And this vision of things also helps address another common question asked of universalists: "If everyone is getting to heaven why not just live it up in this life?" Again, seriously? If you have to ask this question I have to wonder if you're even a Christian. Because you are basically claiming that the life of sin is "better" than the abundant life found in Jesus, that people would prefer sin, today, over the Kingdom of God. You are insinuating that the Christian proclamation isn't good news.
And I think that's really the heart of the issue. If you ever hear a person raise these questions about mission, evangelism or calling people out of a life of sin you are dealing with a person who doesn't really believe in the good news. Because hellfire appears to be the only motive for evangelism these people can imagine. They can't compute a proclamation of joy. Hellfire also appears to be the only motive for calling people out of a life of sin. No hell, no reason to give up sin. Sin, in this view, is the best! Sin is the party, not the Kingdom.
Maybe this is why people who believe in eternal torment are so grumpy, mean-spirited, and miserable. If hell is the only motive for coming to God, if sinners are the one's having the most fun, well, of course these "turn or burn" Christians are unhappy. They've been called out of a fun and joyous life into the Kingdom of God where all is proper, boring, structured, grey and lame. But hey, at least they aren't going to hell! So there they sit in their churches, jealous and grumpy that the world is throwing a party that they can't attend because they had to dress up and go to church on Sunday. No wonder these sorts of Christians want the world to go to hell. They are jealous.
I can't say that I agree with all of the imputed judgements made about people who believe in eternal torment. I think the reasons people cling to certain beliefs can have many roots and those roots can be very complex systems that reach deep beneath the surface of individuals.
On the other hand, I wholeheartedly concur with his criticism of common attitudes about sin. I have often heard Christians declaring that if they found out that the Resurrection never happened that they would lose all faith and live like heathens. They would see themselves as desperately flocking to sinful, hateful behaviors without the check of their Christian faith holding them back.
I don't know what to think when I read people make comments like that on blogs, as if living life in a sexual, drug and alcohol fueled fury would be some kind of awesome life.
To all of those who think that way, I have only two words....Charlie Sheen. Does he seem happy? Wait, you say. Charlie's not a good example.....after all he's probably mentally imbalanced, right?
Maybe. But think of all of the people in your life who are truly miserable. They are probably people who live selfishly, impulsively, and without regard for the consequences of their own actions.
"Sin" is not a party. Or, maybe it is. It's the party that the cops show up at, kicking drunk, vomiting teens out of a trashed house filled with beer cans, drug paraphernalia, and unconscious others who over-imbibed.
I don't think people ever stop "sinning" because they are afraid of eternal damnation. They stop because they realize that sin never gives anything....it only ever takes. It makes you into a person that you don't want to be. It doesn't give peace, it only disrupts your serenity.
If there is any good news it is in the fact that there is another way to live; there is hope; there are second chances; there is the possibility and realization of redemption.
There is no need to sustain the idea of eternal torment as a way to make living the Christian life more appealing.
I swung by D'MA's blog at Gullible Travels and thought her post was relevant and an example of how some Christians think of sin.
A quote from one of D'ma's fellow Sunday School attendees:
The teacher starts out, "For the believer God's commands are a protection from self-destruction. How do non-believers view God's commands?"Sin = having a great time.....Faith = missing out on all the good stuff! ;-)
Other attendee: "Unbelievers reject God's commands because they don't want to be accountable. Men want to go out and party and have adulterous affairs and not feel they have to answer for it. Women want to drink and have one-night stands and not feel guilty."