In a previous post titled, Will all be saved?, I noted a question raised by Rob Bell in his controversial book, Love Wins. That question is this: Can people get out of hell? To answer this question, we must consider two others: Is a person's fate determined permanently at death?If not, on what basis might those in hell get out?
Many Christians answer "yes" to question number one. In support of their position they frequently cite Hebrews 9:27, understanding this scripture to assert that upon death, a person is judged and the decision rendered is irreversible.
However, using this passage to make this point is, in my view, questionable. Note that the context is the universal scope of Jesus' substitutionary, atoning work, which he did "once for all" (Hebrews 9:26). He does not accomplish this work at some future time (such as some point prior to or including the moment of our death). Also, note that Hebrews 9:27-28 points forward to a future time when Jesus wil…
A key understanding of incarnational Trinitarian theology, is that God has included everyone in his love and life through the incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus and through what Jesus did at Pentecost in pouring out the Holy Spirit on all humanity. Are we then saying that all people have the Holy Spirit? There are several issues at work here, which I'll briefly address in this post.
First there is the nature and the timing of God’s call. Paul writes in Romans 8:30 that, "...those he [God] predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified." Here Paul addresses believers, locating their call in the broad sweep of salvation history, which sees all humanity as included in Christ--in what he accomplished for all humanity through his life, death and resurrection. This is the objective or universal reality of salvation history. And it is stunning good news!
Are theology and biblical studies the same thing? If not, how do they relate? How are they different? Are they in conflict? This article by Michael Morrison of Grace Communion Seminary addresses these and related questions. For another post on this topic, click here.
In most seminaries and Bible schools, theology and biblical studies are in separate categories. Yet most lay Christians assume they are the same. In this article we will explain why there is a difference, problems that can arise because of the difference, and how biblical studies and theology can both be better if they work together. A brief history of biblical studies
The early church taught the gospel, and educated pagans said, “Oh really? How does that work?” Some of the pagans wanted to ridicule people who believed the gospel about a crucified hero; others were genuinely interested.
So the early church leaders began to answer some of the philosophical and logical questions about salvation through Christ – often using …
Purves now addresses the essential missional character of the church, noting that by our union with Christ, we have both opportunity and the calling as members of the body of Christ (the church), to participate with Jesus our one High Priest, in what he is now doing, by the Spirit, to fulfill the Father's mission to the world.
The broad scope of Christ's mission
That calling, which is for the whole church, involves sharing in what our Lord is doing to redeem every aspect of human existence: spiritual, social, economic, etc. Purves comments on this broad scope of mission:
There are no limits to the compassion God has shown toward the human race in Jesus Christ [thus] there can be no limits upon the scope of the church's mission in union with Christ to the who…
This post excerpts Gary Deddo's essay, "The Christian Life and Our Participation in Christ’s Continuing Ministry" (to read the full essay, click here). The portion excerpted here relates to clarifying the meaning of the important New Testament concept of "union with Christ."
The New Testament message is that we are so united to Christ that the core of our very being is changed because it has become spiritually joined to the perfected humanity of Jesus. The apostle Paul writes that we are one in Spirit with Christ (1 Corinthians 6:17). In his letter to the Ephesians he writes that we are presently—right now—seated with Christ in the heavenlies (Ephesians 2:6). We are so joined that what happened to Christ 2,000 years ago has actually included us. So in Paul’s letter to the Colossians we read that we have co-died with Christ and have been co-raised with Christ (Colossians 2:12-3; 3:1). Paul announces this fact as a completed action that is true of all the members…
Previously in this series we've noted Anderson's emphasis on the unity of theology and mission. When fully Christian, both are grounded in the person (being) and work (doing) of Jesus, the incarnate, resurrected, ascended Son of God. There is no separation between Jesus' being (from which flows Christian theology) and his doing (from which flows Christian mission). In Jesus, by the Spirit, Christian mission (ministry) is actual participation in what Jesus is doing in the world to fulfill the Father's mission.
It is thus vital that the church keep at the forefront of its thinking the truth that it is Jesus (the living Word) and not someone or something else, that constitutes the interpretive key (hermeneutic) by which the church is able to rightly understand Hol…
Unless my wife Tammy is traveling with me, most of my seatmates on planes don't seem to want much conversation---especially after they ask, “What do you do?,” and I reply, "I’m a pastor." But when I say "I supervise missionary work," more conversation often ensues.
Recently, a seatmate asked, “How big do you think hell is?” It’s interesting he didn’t ask for my definition of hell, or what the Bible says about it. He just wanted to know how big it is. I jokingly asked if he was familiar with the pictures of Dante’s Inferno (see an example below). When he replied "no" I said, “Dante makes it look as though hell is already full!” I went on to explain that the topic of hell seems to suffer from more misinformation that is typically realized.
Most are surprised to learn that the early church did not dogmatize the topic of hell, nor was th…
I was sent the following question: Doesn't John 3:36 (and also John 3:18) indicate that non-believers will not see life, and that God's wrath is still on them?
Here is my reply:
John 3:36 says this: "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on them." How are we to understand this statement?
From a perspective of a theology of separation, this verse would be interpreted as saying that God stands separate from and in wrath toward all people *until* the moment they believe in his Son, at which point in time, God enters their lives (for the first time), stops being wrathful toward them, and grants them eternal life.
But is this interpretation justified? We would say no. Why? Because it is not consistent with what Scripture tells us about who God is - as revealed to us in the person of Jesus. According to that revelation, rather than separate from sinners, God is "a friend of sinners&qu…
We now continue our review of Communion with the Triune God where Dick Eugenio examines TF Torrance's trinitarian understanding of soteriology (the doctrine of salvation). Last time we looked at TF's understanding of the role of the Spirit in salvation. Now we'll look at his view of the Spirit's work related to the church and its mission. For the other posts in this series, click on a number: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11.
TF often noted that the goal of salvation is participation in the life and love of the Trinity. The Spirit's distinctive role is to facilitate this participation (Gk. koinonia, also meaning sharing, fellowship and communion). The Spirit does this work by coming into us, then opening us out to God, thus enabling us to commune with the triune God. TF elaborates:
As the Father, Son and Holy Spirit dwell in one another, so God is in us by the indwelling of the Spirit and by participation of the Spirit we are in God, and thus our being in the Father i…
This post is quoted, with permission, from the Church-Next Training course manual published by Church Multiplication Ministries (CMM), GCI's U.S. church planting arm. The manual was written by CMM national coordinator Randy Bloom. In this section of chapter one, he helpfully outlines the essential (though often overlooked) link between theology and mission.
The Trinity: Loving Communion
According to Scripture, there is one God who reveals himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; three distinct yet unified Persons sharing the same essence, nature, and will. Father, Son, and Spirit live in a perfect, mutually dependent relationship of love. An ancient theological term used to describe this loving communion is perichoresis. Perichoresis attempts to express the interpenetration and co-inherence of the three persons of the Trinity. Perichoresis refers to the eternal “movement of love between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” which is expressed in the outworking of God’s purpos…