Monday, May 04, 2009

Hell, yes?

Crossings Knoxville is currently in the midst of a series called "Not Beyond Reason" (see, for example, here), a series heavily influenced by Tim Keller's The Reason for God and trying to be a postmodernist approach to apologetics. Each sermon asks a question that has historically been difficult for Christianity to face squarely and which many people currently cite as one reason for not accepting the claims of the Christian faith (e.g., How can Christians claim to be the only true religion?). Each sermon also begins with a 5–7 minute prepared but unscripted conversation between two or three people that presents the question in broad strokes and seeks to demonstrate a thoughtful and tolerant approach to these difficult questions that doesn't simply abandon the traditional or biblical Christian claim.

In yesterday's sermon, which asked "How can a loving God send someone to hell?" a guy named Kevin made a great point in the opening conversation about hell and judgment and the church's behavior regarding such things. He noted that we have been too willing to take on those things that, biblically, God has reserved for himself—judgment, vengeance, etc.—while neglecting those things that God has genuinely called us to engage—service, love, outreach, etc.

I thought this was a great point. Whatever you think about hell and the difficulties it presents to Christian theology, the biblical teachings about judgment have been distorted by our [the church's] willingness to "help" God exercise judgment and our neglect of the call to transform and restore creation. In other words, hell—always a difficult subject no matter how you approach it—wouldn't be quite problem it is if Christians didn't seem so excited about the idea of peering over the edge of heaven and looking down on those suffering. Many of the problems facing the church's reputation, I think, could be addressed if we were genuinely terrified by the idea of a single person suffering judgment rather than a loving and healthy relationship with a sovereign God.

This video, which I ran across a few months ago and which we played in yesterday's services, makes a similar point, but now from the perspective of Penn Jillette, an outspoken and well reasoned atheist.

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