Hell , death and the 2nd death?

(Edward Miller) #41

I would be willing for such a discussion. I have a story to tell about my mother when she left this world in December 2006.

(J Richard Middleton) #42

You have accurately represented my views here.

(J Richard Middleton) #43

It’s good that you prefaced this quote from Psalm 131 with the words “we make our best judgment.” The point of the image of the weaned child is that it is not totally dependent on its mother’s milk for feeding, but can get its own food. The child is beginning to grow up.

A number of biblical scholars have suggested that this psalm was written by a woman, and that it would be appropriate to Hannah, who prayed directly to the Lord and did not need the mediation of the priest Eli (she was weaned from dependency on the priesthood; she thus exemplified the priesthood of the believer). Speculation, but interesting speculation.

(Jay Johnson) #44

Yes, that is interesting speculation. My first thought was that I doubted women were taught to write, but then I realized that there’s no reason to believe the poem couldn’t have been spoken by her and written down by someone else. It’s sometimes hard to mentally switch gears between our modern “written” culture and the ancient “oral” culture. I wonder how much of the Bible started out as oral tradition that was later written down? I bet the percentage would be high enough to shock a lot of folks.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #45

Literacy would have been a specialized enough skill that one of the obvious roles held by a literate person was to read aloud for all others to hear. So much so, in fact, that the phrase “read aloud” would have been redundant up through the time of Christ. Even if you were alone, “to read” was to give voice to what you were reading. Some early monk (can’t remember who) was caught once reading silently and those who observed it thought it the strangest, almost magical new skill as it had not occurred to them that reading could ever be a separate activity from verbalizing what was read. So I guess your local scribe was the nearest thing anybody had to a “book on tape.” (okay – “audio book” for all you young folks.)

Sorry to continue on the tangent, but I just thought your observations were interesting. I’ve sometimes wondered similar things about, say, who recorded the Magnificat (initially a private utterance only the presence of Elizabeth, wasn’t it?) which itself is a pretty good echo of Hannah’s prayer.

(Jay Johnson) #46

Great anecdote. And believe it or not, “sustained silent reading” is a skill that must be learned.

Today, we consider someone “literate” when they can both read and write. But in the ancient world, those skills were thought of separately. Many people could read but couldn’t write, since that was considered a scribal skill taught in formal schools. We know Jesus could read, but could he write? (The incident with the woman caught in adultery is a later addition to John’s gospel, so Jesus scribbling in the dirt there doesn’t tell us anything one way or the other.)

On the Magnificat (Luke 1.46-55) and Zechariah’s prophecy (1.67-79), I suspect that a form of each was spoken at the time, written down some time later, and given final form by Luke.

(Bill Wald) #47

All I can conclude about this topic is that in this life, one man’s hell seems to be another man’s heaven. Maybe the door between Heaven and Hell is unlocked on both sides and everyone get one chance to change their mind.


Her Gates Will Never be Shut by Brad Jersak is an understandable, even handed, exploration of the biblical basis exploring this topic (hell as we traditionally think, annihilation, hell a tool for refinement/restoration of all things).

(Jay Johnson) #49

St. Monty Hall and the pearly doors!

I’ll have to look that one up. A lot of people recommend C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce on the subject of hell. I’ve read most of Lewis’s theological stuff, but not that one. It’s one of those books that I heard so much about that it felt like I’d read it, even though I hadn’t. I have a similar feeling about several of Walton’s “Lost World” books, and I suspect I’m not alone in that.

(Phil) #50

I have not read it either, I mentioned it to my daughter who had, and she was a little puzzled as she took it as more fiction rather than an expression of Lewis’s views theologically. I need to read it when I get a chance, but the question I would have based on her reading, is do we take books like that as just musing about what might be, or as serious theology? Is there a difference, as some might say a lot of theology is just musing?

(Jay Johnson) #51

A dagger to the former English teacher’s heart.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #52

There is musing that is done by those with little or no time invested in actual bible study. And then there is musing done by those who have lived devout lives steeped in Bible reading and much attendant scholarship. I suggest that Lewis’s musings are solidly in the latter category. To me this is like the difference between listening to a geophysicist muse on plausible theories about planetary phenomena or the average man-on-the-street muse on the same subject. Both are fallible of course, but we would be fools to take their musings as equal.

