Thursday, June 29, 2006

"Jesus Loves Porn Stars"?

There has been some recent conversation in the blogosphere concerning XXXchurch.com. I won’t take the time to portray the vision of this internet ministry for you here, though I certainly suggest that you give the website a look.

So what should Christians make of a ministry that visits porn conventions and hands out Bibles (or, The Message, a Bible “paraphrase”) that contain the phrase “Jesus Loves Porn Stars” displayed on their front cover? Well, first let me state that I definitely give these Christians the benefit of the doubt. They are, to me, innocent until proven guilty. My assumption is that they are genuine Christians with a love for the gospel and a burden to see the lost saved. That is certainly commendable, and that is not something I here question.

Rather, the question that lies before us concerns their method of evangelism. How far is too far?

Before we even take the “Jesus Loves Porn Stars” Bibles into consideration, my primary concern is the fact that these Christian individuals visit porn conventions. Obviously, such conventions do not encourage sanctification. What business, I ask, does a Christian man have visiting such a sin-nurturing environment, regardless of how noble his intentions may be (and what the wives and mothers of these men think of this, I can only imagine)? Seriously, where should we draw the line? I’m sure that none of these guys would be willing to get in bed with a prostitute to preach the gospel to her. And the fact is, Jesus’ internalization of the commandments revealed when he told us that even looking at another woman in lust is spiritually equal to adultery tells me that we should avoid this type of situation just as much as we would avoid finding ourselves in bed with a woman to whom we are not married. As Christians, our mentality should not be one of pushing the envelope, walking the line, playing in fire and pretending we won’t get burned. Rather, I think we should be more like Joseph: when he found himself in the situation he did, he did not remain to teach Potipher’s wife a theology lesson. Rather, he fled as fast as he could, leaving his coat behind. If our eyes cause us to sin, cut them out. Do even allow an opportunity for sin.

But let’s now examine this method of evangelism on its own merit. Let’s say, for example, that this ministry didn’t attend porn conventions (though it does). Rather, let’s say that it simply gives out these Bibles through the mail or some other medium. In other words, should the phrase “Jesus Loves Porn Stars” ever appear on the Bible?

Obviously, this phrase is after two things. The first is shock-value. And I understand this. Jesus himself often used shock-value in his teaching, portraying the great antithesis between the religious ideas of his day and the gospel of grace (though his shock-value examples were certainly never quite like “Jesus Loves Porn Stars”). Shock-value is something that is generally utilized in gospel tracts, to get someone to actually pick them up and read them.

The second thing that is attempting to be portrayed is the “Jesus, friend of sinners” concept. This is certainly a Biblical concept. But we must not be gospel-uninformed. Jesus doesn’t, contrary to the thinking of many people today, accept you as you are simply because he loves you. No, as you are his wrath against you is infinite. As you are, you are depraved and absolutely needing his grace. Christ accepts you, and he saves you as you are because he views you as you are not. Christ doesn’t love porn stars; he hates them, just as he hates murderers and children who disobey their parents. But the good news is that he satisfied God’s wrath on the behalf of those who would believe. And so, Christ, viewing you not as you are but as he is, saves you and transforms you into his own likeness, for God’s glory. This is the gospel, and I find the phrase “Jesus loves porn stars” to be a very inadequate summary of it.

Our sovereign God is certainly capable of using this method of evangelism, and perhaps he already has. But I think that, rather than seeking to push the envelope in our creativity (though creativity in evangelism is certainly a good thing), we should seek to present an accurate gospel to the lost in a way that reflects the Biblical model, not in a way that offers a confusing and potentially misunderstood message.

Any thoughts?

33 comments:

  1. Steve, regarding:

    "I think we should be more like Joseph: when he found himself in the situation he did, he did not remain to teach Potipher’s wife a theology lesson."

    all I can say is VERY WELL PUT. (It's also kind of funny.)

    It makes me wonder "What's next?" A similar organization directed towards NAMBLA? (Passing out tracks that read "Jesus loves paedophiles"?)

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  2. Evan,

    Thought-provoking post on a thought-provoking ministry.
    I'll give you a what-what (or, if you prefer, mad props) for posing the question on whether it's advisable to visit porn conventions to hand out Bibles. Don't know anythg about a porn convention, myself, and I doubt you do, either. It would be nice to know whether the XXXC guys are INside the convention and whether there are, ahem, dangerous sights around, or whether they are outside talking to people far from a hazardous line-of-sight, you get me? B/c of the lack of info, you are wise to hedge on that one.

