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4/18/11 1:25 PM
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Grakman
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 A rebuttal to Rob Bell's universalism, with a different take on hell as a place of necessity rather than punishment. What to do with all the human refuse?

Hell is for human trash

4/18/11 2:29 PM
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Ridgeback
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 What passes for Bell's theology is particularly pernicious as it strikes at the very heart of the Christian faith. Whereas tertiary issues such as the endorsement of homosexual marriage, female pastors and secular political issues testify to the spiritual decline of a church, they are consequential in nature and reflect the decline rather than causing it. But Bell's teachings eviscerate Christianity itself, as they not only remove the very purpose for the Word becoming flesh, but render both the Crucifixion and the Resurrection entirely irrelevant.


This is where much of Western theology regarding the Incarnation has become strange for me.  The early Christians saw the crucifixion and resurrection primarily as a defeat of death itself.  You can't worship God forever from Sheol.  Since many Western Christians are borderline gnostics, they seem to assume that humans are naturally immortal so death didn't need to be overcome so much as God's anger had to be assuaged.  

4/18/11 5:09 PM
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TheStewedOwl
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Dante wrote that God created Hell before He created humanity because He knew He would have need of it.

In the 21st century, there seems to be an overwhelming desire to focus on God's nature as Good, but to overlook His nature as Just. I see the need for Purgatory as essential for most souls to approach the throne of Heaven, but find it hard to accept that there aren't some souls who deserve an eternity of punishment.
4/18/11 5:48 PM
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Grakman
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Ridgeback -  What passes for Bell's theology is particularly pernicious as it strikes at the very heart of the Christian faith. Whereas tertiary issues such as the endorsement of homosexual marriage, female pastors and secular political issues testify to the spiritual decline of a church, they are consequential in nature and reflect the decline rather than causing it. But Bell's teachings eviscerate Christianity itself, as they not only remove the very purpose for the Word becoming flesh, but render both the Crucifixion and the Resurrection entirely irrelevant.


This is where much of Western theology regarding the Incarnation has become strange for me.  The early Christians saw the crucifixion and resurrection primarily as a defeat of death itself.  You can't worship God forever from Sheol.  Since many Western Christians are borderline gnostics, they seem to assume that humans are naturally immortal so death didn't need to be overcome so much as God's anger had to be assuaged.  


 Ridge,
Does Orthodoxy consider man to have been without immortality before the Resurrection, and / or that the souls of mankind prior to the Resurrection would be asleep in Sheol rather than awake in Sheol or heaven or Abraham's Bosom or wherever?

I've often contemplated whether mankind was 'dead' in the grave before the Resurrection, and that only through the Resurrection were all the souls of men asleep in Sheol - then awakened afterward and made 'alive' so to speak.

The traditional Christian view is that man was created as or with an immortal soul, that it was not granted to him at the Resurrection but was instead created that way from the beginning. It certainly makes a lot more sense if man was made immortal at the Resurrection and death really was 'defeated.' Right now we go through tortured explanations saying that what God meant when he said that Adam would die the day he ate thereof, and did not, was that it meant spiritual death.
4/18/11 8:14 PM
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Ridgeback
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 I think the Orthodox perspective would be more that we can't, in and of ourselves, have immortality.  We have immortality by sharing in God's life.  That is why the Incarnation is seen in part in Orthodoxy as God descending into his creation and filling it with his divine energies so that it will be remade anew.  Christ risen is the first fruits of that process.  

So the answer to your question is yes it is at the descent into Hades/Sheol that Christ pulls the dead out of death.   That is why the icon of the resurrection has Jesus pulling Adam and Eve out of Hades/Sheol and breaking the brass gates that held them.  

I agree that assuming humans are immortal by nature (as the pagans did) makes Christian theology nonsensical and leads to alternative explanations for Christ's sacrifice.  

The Bishop I mentioned on the other thread about he Catechism has a great book on the Descent into Hades.  I will see if I can find the article he wrote that is taken from the book. 
4/19/11 11:45 AM
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Grakman
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Ridgeback -  I think the Orthodox perspective would be more that we can't, in and of ourselves, have immortality.  We have immortality by sharing in God's life.  That is why the Incarnation is seen in part in Orthodoxy as God descending into his creation and filling it with his divine energies so that it will be remade anew.  Christ risen is the first fruits of that process.  

