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Any universalists here?

Postby John Anthony » 19 Oct 2006, 17:15

I'll add to my previous post another quote from the sermon I cited, which seems to sum up an important part of Edwards's theology:

Doctrine. — The misery of the wicked in hell will be absolutely eternal.

There are two opinions which I mean to oppose in this doctrine. One is that the eternal death with which wicked men are threatened in Scripture, signifies no more than eternal annihilation: that God will punish their wickedness by eternally abolishing their being.

The other opinion which I mean to oppose is that though the punishment of the wicked shall consist in sensible misery, yet it shall not be absolutely eternal, but only of a very long continuance.

Therefore, to establish the doctrine in opposition to these different opinions, I shall undertake to show,

I. That it is not contrary to the divine perfections to inflict on wicked men a punishment that is absolutely eternal.

II. That the eternal death which God threatens is not annihilation, but an abiding sensible punishment or misery.

III. That this misery will not only continue for a very long time, but will be absolutely without end.

IV. That various good ends will be obtained by the eternal punishment of the wicked.
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Postby Josh » 19 Oct 2006, 18:37

John Anthony wrote:If this too is unrepresentative of his beliefs and attitudes, then please quote something of his which is very different in spirit.


From Religious Affections:

That religion which God requires, and will accept, does not consist in weak, dull, and lifeless wishes, raising us but a little above a state of indifference: God, in his word, greatly insists upon it, that we be good in earnest, 'fervent in spirit,' and our hearts vigorously engaged in religion... It is such a fervent vigorous engagedness of the heart in religion, that is the fruit of a real circumcision of the heart, or true regeneration, and that has the promises of life.


...Worldly affections are very much the spring of men's motion and action; so in religious matters, the spring of their actions is very much religious affection: he that has doctrinal knowledge and speculation only, without affection, never is engaged in the business of religion.


All who are truly religious are not of this world, they are strangers here, and belong to heaven; they are born from above, heaven is their native country, and the nature which they receive by this heavenly birth, is a heavenly nature, they receive an anointing from above; that principle of true religion which is in them, is a communication of the religion of heaven; their grace is the dawn of glory; and God fits them for that world by conforming them to it.


I think it's important to read SITHOAAG in the context of its times. It shocks the conscious today, but when it was given it moved Edwards's audience to such emotion that he nearly could not complete the sermon. Edwards was communicating to his generation, not ours.

When I look at SITHOAAG, while I am shocked sometimes by the tone, I rarely find anything with which I disagree doctrinally. I think that when you decide you must move away from a particular religious tradition, you should make sure that it is the doctrine that drives you, as opposed to the manner in which it is presented. Edwards was harsh in his sermons. But he also was not incorrect. That's where the judgment should lie, and that is where I find reformed theology to be the most reasonable, and at the same time the most beautiful, of the approaches to Christianity. It is also, I think, the only approach that does not implicitly leave our God as a finite quantity. The reformed God is infinite in his essence, unknowable apart from the glimpses we see through revelation. As a finite being, I'm drawn to the infinite--a Being that cannot be trapped into a catechism, a statue, or a false dichotomy between justice and mercy, a God of unsearchable judgments and inscrutable ways.
ecclesia semper reformata, semper reformanda.

--John Calvin
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Postby Josh » 19 Oct 2006, 18:40

John Anthony wrote:I'll add to my previous post another quote from the sermon I cited, which seems to sum up an important part of Edwards's theology:

Doctrine. — The misery of the wicked in hell will be absolutely eternal.

There are two opinions which I mean to oppose in this doctrine. One is that the eternal death with which wicked men are threatened in Scripture, signifies no more than eternal annihilation: that God will punish their wickedness by eternally abolishing their being.

The other opinion which I mean to oppose is that though the punishment of the wicked shall consist in sensible misery, yet it shall not be absolutely eternal, but only of a very long continuance.

Therefore, to establish the doctrine in opposition to these different opinions, I shall undertake to show,

I. That it is not contrary to the divine perfections to inflict on wicked men a punishment that is absolutely eternal.

II. That the eternal death which God threatens is not annihilation, but an abiding sensible punishment or misery.

III. That this misery will not only continue for a very long time, but will be absolutely without end.

IV. That various good ends will be obtained by the eternal punishment of the wicked.


Edwards is on firm scriptural grounds in those assertions. Jesus's picture of gehenna, particularly in Matthew, is similar.
ecclesia semper reformata, semper reformanda.

