Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Oh Hell

Last night I watched Hell House. This is a documentary about the original and biggest “hell house” in the country. Some times these events are called Judgment houses instead, but the principle is the same. They are an alternative haunted house that features graphic depictions of people dying from a un repentant sin and then suffering eternal consequences for it, while others repent of what they have done, accept Jesus as Lord and Savior and find eternal life.

This documentary was very well done, because like Jesus Camp it more or less just shows the events give a couple of different sides fair time, and stays fairly objective. Much of a “hell house” is based on shock value, and it is very easy to find it very, very offensive. Personally, I do not know if such scare tactics is the best way to reach lost souls, and they can deny it but the time of decision at the end was very much emotional manipulation.

One of the scenes they show is one of the church leaders talking to a group of people were very upset and offended by the experience. It was very impressive how loving the church leader was. Even though he was being cussed at and insulted, he never raised his voice and never acted in a way that could only be described as loving. Of this offended group, one of the more rational girls really hit the nail on the head of what caused this hell house to rub the wrong way. They portrayed the life situations as “black or white”. They had a scene where a girl gets raped at a “rave” and then out of depression commits suicide. The church member tried to stress that the girl went to hell not because of the rave or because she was depressed but because she did not know Jesus. However, the offended group missed that instead they just felt condemned because they had been to raves and felt like it was unfair the girl be eternally punished for making a bad decision while being depressed.

The problem is really one of absolute truth. The organizers of Hell House believe that there is absolute right (God, God’s will, and God’s command) and there is absolute wrong (sin). I agree with this. The problem is that they used human situations to convey this, and most human situations is a shade of grey. As creations made in God’s image (white) who are fallen into sin (black), grey is really the best color to describe us. The “humanness” of the situation is lost in hell house. Using the rave example, the human response should be to feel sorrow for a girl who suffered multiple date rapes. The Christian thing to do is support her and aid in her healing, not abandon her to condemnation.

Of course, one of the reasons why a Hell House can come off as offensive, especially to Christians, is because of how little we talk about hell. This is especially true in the main line denominations. We LOVE to talk about God’s love, and we should. However, we often over emphasize love at the detriment of what the consequences are if that love is rejected. “Fire and brimstone” in a United Methodist church just doesn’t happen. Mainline denominations may not need to go as far as preaching “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” once a month, but we should at least acknowledge there are eternal consequences for not accepting Jesus.

Of course this leads me to briefly state what I think this eternal consequence is. I believe that Jesus through His sacrifice atoned for our sins. When we accept this we become right with God and be with God. My understanding of heaven, is eternity with God, being surrounded and enveloped in God's loving presence. I have no idea what this looks like but I believe that God's love is what defines heaven. Thus, hell is eternal separation from God and the complete absence of this love. Again, I don't know what this looks or feels like, but I sort of doubt it involves being eternally poked with pitchforks.

One of the things that Hell House reminded me is that one of the sins that I am very guilty of is that I have quite literally loved people to Hell. I so wanted to not offend a person that I never took the time to share the gospel with them. I know that I am not alone in this failure of cravenness, and I know that I am forgiven but that does not make it any less tragic, and watching Hell House reminded me of that as well. I have spent a lot of time in churches and around church folk that I realized that my heart does not break enough for the lost, and that is something I should really seek to change.


Blogger Justin Dohoney said...

Have you ever read Milton's Pardise Lost? His description of Hell, put in the mouth of Satan himeself, is that Hell is the state of discommunion with God. Obviously, Milton's words are more poetic than mine, but he says something to the effect that "Hell is anywhere where God isn't" and claims to know this, by virtue of his expulsion, from experience.

I'll look up the exact quote and get back to you, because it's a good one...

8:01 AM  
Anonymous Matthew Jolley said...

hi Sean,
great post and thought provoking. i agree with your overall conclusions about the need to evangelize.
However have you ever considered that hell is not the absence of God, which I do not find much scriptural support for, but that rather hell is the presence of God without Christ. It is the place of being under God's wrath eternally, in his presence where he manifests his anger and judgment without any love or mercy. Hell is not the absence of God but the horror of being in his presence as a guilty sinner suffering his anger.

12:12 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home