Engaging the Culture

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Posted 5/21/15 at 8:20 AM | George Sarris

What Do You Think?

Rethinking Hell.  I was blown away when I saw the name of this conference.

I was even more impressed when I learned that it’s the second time scholars and other knowledgeable people with strong beliefs will be getting together to discuss their views . . . and listen to those of others who disagree but hold equally strong beliefs. And I was honored to be asked to participate.

The second Rethinking Hell Conference will be held June 18-20 at the prestigious Fuller Theological Seminary, with all three historic views of what happens after we die being represented . . . those who believe Scripture teaches endless punishment . . . those who believe Scripture teaches the wicked will be annihilated . . . and those who believe Scripture teaches the ultimate restoration of all.

Speakers include a Professor of Systematic Theology at Fuller Seminary; a Senior Research Fellow in Rabbinics and the New Testament; an Editor from Wipf & Stock Publishers; a Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Taylor University; and a Professor of Philosophy and Scholar-in-Residence at Houston Baptist University. FULL POST

Posted 3/31/15 at 11:25 PM | George Sarris

"He Descended Into Hell"

Down through the centuries, that phrase from the Apostles Creed has generated a great deal of thought and discussion.

It describes what the ancient church believed happened between the time on Good Friday when Jesus was crucified, dead and buried, and when on Easter Sunday morning He rose again from the dead. 

Images from the ancient church picture Jesus standing on the broken doors of hell, which have fallen in the shape of a cross – to show that by His death, Jesus defeated death and hell.

He holds Adam and Eve by their wrists and is pulling them up out of hell to illustrate that on its own, mankind is unable to defeat sin and death – salvation comes about only by the work of God.

Under the doors, hell is pictured as a chasm of darkness with broken locks and chains strewn about.

Jesus told His disciples that the gates of hell would not prevail against His church. Gates are defensive structures. The imagery is of a church on the offense, attacking the gates of hell and bringing release to those held captive by it. FULL POST

Posted 3/19/15 at 2:34 PM | George Sarris

Is God Creation's Biggest Loser?

Even asking a question like that would almost seem blasphemous . . . if it weren’t for the fact most Christians have been told that’s what we’re supposed to believe!

It’s not usually expressed that plainly, of course. The preferred statement is something like,

Of course God is a winner! He wins by defeating all His enemies and casting them into hell where they will spend all eternity separated from Him!

But what is that really saying?

God loses . . . forever . . . most of those He originally created in His image!

If a manufacturing company had to throw away the majority of its products because they were defective, would it be considered a successful company?

Does God ultimately “throw away” most of those He created?

Maybe Not!

Interestingly, the Christian Church has not always taught that God ultimately loses most of His creation. In fact, for the first 500 years after Christ, many of the most prominent Christian leaders believed that God would ultimately win in the end! FULL POST

Posted 1/26/15 at 4:34 PM | George Sarris

Mercy & Judgment . . . A Parable

“There is always hope!” Emily said warmly.

Is there? It wasn’t that she didn’t believe it, or that her friend wasn’t sincerely motivated by a desire to be helpful. It’s just that those words at that time sounded a little hollow. All she really wanted was a hug.

Details of the car accident were sketchy. They said alcohol had been served at the party, but there was no evidence that Danny had been driving while intoxicated. He wasn’t really a bad kid. He did things wrong, of course. All kids did. He just needed more time to grow up. He needed more time to find out what was really important in life. After all, hadn’t that been true for her? She came to faith after making a lot of mistakes. Lots of people she knew had the same experience.

Emily had tried to be encouraging. “There is always hope,” she whispered. “It’s said that people’s whole lives flash before their minds in the last seconds. Maybe Danny made peace with God at the last moment.” FULL POST

Posted 12/24/14 at 12:10 PM | George Sarris

Merry Christmas to All!

We sometimes overlook the message that is at the heart of Christianity.

Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world! 

The angel who appeared to the shepherds on that glorious night to announce the birth of the promised Savior did not say, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for some of the people” . . . or even . . . “for most of the people.”

The angel said, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”

That’s why it’s good news. That’s why it’s good news of great joy!  That’s why a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest . . . and on earth peace, good will toward men!” FULL POST

Posted 10/24/14 at 9:50 AM | George Sarris

Punishment: It's Not Enough!

