On thinking about hell

It is my practice to always have a novel on my bedside table. In the past few days I have been reading Marilynne Robinson’s most recent novel, Lila, which is a deeply engaging and thought-provoking work. Having just preached on Mark 8.31-38, a passage containing a very stern warning from Jesus for those who choose not to follow him, I was struck by this thought from the Reverend, one of Robinson’s two main characters in the book:

Thinking about hell doesn’t help me live in the way I should. I believe this is true for most people. And thinking that other people might go to hell just feels evil to me, like a very grave sin. So I don’t want to encourage anyone else to think that way. Even if you don’t assume that you can know in individual cases, it’s still a problem to think about people in general as if they might go to hell. You can’t see the world the way you ought to if you let yourself do that. Any judgement of any kind is a great presumption. And presumption is a very grave sin (101).

He concludes these words with the statement, ‘I believe this is sound theology.’ I will leave it up to the reader to decide if that is true.

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