OK I'm picking up on all the disquiet rumbling around twitter and the blogosphere regarding the whole heaven and hell debate again. People are happily using words like conservative, liberal and evangelical both as compliments and insults...
Labels are being applied to folk and it seems that various lines (dare I say battle lines) are being drawn...
To be honest I find this all rather disturbing, for if I were to apply a label to myself it would read liberal evangelical with some conservative and some liberationist thinking, I guess the only label that would not stick is fundamentalist- but that is possibly only because it is a word that disturbs me deeply and I don't want to be one!
I take Scripture very seriously, but I don't believe it is inerrant, how can a collection of books written by a motley group of people trying to fathom out who they are and how to relate to God be inerrant? God did not write it, but he did inspire it- it should cause us to seek him and that seeking might take the form of questions. Did God say??? (hmm am I beginning to sound like a snake?) Take this evening for example when my Bible Study group will be looking at Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Isaac! I have questions- and those must be asked in the light of historical and cultural context!
That said I have no problem with N. Testament miracles, I don't question whether Jeus healed lepers or whether he fed 5,000 with a few loaves and a couple of fish- others might say I am being naieve! That said I take the Epistles with a pinch of salt- lets face it if I didn't I would a. wear a head scarf or at least a hat, and b. not be a minister, or even a preacher! I do not dismiss them though I ask questions- who were they written to and why, and what does that say for us today...?
When it comes to questions of sexuality and gender, I believe the trajectory of the Gospels is liberative, the constraints not being so much about gender but about love and commitment- and the Gospels also need to be read with an eye to their cultural context- who were they written by and who for etc... and not taken as a straight two dimensional conversation between us and God!
Then to all this talk about heaven and hell, did Jesus mean that there is an actual hell or could it be that he was suing the Pharisee's argument- their way of controlling the people against them. Gehenna was an actual place, a rubbish dump- could it have been an illustration- it was a fiery stinky place where the rubbish was burnt up btw not where it existed in perpetual torment. Would a God of love create such a place? If we say yes then we have to ask some serious questions about our understanding of love...
How about heaven? Pie in the sky when you die? Or would it be more accurate to talk about re-creation, about new heavens and a new earth- about a physical resurrection rather than a disembodied existence... Something real and more concrete, and yes dare I say less Gnostic than some descriptions I have heard! (Read Tom Wright's Surprised by Hope for more).
But finally- I do believe in the truth of Jesus words: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me..." (John 14:6) But I don't think that means that only Christians will be "saved", I think it means Jesus gets to decide, and he is "full of grace and truth", and that is as much as I need to know!
And most important- in all of this I COULD BE WRONG!!!