The Second Paragraph of The Fire That Consumes
“In the public square, fire and brimstone are definitely out of vogue. Hell shows up in conversation often enough, but generally as an expletive rather than as a serious subject. Hell is not unique in this regard – the same can be said of Jesus Christ. More troubling than hell’s absence from secular society is its general disappearance from many Christian pulpits. Interestingly, although nearly all evangelical pastors and teachers firmly believe that Jesus will ‘come to judge the living and the dead,’ a considerable number of them cannot remember when they last preached or taught on the subject. Might those missing sermons reflect a deeper, widespread problem with the traditional interpretation of hell?”
In the public square, the deity of Christ is definitely out of vogue. He shows up in conversation often enough, but generally as an expletive rather than as a serious subject. Christ is not unique in this regard – the same can be said of Hell. More troubling than Jesus’ absence from secular society is His general disappearance from many Christian pulpits. Interestingly, although nearly all evangelical pastors and teachers firmly believe that Jesus is “very God of very God, begotten, not made,” a considerable number of them cannot remember when they last preached or taught on the subject. Might those missing sermons reflect a deeper, widespread problem with the traditional interpretation of the deity of Christ?
Hint #1: If you’re going to make a comparison for the discussion, try not to do it with one even you would admit that is fundamentally undeniable.
Hint #2: Don’t complain if your orthodoxy is called is called into question when you yourself made the comparison with Christology.
Hint #3: Don’t be surprised if this ad populum argument turns around to bite you if you accuse others of making an ad populum argument.
Hint #4: Calling their doctrine “traditional” and arguing it as if it is merely so, is fighting words to someone Reformed.
Hint #5: Retortion, if so easily applied to a statement, is a good indicator that the statement in question isn’t especially tenable. For instance;
P1: Christian pulpits presuppose Christ
P2: Christ is often not heard from pulpits
C: The message from those pulpits is unintelligible
P1a: The same can be said about Hell as can be said about Christ
P2a: Hell is often not heard from pulpits
Ca: The message from those pulpits is unintelligible
“Thus far we have asserted frankly that as Christians we find what we believe in expressed in the Bible as the Word of God. From the Bible we have taken our doctrines of God, man, Christ, salvation, and the last things. As Reformed Christians we wish to show men that it is Reformed theology, not Romanism, nor even some lower form of evangelical Protestantism, that they need.”
(Here is where I stray off the title of the post slightly, to continue my thought.) I would humbly submit to Mr. Fudge that we believe the reason that Hell is so de-emphasized in so many pulpits is precisely due to that “lowering of form” which characterizes evangelical Protestantism as a whole; and we are so distraught concerning that lack of emphasis on Hell because we believe that Scripture teaches expressly what our confessions teach – because we do not believe the Bible due to our confessions. We confess them explicitly due to the fact that they admirably express the teaching of Scripture. He apparently doesn’t think much of this view, from the continuing discussion titled “What is Behind the Change.” Why? In the text he footnotes the subsequent discussion on, he says “What about a growing doubt concerning the idea that God, who gave his Son to die for sinful human beings, will keep billions of those same people alive forever, only to torment them without end?” Note: The ones going to Hell, according to Fudge, are some of those those for whom Christ died. In the footnote, he remarks; “…the moral offense is magnified by three” when it’s a Calvinist who affirms the Scriptural belief in eternal punishment. According to Fudge, it is because “the chief (‘most ultimate’) reason why one is in hell to begin with is ‘God’s sovereign decision to pass by many sinners and allow them to suffer the consequences for their sins.'” This is not what we believe, and I have no idea why he thinks that. The chief reason men go to Hell – and he can poison the well by saying we are “conscience-bound” to affirm his strawman all he wants, but that does not make it true – is not due to reprobation, but due to their own ungodliness and unrighteousness. We do, of course, believe the doctrine of reprobation. We do not, however, believe that the “chief reason” men are in Hell is because they were reprobated. They are in Hell because they are sinners against the infinite holiness and righteousness of God; and in His Justice, are there to receive His deserved wrath upon them for their sins. James White calls this misidentification the “equal ultimacy” fallacy. Reprobation is not the chief reason they are in Hell. The chief reason that they are in Hell is to be punished for their sins. The reason they are not in *Heaven* is because God did not have mercy on them – they were reprobated – and He will have mercy on whom He has mercy – those whom He does not graciously pardon, are punished as they deserve. Providentially, also notice what our previous post was. I promise, Chris and I didn’t collaborate here 🙂
When we speak of a “lower form of Protestantism” – this is exactly what we are speaking of. Notice how he reads aspects of his own theology into our position, and then makes a supposed “moral dilemma” from it. Unbelievers do precisely the same thing with us concerning the so-called “problem of evil.” That “problem,” however, fails just as spectacularly when applied to Reformed theology. This should be instructive to us.
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