Questions for Reflection
In each episode, we offer you a few prompts to think about how that day's conversation applies to you. You might pause the podcast and answer them right then and there, but if you keep a journal (Steph and Beth both do), feel free to download and print a PDF of the Questions for Reflection we've made just for you:
Landscape or Portrait
Beth Demme (00:03):
Welcome to the Discovering Our Scars podcast.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:05):
Where we share personal experiences so we can learn from each other.
Beth Demme (00:08):
Our mission is to talk about things you might relate to, but that you don't hear being discussed in other places.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:13):
Our hope is that you're encouraged to have honest conversations with people in your own life. I'm Steph.
Beth Demme (00:17):
And I'm Beth. On today's show, we're going to have an honest conversation titled, What the Hell?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:22):
Then we'll share a slice of life and the show will close with questions for reflection where we'll invite you to reflect on the conversation in your own life.
Beth Demme (00:29):
So we are not using this phrase in an explicit way. We actually are talking about a place.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:34):
Beth Demme (00:36):
So we're going to talk about the afterlife and there tend to be two choices.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:40):
Heaven or Hell.
Beth Demme (00:41):
Heaven or Hell. That's it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:43):
That's where we go, right? I mean, you're a pastor so you... Oh my gosh. You can give us all the scoop on what Heaven's like and what Hell is like.
Beth Demme (00:51):
As a pastor, I'm compelled to ask you, Stephanie, if you died tonight, do you know where you would go?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:57):
How will I die? Wait, how do I die? Tell me how I die first.
Beth Demme (01:01):
Does that affect your eternal resting place?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:05):
It just... I'm curious. I might choose a different thing tonight if you tell me how I die.
Beth Demme (01:10):
I think it's bad pork. I think that's what's going to take you out.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:12):
Then I am vegetarian now. Done. Giving up the pork.
Beth Demme (01:17):
I mean if we make the right choices, we'll just live forever.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:20):
Or we'll go to hell.
Beth Demme (01:21):
Yeah. So although I am a pastor, I do not have definitive answers on this. And so with big questions like this or questions that seem to be big like this... that's not how I mean to say it. Questions that...
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:37):
Like have a yes or no answer?
Beth Demme (01:39):
Yeah, and that people really put a lot of-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:42):
Beth Demme (01:43):
... emotion into, a lot of times there aren't definitive answers and church has kind of filled in through the centuries. And so I'm going to probably disappoint anybody who's hoping for definitive answers about this today because I think that we each need to decide what we believe rather than being told what we will believe. So this is one of those places where I think we... It's good to ask questions.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:12):
But isn't that the whole point of church is they tell you what to believe?
Beth Demme (02:15):
I hope not. I hope not. I mean, I have certainly been to those churches and I think at my church what I tend to do is I say, "This is what we believe denominationally, this is what we believe."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:28):
What do you believe denominationally?
Beth Demme (02:30):
Christians, this is what we believe.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:32):
So what do Methodists believe about Hell?
Beth Demme (02:35):
There isn't an official stance other than-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:39):
Stance? Hell is a stance?
Beth Demme (02:42):
.... other than to say we do have... in our Book of Discipline, which is maybe the closest you could get to-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:49):
Beth Demme (02:50):
No, the Bible is the Bible. But the United Methodist Church was created by the merger of two different denominations, the Evangelical United Brethren and the Methodist Church, and so in our Book of Discipline, we kind of keep the Articles of Faith from both of those and we say, "Yeah, this is what we believe," and one of those articles does say "we believe in the resurrection of the dead, we believe the righteous experience life eternal and the wicked experience endless condemnation." That is one of the articles that's part of the confession of faith from the Evangelical United Brethren Church, which is part of the DNA of the Methodist church.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (03:31):
So do you believe the wicked...
Beth Demme (03:33):
To endless condemnation.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (03:35):
So do you believe that?
