Friday, May 20, 2005

The Wrong Side Of Hell

I am nearly done with Brian McLaren’s, “The Last Word…,” and I have to say that it is grinding up my view of Hell.

What’s got my head spinning today is the idea that being judged and being saved by grace are not opposites. Being saved does not necessarily negate judgment and judgment is more like a telling of the truth. I’m not sure that to make of it all.

What I find more useful is Jesus’ use of Hell. Apparently Jesus takes the prevailing view of Hell utilized by the Pharisees and turns it back on them. Kind of a so-how-does-it-feel approach to the harsh methods the Pharisees used in how they treated people. Clearly they did not appreciate being on the receiving end of their use of Hell. So, they killed Jesus.

The Pharisees used Hell against the “sinners” and tried to scare people into being moral. Jesus used Hell against the Pharisees and tried to show them that being good was of equal or greater value than being moral.

Mere morality requires no real goodness, but true goodness is moral. It’s kind of like morality is a subset of goodness and not the other way around.

What I find most disturbing is that the view of Hell I have known my whole life is almost identical to the Pharisee’s view, not Jesus’ view. I’ve been on the wrong side of Hell my whole life. I wonder how much this idea has impacted how I have treated people. I fear looking into that because I think it will expose things about me that are embarrassing, humiliating, and regrettable.

On the other hand, maybe that is the judgment of God on me (telling the truth about me) and that if I do know that truth about me, then I will have the opportunity to change, be motivated differently, to love more.

Oh God, lead me into your goodness and strip away anything less than you desire.


Greg Taylor said...

At the emergent conference in Nashville, Todd Hunter wrote this on the overhead (yes, overhead at the emergent conference).


It means, "Say this prayer so that when you die, you will go to heaven." You can fill in the blank for "say this prayer" and change it to "repent and be baptized" but the point is this, and he followed with this 2 x 4 to the head statement: "We're giving people a religion of death." What we focus on is what happens when we die instead of LIFE that Jesus came to give us and give us abundantly (John 10:10).

I'm surprised no other comments have come yet, Fajita. If people knew what you were really talking about -- perhaps you could tell us more about McLaren's leanings here -- you might get an ear full.

Metz said...

I have become very intrigued by McLaren's understanding of hell (and soteriology and pluralism in general). He has challenged the evangelical mindset and asked questions that I am not sure how to answer. I'm impressed with his willingness and openness to converse with other religions - and it's very difficult to discuss with other religions when the fire and brimstone of Hell bubble behind your every word.

It seems to me that we have to face the real implications of our understanding of hell and damnation as we enter into dialogue with those from other faiths (or nonfaiths). Few of us ever do that seriously, so few of us are ever forced to consider the implications of our theological rhetoric. We've been too happy to sit in our church circles and talk about what concerns us, all the while becoming irrelevant to those outside the circle. To those outside the circle, if our only comments are, "You're going to hell, come be like us so you don't," I'm not sure how many responses will come.

Metz said...
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Fajita said...

If Hell is taken out of the evangelism equation, then why evangelize?

I'm not actually saying take it out, but I think McLaren is on to something when he says that it should not be our primary (only)motivation.

It sounds too manipulative and coercive when we lead with it. Also, the way Jesus used Hell was back onto the religious types, not the sinners.

Jesus' evangelism included dinner, healing, crossing barriers (racial, religious, socio-economic, gender), time spent with people, forgiveness. I don't see Jesus saying repent or I'll throw you into Hell. I do see Him say repent (change your direction)for you have access to the Kingdom of God.

Metz said...

Evangelism is about guiding others toward a wonderful and joyous place (a great banquet, a throneroom) etc. When our focus shifts from saving people from damnation instead of directing them toward somewhere, then I think we've lost Jesus' message.

Fajita said...

Well said.