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What we know about heaven and hell

Re: People who haven't heard of Jesus

Postby Thunder Butt » Mon Jun 18, 2018 2:45 pm

> Wrong. Not all Christians, you should know, believe in the traditional concept of hell

So I need to argue the specifics of only the First Reformed Southern Liturgical Baptist Branch of 1878, and the teachings of the Second Reformed Southern Liturgical Baptist Branch of 1902 is pure heresy - yeah?

All "born again" and Evangelicals believe in a literal hell of fire and brimstone. A significant number of non Evangelicals also teach this. As you said - it's the traditional concept in Christianity and the justification the Catholics used for torture and all manner of gruesome things.

If you wish to argue about Hell being real, or it contents, etc - pick one of them to argue with.
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Re: People who haven't heard of Jesus

Postby jimwalton » Mon Jun 18, 2018 2:46 pm

> 1878 ... 1902

A lot has changed in Christian theology in 150 years. Our Bible study methodology and the information available to us is far different than what they had access to. When I said "not all Christians...believe in the traditional concept of hell," I was not referring to Christians in the late 19th century, but to modern Christianity and Christian scholarship.

> All "born again" and Evangelicals believe in a literal hell of fire and brimstone.

This is what I was saying: no they don't. I've read a number of theological works in the past several years (by evangelicals and born-again-ers) that study the texts and arrive at different conclusions. There are theories about reconcilationism, semi-restorationism, modified eternalism, and annihilationism, all with some kind of scriptural backing. In other words, hell isn't necessarily eternal for all who enter it. It may only be eternal for those who refused to be reconciled.

> If you wish to argue about Hell being real, or it contents, etc - pick one of them to argue with.

I'd prefer to discuss it with you. Those people are dead. :P
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Re: People who haven't heard of Jesus

Postby Regnis Numis » Tue Jun 19, 2018 2:03 pm

> This is what the entire conversation has been about with numerous contributors over the course of 3 days now. You yourself referenced quote by Lewis that I communicated: "We do know that no person can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved by Him."

True, but the reason I referenced Lewis's quote earlier was to insinuate that belief in Christ was a matter of historical fact, not salvation. I was attempting to suggest that people could be saved regardless of their belief in Christ, as long as they sincerely sought after the truth and lived virtuously. However, you've already discounted this possibility, leaving the contradiction open. As of now, I think we've established at least two possible resolutions to the contradiction:

1. Those who haven't heard of Christ shall receive a lesser reward than eternal life, provided they predominantly made virtuous choices.
2. Those who haven't heard of Christ shall discover His existence in the afterlife and receive the opportunity to make a decision about Him.

Nonetheless, both scenarios are mere speculation; as you've stated, the Bible doesn't specify the mechanism by which God saves those who haven't heard of Christ.

> This is a different category altogether. This person has heard of Jesus and has had opportunity to critique and decide, and chooses to reject. In your particular case, for instance, I would imagine you've had a ton of information, opportunity to research, think, and interact. You and I have had many conversations. If you choose to reject, why do you want a bye or an allowance?

I'm still making up my mind about Christianity, given that there are numerous objections and questions to be addressed. If I suddenly passed away tomorrow and discovered the Christian God, I'd request an allowance to learn more information about Him so that I may better understand His perspective and receive assurance of His benevolent intentions.

> It's more than just information, motives, and decision. As I said, every part of you will come into play. God's omniscience won't allow any hidden information (1 Cor. 4.5).

> I just don't want it to sound simplistic, like, "He'll look at the information you had, your motives, and what you decided." Every piece of life will be part of how God evaluates each person. That's one of the things omniscience is for.

For curiosity's sake, could you describe a few of these other aspects?

> In this case, separation from God who is life, goodness, and joy, etc., leaves a person totally devoid of those things.

Indeed, that would be a natural consequence of experiencing separation from God. However, when I think of a judge, I usually imagine an authority figure imposing his will upon legal offenders by sentencing harsh penalties. In God's case, if He is leaving certain human souls alone because they don't want to be with Him, then He is technically granting the will of those He "judges" instead of imposing His own, which comes across as highly unusual for a judge. Plus, how do you reconcile the image between a god who leaves His creations alone as they wish, and a god who evaluates the life of every human being before passing judgment?

> Because there are varying degrees of separation.

