The Faulty Foundations of Faith Alone – Part 4: God Condemns Us to Hell Because We’re Not Perfect?

For Part 3, click here: The Faulty Foundations of Faith Alone – Part 3: It’s Impossible to Satisfy God?

Or start at the beginning: The Faulty Foundations of Faith Alone – Part 1: God is a Trinity of Persons?

Based on the previous faulty foundation of faith alone—the idea that we can never satisfy God’s perfect justice—the doctrine of justification by faith alone then goes on to say that because we can never be perfect in God’s eyes, God continues to be angry and wrathful toward us, and condemns us to eternal hell.

And that is a terrible smear on the name and character of God.

4. God the Father therefore condemns us to eternal hell?

Let’s put it in human terms.

What would you think of the leader of a nation who laid down a long series of very exact and very strict rules, and decreed that anyone who committed the slightest infraction against a single one of them would incur the death penalty?

What if the next time you came to a stop sign and didn’t come to a full and complete stop, but kept rolling just a little bit, the police arrested you and sent you straight to the electric chair?

Would you consider that nation and its leader to be good and just?

I wouldn’t.

In fact, such a leader would not be considered a real leader at all, but a tyrant, a despot, and a madman.

And yet, that is exactly how the doctrine of justification by faith alone describes God.

If we are not perfectly sinless, that doctrine says, God is so angry at us that God will send us to eternal torment in hell.

We shouldn’t even have to quote Bible passages to show not only how false this teaching is, but how utterly disgusting, horrendous, and blasphemous it is.

But here’s one anyway. Jesus said:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43–48)

God, who is perfect, is perfect precisely because God loves all people, both the evil and the good, and sends the rain of divine truth and the sun of divine love on the evil and the good alike. And if we want to be perfect in God’s eyes, we, too, must learn to love both our friends and our enemies, just as God does.

No, God does not condemn us to hell for the slightest infraction. God is not angry and wrathful at us if we commit the slightest sin.

The idea that God is such a tyrant as to condemn every one of us to eternal torment in hell because we’re not capable of being perfectly sinless is the fourth false and non-Biblical foundation of faith alone.

And it is one that blasphemes the name and character of God.

For Part 5, click here: The Faulty Foundations of Faith Alone – Part 5: Jesus Paid the Penalty For Our Sins?

For further reading:

About

Lee Woofenden is an ordained minister, writer, editor, translator, and teacher. He enjoys taking spiritual insights from the Bible and the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg and putting them into plain English as guides for everyday life.

Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in All About God, The Bible Re-Viewed
38 comments on “The Faulty Foundations of Faith Alone – Part 4: God Condemns Us to Hell Because We’re Not Perfect?
  1. A. Helton says:

    I love your articles. You have really opened my eyes. I was a fundamentalist Baptist and always questioned a lot of the doctrine I was being fed. You are so clear on your writing and make a lot of sense out of the Bible and Christian living. Thanks again.

    • Lee says:

      Hi A. Helton,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your good words. I’m glad the articles here are helping to open your eyes to the greater realities of the Bible and Christian living.

  2. Rohan Pereira says:

    Lee,

    While it is admirable. The concept you have provided of a God NOT being a tyrant is feel-good incomplete human doctrine.

    Let us go back to the beginning to understand death.

    In Genesis, God created man for the sole purpose of being with him. There was meaning to Adam’s life because he could enjoy the presence of God.

    Once Adam sinned, the sin put a barrier between God and man because God is holy. We then see God pronounce a curse on man and that curse includes suffering and eventually death.

    But let us read the curse again.

    And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;

    See the words ‘thy sake’. So death has two purposes:

    1) death is the welcome respite we have from the futility of living a life without God.

    2) It serves as justice for a life of sin. Irrespective of the quantity or quality of sin.

    So death essentially is returning to dust. The same dust we were before we were born i.e. eternal slumber. Not burning in hell forever. The parables of Jesus explaining hell were meant as anecdotes and not meant to be taken literally.

    Now though the fate of mankind was sealed, God kept asking for animal sacrifices right from Adam to Jesus.

    The animal had to be a young lamb full of life and free from blemish. It should not have been an old or sick animal.

    God was not pleased by these sacrifices but it served as a reminder that only an unblemished life could pay for sin.

    So when Jesus died (i.e. He laid down his life for his friends), he was the lamb that was to give his life for others.

    What that means is that he has God was to relinquish his existence and be put into eternal slumber. He had to taste death like a human. (If there was a concept of Hell like we humans know it, Jesus would have been sentenced not to death but to hell)

    But we see that on the third day, God accepted Jesus’s sacrifice as an unblemished lamb and rose him up from the dead as the firstborn of man.

    Anyone who believes and accepts what he has done will also taste death but Jesus promises to advocate for us so that we too will be awoken and made to be like Jesus with eternal life. The rest of world will still be in slumber until the white throne judgement.

    So Jesus is our advocate in heaven

    Romans 8:11

    If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

    For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” Romans 6:23 ”

    1 Thessalonians 4:14

    For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.

    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.

    1 Corinthians 15:51

    Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,

    Ecclesiastes 9:5

    For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotte

    • Lee says:

      Hi Rohan,

      Thanks for your comment. While there are a few things here I would agree with, mostly it consists of human interpretation and statements that aren’t actually found in the Bible.

