January 21, 2021

Saturday Ramblings 3.26.11

Greetings from the desert edition of Saturday Ramblings. Your rambler is in the Phoenix area taking in some Spring Training baseball and In N Out burgers. Yes, life can get better than this, but not without involving legal action. I brought my allergies with me to the desert and was hoping to leave them here, but so far they are insisting on returning to Oklahoma with me on Sunday. We will see. In the meantime, are you ready to ramble?

Should there be another film edition of the Chronicles of Narnia series, it will be The Magician’s Nephew, not The Silver Chair. Walden Media is still in discussions with the estate of the late C.S. Lewis about making another movie from the series to go along with the previous three. My opinion: Stop it now. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was an unmitigated disaster as the movie treated the story in a disrespectful manner. What do you think? Does Walden deserv another chance?

Meanwhile, production has begun on The Hobbit, Peter Jackson’s version of the prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. No word yet on how they will work Liv Tyler into the story. But they will, won’t they?

And our final movie note, Soul Surfer is set to open in theaters on April 8. It’s the story of Bethany Hamilton, who survived a shark attack to win a world championship. Her faith in Christ is central to her story. This one could be very interesting indeed.

Want to shed some unwanted pounds? Apparently one of the ways to do that is to quit church. A recent study shows that those who attend a “religious event” at least once a week are fifty percent more likely to become obese than those with no religious activity. Who is going to be the first to come out with the “no-church diet plan”?

Rob Bell can get you into trouble. Chad Holtz found this out this week when Holtz, the pastor of a small Methodist church in Henderson, North Carolina, was fired for coming out in support of Bell’s new book, Love Wins. Holtz said in a post on Facebook that he has doubts about the nature of hell. Well, we can’t have pastors who have any doubts now, can we?

On the 400th anniversary of its “birth,” there is now the question of the very survival of the King James Version. Do you feel it necessary that it survive? Do you think that this author takes his case too far, or perhaps not far enough?

The new New International Version is causing more controversy regarding how it handles the matter of gender. One area that may have slipped past the editors entirely is how it handles the reference to animals. Never fear, PETA is here to see to it that we don’t mistakenly use the neutral pronoun “it” in reference to animals. No, seriously. I wouldn’t kid with you in something like this.

Celebrities who were one year older this last week included Glenn Close; William Shatner; Philip Roth; Ozzie Nelson; Carl Reiner; Number Four Bobby Orr; Erich Kunzel; Timothy Dalton; Chico Marx; Pat Robertson; Bob Costas; Clyde Barrow; Steve McQueen; and Aretha Franklin.

Have a great weekend!


  1. STOP NARNIA NOW! The first one was just “OK”, the second one was ridiculous and the third…well, STOP NARNIA NOW!

  2. I find that church people are second only to police officers in their love for donuts.

  3. Chad Holtz offers a good response in this post http://chadholtz.net/2011/03/25/none-of-your-damn-business/#comments

    • Chad Holtz says:

      > And for the record, when someone who devotes their life to the service of Christ’s church says “no comment” when asked about a split . . . <

      I don't know anything about Chad Holtz and I don't know if his theology is right or wrong. But his grammar is lousy. Wayne's link to Holtz's post reminds us of probably the most important aspect of this. It's none of our business, and from an eternal perspective it doesn't matter.

  4. I can understand the bit about not wanting to refer to an animal as an “it.” When we KNOW an animal as a pet, we usually refer to the pet as “he” or “she” depending on the sex: “Fido was sick this morning. He must have eaten something nasty.” We don’t say “It must have eaten something nasty.” But when we don’t actually know the animal, we usually have the word “it” in there: “Look at that eagle! It is so beautiful.” It would be too cumbersome to refer to every individual animal mentioned in the Bible as “he or she.” That said, I DO wish there was a pronoun to refer to living creatures instead of using “it.”

    I read recently that the new NIV is now often going to use the word “they” to refer to people in general, even if technically the word to be used should be in the singular form. That’s fine with me.

