“What happens after death?”

by Kim on July 10, 2006

Last week I buried a woman in her eighties; later this week I will bury a child-to-be of twenty-one weeks.

A few weeks ago I posted a hymn called “Death comes in many forms”, and promised its companion-piece would soon follow. Here it is:

What happens after death?
Will humans live again?
Is nothingness the destiny
that marks our final end?

Does heaven lie above?
Is hell a pit of fire?
Do all get just what they deserve
or what their hearts desire?

What happens after death?
Of course we live again!
From nothingness God spoke his word
of life - and life’s our end.

Yes, heaven is a place,
but not a place above,
it’s found in God’s geography,
located in his love.

And, yes, there is a hell,
a state of black despair,
but Christ assumes what we deserve,
so not a soul is there.

Our hope is Christ alone,
divine humanity,
who lived and died and lives again
for all eternity.

(Tune: e.g. Gildas)

Kim Fabricius

{ 59 comments… read them below or add one }

1

sally 07.10.06 at 7:20 pm

I lost my pre term baaby of 30 weeks to a fever- she died in the womb- and we were given a divine assurance at her birth-( it had to be a natural delivery that all was well)- she rested in Gods arms- this assurance brought us through two terrible ICU experiences with our son… there is more to life than this…

2

Richard 07.10.06 at 8:21 pm

A fine hymn and an excellent choice of tune!

Could I press you to ‘unpack’ the penultimate verse, please? It deserves it…

3

DH 07.10.06 at 9:22 pm

In light of John 3:36 or in Revelations with regard to those have not had their names written in the Lambs Book of Life. I disagree with this “so not a soul is there.” Also in light of 1 Thes. 4:16-18 Idisagree with this “Yes, heaven is a place,
but not a place above”.

I will say that Christ made it available to all andit isup to us to accept or reject the free gift made available to all. “…If you deny Me I will deny you before My Father in heaven.”

For the woman who had a 30 day old who died. It is great to know that it is in heaven in thatit hadn’t reached theage of accountability.

May all of us who have heard the Gospel receive rather than reject the Salvation by responding to the call andreceiving what is available to all.

4

Kim 07.10.06 at 9:48 pm

Why thank you, Richard.

On the penultimate verse, I follow Karl Barth, and particularly Hans Urs von Balthasar, that hell is not about what God will do to us in the future but about what human beings do to themselves all the time, viz., creating black holes of despair in killing fields, torture chambers, flesh furnaces, and vast wildernesses of starvation and disease, etc. - and, crucially, that each of us is as capable of contributing to these horrendous evils as the next man (alas, it usually is a “man”). In a word, I believe in hell because I know that I am capable of choosing it.

HOWEVER, on my view, the last word lies not with my/our wicked abuse of freedom but with God’s triumphant grace. The last word lies with Christ’s own experience of damnation on Good Friday, his Harrowing of Hell on Holy Saturday, and his Easter Sunday Rising that confirms the general evacuation. Therefore it must be the Christian prayer and hope that hell is empty, and that all creation has a place in “the geography of God’s love”.

5

Eugene McKinnon 07.10.06 at 10:18 pm

How then can you explain Revelation’s account that says the one’s not written in the Book of Life will be cast into hell? How can you account for even Jesus’ parable on Hell as the place for goats? How can you account for the multitude of times in which Jesus mentioned hell as a place of punishment?

Eugene McKinnon

6

Richard 07.10.06 at 10:25 pm

Well put.

The main point is where you centre your faith — in ourselves or in God. DH has spoken for many Christians, but it always troubles me that this is a view which centres faith ultimately in ourselves: we’re saved if *we* make the right choice. A faith focussed entirely on God, on his grace and faithfulness, is harder to proclaim because we like to take some credit for ourselves, I reckon.

What would you say if I were to ‘accuse’ you of being a universalist Kim?

7

Kim 07.11.06 at 2:49 am

I would take it as a compliment, Richard!

Of course I would have to answer Eugene’s biblical points, which equally of course can be done - e.g. by reminding folk that Revelation is a theo-poetic text deploying apocalyptic imagery which, in fact, deconstructs itself (as in its dismantling of the symbolism of violence it so widely deploys); by pointing out that the parable of the Sheep and the Goats is just that - a parable, a parable directed at the self-righteous cocksure of their own salvation to the exclusion of others, a parable of subversion and surprise, not a treatise on the last things; and by conceding that, yes, it is Jesus himself who talks most in the NT about hell, but using imagery such as fire, which some scholars (including that icon of evangelicalism John Stott) suggest is to be taken as either purgative or annihilationist, but not punitive.

There is also the psychological and rhetorical point that threats of exclusion are often foils, the intention and point of which is to turn us away from entertaining their hypothetical fulfilment.

Above all, however, I would want to juxtapose other biblical passages that suggest an apokatastasis panton (e.g. Romans 5:18, 11:32; Ephesians 1:10; Colossians 1:20), and ask (with Origin and Gregory of Nyssa, Barth and von Balthasar) whether these glorious verses of light don’t occupy centre stage and send the others - mere matchsticks - to the wings.

