Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"The Myths of Hell: A Beautiful Hell Trilogy Book 1" by Nathan J. Anderson

The Myths of Hell:
A Beautiful Hell Trilogy Book 1
by Nathan J. Anderson

The Myths of Hell is the first book in A Beautiful Hell Trilogy. Books 2 and 3, The Ache for Paradise and Does Hell Really Last Forever?, are both due for release early 2014.

Though hell is probably not your everyday dinner topic, it slips itself into many conversations at a moment’s notice, for example, “what the hell,” “go to hell,” “it was hell” - but does anybody really know what it is?
The images that most often pop into our minds when hell is mentioned are a goaty-looking red guy sporting horns and a devilish grin all while poking some sinner with a pitchfork, or perhaps an ocean of fire brimming with the tormented wicked. Is either of these images right? What does the Bible really say about hell? Is hell truly necessary? Is God a thwarted lover who throws people who reject him into hell? Why can’t God just forgive people? How could a loving God throw his creation into torment forever?
And to make the pot even thicker, how is it possible for Jesus to save anybody from going there? It doesn’t make any sense that the death of one person could do anything to save anybody else from hell, yet that is what is preached from countless street corners and soap boxes.
I think God is deeper and wider, higher and brighter than any of us could have ever imagined, and that the picture God paints of himself stares at us from the pages of Scripture, yet we often miss it.
As we go through The Myths of Hell, we're going to chew on some answers for these questions:
- Where is hell?
- Who's in charge of hell?
- Who's in charge of death?
- Isn't Sheol the Old Testament version of hell?
- Is it true that Jesus descended to hell?
- Did Jesus believe in Hades?
- What evil powers are in Hades?
- Who's in hell right now?
- Where did the idea of hell come from?
- Is there really going to be a lake of fire?
- Do bad people go to hell right away when they die?
- What is the final punishment for the wicked?

Chapter 1: Why I had to Write this Series
I knew when I chose the title for this series that it would raise a few eyebrows. After all, how could such an awful place like hell be beautiful? In order to answer that question, we have to start somewhere else, with a different question, one that has been haunting me for thirty years.
What is it about Jesus' death that saves us from hell?

It doesn't make any sense that the death of one man could do anything for anybody else. Granted, God is the one who both came up with the plan and did the dying, and I am just a man, but I can't help but wonder why? As I rolled this question around in my head, it gave birth to a host of other questions:
            Why can’t God choose to forgive sin without demanding a sacrifice?
            Is God so narrow-minded that he only accepts people who toe the party line and “accept Jesus into their heart?”
            Is God a thwarted lover who throws people into hell just because they don’t respond to his overtures?
            Why are good people who aren’t Christians slated for an eternity in hell?
            What about people who have never heard of Jesus? It doesn’t seem fair that they would be sentenced to torment.
The typical answers to these questions are that God doesn't grade on a curve, the standard is perfection, and if you aren't made perfect by Jesus, you're in trouble. God the Judge is only able to pardon people from sin if they believe that Jesus took the penalty for their sin.
I understand why atheists poke fun at God as being small-minded because he sounds like a capricious god, fickle and trite, as if he made up rules and gets mad when somebody tries to do an end run around him and his system. Or in the words of one Christian blogger in speaking of his high school salvation experience, "It made sense to me to accept a savior who would rescue me from the clutches of the infinitely picky and thoroughly uncompromising High School Principal of the universe." (Guyton, Morgan, 2012)
But is this really the way it is? Is God an "infinitely picky high school principal of the universe" who set things up so we have to choose to be on Jesus' team or face His judgment?
Some have asked me why these questions are important, feeling that perhaps I am nitpicking an aspect of faith that should be left alone. I think these questions are crucial because they are at the forefront of many people's minds. When I read atheist/agnostic comments, these are some of the issues that keep them from faith. These are also the issues that have shriveled the faith of once-vibrant Christians.
If there is something missing or even flat-out wrong about our knowledge of God pertaining to hell and judgment, we need to ask God for wisdom so that we can remove that stumbling block to faith.
Searching for an answer to these questions has taken me deep into the heart of the earth and up to the heights of heaven. Along the way, I have discovered a treasure trove of puzzle pieces that fit together to create a picture of God that astonishes me every time I look at it.
If you are a hunter for truth, welcome to the journey. At the end you might discover that God has become more magnificent in your eyes than ever before.
Ready to begin?

Nathan J. Anderson

P.S. Though I definitely have strong opinions, I am well aware that I do not have a corner on Biblical truth. I'm sure there will be people who disagree with me, and that's ok. Digging into Scripture to explore what is true about God is all a part of growing in the knowledge of God.
At the end of the day those of us who believe are still brothers and sisters in the faith, held together by the belief that God became a man named Jesus, who lived a perfect life, was crucified on a cross because of our sin, buried, and three days later rose from the dead. He now proclaims ultimate victory over death for anyone who turns from sin and follows him in faith. Amen.

"A Beautiful Hell is bound to ruffle some feathers. It will stir up what many thought was a settled matter; a matter, however, that is anything but settling ... what Nathan has to say is biblical, historical, and reasonable. Believers will be challenged. Skeptics will be encouraged. And everyone in-between will be intrigued."
Matt Lukowitz, Preaching Pastor, Grace Community Church, Chippewa Falls, WisconsinI

About the Author
Nathan J. Anderson is an author, speaker, hospital chaplain, husband of one, father of four, musician, thinker, cancer survivor, teacher, and bad cook (ever tried homemade meatloaf pizza?). He graduated from Bethel Seminary in 2003 with a Master’s of Arts in Theological Studies, and is part of the church in the Chippewa Valley in Wisconsin. You can visit his blog and join the conversation.
Nathan is the author of Jak and the Scarlet Thread, the first novel of a young adult series that takes readers through the Bible via fantasy adventure. He is also the author of A Beautiful Hell, a theology trilogy that takes the reader on a fascinating journey deep into questions like “Why can’t God forgive sin without demanding a sacrifice?”