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Wrestling with the "exclusivity" of Christianity... please help! - Page 13

post #241 of 279
Quote:
Originally Posted by hrsmom View Post
If there is a place of eternal separation from God, then God is not omnipresent. There must be a place, then, where God is not. I don't believe that.

I definitely live part (most?) of my life "separate" from God, in that I focus on my own selfish desires and stuff that isn't even remotely important, worry about stuff I have no control over (directly ordering some of the most beautiful and reassuring words of Jesus,) judge people, who are also children of God, etc. etc. rather than focusing on God. I also definitely live part of my life in communion with God, and my desire as I grow spiritually is more of the latter and less of the former!

FWIW, I used to "take the Bible literally" as we've been discussing, and it was during that time where I began to believe in universal salvation.

On the subject of hell, which is fascinating, can someone tell me what gnashing of teeth looks like?

I also have read, and this makes sense, that this idea of heaven and hell was a product of a belief that heaven is above, and hell is below, which makes sense if one believes the earth is flat, but kind of falls apart with the knowledge of a round globe. I definitely always wondered about that as a kid! Is hell in the center of the earth? Is God like a donut and we're in the middle? Is Jesus roaming around in this donut-shaped heaven that surrounds the Earth? That's what my kid-brain did with the ideas of heaven and hell. (If heaven is "up above" it has to be up above for us as well as for China!) We can say that these things exist in the spiritual realm, but then I return to my first point in this post, and that is how could there be a place in the spiritual realm where God is not?

And if I have the tiniest bit of compassion towards other people, and I do, how could God not be even more compassion? How could I have a characteristic like compassion and God not have it?

Hmmmm.... yes it's 3:20 in the morning. Some times I can't fall back to sleep after being woken up!!!!!!
In The Divine Comedy, their is an inscription over the gates of Hell which suggests that Hell was built at God's command.

I guess the question is this. If creatures with free-will decide to reject God, reject Truth, what can happen to them? Some have argued that they are simply snuffed out and exist no more, because without God they are nothing. Others say no, they have an eternal immortal soul which God gave them as part of their nature. There is no way to change that fact. So they must continue to exist.

I think this is what Dante is saying in his inscription. Hell is not a place where God is absent entirely - it is still built on the laws of all creation, the unchangeable that are part of God. But as much of possible is removed, all the things we consent to with our free-choice are gone. To compare it to free will while alive, we are free to do evil, but not free to ignore gravity. God is there even when we do evil. In Hell, we must exist according to our nature. But those things which we have chosen to reject - love, justice, hope, etc, are absent. We just didn't bring them with us.

Here is the whole inscription - of course it is literature, but Dante's literature was about as close to theology as you can get.

Quote:
THROUGH ME THE WAY INTO THE SUFFERING CITY,
THROUGH ME THE WAY TO THE ETERNAL PAIN,
THROUGH ME THE WAY THAT RUNS AMONG THE LOST.
JUSTICE URGED ON MY HIGH ARTIFICER;
MY MAKER WAS DIVINE AUTHORITY, THE HIGHEST WISDOM, AND THE PRIMAL LOVE.
BEFORE ME NOTHING BUT ETERNAL THINGS WERE MADE, AND I ENDURE ETERNALLY.
ABANDON EVERY HOPE, WHO ENTER HERE.
post #242 of 279
Interesting piece of scripture I came across was Isaiah

Quote:
"I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things." (Isa 45:7)
That is the KJV, the niv says that he makes prosperity and creates calamity or destruction.

I dont think God is beyond all these things. God is there, the eternal soul of the person who rejects God does not recognise it and/or thinks its hellish, horrible to be in his presence. Perhaps thats one way to look at it.
post #243 of 279
Interesting!

ETA- You both have definitely given me a broader way of looking at things.
post #244 of 279
Quote:
Originally Posted by smeisnotapirate View Post
I agree with what you're saying about Dante. My point is that his writings, though fiction, have changed the image culturally. Sort of like how after JRR Tolkien wrote his books on Middle Earth, the rest of the genre of "fantasy" changed completely. Or after Martin Luther, Christianity completely changed. Dante's influence on the images we have of hell is real and that was the point I was making.
Oh yes, I got that's what you meant, I just was just kind of speaking generally. Sorry for not being clear
post #245 of 279
Quote:
Originally Posted by hrsmom View Post
If there is a place of eternal separation from God, then God is not omnipresent. There must be a place, then, where God is not. I don't believe that.
That sounds like thinking of God's omnipresence as being something physical, which I would disagree with. Hell (and likewise, Heaven) aren't physical places in the sense that humans generally understand.

This is what the CCC says-

Quote:
We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves: "He who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him."610 Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren.611 To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self- exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called "hell."
Not sure if that makes it more clear or not.

This explanation might make more sense-
Quote:
R. Sungenis: God is everywhere, even in Hell, in his omnipresence. But he is only there in his divine being, not his divine care. When we speak about the "absence" of God we are speaking about the absence of his divine care. God does not care any longer for the souls in hell.
post #246 of 279
Quote:
Originally Posted by CherryBomb View Post
God does not care any longer for the souls in hell.