It would also need to be made clear that behind universalism lies a God, not who is too “nice” to damn anyone (the liberal mistake), but who takes justice so seriously that he takes damnation on himself in his crucified Son to bear it away from humanity (the evangelical insight). So we are talking here in terms of a strong orthodoxy that valorises a God’s grace,
God’s cross, and God’s freedom, all embraced within a robust trinitarian framework and a doctrine of election that eschews double-predestination as insufficiently Chrsitocentric. Of course one has to allow for the possibility of our rejection of grace, i.e. self-damnation, but more still does one have to privilege God’s power to outsmart our puny rejection with his mighty acceptance.

For those who stand with Eugene - which is a position I respect and take seriously and continue to wrestle with - let me conclude with Barth:

“There is no good reason why we should forbid ourselves, or be forbidden, openness to the possibility that in the reality of God and man in Jesus Christ there is contained . . . the supremely unexpected withdrawal of the final threat. . . If for a moment we accept the unfalsified truth of the reality which even now so forcefully limits the perverted human situation, does it not point plainly in the direction of a truly eternal divine patience and deliverance and therefore of a . . . universal reconciliation? If we are forbidden to count on this . . . we are surely commanded the more definitely to hope and pray for this.”

“This much is certain, that we have no theological right to set any sort of limits to the loving-kindness of God which has appeared in Jesus Christ. Our theological duty is to see and understand it as being still greater than we had seen before.” “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. . . For the Lord will not reject for ever” (Lamentations 3:22-23, 31).

8

Ben Myers 07.11.06 at 5:39 am

Thanks for this, Kim. I’ve posted on this at http://faith-theology.blogspot.com/2006/07/and-yes-there-is-hell.html

9

DH 07.11.06 at 1:42 pm

We can say God did it all because without Christ we all deserve death. When I state how I became a Christian it isn’t myself taking glory for what I have done like you say but rejoicing what God has made available to all and that we entered into by Faith. I don’t understand this in light of all of the passages that show Jesus desiring a choice toward Him. “If We confess our sins He is faithful andjust to forgive us our sins…” or “If YOU confesswith your mouth the LJ and Believe in your heart that God has risen from the dead you shall be saved.” “If you deny Me I will deny you before My Father in heaven.” and John 3:36 “36Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”

10

DH 07.11.06 at 1:48 pm

Even John 3:16 makes the statement “….whosoever Believeth in Him…”

The concept of ALL going to heaven or not going to hell just can’t be substantiated in Scripture.

“icon of evangelicalism John Stott” only within certain groups I wouldn’t put him in the “icon” category.

11

Kim 07.11.06 at 2:23 pm

DH,

The day will come when you discuss theology with an imam and an atheist at a cafe in heaven!

12

Derek 07.11.06 at 3:21 pm

Kim,

Can you explain the difference between your ideas and Balthasar’s (who of course held to all Catholic dogma regarding hell and the afterlife).

I love his idea that we should fervently hope and pray that all soul’s will attain heaven (it helps me stand in solidarity with all men and women), but we cannot know it as an article of faith. You seem to be a bit more triumphalist in your conviction that such will definitely be the case.

I am completely in agreement with Balthasar, but is seems presumptuous to advocate more.

Regards

13

Kim 07.11.06 at 5:24 pm

Hi Derek,

Thanks for your comment. In a dogmatic context you are quite right. But remember, this is a hymn, and its ideal context a funeral. At funerals, the minister will often say thinks like “Joe Bloggs now rests in peace,” or “Jane Bloggs now lives with God.” How does he know? His words are not so much declarative as expressive of the hope of eternal life - that, in speech-act theory (John L. Austin), is its illocutionary force (what it does) and perlocutionary force (if and as it achieves the effect of giving mourners hope). So too with this verse. And if it seems “presumptuous”, take it as a blithe presumption; or “triumphalist”, take it as the triumph of grace.

14

DH 07.11.06 at 6:23 pm

“The day will come when you discuss theology with an imam and an atheist at a cafe in heaven!”

Maybe onewho became an ex-atheist while living or an ex-imam while living but not afterwards. (”It is appointed unto man once to dieandafter this thejudgement.”) Otherwise there is no basis in Scripture for what you are saying in light of the many passages.

This seems straight forward to me andit isn’t myself saying it but Jesus:

“36Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”
So based on this within the context of John 3 you can see that your conclusion doesn’t appear to be the case unless you are referring to “ex, etc.” while the were physically alive.

Believe you me the thiefs on the cross show that I’m not exculsive in any way but understand what Jesus desires and how that standing is understood.

Derek, I really appreciate your post it really brings us together. For me I pray that all will accept Christ as their Savior giving everything (heart, soul and mind) to Christ and thereby obtainning eternal life. Is that presumptious to think so many people accepted Christ on their deathbed like the thief on the cross or accepted Christ without being on their deathbed like the Apostles? yes but I too pray this as well. John 1:12-13 “12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

15

byron 07.12.06 at 1:13 am

Kim, thanks for the hymn and for standing up under pressure to answer for it. I’m afraid at the moment I’m still with Derek (and vonB/Barth) on this being a hope and a prayer, not an article of faith. That said, I’d love the Barth reference!