    I request a clarification, if you don't mind: You say that Jesus hates porn stars. Quick answers to these are OK.
    1) Do you approve of the oft-stated maxim that God loves the sinner but hates the sin?
    2) Why do you equate God's wrath (which I certainly agree is directed towards sinners and will be applied more directly to them upon their deaths in sin) w/ His hatred of the sinner? Why can we not say, "You, Mr. Porn Star, are God's enemy and His wrath is on you, but He loves you and beckons you to the Truth"?
    3) A propos of #2, you said that you approve of the "Jesus friend of sinners" motif. You also said "Christ accepts you...Christ doesn't love porn stars." I don't see the connection - if Christ accepts you, you're saved, so you're loved by Him. That 2nd-to-last paragraph is a bit jumbled IMHO, which is perhaps why I'm asking for clarification.
    At any rate, do you think that Jesus, in the Gospels, evinced hatred of sinNERS or love to them (keeping in mind that BOTH the hypocritical Pharisees/scribes AND the tax-collectors and prostitutes were sinners)?

    Respectfully,
    ALAN

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  3. Rhology,

    Albert Mohler interviewed J.R. Mahon of the XXX Church on this issue last week. Mahon said that he and his people would pray and do other things in preparation for going to the convention, and he said that he wouldn't take any unprepared Christians with him. Albert Mohler made comments about what sort of temptations a Christian would come across by going into the convention, and J.R. Mahon never corrected him. It seems, then, that the XXX Church people are going into the same area of the convention where most or all other people are. It was also mentioned, during the interview, that some people from other groups stand outside the convention. Apparently, then, the XXX Church people could stand outside the convention and hand out literature, but they think it's more effective to go inside, so that's what they do.

    On the issue of hating people, you're correct to say that God loves all people, including people who will go to Hell. But the Psalms, for example, also refer to God hating people. And the Psalms, like other passages of scripture, refer to God's general love for all people, such as in providing food and other necessities and pleasures. What we have, then, is a situation in which some people are both loved and hated by God. (Similarly, Jesus refers, in the gospels, to how His disciples should "hate" their parents, children, etc. in order to follow Him.) A term like "hate" can be used in more than one sense and without any intent to suggest that love is entirely absent. We today tend to associate the term "hate" with the sin of hatred that involves an absence of love and some sort of bad motive. But like many other terms in many languages, it can be used in different senses in different contexts. When Jesus told us to love our enemies, not to hate our brothers in our heart, etc., He would have been familiar with the Psalms about God's hatred of people, and Jesus Himself referred approvingly to hating people in some contexts.

    I think that the primary question people usually have when this issue arises is whether God loves all humans, including humans who will go to Hell. He does. I see no rational way to argue otherwise. Scripture, in both Testaments and in many places, gives us example after example of how God provides for the needs of all humans, gives all humans pleasures to enjoy, takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, etc. He does love all humans, but He's not under any obligation to love them all equally, just as humans love their wife more than the janitor in their office. God doesn't love the unregenerate as He loves His children, but He does love the unregenerate.

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  4. Jason,

    Thanx much for the help. I'll see if I can carve out some time to listen to Mohler and Mahon. Appreciate the tip.

    As for the love and hate thing, that was what I thought, but I wasn't sure. I don't know what to make of Evan's more or less limiting himself to "Mr. Porn Star, actually God hates you" in his post. I have nothing but respect for Evan and youse guys, so I guess this is just a request, in the future, to try to present a more holistic picture of your approach. You forget, no biggie. Just keep it in mind. I don't come from a Calvinist bkgrd so alot of this is kind of new to me.

    Respectfully,
    ALAN

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  5. I agree, and all the more so that the danger of falling in this is huge. That said, I have more time for these wallahs that the people outside the conventions with big signs telling these people they're going to hell.

    Do we have the right to refuse to love one group of lost souls?

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  6. Rhology,

    People do sometimes go too far in attempting to communicate the Biblical concept of God's hatred. Often, one person will emphasize the Biblical passages about God's love, while another person will emphasize the passages about His hatred. The two sides might entirely or almost entirely agree on the issue, but they talk past each other because they're so concerned with what they want to emphasize in the context in which the discussion is occurring. In many cases, the person who emphasizes God's love would acknowledge God's wrath, the passages that refer to His hatred of people, etc. if pressed on the issue. Similarly, the person who emphasizes God's hatred would acknowledge God's love if pressed on the issue. When discussions like this one occur among Evangelicals, there's probably far more overlap between the two sides than there might seem to be on the surface.

    Regarding Evan's comments in particular, he said that he considers the people of XXX Church "innocent until proven guilty". He also said that it's commendable for them to have "a burden to see the lost saved". He also said that his "primary concern" is the visiting of pornography conventions, not the statement that Jesus loves pornographers. He said that the concept that Jesus is a friend of sinners "is certainly a Biblical concept". He does go on to say that "Christ doesn’t love porn stars; he hates them, just as he hates murderers and children who disobey their parents." I doubt, though, that he intended to say that Jesus doesn't love these people in any sense. It may have been better for Evan to add a qualifier just after making that comment, but there are qualifiers elsewhere in the article (and in the larger context of an Evangelical writing for an Evangelical blog).

