“Critique of The Final End of the Wicked by Edward Fudge”

SkullsWell, I thought my previous post was a little light on Scripture when it got to the section on hell. This one does a bit better….

Alan Fahrner
Theo 202 S04 Summer 1 06
Critique #4

Critique of The Final End of the Wicked by Edward Fudge


Although I personally think Edward Fudge did a fine job of presenting a case for the annihilationist view of the final end of the wicked, I am probably not the best person to judge. It is "preaching to the choir"—I held the same overall view even before reading his piece. Continue reading “Critique of The Final End of the Wicked by Edward Fudge”

“The Destiny of the Unevangelized and the Nature of Hell”

FlamesI imagine it’s far from the first time John Piper gave his view of annihilationism, but within the last 24 hours he wrote this:

Annihilation is what the unrepentant want, not what they dread. It would be a reward, not a punishment. Non-consciousness knows no loss.

I’m not going to debate the merits of his logic, but it did cause me to dust off a position paper I wrote while working on my religion degree. So, without further ado… Continue reading “The Destiny of the Unevangelized and the Nature of Hell”

Burger King and Braxton (“It’s love, in point of fact.”)

Every Saturday since Augie was a toddler, he and I have gone out for a daddy/son only breakfast. As a dad who has travelled and worked too much, it has been an immeasurable blessing. In Antrim, New Hampshire we went to T-Bird (which has a Dunkin’ Donuts); here near Denver Burger King is our normal haunt. If you have ever had BK’s hash browns (with a liberal amount of ketchup), you will understand why. 🙂 Last week, as Augie waited at the counter for our food, I took a picture of his empty chair and tagged it as “Invisible Augie” (we always sit in the same exact place unless some nefarious person grabs his table). This week it took thick dad a bit to realize what Augie meant when he said he had to go to the counter for “Invisible Augie”…but after he mentioned a picture, I caught on. 🙂 Invisible Augie However, this week’s tragic suicide of teenager Braxton Caner made me think of how it would be if the image above became permanent. What would I do if “Invisible Augie” permanently replaced “Visible Augie”?: Visible Augie Would I still go to Burger King each week? If I did, would the empty chair be an overwhelming painful reminder of what I lost? How would I handle it? How could I handle it? I quickly banished the thought then (and am doing so now) because allowing my mind to wander into that unthinkable space would bring me to tears. Yet, in about an 15 minutes, another father, Ergun Caner, will be again faced with that unthinkable reality as he, his wife Jill, his church, and Braxton’s friends gather together to remember a child who will never be in his dad’s photos again this side of eternity: https://twitter.com/erguncaner/status/494899632023928832

Service for the life of Braxton Caner: Saturday, Aug 2, 2014 at 2pm at New River Church (Hudson Oaks TX)- http://t.co/f5NGnj9bwM

How will he handle it? How could he handle it? With a hope that only Christians can have: https://twitter.com/erguncaner/status/494631123159220226

No words. No sermon. No funny quotes. No answers. No note. Nothing but excruciating pain & the assurance that I’ll see him in Glory

That hope does not mean we do not mourn; the tearing away of part of our heart, albeit temporarily, is still an excruciatingly painful experience. But it is a hope backed by a promise: https://twitter.com/erguncaner/status/494378251649699840

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

Although I agree with Ergun’s choice of Scripture, I prefer to go all the way to verse 18:

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, English Standard Version).

One of the things that has blessed me in following Ergun on Twitter has been the pictures he takes with his boys. It shows a mutual love between dad and sons that is unmistakable. I only interacted once with Braxton (and his response to me no longer is available on Twitter)… https://twitter.com/AlanCult/status/484532040407056386

@braxtoncaner89 Kudos to you for standing up for your dad. @erguncaner

..but I will miss him. I will miss the selfies with him and his dad. Yes, I know that “with the voice of an archangel” Braxton will rise again (and I will get a chance to finally meet him in person), but those “empty” photographs will be a painful reminder of what sin has wrought on this earth. (For clarity’s sake I do not mean Braxton’s sin…I mean our sin…which first started with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and which every single human, except One, has repeated in one form or another.) As my thoughts for this article started wrapping up, this exchange in the movie Serenity came to mind (where a government agent is reviewing footage of a patient’s escape with the doctor overseeing her “treatment”):

Dr. Mathias: [referring to Dr. Simon Tam who has just helped his sister, River Tam, escape] Gave up a brilliant future in medicine as well. It’s madness.

The Operative: Madness?

[Ambles over to the holographic projection of River and Simon escaping through an air vent]

The Operative: Have you looked at this scan carefully, Doctor? At his face? It’s love, in point of fact. Something a good deal more dangerous.

