Shame and everlasting contempt
On August 1, 2009, The Mobile Press-Register published an article written by Greg Garrison of the Religion News Service entitled, âHeaven? Sure. Hell? Not so much.â Shortly thereafter, a parishioner of ours brought in a copy for me and wondered aloud, âWhy donât we talk about hell any more?â It just so happened that the answer to his question appeared in the teaser quote right at the top of the article:
âWhen youâre trying to market Jesus, sometimes thereâs a tendency to mute traditional Christian symbols. Difficult doctrines are left by the wayside. Hell is a morally repugnant doctrine. People wonder why God would send people to eternal punishment.â - The Rev. Fred Johns, pastor of Brookview Wesleyan Church in Irondale, Ala.
I took that parishioners challenge to heart, and have kept the article tucked safely in my top left desk drawer since that day. In fact, I think of it often. This week, Iâve pulled it out to reread it as Iâm faced with preaching a seriously difficult set of apocalyptic lessons for the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Here at Saint Paulâs, weâre using Track 2 of the RCL, so our lessons include:
- Daniel 12:1-3 â âThere will be at time of anguishâŠâ
- Psalm 16 â âMy heart therefore is glad and my body shall rest in hopeâŠâ
- Hebrews 10:selected verses â âhis enemies are made a footstoolâŠâ
- Mark 13:1-8 â the opening verses of Markâs Little Apocalypse
I dug out the Garrison article today as Iâve been drawn to that peculiar language of Daniel in regards to the final judgement. âMany of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.â I think we all have an idea of what âeverlasting lifeâ looks like, but the alternative isnât what conventional wisdom would expect. Instead of fire, hell, and damnation, Daniel speaks of âshame and everlasting contempt.â The JPS, a Hebrew translation captures the idea a little more literally, âAnd many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to reproaches and everlasting abhorrence.â
Reproaches and everlasting abhorrence.
I honestly think that Godâs everlasting abhorrence is infinitely more frightening than fire and brimstone. In fact, I find myself even agreeing (you should probably see if hell has frozen over) with Pope John Paul II, who is mentioned in the Garrison article as âstirring up debate in 1999 by describing hell as âthe sate of those who freely and definitely separate themselves from God, the source of all life and joy.ââ Perhaps the good Pontiff had Danielâs 12th chapter in mind as he spoke.
I might not take Garrisonâs advice and preach hell this Sunday, but Iâve spent 450 words on the topic already. After all, Kurt Selles, director of the Global Center at Samford Universityâs Beeson Divinity School, is right when he says, â[hell] needs to be preached. Itâs part of the Gospel.â I just find the fact that âby a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctifiedâ (Hebrews 10:14) to be infinitely more compelling.
Originally posted at Draughting Theology