The World Mission Society Church of God: “I Spent a Night in the Apocalyptic Korean Cult of God the Mother”

Approaching The Lair of The World Mission Society Church of God

I spent a night with an apocalyptic cult – The World Mission Society Church of God. aka The cult of God the Mother.

One block away from St Barnabas Broadway Anglican church in the middle of Sydney sits the World Mission Society of God. Their building had nothing particularly interesting about it: it just looked like any other business centre full of small company offices that you might pass in that area of Sydney. There were no sinister vibes as I walked up to the front door.

What lay inside was a slightly different story.

world mission society church of godMy phone buzzed as it received an SMS: “Please call me or text me when you get in here. Thanks Alex.” Their enclave needed a swipe card to enter. After a short wait the Deacon of the Church came down to collect me.

This Deacon who I was talking to volunteers his time to evangelise, lead the service, run bible studies and so on. He claims to not be paid a cent by the organisation. He explained he works as a chef outside the “church”.

I’m not sure what the situation looks like the further you go up the hierarchy, but I assume that the big dogs at the top of the World Mission Society Church of God receive significant cash flow from the lower ranks, such as this small gathering I was about to witness.

Memories of Previous Encounters with The World Mission Society Church of God

I was ushered into the cult’s office, which is essentially a refurbished apartment.

I had been here once before, during my first extended bible study with these people. I remembered how at that first meeting, we flipped back and forth through scripture for 3 hours straight, as another Deacon took me on a grand tour of this cult’s unique interpretation of the bible. I recall how during that meeting it took 90 minutes for me to catch on to where the study was heading: I could tell that the deacon was eventually going to do the grand reveal and claim that the founder of his church is Jesus come again. I waited another 90 minutes with baited breath: “When is he going to say it? When is he going to say it?”

When he finally dropped the bomb, I was so battered and exhausted from flipping back and forth in his bible that I could barely register a response. A lethargic “that’s interesting, I’ll have to think about it”, is all I could muster. The Deacon stared at me earnestly, clearly praying hard silently, praising God that he had found someone so receptive, and imploring him to lead me to the right path (ie. praying that I would convert to their church).

After that first bible study, I started inviting representatives from this cult to come and visit my house and continue chatting with me. Over the weeks that followed they lead me through their unique positions. Certain doctrines stood out:

  • The Jewish Passover, eclectically fused with the Christian Lord’s Supper features prominently in their thinking. In their understanding, the end of the world is upon us and observing the Christian Lord’s Supper on the date of the Jewish Passover is the only way to escape the coming inferno.
  • They believe in a Modalist Trinity. They think that God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are all the same person, just manifesting themselves in different ways at different times of history.
  • They believe in two distinct Gods. The first God is the Modalist amalgamation of the Trinitarian persons, who they generally refer to as “God the Father”. The second God is “God the Mother”. This cult escapes all the biblical commands to observe strict monotheism by invoking the principle in Genesis 2:24 that when man and woman are united in marriage they become “one flesh”.
  • They believe that both of their Gods have become incarnate one or more times. God the Father incarnated once 2000 years ago as Christ Jesus, and his second coming occurred on 13 January 1918, when he reincarnated as Christ Ahn Sahng-hong, a Korean minister of a breakaway Seventh Day Adventist church who died on 25 February 1985. God the mother incarnated on 29 October 1943 as a Korean woman called Jang Gil-ja who is still alive to this day.
  • The second coming of Christ is identified with the Holy Spirit, and this cult believes that Christ Ahn Sahng-hong is in actual fact the Holy Spirit.
  • They hold to a naive understanding of the classical protestant doctrine of “Sola Fide” – faith alone – and they have a particularly strange and seemingly arbitrary soteriology. They think that prior to Jesus’ coming a person had to believe in God the Father, by the name of YHWH, in order to be saved. They hold that once Jesus had come, we had transitioned from the age of the father to the age of the son, with the implication being that it is no longer sufficient to believe in the father alone in order to be saved, but you must believe in the son too. They believe that in 1918, with the birth of Ahn Sahng-hong, we entered into the age of the Holy Spirit, and of course it is now no longer sufficient to simply believe in Jesus; a person must confess Christ Ahn Sahng-hong in order to be saved. I have not yet been able to establish how such a wacky and naive “Faith alone” soteriology is compatible with the cult’s insistence that one must observe the Jewish Passover in order to be saved.

In between the bible studies with members from this cult, I would encounter missionaries on campus at the University of Sydney where I study. One particular missionary from Korea stands out in my memory. He struck me as incredibly stubborn, angry, fundamentalist and close minded, convinced that he had the truth and the rest of the world is lost and not to be trusted. I remember him blindly quoting scriptures at me during our brief discussion, attempting to shut me down by biblical fiat.

I asked him why I should trust the bible. He answered that it contains many prophecies, all of which have come true. I found this entirely disputable, but it didn’t seem like it would be fruitful to push him on the point. He insisted that his cult is the only church on earth today which observes the Passover. I rolled my eyes and responded that the Roman Catholic church observes it every single day, but he didn’t want to hear it and just resumed firing bible verses at me as if that would prove him right.

I concluded that he wasn’t actually trying to convince me of his position; he was trying to convince himself. His strategy of rote learning bible verses and regurgitating them during conversation was like a drug that would sustain the illusion that his position rested on solid ground.

I asked him if he realised that God the Mother was a living woman. He responded that yes he knew that, and he has even met her in person. I was intrigued and asked him what she was like; he leant back with an offended expression, superior posture and with an indignant voice stated “She was like God!” I was amused, and let the conversation flow onwards.

Research Into the Cult of God the Mother

world mission society church of god I began to do some research into the origins of their movement.

Who really was this Christ Ahn Sahng-hong character anyway? What I discovered didn’t exactly mesh with the information I was receiving from the cult first hand.

I discovered that Ahn Sahng-hong was simply a disillusioned parishioner of the Seventh Day Adventist church in Korea. In true protestant spirit, he simply got up, left, and started his own church. The church he founded was not all that different from the SDA church that he had abandoned. At no point during his life was he reported to have claimed that he was the second coming of Christ, and there is nothing in his extant writings which indicates he himself and his early followers thought of him as anything less than a simple preacher and teacher.

At one point while he was alive, some of the members of his church started worshipping a woman called Um Sooin, claiming that she was God the Mother and that Ahn Sahng-Hong was Jesus come again. These members were expelled from his church, and Ahn Sahng-Hong wrote a scathing critique and rebuttal of their views.

