Shane Hipps on Rob Bell on Hell

Shane Hipps, now the teaching pastor at Mars Hill, talks about the afterlife:

As a Christian who believes in the Bible and Jesus, I have found the intensity and certainty of the debate all very bizarre. It’s strange that so much passion and ink has been spilled over something that is all speculation.

Here’s what I mean: If you died, took pictures, and came back to life again, then you would know with certainty what happens after death. Of course, you would only know what happens to you, not everyone else. But if you haven’t died, you can only speculate about what happens to you and everyone else.

This speculation is perfectly fine. As long as we recognize these are only our beliefs. And beliefs by nature are not certain; they are faith based assumptions. That’s what makes them beliefs. Once you can prove them, they are no longer beliefs; they become a kind of knowing. And the funny thing is once you know, you don’t need to debate anymore.

I have never died, so I don’t have a theological position on heaven or hell. I can only entertain theological possibilities. There is a big difference….

Now having said this, I’m only aware of one person who died, and I mean really died, like three days dead, and came back to life again. His name was Jesus. Upon his return from the dead, he didn’t believe anymore; now he knew. So if I wanted some indication about what happens after I die, I should probably pay attention to what he said after he came back from the dead.

Here’s what he said about heaven and hell after his resurrection. Nothing. Nada. Zip….

If anyone had the authority and credibility to provide a coherent-once-and-for-all description of exactly what happens after you die, it would be Jesus upon his return from beyond the beyond. But he didn’t. He didn’t even seem all that interested.

If it were important to him, you’d think he would have written a book about it. Or preached a sermon or two. But he didn’t. After Jesus rose from the dead, he spends his time talking about this life.

It would seem Jesus is more concerned with this life than the next. Perhaps we should be, too.

We only get one, and it’s short.

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  • Stephen W

    What about Lazarus? He was dead for four days before Jesus raised him back to life.

    Not that it makes any difference to Shane’s point of course, as Lazarus is not recorded as saying anything about heaven and hell etc. either 🙂

  • Phil

    Hipps is right. We need to distinguish between a theological “position” and a theological “possibility”. What most Christians believe about the afterlife is that it will be some sort of cosmic family reunion in which we will be “reunited with those we love.” While the biblical evidence for this notion is minimal, (I’m tempted to say nonexistent) we are afraid even to question this because we will be seen as causing hurt to those who are grieving the loss of family members. Can we be honest for once about what the Bible does and doesn’t say?

  • isn’t this what bell was saying in the first place?

  • Gee, I seem to be missing the part about Rob Bell here. 😉

  • “Upon his return from the dead, he didn’t believe anymore; now he knew.”

    Wow. If he wanted to throw gas on the fire, I don’t think he could have chosen a better line. So God incarnate didn’t “know” anything about heaven and hell before he died. So that stuff he taught about it before his death … he was just guessing?

    Hipps is not helping his side.

  • Michael

    Repeat after me:

    Argument from silence.

  • Paul

    My understanding on the whole matter is that Rob Bell chose to be deliberately vague. It wasn’t purely a publicity stunt as he raised some interesting questions – questions which I believe many who are not Christians are asking. That said, it proved to be an excellent publicity stunt too! I agree with Hipps (and Phil above). There is a difference between a theological position and a theological possibility.

  • Rick

    “And beliefs by nature are not certain; they are faith based assumptions.”

    Yet he “believes” in Jesus and relies on His testimony (or lack thereof) regarding heaven and hell.

    “Here’s what he said about heaven and hell after his resurrection. Nothing. Nada. Zip….”

    An argument from silence does not make it less true.

    “If it were important to him, you’d think he would have written a book about it.”

    But He (God/The Holy Spirit/the Trinity) did inspire writings about it.

  • Rob

    I agree, and it is why i’ve spent a lot more time lately thinking mythologically than theologically.

  • Andy Cornett

    Hmm … I think this is a weak sauce response. I say that as some who enjoys listening to Shane and Rob at Mars Hill and who also enjoyed reading, discussing, and recommending Love Wins.

    But I don’t see how this helps at all – even if we want to debate the nuance between “position” and “possibility.” And here is my biggest beef: since I believe that the risen Christ speaks through the Scriptures, I think it just flippant to discount Jesus’ “silence” on the topic between resurrection and ascension … as if that is the last word on the subject. And that is a theological position – not just a possibility.

  • Jesus said an awful lot about hell, though.

  • Robert A


    More amorphous, speculative theological meandering from the leadership of that sad, sad church.

    No one in this conversation is saying anything about certitude. What we are saying is about being faithful to the text of Scripture and orthodox theological belief. (something also should be said about writing with clarity and answering all of the 300 or so open questions you ask in a book) Rob’s book is a bad one. Badly written, badly presented, badly marketed, badly handled.

