Should the Modern Christian believe in Hell?

I am intrigued that people can discover verses at random from the Bible and construct a view of Hell eg from the gospels, which is entirely different from another random selection of verses chosen by someone else eg from Revelation. Since decisions about how God will get you in the hereafter (a painful place to be got) are entirely beyond verification, why bother to argue about it in the first place. When you look at different versions of Christianity eg Roman Catholic, Jehovahs Witnesses, Fundamentalist Baptist etc etc – they are all certain they have the hereafter right and yet they are different– which is probably more to do with what family they were born into. Why not simply have a go at living by the basics eg forgiving your enemies, the golden rule etc etc and leave the judgement to whatever happens after death. If you construct a view of hell that forces you into a faith position out of fear, doesnt that then give you the wrong motivation for believing in the first place?

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37 Responses to Should the Modern Christian believe in Hell?

  1. Cherel says:

    “I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” ( Matthew 12:36-37)

    “The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” ( Matthew 13:41-43)

    “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats . . . And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” ( Matthew 25:31-46)

    The Rich Man and Lazarus

    “Now there was a certain rich man, and he was clothed in purple and fine linen, living in luxury every day. A certain beggar, named Lazarus, was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. Yes, even the dogs came and licked his sores. It happened that the beggar died, and that he was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died, and was buried. In Hades, he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far off, and Lazarus at his bosom. He cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue! For I am in anguish in this flame.’
    “But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that you, in your lifetime, received your good things, and Lazarus, in like manner, bad things. But now here he is comforted and you are in anguish. Besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, that those who want to pass from here to you are not able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’
    “He said, ‘I ask you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house; for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, so they won’t also come into this place of torment.’
    “But Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’
    “He said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’
    “He said to him, ‘If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if one rises from the dead.'” Luke 16:19-31

    Woe on Unrepentant Cities

    Then he began to denounce the cities in which most of his mighty works had been done, because they didn’t repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon which were done in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. You, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, you will go down to Hades. For if the mighty works had been done in Sodom which were done in you, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom, on the day of judgment, than for you.” Matthew 11:20-24

    Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Jude 1:23 NLT

    • peddiebill says:

      It is interesting that two different people can look at a parable and see different things.
      You look at the Parable of the rich Man and Lazarus and see the threat of Hell as being the most important, I see Dives and Lazarus as a very picturesque way of teaching the dangers of putting the focus on self rather than on concern for others.
      Your selection of scriptures on the topic is also interesting in that it reveals exactly what I was suggesting above, in other words that it is possible to make a selection to go with one view and not notice the alternatives. You reject early Sheol and even Tartarus.

      I guess you are aware that the King James Version was actually the first to come up with the term “Hell” as a clumsy translation for some other words in earlier versions like Sheol, Gehenna, Hades and Tartarus. The Old Testament writings originally in the older versions of scripture gives a clear alternative eg the Judaic view (not the Judi view) . In earlier writings the Judaic view was that everyone went to Sheol – a dark and gloomy place. A bit later on they decided that Sheol would be fairer if it were divided into two – the Bosom of Abraham on one side of a chasm where the good guys would go – and on the other Gehenna where the bad guys would wait their fate until the end of time. Gehenna – or in Hebrew Gehinnom was also a geographic place – the rubbish dump valley the valley of Hinnom (originally a place where the Cannanites conducted Human sacrifices) and where apart from using it for refuse, the Jews used it for burying the bodies of criminals and traitors. The idea of fires of hell may have come from here because fires were constantly burning in the area to reduce the stench of decay. This understanding did not emerge until after the Babylonian exile.
      Tartarus clearly comes from Greek mythology as representing the lowest level of Hades where the really bad guys were going to be chained waiting their final plight and is only referred to in 2 Peter 2:4. Nevertheless there is a clear similarity to the lowest level of Hades where the Greeks believed the Olympians chained up the Titans.
      Some of the more recent ideas eg those in Revelation appear to have come as part of the wishful thinking about what would happen to the enemies and persecutors of the Early Christians.
      The fact is the different versions differ. Eg Even today in Judaism they do not teach the fall of Satan from a position of Grace in Heaven.
      I guess what I am trying to say is that with all the alternatives – and they are alternative, why do we have to choose which is right? Frankly to me some of them don’t seem particularly plausible and since they are all different they can’t all be correct. Why can’t we just use common sense and say that this was the symbolism expressing what the Jews and early Christians thought about what should or might happen after death – and not worry further about it. As I suggested earlier, if it becomes too important, wont it give us the wrong reason for believing in what should be a positive faith?

  2. Rebecca Rose says:

    I don’t know if you’ll take this as a compliment or an insult, but if more Christians were like you, atheists would have way fewer problems with Christians. 🙂

    This atheist gives you two big thumbs up.

  3. Cherel says:

    Bill said, “why bother to make it (hell) up in the first place.” Also, “Why not simply have a go at living by the basics eg forgiving your enemies, the golden rule etc etc and leave the judgement to whatever happens after death.”

