Sunday, January 8, 2012

Job Security? Not Unless You Believe in Hell…

Rob Bell recently made a big splash with his book Love Wins.  Firestorm might be a more appropriate way to describe the ensuing reaction. 

He was lambasted by fundamentalists like Justin Taylor in a blog post written before Taylor even read the book.  The post was linked to via Twitter by John Piper….with the sentiments

“Goodbye, Rob Bell.” 

Take note. That is how quickly some Christians will kiss your ass goodbye if you don’t share the beliefs they hold the nearest and dearest. 

People wrote books refuting his book.   Francis Chan’s Erasing Hell, Mark Galli’s God Wins: Heaven, Hell, and Why the Good News Is Better than Love Wins, Is Hell for Real or Does Everyone Go to Heaven written by a group of theologians including J.I. Packer. 

None of the ensuing controversy seemed to affect Bell’s employment status.  Even though he resigned from his church near Grand Rapids, Michigan to move to L.A…..and peddle his wares on a broader scale, it was his own choice.  He wasn’t handed a pink slip for his beliefs.

Others have lost their ministries….their jobs….for questioning the status quo.  

Most everyone knows about Carlton Pearson….former megastar of the charismatic chuch and Azuzu Street fame.  One day while watching a program on TV, God tapped him on the shoulder and changed his entire belief system.  He naively thought that if he simply educated the church folk, they would skip along in lock step belief.  Ah….no. 

He lost a huge chunk of his membership….lost his church and finally ended up in a mainly gay congregation.  Now he is the pastor of a mega new thought church in Chicago. 

Another pastor, Chad Holtz, posted a supportive note on Facebook about Bell’s book and ended up fired over it.  From Marrow’s Chapel…a United Methodist Church no less.  Perhaps his congregation missed the official United Methodist stand on the very question Bell raises in his book….right there on the official United Methodist website for all the world to see…..

There are persuasive arguments that include the faithful, thoughtful, and respectful use of Scripture on both sides-- affirming and denying universal salvation. The Book of Discipline, which is the only official printed voice of the UMC, does not make a statement specifically about universal salvation. This places the question in a possible gray area, but the Discipline says what it says. One must read the doctrine there and attempt to understand it as well as possible.
Rev. Dr. Diana Hynson Director of Learning and Teaching Ministries in the Congregation General Board of Discipleship

And now today, an acquaintance on Facebook, Jackson Baer, posted a video on his wall talking about how he was fired from a church where he ministered for 3 1/2 years as a youth pastor.  How come? Because he refuses to renounce his belief in universal reconciliation.  He has a new book out called “What the Hell”….and he is wondering that exact thing….what the hell just happened?  He loved his church, he loved the people there….and now he is on the outside looking in.  

Christians are loathe to let go of their hellfire and brimstone….and they are quick to kick to the curb anyone who doesn’t share their beliefs about an angry, vengeful God who is more monster than savior…..

Next post, I’ll include links to several other books I’ve come across that discuss the nonexistence of an eternal hell.  It’s a question God settled in my heart a long time ago, shortly after I became a Christian at the ripe old age of 40 something.  Once you see it, you can’t unsee it….and like William Barclay, I Am a Convinced Universalist…..

13 comments:

Kansas Bob said...

"Christians are loathe to let go of their hellfire and brimstone"

Sadly they are also loathe to let go of the Greek idea that all people are eternal. For me the issue of hell is a moot one if we embrace the idea that all do not survive death. What if we believed that only those who are spiritually born survive death?

Cindi said...

We talked about this once before I think...while I was away on vacation and never really finished the conversation...

What do you think happens to those who never hear the gospel before they die? Or those in other religions like Islam?

What do you think the verse in the last chapter of Revelation...verse 17 means?

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.

To whom is this invitation extended? Who is the verse talking to? Aren’t all God’s people already included in the “bride”?

Who are they bidding to come into the city where the gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night?

I think it is the folks from verse 15...the ones still “outside”...the dogs, the sorcerers, the immoral, the murderers, the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying. And I think the invitation remains open...forever...and eventually, even the most stubborn knee will bow and joyfully proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Some will just take longer than others....

Cindi...

Kansas Bob said...

Glad to exchange thoughts on this Cindi. I am not too dogmatic but I will try to share a few thoughts on your questions.

"What do you think happens to those who never hear the gospel before they die? Or those in other religions like Islam? "

I am a bit unorthodox in that I think that a spiritual birth can happen to anyone that calls upon the name of the Lord from their heart regardless of their ethnicity, background or religion.

"What do you think the verse in the last chapter of Revelation...verse 17 means?

I think that it is all about responding to Christ in a spiritual way before you die. Just a simple yes to the Spirit's invitation instead of a quenching of his voice.

I do not take those verses in Revelation as a literal and chronological vision of what will happen in some distant future. I think of it more as a present day imagery of what is going on in a continuing spiritual dimension.

