Hellbound? A review and some thoughts

I finally had the chance to sit down and watch Hellbound? Today. I’ve been waiting about 2 years to see this film which began filming in the aftermath of Rob Bell‘s Love Wins book. It’s a movie that delves into some deep theological areas all surrounding around ideas about where we will go after we die. There is a lot to unpack about this film but first things first, if the subject matter is interesting to you you should go and watch it.

The thing that I love best about this movie is it gets rid of the notion that there are black and white answers to any of these questions. There just aren’t. There are answers that are more widely accepted than other ones but those answers suffer the same handicaps as the othger questions. They require a certainty that no on on  earth has. There are scriptures that seem to point to the fact that there is an eternal hell awaiting some of us when we die but there are also scriptures that seem to speak of the salvation of everyone. I think Kevin Miller did a good job of handling the subject matter pretty evenly, there is a slight advantage to the universalist viewpoint but Jerry Walls, Mark Driscoll and Greg Boyd all got quite a bit of screen time and none of them are universalists.

I would have liked to have seen someone like NT Wright interviewed for this thought I am sure he;d be reluctant to participate. He offers a strikingly different viewpoint on this whole matter that I think adds to the complexity of the debate.

Entirely too much screen time was dedicated to Westboro Baptist, I think at this point of time everyone knows what they believe and everyone agrees they are as far from Christianity as one can get. To keep going back to them again and again  really didn’t push the conversation forward.

I also think continuing to include Chad Holtz without any kind of edit or allowing him the opportunity to express his new views on the subject was a bit sloppy. For those that don’t know Chad is a pastor who lost his job after defending Love Wins in a letter to his congregation, he has since changed his view on Hell and has expressed this change publicly. I don’t agree with many of Chad’s current conclusions but his interview should have been removed or he should have had a chance to share his new thoughts.

Overall I am happy with the questions that the film was asking, I am very happy with the sense of uncertainty that the film leaves, these are important questions, not ones to be taken lightly but ultimately they aren’t questions that any one of us can ever know for sure. Perhaps the uncertainty about what happens after we die should lead us to another set of what I think are more important and more pressing questions. What are we going to do with the gospel today? What else might have Jesus been saving us from if not just from hell?

Very little time is spent on the life to come in the bible, most of what we find there has to do with this life, the here and now.  I think it is safe to assume that most of our focus should also be on how we are living this life, not so much where we will spend eternity, but more about how we can serve God and others here.

That is not to say that healthy debate and speculation isn’t good for us but we need to be careful as to how we frame that debate. Humility and respect is of the utmost importance. I’d personally like to see more of that in many of the areas that we discuss. Creation vs evolution, whether or not gifts of the spirit still exist, even the very nature and existence of God. If both sides of any topic would learn to respect the other side I think our conversations could become a lot deeper than they are currently.

I am not at all certain about what happens when we die. I tend to lean towards something that I guess could be called universalism but there is a hefty amount of “I don’t know” in almost all of my theological ideas. This allows me to explore things and keep an open mind about what God is doing and where he is leading me. The Bible is not a black and white book so it does not allow me to have a black and white theology. I am certainly never going to assume that I know for sure the final destination of any individual or even any one group. I think our lives DO matter here as do our choices. I am not one to believe in some get out of jail free card for anyone, including Christians, we will ALL give an account of what we have done here and we will all need to work out our OWN salvation with fear and trembling.

Jesus doesn’t want to get you out of hell, he wants you to pick up your cross and follow him into death. Death to ego, death to self, death to making this life about how much you can get out of it, death to idols of money and toys and sex and power. Those are the things I believe will be burned up in hell and that process will be painful. Many of us are already going through that process right now while we are still living. I have seen things that I thought were important getting burned up right before my very eyes.

I am very glad that Hellbound is around for people to watch and to spark conversations like this. Maybe we’ll find that when we are talking about final destinations we’re missing the whole point of who Jesus was and what he did on the cross. Maybe we’ll understand what it means to follow him. Watch this movie alone and in groups of people and have conversations about it. You’ll be glad you did.