    Jesus talked about “the furnace of fire,” “eternal punsihment” and “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Guess you need to take it up with Him. If not now, you will later. Sooner would be better, it’s not a good idea to just wait and see “what happens after death.”

    The compliment from Rebecca Rose clearly reveals what your site stands for. She has no problem with you because you believe so much like she does. You really need to “think” about that Bill. Unbelievers will find themselves in the lake of fire– not because they couldn’t believe but because they refused to believe. Rev 21:8

    • peddiebill says:

      Oh dear, and here was me thinking it was OK to raise questions to encourage thought about faith. Cherel reminds me yet again that her form of literalism, and definitely no expressed doubts, is the only way to read the Bible. There is a worrying implication in her frequent judgments on me. A verse that says “judge not lest ye yourself be judged”. Taking that literally I guess that means I will be sitting in a fiery lake with my judges (Cherel and Judi…) on either side for eternity perpetually reminding me I should never have attempted to mix thought with faith. I was even a little surprised that my suggesting focussing and acting on the basics eg golden rule, forgiveness of enemies etc was so casually dismissed. Perhaps my passing impression that Jesus gave these priority needs to take second place to a more consistent Bible Belt teaching about the priority of avoiding Hell being what the gospel is all about. And since in Cherel’s view, I am condemned anyway, an extra thought. I wonder if Cherel’s version of true Christians ever lighten up?
      Cherel,you take me to task for saying some things that Rebecca can relate to. I presume you would be happier if I were saying things she would automatically reject because she cant relate to them. I guess that must be what you call evangelism.

  4. Cherel says:

    Sorry, Bill, but you know you are encouraging doubt not faith. One should take literally what is meant to be taken literally or we may as well quit trying to communicate altogether. I have not and am not judging you (your heart or motives). But your proclamations reveal your rejection of the Truth so the Word judges you. I do not find eternal salvation or damnation anything to lighten up about. As for evangelizing Rebbeca Rose, I would love to be able to share Good News with her, but her poetry tells me she has already heard and rejected it. That’s what the two of you have in commom and it makes me very sad for you.

  5. peddiebill says:

    Your view of gospel obviously satisfies you – but quite truthfully I find it depressing because as you insist on putting it ,you find there nothing to lighten up about and yet for me I find humour aplenty in some of Jesus parables. I enjoy joking and humorous verse. I already know your low opinion of Rebecca Rose and my limited efforts in this regard in the shared post “Battle of the Bards”.. ( I am more than happy to accept criticism or comment from others on the poetry because I would like to know whether yours is a majority view.) I also find something to laugh about every day… and often great sadness too in the situations I encounter. The truth I stand for includes my limited understanding and application of what compassion, justice and forgiveness mean … but as you insist I am actually rejecting what you see as more important truths … which most clearly includes lots of words of judgement on anyone not born into your faith,(not I stress, your own judgement – merely words of judgement you helpfully find in the Bible to help others) I can only presume you want me to forget about that which I find important and move to what drives you. I concede you may well be right. But I need to be truthful and say thus far I find no joy in what you teach.
    I presume to be consistent you would have given Jesus the same hard time you gave me when he had when he found good in Samaritans as when I tried to point to good in Muslims… and I know that one of the questions which drives my site is the same one as Jesus so inappropriately asked: Why dont you judge for yourselves what is right? – Sorry about that.
    (Luke 6:46)
    But you have found me out. I have a speck in my eye. Just as well nothing impedes your vision to tell me how to take it out.
    PS Did you really think that a site sub-titled “making you think” – should leave everyone with exactly the same views as the ones they arrived with?

  6. Judi says:

    “Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume.” 2 Corinthians 2:15-16

    Your unwillingness to consider the reality of hell is yet another indication of your lost estate. I say that not with any glee or looking down the nose, far from it, I say that with grief. We must think about our faith, that’s true. And in doing so we must process it and make sure our foundation is sound. Simply lightening up about it, though it may have some good effects on blood pressure, really bites (or burns as the case may be) in the end. As we’ve previously discussed, there is no other foundation than Christ Jesus. We really must accept who He is first of all, and go from there. And we find Him talking about hell more than anybody in the bible. Again I ask you, why claim Christ and not believe his testimony?

    Jesus said in John 12:47-49, “I will not judge those who hear me but don’t obey me, for I have come to save the world and not to judge it. But all who reject me and my message will be judged on the day of judgment by the truth I have spoken. I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it.”

    In John 18:37, Jesus says, “I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.”

    We all agree about loving our enemies, forgiving, etc, because Jesus said to. These are the basics of Christianity. Noticing however that Jesus also talked about hell does not detract from his other teachings, or vice versa.

    I don’t understand why you insist that Cherel and I want everyone to be like us? We study God’s word because we want to conform to God’s truth, not the other way around. We didn’t make up the Gospel, it is OBJECTIVE TRUTH. That’s why we quote scripture so much (to your great annoyance). We don’t just throw out our own opinions, but, to the best of our understanding, base everything we believe on God’s word.

