Thursday, 9 December 2010

Does God need to send men to hell for his glory?

I do not see why this should be so. I see no diminution of God's glory if all men are ultimately saved (though this will not be the case). For surely God's glory is all the greater if men who were hell-bound now belong to the kingdom of heaven. Is God's glory not demonstrated more in his salvation of sinners than his condemnation of them?

You may argue that God needs to send men to hell to manifest the glory of his justice. That justice is an attribute that is glorified by its execution. But surely laying our sins on Jesus manifests God's justice more than any human cast into the lake of fire. And if this is so, there is no need for any man to be condemned for the sake of God's glorious justice.

19 comments:

  1. There is no need of God to save any individual for his glory either.

    - Aaron

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  2. I think "laying our sins on Jesus" manifests God's *mercy*.

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  3. I think "laying our sins on Jesus" manifests both God's mercy and God's justice - Romans 3:25-26 - 25 "God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus."
    I don't believe that God needed to send men to hell for his glory. The triune God is and always has been perfect. He didn't need to create men at all, so he didn't need to send men to hell either.

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  4. I appeal to every impartial mind...whether the mercy of God would not be far less gloriously displayed, in saving a few by his irresistible power, and leaving all the rest without help, without hope, to perish everlastingly, than in offering salvation to every creature, actually saving all that consent thereto, and doing for the rest all that infinite wisdom, almighty power, and boundless love can do, without forcing them to be saved, which would be to destroy the very nature that he had given them. -John Wesley

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  5. Aaron, while God is glorious without saving men, I suspect his glory is magnified in salvation.

    JS Allen, true. And I had mercy in the sentence originally. But I wanted to focus on justice as that is the potential counter-argument—that God sends people to hell to magnify his glory in justice and wrath (which is related to justice). Nevertheless I agree, and mercy with justice (Christ's death) is more glorious than justice alone.

    Kris, yes. As per my response to JS Allen. I agree that none of this is necessary. I would add that while salvation increases God's glory, this comes as much or more so from God's love. Note that much of the glory comes latter, the humility and shame come first.

    Thanks for the great quote Kevin. I don't read much older material, though they often already cover what we come to discover.

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  6. Eze 18:23 NASB "Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked," declares the Lord GOD, "rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?
    Eze 18:32 NASB "For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies," declares the Lord GOD. "Therefore, repent and live."

    It is arguably illogical for God to receive glory from something that gives him no pleasure, something he admonishes against. It's not as if God is sardonically saying to the unrepentant "Go ahead, make my day."

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  7. Starwind, yes, well put. I would add that though I have seen this comment made about why God would damn some (his glory in justice/ wrath), this argument seems not that convincing to many Calvinists either.

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  8. I have seen this comment made about why God would damn some (his glory in justice/ wrath)

    I've seen similar but also without scriptural support.

    In my personal opinion, the meaning and context of God's "glory" (Strong's H3519b, G1391) is somewhat amorphous and ill-defined, and doesn't lend itself to soteriological doctrine, certainly not Calvinist (tautological apologetics notwithstanding).

    God's "glory" seems to be both:
    - a manifestation or attribute of his presence or character which he can withhold (Gen 49:6) or fill the temple (Exo 40:34, 2Ch 5:14, Eze 10:4, 18) or earth (Isa 6:3), that moves with God (Exo 33:22) and is Israel's rear guard (Isa 58:8), and which (theoretically) could be "shared" with others were God to allow such though he won't (Isa 42:8, 48:11) or which God can give to himself (Psa 115:1); and
    - also something which men can or should give to God (Jos 7:19, 1Sa 6:5, Isa 42:12, Jer 13:16), like praise or "limelight" in which God can bask.

    Similar meanings and contexts are found in the NT as well as "glory" describing Jesus' kingdom to be revealed to the saints.

    I know of only two associations of God's judgement with God's glory:

    1) Eze 39:21 NASB "And I will set My glory among the nations; and all the nations will see My judgment which I have executed and My hand which I have laid on them." in which God's glory was neither derived from, nor a consequence of, his judgment. As noted in numerous other passages God's glory is something he manifests unless he withdraws it, but the juxtaposition here does not demonstrate cause and effect, does not demonstrate that God is further glorified as a specific consequence of his judgement, let alone that God needs such glorification. If anything in this passage, God's judgment is either coincident with or follows from setting his glory among the nations but not the reverse.