Beth Demme (03:37):
I don't think I personally believe that. I understand where that comes from. Biblically, I understand where that comes from. Another way to look at it would be that is the idea of annihilation. So there's this idea that if you choose to be in relationship with God and you choose to be in eternal relationship with God, that you get that because that's also what God wants. And so you're in this eternal relationship, but that you're not forced into that eternal relationship. So then what would happen to you at the end of your life is either this idea of eternal torment or maybe you just cease to exist and you can really find both in the Bible. Particularly if you're looking at the Old Testament. I mean that is what...
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:26):
That was interesting what you said, that there's two thoughts on this approach that you could, when you die, you could have eternal suffering. What was it? What was the word?
Beth Demme (04:38):
Yeah, you could have-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:40):
Like eternal suffering or cease to-
Beth Demme (04:41):
... eternal life with God or you could have eternal suffering.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:43):
Well, the two bad ones.
Beth Demme (04:44):
Oh okay. Yeah.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:45):
It was the eternal suffering or cease to exist.
Beth Demme (04:48):
Yeas. And the cease to exist, that is annihilation.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:50):
Annihilation, you're annihilated.
Beth Demme (04:52):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:52):
So, which is worse?
Beth Demme (04:55):
Yeah, I don't know.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:57):
So you can either cease to exist or you can go to Heaven?
Beth Demme (04:59):
That would be what some people believe. I actually am not real solid on what I believe because I've gone back and forth about it over and over again. Where I end up landing every time I try to think about this is that I have to just trust God with that because I do not know. I do not know.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (05:15):
How do we know? How will we know for sure that there's a Heaven and a Hell?
Beth Demme (05:21):
I don't think you can know on this side of it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (05:24):
So you won't know until you get there? A or B?
Beth Demme (05:25):
Well, I do believe there's a Heaven.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (05:29):
Okay, you believe there's a Heaven?
Beth Demme (05:31):
I do believe there's a Heaven. Yeah.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (05:31):
Well how do you believe there's a Heaven. Okay, how can you believe in Heaven, but you can't believe in Hell if you said you can't believe in Hell until you're there? Yet it's opposite for Heaven.
Beth Demme (05:43):
Yes. I do not have to have logically consistent views. There's no requirement that my views be logically consistent. Heaven is consistent with what I know of God, my personal experiences with God, what I know about God through the Bible, how we experience God through Jesus, all of that leads me to believe that eternal life with God is a real thing.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (06:07):
What if everyone just ceases to exist and there is no Heaven?
Beth Demme (06:11):
Then I'm glad that I am experiencing relationship with God here and now in this one life that I have.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (06:17):
So could that be true, that there is no place that our souls go to after and we just all cease to exist?
Beth Demme (06:25):
It seems unlikely to me because I think there's this sense of the eternal that it is in us that I think comes about because we are made in the image of God who is eternal, and it's been part of humanity for 10,000 years, I think is what the archeological record would show. It's like eight or 10,000 years we've been burying people with an expectation of some kind of afterlife.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (06:54):
So if there's no Hell, then does everyone go to Heaven?
Beth Demme (06:58):
I think everybody who wants to go to Heaven goes to Heaven. This is very unpopular with many Christians, I understand that.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (07:04):
So do you have to make a conscious choice that you want to go to Heaven or could you go to Heaven without saying, "I would like to go to Heaven?"
Beth Demme (07:13):
I think relationship with God is how you get to an eternal life with God and I would say eternal life with God is Heaven. Now in the Bible it talks about Heaven being streets that are paved with gold and lots of banquets and lots of finery. And there are some Christians who would say, "Well the more good works I do here on earth, the more jewels I'll have in my crown in Heaven." I think that's a misunderstanding of how metaphor works when we read the Bible. I think if we're just trying to describe someplace that is really glorious, to that writer, it was like, "Oh it's so glorious. The streets are paved with gold." How do you describe-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (07:53):
Which is kind of silly because it's like why? That's not practical and what's the point of having gold in Heaven?
Beth Demme (08:00):
Well to that writer, I don't think practicality was the number one concern.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:04):
I guess there's no... things aren't practical in Heaven maybe.
Beth Demme (08:07):
Right. So your description of Heaven would probably be different because the way you're going to describe something that is-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:14):
It's like your fantasy of the best place ever.
