Tag Archives: heaven

Marketing the Gospel

I think part of the reason the Church isn’t spreading in America like in other places of the world is the lack of good marketing. The Church is in the business of saving people. That’s the product. As disciples, it is our job to sell that. It costs them nothing to buy it, but it costs everything. What I mean is this: It’s free. There is no monetary cost to being a Christian. Some will tell you that you have to tithe and what not, but your time is an offering as well. And that’s what I mean by it costs everything: it’s about giving up your life. No longer living for yourself and what you want to do, but living for God and what He wants for you.

I think we do a terrible job, as Christians, expressing this point. Too often we talk about being saved from Hell. But what about being saved in this world? I look at this recent Adrian Peterson situation with his two year old son being beaten and killed. No matter what his relationship was with the kid, the publicity is good because it highlights an issue with abuse. When I was first reading the story, it made me sick to my stomach. What can a two year old do to make an adult male so mad that he beats his head in? A kid that can’t defend himself at all. There is no answer. But this is just a minor glimpse at the evil present in this world. Christianity offers something no other belief system can offer: a hope that there is justice and reconciliation. Punishing the man that did this won’t bring the kid back. Yes, justice can be served in a sense, but it still doesn’t feel like it fixes the situation. Christianity says that God will fix it. Maybe not right now, but at the end, He will.

We need to do a better job of getting this point across. Being saved from Hell and God’s wrath isn’t what makes Christianity worth living for. Living for God and recognizing His power and Will and Sovereignty is. One of our ministers said something the other day that hit me: When you look at the Grand Canyon, a mountain range, a sunset, and recognize God’s glory and power and majesty and beauty, that’s great. But humans are the pinnacle of His creation. Those things are fantastic, but God values us so, so much more. We need to feel the same way about our fellow humans. And this means expressing to them the hope that Christianity offers here and now, not just in some distant future after death.

The thing is, this should be easy. With all of the evil and sin that are in this world, it shouldn’t be hard to open people’s eyes up to that fact and introduce them to the solution. But we don’t for some reason. I think part of the reason is that the Church doesn’t end up valuing its own expertise within it. You have business people who market stuff for a living. Why not use them? We don’t let people who can’t sing lead worship. So why would we let people who don’t know how to market be in charge of outreach? We utilize the expertise of a minister who went to Bible College, but not the guy with the MBA.


Does Christianity Teach Social Evolution or Something Else?

You may think I have skipped Pt. 2 of the first post of this series, but more must be said before jumping in with both feet to answer the question posed at the end of Pt. 1.

Following along in Wright’s book Surprised by Hope, we encounter the question about the future of the “cosmos: progress or despair?”

The first answer stems from Social Evolution. This has its basis in Western thought that developed during the Renaissance with both Christian and secular roots. As science was progressing incredibly quickly, wealth and industry spreading rapidly, these ideas began leaking into social thinking as well. It progressed even more rapidly with the rise of Darwin’s evolutionary theory, as this seemed to give scientific reinforcement that the evolution of the world was unstoppable and inevitable. Progress was simply how things were.

But in reality, this is a myth. There are massive holes in the theory. First, it can’t deal with evil in a number of ways. It can’t stop it. There is nothing philosophical or scientific that tells us that at some point, evil will be eradicated because of the evolution of the cosmos. Along these lines, despite what may or may not be true about biological evolution, there is certainly no such thing as cosmic evolution. In actuality, the universe is running straight toward demise, with an unavoidable heat death at best. Second, it social evolution doesn’t do anything to solve the problem of evil. Even if utopia came tomorrow, what do we make of all of the suffering and evils of today?

And some Christians have bought into this. Rob Bell, who reached his pinnacle of “fame” with his book Love Wins, is one of them. He believes that it is humanity’s mission to bring about the restoration of this world itself. As Wright will show, this is not at all Biblical. He has bought into this social charade that says we will bring about the change, not God. In fact, this line of thought has been so popularized, that we see it on bumper stickers: “Be the change you want in the world.”

