Reading the chapter I felt like I often do when talking to my 4-year-old daughter. Mary, my budding conversationalist, beads ideas together whose only relationship is that the one idea caused her to think of another. But perhaps that’s the point. Perhaps Rob didn’t intend for the chapter to be read like as a geometric proof. Perhaps the issue then is genre. This chapter is more like poetry than an argument to be dissected or carefully analyzed. Perhaps to treat it as such would be to miss the overall poetic affect. Giving the benefit of the doubt to the author, let's go with this more poetic approach.
What then is the poetic affect? What does it all add up to?
1. Presumptive epistemological confidenceSo what do we make of these two poetic impressions?
2. Population sizes of heaven and hell
3. Infinite punishment for finite sin
4. The age of accountability and infant mortality
5. Postmortem second chances
6. “Accepting Jesus” / praying the “sinner’s prayer”
7. Heaven somewhere else
8. Perspectives of Jesus
9. Missionary responsibility
10. Monergism/synergism (Is salvation all God or a combination of God and us?)
11. Personal relationship with Jesus
12. Supposed diversity of NT teaching
The thinking behind the questions at points is critical in the best sense of the word. As examples, I point to the important problems of an infinite punishment for finite sin and the population sizes of heaven and hell. I do think these are important subjects that are at least worthy of reconsideration. How should the Bible’s figurative language of end-time judgment be understood? Does the Bible teach that God will punish eternally sin committed in a finite body? Will more people go to hell than heaven? I think there are solid biblical reasons to believe that both of these questions are to be answered in the affirmative, but there are also biblical counter arguments that should be honestly weighed and not ignored.
Also, to the extent that our evangelical telling of the Gospel is reductionistic to the point of making God look like someone with a polarity disorder, that should be redressed.
But on the whole the chapter appears to me be more a pseudo-intellectualism rather than real. The problem of a supposed diversity of NT teaching on the way to salvation which takes several pages of the chapter is a pseudo-problem for example. While appearing quite insightful, it really amounts to nothing. What’s more, several of the lines of questioning Rob traces are caricatures based on the worst stereotypes of evangelical teaching around.
Penetrating and important questions can be found in this chapter. But they aren't the only kind.
Post 1 and Post 2