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Standing up for the biblical doctrines of Hell and the Trinity

Is CMI too theologically “judgmental”?

Published: 26 May 2018 (GMT+10)

We recently received the following message from R.B. in Canada, to which Keaton Halley of CMI–US responds:

holy-Bible

Thanks for the literature and interesting articles. I find your understanding of the Bible very informative and am pleased that you have generated this material for folks like me who don’t have the time or resources to research these matters. I do bounce your ideas off those of the evolutionists (Iron sharpens iron) but I have always believed the Bible is factual when it comes to man’s history. However, I don’t understand everything written in it and am convinced that no one does, which is evident from the numerous denominations within Christianity and the doctrinal wars between them.

I don’t agree with your theology in every respect and find some it very judgmental. I think you should allow that only God really knows who is a follower of Christ and not claim that if someone doesn’t accept a disputable doctrine then they are not Christian (ie. the Trinity doctrine introduced into Christianity hundreds of years after Christ and the apostles died).

I also find it interesting that evangelicals believe that those people who are not rewarded with eternal life when Christ returns will be tortured in a searing fire by God for eternity (for what purpose?). I thought God is love. Besides, that contradicts the scriptures that state that the penalty of sin is death. Also, the idea of eternal punishing just endorses Satan’s lie that “you will not surely die.”

Regards,
R.B.

Hi R.B.,

Please see my responses interspersed.

Thanks for the literature and interesting articles. I find your understanding of the Bible very informative and am pleased that you have generated this material for folks like me who don’t have the time or resources to research these matters. I do bounce your ideas off those of the evolutionists (Iron sharpens iron) but I have always believed the Bible is factual when it comes to man’s history.

Glad we agree here and that our material has been helpful to you.

However, I don’t understand everything written in it and am convinced that no one does, which is evident from the numerous denominations within Christianity and the doctrinal wars between them.

Surely you’re correct that nobody exhaustively understands Scripture, because we are finite and fallible, and live in cultures that are significantly different in many ways from the various cultures in which the Bible’s books were written. Study is required to overcome these challenges. We may not have all the answers, yet we can and are expected to get the fundamentals correct.

But your conclusion (that nobody understands) does not actually follow from the fact that there are denominational disagreements. Just because people disagree doesn’t mean that everyone is wrong; it only means that one side is wrong (at least). Also, it’s important to understand that, while some of the divisions are over central issues—separating orthodoxy from heresy, other disagreements are about more peripheral matters. Various denominations may be united on the main things even if it’s harder to see who’s right on less significant subjects.

I don’t agree with your theology in every respect and find some it very judgmental. I think you should allow that only God really knows who is a follower of Christ and not claim that if someone doesn’t accept a disputable doctrine then they are not Christian (ie. the Trinity doctrine introduced into Christianity hundreds of years after Christ and the apostles died).

There’s a difference between making judgments and being judgmental. We do not claim to be able to judge everyone’s heart, but if someone rejects one of the fundamental teachings of Scripture, it’s perfectly appropriate to regard them as a non-Christian. For example, if a person denied that there was one and only one God, whether he was an atheist or a polytheist, wouldn’t we be justified in saying that he is not a true Christian?

If you agree in principle, then the only question is whether your example of the Trinity belongs to the same category. Is it a “disputable doctrine”, as you say, or is it a basic requirement of orthodoxy, as we say? Well, we’ve explained how the concept of the Trinity is taught in Scripture itself, so was not introduced “hundreds of years after Christ”. (See Jesus Christ our Creator, Our Triune God) And, we’ve explained how it belongs to the foundation; the true Gospel depends on the Trinity! (See The Incarnation, Treasure in the Trinity, The Gospel of the Triune God, The essential doctrine of the Trinity) So, it’s no more judgmental for us to call anti-Trinitarians non-Christians than it was for Jesus to tell a group of Pharisees that they did not know Him or His Father (John 8:19).

I also find it interesting that evangelicals believe that those people who are not rewarded with eternal life when Christ returns will be tortured in a searing fire by God for eternity (for what purpose?). I thought God is love. Besides, that contradicts the scriptures that state that the penalty of sin is death. Also, the idea of eternal punishing just endorses Satan’s lie that “you will not surely die.”

Here, you’ve assumed that death means cessation of existence, which is not how the Bible uses the term. It is Scripture that leads us to the conclusion that people continue to exist after death, and that unforgiven sinners will undergo eternal conscious punishment. If Scripture is consistent with itself, then God’s love is consistent with His judgment on sinners, and He has appropriate reasons for this even if you aren’t sure what they are. But we have addressed these issues in Why would a loving God send people to Hell?

To sum up, if you profess to believe in Scripture, I would encourage you to make sure you believe everything it says. We need to allow Scripture to determine our theology, and not read our own ideas into the text. I say this out of genuine concern for you, R.B., because, if you reject the doctrines of Hell and the Trinity, your argument is really not with us, but with the Bible.

I hope you will read the linked articles if you haven’t already, and perhaps they will prompt you to think again about what Scripture teaches.

In any case, best wishes.

Keaton Halley

Helpful Resources

From Creation to Salvation
by Lita Cosner
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Christianity for Skeptics
by Drs Steve Kumar, Jonathan D Sarfati
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The Genesis Account
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