Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sunday Quote: Thomas Aquinas on Hell

“The magnitude of the punishment matches the magnitude of the sin. Now a sin that is against God is infinite; the higher the person against whom it is committed, the graver the sin—it is more criminal to strike a head of state than a private citizen—and God is of infinite greatness. Therefore an infinite punishment is deserved for a sin committed against Him.”

- Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Ia2ae. 87, 4.
[HT: Groothuis]


Anonymous said...

A Quick Note

Aquinas' claim depends on people having immortality inherently. Is such a thing taught in Scripture? If the answer is yes, why would Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:54, desire immortality if he and the rest of mankind already have it?

It'd be a nightmare to think that people have immortality inherently (just for torture's sake).

Thank God for Christ -- Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1, 2) and His cross. Christ Jesus Himself paid the penalty for sins. If the penalty was endless / infinite punishment, then He'd never have been raised. But, thank His God and Father, He has been raised and will never die again.

The varied gruesome details and severity of punishment calculations of "hell" would be best left to the Buddhists, who have thousands they teach. I'm sure they'd be happy to have at least this one part of their teachings be true.

They've got no place in the Old or New Testaments. And we should be very careful not to throw teachings in them that are not there. After all, if you look at the average sermon of a preacher from any denomination, they likely use the word "hell" more than Paul did in his inspired letters. (Paul didn't use any of the three Greek words often translated as "hell" in any of his inspired epistles.)

God will not be angry forever. (Psalm 103:9)


Anonymous said...

This is quite thought provoking. If a single sin deserves infinite punishment because it is done against a being whose quality is infinite, would not the same be true of our good deeds? Why think that only our bad deeds reach Him? God said, “Whatsoever you have done to the least of these, you have done it unto me.” Therefore, our good works should be deserving of infinite praise because they are done to an infinite being. If our deeds affect God in this manner, we would forever be praised and punished throughout all eternity. And, if the punishment for our sins is eternal death, we would have to be both dead and alive at the same time. If the punishment was hell, we would have to inhabit both hell and heaven at the same time.

I think these are some absurdities that can be drawn out once you take Aquinas’s statement to its logical end.

Ex N1hilo said...

Daniel 12:2 (ESV) And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

Isaiah 64:6 (ESV) We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

Walter said...

Interesting comments. I think Ex N1hilo answered the second comment correctly about "good works" with Isaiah 64:6. People are often taken aback by thinking even their best works are not acceptable to God, but that is why no works of ours get us to heaven and why the works of Jesus were required. The only righteousness that qualifies us is Jesus' righteousness - His is of the infinite magnitude (because He is God) needed to overcome an infinite judgment.

With respect to the first comment, I agree we should not throw teachings in that are not there, but it seems to me the view expressed there is contrary to the view of Scripture. Again Ex N1hilo quotes Dan 12:2, that all will rise - some to judgment. In 1 Cor 15:54 I don't see Paul desiring immortality because he doesn't have it already, but expressing the fact that mortality (life in this world where death occurs) will be replaced with immortality where life never ceases, regardless of righteousness. Yet also, immortality and life that overcomes death are two different things; the first means everlasting existence, the second means life with God (eternal life) as opposed to death as an existence apart from God (the spiritual death of Gen 3).

Hell is a nightmare indeed, but I fail to see that immortality exists just for the sake of torture. If that were true, that would be a sick thing. But immortality exists and God gave a way to correct for our fallen condition. If God is good and we reject what is good, we are only left with evil. It would be as much hell if God accepted people into His direct presence who have not been cleansed of their sins - like a leper realizing he is a leper for life because he never took the medicine that healed him when it was available.

Jesus was raised, not because the penalty is infinite, but because He, as God, is also infinite. He could pay for the sins of all if they only placed their sins on Him (the scapegoat of the O.T.).

It may be that truth4taiwan is expressing annihilationism, which at a minimum is contrary to Rev 22:15, but that people are raised again to judgment is clearly in Scripture (Dan 12:2; Heb 9:27-28; Matt 25 (v30,46 in particular; just to name a few)

No one takes pleasure in the idea of eternal judgment, but to sweep it under the rug as a mere interpretation issue, is to sweep the Word of God under the run, something we should not do, just as much as not adding to Scripture.

