In the last couple of weeks Gav the friendly Anglican and I (as well as others) have been discussing download puffy chair the how we arrive at truth and how we can know things for sure. We have had a great conversation even if we haven’t always agreed.
Today Danelle & I went to Scarborough Baptist Church and Andre was speaking on eschatology, especially the whole idea of heaven and what that means and looks like. It challenged a few people as he questioned the typical view we grew up with and dug into the idea of new creation etc.
In our conversation afterwards I asked him about what I had heard re the shift in evangelical academic circles to an annihalationist view of hell and how that had happened. He told me it was primarily because John Stott had ‘shifted’ that the view had gained credibility. Because he is such a heavy hitter people pay attention. So it seems the more orthodox view of Hell as eternal conscious torment does not wash with Stott and he offers some compelling reasons for viewing things differently. (I’ll write more on that later)
However what I liked in this chapter (from Evangelical Essentials – Liberal Evangelical Dialogue) was the approach he described to how we think thru our theology and view the gospel. He suggests we need to avoid the two extremes of ‘fixity’ and ‘fluidity’.
I will offer some quotes below as I found them insightful:
“The first (extreme) is total fixity. Some Christians (including some of us Evangelicals) are in bondage to words and formulae, the prisoners of a gospel stereotype. They wrap up their message in a neat little package, almost labelled and price tagged as if destined for the supermarket. Then unless their precise schema and their favourite phraseology are used they declare that the gospel has not been preached. For many Evangelicals it used to be ‘the precious blood of Jesus’. Now for some it is being born again or justified by faith, and for others the kingdom of God…” p.329
“The opposite extreme to avoid is total fluidity… (he describes this as ‘not even knowing what the gospel is until you enter a specific context) what the advocates of total fluidity seem not to have noticed is that alongside the New Testament’s rich diversity of gospel formulation, there is an underlying unity which binds the different formulations together.”
Stott suggest that both extremes make valuable points:
a) Fixity = “the gospel is revealed and received – we did not invent it”
b) Fuidity = “the gospel needs to be contextualised and related to the specific person or people group otherwise it is irrelevant.”
I found these helpful and humble words from a man who would have more right than most of us to see his views as ‘correct’. And I would add, if we need to live with the tension of fixity and fluidity in relation to the gospel then how much more in relation to more tenuous or less central theological understandings…
One thing that I’m wrestling with is understanding God’s tensions. He loves people yet is willing to judge them as well. God may have one attribute but their are others that seem to oppose those.
I’m reading “The Jesus Way” by Eugene Peterson and it’s helping me to work through this (if that’s totally possible).
Good post mate. Lots to think about. I kind of like the tensions of God – keeps me assured that we’re not simply creating him in our own image! Someone told me once they considered Stott a heretic because of discussions on annihilationism. A bit sad if we get to the stage of calling John Stott a heretic.
” So it seems the more orthodox view of Hell as eternal conscious torment”
On what basis do you make this claim? What’s orthodox about it?
Certainly not big “O” Orthodox (as in Eastern Orthodox), who as I understand it hold that those suffering torment in hell can still turn to God and be saved.
Certainly not the view of one of Christianity’s first major theologians, Origen, who believed that all creation would ultimately be redeemed.
It doesn’t actually seem to be Paul’s consistent view, if you take his argument in Romans 5 seriously.
So how is it “orthodox”?
Jenno – I only have a min, but substitute conventional for orthodox if you like. I wasn’t using it in a strictly theological sense. It is the normativeview in evangelical circles, true?
A universalist approach is typically not a feature of evangelical theology.