    The new New American Bible is now out, too. I haven’t seen it yet. There will soon be changes in the liturgy of the Mass too. Whenever the priest says “Peace be with you” the congregation will respond, “And with your spirit.” We have been saying “And also with you.” But “And with your spirit” is what we use to say decades ago. So we are going back to the original form. Some of the other changes I don’t like so much. We will say in the Creed “Incarnate of the Virgin Mary” instead of “born of the Virgin Mary.” I don’t think the change is as poetic as “born of the Virgin Mary” and I think it is not necessary to change the Creed.

    • Well, I’m a bit more sympathetic to the new (old) Mass translation. It is intended to be closer to the Latin and to be clearer. “Incarnate” may sound more cumbersome to modern ears, but it addresses the point the Creeds were created to address: what do we believe?

      We believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God. We believe He is both God and Man. We believe that God took flesh and was born of a human woman. “Incarnate” means exactly that – the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.

      “Born of Mary” is less precise, because old heresies (and all the old heresies are coming back again in new clothes) made it out to me an “Oh, He only seemed to be human” or “He wasn’t really human, he didn’t take on human flesh, he wasn’t Mary’s child because he took on nothing of her”.

      Saying “born of Mary” can mean a denial of the Incarnation – God did not assume sinful human flesh, particularly the genetic contribution of a woman, but was manifested in a perfected spiritual body. In other words, he only assumed the appearance of a human, like the archangel Raphael who travelled with Tobit – nobody maintains that Raphael was actually incarnate, and certainly not in the same fashion Jesus became incarnate.

      I know this sounds like finicky technical hair-splitting, but Gnosticism is perennialy popular and keeps popping up and needing to be firmly squashed; Rob Bell is getting in trouble for apparent Universalism today; and there is evidence (according to Episcopalian blogs I lurk on) that some Anglicans recite the Creeds as a form of collective prayer or even as poetry, mentally crossing their fingers because they don’t believe a word of the thing – not God made man, not Heaven and Hell, not Last Judgement, not God made the world, not nothing. They say things like “I can stand up in church and recite it because it says ‘We believe’, not ‘I believe’; it stands for the historical faith that the Church believed.”

      My reaction, I’m sorry to say, to all the complaining about the new translation (and I know, Joanie, you’re not complaining in this manner) is simply to say “Get a better vocabulary!”

      There was a group of Irish priests who wrote a letter of complaint to the “Irish Times” about this, and one of their plaints was the difficulty of the language. How, oh how, are modern people to understand these hard words?

      Yeah, well, I’ve been hearing all about how the modern laity is so well-educated and smarter than previous generations, so they just won’t put up with ‘pay, pray and obey’. If we’re so smart, surely we can manage to look up a dictionary? Or – heavens forbid! – actually get religious education classes in school that will teach the kids the elements of the faith?

      I speak as one who, in a group of women ranging in ages from late twenties to late thirties, was about the only one who could recite the Ten Commandments – a couple of the older women started chiming in once their memories had been jogged. Anyone who knows me could tell you I’m not the most devout woman who ever walked the planet, so for the love of God, what have we been doing for the past thirty years, when one of the most basic parts of the religion is an unknown area? I don’t expect anyone to be able to dissect St. Anselm’s Ontological Proof for the Existence of God, but I do expect a minimum knowledge.

      • Your last paragraph, Martha, reminded me of a story told me by the dean of the Bible institute I once attended. At the institute he had attended when he was studying for the ministry, Tony Salerno once spoke and quizzed the student body on their knowledge of Scripture. He asked them to write down the Ten Commandments, in order. (They didn’t need to get them word-for-word, just the gist.)

        Of the 60 or so aspiring reverends, only ONE got them all and in the right order, and only ONE OTHER got all ten in ANY order. (The latter was my dean, who had two of them switched. He never said which two.) Two out of 60-something future pastors

        So what you said doesn’t surprise me.

        • You alarm me, Ray.

          It’s one thing for us mackerel-snappers to be wibbly (everyone knows Catholics don’t read the Bible) but when the Protestants are falling down on the job?

          Little did I think, when I was a know-it-all teenager listening to my father telling yet another yarn from when he was a boy, that I too would one day be the one going “In my day, it was all uphill both ways! In our bare feet! In the snow!”


