Roger Olson is my favorite Evangelical Arminians. He has a unique ability to be an anchor of doctrinal stability and a provocative juggernaut of theological inquiry that causes us to scratch our heads and, many times, reshape our paradigms. I have used his The Mosaic of Christian Belief in The Theology Program for over six years and I don’t plan on changing it any time soon. He has been on Converse with Scholars (twice I think). He is a great and well respected Evangelical author and professor. All of this to say, I have much admiration and appreciation for Roger Olson…he keeps us on our toes.

Having said this, his recent blog post about Protestant Purgatory makes me wonder what is going on.

Don’t take the title of this post seriously. It comes from Roger himself when he says, “Once again, as I write, I am aware that some critics out there may rip what I say out of context (because they have in the past) and publicly accuse me of adopting a Roman Catholic doctrine.  I can see the (admittedly small) headline in some state Baptist newspaper now: “Baptist seminary professor Roger Olson headed toward Rome!” Well, this is not a Baptist newspaper, but it’ll do.

While I am a fan of Roger Olson, I am a contemplative critic of his thesis here. I don’t really know where it has come from. The very idea of Purgatory goes against everything that the Reformation was about. Let me back up. In essence, this is what I am hearing Olson say: “There are some Christians who have done some really, really bad things and had some really, really bad attitudes. Therefore, I am considering that these Christians have to enter into an educational corrective half-way house before entering Heaven. Let’s call this a ‘Protestant Purgatory’.”

For those of you not familiar with Purgatory, this is a doctrine held by Roman Catholics but rejected by Protestants and Eastern Orthodox. It is taken from the Lat. “purgare” meaning to purify. Officially and without internal debate, it can be said that Purgatory is a place that those who die in the grace of God (i.e. in a justified state) go to in order to be purified from the venial sins. “Venial” sins, as opposed to “mortal” sins, are sins that do not remove the justifying grace of God. They are the “small” sins, the white lies, calling in sicks when we were not sick, the candy thefts, and the “holy *%$# Batman’s” of our life. They are all those things that we forgot to do penance for (or simply did not have time!).

There is internal debate among Catholics concerning the nature and duration of Purgatory. Traditionally, it was a place of fire that could last millions of years. However, contemporary Catholicism has lightened the load quite a bit. Some current (and more palatable) descriptions I have heard include “a washing up before dinner” and “a timeless, instantaneous, and virtually painless purging of our wicked nature.” Either way, the idea is that there will be a time of suffering that all non-sainthooded Christians go through before entering Paradise. Very few escape its purging. But take heart, if you make it there, you are guaranteed to make it to Heaven eventually!

Biblically, Purgatory is very difficult to defend without reading the Tradition of the Roman Catholic church into certain passages. Theologically, the idea is that we must be completely clean before we get into God’s presence. No dirt under the fingernails. If we die and are “covered” legally by the blood of Christ, we need to have our fallen nature purged actually.

Protestants, including myself, believe that this amounts to a price-cut on the power and efficiency of the Cross. It is sort of a crucifix deflation. We believe that Christ paid for all sins and that there is simply no condemnation for those who have placed their faith in him (Rom. 8:1). Believers have been justified through the alien righteousness of Christ which was “imputed” or credited to our account. There is simply no way for us to atone for our own sin, not matter how big or small. Therefore, when God sees us, he sees Christ. Its that simple. No further cleansing needed.

Olson most certainly believes in the imputation of Christ righteousness and justification by faith. However, he seems to have fallen into this category that we all often trip into. Its a category that makes us pick up a bit of the load. Its a category that wants others to carry some of the load. Its a category that says “Grace is too radical.” Its the “other brother” in all of us that says “Father, this is not fair. He has just done too much wrong not to get punished at tincy bit.”

Using Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and Augustine as examples, Olson puts on display their dark side. No, not their dark side before accepting Christ, but their dark side post-Christian. In essence, this is what it comes down to:

Luther: Advocated the total annihilation of the Jews.

Augustine: Advocated the total annihilation of heretics.

Zwingli: Arrested and tortured Hubmaier until he recanted of his heresy.

Calvin: (you knew it was coming) Advocated the burning of the anti-Trinitarian Servetus.

Olson does not like these historic Christian titans acting in such a way. Without getting into the details involved here or the cultural toleration and advocacy of such, let’s just say that none of us do. Its Olson’s “solution” that that makes me scratch my head. While not assigning them to the fires of Purgatory, he does not want them to get a “free” pass. He thinks that some intellectual atonement needs to be made before they are granted access to paradise. In his words:

“[W]ith regard to Augustine, Luther, Zwingli and Calvin (among others) I’m faced with a dilemma.  Are they in paradise now?  Are they enjoying the bliss of being in the presence of Jesus?  I am not their judge, but I would like to think so.  But that presses me back to considering some concept like purgatory.  Lull’s little dialogue book gave me the possible answer.  (Remember–I’m talking about a hypothesis and not a new doctrine.) 

What’s wrong with a Protestant believing that upon entering paradise a hate-filled Christian leader of the past who condoned torture and even murder (I don’t know what else to call the burning of Servetus even though it was technically legal–we still call “legal” stonings of women in certain countries “murder”) has to take a spiritually therapeutic “class” of correction?

I can imagine (only imagine, you realize!) Zwingli entering the pearly gates (imagery–because there’s no reason to believe paradise has gates!) and being greeted by Hubmaier who says ‘Ulrich, it’s nice to see you here.  I’ve completely forgiven you.  But Christ has assigned me as your tutor and guide during your orientation to paradise.  Here, sit down, let me offer you some correction about treatment of people with whom you disagree.'”

What is wrong with hate-filled Christians going through corrective therapy as a consequence for their sinful thinking? Really? Are we being serious here? If Olson had simply said that we will all be learning in heaven, if Olson had said that all our thinking be instantaneously sanctified upon entering Paradise, maybe if this was not in the context of Purgatory, I might have been able to follow him a bit more. But to suggest that certain people are just too bad to get a true free pass evidences how difficult it is, even for someone as astute as Olson, to comprehend how radical God’s grace is and how sinful we all are. To single out these fellas is problematic as it seems, like the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory, to place a breaking point on the grace of God. 

I can’t help but think of the brother of the prodigal son who simply could not accept the free acceptance of his brother. I am sure the brother would not have complained had his father made the rebellious son go through some corrective training on family etiquette and loyalty. But the Father did not. There was no punitive correction of any kind. Grace is that crazy.

Are they in Paradise now? Are the enjoying the bliss of Jesus? I am not sure if Olson is truly teetering here between “maybe” and “maybe not”, but, by the grace of God, Christ purchased them and covered all their pride, murders, and ill-will toward others with his blood. A corrective course for those few who were really bad Christians is not the icing on the cake to the cross, even if they were taught by Jesus. There is simply no condemnation for those who are in Christ.

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C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    123 replies to "Baptist Seminary Professor Roger Olson Headed Toward Rome"

    • Grahame

      > certain people are just too bad to get a true free pass

      “Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. ”

      No free pass there. But no second chance after life either.

    • Jordan

      What I got out of Olsen’s post was not so much about “payment” as about “learning”. I think maybe the underlying assumption is that Luther, Calvin, etc. passed from Earth to Heaven, they brought with them all their “baggage”. So since we can’t imagine a anti-semitic Luther in Heaven, then his attitude must have been “purged”.

      It feels sort of like some of what I get maybe from N.T. Wright where heaven is described more like God putting the earth to rights rather than a radical discontinuity.

      I’m not sure what to think about it, but I think you’re totally right that it can’t be about payment, Christ already did that.

    • Sam

      Many pietistic premillennial dispensationalists use the “Tribulation” in the same way. Some christians weren’t good enough or weren’t “ready” to go in the “rapture” so they’ll have to “gut it out” here for 7 more years.

    • Timothy Lee

      “Grace is that crazy.”
      Yes, it is, and it really is hard to believe.
      Thank you for this post to remind us of God’s sufficient grace.

    • Karen

      I have heard it said that the concept of purgatory came from one of the Books of Maccabees; therefore, I have heard that it was actually a Jewish concept originally. I have not read those Books yet, unfortunately.

      I have read a little bit about the 1500’s when Martin Luther pointed out basically how ridiculous it was for people to pay the church for someone to get out of purgatory early. And it sadly does seem to make sense that this process of belief and payment to the church funded the crusades at that time.

      This has also helped me to see, if it in a purgatory view; if we must get right first to go to Heaven, how long would it take? A million years? A billion? Or how long before we are cleansed in a holding pattern? How long? I think I can ask a lot of questions here! And sum up a lot of Scriptures that would raise questions further!

      But as far as forgiveness of people, I had read that, a very plausible if not validated reason, why the “woman caught in adultery and forgiven by Jesus” is often in “brackets” in our modern translations, is it does appear that there was a manuscript where it was deleted, and therefore a linage of handwritten manuscripts had the same deletion, for there were obviously some who could not believe that that could be forgiven, so somewhere it was removed in the Early Church. This does make sense to me.

    • C Michael Patton

      Interesting point Sam. Have to think about that.

    • Marianne Lordi

      As a former Catholic, the very thought that Christ death on the cross wasn’t quite good enough to pay the price for all of my sins is simply repugnant to me. Christ, who said for as far as the east is from the west – I will remember your sins no more, is now going to remember the venial sins needed to be “purified” in purgatory! It is sheer blasphemy!

      I can remember when I was in Catholic school how fearful I was wondering how long I would have to be in purgatory. I made sure that I said all the extra prayers which guaranteed time off of my sentence in purgatory. They never did explain how the theif on the cross, who did nothing but evil his whole life, was told by Jesus he would be with him in Paradise that very day! Guess he must have got a pass handed him. Ridiculous!!!!

    • DT

      I’m reminded of Dr. Hannah at DTS describing the shortcomings in Charles Finney’s theology. A student asked if he thought he would see Finney in heaven. Dr. Hannah replied, “I imagine Jesus welcoming Finney, putting his arm around him and shaking His head, ‘Charles, Charles, Charles …'”

      I imagine we’ll all get a class of correction – not as punishment, but as a new understanding of the glory of Christ, the sufficiency of the cross, and the radical transformation of seeing Him as He is.

