My title is not an existential question but rather a simple introduction as to why I created this blog.
I have ideas. I want to share them. I want to shake things up and plant some seeds in peoples minds on a subject that has become pretty big for me. That subject is the notion that the God who revealed Himself in the beauty and majesty of His creation and then in the mystery and miracle of the bible and then in the truth, love and power of His Son is in fact a Love so big and so wise and so creative that there is no possible way hell could or would even need to be a forever kind of thing.
Am I a Universalist?
Yes I guess that could be said. But what kind of Universalist am I? I am not a Unitarian. I believe Jesus Christ is the only true salvation for mankind. I believe in the Nicene Creed as well as the Apostles Creed, neither of which demand belief in eternal conscious torment, by the way. I will refer to that often in my posts as ECT or infernalism as I learned the term from Brad Jersak’s writing.
Do I believe in hell?
Yes, but not in a hell that is ruled by wrath and hopelessness. I believe in a hell whose keys are firmly in the hands of Jesus Christ the Son of God who by love sacrifice bought back every soul He ever breathed into existence. I have the audacity to believe that Jesus has the passionate determination and the power and the wisdom to ultimately apprehend everyone He paid for. What I do not believe in is a Hitleresque, Nebuchadnezzary pride fueled furnace whereby God sacrifices children of His creation to Molech.
Oh I did believe in that for a long time, but not because I had seriously thought about it, but because I was a good boy who nodded to the music being played by the Evangelical/Charismatic bandwagon. Tradition and peer pressure and religion are a powerful cocktail.
I began my “journey out of hell” like an ugly, violent theological prison break where many ideological guards had to be killed for me to get out. All of this took place within the recesses of my own being of course. It was a kind of wrestling with God ala Jacob. I had reached a place, after 30 years in the pulpit, where deep conflicts were churning within me. You see, I wandered a bit too far from the guided Holy Land tour and began to see the ugly injustices and inconsistencies between the what my Evangelical/Charismatic grooming had taught me and what was really going on in the world and in the history of the world. I actually listened to the logical objections and philosophical challenges of some very polite atheists. After all, the bible is supposed to have the answers for all of man’s deepest yearnings. Yet they had questions that my biblical framework had no answers for. It was frustrating. I prayed to God and began to see a terrible injustice regarding all the souls who had lived and died having never heard the gospel. Then you have to throw in all the Pseudo Christians as we Pharisees like to think of them. When you add the Cults and Catholics and Democrats who obviously would not make heaven, I began to realize hell was going to be where nearly everybody was going to end up. Heaven seemed like a sparsely populated exclusive gated community.
I prayed and agonized and read. Then I stumbled on a strange and gentle website called “God’s plan for all”. I had never read such a radically different way of viewing the scriptures on salvation in which I could find no fault. I remember telling my wife, “This is so different, yet I can’t find fault in it.” Well I put it aside and went on trying to bury the nagging questions and incongruities in my theology.
Then I began to really get concerned about some loved ones whose souls I treasure above all others. They were away from God and despite my best efforts (and likely due to my many failures) they were ambivalent towards my Savior and my faith. I began to imagine them burning forever in hell. That’s when insanity began to claw at my door. How could I love a God who was prepared to hate the people that I loved in such a cruel and infernal way? My relationship with God began to suffer. I struggled with resentment and corrosion in my faith.
Now at this point I can imagine that some will be quite satisfied to begin diagnosing my ailments and prescribing scriptures and analyzing root causes. Save yourself the trouble because I have been teaching the bible Sundays and Wednesdays for 30 years and have led numerous people to Christ and through every crisis known to man. Yes I am an active full time Pastor. Not only that, but just so you will understand that I’m not considered to be a lightweight by any measure I have been told on numerous occasions over the years that I rank among the best teachers many people have ever enjoyed, and they have attended numerous churches. That is simply God’s grace answering my prayers to feed his people and give us the spirit of wisdom and revelation to know Him more. That said, I’m also quite sure that many would find me to be an insufferable heretic of one kind or another if they got to listen to my sermons. But that, I dare say, is a greater commentary about the online Christian culture than it is about me.
So getting back to my birthing pains, I began to ask questions of the all knowing Google. Is hell forever? Why is hell forever? If God is love how can he send people to hell forever? I found a lot of opinions from people who defended the traditional view. The logic they used to defend eternal hell was unsatisfying and ill conceived and filled with strained biblical interpretations. My favorite (as in most hated) was the notion that God is eternal, therefore every sin against God deserves eternal punishment. Wow. Wheres the scripture for that? It’s a purely philosophical argument from people who demand everything be proof texted.
Thankfully I soon stumbled upon the glorious mess that is Tentmaker.org and that was like finding The Lost City of Gold. It was the most liberating and powerful set of arguments and studies I had ever read which was rooted in the history of the church going back to the earliest fathers. As I devoured the hundreds of articles and links and out of print books Gary Amirault laboriously transcribed to his website, I felt like a new Christian all over again.
Brother Gary passed away about a month after I discovered his website. Be sure to read this heartfelt tribute that I’m sure represents the sentiments of many who were touched by his work.
From there I followed the bread crumb trails to books by the likes of Robin Perry, Thomas Talbott, Brad Jersak and many others who have helped Christians see the fuller dimension of God’s love and plan for mankind.
This blog will contain my explorations of the issues surrounding Christianity tainted by a poisonous view of God’s judgement and the effort to put out the fires of Gehenna that burn on the tongue of popular Christianity today. Hopefully I can add one more voice to what promises to be the next great reformation of the faith and the rediscovery of a truth lost for thousands of years.
God is the savior of all men, especially those who believe.