Friday, February 29, 2008

What is the nature of hell?

One of the more controversial topics in the christian religion is the doctrine of hell. I believe that the prevalent view held by the masses, that hell is a place of eternal torment and punishment, is not well supported by the bible. Instead it has come from the mixing of greek philosophy with the christian concept of the immortality of the soul.

In the old testament there is a jewish concept of sheol. A place where the souls of the dead go to await judgement. It is a sort of timeless limbo and all souls go there except the few who were caught up to heaven by God (i.e. Elijah). But what of the new testament?

Jesus refers to hell in several parables:
The rich man and Lazarus.
This parable is probably the closest thing to describing the common view of hell. but should we really take Jesus' description of hell in this parable as a literal description? I think not. We should read the parable for what it is. It is saying that the things we do in life, have eternal consequences, and we will not be give an oportunity to repent after we pass from this life.
The parable of the talents& the parable of sheep and goats.
The first parable is one of stewardship and responsibility for the things God gives us on earth. At the end of the story there is the part about punishment for mismanagement and refers to weaping and gnashing of teeth.
The parable of the sheep and goats is actually a direct parable about the final judgement. Here God says that those who do not show charity will have eternal punishment.

I use these verses because they seem, at first glance, to be the most supportive of the doctrine of eternal torture. But all of these references come from parables which we know to be metaphors and not actual literal descriptions of hell. But we have a book which gives us a good description of the judgement and condemnation of sinners.

Revelations 21: 5-8

5He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."
6He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death."
Jesus says directly here that the words are trustworthy and true. Sinners will be thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
This pesky part about the second death throws a great big wrench into the doctrine of eternal torture. It can not be maintained. Even here on earth the most severe form of punishment we inflict on law breakers is death. Jesus is saying here that the punishment for unrepentent sin is the death of our immortal souls. And what more gruesome way of dying can there be than to be burned alive in a lake of fire.
But there is hope for our souls. Through Christs' death and resurection he has conquered death. He has become Lord and king of the earth and has the power to forgive us our sins and redeem our souls for eternal life with him.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Mayor Finkbeiners' egomania not only disgraceful but Deadly.

Yesterday, Toledo's Mayor kicked a group of United States Marines out of the city of Toledo while they were conducting urban warfare training here. They had the full cooperation and knowledge of the police and fire departments. Apparently the mayor was upset that HE was not notified. Let us consider for a moment the ramifications of his actions.

1. These marines may very likely find themselves deployed to Iraq in the near future.

2. Urban warfare is a huge part of the mission they would be carrying out.

Their lack of training time while stateside will almost certainly lead to an increase in fatalities and injuries when they get to Iraq where inexperience is deadly.

The result of Mayor Finkbeiners actions may very likely lead to the death of our fine young men and women. This is unexcusable in a public leader. The democratic party and the citizens of Toledo should demand his immediate resignation for such a gross lack of judgement.