In my thinking Revelation is not the foretelling of future events but a peek into what goes on in the spiritual dimension that encompasses our own physical dimension.

I could certainly be off in my thinking. I am pretty unorthodox and many on both sides of the spectrum disagree with me.

My thinking is that both sides make a huge theological leap when they begin by believing that all humans are born with a spirit that survives death. The results of that leap mean that they have to explain what happens to unspiritual people when they die. Thus, the doctrine of eternal conscious torment on one side and the idea of Hitler dining with the martyrs on the other side. IMO, both sides build on a faulty foundation.

theopoly said...

well done on your knowledge on the issue and your understanding of it's effects on the church and people. It takes a lot to keep up with all the theological happenings.

Cindi said...

Hi Bob...you said:

I do not take those verses in Revelation as a literal and chronological vision of what will happen in some distant future.

Cindi says:
No...I don't either. Not a literal version at all. In fact, I see Revelation along the lines of a revelation of Jesus Christ..just like the verse says and is more about the revealing of Christ in us. But to me it does speak of an invitation...an opportunity...that does not expire. No take backs :)

Bob says:
I think that it is all about responding to Christ in a spiritual way before you die. Just a simple yes to the Spirit's invitation instead of a quenching of his voice.

Cindi says:
Yes...but I don't think the response has to come before you die.

What verses lead you to believe that some spirits do not survive death? The wages of sin is death but but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord comes to mind....

Thanks for your comments and views...

Cindi.....

Cindi said...

Hi,theopoly
Thanks for the encouragement. Visited your blog...bookmarked it in google reader. We see a lot of things the same way.

Blessings to you

Cindi....

Kansas Bob said...

"What verses lead you to believe that some spirits do not survive death? The wages of sin is death but but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord comes to mind...."

Jesus speaks to this when he talks to Nicodemus about there being two births - a fleshly one and a spiritual one. Why would he speak of a new spiritual birth if everyone already possessed a spirit that cannot die? Is he saying that the eternal spirit that they already have is not eternal and needs to die so that a new one can be born and take its place? Does not make sense to me.

The idea that everyone has a spirit is one that is more Greek in its roots than something we find in the bible. I believe that it is necessary to explain why one believes this rather than to simply accept it and build on a faulty foundation.

I think that we see the the imagery of Revelation played out every day. The battles are invisible. Each day the Spirit and the bride invite the hurting, the wounded and the sinful to come and taste of eternal life and of the kingdom of God by being born of the Spirit. My prayer is that they say yes to Him and do not quench the Spirit.

Timothy1967 said...

I too know someone that lost a preaching job when he preached a sermon that brought up the possibility of Universal Salvation in 2005. http://vimeo.com/11311695

Cindi said...

Timothy1967...

I don't know why not believing in eternal conscious torment gets anyone labeled a heretic. Reminds me of a blog post I just read summarizing an interview between Mark Driscoll and Justin Bierly.

Driscoll: Do you believe in a conscious literal eternal torment of hell?

Brierley: What has that got to do with the issue of women in leadership, if you don’t mind me asking?

Driscoll: It does. It depends on your view of God. Is God like a mom who just embraces everyone? Or is he like a father who also protects, and defends, and disciplines? If you won’t answer the question, I think I know the answer.

A father who protects, defends, disciplines? If God came up with a place like hell to disciple (torure) his children forever and ever...he is not a father...he is a monster.

Salvation doesn't depend on a belief in hell...!

I only had time to watch a bit of the link you posted...but will try to finish it tonight.

Cindi....

Kansas Bob said...

Heresy is a pejorative word that has some what lost it's meaning over time. There are so many churches out there with so many views that the word is fairly subjective and pretty meaningless.

However I do think that some use the word to indicate that they are ot in agreement with so-called historical and orthodox views. Even so no one would label Luther a heretic these days even though he once was labeled that way. All that to say that you are probably more orthodox than you think.

For me I probably favor the Nicene Creed more than I do the Apostle's Creed. Not that it makes me more or less orthodox. :)

Unknown said...

Hi,

Just came across this site due to a post on the Christian Universalism sub-reddit. I'm making a feature-length documentary about hell right now called "Hellbound?" where we tackle these sorts of issues. Chad Holtz is one of the many people we interviewed. I hadn't heard of Jackson before. Will have to listen to his story. You can check us out at hellboundthemovie.com. I'm posting this on our Facebook wall.

Cindi said...

To Hellbound the movie - Wow...this looks like a really great movie. Up to now, most video type stuff about hell...or should I say about NO eternal conscious torment has been kind of limited. Tentmaker comes to mind as a tireless worker in his single minded goal to spread info about Christian Universalism far and wide. I am FB friends with Jackson.... an acquaintance...and I came upon his story via his FB page.
Thanks for commenting. I will keep my eye out for the movie!!!

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