Posts Tagged ‘eternity

08
May
09

For the Hell of It

galaxy-blueSo it was just a couple days ago I posted on My Black and Secret Heart, and as I noticed in the comments, and as I’ve encountered before, there is a point of view that the idea of Hell is incompatible with the idea of a loving God.

I would disagree. In part because I think we attach too much tradition and perhaps incorrect assumptions about Hell. Really, it isn’t described in detail in the Bible. Its role isn’t fully explained. It doesn’t even seem to be permanent, as it apparently gets tossed in the Lake of Fire eventually. And the Lake of Fire, for that matter, has to be at least somewhat allegorical, because I doubt that God is literally maintaining a huge lake of flames in which to toss everything.

Now, one might argue: If Hell isn’t a punishment for not following God’s rules, then why doesn’t the Bible tell us that explicitly? Well, note that the New Testament talks much about love and a relationship with God, whereas the Old Testament treats the relationship more as a master/servant or lord/subject model. And yet, God didn’t start out in an authoritarian mode with Adam. What we fail to see is that God had to snap us to attention when we broke trust, and He had to call attention to the error of our ways, and He had to bring about a way to heal the damage. It would be nice to think that the New Testament would just say, “Hell isn’t about punishment; it’s about the choice between growing and being part of God’s plans, or separating yourselves from those plans because you don’t like them.”

But you know what? That would have been kind of a hard and huge transition for the Jews of the time, or even the Gentiles. I think we are expected to have grown in our spiritual outlook and divine God’s intent to bring us into a family mode. The New Testament was written in a time of transition from the old convenant to the new convenant.

So, with that notion in mind, I’m not so sure Hell is about suffering or punishment. It may be. But I think we shouldn’t assume that. I do think that at the very least, it is separation from God, for either a very long time or forever. Again, I couldn’t say for sure either way.

But what if Hell isn’t about making us pay for our sins but about protecting creation itself? Bear with me here, as I make a slight aside.

If you haven’t seen the movie Defending Your Life, I highly recommend that you do. It’s a brilliant romantic comedy, in my opinion, and poses some interesting theological questions in the process of tickling the funny bone. The basic premise is that when we die on Earth, we go to Judgment City, where we basically stand trial to prove we have overcome our fears in life. If you prove that, you move on to the next intellectual/spiritual plane and evolve to the next level. If not, you get reincarnated to do it all over again.

Albert Brooks, sitting in the office of his Judgment City defender, is confused about all this. His defender explains that the universe is like a big machine and people are the cogs. The universe doesn’t want faulty parts, so people get sent back until they get it right. Appalled to find out just how many times he’s been sent back already through the ages, Albert Brooks’ character asks, basically, “So if I don’t prove I’m over my fears, I just get sent back over and over and over again?” To which his defender responds, “No. Eventually the universe will just throw you out.”

My point?

God doesn’t need or want people who are broken and want to stay broken. He doesn’t need people who are going to be contrary to his purpose for creation.

Let’s remember, for a moment, that we are “created in God’s image.” The angels were not. So what sets us apart from them in Heaven? I suspect it’s the fact that we have the power and potential to access and alter creation in much the same way that God can. We are far from God’s level, but imagine what we each could become, given eternity in which to develop.

Imagine what damage could be wreaked by selfish or hopeless people with even a smattering of such power.

What if the point of Heaven vs. Hell is the decision as to whether you want to move on and evolve or whether you don’t give a damn. If you don’t want to move on, you won’t. And that, I believe, is when you go to Hell.

Do you get a chance to rethink? I don’t know. Maybe in that decision you are basically saying, “Just throw me out, because I don’t want to change or grow.” Maybe you are simply erased at that point; a faulty part that had to be thrown away. Or maybe you are placed somewhere you can’t do any harm, but can continue in that static existence that you won’t shrug off.

God isn’t trying to keep people out of Heaven, but I do think He wants to ensure that those who go there really want to be there, and to be there for the right reasons.

Hell of a thought, eh?

24
Nov
08

The Eternal Question

eye_of_godWhen questioning the judgment, sanity and/or intelligence of Christians, the array of potential critics (atheists, agnostics and religious non-Christians) have several tried-and-true avenues of argument they can fall back on. Two of the of the better ones, of course, are to simply argue the silliness of the concept of an all-powerful “invisible man in the sky” or to argue that we as humans couldn’t possibly have enough grasp on reality to know the true path of the spiritual, since too many people disagree.

