Works in Progress

I have way too many irons in the fire. I have a lot of things to work on (in addition to, you know, work) – far too many to actually finish any of them. As a friend reminded me recently, finishing things is a skill. I have that skill, but I need to sharpen it. Sometimes it helps to write everything out – and who knows? Maybe something here will be of interest to a reader. So, in no particular order:

Servants of the Secret Fire

Yes, this is a fantasy hearbreaker. A Tolkien-esque one no less! Until Cubicle 7 put out The One Ring, I was working on a system that actually reflected Middle-Earth. When TOR came out, I really felt that they did a good job at my task, so I let it languish.

The system as it is still has some interesting things about it. I wrote a post about attribute decay, for example, that is part of SotSF, and there are other elements in there that I like. But, an obvious problem: I do not work for Cubicle 7, which currently has the right to publish a RPG based on Middle-Earth. So whatever I do to complete this project would just be for me, for groups I game with, or maybe to release out into the world for free.

Simplified D&D

Years ago – eight years ago now? – before 5th edition existed for D&D, I hacked 4th Edition in order to run a game for a group that wanted to play D&D but wasn’t interested in learning a lot of rules. Or, in some cases, any rules. Though that hack was designed with 4th Ed in mind, I could definitely adapt it to 5th Ed. It’s even something I’m still interested in playing and running.

Rewilding the Bible

One of my problems is that I am interested in too many things. Scattered. But one thing I’m interested in is rewilding, and more than that, the idea that for the most part our civilization is not a good idea, certainly not in the long term, and that some other way of life is probably the way to go.

There are plenty of other people who know a lot more about this, who are working to learn self-sufficiency, and becoming ungovernable, and training in prehistoric survival skills. I’m not very good at any of these things, yet.

I have noticed, though, that I know more about the Bible than other people who are interested in rewilding. What I would like to do is to create a resource, probably the length of a short book, that looks at passages in the Bible that reflect this worldview. There is actually plenty there. And based on the reception of a recent sermon, I think there are people who might be able to hear what I have to say.

95 Tweets Expanded

A few years ago, two friends of mine and I assembled 95 Tweets, our homage to Luther’s 95 theses, all arguing against the idea of a Hell of eternal conscious torment. Even from a purely Christian standpoint, even from a literalist, the arguments for Hell are incredibly week, and the counter-arguments kind of overwhelming. So we overwhelmed, with 95 tweets.

The problem is that, with a barrage like that, there’s no point at which to engage. Even if someone wanted to argue a contrary position (and I know many do) it’s hard to get a hand-hold. So, I feel like I need to expand the ideas and claims that we made in the 95 Tweets. Part of what makes me hesitant is that there is already a lot out there about this issue, and I need to make sure that what I would contribute would be worthwhile, and not just replicating someone else’s work.

5E Setting: Dragonblade

I started a D&D 5E game set in what I’m not calling Tianxia, but that was just called Dragonblade at the time. It’s a south and east Asian mashup in the way that a lot of fantasy settings are a north and western Europe mashup, primarily drawing on Japanese, Chinese and Indian history and mythology. It’s fun, and I’ve posted a bit of my work on this blog before. It’s also the result of my frustrations with other attempts to do the same thing. Does that make it a hearbreaker? Sort of. Oh well. I think it’s a cool setting, and I’ve run the first part of a game in it. My rule is that I design settings that I would be excited to play in, and this one fits the bill.

5E Setting: Twilight of the Gods

I recently completed a long-term campaign called Twilight of the Gods. The setting is mythic Scandinavia, and beyond that, Europe and the wider world. The setting takes Ragnarok literally, and a campaign set in it will begin when Ragnarok is just about to. The advantage here is that the setting is actually slightly simpler than the base setting for 5th Edition. I’ve also already put in a lot of the work already, having run a full campaign.

5E Setting: Alaam

This is a cool setting that I’ve sketched out, but in which I have yet to run a campaign. It is inspired by the stories of 1001 Arabian Nights as well as aspects of Islamic mythology, blended with Dungeons & Dragons of course. It has a monotheistic religion, and godlike genies ruling a realm of raw and exaggerated elements, and other coolness. Less developed than Dragonblade or Twilight of the Gods, but still really cool.

This Blog

I’ve been blogging since 2006, and have carried over two other incarnations of my blog to this site. So, if you want, there are 11 years of my writing to choose from. Can’t recommend it all, though.

I’ve been working to be more consistent in writing, and I’ve found some cool connections on Reddit, as well as continued connections through social media. I’m trying to build up weekly, ideally daily, writing discipline. I’m not there yet, but it’s a vehicle for sharpening my skills. It always has been.

