Friday, September 3, 2010

The Stench of Universalism

A Pew Forum poll showed that 70% of Americans believed that many religions led to God. This factoid was brought along with the revelation that a large number of Americans still considered themselves nominally Christians. This means a large number of Americans (and likewise western Christians in general) follow a religion that claims to be an absolute truth and yet do not think it is so. They in essence follow a type of salvific theology known as universalism - in other words, all roads lead to heaven, and everyone can be saved so long as they're "good enough." This theology is, unfortunately, dead wrong.

How clear is scripture on this subject? I was accused recently of denying universalism only because of my Reform theology, and yet I have never done anything but quote scripture. Scripture, in this case, is very clear on our means of salvation:
So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. [Matthew 10:32-33]

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. [John 1:12-13]

"Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God." [John 3:18]

Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die..." [John 11:23-26]

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." [John 14:6]

"This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." [Acts 4:11-12]

"The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead." [Acts 17:30-31]
Scripture continually beats the drum of, "Christ is our salvation! Christ is our salvation! Christ is our salvation!" There is absolutely no other way to conclude it. In fact, one would be be hard pressed to read through the entire Gospel of John alone and sincerely come to the conclusion that there was another way beside Christ. Just as the old covenant sacrifices were made to atone for the sins of God's people (Israel) and not the pagan idolaters outside the nation, so too is the new covenant sacrifice of Christ made to atone for the sins of the children of God, and not those "children of wrath" (Eph 2:3) who reject their God.

Universalists declare that the idea of a God who judges based on unbelief creates a cruel God. I would propose that universalism creates a God who is a sadist. Why do I say this? For the simple reason that Christ was, according to this theology, made to endure the most horrific torture of His time, followed by the most horrific and embarrassing crucifixion for a Jewish man of that time, as well as the jeers of all political and religious leaders and citizens of that time...and all in front of His family and closest friends...and He did not have to do it.

What purpose, then, did Christ's sacrifice have? That is the biggest crime of universalism. Many have asked why I am so passionate about this, and I can give a simple answer: for the very fact that it is an offense to the teachings, crucifixion, and resurrection of our Lord.

Christ says He is the only Way, the only Truth, and the only Life, and that no one comes to the Father except through Him - yet the universalist would tell you that a person can be saved by other ways, other truths, other sources of life, and that they don't need Christ to go to the Father. That is an insult to our Lord, His word and His divinity.

Christ said, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die." He identified Himself as the very embodiment of the resurrection, in which believers will rise and enter into the presence of their Lord. Yet the universalist tells us that Christ isn't the resurrection and the life, and in fact millions of people out there have never needed Him to have eternal life. That is an insult to our Lord.

The apostle Peter, speaking of Jesus, said, "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." Yet according to the universalist, a person can be saved under Mohammad, Vishnu, Buddha, or any other number of false prophets and gods all because "they don't know any better" or "that's just how they perceive God." That's not only an insult to the sovereignty of our Lord, but the apostle Peter.

The apostle Paul, speaking of how men used to unknowingly follow false gods, said, "The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed..." Yet the universalist tells us that, in actuality, God will keep overlooking that ignorance because it would simply be unfair to judge someone in that regard. That makes the apostle Paul a liar and a deceiver.

I have been told my theology is inconsistent, but there is nothing inconsistent in the theology, "God desires all men to be saved, and has brought about this salvation through His Son, Christ Jesus." What's inconsistent is teaching people, "There's salvation in Jesus...um, unless you don't know any better. I mean, He's the only way to the Father, but you know, there are other ways if you just don't read your Bible well enough." There is nothing inconsistent with saying, "God desires to bring His sheep together, and has sent His apostles throughout the world so that all believing in Christ would be saved." What's inconsistent is teaching people, "Christ sent out his disciples to preach Jesus, but um...they didn't have to, I mean, if someone doesn't know Jesus they'll still be saved..." That is all inconsistent. That is the kind of theology that is, quite simply put, heresy. It is a heresy that, if mixed with worship, is a stench in the nostrils of our Lord.

This is why even those who would propose "divine loopholes" to salvation - such as postmortem repentance and the like - are in just as much error as universalists, preaching what amounts to semi-universalism. Many of them still believe that they can uphold beliefs such as "salvation in Christ alone" or "the importance of evangelism," yet to uphold these beliefs with semi-universalism is even more heretical and paradoxical than straight universalism itself. One ignores the word of God; the other mocks it.

