A Generous Orthodoxy of Hell: Some Concluding Thoughts (With Apologies to Brian McClaren)

Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.
– Job 42:3

I am an exclusivist…
I believe that no impure thing can enter the Kingdom of God; and that Jesus is the only way to eternal life. I believe that, in the end, no one else can live within that Kingdom; only those who perfectly conform to the image of Jesus. 

I am an inclusivist…
I believe that God does not want anyone to perish; that God is throwing a party, and no one is too lowly or too wicked to be removed from his invitation list. I believe that whoever is not against Jesus is for him, and that God’s love makes room for the most offensive of prodigals.

I am an annihilationist…
I believe that sickness, sin, death, wickedness, and even hades itself will one day end, never to return again. I believe that God is a consuming fire – that just as everything that is of God will find its purpose in Him, so everything that is not of God will find its end in him. The light shines in the darkness. The darkness cannot overcome it.

I am a mourner…
I am bewildered, and laid low when I contemplate this world: where people suffer and where death seemingly gets the final word. I join with the voices of scripture in wondering about God’s promises of life and love in a universe where the only natural laws send us all spiraling, seemingly inevitably, in the direction of pain, decay, and nothingness. Can it really be that all of this can be reversed? That nothingless can turn into something, that decay can turn into rebirth, and that pain can become joy (as in the pains of childbirth)? On some days, I cling to that thin hope like I would a bouy in the middle of a raging storm at sea.

I am a universalist…
I believe that God is the savior of all men, that just as all died in Adam, so all will live in Christ. I believe that the power of God’s grace is mightier than the power of sin. I believe that God’s love for us is eternal, unfathomable, and relentless. I believe in the day when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.

I am a mystic…
I do not know how all of these things can be true at once. And so, while I may form my own ideas about God, I do not worship those ideas. I only worship the One who is both known and unknown, the One who is yesterday, today, and forever; the one who has set eternity in my heart, yet who has kept me from knowning what he does from beginning to end.

I am a petitioner…
I join with the voices of the church throughout the ages in asking God to bring all things: all of this world, all of creation, all people, into His eternal kingdom. And even amidst the suffering and anguish of this world, I continue to trust and hope that God intends the best for us, that he is ultimately good – good in ways that I cannot even fathom. For…

The LORD is gracious and compassionate,
       slow to anger and rich in love. 
The LORD is good to all;
       he has compassion on all he has made.

– Psalm 145:8-9

May the grace of God the father and the Lord Jesus Christ truly rest on us all. Amen.

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4 Responses to A Generous Orthodoxy of Hell: Some Concluding Thoughts (With Apologies to Brian McClaren)

  1. Andrew says:

    Great series of posts Matt and great conclusion. Martin Luther was not afraid to hold seemingly paradioxical ideas as both being true at the one time and I agree that there are many spiritual concepts which are both/and rather than either/or.

  2. curtis says:

    Excellent conclusion… I especially like this part:

    “I do not know how all of these things can be true at once. And so, while I may form my own ideas about God, I do not worship those ideas.”

    I think that if we’re really honest with ourselves, a lot of times this is exactly what we’re doing: worshiping the ideas that we have about God, or our beliefs about God, which are ultimately finite and less than He really is… What a wonderful idea, that we worship God, including the (many) things about Him that we don’t yet (and may never) understand…

    Thanks for all your posts!

  3. Matt says:

    Thanks, guys. I’ve really enjoyed the chance to interact with new readers like yourselves during this series. I hope you’ll hang around, as I’d love to hear from you in other conversations.

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