Questions: Evil

Every Thursday I take a question asked by one of you and do my best to respond to it. If you are interested in having your question answered by me you can post a comment on this post or shoot it off to my email mikewise77@gmaill.com Today’s question comes from Kristie.

I guess my biggest question is why does evil exist? why is it that when your a very strong christian but seems no matte how hard you try evil is still stronger sometimes?

So I could write a book of about 500 pages in length and still not totally satisfy the answer to the issue about evil. There have been exhaustive studies on thew nature and problem of evil and still the question persists. Why is there evil in this world?

One thing that all people of all different worldviews can easily agree on is the existence of evil in this world. That’s not usually up for debate. People rob banks, folks are murdered, rapes and molestation happens to innocent parties, this is a messed up broken world in which we live. Even beyond the big things though we have people in our lives that make life difficult by lying, spouses cheat, kids get into fights, on a large and small scale evil exists of that there is no question.

A lot happens in the beginning of the bible, the creation of the world, the first humans and most importantly, the fall. Some take a literal view of these events and others, like myself, see this story as a metaphor for deep spiritual truths. Either way one thing is clear, according to the bible evil was not originally a part of the master plan for this world. The plan was for all things to be ‘good’. We as humans were meant to be in harmony with God, we were made to enjoy him and for him to enjoy us. There was nowhere in this world that God wasn’t, there was no separation between God and man.  I want to be careful when I say this because I am not a pantheist who believes that God is everything, nor am I a panentheist who believes that God is IN everything. God is separate from his creation but he exists but outside and within it. This idea is handled beautifully by NT Wright in his book Simply Christian and this idea will become important in a moment.

Somewhere along the way Man committed the first sin. The word simply means to miss the mark, something was done that wasn’t a part of the plan. The bible speaks of Adam and Eve eating of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, whether or not you think this was a literal even or not man was trying to become something that he was not meant to be. Man wanted to know things that he was not designed to know. At this point is when things shifted in our world from how they were supposed to be to how they are now.

The entire literary scope of our bible tells the story of God’s rescue operation. It’s a love story between our creator and us it’s about God choosing a people that from which the 2nd Adam would come from. The story culminates in Jesus whom we have 4 gospels written about. He takes the sin of the entire world onto himself and dies a criminals death on the cross. The story doesn’t end there though many believe that it does, the reason the story doesn’t end there is one of the main reasons I am a Christian, the resurrection.

With the resurrection God through Jesus begins a work that will someday end all evil, death and suffering. But that’s Sunday’s news, Kristie, your question has to do with Friday’s events, why is there evil? Why is it so powerful?

There is evil because this world is in a state of brokenness, we are a depraved people not only because of what we do but because of who we are. Sin isn’t just our actions against God which all of us are guilty of but it is also the condition which we were born into. This world is broken and that affects everything in it. Why are their murders? Because the world is broken. Why is the cancer? Because the world is broken. Why do bad things happen even to those who follow Christ? Because the world is broken.

But I believe, and I hope, and I trust that God already knows and has seen the end of the story. Remember when I mentioned that God exists both outside and inside of this creation? I really believe that. Whatever heaven is, wherever it exists I believe it parallels our world here. God and heaven exist separate from this world and from that vantage God knows all that has happened, is happened and will happen. I believe in some ways God see’s the fall, and the culmination described in Revelation 21 in one single glance.  But that same God isn’t witnessing all of this as a disinterested spectator, he has again and again come into this world, into our space time, and assisted and directed the events here. If nothing else Jesus is a stunning example of that.

There are forces at work against all of this though, make no mistake that it is a war we are in and that’s why sometimes it can feel like evil is much stronger than good. It is also why it can seem that God is so distant, but it helps me top remember the end game, my faith and hope and trust is in he who has begun a good work in me. I believe that he will complete it, I believe that I am already, even in my sinful nature, a new creation. Nothing that this world can do will surprise God, he is in control.

I hope that this has been helpful.