I’ve been going through the difficult passages in the scriptures that seem to teach the possibility of eternal damnation and have been trying to work through them within a UR world view. The scriptures need to be able to hang together, and harmonize while still being believable. Here is my next verse that many of you know. I’m sure it’s been discussed here before but I still can’t seem to get the search engine to work right for me in these forums. Here is the passage, Hebrews 6: 4-6:
**"4For in the case of those who have once been (J)enlightened and have tasted of (K)the heavenly gift and have been made (L)partakers of the Holy Spirit,
5and (M)have tasted the good (N)word of God and the powers of (O)the age to come,
6and then have fallen away, it is §impossible to renew them again to repentance, (Q)since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. "**
I read an explanation at tentmakers and the person said, basically, that even though it says “impossible” it doesn’t mean that. The writer was speaking in hyperbole. They then quoted the verse about how it was impossible for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God, but that all things were possible with God. I’d like to hear your thoughts on this.
Beware, this is long and emotional, and, due to the transparent nature of the post, is more than a bit embarrassing. This is a particularly troubling verse for me because I, after decades of Christianity, went through a monstrous trial in my life that lasted for years (and is still going). It seemed that God hadn’t “talked” to me in years and wouldn’t respond to me no matter what I prayed. I began to lose hope and came to the conclusion that I had fallen away and the reason why God wouldn’t respond to me was that I was, in fact, one of those whom God spoke of. I would beg and beg, but, no God. After years of this my faith began to trickle to a stop. I then went down a bad road. I began to read about people who had a similar experience to me and I found this testimony of a Wycliffe Bible translator/missionary who lost his faith. Over many years he begged God to give him assurance that he was his child and he received only silence. He eventually stopped his missionary work and slowly completely lost his faith and became an atheist. His “testimony” floored me. I began on a path toward atheism myself and began watching debates between atheists and Christians. I read a few of Richard Dawkins’ books. Strangely, throughout this I would talk to God every so often about why I was thinking the way I was. At the same time, I came to a point that I completely, no longer believed in God. But, it wasn’t like I was acting angry toward God at that point. It just simply seemed that the evidence (problem of evil, evolution, most people forever in hell, confusing religions, etc) pointed toward something more random and Christianity no longer seemed feasible to me. I would ask, “Why would God make himself a man in the middle east 2000 years ago so he could sacrifice himself to himself so he wouldn’t have to send people to the hell that he created in the first place?” After reading the atheist’s point of view, the faith seemed really bizarre. Especially in light of the fact that most people who ever existed were going to go to hell.
Backing up a little bit, I had gotten so afraid of hell (at this point knowing that God would no longer forgive me and that I was part of the elect of hell) that I was having panic attacks (real ones!) while trying to deal with the fact that I was going to burn for eternity. I was walking around terrified and had become an emotional zombie for my wife and children. I would pray at night and beg and beg and beg for God to take me back, to accept my repentance and I remember coming across this verse in Proverbs 1 that crushed me:
24"Because (AG)I called and you (AH)refused,
I (AI)stretched out my hand and no one paid attention;
25And you (AJ)neglected all my counsel
And did not (AK)want my reproof;
26I will also (AL)laugh at your (AM)calamity;
I will mock when your (AN)dread comes,
27When your dread comes like a storm
And your calamity comes like a (AO)whirlwind,
When distress and anguish come upon you.
28"Then they will (AP)call on me, but I will not answer;
They will (AQ)seek me diligently but they will not find me,
29Because they (AR)hated knowledge
And did not choose the fear of the LORD.
30"They (AS)would not accept my counsel,
They spurned all my reproof.
31"So they shall (AT)eat of the fruit of their own way
And be (AU)satiated with their own devices.
32"For the (AV)waywardness of the naive will kill them,
And the complacency of fools will destroy them.
Since I had backslidden in the Hebrews manner, this was my life and I was terrified. I no longer knew how to be a father because I didn’t know how to concentrate on these things in light of the fact that I was damned (BTW, health problems seemed to point to the fact that I was probably dying, so it was coming sooner than later). I remember once, a few years ago, sitting in my daughters room, alone, and I was staring at our pet bearded dragon who was kicking back, not a worry in the world. I began to cry and I said to God, “why won’t you let me trade places with the animal. She doesn’t have to go to hell. Why did you create us to be eternal? Why can’t you simply make me no longer exist? I am so afraid all of the time and there is no way I can get you to change your mind.” I just sat there, wishing with all my heart that I could be that lizard, or that I could have never been born.
So you can maybe see that when atheism showed its face to me, especially through the testimony of an ex christian who was a conservative evangelical wycliffe missionary turned atheist with the same story, it came as a relief. It was a breath of fresh air. It was a chance to NOT go to hell. I didn’t want to go and live a life of sin. I didn’t want to shirk my responsibilities, cheat on my wife, become a prodigal. I just didn’t want to go to hell. I began to hope for more evidences for evolution, evidence for life on other planets; anything that would let me NOT be under the judgment of God. I didn’t share these things with my wife, though she saw it happening, no doubt. I still went to church, but get this: I wouldn’t take communion because I didn’t want to take it in an unworthy manner so as to anger God and bring judgment on myself! Hows that for crazy?! But I was continuing to fall into greater and greater disbelief and it was a tremendous comfort!
The big problem was that I couldn’t alleviate my fear of hell and it would come creeping back. One night, in the middle of the night I decided to go through the scriptures and prove once and for all that they weren’t God’s word. Prepared to challenge the “contradictions” I came across Hebrews 6 and I was reduced to a sobbing child. I went to my wife literally wailing that I had fallen away to the point of no return and confessed to my “atheism” and how I went so far as to have laughed at the idea of God sacrificing himself to himself. “I laughed at God” I told her and I just laid there and wailed and wailed and felt fear greater than I ever had in my whole life. I just said “I’m lost and I’m so afraid” over and over again.
I began to think about my life. Was I ever a Christian? I must have preached a thousand sermons and sang ten thousand songs, but I knew that that didn’t matter to God (But Lord, did I not, in thy name…depart from me). I came to the conclusion that I did become one, which worked against my favor because then I did become an apostate. Nevertheless, I repented and told God that I had to still raise my kids to know him. I still had to love my wife and be a good husband. I still had to be an example, if at all possible, for faith in Christ to my kids, for woe is me even more if I bring my children to a place where they wouldn’t believe because of my own lack of faith. I have chosen to put myself at the mercy of God and follow him even with all my doubts, hang-ups. I have chosen to turn my mind away from the doubts when they rear their ugly head. I have chosen to follow Christ, even though he may not accept me for there is nowhere else for me to go. I have made a commitment to my wife and kids and I will try to keep it. I broke my commitment to Christ, but I’m going to try to die trying to follow him for, perhaps, he will have mercy on me, even though I failed him badly. After it’s all said and done, I do believe. I don’t believe in a steady state universe. There was a beginning and I can’t attribute this all to chance. I cannot deny our human nature is wickedly broken and we are in need of a savior. I know my own wickedness and my need for Christ. There is nowhere else to go but to throw myself at the mercy of God. I see through the emptiness of the atheist philosophy with all its shortcomings, not to mention that it is also philosophically bankrupt. I live in fear of judgment, so you can see that I have a motivation toward UR. No one needs it like I do. But I also need to see it in the scriptures. My bias is severe and it disqualifies me in many ways from developing an unbiased opinion since I want to see it there, but at the same time, the view of God that I grew up with simply does not seem to fit with how God revealed himself. The scripture seems to show a God that wants to redeem us. And I’m hoping that he will redeem me.