Profiles in Positive Masculinity: Nick Offerman

I am a huge fan of Parks and Recreation. It is a show I’ve watched in its entirety three times through. I have a lot to say on the value of the show, and how it stands out compared to other TV comedies, and even how it relates to my beliefs about God. But that isn’t for this post. This post is yet another profile in positive masculinity, focusing on perhaps the most masculine person I can think of: Nick Offerman.

As with my previous profiles, I’m not going to go through all of Nick Offerman’s life and work, but rather I’m going to highlight a couple of elements of his life and work that I think exemplify positive masculinity. But first, as always, a manly picture – which for Offerman is not hard to find:

Image result for nick offerman manly picture woodworking

Not only is Nick Offerman the ridiculously appropriate narrator for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer the audiobook, but he has written a number of books himself – Good Clean Fun: Misadventures in Sawdust at Offerman Woodshop, Gumption: Relighting the Torch of Freedom with America’s Gutsiest Troublemakers, and Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living. He is, often intentionally I think, almost a living parody of manliness. Smelling of whisky, flecked with sawdust, robust mustache or full beard, and just wafting androgen wherever he goes. Offerman’s success seems to come from embracing himself. I didn’t realize how similar he and his Parks and Rec character were until after the first time I watched through the series, and wanting to learn more I looked up the various actors and people connected to the show. He reminds me of Teddy Roosevelt, and is one of the only people alive today who could say “Bully!” to describe something positive unironically.

I think of Ron Swanson as one of the best type-castings in TV history, and it’s fun to learn about how much Ron Swanson became like Nick Offerman. The Libertarianism was already present in the character, but he was expanded to include Offerman’s love of woodworking, red meat and Lagavulin whiskey. Scenes in Ron Swanson’s workshop on the show were shot in Nick Offerman’s actual workshop. (This didn’t make it into the show, but he and I share a love of the Chronicles of Narnia and the Lord of the Rings. As if I could love the guy more!)

In an interview with A.V. Club, he even reflects on his relative masculinity, something he also discusses in his books:

I think it’s fascinating that I receive attention for what people perceive to be a level of manliness or machismo, when amongst my family of farmers and paramedics and regular Americans, I’m kind of the sissy in my family. But when I arrive in Los Angeles in the entertainment community, and I use implements like a shovel and a hammer, our society has distanced itself so far from working with its hands that those incredibly pedestrian skills are perceived as somehow being extraordinary. I think the whole thing is kind of sad, honestly, in the same way that our civilization—particularly the consumers of pop culture—has grown so used to an emasculated, bare-chested leading man that something like simply growing a mustache can impress people. [Laughs.]

For such a manly man, Nick Offerman also has a lot of Feminist friends, including of course Amy Poehler. In interviews, he is open in his insistence on the necessity of Feminism. He also insists on the necessity of self-reliance. He’s kind of a Libertarian Feminist, which is not a creature one meets everyday.

He wants to inspire people to treat each other better, and he knows that to do that, you need to lift up the experiences of the oppressed and disadvantaged. Here, in his own words:

Honestly, in the case of Nick Offerman, I think his masculinity is unassailable (even without a mustache), and his positivity is immediately apparently in his acting, writing, interviews, etc. I probably should have started with him, but, you know, hindsight and all.

When I thought through these profiles, and talked about the phronemos, the Aristotelian exemplar of wisdom, I hadn’t realized how much I considered Offerman to be a phronemos, not just of positive masculinity, but of wisdom in general. I look forward to reading more of his writings, and learning more from Nick Offerman, today’s profile in positive masculinity.

 

 

Ability Frequency vs Payoff

Image result for classic D&D art

I’ve been thinking about an issue in game design, and in running games. The issue is the relationship between the frequency with which a player uses an ability and the amount of “payoff”, or impact on the fiction, that the ability provides. For this consideration, an ability might be an ability score, or proficiency, or skill, or move – whichever things a character has to influence the fiction directly. Whatever point of contact there is between the character sheet and the shared imaginary space.

I’m going to use 5th Edition D&D as one example, but I think this line of reasoning is important for any game, whether one you’re designing, or hacking, or running.

High and Low Frequency

When I talk about high frequency, what I mean is those abilities that get rolled or used often. A good example from many games is the perception skill, or whatever the equivalent is (perception, awareness, alertness, notice, listen/spot, etc.). I wrote about perception previously, and I won’t go over any of that here. The point is, simply, that some abilities get used significantly more than others in a given game. After a while, experienced players figure out what those abilities are, and often give every character at least a little bit of capability there. Perception rolls can be called for in every scene, to detect monsters or notice NPCs or find clues. These rolls can also provide a road-block to the game when the clue isn’t found.

