I do not understand all the ways of God and I have little patience with those who think they do.
In particular, I have always had issues with the idea of conscious eternal torment…it seems unjust.
Being punished eternally for a vapor of a life seems out of balance to me…
This has led to much wresting with God and man…trying to understand.
During this wresting, my mother started sliding into dementia.
Her torment may indeed end up being eternal…she has never claimed to be a believer… but I wonder if she’ll get credit to her account for the torment she’s undergoing now.
In the last three months she’s lost her cat companion of 22 years, a daughter, and her only sister.
That’s hard enough, but the fall of humanity has added the cruelest of twists to her grief.
When Punkin the cat died, I took his remains to the cat crematorium…his ashes would be with us until we met our own end.
When I came home, mom asked me if I’d seen the cat.
He had died hours before, but that fact had already faded from her memory.
I had to tell her again that he had passed…and she felt the shock and grief all over again as if it were the first time.
This happened over and over gain over the next couple of weeks…and every time the pain of the news crushed her.
Then her daughter died…and the same scenario played out…over and over again.
Now she has lost her sister…and is again experiencing the news of fresh loss repeatedly.
I cannot think of anything crueler and more definitive of the word “torment”.
I don’t know how she has survived this.
I do not wonder where God is…by faith I know that He is at the right side of the Father interceding for us.
My hope is that part of His intercession is telling the Father that my moms suffering… coupled with His own… is sufficient to cover whatever eternal conscious torment is supposed to accomplish.
Mom is in hell already.
My prayer is that God is more loving and more forgiving than many who follow Him want Him to be.
I pray that my longing for my mother (and so many others I have known) to be reconciled to Him is a reflection of His heart and not my own emotions…though I would not want to ever feel any other emotions than I do.
That would make me less than human, not more like God.
The heart of God is that all be saved…perhaps my heart is simply aligning with His.
Perhaps that’s why I know that He suffered for what my mom is suffering now…that she is sharing in His suffering whether she knows it or not.
If you are suffering…you sharing in His suffering as well.
I don’t understand that, I believe it.
I know that someday all this suffering will end.
Make your own application…
You posit a personal reality that forbids much discussion. You invited us into your torment as well as hers. Torment is indeed part of life as we taste death via alienation. You write this as a lament and a prayer. We read it thus and remember the admonition to not interrupt the prayers of Christopher Robin.
You know that I do not share the view of eternal states that allows one to remain in eternal torment. Nor a view that disallows the sacred bond of this world’s affirmations. Nevertheless, judgment belongs to the LORD and he “doeth all things well.”
May your lament be answered by his gracious love and your soul assuaged accordingly. Nevertheless, let us fear the LORD and get wisdom.
Thank you for this Michael.
For the courage to express some push-back to fundagelical dogma.
Thank you for the kind response.
I’m neither inviting or forbidding discussion…I am only too aware that even suggesting that there is a reality beyond hell makes people uncomfortable.
I am not offering a theological alternative that one can codify and add to the rest of their doctrinal book…I only offer holy speculation and the hope I have that all things will be reconciled in Christ.
Thanks you, Muff…
Very thought provoking thoughts regarding the fate of non believers. Your opening statement kinda sums it up: “I do not understand the ways of God…”
Sorry about your mom
Thanks…it is a difficult situation.
Michael, my own mother, now passed away, was a Faith denier. Her father, a pastor, and mother, who raised me were two of the most honest God followers ive known.
My question is, do we really want God deniers in heaven? Do they hear and believe the evil ones dogma over God’s most clear truths?
Praying the Holy Spirit will reach your mom’s heart and mind!
Mom isn’t really a faith denier…her experience with the church was abusive and cruel and she preferred not to think about it.
Waving a book in her face claiming its truths meant nothing compared to what she experienced from Christians…it stumbled me for years as well.
Once they meet Him they will no longer deny Him or His goodness…and there is plenty of room..
Thank you for the clarification, Michael
“ do we really want God deniers in heaven? ”
I do! Two God deniers are my daughters
Both are kind, giving girls.
“ do we really want God deniers in heaven? ”
I do! Two God deniers are my daughters
Both are kind, giving girls.
So who are the real God deniers?
Vocal fundagelicals who are as mean as snakes, or those who live their lives quietly and with kindness to fellow humans regardless of creed or belief system?
Is the gate narrow or not? Is human righteousness as filthy rags or not? Is there a cleansing in Purgatory? Is there a last chance in line at judgment day as I read in a Chick Tract in the 70s? Are God-haters redeemable after life? What about evil and wicked people even by secular standards? What about the wolves in the Church? What about working out salvation with “fear and trembling” (I’ll confess that I miss the mark here).
