Below is a video called “The Fire” which has been posted on Facebook a year ago under the label of “Strive Videos.”
I have really wrestled with whether to comment on this because I do not want to come across as overly negative or critical. I’ve (obviously) decided to pull the trigger. You see, this video presently enjoys over 100 “likes” and around 75 comments, mostly consisting of “WOW… I really need to think about this!” and “Thanks! This is SO true!”
An area that always concerns me is playing fast and loose with the Bible. Understand, I don’t think this fellow is meaning to, but he needs to be very careful especially when literally thousands of people have watched his video.
Footnotes for everything that bothered me in this video would be longer than I want this post to take — both me writing and you reading. Suffice it to say, my brother has (what I judge to be) rather unhelpful theology based on a short-sighted reading of Scripture. (I’ve included the minute-marker, if that’s helpful for clarity.)
- After all, John 15 never states, “You will know false teachers by their fruit” (4m, 55s). False teachers aren’t even mentioned in John’s gospel.
- Jeremiah 14-16 does indeed relay a refusal of God to listen to Israel (7m, 15s). This exchange, however, is not about the eternal-life-after-death destinies of God’s people. His making this analogous with the present day church is fatally flawed. All three of the major prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel) are about God’s bringing appropriate this-world judgment on his stubbon covenant people AND promising to act decisively for their (and the world’s) restoration after said judgment. We have to read chapters in the context of books.
- Allow me to quote directly: “There’s a verse of scripture that talks about how, for all of eternity, the lake of fire will be open for people to come and see the fierce wrath of God, and they will be able to observe how majestic he is, and they will see it with awe in their hearts, and they will come back and worship him” (9m, 55s). First, if someone cannot give a reference and resorts to “there’s a verse,” there’s a problem. In short, this is incorrect. There is not a verse of scripture that says this. The closest you get is Revelation 14:9-11, but since this is an image/metaphor-heavy Apocalyptic epistle, perhaps we should expect a story like Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:23-28) to be evoked when our just God finally destroys those who destroy the earth (Revelation 11:18). Whatever this imagery means in this passage, it deserves more consideration than this video gives, especially considering God’s character in Ezekiel 33:11: “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, house of Israel?”
- He states that the biggest problem God is faced with in the Bible is that if God is just, then he cannot forgive us (6m, 25s). Again, this is a particular interpretation — an interpretation of the Bible shaped largely by Anselm and his satisfaction theory of atonement (dramatically influenced by the “justice” of medieval feudalism) presented in his book, Cur Deus Homo, published in the late 11th century. It’s an interpretive-scheme that many Christians (especially in the Orthodox Church) have found wanting. Conflating the tension of the Biblical narrative that reaches its climactic crescendo in the reconciliatory power of Christ’s cross down to this bald statement is misleading — at best.
While my industrious brother has put together a rather passionate video, overall this video is extraordinarily unhelpful to both Christians and Non. Hear me, this video frequently drifts into areas that I would consider valid and even important. Nominal Christianity is indeed a problem and quite foreign to worldview of Scripture. The flames kindled here, however, are not the answer and will only result in vigorous, self-righteous moralism.
The point of this video is not hell. He’s trying to address nominal Christianity in the church and wielding hell as a whip. In fact, he goes so far as to say that it is an “impossibility for you to be saved and yet live in a continuous state of worldliness” (1m,25s). To support this, he might have pointed to 1 John 2:15. The problem with hanging so much weight on this peg is who decides what “worldliness” is? The video mentions intentional sin (1m, 40s) and watching vulgar movies (6m, 40s) as the most pressing examples. “Worldliness” means radically different things to different Bible-reading, Jesus-loving Christians. Countless Christians would consider counting F-words in a movie as trite in a world riddled by poverty, injustice, and hatred.
Not that private, personal sin is somehow less severe than systemic, global sin. The Bible makes clear that it’s all dark, corrupt, and literally death-dealing. And the Bible has also made clear that all of this darkness has been banished by the glorious glow of the empty tomb. The good news is that although all sin is darker than we imagine, its unbearable consequences have been dealt with. That’s the hilariously good news! And it’s our failure to believe this — small individual and corporate faith — that hinders personal and societal transformation.
This is where without doubt the most powerful statement in the video makes sense: “It’s disgusting that it’s more of a scandal in this church culture to reprove sin than it is to laugh at it” (4m, 15s). Bulls-eye. Why on earth do we, children of light, revel in the darkness of death when we are called to participate in the life of new creation? It’s convicting for me, who laughs at the occasional (or frequent) “that’s what she said” joke. The trouble comes when you start mixing an eternal, fiery condemnation into what has been declared finished (Romans 8:1-2, John 19:30).
If you find internet videos to be a meaningful source for theology to shape your worldview, the below video is probably a more helpful (meaning more shaped by all of Scripture) video on hell. (The interviewee is N.T. Wright, one of the world’s leading New Testament scholars.)
At least it was for me.
I’ve written more than I thought I would. The misinformation in that first video just works me up. Thanks for reading, and I hope you found this interesting and/or helpful.