When I was 16 I saw a video called Flame on this video series called Nooma, by this young, creative, up and coming pastor named Rob Bell. When I was 17, I had just begun a great spiritual growth, when I picked up this book called Velvet Elvis. It changed my perspectives on Christian discipleship, the God who is present and active. Since then, I have enjoyed many of his nooma videos, his lecture series and his other books.
Recently, he released this video for his upcoming book, Love Wins:
Do I believe in Hell?
If Hell is so important to the Biblical narrative, why is not mentioned in the Old Testament? When Jesus was teaching about hell, he uses this word for it in Greek called Gehenna. Gehenna, was a burning pile of garbage at the gates of Jerusalem. You see Gehenna mentioned in the Valley of Hinnom which is mentioned several times in the Old Testament (2nd Chr. 28:3. 33:6, Jer 7:31. 19:26). I believe Hell exists right now. Just, like I believe Heaven exists right now.
Do I believe in a physical place of Hell?
When we understand how Hellinistic Philosophy shaped our early tradition, we develop an eternal understanding of the human soul as immortal. Consequently, we developed a theology and tradition that believed that God is A.) All loving and B.) All merciful and all just. There is no mercy and justice for torturing someone for eternity for a wrong confession of faith during a humans life span.
What I do support, is a theological stance, which is called Annihilationism. This teaches that God is both all loving but maintains his all merciful ways. When the soul enters hell, God destroys the soul. This allows for God to maintain eternal consequence but not eternal suffering.
Do I believe Gandhi is in Hell? Honestly, I don’t. When I look at those who God holds up in Hebrews 11, the heroes of faith, we have a woman who was named Rahab who was chosen as God’s faithful heroes of faith, however, she did not fall in line with the chosen lineage of Judaism. By those standards, she would have not been included in God’s chosen saved ones. You also get this in the Old Testament with people like Ruth. While I am not a universalist, I believe that there are people who carry the essence of Jesus. They spread the Way of Jesus. They bring Faith, Hope and Love into humanity, and, lead humanity into Ressurection. We see very thoroughly that God uses those who are outside of our tradition, and, brings them into the light.
A few years ago, I fell in love with the Mennonite tradition of faith. Mennonites vow for mainly a few things:
1. Any understanding of the Bible or life, must be understood in Christ. The Old Testament God must be wrestled with because he must look like Christ. We must see ourselves and society through Christ’s eyes.
2. The Kingdom of the World and The Kingdom of God are different. Christians are called to pull heaven down to us, like we hear in the Sermon On The Mount.
3. Christians are called to be agents of non-violence, like Christ was. Christians are called to social justice, to look after the orphans, the oppressed and the widows. The least of these.
So when, I open my Twitter account and find that a pastor says “Farewell Rob Bell”. When I see people posting things that he is a heretic, that he is not a Christian. When I see people condemn him to hell, it deeply saddens me.
It deeply saddens me, when we need to tear each other down. That we feel the need to throw the stones at each other, even though we have all sinned.
It deeply saddens me when I hear such extreme spiritual abuse. It saddens me, like it saddens me when I hear about a single Mom being torn down for having a child out of wedlock (which I heard recently). It saddens me when I hear us tear down homosexuals (whether we agree with it or not). It saddens me when I hear people tear down Rob Bell. It saddens me when we use God as a weapon, for our own cause. God exists for all people. The Church was meant for people, not against them. Jesus said they will know God through our love for each other.
Even if Rob Bell is a universalist (which I am quite sure he is not), how can we as Christians not pray that God isn’t universal? How can we in our right mind, in our right souls, wish someone to hell? We should want life for all people. We should not use our energy against another person.
The most renowned Christian ethicist is a man named Stanley Hauerwas. Hauerwas once wrote, “We were not created to kill one another, we were created to commune with each other.”
I hope that is our goal for each other.