Now you tell me there is no place of unutterable and eternal suffering.
First of all, how did Franky Schaeffer become the spokesman for the anti-hell side of the discussion? I thought he threw over Christianity all together? Didn’t his white hot hatred of all things religious righty turn him into an agnostic or a Marxist or something?
No such luck. Consider his take on the existence of hell. I have rarely read something this shallow that didn’t come out of Washington.
Since Christianity is my tradition, I can say more about it. One view of God – the more fundamentalist view – is of a retributive God just itching to punish those who “stray.”
The other equally ancient view, going right back into the New Testament era, is of an all-forgiving God who in the person of Jesus Christ ended the era of scapegoat sacrifice, retribution and punishment forever.
As Jesus said on the cross: “Forgive them for they know not what they do.”
That redemptive view holds that far from God being a retributive God seeking justice, God is a merciful father who loves all his children equally. This is the less-known view today because fundamentalists – through televangelists and others – have been so loud and dominant in North American culture.
But for all that, this redemptive view is no less real.
Why does our view of hell matter? Because believers in hell believe in revenge. And according to brain chemistry studies, taking revenge and nurturing resentment is a major source of life-destroying stress.
So the God of the Old Testament, as opposed to the God of the New Testament, is really really stressed out, what with the Amorites and Girgishites and all the other ites running around?
Good gravy. Now there is room for reasonable, historically and theologically informed discussion about what the first century understood by God’s final judgment, Gehenna, the lake of fire, etc. and how that may have become mutated into a bad Rob Zombie movie during the Middle Ages. Read the literature on purgatory, never mind on hell, right up to the twentieth century and you get the gist of how clergy loved to play these terror mind games with laity, especially kids. Some sick stuff.
But Schaeffer’s sentimental view of a cuddly deity bears no relation to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Or the Father of Jesus. But I guess He’s the God of the religious right only.
Which is not to say that Schaeffer gets everything wrong. Luther was the one who emphasized that, if you want to know who God is, look to the Cross of Christ. The Cross should be the prism through which we view everything, even notions of God’s justice (which Schaeffer reduces to mere vengeance). But that does not mean that there are no dire, even eternal consequences to rejecting Life.
Driscoll’s take is what you would expect. Turn or burn. Except he leaves out the Calvinist distinctive: whether you turn or whether you burn has nothing to do with you.
The stark reality is this: either Jesus suffered for your sins to rescue you from hell, or you will suffer for your sins in hell. These are the only two options and you have an eternal decision to make.
Really? A decision? Hmm… (Yeah, yeah, I know: you still have to preach it, because God uses means. Nevertheless, pay no attention to the man behind the pulpit.)
In any event, this gruesome “My Turn” is just marketing fodder for a new documentary called Hellbound? Next time, if you’re going to host one of these “Jane, you ignorant slut” challenges, I’d rather hear from someone like Greg Boyd, who is an annihilationist, than Franky Schaeffer, a smart guy who could be doing something really creative with his gifts but whose sell-by date was about a week after he got that HuffoPo blog and started ringing the “I Can’t Shake My Fundamentalist Past Ooooh How I Hate Them Ooooh” bell. (Franky, we got it. Honest. You don’t have to tell us again. Like, we’re begging you.)
As for the traditional view of eternal suffering, maybe Jonathan Fisk will start getting some MSM face time, what with his new book coming out.