Monthly Archive: September 2004

The Nature of Hell

I just got out of my Old Testament Foundations class here at Regent and an interesting topic was raised. Essentially the question came down to hell, eternity, and its nature. Iain Provan answered in a wonderful way, that I had never though of before. I will “warn” you now, this may not be how you have though of hell before. I challenge you, as well as myself, to think about this. I will attempt to do some more research in order to find some Biblical support for this as well (which he did not directly do in class as this was supposed to be a “brief” question at the end of class). I also invite any non-Christians to offer comments and thoughts on this as well.

This, I would say, is the common belief about hell: You have not accepted the Gift that Christ has offered in His saving grace. You are therefore damned by your sin / sinful nature to hell. Hell is full of fire and brimstone that you are stuck in for eternity in pain and suffering. Sound about right?

The first part I agree with. Sin without salvation, unfortunately does lead to hell. At this point I could get in a long discussion on how this truly is Godly and is not what God wants, nor intends for people. I will say this: It would be inconsistent with God to pretend, at the end, that sin did not exist. To say that God loves so therefore we can just “go” (which is another issue I will talk about on another day) to heaven does not follow from the nature of God. Sins have consequences that we all must be held accountable for. As Christians we recognize this fact that hand our sins over to God which he has then paid for by sacrificing His Son / Himself in agonizing pain at Golgotha. If you do not accept this payment for our sins, you are still to be held accountable. Therefore it is consistent with the character of God to allow hell to exist.

What happens in and during hell may be somewhat different that what you have heard or thought of before. Provan essentially suggests that hell is not eternal. Now hold on, because he is not suggesting what you are now thinking. This does not mean that people essentially “pay” for their sins by their tenure in hell and then are allowed into heaven. That possibility left when they made decisions while they were still on earth as we know it. What he is suggesting is this: Hell is essentially designed as a place of reflection and coming to terms with your sin. (it is still painful, fire, brimstone, gnashing of teeth, etc…) Through this reflection you come to realize the sovereignty of God and His true nature and desires. Again, this does not mean that you can get out now In order to remain consistent with God’s love this cannot go on forever. If it did, it would imply a few things. Firstly it would imply that eternally there is a place in which God does not occupy. This is not consistent with the all encompassing eternity of God. Secondly it would imply that God will allow eternal suffering which I think is inconsistent with His love. Provan suggests that in order to remain consistent with God’s love and justice, those in hell would eventually cease to exist.

Doing some brief research, I have not found any instance where reference to hell suggest an eternity there. Nor have I found anything that would suggest that you can get out of hell. That is all got right now. Provan had some more insight that I am forgetting now and was more eloquent, but so be it :) If you want me to do more research on the matter, please let me know. What do you think? Comments? Questions?

Shalom

Addendum:
In Revelation, Satan is thrown into a pit for a 1000 years, after that he comes back and is then bound and thrown into hell with the rest. It seems that he is actually thrown into the same place – hell – as everyone else.

I am not sure how widely accepted it is, I will have to ask him for more details. I would say that the reason he has come to this conclusion is because the Bible supports it, God’s nature is found there which leads to this conclusion. The only place I can find that goes against this in in Revelation: 20:10 “And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”

Now that does seem to go directly against this theory. Although let me make a few comments on that. First is that Revelation is apocalyptic literature and therefore cannot always be taken literally. It is poetry. I am not going to go much further than this as I have not studied apocalyptic literature and therefore cannot make any claims to this passage and how literal it is to be taken. Second is that it could simply mean that the theory that Provan suggested today does not apply to the devil and his helpers (the Antichrist and false prophet). They theory could still remain entirely valid as I think it is supported by God’s nature, and just doesn’t apply for the ultimate deceiver. Anyway, that is what I have come up with. Any thoughts there?

Everything the Bible has said does suggest that hell is, indeed, a real and literal place. Both the OT and the NT make claims of its existence in many forms of literature.

