Team Hell gets loud

The evangelical blog world seems all atwitter over a forthcoming book by Rob Bell, pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Mich. The book’s title, “Love Wins,” is apparently regarded by many American evangelicals as an astonishingly heretical and controversial claim. Love wins? How dare anyone suggest such a thing?

Even more controversial is the book’s subtitle: “Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Has Ever Lived.” Bear in mind that the book hasn’t hit shelves yet, so nobody’s actually read it yet, but that subtitle and this promotional video from Bell were more than enough to prompt Team Hell to spring into action.

I’ll say this for Team Hell, they’re not afraid of repeating themselves.

Maybe they’re not very good at supporting their arguments and not very interested in doing much more than sputtering reflexive condemnations, but they sputter with great enthusiasm and they’re never shy about getting loud. For a taste of the loudness and the repetitive sputtering, browse about in the Google Blog search results for “Rob Bell,” or check out the summary from Christianity Today’s liveblog: “Rob Bell’s Upcoming Book on Heaven & Hell Stirs Blog, Twitter Backlash on Universalism.”

We’ve seen Team Hell in action before, illustrating their power by bankrupting the ministry of Carlton Pearson and his Higher Dimensions Family Church of Tulsa, Okla.

Once Pearson questioned the idea of Hell and the supposed biblical basis for that idea, Team Hell’s response was swift, fierce and merciless. “Heretic,” they said. “Bible-denier.”

But what they never said then in their attacks on Pearson, and what they haven’t said now about Bell’s book, is why anyone, anywhere who has ever actually read the Bible would accept that their fiercely defended doctrine of Hell had anything to do with that book. Because, to be clear, this doctrine of Hell is not biblical.

This is why Team Hell’s strategy is always the same:

Step1: Loudly attack opponents of Hell as heretics and Bible-deniers.

Step 2: Loudly assert that the doctrine of Hell is biblical.

Step 3: Even more loudly re-assert that the doctrine of Hell is biblical.

Step 4: Repeat Step 3 until you’re the only one left talking.

That’s not a very compelling construction for an argument, since it doesn’t involve logic or evidence. But if loud, angry repetition of unsupported assertions isn’t an effective way of winning an argument, it can still be an effective way of ending one or avoiding having to engage one. And since Team Hell doesn’t have access to either logic or evidence as support for their position, they figure that will have to do.

By Team Hell I mean those real, true Christians who adamantly argue for a non-negotiable belief in Hell as a physical place that the Bible says is the destiny of all non-RTCs who will go there to receive eternal torment. This belief, they insist, is central to Christianity and anyone who says otherwise, they claim, is abandoning or attacking the Bible.

But again, this idea cannot be found in the Bible. So what the heck is going on? Why do so many devout “authorities” on the Bible get so very upset at the possibility that someone may have written a book challenging an extra-biblical invention? And why do they all shout so loudly and so enthusiastically that any criticism of this cruel invention constitutes an attack on the Bible itself?

Team Hell, of course, disagrees that the idea cannot be found in the Bible. Check out that CT post or any of the posts linked to it and you’ll find dozens of members of Team Hell loudly insisting that the Bible is all about Hell — that Hell is such a basic and central part of the Bible’s message that to reject the idea of Hell is to reject scripture altogether.

But what you won’t find is any of these members of Team Hell actually discussing where the Bible says this, or what the Bible says, or how what the Bible says could possibly be taken to mean this. Because this supposed “biblical Hell” does not exist. The Bible doesn’t teach this.

Dante teaches this. Jack Chick teaches this. Iron Maiden and countless B movies teach this. But the Bible does not. The doctrine of Hell can be, with only partial success, taken from Dante and Chick and Iron Maiden and grafted onto the Bible. But it cannot be derived from the Bible.

I would invite anyone who says otherwise to try to make their case. All these teachers, authorities, theologians and self-appointed bishops of evangelicalism’s market-driven hierarchy are invited, in other words, to go to Hell.

By that I mean, of course, only that they should open their Bibles and go to the passages they claim teach this invention of Hell and attempt to show how those passages support their endlessly repeated assertion that this idea is “biblical.”

Most of Team Hell doesn’t even bother to try doing this. They’re too busy attacking the infidels — Rob Bell or Carlton Pearson or me — and accusing them of abandoning the Bible. That would be the same Bible I have open right here in front of me — the same Bible that absolutely and unambiguously does not say and cannot be made to say what they are saying it says.

The Bible simply is not part of Team Hell.

