Holy Spirit's Guidance on the Topic of Hell

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2 years 8 months ago #5300 by FelixCulpa
Hello,

I have recently been wrestling with ETP vs. Annihilationism. I find many of the biblical arguments for Annihilation convincing. My biggest hold-up right now is church history and the idea that God has promised to guide his church through the Holy Spirit.I know that CI proponents claim the early fathers up to Augustine were predominantly CI/ Annihilationists (which I think very well could be), the issue for me is twofold,

1. Everyone claims the early fathers (whether Traditionalist, Annihilationist, or Universalist) so we have a
similar dilemma as when two opposing views look to the Apostles and both sides claim the Apostles agree
with them.

2. Regardless as to the majority view of the church fathers before Augustine, there is no doubt that ETP was
the commonly held view afterwards. So much so that I have a very difficult time finding Annihilationists from
that then until about the 1800's, and an even harder time finding proponents of this view in this time that did
not wind up in (what I would consider) heresy, or at least major error.

The Scriptures promise that the Holy Spirit will guide His church, because this is true, how can it be that this view was (from my research) almost non-existent for at least 1,500 years if indeed the view is true? When Luther made the famous claim "here I stand I can do no other" to the Catholic Church he did so after asking for some time to consider recantation wondering to himself "Am I alone wise?" He found comfort in seeing others down from history, starting with the early fathers and continuing onward to his time that did not hold the views the Catholic Church was imposing and therefore, he did not consider himself to be alone in this regard and was able to stand in the face of persecution for the truth. In these issues that Luther was concerned about He could see that the Holy Spirit had preserved the teachings of true doctrine in godly men throughout history...I just don't see this godly preservation from the CI perspective. Its almost as though (from the CI perspective) the early church believed in Annihilation until Augustine, and then the belief pretty much stopped until the 20th century. Even on the Rethinking Hell "Proponents" listing there are only ten proponents listed from the 5th century to 18th century fourteen centuries. Beyond that, there is but one name on the list I recognize (Weymouth) and the earliest theologian on the list lived in the 1600's, so according to this list (which I know is not meant to be exhaustive) there is still about 1,000 years of silence from this position and (as it could be argued) the Holy Spirit.


If Annihilationism is true why does it seem as though the Holy Spirit has not been guiding the Church to that truth? Why is it that very intelligent, scholarly, godly, and well-versed men throughout the ages have all argued for ETP? Men that were notable for tearing down views based solely on tradition, men like Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin? I have yet to find a single Reformer who was an Annihilationist. At times in the Church when the Spirit was very evidently present in correcting error, why did He not correct the ETP view, if indeed it is error?


Thanks for any responses,

FelixCulpa

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2 years 8 months ago #5301 by LP Dion

FelixCulpa wrote:

If Annihilationism is true why does it seem as though the Holy Spirit has not been guiding the Church to that truth? Why is it that very intelligent, scholarly, godly, and well-versed men throughout the ages have all argued for ETP? Men that were notable for tearing down views based solely on tradition, men like Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin? I have yet to find a single Reformer who was an Annihilationist.


Here are a few popular level articles that identify Radical Reformers of that era who were rethinking ECT, abeit in a conflated soul sleep/annihilation fuzzy combo way. The amount of persecution they faced and the inability to enter higher education because of their views resulted in their teachings taking on a much more grass roots flavour. When the original scholars (Grebel, Manz, Sattler) were dealt with, the folks really had no clout.

www.afterlife.co.nz/tag/anabaptists/

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2 years 8 months ago - 2 years 8 months ago #5302 by Singalphile
Hi, FelixCulpa. This touches on one of the topics that interests me a lot. Not church history, about which I know little, but about the Holy Spirit and theology, as it relates to the unity of the church.

In my opinion, the assumption that underlines your questions is not biblical. Your assumption is that God supernaturally gives believers theological insight. Is that right? I have not seen any biblical basis for that assumption.