          • To quote from a novel currently being written by John C. Wright, SF author (and which I am awaiting with tongue hanging out to be published, because it looks like it will be funny as well as brain-melting in its galactic scope):


            “The following bit of dialog takes place inside a confessional booth in the opening chapter of the manuscript I am currently writing. In this scene, Father Thucydides is the great-grandnephew of Menelaus, who has woken from suspended animation to make his confession:

            “Blessed are the poor, indeed, but taking a man’s things to impose a blessing on him may violate a commandment.”

            “Listen, Father, you ain’t worried about your own stuff, are you?”

            “Mine? Even the robes on my back belong to the Curial Office, not to me. I am of the Society of Jesus.”

            “What is that, like a sewing circle?”

            “I had my doubts whether you were truly a Catholic, my son. I see now that you must be. No one knows less of our catechism and orders than one of our flock.”

            “It was kind of a — I was unconscious at the time, and your grandpa had me watered down, enlisted, or whatever you call it—”


            To give you a flavour of exactly *why* I am waiting with my tongue hanging out for this to be accepted by his editor and eventually published, here is a description of another scene:

            “My favorite exchange of dialog is between Menelaus “Meany Louse” Montrose, a gunslinger from the Free and Armed Republic of Greater Texas, circa AD 2210, and Drosselmeyer, a warlock of the Old Iron Dreams Coven of the haunted ruins of Detroit, circa AD 4400. The gunslinger is carrying the warlock on his back out of a prison camp where archeologists of the year AD 10505 have taken them and other cryo-suspended revenants exiled from former millenniums.”

            “Oho. So you broke into the tombs, and the Knights caught you, beat you, and flung you into a coffin as punishment?”

            Drosselmeyer nodded weakly. “I was set to wake only when the Judge of Ages himself should rise, that he alone might judge my case.”

            “You were trying to dig up Christians and kill them?”

            “Jews also. I took precautions!”


            “I called my dog, who loved me, for I raised him from a pup, and anointed him with my secret name and slit his throat on a night without a moon within a circle of stones, so that my crimes are with him, away where the shadows of animals run and know no thirst. I am innocent.”

            “Um. Technically speaking, killing your mutt don’t write you up no pardon from the Governor. It just makes you a slantindicular balless varmint aching to be hanged by the nearest lamppost for mooking with a critter likelier than you and larger-souled. Technically speaking, that is.”

            “My craft was of no avail?”

            “Can Jesus spit watermelon seeds through the holes in his hands? Man kills his own dog, he goes to Hell! Any fittin’ God would have made that the First Commandment, not that bosh about making statues or whatnot.”

            “Spare me! The White Christ is dead. His powers are conquered and trampled by Rahab, Leviathan, Cthulhu and Karlmarks, and all the dragons of chaos and old night. He is a dead god.”

            “Yeah, well my mommy always told me he could pop out of the grave again like a prairie dog, so being dead ain’t much of a great shakes with him, and she done beat me with a strap somewhat awful when I mocked and smirked—so I hold it to be the better part of valor not to shoot off my bazoo when the talk turns to Doxology. Wait—did you say Karl Marx? Ain’t he the dude who invented the Reds?”

        • I saw an article by Mohler where he described the Average American Christian’s knowledge of scripture as nominalistic. It seemed strange, because Mohler (especially in light of recent articles here) seems very shallow and nominalistic. I think there has been a growing errosion in depth and comprehension of the faith, with both modernism and fundementalism contributing to this problem. We’re all shallow compared to saints like Chrysostom, Iganatius, Polycarp, etc.

          • Christiane says

            Perhaps Mohler, like Richard Land, is not so shallow as he seems.
            It could be that they MUST play to the base (fundamentalist base) which took over the SBC under Paul Pressler and Paige Patterson, over thirty years ago.

            Mohler is pretty good at staying in that orbit, but Land has had to make some course ‘corrections’, after criticism from the base. Land made the ‘corrections’.

