really be like for suppressing the truth.

Wait. Doesn't one have to know the truth before he is able to suppress it?

DJP said...

Brad — exactly, and very well-put.

Ryan — isn't it unkind of you to point out how benighted most of us are, and then to withhold from us the illumination which you evidently possess? Please share.

Rick Frueh said...

No one ever seems to want to "shrink" heaven. In fact, many cults do away with hell altogether without touching heaven.

Think about recruitment for a cult who said there was no heaven, only hell. There worship services would be pretty bleak. :)

Ryan said...

Sure, Dan, I'll enlighten you on the illumination that I so evidently said I possessed in my previous post?

(Just in case you didn't notice, I didn't say that).

My question was simply how much study and prayer have you put into the topic yourself, or more importantly many of those who are posting here?

Before you, as I suspect you might (but I could be wrong) point out that I might say "but Wright is a scholar etc. etc." you should know that I am not. I am simply wondering how much thought, study and prayer you, or many others, have actually put into this subject? See it as a challenge to be a bit of a Berean.

I believe that Wright is an annihilationist (or a "conditionalist")- along with John Stott and many other well standing Christians, even throughout the ages. What do you think about annihilationism, and why? How much study and prayer have you put into it?

Rick Frueh said...

"How much study and prayer have you put into it?"

None, I find those things counter productive. Are you suggesting that whoever compiles the most "hours" is the truth czar? Start the clock!

Eric Kaminsky said...

N.T. Wright erroneously states that the reformers we're overly obsessed with the NT epistles, and didn't pay enough heed to the gospels. No one speaks more about Gehenna (The lake of fire), the trash heap that burns forever, than Jesus himself in the gospels.

Tommy wright wants to take gospels serious (unless Jesus is all uptight about hell). hmmmmm

Ryan said...

Rick, prayer and study of God's Word are counter productive?

Hmmmm....

DJP said...

So now we understand what Ryan is. Did not take very long.

Ryan I: 69 comments, and I think most of you missed the point. Sorry to be so blunt about it.

Ryan II (after bluff was called(: Sure, Dan, I'll enlighten you on the illumination that I so evidently said I possessed in my previous post? (Just in case you didn't notice, I didn't say that). (Then follows more slander of the commenters.)

You're a sniper: nothing to contribute but slanderous bullets for those who are trying.

Folks, you've all better things to do. Barring a change, don't feed the troll. I'll delete anything more along the same lines from him.

Eric Kaminsky said...

Dan, that's why we love you.

I would expect the same for me if I was to get out of line and take us down a rabbit trail of error

Ryan said...

Dan, I'm trying to engage you in conversation. If my last comment was a little snide then I apologise.

I even apologised for being blunt beforehand. I think I was being quite a gentleman about it, while at the same time putting up what I thought was a challenge to all. Nothing wrong with that, I thought the challenge was more edifying than breaking down (spend more time in study and prayer? Is that slanderous?)

Slandering commenters? No. I asked who has put prayer and study of the word into this subject, and also how much. I'm still keen to see what you have to say about that.

DJP said...

Right, Ryan; now move on. You've done the try-to-challenge-everyone thing. Now if you have something to offer of your own that rises above the level of "Oh, yeah?", then now is the time to do it.

Eric Kaminsky said...

The bible uses the knowledge of the wrath of God for sin and eternal judgement as an encouragement to walk in holiness. A very strong encouragement indeed.

There came a time in my Christian walk where I could no longer be satisfied with easy-believism. The idea of the just wrath of God became sweet, for it provided sanctification and freedom from bondage.

BMF said...

"You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?"

Easy, we will simply deny its existence!

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Ryan et al,

This blog post may be of interest to you: Dialogue with a composite N. T. Wrightophile.

Ryan said...

Okay, Dan, I don't really mean to be trollish about it and I apologise if I was.

My challenge is really based on the fact that I changed my mind when I spent something like three years checking the subject up. I'm convinced that if people spent considerable time on the subject they would probably see it a whole lot differently. I just don't think people really do spend that much time in prayer and the Word around this subject.

