Jason Boyett starts out by deconstructing many of our cultural associations with hell, pointing, not incorrectly, to Dante.
But is our imagined hell accurate? That is, does it jive with what the Bible really says? That’s the question I asked as I began researching my book Pocket Guide to the Afterlife. The answers were surprising.
While trying to ground his search for truth in the Bible, Jason ends up discounting Jesus’ words about hell:
I tend to think of Jesus as the poor-loving, outcast-accepting, grace-dealing Lamb of God. But he wasn’t shy about describing hell—and not as the ambiguous afterlife of Sheol, but as a place of fiery destruction and eternal punishment. Read Matthew 5:22, Matthew 10:28, or Mark 9. Jesus took hell seriously. When he mentioned it, he used the Greek word Gehenna.
Clearly Jesus taught that hell existed, but did he really mean it was a place of everlasting physical torment by fire? Or was that just a rhetorical flourish inspired by the local garbage dump?
My faith doesn’t depend on the reality of hell, of course. But these days, I have more uncertainty than ever about that part of the afterlife. If I’m honest, I have to admit I don’t know what to think about hell.
Don’t know what to think about it? For someone who considers themselves a follower of Jesus, why not take his word for it?
The Vatican’s official newspaper lauded Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince for its “clear” depiction of the eternal battle between good and evil represented by the struggle between Harry and his nemesis, the evil sorcerer Lord Voldemort.
L’Osservatore Romano said the movie was the best adaptation yet of the JK Rowling books, describing it as “a mixture of supernatural suspense and romance which reaches the right balance”.
“There is a clear line of demarcation between good and evil and [the film] makes clear that good is right. One understands as well that sometimes this requires hard work and sacrifice,” the newspaper judged.
Interesting article discussing the belief in Christ of an Israeli, and the difficulties it has led to with her business:
In its verdict, the court ruled that the 51-year-old Yemenite baker’s belief that Jesus was the Messiah did not make her baked goods unkosher.
The owner, Pnina Conforty, who became a believer while working in Ohio for an evangelical Christian family, enjoyed impressive business success after returning to Israel and opening the bakery in 2002. Conforty, however, quickly saw a sharp decline in sales after her faith was publicized in an article in a Messianic Jewish magazine.
She suffered from demonstrations outside her bakery and posters with her picture distributed throughout the city warning that she was a missionary.
“Finally I won. This is my baby,” said Conforty after giving credit to the Ohio family that led her to Christ. “God arranged it that I arrived at a place where there were Christians who love Israel more than most Jews do. Their love and faith were so different from the religion I learned at home that was based on fear. I was never taught to serve God out of love until then.”
I hope, for her sake, that she doesn’t get trapped in a cycle of craving approval and fearing rejection. It’s a nasty spin cycle of confusion and hurt. Seeking approval from everyone in our orbit is akin to the nauseating dizziness a dancer experiences when she does not keep her eyes on one object as she twirls. Just as dancers are taught to spot, Christians are also taught by God’s Word to spot. The Bible tells us that we are to keep our eyes on the Lord and seek His approval only.
Being conscious of God’s approval or His displeasure is what the Bible calls “fear of the Lord.” It means to be in awe of, or to respect, more than merely to be afraid. Conversely, what we now call peer pressure, people-pleasing, or co-dependency is what the Bible calls “fear of man.” In a nutshell, the fear of man can either be a fear of what others think of us or will do to us, or a craving for approval and a fear of rejection.
Students Rebel at Graduation Against the ACLU’s Bullying Tactics
June 4, 2009
Santa Rosa County, FL – Nearly 400 graduating seniors at Pace High School stood up in protest against the ACLU and recited the Lord’s Prayer during their graduation ceremony on Saturday. Many of the students also painted crosses on their graduation caps to make a statement of faith. This event follows a lawsuit the ACLU filed against the Santa Rosa County School District, claiming some of the teachers and administration endorsed religion. Liberty Counsel represents Pace High School Principal Frank Lay and school teacher Michelle Winkler.
The graduation prayer protest by the students was preceded by a lawsuit filed six months ago by the ACLU. The school district entered into a consent decree, which essentially bans all Santa Rosa County School District employees from engaging in prayer or religious activities. The ACLU alleges that during a dinner event held at Pace High School, Principal Lay asked the athletic director to bless the meal. In another incident, the ACLU alleges that Michelle Winkler’s husband, who is not a school board employee, offered prayer at an awards ceremony. Leading up to the graduation ceremony, the ACLU demanded the school to censor students from offering prayers or saying anything religious. The ACLU then charged Principal Lay and Ms. Winkler with contempt of court.
The students at Pace High School were furious with the ACLU hijacking their free speech rights and decided to take a stand at graduation. As soon as Principal Lay asked everyone to be seated at the ceremony, the graduating class remained standing and recited the Lord’s Prayer. The ACLU has not taken any legal action yet but has stated that something should have been done to stop the prayer.
Mathew D. Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, commented: “Neither students nor teachers shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate. The students at Pace High School refused to remain silent and were not about to be bullied by the ACLU. We have decided to represent faculty, staff and students of Pace High School, because the ACLU is clearly violating their First Amendment rights. Schools are not religion-free zones, and any attempt to make them so is unconstitutional.”
I never thought I’d hear any song, let alone a rap song, about Limited Atonement:
“I may be called Antinomian or Calvinist for preaching a limited atonement; but I had rather believe a limited atonement that is efficacious for all men for whom it was intended, than a universal atonement that is not efficacious for anybody, except the will of man be joined with it.”
In response to Paul D. Apostle’s article about the Galatian church in your January issue, I have to say how appalled I am by the unchristian tone of this hit piece. Why the negativity? Has he been to the Galatian church recently? I happen to know some of the people at that church, and they are the most loving, caring people I’ve ever met.
Phyllis Snodgrass; Ann Arbor, MI
I’ve seen other dubious articles by Paul Apostle in the past, and frankly I’m surprised you felt that his recurrent criticisms of the Church deserved to be printed in your magazine. Mr. Apostle for many years now has had a penchant for thinking he has a right to “mark” certain Christian teachers who don’t agree with his biblical position. Certainly I commend him for desiring to stay faithful to God’s word, but I think he errs in being so dogmatic about his views to the point where he feels free to openly attack his brethren. His attitude makes it difficult to fully unify the Church, and gives credence to the opposition’s view that Christians are judgmental, arrogant people who never show God’s love.