16

Eugene McKinnon 07.12.06 at 3:43 am

I have read Gregory of Nyssa and Origen. They saw it as purgative and even saw the devil as being capable of redemption. While it would be nice if all were saved, would we be happy to have Hitler or Dahmer or Stalin in heaven with us after all they did?

Somewhere justice needs to be served to those who make a mockery of God’s law and the people of God, hence Revelation has hell. But I do like the point you made on the sheep and goats. Thank you.

Eugene

17

Kim 07.12.06 at 4:15 am

Hi Eugene,

You’ll be interested to know that even the great Miroslav Volf, the theologian of forgiveness, embrace and the practice of non-violence, argues that there is a legitimate eschatological divine violence, the violence of God’s final judgement. Arguing against Moltmann’s Barthian belief in the restitution of all things, he suggests: “The only way to avoid divine violence toward those who refuse to be changed nonviolently is to stipulate in advance that no one will refuse to be changed by the lure of God’s love. Though those who have been touched by God’s love ought to hope for a universal nonrefusal, if they are not blind to the human condition they will be hesitant to count on. Hence the possibility of the final condemnation.”

Personally, I find Volf’s eschatology inconsistent with the thrust of his theological ethics, and God appears as a rather schizophrenic deus ex machina. And his docrine of the trinity is a disaster area, where even as all trace of violence is removed from the Son, it is relocated it in the Father!

Nevertheless, Volf applauds Moltmann for his “characteristic precision and grace”, quotes him as saying “There is no particularism in principle, and there is no automatic universalism”, and sums up his position as “I am not an universalist, but God may be.” :)

18

Pam 07.12.06 at 10:41 am

While it would be nice if all were saved, would we be happy to have Hitler or Dahmer or Stalin in heaven with us after all they did?

Somewhere justice needs to be served to those who make a mockery of God’s law and the people of God, hence Revelation has hell.

Perhaps I’m too pendantic (someone did once enquire whether I was OCD when I made this point before) but it seems to me that it’s simply inconsistent to say that it’s OK to do violence to Hitler, Dahmer or Stalin but that it was not OK for them to do violence.

I don’t buy that “violence is OK in the cause of The Good” although I will buy “violence is sometimes regrettably necessary in the cause of The Good”. I can’t remember offhand, but wasn’t it Volf quoting Plantinga who pointed out that the problem with a lot of Christians is that we fail to truly live out the doctrine of “forgiven sinners”. So ethically, we want to say that violence in defense of what is right is “Ethically Good” rather than regrettably necessary. We can’t stand the idea that we may not be behaving perfectly. I think it’s a particular ethical problem with Protestants when we take the doctrine of “all sins are equal in the eyes of God” and apply it to the realm of ethics.

I do not believe in a hell where “God creates and sustains a place of torment for all whom he has damned” (paraphrase of Garry Williams) I believe in a C S Lewis sort of hell - a ‘place’ where we freely choose to remain outside the presence of God. I believe in this place not because I think that “justice must be served” but because I believe in free will. If, in the next life, it turns out that free will exists but that no-one can ultimately resist the love of God, then I shall be positively surprised and further marvel and the generosity of God’s grace.

One last comment. I think that God’s justice is more concerned with restitution for the person who was wronged than for non-productive violent punishment of the person who perpetrated the wrong. Perhaps God could find a way for Hilter and Dahmer and Stalin to work for an even more glorious Kingdom.

19

Guy Davies 07.12.06 at 12:14 pm

Hi Kim,

I’m afraid that your hymn may lull unbelievers into a false sense of security. What if your eschatological optimism is unfounded? Where is the warning note of the New Testament? “Repent and believe the gospel!”

If I was burying an unbeliever, I could not presume to assure the congregation that the departed was in heaven. I would not tell them that he was in hell either. How do I know what passed between that person and God in the moments before death? My task is to thank God for the life of the departed and to show the living that they may hope in the Lord and experience his grace and salvation.

See here for a discussion of the biblical basis of universalism:

http://exiledpreacher.blogspot.com/2006/07/universalism.html

20

DH 07.12.06 at 2:26 pm

That is why John 3:36 shows that it isn’t God who sends people to hell but people choose hell where there is torment. Again there are no post-death conversions because “It is appointed unto man onceto die and after this the judgement.”

21

Richard 07.12.06 at 3:42 pm

DH — I really appreciate your commitment to scripture. I do. But I’d like you to consider whether you think our understanding of the Bible really requires ‘killer texts’ that unassailably resolve a question. I’m not saying that there isn’t a scriptural case to answer here. Nor am I denying that it is scripture which has the central role in resolving doctrinal issues. But rolling out a proof text and stepping back just won’t do.

22

DH 07.12.06 at 4:15 pm

I haven’t rolled out proof text’s and left it there. I have looked at these from the standpoint of Scripture in light of Scripture and I see no basis for the type of redemption that you conclude. It isn’t prooftext but Scripture in light of Scripture for proper context that shows how True it is. I could have brought up more passages in thesame context of John 3:36 that confirm what I said earlier. People liketo throw out the term prooftext to anyone who tries to show a Scriptural basis for a Truth and I feel it does a disservice to the Bodywhen the Bible is very clear in John 3, Romans, Revelations, etc. of the nature of redemption and judgement and justice.

