There are certain Christian beliefs that I fear are “closet doctrines” for many Christians.

What is a “closet doctrine”? I am glad you asked.  Closet doctrines are those doctrines that we might believe, but we hide, especially to those for whom Christian truth is a novelty. In short, they are those beliefs that we are somewhat embarrassed by. In an age of political correctness and empirical demands of verification, many of us don’t talk about some things. While we might believe them, we feel the need to put them in a closet and lock the door. Sometimes this is due to shame others it is due to sting.

Let illustrate by first using Mormonism as an example. According to traditional Mormonism, God was once a man who was elevated to his status of deity. Following this understanding, Mormons believe that we can also be elevated to such a status and one day rule over our own planet or universe. You won’t hear about this from most Mormons that show up at your door. Glen Beck certainly does not bring them up. This bit of eschatological tradition is best put in a dark closet and locked away. Why? Because it, for many Mormons, is a black eye of shame. It is not simply that it redefines the entire concept of what it means to be “god,” nor is it that it necessarily leads to polytheism, but, quite frankly, sounds really silly.

However, “Sounding really silly” should not be a criterion for truth. Nevertheless, whether it is “sounding really silly” or just hard to believe, we often temper our presentation of our faith, leaving out the weird uncles in our doctrinal family tree, whether we believe them or not.

With Christianity, I see the list of “closet doctrines” growing quite a bit. Some of these are not simply doctrines, but specific beliefs. Among them:

Inerrancy: Many believe it is just too difficult to defend that there are no factual errors in the Bible considering, what they believe to be, the plethora of absurdities that one must swallow in order to maintain it.

Snakes talking: Let’s face it, it is hard to keep a straight face and say that a snake talked in the “garden” of Eden.

Demonization: While angels are a bit more palatable and the existence demons is finding its way into the closet, in our age of psychological therapy and medicine, why bother bringing up a belief that some evil creature that we have never seen can actually inhabit the body of a person?

Global Flood: “Two by two, all the animals came on the ark from all over the world, being led by God.” Sounds more like a nursery rhyme, doesn’t it? Let’s soften the blow by making it local. That way we don’t need so many Holy Spirit possessed animals! Either that or just hang it on the coat rack.

Time will fail me if I were to list the plagues of Egypt, the Jonahs in fish’s bellies, and Arks of Covenants killing thousands of people.

The question from the outside—the question from the unbelieving outside world captivated by their own empirical understanding—is “Do you really believe that?” Asked enough times, well-meaning Christians have the tendency to loosen their grip on these things and eventually assign them to the deepest recess of the back closet. If they are in the closet too long, they are either redefined or forgotten about all-together. After all, we do want to be respectable, don’t we? We do want to have a legitimate voice in the market place of ideas, don’t we?

There are three closet doctrines that stand out more than any other. These are the things that we don’t tell our unbelieving friends until they are inaugurated into the faith, and even then, we may never broach the subjection unless heavily qualified and redefined.

  1. The doctrine of Hell: A belief in an eternal place of suffering and torment for the non-elect called the “lake of fire.”
  2. The doctrine of imputation of Adam’s sin: A belief that all people are born condemned due to their association with the sin of the first man and woman who ever lived.
  3. The doctrine of predestination: A belief that God has elected certain individuals to salvation and not others.

My purpose here is not to deal directly with the truthfulness of these “closet doctrines,” but to explore the validity of Christians having closet doctrines.

I believe in sola Scriptura. This means I believe that the Bible is the final and only infallible source of truth. Therefore, how “silly” something sounds is too subjective an approach in our quest for truth. I think that the Bible, rightly interpreted, is authoritative over the rival source of “does it sound silly.”But I also believe in semper reformanda. This means that I believe that doctrine can progress, reform, and nuance itself to some degree based upon advances in understanding, both from the Bible, experience, and the natural world.

However, I am not comfortable with reforming doctrine based on how abnormal it sounds due to culturally influenced norms. Of course I have never heard a snake talk and, yes, it does sound like a fairy tale. But this does not really influence me to assign it a closet of shame. I live in America, the land of freedom and opportunity, but this does not mean that my experience should dictate how I believe the doctrine of election should be interpreted.

After all, think about this: Don’t those who believe in evolution hold to a bizarre theory that goes against everything we experience. I have never evolved through random mutation. Sure, I have seen it on X-Men, but that is fantasy. Don’t evolutionist believe that we are the walking talking decedents of single celled organisms that grew feet, got out of the water, lost our tail, built houses, and flew to the moon? I have never seen such a progression. It falls outside of everything I see and know. It sounds like a fairy tale. It is just plain silly. If anything should be placed in a closet, what about this?

However, we have learned to adjust. While I don’t believe in evolution, my disbelief is not necessarily based on the “silliness” factor (though, I must admit, it does contribute).

I just got done teaching a Bible Boot Camp at a church in Manteca, CA. I am writing this in Denver, CO on a device called a computer fueled by electricity. It will soon be uploaded to my blog on a server somewhere else (I think TX) by way of Boingo Wi-Fi. I will then get on an airplane and fly to Okla. City, OK. If I were to go back in just two hundred years and tell any random person about these events, they would see it as fantasy science fiction. There would be divisions among the empiricists and the more open minded about whether my story is possible. If I were to write it down, some bookstores would have it in the history section, some in the religious, some in the sci-fi, and some in the children’s section (further categorized in nursery rhymes).

My point is that we should not be too quick to interpret truth first through our scientism or criterion of “silliness.” I don’t like the doctrine of hell. God’s universal love along with sovereign predestination is hard to put together. Spirit filled animals two-by-two is not something I have seen. However, if we believe in the miracles of the modern age of technology, if we believe in a sovereign God who created all that there is out of nothing, and if we believe in the incarnate Christ who rose from the grave, these other things are not really that hard to believe.

In the end, we need to be very careful about what we put in the closet of shame. God does not call on us to filter truth through a public opinion poll of political correctness, scientific opinion, or the “does it sound silly test.” If you think about it, existence itself in every facet sounds quite silly. We have just gotten used to it through desensitization.  If we interpret the Bible correctly and God says Hell does exist, predestination is unconditional, and snakes can talk then let’s pull them out of the closet. I don’t find the Apostles having any closet doctrines, nor should we.


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. Find him everywhere: Find him everywhere

    79 replies to "Those Pesky “Closet Doctrines”"

    • Michael

      Definitely true. Although I might substitute the “doctrine of creation as told in Genesis 1” int he place of your #2. I see a lot of Christians who will accept imputation Adam’s sin, but play games with Genesis1-3.

    • Randy

      I’m with Ron. I’ve spent the last couple of months researching your “closet doctrine’ of hell
      and have pretty much determined that the “traditional” view of hell as eternal conscious torment is about as silly as snake handling. It is well documented that not too long ago a good many Christians still “believed” in snake handling, but fortunately reason has prevailed with this doctrine. I would hope that we will see a day where Dante’s hell finds it’s place in the same annals as snake handling.

      As Ron so eloquently put it, eliminate that one and some of the others might not be quite so daunting. I know that you are a Calvinist, so I doubt I can talk you out of predestination. Perhaps in a few years. 😉

    • TDC

      I think this phenomenon is greatly magnified by the “minimal facts” method of Christian apologetics.

