Thinking through the aftermath of the Rob Bell controversy, the question of universalism and the implication of hell, sometimes I think the questions we raise come most in part from barriers.
When talking about the validity of such a doctrine like hell, some get uncomfortable (I do as well). But why is that? Is the God we say we believe running away from our safe comfort of set beliefs?
Sometimes our assumptions and our cultural background controls how we read, understand and want to absorb the biblical message. So when hell comes up, what is the first thing we question? We question how a good God will create such a place and torture people for eternity. Part of this question is not being able to reconcile God as being just. But is there a different view of justice that needs to be explained? Can God be loving and be just as well?
There is also the question that pertains to humanity. What is it that determines if a person is good or not? It is easy to differentiate good in terms of ethical behavior, an obvious case would be, we would not question a designation of a bad man if he intentionally murders someone. But what if we can’t see such extremes? Who is considered good then?
Which draws our attention of other religions. Sure other religions also teach that people are to do good. And in some cases, or most, people of other faiths seem much more ethically sound in their actions compared to Christians. So I guess we also struggle with this issue when we think about God’s judgement.
Although I’m not stating here about what to believe in terms of the doctrine of hell or in terms of God being a loving God as well as a God of justice. What I do want to address is that we have barriers we all try to climb past whenever we come to the Scriptures and read. What we have to ask ourselves is that, are we reading our own struggles and try to respond to them when we interpret or understand it?