A (genuine) Generous Orthodoxy

Theology / Biblical Studies

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I’ll start with an admission: The title of this blog entry isn’t really fair to Brian McLaren. (Incidentally, for more posters like the one at the top of this blog, check them out here).

I say the title’s not fair – that is, if taken a certain way – because as the poster illustrates, there are those who don’t think that McLaren’s approach in his book A Generous Orthodoxy is particularly generous towards those with whom he disagrees, nor do they believe he is particularly orthodox. He’s made his name as one of the kingpins of “emergent” Christianity. I have not read any books or articles by McLaren, so I can’t say for myself whether or not these assessments are correct, yet the blog title could easily give the impression that I have read the book and agree with these negative assessments. So let me be clear: The only reason that I included the word “genuine” here is to say: “Look, if you don’t think McLaren’s book is generous or orthodox, please set that aside because what I’m about to say has nothing to do with that book as I haven’t read it. Even if you think the generous orthodoxy in that book isn’t genuine, hopefully you might still think that my generous orthodoxy is genuine.” OK? Now, down to business.

I’m genuinely orthodox as far as the Christian faith goes, and I’m also an evangelical Protestant of sorts. I embrace the classic doctrines of the Christian faith: The Trinity, the virgin birth of Jesus, the saving death and the bodily resurrection of Jesus, the inspiration of Scripture, the return of Jesus and the resurrection of the dead and so on. Those are summed up in the Nicene Creed (and if you didn’t realise that the inspiration of Scripture was covered there, look at what the Creed says about the Holy Spirit when it adds “He has spoken through the prophets”).

As far as Protestantism goes, I’m fairly theologically conservative there too. I’m most comfortable with Calvinism / Augustinianism as an understanding of the biblical teaching on salvation. However, I’m kindly disposed to Molinism (although I do not currently believe that it is correct). When it comes to the “Five Solas” of Protestant theology: sola fide, sola gratia, sola Christus, sola scriptura and sola Deo gloria, I affirm them.

I hold to what I call orthodoxy because I affirm these things to be true. Now, some of these things aren’t even necessary for orthodoxy. The five solas are not held by Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox Christians, for example, yet they still hold to what I see as the minimal standards of orthodoxy. When I say that I affirm a “generous” orthodoxy, I do not mean that I’m flexible on whether or not I think these things are correct. If someone denies the Trinity, they’re objectively, factually mistaken. They are wrong, we are right. Ditto for the resurrection of Jesus and the rest of them. Bear this in mind as you read on.

When I qualify my view by calling it “generous” (as opposed to some views that I think are not generous), I’m not talking about my commitment to those beliefs, but rather to my stance towards those who do not hold those beliefs. Here’s a slogan that I would be happy for people to associate with me: Orthodoxy is not about certainty, it’s about safety. Remember, I’m not talking about the beliefs maintained by Christian orthodoxy, I’m talking about orthodoxy’s stance towards those who don’t affirm those beliefs. To show you what I mean, here’s an illustration of what I think counts as ungenerous orthodoxy. This example is an old and highly revered creed, the Athanasian Creed. I’ve highlighted the lines that I want to draw attention to:

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith; Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.
And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance.
For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit.
But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.
Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit.
The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible.
The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal. And yet they are not three eternals but one eternal.
As also there are not three uncreated nor three incomprehensible, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible.
So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty. And yet they are not three almighties, but one almighty.
So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God; And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.
So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord; And yet they are not three Lords but one Lord.
For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord;
So are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say; There are three Gods or three Lords.
The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made nor created, but begotten. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.
And in this Trinity none is afore or after another; none is greater or less than another. But the whole three persons are coeternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.
He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.
Furthermore it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

For the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man.
God of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and man of substance of His mother, born in the world.
Perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.
Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood.
Who, although He is God and man, yet He is not two, but one Christ.
One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of that manhood into God.
One altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person.
For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ; Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead;
He ascended into heaven, He sits on the right hand of the Father, God, Almighty;
From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies;
and shall give account of their own works.
And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.
This is the catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully he cannot be saved.

Ponder this for a moment. Specifically, ponder the level of certainty with which this statement of faith appears to speak about those who do not affirm every part of it. Did you know that unless you positively affirm that Jesus is one person “not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of that manhood into God,” you “cannot be saved” and you will “without doubt perish everlastingly”?

