From the Author
You may ask, is it safe to challenge over 1,500 years of traditional theology-in-the-making on matters such as whether or not there's validity to the doctrine of hell? You may also be wondering what difference does it make whether or not we believe in hell if we all agree that salvation only comes through Jesus. I'll tell you why we must question the teaching of hell. The very name, character, and purposes of God are at stake! In my opinion, it's not safe to NOT question. Living at the forefront of the information age, I believe we have both the crucial responsibility and the unique opportunity, unlike at any other time in Church history, to make an informed determination of what we believe and why we believe it. We have been offered a prime peek into the looking glass of history.
You might also be asking, who am I to question or doubt the majority of today's mainstream Bible translators, theologians, MDivs, and pastors? I've certainly thought about that, but then I've also thought about what kind of people Jesus gave insight and understanding to. Was it the educated, religious hierarchy in the form of theologians, scribes, and leaders of His day? Or was it the simple, uneducated, illiterate fishermen, tax collectors, and prostitutes, all of whom could easily offer a spiritual parallel to today's folks who haven't been to seminary and who are overlooked, disregarded, or despised by those more knowledgeable?
I know it's easy to want to rely on the strength of numbers for our beliefs, but of all the multitudes of people He encountered, including well-trained, religious leaders and teachers of His day, Jesus had only a handful of simple, unscholarly followers who were willing to hear, follow, and even die for a different message than the orthodox teachings of His day. I believe Jesus' true message, as we'll fully explore, was that He came to save all people with the assistance of a chosen people, in a purposeful plan that extends long past this mortal lifetime. Jesus died for ALL (1 Peter 3:18), and His Father's unrelenting will that "none should perish" prevails in the end (2 Peter 3:9).
Throughout the last 2,000 years, this belief, embraced by a significant segment of Christianity, has been referred to as: Universal Reconciliation or Restoration, Universal Salvation, the Blessed Hope, Christian Universalism, Irresistible Grace, and a host of other names. What is described here is not the same as the New Age belief that there are "many ways to God," or that living a life of sin is of no consequence. Universal Reconciliation is the belief that all people for all time will eventually be reconciled to God--that this lifetime is not the "only chance" to be saved--but that there is only one way to God, through Jesus Christ.
In the end, every knee will have bowed, and every tongue will have confessed Jesus as Lord, giving praise to God (see Rom 14:11, Philippians 2:10).
To see and believe such a beautiful truth requires nothing more than the simple faith of a child. What child in the world would ever believe (without adult influence) that a loving parent would create a fearful place of torment, and then endlessly abandon most of his or her children there, punishing them for a limited duration of unbelief or rebellion, or for choices made from ignorance, distortions, deceptions, or bad influences?
Raising Hell invites your inner child to take a journey. Drop the fear of being rejected or labeled, unshackle yourself from the desire to conform, and allow yourself to ask (or be presented with) some honest, valid questions in order to follow where the evidence leads you. I'm certainly not suggesting the evidence will necessarily lead you to the same conclusions as it did me, but at least allow yourself to weigh the options and make an informed decision. Dare to question what you've been taught, retesting all against the full counsel of Scripture, according to 1 Thess. 5:21: "But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good."
Without a doubt, this book will likely challenge many core orthodox teachings you've been taught in church, yet my hope is that your Bible will be illuminated like never before, offering a much more sensical and cohesive story about God's amazing and largely forgotten plan for humankind. No longer will you have to ignore seemingly contradictory passages or do painful contortions to make the pieces fit. My desire is that, through the pages of this book, your God will become more unlimited, more powerful, and more loving than you ever dreamed possible. Of course, He is the same today as He was yesterday; what will change, with perspective, is you.
I wrote this book to share my journey of learning and discovery. My journey didn't just leave me cautiously hopeful, but proved to me that the doctrine of hell is nothing more than a human invention--a "tradition of men." The alternative perspective I'm about to share with you has totally transformed my views of life, God, people, and has given me complete peace about the destination of loved ones who have yet to embrace Christ as their Savior. No longer do I worry about evil gaining the upper hand, no longer do I wonder just how much control God has over His creation, or question His limits on mercy and love. Since this transformation, my life has blossomed with joy, hope, purpose, and excitement like never before. How I long to share it with you.
Again, I don't expect that everyone who follows my journey will embrace it or come to the same conclusions. These are my beliefs, based on the evidences that I have uncovered. But you should also know that, despite mainstream Christianity's attempts to marginalize these beliefs, there has always been a significant number of Christians throughout history who have embraced the same beliefs (news to me!), and there are a rapidly growing number of studious, thoughtful Christ-followers worldwide today who also believe the same.
Ultimately, everyone must decide for themselves what is "truth." If you are comfortable with your current orthodox Christian theology and you don't wrestle with significant theological questions, this book may not speak to you. But if you've ever questioned the doctrines of heaven, hell, election, free will, and evil, or ever wondered why so many scholarly and educated people can't agree on many theological pillars of the faith, then this book will likely speak to you as nothing you have encountered before.
Lastly, perhaps you're relatively happy with your flavor of Christianity, but have never known what questions to ask. I hope this book will challenge and nurture your questions and faith, whether you embrace the message or just listen to the evidence presented.
Dare to ask. Dare to question. Dare to open your mind to the possibilities of a bigger God than you've ever heard about before. It could be the greatest decision of your life! Perhaps you'll find, just as I did, that it's time for all hell to break loose.
Let me take you on my journey...