Book Plunge: Two Views of Hell

What did I think of Fudge and Peterson’s book published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out!

twoviewsofhell

My wife got me this book as a Christmas gift just going through my Amazon wish list I suppose. (And God have mercy on her since I have two just for books and one of them is completely full.) So naturally, I went through the book as soon as I could. I will admit my bias. I hold to a view of Hell that would be closer to traditionalism, although most traditionalists I think would not really hold to my view.

The book starts with the view of Fudge who holds to annihiliationism. I think Fudge would prefer it not be called that and today it’s more often called Conditionalism or conditional immortality. To be fair also, Peterson would prefer his viewpoint not be called traditionalism since it can look like one believes just because it is a tradition. I think it’s best for us as we consider the merits and problems of the book to look at the claims of the positions and not just their titles as we might just have to stick with those. Such is the nature of the beast.

The book starts with Fudge’s case. I found it in many ways an interesting look. I do agree with the criticism later on that a number of passages I do not think really are talking about what I prefer to call the after-death. I think Fudge did put forward a good argument and he did try to stay focused on the Bible. I do understand that as he went through each section of Scripture with an emphasis on the NT understandably and tried to cover as much ground as possible.

Peterson’s critique I thought of this section was good, but lacking in some areas. I do think too often Peterson had relied too much on a more futurist eschatology. I also did think it was problematic to say that Fudge went too much into the Greek. I understand the fear of writing to laymen, but the thing to do on Peterson’s side is just answer what he considers a bad usage of Greek with a good usage of it. I happen to think Peterson and Fudge neither one did well on their critiques.

Then Peterson made his case and he made his slightly different, but I understand why. He started off from a historical position. Many of the greatest minds in church history have denied annihilationism. Of course this isn’t a slam dunk. Peterson himself would not say it is. What it does mean is that if you are going against that kind of consensus, you had better have some good evidence for it.

Next Peterson makes his case from Scripture. In this, he goes to ten passages and tells the time frame and setting of each one and responds to the annihilationist interpretation, namely that of Fudge. I found this section to be quite well-written, though again there were times I think a more futurist interpretation was included in the text, but few if any texts depended on that.

Finally, Peterson shows how this impacts other doctrines and the best case was in Christology. What happened to Jesus on the cross when He died? Did He cease to exist? Did His humanity go away. These are questions that have to be answered and if Fudge holds that Jesus ceased to exist after He died, then I think that we are entering into some very serious issues at this point.

After that, we get to Fudge’s reply and honestly, this was for me the low point of the book. I have admitted my bias at the start, but when I read the text, I was trying to keep in mind that in some ways, Fudge was critiquing the view that I held. How would he do?

It didn’t help when the first sentence is “Robert Peterson now has done his best to defend the notion that God will keep sinners alive in Hell forever to torture them without end.”

Is there really any need for this? You would get the impression from Fudge that Peterson is practically roasting marshmallows watching unbelievers burn and celebrating it. I suspect Peterson would say that even if he thought Hell was a literal furnace, and he doesn’t, that he gets great sorrow from this. Fudge’s first sentence then in his reply was a let down for me and brought motives into play rather than dealing with the arguments.

Fudge also did this in pointing to how Peterson has to hold to the tradition that he is in and Fudge does not. His denomination is one that says Scripture is the final authority. That applies to Peterson as well I’m sure. If you asked him which was the final authority, he would no doubt say Scripture. The problem when we get often to just the Bible is that it is not just the Bible. It couldn’t be. The Bible is not a text in isolation. We have it translated and we have to interpret it with the works of the leading scholars. I seriously doubt Fudge has done all the textual work and linguistic study and such to translate and interpret every passage in the NT. He too relies on the minds of others. To not do this is to in many ways make us our own Popes.

This also troubled me when I read Fudge talking about Peterson referring often to uninspired writers. This is the kind of thing that I see from fundamentalists on the internet and it is troubling. What matters to me is the claims. It is not if the author is inspired or not. Jesus in his own culture used language from the Wisdom literature of the intertestamental period and some of which we find in the Dead Sea Scrolls. It was not inspired, but so what?

And of course, the claims of being influenced by pagans is something that I would like to see more research on. Color me skeptical of this since I regularly see claims about Christian ideas being influenced by pagans be it from the Christ-myth camp or be it from Christians who want to say that holidays like Christmas have borrowed heavily from the pagans. It’s too easy to just throw out the idea of “pagan.”

So like I said, I think Fudge just did not do well in his critiques of the traditionalist position. There was too much emotional content that frankly I think does not belong in a debate like this. I realize this is difficult, but it just doesn’t. Too often too many times I see the ideas presented with speculation on what is better. Conditionalists will say “We do not have God keeping people alive forever just to punish them. Unbelievers get turned away by this.”

Well if an unbeliever is going to be turned away and not look at the evidence for a claim like the resurrection just because of something they don’t like, it’s their own fault frankly. You do not say “I do not like the claim, therefore the evidence behind the claim must be false.” One investigates the claim. If one finds that Jesus did not rise, then who cares? It’s not going to change my mind if Muslims change their doctrine of the after-death concerning unbelievers. I don’t care either way.

Meanwhile, on the other hand, traditionalists can say to conditionalists that you’re just giving unbelievers what they want. They just cease to exist. It looks like they get off easy. Again, I understand the sentiment there as well, but so what? The evidence for the resurrection changes because someone gets off easy? Conditionalism is false because it is believed that someone gets off easy? We end up speculating on this point and miss going with what the text itself really says. Now if we become convinced of either view in the text, then we can ask “Why did God do it X way instead of this?” That can be a fascinating way to learn, but it should not be used as a debate point.

In looking at the book as a whole, while both sides were interesting to read about, I think the book could have been better served with a more point-counterpoint position. To have each side present their whole case and then one counter to that is a bit overwhelming. It would have been better I think to have perhaps discussion on history and then on interpretation and then on ramification. It could have been longer had this been done, but I think the content would be better.

This is still an interesting read to see both sides of the issue and I can recommend it there.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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51 Responses to “Book Plunge: Two Views of Hell”

  1. Vincent S Artale Jr Says:

    Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging and commented:
    Really enjoying this review!

  2. labreuer Says:

    There was too much emotional content that frankly I think does not belong in a debate like this.

    I’m curious: do you think there is any role for ’emotional content’? I’ve been thinking long and hard about whether it’s possible to have a wrong emotional conception of God, just as it’s possible to have a wrong intellectual conception of God. I’m becoming increasingly convinced that the answer is ‘yes’. Have you thoughts on this matter?

    Now, there can still be an imbalance on emotional vs. intellectual. But I don’t know whether you’re saying there is an imbalance, or something else.

    • apologianick Says:

      I’m not sure what you’re asking.

      • labreuer Says:

        Well, when you get to know someone, you get to know how he/she thinks, and how he/she feels. Does the same happen when we get to know God? Of so, then it is quite proper—necessary, even—to have emotional content when talking about God. Now, you said that “[t]here was too much emotional content”. I wonder what you mean by that, if you accept that some amount of emotional content is a good thing.

      • apologianick Says:

        Well I don’t think God has emotions, so that’s a problem there. But when I spoke of emotional content, I meant that too often when we talk about Hell, it’s hard to separate it from our feelings and our feelings can then dictate what we think. If we feel like we don’t like eternal conscious torment, then that’s wrong! If we feel like annihilationism is getting off easy, then that’s wrong.

