Who WOULD believe in Hell?

I can’t imagine wanting hell to be real.

Because I believe in a God of compassion, self sacrifice, and forgiveness
Because I accept an omnibenevolent God as truth

For those reasons I find the concept of eternal suffering distasteful at best.
Maybe downright gruesome.

Of course I do believe in hell.

Without a doubt

Even though I don’t like the idea

I’ve come to realize that many things I find to be distasteful are none the less true.

I don’t pretend to know who goes to hell

I don’t have a whole lot to say about it in general

A few broad strokes

And to be honest, a silly movie I’ve loved since I was a teenager sums it up best:

“Do you know what hell is..? It’s not lakes of burning oil or chains of ice. It’s being removed from God’s sight”

-The Prophecy

Amen

I know Christians grapple with this all the time

What gets you a spot in heaven vs hell?

Do you earn it?
Earn God’s favor?
Earn God’s condemnation?

I’m a Protestant for sure, so that’s not what I think

But I’m a Baptist too
And as a more extreme one, I believe in total free will

So I guess you’d say I’m a weird mashup

I say God didn’t pre-condemn certain individuals to hell. God’s omnibenevolence pre-condemns to hell those that choose to hate, subjugate, & degrade

Those that walk the road of life and upon seeing someone robbed and ravaged, walk over to the other side of the road

These are the people that find themselves removed from God’s sight.

No one’s perfect of course

And God doesn’t expect perfect omnibenevolence from anyone but himself.

This is where we’d get into talk about justification and sanctification

But I don’t want to bore you to death.

You can investigate those technical arguments in the links if you want

For now, I’m just going to explain my take

I say it’s not about earning God’s favor. The message of Jesus is that our imperfections are already forgiven in him

And maybe they always have been

This is where our gift of free will intersects with God’s sacrifice for us:

We have to chose forgiveness

We have to chose the omnibenevolent God

Just as he has chosen us

We have to accept that redemption is real and let it work it’s way into the nooks of our person.

We have to love the God that is omnibenevolent

When we do, we have to also love our neighbors

For love of God and love of neighbor are entwined
Intimately
Permanently

They are part of one great commandment

The greatest commandment

Love of the omnibenevolent God will lead to love for our neighbors

I do understand that some Christians find it hard to believe that a God who loves us all could condemn us to hell

I think that to a degree those Christians are influenced by one of the many traditions that spurns the idea of true free will

But I also think more liberal thinking Christians have rejected the idea of hell because they couldn’t believe that there are people who truly reject the idea of loving their neighbors

Even if they believed that some actively reject the idea of an omnibenevolent God

They relied on this quite beautiful idea:

“Speaking of younger people today, some really are unbelieving: that is they have recognized that the God of Jesus, this God of tenderness actually exists – and they refuse Him.

Others are not really unbelievers as such since they have rejected only the picture of God they have seen portrayed through certain Christians now or in history.

If you are running away from a wrong picture of God, does that take you further away from Him or closer to Him?”

Celtic Book of Prayer Celtic Daily Prayer: Prayers and Readings From the Northumbria Community

I do agree with this
On many levels

But I believe some focus so much on the second part of this sentiment that they ignore the first

The mistake some Christians have made is believing that all who reject God are doing it because they are running from the wrong picture of God

And forget that some see the right picture

The omnibenevolent God

And they choose to hate it

In light of some recent events, I think those liberal Christians may be changing their minds about what people are capable of choosing

In the public sphere many have been emboldened to say with pride:

I do not love the stranger bleeding on the side of the road

And I’m not just crossing to the other side. I’m also building a fence so they can’t crawl near to me

Even if they had one last breath to gather their strength and try

I don’t want to give them the opportunity

Now I don’t want you to misunderstand you who might read this

Just as I know that God has given us enormous power by creating us in his likeness

Creating us with the power to choose

As omnipotent as God may be, he is restrained by his omnibenevolence

God cannot do what is wrong

Because God is Love, he can only chose love

He can’t save those that choose to hate
Because they don’t let him

It seems weird I know

We like to think God can do anything

We’re told that all the time

But God cannot performa an evil act

To be clear,

God still loves those that choose hate
He loves them with all his being
He loves them without reservation

And by their hateful choice he weeps
As Jesus wept on the cross for those who choose hate
He knows that hate is always born of ignorance
Those who chose it can’t see past it, they can’t see what they are doing to others
And what it does to them
They are blind in their hate

They remove themselves from God’s sight
It’s cold, dark, and empty

And they stay there

So why give us a choice? If God is omnibenevolent, why not make us incapable?