If separation from God automatically leads to a complete absence of life, goodness, and joy, then it's difficult to perceive how varying degrees of separation would make a difference. Isn't a human soul under a lesser degree of separation from God still just as deprived of life, goodness, and joy as a human soul under a greater degree of separation? Assuming all degrees of separation entail a total absence of goodness, the varying degrees of punishment can only be explained by different forms of evil manifesting in place of goodness (meaning evil is more than simply an absence of goodness). Otherwise, the punishment would be the same, regardless of one's degree of separation. Either that, or perhaps human souls experiencing a lesser degree of separation still at least enjoy a slightly higher amount of mercy and goodness from God than those suffering a greater degree of separation.
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Re: People who haven't heard of Jesus

Postby jimwalton » Tue Jun 19, 2018 2:50 pm

> I referenced Lewis's quote earlier was to insinuate that belief in Christ was a matter of historical fact, not salvation.

In Christian theology, Jesus's historical purpose was to secure salvation (Mk. 10.45). "Belief in him" is not belief that he existed historically, but belief that he was God incarnate sent by the Father to atone for the sins of humanity. Since Christianity takes the position that there is only one God, and YHWH/Jesus is that one God, then there is no other path to salvation. Every other path is a false path and a dead end.

> as long as they sincerely sought after the truth and lived virtuously.

This is one thing that the Bible is quite clear about. We can never come to salvation based on our own efforts or our own merits. It's like trying to swim the Pacific Ocean from L.A. to Tokyo. While some might get further than others, the distance is just too far for effort or merit to have anything to do with it. We are saved by Christ's blood, and salvation on that basis is offered to us as a free gift. All we have to do is give our lives to Him, meaning to love Him with all our hearts, soul, mind, and strength. It's on the basis of relationship, not merit, that our sins are forgiven.

> both scenarios are mere speculation; as you've stated, the Bible doesn't specify the mechanism by which God saves those who haven't heard of Christ.

Right. While it might be fun to speculate (and it is), and some speculation may glance off the truth (it's hard to know), we simply don't know.

> If I suddenly passed away tomorrow and discovered the Christian God, I'd request an allowance to learn more information about Him so that I may better understand His perspective and receive assurance of His benevolent intentions.

This is interesting, but it sounds as if you don't think you have enough material to make an informed decision at this point. The 4 Gospels are loaded with material, and Paul's writings have a truckload of implications and interpretations of that information.

> For curiosity's sake, could you describe a few of these other aspects?

I can try. I'll assume you've heard various things about Jesus from when your were young and continuing to whatever age you are now.

* How was it presented to you? Did that person skew it, warp it, mock it? Did they teach it accurately and lovingly? Were they hypocrites, and you learned to associate Christianity with false concepts?
* When you think about the claims of Christ, are you objective, biased, curious, skeptical, angry, mocking, or open?
* Are the questions you roll through your mind honest, loaded, tainted? Do you give it as much open objectivity as possible, or are there emotional, psychological, or logical barriers?

An omniscient judge, to be fair, has to take all of this into consideration to render a fair verdict.

> However, when I think of a judge, I usually imagine an authority figure imposing his will upon legal offenders by sentencing harsh penalties.

I perceive a judge as imposing the assessment of the law upon offenders regardless of his will (ideally). He or she follows the lines of legal precedent and wisdom, but there is always the possibility of tempering his verdict with mercy or compromise based on certain perceive conditions.

> If separation from God automatically leads to a complete absence of life, goodness, and joy, then it's difficult to perceive how varying degrees of separation would make a difference.

This is a great question. The full fury of Hell is the complete absence of those assets, but since there are degrees of punishment in hell there must also be degrees of misery, goodness, etc.

C.S. Lewis wrote a fascinating little book called "The Great Divorce." In it he describes what he perceives hell to be like (a miserable city where it's always cloudy and lousy weather, where the people are testy, the lines are long, nothing works right, etc.). Some people there decide to take a bus trip to heaven to see what it's like there. Then he describes heaven. Most of the people can't stand it, and they get back in the bus, wanting nothing to do with it. One particular guy is intrigued, explores, etc., and eventually he gets to stay.

It's only about 125 pages long if your library has it and you get a free evening some time.

> Isn't a human soul under a lesser degree of separation from God still just as deprived of life, goodness, and joy as a human soul under a greater degree of separation?

