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Kathleen Dowling Singh, an inspired author and hospice worker, says that many times those who, in the last hours of life, fight death the most are very religious people. Fear of God and fear of death are the same thing. When it’s all a matter of counting, earning, meriting, and achieving by various performance principles, you’re afraid of death and also afraid of God. Why wouldn’t you be? Until we clear away the idea of hell, it is not a benevolent universe, but a hostile and dangerous universe where an angry god does not follow his own commandment about love of enemies.
In his book, Inventing Hell, Jon Sweeney blames the modern Christian view of hell on Dante. The imagery that has influenced the Western psyche for 800 years is not the imagery of the Bible, but of Dante’s Divine Comedy. It’s great Italian poetry, but not always excellent theology. It portrays a threatening God, not an inviting, alluring, or revealing God. We’ve been preconditioned by an unbiblical story line. The word “hell” is not mentioned in the Pentateuch. Paul and John never once use the word “hell.” It is not a part of their theology.
This has created a schizophrenic religion in which we have two different gods—one before we die, and another one after we die. The god before we die tells us to love our neighbor as our self, but apparently God doesn’t. Jesus teaches us to forgive seventy-times-seven (Matthew 18:22), but apparently God has a cut-off point. This is theologically unworkable and untenable.
You can’t be more loving than God; it’s not possible! If you understand God as Trinity—the fountain fullness of outflowing love, relationship itself—there is no possibility of any hatred in God. Finally, God—who is Love—wins. And we're all saved by mercy. Knowing this ahead of time gives us courage, so we don’t need to live out of fear, but from love. To the degree you have experienced intimacy with God, you won’t be afraid of death because you’re experiencing the first tastes and promises of heaven in this world.
Six hours with Rob Bell and Richard Rohr
on reclaiming the original Christian narrative.
God is not the punitive and vengeful deity some have been taught to fear. Rather, God's desire has always been to bring beauty and wholeness
out of pain and death. Richard and Rob help us see
that our story begins and ends in love.
Audio recording will be available as CD set or MP3 download
(Watch CAC emails to learn when In the Beginning... is available for purchase.)