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Christians--Do Evangelicals Believe Everyone Else Going to Hell?

Discussion in 'Same Faith Debates' started by Starfish, Apr 4, 2008.

  1. Dunemeister

    Dunemeister Well-Known Member

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    I was being a bit facetious, which doesn't always come through well in writing.

    In 3000 years, the Americans will have a whole lot of case law that will help them understand the constitution, and they will use that case law (among other things, such as linguistic history) to reconstruct the original authors' intent.

    So it is here. The Jewish stewards of the book of Genesis uses relatively recent Hebrew. The book was composed during the Babylonian captivity, most likely. So it's not all that difficult to reconstruct the meaning. As it turns out, ancient Hebrew is similar to ancient Babylonian and Sumerian and Egyptian in that it can (and, as I argue, in this case does) use plural nouns to refer to singular entities in order to emphasize their majesty. Kings and individual gods were afforded this honor regularly. To argue that "Elohim" actually denotes a plurality of beings, you need further argument.

    Besides, the fact that the entire Old testament speaks of God in singular terms, I think we're safe to assume that it is best to interpret the plural noun Elohim as denoting a singular deity but connoting supreme majesty -- likely over against Babylonian deities.
     
  2. Dunemeister

    Dunemeister Well-Known Member

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    FWIW, I think I've found a decent online discussion of the Hebrew grammar with respect to "Elohim" and "us" in the disputed passage. Although the article contradicts some of my reasoning, it agrees with my conclusion that Elohim denotes a singular entity and not multiple gods. Anyway, here it is:

    Genesis 1:26 and the Hebrew Noun 'Elohim'
     
  3. Orontes

    Orontes Master of the Horse

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    Modalism is indeed one aspect or form of trinitarianism. In fact, I think it is the general penchant within Latin Trinitarian Christendom, despite the fact the view is formally deemed a heresy. As to whether trinitarianism preserves monotheism: if one argues

    1) Jewry was/is strictly monotheistic
    2) And, monotheism is the assertion there is only one God
    3) And, any trinitarian schema necessarily entails a notion of three relevant to the Divine
    4) Then there is a strain between 2) and 3) which calls into question any Christian preservation of Jewish thinking.

    I'm sure you are aware that within Islamic circles the trinitarian claims to monotheism are flatly rejected as polytheistic. This same rejection can be found from Jewish theologians as well. The point remains trinitarian sentiments from the perspective of the larger Oriental religious traditions (Judaism and Islam) appears an innovation.

    As to textual criticism: the documents we have do not support the notion Jewry was strictly monotheistic from its inception, but came to the idea over time. This is found both from textual work on the Tanakh and other archeological texts (the Ugaritic texts I mentioned are a simple example). If one rejects such, but remains committed to a given position on Jewish beliefs, it is difficult to see why that position isn't simply a dogmatism.

     
  4. Dunemeister

    Dunemeister Well-Known Member

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    Yes, you're absolutely right on this point. The Christian sect retained continuity with the Judaism that preceded it, but certainly trinitarian thinking was a development and variation on Jewish monotheism. Trinitarianism retains the singularity of God but puts a novel twist in the tail, no doubt. But it's still a recognizably monotheistic idea.

    Yes, I agree. The trinitarian conception is an innovation. It was demanded because of the peculiar ways Christians talked about Jesus. For instance, Jesus was consistently included with God as the bestower of blessings rather than with the rest of humanity as the receiver of blessings. This occurred a great deal in the epistles: "Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." In revelation, Jesus is called "Lord God Almighty," is depicted as sharing God's throne, and receives the same worship as the Father. If a human is going to receive the dignities that Judaism had traditionally reserved for God alone yet retain monotheism, Christians had some explaining to do. Eventually, the church settled on trinitarianism. So certainly Christians must concede that trinitarianism is a theological novelty.

    The charge of polytheism really fails. Christians do not affirm the existence of three gods. Rather, we affirm the existence of one god who subsists as three persons. There's only so far you can press the question "How can this be?" Eventually, the Christian must shrug her shoulders and say "That's just how it is."

    The problem with textual criticism with respect to the OT is the impossibility of reconstructing what biblical texts were written first, second, third, and so forth. It's really not possible to reconstruct how developments have taken place. Even if we accept the idea that the Jewish notion evolved over time (perfectly reasonable), it's not possible to demonstrate with confidence (that is, without employing extraordinarily questionable assumptions) how it evolved. In short, in this sort of "scholarship", the ruling assumptions tend to be one author's theory of religion, which is generally unsupported by evidence. Based on that theory, a development scheme is proposed. Hence we get billions of theories about what developed first, last, and in between, with each theory's theoretical underpinning consisting only of the imagination of its proponent. It's far better, I think, to simply treat the text as a whole. So we must interpret Genesis in light of the panoply of Old Testament revelation and vice versa. And when we handle the text that way, there's no question that the Jewish conception of God is creational convenantal monotheism. And there can be no question that this was the Jewish conception in Jesus' day.
     
  5. donnapstork

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    Jesus said,"in my father's house there are many mansions." was He saying that there were doors to God besides himself?
     
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  6. Katzpur

    Katzpur Not your average Mormon

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    My goodness! What do we have here? An open-minded Christian! Thanks for your input, donnapstork, and welcome to RF! :yes:
     
  7. Scott C.

    Scott C. Just one guy

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    While I don't think my religion is heretical, I appreciate your acceptance of my Christianity. I also accept others, who believe in Christ, as Christians, even if I find some of what they believe to be heresy.
     
