I Choose Hell- CS Lewis and God’s Role in Condemning

March 11, 2008

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell.” -CS Lewis, The Great Divorce

So often people ask of the doctrine of predestination, “Well, if you believe that God chose those whom will be saved before time began, then doesn’t that necessarily mean that God chose everyone else to go to Hell?” My unwavering answer to that question is “No.” No, I do not believe that God “chose” those who are condemned to Hell, and the reason why is what is expressed above: the choice to go to Hell is a self-choice of the individual, one which chooses to deny service to God and thus is condemned in its own sinfulness.

This is one of the major issues which is at stake in the argument between the sovereignty of God and the free will of man. Without spending too much time myself in explicating my position here, I will tell you minimally where I stand and then point you to a (highly academic) source for further detail on what I fully believe.

When it comes to the issue of predestination and the condemnation of souls to Hell, I believe that we are all, from birth, totally depraved, wholly incapable of choosing God (i.e. choosing to do that which is righteous); not because God has made us this way but because we have inherited the original sin of Adam. Because of this we are all deserving of Hell. This is our own choice, at no point has God forced our hand and made us choose to sin, but instead it is ingrained in every bit of our human nature to do that which is opposed to God’s will. Moreover, the only way to avoid Hell is to be counted among the elect of God, those whom He has predestined for eternal life in Heaven. Therefore, the act of predestination is an act of God to save those whom He desires from the natural result of their sins and setting them apart to be glorified alongside Christ in Heaven. However, at no point has God played a part in the condemnation of a soul to Hell. One ends up in Hell because out of their depraved nature they chose to sin, and God’s electing grace simply passed over them.

I know this is a hard doctrine to deal with, either because it seems too complicated or just plain unloving, but I encourage you that if you seriously put the time into searching out God’s will and His character in election then you will be rewarded with a peace about what He says. As well, it is important to keep in mind this other quotation of Lewis from the same book:

“Ye cannot fully understand the relations of choice and Time till you are beyond both…. What concerns you is the nature of the choice itself: and that ye can watch them making.”

If you find all of the talk of predestination and free will to be a stumbling block just keep this quote in mind. It is wonderfully and greatly rewarding to study the deeper aspects of God’s character in theology, but remember that Christ’s call for us is to simply “go” and “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19-20) and if you are faithful to do this you will certainly not be disappointed!

Grace be with you.

The Nonsense of Biblical Compromise- A Quote from Timothy Keller

March 8, 2008

Recently I read an excellent book on modern/postmodern apologetics entitled “The Reason for God” by Timothy Keller. In this book Keller devotes the first half to giving a Biblical defense against many common objections to Christianity by the younger generation, and in the second half he develops arguments for the foundation of major Christian doctrines.

One particular passage in the chapter concerning the inerrancy and infalability of Scripture really made me think. In discussing the fact that many people in the modern world want to dismiss the Bible as an authoratative text because some of its teachings aren’t PC enough, Keller makes the following observation:

“To stay away from Christianity because part of the Bible’s teaching is offensive to you assumes that if there is a God he wouldn’t have any views that upset you. Does that belief make sense?”

…Well, does it?

What We’re Facing- The Threat of liberal Emerging churches

March 5, 2008

One of the biggest waves in Christianity today is the rise of what is called the “emerging church.” These are churches which attempt to connect with the culture through conducting services and teaching theology which is relevant to the mindset of modern young Americans. A number of large and growing churches fall into this category, such as Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill in Seattle and Erwin McManus’ Mosaic in Pasadena, CA.

However there are some inside of the emerging church movement whose attempts to connect with the culture lead to gross Biblical negligence. They begin to equivocate and compromise on certain unbecoming doctrines, such as the status of homosexuality as a sin, the existence of Hell, or God’s knowledge and control of the future. This includes teachers such as Brian McLaren and Rob Bell, both of whom have successful books on the market to go along with the megachurches they pastor.

What I have included below is a link to a recent message from Mark Driscoll concerning the specific trends and beliefs of those who have been given the label of emerging. I found this to be a very enlightening survey of the prominent American pastors and what they are truly teaching in the pulpits and book pages that are influencing the rising generation of young Christians. I believe that this is a worthwhile listen for anyone interested in current trends of the American church. Enjoy!

Mark Driscoll- Mars Hill Church and the Emerging Church

Living the Revolutionary Lifestyle in Anger

March 2, 2008

“And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons . And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” “ – Mark 11:15-17

“And I was very angry, and I threw all the household furniture of Tobiah out of the chamber.” – Nehemiah 13:8

One of the more complicated issues for the revolutionary Christian to address is that of anger. When we think of anger the first image that comes to mind is of a person screaming and cussing and breaking things. This certainly is not something that would be considered Biblical. So, in understanding and trying to cope with this it is easy to construct rules which say not to get mad. In fact, in Christ’s teachings he even says that “everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment” (Matthew 5:22). Therefore, it can be settled that Christianity and anger are incompatible and so Christians should never be angry.

There is just one problem with this, that being, Christ himself got angry, angry even to the point that threw some tables around. I have found it to be a good marker for bad teachings, that we want to be careful not to create a theology which disqualifies Jesus. Thus, if it is not sinful for Christians to be angry, what is the right interpretation of how to behave?

Plainly put, I believe the solution can be found in Ephesians 4:26-27:

“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.”

It is alright to be angry. Anger is just one of the myriad emotions which God has created and giving to the human palatte for application. So, we clearly see that anger is not a sin in and of itself, but that we should be careful not to allow anger to lead us into some other sin.

We see an illustration of this in Nehemiah 13. In this chapter Nehemiah becomes aware that one of the priests has allowed an outsider to marry into his family and moreover has prepared for this man an apartment inside the store room of the temple. As it says above, Nehemiah was very angry and threw out all of the man’s possessions. Why? Because this was the house of God and the part which was to be used for storing the offerings to God were instead being used to house a man who by God’s decree was forbidden to join in the assembly of the Israelites. Thus, Nehemiah’s anger was towards the disobedience and irreverence being prosecuted against God. Was Nehemiah angry because some personal harm had been done to his person? No. Did he go overboard and kill the man out of rage? No. He simply got angry and cleansed the temple so that the proper respect may be paid to God, and then he let it go.

We also see an illustration of this in Genesis with the story of the rape of Dinah (Chapter 34). In verse 7 it says that “the sons of Jacob had come in from the field as soon as they heard of it, and the men were indignant and very angry, because he had done an outrageous thing in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, for such a thing must not be done.” However, in response to this anger two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, devised and executed a plan to slay all of the peoples associated with the man who committed this act (vv.25-26). Later, when Jacob goes to bless his sons, he chastises not all of the sons who were angry but just the two who carried their anger into sin (Genesis 49:8). Similarly, we have an account in 1 Samuel where the spirit of the Lord descends upon Saul and it says of Saul that “his anger was greatly kindled” (1 Samuel 11:6). As a result of this Saul splits two oxen in half and threatens to do the same to any persons oxen who does not come to stand up against a great injustice, and because Saul acted in the spirit of the Lord all went well with him.

Therefore, as a revolutionary Christian, we must get angry when God is disrespected or maligned, or whenever a great act of injustice or tragedy is committed against our brethren, however we must be careful not to sin in doing so. Our purpose must be to see God glorified and obeyed in the proper manner and not to fulfill a personal vendetta (“‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay’ says the Lord,” Romans 12:19). It is okay to get angry, to teach otherwise is sheer legalism, but as with many other things, our anger must be carried out with the Lord’s prayer in mind: that God’s will be done.