Monday, June 14, 2010

A Little Context for my post: "Two Kinds of People"

On my post, “Two Kinds of People” Gregg left this comment:

"I have to think on this one very carefully. I have come across it before and dismissed it, but I wonder what the context was, maybe I might understand what he was trying to say. When God chose the elect, passing by those whom he didn't and as he left them in their sin, men do desire their sin and do not desire to come to God."

I understand Gregg’s concern; especially since we both hold to Reformed Theology, as does Timothy Keller, and the C.S. Lewis quote standing alone may seem out of place. Here is my email response to Gregg, slightly modified from its original form in order to reformat it into a blog post:

I ran across this C.S. Lewis quote in Timothy Keller's book, The Reason for God: Belief in an age of Skepticism. It is in chapter five: "How Can a Loving God Send People to Hell?"

Let me give you a bit of context so we understand Keller's point, and why he uses this Lewis quote (from the book, The Great Divorce).

"The people in hell are miserable, but Lewis shows us why. We see, raging like unchecked flames, their pride, their paranoia, their self-pity, their certainty that everyone else is wrong, that everyone else is an idiot! All their humility is gone, and thus so is their sanity. They are utterly, finally locked in a prison of their own self-centeredness, and their pride progressively expands into a bigger and bigger mushroom cloud. They continue to go to pieces forever, blaming everyone but themselves. Hell is that writ large. That is why it is a travesty to picture God casting people into a pit who are crying, 'I'm sorry! Let me out!'...

A common image of hell in the bible is that of fire. Fire disintegrates. Even in this life we can see the kind of soul degeneration that self- centeredness creates. We know how selfishness and self absorption leads to piercing bitterness, nauseating envy, paralyzing anxiety, paranoid thoughts, and the mental denials and distortions that accompany them. Now ask the question: "What if when we die we don't end, but spiritually our life extends on into eternity?" Hell, then, is the trajectory of a soul, living a self-absorbed, self-centered life, going on forever."

Keller then quotes Luke 16:24-31, the rich man and Lazarus, to support the view of hell that he is presenting here. He then suggests that the rich man built his identity on his wealth rather than on God.

"...In short, hell is simply one's freely chosen identity apart from God on a trajectory into infinity. ... All God does in the end with people is give them what they most want, including freedom from himself."

(After that, came Lewis' "two kinds of people" quote that I used in my blog post.)

Keller was focusing more on tracing the characteristics of people in hell back to when they were here on earth, in this life, rather than on the the subject of reprobation from the point of view of God's eternal decree. His aim was to answer the skeptic's objection to a loving God's sending people to hell.

C.S. Lewis again states, "Hell is the greatest monument to human freedom." As Romans 1:24 says, God "gave them up to ... their desires."

I do not believe that man can over-ride what God has decreed from all eternity, and I don’t think Timothy Keller believes that, either. Thanks Gregg, good call.

__Craig Boyd


Gregg said...

I got your email and I appreciate it I just haven't had the time to answer back - I am not ignoring it, I just need to get to it. Thanks said...

That is okay, Gregg. I just thought that I should share the context of the quote on the blog for others to see, too. Don't want anyone to think that I am slipping from my Calvinist moorings. ; )


Pilgrim Mommy said...

Keller's quote on hell is terrifying. There go I but for the grace of God. It also makes me grieve for those who have rejected God in this life.

This is another book to add to my list.

Gregg said...

I understand better now. For the record I really read the blogs I follow and I try to understand what was writen. When I leave a comment I want it be a thoughtful one pertaining to what was posted.

this time I was just not sure what I read and what to say. Especially since I quote CS Lewis quite a bit myself.

Yes, God will give us what we want including freedom from Himself. That is so horribly frightening. Man does not want God and God says ok.

I also don't think that God necessarily stands of the brink of hell and tosses people in. They receive what they wanted. How tragic that the smoke of heir torment, Revelation says, will rise upwards forever. God thank you for unconditionally electing me, for providing a satisfactgory offering, for pursuing me with your Holy Spirit who opened my heart giving me life causing me to be willing to repent and turn to you in faith.

Thanks Craig!!

JT said...

God gives us free will. It is up to us to take the right path. May God Bless You.