Heresy and Hell: An interactive Blog Experience!!

Posted: 02/04/2011 in book review, hell, John Piper, Kevin Deyoung, Rob Bell
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>It hasn’t been that long since Love Wins was released. Yet the explosion of writing on it makes it feel much longer. The vanguard of reformed othrodoxy anathemesized Rob Bell. The two most notable leaders have been Piper who declared “Farewell Rob Bell” and Pastor DeYoung who cried heresy.

Heresy. That’s not a weak charge. Could you tell me what you really think, Pastor DeYoung?

Do you remember what it was like to be a younger Christian? Maybe you can listen to a little story. When I was younger evangelical I knew -or at least thought I did- who was in and out when it came to the Christian faith. Evangelicals were in. Catholics were in, but not as in as Evangelicals. Mormons were completely out. Conservative protestants were in. Hippie new-age Christians were out. Orthodox/Near-Eastern Christians were maybe “in” but only with great suspicion. Of course, back then it was never clear to me why that list existed. Or which beliefs were essentials or why those beliefs but not others.

Why, for instance, could Christians disagree about the whole Calvinism/Arminianism thing, but not the Trinity? Why was is kissing icons considered pagan, but not keeping Christmas trees? Can you believe in baptizing infants and still be a full Christian?

If you have ever wondered about that -and you probably have- than you may be equally confused. However, this blog is not about what I think, but it will be about what you think. Yes, this blog is interactive today! Why read this? Why follow along? Because this issue of hell and heresy is something that all Christians are going to have to think about, so please grab a pen and paper and attach your thinking camp now. It is going to be fun!

Here are four ideas that Christians believe, in no particular order:

    • Christians look forward to a physical, bodily resurrection.

 

  • God is three persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

 

 

  • Those who reject Jesus will suffer unending, conscious, torment in hell.

 

 

  • Jesus Christ is both 100% God and 100% human, known as the incarnation

 

You have probably heard them all in sermons, books, and blogs. Think about what your pastor emphasizes in his sermons. Remember the feelings that you have about each one. How do these influence your life? Do they come to mind in times of prayer or worship? Are they in your church’s statement of faith? Ponder this for a moment, then continue reading.

Now with that pen and paper -and please do use a pen and paper- write them all down in order of importance and number them 1 to 4. Yes, they may all be equally important. This is only a thought experiment. Still, your intuition will probably guide you. Take only a few minutes, and then continue reading.

Now look at number 4 -your least important belief- and cross it out.

Let’s now pretend that we are figuring out the essentials of the Christian faith. Numbers one, two, and three are what matter most to Christians. To violate these is to be anathematized and decidedly “out.” Number four could be very biblical, but it is not an essential. Christians can disagree about that one.

Why did number four sink to the bottom, for you? What took precedence over it and why? Do you think about number four the least often? Is number two or three mentioned more often in the praise and worship songs of your church? Is number one frequently mentioned in your pastor’s sermons? Or is there another reason entirely?

Now you might be thinking, “hey, we don’t need to limit the essentials to three things. We don’t even have to put them order. All four could be equally important! You’re a mean blogger!” If you do, you are absolutely right*. The list is only a thought experiment and there is no need to limit the essentials to only three beliefs. It is entirely possibly that all four are equally important.

That is, in fact, what Kevin DeYoung and those who likewise anathematize Rob Bell are committed to. At minimum, a belief in eternal torment is as important as the hope for a future bodily resurrection, the Trinity, and the incarnation. This is true whether they are explicit about it or not.

In your comments you can share your list and your thoughts on this matter. Go ahead and skip this next part, scroll down, post, and share with friends of facebook because every evangelical is going to confront this sooner or later.

