Steve Hays of Triablogue Gives Weak Rebuttal

Steve Hays, writing for the blog Triablogue, has posted Does Everybody Get His Wings?  This is his rebuttal to my post Everyone Is Going to Heaven.

If you are familiar with the traditional heaven-or-hell scenario for human afterlife, you will recognize that this is the position that Steve holds.  Thus, he makes all the standard objections you’ve heard to everyone going to heaven.  In so doing, Steve relies largely on theological reference books to support his case.  By contrast, I’ve tried to write in such a way that a common-sense person can read the Bible and make up his or her own mind about the subject.

Steve apparently has ignored The Biblical Case for Everyone Going to Heaven, which is the book-length treatment which substantiates my post.  Thus, Steve has only addressed the overview of the biblical case and not the case itself.  Since I deal in the book with all the objections he makes, I see no reason to go into them again here.  Steve’s rebuttal might have been stronger had he 1) dealt with the book itself and not just the overview, 2) had he not invoked academic texts unavailable to most readers, or 3) offered more logical and fewer technical objections.  Nonetheless, I commend him for at least addressing the overview post.

When you read Steve’s post it’s apparent that he’s well-educated and a good writer.  However, the logic he offers on the subject of hell is the standard, “Look, you should just trust the traditional view because you don’t have enough theological education to question the experts.”  Never forget, however, that hearing the word of God and doing it – not theological studies – leads to the greatest knowledge and understanding of God.

This entry was posted in Blogs & Websites and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Steve Hays of Triablogue Gives Weak Rebuttal

  1. Brian C Biggs says:

    I don’t mean to nitpick, but I can’t help but wonder: what do you consider to be the differences between logical and technical objections?

    Your analysis of his post boiling down to “Look, you should just trust the traditional view because you don’t have enough theological education to question the experts” doesn’t seem to fit. He isn’t questioning your statements based on your lack of credentials. Nor, is he telling you to “just trust the traditional view.” And, is the strength of an argument determined by the availability or unavailability of a text? Can arguments become weaker as books go out of print? I imagine that arguments might be more or less *popular* or *persuasive*, but does that affect it’s *strength* or whether it is *sound*?

    Finally, I don’t mean to put a damper on your call for people to hear and do the word – one which I very much think is needed – but I’m not sure how it is you can contrast that with theological studies. Are you contrasting intellectual assent with a saving faith? Are you painting Steve Hays as a dry academic? Are theological studies too obscure to have application in everyday life? And, how does hearing the word and putting it into practice not involve theological study?

    • Mike Gantt says:

      I don’t mean to nitpick, but I can’t help but wonder: what do you consider to be the differences between logical and technical objections?

      The same as the difference between substantive and peripheral or what Jesus was talking about when He distinguished straining out gnats from swallowing camels (Matthew 23:24).

      Your analysis of his post boiling down to “Look, you should just trust the traditional view because you don’t have enough theological education to question the experts” doesn’t seem to fit. He isn’t questioning your statements based on your lack of credentials. Nor, is he telling you to “just trust the traditional view.” And, is the strength of an argument determined by the availability or unavailability of a text? Can arguments become weaker as books go out of print? I imagine that arguments might be more or less *popular* or *persuasive*, but does that affect it’s *strength* or whether it is *sound*?

      I analyzed his post as I did because his response was built around his quotations of esoteric sources rather than around logical and scriptural challenges to my position.

      Finally, I don’t mean to put a damper on your call for people to hear and do the word – one which I very much think is needed – but I’m not sure how it is you can contrast that with theological studies. Are you contrasting intellectual assent with a saving faith? Are you painting Steve Hays as a dry academic? Are theological studies too obscure to have application in everyday life? And, how does hearing the word and putting it into practice not involve theological study?

      If you take “theological studies” in its simplest sense (i.e. “theos” + “logos”) then, yes, we all ought to study and obey the word of God.  However, if you take “theological studies” in its most common sense – that pursuit in which academic degrees are sought from those who have academic degrees – then we ought to avoid it, because it removes the word of God from the realm of everyday life and puts it into the realm of intellectual discourse.

  2. Brian C Biggs says:

    Steve’s supposed reliance on “esoteric” sources seems to amount to citing exegetical options or giving an author’s definition and discussing the implications. I am not familiar with all of what Steve cites, but these certainly aren’t all “esoteric” sources. Hell Under Fire is written for a popular audience and is far from being too academic a read for the average laymen.

    Steve does offer logical arguments and challenges (A large section of his post is an outline!). For example, “To say every decedent passes into the netherworld is picture-language. A graphic metaphor for death and burial. Indeed, the imagery of the netherworld is drawn from ANE burial customs. This is reinforced by the fact that “sheol” frequently occurs in poetic passages, where we’d expect figurative imagery. And even in narrative passages, the stock, idiomatic figures of speech carry over.” He does offer scriptural challenges; for example, “Jesus consigns the goats to eternal misery (Mt 25:41,46). Jesus is the fiery avenger (2 Thes 1:5-10). Jesus is the hanging judge (Rev 6). Jesus is the warrior-king (Rev 19).”

    As for the common understanding of theological studies, I can hardly agree with your definition of “that pursuit in which academic degrees are sought from those who have academic degrees”. Would you consider Calvin’s Institutes theological studies? They weren’t written in pursuit of a degree. I’m not sure why you would limit “theological studies” to things written in pursuit of a degree… unless, of course, the idea is to make them all look like vain, ivory-tower, sinful, useless pursuits designed to please men. I also wonder why you pit “intellectual discourse” against “everyday life” (and, presumably, spirituality). And how would Hell Under Fire be included in this, but not your book? Do you think commentaries should be avoided, or just not cited in arguments? And, if Steve’s view is the traditional view, why would he re-invent the wheel? Why ignore centuries of study and exegesis?