    • Jacques

      I also agree that to put it in terms of paying for something still owing runs counter to the gospel of Grace. However, even the Orthodox have teachings that resemble purgatory (like the heavenly toll-houses).

      I think it is quite possible that we ALL need to undergo some kind of purging of the sinful nature after death and a full putting on of our god/spiritual nature. Since this would occur outside of time I don’t think time really means anything in terms of the duration the process takes. Since God doesn’t override our wills, perhaps we need to concede to or accept each part of the purging and perhaps sometimes the process is “painful” or difficult.

      If I can’t magically become a “saint” after receiving the grace and salvation of Christ here on earth, why would I magically become one after death. Even if simply being in God’s presence transforms me it will still be a transforming, a purging of the sinful nature. Whether it takes a second, 10 minutes, or 10 years isn’t really knowable and doesn’t really matter – even a purging process that takes a second is still a process and could fit into some kind of definition of purgatory – but not necessarily the Roman Catholic one.

    • Werner

      Andof course Beckwith chimes in on his comment section – “Preach it brother!”

      Repeatedly the pre-reformers and reformers insisted that the Word of God is our sole authority, and many died in order to win the freedom from the awful fear that purgatory engendered in the hearts of people everywhere.

    • Lisa Robinson

      I am just wondering if this is a result of needing to maintain a rigorous hold on Arminianism. Didn’t we see that same thing happen with Open Theism? Just thinking out loud.

    • EricW

      For those of you not familiar with Purgatory, this is a doctrine held by Roman Catholics but rejected by Protestants and Eastern Orthodox.

      While they may reject the term “purgatory” and don’t make belief in it a dogma of the faith, I’m not sure I’d say that the Eastern Orthodox reject the belief that there will be a purging and purification process after death for those who haven’t attained theosis in this life.

      And then there are the toll-houses:

      http://www.intratext.com/IXT/ENG0824/__P2I.HTM

    • R.A. Fiallos

      All due respect, I think you’re making way too much of Olson’s post. He is letting his imagination run, as did C.S. Lewis in the Great Divorce. Why is it so ludicrous to think that people will be enlightened when they get to heaven? That they will come to learn the error of their ways? This does not mean that they have not been forgiven or sanctified. The prodigal son realized his error before he came back to the father, did he not? Olson is a great thinker and I enjoyed his post. Like he said, he is not starting a new doctrine!

      Peace,

      R.A. Fiallos

    • Phil McCheddar

      I don’t think Roger Olsen is saying that some Christians are too evil in their nature for the blood of Christ alone to have sufficient merit to justify them. I think he is merely talking about the completion of the process of sanctification. I agree with Mr Olsen that it is inconceivable for heaven to contain hate-filled people.

      All Christians fall short of being perfectly holy in their nature at the time of their death (incomplete sanctification), even though they posess a completely righteous status in God’s eyes from the time of their new birth (complete justification). Ephesians 5:27 says that Christ will present his people to himself “as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless”. So sometime between death and the marriage feast of the Lamb, I guess all Christians will undergo a transformation of their natures, purging out all remaining vestiges of sinfulness and bringing the fruit of the Spirit to perfect ripeness in their character. Who knows whether this is instantaneous or gradual? In contrast to the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory, this transformation may not be unpleasant because, as lovers of God, we will enjoy being conformed to his nature. My only reservation about Roger Olsen’s hypothesis is that he contemplates this spiritual make-over occurring after we enter heaven, whereas Ephesians 5:27, 2 Corinthians 11:2, Revelation 21:27, Hebrews 12:14, Psalm 24:3-4, etc. suggest to me it must occur before we enter.

    • Lucian

      There was no punitive correction of any kind.

      Quite. The Father in the Parable did not make his repentant son go through Purgatory, nor did he sacrifice someone else in his stead, unloading all his unsatisfied wrath, anger, and fury on a substitute. — God’s grace is indeed revolutionary.

    • Phil McCheddar

      But parables are not the same as allegories. In an allegory many points in the story refer to corresponding points in reality, whereas in a parable there is usually only one point of correspondence (one chief lesson to be learned) and everything else is just background details that flesh out the story. Otherwise the parable of the tenants in the vineyard would teach us that God would never have sent His Son to the world if the Israelites had heeded the earlier prophets and repented, and the parable of the wheat and the tares would teach us that evil entered the world because God was caught napping.

    • Leslie Jebaraj

      CMP:

      When I read your post that Christian beliefs do not have a domino effect, I found myself agreeing with you. Now after reading about Olson, I am beginning to think again. As Lisa points out, this is but an outworking of Arminian understanding. Wrong beliefs beget more wrong beliefs?!

      What do you say, Michael?

    • C Michael Patton

      Leslie,

      I definitely believe that wrong beliefs have a domino effect. I just don’t think that we have to see them as so interconnected that if you let go, adjust, or deny one thing that you believed before that the whole house of cards (Christianity) falls apart. Christianity is dependant on the person and work of Christ. If we get him wrong, it all falls apart.

      I am not saying that Olson’s arminianism has led him to this, but I do believe that arminianism has many negative implications.

      Arminianism taken to its extreme is Open Theism. Calvinism taken to the extreme is Hyper-Calvinism. Both are terrible errors.

    • C Michael Patton

      Again, my main contention with this post is not about learning in heaven. I believe we all will learn a lot. It is not even about being corrected in heaven…I believe that we will forever be growing in our understanding and shaping our views in conformaty to the glory and revelation of God. The education system in Heaven will be wonderful!

      The contention that I have with this post is how it singles out those few who Olson believes have done really bad things and don’t deserve (unlike others) to have direct access to the glories of heaven. Only these really bad people have to go through some type of intellectual calisthenics. Singling them out is the issue. It is really an issue of our attitude that we take on.

      I have had so many people deny the Gospel because they cannot get it through their mind that Hitler could have repented on his deathbed and made it to heaven. They can’t get grace. They want him to pay, if only a little. It would seem that Olson wants Luther and the boys to pay, if only a little.

      Mat 20:1-16
      1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.
      2 “And when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard.
      3 “And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the market place;
      4 and to those he said, ‘You too go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ And so they went.
      5 “Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did the same thing.
      6 “And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing; and he said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day long?’
      7 “They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into the vineyard.’
      8 “And when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.’
      9 “And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius.
      10 “And when those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; and they also received each one a denarius.
      11 “And when they received it, they grumbled at the landowner,
      12 saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.’
      13 “But he answered and said to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius?
      14 ‘Take what is yours and go your way, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you.
      15 ‘Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’
      16 “Thus the last shall be first, and the first last.” (NAS)

    • C Michael Patton

      But I do want to reiterate how much I appreciate Olson. If nothing else, this post makes us think. I tend to have the feeling that his “thinking out loud” here would be met with the same response even from Olson himself. In other words, I would be he agrees with what I say here.

    • Rick

      The thief on the cross (apparently) was going right in (at least into “Paradise”).

    • Leslie Jebaraj

      Thanks for your thoughts, Michael.

      Yes, I am convinced that we need to be careful as to distinguish between Christianity/Gospel itself, and our understanding of its implications.

      I personally believe that Hyper-Calvinism is as wrong as Open Theism. But I would not consider myself a moderate Calvinist. I would just call myself a Calvinist. Period.

      Again, thanks for the clarification, Michael.

    • Jeff Peterson

      Just as disappointing as Dr. Olson’s train of thought is his dismissal of one of his commenters as if he were swatting aside mosquito. The commenter said:

      ““What’s wrong with a Protestant believing that upon entering paradise … has to take a spiritually therapeutic “class” of correction?”

      Perhaps the fact that such speculation raises possibilities nowhere hinted at in the Bible and even opposed by what the Bible says about salvation in Christ?

      “I have trouble exonerating Augustine, Luther, Zwingli and Calvin of their hate-filled diatribes against and treatment of those they considered heretics.”

      Whether or not we have trouble exonerating (forgiving) people is not the issue. God has forgiven them by the blood of the cross. Any errors in their thinking, be it anti-semitism or other forms of hatred, be it open-theism or other forms of error, be it even speculations regarding purgatory, will be taken away from them when they become like Christ upon seeing him.

      Playing with unbiblical doctrine and defending it by calling it just a hypothesis is dangerous and will (not might) lead to error, especially when such speculation runs counter to what is already revealed in the Bible. If you believe these men were not fully prepared by the blood of Christ to enter Heaven, then they are in Hell. If you believe these men were covered by the blood of Christ, then nothing more is needed. Scripture does not allow anything extra and any speculation about something extra is simply unbiblical.”

      Dr. Olson’s response:

      “Well, you have stated very well the mindset of fundamentalist biblicism that I find obnoxious. Thank you.:

      This response may be much more revealing than the post itself.

    • Craig Hurst

      Olson’s last two sentences are very disturbing – “I have no particular biblical basis for it, so, no, I don’t exactly believe in it in the same way I believe in the deity of Christ or the resurrection. But I find it the only acceptable alternative, for me, anyway, to thinking of great Christian heroes of the past being in hell.”

      To say it is “the only acceptable alternative” is irresponsible and unnecessary.

    • C Michael Patton

      I agree Craig. It seems so contrary to an understanding of grace, mercy, and forgiveness, not to mention a realization of our own miserable failures as Christians.

      The only acceptable alternative is the cross, not a class.

      Had he mentioned that this class was TTP, then I I would be more welcoming of it 🙂

    • wm tanksley

      Olsen not only mistakes the freedom and power of grace, he also mistakes the grievousness of sin. All sin is a violation against God; when David said “against you only I have sinned” he wasn’t claiming that his sin hadn’t hurt Uriah and Bathsheba, but rather that his sin was enormous because it violated God’s holy person, nature, and law. When I accuse my wife unjustly I’ve sinned just as enormously as David.

      I also have a minor, almost amusing correction to a historical detail in your post. Calvin advocated against burning Servetus on the grounds that it was too cruel. He petitioned the city council to have him quickly beheaded instead (and this petition is documented). This is FAR from being an enlightened view of religious freedom, but it’s the opposite of the monstrosity claimed against him. (I’ve read this in several places; it’s currently in Wikipedia, with the alleged quote, “I hope that sentence of death will at least be passed on him; but I desired that the severity of the punishment be mitigated.”)

