Things I Don’t Believe in Any More
This is the first installment in a series I will be writing on things I don’t believe in any more. The titles may sound fantastical, but the point is not shock value. These are thoughts I have been reflecting on for a long while, and I feel that the change is fundamental enough to warrant strong wording. I hope you not only find them insightful, but worth engaging. I welcome your comments. If you wish, you may post a comment below. If you would like to talk in person, just grab me at our worship gathering this Sunday. Let’s jump in!
I Don’t Believe in Hell
Over the last five years or so my view on hell has undergone a change enough that I have considered not using the term hell any more in regards to the state of those who the church deems as “lost for eternity.” The term hell has certain connotations that I feel are not helpful if the purpose of the church is to make disciples and to be in relationship with Jesus. This is not to say that I don’t believe in an eternal state for those who have not embraced Jesus Christ and the new life found in him. I believe in such a state, just not in the traditional way. Lastly, I believe in the love and grace of God so much that I am willing to be labeled as one who doesn’t believe in hell in order to highlight the winsomeness of Jesus, which is much more powerful than the threat of hell. I will briefly expand on these thoughts below on why I don’t believe in hell any more.
If not hell, then what? Before I say what it is, I will say what I think it is not. It is not a myth. Many well intentioned people have tried to explain it away. But with Scripture as our guide, there seems to be plenty of evidence supporting a place of anguish in the next life for those who did not walk faithfully with Jesus in this life. On the flip-side, God does not hate us either, looking for any reason to sadistically punish our every sin through unending torture. Remember John 3:16? Thirdly, hell is often characterized as separation from God. You may call me a heretic over this, but I believe it is impossible to be outside of God’s presence, even in hell. In this life, we are limited from seeing God in the fullness of his glory. In the next life, that filter is removed, and we will see him as he is. When we experience God’s salvation through Jesus, our spirits are made alive, and he lives within us by the Holy Spirit. This miraculous transformation will allow us to abide in his unfiltered glory. Anything less will be anguish and torment for in our unregenerate state will not be able to stand in his presence due to our sinfulness. What is holy and beautiful to the ones made alive in Christ is painful and vile to those who have not repented and have chosen the way that leads to death.
Lastly, love wins. In the letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul appealed to the power of grace to the extent that he was accused of harboring licentiousness. Likewise, I appeal to the power of love. As I said above, I am willing to be labeled as one who doesn’t believe in hell so that I may spend my energies loving people into the kingdom of God, rather than scaring the hell out of them.
So, what do I believe in if I don’t believe in hell? I believe in the glory and holiness of God that we must all be reconciled with in this age and the age to come. For some it is love, joy, and peace as none have ever known. For others it is every darkness being brought into the light with all its requisite shame and guilt, hence wailing and gnashing of teeth.
In this article I have continued to use the label hell for this regretful state. I have yet to come up with a more suited one, but my main contention is that I don’t want to taint God’s glory with the characteristics attributed to hell.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.
(1 Corinthians 13:12, NASB)
Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27, NIV)
Grace and peace,