Look into Braxton’s face in this picture and tell me what you see (image from @erguncaner’s Twitter feed): Braxton being baptized by Ergun Caner “It’s love, in point of fact.”

I Do Not Remember…

Mark JensenMark, I do not remember how it was to live with you the first five years of my life…

But I do remember you spanking me—not as cruel torture by a decade older brother—but as a kind sibling helping his frequently-disciplined younger brother no longer feel pain when he got spanked by his parents.

Mark, I do not remember why mom and dad kicked you out of the house when you were fifteen…

But I do remember you coming to visit, sick as a dog, and me selfishly pushing you (successfully) to give me your coin collection (which you kept in one of mom’s thread and needle containers).

Mark, I do not remember the next time I saw you…

But I do remember excitedly visiting a Mark Jensen mom found listed at a nearby hospital, only to walk in and see it wasn’t you.

Mark, I do not remember the exact year I got to visit you in Seattle during one of my business trips…

But I do remember taking your picture at the top of the Space Needle. We were brothers again.

Mark, I do not remember what I did to have you insist I be out of your life again…

But I do remember during the Seattle visit how you told me that when you were kicked out of house none of your friend’s parents would allow you to stay. You didn’t say it, but you were so alone. My heart broke. So, if me being out of your life meant less pain for you, I cared enough to accept it. You had more sorrow before becoming an adult than anyone should have their whole life.

Mark, I do not remember our last interaction…

But, it doesn’t matter. You are gone. You were alone. Nobody even knows exactly when you died.

Well, Somebody remembers how we spent our first five years together, why you were kicked out of the house, when I next got to see you, the year we were atop the Space Needle together, why you last insisted we lead separate lives, our last interaction, and the exact moment you entered eternity.

Surely a God who knows whenever a sparrow falls to the ground (Matthew 10:29), knows all of that and more. All your pain and all your smiles. All your sorrows and all your joys. All your demons and all your angels. “Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”1 You may have never realized it, but you always have been of more value.

Mark, God will show you the love you refused to receive from your family and me. Will you be in heaven? I do not know. However, I do know the God who cares for sparrows cares for you and that your demons will torture you no more.

Mark, I do not remember the last time I told you, “I love you.”

But I do.

1 Matthew 10:31, English Standard Version.

UPDATE: With info from a sibling, corrected a couple of ages in the post.

Not One Word…Had Failed…All Came to Pass

Map of IsraelAlthough it’s been a while since I read these words while going through all 66 this year, they have stuck with me:

Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass (Joshua 21:45, English Standard Version).

This could not be any more true in my life and that of my family. It doesn’t mean that we (or I) have gotten everything we (or I) wanted. Instead, our Lord has always provided exactly what He has promised.

When we think otherwise it is just proof that we have misunderstood (often fundamentally) His guarantees.

May God give you what He promised instead of what you want. May you recognize your need so that when, in eternity, you get what you desire…it shows you have chosen wisely.  Your choice, thanks to the Most High’s promises, will come to pass.

What I Think About Homosexuals and Homosexuality

Since current events once again force me to write about the issue of the pro-homosexual agenda, I wanted to make a clear and concise statement about what I believe about homosexuals (the individuals) versus homosexuality (the behavior).

No one human, homosexual or not, is better than any other. We are all afflicted with the same disease (and it is terminal). Homosexuality is a symptom of that disease, not a (or "the") disease itself. I believe I have found the cure for the disease; a cure that reduces the quantity and severity of the symptoms on this side of eternity (and completely defeats it on the other). I want everyone, gay or not, to take advantage of the cure.

I do not judge the homosexual, I judge the behavior. Rather, I agree with the Bible’s judgment of the practice because Scripture’s ultimate Author is the One who not only established the heavens and the earth—He established right and wrong. Ultimately, I do not think God&#39s moral laws are any different than physical laws. Neither are subjective; they are statements of fact. If you step off the edge of the Empire State Building, the law of gravity correctly posits the sudden stop at the bottom will be bad for your health. If you willingly sin, the moral law similarly factually states it’ll have negative effects on you and those around you (not to mention, "the sudden stop" at the end of your life will be equally bad for your eternal health).

To the lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transexual: I do not hate or fear you. I actually do not look at you any differently than I do anyone else, including those closest to me (whether by blood or by Christ). I do not wish you ill or want you to be treated as a second-class citizen (quite the contrary). However, I cannot ever tell you what you are doing is right—it is not mine to say (and I would suggest that those "Christians" who tell you your behavior is fine are doing you a disservice). Additionally, I cannot remain silent when those who purport to be supporting you try to tell my children, my family, my friends, and my neighbors that wrong is right.

And that is not because I am against you (I am not). It is because I love you.

