Sunday, 20 March 2011

Remember kids, hell is hot!

A fantastic post from Clayboy, the sort of stuff that I read and find myself nodding in agreement throughout.
I think the wisdom of this response is that it doesn't try to do away with hell, but it acknowledges the problems it raises about a God with a time limit on his love and redemptive powers. I particularly liked this section:
"I’m an agnostic about what exactly the metaphor of hell might refer to, other than a promise that injustice, and hate and hurt will be swept away, and no-one will do evil any more. Whether that is achieved by an extinguishing punishment of the evil-doers, or the transformative re-inscribing of goodness in their hearts, I do not know.

As I’ve said before, I lack the imagination to envisage how God might transform the truly evil. If I’m honest, I also probably lack the love to want him to do so. Then again, I’m part of what God needs to change. My limitations are not necessarily God’s. That’s probably a good thing."

Bell is not alone in finding that his personal insight into a loving God has led to doubts about hell. 1700 years ago, St Origen suggested that even the devil would be saved at last and Julian of Norwich in her visions also had a glimpse that the plan of an all loving God went further than angrily hurling the rejects into an ever burning furnace.

"It appears to me that there is a deed that the Holy Trinity shall do on the last day, and when that deed shall be done and how it shall be done is unknown to all creatures under Christ, and shall be until it has been done. -- This is the great deed ordained by our Lord God from eternity, treasured up and hidden in his blessed breast, only known to himself, and by this deed he shall make all things well; for just as the Holy Trinity made all things from nothing, so the Holy Trinity shall make all well that is not well.

"And I wondered greatly at this revelation, and considered our faith, wondering as follows: our faith is grounded in God’s word, and it is part of our faith that we should believe that God’s word will be kept in all things; and one point of our faith is that many shall be damned, -- And given all this, I thought it impossible that all manner of things should be well, as our Lord revealed at this time.~ And I received no other answer in showing from our Lord God but this: “What is impossible to you is not impossible to me. I shall keep my word in all things and I shall make all things well.”

What I have found rather disturbing is the sheer fury of some evangelicals at  Bell's doubts, and the shouts of "heretic". How reluctant some are to be deprived of the thought of  God sending sinners - and they are usually thinking of sinners other than themselves -to hell. I suspect some would hate to be deprived of the ability to threaten (on God's behalf of course) sinners other than themselves with eternal damnation.

If I were to define hell, I would say that hell is separation from God and from the divine within ourselves. Julian of Norwich wrote that "no greater hell was shown to me than sin." Once we start to long to send each other to hell we are a little closer to that place where we cannot see God ourselves.


  1. Thanks very much for this, Sue. I so agree with what you wrote and with Clayboy's original post. It reminds me of the furore surrounding Steve Chalke a few years ago and I was on his side that time too.

  2. There are human parent who can forgive their children the absolute worst. And even if those children never mend their ways or "repent", the parents still will not condemn them.

    Psychology is teaching us that punishment doesn't change people but that loving care and positive reinforcement does. We're only at the stages of comprehending what that means.

    If people can do that, how much more must God do it.
    He can only ever be better and greater than the best of us, never smaller.

    I find the thought of hell as a place of God's punishment upon people so abhorrent that I cannot even understand why it still has so much currency.

  3. Thank you Perpetua, and Erika, that is a moving thought.

  4. If people can do that, how much more must God do it.
    He can only ever be better and greater than the best of us, never smaller.