This morning I started reading Rob Bell's "Love Wins". It is deceptively pithy, and it took me longer to read a few pages than I would have expected given the large type and simple writing style. An earlier work of Bell, "Velvet Elvis", was very influential in my spirtitual journey and very liberating.
I suspect that this book will advocate some form of universalism. I have universalist tendencies myself. Hell makes no sense to me at all. The whole concept of this fleeting life as a test with eternal ramifications makes even less sense to me. It causes me to question the very notion of an afterlife.
In one passage, Bell writes about how someone had once remarked that the great peacemaker Gandhi is in hell. I have been thinking about this all day. Some folks reckon that Gandhi is right there with Hitler in eternal torment. And maybe Hitler was introduced to the Four Spiritual Laws in his bunker in Berlin and prayed the formulaic prayer to receive Jesus as his "personal Lord and Savior" right before he died, in which case Hitler's in heaven! Does this make any sense at all?
I'm not saying that Gandhi deserves to be in heaven and Hitler deserves to be in hell. Nobody deserves anything. For me, it ain't about deserving. It's about what a loving God might be expected to do. It's about the boundaries, or lack thereof, of grace. Would a loving God create weak mortals, predestine them to act in certain ways and then torment them forever because they acted as they were ordained to act? I suppose that it's possible, but it boggles the mind and confuses the heart to contemplate it. I suppose that if I end up in hell, it might be for my own good or for the furtherance of some grand unfathomable purpose.
Maybe the suffering of the damned is meant to entertain and amuse the saved in heaven and to enhance their experience by serving as a contrast to the bliss which they enjoy. Think how lucky and grateful you would feel if you were spared the torments which were inflicted on people who had been no worse than you in life, maybe even better. Of course, if you really enjoyed the suffering all that much, you'd be kind of a douche.