Mountaineer,Mountaineer wrote: ↑Mon Jan 21, 2019 12:08 pmStillwaters, thanks for the ongoing discussion; I'll do my best to address your questions.Stillwaters wrote: ↑Sun Jan 20, 2019 8:05 pmI remain fascinated by the “Gate is Narrow” viewpoint. If I understand Mountaineer and Xan’s position correctly…most of humanity will be damned for eternity. Many through no fault of their own (raised in different culture, religion, never exposed to Christianity, etc.). Others are damned because they have heard the word but “Do Not Get It” or as others have said “I can’t make myself believe in Santa Claus”. This would mean “billions” in torment.(perhaps 100’s of billions if the 2nd coming is delayed another thousand years). In any event, this mass damnation is very abstract and does not carry much emotional heft.
I would like instead to bring it down to a more personal level. I want to present a very real situation (but we can call it hypothetical) that does occur and see how Mountaineer and Xan would handle it. Say that a very good friend (a Believer) of yours has a daughter who he loves beyond almost anything in this life. She and he have a very close relationship with many common interests. She is also very devoted to her father. She is now an adult with her own family and she is NOT a Believer. They have had many discussions regarding his Faith but it is very clear that she no longer has the faith (and perhaps never really had it due to other outside influences over the years). She is very forthright that she has no interest in this subject matter any further and has told her Dad that this topic is now off limits. Any further broaching of the issue could irreparably damage the relationship. This close friend comes to you very distraught with two questions:
1) Is my precious daughter going to suffer in Hell for eternity? (you have to be honest even though he is your friend)
2) If she is to suffer for eternity how can I possibly be happy in Heaven?
Not to jump the gun on #2 but I would assume that God would have to erase from him any memory of her. If this is the answer, then he has in fact been re-programmed like a machine, and the true love between them and by extension all humans is not of true sacred lasting value, eternal of otherwise.
Again, any response in your own words (vs. Scripture or other reference material) is most appreciated.
First of all, it is important to again mention my presuppositions to refresh you on where I’m coming from with my answers. I believe Scripture is inspired and for practical purposes inerrant (i.e. use an accurate translation(s)) when taken in context and that Scripture interprets Scripture with the clearer passages helping to understand the less clear. That means I believe Scripture is God’s authoritative Word and includes all He wants us to know which is sufficient for our salvation. If there is a conflict, God's authoritative Word takes precedence over man's reason. I also agree with Luther that we are not to explore the hidden side of God, that side He does not reveal to us via His Word (Scripture and Jesus). I believe Satan does everything he can to deceive us, cause us to doubt, cause us to believe we are the most important item in the universe. Satan rarely, if ever, attacks head on; frequently there is just a slight bending of the truth, enough to still sound good and reasonable and will deceive unless we are quite well versed (pun intended). Most heretics start out by trying to explain something that is unclear and not revealed in Scripture. Scripture is clear that God has/is allowing Satan to roam the earth and create havoc for reasons God knows. So, here is my response:
The end will not come until all have heard the gospel (Mt 28:19-20, Mk 13:10). That addresses your comment about people who through no fault of their own have not heard. Thus, if they do not believe after hearing the gospel, it is their own fault. All we can do is pray that God gives them the gifts of repentance and faith. It is only our job to proclaim the Word, tell others of the gospel; it is not our job to browbeat them into believing.
1. I do not know. I think it is entirely possible that a person, including the precious daughter in your example, can confess belief in Christ on their deathbed. Think about the thief on the cross next to Jesus who Jesus said will be with Him today in paradise. I also believe that God can do anything He wants and that his thoughts are not our thoughts (Is 55:8-11) and anything we speculate is just that, speculation to no good end. I believe God is a God of mercy as well as a God of wrath. That said, I believe Scripture is very clear about what happens to unbelievers after their death and about those that teach heretical ideas (for example: Mt 13, Mt 22, Lk 13, Rev 20), there will be much weeping and gnashing of teeth.