      -Wm

    • casey

      To echo Phil McCheddar above, I think it is a mistake to think of
      Olson or maybe even Catholics as presenting Purgatory as a way to pay for your sins, as if Christ didn’t accomplish this at the cross.

      Instead is the finishing of our sanctification. What is the purpose of sanctification is we never finish it? If someone is instaneously sanctified after death despite not being sanctified in life at all, what is the point? Is it just an exercise in obedience and not really going towards something?

      (I’m somewhat playing Devi’s advocate here)

    • Leslie Jebaraj

      Jeff Peterson, I totally agree with your comment #23. And if I might add, this is what happens if we do not keep a check on our theological pride!

    • Dave Z

      It seems many are not quite seeing the distinction between “purgatory’ to cleanse sin (the RCC view) and Olson’s “purgatory” to complete sanctification.

      All this talk of danger and anti-biblical doctrine (as typified in comments 23 and 24) seems to be predicated on the idea that Olson is denying the sufficiency of the cross for justification. IMO, that is NOT what he is saying. Therefore such charges are no more than a straw man.

      Furthermore, I think assumptions are being made about how we “transition” to heaven. The only verse I can think of offhand that might address this is 1 John 3:2, but even in that verse, John clearly states that what we will be has NOT yet been made known. There IS mystery, and it is within that “unknown” that Olson speculates.

      Olson is not questioning justification, he’s expoloring the concept of ultimate sanctification. After all, we are already, here on earth, fully justified, yet we are not fully sanctified (except for you Nazarenes – grin). But do we expect heaven to be the same – that we’re justified but we still sin? That’d be a novel idea. If not, how and when is perfection accomplished? At death? Show me that in scripture.

      So, Craig (comment 24) disagrees that Olson’s idea of what could be called “final sanctification” is the only acceptable option. OK, then let’s hear some alternatives, backed up with scripture.

    • C Michael Patton

      Dave, I don’t think anyone would (or should) argue that there is something that happens after death that makes us “purified from all effects of sin” (a phrase I am more comfortable with in this context since it does not imply too much.) If that were all the Olson was saying, fine and good. But he specifically singled out a few people who did and believed some very bad things and said that they would have to go through some “extra” purification due to their particular sinfulness. He more than implies that they need further correction if they are not going to be in hell.

      In the end, again, it is the singling these fellas out b/c of their sin and assigning them a penalty that is the problem. And it does not matter how light this “slap on the wrist” seems to be…

      After all, don’t you remember The Breakfast Club…it was not a nice thing to be in school on Saturdays!

    • Martin Massinger

      Dave Z, I was also thinking of 1 John 3:2 which seems to imply that the operative element in a believer’s complete sanctification is seeing Christ just as he is. To me this indicates (1) an instantaneous change will take place, and (2) it will be Christ who initiates the change in me, not the girl I called a “monkey face” in 4th grade.

      I also have a question about Sam’s comment in #3. While I’m certainly no authority on pietistic premillennial dispensational thought, I did grow up at Scofield Memorial Church in the ’50s and ’60s, just a mile east of DTS (both bastions of classical dispensationalism), and I never heard any speculation that the Tribulation will be useful for getting carnal Christians ready for Heaven. CMP, you said that notion intrigued you and I’d love to hear you elaborate.

    • Dave Z

      @CMP – I guess the difference is that I don’t see his concept as a penalty. And Olson did not use that word.

      I don’t see his examples as being singled out, but just as examples. We’re all going to need some “final sanctification,” however and whenever it happens, he just used some well-known folks as examples. I don’t think he was intending to let you (or me) off the hook!

      The Breakfast Club was after my time, you young whippersnapper, you! (Though I did spend some Saturdays in school)

      BTW, I love the way you fulfilled his prediction with your title. That was my Wednesday morning chuckle.

      @Martin – yes, I see that too, but as you say, it is an implication, not a clear statement of an instant change. And it says the change will happen “when he appears.” Sounds more like a reference to Christ’s return than a reference to our death. Not sure I’m comfortable building an “instant final sanctification” doctrine on it, especially when John himself admits he doesn’t fully understand it.

      So for me, the element of mystery remains.

    • Martin Massinger

      Absolutely, there is way more to be discovered in eternity than we can possibly know now.

      However, John is saying that “what” we will be has not been revealed in detail, but whatever it is, it will involve being “like him” which doesn’t leave room for continued sanctification. Further, the Net Bible renders it: “whenever it is revealed we will be like him…” which leaves open the question of “when,” (our death, rapture, 2nd coming, etc.). In other words, according to this verse, John doesn’t see the “when” or the exact nature of our physical/spiritual makeup as being as important as the mere fact of being with Christ and “like him.”

    • xulon

      Concerning comment 31 (and 3), I believe it refers to “Partial Rapture”, which is not commonly taught. Watchman Nee taught it and I have heard that Moody did as well. It was suggested recently on Theologica. It teaches that only those believers who are watching and ready will be raptured while the carnal are left behind with the wicked. Back when I read it in Nee (and I considered myself to be watching and ready far more than those others), it intrigued me but it really doesn’t work. We are not destined for wrath (context is the wrath of the Day of the Lord) but to obtain salvation.

    • xulon

      As to the article, it seems to me that purgatory and Rome are not the real issues here, but the nature of Salvation, as others have pointed out. Olson appears to be looking for an alternative to the Arminian doctrine that one can lose his Salvation. There is a far better alternative available. And it is found in Scripture, not speculation.

    • Chad Winters

      Isn’t there a standard evangelical belief in a final complete sanctification after death, vs the incomplete sanctification we attain while alive? Or did I just pick that up as folk theology?

    • Hodge

      “I have trouble exonerating Augustine, Luther, Zwingli and Calvin of their hate-filled diatribes against and treatment of those they considered heretics.”

      Forget those guys. Have you read the stuff that God says about the idolaters and apostates? Does God have to go through purgatory too, so that He can one day be as clean as Olsen’s modern sensibilities and cultural assumptions of godliness would desire? Or is it rather the spirit of Elijah that mocks religious rebels for their stupidity that is parallel with the Spirit of God?

      BTW, I always thought Augustine was rather well-mannered when he addressed heretics. Has Olsen actually read him or is he assuming something about Augustine from the Pelagian debates that was never there (maybe he’s watching too much of the movie King Arthur).

      Either way, as someone pointed out, I can’t imagine someone more fitting for purgatory than the thief on the cross, i.e., a guy so bad the pagan Romans couldn’t even put him into prison-slavery, and thought it better to kill him for his crimes.

    • […] see a variety of responses, some quite heated, at Roger’s blog. Also, scientia links a thoughtful critical response from Dallas Seminary grad and theological educator Michael […]

    • Leo

      Michael,

      There’s no room for anyone in the evangelical community to think out loud, is there? Put your thoughts back in the box – NOW!!!

      – Leo

    • C Michael Patton

      Touche

    • Hodge

      Leo,

      My problem is the modern hubris that condemns other Christians for views that are passe in modern evangelicalism, but not necessarily unbiblical. I also don’t like the idea that only some people have to go through this as opposed to the really good people. BTW, I think your comment seeks to mock without engaging maturely with what is said, so that’ll be 10,000 years for you in purgatory. 😉

    • Dave Z

      10,000 years in purgatory! Wow! Well, I know that a thousand years is as a day so that’s what…just over a week?

      (OK, how do you do the little smiley?)

    • Hodge

      And to those saying that there is a distinction in seeing purgatory one way or another is a matter of semantics. I can say that chopping off my hand isn’t a punishment because I’m only trying to free up my arm. This is typical in these debates. Here’s Paul on the rapture:

      1 Cor 15:51-52: “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.”

      Now, either the Christians in Paul’s day are perfect already, something only someone who has not read the rest of the letter could only claim, or glorification is instant and the process of sanctification is ended in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.
      One could also say that purgatory lasts only until the second coming, but this would also mean that Paul believed the Corinthians had no need to go through it. The best explanation? There is no purgatory.

    • Hodge

      Dave,

      That’s only if you’re a day-age theorist. If you’re young earth, it will be a literal 10,000 years. Of course, if you’re framework, you’ll never know when you’re going to get out. 🙂

    • Dave Z

      Hodge, that might apply, but that reference is to a specific event – the last trumpet. I think of it as a resurrection reference, not necessarily applying to what happens at death. Would you say that we’re all raised imperishable at the moment we die?

      With that in mind, do you still think the verse applies to this discussion? That’s not rhetorical, I’m really asking. It may be possible to draw inferences, but how much do we want to build on an inference?

      Understand, I’m not saying you’re wrong or that Olson is right. I’m just not seeing any clear scriptural references to what exactly happens at death. So it’s hard to build a clear doctrine. That opens the door to speculation.

      So how do you do the smiley?

    • Hodge

      Dave,

      It absolutely applies. That’s why I said, Paul assumes that the Corinthians, being in the immature and awful state they are in, with all of their imperfections, have no need of further sanctification once the trumpet sounds. They are glorified immediately. If an intermediary time was needed for the purpose of sanctification then what he says here would make no sense. Now, one can say that there is a difference between resurrection and the state of the soul between death and resurrection, but my point would be that if this is necessary, why is it immediate for those resurrected and not for others?
      Furthermore, the dead are immediately raised imperishable. Now, are we to conclude that those who die two seconds before the final trumpet, and were not completely sanctified, will not be changed in the twinkling of an eye, or does the passage assume that there is no intermediary state and that the Christian goes immediately from what is corruptible to what is incorruptible? In other words, both those who are alive when Christ returns and those who died are all instantly glorified in their bodies. They cannot sin any longer. They cannot be corrupted. I think the inference works one way and not the other, so the best explanation is that there is no such thing as an intermediary state that is necessary for “less sanctified” Christians to enter before they are perfected. The question that needs to be answered by those who believe in purgatory is why it is necessary for one group and not the other. The concept of purgatory makes sense to us, so that is why it is believed. What doesn’t make sense is to believe that it is only necessary for one group of wayward Christians and not another group of wayward Christians.

    • Hodge

      Colon and then closed parenthesis, : + ) 🙂

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,

      Just to be clear before I say this I do not believe in purgatory and am just thinking out loud here based upon earlier comments.

