Monday, January 26, 2009

Tom Wright on the Resurrection, Heaven and Hell

Some great little clips here of Bishop Tom responding to questions on Resurrection, Heaven and Hell.

It is his comments on hell that I am interested in here. I have long struggled with the concept of hell, at least in it's traditional form. I fail to see how so many Christians throughout history, have so easily accepted this idea, at the same time as believing that God is love. The gospel, so often, has been presented as a 'bait and switch'. God loves you unconditionally and wants a relationship with you, and for you to have fullness of life (oh, and by the way, if you decide to reject his love, he will punish you forever in hell.).

Anyway, I think Tom's thoughts are helpful, although I lean more myself towards annihilationism.

He rejects the traditional notion of heaven and hell as two separate 'places' of post-mortem destination. This, he argues, is more of a medieval picture than a biblical one.

On the other hand, he rejects universalism, although he admits there is part of him that wishes it were the case. But he also does not go along with annihilationism. He maintains that those who have determinedly rejected God and his offer of salvation, will become dehumanised to the extent that they will cease to be human. This is not really a place, as in the new creation, God will be all in all, but it is rather a state. (this, he suggests in one anecdote, is more akin to the eastern orthodox view).

He admits that this is a dreadful fate which he doesn't like to contemplate or speculate too much on, but that the choices we make do have real consequences. He doesn't like talking about it, because he is aware of many people, who by appearances seem to have chosen this option. It is, he admits, a terrifying possibility.

He places the emphasis firmly on the choice of the individuals who end up in this state, not in some divine decree or even in punishment. In this sense he follows C.S. Lewis who said that the door of hell is locked on the inside. Those who end up in this state have chosen it for themselves. (I don't know, if pushed, if he would have some way of marrying this with a sense of God's sovereignty in salvation, but the emphasis is definitely squarely on the person's choice here). The idea that God, from all eternity, has determined those who, with no other possible option, will end up in hell is (in my admittedly limited and fallen opinion) a diabolical doctrine. The corollary of this emphasis on the choice of the individual (in my logical conclusion) is that everyone will get a meaningful opportunity to make this decision.

Whilst it may be possible to argue with Wright, or critique him on various points, I think his overall emphasis is helpful.
-He takes the possiblility of final loss seriously.
-He doesn't speculate on the details or on exactly who ends up in this state, other than those who persist in rejecting God and 'colluding in their own dehumanisation'
-It is not the main emphasis of his gospel.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Second Week of College

The first 'normal' week at college after the superb 'plenary' week. I don't feel like I achieved an awful lot workwise. I did however finish off Seyoon Kim's Christ and Caesar which is a fairly substantial critique of the 'fresh perspective on Paul'. Should I just give up my research now? Well, not quite, but I can certainly see ways in which my work is going to have to be nuanced. I submitted an abstract for the Bristol University theology post-grad conference. That should give me an incentive to get some work done if nothing else does.
This week I started learning Hebrew again, taught by AJ Culp, another post-grad here at Trinity. Amazing how much I had forgotten, but it is coming back to me now and it is lots of fun. If I could be paid to learn Hebrew and Greek and research stuff that I'm interested in I'd be a happy man...wait a minute - that is what I'm being paid to do. So that's why I'm applying to stay on another two years. Sent off a few letters for funding this week, but need to do lots more.
I also got the Trinity Media blog up and running which I'm pretty chuffed with.

Finished off the week with a session @ Shirehampton Working Men's Club (now there's an irony) with the lads, then hanging out with the Barnes and the Swales on Saturday, topped off with a Chinese takeaway at our place.

A bit concerned that our house in Coventry is going to cost us a fair bit to get the electrics and stuff sorted out ready for the new tennants, but hey, at least we've got some new tennants.

All in all, a good week.

Always Be Prepared For A Worship Experience

I enjoyed this, one of ASBO Jesus latest offerings.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Eddie Gibbs - Plenary Week

First week back at college after Christmas break. I have to say I wasn't really looking forward to it but as it happens it has been fantastic. We have had a plenary week on 'Transformation Leadership' with Eddie Gibbs from Fuller Theological Seminary. Well, what a week! I can honestly say that I think this has been the best and most inspiring week since I started at Trinity. (sorry Jon, who was ill for most of it)
Eddie is an amazing guy. He is 70 years old and yet he absolutely has his finger on the pulse both in terms of the trends that are occurring in society and the various ways the church is (or ought to be) responding.
He was very inspiring to listen to because he is not only switched on, but so full of the grace and joy of the Lord. At the same time he was prophetic in speaking to the problems of the church and yet remains hopeful and is not into deconstruction but positive change .
He was a personal friend of John Wimber. He told us the story of when he visited the snake handling pentecostal church with Wimber. I had always heard that story go round, but Eddie was actually there. He reminded me a lot of my Vineyard days and church planting and why I signed up for this whole thing in the first place.

You can listen to the talks and view his powerpoint slides at the new Trinity Media blog

Monday, January 12, 2009

Trinity Media

I've been helping to set up a new blog for Trinity college:

On this blog we will make available recorded talks, sermons and seminars given at Trinity College as downloadable mp3 files.

This content may also be subscribed to as a podcast.

Click on the following link to subscribe.

Subscribe to Trinity Media

New Year - New Diary

An entry I wrote in my diary just after new year -

Well, it's the end of one year and the start of a new one. A time for reflection and for looking forward and time to start a new diary. I thought I'd go for one of these fancy moleskin ones (I must be becoming a vicar by osmosis, because looking around at college, everyone seems to have one of these now), with the idea being that I might actually use it. I have been so disorganised this year at college, which I put down to 'death by paper.' In the end I began to just ignore the many and various bits of paper that arrived in my pigeon hole, and hence I missed a few appointments. This year, as well as the diary I have a triple back up system - iCal, google calendars, and the calendar on my phone (oh, and on my iPod as well) all synced and with various alarm systems, so I've got no excuses.

In 2008 I began running, which I love. I've lost about a stone and I feel a lot better for it. I decided to pursue a PhD, rather than get ordained in 2009 and start a curacy. This both excites me and fills me with dread, although not as much dread as being a vicar. This year at college, I have felt a bit less full of self doubt, although this does go up and down. Towards Christmas I felt a bit out of things (e.g. college green, pastoral group etc) simply because we had so many weekends away. This year we should be around more, not least because our second baby is due on March 25th! Looking forward to this obviously but a bit nervous about fitting in all the work I will have to do, including all the application forms for funding. Should definitely be an exciting year though!