Beth Demme (08:16):
Or like indescribably glorious. Each of us is going to describe that a little bit differently.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:23):
Why does it matter if there's a Heaven or a Hell and why do we even need to concern ourselves about it while we're here on earth?
Beth Demme (08:32):
So I think that one of the reasons that it matters and one of the reasons that it's sort of part of our conversation, I mean not just the conversation you and I are having right now, but in general, our cultural conversation, is that it has been... the afterlife has been misused by churches as like a selling point. When a store really wants you to buy something, they put it on sale, right? Limited time only.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:59):
So churches are selling Heaven? Because you don't want to go to Hell.
Beth Demme (09:05):
Right. Right. And you need to get right with God today, which means doing what we want you to do, because if you don't, then you're risking an eternity of conscious torment and eternal damnation.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (09:21):
So how can you know if you're going to Heaven for sure? Because you said being in relationship with God here on earth. Well how do you know if you're having the right relationship? Because sometimes in relationships you fight. If you're in the middle of a fight and then you die, do you go to Hell?
Beth Demme (09:39):
I don't think God is a jerk.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (09:42):
Okay, okay. Elaborate.
Beth Demme (09:43):
So that's kind of a-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (09:44):
A jerk move.
Beth Demme (09:47):
Yeah. Underscores a lot of my theology like oh no, no, God's not a jerk.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (09:52):
Do you think God can be mad at us or we're the ones mad at God? Like when you have a relationship and you're having a fight, do you think God's fighting with us or we're always fighting with God? Can He be disappointed in us? That's worse than being mad. I know because I have parents.
Beth Demme (10:08):
I definitely think so. I think God gets-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:11):
Mad at us.
Beth Demme (10:11):
... angry, sad, mad, heartbroken.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:16):
Does he threaten to send us to Hell?
Beth Demme (10:18):
What? Like, "If you don't clean up your room, I'm going to send you to Hell."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:23):
That's a little petty for God. No. "If you don't clean up your act and stop being a drunk on the side of the street, you're going to Hell."
Beth Demme (10:33):
I'm thinking about it. I could sort of rationalize that conversation happening only if God knew that the person God was talking to would really respond to that. And there are people, I have met people, who have responded to that exact message and it was the message that they needed to hear in order to live life and live it to the full, which is what the Bible says. Jesus came to give us life, "To have life and have it to the fullest," John 10:10, probably the only scripture I'll quote today because I'm not good at quoting scripture. But to say it to someone who would receive it as a rejection, that doesn't feel Godly to me.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (11:16):
Well you said being in a relationship with God and I think even if you're having a fight or whatever, that's still a relationship. I mean you can be in a relationship with somebody and disagree with them and be mad at them, that's all part of a relationship. So I would think if you're having any kind of connection then you're probably good. You can check that off the list. You're going to Heaven. And if we take your bold statement of there's no Hell, then of course I'm going to Heaven.
Beth Demme (11:50):
I don't think I said that. I said I don't know if there's a Hell. I do think it is possible to not choose God. What I don't know is if you reject God, I don't know if that means you cease to exist or if you go to Hell. And I think I can read both of those things to be true based on the Bible.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (12:11):
And can you also... is there a conscious and a subconscious difference of accepting and rejecting God? Could you subconsciously be accepting God but never actually have a... be conscious of a relationship but you are? I don't know. I feel like it's more complicated than Heaven, Hell, yes, no.
Beth Demme (12:32):
It is definitely more complicated than that. Which is why it has been hard for the church through the centuries, right? Because the church just wants to make everything clear cut, black and white, yes or no.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (12:42):
Heaven or Hell.
Beth Demme (12:43):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (12:43):
Beth Demme (12:44):
You're in, you're out. But it is definitely more complicated than that. In terms of the subconscious versus conscious, I would think I wouldn't want to have only a subconscious acceptance of God only because I think I would be missing out on something then, not because it will mean that God withholds God's self from me. But just that-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (13:08):
I guess I'm looking more at the comfort of when like when someone passes away of those that remain on earth, what could bring them comfort if they're having struggling with where their family or friends are?
