Tag Archives: annihilation

Fridays With Fanon: Universalism

Or Universalism as Imperialist, Take Two

On a previous post, I labelled Christian universalism as essentially imperialist.  Quite a few persons will disagree with me and argue that universal is a tool to fight empire, such as the limiting of salvation to a select few individuals (and therefore, consequently, the control of the world).  If Christ is for everyone, then, some would say, that it can only mean that a political system open to everyone is preferable. However, this is not my beef with universalist views of salvation.

In eschatological as well as moral terms, the idea that the entire human population shares a common fate presupposes, on the part of those who generally agree, that all human beings will someday make the same religious, moral, and political choices, and thus denying the possibility of diverse outcomes in the future.  When giving an example of the political struggle between two separate African nations and the French colonists, Franz Fanon asserted, “There is no common destiny between the national cultures of Guinea and Senegal, but there is a common destiny between the nations of Guinea and Senegal dominated by the same French colonialism. […] they would not be absolutely identical since the people and the leaders operate at a different pace.”[1] In a theological context, I would argue that there is no common destiny for each religious culture because each religious community makes various decisions; therefore, the purpose of each missionary/religious devotee differs according to each context.  This position, in my opinion, leaves room for a diversity of experiences when the new creation brought about by God occurs.  The secret behind Christian universalism is a general moral determinism, and therefore limiting the wide options of possibilities that come with human being who are created in freedom.  For both Fanon and Spivak, the indeterminancy of human agency is vital to resisting colonizing and overdetermining discourses.[2] Hence, it is essential that Christians develop an eschatological vision where God’s reign is understood as both a heterochronic and heterotopic event (i.e., taking place at a range of times and places) while developing a missiology that takes both human freedom and plurality seriously.

I prefer the logic of  Baptist theologians E.Y. Mullins and Herschel Hobbs, who also advocated freedom in the New Creation :

“Indeed, our dignity of free choice reaches even beyond this life. If by one’s own choice he [sic] rejects Christ as Savior, he [sic] alone is responsible for being in hell for eternity.  But even there, the Bible teachers degrees of punishment (Luke 12:47-48).  Paul said that both Jew and Gentile (pagan) who reject Christ will be judged by the degree of opportunity  against which each sins (Romans 2:11-16).  It is proper to be concerned about the heathen who never hear the gospel.  But in light of degrees of punishment in hell, we should be even more concerned about the man [sic] in a community filled with churches who regularly hears the gospel and yet never chooses Christ as Savior.  Furthermore, the Bible teaches degrees of reward in heaven (Matthew 24:14-23; Luke 19: 12-19)”


[1] Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, 169. (underline emphasis mine)

[2] Cf. Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?,” 302-305 as well as Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, 7;18.  Gayatri Spivak takes aim at the discourse used by the British colonists to describe the “good Indian wife” as the one who burned herself after her husband’s death.  The British reductionist account excludes the other possible ethical options that Indian women could have chosen.  Frantz Fanon rejects determinist philosophies with my favorite quote found on page18: “The colonized subject also manages to lose sight of the colonist through religion. Fatalism relieves the oppressor of all responsibility since the cause of wrong-doing, poverty, and the inevitable can be attributed to God.  The individual thus accepts the devastation decreed by God, grovels in front of the colonist, bows to the hand of fate, and mentally readjusts to acquire the serenity of stone.”  The colonized subject, with all of her choices limited according to the ideology perpetuated by the status, acts according to the possibilities that she accepts.

Universalist: I am not one. Period.

So, I noticed that there has been a few bloggers who twist my positions on theological issues from time to time and so I will not give them the time to answer their false accusations, but I just wanted to clarify what I said about the afterlife so there will not be any errors or so I will not have to post about it again, since it is just a waste of time, and there are more pertinent issues to blog about:

I am not a Universalist or a Religious pluralist. I find both positions disgusting and imperialist all at the same time.  I do not believe that God forces people who do not love God to love God in the end.  It is God’s choice, and design, to raise up people who believe in the Son from the dead into the new heaven and new Earth.  Our souls/spirits/minds do not leave our bodies; we rest, and then we rise again, either to joy or despair.  Humans choose to go to hell because it is their choice; God will freely choose not to “save” everyone because there are those who will not love God because they do not want to.  God will not force people who rejected God to love God back, since it will not be mutual.  God is love and loves everyone, but not everyone chooses to show love back.   I am not a calvinist or a universalist, as I have mentioned before.  On universalism, I end with a quote by Black Puritan preacher Lemuel Haynes:

“To suppose Satan or any other being aims at universal holiness and happiness by encouraging men in sin or disobedience, is highly preposterous.” (Sketches of the life and character of Reverend Lemuel Haynes by Timothy Cooley, 1839; page 109).

In other words, if the whole world is saved, there would be no reason why sin and evil exist in the world still. With universal salvation must come universal sanctification, and that has not happened.

Truth and Peace,

Rod

Hell, it’s better than annihilation.

