Are heaven and hell real places or not? What do you think about what the Bible says?
My friend Doug Pagitt just posted a transcript from an interview with Todd Friel, a self-described fundamentalist from Way of the Master Radio. The conversation went to hell. Heres a snippet;
Todd: OK, Doug, hold on Doug… Doug hold on a second. I have no idea what you just said. Here’s what I think Hell is: eternal damnation, God sends lawbreakers to a place where there’s weeping, there’s gnashing of teeth, a lake of sulpher, the worm never dies, eternal conscious torment. Agree or disagree?
Todd:What do you think Hell is?
Doug: I think Hell is disconnection and disintegration from God.
Todd Friel gives Doug and hard time for not believing that hell is an actual place and Doug suggests Todd has a view of hell influenced more by Plato than the Scriptures. Its a fascinating interview and although neither Todd nor Doug succeed in presenting strong cases for two opposing views, this tension point between eschatologies has been a huge issue this year in church circles. And it worth a look. Why? Because our views on these things affect they way we live now and our mission on the earth.
The most interesting book I have read this year on the topic, hands down, is N.T. Wright's "Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church". While the book is not primarily about hell, and while Wright is not even dogmatic about his views of hell [see this interview], he does tackle the subject and lands in a place somewhere in between a fundamentalist eternally conscious torment view on one hand and a universalist 'everyone gets in' perspective on the other, as well avoiding the annihilationist option. Wright says that hell is not a 'place' in the way we Westerners understand "place" but rather is a different kind of space, time and matter. He also points out serious flaws with the "Left Behind" perspective of the second coming and offers a way of reading the Scriptures that focuses more on the new heaven and earth coming to us rather than believers "going to heaven when they die". I think Doug would mostly agree with Wright while Todd Friel would strongly disagree.
How 'bout you? Anyone read the book?