Advice from a Stuffed Tiger

At this point I know I am probably famous (or infamous) for using secular songs as jump-off points for my sermons. However, today’s inspiration came from a comic instead of a tune.

Any Calvin and Hobbes fans here?

Although I wish Bill Watterson was still producing more of that strip, there is something to be said for stopping at the top of your game…and staying “stopped.” Michelle and I have plenty Calvin and Hobbes books, and Friday I randomly opened one of them in the middle and found an interesting four box conversation between Calvin and his loyal friend, Hobbes:

Calvin and Hobbes

Box 1: Calvin: “‘Live for the moment’ is my motto.

Box 2: Calvin: “You never know how long you’ve got! You could step into the road tomorrow and — wham — you get hit by a cement truck! Then you’d be sorry you put off your pleasures!”

Box 3: Calvin: “That’s why I say ‘live for the moment.’ What’s your motto?”

Box 4: Hobbes: “Look down the road.”1


Well, between Calvin and Hobbes we’ve been given a clear choice between pretty disparate advice, haven’t we?

Continue reading Advice from a Stuffed Tiger

Why I Am a Heretic

I am no longer going to update this post. Instead please see the Beliefs page to read the most up-to-date list of what I believe.

AKA, "What I Believe"

Guy preaching with a staff and a stone tabletI had an interesting conversation with a Twitter friend, and after he agreed to an uncomfortable implication of his belief system I commended him on being willing to admit it. I then suggested that someone else who held that same belief system would not be willing to make the same admission, to which he replied:

Yes, I believe he would. I probably wouldn’t just throw that out there in the public forum of twitter. He may not be comfortable with saying

To which I replied:

Why not? If it is true it’s to God’s sovereign glory isn’t it?

My response would seem a whole ‘lot more apropos if you understood what belief system it was in response to. 🙂

Either way, although I can understand choosing a proper forum for airing one’s beliefs, I kind of was taken aback at the idea that someone who has no problem debating for his theological worldview then wouldn’t be willing to lay all his cards on the table.

So, here are all my cards. Traditional Christians will find plenty to consider me a heretic, but I’m not going to do a bait-and-switch on you. (Most of this is from a post I did a couple years back on fahrner.us. All biblical quotes are from the English Standard Version. Oh, and I reserve the right to modify this post at any time, so if you want to beat me over the head with my own words, be sure to grab a screenshot. :-)) Continue reading Why I Am a Heretic

Two Trees and a Tomb


Before I begin my first sermon here at the Pleasant View Church of Christ, I figure it would be good to provide a quick introduction. I imagine most of you either have met me or are aware of me, but I am a recent transplant from New Hampshire…sent out ahead of my family, half of which will be joining me once my oldest son is off to college for his freshman year at UMASS Amherst.

I have a beautiful wife along with two daughters and two sons…ranging from the ages of 27 to 4. Yes, I got started early and had a surprise late. 🙂 But what a wonderful surprise it was! (Children are always a gift from God.) Hopefully you'll get to meet them all, but initially you'll only get to hang out with my wife, Michelle and Augie, a bouncy blond curly-haired and blue-eyed human who finds joy in the most simple things…and bestows joy to everyone who encounters him…

Continue reading Two Trees and a Tomb

Celestial Potluck

Terrestrial Potluck

Now…we were supposed to have a potluck at Gregg Lake today, but it we are delaying it because quite a few of us are spread all over the country…and beyond. For instance, Tracy, John, and their family are Alaska-way…Winslow is with his wife in Puerto Rico…and I'd have to leave the cook-out early because I have to catch a flight to San Francisco about 4PM this afternoon.

However, since I had already settled on preaching about potlucks…you are stuck with the subject. 🙂

Good news is that I also intended to keep it short so we could get to Gregg Lake early…

You keep the subject and the timing! 🙂

Favorite Potluck Food

When you think of potlucks, do you mentally lick your chops? I've been to some pretty good ones…and some not-so-good ones. For a while we attended a Chinese church in Sydney…

No, we don't speak a Chinese dialect…they always translated the sermon into whichever language the speaker didn't preach in…

But after every service that had an awesome potluck…something else you can confirm with my wife!

You would think they were Italian, however, in that they were like an Italian mother who is always trying to get you to eat more. Mikey wasn't old enough for him to be likely remember how great it was…but I bet you Michelle is mentally saying, "Mmmm" with me as I talk about this.

How about you? Have you experienced good and bad potlucks? What is your favorite potluck food?

Continue reading Celestial Potluck

Donne on the Brain

May 21

A couple of recent events…on national, one local…are the genesis of this sermon. Well, I should probably say one non-event, and one tragic event…birthed these words. Perhaps the incidents will cause you to consider some of the same things I did.

