Predestination Problem Solved – How I Got Free of
the Cognitive Dissonance Caused By the Predestination Dilemma, by John Lilley
man who is apparently some sort of Calvinist (basically, a person who believes
that God, for some unknown reason, arbitrarily chooses some people for eternal
bliss and some people for eternal torture/tragedy) emailed me, saying that the 10
Most Difficult Questions For Christians that I list are “silly”. He claimed
that those questions “are easy for any Christian who is willing to accept
predestination to answer”.
In the course of our email conversation this man I call “Joe” (not his real name) demanded that I “debunk Romans 9”. I replied, “God forbid that I should ‘debunk’ Scripture; I will interpret Romans 9 using common sense based rules of communication and Scriptural interpretation to the best of my ability.” I am keeping my word – and in the process I hope to explain to you, my readers, a vital Scriptural interpretation rule, which I will reveal/state at the end of this article, while also removing any confusion you might’ve had about Romans 9 (a classic predestination passage that gives Christians fits trying to explain without making God seem like a monster or blatantly taking an eraser to certain plain statements in the chapter).
By the way, I must point out that I also asked “Joe” to debunk the points in my free book Hell Is a Mistranslation if he could. He has not done so; as far as I know he still refuses to read the book. (Apparently the most important subject in the world and the most important subject in the Bible, the ultimate destinies of billions of precious people, is not worth his time.) However, he demanded that I “debunk” Romans 9. So I am obeying 1 Thessalonians 5:21 (“test everything”) and Proverbs 18:13 (“don’t answer a matter until you have heard it out fully”) and attempting to answer his interpretation of and assumptions about Romans 9 with my own explanation of the passage.
Romans 9 – A Classic Predestination Passage…How Can We Read This Passage Without Thinking That God Is a Monster?
I must take an educated guess at how Joe interprets Romans 9, since he did not actually offer me his interpretation of it or explain the rules he uses to interpret Scripture (or lack thereof).
From his statements about how he is “not afraid of hell” (easy for someone who thinks he is one of the tiny minority arbitrarily chosen for eternal bliss to say!) and his statement about how my 10 Difficult Questions For Christians are easy to answer for someone who is “willing to accept predestination” (which I assume means “willing to unquestioningly accept the horrific idea that God would arbitrarily choose some people for eternal bliss and others for eternal torture”), and going by his assertion that Romans 9 is an authoritative Bible passage that proves his view on predestination (as revealed by his demand that I “debunk” it), I assume that Joe interprets Romans 9 as proof that God arbitrarily chooses some people for eternal bliss and some for eternal torture.
God Does Arbitrarily Choose Some People and Not Others…But Not For Eternity
In a nutshell, I agree with Joe that God arbitrarily chooses some people and not others, as Romans 9 plainly states…but I don’t agree with him about exactly what God is choosing the chosen ones for, the time period this choice will be in effect, and the nature and duration of the consequences for those who are not chosen. This is because I have carefully studied the translation of a certain massively important Greek word (“eon”, its plural form “eons”, and its adjective form “eonian”) used frequently in the New Testament to talk about the time frame of reward, punishment, and God’s choice…a Greek word I can guarantee you Joe has never studied. My translation work on this word agrees with the most literal English Bible translations/versions (e.g. the Concordant Version and Young’s Literal Translation) but disagrees with many of the often loosely-translated readability-focused “popular” Bible translations/versions.
Friends, it is impossible to understand God if you don’t accurately know what He said in His Word. Because I translate this Greek word “eon/eons/eonian” (as well as an Old Testament Hebrew word/term “to/from olam”) consistently and accurately the way the most accuracy-focused, literal Bible translations do, I realize something about Romans 9 that Joe (like the average modern Christian reading a “popular/readable” English Bible version) doesn’t.
What do I realize about Romans 9 that Joe doesn’t? I realize that Joe is artificially superimposing a concept (“eternity and eternal destiny”) on top of Romans 9 that is not actually stated or referred to in Romans 9 in any way. The reason Joe and many other modern Christians artificially superimpose the idea of eternity and eternal destiny on top of Romans 9 is because they are reading popular, loosely-translated, readability-focused Bible versions they bought in the bookstore, which sometimes blatantly mistranslate “eon/eons/eonian” and “to/from olam” with words such as “eternal”, “everlasting”, or “forever” even though, as Hasting’s Dictionary of the New Testament states, there is no word in the Greek or Hebrew manuscripts of the Bible that directly refers to eternity or endlessness. (The word “immortality”, used for example in 1 Corinthians 15, indirectly refers to eternity and lets us know that we do have an eternal future; but the words “eternal”, “everlasting”, “forever”, “forever and ever”, etc. should never appear in any English Bible because they twist the meaning of the underlying Greek and Hebrew words. You also have to watch out for the word “never”.)
As you will see later in this article, the only way we can reconcile the apostle Paul’s statements in Romans 9 with statements he makes later in Romans 11, without Paul contradicting himself, is to remove the artificially-inserted concept of eternity and eternal punishment from Romans 9 in our minds…a concept that the apostle Paul himself does not insert into Romans 9 himself in any way.
Joe makes a classic Bible interpretation mistake (and in actuality, a classic mistake people sometimes make when interpreting any communication from anyone). The mistake is “artificially superimposing your own assumptions and mindset on top of a passage or piece of communication which does not plainly state those assumptions”. Joe, like many Christians, makes this classic mistake when reading Romans 9 and surely any other predestination Scripture he reads as well, causing him to think that God is what most people would call an unthinkable monster. What else would you call a God who arbitrarily chooses who gets eternal bliss and who gets eternal torture?
I want to point out that Joe, like most Christians who don’t understand what I teach in my free book on hell, is not a bad guy, even though he believes in a God that any thinking person would have to admit appears to be a monster. (What else can you call a powerful being who arbitrarily chooses who gets tortured forever and who gets to party forever?) Joe is probably a wonderful, loving, giving person in many ways; in fact it is possible that he might be better than me in certain areas of Christian living. He is probably, in everyday life, a very good reflection of the loving, wise God the Bible reveals. And Joe has one very important thing right concerning Bible interpretation too: he resists the urge to “explain away” the apostle Paul’s clear and specific statements in Romans 9 about God arbitrarily choosing people. That passage makes it very clear that God arbitrarily chooses some people and not others.
But Joe is also making a classic Bible interpretation mistake when it comes to Romans 9: he is artificially superimposing ideas that are not stated specifically in the passage itself, about exactly what for, and for how long God is arbitrarily choosing certain people (and not choosing other people).
Joe believes in a God that most people would call an unthinkable monster, because he feels he has no choice. He doesn’t know how to “debunk” Romans 9 (how to take the horrific idea of God arbitrarily choosing some people for eternal bliss and others for eternal torture out of the passage).
I do know how to take the horrific idea of God arbitrarily choosing some people for eternal bliss and others for eternal torture out of Romans 9, without saying that God does not arbitrarily choose people. The key is to understand through careful translation and interpretation of other pertinent Bible words and passages, what exactly God is choosing people for, and exactly how long His arbitrary choices will affect people. (Hint: the length of time His arbitrary choices will affect people is not eternity. The apostle Paul never states that it is eternity, and the concept that everything in the Bible – all punishment, reward, etc. – is about eternity is removed when you translated “eon/eons/eonian” and “to/from olam” accurately throughout the Bible.)
Most modern Christians, like Joe, are accustomed to thinking about eternity all the time. They think everything they read in the Bible is about eternity and people’s eternal destinies, etc. Why? Because they are reading “popular/readable” Bible versions that take great liberties (often artificially inserting the idea of eternity) when translating the Greek word “eon/eons/eonian”, which as I prove in my free book means “age/ages/pertaining-to-an-age-or-ages” (and has nothing to do with eternity or endlessness). Christians who read words like “forever”, “eternal”, “everlasting”, etc. in their “popular” English Bible versions are totally unaware that in every case the underlying Hebrew word (if in the Old Testament) is “to/from olam” which does not carry the meaning of eternity or endlessness, or the Greek word (if in the New Testament) “eon/age”, “eons/ages”, or “eonian/pertaining-to-an-age-or-ages”, which does not carry the meaning of endlessness or eternity either.
2 Corinthians 4:4 states that Satan is “the god of this eon/age” – are we to
believe that Satan’s reign over this earth will last forever? If Bible
translators then translate this same word “eon/age” (or its plural form
“eons/ages” or its adjective form “eonian/pertaining-to-or-lasting-for-an-age-or-ages”)
with a word referring to eternity or endlessness in another location in
Scripture, are we to believe that one word can have two opposite meanings? An
“age” or “ages” or “pertaining to an age or ages” is the exact opposite of eternity because an age or ages by their very
definition, have a specific beginning and a specific end, while eternity is time with no beginning or end!
Amazingly, Bible translators of many of the “popular” versions, in other places where the context allows them to get away with it without sounding ridiculous, translate this same word “eon/eons/eonian” as “forever” or “eternal” or “everlasting”…which completely violates every ounce of common sense in the universe because there is no word in any language that means one thing but also means the exact opposite of itself. (Again, an “age” or “ages” or “pertaining to an age or ages” is the exact opposite of eternity because an age or ages by their very definition, have a beginning and an end.)
Simply put, Bible translators of many of these “popular/readable” Bible versions you find in the bookstore, are confusing the heck out of everybody about God’s future plans for mankind by translating a Greek word (“eon/eons/eonian”) correctly sometimes but at other times as the opposite of itself. (And they also frequently translate the Old Testament Hebrew term “to/from olam” with an artificial insertion of the concept of eternity which is not actually found in the word/phrase itself; they do this because there is no direct equivalent of this Hebrew word/phrase in English, but that doesn't make it right - what they're doing is still incorrect and confusing.)
