Journey: Hell Upside Down

Read: “Jesus and Hell”

It is interesting how, when we don’t know what to do with a particular doctrine, we either over-emphasize it or under-emphasize it.  Over emphasis is often born of fear–that the doctrine will be abandoned, so we turn up the volume to be sure that doesn’t happen.  Under emphasis is due to pride–a belief that the doctrine is primitive and somehow offensive to our modern, sophisticated sensibilities.

One of the things I like about McLaren is that he maintains a doctrine while enabling us to see it from a different angle.  And so it is with respect to Hell.

I believe he is spot on, showing how Jesus turned things upside down regarding Hell, challenging the prevailing views of his day, but doing so in a way that made it a reality everyone had to consider.  The rich and famous are not exempt; the poor and the marginalized are not damned.  It is not that cut-and-dry.

Jesus’ view of Hell pivots on our ego, not our status. What’s in our heart, not what’s in our hands, is the determinative factor.   Because of sin, anyone can end up in Hell–and some get there before they die.  Because of grace, no one has to end up there–and we can all make the great escape while we are still on the earth.

An old phrase captures the reality:  God votes for you, the devil votes against you, and you break the tie.  Our decisive vote can be cast right this minute

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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