Southern Baptists Beginnings and Path Forward

A wonderful table discussion between Tom Ascol and Tom Nettles (I care not to use honorific titles for brothers in Christ) about how the SBC was formed, where it ran off the rails, what the obstacles are, and how we negotiate the way forward. I do not see conventions and denominations in the Scripture, but these men give me some hope for life within the SBC.

Rethinking Conditionalism – (Part 6a) Eternal Life and Immortality

Rethinking Conditionalism – (Part 6a) Eternal Life and Immortality

I read someone asking a conditionalist in a Facebook thread concerning how they define death. Then one of them responded with, “It depends on how you define life.” I couldn’t agree more! Unfortunately, this is an area that Chris Date and some within Rethinking Hell sorely deviate from. In a debate with Len Pettis during a Striving for Eternity Conference in September of 2016, Chris Date stated that Jesus does not define eternal life as knowing the Father and the Son just as He taught in John 17:3. Chris then wrongly exegetes this Scripture by comparing the translation of the Greek word “is” with other Scriptures that contain the same word. He neglects to make a linguistic and contextual interpretation of John 17:3 by failing to see the other words which Jesus used that explicitly define eternal life.  It is presented below in English and in Greek so that you can see why Jesus defines eternal life as knowing (having intimate fellowship with) God. And please don’t run. As I did in Part 2a, you don’t have to be a Greek scholar to understand what I’m about to show you.

John 17:3

  • (English – ESV) And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
  • (Greek – MGNT) αὕτη δέ ἐστιν αἰώνιος ζωή ἵνα γινώσκωσιν σὲ τὸν μόνον ἀληθινὸν θεὸν καὶ ὃν ἀπέστειλας Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν

Now, if you noticed, I highlighted the words that Chris used to make his case in blue. The Greek word ἐστιν is the conjugated form of the word “eimi” that he mentions in the video link above.  It is this word that Chris wrongly interprets in this context. But since conditionalists tend to define death in hyper-literal terms, it is no wonder that they look at Scriptures like this and have to make it fit their own annihilationistic hermeneutic. Nevertheless, Chris explicitly states that “is” does not “equate” eternal life with knowing God the Father and the Son. But let’s look at the other words within this context to help us to understand the semantic function of “is” in this context.
Continue reading

Evangelism by the Book

The book I mentioned last time is called Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will. Highly recommended. The author is Kevin DeYoung.

Evangelism: When We Scatter. I call this lesson Evangelism by the Book. Last time I reviewed several methods used by many people that simply are not evangelistic. This week, we turn to the Word of God to see how we should go about this holy task. Paul’s letter to the evangelismColossians helps. You can listen to this message here.

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person (Colossians 4:2-6).

With Paul’s persistent desire to take the gospel to all the world, he asked a gathered group of God’s people to pray for him to have the open way to keep on proclaiming the gospel. Wanting the saints at Colossi at Arpelar to work with him in this endeavor, he told them and us to be wise in how we engage lost people, always speaking truth with grace to each person. We are ambassadors of His gospel not one of our own choosing; we should seek to honor Him as we scatter to take His message to our area and the world.

One of the major purposes we are left on this planet after being raised from spiritual death is to take the gospel to every nation, tongue, and tribe; being evangelists and ambassadors of reconciliation. We need to clarify what evangelism, having spent time reviewing what it isn’t. Ephesians 4 teaches that the local church is to be equipped so the sheep will not be tossed about by the wiles of men. YHWH tells us, So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured (Hebrews 13:12-13). By this, God means we are to go therefore and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19); making disciples of those that have answered the call. Evangelism is our outward work; discipleship is our inward work. No church is healthy unless she is active and obedient in both endeavors.
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Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 5a) – The Atonement

Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 5a) – The Atonement

I would like to reveal and exegete more Scriptures that conditionalists use to affirm their position of annihilationism, but let’s cut to the chase. There’s an even bigger topic at hand. And it is in the area of atonement. Because whenever you change the nature/definition of eternal punishment or eternal life, you inevitably change your view of the atonement. And even though conditionalist claim to say that their view of hell doesn’t change their outlook on the atonement (in a heretical way at least), it seems that when the contributors write or speak on their podcasts, they betray themselves. And this issue is hard to tackle in writing seeing that those within the conditionalist camp are not only varied in their opinion concerning what happens in the intermediate state (between death and the resurrection), and the nature of Hell (whether it is retributive and/or restorative), but because of their hermeneutics and also some of their different applications of penal substitutionary atonement (PSA). But I contest that this position is indeed not only a gateway doctrine to heresy, but it seems to accommodate heretical company. And hopefully, the concerns below will make this more clear.

