Following up on the Rob Bell issue of earlier this week where he brought forth to the public forum an issue many have been contemplating for years but haven't been brave enough (or stupid enough depending on how you look at it) to say aloud.
Hell may not be a literal place.
I know it goes against "tradition beliefs" and years of church tradition and teachings (insert Galileo here from my previous post) but there is the possibility that there is no literal place as Hell. As with many things in the bible, the words and stories and parables and understandings that were common to that time were used (again see previous post). We can point to references in the bible (extremely few in the Old Testament) and somewhat more in the New Testament that elude to the underworld or Hades or Hell or the Valley of Hinnom (Gehenna) or the grave. While some consider it a literal place of torment, others still feel that it is a separation from God. Death itself. Not judgemental damnation for being a bad person nor a reward system (heaven) for being a good person. Just a state of being after a worldly existence.
Even with all of that (and that is barely touching the surface) the question I ask is "Does it really matter?", this concept of hell? I know to some it really does. I had a southern baptist pastor tell me that he uses this "fear of hell" to convert people to Christ and finds it legit. Many are serious about "saving others" from this eternal torment and getting the name Jesus out there. A lot of twisted doctrine is based upon this line of thinking and "the Great Commission" as certain faith systems have defined it.
I think fortunately for me I grew up in a faith system that used another tactic. One that showed a merciful, loving and gracious God. These traits and stories of the bible that reflected that image of God was much more prevalent in my early years (and still today overall) than the Fire And Brimstone God that many others were introduced too. And that difference led to another approach to Christianity for me, or in another way of putting it, a different motivation.
For me, Hell does not matter one way or another. Whether literally a place of torment and excruciating pain for eternity or just death and separation from God.
I am not motivated by Fear. I am motivated by Love.
I seek relationship with the Father in my feeble ways and try to practice the teachings of His Son. I am compelled by a God who loves me and all of His children to be the person I am. I am not compelled to be a good Christian because I fear being thrown into a really hot place for eternity. Many see Salvation as an insurance policy against the fires of "hell". I see "salvation" as having the opportunity to live in relationship with God and one another here in the present world and the one too come.
Do does Hell exist? Who cares. ~npp