In his column Sunday, the Morning News' Steve Blow wrestled with the the problem of hell, or at least the conservative Protestant vision of it. How, the question goes, can a supposedly loving, forgiving God condemn souls to an eternity of unbearable torment?
Blow's answer is that God doesn't. Without delving too deeply into theology, he concludes it's simply not plausible and not in line with what most Christians believe.
There's no way we could sit complacently in our favorite pew Sunday after Sunday, or devote such energy to building pretty new sanctuaries, when most of humanity faces eternal torment without our intervention.
If we truly believed [that knowing Jesus is the only way to escape eternal suffering], we would quit our jobs and spend every waking moment trying to save people from the flames -- just as we would save someone from a burning house.
And as it turns out, polls show we really don't believe it. Not most of us, anyway. One recent survey found that 70 percent of Americans agree with the statement: "Many religions can lead to eternal life."
Even 57 percent of evangelical Christians agreed with that statement.
Governor Rick Perry would beg to differ:
Excellent response to DMN Steve Blow's column on the reality of hell.tinyurl.com/bxcf69z
— Rick Perry (@GovernorPerry) March 12, 2013
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The link takes Governor Perry's Twitter followers to a piece by Ronald Scales, senior pastor at Highland Park Presbyterian Church, who dismisses Blow's argument as "bad theology."
The problem is: politically correct theology is rarely good theology. Why? John Calvin nailed it when he said, "The human heart is a factory of idols." You and I can always come up with a god of our own fashion that is much more palatable than the One True Living God. We'd all prefer a god that is a cross between Big Bird, Santa Claus, and everyone's grandfather ... rather than the angular, undomesticated, God of perfect holiness and justice that we encounter in Holy Scripture ... but Who is also wildly -- even prodigally -- loving and gracious. Lion and Lamb. That's good theology. We prefer only what we do not fear: lamb.
All this gets down in the weeds pretty quickly, but there are two takeaways: 1) that Rick Perry thinks hell is a real place, presumably full of Democrats; and 2) that their eternal punishment somehow involves Rick Perry and Steve Blow in a room talking theology.