Lower frequency abilities often include lore-related abilities. In D&D, knowledge skills are generally only used for two things: answering questions about the setting and background, which may or may not have any impact on the game, and giving the character knowledge about  monsters that the player knows from the Monster Manual. Other abilities are aimed only at rogues, or in the case of performance, only at bards. These can be low frequency abilities, because only one class will generally be rolling them – though sometimes that class will roll them a lot.

I imagine, in an average D&D 5E game, there could easily be 10 or more Wisdom (Perception) checks rolled, 2 or 3 Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Stealth) checks rolled, 1 Intelligence (Religion or Arcana) check rolled, and zero Charisma (Performance) checks. Each of these abilities, though, costs one proficiency pick at character creation. In terms of character generation, they have the same weight, but in play, they have drastically different weights.

High and Low Payoff

I’m comparing abilities by frequency and also by payoff – by what the ability gets you. Charisma (Performance) is another example of a low-payoff ability. If you use it, you might get a small amount of money or briefly entertain a crowd. Importantly, it doesn’t help you do anything central to any edition of D&D – explore set pieces and fight monsters. By contrast, Strength (Athletics) lets you do things that are central to D&D, like climbing and swimming – things that actually let you navigate a dungeon or outdoor setting. Dexterity (Stealth) lets you avoid combat when you want to, or set an ambush, or gain an advantage in combat. And we’ve already talked about Wisdom (Perception).

Some abilities are high frequency and high payoff, like perception abilities in many games, while other abilities are low frequency and low payoff, like performance or artistic abilities in most games. Other abilities lie somewhere in the middle. I don’t necessarily want to go through an inventory here, just put forward this way of understanding abilities in games and game design.

Frequency and Payoff in Running Games

When running a game, it’s good to keep in mind what abilities your players have invested in, and to make sure that all of them come up in the game at some point. You can also give insight when planning a game, which abilities will come up most often. For an urban campaign, maybe investing in Wisdom (Survival) won’t be all that useful, but Intelligence (Investigation) could come up frequently. In a game that will focus on cults and the undead, Intelligence (Religion) might come up a lot more often.

Some payoff can be in the fiction itself. For the example of performance or artistic abilities, which tend to be low frequency and low payoff, you can have a higher payoff in the fiction. The crowd can go wild, and the character can gain new fans. Maybe they get to stay in the inn for free whenever they’re in town. Later, when they want a hireling to come with them, they get one that is extra competent, or cheaper, or at least really loyal and enthusiastic. For a more concrete payoff, maybe there is a noblewoman in the audience who decides to become the character’s patron, paying her will to perform when not adventuring.

In the example of a knowledge skill, instead of giving basic Monster Manual information on a creature, perhaps each creature could have a particular weakness, or condition that the characters can exploit in conflict. Something like T-Rex in Jurassic Park supposedly not being able to see things that aren’t moving.

Frequency and Payoff in Game Design

Ideally, the frequency and payoff of abilities in game design should balance out. Low frequency should correspond to high payoff, and high frequency with low payoff. I think that this option is more interesting than having abilities be low frequency and low payoff (why have them all). High frequency and high payoff  would work well, though it might at some point become monotonous to have every ability have a huge impact every time.

The key to figuring out both frequency and payoff is playtesting. You’ll see how players use various abilities, and how much the enjoy the payoff you’ve designed in to them. You can not how often the abilities are used, and then when revising, tune the payoff up or down, or perhaps redesign the abilities so that they come up more or less frequently.

What are your thoughts about frequency and payoff in the games you design, play and run? 

Profiles in Positive Masculinity: Justin Trudeau

Image result for justin trudeau yoga

Not hard to find a manly picture of Justin Trudeau. I like this one because it is strong but also flexible and playful, not just flexing in a mirror after being misted with faux-sweat or something.

And as I move on from Michael Forbes to my second Profile in Positive Masculinity, I need to clarify a few things. One is that I’m not a journalist, and I already work 60 hours a week and am a dad, so I don’t have time to do what I’d prefer, which is to go out locally and find unsung heroes of masculinity. I have to work with people who are famous one way or another. Second, I’m not advocating for or against Trudeau’s politics. That isn’t what this profile is about. In fact, I am going to focus on two specific instances of positive masculinity and leave it at that. I don’t know everything about Trudeau’s life, any more than I knew all about Forbes’ life.

And lastly, remember, this is not meant to be flawless masculinity. Just positive masculinity.

The first instance of positive masculinity I want to highlight came during Trudeau’s interview for the Daily Show with Hasan Minhaj. It’s your standard Daily Show interview, and kudos to Trudeau for accepting the interview in the first place, since he had to know they were going to try to get him to say or do something silly. Hasan Minhaj is no Stephen Colbert, though, so the tables in the interview quickly turn.

