"So, you are saying that you don't believe in Hell?"
I don't know if you have ever been asked that question but it is not an easy one to answer with intellectual integrity without simultaneously inviting scorn or causing angst. We have well-used and well-worn solid images and concepts of "Hell" that are easily retrievable to the imagination. In the popular imagination, Hell is the a place of continual fire and torment for wicked souls who have either refused to believe in Jesus or (tragically) have never heard about Jesus. Hell is a solid place in this scheme to which one goes "for all eternity" when one dies. If you are asked whether or not you believe in Hell, this is more or less the image which you are being asked to affirm or deny. In fact, for many western conservative Christians, to deny this popular image of Hell is practically to deny the gospel. Even to bring up the question is to invite serious suspicion from interlocutors that you may be "going soft" on the gospel. But if it is "the gospel" that we are concerned with, I would like to ask what part Hell actually plays in the gospels? Did Jesus warn people that they would go to Hell if they did not believe in Him? Did Jesus ask people where they thought they would go when they died? What was Jesus' agenda and what part did Hell play in that agenda? In the coming weeks and even months leading up to the Meeting Jesus Conference on August 5, 2017, I will be offering various thoughts concerning the gospel of Luke with some reflections along the way on the subject of Hell as it appears or seems to appear within Luke's Gospel narrative. What we find may surprise you. We, more often than not, bring to the text an expectation for it to say things that we already believe or affirm. That expectation can often be much louder than the text itself. One of the major purposes of the Meeting Jesus Conferences is to be able to sit down and take in an entire gospel in one short segment of time so that we can soak ourselves in the original author's message so thoroughly that their message starts to speak louder than our own pre-disposition. This is the luxury and the challenge for western people who live with Bibles coming out of their ears. We are on one hand over-familiar with the scriptures, (believing we know what they say before we read it), and woefully under-familiar with the scriptures (lacking concentration and attentiveness because we take the presence of the Bible in our culture and lives for granted.) But the gospel has fallen on hard times in the West, and many strange and varied teachings are coming out of "the churches" all over the place. Some "churches" are claiming that "all gays go to Hell" while other "churches" are waving rainbow flags from the pulpit! And now I am asking what the Hell this is all about? What is at stake here? What is the gospel really all about? I invite you to join me on this journey to meet Jesus again for the first time. And to do it through the eyes of the first followers of Jesus, found in the gospel narratives.