      For one thing, if you read Genesis carefully, you will see that God did not curse Adam and Eve. He stated that Eve would have difficult childbirth, and that her desire would be for her husband, and he would rule over her. That is not a curse. God was simply telling her what the consequences of her actions would be. And when God spoke to Adam, he said not Adam, but the ground was cursed because of Adam’s actions. For more on this, see: Curses or Consequences: Did God Really Curse Adam and Eve?

      But mainly, you start out by saying that the idea that God is not a tyrant is “feel-good incomplete human doctrine.” But you then provide not a single Bible verse that says God is a tyrant. You merely talk about many largely unrelated issues of death and hell. You cannot produce a single verse saying that God is a tyrant, because there is no such verse in the Bible.

      On the contrary, my friend. The idea that God is a tyrant is “feel-bad incomplete human doctrine.” It has no basis whatsoever in the Bible.

      • Rohan says:

        Lee I am not stating that God is or is not a tyrant but I am attacking your view of how God is supposedly good because he is not a tyrant. In fact I am attacking your view of even bringing the analogy of a tyrant in the discussion of God.


        ‘Would you consider that nation and its leader to be good and just?

        I wouldn’t.

        In fact, such a leader would not be considered a real leader at all, but a tyrant, a despot, and a madman.’
        —-

        human leadership and rule has nothing to do with how God rules and governs. In fact there is no analogy. There is nothing to learn from bad or good human leadership as both forms are highly defective to be used in analogies. If you read the OT, God never had a preference for even Kings or judges but permitted humans to adopt it with his blessing. anyway that’s not the point. The point is you cannot explain God’s governance through defective human governance.

        Sin does offend God because he knows the wages of sin is death and the bible says God does not take any pleasure in seeing man die.

        Ezekiel 18:23
        Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?

        God’s anger is not at the human who committed sin but what the sin does to the human.

        The curse in genesis was not a tyrant-like punishment but it was meant to be a blessing in disguise. Man was given a new purpose to work the ground but it would never fill the void of missing out on God. In fact God commanded his angels to prevent man from eating from the tree of life again so that he doesn’t live forever in this wretched state.

        While you have correctly highlighted that eternal torture in hell is a mystery, you have not stated the alternative.

        The alternative is death. Eternal life on the other hand is a reward for those that Jesus personally advocates for.

        So whilst people can celebrate that hell is a myth, they must also know that passage to eternal life is narrow and is only through Jesus.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rohan,

          Humans are created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27). So of course human analogies throw light on the nature of God. If they didn’t, most of the Bible would be utterly useless, because most of the Bible consists of humans reflecting the nature of God, and thus being truly human (even if still limited and imperfect), or humans not reflecting the nature of God, and thus failing to be truly human.

          I am aware that some Christian sects believe in annihilationism rather than in hell. But that is based largely on the Old Testament, which says very little about the afterlife. The New Testament makes it clear that there is an eternal afterlife for the wicked, and that it is a place of pain and suffering.

          You are making many assertions, but you are not providing any sound Biblical basis for them.

        • Rohan says:

          The likeness part of God can be explained in one verse:

          Genesis 3:22
          And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil

          but let us visit Isiah 55:8-9

          8″For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. 9″For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rohan,

          Yes, God’s ways are higher than human ways, and God’s thoughts are higher than human thoughts. But they are higher by way of scale and elevation, not by being of a whole different order.

          When we humans choose evil, we then come into opposition to God’s ways and thoughts. But when we humans choose good, we come into a lesser version of God’s ways and thoughts.

          Further, it should go without saying that God’s ways and thoughts are greater morally, ethically, and spiritually than human thoughts. To argue that God could be an absolute tyrant because God is different than humans is to argue that God could be worse than humans.

          No, my friend, God is not worse than humans. God is infinitely greater than humans. And that means God is greater both in justice and in love. God does not have a tyrannical justice. God has a justice based on universal love.

        • Rohan says:


          You are making many assertions, but you are not providing any sound Biblical basis for them.

          Sorry to be disrespectful but that can be applied to both of us that quote from an incomplete understanding of the same book.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rohan,

          No human being has a complete understanding of the Bible. The Bible is a divine book, and therefore has depths that go beyond human understanding.

          However, that doesn’t mean there’s no such thing as truth and falsity. And unfortunately, many of the dogmas of traditional Christianity fall on the side of falsity. And one of the reasons they do so is that they are simply not stated in the Bible, yet traditional Christianity makes them fundamental doctrines of the church.

          All of the fundamental doctrines related to salvation that I hold to are stated quite plainly in the Bible, as you can see in this article: Christian Beliefs that the Bible Does Teach

          Meanwhile, all of the fundamentals of traditional Christianity are not stated in the Bible, as you can see in this article and the articles linked from it: “Christian Beliefs” that the Bible Doesn’t Teach

          Whatever Bible interpretation we humans may engage in, it is important for the foundations of doctrine on which we build those interpretations to be present clearly in the plain text of the Bible. Traditional Christian fundamentals of doctrine fail that test. Therefore the whole superstructure built upon those non-Biblical fundamentals is faulty and false.

        • Rohan Pereira says:

          Lee, you state that a dogma cannot be accepted when there is no clear literal mention of it in the bible.

          Well then you are looking for a literal confirmation of dogmas in order for them to be valid.

          In such a scenario, you leave no room for assumptions or implicit assertions.

          Which is fine.

          Except that you must apply this principle to all your beliefs and not just the one’s you cherry pick.

          For example, both Paul and Jesus quoted that the end times apocalypse were agonisingly close. Both were quoted as of expecting it to happen within a generation.

