Archive for June, 2011

Further Reflections on “Approaching” Hell

Monday, June 6th, 2011 by Dale M. Coulter

The Great River of Christian Tradition

Last week I wrote against what I identified as the Ida Syndrome (the Ice Dancing Approach to scripture). With its attempt to glide across the expanse of scriptural texts, I described this approach as a more sophisticated version of proof-texting. Its basic components are as follows: 1) mistakenly equating depth as a well-choreographed assembling of scriptural texts or isolating a particular trajectory within scripture; 2) selective reading of parts of Christian tradition as somehow supporting the whole; 3) a failure to understand the underlying ideas and structural relations between various doctrines within Christian tradition; 4) a fracturing of the narrative whole of scripture in favor of supporting a particular position.

These components continue to work into the interpretive project within evangelicalism as the continuing debate about hell reveals. And let me be a little bold here: Sometimes, and I did say sometimes, an embrace of the Ida Syndrome really amounts to a lack of theological imagination, by which I mean a failure to allow the great river of Christian tradition to fill the mind with images and ideas that provide the foundation for interpreting scripture. I have found that some theologians or thinkers who claim, “it’s not a logical or rational position,” simply lack the imagination to see (in Johannine terms) how something could be the case. They fall back onto “logic,” but what counts as logical is not what follows the rules of logic, but what they imaginatively conceive as possible. This is one reason why Christian writers like Dante or even C. S. Lewis reverted to mythical and poetical accounts in order to place Christian ideas into a new imaginative framework so as to reveal what is indeed possible.

With this in mind, let me further identify some of the doctrines that are related to the doctrine of hell and the questions it poses.

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