A couple sat on in a field reading the Bible

Three Perspectives

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Following on from my recent stream of consciousness post, I wanted to briefly articulate my predicament about Christianity a little more clearly and thoughtfully. Kind comments are welcome.

I will present three perspectives related to the doctrine of hell. The same presupposition is behind each of these scenarios, which is that God is in control of everything that happens, which I have no doubt is the absolute truth. For my arguments in relation to this, see this article and/or my book, God’s Grand Game.

PERSPECTIVE 1

1) God is sovereign over all events

2) Therefore, God is the author of sin

3) Therefore, Christianity only makes sense if double predestination is true

4) Double predestination is an incredibly cruel doctrine

5) I don’t believe God is incredibly cruel

6) Therefore, orthodox Biblical Christianity must be rejected

PERSPECTIVE 2

An alternative perspective is that God IS incredibly cruel, and we must accept the doctrine of double predestination, thereby acknowledging God’s cruelty, while simultaneously enjoying the promise of salvation. One problem that results from this perspective is that it’s hard to reconcile the idea that God predestines people to hell before they are even born with Jesus’ teachings about love.

PERSPECTIVE 3

We could try to make sense of Christianity without the doctrine of hell, thus preserving God’s goodness and also some of the teachings of Christ. We couldn’t embrace ALL the teachings of Christ under this scenario, because Jesus taught the doctrine of hell (see the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, Luke 16:19-31). We would have to embrace universalism (the idea that all will be saved) as the only form of Christianity that makes sense.


A few days ago I wrote an essay which goes into depth in relation to the various arguments presented in this article. I’m trying to find an editor for the essay and then I will publish it on this blog and invite readers’ feedback.

(Image by StockSnap from Pixabay)

24 comments

  1. Hi Steven, I loved your previous post, “Stream of consciousness”, the way you wrote it, so direct and unedited, gave me the feeling of a “face to face” conversation with a friend. Some parts saddened me a bit, also some of the discussions, so I just wanted to come here, to give you a virtual hug and to assure you of my admiration and respect towards you.
    *Yes, I read the whole article, plus the comments, I already feel rewarded 😀
    Kindness, compassion, a humble empathy and love – this is the only way I could ever answer to any of your fascinating articles.
    Can’t wait for the essay!
    Best regards,
    Claudia

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hello Claudia, so glad you left a comment. I’ve been trying to get in touch with you, I sent you a message via the contact page on your blog but I don’t think you have it set up correctly. Could you please email me (my email address is on the Contact page) because I want to ensure everything is ok.

      Thank you so much for the kind comment and I’m really glad you’re enjoying my posts here. God bless you!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi, Steven. Thank you for sharing your explorations of the Divine. You challenge my thinking with pretty much every post.
    I appreciate that.
    One thing we have to remember as we try to sort out who our God is and what we can know for sure is that while we can know our God personally and even intimately, we cannot comprehend Him fully. Or even close to fully. We are finite creatures with finite capacity to comprehend such things as eternity, divine complexity, or the infinite nature of His being and character. We will almost always reason our way into a corner, a corner that does not constrict our God’s being in any way. It is only our comprehension that is constricted. This does not reflect on the true nature of our God, but it reflects instead on the nature of our limitations. Our God has not revealed all dimensions of Himself to us in a way in which we can cognitively apprehend Him. There are many mysteries that seem like contradictions to us. They are not contradictions to Him.
    Some would ask me, “How do you know this if you cannot comprehend who our God is in full?” I believe that He has revealed enough of Himself for us to know Him personally and to relate to Him intimately. I believe that He has not revealed enough of Himself to us to eliminate all shadows of mystery or seeming incongruity (to our limited intellects), because we would not get it anyway. We can’t get it. The enormity of the truth of our God exceeds the individual and collective capacity of humans to grasp. If that were not so, He would not be God.
    To be clear, I have found our God to be quite knowable personally, and quite relatable and relational. That is not the same as finding Him comprehensible. He is incomprehensible to our limited intellect, but that does not make Him unknowable at all.
    There are a few cents on the issue. Again, thanks for writing about this.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hello there, friend. Thanks so much for following. I wholeheartedly agree that there are mysteries related to God. I try to always be open about what I know and don’t know. For instance, the nature of the afterlife is a big mystery to me. Sleep is another area that I don’t fully understand. I believe these gaps in knowledge are part of the human experience.

