I listened lately to a promo for a book/audiobook called Love Wins by a pastor Rob Bell, I think he's an American, he wrote it apparently in response to an incident during a church art presentation in which someone had created a piece of art which had a quote from Ghandi on it, at the end of the event they found that someone had attached a post it note stating "reality check, he's in hell". This is clearly something which the good pastor really did not approve of and is out of step with his (and my own) understand of God, he considers it quite contradictory and has on the inlay card of the audiobook a quote which I think is designed to make the point:
' "God loves us,
God offers us everlasting life by grace, freely, through no merit on our part.
Unless you do not respond the right way.
Then God will torture you forever.
(Italics in original) I was wondering if anyone would like to talk about this topic, Christian or non-Christian and hopefully Christians of all denominations because I see this view of God and eternity as rooted in misunderstandings, overlaid by time and turmoil but rooted in the schisms and bitterness of the reformation debates about justification and salvation.
When I was at technical college I remember debating these points with protestant friends who laboured under the belief that I would one day convert to protestantism, through a process of being "saved" which they could not explain in all but the vaguest terms and appeared to me to be merely being confirmed within their unique cultural heritage, or burn in hell for all eternity.
They werent bad people, in fact I really believe that one of them was tormented with the concern that their efforts to convert and evangelise would be insufficient and God could be angry with them as a consequence. They stated that Ghandi and others like him who were good people but failed to convert were indeed in hell.
They affirmed that God was loving in so far that he would spare the "saved", a elect, possibly determined before birth, whose actions had no baring on their fate, and whom believers could only hope to be a member of and fear that they were not. There were a lot of people who were damned and some who would become that way by failing to convert or abandoning their faith (no such thing as being a lapsed member of the congregation in those circles).
It made me investigate the various forms of baptism and salvation in my own faith, based upon sacramentalism, tradition and, until lately, acts deemed pleasing to God or Good Deeds, as indicated in scripture and tradition (the RCC has issued clarification that they actually concur with Lutheran teaching about grace rather than good works determining salvation since then). However I personally didnt believe that failing to conform to this pattern would condemn someone to hell, not for a moment.
It seemed like my friend had taken a step beyond even this, which I found absurd for a loving God, the God I read about in bible stories or who Jesus was supposed to represent or was incarnate.
Laterly I discovered more convincing writings by Jesuits who suggested that hell was not God's dungeon but a state of seperateness from God, resulting in misery, which could be this worldly or otherworldly/in an afterlife, the important thing being that it was self-inflicted through a failure to reciprocate love.
I tend to believe this and am more confirmed in it all the time, I know that there are people who will tell me, and they often do, that this is wishful and reductive thinking, that I make an idol which fits my own inclination and human, all to human insights. I dont mind them though. Their mental prison isnt for me. That's my view and you might not share it but what do you think?