“We realized that it was not enough to just punish!”

That comment was made by a Christian leader I talked with in Rwanda this past July . . . almost exactly 20 years after the genocide.

The Face of Evil

During what can only be described as a horrific 100 day period from April to July 1994, extremists within Rwanda's political elite ordered members of the army, national police, and government backed militias to recruit and pressure one group of Rwandans to arm themselves with machetes, clubs, blunt objects and other weapons to kill, rape and maim another group of Rwandans.

In just 100 days, 800,000 innocent people were brutally murdered – six men, women and children every minute . . . of every hour . . . of every day . . . for more than 3 months.

During that short period of time, between 250,000 and 500,000 women and girls were raped – many maimed and sexually mutilated, or raped by men with AIDS who had been released from hospitals as weapons of genocide.

75,000 children survived the genocide as orphans. FULL POST

Posted 7/16/14 at 11:56 AM | George Sarris

What About Grandma?

“It is called ‘Good News,’ is it not?” she asked. “But for me, it was very bad news!”

Those words were spoken by a lovely young woman from France who was visiting my family here in America for a few days last week. She went on to tell us,

“I am the only Christian in my family, and I wept when I thought about my parents, my brothers and sisters, and especially my grandmother who had died. If God is loving and all-powerful, why would He let so many people suffer for so long in hell? It doesn’t make sense!

So I told God that if that is the way He is, I could not follow Him anymore. And I walked away from the faith for several years.

I eventually came back to Him. But the concern still weighs heavily upon me.”

It’s About People

The discussion about who goes to heaven and who goes to hell is not just theoretical. It’s about people. Real people. People who love and are loved by someone else. And each one of them – like this friend from France – had a mom and dad, and a grandma and grandpa. The vast majority had brothers and sisters, husbands or wives, sons and daughters, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. FULL POST

Posted 6/24/14 at 2:44 PM | George Sarris

Winners or Losers?

Will sin eventually win out over grace?

Will darkness eventually overcome light?

Will evil in the end prove to be more powerful than good?

Will Satan ultimately rule over more of God’s creation than God Himself?

I ask those questions because the belief of many Christians today seems to be – when all is said and done, evil wins . . . and God loses!

Who’s The Real Winner?

In my last blog article, I invited readers to fill out a brief, 6 question survey on my website about their views of heaven and hell. As expected, most of those who took the survey identified themselves as Christian, with the largest group being “Evangelical” Christians.

About 2/3 of the respondents believed that 50% or less of the total population of the world would eventually be in heaven . . . and well over half thought it would be 25% or less.  In other words, God ultimately loses most of those He created! FULL POST

Posted 5/14/14 at 4:28 PM | George Sarris

Heaven Is For Real . . . But For Whom?

The tremendous success of Heaven Is For Real! – first as a book and now as a major motion picture – shows that people are very interested in what happens after they . . . and those they love . . . die.

The book is currently #1 on the New York Times Best Sellers List and has been on the list for 181 weeks. For those of us who are mathematically challenged, that’s one week short of 3 ½ years! The film premiered at #2 a month ago, and finished #4 at the box office last weekend.

Coupled with that is the success of another book about a near-death experience – Proof of Heaven – which is currently #3 on the Best Sellers List in its 80th week.

The question that naturally arises, however, is,

“If heaven is for real . . . who goes there?” 

The books and the film suggest that there will be more people in heaven than a lot of us think. Are they right? FULL POST

Posted 4/16/14 at 6:07 PM | George Sarris

What Happened on Saturday?

As we look forward to celebrating Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday, the question naturally comes up, “What happened on Saturday?”  

Did Jesus just lay there in the tomb and rest for a day? Did He ascend into heaven and talk with His Father and the angels? Did He preach the gospel in the realm of the dead?

According to a controversial phrase in the Apostles’ Creed – after Christ was crucified, dead and buried . . . and before He rose again from the dead on the third day –

He descended into Hell.

That phrase and what it means has been debated throughout the centuries.

All of the early church fathers mention it, although they differ in their interpretations. The Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms it and explains that Jesus did really die and through his death for us conquered death and the devil ‘who has the power of death.’   FULL POST

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