So the answer must be despair? Thanks to Plato, the idea that this whole world is evil and the only redemption is to escape it has a place in this conversation as well. This view says that material things, particularly the body, is bad and to rid ourselves of it is to reach what we were meant to be. This is the spiritualization of culture. The idea that when you die, you go “up there” to be in a “better place.”

Again, many Christians have fallen prey to this myth as well. Another view with a basis outside of the Bible, and another view that leads to confusion. Hymns talk about this world “not being our home” and how we are “just passing through.” It is these people that get labeled as those that are “too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good.” The purpose of Christianity becomes to go to heaven when you die.

So the answer is neither death and demise nor progress and redemption at our own hands. Rather, Christianity affirms “that what the creator God has done in Jesus Christ, and supremely in his resurrection, is what he intends to do for his whole world-meaninf, by world, the entire cosmos with all its history.”

 

 


What and Where is the Kingdom of Heaven? Pt. 1

This will be the first post in a series of post that attempts to answer the question in the title.

This is a question that has been on my mind recently, especially as I’m reading through Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright. Many people criticize Christians for being ‘Too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good.” And, unfortunately, there tends to be some truth to it. We often have the tendency to talk about what happens after death, as if it is an escape from this life. And while there may even be some truth to that, as well, that is not the whole story.

Wright has helped me refine my understanding of what exactly the New Testament writers meant by “Kingdom of Heaven” or “Kingdom of God.” Instead of some future place of residence, as it is often depicted, it is something that we create and live out now.

When we analyzes the phrase “Kingdom of Heaven/God,” we must define our terms. A Kingdom is the area reigned over by a King. The “Heaven/God” aspect is more often simply associated with God. So the interpretation would be stated simply as “God’s reign.” When we “parse” this out in this way, the “Kingdom of Heaven/God” can hardly be said to be some future place, because that would be to deny God’s sovereignty over us now.

The answer to the question in the title isn’t that simple, however. A reigning king also has servants that abide in his will, and a people to reign over. He must have real power, not just a feigned power like many see the monarchy of England as having, since it is no longer the singular governing body. We must ask ourselves, then, is this the case, and how is it accomplished?


Great discussion: Check it out!

If you want to join in on a great discussion, and in turn make following the posts where we already have multiple topics even more convoluted and difficult to keep track of, check it out over at Current Events in Light of the Kingdom of God-Dialogue with Michael (re: Heaven and Hell). The original post was here:A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom-Everyone Is Going to Heaven. So check it out and join this discussion.

These are both blogs by Mike Gantt, cool guy, has a great name(like me), and always gives a good discussion and thought provoking posts.


Hell, what is this place? Heaven, does everyone go?

There are multiple words that get translated as “hell” in the Bible. Sheol in the Old Testament, and Hades, Tartarus, and Gehenna in the New. Sheol does not have any clear meaning as the Hell as we know it today, but more like the Greek Hades, which was where all went where they died. Hades and Tartarus seem to be used in similar ways, but we get the idea that there is a divide somewhere in it, such as the story of Lazarus and the rich man, where the rich man is in torment and asks for a Lazarus to dip his finger in some water and touch his tongue, but Lazarus cannot due to the great chasm between them. This is commonly seen not as Hell proper, however. Rather, there is usually a distinction made between where the dead go when they die and the Heaven and Hell that come about after the Final Judgment and mass resurrection of all people. Gehenna seems the most strict of the terms. It seems to get its roots from the valley of Hinnon, which was outside the city of Jerusalem and was often on fire due to the garbage and waste that was there. Moloch and child sacrifice, and evil in general was associated both directly and indirectly with it. But the use of the word in the NT seems to have a more symbolic and figurative meaning than referencing the actual place, so a simple translation does not seem to fit.

