Silly Questions

May is not an easy month for me. It was in May 2003 that my mother passed away.  Recalling memories of her has become a May ritual for me. One childhood memory that has surfaced this year was a time when my mother, in a fit of frustration, demanded that I stop asking such silly questions. The other day USA Today ran a story asking if Osama bin Laden was in Hell.  The article goes on to speculate that this question has become a type of litmus test between traditional heaven-and-hell evangelicals and the emerging evangelical movement led by Rob Bell with its tendencies towards universalism.  The traditional argument in its simplest form goes something like this: if God is just, then it is not possible for bin Laden to end up in heaven.

I cannot help but wonder if this debate is a silly one.  After all, trying to figure out where someone else is going to spend eternity is a little like asking if Adam and Eve had belly buttons - a potentially  entertaining discussion but also a little silly.

Why is it so important to condemn someone else to hell?  There is a strange comfort in knowing there are people more sinful than I am.  It is reasonably safe to state that I am not, nor ever will be as sinful as Osama bin Laden was.

Is it possible that condemning someone else to hell is a convenient way to avoid dealing with the stuff in my life?  After all I have never master-minded a terrorist attack or sent someone on a suicide mission - so I can’t be all that bad of a person, right?

In light of what bin Laden has done my judgmentalism, anger and arrogance are just minor offenses that should be overlooked.

Assumptions

There is an ancient proverb that goes something like this,“When two minds agree one is redundant.” Yesterday I started reading Rob Bell’s latest book, Love Wins.  I must admit that I bought the book mostly because of all the controversy surrounding its release.  People are concerned that Rob has walked away from core Christian beliefs.

Since I have not finished reading the book, it would be irresponsible of me to weigh in on Rob’s “theological correctness.”

I am, however, fascinated by all the waves this book has created.  Why is it that the Evangelical community gets so stressed out anytime someone questions the “core beliefs?”  What is so wrong with rethinking assumptions?

A few years ago I was part of a Bible study. One evening we discussed God’s heart for the poor.  About half way through the evening one person had finally had enough and declared, “I don’t know exactly where it is in the Bible, but it tells us that God helps those who help themselves.”   There are people who believe that God helps those who help themselves, but to assume that Scripture supports this idea is wrong.  The better Biblical argument is that God helps those who can do nothing for themselves.

Is it possible that what we assume the Bible teaches and what it actually teaches is not always the same thing?  Western culture has done a good job of marrying things like God and country or health and wealth to God’s favor and blessing.  Untangling the Christian faith from culture is never easy and always uncomfortable, mostly because it challenges assumptions and dearly held core beliefs.

When core beliefs and convictions are questioned maybe the best response is to listen, reevaluate and rethink.  Being labeled a heretic is not always bad; I suspect that Jesus wore that title from time to time.