Really? Without any doubt at all? Unless they believe exactly this?

This is bombastic nonsense. Call me utterly stark raving mad, but I think that if a person believes the rest of the creed but has doubts about this brief clause, it’s slightly over the top to say that there’s no doubt at all that this person is going to hell, even if this part of the creed is correct in what it claims about Jesus. Call me nuts, but I think that’s claiming just a tad more knowledge than God has given us.

Or take the doctrine of justification by faith, a doctrine accepted by Protestants and rejected by Catholics. A fellow Protestant once tried to tell me that this was a really important doctrine. I agreed. He further tried to tell me that Catholics are going to hell because they don’t affirm this doctrine. What he evidently didn’t see is that he was contradicting himself. I said to him: When you say that we are justified before God by faith, what is faith? What are we placing faith in?” “Jesus” was the answer. And here was the clincher: “And do Catholics have faith in Jesus? You cant have it both ways. You can’t say that we’re justified by faith, and then say that we’re justified by believing that we’re justified by faith. Choose, but it can’t be both.” If we’re justified by faith in Christ, then it’s perfectly plausible to think that there are people who are justified by their faith in Christ who don’t realise that this is how we are justified.

But it gets worse: What if someone didn’t believe something that was a real doozy, like the Trinity? Can they be saved? My answer…. get ready…. is yes.

Can a person who doesn’t believe in the Trinity be saved? Sure. Can a person who drives erratically at 200 kilometres per hour with no seatbelt arrive at their destination intact? Yep. Can a person who smokes heavily live to an old age? You bet. Should they do that? No, of course not, because it’s not safe.

Wait, wait, you might be thinking. Am I some sort of relativist? Do I think all beliefs about God are equally valid? No, not in the least. Remember, when I call my orthodoxy “generous,” I’m not saying that I’m flexible about whether my beliefs are true or not – that’s a different issue altogether. If someone denies the Trinity, they’re wrong, plain and simple. My theology is orthodox. But when it comes to who is “saved” or “unsaved,” standards of theological orthodoxy don’t give us certainty. They are safety standards. Can a person who doesn’t believe in the Trinity be saved? Sure. Can a person who drives erratically at 200 kilometres per hour with no seatbelt arrive at their destination intact? Yep. Can a person who smokes heavily live to an old age? You bet. Should they do that? No, of course not, because it’s not safe.

I’d like to think that the “net” of salvation is cast very wide indeed, and that those who sincerely trust in Christ, who are accepted and saved by God, but who hold to all kinds of mistaken ways of thinking about God, will number in the multi-millions beyond what many sincere Christians think. But I can’t say for sure.

I confess that God hasn’t given me any special insight into exactly how much error is too much. I know of plenty of people who believe that they have such an insight, but I’m pretty sceptical that they really have it. I’d like to think that the “net” of salvation is cast very wide indeed, and that those who sincerely trust in Christ, who are accepted and saved by God, but who hold to all kinds of mistaken ways of thinking about God, will number in the multi-millions beyond what many sincere Christians think. But I can’t say for sure. The reason I’m still interested in speaking to and reasoning with those people is that I’m not sure. Now, I don’t mean absolutely sure, because I can’t even be absolutely sure about an orthodox Christian. I can’t see your heart and I don’t know how sincere you are. But when it comes to those who mess up theologically, who deny the physical resurrection, who think the Trinity’s probably not quite right, who don’t accept that God knows all things (e.g. that God doesn’t know the future), to those who think that there’s no longer any such thing as God’s law that we should follow (yes, some professing Christians say this, but fortunately they don’t tend to practice their beliefs), or any number of other mistakes, I have no basis or authority to say “no you are not saved.” That’s not how I use theological orthodoxy. What what I do say is: That’s not safe. The term “treading on thin ice” is appropriate here. I don’t know if you’ll fall in and freeze to death, but you’re going the right way about it.

Can a Christadelphian be saved? Sure? Might a full preterist be saved? Yes. What about a Mormon? Yep. Could a person walking through a minefield survive? Indeed! But please, don’t. Those points of view contain things that I regard as incompatible with Christianity. And yet they also contain many things that are very compatible with Christianity, and a person in one of those contexts certainly might come to genuinely trust in Christ and have a saving relationship with God. But there are much safer places to look for that.