Bottom line, these Bible translators are artificially inserting the concept of eternity into all sorts of statements and passages in the Bible which do not actually contain any reference to eternity or endlessness. Why do they take such astounding (and confusing) liberties in their Bible translation work? Because before these translators even start translating, they have the preconceived idea in their heads that the concept of eternity must be in these passages and statements, and that everything in the Bible is about eternity. They inherited that idea from the Catholicism of the Middle Ages, which combined many pagan ideas and practices and teachings, including the pagan obsession with eternal punishment/reward, with Christianity.
Eternal reward/punishment based on whether you do what religious leaders say is a great way to control people, a control tactic pagan religions have used to produce purely-fear-based obedience/compliance/income throughout history. Unfortunately this concept got mixed in with Christianity by Catholicism in the Middle Ages for reasons of political expediency and unfortunately it was not purged out with the Reformation; it was not part of the original Christians’ belief system, which is easily proven historically – for example see the book by John Wesley Hanson that I recommend at the end of my free book.
When translating some of these popular/readable Bible versions, it obviously never even crosses the translators’ minds to analyze the fact that they are often translating a word (“eon/eons/eonian”) as one thing one minute (an age or ages or pertaining to an age or ages, periods of time which by definition have a beginning and an end), and then as the opposite thing (eternal/everlasting/forever, which by definition is time with no beginning or end) the next minute! They are loosely translating in many of these instances (the instances where they translate “eon/eons/eonian” or "to/from olam" as something to do with eternity), and to them it feels natural and right because of their preconceived, pagan/Catholic-inherited idea that everything in the Bible is about eternity. The problem is, it is not right. It is wrong, and massively confusing to anybody trying to read one of the “popular/readable” English Bibles they have translated so loosely.
The translators of many of these popular, readability-focused Bible versions are sometimes breaking a common sense rule of communication that no one in their right mind could ever argue with (“no word has two opposite meanings”)…why? They’re not really thinking about what they’re doing, they’re just blindly and automatically inserting their preconceived ideas about “eternal this, eternal that” into the Bible. The “logic” they’re using is, “The Bible must be all about eternal this, eternal that, because that’s what we’ve been taught, so it makes sense to us to translate the word 'eon/eons/eonian' and the phrase 'to/from olam' that way sometimes.” My logic (and the logic of the strictly literal, accuracy-focused Concordant Version and Young’s Literal Translation) is, “The word 'eon/eons/eonian' should never be translated with a word referring to eternity because that would violate the common sense rule that a word cannot have two opposite meanings, and 'to/from olam' should not be translated with a word referring to eternity because it does not carry that meaning.”
It is up to you, dear reader, to decide whose logic you will agree with on this – I invite you to read my free book for more details. If you read to the end of this article (and my free book for more detail) you will realize that translating the Greek word “eon/eons/eonian” consistently and accurately throughout the New Testament suddenly enables us to see that the Bible clearly explains exactly how long, the exact period of time the “predestined” “chosen ones” are chosen for, the exact reward they will receive during this specific period of time, as well as the exact length of time the non-predestined, non-chosen ones are not chosen for (the same length of time the chosen ones are chosen for), the specific punishment these non-chosen ones will receive during that specific period of time, and it becomes very clear that the period of time in question is not eternity, it is two specific ages of human history that God already has planned, which will have a very specific beginning and a very specific end as outlined and plainly stated in Scripture.
But Joe, and many modern Christians, don’t understand any of this. They have never been exposed to any information about the translation issues surrounding “eon/eons/eonian” (or “to/from olam”, or the other couple Greek/Hebrew words I talk about in the first three chapters of my book.) They have never cracked open a super-literal, accurate translation of the Bible such as the Concordant Version or Young’s Literal Translation. They never think to doubt the “expert” translators who have given them such a marvelously “readable” and “popular” Bible version to buy at the bookstore.
Friends, it is literally impossible to understand God’s future plans for mankind by reading most of the “popular/readable” Bible versions you’d find in the bookstore. How can you understand God if you do not understand accurately what He said in His Word? How can you expect to understand God’s future plans for mankind if you do not accurately translate massively important words that speak very specifically about the time periods involved in His future plans?
But most modern Christians never think to doubt the translators of their popular, readable Bible version. So Joe, like many other modern Christians, tells himself that it is ok to believe in a God whose grand plan he cannot logically explain, a God most people would call a monster, because he assumes the word “hell” is in the Bible and he assumes the word “eternal/everlasting/forever” is all over the Bible, and thus he feels his only choices are to believe in a hell-and-eternal-punishment-God-whose-actions-are-impossible-to-explain, or to stop believing in the Bible altogether. He tells himself (correctly) that he cannot explain away the plain statements in Romans 9 about how God chooses some people and not others, but he (incorrectly) assumes God is choosing those people for eternal bliss or eternal torture…he assumes everything in Romans 9 has to do with eternity even though the author of the passage (the apostle Paul) never states that…and this one simple false assumption about Romans 9 and other predestination passages leaves Joe with what most people would call a monster God.
Joe he is unwilling and unable to leave the Bible altogether, because the rest of the Bible rings true and wonderful to him…So when someone calls him out on the fact that what he believes about the whole hell and predestination thing makes no sense, he resorts to what many people who can’t explain the logic behind their beliefs (but are still passionate about them) do…he yells at anyone who disagrees with him and tells us he’s praying that we won’t go to hell (he doesn’t know the word “hell” is not in the Bible and is nowhere to be found in the literal and super-accuracy-focused translations such as the Concordant Version and Young’s Literal Translation). Joe just fusses and fumes without ever engaging on the level of logic and common sense, never explaining how his God isn’t a monster, because he can’t explain how his God isn’t a monster. He can’t engage on the level of logic and common sense arguments on this particular topic (hell and predestination). But he can’t explain away the logic and common sense he sees in the rest of the Bible either…
So you see, Joe, like many modern Christians, is stuck in a feedback loop of cognitive dissonance (a problem he does not know how to solve) that will only disappear if he becomes humble enough to allow new information about Bible translation and interpretation that he’s never thought of before to enter his brain so his brain can toss it about, test it, etc. in obedience to 1 Thessalonians 5:21. If Joe were to do that, I think he’d be set free of his monster God and his cognitive dissonance, and he’d realize that God is actually who the rest of the Bible shows God to be, a God that makes logical sense, a God that is not a monster at all. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 (“test everything”) applied to the information I teach about the common sense rules of Bible translation and interpretation is Joe’s (and the rest of Christianity’s) ticket to freedom from cognitive dissonance on the subject of predestination.
The most common phrase found in the testimonies I receive from readers of my free book Hell Is a Mistranslation is some variation of, “It finally makes sense!” In other words, readers are saying, “Your book freed me from my cognitive dissonance, it solved Scriptural/philosophical/logical problems for me that I previously did not know how to solve.” Let’s talk a bit more about Joe’s (and most of modern Christianity’s) cognitive dissonance, because this is a very important subject that spends a lot of time gurgling about in the back of Christian’s minds (and in the pages of books by atheists, and in the minds of non-Christians), yet is virtually never addressed by Christian leaders and pastors. Let’s address it. Let’s face it head on.
Let’s Imagine That Romans 9 Is About Eternity, and See Where It Takes Us…
Friends, let’s just imagine for a moment that Joe’s assumption that the arbitrary choices God makes about people as described in Romans 9, are arbitrary choices about people’s eternal destiny (some people being chosen for eternal bliss and others for eternal torture). Let’s follow that line of thinking for a moment and see where it takes us. It’s worth it for us Christians to take the time to do this, because if we don’t do it, the unbelievers we try to talk to will do it for us!
Most Christians lean toward being what I would call anti-Calvinists or people who believe in “salvation as a purely human choice”; most Christians believe it is the individual’s choice, and the individual’s choice alone, whether to get saved or not in this age (a belief that is in direct and blatant violation of Ephesians 1:4 and Romans 9). They say things like, “God doesn’t send you to hell, you send yourself to hell.” (But they cannot explain why God would create the universe and the system of punishment for humans in such a way that those who fail to believe the right thing before they die end up being tortured eternally. And they cannot explain how trillions upon trillions of years of torture is fair/just punishment for a few decades of sin, or why, if that was the case, God would seem to be operating by a completely different sense of justice for punishing humanity than that which He built into humanity.)
The God of the non-Calvinists, the “human choice hell-mongers”, as I call them…is a monster. As explained by this particular brand of hell-monger, God gives people a choice about “whether to go to hell or not”; but if you don’t believe the right thing by the time you’re (whatever age you die, which varies greatly – and what if you never hear the gospel, or lived before Jesus died on the cross?), you’re still burnt and tortured over and over again, screaming in agony for trillions of years. If I brought ten kids into this world and later threw gasoline on nine of them and set them on fire because they didn’t believe and act to my standards by the time they were 15, or 20, or 40, or 60 years of age (it varies depending mainly on chance and circumstance)…any respectable human justice system would lock me up and throw away the key. But somehow, according to the “human choice hell-mongers”, God can get away with it…How could He do this without being considered a monster? Why would He operate according to a completely different sense of justice than that which He built into us, and not even bother to explain to us why?
The “human choice hell-mongers” have no answer for that question; they just resort to the old “we can’t understand God” cop-out which blatantly flies in the face of Jeremiah 9:24 and Proverbs 28:5 (which state that God expects us to understand Him and all the major issues of life). And they can’t “explain away” the clear statements in Scripture about God sovereignly choosing some people (e.g. Eph. 1:4, Romans 9). So they are stuck with an unsolved philosophical dilemma and an unsolved Scriptural dilemma.
The “human choice hell-mongers” say, “God doesn’t have to explain Himself to us.” If that’s good enough for you, stop reading now.
