Thursday, September 08, 2011

Afterlife V

For those who may have missed the previous post's comment section, John shared this link to a very helpful overview of the different views on hell that Christians have advocated over the centuries. It's a timely reminder that what we often consider the "traditional" view - of endless, conscious torment for all nonbelievers - wasn't widely held prior to medieval times, and even since then has been disputed by many theologians.

What little the biblical authors do have to say about hell is vague enough that N.T. Wright's caution against dogmatism ought to be our strongest statement on the topic. For my own part I find myself leaning increasingly toward a stance of "hopeful universalism" - we have no guarantee that everyone will spend eternity with God, and the existence of free will demands that we be given the choice to reject God, but it's still possible that even the most stubborn rebel will eventually seek (and be granted) reconciliation. I cannot know that for sure, however. All I can be certain of is that God is merciful and loving and just, and that I don't have to live my life in fear.

To those who still hold that infinite punishment is a biblical doctrine due to Jesus' references to hell, I encourage them not to forget who is depicted as being sentenced to hell in each of those cases. It's never those the church typically brands as "sinners," or those who fail to pay lip service to the correct doctrinal statement. Instead, it's always the inhospitable: those who fail to care for the poor, the widow and the orphan; those who lord their self-proclaimed righteousness over others; those who shun the outcast and offer no welcome to the traveler. Somehow that part of the story always gets glossed over - and yet how can we understand the point without it?


Brian A. Fox said...

As usual, Eugene, I appreciate your posts, but respond only occasionally, and often months after your post--never remembering how I signed in before! Often wish I could communicate with you more regularly.

This post is particularly appreciated. And covering all your points brilliantly is the following video. Tho' poor in production quality, the points are convincingly made, causing us to at least question 'traditional' views on hell. Well researched, thoughtful, compassionate, Scripture-centered by a man very in love with Jesus / God and God's Creation.

Brad Jersak's book, "Her Gates will never be shut: Hope, Hell & the New Jerusalem" is thoroughly researched and highly recommended by Eugene Peterson, Walter Brueggemann, and Jon Stanley.

Best-and thanks for your thoughtful, well-written posts on a variety of topics. Brian

Nexus Church (Abbotsford, BC, Canada) / Sept. '11

Part 1: Interview with Brad Jersak
Part 2: Q&A with Nexus Church

Eugene said...


Thanks for the reply, and for the link. I watched Part 1 (the main interview) - very interesting, especially the passage from Revelation that he points out.

Anyway, you are welcome to contact me at my gmail account - the portion before the @ is eugene256. I can't promise that I'll always give a quick reply, but I'll do my best...