So the answer to your question is yes it is at the descent into Hades/Sheol that Christ pulls the dead out of death.   That is why the icon of the resurrection has Jesus pulling Adam and Eve out of Hades/Sheol and breaking the brass gates that held them.  

I agree that assuming humans are immortal by nature (as the pagans did) makes Christian theology nonsensical and leads to alternative explanations for Christ's sacrifice.  

The Bishop I mentioned on the other thread about he Catechism has a great book on the Descent into Hades.  I will see if I can find the article he wrote that is taken from the book. 
Printing it out now.

I'm going to look for the icon on Google.
 
4/26/11 4:17 PM
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Grakman
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4/26/11 9:15 PM
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Ridgeback
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Grakman -  

 That is the one.  All kinds of Biblical imagery at work there as well.   Early Christian cosmology doesn't even make any sense if you take the popular American view that souls are immortal and go up to heaven or down to hell after death.  The OT conception of Sheol makes much more sense.  A human suffers brokeness through life and it finally culminates with the breaking of body and soul.  You can't praise God from the grave.  You are in Death and he has bound you with chains.  That is also why the emphasis on Christ's sacrifice was on "trampling down death by death."  Jesus smuggles divinity right into the heart of death and blows the grave wide open.  This also makes far more sense of the mention of other dead people being spotted around Jerusalem.  The traditional view is that some people who were pulled  out of the tombs were granted to visit their living relatives.  While it is true that the Jews of Jesus's day believed in a kind of resurrection at the end of all things, they never conceived of the Messiah being the means by which this would be initiated.
4/26/11 10:44 PM
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Grakman
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 Speaking of cosmology Ridge, what is the EO view of Satan and / or interpretation of the 'struggle against the powers, principalities,' Satan roaming like a lion seeking to devour, etc.
4/26/11 10:58 PM
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Ridgeback
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Grakman -  Speaking of cosmology Ridge, what is the EO view of Satan and / or interpretation of the 'struggle against the powers, principalities,' Satan roaming like a lion seeking to devour, etc.

 I will see what I can scrounge up.  There is a great chapter in a book by theologian John Romanides on Satan, but I will try to find an electronic resource.  The Orthodox certainly believe in these spiritual powers.  When we are baptized we literally walk outside the doors of the church and spit on Satan before turning our backs on him.  

In the Extreme Pilgrim program I linked in a thread below the hermit monastic that helps a Vicar from the Church of England spend three weeks in a cave warns him about demonic oppression.  He tells the vicar that a German tried to do the same thing and came screaming to him the first night because he was being attacked.  
4/26/11 11:33 PM
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Grakman
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 Didn't mean to send you off to do research Ridge lol. I have Googled a bit and haven't found anything that really answers my question.
4/27/11 12:01 AM
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Ridgeback
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Grakman -  Didn't mean to send you off to do research Ridge lol. I have Googled a bit and haven't found anything that really answers my question.
Is there a particular question you had in mind?  

 For the most part the EO view of Satan and Evil is pretty standard "orthodox" Christianity.  Satan is a fallen angel, has free will, works to thwart the spiritual progress of Christians, is somehow linked to death and nihilism, etc.  Stories of demons attempting to interfere with the life of monastics and other godly people are legion (pardon the pun) in EO.  The whole notion of a supernatural spiritual world is sort of taken for granted and not really a primary focus at all.  It would be something like an little old lady living in a haunted house with ghosts rattling around in the attic and when you ask her what that noise was she says, "oh that's just the ghosts that live in the attic."  On one hand Satan and Evil are taken very seriously, but on the other hand, they are seen as things that have ultimately been defeated.  I certainly don't hear of Satan being blamed for things among Orthodox Christians like I did among Baptists. ;-)
4/27/11 12:10 AM
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Grakman
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 That pretty much answers the question(s)! Thanks Ridge.

Have you ever heard / seen any references made to fighting the 'rulers of this age, the principalities and powers of the air' etc?
4/27/11 12:29 AM
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Ridgeback
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Grakman -  That pretty much answers the question(s)! Thanks Ridge.

Have you ever heard / seen any references made to fighting the 'rulers of this age, the principalities and powers of the air' etc?