Joe, like some other Christians I would loosely categorize as “Calvinists”, disagrees with the anti-Calvinist “human choice hell-mongers” because he (correctly) refuses to “explain away” the plain statements in Romans 9 and Ephesians 1:4 about how God arbitrarily chooses people. But he erroneously assumes that the Bible's statements about predestination have to do with eternity and people's eternal destinies. So Joe, since he can think of no other solution, fancies himself a Calvinist, or what I would call a “God’s choice hell-monger”.
But the philosophical ramifications of Joe’s belief system are even worse than the belief system of the “human choice hell-mongers”! The God of the “human choice hell-mongers” is a monster, but He’s nothing compared to the God of the “God’s choice hell-mongers”! The “God’s choice hell-mongers” preach a God who arbitrarily chooses who gets tortured forever and who doesn’t! Why anyone would want to serve a God like this is beyond my comprehension. (This is why most of modern Christianity, seeing no other solution, blatantly tries to cut Ephesians 1:4 and Romans 9 out of the Bible.) Of course, why anyone would want to serve the God of the “human choice hell-mongers” is beyond my comprehension too (at least now that I know what I explain in my book Hell Is a Mistranslation), but the God of the “God’s choice hell-mongers” is even worse than most pagan religions! Pagan religions at least give (some) people a choice of whether to have a horrific and tragic “afterlife” (by which they mean “conscious death for eternity”)…but the God of the “God’s choice hell-mongers” is even worse than all those pagan religions! I don’t know of any pagan religion that says that God arbitrarily chooses who gets a blissful eternity and who gets a tortuous/tragic eternity!
Again, the “God’s choice hell-mongers”, to their credit, do not try to “explain away” the clear Scriptural statements such as those in Romans 9 and Ephesians 1:4 about how God sovereignly chooses some people, but they cannot explain how those statements can co-exist in Scripture with other clear statements about how our actions and choices matter; and they cannot explain why God would arbitrarily choose who gets a blissful eternity and who gets a tragic/torturous eternity; so they too end up resorting to the old “we can’t understand God” cop-out which blatantly flies in the face of Jeremiah 9:24 and Proverbs 28:5. They too are stuck with an unsolved philosophical dilemma and an unsolved Scriptural dilemma.
The “God’s choice hell-mongers” say, “God doesn’t have to explain Himself to us.” If that’s good enough for you, stop reading now.
The Calvinist and anti-Calvinist (or “opposite of Calvinist”) views are two different ways of trying to solve the same philosophical/Scriptural cognitive dissonance, the same unanswered question: “How can we have a God who creates a system in which the punishment for 100 years of sin (max, often much less) is trillions of years of endless torture, and then puts statements in His Word to the effect that He arbitrarily chooses some people (and not others), without having a God who by any common sense reckoning is a monster?”
The “human choice hell-monger” solution is to act like predestination Scriptures such as Romans 9 and Ephesians 1:4 aren’t in the Bible. The “God’s choice hell-monger” solution is to blindly accept and serve a God who would arbitrarily choose who gets to be tortured forever and who gets to party forever.
Both sets of hell-mongers (and annihilationists, a variation thereof) cannot answer my 10 Most Difficult Questions For Christians satisfactorily. They basically end up saying, “It is impossible to understand God when it comes to His ultimate plan for mankind. Just live with it. Our only other option is to completely discard the Bible, which we are unwilling to do, so we choose to simply live with the fact that our God’s ultimate plan for mankind makes no logical sense and makes Him appear to be a monster. The solution as far as popular preaching goes is simply to never mention this issue, or only mention it briefly in passing, so that people don’t start to think too much about it lest they perceive a massive hole in our belief system and leave the church.”
Both sets of hell-mongers (and annihilationists) basically just end up saying, “God doesn’t have to explain Himself to us.” But the million-dollar question is, “Why would you want to serve a God who refuses to explain Himself to you on an issue as massively important as the ultimate destiny of billions of precious humans?”
Don’t hate me for speaking the truth, folks. Don’t hate me for bringing up a “sore subject” that most modern Christians try to avoid or shove to the back of their minds. I’m also offering you a solution! (Read my free book to understand the solution, and to the end of this article to have the basics presented to you.)
Now here’s the thing…If you were to observe the everyday lives of both these sets of hell-mongers, you would find that most of them are very kind, loving people – wonderful people and wonderful Christians for the most part. But suddenly when it comes to the eternal destiny of billions of precious humans, they are ok with their God being an unreasonable monster! (Note: It’s much easier to believe in a God who would set up the system of the universe so that the vast majority of the people He brings into existence will end up being tortured for eternity, when you fancy yourself one of the tiny few who gets eternal bliss! All you have to do is try not to think about all the billions of precious people who will be tortured eternally…just try not to think about it...just shove it to the back of your mind...)
The reason both varieties of hell-monger are willing to live with and willingly/lovingly serve a God most people would call a monster, is not that these hell-monger Christians are stupid, or unreasonable in most areas of life, or horrible people. The reason is that
their Bible makes perfect sense to them in every area except for the hell thing and the predestination thing, but they don’t know how to logically solve those two issues, so they just cop out and say “it is impossible to understand God in those areas”, or they stick to one side or the other of the issue and insist on having a nonsensical monster God. They are willing to make this compromise, and live with it, because they simply don’t know any other solution and they are (rightly) unwilling to throw out the rest of the Bible because the rest of the Bible does make a lot of sense and reveals a wonderful, non-monster God. These Christians see the words “hell” and “forever/eternal” in their English Bibles, they don’t know those are blatant mistranslations, they don’t know pagan/Catholic tradition has taught their “popular version” Bible translators to translate certain words with total disregard for common sense translation rules, they don’t realize that pagan/Catholic tradition has taught them and their pastors/leaders to interpret certain key passages with total disregard for the common sense rules of communication we always use to interpret all other communication, and thus they see no solution to the hell/predestination thing. Yet they are unwilling/unable (for many good reasons) to throw the Bible in the trash bin…So they are stuck in a feedback loop of cognitive dissonance.
Your Ticket To Freedom From the Horrible Feedback Loop of Cognitive Dissonance About Hell and Predestination
Most Christians live with constant cognitive dissonance (an unsolved problem in their minds) about hell and predestination. They live in a continual state of “Just shove it to the back of your mind and try not to think about it”…and if you’re a pastor or preacher with a successful public ministry, there’s an unspoken rule that says, “Rarely mention hell or predestination because they are horrifically depressing subjects and it is impossible to explain God’s reasoning behind them, and we wouldn’t want to expose our inability to explain something about God and the Bible, now would we?”
Because they see no solution to their unsolved Scriptural and philosophical dilemmas regarding hell and predestination, most modern Christians live continually with what is called “cognitive dissonance”. Most modern Christian leaders tolerate this cognitive dissonance in their own minds and in the minds of their congregation, because they are making a decent living anyway; so anyone in the congregation who dares to think about, ask about, or challenge the pastor/leader on this cognitive dissonance will either quietly struggle in their walk with God, quietly leave church or, if they dare to open their mouth, simply be given the left foot of fellowship and called “a heretic”…and the “cognitive dissonance problem” on the issues of hell and predestination will remain unsolved…for everybody in that local congregation.
So let’s talk about how to solve “cognitive dissonance” before we go back to Romans 9, because Romans 9 is one of the classic Bible passages that gives modern Christians feverish fits of cognitive dissonance; modern Christians don’t know how to take Paul’s statements in Romans 9 at face value (as those statements should be taken) without ending up with a God who is an unthinkable monster. The first step to solving this cognitive dissonance about Romans 9 is to learn the keys to solving cognitive dissonance anytime you come across it.
Cognitive dissonance is a fancy term for an unsolved problem in your brain; it is when you live your life by a set of values that your mind has not fully convinced itself is logically correct.
You can shove cognitive dissonance to the back of your mind over and over, you can try not to think about it, you can yell at people that point out the logical flaws in your belief system (a frequent occurrence when those flaws are exposed, because the underlying frustration of living with cognitive dissonance tends to lead to outbursts of anger when your inability to solve the problem is exposed), you can try to deny it over and over…but the cognitive dissonance will never go away until the logical problem is solved in your mind to the complete satisfaction of the intellectual capacity God gave you, and it will continually be exposed every time someone asks a question about your belief system that you cannot answer to the full satisfaction of your own logical mind.
Some people might complain that what I’m talking about is “leaning on your own understanding”, or “worshipping the intellect”, but that’s the opposite of what I’m talking about. I’m talking about not being satisfied until you know the truth. Loving and seeking the truth (Jesus is the Truth, see Matt. 7:7) is a very spiritual thing. And the Bible commands us to use logic and our logical mind when seeking truth. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 says, “Test everything and hold on to what is good”; it is impossible to test without using logic and your intellect. The Bible also says, “Those who seek the Lord understand all things” (Prov. 28:5 – this obviously does not mean that we understand every piece of information in the world including all computer programming languages and quantum physics theories, but rather that we understand all the major issues regarding life, God, and God’s Word). In addition, the Bible says, (God speaking), “Let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows Me.”
God expects us to understand Him. As I often say, if you do not understand a person’s long-term plans and the reasoning behind those plans, you do not really understand that person.
And friends, there is no way to understand a subject without logically understanding it. Logic and understanding and truth are all one and the same, and they are a very spiritual thing. If I say to you, “I believe such-and-such is true” your first thought is, and should be, “Prove it logically.” If something cannot be proven logically it should not be believed or treated as truth. (This is not rocket science folks.) This is true of God too. If there is not a logical reason for me to believe in and serve the God of the Bible, why would anyone do it?
Now, if we Christians are not to be hypocrites, we must insist on applying this simple, common sense idea that “no one should believe in something that cannot be logically proven” to the subject of God’s punishment for sin (what happens at death) and God’s ultimate plan for mankind too. If you do not understand the logical reason behind your friend’s long-term plans, if you do not understand why he wants to do certain things, and the motivation in his mind and heart for wanting to do those things…you do not understand your friend. And why would you serve a purpose you do not understand?
