Monday, July 20, 2015

Neither root nor branch

For me, this is a sad story. There was once a tree - a very tall and strong spruce tree - that lived in Alaska. This tree was a bit too close to a certain house (my house), and a certain someone (my husband) decided it needed to go.

When that mighty tree fell, I was thankful my husband knew what he was doing (since my house was in immediate danger). It landed with such force it shook the ground. How the mighty have fallen! But even then, as a stump, it still had some potential at life. There was the hearty and extensive root system that gave it hope of life again.

It reminded me of Daniel chapter 4 where the king has a dream whose interpretation likens him to a great tree that gets chopped down. God planned to humble and then restore him. "Cut down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump...while its roots remain in the ground... The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that our kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules." (4:23, 26)

Then they brought the backhoe in and started ripping up the roots all around the stump. After that, the big dozer ripped the stump out with its huge tap roots. It pained me to watch the total destruction. There would be no chance of life for that tree. You can see the result below: an empty space, with hardly a trace of the mighty spruce that once proudly stood. I heard talk of burning up the pile of roots or hauling it to the dump. Gone.

As I watched this destruction, the phrase 'neither root nor branch' kept running through my head. So, I went to and looked it up. This verse describes the 'Day' of judgment:

"For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff, and the day that is coming will set them ablaze," says the LORD of hosts, "so that it will leave them neither root nor branch." - Malachi 4:1

Its meaning now more clear than ever. The total destruction of the evildoer is indeed an unnecessary, sad story.

Please leave a comment. I value any feedback - critical, supportive, or interrogative (questions)!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Julie - this one's for you

I need to begin by asking for your forgiveness! Writing it down, this sounds kind of ridiculous, but will you forgive me for not mentioning this part of my life to you? I've been writing this blog for one year now, and it is clearly very important to me. So, why have I never mentioned it?

First, let me back up.

To be honest, I haven't given this much thought at all (bringing up my blog). Then, tonight, it just hit me like a bag of rocks on my head! You are one of the most important people in my life and I know I can share anything with you, no matter what 'side' of the subject we are on. But, it suddenly occurred to me that there is no proper reason for not sharing this part of me with you, as it is a BIG part of me. It is very important to me. So my important subject and you, my important friend, should have met a long time ago. Plus, you are part of the reason it has come about (more on that later).

There are reasons, of course. Or excuses, I guess. The first being, compared to real-life challenges, my thoughts on this disturbing doctrine seemed irrelevant and not worthy of taking up any of our phone time. Second, it is 'extreme Bible study' - deep theological thought - and I just assumed (bad, I know, sorry) that it would not be something you would find interesting.

But it just hit me minutes ago - you aren't concerned with those kinds of  'reasons' so much as you care about me and what I do and think. And if I know you, you care about what I write because it is a part of me. The subject isn't why or why not you'd care. You care because it is part of me.

That's wonderful.

So, thank you. I am going out on a limb here, but I think I know you well enough to thank you for that. Sure, I imagine you'll scold me a bit. Maybe call me a term of endearment like 'turkey' or 'blockhead'. I deserve it!

So, why does this blog's origins have to do with you? Wellll, you remember all our religious talks in the past and my concern for you getting 'saved'? Yeah, not something easily forgotten. I was never able to reconcile the idea of hell, but the thought of YOU going there just did not compute. Sure, we are all sinners and we need Jesus' sacrifice to cover us - but to take a precious human (full of life, love and extraordinary talents) and torture them forever because they don't share our theology - that just sent my brain katty-wampus.

For years I suspended that part of my 'religion' to save my sanity, but finally I just dealt with it head-on. Just me and Jesus. God's word and the Holy Spirit as my teachers. And what He showed me sent me down a path that has changed my life and thinking.

Of course, there is much more to the story - but for the sake of privacy and keeping it short, let's just say that this path has busted open a view to Father God that is nothing less than life-changing.

