there is much conversation around heaven and hell in current theological circles. many evangelicals are questioning the traditional conceptions we have inherited about what the afterlife may be like. scholars are beginning to examine anew the greek words in the new testament that in the past have been translated as "hell"- leaving many with the belief that perhaps there may be no such place. others have opted for sort of universalism in which it is believed that hell exists- but not that anyone ends up there.
i often find myself frustrated in these dialogues because of the speculative nature- can we really know now? and do we need to? but the conversation is worth joining because of the perspective offered regarding the "here and now." most of these theological trends seem to be in reaction to the traditional pitch that if you become a christian, then you (lucky you) get go to heaven and you don't have to go to hell (like everyone else). obviously, this is problematic on a number of levels: immediately salvation becomes an individualized venture (what do i get out of the deal?) and the gospel becomes about getting peoples butts into heaven (how many have you "led to the Lord?") resulting in a christian culture that is defined by escapism (sing along, you know this song: "this world is not my home, i'm just a'passin' through!!!).
when Jesus taught, his main point was never "getting to go to heaven" or "follow me so you don't end up in hell." Jesus was always about the here and now- the Kingdom of God is at hand, how will you join today? with Jesus, eternal life seemed to already be in effect. his invitation was always a choice: "with your actions today, will you bring hell to earth? or will you bring heaven to earth?"
with this perspective, salvation is now a community venture (we impact each other in soteriological ways), we are focused on bring the Kingdom of God to earth (not hung up on trying to figure out who is in and who is out when this thing is over), and we take ownership of our planet (because this is our home, God said it was good, and we are to care for it as such).
what are your thoughts on this?
a variety of thoughts inspired by rob bell, brian mclaren and a handful of profs and students at school.