            Apparently, the ‘powers-that-be’ in the SBC are still majorly fundamentalist-evangelical believers, though not all SBC members or pastors follow like sheep. Some are outspoken and open about their disagreements with elements of fundamentalist thinking. The fundamentalists though, apparently do not like dialogue, or debate, or anyone challenging their version of ‘the gospel;, as Rob Bell did with his many questions.
            The God of Wrath serves their needs around which they have built a theology that seems at times to be strangely devoid of the teachings of the Kingdom of a merciful God. I have found that very sad.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        There was a group of Irish priests who wrote a letter of complaint to the “Irish Times” about this, and one of their plaints was the difficulty of the language. How, oh how, are modern people to understand these hard words?

        “We don’t want to learn any big words, Preacher. You’re only here to Keep Us Comfortable.”
        — What one of my writing partner’s congregation actually told him to his face

    • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

      Something I thought kinda funny about the new mass is that it reads much more like the traditional Book of Common Prayer liturgies, but without the “thees and thous.” The irony is that when many Anglicans changed our liturgies in the 70’s, it ended up conforming more with the Vatican II English stuff. That’s a funny see-saw IMO.

      • I’m old enough (just about ) to remember the change-over to English; I dimly remember the last days of the Latin Mass (I was about six at the time) and around the age of nine I really became aware of the (what turned out to be) transitional English translation, which was replaced by the modern version we have now, which is being replaced by the more faithful translation.

        We’re actually going back to more or less the first English version; I do remember that that had the “Lord, I am not worthy that thou should enter under my roof; say but the word and my soul shall be healed” prayer before the Communion of the Laity. Then it went to “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you; say but the word and I shall be healed” and now we’ve reverted to “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

        It’s true about the similarities to the Book of Common Prayer; mainly because the Anglican service was based on a straight translation of the Mass (only doing away with the unfortunate Romish accretions) and yes, the irony of going for a ‘more relevant’ language did land in the same Spirit of Vatican II type of result.

        To those who are now moaning about “How are the people in the pews supposed to get used to a change? They’re accustomed to one version and it’s too upsetting to spring this on them!”

        My irenic and charitable response to that is “Huh! I’ve lived through three changes, sonny! Way back when the old Mass was being done away with, you and your liturgical forefathers were all about the changes had to go through despite the complaints of the laity, because this was so modern and forward-looking and only the stick-in-the-muds were complaining. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.”

        • I don’t really mind change, Martha, except that I still think “born of the Virgin Mary” indicated very well that Jesus was fully human and that he was flesh of her flesh. I like clarifications to passages in the Bible that are confusing; I like the lay people taking more part in the Mass. So, generally, I am happy. I just would prefer the Creed the way it was. But I can roll with the punches! 🙂

          I think we are the same age. I was born in 1954.

          • I’m a bit younger; born in the early 60s.

            Maybe it’s just because I prefer a slightly more formal language in ritual 😉

            But I do think that the Vatican II reforms were needed and not bad on the whole, it was just that the over-enthusiastic took the ball and ran crazy with it. Stripping all the mystery and formality away is just as bad as having the fiddly fussy details that nobody quite remembers the reason for.

            Anyway, with “Summorum Pontificum” having given greater permission for the celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, I could well see myself ending my days either with no or few parishes still open (because of the shortage of vocations) or the Mass in Latin once again!


        • when i was an altar boy, we recited the Mass in Latin. some of those responses still can be recited by me after all these years…

          my most enjoyable experience being an altar boy was for a Solemn High Mass. yeah, that was the pinnacle of any altar boy’s achievement since to do so was by invitation only…

  5. Chip Shepherd says

    The most quoted Bible verse in the line at covered the dish at church…….. Satan get ye behind me and………Push.

  6. One of the great mysteries of life is why In’N’Out Burgers does not go nationwide.

    I have never been to one where there is not a line, no matter what time of day it is.

  7. Hey, I believe the stats on weight gain. As an ordained Baptist pastor, I was able to sometimes resist the potlucks and fried chicken…but now that I’m Anglican…you just can’t avoid the coffee and sweet! Praise God!

  8. Lee,

    Maybe you can explain to me that whole ‘hisoric episcopy’ thing, Lee. As a Lutheran, I just don’t get that.

