Ur Video: Greg Boyd on Hell
Can we know who is, and who is not, going to hell?

Our dive into damnation continues with Greg Boyd, pastor of Woodland Hills Church. After explaining our human tendency toward poor self-assessment, and our need to be in a right relationship with God, Boyd says, "I don't know who's going to heaven and who's going to hell. It's not for me to judge.... I can't say, and I don't think anyone can say, that so-and-so, and so-and-so, and so-and-so, are or are not saved."

Displaying 1–10 of 45 comments

Karen

March 27, 2010  3:21pm

Paul, one last thought . . . Perhaps it would be helpful to say that from our perspective, the dead are in the grave. From God's, Who is outside time, they are living. Orthodoxy has a mindset that sees the temporal everywhere and always penetrated by God's Presence (the Eternal) through Christ, where the Eternal is accessible through faith even to those within time, and prays and acts accordingly. This is a paradox. But when we pray, we are touching God and thus Eternity. (The Scripture says that in Him, we "live, and move and have our being.") The bonds of love (which the Scriptures teach is stronger than death) still knit us together in communion in Christ with those from our midst who have died (from God's perspective and theirs, they have passed into His Presence). Therefore, what is to prevent God from taking the prayers of the Church for the dead and applying them at the moment of Resurrection and Final Judgment? Will it not be a comfort to you at that moment, where you will never be more acutely aware of the nature of God's holy love and how your own sins and the unfinished business of your life have wounded HIm and fallen short of His glory, to know that the entire Body of Christ has always been praying for you, even asking all that you were unable to ask for yourself after the time of your death? I don't believe Judeo-Christian prayer for the dead in any way resembles pagan practices. Pagans also build shrines and places of worship, pray, fast, have Feasts and rituals, bow down before their god(s), give alms, do good works, believe in what they cannot see and may even give themselves in martyrdom for their own various faiths. The object and meaning of all of that activity is what is different for the Christian. Similarly, the meaning of Christian prayer for the dead is quite different from pagan prayer for the dead, and it cannot take place except for the life of the Church being "in Christ." Which reality is more significant for the Christian from the perspective of faith–the temporal or the eternal? Therefore, we pray in light of what is eternal and, by definition, outside of time and space.

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Karen

March 25, 2010  3:02pm

Hi Melody, You asked very good questions, and I'm sorry that my long sentence you quoted would require a longer explanation than I could give in this forum to fully explain. I believe that any heart disposed to do God's will (what His will is truly—not just what that person understands rationally to be His will, like the Pharisees did following the letter of the Law, but not the spirit of it) can be enlightened by the Holy Spirit to understand Scripture's meaning (even without knowing any of the actual written Scriptures, since God's law is written in Creation and in the human heart as well, as Scripture attests)—certainly enough of it to get them started along the road of repentance and change into Christ's likeness. I have heard enough testimonies of this, have experienced it myself, and know better than to limit the power of the Holy Spirit to do what He wills which is to save everyone by bringing them to repentance and faith and into full communion with Christ in His Church, regardless of their disadvantages of background with regard to knowledge or ignorance of the Holy Scriptures. The Orthodox believe that in many respects the Protestant Reformers were indeed led of the Holy Spirit to resist and overcome corrupt practices within the Roman Church. They also believe, however, that these Reformers and their successors threw much of the "baby" of a right understanding of the Scriptures' meaning (true biblical Christian Tradition) out with the "bathwater" of Roman Catholic error in their efforts to get out from under the Roman Papal yoke. While Martin Luther and Menno Simmons certainly found help in the Scriptures to overcome ways in which official Roman Church practices and doctrinal formulations had distorted and corrupted the faith, their own interpretations were so divergent that Reformers of Luther's generation persecuted, tortured, and killed those of what is known as the Radical Reformation (the Anabaptists) like Menno Simmons as "heretics." And Luther so despised the Epistle of James with its insistance that our salvation required works and not "faith alone," he wanted to throw it out of the canon of the NT! I don't think most modern evangelical Christians would have been very comfortable either in terms of beliefs or lifestyle as Lutherans of Luther's generation. Nor is it likely that today's Mennonites and Baptists would find it a good fit as participants in the very strict early Anabaptist communities that imported many of their practices from Christian monasticism (which required a degree of commitment and ordination on a par with Church leadership, though with a different calling and role) and not normative for Christian lay participation in the Church. The Eastern Orthodox (as all Christians) hold to the primacy of the authority of Scripture in the Church for measuring and teaching doctrine. Here the reading and study of Scripture has never been withheld from the laity as in the Roman Catholic Church, and especially within its monastic tradition (still alive in its original forms today) any, pious observant Orthodox Christian is literally constantly immersed in the Scriptures through its spiritual disciplines and liturgical practices. Orthodoxy's whole mindset about the nature of true Christian Holy Spirit-led (as opposed to human) Tradition (of which the Christian Scriptures are the pre-eminent written witness) is quite different than in any of the Western churches, whether Roman Catholic or Protestant. As the Scriptures below show, however, natural and unaided human reason (no matter how well intended) cannot unlock the full meaning of the Scriptures. As Jesus points out, our ability to understand the origin (and hence the full meaning) of His teaching is contingent upon the disposition of our heart and also requires information external to the Scriptures themselves. (I've put asterisks about certain parts I would have boldfaced if I could.) John 5:39-40–"You search the Scriptures, for in them you thin

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Karen

March 25, 2010  2:51pm

Paul, it is obvious to me we will continue talking past one another, since we take the Scriptures we use and place them in different contexts (even from within Scripture itself) to answer the same questions. I don't accept your schema of interpretation for the Scriptures you use and the way you put them together because it does violence to understanding other Scriptures at face value in their own contexts. I accept that you don't accept my interpretation, and hopefully, needless to say I wish you well regardless!

