Brian has some questions on hell, and perhaps you could answer them:
CP: You talk about your struggle with the notion of hell. It doesn’t seem to sit well with you. Could you just elaborate a little bit what you believe about hell and also what the Great Commission mean to you?
McLaren: On hell, here’s the issue. That six-line narrative I talk about in the book, as interpreted by many people, suggests that every person who does not say the sinner’s prayer, personally accept Christ as their savior will spend eternity – which means absolutely forever without ever any abatement or termination – in conscious torment. So every second will be like they’re burning in fire, every second they’ll be in absolute agony, every second. And so a lot of us find that is not something you can just lightly swallow. For example, we’re so sad that 230,000 people were killed in a terrible earthquake in Haiti but that involved them suffering for a few minutes and dying. But this is every single person who’s ever lived and ever will live who isn’t part of one group. You think about someone who went through the Holocaust. They were so horribly treated by the Nazis and then the Nazis kill them and then they go to something even worse just because they weren’t Christians.
A lot of us say, when we read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and really when we read most of the Bible, the image of God that we see does not seem like an eternal torturer. So many of us Christians are asking the question and we’re not asking because we don’t want to believe. We’re asking because we get a vision of God in Jesus Christ that just doesn’t seem to match with that. And not only that but even if a Christian is comfortable with that, if you are involved in evangelism as I have been for the last 30 years of my life, over 30 years of my life on a daily basis, that question comes up again and again and again when you’re trying to share the Gospel with other people. That’s the question I’m raising.
CP: Some people evangelize by saying if you don’t believe you’ll go to hell. What is your approach to evangelism?
McLaren: I want to invite people to become followers of Jesus Christ. I want to invite them to join God in the healing of the world instead of working against God in the destruction of themselves and others in the world. I want to invite people to follow Christ into life in the Kingdom of God as opposed to just living for their own kingdom or their own agenda or living for somebody else’s destructive agenda. So I want to invite them to turn from a life of sin and separation from God and I want to invite them to follow Jesus in a life of love for God and love for neighbors.