I consider myself a pretty conservative guy when it comes to biblical doctrine. Fundamental. Baptist. Whatever. I march pretty much in step with the major creeds and confessions of faith. I believe in one God, one Savior, salvation by grace through faith alone. I believe Jesus is the son of God, wholly God and wholly man. I’m all about the Word of God being inerrant, infallible, living and eternal. No exceptions.
But recently I went through a doctrinal crisis of sorts. Every now and then I like to re-evaluate where I stand on things. I don’t want to be some doctrinal robot regurgitating the things I’ve been taught. I want to do my own study, challenge my own stances, my own beliefs, and see if they stand up under some scrutiny.
What happened rocked me a bit and, to be frank, disturbed me.
My issue? Hell. I suddenly could not accept the teaching that it was eternal. I knew what the Bible said about hell and I dove into the opposite position to see what those folks had to say. I wanted to prove to myself that hell was, indeed, not forever and ever.
I couldn’t accept that a God who loves mankind so much, more than any of us can even understand, enough to die a horrible, tortuous death, would allow one of those beloved creatures spend eternity in a place of such torment. I just couldn’t fathom it. It didn’t fit with the God I loved and served, the God I had experienced in my own life. Surely, he’d want to give those folks a second chance, want to make a way of salvation for them as well.
I studied both sides of the argument, voiced my struggle and evolving views to my dad (a pastor and my spiritual mentor in many ways), and argued to God over it. I wanted so badly for my traditional view to be wrong, misguided, misunderstood, anything.
But in the end I came to this conclusion:
Sometimes you have to separate what your heart feels from what your head knows.
My heart didn’t want this to be true (and, honestly, still doesn’t), but my head knew the Bible meant what it said. The verses and passages supporting a temporary hell or no hell just didn’t hold water for me in the end. Conclusions had to be forced and I wasn’t comfortable with that.
And then I had to accept the bottom line. God is just. We don’t always have to understand that justice but we need to accept it. God is right. His sense of rightness may not always please us but who are we to tell him he’s wrong?
I’ll continue to test myself and my positions. I’ll continue to dig and search and eventually find some semblance of understanding. I hope to pass that same inquisitiveness and hunger for knowledge on to my children. I definitely don’t want to raise a bunch of robots. Even if they wind up disagreeing with me, at least they’ll be thinking and that’s a very good thing. Thinking people can be reasoned with, debated, persuaded.
Question: Is there a doctrine you’ve wrestled with? What was the outcome? Do you think it’s good to teach our children to wrestle with this stuff so they can stand on their own beliefs?