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« Feeding the Homeless and Serving the Poor in Dallas | Main | I was hungry... you gave me something to eat »

March 21, 2011

Comments

Devyn Lundy

How can Christians truly be Jesus to the world, if we can't even LOVE each other? I totally agree with your blog... and the hateful arguing among Christians goes on way too much about soo many issues. I was sickened by some of the hateful things my Christian friends were posting on facebook around the time of the presidential elections, and I have seen the same muck being thrown around about Rob Bell. Its pretty sad... the bottom line is that no human being has all the answers and no human being is a 100% right.

Andy

Mike, I believe that this issue is at the heart of all our theological conversation. I am sure for centuries there have been those who when theological differences arise can still be loving towards each other. But along with our political environment I am afraid that we live in very polarized times. I know that some feel that if they end up having civilized conversation with those they disagree with they feel like they would be giving in. I long for a day where theological questioning is encouraged and not feared.

Ty

I'm reading the Bell book and as of yet, couldn't chime in much. Completely agree with what you said about the book. However, I have an issue with something else you said...

My issue is with what you said about the Chiefs. Offense is the key. Period. Anyone who says otherwise is a Raider's fan. I'm so fuming right now I can hardly see straight! ;)

Mike King

Offense huh? Ty, this just proves incontrovertibly, that you, my foe, cannot be a "real" Chiefs fan. DEFENSE, DEFENSE.....

Brian Hough

You do seem to think this is a trivial issue. It's not, the gospel is what is being questioned, the Scriptures are being twisted to mere universalism.

I'm not one who is for lynching Rob Bell, but would I really support a guy or encourage brothers and sisters to learn from someone who affirms what he thinks God should be like over what God has revealed to be true of Himself in Scripture?

This is bigger than your chiefs analogy, the concern is that he isn't a fan of the chiefs at all, he just wears their gear to look like a fan.

Mike King

Hey Brian,

I understand your zeal. Would you put our Church Fathers, many who helped establish the doctrine of Jesus Christ being fully God and fully human (Hypostatic Union), plus other essential doctrines that make up Christian Orthodoxy that we embrace today, along with playing a significant role in establishing the Canon of Scripture in the category of persons we don't want "brothers and sisters to learn from"?

From Clement of Alexandria,Gregory of Nyssa, Theodore of Mopsuestia, plus many more great theologians and teachers too numerous to name in this short response, were overwhelmingly supportive of eschatological views that you would group into the category of Universalism.

You imply in your last sentence that Rob may not be a Christian at all, thank GOD, you don't get to decide that.

Peace to you brother.

Mike

Mike King

Another point I want to make. While the issue of Universalism is something that Christians, theologians, teachers, and Christian thinkers have wrestled with for 2000 years. I think this subject requires serious, thoughtful dialogue, deep theological reflection and scriptural inquiry because there are so many variations of eschatological views on this subject.

It is unfortunate that this issue has gotten convoluted by a book media tour and dealt with in the sound bites of interviews. As a result battle lines are being drawn and good people, faithful followers of Jesus are being hurt.

Very Sad.

Lige Jeter

Mike, I agree with Brian, this is not a trivial issue, souls are at stake. I am not implying that you are not aware at what is at stake, but that we see the issue different.

Jesus illustrates a truth in John [8:31-47] that cannot be ignored. In v.32 Jesus addresses truth as the only way because apparently many Jews saw things differently or had different ideas about truth. You cannot mix truth with lies. Jesus further illustrates this truth by showing who ones true master is by who they follow.

Jesus uses Abraham and Satan as examples. The Jews claimed Abraham as their father, but Jesus rebuked them in v.39 and said if you were Abraham's children you would do the work of Abraham. The work of Abraham was to do the will of God as God commanded. As is ours.

Jesus further made it clear in v.42 if God were their Father they would love Him because He came from God. In v.43,44 Because they would not listen Jesus declares them to be of their father the devil. An in the last portion of the chapter the Jews in retalliation they called Jesus a demon. Who is calling who names?

