Dear friends, I’m writing this as a kind of spiritual life update. I hope it is helpful or at least interesting for someone reading. I will just share honestly what’s going on (I have come to believe good writing is simply honest writing, rather than necessarily skilled writing, but that’s a subject for another day perhaps).
So much has been going on with me spiritually. I had a few of the hardest days of my life, really unexpectedly. I’ve been wrestling with two issues of Christian theology: predestination, and the fate of those who don’t accept Jesus. I’ve been trying to reconcile a vision of a good God, which I do hold, and want to embrace even more, with scriptural teaching about everlasting punishment, which I find very hard to accept can be just for anyone — even someone who has committed the most awful crimes.
For a few days, God kept bringing to my mind the word ‘annihilation’. I have already written quite a bit about Christian views of the afterlife, including annihilationism, which is the view that the wicked suffer for their sins, but then their consciousness is extinguished. This contrasts with the mainstream Christian view which is that of everlasting conscious torment, and another view (which I believe many Roman Catholics hold) of universal reconciliation — that everyone will eventually be saved.
I just this evening read the book of Revelation in its entirety, and I cannot find support for the doctrine of universal reconciliation. If it is the Truth that God will bring that about, I haven’t yet been able to find it in Revelation (which is a prophetic book describing the End Times, if you weren’t aware).
The crux of my investigations rests on trying to establish whether the Bible teaches eternal conscious torment or annihilationism. I have been reading a book by a theologian who argues that there is a strong biblical defence for annihilationism. Although a minority view, it has many supporters. The theologian, if you were curious, is named Edward William Fudge. I’m reading his book ‘Hell: A Final Word’ which is written for a wider audience than his other more academic books on the subject which I may read after this one if I feel I need to.
I have already written about the subject of hell on this blog. My blogging friend Amanda did an in-depth study of references to hell in the Bible, which I shared in an article I wrote a couple of years ago. It is a subject that is open to different interpretations, and Amanda is not an academic (and doesn’t claim to be), but in any case I found her investigations to be helpful and useful for reference.
In all honesty, I find a view that people suffer for the wicked things they have done and then their consciousness is extinguished, to be far more reflective of justice (as I understand it) than everlasting consciousness torment, which seems to me to inescapably be a punishment that outweighs any crime. Though I will of course acknowledge God can do as he pleases, and if this is what he does, I have no authority with which to dispute it, I just (in my present thinking) find it beyond distressing that God could inflict this punishment on even the worst of creatures.
In terms of predestination, I’m believing quite solidly in double predestination, that the fate of all human beings is laid out at the foundation of the world, and then God unfolds his plan for creation accordingly. I believe that double predestination is the only way to reconcile my understanding of a God who is sovereignly in control of all events with the Christian worldview. There are many scriptures that support the idea of double predestination, but there are some scriptures that can be seen to support other views.
In my personal life, I’ve been struggling with my neighbours (yes, still, and again), especially the person in the upper flat who shouts and growls and stomps and is very abusive towards his son who sometimes visits. His son has started responding with aggressive behaviour as well, and the whole thing is very unhealthy. I came across some teaching on YouTube which is really helping me with this situation. There’s a channel by a lady named Ieva who had a difficult relationship with her father (as I have), and I relate to her teaching very much. Her teaching isn’t just focused on parent/child issues; she talks about relationships, marriage, taking captive our thoughts, and much more, from a Christian perspective. You can find her channel here. It’s honestly one of the most helpful channels I’ve ever found.
A pastor from a church I used to go to came to visit me today, and we had a really great chat. One of the greatest chats I have ever had with anyone. I felt it was a talk that both he and I needed, and I was so grateful to God. We were talking a lot about mental health, and emotions, among other things. I love the guy very much.
I’ve been playing my guitar and singing a lot to help me to deal with some of the oppressive thoughts and feelings I have living here. I have felt very confused at times recently. Sometimes I find biblical teaching too severe for me to bear, and feel like I am a failure in so many ways.
I have been reading an English Standard Version (Anglicized Bible) which in some ways I feel is the best Bible translation I have ever read, although some of the word for word translations caused me to look certain things up in the New Living Translation, which is a phrase for phrase translation and always cleared up any confusion I had.
I really want to open comments, but please forgive me if I don’t. I would appreciate prayers if you feel you want to, though. I’m really sorry, once again, for being guarded when it comes to comments, it’s because I have found it very hard to handle some of the comments I have gotten in the past, because there are often very many opposing views that go off in many directions (because everyone is different) and this can sometimes be emotionally difficult for me. Maybe in the future I will be able to feel more confident about dealing with a variety of different energies and perspectives in the comments, but at the moment I feel it could be unsettling.
I wish you all hope at this difficult time in history.