Thursday, September 01, 2005

Choosing Hell?

Yesterday I passed a church sign that said, "No one in their right mind would choose hell over heaven." Passing over the grammatical problems for the sake of pondering the theological ones, I asked myself whether this was true.

I think all of us know people who are, day by day, choosing a living hell over a better life that is within their grasp. People who cling to self-destructive habits, to deep bitterness, to their personal idols, even though it is obvious to everyone else that these things are destroying them and ruining the lives of those they love. Even a tiny toddler, screaming in defiance instead of relaxing into the sleep she desparately needs, shows this desire to choose misery over happiness.

Indeed, when I've had painful moments of self-revelation, I have seen that deep down inside, I would rather have hell than heaven. I would rather live in torment at the center of my own universe than live in joy and peace in a universe where all glory went to God. I don't doubt that this desire would hold true even in the face of ultimate realities.

Apart from the grace of God, none of us would even want to go to heaven. Not if we really understood what it entailed--not just a place of pleasantness or endless life, but a place where God is everything and there is no more room for our self-will and self-centeredness. I think we would, quite rationally and calmly, prefer to go to hell. There will be many very small universes in hell.

I suppose, stated like this, the position does seem insane. You could say the whole human race is not in its right mind. Perhaps that's what the board was supposed to mean.

But I hope not. Because deep in my heart of hearts, I enjoy looking down on people who post bad theology on church signs.

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