      What if Roger Olsen had said that ALL Christians will have to go through a period of purification on the other side during which their character is conformed to the character of Christ? This time may very from person to person depending on the extent to which they were sanctified in the present life.

    • Dave Z

      It is the nature of the intermediate state that I’m thinking about these days. Your explanation makes sense, but I’m trying to fit it into a larger picture. Do we, as CMP says in comment 19, continue to learn in heaven? I’m not sure we can find biblical support for that either. Actually, it seems to differ with 1Cor. 13:12b, “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

      Of course, that verse does kinda support your view regarding the 1 John verse. 🙂

    • Dave Z

      Maybe the thing that bugs about the idea of continued learning is that it implies an incompleteness in the afterlife. And it sounds an awful lot like a Christian variation of the folk theology of those who believe “we just go to a different plane to continue learning…”

    • JS Allen

      I think this demonstrates the slippery slope of trying to explain away everything that scares us about God. First it’s Arminianism, then purgatory, then inclusivism, then universalism, and then you’re explaining how even animals can have their souls saved, since “I refuse to believe in a God who would let an animal suffer for no reason!”

    • Jacques

      Could it be that the resurrected body is an important factor in the Corinthian passage?

      Everyone who dies before the last trumpet is still without a glorified body. As the bible states this is an undesired state to be in. Perhaps in this intermediate state sanctification continues but only within the limits of the fallen mind – as on earth. In the intermediate state we experience consciously a continued sanctification with which we must cooperate as is true here on earth.

      But as soon as we receive our glorified bodies the process of sanctification is carried through to completion, helped by the fact that we are no longer limited by our corruptible mind/body.

      Another important thing to remember is that just because something happens “in the twinkling of an eye” doesn’t mean that it is necessarily experienced as such. Think about how a dream that feels really long could happen in the “twinkling of an eye”. In the same way we may experience our “purging/glorification” as a process even though in reality it happens in a second or two.

    • Hodge

      Jacques,

      The first part of what you say is plausible with this passage in particular, but sounds a bit like trying to scramble to explain why purgatory is true when it seems more likely that it is not. Take again, for example, the thief who immediately is with Christ in paradise. One might say that he can still be with Christ in paradise as he continues to be sanctified, but this seems like explaining purgatory out of existence by definition. Supposedly, purgatory exists to sanctify less sanctified or incompletely sanctified Christians so that they can be in the presence of Christ (until then they cannot enter because they are not perfect and they cannot be with the Holy One). If the resurrection does this, why another process. Now if sanctification is love toward Christ, then certainly we will grow in that, but why an extra process of purging when there is no need of it? And why does the Bible never mention this very important doctrine, but instead indicates that to be absence from the body is to be in the presence of Christ (i.e., salvation itself).
      The second part I have to reject since it attempts to make the language used say the exact opposite of what it is meant to convey. Paul is attempting to explain that this happens in a moment, not that it seems like a moment. It is in the twinkling of an eye (i.e., a blink), not just like a blink of the eye.
      Finally, if one can be in the presence of Christ without being fully sanctified/glorified, and will be glorified when the resurrection occurs, why exactly does he or she need to go through an extra process in order to be glorified? He or she will already be glorified without the extra process, as the other Christians who do not die before Christ returns. If you want to say that we’ll simply grow in our love toward Christ, that’s fine; but my point is what is the extra process for?

    • Hodge

      Dave,

      I don’t have a problem with growing in knowledge per se, which is a different question than the one here. I think that the knowledge the NT is talking about is knowing God and who we are in a comprehensive way, but not in an exhaustive way (in other words, I don’t think we become omniscient). This is not in the Bible, but I don’t think the reverse is in the Bible either. It is perhaps a theology gained from an understanding of our finitude and otherliness from God. I realize some may make the argument that if we are connected to God through Christ (for instance in some form of theosis) then perhaps we will have access to His, not our, knowledge and know all things through Him; but I don’t think the passages you quoted make this necessary. I don’t have a major theological objection to it though, as I think either way we are speculating.

    • Jacques

      Hodge,

      I agree that the Roman Catholic understanding of Purgatory is by and large completely unbiblical. However, I’m considering how a protestant may understand some kind purging process that follows death and must be completed before we can enter the new creation. What must be purged is the sin sickness in our bodies, minds and souls. I have no idea how sin effects us on a metaphysical level and so I don’t know whether it exists in my body only or whether it taints my mind and soul as well.

      If my body only, well then death destroys it and when I am raised I am healed and whole.

      If however it is part of me, my mind, my spirit, my body, my whole self – then it would still need to be healed while I wait for my resurrection.

      If the intermediate state is a conscious one and we are not yet changed – since the passage in Corinthians says that only at the last trump will we be raised and changed – then we must surely continue to submit to the healing of our fallen psyches.

      If however the intermediate state is an unconcious one then there is no purgatory and we will be changed when we are resurrected at the last trump.

      The Luke 23 passage is problematic for me as Jesus was on the cross dying when he addressed the thief and would then spend 3 days and nights in the grave and only then be resurrected on the 3rd day. I haven’t studied this enough but I’ve heard it said that the comma placement could change the passage significantly, as in, “I tell you this day, you will be with me in paradise.”

    • Jacques

      On second thought it is not actually problematic for Jesus and the man to be together in Paradise that day, since paradise is the place in Sheol were all the righteous go to await their resurrection.

      As such Sheol itself would be the place of continued sanctification. The Catholics say we can’t be in Christ’s presence and purgatory at the same time, but again this is not a reflection on the catholic concept of purgatory.

      Therefore if we are being purged in paradise then we are being purged in the presence of Christ and will be completely purged/fully sactified/glorified at the second coming when we receive our glorified bodies. Which is again why I think maybe having our resurrected bodies is such a vital part of the process.

    • Luke

      Roger Olson is my favorite Evangelical Arminians.

      Shouldn’t the first sentence read “Evangelical Arminian” (no “s”)?

    • Hodge

      Jacques,

      A purging process makes sense to me because of our experience in the here and now, but does sanctification of the soul continue after it is disembodied? I don’t know. What is clear, and that in which we seem to both find agreement is the believer does not have to go through any other extra process to be in the presence of Christ (cf. Paul, “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord”).
      I probably would not share the common idea that paradise is one part of a two part holding place, as I think it is parallel to heaven, Eden, the presence of God; but if we agree that believers can be in the presence of God after death that is sufficient.
      The idea that one Christian must go through some extra purging process, however, runs counter in my mind to the biblical evidence of the depth of ALL of our sin.
      I do also think that you have identified the point to pursue, if it can be known from Scripture, and that is whether Christ cleanses our spirits, but our bodies remain corrupt, or whether both body and spirit are corrupt even after justification and initial sanctification. If the former, and there is no immediate glorification of the spirit in parallel to what happens to the body at the resurrection, then there may be a process of sanctification that continues in the presence of Christ; but if transformation of the soul is parallel to the body and immediate upon death (cf. 1 John 3:2, where we will be like Him as a result of our seeing Him as He is), or the spirit is cleansed already at justification/initial sanctification, then the process of sanctification is over for both body and soul at death (the soul is glorified and will be later joined to a glorified body, so corruption exists no longer for either one).
      Of course, we should also answer the questions, What is sanctification, What is salvation, What is this process, etc.; but these are questions that cannot be pursued here at length, and certain definitions seem to be assumed.

    • Hodge

      that should be “the idea that one Christian as opposed to another must go through some extra purging process . . .”

    • Tom Riello

      “Protestants, including myself, believe that this amounts to a price-cut on the power and efficiency of the Cross. It is sort of a crucifix deflation. We believe that Christ paid for all sins and that there is simply no condemnation for those who have placed their faith in him.”

      One may disagree with Purgatory but to say so because it deflates the power of the cross is an overstatement. First off, Christians already believe in some type of purgation in this life. If one commits a sin and seeks the forgiveness of God Christians believe that the sin is forgiven but the consequences of the sin remain. No one would say that deflates the power and efficiency of the cross. So how does Purgatory do so, when the teaching says basically the same thing? Those who go to Purgatory are not condemned. They are not going to a “kinder, gentler, version of hell”. The souls in purgatory are being purified, cleansed, in short sancitified. The souls in purgatory are not atoning for their sins as some second payment. If you are so inclined, read St. Catherine of Genoa on Purgatory, and you will see that the souls in purgatory would have it no other way, namely they are experiencing the purifying love of God that cleanses the soul. It strikes me that Dr. Olson is trying to give due justice to 1st Cor 3. Also one could not read the Fathers of the Church and not come away thinking that our illustrious leaders commended the practice of praying for the dead, especially at the altar.

    • Hodge

      Tom,

      Prots do not believe that we undergo a purging process for the purpose of justification. That’s where your RC theology is conflicting with ours. Our sanctification is a result of justification and a growing in love toward God, but we can stand before Him now because of Christ’s sacrifice. We can die and be in His presence without having to go to a kinder, gentler hell (which I take it to mean a far, far worse place than this life). To say that one must still be justified by a purging in order to stand in God’s presence is what is being referred to as deflating the cross. Do you understand that now? You, of course, may not agree with our theology, but that is why it is said.

      BTW, 1 Cor 3 isn’t talking about a purging in order to be justified. It’s not even talking about the person being burned up. It’s talking about what various teachers are teaching, whether human wisdom or the Holy Spirit’s. Please read the context. If someone teaches human wisdom and seeks to convince people naturally, they’re works will be burned up, even though they are still saved, since they’re teaching a lower form of wisdom and not complete foolishness or evil. This has nothing to do with the believer in general, or any process through which he or she must pass.

    • Susanne

      Interesting post. I think some people don’t agree with Christianity because of the “free pass” issue mentioned in the comments re: Hitler, for instance. Muslims are very much bent on justice. If they don’t get it here, they get it in the hereafter. To think someone such as George Bush would get away with killing thousands of their people just has no place in their minds. They already think he should be trialed for war crimes, but to think he would get a free pass from God because he is an evangelical Christian…not happening in their minds.

      So how do we balance the justice part of God? I don’t believe in purgatory and I am thankful so much for God’s grace, but I do understand how people who have been wronged here yearn for justice and a Hitler type getting off scot-free makes them angry!