      I’m not faulting Bill Craig or any of the others like him for this, just pointing it out.

    • Dr Michael

      “As Ron so eloquently put it, eliminate that one and some of the others might not be quite so daunting.”

      Let’s throw out the rest too. Substitutionary atonement, that doesn’t fit well today either. Oh, and the whole male headship is so outdated. And the virgin birth, come on? And while we’re at it, all that part about sin, that definitely bugs me so let’s for sure cut it out for sure. Maybe Marcion and Jefferson did know how to use those scissors well?

      • Randy

        We don’t need to throw out the baby with the bathwater, but I think that the biblical view of hell is better than the traditions that we’ve built concerning eternal conscious torment. I do think that Christus Victor might well fit better than Substitutionary Atonement, and I see nothing wrong with an egalitarian theology either. No need for scissors, but some of our traditions might need a second look.

        • Dr Michael

          Yes, those “traditions” of eternal punishment which Matthew taught us in Matt. 25:46, very hard to get out of there without scissors.

        • Ron

          Everyone agrees that the punishment with be eternal (or “aionic”). The question is what that punishment will consist of (that is, its nature).

          You quoted one verse that doesn’t make your case. Would you like me now to quote 30 off the top of my head that unequivocally identify the exact nature of the punishment?

        • Randy Olds

          I’m sure that I can come up with another 30 for an even 60.

        • Ron

          Haha I said off the top of my head 🙂

          A more exhaustive list would easily number over 100. Over 100 passages that explicitly identify the nature of final punishment as death, destruction, perishing, passing away, being consumed, etc.– found from Genesis to Revelation in nearly every single book and literary genre.

          But traditionalists will keep running back to a parable in Matthew 25 and an apocalyptic vision in Revelation 20– neither of which make the case.

        • Dr Michael

          Now we’ve got to cut out Rev. 20 too?

          As for the punishment, it will be a furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, and the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night.

        • Ron

          No Dr. Mike, it is you who is cutting out over a hundred passages that clearly and unequivocally identify final punishment as death and destruction. Please don’t ignore hundreds of passages to uphold a traditional view.

          As for the final punishment being a furnace of fire where there is gnashing of teeth, I heartily agree. I’m not sure why you think I wouldn’t, or how you think that contradicts my view.

          Revelation 14:10-11 borrows its language almost word for word from Isaiah 34:9-11 that speaks of the total destruction of Edom:

          Night and day it shall not be quenched;
          its smoke shall go up forever.
          From generation to generation it shall lie waste;
          none shall pass through it forever and ever.”

          This is typical apocalyptic language that uses hyperbole to paint a vivid picture of destruction. The land is not still lying in waste, and the smoke is no longer ascending. So you inconsistently will take the apocalyptic hyperbole found in Revelation 14 literalistically, while taking the exact same language in Isaiah 34 more figuratively. As James White is fond of saying, an inconsistent hermeneutic is usually a sign that a person is trying to uphold a tradition rather than letting the text speak for itself.

          There are a number of other serious problems with thinking Revelation 14:10-11 supports the traditional view– the most important of which is the fact that is depicts a temporal judgment on Earth and NOT final punishment. It occurs before the resurrection and judgment, neither “hell” (Gehenna) nor the lake of fire are mentioned, and it is limited to a very specific group of people (those who worship the beast).

        • Dr Michael

          “It occurs before the resurrection and judgment, neither “hell” (Gehenna) nor the lake of fire are mentioned, and it is limited to a very specific group of people (those who worship the beast).”

          I haven’t mentioned Rev. 14, but it certainly affirms eternal punishment. You sort of forgot about Rev. 20, which includes the judgment of all unbelievers who’ve ever lived; especially verse 15 “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

          “As James White is fond of saying, an inconsistent hermeneutic is usually a sign that a person is trying to uphold a tradition rather than letting the text speak for itself.”

          Where have I practiced an inconsistent hermeneutic? If you’re talking about the same James White I’m thinking of, there’s a video on his site regarding this very issue:

          http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=3207

        • Ron

          “I haven’t mentioned Rev. 14”

          You did quote Revelation 14: “and the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night.” This is from Revelation 14. I’m not at all surprised that you simply copied and pasted out of context proof texts without even knowing where they came from.

          “but it certainly affirms eternal punishment.”

          It certainly does not. I explained why, feel free to interact with what I said.

          “You sort of forgot about Rev. 20”

          I sort of forgot nothing. You quoted Revelation 14 so I responded to that.

          “which includes the judgment of all unbelievers who’ve ever lived; especially verse 15 “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

          That’s right, and prior to that it says Death and Hades are thrown into the lake of fire. Every single commentator that I’m aware of understands that to mean that Death and Hades are destroyed; that they will be no more– nobody thinks it means that Death and Hades will be tormented forever. Again, people who hold the traditional view are inconsistent.

          “Where have I practiced an inconsistent hermeneutic?”

          I explained where in my post. Feel free to interact with what I said.

          “If you’re talking about the same James White I’m thinking of, there’s a video on his site regarding this very issue”

          That’s pretty weak, doctor. Defend you own views, don’t copy and paste links.

        • Ron

          Dr Mike, please don’t cut out the following passages (ESV):

          2 Peter 2:6: If by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly

          Hebrew 10:26-27: For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.

          2 Peter 3:7: But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

          John 3:16: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

          Romans 8:13: For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

          Romans 6:13: For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

          I’m sure that these authors, when they mention extinction, consume, destruction, perish, die, and death, REALLY meant that the wicked will be alive forever in agony. Ridiculous.

          Kindly exegete these passages in context and show me why they don’t mean what they clearly seem to mean. When you’re done with that I’ll give you a hundred more.

        • Dr Michael

          Death is a metaphor for eternal punishment. It’s interesting how one can deny eternal punishment, yet at the same time affirm eternal life, both of which are often mentioned in the same sentence.

          Annihilationism is not taught in the Bible.

        • cherylu

          Mt 25:41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels,

          This is what Jesus Himself told us He will do to those He calls the “goats” that are at His left hand at the judgment. Note it is eternal fire.

        • Ron

          “Death is a metaphor for eternal punishment.”

          Exegesis please. Death doesn’t mean “alive forever in torment”, no matter how much you want it to.

          Moreover, I mentioned a number of other verbs in addition to “death”.

          “Annihilationism is not taught in the Bible.”

          Hilarious. You are unable to counter any of my points, so you just assert your view. Not that I haven’t had this exact same argument 50 times, and it typically ends exactly this way.

          Feel free to exegete the six passages I mentioned, and show how they support your view.

        • Ron

          “This is what Jesus Himself told us He will do to those He calls the “goats” that are at His left hand at the judgment. Note it is eternal fire.”

          That’s right. “Eternal fire” is mentioned three times in the NT. The only passage that explains in any detail what it actually is (and what it does) is Jude 1:7:

          Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

          “Eternal fire” is the the same fire that came from heaven and completely destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. Eternal fire destroys and consumes, it doesn’t torment forever.

          Feel free to argue for your view biblically, because it is not at all obvious that “eternal fire” is a fire that torments forever. You are reading that into the text, against biblical precedent (Jude 1:7).