Most modern Christians cannot explain the logical reason behind (what they think are) God’s long-term plans, they cannot explain why He wants to do (what they think He plans to do), and they cannot explain His motivation for doing (what they think He wants to do). They do not understand God’s reasoning behind (what they perceive to be) His grand purpose. Therefore they do not understand their own God on a macro level. The typical modern Christian’s willingness to serve, approve of, and preach God’s grand purpose even though they cannot explain His reasoning behind it can only be described as cognitive dissonance.
Cognitive dissonance is a sign that we have not yet reached the standard set by Proverbs 28:5 (understanding all the major issues surrounding God, His Word, and life) in our understanding of and relationship with God. The first step in solving a problem is recognizing the problem in the first place. So how can we recognize cognitive dissonance in ourselves and in others?
Cognitive dissonance not only shows itself to you internally when you have a problem you can’t figure out the answer to in your own mind, it also shows itself outwardly by the fact that a person who habitually lives with cognitive dissonance cannot actually live out his beliefs in practicality.
Most Christians Do Not Actually Believe In Hell (They Say They Do, But Their Actions Prove Otherwise)
Friends, if every Christian who says they believe in hell actually believed in hell, they would care nothing for making money, for entertainment, for living a normal life in any way, or for having children (what if those children end up in hell – if there’s even a 1% chance of it I’d rather not have any children!)…because they would spend every waking moment warning people about hell.
If every Christian preacher, pastor or leader who says they believe in hell actually believed in hell, they would never or rarely preach about anything else. Yet the last several times I have heard hell mentioned by preachers and pastors, hell was referred to in a joking or lighthearted manner. I kid you not. These Christian leaders obviously do not really believe in hell. They will tell you they do with their mouth and in their “official statements of faith” on their church websites, but their actions say otherwise.
Of course, the tiny minority of Christians who make some attempt to take their belief in hell seriously are an extreme annoyance to society instead of being “the salt of the earth”; not that annoying sinners is a bad thing necessarily, but you know exactly what I mean: hyper-hell-mongers make people run the other way, and although they may scare a few people into getting saved, they mostly just end up highlighting the absurdity of their belief in a monstrous God and they make most people want to have even less to do with God, the Bible, and Christians. (What kind of God/Father says, “I love you. Love me back or burn forever!”????) Hyper-hell-mongers, because they’re basically going around telling people, “God loves you unless you don’t believe the right thing by the time you die, in which case He considers you so worthless that you are valuable enough only to be tortured for trillions of years”, remind me of the old song, “You give love…a bad name!” Which is unfortunate, because hyper-hell-mongers, as I call them, are the few hell-mongers who actually make some attempt to walk their talk when it comes to hell, and thus I actually respect them more than most Christians who say they believe in hell.
Most Christians rarely if ever warn anybody about hell…which proves that deep in their heart of hearts, they don’t believe in hell – or to put it another way, deep in their heart of hearts hell does not make sense to them, it doesn’t jive with what life seems to be all about, it doesn’t jive with what they see in the rest of the Bible and in the world around them (a good, just, loving God who made a world full of precious people designed to live a life God created to be enjoyed). Going around stressing and anguished all the time about billions of precious people being tortured for eternity is not only emotionally exhausting and draining, it flies in the face of the obvious fact that every human being is precious and valuable.
So most Christians do not really believe in hell, as proven by their actions. Now I do not have that much of a problem with people who have cognitive dissonance on the subject of hell and predestination simply due to ignorance (they have never had the solution I explain in my free book presented to them in any way shape or form). This type of Christian is sort of the equivalent of an unbeliever who has never heard the gospel. This type of “living with cognitive dissonance because they’ve never heard the information that would free them from it” Christians has an excuse, in a way. Sort of. I guess. According to Proverbs 28:5, we don’t really have an excuse, since that verse says if we seek the Lord long and hard enough we’ll understand all the major issues about God and His Word and life. But everyone is in a different place in their journey, and who am I to say, “You’re a bad or inferior Christian because you haven’t discovered this yet.” After all, I spent many years serving God to the best of my ability and living as best I could with cognitive dissonance about hell and predestination before I discovered what I teach in my book Hell Is a Mistranslation. (I was not the first to discover these things by any means, when I say “I discovered them” I simply mean the information was new to me at the time. I have made it my goal to explain this information as clearly as it can possibly be explained, and gauging by the testimonies, I think I largely succeeded with my book Hell Is a Mistranslation.)
So I am not too hard on people who put up with cognitive dissonance on the subjects of hell and predestination because they simply have never heard certain information about this subject before. The proof in the pudding comes when a person is presented with a possible logical solution for their cognitive dissonance, information they have never heard before, which they have the opportunity to investigate and study further (say, when they come across my website and my free book). That’s when we find out if the person is a truth-seeker, or a comfort-lover. The extent to which the person obeys 1 Thessalonians 5:21 and the principle outlined in Proverbs 18:13 when presented with a possible solution to their cognitive dissonance, indicates the level to which they are a truth-seeker. (I’m not saying you must agree with me about everything to be considered a truth-seeker, I’m saying the level to which you carefully consider and study new and possibly helpful information that might help you understand the Bible, God, and life, better, reveals how much of a truth-seeker you are. How much time and effort do you put into solving your cognitive dissonance?)
This is when Jesus’ statement that “If a man is willing to do God’s will” (no matter what the temporary personal consequences) “he shall know of the teaching, whether it is from God” (Jn. 7:17) comes into play. Friends, truth is useless to a person who is not willing to learn it. If a person is not willing to change their beliefs no matter what and wants to cling to lifestyle comfort (doesn’t want to risk having to admit they were wrong about something, doesn’t want to risk loss of their cozy Christian/church social circle or Christian friends, doesn’t want to risk loss of ministry income, etc.) to the point where they will ignore a possible solution to their cognitive dissonance that is presented to them…that person is not a truth seeker or a lover of truth.
(I should mention…Many if not most pastors and Christian leaders have a lot of trouble being willing to examine new information about interpreting Scripture because they know if they change their teachings in any way, they will split their church and they will not just lose their livelihood but the effective ministry of the church will be largely lost too. It is a hard line for Christian leaders to walk because they have to spend a lot of time and effort defending their beliefs and way of doing things from every opinion in the congregation and in the world at large in order to simply keep the ministry running and accomplishing good things for people; in other words leaders, especially Christian leaders, have to have very thick skin to do what they do. Thus it is hard for Christian leaders to open their minds to any idea that would significantly change how they view/teach any significant subject in Scripture. This is why Jesus told the parable of the wineskins.)
Now, it doesn’t take a genius to see that there is a very strong chance that a non-truth-seeker (who refuses to obey 1 Thessalonians 5:21 and Proverbs 18:13 for whatever reason) will have doctrinal disagreements with people who habitually and fanatically obey 1 Thessalonians 5:21 and Proverbs 18:13. People who habitually and fanatically obey those two Scriptural commands will have disagreements amongst each other sometimes, because everyone is at a different stage in their truth seeking journey, and none of us can claim to be perfect. But hardcore truth seekers will even more frequently find themselves at odds with the type of Christian that has a lot to lose lifestyle-wise if they change any of their ideas about the Bible. (Again, this is why Jesus told the parable of the wineskins; any new way of doing things will always be opposed by the old way, regardless of whether the new way is more Scripturally accurate or not, Scripturally important or not, or Scripturally neutral. This is because the leaders of the established status quo have a lot to lose if people leave them in favor of the new way.)
The dynamic I just explained is at the root of every large-scale and small-scale advance and recovery of the truth in Christian history since the dark days of the pagan/Catholic/political-religious-power dominated Middle Ages when common people weren’t allowed to have Bibles and church was conducted in a language the common people didn’t speak and all sorts of pagan absurdities were “normal” in “church”. The old wineskins always persecute any new wineskin, sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly. Time and fruit tell us which new wineskins have actually improved the situation rather than introducing “dangerous deceptions”. A teaching labeled by the status quo as a “dangerous deception” might be a deception, or it might be a restoration of truth. And the real test, other than applying common sense based Scriptural interpretation rules to test the teaching, is the fruit the teaching produces; it often helps to withhold judgment until enough time has gone by for the long-term fruit of the new teaching to manifest itself (see Matt. 7:20).
Jesus said, “If any man is willing , he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or not.” This tell us that doctrinal divisions result from some people being willing to live the truth while others are not willing to live the truth. This is why I care little whether the status quo Christian establishment likes what I teach or not – they simply have too much to lose (it is too hard for them to be willing to accept and change their teaching to what I’ve learned about God’s ultimate plan for mankind revealed in the accurately translated Bible)…a person or group that has a lot to lose is often not going to be very good at accurately testing and judging an idea that threatens their power and expertise.
So because of the “groups and people that have a lot to lose will often be unwilling to accept truth even if it slaps them in the face” dynamic, there will be doctrinal disagreements among Christians until kingdom come; in some cases we will simply have to wait until Jesus comes back to find out who is right and who is wrong. But the fruit of a certain belief system is one of the main indicators we have now (Matt. 7:20).
Martin Luther was persecuted (wrongly) when he kickstarted the large-scale truth-recovery train by discovering that certain practices of the “mainstream church” of his day were completely unscriptural (such as trying to earn salvation through works, Mary worship, paying money so your dead loved ones have a better time in purgatory, etc.) and standing up against those deceptions. But the fruit turned out to be very good.
