heaven, hell, and...humility

The afterlife is quite the topic. Christians have long-debated the inhabitants of eternal destinations: heaven and hell.

Dante’s graphic images of the afterlife portray places of literal fire and torment, fueling a legacy of afterlife prediction that remains until today. Bible believing Christians, it’s thought, must hold to this type of literal view of hell. Some people, perhaps even most people, will be excluded from heaven.

At the same time, however, modern sensibility tells us that exclusion of any sort is wrong. In a culture where tolerance is the virtue, talk of a literal hell as a place of eternal torment is simply politically incorrect. And so we hear the popular generic spiritual mantra: “all paths lead to God.”

Rob Bell, influential writer and speaker, wades (dives!?!) into the issue of heaven and hell in his forthcoming book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, slated for release on March 29. From the sounds of it, Bell's usual thought-provoking ways are no different in this presentation. Google “rob bell, love wins” to witness the stir he's caused among Christians across the interwebs. And the book’s not even released yet!

Here’s the book’s promo video:

I look forward to the book. In his past writings, Bell provides an accessibility to important theological issues that some theologians aren’t able to produce. I suspect that readers of N.T. Wright, Miroslav Volf, and perhaps even C.S. Lewis, will find in Bell’s project an accessible exploration into some of the ideas of these deep thinkers. We’ll see. But as to the firestorm of controversy over the book and it’s supposed universalism, I agree with Scot McKnight and Ben Witherington: read the book first!

On the subject of heaven and hell itself, well, I refuse to make my own conclusions. How can I, a “mere mortal” (Ps. 8), pass judgment on eternal issues out of my control? Much humility is required, lest we forget Jesus’ teaching on judgment (Mt. 7:1-5).

Facing questions of eternal destiny, I choose to place my hope in this final vision of reality, hoping all encounter this restoration from the God who is love (1 Jn. 4:7-21):
“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” (Rev. 21:3-5).

Perhaps a tad ironic, but Bad Religion’s song, “Sorrow”, is one of my favorites, communicating this hope I have:


Anonymous said...

Very Interesting !!!! I will look for the book too. It can be very difficult to convince people to join a "club where they think they are so exclusive" I believe God wants us ALL. Whether you acccept Him today, tomorrow, on your death bed, God is waiting for you.

David Warkentin said...

Yes..."neither Jew nor Greek..." comes to mind. (Gal. 3:28)

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