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From Perry Noble in South Carolina:

#1 – “What do you do to disciple people?”  (This question is usually asked by people who want to ‘microwave” spiritually, not understand that they themselves actually became mature in the “crock pot.”)

#2 – “Who is speaking this weekend?”  (They usually don’t care about the WHO…it’s the WHAT that matters to them.)

#3 – “Are you reformed in your theology?”  (Most of them have no idea what in the heck this means!)

#4 – “Is your church spirit filled?”

#5 – “What version of the Bible do you use?”  (Many unchurched people don’t even really know there are different versions!)

#6 – “What denomination are you affiliated with?”

#7 – “How many different activities can I sign my family up for in order to add to the insane schedule that we already have?”

#8 – “Does your pastor teach exegetically through the Scriptures?”

#9 – “Are there lots of crosses and pictures of Jesus in your church?”

#10 – “Are you guys pre trib, mid trib, post trib or partial trib?”



I’m not going to answer this question.

First I want to hear what you think.

With so many Christian “brands” out there, each of which has a different “take” on sin, it’s pretty hard to know how to feel and what to think when we’re in that grey area between virtue and depravity.

Roman Catholics talk about mortal sins (felonies) and venial sins (misdemeanors). Before you dismiss it out of hand, it does make some sense to treat axe murders differently than those who just make unintentional little mistakes.

We just plain ignore (no matter what our Christian/Jewish flavor) most of the sins listed in the Bible. We skateboard over the Sabbath and pick and choose what we want to follow.

There are “sins” (and everyone would disagree as to what’s on the list) and then there is “sin” as in the “human condition” of brokenness.

I was on the chairlift talking about Romans 6:23 and a young woman floored me by saying “I’ve done some wrong things but nothing to deserve a death penalty!” I had no answer for her. Isn’t she, in a sense, right?

Do we really deserve death? And what does that even mean?

Isn’t the human condition just a wee bit more complex than “total depravity?”

Some see the central sin as “idolatry” or putting something in the place of God. There is some promise in this thinking, but I can’t really wrap my head around it yet.

Laying our theologies aside, what does God think of sin?

And if what Jesus did on the cross got rid of it, then why are we still talking about it?

Did it make any difference in the human race, objectively speaking?

It seems like we are /exactly/ in the same human condition before and after saying yes to Jesus.

What does it mean to be free of sin? Does trusting Jesus’ work on the cross at a deep level guarantee any change in our behavior?

Try to answer for yourself, and not to please a former pastor or professor who may not even be alive anymore.

I hold conventional conservative Evangelical views on sin, but am trying to think of old truths in fresh ways. Perhaps you can help.

What is sin?

It’s not fashionable to believe in Hell.

But Jesus did, showing us a glimpse behind the curtains in his story about “The Rich Man and Lazarus.”  His teaching on the last judgement in Matthew 25 also gives us some clues, although it seems to run counter to our Protestant Evangelical teaching on Justification by Faith.

The Hebrews have Gehenna and Sheol. The Greeks had Hades, Tartarus, etc. (and they borrowed Gehenna from the Jews for good measure). The proto-Germanic folks had “Hjala” which ended up “Hell.”

Afterlife “geographies” come in two flavors: Rehab/Purification and Punishment. Both Sheol and Gehenna double dip a bit on these concepts. Roman Catholic Purgatory, of course, is the ultimate example of the former.

Much like our prison system, we can’t seem to decide which it should be–rehab or punishment.

It’s also unclear in the Old Testament whether just “bad people” or everyone went to Sheol at death. Some Jews believe that everyone goes there and after 11-12 months they end up in Olam Ha-Ba (The world to come).

Jews in the New Testament couldn’t agree about whether or not there was a Resurrection from the dead. Paul cleverly exploited this controversy to his advantage to get out of a courtroom scrape.

The Jews still can’t agree on the afterlife. We Christians share more with Muslims than we do with Jews when it comes to what heaven and hell are all about.

Most etymologies have a word for grave and then, by extension, a capital-G-eternal-Grave of the same name.

Major human instinct senses an afterlife of some kind; it doesn’t just come from what we read in the Bible. Think of the lengths the Egyptians went to prepare for the realm to come. We seem to come hard-wired to believe in it. Not believing in an afterlife is, overwhelmingly, the exception and not the rule for us humans.

Compare Ecclesiastes (3:19) and Daniel (12:2) and you will see that the Bible itself has quite a range of teaching on this topic.

What are your thoughts?

Is there a hell? Who goes there and why?


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