        Look at the data first.

      • labreuer Says:

        Well I don’t think God has emotions […]

        Why do you think this? It seems a little odd to me that we are created imago Dei, and yet this huge aspect to us is simply not in God in any way, shape or form. It also seems odd that the OT wouldn’t even have the concepts to say what you claim here: the Hebrew word for ‘heart’ actually means what we would think of as heart and mind. Unlike the Greeks, the ancient Hebrews did not separate between intellect and emotions. If YHWH had nothing like emotions (including a ‘sanctified’ or ‘properly functioning’ version), wouldn’t he want to let the Hebrews know this?

        The above being said, I have not researched this matter in depth, and I would like to. It sounds like you may have read some scholarly works on the matter, and could give me some references?

      • apologianick Says:

        Do you think God has a human body?

      • labreuer Says:

        Nope. But YHWH is never represented as having a body in the OT; he is represented as having emotions. Jesus is also represented as having emotions, and said to be the “exact representation” (χαρακτήρ) of God.

      • apologianick Says:

        Go through the OT. Look at how many times body parts are described of God. He even is said to walk before Moses so His face could not be seen.

      • labreuer Says:

        Hmmmm, those instances seem clearly metaphorical. I should have said “YHWH is never represented as having a non-metaphorical body in the OT”. Since when did any Hebrew or Jew think that God had an actual, physical body? Jesus claim to be God—and yet have a body—was most offensive to Judaism, of all religions known to exist. Passages like 2 Chr 16:9, which have God’s eyes “run[ning] to and fro throughout the whole earth” seem to make the metaphorical interpretation quite necessary.

        How does this connect to the emotions? Is there a 2 Chr 16:9 equivalent which shows that all representations of God having emotion are mere metaphors for actual intellectual states of mind?

      • apologianick Says:

        Well it looks like you said we’re in God’s image and God is described as having emotions. If our emotions are a huge aspect of us then aren’t our bodies just as much? Can’t we be in the imago dei and be bodied creatures while God is the one we are in the image of and He does not have a body? If so, why not emotions?

      • labreuer Says:

        It seems easy to understand a body as metaphorical; I don’t know how to conceive of feeling (or thinking) as metaphorical. Do you?

        It’s also not clear to me why you are inclined to say that God doesn’t have emotions. When it comes to God not having a body, I pointed out that there are passages which make it very hard to view that body as physical. Are there similar passages having to do with God apparently having emotions?

        I will note that emotional responses can be trained, just like the intellect can be trained. Indeed, this is a major aspect to C.S. Lewis’ The Abolition of Man. There is no need for emotions to make one irrational; indeed, perhaps without them we are indeed more irrational:

        When emotion is entirely left out of the reasoning picture, as happens in certain neurological conditions, reason turns out to be even more flawed than when emotion plays bad tricks on our decisions. (Descartes’ Error, xii)

      • apologianick Says:

        I don’t think God has emotions because I tie those in to a body and note that impassibility has been the position of the church in history. Emotions are more reactionary and responses. I don’t think God has emotional responses and I can’t think of anything we could do that could change any emotions He could have if He any. (And if we can change Him, then He’s not immutable.) It can be said there are passages that make it hard for God to be seen as physical, but there are passages that make it simple and I could just as well say a passage like the one in Ezekiel describes God’s eyes in metaphorical terms.

      • labreuer Says:

        I’ve never understood the doctrine of divine impassibility, except as a veiled attempt to object to Jesus’ words in Luke 7:31–35. I suppose that’s pretty harsh, but I’ve experienced a lot of impassibility from others, can do a pretty good impression of it, and find it of exclusively limited use. Attempting to be it all the time seems quite antithetical to Jesus. How can it be antithetical to Jesus, and yet not antithetical to God the Father?

        Some cases for impassibility seem built on the idea that emotions are the handles with which people are manipulated, the connection points for marionette strings. If God had emotions, we could manipulate him! But who says any of this is true? Jesus wept and Jesus got angry but Jesus was not manipulated.

        Some cases for impassibility seem based on the idea that emotions are necessarily volatile, unpredictable, and prone to jarring a person away from proper thinking and action. But who says this is anything other than a Stoic animus against emotion, perhaps fostered by those who never learned how to discipline their emotions like they learned to discipline their intellects?

        What is it, that makes our thoughts closer to God’s thoughts than our emotions are to whatever it is that scripture is getting at when it ascribes emotions to God?

      • apologianick Says:

        But Luke, my last point I do not think was addressed and you ask about Jesus. That’s pretty simple. Jesus was made fully human. Part of being human is having emotions just as it is having a body. So again I could come back to the same objection. You can say Jesus has emotions. Why not God? Okay. Jesus has a body. Why not God?

      • labreuer Says:

        I just don’t see emotions as tied to the body like you do. I see emotions as tied to (i) one’s desires; (ii) one’s conception of the good, the excellent, the beautiful, etc. Empathy is when you try to model someone else in these domains. Nothing here seems to require having a body. God clearly has desires without a body.

        When I try to think of what the doctrines of immutability, aseity, and impassibility try to protect against, I imagine a mercurial deity who can be manipulated. In contrast, YHWH can be convinced, but only in ways we consider valid: consider Abraham arguing with him over Sodom and Moses refusing to continue if God destroys Israel. YHWH is not mercurial: he honors his promises. Those three doctrines entail these aspects of YHWH, but these aspects of YHWH do not entail those doctrines.

        And so, I wonder where the very idea that God doesn’t have emotions come from. I find the root in Greek philosophy and Gnosticism: the idea that the highest level of being is in contemplating God’s thoughts. The body is seen as the source of evil and must be escaped. My caricature of the Roman Catholic Church is that they held to something like ‘body = passions’. Those are the cause of sin; the intellect is pure and pristine. I’m personally glad that Calvin struck down that nonsense with the doctrine of total depravity, instead of partial depravity.

        There are excellent reasons for why God can’t have a body: one is that if he does, he is not “totally other” and cannot be creator. I find no such reasons for why God can’t have emotions. And so, I’m inclined to accept the prima facie textual evidence that God does indeed have emotions.

      • apologianick Says:

        But that idea of totally other comes from Greek philosophy I could say just as much. Why disparage the impassibility doctrine for being that way supposedly and accept another doctrine that way? Again, it looks like you want God to have some aspects of humanity you’ve chosen, like emotions, but not a body. I’ve also pointed out emotions are constantly changing. Hence, motion being part of the term. God however is unchanging.

        Also, God can honor His promises and love and do everything else without having emotions. They are not a necessity.

        So I still remain unconvinced.

      • labreuer Says:

        But that idea of totally other comes from Greek philosophy I could say just as much.

        Really? What about God’s response to Job, or Psalm 50:19–21? How can God have created the world without being totally other? It strikes me that there are quite a few good reasons from the OT texts to see God as “totally other”, or something very much like that. (Strictly speaking, God wants us to become like him—Is 55:6–9.)

        I’ve also pointed out emotions are constantly changing.

        Is this necessarily true, or only contingently true? The OT has God reacting to man, which seems to require change, but it is not random, it is not mercurial, it is orderly. In my experience, the intellect can be just as disordered as the emotions, and the emotions can be just as disciplined as the intellect.

        Also, God can honor His promises and love and do everything else without having emotions.