And if they did and saw it differently they may be encouraged in a whole new way to do evangelism.

Because of this I don't really want to outline my view, simply to say that if people spent considerable time in prayer and the Word over this subject I'm convinced they would change their view. I don't want to come in here and hijack things, or post something that you feel may be dangerous to the salvation of another person (not that I think my view is really THAT dangerous, but anyway).

If you think I should post it then I will, but you can decide on that.

olan strickland said...

Anyone who reads the NT right can see that N.T. Wright is wrong!

Mike Riccardi said...

So Ryan, your position is, "If you've studied as much as I have, you'd agree with me."

So you've called everyone who doesn't believe about hell what NT Wright does a sloth in the Scriptures.

That would include the reformers, a vast majority (if not all) of the Puritans, and contemporary giants like MacArthur, Piper, Sproul, Mohler, etc.

Maybe they should have just studied some more.

Mike Riccardi said...

Correction...

Maybe they should have just studied as much as you have.

stratagem said...

Wow, that is a great idea: Let's go ahead and create N.T. Wrong.

N.T. Wrong: "Well, I don't believe in a literal Heaven. I think that all this talk Jesus said about a literal Heaven was really a symbolic reference point about how humanized we will become when we are in some unconscious but blissful state after we die. I mean, do we really think there are literal 'mansions' and 'angels' and 'eternal light' in some 'place' we go to?" (and so on...)

DJP said...

And prayed, Mike. That's the trump-card.

DJP said...

Disturbingly good point, Stratagem. If Hell is really all about being dehumanized, then Heaven must really be all about becoming truly human?

stratagem said...

True Dan.

N.T. Wrong: Would a just God really send humans to a literal place of eternal joy, contentment, and peace...?

DJP said...

...because a God-centered, unimaginably glorious eternity of blissful communion is a Western concept.

DJP said...

...that first arose in the Middle Ages, and was capitalized on by the Reformers....

STOP ME

Ryan said...

@ Mike,

No, Mike, I didn't say that everyone would agree with me if they studied the scriptures more. I said that I'm convinced they would "change their mind." They might disagree with me, that's fine, but in all honesty most people don't spend enough time checking this out.

Secondly I would never call anyone a sloth in the scriptures, that's an accusation of their character. Everyone has different questions and as a result some people tend to spend more time in one subject than others. That's the way it often is. Piper is brilliant (I have a fairly large library of Piper) and so are other many of those you mentioned; but they are brilliant on different subjects, and weak on certain other points.

Perhaps they are weaker on this point, or perhaps I am, but most people don't spend enough time really checking it out - and that's my point. And I'm really convinced of my view that if they did they would change their mind, but that just shows the strength of my convictions not that I'm more brilliant than someone else.

Not to be rude, but by your reasoning Mike you're calling a 'contemporary giant' like NT Wright a sloth in the scriptures, as well as John Stott, and a couple of others. Are these not 'giant' enough for you that they don't carry enough weight?

Plus, by talking of Piper etc. you're calling the trump card that Dan mentions in his " Dialogue with a composite N. T. Wrightophile" blog: "But he's an international scholar, and you're nothing!"

So Piper is a contemporary giant and I'm nothing, correct?

stratagem said...

N.T. Wrong: "...and another thing: If people are taught and believe there is a literal Heaven, then they are likely to seek salvation simply because they want eternal bliss, and not for nobler reasons. I would want people to believe the Gospel, even if they thought they were going to a gas station in Beiruit after they die..."

Lisa said...

What has always baffled me about this approach of reimagining Christianity, is that it seems to be based on an attitude that is so foreign to me, that it is, (hate to use the word again), baffling.
I was not raised in Christianity, but rather my philosophy was formed, and my mind was pureed by the public school system. When I first heard the Gospel, it was, simply put, Good news! Heaven and hell were not even in the picture: what was clear to me was that I was a sinner. And what the Gospel declared was that God was good.
After hashing out my public-school-induced-inability-to-reason, I was able to embrace the Gospel. I quess I was lucky, not many preconceived notions about God, just a captivation with this God who would reach into this lost world and seek and save the lost.
I think what the NTWrights of the world think is that the uninitiated like myself must be wooed to the savoir based on making the whole lot of it more palatable. Rather, if we are drawn to the Savoir, it is by His spirit, and if we are drawn by His spirit, we may find these things difficult to comprehend, but we have no desire to have them watered down or redefined.
If we were drawn to the truth, why would we desire anything less?

holmegm said...