Anonymous said...


I'm trying to understand how judgment can have an infinite quality. A judgment has parameters and limits in its proclamation and its execution. For instance, if a man physically assaults another without sufficient cause and has done so maliciously, it is rightly judged wrong and the punishment must not exceed the magnitude of the crime. It is also true that the offense reaches God, for this man has offended God's creation whom he loves. If we cannot over-punish, so to speak, then it's logical to speculate that God has limits to his punishments as well. In that sense, we can say his punishment can quite possibly not be infinite.

Walter said...


I agree judgment has parameters and limits in its proclamation and execution by God's own law. Any crime committed against another deserves equal retribution. As such, the wages or judgment against sin is spiritual death (Rom 6:23; initially, Gen 2:17). It is clear from Gen 3 that the result of not heeding God's words is separation for the tree of life which is a spiritual separation as well as eventual physical death. Now this may seem excessive for the act, but let me answer something you said in your previous post: "if the punishment for our sins is eternal death, we would have to be both dead and alive at the same time. If the punishment was hell, we would have to inhabit both hell and heaven at the same time."

First, all will be resurrected, so all will be "alive" in a physical sense. All who do not have access to the tree of life remain spiritual dead.(I can't say I fully understand the relationship of the "tree" and Jesus, but I assume they are related or identical in some sense - may the tree of life is the cross?) So you DO have a case where you are dead and alive at the same time. I actually thing of it as the living dead - zombie like. The best analogy I have is a drunkard who has lost everything worth living life for and is laying in a ditch - alive physically, but dead for all practical purposes.

On the being in heaven and hell simultaneously, I have long interpreted, and I may be wrong, that the lake of fire is the glory of God against unforgiven sin after the judgment and the veil of God has been lifted so that no one can avoid His glory. In that sense, heaven and hell are the same place. That may not be the case, but it that is what I have thought and it is interesting that you mention it.

I hope that helps some.

Walter said...

To finish out the last post, if eternal judgment is the holiness of God, His full perfection, shining against or illuminating the rebellious life for what it is of a resurrected person with perfect memory; and eternal life is the holiness of God permeating the life of a person who has no sin (removed by the cross), then you have the logical consequences of rejecting Jesus and accepting Jesus' works of righteousness. This would be like the light from the sun reflecting off something that is perfectly reflecting versus the light being absorbed by defects causing the mirror to eventually burn itself up (I work in the laser field and this is a great analogy). The judgment cannot help but be infinite in that God is infinite. Only a defect free person can be in the presence of God. This is due to the nature of God and cannot be any other way. The Bible uses the terms judgment, which is correct, but more than anything, it is the consequences of having sin and not being covered by the blood of Jesus. We can't get too hung up about the magnitude of the sin versus the magnitude of the judgment when it all comes down to the nature of God.

Anonymous said...


I like your idea concerning heaven and hell possibly being the same place. I must give it more thought. I take it then, that you think sinners will be destroyed by the fully revealed glory of God. Or maybe they will continue to exist in this "hellish" light for all eternity. What do you do with the story of the rich man in hell?

Concerning infinite judgment or punishment, could you give a definition of such a thing? I can understand that God has infinite qualities of love, judgment, mercy, holiness, purity and so on. But, an infinite quality of judgment doesn't necessarily lead to infinite consecutive moments of punishment. At the very least, it would lead to punishment free from error and corruption. Also, an actual infinite number of things cannot exist. It leads to absurdities.

Walter said...


I understand it to be the "hellish" light for all eternity. The rich man is in the interim place prior to the resurrection and judgment. Because God is still "veiled" at this point, he is truly separated from God in a disembodied spiritual existence in the outer darkness - a place of anguish, but not necessarily the "infinite" judgment, yet. The rich man story is a parable, but I do think it represents an interim reality.

Infinity is the degree, eternity is the time, if you can call that time. Given that, you do not need to transpire an infinite amount of time. The point is that it is everlasting with infinite degree (I suppose that suffices for a definition).