    • Tom Riello

      Hodge,

      I did NOT call purgatory a “kinder, gentler” hell. That is the caricature that Protestants make of the Catholic teaching. The other caricature is that purgatory is a place where I atone for my sins. Neither of those are the teaching of the Church.

      That being said, your reference to the context of 1st Cor 3 begs the question, “who decides whose teaching is correct?” Is it the individual believer or the divinely given authority established by Christ? If it is the second, then who is that divinely given authority?

    • Hodge

      Tom,

      I’m sorry, but you’re mistaken. The RCC does teach that purgatory involves three things: 1. that it is a purging of sin; 2. that is affected by our prayers; and 3. it involves PAIN!!! Now, you can call that what you like, but the vast majority of those who have believed in purgatory as it was developed in the Middle Ages saw it as a kinder, gentler hell, so the original description was accurate.

      Secondly, this is why I will never become a Roman Catholic. Your argument is absurd. Texts can communicate without a magisterium. Otherwise, why did you allude to the Bible and the Church Fathers? You should have just said that my leader says it to be so, so it is. You’re being inconsistent. The context is SO clear, and yet, you have to argue against it in order to support your magisterium. So you have to argue against what is known to be true from the context (btw, can you give a reference where this passage was stated ex cathedra to mean what you have interpreted it to be here? I was unaware that ex cathedra statements are usually concerning the interpretation of specific passages of Scripture). And where exactly did the authority come for you to pronounce the RCC as the rightful authority because you recognize it as such? Did it come from you? Methinks it did.

    • Hodge

      Also, I find it a bit ironic that you say Olsen is trying to give justice to 1 Cor 3, and then go on to render the passage’s context irrelevant because your leader says otherwise.

    • Paul Davis

      Michael,

      Olson’s point about these men was not that they sinned and then found absolution, it was that after BEING SAVED they committed terrible acts and never repented. So where does that leave us?, does that now mean that I can be saved, go get in my car and run down 100 people and die (maybe I crashed my car). I’m covered right? and that makes it OK and God’s just going to chuckle and say Paul, Paul, Paul?

      Some would say, “Well he was never saved”. But what if I really was?? what if my writings where building a new doctrine?. Would you excuse me or condemn me?

      Let’s say Calvin was alive today, and the events in Geneva where taking place now. Not one of us, no matter how good Calvins theology, would venerate him. We would all denounce him as a monster. If he lived in even the most remote village we would still feel the same, but add 500 years and we can simply dismiss it without a thought and follow what he teaches. But you wouldn’t even consider following someone like that today…

      Where does that leave the Gospel?, if we make saints out of these men who in the name of Christ committed terrible acts and we simply gloss over them then we are no better. I have a serious issue with the whitewashing that Calvin gets in reformed churches, I even asked a reformed Pastor about Servetus and his comment was “Well, he was going to die anyway”. Great, so you just showed me your commitment to truth and the Gospel.

      -Paul-

    • Hodge

      Paul,

      I wonder if this discussion is based on the belief that A) Even people who continue to live in license are Christians; B) forgiveness (i.e., a blotting out of our sins as thought they never happened) is a point in time rather than a continual work that the cross accomplishes in our lives; and C) a lack of reflection upon this statement made by Christ:

      “Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. “And whoever shall speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age, or in the [age] to come. Matt 12:31-32)

      Notice that any sin will be forgiven in this age and the age to come except the blasphemy of the HS, which I believe to be a complete rejection of Christ’s lordship over one’s life that is continually being impressed upon the individual by the HS.

      If all sins will be forgiven to the one who comes to Christ, both now and in the age to come, then what more is there to atone for?

      “Let’s say Calvin was alive today, and the events in Geneva where taking place now. Not one of us, no matter how good Calvins theology, would venerate him. We would all denounce him as a monster. If he lived in even the most remote village we would still feel the same, but add 500 years and we can simply dismiss it without a thought and follow what he teaches. But you wouldn’t even consider following someone like that today…”

      I’d be careful with this. Calvin’s actions are a result of his application of the law and gospel in terms of destroying chaos in the community. Servetus’s actions were leading to war within the community. It’s hard for modern Westerners to imagine why it was a good in Calvin’s mind, but let’s try to refrain from the idea that our horrible society is superior in letting chaos thrive unchecked, lest we also condemn God for His commands…

    • Hodge

      to destroy the Canaanites.

    • Tom Riello

      Hodge,

      The three points you mention 1. Purging of sin (yes) 2. Our prayers are involved (yes) 3. Involves pain (yes).

      In the Christian life we 1. Die to sin, in other words sin is being purged from our lives 2. Our prayers and sufferings assist others (Col 1) 3. Growing in holiness is not easy and I dare say involves pain (1st Cor 9). So nothing you said militates against the Catholic teaching.

      You may not like the Catholic teaching but to argue against a caricature is not helpful.

    • Hodge

      Tom,

      I wasn’t attempting to militate against it. I was simply correcting you. The person in purgatory has to go through a painful process in order to purge him or herself of their remaining imperfections so that they can be justified. That’s not the Prot view. We don’t go through purging in order to be justified because we view the cross as accomplishing complete justification for us. In the RC view, justification is only initially accomplished in the believer, but then must be worked out when he further sins. Purgatory makes sense in this system, but Prots will then view it as a deflation of the cross, since in our minds the death of Christ accomplishes our justification by itself, not with our cooperation. That was my only point. Your objection is to our theology, but we are not being inconsistent by calling the concept of purgatory a deflation of the cross.

      BTW, I actually like the Catholic teaching because it gives some satisfaction to my self righteous tendencies. I can just boast that I’m in heaven for what Christ has done through ME, since I accepted Him and then burned off the rest. I’m just committed to the Scripture and it indicates something completely different by its teachings concerning glorification and the presence of Christ.

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      re your last statements in comments #67 and 68 above:

      We don’t live in an Old Testament theocracy any more so I don’t think there can be a legitmate connection between the actions of Calvin or any other reformers and what God commanded His people to do back then.

      Frankly, demanding death for disagreeing with one’s Christian beliefs is appalling to me if it comes from one of the reformers– Calvin, Luther, or whoever–from the past or if it comes from any modern day religious zealot in any religion. I do not believe that God has given NT believer’s any authority or warrant for such actions whatsoever.

    • Hodge

      Cheryl,

      What does keeping chaos at bay in the community have to do with Old Testament theocracy? If someone were to be actively planting bombs in the community, would you say they should be put to death? We need to remember that their context is completely different from ours. I don’t condemn the RCC for condoning the execution of what they perceived to be chaotic agents in the community, i.e., people who will bring destruction to the community. I disagree with who they identified as chaotic agents often, but not they they condoned the destruction of them. Or do you think that Osama bin Laden should not be killed? Are you a monster if you say yes? I realize terrorists and instigators that will bring war and death to the community may be different in our modern minds, but in Calvin’s they are probably not, since he lives in a world devastated by war brought about by religious dissent. Your condemnation, and those Arminians who constantly bring this up, is convenient, since you never have to walk in his shoes; but he had to, and I’m not going to condemn him for it, especially when there is precedence for it in both the Old and New Testament.

    • Paul Davis

      Good point Hodge,

      I don’t have an answer yet (it’s something I’m digging through), and I understand Grace, but how do we deal with people who commit atrocities in the name of God? Especially Christians.

      John 18, Simon Peter cuts off the ear of the sentry and got rebuked for it, when I look at the lives of the Apostles I don’t see any activity like what Luther, Augustine or Calvin did. So how do we deal with that? It certainly colors any opinion I have about these men, and by my way of thinking it should. Are those the fruits of their faith?

      -Paul-

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      If there is a New Testament precedent for putting people to death for their beliefs it totally escapes me. Could you please point it out to me?

      Osama bin Laden is, IMO a completely different situation. He has set out to destroy people systematically.

      Please tell me how Servetus, for instance, was destroying the community in a manner anything similar to bin Laden? Teaching different ideas is a bit of a different thing that ordering terrorist attacks against others is it not? Can a person really be blamed if his different religious ideas bring about war? I guess the only solution back then was to never state a differing opinion to the one held by whoever happened to be in power at the time and all would be well. After all, to do otherwise invited being burned at the stake and it was all well and good because people might fight over what he said if he was allowed to open his mouth. I just don’t get it.

      Or how about the Jews or German peasants that Luther wanted to exterminate? Was it all well and good for such views to be expressed by people that claimed to follow Jesus?

      Do you honestly believe that God gives a blessing to those who do these things?

      And I honestly don’t know what Arminianism has to do with this whole thing. Do you really believe that because this happened God wanted these people to go out and kill others because they had different beliefs? I know, I know, God had obviously preordained that these people be heretics and that others kill them for their heresey, right?? It just doesn’t seem to fit at all with the way the New Testament tells us to treat false teachers and heretics. Mark them, yes. Turn away from them, yes. But kill them?? I don’t think so.

      And yes, this has probably been a rant. But to me this whole idea of these reactions by Christian people is appalling.

    • mbaker

      Hodge,

      I agree that talking about Bin Laden, someone who is committed to destroying ALL Christians, innocent or not, in the same breath with the Christian reformers is not a valid argument. Nor should it be assumed that everyone who disagrees with Calvin’s actions are automatically Armianians or against the gospel of grace he preached.

      Under the argument you presented, it sounds as if you are saying it would then be okay for modern day Christians to kill members of cults or atheists because they also disagree with us, and are creating ‘chaos’. We know this is not a sound biblical teaching.

      You are always pointing out the fallacies of such arguments to others yourself, are you not? 🙂

    • Hodge

      Paul,

      “I understand Grace, but how do we deal with people who commit atrocities in the name of God? Especially Christians.”

      I think it is more consistent to see them in two categories: 1) genuine Christians who fall into sin in the likes of David; and 2) false Christians, who according to the NT, make up the majority of the visible church. The first are acting in accord with their old nature, but still have a new one and forgiven in Christ and the second are consistent with their unredeemed nature.
      I think we need to remember that justice was enacted upon Christ for the first group, so we should not seek more justice as though our Savior’s death wasn’t good enough and we need more blood. That’s important I think.

      “I look at the lives of the Apostles I don’t see any activity like what Luther, Augustine or Calvin did. So how do we deal with that?”

