Monday, May 16, 2011

HELL: Eternal Justice, Eternal Love - part 1

The Roman poet Virgil stated that "we each bear our own Hell."

William Shakespeare once famously penned "Hell is empty, and all the devils are here."

Oscar Wilde observed that "we are each our own devils, and we make this world our Hell."

Each of these statements seem to be a point that Rob Bell's latest book could originate from. In actuality, they reveal something rather true about this world; namely, that it can be a living hell, and that such a hell is based solely upon our own choices. Our decisions and the subsequent consequences can be disastrous, affecting not only our lives, but those of the people around us. It can truly be a hell of such dark and terrible conditions that we may be happy to see the Hell of the afterlife pale in comparison. Such a notion would truly bring happiness to many and satisfy most who are itching to hear something they like.

Now where have I heard that phrase about itching ears before?

Oh, yes. Second Timothy 4:3-4 --

3The time is coming when people won't listen to good teaching. Instead, they will look for teachers who will please them by telling them only what they are itching to hear. 4They will turn from the truth and eagerly listen to senseless stories.

That pretty much speaks to the latest happy-happy thoughts to come from the mind of Rob Bell. Now, within this book Rob suggests that Hell is a myth- Not outright, but in so many words. More literally, he makes the same historically rooted arguments every other anti-judgment person has ever made: That Gehenna was the local city dump always on fire, etc. He then jumps from these points to say that Christ never once spoke of eternal damnation.

Is he reading the same Bible I am, or did he mistake his Emergent Church Translation for a copy of Finding Peace Within? Before anyone gets upset with me about this, bear in mind that the Seventh Day Adventist church is founded on the idea of annihilation and soul sleep, as opposed to an eternal damnation in the Lake of Fire. Bell does not suggest this, but he's on board at least as far as Cecil Perry, President of the SDA church in England, has remarked. Perry made the statement in 2000 that:

“The message of hell is in stark contrast to the message of hope and love and tends to engender fear”
(“British Seventh-day Adventists Warn Against ‘Stoking’ Hell Fires,” Religious News Service, April 2000).

That's right- Apparently, fear is no longer allowed within the Christian faith. Now, I'm not going to outrightly claim the SDA church is not Christian. I am not doing this right now because at this point, I do not want to be sidetracked.

The reason I find it interesting that there is this sudden desire among the various Christian branches to erase Hell from the picture. It is almost as if everyone would rather the idea of an eternal judgment is TOO wrong, or TOO harsh. In fact, the idea of an eternally lasting judgment issued by an eternally just God makes eternal sense.

There is a strange correlation between this thought and some other observations. The first observation was made by Ms. Madalyn Murray O'Hare, when she famously stated: "The fear of hell is the basis for the Christian faith." In fact, that is not the basis of the Christian faith- Though such stark contrast in viewpoints has not been helped in current times by the likes of Fred Phelps.

In fact, it is the fear of God that is the basis of Christianity, and not fear as defined by 1, 2, and 4 of Websters Dictionary. Let's be honest about this- Even our modern definition of fear does not begin to describe what is spoken of in the Bible. Admiration, reverence, and the sort of "fear" felt when entering the presence of a very powerful but highly respected leader is what's spoken of... Not terror.

However, it IS this terror sort of fear that is spoken of by Perry and O'Hare. It is also this sort of fear which has led countless people to reject the truth of the Bible; these people who would rather be happy in a finite and mortal existence than be infinitely secure. The sort of fear that encourages people to make a joke and mockery of its very existence. It was funny man Jim Carrey whose character stated: "Maybe there is no actual place called hell. Maybe hell is just having to listen to our grandparents breathe through their noses when they're eating sandwiches."

This same fear is what has led people such as O'Hare and Perry to reject its teaching, or object to it, one of the two. The idea that there could be justice in the world, and beyond it, apparently does not sit well with those who do not wish to live by any moral or ethical code but their own. These are the people who claim that Hell is already present here on Earth; that we need not have one which will last for eternity, because we have one which can last our entire pitiful existence. As some might say, one which can last the most important part of our life: The part for which we are alive, and not merely memory. In the words of Ed Babinski--

Given headaches, backaches, toothaches, strains, scrapes, breaks, cuts, rashes, burns, bruises, PMS, fatigue, hunger, odors, molds, colds, yeast, parasites, viruses, cancers, genetic defects, blindness, deafness, paralysis, mental illness, ugliness, ignorance, miscommunications, embarrassments, unrequited love, dashed hopes, boredom, hard labor, repetitious labor, accidents, old age, senility, fires, floods, earthquakes, typhoons, tornadoes, hurricanes and volcanoes, I can not see how anyone, after they are dead, deserves "eternal punishment" as well.

Here's a twist, however. What if this so-called "most important part" is not? What if the most important part, that which we should live for, is to come? Some may argue that we should not look ahead, that we should live in the moment and for today. What good is that, I answer, if today's rash decision impoverishes one tomorrow? Every part of life is dependent upon the preceding part: An infant dependent upon his birth; a teen his childhood; an adult his teen years; and an elder their entire life experience. What if the transition of life to death is much like the transition from womb to cradle? The womb is all the infant knows, yet there is another eighty plus years before it outside of that womb.

As such a possibility cannot be ruled out, and no evidence can be presented to conclusively prove otherwise, one can certainly entertain thoughts of the outside world- The world beyond this existence. However, there is a serious misconception regarding the destination of the dead. This misconception hinges on the idea that there are merely two places a departed spirit can go: The first being Heaven, the second being Hell. There is, in fact, a third; the hall of judgment. There is no purgatory, no place to work off one's sins, but there is a place where one discovers if one's sins are covered by the Blood of the Lamb... And their own acceptance of that gift. It is here that we, having shaken loose the bonds of time, gather after death. It is not our final destination, but it is our next.