The answer is one of the core attributes of love that we do often fail to define.

Love means sacrifice
Love means putting someone’s needs before your own
Love means choosing that self sacrifice
Just as God chose to sacrifice himself in Jesus

Sacrifice requires pain and hardship that is knowingly embraced

Parents do this for their children
Children do this for their parents
Spouse for spouse
Sister for sister
Friend for friend
Even stranger for stranger

That’s why evil comes into the world, because we selfishly reject our neighbors

Because we hate and abuse and abandon them for our own comfort

Our own decadence

Even in modern politics we see this in nationalism.

When someone loves only those that look like them

If I were to only love those that

Look like me

Dress like me

Talk like me

Then I’m not truly loving others, I’m loving myself. I’m worshipping the image of myself.

And as much as we hate the idea, some take the opportunity for self sacrifice and instead chose themselves

Choosing Selfishness
Viciousness
Malice
Hate for the “others”

For sacrifice to mean anything, then there must be forces that cause pain and suffering

They give us the reason to sacrifice
The impetus to put ourselves in danger

Recognizing self sacrifice can be difficult though
It’s not always clear to those outside the situation

To be clear I don’t think I get to judge who goes to hell

It’s like loving God
No one can ever truly know if you love God
Despite all external signs, love is internal and impossible to observe with certainty. Our motivations can never be discerned without ambiguity.
Same thing with love for your neighbors
It’s looks different for each person
Different for each context

Even our actions can be hard to discern

Sometimes the action itself is so small in our own eyes, yet enormous and unfathomable for those whose lives are touched by it

Only God knows

Although, if you look deeply at yourself
You may see both

Both the motive

And the action it should lead to

At least, you’ll see enough to know:

Am I choosing love?
Or hate?

Sacrifice?
Or selfishness?

Gospels and War Stories

If you were going to tell the story of US involvement in Iraq, where would you start? The invasion in 2003? The Gulf War that started in 1990? Or would you go back farther?

You could go into detail about US, French, Soviet, and British support for Iraq through the course of the Iraq/Iran war that took place between 1980-1988. You might even want to go into detail about Soviet involvement in Afghanistan and the 9/11 attack because of its impact on the worldwide war on terror.

Or you could skip all that and tell the stories of the individual soldiers themselves. Both sides even, giving an utterly different and far more personal account.

It would probably be best to touch on all these topics to some degree or another, just placing emphasis on a few of the events while being briefer on others.

The same could be said of the 4 Gospels. When reading these biographies of Jesus’ life many notice the differences in the way they are told. And the differences are notable. One author may leave out details that the other authors emphasize. They may have events happening in slightly different order. Some contain the same saying but worded in a slightly different way or told in a different context.

They even start in completely different episodes in Jesus’ life. Matthew and Luke start with Jesus’ family genealogy as well as the events before and during his birth. Mark and John start in adulthood and scarcely mention his birth at all, although John includes a preamble which explicitly states that Jesus existed before the beginning of creation. In fact John tells us that Jesus was the agent of creation, through which all things were made.

So which of the Gospels is telling the story “right”? Whose timeline is “right”? Whose testimony should we trust? Luke doesn’t even claim to have witnessed anything at all. Luke claims that he investigated the different eyewitness accounts and carefully constructed the best & most orderly account based on his investigation.

