What I Like about Chan’s Attitude

What I Like about Chan’s Attitude

What I Like about Chan’s Attitude

Denny Burk, Justin Taylor, Kevin DeYoung, Josh Harris, Alex Chediac, and many others have written responses to Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins.  I noticed that Chan’s response is different from these others in important ways.  These are listed below, but first…

A significant side-note, Rob Bell recently resigned as a pastor at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville.  The official statement is:

The infamous quote “change is the only constant” certainly holds true at Mars Hill. We have experienced ongoing changes that have improved and transformed—as well as at times unintentionally created tension or heartache within our community. And now, we have another significant change to hold together.

Feeling the call from God to pursue a growing number of strategic opportunities, our founding pastor Rob Bell, has decided to leave Mars Hill in order to devote his full energy to sharing the message of God’s love with a broader audience.

It is with deeply mixed emotions that we announce this transition to you. We have always understood, encouraged, and appreciated the variety of avenues in which Rob’s voice and the message of God’s tremendous love has traveled over the past 12 years. And we are happy and hopeful that as Rob and Kristen venture ahead, they will find increasing opportunity to extend the heartbeat of that message to our world in new and creative ways.

Now, back to the blog.  What I like about Chan’s attitude:

1. He is genuine and transparent in his willingness to explain his inner conflict regarding eternal torment.

If I were to name every time Chan made a statement similar to the one below, quoting interviews, sermons, and his book, this would be a very long blog.  Chan writes:

Even as I write this paragraph, I feel sick.  I would love to erase hell from the pages of Scripture. […] Until recently, whenever the idea of hell – and the idea of my loved ones possibly heading there – crossed my mind, I would brush it aside and divert my thinking to something more pleasant.  While I’ve always believed in hell with my mind, I tried not to let the doctrine penetrate my heart. […] So I decided to write a book about hell.  And honestly – I’m scared to death. […] If I say there is a hell, and I’m wrong, I may persuade people to spend their lives frantically warning loved ones about a terrifying place that isn’t real. […] Part of me doesn’t want to believe in hell. […] Hell should not be studied without tearful prayer.  We must weep, pray, and fast over this issue, begging God to reveal to us through His Word the truth about hell.  Because we can’t be wrong on this one.

2. He demonstrates his Berean qualities in his emphasis on how personal motives play into one’s decision to accept or reject eternal torment.  Chan writes:

Do you want to believe in a God who shows His power by punishing non-Christians and who magnifies His mercy by blessing Christians forever?  Do you want to?  Be honest.  Do you want to believe in a God like this?  Here’s my gut-level, honest answer: No.  No way.  I have a family and friends who reject Jesus.  I do not want to believe in a God who punishes non-Christians.  Okay, maybe He should punish extremely wicked people – that makes some sense.  But punishment in hell for seemingly good people, or those who simply chose the wrong religion?  That feels a bit harsh, at least according to my sense of justice.  But let me ask another question.  Could you?  Could you believe in a God who decides to punish people who don’t believe in Jesus?  A God who wants to show His power by punishing those who don’t follow His Son?  Now that’s a different question, isn’t it?  You may not recognize the difference immediately, but read them again and you’ll see that these two questions – do you want to? versus could you? – are actually miles apart.  The problem is that we often respond to the second question because of our response to the first.  In other words, because there are things that we don’t want to believe about God, we therefore decide that we can’t believe them.

*I do not agree completely with what Chan writes here, but I do see that the emphasis he places on personal motives is an important factor in how we choose to view not only eternal torment, but many other true or false ideas about Who God is and what God does.  I will comment more specifically on this later in the blog series.

3. He is fair in that he clearly defines that there are misleading subheadings under the label “Universalism”.

When I first openly shared my Amazing Hope, I was met repeatedly with a particular ignorant response, that is, “You are a Universalist?  How can you say that all religions are true?  How can you dismiss that Jesus is the only way?  Have you lost your mind?”  In other words, they put words in my mouth and dismissed anything that I might have to say as nonsense, based on an incorrect view of Universalism.  It’s faulty logic, in the most classic sense.  For example, “All Nazi’s were human beings, therefore, if one is human, one is a Nazi.”  Or, “I was bit by an abused pit bull, therefore all dogs are dangerous.”  It’s a nonsense way of going about trying to make sense of anything.  Chan takes the time to debrief people about this.

4. He is committed to unity in the body of Christ in that he doesn’t dismiss Christian Universalists as heretics.

The message of Amazing Hope is received or rejected in various ways.  If I were to make a list of reactions that really took me by surprise, number two on my list would be that people who have known me and accepted me as one of their own for years could suddenly (like flicking a switch, seriously!) believe I’m a heretic.  Chan avoids this, and he encourages others to do so as well.

5. He is honest enough to recognize that Christians don’t actually behave as if they believe in eternal torment.

I am convinced that the only people who truly believe in eternal torment are the ones who hold/wear signs, hand out those “God love you but…” tracts, and stand on the side of the road, shouting, crying, and pleading with anyone who will listen to their warnings – and even those who won’t.  The others who claim that the doctrine of eternal torment is real and don’t act like this are fooling themselves, or they are behaving like unconcerned, loveless, selfish people.  I don’t see any middle ground there, do you?  If you do, then by all means, please do make use of the blog comment section!  Chan explains this more delicately than I do.  He writes:

The thought of hell is paralyzing for most people, which is why we often ignore its existence – at least in practice.  After all, how can we possibly carry on with life if we are constantly mindful of a fiery place of torment?  Yet that’s the whole point – we shouldn’t just go on with life as usual.  A sense of urgency over the reality of hell should recharge our passion for the gospel […]  We should not just try to cope with hell, but be compelled – as with all doctrine – to live directly in light of it.  […] for the sake of people’s eternal destiny, our lives and our churches should be – no, they must be! – free from the bondage of sin, full of selfless love that overflows for neighbors, the downcast, and the outsiders among us.

