Monthly Archives: April 2017

Why Do They Say “Hell on Earth”?

The traditional concept of hell as a place of eternal damnation and punishment for the wicked does not seem to be a very viable idea for many modern people on a spiritual path. Most reject it out of hand as a relic of a past primitive belief system. I would tend to agree with them, but with a twist.

One problem with the concept of “eternal” punishment is in the translation from the original language of the New Testament, for example, take Matthew 25:41:

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

The original Koine Greek word underlined above is αἰώνιος which transliterated into English is AIONOS and that comes from αἰών which transliterated into English as AION. The Blue Letter Bible (BLB) Lexicon gives three possible translations:

  1. for ever, an unbroken age, perpetuity of time, eternity
  2. the worlds, universe
  3. period of time, age

The modern word “eon” comes from AION. An eon is admittedly a long period of time, but it is not forever. Matthew 24:2 uses this AION also:

 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

This corresponds more closely to the 3rd definition given from the BLB  as a “period of time” or “age” and I think this more closely reflects the original meaning. Christ would return at the end of the  age and no punishment is eternal. Punishment (or a time for correction) is for a period of time, the amount of time required to learn the necessary lessons to move on. Think of karma.

If you are you are old enough you might remember a popular TV series in the 1960s called The Twilight Zone. It included a fair amount of science fiction and fantasy that always had a surprise twist at the end.

I remember one episode where it starts out with a gangster getting killed in a gunfight with the police. He wakes up and is greeted by a man who is his guide to the world he finds himself in after death. It seems unbelievably pleasant. He can pretty much have anything he wants. He particularly likes to gamble so he goes to a beautiful casino and he can’t lose. Not even once. There are beautiful women everywhere who fawn over his every word and will jump in the sack with him anytime he wants. The finest food and booze are at his disposal just for the asking.

No matter what he does he can’t lose, but after a while it starts getting a little boring. Part of the spice of life was the potential to lose. But not here.

Eventually he is talking with his guide and he asks him a question that has been bothering him ever since he got here. He says, “So I wasn’t such a nice guy in life, so how did a guy like me end up in heaven?” The guide looks him in the eyes and replies, “Who told you this was heaven?

Exit episode with the guide howling with devilish laughter.

The reason I tell this story is that perhaps we need to rethink what hell is, and where it is. Maybe you are in hell right now and just don’t know it? (… Soundtrack: devilish laughter!)

Author Joseph J. Dewey has an inspiring story called The Parable of Decision which is well worth your time to read. In the story four men die and wake on a path and are greeted by a mysterious man who instructs them:

“Welcome, my friends’, he said. ‘You are approaching your new home and I am here to instruct you as much as is permitted. You notice there are two paths before you: One of them takes you to Heaven, a place more beautiful than you can imagine. The other takes you to Hell, a land full of darkness, despair and wretched individuals. All I can tell you at this point is you are to choose a path, but once you reach your destination you cannot turn back. Once you get to Heaven you will stay there, or once you get to Hell you will stay there. One more word I can say. Do not be frightened, for that reward you get in the end will be that which you deserve. Go forth confident that if you have led a just life, you will reap as you have sowed. You must proceed one at a time and each walk the path alone.’”

One of the things you learn in the story is that if you find yourself in hell you can work to turn hell into heaven. The other thing you learn is that there is no apparent end to the path. You really should read  The Parable of Decision.

If you think about it, and watch the evening news regularly, for a lot of people this world is not unlike a kind of hell. Disease, famine, war, all the horses of the apocalypse parade across our TV every night. Today it may be Syria, or the brutal dictatorship of North Korea, or drug cartels murdering with abandon.

Or closer to home, Democrats and celebrities enduring President Trump! 🙂

Like in the parable, perhaps the idea is not to give up, but to see that in time we have the possibility of turning hell into heaven. Like in the parable the only thing that is possibly eternal is the path.

 

Burning Bush Plant

What Question Would You Ask God?

Anne Foerst writes in “God in the Machine: What Robots Teach Us About Humanity and God“:

“What does it mean to be human? How can humanness be defined? Can we ever come up with criteria that distinguish us from animals – or, for that matter, from robots? And what exactly is our place and our purpose on this planet, in our sun system, in the universe? Are humans special, or are they just another random species on an insignificant planet?”

