God Told Me To Do It

“Hell is an outrage on humanity. When you tell me that your Deity made you in his own image, I reply that he must have been very ugly.” -Victor Hugo

I’ve been emailing one of my Christunfrends on the subject of hell. Hell is the dark underbelly of orthodox Christian belief. Christians are, with some notable exceptions, a nice bunch. Remember the natives of the planet Krikkit? In Life, the Universe and Everything they believe in “peace, justice, morality, culture, sport, family life, and the obliteration of all other life forms.” As I’ve said before, evangelicals are sometimes a bit like that. Only instead of the obliteration of all other life forms, we have the eternal conscious torment of non-believers in Hell (annihilationism being viewed as suspiciously liberal by people like Reform).

<lj-cut> When I was a Christian, if asked, I’d have said that my non-Christian friends were going to Hell. But, like my correspondant, I’d not really faced what that meant. Most Christians consider Medieval pictures of fire and pitchforks a little passé these days, but regardless of that, Hell is conceived by Christians as the total absence of anything good. Choose your own favourite candidate for the worst thing that’s ever happened, and it’s worse than that. Forever.

The justification for an infinite punishment for a finite crime is supposedly that it’s not really a finite crime at all. God is so perfect that the smallest offence against him is as bad as the largest. Or he’s so good that nothing sinful can come into his presence. The latter explanation of the mechanics of damnation absolves God of personal involvement in sending people to Hell, as it’s logical necessity which means that nobody can join God in heaven without the aid of Jesus.

My friend, and presumably other Christians, respond to the thought that their friends are damned with gratitude that Christians are saved, and also with an increased zeal for evangelism. What’s missing from this is a question about how their friends’ fate can possibly be just. If the latter explanation is true, why does God sustain consciousness in the damned? And if he doesn’t deliberately sustain it, why are the damned conscious, as we’re told that in him we live and move and have our being?

And if the former explanation is true, why is he so goddamned tetchy? We have Christians who are supposed to be longsuffering, patient and kind, serving a God who is second to none in his sociopathic perfectionism (“Using an adaption of Anselm’s Ontological Argument, or otherwise, prove this statement about God is true. [20 marks]”). As Terry Pratchett points out in Small Gods, the prophets are better than the gods they serve.

I was attempting to understand how someone can thank God for salvation in the face of the knowledge of the fate of their loved ones. There are a couple of possible explanations. One is that Christians just haven’t thought about it very much. That was my experience. As Andrew Rilstone writes about another unpalatable evangelical belief, the fact that my nonchristunfrends were going to hell was just “one of the three impossible things you had to believe before breakfast in order to hang out with a nice group of people, sing songs and occasionally get a faith-based-buzz”.

The other explanation is somewhat darker. If a Christian honestly faces the reality of hell and thanks God anyway, my impression is that it’s rather like the Stockholm Syndrome, where people who are kidnapped, held hostage or otherwise placed under extreme duress come to love their captors and thank them for any small act of kindness (I’m not the first to have come up with this idea, of course).

S (who, ironically, usually plays God’s Advocate in these discussions 🙂 points out that the true history of the Stockholm bank robbery doesn’t reflect the Stockholm Syndrome as described, and that accusing someone of suffering from the syndrome is a convenient way of dissing your political opponents. I suppose the penultimate paragraph of this article is what I’m talking about. Call it what you like, but, as alluded to by the paragraph beginning “I trust my master”, “Normally, when people say things like ‘You are His possession, he can do whatever He likes with you’, the next sentence is ‘What is the safety word?'” (quote from Steven Carr in uk.religion.christian. I must say I rather like Gareth’s response. And don’t look so innocent, you’ve been around LiveJournal for long enough now.)

Alas, if these Christians are right, this is not a game and there’s no way out. I might be vainglorious, but I’d prefer the Miltonesque “Satan” over such a God any day.

Speaking of which, The Torygraph has a transcript of a discussion between Archbishop Rowan Williams and Philip Pullman, author of the His Dark Materials trilogy. Williams is a counterweight to the sort of Christianity which makes me glad I left the church. Perhaps there’s hope for us all yet.

30 thoughts on “God Told Me To Do It

  1. I understand that for some, Hell is indeed a physical place and a site of punishment. But what about the alternative view that Hell is simply the state of being far from God, and conversely Heaven is the blissful state of being close to him? Hell and Heaven in that conception don’t have to be postponed to the afterlife, and neither are they judgements upon the soul – they’re what you feel in relation to God. I kind of prefer that conception!