Despite the above, there is one unifying doctrine within conditionalism – Death IS the punishment for sin. In other words, the act of Jesus Christ dying on the cross (when life left His body) is when sin was paid/atoned for and the punishment was satisfied. They say this in response to those of us who say that the wrath of God poured out on Christ was satisfied while He was still alive. But I don’t holistically disagree with death being a necessary component of the punishment, and neither should you reader. But their main challenge is that if the wrath of God that Jesus bore Himself was payment for sin, then why did He die? Great question! But this is, once again, making a distinction without making a difference. The challenge can easily be reversed in that if death IS the punishment, then why would Jesus endure such a brutal and tortuous beating from His creation, and bear God’s wrath while on the cross? Since death is the punishment, then Jesus could have just endured a slit throat like the lambs of old, and died for our sin (see this article I wrote that helps us to understand how what Jesus endured was more than what we are going to endure in hell because of who He was). Of course, in reading this, conditionalists may make up a ready response. They always do. But their leaders don’t want their responses challenged in a public dialogue (i.e. conversation) with me where their views can be scrutinized and critiqued for consistency. They would rather have the safety of timed debates, and social media platforms to defend their views. Where they can say their peace without being probed in dialogue by someone who has found extreme reason to doubt the veracity of their position, who also has taken the time to digest their position from the inside and can detect and call out the subtle linguistic shifts in their argument. Yes, I am saying that most of their published information does not address their specific challenges head on as I am doing.  But I digress. I still offer my open invitation for public dialogue here even though they continually reject my appeal on emotional grounds.

Gateway Heresy

Before I deal with the atonement, let me explain why I have concerns and why I believe that this theology is a gateway doctrine to heresy. If we were simply discussing the nature of hell, then a secondary conversation could possibly be had without any consequence to salvific implications (maybe), IF the person is simply inconsistent by believing this position, or if they are not a popular teacher saying our view is closer to heresy, like Chris Date says (you’ll see below).  This is the type of conversation conditionalist strive for. They want to treat this as merely a secondary issue. This is the proverbial “seat at the table” Chris Date and the Rethinking Hell contributors beg for. And this would be all fine and dandy if it were not for the fact that having alternate views of the afterlife affects your view of the atonement.* And, if it weren’t for the issues below. Continue reading

Evangelism – what it is NOT

I recently began a short, 3-part series on evangelism. Week 1 is what evangelism is not, week 2 is a look at biblical evangelism, and week 3 is a look at the biblical gospel.evangelism

These are the points in lesson one on evangelism – what it is NOT:

Evangelism is not inviting people to church nor is giving your testimony of how the Lord saved you.

Evangelism is not telling people about your church or pastor nor is it providing food and shelter to those in need.

Evangelism is not praying for people nor is it leading them to pray to receive Christ.

Evangelism is not telling people they are sinners nor is it pressing the “10 Commandments” on them.

Evangelism is not telling people Jesus loves them nor is it telling them God has a plan for their lives.

Evangelism is not befriending lost people in hopes they will see Jesus in you nor is it telling them to ask Jesus into their hearts.

Evangelism is not 4 spiritual laws nor is it presenting evidence that demands a verdict.

Most Baptist would have my head on a pole for this.
You can listen to that message here if you wish. There’s much more than just these points in the message.
Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 2c) – Eternal Fire

Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 2c) – Eternal Fire

I was recently told that I have not made any coherent arguments in my previous articles and podcast, and that my position against conditionalism (conditional immortality) was hard to follow. Here are some points to chew on, plain and simple (although what I am about to say will not be an exhaustive argument).

