Thursday, June 16, 2005

Rethinking Hell


Just finished reading. Posted by Hello

The Last Word and the Word After That by Brian McLaren is the third book of this postmodern trilogy. The first two books are A New Kind of Christian and The Story We Find Ourselves In. I enjoyed the full trilogy because it gave me permission to think outside the rigid box of fundamentalism that I was raised in spiritually. I didn't agree with everything McLaren had to say, but I enjoyed the discussion, and that's just what the books are...a discussion.

This isn't a "Lord of the Rings" type religious trilogy. This is really a thinly veiled excuse to talk about deep theological issues in a more engaging manner. The main character is a pastor, Dan Poole, who is rethinking the conservative faith that he grew up with. He asks his friend/mentor, Neo, many of the things that I've wrestled with myself throughout the years. The discussion gave my thoughts "voice" and helped me to work them through as well as not feel like I'm the only one to question what many consider unquestionable.

The Last Word... is a bit different from the first two books in that it focuses entirely on the subject of hell. I'm sure many people will be offended (in fact ARE offended, based on amazon.com reviews) that he would even dare question the reality of hell. But I would hope that every true believer of Jesus at least pauses to question their concept of hell. If people really are being sent to hell to "burn for eternity", I'd hope they'd give it more than just a passing thought! Doesn't compassion demand that?

McLaren doesn't preach a new doctrine on hell, he merely uses various characters to offer the history of hell, the various views on hell and reflect on it logically, theologically, and emotionally.

Don't start with The Last Word. It may bore you to tears unless you like history and philosophical arguments. Plus, if you are uncomfortable with uncertainty, it might be too much too fast. Start at the beginning.

1 comment:

Daniel said...

It's really interesting to see the pseudo-discussion about this book on Amazon. On the one hand, there are people intrigued and challenged by this provocative re-assessment of the doctrine of hell, and on the other hand, there are some very conservative people freaking out about this message straight from hell.
You're right not to recommend this book to everyone Remy... If the amazon conversation is indicative of anything, it's that the building blocks laid in the trilogy's first two books are crucial to having the right frame of mind when approaching the conclusion to the series.
Personally, I think it all goes back to our willingness to rethink the Bible, what it is and what it's about. I think a lot of us are trapped in the very rigid ways of thinking that we've been raised in or indoctrinated with, and that McLaren's flexibility becomes to us a taunting that threatens to destroy our worldview.
McLaren is right to put the focus where it needs to be: on the Kingdom of God--not on an angry old man who wants most of us to burn that some people call 'God'. A helpful rethink.