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Archive for the ‘Hell’ Category

Dear Liberal Preacher,

First of all, i love the blog. Great stuff!

I’ve been reading through the posts and you mention a couple of times that you don’t believe Hell exists. Could you dive a little deeper into the theological framework for your belief? I understand the whole “God is too loving for punishment” argument…I was just wondering if there was any more substance behind that. Is there any punishment for no belief and/or complete selfishness?

Thanks

Sincerely,

Dear Concerned Future Seminary Student

First of all,

I’m concerned that you are concerned.  I have a track record of not doing well with individuals who are concerned.  Believe me, it’s one of my core beliefs.  I don’t do well with people who are concerned.  No one has ever been concerned that I’m too nice or too Christian or too Buddist or too Universalist or too Baptist or too smart.  Or maybe they have.

Concerned sounds like disappointement on steriods.  And being trained to be a psycho psychotherapist (kidding about the psycho) my hunch is you tend to be uptight and I know what uptight folk can do to clergy and the church’s soup and the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I’m not saying the steeples don’t need commitment and integrity, but concern is another matter altogether.  So yes, I’m concerned about you being so concerned.  Take a walk.  Worry about world hunger.  Breathe in.  Breathe out. Maybe that will help with your concern level.

You ask about  diving deeper into theological framework of my beliefs on hell.  First of all, I’m not a good diver so I’m not going to dive at all.  And as for the deeper, I agree the church needs to get deeper, deeper into the world’s needs, deeper into our hearts, but not deeper into some theological framework.  You are going to bore me to death.  I’ve set through seminary classes like that.  Here’s a clue:  all those theological systems are lies.  Hate to break it to you so bluntly.

Sounds like you are pretty sure about hell too.  I wonder how you got so sure during your short life.  My guess is you have lived in your little mind and provincial neighborhood for far too long.  Not throwing stones. I did that for years myself.

How many homeless people/transitional people speak with you on a daily basis?

Do you know anybody who is so messed up they are beyond even the repair of God?

Were your parents concerned parents?  How do you feel about your momma and your daddy?

Rahter than being too concerned I would submit you nurture a wild curiosity about yourself, your theological framework, your osbession with hell, and with any and all  theological frameworks built on sand, which is all of them.

Now on God being too loving.  I’m worried about Christians who worry about God  being too loving.  My guess is such people aren’t very loving of themselves and therefore try to make life hell for the rest of us.

The punishment for no belief and complete selfishness shall be delivered by Christians going on crusades or Christians singing in the choir.

Little or Liberal Baptist Rev.                                                        

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From Theologically Curious:

Dear Liberal Preacher:

You told MJ that Hell doesn’t exist. How can you be a Christian and not believe in Hell? If Hell doesn’t exist, does Heaven? Can you believe in Heaven, but not Hell?

Yours,
Theologically Curious

Dear Theologically Curious,

Yes, you can be a Christian and not believe in hell.  I’m a Christian and I don’t believe in hell.  I find an ever-lasting, punishing hell to be contrary to a loving God.  So did some early church fathers.  Origen of Alexandria and Gregory of Nyssa questioned the eternality of hell and the literal interpretation of it as a fiery place.  I go one step further and doubt hell exists. 

So if hell doesn’t exist, why do I believe heaven does exist?  Isn’t that convenient to believe one but not the other?

Good point.

Actually, the idea of heaven itself is problematic.  Why not set up the world as heaven in the first place?  Why put human beings to the test?  Why didn’t God get it right the first time?

Furthermore, is heaven a place we go to or does heaven describe a reality on earth?

Personally, I’m pulling for heaven on earth, something like what is described in the Sibylline Oracles, which was a Jewish vision of utopian social transformation from around the time of Jesus’ birth.

The earth will belong equally to all, undivided by walls or fences. It will then bear more abundant fruits spontaneously. Lives will be in common and wealth will have no division. For there will be no poor man there, no rich, and no tyrant, no slave. Further, no one will be either great or small anymore. No kings, no leaders. All will be on a par together (Sibylline Oracles 2:319-24).

Doesn’t that sound pretty good?

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From:  Make Love Not War

Dear Liberal Preacher,

Is fear of hell and damnation still a relevant message that Christians should be using to bring others to Christ?
 
Signed,
Make Love Not War!

 

Dear Make Love Not War!,

Please don’t send me to hell, but I don’t believe there is a hell which is an eternal destination.  So to answer you question, I don’t think the fear of hell should be used to bring people to Christ.

You may be surprised to find out some early Christians were universalists or had universalistic tendencies. 

Take St. Jerome (331-420), for example.

“In the end and consummation of the Universe all are to be restored into their original harmonious state, and we all shall be made one body and be united once more into a perfect man, and the prayer of our Savior shall be fulfilled that all may be one.”

How’s that for make love, not war!

Of course, some could argue that God could use the sight of hell fires to quickly convince the deceased to pony up. 

Personally, I think the love of God, not the fear of God, in this life and the next will be so appealing that hell fires will not be needed.  And I don’t think our great God is a hell fire type of God.

I recommend Phillip Gulley and James Mulholland’s If Grace Is True:  Why God Will Save Every Person.

I’m glad you want to share the love of God.  Be a loving person with loving deeds and loving words and you’ll change the world; and with Christians like you in the world more folk will consider signing up to follow Jesus.

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