Friday, April 21, 2023

some thoughts on afterlife, life, annihilaationism, universalism, etc. (from a discussion with a friend)

I can't go to universalism for a number of reasons-- Justice, the inanity of works-based salvation, etc. But more creatively, I love C.S. Lewis' point (most powerfully in The Great Divorce) that everyone chooses. Frankly, a lot of people don't want to be with God or His people, as evidenced by their beliefs and behavior on Earth. Forcing them to do so for eternity would probably be Hell not Heaven.

I agree that A is the minority position in terms of popularity. (The why here is interesting and I don't have a sure answer.) But there are tons of verses that support A, including ironically, John 3:16! Biblically, A is somewhere between grudgingly respectable and the dominant position. (I just taught on it three weeks ago at church-- and it always gets the same favorable range of responses.) I cover A (and other related topics) on this issue of my podcast if you're interested: I can also send you a Word doc or just a list of verses if you want to investigate further and avoid this error in the future (and maybe help others who misunderstand).

I'm lost here: Why is post-death non-existence a cruel teaching? (A ton of folks-- well beyond a handful of atheists-- believe "this is all there is"! The first thing I got when I googled indicates that only 50% in the UK believe in an afterlife.) Anyway, why do people have a right to something more than this life? Purgatory with modest punishment? This grossly underestimates the extent of our sin. Sin is not just rebellion but "missing the mark". Every word, action, motive, thought, and the strength by which we do things (Rom 14:23) that falls short of perfection is sin. Sins of omission and commission. For example, if improper anger is even a cousin of murder, what do I deserve in terms of punishment? There is a bit of evidence for belief in reincarnation in the Bible, but not for reincarnation per se. And then there's Heb 9:27. The canned but good hand-waving answer is: God will work things out in Justice for "those who haven't heard". (Rom 1:20, 2:14-15, etc. indicate that we all have some knowledge. Many passages indicate that much/less is expected from those who have more/less.) Inclusivism is one (excellent but not totally precise) answer. (This also resolves the question of people before Jesus.) I've read essays and at least two books on Universalism. It has some appeal, but doesn't have a strong Scriptural case on net and has logic problems to boot. My favorite point here: it's not at all clear that having a ton of access to the Gospel is a huge advantage. I think I'd rather have one clean shot at accepting God's grace than a bunch of ops in a culture where most people already imagine that they're a Christian.


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