There has been much debate lately about heaven and hell; and who will go where. The most recent notion is that in the end everyone gets into heaven. The issue itself is as old as mankind but it’s been rekindled because of a recent book by Rob Bell.
Bell raises some important questions and I believe that we all benefit from thoughtful dialogue. And while I respect Rob as a master communicator I have to disagree with his theology. Though I must also admit a part of me would like for everyone to get in to heaven.
New York Times columnist Ross Douthat understands this well. In a recent column Douthat, a devout Catholic, writes that doing away with eternal punishment “is a natural way for pastors and theologians to make their God seem more humane.”
The problem, Douthat reminds us, is that attempts to make God seem more “humane” also “threaten to make human life less fully human.” That’s because, he writes, “to believe in God and not in hell is ultimately to disbelieve in the reality of human choices.” If we can’t say “no” to God’s offer of heaven, none of the other choices we make in life have any real meaning, either.
I agree with and appreciate Bell’s emphasis that some Christians are presumptuous in declaring people they’ve never met to be in either heaven or hell; but to suggest that in the end everyone “gets in” is dangerously misleading.
It may make us feel better to believe that everyone goes to heaven. But what happens to the concept of justice? Is not God a God of justice?
While I wouldn’t tell anyone to avoid reading Bell’s new book I would caution that we must take everything we read and measure it against God’s word. Even some arguments based on Scripture are poorly reasoned and misunderstand the given text.
If you are inclined to explore what God’s word has to say about heaven and hell, and I hope you are, I encourage you to check out a new book by Francis Chan and Preston Sprinke entitled Erasing Hell: What God Said About Eternity, and the Things We’ve Made Up.