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HolyGround >> My theological dilemma


4/26/11 3:26 PM
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Ray Blackburn
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If I could ask God one question it would be:

"Why is your plan for salvation so sociologically unfair?"

By this I mean that faithful people who are born into other countries where Christianity is less prevalent are at a serious disadvantage when it comes to their afterlife.

By the same token you can add the following to the disadvantaged: Children incapable of deciding for themselves, Jews, left-brained people, and those whose sole exposure to the Christianity comes from the media overexposure of the "God hates fags" ilk (talk about an ineffective sales pitch for Christianity!).

I have difficulty reconciling a God of unimaginable love with the concept of eternal suffering for these people. As you might imagine, I have found the recent writings of Rob Bell and Carlton Pearson appealing.

Can anyone recommend any reading that discusses my theological question from a more conservative perspective?
4/26/11 4:05 PM
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Grakman
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From the universal reconcilation perspective:

The Evangelical Universalist
Hope Beyond Hell

Interesting story about 'The Salvation of 125 Inmates.'

From the more traditional perspective, here is an article that portrays a somewhere different take on the nature of hell and what the consequences are for those who have 'never heard':  Torture in Hell?


4/26/11 8:15 PM
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gord96
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You can take comfort that God will save whoever He chooses no matter where they live or what sort of social setting they are exposed to. Phone Post
4/26/11 8:41 PM
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Ridgeback
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Ray Blackburn - If I could ask God one question it would be:

"Why is your plan for salvation so sociologically unfair?"

By this I mean that faithful people who are born into other countries where Christianity is less prevalent are at a serious disadvantage when it comes to their afterlife.

By the same token you can add the following to the disadvantaged: Children incapable of deciding for themselves, Jews, left-brained people, and those whose sole exposure to the Christianity comes from the media overexposure of the "God hates fags" ilk (talk about an ineffective sales pitch for Christianity!).

I have difficulty reconciling a God of unimaginable love with the concept of eternal suffering for these people. As you might imagine, I have found the recent writings of Rob Bell and Carlton Pearson appealing.

Can anyone recommend any reading that discusses my theological question from a more conservative perspective?

 Might I suggest the Eastern Orthodox perspective, which was not "invented" in the last few years or even in the 1500's as a reaction to something else?  Within that perspective a few things are held to be true.

1.  God wills all men to be saved and to come to know the truth.  This means that God would never be arbitrary about salvation.

2. Jesus descended into Hades and preached to the souls in prison (this is almost forgotten in Western theologies).  While some interpret this to mean he preached only to the righteous, it is no minority opinion among Eastern Fathers that he preached to all the souls of all the humans who lived before his time and who lived after (since it would clearly be an event beyond time).  

3. In the Eastern Orthodox conception of Heaven and Hell, they are not different destinations, but rather the resurrection and New Heavens and New Earth experienced differently based on the condition of each person's heart.  In other words, God provides all the material conditions of Paradise and communion with him, but those who choose to turn in on themselves or who can't surrender themselves to a path of repentance and agape love are not happy there.  To use a simple illustration, it would be something like a day at Disney World while you have the flu.  If you were well you would enjoy it, but since you are sick it is all miserable.  There is a biblical case for this conception I would be happy to provide you with if you are interested since it is not an idea many Westerners have even conceived of.

4.  In the Parable of the Last Judgment, what Jesus looks at is not the beliefs of a person, nor the theological knowledge of a person, but rather what each person did "for the least of these."  These acts of Mercy are not a matter of works based righteousness, but rather they demonstrate what is in the heart of each person.  In the Parable those who are called in are surprised because they didn't know they were actually doing those things to him when they were engaging in acts of mercy towards the poor and powerless of the world.  A good number of modern Christians have completely forgotten this parable or dismissed it as a teaching for the Jews living in another dispensation.  But how much clearer could Jesus be about the kinds of people who will be welcome in his Kingdom?  And of course the flipside of that parable is that the people who consciously tied themselves to him but did not engage in these acts of Mercy are cast out into the Outer Darkness/Gehenna/ Where the Worm Dieth Not/ etc.  
4/26/11 8:53 PM
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gord96
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Ridge makes good points as well as always :)

I think #3 in his post will always be my position on Heaven and Hell.
4/27/11 9:05 AM
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Ray Blackburn
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 Might I suggest the Eastern Orthodox perspective, which was not "invented" in the last few years or even in the 1500's as a reaction to something else?  Within that perspective a few things are held to be true.

1.  God wills all men to be saved and to come to know the truth.  This means that God would never be arbitrary about salvation.