  9. David Cornwell says

    Knowing a few things about how the United Methodist Church works, I doubt that this one post about a doctrinal issue is what got him dismissed. Methodists are not doctrinaire, but practical, and most times will put up with a lot of stuff from a pastor. But not being careful or diplomatic can get you in trouble. If someone keeps spouting off in a public way about divisive issues, then he/she is asking for trouble. I wrote piece for a local paper once, in a religious column about the “radical” Jesus. I heard plenty about it, but no threats to fire me. In the end, with much chagrin, I wrote a clarification which satisfied most people. Controversial issues are best approached gently with teaching and diplomacy.

  10. I wonder if the United Methodist Church is struggling with image. For years, it has been the cradle of liberal and progressive theology, but recently there have been news stories of the firing of openly gay Methodist pastors and now this. The last pastor of our Methodist church where I grew up (before I left) declared from the pulpit that he didn’t believe in miracles, the Virgin birth, nor believed the bible was true. He never got fired.

    • David Cornwell says

      I think you are correct about the problem with image. But also there has always been a very conservative element in the UMC and in recent years it has organized and asserted itself. Any pastor, in my opinion, that makes such statements about the Virgin Birth etc. and has expressed doubts in a public way, isn’t being very smart. If he can’t reconcile himself to preaching biblically, he shouldn’t have become a pastor, but perhaps a professor or something else, like digging ditches.

      The Articles of Religion outline the basis of a stated belief structure. “These Articles of Religion were taken from the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England—the church out of which the Methodism movement began—and had been the standards for preaching within the Methodist movement.” — (quoted from “Foundational Documents of The United Methodist Faith.” http://www.umc.org/site/c.lwL4KnN1LtH/b.2299855/ )

      • I agree that the heritage is wonderful, especially considering that the Wesley’s never broke from their Anglican roots.
        The church I grew up in was actually Evangelical United Bretheren before the formation of the UMC. The EUB seemed more like the Nazarene’s in doctrine and practice, and the Methodists seemed high-church in comparison. The Methodist seminaries were viewed with suscpicion for their progressive ways.

        I do agree that there are conservative UMC churches; there are a few here, but they seem to fall into progressiveness the opposite way (e.g. Warren, Hybels, church growth, etc., etc.). I see the same tendancy among conservative Lutherans.

        The UMC should rediscover their Anglican and Wesleyan heritage. I think a lot of people are looking for that – the richness of liturgy, the heritage of the articles, the forgiveness of the gospel, and the hope and integrity of sanctification in Christ.

        • David Cornwell says

          “The UMC should rediscover their Anglican and Wesleyan heritage.”

          That would make a tremendous difference, in my opinion. The church growth push in Methodism has resulted in some churches showing growth in numbers, but they mostly seem pretty shallow, and not even that good in the entertainment category. And some have been built around the personality of one pastor. And as to heritage and liturgy? Ha!

  11. No word yet on how they will work Liv Tyler into the story. But they will, won’t they?

    If there is a God…yes. 🙂

    • FollowerOfHim says

      I abandoned any belief in genetics (Crick-Watson’s articulation of the structure of DNA notwithstanding) the moment I learned Liz Tyler’s father was the front man for Aerosmith. (Or, if you’re under 30, the older dude on AI.)

      If it weren’t most likely rank heresy, I’d consider arguments for a virgin birth in this particular case.

  12. ‘Well, we can’t have pastors who have any doubts now, can we?’

    It is probably the better part of wisdom to put off going into the Pastorate until after your theology has been settled for awhile. Churches (including liberal churches) are right in maintaining doctrinal standards and enforcing those standards.

    People have a right to change their minds and their beliefs, but they have no right to take a paycheck from people and organizations that promote beliefs that these individuals no longer hold.

    When a pastor arrives at the conclusion that they no longer believe the doctrines of their particular denomination, they should do the honorable thing and resign. However, most do not do this and either start preaching their new found convictions in direct contradiction and opposition to their ordination vows, and disturbing the faith of the congregants, or they quietly and under the radar maintain a facade, and allow the doctrines they disagree with to ‘suffer benign neglect’ in their preaching.

    • David Cornwell says

      Some of these people need to get out and do some physical work with others who do the same. Getting out of the study and world of thinking and into the place of physically going about a task can in time bring clarity to a to the mind.

