One day recently my friend James sent a link to an article about the nature of heaven and hell. What follows is the thread of our email conversation. I’m posting this because it may be of interest to others, but also because I am interested in further opinions. What do you think about the article? And, almost more importantly, do you think that there is a difference between the older and the younger generations in their ability to address difficult issues? Read on, and then post your thoughts!
My friend Austin recently forwarded me this article (from a Greek Orthodox perspective). It is a challenging and extremely thought provoking piece on the nature of heaven and hell, and speaks overwhelmingly to protestant biblical translation issues that really get nitty gritty. It’s a little long, but please read it and send me your thoughts when you get the chance.
Here’s the link: http://aggreen.net/beliefs/heaven_hell.html
Well, it does agree with what God has taught me in some aspects — most notably, heaven and hell are not God’s action but our own doing.
Now, I’ve always seen concepts of heaven and hell as metaphors or pictures of a spiritual reality because we don’t know enough about them. The Bible doesn’t tell us very much concrete information about them, probably because any conception we could muster in our little brains would be the same — just a faint picture of a spiritual reality that we wouldn’t quite understand.
So this article, for me, takes a very strange position in trying to “prove” that heaven and hell are not of one set of faint, ambiguous pictures — but they are of another set of… faint, ambiguous pictures. It really doesn’t matter what we think of them — they’re real, but we’ll never be able to wrap our teeny peas around them. This reminds me of the scripture where Paul warns against unfruitful arguing. …Like how many angels can dance on the head of a pin!
It seems really clear to me where this post-modern writer gets his main premise — and I think it’s incorrect. Neither The Bible, nor Hebrew scholarship, nor the early Church EVER taught that it is all in our own personal “perception”. What utter muck! These things are REAL! They are Spiritual Realities, which all of these early traditions taught are MORE real than the reality we find ourselves here so preoccupied with.
But the point about the goodness of God’s justice is very important — in fact, central to this topic — and if the writer has to insert the premise of “perception” to get to God’s heart of love, then he’s not too far off. He’s just overly influenced by the corruption of our time…
That’s what I think. Oh, and I really don’t like to engage this stuff. It seems like so much unprofitable argument — I’d rather engage in loving!
On that note, what do you think about this? I’ve been re-editing a collection of the spiritual classics.
Thanks for the thoughtful response Scott, and thanks for the link!
One comment, I guess, and that is I don’t see a dichotomy between sorting this stuff out and love. I think that Christians have failed to engage this issue, and as a result many Christians’ words and actions misrepresent love because their view of God’s nature, heaven, and hell was improperly formed.
Thanks for the link! I read the book summary and it looks cool. How is the editing coming?
Maybe you’re the perfect person to lovingly engage issues like this. Maybe God has fitted you for that. That would be such an incredible blessing — and it would mean that you have to stay by my side indefinitely. Sorry — no other choices.
I’ve purposely never spoken about certain stuff, except with a tiny circle of intimates, because there have always been two kinds of Christians:
One kind (mostly men) will live and die for a silly issue — and hate you forever if they can identify you as someone who “opposes” them in the pet area. I’ve had to try to help solve these kinds of disputes as a leader, and I can assure you that they’ll hate you too if they feel that you’re trying to work out any view that includes mutual understanding and compromise. I’ve been held at gunpoint on that one (he was crazy!).
The other kind (mostly women) are the Christians who will misunderstand you on an issue and blow an inaccurate report way out of perspective and spread it around so that a position on an inconsequential issue becomes a black mark on your character. This has happened to both Dionne and I.
None of this is fun; yes, there are crazy Christians; the enemy tries to have his way among the most well-meaning people; the issues might as easily be political as theological; you can’t stop it or control it — you can only love. Oh, and loving through this kind of stuff hurts. That’s why I only want to love from the start; especially where issues are concerned.
Thanks, James, for being real, and open and level-headed. It’s really rare. I am serious about that stay-by-my-side-forever thing.
I hear ya. I have experienced demonization and dogmatic rejection from such people as well. What I always like about talking with you is that I can have a partial disagreement and not feel like I’ve wrecked a relationship. I think that is cool.
I must be kind of strange, too, I think, because I experience relationship through discussion and even disagreement. Especially when someone has the courage and initiative to tell me when I’m wrong. That is the type of friend I can trust. 🙂
Hope you’re having a good week! Talk soon.
You’re not strange! Discussion and disagreement are PART of genuine relationship. They are part of the brotherly bond. We’re brothers — so we can risk disagreement and still love. It’s real. It’s ecclesia. It’s where the stuff takes place!
Love you brother…
You’ve read what we have to say; What do you think about the article? Also, do you think that there is a difference between the older and the younger generations in their ability to address difficult issues? As a reader, What do you think?