From Erasing Hell: What God Said about Eternity, and the Things We've Made Up (p. 22).
Do you want to believe in a God like this? Here’s my gut-level, honest answer: No. No way. I have family and friends who reject Jesus. I do not want to believe in a God who punishes non-Christians. Okay, maybe He should punish extremely wicked people—that makes some sense. But punishment in hell for seemingly good people, or those who simply chose the wrong religion? That feels a bit harsh, at least according to my sense of justice.
But let me ask you another question. Could you? Could you believe in a God who decides to punish people who don’t believe in Jesus? A God who wants to show His power by punishing those who don’t follow His Son? Now that’s a different question, isn’t it?
You may not recognize the difference immediately, but read them again and you’ll see that these two questions—do you want to? versus could you?—are actually miles apart. The problem is that we often respond to the second question because of our response to the first. In other words, because there are things that we don’t want to believe about God, we therefore decide that we can’t believe them.
Chan dismisses the want to aspect of belief in a God who punishes unbelievers....eternally....to display his great power and emphasizes the "COULD you" part. As if that is somehow an easier question to answer than the "do you want to?" And he admits that, of course, none of us WANT to believe in this vengeful God filled with retributive wrath for all those who do not believe in his son Jesus Christ. (although a few Christians come to mind that seem a bit too relieved at the prospect of their enemies burning....and try....just try....to take hell away from them)
So could you? Could you believe in the God Chan describes?
But "could you/would you/do you" is not really the most important question for his readers to ponder. I can think of a much better question.
Could you LOVE this God?
You know....love him the way Jesus told us we should when he summed up the Law...in two parts...as loving our God and loving our neighbor?
Matthew 22:36-40 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (NIV)
So....could you love this God with all your heart, mind and soul? The way Jesus tells us to. Or is what we call love for this God merely a survival instinct, a twist on Stockholm Syndrome?
And there are more questions this book brought to mind. Some of the questions are asked in the text....others piqued in my thoughts as I read.
? What kind of mindset is spawned by a belief in the ECT God described in the book Erasing Hell?
? Is God equally Judge and equally Father?
? What does true justice entail?
? Does He dole out His mercy and His wrath in equal portions?
? Does His mercy and grace end with our last breath?
? Are there levels of hell? Are some parts of hell "hotter" than other parts?
? What about the Cross....?
? When the Bible talks about the wicked being obliterated, is it referring to wicked people...or the wicked aspects of our being? You know as in old nature/new nature. Old Man/ New Man. Adamic Man/Carnal Man?
? At the end of Revelation when the Spirit and the Bride bid someone....come and drink....who is it they are talking to. Do the gates of the city really never shut?
? What about the meanings of some of the proof texts in the original language? Is everlasting really forever? Does all mean all?
I want to deal with some of these questions in upcoming posts. I've read a lot while pondering this series. I've come upon some quotes and insights that are gems. Too good to tuck away in my quotes file in Evernote.
I didn't need convinced, of course, because I have no doubt that everyone will eventually be reconciled to God. Every. One. I am one of those folks Chan refers to as the least cautious of the universalists. The dogmatics.
It may take a long time....”aions”....but pit God and a naked soul (no matter how rebellious) in a spiritual "stare down" and guess who looks away first. God is omnicompetent. All will come. All will bow. All will joyfully proclaim to the glory of God the Father.
More to come in this series....slowly but surely.....