Erasing Hell

Francis Chan, an Evangelical pastor and author of comparable fame as Rob Bell, throws his hat into the debate on Hell.

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77 thoughts on “Erasing Hell

  1. It is a basic gospel doctrine that every person, except a very few, will be saved. It is an equally basic doctrine that salvation is graded. Every person will be placed in the hereafter according to his works.

    These truths had been forgotten in the dark ages of apostasy. It was then commonly believed that the sinner would forever remain in a torturing hell and that all who escaped that place of unending misery would receive equal places in God’s kingdom.

    Soon after the coming of the Restoration a glorious manifestation revealed anew the ancient truths. While Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were engaged in the revision of the Bible, it became “apparent” to them “that many important points touching the salvation of man had been taken from the Bible or lost before it was compiled. It appeared self-evident from what truths were left that if God rewarded every one according to the deeds done in the body, the term `Heaven,’ as intended for the Saints’ eternal home must include more kingdoms than one.” While pondering upon this matter, the vision, known as D&C 76 in the Doctrine and Covenants, was received. It threw a flood of light upon the nature of God, and his dealings with his children on earth.

    In essence, this vision or revelation explains that all except the sons of perdition will be saved. The traditional hell with its threats of fire and brimstone, and of unending torture, has no existence. But the degree of salvation will vary with the just desserts of those who appear for judgment. Those who in life, or in the later spiritual domain, deliberately did evil, or refused to comply with gospel requirements, would not receive the rewards given to the just and obedient. By his own works, every person would place himself in a higher or lower eternal home. “For they shall be judged according to their works, and every man shall receive according to his own works, his own dominion, in the mansions which are prepared.”

    These gradations in salvation may be innumerable, since all members of the human family are different. The many gradations are however reduced to three classes: (1) the celestial, the highest, as of the sun in glory; (2) the terrestrial, the next, as of the moon; (3) the telestial, the lowest, as of the stars.

    The revelation details somewhat fully, and with much beauty of language, the conditions that place people in each of these kingdoms. Those of the celestial the place where God and Christ dwell, have accepted Jesus and the ordinances of his Church. Those of the terrestrial died without the law, or were not valiant in the testimony of Jesus. Those of the telestial kingdom did not receive Jesus but were content to follow falsehood.

    These kingdoms, though very different, are filled with the children of God the Father. Though those of the lower kingdom have not shown themselves worthy of the fulness of salvation, yet the love of the Father envelops them. Even the glory of the lowest, the telestial, “surpasses all understanding.”
    To an apostate world this was a new conception of God and his relationship to his children on earth. It raised God to a new height in the thoughts of men. It invited a new love of men for their Eternal Father, a firmer response through righteous works to his love for us. The malignant god of apostasy was removed from the fears of humanity.

    Nevertheless, there remained the punishment that one in the lower kingdoms might by another mode of life have received and enjoyed a higher glory. The eternal memory, though terrible, is a more reasonable punishment than the fiery furnace taught through generations of time by false teachers.
    Moreover, those who are assigned to the lower kingdoms, have so lived, so misused their opportunities, that they could not adapt themselves to the prevailing conditions in the higher kingdoms. Their capacities, by their own acts have been changed to fit a lower glory. They would not he happy in a higher kingdom. They are unprepared for association with those whose lives have been in accord with God’s truth. As we have made ourselves, so shall our judgment be.

    It is further recorded that though these kingdoms are separate, yet there is intercommunication among them. Those in the higher may minister to those in the lower kingdoms. But, the reverse cannot be done. Those in the lower kingdom cannot enter a higher one. Wherever a child of God may be placed, he is not forgotten. That is not the Lord’s way. It shows again the infinite, never-ending love of God for his children.

    Despite this divine mercy, it must be remembered that though we shall in the hereafter find salvation in one of the kingdoms it is dangerous to allow sin to enter our lives.

    Now the concern of the Church is to bring all men into the celestial kingdom. It has no interest in the other, lower kingdoms. Every doctrine, principle, and item of organization within the Church pertains to the celestial glory. The manner of entrance into this the highest kingdom, is therefore made clear. Any person who wishes to enter it must have faith and repent from his sins. Then he must be baptized, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost by one who has divine authority to perform such ordinances. There are principles and ordinances which in their entirety belong peculiarly to the higher kingdom.
    After having laid the foundation for his claim to celestial membership and association, he must, to receive all available blessings of this kingdom, comply with the many requirements of life within the Church. He belongs to “those who are valiant and inspired with the true independence of heaven, who will go forth boldly in the service of their God leaving others to do as they please, determined to do right, though all mankind should take the opposite course.” All this having been done, he is qualified to enter the celestial kingdom. Indeed, he is then, even on earth, in the celestial kingdom of God.