2. Jesus descended into Hades and preached to the souls in prison (this is almost forgotten in Western theologies).  While some interpret this to mean he preached only to the righteous, it is no minority opinion among Eastern Fathers that he preached to all the souls of all the humans who lived before his time and who lived after (since it would clearly be an event beyond time).  

3. In the Eastern Orthodox conception of Heaven and Hell, they are not different destinations, but rather the resurrection and New Heavens and New Earth experienced differently based on the condition of each person's heart.  In other words, God provides all the material conditions of Paradise and communion with him, but those who choose to turn in on themselves or who can't surrender themselves to a path of repentance and agape love are not happy there.  To use a simple illustration, it would be something like a day at Disney World while you have the flu.  If you were well you would enjoy it, but since you are sick it is all miserable.  There is a biblical case for this conception I would be happy to provide you with if you are interested since it is not an idea many Westerners have even conceived of.

4.  In the Parable of the Last Judgment, what Jesus looks at is not the beliefs of a person, nor the theological knowledge of a person, but rather what each person did "for the least of these."  These acts of Mercy are not a matter of works based righteousness, but rather they demonstrate what is in the heart of each person.  In the Parable those who are called in are surprised because they didn't know they were actually doing those things to him when they were engaging in acts of mercy towards the poor and powerless of the world.  A good number of modern Christians have completely forgotten this parable or dismissed it as a teaching for the Jews living in another dispensation.  But how much clearer could Jesus be about the kinds of people who will be welcome in his Kingdom?  And of course the flipside of that parable is that the people who consciously tied themselves to him but did not engage in these acts of Mercy are cast out into the Outer Darkness/Gehenna/ Where the Worm Dieth Not/ etc.  <br type="_moz" />


#2 and #3 are new concepts to me.

How do you reconcile #4 with Ephesians 2 that says our salvation is a gift, and cannot be "bought" by works?
4/27/11 11:45 AM
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RoidsGracie
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 This is something that hits a bit close at home with me.

I was originally born in Asia and immigrated here with my family early on. My parents started bringing the entire the family to church and my mother eventually ended up becoming an evangelical Christian. However, my family by and large is not Christian given we do not come from a country where that religion is prevelent. I remember one time talking about religion with my mother and getting a bit heated up and saying 'Well it's a good thing that we came to America and learned about the REAL God when we were on the way to hell" or something to that affect.

The interesting thing is that my mother, despite being pretty religious and big on the Bible (when I attended a Episcopal Church the first thing she asked me was if they followed the Bible) does seem to believe in salvation for non-Christians.
4/27/11 7:45 PM
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Ridgeback
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Ray,

I will have to answer that question later since it can't be summed up in a sentence or two.  In the meantime, this article does a pretty good job of articulating the concept of synergy that St. Paul is pointing to in Ephesians 2.  

http://www.orthodoxconvert.info/Q-A.php?c=Salvation-Faith%20and%20Works%20in%20Orthodoxy
4/28/11 9:58 PM
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PastorJosh
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There's a lot going on in this thread and I can't dive into all of it, but I will say this to the original poster: that's exactly why Christ calls us to go and preach. He assigned Christians to carry out his plan and message of salvation. If it's not being done, it's our fault, not the fault of God. Phone Post
4/28/11 9:58 PM
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PastorJosh
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God has provided everything we need for salvation. Phone Post
4/28/11 11:39 PM
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Grakman
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PastorJosh -  God has provided everything we need for salvation. Phone Post

 Finally something you and I can agree on.
4/28/11 11:51 PM
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Ridgeback
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Grakman - 
PastorJosh -  God has provided everything we need for salvation. Phone Post

 Finally something you and I can agree on.

 I am pretty sure I wrote the same thing above.  But of course we all mean very different things.  I would say that not all will avail themselves of salvation, you would say all will, and I think PastorJosh means that for those whom God chooses to save he will provide the means to do so.  Of course we probably mean three different things about what, precisely, salvation is as well.  
4/29/11 12:08 AM
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Grakman
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Yeah, I was being a little tongue in cheek there Ridge. Phone Post
4/29/11 1:36 AM
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Ridgeback
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Grakman -  Yeah, I was being a little tongue in cheek there Ridge. Phone Post

 Oh I know.  I was just spoiling your fun as a pretense to pontificate.  
4/29/11 9:08 AM
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Grakman
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Well done. :-) Phone Post
5/6/11 11:47 PM
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PastorJosh
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Cool guys. Awesome. Phone Post

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