Monday, February 02, 2009

A Loving God and Hell

The sermon yesterday was about hell, a topic almost never brought up in our church. After all, it's not a fear of hell that informs our church, but the Holy Spirit. What happens when we die is not the emphasis except at funerals. The preacher rightly pointed out that Jesus spoke of hell a few times, using the words Gehenna, the local garbage dump and Hades, the realm of the dead. In the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, the rich man suffers and Lazarus, poor in life, is comforted. The rich man's life was founded on his wealth, and its loss meant that in Hades he was nothing. Abraham was in Hades, too, as indeed were all the dead.

The preacher remarked that the people in hell are beloved of God and forgiven their transgressions but that their choices in life put them in a place of separation from God. My take on heaven and hell is that we all end up in the same place but that folks who are self centered and proud won't like it there for some reason.

One bit of the sermon that I took issue with was when the preacher said that God doesn't send anyone to hell but that he respects our choice. That doesn't sound very Calvinistic to me. Them as end up in hell were ordained to be there from the beginning of the age. In what sense did they have a choice?

The whole narrative of fall and redemption makes less and less sense to me every day. I'm beginning to think that a better narrative is to think of mankind as becoming sentient and in need of God's intervention. Before sentience, we were as innocent as the other wild beasts. After sentience, we wanted looking after.

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