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Discussion of “Christ and Culture” by Niebuhr

Here is my first brief paper discussion on Richard Niebuhr’s “Christ and Culture”. There were also a lot of good things that I didn’t think of that were brought up in discussion. I would definitely recommend this book to others, but it will take a while to get through. This is not an essay and therefore is not written in essay for and not always in complete sentences, deal with it :)

Matt Jones
Regent College
Theology of Culture
John Stackhouse
Word Count: 1077

Christ and Culture Discussion Paper

1. What is “the enduring problem,” and why does it “endure”?

The enduring problem with discussion of Christ and Culture is that there are many ways to view how Christ relates to culture. The Bible can support multiple theories of how we should relate to culture. It is not explicit about one particular way we are supposed to interact with culture. Jesus makes many statements that can give credible support to the five types of interaction that Niebuhr outlines. Also, many strong and influential Christians throughout the ages have been “members” of each of these types suggesting that belief of one type or the other does not make a person a better or worse Christian.

2. Briefly define each of Niebuhr’s five types

Christ against culture: Christ is here to claim authority over the earth and therefore throws out all ideas of culture. Culture is bad and sin is transmitted through it. This type “affirms the sole authority of Christ over the Christian and resolutely rejects culture’s claims to loyalty.” Typically seen as “either-or”. This group is essentially separatist in belief that culture should be rejected. All forms of activity in culture (military, political, etc…) should not occur. The monastic tradition is one representative of this type.

Christ of culture: Christ defines what culture is. He is a “guide of men in all their labor.” Problem that arises with this is that what that culture is is looked at through a particular culture and is often ascribe those values. “Christianity itself needed to be regarded as an ellipse with two foci, rather than as a circle with one center. One focus was justification or the forgiveness of sins; the other, ethical striving for the attainment of the perfect society.” This Christ also give man power over nature. Often looked at as being two-minded: having a loyalty to both Christ and civilization. Wants society to be peaceful and co-operative which will achieve these things by moral training. Jesus as a great enlightener is a common them. Gnostic tradition takes the enlightener theme especially. Kant and Leibnitz are two of the main proponents of this type. Jesus as hero.

Christ above culture: This group is similar to the second group in that it sees Christ as “the fulfillment of cultural aspirations and the restorer of the institutions of true society.” The difference is that their view of Christ incorporates aspects of Christ that are not part of, nor belong to, culture. Christ uses culture to point to himself as savior but the other characteristics are what actually save man. He gives capabilities that humans could not conceive of. Thomas Aquinas is seen as a major representative.

Christ and culture in paradox: This group is similar to the Christ against culture type in that the see Christ at opposition to culture but differ in that they do not feel removal from society should happen. “Obedience to God requires obedience to the institutions of society and loyalty to its members as well as obedience to a Christ who sits in judgment on that society.” Luther is seen as the greatest representative of this type.

Christ the transformer of culture: Also called the “conversionist” type. Similar to first and fourth group in that they see that culture has been perverted and is fallen but differ in that this group see Christ as a person who is the “converter of man in his culture and society, not apart from these, for there is no nature without culture and not turning of men from self and idols to God save in society.” This means that, while culture is the transmitter of sin, Christ still uses culture to save and redeem man. John Calvin and Augustine are two of the key figures of this type.

3. Is there a difference (for Niebuhr? For you?) between “Christ and Culture” and “Church and Culture”?

I do believe that Niebuhr sees a difference between Christ/Culture and Church/Culture. The Church must evaluate the culture that it is in and respond to it in an appropriate manner. Christ did the same thing except that Christ was only responsible to God. The Church is responsible not only to God but also its members. The Church’s members are also part of culture and will relate the Christ differently and therefore the church will have to take that into consideration.

I would say that there, at the heart, is not a difference between how Christ relates to culture and how the church SHOULD relate to culture. Christ looked at the culture He was in a told stories, talked to people, challenged people, in a way that would make sense in that culture. If He had come today, in our culture, he would have done things differently. He still would have looked at the culture and told stories, talked to people, and challenged people, but he would have done in it a way that was relevant to our culture. Some things would look the same, some things would look drastically different.