God's presence in the Bible is always variable. Unlike his holiness, his presence can be lesser or more intense depending on the situation.
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Re: People who haven't heard of Jesus

Postby Regnis Numis » Thu Jun 21, 2018 3:03 pm

> In Christian theology, Jesus's historical purpose was to secure salvation (Mk. 10.45). "Belief in him" is not belief that he existed historically, but belief that he was God incarnate sent by the Father to atone for the sins of humanity.

Isn't it technically still a matter of historical fact when acknowledging Jesus was God incarnate who descended to Earth to atone for mankind's sins?

> This is one thing that the Bible is quite clear about. We can never come to salvation based on our own efforts or our own merits. It's like trying to swim the Pacific Ocean from L.A. to Tokyo. While some might get further than others, the distance is just too far for effort or merit to have anything to do with it. We are saved by Christ's blood, and salvation on that basis is offered to us as a free gift. All we have to do is give our lives to Him, meaning to love Him with all our hearts, soul, mind, and strength. It's on the basis of relationship, not merit, that our sins are forgiven.

This inclines me to believe in the second possibility where those who haven't heard of Christ shall learn about Him in the afterlife and make a decision. Otherwise, their relationship to Christ remains practically nonexistent. And first possibility focuses on personal merit, which you've discounted, regarding God's judgment of those who haven't heard. Speaking of which, doesn't this heavily imply that they will be judged according to the same criteria by which God judges those who have heard, namely their relationship to Christ and not personal merit?

> I perceive a judge as imposing the assessment of the law upon offenders regardless of his will (ideally). He or she follows the lines of legal precedent and wisdom, but there is always the possibility of tempering his verdict with mercy or compromise based on certain perceive conditions.

I see. However, in God's case, the concept of law and justice originated from Him, so isn't He technically judging human souls according to His will? Secondly, my point earlier was that it hardly qualifies as a "judgment" if God is actually honoring the will of those who reject Him by leaving them alone. Thus, I must ask once more: How do you reconcile the image between a god who leaves His creations alone as they wish, and a god who evaluates the life of every human being before passing judgment?
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Re: People who haven't heard of Jesus

Postby jimwalton » Thu Jun 21, 2018 3:16 pm

> Isn't it technically still a matter of historical fact when acknowledging Jesus was God incarnate who descended to Earth to atone for mankind's sins?

His historicity matters (we can't go with Christ being a metaphor or a legend), and so a Christian believes a physical Jesus existed in space and time—a historical reality. That is part of the picture. But believing in Jesus is not just believing he was a real person, as I explained.

> This inclines me to believe in the second possibility where those who haven't heard of Christ shall learn about Him in the afterlife and make a decision.

You're right that there would have to be some kind of revelation/interaction, or a decision is impossible and any consequent verdict unfair.

> namely their relationship to Christ and not personal merit?

Yes, it's always by relationship and not personal merit, but it's a relationship in a different sense as the rest of us who made a decision based on what happened during life. By necessity, there's at least some kind of difference.

> However, in God's case, the concept of law and justice originated from Him, so isn't He technically judging human souls according to His will?

It depends how you mean it. If you mean God arbitrarily at some point determined rules of law and justice, and then those became the foundation, no. If you mean that they are the unavoidable outworking of God's nature in His creation, then yes.

> How do you reconcile the image between a god who leaves His creations alone as they wish, and a god who evaluates the life of every human being before passing judgment?

Suppose I take my two girls for ice cream. Both are excited to go. We get to the counter and one chooses what she wants. Jes' fine. The second one comes to the counter and doesn't see anything she likes. I say the treat's on me, just pick something. She starts to complain at me about it. I say there must be something she likes (they have everything). She starts giving me attitude. I pick her up and show her all the wonderful flavors. Now she's fighting me. I just wanted to do something nice and special. I evaluate her bad mood, and fighting me, her obstinance, her bad attitude. I keep trying, being the good parent that I am. : ) She doubles down and throws a tantrum. I will leave her alone. I won't cater to that. I order the ice cream for the one daughter, and I order something for the other daughter than I know she likes (but she's just in a MOOD tonight). She refuses to eat it. OK, I'm done. I leave the other daughter alone as she wishes after evaluating the situation. I'm not going to force it down her throat. Her choice, her loss.
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Re: People who haven't heard of Jesus