What’s interesting is the moment that comes at 5:40 of the video posted below. Just…just watch.

See that moment? Hasan Minhaj has come to roast Justin Trudeau, but he gets shut down immediately. There’s a moment where Minhaj is clearly thinking, wait, did shit just get real? And it did not get real. Well, maybe briefly. But what I liked about that moment was just the quiet confidence that Trudeau showed, shutting down even a playful threat without bullying or blustering or threatening in return. He just says, “You might find that a little more difficult than you think.” Maybe I’m just a little jealous of someone who is that self-possessed. Maybe I’m reading reading too much into a situation where Trudeau is surrounded by armed security, sitting in his own capital.

The second moment I wanted to highlight is the moment when Trudeau does something almost no other world leaders seem able to do – he reached a handshake detente with Trump. (And yes, I will regularly present positive masculinity in contrast to Trump)

First, let John Oliver break it down for you with lots of examples of the Patented Trump Yank-and-Pull Handshake.

So, we see that pretty much every time Trump shakes hands with someone, especially another man in a suit, he yanks their hand over towards him, and sometimes leans in aggressively as well, and is probably squeezing as hard as he can as well. It’s clearly something he heard about from someone, as something that real men and strong leaders do. He shakes hands like an asshole, is what I’m saying. Almost invariably.

Forward to the most recent meeting between Trump and Trudeau. Trudeau knows about this handshake move, and he’s come prepared. Here is a video with a little bit of analysis:

He’s prepared for the adolescent power-move. He moves in close immediately, keeps his right hand close to his body, and puts his hand on Trump’s shoulder as a brace. Trump tries to drag on his hand awkwardly a couple of times, then kind of gives up and leaves it in a state of detente.

So, clearly, Justin Trudeau is singular, the Prime Minister of a whole country. Not a goal most of us are going to reach. But all of us have to deal with assholes in our lives. Adolescent jerks who want to awkwardly show dominance, or punk us, or whatever. Stereotypical masculinity has a response to that – escalate. But I think there is a more powerful, positive response as well – what one might call quiet strength, and a little preparation if you see an asshole coming your way.

Man or woman, being self-possessed is compelling. Being at home in your own skin, and being committed to maintaining your dignity without having to fight back or one-up someone.

We can’t all be world leaders, obviously, but we can be a little bit more like Justin Trudeau, today’s profile in positive masculinity.

 

 

#95Tweets Against Hell Compiled

As promised, here are all of our 95 tweets, categorized by the kind of argument they are making – ethical, theological and biblical, in that order. (I’ve gone through each of them and updated some of them from our first version) What it boils down to is that there is no ethical justification for Hell whatsoever, no good theological reason to posit a doctrine of Hell, and there are literally hundreds of Biblical passages that do not support an eternal Hell of conscious torment. Given enough time and dedication, we probably could have assembled 190 tweets, or theses, against a doctrine of eternal Hell.

We did not even scratch the surface of the ethical, theological and interpretive work done to contend against the doctrine of eternal Hell. What we did is draw from our own thoughts as well as places where arguments accumulate, particularly debates around the issue of Hell, and some of the books we have read and are reading.

Obviously, we are hearkening back to Luther’s 95 Theses. We have no expectation that our tweets will have anywhere near that impact. On the other hand, the doctrine of Hell is far worse than indulgences could possibly be. We want to fire the equivalent of grape-shot into the doctrine of Hell and sink it forever, so that no one ever has to feel it is necessary to believe in Hell ever again. Over-ambitions, we know, but it’s a start.

 

Ethical/rational

#95Tweets E1: Eternal Hell is not in any way just (restorative) – it eternally severs relationship and eternally prevents redemption

#95Tweets E2: Eternal Hell is the teaching that there are people and things that can never be redeemed, even by God

#95Tweets E3: Eternal Hell is retribution made infinite, and is therefore even less noble than vengeance

#95Tweets E4: Eternal Hell lacks the sole moral underpinning of punishment, which is correction

#95Tweets E5: Eternal Hell is beyond disproportionate – eternal Hell cannot be an earned punishment, no matter what a finite being does

#95Tweets E6: Humans perpetrate horrific, incomprehensible evil – eternal Hell is infinitely worse than any human (finite) evil

#95Tweets E7: Punishment in an eternal Hell would even be unfair to Hitler, who committed incomprehensibly evil but finite crimes

#95Tweets E8: With the effects of poor information, bias, culture, neurobiology, psychology and so on, we do not make free decisions

#95Tweets E9: This amounts to a situation where human fallibility, not even human misdeeds, can result in eternal torture in Hell

