Heaven Or Hell?
|Of course there is a hell.
Some people I know are already in it. You don’t have to die to get
there. It is a spiritual state of awareness that may begin on earth, as
it does for many people, and can continue in the immortal hereafter of mankind as the life of the
spiritual self does not end with death but continues after death. Death is a transition but not an end.
Hell as I evaluate it is the misery caused by absence of grace, the absence of God or a life without the blessings of God. Very often people for reasons best known to themselves, choose absence from God. They may not be aware they are making the choice, but they are. If I were going to compare grace with light, I would say that some unfortunate people do not choose light or warmth in their lives. They choose darkness and cold and to be non-Christians: cold people with dark minds.
The best lives might be seen as growing in the illuminating Love of God through choices leaning towards love, warmth, serving, caring for and helping others and generally what we might call “benevolent attitudes.” These people make a bit of warmth on earth. Heaven has begun on earth and they grow spiritually towards Heaven. Their lives give us a taste of Heaven’s goodness here.
But some unfortunate souls do not choose spiritual enlightenment. They choose to make the wrong decisions, live in the dark and be miserable. For example a person who distrusts some things may have learned to be wary, wise and blessedly realistic, but a person who distrusts God, everything and everyone is already in a hell of their own choice. (Let me be cheated a thousand times rather than lose the ability to believe in God and sometimes in persons.)
But we must be careful to magnify the good in people when talking of hell, because some people make some wrong decisions does not mean they have made all wrong decisions. We must not judge them and say they are going to hell. That is best left to God.
We are given a certain amount of free will by God to use in determining heaven and hell. Of this I am sure, though you may certainly disagree if you wish. But when we disagree on a matter like this, what does it matter? What is, is anyway, regardless of what we may think, and what God has decided will be, will be, though God has left us a much and a plenty to decide on and to create through free will with and in Him.
I do not consider that we are given as much free will as egotistical people assume. I think the lives of the righteous are like ships carried by the currents and grace of God. There are no wrecks but He knows it. Still there are many free-will choices we must make from within the realm of what we know, have been taught, the culture we are in and the society we are accustomed to. Truly God honors these choices, although at times we are saved from the dark side of these choices by the intervention of Good Samaritans, the winds or tempers of the times, or the love of those who care for us.
But do not criticize God because there is a hell and say He is not loving. It is we who have made it and not Him. God has given us the example of Christ and rains grace drops constantly on the world. But many refuse to profit from them. There are people tone deaf to God and people determined not to see. Yet of one thing I am quite sure. Trying to scare people with a literal hell does little good and sours many. Fear of hell is not an adequate motivation to live a Christian life. Threatening a person with hell may temporarily stop them from doing something particularly bad or morally disgusting, but it will not lead them to the imitation of Christ. Through grace you must be loved into the imitation of Christ by being loved or seeing someone loved.
By the imitation of Christ I mean seriously trying to live a loving and caring life concerned with others and transcendent with God. But if you try to threaten people already trying to be good with hell for some imperfection, they will just look at you with contempt. A few points of imperfection are not enough for the dank, dark whole of darkness called hell. After all, we are all sinners and nobody is perfect. Only God is. To make this point Jesus said to a questioner, “Why callest thou me good? There is none good save one, that is, God.” (Luke 18:19)
If Jesus refused to let Himself be called “good,” why do we then so easily expect others to be? Why do we sling “bad” around in so light a manner and “hell” in such a easy way. Consider what is being done. As Montaigne wisely asked himself after writing great essays, “What do I know?” So let us wisely avoid being one of those bitter, angry people hurling “hell” everywhere and at everybody. Let us ask ourselves before we judge, “What do we know?” Then leave who is going to hell or heaven to God who, as far as I find, rarely takes up the matter publicly with others but only privately in conscience takes it up with you. Some who throw out Biblical terms beyond their understanding and their grasp are like ignorant children playing with boomerangs. What they send out will return to them in time. They just don’t know it yet.
Yet while I am not obsessed with hell or suggest you be, I certainly do not accept the idea that you may be as ugly as you wish in your sojourn on earth, say a few mumbo-jumbo, magical, religious and churchy words at the last minute before you die, and be saved from hell. Rather I suggest you carry the bit of heaven you have made here on earth for others and/ or the bit of hell you have made for others here into the next phase of your immortality with you. We all knit our own shrouds to appear before God in. What then are you making for others and creating for yourself’? Heaven or Hell?
Dr. James MacLeod may be contacted through the Neill Macaulay Foundation.