Thursday, November 24, 2011

Is The Bible Incomplete?

I've recently been exposed by a fellow blogger to the idea that there is a possibility the Bible doesn't quote everything Jesus said. That's true. There's no way you could copy down every single word a man ever said. But that isn't what this person was getting at. When I posed the question, "If there are second chances in hell, then why didn't Jesus tell us that?" in my post My Final Belief About Christian Universalism, he commented in response to my post, saying, "The catch here, of course, is that you are stating that Jesus did not say something. That is a statement that you cannot prove. You can only prove from the bible what Jesus did say, not what Jesus did not say." This question bugged me. Not because I felt he was right, but because of how dangerously wrong he is.

Allow me to explain. By saying, "You can only prove from the Bible what Jesus did say, not what Jesus did not say," we are really saying that the Bible is incomplete. That it doesn't fully and truthfully contain the truth and Gospel of Jesus Christ. That it somehow only contains partial truth. If we allow ourselves to believe that perhaps the Bible doesn't contain something very important (like Jesus telling us about second chances), then we essentially have just said the Bible is false. Incomplete. Untrustworthy. 

Think of it this way: If we use this mindset, it would be all too easy to say that to be a Christian, you have to live on the moon. If Jesus didn't say it, it can be true. So why not assume that the moon is the key to salvation? Jesus didn't say it wasn't. Now yes, Jesus taught you have to repent, believe, and follow Jesus each day. But maybe Jesus was thinking that we could only do this on the moon, but He just didn't want to tell us? Maybe we should mass-migrate to the moon....

Or we could trust that the Bible is without error. It's complete truth. It's is the Word of God. It contains the Gospel that Jesus preached. It's something we can place our trust, hope, and faith in without worry of it's credibility. It won't fail us, so we can live by it. And that's what I believe. We should only base our lives and our theologies off what the Bible, and what Jesus, says. If we go off anything else, we are sure to miss the mark.


Tom van Dijk said...

You know, I never said the bible is incomplete. I said there are biblical things that are not in the words of Jesus as we know them from the bible. You turn that into: the bible is incomplete - as if "the bible" and "the words of Jesus in the bible" is the same thing.

There are many things that many christians believe and preach that are not said by Jesus. For example, the way most churches treat homosexuality is based on Romans 1, not on anything that Jesus said.

Here are some further issues to think about:

- Child baptism. Lots of churches do it, no clear biblical support.
- Trinity. Lots of churches preach it, most christians believe it, no clear biblical support.
- Free will. Not in the bible either, at least not the way theologians use it.

Just a few examples of what many, many christian believe, but it's not in the bible. I'm not saying they're not true. I'm saying they're not clearly biblical. The bible simply isn't a systematic theological work.

And yes, Jesus did not say we should go to the moon or that we should not. But there's no obvious reason why we should consider whether Jesus said such a thing. Yet, things like child baptism, trinity, free will, and whether it is possible to be saved in hell, these things Jesus was not clear about.

Tom van Dijk said...


If you are saying "there are no second chances in hell, because Jesus did not say anything about it, because there are no second chances in hell", which is your speech in a nutshell (and I now realize it's "begging the question" as well), then you should also say that various theological positions regarding child baptism, the position of women, homosexuality, trinity, etc, are not true.

Logan said...

I'm more than ready to say that certain beliefs, such as the belief that we all have guardian angels, is not Biblically supported.

As for baptism, it seems to me that based on what Jesus taught and other places in Scripture, baptism is something that should take place after you give your life to Christ.

And I truly don't know how you can say there is no Biblical support for the Trinity.

Free will is interesting, though. We do have free will to choose Jesus or to choose a eternal destination in @#!*% (which, if I'm right, you don't even believe in). But there are more than enough passages to look at in Scripture which say that God has the right to do what He wants, when He wants. He doesn't always exercise that right, but He does at times. I'm reminded of the passage in Romans where it says that God intentionally hardened Pharaoh's heart. Does that mean Pharaoh never had a chance to believe in the God of the Israelites? I don't think so. But I think God has more than enough right to do as He pleases.

I fully believe if God wanted to give people a second chance in @#!*% , He would be able, too. However, based on how Jesus instructed His disciples and how the New Testament plays out, I don't see anything in Scripture that tells us second chances in @#!*% are available. I mean, look at the Great Commission, the last words Jesus gave to his disciples. He told them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned." Jesus' last words were that those who didn't believe would be condemned. That it's. No expounding or elaboration. Don't you think something as important as post-death conversion opportunities deserve some kind of reference there? If it's THAT important, why not address it? Because there are no second chances!

Tom van Dijk said...

"And I truly don't know how you can say there is no Biblical support for the Trinity."

