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That's an interesting argument and I haven't heard of that interpretation before but Bart D Ehrman argues in his book Jesus Interrupted that Jesus never intended to die on the cross but that he and the apostles thought the end of the world was going to happen within their lifetime and the Son of Man (who Ehrman sees is a separate supernatural being from Jesus) will establish an actual kingdom of God on Earth that would be ruled by the apostles and the Son of Man. But after Jesus was executed and the end of the world never happened, the disciples of Jesus couldn't understand why the prophecy didn't happen so they reimagined the teachings of Jesus so now the kingdom of God was a spiritual realm that wasn't of this world and that rather than obtaining salvation from following the ethical teachings of Jesus, salvation came from having faith in the resurrection of Jesus. I've also heard other arguments from John Dominic Crossan and Burton Mack that the apocalyptic scriptures attributed to Jesus represent a later tradition in the Q gospel that was written after the destruction of the temple rather than being a prediction before its destruction. Rather than the gospels portraying one single view of Jesus, the gospels present several views of who Jesus was and the Q gospel's view of Jesus evolves from Jesus being a Cynic sage to an apocalyptic prophet later on in the tradition of the Q sayings. It's good to see you posting again, billmc! I missed your presence on the forums and I hope we'll be seeing more of you again.

Edited by Neon Genesis
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Guest billmc

There's a lot of food for thought in your post, NG, and I think you've described quite well the struggle that "the quest for the historical Jesus" had and has in trying to determine whether Jesus was apocalyptic or not. As you've said, it seems that the early church had a number of different views and interpretations of Jesus and his teachings. Here we are 2000 years later and many of us are still drawn to this mysterious man, how he lived, what he taught, what he meant, and what difference he made and continues to make. I suspect his question to Peter, "Who do you say that I am?" still rings deep in our souls.

 

On a personal level, for me, I have *always* struggled with the notion of everlasting torment, even when I claimed to believe in it. It just doesn't seem just. It seems to go against Jesus' teaching about loving (wanting the good for) one's enemies. Despite the relatively few verses in the NT that seem to support the doctrine, I can't get my heart or mind to accept it. In fact, to me, everlasting torment is immoral. Not being able to "take it on faith," it is just one more doctrine that puts me outside of evangelical circles. But I'm getting used to that. :)

 

Bell feels that God's love will somehow, someday win *everyone* over. Granted, it is a comforting thought. In keeping with this, he seems to hold to post-mortem conversion, another violation of one of the tenet's of evangelicalism. But Bell is certainly not the first to feel this way. Some of the universalists at Tentmaker.org insists that Jesus will, in the future, literally drag people to God so that God will become "all and in all." But I'm not convinced that love would do that either.

 

To be quite honest, I don't know if I even believe all of this apocalyptic stuff any more. I tend to think that we reap what we sow here and now. If there is some kind of literal "Judgment Day", I lean much more towards annihilationism than I do everlasting torment. And I will be wearing my asbestos underwear. :D

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I'm not saying I believe in the doctrine of hell myself as I find the doctrine of hell to be the most immoral doctrine of all of Christendom to be honest. But I also think that while Jesus certainly was revolutionary in many ways, if he was a human like us, then it's not out of the realms of possibility that Jesus shared many of the same cultural biases and influences we still deal with in modern day churches. Having said that, if Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet, I don't think this means Jesus was an evil person or crazy like C.S. Lewis suggested in his Trinitarian trillema. But apocalyptic prophets were a dime a dozen in Jesus' time and so it would be understandable to me for him to share some of those beliefs given the corruption of the Roman government and their treatment of lower class citizens. Jesus as a failed apocalyptic prophet would also fit in within bible scholars' standard of the criteria of embarrassment in which passages in the gospels that would be embarrassing to early Christians are deemed to be more likely to be historical than those passages which confirm Christian bias. Jesus failing in his prediction of the end of the world would certainly fit that criteria to me. Having said that, while I think hell is taught in the bible, I also think the doctrine of universalism is in the bible too though I think it's found more in the OT than in the NT in the form of Sheol. I just think we should be careful of any attempts, whether liberal or conservative, to try and find a harmonized, universal agreement of doctrine in the scriptures and we should also be skeptical when Christian authors' image of Jesus starts sounding like their own beliefs and values.

