Documentary About Hell September 2012

Dr. White just posted this video on his blog. It is a trailer to a movie rethinking the doctrine of hell with Mark Driscoll, Kevin DeYoung, Justin Taylor [although, how many of these will actually get into the film after the cut, I don’t know], and, from the other side, Frank Schaeffer, Edward Fudge, and Greg Boyd:

I don’t know if this will come out in the movie, but the starting point in any discussion of hell must be both hermeneutics and, what I wish to highlight here, anthropology. Often times moral and ethical objections to the doctrine of hell make God out to be what man is-a moral monster. For example, in the above trailer, there is a guy who suggests that there is some kind of a contradiction between the message “Believe in Jesus or spend eternity in hell” and “God loves you.” Also, you have the argument mentioned by Justin Taylor that God is a moral monster if the doctrine of hell is true. Both of these arguments are looking at man from a very humanistic perspective. The former, because it assumes that man has a right to judge who he is, and the latter because it assumes that man is innocent, and God is simply being a meanie to suggest that man must repent and believe.

While at Trinity, I became involved in a church that was really big on the doctrine of creation. While I didn’t accept some of the things that were said [for example, I believe that the age of the earth, while not millions of years old, cannot be strictly said to be 6000 years old, due to the different calenders used in the Ancient Near East, and as well as the possibility that other calenders may have existed before the written history we have], I always sensed that there was an importance to the doctrine of creation as taught in scripture. Also as I had studied Philosophy, and, for example, the argument against Darwinian theory from Richard Taylor’s book on metaphysics, Richard Creel’s rebuttal of Narvison’s criticisms, and the problems with arbitrariness in the philosophies upon which it relied [Hegelian idealism, materialism, etc.] I became more and more convinced that Darwinian theory was a sham. Then, as I started studying linguistics, the problem of human language, such as the ability for two totally different human beings from two totally different cultures to learn each other’s language came to light. Now, as I have started studying language and the brain [right now studying the basics of neuroscience], although the textbook I am using assumes Darwinian theory, more and more I am seeing that, even from a scientific perspective, Darwinian theory is becoming intellectually indefensible, and, if the movie Expelled is correct, is being held together by ideologues who won’t allow dissenting opinion.

Now, that is not to say that I don’t believe that things change. They do. Our world probably looks quite different from the world after the flood. If people want to call that “evolution,” fine. Nevertheless, what I wish to focus on here is the notion of the special creation of man. It is this crucial fact which Darwinian theory rejects, and which forms the basis of these kinds of videos. You see, the main question of hell is “Who is man?” When Darwinian theory takes hold, not only is man as a special creation destroyed, and thus, man looses all dignity, and you get Hitler’s holocaust, but it also destroys what the Bible says about man and sin. The foundation of the doctrine of hell is that God provided for man’s needs, and cared for him in every way possible, and yet, man rebelled against God, and acted as if he did not need to understand the world through God’s special revelation, and worse, set himself up as God. Hence, man fell, and the punishment for that fall is death.

Once these foundations are destroyed, it is very easy to see how the doctrine of hell can be cast away. If you don’t think that Darwinian theory has had any impact on the church, just listen to this discussion on the historical Adam and Eve between my professor, Dr. Averbeck, and several other evangelical Old Testament scholars. You begin to see that “science” plays a major role in the conclusions of those who deny the historical Adam and Eve. In fact, to show how closely this hits to home, one of the authors cited who has written a book apparently denying the existence of the historical Adam and Eve, used to be a professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary until only a few years ago. Yes, Darwinian theory has definitely left its mark on the church.

However, it is just this foundational assumption about man that is so crucial to our understanding of hell. If man did not fall, then hell certainly does make God a moral monster, and it certainly is contradictory to say that God commands us to repent, or burn in hell, and that he loves us. However, when you understand the foundational wickedness of man as having its root in a historical fall, and when you understand the depths of depravity to which man sunk in the flood narrative, you begin to see that it is an amazing act of love that God keeps us alive for one second. Were God not loving, he would kill us all the second we come out of the womb for the intense wickedness of our race. When we see that, we understand that even giving people the message of the gospel is love beyond belief.