    Naturally, those who enter the celestial kingdom are of various attainments. There is not absolute uniformity anywhere among the children of God. Their innate capacities and their use of the law of free agency make them different, often widely so. Therefore, the members of the highest kingdom are also grouped, according to the Prophet Joseph Smith into three “degrees.”

    To enter the highest of these degrees in the celestial kingdom is to be exalted in the kingdom of God. Such exaltation comes to those who receive the higher ordinances of the Church, such as the temple endowment, and afterwards are sealed in marriage for time and eternity, whether on earth or in the hereafter. Those who are so sealed continue the family relationship eternally. Spiritual children are begotten by them. They carry on the work of salvation for the hosts of waiting spirits. They who are so exalted become even as the gods. They will be “from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue.”

    To find entrance to the celestial kingdom, and be exalted therein, form the great hope of every true Latter-day Saint.

    The fate of the sons of perdition is not known. There will be few of them, for few know so much as to fall so low. The suggestion has been made, by Brigham Young and others that they will lose all that they have gained in the long journey, from the dim beginning. They must start over again. But their fate is sealed from us. In this matter we must accept God’s own declaration: “Eternal punishment is God’s punishment. Endless punishment is God’s punishment.”

    John A. Widtsoe “Evidences and Reconciliations” (Deseret 1947)

  2. Oh, haha, for a minute I thought I was reading something you actually wrote, Murdock. And I was all ready to read it carefully, think about it, and respond.

    But then I got suspicious and I scrolled down, and indeed, it turned out to be just an entire article that you cut and pasted into a comment. So, I’m not interested anymore. Sorry.

  3. I have a hard time with his emotive speaking style.

    He needs to get a dark suit and act more somber.

  4. I have a hard time with his emotive speaking style.

    He needs to get a dark suit and act more somber.

    Yeah, the facial hair has to go as well.

  5. No, that stuff’s fine. I’ve just never been able to warm up to the “motivational speaker” cadence.

  6. “Oh, haha, for a minute I thought I was reading something you actually wrote, Murdock. And I was all ready to read it carefully, think about it, and respond.”

    Kullervo, I am flattered that, if what you started reading had been written by me, rather than by an Apostle of Christ, you would have read it carefully, thought about it, and been ready to respond. Of course, Tim’s original post is not something he wrote, but a video of Jackie Chan, and I see that you did not respond to the video either, so you are consistent. I did watch the video and it was not a waste of time. As Tim presented Jackie Chan as “throwing his hat in the ring, on the subject of Hell”, I thought I would present Elder Widtsoe throwing his hat in the ring on the subject of Hell.

    I am a 54 year old attorney, I am a Southerner (born and raised in Louisiana, graduated from LSU), a father of two, I live with my wife in the suburbs of Washington, DC and work in an historic building downtown representing big corporations fighting each other over big money. Since I was in high school in the 1970s, I have had all of the Doors’ music. I was an atheist most of my life and wanted that to change. I had to adopt a “no exceptions” policy of finishing one book before starting another. I am amazed repeatedly that Athens, with a population of perhaps 20,000 adult citizens, in just a couple of centuries, produced such a large and important portion of the Western Canon. And I am a Mormon.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_A._Widtsoe

  7. Of course, Tim’s original post is not something he wrote, but a video of Jackie Chan, and I see that you did not respond to the video either, so you are consistent.

    Indeed.

    As Tim presented Jackie Chan as “throwing his hat in the ring, on the subject of Hell”, I thought I would present Elder Widtsoe throwing his hat in the ring on the subject of Hell.

    Not unreasonable. Just, next time, put blockquote tags around it or something so we can know you’re quoting something long before we start reading it.

    I am a 54 year old attorney, I am a Southerner (born and raised in Louisiana, graduated from LSU), a father of two, I live with my wife in the suburbs of Washington, DC and work in an historic building downtown representing big corporations fighting each other over big money. Since I was in high school in the 1970s, I have had all of the Doors’ music. I was an atheist most of my life and wanted that to change. I had to adopt a “no exceptions” policy of finishing one book before starting another. I am amazed repeatedly that Athens, with a population of perhaps 20,000 adult citizens, in just a couple of centuries, produced such a large and important portion of the Western Canon. And I am a Mormon.