Beth Demme (13:25):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (13:27):
I guess that's where it's like if you weren't aware that they were in relationship with God, does that mean that they're not in Heaven? I think those are the things that are like why you may want to pick at it a little bit more. Is there ways that people get to Heaven without them verbally making it clear that that's where they want to go?
Beth Demme (13:50):
I definitely think that there are ways for people to get to heaven without verbally saying that it's where they want to go. And I think that it is even possible that there is some sort of an untimed gap between our last breath and our ultimate eternity and in that untimed gap, there is an opportunity to experience and choose God, even then. And I think it's possible because God is outside of time and because God is the author of life, I just think there's a lot of unknown there. And so to assign positive intent to God, I think that there must be some other opportunities there.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (14:34):
Do you think it's our job as Christians, if somebody's about to die to rush and make sure they're going to Heaven? Do you think that is something that we have to be worried about, that someone might not have accepted Christ but they're about to die?
Beth Demme (14:51):
So that's an impulse that I would be careful with. A lot of times when someone is in the process of dying and we have that anxiety about their eternity, that anxiety is about us, not about them. And if ever there was a time to respect someone and set your own anxiety aside, I would think it would be in their final moments. You wouldn't want to inflict your anxiety on them.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (15:19):
So are we not called as Christians to make sure everyone goes to Heaven?
Beth Demme (15:24):
I think that we are called as Christians to spread the good news of Jesus Christ and to invite people into a relationship with God and that is about more than just what happens when you die.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (15:38):
Isn't there something called last rights or first rights or something in the Catholic religion and a priest will go in to someone dying and be like, "It's good, they did this." What is that about?
Beth Demme (15:52):
It's really just a prayer and it's a prayer with the person who is dying to express... It gives them an opportunity to make a last confession if they're able to and if they want to. But it also is an opportunity to express God's grace over them with the hope of bringing them comfort and peace as they transition. We don't have last rights in the United Methodist Church, but we do have prayers that we say, we call it ministry with the dying. And we do have prayers that we say with that same idea, that we really want to bring God's comfort and peace into that moment in all the ways that are possible, and sometimes words make that possible.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (16:34):
So is that important for somebody to talk to a pastor right before they die?
Beth Demme (16:39):
No, it's just something that can be done, it doesn't have to be done.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (16:42):
And potentially comforting to the dying.
Beth Demme (16:44):
Hopefully it's comforting. I mean, again, really nervous about the fire and brimstone folks who would go in and be like, "This is your last chance."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (16:56):
Have you ever witnessed that happen?
Beth Demme (16:58):
I have not. No. I have had family members of a disease person express to me their own concerns about, "Well so and so didn't always make the best choices or I don't think so and so went to church enough," or those things that basically whatever the person you're talking to has done to try to make sure they get into Heaven, "I don't think that my deceased relative did enough of that." And you kind of can understand, okay, this is really, you're wondering about your own salvation, you can kind of help people walk through it that way. And I just always will choose reassurance. I just think that's the path of God is love and reassurance and grace. And I'm not going to assume that anybody is in Hell except, I mean there are some notable exceptions, really violent dictators.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:57):
That means there to be... That means there has to be a Hell if there are really bad people there.
Beth Demme (18:00):
I mean it is possible. It is possible there's a Hell.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:03):
But would it be better that they just cease to exist?
Beth Demme (18:07):
I don't know.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:08):
Or to think that they're being tortured?
Beth Demme (18:10):
So there's a place in the New Testament where-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:15):
But don't you also believe that there's good in everybody and that you don't want to think anyone is completely... I can't remember the words you've used, but you've said it before, you believe that no one is completely a lost case.
Beth Demme (18:30):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:31):
But then you have an asterisk for dictators?
Beth Demme (18:33):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:34):
How about that moment after that last breath?
Beth Demme (18:37):
That's the problem. That's the problem. The untimed moment, that's the problem.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:40):
So could there be a Heaven with dictators?
Beth Demme (18:44):
Okay, God, if you're listening, I just want to say-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:47):
Beth Demme (18:48):
I just want to say if you're listening-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:50):
If you're listening to our podcast.