If you read my posts I wasn’t rolling out a prooftext andleaving it alone. It was Scripture in light of Scripture with proper context. I knowmany who socall prooftext John 3:16. It is my understanding that it wouldn’t be “prooftexting” to point out John 3:36 since is part of the entire response to Nicodemous and so on for the other passages I referenced.

23

Tim 07.12.06 at 4:20 pm

Pam, I think I’m in basic agreement with what you are saying, but I’m a bit doubtful if we can make it a universal principle that everything that is inappropriate for human beings is also inappropriate for God. After all, in the passage in Romans 12 where Paul tells us not to take revenge, he does so on the basis of God’s claim that ‘vengeance is mine, I will repay’. The line of reasoning seems to be, not that vengeance is wrong per se, but that it is not the prerogative of human beings to exercise it - presumably because our knowledge is limited and we can’t be trusted to make decisions that are 100% in keeping with the claims of justice and love.

I’m not entirely comfortable with this line of reasoning I’m taking, but it does seem to me to be present in the biblical texts themselves.

24

Pam 07.12.06 at 5:08 pm

I’m not entirely comfortable with this line of reasoning I’m taking, but it does seem to me to be present in the biblical texts themselves.

Well, I guess the question then is what do we do with the biblical texts.

How do we square the idea of God Incarnate voluntarily submitting himself to human violence for our redemption if God’s primary message to us is “I’m going to get you if you don’t toe the line”. And, if we don’t believe that’s God’s message, of what use is hell other than to make us feel good that “the bad guy” is also hurting? What’s particularly troublesome to me about this form of alleged “justice” is that people seem very invested in “the bad guy” being hurt and very uninvested in “the victim” being restored to wholeness.

Sorry, I know this is not a micro-biblical argument that seeks to make your reading of Romans 12 consistent with my approach; I’d argue it’s biblical in the sense that the biblical narrative tells us of a Jesus whose resistance to “The powers” was mainly peaceful - although not necessarily passive or “milque-toast” (the other reason I think we tend to go for the violent option).

25

Richard 07.12.06 at 5:39 pm

Sorry, DH, but I know profftexting when I see it. Again there are no post-death conversions because “It is appointed unto man onceto die and after this the judgement” is a pretty clear example. If it walks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck — it’s a duck.

26

Richard 07.12.06 at 5:43 pm

For another take on hell, have a look here

27

DH 07.12.06 at 8:21 pm

While I don’t necessarily believe that hell is in the center of the earth I believe that it is a place of torment but that it isn’t God that sends people to it but people by their rejection of Christ while on earth.

Again I see no where in Scripture for post-death redemption as you describe. So the Scripture in context with that fact shows that it isn’t prooftexting.

I’ll repeat the end of my last post:

“It was Scripture in light of Scripture with proper context. I knowmany who socall prooftext John 3:16. It is my understanding that it wouldn’t be “prooftexting” to point out John 3:36 since is part of the entire response to Nicodemous and so on for the other passages I referenced.”

Every reference to post-death or universalism in redemption the Scriptures around those passages show a clarification(John 3:36) or even within John 3:16 “………Believeth in Him………..”

To me the theme of Scripture is that the Gospel is universally available to all but can only be entered into by Faith in Christ and giving ones heart, soul and mind to Christ.

28

byron 07.13.06 at 12:35 am

Kim: Sorry to repeat, but I’d love the Barth reference if you have it. :-)

29

Richard 07.13.06 at 9:11 am

“While I don’t necessarily believe that hell is in the center of the earth…”

That’s a comfort! ;)

30

Kim 07.13.06 at 10:41 am

Sorry for the delay, Byron - the Barth references:

The first - “There is no good reason . . .” - comes from CD IV/3, p. 478.

The second - “This much is certain . . .” - comes from The Humanity of God (1961), p. 60.

31

DH 07.13.06 at 2:07 pm

Sorry but “Every reference to post-death” should be removed from my previous post because there are no references to post-death redemption in Scripture. Sorry for the confusion.

Richard, I’m glad you are conforted by my stance on “the center of the earth..” It is such an encouragement to me for you to say you appreciate my commitment to Scripture. I hope you can see from my post that there is a hermenuetic (spelling help?) rather than prooftexting to my stance on these issues and can appreciate the consistency therein.

32

Beth 07.13.06 at 7:04 pm

Pam - I like your point about Hitler and his gang.

My question to those who trot out this predictable line in disagreement with the universality of heaven is, “what exactly do you think we are when we go to heaven?” Do you honestly think that you’re going to get to heaven and see Hitler sitting there with his feet up, gloating over his past deeds? Stalin maybe sitting on a bar stool beside him, downing vodkas and laughing at the angry Cossacks in the next room? And Dahmer wandering around trying to find all his victims, just to scare the bejeezus out of them?

You think you’ll be like you were on earth when you get to heaven? No chance! You think hatred, anxiety, anger, lust, jealousy, possessiveness, attachment have a place there? Then why would you care about Hitler or Stalin or Dahmer? If they are in heaven, it will be because they have been saved and transfigured and healed by God; they will not be evil men, because there is no evil in heaven, and neither are there men.