I think the symbolism for hell in the Bible is to make the point that the degree is not equal to a vacation at Disneyworld, rather it is the worse than anything we can imagine. God's holiness is infinite compared to even one sin. I do believe the Bible speaks of degrees of punishment as well as degrees of reward. But even so, it is seriously bad.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your contributions, everyone.

Two points:

1) our current body is mortal and it can die (1 Corinthians 15:53);

2) our soul (Greek "psuche") is mortal and it can be destroyed (Matthew 10:28).

So, we don't have immortality at this point in the history of the Universe. If we did, Paul would not be inspired to use the verb phrase "put on" (indicating an external origin) for it in 1 Corinthians 15:53.

1) Since we don't have an immortal body or soul, what exactly is able to be subject to unending torment in a lake of fire, if the tradition doctrine of "hell" were true?

2) Since we don't have an immortal body or soul, then immortality would have to be given to us by God. If a person is to spend an unending amount of time in a place of torment, they must be immortal. So, doesn't that indicate that God would be giving the bulk of mankind immortality merely to endure unending torture?

Honestly speaking, such a concept is, as Walter admits, "sick"; I can't ascribe such characteristics to the God and Father of the Lord Jesus, Whom He teaches us to worship in spirit and in truth. Yet that is the logic. But more than that I think such a concept overlooks the accomplishments of Jesus on the cross and the ultimate plan of God as revealed in the New Testament.

What is the ultimate plan?

To reconcile everyone and everything to Himself through the Lord Jesus (Colossians 1:20; 1 Corinthians 15:22; 2 Corinthians 5:19; Romans 8:21; Philippians 2:10). I think the concept does away with annihilation (destruction can relate to current life and life in the 1,000 year kingdom when the Son of Man [Jesus] sits on His throne to rule the nations) and it does away with eternal / unending torment. If there's any death in the universe in any form anywhere, then it is not a conquered enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26).

So, judgment is a part of God's ultimate plan; to correct what is wrong. It's interesting what the verses in Daniel don't say. They don't say "eternal / unending punishment".

John 3:17 - "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."

Will he do it?


Walter said...


"2) our soul (Greek "psuche") is mortal and it can be destroyed" That God can destroy the soul does not mean that it does not normally persist. The implication is that it does. Also, what is meant by "destroy"? Something can be destroyed effectively and not obliterated physically. (The life of the drunkard as an example.)

"1) Since we don't have an immortal body or soul, what exactly is able to be subject to unending torment in a lake of fire, if the tradition doctrine of "hell" were true?" I don't understand why you ignore the very thing Paul said you do put on? According to Dan 12:2, ALL people will be resurrected. That we have a mortal body now does not negate having an immortal body later (and yes, God gives it to us). Besides that, the soul IS perpetual unless God were to annihilate it and can persist in anguish even if there were no bodily resurrection.

"more than that I think such a concept overlooks the accomplishments of Jesus on the cross and the ultimate plan of God as revealed in the New Testament." You believe that people should be saved who don't want to be saved? Jesus died for those who know Him (Jn 10). He tells those who don't know Him to depart from Him. What does He mean there, if not to judgment?

Does it make logical sense that someone be resurrected to stand before the judge and then be annihilated? Why even bother? Why not let the death stand?

Who are the people in Rev 22:15? They don't seem to be annihilated to me. They are outside from where those who are blessed are.

I think you are implying from Jn 3:17 that all people will be saved. He didn't come (first time) to condemn because people they were already condemned (the next verse). He came to provide the life line for those who will grab hold of it. To "save the world" does not mean "save the whole world," especially in light of Jesus' own words about condemnation throughout the gospels.

Don't get me wrong, in that I do not want hell to be true any more than you, but I honestly believe you are reading into Scripture what you want it to say, picking selective verses to make your case. I have tried to see if I couldn't see things the way you are saying, but as I pray and pray about it, I believe the Holy Spirit has convicted me to stay true to the WHOLE counsel of Scripture and it is very very clear. I would have to do more hermeneutical gymnastics of Scripture to deny hell. Universal salvation is opposed to the freewill of man and creation in the first place is a farce if even those who hate God can be made to love Him. Why not make us all robots in the first place?

