A reflection on the inconsistency of hell with the ethical call of discipleship
I have no disagreement with such explanation.
Experience, scripture and the study of human history testifies to that. In fact, it is my study of history that I find significance in the redeeming work of Christ that I believe humanity finds salvation from its present predicament, ultimately reconciling us from our present alienation from God.
However, I find the fire and brimstone rhetoric of preachers that tries to paint a vivid picture of Jonathan Edwards’ Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, every Sunday or every available occasion to guilt us enough to have the fearful motivation to step forward for the alter call, to raise our hands amidst the closed eyes and bowed heads of the congregation or to repeat after the pastor’s rendition of the Sinner’s Prayer.
The reason why I find hell and eternal damnation hard to believe is because it runs contrary to the ethical call of the Scriptures. It generally contradicts the kind of life that God wants us to live. Whereas we are called to exhibit grace, show mercy, to care and love the unlovable, eternal damnation somehow overrides such values that God expects from man.
The God who calls us to demonstrate grace towards others ---to give unmerited favor towards another ---would contradict Himself by refraining to exercise such grace by sending one to hell because they did not accept Jesus as their ‘personal lord and savior’.
I find it hard to believe in hell because it seems to make Jesus’ death and resurrection limited in its efficacy as the divine bridge of reconciliation between God and humanity. In a sense it shows that hate still triumphs over the greatest expression of self-giving love towards the other.
Please note that I am not a universalist what I’ve written above are insights on my struggle to understand God and the long-held understanding of eternal torment in Christian theology. What I do hold on to is that God is gracious and that the crucial point is that God’s grace is free grace: it is nothing other than God himself acting in freedom. And if God acts in freedom, then we can neither deny nor affirm the possibility of universal salvation. We can only hope that all will be saved.