Taking God at His Word

A while back I pointed out one of the sayings of Jesus that seems to put him firmly in the hell-is-eternal-suffering camp, because he said it was better to go to heaven blind or maimed than to go to hell with a whole body. That’s an advantage that only makes sense if you stay in hell forever, because otherwise he’d be saying it’s better to be blind and maimed in heaven for all eternity than to be whole in heaven for all eternity after a relatively insignificant time in hell. Since the latter alternative is nonsense, it’s a lot more reasonable to count Jesus as someone who believed in eternal punishment.

Someone named brenda offers the following rebuttal:

“Obviously, that’s nonsense.”

Yes, it is nonsense. That is why only atheists and fundamentalists interpret the Bible literally. Atheists and snake handlers make a such loverly pair of clowns.

Oo, that one hurts, eh? It’s a good thing she never interprets the Bible literally, by believing, say, that Jesus is literally God Incarnate and literally rose from the dead. But what’s missing from this response? That’s right: she hasn’t told us what the correct/non-literal interpretation is supposed to be. And for good reason—the result is the same whether you take the story literally or not. Kinda takes the punch out, doesn’t it?

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The next Harold Camping

I’ve actually picked up a couple new commenters at Evangelical Realism recently. One of them is tokyotodd, whose philosophical arguments I touched on yesterday. The other is Mike Gantt, who reminds me a lot of Harold Camping (without the end-of-the-world fixation). Speaking of his views on hell, he writes:

I came to it by reading such Scripture passages in context, thus allowing its words to be understood in the ancient milieu in which they were uttered. It is the distorting lens of institutional Christianity and secular modernity that obscure the Bible’s plain teaching on the subject.

Like Camping, Gantt seems to make no distinction between “the Bible’s plain teaching” and his own personal interpretation of the Bible. He can readily see that other people, including William Lane Craig, have interpretations that are wrong (i.e. that conflict with his interpretation), and he even goes so far as to claim that the institution that created the Bible is also at fault for distorting it (i.e. producing teachings that conflict with his interpretation). But it’s very difficult to challenge his interpretation because, in his words, you’re not challenging his opinions, you’re challenging the plain teaching of Scripture.

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