    Sounds like we have a lot in common then! Where in the DC area do you live? My wife and I used to live in Silver Spring, MD, and we loved it there. And I have family in Burke, VA.

  8. Murdock, it’s incredibly racial insensitive to refer to Francis Chan as “Jackie Chan”. Do they really look similar to you or do you just not know any Asians? I would expect more from someone who carries the priesthood. Is Christ not in you?

    I’m sure you’d find it rude if I disregarded Elder Widtsoe by calling him “Colonel Sanders”. You dishonor the South, the LDS Church and yourself. Do you still make your eyes squinting when talking about Asians?

    I’m not sure why I’d having any interest in listening to what you have to say about Jesus if this is what you have to say about an Asian man.

    Yes, I know it was a joke. What I’m telling you is that it’s a bad joke and you’re the one with egg on your face, not Francis Chan.

  9. I didn’t realize he had done that until after I commented and I scrolled up to see what the guy’s name actually was.

    Murdock, if you want to be flip and disrespectful (and casually racist to boot), don’t cry when other people treat you the same way.

  10. Tim and Kullervo

    It was just a MISTAKE! Neither flip nor racist. Not a joke. Maybe dementia. That’s all.

    I have no disrespect for Mr. Chan on any basis.

    Murdock

  11. Kullervo

    I live in Northern Virginia, although not Burke. I pass right through Silver Spring on my way to the temple in Kensington.

    Murdock

  12. We lived about a mile and a half southeast of the temple (our kids’ babysitter was in the Kensington Ward and lived in the neighborhood just across the street from the temple).

  13. I agree with Tim that it was a bad joke, Murdock.

    I also agree with Seth and Steve Martin that he was a little too “awesome” for my taste.

    Still, about the content…

    The question he’s really asking is not so much about hell, but the reliability of the Bible (and not just the Bible itself, but the modern world’s most common approach to the Bible). He appeals not so much to reason or justice, but to the idea that God’s ways are not our ways, and then pulls out all the awful stuff…

    –Adam and Eve get cursed…
    –Exodus 32, when the priests go around killing everyone…
    –Job’s plagues and trials…
    –Jesus’ crucifixion…
    –Revelation 20 and the idea of eternal torture…

    …and says, in essence, “See? The Bible says that God did/does stuff all the time that seems awful and doesn’t make any sense, so maybe we’re the ones who don’t understand.”

    I admit that God’s ways aren’t my ways, and there’s lots (read: almost everything) about Him that I don’t understand…but I get really nervous when the end conclusion is, “Well the Bible says X [even if there are other ways of interpreting the Bible] so it must be so.”

    That’s when religion can get dangerous, in my opinion.

    I’m not saying we shouldn’t wrestle with it, but honestly, isn’t it just as likely that the people who wrote the Bible had their own biases and agendas and misconceptions about God, too, and that maybe they were just as handicapped by that whole “His ways are not are not our ways” things as we are?

    I realize this makes life A LOT trickier. I don’t know that that’s such a bad thing.

  14. Sorry if it felt like I was beating a dead horse. I saw your response to the joke thing AFTER I posted, Murdock.

  15. I’m not saying we shouldn’t wrestle with it, but honestly, isn’t it just as likely that the people who wrote the Bible had their own biases and agendas and misconceptions about God, too, and that maybe they were just as handicapped by that whole “His ways are not are not our ways” things as we are?

    This, this, a thousand times this.

    You can’t sell Evangelical Hell on the basis of reason or justice, because it runs completely counter to our concepts of reason and justice. You have to take as a given that the Bible (and, as Katie points out, one particular interpretation of the Bible) is literally true, and from there you can conclude that “God’s ways are not our ways” not only because the Bible says so, but because the God of the Bible acts in ways that are manifestly unjust and unreaosnable to us.

    The argument is “this is the way God is, whether we like it or not, so we need to adjust our ideas of justice and reason to match his.”

    And the problem with that is you’ve got very little with which to make the case that “this is the way God is” outside of the naked authority of the Bible, which is what is in question in the first place.

  16. Tim

    “Murdock, if it was a mistake, I’d be happy to accept your apology if you offered one.”

    I apologize for the mistake.

    Murdock

  17. Kullervo

    “You can’t sell Evangelical Hell on the basis of reason or justice, because it runs completely counter to our concepts of reason and justice.”