Beth Demme (18:50):
If you're listening to this podcast right now, I don't really want to be in the part of Heaven with the dictators, signed sincerely,
Beth Demme, Tallahassee, Florida, USA.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (19:04):
I want to go to dog Heaven. Do you get a choice or is it the same place? Because that would be Heaven just to be surrounded by all the dogs, specifically greyhounds. I mean if there's a greyhound Heaven, that's where I want to go.
Beth Demme (19:17):
There is a place in the gospel of Luke where Jesus tells a parable... Okay, now a parable is a story that Jesus makes up to illustrate a point. And Jesus tells this parable about a rich man who ignores this beggar named Lazarus. When the rich man gets to his eternal destination, it is not where he wanted to go. It is not the good place. He ends up in the bad place, which spoiler alert, the good place was the bad place. It was very confusing. Anyway, so he ends up in a place where he is tormented and he can look up through the realms and he can see this beggar who he ignored. And the beggar is with Father Abraham, Father Abraham of course would be with God because they were close. So he says, "Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus," who had been the beggar, "send him down here to serve me to put water on my tongue because I am in agony in this fire." And Father Abraham says, "No, no, I'm not going to do that."
Lazarus is now comforted in the way that you were comforted in life and you can't go from here to there and you can't come from where you are to where we are. And so the rich man says, "Well in that case will you send Lazarus to my brothers to warn them?" Kind of like in a Christmas carol by Charles Dickens where Scrooge's partner Marley comes and warns him. So, all that is to say Jesus tells a story about a place of eternal torment where the people who are there can see that not everyone is in eternal torment. That doesn't sound great to me.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (21:12):
So that seems like further confirmation that there is a Hell.
Beth Demme (21:15):
Except Jesus wasn't telling the story to communicate something about-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (21:19):
Truth. Or reality.
Beth Demme (21:21):
About eternal destination. It's not prescriptive, it's not-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (21:25):
So then is Hell on earth? Is Heaven on earth?
Beth Demme (21:30):
I would agree with half of that. I think that it is possible that maybe Hell is on earth. There's a character, I can't remember now.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (21:36):
Is Hell in our own minds?
Beth Demme (21:38):
I don't know about that. Although I do think some people are tormented and tortured-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (21:43):
Beth Demme (21:43):
Yes. And that has got to be like Hell. There was a character in that book, Eat, Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. So there's a character I think just in the book, I don't think this character's in the movie, but he's wise man, like a shaman, and he basically says, "We all know Hell because we live it." And that you kind of have a choice to live your life by the way of Heaven or to live your choice by the way of Hell and that has to do with how you treat yourself and other people.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (22:15):
So maybe Hell is when you die, you just continue the same kind of life you had on Earth?
Beth Demme (22:23):
Yeah. Well if they're opposites, one way to think about it would be in the kingdom of Heaven, everyone is in perfect relationship with each other and with God, and that means that everyone treats each other with utmost love, care and respect. And that the opposite of that would be when people only look out for themselves and-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (22:42):
Oh, then we're all living Hell right now.
Beth Demme (22:45):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (22:45):
Okay. Okay. So Hell is basically life with COVID? Is that what we're... is that where we're getting at? We've all been in Hell for how long? And the only way out is to get to Heaven and to die and to go to Heaven. Is that what you're saying?
Beth Demme (22:59):
That does not sound right. Wait, I do not think that's what I was saying.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:04):
I read it wrong. Okay. It's okay.
Beth Demme (23:07):
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:10):
I've heard that before. What is that? What is that?
Beth Demme (23:13):
We could get glimpses of the kingdom of Heaven right here, right now. The kingdom of Heaven is like-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:18):
So if you go into a church, is that like Heaven?
Beth Demme (23:21):
I mean if you're in my church on a Sunday between 11 and 12.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:25):
Very specific, too, only 11 to 12. If you come at one, it's too late.
Beth Demme (23:31):
I mean, you know.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:32):
It's not Heaven anymore, it's just a building.
Beth Demme (23:34):
I do think that that worship services are a glimpse of Heaven, but that's because I love to worship and I love to be with people when I worship. For people that that's not meaningful for them, I don't think that God is like-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:44):
You love church.