One thing that I think we can all agree on is that God's judgements are just and fair. How that is the case can boggle our minds, but there is no doubt in my mind that it is true. However, that does not mean that we twist Scripture to fit our own understanding.

Anonymous said...

Walter, I certainly appreciate your input on this important issue (as all issues related to Scripture are), even though I don't appreciate the accusations that I'm twisting Scripture or, indirectly so, "hermeneutical gymnastics". But I do understand why you say them.

If we review the Aquinas quote, he states that the punishment doesn't fit the crime. Instead, it is determined against whom the crime is committed. Where do the Scriptures teach that (infinite / unending punishment for a finite crime)?

In reference to the people of Revelation 22:15, maybe we are miscommunicating because we're mixing up two different time periods, one the age of the 1,000 year kingdom, the other the ultimate reconciliation of the Universe (Colossians 1:20; 1 Corinthians 15:22; 2 Corinthians 5:19; Romans 8:21; Philippians 2:10). In that age, death will no longer exist, because we're promised it'll be destroyed.

By the way, I never said "hell" wasn't real. I was just disagree with the common description of it being a place of unending torment, as maybe you, many others, and Aquinas may believe.

"He came to provide the life line for those who will grab hold of it."

So, are you saying we are saved because we "grab hold of it" -- that is, we save ourselves, in actuality? (That's the implication.) Faith, belief, and trust are gifts that God gives to us. We don't earn them. Left to ourselves, we'd be just like those who don't believe -- we didn't want to be saved. Yet God, in His Grace and Mercy, gives us those things so that we can participate in His Great Work through His Son Jesus, namely: the reconciliation of creation.

Romans 9 deals with the subject of "robots". Scripture has a very simple and more humbling description of humans: clay.

Check this out: Romans 9:16 ~ 19.

I'm going to go study some more Scripture.


Walter said...


I just had a long reply and lost it when I went to post it. So I'll condense more this time.

I apologize for any accusations. I was talking about myself but can see, now that you mention it, the implication of what I said.

Aquinas DOES say the punishment fits the crime. A crime against a head of state is more serious that one against someone else. You may see everybody as the same and that could influence your reading of what he said. The point he is trying to make though, is that God in infinitely holy and for that very reason, any sin in His presence, is infinitely painful.

I am not saying that grabbing the life line is saving ourselves. Without Jesus' death, there would be no line, and without faith, we wouldn't see it to grab hold of it. I believe God draws us to Himself, but I don't think He holds our hands or operates us like a robot to make us do anything outside of our own freewill.

Do you think Rev 22:15 is a parenthesis? In a normal progression of narrative, it seems that the new heaven and earth have already been brought into existence and these people our outside of that city. Rev 21:27 says that nothing impure can enter, as if such could happen. I don't think Rev 21 and 22 are the 1000 years. That is in chap 20, however.

Romans 9 talks about the sovereignty of God to choose what He will for His purposes. It is not saying anything about anybody being forced to love Him and being made a robot. When God used Pharaoh, He did not go outside of Pharaoh's own will to do so. I do believe that foreknowledge is a true foreknowledge and that when God rose up Pharaoh, He did so knowing that Pharaoh would be the man for the job.

In terms of Scriptures about unending punishment, Mk 9:42-48, speaks of being thrown into hell where the fire never goes out nor the worm dies. It is possible to say that one can being completely and totally destroyed while those things persist, but why say they never end if there is not a meaning relative to the punishment?

I cited Dan 12:2 previously. You had said everlasting contempt does not mean infinite judgment. However, whenever eternal or everlasting are used in reference to God, it always means without bounds. God has no bounds in any of His nature. Eternal condemnation is without bound. If we place a limit on what eternal means when God is in view, then by implication, we have also limited eternal life. We have no good reason to limit one and not the other than to read into a text what we want it to mean.

A good book that discusses all the views (such as universalism and annihilationism) and the meaning of the word "eternal" is "Hell Under Fire," gen eds, Morgan and Peterson. I think it shows why the plain and straightforward reading of Scripture and the orthodox view held for two thousand years makes the most sense.

