The recent book by Pastor Rob Bell of Mars Church in Grandview Michigan and the controversy surrounding it has reignited one of my biggest criticisms of popular Christianity. I say popular Christianity, because I think this is one of those cases where the popular idea of God, is not what the scriptures actually teach, but what people like to believe, or worse yet, what power seeking church leaders like to promote, to scare people into submission to their religious views and doctrines.
When Jesus spoke of his Father in Heaven, he spoke of him as though there was a real personal relationship between them. He spoke of this same Father, as being the father of all people on the earth. When speaking of the magnanimous nature of this Father in heaven, Jesus related to it in the following way:
Or what man is there of you, who, if his son shall ask him for a loaf, will give him a stone; or if he shall ask for a fish, will give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? – Matthew 7:9-11
In Romans chapter 3, the apostle Paul gives a sermon about how justification is freely given through the grace of God, and not of works, but through faith. He emphasizes that all people are sinners and that salvation is not earned by specific acts or beliefs. Does believing the wrong thing really disqualify somebody for the grace of God? Can a born again Christian really believe that correctness of doctrine is necessary for someone to enter the kingdom of God? It flies in the face of the belief that grace is freely given through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. If salvation is free, it is free, no tokens, no money, no works, no correct doctrine will be required as a test of faith. If faith is all that is required, then the faith that God the Father loves his children and will not give them a stone when bread is desired should be sufficient.
There is much in this world that is still left up for debate. Neither religion, nor philosophy, nor science has discovered all the answers to all the questions that we can put forth. How the world came to be, why it came to be, humanity’s purpose, our destiny, what is expected of us by God, if anything, are all subjects that have been debated for thousands of years, and it is unlikely that there will be any resolution any time soon.
Jesus’ advice in the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew 7 is eternally wise.
Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured unto you.
As for deciding who is correct, or who is wrong I this debate of whether or not Hell actually exists, and who will go there, I for one, will judge on the side of leniency, because to do otherwise is to condemn myself, for as much as somebody else has faults, false beliefs, or poor intentions, I have just as many, and should I attempt to condemn somebody to eternal torment, I might find myself there also.