The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Richard Abanes: The Truth That Hurts


It helps that I’ve known my cousin since I was born :slight_smile:

The contentious bit is They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from[a] the presence of the Lord. It’s interesting that they say it could also be translated They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction that comes from the presence of the Lord, as that might imply that being in the presence of the Lord, is punishment of eternal destruction? Anyway, assuming that isn’t what it’s saying, I can think of a few things:

If the Greek word “aionion” was translated “beyond sight” rather that “eternal”, that lessons the absoluteness of “destruction”.

Ironically, I can also quote Packer’s arguments against annihilationism, to support EU here :mrgreen:

So I agree with Packer here, I think it’s not annihilation, but probably unlike Packer, I reckon it’s talking about the destruction of what’s evil within a person. Alternatively, it could be bringing someone to “rock bottom”, in order that they see their need for God and repent.



I like the phrase, “The Truth That Hurts”, because I believe it is judgment, our encounter with Truth that hurts and heals. It’s terrible, but good for us, medicine that purifies and heals our souls. When we encounter the absolute truth concerning our lives, there will be plenty of weeping (repentance) and grinding of teeth (angry at ourselves remorse), kicking ourselves in the behind! I suppose that’s why I’m so glad that salvation is by grace; I increasingly realize the depth of my depravity. As Isaiah said, “All my righteousness is like used toilet paper!” Everything about me is polluted by my selfishness - even my love for my wife and children. Woe is me, but for the grace of God!
Judgment, remedial punishment, and any rewards are truly “olam”, “aionios”, beyond site, far exceeding our ability to perceive, far worse/better than we can even imagine! We can be assured though that “whatever a man sows, so shall he reap!” Even though our faith is in the grace of God, if we sow to the flesh we shall reap destruction! I’m always amazed that though I’ve come to believe that Jesus ultimately saves all, I’ve also come to have a much greater dread of judgment for myself, even though I believe it’s for my/our good. I’ve been given so much, that the parable of the talents really worries, humbles, saddens me for I know I’m not close to faithfully using a fraction of what God’s given me. And concerning the parable of goats (sheep) and kids (goats), I can’t count the number of times I’ve been so consumed in my own stuff that I failed to even acknowledge the greater needs of those around me. Even the parable of the 5 wise and 5 foolish virgins bothers me for I don’t know how many blessings I’ve missed by not being prepared.
I believe that the scripture was not written in vain that says that the Lord shall dry every tear, for we shall all likely have many tears to cry in repentance when we stand in the presence of truth and all our self-deception is stripped from us and we see ourselves for who we really are. I’ve tasted of the judgment of the Lord, and it is terrible! But it worked in me good. By misinterpreting the passages on judgment as separating believers from unbelievers, it nullifies the power of these passages to call us believers to righteous living. And it doesn’t do the unbeliever any good either because they don’t believe anyhow.



Nice, I like your thinking.

Apart from finding it disconcerting that Americans spell “sight” as “site”, I totally agree :mrgreen:

Although, I think we must also remember that God won’t try us beyond what we can bear (& the passages about His yoke/burden being light?).

I think that’s a very important point. People complain EUs don’t have the “fear of Hell” to keep the youth inline, however, I’d say giving them a the impression that God won’t discipline/purge them…



It’s been suggested that some things require the purging of Hell. The same issue comes up with “blaspheming the Holy Spirit”. I’d also note that the “fury of fire” could be a purifying fire, cleansing and consuming all evil in the adversaries and bringing them to repentance (which means they would be no longer adversaries).



Jesus said, “A good tree* cannot* bear bad fruit, and a bad tree *cannot *bear good fruit.” ie. A good man cannot do evil, and an evil man cannot do good. This is a stunning insight. Good and evil are mutually exclusive, just as North and East are mutually exclusive. Or Darkness and Light.

When accused of being empowered by Beelzebub (which means “Lord of the Flies”), Jesus said, “A kingdom divided against itself will fall.” ie. Evil cannot do good. Why not? Because the moment evil does good, it ceases to be evil, and self-destructs. (In the same way, the moment you head East, you no longer head North. The moment you turn on the light, you are no longer in darkness.) Since healing the sick is good, the power to heal must come from God rather than the devil. QED.