6. He is considerate enough to take about three months to study and consider his response.

So, you are wondering about the first thing on the list back in point number four (glad you asked…).  It surprises me that church people, or at least all the church people I know, don’t even take the time to pray hard, study hard, and really allow their current views to be put to the test before choosing to react.  With the exception of one married couple who very hesitantly entertained the idea for perhaps half an hour with me, I’ve never had more than five minutes of conversation with any believers about Amazing Hope, because they either shut down themselves, or shut me down as soon as they realize I am scrutinizing their heavily guarded doctrine of eternal torment, a so-called pillar of faith.  I’m glad that Chan took three months.  His first mistake was calling on the expertise of an evangelical theologian to help guide him through that process.  His second mistake was setting a time limit on God.  The Spirit of God is the only Teacher who can be completely trusted.  Any other teacher’s words should be held in a default position of false until proven true.  Looking back, I can see that God took His good old time to open my eyes.  It was a process that began with him preparing my heart, and then three years later, He changed His approach.  He started dropping breadcrumbs – a two year trail!  Then it took me a full year to grow the balls to face whatever backlash awaited me when I came out of the religious closet.  Three months is nothing.  But, hey, at least he gave it a shot, which is more than I can say for churchianity in general.

 

Next blog in this series: Why Chan Can’t Erase Hell

Comments
  • Mary Vanderplas September 23, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    I agree that it’s heartening to know that at least he’s in turmoil over the idea of eternal torment, that he recognizes it as the horrible doctrine it is and demonstrates appropriate compassion and restraint in talking about it. I would add here that restraint is called for also by the fact that the biblical witness suggests that there are surprises when it comes to the final judgment and separation (see Matthew 25).

    I agree that he makes a good point in distinguishing between “want to” and “can” (or “will”) when it comes to accepting or not accepting something as true. I do think that we need to be aware constantly of our tendency to believe what we want to believe, to allow sinful self-interest to determine what we accept or refuse to accept as truth. We need to ask ourselves whether we’re rejecting a teaching simply because it’s hard and unpalatable, or because we’re convinced that it isn’t true. When it comes to the doctrine of eternal torment, though, I’m inclined to see the fact that it is so very unpalatable, so impossibly hard to reconcile with the truth of a loving God, as evidence that it isn’t true. The extreme difficulty of it might not be the only evidence against it, or even the most compelling, but I think it is not unreasonable to argue that it is a piece of the evidence. Moreover, because one’s overpowering aversion to the doctrine has to do in most instances with fear of what it might mean for the destiny of others (not of oneself), the notion that one is motivated by self-interest is ruled out. At any rate, the caution he sounds is, I agree, worth attending to.

    I agree with your affirmation of his fair-minded and inclusive attitude toward Christian Universalism and its proponents. It’s sad that more of us church people aren’t so disposed, that the idea of God’s saving mercy including every person should be perceived as a threat and its messengers silenced. I can only say, “Shame on us in the church for rejecting and labeling a heretic anyone for proclaiming the message of Amazing Hope.”

    Your comments in #5 are most insightful. I agree that there is no middle ground: if a person who claims to believe the doctrine of eternal torment isn’t out there working tirelessly to make sure that everyone is saved, then either s/he doesn’t really believe the doctrine or s/he is completely lacking in love and compassion for his/her fellow human beings (which is hard to fathom if the person is a Christian and has the love of Christ in his/her heart). Further evidence that they likely don’t really believe the horrible doctrine is the fact that most of these people wouldn’t hesitate for a second to warn a fellow human being whose physical life was in immediate danger, yet they appear to be untroubled by the thought of the person’s everlasting torture.

    I can’t argue with your challenge to “pray hard, study hard, and really allow [your] current views to be put to the test before choosing to react.” I’m afraid I am often as guilty as the worst of the church people, of whom I am one, when it comes to reacting rather than seriously and prayerfully considering unconventional views with my mind open to having my views challenged and possibly changed. I agree that the Spirit of God is the only teacher who deserves our total trust, though I would add here that the Spirit speaks not only directly to our hearts and minds but also through others and to us as we study and pray in the company of others (including believers whose views are different than our own). But I agree that we should test the words of human teachers, though I don’t know that I agree that we should hold what they say “in a default position of false until proven true.” This may be the best approach if the teacher is unknown, but if the person is known and trusted, it would seem to me that at least some of what he or she says can be accepted as true. This doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t still pray and study for him/herself; it only means that I think human teachers do have a place and that they are not to be distrusted just because they are not God.

    I like your analysis. Thanks for the insights, and for the challenge to be open to new truth.

    • admin September 23, 2011 at 10:58 pm

      Yeah, you’re probably right about the known and trusted teachers. But there’s still a danger to that. I’ve seen firsthand friends who have been led astray by the trusted teachers, and I am not talking about eternal torment, either. I’m talking about basic stuff. It is better to ere on the side of grace. I guess as long as people do their homework, especially if something doesn’t seem accurate, and trust God to keep them from going too far in the wrong direction, then things will be ok.

      • Mary Vanderplas September 24, 2011 at 6:07 am

        Even though I don’t think human teachers should be automatically dismissed or distrusted (unless they’ve done something to warrant it), I do think you’re right on when it comes to your emphasis on human teachers not being given too much authority and on “ordinary” Christians not abdicating responsibility for careful study and listening to the Spirit to the “experts,” trusting them to interpret the scriptures for everyone else – something that I think happens often in the church. (I also think that in many churches power needs to be radically redistributed – in the direction of egalitarianism – a point you’ve made before and one with which I agree totally.)

        You make a good point in emphasizing “if something doesn’t seem accurate.” I think that having doubts/questions and an uneasy feeling about something a teacher says is as good a signal as any that one needs to investigate it thoroughly for him/herself.

