Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Another Evangelical Actually Gets it!

Rob Bell: Who simply used his brain to reason that there's no place for any "Hell" in a sane belief system!

To the average unbeliever or atheist (maybe even agnostic), Rob Bell isn't a house hold name nor one to remember. However, we ought to point him out here because he represents yet one more courageous evangelical pastor prepared to think for himself and go against the voluminous unthinking masses that comprise modern evangelical Christianity and its offshoot cults and sects.

I never heard of Bell either, until this morning, when he appeared in an interview on ABC's 'Good Morning America'. Bell was on promoting his new book: 'Love Wins: Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Has Ever Lived'. See, e.g.


Bell himself, is the founding pastor at Mars Hill Bible Church, a megachurch located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Already, as word has gotten out, various loud and shrill voices have been heard squealing like stuck pigs in outrage, including the head of the Southern Baptist Union. At least one of these outraged pastors (obviously fearful of losing control of their flocks via fear) has referred to Bell's position as "heresy".

This is a misnomer because the term heresy has only technically and historically applied to those who flouted or rejected the Roman Catholic Church's original canon and teachings, which means the evangelicals themselves are heretics! Hence, an (already) evangelical heretic can't be guilty of heresy among his own! He can be guilty of thinking for himself, because we know that in all cults this is one thing in which they seriously disapprove.: independent thought and inquiry based on it (as one evangelical prof at a central Florida bible college learned last year when he opined that "evolution we more likely than intelligent design". Who told him to say that?)

According to Bell, in his interview this morning:

" I believe that Jesus's story is first and foremost about the love of God for every single one of us. It is a stunning, beautiful, expansive love, and it is for everybody, everywhere."

And, when pressed by ABC's George Stephanpoulos who asked about all those killed in the Japanese earthquake and tsunami who aren't Christians (since most idiot evangelicals believe they are all hell bound....tick, tick. ....) Bell replied "Absolutely not!". All are welcome and they are all part of the Lord's family who did say his house has "many mansions". Not one mansion exclusively for expiation accepting numbnuts.

Ultimately then Bell's claims turn on assigning an "infinite love" to the deity, which as I noted in earlier blogs can't be cross-checked by "infinite justice" - else one arrives at a contradiction. Thus, since an infinitely loving Being must allow an unconditional love, then it must accept all diverse manner of humans it putatively created. If one introduces an "infinite justice" - which means a human justice magnified to infinity since no human can truly comprehend a divine mind, then one gets an infinitely savage tyrant. In other words, it's at contretemps to the postulation of infinite love.

But it's even more basic than that, as I've also showed many times before.

Thus: "infinite" means extended to or pervading all of Being. There is literally no place left where - whatever it is- doesn't exist. Hence, if applied to "God" it means all inclusive of reality. However, IF Hell is inserted, it contradicts the proposition by allowing a sub-manifestation or entity which limits that which is claimed "infinite".

Thus, if Hell is asserted to exist and is claimed to be "eternal" then God cannot be infinite. If God is maintained to be infinite - meaning all inclusive of Being- the only conclusion is that Hell must be a part of God! The only way to make the proposition work, then, is to remove the infinite claim on either end.

1) God can therefore only be a FINITE Being if It demands a literal "hellish" punishment, which can only exist a finite length of time (since no finite Being can be eternal).


2) God is infinite, but no Hell exists.

Note that vis-a-vis (1), "infinite punishment" is also excluded, since to enable this would require a punishment infinite in time, space and intensity - which a putative finite Being simply can't accommodate. An infinite Being could, but then one gets Hell as part of it, which is contradictory.

Now clearly, most of any logical approach will sail serenely over the heads of the bible-punching crowd who will insist Christ himself spoke of "Hell" and cursed assorted people to it. The problem is, those words being read aren't original words, but later insertions! It is the job of textual analysis to isolate the actual words spoken from the spurious ones simply dreamt up and interjected.

The general tack for inventing and pushing Hell entailed taking certain passages in the then Latin Vulgate that referred to “Gehenna”, which was really a dump for burning offal outside Jerusalem, and amp that temporal burning pit into an everlasting abode for punishment. What better way to punish than by fire, which is about the most painful, as anyone who’s ever touched a red hot frying pan or stove knows!