4. What is one thing that impressed you positively, and one thing that impressed you negatively, about this book?

One thing that impressed me positively about this book is that Niebuhr did a wonderful job of outlining five ways of thinking about the relationship between Christ and culture. He goes on to say that there are many ways of dealing with this topic but I would imagine that it would be a very strenuous task to delve into the many possibilities on our own. Niebuhr did us a great service of bringing out the most important types of relation and giving us a deep understanding of what those types are as well as why they have been thought.

One thing that impressed me negatively about this book was its style or tone. To me it was somewhat difficult to read. I found it similar, in my mind, to reading the King James version of the Bible: the content is there and wonderful but because of how it was written it made it somewhat of a slow read. I felt that at some places passages were overly difficult but only so because of his style of writing. It is definitely an academic book and should be read as such and part of it is me needed to change, or at least prepare, for different ways to get across information.

A good point that was brought up in discussion was that Niebuhr says that we should not pass judgement on the different types of relation, but I would disagree with that. Some views of relation are supported only when viewing particular Bible passages out of context and that should definitely be judged. Otherwise you get the idea that you can make the Bible what you want of it and truth becomes relative.

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Prayer requested

Hey all. My step sister (Jeni) has been having seizures for the past month or so and went in for an MRI. It showed a growth in her brain (fibrous dysplasia – connective tissue attached to the bone). Apparently she has had it since birth and it has been growing and has started to put pressure on her brain, specifically near the optic nerve. She talked to a neurosurgeon and he said that it is essentially inoperable and will continue to grow. He said that she has a year or less to live.

This has obviously come as quite a shock. She may be getting a second opinion and look in to other options. I guess surgery is possible but very unlikely to work and if it did there is a large chance that she would lose her hearing and sight. For Jeni that would probably not be an option.

Please pray for a few things. First that she would be miraculously healed by God. Second, and actually most important regardless of healing, would be that she comes to know Jesus as her Lord and Savior. Thirdly for my mom and step-dad, especially Bob. Not sure what else to say about that.

For some reason that has hit me particularly hard. I think it is because this is the first time someone somewhat close to me could die without knowing Jesus. My dad dying was extremely difficult, of course, but this is different. When my dad died, or my grandparents, they were all Christian. I knew that they would be in Glory. I will see them again. It is hard to sit back and not be able to do anything about Jeni. Please pray that she would come to know God. May God have mercy.

Shalom

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“The Village” and “Hero”

Andy and I went to see “The Village” yesterday and I believe we both enjoyed it and yet feel that there was something missing. The movie made some wonderful comments about culture and our response to it. For those that have not seen the movie, I will probably be talking about things that will spoil the movie for you, so stop reading!

The premise is that a group got together because of some sort of tragedy in their lives (murder, rape) and decided that they should form their own community and go live on their own. In order to maintain the level of seclusion they desired they (and here is the plot twist that Shyamalan like to use) created “creatures” in the surrounding woods to keep people from venturing outside of their safe-haven. The charade is kept in place by keeping the story alive as well as using costumes to physically show that the creatures did, indeed, exist.

One of the great things about this movie is that these people wrestle with the notion that they are completely cut off from society and still have to deal with pain and suffering. They have to make decisions to either stay in their village or leave out into the unknown towns. In order to keep the innocence of the village they are often willing to suffer pain. The greater good of the idea wins out over the immediate need of a few individuals. It was really nice to see them struggle with these things.

When attempted murder creeps into their fair community they have to revise this idea. One of the daughters (Ivy), who is blind, is informed of the charade and is allowed to leave to community to fetch medicines to prevent infection of the victim (who is her intended). The intended murder is also an interesting comment, but I am not entirely sure what comment Shyamalan is intending to make. The man that intends to kill is mentally handicapped (Noah). It was also interesting because he is also killed off later in the movie, I have never seen a mentally handicapped person killed off in a movie, in this manner, before (that I can think of anyway). I don’t know if Shyamalan is suggesting that in a perfect society only those with mental illness could possibly commit such a heinous crime or of he was suggesting that this man was simply an extreme of what we all are. In once sense we are all mentally handicapped in that we are apart from God. We are all fallen and depraved and therefore sin. Noah is merely an extreme of what we all are and manifested his fallen state in a very drastic way that was not common in such a tight knit community.