The Hebrew scriptures offer no support for Team Hell. None. The pages of the Old Testament mention “sheol,” or “the grave,” but not Hell. Moses, Elijah, Isaiah and Amos are not a part of Team Hell.

Nor is the apostle Paul. Paul had much to say about “Heaven,” or at least about the heavenly meaning of resurrection, but nothing at all to say about Hell.

Team Hell loves to quote Paul despite this. They’re particularly fond of Paul’s frequent statements about accepting “this gospel” and no other gospel. Team Hell loves to apply such statements to Rob Bell or to anyone else they think might be deviating from their extrabiblical dogma. “There be some that trouble you and would pervert the gospel of Christ,” Team Hell says, as though this verse from Galatians were speaking of anyone who believes that Love Wins. And they warn that if anyone “preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”

But the thing is that this gospel Paul spoke of to the Galatians, the Corinthians and Thessalonians — the gospel that Paul laid out in an extended argument in his letter to the Romans — that gospel makes no mention of Hell. The gospel as Paul preached it, as he described it in his epistles, does not include the doctrine of Hell.

If you want to add Hell to Paul’s gospel, then you’re preaching a gospel other than that which he preached. Paul is no help for Team Hell. Paul is, in fact, a major obstacle and contradiction to the claims of Team Hell.

The case for Team Hell, ultimately, comes down to three passages.These aren’t the only passages that mention Hell, but the others that do so do only that — mention it without any explanation of what the Hell they are mentioning means. The question of what “Hell” means in all those other passages is answered, for Team Hell, in just those three main passages — two from the Gospels and one from John’s apocalypse. They provide the entire foundation on which Team Hell has constructed the gigantic edifice of its doctrine.

And they are not sufficient to bear its weight.

We’ve gone over these three passages before, but let us do again here what Team Hell almost never does and actually read the three passages on which every claim of a “biblical” Hell depends.

1. Luke 16:19-31

There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

2. Matthew 25:41-46

Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

3. Revelation 20:11-15

Then I saw a great white throne and the one who sat on it; the earth and the heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their works, as recorded in the books. And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and all were judged according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire; and anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

That’s the whole ball of wax — the whole ball of fire and brimstone — right there. That’s the “biblical” case that Team Hell is always on about.

Pretty weak.

Did you notice anything else those three passages have in common? They all explicitly lay out a soteriological framework that directly contradicts what nearly every member of Team Hell claims he believes.

In our earlier discussion of these passages, we looked at why these passages’ references to a “lake of fire” or “eternal fire” or torment in “Hades” cannot easily be read as teaching that this is the proper understanding of the cartography and logistics of the afterlife. That’s not what these passages are about. The author in each case is utterly disinterested in the cartography and logistics of the afterlife and each author is so consumed with the primary focus and meaning of what is really being said here that it’s hard not to imagine them being extremely angry to learn that their words would one day be conscripted by people mainly interested in arguing for the “literal” existence of Dante’s Inferno.

But the really strange thing about Team Hell invoking any of these passages is that none of them supports anything like what Team Hell has to say about who belongs in Hell or why they should wind up there.

What one finds in all three of these passages, instead, is a seeming Pelagianism. All that matters in any of these scriptures is deeds and actions. Not a word anywhere here about grace or faith or the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Deeds and actions and those alone are what determines the eternal fate of everyone in each of these passages. They couldn’t be any clearer on that point — the main point of each passage above. What determines if someone is to be cast into Revelation’s “lake of fire”? The dead will be judged, Revelation says, “… according to their works, as recorded in the books. … according to what they had done.” Who are the accursed “goats” on Jesus’ left hand who will be consigned to “the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels”? Those who did not feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked or comfort the lonely. And why was the rich man in Luke’s gospel sent to Hades? Jesus never quite says, but he seems to suggest that the rich man went to Hades because he was rich just as the poor beggar Lazarus goes to Heaven just because he was a poor beggar.

Awkward, that.

Insurmountably awkward, I think, for those members of Team Hell who want to insist that these passages must be interpreted “literally” in support of a sadistic notion of eternity. Because if we read these passages in the “literal” manner that would allow us to regard them as teaching the existence of Dante’s Hell then we must also “literally” accept what they say about who that Hell is for. (And it clearly isn’t for Gandhi.)

Now as it happens I don’t think these passages are about soteriology any more than they are about charting out the details of Heaven or Hell. I think anyone turning to these passages for such things is reading them wrong — that a “literal” reading that turns out to be about something other than what the passage is actually about isn’t really “literal” and isn’t really “reading.” Reading shouldn’t be about missing the point.