Well, go on and show that biblical proof. As far as I know, the three-in-one concept is something the church decided on a century or two later. That doesn't mean it's false. It just means it's not written in the bible literally. You could also ask "why didn't Jesus ever speak clearly about this, didn't He have plenty of opportunities?" Whether or not Jesus spoke about certain things is no reason to abandon something. Jesus even spoke in parables, so that people would NOT understand. Paul speaks about mysteries that have been revealed and in many of the letters, the authors write things that cannot be found in the gospels.

Regarding the Pharao, I recently read an insightful commentary that stated that God hardened Pharao BECAUSE Pharao opposed Him. First Pharao opposed God who wanted to deliver His people and bring it to Canaan, THEN God hardened Pharao to show the power of his merciful purposes with His people.

Whoever does not believe will be condemned, but to what? To a neverending punishment? Or to a corrective punishment, which is what I believe, partially based on the words that Jesus used in Matthew 25.

What exactly is this good news, that is entrusted to us? Read 2 Corinthians 5:14-19.

Logan said...

I assume you are thinking of the parable of the sheep and the goats when you mentioned Matthew 25. Somehow, you and I must interpret this passage differently. When I read this, I see Jesus sending the goats (the unsaved) to "eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." What I take away from this passage is that if you live life all about you, then you aren't a Christian. You may believe and know all the right things, but if you fail to obey to 2nd greatest commandment (given to us by Jesus) which says to love others more than you love yourself, you're going to hell. For eternity. Why? Because if you don't help the "least of these", in other words, if you don't live a selfless life, then that means you were living a selfish life. And to be a Christian, you have to be living sold out for Jesus. Not yourself.

Second, I want to look at the first part of Matthew 25. In this passage, the parable of the ten virgins, we see five virgins enter the wedding banquet (which represents heaven) and we see the other five virgins get shut out because the bridegroom (that is, Jesus) did not know them. Ouch. Now all ten virgins were invited, but because five of them were not prepared, only half actually got to go in. So you actually have to know Jesus before the wedding to get into the wedding? From this passage, I believe so.

And while we're at it, let's look at the other parable in Matthew 25. I won't spend time reviewing the whole passage, but I want to look at the very end. Here, we see a master dealing with a wicked servant, which represents Jesus judging a non-Christian in the end of time. In the final verse, the master of the wicked servant declares, "And throw that worthless servant outside, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Once again, for the third time in Matthew 25 (the chapter you claim that partially declares hell is a place of reformative punishment), we see clear separation between Christians and non-Christians. And it's key to see that Jesus, the speaker in Matthew 25, NEVER hints at, alludes to, or even suggests the idea of hell being a place of temporary, reformative punishment. Surely if your belief is right, then why on earth would Jesus have no said so in these three parables?! In the very chapter you stake your claim in, Jesus says THREE TIMES that there will be separation and THREE TIMES He neglects to add that it is only temporary, to reform them, to correct them.

Sir, you can take passages like 2 Cor. 5:14-19, 1 Cor. 15:22, and Matt. 25 out of context all day, but you cannot excuse or do away with the words of Jesus Christ. Hell is an eternal location of separation from God for those who don't believe in Him as Lord and Savior in this life.

Tom van Dijk said...

You're claiming I take texts out of context yet you do not provide any solid argumentation to prove this. In fact, you did not even respond to the texts I mentioned, explaining why they mean something different than what they say.

Why would Jesus explicitly speak about the way hell works? Bringing redemption to the world was what He came to do, but He rarely spoke about it, as far as we know. Indeed, He often spoke about how one should live and that there will be a judgment. I'm not denying these things. I'm not denying that people will be cast out. All these texts are not a "problem" for my exegesis, as you seem to suggest. The whole point seems to be that we should do good and live a life of love toward God and toward other people, and that we should take action. The point is not that eventually all will come to God. The point is that we should change our lives. I'm not surprised that Jesus rarely preached the salvation of all people. It's people like Paul and Peter that wrote powerfully about what Jesus did on the cross.

If Jesus would have wanted us to believe that hell is an endless seperation, then why did He not use those words? In English, yes, the translation states "eternal punishment" and the way "eternal" is commonly understood, is that it's basically forever. That is not what is in the Greek text. If what you believe is true, then it would have been "aidion timorion", just like two of the three major theological schools taught (Pharisees and Essenes). We know they used those words from Josephus and Philo and we know that the rest of the Greek-speaking world would have used those words. The word translated "eternal", "aionios", should be understood in Matthew 25 as "pertaining to the age to come" or "in the age after the judgment".

You say "He neglects to add that it is only temporary, to reform them, to correct them." And I say: He didn't. He explicitly used words that indicate reformative purposes.

(By the way, if you want to read more about this, I suggest you take a look at and in particular the forums could be helpful.)

Logan said...