I recommend thinking about the Gospels the way you would think about the war in Iraq. It’s not about whether the story is wrong or right, it’s about where a particular author puts the emphasis, what information they found most pertinent. If you were going to try to learn about the war in Iraq you should read a multitude of accounts to take in as many perspectives as possible. By comparing the different accounts you will find details that one author casually glossed over or ignored, that a different author spent more time on. Through the different accounts a more complete understanding will emerge. Each narrative will converge on  a more decisive & complete story that is more complete than any one book alone.

That’s why we have four Gospels
That’s why we shouldn’t be worried about the differences
The differences make the Gospels stronger.
The differences reinforce that we are getting multiple, real accounts

Everyone sees and experiences the world differently

The Bible acknowledges that
The Bible canonizes that

I trust the Bible because it brings me the same diversity of experience I see everyday in the world around me

The Theory and the Revelation

There is one sure way to completely shut down an argument: show the person you’re trying to sway that you haven’t done the background research to know what you’re talking about.

In the realm of religion and science there are 2 perfect examples

Evolution
&
Revelation

The Book of Revelation is the last book of the Christian Bible. It can go by a number of different names:

The Revelation to John
The Apocalypse of John
The Revelation
Revelation

I’ve even seen a long form of it spelled out as The Apocalypse of St John the Apostle

But it’s never called “Revelations”.

And anytime a person who’s trying to argue with a Christian adds an S onto Revelation there is a good chance that the Christian checks out.

The thought being:

This person isn’t taking this argument seriously enough to go do the tiny amount of research necessary to even argue with me.

Why would I listen to them, then?

The same in arguments about science.

The book The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin can also go several names:

On the Origin of Species
On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection
On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life

But it is never called “The Origin of the Species”

That’s not the name of the book and the same thing happens when people call it that in an argument.

The opponent checks out and doesn’t take the rest of the conversation seriously.

If you want to convince someone of your argument or even get them to take it seriously you have to understand the terms and sources they use. At least casually, so they’ll respect your thoughts on the subject.

In both these cases I’ve even seen works published with the wrong title. That shows that even editors of texts meant to be taken seriously haven’t done their due diligence to know the title of the book in question.

But these are just good examples

There are many more

The point is, before trying to persuade others you have to spend the time to know what others believe.

In all productive conversations I’ve ever had, it’s only when I try to see the world through beliefs that are not my own that I can approach someone to try to change their mind.

For someone you love

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It’s hard to talk about love & suffering

they don’t seem to go together well

especially when it comes to the idea of a God who loves but allows suffering

So my thought for this Easter is something I think parents will understand better than I do

If I asked:

What would you do for your children? How far would you go? To protect them? To keep them safe?

Most of the parents I know would have the same answer:

Anything
I’d do anything for my children

I think maybe that’s why suffering exists, because love means you’ll suffer for someone you love.

You’ll place someone’s needs above yours

Above your own life

This is My commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends

John 15:12-13 NLT

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A’ Chàisg sona
Ka hari Aranga
Kristos sotonnheton;
oriwiio tsi sotonnheton
hyvää pääsiäistä
M’shee ho dkom!
Happy Easter

Links to

the images above

I should really do a post just about Peter Gomes & why no one knows who he is

But for now I’ll just post this quote

And think about what it says to me today

Then also think about the fact that he spoke these words in 1989

And think about what that says about us today

“There must be such a hope for the destitute of our American Calcuttas,’ Gomes said. ‘There must be such a hope for the prisoners of the inner city within sight of this cathedral church and beyond; there must be such a hope for the aged and the destitute; there must be such a hope for persons with AIDS and those who love and care for them”

I encourage you to think on these words

the most direct offense against the Truth

I am definitely not a Roman Catholic but I do find that faith very intriguing.

I especially enjoy the faith and history of the Maronite Catholic Church, which is in the full communion with the Pope and the Roman Church.

But today I have a particular excerpt from their Catechism on my mind:

Lying is the most direct offense against the truth. To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead someone into error. By injuring man’s relation to truth and to his neighbor, a lie offends against the fundamental relation of man and of his word to the Lord

-Catechism of the Catholic Church 2483

In today’s world, in our media forms and practices, I feel this is particularly applicable.