      But I also feel God has given me a gift for exploring things philosophically, and that I have some important insights to share. After all, every life must have a purpose, right?

      I write with confidence when I feel sure about something, and try not to write about things I don’t understand. Sincerity in all things is important to me.

      Thanks so much for your comment.

      Like

  3. I tend to agree with 1pursuit’s comments. I do wonder, though. How would you have arranged things if you were God? I’m not trying to be snarky here. Just curious as to how you’d manage concepts like mercy, grace and justice fairly if you were in charge? It would definitely make for an interesting piece.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Steven,
    Thanks for taking the time to explain your thoughts and the predicament about Christianity. You mentioned that if we discard hell, the only option is universalism. I don’t think that’s true. The Bible is clear that the wicked will be destroyed. Our concept of hell in English is loaded with the idea of fiery torment that continues forever. There is no word in the Hebrew or Greek that corresponds to this concept of fiery unending torment. I embrace all of Jesus’ teachings, including the parable of the rich man and Lazarus and I don’t believe in hell or universalism. I address the parable in the video I sent you. I hope you will consider watching it. Thanks for clarifying your thoughts with this follow up post. God bless you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Rebekah,

      I’m not able to watch your video at the moment, sorry about that.

      Would you be able to explain your understanding in just a couple of paragraphs, or is it too complicated for that?

      It could be helpful for other readers to read your perspective here, too.

      Thanks and kind regards,

      Steven

      Like

  5. This is a very interesting discussion. I agree with the universalism view. If God is all there is and controls it all, then why would God destroy part of itself? But how does this Unity experience itself? There would need to be an experience of separation even though such a state could not be real since reality is unity. We humans have the ability to be self-aware, and the free will to create and believe in fantasies over reality. That creates an experience of separation (or hell). While no harm is ultimately done to the Unity of God, Creation becomes aware of itself as God through the illusion. That’s my limited understanding of this great mystery. 😁❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Joan! Forgive me but I can’t remember if you’ve read God’s Grand Game? I’m not just trying to plug my book but am bringing it up because in the book I discuss many of the issues you raised in your comment.

      I guess if my arguments against free will haven’t convinced you by now, they probably never will. But I 100% respect you intellectually, especially because you’re grappling with these difficult issues. God bless you!

      Like

      1. Oh don’t give up on me yet. I’m still thinking about it! If God is all there is then how can there be any other Will than God’s in reality? So in the ultimate sense, you may be right! Free will may very well be part of the illusion of separation.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes indeed! I believe God often gives us ways of thinking where we are not directly aware of Him. I call them Modes of Mind. And yes I like your phrase ‘illusion of separation’ that definitely relates to my understanding. I won’t give up on you, Joan, I’m grateful for you 😊

          Like

  6. Hi Steven,

    Allow me to offer another perspective, one that I believe is more Scripturally accurate. The Bible is filled with paradox, so much so, that so that one pastor said, “Without paradoxes, there is no Christianity!”

    For example….

    We conquer by yielding (Rom 8:37)
    We find rest under a yoke (Mathew 11:29-30)
    We reign by serving (2 Tim. 2:12)
    We are made great by becoming small (Luke 9:48)
    We are exalted when we are humble (Matthew 23:12, Phil 2:5-11)
    We become wise by being fools for Jesus sake (1 Cor. 4:10)
    We are made free by becoming bondservants (1 Cor. 7:22)
    We gain strength when we are weak (2 Cor. 12:9)
    We triumph through defeat (2 For.6:8-10)
    We find victory by glorying in our infirmities (2 Cor. 11:30)
    We live by dying (Matt 10:39)

    I could include many more, but you get the point. The Christian life is a paradox world. Embracing the paradox will save us much spiritual angst! This is especially true when it comes to the Sovereignty of God and the Free Will of humankind. God IS sovereign, and humankind DOES have free will (within limits) — and somehow BOTH are true.

    There is a book by Norman Geisler that I think you might find interesting. It’s called “Chosen, but Free”.

    Blessings as you continue your Berean search of the Scriptures! (Acts 17:10-12)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello D,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, although I must be honest and disagree, for the following reason.

