First, C.S. Lewis wrote an absolutely inspired book on the subject of Hell, The Great Divorce. Recommending a book on such a personal topic is about as warm and caring as telling a sick person, "take two aspirin and call me in the morning." But here’s the deal: Lewis' work is a first-person narrative that never chides, doesn't preach, and brings light instead of heat to the discussion. It is vastly better than Rob Bell’s book. God bless Rob Bell for raising questions about our motives when it seems many Christians are cheering for the fires of torment. We are all the better for giving serious attention to his questions. Sadly, Love Wins falls disappointingly short on answers.
Second, a hundred years ago I took lifeguard training from the Red Cross. One of the situations we trained for is when a panicked swimmer actually resists rescue because of, well . . . panic. The issue of Hell is a lot like that. I've haven't seen any comments during the debate this year on John 3:17 (That's 17, right after the overworked verse, John 3:16): "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." Jesus doesn't condemn, he comes to save.
It shouldn't raise much debate: we plainly see people drowning all around us: drowning in sorrow, in fear, addictions, injustice, and ignorance. For many people Hell isn't after they die, it's today. The kind of salvation needed is the kind that lifts and rescues now and in the age to come. Only the most foolish followers of Jesus actually tell others, "you're going to Hell" for three reasons: (1) it rarely changes anyone's heart, (2) we don't know it all, and (3) we're not Jesus, so it's not our call to make. How foolish would it be for a lifeguard to stand on the shore and shout, "Hey! You in the blue swimsuit! You're drowning!" Better to run into the ocean Baywatch style.
Finally (OK, I said two, but this is a bonus), I'd like to suggest a game-changing question: when does eternal life begin? For my money, I'll go with Jesus' words in John 17:3: "Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." Only a fool thinks of eternal life in terms of time-orientation. Eternal life is qualitative: knowing the Father and knowing Jesus. How soon can that start? Forget about Hell: how many believers are waiting for eternal life to begin after they die when all the while they could enter in now?
Yep, the party’s just about over. There may not be anyone left to listen. Maybe I’m that guy, sitting at the bar talking to the clean up crew, and they’re thinking, “Dude, give it up and go home.” Either way, be careful, everyone.