Is it ever ethical to attempt to persuade others to change their religion, worldview or other fundamental belief? This endeavor has received in the recent years increasing line of criticism. In January 2001 in South Asia, Dalai Lama has condemned Christian and Muslim practice of seeking converts, “Whether Hindu or Muslim or Christian, whoever tries to convert, it’s wrong, not good.” (Thiessen, 2011, p. 6).Richards, Svendsen and Bless aptly describe the sorts of pressures restricting the ability to engage in religious persuasion as “an increasing apathy of secular states towards the importance of religious freedom and the exclusion of religion from the public square; the preclusive dominance of established ideologies in other states; consolidations of power by authoritarian regimes; worries about the destabilizing influence of new or unfamiliar religious movements, religious extremism, or terrorism; a downgrading of religious freedom rights vis-á-vis these other human rights; the marginalization of minority religions; reactions against globalization or perceived neo-colonialism; burgeoning state and transnational regimes; expanding notions of privacy; and transforming modes of communication” (2011, p. 154). Martin E. Marty suggests that “[t]he proselytizer violates boundaries and disrupts traditions” (Ibid.). Novak explaining why Jews are resenting those who proselytize says that they come across as people who “feel no moral compunction in denigrating other faiths and their cultures for the sake of cajoling their adherents to cease being what they have been and change their identity to becoming what the missionaries are” (1999, p. 43). At last, many people perceive a connection between religious proselytizing and violence. Sociologists Grim and Finke found that “violent religious persecution is pervasive. Of 143 countries…, 86 percent (123 countries) have documented cases of people being physically abused or displaced from their homes because of …religious persecution” (Richards, Svendsen, Bless, 2011, p. 156). Read the rest of this entry »
An ancient Near Eastern psalmist wrote, “One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4, King James Version). There is an innate desire of supernaturalism. This is why most societies on earth held to kinds of beliefs in deities. In 16th century, John Calvin grounds his religious epistemology in what he calls sensus divinitatis. According to Calvin, all people have a sense, not only of the existence of a Creator-God (Helm, 1998, p. 93), but also of a “positive affective and conative condition towards” Him (Helm, 1998, p. 88).
Calvin does not, by means of modern apologetics; attempt to prove his claims, as he suggests that this sense is simply based on innate, properly functioning capacities (Helm, 1998, p. 93). To clarify what Calvin means, Helm (1998) writes, “Calvin does not say that all men believe in God; he says that all men have the seed of religion, the disposition to believe in God” (p. 105). In 20th century, C. S. Lewis (2001) equally argued that creatures possess innate desires that correspond to their satisfaction. If an innate desire finds no satisfaction in this world, it is probable that there is another world beyond it.
Alvin Plantinga (1981) proposes that the belief in God, in absence of a defeater, needs not to be based on other beliefs or propositions; but one is perfectly rational in accepting it, just as he accepts the reality of past events, actuality of the world around us or existence of other minds.