Many many years ago, I myself was a universalist. Until maybe about two years ago, I transformed into a semi-universalist. I have since rejected the very notion altogether, because of the clarity of scripture through the words of our Lord and His apostles altogether on this. I recognize that this is hard for many to accept, but the reality of why we preach the message of God to others becomes clear when the need to do so does as well. Just as doctors and physicians rush to a scene of disease because they know their services will be needed, so too do Christians who understand the terrible consequences of sin rush to those who are lost. Many might say, "I have friends who aren't Christian - they're atheists/Jews/Muslims/Hindu/simple unbelievers." Then give them the gospel, not out of force but out of love. Just as God had mercy upon you, become His tool of mercy to those around you. It will not be you who causes the growth, but God, for He knows His sheep and His sheep know Him. If they do not believe, then you will have done your role as an ambassador for Christ, and they will be judged accordingly. If they come to believe, it is to the glory of God, and you will not be judged for not having done your duty.

This will still make many more uneasy, especially in this post-modern world where "live and let live" has gone beyond its original context. To those still nervous and would rather forget the words of scripture which clearly condemn the idea of universalism, I simply end with the words of our Lord:
For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. [Luke 9:26]

30 comments:

  1. the Old Covenant sacrifices were made to atone for the sins of God's people, Israel, and not the pagan idolaters outside the nation..

    Yet listen to what Christ Himself has to say in the Holy Gospel:

    Luke 4:24  And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country. 25  But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; 26  But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. 27  And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian. 28  And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath.

    Remember St. Basil's Jewish medical doctor: he converted when he saw the wonder God had done to St. Basil, by prolonging his life. -- St. Basil used to constantly invite him to become a Christian, but he simply didn't believe; he believed Judaism to be true, and so no reason to change his faith and convert to Christianity. But when he saw sufficient reason, he did not harden his heart, but openly embraced the Faith, and no dishonesty was found in him.

    St. Paul also did the same, and he was even worse, slaughtering Christians, honestly thinking he did glory to God; but because his heart was pure, and no hypocrisy was found in him, when he saw Jesus, he did not disbelieve, but believe.

    I believe that many such honest Jews (and pagans) as Saul or St. Basil's doctor will do the same upon entering the next life, when they will see Him face to face.. as Christ said about St. Philip: "a Jew in whom there's no cunning".

    Remember the centurion at the Cross, who became the first Gentile convert, when he saw the earth-quake and darkness that happened at His death? And yet he was the one that speared His side! But because his heart was sincere, God drew him to Himself, and even made him a martyr of the faith!

    There are tons of people like this: they see no real reason to convert, and some may even be very active and feisty in combatting it; but when they see a miracle, they convert gladly, and without problems or resistance.

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  2. There is nothing inconsistent with saying, "God desires to bring His sheep together, and has sent His apostles throughout the world so that all believing in Christ would be saved." What's inconsistent is teaching people, "Christ sent out his disciples to preach Jesus, but um...they didn't have to, I mean, if someone doesn't know Jesus they'll still be saved..." That is all inconsistent. That is the kind of theology that is, quite simply put, heresy. It is a heresy that, if mixed with worship, is a stench in the nostrils of our Lord.

    Bingo! What's the point of preaching Christ crucified if Christ is not the only way? All of the missionaries might as well come home, for there is no need for the hard labor and personal sacrifice if Christ be not the only way to the Father.

    What I also find interesting is just how close Universalism is to Post-Modernism in its mindset of "Hey, you can't tell me my religion is wrong just because you disagree with it! If it true to me then it's true regardless of what you think."

    It's the same thinking (and Satan's tactics) being re-hashed over and over again.

    You brought out some really good thoughts on this one, Tony.

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  3. Lvka - We've already spoken of those "honorable Gentiles" in the past, and the problem with your assertion is that those Gentiles repented of their ways and turned to the one true God (you can include the pagan sailors who threw Jonah overboard and, seeing the power of the true God, came to the faith). They were not in the same context as the unbelieving neighbors around Israel. That there were Gentile believers is not an issue; whether or not the unbelieving Gentiles who continued in their idolatry were saved is another.

