I met with a church board member at his house to discuss the article for the purpose of connection and understanding—so we could move forward together. At least, that’s what I thought we were doing. Karen and I had no desire to leave the church; it was our extended family.

“If we can be saved after we die, why evangelize?” He asked.

“We evangelize because life is infinitely richer and more beautiful when lived in an ever-transforming revelation of God’s measureless love in the here and now—right?” I asked.

“Of course, yes!” he agreed wholeheartedly.

Then he continued with the same line of questioning. “But, if we can be saved after we die, what stops someone from living a life of unbounded riot and debauchery,” he asked with a pastoral tone. Except his example was more specific, “What stops me from cheating on my wife and doing drugs?”

I realized he had personalized specific sins in order to connect. But I took him up on his premise.

“Are you saying that your fear of eternal punishment is the only thing that restrains you from cheating on your wife and doing drugs?” I asked, matching his pastoral tone.

“Of course not!” he said, upset.

“Exactly,” I responded, matter of fact.

Then I told him about a question I’d received earlier in the week similar to the one he’d just posed.

“What if a belief in hell is what stops a man from raping a woman?” I’d been asked.

“Then, dear God, that fella needs to believe in punishment for her sake, his sake, and ours,” I’d responded.

The board member looked at me, confused.

“If a punishing view of God is the only thing keeping a person from hurting himself or others, that person may need to keep believing in punishment for a time. But let’s not pretend that person is whole or free. And whatever we do, let’s not give that kind of thinking a pulpit in our lives.”

He nodded enthusiastically, and I continued.

“If we need punishment to motivate us in any way—either to avoid evil or to do good, then we haven’t fully experienced, nor understand the gospel of Jesus, and we still have much to learn about freedom.”

He nodded again, enthusiastically.

But before I left, he made it clear there was likely no room for my non-punishing thoughts about God within our church…

 

This article is excerpted from my book, Leaving and Finding Jesus

Jason Clark is a bestselling storyteller who writes to reveal the transforming kindness of the love of God. He and his wife, Karen, live in North Carolina with their three children, Madeleine, Ethan, and Eva.

2 Comments

  1. Benjamin

    Hay Jason—I wanted to run some queries by you and get your take on them.

    I’ve got a christian friend who doesn’t believe in eternal consciousness of torment nor places, Hell and Lake of Fire, where human beings go who have rejected God’s record of his Son; who have rejected (or refused to believe in) What n Why Christ Did what he did on the cross to be cleansed of their sins by the shedding of his blood.

    I was surprised when he told me that even Satan is redeemed from eternal punishment!!! Do u have any thoughts on Satan being redeemed? Naturally, I didn’t know what to say back to him.

    We’ve heard a lot of stories in the Bible about this Satan..Father of Lies..Lucifer…God of this World…Murderer from the beginning..Angel of Light, etc., and it appears to be mostly negative.

    My question, which he couldn’t answer, if Satan is redeemed, what’s the Lake of Fire’s existence for?

    The other query we discussed is that because God is not into punishing nor retributive justice nor transactional; and his Son is only Love and Kindness, as his Father is(because they are one)—why the heck did this loving godhead send this purported nefarious Satan to this earth? Aren’t there 8 other planets our loving God might have cast him outta heaven to fer crying out??!!! Desire to hear your thoughts on these matters.

    Finally, have been curious bout this for awhile: Derek is pastor of a church. He agrees with you there is no eternal consciousness of torment. Because of that agreement can you join his church and resume an extended family situation again?

    Thanks for your time reading these matters Jason.

    Cordially,
    Benjamin

    Reply
    • Jason Clark

      Hey, Benjamin

      Hope you’re well!

      I would recommend reading Brad Jersak’s book; Her Gates Will Never Be Shut. His writing is easy to follow, and he walks through several early church views on hell while ultimately guiding us toward his hope of reconciliation.

      He also writes about the lake of fire – I like his take. Fire has always been about purifying, transforming, and burning away what isn’t true… that’s a 30,000 ft perspective on a conversation better had around a coffee table where time flows, and connection is the ultimate destination.

      As to Satan being “redeemed,” I suppose it depends on whether we are discussing an anti-Christ rebellious mindset, a paradigm of the knowledge of good and evil, a cruel and punishing narrative of hierarchy and hate, or a fallen angel who went by the name Lucifer.

      Regarding the first thought, the question doesn’t even apply. Jesus has saved us from living enslaved in the knowledge of good and evil… Regarding the second thought, well, that’s an interesting conversation to have around a coffee table where time flows, and connection is the ultimate destination.

      Blessing and Merry Christmas!

      Reply

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