Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Blogging heaven and hell: 5

I used to hear when I was young that it couldn't hurt to preach hell. This is how it went. You tell someone that the consequence of doing something wrong, is spending eternity in hell. You tell people that if they accept Christ as Saviour and believe the Bible is the word of God, they will not go to hell. So now, how can that hurt. You have won someone to Christ and it doesn't really matter if hell exists or not. They are better off as a Christian in this life anyway.

So that was the theory. But I don't actually know anyone other than us kids, that is I don't know any adults, who became Christians because they were afraid of hell.

But I do know that hell had an enormous effect on my life nonetheless. And here is how. I remember being told on more than one occasion, "If you don't believe that a wife has to obey her husband, then you don't believe in the Bible, and you will go to hell."

On the one hand, I had a normal brain, and should have been able to shrug this one off. On the other hand, the belief in hell is very powerful, ingrained into us as young children, it is a significant weapon of coercion. We can see already by the comments that the concept of hell has an enormous hold over people.

And for me, the fear of hell, had a power for wrong in my life. So finally, I just decided that I had to be strong enough to brave hell. I had to stand up to hell and face it, and deny the coercion of hell. Hell, get thee behind me, and all that.

Suppose that someone is told they must do something or they will go to hell, and that something that they feel they must do destroys all chances of them having a normal healthy life on earth. Then suppose there is no hell. They have been cheated out of a normal life and have gained absolutely nothing.

On the other hand, there are many priests and pastors, going happily to heaven, who are pedophiles and rapists. So why would anyone else want to be in heaven anyway? We have enough of that here.

But you say, a univeralist believes that rapists and pedophiles will be in heaven anyway. Well, to tell you the truth, I don't know how heaven will be organized. I do know that even if there were a hell, it is not my business to decide who goes there. Or who goes to heaven. But judging from the thoelogians I know, I really don't want a part of their heaven.

So, simply put, there is very little that I have been told about heaven or hell, that makes any kind of sense to me. I am happy not to have a doctrinal position on this, as long as nobody is coerced into doing something inherently unhealthy out of fear of hell.

My only point is that I suspect very much that there is an exegetical stalemate about whether hell is a real place or a metaphorical state. That would be my best guess, and if that is true then a wide range of beliefs on hell should be welcome within evangelicalism.


rae said...

YES. :)

Anonymous said...

"On the other hand, there are many priests and pastors, going happily to heaven, who are pedophiles and rapists. "

Check out Hebrews 10: 26-31

Michelle said...

I'll second rachel's "YES". I don't know whether hell exists, or what the afterlife looks like. I hope there is one, and that there is a heaven: Conceiving of the/an afterlife is beyond my grasp.

I've been told that as a Christian, I *must* believe there is a hell. No, actually, there is a variety of opinion among Christians on this matter.

I can't think of a good reason to "preach Hell", though there may be one--it is said that Christians will be known by our love. Not by our coercion or talk of hellfire and brimstone.

Michelle said...

Oh...above, when I said "I hope that there is one...", I meant, I hope that there is an *afterlife*. Not that I hope that there is a hell.