Monday, May 28, 2007

Two questions...

...I've been mulling for a while, responses to which always intrigue me when I pose them for my evangelical friends:
  • Why is it that just about the only people who believe in hell are those who believe they aren’t going there?
  • If you discovered that, in fact, there was no afterlife after all—no heaven, hell, purgatory, whatever—that it all ended with one's physical death—would you still be a Christian?
Just wondering.


At 12:40 PM, Blogger bean & sprout's rep. said...

sometimes i wonder if people make hell justice for those who have hurt them. i don't know, but it's a thought.

i have no idea about the second question. that's one i'll probably have to think about for a long time, but it's a great question. i definitely think i would believe in something because i feel like there's this peice of me that needs to know that there's something much bigger out there, but i also wonder if i would believe as i do now if things were different....

good thoughts, ut.

At 1:38 PM, Blogger Tim said...

That second question of mine presupposes only no afterlife for humans—the question doesn't eliminate a transcendent God (your "something bigger out there"), or even Jesus. Let me put it another way: assuming that just about everything about Christianity that you and I have been taught is true except the reward of heaven—would you still remain a Christian? . . . I'm not necessarily questioning an afterlife as much as I am the motives of belief.

At 7:40 PM, Blogger Jenni said...

Hi, RaeAnn's lurking cousin here! I'm wondering what Christianity would be reduced to w/o an afterlife - in this scenario, what did Jesus' death accomplish? Personally, I don't think much about heaven or hell, but that doesn't diminish my interest in following Christian principles. But it still seems like that purpose needs to be there for the times that we stop and ask, "Why am I bothering?"

At 11:56 PM, Blogger Tim said...

Jenni, what a coherent and thoughtful musing. What if that purpose that you need (and most of humanity needs)--that "Why am I bothering?" feeling--was something like "Because, even without the belief in an afterlife, my Christianity compels me to conduct myself Christlike--to show compassion to those who do and don't deserve demonstrate the love of God by loving those with whom I have to do (one in a primary relationship like a spouse, or children, or neighbors, or co-workers) improve my small corner of the world for the sake of those who come after me (children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces, or simply the young children and teenagers of dear friends). There are many reasons, I believe, for living a Christlike life other than for eternal reward or punishment--which actually seem to me to be very childish motivations. Don't we long for the day that our children mature sufficiently that we no longer must threaten punishment in order to motivate them toward right living?

At 11:25 PM, Blogger Jenni said...

Honestly, I wasn't thinking about it in terms of reward at all. I was thinking more about the identity of Christ, and what makes me desire to please him. What makes Him God, what makes His life worthy of study and imitation over any other admirable person in history. The obvious answer to my own question that comes to my mind is that many non-Christians live good, caring, compassionate lives regardless of their religious beliefs, and that if the very idea of goodness compels them to imitate it, it could compel me as well, regardless of whether my hero rose from the dead or sits in heaven loving me and wanting me to do what's right. You say that there are many reasons for living a Christlike life. What are they? I hope this makes sense - I know I have a serious run-on sentence in there but I'm too tired to try to reconstruct it.

At 2:45 PM, Blogger bean & sprout's rep. said...

keep going, you two! i'm enjoying reading your comments and am interested to see where this "conversation" goes....

At 12:30 PM, Blogger Tim said...

Never try to correct a run-on sentence when you’re tired or when the run-on actually carries in it what you wanted to say. Your post made perfect sense.

Several reasons that pop into my mind why people model their lives after the life of Jesus Christ, in no particular order:
1. For peace (in one’s inner life, in one’s relationships, in the external world)
2. Because “God’s kingdom is already among you.” (Luke 17:21)
3. Obedience (i.e., because the Bible commands them to model their lives after the life of Jesus)
4. Because one will go to heaven if she models her life after Jesus.
5. Because one will go to hell if he doesn’t.
6. Because modeling one’s life after that of Jesus gives one purpose and direction.
7. Because the world (beginning with me, my family, my neighborhood, my community, and outward from there) needs no less healing than it did when Jesus walked the roads in Judea.
8. Because, historically, more good has been done—and less evil, too—by followers of Jesus’ example than by followers of a church’s teaching about Jesus.

You could undoubtedly lengthen this list, Jenni. But those came to mind first and fast.

Something you wrote compels me to say that, over the previous two millennia, many individuals (and some schools of thought, too) have looked to Jesus as a person (in your words) “worthy of study and imitation over any other admirable person in history” without subscribing to the heaven-hell motivation for so believing.

At 11:15 AM, Blogger Jenni said...

Interesting... I hadn't thought about inner peace and a sense of direction. I was thinking in terms of living one's life for purely selfish motives, and spiritual self-preservation didn't cross my mind. Of course, I suppose it's also close-minded to assume that, without the hope of heaven or threat of hell, a person would live for purely selfish motives. All one must do is look around to say that the two seem to have very little correlation. I've always thought that maybe I would take the plunge and live very selfishly if I could find a good reason to thoroughly reject the God of the Bible, but that's probably not true. I suppose I use God as an excuse; I blame him for my less-than-self-indulgent life when in reality I am the one preventing myself from acting only in purely self-serving ways.


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