Ya know ... if this "Hell-lite" really were an "Eastern" concept, then maybe, you know, the Easterns are, well, wrong?

When and why did that become impossible?

Lisa said...

Sorry for the typos, just got home from work, and hubby wants lunch!

DJP said...

Actually Lisa, I have never gotten in anything that I've read from Wright that he gives any thought to the lost, or to people like you and me, at all.

Check this.

Also: D. A. Carson relates how a man asked Wright once, "What if a woman in your parish called you, was about to die, was worried about her eternity, and wanted to know how to be right with God and be sure of it. What would you tell her?"

Wright was taken aback by the question, and admitted he had no response.

Mike Riccardi said...

Wow, Ryan. Just... wow.

No, Mike, I didn't say that everyone would agree with me if they studied the scriptures more. I said that I'm convinced they would "change their mind".

... From their original position, to your position. That'd be agreeing with you.

How could someone who originally disagrees with you change their mind and not agree with you? Maybe there's some nuance that studied folks like yourself pick up on that I just don't.

Secondly I would never call anyone a sloth in the scriptures, that's an accusation of their character. Everyone has different questions and as a result some people tend to spend more time in one subject than others.

Some people, like Piper, have studied this topic extensively. In fact, I think all the men that I listed by name have studied annihilationism thoroughly because they wanted to benefit John Stott when he started going that way. They have studied. They haven't changed their minds. Should they spend more time?

And I'm really convinced of my view that if they did they would change their mind, but that just shows the strength of my convictions not that I'm more brilliant than someone else.

But the reason for them not getting it is not having spent enough time. That is showing that you think that you're more brilliant than someone else, if you've both spent similar amounts of time studying the topic and they haven't "changed their mind."

Not to be rude, but by your reasoning Mike you're calling a 'contemporary giant' like NT Wright a sloth in the scriptures, as well as John Stott, and a couple of others.

This is my reasoning? When did I say anyone would understand if they spent more time. All I did was take the way you were reasoning and make it plain. That you projected your reasoning on me is downright scary.

Are these not 'giant' enough for you that they don't carry enough weight?

You seem to be forgetting and projecting again. I never judged anybody's conclusions by their scholarly efforts or devotional time cards.

Plus, by talking of Piper etc. you're calling the trump card that Dan mentions in his " Dialogue with a composite N. T. Wrightophile" blog: "But he's an international scholar, and you're nothing!"

So Piper is a contemporary giant and I'm nothing, correct
?

Incorrect. You'd be obligated to admit that by your reasoning, if it were discovered that you're wrong. All I'm saying is that by calling into question the seriousness and diligence of study of the Word of God, you necessarily impugn the validity of the study of men who disagree with you.

I brought up the men I brought up to make plain that what you were saying was an arrogance near-unparalleled in my limited blog experience. Men who disagree with you, who have "studied the topic further," who we regard as fathers and leaders and teachers. I didn't set you up against those guys. You did that yourself.

BrettR said...

So, does N.T. Wright believe that every human is born with a moral/philosophical blank slate that God keeps writing his name on and those who are going to "hell" are those who keep going up to their slate and erasing it? How does he define sin/sin nature? If it is a philospohical alignment that determines our eternal destiny (still a fuzzy category from what I saw and read in the transcript), is that not inconsistent with his view on justification?

N.T. Wright seems more like N.T. Wobbly than N.T. Wrong, but I like to see when people are pushed into consistencies.

Great post, Dan.

Ryan said...

Here's what I DID say Mike:

"I'm convinced that if people spent considerable time on the subject they would probably see it a whole lot differently."