    It would be difficult to read a passage like Luke 6:35 and not realize that Jesus expected Christians to love all people, as their Heavenly Father loves all people, including those who choose to go to Hell. I appreciate your concerns, Alan, and I agree that we should be careful in qualifying our comments on this subject. I imagine, though, that you and Evan hold similar views on this issue, even if you express yourselves differently. We all live in contexts that are different to some extent, and we all want to emphasize different things at different times for different reasons. But there's a lot of overlap in our views, despite those differences.

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  7. Instead of "Jesus loves porn stars" for shock value and evangelism, how about "Jesus will condemn all porn stars to hell who do not turn away from their sins and follow Him." That's shock value, and biblical, and tells them the truth of what must hear. Hmm... maybe they wouldn't be invited back to the next convention...

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  8. Oops. I meant to say "Evan." (Same difference. :)

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  9. God's love is not unconditional. Yes, it is unconditional to us, but it is conditional upon the sacrifice of Christ.

    The point is that the bad news precedes the good news. In the phrase "Jesus Loves Porn Stars," I only see half of the story. It seems to take the gospel for granted (something which occurs too often in modern "evangelicalism"). It attempts to receive gospel-blessings apart from gospel-truth.

    The phrase "God hates the sin but loves the sinner," I believe, is a weak gospel. Certainly we should hate the sin and love the sinner. But, ultimately, the sinner hasn't sinned against us. He's sinned against God. And Scripture is replete with evidence that contradicts such a pop-slogan.

    Of course, it would be unbalanced to end here. If this is all I stated, I too would only be giving half of a gospel. That is why we need to give the full picture.

    On another note, the metaphysician asked, It makes me wonder "What's next?" A similar organization directed towards NAMBLA? (Passing out tracks that read "Jesus loves paedophiles"?).

    This is an excellent thought. I fear that the this group is so ready to have this phrase placed on Bibles because they have succombed to the culture in failing to view the porn industry for what it really is: repugnant. I don't think we'd ever see "Jesus loves paedophiles" or "Jesus loves axe-murderers" or "Jesus loves rapists" on a Bible. Why? Well, the culture views these things differently than it views the porn industry. The porn industry is something which causes people to blush and smile. Rape makes them cry. This is an inconsistency, and I fear that it is a mentality that has been adopted by this organization.

    Disclaimer: I know that these guys consider the porn industry to be wrong, and that is why they are reaching out to it. But I wonder whether or not they accurately feel the burden of its evil.

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  10. Do you think Jesus would go into the Convention center and evangelize porn stars or would he have feel this was off-limits?

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  11. Let me tell you that I'm not sure what I think of the "Jesus Loves Porn Stars" slogan -- because it is true in the right context. For example, Jesus loves the porn star who repents upon hearing the Good News, and who does not return like a (a-hem) dog to its own vomit to that life.

    What is at issue with the life XXXChurch is confronting is the issue of sin: can man and woman choose to be any kind of sexual being they want, with any number of partners they want, as a spectacle for others to watch -- or does the panoply of condemnations evident in Romans 1 & 2 somehow indicate that they have made a mistake which blasphemes the God of creation?

    If that is the message XXXChurch is bringing to the AVN, we should stand with them and pray for them as they are in the world bringing the Good News to every living thing. We should have the courage to, for example, stand beside the woman caught in adultery to tell her specifically, "go and sin no more."

    Some of us were like them once -- and we cannot forget those who have not yet heard the Gospel.

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  12. For anony:

    I think Jesus would not have gone to a porn convention to preach the Gospel. There are no records, for example, that he ever visited a brothel or any Roman temple for the sake of condemning sin and seeking sinners.

    Now, the question ought to be: "why?"

    I think half the answer is that there are plenty of sinners within arm's reach that we don't have to go out of our way to find them. The other half is that Christ did not make friends with sin in order to have mercy on sinners. You know: he turned the tables over in the temple rather than walk by them and tell the money-changers, "by the way, go and sin no more." What would he have done in a temple to Apollo some other false god?

    So I have probably contradicted myself someplace in this thread, and I'll be glad to work that out with anyone who can guide me away from my errors.

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  13. As a former christian-turned-atheist, let me give some perspective [perhaps unwanted] on Reformed theology. Now, I welcome criticism of my appraisal, but please try to be instructive/educational, rather than demeaning, in your response, should you disagree with my conclusions:

    None of you touched on Romans 9, which says that before Esau was born, God "hated" him, that it wasn't, in other words, due to sin already present --

    Rom 9:11-ff
    11(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)
    12It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.
    13As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated
    .
    14What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.
    15For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
    16So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy
    .
    17For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.
    18Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.
    19Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?
    20Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?


