Perhaps you read about the Methodist pastor who is in hot water over denying the possibility of Hell. His argument, which is hardly a new one, proposes that Christ died for all of our sins...so why wouldn't that include everybody? How could anyone exist beyond the saving grace of Christ's sacrifice.
His conclusion actually makes for a worthwhile meditation, even if his core argument is heretical and cflawed: "But when you believe God has saved everyone, the point is, you're saved. Live like it."
So, yeah, Christ died for us...we should live with the dignity that such a death demands of us. The Renaissance scholar Harry Berger refers to this (rather tongue-in-cheekily) as "mercifixion." It's really a kind of Saving Private Ryan guilt trip that we should live better lives because the cost of our liberation was so high. "Make it worth it," Tom Hanks/Jesus says to us...and then we live the rest our lives paranoid that we might not be making it worth it.
But what I really wanted to talk about was Hell. See, the argument that the Methodist preacher seems to be advancing is that Hell is ultimate condemnation. Well...I guess it is. I'm not really going to debunk that. What I would like to question, however, is whether or not Hell might extend from God's love...and not just from his wrath.
To do so, I will construct an analogy (and keep in mind all analogies have their limits) using my action figure collection. No, I will not be making an action figure photo comic to do so. This will require your imagination.
If you will allow an analogy where creation is an action figure collection and God is the Collector, we can get things started. I realize there are flagrant problems with this. We are not toys for God's amusement...but just work with me for a second.
I have, as I've observed here before, a lot of toys. More than I know what to do with sometimes.
Many of these action figures have vastly outlived their usefulness. They are old. Their joints are wobbly. They have chipped noses, missing paint, sun damage, biodegradation. Some are missing accessories and even limbs. Worse yet, many of these figures have been rendered obsolete by newer, cooler versions of the original characters. Now, I could just throw out the old toys. Surrender them to the Dantean inferno that we witness towards the end of Toy Story 3. Melt them into nothing. Make them simply not exist because they no longer please me.
Instead, most of them are sitting in plastic bins in a closet. It is dark. They never see the light. They are packed in by the dozens. I'll probably never take them out again. I have somewhat fond memories of acquiring them, however, and memories of what they were before they were broken, battered, and beaten. So, for the moment, I derive a certain degree of pleasure knowing they are in the closet, even if they serve no actually purpose or do no one any good sitting there.
On my part, it is perhaps materialist attachment, so my motivations wouldn't be as pure as God's. But maybe God just can't bring himself to obliterate His own creation right away. Sure, there are arguments that Hell exists as a means of assuring justice. Those who have been really, really evil might deserve torment. Virgil scolds Dante for pitying the souls in Hell. They deserve to suffer, the poet is reminded. I can see that point. I can also see how a soul in Heaven would pity the damned -- we are, after all, to love our enemies.
If Hell exists not just as a place of judicial punishment but as God's closet, could this help justify why an all-loving God allows souls to rot in Hell? It doesn't necessarily bring God pleasure to know the soul exists in a place of torment, but perhaps the displeasure it would bring God to destroy something He loved to make is simply too distasteful?