          Now we all know not to take these verses literally but assume that both knew for sure that the apocalypse WILL happen but not WHEN it would happen. We assume that because Jesus stated that only God the father knew the time and hour. Or we could assume that Jesus was talking of the Jewish rebellion in AD 60.

          But if we apply your literal standards of biblical proof, we can make out both Paul and Jesus to be liars or rather false prophets with this example.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rohan,

          I never said that all beliefs must be stated clearly in the Bible. Rather, I said that if a belief is to be considered fundamental Christian doctrine, and especially if it concerns our eternal salvation, then it must be stated clearly in the Bible.

          Obviously there are many things that are true and worthy of belief that are not stated clearly, if at all, in the Bible.

          But when it comes to the Bible’s primary purpose, which is to provide the means of salvation to humans on earth, it should not require human theologians 1,500 years to “figure out” what the Bible teaches on this issue that is critical to our eternal life. It should be—and is—stated clearly in the plain literal meaning of the Bible, so that anyone with basic reading comprehension can understand and follow it without the need for fancy theological “interpretation.”

        • Rohan Pereira says:

          Well I am glad we can both agree that not all beliefs are clearly defined given that you continuously ask for sound biblical proof in various discussions.

          And I hope you realise that after 1500 years of biblical philosophy, debate, denominations, translations, augmentation and war, we cannot say with 100% certainty what the means of salvation are (despite how critical it is as you say) because using various scriptural references, all dogmas can be proved for and against.

          And rather we believe what we believe because of a certain interpretation that has influenced us the most.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rohan,

          When it comes to basic doctrine such as how we’re saved, yes, I ask for a biblical basis. Unfortunately, most Protestant doctrine on the subject simply has no sound biblical basis.

          And I don’t agree that we can’t be sure what the Bible says about the means of our salvation. It’s quite consistent from the Old Testament to the New: Believe in God and be faithful to God; stop committing evil and sinful actions that are contrary to God’s commandments; and instead do good and helpful actions toward our fellow human beings, as God commands us to do. It’s really quite simple and quite consistent throughout the Bible. Once again, please see: Christian Beliefs that the Bible Does Teach

          Yes, people do tend to believe the teachings that have influenced them most. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re actually taught in the Bible. And the Bible is still the primary source of Christian belief. If you consider yourself to be a Christian, shouldn’t you check to see whether or not the things you believe are taught in the Bible?

        • Rohan Pereira says:

          Lee, sorry to keep attacking you but if you break it down, you spend a lot of time and effort in most of your posts scrutinizing theories of other denominations. You state their beliefs as ‘unnecessary’, ‘fancy’ and ‘unbiblical’ theological arguments.

          As an alternative you offer to do away with these complex theories by stating that everything can be simplified by following two principles

          1) love and honour God
          2) love and honour your neighbour

          Well let me tell you that your principles are also boldly acknowledged by most protestant denominations.

          If you had to dig deeper into these two statements, there is no denying how complicated they can actually get. What is love? Is love quantifiable? Is love relative? Is love considerd love if it is not permanent? Does factors like fear and genorisity influence love? Can love be unidirectional without reciprocation?, Etc.? Etc. ?

          If you had to provide explanations for all of these questions, you would need to provide the fancy theological arguments to back it back and which will be open to scrutiny.

          But no you don’t dwell that far or you may not be able to. You claim the moral high ground by appearing to have the answer in layman’s terms.

          So please see the hypocrisy of your arguments against Protestantism.

          The way you boldly reject their ‘complex’ theories in favour of your ‘layman’ answers is equivalent to stating that budget airlines are better than full fare airlines because they both take you to the same destination.

        • Rohan Pereira says:

          And besides when you say show me sound evidence from the bible, what does that truly mean.

          Take for example apostle Paul who claimed to be a student of Jewish scripture to the highest order in his passages. But when we explore Paul’s life further, we see that there is no 100% certainty that he knew about the life of Jesus especially what Jesus had to say, his death and resurrection. There are only vague references to Jesus. The gospels themselves may be Paul’s letters. There is also doubts as to whether he was a jewish priestly scholar and a Roman citizen at the same time. Even more there are doubts as to whether some of the letters like Titus were actually written by him. Irresptive I still believe in Paul’s message but can you say it was sound biblically or scripturally. We do not know but we just assume through faith

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rohan,

          I’m not sure why you’re saying these things. Is it to cast doubt on the Bible and say that we can’t trust the Bible, so that we must trust human theologians to tell us what our faith and beliefs should be, rather than looking to the Bible for our faith and beliefs?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rohan,

          Theologians can spend decades and centuries debating the finer points of doctrine such as the ones you bring up, and others even less critical. That’s what theologians do, for the most part. That’s not a “full fare” airline. It’s an airline with many unnecessary add-ons that have nothing to do with either getting you there or getting you there in comfort, but only with making the flight unnecessarily complicated and expensive.

          Certainly you can make the message of the Bible as complicated as you want to make it. But the basics are so clear that no fancy theologizing is required. And if one of those fancy theologians is unable to state the basics of the Bible’s teachings about salvation in layman’s terms, then what good is his or her theology? Does it actually help anyone to live a more Christlike life? Or does it simply dazzle laypeople with the theologians’ superior intellect, so that “ordinary people” will stand in awe of them?

          I purposely put nearly everything on this blog in ordinary layman’s terms because I want to communicate clear, understandable, and helpful spiritual ideas and insights that millions of seeking, spiritually hungry people can grasp and put to use in their everyday life. That’s what this blog is all about. Annette and I don’t care if we impress anyone with our “superior intellect.” I’m seminary trained. I could do that if I wanted to. But what we care about is helping ordinary people on their spiritual path as they face the tough issues and questions of life. And if religion doesn’t do that for people, what good is it?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rohan,

          Really, I think what the defenders of Protestantism are most annoyed with about my articles on the Trinity of Persons, faith alone, penal substitution, and so on is precisely that I take their doctrines and put them in ordinary layman’s terms, with all the fancy obscurantist theological terminology stripped away, so that ordinary people can see exactly what those doctrines are and exactly what they mean.

          And once people see those doctrines for what they are, they will reject them because they will see how false, unjust, irrational, and objectionable they really are.

        • Rohan Pereira says:

          Lee I realise I do our faith a disservice by attacking you on these forums as some of these discussions can really damage new Christians. I will try to avoid going in to the controversial.

          All I wanted to do was state that whilst your views are valid and well researched, there are two things that make me question your motives

          1) you outright condemned protestant doctrines as a whole as fabricated and unnecessarily complicated

          2) you appear to be adamant that you know the gold standard of truth that others have got so horribly wrong. There is no middle ground.

          I grew up a catholic and when I was introduced to protestantism, I sought to aggressively attack every doctrine that was exclusive to Catholics. I kept attacking the mythical ‘they’. I looked down upon Catholics and thought they were all brainwashed. But through maturity and discussions with enlightened catholics, I realised that Catholics were not 100% wrong and in fact they had thoroughly researched every minute topic in the bible, provided insights I had no knowledge about and had contributed a lot to the faith and society as a whole. Which made believe that for certain biblical concepts such as salvation there is no 100% right answer. There are merits and demerits for each perspective which can be implicitly backed up by verses from the bible. Therefore both points of view had to be respected.

          If you look closely at your posts and comments, you can see that you have a taken a Pharisee-like authority to your assertions.

          Well what does the bible have to say about differing points of view.

          When we look at Romans 14 especially Romans 14:5

          One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.

          We see that we are to gently discuss our differences. We also see references in the Corinthians where Paul condemns those that cause divisions in the body.

          So what you are doing is biblically wrong. I am not stating that you class protestants as heretics but rather you do not show a healthy amount of respect for their doctrines which are equally well researched and point to Jesus as their saviour.

          You judge them with one brush but do not apply the same brush to your own theology. You seen ignorant that protestants can also show you passages in the OT and NT that implicitly back up their dogmas just like you have.

          Irrespective there is a lot that we both agree on and I hope you could better focus your attacks towards ignorance and indifference rather i.e if you are writing to a layman audience as you suggest.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rohan,

          I appreciate what you’re saying. In response:

          It’s very hard to be 100% wrong. And I’m quite well aware that Protestants are not 100% wrong. I also do not believe that Protestants are going to hell just because their doctrines about God and salvation are wrong. My critique is aimed, not at Protestants themselves, but the fundamental false Protestant doctrines, some of which were inherited from Catholic doctrine.

          In particular, the doctrines of the Trinity of Persons, the Protestant version of Original Sin (which holds that we’re guilty of sin from birth), justification by faith alone, and Penal Substitution, are the focus of my rejection of the fundamentals of Protestant doctrine. Not a single one of these is taught in the Bible, and all of them are highly destructive of Christianity and of the spiritual life of Christian believers. Many subsidiary doctrines depend on these fundamental doctrines, and those doctrines also do much damage.

          For me, this is not abstract, theoretical, philosophical, or any of those things. I have seen and continue to see the human cost of those doctrines and the resulting teachings that filter down to the faithful.

          From 1996 to 2007 I was pastor of a small church in southeastern Massachusetts, in a heavily Catholic area. About half the new members of our church were former Catholics. Among them were people who had been thrown out of the Catholic church by their priest because they’d been divorced and remarried; a family for whom their Catholic priest refused to perform a funeral for their son/brother because he had committed suicide after a years-long losing struggle with schizophrenia; and other former Catholics who had had their spirits crushed by the Catholic Church in various ways. My fellow Swedenborgian ministers and I took them in, gave them a spiritual home, and helped them to rebuild their spiritual life after the Catholic Church had chewed them up and spat them out. So you see, I have first-hand experience the damage that Catholic doctrine can do to faithful Catholics who fall afoul of it.

          Fast forward to the present, and for the past several months the second most popular article on this blog, closely behind “If there’s One God, Why All the Different Religions?” has been “If You Think You’re Going to Hell, Please Read This First.” It’s currently averaging over 100 hits per day.

          Why are so many people drawn to this article?

          Because they’ve had it drilled into their heads, mostly, I believe, by evangelical and fundamentalist Protestant preachers, that God is angry and wrathful at them for the slightest wrongs, that they’re not good enough and never can be good enough for God, and that they deserve to go to hell. I regularly respond to people who are sure they’re going to hell, often for things that are beyond their control, or for relatively minor “sins” that don’t even break the Ten Commandments. And I have difficulty breaking through the terribly destructive messages that their conservative churches and pastors have drilled into their heads.

