A small and clumsy answer to Dennis and his friend Mark
Preamble (to the main work, I mean)
2nd issue in series (Read the first one here.)
I first met my friend Dr. Agonson face-to-face more than two decades ago at a semi-formal gathering of doctorate level scholars and amateur theologians held on the Oregon Coast. (Although I am not typically in the habit of name dropping—as I have found through the years that no one will listen—I may mention that he and I are on first name bases. —That is, I often call Him Dr. without so much as a quaver.) Anyway, I found him more than a little charming for both his unconventional dress and fearlessness in expressing unpopular positions, and he immediately impressed me as someone I would like to have long-term association with. Before the convention ended I had very slyly obtained his contact information. Over the years, he has been gracious enough to bounce his ideas off me, and allow me to abuse him by asking the same in return. As I have the bachelor’s degree in journalism and he is a deep thinker, we sometimes ask one another to glance over our latest writings for errors in logic, grammar and punctuation—and then publish just the way we wanted to in the first place, but with less acrimony, and fewer aspersions cast, each year.
Catching wind that I had again written something to embarrass myself, my children and the Bible institute that was impetuous enough to confer a degree upon me, “Shel” asked if I would kindly consider publishing it on his blog. Wanting, if at all possible, to spare his feelings, I agonized so long and hard for the right way to say, without seeming ungracious, how flattered I was to receive his generous offer, but . . . that he finally withdrew it, causing me to immediately plead in rather undignified fashion that I might do so.
I am a man of great seriousness and gravity, as often as the mood strikes me. Wait, let me start that sentence again: What I mean to say is, I am very serious about my theological views, yet I find that even when wanting to persuade people to my position, I am so nearly unable to quell the little humors that occur to me along the way. If silliness occasionally crops up in my response, I pray, Dear Reader, that you render it as Paul’s amusing request to the Corinthians to bear with him in a little foolishness, and not as the other. Not as the little folly that Solomon warns may spoil something precious.
If my earlier statement to the affect that I believe in the (eventual) salvation of mankind seemed shocking, novel or ambiguous to you, let me offer some scant clarification. I believe in God’s Commandments, Requirement, Judgment and Severe Punishment—for incorrigible rebellion. In short, I believe in God’s assignment of Reward for some and Condemnation—Hell, or more to the point, the lake of fire—for others. Truly, I believe people will go off to serve sentences in that place of perpetual punishment. I believe the number going there may be a majority—even a vast majority—of mankind. Beyond this, I believe God sent His begotten Son into the world to save the world, in accordance with Christ’s proclamation in John 3:17 (for instance). Building upon this (last stated) theological position, I hold fast to the biblical precept that Job may have articulated most succinctly in concluding that, “no purpose of [God’s] can be thwarted.”, 
While I attended the to-remain-unnamed Bible college, one professor was fond of saying of two well established, yet difficult to reconcile, biblical truths, “Let’s agree to hold those two ideas in tension for the moment,” or something like that. So, if the ideas or positions in the paragraph above seem to contradict one another, yet, I assure you, I staunchly believe each. Perhaps a hint may be found in the definition I use for perpetual. I believe perpetual to be the God-created state of holding or propelling relentlessly on forever and ever . . . if not—and up until—interrupted by its Maker. Whereas I believe eternal is a state that goes on forever and ever that God will never interrupt. If you feel that I am talking nonsense, I can sympathize with your position. I have “ammunition” to go more thoroughly into that topic, but will (largely) put it aside just now for the topic at hand.
Just so you can understand the underlying position and mindset of the author you are reading, I will go so far as to say that, lo so many years ago now, I regretted discovering that someone had already laid claim to (their take on) “the spiritual laws.” I had wanted to construct a skeleton for what I hold to be certain universal and God-enforced inevitabilities. Conspicuously within this essential framework—call it a true rib—is the biblical principle that “God is not mocked.” Like an electrician placing a continuity tester’s probe up to a wire, I place this tenet against many things claiming to be maxims of the faith to see if they pass this first test. Huge numbers of large and small, old and new doctrines do not. And therein, intending no insult to Mark—or even Seventh Day Adventism—I feel the doctrine within the aforementioned provoking document is born of a cognitive dissonance rather than a program-free, unbiased reading of the holy Scriptures.