      And you don’t really have to define or understand a doctrine to preach it. Immersing oneself in the biblical story, and retelling it in the language of today is the part of the task of the preacher.

  13. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Meanwhile, production has begun on The Hobbit, Peter Jackson’s version of the prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. No word yet on how they will work Liv Tyler into the story. But they will, won’t they?

    As Arwen was the daughter of Elrond and lived in Rivendell (The Last Homely House), having her appear as a background element in Rivendell would not be out-of-place. (Aragorn would not, as The Hobbit takes place around the time he was born.)

    Just as Legolas, the son of the Elvenking who gave Bilbo and Thorin so much trouble, would fit in as a background or minor character in the Elvenking’s Halls. (Who knows, maybe he led the party that captured Thorin & Co and/or the Mirkwood Elf expeditionary force to the Battle of Five Armies?)

    And Tolkien’s own backstory notes hint at another way to bring the main LOTR characters onstage in a parallel plot: The behind-the-scenes struggle against Sauron (in his alias as the Necromancer of Dol Guldur) and how Bilbo’s adventure unknowingly fit into that grand struggle.

    Want to shed some unwanted pounds? Apparently one of the ways to do that is to quit church. A recent study shows that those who attend a “religious event” at least once a week are fifty percent more likely to become obese than those with no religious activity. Who is going to be the first to come out with the “no-church diet plan”?

    It’s all those church potlucks. Plus Southern Baptists being Southern, and they like to eat hearty in the former Confederate States. Even when middle-age spread hits like it did that other hearty-eating Southern boy, Elvis.

    The archetype of the fat Baptist preacher ranting against the Sin Du Jour (never gluttony) is so widespread it has a basis in reality. Probably a lot of RL examples on YouTube if you know what search string to key in.

    • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

      If Bilbo was 111 at the beginning of LOTR, and a few years later Aragorn was in his 80’s, Aragorn could be a young fellow in the Hobbit. If I remember right, Bilbo turned 51 during the Hobbit.

    • As Arwen was the daughter of Elrond and lived in Rivendell (The Last Homely House), having her appear as a background element in Rivendell would not be out-of-place.

      HUG: we are not as inclined toward story purity, rather, we would just like to ‘see’ Liv Tyler in the Hobbit movie in any form or another: as a dream sequence, stand-in for some other minor character, heck, a tree even! this has nothing at all to do with the storyline or the logic behind it…

      however, i can appreciate those that wish to keep the storyline pure & the prequel/sequel logic believable…

      anyway, as always i enjoy your posts… 🙂

    • Good stuff. I had to check to see if you were right, and you were. Mostly.

      According to Appendix B at the end of The Return of the King, Aragorn was born in 2931. The events of The Hobbit happened in 2941-42, when Aragorn was 10 and Arwen was . . . um. . . 2700 years old. However, there’s no place for Arwen in Elrond’s house at the time of The Hobbit. If you read Appendix A (v) you’ll read that Arwen dwelt in Lorien until Aragorn was grown and that they met by chance in 1251 when they were both walking alone in the forest.

    • I agree with all you say, Headless, except that this is Peter Jackson and he doesn’t do “background”.

      Yes, I’m still steamed about Arwen replacing Glorfindel 🙂

      He’ll have to find some way to have her swinging a sword, and frankly I tremble to imagine what he’ll do; have her turn up at the Battle of the Five Armies? Have her, not Gandalf, rescue Bilbo and the Dwarves from the Trolls?

      Have Legolas, not Bard, fire the arrow that takes down Glaurung? (After all, Legolas is an established and recognised character and Elves are famed archers; doesn’t it make more sense to have him on-screen than some unknown human who just pops up out of nowhere?)

      However, if he mangles Thorin Oakenshield’s death-bed scene (and/or continues with the Dwarves as comic relief), I will do such things – what they are, yet I know not, but they shall be the terrors of the earth.


  14. Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

    I’d like to see the KJV stick around. I’ve come to like it over the last few months. Folks’ complaints about its understandability are way overstated. I mean, if we can understand Shakespeare, we can understand KJV. And as long as you have certain strains of Independent Baptists and 1928-BCP Anglicans, you’ll have KJV. Heck, the only reasonably-priced pulpit bibles are KJV.

