Why would God create to condemn?
This is an AP story about a subject near and dear to my heart - if we speak of chastisement, condemnation, et. al......I invite you to read at least the last line!!
DURHAM, N.C. – When Chad Holtz lost his old belief in hell, he also lost his job.
The pastor of a rural United Methodist church in North Carolina wrote a note on his Facebook page supporting a new book by Rob Bell, a prominent young evangelical pastor and critic of the traditional view of hell as a place of eternal torment for billions of damned souls.
Two days later, Holtz was told complaints from church members prompted his dismissal from Marrow's Chapel in Henderson.
"I think justice comes and judgment will happen, but I don't think that means an eternity of torment," Holtz said. "But I can understand why people in my church aren't ready to leave that behind. It's something I'm still grappling with myself."
The debate over Bell's new book "Love Wins" has quickly spread across the evangelical precincts of the Internet, in part because of an eye-catching promotional video posted on YouTube.
Bell, the pastor of the 10,000-member Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., lays out the premise of his book while the video cuts away to an artist's hand mixing oil paints and pastels and applying them to a blank canvas.
He describes going to a Christian art show where one of the pieces featured a quote by Mohandas Gandhi. Someone attached a note saying: "Reality check: He's in hell."
"Gandhi's in hell? He is? And someone knows this for sure?" Bell asks in the video.
In the book, Bell criticizes the belief that a select number of Christians will spend eternity in the bliss of heaven while everyone else is tormented forever in hell.
"This is misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus' message of love, peace, forgiveness and joy that our world desperately needs to hear," he writes in the book.
For many traditional Christians, though, Bell's new book sounds a lot like the old theological position of universalism — a heresy for many churches, teaching that everyone, regardless of religious belief, will ultimately be saved by God. And that, they argue, dangerously misleads people about the reality of the Christian faith.
"I just felt like on every page he's trying to say 'It's OK,'" said Southern Baptist Seminary President Albert Mohler at a forum last week on Bell's book held at the Louisville institution. "And there's a sense in which we desperately want to say that. But the question becomes, on what basis can we say that?"
Bell argues that hell has assumed an outsize importance in Christian teaching, considering the word itself only appears in the New Testament about 12 times, by his count.
"For a 1st-century Jewish rabbi, where you go when you die wasn't the most pressing question," Bell told The Associated Press. "The question was how can you enter into the shalom and peace of God right now, this day."
Bell denies he's a universalist, and his exact beliefs on what happens to people after death are hard to pin down, but he argues that such speculation distracts people from an urgent point. In his telling, hell is something freely chosen that already exists on earth, in everything from war to abusive relationships.
The near-relish with which some Christians stress the torments of hell, Bell argues, keep many believers needlessly afraid of a loving God, and repel potential Christians who might otherwise be curious about the faith's teachings.
"The heart of the Christian story is that God is love," he said. "But when you hear the word 'Christian,' you don't necessarily think 'Oh, sure, those are the people who don't stop talking about God's love.' Some other things would come to mind."
About the only thing everyone agrees on is that this is not a new debate in Christianity. It stretches to antiquity, when Christianity was a persecuted sect in the Roman Empire, and the third century theologian Origen developed a theory that contemporary critics charged would mean that everyone, even the devil himself, would ultimately be saved. Church leaders eventually condemned ideas they attributed to Origen, but he has had a lasting influence across the Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant traditions.
Those traditions often disagree, even internally, on what awaits souls after death. The Catholic Church, which has a formal process for identifying souls in heaven through canonization, pointedly refrains from saying that anyone is without a doubt in hell. Protestants reject the concept of purgatory, in which sins can be atoned for after death, but disagree on other questions. The lack of consensus is enabled partly by ambiguities in the Bible.
Evangelical opposition to Bell is exemplified in a succinct tweet from prominent evangelical pastor John Piper: "Farewell, Rob Bell."
Page Brooks, a professor at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, thinks Bell errs in a conception of a loving God that leaves out the divine attributes of justice and holiness.
"It's love, but it's a just love," Brooks said. "God is love, but you have to understand you're a sinner and the only way to get around that is through Christ's sacrifice on the cross."
Making his new belief public is both liberating and a little frightening for Holtz, even though his doubts about traditional doctrines on damnation began long before he heard about Rob Bell's book.
A married Navy veteran with five children, Holtz spent years trying to reconcile his belief that Jesus Christ's death on the cross redeemed the entire world with the idea that millions of people — including millions who had never even heard of Jesus — were suffering forever in hell.
"We do these somersaults to justify the monster god we believe in," he said. "But confronting my own sinfulness, that's when things started to topple for me. Am I really going to be saved just because I believe something, when all these good people in the world aren't?"