Upon his death in 1985, there was an immediate schism in the church he left behind. Some people wanted to conservatively follow the direction that he had set the church on before his death. Other people wanted to deify him as God and reintroduce the concept of God the Mother. The first group – lead by his son – split off as the “New Covenant Passover Church of God” the second, larger group went it’s own way and has adopted a variety of names, including “Witnesses of Ahn Sahng-hong Church of God” and “World Mission Society of God”.

A Brief Lesson Before the cult’s Liturgy

We entered the apartment, where there were rows of chairs arranged in the living room facing a pew and a television. A couple of people were sitting in the pews. We greeted each other and I was keen to chat, but I was whisked away to one of the bedrooms which had been done up as a little conference room. The Deacon sat down at the table and launched into a pre-prepared lesson.

“God’s people should fully observe the commandments of God”, he proclaimed. I immediately thought to myself “Sounds like some sort of spin on the old heresy of saving yourself via good works and keeping the law“. We began to go on another tour of scripture. It struck me that these people take the bible incredibly literally, and don’t pay much heed to the literary context of the verses that they focus on.

This particular study was all about idolatry, with a particular focus on Christian crosses being a most grievous violation of the second commandment. “The Cross does not save us, the Passover does” he said. This was the first of many times the Passover would be mentioned tonight. “Most Christians think that you must worship the cross to be saved” he said, making me wonder how he could be so deep in his own cults doctrines that he could be so misinformed as to what the wider Christian world believes.

We read 1 Corinthians 11:4-7, using the NIV translation. I noticed that this church only uses the NIV and enquired why. The Deacon responded that the NIV is optimal because it easy to understand. So much for sticking to the original Greek!

1 Corinthians 11:4-7 is a part of the new testament where Paul commands women to cover their hair during church services. Most Christian communities take that command to be a historical one – appropriate to a certain time and place – observance being optional today. However these guys take it literally and seriously.

“So wait, why exactly do you do this?” I asked, hoping that he would give me some actual logical reasons. “Because the bible says so.” is the only response I received. I internally shook my head.

We flicked to Revelation 14:1-3. He explained to me that 144000 people would be saved without having to die, whereas “the multitude” are those who are saved but die before the second (or should I say third?) coming of Christ, at which point they will resurrect. Apparently this special group of 144000 people will ascend to heaven bodily, just like Jesus did, and will have something the Deacon mysteriously referred to as “creation power”, as well as judge angels and demons.

The Deacon highlighted the fact that the 144000 saved people are said to be singing a “new song”. He claimed that their church knows this song, and regularly sings it. I was intrigued, as I had never heard any doctrine similar to this before.

The World Mission Society Church of God Service Starts

8pm had arrived, so we returned to the living room and I took a seat at the back, next to a Nepalese guy. I noticed that the congregation was strictly gender-segregated: All the women sat on the right and wore veils, while all the men sat on the left. There was a young looking boy sitting on the men’s side, he looked about 12 or 13.

world mission society church of god

The service started with everyone simultaneously reciting the “teachings of mother”

  1. It is more blessed to give love than to receive, as God always gives love.
  2. When we give glory to God, the glory returns to us.
  3. A beautiful mind has no hate, and brings forth a perfect love.
  4. As Abraham was blessed with the better when he gave in for his nephew Lot, so we are blessed more greatly when we give in for our brothers and sisters.
  5. Being arrogant means wanting to be served.
  6. Though others do not work, we should not complain but do our work faithfully. Having the mind of a master allows us to work with pleasure and ease.
  7. Arrogance comes from a mind full of complaint. When we serve God always with gratitude in our hearts, complaint and arrogance recede from us, and humility dwells in our hearts.
  8. When we praise brothers and sisters, the praise returns to us.
  9. As the sea receives all the dirt and purifies it, we should have a broad and beautiful mind enough to cover up even the faults of our brothers and sisters.
  10. Whoever wants to be led by the Lamb should become a lamb smaller than the Lamb.
  11. Sacrifice is needed to become a greater vessel.
  12. We should endure present sufferings, for the Kingdom of Heaven is waiting for us.
  13. Even God did not come to be served, but to serve. When we serve one another without wanting to be served, God will be pleased.

This was immediately followed by three hymns from their unique hymn book (302, 66 and 69), suspiciously labelled “A New Song” in reference to Revelation 14. I asked where I could obtain one of these hymn books and was told that they are reserved for members of the cult.

After the singing, the Deacon stood behind the pew at the front and launched into a long prayer. At first I couldn’t tell if it was formulaic or spontaneous prayer, however as he rambled on I realised that he was just making it up as he went along. Certain elements of the prayer contained hints of the cult’s apocalyptic nature, for example he referred to how most people are “deceived by Satan and the false prophet”, to which the congregation all murmured a hearty “amen!”. He concluded the prayer “in the name of Ahn Sahng-Hong yim” and everyone sat down.

The sermon began, although it turned out to be more like a bible study where the leader does all the talking, and the only interaction that the congregation has is to say “amen!” at regular intervals. The topic today was idolatry, “You shall have no other god’s before me”.

The preacher immediately revealed his naive understanding of Sola Fide. “Many Christians believe that you just have to have faith and you will be saved” he claimed. “The irony is that he’s not far from the truth” I thought to myself: most Christians DO believe that you just need to have faith and you will be saved. Most Christians don’t take the time to read up on the deep theology at the core of their tradition, and therefore never comprehend that their naive understanding of Sola Fide is actually deep and damnable heresy. This cult therefore rightly rejects the common distortion of the doctrine that the average Christian is peddling. “But alas,” I thought, “they don’t understand the true doctrine either”.

The preacher directed us to Matthew 22:35-38. He highlighted that the greatest commandment is “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Then he flipped to 2 Kings 23:25, and noted that the only person who is spoken of as keeping all the commandments of God was King Josiah. Then we read 2 Kings 23:21-23 and once again the speaker emphasised the importance of keeping the Passover.

The speaker was drawing outrageous, creative, illogical links between concepts based on the verses we just read. “How do we keep the greatest commandment?” he rhetorically asked. “By keeping the Passover” he firmly answered. “Amen!” rumbled the congregation. “Is there any other way to be saved?” he asked. “NO!” exclaimed almost everyone in the room simultaneously, followed by lots more “Amen!”.

We jumped to Deuteronomy 6:4-8. The preacher seized on the language used in verse 5 “love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” Noticing the similarities between that and previous verses we had just read, the speaker concluded “The greatest commandment of God is to keep the Passover”.

We continued on a whirlwind tour of scripture following this same pattern again and again. First of all we would read a verse, then the preacher would ask some rhetorical question about what we need to do to be saved, and the answer would always be some variant on “we must keep the Passover” followed by lots of “Amen!” from the crowd.