    • Not all brains are wired the same way. I love to listen to Shakespeare but reading it with any comprehension is virtually impossible for me. Torture. The KJV isn’t as bad but similar.

  15. Welcome to AZ. After eating at Butterfields this morning we all will have to quit church for awile.

  16. Tim Becker says

    Isn’t there a difference between Universalism and Universal Reconciliation? Bell seems to be in the later camp- where all will ultimately be saved through Christ. Calvinists would have an easier time with this than ariminians since they would just have to adjust the intent of the atonement from some to all. They have always maintained that the atonement was sufficient to save all.

    On another note, I’m starting to have a problem with how eternal damnation brings glory to God. To some it may, but to others it seems like UR brings more glory. If punishment brings glory to God’s holiness and justice, (and I think it does), then that was all accomplished on the cross. If Christ paid the penalty for the sins of all men, as arminians believe, then to punish men in hell seems like a double punishment, and not just.

    • Eternal damnation bringing glory to God is a Calvinist construct, made necessary by the Reformed focus on God’s sovereignty and glory. Lutheran (and other traditions) don’t frame the categories the same way Calvinists do and so avoid the awkwardness of God reveling in the destruction of His creation.

      • Tim Becker says

        OK, two questions then. Do Lutherns beleve that hell does not bring glory to God? (In other words, does hell make God look bad, good or neither)? And, how do Lutherans justify God’s punishment of sin on the cross, and then in hell too?

        • As a Lutheran I’ll take a shot. God’s glory is Jesus at the cross for us rather than the cross is a plan to redeem us so that we can bring glory to God. That is how He chose to reveal His glory to us. When Lutherans talk of worship or our relationship to God we are the receivers and He is the giver, not the otherway around. I think most Lutherans don’t move into areas that are not explicitly stated. Lutheranism is pretty simple. Christ died for sinners, he died for you. Baptise. This is Jesus’ body and blood given for you for the forgiveness of sins. Go love your neighbor. We’ll learn the rest later. I don’t believe the Book of Concord has a specific answer for your second question.

          • Tim Becker says

            Thanks for the reply! Calvinists do the same thing on some questions, like how can God be sovereign and man be responsible at the same time.

        • Throwing in a few words from the Catholic side, one view I’ve heard expressed is that the Church requires us to believe in the existence of Hell, but we are not required to believe that any one is in it.

          Or rather, any one particular person. Nobody can point at anyone, even the worst sinner, and say definitively “He or She is in Hell.”

          Hell is the necessity for the satisfaction of Divine Justice. It is not that God is glorifed by Hell but rather that those who separate themselves from God (as the fallen angels did) should be separate and of necessity, this requires a place to be, hence Hell.

          What the modern Catechism has to say:

          “IV. HELL

          1033 We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves: “He who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren. To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called “hell.”

          1034 Jesus often speaks of “Gehenna” of “the unquenchable fire” reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost. Jesus solemnly proclaims that he “will send his angels, and they will gather . . . all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire,” and that he will pronounce the condemnation: “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!”

          1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, “eternal fire.” The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

          1036 The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny. They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion: “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

          Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed, we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where “men will weep and gnash their teeth.”

          1037 God predestines no one to go to hell; for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want “any to perish, but all to come to repentance”:

          Father, accept this offering
          from your whole family.
          Grant us your peace in this life,
          save us from final damnation,
          and count us among those you have chosen.”