    1. I’d prefer that conception too. I’m not really sure I can believe in life after death at all, but my complaint is mainly against the conception of hell as the place where we end up if we don’t escape the Wrath of God. I’d quite like to be close to love and bliss and all that, but God seems to have a nasty side to his character, too.

      1. I guess some of that also comes down to Old Testament God (he of the Garden of Eden, the Plagues of Egypt and the Ten Commandments) and New Testament God (the merciful God of Grace who sent his Son to redeem mankind. Nice guy.) And yes, I am aware that the Book of Revelation is in the New Testament; but the God of the New Testament is in general the one with the capacity for mercy. So you could get blissful with Him.

        1. Sorry to butt in here, but that’s simply bait.

          That stuff about God being mean and nasty in the OT and a nice guy in the NT is… a popular misconception wholly unsupported by any sort of textual evidence. (Except in so far as it was partly the NT that started the rumour.) There’s a good rant on the subject here.

        2. It’d be nice to believe that Jesus was fluffy and Yahweh was a grumpy old sod, but the NT doesn’t really bear that out. Jesus talks about Hell rather a lot. Leaving aside Revelation, Jesus warns people about sinning lest they be cast into Hell (lit. gehenna, the rubbish dump outside Jerusalem) where “the worm never dies and the fire is never quenched”. God also zaps Annias and Saphira for lying to Peter. Jesus’ own description of his return is no picnic either (assuming that he’s not just referring to the unfortunate events of 70 AD as some commentators think).

          1. While I accept it’s a simplification, I think that the view that OT God is wrathful but rational, wheras NT God is merciful but problematic, is one that bears textual scrutiny. Radical thinkers like Calvin and his intellectual successors/detractors/modifiers would have had a job supporting their own ideas with only OT God in the frame.
            To clarify, though, I didn’t say NT God was happy-fluffy-joy-joy. In many ways, the complex notion of grace causes problems of its own. (And I never suggested Christ didn’t speak of Hell!)

            Perhaps you’d rather cosy up to OT GOd, after all?

            1. I agree God’s overall character seems to change between the Old and New Testaments. I can see the ‘NT God’ as you put it in the OT, but he doesnt seem to do any of the things we would define as ‘bad’ (smiting people all over the place for instance) in the NT.

              It is slightly puzzling, the NT God is in the OT, but the NT God does not do any of the bad OT God stuff – I wonder what the reason for this is?

  2. First let me say that I am a Christian, and I had what other people might term a ‘religious experience’ at the point where I became a Christian. The net effect of this was that more or less instantaneously my internal beliefs and those things I held to be certain where changed and I felt the presence of God with me. This of course colours what I say…

    I agree it is difficult to reconcile the idea of a totally loving caring God damning people to hell for eternity – and that the idea that an infinite length / type of punishment is just for our finite sin does not seem fair. I do accept this to be the case though, as I feel that there are many things I dont fully understand yet (and perhaps never will) but that on the whole Christianity does add up.

    “And if the former explanation is true, why is he so goddamned tetchy? We have Christians who are supposed to be longsuffering, patient and kind, serving a God who is second to none in his sociopathic perfectionism”

    According to the Bible God is patient not wanting anyone to perish:

    “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” – 2 Peter 3:9

    Of course this rests on the idea that the fair penalty for our sins (to whatever finite degree) is an infinite punishment. *If* this is true then it would only make God just, and the fact that he gives us a possibilty of repenting and letting Jesus take the punishment for us can only be looked upon as a fantastic thing.

    “I was attempting to understand how someone can thank God for salvation in the face of the knowledge of the fate of their loved ones.”

    For me this isnt a problem. I suppose it gets more complex if you believe you had any choice in being ‘saved’ (cue infinitely long discussion about predestination).

    If we do choose God (and again note I said if) then it would be like this:
    We set an oilrig on fire on purpose
    God comes along in his helicopter (rather than the cloud most expect)
    Rolls down the ladder and calls for us to come up

    We can choose to try to solve the problem on our own and stay and burn or take up his offer and escape. Of course if we do this we will be thankful for what God has done to save us, even though some decided not to take his escape option.

