Archive for category Heaven & Hell
Those who know me will know that Greg Boyd has been one of my teachers and theological mentors over the years. He continually stretches my thinking and challenges me to wrestle courageously with the Biblical text and not mindlessly adopt the traditional beliefs handed down through church history. Some of his views are controversial and I don’t necessarily agree with him on everything. In fact, I don’t. However, he is a passionate lover of Jesus, preacher of the gospel, and thoroughly committed to the authority of Scripture.
So, it is exciting to find some of the core aspects of his teaching summarized succinctly in one place — his ReKnew Manifesto. What do you think about his challenge found in these crucial areas of faith and doctrine? Enjoy! -JB
A ReKnew Manifesto by Greg Boyd
As our curious name indicates, ReKnew exists to encourage believers and skeptics alike to re-think things they thought they already knew. We want to promote a beautiful, Jesus-looking vision of God and his kingdom. We want to promote a host of related theological convictions that we believe were compromised or lost in traditional Christianity—especially since the 5th century when the Church first acquired political power and became the religion of “Christendom.” And we want to be a catalytic resource for the new tribe of Jesus-followers who are rising up and re-thinking their faith now that Christendom—which has been dying for over a century—is gasping its last breaths.
This does not mean we aren’t deeply appreciative for the multitude of true and beautiful aspects of the Church throughout history. To the contrary, we believe that all theological reflection should be humbly carried out in a respectful dialogue with the Church tradition. Yet the focus of ReKnew is to challenge those aspects of the tradition we don’t believe are consistent with the movement Jesus birthed, and with the teachings of the New Testament.
What follows is an overview of these core convictions stated in their simplest form. You might think of this as the first draft of a “ReKnew Manifesto.” Read the rest of this entry »
We should not speak of eternal damnation as something God imposes on us against our will, as if we had no choice in the matter. Jesus has taken our trash upon himself, his offer of forgiveness is always before us and he longs to sink our deepest sin to the bottom of the sea (Micah 7:19). The first Adam regarded equality with God something to be grasped and chased after (Gen 3:5-6; cf. Phil 2:6), but the last Adam has shown us once and for all what the truly human life looks like.
All who insist on continuing to live in their own filthy mess will ultimately find themselves right at home—in the garbage heap of misplaced desires that could never satisfy and misappropriated power that we were never meant to possess. Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Paul’s words describes the sad affair:
What happened was this: People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives. They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life. They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand. So God said, in effect, “If that’s what you want, that’s what you get.” It wasn’t long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out (Rom 1:21-24 MSG).
Paul’s sad commentary on the human condition supports C. S. Lewis’ famous assertion in The Problem of Pain that “the doors of hell are locked on the inside” and the damned ultimately “enjoy forever the horrible freedom they have demanded” (114). God eventually “gives them over” to the wasted life they desired (Rom 1:24-28). God doesn’t drive a person out of his loving presence. Rather, stubborn men and woman spend their entire lives walking away from Him until they finally rid themselves of Him—to their own eternal demise. And like Jesus weeping over a rebellious Jerusalem (Luke 19:41), we can be sure that God weeps over every self-enslaved sinner who walks ever closer to the pigpen.
But there is always hope. Like the prodigal eating with the pigs, we too can come to our senses and return to the Father’s arms (Luke 15:17-24). From rags to riches—it’s the central theme of the gospel. God specializes in turning garbage into glory. Transforming sinners into saints is the name of the gospel game. It’s the theme of God’s redemption song!
***This concludes my 11-part “Garbage Day” Lenten series. Thanks for reading!
What then does Jesus’ graphic allusion to Jerusalem’s garbage dump tell us about the nature of hell?
First, as we have already discovered, each person has been created for the common purpose of bringing glory and praise to the Creator. We were made to be showcases of God’s majesty. We fulfill this role whenever we live in tune with our intended design. We are most human when we are most freely letting our lives be used for purposes that bring honor and glory the architect who made us.
But when we repeatedly refuse to live out our created purpose of being God’s image-bearers and letting our lives bring Him glory we become more and more like a toaster that doesn’t toast, a furnace that doesn’t heat, a light that doesn’t shine, or wheel that doesn’t turn. We become quite literally unfit for life in God’s world. Not irredeemably so; not insignificant or unloved by the creator; but for the moment we are, like a scissors that won’t cut, fit for the trash.