Anonymous said...

If the position of unending (pointless) torment were the orthodox view held for 2,000 years, where did it come from?

The letters of Paul make no mention of such a place. Even Peter and Jude's references to what is commonly translated "hell" show that "Tartarus" is a place for disobedient angels, not humans.

And not that Jesus' use of the phrases "worm dieth not" and "the fire is not quenched" come from Isaiah 66:24 where, interestingly, we don't read of endless torture, but of dead (human) bodies:

"And they will go out and look upon the dead bodies (literally: “of the men the corpses”) of those who rebelled against me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind."

The Valley of Hinnom, known in the past for being the very place Israel burned their children to Moloch (Jeremiah 32:35).

I’m of the opinion that the valley will serve as the place where dead bodies are burned during the 1,000 kingdom. After all, when Christ Jesus returns, He will place His feet on the Mount of Olives and it will split. This could likely create a situation in which the Dead Sea will become a literal lake of fire, as it has been known to have been in the recent and ancient past. I think we’re given a glimpse of the operation of the kingdom in Acts 5 when Ananias and Sapphira try to lie about the money they received for the plot of land they had sold. They died instantly and they were taken out to be buried.

It is also interesting to note that if "hell" were a lake of fire and unending torment, how could it be thrown into the lake of fire as we are told will happen in Revelation 20:14. A lake of fire thrown into a lake of fire?

Thankfully, we have this promise in Psalm 103:8 - 10:

8 The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.

Wonder what Aquinas thought of that psalm?


Walter said...


Mt 25:41, in the reference about the sheep and goats at judgment, Jesus says that those who did not feed, give drink, and clothe those in deed are cursed and to depart to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians 1 about eternal destruction from God's flaming fire on those who don't know God and those who don't obey the gospel.

Rev 14:9-11, “If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he will also drink the wine of God’s wrath, which is mixed full strength in the cup of His anger. He will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the sight of the holy angels and in the sight of the Lamb, and the smoke of their torment will go up forever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or anyone who receives the mark of his name.

So, it seems that the orthodox view originated with Jesus' own words which Paul and John did also convey.

No doubt the valley of Hinnom is in view at the end of Isaiah, but to understand its context relative to the new heavens and earth, I need to study it more.

I don't think most references to "hell" are referring to the lake of fire. There seems to be an intermediate state, an outer darkness where there is gnashing of teeth. This is a spiritual domain while the bodies lay dead in the grave. At the judgment, all bodies are resurrected, judged, and those who are condemned are thrown into the lake of fire which is the place prepared for the devil and never ceases. It is the abode of the dead, both the spiritual and the physical abodes, that are thrown into the lake of fire as best as I can tell. Sometimes this gets confused and I think people lump the lake of fire into the catchall term "hell."

I'm not an Aquinas expert, but I would think he would not see Psalm 103 in conflict with his view of hell since it pertains to those who are saved. They don't deserve it, but because they trust God in faith, they are saved. Hell is reserved for those who oppose God.

Davitor said...

An eternity of torment for me is to think of how much time has been spent by men throughout history debating scripture back and forth with no solution, with what could have been simply resolved with the most the obvious of truth.
If you can't handle this truth then please keep debating.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the thoughtful comments, Walter. I will consider the things you say and take them to the Scriptures as I study them. You've already help me notice some things that I didn't note before. I appreciate that. I actually agree with your assessment that "At the judgment, all bodies are resurrected, judged, and those who are condemned are thrown into the lake of fire which is the place prepared for the devil and never ceases." I would only add that the worm never dies (Is there only 1 worm?) and the flamse never dies until death is abolished at the end of history, which takes place after the 1,000 year kingdom, from my perspective.

Maybe it will be that the people outside the city during the kingdom (where there is gnashing of teeth) are those awaiting their individual judgment? (Just thinking out loud...)

But I think Romans 5:15 - 19 is very clear about the fate of humanity in the end because of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus. It says:

"18 Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous."

That is the amazing accomplishments of God through His Son, Jesus. The gift is not like the tresspass. The tresspass made us all sinners, but, thank the God and Father of Jesus, His obedience makes us righteous (not any act we did).