There's no change to my view there, is there?

You've inferred that I meant they would agree with me, when all I'm saying is they would CHANGE THEIR VIEW. What I'm getting at is so many people just believe whatever they are told. I'm convinced they would CHANGE THEIR VIEW if they spent more time in the prayer and Word about THIS subject.

At least they would be less inclined to be so militant and dogmatic about their current view, and that's really what I'm getting at.

"All I did was take the way you were reasoning and make it plain. That you projected your reasoning on me is downright scary."

Lol, this is the same issue I was taking up with you. I felt you projected your reasoning onto me.

You were the one who said that I've "called everyone who doesn't believe about hell what NT Wright does a sloth in the Scriptures."

Firstly, I didn't say whether or not I agreed with NT Wright anywhere. Secondly, I didn't call anyone else a sloth in the scriptures. I made no attack on anyone's character whatsoever, and you projected your reasoning that "I'm calling everyone a sloth" onto me when I only said two things:

1) I asked if people had spent time and prayer in the scriptures over the subject. No one replied to this, by the way.

2) I said I don't think enough people do. Then I gave a testimony that when I did I changed my view. I challenged (or tried to encourage) others to do the same, as I'm convinced their view will change too. To what, I don't know, but people must at least still spend time and prayer in studying this.

"All I'm saying is that by calling into question the seriousness and diligence of study of the Word of God, you necessarily impugn the validity of the study of men who disagree with you."

Impugn is certainly too strong a word. I don't call into question anyone's character or motives. Do I call their doctrine into question? Yes, I most certainly do. Dan is doing the same for this blog - he is calling into question the study of another man (Wright) around this subject.

"I brought up the men I brought up to make plain that what you were saying was an arrogance near-unparalleled in my limited blog experience. Men who disagree with you, who have "studied the topic further," who we regard as fathers and leaders and teachers.

I was or am no more arrogant than what Dan or commenters here are doing. Dan and some commenters are calling into question the teachings of another man, an NT "scholar", a leader to some, Wright, who has studied the subject intensively etc. it appears.

Dan has said that the "Scholar" label doesn't really mean much. I agree with him. By that token, I AM at liberty to question the validity of the teachings of the men you mentioned, who I also regard as leaders of the faith, by the way, AND I'm no more arrogant than Dan or you or any other commenters for doing so.

Does Dan question Wright's character? I should hope not. He doesn't even know the guy. He is questioning his teachings. I'm at liberty to question the teachings of Piper and such as well, by the same token.

I can see why you may think I'm saying "well, Piper doesn't spend enough time in the Scriptures" but I'm not making any call on his study of the scriptures, although he obviously does. I'm also quite sure he has changed his mind and continues to change his mind on issues, as theologians tend to do. I'm asking anyone here how much time THEY have spent, but moved on when Dan asked me to.

I also don't think Piper would respond the way some commenters responded to Wright. Dan has already told me to not talk down to his commenters so I'm not going to do that... only you probably now can get my point.

Ryan said...

Oh, lastly, by Dan's own reasoning, I'm also at liberty to question his own teachings and the teachings of others who have posted here. So long as I'm not rude or obscene, I keep it civil, and I stick to his guidelines, which I believe I have done so.

Paul said...

Ryan, I think that if you would spend more time studying Mike's comments you would see your comments 'a whole lot differently'.

Ryan said...

lol, good one Paul :) (I mean that honestly...)

Daryl said...

Holmgem, you said

"Ya know ... if this "Hell-lite" really were an "Eastern" concept, then maybe, you know, the Easterns are, well, wrong?

When and why did that become impossible?"

I think the Beatles started that...

Markus said...

I'd like to hear what Ryan actually believes on this subject. I assume Dan is okay with that -- Dan?

Because otherwise, his posts are boring and not advancing the discussion.

DJP said...

Markus - I asked Ryan to do that very thing, 4:12 AM, June 19, 2009.

You are absolutely right: from first post to last, Ryan has said precisely nothing.

Ryan, deliver or desist. I am not kidding. I'm ready with the delete button. Forgive me if I erred on the side of mercy.

