What is hell? Many Christians have thought about this and we have debated this for centuries. This in not a new question. Once we realize this then we can try to understand the controversy about Rob Bell's book "Love Wins". I cannot wait to read it. In the meantime all I have is a book description, a couple of interviews and the video in youtube; you may know the one, the one when he asks "Gandhi is in hell? Really Do we know that?"
But let us stop for a second: if Gandhi is in hell (or not) is not THE question to me. Because I believe that is one of many, many questions. And every time I think of this, I ask: what is hell?
Depends who you ask since to start, it has many names:
And those are just the names. So what is hell like?
Is it to be taken literally as described in those places in the Bible, using the names we mentioned before?
Is hell something like we see in a Bosch painting?
Is hell separation from God?
Is hell a separate place from heaven?
Is hell a spiritual state?
Out of the many reactions that I have seen regarding Rob Bell (I believe one phrase was something similar to "progressive Christians like Rob Bell") I found one very interesting. A writer admired that many people have been able to get help at Mars Hills (Rob Bell's church) with drug problems, marital problems etc. But then he said: "a therapist can do that." He went on to say how important it is that people like Rob Bell tell the truth (with love) about the orthodox Christian teaching of hell and how a soul can end up in hell.
That got me thinking about two things:
1) If one of us, or someone we know, is a drug addict and gets the help he/she needs, what is more important: that the help was given without strings, or that the helper must fit the proper definition of a helper?
2) The "orthodox Christian teaching" of hell? What is that? And even if we had the answer, why are we so concerned about the AFTERLIFE teaching of hell? What about hell in THIS life?
If a 9 year old boy is forced to fight in a war, is he not in hell?
If a 9 year old girl is forced into prostitution, is she not in hell?
If a friend looses his house and everything that he owns in a flood, is he not in hell?
If a friend is bullied every day at school, is she not in hell?
If a family member is in pain every day due to a medical condition, is he not in hell?
So, is hell ONLY the place we go in the afterlife because we did (or not) this or that, we thought (or not) this or that?
Or is hell also right here right now.
And if you, me, or someone we know is in that hell right now, would we care for the "love" of the "orthodox Christian teaching of hell"?
Or, would we say: help me get out of this hell, please...