Recently, I was having a conversation with one of James’ friends about a verse that James posted on his facebook wall. Needless to say, I’m not sure if the conversation is still actually going or if last reply was so long that he didn’t really want to deal with it. Either way, whatever. I really enjoyed the conversation. However, during the course of the conversation, he asked some pretty tough, but typical questions that non-Christians like to ask in order to stump us Christians and prove that we’re, well… either crazy or wrong (unless someone is genuinely seeking answers, then they’re just really tough questions that have the tendency to hang people up because they’re so mind-boggling).
So this gentleman, of course, asked about hell. Most Christians have a nice little answer that they’ve heard their entire lives and generally just give that answer without much additional thought. I’ve certainly done that and tried to make it okay by adding the ‘I haven’t really researched this’ caveat. This time, because the conversation was via facebook, I actually had the luxury of taking the time to research my answer and to look at what is ACTUALLY said about hell in the Bible. Needless to say, I was COMPLETELY and UTTERLY surprised by what I found. To the point where I’m not actually 100% sure about my answer.
However, I’ve sat on it for a couple weeks now, waiting to see if he’ll actually reply to what I said and I have yet to hear. I decided that I wanted a second opinion about what I had found, so I posed it to my women’s Life Group on our closed facebook page. That was just yesterday so I’m not REALLY expecting a slough of answers yet, but one I HAVE gotten has made me think, but probably not for the reasons you would think.
The only answer I’ve gotten so far is “I’m no theologian, I just know what I know and I know that God is good”. My initial response is ‘I’m not a theologian either, I simply looked in the Bible to see what it ACTUALLY said.” I provided the references for the precise reason that none of us are theologians – these are the verses that led me to my conclusion and I wanted others to read them and see what conclusion they would draw.
That aside, though, how often do we Christians use ‘I’m no theologian’ as an excuse to NOT dig into the Bible and to NOT really try to find what it says? Is it really some mysterious book that is SO far beyond us normal, non-pastor, non-theologians that we’re unable to find answers for ourselves? Or is it that we’re subtly told that from the beginning? Or is that it’s a REALLY big book with something to say about LOTS of things and it’s just kind of hard to navigate sometimes? Maybe it’s because I’ve been in school my whole life, spent the past 2 years learning how to research and it’s simply that skill that has taken over and others who don’t ever do research just don’t have the skills?
Honestly, it makes me sad because that’s the kind of reasoning that leads to others believing that Christians accept everything on blind faith and that God hates questions and doubts and things of that nature. BUT THAT ISN’T THE CASE!!! In the Bible itself, (Isaiah 1:18) God says to the Israelites, ‘Come now, let us reason together…’. After doing a little more digging, the original word is actually closer to ‘an argument such as one used in a court of law’. When do you EVER hear about a court case settled on blind faith or intuition? NEVER! God isn’t expecting us to do so, either! We need to reason, to research, to look for ourselves and QUESTION. Why are we so afraid or unwilling to do that?
Now, of COURSE I’m going to share what this guy said and my reply because I’d be a jerk not to now that I’ve written a whole post dealing with thoughts arising from this conversation.
(The dude) What makes God a bad guy is His creating hell in the first place, creating the criteria for who qualifies for a one-way trip there — while knowing full well who will end up there and why long before blinking them into existence (which puts paid to the idea that He’s given us “free will” to begin with). It was His game to create, and He decided to create a game where unsupported credulity would spare his sentient creations the agony of eternal torture. Given the powers of omnipotence, I’m pretty sure most folks could come up with a much nicer game — maybe one where everyone wins cupcakes and a puppy.
(Me) This leads me to your statement of “God creating hell in the first place”. This is something that actually hadn’t occurred to me until right now. If you look at Genesis 1:1, it says “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Where is the mention of creating hell? The only place I could find where there was any mention of a creation of hell is in Matthew 25:41 “…into the fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Hell wasn’t even created for humans! Also, if you look at Revelation 12:9, Satan wasn’t immediately cast into hell. He was cast to the earth, with all of his angels. Later in that chapter, verse 19, it says that “the dragon (Satan) was enraged and went off to make war with those who obey God’s commands.”
What do you think? Am I way off the mark (as in having misread or misinterpreted something) or have I surprised myself with this crazy truth?
What are your thoughts? (about anything I’ve said, not just the conversation excerpt)