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  • 1 month later...

I read Rob Bell's book, "Love Wins", a couple of months ago and absolutely loved it. A lot of the ideas are very similar to other progressives (as was mentioned), but Rob does have his own unique way of expressing it. I am saddened, but not surprised, that his own evangelical community (many of them) are rejecting his work as heretical. He is actually a shining candle in the darkness.

 

I loved his ideas of how we might continue progressing, even after this lifetime, and that Christ's door is always open, whenever we are ready to go and be with him, even in the eternities.

 

"And then there are others who ask, if you get another chance after you die, why limit that chance to a one-off immediately after death? And so they expand the possibilities, trusting that there will be endless opportunities in an endless amount of time for people to say yes to God. As long as it takes, in other words. At the heart of this perspective is the belief that, given enough time, everybody will turn to God and find themselves in the joy and peace of Gods presence. The love of God will melt every hard heart, and even the most depraved sinners will eventually give up their resistance and turn to God."

 

"And so, beginning with the early church, there is a long tradition of Christians who believe that God will ultimately restore everything and everybody, because Jesus says in Matthew 19 that there will be a renewal of all things, Peter says in Acts 3 that Jesus will restore everything, and Paul says in Colossians 1 that through Christ God was pleased to . . . reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

 

"In the third century the church fathers Clement of Alexandria and Origen affirmed Gods reconciliation with all people. In the fourth century, Gregory of Nyssa and Eusebius believed this as well. In their day, Jerome claimed that most people, Basil said the mass of men, and Augustine acknowledged that very many believed in the ultimate reconciliation of all people to God."

 

"Central to their trust that all would be reconciled was the belief that untold masses of people suffering forever doesnt bring God glory. Restoration brings God glory; eternal torment doesnt. Reconciliation brings God glory; endless anguish doesnt. Renewal and return cause Gods greatness to shine through the universe; never-ending punishment doesnt."

 

That bolded part is very profound (and yet so true in it's simplicity). Something I had always felt, but never really gave much voice to...

Edited by Marsha
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  • 4 weeks later...

One really catches hell for not believing in hell. Another person worth mentioning is R. Kirby Godsey. He was put through the ringer because of his 1996 book When We Talk About God, Let's Be Honest. (Magnificent book, btw). The Georgia Baptist Convention tried to have him removed from the chancellorship of Mercer, but he cut the school loose from them. All because he believed the "good" in "good news".

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  • 1 year later...

Very interesting conversation on Love Wins. I thought it was a great book. Although I don't think modern day theology needs to be strictly Bible based, I liked how Bell supported his theology using the Bible. If he wants to reach the people who believe in inerrancy and move them towards a more healthy relationship with the Bible, he needs to support what he says Biblically. I thought he did a wonderful job doing that.

 

I also liked how he focused on Heaven and Hell not being somewhere else. Christians (and everyone else) need to focus on making this time, this Earth, our Heaven instead of turning it into our Hell because it’s a temporary home. I think many Christians see the Earth as rental property for which they don’t have to pay the electric bill or worry about maintenance. Heaven (somewhere else) is their home. Sing along with me: “This world is not my home, I’m just a passin’ through”

 

But the part I like best was his telling of the Prodigal Son. That struck me very hard. I won’t go into details but the book is worth reading just for that. We have all been invited to the party; we are all welcome to the party; and we are all worthy of the party, so let’s enjoy it.

 

On the down side, I found his layout/phrasing very annoying. It was like he wanted every sentence to be noticed so he made almost every sentence a paragraph. I have never seen a book with so much white space. For me, that made the book hard to read because I was annoyed. But, that may just be my issue and the therapy may help if we can ever get the medication levels worked out. ;)

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