Some thoughts on heaven and hell


The internet has been alive with all sorts of views and opinions on Rob Bell and his forth coming book (for light relief) if you have five minutes spare, do take a look at this case of mistaken identity, I can’t help but smile, especially at this tweet

I have a ticket to listen to Rob Bell in April at Cheltenham (thanks to my friend Martin), and while I am looking forward to this, it has made me reflect on things such as the status we elevate people to (aka hero worship), but more of that another time.
I have had this post in the draft folder for a while, but now seems as good a time as any to get it out and dust it down.

I grew up believing that after you die, that is it, nothing until the second coming of Jesus.  Over the last few years I  have unpicked (deconstructed, if you must) some of this, in an effort to work through inconsistencies with the teachings I grew up with*.  As an example, I learnt Jesus will return and set-up a Kingdom, so far so good, (although this was clothed with a fixation on Ezekiel’s version of a temple and a fundamentalist application of most of Revelation), but mixed up in all of this is some kind of rapture theology – inasmuch as when the trumpet sounds, we will whisked off to heaven). No wonder I have been confused!

Well, One of the books I have been reading on and off over the last few years is Surprised by Hope. It is a fantastic book. It has really helped me to find the theological roots for a lot of the stuff I now believe (and believe to be important), and it has been really helpful in ordering some of my thoughts. I am also finding it an inspiration for some studies I want / need to do.

Part of the book I have enjoyed is the way  NT Wright articulates the significance of resurrection and pulls it away from the individualistic application of it that is so dominant across Christianity, and paints the picture of all of creation being restored; that the heavens and the earth will be fully redeemed at some point as the final act of the work started at the crucifixion of Jesus.  All so often we see a corporate face of a church/community maintaining there is not much point of doing anything now about the problems in the world, as Jesus will come back and make the whole lot better. Well, I disagree with this stance.

Actually,  I am diametrically opposed to it.

We are not `restoring a great painting that’s shortly going to be thrown on the fire’, rather what we do now matters; this earth is God’s and will not be destroyed, but rather restored, as we will also be restored. So we need to take this earth – its beauties, our environment, our bodies, justice, God’s rule – with the utmost seriousness. God’s rule is one where love wins and for me, that does speak against the generally accepted teaching of hell.

The notion of “life after `life after death`” has also really caught my curiosity (and I am now taking another look at the section of the Shack where Mack is in the cave seeing his daughter through the waterfall).

Still, I am not fully clear on what might actually happens when we die, but err on the stance that, as the writer of Ecclesiastes says, the dead know nothing.  Anyway I am certainly thinking a-fresh the beliefs I have been taught that I have never challenged and look forward to Rob’s new book and hearing him talk about it in April.


*update: when I refer to the teaching I grew up with, I do need to point out that these were not those taught to me by my mum and dad, but were the official and generally accepted doctrines of the community I was part of. As in any community, there was a diversity of views and opinions and some tolerance. That said, I didn’t really experience that much in the congregation I was a part of. I am grateful for the day-to-day lessons my parents taught me, how to live as a follower of Jesus, how to live the kingdom on a day-by-day basis. It was this foundation that has enabled me to think for myself, to question, challenge, weigh up and make my own choice, and not the choices other people think I should make .

When I use reflections on my past to shape my blog posts, it is about me, and not to knock anyone, nor to say I am right and they are wrong. I talk more about this here.



2 Responses to “Some thoughts on heaven and hell”

  1. Tobit, I completely agree.
    Had been thinking of constructing a post myself but then thought it would be just jumping on the bandwaggon, so glad to see you’ve had this on ice for a bit.

    The thing that has jumped out for me in reading all the various blogs and comments on this Rob Bell / John Piper fracas is the depths fellow ‘christians’ are prepared to stoop to to crash eachother over the head with (out of context) scripture to backup their ‘right’ theology / stance on the issue.

    It really saddens me and indeed, as it must many others, puts me right off christianity as a whole.

    People are too concerned about ‘being right’ to be loving.

    Then people say that they aren’t being loving if they fail to ‘correct’ someone who is clearly ‘in the wrong’.

    Then you get the ‘you are misunderstanding grace if you don’t properly pull people up on their incorrect theologies and doctrines’.

    I’ve heard phrases thrown back and forth accusing Rob Bell of being a ‘Wolf in sheep’s clothing’, about John Piper being ‘a jerk’, and it really upsets me that people are so desperate to proselytise other christians rather than living like Christ and showing in the way the interact with everyone that the way of Christ is truly a better way.

    If I was a non-Christian reading any of this stuff, I’d walk away.

    In fact I seem to remember Ghandi saying:

    “Oh yes, I love Jesus, I just wish more Christians acted like him.”

    I guess it’s sobering and humbling and encourages us to search our own hearts as much as anything.

    Grace and peace bro, keep it coming, keep it real, keep it Jesussy.

    Love to you both


    • 2 tobit

      ha, i nearly called the post ‘jumping on the band wagon’… then adding a load of random links to other sites and posting the link to mine on all those blogs out there that are currently melting, but decided to have a cup of tea and chuck more wood on the fire instead.

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