And Paul is pointing to the ultimate end of history after the thousand year kingdom, where it's likely that the valley of Hinnom may be used as the place of capital punishment.

But I do appreciate your kindness and I need to spend more time in Scripture, especially the difficult to understand Revelation. That I will do now...


Oh, by the way, if you get the chance, check out a book called, "Universalism, The Prevailing Doctrine of The Christian Church During Its First Five Hundred Years" (That is "universalism" as in the salvation of all, not as in the false notion that "every path leads to God" sense. It's universal salvation, through judgment and through Jesus only.)

In closing, let's consider the implications of Philippians 2:9 - 11:

"9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

Grace and peace to you, Walter.


PS - Davitor, Your input is welcomed and appreciated, but I'm not sure how to respond to such a cryptic statement. What is the "obvious of truth"?

Thanks in advance!

Walter said...


Thanks for your interaction as well. There are some things I need to go back and look at as well to make sure I'm being honest with the text. I will say that the possibility of annihilationism is one thing, but I see too many contradictions relative to universalism - mostly Jesus' own words. I have read works on universalism, but not the one you mentioned. I'll see if I can find it in the library and look it over. I have not studied in any depth what the church fathers before Augustine had taught.

I just have one comment left:
' so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous." '

The justification that brings life for all men does not mean all men accept it. The last part of the verse says that many will be made righteous, not all.

I also do believe every knee will bow, when everyone faces Jesus. Some will bow in reverence to the one they admire, and some will bow in defeat to the one they have despised.

Grace and peace to you as well, and many blessings as you walk and grow with Christ.

Walter said...


I should have thought to mention looking at Gary Habermas' stuff on afterlife. There is strong evidence that suggests that there is life after death in a spiritual/soulish sense. See:

Also, I just started reading a book by a fried of mine called, "Death is a Doorway," by Braxton Hunter.

These references may help with your initial questions about whether there is any evidence of continuation of the soul. Dr. Habermas' data is documented scientific type evidence and he has published a book with J.P. Moreland (however I think it is out of print). Braxton refers to some of that evidence.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for information about Habermas' work on the afterlife. I think he does fantastic work on the resurrection, I'm just very skeptical of "afterlife experiences".

By the way, check out the Greek used in Romans 5:18 and 19. It is equating the extent of the people affected by the transgression of Adam to the number of people who are and will be affected by the obedience of Christ's righteousness. In fact, in verse 19, the word translated "the many" is "oi polloi" in both instances. This is how you would have to translate it to be consistent:

Romans 5:19 - "For just as through the disobedience of the one man [many, but not all] were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man [many, but not all] will be made righteous."

Are all people sinners, or "many, but not all"?

As a person who works in the translating field, I was curious how translators of the RCUV (Revised Chinese Union Version) translated this verse. For "oi polloi", the used "zhong4 ren2", which, in English, means "everybody" or "the masses".

Just throwing this out there for consideration. I think Christ Jesus is more powerful than Adam and He has and will accomplish much more than Adam did. After all, the gift is not like the transgression.

Grace and peace,


Davitor said...

Hi Joshua,
The bible is brilliant library of inspired books written by men & women who were inspired to try to understand this greater principle or force that control our universe, but to miniscule this principle force to this ancient logic is rather crippling.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Davitor.

You'll have to help me out with your second cryptic response. I'm not an intelligent person, so you'll have to speak clearly and comprehensibly to me. Sorry!

Are you saying that God is "greater principle or force that control our universe"?

If you are, I sincerely hope you're not taking the personal Creator -- the God and Father of Jesus, Who reveals Himself in personal ways through both the Scriptures and, most personally, the Person of His Son, Jesus -- and making Him into an impersonal "It". I don't know how much there is to, in what you seem to be indicating, an impersonal, cosmic tornado.

Less Star Wars, more Bible. Less Laozi (Lao Tzu), more Christ.


Walter said...


I am skeptical of most near death claims as well, but some of the cases Habermas cites can't be explained accept that there is some out of body experience that is real - such as a person laying in a hospital, clinically dead, knowing all the details of events that happened at that time well away from the hospital.

