Friday, August 31, 2007

Oh, hell

On the drive home yesterday I flipped through the AM stations, which I often do on a lark when I'm truly bored, and found one of my favorite things to listen to - hellfire preachers.

I don't know who this woman was, but she had an irritating refrain of, "Does that make sense, yes or no?" She, of course, gave no time for anyone to say, "Um, no ..." - because she was on to the next point. If that rings a bell with anyone, please let me know who this woman was. The signal crapped out before the end of her sermon. Does that make sense, yes, or no? :)

Anyhoo, she had a fascinating sermon - one I agreed with in part, but another that I really disagreed with. Her main premise was that hell is real but is neither immanent nor eternal. She believes that when we die, we lie in our graves until Jesus returns to resurrect us all and divide the sheep from the goats. Then the party of heaven and the agony of hell begin. Until then, all our dead loved ones (and hated ones) are simply taking their dirt nap. Does that make sense, yes or no?

She then went on to say that hell is not eternal, but is a refining fire where we are cleansed so we can then be with God. This is the part I actually agreed with in many ways. I truly don't believe there is as "hell" per se, but that there is a reconciling process we go through after death. Ultimately, however, we all are reconciled to God.

But, here's where her argument didn't make sense for me. She talked about how when Jesus returns he will smite the evil in the world, and presumably the evil who have already died - so the goats are destroyed and all that's left are sheep. Why would there even be a need for hell if that is so?

And if the only way that God can overcome evil is to destroy it (an act of spiritual and physical violence) doesn't that mean that God is ultimately powerless to reconcile evil? (And why do we take such glee in picturing God violently destroying the "bad" people?) Why does God have to destroy evil violently instead of "destroying" it by reconciling it to him in whatever process God may choose?

Does that make sense, yes or no?

I tried desperately to keep up with her argument - she had scriptural proofs and whatnot, but in the end it seemed to fall apart for me on many levels that I have outlined above. I believe that God reconciles us and does not wish for our destruction, no matter how poorly we've acted in our lives. I'm not quite sure of the idea that we dirt nap until the second coming. Since I'm not convinced of the "second coming" as some grand rapture like event, it's hard for me to picture what those who believe in such things are talking about. I think Jesus returns every day and every day we torture and kill him like before. Jesus gives us a chance daily, hourly, minute by minute, to bring the kingdom of God to earth, and daily, hourly, minute by minute, we fail to bring it about because of our inability to see that we are interconnected, interwoven to one another. Our self absorption keeps us from recognizing Christ already in the world.

Does this make sense, yes or no?

I'm not sure any of it makes sense, but it's always fun to speculate.

Speculate along with me if you feel so moved.


Josh Gough said...

Hey there, enjoyed your post. I'd like to get your opinion on the rise of Dominionist evangelicals today. I have a post on my blog about it at:

Candace Chellew-Hodge said...

I'd love to give you my opinion, Josh, but the program cut off your url. Not sure how to get to your blog. Maybe use and repost??