I wrote a resolution regarding our Nazarene Article of Faith which deals with “hell”. Christian views of what happens to people after they die, if they never knew Jesus, has become a topic of interest in our society among people considering Christianity as a possibility for their life. What was once a subject only Seminarians kicked around over coffee has become one of the questions people ask when trying to figure out if Christianity is a healthy or sick belief system. Below is the resolution I wrote and if you follow this link you can see the representative bible passages associated with each of the three historic doctrines of hell. To see the Scriptures, scroll down past the resolution.
WHEREAS the Church of the Nazarene historically has intentionally and consistently avoided taking debatable positions concerning eschatology in our Articles of Faith; and,
WHEREAS there are abundant exegetical grounds for all three historic positions concerning interpretation of the duration of hell, that is: the interpretations of everlasting conscious torment, annihilation of the wicked, and limited duration leading to a reconciliation of all things; and,
WHEREAS none of the three interpretations are impenetratable to the strongest Scriptures brought to bear by the other two positions; and,
WHEREAS we have included in our Articles of Faith the single interpretation of the doctrine of hell which most calls into question the very nature of God and the goodness of the Christian faith to people who are unenculturated to evangelical Christianity and whom we are seeking to draw to Christ; and,
WHEREAS this unnecessarily puts up a barrier to faith; and
WHEREAS there is strong support in both the Early Church Fathers and the Reformers for interpretations of hell other than everlasting conscious torment, and that those exegetes were paying close attention to the original languages; and
WHEREAS all three interpretations, contrary to popular misunderstanding, leave plenty of room for important Biblical doctrines such as final judgment, justice, condemnation and punishment; and,
WHEREAS the aforementioned doctrines are not synonymous with the word ‘hell’; and,
WHEREAS the Scriptures use a variety of place-names to describe the location of the fate of the wicked, including Sheol, Gehenna, Abaddon, Tartares and Hades and our Article demonstrates no recognition of this diversity;
THEREFORE with concern for doctrinal consistency in the area of eschatology and the desire to safeguard against raising unnecessary barriers to faith among the un-evangelized for whom Christ died, the Mid-Atlantic District requests the Board of General Superintendents to commission a study-group of Nazarene theologians, biblical scholars and practitioners to study whether the word ‘eternally’ should continue to be included in Article XVI no. 22, and to report to the next General Assembly, or doctrinal committee thereof, their exegetical findings and conclusions.
Well worded Todd, and well intentioned. Seems like a no-brainer that at least a conversation should be opened up regarding the inclusion of ‘eternal’ language in Nazarene Articles of Faith. I’d also include a ‘whereas’ that has something to do with the compatibility of ‘eternal’ language with the character of a God whose power is used to reconcile, heal and restore. A break from this trajectory into one where this God’s power is used to sustain life for the purposes of never-ending retribution asks for some kind of explanation. Removing the language of ‘eternal’ makes some progress toward addressing this discontinuity.
Hello Eric! I savored those moments in your home the other week! What fun. You and JoAnn are a gift to the Church and i look forward to what continues to come out of your lives! You make a great point about God using His power to sustain life for the purposes of never-ending retribution! This is a strong argument and I will certainly add it to the conversation if i am tapped regarding the resolution in days to come. Blessings!