A Journey of faith within the church, the culture and the world
Monday, February 13, 2012
There’s been a lot of blogging activity generated lately about Hell, especially since writers like N. T. Wright, Rob Bell, and Rachel Held Evans (I’m just finishing her book, Evolving in Monkey Town – I highly recommend it) have questioned some of the traditional views about the topic. I know it’s risky even bringing up the subject, since asking questions like these often results in accusations of heresy or universalism. Nevertheless, I’d like to add a question.
If what some people say about Hell—its tortuous environment, its isolation from God, its hopelessness, its eternality—is all true, then in the end, does evil win? Rob Bell says that Love Wins, and I think he’s on to something. But if others are right, then doesn’t evil win as well?
Maybe Satan and his minions don’t conquer God, but in some scenarios he gets his own kingdom in the end. Evil doesn’t get destroyed after all—it just gets its own eternal territory. In that everlasting house of horrors, evil has its way with all who have not qualified for Heaven, either because they prayed wrongly (or not at all), they believed wrongly (or not at all), they were born on the wrong side of the planet or at the wrong time in history, or because they were just hideous and evil in their crummy 65 years or so on earth. If those are the ways people get damned forever, then one would expect some irony in the smoky gathering in Hades. After all, Hitler (who was clearly hideous and evil) must be there right along with all the Jewish people he slaughtered, since they didn’t believe rightly. Right?
Hell appears to be a place where the heavenly cry in Revelation 21 does not apply. It’s only in the new heaven and the new earth where God “. . .will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away” (Rev 21:4). Not all the first things, of course. Evil gets to stick around. In Hell, evil wins. Forever. And ever. In it’s own private kingdom. And God can’t interfere. Those are the rules.
So does God lose? If you win some and lose some, you still lose something. Right?
In spite of the fact that it is dangerous to question these kinds of things in the evangelical community, I recommend we do it anyway. I’m not suggesting that we acquiesce to our own discomforts or play fast and loose with orthodox faith, but I am suggesting that we re-examine what is orthodox in the first place. Is it ever possible that we might get things wrong?
There is something wrong with our orthodoxy if evil wins in the end.