Free From Hell

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Mark Judkins Helpsmeet

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Hell

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Could the God of Love create a system which condemns the majority of humanity to Hell? Universalism, i.e., the belief in Universal Salvation, says no, and I agree.

Hell was a stumbling block on my way to God.

Here’s what I was told: God loves us each with a love greater than any parent, enough to leave 99 sheep in order to look for a single lost sheep, so much that he would give his only begotten son for us, and yet that same God set it up so that the vast majority of people on Earth are going to spend eternity tormented in hell’s fiery pits. It made no sense to me. It still doesn’t.

I was led to think that you either believed in hell and God’s vengeance, or you couldn’t be a Christian. I couldn’t accept those conditions. I was told that folks who never learned of Christ, such as unbaptized babies and inhabitants of remote jungles, were condemned to everlasting punishment for the happenstance of their births. No loving parent could do that to his children, and I couldn’t believe it of the loving God I knew. This was a wedge between me and the faith I was raised in.

An early glimpse of alternative Christian thought came during one of my first visits to a Quaker meeting. I was told by another young adult that she didn’t believe in hell. This was amazing to me, that she could be a Quaker in good standing and not share a religious belief that I thought was universal. I’ve since learned that there is an entire strain of Christianity, dating to the very first followers of Christ, that believes in Universal Salvation, and the belief is even sprinkled among some members of the Catholic, Russian Orthodox and Pentecostal churches.

It’s a little strange for me, a Quaker, to dwell at all on hell. After all, you won’t hear a lot of debate about hell and salvation in Quaker circles. Part of that is because Quakerism is a non-creedal religion and such theology is often beside the point, but it’s also because we also tend to recognize God’s Light in each and every person.

Why do so many churches give hell so much pulpit time? While I’m sure most are simply earnest in their beliefs, there may be other factors. For one thing, it’s an effective conversion tool to whip up fear of damnation. Experience says you can speed church growth if you push the fear button, and hell is a scary prospect. I think that says more about organizational priorities than God’s viewpoint.

The best treatment of Universalism I’ve read is in 2 books co-written by Philip Gulley and James Mulholland, "If Grace Is True" and "If God Is Love". They are Quaker pastors (though many Quakers, like those in Eau Claire, do not have pastors), and their exploration of universal salvation is fearless, faithful, and steeped in their experience of Christ. It would take multiple books to address the many issues involved, but I’d like to share a few ideas that may intrigue you and encourage you to encounter the question more deeply.

>>>>    The Bible contains many passages that promise universal salvation. The Bible also contains a number of passages promising hell. It’s not a choice of believing the Bible or not, it’s about which Biblical promise you believe.

>>>>    Some churches have said that our “free will” was what allowed us to reject God’s love and promise. They say it’s not God condemning us to hell, it’s us choosing to separate ourselves from God. But what if God rejects our rejection? At one time or another, many children tell their parents they hate them, but the best parents only return love, ever welcoming their child’s eventual return. Could God do any less?

>>>>    Why should God’s power to redeem us end with the life of our bodies? Who picked death as the arbitrary moment when we had to put up or shut up? If the soul is eternal, surely God can wait as long as it takes for the return of Prodigal Son or Daughter.

>>>>    Some fear that without the threat of hell, no one would bother to turn to God. That just isn’t reality. God’s love and healing are powerfully attractive. What’s more, compliance won by threat and fear is not salvation, anymore than the torture of the Spanish Inquisition really won souls for Christ. It’s not a bother to turn to God, it’s a blessing.

If we remove our hell-colored glasses and realize that God’s grace is universal, it’s the end of fear and the start of something really great. It’s the possibility to let grace permeate every person, action and institution. We become part of a world where there are no unworthies, no least-of-these to be disdained. We no longer cringe fearfully, but stride joyfully into the Peaceable Kingdom.

Is it time to welcome Amazing Grace for everyone?
 

Broadcast Date(s): 

2/7/2009
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Comments

Response to Lawrence's comments

I'll toss my 2-cents-worth here in about Lawrence's comments - I appreciate the feedback. While I don't expect that Lawrence will agree with me, I can provide ample evidence of my statements. One of statements that Lawrence apparently ignored, is that the Bible contains statements on both sides. In other words, in some places it implies that NO ONE will go to hell, and in other places (more popular for hell-fire and damnation oriented preachers) it definitely refers to people going to hell. The Bible is NOT of one mind on this issue. There's a lot more to be said, but the essay was limited to 800 words, for my local paper. If you want a full, thoughtful, careful treatment of the topic, read Gulley & Mulholland's books, "If Grace is True" and "If God is Love" - my comments are a weak echo of what they have to say. And I thank you again, Lawrence Felip, for your comments, and I promise to be as faithful to God's Word as I am able. Mark Helpsmeet

Freedom of religion

Dear Lawrence Felipe The U. S. A. is a free country last I knew ...that would mean freedom of or from religion. It is not right that you impose your religious views here. I for one thought "Free from Hell" was a Great read and quite true.

Wrong direction

sorry "Wrong direction" Using your secular "rationalism" will always send you in the right direction

Second guessing the Lord

Wow. just Wow. Do you even believe in Jesus? Your article assumes second guessing the Lord, do you know how dangerous this is? Especially if the unsaved take your point of view seriously. The main reason most people who follow Jesus "get it" ,(meaning what the Bible means in scripture) is through the Holy Spirit, who gives us discernment. The Lord loves completely, and he has a completely opposite plan for those who reject him. You cannot attempt to understand the Lords' plan/intentions in human terms- far from it. We live by faith and trust in Him, regardless of our human reservations. Allow yourself to trust COMPLETELY in the Lord. It will Indeed set you free. The Spirit does seem to be within you my brother. Using your secular "rationalism" will always send you in the right direction. Choose which promises to believe? Wow. I'll seriously ask the Spirit to speak with you my friend.

Thanks

Very good show Mark. Thank you

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