Few things annoy me more than debates, and people that believe they know everything. Don’t get me wrong, I love open minded discussions. Two or more people discussing their opinions without feeling an overwhelming need to defend or attack. I think different points of view are healthy to consider… you don’t always have to embrace them, but occasionally they can make you rethink some long held notions and in the process expand your overall understanding on a topic. I LOVE books for this very reason. A chance to find a totally new perspective, in the most unoffensive way.
I’ve been sitting on the sidelines, annoyed, with one of the more recent debates surrounding Heaven/Hell. The book Rob Bell most recently published, “Love Wins”, has been catching quite a bit of flack recently… the majority of it starting prior to his official book release. You may have seen me ‘share’ his response clip via Facebook recently, where he eloquently communicates his beliefs, and in the end challenges people to “only discuss books, which they’ve actually read”… you would think that went without saying, but alas, there are some people that know it all, and therefore of course shouldn’t be troubled to read something new…grrrr.
Given my preconceived notions surrounding the topic have evolved multiple times in my short 29 years, and the controversy had thoroughly piqued my curiosity, I decided to pick up a copy and re-evaluate my own opinions. I’m SO glad I did!
My understanding of a Heaven/Hell from my Catholic upbringing was pretty limited… I got baptized sometime around my 6th week of life, and apparently that sealed the deal… I was good as gold, in like flin… I would get to go bounce around on some big fluffy clouds, wear a white gown with a gold halo, listen to harps, and chill in paradise for eternity. As long as I made it to church every Sunday, any holy day of obligation, put some money in the offering plate, followed all other strongly suggested guidelines, and had someone find me to read me my last rights before I died, I was good… Hell, was the scary place that was insinuated as a possibility should I stray from these aforementioned guidelines.
After my experiences through Young Life, Gateway Community, and now DC Metro, my perspective had slightly changed to it needed to be MY conscious decision… Just because I’d been baptized as a baby and gone to church didn’t seal the deal any longer… I had to actively take a role in committing my life to Christ. That opened a whole new can of worms though, cause what about the rest of my family, they didn’t get ‘re-baptized’, but they still go to church, they believe in Jesus… It wasn’t adding up.
I thought Bell’s book was extremely well written… it was fun to read, convicting, insightful, and brought out into the open so many questions that seem to go unasked. I don’t think he takes a Universalist approach, that everyone will go to Heaven. He continues to reiterate throughout that “It’s Our Choice”, and no matter how hard God may try to reach some, there will always be the choice for them to respond with ‘nope, I know it all and you are wrong’. However, I always had a difficult time rationalizing a God that “So Loved the World”, that if a freak accident took the life of a rebellious teen, or the flubbed efforts of a few mis-guided Christians totally repelled someone for too long, that when their ticker was up he had no more grace/mercy/anything left for that individual. Again… it just didn’t add up.
Until I meet the individual that’s had a chance to hash this out with God, and can say beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Bell’s theories are wholly unsubstantiated, I’m content with my improved perspective on the topic. I also appreciate, that his book calls us to stop being so consumed with our own admittance to Heaven, and start addressing some of the Hell’s on Earth… alluding to the fact that quite possibly the two are intrinsically aligned.
P.S. It didn’t hurt reading another perspective on what the physical Heaven/Hell might entail… as I concede my concept of bouncing clouds, harps, and white, didn’t hold much weight… I’d just never heard a different explanation that didn’t sound like someone else’s ‘cloud’ concoction.