What are you doing. I told you not to read this. Please go now.

Come on, don’t do this to your self, go play solitaire, read any other of my posts, just leave this one alone.

Are you still here? You really want to read this? I can’t persuade you against it? O.K, but let it be said that you were warned. Since there seems to be no way to convince you, the least you can do is to pick up a bible and read Act 17:1-15, I’ll wait.

I can only trust that you read the Acts passage. This is the last change I’ll give you. If you have any tendency to be like the Thessalonians, go. For the rest of you Bereans:

Over the last year, I have gone through some major theological change. I realized that theology is not static but fluid, dependent on the culture and the context. Theology is man’s attempt to answers the questions being asked in his culture and context. So as those questions change, as our understanding of reality changes and as we mature as a culture, we need to revisit our theology.

This has always been happening. We have always had people modifying, improving and changing our understanding of God. But we have also gone through periods where this change has been amplified. There was the era of the new testament, the church fathers, the great theologians, then the reform theologians, the liberal theologians and today we have the post modern theologians.

Some of these areas have taken us further away from the truth of God: the Greco-Roman philosophers from 300 to 1300 CE and the liberal theologian of the late 1800 – mid 2000. I have placed the classic theologians in this list due to their departure from Hebrew thought to Greek thought. This was not necessarily wrong for them, though Paul seems to warn against it in Colossians. However, the fact that most of our theology today is influenced by this ancient Greek philosophy, and that this is not wildly realized as a problem, indicates to me that we could be building on a crumbled foundation of theology.

It is nearly impossible to read the bible outside of an interpretive context of Greco-Roman philosophy until some one comes along and exposes this as an idol. It has happened to me, and my prayer is that it happens to you.

Any way, all that to say, I have been on a wild ride over the last year that has brought me to were I am currently.

How did I get here?

Step 1:
Coming to grips that God IS Love. God IS Love. He has other attributes, but He is Love.

Therefore we need to understand His attributes through the reality of love and to understand that reality of love in the context of His love for us [human race] and His desire for us [human race].God’s wrath, God’s holiness, His mercy and justice. All His attributes need to be understood through the fact that He is Love.

GOD is patient, GOD is kind and HE is not jealous; GOD does not brag and HE is not arrogant, HE does not act unbecomingly; HE does not seek HIS own, HE is not provoked, HE does not take into account a wrong suffered, HE does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but HE rejoices with the truth; HE bears all things, HE believes all things, HE hopes all things, HE endures all things. GOD never fails;

Therefore, we need to reinterpret much of our understanding of the God of the Old Testament. Jesus was and is God’s ultimate revelation to mankind. So now that we have this new bit of information, GOD IS LOVE, we need to use it on the old revelation to update our understanding.

When we read of a wrathful, vengeful God in the old testament, that imagery needs to be updated. What has happened in the past is that we have clung to the old imagery and modified the image of the new testament God of Love. The love of God is down played and lessened by the idea of a Holy God that has to loose His wrath on the disobedient.

THIS IS BACKWARDS => GOD IS LOVE

[We have also given God his own standards of Love. God told us to love others, but we would not want someone to love us as we think God loves his enemies. We hold ourselves to a higher standard of love then we hold God to.]

Step 2:
Next, I came to realizing that sin “is not a moral/spiritual stain upon the soul and an inheriting of guilt, rather it speaks of a severance of communion from God, a loss of sanctifying grace, an inheritance of a spiritual and physical death, the introduction of decay and disease, a subjugation to Satan, and finally a weakening of will and thus an inclination to sin. Succumbing to sin and temptation prevented humanity from participation in the Kingdom of Heaven; thus, all people from the beginning until Christ were prevented from entering into Heaven.” From Wikipedia.

Jesus’ death on the cross was not a legal requirement that allowed God to forgive our sins. First of all, this would not be forgiveness, rather it would be appeasement. It my sins were paid for, there is no longer a need for forgiveness.

And God did not turn His back on Jesus on the cross because of sin. Nowhere does it say God left Jesus, rather it says the opposite, that God was in Jesus. God never needed to hide from sin, sin does not make a gap that God cannot cross to be with us.