I could name more movements and restorations of truth after that point in history, that were also truly (or largely, when you peel away the excesses) “of God” as evidenced by their fruit, but you get the point. And all along the way you’ve got all sorts of mini-divisions of all the major divisions, restored truths being twisted way out of whack, harmful false doctrines with obviously horrible fruit (e.g. the shepherding or “your pastor has to approve every decision you make” movement) followed by teaching ministries that correct those doctrines and heal people from their effects, movements where God obviously downloads something onto virtually the whole body of Christ (say, the praise and worship movement of the 90’s – I remember a Nashville music exec saying to a songwriter friend of mine in the early 90’s, “you wouldn’t really have the word ‘hallelujah’ in a song” and a few years later every Christian band was putting out a worship album because praise and worship was outselling everything else due to demand for it from the body of Christ)…etc., etc.
And the whole time you’ve got everybody calling everybody they disagree with on any doctrinal issue a “deceiver”. So who’s right about all these issues?
The Only Way To Figure Out Who Is Right and Who Is Wrong On Any Bible Interpretation Issue
How do we know who is right and who is wrong on any given Bible interpretation issue?
Friends, the answer is to learn how to take the common sense rules we use 100% of the time to interpret all communication in every day life, and use those rules 100% of the time when interpreting Scripture.
Many of you will say, “I’ve never heard that concept before.” I know you’ve never heard it before. That’s why there are a million doctrinal divisions in the body of Christ in this age. (Please understand, I’m not claiming I’m right about all my Bible interpretation work with no exceptions. I try to be, but only God knows for sure if I am. But I’m quite sure that what I just wrote about “strictly using the common sense based rules for interpreting communication that we use 100% of the time when interpreting all communication, to interpret Scripture too…because these rules are often the only referee between doctrinal viewpoints” is right, and I do my best to apply it. Keep reading to learn more.)
It’s obvious that Christians disagree about all sorts of things because we’ve never agreed on a set of rules that ought to be used to interpret the Bible. Most Christians and even Christian leaders have never even thought about the need to agree on a set of Bible interpretation rules, and most Christians have never heard a message about Bible interpretation rules or the need for them. So everybody’s using a different set of rules (or, more accurately put, no rules at all), and we have all sorts of doctrinal divisions.
And you know what? God is totally fine with that. He’s ok with all these divisions in the body of Christ. In fact, the Bible says it’s necessary! Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:19, “There must be divisions/factions among you so that those who are approved may become manifest among you.” The reason God allows these divisions is so that later on He can use the hardcore truth seekers as an example of the benefits of seeking and loving truth, and use the non-truth-seekers (who love comfort, pride, or other self-seeking motives above truth) as an example of the negative consequences of such an attitude. You see, there are benefits to learning and knowing the truth: “The truth shall set you free.” (Jn. 8:32) One thing the truth sets you free from is cognitive dissonance (the frustration of trying to live according to a belief system you are not totally convinced of).
(Don’t be confused by 1 Cor. 1:10 where Paul appealed to the Corinthian church to not have any divisions; he was appealing to them to stick to what he had taught them directly. It was possible for them to do that because he had taught them directly what God had revealed to him directly, and he was still around to correct them personally via letters etc. In fact that’s what a lot of the New Testament is – Paul writing letters to correct the churches he started so they wouldn’t get away from what he taught them! Today, however, it’s been a long time since we’ve had somebody who wrote two thirds of the New Testament around to teach us personally and directly and clarify for us his own teachings and writings, so a lot of confusion and division has set in. I mean, for Pete’s sake, for hundreds of years the common people had church in a language they didn’t understand and they weren’t allowed to have a Bible! The Bible was first “mass translated” from its original languages into other languages at a time when paganism was being combined with Christianity by the powers that be so that the political leaders could more easily please and control everybody. And all down the years countless people have tried to use God and Christianity to accomplish their own self-seeking agendas...while most people blindly believe what they hear in church on Sunday and don’t think about much else. The result has been massive confusion and error on certain subjects that hardcore truth seekers must sort through if they ever want to know and understand the truth of the original teachings of the original Jesus, disciples, and the apostle Paul. No wonder it takes a modern Christian a little bit of truth seeking effort to start returning to the beliefs of the original Christians on certain subjects! Not to mention that God is allowing a liar named Satan to rule the earth in this age – 2 Cor. 4:4 – and choose its human power brokers in this age – Lk. 4:5-6! Is it any wonder that as a truth seeker you feel like your brain hurts sometimes from the effort of making sense of life, God, and the Bible? I believe if you read my free book your brain will hurt a lot less!)
Friends, God is not bothered by disagreements amongst Christians in this age; it’s part of what He’s allowing as an educational lesson for us all later on. The key for the truth seeker is to figure out how to cut through all the confusion and deception to the truth. That key is to rely on the Holy Spirit to lead you and guide you into the truth by showing you things in a way that makes sense to you (Jn. 16:13 + 1 Thess. 5:21), to try to have humility and desperate love for the truth to the point where you fanatically obey 1 Thessalonians 5:21 (“Test everything and hold on to what is good”) and Proverbs 18:13 (“He who answers a matter before hearing it out, it is folly and shame to him”), and put significant time into it, while being willing to believe something new if your logical mind tells you it is right and the fruit is good, even if it contradicts something you previously believed and/or causes you temporary lifestyle reduction (Jn. 7:17).
If you do this, I believe you will eventually stumble upon the need to use common sense based rules that no sane person could ever argue with, the same rules we use to interpret all communication, when interpreting Scripture. Because that’s the only way for your logical mind to latch onto something undeniably true as a “referee” between doctrinal viewpoints and varying interpretations of the same Bible passage or Scripture topic.
People who love comfort and love feeling like they’re always right will not obey 1 Thessalonians 5:21 or Proverbs 18:13, or allow themselves to explore (much less accept) any idea that might cause them to have a lifestyle reduction in any way (loss of friends, loss of ministry income, even just having to admit they were wrong, etc.). They will continue stumbling around in the dark in many ways until Jesus comes back.
You see, when combined with pride, cognitive dissonance is a horrible disease that has no cure until the pride is beaten down by a heart-wrenching desire to be free of cognitive dissonance, continual prayer along the lines of John 13:16 (trust in God’s ability to show you truth and teach it to you in a way that makes sense to your logical mind rather than relying on your own ability to “force” interpretations that still leave you with traces – or bucketfuls – of cognitive dissonance), and continual obedience to 1 Thessalonians 5:21 along with continual willingness to explore new ideas even if they might hurt your pride and your lifestyle, until the solution to the problem becomes apparent to your logical mind.
Christians who are not truth seekers and do not travel on that path will never be free of their cognitive dissonance regarding hell and predestination, and will continually have to find ways to blow off the “frustration steam” that their “cognitive dissonance and pride combination” causes them.
This is why Joe simply yelled at me and insulted me and attacked my “scholarly credentials” (or lack thereof) instead of meeting me on the level of Scriptural/factual/logical discussion; this is why he declined to even read a chapter or two of my book (though I sent it to him for free) and declined to attempt to debunk a single point in my book. He knows his answers to my “10 Most Difficult Questions For Christians” will not satisfy the majority of thinking people, he knows they do not truly satisfy his own logical mind (as evidenced by his last email which essentially said “my definition of faith is to be willing to believe in something I don’t understand, which is how I live with my cognitive dissonance”)…and at the same time he is totally unwilling to explore/test any idea that does not agree with what he already believes…Joe is caught in the no-man’s land feedback loop of cognitive dissonance combined with pride because he refuses to obey 1 Thessalonians 5:21 and Proverbs 18:13.
Again, I’m not saying Joe is not a truth seeker/lover just because he doesn’t agree with everything I say. I’m saying he’s not a truth seeker/lover because he absolutely refuses to take 15 minutes to crack open a book that might solve the greatest cognitive dissonance in the mind of most modern Christians (and one of the greatest things that keeps unbelievers from giving us the time of day), about the most important subject in the world, and he’s completely unwilling to take even a nanosecond to absorb it, test it, examine it, and analyze it in obedience to 1 Thessalonians 5:21. He just flatly disobeys 1 Thessalonians 5:21 and Proverbs 18:13, answering my book with a “I refuse to examine that”. Oh well. His loss. Welcome to lifelong cognitive dissonance, Joe. (In this age.) Welcome to a lifetime (in this age) of non-Christians saying to you, “You don’t make any sense. Your God is a monster, and even if He was real I wouldn’t serve Him. Get out of my face.” Welcome to a lifetime of trying to tell millions and billions of precious people whose loved ones died without giving their lives to the Lord, “Your loved one is burning and screaming right now because God didn’t choose them.”
I don’t want to be Joe. I can’t help anybody by refusing to even try to solve my own cognitive dissonance and then inflicting it on everybody else I encounter. I can’t help anybody by not even understanding my own God and then inflicting my lack of understanding of Him on everyone else I encounter.
The Solution To Cognitive Dissonance – and How It Worked For Me
So what’s the solution to cognitive dissonance? Albert Einstein said, “It’s not that I’m smarter than other people, it’s just that I stick with problems longer.” That’s Albert Einstein’s way of saying what 1 Thessalonians 5:21 and Proverbs 18:13 say. And that’s my story.
Several years ago I finally admitted to myself that I had a chronic and painful case of cognitive dissonance when it came to the hell thing and the predestination thing. I had a problem that I could not solve. I could not for the life of me figure out God’s reasoning behind the hell thing, and I could not for the life of me figure out the answer to the predestination dilemma. But thankfully I had little to lose (I was not in a paid ministry position at the time.) And thankfully I had heard a preacher say once, “Don’t be afraid to ask God your questions”, and I was well aware of John 16:13, Jeremiah 9:24, and Proverbs 28:5, which tell us that the Holy Spirit will lead us into all the truth and that God expects us to understand Him and the major aspects of His Word and of life. So I asked God about my cognitive dissonance, this “God’s reasoning behind hell and predestination” problem that I did not know how to solve.
Now, at that time I assumed hell was real. After all, I was reading the word “hell” in my popular, super-readable English Bible version. (And the Bible “experts/scholars” that translate the Bible into English for us couldn’t possibly be wrong about anything, could they? After all, they’re infallible…oh wait…they’re not. The Word itself is infallible, but the translation of it from one language to another by fallible human beings, and the interpretation of it by fallible human beings, is not infallible. But I’m getting ahead of myself.)
