Maryanne used to say that the Bible’s purpose is to reveal God’s character and that the written Word must be understood from the center outward. She knew that whereas being forgiven of sins enabled fellowship with Christ, that His part was very costly. Jesus calling upon her to forgive others she maintained was miniscule in comparison. She saw majestic Diety in the wondrous news of a party of the first part (Jesus) forgiving the party of the third part (the offender) for injury against the party of the second part (the wronged one). In addition, it was simply a given to her that all wrong thoughts and actions were offences to God.
The Bible stands as it is and stands on its own. Inspired of God in all manners and facets, it means to point us to, lead us to, and teach us the revelation of God and His character culminating in His personification, Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Maryanne expected some scriptures to be difficult to interpret. About them, not much is known by many, some know a little more, no one understands all. Some scriptures are poetical, some are parable, a few contain hyperbole. They reach us through our imagination as well as and maybe in spite of, our intellect. The Bible houses an account about people reacting to and interacting with an awesome Creator who because of His love, chooses and disciplines a man, a family, a nation, and a race to carry the revelation of Him-self through a confused, warring, self-centered, lost world. Each instance of obedience or disobedience to God is neither trivial nor irrelevant and all moments have value. The Bible is an open book not a closed one, and is a wealth of declarations of and about God, inspiring through the centuries as He in the beginning pronounced His creation “very good”. (Gen 1:31).
Some credit Augustine (late 4th century) with inspiring the theology of hell. At one point he uses salamanders as “living in fire” and volcanoes “ as remaining intact” to “prove that not everything that burns is consumed…” and “not everything that is susceptible of pain is susceptible of death.” He continues, “What further evidence do we need to prove that human bodies suffering the penalty of eternal pains, first, remain united with their souls in the fire; second burn without being consumed; and third, suffer pain without meeting death?” (City of God – Book XXI.
The apocryphal book, 2 Esdras 7:60 states “I shall reap joy in the few who are saved, but shall not grieve for the many who are lost.” That verse sounds like the proof text for J. E.’s sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” where it is intimated that the fodder for saintly joy and entertainment are the yowling writhing souls in the flames of eternal hell. Yet Maryanne saw God in the Scripture everywhere portrayed as impartial and just and the New Testament insisting on using words like every, all, and whosoever, when approaching His mercy seat. She understood mercy and judgement to be often, though not always, used interchangeably for the same purpose of Love. “Also to you O Lord belongs mercy, for You render to each one according to his work.” (Psalm 62:12.)
The passages relating to judgment refer to deeds. Might not judgement be final encounter with righteousness and its warrant? Might justice not only be verdict but process as well, where all illusions are shattered? Fire that is painful might sometime also be purifying. Is this too far? Is this too much? Maybe, but consider this, man has an innate conception of eternity (Ecclesiastes 3:11.) Attempts are made to sooth a wounded or trouble soul with, “it will be okay.” But how does one know that? Some believe you could never know that you didn’t know better.