I am increasingly concerned about the modern practice of following news sources that we identify with ideologically and ignoring all others.

As well as searching out online resources we already agree with. Then accepting everything that source says as fact.
If you don’t double check those claims and they turn out to be false, you’ve been lied to.

And I’ve started to wonder if failing at our own due diligence in regard to the information we accept and spread falls under the same category as the lies described in the Catholic Catechism.

Doesn’t the spread of information we don’t know to be true or false count as a direct offense against the truth?

Doesn’t it injure our relation to truth and to our neighbors?

I believe that spreading information without verifying its accuracy is equivalent with gossip.

The Catechism denounces that as well:

Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury

-Catechism of the Catholic Church 2477

And even if the Catechism means nothing to you, turning to the Bible brings the condemnation to another level.

In this👇text the level of evil associated with gossip is unambiguous.
Because wow, I don’t see many protesters with signs that say “God Hates Gossip”

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers, God–haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them.

Romans 1:28-32 NRSVCE

Some would say this👆passage is about the consequences of being homosexual. But after running through that list, I recommend having a long think about the thoughts and actions being condemned here. I’m sure you’ll agree that those traits are common everywhere across all demographics

I believe that spreading unverified information on the internet is clearly a form of gossip. And if you believe that what the Bible says is true, have a think about what it means to gossip.

What a person’s insides are like if they are willing to spread gossip.

Agree or don’t; think on it.

The Evangelical Ethnicity

(Links in Blue)

Usually ethnicity is used as an overly complicated term that is very difficult to pin down

So I’m going to make it simple;
Ethnicity is a combination of ancestry and culture.

How that plays out looks different from group to group

but there it is.

And that’s what Evangelicalism has become.

It’s not a denominational distinction,

as in

“That’s an Evangelical Church over there, and that one over there is not!”

Evangelicalism has become a way of identifying yourself as part of a broader cultural identity

(The Last Temptation)

Identity centered on a culture of Biblical Literalism, Appeal to Tradition, Hostility to Science, and Political Conservativism

(👆Just to name a few)

There are Evangelical Catholics now, Evangelical United Methodists, PC(USA) Evangelicals. Doesn’t matter the denomination, the culture is everywhere, including the Mainline Churches!

…but now an ugly serpent is slowly uncoiling itself, slithering from the base of Evangelicalism.

Till now it’s been hidden.

It’s always been there, but for years it’s been lurking in the background.

Now it’s come into the light.

It’s the other aspect of ethnicity:

Ancestry

For decades the Evangelical identity has been growing in influence and exposure, coming to define Christianity in the public square

And the whole time it’s leadership has maintained that ancestry isn’t a component!

We’re not racist!
Everyone’s welcome!
We’re all brothers in Christ!

I guess it’s possible those leaders meant it.

(Demanding Change)

But their congregants did NOT all believe it

Ancestry is clearly woven into the Evangelical identity.
Intimately
Irrevocably

The cries are clear:
We’re losing “our country”!
We have to take “our country” back!

It’s not subtle; the “our” part is ancestry.

(Taking “Our Religion” back too)

Call it race if you want (a ridiculously unscientific fiction)

But it’s been revealed as a cornerstone of Evangelical identity.

Some that have come from the “Evangelical Denominations” have now realized they can’t call themselves Evangelical anymore.

(Just listen to The Liturgists podcast)

(The Liturgists)

These former Evangelicals are the few who actually believed that ancestry wasn’t a part of the identity.

Now they see it and it’s undeniable.

(I could no longer ignore)

It shouldn’t surprise them.

Some stay. Trying to battle this rise in ancestry as central to the identity

(Trying to Fight)

Not surprisingly the most vocal opponents are the leaders who recognize the change in demographics (and don’t want to lose their new base)

(Fighting for the groups that we need to take “Our Country” back from)

Still

The truth plain; Evangelicalism is in the process of fully transforming into Evangelical Ethnic Identity

And the contingent that has conjured that identity around European Ancestry

is LOUD