Tag Archives: faith

Do I Believe in a Literal Hell? (A belief wrapped in a confession)

This is a question I’ve been contemplating for years, and it was easy to say ‘yes’ at first. After all, the Bible said it, I believed it, that settled, at least for a while.  But then, along the way, something happened: I began to wrestle with doubt; I let a few questions seep in; and, oddly, over time, my certainty was replaced by an assurance in the unknown.

I began to walk by faith rather than by text.

Scripture is wonderful for knowledge, for instruction, for conviction, for correction, and for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).  But I don’t put my faith in just text.  My faith is in God, and in the whispers and movement of the Holy Spirit. I don’t believe that faith, nor God, can be placed in boxes. They aren’t that small. They’re vast and limitless. They are oceans:  deep and wide, wild and restless.

So, here I am today, re-examining the question once again: Do I believe in a literal hell?
Well…yes, yes I do.
But here’s the rub: what exactly do we mean when we say, “hell”?
Do I believe in “hell” as some fire and brimstone, eternal torture chamber?
No, not really.
Not anymore.  Let me explain… Continue reading Do I Believe in a Literal Hell? (A belief wrapped in a confession)

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An Update….

I recently read over a page draft for something I once called “Going a Little Deeper”. These were articles I’d written that, at the time, explained in more detail my thoughts and beliefs on such heady content as Hell, Salvation, Church, Doubt, and even scriptural verses like John 14:6.
Man, I was an arrogant little bastard! (Full disclosure: I still can be!)
I set out to look over these “Going a Little Deeper” posts to try and update how I viewed some of these admittedly hot button topics, but, I couldn’t. Not that I still cling to these values that I once held so dear and so pridefully. Not that I don’t. It’s just that, along the way, especially lately, I’ve learned quite a few more truths about myself than I have in Truth of any grand spiritual or scriptural kind.
In fact, one of the things I’ve come to learn is this: The deeper my faith becomes, the less I seem to know. Or maybe, more accurately, the less I feel certain of.
I heard an interesting Atheistic summarization of the Christian argument the other day: “So, I either believe in the God of the Bible, and in Jesus, or I’m going to burn in Hell?” they said. “Some choice.”
Exactly! Some choice!
We Christians have boiled down our faith to a simple issue of certainty—you’re either in or you’re out. And we feel comfortable having that be our main, and often only, evangelical calling card. In fact, that’s all Christianity has become to the too-vast majority of us: A get out of Hell free card.
We feel okay with that of course because we’re in!
And Jesus? We’ve reduced Him to playing the bit part of door man, or maybe “gate” or “good shepherd” to keep it biblical. If only we could read a few verses later into that metaphorical story (John 10 if you’re interested) when Jesus also says, “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”
Who are these “other sheep”? And, what will “my voice” sound like…to them?
That’s another thing I’ve come to learn: Faith is messy.
Faith is not tidy. Faith is anything but certain. “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” And neither confidence nor assurance equate to certainty.
I’m currently reading over quite a few of these posts that I’ve written over the past several years, some posted, some not. So far, many of these I’ve decided to leave up—as much for myself as for anyone else. These 400+ posts are an ongoing chronicle of my faith journey; signposts and off-ramps and potholes and switchbacks that I’ve encountered along the way. It’s been a great journey. It’s been an ugly journey. But, it’s been my journey.
And, surprise, surprise, I’m not the same man, husband, father, Christ-follower, that I was six months ago, let alone six years. Even more, I have no idea who/where I’ll be six months or six years from now!
One last thing I’ve come to learn: In whatever I write, I’ll likely contradict myself at some point. And that’s okay. I’m in good company. So does the Bible—and it’s inerrant!

How Can Everything Be Sacred?

(reprinted from Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations 1/2/2018)

The three monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) teach that one Creator formed all things. There is thus a radical unity at the heart of the universe’s pluriformity, resolving any conflict between diversity and the shared “divine DNA” found in creation. This theo-logic allows us to see “the hidden wholeness” in all things and to confidently assert that “everything belongs.” The distinction between natural and supernatural, sacred and profane, exists only as a mental construct.

Unless we first name the underlying goodness and coherence of reality, along with our own imperfection, we will attack evil with methods and self-righteousness that will only deepen the problem.

You may be asking, as so many have over the years, “Richard, how can you make such naïve blanket statements like ‘Everything is sacred. Everything belongs?’ What about Hitler, nuclear bombings, ISIS, Westboro Baptists, and the United States’ epidemic of mass shooters?” I agree that we can and should name evil as evil. But unless we first name the underlying goodness and coherence of reality, along with our own imperfection, we will attack evil with methods and self-righteousness that will only deepen the problem. This is Nonviolence 101. It wasn’t until the twentieth century that the importance of nonviolence became widely acknowledged.

Evil lurks powerfully in the shadows, in our unconscious complicity with systems that serve us at others’ expense.

Further, Christianity has far too easily called individual, private behaviors sins while usually ignoring or even supporting structural and systemic evils such as war, colonization, corporate greed, slavery, and abuse of the Earth. All of the seven capital sins were admired at the corporate level and shamed at the individual level. [1] This left us utterly split in our morality, dealing with symptoms instead of causes, shaming people while glorifying systems that were themselves selfish, greedy, lustful, ambitious, lazy, prideful, and deceitful. We can’t have it both ways. Evil lurks powerfully in the shadows, in our unconscious complicity with systems that serve us at others’ expense. It has created worldviews of entitlement and privilege that were largely unrecognized until rather recently.

Once you can clear away the web of illusion you will be able to see that every created thing is still made in the image of God.

Only contemplative, nondual consciousness is capable of seeing things like this without also being negative or self-righteous. Once you can clear away the web of illusion you will be able to see that every created thing is still made in the image of God; every being has the divine DNA or essence. There is no profane place, person, or creature. We can even find the sacred in seemingly secular human endeavors like sex, food, work, economics, and politics.

“Christ is everything and he is in everything” (Colossians 3:11). To see this is to have “the mind of Christ.”

[1] See Richard Rohr, Spiral of Violence: The World, the Flesh, and the Devil (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2005)

Do Better

Well, here I am: writing to get back into the habit of writing. I can’t believe it’s been over a year since my last blog post; over sixteen months since my last published book, These Threads of Faith; and, almost 2 ½ years since I’ve spent time with the Drifter Series in, The Privilege of Sin.
It’s not like fodder hasn’t been there. There’s been plenty of grist for the mill. But the muse has just been…gone. Setting pen to paper, or in my case fingers to keyboard, only filled me with a sense of frustration and bewilderment. With the past year’s events I’ve often been more irritated than inspired. 2017 couldn’t have been over with soon enough.

So now, here we are: 2018. Everything is new. Everything is filled with a renewed sense of hope and optimism. Everything is waiting to be reopened, reborn, like the first buds of spring.
Yeah, I know, I don’t believe that either. Continue reading Do Better