Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Notable Quotable

From Why I Believed: Reflections of a Former Missionary by Kenneth W. Daniels in Chapter 15.

    Others go even farther than C.S. Lewis and deny the eternality or existence of hell altogether in favor of some form of universalism.  For instance, quasi-evangelical Thomas Talbott systematically examines every New Testament text on the subject of hell and concludes that hell is not eternal after all, but that everyone will ultimately be saved, though for unbelievers this will entail a stindt of finite duration in a refining hell before repenting [Talbott 1999].  While some of his hermeneutic practices used to reach this conclusion may be somewhat strained, and traditionalists like William Lane Craig are quick to identify his weaknesses, Talbott does make a valiant and [mostly] effective effort to rescue the gospel from the pit of eternal damnation.
    Whether or not Talbott's position is scripturally defensible, [footnote: I believe Talbot's biblical case for dismissing the eternality of hell is stronger than any biblical case for abolishing slavery], I can only hope that more and more Christians will embrace his perspective, thus rendering the gospel infinitely more humane, tolerant, and unifying.

I am going to stop there.  This idea of universalism in Christianity has mostly failed to catch on in the United States although I find it very appealing.  I have read quite a bit on the topic of hell. Frankly, the word hell isn't even in the Bible. The  four words used in the Bible are Sheol, Gehenna, Tartarus and Hades.  They are mistranslated as Hell.  The word used most often translated as eternal is "aionios" in the  Greek and should really read age or eon not eternal and forever and ever.  This is another mistranslation.  I think men like Talbott have every bit as good a case that eternal Hell isn't in the Bible as any other Christian that wants to believe in eternal Hell and says that it is to a Biblical concept.

I could almost  have stayed a Universalist Christian.  This is a much kinder belief than traditional Christianity, whether liberal or conservative.  However, I kept reading and studying and after awhile I realized that I simply didn't believe any part of the Christian story and didn't even think that the magnificent man portrayed in the Bible was all that magnificent.  Simply a sad and gory story with the crucifiction and such. Apparently God was not  even appeased by His Son's death since there is a lot of talk about an unsatisfactory after life and punishment for us humans even though His only Son was sacrificed in our place.  It is all so ridiculous once you give it some thought.

May reason and peace find us all.

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