Dialoging with one of my best friends on heaven and hell

Heaven, Hell and our lives...

My friend Dan Hinz loves God and loves people. He is a constant reminder of the dedication that is required if one is to take following Jesus seriously. He is also the pastor of church plant in Rockford, Illinois who is constantly loving God with heart, soul, body, and MIND. Recently, he blogged on an upcoming book by the very popular Rob Bell regarding heaven and hell and I was drawn in by his post, which is titled “Thoughts on Heaven and Hell…before I read Rob Bell’s Book.” It is WELL worth the read and you can find it here (he’s also written a book called Why the Church Needs More Bartenders that you can find a link to to the right of the blog).

I figured that along with responding to Dan, I’d share my thoughts on his post with you all too. Below is what I responded to Dan with, feel free to respond to one of us or both of us!

Good stuff, Dan! Thanks for sharing. I’m sure we could chat for hours on all 7 points (heck, we’ve done it before!), but one point in particular jumped out to me and got my brain running to other points as well. It was number four and your use of extravagant surprise to describe God’s love and grace for us. I’d like to add to your words this: it strikes me as important to recall that not only is God’s love for us an extravagant surprise (which it most certainly is) but it is also, at the very same time, a scandalous ordeal – that is, that which is offensive and outrageous to us.

Spilling backwards into point 3 [regarding God’s judgment] for a moment, judgment DOES resonate with our souls, but it is always our judgment that resonates first and foremost. It seems that there is something about the style of God’s judgment that not only surprises us but also offends our sensibilities and expectations. God’s judgment comes upon us as love and grace yet this is so unlike what we are socialized to expect and (this is the scary part) WANT that we view the love of Christ not as essential but as expendable. Perhaps, because God’s love doesn’t FORCE us to do anything but instead WELCOMES us into freedom, it violates the rule-bound comfort of our religious way of life. Instead of the comfort of the religion, Jesus reveals to us the reality of faith (and the fear and trembling it requires!) by reminding us of your 5th point: our choices matter! They actually CAN and DO usher in the reign of God’s justice (heaven) and/or the damnation of humanity’s will being done (hell).

Whether we experience heaven or hell seems to have everything to do not only with encountering God’s extravagant surprise, but also with EMBRACING AND DEDICATING OUR LIVES to God’s scandal. And, because God’s love is revealed to us in the divine/human flesh of Jesus, embracing God’s scandal is not abstract living or Pharisaical dogma (as you say), but has everything to do with embracing the human flesh that is scandalous to the world – the flesh that no one with “good sense” could think has anything to do with God. The wonderful extravagant surprise, then, is that God calls us to extend the welcoming embrace to the scandalous one(s) and through doing so, inherit God’s heaven.

Thanks again for the inspiration!

 

…Your thoughts on heaven, hell, and what in the world our lives have to do with them???

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About bens3rd
I am a PhD candidate in Christian Theology and Social in the joint program at the University of Denver & Iliff School of Theology. I blog here when my Facebook posts get too long.

One Response to Dialoging with one of my best friends on heaven and hell

  1. dan says:

    Ben-

    Good stuff. God’s invitation to Grace and Love is certainly a welcoming, not forced. But we must be careful not to neglect the fact that God does deal with us sternly at times. God’s judgment is an act of love- an act of teaching us how to grow up and mature in Christ.

    God’s judgment is an ESSENTIAL part of Salvation. But it is always matched with grace and compassion.

    First, “neither do I condemn you.”
    Second, “now go, and sin no more.”

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