          This isn’t intellectual and theoretical for me. There is massive human carnage from all the false doctrine that has taken over traditional Christianity. And I have no intention of ceasing what the Lord has called me to do: calling out and identifying that falsity; showing that not only does the Bible not teach these things, but in fact the Bible specifically denies the principles behind them; and explaining, in plain ordinary language that anyone can understand, what the Bible actually does teach about God, salvation, and the purpose of our life here on earth.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rohan,

          Perhaps this will give you a little more perspective on what I am (and am not) saying, and the spirit in which I am (and am not) saying it:

          During my decade of parish ministry, I was one of the leaders in our local clergy group and our local Council of Churches. Previously these groups had mostly included only the mainline Protestants and Unitarian Universalists in the town. During my time, I was able to bring together for various meetings, events, and ecumenical/interfaith services nearly all of the pastors, and many active parishioners of their churches, in the town, including mainline, evangelical, Catholic, and Unitarian Universalist, not to mention local Muslim and Jewish chaplains. I did all of this because I believe that God is present with saving power in all religions, not just Christianity, and certainly not just in my particular denomination.

          After the 9/11 attacks happened, the clergy group by acclamation said that they wanted a community memorial service to be held in my church. It was the only time during my ten years there that every single pew in the church was filled—and people were standing in the aisles and in the back of the church. I made sure that we had not only the local Protestant and Catholic clergy there to co-lead the service, but a Muslim as well, who could assure the mainly Christian attendees that such terrible actions are a complete violation of Islam as he and his congregation believe in and follow it.

          You should also be aware that I have been engaging in these debates with various Protestants for many years—usually when Protestants such as you confront me and tell me that I’m wrong, leading people astray, hypocritical, and all sorts of other things, up to and including assuring me that I am going to hell because of my beliefs and my teaching.

          I doubt there are any Bible passages left that have not been thrown at me to try to show that the Protestant doctrines I critique are taught by the Bible. And so far, every such passage simply has not taught the doctrines that the people quoting them at me say they support.

          Yes, Protestants can and do quote many Bible passages that they claim support their doctrines. But the simple fact of the matter is that none of those key Protestant doctrines that I mentioned in my previous reply to you are actually taught in the Bible’s own words.

          My many years of debating Protestants who accuse me of all sorts of error and apostasy has had the opposite effect than what they intended. It has assured me more and more that these doctrinaire Protestants are completely mistaken, that the Bible simply does not support their doctrines, let alone teach them (see: “Christian Beliefs” that the Bible Doesn’t Teach), and that the fundamentals of true Christianity that I was taught from childhood are solidly based on the Bible, and are taught plainly in the Bible’s own words (see: Christian Beliefs that the Bible Does Teach).

          You yourself have so far failed to quote me a single Bible passage that teaches any of the doctrines that you say I’m wrong to reject. And yet, I have the same experience with you that I have with every other doctrinally-oriented Protestant that I’ve debated: despite the fact that the Bible never says that God is a trinity of persons, that we’re born guilty of sin, that we are justified by faith alone, and that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins, Protestants continue to cling to those doctrines and claim that they are the Bible’s own teachings.

          Rohan, we know which human beings in history originated these doctrines. We know their human origins. They don’t come from the Bible. They aren’t taught in the Bible. They come from known human theologians in history who ignored the plain teachings of the Bible. Luther even tried to get books removed from the Bible because he was well aware that they contradicted his doctrine of justification by faith alone.

          My friend, you are on the wrong side of this debate.

          You are supporting and defending human-invented doctrines that the Bible rejects.

          And if you wish to continue doing that, there is likely nothing I can say to dissuade you.

          But I will not stop proclaiming the truth of what the Bible actually does teach despite swarms of Protestants attacking me and attempting to convince me that the teachings of Martin Luther and John Calvin trump the plain teachings of the Bible.

  3. Rami says:

    Hi Lee, I regret that it seems as though I stop by only to voice the Protestant objection to your articles, especially since I’m not a Protestant; maybe one day I’ll post in order to provide some corroborating words of encouragement, but until then I’m still caught between two (and more) places.

    Regarding this article, while it is undeniably true that God loves us, and is infinitely loving, God is also infinitely just, and His love cannot compromise or conflict with His justice. So if it is just that only a morally perfect person is fit for heaven, and that even the slighted transgression justly merits eternal damnation, then God condemning the sinner to hell would seem to present no conflict between love and justice, and does not depict him as a despot or tyrant. But that’s the hope of the Good News: that, despite being sinners deserving of hell, God has pardoned us through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, making us righteous and capable of the good works we were created to do.

    Additionally, God assumes no responsibility for our inability to live up to His standards. It is the stain of original sin that corrupts our otherwise perfect nature and prevents us from living righteously, a sin that was made out of free will, and transmitted to us. So this would seem to resolve the issue of us being naturally unable to live up to an impossibly high level of standards, in that we are burdened with the stain of Original Sin- it is not our *fault* that we have it, but we have it, and is now our *responsibility*.

    I think we would all agree that we need to resist the temptation of painting God and the idea of Divine Justice in the terms of our own imperfect, human understanding of it- in terms of things that *seem* reasonable, fair, and unfair to us. What do we know when compared to God’s infinite wisdom? I wonder, then, if objections like the ones you’re presenting are more philosophical than Biblical- that you take issue with ideas like Original Sin (as understood in Protestantism) and penal substitution because it is something that we cannot philosophically accept, and if we’re committing the above mentioned error by warping Scripture around our imperfect human sensibilities.