33

DH 07.13.06 at 7:19 pm

Beth, unless they were saved on their deathbed by accepting Christas their Savior, they will not be in heaven in the first place.

I totally agree with you that those who are in heaven, those who have accepted Christ as their Savior, are those who will have Glorified bodies and heaven will be a place as you describe with no sin in thought, word or deed and with unspeakable joy and with no sorrow. Also, the most two most important things are seeing Jesus face to face “…as HE is.” and hearing Him say “well done thou good and Faithful servant.”

P.S.: One clarification needed what do you mean by this? “and neither are there men.”

34

Tim 07.13.06 at 9:44 pm

Um - don’t forget we won’t be in heaven for long…

35

Beth 07.13.06 at 10:40 pm

Why do you make physical death into this great big cut-off point? The Bible is so often metaphorical - who’s to say that the deathbed is really the be-all and end-all?

“Neither are there men” - well, we’re not going to have genders in heaven, I guess…

36

byron 07.13.06 at 11:31 pm

Thanks for the references Kim!

Beth: we’re not going to have genders in heaven, I guess
Could you could expand on this? Are you thinking ‘no marriage or giving in marriage’ (Matt 22.30)?

Tim: Um - don’t forget we won’t be in heaven for long…
Could you expand too? Are you thinking heaven as intermediate state and earthly resurrection as ultimate hope?

37

Tim 07.14.06 at 7:06 am

Byron, that’s exactly what I’m thinking. It always annoys me when Christians talk exactly like Platonists!

38

Beth 07.14.06 at 9:51 am

No, byron, I’m thinking more that our ideas of what life will be like after death are limited to what life is like before death. It seems to me that we can’t even conceive of what our selves will be after death, but it’s unlikely that we will have such mortal and relatively useless characteristics as gender, sexuality, that kind of thing.

39

David 07.14.06 at 2:29 pm

I am sad that it took so long for me to get into this discussion. Of course I side with Kim on every point, so I feel the need to weigh in here.

DH, as much as you like to toss out proof texts in favor of your position, you have not thought it through. By making OUR faith and OUR belief the necessary prerequisite for salvation, you have created an anthropocentric soteriology, one that locates the sine qua non of eternal life in the individual human person. In other words, contrary to the Reformers, you have made faith a work necessary for salvation. I will grant that there are passages in the NT that point in this direction, but a robust theology cannot sustain such a position. What you end up advocating is semi-Pelagianism or some version of it. Our faith is the work that earns God’s favor. This is a heresy greater than the church’s (unfortunate) condemnation of universalism.

There are only two positions capable of explaining the person and work of Christ: (1) limited atonement, and (2) universalism. Semi-Pelagianism is the faith of most evangelicals in America, but such a doctrine must be condemned. Christ is the center and basis for all things: election, creation, reconciliation, and redemption. In him all things cohere, and without him nothing is made that has been made (including the re-making of human persons in the imago dei). Unless you wish to go with the limited atonement — and thereby deny that Christ assumed humanity qua humanity — you must assert that God’s self-offering in Jesus Christ atoned for the sins of all persons.

Universalism flies in the face of all notions of human justice. The reality that Hitler, Pol Pot, and Stalin will worship the Lord for eternity — “every knee shall bend, in heaven and on earth” — is part of what makes God’s justice so mysterious and glorious. God judged the sins of all of us (since we are all the “worst of sinners”) in Jesus Christ. None of us deserves to be in the presence of the Lord. Our faith is nothing to a holy God. We are entirely thrust upon God’s mercy and grace, a mercy that judges and a grace that overpowers all opposition. That is the essence and heart of the gospel. There can be no other word after this.

We are left with these questions: Will sin, rather than God’s grace, have the last word in the eschaton? Is sin and judgment more universal than God’s abounding grace? Is the extent of the fall more universal than the extent of Christ’s atoning life, death, and resurrection?

If yes, then we have placed more value in our own lives and actions, and we have greatly devalued the life and work of our gracious triune God, who came to this world precisely to do what our faith and good deeds could never accomplish. Praise God!

40

Kim 07.14.06 at 3:09 pm

David - Bingo!

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DH 07.14.06 at 5:52 pm

Christ IS the center of the point of redemption I’m saying and when the Bible says “Without Faith it is impossible to please God.” and John 3:36 you can see that it isn’t us. When Jesus said to the adulterer to “go and sin no more” He was telling her to choose to not sin. Christ IS the center in that He didn’t have to die for our sin and the IN HIM of our Faith is the most important but God does require a response by Faith to receive the free gift made available to all.

“Our faith is nothing to a holy God. We are entirely thrust upon God’s mercy and grace, a mercy that judges and a grace that overpowers all opposition.” I don’t knowabout this in light of John 3:36.

“We are entirely thrust upon” sounds like what you are advocating against andit seems adouble standard on your part. Also, what you say doesn’t infact address the fact of John 3:36 in conjunction with John 3:16 “For Godso loved the world thatHe gave His only begotton Son that WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH IN HIM shouldnot perish but have eternal life.”

