Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I hate the doctrine of Hell... or What the hell is wrong with me?

Dr. C. Michael Patton of Credo House recently wrote over on The Parchment and Pen Blog a brief summery of eight of his biggest beefs with Christianity, or perhaps western evangelical subculture. While I agree with many of his main points, when he comes to his finale he seems to change his post from the quarks often found in evangelicalism to a doctrine of the Christian Faith, that is Hell.

To be fair to Dr. Patton I will quote the relevant text here:
Hell. This is hands down the most difficult doctrine in the Christian faith. We believe in a loving God who sees fit to allow his creation (his children) to suffer in a place we call hell—a place, by the way, that affords more suffering and than anything imaginable. A place, by the way, that is never-ending. It is not as though I don’t believe it. I do. It is not as though I look at God in judgment. I don’t. It is simply something that confuses me. While I completely disagree with any form of “Christian” universalism (i.e. all people are going to make it to heaven), second-chance theories (i.e. unbelievers will experience a second chance to escape hell in the after life), or the idea of annihilation ism (i.e. the belief that hell, along with all its inhabitants, will eventually be annihilated forever), I understand and sympathize with the reason why they go in this direction. If I could find some sort of loop-hole to get out of believing in the doctrine of an eternal hell, I would. If there was such a thing as a Christianity that did not necessitate a belief in hell, I would submit my resume. (And believe me, I have tried). Oh, closely connected to this are the cliché answers Christians give about hell. Many Christians I have encountered act as if hell does not bother them in the least. Of all the things you can be cliché about, don’t do so here.

Dr. Patton states that hell is a difficult doctrine of the Christian faith, even the most difficult doctrine, I agree that it is a very "difficult" and even "confusing" doctrine. I don't think it is good for the Christian to hate any doctrine found in Scripture.

Just for a moment imagine if we applied this to other "difficult" or "confusing" doctrines of Christianity. It would look something like this:
I hate the Trinity, it is a "difficult" and "confusing" doctrine and I don't like it. Oh I'm not looking at God in judgment for being who He is. Far be it from me. I also don't believe that any of the Trinitiarian heresies have any validity not that I haven't tried to prove them.
I don't believe that we as Christians have the right to hate God or what He has chosen to reveal to us about Himself. We ought to turn to Him in faith when something is difficult or confusing instead of hating Him for it. Now I am not saying that we as Christians ought to be anti-intellectual, in that we don't try to work through these difficult and confusing doctrines, rather when we reach the end of the limits of our minds we turn to God in faith. We trust, that while we now don't understand fully, God in His wisdom has a plan and a reason for everything, including Hell, which will result in His glory and our good.

For a much more thorough and philosophical article on the topic of Theodicy or The Problem of Evil by Dr. Bahnsen. While Dr. Bahnsen does not deal directly with the doctrine of Hell in the article his logic concerning the existence of Evil can be used for Hell also.
Grace + Peace.

P.S. I just realized I could have saved a lot of space if I had simply said the doctrine of Hell may make you hate yourself for not understanding God's mind about it but must never make you hate God.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Calvinism, Hyper-Calvinism, and Arminianism

Well they are at it again. "Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism", a tome put out by B&H Academic publishing and edited by David Allen and Steve Lemke, seems to once again mistake historic Calvinism with Hyper-Calvinism. You may remember that David Alan made this mistake a few years ago at the John 3:16 Conference. Anyways rather that entering the fight I would once again simply like to show the differences between Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism also I would like to show the similarities between Hyper-Calvinism and Arminianism, since they spring from the same philosophy.

Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism.
First thing that ought to be noted is that both Calvinists and Hyper-Calvinists will both affirm the so called five points of Calvinism (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints). Yet this is often where the similarities in the two systems part ways. The Calvinist affirms human responsibility, in that all men are commanded to repent and believe the Gospel where as the Hyper-Calvinist would say that because men are unable of their own accord to turn to Christ they are not under obligation to repent. Furthermore some Hyper-Calvinist's believe that God has no love for the reprobate at all. No Calvinist would say this, no matter how high their theology is. Furthermore some neo-gnostic Hyper-Calvinist's would say that only those who adhere to a Calvinistic understanding of the Gospel are saved. The Calvinist on the other hand can affirm that there are many who are with the Lord that held to Arminianism or Wesleyan theology, though they might say they held to it inconsistently. A final distinction, though there are a few more, would be that Hyper-Calvinists are anti-Evangelistic or anti-Missional. No one can make that claim of Calvinists as many of the greatest Missionaries ever have held to Calvinist Theology, e.g. William Carrey, Jonathan Edwards, David Brainard, George Whitefield, John Eliot, et cetera.

Arminianism and Hyper-Calvinism.
While Arminians and Hyper-Calvinists would differ on a lot of things including the so called five points of Calvinism (see above), the philosophical presupposition behind each of these systems is identical. It stems from the belief that Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility are incompatible. They simply differ on which portion of the premise to reject because of their presupposition that "mans ability and responsibility must coexist." The Arminian will see that the bible teaches all men are to repent and believe, saying, given their previously stated presupposition, "See all men are commanded to repent and believe the Gospel," which is true "therefore all men must be able to do so of their own accord," which is false. The Hyper-Calvinist will see that the Bible teaches that no man has the ability to to repent and believe, and thus say given their previously stated presupposition, "See men are unable to repent and believe the Gospel on of their own accord," which is true, " therefore all men must not be commanded to repent and believe," which is false. This is when the true Calvinist steps in and takes the true portions of their statements and puts them together saying that "All men are commanded to repent and believe the Gospel, yet of their own accord they cannot do this." In this the Calvinist rejects the incompatiblism of Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility as well as the presupposition that "mans ability and responsibility must coexist," turning from Philosophy to Scripture as the final authority in this matter.

I hope that clears some things up. Grace and Peace.

P.S. Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism have been confused twice by the Dean of the School of Theology at Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary and a Professor of Philosophy and Ethics New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary once in print, once at a conference I cannot recommend anyone attend either of these Seminaries. To be mistaken on a basic area of Historical Theology is lazy at best and outright deceitful at worst.

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. - The Apostle Paul