    Don’t get so caught up defending Rob, he’s undefendale. Rather talk to us about what Scripture actually says in this topic. Talk about the reality of both Heaven and Hell, salvation and judgment. Don’t talk about “mythical” or “speculation” and think you can dismiss honest theological, pastoral work.

    BTW, just wrapped up reading Hamilton’s “God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment”…wow, this is the academic reply to the foolish position of “Love Wins.”

  • John Lunt

    It really doesn’t mean much then does it. Most of us haven’t seen Jesus, we’ve read about him. So he is a “speculation” based on Hipps argument. I don’t think it is speculation nor do I accept that Hell is either. Maybe Jesus didn’t say anything about Hell because he had already said what needed to be said about it.

  • Ray S.

    Quote: “I have never died, so I don’t have a theological position on heaven or hell. I can only entertain theological possibilities.”

    I don’t mean to be getting off topic, but it’s statements like these that are very troublesome to me. When a person begins with that position, it makes everything that they that follows, ‘suspect’. In fact, there’s no ‘belief’ or ‘faith’ in a statement like that at all. It’s the position of one depending solely upon ‘experiential’ knowledge. If I’m trusting this God for my eternal salvation, my ‘faith’ had better BE a type of ‘knowledge’– not ‘hoping’ or ‘wishing’.

    As far as the reality of hell, I agree with Michael: Hipps is making an argument from silence.

  • I like this sentence: “It’s strange that so much passion and ink has been spilled over something that is all speculation.”

    My sentiments exactly. So why is there so much emotional intensity invested into this? Is it not because the doctrines of hell provided a convenient tool for social or religious control?

    Reminds of the passage where Jesus criticized the pharisees for their cross-cultural mission efforts: “you travel across land and sea to make one disciple and you make him twice the son of hell that you are …” ouch!

  • T

    This is a poor response. The argument undercuts too much. I agree that we can say that many specifics of heaven and hell were not Jesus’ priority. That deserves being said and we can say it on the basis of the gospel accounts. But Jesus speaks to many things before his death that he spoke about “with authority” as the Father’s only son, as words given from the Father himself. No need to use this line of reasoning to make the point that many details are not given to us, presumably by God’s choice; we do well to major on Jesus’ own majors. Amen. But undercutting the pre-resurrection discussions on the matter isn’t helpful.

  • Jonathon

    I agree with ChrisB; Jesus was not giving it His best shot before the Resurrection; He was fully God (& man of course.)Jesus had much to say on the topic of the afterlife while He was on the Earth as God in the flesh. He did not have to reaffirm everything He taught before rising from the dead after He came back. Not once do we see Him saying: “oh yeah I know I said this earlier but..oops, my bad, it really goes like this.”

    I don’t like the quickness most evangelicals have in using the Hell button; but that does not mean I get to recreate God in the image that suits me best.

  • If Hipps is making an argument from silence, which he is, then so is anybody who says something affirmative about Hell based on a post-resurrection Jesus. I think that is his point.

    Certainty is presumptuous. I am quite comfortable hoping in the resurrection without needing to affirm certainty. If I affirm certainty, all I am really doing is making myself feel more comfortable while being disingenuous.

  • Hipps is speaking as though the word of God is completely silent on the matter. While scripture does not offer anything in the way of a cut-and-dry picture of the afterlife, it certainly has much to say.

  • jamie

    Haha yes!!!! Love it!

  • David

    Mars Hill just seems to keep cranking them out. I mean, really? Do they have a seminary for these types where they are educated on why it is impossible to believe and know anything with certainty? I will say it again from an earlier post, if I sat under these type of so-called ‘pastors’, I would leave and go somewhere where ministers taught the Word, and themselves had ‘become convinced of what they believe’.

  • David

    and one more thing…Luke 16:19-31.

  • TJJ

    So now the leadrship of that church preaches and teaches theological possibilities. Theological speculation, on whatever is not first hand knowledge and experience. So then the nature and diety of Jesus, the nature and significance of His death, his ressurection, etc., can only be theological possibilities. The nature of salvation, forgiveness, again, possibilities, speculation. But not theological positions. And finally, just say it….the nature, reality, existance of “whatever gods there may be”, is also a matter of theological possibilities, speculation.

    So on one extreme we have that church in Kentucky with a sixty page statement of faith, and Mars Hill, with what, a page of theological possibilties and speculations of faith.

    So this is where the post-modern emergent church takes us. At least Hipps is honest about it, and does not use the typical double-speak to disguise what he really means.

  • andrew

    this is MARS HILL’s official response:

  • Tim

    #22 – So the intention of Jesus’ parable of Luke 16:19-31 was a warning and a lesson about hell, or was it a lesson on doing the right thing while still living and making sure we have the right perspective towards the needy while alive? – The later is exactly what Mars Hill has been teaching, both with Bell and Hipps. vs. 31 to me says, “even if you do have the “correct” belief of hell, or a risen Jesus, or any doctrine, if you’re heart is not in the right place now, seeing God’s kingdom at work now in the world, then you’re missing the whole point of why Jesus came.

