The Empathetic Civilisation | Dirty Heaven [4]

Rumbling in the background of these posts has, of course, been the debate about Rob Bell’s views on hell – which have been picked apart by everyone despite the fact that his book has yet to be released.

What is so interesting is that the reaction to the press releases about the book go a fair way to proving the point I’ve been trying to make: the traditional idea of heaven is a place that totally lacks any empathy. ‘Fairwell Rob Bell…‘ is how some have taken it – suggesting that because of his (as yet unread) views on hell, Rob is to be dismissed on all counts. Heaven is a place where those who have a certain view of Scripture will go for ever and be really pretty bloody smug about it, for all eternity shouting down ‘I told you so!’ to everyone else.

Reading Josh Harris’ response is so depressing:

Jesus taught that a select number of people would make it to eternal life. Most people will choose the broad way that leads to destruction, but a few will choose the narrow way to life.

Anyone (including Ghandi) who refuses to trust Christ alone for salvation will die in their sin and will not be able to follow Jesus into eternal life.

There is nothing that any person can do to be counted among the saved.

It’s contradictory, and fascist and supremely distasteful. To be honest, if heaven is going to include Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson and a few selected, predestined others, and hell is going to include Gandhi and Bob Marley and the rest of humanity pre-consigned to damnation, then I know where I’d rather be.

Rob is right. It boils down to the question: what is God like. And if God is love, and empathy is key, then heaven has to be abandoned. It’s the only way that hell will be emptied. Love will win. And it begins now.


7 responses to “The Empathetic Civilisation | Dirty Heaven [4]”

  1. Excellent posts, KB.

    I liked this response to Rob Bell:-

  2. acetate monkey

    Hi Kester, loving the series. Really interesting.
    I’m reading a bit of research at the moment about empathy in relation to burnout. The papers break empathy down into empathic concern (concern for the well-being of another without sharing their emotion), emotional contagion (convergence of emotion either affecting another to feel like you or vice versa) and communicative responsiveness (being able to communicate about emotive subjects). Burnout happens when emotional contagion overwhelms someone so they distance themselves and don’t care any more (2ndary alexithymia). How do these concepts relate to a dirty/clean heaven?

    really looking forward to reading where you are going with this series.

    @Tom W- spot on response!

  3. Gary Manders

    I think CS Lewis’ imaginative book the Great Divorce is apposite here. Heaven is maybe not how we expect it?

  4. Isn’t Harris talking about our response to ‘Grace’. It seems this word is a crucial one.

    This is the best response to Bell I have seen so far by someone who has actually read the book!

  5. I have to say I am deeply concerned by Harris’ response. The more I read it, the more worried I get.

    He says that “Jesus teaches that only a select number of people will make it to heaven” and goes on to quote two passages, neither of which I think can be used to say catagorically that Jesus supported the idea of an eternal hell. Both of them are metaphorical in their nature. And the use of Revelation to support an argument like this I think is seriously wrong-headed. Revelation is a highly highly complex narrative using a form of literature that we simply don’t have the tools to understand in the same way that early readers will have done. For me, Harris is offering a too-literal interpretation of it, and this is not only doing scripture a great disservice, but doing people a huge disservice too. Why? Because it leads to doctrine that is terribly abusive, leading to a theology of burning and damnation that is, I think, way off the mark in terms of the God we purport to believe in.

  6. as you love dirt so much i am sure you have seen the wellcome collection has a dirt season and exhibition
    more dirty earth than dirty heaven although they are probably the same thing

  7. Brilliant – just seen it advertised too. Thanks for flagging it up. I’ll go and post about it.