Ryan said...

Thanks Dan.

I was first challenged with Rev 20: 14 where it says "Death and Hell (Hades) were thrown into the Lake of Fire". At the time my Bible said "hell" and I wondered how hell can be thrown into the lake of fire - hell thrown into hell, so to speak.

Of course, the correct translation was "death and HADES" were thrown into the lake of fire.

Then I checked out the references to 'hades' in the Bible and saw Jesus used it only once, in the parable with Lazarus and the rich man.

The other times He spoke of hell He used "Gehenna," refering to the Scripture in Isaiah 66:24. This picture in the OT represents dead bodies, not live ones. The NT regularly refers to 'perishing', 'destruction' and so forth and we have to read into the text that this means 'eternal torment'.

Rev 20:10 and 20:14,15 only refers to the devil and his angels burning forever, but it doesn't actually say that any others burn forever. Its silent on how long others burn. Since we are not the same as angels, and we are mortal, it's difficult to pull out of the Bible that people burn (alive) forever.

The only text which is difficult in my view is Rev 14:11, which, when read carefully, only speaks about the smoke of their torment (which is not the same as their tormenting) and the fact that they have no rest, forever and ever, which doesn't have to mean they are alive in torment, but can mean that they do not step into eternal rest like the saved do.

It can mean eternal torment, but if we are going to use scripture to explain scripture it makes no sense to have Rev 14:11 explain everything else rather than the other way around.

Also, reading the Bible generally (from OT to NT) I saw the same pattern repeated when this subject was in the forefront of my mind - the wicked are doomed to destruction, death, etc. but we have to read into the text to see eternal torment in there (Rev 14:11 is the only text which we can read either way).

At the time I decided to do some research and found the idea of 'conditionalism' or 'annihilationism'. It was intriguing to me because that's what I seemed to have seen in the Bible for myself. Three years later I've become convinced of it.

I know NT Wright leans towards the same view but not exactly the same view, which is why I don't agree with him fully.

I don't believe that this is any less frightful than eternal torment, to be honest. If you were faced with the full knowledge that you were about to be destroyed forever, you would certainly have weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Forgive me for being boring but I got on a pretty useless tangent there.

DJP said...

Goodness gracious, dude — if you think that's news, advanced stuff, or anything beyond "Oh, that" to our readers... you really, really must be new here.

In which case, welcome. Could be a helpful place for you.

Ryan Peter said...

Lol, I'm sure its not news to anyone here Dan. I got on a ridiculous role of defending myself rather than just being more straight forward. Sorry about that. :)

DJP said...

Ryan first comment69 comments, and I think most of you missed the point. ....exactly how many hours of study and time with God some of you have put into this subject?

Ryan last commentLol, I'm sure its not news to anyone here Dan.

Ryan Peter said...

Got a link to "grace to you" on you blogroll, I see.

I see you're also living it out ;)

thesgc said...

DJP: If Hell is really all about being dehumanized, then Heaven must really be all about becoming truly human?

While it's not "all about" this, wouldn't those be important aspects? I have to think one of the greatest things about heaven will be "being like him" (1 John 3:2), being completely conformed to the image of Christ. And in this, don't we become what humans, made in the image of God, were truly intended to be? This is not to take away from the God-centeredness of heaven; indeed, it's precisely the result of seeing God.

As for hell, perhaps it's a bit more speculative, but conversely wouldn't those there lose what good, God-reflecting parts of them remained? Part of God's judgment is giving over people to their sin--might not part of hell be people who have been given over completely to their sin, with no restraint? It would be wrong to use this to somehow deemphasize God's wrath, but perhaps it's a part of that wrath.

DJP said...

I think that's to elevate the effect over the cause, in both cases.

You correctly cite 1 John 3:2, but leave off "because we shall see him as he is." We're only put right in ourselves when we're put right with Him. Heaven is all about that.

Hell likewise. I think you're right. Everything that makes life bearable-to-fun for the lost will be gone. But that will be because God's goodness will be gone.

