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pursuing the upward call with fear and trembling

just a 44 year old man seeking to share my meanderings with the world at large or the blogosphere at small

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Thoughts On Thinking

I took a class in seminary on Theories of History, which was quite interesting. The one class i really wanted to take that wasn't offered though was Theories of Knowledge. Thinking has been a source of immense analysis and study as long as I can imagine. Entire libraries could exist on just this subject alone. Why do we think what we think?? What makes each one us have certain things we think as opposed to others?? Neurobiology,neuropsychology are growing fields of scientific study right now. Nature or nurture??? Which has more effect on our thinking???

The whole notion of fear vs love is rattling around my head, especially after having just read Furious Pursuit which explicitly states Gods love far outweighs fear and the ways evangelism or theology have been done in a fear-based manner. Did Jesus use fear as a motivator??? Did Jesus use fear as a teaching tool??? As I contemplate Scripture and Jesus words and relating to all He came in contact with i really don't see that He did. The whole concept of hell comes into play here though. Nothing has a basis for more fear, to my mind anyway, than the idea of eternal torment in hell. Many sermons and lessons have been preached and taught based on it and with its reality as a basis for turning to God. Jesus spoke of hell when confronting the Pharisees and Jewish leaders. I think His meaning differed than what we have come to traditionally understand hell to mean though. Gehenna is the actual word which is translated as hell. For Jesus hearers, it would represent pain,suffering,judgment. It would have struck a deep nerve to the Jewish leaders, especially as they knew Gods judgments in the OT.

What fuels our thinking of hell??? What causes some to think hell has to be a place of eternal conscious torment and others to think of it as a symbol of Gods judgment for unbelief and disobedience??? Hope to hear all thoughts :)


At 12:44 AM, Anonymous mariam said...

You can be a universalist like me and still believe in hell. I believe that God is every faithful and that God, like the father of the prodigal son, never gives up waiting for us to return to his loving arms. The difference is that I don't think this faithfulness stops with our death. I don't know what the afterlife looks like but I am convinced that God does not give up on us simply because our physical shell ceases to operate. However, is everybody zapped straight into Heaven after they die? I don't think so.

If we have not really learned to do God's will during our short stay on earth or understood His will we will not be ready to enter his Kingdom and we will continue to suffer as a result of our own willfulness until we do. You know Adam and Eve's problem was not so much disobedience as it was ignorance. God tells them they will surely die if they eat the forbidden fruit but they don't know what death is, having never experienced it. Seriously, would God really allow such a pair, untouched by the knowledge of good and evil, barely self-aware, only recently made sapient to determine the course of the universe? Of course not. The story of Eden is our story. It is the story of how God offers us a paradise, tells us what we have to do to stay there and how we just don't get it and go our own way with disastrous results. Why does God not allow Adam and Eve to stay in Paradise? Because they are not ready for it. Until we can see why we must accept God's will and accept that way with gratitude we are not ready for eternity. An eternity spent creating one disaster after another for ourselves would truly be hell. Hell is what we make for ourselves (and other people) when we go our own way instead of God's.

I believe that Hell is also the mirror God will hold up for us so that we are made fully aware of the consequences of our deeds. When we are judged we will not be able to hide or lie or pretend our motives were really good intentions. That shame will burn like fire and the longer we take to acknowledge the truth about ourselves the longer we will be mired in that shame. Just as in the story of the rich man and Lazarus we see that the rich man has to face the shame of the way he treated Lazarus and we see that the rich man, even in his torment, has not been abandoned by God. God is still waiting for him to understand and acknowledge his wrongdoings. His first demand of God is selfish and stunningly ignorant - "I'm burning up down here. Send Lazarus down with some water." He is told that he never did anything for Lazarus when he was alive and this is what it feels like to be treated in that way. He next thought is slightly less selfish, but still focussed on his own kin. He asks that his family might be warned of what they will face. But, as God points out, they have already had many opportunities to learn God's will and another message won't help. God's answer is not one of wrath but a statement of fact. Each man will only listen when he or she is ready. But the important message from this parable is that God has not abandoned the rich man, even in the hell he has created for himself. God is still talking to him, still helping him to understand what he needs to learn before the rich man can cross that chasm between where he is and where God is. continues in next comment.>>

At 12:47 AM, Anonymous mariam said...

Yes, in a sense I suppose for most of us, there will be a sort of "hell" to be faced after death. I believe there are very few of us who have gratefully and wholeheartedly pursued the will of God, such that we are ready for eternity. We still need work. And hell is the fire that will cleanse and purify us, while God heals our sorrows and wounds. But will that hell be eternal? That is not consistent with a loving God and with scripture. God wills that none should perish. God is ever faithful - even unto death. As the Psalmist says, “Where can I escape from God? He is with me even if I go down into the Pit.”

So what is the point of even trying to follow God's will if we will all be saved in the end anyway? Well, the sooner we find and stay on that narrow path, the sooner we get out of the hell we have made for ourselves. I know that I will have a lot to answer for and I know I don't deserve heaven, nor do I believe I am ready for eternal life. I don't think that just on the other side of death it is going to be very comfortable for me - but I do believe in God's faithfulness and I believe He will not abandon me until I am ready to join Him in His kingdom. So while I fear what is to come in one way I also know that eventually, with God's grace, He will help me find my way across that chasm and that eternity will be wondrous.


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