    Seems crystal clear to me. God does indeed hate some. He "hardens", or makes them unregenerate, by witholding mercy/compassion/the irresistable drawing of the Holy Spirit. God chooses to allow men to remain in their unregenerate state, rather than irresistably calling them to himself, which leads to that person going to hell. Total depravity teaches that men never repent of their own accord, and thus become redeemed, but that they must be convicted of their sin by God's choice and will. If God chooses not to convict, ie "hates" them, they go to hell. We can certainly say that if this is somehow still "love", then love is here strangely defined, indeed.

    In that sense, can we honestly say that "God loves the sinner" or "God loves porn stars", assuming that we don't use the label to refer to those whom God has elected? It seems safe to assume this, since part of the election is sanctification, yes?

    It would seem that according to your belief system, you cannot honestly conclude otherwise from what I have here--those who are porn stars are almost certainly not "elected", if they are still actively in it. Now, if they are not elected, they are not "loved", but are "hated". What say ye?

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  14. Daniel:

    The reprobate are indeed hated by God. And thus I deny that God loves all equally and redemptively.

    However, it would be terribly unbiblical for me to fail to recognize common grace. Surely it is loving for God to impart common grace to all humanity! Imagine a world in which there is no common grace, in which the depths of man's depravity are in acceleration mode in their actions. The human race would be literally unable to survive one day. In a world without common grace, mankind would annihilate itself.

    So, do I believe that God loves the non-elect with a redemptive love? No. Do I believe that God loves all equally, so that he loves Pharaoh in hell with the same intensity and application that he loves the Apostle John in heaven? Certainly not. But I do recognize that God loves even the non-elect, as his creation, in that he imparts to them common grace.

    But I doubt that the phrase “Jesus Loves Porn Stars” is talking about common grace. Rather, like centuri0n said, this is a phrase that is true only in a certain context. As I said, we can’t have gospel-blessings apart from gospel-truth.

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  15. Daniel,

    I think the best way to look at it is like you would a marriage. A husband ought to love his wife with a special love that is not extended to other friends, even though he loves them too.

    In the same way, God can love someone without loving that person in the same way that He loves His Elect.

    As for the issue of God's hating Esau, I think Jason has already addressed that when he said: "What we have, then, is a situation in which some people are both loved and hated by God."

    Romans 9 is looking at God's hatred of Esau in covenental terms. This does not change the fact that God loved Esau enough to provide for his needs and to not kill him immediately upon his birth, etc. So God does indeed both love and hate Esau.

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  16. I suppose my response to both of your posts, which assign "love" as the "common grace" sort of thing, is that the definition of love is cheapened here.

    By saying that, by letting humans have 80 years of good life [assuming it's true], God shows them love, then reveals his wrath/unleashes his fury/manifests his hate against them with an eternity in hell...

    I'm sorry, it just seems to me that the word "love" cannot seriously be applied here. I can dredge up lots of analogies but I really hope to not have to.

    If God chooses who will be its own, and if those it chooses not to be its own will suffer an eternal torment, which is clearly the picture painted in Rom 9, then any "temporary/short term/common" good that God allows/activates/gives to these people before their infinite curse begins is eclipsed entirely by the definition of the eternal/infinite.

    The temporal cannot be compared to the eternal. The finite cannot be relativized to the infinite. It isn't like one day of good compared to a few years of bad [or even a billion] that we're discussing here.

    The simple proposition that God initiates the regeneration of a man's heart by extending irresistable grace, reconciling the idea with 2 Pet 3:9, and reconciling that with "God loves all men, but some not as much as others..." [Kind of like, "All animals are equal. Some animals are more equal than others."]

    I'm sorry, there's a logical disconnect here. We can't say that God "loves" something that he allows to come to eternal torment by virtue of its own inaction to prevent it, just because it lets the sun shine down on their faces for a few years. At least, I can't say it and believe what I'm saying is in any way rational.

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  17. * after the animal farm quote, i meant to add at the end [next-to-last paragraph]:
    "...this is a logical pretzel. Either God does not want them to experience an eternal hell, when God alone can prevent it, and thus they won't, .: God loves them; or, God does want them to experience an eternal hell, and they will, .: God does not love them."

    It seems that you want to have your cake and eat it too.

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  18. If God chooses who will be its own, and if those it chooses not to be its own will suffer an eternal torment, which is clearly the picture painted in Rom 9, then any "temporary/short term/common" good that God allows/activates/gives to these people before their infinite curse begins is eclipsed entirely by the definition of the eternal/infinite.

    The temporal cannot be compared to the eternal. The finite cannot be relativized to the infinite. It isn't like one day of good compared to a few years of bad [or even a billion] that we're discussing here.


