February 22, 2013 by jmar198013
—Calvin Luther Edwards, III: Contributing Editor for The Phinehas Page—
At this point, I will only provide Brother Snipes’ acrostic, along with the pertinent proof-texts. His elaborations may be found in the official lectureship book. Brother Snipes explained that Hell is:
A manifestation of the RIGHTEOUSNESS of God (Exod. 34:7; for God “will by no means clear the guilty”).
NECESSARY (see above—for God to be righteous, he must punish evildoers).
An AGONIZING necessity on God’s part (Ezek. 33:11, since God takes “no pleasure in the death of the wicked”).
LITERAL (since the Bible says it is that way, and God cannot lie, Titus 1:2).
If you read the lectureship book, Mack Snipes followed his acrostic with an exegesis of Jude 7 (heavily dependent upon that of R. C. H. Lenski—“plagiarized” is the word I’d use), a few lines from the Confederate bard Henry Timrod (the fifth verse of “1866: Addressed to the Old Year”), and a summary conclusion. However, what he really did at the lecture was move straight from his acrostic into a final roast of the three Californian brethren, concluding:
“I don’t know what can be said to make it any plainer that Hell is a real place of everlasting torture. I do not see why brethren as supposedly intelligent and educated as P. Beauregard Jones, Burl Coffee, and Elmo Ellis don’t seem to understand a text as simple as ‘suffering the vengeance of ETERNAL fire!’ Unrepentant sinners are gonna burn, and they’re gonna burn forever, because the Bible says so. And that, fine brethren, is sound doctrine!”
An applause that seemed much too boisterous to be emanating from the forty or so souls crammed into the classroom followed these concluding remarks. Ladies were whistling through their teeth and fingers. Each time the roar seemed on the verge of dissipating, a new round would begin. I had no idea how some of the very feeble looking septa- and octogenarians in the room kept clapping. They were like those wind-up cymbal-clashing monkeys—every time they slowed down, some unseen hand wound them up again. I began to look for keys in their backs. The brethren were so entranced that they did not notice me stepping up to the microphone designated for the post-lecture question-and-answer period.
“Excuse me,” I said. More applause, more whistling, more stomping feet. So I spat the words out like a school teacher who has returned from a restroom visit to find her classroom baptized in chaos: “EXCUSE ME!” The applause abruptly choked, except for Skeeter McDoogan, whose clapping sort of sputtered out like a dieseling engine. Then I calmly added, “Excuse me, but I do have some questions.”
“Well let’s hear them, then,” replied Brother Snipes, smugly.
“First, I keep hearing Mack Baldato and Strudel Harrison being chastised for wearing sweaters. What’s wrong with wearing sweaters? Maybe they just like wearing them. I don’t see how that’s a sign of apostasy.”
“The problem is,” said Brother Snipes, “they wear sweaters when they preach.”
“So?” I asked, in a way which signified that I didn’t understand his line of thought.
“So, sweaters are made of wool, right?”
“They can be, yes,” I replied.
“Well, wool comes from sheep, does it not?”
“The last time I checked it did,” I said.
“Well, there you go! It proves they are false teachers—they are wolves in sheep’s clothing!” boomed Brother Snipes, as if this were the simplest of deductions. (This is a prime example of what we in the First United Primitive Christian Church refer to as a “necessary inference,” which along with “command” and “apostolically-approved example” forms our hermeneutical Holy Trinity). Several people laughed; Brother McDoogan hollered a raucous “Amen!”
“Okay,” I continued, “I have another question. You said that God is, by his very definition, inscrutable. The thing is, I looked in my concordance and don’t see that word ever used to describe God—and he certainly never describes himself as such. You quoted Exodus 34:7 in your talk. In the previous verse, God says that he is ‘merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.’ Over in 1 John 4:8, it says that ‘God is love.’ But the word ‘inscrutable’ is never mentioned.”
“Now boy, you’re treading in the waters of legalism, Biblicism, and a factious spirit!” replied Mack Snipes. “Just because the word ‘inscrutable’ is never used, doesn’t mean the concept is never implied.”
“Well, maybe—but don’t we demand a book, chapter, and verse for our doctrinal propositions? Doesn’t 1 Cor. 4:6 say that we aren’t to go beyond what is written?” I asked.
“I gave you book, chapter, and verse, son!” Brother Snipes bellowed. “Isaiah 55:9: ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”
“Yes, but are you sure you’re interpreting it correctly? As I recall, the immediate context of those words is God explaining that he is more merciful and forgiving than humans can imagine. I mean, our hymnals don’t say, ‘Come let us all unite to sing, God is inscrutable!’ I think the hymnist got it right, sir.”
“Now you’re just being silly, kid, and you’re getting on my nerves. Eph. 5:4 says that silliness is an abomination to God,” intoned Brother Snipes, rather sanctimoniously. “Now, do you have any questions that are relevant to our discussion—namely, concerning Jude 7? Because if not, I respectfully demand that you sit down and hush.” Someone in the room said, “Amen!”
“Yes, actually I do,” I responded. “Can you read Jude 7 for us just once more—clearly, and not with the Tommy-gun delivery you guys have to use to get in all the sixty or so verses you like to cram into a sermon?” I heard several gasps. I was in trouble now.
“I can recite it for you, son. Jude 7 says, ‘Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.’ Now, what else do you need to know?”
“At the beginning of your . . . er, lecture . . . you said that Jude 7 clearly states that the fiery end of Sodom and Gomorrah points to the fiery destruction of the wicked in Hell. But look at what the text says—it says that those cities are an example of what it means to suffer eternal fire.”
“What’s the difference?” asked Brother Snipes, who actually looked flummoxed.
“Well, you say that Hell is a place where the wicked are tormented endlessly in the flames, right?”
“Of course it is,” said Brother Snipes.
“Well, are Sodom and Gomorrah still burning?” I asked. “Because if they are supposed to be an example of suffering the vengeance of eternal fire . . . “
“Desolate—yes. Salted fields and brimstone whatnot,” I finished. “So, if we know that Sodom is not still burning, then what Jude has to mean by ‘eternal fire’ is that the fire destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah eternally.”
“So,” Brother Snipes sneered, “you are a Jones-ite too, now?”
“No, I am not,” I replied. “I don’t really have a dog in this fight, sir. It seems to me that it’s sort of fruitless to get worked up over the metaphysics of Hell, and call each other mean names over it, and say people are going to go there because they don’t understand it the same way you do. The thing is, no matter how you look at it, the Bible makes it pretty clear that Hell’s a nasty place. I think if we can all agree that it’s not somewhere any of us wants to go, there shouldn’t be a problem.”
Brother Snipes paused for a couple of beats, as if in deliberation, then quickly regained his snarling countenance. “That,” he said, “is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard!”