  • Confusing. I certainly can’t track with Shane Hipps on this. Scripture seems to indicate clearly that there is judgment. Of course just how that’s sorted out as to all the precise details we don’t know. But the main point we do seem to know, or are at the least pointed to that possibility.

  • JM

    I appreciate Shane’s sentiment and think theological dogmatism is often cancerous in the Body of Christ. But as someone who teaches the book in churches, I’m surprised (well not really, I guess) that the book of Revelation gets completely ignored whenever people talk about what Jesus said/did/taught after His Resurrection. It is the best candidate for what Shane seems to want, as far as the testimony from the only One who went through and overcame death. Why no mention of it? I’m guessing because it’s been dismissed by those on the liberal/mainline end and misused by those on the Fundamentalist/Dispensational end. But the book has MUCH to say about questions of Heaven/Hell/Judgment/etc, I would argue.

  • Matt

    Wow, who knew Rob Bell’s successor would turn out to be such an Enlightenment-bound modernist? It’s disconcerting to see a “Christian” pastor limit certainty to sight–which, of course, is the exact antithesis of what the Bible describes as faith (e.g., Heb. 11:1). Pathetic.

  • When I say possibility, I’m not implying that scripture may be off the mark. Only trying to be open to other theological possibilities. Though It’s clear that there is eternal (albeit not necessarily conscious; I don’t believe so) punishment of those not in Christ.

  • PaulE

    This post reminds me of the one recently about agnosticism and the lust for uncertainty. It’s not enough that God gave visions of these things to his Apostles and authority to speak on his behalf. It’s not enough that Jesus, who did only what his Father showed him and who spoke in the power of the Spirit – it’s not enough that he spoke about these things before his death. In order to have any true knowledge of these things, a person has to have actually experienced them before she is qualified to speak with any certainty on the matter.

    Humility in understanding and teaching the Scriptures is so important. After all, as the church fathers taught: “The road to hell is paved with the skulls of bishops.” And so absolutely we should be careful to not go beyond what is written. I wonder, though, whether the lust for uncertainty is rooted not always in a humble trembling at God’s Word, but often in a pride that refuses to bend the knee to what God has made plain.

  • Luke Allison

    This is a clumsy response for two reasons:

    1. It treats something that is only affirmed by Scriptural testimony (the resurrection) as of a higher sort of knowledge than other things only affirmed by Scriptural testimony (such as negative judgment)

    2. While avoiding trying to throw the Scriptures’ testimony into a typical Evangelical theological grid, he succeeds at throwing the Scriptures’ testimony into another typical Evangelical theological grid; he’s merely repeating what he’s read and heard from theologians and teachers he trusts, as opposed to the theologians and leaders he doesn’t trust. Saying that Jesus “only talked about this world” after His resurrection is a carefully simplified statement which doesn’t ring true with what the Scriptures say any more than “Jesus only talked about heaven and hell” does.

    Of course, Jesus did talk quite a bit about where He was going before He died (to the Father…pretty much the whole second half of the Gospel of John). So we do know something.

    It’s far easier to accuse people who care about the theology of the afterlife (I may not be one of them) of not caring about the theology of the current life, than it is to point out what may be wrong about our own system of thought. That’s something I have yet to hear anyone from Mars Hill in Grand Rapids do. Until I hear one of their leadership turn the lens of speculation on their own theological presuppositions, I’m going to be less than impressed with their responses.

    One good follow-up question: How do we know that Jesus rose from the dead? And why does it matter?

  • David

    @25 – I believe his intention can be both of those, plus others. The either/or scenario you mention is not required by the text as they are not opposed to each other, as if you could only teach one and not the other. Honestly? The Rich Man was more needy than the beggar anyway. Obviously I’m taking issue with what seems to me the continued stream of unorthodox teaching from that church. It just leaves the sheep in a fog.

  • Steve

    This strikes me as a bafflingly bad argument for a “teaching pastor” to make.

    I will be in prayer for Mars Hill, the members, teachers and leaders as they work through this subject.

    I pray they will come to the conclusion that yes, much of what has been taught over the years on the afterlife has been determined by tradition rather than solid scriptural exegesis, there is certainly some very certain teaching contained in the gospels and epistles on the subject, there are some things that we can know about such things.

    They appear to be going as far in their other direction as some others have gone in theirs.

  • Scott

    Perfectly demonstrates ONE of the problems with Emergent thinking. Scripture takes a back seat toe human experience and human reasoning. Hoops is farther down the slope than Bell. Sad picture. Scot, what is your motive on posting this?