        • cherylu

          Ron,

          All I am going to say to that is the same word is used for eternal life as is used for eternal fire. If “eternal” fire doesn’t mean “eternal” fire, then what makes you think “eternal” life means “eternal” life?

        • Ron

          I forgot this gem:

          “It’s interesting how one can deny eternal punishment, yet at the same time affirm eternal life, both of which are often mentioned in the same sentence. ”

          I do not deny eternal punishment. I have already established this. I simply deny that the punishment consists of pain or torment. I instead affirm that the eternal punishment will consist of destruction, as the Bible makes clear: “They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, that comes from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thessalonians 1:9)

          It’s interesting how one can deny eternal death/destruction, yet at the same time affirm eternal life, both of which are often mentioned in the same sentence:

          John 3:16: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

          Romans 8:13: For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

          Romans 6:13: For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

          Matthew 7:13-14: Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

        • Dr Michael

          Ron, defend your view. We have stated our view biblically as Jesus stated it Matt. and John stated it in Rev. But when you say nonsense like this, its very difficult to have a discussion:

          “because it is not at all obvious that “eternal fire” is a fire that torments forever.”

          Eternal doesn’t mean forever? Kindly interact with this airtight case.

          There are only 3 instances (Ro 16:25, 2 Ti 1:9, Tit 1:2) where the root word aion is used in the Bible to express a definite time period. And in these 3 instances it is modified by another word for time, kronos. All other uses of aion “a period of unending duration, without end.” This use of this word is cited numerous times in and outside of the bible as well, hence all the references below.

          (Here are the 3 definitions used in the NT according to the BDAG, the standard scholarly resource for New Testament Greek)
          αἰώνιος
          ① pert. to a long period of time, long ago Ro 16:25; 2 Ti 1:9; Tit 1:2 (in these two last pass. the prep. bears the semantic content of priority; on χρόνος αἰ. cp. OGI 248, 54; 383, 10).
          ② pert. to a period of time without beginning or end, eternal of God [I’m not going to cite all the references here due to the character limit.]
          ③ pert. to a period of unending duration, without end (Diod S 1, 1, 5; 5, 73, 1; 15, 66, 1 δόξα αἰ. everlasting fame; in Diod S 1, 93, 1 the Egyptian dead are said to have passed to their αἰ. οἴκησις; Arrian, Peripl. 1, 4 ἐς μνήμην αἰ.; Jos., Bell. 4, 461 αἰ. χάρις=a benefaction for all future time; OGI 383, 10 [I B.C.] εἰς χρόνον αἰ.; EOwen, οἶκος αἰ.: JTS 38, ’37, 248–50; EStommel, Domus Aeterna: RAC IV 109–28) of the next life σκηναὶ αἰ. Lk 16:9 (cp. En 39:5). οἰκία, contrasted w. the οἰκία ἐπίγειος, of the glorified body 2 Cor 5:1. διαθήκη (Gen 9:16; 17:7; Lev 24:8; 2 Km 23:5 al.; PsSol 10:4 al.) Hb 13:20. εὐαγγέλιον Rv 14:6; κράτος in a doxolog. formula (=εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας) 1 Ti 6:16. παράκλησις 2 Th 2:16. λύτρωσις Hb 9:12. κληρονομία (Esth 4:17m) vs. 15; AcPl Ha 8, 21. αἰ. ἀπέχειν τινά (opp. πρὸς ὥραν) keep someone forever Phlm 15 (cp. Job 40:28). Very often of God’s judgment (Diod S 4, 63, 4 διὰ τὴν ἀσέβειαν ἐν ᾅδου διατελεῖν τιμωρίας αἰωνίου τυγχάνοντα; similarly 4, 69, 5; Jer 23:40; Da 12:2; Ps 76:6; 4 Macc 9:9; 13:15) κόλασις αἰ. (TestReub 5:5) Mt 25:46; 2 Cl 6:7; κρίμα αἰ. Hb 6:2 (cp. κρίσις αἰ. En 104:5). θάνατος B 20:1. ὄλεθρον (4 Macc 10:15) 2 Th 1:9. πῦρ (4 Macc 12:12; GrBar 4:16.—SibOr 8, 401 φῶς αἰ.) Mt 18:8; 25:41; Jd 7; Dg 10:7 (cp. 1QS 2:8). ἁμάρτημα Mk 3:29 (v.l. κρίσεως, κολάσεω, and ἁμαρτίας). On the other hand, of eternal life (Maximus Tyr. 6, 1d θεοῦ ζωὴ αἰ.; Diod S 8, 15, 3 life μετὰ τὸν θάνατον lasts εἰς ἅπαντα αἰῶνα; Da 12:2; 4 Macc 15:3;PsSol PsSol 3:12; OdeSol 11:16c; JosAs 8:11 cod. A [p. 50, 2 Bat.]; Philo, Fuga 78; Jos., Bell. 1, 650; SibOr 2, 336) in the Reign of God: ζωὴ αἰ. (Orig., C. Cels. 2, 77, 3) Mt 19:16, 29; 25:46; Mk 10:17, 30; Lk 10:25; 18:18, 30; J 3:15f, 36; 4:14, 36; 5:24, 39; 6:27, 40, 47, 54, 68; 10:28; 12:25, 50; 17:2f; Ac 13:46, 48; Ro 2:7; 5:21; 6:22f; Gal 6:8; 1 Ti 1:16; 6:12; Tit 1:2; 3:7; 1J 1:2; 2:25; 3:15; 5:11, 13, 20; Jd 21; D 10:3; 2 Cl 5:5; 8:4, 6; IEph 18:1; Hv 2, 3, 2; 3, 8, 4 al. Also βασιλεία αἰ. 2 Pt 1:11 (ApcPt Rainer 9; cp. Da 4:3; 7:27; Philo, Somn. 2, 285; Mel., P. 68, 493; OGI 569, 24 ὑπὲρ τῆς αἰωνίου καὶ ἀφθάρτου βασιλείας ὑμῶν; Dssm. B 279f, BS 363). Of the glory in the next life δόξα αἰ. 2 Ti 2:10; 1 Pt 5:10 (cp. Wsd 10:14; Jos., Ant. 15, 376.—SibOr 8, 410 φῶς αἰῶνιον). αἰώνιον βάρος δόξης 2 Cor 4:17; σωτηρία αἰ. (Is 45:17; Ps.-Clem., Hom. 1, 19) Hb 5:9; short ending of Mk. Of unseen glory in contrast to the transitory world of the senses τὰ μὴ βλεπόμενα αἰώνια 2 Cor 4:18.—χαρά IPhld ins; δοξάζεσθαι αἰωνίῳ ἔργῳ be glorified by an everlasting deed IPol 8:1. DHill, Gk. Words and Hebr. Mngs. ’67, 186–201; JvanderWatt, NovT 31, ’89, 217–28 (J).—DELG s.v. αἰών. M-M. TW. Sv.

        • Ron

          “All I am going to say to that is the same word is used for eternal life as is used for eternal fire.”

          How is this a response to my argument from Jude?

          If “eternal” fire doesn’t mean “eternal” fire, then what makes you think “eternal” life means “eternal” life?

          I never said that “eternal fire” doesn’t mean “eternal fire”. Again, you are assuming (without warrant) that what “eternal fire” does is torment people forever. Why?

          Moreover, I suggest you do a word study on the Greek term used for eternal (aionios).

