Fear Of Whales

Tales of a reluctant minister

To Hell with Hell

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A long time ago in the history of this blog I intended that one consistent series would be on great theological debates. You can actually see the remnant of these pest laid plans in the WordPress “Category” which is a feature I no Longer use. The idea was to demonstrate that each of the major things Christians argue about contained a portion of the truth, or something to be learned, on both sides. Hence the controversy. I’ve given up on ever finishing that series.

Nevertheless, this is one of those kind of posts.

Of course at the time that I planned this, I saw controversies within a much narrower realm of Christianity. Things like “Pre Trib vs Post Trip” or “Egalitarianism vs Complemantarianism” This is a post about Universalism versus belief in a literal Hell.

Rob-Bell1That was a big topic not too long ago if you recall… But I never have been very good at picking up on viral trends in my writing.

Lest I make the mistake of my buddy to the left and get farewell tweets, I should clarify exactly where I stand before I begin to play with these ideologies. I am not a Christian Universalist, But I could see being one. I get the appeal. I believe that there is a hell and people go there, but at times I am uncomfortable with the cognitive dissonance created by belief in a loving god, and belief in a limitless punishment for a temporal mistake.

I may even go so far as other good conservative scholars such as Miroslav Vulf to say “I Hope for the truth of Christian Universalism” even though I don’t believe it. It would be nice if the bible said that. It doesn’t.

And yet it is more than the Bible and my interpretation of it, that keeps me out of that camp (I’ve been wrong before).

I am also compelled by the important, and grace filled Christian practice of considering things anathema.

It doesn’t feel loving to send people to hell, even in my mind. I feel judgmental when I thing “They are going to hell” even if it’s true. But at the very least there are THINGS to which I need to be able to say “To hell with that”.

I need a place for child molestation. I need a place slavery. I need a place for denial of the resurrection. and it is important that it not be a nice place.

If I remove hell from my theology, I lost my ability to strongly condemn actions and activities and situations as demonic and damnable. Oh I could maybe have it as a colorful analogy, but you know damn well that doesn’t count.

See what I did there?

To say that your sweet old grandmother who was abused in church and renounced God is in hell is uncomfortable. You are uncomfortable, I am uncomfortable, we all need to reassess our soteriology and theologies of conversion. But to say that her abuser and indeed her abuse deserves anything better than the flames of hell is… Well it’s anathema.

To hell with people who abuse people. To hell with them unless they repent. And to hell with a theology that would minimize the wrongness of those actions in the interest of nonjudgementalism and political correctness.

But then, To hell also with me. I take selfish actions. I participate in the continued oppression of the poor and downtrodden. I say hurtful things that emotionally scar the people around me. And to hell with a theology that would keep me in a constant state of fear and self loathing such that I cannot take action to rectify some of that.

To hell with…hell.

Hell sucks. I want it to go away.

And so in an ironic way the resistance to the theology of hell in myself, and the rejection of it by others is a strange kind of proof of concept for a theological wastebasket for all of the things and ideas we can no longer abide. Including the basket itself.


Written by RyanGaffney

December 1, 2015 at 10:34 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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