On Romans 5:18-19. In verse 18 it says all are condemned by Adam's sin, but Jesus' act of righteousness brings life to/for all men. I said previously that just because Jesus made life available to all (so much for limited atonement!), not all necessarily accept it. Now, in verse 19 we do have "the many/oi polloi" on both sides of the equation. Many are made sinners and many are made righteous. Since verse 18 says all are sinners, what of the many in 19? (Many does not usually mean all.) Maybe there is a relationship between the many who are made sinners and the many who are made righteous, as in, maybe they are the same "many"? I believe that verse 19 is elaborating on the end of verse 18, given the "for just as/hosper gar". Also, both verses are elaborating on verse 17 which says that because of one man, death reigned (and because of vv12 & 18, that death came to ALL men), and God's grace came to THOSE WHO RECEIVE the gift of life through Jesus Christ (not necessarily all).

So if we are anchored to verses 12 and 17, then we see that v18 says all men are already condemned (consistent with Jn 3:18), but the gift of life is made available to all, where v17 implies that not all receive it, and v18 then says that those who do receive it, that even though they were made sinners by Adam's disobedience, through Christ they are made alive (the many who will be saved).

I will grant you that despite what I just said, if I had nothing but these verses, I might likely believe in universalism. It isn't absolutely clear that "the many" are the same people. However, it is somewhat ambiguous, so given the whole counsel of God, I read it as limited salvation and "the many" are the same people.

Walter said...


Also, as you probably know, use of the article "oi" designates a specific "many", i.e., THE many. It doesn't say many are were made sinners and many are made righteous, but "THE many" were made sinners and "THE many" were made righteous. The use of the article brings a stronger case to "the many" being the same persons.

Davitor said...

Find Joshua, just don't make the bible your golden calf rather find out what it's pointing to. God bless you.

Anonymous said...

The phrase "oi polloi" means, "the masses"; the groups are designed: 1) Adam and "the masses" (not including Adam) and; 2) Jesus and "the masses" (not including Jesus).

Did I forget to pull out 1 Corinthians 15:22?

1 Corinthians 15:22 - "For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive."

And this one:

Colossians 1:20 - "...and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross."

But let's assume for the sake of argument that those verses in Romans (and verse 17) are pointing to a "limited salvation". What kind of number would you put on that?

There are 1.6 billion or so people alive today calling themselves "Christians" are truly "Christians", including Catholics and every denomination under the sun (whether or not they are is a matter for a different post). There are 6.6 billion people alive today. What fraction of 6.6 billion is 1.6 billion? Is that enough to constitute "THE many / oi polloi"?

Add to that the number of people throughout history. Let's just assume a low number of 110 billion people. What percentage would be great enough to constitute "THE many / oi polloi"? (I'd say that you'd need at least half those people to be genuine Christians, not just claiming to be one.) So, have been 55 billion Christians who've ever lived?

When God first graciously granted me belief in His Son, Jesus, my mind immediately turned to China - His plan must include them. As I read records of people who visited there in the 1800s and 1900s, the people lived in misery and filthy that would make the hardest heart cringe. There was no overy display of God's grace, love, or life there. Yet, according to a theology that makes Adam greater than Christ Jesus (!), we want to consign the masses of the Chinese to a place of eternal torment on par with the demon-inspired teachings of Buddhism of such places?! It would have been better if they had never lived than to live in misery for 70 years and then in torment with no end.

This could be multiplied by adding different peoples of various nations, too.

In the end, "THE many / oi polloi" would not be "THE many / oi polloi". In actuality, it would be "THE minority".

Anonymous said...

And I do account for the "the whole counsel of God", though I've still got a lot to learn and we all need God's grace to grow therein. There will be judgment. There will be a "gehenna of fire". These are processes to the goal. At the end of human-dominated history, which Paul is pointing to, "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:8 - 10)

While I appreciate your considerate input, no one can strip that promise out of my mind. Let it be known: Jesus is greater than Adam. Jesus' obedience to the will of His God and Father will do more for humanity than Adam's disobedience has done. These are verses that record this:

1 Timothy 4:10, 1 Corinthians 15:22, 1 Timothy 2:6, Colossians 1:20, Ephesians 1:10, Romans 11:32, Romans 11:36, and Romans 5:18.

