Imagine There's No Heaven...
John Lennon wrote a song in which he invited the listener to imagine away Heaven and Hell and live for today. That would be fine if we knew that all that there is is just what we see. Thousands of years of human tradition speak of some sort of afterlife and generally there is a distinct separation of evil from the described paradise.
If this theme appeared only in Christian tradition or perhaps solely in Islam it might seem appropriate to dismiss it but the fact remains that the theme appears in most belief systems and there is a recurring theme of Paradise and Paradise Lost.
Men may disagree heartily on the way salvation from the corrupt to the incorruptable is achieved or imparted, but most would agree that the horror of, say, a Hitller must certainly exclude him from the hope of Paradise. Certainly Paradise MUST exclude the unhindered workings of what might be commonly called sin and yet if it does, who can rightfully enter at all?
Christianity asserts that man cannot enter Paradise on his own merit and that Jesus' sacrificial death and ressurection provide the only antidote to the deadly condition of the human heart.
The Enigma of Rob Bell
The 'other' weekly news magazine references a controversial new book by Rob Bell and asks on its cover: "What if There is No Hell?" Many feel that Bell preaches a universalism that is not compatible with the Judeo-Christian teachings on afterlife at all. Others are quick to assert that Bell simply removes the traditional language of 'Churchianity' that would seem to say to the unbeliever: "My way or the highway," thus allowing for someone who would be offended by the Gospel as traditionally rendered to work around the 'narrow' language to partake of its fruits.
I've read one book by Bell and I have no ready answer to the enigma. Bell raises some good questions and makes one think, but in the end there is still the really tough question of what lies beyond the narrow realm of the world we see. Afterlife and its implications was a big deal to our forefathers, who saw death on a fairly regular basis. Modern man has relegated it to a lesser place. No longer is the parlor the room for the dead of the family to be placed in. Funeral homes remove most of that reality from our sight. Modern churches can preach to present happiness if they wish and satisfy the spiritual yearnings of many in a modern culture.
It might be fair to say that people in earlier times had more of a sense of urgency about getting it right.
Scripture says that G-d is a "rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." I would be inclined to err on the side of diligently seeking rather than seeking the percieved path of least resistance.
Update: Media Missing Message?
Years ago I saw the local paper write an article about a Penticostal pastor I knew. The reporter stated that the pastor had said: "People are saved by speaking in tongues." I KNEW the pastor well enough to know that this was a gross misrepresentation of his true theology. He would NEVER have said that. Spiritual matters are often hard to capture in the fast pace of an interview. Many reporters do not have the background and rely on 'talking points' put out by someone who's already made their mind up. This is hardly condusive to real investigation.
"People ask questions about the faith for a variety of reasons and I want to sketch four — there are of course other reasons. Some ask questions because they want to know. This sort of person asks a good question and then sifts through the Bible and sorts out theological history and intellectual options in an attempt to find the truth. Some people ask questions in a more careless fashion — they ask questions, some of them quite good — like How can God be all powerful and all good and have a world like this? — but don’t seem to want to find answers. They just don’t work hard enough. They are proud of having good questions. Some ask good and middling questions but the questions are a cloak for doubt. They don’t ask to find an answer but they soften their overt doubts or unbelief by expressing them in a question. Others ask questions to befuddle and to bewilder — all with a desire to confuse in order to lead to other questions that are behind those questions in order to find deeper answers." -- Jesus Creed
The current controversy surrounding Rob Bell's book: Love Wins seems frought with such thinking. This Blog [click to read] offers a more thoughtful look at Bell's latest work. Those of us who have read C. S. Lewis' The Last Battle will recall that Lewis wrestled with some of the same issues. The 'other' weekly news magazine might have done the faith community a real service by digging a little deeper.