I just finished reading book number one on my reading list for the summer; Brian McLaren’s “The Last Word and the Word after that.” It made me think of things that I have never thought of before and it made me question the very things that most Christians simply accept. The entire book was on the concept of hell and judgment. This book has a completely different outlook on the whole idea of hell than most things that I’ve read. This is something that I’ve never really though of because it’s never affected me. Why care about the idea of hell if your entire life it is engrained in you that you aren’t going there?
Christianity for so long as been fueled a lot by two major things. One, the desire to get into heaven and have a secured afterlife. Two, save as many people as possible from this eternal torment, and if they don’t listen than then will suffer eternally with fire and brimstone. So what keeps people in Christianity is their happiness for spending the afterlife on the streets of gold, and what brings new people to Christianity is the knowledge that if they don’t come to our side they will suffer eternally. There are others, but I doubt that there are any reasons which are as prominent as these.
I’ve read C.S. Lewis’ books Problem with Pain, Mere Christianity and The Great Divorce which are either written on this subject or hint to it. Dallas Willard also has a book out that brings insight called The Renovation of the Heart. McLaren’s book helps bring these views into the light for me and make sense of the concept of hell with the concept of a loving, caring and just God. This entire series is a definite must read for any Christian. It has spoken so much to me and helps put into words what I have been feeling for so long.
The point isn’t hell. The point isn’t the after-life. The point isn’t heaven either. The point is that we are part of the Kingdom of God now and here. The point is to bring God’s justice and love to the world around us. Christians have completely missed the boat and have made hell an idea to scare people into their religion or to scare people into staying or made heaven into some one-track-mind destination that we need to think about all the time. This is eternal life says Christ, “that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3).
We are to reconcile the world to Christ. This doesn’t mean tell people that they need to repent or they will burn forever. It means to help people see that without God their life will be empty, unfulfilled and meaningless. By doing good to people, by sharing the love of Christ with all the world (which is why I’m so excited for my friends trips to Trinidad and Thailand) we will see God’s Kingdom come.
There is so much to talk about on a subject such as this, but I’m starting to realize more and more that Christianity isn’t about the future as much as it is about the present. We’ve put way to much emphasis on what will happen that we’ve not learned from the mistakes of what has happened and we are doing nothing now. This hell theology of us Christians needs to change and it needs to be inline with a loving, merciful and just God who wants to reconcile ALL of creation to himself.
I’m not sure what hell is anymore and I’m glad that it doesn’t matter all that much. It’s not about hell. It’s about now and bringing God’s purposes and plans to a reality in our lives and the world around us.