  • Alex Smith September 23, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    Thanks Alice for the news about Rob Bell & also a gracious review of Chan’s attitude. He certainly comes across to me as genuinely seeking the truth, I just pray God reveals it to him sooner, rather than later, as that would be a great witness!

    May God continue to bless you!

    • admin September 27, 2011 at 10:30 pm

      Yes, he certainly would.

  • Lanny A. Eichert September 27, 2011 at 2:25 am

    Dear all you sinful Amazing Hope wonderful people, please just tell me WHERE you expect to be the minute after you physically die?

    All I need is a simple answer. Will you be ushered immediately into the presence of the Son of God? Or if elsewhere, then where? I mean, where do people with this Amazing Hope go when they die? Don’t you all go to the same place?

    • admin September 27, 2011 at 8:28 am

      Honestly, I can’t say with certainty. But here is my theory: Where( “space”) do you( “matter”) go when (“time”) you die? Notice the time-space-matter assumptions built into the question, and rightly so, because that is the human experience. Everything we think/know/do/say is somehow encapsulated in time-space-matter. Will that also be the case after physical death? There are some passages in scripture which indicate that the dead know nothing, feel nothing, are resting, etc. There are other passages which indicate we go to be with God immediately. How do we resolve the two? We stop thinking in terms of time-space-matter. Suppose that death for some is to leave space and matter, to exist apart from it. We who are still part of it would not see you; you are not with us. So where are you? These are space and matter terms – where (“space”) are you (“matter”)? Yet you are alive, although not with us. The answer to the question depends on who is asking it. Is someone who is existing in time-space-matter asking? Then you are dead, “on pause”, or sleeping for lack of a better word. If someone who exists apart from time-space-matter is asking, i.e. God, then one who has life of the ages (“time”) passes straight from death to life. How can both be true? For the same reason a car horn goes from high pitch to low pitch for someone standing on the sidewalk, but stays at a steady pitch for the person in the car. Because time is relative. In a sense, we are already “raised up” and “seated with Him in heavenly places”, even as I write this (Eph 2:6). That’s why you see mind bending scriptures like: “who did save us […] in Christ Jesus, before the times of the ages“, “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world“, and “The beast that thou didst see: it was, and it is not; and it is about to come up out of the abyss, and to go away to destruction, and wonder shall those dwelling upon the earth, whose names have not been written upon the scroll of the life from the foundation of the world, beholding the beast that was, and is not, although it is.” It’s mind boggling stuff for sure!

  • […] What I Like about Chan’s Attitude […]

  • Lanny A. Eichert September 27, 2011 at 9:57 am

    That’s not exactly what I’d call a simple answer. Don’t you then disagree with the historically traditional Christian view as you might suppose it to be?

    I would like your repectful readers to also contribute their conclusions.

    • Mary Vanderplas September 28, 2011 at 10:02 pm

      I don’t think we can know for sure. The traditional Protestant view is that the soul goes immediately to heaven or hell, where it awaits reunion with the body, which remains in the grave until it is raised on the last day. One problem with this view is that it seems to reflect the unbiblical notion that the soul isn’t mortal, that only the body dies while the soul lives on, returning to God (though some would disagree that the immortality of the soul is implied). Another problem is, as Alice points out, that it takes a temporal-spatial perspective, whereas the categories of time and space no longer apply after we die. What from our temporal point of view appears to happen in the present and future and to be separated by a great gap, from God’s eternal perspective may happen all at the same time. The Bible does give two different pictures: (1) that at death we are taken immediately into the presence of God and (2) that we go to the grave and on the last day are raised to eternal life. The fact that the Bible doesn’t try to harmonize or reconcile the two probably says to us that neither should we, nor should we aspire to know too much. Still, I am inclined to think that at the moment we die, we will be raised to be with Christ. I like what Alice says: that “in a sense we are already ‘raised up’ and ‘seated with him in heavenly places.’” When we die, I think this will be true in an even deeper sense, as we are delivered from the pain and struggle of life in this world to life in God’s eternal world.

      I don’t know what happens to unbelievers immediately after death and in the time prior to the final resurrection and judgment. Regarding the story in Luke 16, it isn’t intended, in my view, to provide information about what happens to people when they die. It is a parable, the intent of which is to warn us against neglecting the needs of the poor.

      • Lanny A. Eichert September 29, 2011 at 12:16 am

        According to Mary: Regarding the story in Luke 16, it isn’t intended, in my view, to provide information about what happens to people when they die. It is a parable, the intent of which is to warn us against neglecting the needs of the poor.

        You mean to teach us that only verses 19 through 21 are about mortal reality and the remainder is Jesus’ fairytale with a moral? The only truth contained in verse 22 is that both men died and one was reported buried? The beggar wasn’t really carried by angels; there really is no Abraham’s bosom? There really is no hell (23) either? Angels, Abraham’s bosom, and hell are just fictional literary devices Jesus uses in his stories to teach us humanitarian lessons? So also is Jesus application of the name of Lazarus to the beggar; just a fictional literary device? Mary, did I over-react? What parts of this story are described realities? What parts are fiction?

        You don’t think there is the remotest possibility that Jesus is teaching that the poor are rich in faith but It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God? You don’t think it possible for Jesus to include factual information and factual descriptions in His lessons/warnings for us?

        • Mary Vanderplas September 29, 2011 at 10:27 pm

          I was stating my perspective on this text in response to your comment, not teaching you. The story is a parable. It isn’t intended to convey information about what happens when people die, even though it reflects popular beliefs about the life hereafter. The point seems to be the reversal of fortunes that will take place in the coming kingdom. In the context of Luke’s Gospel, the story is intended to communicate that how we use the resources we have been given matters ultimately. It is a warning to us that, if we neglect the needs of the poor and hungry, we will stand to be judged. Parables are neither “fairytales with a moral” nor are they reports that provide information to satisfy our curiosity. They are rather, metaphors that provoke thought and challenge how we live. Their truth and power lie in their ability to challenge us to orient our lives to the kingdom of God. The questions you ask about Lazarus being carried by angels, Abraham’s bosom, etc., are, in my view, the wrong questions, drawing attention away from the point of the parable.