    I agree.

    Again, I deny that God loves the non-elect redemptively or efficaciously. I deny that he wills to save them, and the temporal indeed cannot be compared to the eternal.

    reconciling the idea with 2 Pet 3:9

    I would suggest that you avoid using 2 Peter 3:9 as a prooftext. Just type that text into the Triablogue search engine, and I'm sure each member has spent post after post exegeting this text in the past.

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  19. Daniel,

    Yours is an important question. If we consider God's redemptive love to be that one eternal love which, for lack of a better form of expression, we deem to be "real", then we have to conclude that God only loves His elect in this special way. We must keep in mind that God is not compelled to offer mercy and grace to anyone, even His elect, except by virtue of the fact that He has purposed to do so. God would have been just to condemn the fallen race of Man all together, but He didn't. The fact that God chose to save any is an amazing testimony to His love and mercy. The freedom of God in choosing stikes at the very heart of His sovereignty. Why God has chosen some and not chosen others, we will never know, that information God has kept to Himself. However, we don't know who those elect are, so we preach the gospel to all. As far as it being a logical pretzel, God is an infinite being and we are finite creatures. We cannot understand everything pertaining to God, He cannot be put into a box to be examined and fully understood by our little brains. Therefore, there comes a point in which we have to recognize our limitations and bow before this God. A God by the way, who has revealed Himself to be holy, good, and merciful. All of our intellectual questions are not going to be answered, we're never going to have it all figured out. Faith begins where reason can go no further, if I may say it that way. Believe first and God will give you understanding. But if you're waiting for all of the logical pretzels to be untwisted, you will never believe. I hope my attempt at an answer was of some help to you.....

    --Jon Unyan

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  20. Daniel wrote:
    ---
    By saying that, by letting humans have 80 years of good life [assuming it's true], God shows them love, then reveals his wrath/unleashes his fury/manifests his hate against them with an eternity in hell...
    ---

    First off, I think you have a misunderstanding of hell (not that the typical Christian out there is helping you to avoid this, sadly). I do not believe hell is place where anything happens other than what the sinner wants to happen. In other words, the sinner says, "I hate God. I want Him away. I want to be by myself." And God says, "Okay." He separates Himself from the sinner and the sinner is left alone.

    Of course, the sinner was created to be in fellowship with God. Being separated from God is going to be the greatest agony imaginable. But it is still what the sinner wants to have happen. I believe that theoretically if a sinner were to change his mind and love God, God would welcome him into a relationship with Him even from the pit of hell. However, the depraved man is not actually going to change his mind due to his hatred of God.

    So hell isn't the typical atheistic (and pseudo-Christian) picture of God being a bully and torturing people for the fun of it. God is giving people exactly what they want from Him.

    As to the question of love and hate involved in the above, it's difficult for us to grasp because our experience of hate is primarily sin-based. Our hatred does not tend to be holy hatred very often, and thus we have a fairly universal experience of hatred being evil. So firstly you will have to recognize that there is an aspect of hatred that is righteous.

    Hatred of injustice, for instance, is righteous.

    When a sinner hates God, the sinner acts unjustly toward God. Thus, God is righteous in hating the sinner for his injustice against Him. When God punishes the sinner, His action is not pure hate but includes the aspect of His love of justice too.

    Furthermore, we must realize that God does not love us for our sake, but for His. His love is a selfish love (a justly selfish love since He is God). God's love is also free. God is not required to love anyone, for no one has any intrinsic aspect that deserves love. Therefore, God is certainly within His rights to love various people in various degrees.

    If God loves someone enough to create them, enough to let them live in His universe, enough to show them a glimpse of His glory and they return the favor by hating Him, then God is most certainly just in enacting His hatred toward that person, even though He has some level of love for him too. Likewise, if God loves someone else more than the first person so that He ensures they will love Him in return, He is perfectly just in withholding His hatred they deserve to instead pour it out on His Son.

    In such a way, it doesn't "cheapen" love. It shows God's love for His Elect to be of the highest value. God does love all to some extent, but He loves His Elect with a special, greater love that is beyond comparison.

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  21. Calvindude,

    Let me respectfully disagree with you, brother, about your view of hell.

    You said: I do not believe hell is a place where anything happens but what the sinner wants to happen. In other words, the sinner says, "I hate God. I want Him away. I want to be by myself." And God says, "Okay." He separates Himself from the sinner and the sinner is left alone.

    Me: You've got to have chapter and verse for this assertion brother. This may be C.S.Lewis' view on hell, but it certainly isn't the Bible's. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, not because of God's abscence, but because of His awful prescence in wrath.

    You said:

    Being separated from God is going to be the greatest agony imaginable.