    This reminds me of the experience of a friend in my ward. He was raised in an Evangelical family and, in his younger days, was being educated to become a Southern Baptist preacher. There were many ministers in his family. However, for him, there was a stumbling block. The stumbling block was not Evangelical Hell in itself, but the idea that the bulk of the human race was headed to that Hell. When I asked him how Evangelicals were accepting of such a notion, he said that the theory was that you just have to trust that the Lord is doing the right thing in sending the vast majority of people to Evangelical Hell. I think that Mr. Chan’s video is articulating the same or a similar theory and I assume that his forthcoming book will do so as well. However, the theory was not accepted by my friend. He turned his back on, not only the ministry, but the religion in which he was raised, and joined the military. While serving in the Philippines, during the Vietnam War, he converted and was baptized as a Mormon. A couple of years ago, he was sent, now as a civilian government employee, to Afghanistan. He became the Branch President (like the Bishop of a Ward) at Bagram air base. So, for a while, he did become a “minister”, although not a preacher.

    Murdock

  18. Murdock: I accept that was an honest mistake.

    Katie L: I agree with your concerns, and I don’t claim to have any easy answers. I do believe the Bible is the word of God, and I can’t just lightly say, “the Bible seems to endorse genocide, but I’m more enlightened than that, so the Bible must be wrong.” But I also believe that inspiration (in the sense that the scriptures are inspired) has both human and divine elements, and that belief necessitates living with some uncertainty about how to deal with troublesome passages.

    I know there are some standard answers to the problem. I don’t find Rev. Chan’s solution (God’s ways are not our ways, so even if something in the Bible appears terribly unjust it isn’t) particularly satisfying, but neither do I find very satisfying the LDS solutions I’ve heard most often while teaching Old Testament class (such as God had all these people killed to protect the purity of his people or some such thing). And, frankly, when dealing with some of these stories in class (including the story of Nephi and Laban, so it’s not just the Bible), I could never understand why I seemed to be the only one who found them troubling.

    So I’ve kind of come to the point where I agree with what you said:

    I’m not saying we shouldn’t wrestle with it, but honestly, isn’t it just as likely that the people who wrote the Bible had their own biases and agendas and misconceptions about God, too, and that maybe they were just as handicapped by that whole “His ways are not are not our ways” things as we are?

    I realize this makes life A LOT trickier. I don’t know that that’s such a bad thing.

    Yes, a lot trickier, for better or worse.

  19. I do believe the Bible is the word of God, and I can’t just lightly say, “the Bible seems to endorse genocide, but I’m more enlightened than that, so the Bible must be wrong.”

    You’re making a personal moral judgment either way. Either you decide to subject the Bible to your moral reasoning, or you make a decision to abdicate your moral judgment and substitute the Bible for it.

  20. You’re making a personal moral judgment either way. Either you decide to subject the Bible to your moral reasoning, or you make a decision to abdicate your moral judgment and substitute the Bible for it.

    This is where I part company with inerrantists. On my reading of the archaeological records I think the overwhelming evidence points to the fact that the genocides in Numbers and Joshua never happened. It converts a moral issue (Why did something so bad happen? Is God morally evil?) into an empirical issue. Since it didn’t happen, God didn’t command it, therefore it’s not a moral problem. You still have the problem of why was it put in the Bible in the first place, but it’s no longer God’s problem, it’s now a people problem.

    I understand this is a big tradeoff, and that inerrantists are worried that if they lose Biblical inerrancy they lose everything. However, I don’t share that sentiment, though I would be silly to pretend that it doesn’t complicate Biblical interpretation.

  21. David

    “You still have the problem of why was it put in the Bible in the first place, but it’s no longer God’s problem, it’s now a people problem.”

    Perhaps it was the centuries upon centuries of “careless scriveners and designing priests.”

    Murdock

  22. I’d prefer to at least attempt to solve the problem before punting like that.

  23. That’s my informal term for the “it was corrupt scribes and priests” defense used by Mormons on occasion.

  24. I think the problem with Chan’s argument is that justice is fundamentally a human thing, if God want’s to be just, he has to be so within a human understanding.

    If he is “just” in another way, then this is just high jacking the term “just” and making it completely inaccessable to our understanding, i.e. nonsense.

    Its like describing something as sweet but it actually tastes like salt. It may ultimately taste good, but it aint going to be sweet.

    It just feels so much better for people to say that God’s justice is more developed than ours, when if fact, the only way we can cash out the meaning of such a proposition is to conclude that God not just, or simply doesn’t care about justice.