          Mark 3:29 mentions the “eternal sin”. This doesn’t refer to a sin that will be perpetually committed; it refers to one sin that has eternal consequences.

          Hebrews 6:2 mentions “eternal judgment”. This doesn’t mean that God will keep judging people perpetually. There is clearly one judgment that has eternal consequences.

          Likewise, “eternal fire” is a fire whose “effects” so to speak are eternal. Jude in essence tells us “if you want to know what eternal fire is, look at what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah.” Eternal fire is a fire that destroys completely. If you don’t like that, your beef is with Jude, not me.

          And yes, “aionic life” by itself does not necessarily mean never ending life. More literally it just means something like “life to an age” Young’s Literal translates it as “life age-during”. I do believe that the redeemed will live forever, but that belief is not based on a simplistic understanding of what the word translated from aionios means.

        • Dr Michael

          Ron, see word study above your last comment. αἰώνιος (aeonios) in the Bible almost always means “a period of unending duration, without end“, unless it is modified by kronis. The uses of “eternal fire”, “eternal life” and “eternal punishment” are not modified by kronos.

        • Ron

          “Ron, defend your view.”

          What an irritating thing to say. You have given no substantive response to anything I’ve said.

          “We have stated our view biblically as Jesus stated it Matt. and John stated it in Rev.”

          I’ve unequivocally countered everything you’ve said. If you choose to ignore that, that’s your problem.

          “But when you say nonsense like this, its very difficult to have a discussion: ‘because it is not at all obvious that “eternal fire” is a fire that torments forever.'”

          How is this nonsense? Nowhere does the text say that the fire will torment people forever. This is a fact. If you want to call facts “nonsense”, then again, that’s your problem.

          “Eternal doesn’t mean forever?”

          1. This wasn’t my claim. I said “eternal fire” doesn’t torment forever. Please stop misrepresenting me.

          2. Aionios most certainly does NOT mean “forever”. It is a much richer expression. Check any lexicon.

          “Kindly interact with this airtight case.”

          Again, please stop copying and pasting stuff, that is so embarrassing. Why don’t you actually reply to the challenges that I’ve posted?

          Moreover, this copy and paste job doesn’t conflict with anything I’ve said. I agree that the effects of the fire will last forever. Heck, maybe even the fire itself will last forever, either way, you haven’t demonstrated that “eternal fire” is fire that torments forever.

          Feel free to interact with the arguments I’ve posted.

        • Ron

          “Ron, see word study above your last comment. αἰώνιος (aeonios) in the Bible almost always means “a period of unending duration, without end“, unless it is modified by kronis.”

          If this is what your copied and pasted “word study” shows, then the study is garbage. I gave two examples (eternal sin and eternal judgment) that clearly do not refer to an unending duration.

          “The uses of “eternal fire”, “eternal life” and “eternal punishment” are not modified by kronos.”

          For the THIRD time, I agree that the punishment is eternal; that is lasts forever (and so does everyone who takes this view). You either cannot follow an argument, or you are intentionally misrepresenting me.

          As has been said a million times, the Bible refers to an eternal punishment, not an eternal punishing. Wise up, doctor.

        • Dr Michael

          “Check any lexicon.”

          I just posted everything on aeonios from THE lexicon of lexicons, and you say “please stop copying and pasting stuff”.

          Dodge and move, dodge and move. Where again did you state your beliefs? Every time I defend the Biblical doctrine of hell you say you agree, yet you continue to disagree.

          “you haven’t demonstrated that “eternal fire” is fire that torments forever.”

          You are clearly contradicting yourself here. BDAG shows aionios is unending duration, without end. Which part about unending or without end is unclear? To say aeon only means ages is an old Universalist tactic made prominent by A.E. Knoch. Biblicaly aeon does not mean age, as all annihilationists and universalists claim, because they are reading the English aeon (age) back into the Greek. The Greek came first, it determines the definition used in the Greek NT Bible.

          I’m all for meaningful debate, but it is hopeless to try and talk to someone who denies the law of non-contradiction.

        • Ron

          ” ‘Check any lexicon.’ I just posted everything on aeonios from THE lexicon of lexicons”

          I made this challenge in response to your ridiculous claim that aionios means simply “forever”. Again, the word is much richer than that. Check any lexicon.

          “and you say ‘please stop copying and pasting stuff’.”

          Yes, please stop copying and pasting stuff, it’s embarrassing.

          “Dodge and move, dodge and move. Where again did you state your beliefs?”

          In the comments of this blog post. What is wrong with you?

          You are the one who has dodged my challenges to exegete passages that clearly contradict your view– oh except a perfunctory “death is a metaphor for eternal punishment.” Laughable.

          You are the one who ignores me every single time I demonstrate you are wrong– like your ridiculous claim that you never quoted Revelation 14. Or where I demonstrate from Jude what “eternal fire” is, or where I show that Revelation 14 can’t mean what you want it to mean.

          Dodge and move indeed!

          “Every time I defend the Biblical doctrine of hell you say you agree, yet you continue to disagree.”

          Don’t be silly. Can you honestly not tell the difference between eternal TORMENT and eternal PUNISHMENT? FOR THE FOURTH TIME, I believe there will be an eternal punishment. I do not believe that punishment will consist of torment. Why are you unable to understand this? No really, why?

          ” ‘you haven’t demonstrated that “eternal fire” is fire that torments forever.’

          You are clearly contradicting yourself here. BDAG shows aionios is unending duration, without end. Which part about unending or without end is unclear?”

          How, exactly, did I “contradict” myself? I even conceded for the sake of argument that the fire itself may well last forever. Now it’s your turn to demonstrate that this fire will TORMENT forever. Ok go.

          “To say aeon only means ages is an old Universalist tactic made prominent by A.E. Knoch.”

          Not once did I claim that aeon only…

        • Ron

          (continued from above)

          Not once did I claim that aeon only means “age”. Show me where I did. Why do you insist on misrepresenting me?

          It’s almost like you can’t response to anything I say, so you’re just frantically looking stuff up on Google and copy and pasting whatever you think is a response to something that sounds similar to something I said.

      • Ron

        Dr Michael, neither Randy nor myself suggested “throwing out” particular doctrines because they don’t “fit” or are “outdated.”

        Please read charitably and don’t be so reactionary.

        Thank you.

    • James F. McGrath

      I do wish you would take the time to inform yourself about evolution. If having done so you found yourself unable or unwilling to accept it, so be it. But to suggest that it has anything to do with the X-Men is like suggesting that the DaVinci Code has something to do with church history. In both cases we’re dealing with fictional works that could only be mistaken for history/science by those ill-informed about the actual field.

      A rotating, moving earth seems silly but we’ve reconciled ourselves to the world really being a way that we don’t actually experience it to be without the assistance of equipment, advanced means of observation, and theories to make sense of it.

      Might I recommend reading Ken Miller’s Finding Darwin’s God?

      • Curt

        Or Relics of Eden by Daniel Fairbanks
        Daniel provides an excellent overview of the nitty-gritty details in human DNA which support evolution – details like pseudo-genes, chromosome fusions, retro-virus, etc.
        As a theist, he does conclude with two chapters proposing a reconciliation between science and faith. But, as a Mormon, he will burn in hell forever. Oh, forgot, that’s a “closet doctrine”.