    I don't know quite what you're saying in the second part of your post, if you're proposing the supposed "postmortem repentance" (which is unscriptural in every way, shape or form) or simply saying some people repent later on. In the latter case...well of course I agree. I would never walk into a mosque and point around the room, "He's going to hell, he's going to hell, he's going to hell..." I often tell people: I don't know who's going to hell; I only know what sends a person to hell. Unbelief, the denial of the one true God, something which was condemned harshly in the Old Testament and New as well, sends one to hell. There is no life outside of Christ; anything else is death.

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  4. Of course they converted.. I can't offer you examples of people who converted in the after-life, now, can I? History doesn't cover what happens to people after they die, now, does it?

    You're missing the point: WHAT brought them to convert? WHY did they convert? Miracles. Now, few people have this grace from God, that God works wonders throught them.. those commenting on this blog don't, and neither do most of those who preach the faith.. Those former unbelievers didn't lack the power to convert.. nor was it out of laziness or dishonesty that they didn't employ it.. just that it was hard for them to find the right trigger for it..

    [Do all people believe in God when He performs a miracle to them? No. Many still deny Him even then: these are probably beyond any salvation: but I think for the rest is still hope..]

    As for post-mortem conversion.. if it doesn't exist, why did Christ and John the Baptist bother preaching the Gospel to those in Hell / Hades in the first place? -- according to 1 Peter 3:18-20, and Christian tradition (that the Forerunner prepared the way for Christ's coming even in Hades: that's why he "went" there before Him). [St. John Damascene says in his "Dogmatic" that death is to men what the fall is to Angels, and that repentance becomes impossible after-wards: this is indeed the rule -- but there are exceptions to the rule..]

    If Jesus would not have appeared to Saul.. we know from what's in the Bible that on one hand he had the power to convert, but we also can infer that he never would've done it otherwise (since he obviously was "immune" to preaching).

    Or what if St. Basil's doctor would've been your doctor, and you would've died exactly as he predicted, and God would not have prolonged your life, since you're not a miracle-worker? He would've died in unbelief, yet we know that he had the power to believe and accept Christ..

    That again, as I said, some/many are "immune" even to miracles: they'll go to the lengths of denying reality itself for the sake of pursuing their own pre-conceived ideas... Lord have mercy!

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  5. Not everyone converts because of miracles, so I don't understand your point in that. In fact, that's rather close to the Charismatic belief that we need such miracles as evidence that Christianity is real...which was never sound theology until more than 100 years ago or so.

    As for the Christian tradition regarding Sheol, I'm well aware of the belief that Christ descended there, and I'm aware of scriptural passages for it (although there is no passage that says John the Baptist did - he was the forerunner in this world, not the next). However, you're comparing Christ speaking to those of God's people awaiting the resurrection in the old covenant with those in the new. That is not evidence enough that people experience some kind of postmortem repentance.

    Again, nowhere is that expounded upon in scripture. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews even says: "it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment" (Heb 9:27). It doesn't say, "A man dies once, gets a second chance, then judgment." We reap in this world what we will sow in the next. There is not a single passage of scripture which says that Christ offers people another chance after they die. That is simply illogical and contradictory to the gospel entire, for the reasons I outlined in my blog post.

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  6. ...He went and preached unto the spirits in prison, which sometime were disobedient... [1 Peter 3:19-20]

    Why did He bother doing that, if what you're saying is rigidly true, and allows for no exceptions whatsoever?

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  7. I say what I say because of what scripture says. You have not even pretended to address what was cited in the post.

    Let's however, deal with the text you have presented.

    For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. [1 Peter 3:18-20]

    The passage is actually talking about the warnings of God to the people of Noah's period, which are similar to the warnings of Christ (they were both made by the same spirit is what Peter is saying). The apostle Peter goes on to speak further of this, saying: "Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (3:21). The ark was, in many ways, an example of the preserved church, which would be preserved even onto the upcoming judgment of God, which will destroy the rest of the world. Christ Himself used the people of Noah's period as an example of the upcoming judgment, as seen in the gospels.

    In other words, this one tiny excerpt you have quoted does not contradict everything else I have cited. What I say is true, again, because it is taught in scripture.

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  8. Nothing that you said is wrong, except that it doesn't address the portion I highlighted.. it simply deals with what lies before and after it..