At one point, the preacher asked “What happens to those who don’t keep the Passover?” and interestingly he completely waffled on the answer, rather than just being straight up and confessing that they will burn in hellfire forever and ever.

Hints of Extremism

About halfway through the sermon, things started to get weird.

“Who hates the Passover the most?” the preacher queried. “Satan” muttered the congregation. “How will Satan tell us not to keep Passover?” he asked. “Indirectly, through enticements and temptations” he immediately responded.

This was a prime example of brainwashing tactics. The preacher was convincing his flock that if anyone objects or disagrees with his doctrine, they are equivalent to Satan.

He flipped to Deuteronomy 13:1-5, and I started to get uncomfortable as he continued to take what it said dangerously literally. “What should we do with false prophets and those who disbelieve?” the preacher asked. “The bible says to kill them!” he confidently proclaimed. “Satan always tries to destroy the Passover” he claimed, “We can see it in history!” I was getting very edgy at this point, as the preaching seemed to be moving towards expounding extremist ideology.

We flipped to Isaiah 24:1-6, a classic Armageddon text which describes the chaos and terror as the world comes to an end. “Why were these people damned?” the preacher asked. “Because they broke the law and failed to keep the Passover” he staunchly stated.

I realised that these people are experiencing a dramatic tunnel vision, as they are utterly convinced that the world is about to go up in eschatalogical flames and they are freaking out trying to work out how to escape such a fate. They have a cult-level sense of urgency and are single-mindedly  convinced that following the Jewish Passover is the only way to escape the coming calamity. “We share the good news” the preacher intones, “because this is how we escape the destruction.”

The End of the Cult Service

The sermon concluded around 8:45, and we moved on to the tail end of their informal evangelical-esque liturgy. Another hymn was sung (song 70), as the collection bag was passed around and the congregation contributed their tithings.

After the tithing song, a sister was called to the front to deliver the closing prayer. Once again I couldn’t tell if it was spontaneous or formulaic, but the content was remarkable. Lots of petitions were addressed to both the father and the mother, I got Gnostic vibes as she repeated “Thanks for saving us from this sinful and evil world” twice. Some sort of doctrine of pre-existence was briefly hinted at.

As I listened to this prayer, I was struck by how simplistic, primitive and unsophisticated these people were. Their faith was not particularly reflective, and involved simply taking the bible as literally as possible.

After her prayer, the entire congregation together recited a formulaic prayer in Korean. Unfortunately I’m not sure what was said and don’t have access to the text or a translation. (Update 23/5/19: I discovered that it was the lords prayer, but slightly tweaked to reflect their worship of “God the Mother”)

With that, the service was finished. All of the women immediately removed their veils and people began to pack up and go home. The Deacon approached me and asked me to delete the photos I had taken inside the building that day. “What have they got to hide?” I wondered to myself.

I hung around for a little longer and tried to interact with some of the people, but they all seemed highly brainwashed and incapable of actually holding a conversation. Eventually I left and walked home. I made it home alive, happy that I managed to survive the experience. I intend to continue meeting with their missionaries, and hope to visit their main church out at Blacktown next time.

Appendix: Summary of the The World Mission Society Church of God liturgy

  1. Communal recitation of the 13 “Teachings of Mother”
  2. Three hymns, two sitting and one standing
  3. Deacon leads with an opening prayer in spontaneous format
  4. The core Bible study and sermon
  5. Hymn, and collection of tithings
  6. Sister delivers a closing prayer in spontaneous format
  7. Entire congregation recites a formulaic liturgical prayer in Korean

The songs that were sung were all heavily tailored to express the cults unique theology. Far more was sung about “Heavenly Mother” and “Christ Ahn Sahng-hong“, than was sung about the father, Yahweh or Jesus.

 

Prophecy Fragment #6 – The Joy of the Gospel

On the 21st day of the 10th month of the 2018th year since the incarnation of God, the word of the lord came to me:

To live the ascetical life without knowing the joy of the Gospel is simply self-mutilation.
To seek Martyrdom without knowing the joy of the Gospel is suicide.
To depend on the sacraments without knowing the joy of the Gospel is Pharisaism.
To study scripture without knowing the joy of the Gospel is Gnosticism.
To perform good works without knowing the joy of the Gospel is Pelagianism.
To trust in religion without knowing the joy of the Gospel is to be enslaved to the demonic powers.

And what is the Gospel?
It is a simple promise.
And what is being promised?
That once all is said and done,
at the end of the ages of ages,
after an everlasting infinity,
beyond the end of eternity;
There lies happiness, love, bliss,
And not a trace of evil remains.
There will be no more tears, no more pain, no more suffering,
No more death, no more tragedy, no more sickness,
No more temptations, no more demons, no more Hell.

The promise is that our final future is entirely glorious,
And that the entire creation is swept up in an infallible movement towards that last moment.
The Gospel promise is that Christ has conquered Hell, death and Satan himself;
He promises you life to the full in the eschaton;
He promises that he will not fail to save us;
He promises that we will not ultimately fail in our strivings towards him;
He promises that the painful struggles of our epektasis will ultimately conclude in a wonderful and glorious apokatastasis;
He promises us that we are safe in his arms and need not fear anything;
He promises all of us salvation.

Know this Gospel with your head and place your trust in it with your heart,
And suddenly Asceticism, Martyrdom, the sacramental life, the study of scripture, works of charity and devotion to your faith;
All these things are transformed into a sure, straight, secure, direct path to God and salvation.

Know the beautiful promise with your head and place your trust in it with your heart,
And suddenly you find heaven exploding forth into your life right now;
You are flooded with the kingdom, immersed in the overflowing compassion and love that is God himself.
You become the light on the hill, and those who continue to walk in darkness flock to you,
These lost ones seek your guidance and beg for you to share your invincible joy.

Experience the joy of the Gospel, and the distinction between you and your creator will seem to dissolve,
As you are absorbed into the divine mystery of the simple unity as an infinite plurality relating through itself to itself within itself.
All things will seem to melt into one,
As you plunge into the ocean of love,
And are drawn up into blissful cosmic communion,
Driven towards infinite peaks of ecstatic delights,
Swooning to the overtures of the hidden romance that pumps the blood through your veins;
The inexhaustible beauty that breathes the spirit of life into our souls.

I Have No Mother

When a Devout Christian Attends a Rave and Takes MDMA

Flying From The Divine

1c70b053e5235ed30d1d567103b62807[1].jpgWe found ourselves among the magenta lights,
Swimming in the ocean of fireflies,
Dancing in the galaxy of vibrating embers.

A certain kind of bliss.
But not the blessed happiness.

