Archive for category Ethics
Posted by O C Boyet in Bible, biblical literalism, Calvinism, Catholicism, Christianity, Church, Crime and Punishment, Culture, Current Events, damnation, Emerging Church, Ethics, Evil, Faith, Fundamentalism, God, Gospel, grace, Heaven and Hell, Hell, Heresy, Heterodoxy, Jesus, Justice, Morality, Orthodoxy, Protestantism, reformed church, Religion, Religious Right, Religious Tolerance, sacrifice, salvation, Sin, Spirituality, Substitutionary Atonement, Theology, Universalism on March 10, 2011
As long as I can remember my mother has said, “As a Christian you have to believe in Hell but you don’t have to believe anyone is there.” This is her gracious understanding of an essential Christian doctrine. Though she didn’t know it, this understanding is a Christian “heresy” called Universalism, a heresy that says all of us, even non-Christians, will go to Heaven. And it was expressly against Catholic, and most Christian doctrine. But wasn’t she right about one thing: Don’t you have to believe in Hell to be a Christian? This must be the case, if Universalism is a heresy.
Not long ago Rob Bell was in the hot seat with many Evangelicals (and some Catholics) because his recent book, “Love Wins”, suggested that no one goes to Hell. He set the conservative Christian bogs on fire and most of them essentially condemned Bell to hell for not believing in Hell.
The ensuing progressive Christian defense of Bell was great. Many Emerging Church and progressive Christian bloggers busted the chops of people like the Three Johns ( Piper, MacArthur and Hagee) for accusing Bell of Universalism . They rightly criticized the conservative Christian tendency to make Hell such a big part of their theology, to the point where this doctrine obscures a lot of the Gospel message. But, unfortunately, few of them go far enough.
Because in their defense of Bell they made it quite clear that they also believed in the doctrine of Hell, they just adapted it to make it more palatable. Most seemed to accept the conventional orthodoxy of a Final Judgment and the potential prospect of Hell (even with little or no scriptural support for it) coupled with the salvic solution of Jesus dying for our sins on the cross, as God’s blood sacrifice, to free us from eternal damnation. Which, to me, flies in the face of what Jesus spends a lot of time telling us about God. As I heard a pastor once say, God is either merciful or God is just, but God cannot be both.
I think one reason why so many Christians are unyielding about Hell, and why the progressives still can’t shake the doctrine off, is that, in reality, Hell is the cornerstone of the Church, not Jesus. Because without Hell, what is there for Jesus to do? What does he save us from?
No Hell = no Jesus. Or at least the Jesus that many Christians claim to believe in, have faith in. Without Hell he loses his job description. He loses his purpose along with the primary meaning he may have for millions of Christians. So the idea that there is no Hell is just too damn frightening to consider.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18
Hm. That sounds vaguely familiar.
On one occasion Jesus was talking and said” Love your neighbor as you would love yourself”.
An expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “And what would that look like, pastor?”
Jesus looked at him and smiled. “Why don’t you tell me?”
“OK, a trucker was going up to Troy from Nashville, when he fell into the hands of hijackers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and left him beside his rig, half dead.
“A preacher happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a county councilman, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Tennessee State Trooper, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.
He called in the man’s license plate number and found that he had not paid his Emergency Service Fee. So he turned his Crown Vic around and drove away.”
“Hm. Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” asked Jesus
The expert in the law replied, “Well, they all were. But he’d made his choice, now he just has to deal with it himself”.
“So, that’s what is written in the Law?” Jesus replied. “That’s how you read it? Nothing else?”
The man answered:” Of course. ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.”
“Oh, and make sure that you take care of yourself, that you are responsible for your own actions and hold others accountable for theirs. So no one gets anything they don’t pay for.”
“You just don’t get it,” Jesus replied.