Friday, March 11, 2005

Devil In Her Heart

Yesterday was my book group meeting. We talked about "Human Pain" and "Hell." It was pretty interesting. We were talking about God's justice and whether or not hell should exist. Group Leader mentioned that there are always opposites in the world (e.g. good and evil) so it makes sense that there would be an opposite to heaven. She just threw it out there as a thought; she didn't seem to believe that it was a strong argument or anything. We talked about Lewis's example of the evil person (that I mentioned before), and I said that I can understand evil people going to hell, but what I don't understand is that regular, decent people who just haven't accepted Christ supposedly go to hell also. (This group is from a non-denom church, so they do believe that if you haven't accepted Christ, you won't get into heaven.) Someone mentioned that when you look at the childhoods and lives of people like Hitler, you see that certain psychological factors (like abuse, for example) play a role in forming who they become, and we all have impure hearts, and we could all easily get to that point if the conditions were right, so we can't separate someone like Hitler from ourselves entirely and categorize him as evil and us as good.

I raised some questions about the fairness of it all. One of the other members made the comment that we all deserve hell, we just don't have to go there because of Christ's sacrifice. I was thinking to myself, we deserve hell? That's a very Christian thing to say; I've heard it before. But do we really? I admit that I'm sinful and have made mistakes, but have they been so bad as to deserve eternal torment? I think that's what Lewis meant by saying that we have to fully understand how sinful we are before we can proceed, otherwise we'll be wondering what God's problem is. So I said, "I don't think that's fair, because we didn't ask to be born with sinful natures. We didn't have a choice." That started a whole discussion about Adam and Eve's sin being passed down, but I think I made a valid point. Group Leader said that she can think of bad things she has done in her life, so it's not like we never sinned and are being punished anyway. I reminded her that the only reason she (or any of us) have done bad things is because we were born with a sinful nature. It's like the chicken and the egg, only it leaves little room for doubt that (in our case, not Adam and Eve's) the chicken came first. Group Leader also mentioned that it seems like without a judgment, what is the point of anything we do on earth? Another interesting question raised was why a perfect God would allow the possibility of evil in the world.

I was glad to see that other Christians have doubts about this stuff too, and that the doctrine of hell bothers them as much as it bothers me. I remember in the late summer/early fall, Ex and I were on a bus going somewhere when we were accosted by what I like to call a crazy Christian. She was an older woman, probably in her fifties, and as we passed her church on the bus, she asked if we had ever been there. We said yes, a couple of times (it's a pretty well-known church). She said to us, "And??" We looked at each other and looked back at her. What was she looking for exactly? I think we said something like, "It was nice." She looked angry. She said, "You've gone there a couple of times and you never accepted Jesus as your Savior??" I shot Ex an "Oh, no, here it comes" look. We assured her that we were Christians - I have been a Christian practically all my life, and he's the son of a Lutheran pastor - but that wasn't enough for her. Then she left Ex alone and started in with me. She started telling me that if I hadn't accepted Jesus, I would go to hell. She punctuated the argument with a smug grin and a "You'll see." Ex got angry and started telling her it was none of her concern if I went to hell (how romantic). But it raises the question: is hell a power trip? A "you're going, but I'm not, hallelujah" thing?


Anonymous said...

Lotsa holes in them there Bible now ain't there?

sojourness said...

I wouldn't say holes. I would say a lot of things go unexplained.

Tom said...

I grew up an uber Christian (as it may be seen by the casual observer). I maintain my Christian faith but have detoxed from "church". Most critics of Christianity are taking jabs at church with little knowledge of what Christ was all about.

sojourness said...

I think you definitely have a point, Tom. Sometimes it feels like Christ's teachings and the church's actions are diametrically opposed.

Kieran said...

Favorite prayer of mine, though I'm not quite as tentative in saying this:

I pray, O Master,
that the flames of hell
may not touch me
or any of those whom I love,
and even that they may never touch anyone.
(And I know my God,
that you will forgive this bold prayer)

-Peirre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ
20th century Jesuit Priest and paleontologist known for his profound reconciling of religion and science. Very cool dude. :)

I've basically given up on worrying about Hell... to me its so alien to my experience of God that its not worth my stressing out over. And that God is summed up completely in Jesus' parable of the Prodigal son- the Father waiting eternally on that hill, watching for the son, and running to embrace him the moment he shows signs of coming home. I can't see how it could ever be any different, now or for all eternity.