Hell

731px-Inferno_Canto_15_verses_28-29

One of the best comments about Bernie Sanders’ opposition to a nominee’s confirmation because he didn’t believe Muslims are saved comes from Michael Gerson:  “It is apparently not enough for some of the liberal-minded to help those on Medicare and Social Security; now people must be guaranteed eligibility for heaven as well.”  See also Lutheran Satire’s Hans Fiene on the subject.

Far from being a fringe position, as Sanders’ assumes, the notion that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation is a tenet of every branch of Christianity, except for liberals and a small number of universalists.  Even Catholics, who hold out the possibility of salvation for some non-Christians, do so because they see their good works as evidence that they have God’s grace, explaining it all so that it is Jesus who saves them even though they don’t know Him.

Most Muslims believe that non-Muslims do not go to paradise, though since salvation is based mostly on good works, there may be exceptions.

Sanders’ interrogation of Russell Vought has brought attention to the issue, with most observers–including liberals–defending the right of a Christian to hold public office, despite that religion’s “exclusionary” beliefs.

After the jump is an article on the number of people who believe in Hell.  It turns out that 58% of Americans believe in eternal punishment.

And yet, Hell isn’t talked about much these days, even in conservative churches.  I suppose it’s a difficult topic to preach about.  One can easily get it wrong, creating false impressions about God, Christ, sin, and salvation.

Dante helped me understand Hell.  His Inferno is an allegory in which the punishments symbolize the sin, as it completely takes over the life of the sinner.  Here the sinners freely embrace their sin and the torment that comes from rejecting God, just as they did on earth.  Another theme of his comes from St. Catherine of Sienna:  “The fire of Hell is the love of God as experienced by those who reject it.”  God continues to love these sinners by preserving their existence and letting them be what they have chosen.

You pastors, how do you teach about Hell?

From Camila Domonoske, Is It Hateful To Believe In Hell? Bernie Sanders’ Questions Prompt Backlash : The Two-Way : NPR:

. . . .The Pew Research Center recently found that nearly 60 percent of Americans surveyed believe in hell. And among Christians, 48 percent of Protestants and 56 percent of evangelicals believe Christianity is the only path to eternal life. (Catholics and mainline Protestants were far more likely to believe that other faiths can get into heaven.)

A LifeWay Research survey, conducted online with a much smaller sample, found that 40 percent of Americans believe those who do not accept Jesus are bound for hell. But it’s complicated: Some of those people appear to also believe other faiths can attain salvation.

At any rate, Vought’s belief is not a fringe view. “Most conservative evangelical churches believe that faith in Christ is necessarily for salvation,” Moore says.

And it’s not unique to evangelicalism or Christianity. The Quran is quite clear that there is a hell, says Mohammad Hassan Khalil, a professor of religious studies at Michigan State University and author of Islam and the Fate of Others. The general view is that those who reject the message of Muhammad are damned, he says, but just like in Christianity, there’s a vast spectrum of beliefs. . . .

Khalil says belief in hell does not have a clear-cut implication for behavior on Earth. “If I believe all non-Muslims go to hell … it can lead me to look down upon them, see them as just fuel for hell, and not really take them too seriously. Or I could be motivated to want to save them,” he says, “and be unusually kind and nice to them in the hopes that they will convert.”

[Keep reading. . .]

Illustration:  Gustave Doré, Inferno, Canto 15, verses 28-29, Public Domain, via Wikipedia Commons 

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