    2) Rev 14:6-7 NASB And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; 7 and he said with a loud voice, "Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters." Here the gospel (repentance) is being preached to the as yet unrepentant remaining on earth to avoid God's pending judgment.

    Conclusively, we are told specifically in Rev 16:9 NASB "Men were scorched with fierce heat; and they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues, and they did not repent so as to give Him glory" that God is glorified as a consequence of repentance, not judgment.

    God always has glory, men voluntarily give God further glory in their repentance, but nowhere does God extract glory from judgment.

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  9. Thanks Starwind. Consider also this passage,

    I will summon a sword against Gog on all my mountains, declares the Lord GOD. Every man’s sword will be against his brother. With pestilence and bloodshed I will enter into judgment with him, and I will rain upon him and his hordes and the many peoples who are with him torrential rains and hailstones, fire and sulfur. So I will show my greatness and my holiness and make myself known in the eyes of many nations. Then they will know that I am the LORD. (Eze 38)

    Which seems to imply that God will gain glory (reveal his greatness). Perhaps God is displaying glory in judgment here, though the display seems to imply that men will give God glory. I think some argument could be made for God gaining glory from men through displays of his attributes (such as power and justice).

    If we concede glory may come this way—that even if the display of justice (which includes judgment) gains God glory from men—mercy gains him more, and the display of justice is complete in the death of Christ.

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  10. bethyada:

    I've overlooked a couple other passages that also associate God's judgement with God's glory (Php 2:10-11 and Rev 11:13) but the preponderance of scripture demonstrates that God gains glory from mans' repentance.

    [Eze 38:21-23] seems to imply that God will gain glory (reveal his greatness).

    Here is the NASB with Strong's numbers for the final verse:

    Eze 38:23 NASB+ "I will magnifyH1431 Myself, sanctifyH6942 Myself, and makeH3045 Myself knownH3045 in the sightH5869 of manyH7227a nationsH1471; and they will knowH3045 that I am the LORDH3068."'

    Note that H3519b (usually translated "glory", sometimes "honor") isn't present. I'm personally reluctant to delve into constructions and interpretations based on English synonyms in situations like this, because the imprecise meaning of the English "glory" doesn't lend itself to reliable doctrine exegeted from its English synonyms, and I don't know the underlying Hebrew well enough to venture into Hebrew synonyms of H3519b (kabod).

    Here is the NAS Exhaustive Concordance entry for OT H3519b (Hebrew kabod):
    from H3513; abundance, honor, glory: - bosom (1), glorious (8), glory (147), honor (33), honorable (1), honored (1), riches (1), soul (2), splendid (1), splendor (2), wealth (3).

    In Mal 1:6 and 2:2, H3519b is translated as God's "honor" whereas all other instances refer to a man's honor, but in all cases never something God gains through judgment.

    Here is the NAS Exhaustive Concordance entry for NT G1391 (Greek doxa):
    from G1380; opinion (always good in N.T.), hence praise, honor, glory: - approval (2), brightness (1), glories (1), glorious (5), glory (155), honor (1), majesties (2).

    The great preponderance of usage is "glory", and to a far lesser extent "honor", and rarely "splendor", "majesty" or "wealth".

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  11. I'll not repeat the BDB or Thayer definitions to save space, except to note their general meanings: glory, honour, opinion, majesty, magnificence, splendor, reputation, abundance, and exalted state. Personally, I have an excellent English grasp of all those terms, except "glory". I know when one of those terms is being misused in context, except "glory".

    While the Hebrew "kabod or kabhodh" is occasionally translated "honor", "splendor" or "wealth", it is problematic to then look at other verses incorporating "honor", "splendor" or "wealth" (or their synonyms) and then looking to those other contexts to gain insight, by extension, into "glory". For example, with words like "free will" or "sacrifice" we (English speaking bible students) can gain reliable insights from other contexts because our basic understanding of the meaning of "free will" or "sacrifice" is precise and consistent. But biblical "glory" seems an abused term in English, its English synonyms often being carelessly (it seems to me) substituted in an effort to discern or explain a pattern of usage when in fact such substitution obscures the boundaries of any original, underlying pattern.