You see, the rest of the Bible made a lot of sense to me on a basic level (it has foretold the future many times without a single miss so far, its instructions produce happiness and blessing while ignoring them produces pain, it is full of wisdom for a successful life, when properly interpreted I don’t see how it contradicts anything that has been proven by human science in any way, etc. etc.), so I never dreamed that hell might not be real since I was reading the word “hell” in my English Bible. I didn’t know exactly what truth God would lead me to that would solve my cognitive dissonance about hell and predestination, but I kind of just assumed that God would simply explain His reasoning behind hell to me from Scripture in a way I hadn’t seen before, or show me how/why He hated sin so much that hell was the only punishment that did it justice, or something like that. Those answers still did not satisfy my logical mind, but I couldn’t think of anything else, so I just prayed, “God, show me what I’m missing here” and waited, not knowing what greater understanding He’d lead me to. Still it never crossed my mind that hell might not be real.
This is important for me to point out because some people who don’t know my personal journey claim that I’m “seeing what I want to see in Scripture” or trying to force my Scriptural interpretation to fit a certain view of God that I started out with as a prejudice or preconceived idea. That’s not the case. What I teach in my book Hell Is a Mistranslation is all stuff that I didn’t see coming at all when I asked God to solve my cognitive dissonance for me.
A couple months after I prayed, “God, show me what I’m missing on this subject”, I came across a website while researching a completely different Biblical topic, and there was some information on the site about how the Greek and Hebrew words that are sometimes translated as “hell” in some English Bibles do not actually mean “hell”, but that the translators were freely inserting their own interpretation in those cases instead of strictly translating the Greek and Hebrew words directly and accurately. Sure enough, when I checked out those verses in the most literal translations (those dedicated strictly to accurate translation with little regard for readability and little to no interpretation by the translators), the word “hell” disappeared from the Bible! I thought, “Wow, maybe I’m onto something here. I’m going to keep studying and testing along these lines.”
And long story short, you can now read my book Hell Is a Mistranslation and absorb in a couple hours what took me a couple years to fully sort out after I found my first “hell is not actually in the Bible” clue.
By God’s grace I stuck with it until I could explain every single Scripture on the subject of death, God’s ultimate plan for mankind, and predestination to the complete satisfaction of my logical mind without resorting to breaking common sense rules for interpreting (and translating) communication at any point in the process. By the time I sorted it out to the point of being able to explain it in a book, the cognitive dissonance caused by the “hell issue” and the “predestination dilemma” had completely disappeared. What a feeling! I do not have to “explain away” any plain/specific statements of Scripture, and I no longer have to live with unsolved philosophical dilemmas about God. God makes perfect sense to me.
By far the most common phrase/sentiment in the testimonies I get from people that have read my book is, “It makes sense”…“God finally makes sense”… “Your teachings about the Bible make sense in a way I’ve never understood before”…etc. etc. What they are saying is “You removed my cognitive dissonance.”
For the full enchilada of how to make the cognitive dissonance on the subjects of hell and predestination disappear from your mind, you can read my book for free by clicking here. To close out this article I’ll just briefly explain how the cognitive dissonance goes away when reading Romans 9 – in other words I’ll reveal how we don’t have to “explain away” the plain statements in Romans 9 about God choosing to have grace on some people (and not for others), but yet we can still have a God who is not a monster.
We have seen that the willingness to “think of the same things in a new way, add new/different information into the mix, and test it all carefully, sticking with it until it satisfies your logical mind” no matter what the consequences for your personal life, is the key to getting rid of cognitive dissonance in any area. Now that we know the key to getting rid of cognitive dissonance, let’s apply that key to Romans 9. Of course, you’ll get the benefit of the many hundreds (maybe thousands) of hours I’ve spent trying to put the jigsaw puzzle of Scripture on these subjects together in a perfectly satisfactory way, so below you will find my shortcut for understanding Romans 9.
The Key To Understanding Romans 9 Without Taking a Scissors To Paul’s Statements Or Ending Up With a Monster God Who Arbitrarily Chooses Some People For Blissful Eternity and Some People For a Horrific Eternity
How can we fully embrace Paul’s plain and very specific statements in Romans 9 (and, say, Ephesians 1:4) about God arbitrarily choosing some people and not others, yet at the same time end up with a perfectly, just, fair, kind, loving God who is not a monster and whose actions can be easily understood?
The key is to resist the urge to artificially superimpose the idea of “eternity” on top of Romans 9.
I know this is a brand-new idea to most modern Christians. I know it sounds new to you, it feels funny, you don’t completely understand what I mean yet. So it’s decision time for you, reader. Are you going to obey 1 Thessalonians 5:21 and Proverbs 18:13, or not? Decide now. Either keep reading, or don’t.
OK, for those of you who are deciding to obey 1 Thessalonians 5:21 and Proverbs 18:13….
Friends, Romans 9 does not actually say anything about eternity, it does not refer to eternity in any way, it does not refer to anyone’s eternal destiny in any way, nor does it imply in any way that it is talking about eternity. The problem is that modern Christians are so accustomed to a pagan/Catholic-inherited “hell and eternal punishment mindset” that they unconsciously, without even realizing it, artificially superimpose the idea of eternity and eternal destiny when reading Romans 9, even though the text of the passage itself does not say diddly-squat about eternity or anybody’s eternal destiny.
Friends, if Romans 9 was talking about people’s eternal destiny, not only would it be the most horrific thing you could ever read (along with Eph. 1:4, another classic predestination Scripture), making God into an unthinkably cruel and unjust monster, but it would also make the apostle Paul into a schizophrenic!
For one thing, Paul says in Romans 9 that the Israelites are “not chosen” (my way of saying it)…but then in Romans 11:26 (later in the same discourse) he says “All Israel will be saved.”
Which one is it, Paul? Is there mercy and grace for Israel, or not?
And Paul talks in Romans 9 about how God is arbitrarily choosing some people to give grace to, and some people not to give grace to, and the way Paul talks about it makes it seem like this idea applies not only to Israel but to all people…But then later in the same discourse, in Romans 11:32, Paul pulls out this showstopper: “God has imprisoned all in disobedience” (or “unbelief”, depending on the translation) “so that He may have mercy on all.”
Which one is it, Paul? Is there mercy and grace for all, or not?
And in other places in Scripture Paul says things like, “So that God may become all in all”, and “God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe”, and “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, having been justified freely by His grace” (the same “all” who sinned have also already been justified – past tense – freely by grace!), and “Every knee will bow and every tongue confess Jesus Christ is Lord”, and “all things were created through Him (Jesus) and for Him”, and “All things will be summed up in Christ”, and “All things both in heaven and earth have been reconciled to God through Christ”, etc. etc., etc.…
So is Paul a schizophrenic? C’mon, Paul, does God have mercy and grace for Israel or not? (In Romans 9 you say Israel is not chosen, but then in Romans 11:26 you say all Israel will be saved!) Does God have mercy and grace for everyone, or only a chosen few? (You say in Romans 9 that it’s only for a chosen few…and then you say in Romans 11:32 and a bunch of other places that it’s for everyone.)
Which one is it, Paul? Are you a schizophrenic that blatantly contradicts yourself? Should we take your writings, and the rest of the Bible by extension, and throw them in the garbage bin because they are completely self-contradictory?
What is the answer here? So far we have nothing but frustrating, nails-dragging-across-a-chalkboard cognitive dissonance! Until…
You realize that the concept of eternity and eternal destiny is totally absent from Romans 9 (and Ephesians 1:4, and every/any other “predestination” Scripture)!
When you realize what I teach in Hell Is a Mistranslation, and when you realize that the concept of eternal destiny is totally absent from Romans 9 and other predestination Scriptures, you realize that the reason Paul does not contradict himself at all on this subject is that
Romans 9 and the other predestination statements in Scripture are about this current age and the next two age, but have nothing to do with eternity or eternal destiny.
The key to understand is that when we translate “Gehenna”, “hades/sheol”, and “tartarusing” literally and accurately, “hell” disappears from the Bible, and when we translate “to/from olam” and “eon/eons/eonian” literally and accurately, the words “eternal/everlasting/forever” disappear from the Bible; and when you then do a careful study of all the times the Greek word “eon/eons/eonian” is used in the New Testament it becomes clear that there are several ages of human history God has planned, and the next two ages are the millennium and the New Jerusalem age – life on earth in the next two ages. These two specific ages are referred to over and over in Scripture, especially in the New Testament, by the interchangeable terms “the kingdom” (or “the kingdom of God” or “the kingdom of heaven” which refers to its source, not its location – remember, “Your kingdom come…on earth as it is in heaven”), “eonian life” (not “eternal life”, but “life that pertains to an age or ages”), “eonian punishment” (not “eternal punishment”, but “punishment that pertains to an age or ages”), and the very specific phrase “the ages of the ages” (this phrase uses the same speech convention used in the phrase “King of kings” to refer to the greatest of a group – the next two ages will be the greatest two ages of human history God has planned).
And these two ages of life on earth (the millennium and the New Jerusalem age) are not the end of the story, because in 1 Corinthians 15:22-28 the apostle Paul clearly tells us something that will occur after those two ages, which he calls “the consummation”, at which point “the kingdom” ruled by Jesus Christ during the millennium and New Jerusalem age will be handed over to God the Father, and a couple other key events will occur which you can learn about by reading the passage and by reading my book (my book will teach you other things that will allow you to take that passage at face value rather than attempting to “explain it away”).