Not only theology and philosophy has focused on this question; preponderance of scientific evidence emerging from cognitive science suggests that beliefs about the existence of God(s), dualism, afterlife or moral realism are not explicitly cultural indoctrinated ideas. They are intuitive innate implicit beliefs. (Bering, 2006). On the contrary, disbelief in supernatural “requires some hard cognitive work to reject or override the intuitions that nourish religious beliefs” (Norenzayan & Gervais, 2013, p. 20). Bering (2010) goes as far as to say about atheists that, “this self-classification has little – if any – bearing on what actually happens inside their head” (p.167). This does not show that these biases lead to a specific understanding of God(s), it merely points towards a conclusion that humans are wired to be intuitive theists, believing in transcendent beings. Therefore, also children not exposed to socio-cultural influence would naturally come to hold such beliefs. Banerjee and Bloom (2013), dissent from the consensus view, nevertheless they suggest we are prone to hold similar conceptions, as our “cognitive biases make humans ‘receptive’ to religious ideas, but do not themselves generate them” (p. 7). Read the rest of this entry »
“Among denominations in contemporary evangelicalism, Methodists and Nazarenes tend to be thoroughly Arminian, whereas Presbyterians and the Christian Reformed tend to be thoroughly Reformed (at least by denominational statement of faith). Both views are found among Baptists…” p. 338
“There is a long history of acceptance of the doctrine [of election] as here presented, but many others have objected to it as well. Among current evangelicals, those in more Reformed or Calvinistic circles will accept this view, as will many Lutherans and Anglicans and a large number of Baptists and people in independent churches.” p. 680
“Many within the Wesleyan/Arminian tradition have held that it is possible for someone who is truly born again to lose his or her salvation, while Reformed Christians have held that that is not possible for someone who is truly born again. Most Baptists have followed the Reformed tradition at this point; however, they have frequently used the term “eternal security” or the “eternal security of the believer” rather than the term “perseverance of the saints“. p. 788-789
Thus we might conclude that the Baptist tradition has not always been strongly rooted in the Arminian view, but has a history of a considerable Reformed influence. More importantly, in order to uphold one of the core values of the contemporary Baptist movement, namely discussion, we might expect to be engaged and welcome a similar debate among ourselves also today.
Grudem, W. (1994) Systematic Theology. England: Intervarsity Press.
Still, how could Colton see all this? His father Todd mentioned a possibility of “heaven time”, suggesting that concepts of – past, present and future are perhaps valid only for earth, while time in heaven might not be linear. The nature of time and Gods relation to it is closely related both to our individual but also collective future “times” and I will assess it at least briefly. Grudem agrees with God being a timeless being, which does not experience a succession of moments, as his experience of time is qualitatively different. He does not attempt to specify how this could be but only writes, “To God himself, all of his existence is always somehow “present,” (Grudem 1994: 169). Divine timelessness has been the dominant view of Christian orthodoxy throughout the history of the church. However, Grudem suggests that it is not true that heaven itself will be timeless. Based on several descriptions of heaven from the book of revelation he argues that “there will be a succession of moments one after another” and that we will not experience “an exact duplication of God’s attribute of eternity” (Grudem 1994: 173). Others like Professor William Lane Craig, who worked extensively with the Christian philosophy of time deny divine omnitemporality altogether. Craig argues for temporal becoming or a dynamic theory of time (also called an A-Theory of time) in which past is no longer here, future has yet to come and the only thing that is really in existence is present. In his essay “God, Time, and Eternity”, he concludes: “God is timeless without creation and temporal subsequent to creation.” (Craig 2002).
In both cases, Todd’s proposition of heaven time seems inadequate. Cessation or interfusion of time after our physical death is certainly not a doctrine held by most mainstream evangelicals; neither has it been well established in the belief systems of other major Christian denominations. Read the rest of this entry »
A New York Times article from March 11, 2011 describes the Thomas Nelson broken sales records after publishing the book “Heaven is for Real. While there were initially in print only 40,000 copies, this book has gone back to press 22 times, now reaching 8 million printed copies. In a similar article almost 3 years later, we follow its still continuing success on popular bestseller lists. With the TriStar Pictures movie version of this book, released on April 16, 2014 this story became a great deal of the western popular discussion about heaven and the life after life. In the following lines I will analyze some of the main ideas one can extract from reading this book and compare them to what some of the Biblical scholars have over centuries orderly summarized in doctrines of eschatology. After all the reasoning I will try to show how can we correctly understand what truly happened but also what meaning can Colton’s story have for you.