Theologically, yes I’m orthodox. But I’m generous. If you approach me as a sincere believer who trusts in Christ alone, I’ll receive you as one. Now I say this within some limits. If you deny pretty much everything that orthodoxy has to say: That Jesus is the son of God, that there’s any life after death, or something crazy like that, then there’s little point in even pretending to identify with Christianity. I’m talking about those who do actually have a claim to the name “Christian,” but who differ from me in fundamental ways. But you’ll have to be ready for a little brotherly concern. If I think you’re unsafe or at risk, I’ll tell you so. Similarly, if I were the pastor of a church and you wanted the chance to preach, I’d have to decline. But I wouldn’t be in a position to say that I know that I won’t see you on the other side. You wouldn’t, for example, choose a mentally “at risk” person to mentor mental patients, right? (OK, the analogy has it limits, but you get the point!)

So there you go. Orthodoxy is about safety, not certainty, and it doesn’t strip us of the duty to be generous.

Glenn Peoples

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{ 36 comments… add one }
  • Chris October 19, 2010, 4:55 pm

    Hey, Glenn. So would it be “safe” (excuse the pun) to summarize your position as being that the further we stray from orthodoxy, the less likely it is that our faith is genuine and, thus, saving? Take the Trinity, for example. I would agree with you: one who denies the Trinity might be saved. However, I would say their denial of the Trinity is potentially evidence of an unregenerate heart. Similarly, one who accepts the Trinity is more likely saved than one who denies it, but might not actually be saved after all.

    What do you think?

  • Geoff October 19, 2010, 5:15 pm

    Chris,

    I am just wondering what one believes about “trinity” that might be salvic?

    Believing in a “trinity” is not synonymous with believing in the salvic work of God – which, imho, is what gets you saved.
    Believing in “the Trinity” is, well, nice. Understanding it, amazing, but salvic? No.

  • Jeremy October 19, 2010, 5:19 pm

    As one of my friends is keen on saying “we will probably be quite suprised by who is in Heaven”

  • Glenn October 19, 2010, 7:00 pm

    Chris, that’s not a bad summary. We just have to be careful what we mean by “potentially,” but yes in general that’s it.

  • The Atheist Missionary October 20, 2010, 12:11 am

    Yes Jeremy, the atheists who lived pious lives will be first in line.

  • Nathan October 20, 2010, 4:43 am

    TAM, first in line for what exactly, in your view?

  • Dave October 20, 2010, 4:44 am

    (sorry if this turns out to be a double post – didn’t seem to work the first time)

    So, would you say that the stance I am toying with (“Calvinist Pseudo Universalism”) is too generous? Here’s my theory…

    (warning: run-on sentences ahead)
    given that:
    -the bible seems to speak towards current attitudes as if towards the whole person (Mat 16:23: But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, because you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but on man’s.”. I would submit that Jesus is not talking to the fallen angel who is controlling the person Peter, he’s talking to Peter’s current satanic attitude of unbelief).
    -there is nothing truly good in a person that is not put there by Christ before time began (Calvinism).
    -it is common to general experience that some non-Christians do actually act in good faith upon beliefs they personally hold to (.e.g. “I love my child and I will risk my life for him/her”), i.e. not all non-Christian doing “good” is doing it for some evil, “worldly” motive.
    -we both are “annihilationists” concerning the doctrine of Hell.

    It might be correct to consider our soul to be divisible in the end, sort of like Israel was always divisible into the apostates and the remnant, and that at the Final Judgement, God will separate (through fire) those parts of us that are from Christ (as demonstrated in this life by our good works) to form the heart of our resurrection body, from the evil, selfish parts which will be burned off like dross/chaff and eternally destroyed.

    In this understanding, Christian Orthodoxy is still the “safe bet” (and a better investment for your place in eternity), and the Hindu woman who gives her life for her child because the truly good faith she’s acting on is actually from Christ, even though she doesn’t know it, will cause a kernel of who she is as a person to live on in eternity. A disconcerting part of this if its true is that every one of us will experience Hell to some extent as the nasty bits are burned away (however literal that experience may be), but not all will come out at the other end (thus the “Pseudo” part to the universalism.

    So what do you think about that? Heresy? Heterodox? Just good biblical deduction (ha ha, I doubt I’ll get any agreement about that one from commenters)?