For me such a thing feels just plain weird. I could never consider all four beliefs equally important and equally essential. Certainly, the Trinity, the Incarnation, and future resurrection are lifted from scripture. They are equally emphasized in the major creeds, which Christians often use as arbiter between who is “out” and “in.” Those three beliefs have become incredibly important to me in Sunday worship, the songs I sing, and how I interact with others. The Trinity reminds me of the importance of community. The bodily resurrection reminds me of hope after death and hope in this world today.

Eternal torment in hell simply isn’t in the same category. It is as if I have to believe in three things that are good, that inspire Christians to do good, and then add on the loudest fear-appeal in history! Remember sesame street? “One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn’t belong…”

It is simply way too weird.

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=somkinofchr-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=006204964X&ref=tf_til&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr

==================================
*except maybe the mean blogger part. I’m a nice guy! I swear! I think….

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Comments
  1. >I listed the resurrection as the most important, then the Trinity, then the incarnation, and then lastly I listed eternal, inescapable Hell. The reason #4 was that number is because I don't believe in it. It's not only something I could do without if I had to, it's something I don't think I'd be comfortable entertaining at all.

  2. ktgonzaga says:

    >Joel, do you believe that belief in Jesus Christ saves people from something, and of so what? This seems to be a rather large feature of the New Testament and the standard answer has been some form of punishment for our sins. If you reject the popular conception of Hell, which is what many people say we are saved from, what is it that we Christians have been spared at such a high cost? You have mentioned that the hope of Christians is a bodily resurrection. What would an unbeliever look forward too? Annihilation of their soul after death?

  3. Jaret says:

    >1 was incarnation 2 was trinity 3 was resurrection and 4 was hell. I've really fallen away from the whole fire and brimstone concept of hell. I went to the LA Religious Ed. congress over spring break and heard a in incredibly good talk by Dr. Schmisek who's a dean at the University of Dallas. He was talking about relooking at resurrection vs resuscitation; and seeing Jeusus' resurrection as more than just Jesus jumping back into his body and walking out of the tomb A-La-Passion of the Christ, but as a change to a new creation with a new spiritual body that we will all have. Plus he used clips of Carl Sagan, which I thought was classic.Anyway I asked about the whole idea of Jesus' "harrowing of Hell" put it a way to express his "atemporal salvific effect" in a way that made sense to the ancient view of the world. I thought it was a pretty sexy term.Hell as a place underground full of fire, demons, and torture isn't necessary for the christian faith. I kinda see it as a complete isolation and separateness from all that is God and everyone else, just emptiness. I think that's what Jesus was describing in his parables of people locked out of an awesome wedding party. Maybe that makes me sound like a Jehova's Witness but so be it. And I honestly don't have a problem saying I don't know what heaven and hell are like, Rob Bell and his detractors don't know what they're like either. I personally don't think we can truly know in this life what they are like. It would be like trying to describe up or down to a two dimensional creature that has only ever experienced forwards backwards left and right. (I shamelessly stole that from Carl Sagan's explanation of a hypothetical fourth dimension)JP II said that "Heaven is neither an abstraction not a physical place in the clouds, but a living, personal relationship with the Holy Trinity" and commented that the renaissance paintings of angels and golden cities cannot do justice to the reality that we cannot fathom in this world. I imagine the same is true for hell