Not going to argue either of those today. Instead, I’m going to go for what I consider to be the second-runner up of all-time fallback arguments against Christianity:

If your God is so freaking kind and merciful and loving and wonderful, why did He do [insert controversial God-sanctioned activity documented in the Bible here], how could He be permit [insert current or past person of questionable moral character here] to live, and how could He allow [insert the most heinous, mind-rending scenario you are aware of or could imagine here] to occur?

Well, before I respond, I would like you to suspend your possible disbelief in an infinitely powerful, eternal being. Really. I mean, you were smart enough to come up with arguments against God or my particular model of God, so I know you can conceptualize an all-powerful entity. OK, cool. Got that  disbelief suspended? Great. We’ll get to that in a moment, right after I ask you a counter-question to the one above.

If you were told that you were about to be subjected to the most intense agony the human mind could experience without shattering entirely, that said pain would last approximately one second, and you would receive several billion dollars for going through the process, what would you do?

Accept the deal, of course. And if you don’t, you’re an idiot.

Which brings me to my point. God is dealing in eternity. Infinity. All the time in the universe and then some.

As horrible as anything that has happened or will happen might be, it is a tiny moment in time compared to eternity. So tiny as to be even less significant than that one second of unbelievable agony I mentioned. God is operating on a framework wherein your end reward is unending and better than anything you can imagine. In this context, there is no atrocity, no event and no disaster that could even come close to denting that. No suffering that Earth, people and Satan subjects us to compares to what God offers us.

Yeah, I know. A lot of you are going to say, “But Deac, by your own admissions in this blog, not everyone is getting that nice reward at the end. So they get shit on Earth and then eternally shittier shit after that. Yay for them, huh?”

Indeed, I believe in Hell and I believe in damnation. I also believe that the only people who are going to get that bitter end are going to be the hardheaded morons who will refuse to acknowledge their sin and their failure to be what they should have been in terms of following God’s word. The damned will be the people who didn’t get it on Earth, refuse to get the message in Hell, and decide that God is a flipping dipshit that they don’t want to spend eternity with anyway because as far as they’re concerned, they didn’t do anything wrong. Those folks get whatever crap they had on Earth, whatever crap they got in Hell, and will move on the Lake of Fire when God wraps up affairs here on this planet and have eternal separation from the good stuff. And frankly they’ll deserve it for being such egocentric self-satisfied remorseless morons, and yes, there will be plenty of souls who take that route, in my opinion.

I don’t believe that God relishes any of our suffering. I think it pains Him greatly. But you know, it pains me to deny my kids something they really want or to punish them in some way. But I do those things because in the end, I’m trying to do the right things for them to grow, and I know that compared to the spans of their lives, God willing that they live long ones, whatever pain they experienced will be a minor thing compared to what they take with them into their maturity.

09
Apr
08

The party that never ends?

“Why go for Jesus? All the fun people will be in Hell.”

That’s not a verbatim punchline as far as I know, but it’s the jist of a lot of stand-up jokes about the relative value of living for God in this life vs. living for oneself. And it’s funny, I’ll grant you. Any decent comedian can get at least a chuckle from me with a joke like that. Really, I do have a frickin’ sense of humor, folks, despite being a born-again Christian. Lewis Black, George Carlin and everyone in the Original Kings of Comedy tour rank really big in my comedy pantheon.

And you know what, I might even agree with the joke. A lot of the “fun” people probably are in Hell, and they might very well be having the time of their afterlives right now.

It’s a popular notion that Hell is all about torment and gruesome punishments but let’s face it, the Bible makes analogies about Hell; it uses imagery. Nowhere does anyone, to the best of my knowledge, really give a detailed description of what Hell is and what goes on there. Dante had some fun playing around with the concept in The Divine Comedy, and the Sandman series of mature comics (a literary classic in its own right) also had some interesting opinions on what Hell is and why people really end up there, particularly in the “Season of Mists” story arc.

I don’t necessarily believe Hell is about tormenting folks directly. I think Hell is about making the wrong choice for eternity and putting your heart and soul into bodily pleasures rather than earnestly desiring something better. I think it’s entirely possible Satan has made Hell a very fun place for a lot of lost souls. Party central. I imagine he didn’t make many (if any) rules for people to follow. Which probably also means people probably abuse each other in the name of pleasure, too, but that’s a whole other story. You can probably get as much food, drink, drugs and sex as you could possibly want. And you’re already dead, so nothing to worry about, right? Pleasure without judgment or consequences. Every man and woman can reach for all the pleasures they couldn’t get in life and more. Fun stuff.