In the garden, right after man and woman sinned, God came looking for them to walk with them. He did not feel the need to hide from their sin, rather it was man and woman who hid from God. Sin caused mankind to hide from God not God to hide from man. With sin came shame and that sin and shame is what Jesus felt on the cross, He became sin. He felt our shame, and felt, for the first time in his life, a separation from God. God was there. He was in Christ doing the reconciliation, but due to the sin and shame, Jesus felt the separation we feel.

So sin is not a moral/ legal stain that God, in his holiness, has to hide from. And the cross was not the legal substitution that was the loop hole that allowed Jesus to get God to accept us. The cross is not an appeasement to and for God; it was an appeasement for us. The act was not legal [with legal there is winners and losers]; but was base in reconciliation. Jesus’ death was the cure for our sin and shame, not a substitution for my punishment.

I could go into great depths here. But rather than that I recommend an 8 hour dialogue here.

Step 3:
I listened to a number of amiable debates between a christian and an atheist and was struck by the idea of the culpability of God. What kind of God would set up humanity, so that not sinning is statistically and logically out of the question. God created them; He set before them a tree that was both pleasing to the eye and good for food and said don’t eat. I could have predicted the results.

And then to say that because of their actions, we will all [mostly] perish in eternal torment. This God would be culpable!

Although I wouldn’t say that these debates changed me drastically, I was already well on my way, I found that they did emphasis the idea of looking at the other side of issues and allowing this to become an opportunity for iron sharpening iron.

Let me also say, that as an evolutionary creationist [I’ll explain if requested], and with the general understanding of biblical literary styles, I do not take Genesis to be literal history. The creation story does not describe our origins, rather it describes our condition. There is all kinds of truth and understanding that we can get out of Genesis even if read only as Godly myths. It is God breathed but not a science or history book. The later chapters, I believe are based on real events, but even they were written in a style that conveyed more meaning of God then history.

I find absolutely no compromise in the God breathed authority and my view of Genesis being non science, non history literature. Though I’m sure many would argue differently and say that I was on the slippery slope of liberalism.

Step 4:
Influence of Greek Philosophy in Christian Doctrines
see my post on Colossians

Here are just two headings I came across in a history of western thought textbook:
Saint Augustine: the fusion of Platonism and Christianity
and
Medieval Philosophy: a prolonged attempt to fit Plato, Aristotle and Christianity harmoniously into the same outlook.

There are different theological schools of thought that are being developed today that bypass this adherence to the Greco-Roman worldview and are more harmonious with the ancient Hebraic thoughts and philosophies of God:

I honestly do not know enough about these theologies to say I believe in them or not. I just know that the old theologies that stem from the greco-roman philosophies need to be, at the very least, challenged. These challenges need to be in the spirit of open and honest communication and not to be responded to in a knee jerk reaction.

Step 5:
Study of hell. The Hebrews did not have a well defined view of the after life until the inter-testamental period. The word sheol is often interpreted as hell, however, it is the place every one went. The use is similar to the word Hades in the New Testament, which again is the afterlife or the unseen realm where all those who die go to.

The other word in the New Testament, Gehenna, is the name of a real valley that was used as Jerusalem’s garbage depository. The history of this valley has child sacrifice and was often used in the Old Testament as the imagery of judgment.

Jesus’ hearers would not have the image we have, as a result of the middle ages. They would think of this garbage dump that was apparently continually on fire to burn off the refuse. The Hebrews would also have the understanding of the continuation of the judgment imagery.

I have become convinced that hell could very well be real, however, it is not like our modern imagery that comes out of the middle ages. Hell is a place of Judgment and Punishment, and though hell may exist for eternity, individual punishment may only be for a set period. [there are other possible interpretations for eternal – unto the ages]

So I came to the conclusion that there are three valid interpretations:
1) The traditional western/ Catholic view of eternal/ everlasting torment. I need to reject this view due to my understanding of God. The God I know would be able to save all or would have mercy to terminate the torture.

