Hell

File:HansMemlingHell.jpgHell is a popular topic on wordpress: ten posts in under ten hours. Someone calls his home state “Hellannoy”, and there is deathless poetry:

living in my 2×2 cell of private hell
days spent listening for freedom’s bell
i loved you with my broken heart
your love just fractured it farther apart

Milton’s claim about “Rhime being no necessary Adjunct or true Ornament of Poem or good Verse” is conclusively disproved.

Reformedstudies sees Hell as a real threat:

When was the last time you shared your faith with an unbeliever?

Approximately 150,000 – 200,000 people die every day, and most of them are perishing into a hopeless, Christless eternity. There are two great tragedies in this: first, these people have wasted their lives and will spend eternity separated from the only source of everlasting joy. Second, and most importantly, these are people who owed worship and allegiance to Almighty God, and who instead of honoring their Creator as He deserves, they spent their time worshiping lesser things.

Do you care? If you claim to care, do your actions back up that claim?

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0a/Hellmouth.jpgMy point of agreement with him is that following Christ must involve making our lives in this world better. My disagreement is about “Satan the god of this world”- I see little pure evil; most people are doing our best under difficult circumstances, and evil acts come from damage not wickedness.

And in the trenches of this [spiritual] war, if I had to choose between standing beside a doctrinally-confused Arminian who is willing to preach the Gospel, or a fellow Calvinist who thinks it’s not his job to share Christ crucified, I’d take the Arminian any day of the week. My Christianity is further from his than the Arminian’s.

Clay was born again. I was born again on 14 February 1999- in the John 3:3 sense, but not necessarily the Born Again sense- but Clay has a time, 10am. Having rejected God’s offer of salvation over and over during my 52 years – an offer I was well-versed in, File:- Google Art Project.jpgas I grew up hearing the gospel preached time and again – I was without hope and bound to spend eternity that way. And, as I believe in a literal hell as described in the Bible, that’s where my rejection would have landed me. Now, Clay is headed for Heaven, which is like:
think of the greatest thing that could ever happen to you – winning the world’s biggest lottery; …– and multiply it by the largest number you can think of.

Clay’s Christianity has much in common with my own. He has peace, purpose and blessing in his life, now. The fundamental difference is what happens to the non-Christians.

I debated with Andrew about Hell. Huffington Post had six things Christians should stop saying including “Jesus is the only way to Heaven”. Andrew disagrees: what he says instead is “Christological claims to exclusivity for salvation” is an “essential doctrine”. Perhaps he thinks we should use longer words. I tried to get him to admit that most of those 150,000 a day would be going to Hell, if that were true, and he refused to say that. Possibly God would save infants and the mentally disabled, but capax adults had only Christ, which is tough on the Buddhists. “I can do nothing but speak the truth” says Andrew, but he avoids the H-word almost completely. “I don’t take the doctrine of Hell lightly.” I find Reformedstudies more honest.

As for me, I am with Origen and possibly CS Lewis on apokatastasis, the final reconciliation of all created things to God.

Oh, and here is a site with “science” in its address, on Hell.

7 thoughts on “Hell

  1. Thanks for your mention…sorry if I seemed a bit hesitant, I think Christian belief in Hell is difficult no matter who we are addressing- Buddhists, Muslims, Atheists, etc. but I also don’t want Hell to be the highlight or a scare tactic as it often is but , when I’m writing I want to give magnification to the infinite love that God has poured out through Jesus Christ that is available to the whole world. We can’t know where people’s hearts are at the end of their life, we have to trust that God does and judges justly. He will not deny anyone who puts the slightest amount of faith in him at any point, even if that faith is as small as a mustard seed.

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    • Welcome, Andrew. Thank you for commenting.

      “No-one comes to the Father except through me”- if you only use this as a scare tactic, “Follow us or go to Hell” I doubt it will work, and if it does the huge risk is that it will create resentment and drive people away later. “What? Me and all the Buddhists? Ridiculous. How did I ever believe that?”

      My challenge is to value all that we have in common. I was in a really beautiful Anglican church last week, with large acrylic paintings on the walls: Lazarus rising, Christ on the cross, and around them- clouds of witnesses: is that person there, or in the air? You would have to see it.

      If “No-one comes to the Father except through me”, people can only be brought in by Love.

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  2. “If “No-one comes to the Father except through me”, people can only be brought in by Love.”

    Indeed yes, but, the problem is that we are not all on the same page as to what the word “love” means. Some people wish to define love in terms of feeling or emotion. While it’s true that love often does come with good feelings and emotions, that is not love’s substance. Christ’s love on the cross certainly did not “feel” good. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “to love as Christ loved is to will the good of the other AS other.” Thus, real love is an act of the will, not a feeling primarily. Human freedom of will is the point. Hell is not a “scare tactic.” When I tell my six-year-old daughter that she needs to look both ways before crossing the street or else she might get hit by a car, I am not using “scare tactics” so much as I am stating a reality. That’s what Hell is…a reality. A very real possibility for all of us. Not because God doesn’t love us, or doesn’t want to save us from it, but because we choose not to be saved. If love is an act of the will, then so is non-love. Hell is the result of our willed choices, not because there was some deficiency in the faith or in God.

    As always…we ought not ever underestimate the ocean that is the Divine Mercy.

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    • And you, Mark, can only imagine the good of the other as a clone of yourself. Otherwise, you would be rejoicing with me in the Supreme Court decision, that the “We Hate Queers Act” (“DOMA”) has been struck down. Probably, restoring equal marriage in California is enough for now, though I would have liked them to strike down all the State constitutional bans on it.

      “What? Me and all the Buddhists?” How many goats are there, Mark? 150,000 deaths a day- 100,000 goats? More?

      C Scott Fowler wrote in a comment, It all hinges on one’s definition of love. It sounds spiritual to opt for love instead of contention over doctrines until you remember that genuine love speaks the truth! I think he, and you, tithe dill and cumin, and bind heavy burdens on others without lifting a finger to aid them.

      I grope around for reconciliation with you, and here is an attempt at it. “Love!” I cry; “Truth”, cries Fowler, and you I think-
      Love or Truth? Christ is in the middle.

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  3. Aw the age old, “what is love?” debate. Reducing love to an emotional idea that is nebulous and fruity seems to be the go to for people who don’t quite understand and want to push others into a defensive place. At least in my experience. The Bible gives different words to the types of love we show. Clare, the love you insist upon is agape. Love that is not in anyway contingent upon what the person does. That is in no way a simply emotional love. The implication that it is, causes me to feel defensive of you. What we see most right-wing (American) Christians call ‘love’ is phileo love. The kind that ties the bind of the most similar and also the weakest of the loves. Obviously I’m with you on the CS Lewis points.

    The next debate I fear will be ‘what is truth?’ though I’m certain it’s not relative, I am not a fool enough to think I have it all.

    This post and comments have inspired me for a post of my own.

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    • I look forward to your post: please do ping me.

      I think there is absolute truth which we know in part, but there is certainly not a one size fits all moral truth for everyone. God knows each hair on your head- how could God’s will be the same for each of God’s varied children?

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