Beth Demme (23:45):
... too bad so sad Heaven is going to be this place where only hymns are sung, even though you hate hymns, like that's-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:52):
You love church like I love kayaking. So if Heaven is an endless river that we could just a kayak the whole time, then sign me up.
Beth Demme (24:01):
Okay, I'll put your name on the list.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (24:03):
Yes. Obviously you have not said there's not a Hell, I think you've been clear with that, but you have not said, "Yes there is." So in the space of the unknown, which I personally totally agree with, and I think that is something that God is totally supportive of, is questioning and asking and not having all the answers. I think that is totally normal and okay and not something that means that we are less going to Heaven because we ask a question. So what's the story on Satan? Because isn't he like the big ruler of Hell? Do you think he is, was, a person and he does control Hell?
Beth Demme (24:48):
So Satan is the embodiment of evil and Satan appears really early on in the Bible, Genesis chapter three, which is the third chapter of the Bible, and then appears again and again and ultimately appears in Revelation, which is the last book of the Bible where there's a huge battle between Satan and God and between Satan's forces and God's forces and Satan and his army are cast into a lake and ultimately God wins.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (25:22):
Is it real or is it a story, like a parable?
Beth Demme (25:26):
Well, Revelation hasn't happened yet.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (25:28):
Oh my gosh. And this is... Oh okay.
Beth Demme (25:32):
I think it's...
Stephanie Kostopoulos (25:36):
So it's a story. It hasn't happened yet, so it's a story.
Beth Demme (25:39):
It's a story. It's a vision, it's a prophecy-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (25:43):
Of what's going to happen.
Beth Demme (25:44):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (25:45):
So then Satan hasn't happened yet.
Beth Demme (25:48):
Well no because Satan is in the earliest chapters of the Bible. So Satan is there and Satan appears as the serpent and then appears again and again and again throughout the Bible.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (25:58):
So what hasn't happened yet? Revelations.
Beth Demme (26:01):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (26:02):
Beth Demme (26:02):
The battle at the end of time with the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (26:05):
And you believe in Revelations just as much as Hell.
Beth Demme (26:08):
I have a lot of questions about how Revelation is interpreted.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (26:13):
How can you question Revelations but not question Matthew, or John, I don't know I picked one.
Beth Demme (26:20):
Yeah, I mean for a lot of reasons. One being that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John present themselves as reporting on events that did actually happen and Revelation is like-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (26:35):
Beth Demme (26:36):
Yeah. I saw this vision and I was told to write it down and I'm writing it down the best that I can in all the ways... I'm communicating in the best ways that I can communicate with my first-century language and my first-century knowledge and my first-century understanding of science, geography, et cetera, et cetera.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (26:54):
They have prophecies in Harry Potter.
Beth Demme (26:57):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (26:57):
That maybe give us a clearer picture of the Bible. Remember when-
Beth Demme (27:03):
Oh, in the Ministry of Magic. Is that where they keep them?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (27:05):
Yeah, they're like little globes when Sirius dies into the veil. That was always confusing. I don't really understand how that works.
Beth Demme (27:14):
Yeah. Where did he go?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (27:15):
Hell or Heaven.
Beth Demme (27:17):
Why would Sirius Black go to Hell? He was good to Harry.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (27:20):
I agree. I don't think he went to Hell, but I don't know what this veil thing was. I never really understood that part of the book is when he just is blasted into this veil and then he just ceases to exist. Does Harry Potter answer all of our Heaven and Hell questions? Did we just figure this out? Did JK tell us this the whole time and we didn't even realize that? JK, JK, JK. JK. No, no. The Bible's more complicated than Harry Potter. Although if you want to know how many times I've read Harry Potter verse the Bible.
Beth Demme (27:50):
I hear that. I hear that. Yeah. So back to Satan. I do want to say that-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (27:56):
He's bad. We all agree on that.