You're right; I didn't address 2 Corinthians 5:14-19. That's because I felt like reviewing Matthew 25 was more than enough. Which leads me to asking you about your very last sentence: "He explicitly used words that indicate reformative purposes." You are incorrect, in the very least, in saying that he explicitly used those words. They are surely not explicit because I fail to see which words you allude you. And you did not point them out. I stated my entire interpretation of Matthew 25 in my previous comment, so I won't repeat myself.

So what about the story of the rich man and the poor beggar Lazarus? It's found in Luke 16:19-32. Abraham is in heaven and the rich man, who is in hell, calls out to Abraham for help. But Abraham tells him, "...between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us."

Again, Jesus is telling this story. He says this and moves right on. I'll use the same argument I have used and say: If hell is reformative, shouldn't Jesus (and Abraham) have said so here? I mean, seriously, Abraham should have responded by saying, "Keep holding on. You'll be here with us soon!" But no, Abraham basically replies with, "You made your bed, now lie in it."

While we're at it, I do want to appreciate your gentlemanly behavior. This is the first debate on this topic I have had where the other person hasn't been rude or taken cheap shots or been a jerk. I completely disagree with your theology, but respect you. You obviously believe what you believe for a reason and not because it has been spoon-fed to you.

Tom van Dijk said...

The thing with Jesus is that He used parables a lot. They are usually not literal explanations about the world, but should be interpret. For example, you mention the story of the rich man and the poor beggar. What's interesting, is that you probably don't believe that when you die you will be lifted up by angels and fly to Abraham and talk to dead people in flames. Now the Pharisees believed that rich people are rich because God blesses them because they do good deeds and thus will end up in heaven. They also thought that poor people were poor because they or their parents did evil things and thus poor people will probably go to hell. Jesus completely turns this story upside down. Is the great chasm something Jesus explains here about the real hell, or is it part of the story? I would say it's part of the story. I hope there is no literal mustard tree growing out of you.

If you read a bit on the Internet, you'll find that there were basically three groups in 1st century Israel that we know of: Essenes, Pharisees and Sadducees. The last group didn't believe in an afterlife at all. The first two did. One of them believed in resurrection into heaven, the other one thought the flesh was a bad thing and only evil people would be resurrected and good people would remain spirits and be with God. Both agreed that evil and godless people would end up in the flesh in hell and be punished and tormented forever. They used words like "aidion timorion" for that. If you know Greek, you can read that in the books of Josephus.

There are good Greek words for eternity. Aidion is such a word. Another one is ateleuteton, undying or unending.

Jesus used "aionios kolasis" which I think I mentioned before. It is striking how different that is from what Essenes and Pharisees taught.

Aionios is a rather difficult word with quite a few meanings (it's Hebrew thought translated to Greek), but the philosophical "absolute eternity" is not one of them. Things that would fit are "world" (it's translated that way at some places in the New Testament as well) or "lifetime" or "long period" or "eon" or "age" or "future age" if that's contextually correct. What works best is to assign to it the feeling of a very long time, one that stretches beyond what you can see, the end of which you don't know. You know the "Third Age" in Lord of the Rings, or the "Modern Era" or "in our time" and things like that? Those are "aion", eons. They contrast with "seasons", short times, in 2 Corinthians 4:18.

And kolasis, well, there are various Greek sources that point out the difference between kolasis and timorion, before AND after the New Testament was written. Timorion is clearly the type of punishment that is out of revenge, to benefit the one punishing. Kolasis on the other hand is the punishment that is to benefit the one punished, so that he may learn from it. The Pharisees and Essenes used timorion.

Tom van Dijk said...

So as you can see there has been quite an amount of study in this :) What I observed is that the only biblical foundation for the endlessness of the punishment is the translation of aionios. If that translation is false or doubtful, then there is no ground for an endless punishment. A punishment with a purpose, that can only be escaped by believing in God and accepting the truth of the gospel and changing your heart, that fits fine with the message of the bible. A just punishment, no entry into heaven for anyone who is still evil or godless, but Christ died for all, for the whole world and because God is just, full of love, patient and faithful, even if we are not (Romans 3), and because God is mighty and can do what He wants and knows us intimately, eventually all people will be reconciled. This fits with the bible, just not with most theological traditions.

Heh, well many discussions and debates are spoiled by argumentum at intimidatium ;) it only works against people who have absolutely no idea what's going on and it's usually used by politicians and some christians with opinions...

As you observe correctly, I wasn't raised with a universalistic belief, but have been studying this topic for a number of years now. It was Thomas Talbott's book "The Inescapable Love of God" that introduced me to a subject I deemed heretical, being what you would call a calvinist up to that point. I'm Dutch, by the way.

There is so much I could write that's been written more eloquently by others, although some people use retorics that I know only upsets people. For example, the website "Merciful Truth" that I very recently discovered contains many of the arguments that I also use and may be a good resource if you can see behind the "are you still with me" comments the author sometimes uses. Still, it might be interesting to read, since he is not limited by amount of characters like I am ;)