      I would actually say that we don’t see the apostles do this sort of thing because they have no influence in the Roman government. When they do, as Paul with the prisoners, they always back the government (e.g., Paul stating that the government bears the sword for a good reason in killing chaotic agents, and Peter saying that the Roman government is to be honored and prayed for, as those who suffer for their evil do so rightly). So I think that those Christians who have some influence of government would rightly back it in its decisions, yet hope that it did so with as less cruelty as possible (i.e., exactly what Calvin does in his petitioning against Servetus being burned). So I do think the fruits of our faith seek to destroy chaos, and unfortunately, humans make themselves agents of chaos to a degree that we must back God’s institutions (i.e., the civil government) in destroying them for the sake of the innocent.

    • Hodge

      I won’t address some of what you said because I think I’ve answered this already, but . . .

      “Can a person really be blamed if his different religious ideas bring about war?”

      Cheryl,

      Servetus was doing more than just teaching different religious ideas. He was on a radical crusade to slander orthodox Christianity by which the community was bound together, and revile government authority in a manner that would lead to war. If you’re inciting people against the government and trying to dismantle the very foundation of the community’s peace, then what is the government left to do? Is it being unjust for dealing with the problem and attempting to extinguish the sparks that would ignite a destructive fire in the community? Again, we say, so be it, but modern licenses toward chaos are not a part of Calvin’s world. We may disagree that this is an instance of appropriate application of that authority, but it is a responsibility nonetheless.

      “Or how about the Jews or German peasants that Luther wanted to exterminate?”

      Are you talking about the peasants in the Peasant Rebellion? Is government supposed to let people rape, murder and pillage so that they are not one day condemned by a more enlightened generation that hasn’t seen a violent war on their land and in their houses for over 150 years?

      Cheryl,

      Calvin didn’t kill Servetus. He condoned the government for doing so. All he did was condemn him as a heretic, i.e., he marked him, as you would do; but to mark one as a heretic in his culture is to give him over to death as a rebel against the community and instigator of war. Calvin even originally says to him that he doesn’t want to persecute him, but that his rebellious tone is going to bring people to have no mercy when he is condemned for his rebellion.

    • Hodge

      “I agree that talking about Bin Laden, someone who is committed to destroying ALL Christians, innocent or not, in the same breath with the Christian reformers is not a valid argument. Nor should it be assumed that everyone who disagrees with Calvin’s actions are automatically Armianians or against the gospel of grace he preached.”

      1. Bin Laden incites to destroy the community in war. Servetus incites to destroy the community in war. What’s the difference here? That he didn’t specifically say that his followers should go to war with the orthodox, but instead just took a course of action that HE KNEW would lead to it?

      2. I didn’t say that those who condemn Calvin’s actions are all Arminians. I said this is constantly brought up by Arminians in some sort of attempt of arguing that Calvinism must not be of God via ad hominem.

      “Under the argument you presented, it sounds as if you are saying it would then be okay for modern day Christians to kill members of cults or atheists because they also disagree with us, and are creating ‘chaos’. We know this is not a sound biblical teaching.”

      No, that’s not what I’m saying. I don’t think the Church has the authority to kill anyone. It’s not a civil government. It’s a spiritual one, and its condemnations are spiritual. My point is that the one sword should not work against the other and condemn it when it does what it is made for (i.e., to keep what it views as chaos at bay by sometimes putting the death penalty into play). I think civil government is sometimes wrong in its identification of chaotic agents (e.g., the Romans identifying Christians as chaotic agents within the community), but that should not lead me to condemn Christians for backing the government’s right to make those decisions.
      I personally would not back our current government killing people of other beliefs because orthodoxy is not the foundation of our society, nor are they inciting anyone to war any time soon. I would not…

    • Hodge

      therefore see them as chaotic agents within the civil community even though they may be within the spiritual community. Do you see the distinction?

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      You made this comment above referring to the types of things Luther, Calvin and others did that we have been discussing here:

      I would actually say that we don’t see the apostles do this sort of thing because they have no influence in the Roman government.

      But look at what Paul says about himself before he became a Christian.

      I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, at the feet of Gamaliel, instructed according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God, even as ye all are this day: and I persecuted this Way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and journeyed to Damascus to bring them also that were there unto Jerusalem in bonds to be punished. Acts 22:3-5

      So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And this is [fn] just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the [fn] saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them. And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to [fn] foreign cities. Acts 26:9-11

      Before He knew the Lord he was doing exactly what Calvin and the other reformers were doing. After he came to Christ, we don’t see him hauling anyone to prison or approving of their deaths for their religious beliefs, do we?

      And if he had the influence with the governments to do it before he was a Christian, how could it be that he had no influence to do anything like this after he became a Christian??

    • Hodge

      Cheryl,

      All I see him doing is admitting that he misidentified who he thought were chaotic agents. He never says that he should have never condoned the government for using the sword. In fact, in Rom 13, he tells us otherwise.

      And doing exactly what Calvin and other Reformers were doing? They’re persecuting Christians? Again, all they did was condemn who they view as chaotic agents.

      I don’t understand your last point. He was rejected by the Jewish community (which didn’t actually have the legal right under Roman law to put anyone to death btw) after he became a Christian, and had no influence with the Romans beyond what we see in Acts. He supports government at every turn.

    • mbaker

      I can see that it in the context that civil government must make laws and go by them, and convict the guilty, but not in the context that Christians themselves are justified biblically in doing what Paul did prior to his conversion, killing those like Stephen who simply disagreed with Jewish law, regarding God.

      I think the more important distinction is what Jesus taught: ” Render unto Caesar’s what is Caesar’s, and what is God’s to God.”

      I think sometimes Christians blur the difference, and that is where I think Calvin and Luther erred in their own actions after the reformation. But of course the most biblical example IS the the apostle Paul who was shown the difference. by God Himself. After all, before Paul was converted he killed folks like Stephen, thinking he was justified by God in doing so, until the Lord showed him the difference.

    • Hodge

      Remind me again how we got from purgatory to this? 🙂

    • Hodge

      Again, it’s important to remember that neither Calvin nor Luther killed anyone. They are obedient to God by speaking well of His civil servant’s decisions and they are being obedient to God by exercising church discipline. This just has results in their communities that we have come to believe are harsh; but there is nothing unbiblical about it.

    • mbaker

      You were the one who brought it up, so perhaps you can tell us? Up to then I think we were discussing the topic of the post. 🙂

    • Hodge

      Oh that’s right, because Olsen was saying that they deserve to go through some sort of purgatory for this, etc., etc.

      see, it did have something to do with the post. does that count? 🙂

    • mbaker

      Sorry, I didn’t get that from Olson’s post, only that he was saying we shouldn’t condemn those who personally agree with the Catholic’s point of view, rather that we should not make the same mistake that Calvin did, and condemn them unilaterally as not being Christian because they don’t agree with our point of view that purgatory is not supported biblically.

      Perhaps it is a matter of reading comprehension? 🙂

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      You do have a point that Paul lost his influence with the Jews and so maybe had no way of continuing what he had done before he became a Christian.

      However, I still do not see any NT writer condoning or even suggesting death for heretics in any way.

      And here is a very telling quote from Calvin himself regarding Servetus death. (By the way, it seems he did have some official capacity in the town of Geneva at the time all of this happened.)

      Defense of Orthodox Faith against the Prodigious Errors of the Spaniard Michael Servetus, published in early 1554. “Whoever shall now contend that it is unjust to put heretics and blasphemers to death will knowingly and willingly incur their very guilt. This is not laid down on human authority; it is God who speaks and prescribes a perpetual rule for his Church. It is not in vain that he banishes all those human affections which soften our hearts; that he commands paternal love and all the benevolent feelings between brothers, relations, and friends to cease; in a word, that he almost deprives men of their nature in order that nothing may hinder their holy zeal. Why is so implacable a severity exacted but that we may know that God is defrauded of his honour, unless the piety that is due to him be preferred to all human duties, and that when his glory is to be asserted, humanity must be almost obliterated from our memories? Many people have accused me of such ferocious cruelty that I would like to kill again the man I have destroyed. Not only am I indifferent to their comments, but I rejoice in the fact that they spit in my face.

      Note he seems to say he destroyed Servetus–he doesn’t just agree with the government’s decision. And it was for heresy and blashphemy that he did this. And notice he says that this is not done by human authority but by a perpetual rule for His Chruch.

      http://www.a-voice.org/tidbits/calvinp.htm

    • mbaker

      Hodge,

      Again, as CMP has pointed out in his bottom line : “There is simply no condemnation for those who are in Christ.”

      And, if in fact you disagree that isn’t the bottom line in Olson’s post also, please address what HE said point by point, bibiically and theologcally to prove otherwise, instead of generalizing and defending it from a strictly personal Calvinisitic point of view.

      Then perhaps I, and others here, can sync with you.

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,

      I’ve gotten in on this discussion late. Just a couple questions. If the government is doing something that we as Christians consider to be highly immoral (i.e. using taxpayer funds to fund the murder of helpless unborn children) don’t we have a duty to speak out against such a thing?? Furthermore if secular governing authorities are going to execute somebody in the name of God simply for holding to a heretical religious doctrine shouldn’t we also speak out against both the religious persecution and the misuse of God’s name as a pretext for their actions??

    • Dave Z

      This thread has certainly meandered a bit since Hodge and I were talking about “sudden sanctification” at death, but I came across this in Romans 6 and thought it might apply, in Hodge’s favor:

      “… anyone who has died has been freed from sin.”

    • Hodge

      mbaker,

      That’s Ok if you didn’t pick that up. I won’t hold your lack of reading comprehension against you. 😉

      Cheryl,

      “And he [Calvin] took full responsibility for it even though he preferred beheading over burning and technically the city council, not Calvin, condemned Servetus” (Olsen).
      Why? Because the civil and spiritual are combined as one in Calvin’s day. One could not make a spiritual discipline without it being also civil. There is no separation of Church and State in that sense. My point is that Calvin didn’t kill Servetus. He didn’t behead him. He didn’t pronounce death upon him at the civil proceeding. He condoned it, thought it was right, and realized that his actions in obeying God and exercising Church discipline had fatal results that would make him unpopular, especially to those outside the community who were not threatened by Servetus, since it’s easy to judge the matter when you don’t have to endure the destruction your lenience creates. Again, you are imposing your culture on Calvin and then condemning him with it. Please use the Bible to condemn him. Please show me where he was not to exercise Church discipline, cooperate with and condone the decisions of the civil government, etc. I’ve already said that the NT writers wouldn’t suggest death to heretics because the Roman government wasn’t a Christian one. There was no unity of the Empire founded upon Christianity. They killed heretics (i.e., Jews and Christians) because of their disruption of the community. So one would not find it there because that is not a situation for first century Christianity. It is for sixteenth century Christianity.