Gray Southern, United Methodist district superintendent for the part of North Carolina that includes Henderson, declined to discuss Holtz's departure in detail, but said there was more to it than the online post about Rob Bell's book.
"That's between the church and him," Southern said.
Church members had also been unhappy with Internet posts about subjects like gay marriage and the mix of religion and patriotism, Holtz said, and the hell post was probably the last straw. Holtz and his family plan to move back to Tennessee, where he'll start a job and maybe plant a church.
"So long as we believe there's a dividing point in eternity, we're going to think in terms of us and them," he said. "But when you believe God has saved everyone, the point is, you're saved. Live like it."
Praise Him, enjoy His gifts, acknowledge His wealth.....do you really believe that the FORCE that created the universe has a gender ? Every dogma in the world uses the same trick...to convince you that you are a sinner and the only way to avoid hell is to become a slave. Do not think. Let the priests do the thinking for you. You are born to suffer and bow oh, and to be afraid. Very afraid. In essence, they want you to FEAR God, which translates into FEAR the church, or you will burn in hell mister !! Free your mind. Watch as the "Christians" happily kill people for their country, believing they do the right thing. WHAT HAPPENED TO "THOU SHALL NOT KILL"?!! I really think that very few people really understand the true meaning of Jesus teachings. If we believe in dogmas , we become dogmatic. We should concentrate on becoming better human beings. Learn to love, share, help and forgive.
I know one thing for sure and i love different opinions and i do seek different opinions when some one tells me something .You know there was a man that helped me a lot in my recovery until one time i mentioned God said to me and he stopped me right there and said you know Toot that is what he called me he said God hasn't talked to anyone since Moses right there i had doubt about this friend and sure enough my doubt became reality see i had been having visions and talking to God for a long time . So that friend ship ended when it became obvious he was using me to feed his ego and he was a Mason so go figure.
I will share a story if it is OK Later Father came to me the other day out of nowhere in my doubts and said come i want to show you and tell you something . But i will check and see if this story is OK to tell ,but it will have to be later cause i have got to get to town and take care of my responsibilities. But the story is a question i have had my whole life and wondered and when he came it was not because i had ask this was all his doings it surprised me .
I would really like to talk more own this subject and my journey with it . Tooter
Honestly, gender has not been part of my process just yet. I'm really at a point that I am questioning the source of our rules and limitations (ie: Bible). It's just happens to be the place I decided I wanted to start questioning. Corruption through thousands of years of rulers who believe their ways are correct or just want things their way. I ask myself how much of it can be interpreted correctly these days.
Seehorse, I do agree that damnation of others is surely not the answer. But like I said, I'm sort of in the beginning of really thinking about all this.
Tooter, I would love to hear that story!
The bible is a history book and a learning tool but most take it out of context as it is not complete. Constantine left a lot out and had his scribes change a few things when he put the bible together. "God" or a higher being or whatever you call him/her would not put you here to burn in hades that is why he gave us a soul & free will to chose to do right or wrong. It was wrong to fire that man because of what he believes in his God. My father who was roman catholic said it is ok to question god as the priest do not have all answers & if you listen god will answer. He was one of the only (he passes away awhile back) people who never condememed me on my belief in wicca. He said if you don't ask you can't learn
I also wpould love top hear your story tooter when you have time to post.
This article really describes a lot of what I thought about growing up... I didn't understand how so much "hate" and segregation could come from something that is supposed to save your soul...?
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I've studied and been many relgions in my youth but could never completely deny being a spiritualist. Yet it was hard to be a spiritualist when mostly you are part of your parents choice for you or your environment--I grew up very catholic but felt many aspects were not my truth so I searched many religions and again felt my truths missing.I believe there is no religion that can be proved---all relgion is a matter of faith--and that faith becomes that person's truth. It is a knowing. I believe more evil has been done in the name of God when god comes to some a wolf in sheeps clothing. I call it ignorance--because people who go against love which is God it is not their intention to be evil--they actually are feeling rightchouse---as Jesus sad--forgive them father for they know not what they do. Ignorance. Very hard to argue with ignorance--it is as if karma has to teach that person their ignorance by walking a mile in those same shoes. I believe no matter what religion we all die and are judgded in soul light by the amount of love we gathered---God is pure love--we return to that God energy--we only take with us love---every moment we gave it or savoured it--that's all we are after crossing over. All there is is love. Where there is love--there is God. Love liberates.
jlinaangel I would Love to tell that story but i would also like to tell another story about my faith and the why i talk so much about truth and the light of truth and Love every writing i have posted own this forum has been for a reason .
