Saturday, June 22, 2013
Pulse: Hell (A Regular Post by Nick Ahern)
I'm inclined to agree with many of my fellow contributors on their selected topics. These are marvelously difficult topics to resolve, but for me its now become interesting to step back and think of another issue. One that covers Scripture, tradition, systematics and the character of God.
Simply put, we need to talk about hell. Mainly because this effects how we evangelize, how we talk about God and even how we consider where we all fall within the contours of Orthodox Christian faith.
Rob Bell seemed to expose a rift within evangelicalism, mainly that we tend to avoid the topic. So, like many topics, talking about it is a plus in of itself. However, it does beg the question what falls within Orthodoxy.
Why do we need to talk about hell? Because it exists and if what Bell went through is any indication of evangelicalism, things won't get any easier for ideas to be exegetes and systematized. Best to talk now before the hammer comes down.
2. In what (positive or negative) ways has our generation already engaged with this issue?
Okay, you probably want a little more. Positively, we've begun a major shift in discussion. Universalism is now begin given a fairer treatment due to various works (1) and evangelicals are now needing to rethink hell. On another front, you have annihilationism being reconsidered. The names behind the theology are impressive (2) and they have experiences a resurgence, especially in conservative circles. This is a positive development as their case is made through exegesis, thus offering biblical concepts to a curious audience.
Negatively, you have entire denominations reaffirming the traditional view of hell (Southern Baptist Convention), therefore shutting off dialogue. From a personal point of view, I've experienced some pretty absurd private messages on the topic, as have close friends of mine. Tradition is sometimes blindly enforced without taking into account exegesis.
However, as a side note, I think a negative example would be that some would jump ship at the slightest new idea without consideration for the evidence. Our generation needs to further weigh the evidence before jumping ship.
3. What can we do to improve our relationship with addressing this issue? Or can things be improved?
Things have already improved. The fact that some are talking and engaging with their brothers and sisters is indicative that goods things may come from this. The debate has also become mainstream(3). No matter what some people think or say, the dialogue is happening. It is general irenic but that has never stopped exceptions from occurring.
This offers the world a new image of evangelicalism. We are willing to rethink and provide evidence for our belief systems. We are willing to be wrong and to simply pursue truth, where ever this truth leads us.
The debate within evangelicalism is a bit more difficult to measure, especially since it is new. But, I have high hopes that the discussion will rage onwards and upwards. In a good way.
Nick Ahern is probably the reason you are reading this. He is a Biola grad, a future Fuller Seminary MA Student and engaged to marry the lovely Allison Quient. You can find him on Twitter.
1. Hellbound directed by Kevin Miller. For literature, Gregory Macdonald (Robin Parry) released the 2nd Edition of the Evangelical Universalist and David Congdon is releasing his systematic take on the idea in the next few years, The God That Saves: A Dogmatic Sketch.
2. Richard Bauckham, E. Earle Ellis, I. Howard Marshall, Glenn Peoples, Gregory Boyd. See also ReThinking Hell.
3. Time Magazine, circa 2011.