Sunday, April 29, 2007

on the subject of HELL

This is a visitor that camped out on our deck last summer. A pregnant praying mantis, I think. She moved awfully slowly which is why we were able to get quite a few good pictures.
I don't like bugs, I don't like worms, I really don't like snakes. I don't like frogs or fish much either. I suppose being tossed in a pit filled with all those animals would be a pit of a "hellish" experience for me, to use a hyberbolic, colloquial term. I have nearly finished my book on hell (a rather weak segue, I know, but it's all I got) and while I still don't know exactly what I believe about it (the Bible is not that clear, so I don't think we can be that dogmatic about it), I believe that hell, just like heaven, might be a slightly different experience for everyone. I do think one can conclusively say that heaven is where God is and hell is where he is not, but even the terms, heaven and hell, are relatively ambiguous in this day and age as so much myth and folklore has been attached to them. Most of the questions about hell, like "How could a loving God create a place like hell?" or "If someone sincerely follows a path to truth, but has not encountered Jesus, do they still have to go to hell?" are not the right questions. They have already assumed the Western Christian view point of the afterlife, which draws on tradition probably more than scripture.
The Bible is a progressive revelation of the character of God as pictured through the setting of many different cultures. Hell and heaven and the afterlife are a relatively late addition in this big picture, yet so much of the message of the current gospel is one of salvation from eternal damnation. That is totally the wrong emphasis, I believe. The invitation of Jesus is not one to escape punishment, but to walk with and know and become a friend of God. The question is not where will you spend eternity, but do you know God, for eternal life is to know God.

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