Monthly Archives: October 2011

wittenberg remixed: nailing some more theses?

Did you know that today (31st October) is the anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church of Wittenberg in 1517.*

These theses largely protested clerical abuses in the Catholic Church at the time, in particular the dealing of indulgences and issues around papal authority.

e.g. Thesis 86:

“Why does the pope, whose wealth today is greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus,** build the basilica of Saint Peter with the money of poor believers rather than with his own money?”

This event is thought by many to have been the initial spark for the Protestant Reformation. Read the rest of this entry

how does God’s kingdom relate to ruling powers?

How should Christians relate to ruling powers?

Depending on your interpretation of different sections of the Bible you might say the different authors push for:

  • Submission (the conclusion many people come to when reading Romans 13, for example, or perhaps Ezra-Nehemiah)
  • Prophetic critique and nonviolent resistance (as found in much of the prophetic literature or Revelation)
  • A middle option
  • A blend

But what are we meant to do in our contemporary world as Christians? Should we simply do what we understand early Christians to have done in relation to ruling powers?

That is to say, how do we anticipate God’s transformative kingdom on earth, now, in the midst of a world of ruling powers that very often act contrary to God’s purposes? Read the rest of this entry

what is eternal life?

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

John 3:16 is possibly the most famous verse in the Bible. It is so often said that its promise is life everlasting for those who believe in Jesus.

Certainly in our modern vocabulary the word “eternal” means “forever” or “everlasting”. Eternal life is almost universally understood as everlasting existence, immortality or life “in heaven”.

(Type “eternal life” into Wikipedia or Google and you’ll see what I mean. It does, however, also yield the song “Eternal Life” by Jeff Buckley… sublime.)

But is eternal life (zōē aiōnion) really the same thing as “everlasting” life? Is that what is meant by the phrase in the Gospel of John? Read the rest of this entry

jesus and hell (part 3): matthew 13:42 in context

Michelangelo's "Last Judgement," the Sistine Chapel. Influenced in part by Dante's "Inferno."

In the last two posts we have looked at the apparent teaching on Hell in a number of verses in Matthew, in particular 13:42:

“As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear. (Matthew 13:40-43)

Part 1 looked at the language of weeping and gnashing of teeth. I concluded that weeping and gnashing of teeth were not related to afterlife, but rather represented mourning and anger/violence in a very “earthly” sense. Such actions were in fact responses by people to God’s judgement of them.

Part 2 looked at the language of the blazing furnace, and also of the outer darkness. My conclusion was that the burning furnace also has nothing to do with afterlife, but rather with God’s judgement of the rich and mighty on earth for their injustice, namely death. Concordantly darkness refers to the grave, also death.

(…The reasoning for these conclusions can be found in the relevant posts.)

I wanted to spend this final post of this series looking at the context of Matthew 13:42, and how it fits into a wider narrative. By this I hope to show that my conclusions so far are faithful to the text, and also why exactly God is judging these people. Read the rest of this entry

jesus and hell (part 2): fire, furnaces and darkness

(Note: This post looks awfully long, though much of the text is simply quoted references which are typed in full for the benefit of the reader. These can be mostly skipped if desired.)

In my last post I began to look at the issue of Hell as often seen within Matthew 13:

“As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear. (Matthew 13:40-43)

Part 1 looked at the language of weeping and gnashing of teeth. My conclusion was that weeping and gnashing of teeth were not actions inherently related to afterlife in any way, but rather represented mourning and anger/violence in a very “earthly” sense. Such actions were in fact responses by people to God’s judgement of them.*

Why exactly is God judging these people? That will have to wait until the third and final instalment…

In the meantime I want to look at the place of this weeping and gnashing, namely the blazing furnace (13:42 etc.) and the outer darkness (8:12 etc.)

What does this language refer to? Are many conservative Christians correct in asserting that the blazing furnace and the outer darkness refer to Hell, a place of everlasting punishment? Read the rest of this entry

jesus and hell (part 1): weeping and gnashing of teeth

“As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear. (Matthew 13:40-43)

Throughout much of my discipleship journey I assumed that when Matthew’s Gospel had Jesus talking about a “blazing furnace” and “weeping and gnashing of teeth” he was talking about the unimaginably intense punishment of post-mortem Hell.

In these posts I want to explore these phrases and ask the question – what is Jesus (and Matthew) talking about? This post will deal with the phrase “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” with the next being about the imagery of fire, furnaces and darkness. Read the rest of this entry

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