Read those last two paragraphs ten times if you have to. It is the first master key to understanding how predestination does not make God into a monster. (For the other keys, read my free book.) Predestination has nothing to do with eternity or anyone’s eternal destiny! Predestination is simply God choosing some people to be alive on earth during the next two ages (those who take part in the rapture and will be in immortal bodies), and some people to be dead during those two ages or during the majority of those two ages (those who do not take part in the rapture…and those people who live through the end times into the beginning of Jesus’ millennium reign on earth but do not take part in the rapture, will not be in immortal bodies and will eventually die and not be alive during most of the millennium; their children will also die eventually and not be alive during most of the millennium…you see what I mean). Predestination has only to do with the next two ages of life on earth, not eternity.
This is why Paul does not contradict himself at all in Romans 9 through 11 when he says that Israel is not chosen and later says “all Israel will be saved”, or when he says that God has grace for some and not for others, but then later says that God will “show mercy to all”. In Romans 9 and the other statements he made about predestination, Paul is simply pointing out that in this current age God is choosing some people sovereignly, and not choosing most other people, with the consequences of that sovereign choice extending only to this age and the next two ages; while in the rest of his teachings (including later in the same discourse, Romans 11:26 and 29) Paul makes it clear that in the ultimate, final plan of God, after the next two ages, and in principle as demonstrated through the cross, God’s grace is for everyone.
And of course the consequence for those who are “not chosen” in this age and the next two ages, is not torture, but death, which is unconscious like sleep…and this sleep/death will be ended/abolished after the next two ages, at the consummation of God’s plan when all the rest of humanity will be “vivified” (into an immortal body) and God will be “all in all” as Paul describes in 1 Cor. 15:22-28, at which point life for all humanity the way God has always wanted it to be and originally intended it to be, will finally commence.
Fellow Christians, if what I just explained as encapsulated in the last two paragraphs is not the case, we might as well pack it up and go home. We might as well call Paul a schizo, admit our belief system and our holy book is totally self-contradictory and full of cognitive dissonance, and/or admit our God is a monster.
Friends, I’ve got amazing news for you. You do not have to live with any cognitive dissonance regarding predestination (or hell)! There is a solution! I just gave it to you! Why wouldn’t you at least study it carefully by reading my free book?
I don’t know about you, but I am totally unwilling to live with cognitive dissonance. What Joe said to me in his last email to me, in essence, was, “I am willing to live with a God I don’t understand, I am willing to live with cognitive dissonance, and the way I rationalize this to myself is that I twist the definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1 from ‘believing in a God I don’t see (with my physical eyes) to ‘believing in a God I don’t understand’” (even though that twisted definition of faith blatantly defies Jeremiah 9:24, Proverbs 28:5, and 1 Thessalonians 5:21). Are you going to resign yourself to being like Joe, or are you going to carefully examine the solution I have presented to you?
Friends, we do not have to live like Joe! If he wants to live that way, whatever. If he wants to wait ‘til the rapture to get rid of his cognitive dissonance, he can. But you and I don’t have to! There is a solution! All we have to do is realize that
when we translate and interpret all the Scriptures about the subjects of what happens at death and God’s ultimate plan for mankind strictly according to the same common sense based rules used without exception by all humanity when translating and interpreting communication in everyday life (when we realize that the human authors God inspired to write Scripture would have naturally and automatically used these same common sense based rules and assumed their audience would too)…
we realize that
a) Death is unconscious, like sleep; it causes a person to miss out on life during the time he is dead, but it is not painful or tortuous in any way (death is a just, fair, ethical, and humane punishment for sin). “The wages of sin is death”, not hell. (Nor is the wages of sin “permanent death” as annihilationists claim; their whole belief system on this subject requires them to add the word or concept of “eternally permanent” into Scriptural statements about the destruction and/or death of sinners, when that concept is not actually stated in any of those Scriptures. If I say to my son, “Your punishment for disobeying me is that you have to go sit in your room”, there is no cause to artificially add the idea of permanence or eternal punishment into what I said. I did not say he would have to sit in his room forever, and if you add that into my statement you are twisting what I said. This becomes additionally clear when you understand point B below…)
b) The Bible says nothing, zero, nada about hell or eternal punishment but rather talks repeatedly about “eonian” life and “eonian” punishment which refer to the kingdom of God on earth during the millennium age and New Jerusalem age, a period of time which is also referred to in Scripture as “the ages of the ages” (the greatest two ages/eons of the eons/ages God has planned for humanity). (“The ages of the ages” is a very specific phrase much like “King of kings” that refers to the greatest of a group; it refers to the greatest two ages of human history God has planned before the consummation of His plan – see below. “Forever and ever” is a laughably ridiculous and creative translation of the very specific phrase “for the ages of the ages”. “Eternal life” and “eternal punishment” are incorrect and ridiculous translations of “eonian life” and “eonian punishment”, which mean “life/punishment pertaining to – lasting for – an age or ages”. In order to translate the word “eonian” or “eon” or “eons” as having anything to do with eternity, you have to be willing to translate the word “eon/eons/eonian” as the opposite of itself at times. Just because some translators of the loose/popular/readable Bible versions are willing to do this doesn’t make it right.)
c) The two fires mentioned in Scripture that everybody is so scared of are easily proven from Scripture itself to be physical fires that cause what we would call physical death (what the Bible simply calls “death”); physical corpses will be thrown in these physical fires on earth. See my book for more details (and to learn why satan, the antichrist, and the false prophet, as non-humans or not-purely-human beings, will remain conscious as spirit beings when thrown/trapped in these physical fires on earth, while purely-human beings will be killed and unconscious when their bodies/corpses are burned up in these physical fires). These fires mentioned in Scripture are not nebulous spirit fires (you have to make something up and artificially insert it into Scripture to get that idea) and they will not last forever (you have to blatantly and ridiculously mistranslate the Greek word “eon/eons/eonian” to get that idea).
d) Something massively important happens after the “eons of the eons” (after the millennium and New Jerusalem age also known as “the kingdom” on earth)…That “something” is the consummation of God’s plan that Paul describes clearly in 1 Cor. 15:22-28, where he outlines the three “vivifications” of humans (three stages in which humanity will get resurrected into immortal bodies), the third of which is at the consummation of God’s plan (after the millennium and New Jerusalem age, after “the kingdom” of Christ on earth during those two ages), at which point Christ will hand the kingdom over to the Father, death will be abolished and God will become “all in all”…This suddenly allows us to fully embrace and not have to “explain away” (which could only be done by breaking common sense rules of communication in these cases anyway) all the plain and specific statements in Scripture about the (eventual, and already accomplished in principle by the cross) permanent salvation from death of all mankind, such as 1 Tim. 4:10, Col. 1:16-20, Eph. 1:10, Rom. 11:32, Rom. 3:23-24, Rom. 5:18, 1 Cor. 15:22-28, Is. 45:23 (quoted by Phill. 2:10-11 and Rom. 10:14), etc. etc.
e) And thus it suddenly becomes clear that the predestination (God’s sovereign choosing of some and not others) statements in Scripture such as Romans 9 and Ephesians 1:4 refer only to this age, and the next two ages (this current age and the millennium and the New Jerusalem age). In other words with predestination God is not choosing some people to have a certain type of eternity and others to have a different type of eternity, but rather He is sovereignly choosing some people to have “eonian life” or life on earth during the kingdom a.k.a. the millennium and New Jerusalem age on earth, while those who are not sovereignly chosen for that purpose will have “eonian punishment” which is to be dead during those two ages (“the wages of sin is death” – Rom. 6:23); those who get “eonian punishment” (the vast majority of mankind who has ever lived) will only get immortality after those two ages, at the consummation of God’s plan as described by Paul in 1 Cor. 15:22-28.
In other words, predestination is not God arbitrarily choosing some people to have eternal bliss and some people to have eternal torture/tragedy. It is Him arbitrarily choosing a few of the most undeserving, foolish people (see 1 Cor. 1:26-30) to help Him with His educational project for all mankind (to help Him rule the earth during the millennium, etc.) and to be an example of God’s grace for the rest of mankind to observe later on at the white throne judgment. (After all, if God can do great things with us foolish people He chose in this age, what great things can He do with everyone else?!?) And of course, since we chosen ones have to go against the grain in this current Satan-ruled age (2 Cor. 4:4, Lk. 4;5-6), which is difficult and a pain the rear, we not only get immortal bodies sooner than everybody else (at the rapture instead of at the consummation), but we also get a special party right before the consummation that nobody else gets to be a part of (the New Jerusalem age).
So you see that the key to getting rid of cognitive dissonance regarding predestination is to resist the urge to artificially superimpose the concept of eternity or eternal destiny on top of the predestination Scriptures…look carefully, and you will see that none of these Scriptures say anything about eternity or eternal destiny.
So when you read Romans 9 with the mindset Paul and his students 2000 years ago would have had (“death is unconscious and God has several ages/eons planned for humanity, after which the consummation of His plan will occur”…remember they did not have centuries of Catholicism/paganism and mistranslated words in their Bibles to confuse them and give them a false pagan “go to heaven or hell consciously forever immediately upon death” mindset), instead of the typical modern Christian’s “hell and eternal punishment and obsession with going to heaven or hell consciously forever immediately upon death” mindset, suddenly
the cognitive dissonance disappears.
If you have not yet read my free book Hell Is a Mistranslation yet you may not be fully convinced at this point; you need to read the book for the full Scriptural explanation. But if you’ve read the book, this ought to make all the sense in the world to you. Your cognitive dissonance is gone! And even if you haven’t read the book yet, you should be able to see that there’s a strong chance I’m really on to something here.
