1. “You’re doing a hell of a job.”
2. “I had a hell of a day.”
3. “It’s cold as hell in here.”
4. “It’s hot as hell in here.”
5. “I’ve just been through hell and back.”
6. “See you in hell!”
One of the beautiful things about the English language is that we have a way of coming up with words (most of which contain exactly four letters) that can mean just about anything you want. Their only real purpose anymore is to add a hard edge to what you’re trying to say. In the six sentences above, the word “hell” means something different each time:
3. the coldest place you can think of
4. the hottest place you can think of
5. someplace that makes you wish you were dead
6. someplace that makes you wish you weren’t dead
As it were, whenever a word can mean anything, it essentially means nothing. And it’s just as well, because nobody really believes in hell anymore, right? I mean… how old-fashioned is that?
This is where all the self-proclaimed Post-Moderns should sit straight up and take notice. What are the two main reasons people give for not believing in hell? 1) Because a loving God would never send people to a place of torture, and 2) Because the idea of hell is so old-fashioned.
To deal with those in backwards order, the concept of disbelieving an idea just because it’s old is one of the most ridiculous things that Modernism has handed down to us. So if Post-Modernism is going to do us any good, it needs to start by putting all the old ideas back out on the table for reconsideration. “New” does not equal “better” and “old” does not equal obsolete. Just look what that concept has done to our historical buildings and, conversely, to our great-outdoors-come-suburban-sprawl.
Now to take a look at number one. If you believe in a loving God, but have never wondered how he could banish anyone to eternal torture, then I say the hell with you. The rest of us have all lost at least a little sleep over it, and no matter how much we rebuke our doubting spirit, the question remains.
But before we can even go there, we ought to take a look at why we believe the things we do. When somebody says, “The whole situation in Iraq is a disaster”, do you believe it because you tend to identify with Democrats, or because President Bush really annoys you, or because you trust the mainstream media’s reporting? Or maybe you disbelieve it because you tend to identify with Republicans, or because you have a loved one in Iraq and you’re hoping for the best, or because you think God wouldn’t let America make a mistake this big?
Are any of these good reasons for believing anything? The fact is, we believe what we want to believe. That’s why most Americans believe in Heaven, but not in hell. It just isn’t pleasant to think about people going there, so by ignoring it, perhaps it will go away.
I’m not here to whip out the Big Book and change anybody’s theology. Mostly, I just want everyone to take a little harder look at themselves, and whether they’re really prepared to accept whatever God has to say about things.
Because wishful thinking is a hell of a way to search for the truth.