You know what I have never seen at Church? Any Church? A congregation of people missing offending body parts.
Of course, I exaggerate. There are certainly people missing a limb or something-but it is always the result of an accident. I’ve never met the guy who lopped off his own hand or plucked out his own eye. And on the rare occasion it has happened, it was a newsworthy event and every Christian I knew thought the person was crazy. This, in spite of Jesus making the statement that if our hand offends us, we should chop it off, or our eye causes us to sin, pluck it out. It’s better to enter heaven missing a few pieces than have your whole body and lose your soul.
Christians have a myriad of defenses as to why we do not actually have to take Jesus seriously on this one. But let someone suggest that maybe…just MAYBE Hell is not a permanent torture chamber for everyone who pays a visit? And the crowds go wild. Some Christians are hooked on hell. They love it. They want it. They need it. Their faith lacks meaning if there isn’t a place to send “evil people” (also known as people who had other beliefs-not necessarily people who were cruel and evil).
Rob Bell has a new book coming out called Love Wins. Fred “The Slacktivist” Clarke is addressing this all very well as Rob Bell Vs. Team Hell. Fred is smarter than me and travels this discussion much better than I. Each link is a separate posting.
I suspect there is a pretty simple answer here. Why suggesting hell is not a permanent vacation. Though, many will deny it. To be straight forward: They think it is not fair. Christians who actually made the effort to follow the rules and be Christians and gave up all “the fun” get into heaven…and so might the people who didn’t? It’s not fair! Because, what is fair is that kid who grew up abused by their dad, lived on the streets, maybe went into porn and continued to cope with drugs and alcohol until they overdosed? Hell is fair? Hell is just? Eternal torment after a life of broken misery is fair? Some people have a real freaking sick idea of “fair”.
The god that so many are so eager jump up and support while slamming Bell is not really a great deity. He is much like other deities that we would condemn for being harsh and unkind. Of demanding to much of people and offering little in return. That god is a liar. He’s unjust. unkind. And a terrible parent. I cannot serve that kind of god. I cannot kneel or pray to that god…that god? Is hopelessness personified.
But people are clinging to vague verses and symbolic language demanding we take it stone cold literally. Suddenly, unclear things Jesus says are to be unquestioned in their meaning-while unambiguous verses (like that one about the hands and eyes) are not meant to be seen as literal.
Some are wondering why Bell Appeals to people. He is, admittedly, not like many popular pastors. He is a gentle speaker. I’ve been part of more than one church where people loved the preacher because he was a blustery and loud personalty. And I get that, as it is easy to confuse an aggressive tone with “Urgent and authoritative” and “wisdom”. (See Mark Driscoll)
It should be noted that the verse that “I am the way, the truth an the light, no man comes to the Father but by me is not actually a statement that you must become a Christian. It does not even suggest that you have to make a decision to be a Christian before you die. It simply says Jesus is the final arbiter of access. It says that who gets in is not your or my call.
As an aside, it is immensely amusing that Bell’s critics are “predicting” he will claim he is being attacked…as if such a claim will be… you know…made up. But I have watched far more people attack Bell than support him. even friends are not showing the grace and mercy that supposedly emanates from Christ. Instead, it’s arrogance and condescension. Cheap shots and insults. He responds not in kind, which makes him look far more like a man Changed by a loving and great God.
(And any heaven with Jerry Falwell and no Freddie Mercury is no heaven at all.)