          (The word you refer to in verse 23 should be translated “Hades,” not “hell.”)

          Regarding your comment about “humanitarian lessons” in Jesus’ stories, let me quote from Shirley Guthrie: “A spirituality that retreats from the world into the self-serving safety of a private religious life…is a false spirituality… True Christian spirituality cheerfully and confidently plunges into the life of this world, for there is where we meet the Spirit of the God of the Bible who is at work not to save us from but in and for the sake of the world.”

          • Lanny A. Eichert September 30, 2011 at 12:19 am

            If ” it reflects popular beliefs about the life hereafter” that Jesus applied to the subject you say is the subject, then why don’t you believe this incidental information He gave us on the issue of life after death? Would Jesus mislead us on incidental details? Does He accommodate our false superstitious ideas without righting them? Would He leave us alone with our error of this magnitude?

          • Lanny A. Eichert September 30, 2011 at 12:48 am

            If ” it reflects popular beliefs about the life hereafter” that Jesus applied to the subject you say is the subject, then why don’t you believe this incidental information He gave us on the issue of life after death?

            This incidental information supplied by Jesus Christ Himself specifies what immediately followed death in these two cases. Why each is where they are is not specifically declared by Christ, but we can see by Jesus’ report of the formerly rich man’s words in verse 30 that since he anticipates his brothers will not believe the words of Moses and the Prophets and ultimately land where he is, that he is where he is because he also didn’t believe Moses and the Prophets. Take it from there, especially as it immediately follows Jesus’ teaching on divorce and remarriage in verse 18 by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit upon the heart and mind of Luke.

  • admin September 27, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    The traditional view puts believers immediately in heaven and unbelievers immediately into hell upon death. But this flies in the face of many scriptures. Contrary to popular belief, the scriptures don’t say very much about the question you ask. Many of the scriptures which are traditionally attributed to post-death are actually referring to more immediate consequences/situations. For example, the destruction of Jerusalem, predicted by Jesus Christ. I wish I could answer you with certainty. I suspect that unbelievers “sleep” until they are resurrected into the age of judgment.

  • Lanny A. Eichert September 27, 2011 at 11:35 pm

    Alice, as I remember, when I last left your blog the discussion was of the Luke 16 story of the wise steward, but do I need remind you that Jesus next told the true story of an unnamed rich man and a beggar man named Lazarus in that chapter. What “immediate consequences/situations” are in it involved?

    • Lanny A. Eichert September 29, 2011 at 3:11 am

      Alice, your 4 part videos are complicated fanciful dances in thin air without any hard ground foundation.

      • admin September 29, 2011 at 9:32 am

        Can you be more specific? What exactly did you find to be inaccurate and why?

        • Lanny A. Eichert September 29, 2011 at 12:34 pm

          Essentially your videos make Luke 16: 19 – 31 an allegory like unto Galatians 4: 22 – 31, except there it says so, but not in Luke, and Hagar was a real person. There’s no real ground for making yours an allegory.

          • Lanny A. Eichert September 29, 2011 at 1:26 pm

            Now I said Hagar was a real person and I say also that she was really cast out of Abraham’s household. So then in keeping with what a Biblical allegory is, you should keep the rich man and Lazarus as real people, the first in a real hell with flame and tongue, and the second held and comforted in Abraham’s arms against his bosom, and so forth. You cannot lessen the reality of the story for the allegory’s sake, and you cannot lessen the reality of what is taught about life immediately after death just because you can’t put two and two tegether yet.

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    • admin September 29, 2011 at 9:57 pm

      Lanny, you are still being very general in your skeptical commentary regarding the vids. I asked you to be specific and you replied that there no ground for me to consider it as allegory. That is not specific. What do you disagree with in the video? Do you disagree about what the color purple represents? Do you disagree about what linen represents? Do you disagree about the five brothers? Is there any “allegorical” concept presented in the videos that can be ruled out as allegory? What evidence is there that it’s not an allegory? Why should we read the entire series as parables and suddenly switch to literal interpretation with the Rich Man and Lazarus?

      • Lanny A. Eichert September 30, 2011 at 2:09 am

        The previous chapter (15) seems to relate to the joy of restoration as illustrated by three parables, although the story of the man with two sons could be a real life story. Alice, the wise unjust steward could also be a real life story used by Christ for teaching the three lessons specified in verses 8 – 13. There is no necessity to make them fictional. Jesus then addressed the Pharisees about the Law and the Prophets, the Kingdom, and divorce. There is no quick switch from the figurative to the literal here if 19 – 31 be literal, as seems correct because there is no reason to read the passage in figures. Jesus speaks next about repeated offenses, forgiveness, and faith; before doing another parable (17: 7 – 10), if that is what it is, because it could be just another true to life situation. Your purple and fine linen are precious Old Testament meaningful figures and add a wrongful respectability to your interpretation in support of who these two men represent. You must remember it is the Old Testament that puts God’s revelation to us in pictures, figures, ensamples, and types. It is the New Testament that explains to us those pictures, figures, ensamples, and types. Jesus stopped talking in parables and began to plainly speak to His disciples.

        Alice, I certainly appreciate the pictures, figures, ensamples, and types of the Old Testament as especially supported by the New Testament epistle to the Hebrews and I get quite excited about the depth of meaning for the New Testament saint, but your attempt is just without Scriptural justification with regard to Luke 16: 19 – 31.

