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?

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

at least this one’s dead

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the death of my wife’s slayer
brought no comfort to me
now a shape for loneliness
for a dream

-Silver Bride by Amorphis

What happened

What really happened

In the aftermath of the school shooting in Maryland (best time to talk about it) I’ll point out one thing:

the resource officer didn’t prevent the shooting

The school resource officer killed the shooter, preventing further violence.

That’s to be commended.

He stopped the shooting
He did not prevent it from happening

And there is something I don’t believe

I don’t believe that the parents of the 2 injured in this incident

or the parents of all the maimed and deceased from other school shooting over the years

Can now rest from their sorrows
Can bury their pain
Can forget the horrible loss they’ve suffered
And will be at peace with the fact that their children will grow up with a terrible physical reminder of their experience

Or not grow up at all

all because this one is dead

I could be wrong
But I don’t think those parents will be all that comforted tonight

(and for what it’s worth I don’t celebrate anyone’s death. In situations like this it was unavoidable that the officer take one life to protect the lives of other. But a human being is dead. I find no pleasure in that fact no matter how justified)

Update

This incident seems to fall outside the definition of a “school shooting” where we’re usually talking about a mass shooting

This likely fits into the category of domestic violence

Which is also a problem.

Maybe we should talk about that too.

Update

And now Jaelynn Willey’s dead

I doubt it’ll come as much comfort to her parents as they miss her presence, that the man who shot her is dead.

Because the violence that man started was prevented from going any further

Which is great

But it wasn’t prevented

And now she’s dead
And no one wins
Not in this lifetime

We already know the solutions to the Opioid crisis

If you take one notable thought away from this post, I hope it’s this:

Drugs hijack an important part of the brain and it has a devastating effect on the rest of the brain. The chemicals and cells being hijacked can’t perform all their functions correctly and it takes away your ability to be yourself and control yourself. If we want to stop this the answer is multidisciplinary medical intervention.

The ventral tegmental area (VTA), the nucleus accumbens, and the prefrontal cortex

👆These brain parts are the most important element of the answer to addiction👆

I see/hear people say it all the time

“Addiction is not a disease!”
“It’s about selfishness!”
“Addiction a moral failure”

No it’s not. It’s a function of your brain.

“But the mind can-“

No it can’t
Your brain IS your mind

There’s no debate about this anymore. Maybe you could talk about other parts of your nervous system as components of your mind, that’s worth discussing.

Doesn’t change the fact that your mind is biological

Not spiritual

We may have a soul (I think so)

But whatever the soul is, it’s not your mind.

And your mind is where addiction happens.

Those chunks of the brain I listed above are part of the reward pathway.

It’s a simple part of your brain.
It has one simple function: it tells you that you need to do something again.
It says “What you’re doing is important! Do it again!!!”

It usually reinforces pretty important activities

“Eating is good! Do it again!!!”
“Water is good! Drink it again!!!”
“Sex is good! Have them babiesssssssssss”

Chemicals carry those messages from one cell to the next. The more chemicals that tell you “do that again!” the stronger the urge to do it again.

And that’s where addiction is a monster.

All the big ones; opioids, alcohol, cocaine, meth
All of the debilitating drugs

They all highjack that reward loop by increasing those chemicals that tell you to repeat a behavior.

But they don’t just increase them.

They hyper elevate the level of those chemicals beyond anything your brain could do on its own.

They create an urge that’s stronger than any activity you could engage in.

They don’t say:
“Do this again! It’s important!!!”

They say:

“DO THIS AGAIN AT ANY COST!!!”

“DO THIS AT ALL COST!!!”

“DO THIS AGAIN EVEN IF IT KILLS YOU!!!”

“DO THIS OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN BECAUSE NOTHING COULD EVER BE AS IMPORTANT AS THIS DRUG”

Fixing that pathway is not about willpower
It’s not about freewill
It’s about biology

Even though other parts of your brain are capable of rewriting that pathway, they can rarely do it to correct drug addiction because drugs are UNNATURALLY strong

Medicine,
Therapy,
Inpatient Care

These are the answer to fix that part of the brain

Then comes the dumb response:

“Well if that’s how it works then you should never start in the first place blah blah bla blah bla”

Great idea 👍

Too late

Thousands, millions are already addicted. They are our friends, our neighbors, our family members. They’re doing what the reward pathway tells them: these drugs are important enough to kill your self over.

People you have loved your whole life, people you KNOW are not selfish will ignore anything and everything in their lives. Because the pathway is high jacked. And it tells them what’s important. They lose the ability to tell themselves.

So go build a time machine if you think the answer is to make them “not start in the first place”

I say we help them now.

ASAP

Use education to help prevent more addiction. Absolutely
But help your loved ones in the throws of addiction NOW
Support medical intervention, public health policy, cheaper healthcare in general.

Because this won’t stop

I know that my brain is the way it is on purpose. It functions the way it does for a good reason. Those simple parts provide basic functions. The complex parts surrounding those simple parts help you make sure the simple goals are accomplished as efficiently and effectively as possible.

I wouldn’t know that👆if I was addicted

None of that works if the simple parts are highjacked. The complex parts just can’t overcome that invasion.

Because the brain is a nested hierarchy
I should probably explain what that is 🤷‍♀️

And why I named this website after it 🤔
Of course you could google it too

Whatever

Educate yourself
Don’t take my word for it
Find the information

And use it to help save your neighbor

Don’t judge; do have compassion

Ask yourself:
What does it look like to love your neighbors?

Be the one who shows them mercy
Mercy for these accosted humans is treatment

Not punishment

I’ve definitely tried to keep the information I’ve presented here as non-technical as possible

Because who likes boring?

Even so, the chemicals and brain cells and brain functions I’m referring to here are all very complex and have many different functions.

Go learn about them all if you’d like

It’s very interesting and I recommend it

Information

Is

Power

Use

It

Suffering

Old question. REAL old.

If God loves us why do we suffer?

Does God control our actions? Our future? Every event, moment to moment? If so, why the moments of suffering?

I saw my friend today wondering out loud,

“Is God punishing me?”

I don’t think I’m going to end this debate in a blog…but I’ll try. At least a little bit. A smidgen.

My first thought would be about control.

What do I mean if I say God controls my future?

Do I mean God controls my every action? (kinda don’t think so)

Do I mean God controls all circumstances I find myself in? (kinda don’t think so on this one either. If I have control of my actions shouldn’t I think others do too?)

Do I mean that God has no control then!? (nah, but what do I mean then?)

🤔

I’ve come to the conclusion that I think about control in terms far too limited. I’ve started asking myself what kind of control the God I believe in has.

Reading the Bible does the trick.

The authors of that old collection of books all wrestled with the idea of God’s control, how evil could sometimes triumph.

Emerging from their frustration, through the books that claim to reveal God’s will I think it is very clear.

God controls the outcomes.

There may be a number of potential circumstances but God controls the eventual circumstances.

The events that will come to pass.

Over time they are all fulfilled and eventually they will culminate in a transformation of this world. In that culmination we will see the full triumph of light, love, mercy, compassion, humility, self sacrifice, and all that is good.

These will win out in the end.

In the meantime all our choices create the circumstances we see around us. Slowing eliminating the paths into the future. All of our individuals choices swirling together in a tumultuous converging path.

Each path we take leaves another behind,

& another

& another

Until there is only one left: that path of culmination.

Our burden is to chose the paths available to us. Then we have to deal with the paths laid before us by all others.

Which by the way includes God. I definitely think God acts and moves along these paths just as we do.

But God’s path is built of all the virtues listed above👆

And more

Ours, not so much.

Why bring us into this universe of possibilities where some choose viciousness and others chose tenderness?

Why allow the choices?

Why not start and culminate simultaneously? Why do we have to go through the long, grim pilgrimage of time?

I’d like to know, wouldn’t you?

So I guess I failed on that note. Maybe I’ll come back to that question later.

Until then I have faith that when time does culminate, peace will reign.

And all the wrongs of the past will be made right.

I can’t wait to see what THAT looks like

🙏

Without a doubt I have my own take on the way grace, forgiveness, and faith worm their way into all this. But that’ll have to wait till a later post 🤘

Brief warning: I’ll mostly be posting from my phone. Using a mobile device to view may work best 😎