Richard Mayhue: Hell — Never, Forever, Awhile?
The last talk I saw/heard at Calvary Santa Fe’s Discern 2010 conference was Richard Mayhue’s talk on hell [mp3|stream]. Mayhue is a professor at John MacArthur’s Master’s Seminary [link], and has a substantial collection of messages available for download as mp3 files at his personal website [link]. This talk is based on a several articles he wrote on Hell back in 1998 [PDF].
Mayhue lays out six historical positions on Hell according to a matrix of who goes there (some nor none) versus when they go and how long they stay there (immediately, eventually, forever) and produces six positions:
- Simple/immediate annihilation
- Simple/immediate Universalism (here meaning that everyone goes to Heaven; nobody goes to Hell)
- Postponed annihilation
- Postponed Universalism
- Second-chance evangelism
- Resurrection and immortality for all
Mayhue gives the first five positions short shrift and dives directly into Scriptural support for the sixth position. He leaves his audience with the impression that the first five positions are recent (19th Century) inventions, and the Church was uniform in holding the sixth position “from the 5th to the 19th Century.” All Mayhue’s proof texts come from the New Testament; he doesn’t deal with Old Testament perspectives on the afterlife generally, nor does he deal with the Scriptural foundations of deviant viewpoints specifically, but rather characterizes them as being misunderstandings of technical Scriptural terms.
Probably the most interesting part of his presentation is the introductory section between his personal testimony and the main part of his talk, where he characterizes the emergence of German liberalism from the Enlightenment and its influence on modern thought within Evangelicalism via (if I understood him correctly) John Stott, John Wenham, and Clark Pinnock. He describes this as “Man beginning to think he could out-think God” and says
Imposing an intellectual framework on the thinking of God is blasphemy.
Or at least that’s what I have in my notes.
This seems to be another example of something I wish I had a name for but don’t: Mayhue basically sees systematic theology in the Early Modern Era (the Reformation, mostly) as good and glorifying to God, but systematic theology under the influence of the Enlightenment in the Modern Era as bad and blasphemous, yet the criticism he levels at it isn’t about the intent to glorify God or Man, but is rather about believing that God’s nature and character can be grasped by the mind of Man and analyzed in an intellectual framework. I think I would have to argue that the problem here isn’t foundational so much as it is structural.
Anyway, for that reason I found this a helpful talk, probably second-best after White’s NPP talk. Some listeners may be put off by Mayhue’s occasionally convoluted way of speaking and preacherly delivery. There seemed to be a generational split at this conference: the younger speakers spoke more plainly and evenly, while the older speakers were more given to dramatic flourishes and convoluted deliveries. Finally, some viewers may have noticed Mayhue’s resemblance to minor YouTube celebrity and personal injury attorney Lowell “The Hammer” Stanley:
but I suspect that too is just a generational coincidence.