#95Tweets E10: As eternal Hell is traditionally understood, mental illness could easily be an absolute bar from salvation

#95Tweets E11: Fear of (eternal) punishment is the most brutal, crass and callous way to seek to encourage good

#95Tweets E12: Fear of punishment is not effective in encouraging good, it only prevents overt misdeeds while being watched

#95Tweets E13: Whatever happens after death, there is no concrete evidence whatsoever that anything like Hell exists

#95Tweets E14: Eternal Hell is the worst possible story ending – for the vast majority, the end is an infinite and insurmountable tragedy

#95Tweets E15: It is morally untenable to expect any person of conscience to enjoy Heaven knowing that others are in Hell

#95Tweets E16: Eternal Hell makes Heaven look a lot like North Korea – worship the ruler or else, and ignore the suffering around you

#95Tweets E17: Believers in eternal Hell must either be hypocritical, saying they believe but not behaving as if they do (1/2)

#95Tweets E18: Or believers in eternal Hell must be callous, understanding the infinite stakes but not caring proportionally (2/2)

#95Tweets E19: The doctrine of eternal Hell encourages either hypocrisy or callousness by necessity

#95Tweets E20: A reasonable person’s response to any possibility of eternal torture in Hell would be constant panic and desperation

#95Tweets E21: A doctrine of annihilation is morally preferable to eternal torture by every conceivable measure

#95Tweets E22: A doctrine of universalism is morally preferable to annihilation, if God is both powerful enough to save and also good

#95Tweets E23: Since Aristotle, we have a strong case that good is not good simply because God says it is

#95Tweets E24: For God’s actions to be good, they must actually be good, not just called good; eternal Hell could only be “good” by fiat

#95Tweets E25: The only crime that might justly warrant a punishment of eternal torture would be…eternally torturing people

#95Tweets E26: Yesterday, about 150,000 human beings died. In traditional Hell theology, we must conclude that the majority are in Hell

#95Tweets E27: Given that being in Hell is to burn, and scream, and beg, and weep for eternity, 1 human being in this condition is too many

#95Tweets E28: If eternal Hell and Heaven both exist, no person of conscience could be at peace in Heaven

#95Tweets #Ethics: For all of these reasons and more, eternal Hell is an ethically unjustifiable belief.

 

Theological

#95Tweets T1: Eliminating a doctrine of eternal Hell does not mean eliminating justice, judgement, punishment, sin

#95Tweets T2: Eternal Hell is entirely unnecessary to any traditional view of salvation, no matter how exclusivist

#95Tweets T3: Eternal Hell does nothing whatsoever to glorify God, unless the powerful torturing the weak is glorious

#95Tweets T4: Eternal Hell is about vindication of an exclusive, violent orthodoxy even at an infinite cost to those left out

#95Tweets T5: Eternal Hell renders God’s love meaningless – no definition of love could include allowing infinite torture

#95Tweets T6: Eternal Hell renders God’s justice meaningless, as eternal punishment cannot be just by any definition

#95Tweets T7: Eternal Hell renders God’s mercy meaningless – eternal punishment which will never abate. Couldn’t be less merciful

#95Tweets T8: Eternal Hell renders God’s sovereignty meaningless. If God is good, God is impotent to save the vast majority of humans

#95Tweets T9: Eternal Hell renders God’s power meaningless, since God’s plan to restore all creation can be foiled by human sin

#95Tweets T10: Eternal Hell renders God’s omniscience meaningless, since God just can’t figure out how to save most people

#95Tweets T11: Eternal Hell renders God’s holiness meaningless, given that evil and sin and torture would be eternal as God is eternal

#95Tweets T12: Eternal Hell teaches of a God with finite patience but an infinite capacity for violence and retribution

#95Tweets T13: Rather than a “day of wrath”, Eternal Hell means that a trillion trillion trillion days of wrath are just the beginning

#95Tweets T14: Eternal Hell means that whatever else God is, God cannot be good by any reasonable definition of the word

#95Tweets T15: Eternal Hell annihilates meaning of all kinds – what is the point of doing anything but fearing eternal torture?

#95Tweets T16: Eternal Hell means we know God primarily as monster – monstrous judge, monstrous father, monstrous creator, etc.

#95Tweets T17: Eternal Hell is far beyond even the most evil we could visit upon any children – and are we not God’s children?

#95Tweets T18: Eternal Hell cedes eternal victory to sin, evil and suffering. God, and goodness, fail utterly for most

#95Tweets T19: In contrast to scripture, Eternal Hell promises eternity to unrepentant sinners

#95Tweets T20: Eternal Hell ascribes infinitude, eternity and finality to pain, horror, despair and terror

#95Tweets T21: A doctrine of eternal Hell puts torture at the heart of the Gospel. God is the tormentor

#95Tweets T22: Eternal Hell makes a mystery of horrific evil – it is beyond comprehension, rather than limited and destined for defeat

#95Tweets T23: Eternal Hell teaches of a God who is incapable of empathy – an image of God the callous sociopath

#95Tweets T24: Eternal Hell ascribes to human sin the power to overwhelm and defeat Jesus’ incarnation, life, death and resurrection

#95Tweets T25: If there is an Eternal Hell Jesus’ incarnation, life, death and resurrection accomplish nothing definitive

#95Tweets T26: Eternal Hell breaks God’s covenants – ex: it is infinitely worse than a second Flood

#95Tweets T27: Eternal Hell means that God calls “good” a creation in which flawed beings can err so greatly they are tortured forever

#95Tweets T28: Eternal Hell means, in justification theology, that First Adam’s sin is more powerful than Second Adam’s obedience

#95Tweets T29: Apparently Jesus descended to Hell, as in the Apostle’s Creed, but left it intact, only saving himself – cowardly

#95Tweets T30: Eternal Hell, if you believe in the Devil, ascribes to him victory in the vast majority of human souls

#95Tweets T31: Eternal life contrasted with annihilation more fully fits the themes and teachings of both the Old and New Testament

#95Tweets #Theology: For these reasons and more, eternal Hell is an unnecessary, horrifying and destructive theology.

 

Biblical

#95Tweets B1: The overwhelming majority of Bible verses support some form of annihilation; more support universalism than eternal Hell

#95Tweets B2: Gen 3:19: Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, not dust to eternal conscious torment. Death, not eternity, is our default end

#95Tweets B3: The Bible never mentions Hell in the original languages. We (mis)translate Sheol, Hades, Tartarus and Gehenna as “Hell”

#95Tweets B4: Sheol, the realm of the dead in the OT, is nothing at all like Hell, but is clearly where they thought the dead went

#95Tweets B5: Tartarus, sometimes translated as “Hell”, is a prison holding the Greek titans after the Olympian gods defeated them

#95Tweets B6: Gehenna, or Ge-Hinnom, translated “Hell”, was the smoldering garbage-dump in a valley outside Jerusalem

#95Tweets B7: Hades, translated as “Hell”, is imported from Greek mythology, and is simply the realm of the dead, or the god of death

#95Tweets B8: Hades, while still not Hell, is thrown into the lake of fire and destroyed at the climax of the book of Revelation

#95Tweets B9: Genesis and the Gospels compare Satan/sin to a croucher or devourer, never an eternal torturer

#95Tweets B10: In Job, Satan is clearly an ally of God, or at least a colleague, and is busy going to and fro, not torturing anyone

#95Tweets B11: In 1 Samuel 28, “Sheol”, elsewhere translated as “Hell”, is apparently where the prophet Samuel is. Prophets in Hell?

#95Tweets B12: Psalm 139 – God is everywhere, even Sheol, elsewhere translated as “Hell.” No eternal separation

#95Tweets B13: In Psalms, sin = death, perish, consume, destroy – examples are Psalm 5:5-6, Psalm 37:38 – no eternal torture

#95Tweets B14: Sin = death in the Prophets: Jer 12:3, Isa 1:28; 33:12, Ezek 18:4, Nahum 1:2-13, Zeph 1:14-18, Mal 4:1-3

#95Tweets B15: Isaiah 25:6-9, God swallows up death forever, and everyone rejoices. Except the billions screaming in Hell, right? No

#95Tweets B16: The NT dichotomy is clearly between life and death – Luke 20:34-38, John 3:16; 6:48-58, Rom 6:23

#95Tweets B17: Matt 7:21-23 Jesus contrasts those who enter into his kingdom and who do not – no eternal torment mentioned

#95Tweets B18: Matthew 10:28 Jesus threatens Satan’s power to destroy, not eternally torture

#95Tweets B19: In Matthew 24:36-51 the sinner is cut to pieces, destroyed, not tortured for eternity

#95Tweets B20: Mtt 18:34; Luk 12:58-59 Jesus implies that the unreconciled receive finite, proportional punishment

#95Tweets B21: The rich man & Lazarus is not literal – if literal, then all in Heaven will hear people begging in Hell for all eternity

#95Tweets B22: Sin in John = death, die, perish – John 6:50, 8:51, 10:28, 12:25 – no eternal torture

#95Tweets B23: Sin = death – examples are Matt 3:10 and 13:40, and then Luke 9:25, and Acts 3:23