    Consider as a further example the differences between the Easton and ISBE entries for "glory", based on their respective interpretations of the Hebrew kabhodh and Greek doxa:
    http://eastonsbibledictionary.com/glory.htm (which, IMO, suffers from the vagaries of erroneous English synonym substitution)
    http://www.internationalstandardbible.com/G/glory.html (which retains the stricter meaning in each of the possible uses)

    The AMG Complete Word Study Dictionary entry for the Hebrew H3519 is woefully terse, though its entry for the Greek G1391:
    - sums its introductory paragraph thusly: "Glory, therefore, is the true apprehension of God or things. The glory of God must mean His unchanging essence. Giving glory to God is ascribing to Him His full recognition. The true glory of man, on the other hand, is the ideal condition in which God created man. This condition was lost in the fall and is recovered through Christ and exists as a real fact in the divine mind. The believer waits for this complete restoration. The glory of God is what He is essentially; the glory of created things including man is what they are meant by God to be, though not yet perfectly attained."
    - elaborates on its OT origin thusly: "(VII) The NT idea of dóxa is represented in the OT by the word kabod (H3519) with the root idea of heaviness (i.e., weight) and, metaphorically, worthiness. When it is ascribed to men, it refers to their splendor or reputation. When the glory of Jehovah is spoken about, it refers to the revelation of God's person, nature, and presence to mankind, sometimes with visible phenomena."

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  12. The AMG entry excerpted above has much more to say about NT usage, but is too verbose to repeat here in detail, is silent on the issue of God gaining glory from either repentance or judgment, and otherwise conflicted in its explanations.

    So, per Eze 38:23, God will "magnify", "sanctify" and "reveal" himself, yes. Is that the same as God gaining "glory"? Does "reveal greatness" mean "gain glory"? Not by the strict literal meanings of Hebrew kabhodh and Greek doxa, and absent a better English understanding of what the original writers intended, and absent any verse which explicitly associates them in context, I'm inclined to demur. Conversely, as demonstrated in my previous posts, there are explicit verses which associate God's glory, specifically, not with judgement but with repentance, specifically.

    While the OT Hebrew "kabod or kabhodh" is occasionally translated "honor", in the NT these are different words with expressly different meanings. For example, the phrase "glory (G1391) and honor (G5092)" or the reverse appears 13 times: NASB+ Rom 2:7; Rom 2:10; 1Ti 1:17; Heb 2:7; Heb 2:9; 1Pe 1:7; 2Pe 1:17; Rev 4:9; Rev 4:11; Rev 5:12; Rev 5:13; Rev 7:12; Rev 21:26. Notably, in Heb 3:3 that distinction is explicitly paralleled.

    In NT usage, Thayer distinguishes essentially three categories for the Greek doxa (G1391): 1) an 'opinion, judgment, or view'; 2) 'splendour or majesty'; 3) 'an exalted state'. In the first category, "glory" is generally likened to praise or worship of God. But "glory" and "judgment" are both nouns with judgment meaning a "verdict". However the Calvinist argument treats "glory" as a noun and "judgment" as a verb, determining guilt or imposing punishment.

    God's honor (i.e. reputation) is not equated with God's glory (i.e. splendor). Relative to God, "glory" seems a tangible attribute of God's character whereas "honor" is an intangible respect directed from men and angels toward God.

    If we concede glory may come this way—that even if the display of justice (which includes judgment) gains God glory from men ...

    This is the point on which I'm being literal and nuanced. Yes, God gains honor from men but honor is not glory, and yes God also gains glory from men (men ascribe to God his full recognition, as per the AMGCWSD), but generally (although not exclusively) through mens' repentance and not God's judgment of their unrepentance.

    ... —mercy gains him more [glory], and the display of justice [gaining glory from judgement] is complete in the death of Christ.