Beth, the Bible mentions that while we will have glorified bodies that we will be know as we are know on earth. It appears while there is no marriage or giving into marriage there isn’t anything that shows we will not know how we are know on earth. Inm fact the contrary.

“but a robust theology cannot sustain such a position.” Who are you to say this when the Bible points to this so clearly? My position is not contrary to the Reformers. I’m very consistent on thatand also I havethought it through and my position is clear andit isnot semi-pelangianism but an understaning of what a gift is howit is made available to all by the free Grace we don’t deserve and how we become fulfilled within that Grace for Salvation.

Just because “every knee shall bend, in heaven and on earth” doesn’t mean they that all who bow will receive Salvation. Many want to prooftext that passage when in context on must look at other passages within the context of that. Particulatly John 3:36 or “If you deny Me I will deny you before My Father in heaven.” and all of the passages in Romans.

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Chris 07.15.06 at 7:37 pm

DH: I don’t see how one can point to the death-bed as the threshold for divine redemption of humanity. I’ll welcome a prooftext to show me wrong. I see at least the threat of rejection in Scripture for those who do not believe, but can we just assume that threat becomes our concrete destruction as unbelievers, and that death is the one to seal the door on our fate? Sounds like death and us have more power than God. “Oh well, you had your chance” sounds like the American system of justice or the free-market economy of grace. It doesn’t sound like the arms of the Father welcoming the unrepetant prodigal son home. In the end, even if you have scriptural quotes, that’s all you’ve got. When God’s wrath comes in all its might and power, with gnashing of teeth, it always comes to redeem us, to bring us home to Him. So I look forward to bowing next to Hitler, and embracing him as my brother in Christ. But if one or neither of us are rejected, I suppose I have no foundation upon which to feel betrayed by God. God is God.

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Tim 07.16.06 at 8:32 am

Much as it may amaze him (and me), I’m going to speak in support of DH here.

David may be satisfied in his theological system (universalism) and its way of explaining the person and work of Christ. My faith is in a person, not a theological system, and I note, along with C.S. Lewis, that the most terrifying texts about punishment in the Bible come from the lips of that person, Jesus. I may not like this (I don’t, actually), and it may not fit into a watertight theological system, but I can’t get away from the consistent view of the scriptures that there are serious consequences to a decision to reject God.

I may disagree with DH about death being the irrevocable point of no return, and I may disagree with the traditional notion of hell as eternal conscious torment (I’m with the conditional immortality school, myself), but I think that in his main argument he has both scripture, and the Christ to whom scripture points, on his side - and, to a large extent, catholic tradition agrees.

I’m not really interested in getting into a debate over this - I have neither the time nor the ability to debate well - but I just wanted to chip in with my two cents’ worth.

Oh - by the way, Beth, although I think scripture is silent on the idea of whether or not we will have actual physical gender in the life of the Kingdom, I must admit that I find your idea that we won’t rather curious. If human beings had never fallen into sin, do you think we would not have been sexual beings? If the kingdom of God is creation restored to God’s original purposes, was gender not one of those purposes?

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Richard 07.16.06 at 2:49 pm

You make some good points, Tim. I very much agree with you about the serious consequences of rejecting God. And I’m not convinced that a watertight theological system is either possible or desirable. But it’s a strange sort of agreeing you do with DH, rejecting the 2 main planks of his doctrine!

On your last paragraph, I’d have to say that we were made sexual beings, male & female, in the image of God. I don’t know what this means for heaven…

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Kim 07.16.06 at 7:55 pm

Humans are created as embodied and sexually distinctive beings; therefore we will be re-created as embodied and sexually distinctive beings. The risen Christ, after all, is not a hermaphrodite or a neutered being, he is male - and not female. “Marriage” is a different thing altogether, and does not, as such, bear on sexuality in heaven - or sex in heaven, for that matter! On the gender or sex-life of angels I will not speculate.

Just so you know what the saints have said about the issue: Robert Jenson points out that “the Western theological tradition has held with Augustine that ‘The one who created both sexes will restore both.’ And Barth, once he has banished the possibility of eschatological sexlessness, evokes the sexuality of risen humanity with nothing less than the Song of Solomon, which he interprets as an ‘eschatological’ song of eroticism freed fom burdens and sin.”

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David 07.17.06 at 2:40 pm

Just so I am clear: I do not place any faith in universalism over against Christ. I am a universalist because the witness to Christ compels me to this conclusion. I was just like DH for most of my life until this past year. That I have changed is not because I am some ardent liberal but because I think that I am now being more faithful to Scripture and God’s self-revelation in Jesus. I may be wrong about universalism, but I am not wrong in worshipping our gracious triune God, who always comes first.

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DH 07.17.06 at 3:23 pm

“the unrepetant prodigal son home” Sorry but by the very nature of the prodigal son coming home he WAS repentent.

I too am a universalist as well in that the Gospel is made available to all people. Whether or not they choose to enter in is a seperate matter.

On a side note and kind of seperate from the discussion that I like to say “God’s Holiness is part of His omniscience and omnipotence”. One cannot be either omniscient or omnipotent without being Holy and that Holiness is defined in God’s Word. God as part of His Holiness cannot have unrepentent people (unholy people) without them repenting in heaven.

