Heaven and Hell

The following tidbit from Carl McColman pretty much sums up the way I have thought about the whole eternal reward/punishment thing for years and years. It’s in the book, too: see if there is any divergence between the following comment and, say, John 3:19-21.

It’s impossible to be separated from God. Hell is not about being separated from God, it’s about choosing to resist the fire of Divine Love. Then, instead of making us incandescent, it burns. Integral consciousness recognizes that the key to heaven and hell lies within our heart. We are all predestined to spend eternity immersed in the presence of God, bearing the beams of God’s love. How we experience those beams — as heavy and burdensome, or as joyous as light — is, thanks to the free gift of grace, pretty much left up to us.


9 thoughts on “Heaven and Hell

  1. I suppose your viewing the subject of “hell” is akin to standing on some rail road tracks with a freight train bearing down on you at 100 m.p.h., all the while repeating the mantra, “Tis only a divergence between fact and my view of reality.”

  2. You seem to think, mistakenly, that I have presented a view that “hell” doesn’t exist. Please re-read the quote, and the text: “And this is the condemnation, that men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For he who does evil hates the light, nor does he come to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he who does what is true comes to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest that they are done in God.”

    To say that the eternal Light shines everywhere does not indicate that there is no condemnation, only that those who would prefer to be in darkness, who would rather, that is, be blind, indeed find the light torturous. It is this understanding which is in agreement, not in divergence, with this text.

    Of course, there are other texts. If one were to begin with this one, however, it might be seen that to be separate from God would be a mercy for those who hate God’s presence, and even that references to the “outer darkness” could then only be understood in terms of a merciful God…. but if McColman is right above, even so this would be evidence of God’s allowing to the sinner a continuing willful blindness rather than an actual separation: “Whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend into heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.” (Ps. 139:7b-8)

    All that is not of God, that is to say, not of love, is to be destroyed by the presence of God himself. And our God —the God whose nature is love— is a consuming fire.

  3. Yes, I also think McColman’s “take” on Hell is an attractive view. We know the NT language on Hell is symbolic. But, what is an interpretation that gives good sense to the symbolism? That’s the question. I also think Hell is a reality (as you do).

  4. ” We know the NT language on Hell is symbolic.”

    What? Who is we? I have to comment on your Jehovah Witness salad bar theology. If you believe that Hell is symbolic, where do you draw the line with other doctrines? I say this because I often debate JW’s about their warped views and I will extend the same to liberals. I know that by my actions and lack of integrity, I certainly deserve to be separated from God for eternity (Hell); however, I have to recall by my faith that the expletives mouthed from Golgotha (It is finished) have much significance to my God included eternal destiny–only if my will chooses it!

    p.s. the Psalm 139 reference above is a shortcoming of the quoted translation–it is Hades not Gehenna–correct spelling?

    Guys–the Bible is a book of balance–you need to find some “ying with your yang”!

  5. Anonmuss,

    A slight critique, perhaps if you spent less time trying to debate (and insult for that matter) people over theology, you would in fact come closer to the meaning of Jesus’ commandment to ‘love one’s neighbor as one self.’

    Perhaps then you can find some balance between your intellectual pursuit and your call to be a follower of Christ. Or if that is not something you think is a problem, perhaps it would do some good to contemplate that labeling someone’s views as warped (liberals and Jehovah’s Witnesses) is not giving them the amount of respect that they deserve.

    In the end, I don’t think you can argue your way into heaven, so why could you argue other people into it? I think language is a necessary aspect of human life, but faith deals in action. Abraham the father of faith was silent throughout his ordeal of faith.

    As faith is action, it might be interesting to consider that indoctrination is not faith. In fact, I think many times I see indoctrination as the death of faith. So I would say it like this: “Faith must be shown in certain actions, but repeating those certain actions is not necessarily faith.”

    Anyway, some things to chew on.

  6. Thanks, Dave, for your response to our anonymous friend. I’m going to steal your line about arguing people into heaven; well put.

    For my own response, here’s where I draw the line: While all human language is to some extent symbolic, I think that the declaration that God is Love is as literal as anything can be, that the command to love your neighbor and your enemy is not to be explained away by any kind of righteous excuse, and the same goes for forgiveness (“for if you do not forgive others, neither will my heavenly Father forgive you”). It’s at the point where I choose to forgive others that free will enters in, and without that I am cut off from the light of God. I have no control (thank God!) over God’s gracious decision to forgive me, only over whether or not I will participate in that gift by offering it in turn to others. Jesus makes it abundantly clear that the Hell of which he speaks with uncomfortable frequency belongs to those who, having received, only want to keep God’s goodness for themselves. I’ll be glad to provide examples with references upon request.

  7. Just a further note: our anonymous friend talks against using symbolic language about Hell, but proceeds in the same paragraph to interpret the rich array of biblical symbology associated with She’ol, Hades, the Gehenna of fire, worms that don’t die, the outer darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth, debtor’s prison, the lake of fire, being turned over to the torturers, torment, a great gulf fixed, etc., with the simple phrase: “separated from God forever.” How is that not a theological interpretation which by the simple fact of its presentation presumes the symbolic nature of all of these former images?

  8. p.p.s….. the reference in Psalm 139 above is to She’ol, literally the grave, interpreted when translated into Greek by use of the word Hades, thus associating the Hebrew images of death and oblivion with the Greek imaginative mythology of the underworld, which is where we get much of the colorful imagery used by, say, Dante. One could argue that the importation of these pagan notions into the theological discourse was divinely inspired based on the fact that the Apostles wrote in Greek, not Hebrew, and thus perforce went with (in some instances) the word the translators of the LXX had used; but that raises interesting questions about the willingness of the God of Israel to interact with pagan ideas of all sorts.

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