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  8. lunamoth

    lunamoth Will to love

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    Take note of donnapstork's denomination. :D And don't forget Terry...your favorite member? Notice any trends?
     
  9. Katzpur

    Katzpur Not your average Mormon

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    :D Actually, I did notice and I do see a trend. You know, before I knew you and Terry, I would never have suspected Episcopalians of being so tolerant -- not that I'd given it a lot of thought. Anyway, since I have now seen three examples, I guess your reputation is cast in concrete. :yes:
     
  10. lunamoth

    lunamoth Will to love

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    Don't forget CS Lewis.
     
  11. Katzpur

    Katzpur Not your average Mormon

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    Yeah, I forgot about him. Too bad the missionaries didn't find him before he died. He'd have made a great Mormon. :angel2:
     
  12. lunamoth

    lunamoth Will to love

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    Ha ha!
     
  13. lunamoth

    lunamoth Will to love

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    And you'd make a great Episcopalian. :yes:
     
  14. Katzpur

    Katzpur Not your average Mormon

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    I'm flattered! Thank you! :yes:
     
  15. lunamoth

    lunamoth Will to love

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    It's not too late...;)
     
  16. Ratiocinative

    Ratiocinative Member

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    I would like as many people to be saved as possible, which is why I say only what is the truth concerning salvation. Lying won't help save anyone. As far as feelings go, they don't have any effect on reality, but if you want to talk feelings then I feel the need to tell the truth rather than make up lies. God has told us, through the Bible, that the only way to be saved is to believe in Christ, so I am sticking to that. If your friends do believe in Jesus then that is great, but if they do not then they do not have the Holy Spirit because it is only given to those who believe.
     
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  17. Orontes

    Orontes Master of the Horse

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    Hi Dunemeister,

    It sounds like we're agreed that the metaphysics of positing a strict Jewish monotheism is distinct from any trinitarian schema and that the latter is indeed a novelty and/or innovation. I think that positioning presents a problem for any who claim Jesus as Divine. On conceptual grounds it entails introducing a different God, as a God with some component of three is not the same as a God that is simply one i.e. indivisible. On historical grounds the view fails to explain or account for the fact of the Jesus Movement being a Jewish phenomenon. I think the view therefore creates unnecessary problems for a Christian perspective. I think you would be interested in the work of Margaret Barker* (herself an Anglican Biblical Scholar) who addresses the topic of why a movement, with the ideas of Jesus as Divine but not the Father, would have been able to develop or have any truck within Jewry.


    I think you paint too stark a picture. While any historical analysis suffers due to the necessary gap in time, there is still quite a lot that can be said about the historicity of a text or compilation. Moreover, there is a vast amount of extra-Tanakh material that allows context and dating. Even restricting things to simply looking to the content of the text demonstrates tensions and multiple views are evident. As things may relate to any strict monotheistic claims: the fact remains that "Elohim" is commonly used. The word is a plural. In Hebrew, one can speak of God in a completely singular form: "El" for example. Therefore, one must assume either the authors who repeatedly used the plural were confused, or there is something else a'foot: any something else undercuts claims of a strict monotheism.



    *Barker is the author of the work I already referenced earlier: "The Great Angel"
     
  18. Izdaari

    Izdaari Emergent Anglo-Catholic

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    Lewis came very near to being Catholic, but he was not willing to consent in advance to whatever new doctrines the Vatican might think up. That's the same reason I couldn't be Catholic. Well, Roman Catholic anyway... Liberal Catholic and Old Catholic are possible, but those are much smaller.
     
  19. Izdaari

    Izdaari Emergent Anglo-Catholic

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    Exactly! Adelphoi in Christ we are, though we may each regard some of the other's beliefs to be heretical. :cool:

    And I'm pretty sure an "emerging church" trinitarian Pentecostal like myself would be a heretic from an orthodox LDS viewpoint. :shrug:

    :foryou:
     
  20. Dunemeister

    Dunemeister Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for your thoughtful responses.

    Thanks for the Anglican source. I'll certainly check it out when I have time. I take N.T. Wright as my main go-to guy for issues such as this. Here's a web page devoted to his work:

    N.T. Wright Page

    In his books, "The New Testament and the People of God," and in "Jesus and the Victory of God" he makes the case that it is possible, within Jewish monotheism, to accommodate the idea that a human might share God's throne. He documents how certain Jewish sects flirted with that idea without ever thinking of themselves -- or being thought of by their rivals -- as having abandoned traditional Jewish monotheism. So perhaps the matter isn't quite so straightforward as many people think.

    In Hebrew, verb forms change when the subject is plural or singular. When referring to God, "Elohim" ALWAYS takes a singular verb form. When referring to angels, people of authority, or lesser (i.e. imaginary) gods, it takes the plural form. Thus, even though the Creator God is called Elohim, the concept is not plural. If it were, it would have taken the plural verb. This observation leads Hebrew scholars to believe that the plurality involved in "Elohim", as it relates to the Creator God, is not literal. Rather, plurality is a device used to emphasize royal dignity.

    As for textual criticism, I'm afraid my comment stands. We simply cannot reconstruct with anything like reasonable confidence the relationship between traditions that stand behind the biblical books. Were the traditions that stand behind Genesis 1 extant in 3000 BC, or were they developed during the Babylonian captivity? We can't know. Literally can't. So we're forced to deal with the entire text as a whole and interpret it on that basis. When we do so, we find a surprisingly coherent picture of God and history.
     
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