It’s maybe a struggle on whom we might not to see or interact with in Heaven. I hope that free from sin-bodies, we can reconcile and give grace.
Those are all legitimate questions.
A blog is an inadequate place to speak to all these thins.
I do believe in a judgment and there is a hell…but I hope that all things on heaven and earth will be reconciled.
If you’re interested I suggest a book called “Evangelical Universalism” that lays out a biblical defense of that hope.
Thanks for the reference. I get “The Evangelical Universalist” maybe the same.
It doesn’t really make sense to me that those that truly don’t want anything to do with God here will then be with Him for all eternity and I don’t feel I can deny the reality of hell being a place of torment or that there will be people there. With that said, I believe God knows each person’s heart and why they believe as they do and I believe He particularly has a soft spot for those that He was misrepresented to. I also highly suspect we will find the mercy and grace of God to be greater than we ever dared hope and yet also fully honoring of the choice of His creations. How that plays out I don’t know (yes, I do believe in some “mystery” or at least some mystery that I don’t yet know). I sympathize with Michael’s situation on some level as I suspect many of us can regarding family/friends we’ve known that are/were unbelievers. Ultimately I just know that God will do what is right and best and just and my only hope is in Him and I’ve had to just commit these things (and people) to Him and leave it with Him. Praying for your mother Michael.
Universalism is outside the Great Tradition and has historically been considered heretical. It is however the spirit of the age. Hoping for eternal redemption may not be heretical but asserting it is.
“Universalism is outside the Great Tradition and has historically been considered heretical.”
That depends on which tradition you look at and which historical sources you dig into…to say nothing of which distinctions you include…
I’m not interested in what the age is…my sources on this tend to be ancient…
Contrary to the “spirit of the age” stuff, I suggest that critics read this first volume with starts with Clement of Alexandria and goes forward to Julian of Norwich…you can read the second volume also that starts from the Reformation.
This way you can be an informed critic when you whisper that I may be a heretic…
You have never asserted universalism other than your openness … I made a clear distinction.
As for the spirit of the age… no generation in history has flocked to the universalism option more than the last 20 years. I will not retract that statement.
I am aware well aware of the pre-Augustinian claims of some like Origen who if we follow him we will revise our faith completely including our anthropology and trinitarian theology.
Leave the personal bait aside unless you now assert yourself to be universalist in which case i will modify myself as necessary.
I hope for universal reconciliation and find much support for that hope from the ancient fathers of the church…of whom Origen is the weakest , in my opinion.
The Eastern fathers are far richer in their work…
This is speculative theology, not dogma…
“At a time when the popularity of belief in universal salvation seems to be increasing, this book will be an important resource both for learning about the form that belief actually took in a major theological tradition of the early centuries and for engaging with the arguments of the key theologians who taught it.” Bauckham
Ramelli, Ilaria L. E. . A Larger Hope?, Volume 1: Universal Salvation from Christian Beginnings to Julian of Norwich . Cascade Books, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.
As speculative theology .. let it flow… but someone on here should challenge the flow. I will.
By all means challenge it…but if you challenge things I do not hold to or have no familiarity with Ramelli’s work…then you are not challenging what I’m talking about.
That will make the discussions less than productive…
Bauckham has done some fine work on intertestamental literature and apocalyptic. He edited a whole book on Moltmann’s eschatology and I gotta admit that Bauckham and Miroslav Wolf’s beat-down on Moltmann was one of the funniest things I’ve read in 2022. Their basic contention was Moltmann’s speculation on a perichoretic panentheistic theosis of the cosmos with the divine had to be backed up by some kind of biblical text and he hadn’t done that (which was not saying others haven’t made some kind of case). When G. B. Caird floated the possibility that in Pauline thought the reconciliation of all things to and in Christ seems implicit in Ephesian and Colossian cosmologies he was pointing out that Paul’s understanding of the powers and principalities may have changed over the course of his life and ministry from a more pessimistic to optimistic trajectory. But then Caird would be regarded by fundamentalists and many conservative evangelicals as potentially out-of-field. Still, Caird’s book on powers and principalities in Pauline literature is a concise and compelling book.
I’m not tracking the universalist stuff so much but, perhaps ironically, reading biblical scholars discuss what in heaven and earth Ephesians 6 was talking about broaches the topic of universal reconciliation as a concept that has to be dealt with just to make sense of the larger literary/theological aims of Ephesians. If “all” Pauline theology is just Romans and Galatians, Caird seemed to argue, then perceptible shifts in his views on earthly and spiritual powers in Colossians and Ephesians (which he took to be Pauline, IIRC) get overlooked.