14.7.14

DO THEY PRAY THERE IS A HELL?

Among the books reviewed in these pages is Eben Alexander's Proof of Heaven, a neurosurgeon's reconstruction of his time in a coma, or suffering a near-death experience.  His recollections are consistent with those reported by others, most recently the book and movie Heaven is for Real, which in turn is troubling some believers.
The book places the accounts of heaven in a firm Biblical context, with frequent references to scriptural passages. The film does not follow this practice. In addition to quite fanciful descriptions of heaven, there is the suggestion that everyone is going to end up there. There is no mention anywhere of hell or the last judgment.

There is now a considerable controversy about the film in the Evangelical world. Grossman quotes another pastor, Tim Challies, who criticizes the film “that celebrates the heaven we want, not the Jesus we’ve really got who is worthy of worship and won’t allow unholiness in heaven”. Other critics have accused the film of failing to emphasize that there is no way to heaven except through faith in Jesus.
Put another way, is what awaits us across the final summit not as, or at all, dependent on whether we live our lives the way the holy men would prefer?  And if that is the case, do the holy men have any power over our lives?  More fundamentally: is it only the threat of eternal damnation that induces people to deal with each other in a mutually respectful way? Peter Berger writes, "The presence of evil in the world created by God is intolerable unless there is an ultimate judgment against it." Let's suppose for the sake of argument that the greater and lesser sinners are equally welcomed into the beyond.  Does that make people less or more likely to treat others well in their existence in this life?  And if there is no judgement, would that mean people would be more appreciative or less appreciative of their earthly existence?

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