First, the national non-event. As most of you are probably aware, non-believers (and quite a few Christians) had a field-day as May 21 approached because an aging preacher, Harold Camping, was predicting the Rapture on that Saturday. As the complete lack of an increase in missing persons reports attests, Mr. Camping was mistaken…something he even admits. However, he is convinced his error was only in thinking something physical was going to happen that day…instead it was a spiritual Judgment Day…

But he is sticking by his prediction that the world completely ends on October 21.

Boy, I can’t wait for the ridicule to be repeated weeks leading up to that Friday…as we Christian believers are often lumped in with that false prophet, even if it is only implicitly…

Continue reading Donne on the Brain


Within some Seventh-day Adventist circles there is a joke connected with how strict Adventists are unlikely to wear jewelry (even a wedding band is avoided). The only jewelry allowed has to be functional—for example, a watch. (To be fair, although I might come to a more tempered conclusion, they have valid reasons for their aversion to bling.)

So…the story goes…these Adventists get to heaven and everyone gets a crown but them. Obviously they are a bit perplexed, but God quickly explains that they get a special one.

And then He reveals crowns with a clocks in their centers. 🙂

Now, for some reason that joke comes to mind when I think of another humorous hypothetical celestial situation. We all know that pride is one of the seven deadly sins (see Proverbs 6:16-19)…so one time I was thinking of a scenario after a saint arrives in heaven. He's really, really excited to finally see Jesus face to face…and (of course) he isn't disappointed. Continue reading Poof!


Last night, just before turning my iPad off and going to sleep, it really felt like I should set my Facebook status based on the death of Osama bin Laden. This is what I settled on:

‎”Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die…?” (Ezekiel 33:11, ESV)

I look forward to a future where _nobody_ dies, but for now I am thankful for those who protect us from those like Osama bin Laden.

Followed by immediately adding this comment:

Although, I much rather everyone, including our worst enemies, be saved…as would our Lord: “…God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3b-4).

Now, I am not near as Christ-like as those quotes might imply. I am glad that there has been closure on this aspect of that evil day over nine years ago, and I am happy that a person who wanted to kill my family, friends, neighbors, and me is no longer around to try to fulfill his wishes.

But I do stand by those statements and, as unlikely as it is, hope somehow God reached Osama just before before a bullet ended his life and he’ll unexpectedly greet me when I arrive in heaven.

Finally, to those who might quickly suggest I am judging someone’s eternal fate—agreed, I cannot read any individual’s heart and only God decides whether we are sheep or goats…wheat or tares. Let’s just all throw political correctness and faux saintliness aside, be honest about it, and admit that if Christians and/or Jews are right, the most likely resting place for this infamous terrorist is with the wicked (whether it’s Rob Bell’s, John MacArthur’s, or some other version of hell).

And that fact should make us cry, not celebrate.

The Invisible Fire Engine

Fire truck on Elm Avenue in Antrim, NHHeading into town today to fix a friend's laptop, I was partway down Elm Avenue when I noticed one of our neighbors had a large old firetruck parked off to the left. I commented to Michelle that it was kind of cool, and she replied that it had been there quite a while. Now, it's not like that sizable truck was right next to the road, but it was still a bit embarrassing, considering how often I have gone past it in my car (and on my bicycle). Clearly, whatever I've had on my mind the last six months (or longer) has made the fire engine invisible to me. Continue reading The Invisible Fire Engine

Wolf Control

Angry wolf

A little earlier this year Rob Bell, the popular founding pastor of Mars Hill in Grandville, Michigan, set off a bit of a web explosion by releasing a video trailer promoting his soon-to-be-released (at that time) book, Love Wins. The video didn't specifically say anything heretical, but it implied quite a bit in its questions and statements. For instance:

"Will only a few select people make it to heaven? And will billions and billions of people burn forever in hell?"

"……and so what gets subtly sort of caught and taught is that Jesus rescues you from God. But what kind of God is that that we would need to be rescued from this God? How could that God ever be good? How could that God ever be trusted? And how that ever be good news?"

"What you discover in the Bible is so surprising, unexpected and beautiful that whatever we've been told or taught the good news is actually better than that. Better than we can ever imagine. The good news is that love wins."1

Even in those few, separate quotes you can sense some fundamental orthodox Christian doctrines being questioned. The blogosphere rightly questioned whether his new manuscript was going to promote universalism, pluralism, and a lack of an eternal punishment (i.e. hell). The response was quick and harsh, as was the counter-reaction. One side immediately called Bell a heretic, the other side, just as judgmentally, condemned people for speaking up before the book was even on store shelves.

Continue reading Wolf Control