Before Emergents Was I Am

J. Dean

Let me ask you this: do we believe Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons are Christians because they say "Jesus is Lord" as well, even though their "gospel" is works-righteousness?

Brian Hough

Mike,
Would you be willing to answer this question? Do you hold an eschatological view that most would group into the category of Universalism? I don't want to assume anything so I am asking. And please don't do the vague no answer answer.

As far as encouraging people to learn from church fathers, I would be very concerned recommending anyone who denied basic aspects of the gospel no matter who they were. Heck, even if an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the Biblical one, let him be condemned.

Mike King

Seriously, you want to link Rob Bell in with Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses? I thought we are talking about orthodox Christianity?

Mike King

Brian,

You want me to answer your question? By the statement you made concerning Christianity's Church Fathers (that I referred to in an above comment, Church Fathers that have stood the test of time) I don't know if I can say anything that will suffice your agenda and personal definition of what eschatological truth is.

That said, I am not a universalist. At the same time, I do not embrace a North American hyper conservative interpretation of eschatology.

Brian Hough

I am not attacking you, but you do have a significant influence over youth and their spiritual development in the kc area, so I am very interested in what your beliefs are. Surely your beliefs will trickle into camps and various other aspects of youth front. You can believe whatever you want, but please don't hide your beliefs so that we who may be involved in your ministering to us can make an honest informed decision before we sit under your teaching.

That being said, what does North American hyper conservative interpretation of eschatology mean?

Mike King

Brian,

This is not a productive way to dialogue. If you are really that concerned about what I'm doing and you really seek to understand as much as to be understood then let's meet face to face. I'm not sure if you are connected with Lige Jeter (above commenter) and the "concerned" or "Reformed" Nazarenes but there agenda has been exposed for the divisive vigilante posse that it is.

Peace,

Mike

Brian Hough

That's fair. Not a Nazarene, don't know Lige, don't know what their agenda is. You have my email, perhaps next week we could meet for coffee.

Mike King

Brian,

I will be out of town until next week. E-mail me and we can schedule a time to do coffee.

Sweet.

Mike

J. Dean

Mr. King,

You yourself set up this comparison between Rob Bell and Jehovah's witness and Mormons.From the OP:
If one confesses "Jesus Christ is Lord" we (those who confess Jesus Christ as Lord) should, despite our differences in theology and doctrine, at least acknowledge each other as sisters and brothers. Yes, let us have disagreements, but please do it without labeling, dismissing and demonizing the other.

Your words, sir.

Mike King

J Dean, really? The context for this discussion has been orthodox, classic Christianity not cults or false religion...

Lige Jeter

Mike;

Now who is calling names, "divisive vigilante posse," really! One would do well to take their own advice. As for who Lige is I,m a nobody among your circle of friends.

Perhaps this will help identify me. I was saved from a devil's hell on April 29, 1962, and was sanctified on June 3, 1962. I began my ministry in October 1962 preaching to those who were in jail who were on their way to hell as I once was.

I conducted my first funeral service February, 1964, and conducted my first revival February, 1965, and was appointed the organizing pastor of my first church in May, 1965.

Brian and I have never met before this blog, but we have a kindred spirit for the things of truth. I have no agenda and my allegiance is not to any man, but to Jesus Christ and the truth that saved me, and To Him who made me His bond servant.

If you knew the background I was saved from you would understand my conviction for the truth and not the cleaverness of man's so called agenda in or out of the church regardless of who they are.

Christians would do well to be of one book, the Bible. The Bible has the only words that can save you.

J. Dean

Mr. King,

So tell me then: is universalism within the bounds of orthodox Christianity? Are you aware of what Rob Bell has taught or said in the past?

Kurt

To quote Richard Mouw, the president of the largest evangelical seminary in North America, "Why are we rougher on salvific generosity than on salvific stinginess?" It would seem to me that proponents of a stingy gospel that draw ever-narrowing lines around who's in and who's out also open themselves up to the very labels of false teaching that they accuse others of. It seems to me that there is a new kind of theological asceticism brewing that believes that God delights in followers who flagellate themselves (and others) with ever-constricting, graceless doctrines. Whoever has the most difficult, joyless, stingy gospel wins. God help us.

