Sunday, February 1, 2015

When Hell Freezes Over (or chills for a year)

Reading on Patheos I was surprised to see a post entitled "Giving up Hell for a Year: How it could revolutionize our relationships". While my initial expectations were low (I expected a warmed over copycat of Ryan Bell's Year Without God) I was pleasantly surprised.

The article discussed different views of Hell, not as rare an event as it used to be (fyi, I still consider "The Fire That Consumes" by Fudge to be the best book to point out gaps in the logic of the traditional view of Hell and punishment even if I no longer believe). It then went on to provide an empathy-inspired discussion of how Hell consciousness mucks up communication between the saved and unsaved.

It proposes a year-long moratorium on Hell discussions while encouraging believers to focus on other aspects of their relationship with non-believers. Is this a good or bad thing? I think this one epiphany for the writer "Christians usually suck at being good friends when they are preoccupied with hell" and the fact that many will read it makes the whole enterprise worthwhile.

That said my approach to a believer who tried this would be very different depending on whether we had a prior relationship or not. If I had been a prior recipient of his Hell-infused attentions I would welcome this with open arms, so long as he were to be open and honest about what was going to happen, with but one caveat: at the end of the year we'd do an objective evaluation of the year together compared to our prior relationship and make decisions about future boundaries and discussions based on the results.

 Were I to meet a believer during this year and she were to befriend me, I think I would have a different reaction, where I would question whether I had ever met the "real" her. Thinking that someone accepts you and is substantially different from other "Bible Christians" you meet, only to discover it was part of a "project" would be disheartening. So I'd think that some sort of disclosure was in order if a friendship were developing.

 All of this may be moot as there has been significant criticism of the whole idea from "true believers" (go find 'em yourself, I'm not giving them traffic) who see it as compromise and being unfaithful. I think they're half a bubble off level because:

  1. They demonstrate they don't really believe in the sovereignty of  God, since he could make up for the lack of Hell-talk on person A's part with content from person B if it were truly necessary to His plan.
  2. They neglect the fact that the Apostles spent little to no time talking about Hell with non-believers (don't take my word, go check it out)
  3. They seem to enjoy the idea of sharing Hell-talk far too much and that sort of sadistic glee is a good reason to find a counsellor to chat with (one with a licence, not the Holy Spirit).
It can be hard for believers to get something off the ground in the face of this sort of negative response, so I don't know what will happen. My hope would be if someone tried it, that they would not only think about how it affects their friends, but take a long hard look at themselves and see how thinking about people, rather than punishment changed them (for the better I'll wager).

It's cold enough here today for Hell to freeze over, and only getting colder the next couple of days, so there may be hope yet.

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