    At the same time, I’ve always believed in the human conscience, particularly as it connects with something far larger, deeper, and wiser than us, in which case our intuitive reaction to things like this may very well draw from that connected conscience.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Rami,

      I may offer a more substantive answer later. But for now I would simply say that none of these Protestant objections are actually stated in the Bible. They are all based on human ideas and argumentation. So from a Biblical and Christian perspective, there is no reason to pay any attention to them.

      This is a common characteristic of much of Protestant doctrine: It is stated nowhere in the Bible.

    • Rami says:

      I also wanted to add that I realize the content of the second and third paragraphs all deal with subjects you have already addressed in terms of the Biblical evidence, and as recently as this most recent series. So I don’t want you to think as though I’m asking you to repeat the same prooftexting you’ve already done in responding to these objections.

      But the issue of God’s love and justice in relation to sin and eternal damnation is a more philosophical one, but if makes sense to say that being guilty of *any* sin is enough to keep us out of heaven and, worse, damn us to hell, then it doesn’t seem to create a conflict with God’s love. What does Swedenborg have to say about our failure to live up to God’s commandments and our eligibility for heaven?

      • Lee says:

        Hi Rami,

        I simply don’t see the Bible asserting the necessity of such perfectionism. Time after time the Bible tells us that if we will repent of our sins and live a good life instead, we will gain life, and will be saved. It never adds a codicil saying, “But you must be perfect.”

        Even the famous passage in James, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it (James 2:10), which is often quoted to purportedly show that keeping the law is impossible, says no such thing.

        Just before that statement, James says:

        If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. (James 2:8-9)

        So far from saying that it’s impossible to keep the law, he’s saying that if we obey the simple command to “Love your neighbor as yourself,” applying that to all people and not only to some people, then we have taken the “royal road” to keeping the commandments.

        And right after the famous statement about “if you break one commandment, you break them all,” he says:

        For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. (James 2:11)

        James is not talking about if you commit one niggling little offense you’ve broken the entire Law. No, he’s saying that if you brazenly break one of the Ten Commandments through major sins such as murder and adultery, then you’ve shown your contempt for the whole law.

        The fact is, many people do not commit major sins and break the Ten Commandments. They actually respect those commandments and live by them day in and day out.

        The idea that James is saying it’s impossible for us to keep the commandments is a complete misreading and misunderstanding of the text.

        I know these Protestant fallacies have gotten a grip on your mind. And that’s unfortunate. Because there is simply no good reason to accept them other than the fact that Protestants keep asserting them over and over. They’re non-Biblical, fallacious, and wrong. The sooner you can flush them out of your mind, the better it will be for you, and the happier you will be.

      • Rami says:

        Hi Lee. I do admit that at least a part of me responds favorably to Protestant thought sometimes wonder if it’s more Protestant intellectuals than Protestant ideas that hold so much sway over me. Because they absolutely do. We briefly touched upon this on a previous exchange, but the scope and level of scholarship in Protestant intellectual circles is…overwhelming. From philosophers and theologians like William Lane Craig,Gary Habermas, N.T. Wright, etc.- scholars who have made decades long careers in New Testament studies, who hold multiple doctorates and esteemed positions at both prestigious secular universities and seminaries, who contribute to or edit major journals of New Testament studies and on matters of theology.

        Whenever we have an exchange that involved Biblical citation and interpretation, my first thought tends to be ‘…but all these guys are fully aware of this.’ It’s as though every quote that gets mentioned here and given a few lines of interpretation are quotes that these figures have probably spent decades of research and volumes of work interpreting. So when I weigh our conversations against their level of scholarship, I just feel incredibly insecure.

        I hope this doesn’t in any way come off as an attack on your credibility, both intellectual and scholarly, nor do I hope it comes off as an attempt to undermine the credibility of your Biblical understanding. But I do that “Protestant Defense”, by Dr ____, Ph.D, Ph.D, Pd.D, D.Th is very hard to ignore.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rami,

          Don’t underestimate the ability of academicians to go off into their ivory towers and study the finer points of theology without reference to any reality at all.

          Keep in mind that Jesus stood the strongest against the very same people in the culture of his day: the scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees who had spent their lives in intensive study of the Scriptures, and who were the very ones who “stained out a gnat and swallowed a camel” (Matthew 23:24).

          When one builds on a false premise, no matter how meticulous the building may seem, its foundation is unsound, and therefore the entire building is unsound.

          Those academics with all of the fancy titles are building on a false foundation of human-invented dogmas that are not in the Bible, and are even explicitly denied by the Bible. They spend their entire academic careers searching for every scrap of “evidence” they can find to buttress and support these false fundamentals. And because their academic reputation and their salary is on the line, they have a fire in their belly to prove the absolute truth of those doctrinal foundations, even if they are in fact absolutely false.

          The human mind is capable of “proving” to itself anything it wants to believe, so much so that once a person has spent a lifetime confirming some falsity with fancy academic papers, he or she will swear up and down that it is the absolute truth, when it is in fact utterly false.

          Don’t forget that there are also Catholic scholars who spend their lifetimes “proving” that these very same Protestant dogmas are false.

          And yet, God does not speak primarily to the academics in the Bible. And Jesus Christ came to save the lost sheep of Israel, not the people who are lions of intellect in their own eyes.