          The 1913 “Catholic Encylopedia” is rather more tough-minded:

          “If we abstract from the eternity of its punishment, the existence of hell can be demonstrated even by the light of mere reason. In His sanctity and justice as well as in His wisdom, God must avenge the violation of the moral order in such wise as to preserve, at least in general, some proportion between the gravity of sin and the severity of punishment. But it is evident from experience that God does not always do this on earth; therefore He will inflict punishment after death. Moreover, if all men were fully convinced that the sinner need fear no kind of punishment after death, moral and social order would be seriously menaced. This, however, Divine wisdom cannot permit. Again, if there were no retribution beyond that which takes place before our eyes here on earth, we should have to consider God extremely indifferent to good and evil, and we could in no way account for His justice and holiness. Nor can it be said: the wicked will be punished, but not by any positive infliction: for either death will be the end of their existence, or, forfeiting the rich reward of the good, they will enjoy some lesser degree of happiness. These are arbitrary and vain subterfuges, unsupported by any sound reason; positive punishment is the natural recompense of evil. Besides, due proportion between demerit and punishment would be rendered impossible by an indiscriminate annihilation of all the wicked. And finally, if men knew that their sins would not be followed by sufferings, the mere threat of annihilation at the moment of death, and still less the prospect of a somewhat lower degree of beatitude, would not suffice to deter them from sin.

          …For solving other objections it should be noted:

          • God is not only infinitely good, He is infinitely wise, just, and holy.
          • No one is cast into hell unless he has fully and entirely deserved it.
          • The sinner perseveres forever in his evil disposition.
          • We must not consider the eternal punishment of hell as a series of separate of distinct terms of punishment, as if God were forever again and again pronouncing a new sentence and inflicting new penalties, and as if He could never satisfy His desire of vengeance. Hell is, especially in the eyes of God, one and indivisible in its entirety; it is but one sentence and one penalty. We may represent to ourselves a punishment of indescribable intensity as in a certain sense the equivalent of an eternal punishment; this may help us to see better how God permits the sinner to fall into hell — how a man who sets at naught all Divine warnings, who fails to profit by all the patient forbearance God has shown him, and who in wanton disobedience is absolutely bent on rushing into eternal punishment, can be finally permitted by God’s just indignation to fall into hell.”

          • Tim Becker says

            “Hell is the necessity for the satisfaction of Divine Justice.” Why was the cross insufficient?

          • It is not that the Cross is insufficient, Tim, it is that if I reject mercy, then all that is left is justice.

            In other words, if I persist in my sin, fully understanding what I am doing, deliberately rejecting God, and being obstinate in that rejection, then I am choosing Hell. I am choosing to separate myself and where is there for me to go but Hell, since I have unfitted myself for Heaven?

            Because even if I were to enter Heaven, having so deformed my soul, I could not enjoy it; rather, the radiance of God’s love would be to me a burning fire and torment.

            If I reject the mercy of God as shown by the expiation of mankind’s sinfulness on the Cross, then I stand before the justice of God both at the particular judgement (immediately at death) and the general judgement (the Last Day, the Day of Judgement, when all that is hidden will be revealed and of the Four Last Things, only Heaven and Hell will remain).

            It’s more in the nature of St. Anselm’s idea of substiutionary atonement rather than the Calvinist idea of penal substitution:

            “The classic Anselmian formulation of the satisfaction view should be distinguished from penal substitution. Both are forms of satisfaction doctrine in that they speak of how Christ’s death was satisfactory, but penal substitution and Anselmian satisfaction offer different understandings of how Christ’s death was satisfactory. Anselm speaks of human sin as defrauding God of the honour he is due. Christ’s death, the ultimate act of obedience, brings God great honour. As it was beyond the call of duty for Christ, it is more honour than he was obliged to give. Christ’s surplus can therefore repay our deficit. Hence Christ’s death is substitutionary; he pays the honour instead of us. Penal substitution differs in that it sees Christ’s death not as repaying God for lost honour but rather paying the penalty of death that had always been the moral consequence for sin (e.g., Genesis 2:17; Romans 6:23). The key difference here is that for Anselm, satisfaction is an alternative to punishment, “The honor taken away must be repaid, or punishment must follow.” By Christ satisfying our debt of honor to God, we avoid punishment. In Calvinist Penal Substitution, it is the punishment which satisfies the demands of justice.

            Another distinction must be made between penal substitution (Christ punished instead of us) and substitutionary atonement (Christ suffers for us). Both affirm the substitutionary and vicarious nature of the atonement, but penal substitution offers a specific explanation as to what the suffering is for: punishment.”

  17. Tim Becker says

    Good answer, thank you Martha. I’m still pondering these things.

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