There of some us out here for whom “Hell” is more than just a plot point in the latest episode of Supernatural. More than a video game catchphrase: “Burn in hell, suckers!” More than a slightly-less-sinful curse word.
Whether you were raised with it or jumped in later in life, the Christian concept of hell is by turns horrific, disconcerting and yet, to some, comforting.
“The Bible is clear.” It’s something I heard all my life. From the pulpit. From Sunday School teachers. From my own parents. It’s a sentence I’ve thrown around myself in years past.
And there are topics which the bible is clear and straightforward on.
Hell is not one of them.
Today I did something different. I paid full price to see a documentary in a movie theater. I bypassed Bruce Willis’ journey back in time to kill his younger self. I forsook serious Ben Affleck. I didn’t even give the quirky teen drama a second thought.
Hellbound? explores the surprisingly vast spectrum of beliefs within Christianity about Hell. Writer and Director Kevin Miller interviews pastors, authors, scholars and even death metal musicians as he navigates us through the issues. From uber-conservative Mark Driscoll to emergent thinker Brian McClaren, from those with absolute certainty to those “living in the mystery”, everyone contributes a verse.
There are three classic positions on hell: those who believe it is a literal place of eternal conscious torment, those who believe it is simply the end of a soul’s existence (annihilationism) and those who believe that is either a temporary or metaphorical condition from which all people will ultimately be redeemed (universalism). What many do not realize is that there is scriptural and historical support for all three sides of the debate. The answers are not simple.
There is something to offend everyone in this film, whether it is a death metal rocker positing that religion is simply a money-making business, or the hateful vitriol of the Westboro Baptist church member who insists that God hates almost everyone. My favourite part is when this 50-year-old woman refers to the interviewer as a pussy. Very godly.
This is not a cheesy church-umentary to be played in church basements and used for neighbourhood outreach. It is a fascinating look at a complex and contentious issue.
The release of Rob Bell’s “Love Wins” rocked the evangelical community last year. There are many who believe we are better off NOT to broach the discussion at all. But these are the questions people are asking. And I have to agree with Gregory Boyd who said “the truth shouldn’t have anything to fear.”
So here’s me, not a bible scholar, or pastor, or theologian; just a regular Jo. And this movie was made for us too. Choose it – Bruce Willis will be killing someone else next month.