  • The Atheist Missionary October 20, 2010, 7:04 am

    Nathan, my sarcastic one-liner was intended to be as heretical to atheism as this post arguably is to orthodox Christianity. I don’t believe in heaven so it is oximoronic for me to speak of atheists in heaven. However, Glenn has touched on an interesting issue here – the question of whether, if Christianity is true, whether a person would be denied salvation because of their beliefs (whether it be a denial that Jesus was a god man, non-belief in the Trinity or doubt with respect to every last line of the Athanasian Creed). I am interested in what various Christian sects say about this issue and my favorite example, the isolated bush pygmy who lives and dies ignorant of Christianity.

    I should add that while Glenn has raised the heretical question, he has punted instead of answering it.

  • The Atheist Missionary October 20, 2010, 7:10 am

    Dave writes: “the Hindu woman who gives her life for her child because the truly good faith she’s acting on is actually from Christ, even though she doesn’t know it, will cause a kernel of who she is as a person to live on in eternity“. I get it. The good we do is attributable to god regardless of whether we believe in him or have even heard of him. Despite those kernals of divine goodness, we are wretched sinners deserving of hellfire (orthodix view) or annihilation (Glenn’s view).

    I’m not sure what you mean by a “safe bet” but remind me not to take you to Vegas with me.

  • Jeremy October 20, 2010, 2:29 pm

    Yo TAM, you will burn in hell because thats your choice. To loosely quote CS Lewis “Heaven is for those who say to God, Thy will be done. Hell is for those who say to God, My will be done”
    You make your choice, God respects it, you live and die with the consequences. Even the isolated bush pygmy who has never heard of Christianity knows whether they are choosing to lead the best life they can or choosing to live primarily for self. God promises to be just.

  • The Atheist Missionary October 20, 2010, 3:36 pm

    Jeremy, as Pat Benatar sings, “hell is for children”. I rely on the prophet Glenn to assure me that eternal hellfire is a fiction. I’m ok with annihilationism, if true. Eternity would get boring, even with 72 virgins.

  • Glenn October 20, 2010, 5:18 pm

    “I’m ok with annihilationism, if true. Eternity would get boring, even with 72 virgins.”

    TAM, you do realise that annihilationism doesn’t mean there’s no such thing as eternal life.

    You knew that, right?

  • Glenn October 20, 2010, 5:19 pm

    “I should add that while Glenn has raised the heretical question, he has punted instead of answering it.”

    You have avoided stating what you think the “question” is, so it’s impossible to tell if this claim is true.

  • Glenn October 20, 2010, 5:21 pm

    Dave, yes that view is certainly too generous.

    When Scripture does warn of punishment, it is the person who is said to suffer punishment.

    What’s more, I am not a dualist, and even if I were, I would not believe in multiple centres of consciousness within a person.

  • Chris October 20, 2010, 5:57 pm

    As for “the isolated bush pygmy who lives and dies ignorant of Christianity,” those who are punished–either by hell or by annihilation–are not punished because they reject Christ. If that were the case, then “the isolated bush pygmy who lives and dies ignorant of Christianity” could hardly be punished justifiably. We are punished for being sinners, and whether one is exposed to the opportunity for forgiveness in Christ or not, one who does not accept Christ is justifiably punished for being a sinner.

  • Jeremy October 20, 2010, 6:05 pm

    Hey TAM, Allah is only promising 50 virgins and to guarantee that you have to die a martyrs death. You may be being a little optimistic. But if you do die a martyrs death you get to choose your companions [other than the 50 virgins] in paradise so you can guarantee your family’s entrance to paradise as well. Good luck with that.

  • Glenn October 20, 2010, 6:11 pm

    I remain agnostic as to whether there could be such things as “anonymous christians,” which might include some of those isolated bushmen.

  • The Atheist Missionary October 21, 2010, 12:05 am

    Glenn asked “you do realise that annihilationism doesn’t mean there’s no such thing as eternal life?” Yes Glenn, I think I understand your interpretation. Those who are saved experience the glory of eternal life in heaven while those who are not cease to exist. If true, I’m ok with that. Like I said, eternity could get tired.

  • The Atheist Missionary October 21, 2010, 2:46 am

    Annihilationalism is not only heretical, it takes a huge bite out of the fear factor in Pascal’s Wager.

    I love these internal doctrinal debates. Christians, get your story straight.

  • Rob R October 21, 2010, 6:41 am

    This is the catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully he cannot be saved.

    In that case, the sinner’s prayer is way too short.