I'm thankful to Him, I'm thankful to you. I'm thankful to Him for you. (I'm not the only one that is a gift from God! *wink*)

Love you, sister!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Co-author of Erasing Hell changed his position on hell

Check out these excerpts from an article about the co-author of a book that traditionalists point to as they try to prove that eternal torment is the most biblical view. Especially take note of the very last sentence!*

"Most are unaware that since co-authoring the book, Erasing Hell with Francis Chan* (chiefly a rebuttal to Love Wins), Dr. Preston Sprinkle has publicly disclosed his struggle with the “eternal conscious torment” doctrine and has confessed his strong leanings toward Conditional Immortality or annihilationism as a more Biblical view. His recent thoughts on the subject can be found at the site “Rethinking Hell”:

Here are a few snippets from an interview with Chris Date of

Dr. Sprinkle: “…honestly I got so annoyed and frustrated at all the books and articles that were supporting the Traditionalist view, it irritated me to no end. It just seemed very, and I’m definitely not going to name any names, very heartless. They were ranting and raving, almost like they were angry about people who disagreed with their view. And I was like, ‘We’re talking about souls here. Do you realize we’re talking about real people here?!’ It angered me because these are Evangelical writers who are talking about what they think as a doctrine. This ain’t no doctrine, either this is real or its not. And if it’s real then we need to study this with tears and agony…whichever view…because either view is miserable.”

...The conversation then uncovers some false assumptions regarding the Jewish mindset regarding “eternity,” the word “aeonios” and several other hot topics in the debate:

Chris Date: “… Traditionalist authors sometime claim that 1st century Jews were sort of monolithic in their belief in eternal torment, but as you mentioned or sort of hinted at a couple of times here that’s not what you found in your research, is it?”
Dr. Preston Sprinkle: “Not at all, no. I could give you specific references in Jewish documents that are very clearly Annihilationists. In fact that logic shows that whoever said that doesn’t know anything about Judaism because a lot of Jews didn’t have a firm belief in an everlasting afterlife at all.”
Chris presses further to clarify that Dr. Sprinkle has indeed changed his view since co-authoring Erasing Hell:
Chris Date: “…before the book and when the book was published, like Chan, you leaned towards the traditional view. I don’t get the impression that’s the case any longer. So where do you find yourself now and what since the publishing of Erasing Hell has gotten you there?”
Dr. Preston Sprinkle: “Yeah I would say…I would lean towards annihilation now…But I’m not one to hide what I believe. Again going back to my college, one of the blessings of working at a school like that is that…there’s no like weird doctrinal statement that threatens my job at all…[It’s]Be biblical, love Jesus, preach the Gospel, and we’ll keep you on here. So there’s no threat from my church, or from family, or from anyone…there’s nothing like that that’s pressuring me to hold on to a traditional view. I’m kind of a slow thinker in a sense that I don’t mind taking a few years to really work through something before I ultimately land. So going back to your question I would say I lean towards annihilation.”
I am not sure if readers of Erasing Hell clued in to a very definitive summary statement by Chan and Sprinkle in their book. It was easy to miss if you were looking to the book to support your already assumed view of an eternal hell. But Chan and Sprinkle stated clearly that the bottom line was that after all their prayer and study they remained unsure as to the duration and nature of hell and advised us to not make any assumptions until we have studied further. I realize that statement was made within a book that for the most part appeared to be making a VERY dogmatic case for eternal conscious torment but Dr. Sprinkle’s recent admission now gives a lot more credence to their advice on page 86:
The debate about hell’s duration is much more complex than I first assumed. While I lean heavily on the side that says it is everlasting, I am not ready to claim that with complete certainty. I encourage you to continue researching…”
For Sprinkle at least, he would have to change that statement to say he is leaning more heavily towards Conditional Immortality these days. We are thankful for his transparency and honesty regarding his new thoughts on this issue. Even more so we deeply appreciate how he reminds us that this is not about a doctrine but about precious human beings who are made in God’s image. Yes, we had better decide if this is real…as Dr. Sprinkle reminded us, “it’s real people we are talking about.”

*Note: In the interview Dr. Sprinkle explains how he himself did the majority of the research for Erasing Hell as Chan shared that he did not have the time to write a book at that particular time."

Find this article at:  (underlines are mine)

See my thoughts on the book "Erasing Hell" here.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Sprouting eyes to see it

I'm writing these thoughts today to encourage others who have discovered that the traditional hell doctrine is largely unbiblical - and they feel alone in that discovery, as if seeing things no one else can see.