Lige Jeter

Kurt:

Could you elaborate more on the subject so we will know who to avoid.
Thanks

Lige Jeter

Kurt:
Thanks, but I think I found the answer to my question. Dr. Mouw was defending Rob Bell's theology in his book "Love wins" in his article "The orthodoxy of Rob Bell." He was comparing Bell's liberal view on salvation to those who hold a conserative view. His analogy was salvific generosity (referring to Bell)vs. salvific stinginess (referring to those who take issue with Bell). Please correct if I misunderstood Dr. Mouw.

My Bible teaches me that God is not a man that He should lie. And that He will have the last word. God will judge man by his standard and not the other way around. This is something we should all think about.

Tony Felich

With all due respect, calling Fuller Seminary "evangelical" exposes the problem with the label "evangelical". They are an ecumenical think tank, not a seminary that trains in the historic Christian faith any more. Debating the label "evangelical" is a whole different topic for another day, but there are related matters for sure.

It's unfortunate that anyone would site the three church fathers who had misgivings about eternal punishment and not site the myriads upon myriads who took Jesus at his Word (since Jesus talked more about hell and judgment than heaven). I get the tactic, but it's certainly an indicator that one doesn't know his church history, with all due respect. Origen? Seriously? Gregory? Come on. People have strong areas of expertise, these guys were not strong on exegesis, period. That's the truth. Read them in full some time. On the other hand, in the first 500 years of church history,the VAST majority of orthodox theologians believed the bible taught eternal punishment for those not united to Christ-it was not even close to a hotly (no pun) contested debate. Three fathers voice concern over the doctrine and that constitutes a debate? Ridiculous. Origen's view was deemed outside of orthodoxy by a whole council of fathers at Constantinople in the fifth century. Ignatius, Shepherd of Hermes, Justin Martyr, Clement II, Athenagoras, Tertullian, Cyprian, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Hippolytus...all of these fathers very clearly affirmed the doctrine of eternal punishment. I have the quotes if you want them. It's not a disputed doctine, in earnest, the way Bell brings it forth, since George MacDonald. Yes, people have rightly asked questions about it, and surely some could be shown to believe in forms of universalism over the years-but that means nothing about disproving the historic exegesis concerning it. The arguments almost never genuinely exegetical, but rather usually philosophical (based on fairness questions, not the bible's wording).

Regarding church history and the fathers, and me, and us, and any who make truth claims- they must be scrutinized through the lens of Scripture- and that is where Bell fails miserably.

Bell's book is his own philosophy of justice, life, and God read in to the bible. He has not come to his views the other way around. You can see the progression (or digression as it were) from Velvet Elvis to this point. I am just very grateful he has "come out" as the universalist he is. No more wondering or feeling like he wasn't telling the whole story. I appreciate his honesty (about his universalism) anyways.

Finally, angst toward "demonizing" Bell is a appreciated, but he brought that by his own wolvish words. Furthermore, in his book, he constantly bashes and rips those who take the historic position. I lost count after tallying 50 such jabs at "traditionalists" (I prefer "Scripturalist"). He even says teaching about hell is "toxic". That means those of us who think the bible teaches eternal punishment for those apart from Christ are dispensing poison. Isn't that demonizing? I read his book- it's one big stab at demonizing orthodoxy- that's the straight up on it. Don't cry foul about critics of Bell without calling him out on what he's been doing for years to others.

Sincerely, Tony Felich

Adam

Tony,

Your comment "(since Jesus talked more about hell and judgment than heaven)." cannot be more wrong. Jesus used phrases like "the kingdom of heaven is like" way, way more often than anything else.

I recently did a search on this. The word hell is only used 11 times in only 3 of the gospels. (From the NIV). The gospel of John doesn't even use the word hell. (again NIV)

These are facts from the bible. Why would you distort those facts to say that Jesus talked more about hell than heaven?