  25. Perhaps it was the centuries upon centuries of “careless scriveners and designing priests.”

    I’m with Seth on this one. Many Mormons like to make assertions like this but can’t really come up with any evidence that backs up their specific claim.

  26. Jared,

    I agree that it’s not a very fulfilling answer. I’m not sure that what you’re describing is Chan’s argument against hell (in his book). I thought it was more of just a way to frame the debate with a word of caution.

  27. “…if God want’s to be just, he has to be so within a human understanding.”

    Why?

  28. Jared,

    That explanation coming from you is incredibly rich. People like me can’t possibly fix terms to common uses inside Mormon discourse. You get to redefine “salvation” and “hell” to make whatever argument you want, but all of the sudden if Chan were to change up the word “justice” you call foul?

    Having said that, I agree with Tim, that’s probably not going to be his argument.

  29. David,

    I am not sure you understand my argument. You seem to be criticizing me for arguing for or against a particular definition for “salvation” or “hell” but then objecting to Chan’s definition of Justice. I don’t see how this criticism makes sense. I don’t think I am being inconsistent at all. If we disagree with how terms are used, it is not inconsistent to say that we need to keep the use of term within the limits of human understanding in order for our definition to make any sense.

    Further, I am not defining “justice” I am simply saying that it has to be defined within human limits. There are all kinds of conceptions of Justice. But “Justice”, like “love”or “sweet”, is something that we all understand something of. To define it in a way that is beyond human understanding simply makes the term literally nonsense. I think 90% of all theological discourse falls within this category. This is not a fault of Chan, its a fault of all of Christianity, including Mormonism.

    You can define justice (or “love” or “hope” or “) however you want, but you’d be wrong if you can’t make an argument for your definition to somebody in terms that are outside any human understanding of these terms.

    Tim,

    I liked Chan’s humility angle and the concept of approaching the argument with caution. I actually couldn’t tell whether he was “for” or “against” hell. There may be a way that an eternal hell is just, but I have yet to see the justification for it as a fair. If it does exist, it may be like most of life, i.e. not fair but the simply the way it is.

    Gundek,

    because Justice, like any word, and perhaps more than most, has to relate to human understanding in order to actually make sense. Justice has a sense, we can have arguments about its meaning and you can be right or wrong about it. If you say that God is always just, even when by all human appearances he is not acting justly, then this appears to be nonsense to me. Its like saying that salt is sweet. You can’t say that without stripping the human meaning from “salty” or “sweet”.

    Throwing a person who has devoted their life to love and peace and self sacrifice into hell for eternity is not just by any human understanding. If God does this then he isn’t just. If you simply say that this must be just, simply because its not within the rules to say that God is not just, then you are playing a game that makes justice into a meaningless concept when applied to God.

  30. So if I understand you correctly, God must measure up to an undefined human standard of justice if he wants to be just?

    Somehow you have missed the most basic parts of the Creator, creature distinction.

  31. If you say “justice” but you mean it in a novel way that is totally unlike any other meaning of the word, then you’re really talking about something other than justice.

  32. So if I understand you correctly, God must measure up to an undefined human standard of justice if he wants to be just?

    Since what we mean when we say “justice” is a human idea, yes.

    We can’t meaningfully describe God as “just” if God is not really what we mean when we say “just.”

  33. Gundek, even if you want to say that God somehow has a sovereign claim on the meaning of the word “justice” that makes all human beings wrong about what justice is, it’s the same problem.

    Because we get no comfort at all from calling God “just” if “just” merely means “like God,” as opposed to whatever it is that we are thinking of when we incorrectly use the term “justice” but that we all care a whole lot about.

  34. Kullervo,

    The insistence on univocal meaning of any of Gods attributes to their human manifestations is simply an anthropomorphizing of God.

    Is God a father in the same manner as a human?

    Is God a Judge the same way as a human is a Judge?

    Is God Just in the same manner as a human?

    I would understand the answer to these questions to be no. But in each case we can understand God’s attribute to be analogous to what we see in the created world. We can see an analogy of God’s love by seeing the love of a father and the care he takes for his children. We can see an analogy of God’s judgement in the human courts.

    Is God Just in the same manner as a human? No, but by analogy we understand his justice is as much of an attribute as love, righteousness, or mercy.

  35. Seth, thats why I always get a chuckle at the complaints of Mormons wanting to be called Christians. If you fall short on the creator, creature distinction everything else is a wash. Two completely different religions.

  36. OK Gundeck, if you want to play that game….

    I’M the “real” Christian here.