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Keith 07.20.06 at 4:24 pm

DH writes (July 12th, 8:21 pm):

Again I see no where in Scripture for post-death redemption as you describe.

Speaking as one universalist, I grant that there is no good direct scriptural support for “further chances.” But there is, I’d say, plenty of direct scriptural support (a) for universalism, and also (b) for the need for personally accepting Christ in order to be saved. Given these two, together with the observation that some never accept Christ before death, further chances seem implied. And there seems to be no good scriptural support either for the opposing doctrine of “no further chances.” (Interested parties can see section 6 of my on-line paper, “Universalism and the Bible” [ http://pantheon.yale.edu/~kd47/univ.htm ] for a discussion of the alleged direct scriptural cases both for and against further chances, where I find the arguments on both sides to be extremely weak.) If it comes down to a contest between the Biblical case for universalism vs. the Biblical case for no further chances, it seems you’re picking the losing side if you choose the latter.

Way up in the third comment above, DH writes:

For the woman who had a 30 day old who died. It is great to know that it is in heaven in that it hadn’t reached the age of accountability.

I wonder where in scripture this is coming from? I mean, I agree with your conclusion, but I think everyone ends up in heaven. I’m able to hold fast to the position that one must personally accept Christ to be saved, and agree with humane conclusions about the fate of young children, those who have never heard, etc., because I believe they will accept Christ after death, and this will not be too late. But I wonder (and this really is a desire to understand) about the views of those who, for whatever reason, decide that death is the end of chances. Do they make exceptions to the need for personally accepting Christ in these cases? What scriptural grounds do they have for these exceptions? (I don’t recall anything about age-of-accountability-exceptions in the Bible.) Or is it not based directly on scripture, but on theories developed about hell being based on choice, and so not applicable to those who can’t choose? Just curious…

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DH 07.20.06 at 7:02 pm

It isn’t based on theories based on choice but the fact that Salvation is attained by a Faith response to the Grace made available to all. There is no where in Scripture that says everyone will go to heaven. I’m not on the losing side. “further chances seem implied.” I see no implication in Scripture. In light of John 3:36 and “If you deny Me I will deny you before My Father in heaven.” Your paper takes Scripture totally out of context in relation that it must be Scripture in light of ALL Scripture. The Scripture from Jesus talks about denial. Those who don’t have theability to deny or choose Christ are not in that category for many Scriptures refer to Salvation made as a choice by Faith in Christ. Also, the passage on the “lake of fire” refers to those whose namesare not written in the Lambs book of Life. It appearsto me that sinceit is mentioned it does exist and therefore it is illogical to say ALL will go to heaven or ALL will accept Christ without taking Scripture out of context.

When I observe “It is appointed unto manonceto die and after this the judgement.” Then it seems clear that status based on Faith or a lack thereof at the point of death determines ones eternity.

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Keith 07.20.06 at 8:30 pm

The universalist passages I have in mind are the likes of Rom 5:18, I Cor 15:22, Col. 1:20. This —

In light of John 3:36 and “If you deny Me I will deny you before My Father in heaven.” Your paper takes Scripture totally out of context in relation that it must be Scripture in light of ALL Scripture

– is an amazingly asymmetrical use of taking things “out of context”: You cite a couple of prooftexts, and then say I’m taking things out of context. Well, I do believe we can accept ALL of the relevant scriptures. In particular, there’s no confict at all between the universalist passage I cite above and the passage you cite at the end of your comment, Heb. 9:27 (”It is appointed unto man once to die and after this the judgement.”). About that verse, I don’t know what to say beyond what I’ve already said in my on-line paper: I simply and straightforwardly accept it. How often will each of us die? I don’t see what would be pressuring me here to give any answer other than “once.” And does judgment come after that? Yes! As I’m at great pains to stress in my on-line paper, the universalist need not, and this universalist does not, deny the reality of judgment. Maybe if there were something in this passage about what the content of some of the judgments will be, I could see how this passage might start to pressure one to screen out the likes of Rom 5:18, I Cor 15:22, and Col. 1:20. But not as it is.

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Keith 07.20.06 at 9:05 pm

Oh, and I really am interested in the basis for your views on those who die very young, etc. (severly mentally disabled, those who never hear of Christ). You write, “It isn’t based on theories based on choice but the fact that Salvation is attained by a Faith response to the Grace made available to all.” But of course, infants, etc. don’t — at least in this life — make a Faith response to God’s grace: that’s exactly the problem. Is the view that infants (& perhaps others who didn’t have a chance?) don’t have to make a faith response, but get in automatically? And where in scripture is that coming from? I’m not just being difficult here: It’s not that I think no answer can be given. In fact, I know of several answers about the fate of infants, and I’m just wondering which you accept & what the scriptural basis for your choice is. There seem to be many options. All of these are held by at least some Christians:
1. they all go to hell: one must accept Christ in this life to avoid hell, and those who die as infants, etc. don’t do that
2. they won’t be in heaven, but they won’t be in hell either
3. they all go to heaven w/o having to accept Christ
4. the children of believers go to heaven; the children of non-believers go to hell
5. though there are not in general further chances after death to accept Christ, those who did not in their earthly lives have a chance will get one after death and
a. some will go to heaven & others to hell depending on whether each accepts Christ
b. all will go to heaven, b/c all will accept Christ
6. there are quite generally further chances after death to accept Christ and
a. some will go to heaven & others to hell depending on whether each accepts Christ
b. all will go to heaven, b/c all will accept Christ