Timothy Johnson

I for one find it hard to believe Jesus knew much about 13th century northern European mythology, so I'm really not sure what all this hullabaloo about Hell is. I mean, for Thor's sake, we didn't even give her a day of the week.

Mike King

Tony Felich

I purposely waited several days to respond to your comment because I needed to cool down. For you to declare that Fuller is not in the "Evangelical" camp shows how narrow your definition of "Evangelical" has become, so I doubt there is much we will find common ground on from your perspective.

I'm not sure why you are so angry and provoking (it has been brought to my attention that you are aware that I have a Graduate Degree in Theological Studies with an emphasis in Christian History and Thought). You describe my "tactics" as coming from one who does not understand Church History. You stated that I cited only three church fathers as proof (I wasn't writing an academic response bro) and you act incredulous that I would cite "Origen." Origen is not mentioned anywhere in my post or in any comment. Are you cutting and pasting content in your comments? Where did that come from?

I purposely would not include Origen, in this blog, to make a point on this issue because Origen has been turned into a lightening rod, even though most Church Historians believe Origen made significant contributions theologically to the Church. For instance, Origen originated the term homoousios that became so core to the Nicene Creed

You included several names of church fathers to support your position. You suggest I read the source documents, something I was required to do in Graduate school. I will post quotes by some of those same Fathers who were engaged in theological inquiry on eschatology and the eternal destiny of human beings.

What is so interesting to me is that I have tried to avoid the frenzy of this media dynamic involving Rob Bell and his critics. I am in no way trying to be an apologist for Rob Bell.

I'm much more interested in what NT Wright recently wrote about the subject of heaven and hell in Surprised By Hope. I would rather read Miroslav Volf, Jurgen Moltmann, Scot McKnight and others on this subject. These men are biblical scholars and theologians.

Some of the responses to my post made it sound like I'm Rob Bell's apologist. Weird.

I also stated that I am not a "Universalist" if being one means there are no consequences of sin, no judgment, no hell, and that people can spend eternity in God's presence without the saving work of our Lord Jesus Christ. No one comes to the Father, except through the salvific work of Jesus Christ.

Peace,

Mike

Mike King

QUOTES FROM CHURCH FATHERS CONCERNING THIS SUBJECT:

The mass of men (Christians) say there is to be an end to punishment and to those who are punished.—St. Basil the Great

There are very many in our day, who though not denying the Holy Scriptures, do not believe in endless torments. -- Augustine (354-430 A.D.)

For the wicked there are punishments, not perpetual, however, lest the immortality prepared for them should be a disadvantage, but they are to be purified for a brief period according to the amount of malice in their works. They shall therefore suffer punishment for a short space, but immortal blessedness having no end awaits them...the penalties to be inflicted for their many and grave sins are very far surpassed by the magnitude of the mercy to be showed to them. --Diodore of Tarsus, 320-394 A.D.

And God showed great kindness to man, in this, that He did not suffer him to continue being in sin forever; but as it were, by a kind of banishment, cast him out of paradise in order that, having punishment expiated within an appointed time, and having been disciplined, he should afterwards be recalled...just as a vessel, when one being fashioned it has some flaw, is remoulded or remade that it may become new and entire; so also it happens to man by death. For he is broken up by force, that in the resurrection he may be found whole; I mean spotless, righteous and immortal. --Theophilus of Antioch (168 A.D.)

Wherefore also he drove him out of paradise and removed him far from the tree of life, not because He envied him the tree of life, as some dare assert, but because He pitied him and desired that he should not be immortal and the evil interminable and irremediable. --Iraneaus of Lyons (182 A.D.)