    You are just a neoplatonist pretender to the title.

  37. I would understand the answer to these questions to be no. But in each case we can understand God’s attribute to be analogous to what we see in the created world. We can see an analogy of God’s love by seeing the love of a father and the care he takes for his children. We can see an analogy of God’s judgement in the human courts.

    Is God Just in the same manner as a human? No, but by analogy we understand his justice is as much of an attribute as love, righteousness, or mercy.

    Right, but that means that your God is only metaphorically just. Not actually just at all. What ever your God is, is something other than just.

    I’m not insisting that God must conform to human concepts of justice. I’m insisting that we cannot describe God as “just,” a human term with reference to a human concept that is meaningful and comforting to humans, if God is actually something other than just.

    With “fatherhood” we’re okay with that, because the metaphorical application is clear and sufficiently nuanced: we realize that although God does not act exactly like a human father, we are suggesting that our relationship with him is analogous to father-child in a good way. And it is a meaningful analogy because it is applicable in other ways, too–we can see how plenty of other things could be like a father-child relationship without being literally a father-child relationship.

    But that is inapplicable to something like “justice” where “not-justice” is actually injustice. There’s not something “like justice” that is, however, not justice. If God is not just, then he’s not just. He can’t be “like just” and still be just.

    If you want to say “God doesn’t have to play by our rules,” you can go ahead. But justice (or whatever the human concept is that we call justice) is one of our rules. Don’t say God plays by our rules and then turn around and explain how he really doesn’t.

  38. Seth said

    I’M the “real” Christian here.

    You are just a neoplatonist pretender to the title.

    Thank you! at last.

  39. As I have pointed out before Seth, there is more similarity to Platonism in Mormonism than Christianity.

  40. But that is inapplicable to something like “justice” where “not-justice” is actually injustice. There’s not something “like justice” that is, however, not justice. If God is not just, then he’s not just. He can’t be “like just” and still be just.

    this.

    Gundek

    I guess I see your point ,

    The difference between Mormons and Trinitarians is that Mormons actually believe God is their father while Trinitarians believe that God is not, he is just “like” a father, because those biblical passages simply cannot be taken at face value. 😉 Mormons anthropomorphize God because the scriptures do, over and over again.

    Along the same lines, I think Mormonism actually tries to make God actually just, not just just-like, or completely unfathomable. Ultimately I think it fails and you have to fall back on the mystery card but there is strong attempt. You can see Joseph Smith’s struggle for that all of the time in his revisions to the Bible.

    I think Mormonism tries to overcome the absolute injustice of the traditional salvation from eternal hell model by making human life a designed test rather than a dramatic correction of a mistake.

    In Mormonism you have everybody getting a fair shake at accepting Christ and salvation rather than an unfathomable or purely theoretical chance at salvation.

  41. I think Chan said it rightly that God is not fathomable in human terms, but in that case, its ultimately nonsensical to describe him as “just” which is a human term.

    The clearer, and more honest position of the Trinitarian is simply to state that God is not just, It is not our father but It is God, and that’s good enough because it has to be, we are not in a position to say that It should be any other way than It is.

    Mormons can say that he is literally our Father, that he is literally Just, but they have a lot more explaining to do to actually get there. But the possibility is open.
    They still cling to the trite literalism of the Bible, yet recognize that the text never makes God out to be Just. I think this was a big motivator for many of Joseph’s revelations. He worried about how his dead brother Alvin was going to saved, and how God could fairly give everyone a chance, and about the impossibility of a just God with an eternal hell. the answers he found are at the heart of the D&C.

  42. Here is an example.

    I have a client who got 25 years to life in prison for masturbating in front of a prison guard. Few would call this just.

    But God throws the same dude in hell for eternity for the same crime (among others) unless he is lucky enough to hear an have ears to hear the gospel.

    If the State of California is not just in this instance, the trinitarian God certainly isn’t.

  43. And I already countered that argument by you Gundeck. Traditional Christianity is neoplatonist down at the bone-marrow, unlike Mormonism where the similarities are more coincidental in nature. The creator-creation dichotomy for one thing – which you claim to be about the most fundamental thing in your faith, is a fully Greek distinction, for instance.

    To be honest, I find both exclusions silly. I don’t think the term “Christian” inherently requires any such creator-creation distinction. I smacks me more of “gospel-hobbyism” on the part of traditional Christian theology than anything else.

  44. I had assumed that you pretty much rejected all the scriptures that refer to God’s justice in order to make that go away.

