Monday, August 14, 2006

A positive view of hell

I have been thinking for some time that the Christadelphian understanding of hell (which is shared with several other denominations as well as individuals in mainstream denominations which might 'officially' hold the traditional view) is more in keeping with a Grace-based understanding of the Gospel than the traditional view.

One of the cornerstones of the Gospel is "God is love" and "God so loved that He gave ... that we should not perish". Another cornerstone is that God is gracious and it is His pleasure to give us the Kingdom.

The 'annihilationist' view of hell (i.e the wicked perish and cease to exist) together with the 'conditional immortality' view (i.e. that immortality is God's gift and the soul is not inherently immortal) offer an understanding of life-after-death which is consistent with these foundations of Christianity (i.e. God's love and graciousness).

In my view, the understanding of resurrection and life-after-death which is held by Adventists, some of the Church of God groups, Christadelphians and others is not only a better interpretation of Scripture than the traditional views, but if presented well would also be more appealing to the large number of people who have trouble reconciling the idea of a loving God with eternal torments.

Unfortunately, Christadelphians often present this understanding of life-after-death in a negative way.
  • "Immortality of the soul is unscriptural".
  • "Christendom is astray from the Bible".
  • "The soul that sins will die".
Lectures, booklets and the general presentation of the subject are sometimes slanted more to criticising other denominations and less towards offering hope. Presented negatively (attacking a "doctrine to be rejected") the Christadelphian understanding has the majority perishing without hope, and only an elite (who have correctly understood this doctrine, and others) being saved from extinction.
But taught positively, the same doctrine emphasises a loving God Who wants everyone to be saved, Who makes it easy for us to be saved, Who empowers and enables us to do what it takes to be saved, and Who demonstrated His commitment to our salvation through His Son.

The same doctrine can be taught either as "your loved ones aren't in heaven" (sad) or "no one is being tortured in hell" (great news!). It can be taught either as "God dislikes the world so much that only a handful of humanity will be deemed worth saving" or as "God loves the world so much that He will do anything so you can share eternity with Him".

Same doctrine. Different packaging. One is grace-less, the other grace-based.

But when a beautiful doctrine which offers hope for the world is taught by grace-killers, you end up with something unappealing and discouraging and with a perverted view of God.

Let's rescue the doctrine of the resurrection and teach it positively and well.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I totallly agree with this. I'm a Christadelphian and i sometimes think 'Who do Christadelphians think they are?' True hristians surely must preoccupy themselves with being positive about God , Jesus and the message of the Kingdom of God and not being negative about other doctrine