Sunday, July 17, 2011

Heaven, Hell, and Christian Love


Just recently, a new book was released by popular evangelical icon Rob Bell,
entitled "Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person
Who Ever Lived". I've read the book twice, and I've read other Christian
who have reviewed the book... In addition, I've listened to Rob Bell himself
discuss the book, and I've read other works by Mr. Bell and seen a number of his
YouTube videos (he's very good with modern technology and the tools of what has
come to be known as "Social Media"), so I think I have a good handle on his basic
perspective on our Faith... Indeed, the themes of most of the current crop of
post-modern Christian "pop-culture" figures are strikingly similar:
Read or listen to one and you're sufficiently introduced to them all...

His central thesis is that both the Love that God offers the world through Christ,
and therefore "heaven", can be experienced in the here and now (as well as in the
"afterlife"), and conjointly, that "hell" begins for us as the suffering and pain
we experience in our lives right now... He claims to believe in a literal Heaven
and a literal Hell, based on his understanding of the Bible, but that seems to be
more or less where adherence to traditional doctrine on these topics ends.

In my view, and as I understand the fundamentals of our Faith, I think Mr. Bell's
position on these topics is dangerously close to "it-means-whatever-works-for-you"
Post-Modernism, most especially as it concerns what the Love of God is really about;
indeed, the book seems, to me, to be a classic example of this new "Social Gospel"
that has become so prevalent in modern times... A watered-down substitute for
Scriptural themes that attempts to sponge away the "nasty" stuff in favor of
interpretations that are nicer to hear... But, as in so many other areas of life,
Error is most pernicious when it has a bit of Truth mixed into it...

Based on what the Bible says, clearly, in plain Enlish (no Theology degree, or
slick YouTube video, required), we understand that God DOES love the entire world,
every man, woman and child who has ever lived; it's also clear that God is not
willing that ANY perish (that is, to CHOOSE to REJECT the cleansing from Sin
through the blood of Jesus, and to DENY His Deity and Lordship); indeed the Bible
is utterly explicit that SIN is the problem between God and Man; but since -- as
the Bible explains -- we are free to choose or reject God, there will in fact be
some who reject Jesus, and God's Love... That choice MUST, at some point, become
permanent, and when it does -- when that Soul has lost all Hope and when all
Goodness and Truth and Beauty are removed from its existence, and when that Soul's
SIN Nature is fully, tragically perfected -- that Soul will BE Hell-ish
and will be IN Hell.

Since even the most evil person alive on this planet at least has EVIDENCE of the
Goodness and Truth and Beauty of God around him -- though he may take no notice --
he is NOT, in fact, yet in Hell, no matter how evil his heart is; Hell is not only
the complete and profound REMOVAL of any hint of God... It is a state which -- no
matter HOW badly the Soul suffers there -- is still (stunningly) preferred by
the damned Soul, and so will be, forever... Souls in Hell cannot be rescued
because they WILL not be rescued...

Mr. Bell speaks very infrequently about the Biblical theme of SIN; as for Love,
he is rather weak on what God's Love for us MEANS: Ultimately, God loves us just
like a Father loves his children: We "accept" them and "Love" them the way they
are, right now, but on a deeper and wider level, our "Love" for them leaves us
UNSATISFIED with them in their current state and desiring for them the very BEST
"grown-up" they can ultimately be; we view our role as Parents as the chief
"agents" or "coaches" to help them GET there... God's Love for us begins there: What is the ultimate "ME" I can possibly be?
Well, a Glorified SAINT, in the end: Perfected by God, radiating His Glory,
reflecting that Glory back to Him in a way that only I -- as a unique creation of
God -- can do, and thoroughly enjoying the process of doing so forever and ever.
When God is finished with me, I will BE Heaven-ish and I will be IN Heaven...

But even the most sanctified person alive on this planet still has, at least,
some trace of the SIN Nature inside him, and evidence of evil all around him,
and so is NOT, in fact, IN Heaven just yet; indeed, the Love of God inside us is
intended to motivate us to reach out in Love to each other, desiring very
passionately to help those around us move on toward becoming the Glorified
SAINT that God wants to make of THEM, too...

Mr. Bell's views reflect a trend in some modern Christian circles to dilute these
very strong Biblical themes and to apply them to a much broader audience; it seems
that he seeks to lessen the "sting" of the end result of rejecting Jesus, and to
minimize the impact of the concept of SIN by focusing on a somewhat vague,
egalitarian sense of "love"...

We should be on our guard against any tendency in us toward "itching ears",
hearing what we want to hear instead of what we NEED to hear, the strong meat
of the Scriptures. Part of what we read there is that most Souls will
reject the truth of the Gospel, in contrast to Mr. Bell's fundamental
position that ALL will, eventually, be saved...

But the Scriptures are very clear on these topics; we must continue, as millions
of Christians have, down through the centuries, to submit ourselves to their
teachings, no matter how difficult they may seem to be.
May God grant us more grace.
    “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate
    and broad is the road that leads to destruction,
    and many enter through it.

    But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads
    to life, and only a few find it." -- MAT 7:13-14