What we are told is that when we walk by the Spirit, we will not gratify sinful desires, but will instead exhibit the fruit of the Spirit, which is "love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." (Gal 5)

I have not yet seen any biblical or historical or personal evidence that the Holy Spirit necessarily gives us (the Church) correct opinions about mathematics, engineering, software development, chemistry, or systematic theology, just as I see no evidence that the Spirit necessarily makes us (the Church) better at sports, physically stronger, or more intelligent.

Rather, the teaching and Spirit and purpose of Christ is so that we will be holy and equipped for righteousness. Christ commanded His apostles to teach the nations to obey His commands, and to that end, He did tell the apostles that the Spirit would lead them into all truth and remind them of everything He told them. That truth was about His commands, which is what God cares about. Your or my opinions about soteriology or eschatology or hell, for example, has nothing to do with how righteous we are.

I see no biblical evidence that you or anyone else will be punished or rewarded based on your opinion about hell. We certainly might be punished for being arrogant, mean, overly focused, or sectarian (hairetikos in the Greek) about our opinions, however.

Equally Spirit-filled, righteous people have completely different opinions about various theological matters. The reason for that, I conclude, is that God is not concerned about such things. If you or anyone thinks that He is, then you will need to show me. Show me that you can gauge a person's level of Spirit-filled-ness based on how many correct opinions he has.

Finally, a story to illustrate my point:

Three non-believing men are stranded on a desert island. They come across a copy of the gospel of John, and one of the men thus becomes a Christian. That believing man would thereafter be led by the Spirit to be more loving, self-controlled, patient, kind, and generally more holy than the two non-believers.

If, for example, the men had previously engaged in sexual acts with each other, the believer would be led by the Spirit to stop engaging in that act, even though the gospel of John says nothing specifically about that activity. The Holy Spirit would not leave that man in the dark. The truth of that sinful behavior would be revealed to him, imo (though not as quickly as it would if he had a good Bible teacher).

But the believer on that desert island would not be led by the Holy Spirit to be a Calvinist or Arminian or Traditionalist or Annihilationist or Premillenialist. The man would simply remain ignorant or uncertain about such things.

Thank you!

"Singalphile" - Name chosen (hastily) to indicate being on a narrow path, pursuing the love of God. Male, upper-30's, USA.
Last edit: 2 years 8 months ago by Singalphile.
The following user(s) said Thank You: John Haak

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2 years 8 months ago #5303 by FelixCulpa
Thank you for your response, brother.

*In my opinion, the assumption that underlines your questions is not biblical. Your assumption is that God supernaturally gives believers theological insight. Is that right?*

In a way, but not quite the way you seem to be thinking. I believe that God guides his people, He leads His church in the way of Truth.

By this, I do not mean that every single believer believes everything that is right. There are variants in beliefs from believer to believer even though we are all guided by the same Spirit. With that said, I think there is clear Biblical evidence that the Spirit guides the Church.

In the first place, it is the Spirit that inspires the words written [2 Peter 1:21]. Furthermore, he effects the spread of it, Paul is not permitted to go to Asia [Acts 16:6].

When Christ is warning the Disciples about His death he comforts them with this:

“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” -[John 16:12-15]

I think it is pretty Scripturally evident that the Spirit leads the church into Truth. Again, I don't think this means everyone believe everything that is correct. I don't think anyone has everything right and we've been warned about false doctrines cropping up even among believers. However, the Spirit does preserve truth and leads the Church (as a whole) to that truth. With that said though, it seems that if Annihilationism is true that this doctrine was not very well preserved for at least 1,000 years. While I don't think this is an essential issue, it is certainly extremely important as it deals with the fate of the wicked, the condition of the soul, and the justice of God.

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2 years 8 months ago - 2 years 8 months ago #5304 by Singalphile
Hi, FelixCulpa. Thank you for the response!