          The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. (Psalm 19:7)

          And:

          At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.” (Matthew 11:25-26)

          So don’t be awed by all of their fancy titles and degrees. They are among the “wise and learned” (in their own eyes) from whom God has hidden the simple truth of the Bible.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rami,

          As an illustration of what I said in my previous reply, you might be interested to read True Christianity #281. It is about clerics and religious scholars who spend their lives “proving” false doctrines. Subsection 8 is especially on-point, providing a graphic visual representation of what these clerics and scholars are actually doing:

          After some time they get tired of working, so they leave the shelters. Those of them who were priests [clergy] get the urge to build something. Immediately there appear heaps of hewn stones, bricks, and boards of various sizes, as well as piles of rushes, reeds, clay, plaster, and tar.

          When they catch sight of these materials, they feel a burning desire to begin construction. They start constructing a building by taking a stone, then a piece of wood, then a reed, then some mortar, and they put one thing on top of another in no order, although in their sight it seems orderly. The things they build by day fall down overnight, so the next day they pick materials out of the fallen rubble and start building again. They keep doing this until they get completely tired of building.

          (This happens because of a correspondence with the fact that they had piled passages from the Word together to support false beliefs. These false beliefs build the church in exactly the way just described.)

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rami,

          So how do you, an ordinary human being, resolve these things in your mind when there are whole phalanxes high-powered academicians on all sides, insisting that mutually opposing dogmas are God’s own truth, based on their decades of study in fancy, big-name seminaries and universities?

          I would suggest a simple test—which is in fact the one I used in my late teens to decide whether I would believe the things I had been taught from birth by my parents and their church.

          The basic question, when it comes to religion, is what beliefs lead you to the most love for God and the most love for your neighbor. On those two commandments, says Jesus, depend all the Law and the Prophets—meaning all of Scripture.

          What beliefs cause you to move most strongly toward love and goodness? What beliefs most strongly support love and goodness in you, and in society as a whole?

          Truth is simply a servant of love. It is love that rules the universe. And that love uses truth to accomplish its goals of love.

          I believe what I do because having looked at the various religions and philosophies of the world, I found that Swedenborg’s teaching of God as a God of pure, love, wisdom, and power, and a universe that flows from that love, wisdom, and power as an expression of its nature, will lead both me and human society to the greatest good of mutual love, understanding, and service.

          I would suggest that you use the same test in deciding what to believe, and what beliefs will guide your life.

          In support of this, see my article: God is Love . . . And That Makes All the Difference in the World

    • Rami says:

      Hi again, Lee, and thank you kindly for the thoughtful and encouraging words. This discussion does raise an important question in Biblical interpretation, which is how much pre-existing knowledge is required to properly understand the Bible? A lot of the interpretations of specific passages you’ve presented are generally dismissed by orthodox scholars as superficial, and ignoring the immediate context and larger historical context, to which they produce articles and publish books that seek to correct those misunderstandings in order to prove it means something other than what you think it means. And it’s true, there are superficial, de-contextual, and ahistorical readings of the Bible. And it is important to at least have some fundamental understanding of the history and nature of the text.

      But how much specialized knowledge is required on behalf of the reader before they can properly understand it? Shouldn’t its fundamental message be clear and simple to anyone who picks it up? I imagine that Protestants would object in one way by saying ‘well that’s what pastors are for. That’s what church is for.’ We have people who aspire to their vocations as pastors and scholars so as to properly educate and tend to their flock.

      If i had to posit my own take, it would probably be something along the lines of ‘active receptiveness.’ It’s true, a lot of issues regarding Biblical doctrine are complicated and a lot of the literature inaccessible to the layman, but maybe if someone does something as simple as read the Bible with an open mind and receptive heart, the text will begin to open itself up and reveal its meaning.

      • Lee says:

        Hi Rami,

        These are very good questions. And it’s true that pastors and scholars do have a valid role in helping people to understand the Bible better and more deeply. That, in fact, is something I’ve devoted my life to doing, and that I do both as a vocation and as an avocation.

        The problem is that if pastors and scholars themselves start out with a faulty understanding of the Bible and its meaning, then all of their teaching will be faulty as well. And over the centuries the “Christian” doctrine that is taught in the seminaries and Christian colleges has veered very far away from a sound understanding of the Bible.

        As for how much knowledge is required to properly understand the Bible, perhaps the simile Swedenborg presents in this passage—which is about drawing doctrine from the literal meaning of the Bible (“the Word”)—will help:

        A body of teaching has to be drawn from the Word’s literal meaning and supported by it. The reason for this is that the Lord is present, teaching and enlightening, in the Word’s literal meaning. The Lord never works in an incomplete or partial way, and the literal meaning is where the Word is complete, as I have shown before. As a result, a body of teaching has to be drawn from the Word’s literal meaning.

        You can draw a complete body of genuinely true teaching from the Word’s literal meaning. In that meaning the Word is like a clothed person whose face, forearms, and hands are exposed. All the teachings that relate to our faith and life and therefore our salvation are exposed there. The other teachings are clothed. Even then, in many passages where the teachings are clothed they are still visible, as a woman with a thin piece of silk over her face can still see objects in front of her. In fact, as the truths in the Word are multiplied and organized by our love for them, they shine out and become more and more clearly evident. (True Christianity #229, italics added)

        This is the basis in Swedenborg’s writings of my belief that the basics of Christian belief relating to faith, life, and salvation are all present in the plain, literal sense of the Bible, without the need for any interpretation or explanation by trained pastors and scholars.

