Thursday, November 19, 2009

Christianity and Hell, pt. 2

In considering my previous post, it seems that there are several different ways of answering the question, "Is Christianity merely about escaping from hell?"
First of all, it is important to recognize the assumption in this question. Namely, that there appears that there is nothing in Christianity that benefits our temporal, earthly existence. Put that way, it might seem silly.
Three Scriptures come to mind. The first is Jhn 10:10: "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." The second is Gal 5:22-23: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law." The third is Mat 6:33: "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you."
These three Scriptures represent three ways of answering, or at least attempting to answer, the question. The first is to claim that as Christians, we are promised the "abundant life." However, the life Christ gives us eternal, and we have it now inasmuch as we are justified, and secondarily, as we are sanctified. The "abundant life" is about spiritual abundance- God working on us to make us more of what He is. It is entirely spiritual. God is in the business of soulcraft with His children- crafting our souls to come into conformity with His Spirit.
This doesn't answer the question satisfactorily. Spiritual development is great and all, but we know at the resurrection we shall be completely sanctified regardless of how far we progressed in our spiritual walk while in the flesh. If here-and-now Christianity is about sanctification, then Lord, transform me now! Give me an incorruptible body now! (I Cor 15) Why leave me here?
Secondly, we can attempt to answer the question by appealing to the fact that we have spiritual fruits that enable us to, if you will, "shine as a light" and "brighten the corner". These spiritual fruits are positive character traits: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The problem with this answer is that the fruits of the Spirit don't seem to correlate with the Christian/non-Christian divide. There are plenty of good people in other religions or among non-believers; and there are plenty of bad apples among Christians. The latter could be explained as tares; how do you explain the former?
Thirdly, we can attempt to answer the question by saying that there is "kingdom work" to be done here on earth. But what is this "kingdom work?" Many churches are big on soulwinning. "Get them saved, train them, get them back out there to get more people saved" is their mode of operation. I used to be in a church like that. What's the point though. If all we are here for is to save people from hell, we're just begging our original question.
What is "kingdom work?" The Reconstructionist Christian Right has an answer. But Christ said in Jhn 18:36, "'My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.'" There is no record of early Christians trying to form a Christian Coalition or Moral Majority against the Roman government.
What else could be "kingdom work?" Some see it as the work within, the kingdom of God in our hearts. This is the kingdom as sanctification, and begs the question from the first approach dealing with sanctification, why leave us here?
What are we left with to define kingdom work? The social gospel? Liberation theology?
If the "kingdom of God" is purely future, this third approach does not provide a satisfactory answer either.
Christ said in the Lord's Prayer, "Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven." Perhaps the kingdom is merely God's will being done. In this way, "kingdom" is more understood as "reign" or "authority." The more God reigns over the hearts and actions of men, the more His kingdom is come. But isn't God already sovereign? What is God waiting for? And isn't defining the kingdom of God in this manner, as before, making it refer to sanctification yet again? Which again begs the question, what are here for when God could transform us anytime He wants?
Let the righteous be glorified, the unrepentant be damned. Call judgment now and be done with it. God knows all our hearts.
Maybe God is leaving us around because he is giving the hell-bound a chance. But that doesn't do anything to answer our question.

I guess I just don't get the whole big point of eternity. No, you are not going to heaven when you die. Biblically, as a Christian, you die, and in a twinkling the next thing you experience is the resurrection, then the judgment seat, then the marriage supper, then the millennial kingdom. If you are pre-trib, the judgment seat is in heaven. But I am post-trib. (Why is God going to raise me, take me heaven to judge me, then send me away from heaven's glory to come back to earth at Armageddon? And how are the tribulation saints judged?) In any case, you maybe get 7 years in heaven then it's back to this earth for a 1000 years, then a new earth and new atmosphere(heaven) is created, and the Holy City comes down. Sorry Christian. You don't spend much time, if any time, in heaven. It's back to this planet, just under new management.

Somebody get me excited about this.

I don't have answers.

No comments: