(how to tell the biblical story in a way that makes a difference)

Why we should contain rather than extinguish the fires of hell

I have written rather a lot about the doctrine of “hell” on this site, for several reasons. It bothers people. It is one of the least pleasant aspects of conservative-fundamentalist expressions of Christianity. It continues to be misunderstood by its detractors and defenders alike. It draws on narratives and concepts that are not marginal to the argument of the New Testament but lie at its core. And addressing the texts is a simple and effective way of illustrating the point of the narrative-historical hermeneutic.

Essentially, I maintain that most of those narratives and concepts pertain not to what happens to people in some sort of conscious existence after death but to the hardships and horrors of historical calamities experienced—as divine judgment—by communities, cities and nations. I have adopted a policy of narrative-historical containment.

5 Feb 2018

The theologies that dominate the thought and practice of the modern church distribute their truths as flattened user-friendly doctrines. The Bible, however, gives us theological truth in the form of extended narratives mapped against the landscape of ancient history, as seen from the perspective of the covenant...

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1 Feb 2018

Peter Leithart has written an excellent, concise, balanced account of the “Christendom model”, its relation to scripture, and its strengths and weaknesses, in a post simply entitled “For and Against Christendom”. I won’t bother summarising it—I hope people will read it. But there are three observations that...

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29 Jan 2018

In a comment on my “Could you please help me understand the practical consequences…?” post Donald asks for ‘some explanation of what our “personal” relationship with Jesus should look like and if possible how it relates to our “personal” relationship to God.’ I’m afraid it won’t be possible to answer the second...

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24 Jan 2018

Psalm 82 is one of my favourite psalms. It is short, sweet, theologically irregular, but very much to the narrative-historical point, at least as I understand things. Oddly, it is quoted only once in the New Testament, but it encapsulates what would be a key New Testament affirmation—that the God of Israel...

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17 Jan 2018

“Could you please help me understand the practical consequences of the narrative-historical approach?” The question was put to me by a student at a conservative theological college. I realise that most of what I write here is of a “theoretical” nature, but I have tried occasionally at least to outline the practical...

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10 Jan 2018

According to Luke, when Jesus is taken up with the clouds into heaven, two men in white robes are watching on. They ask the disciples why they are still gazing into the empty sky. “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the way that (or simply ‘as’: hon tropon) you...

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9 Jan 2018

The Second Coming of Jesus is a classic Christian doctrine. The Nicene Creed says that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father and “will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead”. The Basis of faith of the Evangelical Alliance in the UK affirms belief in the “...

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3 Jan 2018

The argument runs something like this….

The church began as a movement within first century Judaism. Like any other historical movement, its character and purpose were shaped by its historical circumstances. It was a product of its time and place. It was part of an ancient story.

The church...

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