[to add on a bit more … it seems that “The Great Divorce” gets a lot of attention and quotation time from others, who themselves are no theological slouches. I don’t have stats to back that up, but anecdotally it seems the case. It may be interesting to contemplate that the day was, when some may have been [were] asking the same kinds of questions about Paul’s letters which arguably might have a lot more innovation in them than what Lewis ventures on with!]

(Phil) #53

Good comments, Mervin and Jay. Still, there does seem a divide between a serious scholars writing on theology and the type of theology expressed in Narnia. Both have merit, but is there not a difference in the level of confidence expressed in the concepts presented? I for one think that most often the symbolic is often deeper than the literal, but an argument rationally argued and supported seems to be more serious than musings over a pint at the pub, and perhaps a fictional writing. I would assume with the fictional writing that the unwritten first sentence is always, “Suppose for the moment…”

(Jay Johnson) #54

Roger Olson just mentioned it on his blog, which is what made me think of it. He said this:

"To all those who cannot stomach the traditional view of hell as quasi-physical torment without end (even Billy Graham said that “fire” is a metaphor for separation from God) and to all those who cannot accept universalism I say “Read Lewis’s The Great Divorce.” Not because I agree with every aspect of it but because it provides an alternative view of hell that takes completely away any idea that hell is God’s vengeance against those he hates or who fail to repent and acknowledge him as Lord and Savior.

I have to wonder if reading The Great Divorce would have saved Carlton Pearson and many others who came to reject the traditional view of hell (viz., Dante’s depiction) from falling into the error of universalism."

True, but as Roger Olson hinted, many of our traditional views of hell are drawn from Dante, not theologians.

I agree that it is more serious, but is it more effective? For instance, are more people converted by a book of apologetics, or a conversation over a pint? It would be an interesting test.

(Randy) #55

Interesting. I really enjoy the Great Divorce–have gone back to it several times to absorb more (as with the Chronicles of Narnia, Space Trilogy, etc from Lewis). However, if I recall correctly, he made a foreword that explained that he didn’t mean to create this as a true picture of Heaven. It was a response to William Blake’s “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.” This is supposed to say not that Heaven and Hell are so much the same, but they are opposites–sort of like Aslan’s explanation to Emeth in The Last Battle.

Lewis did share many views with George Macdonald, who was, I think, an inclusivist (based on his Unspoken Sermons).

(Phil) #56

I ran across someone this weekend suggesting that Jesus’s parable of the rich man and the beggar Lazarus was a true depiction of heaven and hell, so it goes. For the record, I go more with the C. S. Lewis version, but both are written to suggest concepts, not physical structures. If I can find it, will post a cartoon in the humor thread, since summer is upon us.

(Edward Miller) #57


I want to thank you for the “Like” George. God bless.


(Andrew M. Wolfe) #58

Hi Ryan,

I’ve only skimmed the responses ever so quickly, so this may be redundant.

The most thorough and best known theologian on annihilationism as a Biblical alternative is Edward Fudge, with his book The Fire that Consumes. At 36 years old, it’s older, but it’s still a great resource, as demonstrated by the fact that it got reprinted in 2016. As you may know, no less an Evangelical luminary than John Stott (author of the bestseller Basic Christianity) held to the annihilationist viewpoint.

In 2015 over at the Jesus Creed blog, Scot McKnight gave the floor to a guy named Jeff Cook who wrote a great series of posts on several philosophical objections to the traditional view of hell. His closer is here, and it links to all of his previous posts. Being a series of blog posts, it’s really quite digestible in our busy modern lives. I haven’t actually read Fudge’s masterpiece, but I’ve read this Cook series, and he makes some strong points.

I’m glad to see a lot of sympathetic responses to your query here on the Forum!



Yes. Rely on scripture…but whose interpretation? That’s always the issue.

(Ryan weatherly) #60

We walk by faith , and in the fullness of time we come to better understanding , if any of us were perfect , Christ would be to no effect .

We walk , we grow , we learn ,each according to HIS purpose , in God’s time .