    Of course I accept that this analogy (flawed as they always are) relies on a belief that:
    1. The fire (punishment) is fit for the crime – in the sense that it is right for a criminal to be sent to prison
    2. God gives us a choice to escape rather than pickup up people who he (seemingly randomly) decides on

    I think that 1 and 2 are correct, although I’m happy to discuss it further.

    Something you almost touched on which I heard at church recently was the question “How can Christians go on living their lives as they do if they really believe that most of the people around (friends, family, postman, etc..) them are going to be punished forever in hell?”. I thought about this for a while as I do hold this to be true. My conclusion is two things I suppose – I believe it to be true but it doesnt impinge on me or my life all that much. The secondary conclusion leads on from the first, I’m rather a selfish person – ultimately I care about other people very little unless I’m directly presented with them or their suffering. This is just like when I hear of a natural disaster in another country and dont make any attempt to help those people (sending money / aid / or perhaps more appropriately rushing over to help my fellow man).

    1. I do accept this [hell] to be the case though, as I feel that there are many things I dont fully understand yet (and perhaps never will) but that on the whole Christianity does add up.

      I can understand that viewpoint, but I personally found too many things I didn’t fully understand.

      According to the Bible God is patient not wanting anyone to perish

      That passage only really makes sense if you read it assuming that Peter (and incidentally, Paul, see 1 Thess) both thought that Jesus was coming back within the lifetimes of their readers (Paul’s “we who are still alive” in 1 Thess 4:15 is particularly revealing, I think). That’s not usually a way evangelicals are happy reading the text as it contradicts their extra-Biblical assumption of inerrancy.

      Peter’s answering the implied question of why Jesus has not come back yet by saying God’s patient. He doesn’t address the possibility that all of his original readers will die before Jesus returns. Assuming people are being born and dying all the time and there are still some Christians around on earth, God can always add to the number of people who will be saved by not coming back just yet, but then logically he never returns at all. What Peter seems to think is that he will see the Lord come again in his gen-er-ation, but maybe towards the upper end of it so more of that generation can be saved.

      In any case, the point remains that sending people to hell for rather piddling things is tetchy and nasty, whether it’s done after some patient delay in the first century AD or whenever judgement happens.

      Of course this rests on the idea that the fair penalty for our sins (to whatever finite degree) is an infinite punishment. *If* this is true then it would only make God just, and the fact that he gives us a possibilty of repenting and letting Jesus take the punishment for us can only be looked upon as a fantastic thing.

      As the article from Wednesday points out (the thread from which it comes is interesting too) that’s a meaning of “justice” which is at odds with how most people see justice. We recognise that sentences should be proportionate to the crime. Of course, you could argue that when God uses a word it means just what he chooses it to mean, neither more nor less. But that seems to mean we should be ready to worship an omnipotent fiend.

      We set an oilrig on fire on purpose

      But we didn’t. Most people have not done anything which means they deserve to burn. And again, the fire is from God, not just a consequence of refusing to be rescued.

      My conclusion is two things I suppose – I believe it to be true but it doesnt impinge on me or my life all that much. The secondary conclusion leads on from the first, I’m rather a selfish person – ultimately I care about other people very little unless I’m directly presented with them or their suffering.

      I think this is what quite a lot of evangelical Christians are like about hell (it’s certainly my recollection of how I felt about it).

      1. There is a posting limit of 4300 characters so I have had to split my reply

        I have read and reread 2 Peter 3 many times now, and I cant see what it is that makes uou think that it only makes sense if Peter thought that Jesus was coming back within the lifetime of the readers.

        In fact he specifically deals with the issue of how long it appears to be taking in verse 8:

        But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day

        The point he seems (to me) to be making here is that God’s concept of time is different from ours, and that a thousand year ‘delay’ before he comes back seems only as long as a single days delay to us. The use of a ‘thousand years’ seems to imply to me that he had in mind a significantly longer period than the lifetime of those who were alive at the time (although this is not conclusive as I don’t believe this passage directly addresses this issue).

        With respect to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17

        I don’t see how Paul saying “we who are still alive” cannot linguistically be taken to refer to “those Christians who are still alive” in the same way that I might say “we will win the war on terror” to a group of my friends, int this context the ‘we’ does not refer to my friends but rather to the nation/west/allies (however you define it) who are fighting terror. Also I would not mean that ‘we’ must remain alive until this is completed – although of course I would mean that the West would continue to exist until the ‘war on terror’ was completed.