The point of these passages, clearly, is ethical instruction and I don’t think they can really be made to accommodate any other reading. Luke 16:19-31 is not about Hell and it’s not about how to avoid being sent to Hell. It’s about how you and I ought to respond to the beggars at our gates. Matthew 25:41-46 is not about Hell and it’s not about how to avoid being sent to Hell. It’s about how you and I ought to respond to the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and imprisoned. Emphasize anything else and you’ve missed the point. You might as well not have read them at all.

The strongest case for Team Hell, in other words, involves a perverse reading of passages that excludes the very reason those passages were written. And that’s the strongest case.

Underlying this pretense about the supposed “biblical” basis for altering Paul’s gospel to include eternal torment in Hell is something even stranger. The odder, larger question is why the members of Team Hell so very much want this imagined eternal torment to be true. It can’t simply be that they believe this because “the Bible tells me so,” because, as we have just seen, the biblical case for this belief is terribly, terribly thin. So, again, what’s really going on here? And why?

It’s tempting to speculate that this belief has less to do with a desire to uphold biblical truth than it does with a desire for control. The doctrine of Hell, after all, may be biblically indefensible, but it’s a terribly useful thing for keeping one’s followers in line. But such speculation would of course be irresponsible. I can’t know the contents of anyone else’s thoughts any more than they can know the contents of Rob Bell’s book before they’ve read it.

Just because I can’t think of a decent or commendable reason someone would plausibly get angry over the thought of love winning doesn’t mean that their motives are necessarily bad.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, scholarship on the cutting edge of the nineteenth century. Here’s the facts: http://www.biblebb.com/files/mac/sg2304.htm

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/pecunium/1802867598/ Pecunium

    Wow… Not reading for content. I’d make more substantive comment, but we have some 800, or so, at the original site, and I hate to repeat myself that much.

    Suffice it to say, that’s been looked at, and dismissed as not on point.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1947589 Jennifer Ann Bridgens

    Isn’t this whole debate rather moot? The word parable used in those times is παραβολή. This is the Greek word used in the New Testament when Jesus was telling his tales, including the ones about hell. The word means “a fictitious narrative by which some religious or moral lesson is conveyed.” Aristotle and Plato used it to mean an analogy or a comparison. If the original word introducing the story means “fiction,” how can the story following it be interpreted as “literal”?

    http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/morph?l=parabola/s&la=greek#lexicon

  • 4man

    Thank you for this well thought out article. Wonderful. Watch out for team hell looks like already loaded their guns. I have taken much heat in my circle and have fired back rather harsh this was very refreshing and with humility I appreciate it.

  • Roger Ramjet

    Needs a tl;dr

  • Sandman

    The doctrine of Hell preached by those who so dearly desire all who disagree with them to burn in everlasting horror is the scholarship out of the 19th century, not this well reasoned and thought-provoking article. You may not agree with it. but to simply dismiss it as irrelevant without addressing the points it makes is lazy.

    A link to a site that establishes its position by assuming the universally accepted validity of a specific religious doctrine that simply does not exist is not, by any stretch of the imagination, an “argument.”

    I think that rather than simply wail and gnash your teeth at the “heretics” challenging your blind belief in this S&M Michael Bay style Hell, perhaps you should ask yourself why you so desperately WANT this “Hell” to exist in the first place. Wouldn’t the news that Gos is NOT going to torture people for eternity because they were born into the “wrong” culture be good news to a “loving” Christian? Why do you WANT people to burn forever? Doesn’t seem that “Christian” to me.

  • Anonymous

    Well Sandman, we’ll just have to disagree. The doctrine of hell was taught by Jesus Himself. That’s a couple of years before the 19th century. As the Creator, Id guess He’d have a pretty good idea what it was.

    As far as arguments go, Dr. MacArthur is a renouned Bible scholar and laid out the facts.

    There’s no “wail and gnash” here; and how do you know I “so desperately WANT ‘Hell’ to exist”? Answer: You don’t. How do you know I “WANT people to burn forever?” Again: You don’t.

    I’m not some Westboro Baptist fundamentalist. However, as a pastor it’s my job to preach the Word (cf. 2 Timothy 4:2). I don’t get to change what it says; but then again, neither do you.