    Personally I hate the idea of hell – who would make that up? But I believe God’s word and know it’s not up to me. Even though I don’t understand a lot of things, I know that God is good, and He will do what’s right. Since Jesus focused attention on hell, he must have been warning us out of love, much like warning someone not to stand on the freeway or a train track.

    Bill says, I don’t believe in trains.
    Have fun on the track folks, lighten up!
    Break out the champagne!
    Let’s take a rest here, and think about stuff.

    On trains, Rebecca and I can agree,
    We’ve proven it too, with tremendous wit.
    That’s all the verification I need.
    If you think otherwise, don’t pitch a fit!

    Can’t you see our sentiments are infallible?
    A colossal Titanic unsinkable,
    While God’s word is quite unpalatable,
    And hell is undoubtedly unthinkable.

    “From prophets to priests, they are all frauds. They offer superficial treatments for my people’s mortal wound. They give assurances of peace when there is no peace.” Jeremiah 6:13-14

  7. peddiebill says:

    Is it just me that finds your version of Christianity depressing?

    • dave says:

      Have you read about the reported connection between depression and being ‘born again’?

      Alan Watts had compared different forms of a religious experience (I do not remember in which book or books) and had referenced the classic work by Wiliam James (1902!) – though I never read that myself.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_experience#Causes_of_religious_experiences

      When a person who is quite consumed by their religion is also very depressed and then he/she lets that depression completely take hold (as in: this human life has no meaning), a religious experience can occur with the implication that the person is moved totally at the whim of God (since this life has no meaning).

      I certainly do not recommend such an exercise. I am only pointing out an observation made by others and included in the wikipedia page – but I find it believable.

      I also find it depressing when someone pushes a perspective that, when considered, implies this human existence has no meaning, that all is guided.

      Having felt a religious experience but while studying Zen (which is more of a philosophy not really a religion, since it has no scriptures to obsess about, no ancient beliefs to defend; the goal of Zen is attaining enlightenment – nothing else), upon learning this aspect of a born again Christian I came to appreciate how that person can feel so strongly about something that I interpret in a completely opposite manner. I somewhat understand someone born again but I do not agree with one.

      Just as there are so many religions that can cater to different personalities (from a single authoritarian diety, to a multitude of deities, to something frivolous), there is also a variety of ways to experience something spiritual. Unfortunately with religions, the really fervent believer is convinced that only theirs is valid.

      • peddiebill says:

        This would certainly suggest an explanation for the insistence of two of my site visitors that theirs is the only acceptable way of looking at Christianity.

  8. Cherel says:

    There is nothing depressing about Bible based Christianity– it is true Life. I was depressed before I knew Jesus, but not now. Below is a portion of my testimony posted on my site under Baptism of Love.

    I cannot express to you the unspeakable joy and glory that flooded my very being that morning. I walked with my head in the clouds and lived in pure joy for three months. I was changed from the inside out forever and that’s what it means to be born again! And, from then on, I understood what Paul was talking about when he said, “God’s love has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5b NKJV).

    I never feel as low as I used to. I never feel as alone as I used to. I never feel the guilt of sin like I used to. I still have to repent for failures but not for my past! I never fear death like I used to. I never feel worthless like I used to, etc. Why? Because I am accepted! …”He hath made us accepted in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:6 KJV).

    A relationship with God brings love, joy, peace, and a sense of belonging.

    You mis-take me when you suppose I think I have all the answers. I happen to be a thinker who continually deals with new questions about life and the Bible and many other subjects. I have not blindly accepted the doctrines I was brought up with but have searched the Bible for myself to discover what I can believe and rejected much of what I was taught.

    You and I could discuss honest questions about the Bible if you agreed that the Bible is God’s Word and Truth is to be found therein. We might then, as fallible humans, agree to disagree about our understanding of that Truth. But, I cannot cut all ties with God’s Truth and agree to eternally think about the endless “ideas or ideals” of mere mortal men. That would indeed be futile and depressing. No standard. No Rock.

    There is a time for thinking and a time for making a decision. To believe and receive Jesus Christ into one’s life is the best decision one can make. Questions may or may not all be answered in this life, but salvation can be received by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. And that is what’s most important.

    As I mentioned before, we came into contact when you visited my site to disagree with me about a book review I wrote. I was not the aggressor. I have responded to your comments and your posts since that time. You have led out with the subject matter to which I have responded. If your subject matter was lighter, I could have responded with levity. Alas, it has not been so. Your comments have caused me deep concern for your soul and for those souls under your teaching and influence. My motives toward you have been good.

    • peddiebill says:

      To me you sound much more religious than Jesus. You certainly use a lot of religious terms and many many quotes from scripture. I will have to think about how I should respond. In some ways I am not sure if I can relate to what you are saying, because to me, although some parts of the Bible are clearly inspired, other parts are just as clearly based on superstition and represent undesirable ways of dealing with others. If a prerequisite for you is accepting all the Bible as the word of God, you are on your own. Certainly much of the Bible sets out to present the word of God – but if all parts of it are the word of God then count me out.
      Raping virgins, or stoning people to death for minor transgressions of outdated customs, or wiping out those of non Judaic descent on Gods command does not fit with my views, but if you honestly believe that is the word of God, or even was ever the word of God, I doubt if I could persuade you otherwise.