2) Annihilation: Sinners are not reconciled, by they are not eternally tormented. They perish. Although I could accept this, I see the scripture leading me to the last option.

3) Ultimate Reconciliation

Step 6:
Submission to Ultimate Reconciliation

I believe that all will be judged and some will be punished. But in the end, Christ will reconcile ALL things to Himself. (Colossians 1:20) After all, He himself is the propitiation [satisfaction; mercy; make favorable, the removal or cleansing of sin] of our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the WHOLE world! (1 John 2:2)

There are many other scriptures that, taken just as they are written, reveal this doctrine of ultimate reconciliation. The problem is that these verses are usually interpreted through and explained away by other verses that hint at a exclusive salvation of only some who believe. The question is which side should be used as the basis for interpretation? Do we replace the ALL’s with SOME’s?

“For God has shut up ALL in disobedience so that He may show mercy to ALL.”

becomes:

” For God has shut up ALL in disobedience so that He may show mercy to SOME”
(Romans 11:32)

“So then as through ONE transgression there resulted condemnation to ALL men, even so through ONE act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to ALL men “

becomes:

“So then as through ONE transgression there resulted condemnation to ALL men, even so through ONE act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to SOME men”
(Romans 5:18)

“For as in Adam ALL die, so also in Christ ALL will be made alive”

becomes:

“For as in Adam ALL die, so also in Christ SOME will be made alive”
(1 Corinthians 15:22)

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires All men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for ALL, the testimony given at the proper time.
(1 Timothy 2:3-6)

These are just some of the verses that convey the idea of a ultimate reconciliation. These verses, taken in there immediate context and in the context of the loving God seeking to bring reconciliation to His creation, clearly can only be understood as applying to all mankind. It is only by taking the doctrine of ‘limited salvation of some’ into their context that these verses can be twisted to mean something other than their plain meaning.

It helps that I first came to an understanding of sin as a ‘missing the mark’ rather than committing a great travesty against God.

It helps that I also came to the understanding of a Loving God working through the cross to restore relationship with His Creation rather than a vengeful and wrathful God needing appeasement.

And it helps that I first came to the understanding that God has been at work throughout human history to establish and to restore the Father/child relationship that exists outside of the context of the fall. Wanting it so bad that He would go to the cross in order to appease our sense of guilt and shame. That God was in Christ reconciling THE WORLD to Himself. (2 Corinthians 5:19)

I may be [read: will be] labeled a heretic by some, but that is OK. I’d rather be labeled a heretic for believing in a good and loving God, a God who IS love; who is powerful and wise enough to be able to bring His will to fruition. For He is not willing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.(2 Peter 3:9) “For it is this I labor and strive, because I have fixed my hope on the living God, who is the Savior of ALL men, especially those who believe.” (1 Timothy 4:10)

But none the less, here are some of my other beliefs:

  1. Jesus is the Way , the Truth and the Life; no one can come to the Father except through Him
  2. we need to come into repentance and be baptized to enter the Kingdom of God
  3. We, as believers are called into the ministry of reconciliation.
  4. It is appointed for men to die once, and after this the judgment. All WILL be judged; Some will be punished.
  5. Punishment and Hell fire is purifying, redemptive fire
  6. In the end, EVERY knee will bow and EVERY tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father:
    Bowing as a defeated rebellious enemy of God, in my opinion, would not be glory to God

Scriptures
The above scriptures are not an exclusive list of scriptures supporting my view, but they are the most obvious. These can only be explained away by the use of preconceived theology based on other scriptures.

I do not deny that there could be two ways to interpret scriptures based on prejudges that we bring with us. Why would we seem to desire that the majority should perish or be eternally tormented.

“In the first five or six centuries of Christianity there were six theological schools, of which four (Alexandria, Antioch, Caesarea, and Edessa, or Nisibis) were Universalist; one (Ephesus) accepted conditional immortality (annihilationism); one (Carthage or Rome) taught endless punishment of the wicked”.
The Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, vol. 12, p. 96; Retrieved April 29, 2007.

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