  • Sandman

    All right then, you’re a pastor. Good for you, it’s a good and noble calling. I’m not a pastor, I’m just a theology & language teacher in a Christian school with (among other degrees) a masters in Western Religion. (I’m not trying to be an ITG, just granting you the courtesy of also self-identifying.) Not all Christians agree with MacArthur, who, while he may be a “renouned” [sic] Bible scholar, is only “renouned” [sic] in evangelical circles. Preaching to the choir does not make you an “expert.” It only makes you a loud echo. If you want to be renowned (I’m sorry, I simply couldn’t bring myself to misspell it again), you must be respected by those who disagree with you as well as those who nod and applaud. Not all Christians agree on much of anything other than the basic concepts of the faith. And Hell is not one of them, however much some Christians want it to be. Insisting that your personal interpretation of scripture is the only possible true and valid interpretation is the height of arrogance and pride. As human beings, we must always be willing to admit that we might just be wrong.

    As for neither you nor I getting to “change what it says,” well, that’s not really true. Anyone can change it to their heart’s content. It’s been done many, many times in the past and will be done many, many times in the future. Whether this is valid or legitimate is certainly a matter for debate. Whether it is moral or ethical is certainly a consideration. But who is to say beyond all doubt what is changing it and what is interpreting it accurately?

    You say that Jesus taught the doctrine of Hell and to change that is unacceptable. Others say that you are changing it by insisting on your interpretation. Still others will insist that neither approach is right. When you say that I don’t get to “change what it says,” what you mean is that I don’t get to claim it means something other than what you claim it means. You are asserting the right of authoritative interpretation. I’m sorry, but you don’t get that right. Neither does MacArthur. Neither do I. This article is thought-provoking and interesting, and brings several valid questions to light. That you condemn the author out of hand with a flippant link and scolding is simply evidence that you do not like your thoughts provoked.

    I assume that when you say that Jesus taught the “doctrine” of Hell you are referring to Mark 9:43-48? Interesting that you would go that route. Do you really follow these passages? Do you cut off your limbs if they cause you to sin? Do you pluck out your eyes when they stray? Or was Jesus speaking metaphorically about abandoning practices and patterns of behavior that lead to sin?

    If His words about self-mutilation were metaphorical, why must we insist that His words about “Hell” are literal, especially when you consider that He did not use the word “Hell” in this passage in the original text, but rather the word “Gehenna,” which could easily have been referring to the giant garbage dump outside the walls of Jerusalem. (A dump that, interestingly enough, was for the most part constantly on fire…) Christ spoke extensively in metaphor and parable. His best and most valuable lessons were taught with example and narrative. No one believes that there was really a “good Samaritan” on the road; it was just a story meant to teach a truth. Why must so many modern Christians insist they know beyond a shadow of a doubt when Jesus spoke metaphorically and when He spoke literally? Why must so many Christians cherry pick the Bible and only hold onto those verses which justify the mean and petty thoughts they nurture? Why must so many Christians doggedly cling to Leviticus 20:13, screaming about how gay marriage will destroy their own unions, and then utterly ignore Leviticus 21:14, which very, very specifically states that you may not marry a divorced woman, or Deuteronomy 21:18-21, which very, very specifically instructs that a “stubborn and rebellious son” should be stoned to death.

    Why ignore these verses yet cling so desperately to verses that condemn those who disagree with you to everlasting fire and torture? What does this say about us as a people and a faith when we take such satisfaction in this? And yes, I am a Christian, although most likely not by your standards. How fortunate for me then that you don’t get to make that judgment, just as I do not get to make a similar judgment about you.

    While I certainly agree that there is such a thing as absolute truth, both spiritually and scientifically, I am certainly not arrogant enough to make the assertion that I am in possession of that absolute truth. And I know that you, nor any other human man, is in possession of it either. Feel free to retreat back to the “it’s in scripture” insistence that what you say is Truth, but realize that I, and many others, perhaps do not accept that your interpretation is legitimate. And that is our right as thinking, rational, spiritual beings.

    But perhaps “wail and gnash” was too…descriptive a term to apply to your post, and I must admit that I do not know your personal desires concerning the nature of “Hell.” My concern is not for you, personally, but for the huge numbers of so-called “Christians” in the world that do, desperately, want there to be an eternal “Hell” to punish all those who dare to disagree with their personal interpretation of God and scripture. That take a sick and dismal joy in the prospect of the eminent eternal torment of all those who do not agree with them. Those are the people who worry me. I have no idea if you fit that description or not. I was just mildly annoyed at your flippant dismissal of the author’s article with a link and a chiding.

    I wish you a good day.

  • Sandman

    Alas I am tired and my eyesight is fading. I missed a slight error in sentence formation in the seventh paragraph.

    The sentence “And I know that you, nor any other human man, is in possession of it either,” should read “And I know that neither you nor any other human being, is in possession of it either.”

