I greatly appreciate all your responses and insight on this. I think
what this most exposes is the profound gap that lies between the
vast beyond and our own existence. Insisting that science tell
theology what ultimately *is*, and how we might arrive at such an
understanding seem truly presumptuous in this context.
Dave Siemens wrote:
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.
I certainly would not advocate some universal religion.
Indeed, it would be vast stretch to say for example that
Buddhism and Christianity are the same (or similar).
For example, I tend to see the notion of Christ and
salvation as setting us free from the endless cycle of
Karma. The notion of submitting to karma would be akin
to saying "I can do it on my own God". Inevitably I
will sin, and the next time around, I'll probably
become a roach, or a snail or some other disgusting
creature. (Yes, yes, the biologists will all scold
me for demeaning the cockroach because they have endured
several major extinctions and have survived about 350 million
yrs. That does not grant them special privileges to enter
There are serious problematical issues about invoking a karma
cycle in the first place, but Buddhists usually appeal to an
oscillating universe model and recently quantum entanglement
(although that seems like a real stretch). Anyway,in the
end, such debates can't go very far since they are essentially
untestable. Faith then all that is left.
The major similarity would be in the universality of
spiritualness in the human race. There are a number of
Chinese words and Japanese words that carry very powerful
spiritual concepts with them. Because of that, the bible
is usually translated and some of these words which also
carry a meaning in Buddhist thought are used to describe
similar concepts from the Bible. Translators are careful
about that, but these are the words the language has, and
they can't work around that easily. It does somewhat color
the meaning, but it also can offer deeper insights so it
goes both ways. Anyway, English also colors the NT Greek and
the OT Hebrew and Aramaic. Nevertheless, English does contain
spiritual words which had their pagen origins in Latin etc.
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."
The bible devotes very little to the subject. I would take that
to mean that it is more concerned with guiding us in the life we
still have, rather than any future life. In fact, perhaps this is
also why the 10 commandments forbid us from making images of heaven
or hell (Ex 20:4). It is more likely to get the wrong perspective
of what salvation is about.
Hmm, heaven without beer, that's *got* to be real hell. <grin>
By Grace alone do we proceed,
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