Eternal Security...

My wife lost a close loved-one over the weekend. With death, I’m always brought back to questions about “destination” and “salvation.” But the strange thing is, it’s NOT because my mind naturally gravitates there during times of loss. In fact, it seems very counterintuitive to question and wonder about a soul’s destination as they pass from this life into the next, because the truth about God’s love and redemption seems so clear when dear, sweet spirits leave us.

The day after, an acquaintance approached Jen in Safeway: “I’m so sorry for your loss. Was she saved?”

Was she saved?

The question dumfounded Jen, because it seemed such a deeply inappropriate query during a time of loss and mourning. Really? I’ve just lost someone incredibly close to me, I am grieving at the loss, and you want to know – effectively – if I think she’s in hell or in heaven?

Is that the right question to be asking? At death, is that even the right priority for us?

Over the last few weeks, a local pastor kept showing up with pamphlets and brochures about “eternal security.” The underlying message was: insure yourself against the fires of hell.

All of this hell talk seems tragically awkward and unnatural to discuss in the midst of pain and suffering on earth. In fact, I cannot reconcile the idea of a loving God looking down on a suffering body and allowing “eternal punishment” to be their final outcome. I can handle the idea of pain and suffering in the world. It’s awful, but I don’t blame God. That question, central to so many atheists and agnostics, doesn’t carry weight with me. But for God to subsequently damn a soul for suffering beyond the corporeal, finite life… well, if Jesus came as a “way,” then I can’t fathom Jesus being a barrier. Stumbling block? Sure. Christ is the ultimate confusion to the self-satisfied and self-convinced, the comfortable and the powerful. But Christ did not come to condemn, but to save.

Just some meandering thoughts on the precipice of mourning. I don’t think I’m trying to explain God into a paradigm that settles well with me, emotionally, so much as I’m confronted most powerfully – at times like these – by the belief I have that God is good and gracious and full of love. Even as I write this post, I hear dozens of arguments against these attitudes, “orthodox” apologetics justifying God’s judgment, the concept of exclusive salvation, and even justifying wrath and condemnation. But those apologetics don’t ring true. They sound like man-made constructs trying to solidify – crystallize – the ineffable.

There may be a hell. God may well allow souls to go there. But I believe - not just because I want to, but because I cannot help it – I believe God will save all that can be saved. All that is good.

9 comments:

Sue said...

Hey Peter,

One of my long-term wishes is to write a book called, "What Not to Say at a Funeral." I think it has the potential to be a best-seller. :)

But what I really wanted to say today was: well-written post! Also the last two paragraphs of the last post, too. FWIW.

Matthew said...

Hey Peter,

Have you read "The Last Word and the Word After That?" by Brian McLaren? Probably have, just thought of it while reading your post.

Your family will be in my thoughts and prayers. Hang in there.

Peter said...

Thank you both for the kind words. Sue, you're absolutely right - and I think you'll have a bestseller on your hands!

Matt, fantastic book! Thanks for the reminder, haven't read it in years.

Existential Punk said...

Shalom, condolences and love yo you both.

Adele

Brent said...

Sue, you could add another book called, "What not to say to someone going through divorce." In my own experience I maintained my understanding and didn't hold it against them even through I did get really tired of it. But it can be hard for people to know how to help someone in circumstances like that.

Pete, I ask God to comfort you and especially your wife during this time of loss.

I wonder if Hell for someone who doesn't know God's love is just that, the not knowing. Maybe its not all that different than what they are already living stretched through eternity. It would not look all that bad from our earthly perspective. But that could seem like a hell to us who have experienced God's love and believe he accepts us. Also looking at earth from a cleared and glorified vantage point it might look like weeping and gnashing of teeth to us. But if that is all they know would it be all that bad for them? I don't know.

Al said...

Peter and Brent, I'm sorry you have been the brunt of our callous disregard for the very real pain of loss. We Christ-followers can be so obtuse at times. We have our preconceived priorities--being saved, not being divorced, can't do this, gotta do that--and we expect others to live by the same list. Mix that with the presumed importance of the life hereafter (contrasted to herenow), and we pour salt on the fresh wounds someone is trying to nurse.
I am moving toward a theology based on my understanding of God's grace, and not so much on a fear of His judgment. My motto is becoming, 'If your theology doesn't match the character of God, guess what needs to change.'
Matthew, just finished reading and rereading McLaren's 'New kind of christian' trilogy, and found it very liberating.

Peter said...

Al, thank you for your kind words. I think I'm moving toward a similar theology. This is a very brave (and in some circles, very dangerous) statement: "If your theology doesn't match the character of God, guess what needs to change."

Brent, I'm so sorry for the pain you're going through. I love you man. I'm here for you, let me know when you can grab a beer.

madcat said...

A christian asked me if my dad was saved when he died.

I gave him a piece of my mind.

asthedeer.com said...

Yes, the 'were they saved' question at a time of death is pretty tacky and thoughtless.

But the question 'what happens to us after we die' is an important one, one of the most basic we ask. The answers we give say a lot about our presuppositions and our worldview.

My condolences to your wife over her loss. Peace to you today.

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