#95Tweets B24: Rom 2:7, 1 Cor 14, 2 Tim 1:10 – the NT message from start to finish is rescue from destruction, not eternal torture

#95Tweets B25: Paul says nothing about Hell – kind of a big thing to omit from every single letter, but he did not believe in an eternal Hell

#95Tweets B26: Romans 6:23 Paul says the wages of sin is “death”, not “eternal conscious torment” – an important distinction

#95Tweets B27: In 1 Corinthians 15:22 the grammar and context are clear that all are made alive in Christ

#95Tweets B28: Galatians 6:7-8 – Paul is pretty clear that there is destruction or eternal life, not eternal conscious torment

#95Tweets B29: Phil. 2:9-11 says every knee will bend and tongue confess, not that most knees and tongues will be tortured forever

#95Tweets B30: Col 1:18-20 – God reconciles with all creation through Christ…or fails miserably to do so if eternal Hell exists

#95Tweets B32: More in the Epistles – 1 Cor 1:18, 2 Cor 4:3, Phil 3:19, Thess 5:3, Heb 10:27, 10:39, 12:29 – still no torment

#95Tweets B33: And more – James 1:15, 4:12-14, 5:20; 2 Peter 2:6, 2:10-12, 3:7 and 10 – sin = death and destruction; not torment

#95Tweets B34: The Bible writers’ worldview does not have a place for the default immortality of a disembodied “soul”

#95Tweets B35: The NT culminates in a new Heaven and new earth where there is no longer suffering – where is the torture exactly?

#95Tweets B36: Almost every verse (all but maybe 2) taken to refer to “Hell” talks of destruction very clearly, and not of eternal torment at all

#95Tweets #Bible: For all of these reasons and many more, the Bible clearly does not teach a Hell of eternal torment.

 

The Tweeting-Room Floor

Those are all the tweets as we posted them, put back in their categories. What follows is what we called “The Tweeting-Room Floor” – ones that we cut for various reasons. One of the challenges, particularly in the Biblical section, was combining texts and arguments so that we could be more efficient. Taking each passage that we wanted to use individually, we could easily have had 95 tweets based only on Bible verses.

Some were cut because they were weak, or weaker than ones nearby, or could be combined, or didn’t fit with our ultimate plan for putting them out there. If you would like to argue some of these, and we’re sure many of you will, please stick to the ones listed above.

In the Epistles, sin = death and destruction, not eternal torment – Rom 1:32, 2:12, 6:23, 9:22 – no eternal torment (1/3)

Nor can we account for those who hear a ‘false’ Gospel, or who unknowingly have wrong beliefs or practices

Eternal Hell is far worse than the worst human calamities: the Inquisition, the Holocaust, Soviet labor camps, etc.

With a doctrine of eternal Hell we cannot really account for those born before Jesus

Eternal Hell cannot really account for those who never hear the Gospel, which is almost entirely an accident of birth

This means that a vast number of people supposedly tormented in Hell were doomed at random

There is nothing in the mostly-apocryphal story of Satan to explain how he would become such an avid torturer

Jude 1:6-11 “everlasting” is defined as “until final judgement”; then sinners compared to animals who simply perish (1/3)

Jude continues 12-13 with imagery of emptiness, futility, twice dead, fruitlessness, etc. Not eternal torment (2/3)

Jude 1:7 compares fate of sinners to Sodom and Gomorrah – no eternal torment, just destruction (3/3)

Eternal Hell makes all of God’s talk of salvation in the OT into nonsense at best, lies at worst

Adam and Eve are not warned about Hell – seems like a big deal, and something they’d want to warn us about

Neither Sheol, Tartarus, Gehenna, or Hades are the Hell of popular imagination and theology

Jesus uses the example of the tower of Siloam in Luke 13:3-5 – the example is of perishing, not torment

“Hel” in Norse mythology, presides over a realm of the same name, and receives a portion of the dead

In the Gospel of John 10:24-30, God’s judgement looks like death rather than life – not eternal torment

At least 18,250,365 human beings sent to be tortured for eternity in a single year – the pop. of Shanghai or Mozambique (in the years since we first posted, I actually forgot where we got this number, so I cut it and replaced it)

Conclusion

We’ve already said a lot. If we were convinced that the doctrine of eternal Hell was necessary to Christianity, or even strongly supported, then we would have to become misotheists. We cannot possibly worship a God who permits an eternal realm of torment to exist, and would actually have to do all we could to undermine belief in that God.

Fortunately, the doctrine of Hell is merely an infection, albeit one that has been spreading corruption throughout the Body of Christ for a long time. It is indefensible on ethical, theological and Biblical grounds, and it is time to lance the wound and heal. There is no Hell, no good that comes from teaching a Hell of eternal conscious torment, and a great deal of evil that comes from it.