        I shall suppose that this is true. In that case, when Jesus says to “be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect” and when John says that we will become like Jesus even though we don’t know fully what he’s like, does this mean that we’ll become purged of our emotional nature? After all, you are treating emotions as absolutely unnecessary. Should we try, now, to start the purging process? Should we progress as far as possible, with God working mightily in us as we work? That seems to be the logical consequence of your claim, here.

      • apologianick Says:

        Luke: Really? What about God’s response to Job, or Psalm 50:19–21? How can God have created the world without being totally other? It strikes me that there are quite a few good reasons from the OT texts to see God as “totally other”, or something very much like that. (Strictly speaking, God wants us to become like him—Is 55:6–9.)

        Reply: God can be different, but that does not equate to “Totally other.” In fact, if He was totally other, how could we be in His image? As for Isaiah, I think that passage is one of the most misused ones. It is not talking about God in an ontological sense. What it is saying is people expect judgment when they come to God, but He does not want to judge. In fact, He wants to show grace. You may think He will judge and that may be what you would do, but His thoughts are not yours and His ways are not yours.

        Luke:

        Is this necessarily true, or only contingently true? The OT has God reacting to man, which seems to require change, but it is not random, it is not mercurial, it is orderly. In my experience, the intellect can be just as disordered as the emotions, and the emotions can be just as disciplined as the intellect.

        Reply: Necessarily. If God has emotions, we see this happening in Scripture. This puts God on a time line and could even lead to open theism. After all, God is angry and about to destroy Israel until Moses tells Him something else, as if God had forgotten! That gets me to part of the problem. I can somehow make God angry in such a way that He could lose the joy of the Trinity?

        Luke: I shall suppose that this is true. In that case, when Jesus says to “be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect” and when John says that we will become like Jesus even though we don’t know fully what he’s like, does this mean that we’ll become purged of our emotional nature? After all, you are treating emotions as absolutely unnecessary. Should we try, now, to start the purging process? Should we progress as far as possible, with God working mightily in us as we work? That seems to be the logical consequence of your claim, here.

        Reply: I am not treating them as unnecessary. By saying GOd doesn’t have them, I do not say they are unnecessary for us any more than saying God doesn’t have a body means a body is unnecessary for us. I believe we will be beings that have perfect alignment with our emotions, intellects, and bodies, and I would say this applies to Jesus, who is still in the body and still very much human.

      • labreuer Says:

        God can be different, but that does not equate to “Totally other.”

        Alright, you’ve argued that taken to the extreme, “totally other” is problematic. I agree. It is probably better to say that God is an infinite being while we are finite beings. That metaphor allows a very important kind of otherness as well as allows analogical similarity. This being said, I don’t see how this damages my original point of how God having a body would be extremely problematic if he also created spacetime.

        If God has emotions, we see this happening in Scripture. This puts God on a time line and could even lead to open theism.

        If this is true, that the very fact that God talked to Moses “put [him] on a time line”. After all, we have vocal sound A at time t1 and vocal sound B at time t2, both uttered by God. God isn’t the same at all times in this way: at time t1 he was not uttering vocal sound B while at time t2 he was.

        After all, God is angry and about to destroy Israel until Moses tells Him something else, as if God had forgotten! That gets me to part of the problem. I can somehow make God angry in such a way that He could lose the joy of the Trinity?

        I don’t think God had forgotten; I think God would have destroyed Israel and restarted with Moses, if Moses hadn’t insisted upon the alternative: taking up responsibility of dealing with an extremely stubborn and stiff-necked people. God reacted to Moses. This doesn’t make him arbitrary, nor mercurial. I also don’t see how God would be “los[ing] the joy of the Trinity”.

        I am not treating them as unnecessary. By saying GOd doesn’t have them, I do not say they are unnecessary for us any more than saying God doesn’t have a body means a body is unnecessary for us. I believe we will be beings that have perfect alignment with our emotions, intellects, and bodies, and I would say this applies to Jesus, who is still in the body and still very much human.

        It is interesting to think of emotions as an aspect of Heb 4:15; apparently that verse could not have been said of Jesus prior to the Incarnation; could it have been said of God prior to the incarnation? Was the Trinity unable to empathize with us until Jesus was incarnated?

        P.S. You can use <blockquote></blockquote> to make responses look prettier and easier to read.

      • apologianick Says:

        Alright, you’ve argued that taken to the extreme, “totally other” is problematic. I agree. It is probably better to say that God is an infinite being while we are finite beings. That metaphor allows a very important kind of otherness as well as allows analogical similarity. This being said, I don’t see how this damages my original point of how God having a body would be extremely problematic if he also created spacetime.

        I don’t see why creating space time would not mean God could not create His own body. He did so in the incarnation for Jesus. As for totally other, well I took it the only way I could. God is infinite and we are finite, but it doesn’t say much beyond that on how we are like Him and how we are not.

        If this is true, that the very fact that God talked to Moses “put [him] on a time line”. After all, we have vocal sound A at time t1 and vocal sound B at time t2, both uttered by God. God isn’t the same at all times in this way: at time t1 he was not uttering vocal sound B while at time t2 he was.

        Not in my view. God is eternal and what He does, He does eternally. He is not moving on the timeline at all but is at all points at all times and transcends it.

        I don’t think God had forgotten; I think God would have destroyed Israel and restarted with Moses, if Moses hadn’t insisted upon the alternative: taking up responsibility of dealing with an extremely stubborn and stiff-necked people. God reacted to Moses. This doesn’t make him arbitrary, nor mercurial. I also don’t see how God would be “los[ing] the joy of the Trinity”.

        What happens when we cause God sorrow or make Him grieve? We can make God sad about something? I find that concerning. Also, I do agree God would not have destroyed, but if you take the language at the face value, you can get that impression. The same with language of a body and language of emotions.

        It is interesting to think of emotions as an aspect of Heb 4:15; apparently that verse could not have been said of Jesus prior to the Incarnation; could it have been said of God prior to the incarnation? Was the Trinity unable to empathize with us until Jesus was incarnated?

        He couldn’t, nor does He need to. God doesn’t need to feel something to know what is to be done for our good. Look at the story of David Wood for a comparison.

      • labreuer Says:

        Not in my view. God is eternal and what He does, He does eternally.

        I don’t understand; perhaps this will clarify:

        (1) At time t1 God can be making vocal sound A and at time t2 God can be making vocal sound B.

        (2) At time t1 God can be expressing emotion C and at time t2 God can be expressing emotion D.

        You are asserting (1) while denying (2), correct?

        What happens when we cause God sorrow or make Him grieve? We can make God sad about something?

        What happens is that he has the proper reactions, instead of improper ones. Some humans have disciplined their emotions such that they don’t act ’emotionally’ (read: stupidly) in a wide variety of situations. There is this Enlightenment dogma that emotions are merely a source of irrationality; this has been proven false by science. Moreover, it seems insane that God would reveal himself to a culture which did not distinguish between intellect and emotion, if God has no emotions. “Hey guys, I’m going to deny you any possibility of understanding this fundamental aspect of my nature.” It took until the Greeks to split ‘heart’ into ‘heart and mind’. Compare the MT and LXX in Jer 31:31–34.

        He couldn’t, nor does He need to. God doesn’t need to feel something to know what is to be done for our good.