I saw you sitting before me, sipping an ice cold rivet, slightly nodding your head as the band before us exploded with sound.
You were absolutely gorgeous.
I couldn’t avert my eyes for more than a few seconds before I was drawn back again to gaze upon your beautiful face and figure.
My masculine hesitation prevented me from saying anything, or perhaps it was simply the catastrophic chaos of the mosh and the violence and volume of the drums.
I suppressed my subtle longing to reach out and connect.

And then the gig was over.

I turned and talked with my new friend and flatmate, another lovely lady joining us in the conversation.
Eventually they ran off, and I was alone.

And then you returned, met me in the doorway, and said hello.
What on earth is happening?
The most beautiful girl at the party, confidently walking up and introducing herself to me?

My head was reeling, as the empathic amphetamines were beginning to overwhelm me.
It was easy to talk, and yet hard to converse.
I felt elevated, and yet unable to follow a train of thought to conclusion.
Nevertheless, we laughed, and we spoke, and we connected.

Danielle was your name, and Alex mine;
You study psychology, I study scripture;
You work on the street, I spin code on a screen;
You are drinking beer, I am drinking water;
Your heritage is chinese malaysian, mine is the british isles;
And both of us are true blue Aussies.

You ask why I’m drinking water.
I respond that I’m being very cautious tonight.
You immediately know what’s going on: you fully understand the nuances of the scene: Magnesium, Vitamin C, Alpha Lipoic Acid, 5-HTP.
I laugh and shake my head: “She knows!”

So I am here to find God in myself and God in the other, and experience the joy and bliss of connection.
Why are you here?

“This is my fourth beer in half an hour”
Laughing, I reel back in surprise.
“And I’ve dropped a cap too”
Smiling, I shake my head in shock.
What on earth are you running from?

But I don’t have the chance to ask, for the party whisks you away to the next conversation.

The night goes on and the love flows round.
People are dancing, people are stumbling,
people are pinging, people are munting.
Everyone is laughing, everyone is having fun.
The beat never changes for the entire night, but the crowd remains content.
And the whole time, I wonder, what are you running from?

I meet many people, all of them lost souls, finding consolation in the ephemerality of life.
Some lay beneath the blossom tree, gazing up at the flowers. Watching them float away and die.
Some take refuge in the absurdity of nihilism, and angrily proclaim the pointlessness of life.
No one here experiences salvation.
No one here understands the gospel.
No one here understands the power of Christ.
How sad.
How bittersweet.

Where are the elect in this place?
Where are the ones who walk in the light?
Perhaps this is my mission field.

A night concluded in the blink of an eye.
I’m back home, lying in bed.
Thinking back to the people and the party,
And especially you, that most gorgeous girl.

What were you running from?
I may never know.
But then again, I plan to return once more.
I plan to carry the light of Christ into that dark place;
To shine and illuminate;
To preach and proclaim;
To save this abandoned nihilistic hedonistic mass.

I don’t know what you were running from, but I know what you are searching for:
You are searching for the love that never dies;
The bliss that always endures;
The divinity that satisfies all longing;
The salvific rest of the Savior;
The warm embrace of Christ.

You don’t believe it’s possible, but I know it’s true, and I will embrace this descent into Hell to convince you of it.
I will not abandon you to the illusionary pleasures, but introduce you to the source of all life and love.

What were you running from?
I don’t know, but whatever it was, I want you to know: there IS meaning in life.
Take my hand and i will show you;
Follow me and I will give you rest.

God beckons, and he is waiting to wrap you up in an eternal embrace of ecstatic bliss, so let us ascend to heaven and enjoy the divine feast that has been prepared for us.
There is a seat at the table of the lord with your name on it, and I will not rest until you have taken your place at the supper of the lamb.

Whatever you may be running from, run to God,
And you will experience the ecstasy beyond ecstasy,
The life beyond life,
And the love beyond all love.

Run to God, and you will become one with the infinite beauty;
United to the hidden aesthetic truth,
Forever soaring beyond the sun and the myriad stars.

Alex Roberts, 2018

Beautiful Heresy 101 – Original Sin, Mortal Sin, and the Murder of God: “The Cross Was The Fall”

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The fall didn’t happen when Adam ate from the tree; the fall happened when humanity nailed God himself to the cross. Original sin was not something that happened “way back then” in the murky mythologies of before the beginning of history; The original sin was when God offered us life and we chose death; he offered us friendship and we chose brutal murder.

So it simply will not do to appeal to our “freedom” to explain how we end up in hell or heaven. We had the freedom to choose God, but no longer. We freely, wholeheartedly and definitively rejected God when he came to us with peace and love and we executed him. This was the unforgivable sin; there is no freedom after this, no repentance, no turning back. Every one of us has already made our final choice: non accipio.

And yet God can forgive even the unforgivable sin: and this he did by his resurrection. He does not “respect” our freedom. If he respected our freedom he would have just stayed dead. No, he conquers our freedom. We always and everywhere choose death: but from this death he draws out life. We constantly choose evil; and from this evil he brings about good. We respond to his friendship with hatred: yet from this hatred he works irresistible love.

He could have “respected” our freedom by staying dead and withdrawing his love. But instead, he insists on continuing to love us and by his victorious resurrection he has revealed that he will never stop loving us until every single one of us loves him back. We will not die: we will rise again. We will not be damned: We have already been saved.

History is the story of us choosing death and God giving us life in spite of that choice. History is the story of Grace: it is not the story of a God who “respects our freedom”. We all without exception have chosen Hell, and so God bestows his mercy on us all.

Eschatology and Soteriology – A Universalist Catholic Account Of The Last Things

I affirm the dogmatic, three-fold, Catholic eschatological division of Hell, Purgatory and Heaven. However I understand these three realities in ways that are different to the standard presentation, and I also propose a fourth realm which I’m not sure what to call, but will tentatively refer to as Eschaton. Finally, there is also a state called Limbo which overlaps with both Heaven and Purgatory, but it is important to note that my understanding of Limbo is quite different to the traditional understanding.

Hell

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In my understanding, and following the current Catechism, Hell consists of “Total separation from God”. I take this at face value and interpret it as meaning that Hell consists of “Ceasing to Exist”, because this is the only way to truly be “totally separate” from God. As it says in the psalms “If I make my bed in Hell, you are there with me”

I also believe that Hell is empty, which is to say that no one will actually experience this fate. I allow room for the idea that Jesus himself descended to this Hell and suffered the punishment of annihilation on our behalf on Holy Saturday. However I am not dogmatically committed to the idea.

