Much of the discussion of hell has been framed by trying to ask better questions. In this video, Chan asks some questions of his own that are relevant and helpful in shaping our perspective on keeping God in his proper place. We have to let God shape us and not the other way around. Chan says that when we get to difficult passages in the Bible it is important to remember that maybe God knows something that we don’t. I look forward to his new book coming out in July – Erasing Hell.
There are a few things that I find interesting in the current debate about hell.
- No one is questioning heaven. Jesus said he was preparing a place for us but he also said there was a place for those who disbelieve and are in rebellion. He separates sheep and goats, each to their own place. Much of the language about “heaven” also includes language about hell. If you question hell then why not question heaven?
- Revelation 20 is often taken to be so figurative that even the fiery torment forever and ever either is not forever and ever or is just a fire to purify the rebellious into heaven. If all will be saved, what about the devil? That passage mentions his judgment as well. Will the devil be saved too through his fiery judgment?
- I agree with Chan that there are some passages that don’t say what I thought and then other passages that weigh in on hell that I didn’t realize were there…can we honestly and objectively lay all the cards on the table and come to some solid conclusions?
- It seems some have a hard time with free will. Love requires a choice. Something forced is not love. If out of God’s perfect love he gives all a choice of who they will follow is it possible that all will eventually, if given enough time, choose him? That defies the very definition of choice. We either have choice or we don’t. Some are saying that all will eventually turn to God even if it is postmortem (what about Luke 16:26?).
HT Philip C
You make excellent points. I have often wondered how people who question major biblical doctrines, as Bell does, have any leg to stand on for the doctrines that they do accept. For example, if Bell still believes in the Atonement provided by Jesus’ death, on what basis does he believe it. If he questions Jesus’s own teachings on hell, then he should question every other teaching of Jesus. At the very least, nonbelievers have every reason, based on Bell’s arguments to reject anything and everything that the Bible teaches.
I don’t think Bell necessarily questions the teachings of Jesus as much as he is challenging traditional and orthodox interpretations of Jesus’ teachings. We must remember how ingrained traditional teachings and interpretations of Scripture are within mainstream Christianity, and take into account that for the most part we are all approaching Scripture with certain biases and preconceived notions from what our particular traditions have been ingrained in us.
I don’t mind honest questions. That is healthy. I don’t mind asking if there are some things we just haven’t ever done very well at. That is fine. I think Bell asks some great questions and I think he asks some terrible questions. I don’t think Bell is trying to disagree with Jesus and I don’t think he is saying Jesus needs to agree with him. What I believe Bell is doing (as at outlined quite thoroughly on this blog) is swinging a pendulum. He sees an unhealthy view in some Christians about hell and the minimization of God’s love toward “outsiders”. I believe he is trying to correct some of what he has seen.
Good post – looking forward to reading this book when it comes out.
Enjoyed hanging out with you a bit at Pepperdine – can’t remember if I’ve mentioned that already or not, so there you go. 🙂
Really great meeting you at Pepperdine. I hope we can do that again some time in the future. God bless
I too am looking forward to reading this book.
In your point #4, you say, “If out of God’s perfect love he gives all a choice of who they will follow is it possible that all will eventually, if given enough time, choose him? That defies the very definition of choice. We either have choice or we don’t.”
How does that figure? I agree that “love requires a choice” and that “something forced is not love.” But if everyone chooses the same thing or if they have enough time (eternity) to choose one option over the other, how does that make it any less than a choice of free will? To say that all will eventually choose God does not imply that it is something being forced.