        Curious, so all those bits in Hebrews, where it says that Jesus can understand us because he was made like us, are actually kind of nonsense, because God could understand us perfectly fine without Jesus? I mean, I should think your average reader would think that Jesus went through something which gave him a perspective he didn’t have before, which is tremendously helpful to us humans. “You now have a high priest who can sympathize with your weaknesses. Before him, God could actually also fully understand your weaknesses, so nothing new has happened on this front.”

        Look at the story of David Wood for a comparison.

        Is there a blurb somewhere of his conversion story? I found a video, but reading is much faster.

      • apologianick Says:

        I don’t understand; perhaps this will clarify:

        (1) At time t1 God can be making vocal sound A and at time t2 God can be making vocal sound B.

        (2) At time t1 God can be expressing emotion C and at time t2 God can be expressing emotion D.

        You are asserting (1) while denying (2), correct?

        Not exactly. It’s hard to really think of a t1 and t2 for God. For me, God is right now creating the world, watching the flood, seeing the crucifixion, and spending eternity with us. He does not move on the timeline. He is everywhere on the timeline at once and experiences reality in an eternal now.

        Totally beyond anything we can think.

        What happens is that he has the proper reactions, instead of improper ones. Some humans have disciplined their emotions such that they don’t act ‘emotionally’ (read: stupidly) in a wide variety of situations. There is this Enlightenment dogma that emotions are merely a source of irrationality; this has been proven false by science. Moreover, it seems insane that God would reveal himself to a culture which did not distinguish between intellect and emotion, if God has no emotions. “Hey guys, I’m going to deny you any possibility of understanding this fundamental aspect of my nature.” It took until the Greeks to split ‘heart’ into ‘heart and mind’. Compare the MT and LXX in Jer 31:31–34.

        I could again say the same thing about having a body. As for reactions, then that again puts God on the timeline. It means God is undergoing change and that we are causing God to change. It also means that if he experiences sorrow, he does so eternally.

        Curious, so all those bits in Hebrews, where it says that Jesus can understand us because he was made like us, are actually kind of nonsense, because God could understand us perfectly fine without Jesus? I mean, I should think your average reader would think that Jesus went through something which gave him a perspective he didn’t have before, which is tremendously helpful to us humans. “You now have a high priest who can sympathize with your weaknesses. Before him, God could actually also fully understand your weaknesses, so nothing new has happened on this front.”

        Jesus being human now can speak from that perspective. This is Jesus in His humanity. This is to show that Jesus is a superior mediator to the fallen high priests of the time.

        Is there a blurb somewhere of his conversion story? I found a video, but reading is much faster.

        Not that I know of, but basically, he’s a sociopath. He does not have emotions. He does not grieve when loved ones die for instance. How does he know right and wrong and do them? By listening to the words of Jesus with some extra help from Greek philosophy.

        The video is really good to watch the whole of.

      • labreuer Says:

        Totally beyond anything we can think.

        I see you’ve found your own aspect of “totally other”. :-p You might like God & Time: Four Views; in it Wolterstorff criticizes the classical theism view of God being timeless in the way you might be advancing—by looking at the biblical texts which bear on the matter. Classical theism is demoted to something that can be supported or refuted by the text, instead of something through which the text is interpreted.

        As for reactions, then that again puts God on the timeline. It means God is undergoing change and that we are causing God to change.

        In that case, God cannot know anything that happens which he does not exclusively cause to happen, because that would require him to look at what is happening, and find out that the state of affairs is A instead of B. And yet, God’s internal state would change. Evan Fales argues this and more in Divine Intervention: Metaphysical and Epistemological Puzzles:

            But God, it is generally supposed, is impassible. And that means that no created object is causally responsible for anything that happens to God: nothing ever happens to God. It follows, surely, that God does not perceive the world, and that He is not, at least by way of perception, in the know about the world. (71)

        I’m not sure you want to accept this logical consequence? You have stated elsewhere that you’re not a Calvinist.

        Not that I know of, but basically, he’s a sociopath. He does not have emotions. He does not grieve when loved ones die for instance. How does he know right and wrong and do them? By listening to the words of Jesus with some extra help from Greek philosophy.

        Neat. I’ve long wondered whether one of the reasons God lets sociopaths and psychpaths be born is so that they can criticize distorted, disordered emotions that we have stopped seeing for what they are. I think I will make some time to watch the video; I can see now why video format might be better in this situation.

      • apologianick Says:

        I see you’ve found your own aspect of “totally other”. :-p You might like God & Time: Four Views; in it Wolterstorff criticizes the classical theism view of God being timeless in the way you might be advancing—by looking at the biblical texts which bear on the matter. Classical theism is demoted to something that can be supported or refuted by the text, instead of something through which the text is interpreted.

        I could look at that later on, but I did not say God is totally other. I said he’s totally beyond what we can comprehend. This is certainly true. A god you can comprehend is a small one. Of course a claim can be refuted by a text, but I have yet to see it happen.

        In that case, God cannot know anything that happens which he does not exclusively cause to happen, because that would require him to look at what is happening, and find out that the state of affairs is A instead of B. And yet, God’s internal state would change. Evan Fales argues this and more in Divine Intervention: Metaphysical and Epistemological Puzzles:

            But God, it is generally supposed, is impassible. And that means that no created object is causally responsible for anything that happens to God: nothing ever happens to God. It follows, surely, that God does not perceive the world, and that He is not, at least by way of perception, in the know about the world. (71)

        I don’t find this persuasive. God knows all things by knowing Himself. He knows what we will do even before we do them. It does not mean He causes them. It simply means that He knows them. This is something all Christians are to believe. He knows our requests even before we ask.

        I’m not sure you want to accept this logical consequence? You have stated elsewhere that you’re not a Calvinist.

        I’m not, but it doesn’t look like what Fales says follows.

        Neat. I’ve long wondered whether one of the reasons God lets sociopaths and psychpaths be born is so that they can criticize distorted, disordered emotions that we have stopped seeing for what they are. I think I will make some time to watch the video; I can see now why video format might be better in this situation.

        I rarely take time to watch videos like that, but this one was so good I passed it on to my pastor. It’s incredible.

      • labreuer Says:

        I could look at that later on, but I did not say God is totally other. I said he’s totally beyond what we can comprehend.

        Yes, that comment of mine was largely tongue-in-cheek, hence the smiley. It’s pretty clear that you don’t endorse a full-on via negativa, which I think is required to truly believe that God is ‘totally other’.

        I don’t find this persuasive. God knows all things by knowing Himself. He knows what we will do even before we do them. It does not mean He causes them. It simply means that He knows them. This is something all Christians are to believe. He knows our requests even before we ask.

        This is precisely what I expected you to say; the passage I quoted notes that there is a problem with what you’ve just here asserted, and the doctrine of impassibility. If God can never be changed, then he can only know about what he has caused. The conflict is between divine impassibility and the rejection of meticulous sovereignty. If you are fine with meticulous sovereignty, then there is no problem. But since you’re not a Calvinist, I doubt you hold to meticulous sovereignty.

      • apologianick Says:

        I don’t see how I have a problem. God can only know what He causes? Why should I think that?

        But then, I avoid the Calvinist/Arminian debate like the plague.

      • labreuer Says:

        What’s the difference between my causing God to know A vs. B, and my causing God to feel C vs. D? If I can do something to cause God to know A but not B, he is not impassible. But if I can cause God to know A but not B, why can I not cause him to feel C vs. D?