      There are some statements in Scripture which apparently contradict, and yet both are true (“Take up your cross and follow me” / “my yoke is easy and my burden is light”). The reason they are both valid is because they apply to different contexts. The same is NOT true of the divine sovereignty versus human free well predicament, because they are logically contradictory positions.

      You don’t need to give me book recommendations. I have spent more time on this subject than anyone else I know. I have spent 10 years on the subject. I recommend reading my book, God’s Grand Game. Because of the depth with which I have explored this issue I find it unhelpful when people imply there is a gap in my understanding that needs filling by reading more books. Maybe there is a gap in your knowledge that needs filling by reading my books? I am perfectly happy with my understanding, thank God.

      Like

  7. Hi Steven,

    My apologies if my email came across as insulting. Your blog post ended with, “Kind comments are welcome”, and that is the intention in which I made my comments — in kindness and to enter the conversation.

    I understand that you have spent a lot of time on this subject. I have been following your blog since 2018. I genuinely thought you might be interested in the book I mentioned. Again, my apologies.

    Blessings,

    PS: The fact that Jesus was fully God and fully man is a “logically contradictory position”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi D,

      You weren’t insulting at all. I just made the decision to respond with frank honesty, because Truth is so precious and important to me, and I want to help others to go deeper.

      I’m not sure the humanity and divinity of Jesus is logically contradictory, I feel I can understand that perspective. Not totally sure it’s the truth, but I can see how it makes sense to people. There’s a diagram of the Trinity on Wikipedia which is what made the idea click for me (sorry, I would normally send a link but am typing this on my phone and it’s too fiddly).

      Such is not the case with the divine sovereignty and human free will issue, in my view.

      No need to apologise. At least you now know that I am not interested in the book, I wouldn’t want to pretend I am. I’ve researched the subject exhaustively and have an understanding that I find satisfactory. So I’m not interested in further reading at this stage.

      Like

  8. Hi Steven, I’m glad that you didn’t feel my comments were insulting, and I do appreciate your frankness.

    If I may, I would like to clarify something that I said, NOT to try to persuade you of anything, but just for clarification for my own peace of mind.

    At the end of my previous comments, I added a quick “PS” which said: ”The fact that Jesus was fully God and fully man is a “logically contradictory position” —

    I actually agree with you that the divinity and humanity of Jesus is only a SEEMINGLY “logically contradictory position”. A better word to describe it would be a “paradox”. The fact that Jesus is fully God and fully man is a “paradox”.

    But for the “natural man” the “logical contradiction” is there. The natural man would say,

    “How could Jesus be BOTH fully God and fully human?

    God is ETERNAL, having no beginning or end.

    Human beings are FINITE, having a definite beginning at a certain point in time.”

    But Scripture teaches (as you know) that Jesus is BOTH —- fully God (ETERNAL) and fully human (FINITE).

    Anyway, I just wanted to clarify, in my comment I was trying to emphasize the Eternal/Finite “contradiction” that the natural man would see.

    Throughout history people have argued over the humanity and divinity of Jesus and how He could be BOTH fully God and fully human. Some would say Jesus was ONLY fully God, an INFINITE Being. Others said that He was ONLY fully human (a FINITE being).

    In my opinion, the confusion over the sovereignty of God and the free will of humankind is the same argument and only a SEEMINGLY “logically contradictory position”.

    The sovereignty of God and the free will of humankind is a paradox.

    There are many Scriptures which show that God is sovereign over everything that happens, and other passages which show humankind has free will.

    Paradoxically, BOTH are true.

    I understand you have researched the subject exhaustively and have an understanding that you find satisfactory.

    Best wishes on your future blog posts!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello my friend. I just want to wholeheartedly apologise to you for over-reacting to your comment. It’s because I was in a certain frame of mind and spoke in way that one shouldn’t speak, if one is being compassionate. Please accept my apology.

      I appreciate your intelligent insights into the question of the dual nature of Jesus. And thank you for deeming my blog worthy of your attention.

      Like

  9. Hi Steven, No worries. You didn’t over react. Sometimes things can come across in an email in a way that the sender did not intend. After rereading my original email, I can see where I might have worded things better.

    At any rate, all is well!

    We are both pilgrims on the same journey! Blessings to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for the grace you have extended to me, I really do appreciate it.

      Yes, that’s true. Misunderstandings are easier in written messages than in person.

      Peace be with you, friend!

      Like

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