January 25, 2012 at 8:40 pm , by Nick Shell
During my day job, I work alongside someone I consider a “friendly atheist.” Not the kind who has a passionate agenda of converting me out of Christianity or who is obviously mad at God for not existing. He just simply believes that when we all die… poof! That’s it.
He and I have the kind of mutually respectful relationship where we can curiously ask each other questions about the other’s belief system, without it ever turning volatile or even emotional.
Last Friday I told him, “You simply have more faith than I do; to believe we all just got here by random chance.”
He replied, “You know, Nick; I find it very surprising that you, of all people, believe in Jesus and the Bible and all that stuff. I know you well enough to realize you are a very logical, rational guy. It just doesn’t fit you.”
The truth is, he makes a good point. I have no trouble at all believing in each of the miracles told in the Bible; from God creating Adam from dust, then Eve from his side, to Noah being able to gather two of every kind of animal on the ark, to the virgin birth of Christ, to Him being the Son of God, to Jesus making wine from water, to Him walking on water, to Him dying for the whole world and then raising from the dead. No problem.
Why? Because it’s all miraculous. It’s impossible unless it’s true. That’s logical to me.
Sure, I definitely believe the Bible truly is legitimate and factual.
I’m not the kind of person who only believes the parts of the Bible and God’s teachings that I want to; the ones that are easy to believe and that make me feel good. That’s not me.
Instead, I am a Bible-believing Christian who trusts in Christ alone for eternal life and redemption of all my wickedness, yet with humility I am willing to admit, there are parts of the Bible and its teachings that I struggle with.
Notice I said “struggle with.” I didn’t say I don’t believe or won’t believe. It means there are certain things I have to sort out, by carefully reading the Bible, praying to God to help me understand, reading related commentary books and talking to other Christians about my concerns.
I have this theory that most Bible-believing Christians have at least one particular part of the Bible or Christianity they have always struggled with believing. Mine is the existence of a literal, eternal, fiery hell in which people can never be redeemed.
While I’ve never met a Christian who believes that babies go to hell, it seems to be a popular belief that basically everyone else born in sin who dies not knowing Christ as their savior goes to hell forever.
That includes people in other countries who never heard the Gospel. That includes people who were only exposed to judgmental Christians who condemned them. That includes people who have been abused by their earthly fathers and have a deranged idea of what a loving father actually is.
I simply don’t want to be in a position where I have to decide who goes to Heaven and who doesn’t. But I feel that if hell is the fiery place it’s perceived to be by most Christians and their agreed interpretations of Christ’s teachings, then I sort of am in that position.
This can of worms got opened about a month ago when I read the highly controversial book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, by Rob Bell.
It’s not that I agreed with every thing he said, but he was willing to shed light on my lifelong concerns about the Church’s traditional interpretation of hell. He goes back to every use of the word “hell” in the Bible and focuses on the original Hebrew and Greek words used.
So should I believe that all unbelievers, except babies, go to hell if they don’t believe in Christ by the time they die?
I’m going to give a very unpopular answer:
I don’t know. I have no idea. Yet.
I know that I’m supposed to believe it as an evangelical Christian. But I can’t lie and say in my heart I believe it at this point in my Christian journey.
But I’m trying to figure it out as I reread the teachings of Christ and the Apostles. I’m also reading the book,Erasing Hell, by Francis Chan; which counters the ideas written in Love Wins.
Just for the record, I graduated from a one year Bible college called Word of Life Bible Institute and earned my English degree from Liberty University; the world’s largest evangelical Christian university.
I know the Bible very well. But I can’t stand the thought of believing heresy, whether it’s some trendy author’s flawed interpretation of the Bible, or even the Church’s flawed understanding of Scripture.
Nothing has ever caused me to read the Bible with such passion. As a believer of Christ, I want to know who He truly is.
This is real faith. It’s not about having all the answers. Nor is it being okay with not trying to find the answers.
So what does this have to do with being a dad? Everything.
I want to be able to teach my son everything I have learned about God. My faith is everything to me. As his dad, it’s my responsibility to be the spiritual leader my dad was to me.
So to not understand a major part of my faith is difficult for me to deal with.
Like my atheist friend said, I am a very logical and rational guy. I don’t just believe something because I’m supposed to. I believe because God helps me to.
So help me God for my lack of understanding.
Top image: Hands Statue from Hell in Wat Rong Khun at Chiang Rai, Thailand, via Shutterstock.
Bottom image: Marshmallow on a stick over the fire, via Shutterstock.