        The only way to avoid a chain of causation from me to God, whereby I change his state, is for meticulous sovereignty to be true, or God to not know what he does not cause to happen.

      • apologianick Says:

        I cannot say if my actions cause God to know X. I do not think they do. How do I reconcile it? Beats me. I don’t do the free-will debate. It’s way too complex. I just know Scripture says God knows all things and God knows the future and He doesn’t change. Does this entail meticulous sovereignty. I see no reason to think so as Scripture emphasizes both sovereignty and free-will.

      • labreuer Says:

        I would say you’ve got a problem with divine impassibility, a paradox that might blow it up if you looked into the matter. As to God not changing: this needs some careful interpretation. Man can change God’s mind, as Ninevah makes very clear. Or rather, if man changes, he can see a different aspect of God which was always an option. So you can say that God always planned to spare Ninevah, if they were willing to repent. But then what does it men to say that “God does not change”, except that he will keep his word?

        What remains of divine impassibility if one says that (i) God cannot be manipulated; (ii) God is not fickle; (iii) God will keep his word? I’m not sure what does remain. It seems like there is an animus toward emotion within the doctrine of divine impassibility, as if emotions are necessarily evil. After all, how is our thinking any more than a mere analogy (see Aquinas’ univocal, analogical, and equivocal modes of talking about God) to how God thinks? And yet, divine impassibility wants to say that this analogy is less analogical than ascribing emotions to God. I simply don’t see any scriptural justification for this idea; it seems entirely imposed from outside.

      • apologianick Says:

        Do you hold to Open Theism?

      • labreuer Says:

        Not necessarily. What I’m particularly interested in is looking at what traditional conceptions of God are meant to guarantee in scripture, and then look at other ways to guarantee the same things, but without the problems that seem to exist in those traditional conceptions. For example, perhaps Open Theism is perfectly consistent with God still being able to keep all of his promises, but perhaps it is not.

        I’m perfectly fine with traditional conceptions of omniscience, omnipotence, impassibility, etc., all being approximations which have their uses as well as their weaknesses. Likewise, the ancient Near East concept of the firmament seems wrong now, but probably functioned just fine way back when it was used.

        Furthermore, it’s quite understandable that people would respond to the fickle Greek and Roman gods by making God as unlike them as possible. It is very human to overreact to bad things. A great example would be the Greek and Gnostic scapegoating of matter as the cause of all of man’s ills. Likewise, it seems like many have scapegoated emotions. Surely having emotions means that you can be manipulated? That’s an extremely dangerous claim that logically leads to the suppression of emotion. Compare this to Jesus’ observation in Luke 7:31–34.

      • apologianick Says:

        I don’t accept open theism because it has a God who changes and doesn’t know the future, and I think Scripture is quite clear on both of those.

        I also do not hold my position because emotions are bad things. I hold it because I consider it the most consistent.

      • labreuer Says:

        I don’t accept open theism because it has a God who changes and doesn’t know the future, and I think Scripture is quite clear on both of those.

        I actually don’t know that much about Open Theism. I am aware of the debate about Middle Knowledge, how “counterfactuals of creaturely freedom” may be incoherent. What I am sure of is that God knows whatever can be known. I’m convinced that this is enough for him to keep his word.

        As to God changing: I’ll have to be convinced that we could know that he is changing, instead of coming to know new or deeper aspects to him that were always there. The Ninevites were first exposed to only one aspect of YHWH, but saw another because they repented. The only way I can see us justifiably saying that God has changed is if he is somehow inconsistent across time. And yet, does Open Theism claim that this is the case?

        I also do not hold my position because emotions are bad things. I hold it because I consider it the most consistent.

        Whether or not you think emotions are bad things is irrelevant to whether the traditional concept of divine impassibility was originally made plausible and buttressed through an animus toward emotions. If such people worked really hard, I think they could make a very seemingly consistent case for God having no emotions. Indeed, it’s possible to come up with an incredibly consistent system that has but one major flaw: Logical Positivism is a great example of this. Once you swallowed the one contradiction, which happened to be central to the entire philosophy, everything else worked.

        I suspect you have swallowed such a contradiction by attempting to hold the following three beliefs:

        (1) God is impassible.
        (2) God is not responsible for causing my sin.
        (3) God knows the specific sins I have committed.

        Unless the way God created me necessitated that I sin in the specific ways I do, he would have had to discover causes external to the ones he set in motion, logically after the causes he set in motion. I see no way that one can accept both (1) and (2), which is why I brought up meticulous sovereignty. I’m pretty sure we have to accept (3).

      • apologianick Says:

        Seeing no way does not mean that there is no way. I see both in Scripture. God is sovereign. We have free-will, and I think too many people on the extremes. For God changing, Malachi and Hebrews I think both make it clear. God doesn’t change and Jesus is the same.

        For open theism, God is growing in knowledge. God could even be wrong about something with the future. This in the end I see makes God a creature.

        As for emotions, even if there was an animus against them, so what? There was an animus against resurrection and the Christians taught that. What we have to look at is what their reasons were for what they held to.

      • labreuer Says:

        Seeing no way does not mean that there is no way. I see both in Scripture.

        Oh, our knowledge is so incomplete that one can rarely have the kind of certainty Descartes thought he had. But if I see an apparent contradiction, can’t resolve it, and see an alternative approach that seems to contort scripture less than the apparent contradiction does, I will prefer that alternative approach. I see no need for the strength of the doctrine of impassibility. There are other, weaker ways to guarantee the actual bits in scripture that it guarantees.

        Surely you recognize a difference between interpreting “God doesn’t change” as “his word can be trusted” and “he is entirely immutable”?

        For open theism, God is growing in knowledge. God could even be wrong about something with the future. This in the end I see makes God a creature.

        Yes, am aware that God is growing in knowledge according to open theism, but if ‘omniscience’ is simply defined as “knowing everything that can be known”, God can still be omniscient at all points in time. I actually disagree that God could be wrong about something in the future, though: he would know the precise limits of his knowledge and would thus never make the mistake of thinking that he knows something he cannot know. What he could definitely do is work with probabilities.

        I don’t see how this makes God a creature: creatures exist contingently, while God exists necessarily. There is no reference to knowledge in this very standard formulation.

        As for emotions, even if there was an animus against them, so what? There was an animus against resurrection and the Christians taught that. What we have to look at is what their reasons were for what they held to.

        I’m going to have to greatly disagree, here. All ideas are historically situated, and attempting to understand them outside of the reasons they came about is to enter into falsehood. People are very good at making fundamentally inconsistent ideas seem consistent, as long as they have strong enough motivation. It is not enough to ask whether someone has intellectual reasons for belief; one must examine all the causes for holding a belief.

        If someone has enough non-intellectual motivation to hold a belief, that person can go to great lengths to make the belief seem intellectually valid. When you said that divine impassibility seems consistent to you, I immediately thought of other systems of thought which seemed to be consistent but weren’t. How can one detect such a system of thought before the contradictory nature of it is made so blatant that most people are forced to accept it? Strong beliefs such as an animus toward emotion are a good early indicator, in my experience.

      • apologianick Says:

        Oh, our knowledge is so incomplete that one can rarely have the kind of certainty Descartes thought he had. But if I see an apparent contradiction, can’t resolve it, and see an alternative approach that seems to contort scripture less than the apparent contradiction does, I will prefer that alternative approach. I see no need for the strength of the doctrine of impassibility. There are other, weaker ways to guarantee the actual bits in scripture that it guarantees.