    God gaining glory from being merciful to the repentant is an attractive inference but I don't find sufficient, explicit scriptural support to rely on that inference to refute Calvinist dogma. Regardless, Calvinists have scant scriptural support for their view that God gains glory from judgment of the unrepentant. Rather, as I noted above, God gains glory from not judging the repentant. Arguably, God does not judge the repentant because of God's mercy in Christ's sacrifice complimented by the believer's repentance, but the believer's repentance remains distinct from God's mercy. They are related, yes, but not equivalent, not substitutable.

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  13. The Calvinist case can be inferred only indirectly from Php 2:10-11 or Rev 11:13.

    Regarding Php 2:10-11 NASB "so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father", the Calvinist argues:
    - those "under the earth" indirectly include the unrepentant who are forced at the white throne judgment to acknowledge Jesus, and
    - that "glory to God" grammatically follows not only from the latter group who 'confess Jesus as Lord' but "glory to God" also follows from those described in the former group who "bow the knee".

    The Calvinist argument pivots on modern English punctuation absent (but not disallowed) in the original Greek, and yet contradicts:
    1Co 12:3 "no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit", and
    Rev 16:9 'the unrepentant do not give God glory'

    Both are reconciled with Php 2:10-11 by recognizing that per Rev 16:9 the unrepentant do not give God glory and per 1Co 12:3 confessing Jesus as Lord requires the Holy Spirit who is absent from the unrepentant. Thus those "under the earth" of Php 2:10 indirectly might include the dead, unrepetant lost, who at the white throne judgement are forced to "bow the knee", but who regardless are not included (grammatically) with Php 2:11 "every tongue will confess Jesus as Lord to the glory of God." Keep in mind that 'confessing Jesus as Lord' involves willing loyalty and trust, without which, a forced acknowledgment of his divinity and authority is something even demons merely do.

    So the unrepentant never willingly give glory to God by confessing Jesus as Lord (under the Holy Spirit), but are nonetheless forced to bow the knee in submission to Jesus' judgment. They remain fully unrepentant albeit unwillingly held to account and judged by Jesus, but in their unceasing defiance, never "give glory" to God. For glory to be "given" it must be willing, but the unrepentant remain defiant even to the point of gnashing their teeth (in rage, anger and hatred) at God in the outer darkness (Mat 8:12, Luk 13:28).

    However, there are a couple passages that imply God gains glory from mans' acknowledgment or praise of God's power, consequent to mans' astonishment (Luk 5:26) or fear (Rev 11:13) but neither passage implies repentance, though the context of Rev 11:13 is one of judgment.

    Regarding Rev 11:13 NASB "And in that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell; seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven." The context is clearly God's judgment and there seems no explicit accompanying repentance but rather mere acknowledgment (or praise?) of God's power (thus glory) is given (willingly?). Some commentators read repentance of the 'rest who were terrified' into their giving glory, but this seems eisegesis rather than exegesis.

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  14. bethyada:

    Above, my 2nd of 4 posts between 15 December 2010 16:28 (1st post) and 15 December 2010 16:33 (3rd post) seems to be hung up.

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  15. Starwind, perhaps I am guilty of conflating myself, though I am responding to arguments made in English. I perceive the argument in English to (predominantly) mean God's fame and honour rather than his splendour. If God's splendour is something we observe it can be argued that it exists whether we recognise it or not, and it is difficult to see how this would alter based on judgment, or sending men to hell. Whereas his honour can be appreciated by man, and his fame, or Name can be known and regarded. My passage from Ezekiel uses the term to yada (to know) which I guess carries the concept of fame in the context.

    I do not deny that God could gain renown from showing himself just. I just think that this has been done in Christ. Thus even if God could gain honour through judging unrepentant sinners (theoretically), this is not a reason to not save some (irresistibly from a Calvinist perspective) because such justice has already been demonstrated. That is, there will be men in hell, and judgment of such men could (potentially) increase God's renown, but this is not a necessity.

    I would add that I think God's majesty is demonstrated far more in mercy than judgment. From experience, and from passages that extol God for Christ, thus all that Christ has done for us.