    • Hodge

      mbaker.

      here are a few examples for you:

      “What’s wrong with a Protestant believing that upon entering paradise a hate-filled Christian leader of the past who condoned torture and even murder (I don’t know what else to call the burning of Servetus even though it was technically legal–we still call “legal” stonings of women in certain countries “murder”) has to take a spiritually therapeutic “class” of correction?

      I can imagine (only imagine, you realize!) Zwingli entering the pearly gates (imagery–because there’s no reason to believe paradise has gates!) and being greeted by Hubmaier who says “Ulrich, it’s nice to see you here. I’ve completely forgiven you. But Christ has assigned me as your tutor and guide during your orientation to paradise. Here, sit down, let me offer you some correction about treatment of people with whom you disagree.”

      You might wonder–why call that “purgatory?” Well, don’t you suppose (as I do) that Zwingli would view it as a kind of purgatory? That is–as a kind of purgation of his errors and hateful attitudes? Imagine Zwingli having to sit at Hubmaier’s feet and learn from him! Could this be the meaning of 1 Corinthians 3:15?”

      And

      “But I find it the only acceptable alternative, for me, anyway, to thinking of great Christian heroes of the past being in hell.”

      So you’re saying that it’s not his point to say that these theologians had to go through his concept of purgatory? I don’t get it. Are we reading the same thing? His whole point is that purgatory is a nicer option for him to believe in for these people, since if they didn’t have it, they deserve to be in hell.

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      A here is a question from back up the thread a ways. You said, Servetus was doing more than just teaching different religious ideas. He was on a radical crusade to slander orthodox Christianity by which the community was bound together, and revile government authority in a manner that would lead to war.

      How did he revile government? I have not read anything along those lines.

      And if the quote I gave from Calvin in my last comment really expressed what he believed, it was heresy and blasphemy that was an issue in his mind. Not the unity of the community. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t sound like anything to do with other men at all were the driving force of his zeal. Rather it was simply that he felt God was defrauded by the heresy and that the heretic therefore had to be destroyed. At least that is the way I read his quote.

    • wm tanksley

      If you are so inclined, read St. Catherine of Genoa on Purgatory, and you will see that the souls in purgatory would have it no other way, namely they are experiencing the purifying love of God that cleanses the soul.

      I’m not familiar with that, but how does it square with all the space and time given to the indulgences which profess to reduce the amount of time spent in purgatory? Why would one want to spend less time in purification? And why does the Church have the authority to reduce the amount of time spent there — since everyone in purgatory is saved and loved, why doesn’t God want to give them as little unpleasantness as possible? Doesn’t this blaspheme God in the same way that claiming that Mary gets to order Jesus around does?

      -Wm

    • Hodge

      Michael,

      I would say yes to both questions with a qualification. The government in Calvin’s day was not executing Servetus simply because he held a different belief. It is for reviling government authority, as Servetus did, inciting the community against itself, overthrowing the unity and bringing it to war with that heresy. This wouldn’t be the case in our modern context in most countries, especially in the West. Church and State are separated, so Church discipline in our context does not usually lead to civil judgments. We’ve made this distinction, and in my opinion, it is a good distinction to make; but I don’t want to condemn others in the past who sought to do what was right and were not privileged to have our modern hindsight on the matter.
      And I would only be vocal against a government that does not allow for me to speak against it if it gave me a direct order in contradiction to a direct order given by the Lord. Otherwise, I can talk about the evils of abortion and what not, but not in a direct manner defying the government. I think that is the pattern we see in the NT. Of course, we live in a country that allows for this, but I would still do it in a very respectful manner, since government is a servant of God and made up of my God-given superiors in terms of civil jurisdiction.

    • Hodge

      Cheryl,

      You have to read what Servetus wrote, what he did in terms of his hostility in writing and preaching it, and couple that with his continual defiance of government authority by escaping from jail and secretly injecting his heresy into the community even when on the run.

      “And if the quote I gave from Calvin in my last comment really expressed what he believed, it was heresy and blasphemy that was an issue in his mind. Not the unity of the community.”

      Both/and, not either/or. That’s what I’ve been attempting to communicate. Heresy by itself is nothing much to get too worried about. Calvin says this when Servetus marks up the refutation Calvin sent to him. Calvin says he doesn’t hate him or want to persecute him, but that it is his hostility in attempting to inject this heresy into the community that will force him to become like iron against him. This defiant heresy is what threatened the unity of the community.

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,

      So are you saying that if the Church makes themselves the government (as it did de facto in the Middle Ages through the Reformation Era) then it is fully justified in executing anyone who dared to loudly disagree with them doctrinally?

    • Hodge

      Dave,

      Thanks. It’s good to have at least one post in my favor. 🙂 Maybe Rom 7 also, as it speaks of dying and the law which judges us in this life having no more jurisdiction to do so?

    • Hodge

      Michael,

      I’m not sure what you mean by the Church making itself government. The government is a separate body than the Church. I don’t know any society where the Church is the civil government as well. There is influence because Christians are in civil government though, and civil government has the duty to protect its citizens from things that would bring death to them, like unnecessary wars caused by heretics or defiance of authority that is like leaven in a community and breaks down all societal structures. I keep trying to communicate this, and many seem to continually return to this idea that the Church is just killing people who have alternate opinions; and of course, “loudly” is a tamer word than rebellion, but the government does need to deal with it either way.
      But if the Church were to become a civil government, then I suppose it would be charged with the same things with which civil governments are charged. I don’t think it should enact civil judgments upon people for spiritual issues, unless those spiritual issues also are illegal and threaten the community.

    • Hodge

      And with breaking the great 100 barrier, I’ll have to bow out now, as it took a long time for me to understand cultures beyond my own, and I don’t expect to convince anyone overnight not to judge those godly men who sought to do what was right in their own contexts. Thanks for the good discussion. Until next time.

    • wm tanksley

      cherylu, it’s clear to me that Calvin and all at his time were wrong. The problem is that almost all at the time were wrong, and had been since the time of Constantine.
      But does that mean that Calvin isn’t worthy of entering heaven any more than that I’m not worthy of entering heaven? David said “against you, and you only, have I sinned.” He wasn’t saying that he hadn’t murdered; he was saying that even his murders were grievous because they offended against the Law of God. Calvin’s advocacy of murder did that; but so does my hate, and my lust. Only God’s grace can save us, and in that we stand at the same level — because without it we’re utterly dead in our sins; and with it, we’re raised to life.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      Here is another quote from this source:

      http://www.angelfire.com/ok3/jasonshome/servetus.html

      Dr. Emilé Doumergue, the author of Jean Calvin, which is beyond comparison the most exhaustive and authoritative work ever published on Calvin, has the following to say about the death of Servetus: “Calvin had Servetus arrested when he came to Geneva, and appeared as his accuser. He wanted him to be condemned to death, but not to death by burning. On August 20, 1553, Calvin wrote to Farel: ‘I hope that Servetus will be condemned to death, but I desire that he should be spared the cruelty of the punishment’ – he means that of fire. Farel replied to him on September 8th: ‘I do not greatly approve that tenderness of heart,’ and he goes on to warn him to be careful that ‘in wishing that the cruelty of the punishment of Servetus be mitigated, thou art acting as a friend towards a man who is thy greatest enemy. But I pray thee to conduct thyself in such a manner that, in future, no one will have the boldness to publish such doctrines, and to give trouble with impunity for so long a time as this man has done.’

      The civil authorities pronounced the death sentence yes. But the bottom line seems to be: Calvin had him arrested, was his accuser at least at a portion of his trial, and he wanted him to be put to death. It seems he both desired and worked toward having him put to death. It was not a mere condoning of what the civil government did. If the New Tesatment gives no warrant to putting a heretic to death, why was he so all fired determined to do so? That is what I find to be very appalling.

      By the way, if you believe the only reason the NT doesn’t tell us to put heretics to death is because they had no way to do so, do you believe that to be true for adulterers and many other sexual crimes, disobedient children, witches, those worshipping idols, breaking the sabbath, etc, etc, etc? Do all of these people still need to be put…

    • Hodge

      yeah, and i just want to say, as i jump in for the last time 😉 that most Reformed folk would agree with Wm. I obviously disagree and think that the modern church needs a more fully developed doctrine of chaos and order in order to evaluate these things, but did want to mention that I’m in the minority (surprise, surprise) on the matter.

    • Hodge

      Cheryl,

      Sigh. Have you been reading me or someone else. I said nothing toward anything you argued there. I already argued that Church and State are not separate and Calvin knew his ecclesiastical discipline would also be in support of civil punishment.
      I also gave no hint that I believe the NT authors simply don’t roast heretics because they don’t have the means to do so. That is completely contrary to what I have been arguing. Please reread me.

      And with that, I’m out. Really. 🙂

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      I already argued that Church and State are not separate and Calvin knew his ecclesiastical discipline would also be in support of civil punishment.

      Have you been reading me? 🙂

      I don’t think at all from what I read that Calvin only knew that church discipline would result in or be in support of civil discipline. My beef is that he wanted to see him dead for his heresies. And that is not what I believe the New Testament teaches.

      And you have made this statement in one way or another several times now: I’ve already said that the NT writers wouldn’t suggest death to heretics because the Roman government wasn’t a Christian one. That is giving no hint that the NT writers don’t roast heretics because they don’t have the means to do so.?? Seems to me that is exactly what you were doing!

      By the way are you really sure you are gone now??

    • cherylu

      William,

      Just to clarify, I wasn’t trying to make any point at all about whether Calvin was worthy of heaven or not.

      This discussion was really a sidetrack because some of us truly disagreed with what it seemed Hodge was saying in his defense of John Calvin here.