    How can God’s infinite righteousness be the same as human righteousnesses.

    How is God’s infinite mercy exactly like human mercy?

    How can God’s infinite justice be the same as human justice?

  45. I think Chan said it rightly that God is not fathomable in human terms, but in that case, its ultimately nonsensical to describe him as “just” which is a human term.

    Bingo.

    The clearer, and more honest position of the Trinitarian is simply to state that God is not just, It is not our father but It is God, and that’s good enough because it has to be, we are not in a position to say that It should be any other way than It is.

    The problem with this (honest) approach is that it then becomes difficult to say why God’s so great other than the fact that he is omnipotent. If he’s a jerk by human standards, but too bad because he’s God, he’s still a jerk. And re-defining “jerk” so it doesn’t apply to God doesn’t help either, because he’s still a that-thing-we-condemn-that-we-used-to-call-a-jerk.

    It doesn;t do much good to praise God for being loving, merciful and just if by “love,” “mercy,” and “justice” you actually mean something completely different that you probably would not think was as praiseworthy. At the end of the day, it all reduces to mere fear of God’s omnipotence, which is pretty stupid if that’s all you’ve got because there’s not a lot of solid evidence that he exists anyway.

  46. How can God’s infinite righteousness be the same as human righteousnesses.

    How is God’s infinite mercy exactly like human mercy?

    How can God’s infinite justice be the same as human justice?

    “Righteous,” “merciful” and “just” are words that refer to qualities in a person. They are meaningful because we use them as referents to something, i.e., our ideas of what mercy, right, and justice are.

    If God is not just in the sense that we all mean when we say “just,” then God is not just, because that’s what the word means. God is something else.

    Our idea of justice is something we think is praiseworthy, so if God is just, we want to praise God. But why praise God if his “justice” is not something you think is praiseworthy?

  47. Trinitarians, by making God wholly foreign to humanity, make the references to God’s justice go away by calling it “infinite justice” which is a nonsensical term if it means that you get to be unjust in how you act, and is ultimately unexplainable within the language of justice.

    When I destroy an ant hill, it may not properly be called justice because ants aren’t really entitled to justice from me, a human. Talking about justice in human-ant relations is currently nonsense. Only recently have nations decided that justice can extend to those outside our group, or race, nation or species. Eventually we may be able to explain how humans can be just to ant’s but that would entail giving ants some sort of standing in relation to humans, some entitlement to respect and fairness.

    You cant really be just to the dirt.

  48. Trinitarians, by making God wholly foreign to humanity, make the references to God’s justice go away by calling it “infinite justice” which is a nonsensical term if it means that you get to be unjust in how you act, and is ultimately unexplainable within the language of justice.

    Yep. If, when gundek says by “ininite justice,” it turns out he really just means “injustice,” then he’s pretty much back where he started.

  49. Thinking about it more, the issue of the actual justice of God (rather than disparate views of hell) may be the more fundamental difference between Mormons and Trinitarians.

  50. One of the reasons I could be a Mormon but could not be a Protestant is that Mormonism allows for the possibility of God’s Justice, Protestantism pretty much rules it out.

  51. I think that’s taking the concept a little too far Jared.

    Let’s not let the general fun of this argument get the better of us.

  52. Seth,

    You countered that argument by claiming that “necessary and contingent truths are a neo-Platonic”. Since your counterargument isn’t exactly true you may want to demonstrate how Christianity is neo-Platonic.

  53. Jared said
    But God throws the same dude in hell for eternity for the same crime (among others) unless he is lucky enough to hear an have ears to hear the gospel.

    You are continually asserting that people have to be lucky enough to hear the gospel to be saved in Evangelicalism. I don’t think this is a representative description of Evangelicalism. It is true that some Evangelicals believe that. I do not think a person has to actually hear the name Jesus to be saved. I think the Bible agrees with me.

    I think the view point that you are holding God’s justice up against is as vital to Evangelicalism as last-names-are-an-important-part-of-the-Abrahamic-covenant is to Mormonism. It’s something people in both of our faith communities believe but both are also easy straw-men to take apart.

    I also think it’s a mistake to view Hell as a place where God gets his justice. I believe in Hell and I believe God is just. But I don’t think the two things are necessarily related. It is not justice to let an innocent man die for my sins. God’s merciful act of sending Jesus to us should make his characteristic of being infinitely just meaningless as well. You don’t have to hold up a minority view to illustrate that we have an apparent contradiction in our idea of God being just.