Regardless of what you may have heard, Hell is not some arbitrary spiritual realm underground where “bad people” go merely because they broke some moral code of law. Hell isn’t the invention of man or society to threaten and manipulate people into their proper roles and behavior.
Hell is rather the realm of wasted lives where those who continually refused to live out their created function of showcasing God’s glory finally end up. It’s a place for broken toasters, not cigarette smokers. When God’s cosmic recycling project is completed and all humanity is finally restored to their original purpose of tending the earth and worshiping the Creator (Gen 2:15), there will be no place for those unwilling to live in tune with their created design.
NEXT: “Hell is Locked From the Inside”
Earlier I mentioned the unpopularity of the topic of repentance both inside and outside the church today. An even more hair-raising, gut-wrenching topic, offering a greater challenge to our culture’s sensibilities is the idea that an all-loving, all-merciful God would send people to some hell for all eternity. Shall we pour a cup of coffee and talk about Hell for a moment?
How can a merciful God possible allow people to be tortured indefinitely in the fires of hell? It may be helpful to come at this issue with a greater understanding of the metaphor the New Testament uses to describe the nature of hell.
In the New Testament, the Greek word usually translated “hell” is Gehenna, which itself comes from the Hebrew phrase meaning “the Valley of Hinnom.” In the Old Testament, this valley located just southwest of Jerusalem, was the place where the Canaanites worshiped the gods Baal and Molech by sacrificing their children in a fire that burned continuously. In Jesus’ day the valley of Hinnom was literally the garbage dump of Jerusalem. All of the filth and garbage of the city was thrown into this landfill. Animal carcasses and executed criminals alike were left to be consumed by the fire that constantly burned or eaten by maggots. Hence, it was quite literally a place where “their worm never dies and the fire is never quenched” (Mk 9:48).
When Jesus speaks of the abode of the lost, describing those who reject God’s offer of salvation, he draws from the imagery of this well known garbage dump. Why did Jesus choose this particular image to describe the eternal abode of the damned? What, if anything, does this tell us about the real nature of hell? Stay tuned.
NEXT: “A Scissors That Won’t Cut”
Today is All Saints Day. More familiar to Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians, this is a day we pause both to remember and celebrate all those brothers and sisters in Christ who have gone before us.
The church universal is made up of those believers both on this earth, and those who have passed on to the other side. Notice I didn’t say “saints both dead and alive” — for we believe all who are in Christ, “though they die, yet shall they live” (John 11:25) eternally in the presence of God.
I have a small bone to pick with fellow protestants on this topic. While I have many profound disagreements with the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Church, I believe they have a much richer understanding of the ‘Communion of the Saints’ (a clear part of the Apostles’ Creed) and protestants have a far too diminished view.
Down through the centuries the church of true believers has been divided into “Church militant” and “Church triumphant.” The “church militant” describes those who are, in the words of St. Paul, still “fighting the good fight” and have yet to receive their eternal reward. Those saints who have died and passed to the “other side” are called the “church triumphant”, for they have “kept the faith” and now stand victorious in the presence of their conquering King, Jesus the Crucified One.
So, if our departed brothers and sisters, grandmothers and grandfathers in the faith, now abide in eternal glory with Jesus, and are not therefore “dead” in the usual sense (i.e., unconscious), then what kind of relationship do they share with us who are alive in Christ on this side of the curtain? Is it more than mere wishful thinking or childish speculation to tell a grieving child who’s lost his father at a young age that “Daddy is looking down from Heaven and watching over you”? Read the rest of this entry »
Dress it up however you wish, Erasing Hell is a response book to Rob Bell’s Love Wins,yet despite replicating Bell’s style in their cover art and promotional video—the primary problem in my mind with Erasing Hell is that the authors do not speak to the same audience.
Recall the motivation behind Bell’s book, “I’ve written this book for all those, everywhere, who have heard some version of the Jesus story that caused their pulse rate to rise, their stomach to churn, and their heart to utter those resolute words, ‘I would never be a part of that’ You are not alone. There are millions of us.” (viii).
This is primary. Bell wants to speak to a large number of people who reject the Jesus faith because of the way Christians have interpreted and displayed hell.
