Well this backfired! Last week was “hellish” and I was so excited to tackle the subject that I re-arranged the next month of posts to get to it!
We were having a wonderful conversation here about it last week and then on Friday, the Rob Bell “Love Wins” rumors started and I researched all weekend and followed the buzz. I was all ready to go to town in this week’s post. Here is how it was going to start:
Do you need to believe in Hell to follow Jesus?
Do you need to believe in Hell to be a Christian?
Do you need to believe in Hell to go to Heaven?
Is there a difference between following Jesus, being a Christian, and going to heaven?
The answer the that last question is “yes” there can be a difference between those three.
This is a very tricky set of questions and I want to be careful with how we chat about it.
Let me say right up front where I am on the issue.
- I do believe in an existence called “hell”… mostly because of the verses in the Bible.
- I do not believe that it is necessarily what has been pictured in Dante’s Inferno or what has been described in Fire and Brimstone sermons over the years.
- I am not sure that all the humans souls that I was taught would go there will end up there.
- I am not convinced that Hell is only a place after you die.
- I do not think that the Gospel is to get you to pray one prayer, one time, so that one part of you (your soul) will not go to hell after you die.
I was rounding the corner – I was going to talk about how Hebrews 9:27 “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” does not settle the matter in a single verse.
I was going to try and connect with historical views of Biblical words and concepts that have so much variation and how exciting it can be to think outside of the one dimensional “Heaven and Hell” we have been given to see that God’s love and God’s justice are not two different things.
I got in Facebook debates where I said things like
“ It comes with a deep misreading of the NT texts and especially the Apocalyptic literate of books like Revelation. but that is for another conversation… as far a Bell’s book goes: what if he comes out and says that God’s love seethes in a holy judgment against injustice and burns away our sin and shame in the end? That would be cool.”
I am not a universalist. I am not saying Rob Bell is right. I am not saying that Love Wins. I am simply saying that A) maybe it is not as cut and dried and we have been told and that B) maybe we missed the good news of the Gospel and think that it was the suit & tie preachers say through the microphone.
I talked to friends and family on the phone about it. Then I rounded the corner into the week and … I just petered out. I start my new job this week. I have several projects coming due at school and with different partnerships I have been developing… and I just don’t feel like constructing the smorgasbord I had planned on. I am just not feeling it. I lost the steam.
I mean – I could say again that I think it is odd how the Apostle Paul never – not even once – in all of his letters or sermons in Acts – uses the word ‘hell’ and that it does not seem to be a motivating factor for him for preaching the gospel or for the work of salvation.
I could reiterate the verses about Christ’s work of reconciliation that seem far more relevant this week than they even did last week when I used them.
- Colossians 1:20 “and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”
- Romans 5:10 “For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”
- 2 Corinthians 5:18 “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation”
I could go a number of directions with it… but in the end I guess I will just put it out there and see if anybody has an aspect of this that they are especially interested in talking about?
… otherwise I will just wait for the “Love Wins” book to come out at the end of march and we can take it up then.