Thursday, December 8, 2011

i got this email asking about literal hell

"Dear Stephanie, I have a burning question for you, your readers, anyone that can give me an answer. How do you get over the Fundie fear of burning in hell for eternity and still be a critical thinker? I'm between a rock and a hard place. I've always had issues with CC even as a child (and pastor's daughter). So often I would think "This isn't right. This doesn't make sense." only to be verbally slammed with some bible verse to shut me up. Revelation 3:16 is a favorite scare tactic: "So -- because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to vomit thee out of my mouth." I can laugh at SCCL, *like* posts and feel like I've finally found people that believe what I've always believed; yet there is a voice whispering (sometimes screaming) "You aren't doing it right. You aren't doing it our way. You're going to burn in hell. Forever!!! Lake of fire!! Forever!!" I don't know how to get over the pervasive fear. Any wisdom or thoughts would be most appreciated. Thanks."

Here is what I said:

"Hmm. Well, I think that hell very much exists on earth, as does heaven...reading The Great Divorce helped me with that, and also learning more about the original languages and what the biblical text actually was saying. I'm convinced that hell stuff is all poetic. I think people choose to be in hell. For example, I know some people who I believe are in hell even though they're alive - they have disowned all of their children and don't see their grandkids and live in a beautiful big house that is empty and full of despair...all by their own choosing. I can't imagine a worse hell than that. If fiery hell is real then bring it on because I can't imagine anything more torturous than living every day in fear of going there (done that). But I'm convinced that hell isn't a literal place but that hell is where love is not.

My friend Tracie read this Richard Rohr quote to me on Tuesday and it was so beautiful tears sprang to my eyes as if I'd been slapped across the face: “Every time God forgives us, God is saying that God's own rules do not matter as much as the relationship that God wants to create with us.”



Still Breathing said...

God is love and the sustainer of creation and I can't picture a loving God sustaining people made in His image in eternal torment. I also believe that God is Holy (pure) and just so I have to acknowledge that we will all be judged and found guilty.
I am 100% with you that hell (and heaven) can be experienced in this life but I also believe that what we experience now are shadows of what will be in the next life. God gave His own life for us and I don't see anything that says this offer finishes when we die. If someone rejects God's love even then they are rejecting they very thing that sustains them and will cease to exist; something referred to in Revelation as the 2nd death.
In the end we won't know for sure until we die and so I'm happy to live with my views on hell and not go rushing to find out the answer.

michaelstevensrev said...

Very thoughtful response, referencing Lewis is always money but the Richard Rohr quote is great. One professor I had, Dr. Richard Pratt said of the Revelation passage, "What is interesting about that quote is you are still in the mouth, so by implication you are still in the body...the threat of being spit out is there but lukewarm has not been spit out." He was emphasizing the tension of the passage and lack of clarity in it.

What the question highlights for me since I am dealing with this right now is the question, "How important is it that I am right or correct in my views?" There are so many times that I have been convinced that I was right and acted so wrong, and the opposite has been true. It reminds me of the Luther Ingram song, "If loving you is wrong, I don't want to be right."

I probably want to please God more than anyone I know, but what is that about, me. Perhaps I should be longing to be with God more than anyone I know.

David said...

I would say, be a Berean. If someone else gives you an answer, then it is their answer and you can discard it at any time. But if you prove "hell's" existence or non-existence to yourself, you will have a much more difficult time discarding the answer.

Oh, BTW, "hell" does not exist as taught by mainstream xtianity. And, I will not discard my answer because I proved it to myself.

Sorry Steph, I'm not as much into grey areas as you seem to be;)

stephy said...

That's exactly why you can't ask someone to prove something like this to you.

David said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David said...

Yahweh's purpose is to provide a background for His love, sort of like painting a canvas with background colors, preparing it for the main attraction. According to each person's capacity, each person experiences evil and it's fruits to the extent that allows them to appreciate the good that comes and will come after the age has past. This evil that is experienced can be given a name, such as hell, however I would avoid using the term hell as it holds onto the false doctrine that xtianity assimilated.

Just felt like writing more.