Beth Demme (27:57):
Satan is bad, evil is bad. So then you have to ask yourself questions about like, "Okay, well where does evil come from?" So the way that the-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (28:08):
Beth Demme (28:08):
... that the tradition in church has explained the existence of Satan is there is a passage in the New Testament where Jesus says, "I saw Satan fall from Heaven." And so there is this teaching that Satan is a fallen angel. An angel who was in rebellion, who was cast out of heaven, who has been battling with God ever since.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (28:34):
And isn't that interesting though, if that's how he came about, how is he the only one and why doesn't happen more often? How is he the only one that's ever fought God and just fell right out of the sky and there's no other person that's had that ever since.
Beth Demme (28:49):
Maybe Satan's not the only one. Maybe that's how Satan gets an army.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (28:53):
Demons. Is that how demons come about? Is there fallen angels as well?
Beth Demme (28:57):
So this is one of the challenges. It's like I have a hard time in my 21st-century mind really coming to terms with the idea of the devil. And I 'm firm in my belief that we give the devil too much credit because I do not think that the devil is like God, so I don't think that the devil can be everywhere all the time. So, "The devil made me do it." No, you made you do it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:26):
Is that a defense? Do people say that?
Beth Demme (29:28):
People say that all the time, "The devil made me do it."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:30):
Beth Demme (29:30):
Yeah, that's a thing people say.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:32):
Who says that? Like regular people?
Beth Demme (29:33):
Yes, people say that.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:34):
I don't know anyone that's said that.
Beth Demme (29:36):
Well I don't know what to tell you.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:38):
You know different people.
Beth Demme (29:39):
It is a thing that people say.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:40):
Is that what your kids tell you?
Beth Demme (29:41):
It is a common idiom that is used in the English language.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:44):
It's like an excuse for your behaviors.
Beth Demme (29:45):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:47):
Which is interesting because on the opposite, God made me do it. That's not true either because God gives us free will.
Beth Demme (29:52):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:53):
God can't make you do anything.
Beth Demme (29:54):
So I think that we give the devil too much credit, but I also think that evil is real.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (30:00):
So if Satan is real and evil is real, is that associated with Hell in your mind as a specific place? Or is it in your mind? And by here I mean universal?
Beth Demme (30:14):
Yeah, no I do think that all that gets lumped together that Hell would be a place where there is the absence of God and power abhors a vacuum, and so if there were the absence of God that Satan would step in and be the ruler of that kind of realm. I don't know how all of that works. I don't know how people being possessed by demons works. I don't know how any of that works. I believe that evil is real because people do terrible things to each other every day and that is not of God.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (30:53):
So you've said that there are churches that really focus on not wanting to go to Hell, that's a big focus of the church. So do you think if churches in general didn't focus on that as "You're going to Hell if you don't come every Sunday," do you there'd be less people in church? Do you think that's a tactic that actually get people to go to church and that's the only reason they go?
Beth Demme (31:19):
I think if it didn't work, churches wouldn't do it. So I think there must be some people for whom it works and that there are some people who are only willing or able to consider a relationship with God under threat of eternal torment.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (31:38):
What percentage of people do you think go to church because they think they should or they're afraid of the unknown versus people that go because they truly get something out of it and love going to church, like you?
Beth Demme (31:54):
Yeah, I think most people, especially in a post-COVID reality where we're back to meeting in person, I think the people for whom it wasn't really meaningful, I don't think that they're making an effort to come back.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (32:09):
I agree we're in a different world with COVID, but I think there are so many different churches and you probably are looking more at the Methodist churches, your church specifically and the people in your church, and I would say definitely within denominations it might be a different percentage. And obviously there's no way of knowing how many people go to church for this versus that, that's your business. But I don't know, I personally think the number's probably higher of people that think they should versus actually want to go. I think there are probably still a big amount of people that want to go and that's why they're there. But yeah, I would be curious if there was ever a study done of that, but that'd be hard.
Beth Demme (32:47):
I mean, ultimately church is a voluntary activity. It's like going kayaking or going to the gym. How many people go to the gym because they really, really want to and how many people go because they think they should?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (32:57):
Well I mean you were just talking before we got started, you were talking about you use the treadmill in the morning and you love it, right?