        And I happen to see the strength. It avoids God changing for if God changes, His nature is altered quite radically. I also work on a contradiction if I think it is real and it causes me enough trouble. As it stands, I just have zero interest in the free-will debate. I’m more interested in other discussions.

        Surely you recognize a difference between interpreting “God doesn’t change” as “his word can be trusted” and “he is entirely immutable”?

        It is because He is immutable that we know He can be trusted and His word doesn’t change.

        Yes, am aware that God is growing in knowledge according to open theism, but if ‘omniscience’ is simply defined as “knowing everything that can be known”, God can still be omniscient at all points in time. I actually disagree that God could be wrong about something in the future, though: he would know the precise limits of his knowledge and would thus never make the mistake of thinking that he knows something he cannot know. What he could definitely do is work with probabilities.

        Then God is part of the timeline. He is no longer eternal. He is growing in knowledge and as Pinnock once said, God could even be wrong. It kind of makes the challenge in Isaiah to know the future be a void challenge.

        I don’t see how this makes God a creature: creatures exist contingently, while God exists necessarily. There is no reference to knowledge in this very standard formulation.

        If God changes in how He exists, then He has passive potential. He is part of the chain of being just as much as anything else and there must be something above Him that doesn’t change or else we have the infinite regress problem.

        I’m going to have to greatly disagree, here. All ideas are historically situated, and attempting to understand them outside of the reasons they came about is to enter into falsehood. People are very good at making fundamentally inconsistent ideas seem consistent, as long as they have strong enough motivation. It is not enough to ask whether someone has intellectual reasons for belief; one must examine all the causes for holding a belief.

        My point was their bias is secondary at the time. The reasons for the stance are primary.

        If someone has enough non-intellectual motivation to hold a belief, that person can go to great lengths to make the belief seem intellectually valid. When you said that divine impassibility seems consistent to you, I immediately thought of other systems of thought which seemed to be consistent but weren’t. How can one detect such a system of thought before the contradictory nature of it is made so blatant that most people are forced to accept it? Strong beliefs such as an animus toward emotion are a good early indicator, in my experience.

        And I did the same with you. I find the reading of Scripture inconsistent when I could say the text clearly says God has a body. My reading is the consistent one. It interprets all human language metaphorically. Consistency is not a test for truth, but it is a requirement for truth. Also again, I have no animus to emotion. I have something against people basing arguments entirely on emotion, but not emotion itself.

      • labreuer Says:

        As it stands, I just have zero interest in the free-will debate.

        This isn’t a free will debate. Either God is the author of sin, or he is not. Either he causes all that happens, or he does not. If he does not cause all that happens, then he can only know those things he doesn’t cause to happen if they somehow impinge on him and change him, by changing his knowledge of what is. And yet, impassibility precludes this. How does God know that I committed sin X, except that my commission of sin X caused him to know I committed it? But under impassibility, I cannot cause God to change in any way.

        The rubber really hits the road if one can say, truly, that God is grieved about rape, rejoices when people repent, and is angry about injustice which goes unresolved for generations. If this is the case, then I can become more like God with my emotions; part of that “be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect” is thinking more like he does and part is feeling more like he does. It is likely that the original hearers of Is 55:6–9 would have understood precisely this, except they wouldn’t have sharply distinguished between thinking and feeling.

        It is because He is immutable that we know He can be trusted and His word doesn’t change.

        Curious; I don’t found my confidence in this way.

        Then God is part of the timeline. He is no longer eternal.

        This does not follow; see for example Michael Tooley’s Time, Tense, and Causation. There can be timeless truths and time-sensitive truths. Some things can have always been true, while other things can only become true as of time t.

        If God changes in how He exists, then He has passive potential. He is part of the chain of being just as much as anything else and there must be something above Him that doesn’t change or else we have the infinite regress problem.

        I’m not sure I understand this.

        My reading is the consistent one. It interprets all human language metaphorically.

        Wait a second, so when we say God ‘thinks’, that is no closer to human ‘thinking’ than when the Bible says God ‘feels’, it is nothing like human ‘feeling’? After all, how humans actually think is critically dependent on emotional systems in the brain; Descartes’ Cogito was simply wrong. So if we take what we consider ‘thinking’, and God has no emotions, then God cannot ‘think’ in this way. I claim it isn’t valid to pretend that there is this thing called ‘intellect’ that could exist without emotions and that we know much of anything about it. What we know about is an ‘intellect’ which is inextricably entangled with emotion.

      • apologianick Says:

        This isn’t a free will debate. Either God is the author of sin, or he is not. Either he causes all that happens, or he does not. If he does not cause all that happens, then he can only know those things he doesn’t cause to happen if they somehow impinge on him and change him, by changing his knowledge of what is. And yet, impassibility precludes this. How does God know that I committed sin X, except that my commission of sin X caused him to know I committed it? But under impassibility, I cannot cause God to change in any way.

        But that is a free will debate. If we are debating who is the cause of our actions, if it is us or God, it is a free-will debate.

        The rubber really hits the road if one can say, truly, that God is grieved about rape, rejoices when people repent, and is angry about injustice which goes unresolved for generations. If this is the case, then I can become more like God with my emotions; part of that “be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect” is thinking more like he does and part is feeling more like he does. It is likely that the original hearers of Is 55:6–9 would have understood precisely this, except they wouldn’t have sharply distinguished between thinking and feeling.

        The Isaiah passage is one of the most misunderstood passages there is. It’s not trying to show such a great divide. It’s talking about judgment and mercy. It’s the wicked saying they won’t turn to God. Why? He’ll just judge and condemn them. He won’t show mercy. God says that’s what you would do, but not me. My thoughts are not yours. My ways are not yours.

        God can care about the evils in the world without feeling.

        Curious; I don’t found my confidence in this way.

        If God can change, then maybe He can go back on His word. Maybe He can change from being all good to not all good.

        This does not follow; see for example Michael Tooley’s Time, Tense, and Causation. There can be timeless truths and time-sensitive truths. Some things can have always been true, while other things can only become true as of time t.

        From our perspective, yes. Not from God’s. God is already there at that moment and He knows the eternal truth even within a time frame. It is true for all people in all times in all places that I am typing this now even if they don’t know it. God eternally knew what I would be doing however. Once again, if He doesn’t, then it looks like you have open theism.

        I’m not sure I understand this.

        In the first way of Aquinas, the point of the argument is that there is a chain of change going on and to explain the change, there must be something that is not changed. This goes all the way back to Aristotle. But if God has passive potential, then He is part of the chain as much because He can go from one mode of being to another.

        Wait a second, so when we say God ‘thinks’, that is no closer to human ‘thinking’ than when the Bible says God ‘feels’, it is nothing like human ‘feeling’? After all, how humans actually think is critically dependent on emotional systems in the brain; Descartes’ Cogito was simply wrong. So if we take what we consider ‘thinking’, and God has no emotions, then God cannot ‘think’ in this way. I claim it isn’t valid to pretend that there is this thing called ‘intellect’ that could exist without emotions and that we know much of anything about it. What we know about is an ‘intellect’ which is inextricably entangled with emotion.

        Language of God is analogical. What we do is like what God does, but different. Also, God is never like us. We are like Him. I’m also not pretending. I’ve given a reason why.

      • labreuer Says:

        But that is a free will debate. If we are debating who is the cause of our actions, if it is us or God, it is a free-will debate.