    Me: Being separated from God's mercy and grace certainly is, but hell is not a place where God is absent. God rules in hell as well, is there any place in all the heavens, the earth, and hell beneath where God does not rule? Satan doesn't rule in hell, this is not Milton's Paradise Lost. In hell the lost sinner will only know God's just wrath for his sins, he will know none of the mercy and grace and benevolence of God that he took for granted in this life.

    You said: So hell isn't the typical atheistic (and pseudo-Christian) picture of God being a bully and torturing people for the fun of it. God is giving people exactly what they want from Him.

    Me: The lost are tormented in hell by a just God, because they have sinned against an infinite and holy Being. The wages of sin is death. God is not giving people exactly what they want. Do you think they really want His wrath, the torment, the eternal punishment, the fire and the darkness? This is the language of Scripture regarding hell, brother. May I humbly suggest you give more careful study to this doctrine...

    I haven't addressed everything I could have because this is not really the forum for an extended discussion, and it's off the topic anyway, but I felt compelled to make these absolutely important points. Daniel's question was a fair one. The bottom line is that God has set His redemptive love upon His elect. He has set aside a people for Himself, and though He is gracious, benevolent, and kind to both the wicked and the righteous in this life, though He has bestowed common grace to this world, He has purposed to love those He has chosen with an everlasting love. Thankfully we can say that they are (the elect) more than the sand on the seashore, and more than the stars in the heavens.

    Thanks for your consideration, brother. God bless......

    --Jon Unyan

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  22. Joe,

    2 Thess 1:9
    These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, *away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power*...

    There's chapter and verse to show that God is not present in Hell. That's part of the reason it's so tormentful. It's not like God has to be present in Hell - He can certainly set the lake of fire in motion and let it ride for eternity.

    --The wages of sin is death. God is not giving people exactly what they want. Do you think they really want His wrath, the torment, the eternal punishment, the fire and the darkness?
    >>Yes, they do want it, b/c they willingly choose the path that leads to it, and they know they are doing so. God has made it clear to them (Rom 1:18-26).
    Just some thoughts.

    --ALAN

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  23. Calvindude,

    Furthermore, we must realize that God does not love us for our sake, but for His. His love is a selfish love (a justly selfish love since He is God)....In such a way, it doesn't "cheapen" love. It shows God's love for His Elect to be of the highest value. God does love all to some extent, but He loves His Elect with a special, greater love that is beyond comparison.

    Do we agree that the following definition best captures the "love" that we describe in talking about agape?
    Webster's: love -- 4 a : unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another: as (1) : the fatherly concern of God for humankind (2) : brotherly concern for others b : a person's adoration of God

    If your definition of love is NOT "doing what is good for the other, irrespective of its effect upon self, possibly even at your own expense", then we do, indeed need to come to the same understanding of "love".

    If we agree on the definition, then please reconcile for me 4a with your statement that God loves us "for His sake" and yet that this does not "cheapen love"

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  24. David wrote that God was even present in Sheol. Admittedly, this is not "hades".

    Regarding the difference, hopefully you will all admit that the Greek teaching of "hell" is not well founded in ancient Hebrew writings. What do you make of the fact that the underworld of the Hebrews, distinct from the Greek teaching of Helel and other gods/goddesses, was not a place of torment.

    Considering the Maccabean revolt and the corruption of the Hebrew teachings on everything from the resurrection to the afterlife in the OT by Greek influence, hopefully you can honestly admit that much of the modern doctrine of hell was an import from the Greeks, just as most of our modern philosophy is. The Platonic notion of an immortal soul is not clearly echoed in much of the OT. The Hebrews were largely a people who believed that justice came in this life, and I can support this with numerous Biblical passages and teachings. Reaping what you sowed, to them, was a given. What you may disagree with me on is that they nearly always considered both a part of this life, and not the next. To them, the wicked would wither like grass, and Job would be recompensed, and those laying a trap would fall into their own...etc etc.

    The translation of sheol into hades, in the 2 BCE is largely to blame for the teaching of hell, which was adopted by Jesus et al. Of course, you'll disagree about that.

    I think Unyan sounds like Calvin -- not only unafraid, but, even, quite willing, to embrace the reality of hell and to use it to contrast the love and wrath of God.

    Jon, I would ask you, in response to, "We cannot understand everything pertaining to God, He cannot be put into a box to be examined and fully understood by our little brains."...can we love that which we do not even understand? What is it to love ones wife? It is to know her in every way, to have no secrets, to be intimate. The idea of intimacy with your God is a joke. It only communicates with us through the dusty parchments long disputed, and none of us have what those recorded therein supposedly got -- to experience this God firsthand.

    How can you/anyone claim to love that which you cannot know? Why should you trust? Is skepticism not the only rational position for such doctrines as hell? Infinite punishment for finite sin? Eternal unforgiveness for termporal wrongs?