Until you finally exhaust the limits of carnal pleasures and realize how empty the choice really was. When you finally notice that you had a soul with so much spiritual potential and decided to ignore that. That’s the point at which you come to the knowledge that you utterly spurned Jesus and God and the Holy Spirit, and went for the base and limited pleasures. How much pleasure is endless partying going to be after a few dozen millenia? I doubt that Satan is setting out any meaningful pursuits. I’ll bet he’s setting out a very attractive buffet of nothing but carnal pleasures.

But you know what? God ain’t giving us harp lessons in Heaven, people. I don’t know what he’s giving us, but I know it’s going to be fantastic, and it is only a soul that seeks him and that admits its failings and sins and desires for something so much better that will be admitted to Heaven and equipped to do those fantastic things. In the comment section of one my recent posts, I mused a bit on what the afterlife might hold. Just to give you a sense of the huge things that could possibly be in store, I’ll share it again with you here (it’s a bit longish…if you want to skip the preamble and set-up, you can skip to the last paragraph of my ramblings):

Let’s imagine that you are a being who has created a universe. You have created servants to be part of your comings and goings through the cosmos (those would be the angels) but what you want is to populate the universe with beings who are not simply spiritual creatures who SERVE you but beings in your own image (spiritually) who can LOVE you. Freely. And thus bring you from being a singular being to the head of a family.

So, you decide to start small because, after all, you’re dealing in eternity here, and if you do anything fast, you’re going to have a lot of time to kill. You create beings (or modify beings) on one insignificant rock in the universe and give them that spiritual spark that mirrors your own spiritual blaze. You give them free will so that they can choose to be part of your family or reject you and be part of Satan’s. Your first two beings out of the starting gate, not completely unexpectedly, take the seemingly more attractive path of disobedience, and mar their spiritual natures in such a way that they essentially become dead to you.

But you still have love for them, and so you work within the tainted and fouled pool they have created to bring forth, thousand, tens of thousands or millions of years later, a being who embodies your spiritual nature but is, unlike you, in physical form and can bridge the gap between you and your lost children, thus creating a way for the family to begin forming up again.

Of course, this is still a huge work in progress, because the system you have set up is about faith and spiritual existence and sinless behavior. It’s your rules, still, and people are a long ways from internalizing those rules and, more important still, doing it because they WANT to and want to love you and not because you force them to. So humanity, even after the arrival of Jesus, continues to be a haphazard mix of the faithful and faithless and fence-sitters. But you know that as things progress, you will get a certain critical mass of those who choose your path.

Now, why choose one planet? Why choose a certain group (the Hebrews) to start fixing the mess humans made? Why choose one savior? Because again, you’re dealing in eternity, and there’s no rush. In fact, to do things in a rushed fashion is simply to create the end YOU want without getting any satisfaction (or us getting any growth) from the process.

So, let’s fast-forward to the end times, whenever they come. The situation on earth reaches the tipping point you’ve been working toward, when you finally bring everyone who’s willing into the family fold and finally settle the nonsense with Satan and the people who even after spending time disconnected from you after death and aware that they are spiritually dead, still don’t want to be connected to you. Now you have a new heaven and a new earth…you have sons and daughters who have shucked off their mortal coils and want to be with you as family and not created servants like the angels are. There is still a universe out there. Untold numbers of planets and a spiritual family that finally gets what you’re about (or mostly does). If you started things rolling on earth but planted the seeds for life in millions of other worlds as well, now you have young races coming up to whom you and your children can go, and build up THEIR spiritual natures in a similar manner. Perhaps, with your family having your spark but not your omni-everything power, your new sons and daughters maybe even create worlds of their own or small universes or whatever else. In other words, there is plenty of work and plenty to do, even with eternity staring you and your children in the spiritual face.

So, there may not be any fires to sear your eternal flesh or pitchforks to prod you in the ass if you go to Hell. But what’s going to happen when it all ends and Hell is cast into the Lake of Fire and you’ve still decided that you don’t want to give up on that big party Satan’s been throwing? Now you’ve earned yourself eternal separation from God and everyone else in Heaven. I suspect that once the baser pleasures have been exhausted, eternity is going to start looking pretty awful.

That’s just a theory. But it’s often conjectured that we create and choose our own Hell. And a lot of people are going to assume Heaven is all about bowing and scraping before God’s throne instead of realizing that God is a pretty big thinker. He has grander plans for us. Things we cannot imagine. But we have to want what He’s offering and reject what seems like so much more fun: sex, drugs and rock-and-roll for eternity.




Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

Jeff Bouley

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