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Hell, Creation and Side Issues

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen
Edited 1-11-2017

This article will undoubtedly upset some people.

Do creationists have any business complaining about others who emphasize theological "side issues", when creation science is one of them? Absolutely! There are different kinds of side issues, some marginal importance and others with tremendous importance.

Do creationists have any business complaining about others who emphasize theological "side issues", when creation science is one of them? Absolutely!
Ancient of Days / William Blake, 1793

What is a "side issue"?
People have their own opinions about and definitions for the term "side issue". One frequent connotation is that a side issue means something is not important. People are offended when they are told that the item they brought up is "just a side issue" and dismissed. For me, the best usage of "side issue" means that the subject under discussion is not essential to salvation. For example, belief in a literal six-day recent creation, belief in annihilation as opposed to eternal punishment in Hell, social concerns, speaking in tongues, forms of baptism and so on are not essential to salvation. The importance of those and other topics can be discussed.

Whom do they glorify?
Sometimes nonessentials become elevated in people's minds so that little else matters. People may gravitate toward those things because it makes them feel good. The foundations of the Word of God, preaching the gospel, sound doctrine and so forth are pushed aside in the pursuit of the "cause". (Note that there is nothing wrong with giving emphasis to learning about a new topic for a while, as long as things do not get out of balance.) There is often an element of pride where people want to "be right" and look down on others who do not believe the way they do. The principle of, "In essentials, unity. In nonessentials, liberty. In all things, love", is absent. This also goes for Calvinists who act like cultists, trying to convince other Christians that the Reformed view is the only correct one. Angry Arminians who condemn all Calvinists to Hell are also guilty of unchristian attitudes. Above all, we are to be glorifying Christ, not ourselves.

Division in the Church
People lacking discretion are known to give undue emphasis on unimportant side issues, creating strife and division. While truth is divisive by nature (Matthew 10.34-39), dividing over unimportant matters and pride is unchristian (John 13.35).

My father was a pastor in the liberal (and now thoroughly apostate) United Methodist Church many years ago. He was strongly opposed to people speaking in tongues in the church, since he had seen them get so wrapped up in it that the issue divided churches.

A Note of Hell
The subject of Hell has been coming up lately. It had been put aside by "seeker-friendly" and liberal churches and by people who are simply uncomfortable with it. While it is good to preach the love and forgiveness of Jesus, that is an incomplete gospel. All have sinned (Romans 3.23), and all deserve death (Romans 6.23, Matthew 13.41-43) and need to repent (Luke 24.46-47 NASB). We need to tell people why Jesus died on the cross and bodily rose on the third day (Ephesians 5.6). Hell is real (and some of my atheist critics wish that it is real enough for me to go there — which is not possible).

Some people are teaching the heresy of Universalism, where everyone is saved anyway. Others teach the unbiblical doctrine of annihilationism, which says every condemned sinner is burned up and consumed. This minority viewpoint flies in the face of the plain reading of the Scriptures (for example, Luke 3.17). Instead, they use amazing eisegesis and hermeneutical gymnastics to finagle ways around what the Bible says (i.e., it is cultural, symbolic, a false doctrine that infiltrated the church &c). So, their special interpretations tell you what the Bible really says and means. Annihilationism is considered by some to be an outright heresy. Personally, I believe it is heterodox.

Fallen Angels in Hell / John Martin, ca. 1841
I am not into "guilty by association", but there are some things to consider. First, annihilationism has always had a minority viewpoint throughout Christian history. Second, cults like various Adventist groups, Armstrongites (the former Worldwide Church of God), Jehovah's Witness and the like hold to this view, which I though should give someone a reason to pause before embracing this view. Also, many cults that hold to annihilationism also believe in another heterodox item called "soul sleep".

Some are abrasive and do not even have their false doctrine correct.
I have yet to see convincing evidence that Hell is a Roman Catholic invention
that is not based on "guilt by association".
They believe in the Trinity, should we discard that, too?

Kind of pushy, this was posted at The Question Evolution Project, of all places.

It is distressing when people will promote annihilationism and leave their original calling. I have seen people who were doing apologetics and evangelism lose their focus so they could argue with other Christians and try to "convert" them to their point of view. Some people are primarily known for arguing annihilationism with Christians, and doing little else.

One annihilationist said that it's important to "have a right view of God", or "proper understanding of the Bible". To me, that implies, "I have the right view of God/the Bible because I believe in the annihilation of the wicked, and your view is wrong". One Christian was saying how annihilationism was ridiculous and simply did not make sense (a sentiment I agree with), and the annihilationist tried to make the other guy look like a faulty Christian. The annihilationist was accused of acting like an atheist. Well, he did use atheist tactics of turning the subject around, avoiding questions put to him, and trying to put the other guy on the defensive.
EDIT: People sometimes use the word "torture" when discussing Hell. That is wrong, misrepresenting Hell and also God. Torture involves sadistic pleasure at the pain of someone else, and God is not like that. Hell is eternal punishment and justice, not a matter of God getting thrills from inflicting pain.

Commonality with Old-Earthers
Theistic evolutionists and other old-earthers compromise on the integrity of Scripture and elevate the current trends of science philosophies above it. That is, "science" interprets Scripture. They, too, require eisegesis to force their views into the Bible, and want to get biblical creationists to compromise and embrace old-earth views. Things that old-earthers and annihilationists have in common include efforts to recruit others to their viewpoint, eisegesis, pride, and requiring acceptance of their understanding of the Bible because humanity now has the wisdom of science.

Cultic Attitudes
Several marks of cults can be found in many evolutionists and some of the people who hold to side issues. The ones that stand out are:
  • Belief in having the only correct view
  • Anger at having unimportant side issues kept as unimportant
  • Exclusivity, where people who do not agree are "not as good as us"
  • Special revelation or new understanding of the Bible
  • Persecuted minority, their view is right but has been suppressed by Christianity for many years (this does not mean that just because a view is commonly accepted that it is right, since organized religion suppressed teachings of the Scriptures for many years, and opposed making the Bible available to the people)
Edit: I posted something on my "public figure" Page about the bad argument for tongues that says, "Jesus never changes, so tongues are for today". I linked to this article that refutes such logic, and had people insisting on converting me to their point of view. One acted distinctly like a cultist, complete with eisegesis and bullying. These attitudes help prove the point of this article.

How is Biblical Creation Science Any Different?
For the most part, biblical creationists hold to the authority of Scripture. Creation scientists will disagree about the interpretations of facts and about their models of, say, Flood geology or explanations for the distant starlight question, but they uphold the Bible.

Genesis is the foundation, as all major Christian doctrines are found there. Creation science, the global Noachian Flood, the age of the earth, six-day recent creation, death entered the world only after Adam sinned — these are indeed side issues because they are not essential to salvation. They are, however, extremely important to understanding Scripture and avoiding the domino effect of compromise.

Also, you do not need a code book or massive eisegesis to make sense of Genesis. There are resources available to make our understanding more complete, but unlike the annihilationists, old-earthers, cults and so on, biblical creationists appeal to the plain reading of Scripture. There is a follow-up to this article here.