Remember William Wilberforce from the previous post? He and his friends also experienced this phenomenon of exposing a truth - only to be rejected or ignored by the majority (and most notably the powers that were).

“But how is it possible that humanity for so long tolerated what to us is so obviously intolerable? And why did just one small group of people...suddenly see this injustice for what it was? Why in a morally blind world did Wilberforce and a few others suddenly sprout eyes to see it? [They] were something like the characters in horror films who have seen “the monster” and are trying to tell everyone else about it – and no one believes them.” 1

I'm not comparing myself to Wilberforce, but on a smaller scale, it feels as if I've 'seen the monster': eternal conscious torment teaching - and am trying to tell others... but many don't care or even want to investigate to see if it be true. To some, the monster is not monstrous enough - or at least they believe it is a monster placed in our doctrine by God, so it must be tolerated.

Again, I can relate to how Wilberforce must have felt when sharing with seemingly decent human beings the facts on the slave trade - and the facts made no headway in their hearts and mind:

“He hadn't yet seen that respectable gentlemen and noblemen, when presented with evils and cruelties more horrible than they had ever dreamed, would nonetheless yawn and shrug and turn away, or that, given what seemed an exceedingly clear choice between good and evil, they would choose evil... he could hardly believe that others wouldn't leap to do what was right when they finally knew the facts. He was mistaken.” 2

I was naive in my expectations as well. When the facts about ECT are laid out, the case against it is so powerful that I was confident any sincere, Bible-believing follower of Jesus would rush to investigate further and respond in an appropriate manner. I, too, was mistaken.

Then, because of self-consciousness, or perhaps because of the horrid disease of pride called "it's all about me," I thought that people didn't listen or outright rejected the subject because of me. I was the wrong messenger. I was not respectable, not a man, nor seminary educated. And although all that may be true, it turns out the reluctance to re-examine our hell doctrine is a common phenomenon among Christians.

I have to admit, it was comforting to find other believers (respectable, educated men even) who also experienced the very same phenomenon. Greg Stump, in the excellent book "Rethinking Hell: Readings in Evangelical Conditionalism," writes:

"My abiding interest in hell, and the reason why I've poured so much of my thought, resources and conviction into this topic, has to do with the fact that there are so many Christians who claim quite confidently that hell will consist of eternal conscious torment, yet I personally... have found the biblical, theological, and philosophical evidence for this perspective to be weak and insubstantial. In contrast, I discovered that the case for conditional immortality and the final destruction of the unsaved was comprehensive and compelling...

And yet despite my own experience of the inferiority of the traditional view and the seemingly clear evidence and scriptural basis of the conditionalist view, there were so many other thoughtful and intelligent believers who have claimed the exact opposite - in fact, ECT has been the position of the majority of Christians throughout church history. And this is what has made me, and so many others, obsess over the issue.

How can it be that the evidence in favor of conditionalism appears so clear to those of us who have been convinced and yet is received with such skepticism by our fellow Christians? This experience is baffling, having an almost Kafkaesque quality to it, and it is honestly what has driven my own obsessive interest in the topic." 3

I've received messages from believers who felt like they were the only ones in their church to find the doctrine of traditional hell to be unscriptural. They even feel like heretics. Like outsiders. I certainly know how you feel. If it weren't for my husband, I would also be quite alone in this. Yes, we have the Lord, but there is something so very powerful in a united community.

Even so, my friend, be encouraged. After I sprouted eyes to see, it was soon made clear to me that there is a great and growing number of believers who share the same view. So many of them, in fact, that there is a name for this fellowship: conditionalists (simply meaning folks who believe that God's gift of eternal life is conditional). You are certainly not alone.

For those who have eyes to see, those who are sprouting eyes, and for those yet to see - please visit the website and learn what they have to teach. Don't just give lip service to believing Scripture alone, walk in it! And see.

1  Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas. Harper Collins Publishers, New York, NY, 2007, p. xiv
2  Ibid, p. 121
3 "Rethinking Hell: Readings in Evangelical Conditionalism", edited by Chris Date, Greg Stump and Joshua Anderson with a foreword by John G. Stackhouse. Cascade Books, Eugene, Oregon. 2014.