But i will not go were i an not wanted or ask to be and i even broke that word today out of love and for only love and i do hope it was received that way also, but this is your tread and some of the things i will say might confuse a lot of people and it is sure not meant to do that or bring fear but knowledge and the knowledge that has been given to me buy Father and this will come in 3 stories the first one i promised i would tell you if and only after i talked to Father and i will tell you what he said he said yes that is OK but Tooter you know there are those who will come against you and i told him i know .So it is up to you this is your tread and what i say is for the good of all based on Love and Truth Love Tooter
Thank you for posting this Jlina. I have to agree with AngelaVictoria, this has been my "truth" all my life. I have always maintained that there are good people in this world that do not believe in God, do not read the bible, do not pray, or go to Church on Sundays. Yet according to so called Christians, these people will burn in H.ell because of this.
It never made sense to me. I am also of the mind that if I am loving enough to forgive others for their wrongdoings then surely God is. In fact I know He is, He works through me. Yet again, many Christians disagree.
Tooter, as always my heart and mind are open to your words of wisdom.
PisceanHealer, i couldn't agree more. I once asked a priest (i am Christian Orthodox) if a buddhist monk who has never hurt anyone is going to purgatory because he doesn't believe in Jesus. His answer was "yes, definitely". From this moment on, i stopped believing in any dogma.
I can only percieve God as Love, and love teaches, doesn't punish. I personally find the whole concept of divine judgement on us totally unacceptable. Maybe thats why i strongly believe in reincarnation. I remember a wonderful concept "we are spiritual beings having a human experience". I like to believe that our immortal spirits come to this material world many times, in order to collect experiences both good and bad, lessons if you like, and so progress a little towards heaven with each life. In our final reincarnation we come to realize the final truth, that life in the material world is pointless. Our true destiny is the spiritual world. It's just a theory OK ? but it is something i like to believe, and would love to hear anyone's thoughts on this.
I agree with your theory Seehorse. In fact, it was brought to my attention recently that we all sit with God before we are born in order to decide what our life's lessons are going to be this time round. At the end we are invited to go through the process again.
All my life I have felt I have been "around the block" many a time. I genuinely do feel like an old soul. This lifetime feels like my last on Earth at times, I haven't been afraid of dying for a very long time. Not to say that I am ready to die just yet mind you!
Everything I am "suffering" for is in order for me to grow spiritually and to reconnect to the Divine, which adds to my sense of this being my last go on the roundabout of life
Very nice, PisceanHealer!
I like it...
It seems we are getting somewhere....i don't know where, but i like it ! Time for another theory..... i think it is a mistake to consider God as another entity. What i'm trying to say is i have that feeling each of us is a tiny drop of water and all together we form an ocean, God. I know that many stuck in their beliefs would consider that to be hubris, i don't mind. It's just a different fairy tale (and not one drenched in blood like the Old Testament haha). If i remember correctly, Jesus once said "i tell you, you ARE gods". He did not say "you can be" or you'll never be" gods. But YOU ARE. (Please feel free to correct me if i'm wrong, it has been a long time since i've read the New Testament...sorry!)
...Try to read God's Debris by Scott Adams if you get a chance! I don't know if admin will allow me to post that...
It's a thought experiment that uses logic to explain almost what you said, SeeHorse. Obviously it's more than logic in real life... but the way it makes sense would blow many minds!
Seehorse You have it right more than you know i am going now to write that story and knowing me it will probably be long LOL but i will not post it here unless Julianna oks it and i might start a tread for it not to bring anymissgivings to you all Tooter
Tooter, love your words of wisdom too. And Not too sure about the God thing for me yet, i do understand it though, God. Is Love, is what i believe too, but i guess that we can be God in our own way as well. Love all Bee Xx
Thanks Angela ! I will try to find this book, i've got the feeling it will be fascinating ! And Delbertc i think we are ALL waiting for your story !
I am happy i took that step into the world. I have the chance to share thoughts i've never told anyone, and i really believe EVERYTHING has a reason behind it. Maybe we are all here to teach each other, and that would be wonderful !
Another one of my thoughts : Imagine yourself on a snow capped mountain. You reach out with your hands, take some snow and you form a little snowball. And you release it. As it rolls and rolls it accumulates more snow, becoming bigger until it becomes an unstoppable avalanche. But it can also just stop after a few yards. My point is you will never know, unless you release the ball.....the same thing can happen with an idea. It can be really stupid, or change the world !
I just love all these thoughts!
I am very open minded and love the ideas.......but have to say that reading post today have made my stomach drop. I'm not sure it has landed anywhere yet. Kinda like when my ex told me he wanted a divorce, I knew my life was never going to be the same. I'm not sure where my emotions are taking me with it all, but I can say I feel like something opened up great big and wide for me to walk into.