“Hell? Are You Going There?”
“Heaven or Hell…Which?”
“Are You Saved? Only the Saved Go to Heaven!”
“Have You Heard of the 4 Spiritual Laws?”
Those were the cliches’ I often heard…heck, I even used them…when, at one time in my young adult life, I was an over zealous evangelical out to “win souls,” and lead everybody I met to Christ.
I viewed anybody and everybody who did not believe as I believed as destined to spend eternity in hell, apart from where the real Christians like me were going to spend eternity.
In heaven, of course.
Then, one day, I made the mistake of actually thinking about what I had been saying…about what I had been preaching…what what I had been told to believe…and, what I had never really examined for myself. Instead, I just accepted it and then hid behind cliches’ like, “I just believe the Bible.”
The truth is, I only said things like that because I was scared of God. I called my fear of God, “respect” because it didn’t sound respectable to say “I’m scared of God.”
Well, you can dress up a pig in any outfit you’d like, but a hog is still a hog.
But, there was another reason I hid behind things like, “The Bible says it. I just believe it.”
All the peers who I secretly envied said they believed these things I sometimes secretly questioned. But, because their good opinion of me was far too important to me to ever let on that I might have thought or believed differently, I sang the same refrain.
In other words, I lived prisoner to everyone’s opinion of me.
How’s that for authenticity?
Think about this. Be confident enough to believe that, if God gave you a mind, he expects you to use it. And, that means, question things. You have no faith until you question your faith. At best, you have nothing but a satchel full of somebody else’s beliefs.
So…here goes…a little intelligent reasoning.
Are you ready?
When you really think about it, this hell and heaven stuff I mean, much of what we believe about it makes very little sense make much sense.
Consider this about hell for example, and expressed quite well by a Catholic priest himself, Father Richard Rohr, in his wonderful little book, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life.
“If your notion of heaven is based on the exclusion of anybody else,
then it is by definition not heaven, but hell.”
He’s right, you know.
No matter how you wish to spin this – “Well, the Bible says it, so I just believe it.”
Really? What you’re actually saying is not too different from what I used to say, too. But, the truth is, there is much that the Bible says you will secretly find hard to believe, once you really start thinking about it.
And, to think critically and honestly about the Bible, or to question the beliefs of old that are recorded for us on sacred pages, well…what’s so wrong with this?
People in Bible times believed the earth was flat and the sun revolved around the earth. Nobody believes that anymore. So, when we read where it says things we know just aren’t so, as in Joshua 10 where the sun is said to have “stood still,” you don’t have “to twist your brain into a first century pretzel,” as Spong loves to put it, or react by throwing out the Bible. Nor do you have to decide that none of it is trustworthy ever again.
Just because the thinking and the believing of ancient people was limited, and sometimes even wrong, does that mean they were unfaithful to what they did know?
Of course not.
Can you and I grow up ourselves and let the Bible grow up, too? Can we stop trying to explain every discrepancy we find in scripture as if it is a tumor that must be removed? And, isn’t it the truth that the only reason we argue about the Bible and try to explain everything in it is because we secretly know it’s full of mistakes?
But of course. Otherwise, we would not be trying to explain the mistakes. Period. End of story.
I long for the day, don’t you, when religious people finally grow up? And, let the Bible be what it is, too? A collection of stories of faithful people who, across many centuries, followed their experiencing of and understanding of God…to the best of their misguided ability.
The New Testament has some strange stuff in it too, but, thankfully, most of the stuff I secretly doubted as a young minister was in the Old Testament.
For example, did God really command the Israelites to engage in mass extermination of the people they would encounter when the crossed the Jordan and entered the Promised Land?
That’s what it says in Deuteronomy 7:1-3. Go read it.
Secretly, however, in my young adult days, I didn’t believe this. I still don’t. Did they believe it? Of course, they did. Were they wrong? Of course, they were. But they were unconscious they were wrong. They thought they were right. And, in the end, if there is a judgment, I suppose God judges on the basis of what we know, not what we do not know.
Now, when I was young, I didn’t know how to explain any of this. So, again, I did what other people did, especially those mindless preachers in big churches who I also secretly envied and wanted to be like, too, so I just dismissed such questions and disbelief from my mind for fear, if I did not, God might just exterminate me.
But, the fact is this: If you are a follower of Christ, as I am, and you think about any of this with any depth whatsoever, you could not possibly…you could not humanly say that you will enjoy heaven one day, knowing that some of your own flesh and blood, not to speak of the enemies Jesus insisted on us loving, too…but, my point is, you could not possibly say you will enjoy heaven for any one minute of eternity knowing your offspring…or some of your family…or any of your friends were suffering in “the flames of hell fire?”
Now, could you? How could you?
Wouldn’t there suffering make your heaven into your own hell?
Now, don’t tell me that in heaven God will remove them from your sight or memory so your experience of heaven won’t turn into some kind of hell. Where did that nonsense come from? Certainly not the Bible because, since you take everything literally anyway, doesn’t Lazarus in heaven know the Rich Man is in hell?
Go back and read Luke 16:19-31
Of course, knowing others are in hell would make your heaven into one, too.
How could it not?
So, if it would not for you, please do not bother to answer the question in the comment section. Keep your answer to yourself.
Because your answer will likely reveal more about who you really are than even you are aware.