Hell’s not worth it

Lot of heat about hell has happened over the last few months. I’ve found it hugely frustrating as an army of apologists and doctrinal experts take a firing position against so called heresy. It’s purposeless. People will believe what they wish to believe. A popular book doesn’t change belief. It mostly fires imagination and confirms or refutes already existing belief.

So in that vein I’m just going to outline where I am at the moment.

My imagination about hell is mostly around C.S Lewis’ various views about the subject. So in the Great Divorce hell is England on a bad day which will eventually be destroyed. Interestingly enough the wise character who explains everything in the book is George Macdonald who was allegedly a Christian Universalist. In the Last Battle hell exists only in the minds of dwarfs who cannot hear or see heaven or Aslan even though they are right next to him and sitting in Alsan’s new Narnia.

I don’t think I could venture any further than these images that C.S. Lewis gives.

And I don’t think we are meant to have any more clarity than that. I definitely DON’T believe in an eternal conscious torment. That would be God’s ultimate defeat for his creation. New earth, new heaven but same old hell. Or is it going to be a brand new hell? That shall exist along with the new earth and heaven?

I think the amount of time hell has taken up conversation isn’t worth it. First of all it barely features in the Old Testament (once in Daniel). So immediately that should make us a bit wary. If it’s not really in the Old Testament is it that important? All other features of the gospel that most Christians preach have definitive Old Testament/New Testament cross overs.

Even within the New Testament as a whole it is minimally dwelt upon. The New Testament talks far more about living the new life in Jesus, justice, money etc.

The whole of the bible’s focus is towards the new life. It’s emphasizes the beauty of the new creation that has already been begun in Jesus. That is where the focus lies. From the promise to Noah, to Abraham to Jacob, to Moses through to the great prophets it God’s awesome new world that’s the focus. Instead of this, huge amounts of evangelical Christendom focus on sexuality and hell.

Why can’t there be evangelism without hell? Isn’t the person of Jesus, beautiful, awe inspiring and fully enough to inspire evangelism?

Yet I won’t say that hell isn’t there or has no place. I have to respect what scripture has. And it has a lot of crazy stuff in it. Obviously I can’t fit it all in. Neither am I going to chuck it all out. But in terms of the amount of hot air, heated discussions and the heaping of coals on people’s heads, it’s not worth it.

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4 thoughts on “Hell’s not worth it”

  1. I’ve yet to read the great divorce. Reading through Love Wins at the moment. You’re right in the minimal portrayal of hell overall. If it gets evangelicals rethinking their pitch, then the hullabaloo might be worth it.

  2. I’ve heard it said that hell isn’t mentioned at all in the Book of Acts, so evangelism can be done without dropping the h-bomb.

  3. i really resonate with your aversion to the debate. i hate conflict and confrontation, but if its not out in the open, its going to fester in the heart. we’ve got too many people who’ve been hurt by the church and its one-dimensional presentation of the Gospel, who get swayed by people like bell, who seem to be equating weak presentations of the Gospel with the Gospel itself, and i don’t think its fair to those of us who disagree with the fanatics and the liberals.

    i think the debate is worth it because the discussion is getting confused between the fact and the nature of judgment. maybe the Bible doesn’t say much about hell because that has to do with the nature of judgment, but it does say a lot about God as a righteous judge, among other things. our Gospel needs to embrace that, even if its unpopular. i think we can be clear that there will be a judgment, and a separation that is final; any emphasis on what that’s going to look like, needs to admit and reflect the limited scripture on the matter.

    i’m skeptical of eternal conscious torment too, but its not because i don’t think God wouldn’t do that. its because i think that all views about the nature of hell are debatable. any talk of eternal torment, annihilation, and metaphorical interpretations are all in the realm of the nature of judgment and we can argue till we’re blue in the face, we’re never going to come to any universal certainty in the church.

    in that sense, bell’s book was helpful, because it showed me things we can be certain about, and things about which, we need to be comfortable with ignorance, and turn to trust in someone whose system of justice is more “developed” than ours. can’t wait to read francis chan’s book, in july.

    1. Surprised that you think I have an aversion to debate. I love arguing 🙂 As ineffective as I am. The essential problem here is that God’s judgment supercedes his love. Most of the arguments I’ve heard is that God is love BUT he is also holy. As though holiness and love and separate characteristics of God. God’s holiness arises from his love. Before sin what defined God’s holiness? So I would say that holiness is a category that we define in contrast to sin. Love on the other is always what God has been within his relationship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

      Now when it comes to judgement a lot of evangelicals have a singular view of the cross. Therefore what judgement is executed at the cross is quite strictly defined. But couldn’t it also be possible to say that God’s full and final judgement has already been revealed at the cross? Now I’m not basing my faith completely on this but in the debates and arguments there are very singular views of the cross being taken.

      And I would argue that in reality maybe Bell’s presentation is more multi-dimensional than traditional evangelical presentations of the gospel because if you have only one view of the cross then you have a single dimension gospel.

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