Hell or not

by Andrea Elizabeth

Seventh, whether or not you believe in an eternal torment for the unsaved will depend in large measure on your broader sense of soteriology and Christology. Did Christ come to save us from hell?  Or did he come to profess the love of God and call together the community of the faithful that will work to redeem the world?  I can’t help but suspect that there is, behind this skepticism toward hell, a skepticism toward the broader vision of substitutionary atonement, a skepticism toward the whole narrative of original sin and the need for eternal justice to be satisfied through the sacrifice of Christ.  Hell makes no sense if the work of Christ is mostly to communicate God’s love to us and encourage us to love one another.  It makes more sense if there is indeed a fundamental rupture of sin between humankind and God, if the holiness of God requires justice, and if the only way to be reconciled to God is by grace through faith in Christ. (from Love Fails – Rob Bell, Hellgate, and the Ethics of Christian Conversation, h/t fb friend)

I think there’s a third way to understand hell besides through the doctrine of substitutionary atonement and universalism. Substitutionary atonement implies an anthropomorphic idea of God and his wrath, which is what turns a lot of people off to western Christianity. To me (I hopefully understand from the Orthodox), life and love are God, so to reject God is to reject life and love, which is existentially, hell. “Keep your mind in hell and do not despair” has to do with the pain of repentance with the help of God’s grace, which is His healing presence. Like Christ with the three youths in the fiery furnace. If one doesn’t repent, he will suffer torment eternally. Sort of like Gollum jumping into the flames. His fixation on seductive alternatives was too habitual.