        Lazarus is Eliezer of Damascus representing Gentiles is a bit of a stretch, but is as good as anything anybody else might want to make him, because there is no source of authority for making this an allegory. Very imaginative and that’s the problem.

  • Lanny A. Eichert September 29, 2011 at 4:19 am

    Now to date only two answers and that both alike without any certainty. It is amazing that you have this Amazing Hope of yours, and yet you two say you don’t know what happens to a person at the death of the physical body. Is that consistent with the rest of your Amazing Hope crowd?

    Do you realize that means your Amazing Hope doctrine is a damning doctrine that damns and prevents you from believing God’s Holy Bible? How? It makes you twist God’s individual words for the sake of your supporting, also erroneous, doctrines; so that you confuse even knowing that eternal life which is entered by faith in Jesus’ blood for your sins.

    This uncertainty and confusion of yours is an evident witness of your unregenerate state.

    • admin September 29, 2011 at 9:32 am

      God is my judge.

      • Lanny A. Eichert September 29, 2011 at 1:09 pm

        Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 7: 21 Read the passage: your inability to believe Jesus’ words judges you before men and God.

        Many, many people have deceived themselves by falsely thinking they believe when they really don’t, and they’ve had experiences. They have neither calling or election, therefore neither can be sure to them, yet they think they are teachers of the blind.

        But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1: 9 – 11

  • Mary Vanderplas September 30, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    Lanny,
    Luke’s Jesus wasn’t speaking this parable to us; he was speaking it to first-century religious leaders who likely held the view that wealth is a sign of God’s favor and poverty of God’s disfavor and who justified their own love of money on the basis of this view. He was using a story that was popular and familiar in order to get across to these misguided leaders the message that a proper interpretation of the scriptures demands active concern for the poor and needy. To lift up the “incidental details” as a source of revealed truth to us on the subject of what happens to us when we die is, in my view, to miss the point of the parable and distort the meaning of the text.

    I agree that why Lazarus and the rich man are where they are is not explicitly stated, though the implied reason for the reversal of fortunes that occurs following their deaths is the rich man’s failure to show compassion by reaching out to Lazarus in his misery. (The rich man’s request in verse 28 suggests that his attitude toward Lazarus remained unchanged even after death.) Thus, the parable pictures the fate of persons being determined (and permanently sealed) by what they do in this life. (It shouldn’t be used to argue that people go directly and immediately to heaven or hell at the moment of death.) I agree that the closing verses of the parable shed light on the reason the rich man found himself in torment in Hades (not to be interpreted as a literal description of the fate of the unrepentant): that he failed to heed the word of God to him in the Law and the prophets concerning acting with justice and compassion toward the poor. Indeed, he misinterpreted the scriptures, as did the religious leaders whom Jesus was addressing, in a way that allowed him to justify his lack of compassion in the face of Lazarus’ obvious want. You make a good point, I think, in connecting what is said here about listening to the Law and the prophets with the verses that immediately precede the parable (esp., 16-18). I don’t think, though, that verse 18 is meant to be a presentation of Jesus’ teaching on divorce, since there is much that isn’t said here about the subject that is said in other places. Luke affirms the ongoing validity of the Law of God, properly interpreted, in the new era of the kingdom. It makes sense to me that, as some scholars contend, the words concerning marriage and divorce are an illustration of the point that the advent of the new era of the kingdom in the person of Jesus does not do away with older laws. The life and ministry of Jesus demonstrated the proper understanding and use of the Law.

  • Lanny A. Eichert September 30, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    To lift up the “incidental details” as a source of revealed truth to us on the subject of what happens to us when we die is, in my view, to miss the point of the parable and distort the meaning of the text, says Mary.

    Yet Jesus included those details as facts nonetheless, so you and me and the world should believe them as facts. Jesus adds credibility to those details. Matthew 4: 4

    Go ahead and believe whatever point you want to find in the parable according to your own interpretation as you please, but give these incidental details the full value they deserve as spoken by Him Who is the Truth. Their full value will not distort the meaning of the text or the point of what you think is a parable. You said it was a story that was popular and familiar; and I say then Jesus added credibility to it: so believe it instead of fighting against it. (Acts 9: 5 “it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.”)

    Regarding divorce/remarriage Verse 18: that is the core summary and agrees with Romans 7: 1 – 3; that’s foundational as Jesus said even from the beginning. It’s only for hard hearted people any way.

  • Lanny A. Eichert October 1, 2011 at 3:18 am

    By putting that verse with the story I want to incite you that people who divorce and remarry burn in hell and the stranded innocent spouse goes to heaven.

    God approves remarriage ONLY after the spouse is dead.

    • Mary Vanderplas October 1, 2011 at 6:56 am

      You wrench the Romans text out of context and use it to say what you delight in saying, which is that everyone who doesn’t measure up (according to your standards of righteousness) will “burn in hell.” Sad, and hardly the Good News I read in the scriptures.

      • Lanny A. Eichert October 1, 2011 at 1:05 pm

        You mean to tell me Romans 7: 1 – 3 does NOT mean marriage before your spouse is dead is adultery?

    • admin October 4, 2011 at 10:05 pm

      What if there is some spiritual symbolism in this?

      • Lanny A. Eichert October 5, 2011 at 12:53 am

        The Law of God is not negated, but established in this chapter. Marriage before your spouse is dead is still adultery.

        The picture presented in verse 4 is that the husband is the Law and the one who becomes a believer WAS the wife married to it. When the wife dies with Christ on the cross (that’s conversion), that death frees her from her husband, the Law; and thus she is made married to Christ legitimately by the operation of God.

        Again, Alice, just because Jesus is God’s sacrificial lamb for the sinner doesn’t change the reality of all the lambs offered in sacrifice. They were real lambs before and after they were killed. A type, figure, shadow, ensample isn’t undone by the reality. All the furnishing of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness remain real furnishing and a real tabernacle even though they pictured Christ.