If the fire is unquenchable in that it can’t be “put out” as conditionalists say, and that it will not be put out until the work is finished. Then, when the work is finished, and the wicked are annihilated, will the fire be done doing its work? In other words, will it no longer burn? If a conditionalists says yes, that it will no longer burn when it has finished its work, then the fire must not be eternal. It would follow, then, that it either does die out, or it goes away somehow. So making the distinction between put out vs die out is unnecessary and linguisitically deceptive. Furthermore, in Matthew 25, the fire is described as being in and of itself eternal and is not exactly equivocal in nature to the fire coming down from God (Sodom), nor indicative of exclusively being God’s glory or holy presence somehow. Such attempts are trying to explain away the obvious. It is a categorically different fire. It is the fire of God’s eternal wrath. It is a fire of judgment that is permanent and perpetual. If you have a wrathful fire burning against sinners, which is the purpose of the fire, and the fire is supposed to be forever burning, how do you have a fiery wrath burning against an enemy that will eventually no longer be there? Some conditionalist will retort that the fire can be in and of itself eternal, but those that are in it are not (and they say I am proposing some kind of “eternal fuel” theory when I am not). But that still doesn’t solve the problem. Because the fire is still indicative of God’s wrath against sinners. So why will His wrathful anger still burn? If the people are consumed, the fire should cease. But it will not.

But also, another thing that is pointed out by Conditionalists is that the worm will not die. They make a distinction to say that the Bible doesn’t say it will “never” die (although linguistically there is proof that it implies that), but simply that it does “not” die. In other words, it will not die until it is done doing the work that it was set out to do, just as the the Rethinking Hell ministry has affirmed many times. The worm’s purpose is eating the corpses of the dead bodies that they say Isaiah 66 illustrates. So if the fire and worm exist to accomplish what it was meant to accomplish, what happens when the worm dies? Wouldn’t the fire die out as well since both are an illustration of God’s judgment? That is what the contributors at Rethinking Hell are implying. And if the fire stops too, why does Matthew describe the fire as eternal?

What you have here is a huge inconsistency that basically makes the future punishment of unquenchable, eternal fire as Jesus explains it in the New Testament being a complete equivalent to the nature of the Old Testament fire that destroys its adversaries (which eventually went out when the work was finished). Even though Jesus used Old Testament language to describe God’s wrath and burning judgment against wicked, Jesus further expounds upon the nature of the future judgment in the New Testament. In Matthew 25’s case, it is eternal. And, it is explaining what happens after you die. Not the first time you die like in many Scriptures used to substantiate annihilationism.  So either the fire is truly temporal and not eternal, or the worms and fire are eternal thus making the punishment eternal. It’s not hard to understand. But of course, Jude 7 is used, again, to substantiate their claim that the fire can be eternal. But this is categorical and semantical mistake. I will exegetic Jude 7 for you all in the future, but just know this for now. The eternal fire spoken of by Jude 7 is teaching us that the wicked are suffering NOW in torment.

But let’s add Jude into the mix for a second. If we use Jude 7 to interpret how the eternal fire can still be eternal because it is God’s glory, or is coming from God’s holy presence down from heaven as some conditionalists say, and it doesn’t have to burn forever, then why does Matthew’s grammatical construction (see part 2a-b) make eternal fire categorically different from other fires? Also, Matthew refers to the location of those thrown into eternal fire as a separate “place” 6 times in his writings (Mathew 8:12; 13:42; 13:50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30), “prepared” for Satan and his angels, where there is outer darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth. Keep this in mind that this place is still a place of wrath, anger, fire, judgment. If conditionalist wish to make the fire that Matthew describes like that of Sodom, which they wrongly assume Jude means – a fire that comes down from God upon Sodom and Gomorrah and burns for a period of time only to kill and annihilate – if God already dished out the punishment with eternal fire, then why is He resurrecting them to do the same thing again? In other words, He already “annihilated” them with “eternal fire” in Sodom. That was their punishment, right?  I’ve asked this question before in Part 3 of this series. And if this is the case, why would Jesus say that it would be better for Sodom and Gomorrah (Matt 10:14-15; 11:22-24) on the day of judgement than for those that reject the gospel if the same kind of death-by-fire (or should we say annihilation-by-fire) punishment is coming? It doesn’t add up. Oh, and by the way. The example in 2 Peter 2:6 is not describing annihilation after death, but is illustrating that God will preserve the righteous and judge the wicked. Not that Sodom serves as a direct parallel describing annihilation. Context is key.

