Love and Holiness

I don't want to just leave this to a footnote in a Left Behind post, because it's much, much more than just a footnote in the Gospels, in Paul and in the prophets of the Hebrew scriptures: There is no such thing as holiness apart from love. This is a frequent, vehement, anvilicious theme in the Bible. Yet the confusion persists. We continue to hear arguments premised on the idea that God's holiness is somehow distinct from and counter to God's love. But there's nothing holy about any notion of … [Read more...]

The parable of the erratically forgiving master

The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him 10,000 talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and … [Read more...]

The Missiological Case for Hell

One of the common, but strange, responses to Rob Bell's infamous lack of enthusiasm for eternal torture has been what we might call the Missiological Case for Hell. This case was articulated recently by Russell Moore, dean of the school of theology at Southern Seminary, during a Team Hell Strategy Session at Al Mohler's Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. The (Southern) Baptist Press summarizes Moore's remarks on the Missiological Case for Hell: Bell's view of salvation, … [Read more...]

That chair doesn't belong in this play

Playwright David Mamet, from the essay "Realism" in Writing in Restaurants: In general, each facet of every production must be weighed and understood solely on the basis of its interrelationship to the other elements; on its service or lack of service to the meaning, the action of the play. A chair is not per se truthful or untruthful. That one may say, "Yes, but it is a chair, an actual chair, people sit on it and I found it in a cafeteria, therefore it belongs in this play about a cafeteria," … [Read more...]

The paradox of pitchforks, a devilish problem

I want to turn here away from the doctrine of Hell in itself to explore briefly a bit of the folklore that has attached itself to it. Specifically I want to look at the odd notion that Hell exists as a physical location that is also the workplace of hordes of devils and demons. That is, the idea that Hell is a place where such creatures are employed rather than a place where they are punished. I refer to this as folklore because it isn't actually part of any official dogma or doctrine. It is … [Read more...]

Rob Bell vs. Team Hell (cont'd.)

Rob Bell's book Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Has Ever Lived went on sale yesterday and the backlash and criticism hasn't yet peaked. The more I read of this criticism, the more I'm struck by the way everything Team Hell is upset with Bell about, or accusing him of, could be said even more strongly of St. Paul. The doctrine of Hell, they say, is so central and essential to Christianity that anyone who fails to embrace this specific dogma regarding … [Read more...]

Team Hell gets loud

The evangelical blog world seems all atwitter over a forthcoming book by Rob Bell, pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Mich. The book's title, "Love Wins," is apparently regarded by many American evangelicals as an astonishingly heretical and controversial claim. Love wins? How dare anyone suggest such a thing? Even more controversial is the book's subtitle: "Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Has Ever Lived." Bear in mind that the book … [Read more...]

Or what's a Heaven for?

Tony Jones tackles the subject of Judas Iscariot and what he refers to as "Christian universalism." His discussion rubs up against a discussion we had here earlier about the desire for some notion of ultimate, eschatological justice, the unbiblical idea of Hell and what I called "the Hitler Question." In that earlier post, I noted that I do believe in some form of ultimate accountability -- eschatological justice that can address the injustices of this world. I also noted … [Read more...]