        It seems unlikely to me that Paul could have meant ‘we’ in the direct sense of himself and those he was addressing, as in verses 13 and 14 he is assuring them that those who have died will rise again with Christ. He is writing to assure them that if they die they will not be lost or forgotten, but rather will rise with Christ when he comes back.

        God can always add to the number of people who will be saved by not coming back just yet, but then logically he never returns at all

        Yes he can, but this passage does not say that God is waiting until everyone has had a chance to turn to him and repent – it just explains that God has not immediately come because he is patient and wants to give people an opportunity to repent. Of course you can look at this in the way that you are and say that God would need to wait indefinatley for everyone to be given an opportunity to hear the message, and repent but I do not believe that is what is meant here – he is explaining to his readers why God is taking so long.

        1. This is a bit of a diversion since Peter’s sort of “patience” is not a relenting on the eventual fate of unbelievers but merely on when it happens, but it’s an interesting one, so…

          The point he seems (to me) to be making here is that God’s concept of time is different from ours, and that a thousand year ‘delay’ before he comes back seems only as long as a single days delay to us. The use of a ‘thousand years’ seems to imply to me that he had in mind a significantly longer period than the lifetime of those who were alive at the time (although this is not conclusive as I don’t believe this passage directly addresses this issue).

          He’s quoting Ps 90:4, which I’ll grant does seem to allow for a large period of time. However, as Norman Cohn writes in Cosmos, Chaos and the World to Come:

          Nor was [judgement] imagined as lying in some remote, unpredictable future – the early Christians were certain that Jesus would return very soon indeed: “The time we live in will not last long. ““It is far on in the night; day is near.”“The end of all things is upon us.”

          Peter does link the nearness of the end to the behaviour of his hearers in both 1 and 2 Peter.

          I don’t see how Paul saying “we who are still alive” cannot linguistically be taken to refer to “those Christians who are still alive” in the same way that I might say “we will win the war on terror” to a group of my friends.

          I don’t think that’s how this inerrancy game is played. As far as I remember, the rules are that you can and should draw conclusions from particular choices of words (at least, I remember sermons at StAG which did similar sorts of things). Paul could have said “those who are left alive” (after all, he already knows who to say “those who have fallen asleep” in the very same sentence), but he says “we”.

          I’m also not sure if the Greek of the time allows the sort of idiomatic use of “we” which you refer to, although I don’t know how to find out (I suppose could go through every use of the word in the NT and see whether any of them work like that, but I can’t really be bothered :-).

          In any case, the evangelical special pleading about the passages in the letters of Peter and Paul which show that they thought the return of Jesus was imminent is at odds with the stated position of some evangelicals (see under “Subversive Hermeneutics”) that a general principle shouldn’t override specific Bible verses. The general principle in question here is that Peter and Paul were never wrong in what they wrote.

          It seems unlikely to me that Paul could have meant ‘we’ in the direct sense of himself and those he was addressing, as in verses 13 and 14 he is assuring them that those who have died will rise again with Christ. He is writing to assure them that if they die they will not be lost or forgotten, but rather will rise with Christ when he comes back.

          I think he does right to reassure, but rather, he writes to people who think that the Second Coming is imminent but are worried that people who have already died in the intervening time will be forgotten. At 50 AD, 1 Thess predates the gospels and provides very strong evidence that this was the expectation of the early Christians.

      2. No one knows exactly when Jesus will come again as Matthew explains in Matthew 24:36-41.

        There are various hints given as to when Jesus will return, one of the criteria is in the passage above, in verse 14:

        “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

        The word ‘nations’ here is actually the greek ‘ethnos’ which in this context is commonly understood to mean ‘people groups’ rather than specific nations. How do we define people groups? That I don’t know…

        I’ve gone away and done some research on the issue of Hell, and whether or not we deserve such a ‘severe’ punishment for what you refer to as ‘rather piddling things’ we should consider a few things:

        The level of punishment in hell is not uniform

        “That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” – Luke 12:47-48

        Clearly the level of punishment that people receive will be proportionate to various factors including their knowledge of the truth and their intent.

        Jesus said himself that the punishment that would be received by the people who actually witnessed him and his miracles yet still rejected him would be worse than those in the past who had not had the opportunity to see him first hand: Matthew 11:20-24.

        I agree that a God who arbitrarily and unjustly punished people would not be good at all, he would be evil, but I think we are deserving of the punishments that we receive.