        Ok, I will let you define what is and what is not “a free will debate”. I will simply leave you to accept one of the two options, or present a third:

        (1) God is the cause of everything, including sin.
        (2) God is not the cause of sin, but he knows about it, violating impassibility.

        For you to refuse to choose or present a third option smells like you refuse to confront a serious challenge to the doctrine of divine impassibility. We can leave things at that, if you would like.

        The Isaiah passage is one of the most misunderstood passages there is. It’s not trying to show such a great divide.

        As far as I know, I’m not interpreting Is 55:6–9 in the traditional manner. Indeed, the traditional manner is to cite only vv8–9, which puts an impenetrable barrier between man and God. According to my interpretation, what that passage is calling on is for (i) the wicked to forsake his way and adopt God’s way; (ii) the unrighteous to forsake his thoughts and adopt God’s thoughts. Strictly speaking, I would say we can only ever approximate God’s thoughts and ways. Indeed, my interpretation punctures the “great divide”.

        Jesus said, “Be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect.” Do you agree, or disagree, that Is 55:6-9 is basically saying the same thing?

        If God can change, then maybe He can go back on His word. Maybe He can change from being all good to not all good.

        Okay, but you are saying that the reason that God does not change in this way is that God does not change in any way. I see no reason to assert ‘any’ instead of just ‘this’. I assert that God does not change in this way. In doing so, I say less about God. Indeed, I claim that you are overreaching, whereas I am not. For another example of overreaching, see those inerrantists who think God basically robo-controlled the authors and redactors of the Bible. They see this as necessary to preserve important aspects of the Bible, whereas I think you acknowledge that such a strong claim is not required.

        Once again, if He doesn’t, then it looks like you have open theism.

        Given that you’ve included the idea that God could be wrong with open theism, I most certainly do not hold to what you mean by ‘open theism’.

        In the first way of Aquinas, the point of the argument is that there is a chain of change going on and to explain the change, there must be something that is not changed.

        Well, God’s nature, his character, wouldn’t change; is that a sufficient invariant? After all, it is God’s unchanging character which we must rely on, not his unchanging knowledge.

        Language of God is analogical.

        You didn’t answer my question: when the Bible says God ‘thinks’, is that precisely as analogical to human thinking, as when the Bible says God ‘feels’? Or is it somehow the case that my thinking is closer to what God does when he ‘thinks’, in comparison to my feeling?

        If you had stated from the get-go that to say that God feels is precisely as inaccurate (analogical) as to say that God thinks, we could have avoided a lot of this. Where the rubber hits the road for me is how I think of becoming more like God. Does that mean squashing my emotions and elevating my intellect, or does it mean properly developing both? If Jesus is what God would be if God were to become enfleshed, then it would appear that the correct answer is ‘both’.

      • apologianick Says:

        Ok, I will let you define what is and what is not “a free will debate”. I will simply leave you to accept one of the two options, or present a third:

        (1) God is the cause of everything, including sin.
        (2) God is not the cause of sin, but he knows about it, violating impassibility.

        For you to refuse to choose or present a third option smells like you refuse to confront a serious challenge to the doctrine of divine impassibility. We can leave things at that, if you would like.

        I take the same stance as always. God knows the future but does not cause the future. We have free-will. God is impassible. Can I explain how all this works? Nope.

        As far as I know, I’m not interpreting Is 55:6–9 in the traditional manner. Indeed, the traditional manner is to cite only vv8–9, which puts an impenetrable barrier between man and God. According to my interpretation, what that passage is calling on is for (i) the wicked to forsake his way and adopt God’s way; (ii) the unrighteous to forsake his thoughts and adopt God’s thoughts. Strictly speaking, I would say we can only ever approximate God’s thoughts and ways. Indeed, my interpretation punctures the “great divide”.

        That is what is going on in the passage. Unfortunately, too often, Christians can quote is as if there is a complete disjunction between our thoughts and God’s.

        Jesus said, “Be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect.” Do you agree, or disagree, that Is 55:6-9 is basically saying the same thing?

        I disagree. Isaiah 55 is more a call to repentance. Matthew 5 is a call to sanctification.

        Okay, but you are saying that the reason that God does not change in this way is that God does not change in any way. I see no reason to assert ‘any’ instead of just ‘this’. I assert that God does not change in this way. In doing so, I say less about God. Indeed, I claim that you are overreaching, whereas I am not. For another example of overreaching, see those inerrantists who think God basically robo-controlled the authors and redactors of the Bible. They see this as necessary to preserve important aspects of the Bible, whereas I think you acknowledge that such a strong claim is not required.

        With inerrancy that is overreaching. With the doctrine of God, no. How does God change? Does He improve in some way? Does He lower in some way? Has God been ignorant? Can He do something new He couldn’t do before? All of these are problematic when the Bible repeatedly in discussing the nature of God says that He does not change. He is the same forever.

        Given that you’ve included the idea that God could be wrong with open theism, I most certainly do not hold to what you mean by ‘open theism’.

        Then what?

        Well, God’s nature, his character, wouldn’t change; is that a sufficient invariant? After all, it is God’s unchanging character which we must rely on, not his unchanging knowledge.

        The argument says nothing about character. It is all about ontology. Meanwhile, the point of God telling the future is that He knows the future. It’s not even that He causes the future to happen but that He knows what will happen.

        You didn’t answer my question: when the Bible says God ‘thinks’, is that precisely as analogical to human thinking, as when the Bible says God ‘feels’? Or is it somehow the case that my thinking is closer to what God does when he ‘thinks’, in comparison to my feeling?

        If you had stated from the get-go that to say that God feels is precisely as inaccurate (analogical) as to say that God thinks, we could have avoided a lot of this. Where the rubber hits the road for me is how I think of becoming more like God. Does that mean squashing my emotions and elevating my intellect, or does it mean properly developing both? If Jesus is what God would be if God were to become enfleshed, then it would appear that the correct answer is ‘both’.

        Becoming like God does refer to character. It does not mean you are to become immaterial or omnipotent. Note we are in fact told we will be like Jesus and Jesus in His humanity is emotional and physical.

        How we think is meant to be analogous to God also. We have to reason through a conclusion and weigh out evidence. God doesn’t. He just knows.

      • labreuer Says:

        That is what is going on in the passage. Unfortunately, too often, Christians can quote is as if there is a complete disjunction between our thoughts and God’s.

        Well, they probably also barf on Jn 15:12–15 and Eph 5:17. Have you seen CT’s When Are We Going to Grow Up? The Juvenilization of American Christianity (pdf)?

        I disagree. Isaiah 55 is more a call to repentance. Matthew 5 is a call to sanctification.

        That’s a curious distinction; I can see why you make it, but that presupposes that the OT and NT agree on the distinction between ‘repentance’ and ‘sanctification’. How much ‘sanctification’ actually goes on in the OT, which isn’t ritual purity or returning to some fixed, finite standard of justice? That seems like a curious topic in and of itself. I don’t mean to quibble; I can see how some of the stuff preceding Mt 5:48 could be seen as repentance-material, with v48 being “take it to the limit” sanctification, with following bits being more repentance-material.

        How does God change?

        Here’s my turn to say I don’t know (other than God coming to know contingent facts), and the mere fact I don’t know is not more problematic than that you can’t resolve the issue I brought up about impassibility. :-p

        Then what?