    Your god asks us to forgive our enemies, but refuses to forgive its own. Your god's justice and wrath are more important than its mercy and grace, because no reasonable Christian thinks that the majority of people who have lived have become Christians. Your God's indolence in returning to earth, and in making itself known to all, [despite your faith in Rom 1 that it already has] have costed countless more souls a supposed eternity in hell. Why believe this?

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  25. Hi Alan,

    Thanks for your comments, note the verse "away from the presence of the Lord and the glory of His power." As I said, God will be present in wrath. The verse you quoted is in reference to His mercy, benevolence, etc. The answer to the catechism question, "Where is God?" is "God is everywhere." That's the simple truth. Has God set down His right to rule in hell? You appear to have a Deist view of hell where God just sets it in motion and leaves. That is wrong, you're misapplying that verse brother. See verse 8 of Thess. 1, the Lord will be dealing out retribution (actively doing so)to those who don't know God and do not obey the gospel. God will be measuring out wrath to each one according to their deeds in the body, the punishment will be just and precise to the individual sinner. Does God ruling in hell offend you? It shouldn't.

    Why does the Lord exhort us to pluck out the right eye and cut off the right hand if it causes us to stumble? Because the result will be condemnation to hell. Do you think the Lord had in mind that you should fear hell because God isn't there? No, you should fear Him who has power over both body and soul.

    Finally, do sinners really want hell? No, they don't. They do not have some sick desire for punishment and torment. That is an odd assertion. No man wants to go to hell, in fact many do not believe they are going there or that it even exists. They are blinded by their sin.

    I hope what I have said has been helpful....

    --Jon Unyan

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  26. Jon said:
    ---
    You've got to have chapter and verse for this assertion brother.
    ---

    Indeed you are correct :-) In addition to the verse Rhology quoted, I would add:

    "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels'" (Matthew 25:41).

    I also base my thoughts (which here I acknowledge are based on an inference rather than direct proof) on the fact that Hell is described as a place of "darkness" (Matthew 8:12, 22:13, 25:30) while God is described as "light" (John 12:46).

    I think where you may disagree is in the notion that God's wrath being poured out means God must be present. Of course in a sense, God is always going to be present for He is omnipresent. However, I think that God's wrath is found in His removal of Himself from any sort of relationship with the sinner.

    I don't think my view results in a "rosy" view of Hell or anything like that. The fact is that man is made in the image of God. He was made for a relationship with his God. Whenever a man does not worship God, he is going against his very created being.

    But the natural man hates God. He refuses to worship God, even though to do so is to harm himself because it goes against his created being. In Hell, the natural man is completely free from God's common grace that restrains him from being as evil as he could be. That man, in Hell, hates God to the utter extent that he can hate God.

    Keep that in mind when we look at a question you asked:

    ---
    Do you think they really want His wrath, the torment, the eternal punishment, the fire and the darkness?
    ---

    Yes, they want all of that rather than to submit to God. In fact, it is impossible for the depraved man to experience anything other than torment without God having to do anything but exist. Man hates God so much that even if he were put into the presense of God and given all the benefits of heaven, he would still rage against Him. He would find no peace, for his eternal life is nothing but the utter frustration of hating God and being unable to do anything about it.

    Anyway, those are my thoughts :-) I'm more than happy to discuss any disagreements you still may have!

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  27. Daniel,

    I would say first that love between people is a different kind of love than God's love. Love between people is a mere copy or shadow of God's love.

    Secondly, Webster's definition of love is not the Bible's definition of love.

    I have more to say on that later, but unfortunately now I have to get to work :-D

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  28. With regard to the above reference to Thess. above, I meant 2 Thess. 1:8...

    Hi Daniel,

    I wrote my previous comments before yours came up. My short response to your demarcation of Hebrew and Greek thought about the issues you raised is that the NT sheds light on the OT. There are many concepts in the OT that were in shadow, as it were. Many things that we had in seed form in the OT were brought to fullness in the New. That is God's progressive revelation through time, utilizing the various aspects of those peoples and cultures that He chose in revealing Himself in the Scriptures.

    God does judge sin in this life, as well as in eternity. Sin produces it's fruits here and now, for the way of the transgressor is hard in this world. Those temporal judgments are foreshadowing the eternal judgment yet to come. God has offered through His Son to deliver sinners from both.

    As far as your question, I didn't claim that one cannot know God. I stated that one cannot understand everything about God. As I explained, He is infinite. We can know God, that is a glorious reality. God has spoken, He has communicated what He is like, who He is, what His will is for us. He is not silent. In fact, He sent His Son to communicate to us Man to man, as it were. As far as the wife analogy, do you know everything there is to know about your wife? Every thought? Well, even if you did the analogy breaks down because your wife is not an infinite Being. You can know God, you just cannot know everything about Him. Christians will spend an eternity in heaven learning more about God. We cannot even fully understand how the brain works, or the world we live in, or the universe we've been placed in. How is it that you expect to know everything there is to know about an infinite God?

