Exchanging Certainty for Hope

One of the best books I have read on the subject of hell, so far, is entitled “Her Gates Will Never Shut: Hope, Hell and the New Jerusalem” by Bradley Jersak. The book also contains a great Afterword entitled “Hell: the Nemesis of Hope?” by Nik Ansell. The main emphasis of the book is that because of Who God is, and the open-ended way that scripture concludes (Rev 21:25), our hope should triumph over our fear when pondering the subject.

As you well know, many Christians have a lot of opinions and questions (and fear!) regarding the subject of hell, and especially right after you preach a message on Heaven and the shared Goodness of the Father, Son and Spirit with all! HaHa!

The author does an EXCELLENT job of summarizing all of the basic views of hell – Infernalism, Annihilationism, and Universalism – and helps readers see how each of these views developed and have become part of the Christian tradition.

And yet, one of the statements in his book that I find the most helpful and insightful is right at the end. It is a quote from author, Anne Rice, taken from her book “Called Out of Darkness”, 183-85. I thought you would appreciate the way she describes the relief that can come when we exchange certainty for hope. To me it is very inspiring and relieving – see what you think:

In the moment of surrender, I let go of all the theological or social questions which had kept me from Him for countless years. I simply let them go. There was the sense, profound and wordless, that if He knew everything I did not have to know everything, and that, in seeking to know everything, I’d been, all of my life, missing the entire point.

No social paradox, no historic disaster, no hideous record of injustice or misery should keep me from Him. No question of Scriptural integrity, no torment over the fate of this or that atheist or gay friend, no worry for those condemned and ostracized by my church or any other church should stand between me and Him. The reason? It was magnificently simple: He knew how or why everything happened; He knew the disposition of every single soul.

He wasn’t going to let anything happen by accident! Nobody was going to go to Hell by mistake. This was His world, all this! He had complete control of it; His justice, His mercy – were not our justice or our mercy. What folly to even imagine such a thing.

I didn’t have to know how He was going to save the unlettered and the unbaptized, or how He would redeem the conscientious heathen who had never spoken His name. I didn’t have to know how my gay friends would find their way to Redemption; or how my hardworking secular humanist friends could or would receive the power of His Saving Grace. I didn’t have to know why good people suffered agony or died in pain. He knew.

And it was His knowing that overwhelmed me, His knowing that became completely real to me, His knowing that became the warp and woof of the Universe which He had made.

His was – after all – the Divine Mind which had made the miracle of the Big Bang, and created the DNA only lately discovered in every physical cell His was the Divine Mind that had created the sound of the violin in the Beethoven concerto; His was the Divine Mind that made snowflakes, idle flames, birds soaring upwards, the unfolding mystery of gender, and the gravity that seemingly held the Universe together-as our planet, our single little planet, hurtled through space.

Of course. If He could do all that, naturally He knew the answer to every conceivable question before it was formulated. He knew the worst suffering that a human soul could feel. Nothing was wasted with Him because He was the author of all of it. He was the Creator of creatures who felt anger, alienation, rage, despair. In this great novel that was His creation, He knew every plot, every character, every action, every voice, every syllable, and every jot of ink.

And why should I remain apart from Him just because I couldn’t grasp all this? He could grasp it. Of course!

It was love that brought me to this awareness, love that brought me into a complete trust in Him, a trust that God who made us could not ever abandon us – that the seeming meaninglessness of our world was the limit of our understanding, but never, never the limit of His.”

Thanks Bradley, Nik, and Anne – Adopted Children of the Father – for helping me to experience the certainty of hope because of Who Jesus is in His Relationship with His Father, the Spirit, Humanity, and all of Creation!

~ Tim Brassell

4 comments so far

  1. Jane Hinrichs on

    This is really good. I love the quote from Anne Rice, but in it I find that some could take it as an affirmation of Calvinism because she makes no room for free will. I don’t think she meant that or that Tim meant that in quoting her.

    I don’t agree with calvinism whatsoever. God’s mercy is so much bigger than that view. God’s love is so much more radical than our human love. God’s love is so ridiculous even! Oh Thank You God for loving me.

  2. tjbrassell on

    Hello Jane! Thanks for your comment.

    I think I can see why you say what you do about a potentially Calvinist outlook. Fortunately, Anne saves her self from that outlook by emphasizing God more as All-Knowing than “All Doing” and by what she writes in her last sentence…”a trust that God who made us could not ever abandon us.” Whew! :)The book certainly isn’t, by its very title, Calvinist.

    What I really like about it (though I might personally write some different things) is how Anne takes us to Him, the Father, Son and Spirit, ultimately, and sees life as a personal encounter with a loving God and the hope He gives us even in the darkness of our doubts and questions . She seems to be emphasizing that the Good News, and everyone’s great reason for hope, is in the Being and character of God, rather than in our certainty around specific propositional statements we make about God!

    So appreciate your participation with us in experiencing the Triune God Who has embraced us in such a way in His Son that He will never let any of us go!

  3. John Geerlings on

    Hi Tim
    Great tittle and blog, there is no certainty for any human being on this planet, even though the world’s religions pursues this with great passion, except the certainty of the faithfulness of Jesus for us all humanity in the Spirit for the Father. Hope is a person and even our own hell cannot be separated! I believe grace is all about suffering leading to brokenness, a shedding of our own self-life, some embrace this by His faith, while others choose to live in the continued hell of their own delusional making.

  4. tjbrassell on

    John, you continue to proclaim the Gospel in inspiring and thoughtful ways! Can you be more in line with Truth than to say that “Hope is a person…” and that “certainty [is in] the faithfulness of Jesus for ..all humanity in the Spirit for the Father”? Hardly! Wow! 🙂

    Grace is certainly described in the New Testament as picking up our crosses and following Jesus, which is the way of shedding our self-life and embracing His self-giving one, so I’m trackin’ with you on that line of thinking!

    Thanks for your contribution to the conversation!

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