Hello everybody. I think I can say, like friend and fellow-contributor Chris Date, that it is indeed a tremendous honor for me to get to contribute to this website and this overall effort. I can only hope that when all is said and done I will have served you all well, and most importantly, that I will have served God well.
I can roughly sum up my approach to all things theological, and really, all things period, to these following 4 principles:
1. God needs to be the center of everything.
That doesn’t mean that we are to spend every moment on our knees, but it does mean that everything we say, do or think should have the thought of Jesus Christ behind it. He knows it all anyway. It is never, ever okay to sin. If something is justified in a certain situation, then it isn’t a sin, is it? The LORD God is our portion and our inheritance. Remembering that is the most important thing. We submit to God not just because of His power, but because of His perfection and our sin. When the Lord redeems us, he turns us from haters of God and haters of righteousness to lovers of both, because they are one in the same. How then can we ever consider not submitting to the one who is perfect, who had every right to destroy us (literally) but instead showered us with love and eternal life?
2. Accepting Jesus means a radical shift in who you are, no matter who you are.
Whether you grew up in a Christian family from day one or accept Jesus in a retirement home, all who turn to Jesus are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17) in comparison to what they were before. For this reason, so much of what God commands of us commands us to go against what is natural. We are not natural men, but spiritual men. Nobody is a believer by default. A person may “accept Jesus” when they are 4 years-old in Sunday school, but what this does more than anything else is help explain why there are so many who fulfill the words of God spoken to Isaiah: “This people draw near with their words And honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote” (NASB, Isaiah 29:13). Let the children come to the Lord (Matthew 18:10), and raise them in the ways of the God (Ephesians 6:4), but remember that no amount of church hymns learned as a toddler will turn a sinner into a Child of God. Nobody is born into the new covenant. Everyone must be reborn (John 3:5), born not of man, but of God (John 1:13). We are different, and if we don’t seem so different, than we should turn to God and pray so that he makes us different, turning our hearts to what is good so that our actions can follow suit.
3. We, as Christians, must love and forgive (and not just in the meaningless “Christian” sense).
We, as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, are family. Now, it is really hard to manifest this in an internet setting. Really hard. This because there often isn’t any personal interaction. But surely to attack and belittle those we disagree with has no place in a family. I am not afraid to vigorously attack bad arguments, but we have to remember that there are real people behind them. And we need to forgive. As we would not hesitate to forgive a friend or loved one who has wronged us, the same goes for every believer, even the faceless names who don’t act very much like someone who supposedly reflects Christ to the world. Maybe we’ll never become deeply chummy with the many faceless internet names we debate, but if we become hostile and vicious and disdainful, how can we ever imagine that our hearts are in the right place? To say you forgive just because you pretend that what angers you doesn’t belittles what God did for us (because He forgave us), and just because you are a Christian and say you “love” someone doesn’t mean you actually do. These things are the natural human thing to do (since we must “love” and “forgive”), but we are not natural men anymore.
4. Theology and apologetics is for every believer, not just the professional.
I agree wholeheartedly with Chris Date on this. Now, don’t get me wrong; I don’t care all that much about how caught up one is in the high theology literature, or even if they know what Ordo Salutis and Supralapsarianism mean. What I do mean is that God has given us ways to know Him and to know about Him. Primarily, He has given us the scriptures. Theology books and articles and people who contribute their insight in interpreting the scriptures are all very important, and they deserve the honor due to them. However, the one thing we should all be familiar with is the Bible. In this day and age when many Christians are not all that familiar with the Bible, it is easy to neglect it. Sometimes I even do. I say, whoever reads this and has been neglecting God’s word should not beat themselves up; God doesn’t give us a commandment with the minimum amount of time we should spend reading the Bible each day. However, such a person should also go and open up their Bibles today and turn things around. If the Bible is in fact God-breathed (which it is), and not just musings of men, then it should have special power beyond just telling us a story and giving us knowledge (and having such special power it does). It isn’t just an ancient primary source. The Bible is where we find the bulk of what God has revealed about everything we need to know about Him. Not every believer should read multiple theology books a week (like I have been known to do in times of vacation or under-employment); every believer, however, should read their Bibles, seeking outside help from pastors and theologians and books and articles whenever they need it. Those who can read this introduction also have access to God’s word and to the resources that can help them understand it. Therefore, for that reason and in that sense, every believer should be a theologian.
MY BRIEF BIO
Raised outside of the church, I came to faith while attending the University of California, Irvine (zot! zot!), fully and completely giving my life to Jesus after attending a Campus Crusade for Christ meeting my freshman year. I have not looked back since, and I never will, because God is faithful to finish the good works He starts, as He was for the church in Philippi (Philippians 1:6).
Having so many unbelieving loved ones is not something I would ever wish on anyone, but God, as He always does, makes good come out of what is evil. Having not been raised in the church lets me understand the concerns of the unbeliever better. I understand why some don’t believe because I once did not believe. I would not hesitate to die for the gospel, but I know that it is not obvious or self evident. And why would we think it is? After all, it is foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Corinthians 1:18). Also, because I had so many loved ones who did not believe when I first did, I had no choice but to very quickly gain a thorough understanding of what the Bible teaches, as well as how to explain and defend the truths of the gospel. I had to quickly grow spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually, both to protect my own new faith, and to help bring it to them. Having been an unbeliever in every sense, I also understand that to come to know Jesus does require a radical shift in who you are. After all, I wasn’t a “Christian” before I came to follow Christ. And most relevant to RethinkingHell, I didn’t grow up in a tradition of Hell to be blinded by. I would hardly say that becoming a conditionalist was a quick and easy transition, but in comparison to changing my entire worldview (which I had to do upon accepting the gospel), reconsidering everything I had been told about Hell didn’t seem all that scary.
I have no formal theological training, but I have, over the years, taken full advantage of all sorts of theological resources at my finger tips (e.g. books, podcasts, recordings of seminary class lectures). I am no stranger to dealing with thorny theological questions. On the topic of Hell and conditionalism, I have even written a lengthy commentary, called “The Bible Teaches Annihilationism.” Therefore, although I am young, without formal seminary training, and aware of the seriousness of handling God’s word, I believe that I am able to honor God through my contribution to RethinkingHell.
So, that’s me. I want to thank Peter Grice for inviting me to take part in this effort, and all of you for coming here. And of course, let us never cease to give thanks to Jesus Christ, the son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us, who made Hell for us a topic of discussion, and not our eternal fate.