    • phantom

      CMP,

      Individuals do not evolve. Populations evolve. Evolution is a change in the frequency of alleles (different variations of genes) over time in a population. For example, brown color is camouflage in one environment so organisms of other colors die off more quickly leaving more brown organisms to reproduce, passing on the brown allele–so you get a shift from say a mostly blue population to a mostly brown population. (The allele causing brown color may have arisen via a mutation.) This is not at all outside of our experience, it is observed occuring all the time (antibiotic resistent strains of bacteria, to name one of thousands of examples). Yes, we have even documented speciation. The question is whether this process is sufficient -on its own- to account for the current diversity and complexity of life, there is no one who questions whether evolution happens. I do not know the answer to that question, but it does not look good to dismiss it as absurd when you do not even understand how evolution works.

      I am pointing this out only because I am of a generation that is scientifically educated and very skeptical of religious folks who seem to tack scientific error onto religious belief. It is frustrating that many of my good friends will be going to hell because they can’t accept a faith that apparently requires denying observable scientific processes.

      • Dr Michael

        “I am pointing this out only because I am of a generation that is scientifically educated and very skeptical of religious folks who seem to tack scientific error onto religious belief.”

        I know what you mean. I’m very skeptical of scientific folks who take religious error onto scientific beliefs.

        • phantom

          If you are talking about the current materialist fad among scientists, I agree wholeheartedly. It bothers me that fellow scientists spout off ridiculous philosophy just as much as it bothers me that some Christians have questionable scientific understanding, only because it creates unnecessary mutual misunderstanding and conflict.

          If you are accusing me of religious error, that’s fine with me. We are not saved based on how old we think the universe is or how God made life.

    • Seth R.

      We Mormons don’t hide the idea that men become like God. It’s in our basic missionary discussions.

      And if we don’t talk much about God the Father’s past, it’s because we really don’t know much about it – not because we are ashamed of it. Joseph Smith said that he would reveal God as “a man like us.” But aside from this cryptic statement, Joseph was never more explicit. What exactly did he mean by that?

      If you read further into his sermon, it seems that Joseph Smith is merely stating that God lived on an earth in the same way Jesus Christ did – as fully divine.

      So, are we supposed to conclude that Joseph Smith believed God to have once been a sinful man like you and me? Or are we supposed to conclude that he was always perfect – just like Jesus Christ was?

      We receive no guidance on this. So we avoid speculating on the subject.

      What is dishonest about that?

    • Johnfom

      Worth remembering in our discussions:

      ‘My purpose here is not to deal directly with the truthfulness of these “closet doctrines,” but to explore the validity of Christians having closet doctrines.’

      On the validity of having closet doctrines: Times and places. I think there is a possible biblical case for temporary ‘closeting’ of doctrines. A sort of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, moderated by a recognition that we aren’t called to, nor is it moral, to hide our beliefs in the face of inquiry.

      Didn’t Jesus, according to at least one gospel, seek to hide his nature for a time? Didn’t Paul ‘closet’ his faith’s Jewish basis for the guys at the areopagus (although they may have already had this information from his attendance at the synagogue). Could we not validly ‘closet’ some of the meat of doctrine for a time while people get used to milk?

      Can’t we recognise that to those who haven’t been desensitised to our own brand of silliness (i.e. aren’t viewing the doctrines from within the faith) may not need to wrestle with some of these doctrines right away?

      Or maybe I’m just equating the closet to the shelf. 😛

    • Lee H

      I’m sorry but I have to disagree. To say believing in a talking snake and a woman made of a rib is the same as evolution is not correct. Evolution has evidence (you may disagree) where as the talking snake has no evidence and even an infallible Bible doesn’t prove that the talking snake was anything more than a metaphor.

      If we don’t believe what makes sense what can we believe? What the Bible teaches? Well what does the Bible teach, doesn’t that come down to what reason and evidence tells us? I could easily say the Bible teaches slavery and of men being better than women, but this would be wrong because there is a larger revelation than single verses, just as general revelation is part of that larger understanding.

    • Mike

      This inspired me to come out of the closet:

      Hello world! I’m a baby sprinklin’, TULIP pickin’, partial preterist and I’m proud of it! 😉

    • tscott

      Not believing in evolution or a world-wide flood can put one into dogmatic corners. Consider explanations from varying perspectives. Walk in and around the concept before coming to conclusions.

      Sure their are problems with missing links. How our ancestors zero-ed in on man coming from an ape and then looking for bones is certainly claustrophobic. There would have to be links from all across the spectrum of genus, family, order, class, phylum, kingdom. The very definition of species, which people in the Darwinian time period didn’t understand, let alone the complexity of the cell and DNA, make understanding the process of evolution compatable with religion today.

      The worldwide flood isn’t such a myth if you don’t intepret it from the point of view of a man living 1700 generations ago. Noah’s family could be ancestral, and they might have placed many animals on a boat. There are pressure change, aboriginal DNA, migration patterns, weather change, and water level implications in the story for us today, without being literalists.

      I’m not one to deny your hypothesis of “closet doctrines”. Science has them as well as religion. They seem to me to be vestiges of not correcting or integrating previous knowledge. Example: Your lifeboat analogy of lapsarianism. You never considered that perhaps all the previous pelagians, EO and RC, determinists, free-willers could have overlooked possibilities. What if all the water has been dried up? What if God wasn’t in a boat, but actually was a multitude of life preservers scattered over the face of the water(panentheism). What if the people weren’t dead or alive in the water, but asleep like Tom Hanks in “Castaway”?

      Having a one pole view won’t do, before jumping to conclusions. You have to at least acknowledge the possibility of paradox, before trying to experiement with it. Then you may acknowledge that their could be a di-polar view.

      • Dr Michael

        If the Bible wasn’t the inerrant word of God, your “possibilities” would make sense. Since it is the word of God, they are simply false. “only Noah was left, together with those that were with him in the ark.”

    • Tim Martin

      Seth beat me to the punch, but I want to throw in my two cents. I am not Mormon, but have talked to hundreds about spiritual issues. I have never found their teaching of becoming a god to be a “black eye of shame.” Instead, it is the complete opposite. It is a cause of great pride. True, they don’t lead off with a discussion of this topic, but I would never start the conversation with predestination. You start with milk, then go to meat later.

      Sometimes we don’t realize that they are talking about this teaching because of the words they use to express themselves. They are not being deceptive, they just use expressions that we are not used to, thus, we miss the point. They will talk about being “exalted.” We might think this is a strange word for salvation or eternal life, but that is not what they mean. And, I have found that they don’t realize that we don’t understand them either. I have seen Mormons being totally shocked at the idea that we do not believe in “exaltation.”

      As for Seth’s other comment: true, LDS authorities have never said explicitly that God the Father sinned when he lived his mortal existence prior to exaltation. However, the implication in Joseph Smith’s words, as well as several others is hard to get around. They tell us that the Father was like us on another planet. If Seth’s suggestion is valid, then they should have clarified it and said that the Father was like Christ. Instead, we have quotes like this from official LDS curriculum:

      “How does it help us to know that the basic elements of God’s life in a mortal word were the same as ours? President Brigham Young explained: ‘He is our Father–the Father of our spirits–and was once a man in mortal flesh as we are…'”

      This is very different than what Seth said,

      “If you read further into his sermon, it seems that Joseph Smith is merely stating that God lived on an earth in the same way Jesus Christ did – as fully divine.”

