I know that there are a number of folk who have adopted universalism or
annihilationism because they do not like the notion of hell. I do not
find these within scripture without a wrenching of language and refusal
to face some passages. But I find problems with some of the traditional
statements about hell, and with some alternatives. First, there is no way
that "outer darkness" and "burning with fire and brimstone" can be
literally true of the same place. Also the latter is directed as evil
spirits, which are not likely to be afflicted by physical flame. So the
language must the figurative, though there is then the problem of how it
is to be understood. Second, aion and aionion may refer to limited
periods, but the compounded "ages of ages" is more than a little tough to
reduce. Third, I believe that the creator intended human beings for
unending life. Fourth, "God is love."
Now a story. Years ago a day long trip on the Hudson was something
special. Various organizations would contract for a ferry boat for a day
with their group. One day two men came running down the pier as the boat
was pulling out. But they jumped and were helped aboard. Only then did
they realize that they had been on the wrong pier. They intended to board
the trip sponsored by a brewery. They were on one sponsored by a Sunday
school. So, while children and adults were enjoying the day's activities,
there were two miserable men--no beer, and not even someone to talk to of
Transfer this to the presence of the all-holy God. If being with a bunch
of good people produced such misery for a day, think what the presence of
total goodness would do, with no place to hide. Will God tell human
beings that, because they made the wrong choice and rejected him, that he
is overruling them, changing them against their will? I think that God
respects his creatures, to the extent that he let Adam and Eve disobey,
though it cost Calvary for the restoration of those who will trust his
gift. So hell is God's loving provision for those who cannot stand his
Now consider two extremes. One had every opportunity to hear the gospel
message and rejected it. The other never heard. What is the level of
regret when these two face ultimate reality? The one is overwhelmed by
coulda-shoulda. The other has nothing gnawing at his soul. Both are where
they have the maximum degree of comfort possible to them. Neither is
being beat up by a wrathful deity.
This does not deal with exegesis and hermeneutics, nor with the complex
arguments of theologians. But I hope it suggests where to look for
answers to your questions.
On Sat, 2 Sep 2000 11:10:09 EDT Dawsonzhu@aol.com writes:
> Dear list,
> Living in Japan, where less than 1% of the people are Christian,
> about 70% Buddhist, and the rest a variety of "other", I am
> occasionally confronted with the question of salvation for
> folk who follow these other religions.
> I am fully aware of the party line on this matter, but with
> my scientific training, such simple (at least seemingly)
> political answers seem out of place and dogmatic to me.
> I am quite sure that Jesus is the "best way", and I can wiggle
> through an answer such as "Jesus is the only way that people
> ultimately gain salvation" with some vague suggestion that
> perhaps only those who have made an outright decision to
> reject the Lord and have taken an active role to live out a
> life of rebellion against God are in serious danger of completely
> crossing the lines of Grace, but frankly, I don't really know
> enough on the theological matters are on this subject.
> It is really hard for me to think of people I know and care
> about here in Japan, and some of my Chinese friends for that matter,
> being on the direct highway to Hell simply because they were
> to a different culture, different views, and a different but
> comparable set of standards.
> Does anyone have some suggestions on intelligent things to
> say in regards to these difficult theological (actually
> eschatological) matters?
> one tiny Christian living in a big Buddhist country
> By faith in Christ we are saved, and by Grace, we proceed,
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