Bell’s not alone in caring for such people. Many of us have personally rejected Christianity or have friends and family who will not consider our God because he chooses eternal conscious torment for the damned. The hell described by Chan and Sprinkle is not difficult to believe in conceptually (like the trinity); it is not difficult to believe because of apparent inconsistencies (like the inerrancy of scripture); eternal conscious torment is difficult to believe because it makes the character of God look repugnant—and that is a bridge too far for some. Many of us make the same move when rejecting Allah, Zeus, Vishnu, Aphrodite, or Mammon. We’ve decided such God’s are not worthy of worship—even if they were real. In the same way, Bell’s audience thinks that the God you love is not worthy of devotion—be he the creator God or not.
And something needs to be said to such people. Read the rest of this entry »
So…have you read it yet? How did you react?
Rob Bell’s editor Mickey Maudlin speaks out about Love Wins:
Nothing makes me more proud than to see a book I edited reach a wide audience. By that measure, I should be beaming over Rob Bell’s Love Wins. And I am. Not only has it spent fifteen weeks on the New York Times bestseller list (as of this writing), Rob has personally heard from hundreds of readers about how his book has been “a cure,” “healing,” “a lifesaver,” or has allowed them to connect or reconnect with the church.
Still, I cannot shake a deep sadness about the book. Considering how corrosive the effects can be on those who have been told they are “special” or that they are “God’s voice for a generation,” I was pleasantly surprised at the beginning of our work together to discover Rob to be a great listener and partner, eager for feedback, a hard worker, fun, and deeply grounded spiritually. He knew what God wanted him to do, and not do, and what his priorities were. At heart he is a pastor and an evangelist whose ambition is to overcome barriers to the gospel. In that way, he reminds me of Billy Graham.
And so, as someone who has spent his entire adult life in the evangelical portion of the church, I cannot help but be sad at the reaction to the book by many conservative Christians. Read the rest of this entry »
I highly recommend this! I will be attending and hope to bring along with me as many MainStreet friends as possible. This will be a fun, thought-provoking field trip together. -JB
Woodland Hills Church’s next Q&A with Greg Boyd and Paul Eddy is coming up on Tuesday, June 7 at 7:00 p.m. There has been a lot of discussion recently about heaven and hell (especially in Christian circles), so this time Greg and Paul will tackle the topics of “Heaven, Hell and the Resurrection.” We’re hoping that Greg and Paul will dress up in character that night, but we can’t guarantee it :)
For those of you who are unable to attend or don’t live in the Twin Cities, you’ll be able to stream the Q&A live on the Woodland Hills web site that night. Just come to www.whchurch.org around 7:00 p.m. and there will be information on the home page. You’ll also have the ability to submit your questions in real time.
Ben Witherington is picking apart Rob Bell’s Love Wins chapter by chapter here. Here’s a taste of his critique of chapter 7:
Let me be clear that I think in one sense Rob is right—- God is not quixotic. He is not gracious and loving one moment, and cruel the moment after you die. I think that is true— indeed I believe wholeheartedly in what Hebrews says— that Jesus himself is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The character of God does not change. The problem here with Rob’s equation is that the character of God is that he is always both holy and loving, always both just and gracious, always both fair and merciful. The problem is— Rob is forcing us to choose between the moral attributes of God, and suggesting that one of them, God’s love, erases or trumps the other ones. And this frankly is not the Biblical view of God.
The great mystery of God, which makes God’s grace and love all the more astounding, is that God doesn’t take a pass on his holiness or justice for a while in order to be loving and kind. And nowhere is that clearer than on the cross— God loves the sinner but hates the sin that separates us from God, and rightly so. And the reason he is so hard on sin is precisely because he has such a deep desire to have an everlasting loving relationship with us, and is inalterably opposed to anything that gets in the way of that.
Take for an analogy the doctor dedicated to saving lives at all costs. That doctor has a passionate dislike for cancer, indeed he is doing everything he possibly can to eradicate it. But there is a problem. Believe it or not, some people would rather keep their cancer and die an early death, than have to go through the painful arduous changes required of them in order to become a new person who is cancer free. You may be thinking, I’ve never met a person like that. Well, let me tell you, I have as a pastor, and it is heart-breaking. Read the rest of this entry »