        I don’t have a fully formed position that one could compare with open theism. These days, I’m more in the practice of finding that truths doctrines are trying to protect, and when the doctrines are ‘bigger than necessary’. It is just as sinful to pretend you know more about God than you do, as it is to pretend that you know less than you do about God.

        The argument says nothing about character. It is all about ontology.

        Hmmm. Ontology is weird, yo. Have you ever looked into anti-foundationalism? I think I’ll be tentative here, just like were tentative with my argument against divine impassibility.

        Note we are in fact told we will be like Jesus and Jesus in His humanity is emotional and physical.

        Yes, indeed. It is curious though, to try to think about Jesus being God’s charaktēr, his “exact representation” according to the NASB, and yet this ’emotion’ thing is just nowhere to be found, or at least only tenuously-analogically, in the Father. It seems a lot easier to think that Jesus has the addition of a body, than that he has the addition of feeling and thinking. We can understand disembodied intelligences, but it’s much harder to understand intelligences which neither think nor feel like we do, except tenuously-analogically.

      • apologianick Says:

        Well, they probably also barf on Jn 15:12–15 and Eph 5:17. Have you seen CT’s When Are We Going to Grow Up? The Juvenilization of American Christianity (pdf)?

        I read it years ago. Our churches are becoming entirely way too “me-centered” and appealing to entertainment more than holiness.

        That’s a curious distinction; I can see why you make it, but that presupposes that the OT and NT agree on the distinction between ‘repentance’ and ‘sanctification’. How much ‘sanctification’ actually goes on in the OT, which isn’t ritual purity or returning to some fixed, finite standard of justice? That seems like a curious topic in and of itself. I don’t mean to quibble; I can see how some of the stuff preceding Mt 5:48 could be seen as repentance-material, with v48 being “take it to the limit” sanctification, with following bits being more repentance-material.

        Actually, the purity would have been seen as sanctification. Leviticus is clear on this. “Be holy because I am holy.” In many cultures of the world, Leviticus is an exciting book because of its emphasis on purity. Isaiah 55 is getting people to come to the door. Matthew is about what people do once they’re on the path.

        Here’s my turn to say I don’t know (other than God coming to know contingent facts), and the mere fact I don’t know is not more problematic than that you can’t resolve the issue I brought up about impassibility. :-p

        Sure. There are difficult issues either way. I just stick to impassibility because God changing is far more problematic.

        I don’t have a fully formed position that one could compare with open theism. These days, I’m more in the practice of finding that truths doctrines are trying to protect, and when the doctrines are ‘bigger than necessary’. It is just as sinful to pretend you know more about God than you do, as it is to pretend that you know less than you do about God.

        Right. Having knowledge is no sin. True humility is not saying less about yourself but speaking accurately about yourself.

        Hmmm. Ontology is weird, yo. Have you ever looked into anti-foundationalism? I think I’ll be tentative here, just like were tentative with my argument against divine impassibility.

        No. I focus more on NT now.

        Yes, indeed. It is curious though, to try to think about Jesus being God’s charaktēr, his “exact representation” according to the NASB, and yet this ‘emotion’ thing is just nowhere to be found, or at least only tenuously-analogically, in the Father. It seems a lot easier to think that Jesus has the addition of a body, than that he has the addition of feeling and thinking. We can understand disembodied intelligences, but it’s much harder to understand intelligences which neither think nor feel like we do, except tenuously-analogically.

        I take the character to refer to ontology there as well. This is about the nature of Jesus. Also, while it might be easier, we both know that what is true is not always easy to understand.

      • labreuer Says:

        And the conversation meanders. Something which I, at least, have no problem with. :-p

        Our churches are becoming entirely way too “me-centered” and appealing to entertainment more than holiness.

        I would caution you to really dig into the reasons why, for this. Empirically test them, don’t just validate them from some huge rational system. In my experience, the answers Christians like to give to “Why?” are terrible. One true reason is that churches don’t even teach people how to be good friends. How do I know this? (1) The pre-marriage seminar at a famous church with fairly good Bible-based teaching was composed almost exclusively of conflict-resolution skills that are in no way marriage-specific. That folks didn’t know these things beforehand almost certainly forced a shallowness to their relationships, at least relationships with those not like them. (2) The Mark Driscoll affair was probably due to interpreting “church” in Mt 18:17 as “local church elders”, which means your conflict resolution skills are atrocious. You run to the authorities when you have a problem, forgetting that power disrupts rationality, spirituality, and morality.

        Instead of the nonsense peddled so frequently, I suggest something like Charles Taylor’s The Malaise of Modernity. One way I would describe this book is as a “the new covenant, secularized”. The secularization is beneficial merely because it appeals to many people and you don’t get retarded “I hate Christianity! Therefore I hate this!” responses. Taking the secular version and “snapping it back” to the actual New Covenant isn’t too difficult.

        In many cultures of the world, Leviticus is an exciting book because of its emphasis on purity.

        Thanks; I will remember this! Have you read Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind? Not that I agree with it, but he makes the interesting observation that purity matters more to conservatives than liberals. However, there are “framing experiments” whereby you have a liberal take a political opinion survey on a dirty desk. The liberal, in that situation, acts more conservatively! So it would be interesting to study cultures where there isn’t a major segment of the population which heavily suppresses the purity aspect.

  3. jjvors Says:

    Interesting. I’m a fan of Ed Fudge, so your scathing review saddens me, but then I agree with him and you do not. Some of your criticism is based off your preterist vs futurist view of prophecy (or historical) and that’s another debatable matter, but why cite it as a counter to a debatable matter? More substantially, you didn’t raise or cite scriptures that supported traditional view of hell or opposed the annihilationist view.

    However, you are not writing directly on this doctrine itself, but reviewing a book about it, and in that you made me want to read the book. I had heard about this book, but had not gotten it and I will put it on my “to read” list henceforth.

    Closing with the nature of hell issue again, I see the nature of man is fundamental to this debate. If you believe God has given man an immortal soul even before conversion, you really can’t believe anything but the traditional view. But that is another debate.

    • apologianick Says:

      Yes. My condemnation of Fudge was actually because I thought his reply was worse. Right at the start I could see where it was going and it’s a kind of mindset I disagree with. I did disagree also with Peterson on eschatology. I don’t know Fudge’s stance on eschatology so we could agree there.

      I also did not look at the Scriptural arguments due to their being in-depth and since I am not a Greek expert, I could not comment on many of them from that point of view.

      As for the nature of the soul, I am convinced there is some immaterial aspect to man, but that’s as far as I go.

  4. michellemu Says:

    Nick, I realize that I’m late to the party, but I have a question about your review that I hope you can clear up for me:

    You took exception to Edward Fudge’s opening statement in his response: “Robert Peterson now has done his best to defend the notion that God will keep sinners alive in Hell forever to torture them without end.”

    What bothered you about that statement? Was it the use of the word ‘torture’ vs. ‘torment’ or ‘shame’? Or was it something else?

    • apologianick Says:

      Oh it was torture. As soon as I read it I was thinking it was well poisoning meant to make Peterson look like a monster who wants to defend torture of people. Not just that they will be tortured, but Fudge’s statement makes God the active torturer.

  5. labreuer Says:

    Hi Nick; given all of our talk about God being timeless, you might like Roger Olson’s recent An Example of Unwarranted Theological Speculation: Divine Timelessness. 🙂

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