But things don’t seem quite this simple. I find both good and bad fruit in my life. I conclude I am both a “good tree” and a “bad tree” simultaneously. Jesus underscores the fundamental paradox that lies at the heart of human nature when he says, “You who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children…” If we are 100% evil, we’d not know how to give good gifts. But we do know how, which is good. Therefore, we are both good and evil.

John Baptist tells us, “The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

What is destroyed in the fire? The tree that produces evil fruit. ie. the evil that is found in each one of us.



Thanks Dad, that’s a good explanation :slight_smile: And of course, as you’ve mentioned before, Paul also uses similar old/new man imagery of the internal conflict.

Like any creed it’s uninspired. Furthermore, looking at what has to say, it doesn’t look that good e.g. “The creed has never gained much acceptance among Eastern Christians”.



We dedicate an entire thread (It’s unlikely the Church has gotten it wrong for 2000 years!)to Abanes’ next comment, so I’ll skip it here.

:laughing: I’ve never considered I might be a “cultist”. I believe many people who are definitely not “cultists” also strenuously object to ECT. e.g. Gregory of Nyssa!

Not as often as it used to, as they discovered it was poor translating. Some have rightly gotten rid of it all together :sunglasses: But I do affirm that yes, Jesus does warn of judgement (although some of that was the destruction 70AD) and then punishment (albeit I think it will ultimately turn out to be remedial, even if to the people experiencing it, it looks and feels like retribution).



I wouldn’t over-stretch the destruction of Jerusalem. Nearly all biblical prophecy has multiple horizons, local, Jesus, future, end-of-time. Therefore Jesus’ talk of Judgement must be taken as distant future along with immediate history.



That’s certainly a point worth considering, as I can think of a few times this was the case with Old Testament prophecy.



“conveniently” is an odd comment. I think, it would be fairer to say Calvin redefined it when he threw out post-mortem salvation.

I haven’t come across this group before, so it’s hard to comment of their general orthodoxy or otherwise. However, I don’t think we are “human trash” or that “Hell is like God’s human trash can”. I also think God is the master of everything.

Although, there certainly are some similarities, there are demons/satan on the earth, and passages like “this present evil age” & being already under judgement. I know Sherman would happily expand on this.

I agree that after death, things will be taken to a whole new level of intensity!

Nods, although we have demons awaiting judgement here on earth too.



We’ve discussed fire a bit in judgment by water/fire; baptism with water/fire and I’m fairly sure George MacDonald had a lot to say on this. Personally I think it symbolises painful purification.

Darkness is an extremely common symbol for evil and the absence of God’s presence, who is light.

And given fire creates light, it would be illogical to say Hell was dark.

I totally agree.


  • purity of the burning bush
  • furnaces for metal refining
  • temple/sacrificial system
  • cooking to improve and make things eatable
  • leading Israel during the night in the desert
  • Holy Spirit as fire.
  • burning coals on head (bringing fire to people in the community?)
  • brimstone used for medicine
  • fire & light closely associated

Yes, although it’s not 100% separation/isolation, otherwise that would be annihilation :open_mouth:

We agree up until he says it “results from having full knowledge of Jesus’ lordship after having rejected him”.

I think no one can give truly give praise from the heart, mind and spirit, without the Holy Spirit.

Note it says, “every tongue shall swear allegiance”. Also “to him shall come and be ashamed **all **who were incensed against him”, sounds like everyone coming to repentance. Thanks Joe, as you inadvertently alerted me to these additional Isaiah verses :sunglasses:

Because of 1 Cor 12:3, I think no one can truly (with heart, mind & spirit) say “Jesus is Lord” without the Holy Spirit.

I read this as saying Christ sacrificed Himself and was resurrected so that He could be the Saviour and Lord (in a positive sense, not in the sense of an ECT planner, instigator and sustainer) of everyone.