People might wonder what the point of this Hell is if no one goes there. This is easily answered: Without everlasting damnation there can be no salvation. God needed to save us from something, and this is what it was. In this way, the purpose of Hell is to remind us how bad it could have been, which in turn serves to emphasise just how much God loves us, and just how great his Grace is.

Purgatory

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In my understanding, Purgatory is both a punishment and a purification. Both the punishment and the purification are directly proportional in intensity to the amount of sins a person commit during life.

Purgatory is also what I take all the biblical references to “Gehenna” to be referring to. As such, I believe that Purgatory is experienced as “Eternal Conscious Torment” (as long as the word “eternal” is understood to mean “timeless”). I take biblical references to the worm that dies not, eternal punishment, eternal fire, the outer darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth, and eternal destruction as references to the experience of purgatory. Purgatory really, really sucks and you don’t want to go there.

I also believe that people who do not have explicit faith in Christ prior to death go to purgatory. I believe that it is impossible for someone who has not been evangelised and who has not come to faith in the unconditional promises of God to enter salvation. Salvation requires a full purification, but also explicit faith in the gospel message. Without these two things, it is impossible to experience heaven.

Heaven

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In my understanding, Heaven is the place where someone goes when they have perfect, explicit faith in the unconditional promise of salvation, and when their soul has been fully purified of all stain of sin. Implicit faith is not enough. A loving heart is not enough. The soul must be perfect and their faith must be explicit.

The degree of reward received in heaven is directly proportional to the good works that the person performed during life. It is an abstract, spiritual sort of pleasure that consists of the direct apprehension of God and his pure beauty, truth, goodness, love, mercy, justice and so forth.

Where my view of heaven starts to differ from the standard account, is that I believe that it is impossible for the people in heaven to actually enjoy the fullness of heavenly bliss while their friends and family remain suffering in Gehenna. I believe that the people in Heaven can see the suffering in Gehenna, and they are horrified by it. As such, so long as there is a single soul remaining in the dark torments of Gehenna, this will cause a chain reaction of compassionate empathy that effectively nullifies the supreme joy and bliss of everyone in heaven.

I believe that because of this, the people in heaven will organise missionary trips to purgatory. They will descend from Heaven and minister to the poor souls who are trapped in Gehenna, preaching the Gospel to them, reasoning with them, loving them, and generally doing everything they can in order to bring these poor souls to perfect faith and repentance so that they may escape the darkness. This missionary activity will continue so long as there is a single soul remaining trapped in Gehenna.

Limbo

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Limbo is not really “another state”, and is instead just a dramatically reduced experience of Purgatory and Heaven. People who did not do many or any good deeds during life, but who also did not commit many or any sins during life, therefore do not merit much or any punishment and reward in the afterlife. Therefore regardless of whether these people end up in Heaven or Purgatory, the experience will be much the same: very blank and devoid of any content. This “nothing” state receives the name “Limbo” in my theology. Notice that it is different to “The limbo of the infants” and “The limbo of the fathers” from traditional Catholic scholasticism, although aborted babies and young infants do indeed experience my version of Limbo, on account of the fact that they haven’t sinned or loved at all during life.

Eschaton

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Where the previous states were disembodied spiritual realities which the soul experiences alone, this state has to do with the resurrection and new creation.

The eschaton is the final state, the end of history, the teleos of creation. In this final state, there will be no more tears, no more pain, no more suffering, no more sickness, no more death. The lion will lie down with the lamb. Every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Christ is lord. All the gentiles will be saved, all of Israel will be saved. Even all of the fallen Angels will have been saved.

The eschaton will not arrive until the missionary activity from heaven has succeeded and therefore every soul who is stuck in Gehenna has escaped. The joy of salvation cannot be complete until everyone has been fully saved. The eschaton represents the state of affairs when this has finally occurred. It is the most glorious state of all: No longer is there any impediment to the saved enjoying their salvation, because all of their friends and families have been saved too!

Furthermore, this is simultaneous with the resurrection, the Parousia, the final (general) judgement and the new creation. All the disembodied souls will be reunited with their glorified bodies, in a renewed and glorified physical reality that encompasses all of history and includes everything that has ever lived or existed. This is the true and final end to the story. So long as people fail to achieve heaven, heaven can’t really be heaven. But in the eschaton, everyone will have finally achieved salvation and therefore the joy of salvation will be complete. Finally we will all be able to enjoy God to the full, experiencing unadulterated, uninterrupted heavenly bliss, as well as perfect love for all people, all things, all creation and God himself.

Conclusion

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Heaven is not what we should be aiming for, and purgatory is not what we should be settling for. The eschaton is what we are working towards, and the good news of the gospel is that we can’t fail! Salvation is guaranteed, but it is not automatic: we still have to walk the path. But the good news is that we will walk the path. God guarantees and promises us that in the end, we will fight the good fight, we will run the race, we will win the prize. There is a crown waiting for each of us, and in the eschaton we will all be victorious, to the praise and glory of God.

7 Myths About Universalism

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Below is Parry’s article—originally published as Bell’s Hells: seven myths about universalism in the Baptist Times.


You can be a good evangelical without believing in eternal punishment, writes Robin Parry

On Tuesday February 22 2011, Rob Bell – the influential pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan – posted the promotional video for his new book, Love Wins.

Rumours started spreading almost immediately that Bell’s forthcoming book advocated universalism and, unsurprisingly, the Internet went white-hot. On Saturday February 26 Justin Taylor, a well-known neo-Calvinist, posted his provisional reflections about Bell as a universalist on The Gospel Coalition blog and, reportedly, by that evening about 12,000 people had recommended his post on Facebook.

That same day Rob Bell was in the top 10 trending topics on Twitter. And from there the number of blog posts exploded. Overnight, universalism went from being a marginal issue that most evangelicals felt that they could ignore to being the next big debate.

Feelings are running high at the moment and a lot of strong language is being used. I think that if the church is to have a fruitful discussion on this matter (rather than a bad tempered battle-to-the-death) then it is essential that we have a clear understanding of what Christian universalists actually believe. A lot of myths about universalism are informing the current debate and I want to explore seven of them very briefly below.

To begin it will be helpful to have a quick definition of Christian universalism. Christian universalists are (mostly) orthodox, Trinitarian, Christ-centred, gospel-focused, Bible-affirming, missional Christians. What makes them universalists is that they believe that God loves all people, wants to save all people, sent Christ to redeem all people, and will achieve that goal.

In a nutshell, it is the view that, in the end, God will redeem all people through Christ. Christian universalists believe that the destiny of humanity is ‘written’ in the body of the risen Jesus and, as such, the story of humanity will not end with a tomb.

