My recent readings have intersected. I have been reading a series of lectures on C. S. Lewis by a Dr. Louis Markos as well as reading Rob Bell’s Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. Bell starts with Jesus’s word for hell, Gehenna. Gehenna was an actual valley outside of Jerusalem that was used as the city dump, where fires burned constantly and animals gnashed teeth as they fought for scrapes. Gehenna was not desirable real estate.
Lewis wrote about hell in The Great Divorce. His image of hell: dirty, grey mean streets of a city slum where it is always dusk and always raining. Scholars think Lewis was using London during a smog alert. (I might be tempted to use a picture of Minnesota in March, when snirt (snow/dirt) never leaves and spring never comes. ) Lewis’ basic definition of hell is the absence of God: where God says to those who reject Him, “your will be done.”
Both Bell and Lewis agree that hell is not only a destination to be avoided after death. It can be our reality right now. Hell emerges when we allow our sinful nature to dominate our lives. It can be drugs, alcohol, ambition or greed. Or it can be something simple like grumbling. C. S. Lewis wrote,
Hell begins with a grumbling mood, always complaining, always blaming others . . . but you are still distinct from it. You may even criticize it in yourself and wish you could stop it. But there may come a day when you can no longer. Then there will be no you left to criticize the mood or even to enjoy it, but just the grumble itself, going on forever like a machine. It is not a question of God ‘sending us’ to hell. In each of us there is something growing, which will BE Hell unless it is nipped in the bud.
The Good News is that God has come to rescue us from hell. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection carries all who believe into his kingdom of heaven. Tomorrow I will post on their intersection in heaven.
Do images of hell help or hinder your faith in God?