      This is a closet doctrine…

    • Seth R.

      Tim I largely agree.

      I just wanted to point out that in this instance, the doctrine appears “closet” simply because it is not well defined or understood. I think even Mormons who personally do believe that God was once a “sinful man” (and I’m not denying they exist) sense this ambiguity, and become a little cautious in drawing conclusions.

    • Eagle Driver

      I am very thankful for your comment of:

      “I believe in sola Scriptura. This means I believe that the Bible is the final and only infallible source of truth.”

      Truth is quite different from so much of the discussion. If I remember from the Greek language the word is the combination of “to cover” and the negative of that (like we use the prefix of “un”), so it means “to uncover what was hidden”. The English word truth comes from the word “tree” as in a large oak tree trunk. So for me truth is the prerequisite of freedom (not choice).

      For me the Bible is for the instruction of truth to lead the captives free. Facts are cool, theories are cool, theologies are cool, etc. and must be kept in perspective when reading them INTO the Bible.

      Great article – causes many to think, thank you.

      Food for Thought,
      If You are Hungry

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Hi CMP,

      Thanks for introducing a topic that I haven’t thought of or read about elsewhere.

      Do you have “closet doctrines”? If so, can you tell us what they are?

      For me, I don’t know if I have any closet doctrines. If a non-Christian wants to ask me anything theological, I’ll be happy to share. I don’t know if I’m embarrassed or want to hide any Biblical teaching.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Here’s an excerpt from an article that Dr. Albert Mohler wrote today that coincides with CMP’s post:

      “They are also clear about their motive. In their view, the acceptance of evolution is necessary for evangelism. They are motivated, they insist, by a concern that a rejection of evolution puts Christians in a position of intellectual embarrassment. The rejection of evolution places Christians outside the intellectual pale, they assert, leading to the discrediting of the gospel. They believe that intellectuals, especially scientists, will not respect an evangelistic witness to the gospel from one who is intellectually discredited by rejecting evolution. They are embarrassed by the fact that a majority of evangelicals reject evolution, and they honestly believe that some people will not come to know Christ because they are so offended by our unwillingness to accept evolution. They have repeatedly asserted that the credibility and integrity of our Christian witness is at stake.

      The writers for BioLogos have been unsparing in their criticism of evangelicals who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible or are proponents of either Intelligent Design or creationism. They initiated a public debate by presenting their arguments in the public square. But now, it appears, they really do not want a public debate at all. They want a one-way conversation.”

      Read it all: Here.

    • Lucian

      Would this be such a “closet-doctrine” according to your definition?

    • C Michael Patton

      Hey guys,

      Good stuff here, but as I said, this post is not about arguing for or against what might be a “closet doctrine” but the influence that they have in determining our positions.

    • C Michael Patton

      Truth,

      Yes, there are many things that I would consider closet doctrines. In other words, there are many things that around certian people I am less likely to bring up. I normally don’t wear unconditional election on my sleeve. Nor do I want to talk about hell.

      However, I do understand that these should not be closet doctrines. They are an essential part of our message. Therefore, I try to take them out of the closet.

      • Truth Unites... and Divides

        However, I do understand that these should not be closet doctrines. They are an essential part of our message.

        I’m trying to understand what you mean by “essential” when you refer to Unconditional Election and Hell as being “essential” doctrines.

        Can an “essential” doctrine be non-salvific?

    • C Michael Patton

      James, the X-Men was used to show how random mutation can be seen, not to say that scientists actually believe this is the way it happens.

      It is interesting to me that every time someone does not accept evolution, there is always the assumption that they need to read more and acquire more information. While I have said many times that it is not a deal-breaker for Christianity one way or another, evolutionists must realize that there are other valid ways to understand the data without demeaning those who opt for an alternative as uninformed. While I will continue to read on this subject (for the last few years I have ONLY read those who agree with evolution), I don’t approach this issue with the same philosophical commitments and assumptions that others do.

      I am not saying you are wrong, but the further I get into the study of evolution, the more bizarre it gets. The more I wonder why scientists don’t see it as their OWN closet doctrine!

      However, the issue is to try to keep from having academic embarrassment about any of these issues. Just because something seems empirically ridiculous does not mean that it is not true.

      • Curt

        “…evolutionists must realize that there are other valid ways to understand the data…”

        I think, for the most part, scientists are open to “other valid ways to understand the data”. The problem is that when it comes down to the nitty-gritty details the other systems fall short. What is the other system which explains the nitty-gritty details of the succession of life forms in the fossil record (even down to the presence of micro fossils like pollen or diatoms)? What is the other system which explains the nitty-gritty details found in our DNA (like shared ERVs, pseudo-genes, chromosome fusions, etc.)? Evolution explains these details very nicely. It passes the data test like no other proposed system.

      • phantom

        CMP,

        You made the statement “I have never evolved through random mutation.” This statement doesn’t make sense since individual organisms cannot evolve. This makes it seem like you don’t understand the mechanism of evolution, which is why several of us have jumped on you.

        I, for one, do not assume that people who doubt evolution’s sufficiency as a creative force are ignorant or biased. In fact the reason I originally believed in God was because I was convinced by the scientific arguments by the IDers that the cell could not have arisen by chance.

        My bigger gripe is with the hardcore materialists. A non-biologist may not have the means to make conclusions about biological data, but the ridiculous philosophy preached by some scientists is just inexcusable. I’m sure the reason a lot of Christians think evolution is ridiculous is because nearly everything written on the subject nowadays is just crappy philosophy and ad hominim galore with little actual data, thanks to the materialists who see evolution as their salvation.

        Imho evolution is a heck of a lot more plausible if you believe in God than if you don’t, but the materialists have done a great job of giving the impression that evolution equals random chance and no supernatural intervention.

        • Val

          Hmm, I’m not following you on the “little actual data” part (2001 – Human Genome sequenced, 2006- Chimp Genome sequenced, April 2010 – Neanderthal Genome sequenced). It has been a boon time for evolutionists – particularly human evolutionists – I’m sure the atheists will use this to ‘disprove’ God, etc. Let them, it won’t work, the Bible offers no proof we can use to show other’s God exists, yet keeps going. Just be aware that the ID movement is very split on the latest DNA papers. They have not formed much of a coherent position on the fact most of us are 4% Neanderthal (only sub-saharan’s are free of this DNA), that we are very closely matched to Chimps etc. Some IDer are even twisting the truth about these new findings to fit their own theories.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      CMP: “I am not saying you are wrong, but the further I get into the study of evolution, the more bizarre it gets.”

      Ditto.

      It’s also likely that there are Christians who are ashamed and embarrassed by theistic evolutionists too.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Dr. Albert Mohler in the above linked article also notes a connection between theological liberalism and embarrassment:

      Virtually every form of theological liberalism arises from an attempt to rescue Christian theology from what is perceived to be an intellectual embarrassment — whether the virgin conception of Christ, the historicity of the miracles recorded in the Bible, or, in our immediate context, the inerrancy of Scripture and the Bible’s account of creation.

    • Rick

      But we should keep in mind this warning from Augustine, from his commentary on Genesis:

      “Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, … about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. … If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason?”

