Hell Redux

November 29, 2007

I’ve been reading some of the comments on Kimball’s post on hell, and there is a point that I don’t think I made very directly in my posts on the subject a few months ago. Its worth making here.

Like many others, I believe that our best scholars are now telling us that scripture isn’t describing how we will “go to heaven after we die.” Instead, it is telling a story about how God is remaking heaven and earth, reassuming his “rule” over the earth (“the kingdom of God”). It is a present and progressive process – that is, even now God acts to reclaim his world. Furthermore, heaven is something that is intended to be ultimately joined with earth, not something that is separate from it.

The promise that relates to the “afterlife” is that we will be resurrected into the renewed creation, not – as Jedi Master Wright puts it – that we will be disembodied spirits in some distant, ethereal realm.

The message of scripture, then, isn’t about who will go to “heaven” and who will go to “hell,” but who will live within the new creation (and who cannot). It strikes me that, unless we can pose the question in that way, we are going to confuse ourselves from the very start. For example, we may start referring to this new world as the “afterlife,” which implies that – whatever that future existence is like – it is not “life.” But the promise of scripture is that in new creation there is life to the full – life in abundance; more life, not less. God’s new world is more real, more material, more “earthy” than this.

More to the point: you will never find distinctions between those present in “heaven” and those in “hell” in the NT because its not (exactly) framing things in that way. (If you have an issue here because of some images in Revelation – let me know – there’s a pretty clear distinction for me). But  once you frame the question in terms of those who live in new creation and those who do not, I think you begin to think of the issues much differently.

…and just to reiterate: for me, it makes sense that the “outer darkness” of Ghenna is an image for the place where those who are “outside” of new creation are consigned. To say that they are in “Hades” implies that they remain in the realm of the dead, made famous by Greek mythology.


Kimball on Hell

November 26, 2007

Dan Kimball is blogging about Hell, as well as one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes. You can read his remarks, together with what will probably end up as a long string of comments here.


Long-time readers know from my past posts that I don’t come down at quite the same place as Kimball. I think that, whatever the images of the ghenna/garbage dump are attempting to portray, they seem to be saying that those who abuse power in opposition to God’s kingdom will not get to live within it. Its not about “zapping” every person who doesn’t profess Christianity, but the process of defeating opposition to God’s reign in the world. I’m also hopeful that some texts (particularly in Paul) really do hint at ultimate universal salvation, as some claim.

In spite of our differences, however, I admire Kimball, because he’s willing to confront the issue head-on. As I’ve said before, my biggest problem is not what people think about God’s judgment and hell, but that Christians just don’t talk about it. Its as if we have no language, no viable theology to describe it or – worse yet – its as if its a big embarrasment that we’d like to ignore.

Christians can’t hide from this issue forever. Everyone – including those who quietly hold traditional, fire-and-brimstone positions – need to follow Dan’s example, and openly discuss this subject.

John "Asbo" Birch Does it Again

November 25, 2007

“Ah believe that the Lord Almighty made the world in 6 days.”

“An’ aah believe, one day soon, he’s gonna burn it all up!” 

The more of this guy’s work I read, the more I like it.

Advent Conspiracy

November 24, 2007

I just placed a link on my side bar for the Advent Conspiracy, a project designed to address the commercialization of Christmas. The project provides resources which help Christians to emphasize compassion, rather than consumption during the holidays.

This project resonates with me on a lot of levels. I hope it catches on.

 …and while you’re at it, be sure and check out the trailer for this film.

Meet Dr. Bob "Antichrist" Smith

November 21, 2007

This post is one of the funniest things I’ve read in a long time. I even read some of to Rachel, and she thought it was hilarious.

Thanks, Richard.

On Church Attendance and Discipleship

November 20, 2007

I want to ask a question that is a variation on something I heard Scot McKnight say one time.

The question is basically this: In an age where music and information is available at your fingertips, is a traditional church assembly really a necessity in the Christian journey?

Consider this: everything that happens in a typical Christian assembly can be readily accessed other places…
– Sermons can be heard online – and faith-based blogs can be read. (I’ve listened to more sermons from Rob Bell lately than I have from my own preaching minister!)
– Worship music is readily accessible and only a click away on your iPod
– There is no need to sacrifice “community.” You can still share means with and pray with other individual believers in the same way that early Christians shared the Lord’s supper and prayed together.
– …and you can certainly do ministry work without attending an assembly.

So…whats the point of a traditional church assembly? Is traditional church attendance – particularly in the 21st Century – a valid barometer of one’s faith? And in any event, is it possible that churches spend WAAAAY too much money and time on weekly assemblies (and on the buildings where they occur)?

Archie McPhee

November 18, 2007

Best. Novelty. Webstore. Ever.

(Thanks to Zach for cluing me in on this. Wish I’d discovered it years ago…)