Supposing God won’t condemn to hell those who didn’t have a decent enough chance, if one can give a good enough scriptural case for that supposition, wipes out only 1 and 4. Supposing further that God will not bar someone from heaven just because they died w/o accepting him when they didn’t have a decent enough chance to do so, if this stronger supposition can be given a decent basis, wipes out 2 as well as 1 and 4.

One relevant passage, from the OT, that many bring to bear on this issue is what David says about his young child in 2 Samuel 12:20-23.

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DH 07.20.06 at 9:19 pm

I see nowhere where it says all will accept Christ. Also I never went against universalism because thefree giftis made available to allbut not all will receive the free gift the Romans 5:18, 1 Cor 15:22 and Col 1:20 don’tcontradict my position whatsoever. It appears the one doing the prooftexting is you with yourself not taking into consideration what truly “all” is “To them that RECEIVE to them He gave the power to become children of God.” Your position still doesn’t account for people rejecting Christ and thus facing eternal judgement in light of John 3:36.

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Keith 07.21.06 at 3:16 am

Thanks, DH! That helps: I think I understand now how you think context affects the meaning of “all” statements, and so why you think my use of the various “all” passages is objectionably using them out of context.

But I certainly think your view of how context affects the meaning of “all” statements is wrong.

Consider this case. A teacher has said that those of her students who average at least a score of 60 will pass her class, and that those who average less than 60 will not pass. (You can imagine that she’s just said this, so it is clearly part of the context of what she is about to say, and/or that she said this once in the past. Either way, my point should still hold.) Now she says this about her students: “They all passed.” It’s pretty clear to me that the correct understanding of this “all” statement in its context licenses this reasoning: “Well, first she said that they had to average at least 60 to pass. Then she said they all passed. So, if she’s been telling the truth, they all averaged at least 60.” I think it betrays a fairly clear misunderstanding of the meaning of the statement to instead reason as follows: “Well, she said they all passed. But we have to understand that statement of hers in context: She had just said that those who average at least 60 would pass. So, in context, we should understand her claim that they “all” passed as meaning that all who averaged at least 60 passed. So we still can’t tell how many of them passed.”

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DH 07.21.06 at 2:36 pm

I still think that this analogy doesn’t mean a thing with regard to whatwe are talking about. This analogy indirectly seemsto be focused on only oneset of passages but when you look at all of them regarding the subject you can see. I still think you have a predisposition based on “how can God sendpeople to hell” and applying that to the Scriptures rather than looking at Scripture in light of Scripture. Many ofthe passages you quoted didn’t mention the passages before or after the passage in question. Many ofthe passages didn’t take into account the many others that oppose your predisposition. I haveneverhada predispositionon thissubject from the Bible. When it says it is appointed unto man once to die and after this the judgement it means whatit says and what you are suggesting is an additional judgement that is not in Scripture.

As I have stated before we all fall short and deserve hell but by receiving theGrace made available to all we obtain eternal life. “He that hath the Son hath life he that hath not the Son hath not life.”

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a student 07.21.06 at 5:18 pm

Keith’s example is convincing, but don’t feel bad, DH. If “Keith” really is Keith DeRose (follow the link from his name), then he’s known in philosophy of language as one of the leading “contextualists.” So he knows about how context changes meaning, and he’s *very* open to meaning depending on context. If he says context doesn’t change meaning in the way you say, I would have bet the farm he was right even before he came up with that convincing example.

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a student (again: the same one) 07.21.06 at 6:49 pm

I’m not sure it’s cool for Prof. DeRose to be reading around here. Blogs should be a place where you can say what you want about things like meaning and context without really knowing what you’re talking about & without having some top expert coming around reading what you write. I mean, come on! Someone just writes something (s)he’s thinking about meaning & context & it turns out (s)he’s telling it to one of the leading contextualists? What a world!

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Keith 07.26.06 at 10:16 pm

OK: I will at least try to resist from commenting - after this!

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DH 07.26.06 at 10:46 pm

Just because people say he is some great person doesn’t mean heisright or his example is convincing. Who says it is convincing? I still logically don’t buy what he is saying and I don’t believe the Bible saysomething that turns out not to be true. That is the logic for his example and that is what I don’t buy. The idea that saying all who are not in the Lambs book of Life are cast into the lake of fire when under his premise all are written in the Lambs book of Life. There is no point to assume all are written in the Lambs book of Life when Scripture doesn’t say that. That is adding to the text and is actually taking Scripture OUT of context. He may begoodin thesecular world but he obviously needs work in non-secular areas.

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Richard 07.27.06 at 12:21 am

Well, I’m glad you dropped in Keith - thanks for your contribution.

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