There. Is. No. Hell.

Thank God, and good riddance.

#95Tweets Against Hell

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For my purposes, Hell = a place, or condition, of eternal conscious torment. 

A few years ago, we posted #95Tweets Against Hell through Two Friars and a Fool. Since then, TFF has gone into what looks like semi-retirement as Aric, Nick and I have moved on to other projects and other phases of our lives, but I am still proud of the work that went into the 95 Tweets, and I think maybe it is time to post them again. We got some response last time, but what I really want to do is to provide resources for people who are presented with a theology of Hell, who understand intuitively or in an incomplete sense that it doesn’t make sense, is possibly even evil, and is certainly counterproductive, but they haven’t done the nerdy homework on the issue.

Well, we have. Big, big nerds. So, today, I’m going to start reposting our 95 tweets, with the  hashtag #95Tweets, through my Twitter account @AndAFool. You can follow the account or the hashtag, and then when I’m done posting all 95 of them, I’ll repost all of them to this blog for reference.

As before, I welcome discussion, even argument. I think that the theology of a Hell of eternal conscious torment is morally bankrupt, theologically unjustifiable, and is not taught by the Bible even if one takes a relatively literalist view. In fact, the longest section of tweets against Hell comes from the Bible, and we had to cram references together to limit it to only 95 total tweets. It could have easily been 200 tweets, but we like the 95 for obvious reasons.

The tweets will once again come in three sections, just like last time – ethical and philosophical arguments against Hell, theological arguments against Hell, and finally Biblical arguments against Hell. They’ll be marked out for reference, since 95 is a LOT of tweets on the same topic, with #E for ethical/philosophical arguments, #T for theological, and #B for biblical.

So, enjoy. I know I will.

Here’s a link to follow the hashtag on Twitter.

Here is all of my nonsense on Twitter as @AndAFool.

Here’s a picture of Mary punching the Devil in the face.

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Profiles in Positive Masculinity: Michael Forbes

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We begin with a manly picture of our first profile in positive masculinity. I decided to start with someone who is only somewhat famous – really just a regular Scotsman who somehow became embroiled in a conflict with the man who would be SCROTUS. I came to know of my hero Mr. Forbes through Full Frontal – first in their piece on The Original Trump Haters, and then more fully in their Web Extra: Michael Forbes: Trump Kryptonite. If you are interested, you can go backwards in time and see that he has been featured in a couple of documentaries as well, including You’ve Been Trumped.

In brief, here is the story. Trump arrived in Scotland with the intent of building a golf course and started throwing his weight around – primarily the weight of his ego of course, and his presumption that money can buy anything. He received a classic Scottish warm welcome, being referred to as (apologies for the brogue):

a custard-flavored jobby, leather-faced piss jar, mangled apricot hell-beast, bawbag-eyed duck bumper, glaikit heidbanger, touped ducktrumpet, knuckle-braind fart lozenge, blinkered plum, huffy wee duckin bampot, utter cockwomble, degenerate corned beef face syrup wearing wankstain, rug-wearing thunder nugget, duckin walloper, uncooked pastry, hamster heedit bampot, duck-knuckle, rotten orange ducknut, onion-eyed flap dragon, wee orange rodent, mop-headed fud, cock-juggling thundercunt, witless ducking cocksplat, gerbil-headed, woodstained, and haunted spunktrumpet…

among other colorful terms. (And yes, I enjoyed listing all of those.) Like I said, classic Scottish hospitality extended to anyone of Trump’s stature. Surprising no one, Trump’s plans did not go well, and hit a solid wall of manliness when he came up against Michael Forbes.

Michael Forbes is a local farmer, part-time salmon fisherman and quarry worker who owned land that Trump wanted for his golf course. Trump demanded that Mr. Forbes sell the land, and Mr. Forbes told Trump to shove it. Many times. Went to court to say it, and won. Ultimately, Mr. Forbes would literally chase Trump surrogates from his land because he was tired of Trump’s nonsense and would have no more of it. This led Forbes to experience some, in my view quite well-deserved, fame. He has appeared in a couple of documentaries and has been interviewed many times.

A self-described shy person, Michael Forbes lives in his farmhouse with his mother and his wife Sheila. He stood up to someone who has successfully cowed the entirety of Republican leadership in the US and a large segment of Democrat leadership as well; someone who rode rough-shod over 17 other Republican candidates in the primaries; someone who has made a brand out of being intimidating and implacable in getting what he wants – the ultimate deal-broker who, if nothing else, can surely build a damn golf course in Scotland.

But no, turns out, he can’t. Because of Michael Forbes, today’s profile in positive masculinity.

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