Wright mentions God here and there, but his whole is very man-centered.

Which is...


...say it with me...

...really Western of him.

thesgc said...

DJP,

Right, I agree with you on that. As I said, being like God is "the result of seeing God." God remains preeminent. So I think Wright and Lewis are not so much wrong in the changes they say will afflict people, but rather err by deemphasizing God. Their insights can be useful, but they leave out the most important part of the picture.

Eric said...

thesgc,

Can you explain how you would find their insights useful when they deemphasize God, leaving out the most important part of the picture? Aren't their insights then actually damaging to believers and nonbelievers alike?

ulfbiggorilla said...

Ryan,

thanks for your contribution to the discussion, and for the graciousness in response to those you are in disagreement with. i think you are right that you should have got to your point quicker. while i completely disagree with your interpretation of scripture i do think that annihilation is one of the scariest things imaginable. that being the case, why do you think Jesus never talked about it?

thesgc said...

Eric,

Because there's truth in their insights, so we can learn from that truth, while also not confusing it with being the complete picture. What's damaging is not the truth, it's what's left out. Suppose someone talked about Jesus being our example in unjust suffering, but never talked about Jesus dying for our sins. We wouldn't want to respond by rejecting the truth that Christ was an example for us, but rather by showing how they're missing the weightier truth. So all I'm saying is don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Eric said...

thesgc,

I guess I was trying to get at something a little bit different, but maybe need to ask a different question. I'll relate my comments and questions specifically to the content of this post. Specifically, what about N.T. Wright's deconstruction of hell as quoted by Dan are helpful or edifying and lead to a more faithful Christian walk? How does the false picture that he paints that by your own admission deemphasizes God is help the believer or nonbeliever? At what point is some small thread of "truthiness" overwhelmed by the negative impact of the gross mischaracterization?

thesgc said...

Eric,

Well, to be honest, I'm more responding to DJP's sentence. Simply put, I think the insight from Lewis (and also in some of what Wright said) that in our present lives we can pursue, value, and love God and then find the culmination of our desire with God in heaven, to be an inspirational thought, one that encouraging us to live for God today. Likewise, I find the idea that unbelievers are presently rejecting God and turning away from his goodness, turning toward themselves, and that this culminates in eternal loss, loss of God and loss of what humans are meant to be, to be a chastening one. So, no, I don't think Wright's comments were helpful, and I'm not commending them, but I do think there was some truth in there, and I don't want to throw it out.

Disciple of Jesus Christ said...

If we really believe Hell is real, then let's work more on evangelism, and let's agonize in our prayers for the lost.

By the way, is the following passage about Hell:

"For My sword is satiated in heaven, Behold it shall descend for judgment upon Edom And upon the people whom I have devoted to destruction.
The sword of the LORD is filled with blood, It is sated with fat, with the blood of lambs and goats, With the fat of the kidneys of rams. For the LORD has a sacrifice in Bozrah And a great slaughter in the land of Edom.
Wild oxen will also fall with them And young bulls with strong ones; Thus their land will be soaked with blood, And their dust become greasy with fat.
For the LORD has a day of vengeance, A year of recompense for the cause of Zion.
Its streams will be turned into pitch, And its loose earth into brimstone, And its land will become burning pitch.
It will not be quenched night or day; Its smoke will go up forever. From generation to generation it will be desolate; None will pass through it forever and ever."
(Isaiah 34:5-10)

Grace be with you!
Disciple of Jesus Christ

Ryan Peter said...

Hi ulfbiggorilla,

Thanks for your response :)

I think did talk about it.

1) His use of the word "Gehenna", a place known as the rubbish heap, rather than "Hades", the place of the dead.

At a rubbish heap there's a lot of burning but things are eventually consumed, they don't burn forever. The use of the word is quite strong - Jesus calling the final status of the wicked "rubbish".

2) His reference to "where the worm does not die..." is a quote from Isaiah 66:24 where "they shall go look out at the DEAD BODIES of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh."