  54. I am not sure you understand my argument. You seem to be criticizing me for arguing for or against a particular definition for “salvation” or “hell” but then objecting to Chan’s definition of Justice. I don’t see how this criticism makes sense. I don’t think I am being inconsistent at all. If we disagree with how terms are used, it is not inconsistent to say that we need to keep the use of term within the limits of human understanding in order for our definition to make any sense.

    No, I’m understanding your argument just fine. Chan’s mistake in your opinion is that he says that God is just in a way that is incomprehensible to humans. In other words, whatever definition we want to use for “just” or “justice” that’s not what God is or does. As a corollary, you also are saying that for justice to have any meaning in our discourse, God must be just in a way that is comprehensible by humans. In other words, Chan gets to call God just only by changing the normal meaning of the word “just.” Also implicit is that fact that Chan would be comparing apples to oranges, since whatever “justice” is in God’s realm, there would be no way of comparing it to “justice” in the human realm.

    And that’s where you are being inconsistent. You argued in another thread that the Mormon Jesus provides more grace, gives more salvation, and saves more people from hell than the evangelical Jesus in the same way. You did this by changing the normal meaning of those words in Mormon discourse to something else, failed to correctly analyze the actual terms you are using (as they are much more complex in Mormon discourse than you wanted to let on), and then compared apples to oranges (because how Mormons use “salvation” is both multi-faceted and usually different from how Evangelicals use it).

    In simplistic terms, on your viewing, Chan is playing word games to get God off the hook. I see similar tactics used by you to make your claims in the earlier thread. In any case, I don’t expect you to agree with me, so I’ll drop this as the thread has moved on.

  55. No, still don’t get it. Chan is not making a mistake, he is consistent with traditional Christianity, the mistake is with traditional Christianity, or perhaps biblical religion in general. Chan is completely consistent with the bible here. I actually like Chan’s approach here.

    Also, previously I was not changing the normal meaning of “salvation” I was simply not using the technical meaning assigned by traditional Christians. Mormons don’t have a consistent single definition for that term like traditional Christians. I was trying to use the term in the non-Christian way. i.e. getting saved from some impending doom, death, hell, or whatnot.

  56. Chan is completely consistent with the bible here.

    OK, maybe I don’t understand. I don’t see how you can be completely consistent with the Bible when the Bible is not completely consistent with itself. The only way to view the Bible as completely consistent is through an interpretive strategy which has the goal of making it consistent. But that requires an interpreter, which is why it only seems logical to assume that Chan is the one providing consistency. In any case, Chan’s case might draw on the Bible for support, but it will be Chan’s case. In fact you even agree with this yourself as you earlier said:

    I think the problem with Chan’s argument is that justice is fundamentally a human thing, if God want’s to be just, he has to be so within a human understanding.

    But now you seem to like Chan’s argument and think it’s straight out of traditional Christianity and the Bible (or rather, you think it’s “completely consistent” with those things).

    So, I will concede the point that I don’t understand you. However, I make that concession based on the fact that you are contradicting yourself and being inconsistent.

  57. ok, I will simplify for you, I am sorry you are having trouble David: The Bible says God is just, and in some way unfathomable. I disagree that you can be just in an unfathomable way. Chan approaches the problem with humility and caution, I like this. but ultimately i don’t like his argument because it concludes that God is somehow just in some unfathomable way.

    Hope that helps. 😉

  58. Gundek

    Masturbation is a big deal to Mormons not Presbyterians.

    too bad for my client that the State of California is not as lenient as the Presbetyterians.

  59. Tim said:

    I don’t think this is a representative description of Evangelicalism. It is true that some Evangelicals believe that. I do not think a person has to actually hear the name Jesus to be saved. I think the Bible agrees with me.

    Maybe I got bad information on this point, or I don’t understand the consensus opinion on the subject.

    However, whether or not you have to be evangelized to be saved isn’t critical to my point. I understand that Evangelicals are spreading the Good News and the Bad News is far less significant or well defined.

    The fact that anybody burns in hell for eternity that isn’t given every opportunity to get out of this predicament seems fundamentally unjust, just like sending a man to prison for life for public masturbation.

    Also, don’t get me wrong, I think that it is perfectly reasonable to conclude, that God is not just in human terms but still somehow worthy or perfect, I just think that using the term “just” outside of human understanding is nonsense. But I think most things said about God are nonsense, this is just an extension of the point.

  60. Awesome video – amazing message.

    Love Chan’s work…. although I think he is heads above the like of Rob Bel. 🙂

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