One of the problems with Steve Chalke’s book The Lost Message of Paul is that he bites off much more than he can chew. As a result, influential Christian leaders and teachers such as Augustine, Luther and Calvin are dismissed with a wave of the hand, opponents are caricatured, and opinions are advanced without consideration of the reasons and evidence that might be adduced either for or against them.
No doubt the response to such criticisms would be, “But I simply didn’t have time or space in a book of this kind to dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’.” But that’s precisely the problem: if you want to claim that in a number of important ways Protestantism has completely misunderstood and misrepresented the Christian faith, then you have to work much harder than this to support your arguments and to rebut the counter-arguments.…
Does the Greek root ‘aion*’ always entail infinite duration?
One relevant set of evidence is provided by Douglas Jacoby, who notes that in not a few instances, the Greek aion* is used in the Septuagint in ways in which ‘everlasting’ (i.e. infinite duration) cannot be the meaning:-
Genesis 6:4—“Men of old” (giants/ungodly persons/fallen ones/sons of Cain) did not live infinitely
Jeremiah 25:12—Destruction of Babylon (though not literally destroyed)
Genesis 9:12—Perpetual generations
Exodus 21:6—The man or woman would become one’s servant “forever” (!)
Leviticus 25:34—Perpetual possession of fields
Deuteronomy 23:3—“Forever” || the 10th generation
1 Samuel 2:22—Young Samuel was to serve at the house of the Lord “forever”
Douglas Moo observes that in most English versions, the word ‘hell’ is not found in Paul’s writings. That is because he never used either of the two words usually translated ‘hell’ – gehenna and hades.
So what language does the apostle use concerning the fate of the wicked? They are, in order of frequency:-
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, NIV).
These words constitute the go-to text for Christians who wish to assert that Jesus Christ is the only way to God. It is also the go-to text for those who feel that Christianity condemns itself as abhorrent and intolerant by reason of the very exclusiveness of this saying.
But does does the text actually mean what most of its friends (and, indeed, most of its enemies) think it means?…
In 1990, aware that respected evangelicals such as John Stott, Philip Edgcumbe Hughes and John Wenham had recently lent their support to annihilationism/conditionalism, J.I. Packer gave a lecture on ‘The Problem of Eternal Punishment.’
Packer began by affirming what all evangelicals should affirm, namely that our views about ultimate destiny should be shaped not by what what we might like to be so, but by what Scripture actually says is so. Packer also observed what many before and after him have observed: that the Scriptural voice which speaks most frequently and firmly about hell is that of Jesus himself.…
This was, of course, a question that was put to the Lord Jesus (Luke 13:23). We would do well to take his response to heart: it matters little whether they are few or many, if you are not among that number.
Still, some things can be said about this subject.
The question is faced up to squarely by the Puritan Christopher Love, even though he found his conclusion to be ‘one of the most dismal doctrines’ a pastor could preach. …