Skip to main content

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.


Popular posts from this blog

the songs we sing

NOTE: I am going to make some pretty strong statements below, but understand that it is my way of taking an honest, hard look at my own worship experience and practice. My desire is not to be overly critical, but to open up dialogue by questioning things I have assumed were totally fine and appropriate. In other words, I am preaching to myself. Feel free to listen in.


When I am in a church meeting during the singing time, I sometimes find myself silent, unable to get the words past my lips. At times I just need a moment of stillness, time to listen, but other times, the words make me pause because I don't know that I can sing them honestly or with integrity. This is a good thing. We should never mindlessly or heartlessly sing songs just because everyone else is. We should care deeply about what we say in our sung, communal worship.

At their best, songs sung by the gathered body of Christ call to life what is already in us: the hope, the truth, the longing, t…

comedic timing

One of my favourite jokes goes like this:
Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Interrupting cow
Interrupting cow w---

Timing is important in both drama and comedy. A well-paced story draws the audience in and helps it invest in the characters, while a tale too hastily told or too long drawn out will fail to engage anyone. Surprise - something which interrupts the expected - is a creative use of timing and integral to any good story. If someone is reading a novel and everything unfolds in a predictable manner, they will probably wonder why they bothered reading the book. And so it is in life. Having life be predictable all of the time is not as calming as it sounds. We love surprises, especially good surprises like birthday parties, gifts, marriage proposals, and finding something that we thought was lost. Surprises are an important part of humour. A good joke is funny because it goes to a place you didn't expect it to go. Similarly, comedic timing allows something unexpected …

singing lessons

When I was a young child, a visiting preacher came to our country church. He brought his two daughters with him, and before he gave his sermon, they sang beautiful duets about Jesus. They had lovely voices which blended well. The preacher, meaning to impress on us their God-given musical talent, mentioned that the girls had never had any singing lessons. The congregation nodded and ooohhed in appreciation. I was puzzled. I didn't understand how not learning was a point of grace or even pride. After all, people who have natural abilities in sports, math, writing, art, or science find it extremely helpful to study under teachers who can aid them in their development and introduce them to things outside their own experience. Being self-taught (though sometimes the only option available to those with limited resources) is not a cause for pride or celebration. Why? Because that's just not how the communal, relational Creator set things up.

I have been singing since I was a child. …