  4. James says:

    >Well, here's how my list came out:-God is three persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit-Jesus Christ is both 100% God and 100% human, known as the incarnation-Those who reject Jesus will suffer unending, conscious, torment in hell.-Christians look forward to a physical, bodily resurrection.While I wouldn't go so far as to say that a belief in eternal torment is heretical, what I can see is how or what a "number four" belief might imply about your beliefs in a "top three" belief. On the other hand, it may also just mean one has not completely thought through the issue yet and if asked the right questions may change their mind. So I get where people are coming from when they claim that one's belief about hell can be heretical. Ultimately for me a lack of a hell leads to a series of problematic questions-much akin to the mormon belief that everyone gets their own planet where you spend all time and eternity with your family. Except what about your family? Do they not get a planet? Your kids? If they DO get their own planet, does that mean that they aren't hanging out with you? What if everyone in your family gets a planet? Are you just alone for all time and eternity? So, my questions for you that would arise are the following:-As I asked in your previous blog, "If everyone eventually goes to heaven anyway, why die for my sins?" What was the point of the cross and atonement?-If the answer to the above was "so that ALL might be redeemed," does that mean that I don't have to believe in heaven to go there? Can I be pagan, bhuddist, islamic, hindu, atheist and/or mormon and still go to heaven?-If the answer to the above is yes, does that mean that Christ is NOT the only way to heaven? Additionally, if I only have to endure hell for a time, then again, does that meant that there is another way to heaven (I.E. Through hell)-If I go to heaven regardless of whether or not I want to follow Christ, does that mean that I no longer have free will? If I am forced to be with God, no matter what, how can I still have a choice?-How do we deal with scripture passages like Luke 16:19-31, the parable of the rich man and lazarus (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke16%20&version=NIV) which seem to indicate that one cannot cross the chasm between heaven and hell in the afterlife and that hell IS a real place.-What is it about the idea of eternal torment that is problematic for you? Is there a dissonance between the idea of a loving God and a place of eternal torment? Is it caused by something else?In looking at the above questions, it is easy to me to see why some might make charges of heresy. It certainly seems that implications from one's view on this issue abut doctrines like the incarnation of Christ and the Trinity. In any event, I look forward to hearing your opinions on the above questions.

  5. Jin-roh says:

    >wow six comments in 24 hours. 🙂 Thanks!@Kevin the punishment for sin is sin. That is what Jesus died to save us from. I see little cause to believe that God has to heap on extra helping punishment on top of the "natural" effects of sin. Even if God did (or let's say, when he does), the imminent, earthly, versions of hell are bad enough. Jerusalem after the fall of the temple comes to mind, along with every other siege in the OT.I would accept annihationalism and pretty much any alternative over eternal, conscious, torment in hell.@James you asked a very good question in the previous blog. I wanted to give someone else a chance to respond. I still do. You might check out Glenn Packiam's blog though.@Jaret I am inclined to agree with JP II.Oh yes, this blog is not so much about whether or not Hell is the best interpretation of scripture, but whether or not rejecting eternal torment justifies anathemas. wow six comments in 24 hours. 🙂 Thanks!@Kevin the punishment for sin is sin. That is what Jesus died to save us from. I see little cause to believe that God has to heap on extra helping punishment on top of the "natural" effects of sin. Even if God did (or let's say, when he does), the imminent, earthly, versions of hell are bad enough. Jerusalem after the fall of the temple comes to mind, along with every other siege in the OT.I would accept annihationalism and pretty much any alternative over eternal, conscious, torment in hell.@James you asked a very good question in the previous blog. I wanted to give someone else a chance to respond. I still do. You might check out Gelnn Packiam's blog though.@Jaret I am inclined to agree with JP II.@all does rejecting hell justify anathemas?

  6. James says:

    >Hey Joel,You response to Kevin makes me want to add one more question:Are the consequences of sin just sin? Is it God who "heaps" punishment upon us? Or is this something that we cause on our own? Francis Chan pointed out in his book Crazy Love that it is kind of scary to ask God why bad things happen. Because he could ask us the same thing. Do you think that is a fair assessment, especially in relation to hell?In response to your question, it is never OK to use anathemas. If someone who holds a belief that you disagree with is truly a heretic, or "out," shouldn't you be using the same love and care that Jesus calls you to use with non-believers? By your own declaration, didn't the heretic just become a member of the non-believers? So why would you use such vitrol?

  7. Adam Goyer says:

    >I always appreciate your wisdom. Do continue to share.

  8. Glenn says:

    >1) Resurrection (first by a LONG shot)2) Incarnation3) Trinity4) –Eternal torment didn't make the list. It's not less important. It's false.

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