    When Christ died in the flesh on the Cross, he was made alive in the Spirit, and in this spirit He went to the spirits imprisoned in Hades to proclaim to them the Gospel, because they were formerly disobedient in the days of the Flood, from which only Noah and his family (and not them) escaped through the ark. As Noah preached to them then, He preaches again now, that they may turn from their former disobedience, and receive the glad tidings of the Gospel: I somehow don't think that His preaching there was in vain or useless and that it didn't bring any fruit...

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  9. ...it doesn't address the portion I highlighted.. it simply deals with what lies before and after it...

    Yes, Lvka, that's called context. We don't just take a "highlighted" passage and say, "Ah! It must mean this!", especially when it only presents half a sentence in a verse, as yours did. I looked at the entire passage to see see what the highlighted section was really talking about - and it wasn't addressing at all what you were trying to convey.

    I've reviewed the exegesis of this passage by some well known theologians and exegetes, and they all agree with me on this, so it isn't my interpretation alone. If you want to disagree with it...well, it's Lvka versus Adam Clarke, John Wesley, Albert Barnes, Matthew Henry, and John Calvin. I think most people will know who to put their money with.

    The only person I have found who might almost agree with you is John MacArthur - however, he believes when it discusses "spirits in prison" it is referring to the demons bound in hell, and that Christ's preaching is a proclamation of victory, not giving them a second chance. He also, like the theologians I mentioned before, believes the referral of Noah's days to simply be using the time of Noah as an example, not that Christ is literally addressing those who lived during the time of Noah.

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  10. Tony,

    you completely ignored that portion! -- Your approach goes like this: "the context of the 6th commandment is the 5th and the 7th, so there's no way that God commands us not to kill". It's absurd. (And -quite frankly- I personally do not put my 'money' on any of the theologians you've ennumerated). (And it's not "my" interpretation either..)

    P.S.: how does Luther view that passage? (if he ever said something about it..)

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  11. Once again, I did not ignore that portion, I merely showed what context it was in and showed that, when looked beyond the "highlighted" portion, it completely contradicted your point. Therefore, I reject the notion that it's like skipping over the 6th commandment. What you've done is like when some Muslims take John 1:1 and say, "'In the beginning was the word' - well that word was the word 'be' as Allah says in the Quran!", all the while ignoring that the context of the passage is the Divine Word, Jesus Christ.

    If you're going to say that I am in the wrong, instead of jumping to an entirely unrelated verse and latching onto it, show me how the verses I have cited - all of which deal with salvation - contradict my point.

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  12. How dare us Protestants actually read our Bibles in context and believe what it says.

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  13. I merely showed what context it was in and showed that, when looked beyond the "highlighted" portion, it completely contradicted your point.

    You may want to exegete your own exegesis, because I nowhere saw you do that.


    E.B.,

    this is neither the time nor the place to be "cute".

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  14. Lvka, no one is trying to be "cute," but when you ignore everything on the table, bring in a random verse, ignore the context, and simply throw your hands in the hair in regards to what your opponents have said about it...well, how do you expect people to react? You haven't even bothered to touch the passages relating to salvation and eternal life, yet demand everyone to respond to the half a verse you have brought forward. I've already explained what problems there are in your use of that verse, while you simply keep repeating, "You're ignoring the context!" even though we've pointed out why we haven't.

    Again, if you want to treat this subject seriously, deal with the verses that have been brought forward, exegete those, and then if need be bring forward other passages to prove your point. Otherwise, your argument amounts to a non sequitor.

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  15. Lvka,

    I was in no way trying to "be cute." I am simply pointing out a fact. The main thing I see have seen in arguments against Reformed Theology is exactly the kind of arguments you bring forth: nothing to do with the said subject except your own subjectivity. And no, that is not a play on words or me trying to be cute.

    I'm sorry but when dealing with Scripture, context must be king. We cannot take Scripture and put whatever meaning we wish (or have even been taught) into it. [That is called eisegesis. I am almost positive you know the Greek language and are familiar with that term.]

    Instead, we exegete a passage by looking at several things:
    1. Context of the book
    2. Context of the surrounding passages
    3. Historical setting and audience
    4. Usage of key words in phrases within said passage as well as other passages
    5. The author's original intent to his audience
    6. Syntactical and grammatical usage.

    All of these things play a part in exegesis. What I am sick of, are people who continually say, "Your wrong, your wrong!" yet never give a reason from Scripture of why I am wrong. They simply rattle off what they have learned and never really take time to study the Word of God. They put their faith in their pastors or priests without ever looking at the context or of what has been said.