One theme, that Andy pointed out, was different from Shyamalan’s previous films. His previous films have been about incorporating the supernatural into every day experience. Also, he is usually pointing out the goodness in man that that good endures through these supernatural experiences. In this film, the supernatural is fake. The goodness of man is not there, the fact that it is lacking is the reason the people leave and form their own community. When Ivy leaves the safe-haven of the woods she runs into a park ranger who is very kind and portrayed as innocent. This is opposite of what the community left and could lead to the belief that their reasons for leaving were invalid. As the park ranger goes to get her medical supplies he is talking to his superior (Shyamalan’s cameo) who is reading a news paper filled with articles about the horrible goings on in the world leaving you with the feeling that their actions were justified.

The theme of coming into enlightenment has been a common theme in many movies, including Shyamalan’s. People are in the darkness, the unknown and are somehow enlightened to what the truth is and it changes their lives. This film was different. Darkness was almost considered good or enlightened in itself. They were perfectly happy living in their own world, essentially in darkness about anything else in the world. They only character to leave is Ivy who is blind. One great comment that her father makes as people are questioning why she is the one to leave is that she is more capable than most the people in the village. Even through her blindness she can see and has a clear vision of what she has to do. In effect, more enlightened that others. I haven’t really developed this line of thought too much, and not completely sure what to do with it.

There are a few other themes that were also very well done in this movie that I won’t talk about (relying out the outside for salvation to mention one). The last one I want to mention is the idea of utopia and if it is possible, what would be the conditions for keeping that idea alive. I have already somewhat talked about this at the beginning, but it is important to mention again as it is what made Andy and I, although I think moreso with Andy, unsettled. The premise of the Village is that they have created a utopia, a safe-haven of innocence, if you will. The utopia did have its sorrows but they could still be deal with in the context of the idea of utopia. But the utopic state came crashing down with the actions of Noah. So what would be the conditions that they keep lying to their children and community members? When Noah died (actually, inadvertently killed by Ivy, who did not know it was him) he was masquerading as one of the “Creatures” and chasing after Ivy. She, now thinking the “Creatures” actually are real, kills him. The elders (who are the only ones in the Village that know of the farce) decide that Noah has re-affirmed their tale and the “Creatures” can go on living and maintaining the borders of the community. Andy, at least when we last talked, was quite unsettled by this, or didn’t know what to do with it. With all the evidence against their utopic idea, they they cannot escape the things that they originally left for, they still continue on. If the reason for their community had been shown to be invalid, it seems that the town would collapse. But for some reason they decide to continue lying to everyone to keep the idea alive. I guess this is where uneasiness has left me somewhat. I feel that, to them, the idea was still good and their secluded lifestyle will still be better than that outside.

There are a lot of things brought up in this movie that were very good and I did enjoy it quite a bit. I hope people have discussed the ideas brought up!

I also want to briefly mention the movie “Hero.” This is an amazing movie that deals with war and sacrifice. It is incredibly beautiful and the martial arts were stunning. It is a Chinese movie that has been out for about a year over there that for some reason, did not get picked up over here. Finally, of all people, Quentin Tarantino brought it over for the US (and Canadian!) audience. It is similar in genre to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” but I think I actually liked it better, and I really liked CT,HD. So essentially what I am saying is, “Go see this movie!”

Ok, back to reading,
Shalom

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Initial Impressions

It has been a pretty busy 2 weeks since moving to Vancouver. I have enjoyed myself and am really looking forward to these two years. It was somewhat of a bittersweet start to the year because I had to leave our family vacation early to start classes. It was also a difficulty leaving Khristine in Seattle. Seattle is only 2 hours away but can feel like a lifetime when you can’t get down there. At least there are other means of communication, but it just isn’t the same. Luckilly she is strong which definitely helps me out!