Thus, Gehenna became the putative basis for eternal torment at the Second Council of Constantinople. All teachings to do with metempsychosis (of Origen and Clement of Alexandria) were ordered expunged, and any transgressors were to be listed as "heretics". In a firm outline of the properties of Hell, the Council further mandated:

- It become the final abode of eternal punishment for all who rejected the Church's teachings or the Pope's authority

- It include the agency of fire and this fire never be quenched

- and further it have the capacity to burn the soul without destroying it permanently (else there'd be no "eternal" aspect)

- Hell was under the governance of "Satan" or Lucifer, with a hierarchy of sub-Devils (Asmodeus, Belial, Pazuzu et al) to administer other punishments

- All non-Catholics, because of being outside the state of sanctifying grace, to be destined for Hell

The other job mandated by the Council was to insert the words and references to “Hell” into the scriptures and this duty was charged to various transcribers, translators. At key points also Jesus had to make the odd reference to it, including the threat of punishment for those who refused to believe: specifically “accepting” him as Savior (e.g. the bogus John 3: 16) .

The key giveaway words to this whole cynical, sordid and shabby process were written by a Roman Catholic historian, Rev. Thomas Bokenkotter, in his monograph ‘A Concise History of the Catholic Church’, (page 17):

The Gospels were not meant to be a historical or biographical account of Jesus. They were written to convert unbelievers to faith in Jesus as the Messiah, or God.”

In other words, he concedes the prevalence of directed scribes, to prepare accounts specifically designed as propaganda pieces, the better and faster to pressure unbelievers to accept Yeshua.

Think about this for a second: If no mention was ever made of any ultimate punishment in a scripture does anyone seriously think an unbeliever of old (before the Enlightenment and the use of reason showed Hell's logical impossibility) would have simply ignored it? Not too likely! In the back of his mind he'd be prodded by doubts that maybe he could be wrong, and perhaps it'd be wise to pursue this faith after all (though he wasn't intellectually invested).

Only later, AFTER the Enlightenment, did the Hell facade of fear fall apart, in part because of the rise of naturalist science which destroyed the basis for invisible entities and domains and claims for them made without extraordinary evidence, and also the rise of modern textual analysis.

The latter especially showed that the Bible wasn't any fixed book handed down inviolate from on high, but a collection of 66 books written over a thousand years most of which had succumbed to thousands, indeed millions of changes, textual distortions, errors, and deliberate manhandling and re-wording.

Biblical Scholar Bart Ehrman notes some of this himself in his excellent book, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. He cites one infuriated Church father's words (p. 53):

"These..devil's apostles have filled with tares, taking away some things and adding others. For them woe is reserved.."

Ehrman goes on (ibid.) to emphasize that charges of this kind were common, when over-zealous scribes took it upon themselves to alter texts to make them say what they wished. These alterations were most frequent in those verses and passages wherein the entire faith pivoted on gaining converts (in its early phases) and consolidating orthodox beliefs. The particular passages reduced to afterlife possibilities, and belief in Yeshua as a personal, divine Savior. Thus, the energy was entirely into: a) reinforcing the first (especially in the light of heretics like Marcion) and b) finding a way to pressure followers into seeking righteousness and not dallying or procrastinating.

Thus, Hell had to replace metempsychosis as taught by Origen and Clement which - as the 2nd Council put it: 'gave men too much time to seek God". Hell made it quicker and more efficient, because with the threat of an impending eternal furnace if you didn't convert, you had to act, you couldn't delay. Or so the reasoning went. Thus, orthodox scribes deliberately altered the texts from words that might have had multiple interpretations, to words which had only one (ibid.) In this way, the orthodox scribes believed they'd nip in the bud any attempts to misuse the texts, say by the outcast groups such as the Gnostics or Essenes.

Thus, as Ehrman goes on to note (ibid.), "the very real danger existed of the texts being modified at will, by scribes who didn't approve of the original wording".

Once professional mass printing began, with the arrival of the Gutenberg printing press (15th century), then catching the host of later additions became almost impossible because all copies had been rendered uniform and standardized. However, fortunately, in the wake of the Enlightenment, modern methods of textual analysis were developed which allowed and enabled the additions to be spotted and set off from the original text. In his book, Ehrman gives the example of the last twelve verses of Mark, among others.

The bottom line is that Bob Bell's conclusions are neither "heretical" nor astounding, but follow from the most basic logic as well as serious textual analysis.

It is only the most purblind, myopic believers who can't see beyond their noses who would say otherwise. But then, they are compelled to do so because they're unable to co-exist peaceably in a world with those of many other faiths or no faith, whom they regard as "evil" aliens. And as we know, such aliens must be consigned to being "Satanic" entities and bound for the eternal barbecue pit. Congrats to Rob Bell for opening a tiny crack in the otherwise dense consciousness of the fundagelicals. We give here some of his most memorabe words:
"A staggering number of people have been taught that a few select Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven, while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better. It's been clearly communicated to many that this belief is a central truth of the Christian faith and to reject it is, in essence, to reject Jesus. This is misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus message of love, peace, forgiveness, and joy that our world desperately needs to hear."

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