  • Rob R October 21, 2010, 6:48 am

    I’m ok with annihilationism, if true. Eternity would get boring… Annihilationalism is not only heretical, it takes a huge bite out of the fear factor in Pascal’s Wager.

    I wouldn’t think that atheism would foster such a love for life.

    You think it’s boring and drab and don’t want it to go on forever. Yes, this is an appropriate thing for an atheist to think.

    Atheism after all cannot foster great value for life and apparently even consciousness. Those of us including atheists who do know of the great value of life by merely experiencing it should take note as well as the flipside, that transcendent views are far more capable of explaining the meaningfulness of life, even that which some (but aparently not all) atheists can intuit.

    And furthermore, it is views that point to the greatness of personhood such as we see in the description of humanity as created in the likeness of God that excel the most here.

  • Glenn October 21, 2010, 3:44 pm

    “I love these internal doctrinal debates. Christians, get your story straight.”

    WOW. Talk about setting yourself up. Do you realise how vulnerable you are right now?

  • Glenn October 21, 2010, 3:46 pm

    TAM: “If true, I’m ok with that. Like I said, eternity could get tired.”

    No, you’re really not getting this. For the heathen like you, the options are not eternal bliss (which you think would get boring) or annihilation.

    The choices are eternal torture or annihilation. I can understand why you might prefer the latter – but seriously – because the former is BORING?

    That’s worse than strange.

  • ropata October 21, 2010, 7:31 pm

    I read McLaren’s “Generous Orthodoxy” and it’s a breath of fresh air if you have been in the conservative evangelical subculture for too long. It’s gently challenging, and a lot less rigorous than Glenn’s orthodoxy. Everything is pretty much open to question, and I’m OK with that. I think it is important to have a SMALL set of doctrines that minimally define Christian belief (i.e. the Sermon on the Mount, the example of Christ), and beyond that let diversity flower. Christianity as a whole is organic, open, and growing in unpredictable ways.

    Here’s my informal statement of faith.

  • Glenn October 21, 2010, 10:20 pm

    Ropata – I think what you suggested at your blog – The Nicene Creed and the authority of Scripture, is a really good basis to work from. I happen to believe more than that, but nothing more than that is needed for orthodoxy.

  • mike October 22, 2010, 5:19 am

    Hey Glenn,

    Interesting that you have posted this as my friends and I were having this very conversation.

    My friends are agnostic / atheists and wondered that if they were wrong and their uncertainty / disbelief was the only difference between those who were saved….would God forgive them?

    Interested in hearing your opinion as always.

    Mike

  • Dave October 22, 2010, 5:57 am

    Hi Glenn, I’m not totally sold on the idea, but its fun to talk about it anyway…

    “When Scripture does warn of punishment, it is the person who is said to suffer punishment.”

    Yes this view (hypothesis) agrees with that. So for example, when I’m at the dentist and he’s drilling in to my tooth to get the bad parts of a cavity out, its me who suffers (for not having taken better care of my teeth), not the cavity bacteria (or whatever is in there). What I’m saying is that when the bible talks about people behaving badly it seems to be using a type of hyperbole (just like the hyperbole used in “coming on clouds” images in temporal judgement passages), i.e. the unbelief the person is acting upon is talked about in terms of the whole person. So when Jesus talks to Peter and says “Get behind me Satan” you don’t think he’s actually talking to Satan as opposed to the unbelief currently “controlling” Peter do you? Another example is this:

    Revelation 21:8 ” … all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone…”

    I have lied. Am I a liar then? Yes, I guess I am, but I also believe in Jesus Christ, so I have eternal life. Might I lie again at some point in my life? I hope not, but I bet I will. Will I lie when I’m “in” my resurrected body in the eternal state? Absolutely not. So how will God remove the part of me that lies? Most people would say “I don’t know” or “we’ll never know this side of eternity”. I’m just saying that maybe the fires of Hell will “burn that bad part of me away” in some sense.

    “What’s more, I am not a dualist, and even if I were, I would not believe in multiple centres of consciousness within a person.”

    I know you’re a physicalist (mine was the email Justin Brierly read a few weeks before your show asking them to put you on with Susan Blackmore and do a show on Christian Physicalism), and I don’t see how this view requires dualism. For example, have you ever done something in one moment and made the wrong choice, and then later, after some spiritual wrestling, made a better choice in almost the same circumstances? All I’m saying is that sometimes we’re acting on one belief, and sometimes we’re acting upon other beliefs (or unbeliefs as John Piper would say). That doesn’t mean we have multiple centres of consciousness or multiple personalities or something – that’s just how (I think) it works.