    That, my friend, is called a lack of discernment. If I am wrong about a particular point, I have no problem being corrected. I only desire that proper Scripture be used in proper context. ''

    Thank you for listening to me ramble, and please do not take this as a personal attack, as it most certainly is not.

    Soli Deo Gloria,
    Steven Long

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  16. All that I can tell you now with any certainty is that you make no sense [to me]. The problem is not that I don't agree with you, the problem is that I don't understand what you're trying to say. (Apart from the part when you say that for some reason I'm wrong). And I assure you, I read what you wrote with much attention. :-|

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  17. (just a note - Lvka's comment was aimed at me, it just came out looking like it was in response to EB after I approved comments)

    Lvka - I don't know how it doesn't make sense. I explained in detail my case in my original blog post, and cited scripture to back up what I was saying. What I am saying now is that you're ignoring all that and, again, latching on to one excerpt of a verse and claiming that it proves your theology, with no demonstration of how given the context and what the vast majority of commentators seem to believe.

    Again, you've ignored everything presented to you, quoted one verse, and essentially said, "That proves my point! The end."

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  18. What I am sick of, are people who continually say, "You're wrong, you're wrong!" yet never give a reason from Scripture of why I am wrong.


    Same here.. I'm still waiting for either your or Tony to unpack or explain how exactly you've arrived at the conclusion that I'm wrong from the context of that passage. (Noah's Flood was a type of Baptism, therefore Christ did not preach to those in Hell [!?] -- or whatever it was that you two were trying to say..)

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  19. Lvka, we have. Your inability to understand is not our dilemma.

    Furthermore, you have continued to ignore the real point here. The topic is not whether or not Christ preached to those in Sheol, the point is whether or not such a postmortem repentance is scriptural. There is nothing in scripture that says people get a second chance after they die. There is nothing in scripture that supports universalism. That is the point of this post. If you're going to say "That's wrong," then please - and I am being serious here - address the scripture that is talked about in the blog post.

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  20. If no-one in Hades can repent, what's the point? At least on earth, when He preached, some did repent, and some didn't: but if He knew with absolute certainty that no-one in Hades will... why even do it? Such an interpretation would render the entire passage meaningless, and turn it into a non-sense..

    Your inability to understand is not our dilemma.

    As it currently stands, your exegesis is a non-sequitur: and that *should* concern you -- at least if you're truly interested in dialogue..

    And why the sudden use of plural? You Allah now? Have you been re-reading the Qur'an recently, and been impressed by the self-evident tone the Prophet uses therein?

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  21. Lvka, you're talking about a past event that was part of the consummation of the new covenant - we're talking about now, after the Ascension. There is nothing in scripture that says Jesus preaches to those who have just died (again, refer to the citation of the epistle to the Hebrews regarding life and then judgment). We reap now what we will sow in the life to come - this is our chance to repent.

    Furthermore, your statement that my exegesis is a non sequitor...well that's mind boggling, quite frankly. My exegesis was in response to your jumping to Peter's epistle, which was itself a non sequitor. Also, I'm using "we" because I'm speaking of myself and Ekklesia Boy - the two people who have been talking to you in this response thread.

    Now Lvka, your posts are getting ridiculous. I'm going to ask again: respond to the argumentation in the post, or don't respond again.

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  22. There is nothing in scripture that says Jesus preaches [now] to those who have just died

    Is this what you wanted to say in your exegesis?

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  23. Yes, of course. It speaks of a past event, and even if we were to confess that it was Christ speaking to those in Sheol, it says nothing of the here and now.

    There is, as I said, nothing in scripture that supports a postmortem repentance. We are given this life for repentance and to come to the Son so that in Him we may have life. That is the Gospel. Anything else is another gospel and/or man-made tradition.

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  24. We regard His descent into Hell as having the same eternal or everlasting impact as His death on the Cross and resurrection... i.e., not just to those that have gone before Him or that were His contemporaries...

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  25. Same here.. I'm still waiting for either your or Tony to unpack or explain how exactly you've arrived at the conclusion that I'm wrong from the context of that passage. (Noah's Flood was a type of Baptism, therefore Christ did not preach to those in Hell [!?] -- or whatever it was that you two were trying to say..)

    Okay, Lucian. I will try and explain this to you. Here is the entire context of the verse in question.

    Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened." 15But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 18For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, 19through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison 20who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

    Let's walk through this together:

    1. The surrounding context (yes, I said context) is living a righteous life so that others will see Christ's presence in you (vv. 13,ff)

    2. The immediate context is suffering for doing good and being able to answer the opponents of the gospel (vv.16-17)

    3. The reason given is found in 'for' in v.18 which is the purpose statement set forth in the first half (vv.13-17)

    4. There is nothing about Jesus going to hell in this passage. It simply says He preached to the spirits in prison. The translators of the New English Translation, of which Dan Wallace, a well-respected Greek scholar, is chairman states this about the verse:
    And preached to the spirits in prison. The meaning of this preaching and the spirits to whom he preached are much debated. It is commonly understood to be: (1) Christ’s announcement of his victory over evil to the fallen angels who await judgment for their role in leading the Noahic generation into sin; this proclamation occurred sometime between Christ’s death and ascension; or (2) Christ’s preaching of repentance through Noah to the unrighteous humans, now dead and confined in hell, who lived in the days of Noah. The latter is preferred because of the temporal indications in v. 20a and the wider argument of the book. These verses encourage Christians to stand for righteousness and try to influence their contemporaries for the gospel in spite of the suffering that may come to them. All who identify with them and their Savior will be saved from the coming judgment, just as in Noah’s day.

    I know you won't give weight to a non-Orthodox scholar's (Heaven only knows why)...(to be continued in the next commetn.

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  26. Lucian,

    I know full well that you do not give weight to any non-Orthodox scholar, so I will quote for you from the official position of the Orthodox church which comes directly from their webstie:

    JUDGMENT of the soul according to its faith and deeds on earth is an unquestioned teaching of the Gospel. It is also a self-evident demand of human nature and reasoning. The Christian Church places this judgment at the very moment of the death of the individual for two reasons:

    1.
    Any moral progress of the soul is excluded after its separation from the body; and
    2.
    there is no hope of repentance or betterment after death.

    The moral progress of the soul, either for better or for worse, ends at the very moment of the separation of the body and soul; at that very moment the definite destiny of the soul in the everlasting life is decided. (see Androutsos Dogmatics p. 409). It will be judged not according to its deeds one by one, but according to the entire total results of its deeds and thoughts. The Orthodox Church believes that at this moment the soul of the dead person begins to enjoy the consequences of its deeds and thoughts on earth - that is, to enjoy the life in Paradise or to undergo the life in Hell. There is no way of repentance, no way of escape, no reincarnation and no help from the outside world. Its place is decided forever by its Creator and judge. (emphasis on text are my own


    That is from your church's own, official website. If you do not believe me, here is the link that you may check for yourself:

    Arch Diocese of America

    Just some things to consider.

    In Christ,
    Steven

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  27. Okay.

    First, I would like to thank you for finally elucidating my question, so that now I can at least know what you were talking about.. -- I still disagree, but -as I said- at least now I know what I'm disagreeing with.

    Secondly, no-one ever proclaimed to the loser his defeat. -- Not only that the concept itself doesn't make any sense, but you won't find it in the Bible either. (It's used when that what is proclaimed constitutes good news or glad tidings to the hearer).

    Thirdly, whether its proclaiming or preaching, in the NT it refers to the Gospel, the 'good news' or 'good tidings'. (Makes perfect sense, given what I've already written above at #2).

    Fourthly, the idea of the gospel being preached also to them that are dead is repeated once more only a few verses later, in 1 Peter 4:5-6.

    Fifthly, Christ never descended in Noah's time to preach or proclaim anything, either to the fallen spirits, or to the fallen humans. [The former were judged and condemned to prison, but it doesn't say (in the book of Enoch) that He descended to them in prison afterwards; and the latter were drowned in the Flood: Noah preached repentance to the latter, but not Christ or the Angel of the Lord descending in the Spirit].

    Sixthly, Noah never preached or proclaimed anything to the fallen angels, Nephilim. (Enoch was the one who took part at their trial and was even involved in their defense, if that's what you mean).

    Seventhly, the words "through Noah" are nowhere found in the text -- are they? (So much for me being the one doing "eisegesis" and reading all sorts of "subjective interpretations" INTO the text). -- *Christ* is the subject there,... NOT Noah!