I agree that God guides His people and leads the church in the way of truth. I didn't mean to dispute that. However, I do not see any biblical evidence that that truth has anything necessarily to do with, for example, automobiles, geometry, or medicine (I'm just giving random examples), nor theology (in general). Do you disagree?

The Holy Spirit certainly does lead/teach us (sometimes through good teachers) not to sin or do anything contrary to sound instruction ( 1 Tim 1 ), and to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5). A person who practices wicked things obviously does not have any spirit of God.

But, again, I have yet to see biblical evidence that the Holy Spirit teaches the Church about all the stuff we're curious about and argue about, such as the nature of hell, how the atonement works, how old the planet/universe is, what happens to those who die before the resurrection, the exact nature of the relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, or anything else along those lines. A person may have any number of opinions about those things, but it has nothing to do with whether or not he is filled with or led by the Spirit. If I'm wrong about that, I'd like to see some scriptural evidence that I'm wrong.

You mentioned some passages:

2 Peter 1:21 - Yes, the prophets spoke through the Holy Spirit. That doesn't necessarily have anything to do with what we call "theology" (e.g., opinions of hell, though), does it?

Acts 16:6 - I agree that the Holy Spirit acts and works in our lives. Again, this passage also appears to me to have nothing to do with what we nowadays call "doctrine" (the Greek words that are sometimes translated "doctrine" in some translations mean "official teaching/instruction", I think).

John 16:12-15 - Again, I agree that the Spirit led the apostles into all truth. That is, all truth that God wanted them to know ("what he will make known to you"). The Spirit didn't impart to them truth about, say, electricity or basketball, for example. So "all truth" does not mean every true fact ... unless one were to affirm that the apostles (or anyone else) were omniscient.

I'll restate my opinion again, though I may be wrong and will gladly be corrected: The underlying assumption (in your original post) that God would not allow a majority of Christians to have an incorrect understanding about the precise nature of hell is, in my opinion, without basis. I see no biblical evidence for that yet.

To put it another way, I see no evidence that God cares very much what you or I think about hell (at least provided that we're doing our best to understand it).

But I do think your objection would be sound when it comes to behavior, which God obviously cares very much about. If someone comes along and tries to say the Church was wrong about a certain behavior for 2,000 years, then I would call foul. That would be like the case of the false teachers in 2 Peter: "Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute [emphasis added]."

As I said before, this topic interests me. This wrong assumption about theology is, imo, responsible for some of the division and sectarianism (hairesis in the Greek) that we have seen, and which I dislike.

"Singalphile" - Name chosen (hastily) to indicate being on a narrow path, pursuing the love of God. Male, upper-30's, USA.
Last edit: 2 years 8 months ago by Singalphile. Reason: fix

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2 years 8 months ago #5306 by FelixCulpa

Singalphile wrote: I agree that God guides His people and leads the church in the way of truth. I didn't mean to dispute that. However, I do not see any biblical evidence that that truth has anything necessarily to do with, for example, automobiles, geometry, or medicine (I'm just giving random examples), nor theology (in general). Do you disagree?

I don't think the Holy Spirit guides us in terms of things like Geometry, medicine, and automobiles, however, in terms of theology i believe that God absolutely guides His people through the Holy Spirit. For sure the Holy Spirit guides us in our fruits, but to limit his work to that is restrictive to what he does. In order for us to live in the way of truth...we have to have the truth. The Holy Spirit grants its church with the gift of discernment, evaluating what is true of God from what is false. Ephesians 4:1-16 talks about God's gift to his people being of one Spirit to guard them against "every wind of doctrine" and instead resting in the truth.

It seems that by your position it would theoretically be possible for all of proper doctrine to be completely lost and forgotten since God does not guide us into correct teachings, this I think is very much opposed to Scripture.


With this said, I again, do not believe every individual believer has everything right, beyond that, I do think its possible that the correct position wouldn't be the majority position (the Catholic position was prominent for a long time) but the degree to which annihilationism seems to almost have disappeared for 1,000 years seems to go against even that degree of preservation.

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