 Sure lots, including in fairly recent theological texts. A popular (in the more traditional sense of the word) book written by David Bentley Hart called The Doors of the Sea discusses the various atheist and Christian responses to the Indonesian Tsunamis and all the people who died.  He makes a case for that traditional Christian cosmology whereby those dark forces have to be factored into any attempt at an authentically Christian theodicy.  
4/27/11 12:19 PM
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Grakman
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 Ordering it for Kindle as we speak. The reviews were good.
4/27/11 3:41 PM
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Ridgeback
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Grakman -  Ordering it for Kindle as we speak. The reviews were good.

 Here is an interview with Hart that sparked the writing of the book:

http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=3301
4/28/11 12:34 AM
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Ridgeback
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 Oops, I had my articles mixed up.  Here is a link to the original Wall Street Journal article that became the basis for the book.  Hart said that he doesn't really like theodicies, but he was offered a deal to write it and since he is an academic theologian he could use the money.  I think it turned out to be a great little book with some amazing passages.  

http://davidbhart.blogspot.com/2006/03/david-b-harts-tremors-of-doubt.html

Here is the central thesis of Doors of the Sea:

The Christian understanding of evil has always been more radical and fantastic than that of any theodicist; for it denies from the outset that suffering, death and evil have any ultimate meaning at all. Perhaps no doctrine is more insufferably fabulous to non-Christians than the claim that we exist in the long melancholy aftermath of a primordial catastrophe, that this is a broken and wounded world, that cosmic time is the shadow of true time, and that the universe languishes in bondage to "powers" and "principalities"--spiritual and terrestrial--alien to God. In the Gospel of John, especially, the incarnate God enters a world at once his own and yet hostile to him--"He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not"--and his appearance within "this cosmos" is both an act of judgment and a rescue of the beauties of creation from the torments of fallen nature.
 
4/28/11 4:29 PM
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Grakman
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I just finished the book. I was pleased to see a rebuttal of the predestination of Calvinism included in the book, considering our recent debates on that subject here on the Holyground.

Hart is indeed very eloquent and Doors of the Sea is incredibly well-written and cogent. It's just that... I felt somewhat empty and disappointed at the conclusion. It was like watching a great movie only to have the ending, not ruin the movie, but make it somehow less appealing and satisfactory. Hart answers the question...but doesn't.

Have you read it Ridge? What are your thoughts?


4/29/11 2:20 AM
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Ridgeback
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Grakman - I just finished the book. I was pleased to see a rebuttal of the predestination of Calvinism included in the book, considering our recent debates on that subject here on the Holyground.

Hart is indeed very eloquent and Doors of the Sea is incredibly well-written and cogent. It's just that... I felt somewhat empty and disappointed at the conclusion. It was like watching a great movie only to have the ending, not ruin the movie, but make it somehow less appealing and satisfactory. Hart answers the question...but doesn't.

Have you read it Ridge? What are your thoughts?



 I read it several times.  I get what you are saying, but I don't think his goal was to exactly settle the issue of the problem of evil.  I don't think that can be done by anybody on this side of things in a way that would be wholly satisfactory.   Rather, I think his main goal was to remind people what the early Christians believed about the nature of a fallen world and where we see God acting within that world (as a stranger in his own creation that does not recognize him and murders him).  His real issue was of course with all the poor attempts at theodicy he saw written in public forums by Christians that were really playing right into the hands of atheist critics or responding to suffering with a blood chilling callousness.

It is worth more than one read too I think.  I have certainly gleaned more on subsequent readings.  Just like my many readings of the Grand Inquisitor chapter in The Brothers Karamazov, I have to keep revisiting the character of Elder Zosima and the alternative view he presents in the face of a fallen world.   I don't fully understand the depths of these ideas, but I think they put me on the right page so to speak.  

I plan to take on his Beauty of the Infinite over the summer, which is really his magnum opus and an example of him writing theology at an academic level.  He basically takes on Nietzsche's concept of the "Will to Power" and introduces the ancient theology of Gregory of Nyssa (famous for his universalism) and Maximos the Confessor to the current conversations taking place within a post-modern dialectic.

He has a pretty good popular book on the history of Christianity and a book called Atheist Delusions that is very good if you are interested in a dismantling of some of the poor arguments made by the New Atheists.  
His essay entitled "Christ and Nothing" is a must read as well.  



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