Friends, if the solution I am presenting to the classic and previously-seemingly-unsolvable Scriptural and philosophical dilemmas that plague the typical modern Christian about hell and predestination is not the proper solution, then what is? Continuing to live with cognitive dissonance, and telling everybody if they don’t believe what we believe they are so worthless that they are only valuable enough but to be tortured in agony for trillions of years or at best permanent death (annihilation)? It’s no wonder many thinking people don’t give modern Christians the time of day – we’re constantly telling them they’re worthless and valuable enough only to receive torture or annihilation just because they don’t believe what we believe. Is a human being’s worth defined only by his/her beliefs? Really? Try looking at a little baby and saying, “If you don’t believe the right thing by a certain age, you are worthless, worthy only to be tortured continually forever.” Trying telling a baby’s parents that!
Is this the kind of thing we’re going to tell people the rest of our lives…while we ourselves live with cognitive dissonance about our own belief system that we don’t know how to solve? Are we going to continually be called out by thinking people about the self-contradictions and philosophical dilemmas in our belief system and not have a satisfactory answer to give them? 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks us for a reason for the hope that is within us…is there any other type of reason other than a logical reason? If we don’t have a logical reason to give people about why God would do this that or the other – if we can’t explain our faith logically, what are we going to do? Are we going to tell people “Jesus loves you so much, God loves you more than you can imagine…BUT if you don’t believe it by a certain time (whatever time you happen to die) THEN God takes His love for you back, He takes His sacrifice of His Son on the cross for you back, He withdraws everything He did for you, and He determines that you are worthless and have no value because you are valuable enough only to be tortured forever!”
And if they say, “How can trillions of years of torture be justice for a few decades of sin?” what are we going to say? Are we going to go round and round the carousel of cognitive dissonance?
I’m not. I got off that carousel when I learned what I explain in Hell Is a Mistranslation. If you don’t believe what I explain in that book then you might as well pack it in and go be an atheist. Because hell-monger Christianity (and annihilationist Christianity), on a macro level when it comes to God’s plan, is no better than all the pagan “eternal bliss for a tiny few and eternal tragedy for everybody else” religions. As one reader of my book put it, “If God is not who you teach Him to be from the accurately translated Bible, then I don’t want to serve Him.” Friends, the God revealed by the accurately translated Bible (as I explain in Hell Is a Mistranslation) is the only God worth serving. All other gods are nonsensical monsters whose actions either cannot be explained or whose actions are totally monstrous, or both.
I’m not afraid to say that now. Because now I know that the God revealed by the (accurately translated, accurately interpreted) Bible is neither nonsensical or monstrous. He is perfect and all His actions and plans make perfect sense to any loving parent.
When I first asked God to show me what I was missing on these subjects, I was like most modern Christians – I basically believed that God was the same God I know now (a God of love that is perfect and wise and makes sense to the heart and mind of any thinking human), but I just didn’t understand how the hell and predestination thing lined up with the God the rest of the Bible reveals.
But now that I did the Albert Einstein and 1 Thessalonians 5:21 “stick with the problem long enough” thing, I know that the whole Bible is totally cohesive in what it teaches about God’s nature. Yes, there is the wrath of God, and the fear of God, and judgment. But nowhere in (accurately translated) Scripture do we see that those amount to any type of eternal or permanent punishment. God’s wrath and judgment are limited to certain times during the ages God has planned for humanity, before the consummation of His plan, and they are part of His educational plan for all mankind, just as any good parent’s disciplinary actions are for the purpose of educating and training the children, not torturing them. God’s ultimate plan for humanity does not contain eternal or permanent torture or punishment for anyone any more than I as a father would ever plan eternal or permanent torture or punishment for my kids no matter what they did (especially if I was like God and had sovereign power to guide events in such a manner so as to teach my kids through experience perfectly over a certain period of time).
Friends, realizing that in the New Testament the words “eon”, “eons”, and “eonian” should be translated as “age”, “ages”, and “pertaining to an age or ages” switches us over from a “everything we read in the Bible about actions and consequences and God’s sovereign choice is about eternity and eternal destiny and whether our eternity will be bliss or horror” mindset to a “God’s sovereign choosing of some and not others has to do with the current age, the millennium age and the New Jerusalem age, but not anything after that” mindset. This fixes the cognitive dissonance about predestination. Suddenly God is not a monster.
And suddenly God is not incompetent. Modern pagan/Catholic-inherited Christianity cannot explain how God can be so incompetent that He loses the “battle for souls” (an unscriptural term and concept) to His own creation Satan! How can God be so powerful as to easily tie Satan up after this age, but at the same time so incompetent as to be less able to convince the vast majority of mankind than Satan is in this age?
And we are back to all the questions
hell-mongers cannot answer. I won’t go any further along those lines here.
Nowhere Does the Bible Specifically State That the “Destruction” Of Sinners Is “Permanent Destruction”
Let me close by pointing out that the references to “destruction” of certain people in Romans 9 are just like the references to the “destruction” found in many other places in Scripture. I talk about this in my article about annihilationism, but in short, there is not a single Scripture about the destruction of sinners that specifically states that their destruction is permanent.
Annihilationists assume, without any Scriptural or logical proof, that the term “destruction” in Scripture always or often means “permanent destruction”. But Scripture never actually states this! Again we are back to our super-important Bible interpretation principle: We must not artificially insert ideas onto the Bible that are not specifically stated therein!
The term “destruction” by itself is inherently unclear about exactly what sort of destruction is being talked about, its extent, its nature, its duration, etc. – all these details are unclear when you simply hear the term “destruction” or “destroy”. If I look at you and say “I will destroy you!” what exactly do I mean? Do I mean I will destroy your logical arguments? Do I mean I will beat you 10 to 2 in one-on-one basketball? Do I mean I will kill you? Do I mean I will cremate your body? Do I mean I will defeat you in a political race by embarrassing you publicly? Do I mean I will steal all your money? Do I mean I will change history after you die so no one remembers you? The term “destroy” or “destruction” is inherently unclear.
So when we see the “destruction” of
sinners or certain people groups, cities, etc. talked about in Scripture we
must use Scripture itself to fill in
the details for us in each instance, rather than superimposing our opinions
about what type and extent of “destruction” is being talked about. There are
different types and extents of destruction mentioned in Scripture, and as far
as I have studied, I have not come across a single one where the destruction of
sinners, or the destruction of any human being or group of human beings is
specifically stated to be permanent or eternal.
In some cases, the Bible specifically states that certain cities and civilizations, after their destruction, will never rise again – for example, Tyre, Damascus, and Mystery Babylon. However, these Scriptures specifically refer to the city and/or civilization and or system; they do not specifically state that the human beings that made up the city or system or civilization will be permanently destroyed or will have eternal punishment. And this just goes to show us – because the Bible has to go out of its way to specifically state that a city/system/civilization will never rise again after its destruction, that tells us what we already knew: simply talking about the “destruction” of something does not give us any information about the extent, duration, or nature of the destruction, and we must look at other information in the context and/or in the rest of Scripture to determine those details any time the “destruction” of something or someone is talked about in the Bible.
For example, the Bible talks about how Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed. However, Jesus said that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah will have a better time of it at the judgment (this obviously refers to the white throne judgment of Rev. 20:11-13) than the Israelites He was preaching to would. (This exposes another unsolvable question for hell-mongers: if the punishment for all unbelieving sinners is exactly the same, eternal hell-fire, then why does the Bible say that they will be judged according to their deeds, and that some people will have an easier judgment than others?)
The Bible also plainly states three times (Rom 10:14 & Phil 2:10-11 which quote Is. 45:23-24) that eventually “every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Jesus is Lord” (or as Is. 45:23, puts it, “every tongue will swear allegiance to” or “swear by” God). So these people of Sodom and Gomorrah, who lived in cities that were destroyed and who could be said to have themselves been “destroyed”, will eventually swear allegiance to God and Christ! Is Jesus then going to turn around and throw them in hell forever or kill them permanently, right after they swear allegiance to Him at the white throne judgment? What would be the point of that? It’s just another question the hell-mongers and annihilationists can’t answer…
Again, artificially superimposing an idea (permanence or eternity) on top of the word “destruction” that is not actually found or stated in the text itself, will lead to confusion, to many artificial self-contradictions in Scripture (e.g. Is. 45:23, Php. 2:10-11, Rom. 10:14, 1 Cor. 15:22-28, 1 Tim. 4:10, Eph. 1:10, Col. 1:16-20, Rom. 11:32, Rom. 3:23-24, Rom. 5:18, etc. etc. etc. vs. “supposedly permanent destruction”) and to a monster God that no one in their right mind would even want to serve.
Conclusion – A Key Rule For Interpreting Scripture (and Any Other Communication)
Friends, if you don’t learn to keep yourself from artificially inserting concepts and ideas on top of Scripture that are not actually contained and plainly stated in Scripture, you are never going to understand Scripture. If you don’t learn to stop doing to God and to the human communicators who were inspired to write down Scripture, things that you would never do to any other communicator (such as artificially inserting your own ideas/concepts on top of their communication any time something they say is not totally clear on its own, instead of looking to the rest of their communication for clarification on the details)… you will be confused about the Bible’s teachings until Jesus comes.
When we refuse to artificially insert the pagan/Catholic-inherited ideas of hell and eternal punishment and “eternal this, eternal that” on top of Scripture passages like Romans 9 and Scriptural statements about “destruction”, and instead let the rest of accurately translated Scripture interpret itself and fill in the details for us…
we will be set free from cognitive dissonance on the subjects of hell and predestination.
I have spent this article explaining to you a very important common sense rule of communication (rule for interpreting all communication, including the Bible). That rule could be stated as:
“Any unclear or not-fully-explained piece of communication such as a word, phrase, statement, or passage, must be interpreted, and the rest of the details discovered, by looking at the rest of the communicator’s communication; we are not allowed to fill in the blanks with our own imaginations, our own prejudices, our own preconceived ideas, or any other source.”
When we follow common sense based rules for interpreting communication, such as the one I have spent this article explaining to you,
we will be set free from cognitive dissonance in our understanding of God and His Word.
I hope this has been helpful to you.
Copyright 2012 John Lilley