  • DRT

    I for one am quite comfortable with Shane’s remarks. I find it refreshing compared to the ill conceived project of having absolute certainty about everything.

    David, Luke 16 is primarily about Sheol, if I am not mistaken. And it is a parable. Not much there.

    Robert A#12, well, I hope you find comfort in knowing that you might go to hell. Or are you part of the elect?

    Ray S#14, must they teach certainty about it given that the world is divided on it? What is wrong with acknowledging that there are many views on the subject?

    T#16, I do agree this undercuts too much as you say, that’s good.

    Luke and others, where do you get that this refutes negative judgment? I think it simply removes certainty around what that will be like.

    Luke#31, What? You want Mars Hill to “to point out what may be wrong about our own system of thought.” What system of thought are you referring to? The best I can see is that they are in a continuous process of studying what it means to follow Jesus and be his disciple. They have quite little in terms of systematics. Love Wins is not the slightest systematic.

    Shane is putting the subject in its proper perspective if you ask me. But I think many evangelicals who try to scare people into following Jesus by threatening them with hell have their weapon rendered obsolete by the Rob Bell approach and they are fighting with all they have. Take the club away from the bully.

  • J @ North Park Sem

    I spent a lot of time defending Rob Bell’s approach, even though I’m not keen on the idea of post-death opportunity to repent. Bell raised a lot of issues that definitely need our attention as Christ-followers.

    But Hipps doesn’t help here, in my opinion. I absolutely agree that “this life” needs to be central, not superseded by concerns and theologies about afterlife. But “what happens when we die?” is a large concern in the Bible, in just about every religion, and to just about every person alive. Jesus speaks enough about judgment and future eschatology and hell, etc., and Paul & Revelation says things as well.

    The Bible isn’t silent on this by any means. For example, I know we’ll have resurrected bodies in heaven, rather than being formless souls or angels playing harps on a cloud, because of the Bible.

    Refocusing our attention on how to live now, rather than how to obtain “fire insurance” for later, is necessary. But please, let’s not swing the pendulum to the other side so drastically that we say that questions of the afterlife are biblically obsolete. That is irresponsible.

  • David

    @ DRT – Every scholar I have ever studied behind states Luke 16 is an actual scenario, not a parable. One of the reasons is his mention of names, which never occurs in parables. There are other reasons too. The second thing, whether Sheol, Hades, Hell, or whatever you want to call it, it was a place of torment with no escape. I’m not sure why you quickly dismissed it in your discussion above as I believe it to be very relevant.

  • Luke Allison

    “Shane is putting the subject in its proper perspective if you ask me.”

    By essentially saying that we don’t know anything when it could be argued that we know lots of things? It all comes down to how we view Scripture. You have a perspective, and so do others. You are convinced yours is right, so do others. How is this particular impasse ever overcome? Why, by following yours, of course!

    “But I think many evangelicals who try to scare people into following Jesus by threatening them with hell have their weapon rendered obsolete by the Rob Bell approach and they are fighting with all they have. Take the club away from the bully.”

    Yeah, but many people who aren’t like this (Scot Mcknight, for instance) also had problems with Rob’s whole approach. So clearly there’s something more to talk about here.

    You don’t think that Shane Hipps has a theological system that he follows? It may not be sold in one particular volume (who is the progressive Wayne Grudem?), but he definitely has a hermeneutic and a way of interpreting Scripture which comes by way of other people that he looks up to. We’re all that way.

    Here’s my problem: I know that. I admit that. And I think you’re wrong anyway.

    He knows that, but he doesn’t admit it, and he thinks anyone who disagrees with him is still wrong.

    Admitting your bias is the first step toward healthy dialogue, in my opinion. Otherwise it appears as though you consider yourself the only one in the room who’s really taking Jesus seriously, or Scripture seriously, or hermeneutics seriously, or whatever.

  • Steve

    #37 David,

    There are a number of prominent NT scholars who firmly believe that Luke 16 is a parable and that the argument of the inclusion of names is in no way persuasive that it is not.

  • David

    @ Steve – we will have to agree to disagree on its meaning. Just because the Good Samaritan is a parable doesn’t mean that bandits didn’t hide out in the hills along the steep 17 mile trek between Jericho and Jerusalem (which they did). My point is that it doesn’t lessen the true reality. It still exists, and I believe with certainty.

  • Scott

    The fact that neither Rob nor Shane have the, errr, fortitude to deal with passages like these shows the value of their opinion. Let me tell you something else that is striking: I posted on Rob’s Facebook page for seven months, and I could not find anyone (Correct-NO ONE) who could intelligently or experientially discuss the New Birth. Hello!

    “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”-Matthew 25:46

    “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! “

  • Richard

    Wow, this nerve runs deep. Its sad really when so much heat comes from these discussions. I’m thankful to be part of a congregation that wrestles with deep things, disagrees, and still goes out to lunch together.