      • Dr Michael

        Would Augustine say a Christian is mistaken in the field of the creation doctrine, compared to a non-Christian?

        I think this quote on creation more aptly fits:

        They are deceived, too, by those highly mendacious documents which profess to give the history of many thousand years, though, reckoning by the sacred writings, we find that not 6000 years have yet passed. AUGUSTINE CITY OF GOD BOOK XI p. 232

        • Val

          Oh great, now we get creationism 2nd Century style. Since when, has God ever made it a matter of faith to believe in a literal 6 day creation, Adam and Eve, Noah whatever. I am not well versed in archeology, so I can’t argue much about Noah – but there is not enough water in the earth/atmosphere to actually cover the earth (up to all the mountain tops) – so I’ll pass on every inch of the earth being covered. As for Adam and Eve – explain why we have latent egg-yolk making genes lying around unused in our DNA (as do all mammals since the duck-billed platypus), actually, we have many, many genes lying dormant – due to slight mutations, that served a purpose in our long ago ancestors. We are hardly flawless, pristine DNA sequences recently mutated since a fall 6 thousand years ago (or ten thousand). In us lie dormant layer upon layer of muted, and essentially useless DNA (some has recombinated to do other things, most has not).

          See, I don’t believe God couldn’t have made a perfect Adam and Eve and set them down, I know the evidence shows it didn’t happen this way (mitochondrial Eve was full of DNA imperfections). That’s cool though, I also know the earth rotates around the sun, stopping the earth’s orbit won’t lengthen a day and the world is not held up by columns (see Job). If the bible is inerrant (originial form), it most certainly wasn’t literal (that’s a 17th Century Age of Reason concept being forced on ancient texts – hardly fair to the Bible).

    • tscott

      I’m not embarrassed by any doctrine mentioned by Dr. Mohler. Considering anyone’s attempt to quantify stages of growth( Fowler, Jameson, Piaget, Erikson) you would notice that we are talking about progress. To grow in Christ is not nonsense. Discipleship implies growing up. It is biblical. But many neo-reformed fail to notice the systematic polar viewpoint of their theology. It’s Aristolean, but not recognized. It is thoroughly conventional, logical but has to keep relying on omniscience. We have noticed that is true, but we see more in the divine. Their is a conjunctive stage to reality which I admit has the negative affect of withdrawing from those who are conventional. Sorry, But I really think 5 point Calvinism has come to an boundary situation. It has reached its limit. It’s the end of an era, We’re not going back to it. It’s over. It was a stage in life. Sure people will get to that stage in their individual lives, but as a group there are too many of us- Christians- despite the truth that Calvinists have drawn a line and in their hearts they don’t think we are-to go backwards. Now Calvinists really believing a progressive like me is not Christian-that is a true closet doctrine. And truly that shows Calvinists are acting as God.

    • Paul D.

      I propose describing these “closet doctrines” another way: cognitive dissonance. These are (nearly) all doctrines that a person cannot rationally believe in without discarding one’s knowledge of how the world actually works.

      “Inerrancy” — I don’t believe in inerrancy, and one doesn’t have to to be a Christian. It’s plain to anyone who studies the Bible honestly that it contains typos, scientific errors, historical errors, etc. However, treating it as a science textbook is unfaithful to the purpose of the text anyway.

      “Snakes talking” — I don’t take Genesis to be a literal camcorder recording of early mankind.

      “Demonization” — Demons (a Greek concept) were once useful for explaining neurological and psychological disorders. They’re not any more. Besides, the idea God created billions of evil supernatural beings dedicated to causing pain and suffering is ridiculous.

      “Global Flood” — Not a literal worldwide flood, nor does it have to be for me to follow Christ.

      “Jonah in the fish’s belly” — Jonah was a parable or fable intended to teach moral values. Again, it’s not a literal journalistic account of a historical event.

      “The doctrine of Hell” — A made-up doctrine heavily influenced by Dante’s Inferno. I have very much enjoyed Randy’s series of articles on the subject. Again, the idea that God created man so he could subject most of us to eternal and unimaginable conscious torment is utterly ridiculous and appalling. That a Christian could revel in such a belief is, well, disgusting.

      “The doctrine of imputation of Adam’s sin” — Whatever. I’m responsible for my sins, not Adam.

      “The doctrine of predestination” — don’t believe in it.

      Get rid of the cognitive dissonance, and you no longer have anything to be ashamed about when discussing Christianity with non-Christians.

      • Val

        Love It! Although I am caught on Balam’s Donkey – but yes, I like the rest and agree with a lot of what you said.

    • Ed Kratz

      Paul, don’t forget this if you have those:

      Creation out of nothing
      The Trinity
      The incarnation
      The resurrection
      And anything else that you have yet to emperically see. Got to make sure you don’t have any “cognative dissonance” (which you are misapplying to all of these things when you speak of necessity).

    • Paul D.

      Hi C. Michael, thanks for the comment. I don’t know if you’re generally curious, but here goes.

      “Creation out of nothing” — this is a little too philosophical for me. Aside from believing in a Creator, I know nothing about how he created the universe. Neither does anyone. I think the “why” is infinitely more important.

      The Trinity — I have no special loyalty to the concept of the trinity, since it is not explicitly stated anywhere in the Bible, nor does it appear to have been fundamental to the 1st and 2nd-century church. If a non-Christian told me the notion was silly, I’d agree with them.

      The Incarnation — I haven’t fully worked this one out yet. I believe Jesus was a human being, and I believe a range of christological views a permissible within the framework of Christianity.

      The Resurrection — This is probably the most significant and non-intuitive element of Christianity, but also the foremost aspect in my opinion and not something anyone keeps in the closet. The singular message of orthodox Christianity has always been that Jesus was resurrected and we will be too one day.

    • jim

      Ron

      My ears perked up at the thought of no eternal torment. How would you respond to Luke 16: verse 19 and on concerning Larzarus and the rich man. It seems to indicate a period of suffering or torment , and doesn’t really indicate a ending to this.

      I can never understand why God would torment someone in hell forever, as it has no purpose. That being said, I am not GOD!

      • Ron

        Jim, there is a lot that can be said about the parable. I’ll just say two things that are beyond dispute.

        1. The passage nowhere says or even implies that the suffering will last forever, so I’m not sure why anyone would assume that.

        2. The rich man finds himself in Hades. This is the NT equivalent to Sheol found in the OT, and refers to the intermediate state before the resurrection and judgment. So this parable literally has noting to do with final punishment (referred to as Gehenna in the NT and poorly rendered as “hell” in our English translations).

      • Dave Z

        Two thoughts.

        1) I find it impossible to accept the story of Lazarus and the rich man as a true story. To do so creates far too many problems. But even if true, the point is not the nature of hell, the point is that some will not believe even after a resurrection.

        2) Regarding the purpose of eternal punishment. This is just something I’ve been toying with, but what if the “image of God,” which, according to scripture, God placed in us and only in us, cannot be destroyed? What if it is, in one way or another, in one place or another, everlasting? What if the image of God contains something of the nature of God – that which has no ending? If that were so, the purpose of everlasting punishment would be a moot issue – there would be, and could be, no other option for those who will not surrender.