    My apologies for the poorly worded statement.

  • Anonymous

    Personally, I’ve always been partial to CS Lewis’ version of hell, in which it consists in having a soul that is incapable of really seeing God: a being greater and better than oneself who is worthy of adoration. If in the end it’s all about you, then that state is, in fact, hell.

    I think that’s true. And the reason I don’t believe in eternal damnation any more is because I don’t believe in eternal life. If I did, absent some reason to think that everyone will in fact become capable of generosity and love, then I’d think that some people will end up in hell, whether there is a God or not.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

    *applauds*

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

    Just want to point out that the story of the rich man and the poor man in Luke comes directly from the Book of Coming Forth by Day (aka “The Book of the Dead”).

  • Aceblade

    When it comes down to it, there’s going to be a time when those who want to be with God are going to be separated from those who don’t want to be with God. I cannot imagine the specifics of either, but I especially don’t want to imagine the latter.

  • Mudstones2

    I am NOT a fan of the INTERPRETATION that hell involves eternal torture either. So many plausible arguments can be raised against it, including plenty of alternate scenarios that though they REJECT eternal torment , do *not* necessarily affirm universalism  . That having been stated, it is quite lamentable and weird , that you take the postmodernist /relativist canard of claiming that a person affirming that the belief / interpretation they support is right , and beliefs/or interpretations to the contrary are totally wrong is somehow allegedly tantamount to self-pride ..arrogance .

    There has been a bizarre , weird diversion …like an equivocation …that alleges that context (A) someone maintaining that the beliefs they advocate are superior to contrary beliefs and THE SEPARATE CONTEXT of (Z) someone *instead* maintaining that their personal self is somehow superior . Context (A) and Context (Z) ARE COMPLETELY SEPARATE in terms of propositional context . A person affirming that the beliefs they support are superior to beliefs to the contrary (aka that what beliefs they support are right and contrary beliefs are totally wrong) is NOT the same as someone affirming instead that their personal self is superior to other people . The beliefs a person supports are NOT a part of the personal self of a person . They are ontologically separate ! Ownership terms such as “your” , “my”, “their” , “his” , “her” are ONLY figurative when applied to abstract conceptual items like beliefs . It is unspeakably ridiculous to take such ownership terms literally and then presume that because a person affirms the beliefs they advocate are superior to contrary beliefs that somehow that is tantamount to affirming that somehow their personal self is superior . It is NOT the same , and it is a quite bizarre fallacy, what might best be called ‘the ownership fallacy’ to claim that they are somehow the same , when they are not .Consequently, maintaining that the belief one supports might somehow be wrong is NOT being ‘humble’ …it is NOT “intellectual humility” (a misnomer and squishy postmodernist phrase that should make someone cringe , since the term ‘humility’ refers to deprecation of one’s personal self and NOT doubts about the belief one supports)  .

    Ironically, such postmodernist ambivalence, Mr.Sandman , undermines the very committment to the ANTI-eternal conscious torment stance , that you and I support . Please, understand, I too detest the typical fundamentalist conceptions of eternal conscious torment in the afterlife as much as you do. I maintain that the typical fundamentalist notions of eternal conscious torture , run contrary to the noble sensibility displayed by Jesus in the Sermon On The Mount . However, the relativist/ postmodernist…ambivalent thinking approach …especially when it is coupled with the ownership fallacy (a fallacy that has become increasingly popular , due to the increasing popularity in recent decades of the weird , equivocal pattern of thinking called lateral thinking) does not help to advance the anti-torment cause .

  • Mudstones2

    C.S. Lewis, offerred at times rather disparate (and sometimes even incongruous) statements about what hell involved .

    However, one putative description of hell that he presented that made sense , from an ethical standpoint (one that did not involve any agony , which would not serve justice , but did have an element which invokes an element that could serve justice by way of a dissapointment to those dammed  ) was that hell was ‘the outer rim of being where being fades away into non-entity’ . <—That description is more in keeping with those Bible verses , notably in the Old Testament which describe the wicked kings of the earth as becoming 'shades' in the afterlife….mere shades , shadows of their former glory …a type of fadedness ….