Myth: Universalists don’t believe in hell

Many an online critic of Bell has complained that he, along with his universalist allies, does not believe in hell. Here, for instance, is Todd Pruitt: ‘Rob Bell . . . denies the reality of hell.’ Mr BH adds, ‘To Hell with No Hell. To Hell with what’s being sold by Rob Bell.’

Nice rhyming but, alas, this is too simplistic.

Historically all Christian universalists have had a doctrine of hell and that remains the case for most Christian universalists today, including Bell. The Christian debate does not concern whether hell will be a reality (all agree that it will) but, rather, what the nature of that reality will be. Will it be eternal conscious torment? Will it be annihilation? Or will it be a state from which people can be redeemed? Most universalists believe that hell is not simply retributive punishment but a painful yet corrective/educative state from which people will eventually exit (some, myself included, think it has a retributive dimension, while others do not).

So it is not hell that universalists deny so much as certain views about hell. (To complicate matters a little there have even been a few universalists that believed that hell is an eternal, conscious torment! An unusual view for a universalist but possible – honest.)

Myth: Universalists don’t believe the Bible

One does not have to read Bell’s detractors for long before coming across the following sentiments: Universalists are theological ‘liberals’ that reject the ‘clear teaching of the Bible’. Surely all good Bible-believing Christians will believe that some/many/most people are damned forever? ‘If indeed Rob Bell denies the existence of hell, this is a betrayal of biblical truth,’ says R Albert Mohler. David Cloud, concerned about Bell’s questioning classical conceptions of hell, writes, ‘It is evil to entertain questions that deny Bible truth.’

So, are universalists really Bible-denying? No.

Historically, Christian universalists have been Bible-affirming believers and that remains the case for many, perhaps the majority, today. The question is not ‘Which group believes the Bible?’ but, ‘How do we interpret the Bible?’

The root issue is this: there are some biblical texts that seem to affirm universalism (eg Romans 5:18; 1 Corinthians 15:22; Colossians 1:20; Philippians 2:11) but there are others that seem to deny it (eg Matthew 25:45; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9; Revelations 14:11; 20:10-15).

At the heart of the biblical debate is how we hold these two threads together. Do we start with the hell passages and reread the universalist texts in the light of them? That is the traditional route. Or, do we start with universalist passages and reinterpret the hell texts in the light of them? That is what many universalists do.

Or do we try to hold both sets of biblical teachings in some kind of tension (and there are various proposals for how we might do that – some leaning towards traditionalism, others leaning towards universalism)?

There is also the question of wider biblical-theological themes and their relevance. For instance, biblical teaching on God’s love, justice, punishment, the cross-resurrection, covenant, etc. How might reflection on those matters influence our theology of hell?

This is not just about finding ‘proof texts’ to whip your opponent with (both sides are capable of that) but about making best sense of the Bible as a whole. And when we follow the big plotline of the scriptures, which ending to the story has the best ‘fit’? Universalists believe that the ending in which God redeems his whole creation makes the most sense of the biblical metanarrative. Traditionalists disagree.

My point is that this debate is not a debate between Bible-believing Christians (traditionalists) and ‘liberals’ (universalists). It is, to a large extent, a debate between two sets of Bible-believing Christians on how best to understand scripture.

Myth: Universalists don’t think sin is very bad

Blogger Denny Burke thinks that Bell’s ‘weak’ view of hell if based on a ‘weak’ view of sin which, in turn, is based on a ‘weak’ view of God: ‘Sin will always appears as a trifle to those whose view of God is small.’

Universalists ‘obviously’ think that sin isn’t something to get too worked up about – after all they believe that God’s job is to forgive people, right?

Once again we are in the realm of mythology. Propose a view on the seriousness of sin as strong as you wish and you’ll find universalists who would affirm it. Does sin affect every aspect of human life? Is it an utter horror that degrades our humanity and warrants divine wrath? Does it deserve eternal punishment?

Universalists could affirm all of these things so long as they believed that God’s love, power, grace, and mercy are bigger and stronger than sin. Universalists do not have a low view of sin, they have a high view of grace: ‘Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.’

Myth: Universalists believe in God’s love but forget his justice and wrath

Here is Britten Taylor’s response to Rob Bell: ‘God is love. But, He is also just. God pours out His mercy, but He also pours out His wrath.’ The implication is that universalists overplay divine love and forget that God is also holy and just. Right? Wrong.

Christian universalists have a lot to say about God’s holiness, justice, and even his wrath. Typically they think that God’s divine nature cannot be divided up into conflicting parts in such a way that some of God’s actions are loving (eg, saving sinners) while others are just and full of anger (eg, hell).

They see all of God’s actions as motivated by ‘holy love’. Everything God does is holy, completely just, and completely loving.

So whatever hell is about it must be compatible not simply with divine justice but also with divine love. Which means that it must, in some way, have the good of those in hell as part of its rationale.

Universalists feel that one potential danger in traditional theologies of hell is that while they make much of God justice and anger they appear to be incompatible with his love and, as a result, they divide up the unity of God’s nature.

Myth: Universalists think that all roads lead to God

Here is Kevin Mullins’ definition of universalism in his discussion of Bell: ‘Universalism – the belief that everyone, regardless of faith or behavior, will be counted as God’s people in the end. All roads lead to Him. All religions are just different expressions of the same Truth.’

That idea is what underlies crparke’s comment that, ‘If Rob Bell denies hell then he denies the need for a “savior” and makes the sacrifice of Jesus irrelevant.’

Here our Internet conversation partners have confused universalism (the view that God will one day save all people through Christ) with pluralism (the view that there are many paths to God and that Jesus is simply one of them). But Christian universalists deny pluralism. They insist that salvation is found only through the atoning work of Christ. Without Jesus nobody would be redeemed!

Now there is a disagreement between Christians about whether one needs to have explicit faith in Jesus to share in the salvation he has bought. Some Christians, called exclusivists, think that only those who put their trust in the gospel can be saved.

Others, called inclusivists, think that it is possible to be saved through Christ even without explicit faith in him.

Thus, for inclusivists it is possible to be saved even if, for instance, you have never heard the gospel. Inclusivists would maintain that if someone responds in humility, love, and faith to the truncated divine revelation that they have received then God can unite them to Christ and they may be considered as, perhaps, ‘anonymous Christians’.

But we need to be careful not to confuse the discussion between exclusivists and inclusivists with the issue of universalism. Many people make that mistake. The former debate concerns how people can experience the salvation won by Christ while the latter concerns how many people will be saved. Two different questions.

Thus, some universalists are inclusivists (eg, Rob Bell) but others are exclusivists, maintaining that only people who trust in the gospel can be saved. (Obviously exclusivist universalists have to believe that salvation is possible after death.)