Regent college is quite an interesting place. I always have a ahrd time describing it to people – “Is it a seminary?” and things like that are always asked. So here is what it is “an internation graduate school of Christian studies.” How is that? Regent is one fairly small building on the University of British Columbia campus (which has a population similar to that of UW, but a little more spread out it seems). Because it is one building, it is pretty busy a lot of the time and you see a lot of the same people around. It will be somewhat interesting to find a balance of community and schooling. As one of my professors pointed out the goal of the school is to educate you, not to make you part of a community. Although because it is a small building and has students there for a similar goal, community is inevitable. I think it is a great place to study because it helps the balance of community and education. If one can stay focused reading and studying can occur while also giving time to “hanging out” and talking to people about this and that.

I am also very happy that I ended up with a notebook computer. It is so much easier and faster to take notes right on the computer during class rather than attempting to read my chickenscratch later on. Of course this doesn’t work quite as well in Greek, but thats ok. I am also looking forward to the many books I will be reading and writing about this term. I will probably discuss them later.

I guess this would be a good opporntunity to discuss the differences between my previous education and my current education. Since my undergraduate work was in physics and astronomy, writing is not my strong suit. The writing that I have have done has been largely technical. One of my biggest worries about Regent (along with Greek and Hebrew) is the papers that I will have to write. This is a scholarly school on par with Oxford and the like. I am going to have to get into a new mode of study where I will be reading 6 or 8 books as well as text books and learning a new language. These will all have to be combined into written short assignments as well as “term papers” of a sort. Not only are they just term papers, but they are scholarly papers that will have to be written with a certan degree of expertise. Research is something I can do having done it with the scientific background, now I will have to apply that to theological research. I suppose if anything, this blog has helped a bit in just getting back into the flow of writting and not just about science stuff. I will have to see how my first paper goes!

Shalom

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Oh, Canada

Vancouver is a lovely city that I look forward to exploring, that being said, traffic here is horrible. I got my U-Pass today so I can hopefully aviod driving as much as possible. As small as my apartment is, I think it will work out really well. I have yet to determine how loud I can play my music and / or movies here…

Here is what I can look forward to at Regent for this, my first semester.

Interdisciplinary Studies / Theology 515: Theology of Culture – John Stackhouse
Interdisciplinary Studies 500: The Christian Life – John Stackhouse
Language 550: Intro Greek I – Polly Long
Bible 501: Old Testament Foundations – Iain Provan

Sounds like a way cool line up to me. Let me know if you are curious about what each class is about. School starts up on the 13th so I still have some time to get settled in. Orientation is next week and should be quite fun. It will be good to get to know some people in the program.

On that I will leave you with a word, once again, from one of my favorite (oh, I am in Canada now, I mean favourite) bands:

“Oh, Canada” by Five Iron Frenzy

Welcome to Canada, it’s the Maple Leaf State.
Canada, oh Canada it’s great!
The people are nice and they speak French too.
If you don’t like it, man, you sniff glue.
The Great White North, their kilts are plaid,
Hosers take off, it’s not half bad.
I want to be where yaks can run free,
Where Royal Mounties can arrest me.
Let’s go to Canada, let’s leave today,
Canada, oh, Canada, I Sil Vous Plait.
They’ve got trees, and mooses, and sled dogs,
Lots of lumber, and lumberjacks, and logs!
We all think it’s kind of a drag,
That you have to go there to get milk in a bag.
They say “eh?” instead of “what?” or “duh?”
That’s the mighty power of Canada.
I want to be where lemmings run into the sea,
Where the marmosets can attack me.
Let’s go to Canada, let’s leave today,
Canada, oh, Canada, I Sil Vous Plait.
Please, please, explain to me,
How this all has come to be,
We forgot to mention something here.
Did we say that William Shatner is a native citizen?
And Slurpees made from venison,
That’s deer.
Let’s go to Canada, let’s leave today,
Canada, oh, Canada, I Sil Vous Plait.

Have a lovely evening. Shalom

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