Friday, May 24, 2013

Erasing Hell

"Erasing Hell" (Francis Chan) - Francis Chan is no Frank Turk.

When you're wrong, Frank Turk will slap you and say "What are you doing?"  It's probably for the best that there is only one Frank :)

Chan has a much more irenic approach.  He is pleading, and cajoling.  I am probably not in the audience he is targeting, but I know there are a lot of people who are there.

This book is short, but very well researched and argued.  If you are at all in doubt on the doctrine of Hell, and not able to take a helpful slap, this might be the book you need.

For those who are familiar with the doctrine of Hell, most of the arguments Chan presents will be familiar as well.  I did learn that the notion that Gehenna is a burning trash dump is actually a medieval invention.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Defense of the Trinity

Deut 6:4 "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord"

Christianity is monotheistic - there is one God.  But it is also trinitarian - three persons in the Godhead (three in one, "triple unity", trinity).

Obviously, understanding the fundamental nature of God is a hard problem.  He is infinite and holy, while we are finite and not.  But God has stooped down to our level to reveal Himself, and we must try to reconcile what has been revealed.

Attacks on the Trinity usually come in one of two forms:
  1. Jesus is not God (Arianism)
  2. God is not three "persons", but rather, three "modes", "roles" or "forms" (Sabellianism, or modalism)
Let us address the first point first.
  1. The Old Testament (Is 9:6) says the child born unto us will be called the "mighty God" and "everlasting Father".
  2. Sin is an offence, and only the one offended can forgive.  When Jesus forgives sins, He is claiming to be God (the people at that time understood this, and sometimes took up stones against Him)
  3. In Hebrew the term "son", in the metaphorical sense, means to have the nature and attributes ("son of destruction" is a destructive person).  We think of "son" as derivative (less than), but that is not the original meaning.  "Son of God" is claiming to be God (again, the people at that time understood this, and took up stones).
  4. God is love, and love is a relationship (there must be some object for the love).  Under orthodoxy, the three Persons love each other.  Apart from that, it is hard to say what God's love is.
As to the second:
  1. We see all three Persons present at Jesus' baptism.  (Also, there are two other occasions where the Father speaks from Heaven to Jesus on Earth).
  2. God is love - number four above.
  3. Jesus repeatedly prays to the Father.  Is Jesus addressing Himself?
  4. We see the Trinity at work in many places.  The Resurrection is attributed to all three Persons.  Salvation is the work of all three.

Finally, it is good to note that no one would fabricate such a hard doctrine.  The easy way would be to support modalism or Arianism (Arianists excercised a great deal of power for a time).  But we cannot deny what the Bible teaches, God is Three in One.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


As we've seen from the "Know Your Heretics" series, Christology can be a hard subject, with lots of possible error modes.

The orthodox position is well captured by the Chalcedonian creed:
    "We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach people to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood;
    truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body;
    consubstantial [co-essential] with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood;
    in all things like unto us, without sin;
    begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood;
    one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably;
    the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten God, the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ;
    as the prophets from the beginning [have declared] concerning Him, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us." (emphasis added)
The highlighted portions allow us to categorize the Christological heresies:
  1. Denial that Christ is God
    1. Arianism (and Ebionism)
    2. Adoptionism (that a human Jesus became divine at some point)
  2. Denial that Christ is one person with two natures (and two wills)
    1. Nestorianism (two persons for the two natures)
    2. Apollinarism (a human person with a divine spirit or mind)
    3. Docetism (spirit only)
    4. Monothelistism (one will for the two natures)
  3. Unmixed ("inconfusedly")
    1. Monarchianism (the idea the divine overrides the physical)
    2. Monophysitism (mixing of the two natures), which leads to Patripassionism - the idea that the Father suffered on the cross)
Monophysitism is mentioned briefly in my post on Nestorianism.