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Paul C

March 25, 2010  12:12pm

Karen, I have already pointed out that you have erred in your defense on the doctrine of Hell. Yet you have refused to acknowledge this at all, proceeding to tell me that I have erred in the state of the dead. One thing we know for sure is that the dead are not in heaven, united with God. Otherwise, Jesus would not have said: "No man has ascended into heaven except He which came down from heaven" (John 3:13). That statement, along with Hebrews 11 (confirming "these all died in faith, having received not the promise...") forces us to understand that the dead will not be united with Christ - the firstfruit - until he returns. In your view, are the dead in heaven? If not, where are they, remembering that both good and evil go to the same place upon death? Also, how would describe Paul's statement: "It is appointed to men once to die; after this the judgment"? We all would acknowledge the judgment occurs at the return of Christ. Also, you didn't address the scriptures I outlined, such as Paul's epistles, John 6, Job 14 and others. Also, notice Samuel's statement to Saul: "Why have you brought me UP?" Not down from heaven, but up from sheol/the grave. Simply, God allowed the witch of Endor to summon him from the dead to deliver a message to Saul. Regarding the Transfiguration, just read the preceding verses (in Matthew 16). Jesus was basically telling his disciples that some would get a foretaste of what the kingdom will be like. 6 days later, they receive the experience. Remember, Jesus is the "I AM" with no respect to past, present or future. Again, I refer you to John 3:13. Or Acts 2, where it categorically said that David HAS NOT ascended into the heavens but is dead. Lastly, regarding the apostasy, surely you don't think I was referring to the fact that the ENTIRE church was apostate? Men and women lived then, and continue to live now, whose shoes I am not even worthy to tie. Nevertheless, apostasy did creep into the church increasingly.

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Karen

March 25, 2010  10:17am

Paul, I have already suggested some Scriptures that do not fall easily into your schema for interpretation on the nature of physical and spiritual death. You have not in my mind given any satisfactory replies. I could suggest some other passages, such as prophecies that picture the dead aware and responding in Sheol/Hades to future (or present/past/eschatalogical?) events, such as that regarding the demise of the King of Babylon/Lucifer and Rachel weeping for her children. I could mention the passages describing the prophet Samuel's post-mortem appearance to Saul, where although the Scripture makes it clear that Saul's use of the pagan medium was quite illicit, it at the same time never suggests that the appearance is anything other than Samuel (who from God's perspective at least is not dead, if we understand Jesus' words to the Saduccees that God is the God of the living, not the dead). What of the appearance of Moses (and Elijah) to Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration witnessed by the disciples? If the spirits of the dead have no awareness and have ceased to exist, why does the Scripture say that the day will come when the dead will "hear His voice, and rise," rather than that He will raise them and then they will hear His voice? Why does Jesus call out to Lazarus and Jairus' daughter (before raising their bodies) and they respond? Why does He deny the natural human perspective of the nature of death of the mourners at Jairus' house by insisting the little girl is only "asleep?" Why do Jesus and the first Christian martyr Stephen "commit their spirits into God's keeping" upon their deaths? I had 45+ years as a conservative Bible-believing Protestant to "build my case from Scripture," and all the conflicting opinions within Protestantism I encountered–not only on peripheral and minor details of Scripture, but also on things as basic to our understanding of the nature of our salvation in Christ as the hows and whys of the nature of His atoning work on the Cross and how it works to bring us to salvation, the meaning of Baptism and the Lord's Supper, whether God is a Divine Totalitarian Arbitrary Dictator (extremes of Calvinism) or whether man's free will means his unaided good works can bring him into saving relationship with God (extremes of Arminianism)–created such conflicting and sometimes objectionable visions of God's nature (or man's nature as a creature uniquely in God's image), that ultimately I found it an obstacle to my ability to trust God that it could not bring me the intimacy with Christ I longed for. All I can say is thank God for the Orthodox Church, (despite it's flaws, which are many. At least they are not doctrinal, and that has made for me all the difference in the world!). There is great irony in your having bought into the myth that "the Church" apostasized virtually from the very generation after the Apostles (remember this was the age of the martyrs!) in that the very Fathers you would insist were apostate were those who identified and preserved (and memorized huge portions of and lived out its commands at a cost and to an extent never realized in anything like the same way in those who claim their apostasy) the canon of Scripture, the nature of the Trinitarian God, His Son as fully God and fully Man, and the meaning of the Gospels. They are the ones through whom we know that the early heresies were heresies (whether Arian, Marcionite, Gnostic, Judaising, or whatever!). You err, Paul. It's an honest mistake that many who don't do their homework fully fall into and one I myself made for most of my life. May God reveal to you His truth in its fullness, which is life and peace. I wish you well.