Lastly, the rebuttal and arguments to make the eternal fire in Matthew something other than an instrument of wrath located in a place that is categorically different is plain ludicrous. The fact that this fire will never go out, be put out, or die out (whichever wording you choose) implies that God’s wrath will abide there forever. And if God’s wrath abides there forever, on whom is it abiding against when the wicked will sooner or later be annihilated? This isn’t eternal fuel. This is eternal punishment. The fire existed prior to them begin thrown in their because it is a place “prepared” and a place that endures forever for those that are not born again. I wish I could be more plain, but I’m not sure how. If this isn’t good enough for conditionalists I’m not sure what is. Nevertheless, I will continue to write and extend an open invitation for conditionalists to come on a podcast with me to discuss what they believe and why. So far, they have declined for emotional reasons.

Tune in to part 4 coming within the next week about how the Church Father, Irenaeus, believed some of the very same things about the punishment and fire enduring eternally, even though the ministry of Rethinking Hell take him out of context.

-Until we go home

The Sufficiency of Christ

Brian Hedges’ book, Christ All Sufficient, an Exposition of Colossians, is a welcomed book in 9781633421219any Christian’s library. It is widely recognized that Colossians is perhaps the most Christocentric book in the Bible; every preacher loves to preach from this text. Hedges’ book adds a rich tapestry of theology and doctrine to our understanding of this epistle that will cause the reader to rejoice and be in awe of his Savior.

Ten concise chapters bring out various themes from this letter in a consistent focus on our main goal in life – to glorify our God and King. Our author covers the gospel from three perspectives – the power of the gospel, the ministry of the gospel, and the mission of the gospel; all it very well presented and founded on the epistle being examined.

What thrills my soul the most and what ought to stir any saint to desire a deeper walk with Christ is the study of the nature and work of the Lord Jesus. In his chapter titled The Supremacy of Christ, Hedges reminds us that Jesus is “not only reveals to us God’s character and nature, he also perfectly bears the imago Dei as the Adam. He shows us what it means to be truly human.” (page 52) Since the first Adam, each of us has born the image of God in a twisted, marred manner as we were marked by sin from conception and every thought that followed. Jesus is the perfect image and He will be among us on the new earth. Hedges also reminds us of Jesus’ role in creation and in holding things together, as all things were created by Him and for Him. “The implications of this for believers is astounding … believers should never live in fear …” (page 54)

As Col 1:20 tells us Christ brings peace with the Father, our author rightly tells us “Peace is more than just a cease-fire in the conflict between God and humanity: it is the restoration of cosmic and relational harmony under the supreme lordship of Jesus Christ across all domains of existence.” (pages 57 & 58) There is nothing to fear in this life where all they can do is kill the body. Our refuge, our security is eternal and is more secure than anything all the armies of this age could provide.

In chapter V on the Sufficiency of Christ, we are encouraged to walk in obedience to our Lord with thanksgiving. We are complete in Christ, united with Him who is the fullness of God. Paul wrote that the ordinances against us were nailed to the His cross, a vivid word picture that communicates the imputation of sin onto Jesus. Horatio Spafford put this in lyrics that Hedges quotes and every Christian ought to love:

My sin, O the bliss of this glorious thought!

My sin, not in part, but the whole,

Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

Addressing Col 2:15, Hedges tells us, “Paul here alludes to the victory parade following a Roman victory, an image also appearing in 2 Corinthians 2:14.” (page 86) and follows up with “The powers of darkness thus have no claim and can pose no threat to those who are in Christ.” (page 87” I think our author was channeling Martin Luther:

And though this world, with devils filled,

Should threaten to undo us,

We will not fear, for God hath willed

His truth to triumph through us.

The Prince of Darkness grim,

We tremble not for him.

His rage we can endure,

For lo, his doom is sure.

One little word shall fell him.

That one word, of course, is the person of Christ – none other. Confidence in Him, the one in whom there is salvation; that is what this book builds up. Colossians is God’s Word about the person and work of God’s Son. Brian Hedges’ book gives the reader an excellent look into some of the deeper, richer meanings of what the Spirit spoke through the apostle.