As for the near-death experiences, if God had wanted to approve of such a thing, I'm sure Lazarus would have had plenty to say. The Scriptures teach that the dead are dead, not alive in some other sphere of existence. And I'm assuming that everyone of those people who had an NDE is alive, right? That means they were never truly dead, in the biblical sense.


Not sure how an impersonal force can perform a personal act such as blessing, but thanks for your kind words. Maybe you should crack open the Bible and put down the Dao De Jing. I've already read the Dao De Jing, so I've already had my fill of teachings regarding an impersonal, undefinable principle. I will never bow to a cosmic wind. I hope you haven't!


Walter said...

No doubt Jesus is greater than Adam, Joshua. But that doesn't mean all are saved. Even with eternal condemnation of those who don't know Him he is greater than Adam for saving those who do know Him. Maybe you are right, but in the mean time, we need to reach as many people for Jesus as possible just in case you are wrong. What you have done is turned hell into purgatory and I'm not willing to take my chances with that one for those who can still be reached.

Even though it is a parable, when Jesus said of the rich man in agony, "And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’" that He was speaking of a truth - that the chasm cannot be crossed once it is fixed by death. It doesn't sound like purgatory to me.

I believe people are accountable for what they have been given and all people are without excuse. It is possible that God has elected some outside of the normal means of preaching the gospel. However, each is appointed a time and place and now is the time to reach all people in all places and trust that God knows what He is doing and is fair and righteous about it.

I'll be looking into it more. But I think we have said about all that can be said on this for now.

God bless and maybe I'll see you in China someday.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to add this one last thing, Walter:

I urge you and anyone reading these posts to read Romans 5, Romans 8, Colossians 1, 1 Corinthians 15, Ephesians 1, and 1 Timothy closely. Also read the 1899 book by JW Hanson called, "Universalism, the prevailing doctrine of the Christian church during its first 500 years". (It's free on

Consider the points in the posts above, whether the phrase "THE many / oi polloi" actually means "THE minority" and so on.

I have not turned hell into some sort of purgatory. Dead people are dead. They are not green ghosts floating in some netherworld jail cell. The "gehenna of fire" (hell) that Jesus spoke of will likely be spot employed for the burning of bodies during the 1,000-year kingdom. The "Tartarus" (hell) that Peter spoke of is for disobedient angels, not human beings. Paul never wrote on "hell".

The point of Jesus' parable was, "'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'" (Luke 16:31) He was showcasing the stubbornness of Israel, as He did many other times. It was not a treatise on the unscriptural term "afterlife".

If I may add, I do currently live in a disputed "province" of China. By the grace of God, I'm living, learning, and laboring here. So, these are not just empty claims and prayers on behalf of the Chinese. I do and desire to more actively participate in God's work through Jesus -- the reconciliation. The "turn-or-burn" of Christendom is not scriptural motivation for those of us who labor in this with pure motives that seek to glorify God through announcing the Good News of His Son Jesus' life, death, and resurrection.

I'm just thankful that it is God Who gives us belief and faith. It is not the result of our own actions. (Philippians 1:29; Ephesians 2:9)

There will be judgment and it will try these teachings. Let's wait and see how each of our own works stand in that Day.

Grace and peace,


Davitor said...

Joshua what can be more personal than knowing your every thought. What can be more personal than the energy that sustain your body intact. If this force were to leave you would disintegrate in less than a mili-second. Bending your knees is just an ancient way of acknowledging this force. Don't get lost with the ancient time an it's limits of vocabulary. Otherwise you will spend your entire life trying to make it compatible.

Cody Cook said...

If Aquinas is right, then sinners in hell must be suffering infinite punishment at every moment for eternity. If this is the case, then how could Jesus speak of degrees of punishment? Furthermore, can a finite creature experience infinite punishment? Unless the punishment is everlasting destruction, the answer seems to be clearly no.

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