Only just noticed this thread and decided to make a rare contribution. Remember even Sodom’s destruction is not final. As Robin points out on p127 of TEU, there is a surprising reversal of fortune in Ezekiel 16.53-55.



Thanks for posting. I totally agree that it’s good to remember that even full on destruction of Sodom wasn’t the end of their story.



Alex, what is ECT? Is there a glossary for abbreviations? I’m just getting acquainted with this forum.



Welcome, Joy!

We don’t have a glossary, but maybe we should add one!

Here’s a few common abbreviations:
ECT = Eternal Conscious Torment
ET = Eternal Torment
UR = Universal Reconciliation
EU = Evangelical Universalist




That’s a great idea. I’ve added it to my to do list.

Thanks Sonia.



I would think that when (1) was true, that would indicate repentance, which would allow for God’s mercy and forgiveness to provide reconciliation. I’m unsure about what they are getting at with “penal exclusion”. Obviously I completely disagree with (4).



I know what they are talking about. My favorite subject these days…penal substitution. :mrgreen: They look at sin as a transgression of the law and Jesus’ death as a legal transaction. Jesus died for God’s appeasement and to fulfill his divine retributive justice.

Don’t know if you’ve had a chance to check out these links, but I’m really enjoying them: (especially Part 4 that comes as a link at the end of Part 3)

They compare the retributive justice in penal substituion with restorative justice in Christus Victor. With restorative justice sin is more a sickness, that God purposes to heal. One of the quotes I liked in the article was, “The problem of the atonement is not an angry God, but a sick and dying humanity.” I realize how tricky the words are because God is certainly unhappy with sin, but the problem in helping us to overcome it is not to address God’s anger problem so he’ll decide not to be angry any more despite our sins, but that we should be regenerated. God’s anger is a just response to our sin that taking it out on someone else, having someone else pay it, won’t fix. No doubt God does not treat us as our sins deserve and has mercy on us, but in their view God is only able to do this because a legal transaction was made to appease the wrath of God. They glory in Jesus’ death as a legal transaction that fulfills God’s need for retributive justice. Restorative justice doesn’t seek retribution, but rather healing. I don’t see God, because of Jesus’ death, saying I no longer see what you do and it no longer matters to me. In their view if you believe in the right atonement, penal substitution, you are saved. It seems like what we believe is important, but specificly because the emphasis is on God caring what we do. I realize these things are so tricky and I’m not clear on everything yet, but I am starting to think if we look at what God is doing is to make things legally right, give people their just outcome, not heal them, then we are probably missing God’s heart and purpose for the creation he so loves. We lesson the love of God which I’m finding is all too common.

I liked this quote about regeneration, " Not merely a subjective change of our view of God, or even of God’s view of us, but an objective ontological change in us wrought by God." The penal substitution view, for me, expresses God’s view of us has changed - rather than his love has been consistent - and what is needed is that we have the right idea of atonement to be saved, whereas I see the bible emphasizing that we actually be regenerated and that this comes from God and is our healing.



Thanks Amy for helping me work through penal substitution. At the core of it, it seems there’s an emphasis on eye-for-an-eye Justice, over and above, Love & Mercy, to which God has to be subjected to, whether He likes it or not :confused:

The success and rightness of eye-for-an-eye Justice is questionable i.e. both parties end up blind.

I much prefer a focus on reconciliation, restitution, restorative, rehabilitation, healing, cleansing & purifying i.e. that way both parties end up with two eyes each :slight_smile:



Life is a gift, a blessing from the Creator, and the Father will always continue to sustain us. Therefore, even those in hell **are **being loved by God.

Whilst it’s not a desirable position to be in, it’s not a total absence of the favor of God, as He still sustains the person’s life.

I’m sure hell will be a disturbance to the person’s life, but obviously disagree that it’s endless.

Fortunately some of these sound like the position that one gets too, just before repenting and asking for forgiveness. Which God will gladly give and they will become believers, ending their time in hell :slight_smile:

Good news doesn’t require hell to look good, here and now, sin has already been enough of a contrast!