Beliefnet
Faith, Media & Culture

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

Debate over the existence of hell continues to heat up. From (what else?) The Blaze: Rob Bell’s recent best-selling book, Love Wins, sparked huge controversy inside and outside the evangelical church, questioning if people actually go to hell…Now three follow-up books—fast tracked by Christian publishers to capitalize on the still-percolating Love Wins buzz—are joining the critical fray. Most prominent among them is Erasing Hell: What God said about eternity, and the things we made up by Francis Chan, also an evangelical pastor-author who’s quickly rising in the same ecclesiastical circles that Bell orbits.

Comment: I’m no theologian but one thing I believe I’ve learned in my own stumbling (and I do mean stumbling) way is that dwelling on concepts like hell and the devil can be very damaging to God-given human potential. It’s much healthier to maintain our focus on the promise of heaven and, of course, the power of God. The Good News is that by doing so we are healed, opening the path for our positive potential to be realized.

It’s clear to me that God created heaven and earth. Hell (the absence of God) seems more a concept created by those who reject God.  So maybe hell exists only in the human mind — in the false idea that there is anything outside the dominion of God. As for the devil, there is no power greater than God so, if such a creature exists, he doesn’t warrant concern.

BTW, maybe a moral of Genesis is that Adam and Eve would have been wiser to take responsibility for their own failings rather Adam pointing at Eve and Eve trying to pin the blame on a talking snake.  Just a thought.

We’ve all read enough terrible stories about people killing a child or someone else because they believed they were possessed by demons.   Demon possession, of course, is a favorite subject of movies, books and TV shows.  But, wouldn’t it be better, if we all just believed that everyone is possessed by God. We are all His — and He’s not going to let any force take us away from Him.  Let’s promote that (true) idea — in our storytelling and in our real lives.

It’s often been said that too many wars have been fought in the name of religion. That’s true (although atheists have waged their fair share). In religious wars, the enemy is often referred to as “Satan.” How many fewer such wars would there be if we saw the image of God in our adversaries and not the devil? It’s not the belief in God that fuels such wars. It’s the belief in the devil.

In The Bible, God says “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.”  I believe God’s mercy is beyond our comprehension and that, in the end, He will “reconcile to himself all things.” All resistance to God will somehow be broken down in ultimate reconciliation. Maybe hell is something of a human construct because we, as humans, have a hard time grappling with the idea of infinite forgiveness.

We are all born into different situations with different genes, different dispositions and different innate failings to overcome. As the saying goes, “There but for the grace of God go I.” Maybe, in the end, infinite forgiveness is not at odds with the concept of God’s justice after all.

It’s through the love and mercy of God that we learn to overcome our own personal demons (aka human failings), sometimes including mistaken (often harsh) interpretations of holy books, that we stumble our way toward the truth and come to appreciate how beautiful a gift forgiveness really is.  And, in having discovered that, the greatest joy comes in passing it on to others.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

No blog tomorrow or Friday. See you Monday.

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