    Re: the OP

    Shane isn’t making an argument from silence. He’s make an argument from the scriptures post resurrection -what’s there and what isn’t. For those too intellectually lazy to click through and read it before jumping to a conclusion, here’s what he said:

    “Here’s what he said about heaven and hell after his resurrection. Nothing. Nada. Zip.

    What did he talk about? Here’s just a sampling: He tells his disciples to make students of him (Mt 28:16), to share the good news of liberation in this life (Mk 16:9-20). He says, “Peace be with you,” and “I’m hungry.” (Lk 24:36-41) He says, “Receive the holy breath; now you can forgive sins.” (Jn 20:22) He says, “It’s me, really, touch my side” (Jn 20:27), and “The fishing is better on the right side of the boat.” (Jn 21:6) He says “Let’s eat” (Jn 21), “Feed my sheep; now follow me” (Jn21:18-20), and “Stop worrying about the future and the fate of other people; just follow me.” (Jn 21:22; Acts 1:7-8)

    Not exactly a systematic theology of the afterlife. Mostly, it’s a repeated invitation to trust and follow him and not worry about the future. Apparently, he is also hungry a lot. If anyone had the authority and credibility to provide a coherent-once-and-for-all description of exactly what happens after you die, it would be Jesus upon his return from beyond the beyond. But he didn’t. He didn’t even seem all that interested.”

  • Richard

    And for those raising the straw man that Shane must not believe in the resurrection because that’s based off of the testimony of others, perhaps Shane has personally experience the resurrected Christ and that’s why he believes it with bedrock certainty…

  • Richard

    @ 40, David

    Even if it is a true story that actually happened to people Jesus and his listeners knew, what was Jesus’ intent in telling the story? Was it teaching about what things are like when we die or was he rebuking something about the way people were living around him in that very moment? If he was teaching about what happens when we die, what solution is proposed by the text for avoiding such a fate?

    If Wall Street thought the Occupy Movement and POTUS were bad, wait till they see what happened to the rich man that didn’t care for Lazarus, amiright?

  • Scott

    Richard, whether Jesus spoke in it or not, GOD spoke! The Holy Spirit spoke clearly through Paul & Peter, and in fact, JESUS DID SPEAK post resurrection when he gave John the last word- the Revelation. Amazing that I would even have to point theae thinga out on a Christian blog site.

  • David

    @ Richard – Like I mentioned to someone earlier, I don’t think it has to be either/or. It seems people are now getting hung up on that question. I have taught this passage many times and can emphasize 10-15 aspects of this passage as ‘one’ of Jesus’ points. I think you may be a little limiting. Want to know a bigger issue, IMO? There is a segment of the church that is now teaching people youcan’t know some things (and I mean critical things) with certainty. For example, everyone evetually goes to heaven. Well, tell that to the Rich Man who had no way of escape. I think parts of this thread are chasing rabbits and avoiding the real issue, such as statements that come from these and other pastors. Maybe they should find another line of work, where they CAN be certain of things. Rob Bell did.

  • I think this is the problem of the two story universe (with or without a basement) where the “afterlife” in some other place or reality called “heaven” is the “reward” and if you don’t make it to the second story, then perhaps you’ll be consigned to the basement. (Borrowing heavily from Fr. Stephen Freeman here.)

    The deeper problem is that’s not the true view of the Holy Scriptures or of Christianity. N.T. Wright is also struggling to correct those erroneous views. We live in a one story universe in which heaven and earth are interlocking and overlapping. Heaven is a breath away. God is not off somewhere else. Those who have departed aren’t up on the unseen, disconnected second floor. Our ultimate destination is a renewed earth, not “heaven” whatever conception you may have of that term.

    The experience of humanity in death before the Resurrection and the defeat of death is not the same as our experience now. That’s why the post-Resurrection NT refers to our experience of death now as “falling asleep” in the body though there seems a sense that we “wake up” right away with Christ. We aren’t told much about this intermediate period. We are told that Jesus was going to prepare rooms (temporary dwelling places) in His Father’s house for us. We are told to sleep in the body is to be with Christ which is far better. But not much else. We are, on the other hand, told quite a bit about the Resurrection.

    As N.T. Wright points out, the Christian story is not about life after death, but life after life after death.

  • Richard

    @ 45

    Scott, hate to burst your bubble but you’re not the only one that values the Scriptures, especially on this Christian site.

    God also said things like “all things are reconciled in Christ” and compared the abounding of grace to the devastation of sin except grace was bigger, etc. And if you want to hang your hat on Revelation, it ends without a picture of hellfire and brimstone, or did you not notice that? It talks about the nations being healed by the tree of life and there being no more curse.