    Eightly, the spirit there is His human spirit, as opposed to His human body. The death and resurrection of Christ happened to the same object: His body; it wasn't like one thing happened to His body, and the other to His spirit. -- Needless to say, He possessed no human spirit in Noah's time, entire millennia before His incarnation. [His resurrection is only mentioned first in verse 21].

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  28. Lvka, you're avoiding argumentation again.

    1) Steven cited an Orthodox source that denies that people get another chance after death. Pretending it doesn't exist is not going to help - it appears that besides the fact no other theologian seems to agree with you on this, your own church doesn't as well.

    2) You've continually ignored the passage from Hebrews that contradicts your entire theology on this: "it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment" (Heb 9:27).

    3) You've time and time again ignored the clear message from the passages of scripture cited in the blog post which say that it is belief in Christ that gives eternal life, and this is belief in the here and now, not a postmortem repentance. This topic isn't even about postmortem repentance, only the topic of universalism.

    I'm serious here: either respond to all these, or don't respond at all.

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  29. Secondly, no-one ever proclaimed to the loser his defeat. -- Not only that the concept itself doesn't make any sense, but you won't find it in the Bible either. (It's used when that what is proclaimed constitutes good news or glad tidings to the hearer)

    Actually, it was a very common practice to proclaim public victory over the enemy.

    Thirdly, whether its proclaiming or preaching, in the NT it refers to the Gospel, the 'good news' or 'good tidings'. (Makes perfect sense, given what I've already written above at #2).

    The context clearly points that the days of Noah are in view, not after. Peter also uses this same allusion in his second epistle (2:5) as an example of judgment on the unbelieving and the deliverance of the righteous. So also, Christ is the 'ark' by which one enters to be saved from the coming judgment. This was why Peter used Noah as an example. It was not to teach his audience that that a chance to repent after death would come.

    Fifthly, Christ never descended in Noah's time to preach or proclaim anything, either to the fallen spirits, or to the fallen humans.

    That was not my point. It was the Spirit of Christ preaching through Noah, as he was called a preacher of righteousness. Is salvation from condemnation not good news? So Noah preached the gospel in his day, just as Enoch prophesied about the condemnation to come.

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  30. Sixthly, Noah never preached or proclaimed anything to the fallen angels, Nephilim. (Enoch was the one who took part at their trial and was even involved in their defense, if that's what you mean).

    No, that's not what I mean. Noah preached to the people. See above.

    Seventhly, the words "through Noah" are nowhere found in the text -- are they? (So much for me being the one doing "eisegesis" and reading all sorts of "subjective interpretations" INTO the text).

    As far as your eisegesis goes, I never claimed that the words 'through Noah' were in the text. I stated that it was through Noah that Christ's spirit preached to the people. That came straight from a scholarly source. The exact quote was: Christ’s preaching of repentance through Noah to the unrighteous humans, now dead and confined in hell, who lived in the days of Noah. The latter is preferred because of the temporal indications in v. 20a and the wider argument of the book.

    The reason for this interpretation was because of 'temporal indications' referring to the temporal aspects of verse 20, referencing that God waited patiently for them to repent (v.20). So no, it was not eisiegesis. It is simply NOT reading into something that isn't there. You refuse to see this because you are tunneled vision on 1 verse rather than the entire context.

    -- *Christ* is the subject there,... NOT Noah!

    Noah as used as the archetype of preaching to the lost and if you would realize that verse 19 ends in the middle of the sentence and read the entire Scripture you would understand. The rest of the context says,

    20who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22Who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to Him.


    Christ's ministry (His preaching to the lost) is being compared to Noah's ministry (his preaching to the spirits that were under condemnation)

    Eightly, the spirit there is His human spirit, as opposed to His human body. The death and resurrection of Christ happened to the same object: His body; it wasn't like one thing happened to His body, and the other to His spirit

    Again, you are misunderstanding the point. I never said anything about His human spirit. It was through the spirit of Christ that Noah preached.

    [His resurrection is only mentioned first in verse 21].

    That's exactly the point! Verse 21 comes after verse 20 explaining the comparison between Christ and Noah. In the very offset of Peter's epistle he states that the prophets spoke through the spirit of Christ:

    Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. 12It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.

    If Christ's spirit spoke through the prophets, why not Noah? Why is this concept so hard to accept? Let go of your tradition-driven understanding and read what is in the text.

    God bless you,
    Steven

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