      • Judi says:

        Do you really not have any sense of context for scripture? Just because something is recorded in the bible does not mean it’s endorsed by God. Much of it is simply history. Lots’ daughters had sex with him, did God say to do that? Certainly not. Many such stories fill the bible, not because God approved but because these things actually happened.

        People at that time were very violent, sacrificing their children and committing all sorts of heinous crimes. At times God did require the Israelites to wipe out entire groups that were steeped in violence. Even so the Israelites didn’t fully follow thru, and those who survived led them back into idolatrous practices like child sacrifice and temple prostitution.

        When God’s law was given to Moses women were treated very poorly in general, as they still are in many parts of the unchristianized world. Many of the regulations we find odd today actually protected women. Rape was forbidden and punishable by death to the man if the woman was already married or engaged – and the woman was set free. Having to marry a virgin you raped was a way to make men think twice, and to protect women from being used and discarded. Perhaps you prefer the Muslim solution?

  9. Judi says:

    No you’re not, and it often makes people angry too, if they refuse to believe the truth. Jesus promised that his disciples would be hated, mocked, and persecuted. Why is such hatred poured upon them? Why do you think Jesus said to count the cost? There’s plenty of joy, peace and comfort in the gospel, but it’s not all roses. To be confronted with truth is often painful. But for myself I’d rather be warned than caught off guard.

    Read the story of Stephen in Acts 6 & 7. It’s too long to quote, but the main idea is that they didn’t want to hear the truth. “The Jewish leaders were infuriated by Stephen’s accusation, and they shook their fists at him in rage. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand. And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!” Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting. They rushed at him and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him… As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died.

    Have you ever considered the kind of faith it must take to lay down your life, literally, for the gospel? It’s not something you do for a vague ideal. Yet all over the world people are doing just that (and I’m not referring to suicide bombers). I’ve met some of them, and it may come to you and me shortly. Or, maybe just to me… in either case, come quickly Lord Jesus!

  10. Cherel says:

    I’m very aware of the two main passages you refer to about raping virgins. That would be Lot’s daughters (which Lot offered to the men of Sodom to protect his male visitors who turned out to be angels– and ended up protecting the daughters so that they were not raped). You are offended that Lot offered them and so am I. It was outrageous! The Bible reports what Lot said and did, but does not approve of it. The fact that the angels intervened to save them shows they disapproved of his intention.

    The other incident is in the book of Judges. A Levite is traveling with his concubine and ends up in Gibeah at dusk An elderly man offers hospitality to them but the wicked men of the town surround the house and demand the man be given to them to sexually abuse. The old man offers them his virgin daughter and the Levite’s concubine– considering the rape of women to be less heinous than homosexual rape. The men persist in their demands until the Levite shoves his concubine out the door. The depraved men use and abuse her so badly she dies. This leads to a war and further undesirable behavior to save the tribe of Benjamin from extinction.

    Where you and I differ is in perception of the Word of God concerning these issues. The Bible reports the wicked activities of men without approving of them. The Book of Judges clearly states that the Israelites (as a whole) were not following Yahweh at that time but were “doing what was right in their own eyes”. The entire book is about the cycle of sin leading to bondage leading to repentance and then deliverance over and over again. It teaches how quickly societies become depraved when they refuse to live by God’s laws. And it is a historical background for how Israel changed from a Theocracy ruled by Judges to a Kingdom ruled by a King.

    The only way the Bible could be an accurate history of the world without discussing the sinfulness of mankind would be to leave us out of it altogether– and that would annul its purpose since Jesus came to save us from our sins.

    I could discuss the other things you mentioned as well with the understanding of how they fit into God’s Word and do not disqualify the Bible as a whole from being God inspired, but it would be very lengthy. My point is, pulling scriptures out of context and making sweeping negative statements about them, without looking into the actual setting and purpose of those scriptures is very misleading. That is my problem with Rebecca Rose’s poetry. She has handpicked a multitude of “problems” she has with the Bible and woven them together into several poems that present the Bible in the worst light possible and have no relationship with Truth.

    I’m not sure what her background is or why she is so bitter about scripture, but you should know better than that. If you don’t, you certainly are not a Bible scholar and really should refrain from teaching others to their harm and your own judgement. And I say that with true concern for all souls involved.

  11. peddiebill says:

    I think you misrepresent Rebecca Rose. Her beef seems to me to be a reaction against fundamentalism. You certainly misrepresent my view of the Bible. The call for reading things in context is one I totally agree with, and my sincere belief is that the Bible is a story of a convoluted series of gradual moves to the truth rather than complete in its understanding in every part. This is at the heart of my teaching. You yourself have been highly selective by saying that there are only two passages referring to raping of virgins – when in fact there are heaps of other such passages. If you honestly believe that the writers had God right every time, then why follow such a God when he instructs so many dreadful deeds and encourages such unkind behaviour..“Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property” (Leviticus 25:44-45).
    If there were no passages which show God in a bad light, how would Rebecca have been able to find so many for her first poem. You say she was unfairly selective – but you also said all the Bible (not parts of it) is the word of God.