And speaking of felt-needs, I feel I must distinguish my hope of universal redemption from that of nearly everyone who preaches a “similar” hope. I find that whenever someone goes from believing a purely traditional Christian doctrine in their youth to the hope of universal redemption of mankind, he/she almost always leaves the rails, supposing what God once condemned is no longer off limits. No! If God speaks against it—if He ever spoke against it—He remains against it. So many who were once in the ranks of purely orthodox Christianity who “received the insight,” seem to assume God is no longer interested in the dos and don’ts He established for all time. That is why I felt the need to painstakingly aver or reinforce above my retained belief in such punishments/places as the Bible calls Hell and the lake of fire—into which Hell is eventually cast. To disbelieve in these is to reject clear biblical teaching.
My college beginnings date back a bit. In the 80’s, we were told to practice a little thing called parenthetical citation, which the Modern Language Association (MLA) endorsed. I do not know if current scholarship still places the citation reference within the quotation marks and prior to the ending punctuation or not. If this is something foreign to you, please know it was once the approved method.
On the other hand, when the word or portion I want to add a footnote to falls at the end of a punctuation-able clause or sentence, I have chosen to place the marker past the casual or end punctuation. If this is wrong, I cannot blame a college, a professor or even the MLA. I, and I alone, made that decision, as doing otherwise just looked wrong to me.
So, to begin . . .
—Martin D. Carlson
Ronald Regan, Humphrey Bogart and Rush Limbaugh are just three personalities who seldom if ever remain attentive to me once I begin to humbly say how much my advice influenced Robert Frost’s work, for instance.
Some older documents read shyly. (Fortunately, we now have Spelt Chex.)
Little trivia for you: Not one state in 50 currently convicts for sneaking a business card.
2 Corinthians 11:1
Particularly that “there is no other name [than Jesus] given under Heaven by which men must be saved (Acts 4:12), . . [and that] no one comes to the Father but by [Jesus] (John 14:6).”
In case my implication is at all obscure, I simply mean that I disbelieve that God could attempt something (saving the world through His Son) and not accomplish it. This biblical tenet (Job 42:2) is widely expressed in Scripture.
“I am not ashamed” of my alma mater. On the contrary, I have chased down cars sporting my college’s iconic parking permit on freeways, just to say, “Hi”—to the occupants, I mean. Alas, I withhold the name not to spare my feelings, but those of my school, as they would not appreciate being associated with my stance on this topic.
To say that God is not mocked is different than saying you cannot mock God, just as God cannot be tempted, yet Satan tempted Christ—for I speak to those with a biblical foundation. Jesus, God the Son, suffered mockery from the Romans, into whose custody he had been “entrusted.” So, a larger—a more sophisticated—definition becomes necessary. The refined meaning of “God is not mocked” is that whoever mocks God will indeed answer for it—and come to regret it—in an appointed time to come.
See my earlier post on Tale Told, published 11/24/17.
Whereas our grandparent’s generation of Christian may have unabashedly presented “Hell” as deserved and unending physical torture as punishment for the rebellious, most contemporary Christians would experience mental discomfort and/or embarrassment at believing in—let alone admitting to believing in—such a harsh consequence assigned by a loving God. If something has to give way for our mental comfort to be restored, what will it be? (Yes, I said what you think I said! I am suggesting that most Christians today allow—though perhaps subconsciously—emotional arguments to reach past biblical evidence in shaping their religious beliefs.) Anticipating the embarrassing question, “Does your God eternally torture people who reject Him?” postmodern Christians realize the “correct” answer is some form of, “No!” Therefore doctrines arise to suggest, “God doesn’t cast anyone into Hell, but lets them choose to go there,” or “I don’t think physical pain is involved.”
By saying felt-needs, I am alluding to the motive driving all cognitive dissonance.
I allude to moral issues; I am not saying Christ cannot “declare all foods clean” for the Church, over what had been forbidden within Judaism. (Every Christian may hold his or her own view regarding a/the Diet of Worms.)
Please consider, Dear Reader, that the magazine Vogue was also once . . . in style.