Saturday, May 05, 2007

A Hell of a Topic

Cori is writing about a subject that - as she rightly puts it - is a hell of a topic. Yes, the issue at hand is eternal damnation and the existence of hell. I just want to share my thoughts with you and would like to have your take on this.

In the first part of my comment (see below) I am referring to Cori's thought-provoking words about the 'living Word'. Cori writes, "We speak of the Bible as the 'living Word' and then very quickly kill it. We make it as quiet and uncontroversial as possible. We tame it and put it in a box. We make it simplistic, black-and-white, absolutist, clear-cut, unemotional, rational, cold. If it were really to be alive, it would be scary and complicated and emotional and irrational and difficult and demand from us real, authentic, often painful, costly engagement. But that's far too messy for the most of us." (It's easy to see why I tagged Cori for the Thinking Blogger Award!)

These are my thoughts on this difficult topic:

Paul says in 2 Cor 3:6, "He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."

And this is what Jesus says, "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life." (John 5:39,40)
Jesus is the Living Word. He didn't write his words down - other people did that. When Jesus spoke, the truth was spoken as if it was carved in stone. And people did recognize his authority immediately and his words still speak to our hearts!

The message of the cross is that Jesus went through hell and back to save us from God's judgement. He took our place. It seems to me that Jesus was very outspoken about hell - he talked about it a lot. Of course I know that he was often referring to Gehenna (the name derived from a burning garbage dump near Jerusalem, the valley of Hinnom, see pic), but I do believe that there is a place of eternal separation from God. God doesn't want us to end up there (John 3:16), or like Peter said, "He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9)

I hate the idea of hell and I can't understand why it has to exist. It is the hardest topic you can discuss. But I can't reason hell away because I have a personal problem with it or because I just don't like to accept its existence...

I do feel that it is good to know that God will be the perfect, righteous Judge of all people and I can't be more loving or more righteous than God - so I trust that He will make no mistakes!

God is just, and Christ only judges people based on the knowledge for which they are responsible. All who die rejecting Jesus are separated from God forever. Everyone that God saves goes to heaven through Jesus. That's what I believe and that's what the Bible teaches - as far as I can understand it.

It wasn't so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn't know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It's a wonder God didn't lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah. (Ephesians 2:1-6 from The Message)


Anonymous said...

No one is in hell except those who choose it. "The judgment is this–the light came into the world, but men loved the darkness instead of the light" (Jn 3:19)

Cori said...

Thanks for the link to my post, Paul, and these interesting insights. And for tagging me!

A quick response to anonymous - it seems terribly odd to me that someone would 'choose' hell? Is that not a contradiction in terms? Surely, just about any sane person would choose eternal paradise over eternal torture? Which brings one to the conclusion that the issue is terribly much more complex and that the word 'choice' especially in the context of beliefs is a lot more problematic than we'd like to make it.

Wim Rietkerk, a Dutch theologian and psychologist, has written a wonderful little book on this (available in Dutch and English) titled 'If Only I Could Believe'.