--John Calvin
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Postby David Jack » 19 Oct 2006, 23:33

Josh wrote:In this discussion about reformed theology in the U.S. vs Europe, it seems a little ironic, for me personally anyway, that my favorite reformed theologian and preacher happens to be not Edwards or Owen or Packer or anyone of N.A. origin, but a 19th century Englishman: Charles Spurgeon.


Well strictly speaking the dichotomy being discussed was between the US and Scots reformed traditions, so I can live with you being a fan of Spurgeon (from what I know of him I don't mind him myself.) I have heard conflicting accounts about just how Calvinistic (as opposed to reformed in a general sense) Spurgeon was, ie: whether he subscribed to the 5 points or not, but i mention that just as an aside.
For the most obvious example of a Scots reformation figure, we need of course look no further than John Knox who had the added 'distinction' of being one of Calvin's disciples. Now there's drabness for you!

As Chesterton puts it

"The passionate and poetical Scots ought obviously, like the passionate and poetical Italians, to have had a religion which competed with the beauty and vivid ness of the passions, which did not let the devil have all the bright colours, which fought glory with glory and flame with flame. It should have balanced Leonardo with St. Francis; no young and lively person really thinks he can be balanced with John Knox."
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Postby David Jack » 20 Oct 2006, 00:11

John Anthony wrote:
Fourth, the sight of hell torments will exalt the happiness of the saints forever. It will not only make them more sensible of the greatness and freeness of the grace of God in their happiness, but it will really make their happiness the greater, as it will make them more sensible of their own happiness. It will give them a more lively relish of it: it will make them prize it more. When they see others, who were of the same nature and born under the same circumstances, plunged in such misery, and they so distinguished, O it will make them sensible how happy they are. A sense of the opposite misery, in all cases, greatly increases the relish of any joy or pleasure.

http://www.biblebb.com/files/edwards/eternity.htm


This kind of thing makes me sick. Nor do I think it is any excuse (any more than it is for Calvin) to say that it is out of context-because I don't see how the context could possibly excuse it-or that it is uncharacteristic of the rest of his preaching.
I'm reminded of an argument I once had about Benny Hinn. He was 'going off on one' about people who attacked his ministry and said their children would suffer as a result, which he promptly followed up by saying he 'wished he had a holy ghost machine gun' so he could 'blow them all away.' I said that this kind of thing was unconscionable but my charasmatic friends mildly replied that 'heretic hunting' wasn't their thing and that after all we didn't know the wider context *sigh*

It just seems to me that people are incredibly reluctant to criticise leaders belonging to their own tradition, no matter how egregious their offence. And misrepresenting God's character has to be up there with the worst possible offences. "If any of you causes one of these little ones to stumble..."
"This is and has been the Father’s work from the beginning-to bring us into the home of His heart.” George MacDonald.
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Postby John Anthony » 20 Oct 2006, 01:04

Josh, you argue well, but the apocatastatists too have some good arguments. I’ll continue to hope they are right. My hope is strengthened by these words of Paul:

For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.
--Romans 11:32 (NIV)


If there has been no mistranslation, this is as clear, as unequivocal an avowal of universalist belief by Paul as one could ask for.
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Postby John Anthony » 20 Oct 2006, 01:16

David Jack wrote:
John Anthony wrote:Fourth, the sight of hell torments will exalt the happiness of the saints forever. It will not only make them more sensible of the greatness and freeness of the grace of God in their happiness, but it will really make their happiness the greater, as it will make them more sensible of their own happiness. It will give them a more lively relish of it: it will make them prize it more. When they see others, who were of the same nature and born under the same circumstances, plunged in such misery, and they so distinguished, O it will make them sensible how happy they are. A sense of the opposite misery, in all cases, greatly increases the relish of any joy or pleasure.

http://www.biblebb.com/files/edwards/eternity.htm


This kind of thing makes me sick. Nor do I think it is any excuse (any more than it is for Calvin) to say that it is out of context-because I don't see how the context could possibly excuse it-or that it is uncharacteristic of the rest of his preaching.


Agreed. No context could excuse the taste for cruelty those words of Edwards reveal.
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Postby Josh » 20 Oct 2006, 01:25

John Anthony wrote:Josh, you argue well, but the apocatastatists too have some good arguments.


I just learnt a new word!

If there has been no mistranslation, this is as clear, as unequivocal an avowal of universalist belief by Paul as one could ask for.


I don't think the problem is in translation. I think it's in context. People have been trying to figure out Romans 9-11 for nearly 2,000 years now. From the way Paul ends Ch 11 (beginning with the very verse after the one you quoted!) it doesn't look like he really understood what he had written. Of course, you can pull prooftexts out of Ch 9 that appear to support the alternative, non-universalist position.

