Been spending more time in hell than usual…whoops, that didn’t come out right. What I mean is, I’ve spent more time than usual getting ready for tomorrow’s message. A lot more. I’ve already had to cut out a lot, so I thought I’d do even better than what DVD releases do with a movie. You know how it works: go watch a movie in the theater, and then months later, get the DVD where they let you see extra stuff, all the deleted scenes they filmed but didn’t use.
I’m going one better: giving you blog readers deleted material before the message is even given! 😉
I’ll talk more about this when I post the whole message tomorrow, but you have to remember that I have to speak about hell from the context I’m in. For those of you reading who aren’t followers of Christ, or from other branches of Quakerism, you need to know that some of what I’m going to talk about is not from your perspective at all. If we were sitting down together talking about hell, our discussion would be very different.
But in my context, the bible is very important. And I’ve realized that our views of HOW we think the bible is important get caught up in our discussion of hell in particular. And that’s the point of the deleted passage I will post below. I think this is an important issue, but I’ve got too much and this had to get cut. So, here we go:
We live in an age (weâ€™re moving out of it, but weâ€™ve all been influenced by it) where parable and allegory and imagery are seen as â€œless trueâ€ than the literal things which can be seen, touched, tasted, smelled, and heard. Christians have been influenced by this, too. “Literally true” has become more important than â€œallegorically trueâ€. It takes on a higher standard. So, if we take something from the bible and say it is allegorical or picturesque or imagery, that is heard by many as saying it is â€œless trueâ€ or maybe even â€œnot true.â€ People in the first century would not have that distinction.
We want the bible to be true, and we want Jesus’ words to be true. He is really important to us. The bible is really important to us. So sometimes we force â€œliterally trueâ€ on things we shouldnâ€™t, because we want them to be the â€œhighestâ€ truth. So unless hell has literal flames, then the bible isnâ€™t literally true, which means it isnâ€™t the highest form of truth, or maybe not even truth at all.
I reject that train of thought. It doesnâ€™t get me off the hook, because I believe these actual words in the bible are what God wanted us to know, and that the Holy Spirit has confirmed those words in the church over thousands of years. I canâ€™t just â€œexcuseâ€ what I donâ€™t like as an allegory. I have to try and live with it, understand it, live BY it. But that also doesnâ€™t mean I have to have it be literal.
Is Jesus a literal, bloody lamb? No. But Revelation consistently depicts him that way. We find ways to excuse that without giving up the authority of the bible, but some donâ€™t do that as easily with the fiery images of hell that are found there.
The scary reality is that hell is worse than the literal pictures given in the bible. Thatâ€™s a horrific thought.