    Its not as black and white as the words on the page. That’s why we’re been wrestling with it for 4,000 years or so dating back to when Abraham first heard Yahweh.

  • Richard

    @ 46

    You said, “There is a segment of the church that is now teaching people you can’t know some things (and I mean critical things) with certainty” which I find rather ironic since the rest of your comment is focusing on how I’m too certain and “limiting” in how I interpret Luke 16.

    Chuckling aside, what Shane, Rob, and Mars Hill have said with certainty is that there is a judgment coming and it deals with how we have chosen to live this life – in faithful response to Christ or some other way of our devising. The nature of that judgment, beyond it being less pleasant than the joy of salvation, is what they’re contending we can’t have certainty about. Can we know who’s in or out? Not with certainty, we have some guidelines and parameters but we never know the heart so we don’t have certainty for anyone else.

  • Huh? Then we can only “know” by experience? What is revelation all about?

  • David

    @ 49 – “The nature of that judgment, beyond it being less pleasant than the joy of salvation, is what they’re contending we can’t have certainty about.”

    Less pleasant?

  • Richard

    @ 50

    Name something you know in the fiber of your being by revelation that you haven’t experienced?

    @ 51

    Do you disagree it will be less pleasant or are you just disappointed I didn’t use inflated rhetoric to describe eternal conscious torment to your satisfaction?

    You continue to dodge the thrust of anyone’s counterpoints to what you post.

  • Though I believe Jesus really is the savior of all humanity, in deed not in title only, Hipps’ appeal to the Jesus’ silence concerning what He saw and experienced while dead is, well, weak to say the least, and certainly doesn’t help bring resolution to the debate concerning ECT.

    Personally, appealing to Moses’ complete lack of teaching on ECT would have been much more compelling to me. Something so important as ECT would to me be affirmed all over scripture, repeatedly and specifically, if it were true. It would have especially been warned of in the Garden and in the Law; but of course it wasn’t. And the NT would have been filled with warnings concerning Tartarus, but such is not warned of once for people. And if Jesus had intended to add to the Law of Moses, then He’d have not used Gehenna as a warning for it had such a profound perspective of this-world judgment, but used Tartarus which spoke of punishment in the life to come.

    Concerning an appeal for people to be respectful of one another’s beliefs concerning ECT and not make such a point of division, it would have been better to appeal to the Nicene creed and Universalism, Annihilationism, and Infernalism not being an issue of division in the early church, even possibly mentioning that Gregory of Nyssa who presided over that council being a universalist.

    Frankly, I figure that if God accepts someone based simply upon their faith in Him and does not require signing off on a specific statement of faith, then who am I to reject you as my brother because you understand/misunderstand scripture differently than I do concerning. When did “loving God and loving people” become Not Enough for membership in our churches?

  • DRT

    Luke Allison#38, I think I get your point, but this is another of those times when your perspective of a person bring bias. I listen to Shane every week and practically can’t think of him as arrogant, I like the guy. So my bias is blinding me, I believe.

  • Scott

    Richard, you are playing loose with the Word. It is not the mainstream of Christianity that has been “wrestling” with that. And the only people who seriously argue that “all” in verses like that mean all humans, rather than all kinds, etc, are those that think Scripture may contain error and contradiction. Clearly many passages deny that Christ will reconcile Satan and his demons (for starters) to himself. Notice that in Romans 5:17, Paul DEFINES who gets in on salvation (as he does all over his letters!) 5:17 says it is “those who RECEIVE the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness” who will reign. John 1:12 confirms: “But AS MANY (no more, no less) as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God”

    I believe your comment about the end of Revelation is grasping at straws. Have you traf Erasing Hell or God Wins?

  • DRT

    David#46, well, I contend no one goes to heaven. Heaven is where god is and I can’t find it in the bible where we will be there with him (I once read and categorized all NT uses of heave, about 267 of them) and concluded that we will not go to heaven). It does seem we will be resurrected though.

    Again, it just goes to show you that these things are not certain. I am certain that if I follow Jesus good things will happen to me, but that is only part of it.

  • David

    @ Richard 52 – Heaven is real place. Hell is real place. Those who are Christ’s and are born again will be with Him forever. Those who reject Christ are those who are not in the Book of Life and will (with certainty) go to a place of eternal punishment, forever. How is that for a response to your counterpoint.

  • David

    @ Richard – My apologies if that last response was a little terse but I had to respond to your assertion that I was not responsive. I can’t be any more straightforward than # 57. God Bless.

  • Do you this kind of argument would work if Hipps was at a church where death was a regular reality? A church with more elderly people in congregation and not just people in their 20s-30’s.

  • Richard

    @ 57, 58

    Apology not needed but accepted. You’re plenty clear in what you’re asserting but that’s no different than what the crew at Mars Hill have said: there will be rewards and judgments for those who trust in christ/refuse Christ’s mercy respectively. The detail of those things is very much uncertain though.

