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Sunday, September 19, 2004

Is heaven and hell for real?

Several years ago. I was having breakfast before work with my colleagues and our sales manager. We were chatting away, bonding with each other. After breakfast, as we were walking back to our office, my manager stopped me and said, "I was interested listening to you talk about your church activities... don't tell me you are one of those fundamentalists who believe in the existence of a heaven up there and a hell down there..." he smirked... I stopped to think for a moment, then looked him in the eye, and then said, attemtping to do so with a twinkle of an eye (how exactly do you try that?), "I cannot say for sure whether one is up there and the other is down there. For all we know, there might be a metaphysical heaven and a metaphysical hell that is beyond space and time, yet I beleive that both are nonetheless both as real as you and I are standing here." His smirk disappeared from his face. He looked a away and thoughfully muttered, "Hmm... interesting, never thought of it that way before. Perhaps you do have a point..."

The answer I gave him still causes me to wonder about the reality and mystery of heaven and hell and how we can share this as a life changing truth in our lives today, so that our friends and children understand the importance of the reality of life as God intends for us to live. In a society where people often openly deny the existence of God, or at least claim ignorance about the question, they sure openly declare their beliefs or hopes that their loved ones are in heaven. Yet, they would deny the possibility of a hell. How important is the concept of heaven and hell to post-moderns? I remember many years ago, one of my Chrsitian friends told me that he was "frightened" into the flock by the fire-and-brimstone messages he heard earlier in life. Is the message of heaven and hell still relevant in this post-modern, post-foundationalist, post-authoritarian age of skepticism and pragmatism? If so, what is the nature of this message? Perhaps the important thing is not so much that there are identifiable places, or even that that is the ultimate destination for everyone that should be the emphasis, but what it means for us here on earth, living the here and now and how that should impact our lives now. If that is the case, then how exactly should the message be framed?