        • Mary Vanderplas October 5, 2011 at 8:45 pm

          I agree with what you say in the paragraph, “The picture presented in verse 4…” Paul is using marriage and the change of legal status that occurs when a spouse dies as an analogy to illustrate the point that the death of Christ changes the status of believers. Specifically, he is arguing that, by virtue of the fact that they are united with the death of Christ, believers are set free from the law and joined to Christ. Where I disagree is with your use of these verses to argue that “marriage before your spouse is dead is still adultery.” Paul is not teaching about marriage here. To use this text to declare God’s will concerning marriage and to denounce those who remarry before a former spouse has died is, in my view, to distort its meaning and to misuse it.

          • Lanny A. Eichert October 5, 2011 at 10:22 pm

            Look at your own words, Mary: the change of legal status that occurs when a spouse dies. Before the spouse dies, it is illegal by your own words. Forget how you feel about it and how you want to be loving toward those poor souls. The Law is hard and exacting and void of your kind of love. That’s the intended meaning of the figure: that husband can NOT be satisfied by the wife, because she can NEVER be perfect. That husband only and ever condemns. It condemns the adulteress without love or mercy. The figure doesn’t void the Law: it is still sinful to remarry before the spouse is dead.

          • Lanny A. Eichert October 5, 2011 at 10:41 pm

            Don’t you see that even in the figure, if you allow for divorce and remarriage after conversion, then in the figure you can divorce from Christ and remarry the idol and you can go back and forth numerous times. You make Arminianism right and Calvinism wrong.

          • Mary Vanderplas October 6, 2011 at 6:20 am

            Paul is using marriage for one purpose: as an analogy to show how the death of someone else (Christ) changes another’s (a believer’s) situation. He does not say that the death of a spouse is the only situation in which it is permissible for a person to remarry. He is not teaching about marriage here. Look up “analogy” in the dictionary. It does not mean exact in every detail.

          • Lanny A. Eichert October 6, 2011 at 10:57 am

            That still doesn’t change the Law upon which the analog is built.

            Otherwise, in the figure you can divorce from Christ and remarry the idol and you can go back and forth numerous times. You make Arminianism right and Calvinism wrong.

            The spouse MUST DIE first or you invalidate the analogy. Allow remarriage before the death of the spouse and you destroy the foundation of the analogy, because you just changed the Law upon which it is built.

          • Lanny A. Eichert October 6, 2011 at 4:50 pm

            By the believer’s union in the death of Christ, he is removed from salvation and sanctification BY HIS OWN Law keeping and his account is credited with Christ’s perfect Law keeping in his stead. The moral and civil Law of God hasn’t changed one bit for His creation. Remarriage while the divorced spouse is alive is still adultery for God’s entire creation. The believer, though freed from the Law, is now functioning under a new law: the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus; and that Holy Spirit does not function contrary to the moral and civil Law of God for His creation. He does NOT lead or allow the breaking of God’s Law.

  • Lanny A. Eichert October 1, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    “I want to incite you” should be the key that indicates that statement is sarcastic; but what is true is: God approves remarriage ONLY after the spouse is dead. That’s as clear as Romans 7: 1 – 3 can make it.

    Don’t you see how LOW a view of Scripture you and Alice have that you marginalize Jesus’ word to justify your UNBELIEF. Your actions and attitudes witness your unregenerate state.

    Beware because you are hell-bound sinners and beg God to give you the faith to believe His Holy Bible word for word or else you perish in hellfire. Both of you and your Amazing Hope crowd, too, if this is typically their treatment of Holy Scripture.

  • Lanny A. Eichert October 1, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    You CANNOT believe Jesus says what He means and means what He says AND the whole Bible is every word of God, even His.

    Believe it or you will perish. This is no battle of words or ideas; it is life or death: death in the Lake of Fire.

    Stop playing that you know the Bible; Satan knows it better than you two, and he rejoices at your confusion and unbelief because he sees it for what it is and he knows he has made you his property to take with him to the lake of Fire forever.

    Seek faith from God as your only escape. Pray that God will be merciful to you and give you faith.

    But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and [that] he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Hebrews 11: 6

  • Mary Vanderplas October 1, 2011 at 5:04 pm

    Ah, you have neatly separated the wheat and the tares. Now all you need is the match…..

  • Lanny A. Eichert October 1, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    You cannot get saved unless you know you’re lost and you know what it means to be lost.

    And neither of you seem to know what happens when a person dies. You’re blind leaders of the blind carrying a lit match into a pile of tares.

    Pray fast and hard for faith from God.

    • admin October 4, 2011 at 10:03 pm

      What do you say happens to a person when they die, Lanny?

      • Lanny A. Eichert October 5, 2011 at 1:45 am

        Do you really need to ask me? I thought you’d know my answer.

        The Christian is ushered straight and immediately into the presence of his Lord Jesus Christ upon death (2 Corinthians 5: 1 – 8; Philippians 1: 21 – 23) or when Jesus descends from heaven to the clouds (the “rapture” – 1 Thessalonians 4: 13 – 17 & 1 Corinthians 15: 51 – 54 & John 14: 2 & 3) which ever comes first, since His coming is the very next prophetic event. After that the martyred Tribulation Saints are ushered immediately into God’s Throne Room (Revelation 6: 9 – 11; 7: 9 – 17) in Heaven.

        All others are ushered straight and immediately into hell fire as per the hands, feet, and eyes in the Mark 9: 42 – 48 hell and the rich man in Luke 16: 19 – 31.

        They leave their mortal physical bodies on earth, yet it is evident they have intermediate bodies until the rapture or the resurrections. 2 Corinthians 5: 1 – 8 and Philippians 1: 21 – 23 make it impossible for the sleepers of 1 Thessalonians 4: 13 – 17 to be paused. The Trib Martyrs aren’t called sleepers.

