Hell: more real than we might think

Rob Bell’s new book “Love Wins” takes on the difficult topic of heaven & hell. Many accuse him of being a universalist, maybe he is – but it’s certainly not the point. Those who are looking for a controversy will find it & those looking for new things to think about will also certainly find much to chew on.

I found the passage below to illustrate how real hell is – even more real than some place we might end up after we die. The passage does what Bell does best: turns our conventional thinking about something on it’s head. While you might disagree with what Bell says, you can’t deny his ability to analyze ideas in creative ways. Perhaps we ought to all do more analyzing & less uncritical adoption of what we’ve been told.


The cross is only the beginning

The complexity & mystery of the Jesus story fascinates me. An uncle in law of mine once said he believes in hope. A hope embodied by Jesus Christ. He didn’t claim to have answers, just hope. There’s something beautiful about that thought.

I was reminded of the complexity & mystery of Jesus when reading the following page of Rob Bell’s new book, “Love Wins”.


With so much black & white, i’ve come to love gray

I hope I’m not unidimensional.

I was called a democrat the other day. While I know it is probably true, I hope I legitimately weigh both sides of arguments & the pros & cons of particular stances. I hope I continue to realize there are always pros AND cons.

I encounter so many people with dichotomous views of the world. I often argue the other side of their dichotomy in hope they might glimpse some gray in their black & white world. I’m
exhausted, but the teacher in me desires to help people expand their worldview. Maybe there’s a better way.

Polarized positions have a tendency to grow farther apart. I don’t think polarized is a better way to live. I don’t think polarization is part of God’s nature. I don’t think deep division is part of God’s plan to restore all things.

admitting we are not god

I get frustrated by people who believe they have a monopoly on Truth. I suppose my frustration stems from my belief that my beliefs are “true” – perhaps I should just let people be. I pray that I can always admit that “I could be wrong” & have the courage to live out my convictions rather than ridicule or persecute those who don’t share my views.

Below are a couple, but not sequenced, pages from the book by Shane Hipps that inspired the above thoughts. Picture 1, second highlighted section is better than I could have said it.

Philosophy of science applied to religion

Scientists do not arrive at “right” answers, they gain more & more confidence as ideas gain evidence. Importantly, scientists never know if they are 100% right, they can only know what is wrong. (look up falsification for more on this). A scientist who understands the philosophy of science would readily admit that all ideas in science are open to change as we cannot know if they are right.

Now, apply this to our interpretation of scripture. So many people believe they have the right interpretation, yet we ought learn from history that our interpretations have changed over time. If our interpretations have changed, what makes us believe we have it right now?

Again, I am not arguing for relativism, but for acknowledgement of our own limitations, we are not God, & many of us would do well to consider that a different look might illuminate truths in scripture we never imagined. However, just like in science, if the picture does not cohere, we have reason to believe our ideas are off. Like scientists look for cohesion in their ideas, a good tool of discernment for scripture interpretation is how coherent the resulting picture is.

This actually leads to another thought. The coherence of nature & scripture. As I believe Aquinas pointed out, the words of God & the creation of God cannot contradict, so when they do, we have likely interpreted one of them incorrectly. For many conservative Christians we default to thinking our interpretation of nature is wrong, I wonder if having a “default” is seeking God’s truth or our own?

Truth or truth

I am currently reading “flickering pixels” a book that investigates how technology shapes faith. Most of the points are not new to me, but the author noted the relativism of our modern age. That is, one person’s truth authority is as good as another’s.

The author was against this postmodern view, as am I. However, what if my source of truth is the same as your source of truth, but we each make different meaning out of it? What if my source of truth at one point in my life, means something different to me at a different time of life?

Admitting interpretive difference is, to
me, different than relativism. I believe in an absolute truth, I just also accept my & other human beings fallibility & imperfect interpretation. Perhaps this constant reflection on what is true is the truth we ought seek. After all, this is a journey, not a destination.

Approach God’s word with humility

When we think we know THE correct interpretation of the bible we assume we know God’s interpretation. We put ourselves on equal ground as God, we elevate ourselves to God’s status. Didn’t the first humans get kicked out of Eden for that? Furthermore, having only one possible interpretation takes the life out of the Bible.

Instead we should admit our inability to know with certainty God’s will. Instead of claiming to know God’s will, we ought humbly surrender ourselves to it.