    One of the questions which I often have wanted to put to fundamentalists who state that allowing people who have not confessed Jesus as Lord and Savior previous to bodily death another chance to beleive on Jesus in the afterlife (after all, Hebrews 9:27…though it states that 'it is appointed unto men once to die , but after that cometh judgement ' , it does NOT however , state "immediately " after death cometh judgement) …giving them another chance would somehow taint heaven, if the people were allowed to become followers of Jesus after bodily death and go into heaven …is as follows : ALLRIGHT LET'S SAY, WE WERE TO GRANT THE PREMISE that God might find it unappealing to give them another chance to believe the gospel and follow the Lord after bodily death …that it would be somehow unappealing as far as He is concerned to let such persons into heaven after death ….THEN WHY NOT a third alternative …and the following third alternative is NEITHER HEAVEN , NOR HELL, AND *NOT* any purgatory either …Wouldn't God be able to achieve justice even far more if He were to send the 'unsaved' to a place that had neither the joys and benefits of heaven , yet none of the grisly tortures of the sort of hell that many fundamentalists envisage ? How about if God were to send the 'unsaved' to an alternate sort of hell that involves just perpetual tedious boredom with nothing to do but , say, perpetually stare at blank walls for all eternity …yet without any external sufferring , and yet without any joy…and just subsist as a faded remnant of their former person ? And/or that and in some cases ….a hell of endless embarassment , yet no torture ? Eternal Torture, Annihilinationism , and Universalism are NOT the only options for a Creator who is resourceful …..

  • Mudstones2

    CLARIFICATION OF A SENTENCE IN THE POST ABOVEAllow me to make a clarification , in regard to the sentence construction in the post shown above .

    The sentence which explores another scenario as a just state of affairs , one that is *not* as optimisitic as universalism , yet does not involve the notion of endless torture , and , (hence, would serve justice) would better be thus expressed as ‘Neither Heaven , nor a Hell *of endless torture* , nor annihiliation ‘, yet it wouldn’t be thus best expressed as ‘neither Heaven , Nor Hell ‘ , since what is being proposed is an *alternative sort of “hell*” : an endless punishment of some NON-grisly sort, such as endless embarasssment , or endless tedious boredom .

    If all people do *not* eventually decide to follow Jesus , choose to experience some sort of reconciliation with God by him , then there could be an endless punishment which does NOT involve sinister, grisly notions of endless torture ,  nor involve any madness (as some have postulated ) , but instead, involve such themes as guilt, tediousness, embrasssment , endless torpor ect …..

  • Mudstones2

    In regard to the following statement as it appears in the last portion of the opening essay:

    ‘Just because I can’t think of a decent or commendable reason someone would plausibly get angry over the thought of love winning doesn’t mean that their motives are necessarily bad. ”

    It is worthwhile to note that IF some ultrafundamentalists were to get angry at any prospect of some sort of universal salvation , even a universal salvation of a meagre sort, due to the weird motive of feeling resentful towards Jesus if he found a way to at some later point in time save every person , and claimed that it was somehow “unfair” to them who believed while they were alive , if he saved those who did not become believers while alive , have indeed a bad motive . [Such a resentment where any people want some sort of special acclaim or prestige from God for having believed while alive , an attitude of such ultra fundamentalist Christians would be resentful *against* Jesus, if he were to one day save people after death , who died as NON-christians, is the same sort of chintzy, weird atttitude that Jesus disliked when the laborers who complained when the Lord of the vineyard gave the same wage to the people who had not even worked one hour , unlike them who had worked all day long in the hot sun (see the parable of the laborers in the vineyard found in Matthew 20:1-13)] .

    I’ve noticed that some fundamentalists have claimed that it would be unfair of Jesus to save every person eventually …somehow “unfair” to the Christians who believed while alive. The sort of attitude of any fundamentalist who would be resentful against Jesus if he were to save every person eventually , is indeed a weird, status seeking attitude ….an attitude like unto yuppies and other spoiled brats …that want special prestige for themselves and dislike having to share blessings . One of the most central themes of the teachings of Jesus —that runs like a thread throughout the teachings of Jesus —is that envy and competitiveness are worthless traits . Competitiveness and envy (traits that are so often prized by the consumerist culture of keeping up with the Joneses) are traits that Jesus in the gospels TOTALLY REJECTS .Jesus does NOT teach that one should balance personal competitiveness with other qualities. He does not teach that a little competiveness is okay provided one does not take it to far ; he does not settle for people merely toning down competitiveness , or merely “not going overboard”. INSTEAD , Jesus is rightly extreme in the single minded idealism that totally rejects all competiveness and envy as having *no* merit at all .

    Granted, the caveat should be made (and again yours truly hopes that there will be some sort of universal salvation , though I don’t know and do not necessarily claim it will happen , I merely consider it a possibility for God ), that those who intentionally do terrible deeds , IF they eventually (after a stay in some sort of place where they are reprimanded) go to a heaven , then they should be kept away from the region of that heaven where those they had terribly wronged dwell . If one day Hitler were to be saved in the afterlife by Jesus, then Anne Frank and the other Holocaust Victims should not have be in the same region of heaven as Hitler !