Postby Regnis Numis » Thu Jun 21, 2018 6:29 pm

> Suppose I take my two girls for ice cream. Both are excited to go. We get to the counter and one chooses what she wants. Jes' fine. The second one comes to the counter and doesn't see anything she likes. I say the treat's on me, just pick something. She starts to complain at me about it. I say there must be something she likes (they have everything). She starts giving me attitude. I pick her up and show her all the wonderful flavors. Now she's fighting me. I just wanted to do something nice and special. I evaluate her bad mood, and fighting me, her obstinance, her bad attitude. I keep trying, being the good parent that I am. : ) She doubles down and throws a tantrum. I will leave her alone. I won't cater to that. I order the ice cream for the one daughter, and I order something for the other daughter than I know she likes (but she's just in a MOOD tonight). She refuses to eat it. OK, I'm done. I leave the other daughter alone as she wishes after evaluating the situation. I'm not going to force it down her throat. Her choice, her loss.

By your analogy, does this mean God is gauging His chances of converting human souls in the afterlife to Christ by evaluating every aspect of their earthly lives, just as you evaluated the second girl's attitude to determine your chances of pleasing her but ultimately left her alone? Given His omniscience, I assume God foresees which human souls are beyond persuasion and simply leaves them be, in contrast to your repeated attempts to please the second girl before leaving her be. After all, what's the point of engaging somebody who you've already foreseen will never yield? Then again, if God automatically foresees the future and knows which human souls will never yield, then why does He need to evaluate their pasts to gauge His chances of converting them? I apologize for the train of thought, as I'm trying to understand how God's judgment operates.

On a separate note, who decides the degree of separation for human souls who want nothing to do with God? Since your analogy doesn't address this, I'm curious whether God decides how far He wants to be from them, or they decide how far they want to be from God. Moreover, if fair judgment exists, then unfair judgment must also exist. Thus, if God's fair judgment involves leaving alone human souls who want nothing to do with Him, then how would an unfair judgment look like?
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Re: People who haven't heard of Jesus

Postby jimwalton » Thu Jun 21, 2018 6:30 pm

An analogy is simply that: a close rendition to try to make a point. One can never push analogies too far, or they fall apart. It's hard to say how God regards His "chances." Humans are free agents, and God flows with that (Jer. 18.1-12). In His omniscience He must indubitably know what effect it will have.

There is a new movement in theology called "Open Theism" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_theism) where some theologians are pondering the possibility that God doesn't know how people will choose, thus enabling true free will (as if the alternative was NOT true free will). Open Theism is being rejected by most evangelical scholars.

Trying to attribute to God specific traits and behaviors based on what we think makes sense is always a tricky business.

> I apologize for the train of thought, as I'm trying to understand how God's judgment operates.

It's what we all do. Getting to the core, without loopholes, is really tough. We make the best sense we can and resort back to Rule #1: God will be fair. We can't possibly understand every possible example.

> I'm curious whether God decides how far He wants to be from them, or they decide how far they want to be from God.

My guess would be the latter.

> Moreover, if fair judgment exists, then unfair judgment must also exist.

Unfair judgment is a symptom of humans. Not being omniscient, not knowing every possible contingency, every possible piece of evidence, and even the thoughts of the mind make us susceptible to unfairness, though we have many tools to make wise and good decisions in many situations.
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Re: People who haven't heard of Jesus

Postby Regnis Numis » Sun Jun 24, 2018 12:58 pm

> Unfair judgment is a symptom of humans. Not being omniscient, not knowing every possible contingency, every possible piece of evidence, and even the thoughts of the mind make us susceptible to unfairness, though we have many tools to make wise and good decisions in many situations.

While this is true, I don't see how it's relevant to my point. I was saying that for God to be a fair judge, there must logically be ways He could operate as an unfair judge. And it's difficult to see how any unfair judgment by God would be possible when human souls are the ones who decide their own degrees of separation.
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Re: People who haven't heard of Jesus

Postby jimwalton » Sun Jun 24, 2018 1:00 pm

> I was saying that for God to be a fair judge, there must logically be ways He could operate as an unfair judge.

Please explain this logic. Your comment doesn't make any sense to me. Just as there must be good to understand the definition of evil, so there must be justice to understand the definition of "unjust". God's ways are just, so that helps us understand human injustice. But I don't understand the logic of "for God to be a fair judge, there must logically be ways He could operate as an unfair judge."
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