So I'm supposing this guy also subscribes to the "not a compassionate/merciful G-d" theory? And is leaving out the repeated mentions of G-d always caring for all his creatures?
post #247 of 279
I thought God couldn't forget his children like a mother couldn't forget a child she suckled at her breast, and even if the mother did forget, God couldn't. Can't remember the scripture reference on that one, but I think about that one a lot! (As a currently nursing mother!)
post #248 of 279
I haven't read all the responses so if this is currently OT I apologize, but I'm replying to the original post.

I don't believe in "hell" the way most Christians understand it. My understanding of "hell" is that it is the grave. There's evidence in the bible that people are still in the grave, which would mean neither heaven nor hell according to mainstream understanding.

John 3:13: "No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man [Jesus Christ] who is in heaven."

I take that scripture literally. People who have died, are dead. No one is in heaven right now and I don't think anyone is in hell.

In Revelation you can read about the resurrections. Satan will be cast away and through 3 resurrections, all will be brought back to life to know God and His truth, without the influence of Satan. After being given a second chance, if anyone denies God after knowing the truth, then they will be destroyed and forgotten. I don't have the scriptures right now to back those beliefs and my toddler is wanting attention, but if anyone is interested I can back my beliefs with scripture when she's napping sometime

Anyhow, yes, I believe knowing Christ is the only way to everlasting life, but the people who don't know Him in this lifetime are getting a second chance, and no Ghandi is not burning in hell right now
post #249 of 279
Quote:
Originally Posted by genifer View Post
God is there, the eternal soul of the person who rejects God does not recognise it and/or thinks its hellish, horrible to be in his presence. Perhaps thats one way to look at it.
That is more or less the way my church interprets it, according to what I have been told. A loving God did not create a separate place of torment. The only place that exists for us after death is in the presence of God. (During life, too, but we are able to hide it from ourselves. After death, there is no escape from God's love.) For those who hate or reject God, to be constantly in His presence is repulsive and =Hell. Some early Christian writers believed that God removes such people far away from Himself (not in literal space), in order to minimize their suffering.
"The kingdom of Heaven is within you" may be applied to Hell as well.
post #250 of 279
Ok, something interesting Ive noticed. Im studying Genesis and creation alongside this (without trying to open the debate about taking literal or not, for another thread)... I noticed that nowhere in the creation account does it say that God did create a place called Hell. He did create Heaven and Earth and it says that darkness was over the face of the deep. Ive wondered about the lack of hell in the creation account and it occurred to me that while God didnt create (or it doesnt specifically say he did) a place called Hell, He did note that darkness was there and when he created light, he said the light was good but it says nothing about the 'darkness'. I know it goes on to say that the darkness he calls night, but I wonder about it all with regard to hell.

Also, Im trying to look into eternal seperation and what Revelations says about it. I havent gotten too far but Revelations does talk about a 'Second Death'... I think its called the Lake of Fire. Not gotten too far with it yet, but hope to.

Jesus talks alot about people being thrown or kept outside the gates of heaven, in the 'outer darkness', and that they'd be pretty angry about it, 'There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth'. He says that often
post #251 of 279
That is a very interesting observation! IMO the Bible is rich with meaning whether or not it's taken literally or was ever meant to be taken literally.

I still want to know what gnashing of teeth looks like. I'll google it!
post #252 of 279
Talk about taking things literally, I always thought gnashing of teeth was an action. It's just an idiom which means angry complaining!
post #253 of 279
So, I was reading something else out on the 'net and came across this article: John 14:6 by Brian McLaren. It is a fascinating read; it's a little long, but I like the way he writes. He puts the whole "I am the way, the truth, and the life" into a whole new perspective from the traditional view on that verse. I highly recommend it, even if you come away disagreeing with what he says.
post #254 of 279
Quote:
Originally Posted by hrsmom View Post
Talk about taking things literally, I always thought gnashing of teeth was an action. It's just an idiom which means angry complaining!
Which to me again points to hell and heaven being things in the here and now. The gnashing of teeth is something that happens quite frequently in real life when we get caught up in ourselves and our own problems and forget that there might be a bigger picture out there.
post #255 of 279
About the verse where Jesus says, 'I am the way, the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father except thru me', from that article.

Quote:
This is the verse that is frequently quoted to defend an idea called the “exclusivity of Christ,” namely, that all who do not consciously and decisively accept Jesus as their personal savior will burn forever in hell. That phrase raises concerns for me, because based on the Scriptures, I believe Jesus primarily came not to proclaim a way out of hell for some after death, but rather a way into a better life for all before death
Now, I dont agree with that completely... In fact AT ALL, bc other parts of scripture is in direct contrast to that statement by saying that christians should expect to suffer, dont be surprised that we suffer all kinds of difficulties, we are no different then anyone else in this area, in fact that suffering, whether it is for Christ, His name, ie persecution, or if it be with health issues, marital woes, whatever, that suffering is good for us. We are blessed for suffering! Jesus' sermon on the mount, the beatitudes. We are blessed for courageously facing them without losing your faith. Blessed, as in you grow in the fruit of the Spirit, also, I wonder if scripture does suggest that we will actually be rewarded somehow, by God, for enduring.