        • admin October 5, 2011 at 4:38 pm

          I ask because I want to know what you believe. Do the Christians leave heaven to meet their bodies in the clouds during the rapture and then return to heaven again? What about Lazarus? Did he go to heaven and then come back again after four days?

        • Mary Vanderplas October 5, 2011 at 8:47 pm

          Paul simply presents the two pictures – one of a final resurrection at the end of history and the other of believers at the moment of death going directly and immediately to God. He doesn’t try to harmonize them by speculating about what happens in the “intermediate state” between death and the final resurrection. Therefore, to assert as though self-evident the belief that “[souls] leave their mortal physical bodies on earth” and are given “intermediate bodies until the rapture* or the resurrections” is, in my view, unwarranted. Moreover, I think that Alice’s point is well-taken (and a caution also to me in my thinking about what happens to believers at the time of death): if in fact God determines people’s destinies when they die so that they go immediately to heaven or hell, then why a final resurrection and judgment? The latter would seem to be superfluous.

          I don’t think that there is any biblical warrant for arguing that “all others are ushered straight and immediately into hell.” The texts you cite in support of your view simply do not address the question of “what happens to unbelievers when they die.”

          *I don’t agree with your “rapture” theology. In my view, it is based on an erroneous interpretation of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. The picture Paul presents in these verses isn’t of believers meeting Christ in the sky and being taken to heaven. It is, rather, of Christ returning and the saints who meet him (in the realm between the heavenly world and this world) returning with him to the earth to which he comes. (The meaning of the word used for “meeting” was used of a meeting between a visiting dignitary and a welcoming party, with the welcoming party and the visitor returning to the place being visited.)

          • Lanny A. Eichert October 5, 2011 at 10:08 pm

            Therefore, to assert as though self-evident the belief that “[souls] leave their mortal physical bodies on earth” and are given “intermediate bodies …” in my view, unwarranted, says Mary.

            Do you know of anybody who hasn’t left his dead body on earth? I ask.

          • Lanny A. Eichert October 5, 2011 at 11:08 pm

            1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 is a DIFFERENT coming from that of Matthew 24: 29 – 31 & 25: 31 – 33 but do you know that?
            John 14: 2 & 3 is also a DIFFERENT coming from that of Matthew 24: 29 – 31 & 25: 31 – 33 but do you know that?

            Only “rapture” theology satisfies the differences.

          • Mary Vanderplas October 6, 2011 at 6:24 am

            I don’t know that when a person dies, his/her “soul” is separated from his/her body and given an “intermediate body” until the “rapture” or final resurrection.

            I can safely guess that neither do you.

          • Lanny A. Eichert October 6, 2011 at 10:46 am

            Do you know of anybody who hasn’t left his DEAD body on earth? I ask again. What about unrecoverable bodies destroyed in explosions or those burned to ashes and scattered?

            “Soul” is separated from the body, no if, and, or buts. You know nothing as you ought because you so restrict the Scriptures (It is proof of you unregenerate state). It is right there in front of you (buried) in Luke 16 by Jesus’ validating words. Does Jesus ever speak idle words?

            But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. Matthew 12: 36

            Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 2 Timothy 3: 7

  • Lanny A. Eichert October 5, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    Do the Christians leave heaven to meet their bodies in the clouds during the rapture and then return to heaven again?

    Yes. Vs 14 “them … which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him” and vs 16 “the dead in Christ shall rise first”

    What about Lazarus? Did he go to heaven and then come back again after four days?

    Different Lazarus.

    • Lanny A. Eichert October 5, 2011 at 6:21 pm

      Different Lazarus. That’s not a good enough answer. I was only thinking Luke 16 and John 11 are not the same persons. The Lazarus in John 11 died and went immediately to Abraham’s Bosom and returned four days later to earthly life in his same old body. No mention is made by him of that bliss, so we might just assume, as with other near-death experiences, he had no rememberance of it.

      • admin October 7, 2011 at 8:56 am

        I know it’s a different Lazarus than the one in the parable. Where did the Lazarus who was raised after four days go when he died?

        • Lanny A. Eichert October 7, 2011 at 11:31 am

          Believing Jesus words in Luke 16 are not a parable but a factual story: The Lazarus in John 11 died and went immediately to Abraham’s Bosom and returned four days later to earthly life in his same old body. No mention is made by him of that bliss, so we might just assume, as with other near-death experiences, he had no rememberance of it.

          • admin October 8, 2011 at 10:59 am

            How do you know this? By your own admission, you “might just assume” it. According to Jesus, Lazarus was “sleeping”. Jesus said nothing about Lazarus being in Abraham’s bosom or experiencing things he would forget as soon as he came back to earthly life. And Jesus said Lazarus was “dead”, not having a near-death experience. I’m not trying to have an “I’m right and you’re wrong” battle of spiritual wits; after all, I already admitted that I don’t know for sure and gave you my best guess. The reason I asked you about this is to help you discover that you may not have this “where does a person go after death” thing as figured out as you think you do. Also, damning everyone to hell who disagrees with your so-called facts might make more sense if your facts weren’t based on assumptions like the one I just mentioned. The truth is that none of us knows with absolute certainty where, when, how, or to what extent God chooses to bring about judgment and make all things new. There’s nothing shameful about saying “I don’t know”.

          • Lanny A. Eichert October 8, 2011 at 12:39 pm

            1 John 5: 13 says “know” and verse 20 “an understanding.” If Mary* cannot see her Isaiah contradiction why should I expect you to see how saving faith makes knowing possible by faith in the Word of God.

            It is true that in the context Jesus didn’t say WHERE Lazarus was except to euphemize his death as sleep, which is no different than our euphemism passed away; so therefore “paused” is neither literally accurate.

            *I give up on Mary for now with her rebellious contradiction which she also applies to the other Prophets as well.