So Hell proper seems mostly to come from a select few passages in the Bible where Gehenna is used, or where eternal damnation is mentioned, and then a few instances in Revelation, though I will not mention those here due to the nature of the book that is so hard to interpret. The main “proof texts” for Hell as eternal punishment are Matt. 25:41, Matt. 25:46, Jude 7, which actually don’t even have the word Hell in them, but merely speak of eternal torment or punishment. In Matt. 3:12, Matt. 5:22, Matt. 18:8-9, Gehenna is used in conjunction with sin and the punishment for that sin, so in conjunction with the other passages mentioned, the doctrine of Hell is established.

So what does that mean about Heaven? Well, we clearly see that in Hades in the Lazarus and the rich man story, that there is a divide between the righteous and the unrighteous. [On a side note here, the doctrine of imputed righteousness(often associated with Reformed Theology and Protestantism) or infused righteousness(often associated with Catholic Theology) has to be mentioned, since Christians do not claim to be righteous of their own accord, but that as forgiven people, are given the righteousness of Christ.] And if there is a divide in Hades between the righteous and unrighteous, and we combine this with the idea that some will receive eternal torment, it would make sense to say that these people will be the unrighteous. The other option would be to say that there is some sort of purgatory, or that Hell is like purgatory, insofar as Hell would be finite according to the punishment fit for one’s sins. While this may be the more likable idea, since then all would be saved and this seems more just than eternal punishment, it seems impossible to me to get this out of the Bible, especially given that we know that some will in fact be punished in an eternal manner with “the devil and his angels.” To me, this seems impossible to get around. I will concede that some passages are ambiguous about Heaven and who gets there, but these passages hat talk of eternal punishment are impossible to coincide with the idea that everyone could get into heaven, because if that were the case, then surely this would not have been said in the first place.

Laying out some of the alternatives for Hell:

Annihilationism: God destroys the souls of the wicked so they do not have to suffer eternal torment in Hell. To me, this sounds a lot like euthanasia. The purpose of this idea is that God prevents eternal suffering by taking one out of existence entirely. But is that really a better option? It seems that if one is abhorrent, the other would be as well.

Universalism: There are basically two types of universalism. Contingent and necessary. Necessary is more problematic in that it says that it is impossible for anybody to go to Hell, which would seem to fly in the face of a just God, and it also implies that no matter what one does in their life on earth, it has no affect on their afterlife.

Contingent universalism seems to be the nicest view. That while it is possible for some to go to Hell, none in fact do. The problem here seems minor, but ends up with the same problem that it was trying to solve, mainly, that God would not send anyone to Hell due to His goodness. What the universalist wants to say is that God can’t send people to Hell, that He won’t has no affect on His ability to, and it is His ability to that they have to object to.

Second chance: Many views here, but the main point is that while some go to Hell it is finite. Problem here: the passages listed earlier mention eternal Hell, and this is not compatible with that.

For some interesting comments regarding Hell and Heaven and the problems with annihilationism and universalism check out http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/heaven-hell/#1.1

The objective or goal here is to have an internally consistent doctrine of Heaven, Hell, and God. In my opinion, the traditional view that Hell is eternal, some people will go there, Heaven is eternal and Good, but both only come about after the Final Judgment and mass resurrection of both good and bad, and that before then, we all go to Hades but that the righteous are with God in a good realm, while the wicked are separated in some manner from the righteous. I would go as far as saying that for an infinitely good God, that in order to maintain that attribute, He cannot be in the presence of any sin or unrighteousness, which is why forgiveness and imputed/infused righteousness is necessary for salvation and entrance into heaven. And those only come about after repentance and wanting to be forgiven. It is not that forgiveness apart from wanting to be forgiven is like rape by any means, but rather that it is a two way street, the main aspect being repentance and recognition that we are sinful and need to be better, and the sincere effort to improve and try to be good. This would allow for some non-Christians who recognize that they fall short of being perfect, yet strive anyways, and honestly seek truth to get a pass. Now, not being God, I do not say who fits in this category and who doesn’t. If someone is agnostic or atheistic and is 100% honest and pure in his seeking, then they may get in since God can see into out hearts and our thoughts. I do believe more certainly that this allows minimally for those who have never encountered the Gospel to begin with to get in if they fit into this category.