Saying that, I dont know if it IS a ticket OUT of hell, but the way to LIFE. Jesus said we are already dead, spiritually speaking. I wonder if we christians focus so much on hell, that we miss the message of life. ... and I think its very very tragic and counter'productive' to our 'message'.

I havent read the entire article, is it a book!

Quote:
His goal – made clear in word and deed, day after day during his three years of public ministry – was not to constrict but rather to expand the dimensions of who could be welcomed into the kingdom of God, of who could be accepted in the people of God.
This I can agree with.
post #256 of 279
So much for me not participating so much!! lol

The article talks about taking scripture into context. Definately is important. However I do not beleive, as most christians believe that scripture/the Bible is inspired by God, I dont believe that we have to know the social context in which these things were said/written. I believe God knew what we needed to hear for all ages, social contexts.

Here is John 14 in full.

Quote:
John 14

1"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4You know the way to the place where I am going."

5Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?"

6Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him."

8Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us."

9Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? 10Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. 12I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit
15"If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— 17the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him."

22Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, "But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?"

23Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

25"All this I have spoken while still with you. 26But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

28"You heard me say, 'I am going away and I am coming back to you.' If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. 30I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, 31but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.
"Come now; let us leave.
These verses, I believe, are referencing, among other things, the trinity. Its one of the few places where Jesus talks about God the Father, Son and Spirit as if they are all One. And unfortunately they do specifically talk about knowing Christ in order to know God the Father, that you cant know one without knowing the other.

Quote:
8Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us."

9Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? 10Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. 12I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
post #257 of 279
Well..if you believe in God the first thing you should remember is that God is all knowing. He looks at each individual soul. No one is judged by the same standard. He created us all as individuals. He knows the way we think and do things are not the same as the way others think and do things. He knows each and every one of us as a unique individual.


Given that, then, the second thing you should also know is that He is infintely merciful. Knowing that because HE judges each person individually then HE and ONLY HE decides who is saved.

Of course He has given rules to us as a guidline to what He expects from His children. It's because He loves us so much that He protects us. We try very hard to live up to these expectations. Sometimes we fail but it's important to realize that He sees us trying, He knows what is in our heart...that is what he judges you know. What is in the heart. What is in our heart is a reflection of God to the outside world. That is your testament of God.
post #258 of 279
re: suffering- We can go through painful life situations (suffering) with weeping and gnashing of teeth, or with the peace that passes all understanding in our hearts. I believe the message of any spiritual faith is a life of closeness to God, a life of joy and peace, regardless of what's going on around us. There will be car accidents and persecution and bad economies, but none of that matters on the spiritual path. (Please allow me to over-simplify here! This is a pretty deep subject!)

In my recent life, I have been sleep-deprived since my daughter was born over 18 months ago. It's been very rough physically, and mentally as well! I have spent a lot of time weeping and complaining angrily! Definitely one of the times I can say that I've lived through hell during my lifetime. A few months ago I learned how to surrender to it, and while I still sometimes struggle with it, I also frequently have intense joy in my heart in the middle of the night and am able to lovingly and gratefully care for my daughter. I couldn't have gotten to that place without some kind of spiritual focus. Even when she wakes up more than 5 times a night, which is normal for her, I wake up feeling rested and content. (I learned how to surrender by reading from other faith traditions, and I realized that what I learned other places is right there in the Bible, I just didn't see it before. Actually, I did see it, but I didn't know how to apply it.)

I also think of the example of Jesus on the cross, being tortured in a way that is unimaginable to me, asking his father to forgive them, for they know not what they do. There's a lot to ponder there as well!
post #259 of 279
Quote:
Originally Posted by smeisnotapirate View Post


So I'm supposing this guy also subscribes to the "not a compassionate/merciful G-d" theory? And is leaving out the repeated mentions of G-d always caring for all his creatures?
By care, it doesn't mean love, but to protect, watch out for, etc. God always loves us, even if we end up in Hell.
post #260 of 279
Quote:
Originally Posted by momo7 View Post
Well..if you believe in God the first thing you should remember is that God is all knowing. He looks at each individual soul. No one is judged by the same standard. He created us all as individuals. He knows the way we think and do things are not the same as the way others think and do things. He knows each and every one of us as a unique individual.


Given that, then, the second thing you should also know is that He is infintely merciful. Knowing that because HE judges each person individually then HE and ONLY HE decides who is saved.

Of course He has given rules to us as a guidline to what He expects from His children. It's because He loves us so much that He protects us. We try very hard to live up to these expectations. Sometimes we fail but it's important to realize that He sees us trying, He knows what is in our heart...that is what he judges you know. What is in the heart. What is in our heart is a reflection of God to the outside world. That is your testament of God.
Not everyone who believes in G-d believes that, so it's probably wise not to assume that all Christians or those who believe in G-d will agree with you.
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