    I find it rather odd that someone who takes such a populist, anti-intellectual stance would demand “logical and scriptural challenges” from Steve.

  3. Mike Gantt says:

    Steve’s supposed reliance on “esoteric” sources seems to amount to citing exegetical options or giving an author’s definition and discussing the implications. I am not familiar with all of what Steve cites, but these certainly aren’t all “esoteric” sources. Hell Under Fire is written for a popular audience and is far from being too academic a read for the average laymen.

    When Jesus and His apostles wanted to make a point or respond to a challenge, they either quoted Scripture or else looked to nature and everyday life for an analogy, metaphor, or parable.  They did not teach as the scribes taught (Matthew 7:28-29) – that is, they did not make their points by quoting respected rabbis such as Nicodemus and Gamaliel.  Jesus and the apostles stuck to Scripture and nature so that their teaching would be accessible by everyone – not merely the academically minded.

    Steve cites about a dozen resources.  The first two he notes are BDAG and EDNT – abbreviations which only the academically-oriented would recognize.  Most of the rest of those resources are written by PhD’s and found on seminary reading lists.  Even the one book you describe as written for a popular audience was written by PhD’s, which was likely the basis for the publisher choosing the contributors (i.e. books by people without degrees or followings are hard to sell).

    None of this is to say that people like Nicodemus and Gamaliel are always wrong about everything.  Indeed, they sometimes have valuable contributions to make.  However, it is to say two things: 1) academizing the word of God drains away its power from those who would simply hear and obey, and 2) the notion that someone with a doctorate can understand the Bible better than someone who doesn’t is a thoroughly antibiblical stance.  Spiritual authority doesn’t come from being a PhD or even from being an author – it comes from speaking the word of God.

    The primary thrust of Steve’s post is an appeal to extrabiblical academic resources.  These kinds of resources are not familiar to most people, which is why I called them esoteric.

    Steve does offer logical arguments and challenges (A large section of his post is an outline!). For example, “To say every decedent passes into the netherworld is picture-language. A graphic metaphor for death and burial. Indeed, the imagery of the netherworld is drawn from ANE burial customs. This is reinforced by the fact that “sheol” frequently occurs in poetic passages, where we’d expect figurative imagery. And even in narrative passages, the stock, idiomatic figures of speech carry over.”

    I readily acknowledge that “Sheol” is an example of picturesque speech, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t referring to a real spiritual place.  If it were, you’d have to disallow “heaven” as a real place on the same basis.

    He does offer scriptural challenges; for example, “Jesus consigns the goats to eternal misery (Mt 25:41,46). Jesus is the fiery avenger (2 Thes 1:5-10). Jesus is the hanging judge (Rev 6). Jesus is the warrior-king (Rev 19).”

    I wasn’t arguing that Jesus would never judge us or afflict us.  On the contrary, I believe the earth is currently experiencing His wrath (Psalm 2:12; John 3:36; Judgment Is Upon Us).  Rather I was arguing that Jesus wouldn’t consign people to an unmitigated eternity of fiery torment.  For even in wrath He remembers mercy (Habakkuk 3:2), and mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13).  He wants people to repent (We Must Repent!).

    As for the common understanding of theological studies, I can hardly agree with your definition of “that pursuit in which academic degrees are sought from those who have academic degrees”. Would you consider Calvin’s Institutes theological studies? They weren’t written in pursuit of a degree.

    I think we owe a great debt to Calvin and the other reformers.  However, I also believe that The Protestant Reformation Fell Short.

    I’m not sure why you would limit “theological studies” to things written in pursuit of a degree… unless, of course, the idea is to make them all look like vain, ivory-tower, sinful, useless pursuits designed to please men.

    In fact, there is much vanity and there are many useless pursuits in the academic institutions of Christianity.

    I also wonder why you pit “intellectual discourse” against “everyday life” (and, presumably, spirituality).

    For the same reason that Jesus and His apostles did (Luke 10:21; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31):  the humble receive grace.

    And how would Hell Under Fire be included in this, but not your book?

    I was not making a specific critique of specific books.  Rather, I was saying that the general thrust of Steve’s response to my blog post was academic and technical.

    The worth of any book about the Scriptures is based on its general readability and its fidelity to the Scriptures.  I’m quite happy to have my book judged on those two standards.  Moreover, I’m quite happy for people to ignore my book and read the Scriptures themselves.  I do not write for reputation or for money.  I want to see the truth of God prevail.

    Do you think commentaries should be avoided, or just not cited in arguments?

    I do think commentaries can be of some value, but they should always be subordinated to the Holy Spirit’s enlightening of Scripture.

    And, if Steve’s view is the traditional view, why would he re-invent the wheel? Why ignore centuries of study and exegesis?

    Because my book presents an argument which, so far as I can tell, those books do not address.

    I find it rather odd that someone who takes such a populist, anti-intellectual stance would demand “logical and scriptural challenges” from Steve.

    A “populist” faces his own set of temptations – equal in peril to those faced by the “academic.”  That is, a populist seeks the approval of masses while the intellectual seeks the approval of the elite.  Our call is to seek neither, but rather the approval of God.

    Jesus and His apostles laid out their teaching so that everyone – from the least educated to the most educated – could understand it.  They did so in the fear of God.  We do well to imitate them.  Imitation demands that we use the logical mind that God gave each of us as humans and our understanding of the Scriptures insofar as we have had opportunity to read them.

    Would that Steve and you were more like the Bereans (Acts 17:11) who, upon hearing something radical, sought the Scriptures instead of the rabbinical writings.

    What matters most is that we keep the commandments of God (1 Corinthians 7:19; 1 John 3:23).

Comments are closed.