These, if they will, may go Christ's way, but if not let them go their way. In another place perhaps they shall be baptized with fire, that last baptism, which is not only painful, but enduring also; which eats up, as if it were hay, all defiled matter, and consumes all vanity and vice. --Gregory of Nazianzeus, Bishop of Constantinople. (330 to 390 A.D.) Oracles 39:19

The Word seems to me to lay down the doctrine of the perfect obliteration of wickedness, for if God shall be in all things that are, obviously wickedness shall not be in them. For it is necessary that at some time evil should be removed utterly and entirely from the realm of being.—St. Macrina the Blessed

In the end and consummation of the Universe all are to be restored into their original harmonious state, and we all shall be made one body and be united once more into a perfect man and the prayer of our Savior shall be fulfilled that all may be one. --St. Jerome, 331-420

For it is evident that God will in truth be all in all when there shall be no evil in existence, when every created being is at harmony with itself and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord; when every creature shall have been made one body. --Gregory of Nyssa, 335-390

The wicked who have committed evil the whole period of their lives shall be punished till they learn that, by continuing in sin, they only continue in misery. And when, by this means, they shall have been brought to fear God, and to regard Him with good will, they shall obtain the enjoyment of His grace. --Theodore of Mopsuestia, 350-428

We can set no limits to the agency of the Redeemer to redeem, to rescue, to discipline in his work, and so will he continue to operate after this life. –Clement of Alexandria

Do not suppose that the soul is punished for endless eons (apeirou aionas) in Tartarus. Very properly, the soul is not punished to gratify the revenge of the divinity, but for the sake of healing. But we say that the soul is punished for an aionion period (aionios) calling its life and its allotted period of punishment, its aeon. --Olnmpiodorus (AD 550)

Wherefore, that at the same time liberty of free-will should be left to nature and yet the evil be purged away, the wisdom of God discovered this plan; to suffer man to do what he would, that having tasted the evil which he desired, and learning by experience for what wretchedness he had bartered away the blessings he had, he might of his own will hasten back with desire to the first blessedness ...either being purged in this life through prayer and discipline, or after his departure hence through the furnace of cleansing fire.--Gregory of Nyssa (332-398 A.D.)

That in the world to come, those who have done evil all their life long, will be made worthy of the sweetness of the Divine bounty. For never would Christ have said, "You will never get out until you have paid the last penny" unless it were possible for us to get cleansed when we paid the debt. --Peter Chrysologus, 435

I know that most persons understand by the story of Nineveh and its king, the ultimate forgiveness of the devil and all rational creatures. --St. Jerome

Our Lord is the One who delivers man [all men], and who heals the inventor of evil himself. -- Gregory of Nyssa (332-398 A.D.), leading theologian of the Eastern Church

While the devil thought to kill One [Christ], he is deprived of all those cast out of hades, and he [the devil] sitting by the gates, sees all fettered beings led forth by the courage of the Saviour.--Athanasius, the Great Father of Orthodoxy

Our Lord descends, and was shut up in the eternal bars, in order that He might set free all who had been shut up... The Lord descended to the place of punishment and torment, in which was the rich man, in order to liberate the prisoners. --Jerome

In the liberation of all no one remains a captive! At the time of the Lord's passion the devil alone was injured by losing all the of the captives he was keeping. --Didymus, 370 AD

While the devil imagined that he got a hold of Christ, he really lost all of those he was keeping. --St. Chrysostom, 398 AD

Stronger than all the evils in the soul is the Word, and the healing power that dwells in him, and this healing He applies, according to the will of God, to everyman. The consummation of all things is the destruction of evil…to quote Zephaniah: “My determination to gather the nations, that I am assemble the kings, to pour upon them mine indignation, even say all my fierce anger, for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy. For then will I turn to the people a pure language that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one consent”…Consider carefully the promise, that all shall call upon the Name of the Lord, and serve him with one consent.—Origen (185 to 254 A.D.) He founded a school at Caesarea, and is considered by historians to be one of the great theologians and exegete of the Eastern Church.