    Intimacy with God is no joke. By His grace I have an intimate relationship with Him, every Christian to some degree does. God speaks to me in His word, I pray to Him through His Son and He hears my prayers for His sake. Why is this so hard for you to accept? Is God my buddy? No. Is He my Father in heaven? Yes. The dusty parchments you assail are precious to me. And I don't believe skepticism to be rational at all, really (I'm not trying to offend you here).

    God is above us and is not a man that we should apply all these analogies to Him, such as the fact He commands us to forgive our enemies but He doesn't forgive His. The fact is God does forgive some of them, He has extended the gospel to every sinner. You do not perish for want of a Savior. You reject that Savior, but you can even today come to Him. Don't let all the issues regarding election, predestination, etc. keep you from coming to Him!

    Why do I believe these things? Because they're true. I don't have some fatalistic belief in hell and stoically embrace it. I have compassion in my heart to see every lost sinner saved, and it grieves me to see the lost reject Christ. Hell is a fact. I'm not going to soften the Bible's definition of it to appease modern sensibilities or the spirit of this age. But that doesn't mean I'm an emotionless robot about it. On the contrary, it stirs up my heart to love the lost even more, to have compassion for the suffering of others, and to stand in awe of the great God who sent His only begotten Son to die on the cross to save sinners...

    Thanks for your consideration...

    --Jon Unyan

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  29. Calvindude,

    Well, brother, we'll just have to disagree about this issue. I am not convinced by your argument from Scripture though. The verses you quoted don't change what I said. If you'd like to discuss it further, you can e-mail me, jonunyan@aol.com, but I'm a father of 3 (almost 4) little ones so my time will be limited! God bless...

    --Jon Unyan

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  30. Jon,

    My short response to your demarcation of Hebrew and Greek thought about the issues you raised is that the NT sheds light on the OT. There are many concepts in the OT that were in shadow, as it were. Many things that we had in seed form in the OT were brought to fullness in the New. That is God's progressive revelation through time, utilizing the various aspects of those peoples and cultures that He chose in revealing Himself in the Scriptures.

    This is one interpretation, of course, progressive revelation. Given the fact that you believe the NT to be inspired/authoritative, I knew beforehand that this interpretation would be the one that you took.

    This still doesn't answer a question of mine -- was hell originally a Greek idea, or a Hebrew one?

    Why would God reveal only a nebulous concept of the afterlife to his own people, which would not be clarified for hundreds of years, and when it did get clarified, it came from the Gentiles?

    Is there a good reason to see your interpretation as more valid than that the original verses on Sheol are valid, which is what modern-day Jews still hold to: that there is no such thing as "hell"?

    Obviously, this would imply that Jesus, Paul, et al, were "fooled" by this corruption of the original teachings -- the heresy of hell. And this is not an acceptable option to you. I suppose I am asking for the evidence that hell is not a pagan idea that infiltrated Christian thought while it was still Jewish thought...

    How would you argue this with a Rabbi?

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  31. Hi Daniel,

    To answer your question, hell was originally a divine idea. I'm not trying to be cute, I understand what you're really asking. As to whether it's Greek or Hebrew, I say it is in seed form in the OT (see the book of Daniel, for example), but the Jews did not understand it correctly.

    As far as your second question, I don't know all the reasons why God revealed this in only a dim fashion to His people in the OT (that is one of those things He has kept to Himself, right?), but part of it is because of the nature of progressive revelation, and part of it is that when Christ came God extended the offer of redemption to Jews and Gentiles alike as spoken of in Genesis 3 by God Himself.

    Lastly, as far as your question about the evidence of hell not being a pagan idea that infiltrated Christian thought while it was still Jewish thought...I readily confess that Steve is much more qualified to answer that question than I am. But your approach to the answer is one that throws God out of the picture. The accumulation of some ideas influencing other ideas, the result being that we now have this idea about hell. That's how we make sense of things when we don't rightly consider that God actively works in history. Whatever circumstances were involved, God revealed these things in the Scriptures.

    How would I argue this with a Rabbi? I would have to consider that one, Daniel. But the truth is the same, regardless of what clothes we dress it up in. I appreciate your questions, though I admit I probably haven't answered them to your satisfaction....

    May God bless you, Dan

    --Jon Unyan

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  32. I am honestly curious about what anyone has to say regarding the origin of the "hell" concept.

    Steve? Anybody?

    I can't really find much stuff on it from Christian apologists. If you can point me to a link which admits the Greek origin of the concept, written by a Christian apologist, I would love to read it.

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