Friday, January 25, 2008

More on hell -- conclusion

This post will be shorter as far as the remaining common questions are concerned. I'm going to start with some more details about my background, which may be especially helpful to those of you whom have never met me in person.

You should know that by nature I am not a rebel. I am a pleaser. I do not like to rock the boat. Everything in me likes to go with the flow and avoid conflict. So for me to face up to what was happening inside me, and then begin exploring new concepts of theology and eschatology... well, that's a big deal. It was evidence to me that this was something very profound and important, and something I needed to see through to the end.

If there even is an end. If anything I'm more unsure than ever on doctrinal grounds, but my spirit is finding peace for the first time in my adult life. My intentions are pure -- I am seeking truth and seeking what will be most useful and helpful to myself, my family and everyone I impact.

The response from people has continued to be very encouraging! I now have an email link in my profile, so if you don't feel comfortable making a public comment you can still communicate with me if you want to. On to the next questions...

#3 -- If everyone is saved, what was the point of Jesus?

I see lots of possibilities here, but many of them could cause problems for 21st Century Christians. So to make it shorter and safer, I'll stick with the assumption that the death of Jesus was a literal payment for sin (a.k.a. the atonement model).

If Jesus' sacrifice made salvation possible, why would that be any less important if everyone was saved? To paraphrase a fellow blogger's illustration, imagine that a building catches fire and 100 children are inside. A firefighter dies in his rescue attempt but manages to save two children, while the other 98 die. We would still call the firefighter a hero, wouldn't we? He might have a parade in his honor, a beautiful and well-attended funeral, charitable funds in his name, etc...

Would he be any less of a hero if he had saved all 100 children? Of course not! If anything his complete success and self-sacrifice would be even more heroic. And without the firefighter's death all 100 children would have surely perished instead. So I have to admit confusion at the idea that Jesus' sacrifice is meaningless if it covers everybody. Perhaps some of you can leave comments or emails to help me understand better.

In the end, I see much mystery in the life and sacrifice of Jesus, and how that shapes our current lives and expectation of afterlife. And for now I'm comfortable with mystery.

#4 -- What bad sin are you trying to justify by taking away hell?

This is often an unspoken fear, but I believe it's common. I can assure you that in terms of my own story, I have no new sins that I am looking to justify. I'm still seriously flawed, and have plenty of skeletons in the closet, but they've been there for a long time and will probably be there when I die.

Sidenote: Jamie read this and fearfully asked, "What are your skeletons?" I confessed that my biggest is vanity, but really, if you've seen me in person you can't really blame me for that one. That was a joke. Sidenote over.

Ironically, I've never been more kind and loving in my life than I've been once I gave up the need to be kind and loving. If you've been where I am then no explanation is necessary. If you've not been where I am, no explanation will be sufficient. I'll close with a very short tale(maybe true, maybe not), again borrowed from a friend. It's about 19th Century universalist Hosea Ballou:

Ballou was riding the circuit in the New Hampshire hills with a Baptist minister one day, arguing theology as they traveled. At one point, the Baptist looked over and said, "Brother Ballou, if I were a Universalist and feared not the fires of hell, I could hit you over the head, steal your horse and saddle, and ride away, and I'd still go to heaven."

Hosea Ballou looked over at him and said, "If you were a Universalist, the idea would never occur to you."

What's on Tap

Time for some lighter fare, I think. Here's some stuff I was thinking about:

-- My favorite movies watched in 2007
-- My favorite rock vocalists from the 90s
-- Household tales - man/woman differences
-- YMCA stories (oh, yes... I have more)

Don't forget you can now get my email address from my profile (Click on "View my complete profile" on the bottom of the "About me" section on the right side of this page).

See ya!



Andrew said...

"Ironically, I've never been more kind and loving in my life than I've been once I gave up the need to be kind and loving."

I agree. I found that with "sin" too. Everyone disses universalism because they think it is a license to sin, but I found I have felt a stronger urge for truth and social justice since I became a Universalist. My desire for goodness has grown, not lessened. My compassion is much deeper.

Funny that.

Hal Johnson said...

Thanks for this series of posts, Michael. I've been familiar with Universalism for a good while, but I'd never really investigated it as a fold within Christianity.

Don R said...

I would echo the same as Andrew. Thank you, Michael for the forum you have made here for those of us who see God in perhaps a different light.

MamaRose said...

"Ye shall know the truth & the TRUTH SHALL SET YOU FREE"!!!!!!!!!
That's KFV, of course, the FIRST way I LEARNED/memorized it--but, IT IS TRUE & YOU ARE SEEKING & "KNOCKING" & THE DOOR WILL BE OPENED UNTO TO!!!!!!!!!

We believe that God makes us ALL with a 'God-shaped' HOLE in our HEARTS & UNTIL we 'FIND HIM' & FILL that hole, we won't have TRUE PEACE, here--SO, YOU KEEP SEARCHING & we'll pray for you & your search--feel free to talk to us & discuss anything with us at ANY TIME!!!!!!!!! We're LEARNING & GROWING, TOO, STILL!!!!!!!!!!!!!

MamaRose said...

Oops!!!!!!!!! --That's 'MAKE' you FREE--sorry--set you free, sounds like it from some movie, huh??!!!!
Love, Mom

Jules said...

Michael Redlefty, Thank you for being so brave in laying open your heart and your private thoughts for people like me in your recent blogs. You have expressed many of the same thoughts I have been struggling with over recent years. But you've done way more research than me! I cheat and just read everyone else's blogs! THANK YOU for your clarity. God bless you heaps.

Redlefty said...

You're welcome, everyone. The sharing and acceptance I've seen people give each other in the comments makes it all worthwhile.

Mike said...

Great series, sorry it's over!

Redlefty said...

Well, perhaps "conclusion" was too strong a word for the post title.

There's certainly so much more to say -- I'll just hit some other topics for a while and then come back to this.