To be honest, I normally do not waste my time writing on my ideas about the afterlife (since it almost always leads to abstract thinking away from the concrete problems in the world) but Rob’s and Joel’s recent posts have gotten me thinking about the topic of hell.  Also, recently someone at a Bible study was almost laughing at the possible fact that a person of a different religious background was burning in hell.  This was not the first time I had heard of Christians getting all giddy because there are persons condemned to Gehenna (one of the greek terms translated as hell); I do recall there was a five-point Calvinist one time who sent me a facebook message who told me to also rejoice because there were persons in hell because of Christ’s limited atonement.  Just the other day, I heard of a pastor who preached in a sermon that hell is when a person refuses to be part of a community.  It goes to show the reason why Christians steer away from discussing the topic of hell because it is sounds like sadomasochistic and cruel, with the saints in heaven rejoicing (since there will be no more tears in the new creation according to Revelation) as they observe sinners burn in the lake of fire below them.

Eternal torment is currently the least popular doctrine in traditional Christianity.  In fact, a recent survey suggests that 59 percents of Americans believe in hell as opposed to 74% who believe in heaven.  Pope John Paul II, stating the Roman Catholic teaching on the topic in 1999, said that hell was the state of being separated from God.  Many evangelicals got into an uproar because they opposed the idea that eternal damnation is only a “state of mind.”  What they do not realize is that the official Catholic teaching is just not about a “state of mind,” it is a state of the soul after a person dies (The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1035).  While I agree that hell can be a state after the soul dies, I disagree with the Apostles Creed and the traditional teaching that says that Jesus descended into hell; Jesus did not descend into hell according to the New Testament witness—he descended into Sheoul, which is a totally different concept than the idea of hell/eternal punishment (1st Peter 4:6).  According to Peter, the Gospel was preached to the dead, the righteous and the unrighteous, even going back as far as Noah’s generation (1st Peter 3:18-22).  This makes Jesus the Messiah’s victory over sin, death, and the Enemy transcendent; Jesus the Messiah’s sacrifice surpasses any concept of time that humans know because his death was not only made relevant for his generation and subsequent generations, but also for all people who lived in the past.  The biblical text suggests that the Good News can be preached to persons even after they leave this world.

I do not believe that Scripture teaches us that we live in a three-tiered world, where there is this place called heaven up there above us and hell right below us.  Three-tiered universes are reserved for people who adhere to dualism, and I am definitely not a fan of dualism because it makes the Enemy out to be an all-powerful, all-knowing rival of God.

Instead, the doctrine of eternal punishment should be examined through the lens of the New Testament author’s testimony and the doctrine of the Resurrection.  The apostle Paul even preached that he had “hope in God—a hope that they [the prophets of the First Testament] themselves also accept—that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.”  The righteous, according to Paul will receive new imperishable, immortal bodies at the Second Coming (1st Corinthians 15), but he does not say anything of the bodies of the wicked.  All we know is that the unrighteous rise up in their bodies to be judged by the Son of Man.

The lake of fire is not a place, but a metaphor for what John of Patmos calls “the second death”; those who experience the second death are still on Earth, but they experience the presence of God, who will be “all in all,” as death just as the righteous experience God in their bodies as eternal life.  There are some Christians such as Open Theists Clark Pinnock and John Sanders as well as Anglican theologian John Stott who teach the heresy of annihilationism, which is the idea that rather than eternal torment, the wicked will be completely destroyed: spirit, mind, and body.  This god of the annihilation is not the God of the bodily resurrection.  Annihilationism contradicts God’s ultimate aim for the reconciliation for all of creation as well as God’s own ordinance that the human body is good as we see in the Incarnation of God’s very word.  Annihilationists dismiss the hope of the resurrection as well as the hope that the Triune God’s forgiveness and mercy brings.  The wicked still have their subjectivity and body in Hell as they experience God at the new creation; they even have their hands, feet, teeth, and tearducts from their eyes for weeping as Jesus graphically tells us (Matthew 22:13). Jesus bore all the sins of the universe in his body; he was raised from the dead in his body by the Father and Holy Spirit so that he may judge our ancestors, contemporaries, and our descendants.  The same God who tells us that the body is the Holies of Holies of the Living God would not be the god who destroys the bodies his enemies completely.

Finally, what do my thoughts on eternal judgment mean for the here-and-now?  It means that hell can possibly also be experienced here in this world.  Hell is Darfur.  Hell is Iraq.  Hell is an abortion clinic.  Hell is death row.  Hell is Guantanamo Bay.  This understanding also means that like Christ, the Church is given the authority to invade the gates of Hades and death (Matthew 16:18) to proclaim life to dead bodies.  The politics of the cross permits Christians to resist death-dealing forces nonviolently as they preach the Word of the LORD.  It means that the power of the resurrection is possible in any instance or place because God’s Almightiness revealed in the raising of the Messiah supersedes all human notions of time and space; it is God’s eternal power that goes back in time to save even sinners who once had not hope in the past.  Even in hell, there is hope.

And for the record:  I am neither a Calvinist (obviously) or a Universalist.  I do not think that God has predetermined that anyone should go to hell prior to creation nor do I believe that God forces anyone to love God as universalists believe.  People freely choose with their own libertarian free will to either love God or to reject God’s love.  That choice is limited but it is still the choice of the individual person.

Truth and Peace,

Rod