The worm does not refer to a "soul" (not ever in Scripture). It refers to the worm having so much to eat because there are so many bodies. Secondly, it is the fire that cannot be quenched - no one can put it out. But neither of these references refer to people being alive in the fire. It doesn't say that.

As to the soul, Jesus says that God can destroy both body and soul in hell (Matt 10:28).

3) Jesus regularly referred to the fire as having a consuming nature. He referred to rebels being as "branches" being thrown into the fire. Branches eventually burn up, they don't burn in the fire forever.

Lisa said...

Brad said:
"Well, hell is a lot like your life now...only you just get more self-absorbed and that's awful."


Some of us might actually enjoy that!
:)


Randy said:
Thankfully, his quiver is loaded with Nerf weapons.

Personal experience: these can sting quite a bit up close...wear goggles.

ross said...

What a great response. It never fails to amaze me as to how men with great intellects can make such shoddy arguments. It seems to me that the only people who could subscribe to such an argument are people that have already decided that they will not accept the biblical teaching on hell- and are simply looking for a good excuse to latch on to.

Kirby L. Wallace said...

I wrote about this a few weeks ago, so I really don't want to reiterate all over again.

So...

http://www.uniuslibri.com/UniusLibriIndex.asp?action=soisaid&articleid=62

Stephen said...

Hell: is the place for the wretched departed souls that did not believe in GOD, a place of permanent confinement and torment until the final judgement : no getting out of that, ever, except for judgement.
The Lake of Fire : the final place where Satan and his angels, the false prophet, the antichrist, and Hell, are tormented forever. The permanent place where all creatures that have rebelled against GOD.

ulfbiggorilla said...

Ryan,

thanks for the response...i don't think this forum is going to be the place for continued dialogue, but if you are interested in continuing let me know...and i'll get you my email.

Ryan Peter said...

Hey ulfbiggorilla,

Always keen to converse :) You can email me if you're still keen by going to my website www.ryanpeterwrites.com. My email addie is there.

Disciple of Jesus Christ said...

Stephen, Hades is not Hell. Hell is the lake of fire. Hades will be thrown in the lake of fire.

Be in Peace!
Disciple of Jesus Christ

Caleb Kolstad said...

Thanks for this post Dan.

Bishop Wright's answer is very concerning indeed.

Stephen said...

From Scripture, Hell is the bad side of Hades. The good side is (was) Abraham's Bosom. It is Hell that will be thrown into the Lake of Fire.
"And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death."
[Revelation 20:14]
The word translated hell here in the greek is hades and the equivalent in hebrew is sheol which comprised both abadon (hebrew for Hell) and Abraham's Bosom.
Along with the bad side of Sheol, you have The Abyss, and separate again, Tartarus.
You also have another expression called 'outer darkness' which is not Hell, but describing The Lake of Fire.

Ryan Peter said...

Hi Stephen,

Abaddon is personified by John in Rev 9, for interests sake.

Also, what about Gehenna then? Do you know Jesus used Gehenna every time he spoke of hell, bar once, when he used "Hades" in a parable (the parable of Lazarus and the rich man)? Also, in the parable he mentions Abraham's bosom, but since it's a parable it shouldn't be taken literally (parables are picture language) and it seems he was playing more to the traditions of the Jewish leaders than giving us all insight into what hades looks like.

You're speculating at best by dividing up hell into these different quarters, and relying more on tradition than the straightforward way the Bible puts it. Tartarus can very much just refer to Hades, except the word may have been used by Peter to denote being chained up. The bottom line is Scripture, without tradition, gives us very little specifics about hell.

Bryon Mondok said...

It's my impression that you all are being too intellectually lazy to try to wrap your brains around the things NT Wright and CS Lewis teach/taught about final human states in eternity. They are not saying live how you want because God's eternal kingdom does not exist. They are saying embrace the Gospel, it's good news, live with Jesus and serve Him forever in a resurrected body.

Jesus didn't actually want anyone to cut off their hands just like He didn't actually want someone to tie a millstone around their necks or actually pull a plank out of their eyes or actually swallow a camel. Jesus uses extreme language to illustrate extreme points: don't miss the Kingdom of God.