As computer scientists make great advances in the field of Artificial Intelligence the day looms when such questions may become crucial. No one knows when our technology will reach the point of either reproducing real intelligence, or mimicking it so accurately that even experts may have difficulty discerning the difference.

As early as 1950 Alan Turing proposed the possibility of creating a test to distinguish between human and machine intelligence. Today this is known as a Turing Test and various forms have been devised for commercial use on the Internet to try to weed out “bots,” or computer programs that attempt to imitate humans in leaving comments with thinly disguised spam to sell everything from smut to stocks.

One has to wonder if there might be a possibility of a kind of Turing Test for God. After all, if you were hiking in the Rocky Mountains and a bush started to glow and voice came out of the bush, would you have a good trick question or two to ask in order to make sure that the voice was the genuine article?

In Exodus 3 Moses has a pretty good question. He asks God what his name is. Apparently names had very significant meanings in ancient times so his question may be far more penetrating than we would at first suspect. The traditional translation of the original Hebrew is that God replied that, “I AM THAT I AM.Exodus 3:14

Some hold that “I AM” signifies God’s unchanging, and perhaps unfathomable nature. In the footnotes of the NIV translation they give an alternate answer which is, ” I will be what I will be.” This reflects the fact that the verb is in the future tense.

Author Joseph J. Dewey writes that he believes that Moses understood the answer to be something like, “I am becoming that which I decide to become.”

“Here is how they translate the name in Exodus 3:14:

“What about his name? What shall I say to them?

Then Elohim spoke to Moses: I shall come to be [just] as I am coming to be. And He said thus shall you say to the sons of Israel, I shall come-to-be has sent me to you.”

Then the translation has a footnote which reads:

“I shall come…coming to be, literally I AM BECOMING WHO I AM BECOMING, or traditionally rendered as I AM THAT I AM, the name Yahweh is derived from this verb meaning BECOME, BE or COME.”

“One thing we know for sure. God did not tell Moses that He did not exist, but will exist in the future. Nevertheless the future tense even makes sense in light of the true meaning mentioned in The Immortal which was: ‘I AM BECOMING THAT WHICH I DECIDE TO BECOME.‘”

“When you make a decision around some goal of becoming that decision relates to what you will be in a future time or what you shall become.”  Joseph J. Dewey, I AM BECOMING

Perhaps unlike the static, unchanging “I AM” vision held by a majority of believers, God is a being that is always becoming something new, evolving, and changing with its creation? Perhaps even more revolutionary is the idea that God was not always the God that we imagine it to be.

“Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” -Isaiah 43:19

Whatever the case, the next time someone meets God in the burning bush, he will need a better question. God has already heard that one.

 


Is God Perfect?
Being God
What Is God?
Who Is God?

Consciousness

Joseph J. Dewey writes on the meaning and understanding of consciousness.

“It is interesting that different belief systems have certain words that are acceptable and others that are not. Some even go so far as to accuse those of different beliefs as being evil, not because of any of their actions, but merely because of their choice of words.”

“There are different key words used by various Christian religions, but if we look at Christianity as a whole and new age thinking the difference becomes pretty pronounced. Now there is also a difference in shades of meaning between various new age and metaphysical groups, but not so pronounced as between the Christians and new age thinking.”

“One of the words that sends up a red flag for the standard Christian is “consciousness.” The standard thinking for them is that consciousness means merely being awake and if you use it for more than that you off into forbidden thinking. Now some new agers may throw the word around more than is needed and sometimes without much thought behind it, but they are indeed correct in their idea that there are various levels of consciousness. We will examine them, but for clarity’s sake let us first define the word.”

“Consciousness, especially in the context of this discussion, is the state of being awake or aware of certain things. One could say that the greater one’s consciousness is the greater will be his realm of awareness.”  …

Continue reading J.J. Dewey’s article

Click on the link above to read the whole article on freeread.com.

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” Phil 2:5

“To whom God would make known what is the riches of glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Col 1:28