  • DRT

    Richard#57, Do you think Jesus really rose from the dead? (I am doing my own version of the Turing test here).

  • Richard

    @ 55

    But Scott, mainstream or tributary still puts it in the river of Christianity. Orthodoxy isn’t decided by democratic majorities, which is a good thing or Athanasius would have lost to Arius regarding Christ being fully God and fully human.

    And I’ll readily concede that reading Revelation chronologically is a weak leg to stand on but all i was trying to demonstrate is that the Scriptures are not able to be read in a vacum. For every scripture you can raise about a doctrine, someone can raise a counter verse – the difference being in how we choose to interpret them based on how we carefully and prayerfully choose to interpret the evidence.

  • DRT

    I wish I could take 61 back. I meant to make a bit of a provocative statement about understanding the makings of David, but realize that the analogy could be interpreted to say whether I was questioning David’s intelligence. I meant no such disrespect David, I will try to change my behavior in that.

  • Richard

    @ 61

    Absolutely. Based on the revelation of the Scriptures and the personal experience of the the Risen Christ through the Holy Spirit.

  • Dave

    Faith is then merely belief in whatever we wish. He has taken the post modern pill and swallowed it. and if his logic is taken to the ultimate conclusion he has nothing to say in the pulpit. Might as well go sell shoes. Or as Rob Bell did, write a book that makes some good bucks then hit the road. Not a bad marketing idea.

  • Susan N.

    #59 – All Saints Day was observed in my church’s service yesterday. Twenty-one members who had died since last All Saints Day were re-membered by name. It also happened to be Communion Sunday. The pastor emphasized that in our sharing of the bread and cup, it isn’t only the present community that we acknowledge and celebrate; but also those who were members (had been part of and built up the church we know and enjoy today), and also future members. An awareness of this continuity in the life of our church was very meaningful and beautiful to me. I am at the moment not inclined to haggle over the heaven/hell question. Living eyes wide open to the beauty and meaning in Jesus Christ — the same yesterday, today, and forever…and the Body of Christ expressing this same continuity and connection. The image of a great cloud of witnesses cheering me personally and the Church corporately on is a hopeful one, isn’t it?

  • Alan K

    “It would seem Jesus is more concerned with this life than the next. Perhaps we should be, too.”

    This statement is hugely problematic, and the sentiment tends to result in Jesus Christ being reduced to an ethic. I understand the need of addressing those who are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good, but to put present and future over against one another is to misread the New Testament. Paul doesn’t say “To live is Christ and to die is gain” for nothing. Yes, today is always the priority, but is only prioritized because the future is guaranteed. Hope matters.

  • I wonder if the contentiousness over this issue is a product of scripture saying so much rather than so little about heaven, hell, judgement? The problem lies in our attempts to systematize all the variety of images from different genres and authors into a coherent theology. We need epistemic humility here which looks like sympathetic reading of others and due suspicion toward our own.

  • Scott

    Alan, this is one of my favorite passages for shattering that all too common and lame comment, “It would seem Jesus is more concerned with this life than the next. Perhaps we should be, too.” Do these guys actually meditate on Scripture? Here it is:
    1 Thessalonians 1:9-10

    “For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”

  • Luke Allison

    DRT 54:

    I don’t think Shane Hipps is arrogant at all, and I like his teaching too. Rob Bell is responsible for getting me thinking about Christianity again back whenever Velvet Elvis came out. One of my new work colleagues just came from working at Mars Hill, and he has been mentored and trained wonderfully. So I honestly hold no animosity towards the place.

    I just think Shane is wrong in this particular statement. It’s a sloppy position to take for someone so intelligent, which leads me to think that he’s purposely intending to be somewhat divisive. Much like Robs exegesis was painfully sloppy (for someone educated at Wheaton and Fuller), which led me to believe that it was all intended to stir up controversy and get the conversation started. Which I don’t think anyone will deny. And it worked!

  • phil_style

    @DRT, 61, don’t worry I had the same thoughts as you, and not with respect to “intelligence” but mimicry.

  • The distinction he makes between belief and knowledge is a strange one, since most epistemologists define “knowledge” minimally as “justified, true belief.” (K=JTB)

  • Richard

    @ 67 and 69

    Look a little closer at those verses you’re citing. Shane and the rest of us fully embrace those because they emphasize life here as well as the New Creation.

    “For me to live IS Christ…”

    “you turned to God from idols to SERVE the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven”

    Its not about the either/or, its about the both/and. And Jesus emphasizes obedience in response to him. You’re badgering a straw man when you insist that folks like Bell, Hipps, NT Wright, etc are denying that Jesus said anything about heaven and hell. They’re saying that wasn’t his emphasis, especially after his resurrection. And it isn’t the emphasis in the rest of the NT either.

