A few days ago I stumbled upon an article by National Geographic titled ‘The Campaign to Eliminate Hell’. As a traditionalist Christian, that caught my attention. (If you’re interested, you can find it here. Please. I really think you should read it.)
What? Eliminate Hell? Seriously? Is that something we can actually do?
As it turns out, some theologians are trying. However, in the article, all manner of Christians are lumped together. So Catholics are mingled with Protestants. Mennonites are mingled with Baptists. Pentecostals are mingled with Methodists. And somewhere, Evangelicals are thrown into the mix. So it became rather difficult to understand which specific theology was be examined. Especially to me, as I don’t have a very solid knowledge of all the different theologies.
The article in and of itself is incredibly deep and thought-provoking and I’m encouraging everyone I know to read it. I think it’s very important, that as a Christian, I am aware of the major conversations going on. By puzzling through these big, hard questions, I learn more about God and who He is, and I think that is the point of not understanding.
Anyhow. There are two distinct thoughts running around my head after reading this article. First, why do people want to get rid of Hell? And second, well, I’m not surprised.
Why do people want to get rid of Hell? To me, it doesn’t make sense. I think if you are willing to accept a place of absolute good (aka Heaven), it makes sense then to accept the existence of a place of absolute bad (aka Hell). You cannot have one without the other. Ying and Yang. Good and bad. Without a place for the condemned, Heaven doesn’t seem all that special.
Now, during the brief initial read-through, the reasons behind this campaign made (almost) sense. But after reading the article a second time, they didn’t make sense.
-There isn’t much biblical evidence. Recently, my mom was reading her Bible, and as if by God, the passage she was reading talked about eternal fire. “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed and crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire.” (Matthew 18:8 NIV). The same theme is repeated in verse 9 as well. Plus, in this section, Jesus is talking. And if Jesus is talking about an eternal fire, good golly, I’m going to believe there is an one. Plus, if there is no fire and brimstone Hell, where does Satan reside? If Satan is evil beyond evil, I feel an evil beyond evil place should be his abode.
-If God is such a loving God, He wouldn’t punish people. Yes, God is love. But His love is not a spoiling love. He loves like a father, but also like the creator of everything. His love is gentle and guiding, but passionate and wild. He loves us deeply, but He wants us to love Him deeply too. Because He created us, He wants us to follow Him, and live according to His guiding. Yes, He loves us all regardless of the sins we have committed. But His love is not dependent on the ‘level’ of a sin. He loves murderers the same as thieves, and thieves the same as adulterers. He views all sin the same, and so Hell is punishment for sin, for those that don’t believe. But if you choose to not acknowledge God, that is one of the worst possible sins. You choose to turn your back on the One who created you. By doing that, you choose to not be allowed into Heaven, the ultimate paradise.
When people are condemned to Hell, and do not see the error of their ways, that breaks God’s heart. He doesn’t want His loves, His dear and beautiful creations, to be tortured for all eternity. But, as refusing His existence is one of the worst sins, so Hell is the punishment.
-If God is omnipresent, how can there be a place where He is absent? God is omnipresent. He is everywhere. But Hell is Satan’s abode, a realm of darkness and evil. God is not evil, so how can He be present in Hell? Hell is in all reality, the absence of God. Hell is meant to be terrifying and unforgiving and eternal torture. Hell is meant to be for those that have rejected God, so it makes sense that God is not there.
(I do not claim that my answer to this quandary is the best answer. Frankly, I don’t know what the answer is. All I know is, somewhere in my conscious, something is not right with this campaign.)
My second feeling after reading this article was of not being surprised. Now, I’m young, and may have a skewed view of the world. But it feels that more and more, people are trying to get rid of things they don’t understand, or trying to minimize God in order to maximize their knowledge. People rationalize homosexuality into something they can understand. People try to rationalize the beginning of the universe into something they can understand. People try to rationalize even the human mind and soul into something manageable. So I am not surprised the existence of Hell is rationalized into something believable.
By doing this, we are cutting out the wonder of God, the beauty of God, and the bigness of God. We, in our pursuit for absolute knowledge, are leaving very little room for God. He created us to wonder and question and pursue. He wants us to learn. But He does not want us to claim to know better than Him, for He knows everything and we do not. He is the only one who knows about everything, including the existence and conditions of Hell. We can guess and ponder and analyze all we like. But claiming we truly know, is foolishness.
I think it is okay to not know the answers to everything. I for one think God made it loud and clear to the existence of Hell, and it’s extremity. But in regards to every other big unanswerable question, God is the holder of all mysteries, and I am content to admit ‘I don’t know’. This allows God to do His thing, and reveal answers grander than what I could have imagined. I am so certain that the day is coming when all these questions will be answered.
But until then, ‘I am not skilled to understand/ What God has willed/ What God has planned’.
Ciao for now,