        Let me quote from Gospelcom with respect to whether our sins are really all that serious:

        Why should I worry about God’s condemnation if I’m a moral person who hasn’t committed any serious sins?

        This question is a common response when people are confronted with the gospel. They know they are sinners, but they comfort themselves with the thought that they are no worse than most people. In spite of their sins and shortcomings, they may try to live by a consistent set of moral values. As long as they have standards and try to be consistent to them, they assume that they are all right from God’s perspective, or at least as good as anyone else.

        Although this reaction is typical, it’s wrong. Being a moral person excludes no one from the need for God’s grace. Most people consider themselves moral. Even monsters like Stalin and Hitler had rationalizations to justify their atrocities. If they didn’t have moral standards to lend some consistency and predictability to their behavior, they would never have been able to attract followers and create a political power base. Everyone knows that there is honor among thieves or criminals wouldn’t be able to cooperate. Even the most ghastly cannibals or ruthless pirates have certain moral standards.

        1. Robhu, In claiming degrees of punishment you have fallen into the same trap as Jonathan Edwards. He argued that Gods punishment must be unending as sin against an infinite God deserves infinite punishment and then blithely goes on to argue for degrees of infinite punishment!
          Very well, you may say, it’s infinite in time but not always maximal in intensity? But God is maximally good so why not maximal punishment? The logic here that “proves” infinite punishment proves maximal punishment.
          Of course the doctrine that sin deserves infinite punishment is no where found in the Bible. How could Jerusalem be punished double for her sins if she deserves infinite punishment? How could some receive many lashes and other few? How could the sin of Judas be greater than that of Pilate? How are the wages of sin death? This doctrine is only inferred from the passages people think teaches everlasting torment. As for degrees of infinite punishment, you’re having your cake and trying to talk with your mouth full.

        2. “Although this reaction is typical, it’s wrong. Being a moral person excludes no one from the need for God’s grace.”

          No. None of us need supply any justification for avoiding eternal punishment. We just do not deserve it. And never could. No one could. Not Hitler, not Stalin, not Pol Pot. No one. The concept of hell is literally insane, and morally despicable. If your god practices eternal torture, he is–by definition–the most evil being there is, was, or ever will be. Christianity and Islam are mental illnesses practiced on a mass scale; there is no escaping this conclusion.

          1. Unfortunately those who believe this doctrine just say we have no right to define goodness. We must let God do so.
            I agree with you, if God defines hate and torture as good then we should defy him even at the cost of eternal torment.

      3. People who ask why God would condemn them for being no worse than other people haven’t taken into account the fact that evil has contaminated every member of our race. They also don’t see how seriously the cumulative effect of individual sin has corrupted human society. Consciousness of sin is a gift of God’s Spirit, but it is a gift that we don’t naturally want to receive. Although consciousness of sin is necessary for repentance, salvation, and spiritual growth, consciousness of sin also involves suffering.

        Isaiah was one of the greatest of the prophets and one of the most gifted writers of Scripture. His giftedness was a sign of divine honor and blessing, but he paid a price for it. He was given an overwhelming vision of God’s holiness. But he was also given the agony of being aware of his own sinfulness and of the sinfulness of his people:

        “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty” (Isaiah 6:5).

        Few of us attain the infamy of a Hitler, a Pol Pot, or an Idi Amin. But the sin in each of our lives contributes to an evil world that brings such monsters to power. Each of us is so disfigured by sin that it isn’t surprising we don’t want to acknowledge our ugliness. We can only begin to see ourselves objectively with God’s supernatural help.

        You refer to our sin as ‘piddling’ but that is only from your perspective, as I said before very few people consider themselves to be immoral. Hitler didn’t, nor (usually) to thieves and murderers, its easy to have your own moral code upon which comparing yourself to it you come off looking pretty good. What God is saying here though is that the absolute yard stick of morality is defined by God. Yes some of us are more immoral than others, I’m not denying that at all. We are not all as evil as say Hitler or Stalin, but we are all sinners – to whatever degree. The exact amount to which we are sinners, and the appropriate level of punishment appears to be beyond our personal determination. What is certain though is that we are sinners and that God has provided an escape route from the punishment we deserve because he loves us so much.

        The ‘article from wednesday’ which you link to appears to be a post from 1998, so I’m assuming you linked to the wrong thing by accident.

        1. The ‘article from wednesday’ which you link to appears to be a post from 1998, so I’m assuming you linked to the wrong thing by accident.

