Shirley, this one’s for you, since you seem to be the only one reading this thing… 🙂 It’s not that I don’t want other people to read this and chew on it, because “I Dooooo“. Pardon my pointless movie quoting… it’s in my genes. Back on topic…
One time when we were up at your house, we all got talking about Hell. I want to revisit that topic, in light of some really interesting stuff I’ve been reading lately.
First off, I want to stress that this is a regular person’s opinion about what the Bible says, and not a well-known theological scholar. So there, right off the bat, you can discount the whole thing if you want to. But I think his (Matt Ritchie) approach to reading the texts are very straight forward, and he seems to have a pretty good grasp on the “big picture” of Jesus’s message which I think is HUGELY important in wading through some of these difficult passages and topics.
So, here goes.
This is the first post to read, entitled To Hell and Back Again (A Summary of the Journey So Far). One of the high points of this post is the following:
Ghenna and Hades are consistently used to describe the status of those who set themselves up against God’s kingdom. That is, “hell” is a way of describing the status of people who try to be in control of the world as God’s kingdom arrives. Such people, we are told, will find themselves tossed “out” of their positions of privilege and power and into the garbage dump.
And the second post to read is entitled Farewell to Exclusivism. A high point of this post for me is the following quote:
Exclusivists, I’m convinced, have to do a lot of cutting and pasting to reach their conclusions…
…Problem is, what John is saying about condemnation in the first text may have little or nothing to do with what Matthew is saying about hell in the second one, and vice versa. You can only come to an exclusivist position by equating things that were written in different times, to different people, in different contexts, addressing different issues.
Ready? This is the kicker:
To put it another way, none of the direct references to hell (whether the original word is “Ghenna” or “Hades”) ever state anything that is close to the exclusivist position: that hell is a place for all non-Christians. Instead, in each case, they describe only one action (or a small list of particular types of action) that put one in jeapordy of hell.
I think the point of all this, for me at least, is not to somehow prove this or that about heaven and hell… it’s more about wanting to really understand what was going on when Jesus was here. And to make for DARN sure that we’re not basing our beliefs on other people’s speculations about what the Bible might be saying inbetween the lines. Let’s look at what’s there, people… read the black, not the white. The words that ARE there are hard enough to figure out sometimes, let along it we start going around trying to speculate about what it’s NOT saying.
Anyways. That’s all for now.