There have been quite enough comments on Rob Bell’s book on various blogs (I’ve even commented on a few blogs myself) so I will not get into those issues at the moment though I should be receiving the book any day now and will review it shortly. For today I would just like to talk about how I have wrestled with this question and where I think I come down. The following is a picture of how I have come to see hell (please watch the N.T. Wright video as well at the bottom for something more theologically articulate).
In the Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, the movie opens up with a scene of two Hobbits - Smeagol and Deagol fishing in a river. Deagol catches a fish that is so large that it drags him into the river. At the bottom of the river his eye catches the shine of a ring which he grabs and brings back to the bank of the river. As he gazes at his newfound treasure his friend Smeagol is overcome with jealousy and ends up fighting and then strangling his friend for the ring. Yet, unbeknownst to Smeagol this is no ordinary ring but an evil ring that will ultimately destroy his life (which is exactly what is portrayed in the montage that follows). Smeagol becomes obsessed with this ring to the point that it drives him away from others, leads him into darkness and makes him a shadow of the person he once was to the point where he forgets the taste of bread and even his own name.
This is such a profound picture of the effects of sin in our lives. Most people have known someone who has been caught in the grips of addiction who has become only a shadow of his or her former self, doing things and going places that no person in his right mind would go or do. And yet this is truly the trajectory of a life that is consumed by sin and that has rejected God. Sin ultimately makes us less human and, if not dealt with, will eventually mar the very image of God right out of our lives. Perhaps this is more the reality of what hell towards which the hellish imagery of the Bible is pointing.
This view would be more in line with the likes of what N.T. Wright talks about in the video below (and of which he has written about in Surprised By Hope). Check it out and leave your comments of how you have wrestled with the idea of “hell” and who it is that goes there.