But whether one is speaking of exclusivist or inclusivist universalists, neither relegate Jesus to the sidelines.

Myth: Universalism undermines evangelism

Here is Matt: ‘I do think the Scripture is clear that salvation at least has some limits. If it doesn’t, then preaching and evangelism are ultimately wasted activities.’ And R Albert Mohler worries that, ‘If indeed Rob Bell denies the existence of hell, this . . . has severe . . . evangelistic consequences.’ Why, after all, would anyone bother to go through all the effort and struggle of evangelism if God is going to save everyone in the end anyway?

So must universalism undermine evangelism? Not at all. There are many reasons to engage in mission and evangelism, not least that Christ commands it. And it is a huge privilege to join with God in his mission of reconciling the world to himself. The gospel message in God’s ‘foolish’ way of setting the world right so, of course, universalists will want to proclaim it.

Fear of hell is not the only motivation for mission. And, what is more, the majority of universalists do fear hell. Whilst they may not view it as ‘the end of the road’, they still consider it to be a dreadful state to be avoided.

And historically universalists have not run from mission. Here are the words of an eighteenth century Baptist universalist, Elhanan Winchester, who was himself an evangelist: ‘There is no business or labour to which men are called, so important, so arduous, so difficult, and that requires such wisdom to perform it [as that of the soul-winner]. The amazing worth of winning souls, makes the labour so exceeding important, and of such infinite concern’ (sermon on the death of John Wesley, 1791).

Myth: Universalism undermines holy living

Here is Frank: ‘Oh thank goodness Rob Bell is here to explain that we can do whatever we want because (drum roll please) . . . there’s no consequence, there’s no hell!’ And Frank is not alone. During 17th, 18th and 19th centuries many Christians were especially worried that if the fear of hell was reduced people would have little to constrain their sinful behaviour. Thus universalism, they feared, would fuel sin.

But the fear of punishment is not the only motive for avoiding sin and, even if it were, universalism does, as has already been mentioned, have space for some such fear. But far more important for holy living – indeed the only motive for heartfelt holy living – is the positive motivation inspired by love for God.

Who, after all, would reason, ‘I know that God created me, seeks to do me good, sent his Son to die for me, and that he will always love me…so I must hate him!’? On the contrary, the revelation of divine love solicits our loving response (1 John 4:19).

Clearly there is an important debate to be had but if we desire more light and less heat we need to start by getting a clearer understanding of the view under discussion.

Hell, Damnation, Salvation, Freedom, Omnipotence, Sovereignty and Goodness: Tough Apologetics Questions for the Non-Universalist

Apologetics Question 1. Does God love the people in Hell?

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If they say No:

So he doesn’t love the people in Hell? How can you call him a loving God? Doesn’t this contradict scripture, tradition, the church? How could you worship such a monster?

“But those people deserve to be punished”

Isn’t the Christian message that we all deserve to be punished? And isn’t the gospel of grace a message that God gratuitously rescues us from this punishment? Why would he only rescue some people and not rescue everyone? He has the power to rescue everyone; so what’s stopping him?

“We should be happy that God even rescues a single one of us. He is under no obligation to rescue anyone at all, let alone everyone”

Nonsense. Once I had a Calvinist friend use an analogy to justify God’s condemning people to Hell that went something like this: “Imagine a backstreet where 10 homeless people live, and then imagine that a rich man comes along and chooses one of them to take into his home; washing, cleaning, feeding and generally taking care of him. This rich man has done a good thing, and cannot be blamed for failing to rescue all 10 of the hobos who reside in the backstreet, let alone all the hobos in the world.” This analogy fails: If God is the rich man, he is a rich man who has infinite money and material wealth. If this is the case then the rich man has a moral obligation to use his money to rescue all of the hobos. If he does not use his limitless financial power to save all the hobos, he is culpably negligent and malevolent. So it is with God, salvation, and us: God has the power to save everyone; he suffers from no limitations whatsoever, and saving everyone would not detract from him or his glory in any way, so he is morally obligated to save us.

“But God can not be obligated to do anything”

If he is a perfect father, then yes, he can. Parents are obligated to care for, raise, and will the good of their children, and if they fail to do so they have failed as parents. If God truly is our perfect father in heaven, then he is obligated to care for us as his children and prevent us from irreparably harming ourselves (ie, entering into eternal damnation). He will not sit idly by while we commit spiritual suicide: he will intervene, like a good parent should. Sometimes he rewards us and sometimes he punishes us, but the punishment is always remedial and with the purpose of correcting us and helping us grow into the creations we were meant to be, in divine union with him. This is the entire purpose of Hell: to drive home to those rebellious souls who refuse to listen that they are living a life that leads to destruction: God lets us experience that destruction in Hell, so as to teach us a lesson that will bring us back to repentance and union with him.

If they say yes:

In what sick world is “everlasting conscious torment” compatible with or an expression of love?

“God loves the people in Hell, but he loves them differently”

Does this not compromise divine simplicity? Why is it that God chooses to love the people in heaven in such a way that they are saved, while he chooses to love the people in Hell in such a way that they experience infinite tortures for all eternity? It seems completely arbitrary. Do you even know what you’re talking about? At the point where “love” can hold the definition “brutal torture forever and ever”, the word has simply lost all meaning.

Apologetics Question 2. Can God’s will be defeated?

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If they say yes:

Why would you want to worship such a weak and pathetic God? Isn’t God supposed to be sovereign? Doesn’t God get what he wants? If God wills something to happen, what on earth could prevent it? Isn’t he omnipotent?

“God has two wills: his ordaining will and his permissive will. He desires the salvation of all via his ordaining will, but he allows the damnation of some via his permissive will”

This makes God sound like a schizophrenic, and certainly not the omnipotent sovereign lord of all reality. I accept the distinction between ordaining will and permissive will, as a solution to the problem of evil in the present time. However I do not accept that the permissive will can remain out of sync with the ordaining will forever. In the end times, in the eschaton, the permissive will and the ordaining will will coincide perfectly, because there will be no evil: everything that God will permit to happen will be exactly what God wants to happen. This is not the case now – in the present age – because we still have to contend with evil, which God does not desire. However in the eschaton all tears will be wiped away, the lion will lie down with the lamb, there will be no more sickness, suffering or death. Everything will be perfect. God will no longer need to “permit” anything because everything that happens will be perfectly in line with his ordaining will.

If they say no:

If God’s will can’t be defeated, then how the heck do people end up in Hell? Doesn’t it clearly state in the bible that God wills the salvation of everyone?