    It would be better for Hitler and the nazis to be kept away from their victims by being cordoned off from each other in *separate regions* of heaven . The same insight applies to serial killers and child molestors …their victims should not have to be around them in the same region of heaven. If heaven has many regions —many sections —then those who do henious acts should NOT mind being kept away from those they had intentionally mistreated, if they are earnestly and totally contrite , and the victims of intentional evil doers should NOT have to be subjected to the sour, off putting experiences of those who had wronged them on Earth .

    Some would claim that goes against the idea of forgiveness and is somehow “earthly thinking”, but it is not ”earthly thinking” and is in no way contrary to forgiveness. Forgiveness means not being vindictive and wanting someone harm . Contrary to popular opinion, it does not require that one let bygones be bygones and becoming friends with one that had done one a horrible wrong . (As a corollary, yours truly once in his twenties was very rude (in an unjust sense) to a young woman , who was then in her thirties named Cheryl . If she and I both go to heaven , I wouldn’t want her to have to endure my presence for even a moment in heaven after I had been so unjust to her , and would hope that she would be spared the unsavory memories triggered as result of encountering me , so if heaven is vast , then I would hope that she would be able to navigate different regions of heaven where she would never have the distasteful experience of encountering me again, even though I have jettisoned those tendencies that led me to do her wrong , she still shouldn’t have to encounter yours truly , given the wrong I had done her in the past ).

  • http://www.facebook.com/jayson.leary Jayson Leary

    NOTE : The following text I would like to post due to how the last post , which I posted in the present thread, has some unwieldy sentence construction in places. The text below is a reworded version of the post above , which had initially been posted 3 months ago , with hopefully better sentence construction, so as to clarify the propositions that the earlier post was supposed to express . Hopefully, the paragraph breaks and better punctuation will help for better reading, as well as avoiding run- on sentences, as well .

    In regard to the following statement as it appears in the last portion of the opening essay:

    ‘Just because I can’t think of a decent or commendable reason someone would plausibly get angry over the thought of love winning doesn’t mean that their motives are necessarily bad. “,

    It is worthwhile to note that IF some ultrafundamentalists were to get angry at any prospect of some sort of universal salvation , even a universal salvation of a meagre and not maximal sort, due to the weird motive of feeling resentful towards Jesus , if Jesus were to find a way to at some later point in time save every person  , and claimed that it was somehow “unfair” to them who believed while they were alive , if he were to one day save those whom did not become believers while alive , *do* indeed have a bad motive .

    [The attitude of resentement where any people want some sort of special acclaim, or prestige, from God for having believed while they were still alive is quite vulgar . The attitude of those ultra fundamentalist Christians would be resentful *against* Jesus,  if he were to one day save people after death, who had not become Christians while they were still alive; who make the claim that it would somehow be unfair of Jesus to the people who had believed while alive,  is the same sort of chintzy, weird atttitude that Jesus disapproved of , when he told the parable of the laborers, who complained when the Lord of the vineyard gave the same wage to the people who had not even worked one hour , unlike them who had worked all day long in the hot sun (see the parable of the laborers in the vineyard, found in Matthew 20:1-13)] .

    I’ve noticed that indeed some fundamentalists have claimed that it would be unfair of Jesus to save every person eventually …somehow “unfair” to the Christians who believed while alive. The sort of attitude of any sort of fundamentalist who would be resentful against Jesus if he were to save every person eventually , is indeed a weird, status seeking attitude ….an attitude like unto yuppies and other spoiled brats …which want special prestige for themselves and dislike having to share blessings . One of the most central themes of the teachings of Jesus —that runs like a thread throughout the teachings of Jesus —is that envy and competitiveness are worthless traits . Competitiveness and envy (traits that are so often prized by the consumerist culture of keeping up with the Joneses), are traits that Jesus in the gospels TOTALLY REJECTS .

    Jesus does NOT teach that one should merely balance personal competitiveness with other qualities. He does *not* teach that a little competiveness is okay, provided one does not take it “too far” ; he does *not* settle for people merely toning down competitiveness , or merely “not going overboard”.

    INSTEAD , Jesus is rightly extreme in the single- minded idealism which totally rejects all competiveness and envy as having *no* merit at all .

    Granted, the caveat should be made (and again yours truly hopes that there will be some sort of universal salvation , though I don’t know and do not necessarily claim it will happen , I merely consider it a possibility for God ), that those who intentionally do terrible deeds , IF they eventually (after a stay in some sort of place where they are reprimanded) go to a heaven , then they should be kept away from the region of that heaven where those they had terribly wronged dwell . If one day Hitler were to be saved in the afterlife by Jesus, then Anne Frank and the other Holocaust Victims should *not* have be in the same region of heaven as Hitler !
    It would be better for Hitler and the nazis to be kept away from their victims by being cordoned off  in *separate regions* of heaven , from those that are their victims . The same insight applies to serial killers and child molestors …their victims should not have to be around them in the same region of heaven, if such people were to repent and become saved at some period .

     If heaven has many regions —many sections —then those who do henious acts should NOT mind being kept away from those they had intentionally mistreated, if they are earnestly and totally contrite . The victims of intentional evil doers should NOT have to be subjected to the sour, off- putting experience of meeting again those who had wronged them on Earth .

    Some would claim that goes against the idea of forgiveness and is somehow “earthly thinking”, but it is *not* “earthly thinking”, and is in no way contrary to forgiveness. Forgiveness means *not* being vindictive , refusing to wanting someone whom has done one wrong to come to harm after the fact  . Contrary to popular opinion, it does not require that one let bygones be bygones . It does not require becoming friends with one that had done one a horrible wrong .

    (As a corollary of the observations mentioned above, yours truly when he was in his early twenties was very rude, in a way that was unjust, to a young woman , who was then in her thirties, named Cheryl . If she and I both go to heaven , I wouldn’t want her to have to endure my presence for even a moment in heaven, after I had been so unjust to her , and would hope that she would be spared the unsavory memories triggered as result of encountering me . Therefore, if heaven is vast , then I would hope that she would be able to navigate different regions of heaven, wherein she would never have the distasteful experience of encountering me again. Though I have jettisoned those tendencies which led me to do her wrong , she still shouldn’t have to encounter yours truly , in the afterlife, given the wrong I had done her in the past ).

  • http://www.facebook.com/jayson.leary Jayson Leary

    POSTSCRIPT: To the comment post above .

    Though one could rightly maintain a somewhat lenient disposition towards someone who might be disappointed in the scenario of say, a serial killer , or a person who slaughters someone in a concentration camp, finding some eventual salvation by Jesus , the sort of ultrafundamentalist who would be dissapointed with the prospect of someone being saved by Jesus after death , who had not done such heinous deeds or had such heinous desires , but, instead, became disappointed with Jesus *if* he happened to save someone after death who, say,  happened to die a Hindu, a Buddhist, or agnostic , would indeed have the sort of attitude that (unlike the person who would be disappointed with the scenario of a serial killer finding salvation) would be a distasteful attitude .

  • http://www.facebook.com/jayson.leary Jayson Leary

    Here below is an excerpt taken from a webblog titled ‘Jesus Is Not A Fundamentalist’ which (despite some rather profuse typos in spelling)  presents a succinct explanation as to how when some fundamentalists claim to cite the verse from Isaiah 55:7-8  , which states: ’your ways are not my ways, your thoughts are not my thoughts’ , *as if* it somehow means that a state of affairs which would involve endless torture is somehow defensible and must be accepted , that they MISinterpret that verse from Isaiah 55 .
                        THE EXCERPT FROM THE BLOG TITLED ‘ JESUS IS *NOT* A FUNDAMENTALIST ‘

    ‘Some people use this saying to make others accept all sorts of crazy nonsensical ideas and to submit to them.Even if it sounds completely nonsensical, and even if it is without mercy, they say it doesnt matter, you have to accept it and submit to it… and the excuse they give is that the Lord said “my thoughts are not your thoughts”… and therefor you should accept it even thoo it doesnt make sense.Well, why dont we take a better look at what the Lord actually said: (you can use google to find where those words apear in the bible) Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him, and to our God, for He will freely pardon.“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. (isaiah 55:7-8)So, the Lord says that He will have mercy on the wicked if they forsake their ways and turn to Him, for He will **FREELY** pardon, and He will do this because “my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways”. (we find out what “turning to the Lord” means in the next chapters, it has to do with doing Justice, helping the poor, etc… Anyway, back to the subject at hand)Notice how theese fundamentalists have twisted the meaning of those words from: “I will have more mercy than you think it is possible”, to: “disconsider your common sense and allow nonsensical ideeas to be considered valid – as long as they come from an evangelist or it is claimed they come from the bible.’


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