    So regarding physicalism, just as us physical beings here and now can have different aspects to or units of our spiritual experience (to the extreme of multiple personalities regardless of whatever is happening in that situation) why can’t the Judgement act upon those various units and still maintain the whole person in a physicalist sense. I.e. when I do something I know is bad, its still me doing it. See Romans 7( about verse 14+)

  • Dave October 22, 2010, 6:01 am

    PS how do make sure you get emails when this thread is responded to? I checked my spam and there’s nothing there. I thought it was supposed to be automatic and I don’t see a “follow this thread” type button anywhere…

  • Glenn October 22, 2010, 10:04 pm

    Dave, what I meant about multiple centres of consciousness is that when Universalists take the texts about punishing or destroying the person, they tend to say thatthose texts speak of destroying the old person or the sinful nature. But the problem is that those texts really do speak of the destruction of a prson, not a tendency or nature. So the only way for this to work is if there is more than one conscious being – the sinful one that can be destroyed, and the redeemed one who can live forever. The trouble is, I’m only one person!

    Regarding the example with Peter, he is addressing Peter, and he is (metaphorically) calling him Satan. But he’s a ddressing the person, and not merely one part of him. “So how will God remove the part of me that lies?” It’s not a part that lies, it’s you that lies. Sans God’s forgiveness, you would lose your entire self and not just a part.

    SO the emphasis is right here: The biblical texts that speak of the destruction of the lost do clearly speak of the destruction of a person, and I’m only one person. If a person gets destroyed, then I have been destroyed. I see no way around this.

  • Glenn October 22, 2010, 10:05 pm

    Dave: There is no option to subscribe via email to blog comment threads.

  • Dave October 23, 2010, 4:08 am

    Ok, so if a human soul really is indivisible, when a redeemed sinner is living in the eternal state, he’ll still be a sinner then? That’s kind of a bummer. That can’t be what you mean due to “no more sin” in Revelation.

    Or in response to the question “how will my sin be extracted from me?” you’re happy to say “I don’t know”.

    The only other way around it (other than a conscious process of sin removal) I can see right now is if the “me” in eternity will not really be me but a kind of “transporter accident” (a la Star Trek), a benevolent doppleganger who looks a lot like I would have been had I not sinned my whole life – but if that’s the case where are all those life-lessons learned from a lifetime of grappling with my sin nature?

    I suppose you only like to write about stuff you’re really sure about, but I’m interested in hearing how you think this all works…

  • Glenn October 23, 2010, 12:07 pm

    “Ok, so if a human soul really is indivisible, when a redeemed sinner is living in the eternal state, he’ll still be a sinner then?”

    No. I’m not sure who is saying this, but it’s not me. Like Christians have for centuries, I believe that at the resurrection of the dead the people of God will be transformed and glorified (as in 1 Corinthians 15).

    Of course, nothing in this requires that we give up the wisdom that we’ve already acquired, whether that wisdom was gained by struggling with sin or in some other way.

  • Dave October 24, 2010, 5:43 am

    I think this would be a better conversation in person, so if I ever find myself in New Zealand in the next ten years and you’re not in Oxford by then I’ll come by and buy you a beer and see if I can express my thoughts any better by then.

    I have to say I consider it a privilege to be in a time in history that armchair theologians like myself can even interact with people of such high caliber as you and others in the blogosphere.

    Thank you and please keep doing what you’re doing!

  • Marius February 10, 2013, 2:57 am

    i thoroughly enjoyed this.

  • Dan Holmes February 2, 2015, 5:04 pm

    The one thing that gives me pause is the mention of full preterism, which I actually consider to be a bit of a test case. Paul mentions Hymenaeus’s adoption of a belief that the resurrection had already come as a case of overthrowing the faith of others. Not only does this seem to close the door on full preterism, but it implies that doctrine may matter more on a salvific level.

  • Glenn February 2, 2015, 5:33 pm

    I suspect, Dan, that “shipwrecking” the faith of others as Paul put it would be a case of Hymenaeus’ convincing others that the resurrection had passed, and since they weren’t full preterists, that destroyed their hope of any future.

    But yeah I agree that it’s a really serious error. I just don’t think I’m in a position to say that it’s impossible to be saved if you believe it.

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