Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Married, divorced or single here, it's one family that mingles here.
Conservative or liberal here, we’ve all gotta give a little here.
Big or small here, there’s room for us all here.
Doubt or believe here, we all can receive here.
Gay or straight here, there’s no hate here
Woman or man here, everyone can here.
Whatever your race here, for all of us grace here.
In imitation of the ridiculous love Almighty God has for each of us and all of us,
Let us live and love without labels.

-The ethos statement of Highlands Church, which celebrated its two-year anniversary last weekend.

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?