2. It seems to me if there is no pain, no tears, no death, and no mourning we will be quite joyful (happy, completely at peace) in the new Creation (Rev 21:4). How that happens, or if we will remember loved ones who are not with us, I have no idea.
Bottom line is God is God and I’m not. I must say however that I too have many questions like you that are unanswerable by Scripture on this side of the Last Day. I think that is a natural human tendency and the solution is continual repentance and continually remembering that I am a baptized child of God, forgiven for Jesus’ sake and what He did on the cross for us all. Thanks be to God and my parents that I was baptized as an infant at which time I received the Holy Spirit that enables me to know Jesus.
Thank you for what I consider a very solid and straight forward response to my questions. This is new to me that ALL will hear the word no matter what historical age, culture, geographic location or mental aptitude. Not something that has been emphasized by other Christians. This of course assumes that an enormous mass of humanity, those already dead, will be brought back to life in order to hear the word that have not heard the word. That is quite an interesting interpretation of scripture. That only leaves those that "can’t believe even if they want to” and what a terrible deal for them.
Back to the friend example though. Let me change the set-up just slightly because I don’t believe speculation is fruitless when it comes to such a life and death matter. Lets say your good friend came to you two days after his daughter perished in a car accident. Now there is no chance for a death bed conversion. Her fate is sealed. I am still trying to image what you would tell your friend to comfort him without twisting scripture which is quite clear on the matter. In this scenario, I would imagine there is nothing you can do to comfort him. If his faith is true and without doubt he should be in an awful state (needing counseling, meds, unable to focus and work) for the remainder of his life. Imagine someone told you that your daughter will fall into the hands of ISIS and be tortured forever. You would be occupied with worry and trepidation on a daily basis.
The love of a child often eclipses one’s own personal wants and desires. I would also guess that there be many a parent who would take a bargain with God and swap for their daughter. In other words, trading one's salvation (including the selfish element for pleasure and continuance that many have) for the life, love and happiness of a child. Here is my observation though: There are innumerable households in this situation where a Spouse, Brother, Sister, Son or Daughter is lacking in Faith. If the believers in these households really believed in the Hell aspect of the teaching they would be in a near continuous tizzy and sense of urgency over the fate of their loved ones. Yet we are not seeing this. It's as if this idea is either being suppressed in the subconscious or what I really suspect…there is great doubt among MOST believers that this aspect of the teaching is true.
This brings me to the topic of doubt. There is an example in my own circle of a very fundamentalist family losing their seventeen old son due to an unexpected tragedy. A year later this family is still unconsolable. I spoke with a fundamentalist friend of mine and ask this question: "If this family truly believes that they will be with their son for eternity, after just a few more decades of their own lives, why are they so incapacitated? I would expect them to be sad and miss him but not experiencing the pain of those with permanent loss”. My friend did not have an explanation for me. So here are my next three main questions if you have the patience to bear with me:
1) What would you tell your friend about his daughter that had perished in the car crash faithless? Is there any hope you can give him without butchering scripture interpretation or resorting to the empty “cannot know Gods mind"? I would think your friend's remaining life will ultimately be shattered by the situation. What mental suffering lies ahead!
2) I have heard it said that faith ranges from weak to absolute. Does it matter how much doubt/faith one has with regards to being saved?
In other words, would the faith of a mustard seed be enough for salvation?…this would change the calculus quite a bit. Surely the Church must provide some guidance between soft belief and ALL IN Belief, otherwise why even distinguish Faith this way?
3) You had mentioned quite awhile back in this thread that, and I am paraphrasing: “My daughter has a stronger faith than me”. Does that mean that you carry some doubt no matter how small even now? If not, what did that mean? From your responses to most on this thread (over the years) you never give any ground. Not even simple statements like “that’s an interesting perspective that I haven’t thought about and I could see why that would cause unbelief”. Your answers are alway brimming with confidence and absolute in nature. Even questions that bother Theologian Scholars and Christian Apologists roll off you like Teflon. I detect NO DOUBT or conversely ABSOLUTE FAITH.
Thanks again for taking the time to respond to these incessant questions. I promise to slow way down in the days/weeks ahead.