    Remember the part which describes a God who is petty and vindictive and one who for example insists that Joshua slaughters all the men, women, children and even animals after bringing down the walls of Jericho with the blast of a trumpet. Unless we accept a gradual awakening of understanding by the authors of the Bible though the ages, we would be puzzled how this tribal, and at times mean God, who then somehow metamorphoses into a God of Love of the sort Jesus explained. Look at the following:
    “Thus said the Lord…..
    “I will not pity, nor spare, nor have mercy, but destroy.” (Jer. 13:14) “Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not, but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling.” Sorry but I find it appalling that you think a God who you apparently insist really did call for this is worth following. I much prefer my own view which is that often the tribal desires of the day were excused by pretending that they were ordered by God.

    In Psalm 137:7-9 we find the suggestion that God thinks that it is appropriate that the children of the Edomites have their heads dashed against rocks for what the Edomites did to the Jews. This raises the question of whether or not this same God is really the God of the Edomites as well as the Jews or if tribalism is somehow getting in the way of the understanding. And as for Psalm 109.! Psalm 109 is rarely read in Church now days where the love of God is a focus.(Come to think of it that may not be the case for your Church).
    I agree that sinful men (and women) are mixed up not just in the Old Testament, but also in the New and certainly time after time by fallible followers of Christ through the centuries since…but surely that is my point. The same Bible, which contains appalling scientific errors, examples of condoned racism and in places extols standards of behaviour which are centuries out of date, also contans wonderful truths and moments of sublime inspiration. Why pretend the bad bits arent there? It was written for, and about, and by less than perfect people. Why pretend that those who wrote it were always inspired? Was David inspired when he raped his friend’s wife then had his friend murdered? He was certainly inspired when he wrote the 23 Psalm but some expressions in other Psalms he is credited with suggests lapses in inspiration. Was Moses inspired when he insisted on genocide of those defeated in battle, and encouraged the rape of the virgins? Were the prophets inspired when they sometimes got detail of the prophecies wrong?
    If you insist on pushing the literalist, every word inspired, version which to me seems at odds with reality, is it any wonder that those surrounded by lots of people pushing such a message eventually think all Christians think that way and the more rational ones then become atheists as a result. In the US for example many of the more vehement atheists are found in the Bible Belt. I can assure you all Christians do not think that way and there will always be room for reason if I have my way.

  12. Cherel says:

    I did not say Rebecca Rose was “unfairly selective” of scriptural passages. She didn’t quote any. I said, “She has handpicked a multitude of “problems” she has with the Bible and woven them together into several poems that present the Bible in the worst light possible and have no relationship with Truth.” I stand by that statement. She has “problems with the Bible” because of her misunderstanding or outright rejection of what it says. I believe you do as well.

    God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He never changes. There is not a mean, vindictive, tribal God of the Old Testament and a nicer God of the New Testament. Jesus said He is One with His Father and they do the same things. If you think Jesus is simply a new God of love, you miss the point of scripture. He came not to reinvent or rehabilitate God’s reputation, but to reveal the fullness of the Godhead bodily so we could better relate to God.

    Jesus came the first time to fulfill a mission for God that led to our salvation. When He returns, He will bring judgement on the wicked and set the world right again for the Millennial Reign. He’s the same Jesus both times.

    God is LOVE but He is also JUSTICE. There could be no Love without Justice. There could be no eternal peace without separation of the wicked from the righteous because the wicked will always persecute the righteous as long as they have the chance.

    When God destroyed the wicked during the flood it was to save the human race from total self-destruction. (Violence filled the earth. Every imagination of men’s hearts was wicked. Only Noah was righteous.) When God ordered the destruction of the wicked Amalekites, it was not out of meaness but a just punishment for their past wickedness and to save others from their future wickedness. Many other scenarios in scripture follow the same pattern.

    As for the Psalms you mentioned, they are troubling. I don’t relate to any of the imprecatory Psalms but it’s not man’s place to judge God or scripture. As a child can’t possibly understand everything about the adult world, it makes sense that we cannot understand everything about God’s acts and ways. That’s where faith comes in. We know He is Good and we can trust Him.

    The Bible makes it clear that David sinned when he committed adultery and murder. He wasn’t engaged in writing scripture at that time so I’m not sure what you were getting at there. The instructions Moses gave the people were God inspired. I don’t know when he instructed anyone to rape virgins. That was and is a common practice in wartime but it was not God sanctioned.

    The law gave specific instructions for women captured in war. It said a man could take a captive as his wife if he first brought her home, let her shave her head and clip her nails and mourn a full month for her family. If after that he still wanted her he could marry her. Then if he was displeased with her she must be set free.