The nations are gathered to the Judgment, that on them may be poured out the wrath of the fury of the Lord, and this in pity and with a design to heal. in order that every one may return to the confession of the Lord, that in Jesus' Name every knee may bow, and every tongue may confess that He is Lord. All God's enemies shall perish, not that they cease to exist, but cease to be enemies.—Jerome (340 to 420 A.D), commenting on Zephaniah 3:8-10

Mankind, being reclaimed from their sins, are to be subjected to Christ in he fullness of the dispensation instituted for the salvation of all. –Didymus the Blind

So then, when the end has been restored to the beginning, and the termination of things compared with their commencement, that condition of things will be re-established in which rational nature was placed, when it had no need to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; so that when all feeling of wickedness has been removed, and the individual has been purified and cleansed, He who alone is the one good God becomes to him "all," and that not in the case of a few individuals, or of a considerable number, but He Himself is "all in all." And when death shall no longer anywhere exist, nor the sting of death, nor any evil at all, then verily God will be "all in all" --Origen, De Prinicipiis, 3.6.3. (Origen founded a school at Caesarea, and is considered by historians to be one of the great theologians and exegete of the Eastern Church.)

The Son "breaking in pieces" His enemies is for the sake of remolding them, as a potter his own work; as Jeremiah 18;6 says: i.e., to restore them once again to their former state. --Eusebius of Caesarea (65 to 340 A.D). Bishop of Caesarea

Our Savior has appointed two kinds of resurrection in the Apocalypse. 'Blessed is he that hath part in the first resurrection,' for such come to grace without the judgment. As for those who do not come to the first, but are reserved unto the second resurrection, these shall be disciplined until their appointed times, between the first and the second resurrection.-- Ambrose, Bishop of Milan (340-397 A.D.)

We think, indeed, that the goodness of God, through His Christ, may recall all His creatures to one end, even His enemies being conquered and subdued.... for Christ must reign until He has put all enemies under His feet. --Origen (185 to 254 A.D.) He founded a school at Caesarea, and is considered by historians to be one of the great theologians and exegete of the Eastern Church.

For it is needful that evil should some day be wholly and absolutely removed out of the circle of being. --Gregory of Nyssa (332-398 A.D.), leading theologian of the Eastern Church

In the present life God is in all, for His nature is without limits, but he is not all in all. But in the coming life, when mortality is at an end and immortality granted, and sin has no longer any place, God will be all in all. For the Lord, who loves man, punishes medicinally, that He may check the course of impiety. --Theodoret the Blessed, 387-458

When death shall no longer exist, or the sting of death, nor any evil at all, then truly God will be all in all. --Origen

All men are Christ's, some by knowing Him, the rest not yet. He is the Savior, not of some and the rest not. For how is He Savior and Lord, if not the Savior and Lord of all?—Clement of Alexandria

Thewanderingroad.wordpress.com

One of the striking things that this post (and the whole 'love wins' dust up) brings up is the question of old or new heresy. Two things that I've found interesting in this whole debate are 1) many are treating Bell, and Mike for that matter, as though they are saying something that is radically new and out in left field. The truth is that there are many faithful Christians who have said and struggled with these issues for hundreds, nay thousands of years. It's fine if you want to be critical of the beliefs, but understand that they grow out of serious scholarship and deep traditions. They're not just made up things to stir the pot.

and 2) I find in incredibly interesting that anyone who calls themselves and evangelical would ever claim to be 'orthodox' and use it as a weapon against another Christian. Seriously!? Have you no understanding of history? The only people who get to call themselves orthodox are the ORTHODOX! Maybe the Catholics too, but other than that everyone has been marked as a heretic and believes something that goes against the established church teachings, EVERYONE. As an Anabaptist, I guess this is why being called a heretic isn't a bad thing for me. In our past, when we've been called heretical is just about the time that we're right on track. But hey what do I know, I'm not evangelical/protestant/catholic/baptist or any other power denomination. I don't have much to loose in this fight. (hmmmm, now there's an interesting thought I haven't had yet? What kind of loss of power is at stake here for those who are up in arms? hmmmm, maybe another time)

Lige Jeter

Mike:

I guess it all comes down in the end, as to who one believes, God or man(?). I will always put my trust on God. Why! Because my Bible teaches that "God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do?" My soul depends upon it.

This April 29th, I have served the Lord Forty and Nine years and I have never found Him to lie.

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