“God wants those people to be damned, he doesn’t really will the salvation of all”

So how can he be a loving God? It sounds like he hates some/most people and takes pleasure in torturing them forever.

“God doesn’t damn us: we choose to be damned. We damn ourselves”

And why would God allow us to do that? Wouldn’t it make him a terrible parent? What parent would not seek help for a suicidal child? Who on earth would simply “accept” their child’s attempts at suicide? So it is with us and God: If he really is God, he’s not just going to “put up” with our attempts to damn ourselves; he’s going to use his omnipotence to rescue us. What parent gives total autonomy to their baby? What parent waits for consent to change a baby’s nappy? The parents are the ones who decide what’s going to happen; not the children. In the same way, God decides who will be saved, not us, and as he has clearly spelt out in many places in sacred scripture, he has decided to save everyone, so that’s damn well what’s going to happen. If this is the argument you’re going to make, then you’re essentially saying that the children have veto power over the parents: God can say that he’s going to save everyone, but we have the power to thwart this plan of his and damn ourselves forever.

Apologetics Question 3. How do the people in Heaven feel about the people in Hell? Do they feel sad?

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If they say yes:

How can you say that they are sad? If they are in Heaven, then nothing could possibly detract from their joy. Otherwise it simply wouldn’t be heaven. Either they are not sad, or they are not really in heaven, and therefore not really saved.

Furthermore, if they are sad, then why don’t they do something about it? Why don’t they go down to Hell and evangelise the poor souls who are trapped there? Why don’t they storm God’s throne with prayers to save these people?

“These people are frozen in their rejection. They can no longer repent”

Bollocks. There is a strong tradition of afterlife repentance in Apostolic Christianity. In the east, there is the efficacious prayers for the dead, which assist those in hades to move from there to paradise. In the west, there is the doctrine of afterlife sanctification in purgatory; presumably this sanctification involves repentance in both life and afterlife. Furthermore the eastern understanding of the Harrowing of Hell on Holy Saturday provides precedent for afterlife repentance: Jesus descended into Hell and preached the Gospel to the souls who were imprisoned there, giving them the opportunity to repent and accept the good news. If Jesus was willing and able to do that, we should too. Furthermore, there is a Marian devotion which says that Mary visits the souls in purgatory once a year; if Mary can do it, we can too.

If they say no:

They don’t feel sad to witness their families burning in Hell? Well, how on earth do they feel?

“They are so enthralled by God’s goodness and beauty that they simply cease to be aware of the damned”

I like to call this the “Heroin addiction” view of Heaven: The saved are so high on God that they simply cease to care about what else is going on in creation. The fact that their parents, children, brothers and sisters are suffering unspeakable agonies does not concern this soul; he simply doesn’t care. I ask you; in what strange world is this the perfection of Christian charity? Surely so long as there is a single soul outside heaven, the saints cannot be truly happy and satisfied until that soul is saved? Heaven is not heaven unless everyone is there.

“The people in Heaven rejoice in the sufferings of the damned, because nothing can subtract from the joy of heaven, and the joy of heaven can only be increased by created things”

Does this really need any comment in order to highlight how sickening and contrary to Christian love it is? Lets spell it out: A mother loses her baby, the baby goes to Hell and the mother goes to heaven. The mother peers over the clouds of heaven in order to take a look at those who are suffering in Hell. She sees her baby burning in the infernal flames and cries tears of ecstatic joy, praising God for his most glorious display of justice, and beseeching him to increase the degree of torment even more, revelling in the brutal torture of her child. Aren’t the saved supposed to be perfected in Christian charity? Aren’t they supposed to have empathy and compassion for those who are stuck walking in darkness? If this is what it means to be saved, I want nothing of it. I would rather go and be with my family in Hell, because there is more love down there with them than with your evil vindictive God and his bloodthirsty, sadistic saints.

 

Gospel and State of Grace – Perfect Contrition and the Abolition of Hell

Card-_110-Contrition-front[1].jpgHe who understands the gospel will never fall from the state of grace – no matter what sins he commits – because to understand the gospel is to experience perfect contrition, and perfect contrition is the abolition of Hell. If you are unable to detect perfect contrition within yourself, you have not yet understood the gospel. Someone who understands the gospel with their mind, naturally overflows with both Joy and Sorrow in their heart: Joy at the unconditional promise of an eternity spent with God, sorrow at the reality that he daily fails to live up to his destiny.

It is impossible to force your will towards love for God, and so it is impossible to manufacture perfect contrition. You must first recognise that God loves you and all those who you care for, and therefore could never abandon you to damnation. Only then will real love for God spontaneously explode in your heart, driving out any fear of Hell.

But even after all this, there is a higher way. Christ was willing to suffer damnation for the sake of the salvation of his enemies. Your love for God and neighbour is not perfect until you find yourself in the position where you are truly willing to do the same. Only when God has promised you eternal bliss, and yet you are willing to sacrifice it for the sake of the salvation of the other, can you truly be said to have achieved union with the divine.

The Gospel as Unconditional Promise: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!”

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The Gospel is – at its’ core – an unconditional promise: “God loves you, unconditionally”, but this is merely a statement of abstract theological fact. It does not begin to become “Good news” without some sort of elaboration attached: “That’s all well and good, but what does it mean for ME?”

  • “God loves you, unconditionally, therefore he has sent his son to take a bullet for you; to heal you; to take your spiritual sickness upon himself, dive into the depths of Hell and annihilate it forever.”
  • “God loves you, unconditionally, therefore he will never leave you or reject you, even if you leave him or reject him.”
  • “God loves you, unconditionally, therefore he will not allow you to commit spiritual suicide.”
  • “God loves you, unconditionally, therefore your eternal future is secure and you need not fear an everlasting Hell.”

If this promise is never spoken – if the radical implications of this promise are never preached from the pulpit – the Gospel is simply never being proclaimed; some other language game is being played.

A question is raised: To whom does God speak this promise? The answer should be obvious after even a cursory survey of scripture: He speaks this promise to the entire creation. Christ died for everyone and everything. Nothing and no-one could be excluded from his sovereign love and salvific will. Hell has no place in the eschaton.

But as Paul says in Romans: How are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!”

Many people in the present age are walking in darkness. They are already stuck in Hell. They are unaware that God’s love intends them, and that their future is secure. They fear the worst for themselves, their friends and their family. They are terrified that Hell may await for themselves and those whom they love. These people need to have the Gospel promise spoken to them, to liberate them from slavery to sin and free them for a life of love and thankfulness. This is why we must evangelise: God loves everyone, but not everyone knows it yet and until they do, God’s mission remains incomplete.