The text for universalists--or apocatastasists--to overcome begins with Matthew 25:31-46. The flames of punishment are presented as eternal and are contrasted with eternal life (25:46).
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Postby soul101 » 20 Oct 2006, 07:37

I don't know how appropriate this is at this point in the argument, but I received this article from the "Desiring God" ministry, lead by John Piper, entitled "All Flesh Will Come and Worship". Thought I would put it here, as the most appropriate thread.
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Postby lee_merrill » 22 Oct 2006, 23:59

Josh wrote:The text for universalists--or apocatastasists--to overcome begins with Matthew 25:31-46. The flames of punishment are presented as eternal and are contrasted with eternal life (25:46).

Some thoughts from me on these difficult verses here. And as far as the Matthew 25:31-46 passage, it is indeed about the most difficult verse. I actually believe we will all be right, and all be wrong, there will be eternal punishment, and annihilation of the wicked, and God all in all in a complete sense, and I don't know how. But there does seem to be reason to hope for all to be saved in Scripture.

Mt. 25:46 "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

First we may notice that the righteous had eternal life, before they entered eternal life. So for them, it is not actually the start of a sequence, eternal life does not start for them at this point. So the start of a sequence may not be in view here, for either group, it may be that the place is in view, "into eternal life," "into the eternal fire" here.

Here is a verse which contrasts "life" with "hell," and hell is a place, thus seeming to make "life" here seem to reference a place as well, a place that can be "entered" in the future:

Mk. 9:43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out.

So this may mean that "eternal punishment" could indicate a place, as "eternal fire" does here.

And let us notice that hell was created for the devil and his angels. Certainly God didn't make a mistake in creating hell for this purpose, and later on have to decide to also send people there as well. Thus if people, in some sense, don't belong there, then we may have reason to hope that they won't stay there. And "eternal" here need not imply "eternal for everyone sent there," any more than the "bottomless pit" implies no chance of coming out after being thrown in there (Rev. 20:3).

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Postby John Anthony » 23 Oct 2006, 02:12

Josh wrote:
The text for universalists--or apocatastasists--to overcome begins with Matthew 25:31-46. The flames of punishment are presented as eternal and are contrasted with eternal life (25:46).


Maybe it's not an insuperable difficulty. The English words "eternal punishment" are a translation of the Greek kolasis aionios. I've seen it argued in many places that this is a poor translation: More faithful to the Greek would be something like "age-long correction". Here's a link to one site that presents this view:

http://www.godstruthfortoday.org/Librar ... bbot11.htm
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Postby Josh » 23 Oct 2006, 14:34

John Anthony wrote:
Josh wrote:
The text for universalists--or apocatastasists--to overcome begins with Matthew 25:31-46. The flames of punishment are presented as eternal and are contrasted with eternal life (25:46).


Maybe it's not an insuperable difficulty. The English words "eternal punishment" are a translation of the Greek kolasis aionios. I've seen it argued in many places that this is a poor translation: More faithful to the Greek would be something like "age-long correction". Here's a link to one site that presents this view:

http://www.godstruthfortoday.org/Librar ... bbot11.htm


Thanks for the link John. I'm no expert on NT Greek usage, but I think it's important to note that no translations--from the Vulgate to the 15th century English to the modern "literal" translations like the ESV or NASB--have agreed apparently.
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Postby John Anthony » 23 Oct 2006, 17:27

Well, Josh, Young's Literal Translation has "punishment age-during". But since all the major translations stay with "eternal" or "everlasting", in my own mind I'm just going to file the matter under Unsettled Questions.

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?se ... ersion=15;
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Postby Josh » 23 Oct 2006, 19:08

John Anthony wrote:Well, Josh, Young's Literal Translation has "punishment age-during". But since all the major translations stay with "eternal" or "everlasting", in my own mind I'm just going to file the matter under Unsettled Questions.

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?se ... ersion=15;


I'll file it under "Questions John Couldn't Settle" as well. :coffee:
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Postby Sarah N. » 23 Oct 2006, 23:18

I don't really want to get sucked into this conversation, but I will just add that I am taking Ancient Greek right now, and, though I couldn't translate any passages for you, I can say that Greek is an extremely finely nuanced language. Our teacher is having a devil of a time trying to explain word usage to us, because what sounds like the same usage of a word in English requires different words in Greek. (For instance, a different word would be used to expressing being "by" the sea, than being "by" the mountain, for instance, because of the height of the mountain and the flatness of the sea. ) Basically, what I am warning, is don't base your case on one or two words of an English translation of Greek, because the words have different connotations in each langaguage, and it may be impossible to represent the Greek perfectly accurately in smoothly flowing English.
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