        There are many other teachings that may require pastors and scholars to “unclothe” and reveal them so that laypeople can understand them more clearly. But when it comes to the basics relating to what we are to believe and do in order to be saved, anyone who is able to read and understand the plain wording of the Bible can see those teachings quite clearly for him- or herself.

        And you will notice that Swedenborg too, considers a receptive heart to be a doorway to greater and deeper understanding of the teachings of the Bible. Elsewhere he says this even more strongly, insisting that a simple-minded person who reads the Bible with a heart full of love for God and love for the neighbor, and a concomitant desire to learn of God’s ways, understands the Bible better than an erudite religious scholar with multiple degrees who approaches the study of the Bible as an intellectual and professional task.

  4. Matthew says:

    Dear Lee,

    I was wondering, how do you read Romans 1:18-32. Protestants say that has evidence that human are under sin. To me it doesn’t sound right and this passge seems tied to historical happenings either before Paul or during Paul’s time. It would really be a great help if you could explain this.

    Thanks.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Matthew,

      Humanity is certainly fallen, in that we naturally tend toward sin, selfishness, and greed, and we have to learn and choose not to be that way over the course of our lifetime. But we are only “under sin” if we actually sin ourselves. And yes, we all do sin at one time or another. So it is by our own actions that we are “under sin,” and not due to some general condition of humanity. The general condition of humanity only prompts us to sin.

      About Romans 1:18–32, a careful reading shows that it simply doesn’t say that God’s wrath is against humanity in general—even though some translations headline it that way, or translate and punctuate it that way. Rather, it says that God’s wrath is against all ungodliness and wickedness among human beings. It is only those who succumb to ungodliness and wickedness who are under God’s wrath. (And about God’s wrath, please see: “What is the Wrath of God? Why was the Old Testament God so Angry, yet Jesus was so Peaceful?”)

      Further, if you read Romans 1:18–32 in context, you will see that the previous two verses talk about the power of God to save everyone who has faith. Romans 1:18–32 then goes on to talk about those who do not have faith, and are therefore under God’s wrath. (And once again, “faith” in the Bible does not mean mere belief, but faithfulness to God and to God’s commandments. See: “Faith Alone Is Not Faith.”)

      Then the next chapter talks more about those who claim to have faith (or faithfulness), but in fact do the same sinful things they condemn in others. It then speaks of those who live by their faith and do good works according to their conscience, whether Jew, Gentile, or Greek, compared to those who do not live by their faith but do wicked things and thereby store up God’s wrath for themselves.

      So these two chapters together are contrasting those who are faithless and wicked on the one hand, and those who are faithful and good on the other hand—based not on their words, but on their actions. There is nothing about any general state of sin in humankind. Only about people who are sinful vs. those who are not. And about how those who repent can move from a sinful and condemned state to a faithful and saved state.

      So Protestants who say that Romans 1:18–32 is about humanity being under sin simply aren’t reading what the verses actually say, nor are they reading them in the context of what comes before and after them. This is an example of a common Protestant practice of ripping Bible verses and passages out of context and claiming that they mean something that they simply don’t say.

      • Matthew says:

        Hmm… I see, good point there. Recently I’ve read a lot of Scott Hahn’s writings which explains most of the catholic doctrines. And I want to know, base on this passage, there are 2 mentions if I’m not mistaken that God gave us up. How would you explain that since it doesn’t sound like the merciful God we know?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Matthew,

          The Bible often speaks according to the way things look to us rather than the way they actually are from God’s perspective. God never gives us up. But when we give God up, and suffer the consequences, we often blame God for it, just as criminals often blame the judge for sending them to prison rather than recognizing that it was really their own actions that led to the prison sentence.

          For more on how the Bible is written in a way that is accommodated to our fallen nature, please see: “How God Speaks in the Bible to Us Boneheads.”

          And for more on how the Bible often speaks according to the human appearance of things rather than the way they actually are, see: “Why does God Harden our Hearts, and Why are We Held Responsible?

          Incidentally, I am not a Catholic (in case that was your impression).

        • Matthew says:

          Thank you very much for your views. I appreciate it. Oh well I think you should very well be a catholic 😀 Yes I’m born catholic, but I never took interest over my faith. Just recently I joined protestanism without leaving my faith just to see how it feels like. Due to pressure, I started reading up and thats how I stumbled upon your writings. Here is my opinion, based on my reasearch, I’ve yet to encounter something that is wrong about the catechism. I was very surprised that text in the bible which I have stumbled on so far correlates to what the catechism teaches. Scott Hahn’s writings on the bible have very much enlighten me and it makes very much sense to life and God. Though the Church do make mistakes but I have no doubt by far Catholicism is the true Christian church which is the most biblical denomition of all. Cheers 🙂

        • Lee says:

          Hi Matthew,

          Of course, you’ll have to decide for yourself what church you agree with and want to belong to.

          Just to be clear, I am neither Catholic nor Protestant. Nor am I Orthodox. I have major disagreements with all of those branches of Christianity. Though if I were forced to choose one of them, I’d chose Orthodox over the other two. Of the three major branches of Christianity, Orthodox Christianity has remained closest to the original teachings of the first 1,000 years of Christianity about atonement and salvation—which the Catholic Church has now rejected, and which Protestantism, based on Catholicism’s rejection of the original Christian teachings, has rejected even more thoroughly.

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Lee & Annette Woofenden

Lee & Annette Woofenden

Featured Book

Click to buy on Amazon

Join 820 other followers

Earlier Posts
Blog Stats
  • 1,357,353 hits
%d bloggers like this: