Driscoll & the truth of hell


There’s a good discussion going on over at Matthew Paul Turner’ s site about this video. MPT makes it clear that he doesn’t like Driscoll’s style. I am not familiar enough with Driscoll’s style to comment on his approach, but I can tell you that I often bristle at MPT’s style.

I’m too cranky to find humor as a means of belittling others funny.  I know I am in the minority when I say this, so just pray for me would you? Menopause has made me an impatient woman.

Okay. That’s not true either. I was impatient to begin with — its only bent out of shape my natural inclinations.

I have family members who attend the church where Driscoll pastors and they have broad, generous hearts, hearts that do bind the broken, and feed the hungry and care for the dying.

However, I came to the conclusion sometime ago that the problem with discussing who is getting into heaven and who isn’t is that we have no method of proof.

And while we are on this subject: Why is it no one ever comes back from the dead, and writes the bestseller that says, “There really is a hell!”

I mean people are all the time writing books telling us there really is a heaven.

The only thing I can figure out is that when you come back from the dead, you are suddenly very aware of the marketing capacity for your story. You seem to instinctively understand that droves of people will rush out to buy that book that tells them what they want to hear: Yes, Lord, there is a Heaven and I am in it! Whoo-Hoot!!

Whereas, the Lazarus that pens the book that says he met demons skating on a lake of fire is going to have what we call a “niche” market.  Only people who still dress in Goth are going to be buying his book.

God sent his son and his word for everyone.

“For God so loved the WORLD, that he sent his only begotten son so that WHOSOEVER, believes upon him should not PERISH but shall have everlasting life.” John 3:16.

It does seem that some people want to turn redemption into a niche market.

I’ve given a lot of thought over the years to John 14: 6, the scripture that Driscoll refers to: Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

That’s pretty straightforward, right?

Except for the way we twist it.

We think of truth as a creed.  So when we go looking for truth, we make it into something we can argue about, as if life were some sort of courtroom drama and we are all Atticus trying to educate the uneducated.

But if I’m reading that right (and who knows if I am? I grew up in a trailer park and got my associates in theology from Training Union) what I hear is Jesus saying He is truth.

Which means that truth isn’t a doctrine or a creed or even the Word of God but a person.

So when people go seeking the truth, what they are really seeking, whether they know it or not, is the person of Jesus, the Son of God, Word Incarnate.

Seems we’ve messed that up somewhere, somehow, in all of our lofty arguments over who gets into heaven and who doesn’t.

What say you?

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  • I watched 20 seconds of that and got sick. OF COURSE no one can save us but Jesus. But doesn’t God have provision for those what were not elite enough or lucky enough to know Jesus by name? Neither Moses, Abraham nor King David knew Jesus while they drew breath So by Dricsoll’s rules, they’re going to hell. Oh I get it, Driscoll will proclaim some special provision for them. See it’s high school all over again. Who’s in the elite crowd.

    Driscoll needs to read Matthew 25, get a few colonics and shut the cuss up. In the Lord.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias


      Driscoll and his personality aside, arguing about heaven or hell will not move us one iota closer to Truth — the being of Christ.

      Either Christ is Truth as he says, or he is not.

      And we can search for answers, or we can seek Christ and walk in the presence of Truth.

      But to do that we have to make a decision about whether or not the Cross was necessary or not.

      • I liked that aspect of the video (the passive/aggressive attacks on a certain preacher…. not so much).

        Thing is, I don’t know anyone (even that certain preacher) who would disagree with what you distilled in your comment.

    • Chris Candide


      I would suggest you jump over to The Gospel Coalition website and watch the presentations from this past week. The theme of the conference was “They Testify About Me.” The “they” being Old Testament scriptures and the “Me” being Jesus. Moses, Abraham and David ALL knew the Promised One! This is not Mark Driscoll “proclaim[ing] some special provision.” This is Biblical Truth. Seriously, watch the presentations. I commend especially Mohler, Keller, Mbewe, Bullmore and Carson.

  • Love this!! “… what I hear is Jesus saying He is truth. Which means that truth isn’t a doctrine or a creed or even the Word of God but a person.”

    Glad to know that I’m not the only one that is less patient in menopause … and the people I have less patience with are people like Driscoll. I saw this video the other day on youtube … and I, like Susan, got sick 20 seconds into it … and while I never leave comments on youtube, I left a “I dislike this” comment.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      We need to be careful to not mistake personalities and arguments and delivery styles with the message.

      We do this in politics all too often. Elect a candidate on how they look and less on what they say.

      • jaz

        Dare to dream, KSZ. Dare to dream.

        • Karen Spears Zacharias

          You know me, buddy, ever the optimist.

  • Debbie

    It is kinda scary the way he talks. I’ll go check out the other guys blog or link thing and come back if I have anything to say. I did go through my list of facebook ‘friends’ last night and deleted everyone who is anti institutional church, pharisee haters and can’t get off the subject of universalism verses the God who wants to burn some of His creatures, purely because I was finding it all too much for me. Am I selfish for doing that? I dunno…Grace is Grace and such an amazing topic that not many really want to rejoice in and I found a lot of people would get very defensive in the discussions whenever I talked about Jesus and His magnificent Love…

    • Karen Spears Zacharias


      I agree. It’s all too much.

      We love to argue.

      What we don’t love to do is the harder work of listening.

  • I say that you & I, because we grew up rednecks, obviously should know when we are in over our heads theologically. God would never reveal himself to rednecks. Especially people from Little Elm, Texas; rural Alabama; Galilee; Nazareth; Capernaum.

    I mean, come on… He just doesn’t do that. He just doesn’t waste Himself on little, miniscule, meaningless, backwards people who have very little to offer.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      I love all my redneck friends, including you. Do you think there’s a special redneck trailer park in heaven?

      • Ooo…I want to live in the celestial trailer park.

        I figure the neighbors will be better than in some of the “nicer” neighborhoods.

        Seriously, one of my fears is that I get to heaven and find out I have to live next door to Jerry Falwell for all eternity. I am just not sure I could be the kind of nice that would be required!

  • Well, I got through 4 minutes of it, but it just made the migraine I have today worse. What I have difficulty with is how much we limit and distort Jesus’ power by our mortal interpretations, choices, and words. This merely puts God and Jesus into a constrained box, and maybe I’m just naive, but I don’t see them fitting into that box. I mean, God spent the entire OT in a box, and according to this, that didn’t save anyone. So why would we try to put him back into that box?

    • Chris Candide

      What does that mean, “putting God in a box?” Do you prefer the god ob Rob Bell’s imagination to the God revealed in Holy Scripture?

  • I guess I’ll be in the minority here, like I was yesterday on the church tax thing, and on MPT’s blog yesterday. I do not see arrogance when I see that video. I see a guy who has read Scripture, interpreted a certain way, and feels that his interpretation calls for him to do all he can to warn people. He says what he says out of concern; dang near desperation for those who need to make a decision.

    What’s funny is that many people who slam Driscoll will point out the same thing: He acts like his interpretation is truth, rather than his interpretation. But don’t we all do that? People who see other things in Scripture that are important to them, say, the fact that Jesus hung out with sinners. They point this out all the time, and never question whether someone could interpret those same passages differently. It’s a done deal.
    “Jesus hung with sinners, therefore we need to do the same.”

    “Jesus talked about reaching the poor. No room for argument there. I’m very sure about this.”

    “God is love.” There can be no disagreement about this.

    My point being, we all have things we are sure about, and we have a tendency to find a way Scripture to back us up. So to talk about Driscoll’s stance being only his interpretation is kind of inconsistent, I think.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias


      I’d agree — we all do that.

  • By the way, Karen, since you brought up John 3:16, I have to ask why you put “whosoever” in caps, then missed the next three words: “believes in Him”. Those words are crucial, and they back up Driscoll’s point.

    This question might sound like it’s confrontational, but I mean it sincerely.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Simply to highlight that it’s not a niche audience Jesus is appealing to. It’s anyone.

    • Jane Wilson

      @James – did I miss something? “Whosoever” in this piece is followed by “believes upon Him.”

      I didn’t watch the video but from the discussion, it sounds like I’m missing the opportunity to hear someone tell lots of others they’re going to hell, so I’m in no hurry to spend the time watching that. It always amazes me how many people are sure they know who’s going to heaven and who’s going to hell. I think the Bible tells me God will do the judging & my job is to be a witness, so I try to stay in my lane and leave the judging to Him.

      • Jane, that’s not what the video contains. Someone asks Driscoll if those who don’t know Jesus are headed for Hell, and he says “yes.” He’s answering a question, not telling the people in the audience that they are headed there. There is nothing about answering question that falls into the category of judging.

      • Jane, your point about not deciding who’s in and who’s out is well taken but perhaps misdirected in this case. If by “judging” you mean “deciding who gets in and who doesn’t” you are absolutely correct that it is never our place to judge. To “judge” in this sense would be blasphemy of the highest degree. God decides who gets in.

        But if by “judging” you mean “warning people that apart from Christ they are headed for judgment,” you couldn’t be further off the mark. That kind of judgment is wholly appropriate for a Christ-follower. After all, was not Jesus’ go-to assumption that all are headed for judgment apart from repentance? It Jesus who said, “Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13:4-5). Jesus’ go-to assumption was not “Well I just can’t say who will avoid perishing and who won’t.” Rather his assumption was that all are headed for perishing unless they repent.

        It’s true that Jesus does radically alter the “who’s in and who’s out” attitude, but he does so on the assumption that all deserve to perish not on the assumption that we shouldn’t make any judgment calls about people’s current position before a holy God. Jesus assumed people were headed for judgment. How different his assumption was from ours. So who’s really guilty of playing the “who’s in and who’s out” game here? Driscoll? I doubt it. If this offends us to our core, perhaps we are the ones in need of repentance for belittling God’s great holiness and our great sinfulness.

        Let us read Jesus’ words with fear and trembling for we too need to repent. The question is not “How can God let people perish?” The question that should stun us into reverent silence followed by bold proclamation of the Gospel is “How can God save me, a sinner?”

  • Heidi

    We twist truth to make it more comfortable, the truth can be painful. I have been also questioning, “Why is it no one ever comes back from the dead, and writes the bestseller that says, “There really is a hell!” “Best sellers” in the past by Plato, Dante, Gregory the Great, and others in history wrote about visiting hell.
    They wrote of lives changed miraculously for the better after their visions. Absent from the modern story is punishment, hell,or chastening torments at the time of death. The near death experiences of the past 150 years or so are completely reassuring and positive. Much different than Lazarus!
    Do you have thoughts as to the reasons/influences for these changes?

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Heidi: There is a lot about our culture and our reading habits that have changed over the years.

      Do kids even study Dante anymore? Or are they just far more familiar with Colbert?

      Bottom line is that we have embraced a culture of entertainment and leisure. Or at least comfort.

      Suffering is for those other people. The ones not as rich, smart, beautiful and sophisticated as we are.

      Or at least that’s my take on it.

      Any others?

      • Heidi

        You are so right about our culture. Books suggesting we might spend eternity in torment would not be bestsellers. Dante, etal, wrote about what the visions were about back then. Today people see bright lights and kumbayah. Why is it we don’t hear of anyone coming back from the dead having of visions of hell? Cultural? Not a money maker? Other?

        • Karen Spears Zacharias

          Not a money maker.

  • My daughter and I were just discussing the ‘no one gets into heaven except through me’ verse, and in light of his parable about separating the sheep and goats, where the only qualifier was what they did or did not do to help those in need. Jesus was the one doing the separating. That brings a different light to the ‘except by me’ part. Us church-going folk have decided everyone has to join our club by walking down an aisle or repeating a prayer, but maybe that’s not what Jesus actually looks for.

    • Joetta: You two are onto a very important item. If you feel alone and heretical, don’t. I commend Robert Farrar Capon’s little trilogy on Jesus’ parables of judgment, grace and the kingdom. The texts have far more to say than we may have heard.

  • I got through 6.5 minutes. In addition to the problem of Matthew 25 and the “sheep” who were genuinely flabbergasted to be judged as such (and I don’t think the point of their posture in the story is some sort of for-appearances-sake humility; humility is either genuine or it’s not) there is the other problem of Jesus’ frequent instructions to his disciples to see to it that they tell no one. Yes, I know, it wasn’t the right time. Question is, whose right time? And if God intentionally wants certain neighborhoods NOT to hear the Good News this week but three years from now when some will have died… Well what can of worms does that open?

    Meanwhile, as we debate all this, the Western powers are deciding whether to arm Libyan rebels. Unwilling to invade ourselves and actually take Gadhafi out and then be faced with maintaining order and keeping neighbor from killing neighbor in the mad scramble for tidbits, we are now yet again on the verge of becoming the gun runners for what will amount to a civil war. Call it Afghanistan 5.0. Yes, I know. A civil war of sorts was already underway. But now it won’t be a rebellion. It will have our names written all over it as well as the outcome. We ready for this?

    Oh, and we also have another tool. Economic pressures, sanctions, embargoes. And what part of the folks in Libya will feel the most pain from that? Matthew 25:40?

    And the response of the faith community is . . . ?

  • Dave M

    Once I was out telling people about Jesus and his saving grace. I was excited because two of us were talking to someone who was very engaged and intelligent. He appeared to be understanding what the Bible seems to lay out–that we’re all sinful and therefore separated from God and that belief in Jesus is how one is reconciled to God. He asked essentially the same question that was asked of Pastor Driscoll: “what about people who have never heard of Christ, are they all doomed to hell?” My friend quickly answered “no, if people never hear about Jesus, then God makes a special provision for them and they are saved.” Our listener put the equation together quickly and asked “well then, aren’t people like you doing people a disservice by telling them about Jesus?” Can that possibly be true?

    In the end, “there is no other name under heaven…by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). When I reflect on the horror of the thought that this leaves a large number of people to live eternity without God, I am reminded of the Old Testament. Before Christ came, God demonstrated a part of himself in that he chose a group of people for himself, the Hebrews. They were the only ones to whom God indicated what it would take to have a right relationship with him. Sure, the Canaanites or Philistines could convert and join the Hebrews, but it was unlikely (with all the fighting and enslavements and all).

    The hardest part is that God doesn’t seem to offer too much in the way of explanation or consolation for us. He simply lays out that people who die apart from belief in Jesus are slaves to sin and therefore separated from God eternally. From what I can tell, he offers some explanation in the way he appears to feel about sin–he hates it, he can’t be near it, etc. But I think the one place he tells us anything is in Romans 9, which culminates in this thought “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy…?”. I interpret that to mean, in simple English, “some people are intended to go to hell so that those of us who God saves know how great a gift He’s given us.”

    My perspective has become that none of us is worthy of any kind of communion with God, the strange thing is not that God leaves some unsaved, but that he saves any of us.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias


    • So, 2 Cor. 5:15 should read, “And he died for the select so that the select who live might no longer live for themselves…” etc?

      I think Paul’s argument in Romans 9 (Paul is writing to the congregation in Rome amid a vicious church war between Jewish and Gentile Christians all over each other’s throats and backgrounds) is that God has deliberately used rejection by some of the chosen people to opportunistically bounce the Gospel off them so that it lands in new places among the Gentiles with great success. Paul thus leads himself into the now unavoidable question of whether God has rejected his own people entirely (chapter 11). We have to read Romans carefully, and Paul’s extended arguments have to be read as whole cloth, not as Levitical statutes which is how he is often read. After all, if I simply lift Romans 2:6-8 out of context I get a pretty airtight case for works righteousness. The Greek “ta erga” in v. 6 can’t be read as some sort of euphemism for belief or faith, not as expanded upon by v. 7. Paul’s overall argument, however, is exactly the opposite. It depends on faith, not works. Gotta see the whole.

      Meanwhile, our business isn’t to do God’s judging but to love our neighbors as ourselves and as Christ loved us, in this way to make a loving God credible to people. Seeing us, how will other people answer the question “Was Jesus raised from the dead?” [See Rob Bell DVD ‘You’ on this subject.]

  • jaz

    Dante Alighieri’s Inferno has done okay for the last several centuries (he did also write the Purgatorio and Paradiso, but even so). Of course, today, a publisher would be scratching his head and telling Dante’s agent, “I don’t know… I just can’t see where this fits on the shelf…”

  • Debbie

    Every time I go to Matthew Paul Turner’s website my computer freezes…weird!

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      He’s got your number, Debbie. Watch out.

  • I have to admit I’m not a big MPT fan. I don’t think it’s funny to make fun of, belittle, or mock the way somebody else worships God or Jesus Christ. MPT may be a great guy and all that, but I’m not crazy about his site. To me it comes across as being arrogant and as an “I’m more educated about Christ than you” mentality. As far as Driscoll, not too many pygmy villagers have Internet these days. What if their little village gets bypassed by the missionaries and any other connections with the Christian world? Does that mean they go to Hell? I have a hard time believing that. I do agree with MPT in the sense that just because Driscoll is screaming and waving his arms around and demanding yes is the answer – doesn’t mean that is the correct answer.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Good thoughts, Gary. I like what you said about MPT coming across as if he is more educated on all things Christian than the people he’s making fun of. Humor is a delicate balance. Some people can do it without belitting others. I think that’s the key. Be self-effacing all you want but don’t put down others in an effort to elevate yourself.
      It’s a line I don’t always walk myself.
      And yes, Truth doesn’t need to be yelled to be communicated.
      If Truth is a Being, all we need to do is what Andrew did. Tell others, come meet this man I know…
      What? You mean to tell me there’s no Internet in the jungle? Well, then, I ain’t going.

  • Actually there was one bestseller about a personal trip to hell: http://www.amazon.com/23-Minutes-Hell-Bill-Wiese/dp/1591858828

    But heaven does seem to be the more popular topic.

    Karen, on the topic of knowing who’s in and who’s out, you simply must read America’s greatest theologian on just this question. Jonathan Edwards’s “Religious Affections” is simply masterful. His book destroys so much facile confidence in our ability to discern genuine conversion while at the same time building an overwhelming case for the absolute necessity for genuine, Spirit-wrought conversion. He can be verbose, but it’s worth the effort to understand him.

    Here’s just one quote from this masterwork that is pertinent to this blog post. “While a natural man thinks that, if there be a heaven and a hell, the latter and not the former belongs to him; then he will be hardly persuaded that there is a heaven or hell: but when he comes to be persuaded that hell belongs only to other folks and not to him, then he can easily allow the reality of hell, and protests against the senselessness and sottishness of others in neglecting means of escape from it: and being confident that he is a child of God, and that God has promised heaven to him, he may seem strong in the faith of its reality, and may have a great zeal against that infidelity which denies it.”

    In other words, there’s something just as fishy about people who deride hell because they know they deserve heaven as there is about people who are sure hell exists because they know they won’t be there. But find me a man who preaches hell because he thinks he deserves it and now I’m ready to listen. Such a man was Jonathan Edwards.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Thanks Peter. I like the way you think about finding the man who thinks he deserves hell.
      I really like that word.
      We should bring it back into everyday usage.

      • Heidi

        Had to look up Sottishness..haha!
        I also like Peter’s ideas, and it would be great to hear more of Mr. Edwards thoughts today…

    • Guy

      Thank you Peter…

      I was going to suggest that very same book. I read “23 Minutes in Hell” and “The Shack” side by side. What a dichotomous comparison of the after-life.

      Recently, there was a pastor in Asheville, NC that was ousted from his church because he preached the literal place of hell and it “OFFENDED” his parishioners. They said “it wasn’t keeping and representing their point of view.”

      We have become such a society of politically correct, spineless wimps, that if ANYTHING slaps us in the face and “offends” us, we want to have that offensive thing excised.

      Even Bill Wiese, in his book comments on the religious “political correctness” that has become invasive of the church, today.

      BUT…I do NOT believe that it is my place to look someone in the eye and say “you’re going to hell…period.”

      I will say “Unless you KNOW Jesus Christ as your Lord and AS your Savior, then no…you WON’T be going to heaven.”

      My apologizes for rambling. 🙂

      • Karen Spears Zacharias

        I read about the NC pastor who was fired. Having worked in newspapers for many years, I know that there is always more to the story than space allows.
        But yes, we are increasingly tempted to isolate from those who don’t think like us, look like us, or like we think they ought to.

  • It’s about time preachers began to preach.
    Driscoll does that.
    David, http://www.RedLetterBelievers.com

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      If by preaching you mean yelling?

  • Jeff Straka
    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      I love what he says about “bad family manners.”
      Love that.

  • Kate Snyder

    First, nobody will be persuaded about hell if somebody comes back from the dead and blogs about it. Jesus basically said if they don’t believe what I say about hell (Gehenna) throughout scripture then they’re definitely not going to believe someone who comes back from the dead. That’s the weight Jesus puts on believing His Word.

    Second, we cannot separate the truth from Jesus because He is the truth; we cannot separate the truth from the Word of God because Jesus is the Word of God; and we cannot separate spiritual life from truth because He is life and His Word is alive, powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword.

    Every word of God is pure and every word of God is to be lived by. The word of God is preached and taught, heard and received or rejected, kept and obeyed, grown and nurtured, corrupted and handled deceitfully. The Word of God is eternal. Jesus said heaven and earth will pass away but not His words. He said His words are spirit and life.

    We are either saved by His words now, or we will be judged by them later:

    “If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day” (John 12:44-48).

    The truth is just a creed? Hardly. Is doctrine a dirty word? No way; it’s holy. We need to elevate Jesus and His Word as high as He does, for He has magnified His word above all His name.

    “And I saw heaven opened and behold a white horse, and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True….and he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood, and his name is called The Word of God” (Revelation 19:11, 13).

    Lift Jesus higher. Lift Him up for the world to see. He said, “If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32).