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Paul C

March 24, 2010  9:02am

Javi, Very valid question. I would say that in the case of exploring the state of the dead, the full range of scripture (both OT and NT) should be taken into account. For example, the same Paul who wrote these verses also speaks of the state of the dead elsewhere. Starting with the 2 Cor 5 reference, you will notice that if you keep reading, Paul says in v 10: "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ..." When does this happen? At the return of Christ. In 1 Cor 15, in defending the resurrection of Christ, Paul writes: "Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost." That is, if there is no resurrection. He then continues: "For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all WILL BE made alive. But each IN HIS OWN TURN: Christ, the firstfruits; THEN, when he COMES, those who belong to him." This obviously speaks of a future event that occurs at Jesus' return. We are mortal beings now, subject to death (cessation of life), but "THEN the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory." Until the return of Christ, Death has a sting. But the grave will be destroyed when He comes back (death actually dies eternally, along with all those who were not found worthy of life: this is the lake of fire/second death - an unrecoverable state). In 1 Thessalonians Paul also writes: "For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will RISE first." Where are they? In the grave. Just like David and all the Patriarchs of old. As Job wrote: "But man dies and is laid low; he breathes his last and is no more... so man lies down and does not rise; till the heavens are no more, men will not awake or be roused from their sleep." In John 6, Jesus says "raise them up at the last day" FOUR times. (:39, 40, 44, 54). This coincides with the belief obviously held at that time. When Lazarus died (John 11), Jesus asks his sister if she believes Jesus can bring him back to life again. Look what she says: 'Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day."' (:24). There are literally dozens of other references that speak of being united with the Lord at the time of the resurrection which occurs at His glorious return. But until His return, "They are now dead, they live no more; those departed spirits do not rise... But your dead will live; their bodies will rise. You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy. Your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead." (Is 26:14, 19) We are looking to the resurrection: In his final epistle (2 Tim 4), Paul ends with: "...I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me ON THAT DAY —and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his APPEARING."

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Javi

March 23, 2010  6:22pm

Paul C. The things you say are very interesting. I want to ask you what you think about Philipians 1.20-25 "having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is FAR BETTER" and 2 Corinthians 5.8 "We are confident, yes; WELL PLEASED rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord" Can It be possible to be well pleased and far better in some kind of a sleepy unconsciousness? (Forgive my english, i'm writting from abroad)

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Leonard

March 21, 2010  7:48am

5Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord[c] delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. 6And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. 7In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire. Jude 1:5-7

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Paul C

March 19, 2010  7:42pm

Karen: "The Scriptures, OT and NT, were born in a living community." Then you should be able to point to a single reference - just one - in which the doctrine of Hell makes entrance in Acts, or any of Paul's epistles, Peter's epistles, John's, James or Jude's. After all, that's when the foundation was being laid, no? And even then, heresies were flooding into the church (see most of the epistles). How much more when the apostles passed of the scene? Again, you keep trying to dodge the issue. It would be much better to simply acknowledge that the doctrine of Hell was never taught in the early church. Neither "was praying for the dead" - either in the OT or NT. If you want to build your doctrines on the Talmud or apostate Christianity, it becomes dangerous. What we do when our position is threatened is do all we can to defend it, even if it means abandoning the Bible. I simply and humbly recommend starting with the Bible (more trustworthy) and building outwards.

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Melody

March 19, 2010  4:01pm

Karen, You make some good points about scripture as does Paul. But your paragraph about "...viewing it all through the lens of Medieval Roman Catholic heresy and the Reformers' and Radical Reformers' quarrels with that heresy coupled with your 21st century philosophical lens that is arguably an amalgam of historical-critical, rationalistic, and nominalistic presuppositions about how to read Scripture." leaves me puzzled. The 'Radical Reformers' merely started reading the actual Bible instead of Catholic church dogma. They did not filter the words through any lens except their own eyes which were enlightened of the Holy Spirit. The problem with the Catholic Church has been that their own dogma has been held in equal, if not superior, authority with the Bible. A good example of this was the founder of the Mennonites, Menno Simmnons. He was a Catholic priest who began reading the scripture for himself. He wrote, "I found out that they (the church) had been lying to me [about what was truth]." This changed his whole life because he became 'born-again' (a term used by Jesus, himself.) A similar thing happened to Martin Luther (those amazing Germans!) Of course, the Catholic Church tried to kill them both, but that's another story. The point of this being that the 21st century philsophical lens is no different than the lens in the 1st century, the 4th century or any other. Why? Because God's Word - The Bible - transcends time, place, culture and age. Those words are able to convict of sin and enlighten the heart today, just as they were when they were first spoken. If Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever as he claimed, would not His word also be? Besides, what makes anyone today able to see through any lens other than their own? And if someone claims that they can accomplish such a feat, how do I know I can believe them? Did everyone in Jesus day view the world through the same lens? Obviously not or they would have all become believers, right?

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