    That sounds strange to us but it was a very liberal policy for the times. Think about it. Even today men refuse to follow God’s laws about lying and stealing and sexual purity. God could have instructed them concerning much better treatment of women but they wouldn’t have listened just as they don’t today. When Jesus’ disciples said Moses allowed for divorce, Jesus said, “He allowed it because of the hardness of men’s hearts but from the beginning it was not so.”

    This shows that God has been “constrained” by man’s wickedness. His thoughts and ways are much higher than ours but He has lowered His standards in times past (when there was no common access to His Word and indwelling Spirit) to work with man rather than forsake him. I’m sure the slavery laws fit in that same category. It was a common practice among the nations, so God’s law sought to raise the standards for the treament of slaves.

    I do believe “thinkers” have a harder time coming to terms with things that are hard to understand but rejection of God’s Word involves a sinful choice not a superior intellect. I believe faith and reason go hand in hand. So, I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree this time– as opposed to everything else we agree about! 🙂

  13. peddiebill says:

    If the Roman Catholics ever get round to installing a female Pope I hope you will be a contender. The air of infallibility and authority in your words is most impressive. Equally impressive is your absolute certainty I am woefully ignorant(compared to you). On that point you are probably correct. I only dimly begin to understand a little of what creation is about. God, as the force behind the processes of creation, may well be the same yesterday, today and forever…. but my understanding isn’t. You may possibly be correct that in previous years ie when the Bible was being assembled they got it all perfectly correct. Unfortunately I havent yet reached the peak of intellectual development where I can see that for myself

  14. Cherel says:

    How does one express what they truly believe without sounding certain about their beliefs? Although we will never understand everything, what is the purpose of sudying if we can’t begin to understand some things? I wasn’t making claims of authority or infallibility. I was just sharing the understanding of God’s Word that I have come to through years of study and spiritual growth. What we gain from the Bible is based on how we approach it. When we diligently “study” the Word (with faith) and “rightly divide” it, we gain a revelation of Truth. On the other hand, there are things in the Bible that are “hard to understand” as Peter said (2 Peter 3:16) and some people twist the Word “to mean something quite different” from its original meaning when they deal with it without faith and a broadbased knowledge of its entire message.

    I believe you have educated yourself in many things but I do not see evidence of a broadbased knowledge of the Word of God in your blogging. In fact, I see the opposite.

  15. peddiebill says:

    Sorry – an oversight on my part. I forgot to mention your broadbased knowledge of the Word of God in my previous comment. It must be greater than mine or how else would you know that I havent got one?

  16. Cherel says:

    This entire exchange between us is not about me. It’s about Jesus attempting to reach you. I pray the Lord will remove the veil from your heart so you can find Faith, Truth and Salvation. As Jesus said to Thomas, “Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”

  17. peddiebill says:

    Let me try to explain.
    A few years back I was approached on the street down town Auckland by an intense young lady with a clip board. It was raining, she looked unhappy in her work – but she explained very seriously she had a questionnaire that I could fill out, and the test would be the beginning of my journey towards happiness. Yes – she admitted almost reluctantly – this was the Church of Scientology. My reply was that because she didnt look happy herself – and that even if she were right that in filling out her questionnaire would enable me to start in her Church (presumably at the bottom), since that would no doubt mean when I too became a disciple of scientology, I too could stand miserably in the rain with a clip board accosting passers-by to join me, I told her as gently as I could, this is not my idea of happiness.
    The relevance of this is that, time after time, you tell me how sorry you are for me in my ignorance of your version of faith, and although like the Scientologist, you tell me about the joy in your life, I have yet to see even a trace of it in your dealings with me. You even reprove me if I try to make light of anything you say. You could not see the humour in Rebecca Rose’s poetry, even although many of my friends could. The thought that I too could follow your instructions and become like you so that I too could accost people with the intent to make them feel so gloomy and ignorant, until they might reach my state of enlightenment, is not my idea of eternal happiness. I enjoyed my short stint in New Guinea as a missionary teacher (even if it was my faith not yours I was sharing). I enjoy visiting the elderly and shut-ins. I enjoy sharing with others day to day, cutting firewood for charity and I even enjoy working through my doubts and encouraging other to do the same.
    I have no doubt that my faith could be improved but if it means being unable to challenge others to think, if it means to spend my time pointing out others shortcomings, to stop making jokes ,and to focus on believing in versions of the truth I dont actually believe (eg creationism, biblical literalism etc) then,as I told the scientologist girl, I am puzzled why I should want to.

  18. Cherel says:

    Our exchanges bear no resemblance to my everyday life experience with real people. I would never reprove a sinner for living in sin. That’s what sinners do. They need love, encourage, hope, support, prayer and advice when they ask for it. Nor do I engage in divisive doctrinal debates with brothers and sisters in Christ with whom I may happen to disagree concerning minor issues.

    Your site is different. You purposely comment on issues you know people will respond to and you apparently want responses. I have honestly responded to those issues from my perspective.

