Month: July 2016

Why God’s Justice is No Justice At All   (or, On Hell, Part 2.2)

scalesOne of the great comforts of the Christian life is the assurance that for all the injustice in the world, God will one day put all things to right, and call to account every misdeed and injustice.

We cannot hope for perfect justice in this world, but fear not – a time is coming when every tear will be wiped away, and those deserving of judgement must give account for their life and face the consequences of their decisions.

It’s a beautiful and stirring picture.  It just has nothing to do with reality or with actual Christian doctrine. Continue reading “Why God’s Justice is No Justice At All   (or, On Hell, Part 2.2)”

TED Talks and Trees

2a1676092e77f7b882150a62d19d8042Over the past year I’ve enjoyed listening to a wide variety of TED talks.  Sometimes I listen over my work lunch break in the Rose Garden or walking around campus.  Sometimes I listen when jogging home.  Often I can’t readily see the screen so miss out on the images and just have the sound feed.

I’d say that most of the talks are interesting and engaging, and I’d estimate that about 1 in 5 are simply remarkable.

As a modern form of the sermon, there is a danger that it’s very easy for the audience to ‘take on board’ what is being said without necessarily being rigorous about secondary fact-checking of the material.  But in general the talks are given by recognized experts within their field, and they cite their evidence within the talks. It’s also relatively straightforward to dig in and do the fact checking where an idea grabs you and you want to preach it!

Some of the ones that I remember from the past year are: Continue reading “TED Talks and Trees”

On Hell, Part 2, or God’s Arbitrary Justice

In my previous post, I briefly discussed the ‘Historical Problem’ of Hell – why its clear evolution in biblical and historical thought shows Hell to be nothing more than a derivative and evolving meme.

But the concept of Hell – as understood from a Christian framework – is riddled with many other problems.

One of the problems I have wrestled with during the (far too many) times I’ve tried to make sense of it, is how to get around hell being ultimately arbitrary.

coin_tossAt this point I am considering the ‘mainstream’ views on hell.  I’m aware that it’s possible to come up with creative solutions to get around any theological problem (an issue I hope to deal with in ‘Part 4’), but I always wanted to find an approach that did justice to the available biblical data.

Continue reading “On Hell, Part 2, or God’s Arbitrary Justice”

On Hell, part 1, or The Evolution of an Evil Notion

Don’t you just love Hell?

What’s not to love, really?


Although various Christian thinkers over the ages have written that one of heaven’s joys will be getting to watch the suffering of the reprobate in Hell (eg. Tertullian, Aquinas, Jonathan Edwards among others – perhaps picking up on Paul’s thinking in Romans 9:22-24 and running with it), many Christians today are largely about as happy with Hell as most non-Christians. Continue reading “On Hell, part 1, or The Evolution of an Evil Notion”

Debunking the Devil [link]

I just saw an excellent article on the development of the idea of the Devil which I discovered after its reblogging by Nate (


I’ve written a much briefer post on the origins of the idea of ‘Hell’(which I thought I’d already posted, but I see it’s still in my notes file – I’ll post it shortly [now here]), that overlaps at a few points, since the two concepts entered Jewish thinking through a similar process involving the exile and return.

The article you need to read is


It’s a solid article.  It’s important to note that it isn’t offering especially controversial theories but only well-established ones – even if they’re not generally welcome by most evangelical Christians.

As Michael shows, most of the information can be found in evangelical and/or mainstream Dictionaries of the Bible.  It’s just that most people don’t read the readily available scholarship, and don’t bother joining the dots when they do.  Most of the evidence is there already in the Bible itself, for those who care to look, although it’s camouflaged by some modern translations and by the web of the history of Christian interpretation of some passages.


The article’s a great introduction to the area which is well referenced, without explaining every point it makes (eg. it assumes a fifth century BC date for the compilation of Genesis without showing why, but these ‘assumed points’ are all strongly supported and completely mainstream).


As a special bonus, just because I can, I’m also linking to Quiet Company’s brilliant song I Heard the Devil Say My Name Out Loud.

Not especially relevant, but who cares – the song’s awesome!