  • Lanny A. Eichert October 5, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    Do you remember Stephen Helbig’s response? I responded by email with a series of questions to his attempted exposition of fire. Why don’t you try on yourself the questions I asked him:

    He wrote, Unquenchable fire is not eternal fire – it is simply fire that cannot be put out until it has consumed or changed everything it is possible for it to change! It then simply goes out, for there is nothing more to burn.

    What if the fire can NOT consume or change anything? What if the population of the Lake of Fire are stuck in their unbelief? What if they are unable to repent? Did the formerly rich man in Luke 16 repent? Where is his statement of saving faith? What was his plea for his brothers concerning the Scriptures? Doesn’t repentance involve the Scriptures? Has Satan or any of his angels/demons (who know the Scriptures and their prophesied doom) yet repented?

    God is a consuming fire, but is God consumed? God’s fire doesn’t need combustibles to stay aflame, now does it? Think about the 1 Kings 17: 38 fire of the LORD that consumed the burnt sacrifice: it was fire before it touched the combustible sacrifice. What about the Pillar of Fire that stood above the tabernacle in the wilderness at night? What about the coming of the Lord Jesus in flaming fire to take vengeance on them that know not God (1 Thessalonians 1: 8)? How does verse 9 describe that fire? Isn’t it continuous destruction from His presence and from His glory? Will hell fire be literal physical fire? What did the formerly rich man think of the flame (24) or what about hands, feet, and eyes in Mark 9: 42 – 48 hell? Isn’t hell fire the person and nature of God, that is, His glory, His holiness? Why couldn’t Moses see Him and live?

    That brings me to my chief question: the Christian is ushered straight and immediately into the presence of his Lord Jesus Christ upon death (2 Corinthians 5: 1 – 8) or when Jesus descends from heaven to the clouds (the “rapture” – 1 Thessalonians 4: 15 – 17 & 1 Corinthians 15: 51 – 54 & John 14: 2 & 3) which ever comes first, since His coming is the very next prophetic event. So here’s the question: what of the Christian needs to be purged by repentance since he immediately enters the presence of his HOLY Lord? Isn’t he made immediately incorruptible? Doesn’t 54 – 57 describe 26 and it is all in reference to only true believers in the context and has nothing to do with unbelievers in the context?

    Don’t you see that the corruption of the mortal Christian is ALL accounted remedied by God Who will deliver him from the body of this death (Romans 7: 25) immediately without human effort at death or rapture? What’s to purge in the Lake of Fire? Nothing; all has been already done on the cross (Romans 6: 6, 7).

    Then there is Romans 6 verse 11
    Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

    Do you see the “Likewise” and realize what it means? To the previous verse 10:

    For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.

    Just as Christ died only ONCE to sin so the Christian died only ONCE to sin and as the previous verse 9:

    Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.

    The Christian also “dieth no more” because death hath no more dominion over him, either. Sin’s wages’ kind of death is what is here, not merely physical death. The Christian is told here, by the Inspiring Holy Spirit that had His Apostle Paul pen those two deliberate words, “Likewise reckon” Christ’s condition to yourself. The Christian is told that he will NEVER again die to sin: it is a once for all time and eternity event, never to be repeated. Why is it so, because LIKE AS death hath no more dominion over Christ, so also the Christian is to reckon that same death has no dominion over his own self.

    He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death. (Revelation 2: 11) Even the second death has no dominion over the Christian; no dominion means the Christian cannot be brought into it. The Christian CANNOT be hurt by it because he will NEVER EXPERIENCE it.

    • admin October 7, 2011 at 9:18 am

      Lanny, you write, “He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death. (Revelation 2: 11) Even the second death has no dominion over the Christian; no dominion means the Christian cannot be brought into it. The Christian CANNOT be hurt by it because he will NEVER EXPERIENCE it.” You are inserting ideas that are not found in the text, namely, that the Christian won’t experience the second death. The literal translation is, “He who is overcoming may not be injured of the second death.” You say the “Christian”, but the text says the “overcomer”. These are two different types of people. There are believers, and then there are believers who overcome. Study this out and you will see that it is accurate, according to the John’s vision. You say that “no dominion” means that the Christian cannot be brought into it, which I don’t think is true to the text either. The meaning of the Greek words translated into our English “not hurt” are “not” = “by no means” or “not at all” and “hurt” = “take wrong” or “offend”. The meaning is that when the overcomer experiences the second death, he/she is by no means offended by what is happening. A physical example of this spiritual concept is found in Daniel, “Lo, I am seeing four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt…” Why is this? Because he/she has had a change of heart about submitting to God’s transformative work, dying daily is a goal, not an experience to be avoided. The text says absolutely nothing to indicate the overcomer will “never experience” it.

      • Lanny A. Eichert October 7, 2011 at 11:45 am

        For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? 1 John 5: 4 & 5

        It is an absolute statement of fact that the born again Christian is an overcomer.

        Why do you minimize Christ’s cross work as though it is an incomplete salvation? There is NOTHING to gain by a purgatory experience since everything was accomplished on the cross for the believer.

        • admin October 8, 2011 at 10:40 am

          overcomer versus non-overcomer has nothing to do with salvation

          • Lanny A. Eichert October 8, 2011 at 12:49 pm

            Are you a denier of the Holy Scriptures also?

            Now what’s your excuse, meaning reason, for divorcing overcoming from salvation? Is it all some human reasoning or doctrine of men?

  • Lanny A. Eichert October 5, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    2 Corinthians 5: 1 – 8 is the reference. I don’t know how 8 got changed to a smiley face when I copied the text.

  • Lanny A. Eichert October 5, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    Alice, if there is left no remedial application of the Lake of Fire upon the Christian, then there is no remedial application of the Lake of Fire on the unbeliever either, and thus the Lake of Fire is left with only a punitive function.

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