Love Triumphs Over All

Here is a thumbnail sketch of what I think is wrong with the modern day church…”hell”

The modern church teaches hell, lives in hell and promotes hell. In fact the whole premise of the church has become do as it says or experience the fear of a God who will send you straight to hell.

The Church will fight to the bitter end anyone who does not fear God will send them to hell if they do not live in one accord to their traditional rules, polity and dogma.

The most recent target of the wrath of the Church is Reverend Rob Bell a pastor and author who has achieved rock star status in the Christian world, whom they say is preaching a false gospel. As near as I can tell the entire furor is simply because Rev. Bell says essentially that love trumps everything else including hell.

As reported by Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

“On Saturday, in a blog post on the popular Christian website The Gospel Coalition, Justin Taylor blasted Bell’s new book, out March 29, for teaching “false doctrine”:
I’m glad that Rob Bell has the integrity to be lay [sic] his cards on the table about universalism. It seems that this is not just optimism about the fate of those who haven’t heard the Good News, but (as it seems from below) full-blown hell-is-empty-everyone-gets-saved universalism.
Universalism, in its broadest terms, preaches that everyone goes to heaven and that there is no hell. Critics say it represents a break from traditional Christianity, which they say holds that heaven and hell are very real places. In most Christian circles, universalism is a dirty word.”

First, let me say I probably will not cause as much of a stir as Rev. Bell, because I am just one small voice in an ocean of millions…he is the pastor of a church of 10,000 or so.
So here it goes. I not only agree with Rev. Bell but would also take it one step further and say there is no physical hell one is sent to by God.
Further, I believe for those of the Christian faith, Jesus is the Christ. I also believe God appears and speaks in many other visions, physicality’s and spiritedness for the many and varied creations in the universe.

I will not spend this blog writing a defense for my rather pluralistic belief; suffice to say I don’t think God is nearly as limited as the traditional Christian Church has made God to be. So to think there is only one way to be in relationship with God would be akin to saying there is only one way to have sex.

The Christian Church for two thousand plus years has kept it adherents in line with the threat of people being sent to hell. If anyone has dared to stand up to this weak theology they have been ridiculed, written off or at the end of the day called a heretic.

The main-line traditional church over the years has come up with so many rules and requirements just to be served Holy Communion are to have made it irrelevant for most.

In fact the church has spent so much time telling people all the things that will keep them from a God, a funny comedic line has become all too true for some; “If I am going to hell I am going to enjoy my time getting there”.

RBS, does not fear a place called hell because it is not a place, but rather a state of being. Further, God does not send one to hell, one chooses that destiny for themselves.

For the believer, the only path to this state of being called hell or if you will “the total absence of God” is to choose to not have a relationship with that which created us. I dare say the choice to be in relationship with God can and is often made in an instant, as the testimony of those who have died and or had that “outer body experience”. For the vast majority of folks their lives have changed for the better and there was no fire breathing God screaming “you didn’t do it my way”. In fact, the stories are just the opposite.

The Christian Church has capitalized on the people’s apathy and fear of being responsible for their own relationship with God. Why, because we are afraid of making a mistake or worse. People have often said to me, “Pastor, what if you are wrong?” My response is, “I am not wrong! God is about “agape”, unconditional love! To believe otherwise after reading the “red-letters” is to buy into the power and control of the institutional church.

I don’t know about the reader, but I need a moving, powerful and intimate relationship with the Creator of the Universe, not a puppet master relationship with the traditional church. In fact if one reads about Jesus closely enough they will see that is what Jesus life, death and resurrection was calling us too, a full, powerful and intimate relationship with God!

The Christian Church has missed the point of Jesus, which was to place people in a position of having a full and intimate relationship with the Creator.

Yes, Jesus spoke of hell but always from the point of view of what it is to be out of relationship with God. That is something we choose not God. God’s choice according to the teachings of Jesus is always to be in relationship with us. In fact as Rev. Bell has suggested love trumps all!

Read the story of the Prodigal Son…love triumphs!

The women caught in adultery…love triumphs!

The paralytic lowered through the roof…love triumphs!

The woman at the well…love triumphs!

The tax collector…love triumphs!

I could go on and on. However, I know some are already asking what is it that God requires for this unconditional love, for this relationship to be strong? We know what God requires, “to do justice, to act mercifully and to walk humbly with God.”

God’s love, not anger is what brings us home…gives us heaven in death and gives us peace while on this earth.

Just how do you think you know that RBS? You are nothing more than an inconsequential pastor with a small group whom dares to call itself a church, so how do you know?

I know because just as Dr. King said, “the arc of history is long, but it always bends towards justice.” There is only full justice when acts of love rule the day!

I know because at the core of my beliefs reside these truths:

John 14:1-4
John 3:16-18
James 3:17-18
Micah 6:8
Romans 8:31-39
Matthew 25:31-40
Matthew 22:34-40

Yup, there are those who will consider me a heretic or preaching a false gospel…but hey, love triumphs over all!

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at http://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.