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  16. Bethyada:

    Much to my chagrin, I was overly narrow in my previous searches and I overlooked several verses germane to the point you're making. There is considerably more scriptural support for your argument than I found at first, or second :-/

    God is glorified by his mercy:
    Rom 15:8-9 NASB For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers, 9 and for the Gentiles to glorify [G1392] God for His mercy; as it is written, "THEREFORE I WILL GIVE PRAISE TO YOU AMONG THE GENTILES, AND I WILL SING TO YOUR NAME."

    Jesus' healings were acts of love and mercy (as well as demonstrations of authority and divinity) which glorified God:
    Mat 15:31 NASB So the crowd marveled as they saw the mute speaking, the crippled restored, and the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified [G1392] the God of Israel.

    Jesus' sacrifice (as well as his entire ministry) glorified God:
    Joh 17:4 NASB "I [Jesus] glorified [G1392] You [God] on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.

    Regarding the reputation or house (name) of God or Jesus being glorified by his forgiveness:
    Psa 79:9 NASB Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Your name; And deliver us and forgive our sins for Your name's sake.
    1Jn 2:12 NASB I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name's sake.

    Indirectly and by inference, followers of Christ are to be merciful and forgiving in which God is glorified:
    Joh 15:8 NASB "My Father is glorified [G1392] by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.

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  17. Bethayda:

    I am responding to arguments made in English. I perceive the argument in English to (predominantly) mean God's fame and honour rather than his splendour.

    Understood. My personal problem with your opponents is that I don't have a good grasp of what God's glory (or splendor) actually is or means. While I can imagine a pillar of fire or smoke, and Moses' face shining, and Jesus transfigured, that doesn't help me understand its essence, I lack an earthly/human/material paradigm for "glory", in part because of the diversity of biblical uses. Consequently, I fall back on very specific, explicit and literal methodology when discussing it to avoid errors of conflation. I have been in this discussion overly narrow it seems.

    If God's splendour is something we observe it can be argued that it exists whether we recognise it or not, and it is difficult to see how this would alter based on judgment, or sending men to hell.

    If by 'splendor' (glory) we mean whatever radiates from God that caused Moses' face to shine, I agree. But if 'glory' is a euphemism for "basking in the limelight of mens' adoration" or "God getting the credit due him", then the question becomes what scriptural support (if any) exists for what God wants and what men give.

    I do not deny that God could gain renown from showing himself just. I just think that this has been done in Christ.

    I personally would agree, but unbelievers, atheists, could not care less about God's renown until they are forced to acknowledge the truth. Perhaps that is God's intent underlying Rev 11:13?

    That is, there will be men in hell, and judgment of such men could (potentially) increase God's renown, but this is not a necessity.

    I agree completely.

    I would add that I think God's majesty is demonstrated far more in mercy than judgment.

    Perhaps in my verbose (and failed) efforts to be thorough, I didn't clarify that I was unpersuaded by the Calvinist argument, finding little scriptural support that God gains glory through judgment of the unrepentant, and I remain so unpersuaded. But there is, I now realize, more explicit and affirmative scriptural support for your view, and while previously ambivalent I am now more persuaded to your view.

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  18. FWIW, as I further ponder the various meanings and uses of God's "glory", the following helps me grasp the concept.

    God's glory is simultaneously:
    - a radience, that manifests materially from God with physical effects experienced by men.
    - a worthiness, that is inherent within God that is recognized or acknowledged intellectually by men.
    - an exalted state, of existence and residence of God and Jesus in which the saved will some day share.

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  19. I further realize now in hindsight we (or I) had an erroneous premise in this discussion.

    Nowhere does scripture say that God actually "gains" (i.e. increases in) glory. Scripture only says that men give glory to God, which is not quite the same as God gaining more of what he had less previously.

    God can be inherently completely and perfectly glorious (worthy) while fallen men come to understand and acknowledge (i.e. "give") far less than the complete gloriousness God already possesses. Just as we 'tithe' a portion of what God already owns, the result of which does not increase God's wealth one iota, we give glory to God without God experiencing an increase in the complete glory he already is/has.

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