          Nope, the author is called Wednesday 🙂 I was thinking of the middle of the article where s/he lays into a Christian for calling God “just” when what God means by “justice” is at odd with what everyone else means by it.

          Will reply to the rest later.

        2. Being a moral person excludes no one from the need for God’s grace. Most people consider themselves moral. Even monsters like Stalin and Hitler had rationalizations to justify their atrocities.

          Evil people like Hilter and Stalin consider themselves moral.
          I consider myself moral.
          Therefore I deserve the same punishment as Hilter and Stalin.

          What’s wrong with this picture?

          If they didn’t have moral standards to lend some consistency and predictability to their behavior, they would never have been able to attract followers and create a political power base.

          This confuses order/chaos with good/evil. As anyone who’s played AD&D knows, they’re not necessarily linked. Hitler was lawful evil.

          The exact amount to which we are sinners, and the appropriate level of punishment appears to be beyond our personal determination. What is certain though is that we are sinners and that God has provided an escape route from the punishment we deserve because he loves us so much.

          Hmmm. You (or Gospelcom) say that some people will be punished more severely than others. If the punishment lasts for ever, though, it seems to me that this removes such inequalities. An eternity of anything bad is pretty bad (I’m reminded of the bits in one of Terry Pratchett’s books about how Hell is being trapped for eternity in a hotel in Wales). If the punishment does not last forever, what happens to people who’ve served their time? Are they destroyed, even though they’ve served their punishment? Are they admitted to heaven (in which case you seem to be advocating something like purgatory)?

          Going back to the article from Wednesday (the person, not the day), I’m also not sure how the requirements of justice are satisfied by blaming and executing the wrong person. Like the infinite punishment for a finite crime, that’s a lot way from what I’d think of as justice. One can make analogies about how people volunteered to die for others in concentration camps and the like, but the problem here is that in Christian theology, God is both Maximilian Koble and the Nazis, and it’s all just a very odd show put on for our benefit.

  3. Subject: above
    Man, ronhu is one disturbed fella. I simply can’t believe he A: admitted he is so selfish as not to care about others suffering and then B; goes on to defend suffering as just.

    Only religion can make good men believe horrible things.

          1. Well, this post is from 2007. Since then, robhu became a Christian again and deleted his blog. There’s no accounting for taste, as they say.

  4. Following on from this comment/discussion. I would point out that there are quite a few conservative evangelicals(well obviously not THAT conservative or they wouldnt question dogma) who believe in hell as purgatory, not an eternal state. The trouble with evangelicals is that they constantly call their positions the “traditional” or “orthodox” ones – but they arent!They are usually relatively recent inventions. The eastern orthodox church is as old as anything and basically believes in a hopeful position of universal salvation – and the Roman Catholic Church is moving that way also. Of course the position of mainline protestantism is probably so concerned about human liberty that it cant guarantee anything.

    If the decision be made to turn solely on the literal meaning of the scriptures, I have no hesitation whatever in declaring my strong conviction that the Universalist and Annihilist theories have far more evidence of this sort for them than the popular view. It seems to me that if many passages of Scripture be taken quite literally, universal restoration is unequivocally taught, but that endless torments are nowhere clearly taught–the passages which appear to teach that doctrine being either obviously figurative or historically misunderstood. –Canon F.W. Farrar

  5. Subject: Follow Jesus
    God is a God of LOVE. Apparently you have not read the words of Jesus. I challenge you to do so. He gave us a choice to follow or not. Telling us the consequences. Are we Christian if we have not read and follow the loving words of Christ. We are merely a creation. We do not make the rules God does. If you do not do what Jesus said and did, you must not be a Christian. Better rethink. Jesus was prophicied years and years before He came. The prophecies were fulfilled. Just as His second coming will be.

    1. Subject: Re: Follow Jesus
      I am not convinced that this is being fair to Paul Wright. If I know evangelicals, he must have studied the bible as diligently as any of them. No doubt he took the call to “follow Christ” seriously, or he would not have become an evangelical in the first place.

      So why did a prayer meeting begin to strike Paul Wright as ridiculous? This is a serious question. Could it be that what some people think is living faith is only potentially so, or even just the conditioning of a religious culture, and that, unless the experiential element becomes present, it will be endangered?

      Let me put it aother way: why have well-known authors like Joyce Huggett *not* fallen away? Why did John Wesley *not* apostatise? My suggestion for answer: because their faith became experiential!

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