    As for my lack of humor in this setting, I have to liken it to a Biblical situation. I don’t think Jesus was laughing when the rich young ruler walked away sorrowful after refusing the instructions Jesus gave him concerning eternal life.

    I might have found some enlightenment here if you ever shared a doubt you have worked through or one you encouraged someone else to overcome. In spite of what you think, I really have your best interest at heart.

  19. peddiebill says:

    At last you have found a scripture that really speaks to me. I unreservedly apologise for getting you wrong. Until you drew attention to the rich young ruler story, I had a mental image of you as someone living a life of relative ease in the Bible belt of the family with two car and secure income sort, offering advice to others how to fix their lives when yours was just as bad. However I now see that you too, in drawing this to my attention, must have accepted the challenge presented to the young ruler and presumably given up your possessions, your family and friends to follow Jesus and thereby receive eternal life. And this degree of sacrifice does indeed give you the right to speak to me about my need to do the same. (I certainly would not want to believe that you thought the story only applied to me and not to you because that sort of arrogance would not just have the rich young ruler going away shaking his head sadly).

  20. Cherel says:

    It is obvious we are on different pages. My comment concerning the rich young ruler had to do with the fact that Jesus would not have laughed at someone in eternal peril. You must know that the call of Jesus is individual. He told Peter to follow Him and not to worry about what would be required of John. Jesus has not asked everyone to give all their worldly goods because everyone is not as attached to them as the rich young ruler was and Jesus knows the heart.

    I haven’t ask you to give up anything but your doubt and unbelief and your attempt to lead others into the same spiritual morass you are in. You still haven’t told me anything positive you have to offer others.

    If I thought it would make a difference, I would give you an account of my life as a pastor’s wife and the cost involved, but given your present attitude toward me I don’t see that it would help. According to your latest blog you don’t seem to think a relationship with Jesus makes any difference at all. As long as you choose to question and even belittle everything that is good and godly, we can’t effectively relate to one another.

    If you truly believe accepting salvation by faith in the accomplished work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary, and wanting others to have peace with God, is arrogance, nothing I could say will make any difference. I’ve been praying for you. I’ll leave it there.

  21. dave says:

    In other essays, you have made mention about Jesus as a guide for Christians. The above short essay almost implies that tendency again but none of the exchanges in the above comments took on that character.

    Today while driving across central Wisconsin I came across an interesting Biblical quote on the sign in front of a church (I was driving so I did not see the denomination): ‘Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.’ After getting home I checked the online KJV Bible and see that concept is in Proverbs 1:7, 9:10, 15:33, Psalm 111:10, and there is an interesting derivation in Deuteronomy 4:10.

    Your question above about a view ‘that forces you into a faith position out of fear’ seems somewhat related to this particular quote repeated several times in different books of the Old Testament.

    The Old Testament God is patterned after the ancient kingdoms of the Middle East, like the Pharoah of Egypt or the dynastic kings of Persia. These countries had a single person in control of everyone. Other ancient religions, that did not have that local pattern, could develop with a different perceived personality of God. (Who is made in whose image?)

    I looked for the reference of ‘furnace of fire’ (in the May 9 comment above) by Jesus and found it in Matthew 13:42. The parable Jesus is telling in this chapter about ‘the field is the world’ (13:38) strikes me as just being a story of two mythical places, with several repeated ‘the kingdom of heaven is like onto …’ statements, not actually implying he is describing an actual heaven or hell.

    I see a dilemma for the modern Christian.

    The God of the Old Testament (the one to fear!) could easily imply He will reward His most subservient followers (those that will not seek any knowledge elsewhere) while He will mercilessly condemn those that refuse to submit, inevitably leading to the concept of hell. The God of the New Testament, as suggested by some of the teachings of Jesus, implies God might be more loving and merciful.

    Is your question really asking the modern Christian to choose between the Old Testament God and the New Testament God?

    Is it fair (is it allowed?) to ask a pointed question back, in response to the question at the end of the essay? I was inspired to write this comment by the Church sign so the ‘fear of the Lord’ must be mentioned by some churches, and so those attendees must also wrestle with the concept.

  22. peddiebill says:

    While Jesus’ reported comments are more helpful than some of the Old Testament notions, I am wondering if the real task is to move beyond the New Testament concept of God (and all the attendant theology) to one modified by modern knowledge. For example in Jesus time there was no way of knowing just what a tiny part of the Universe Earth (and the human species was). Therefore the notion of creation (and the creator?) must require some sort of a rethink. There was similarly no way of knowing that humans were part of a much larger and very much older creation – ie most of the now known species were already extinct by the time humans became part of it. There was certainly no way the Jews could have known about other forms of religious expression – still less about how the brain works, what disease actually is etc etc. Even with concepts like Hell – even within the Bible the concept changes considerably as it draws upon other cultural understandings. Why should we not continue our quest to understand reality – starting with the Old and New Testaments – and why ignore all the other fields of knowledge which contribute to our understanding.

    • dave says:

      That reply reveals the high level of perception in a retired science educator and writer. I have doubts that many other Christians have your rational, practical basis to evaluate and reconsider their beliefs that have been held since childhood.