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,

      I know you are probably not going to see this because you are “out”, however it seems to me that with your whole idea of “chaotic agents” one could argue that Jesus was a “chaotic agent”. Jesus was disruptive to the social and religious norms of 1st Century Palestine. Had he not been executed his teaching would have likely caused a riot in Jerusalem. Thus according to your arguments it would appear that the Roman Empire was fully justified and right in executing Jesus since his teaching were disruptive to society. Yet the Bible seems to indicate that what the Roman Empire did through its agents (Herod and Pilate) was evil.

    • mbaker

      I think I’m noticing that people may be missing the larger point here in Olson’s article. The kind of purgatory he was musing about about dealt more with the correction of people’s hearts and ways of thinking rather than their punishment. I don’t think it was meant to be a theological treatise establishing some new new doctrine, but something all of us wonder about, and that is why some Christians seem to preach the gospel of grace and not live by it themselves like Calvin and Luther and Zwingli, and many modern day Christians as well.

      Perhaps instead of Olson’s ‘counseling’ half-way house idea of purgatory, we should have sent the reformers to reform school instead, since they obviously did not personally practice the gospel of grace they preached. From the sound of it they needed a lot of correction themselves but no one was able to disagree with them without either being beheaded, burned at the stake, imprisoned or tortured. Doesn’t sound too graceful to me.

      But then we see the same thing on Christian blogs all the time, by folks who insist upon being right no matter what the cost. Perhaps we should establish a sense of humor school for modern day folks who also take themselves too seriously to be disagreed with. 🙂

    • Hodge

      Ok, last time for real. 🙂

      Michael,

      To the unbelievers, believers are chaotic agents. The difference is that believers come along to reestablish unity in the truth rather than in lies. True chaotic agents work toward the destruction of the community in the long run. So we are chaotic agents to a community unified on what is ultimately chaotic. We, however, are agents of life in reality. So my argument is not that the government is always justified in its identification of chaotic agents, but that it is justified in using the sword it is given against them. In other words, the have the blessing of God to use the sword. They don’t always have the blessing to use it because sometimes they have misidentified who is that should receive that punishment. Hence, to Ahab, a chaotic agent in the long run, Elijah looks like a chaotic agent (“you troubler of Israel) because Israel’s unity is not founded in worshiping YHWH at the time, etc.

      mbaker,

      I’m glad you are not considering yourself right no matter the cost of biblical theology. I take your words as conceding the point, and will gladly put in a good word for you so you can get out parochial purgatory class early. 😉

      And I don’t need Calvin to be right. To be honest, he’s not my favorite theologian. My kids read his Truth for All Time and Institutes, but I’ve always considered myself more of an Augustinian than a Calvinist per se. So it makes little difference to me that he is a huge sinner. My issue is with the modern syncretism of certain ideas in our culture with Christianity that then cause us to condemn others in history because they don’t share our supposedly “christian” views that are more enlightened.

    • wm tanksley

      cherylu, can I point out that you’re asking the wrong question? You’re getting offended that Calvin wanted Severetus killed at all. The correct question is whether Calvin was wrong to want Severetus killed. This is the point Hodge is trying to clarify. I agree with Hodge that it’s not an open-and-shut case, although I’m willing to add that I strongly suspect that Calvin was in fact wrong.
      But one thing is clear from history: Calvin was no monster. He may have been grossly wrong, but if so, his error was an honest one, made with compassion.

    • wm tanksley

      I know you are probably not going to see this because you are “out”, however it seems to me that with your whole idea of “chaotic agents” one could argue that Jesus was a “chaotic agent”.

      Jesus was indeed tried for being a chaotic agent, both of insurrection and of blasphemy, and judicially found innocent. Nowhere is it claimed that He should not have been tried.

      Yes, what the Roman empire did was evil — because they found Him innocent and declared Him so, and yet they killed Him anyhow. They didn’t try Him for causing a riot; if they had, they would have put the Jewish leaders on trial next to Him, and if justice had been done the leaders would have been killed.

      It’s not clear to me that Severetus was guilty of blasphemy; he was certainly guilty of heresy, but that’s not a death-sentence crime according to the Bible. (Blasphemy is, although I only see power granted to the civil government to prosecute it in the Old Testament economy.)

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      Wm,

      No, I am upset because I believe Calvin guilty of wanting him killed for what seems to me to be a totally unBiblical reason.

      I am not saying there is never justification for capital punishment. That is not at all my point.

      I just seriously don’t see this as a case of warranted capital punishment from a Chrisitan perspective. Heresy is not a captial offence in the New Testament as far as I can tell. I know Hodge argues there was more to it then that. However, it was certainly heresy that was at the root of all of the controversy as far as I can tell.

      And while I am not saying that Calvin was a monster, from many articles that I have read, it would appear that as the head of the church in Geneva for many years, he ruled with an iron hand over what was basically a theocracy. And the reach of the church and it’s discipline extended into the finest details of people’s life in the city of Geneva. How would you like to have your home searched once a year to be sure you had nothing deemed wrong and to be punished severely for such a thing as smiling at a baptism?

      If what I have been reading is correct at all, things were truly quite out of hand in Geneva in those days when Calvin was the head of the church there. I see no Biblical, New Testament warrant for any of this. Do you?

    • wm tanksley

      I think I’m noticing that people may be missing the larger point here in Olson’s article. The kind of purgatory he was musing about about dealt more with the correction of people’s hearts and ways of thinking rather than their punishment.

      I’m afraid you’ve missed the point of purgatory — that’s what it’s supposed to be about. It’s what happens when people lose what Grace is about.

      I don’t think it was meant to be a theological treatise establishing some new new doctrine, but something all of us wonder about, and that is why some Christians seem to preach the gospel of grace and not live by it themselves like Calvin and Luther and Zwingli, and many modern day Christians as well.

      You mean like ALL Christians except Christ. You certainly don’t understand what grace is. It’s not of works. If it were of works, it would not be grace. Grace is God’s freedom to save us, not our obligation to respond. The good works we do in response are not our own; they are God “working within us, both to will and to do His good pleasure.”

      Furthermore, Christ made it clear that avoiding murder isn’t enough to save you; the hate in your heart for your brother is enough to condemn you to eternal hell.

      From the sound of it they needed a lot of correction themselves but no one was able to disagree with them without either being beheaded, burned at the stake, imprisoned or tortured. Doesn’t sound too graceful to me.

      You’re historically wrong — there was substantial disagreement in all the communities of those reformers without bringing out the sword. There were many debates which were simply debates.

      Of course, there were also many debates which ended in blood — so you’re right that they needed correction. My own denomination, Baptist, is linked to one of the awful persecutions, that of the Anabaptists. Both the Reformed and the Roman Catholics joined to kill Anabaptists…

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,

      I’m not sure why you insist that Servetus would have caused rebellion. I can find nothing to indicate that he was trying to incite a insurrection. Rather he condemned Trinitarianism and infant-Baptism and was in turn condemned for doing so by pretty much everyone. I can’t find any evidence that he had a significant following or that he was inciting his followers to rebel. He didn’t even stay in Geneva for instance – he was just passing through and stopped to see Calvin preach. Heresy and Blaspheme should never be an excuse to execute someone and if a government, whether secular or theocratic, should decide to do so the church should raise it’s voice in opposition.

    • cherylu

      Wm,

      mbaker made this comment: that is why some Christians seem to preach the gospel of grace and not live by it themselves like Calvin and Luther and Zwingli, and many modern day Christians as well.

      You say she doesn’t understand what grace is. While I certainly can not speak for her, I would guess that what she was saying was that for people who preached with an emphasis on God’s grace, these folks certainly didn’t seem to offer much of that grace to others.

      If that is what she is saying, I have to agree with her. I don’t see much grace in killing someone for heresy or in ruling a church and a town with an iron hand.

    • mbaker

      Thanks, Cheryl.

      That is exactly what I was saying.

    • wm tanksley

      No, I am upset because I believe Calvin guilty of wanting him killed for what seems to me to be a totally unBiblical reason.

      From what I can see, they charged him with blasphemy, which is given as a capital offense in the Law. Their charges were, as far as I can see, entirely wrong; he was a heretic, not a blasphemer. (I also believe that blasphemy would require a theocracy as in ancient Israel, which we do not have.)

      And while I am not saying that Calvin was a monster,

      Do a search for that word on this page– your argument is in support of that exact claim. But be of good cheer; by “monster” I take the poster to mean “extraordinarily unethical”. I think that’s what you mean as well. But he wasn’t; he was either quite ordinary for his society, or more merciful than it was.

      He was a man of his time.

      it would appear that as the head of the church in Geneva for many years, he ruled with an iron hand

      He didn’t rule. He preached and lobbied. He was opposed politically by people who triumphed on many issues over him. That’s not an “iron hand”.

      over what was basically a theocracy.

      He did not innovate there; he did what all the previous churches had done. He was wrong; but he was doing what appeared right at the time.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Michael T, your post #115 seems to me to be accurate.

      I think it’s clear that Christ ordered us to NOT kill heretics; we are supposed to chase them out of Church teaching positions, but we reserve the final reckoning to Christ.

      Calvin, and all the other people in the town (except Servetus), were wrong. But that doesn’t mean they’re going to purgatory. (BOOM! Back on topic!)

      -Wm

    • […] speculated on the appropriateness of a Protestant form of purgatory.  C. Michael Patton offered a response which is worth reading.  Being a Protestant myself I don’t believe in purgatory and I’m not […]

    • […] Baptist Seminary Professor Roger Olson Headed Toward Rome "A corrective course for those few who were really bad Christians is not the icing on the cake to the cross, even if they were taught by Jesus. There is simply no condemnation for those who are in Christ." (tags: article editorial grace theology blog) […]

    • […] While I am a fan of Roger Olson, I am a contemplative critic of his thesis here. I don’t really know where it has come from. The very idea of Purgatory goes against everything that the Reformation was about. Let me back up. In essence, this is what I am hearing Olson say: “There are some Christians who have done some really, really bad things and had some really, really bad attitudes. Therefore, I am considering that these Christians have to enter into an educational corrective half-way house before entering Heaven. Let’s call this a ‘Protestant Purgatory’.” …. Read this in full at http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2010/09/baptist-seminary-professor-roger-olson-headed-toward-r… […]

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