That's the message, right?

trogdor said...

If by "being intellectually lazy" you mean "believing what scripture clearly teaches and dismissing the foolishness of those who don't", then I guess I'm guilty as charged.

DJP said...

That might be Wright's message, Bryon. Jesus' message was "it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell" (Matthew 5:29-30).

Or is quoting Jesus (and believing Him) "intellectually lazy"?

Bryon Mondok said...

@DJP: I know you're a smart guy. When you answer as abruptly as you did I'm not sure it's because you want to make a point, you want to make me look silly, or if you really don't want to enter into real dialogue about something you want to be cut and dried.

Literally, gehenna points to the dump on the end of town. And I think we'll agree that Jesus didn't want to be taken literally about "the dump on teh edge of town".

So Wright and Lewis had a version of what literal meant, and Dante painted pictures of what the Catholic church seemed to describe (minus purgatory) and Luther and Calvin like part of what the Catholic church described (the part minus purgatory). The bottom line is that all teach that its eternal. Wright and Lewis imagine something different than Dante and the Catholic church. So what? They all DON'T want people to go there.

My beef isn't that there isn't hell, my beef is that you slam Wright (and Lewis) out of hand. My beef is that while it's better to go into eternal life missing a limb (or a life for that matter) Jesus didn't actually want people to pluck out eyes or cut off hands or his relatively (apparently) dense disciples would have DONE it ("Lord, don't wash just my feet, but my whole body!"). But they didn't.

I'm just sayin' there's more to it than you think. I think you're appealing more to tradition rather than grappling with the deeper things that Jesus was/is teaching His Word.

@trogdor: you're making my point for me.

DJP said...

No, here's what I'm really saying.

It never ceases to kill me that folks like you, who want me to spend months of my life reading hundreds of thousands of Wright-words, do such a hasty and superficial job on my relatively teeny-tiny and sharply-focused points.

I have said NOTHING about C. S. Lewis on this post. Strike one.

What you fault me for saying about Wright, I didn't say. Strike two.

Who's being lazy?

In my very-brief post and in my comment to you, one very specific and plainly stated point I made is that to Jesus, Hell is a horrible place worth doing anything to avoid. In Wright's depiction, it's not all that bad.

As to whether I have to interact with everything Wright ever said in order to interact with anything Wright ever says, see my other relatively brief and pointed companion piece (lined at the end of this one).

Ryan Peter said...

Bravo Bryon!

This is a great quote:
The bottom line is that all teach that its eternal. Wright and Lewis imagine something different than Dante and the Catholic church. So what? They all DON'T want people to go there.

For my part, I'm 100 percent in agreement with you. Sometimes this whole debate feels like a competition to see whose hell is worse.

"My hell's worse than yours! So I must be reading the Bible right!"

Ryan Peter said...

Dan,

In Wright's depiction, it's not all that bad.

Do you really think that Wright's depiction of hell, where he says it is a "progressive shrinking of human life. And that happens during this life..." is really not all the bad?

holmegm said...

Do you really think that Wright's depiction of hell, where he says it is a "progressive shrinking of human life. And that happens during this life..." is really not all the bad?

It's pretty vague ... and if I had to choose between 1. whatever it means, and 2. being burned by fire or eaten by worms, I would definitely choose the progressive shrinking :)

DJP said...

It's really unwise to mock Jesus like that, Ryan, and a pretty damning comment on your own stance. That you should feel such pressure is an indicator that, at some level, you realize you have compromised Jesus' message on Hell - as indeed you have, and badly.

Jesus depicts Hell as the acme of all terrors. You depict it as a blip and a snuff. Your view makes nonsense of His teaching (i.e. particularly Mark 14:21).

You should abandon the view like the sinking wreck it is.

DJP said...

Yes, Ryan, I do. Read the post and the thread, where I explain that.

DJP said...

PS - to clarify: I am sure your intent is not to mock Jesus, Ryan. What I am calling you to consider is that that is the effect of the approach you're taking. It inheres to the position, no matter how fine a fellow you may be otherwise.