  23. peddiebill says:

    I’m thinking of buying a tin hat!

  24. Cherel says:

    Bill said, “I am wondering if the real task is to move beyond the New Testament concept of God (and all the attendant theology) to one modified by modern knowledge.”

    Modern knowledge is as old as the hills. It started in the Garden of Eden when Satan tempted the first human couple to ignore God’s Word and to believe secular knowledge would elevate them to a “godlike” position in the cosmos. (They were already godlike– created in God’s image– and had everything they needed!) Satan belittled them in their own eyes and pretended to offer them greatness, when his real purpose was to destroy them. They believed the lie and we have lived with the “fallen” results ever since. The only remedy being to go back to trusting in God’s Word and His solution for sin– Jesus Christ crucified and risen to save us!

    Your evolutionary education offered you the same lie that Adam and Eve fell for. Evolution tells you mankind is an insignificant species that has evolved from lower species and is just a part of the natural process. If mankind is not created in God’s image, he is not important. This life is meaningless. Eternity is pointless. Death is all there is to look forward to. Evolution marches on……….. having come from nowhere and going nowhere in particular. Talk about depressing.

    Dave thinks your choice to dismiss God’s Word as the ultimate authority for our lives makes you “rational and practical.” I think it reveals that you have allowed Satan’s very first lie to delude you. And the knowledge to be gained apart from God is evil. It simply leads to pain and death.

    God has known the end from the beginning and He calls on men everywhere and at all times to repent and return to Him. The truth is revealed in His Word, The Holy Bible.

    Jesus loves you.

    • dave says:

      ‘ Dave thinks your choice to dismiss God’s Word as the ultimate authority for our lives makes you “rational and practical.” ‘ That is an interpretation, not really what I stated (or tried to imply).

      What I meant is: when starting with a rational and practical basis a person is equipped to evaluate and reconsider their beliefs. Most of the Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew while the New Testament was written in Greek. Since most Christians speak or read neither they are dealing with interpretations of whatever was written some two thousand years ago, and in many cases the actual scripture was also an interpretation of whatever event or parable is being conveyed.

      I fear the statement “knowledge to be gained apart from God is evil” means a Christian should ignore everything outside of the Bible since it is probably evil. That is not a practical approach to life in the 21st century.

      I gather from a number of Bill’s essays on Christianity he is suggesting a possible new interpretation in light of current knowledge, admittedly gained from outside the Bible which has had no new scriptures written in about 2000 years.

  25. peddiebill says:

    Cherel, while it is true that your “modern” knowledge dates back to the times of the Bible it would be dishonest of me to claim the same. Because I know 16 different scientific ways which have been used to independently place the age of the earth at 4.6 thousand million (billion) years, I no longer believe the 6000 years (as you imply you do) if you follow the Bible chronology. Because I know about the fossil record and believe the traces of blue green algae found in the oldest rocks signify some of the earliest life forms which go back close to 3 billion years old, I am no longer in the business of believing the literal account of what I believe to be allegory in Genesis. Because I know some rudimentary astronomy I believe that the Universe itself must be at least 13 billion years old with millions upon millions of galaxies of stars, and I am sorry if that makes me think that earth itself is no longer the most significant object in the Universe. Because I have now read many books on evolution, and seen much of the evidence for myself, I am convinced by the evidence that we are part of the evolutionary picture and am not about to abandon the notion because you, without offering any tangible evidence to the contrary, insist that I dont know what I am talking about. Athough you keep telling me I am wrong, unless you can convince me your opinion must be respected simply by virtue of your superior knowledge, I actually need to know why. Since I have never watched you date a fossil, use a Geiger counter, interpret a DNA fingerprint or even read any or your scientific work I have absolutely no idea whether you are in any way qualified to tell me I have it all wrong. If I am wrong and dont need to be told why, tell me how you date a rock. Do you know what error bars in carbon dating mean? How does Potassium Argon or Lead Lead dating work?do you know what a varve is? can you interpret a core sample of Antarctic Ice? I have at least read some of the books on Creation science and find them riddled with scientific error which is hardly surprising given the shaky qualifications of many of the authors. The Bible says nothing about microbiology, DNA, nuclear structure, and says absolutely nothing useful in terms of modern knowledge about the Universe. In fact it strongly implies a flat earth, sitting on pillars and covered by a dome called the firmament. It was state of the art science for its day and this does not imply criticism of the Bible or its authors. It does however mean we would be unwise to treat the Bible as a modern scientific text. I certainly am far less sure than you appear to be about the nature of God, much less believing that I know about the creation process.
    Please note I am not rejecting the Bible….but neither am I pretending that it must not be reinterpreted as we learn more.

  26. Cherel says:

    Since you “know” what you “believe”. I leave you to it.

  27. Cherel says:

    I’m saying that neither of us is going to change our mind so pursuing the subject further seems pointless. But, it was interesting and I learned from the interaction. Thanks for your time. 🙂

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