Heaven is for Real
Over 6000 Amazon customer reviews speak of the impact this publication had on peoples lives. To mention a few, B. Prickett wrote “This is a wonderful book. If you have any doubts about what happens after death, read this book. It will become clear to you.” or Sophia Maria Hall said, “We all need hope that there is better after the life we have here on this crazy earth…this is proof we are getting that!” Also, Cynthia Trueblood shared that “This book was written in an easy style and yet impacted my view of heaven profoundly!” While one can find also more disapproving comments, those above do represent the majority. Words like “clear”, “proof” or “profound impact” are frequently used to describe the effect this material had on its readers and their view of heaven. Now, what does this book actually say about heaven? Read the rest of this entry »
Previous: Christianity: #AfterDeath #Rapture. As next appeared the matter of tribulation and antichrist. Dufield and Cleave described these in detail offering much scriptural reference regarding the identity and the various titles of antichrist. As for the tribulation, they outlined the difference between the tribulation of the church, Israel nation and the special time of Gods final wrath for which they suggested a chronological succession (Duffield 1983: 568-577). Wright has not revealed his explanation of these passages, but only asked for the next question.
At this point, the host asked the bishop Wright about his view on resurrection. He then clarified that resurrection is different from the paradise mentioned earlier in the discussion, thus calling it “the life after life after death”. In his view, the resurrection is bodily, yet it will not take place in some distant dwelling place, but will “be brought to birth in this world” and be transformed in the old field of space, time and matter. Again, he cautioned the audience against thinking in dimensions of the Platonic dualism of body and soul, which is sometimes also inaptly reflected in several biblical translations as “a physical body” and “a spiritual body” rather than the “corruptible” and “incorruptible” one. (Wright 2008: kindle location 2403-2607). Both Duffield and Cleave supported Wrights words concerning the bodily resurrection and hereby denied a sort of immaterial, disembodied, eternal existence of a soul. Jesus as the firstfruit of those who slept (1. Cor. 15:20), they said, is a guarantee of resurrection for all the believers. As it seemed to be the custom of the evenings debate, the Pentecostals presented us anew with more unravelled details of these events. They divided resurrection into several consecutive occurences in which believers are to experience the first, good resurrection (Rev. 20:6), while the unrighteous must wait until after the Millennium to then endure the resurrection of damnation (Jn.5:29) (Duffield 1983: 578-589).
This prompted a question from the audience, which inquired whether there would therefore be also more than just one judgment. They affirmed this by listing a variety of judgments that will first include believers (1.Cor. 11:31), Nations (Mt.25.31-46) and Israel (Ez. 20:33-38), then the wicked will be judged near the white throne (Rv. 20:11-14) and at last the focus will turn at Satan and fallen angels (Rv. 20:14). In this exposition they also maintained different rewards in heaven and degrees of judgment in hell. (Duffield 1983: 599-607). When receiving the word, Wright strongly acknowledged the concept of the final judgment, yet remained rather sceptical in regard to all the above mentioned particularities. He however, turned the attention of all to, by many disputed, importance of justification by works. He said “for Paul, there was no clash between present justification by faith and future judgment according to works. The two actually need, and depend upon, one another.”
At last came the long awaited query concerning heaven, hell and the final destination. Much whisper spread among the listeners after Wrights explication of his idea of hell as a certain dehumanization of people. Based on the presupposition that people become like what they worship one can, by turning away from God and worshiping other things, enter an ex-human state. As for the eternal bliss, he repeated his earlier words and summarized his efforts of the nights debate to depict heaven according to the Lord’s Prayer “Thy kingdom come on earth as in heaven.” Duffield and Cleave were outraged and boldly claimed that no teaching is clearer than that of a final destiny beyond this present life on earth. Then they reminded us of some of the classic vivid portrayals of hell as unquenchable fire and a special abode of undying worms. Equally, heaven is in their view a distinct place of eternal happiness and joy.
All in all Wright seems to be more political and earthly oriented leaving many of the passages regarding the eschaton as a mere metaphors and illustrations while Duffield & Cleave holding on to the traditional and more literal interpretations of the Scriptures. In his approach is Wright building on the fact that God pronounced the earth good, and as a good creation, he will not simply destroy it but will regenerate it to its original design. Duffield & Cleave have no such hopes for the present world and are quick to abandon the earthly realm for the future divine scenes of heaven and hell.