Beth Demme (33:07):
I hate it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (33:08):
Exactly. But you do it because you should. So that's what I'm looking with the church. How many people it's the treadmill to them? How many people because they should and it might not be... it is voluntary, but I think there are churches that have drilled in someone's head since they've been going as a child, "You have to go every Sunday, you have to do this and this and this." I think there's certain things that are drilled into people's heads so much that it's not a choice, it's just they have to go. And it's not that they're getting anything out of it.
Beth Demme (33:42):
I will say there are for sure... I shouldn't say for sure. Nothing's for sure. I would imagine that there are Christians listening to this conversation going, "Wow, they have been tricked by the devil and Beth has been tricked by the devil and the devil is tricking her into questioning this so that the devil can claim more souls."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (34:02):
Whoa is that what he did? Oh my gosh.
Beth Demme (34:05):
I would say that falls into the category of giving the devil too much credit.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (34:08):
Okay. Okay. I got you there.
Beth Demme (34:10):
Cause hopefully everything that I'm saying is about seeking out a relationship with God. That's not what the devil wants for people, I would guess, so.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (34:20):
Well, and you're talking about seeking relationship because you want to not because you're afraid of what will happen if you don't.
Beth Demme (34:29):
Yes. So I want to share this quote. This is from an eighth century female mystic, one of the church mothers, one of the desert mothers, so if you know church history that would mean something to you. She said, "Oh God, if I adore you from fear of Hell, then burn me in Hell. And if I adore you in hopes of paradise, then do not give it to me. Yet if I adore you, God, for yourself, do not withhold your eternal beauty from me." And for me, that's it. My relationship with God is not about fear of Hell or desiring some sort of eternal reward, my relationship with God is about the fact that I love God and that I have experienced God's love for myself. And that's what drives me, not a fear of a threat or a promise of a reward.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (35:33):
Well, I know we don't talk about this a lot and I know that it sounds... I don't know, it sounds like a weird connection compared to what we just talked about, but I feel like you should share where you are a pastor and how people can find your sermons.
Beth Demme (35:48):
So I serve at Gray Memorial United Methodist Church. It's spelled G-R-A-Y, not like greyhound.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (35:56):
It's a fail, I know.
Beth Demme (35:58):
So Grey Memorial Church in Tallahassee, and I'll put a link to it in our show notes, but our website is gray, M like memorial, UMC because we're United Methodist church, grymumc.org, and we're on YouTube and Facebook and I'll put links to all that. And I preach every Sunday at 11:00 AM.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (36:16):
And put a link to your very favorite sermon in the description.
Beth Demme (36:21):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (36:22):
Send me your top three and I will pick the best and we'll put it in the description.
Beth Demme (36:27):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (36:28):
Well, which is your favorite kid?
Beth Demme (36:30):
I love them both.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (36:32):
Who's your favorite podcast co-host?
Beth Demme (36:34):
You. You're my one and only.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (36:36):
Yes. Okay, we'll put a link to every single sermon Beth's ever done because they are all spectacular and the best apparently. And if you want to join me for my church, that would be kayaking and enjoying the amazing, wonderful nature that God has provided. So I will put a link to Hi, I'm Steph, my YouTube channel where I share about kayaking and also another God-given thing, which is a greyhound. I share about greyhounds and kayaking because greyhounds are in the Bible.
Beth Demme (37:12):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:13):
As we've talked about.
Beth Demme (37:14):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:16):
Exactly. It's in the Bible. It's been translated. I don't know who wrote it, but someone that had greyhounds and I'm going to take that.
Beth Demme (37:27):
King James version only.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:29):
Yeah, I mean that's the only thing I like about King James. But I'll take it. I'll take it.
At the end of each episode, we end with Questions for Reflection. These are questions based on today's show, but that Beth will read and leave a little pause between, free to answer to yourself, or you can find a PDF on our website.
Beth Demme (37:46):
Number one, what do you believe about the afterlife? Number two, do you have any fear about where you might spend eternity? Number three, does your experience with religion revolve around Heaven and Hell? And number four, have you ever used the phrase, "What the hell?" Or "What the heck?" Why? What did you mean?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:10):
This has been the Discovering Our Scars podcast. Thank you for joining us.