        • cherylu

          Dave Z,

          That is what I have been taught all my life was what at least part of the image of God entailed–a spirit that had no ending.

          And if that is correct, you are right, everlasting punishment would be the only option because total destruction or annihilation simply could not occur.

        • Ron

          Dave, regarding 2: This idea you’re tinkering with is almost identical to the notion of the immortal soul. Yes, if human souls are by nature immortal; if they cannot die, then eternal torment seems to follow logically (unless, or course, universalism is true– more on that below).

          Conditionalists have recognized for centuries that what ultimately led the church to embrace the doctrine of eternal torment was this idea of the immortal soul which was borrowed from Greek thought. But the Bible clearly teaches that immortality was lost in Adam and can be restored only in Christ (hence: “conditional immortality”). The Bible knows nothing of an innately immortal soul.

          Interestingly, it’s this idea that drives the errors of both eternal torment and universalism. Traditionalists focus on the Bible’s clear teaching that some will be thrown into the lake of fire (and similar expressions). Since the human soul is immortal, it naturally follows that they will be in this fire forever. Universalists, on the other hand, focus on Scripture’s clear teaching that one day all things will be restored– that a day will come when there is no more evil, sin, pain or death. Since the human soul is immortal, it naturally follows that one day all humans will be reconciled to God.

          By adhering to a Biblical understanding of human immortality, conditionalists are able to embrace both truths. The day will come when sin and rebellion are no more– not because everyone will be reconciled to God, but because those who persist in rebellion will be destroyed (as the Scripture clearly teaches will happen from cover to cover).

        • Donna

          …And, yet, Jesus went into Hell [“prison”] and preached to those who were there. How was He able to do this? Did He only preach to those who were saved already? That doesn’t make sense. He even preached to those “disobedient” ones who died in the flood of Noah’s time.

          How could he preach to the unconscious dead?

          Think of it this way, if God is “all that is good,” then being without God completely would be Hell (torture).

          If Hell is not a “real” place for those who do not accept the Scriptures as truth, and accept Christ’ Salvation, then why the comparison of the rich man and the beggar?

          I’m sure I’m not as knowledgeable as anyone here. Just wondering…?

          :-/

        • Ron

          Donna, I don’t believe anyone has claimed that Hell isn’t a “real” place. I have argued that final punishment consists of death/destruction and not eternal torment.

          The beings that are preached to 1 Peter 3 are called “spirits” (Greek: pneuma) and in my view refer to the fallen angels being kept in Tartarus (again, unhelpfully rendered “hell” in English translations) mentioned in 2 Peter 2:4.

          I don’t want to sound dismissive, but I can’t see how anything you wrote here contradicts anything I’ve written thus far; please clarify.

        • Ron

          “That is what I have been taught all my life was what at least part of the image of God entailed–a spirit that had no ending.

          And if that is correct, you are right, everlasting punishment would be the only option because total destruction or annihilation simply could not occur.”

          That’s exactly correct Cherylu, and I would challenge and encourage you to search the Scriptures to see if this be so! I’m confident that if you do so, you’ll be shocked to see that the Bible paints a starkly different picture!

      • Val

        I think everyone is forgetting that a world without God, Christians (who are supposedly the salt and light of the world – not that it is very apparent these days) nor the Spirit would quickly descend into Hell, without God having to make it.

    • Carl D'Agostino

      I am recovering alcoholic. I could not see how to live without alcohol. But Jesus restored me . I see with new eyes and am not blind any more. I could walk only in darkness and was lame. Jesus restored me and I can walk again. In His light. And now there is even joy and I feel like dancing but am very crummy at dancing(even God can’t fix everything). I was filled with physiological and psychological disease and these scales of sin have fallen off. I was dead like Lazarus and have been resurrected to new life free of addiction. I believe the Second Coming is not an event but cyclical and reoccurring. Every time I see an addict become a social worker, I see Jesus come again. Every time a sinner walks down that aisle to accept Jesus, Jesus comes again. We crucify ourselves with sin but can be resurrected just like the Christ event. But I mean resurrected during life not after death. No closet stuff for me here at all.

    • Val

      I was getting excited about this post – I’m Canadian, so gay marriage is legal here, I’m in a very liberal/socialist part of Canada and no one can understand the church’s attitude towards gays, women in leadership etc. They just see it as backwards, cruel and unchristlike and I chose to not really get into conversations about that.

      Then I read the ‘closet’ issues and sighed. Come on, let’s stop making evolution into a belief system. I know every other high school teacher uses this as a platform for or against God and/or science, but I believe in God with no tangible proof that I can offer you or anyone else – everything I attribute to God could be attributed to something/one else. Conversely, the last 5 years of genetics have synched it – IF Darwin had never been born/become a scientist etc. we would now have PROOF of evolution. Sorry, but all the creation organizations are too busy burying their heads in the sand to deal with it (and all NONsub-saharan people – from Tangiers to Tokyo- are 4% Neanderthal). Evidence is not faith. Evidence in the courtroom often shakes faith.

      I believe in God, because, like CS Lewis, God had to dragme back to Him kicking and screaming. I believe we evolved due to evidence. I refuse to pretend anyone knows that we must take Genesis 1 -11 literally. We don’t need to, to have the Bible as the Word of God. Literalism is foisted on us from the rise of individualism in the 17th Century and famous Deist writers. It would be much smarter to question why we take parts of the Bible literally and not others, especially parts that contradict themselves (Read the order of creation in chapters 1 and 2 of Genesis, then tell me you take the Bible literally – hint: you will have to pick one order over the other, they contradict each other so if you have a way around this, it is not a literal way around it).

      Here is what I stuff in the closet,
      any discussion on keeping women out of leadership – Bible verses on both…

    • leavingthegray

      I like your post, Michael. I don’t have time to read the 74 other comments that were left, but I hope that they were able to realize the importance of this post. Just the other day on ABC news, they did a story on two pastors who no longer believe in God. Their walk away from God most likely stemmed from one of many “closet doctrines” for them. But I see their falling away as a great tragedy and entirely preventable. In my estimation of this story and many others like it, we are too lazy in developing our Christian apologetic and don’t take the time do what the Bereans did: to see if these things were so – the positions for a doctrine, and the claims against them.
      Your final statement is spot on: “I don’t find the Apostles having any closet doctrines, nor should we.” They had no closet doctrines because there was nothing that couldn’t be addressed. We have a faith that is founded in truth, in logic. it is not irrational, nor fairytale. Closet doctrines are a result of us using “faith” to believe something that seems irrational. We don’t understand it, so we shove it in the closet. But if we would simply turn on the light of apologetics in the closet and do a little homework, we might find that there are steadfast answers to those questions that don’t weaken our faith, but bolster it, providing us the assurance that if these things are so, then God, Jesus, sin, salvation, and all the other supposed closet doctrines will no longer be seen as a liability, but a strength to our case.

    • […] – Michael Patton discusses those pesky “closet doctrines”. […]

    • […] This from Credo House Ministries’ blog Parchment and Pen. Sometimes beliefs are awkward to explain, but should they really go into a steamer trunk and get shoved under the bed? http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2010/11/those-pesky-closet-doctrines/ […]

    • […] has to do with, what Michael Patton calls, ‘closet doctrine‘. Patton’s definition is a little bit different from what I’m getting at and […]

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