That is why it is ironic that the people who present this video are the same people who produced the documentary Expelled. I think this shows that Intelligent Design is not the Christian view of special creation. Intelligent Design tries to stand between evolution on the one hand, and special creation on the other, and I don’t believe it accomplishes it very well. Leaving the question open has to who the designer is allows the designer to be any God, or any creature. Such a system of thought leaves the notion of anthropology up in the air. They may reply that anthropology is philosophy and not science, but, when they say that man was designed by a designer they are saying something about anthropology. You cannot sharply distinguish between fields of inquiry like this, as one’s anthropology will necessarily affect how you are going to view the scientific data, and how one views the scientific data is going to necessarily reflect on your anthropology.

The point is that intelligent design provides no foundation for the slip from a Biblical anthropology to a humanistic anthropology. One could technically be a deist and hold to intelligent design. It is only the Biblical view of creation and fall that can support the doctrine of hell. It is only this Biblical view which can take into account the seriousness of sin, and thus, the justice of hell. Is it any coincidence that, as Darwinian theory has become a sacred cow in our society, that the notion of hell is being questioned at the same time? Now, obviously, I am leaving out the hermeneutical issue, as hermeneutics are extremely important in a discussion of someone who says they believe the Bible to be inerrant, but deny the existence of hell. With such people, you must go to the text. However, I think much of a rejection of hell as a whole can be traced back to the humanism of the enlightenment, and philosophies such as Darwinism which grew out of the failure of enlightenment philosophy. When we adopt these things in the name of “relevance,” we are fundamentally denying Biblical anthropology, and thus, why should we be surprised when the doctrine of hell is denied? Once you take the doctrine of creation and fall out of the equation, you are free to call God the “moral monster” when it is really human beings who are the “moral monsters.”

I really believe that is what all denials of the Biblical creation and fall are a refusal to acknowledge that we are moral monsters, just as the story of Creation and fall says we are. It is a refusal to believe that we need God for restoration, because, morally an ethically, we are okay, and just need a little bit of time before we will heal ourselves. The radical depravity of man spoken of in the book of Genesis is something no man wants to believe, because it destroys his pride. Given that people today are focused on themselves so much, why should we be so surprised that both creation and hell are rejected?

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2 Responses to “Documentary About Hell September 2012”

  1. thesgc Says:

    I understand this may not be responding to the main thrust of your post, but I would caution you against lumping in a conditional immortality/annihilationism proponent like Edward Fudge with those who reject the biblical teaching about the nature of man and God’s just judgment. Fudge’s The Fire That Consumes builds its case on exegesis, showing the consistency of the Old Testament with the New and arguing that the traditional conception of hell is the result of reading foreign concepts into the Bible. While I didn’t agree with everything he said, I certainly did not get the feeling that he was starting with his own ideas about what God and judgment must be like and then forcing hell to conform to them. I’d highly recommend reading it to, at the least, get the best arguments for another view of eternal judgment that takes the whole Bible seriously.

    While I began firmly on the side of the traditional view of hell, in the end I found his interpretation of the Bible to be the superior reading of Scripture. I don’t think people like him, who teach a resurrection to final judgment and the eternal destruction of the wicked, can fairly be lumped in with people who want to make God’s justice play nice with modern American sentiments and get rid of the doctrine of eternal punishment.

  2. otrmin Says:

    thesgc,

    That is correct. I would deal with Fudge much differently than I would deal with someone like Frank Schaeffer. That is why I said that the issue was both hermeneutical as well as anthropological. With Fudge, my issue would be his hermeneutics, especially in relation to intertextuality. With Schaeffer, it would be anthropology, and the issue of whether man is truly fallen, and whether the Genesis account is to be trusted on the origins of man.

    God Bless,
    Adam

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