  • Scott

    My purpose in the I Thess. quote was to show ine of many verses that clearly state that a huge part of Christianity is “waiting”. The whole concept of biblical hope is exactly that.
    1 Peter 1:13 ESV

    “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope FULLY on the grace that WILL be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

    This is, in fact the essence of the “helmet of salvation”. I often wonder if people who make the typical comment Hipps made above is due to the fact that they have no assurance of salvation or excessive joy in what they will be doing for eternity, compared to this nano-second on earth, as important as it is.

  • KLE

    Buzzed through all of the comments and comments about the comments to make this general observation about the original post. Jesus talked a lot about hell. It was important to teach about it. Then he died and came back to life three days later. It seems to me that if he discovered that he had been wrong he would have said so! His not saying anything doesn’t mean that it is unimportant or that it doesn’t exist. It means that he was satisfied by what he taught prior to death.

  • Luke Allison

    “It seems to me that if he discovered that he had been wrong he would have said so! His not saying anything doesn’t mean that it is unimportant or that it doesn’t exist. It means that he was satisfied by what he taught prior to death”

    Does it bother anyone else that Hipps is being so Biblicist in this post? I mean, looking at the Gospels as Jesus actual words, rather than “in the voice of” Jesus?

    As far as I know, the scholarly consensus for years has been that the Gospels portray the life of Jesus (maybe even an eyewitness account!) but are by no means a verbatim novelization of every one of His words and actions.

    Hipps strikes me as using that peculiar technique of assigning extra special inspiration to the men who wrote the Gospels over and against everything else in the Scriptures.

    It doesn’t seem to me that Jesus is concerned with Evangelical soteriology, but it also doesn’t seem to me that He’s particularly worried about 21st century social action either.

    Once more, we will have a ditch we drive in. But it’s important to recognize it as such. I’m becoming increasingly more suspicious of those who claim to simply be “trying to be like Jesus”. No one’s JUST trying to do that, as far as I can tell.

    Clearly, the Gospels aren’t a treatise on the afterlife. If that’s the point Shane is trying to make, he should just make that. Trying to be all clever has served to make him look less than thoughtful, unfortunately.

  • MikeH

    I appreciate the (mostly) civil discussion about such an emotionally charged issue. I think that Hipps is simply saying that anyone who doesn’t acknowledge the complexity of these issues – and claims to know things that they really don’t – is being intellectually and scripturally dishonest. Saying this is “experience vs. scripture” is missing the point. He doesn’t say it well, but that’s what he’s saying.

    There are biblical references to judgment and torment and suffering that have to be acknowledged whether we want to or not. At the same time, there are references that God is not willing that any should perish, that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33), of the character of the father in the parable of the prodigal son. These deserve to be acknowledged and reconciled with the same level of doctrinal feistiness as other verses.

    Or in response to the idea that the ONLY “just” response to ANY sin is eternal torment…this from Isaiah 40:2…

    “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.”

    Double for all her sins??? Is that possible?

  • Alan K


    Look closer at what I actually wrote. Shane’s final comment is problematic and does not reflect the theology of the NT or the eschatology of Second Temple Judaism.

  • Marcus

    Jesus really didn’t know that much. He sure talked some about it BEFORE he died and rose again….but none after. Must have found neither were there….using Hipps logic, or lack of.

    Actually, how much did Jesus say after the resurrection? Wasn’t he confirming everything he said BEFORE?

    Is Revelation not a picture of the future afterlife? What I can’t figure is what Shane Hipps actually puts confidence in since “beliefs” are all uncertain. It’s amazing how some can speak so intelligently and illogically at the same time.

  • Scot,

    are you going to weigh in on this one? Shane seems to be fully in the stream of “provoke, make large leaps, be vague and seem surprised at the reaction.”

  • scotmcknight

    Steve, thanks… if I do that sort of thing the conversation becomes with me instead of the post. I find the word “speculative” baffling … is what the Bible says about the afterlife speculative? Or not? If not, it’s not so much speculation as it is faithfulness to the Bible; if it is not, why then spend our time posturing ourselves as those teaching the Bible?

  • I’m growing frustrated with those of my own generation who talk about conversation and dialogue but end up publishing articles like this and not engaging in the response. Shane’s post feels cynical to me. I’ve never met him and dont know much about him, but how he can post this article and claim any sort of fidelity to either the Bible or even interpretation of the Bible is simply beyond me. I’m trying to picture giving this talk in a seminary class and getting away with it. I’d be ridiculed, using the sort of logic Shane is using here. I truly wonder what he is trying to achieve here?

    meanwhile, thanks for weighing in. I suppose I used it as an excuse to weigh in 🙁

  • Scott

    “The reason why congregations have been so dead is, because they have dead men preaching to them….How can dead men beget living children?”–George Whitefield, 1740